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23

Today is my 23rd birthday, and as Blink-182 would say “nobody likes you when you’re 23.” Well, I would like to argue with that statement — everybody likes me when I’m 23.

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College graduation, December 2016. With Gabu!

 

For the past few days, I’ve been thinking about this past year of my life. Man, I did a lot. It was the year I graduated college. It was the year I got better at controlling my anxiety. I t was the year I realized that the first job out of college isn’t always the right job — and that’s okay. It was the year I got my heart broken, saw a Moody Blues concert, and began to write the very blog that you are reading. It was the year that I fell in love with life, and the little things that it has to offer. And finally, it was also the year I learned that despite almost two decades of being in school, I don’t always have the answers. And that’s okay.

I will say this — Taylor Swift was right about one thing about being 22 — it’s happy, free, confused and lonely in the best way. It’s miserable and magical.” And it is. Just beginning your adult life after college is strange, but the best feeling is waking up and realizing it all happens for some unknown reason.

Tonight, I’ll celebrate 22 years of life in the company of some of my amazing pals. With that, I am grateful for their company, as well as the well wishes of those who took time to wish me a happy birthday.

So . . . here’s to 23!

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Why I Think We Post Too Much

As a journalist, I use social media to live tweet events and share links to my articles. As a millennial, I use social media to update everyone who may care about the daily events in my life — something cute that my dog did, if I’m going out with a friend and doing something fun, or if I’m eating something that looks so delicious I want to share it with the rest of the world. You betcha, it’s going onto the gram.

I’m not the only who tweets, posts, and selfies. Every few hours, I check my social media — Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram — to see what everyone in my circle is up to. And sometimes, it can be like information overload. Someone posts a status because they are feeling sad, personally victimized by someone, heartbroken, or posts a selfie every few days of you making the same old duck face.

Selfie, or it didn’t happen. Right?

With that being said, let me just say that I have a bone to pick with my fellow millennials — that bone is that certain things really should stay off of the digital world. While social media is a great tool for many reasons, I believe it can be a weapon of mass destruction when used incorrectly.

I’m talking about the private stuff, such as breakups and fights. Sure, it’s can feel amazing in the moment to post a status — dramatic or just venting. But, take a second. Think about who is going to read that status. And, most importantly, think about how it makes you look. If you are calling someone a derogatory name (use your imagination here, people) in a very public setting like Facebook, it doesn’t make people see your point. Instead, it appears that you’re stirring up some trouble or immature.

The same thing happens when you post about being heartbroken. Whenever I see someone writing a status online about how heartbroken they are, I can’t give an ounce of sympathy to them. Why? Because they are using Facebook — a public forum — to talk about private feelings. And chance are, probably looking for the person who broke their heart to change their mind.

Here’s my theory: if you need to vent, text a friend. If you have the urge to write a long status about things that are upsetting you, instead of getting out your phone, get out a pen and paper and journal.

However, with that being said, I see a lot of great people use social media on a daily basis in awesome ways. I use it to promote my blog posts and articles. My friend’s dad — who is a pastor — uses it as a diary to tell the story of his day-to-day activities. One of my friends uses Instagram to show off her amazing photographs Another friend of mine posts about what he’s doing in his radio career on a daily basis.  And, my co-workers use social media everyday to tell the world what they are doing. And that is awesome. That is how social media should be used.

I think that if you are using social media to talk about positive and meaningful things, versus starting drama, then you are doing it right. So, this is why you’ll see my only dog on my Instagram.

Oh, and are we following each other on Instagram? No? You should totally follow me. 

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The Evolution of My Opinions of Carrie Bradshaw

I feel like I owe Carrie Bradshaw a thank you note. She is one of my inspirations that got me into blogging over seven years ago, where I would question the high school dating scene by contemplating nearly everything that happened to me. Back then, I would write about whether or not someone actually liked me based on their actions, despite them not actually liking me.

Seven years later, I’m still blogging, but the subjects of my posts differ. Instead of concentrating heavily on dating, my posts have shifted to talking about mental illness, current events, feminism, and so forth. However, I’d like to believe that my ‘columns’ or blog posts are a modern version of Sex and the City.

Recently, Sex and the City celebrated 19 years since its debut on HBO. Upon hearing that, it instantly put me in the mood to watch a few episodes.

