Wednesday, February 19, 2014

An Open Letter To My Thighs

Dear Thighs 1 and 2,
How are you? If I had to guess you're probably a little sore and angry at me because I've been participating in the 30-Day Squat Challenge, meaning you two have had to back it up more than you're used to. But I promise it's for the best, guys; soon you'll be even stronger than you already are. Not to mention your friend, my Butt, will be much cuter. I know that's not really your territory, but I thought you might want to know.

Anyway, I'm writing you in part to apologize for the way I've treated you in the past. I also want to praise you two, but since I'm a "bad news first" kind of person, we'll start with the apologies. Thighs, I'm sorry for talking so much shit about you over the years. I know calling you "fucking tree trunks" and "cow thighs" was uncalled for; sometimes I neglect your feelings. I'm also sorry for getting mad at you every time I wear shorts or dresses. I sometimes forget that from my downcast angle you appear to be larger than you actually are, and I mistake your slight wobbling and jiggling for waves of tidal proportions. I need to be more mindful of how big you two actually are and acknowledge your strengths. You get me around campus every day and you work really hard at the gym. I promise to make a more conscious effort to praise your assets more often.

Speaking of praise, I really do love you guys. Sometimes we have bad days and all I can think about is how I want you to be slimmer, but I really should put things into perspective. Keep me accountable for the way I talk to you guys, okay? Because while I used to be obsessed with your larger-than-average size, I've recently learned that that's just how my body is shaped. Y'all will always be a little bigger, so instead of trying to whittle you down to sticks, I vow to instead focus on making sure you're as strong as possible. And yes, that means more squats and lunges, but I promise you're going to thank me in the long run. After all, better sore than sorry. Also, I'd just like to commend you for your traditional values. No one adheres to the morals of the buddy system like you two do. It seems like most people would rather be fiercely independent, but you guys sure know how to stick together. You guys are best friends and it seems as though you rarely want to leave each other's side. And while that used to bother me, who wants a thigh gap anyway and since when is everyone so obsessed with having one? Your love for one another is more inspiring than any "fitspo" picture will ever be.

And finally, Thighs 1 and 2, before I go I'd just to thank you for being able to support that friend I mentioned earlier: My booty. Like the two of you, it's a little bigger than average, and you do a really beautiful job of making sure it always feel supported.

Keep doing what you're doing,

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Post-High School Happiness

Hello, friends! Remember that time I said I would post every day leading up to Valentine's Day? Well, clearly that was a big "oops" on my part; my university closed on Thursday and Friday after we got hit with nearly a foot of snow, leaving me perfectly content sitting in bed doing nothing productive. Not that I think of you as a chore or anything, but when it's so cozy under the covers and the Netflix queue just seems to stretch on for miles, it's hard to even peel out to go to bathroom down the hall. But anyway, I had an amazing Valentine's Day, or rather Galentine's Day. Kickin' it single girls' style is some of the most fun you can have on February 14th, if you allow yourself to be positive about the whole situation. And when your roommate gives you a stuffed animal monkey that sings One Direction it's hard to feel glum and unloved. Plus, you can't go out to get 1 AM milkshakes in your pajamas with your boyfriend, but the girls you've met in college are more than willing.

A few fun photos from Galentine's Day,
thanks to my beautiful friends for agreeing to be featured on the blog.

As you can see, I have some lovely college friends, and that's only three out of the fair few. I feel genuinely blessed to have attracted such nice, positive people into my life, but trust me it took some time to come into this current state of friend-bliss. And that's what I wanted to talk about today: as we encroach on the 1st anniversary of my onset of my depression, I find it important and worthwhile to reflect. 

As just a brief disclaimer of sorts, I thought I'd mention that while some of the behavioral tendencies I developed from the disorder will never be 100% eradicated from my life, I have overall moved past that period. I would definitely not label myself as a depressed person anymore, though I can acknowledge that in the past I was. As I explain my story, I understand that the triggers seem very juvenile and unimportant compared to others' experiences, but I would appreciate receiving the same open-mindedness and sensitivity. Anyway, this is still a hard period of my life to talk about so frankly, but as I've come through to the other side of the mental illness, I feel a responsibility to help others dealing with the same issues, especially kids still in middle and high school.

