How Therapy Changed Me and Saved Me

I feel like I need to start by mentioning that this post has been lingering in my drafts for quite a while. I’m not sure “embarrassed” is exactly the right word to describe how I feel about sharing my struggle with mental illnesses, but it’s somewhere in that arena. Despite the recent spike in mental illness-related memes, mental illnesses and their treatments still remain SO stigmatised.

After a close friend disclosed to me recently that she’s been seeing a therapist, I decided that letting this post hang out in my drafts was only perpetuating the stigma surrounding mental illness. I think I can speak for everyone who’s ever struggled with their mental health when I say that this stigma is AWFUL. It not only makes you feel isolated and shameful and alone, but it also compromises many people’s ability to get the help they desperately need.

So before I get into the nitty gritty, let me just say this: this post is not easy to write. At all. And it’s going to be even harder to click “publish” once I’ve gotten all my words out. I’m not writing this because I owe anyone an explanation; I’m not writing it for pity or attention; I’m certainly not writing it because it’s a topic I enjoy discussing. I’m writing it because I hope that by doing so, I can chip away a little at the stigma. Maybe my words will touch someone and encourage them to seek help or speak out about their own struggle.

In high school, around year 10, I began feeling things I’d never felt before. I started feeling empty, directionless, sad, tired, ugly, self-conscious, and tons of other emotions that a 15-year-old shouldn’t have to feel. Basically, I thought of myself as a waste of space. No matter what my friends and family told me, and no matter how much love I was shown, nothing got through to me. I would’ve given anything to make those feelings go away. Eventually I began to feel like everyone would be better off without me, and I started having suicidal thoughts. Months passed and I felt like I was in total darkness all the time. One night found me in the emergency room, and as quickly as I’d been taken there I was taken back home with a hospital bracelet and a list of further options. That’s how I wound up in therapy.

Therapy was an easy choice for me because I knew I was no good at remembering to take daily pills and I’ve always liked to complain about my problems to anyone who’ll listen. But the first time—hell, the first 5 times—walking into my therapist’s office were HARD. It took me a few different therapists to finally find one whom I trusted and felt comfortable around, and when I finally did, it took a session or two before we were completely on the same page about everything. Every time I walked into the waiting room, I was anxious that I’d see someone I know.

But before I knew it, I was feeling better. Much better; better than I had thought was even possible. I finally started to step out of my darkness and see that life was worth living. I got to talk to someone for an hour a week with no interruptions, no judgement, and no outside biases. My therapist was always on my side in every situation, wanting to help me. She didn’t know me outside of her office, and she didn’t know anyone from other parts of my life. She existed in my life solely to bring me healing. She didn’t make me feel guilty or shameful for the things I’d felt in the past, and she put things into perspective for me in a way that no one else could have. Therapy not only changed my life, but saved it. Week after week, session after session.

There is a massive stigma and lots of vast misconceptions surrounding therapy. Going to therapy doesn’t mean you’re crazy or messed up. You don’t need to be experiencing any type of mental illness or other struggle to benefit from therapy. There are tons of different reasons people seek out therapy, not least of them being the chance to simply vent and rant to a listening ear. There are no ink blots or leather couches you have to lie down on. Nobody is “reading your mind” or “shrinking your head”. Someone is there to listen to you and offer insight. They’re not going to judge you or share what you’ve told them; they know what they’re talking about and can offer you tips and advice that will actually help you.

While my mental health struggles have taken on different—fortunately, less severe—forms since high school, I can proudly say that I haven’t fallen back into that darkness. Knowing that therapy is an option I can lean on at any time is comforting beyond words. I wouldn’t be in the place I’m in now—mentally, physically, academically, emotionally—if it weren’t for me taking the scary steps that I took in high school toward the help that I needed. And, of course, I never would have taken those steps if it weren’t for the encouragement of my family.

If you’re in need of someone to talk to and don’t know where else to turn, consider therapy. If you’re struggling with your mental health, consider therapy. If you’re going through something tough at the moment, consider therapy. And if you’re considering therapy, try reaching out and letting people you love and trust know that you’re considering it; they may give you the extra push or support you need. Getting rid of the stigma and normalising these methods of self-help begins with helping yourself and others understand.

