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A Year of Thanks (and Giving) // A Poem

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! And welcome to the holiday season!

This time of year is filled with so many wonderful memories for me, but as someone who suffers from depression, it’s also a particularly hard time as I struggle to separate the happiness and nostalgia from the anxiety and the clouds. I tried to capture some of the struggle of dealing with these conflicting emotions during a time that’s supposed to be “joyful” in this poem (and illustrate them in the corresponding video). The holiday season is an exciting and magical time, but I hope you don’t forget how hard it can be for many others. For me, I just try to focus on this simple and embrace each good moment as it comes.

A Year of Thanks (and Giving)

This time of year
Always reminds me
Of how simple life
Used to seem.
When holidays were
about family and food
And celebrating the simple moments.
But even though
each new year brings more joy.
There’s also more sadness.
And it can be harder
To be thankful
To be joyful
To see the light in the darkness.
So I focus on the simple again,
Capturing the moments
As best I can.
Holding onto that
Childlike innocence and
Watch it grow in others.
Embracing the silly
And truly enjoying the
Things I love.
Filling my life with
As much color and
Curiosity as possible.
Clearing my mind and
Trying to see through
The fog to new days ahead.
Remembering to fill my cup
And embrace self-care
Because self-hate only
Leads to an empty room
And I’m so tired of being alone.
Time wants to escape from us,
Shifting through the cracks and
Ticking down the moments we have left.
And so here we are with
Another year of
Thanks (and giving)
And I just hope
I have given enough.

Here’s the stop motion animation video I made to go along with the poem!

Also, if you’re interested in other thoughts on how the holidays are not so easy, check out these blogs!

15 Things I’m Not Thankful For This Thanksgiving
Sometimes It’s Hard to Be Thankful

 

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Adulting Ahead

If you haven’t already seen the slightly sleepy and delirious vlog I made with Alanna at William & Mary’s Homecoming discussing the peaks and valleys of post-college life, I highly recommend you do that now!

Otherwise, I’m going to dive right into a few more thoughts on “Adulting” because even though I was SO TIRED when we filmed that video from a day full of travel and nostalgia, we started to hit on a lot of topics that I realize I have more insight into now! Within a few months of graduating (and job searching), I made this video about post-college life which makes me laugh now at how young and naive I was!

 

 

At this point, I was definitely experiencing some of the disappointment of post-college life (especially in 2012 when the economy and the job market was just starting to get its feet back under itself!) But I didn’t know what it was like to work a full-time job yet. I didn’t know what it was like to rent an apartment or make car payments or see my friends go off on different tracks of life and at different speeds.

Now while I definitely don’t feel like I have this “adulting” thing fully under control quite yet, I do think I know A LOT more than I did at 22/23 when I’d only been a year out of college and was slowly adjusting to post-college life. I know how to call the insurance company and get my car fixed if after having a wreck (both when it’s my fault and someone else’s!) I know what it’s like to do long-distance adult dating. (It sucks…) I know what it’s like to have to live with your parents because you are poor and jobless, and what it’s like when you’ve lived there a little bit TOO long and you feel like you’re going insane and wondering if you’re 16 or 26.  I know what it’s like to job-search the heck out of yourself and what it’s like to move to a new city for a job. I definitely know a lot more about all this practical adult stuff (and I find that I’m still learning everyday), but I’ve also learned so much about what it’s like to emotionally be an adult.

Yeah, I know that sounds all “mushy-gushy-feelings” or whatever, but I think one of the things I was least prepared for was how “adulting” would affect me emotionally.  With practical tasks like job-searching and apartment hunting and dealing with your insurance, if I didn’t know what I was doing, I could call a parent or grandparent or friend who knew more than me. They could walk me through the steps, remind me of the questions I’d need to ask, and give me the general low-down.  What calling in backup couldn’t do though is prepare me for the crippling self-doubt that comes along with just about every new decision and situation I find myself in as I navigate this world of adulthood. So emotionally I’ve had to do A LOT of learning and growing over the last few years, and I think it’s this aspect of adulting that high-achievers like myself are so ill-equipped for when we leave college.