Without delving too deep into personal details, I will say that my depression was caused by lying, destructive secret-keeping, and ultimately what I would consider verbal abuse from supposed close friends. This all happened during my senior year of high school, when unfortunately there's not much of an opportunity to avoid stressors or distance oneself from those causing problems. Around March and April, it got to a point where waking up in the morning to go to school was so difficult that I would stay in bed for as long as absolutely possible, dashing any sense of self-pride and vanity I previously felt. I went to school looking like a slob, reflecting how I felt on the inside most days. There were times when I made my mom call me in sick when I felt physically fine, but mentally strained (though it wasn't made a habit, I'm talking 4-5 days tops, spread out over multiple weeks). 

I never ever contemplated self-harm or suicide, thankfully, because instead I was seeing a therapist that helped me develop cognitive strategies to enhance my outlook. Additionally, I was never medicated for these issues, though I wanted to be. However, at the time I was a minor and couldn't make this decision for myself, and my mom felt it would ultimately be more destructive to rely on prescription drugs. I was originally mad at her, because I just wanted to feel okay again, but looking back I agree wholeheartedly with her decision. Of course, there are people that experience symptoms more dire than mine were, and are appropriate candidates for medical remedies, and I'm not trying to belittle their coping strategies in the slightest. Anyway, the point is, I never turned to hurting myself or taking pills because instead I used college as my motivation. 

I applied early to all four schools I had an interest in, because I wanted my results sooner. Thankfully I did, because once I heard back from JMU in January of 2013, that was the centerpiece of my visualizations. If I had a particularly shitty day at school, I would sulk out to my car and see the Duke Dog bumper sticker, which lifted my mood a bit. If I rolled out of bed late and didn't want to face the mean kids in the hall, I would pull on a JMU sweatshirt as a socially-acceptable security blanket. All the adults in the life were confident that I would thrive in college, and though I didn't really believe them I held out hope that that would be the case. And guess what? They were right.

I think God is doing me a solid this year to make up for the damage He previously set in my path. I have the best, most supportive, most mature friends I could ever ask for and I truly feel loved and cherished. I live with a roommate that I consider a best friend, and every day I navigate a beautiful campus to get to class. I now have the energy and desire to wake up in time to put on cute clothes and makeup that makes me feel pretty, and I haven't once taken for granted that newfound sense of vanity. Sure, I still get homesick and I count down the days until I can go home sometimes, but overall I feel like a walking advertisement for the "It Gets Better" campaign. I'm not perfect, and some days I feel sad or like I've lost hope, but overall it feels awesome to prove myself. Some of you reading may feel uncomfortable with my openness and maybe even angered by my willingness to spill my dirty laundry, but if you fall into those categories maybe this post wasn't for you. I'm not asking for sympathy and I'm not trying to fake a "troubled artist" facade; rather I'm just hoping at least one kid that feels currently stuck in his or her situation will read this and feel inspired to keep going or make necessary improvements. Whoever you are, I promise there are beautiful things and wonderful people waiting for you, and it'd be beyond awesome if you were around to see them.

I love you and appreciate your willingness to read about my past. You are all cherished and such a cathartic part of my life. I hope you have a wonderful week and will reach out to me if you have any questions or comments. xx

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Apologies and Mommies

Good afternoon, friends. I hope you're all having a good day; I definitely am so far. JMU cancelled classes today for upperclassmen assessments, so today's been one of those "running errands and reading a good book at Starbucks" kind of days. It's one of those days that reminds me how much I love hanging out with myself and being my own coffee date. It's the kind of day that makes me feel badly for complaining and whining two days ago on this blog. If you read my last post about being sick and having a group project to do, I'm sure it left a sour taste in your mouth. I'm sorry for sounding like a brat, I really am. To compensate for that unnecessary negativity, and with Valentine's Day on Friday, I thought I'd write a quick post every day leading up to it lamenting on something or someone I love. And of course, it would be wrong to kick it all off with anyone but my forever Valentine, cheerleader, and best friend: that's right folks, I'm talking about my mommy :)

First of all, isn't she just the prettiest, most put-together woman you've ever seen? Ever since elementary school, I've made a point to tell her how proud I am that she has a fashion sense and the wherewithal to look fab every day. I can't explain to you how nice it is to grow up with a mom has doesn't have to conceal an unsightly muffin top with an oversized Disneyland sweatshirt; any time she'd come to school for career day or met new friends, I never had to worry she'd embarrass me.

