24

Today is my 24th birthday. If you’ve been following me since the beginning of my blogging days, you know that every year, I write a post about the age I am turning. In addition, I also write about some reflections, and maybe some goals I have for myself.

24 to some of you may think 24 is a baby. Others may think it’s old. I am one of the latter. I am now in my mid-20s. I am no longer a fresh-faced college student. I am now an adult – whatever that means. When I was younger, I thought that being in my mid-20s would mean that I had my life together. Well, I can assure you that’s not exactly the case. I still sometimes don’t know what I am doing. And, that’s okay.

This past year, I’ve made a lot of big steps. I joined the Arts Commission in my town. I also bought a car – my very first new one on my own. During this year, I had disappointments, and I had celebrated successes. I even managed to make it on the radio.

As I turn 24, I decided to set some goals for myself. The first is to get my finances and credit in order. One way I can do this is to start saving money, and stop spending it stupidly. When I bought my car, I nearly drained my savings for the down payment. I never really gained it back. Furthermore, I have a habit of living paycheck to paycheck and purchasing things that I may not necessarily need.

So, with that being said, I’ve decided to work on that. My first plan of attack is to stop shopping at QVC – or at least stop putting so many things on Easy Pay. Over time, I can easily spend over $100 on my payments. Good news, after July, it will go down to half.

Secondly, I want to make it a habit to put more in my savings. Since I get paid weekly, I want to put a portion of my check into my savings before I even can spend it. Even though it might not equal much, that little bit does add up.

Another way I want to do this is to help pay my car off – or get closer to doing so. I currently pay more than my payments are every month. However, I want to begin to increase those payments by a bit. That way, I can get closer to paying it off.

Another goal I have for myself is to make me a bigger priority. As my responsibilities continue to grow, sometimes I realize that I put me on the bottom of the list. So, this year that’s going to change. Whether it may be taking my full lunch break or including a bath gel when taking a bath, I am going to do my best to take care of me. Sometimes it’s not easy to do so, but it’s really important. After all, if I am not going to take care of myself, then who is going to? Asking for a friend . . .

So, 24. So far, it seems like it’s going to be a pretty good year. I guess you’ll have to wait until I write 25 to know for certain.

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Book Review: Love and Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

I don’t know about you, but I have a list a mile long of places that I want to travel to. One of them, Italy, was the setting of Jenna Evans Welch’s debut novel, Love & Gelato. Another place is Ireland, which is the setting of her latest novel, Love & Luck.

Love & Luck in some ways is like a sequel to Love & Gelato. The protagonist, Addie, is Lina’s best friend, who was the protagonist of Love & Gelato. But, don’t be fooled. It’s not a sequel to Love & Gelato by any means.

The novel begins at Addie’s aunt’s destination wedding, which is in Ireland. At the wedding, Addie and her brother Ian have an argument that gets resolved by Addie pushing her brother down a hill. However, before the reception, Addie’s mother gives them a challenge — to behave without incident while the two visit Addie’s best friend Lina while she’s in Italy or she’s revoking all their privileges to play sports. Since both of them are athletes, this is the ultimate punishment.

However, here’s the thing — Addie and Ian are usually the closer of the sibling group. But, after Addie dates football bad boy Cubby — which had an unfortunate ending — the two are drifting apart. This leads Addie to pick up the book Ireland and the Heartbroken, which isn’t your typical guidebook.

Right before Addie is destined to leave for Italy, she discovers Ian to be missing along with his suitcase. She finds him on his way to the ultimate music festival, where his favorite band will be giving one last performance. Addie follows him, which leads her down a rabbit hole of the unexpected as she heals her broken heart. Along with her brother’s friend, she begins to complete the heartbreak homework to ultimately heal the broken heart that she arrived with.

This is easily one of the best books that I’ve read this year. Furthermore, this book is the perfect read for summer. You can easily get lost in it, just as Addie gets lost in the Irish hills. The book is one of those books you can easily finish in a few days, but it’s one of those books that can become your favorite.

What’s unique about the book is that each chapter is sandwiched with an excerpt from Ireland and the Heartbroken. Now, you may be wondering whether or not this may take away or add to the novel. Personally, I liked it. It served as a preview for the upcoming destination. Furthermore, I also think that it also helped with the tone of the book. It helped Addie come to terms with what’s going on with her life at home.

I also liked that this book didn’t reveal all at once. It added to the intrigue of what happened to Addie to lead her to that point. At the beginning of the book, Addie and her brother are arguing. By the end, their relationship is restored.

The one thing that I didn’t like about the book though was the ending. I personally felt that it was a little rushed. I would have liked to see everything go full circle just a bit more. Maybe show more about Addie and Ian as they go back to school, and face the music.

