Compare and Contrast

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” —Theodore Roosevelt

facebook-down-NDJ

For the last couple of months, I went back and forth, deciding if I should go to my high school reunion. My first thought was, “Of course, I should go! It will be fun!” But soon my thoughts morphed into, “No, I shouldn’t. Reunions only exist so you can brag about your awesome job, your new husband and adorable family and how much weight you’ve lost since senior year.” It didn’t help that I looked at the Facebook profiles of some my former classmates who are attending- yup, you all all living better lives than me. I am SO not going.

I go through moments where I really hate Facebook. Every day, it seems like I’m bombarded with my friends’ newest photos of their adorable babies, engagement announcements, inspiring achievements- either physical ones or big moments with their careers, exotic vacations that I could never afford… I look at all these events, all these moments and think “when are they going to happen to me?” Both my heart and my brain flare up, leaving me extremely jealous which leads me to reevaluate my life, focusing on my failures and disappointments.

I’m not the first person to admit that social media makes me depressed. There have been studies how such sites like Facebook crushes spirits and causes depression and anxiety- the more often people use the Web, their happiness drops. When I hop on social media, I look at others and compare my life to theirs- it’s negative judging on steroids. When we do those comparisons, our self-worth is damaged. On social media, we look at an edited version of people’s lives- we’re only seeing their good stuff. It’s unfair. We compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel so we struggle with insecurity and resentment. We are so hard on ourselves- enough that we draw ourselves so in that we don’t start working on making our lives better. Being hard on ourselves kills our motivation and causes us to spiral into a larger abyss.

How do we cure the dreaded Facebook envy? Do you want to be happier? Albert Camus, the French Nobel prize-winning journalist once said, “to be happy, one must not be concerned with others.”  The answer is stop with the comparison. We are all too unique to be properly compared with. If you’re not where you want to be, do something to change it. Refocus your energy on being the best version of YOU. Purse something greater. Focus on the good in your life and be aware of all your success and achievements. Above all else, remind yourself that no one is perfect and has it all together. Practice gratitude and grace- someday, I’ll look at other’s wedding photos and feel nothing but happiness for the couple (I know that one day, I’ll be able to post pictures of me in a long, white- okay, it will be pink- dress).

If that doesn’t work, dear reader, you can always deactivate your Facebook account and go kick a soccer ball for a while outside.

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And if you’re like me and need a Wednesday pick-me-up…

Happy Hump Day, everyone!

Happy Hump Day, everyone!

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Now That You’re in Your Late 20s…

Oh, Cosmo...

Cosmopolitan-Magazine-_-July-2012-Issue-_-Front-CoverI usually don’t pick up the magazine- I don’t need to learn sex tips to blow my boyfriend’s mind nor the latest tends in nail color. But while waiting in an exceptionally long line at the market last night, I couldn’t help but browse through one. I skipped over most of the content, only checking out shoe advertisements. I was almost through with the magazine when I came across a list- Now That You’re in Your Late 20s… If it wasn’t for my obsession with lists, I would have skipped over the article completely, but I read each bullet point. You know what- it was actually pretty insightful (who would have thunk it?).

My mom once told me that your twenties are the most difficult decade of your life. Being a teenager at the time she described that harsh reality to me, I didn’t believe her. But lo and behold, Mom- you were right. There is so much mistake making; trial and error; a ton of learning and growing. Now that I’m 28 (and thinking about life in my 30s), I look at the younger half of my generation and see hope. I know that everyone hasn’t lived my life but at the same time, I see 20somethings struggling, fighting for their future- and they’re succeeding. That tells me you’re going to make it- the road ahead may be bumpy and full of thorns but you will eventually make it to Emerald City.

