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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.

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Why is Everyone So Angry?

Two weeks ago we discussed how toxic fandoms can become, especially in online discourse. And in writing that blog, I realized there was a much bigger issue at play that I also wanted to address: Why is everyone so angry?

I feel like I’ve gotten trapped inadvertently in a global outrage cycle. For a while, I thought, “Oh this is just the product of immature tweens with access to the internet and too much free time.”  Then in 2016, I thought, “Oh, well adults seem to be doing it too, but that’s just because of the U.S. election.” But by 2017, I’ve realized that an Outrage Virus seems to have infected most anyone who uses the internet. Because it’s not just about differing political views or recreational trolling anymore.

Sometimes it feels like the whole world has gone mad.

For example, have you ever watched a funny video about a baby or a pet doing something silly? Invariably, if you scroll down to the comments on a video like that, there’s at least one person irritated at the baby’s parenting or the ethics of filming your pet doing said silly thing. And that feeds into other people who were just there for a laugh seeing that outrage and becoming angry themselves (because why can’t people just watch the video and enjoy it?)

And the cycle begins.

I am both fascinated and horrified by this cycle. It’s like how you can’t look away from a terrible car wreck.  You’re disgusted by the sight, but you also think you can figure out how it got to this point if you look at it long enough and you also want to know what happens next.

And cue my addiction to online comments.

Donald Trump seems to be the current king of the Online Outrage Tribe, but he certainly didn’t start it. Who did? Have we always been this angry and just didn’t have an outlet to vent? Was it an exponential but unsuspected takeover as we became more disillusioned with the world because of the rapid expansion of technology?

Is there a cure!?

I don’t have answers for you, unfortunately. But I think it’s important to recognize a problem/trend so that you can be more aware of how it’s affecting your everyday life. And therefore, take actions to try to counteract it.  I do so by trying to make more videos with an optimistic take on life. A positive light on the horizon of a super dark sea. But I don’t think you have to be making videos to be an influence. Whether you’re tweeting or Facebooking or blogging or texting or discussing something in person, trying to take a step back from that viral outrage and look at the bigger picture is so important. It helps to shake others out of their anger trance too.  It’s actually a lot easier to be a literal light in the darkness of these dangerous and angry times than one might expect. You simply just have to make an effort to not get swept up in the story sea of outrage!

 

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My Life: One Year Later

This time last year I opened Gmail to find a truly mind blowing arrival. An email from the YouTube staff letting me know that I had been chosen for YouTube NextUp NY’s inaugural class. The email was sent on March 31st, and it basically had to say “This isn’t an early April Fool’s joke! You really are NextUp!” which I think is hilarious but also kind of sums up exactly how getting that email felt.

I’d applied for two YouTube-related things in early March and I’d been rather confident in hearing back from one (VidCon’s “Less Than Famous” Panel because I’d been a runner-up in 2015 so I mistakenly thought I’d be a shoo-in for 2016).  So I had my hopes dashed a bit when I saw the panel participants announced a few days prior.  As for YouTube NextUp, I thought I had such a low chance of being chosen I essentially applied and forgot about it.

But what happened was such a crazy rush of impossible coincidences that a year later, with my life so vastly different from what it was then, I can’t help but reflect on the catalyst that receiving that email was.

Things you don’t know:

The day I received the email I had taken a half day from work and spent the afternoon touring apartments in Downtown Lynchburg. I’d reached somewhat of a breaking point with living with my parents/being far away from Parker/desperately searching for new employment, and I thought that perhaps moving out of my parent’s house despite the risks of signing a year lease in a city that I didn’t want to be permanently and staying at my (honestly) dead-end career-wise job for another year would maybe bring me some kind of relief.

And there was a sense of excitement to it because I toured a beautiful 2 bedroom loft apartment with exposed brick and original hardwood floors and a cool “millennial-girl-living-her-best-life” vibe that was being offered for the price of the 1 bedroom apartments if filled quickly. And it was so beautiful and all the things I thought I should be doing with my life (according to Instagram, that is) even if it wasn’t really the best financial or career-related decision. So I’d just filled out an application and was excitedly telling two of my best friends about it via text (who had a less-than-enthused response because “But what about Richmond?” and “I thought you hated your job?”) when I opened my email and low and behold…

And things kind of came to a screaming halt. Because this was an Opportunity with a capital “O.” And moving out. Living my Instagram life. None of seemed as important until I’d allowed this Opportunity to change me.

So I put the fancy apartment on hold, and I went to New York for a week.

And I talked to my fellow creators. I learned about what they did for their “day job.” And how they balanced YouTube and their careers. Or rather, how they were trying to integrate YouTube into their careers for the most part.

And I came away, maybe not with a foolproof plan to YouTube stardom, but a better idea of how I wanted to live my life–real life, career life, Youtube life, all of it.  Unfortunately, that meant not moving into the trendy loft apartment. It meant putting a pretty solid end date on my time at my current employment. And it meant not taking a backseat on life anymore. I’d spent so much time saying “Well I can’t make better videos because I don’t have lights” or “I can’t make 2 videos a week because I just don’t have the ideas/energy” or “I can’t make non-dating advice content because that’s not what my subscribers are here for.”

I can’t. I can’t. I CAN’T.

But I could. Even when it seemed so darn impossible! (Like me being selected for NextUp).

So I said, I’m going to move to Richmond by September whether I found a job or not.

And I found a job. And I moved in August.

I said, I’m going to make 2 videos a week.

And I’ve made 2 videos a week (except for 2 weeks around Christmas when I just needed a break) since August, and I feel like I have more ideas than ever!

I said, I’m going to try making different content.

And I’ve made travel videos and review videos and a lookbook and collaborations with friends and a music cover of “City of Stars.”

I’m not telling you these to brag. When I write it all out like this, I actually surprise myself because to me it just feels like I’m doing life. It doesn’t feel extraordinary. It’s just what I have to do to get by. (But with obvious self-imposed challenges, of course).

What’s really awesome and amazing is that even though YouTube NextUp didn’t really do much to boost my channel in terms of subscriber growth, it did allow me to find what I think is important in life, in creativity, in my career, and in online video making.

I’m very a different person and a different channel in many ways than what I was at the beginning of April 2016. And I’m quite happy with not having to go back.