If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis, call this hotline.

If you’re worried about someone you know, here are some resources that will help you help them.

Never feel like you have to stay silent. There are so many people who love you and want you to feel whole.

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2019 Resolutions

This post is so cliché and overdone that I almost hate myself for writing it. But I figure putting my resolutions out onto the world wide web for all to see will help me stay accountable, so here goes.

Until last year, I’d never been one for new year’s resolutions. I had always found them a little trite and every time I’d attempted to implement them in my own life, I lost interest and failed miserably within a few weeks. But as I’ve written about in previous blog posts, I set (and stuck to!) a resolution last year that had a huge positive effect on my life: being more optimistic. I think a big reason why that resolution stuck was because I found something about myself that I genuinely wanted to change for myself. I didn’t do it because I felt like I had to or because others were doing it or because I felt guilted into it. I did it because I sincerely wanted to better myself. So this year I’ve decided to stick to that method and identify things about myself that I can realistically work on for reasons that mean something to me.

Strengthen my immune system

This year I found myself getting sick a lot. A lot. I started the year out with a double sinus infection and the flu (which I had to endure on a 15-hour plane trip—would not recommend), ended it with a bad chest cough (happy new year to me!), and got sick multiple times in between. I think it’s fair to say that a portion of that can be attributed to the stress I experienced being in my last year of uni, but if I’m being totally honest, I know that my poor diet and lack of exercise was the real antagonist.

Being sick is exhausting, especially when it’s happening constantly. So this year, I’m going to make a conscious effort to get into habits that will help strengthen my immune system: regular exercise, remembering to take all my supplements and medications daily, plenty of water, a consistent and healthy sleep schedule, and a diet that doesn’t primarily consist of McDonald’s and Mad Mex.

I’ve tried to set resolutions like that for myself in previous years—lose weight, drink more water, eat healthily—but I’ve failed every time. My motivation for those things has always been extrinsic (i.e. to fit certain beauty ideals, to impress other people, etc.), and I’ve found that extrinsic motivation simply isn’t sustainable for me personally. Working toward bettering my immune system wasn’t a conscious choice—I’m just so sick of being sick. I feel really good about this resolution, particularly since I’ve already gotten myself into a great exercise routine and a healthy sleep pattern (though the diet part still needs a little work).

Better money management skills

I am the QUEEN of drying up my bank account as soon as it gets a little money in it. I’m seriously so bad at managing my money. I don’t even know where it all goes (just kidding. I totally do. It all goes to Maccas). Since I’m planning to travel this year, it’s imperative that I get my act together ASAP and learn how to save. I’ve already taken significant steps toward this resolution like keeping a written log of when, how much, and where I’m spending my money, as well as transferring a good portion of any money I receive into a locked savings account as soon as I get it.

Putting in an effort in uni

Okay so this one is a cliché at its finest. I know. But I have good reasoning behind it! Being honest, I didn’t put my best effort in for the first couple of years in uni. I slacked off, not considering how it would affect my future in any way. In my last year I realised I needed to pull it together and really start putting in some work. Once I started receiving great marks instead of average ones, I felt like I was on top of the world. It made me wonder why I hadn’t been striving for that the whole time!

This year, I’m determined to put in the hours it takes to get really great marks. I’m going to do the things that make me uncomfortable or that I haven’t been bothered to do previously, like actually utilising professors’ office hours and following up with grades I’m not happy with. I love learning and I love uni, but what’s the point if I’m not trying my best?

I love challenging myself, especially if I know that I’m only going to benefit from the goals I’ve set. Of course I don’t expect any of these changes to happen overnight, nor do I anticipate them being easy. But after experiencing last year how one resolution can unexpectedly change so many different aspects of your life, and how easy it is to make new behaviours become habits, I’m so excited to see how I’ve changed by the end of 2019.

Holiday Traditions: Me and Mine.