Speaking of career day, my mom is the most driven woman--nay, most driven person, male or female--I know. I swear to God, if she wasn't my mom she'd probably intimidate me with her business savvy and self-assuredness. She'll come home from work and tell me stories about how she's handled conflicts with co-workers in the most badass and classy way possible, leaving me in awe each time. When I was little, she always felt bad about sending me to afterschool daycare because she wanted to be home for me, but honestly I wouldn't change my upbringing for anything. Sure, girls with stay-at-home moms always had someone to make them a 3 PM snack, but I have a mom that has modeled hard work and embodies the Head Bitch in Charge (lovingly coined "HBIC") role so perfectly. Because of her, I can't imagine not having a demanding career when I'm older. 

And while I'm gushing, let's just go ahead and talk about how well she's always balanced her hectic schedule. Along with being the most driven person I know, she's also the busiest, but I'm always made a priority. Being an only child helps exponentially, but I'm sure if I had siblings I'd still get my fair share of attention. When I'm at college, what I miss most is just running errands with her on Saturday afternoons. It might not seem like much, but going to lunch and then hitting up Target while talking about nothing and everything is some of my most cherished time. Don't tell my friends, but when I come home for even a weekend, I look forward to seeing her more than I look forward to seeing them. They're probably reading this, in which case I'm sorry y'all, but blood runs thickest. And if you know me in real life you know my mom too, so you can understand where I'm coming from.

I really don't want to get too gushy here, so I'll leave you with just one more reason why I love my momma more than anything: she has the best Momma Bear instinct I've ever seen. She protects me with such ferocity that even when I was at my lowest, coldest, darkest point in my life and I felt like everyone else had abandoned me, I at least knew I had one person in my corner. The few times I've been seriously hurt by old friends, she was the first person wiping my tears, the last person listening to my venting when everyone got sick and tired of me, and the only person willing to tell me "okay Lauren you gotta get over it" when it really was time to kick it into repair mode. There are a few other notable allies in my life that helped me over the hump that was the Great Depression of 2013, but none as loyal and as loving as my mom. 

And sure, we've fought a fair amount of time, because no relationship is perfect, but in the grand scheme of things, we have a rock-solid rapport. I never went through an angsty "I hate you" stage with her, which I'm forever thankful for because it's no secret that my Dad and I don't exactly coexist in harmony. She's seriously the best friend I could ever ask for, and I'd continue to drone on and on about it but I'm sure I'm boring you with my gushing, not to mention the fact that I'm starting to get teary in Starbucks...which is embarrassing enough to make me want to sign off.

So anyway, I hope you're all having a great day, and I hope this post inspired you to tell someone you love them today. I wish a wonderful mother-child relationship on you all, but because I know that's unrealistic, I just wish for you all to have some bond in your life as strong as the one I just described, even if it's with your guinea pig. I'll see you tomorrow y'all! 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Being Sick, Group Projects, etc.

Hello friends! I'm currently sitting in my school's library, playing my weekly game of "Oh Shit It's Sunday Time to Do All the Homework". But before I become engulfed in Lifespan Psychology and Victorian-era lit, I thought I would check in with you guys. Also my head is pounding and my muscles all ache so I'm trying to slowly ease into my workload.

Now before you jump to conclusions and make assumptions, I'm not hungover. I know I go to one of the top party schools in the nation, but I spent last night--and this entire week actually--being sick. I'm talking body-crippling, nose-running, staying up at night dry coughing sick. I never used to be that girl that got sick all the time, but moving to college that's completely changed. It makes sense, because I went from being an only child with plenty of my own space to being constantly surrounded by others. Not that I mind though; in fact, as a result of living in the dorms I sometimes get really lonely if I have a minute alone, but honestly all I've wanted this week is to be in my bed at home with my mommy making me chicken noodle soup. But I'm still trucking, and I haven't missed any of my classes, so hopefully getting some more rest and inhaling a few more mugs of tea will help my cause.

Anyway, that's not the prevailing topic of today's post, I swear. Instead I wanted to talk about one issue I never had to really deal with before I got to college, that issue being the inconveniences of a group project. I'm sure a lot of you reading this right now are probably groaning and rolling your eyes with me, because you too can understand my frustration and stress. See, before college, group projects aren't that big of a deal, because your teacher arranges time to work during school, and if you fall behind you just congregate at someone's house that Saturday. Usually the groups are self-selected, aka working with friends or that one smart kid that'll do all the work. In college however, even if you pick your own groups that doesn't help matters much because you've most likely never seen these kids before and once the semester is over they'll disappear into a sea of random faces. And when it actually comes time to work, you have to put on pants and walk for ten minutes to hang out in the library all night while barely any work gets done. Trust me, I'm speaking from experience.