Which is why I want to start making more post-college and “adulting” advice videos on my YouTube channel. iIMAGINEblank seems to grow with me, and now we’re moving into a space where I have more advice for young adults rather than teens. (Though don’t worry! They’ll always be advice for teens too!) So I’m wondering: what your post-college questions? Whether they’re questions you actually have because you’re nervous about the future or you are an adult but would like to know my take on a particular post-college/adulting topic. Basically what kinds of topics should be in my “Adulting Library?”  Let me know in the comments and you might just see a video about it soon (with a shout-out for your suggestion, of course)!

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A Concert for Charlottesville

Two weeks ago, my friend Katherine called me on a lazy Sunday afternoon and asked what I would be doing the following Sunday. For once, I actually didn’t have much planned that weekend so I told her I was totally free, and she subsequently invited me to A Concert for Charlottesville hosted by The Dave Matthews Band at Scott Stadium on September 24th.  And it was with that invitation that I had the privilege of going to this night of music and unity.

I was both incredibly excited because this was technically a free concert with musicians that I would probably never get see perform live because of distance or money or impracticability, but also uneasy or perhaps, uncomfortable is a better word. While what happened at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville on August 11th and 12th didn’t directly affect me because I wasn’t there and I don’t live in Charlottesville and I didn’t go to college at UVA, I still felt the subsequent ripples of pain because Virginia is my home, and I know Charlottesville well. Once the dust had settled and the victims started being identified and interviewed. I realized that I played softball as a child with Marissa Blair, the woman who was pushed to safety by her fiance, Marcus Martin. This face I knew from a young age was plastered over the news stations, distraught from the horror of the attack but also fiery with the injustice of everything that took place in Charlottesville that day.

So when amazing and talented musicians come to town to put on a benefit concert and I happen to get invited, I wonder how sincere it is. I wonder if my being there is right. I wonder if we are doing the right thing to honor Heather Heyer or if we’re distorting healing and justice with pageantry.

Honestly, I don’t know the answer to these questions. I do know that I thoroughly enjoyed myself. (Justin Timberlake was so amazing! The Roots were phenomenal! Chris Martin from Coldplay and Stevie Wonder were there!) I do know that I was moved by many of the statements and songs and poems. I do think that every artist that came out on that stage was moved to perform for this specific concert because of a desire to help in whatever way their skills and gifts allowed.

It was a night of authenticity and sincerity while also being more complicated because music doesn’t heal physical wounds or change people’s worldview. I think it’s important to remember when you’re enjoying yourself in your bubble of safety with like minded people that there is an outside. That coming together is wonderful, but you then have to be able to go back out into the world and advocate for change. Many people are doing this. And many people like myself are not doing enough because we don’t know how or are afraid to leave our comfortable bubbles.  But nothing great was ever done or injustice solved by staying in your bubble.

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Immune Disorders and Why I Can’t Seem to Take a Sick Day

Let me tell you a little bit about immune disorders.

  1. If you didn’t know…they suck. (But I imagine you could guess that.)
  2. It’s really easy (and almost mandatory these days) to suffer silently from them.
  3. Because you’re suffering silently. It’s difficult to justify taking a “sick day.”

My body is pretty much always in this strange and uncomfortable dance between “okay enough to manage daily life” and “immensely ill.” I’ve learned my body’s signs well enough to know when my immune system has started to get beaten down. Mouth ulcers are a tell-tale indicator. They usually come after an extended period of high stress. I start to get unbearably tired. Like falling asleep sitting at my desk at work when I’ve had 8 hours of sleep or more. Eventually comes the chills and the aching (despite not having a fever) if I let it get far enough.

