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Sometimes It’s Hard to Be Thankful

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From the moment you start recovering from your candy coma after Halloween, the Season of Thanksgiving begins. And it doesn’t end until January 2nd. For most, this should be a good thing, right? Who couldn’t use a little extra thankfulness and gratitude in their life? But for me, this time I tend to feel a little shamed that I’m not more thankful than I am. Like OF COURSE I’m thankful that I’m alive and healthy and have a place to live and family that loves me and a job so I can pay bills. And OF COURSE, I’m thankful that I live in America with the freedoms and security that warrants when so many people around the world are suffering and dying simply because of where they were born or what religion they grew up in. But does that mean I also can’t feel a little jaded for all the things I don’t have even though I’ve worked for them and stressed over them and given so much in order to attain them but still fall short?

Sometimes it’s hard to be thankful, and we’re lying if we say anything otherwise.

We can always be thankful for what we have that ensures our survival while not necessarily our happiness. And in comparison, we can always find someone who has it worse than us. But I find it disingenuous to hide the things for which we are not thankful—for the cancer, for the tree that fell and ruined the roof, for the continued silence on the new job front, for the bad decisions. Bad things or uncomfortable things happen, and I don’t think we have to plaster on a smile and pretend that we’re oh so thankful for what we do have. Because we obviously are. But pretending like nothing bad is happening in your life in order to be properly “thankful” this time of year is wrong in my opinion. And I feel like it’s a cruel form of personal punishment that no one deserves during the holidays.

So if you’re having a hard time being thankful right now when the whole world is telling you that YOU MUST BE THANKFUL OR YOU’RE UNGRATEFUL, you’re not alone. And I don’t think you’re ungrateful. You’re human.

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My Love/Hate Relationship with Social Media (Especially After the Paris Attacks)

Paris Attacks 1I’ve been feeling especially on edge recently whenever I go online. And let’s be honest, is there ever really a time when we’re not somehow digitally connected all day long anymore? I always cringe when I look at the “Trending” section on the side of Facebook because it’s likely to be some horrific tragedy or something stupid the Kardashian clan has done and is somehow noteworthy. And this past Friday I actually accidentally went on a social media hiatus. It wasn’t until I opened the Facebook app late Friday night after having a glorious time celebrating my boyfriend’s birthday, that I was inundated by news of the attack in Paris. And subsequently my news feed on all my social media platforms filled up with #prayforparis hashtags and images of solidarity with the rocked nation. It broke my heart to read about the terror caused and lives lost. Soon Facebook rolled out their “change your profile picture to stand with Paris” feature and red, white, and blue stripes swept through my feed. Then came the fear mongers with their “All Muslims are evil! And refugees can’t be trusted!” And of course, in response, came the opposite views of “Islam is not ISIS! Refugees are victims not perpetrators!”

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And amid all this digital chaos, I remained a passive viewer. I didn’t change my profile picture. I didn’t share a picture of the Eiffel tower turned into a peace sign with the #prayforparis hashtag. I didn’t comment on the articles I read on Islam, terrorism, and refuges. But I did become angrier and angrier as time went on.

Because first, I worried I might be perceived as unengaged or unfeeling. How could I not be saddened and horrified by what happened in Paris? Well…I am. I just felt disingenuous to share my immediate thoughts with the world through an overly used hashtag and image. Doing so would have constituted one of two reasons, neither of which I liked. First, I do have a worldwide audience on my YouTube channel. I very well might have subscribers who were in some way affected by the bombings in Paris. However, I couldn’t imagine that anything I said would have been beneficial to them when I’m so far removed from what they’re experiencing. Which leads me to the second reason for reaching out on social media in the aftermath of an attack—a reason of pure selfish and personal gain. Success in social media comes from jumping onto the latest trends and having something witty or controversial or memorable to say about it. And #prayforparis became a trending hashtag like any other. And while I don’t believe that the majority of posts I saw about Paris were made with the intention of selfish social media gain, I do think that we as a digital society have gotten too comfortable with the idea that we have a right to publically comment on everything that’s “trending” which includes tragedies.

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Of course, this all seems rather contradictory as here I am commenting on it too! And perhaps, I’m falling victim to the very thing I’m calling out as a sin here, but I just couldn’t take reading another article or post or watching a video where someone uses this tragedy for their own personal gain. Talking about it in an educatory manner, I’m okay with (and what I have set out here to do), but I’m just so exhausted with how “this incident” or “that incident” means “this, that, or the other” when it never had any correlation except for the fact that something happened and someone with access to the social media realm posted something about it.

I actually read a really great article about the 5 Things Media Does to Manufacture Outrage and it’s made me feel a little better about my uncomfortable relationship towards social media. While it has so many wonderful uses (e.g. Parisians connecting with lost/confused people who needed a place to stay or just general comfort after the Paris bombings with the #PorteOuverte hashtag), I think it hurts us in ways we don’t quite understand yet. I know I’m feeling it. I just hope that those truly affected by the bombings are able to look past the tumult of social media in the aftershock on this tragedy.

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Being True to Yourself

Be True to Yourself

I put a video about boobs out in October on my YouTube channel. My intention was to remind viewers to love yourself, your body, your boobs just the way they are! (A common theme among my videos). But what a few viewers took away was that I’m judgmental and close-minded about beauty and plastic surgery.  And so after responding to a few of those critics and reviewing my video and feeling like perhaps I hadn’t articulated myself the way I would have liked due to exhaustion and lack of time, I considered deleting my video.