Cosmo magazine offered some interesting tid bits it claims every woman should know how to do by her late twenties. Below, I offered a sampling of the list, listing my favorite bits that I did think every late 20something woman should know (with the exception of throwing an awesome dinner party- I think everyone, regardless of age and gender should know how to cook for a ton of friends and have a good time playing host). I never thought I’d actually agree with Cosmopolitan but there’s a first time for everything…

1. Stick with a career path, even if it’s hard at the beginning. This might not be THE one and only career you’ll ever have, but it’s the one and only one you are fully committed to right now. You can always go to med school in your 40s if this doesn’t work out, but you’re not giving up and getting at part time job at Starbucks if things get tough at work. In fact, you like tough. (ANDREA’S NOTE: I love my job. I adore my co-workers. But I’m not going to be at Artown for the rest of my life, let alone the next year- my boss already knows that. I have dreams and am trying to accomplish those dreams. But in the meanwhile, I push myself with my current position and kick ass while getting out the final report for the county.)

2. How to fearlessly ask for what you want. Whether it’s for a salary bump or the birthday present you’ve been dreaming of, you aren’t afraid to put your needs first. You might not always get what you want — ice cream socials every Friday! A pet pig named Harold! A reasonable pay increase! — but you aren’t afraid to use your voice to try.

3. Save money. Maybe you don’t have a financial planner (yet), but you know the different typed of IRAs and you contribute the max to your 401K. Hey, you even have a little money left over each month, and can lend some to your little sister to buy new heels or a play station or whatever. (Plus, you’re smart enough to know you’re never getting that money back.) (ANDREA’S NOTE: At work, I just opened up a 401K. Never in my life have I felt more grown-up and responsible. Can I tell you about the good feelings I get knowing that I’m taking care of myself in the future? It’s pretty rad.)

4. How to say no. You know what you want and need and perhaps most importantly, you know your own limitations. You don’t need an elaborate excuse to get out of something, you can just say no. You no longer do things out of guilt or obligation, you do things because you WANT to. (Unless it’s your mom. Sorry; she pushed you out of her vagina, so you’ll do what she says. Most of the time.) Also, you know when to say when. And not only about booze, but also when it comes to friendships, French fries, if you should be that relationship, if you want children, etc.

5. That the body you have… is the body you have. Love it, treat it well, and dress it in clothes that make it look and feel amazing. (ANDREA’S NOTE: This. This. This. I’m a curvy girl- always have been and always will. We all have ugly days, some more than most. On my ugly days, I try to focus not on my appearance, but my body as a whole and the amazing stuff that it can do. I treat it to the gym and bike rides and if I need an extra pick-me-up, I buy a cute pair of shoes since heels lengthen my legs and make my calves look especially muscular.)

6. That you’re a different person now than you were at 19. And that’s a good thing. Don’t you hate it when someone is like, “oh you think THAT now? I remember 10 years ago you said this!” It’s like, yeah. Maybe you wanted to marry Sugar Ray in 2004, but that doesn’t mean you want to marry Sugar Ray in 2014. People change, and that’s a good thing. (Unless you’re still into Sugar Ray! Listen, you just want to fly, and there’s nothing wrong with that.)

7. No matter how close you get with a guy, never neglect your closest most solid friends. Your core group is solid as a rock, and you know these people would walk through fire (or at least through New Orleans during Mardi Gras) to bring you ice cream after a bad date. (ANDREA’S NOTE: I have been that girl who forgets that she has friends as soon she she gets into a relationship. It’s during that time when you discover who you can count on to the end. Whether you’re the friend or the lady with the new honey, remember that some things change but those who love you the most- and want to see you happy and in love- will be there through the boyfriend… and the break-up.)

8. When to make a dentist appointment. And your mom doesn’t even have to tell you to! (Most of the time.) (ANDREA’ S NOTE: I recently made myself an eye doctor’s appointment. As much as I hate having drops put into my eyes, I am so excited to see the optometrist. Is this a weird older-20something phenomenon?)