Christmas was almost a week ago and everyone has moved on and is now posting resolutions, reflections, and photos of glasses of champagne. But I decided to take a small break from blogging after graduation to really enjoy the holiday season and time with my family, so I missed out on all the fun Christmas blog posts. However, anyone who knows me knows that Christmas is never truly over in my household anyway. Plus, I consider this week the post-Yuletide mourning period and I’m never in much of a party mood on New Year’s Eve (and also, yes, I just like to go to bed early and mind my business), so here I am at 11pm on New Year’s Eve, writing about Christmas. And I’m not sorry.

Christmastime has always been the best time in my family; we spend quality time together, we get to see family and friends that we don’t see the rest of the year, and we get to celebrate the birth of Jesus. My family has a list of Christmas traditions that we observe every year. Some of them have been around since we were kids and some are more recent; as my siblings and I have grown older, we’ve also developed our own personal traditions, each one as special as the last. Here’s a few of our favourite Christmas traditions…

Carols by Candlelight dress rehearsal at Sidney Myer Music Bowl

We’ve been going to the Carols dress rehearsal on the 23rd of December every year since I can remember. Although now we usually go with friends instead of family and we sit in the seats at the bottom of the bowl instead of picnicking on the lawn (not to mention the $20 it costs now for a ticket, as opposed to $2 back in the day), it’s still so much fun singing carols with a bunch of B-list celebrities and radio presenters.

Christmas cards

When we were kids we’d sit down on a Sunday night, put a Christmas CD on, make hot chocolate, and write Christmas cards to our friends, family, and teachers. Not everyone in our family kept this tradition up, but it’s one of my favourite things to do at Christmastime with my mum. Hearing from people who receive the cards makes me beyond happy, and it’s such a sweet and simple way to remind people that you’re thinking of them and wish them well.

Wreath-making workshop

This one only started a couple of years ago. Flowers in a Vase—a florist in Woodend owned by the lovely Arnie Way—runs annual wreath-making workshops (amongst a plethora of other Christmas floral workshops). The workshop includes morning tea and champagne and Christmas carols and is worth every single cent. I truly can’t think of a lovelier way to spend a day in the lead-up to Christmas.

Christmas Eve night

Back when my siblings and I were kids, our Christmas Eves consisted of letters to Santa and carefully arranged bikkies for Father Christmas and carrots for the reindeer. Nowadays, you’ll find us on Christmas Eve night huddled onto the couch in the family room watching a Christmas movie, the coffee table chock full of homemade finger foods courtesy of my amazing mother. Pictured above is a sliver of this year’s spread: coconut ice, apricot and white chocolate truffles, strawberries, veggie patties, crackers, rum balls, spring rolls…

Helping the less fortunate

First and foremost, Christmas for us is about celebrating the birth of Jesus. It marks the beginning of a lifetime spent serving others and spreading love and peace. That’s why a few days before Christmas, we go into the city and hand out food and water bottles to the homeless population of Melbourne. Christmastime is tough for many who live on the streets, both physically and emotionally. This is my absolute favourite tradition, because for me, this is what Christmas is about.

Reading the Christmas story from the Bible

The whole reason Christmas exists; there would be no Christmastime without this story. Hearing my dad read the story of Jesus’ birth from the Bible always brings tears to my eyes, no matter how many times I hear it.

What’s Mine Isn’t Yours

For the one or two people that regularly read this blog (shoutout to my mum and my boyfriend), you may have noticed that I haven’t posted in a while—nearly a month and a half, to be exact. There were a few reasons for this: uni becoming overwhelming, working, getting into new routines. I’ve had a lot on my plate and needed to cut a couple of things out for a little while to focus on what’s important.

But one big reason I took a small break from blogging is because I felt as though I was turning my personal life into a commodity. Looking through my previous posts, I realised just how much I shared about my personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences. And I realised that despite the varying reasons that I post those things, anyone who reads them views them simply as entertainment; as a way to pass a little time while they’re waiting for the bus or bored in a lecture.

Maybe that’s a totally wanky thing to say seeing as very few people, if any, are actually truly invested in this blog and ever give it a second thought. I don’t have a crazy amount of followers and the things I post aren’t ever going to go viral (nor are they intended to). And, of course, I realise that in some way or another, everybody has turned their personal lives into commodities through social media, and that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.