But, with that being said, if you’re a fan of young adult literature, travel or even both, I highly recommend you reading Love and Luck.

Hi Anxiety, Will You Let Me Sleep At Night?

In honor of Mental Illness Awareness Month, I am going to write about having anxiety. But, if you’re a regular around here, chances are you know already I deal with anxiety.

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Me during my junior year of college.

Anxiety is something I’ve dealt with since my junior year of college. That was the time when I struggled to maintain a normal, balanced schedule. At the time, I was taking five intensive college courses, as well as balanced two jobs. Needless to say, I quickly crashed. After dropping a course and receiving therapy from my school’s counseling center, I entered the summer feeling confident.

However, the following fall, I began to struggle with anxiety once again. Only this time, the fix wasn’t as easy as dropping a course or reducing my hours. My fall semester was a constant downward spiral of mental breakdowns. At the time, I was working three different jobs, and taking intense classes. And, I never went to my therapist, because I felt like he never listened to me.

This continued into the spring semester, where between coursework and work, I wasn’t able to even breathe. However, I saw some changes in the spring semester. For instance, I saw a new therapist who was much more open to my needs. I also began thinking about what’s best for me.

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Me, along with friends the night I gave the sermon.

Eventually, I began to get better. I became an advocate for myself, and truly tried to make sure that I was listening to myself. Furthermore, I’ve developed an attitude where I focus more on myself and my needs, and less on the expectations. I’ve also learned to be less critical of myself, and focus more on the good vs. the bad. Towards the end, I even delivered a sermon on how faith plays a role in mental health.

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Me at the beach, August 2017.

Since graduating college, I still with anxiety. Only now, it’s less feeling crushed by the weight of the amount of work I had. Instead, it’s overthinking every little thing and worrying constantly. It’s asking my boyfriend a thousand times if we are okay. It’s lying in bed at night and worrying about whether or not I’ll be able to accomplish everything. It’s crying because a rush of emotion comes to me all at once, and I need someone to give me a hug.

Can I be honest here?

Anxiety freaking sucks.

Although I still attend therapy semi regularly, I’ve come to accept anxiety as a part of my daily routine. However, I’ve somewhat learned to control it. Somewhat is the key word here. I still have moments where I call my boyfriend crying because I feel as though I can’t handle the stresses (to which I thank him so much for, because he not helps me get through it, but does a very good job of making me smile). I still have moments where I write everything in my journal as a release. I still run to get those endorphins pulsing through my veins.

With that being said, since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I write a post about my journey with anxiety. Since this is the second time I’ve done it, I like to look back at it and think about how far I’ve come. I’m not perfect, and maybe I’ll never be. And, that’s perfectly alright. There is no such thing as a perfect human.

However, I do ask one thing of every person who is reading this. And, that is to become more aware of mental health and mental health issues. That’s the main goal of me having this blog, although I’ve strayed to discuss other topics. It can be uncomfortable to talk about mental illness, which is why some don’t often do. But, just because it’s uncomfortable, doesn’t mean that we should sweep it under the rug, now should we?

Didn’t think so.

Furthermore, I ask that each and every one of you helps spread that awareness to others. Stamping out ignorance is the first step in trying to spread and develop a world where mental illness should be regarded as the same class as a physical one. So, if you suffer from a mental illness, be sure to reach out to me. I’ll be more than happy to help you get through it.

Good Days, Good Mental Health

Did you know that May is Mental Illness Awareness Month?

If you didn’t, then today you learned something. To help raise awareness for mental illnesses, I am going to dedicate several posts to discuss the importance of mental health awareness as well as acceptance.

Why?

Well, mental illness isn’t as uncommon as you think it may be. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) page Mental Health By The Numbers, one in five adults in the U.S. are diagnosed with a mental illness in a given year. Furthermore, one in 25 adults experience a mental illness that is so severe that it disrupts regular life activities. ]

NAMI had an interesting info-graphic, which is included below:

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Not gonna lie, these are some big numbers here.

With that being said, what are we going to do about it?

There’s a common stigma that whoever suffers from a mental illness is someone who is tainted and is damaged goods. That statement couldn’t be further from the truth.

And, that statement is the very reason why so many refrain to get the help they need. When that happens, they are not given a chance for healing and for hope.

As many of you know, I suffer from anxiety. It developed when I was an overwhelmed college student, and despite having a kick ass therapist, continues to exist in my life. It sucks, but I overthink just like the best of them.

