Friday, March 28, 2014

Brave

Being an only child, you tend to rely pretty heavily on stories. When there are no other little kids at home to play make-believe with, you instead learn to talk to Barbie dolls and re-watch the same VHS tapes to pass the time. And in those stories, we follow closely behind princesses and knights fighting ultimate evil--masterfully swinging swords through the air or defying destiny in the rawest form of bravery. Relying on these imaginary settings, I grew up thinking you could only be brave if you slayed the dragon, but since becoming better acquainted with adulthood, I've learned that bravery is rather ordinary more often than not.

To me, bravery can be as simple as being passionate. It's not apologizing for the music you listen to and squawking along to the radio. Bravery is telling your parents that instead of pursuing a stable office job, you'd rather move to the city and write for a living, even if it means waiting tables in-between freelance work. Bravery is saying yes as often as you can, but having standards set that require a "no" on occasion.

Bravery is refusing to wait half an hour for the boy that was late picking you up, because deep down you know your time is more valuable than that. Bravery is sitting on a therapist's couch because you've finally come to terms with the fact that you need help mending yourself. Being brave is being told by a professional that you're mentally ill, and even though you can't seem to find any source of light, you get out of bed anyway. Bravery is raising your hand in a two hundred person lecture because you had a question about last night's reading and making yourself vulnerable to your wisecracking professor's berating humor. Introducing yourself to a potential friend or cute boy, even though the anxiety racing through your mind is sending up dozens of red flags.

Bravery isn't always jumping backwards off of the high dive and performing in the school talent show. Our society praises those that can put themselves out there like that, but that isn't any reason to be discouraged. True bravery is knowing who you are and what you want; bravery is refusing to deviate from your core values to please others or fit in to the crowd. 

So go outside without makeup on. Tell the guy on Twitter making sexist jokes exactly how you feel. Stop giving a shit about that time you embarrassed yourself in seventh grade. Walk away from those who just want to dull your sparkle. 

Be brave.

Monday, March 24, 2014

25 Facts About Me

Well wouldn't you know it, readers: we've reached our first milestone. 25 posts! That may not seem like a lot, but I'm still just as excited as ever to be updating you on my life and my stories. So to reach well into the double-digits without tiring of this relationship we have is pretty exciting if you ask me. I was thinking about what I wanted to post to commemorate this mildly riotous occasion, and I decided that even though we've been going steady for 3 months now, you still don't know a lot about me. And thus I present 25 Facts About Me, one for each post I've written thus far.

1) I'm an only child, although I have three step-siblings: a boy and two girls. When I was younger, I would claim them as my full-blood brother and sisters, but we've never lived in the same house or have even been too close. But nevertheless they're awesome
2) I have a dog named Hollie, who's a miniature Schnoodle (Schnauzer-Poodle mix) and completely adorable. Early on in the school year we lost my other dog Rascal, who was a 13-year-old Shih-Tzu we adopted about 4 years ago. He was grouchy and irritable, but we all loved him just the same.

3) I worked retail in high school. My first job was at a little girl's clothing store, which as first jobs go wasn't too terrible. After quitting because the mall was too far of a drive, I took another job at the same mall. I know this sounds stupid, but I was promised a pay raise and longer hours--turns out that wasn't the case at all, but rather my shifts were cut more often than not. Still in all though, good resume builders.
4) One of my favorite food products is guacamole, to the point where I'm a snob about it. So far the best guac I've found is made fresh at Whole Foods, but I'm open to suggestions.
5) I'm a huge Harry Potter fan, and I've read all the books multiple times. I've also been to Harry Potter World in Universal Studios and it was the best theme park experience ever.
6) Speaking of theme parks, I hate roller coasters. I have a really weak stomach when it comes to drops and flips. So basically if you're looking to go to Busch Gardens, maybe don't invite me.
7) I have a tattoo on my wrist that says "fearless" in Taylor Swift's signature font. It has various meanings, and I love it. The pain was 100% tolerable, so much so that I'd be willing to do it again.
Photo taken an hour after having the tattoo done.




