But for me, writing—and by extension, blogging—has always been an outlet not just for my creativity, but also for my mental health. Angry? Write. Stressed? Write. Need a rant? Write. Happy? Write. Learned something new? Write. I have dozens of drafts saved and hundreds of ideas swimming around in my head. But how much of that does everyone else need to know?

I get so fully immersed in every post I share. Of course I don’t expect anyone else to feel quite as invested in my blog as I am, but to share such deeply personal feelings and experiences is often a tough thing to do; by turning those feelings and experiences into commodities, I began to feel as though I was cheapening them. I’ve always valued everything tough that I go through as a lesson to be learned, but constantly sharing my personal life online made me see those experiences as stories to tell instead of lessons to learn. It can also be disheartening when you share something intimate online and receive a reaction that’s different than what you had (maybe naïvely) hoped for.

So to realign my priorities and check my mental health, I took a little break. By no means do I plan on stopping sharing my life. But I’m going to focus on giving each experience and feeling that comes my way the weight and attention it deserves and requires; blogging is—and will always remain—a creative outlet, not a means of processing my emotions.

2018 Book Recommendations

I’m a huge bookworm. For me, books win over movies and TV every single time. My favourite smell in the entire world is the smell of a new book (as my boyfriend so eloquently put it, “I got that when I noticed you sniffing your books like a crackhead”). The worst thing is being unable to find a good book to read; it’s so frustrating getting halfway through a book and realising it just isn’t your cup of tea, or searching for ages in a bookstore only to come out empty-handed.

So for anyone else who despises that lull between good reads, here’s a list of my current favourites. I’ll update this list as new books worth reading hit my shelves, so check back if you need fresh reading inspo. Note—these aren’t all new releases! They’re just my current favourites and books that I’ve finished fairly recently.

If you have any books you think I should read, please shoot me a message or comment on this post; I’m always looking for something new!

Happy reading!

Harry Potter

J.K. Rowling

Duh. This one is a total given and anyone who knows me knows that this will always be top of my list. I always feel like I need to defend Harry Potter, though, because I think people tend to be under the assumption that you have to be into the fantasy genre to like this series. This is so far from the truth! I didn’t get into Harry Potter until I was in high school, the year the final movie came out in theatres. I had literally zero interest in the series until I was forced to watch all the movies with a friend for—no joke—lack of anything better to do. After that, I became completely hooked and have since read the series through a few times. I don’t read or watch any other fantasy novels/movies, even though I’ve tried to get into the genre, but I remain in love with Harry Potter. Must must must read!

Conversations With Friends

Sally Rooney

This novel is about an Irish college student named Frances, her best friend/ex-girlfriend Bobbi, and their separate, but equally as problematic affairs with a married couple. There’s a pattern of self-destruction within Frances that makes it hard to decide whether you hate her, love her, or see yourself in her (maybe all of the above?). To me, this novel feels strongly like a modern-day rendition of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. It’s one of my all-time favourite novels; I’ve read it about four times (certain parts even more) and annotated everything in it to the point where there’s no longer any room in the margins. I can’t say enough good things about this one!

Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers, & Swells: The Best of Early Vanity Fair

Ed. Graydon Carter and David Friend

This is a collection of the best essays and articles from Vanity Fair throughout the early 20th century. It’s definitely not the book for everyone, but I was enamoured the whole way through. It provides a really interesting look into the minds of journalists, essayists, and consumers in the 1910s/20s/30s. Also very cool seeing subtle nods towards the beginnings of different social movements like feminism and civil rights!

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Khaled Hosseini

Have the tissues ready for this one. This is a novel set in Afghanistan and follows two women, very different in age, who end up married to the same man; the older, Miriam, helps the younger, Laila, escape their abusive husband. It has obvious mother-daughter and self-sacrificial themes throughout the novel, reminiscent of Khaled Hosseini’s first novel, The Kite Runner (another one I highly recommend).

Me Before You; After You; Still Me

Jojo Moyes

I’m a big fan of all of Jojo Moyes’ writing. Her books are generally easy reads, but super captivating and emotional at the same time. I’m especially in love with her Me Before You series. I initially got hooked after watching the movie with Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin. I was worried that the sequels wouldn’t live up to the first, especially considering how the first book ended, but all three of them are amazing reads! Highly recommend if you’re looking for a “fluff” read or a romantic novel.