One of the main reasons why I’ve started a blog was to promote mental health awareness, and to say that it’s okay to admit that you’re not okay. And, sometimes you need a little help on the way. That’s fine too. I hope readers who read my blog regularly — assuming that is that there’s people that actually do that — are inspired to discuss their own experiences and even be proud of the journey that they’ve come.

Therefore, I make it a point to dedicate a few posts every May to Mental Health Awareness Month.

So, look out for more posts about mental health. And, to conclude, I’m going to quote Dr. Fraiser Crane: “Good day, and good mental health.”

Lent’s Over — Time to Buy Books!

As many of you know, I gave up buying books for Lent. As a self-proclaimed bibliophile, you can say that this was a little hard. But, when one has a problem where they buy two or three books at a time, it’s safe to say that I can buy them faster than I can read them. With that being said, I’ve accumulated quite a bit of books — over 20 to be exact.

Now that Lent is over, I can now rejoice and walk into a bookstore again. Or, go to the Barnes and Noble website and order more than I’ll ever need.

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Books I Ordered

I can hear the hallelujah chorus in the background. In fact, the first thing I did Easter Sunday, other than drink a cup of French Vanilla coffee, was go on the bookstore website and buy three books. Thankfully, my mom gave me a gift card for Easter, which was amazing.

As you all know, this isn’t the first time I’ve given up books for Lent. I gave buying books last year, and it was a much different experience.

One of the major differences?

Well, this year, I read about half of the amount then I did the previous year. Last year, I read 11 books. This year, I read five: Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham, And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseni, Stealing Snow by Danielle Page, and Jodi Picoult’s Keeping Faith, and Perfect Match. Currently, I’m reading Fifteen Minutes by Karen KIngsbury.

The main reason is because I don’t have as much time to read as I did last year. I was unemployed, which meant other than furiously applying for jobs, I had a lot of time on my hands. Furthermore, I also spent a bit more time doing social activities than I previously had, which meant less time for reading.

In addition, this year was the first time that I actually didn’t go and buy books and allow myself a cheat day. Last year, I did it a couple of times, which maybe had defeated the purpose. This year, I stuck to it strictly. Which wasn’t too bad, considering I had a million and one things going on.

With that being said, my new goal for the month of April is to make sure that I try to make more time for reading. Probably that would mean more time on the weekend, but hey one could try!

Can We Please Stop Talking About Taylor Swift?

As many of you know, I’ve become slightly turned off of Taylor Swift. The one of the reasons is because I am really not a fan of her latest album Reputation. Sure, there’s a couple of awesome songs such as Call It What You Want To, New Year’s Day, and . . . Ready For It? However, this album didn’t measure up for me.

But, there’s one other thing that really bothers me about her. It’s the fact that whenever she does something, it becomes a leading news headline. Or, if she releases anything — music videos or music — everyone seems to be going insane.

Now, I’m going to say this — if you’re a fan of Taylor Swift I’m not going to say that you’re wrong for it. It’s America, you can like what you like, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for it. I am certainly trying to not make any feel guilty for liking her, because you’re not doing anything wrong for liking music.

With that being said, I also want to vocalize my own opinion. And, that is I’m tired of all of the hype that Taylor Swift’s music videos get. I just googled the words Delicate and nearly 2 million results popped up. Some of those articles were to report that the video had premiered. Others reported the missing Easter eggs that the video had.

My reaction? Who the hell cares?

Sure, it’s news. It’s music news. But, do people go this insane when another artist (with the exception of Beyonce) have a music video? No. Do people dissect it for a million different clues when they come out? Absolutely not.
Therefore, I must ask why are we doing so for Swift? I get it, her fanbase is huge and a lot of people like her. But, does it need to be constantly discussed? No.

At the end of the day, it’s just a music video. It’s not something more than that, so therefore, can we please stop analyzing and discussing it?

Lent 2018 Update 1

Lent is almost halfway over, and I figured it would be a good time for me to give you all an update of how I’m doing with my challenge.

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve given up buying books for Lent. I’ve actually done this last year, with much success. Last year, I’ve read 11 books. However, I don’t think that I’ll be as successful.  So far, I’ve read two Jodi Picoult books — Perfect Match and Keeping Faith. Currently, I’m reading Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige. I’m hopeful that I finish that book over the weekend!

My goal this year is to read six books this year, which I’m certain I can easily do considering that I’m on number three. After I finish Stealing Snow, I plan to either read Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind Of Girl, or Khaled Hosseini’s And The Mountains Echoed. I also have some Stephen King books that I’m dying to dive into!

Before Lent ends, I plan to do an additional update. Hopefully then, I’ll be much closer to my goal! And, while I am a little disappointed that I didn’t knock out several titles like I did last year, I am proud to say that I didn’t have any ‘cheat days!’