So anyway, this group project I have to work on today in particular is especially annoying because it didn't even have to be a group project. Maybe it's just my introverted tendencies, but I work so much more effectively alone. So when my French professor told the class we'd have an oral presentation next week that we could either do alone or with 2-3 other students I thought to myself okay yeah this'll be great, I'll just throw some shit into a translator and call it a day. Fifteen minutes tops! Awesome. As class was dismissed I began to pack my stuff and peel out to get dinner only pausing to accidentally make eye contact with the girl in the seat in front of me. That was my first mistake.

"Hey do you want to maybe work together?" she asked, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. And me being a big fat people pleaser, I coughed up a "Yeah sounds great!", immediately wishing I could reel the words back in. But just as we agreed to work together, the girl to my right heard this exchange and asked if she could join, too. Now I'll admit a group of three is a lot better than a group of two in these situations, but as she chimed in I practically felt my easy A slip away into oblivion.

Now don't get me wrong, both girls are very sweet, but take into account my aforementioned sickness and the fact that all I want to do is sleep and you may begin to understand my desire to just shrivel up and accept a bad grade on this French project instead. Sorry if I sound like a brat, because it's just one of those days, ya feel me?

Sorry for the short post, but I really should get to work at some point here. I love you all and I promise I'll be feeling better next time we talk.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

How to Love the Gym

Good evening, y'all! I think blogging in the gym is officially the weirdest activity I've paired with my cardio routine. I've watched Netflix, read books, and studied for AP exams on many an elliptical, but this may take the cake. For those trying to visualize, though, I'm typing on my phone using Blogger's mobile app; can you imagine someone bringing a laptop to the gym?! But anyway, it's actually very appropriate that I'm writing from a bike machine tonight, because today I wanted to share with you my tips for loving your workout routine, or if you're a newbie tips to create your workout routine. So purchase your memberships now because you're about to get seriously motivated.

Tip One: Treat Yourself to Cute Workout Wear
Now I can't promise you'll look quite as glamorous as Taylor Swift when you emerge from the gym, but you'll sure look cuter than the girls wearing their dad's ratty old college basketball T-shirts. And maybe it's just me, but I enjoy my workout a lot more if I'm wearing a cute outfit. I know it sounds dumb, but match your sports bra to the band on your yoga pants and just try not to feel put together, even drenched in sweat. The key, though, is making sure the workout clothes you treat yourself to (and don't go crazy--I'm talking two or three pieces from TJ Maxx) don't turn into your lazy day clothes. It's okay if you want to occasionally lounge in your cardio gear, but make this the exception and not the rule. For the most part, force yourself to go to the gym if you put on your new clothes. And trust me, if you're anything like me you'll have a hard time letting your new purchases just chill in your drawer unworn.

Tip Two: Make an Awesome Gym Playlist
In fact, make multiple gym playlists. I get tired of my workout mixes often enough that I make new ones every fourth or fifth workout, often focusing them around different themes or genres. Personal faves of mine include my "Early 2000s Throwback", "Country Cardio", and "Sassy Breakup Songs" mixes, but that's just me; you need to find what works best for you. Go through your iTunes and put together 10-30 songs that are upbeat and make you want to dance. If you're bored of your music library, search for mash-ups and remixes that feature your favorite artists; good DJs (that release free downloads!) include DJ PJW, Daniel Kim, and Earlvin. Also here's just a tip: songs you may find annoying under normal circumstances sometimes make for the best gym jams. I'm talking about all those Broadway soundtracks you have but never listen to. 

Tip Three: Multitask 

If you're not much of a music fan, try other ways to pass the time. My roommate, for example, loves listening to motivational TED Talks while she works out, but there's an endless list of things you can do. Amazon and Netflix both have movie and TV streaming you can view on your smartphone or tablet, so if you're currently marathoning The Carrie Diaries or Downtown Abbey, pair the two together. Or if you have reading together, either for class or because reading is fun, bring your book or magazine with you and perch it up on your machine. The point I'm trying to get across here is multitask with something you'd actually do in your spare time, because if you marry that activity to the gym then you have no choice. What works even better is doing a time-sensitive activity; for example when I'm at home I go to the gym when F.R.I.E.N.D.S is on, because my gym has TVs built into the ellipticals so I tell myself "if you want to watch you have to do it at the gym". Plus, once you get into your workout, you have to admit it's pretty fun; by multitasking you just end up pairing two hobbies.