Jasper Jones

Craig Silvey

This one reminds me so much of To Kill A Mockingbird, only it’s set in 1960s Australia and focuses on an Aboriginal man instead of an African American man. It details the story of high school-aged boy named Charlie who gets caught up in a murder case of a girl from his school. Jasper Jones, an Aboriginal boy and town outcast/scapegoat, is thought to have murdered the girl, but matters become complicated when Charlie finds out that Jasper was in love with the girl and the two had been planning to run away together before her death. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading this book, and shed real tears (maybe even more than once).

Outline

Rachel Cusk

This is a really interesting novel. If I’m being honest, I picked it off the shelf at Reading’s simply because it had a nice-looking cover. It’s a novel set in 10 different conversations/narratives; each chapter is a new dialogue between the main character and a secondary character. The book teaches a lot about relationships (especially failed ones) and personal losses. It wasn’t what I had expected when I bought the book (not that I was really expecting anything in particular seeing as I hadn’t even read the description), but it didn’t disappoint. Not exactly a light read, but a good one nonetheless!

 

Got some suggestions for me? Comment your favourite books below!

Tick, Tock

Let me preface this post by saying that I’ve written a fairly similar piece to this before. That piece is hidden deep in the archives of my old blog, back when I had no idea how to use WordPress and my writing skills were…still being developed. And hidden it shall remain.

A few times before, I’ve tossed around the idea of writing a follow-up piece to my original piece on time; I’ve always decided against it because I tend to sound a bit ramble-y and I’m not sure it’s a topic that interests many other people. But the concept of time and the theories that attempt to rationalise it have been popping up everywhere in my life lately, especially as I’m halfway done with my final semester and am starting to look ahead into the future.

Time is a concept that constantly fascinates me and occasionally scares me. You can’t hear it, smell it, taste it, or feel it. You can see the consequences of it, but you can’t see the thing itself. It’s measured by changes we observe and although we as humans try to compartmentalise it and squeeze it into segments to organise our lives, it flows of its own accord, not stopping for anyone or anything.

Studying time is an odd thing. It’s almost disconcerting to stop and think about and discuss a phenomenon that you constantly experience, yet rarely think about, and perhaps know nothing about. The first thing that stuck out to me when studying time at uni was that there are two ways to think about time: time moving and ego moving. To me, this means that there are two types of people: time movers and ego movers. Time movers are those who perceive themselves to be standing still, while the future moves toward them. Ego movers are people who perceive themselves as flowing along with time, toward their future.

The concept of time moving totally came as news to me—there are people out there who feel like time is coming toward them? While they stand still? I’ve always pictured myself moving toward my future, constantly working to get there faster; even as I type that out, it sounds crazy. How can you arrive at the future? Isn’t the future, in and of itself, unable to be reached? And what deeper connotations do time moving and ego moving have? What does it say about who I am as a person that I identify with ego moving, rather than time moving? That’s the thing about uni—it’s like a Hydra: whenever you get an answer to one question, two new questions pop up.

There was another thing that gave me one of those I-subconsciously-knew-that-already-but-it-feels-weird-to-have-it-be-scientifically-confirmed experiences (does anyone else get that? Or is it just an oddly specific thing that only I experience? Please be the former). Social media (and mobile phones in general) have literally reshaped the entire way we as humans perceive and feel time. Studies have shown that when you spend your leisure time on social media, you perceive time as going by faster. Worse still, because our phones are so interwoven into the fabric of our day-to-day lives, our brains are having increasing trouble differentiating between leisure time and work time. That means that we’re feeling more stressed in our down time than we used to.

But here’s the scariest thing of all. We’re starting to consume so much content, and the content we view has an insanely fast turnover rate. Instagram stories and Snapchat stories only last 24 hours. Feeds refresh every single time you open an app, regardless of the last time you checked that app. Snapchats only last a few seconds before vanishing forever. The psychological results of this? We crave updated versions of things faster and more often than ever before: cars, phones, houses, even relationships. We struggle to commit to things for too long, and it’s slowly taking a toll on us.