8) The best experience of my life so far (I have a very limited 18 years, mind you) was on July 6th, 2013 when I saw Taylor Swift in concert in Pittsburgh, PA with Julia, one of my best friends.
9) That being said, I've been to a total of 3 Taylor Swift concerts in my life. Itching to up that count though.
10) My first word was "doggie". Guess that answers the question of whether I'm a dog person or a cat person.
11) If given a magic lamp with a genie inside, I would wish for a guaranteed career writing for Glamour, some way to get free Chipotle burritos for life, and a killer bikini body without having to try too hard.
12) Speaking of bikini bodies, though I don't have one, I'm working on it. I go to the gym on average 6 days a week, and my go-to exercises are elliptical, bike machines, and running.
13) Sticking with the fitness theme, my mom is a fitness instructor, personal trainer, and superhuman.
14) When I'm irritable, aka PMSing, my number one pet peeve is incessant humming and whistling.
15) When I was a freshman in high school, I kept a blog called "The Learning Process", which was terrible and has since been deleted.
16) I have too many celebrity crushes to count on both my hands, but if I had to pick a top three I'd have to go with Harry Styles of One Direction, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Seth Meyers.
17) I'm currently in the process of watching American Horror Story with my roommate. We're on season 1; no spoilers please!
18) I have a phobia of vomit that is so severe it caused me to cry when I saw Pitch Perfect for the first time. You know what I'm talking about if you've seen it.
19) My favorite movie of all time is The Way, Way Back. It came out recently but didn't get nearly enough hype; if you haven't seen it already you absolutely have to. It's a non-negotiable.
20) I once went to a Halloween party dressed as Olive Penderghast, the main character in Easy A. A small group of drunk boys asked me what my name was, I told them it was Emma Stone, and they proceeded to call me that all night. One of my bigger successes.
Photo credits to the wonderful Kailey White




















21) My first crush was in 1st grade on a boy named Jonathan, who I went to school with through high school. I think in that time we've had exactly half of a conversation.
22) Since coming to college, I've been exposed to the wonderful world of Goodwill and now I can't stop buying men's flannels.
23) I drive a Mazda Tribute named Ezra that's just shitty enough to be in that sweet spot of lovable while still drivable.
24) For some inexplicable reason, I hate the smell of Herbal Essences hair products. I used to use their shampoos and conditioners all the time, but one day something just snapped and now whenever a girl in our communal bathroom is lathering up with it, I resist the urge to yak.
25) And finally, because it's so fitting to my blog's title: when I go to Starbucks, my go-to drink is a grande hazelnut iced coffee with nonfat milk, plus an extra shot of espresso if I'm feeling especially brain-dead.

And that's it! I hope you enjoyed this and feel as though we got a little closer as a result. It's like we skipped ahead a few dates and now we're at that intimate trust level.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Weight Room Anxiety and Getting Fit (maybe)

If you've been reading along for a while, I've mentioned going to the gym a few times. Additionally, if you know me in real life you're more than aware of my newfound love for working out. However, doing 30 minutes on the elliptical followed by the same strength training routine got old fast, and as I felt myself tiring of my usual workout, I knew it was time for a drastic change. Enter the weight room. Literally.

Over my spring break, my roommate's brother's girlfriend (it's confusing I know--try to keep up) took me and Roomie to Gold's Gym to work out. Naive and exhausted, we assumed we'd get our usual hour workout in, give or take, but surprise surprise: instead we used intimidating weight machines and bars and actually managed to keep up. Of course, we were struggling through a good portion of the routine, but I think we both knew this workout was the start of a new fitness regime. I'd heard people on Twitter and friends in real life raving and complaining about "leg day", but before this 10 AM circuit I never really understood. Obviously that gym was littered with buff dudes pounding protein shakes, but there were enough scrawny women and out-of-shape newbies to ease our discomfort.

