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26: Growing Up or Growing Old?

26 - Growing Up or Growing Old

Being 26 is weird. Twenty-five was a scary milestone for me as you might have seen in last year’s blog post because I felt like it was a point in my life where I should have something figured out (if not everything). It’s a time in your life when half the world is telling you that you’re old, and the other half is telling you that you have all kinds of time to figure things out. At 26, I feel like I can say with some conviction that both parties are wrong.

I’ve come to find that in your mid-twenties, if you haven’t figured out your life yet, you’re not doomed. But there is also still a sense of urgency. You don’t have all the time in the world. In fact, you never did even if it felt like that as a teenager. Now is the time to fully embrace the skills and talents and aspirations and dreams that you have and MAKE something.

I’m still struggling in the “self-esteem” and “self-doubt” areas of adulthood though. I’m not sure if most of us ever really escape those problem areas, but I think I need to at least find a point of self-satisfaction and the ability to believe in myself in order to become successful at anything. What’s frustrating to me is that I spent another year not making the changes that I want to see in my life. Part of it was fear. Part of it was a lack of opportunities. Part of it was indecisiveness on my part.

Your mid-twenties is chaos at its finest.

I see the people who seem like they have it worked out. And if you talk to them they would probably say they don’t, but in comparison they at least know for now where they’re headed in life. I think that’s what’s so frustrating to my generation. Those of us who are unmarried and don’t have kids and are working a less-than-ideal job yearn for that sense of purpose and a well-planned future we were told about as children which is looking more and more like a fairytale every day. We want purpose. And a future. And guidance. But instead we’re met with either criticism or coddling.

It’s quite frustrating.

But where do we go from here? I’m 26 now. I want to say “This will be the year I make the changes!” But I’ve said that and it hasn’t happened for two years now. What would make this year any different? Exhaustion and sheer desperation?

Making changes is hard. Figuring out what it means to be an adult seems impossible. Loving yourself amid the failures is the hardest.

Twenty-six is a near year. A new age. A new leaf to turn over. And I hope when I do my yearly review of this blog post in 2017 when I’m 27 that I can smile and say “Haha! I beat you self-doubt! I beat you lack of self-esteem! I made the changes! I found happiness and self-satisfaction and hope!”

And if I can’t say that I hope that I’ve at least found something satisfying for my soul. Perhaps all my wildest dreams aren’t meant to come to fulfillment, but I hope that I can find a sense of peace and purpose in what I’m doing even if it’s different than what I had imagined.

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I’m a 2016 YouTube NextUp Winner!

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I have wonderful news IMAGINE-Nation Friends! Can you guess where I’ll be going the week after my birthday? New York City! For a fun and hard-working week at YouTube Spaces NY because I was selected as a 2016 YouTube NextUp winner!

Now, you might ask, what’s YouTube NextUp? What’s YouTube Spaces? What is all this madness! So let me break it down for you.

YouTube NextUp

A program started in 2011 where influential YouTube creators applied to get a boost for their channels from YouTube itself. It’s changed over the years. In 2011, the winners received $30,000 to produce a project and attended a 5-day YouTube boot camp. Today, it’s more closely tied into the YouTube Spaces located around the world as that’s where the YouTube boot camp will take place and winners receive training in both production skills (like lighting, camera, and sound) and growing your audience/brand (with the help of the YouTube Partnership team). Plus there’s a $2,500 voucher for equipment to help take your channel to the next level!

YouTube Spaces

These are production houses created and run by YouTube. And they’re FREE for creators. There’s a minimum of 10,000 subscribers for full access to the Spaces, but there are lots of other resources for channels below that threshold to help you grow. In the U.S., they’re located in Los Angeles and New York City, so I haven’t been able to go to one yet.

What does this mean for Kaitlyn and iIMAGINEblank?

For one, it means that once again I’m being recognized for doing the right things, working hard, and being a great creator. And for me, that’s really important. I live far away from the buzz and bustle of the main YouTube community (NYC and L.A.) and I only really have VidCon as a yearly boost for my channel and my creative juices. It’s easy, at my slow but steady growing rate to feel like what I’m doing isn’t worthwhile or that it won’t pay off in the long run. But then something like this happens, and I’m instantly reminded that all my hard work does have pay offs. They may take time and A LOT of effort, but they reap amazing results.