Committing to something (or someone) for a long period of time has huge health benefits. Studies show that married people are less likely to have a heart attack; those in committed relationships tend to produce less stress hormones; committing to something has been shown to improve mental health; you’re even more likely to live longer if you have the ability to commit (you commit to life and it commits to you). So shouldn’t it really scare us that our ability to commit is being diminished by digital technology?

This was definitely a wake up call for me. Especially as a media & communications student, a massive portion of my life revolves around social media, and most of my days are spent in front of a screen. Being in a long-term relationship right now is a big deal for me, because I’ve always had a small (read: crippling) fear of commitment. I’m slowly learning to like the idea of committing to things (for reference, see my first and only tattoo!), but I definitely still have a ways to go,

So what’s the point of this huge rant, apart from telling you the benefits of commitment (most of which I found from a HuffPost article so who really knows if they’re even true)? The point is that I never thought that time, although an intriguing topic, meant anything more than what I could physically observe of it. I didn’t think of it as a subject worth my attention any more than any other subject, and certainly not something worth researching. But by digging just a little deeper into something I didn’t previously know anything about, I’ve found out more about other people, about the universe, and about myself. And now I can work on making my life and the world around me a teeny tiny little bit better.

7 Easy Ways To Help Save The Planet

“Nature doesn’t need people; people need nature.”

Disclaimer: I am not an expert on environmental issues. In fact, I’m far from it (my high school APES teacher can vouch). Nor am I perfect when it comes to caring for our planet—I shower for way longer than the recommended 5 minutes, I sometimes throw recyclables in the general rubbish bin, and I don’t even know what a compost is. I’m not even sure if “a” was the right article to use. That’s how little I know about it.

Nevertheless, I fully believe that every person on this planet has an obligation and a responsibility to treat Earth with a little TLC. There are tons of teeny tiny, super simple changes you can make in your day-to-day that will do wonders for the world you live in. It’s so, so important to stay informed about the state of y(our) environment and the ways in which you can do your part to help save the planet (you can catch me Googling what composting is right after I finish writing this).

1. Use a travel mug or a keep cup

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If you’re someone who regularly—or even semi-regularly—drinks hot drinks in takeaway cups, you may fall into the trap of thinking that the cups you’re drinking out of are recyclable. I thought that, too, but it turns out that those cups are generally made up of tons of non-recyclable plastic in and around the cardboard part. A better alternative to to-go cups is a travel mug or a keep cup. Steel mugs are the best option, but plastic ones work great too! I personally use a KeepCup—it’s only $20, dishwasher safe, and BPA-free. They come in heaps of different sizes and colours and you can even customise your own. Plus, tons of coffee shops give discounts to customers who bring their own cup!

2. Ditch the straw

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Straws are one of the nastiest examples of a single-use plastic (a plastic product that will be used once and then thrown out). They don’t biodegrade and more often than not they end up in oceans and on beaches. This is obviously problematic and causes major issues for underwater life. Try ordering your drink without a straw the next time you eat out. If you’re in dire need of an iced coffee or iced tea and don’t have a travel cup with you, most Starbucks stores now offer strawless lids for their iced drinks. You could even invest in reusable straws or a tumbler cup for iced drinks—both options are dirt cheap and save you from putting more plastic out into the environment.

3. Catch public transport

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Cars are huge contributors to global warming and pollution. Luckily, there are tons of other ways to get to work/uni/school: ride a bike, walk, catch public transport, get a ride with someone else, give a ride to someone else, or use a carpool service. You’ll save money on petrol and save the environment. Plus, public transport saves you from sitting in peak-hour traffic and you’re free to sleep, read, text, etc.

4. Use a clothesline

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Using a clothesline or a clotheshorse is a great alternative to a dryer. It’ll save tons of energy (not to mention money!) which really helps the environment by reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Fossil fuels aren’t a clean or sustainable source of energy, which means we should try to rely on them as little as we can.