As we went to Roomie's house to shower and start our day, our legs already sore, we discussed the possibility of using the weight room at our school's gym. It's a beautiful facility that has pretty much all the equipment you'd ever need, but it's conveniently divided into lower and upper concourses: the latter of two, our usual spot, is full of ellipticals and treadmills, so as a result is full of girls. Downstairs though--where all the machines we wanted to use are housed--is a different world. You'd be hard-pressed to find any women in our weight room, and the ones down there are muscular and toned. 90% of those in attendance are boys wearing bro tanks and benching the equivalent of my body weight times two. So naturally I was conflicted: I had a desire to use machines and do squats with a 50 pound barbell on my shoulders, but then again I didn't want to be seen as a foolish little girl who got lost on her way to body sculpt class. Thankfully my roommate is much more willing to put herself out there, and she's more than comfortable taking the lead in unfamiliar situations, so I figured "fuck it--why not?" And guess what guys? The weight room is awesome.

Of course, the first time we went down there we were 100% convinced everyone was staring at us and trying to suppress laughter, but as I quickly learned, people that serious about working out are in the zone; they don't have the time or energy to people-watch. Plus pretty much everyone is listening to music through their Beats headphones, so they can't hear much of anything anyway. Also, here's just a general gym tip: look like you know what you're doing and odds are you'll fit right in. If you confidently approach the leg press machine or stand in line for free-weights just like everybody else, any discomfort you may feel should be eradicated. As long as you're using proper form and being safe, you shouldn't be afraid of your gym or feel like there's any area "off limits" to you--if you're up for a challenge you have the freedom to approach the equipment like you're in the big leagues. I would suggest you go with a mentor first who can make sure you're safe, though; there's no sense in putting in all that work just to pull a muscle. If you don't know anyone that's experienced in strength training, workers at your local gym are trained to help and would probably love teaching you; otherwise they just have to stand in the corner watching the clock until they get to go home.

So in conclusion: I've been gone for a while because of spring break, the challenges of getting back into schoolwork after a week off, and all the hours I've been logging at the gym. I'd love to keep writing about my fitness adventures as I get more fit and (hopefully) lose weight and tone up, but I don't know if any of y'all give a shit. Please let me know in the comments whether or not this is an interesting topic, because while this blog is mostly a cathartic process for myself, I want you guys to be entertained.

Okay, I love you and we'll talk soon!

(I mean it, really I do)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lessons Learned from Taylor Swift

If you don't have the pleasure of knowing me in real life, you may be unaware of my everlasting love for Taylor Swift. Seriously, I think it's a spiritual thing at this point. I mean, the girl inspired my tattoo...if that doesn't sum it up for you I don't know what will. But anyway, that's not really the point; today I really wanted to talk about the lesson we can all learn from Taylor Swift, though trust me there are quite a few. Maybe I'll come back to those in later posts.

First of all, let's address the elephant in the room: a lot of people hate Taylor Swift for unjustified reasons. If you ask someone why they feel so strongly opposed to her, their arguments will most likely fall into one of two categories: "She dates so many boys/She's a slut" or "Maybe she should write a song called 'Maybe I'm the Problem!'"** Each claim is more exhausting than the other, and let me tell you why: people just hate her because she's brave enough to stand up for herself and that makes weak people uncomfortable and angry.

Therein lies the lesson we can all learn here: you collect memories, and what you choose to do with them is 100% your call. Taylor Swift has fallen in and out of love, she's been cheated on, she's experienced excessive critique, and she's not afraid to tell you about it. There's something powerful about someone owning their experiences like that, and we should all strive to find that kind of power in ourselves each and every day.

Honestly, as long as you are paying appropriate tribute to what actually happened, you have the right to relay facts and exchanges if you want to. Just like you have the right to bottle it up or vent about it to your best friend, if someone hurt you or you experienced some sort of trauma, you can tell people if you want to. As long as you're being truthful and being candid, who cares what other people think? There's nothing wrong with being an open book if you have a need or desire to do so.

I know it can be hard though. There's always the concern that other people will be angered by your honesty or they'd prefer for you to keep everything inside, but living for the approval of others isn't healthy. And I'd be willing to bet that the nay-sayers are just afraid of your honesty because they regret how they behaved. That's the other part of the puzzle: treat people nicely, because you never know what they'll do with your cruel words otherwise.