But on a more technical level, this is really a wonderful opportunity for my channel. I struggle with not having the resources or network to create some of the more innovative content I would like to make and feeling a little in the dark on what could make my channel better as a whole. So I’m really look forward to the mentorships and the networking opportunities YouTube NextUp is going to provide me!

Plus who can argue with spending a week in New York City? Ha!

I’m so excited about this opportunity and I hope you are too! If you want to hear more about YouTube NextUp and how thankful I am to all my subscribers for bringing me to the place I am today, check out this week’s video!

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Books You Should Read: Badass Women (March Book Round Up)

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This month’s round up of books is filled with a pretty awesome group of badass women. They range in their level of “goodness,” but I can honestly say that they’re all ladies you wouldn’t want to mess with. Or at least have on your post-apocalyptic team! I really loved all the books I read this month, and I even got an advanced reader copy from one of my favorite authors/book series, which absolutely made my month!

 

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“Miss Mabel’s School for Girls” by Katie Cross
Book Type: eBook
Source: Own
Rating: 5 – AWESOME!!!

Miss Mabel’s School for Girls felt like I was entering back into the world of Harry Potter in many parts. But it was a story truly focused on girls. The school itself is almost as magical and nostalgic feeling as Hogwarts, but it was also exciting to explore this new world and its specific details like being run by a High Priestess witch and having the academics focus on earning specific magical marks.

Also, Miss Mabel is the perfect villain. She’s vicious in her actions and truly evil with no redeemable factor I can see so far. She’s not the kind of sinister evil that you had in Lord Voldemort, but almost a more disturbing one because she’s fully human but utterly maniacal and twisted. My only complaint with the book is that we get a lot of the protagonist Bianca (which is great!) but all the other characters who have so much potential for interesting development are grey and flat in comparison. I suppose it’s because there just isn’t enough time to devout to both Bianca’s incredible rise from first year witch winning the coveted third year assistantship with Miss Mabel and all the other lovely girls and teachers. They mostly function as a mechanism to move the plot along or save Bianca in dire moments. My hope is that future books will delve more into the personalities and histories behind some of these side characters.

Also, hey! No romances! Just a girl with a mission!

 

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“Me Before You” by Jo Jo Moyes
Book Type: Audiobook
Source: Own
Rating: 5 – AWESOME!!!

I wanted to read “Me Before You” because I saw the trailer for the upcoming movie and fell in love with it. Being the book nerd that I am, I felt like it might be worthwhile to read this book before it hit theaters and boy, was I right! This book really takes you through the ringer. It’s different than I thought it would be in some ways, but those are just expectations I made from watching the movie trailer, which really made it, seem like a classic romance. This is a romantic story, but it is not exactly what I’d call a romance. It’s a story about life and two very different people being thrown together in an unlikely and even unwanted situation but finding that they make each other’s lives infinitely better.

I think the only real issue I had with it is the theme of “personal choice.” I didn’t always agree with the way Will interpreted it, and eventually pressed onto Lou to accept. It was all about Will having his own autonomy even though as a quadriplegic he really had none, but I felt like in doing so he took away Lou’s ability to choose at times. So although the ending was beautiful and painful, there was a bitterness that I felt toward Will in the way he demanded his wants and needs over others even though he claimed to care about them.

 

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“Fairest: Levana’s Story” by Marissa Meyer
Book Type: Hard Copy
Source: Own
Rating: 5 – AWESOME!!!

This book is painful to read at times. It’s a wonderful backstory for the first 3 books in the Lunar Chronicle series and a great set up for Winter’s story in the final installment. It also fully fleshes out the type of person that Channary (Princess Selene/Cinder’s mother) is from a real perspective verses just rumors that the characters have picked up on in the last three books. I like that despite Channary’s awfulness as a person, she really did seem to love her daughter.

But this is also a great experiment in character since Queen Levana is very much evil and though you might start out pitying her, you find there are no redeemable parts of her personality. I usually am able to find the goodness in anyone (or any character) but Levana just seems straight up crazy and only got crazier with time).