5. Meatless Mondays

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Don’t worry, I’m not about to preach the benefits of veganism or how cruel it is to murder animals for your own culinary pleasure. But going vegetarian at least one day a week is a great way to help save the planet. Most people don’t realise the huge environmental impacts that the meat industry has. It takes 2,500 gallons (nearly 9,500 litres) of water to make ONE POUND of beef. One pound! And on top of that, raising animals for meat takes tons of land, food, and water, which often means mega deforestation. Plus, fishing methods used by commercial fishers often harm ocean life such as coral reefs and other animals, which, in turn, leads to the destroying of ecosystems. So come on—just take a break from eating meat for one day. I’m sure you can find your protein somewhere else.

6. BYO water bottle

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This is pretty commonplace nowadays, but bringing your own water bottle wherever you go is an infinitely better alternative to buying multiple plastic bottles a day, especially when you’re not recycling those bottles. You can buy water bottles pretty much anywhere and they come in just about every colour, size, shape, and price point imaginable. My favourites are the stainless steel bottles from S’well and Contigo. Think of all the money you’ll save!

7. Stay informed

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It’s so easy to find information online that there’s really no excuse to be ignorant about the world around you. It’s 2018 and saving the planet is cool. Watch some documentaries, read the news, listen to podcasts. Answers to every question you have, and those you don’t even know you have, are right at your fingertips. Don’t let them go to waste. Set goals, write lists, take action, and hold yourself and others accountable.

P.S. for any other ignorant ding dong like me, composting is the use of decomposing organic material for growing plants. In other words, it’s using your potato peels and banana skins to grow your plants instead of using harmful, chemical-filled products.

The Kelly Standard

Okay kids, before I get into the nitty gritty of this post, I’m about to bring y’all some history (haha, just a little R. Kelly humour before I tell you a whole lot of awful things about this guy). Basically, R. Kelly been accused of tons of horrific stuff in the past—mostly a strong cocktail of sexual misconduct and underaged females with a hint of a sex cult—the most infamous being his 2002 child pornography accusations. He was accused of filming his sexual relations with a 14-year-old, thus ~allegedly~ creating child porn. He was eventually found not guilty in 2008 and acquitted, but the evidence against him was pretty damning regardless (no, I know nothing about law or the U.S. legal system and have no business having an opinion like that. Yes, I still stand by it).

Oh, btw, if you’re a 2000s baby, or you’re just white, and have no idea who the hell R. Kelly is and you’re still reading this post only because you love and support me and my blogging endeavours: you know that song that sometimes gets stuck in your head out of absolutely nowhere and it goes I believe I can flyyyyyy, and you don’t remember learning or even ever hearing the actual song but somehow you still know it? Yeah, that’s his song.

A few days ago, Spotify released a statement declaring that the service would no longer be including R. Kelly’s music in “playlists and generated content”. His music will remain on Spotify, but it means you’ll have to manually search for him in order to listen to it. This is part of a new policy Spotify is rolling out, named the “Hate Content and Hateful Conduct” policy. Spotify’s explanation of their new policy is super vague and slightly contradictory. In the release statement, Spotify says, “We don’t censor content because of an artist’s or creator’s behaviour, but we want our editorial decisions — what we choose to program — to reflect our values. When an artist or creator does something that is especially harmful or hateful (for example, violence against children and sexual violence), it may affect the ways we work with or support that artist or creator.” But what they’ve done to R. Kelly’s music is arguably a form of censorship, so…

Look, I won’t lie—I’m the first person who’ll stop supporting an artist because of things they’ve done in their personal lives. I can prove it! I don’t have a single Chris Brown song in my Apple Music library and refuse to listen when his songs come on the radio. I simply choose not to support the work of a domestic abuser. But the difference is, I’m a consumer. One person. A single listener with agency and the right to make decisions for myself. I’m not a corporation or a provider of a service; I’m not making the decision for other people about what’s morally wrong and right.

I mean, think of all the music Spotify should be getting rid of based on this new policy. Chris Brown should be totally wiped off the board, along with everything Russell Simmons has produced (this includes Aerosmith, Kid Rock, Pitbull, Timbaland, Kanye West, and about a billion more), and most 1960s/70s classic rock bands. Hell, even the Christmas classic Baby It’s Cold Outside will probably need to be thrown out—the lyric “say, what’s in this drink?” sounds a little dicey, if you ask me.