Tip Four: Go with Friends 
Before we continue, can we just talk about how cheesy these stock photos are? Okay moving on, working out with friends has proven to help with motivation, especially if you're the competitive type. In fact, I once read in a magazine that the ideal gym partner is about 40% more fit than you are, therefore creating a desire to keep up with an ability to actually do so, resulting in the best workout of your life. So ask a friend to come with and secretly peek at her stats (I'm kidding, I would never! Well...) 

Tip Five: Treat Yo'Self! 
A la Parks and Recreation, one of the best shows currently on television. Although now that I'm thinking about it, you probably shouldn't go as crazy as Tom and Donna every time you leave the gym, but rather dial it back into the realm of being realistic. You need to find something both a) affordable and b) at least relatively healthy. When I was just getting my footing with working out, I would treat myself to Starbucks after each trip to the gym--but I would get 60 calorie iced coffee instead of a sugary frappuccino; see the difference? For you your treat may be something completely different, just think on it a bit. And remember you don't have to treat yourself every time if you'd prefer to save up for something a little more pricey, like a new dress after a solid month of gym-ing it 4 times a week. Just remember that the treat should reflect the work you put in.

And that's it! I hope you all found this helpful at least the tiniest bit. If you're a gym rat like me, leave comments below suggesting similar posts you'd like to see! 

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Dynamic of the Group Chat

Happy February, everybody! I hope you're still committed to your New Year's Resolutions and you're keeping warm during the Polar Vortex. As most of you reading this are in the Northeast, I hope you enjoyed the brief warm spell we had this weekend. Okay, now before I turn into one of those people that is so terrible at small talk that they resort to commenting on the weather, I'll change topics. Believe it or not windchill isn't what I wanted to talk about today. Instead, I thought I'd talk about a topic close to my heart: the political schemes and dramatic downfalls of the GROUP TEXT.

At the present, I'm probably included in 4-5 group chats, ranging in number from 3 to 9 contributors. Some of these group chats are just smaller versions of larger groups and usually start as a result of trying to coordinate lunch one day, but without fail all end up being at least 60% awkward. Now even if you have the most communicative and engaged group of friends, I guarantee your group chats go through similar stages.

When you first initiate a group chat, you can't help but feel your heart go a-flutter. Much like those fun and quippy groups of friends in your favorite sitcoms, (think F.R.I.E.N.D.S or How I Met Your Mother) you're apart of a posse. Not only are you apart of a posse, but you're apart of a posse that's quick-witted and built on the foundation of mutual understanding. You talk about nothing and you talk about everything; conversations can be as pressing as making plans that will start within the half hour or as pointless as taking pictures of the sky. Either way, it's fun for all involved. I'd compare this to the honeymoon phase of a romantic relationship, with the constant communication and showiness of affection.

After that seemingly endless chain of texts, the group chat becomes a little more chill. The messages are reserved for making plans or passing along vital information, or at least whatever the sender considers to be 'vital'. A good 90 percent of the time, these texts are acknowledged by a few other people in the chat, even if it's just to say "cool" or "lol", and for some reason this is reassuring as the sender. It's kind of the equivalent of a meek thumbs-up or a nod in passing. I'd go ahead and call this the cool-down period if it were a relationship, where mutual liking it understood and therefore doesn't always need to be proven. I'd argue this is the sweet spot for both relationships and group chats, but as human interactions tend to do, neither will stay in this sweet spot for too long.

Once more time passes in the group chat love affair, we enter stage three. You'll know you're in this territory when the group chat in question is buried under a few more of your text exchanges, so you'll have to scroll a while if you're looking for it. The messages sent are gone unnoticed more often than not when this happens; not for lack of caring, but because you've grown comfortable with the sender enough that you don't need to ensure they have your approval. The sender should probably anticipate this, though if you're the sender there's a chance you may get a little miffed when no one responds to your message. If this is the case, take deep breaths and remember it happens to us all. At this point in the group chat, it may feel like you're returning to the scene of a raging party the next morning when everyone else has gone home. Or, if you like the relationship analogy, you could say this is the point where the couple goes to bed at night without any chance of funny business under the sheets. It's not the best place to be, but remember this may just be a weird pocket of time that'll pass.

So anyway, I hope you understand what I'm talking about here, otherwise me and my texting habits might appear strange. Before I sign off though, I'd like to take the time to remind you that a bad group chat does not a bad group make. Even if you don't use your phones to constantly be in contact, your friends are still cool. I just want to make sure I'm not making anyone antsy or paranoid here. With that in mind, have a good week and I guarantee we'll talk soon!