9. You should no longer give a shit about what the mean girls think. Mean girls exist in the world long after high school, and they are always a nightmare to deal with. However, as you get older and more secure, you can blow off the bullshit and just do your own thing. Consider it your late 20s superpower: Not giving a FUCK…  (ANDREA’S NOTE: AMEN.)

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(And ten years is all that I need, thank God…)

You’re Doing Just Fine

Freaking-out

Who here feels like they are going to freak out at any second? ME (my hand raised high)! I like to stress out about every single little thing- think of me as the female Woody Allen, neurotic to the bone.

This past weekend was a sour one and I spent the latter portion of it in my room, writing down all my problems (it was quite the list). With the list, I looked at each entry and thought, “Man, how am I going to do this- how am I going to fix these issues? How am I going to fix myself?” Trying to figure out the answers to these questions made me have a panic attack and I went to bed Sunday, feeling worse than I did in the morning. I laid in bed and kept on thinking, “Why can’t I just be happy?”

I often to go to my co-workers for advice and most of the time, they are spot on with their words. One co-worker, Jennifer, consistently tells me to let things be- my life is great so I don’t need to worry about anything. And she’s right- I have a roof over my house; kind friends and family; a terrific boyfriend; a job that I enjoy and grants me to live comfortably; my health and a body that allows me to do squats and pull-ups every morning. I just have trouble seeing that goodness. I assume everything is going to be wrong when in all reality, everything is going to be just fine.

I found this stellar list on online that reminded me that I’m doing okay and that I will be okay in the near and far futures. Reading this was comforting and put my mind at great ease. Below, I included some of my favorite signs that put things in perspective for me (I suggest reading the full list of 29 signs). Maybe these be a comfort to you, too…

1) You have the freedom to live your life the way you want to live it. – If you often worry about what you’re going to do with your life – your career, your family, the next step, etc., be grateful. All details aside, this means you have ambition, passion, drive, and the freedom to make your own decisions.

2) You are courageously walking your own path. – When people argue with you and challenge your decisions, remind yourself that you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. You’ve got to do what’s right for you, even if some people disagree.

3) You see obstacles in front of you because you are not settling. – If you settle for just anything, there wouldn’t be any obstacles in your way, but then you would never know what you are capable of either. Because your obstacles are your opportunities. Obstacles are put in your way to help you determine if what you want is really worth fighting for.

4) You have come a long way. – Do not judge your failed attempts and mistakes as an indication of your future potential, but as part of your growth process. Your past has given you the strength and wisdom you have today, so celebrate it and use the knowledge you’ve gained. Don’t let it haunt you and hold you back.

5) You haven’t let fear get in your way. – You have to wonder how many people are afraid to die, in part, because they often realize too late that they were afraid to live.

6) You still believe in the possibilities that lie ahead. – Accept what is, let go of what was and have faith in what could be. Remember, life does not have to be anywhere near perfect to be wonderful.

7) You are doing what you can with what you have. – The secret to living the life of your dreams is to start living the life of your dreams, right now, to any degree that you already can.

8) You are doing your best to provide value. – No one is entitled to success. To remain successful, you must constantly find new ways to add value. Keep putting your heart, mind and soul into even your smallest acts. This is one of the great secrets of lasting success.

9) You continue to make a difference. – Have you ever thought about how much your actions mean to others? Maybe that smile you gave to a stranger today made their bad day better. Maybe that hello you gave to a colleague today made them realize people actually notice them and care. Maybe that money you gave to a homeless man today gave him hope. Maybe spending time with someone special today made them forget their problems for a while. Keep it up.

10) You have enough right now to live comfortably. – You didn’t go to sleep hungry last night. You awoke this morning with a roof over your head. You had a choice of what clothes to wear. You have access to clean drinking water and electricity. You are online right now. You have plenty to be comfortable. Being wealthy is a mindset. Want less and appreciate more.

11) You know deep down that you are not alone. – Next time you feel all alone, remember, again, that you are not.