To me, this policy feels like a very slippery slope into moral policing, witch hunting, media censorship, and social justice black holes. It doesn’t sit well with me that a provider of music whose motto is literally “give people access to all the music they want all the time” is restricting people’s access to certain music based on their own moral standpoints. Let users decide who and what they do and don’t want to support. It shouldn’t be up to a music streaming service to tap on listeners’ moral compasses.

Breaking: It’s May And I Still Haven’t Given Up On My New Year’s Resolution

Full disclosure, I’m not the best at follow-through. I forget to text people back, I’m awful at replying to emails, and I’m constantly giving up on tasks that aren’t immediately easy. Not surprisingly, my New Year’s resolutions usually go the way of my unanswered texts and emails and failed tasks.

Most years, my resolutions end up being fairly cliché ones: drink more water, eat healthier, actually utilise my gym membership, go to all my lectures—you get the idea. Perhaps I’ve failed at most of them because subconsciously I don’t really want to achieve them; I have no impetus or particular motivation to stick to them. Or maybe it’s because they’ve all been focused on extrinsic things. That’s why this year I decided to indulge in a little bit of introspection to find something that I genuinely, truly wanted to change about myself.

Of course, I’m far from perfect, so I had a lot of less-than-ideal attributes to choose from. I need to be more patient, more conscientious of my surroundings, more environmentally-aware, less selfish; the slightly embarrassing and very confronting list is as long as Santa’s naughty list (which, after this introspection, I’ve decided I’m more than likely a part of). But the one thing that I’d been noticing increasingly over the previous few months was how pessimistic I’d become.

I’ll admit that I’ve never been a totally glass-half-full kind of girl. I’m not the first to find a silver lining or to look on the bright side of a situation. My motto has always been “expect the worst and you’ll never be disappointed”; I’m my father’s daughter in that way (and in most other ways, too). While that was a pretty fail-safe outlook—I was rarely surprised when things didn’t work out for me—it also cast a very dark cloud over my life. I was always anticipating things going wrong; so much so that when something went right, I couldn’t even enjoy it because I was so busy wondering when the other shoe would drop.

So there it was. I decided I would be more positive. No more expecting the worst. No more anticipating failure. The funniest part was that once I had settled on my resolution, my first thought was, “I wonder how long this will last before I give up”. It took effort to push that out of my head and tell myself I could do this.

I’m proud to announce that I’m still sticking to my resolution. It’s not quite halfway through 2018 yet, but this is probably the longest I’ve ever kept a New Year’s resolution. And let me tell you, it has worked wonders in my life.

I started by encouraging myself when I felt like I couldn’t do something. I forced myself to go places and do things I didn’t particularly want to go to or do. I made sure I was speaking more positively about others as well as about myself; it’s made me feel good about those around me and my relationships with them, and also about myself. I put a real effort into consistently building up myself and everyone around me. It has made me infinitely more confident and optimistic.

I’ve come to realise that my pessimism was preventing me from achieving so much. There were tons of things that I wouldn’t even attempt because I thought I would fail or because “what’s the point anyway? I’m just one person, how can I make a difference?”. In the past few months I’ve become more conscious of my environment and of those less fortunate than I am. I understand now that although I’m just one person amongst billions, my actions have impact and can create change in the world, even if that change is small.

My newfound positivity has made me more patient and empathetic toward others and myself. I’ve learned the difference between “thank you” and “sorry”. I used to apologise for everything—I assumed I was being a burden on those around me. Now I realise that although I sometimes need to apologise for something I’ve done—”sorry for making you do this for me”—other times I need not apologise for my actions, but instead thank someone for theirs—”thank you for helping me do this”.

I’ve even noticed physical changes! I sleep better, my skin is clearer, I get fewer headaches (they used to be as frequent as twice daily), and I have more energy. I find it easier to interact with people I’ve never met and I’m more receptive to others reaching out to me.

In sum, a seemingly small adjustment of my outlook has created positive changes in pretty much every aspect of my life. I’m blown away by the massive turnaround I’ve experienced. The good news? You don’t have to wait until 2019 to do a little self-renovation.