Because I know these signs, I also know when to start beefing up my vitamin D and C and echinacea intake. I know when to try to start backing off from the stress and giving myself an extra 30 minutes of sleep here and there if I can spare it. Which means most of the time, I only ever get the ghost of sickness. Aching bones and a raw throat for a day, but a dose of NyQuil and a solid 8 hours of sleep later, I usually feel fine enough to go into work the next day.

Which is all fine and good, except that eventually those illness ghosts build up and it’s like three strikes and you’re out for me. I get almost unbearably sick. This usually happens over weekends or holidays or vacation time. It’s like I rally myself throughout the week and then the moment I can relax, my immune system puts down its defenses and voila! Illness strikes.

It’s exhausting. I mean, being some level of sick all the time because your body doesn’t quite understand the difference between good and bad cells and attacks things haphazardly (for me, this mostly results in random and painful inflammation in various parts of my body, hence, the mouth ulcers). But it’s even more exhausting to be constantly managing your level of sickness.

Like what level do I have to reach before I can say, “Okay, it’s time to take a day off and sleep and nourish and try to find a balance in my immune system.” I’m always putting it off though. I’m always thinking, “But what if tomorrow is WORSE.” Why waste your time now if tomorrow will be worse anyway? Or what if there will be a really BAD attack soon and I’ve wasted my sick days on “kind of bad” days?

This is a very real thing for me. In the winters of both 2008, 2012, and 2014, I got really sick. To the point where it hurt to move at all because my joints were so sore and swollen. I’m always worried that something like that will happen again (although since I have had a fair amount of testing since then, I could probably get a doctor to listen to me easier now and maybe find something to alleviate some of the symptoms faster). I’m always comparing the way I feel now to how I’ve felt at my worst. And since I barely took off work or school during those previous episodes, it feels disingenuous to do so now.

I’m like a squirrel storing up sick days (even though they don’t actually carry over year to year.)

I also have the problem of being an extreme HUSTLER. While maybe I could take time off from my professional job without much issue, YouTube is 24/7 and it causes me more stress than good to take a “sick day” from that. So if I still have to do YouTube things, why not just go into work and do everything else?

I am a never ending robot with a Duracell battery. And I am exhausted.

I’m trying to find a way to be okay with taking sick days and accepting that the way I present illness with an immune disorder is going to be different than Average Joe who doesn’t have any immune issues.

That it’s okay to take breaks. That it’s okay to take time now if I need it rather than storing it all for the unknown immune apocalypse. That it’s okay to feel bad if you feel bad. Even if you don’t seem so terribly ill on the outside, it does not mean that you’re “making it up” or “exaggerating” the illness you feel on the inside.

These are still things I’m trying to understand and believe and implement in my everyday life. It’s hard journey. But it’s a worthwhile one.

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Dogspotting Love

Last week on the blog, I shared with you my cat obsession. And this week I felt like I couldn’t leave out my other animal obsession: DOGS!  More specifically, a Facebook group called “Dogspotting Society” which has honestly changed my life for the better.

Social media in 2017 has pretty much been making a slow descent in the toilet bowl of life. In other words, it’s a REALLY negative place to be these days. Between the constant deluge of Trump headlines, natural and humanitarian disasters, and vitriol spewed in online comments, there’s not much hope hanging out on the Internet these days. Compound that with my own insecurities so that I’m always comparing myself to others and their picture-perfect lives, and you’ve got a cocktail for unhappiness.

But…what if your newsfeed was mostly something you enjoyed looking at. Like dogs, for example? What if it was mostly people posting pictures and videos of their dogs doing silly things? What if it was telling funny or crazy or sad stories about what their dogs did recently? What if it was support for when your pup crosses over the rainbow bridge?

Well that’s what I found in Dogspotting Society, and it’s the absolute best! To give you a little taste of the awesomeness, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite photos and trends!

I love the photoshop requests and their results:

I love the memes:

I love how someone finds a cool app like Patternator or Ditty and then we get an influx of posts with everyone’s dogs starring in their own music videos or wallpapers:

I love it when photographers show off their skills and love for dogs:

I love to boop the snoot!