12) You have great people in your life who are standing beside you. – Know that it’s less important to have more friends and more important to have real ones. And remember, it’s during the toughest times of your life that you’ll get to see the true colors of the people who say they care about you. Don’t take these people for granted. Look around and appreciate them, right now.

Problems are always going to be there, dear reader. Life can be difficult at times but you are strong and smart and well, awesome- you got this! Remember, you’re doing fine- just fine.

If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, Shut Your Damn Mouth

A few years ago, I got my septum pierced and it quickly became my favorite piercing. I felt this beautiful/bad-ass combo feeling, something I never felt before and I wore the ring in my nose proudly. Some former friends decided to speak their mind about my new look. But instead addressing their “concerns” to my face, they hid behind their computer screen. They sent me messages on Facebook, saying that my septum ring looked hideous- one friend said that I looked like a bull. Needless to say, I was crushed and stopped talking to these people.

I was taught that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Saying mean things are just mean. I carried this belief with me throughout my adulthood- most of the time, I find it’s easy to stay quiet. Sure, if someone severely pisses me off, I will let them know. If I’m talking with someone about another’s appearance or an opinion I disagree with, I leave the comment alone and shut up. For example, I don’t believe in god. Having many religious friends and family in my life isn’t a problem because I keep my opinions about religion and spirituality to myself. I don’t tell my friends that they’re “wrong” for believing in what they chose to believe in- I don’t diss praying (I know it just doesn’t work for me). I don’t hate on gospel music (musically, some songs are gorgeous). Even on Christmas, when I attend church with my friends, I participate despite my beliefs. Who am I to say that their beliefs are wrong? And vice-versa? I silently respect what they chose to believe in- and I expect them to respect me in the same way. No one is stupid for having a thought of their own.

After the SlutWalk this past weekend, I posted some photos of the event on Facebook. These were pictures I was extremely proud of- that event meant so much me as both the event organizer and a protestor trying to get her voice heard. Some pictures apparently struck a nerve with people and they left some pretty rude comments on some photos. Of course, I was hurt. If people respected my opinion and knew how much time and effort I put into the event, I think they wouldn’t have said anything so awful and nasty.

Before you tell me that I’m being too sensitive- shut it- I believe there is a lack of consideration and dignity in the world. We are cruel to each other. We constantly hear about the kids who are bullied every day, pick on for being different and thinking differently. Those comments on my SlutWalk pictures? They were typed by bullies­- cowards hiding behind their computer screens.

Can you imagine if all the online trolls and offline bullies decided to give up hating others? What would the world look like if they practiced tolerance instead? It’s all about respect and acceptance- you can’t control what others chose to believe so accept it and respect it. I remember vividly another life lesson my parents taught me- treat others how you want to be treated. So, keep your bitterness to yourself.

To me, it comes down to this: if I’m looking for your opinion, I will ask for it. Have some damn respect.

The FIRST EVER (!!!) Reno SlutWalk

Saturday, September 6th- the Reno SlutWalk was underway!

Slut. Ho. Tramp. Whore. Bitch. Those words are heard by women on the daily. How many times do you hear those words thrown around in a casual conversation- words that we think are the norm but really hurt us deep down inside?

But words are only the beginning. Every two minutes, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted. Assault is something that is still not openly spoken about. Today’s women assume that the name calling and sidewalk whistling are a part of everyday life. But there are many people who know that this is wrong and should not be tolerated. Hence creation of the SlutWalk.

Participants made their own signs. There were so many funny and clever ones- this one was one of my favorites... "Catcalls are not compliments."

Participants made their own signs. There were so many funny and clever ones- this one was one of my favorites… “Catcalls are not compliments.”

Reno hosted the city’s first SlutWalk this past Saturday. It was a huge undertaking but it created AMAZING results. Over 125 people- men, women, children and a couple of dogs- marched from the ReTrac Plaza to the Second Street police station, stopping to pose under the infamous Reno arch for a great group photo. There was a sign making session, fun costumes and inspiring speeches. The entire experience moved me to tears and made me so incredibly proud of my city.