All in all, it’s a great read before the final book! If you haven’t read the Lunar Chronicles yet, what are you doing with your life? Just kidding! But no really, you should read it if you like fairytales and/or science fiction. The characters are so complex!

 

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“End of Days” by Susan Ee
Book Type: eBook
Source: Own
Rating: 5 – AWESOME!!!

With this book the “Penryn and the End of Days series” comes to an end, and I wish I didn’t have to say goodbye! But I will say that it was a satisfying ending which I wasn’t really expecting with all the insanity going down just a few pages before the end of the book. I love this series because Penryn is tough and I forget that she’s only 16/17 most of the time. She’s had to grow up quickly in a dark and disturbing world with traitorous angels trying to force the apocalypse, an insane mother, and a handicapped (and later science experiment) little sister. And then there’s Raffe who, to be honest, is an angelic dreamboat. I love the witty banter that Penryn and Raffe have, and I love their love-hate, sarcastic demeanor with one another. It’s just fun to read! But I also know that if Penryn gets in over her head (usually not by her own doing), somehow Raffe is going to (usually literally) swoop in and fight it out with her.

I also really like the way this book interprets and utilizes apocalyptic scripture and legend to flesh out this world. And it also comments on itself because one driving force in the plot is Uriel trying to create his own apocalypse and creating horrors from scripture in order to convince the other angels. In that way, I don’t feel “blasphemous” or anything reading this book. It’s probably the most interesting take on the Biblical apocalypse, angel lore, and humanity’s strength in the End Times that I’ve ever read.

 

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“This Gem in My Hand” by David Pandolfe
Book Type: eBook
Source: Own (Advanced Reader Copy)
Rating: 5 – AWESOME!!!

Jack and Lauren are back at their psychic adventures again in “This Gem in My Hand” (Book 4 of the Street Lights Like Fireworks series), and this time they’re on the East Coast where history, both personal and ghostly, comes haunting.

What’s beautiful about this series (and is illustrated wonderfully in “This Gem in My Hand”) is how with each book Jack and Lauren mature as both young adults and psychics. The series itself is maturing as well. Their psychic adventures take a much more sinister and supernatural turn than they’ve experienced making this installment feel like the highest stakes story so far. David Pandolfe expertly gives you the thrills and chills of a deeply haunted house and a 100-year-old secret that doesn’t want to be discovered. While Jack and Lauren have had ghostly encounters before, nothing has felt quite this evil before. But with that increased sinister presence, you can also feel Jack and Lauren’s powers growing. As does, at least in Lauren’s case, their recklessness (or perhaps we should call it selflessness because that’s truly what motivates Lauren’s desire to help those in need whether alive or deceased).

But this book isn’t all dark and brooding, as always Jack and Lauren are also exploring their personal relationships. We have a significant change in setting in this book, as they travel home to Richmond, VA for a summer week trying to mend some wounds with their families. The Richmond setting was actually one of my favorite aspects of this book as I’m a Virginia native. It’s nice to see the two experiencing old places for the first time together and wondering “what could have been” while also recognizing that life brings you exactly where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there. Jack and Lauren also individually deal with broken relationships essentially bringing the beginnings of healing to the painful pasts explored in the first two books. Jack and Lauren’s contemplation of their familial relationships brings the levity in this book that makes it a fun, quick read while also dealing with serious topics for maturing young adults with burgeoning supernatural powers.

If this is the first Streetlights Like Fireworks book you’ve discovered, you can absolutely read this as a stand-alone, but I’m such a fan of the entire series because unlike many series’ the story keeps getting better with each installment that I’d highly recommend starting from the beginning to get the full depth of Jack and Lauren’s characters and story.

I received an advance reader copy of this book (my first ever!) and got to work with David (who’s a pretty cool guy based out of Richmond) on making a video blog about the series. Check it out here:

So there you go! We have some super evil women this month (Levana and Miss Mabel) and some amazingly strong ladies too (Penryn, Lou, and Bianca). Jack and Lauren are my superhero psychic team and although “This Gem in My Hand” is about both of them, I still always resonate so much with Lauren, which is why I count her as my final badass woman of the month. Go women! Woo!