I love the lingo:

I love when people dress up their pups in costumes and how heckin’ concerned they look with it!

I love when people decorate photos of their dogs with stickers and truly show how much they love them:

I love how we get to know many of the dogs personalities through the posts! (e.g. Momo and how he’s ALWAYS WATCHING).

I love seeing pups with (safely) dyed fur and all the cool ways that people groom their dogs!

But most of all I love that a group like this has helped me turn something that caused me a lot of anxiety and obsessive thoughts into something that brings me joy, laughs, and relaxation. Honestly, if we’re going to use social media, that’s really what I think it should be about. It’s created a community for people who might feel disconnected in many other ways in their life, but can come together with others in a shared love of dogs. It’s a wonderful and magical thing to witness. Consider joining the group if you’re up for being friendly and excellent social dog loving. Or if cats are more your thing, consider joining the sister group, Catspotting Society! (I’m personally in both because who could get enough pet posts?)

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Home is Where Your Friends Are

The last year has involved a lot of change for me. A new job. A new city. Transitioning to being a “real adult” like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis.

I’ve spent a lot of my life hating myself and where I live and my life circumstances, not because they’re particularly horrific, but because they’ve felt out of my control. (Raise your hand if you’re a control freak!)

So this year has meant a lot of learning to let go when it’s too much and fight when it’s absolutely necessary. Sometimes it’s a little hard to distinguish between the two when you’re in the throes of emotional turmoil, but I think I’m slowly getting the hang of it.

But what caused me probably the most mental anguish a year ago as I transitioned to this new adult life, was wondering if I’d be lonely.

I was moving away from my home, my family, my few friends, and the majority of the life I’d built post-college. It wasn’t much (not what I’d imagined for myself upon graduation, at least), but for someone who has a hard time making friends and connecting, I was fearful of what the future held. Yes, I was actually moving closer to several friends from college and a few cousins (oh, and of course, my long-distance boyfriend of four years), but it still seemed daunting.

How could I make this new life my own and this new place my home?

What I found is that Home is where your Friends are.

I capitalize “Home” and “Friends” here because it’s more than just your home/house or the people you hang out with outside of work. Home is a place that you feel comfortable. That you are yourself. That you can take off the ill-fitting skinsuit that society makes you wear in order to blend in or be accepted.

And Friends are the people, places, and things that make you feel comfortable. That don’t judge you. That love you (or are freely open to be loved in the case of inanimate objects or activities).

This sounds super weird, I know.

“But Kaitlyn, how can an inanimate object be your ‘Friend?’ That sounds like someone living a sad life!” you say.

Perhaps you could take it that way, but I would say that my camera and editing software and YouTube are my “Friends” because they’re part of who I am. Wherever I go, as long as I’m making videos, there’s a comfort in it that allows me to feel at Home in my own skin.

But more obviously it works for people. I have literal “friends” like Alanna who I worked on several video projects with over the last year. I had the wonderful opportunity to grow closer to her once moving here and for that I’m eternally grateful. But at the end of July she moved to New York City (a very big dream of hers being realized). One might think, “Oh but Kaitlyn, now your friends aren’t where your Home is? How does this work?” I think the biggest thing I’ve learned post-college is that the people who are your best friends don’t have to be local. Sometimes they live on the other side of the country or on a different continent! But true friends are ones who stake a claim in your heart amid all the chaos of life. In fact, I can pretty confidently say that most of the people who remain immensely special to me, I don’t see physically on any regular basis.

Now while I’d love to have an infinite supply of money and start some kind of commune where I can gather all my favorite people together and we could all do our various things, I know that’s not quite possible and I’ll have to keep on living with digital communication until that becomes feasible. But what it means for me is that Home is wherever I want it to be. For Alanna who just moved to NYC, Home isn’t back in Virginia but right there with her. You carry your Friends with you, wherever you go. California. Guatemala. The International Space Station. It is a wonderful and burden-lifting revelation.