The first SlutWalk was in Toronto in April 2011. The organizer, Sonya Barnett, created the event in part of a response to a Toronto police officer telling a York University safety forum, “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

SlutWalks aims to take back the word, “slut” and all its variations, transforming the negative meaning into an empowered one. They encourage women to wear whatever they chose to without feeling any shame nor victim blaming. They teach men and women not to rape and how to peacefully fight back against those who hurt others verbally and physically.

Parents brought their children along, which was pretty amazing. I loved all our mini protesters!

Parents brought their children along, which was pretty amazing. I loved all our mini protesters!

There was a couple kinks in the road- the organization of the walk was a little crazy. We got a couple complaints, ranging from the name of the walk to people thinking the event was a downtown pub crawl. But in the end, all the stress and anxiety I had about the SlutWalk melted away. All I wanted to do was spread our positive message and have our voices be heard.

I know that things are not going to change overnight. There will still be catcalling and hating and sexual violence. But with time and respect from everyone, Reno- the United States, our ENTIRE world, can be a safer and more positive place to live and work. Together, we change our home, our city, for the better. The SlutWalk aspires to show that sexual assault and cruelty are not way of life- respect and acceptance is.

Thank you all again for being a part of the movement on Saturday. See you next year!

Anxiety Girl

Anxiety girl (this is me)!

Anxiety girl (this is me)!

1:32am. I’m sitting on my living room couch, trying to differentiate the sounds of the white noise outside from the buzzing inside my brain. It’s another sleepless night with my anxiety, another night that I am unfortunately used to.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults in the United States (about 18% of U.S. population). Women are twice as likely to be affected as men. I am one  of those women. I have always had some sort of anxiety. Through out my life, it comes and goes in great waves, with certain times of the year being more concerning than others.

My anxiety causes me to stay up nights and lose much focus and motivation during the daylight hours. I spend hours and hours analyzing every single thing in my life and in the world around me. Every other month or so, I have an anxiety attack. The last one I had, two weeks ago, stemmed from a whole slew of things (responsibilities at work; my schedule with school and the upcoming holidays; distance I’ve been experiencing with certain friends; the 15 pounds I gained over the summer; my low bank account; upcoming events like the Reno SlutWalk and my high school reunion, etc.). These worries left me feeling paralyzed. I needed to get up for work but I couldn’t move my body. I felt so stuck and cried for a good 10 minutes before I managed to drag my body into the shower. A week later, I had another when I woke up with herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1) on my left eyelid (which I get when extremely stressed), that left me more anxious. I had a weekend of fun things planned but instead, since the virus festers and spreads when I get any sunlight, I canceled my plans and stayed inside… which left me feeling more upset and uneasy, lonely and disgusted with myself. It’s the never-ending cycle with this one…

I sometimes think about the kind of person I would be if I didn’t have my anxiety. I think about how I would have longer hair, as I pull out my hair during tense moments (or even moments of boredom or a mental fog). I don’t think I would binge on food and use sweets and salty treats to subdue my emotions and negativity thinking (here’s looking at you, tummy and hip stretch marks). But I do what I can. I watch ASMR videos on YouTube that help me sleep throughout the night. I recently bought a gym membership and I push myself HARD; so hard that most of my muscles throb with pain by the time I leave. That pain leaves me feeling accomplished and let me focus through out the day on becoming mentally strong and building muscles (even though I can barely make it up the stairs). I go back and forth about going on medication (this week, I’m thinking about going on it). But above all else, I remember to be gentle with myself- I let myself go through the motions, dive deep in my problems and swim on through to the other side, ending up “Life isn’t that Bad” Bay. I dry myself off and start smiling again.

If you, dear reader, suffer from anxiety, especially in the way I do, my heart goes out to you. I hope that you can find the tools to heal and just know that you are not alone.