So in conclusion, because I don't want my words misconstrued: if you experience something, you now own that experience. Do with it what you please: keep it private, tell a few people, or tell the whole world. Each option is just as valid as the others. Don't be concerned with the opinions of smaller people, because honesty and self-love are more important than their approval anyway. But always make sure you are 100% honest and steer clear of excessive bias, because once you start elaborating on actual events and re-imagining interactions, then you're waist-deep in the murky waters of lying and gossiping. Neither of these are good and both will undoubtedly weigh on your conscience. Oh, and one final note: Taylor Swift is flawless and we should look to her for the answers to all our problems.

I hope you're all having lovely weeks so far and are having a happy "hump day". I'll talk to you guys sooner than you think!


**I'm not really going to go into those arguments because they're exhausting and you won't emerge victorious, so instead just give this a listen and rethink:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5i4BFx3OMg

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Netflix'n

Here's a good rule of thumb, kids: when your roommate mentions the fact that "you haven't blogged in a while", it's probably best to listen to her and write something down. Blogging, for me at least, is one of those things that seems like it's going to be such a chore, but once I start the first sentence, the overwhelming catharsis and clarity I feel is comparable to a hot shower after a hard workout. The only problem is I often forget the refreshing, soothing part of the ordeal and only focus on the negative. Maybe that speaks miles about my personality--you psych majors out there can feel free to analyze in the comments--but the point is I'm here now. And much like a pathetic, cheating husband, I'm here to say this is the last time; I won't leave you again baby, I promise!

So anyway, as tonight is the much-awaited Academy Awards, I thought I'd talk about movies! But not critically-acclaimed movies, because I'm not too much of a film buff myself, but rather those that you can stream instantly from your laptop or TV. That's right, I'm talking about Netflix. If you're a young adult between the ages of ten and twenty-five, odds are you don't have your shit in order, leaving you plenty of time to mindlessly marathon television shows and movies for hours on end. Or, if you're like me, you really don't have that kind of time, and you should instead be reading for class, but because you claim to work best under pressure, you spend most of the weekend Netflix'n, leaving Sunday evening for total chaos and exasperation. But back to the point: Netflix for many of us is a vital procrastination and relaxation engine, so hopefully everything I'm saying hits close to home.

For me, Netflix is most often used on weekend nights when I need "Lauren time". As an introverted person, I need to recoil and charge my battery so I don't completely lose my shit. Thus, watching TV and movies alone is the perfect solitary activity. There's no worry of pleasing others, and there's definitely no worry that you won't find anything to watch. Netflix, while somewhat limited, is always there with a comforting embrace and shitty made-for-TV movies for when you're needing a good laugh. Or if you're tired of hearing about how you "need to watch" whatever show is popular, you can marathon the first season to join in on the conversation. Sure, there are critically-acclaimed films and true works of cinematic art, too...if that's what you're into.

Anyway, Netflix is a big part of the reason I've been gone for a while. I wish I could say it's because I have a lot of work to do or I've been really social lately; unfortunately my time has not been spent on friends or on homework, though those should be the priority. Instead, I've been spending my time watching a wide array of interesting indie films and Disney Channel shows from my childhood. Honestly, I think that's healthy though. Especially in college, we try so hard to make sure we're always present and social, but sometimes if you're not checking in with yourself you're straining your patience and positive demeanor. No matter how cool your friends are or how fun the outside world is, there are weeks when we all just need to huddle up in bed, completely alone, and take some personal time to recharge. All you extroverts reading probably think I'm crazy, but honestly just try being alone for an evening; once you get over the initial "lonely" state, you'll find it's quite relaxing and worthwhile. For you, that may be time to learn a new skill, or play an instrument, or order take-out and eat like a pig while no one looks at the pizza sauce stains on your pajamas. For me, alone time is prime Netflix time.

What do you like to do alone? Keep it PG, please.