I’ve never deleted a YouTube video before. I suppose I’ve also never had the kind of negative response to one of my videos before. People may not always like or agree with my videos but it’s usually some issue on their end, but this time I was really feeling like I had made a mistake in posting my opinion. But then…I realized exactly that. I posted MY OPINION. My channel is about giving advice and accepting yourself for who you are, but it’s still just all MY opinion. I’m not a trained professional on life. And if I took my video down I wouldn’t be being true to myself and my channel. And how does that fit into my channel’s message?

So this is a PSA. Be true to yourself, guys. That’s really the only person you can be and also be happy. Anyone else you attempt to be for whatever reason is never going to make you as happy or as fulfilled as just being yourself will. I struggle in life to be true to myself. You might not believe that. “Oh Kaitlyn! But you’ve got it so together! Look how happy you are in your videos!” When in reality I’m falling apart sometimes. Many times I feel like I have to act a certain way or (pretend like I) think a certain way in order to fit in and be accepted and not cause controversy. But the truth is, I do have controversial opinions. EVERYONE has controversial opinions because everyone doesn’t have the same opinion so someone is always going to find a controversy in there. I feel like I censor myself so much everyday because I have to put out a certain image. An acceptable image. And I’m bombarded every day through every form of media about what that acceptable image is supposed to be. It changes daily, HOURLY. And it’s exhausting. There are many times I do get to “be true myself,” but unfortunately, there are many more that I feel pigeon-holed and persecuted for being anything other than what people expect. I just hope that if today, you’re struggling with deciding whether or not to stand up and be YOU or to continue being who others want you to be or who you think you should be rather than who you are, that you’ll read this and stop. And just be yourself. You might only be able to do it for a few hours or days, before falling back into feeling too controversial or too wacky and “out-there” for society, but I can promise that you’ll feel better for having done it. My hope is that eventually we can all be ourselves without having to cater to other’s desires or opinions. It’s not today for everyone, but it can be for you.

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The Three Trains of Life

Trains of Life 1The president of my company made an analogy recently that really clicked with me and the kind of pressures I’m currently undergoing. He was praising our business at a fall luncheon/celebration for getting through all of our fall events with even less staff than ever, but it’s true on a personal level as well.

He said that there are three trains. One containing the monster that we’re currently battling—which we have to keep on course even when it feels like it’s going to be wrenched off the tracks at any moment. The second is the train with our everyday duties and responsibilities—something that seems insignificant in the face of the Monster Train, but is in fact, no less important. We still have to keep it up and running to survive. And the third train holds plans for the future. Eventually the first Monster Train will be tamed and if you’re not currently working on the Future Train now, you’ll be left with nothing before you realize it. Essentially, you’re always responsible for looking towards and building your future.

Trains of Life 2           Sometimes when I hear things that I really relate to, a little alarm goes off in my head: “This is you! You know this exactly! Don’t miss a thing!” And that’s exactly what happened for me during the president’s speech. I’m struggling to keep all those trains running and on track in my life right now more than ever. And boy, is it frustrating! So much so that I feel like I abandon my trains most of the time and collapse on the side of the track and find something distracting to invest in.

For example, take how I handled last week. I have so much going on right now that I really need to be using every available moment to work on my Monster Train and my Future Train (and even then I’m just barely getting by with my Every Day Train); however, last week when I finally had a bit of an opening time-wise, I decided to use it not to tackle those trains, but instead to make a Halloween costume. Now did the creation of that costume boost my self-esteem and make me feel like an accomplished DIYer? Absolutely! Did I utilize the time to help out my Every Day Train? Yes! I filmed it so that I could use it for a weekly video on my YouTube channel. Two birds with one stone!

IT WAS A PRETTY COOL COSTUME THOUGH, RIGHT?

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But like my therapist pointed out, while it’s not a bad thing to work hard and be creative on a costume (especially when you’re an intensely creative person trapped in a non-creative environment), it was a purposeful distraction from dealing with the stress and drama of the Monster and Future Trains. And I’ve been doing this more and more frequently. Essentially, the more complicated and daunting my Monster and Future Trains get, the more likely I am to abandon ship, put the problem on the backburner, and invent a new problem that I know I can fix for myself (e.g. like needing a Halloween costume). That way I feel like I’ve accomplished something rather than the repeated feeling of failure that accompanies focusing on Three Trains of Life. It’s a problem that I wish I knew how to fix. All I know is that when I focus on one or more of the Trains, I spend 98% of my time one step away from having a panic attack. My chest is tight. My head aches. My mind can’t stop racing. Thoughts of suicide start creeping in as the only viable option for escape.

And I don’t like those feelings. Those are not healthy feelings. That’s not how I should be living my life at 25. But I’m at a loss for how to fix it. According to my company president, you just keep riding the trains because “that’s what you gotta do!” But I don’t think it’s actually that simple on an individual level. It’s too easy to create rewarding distractions for yourself rather than facing your actual problems. Please tell me I’m not the only one! But what are some actual strategies other than “doing it because you gotta do it?” How can I pull myself out of my distraction land and actually apply that creative energy to the Monster Train and even the Future Train. I feel like I’m getting left behind on the tracks these days and I can’t just run to catch up. Those trains are too far ahead of me now, and I’m much too weak and frustrated to make it by running. The Three Trains of Life chug on without me. I’ll have to find a way back onto them eventually, but for now I don’t have any solutions. Just made-up problems in the Desert of Distraction to keep my mind busy and help me feel like less of a failure.

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