As I rewatched the show, I realized that my perception of the characters has changed. This makes sense, because I first watched the show when I was 16 years old. For example, when I first watched the show, I thought that Bradshaw was relatable to all of the single women who weren’t going to settle for anything less than the butterflies that come along with real love. However, watching it again, I thought that while I could relate to some of the problems that she goes through, i.e. why won’t Mr. Big put a ring on it/it sucks being single, she seemed narcissistic and immature.

Every episode of the show, Carrie has a problem, and her friends constantly have to hear her bitch about it during their lunches, usually cutting them off from one of their problems. While listening to your friend’s problems and lending a supportive ear is all part of being a good friend, after a while, I felt that if I were one of the other three ladies, I probably would have told her to shut up about Mr. Big.

Which leads me to my next point.

When it came to Carrie’s relationships, the big (get it) problem was that Big was Carrie’s problem. Carrie constantly fell into the trap that so many women before her have fallen into — the relationship is always on his terms, the guy won’t commit, etc. She was always insecure, and constantly needed reassurance from her partners.

However, I believe that some of the relationship’s problems were caused by Carrie. Remember when she thought he was shutting her out because she farted in bed? She then decided to show up to his place unannounced, where he was watching the game. Carrie then wanted him to focus on her, which of course he wasn’t, and resulted in her being upset. I think that she shouldn’t have the right to be, since he was just watching a game, and it had absolutely nothing to do with his feelings for her.

With that being said, many real human beings have their own flaws, so I won’t hold it against Miss. Bradshaw for having her own.

However, despite the change in my opinions about Miss. Bradshaw, I still love the show. That show is definitely one of the most relatable shows for women in their teens through 40’s. I believe that it helped contribute to shift of female empowerment, as well as really helped women become more comfortable talking about women’s issues that those women did. And, in all honesty, it’s a good show.

And despite the changes of my opinion of her character, I still have Carrie to thank, though. Without Carrie, there wouldn’t be no blog post for you to read today. Without Carrie, I wouldn’t want to write, and I wouldn’t have an obsession with my initials. (Does anyone besides me want a Carrie-style name necklace?) Without Carrie, I wouldn’t have chosen to study journalism to become a writer. 

So, with that being said, thank you Carrie. You have become the face of the single woman, all who are people who are just looking for love.

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Confronting the Elephant in the Room: My Journey With Anxiety

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Whenever I talk about my anxiety – whether it may be in writing, in a sermon or in casual conversation – I always feel like I am at an AA meeting.

So, let’s get something out of the way . . .

Hi, my name is Natalie and I have anxiety.

There, much better now.

My journey with anxiety began about two and a half years ago, when I soon discovered that I could not handle the pressure of taking five classes and working two jobs. Luckily, I was able to control it by dropping a class, attended therapy to help maintain the anxiety, and managed to float through the rest of that semester.

I thought that would be the end of my anxiety, if you could call it that. Oh no. In the fall of my senior year, my last full academic year, anxiety came back – with a vengeance, I might add. I began to experience panic attacks, moments when I could sit in bed and do nothing but cry, and times when I felt crushed by the weight of everything that I needed to do for my classes and my jobs. I felt isolated, like a constant sinking stone that felt so lost at sea that no one can come to rescue me.

So, I tried to do the best I could. I went to see a therapist at my school, something that ended up not being helpful, because he had a list of things that I needed to do. That list was a set one. First, let’s try some deep breathing exercises. Didn’t work? No problem, let’s try writing. Didn’t work either? Okay, time to try medication!

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Since nothing seemed to work, I felt like I was setting myself up for failure, almost as if I were failing at therapy if that were such a thing.

I then realized that something had to change. Little did I know at the time was that change had to begin with me.

2016 began as a year of change. I changed therapists, and got a job that didn’t make me sick to go to anymore.

Things began to look up – kind of. I still cried at night because I was just so overwhelmed with everything, I still had panic attacks regularly, and I still felt as if I was so easily broken, almost as if I were made out of glass. I felt almost as if I were in a hole that I couldn’t dig myself out of.

But, beneath that sadness and anxiety, I began to slowly see sunlight. In the spring of 2016, I began to take the wheel and do what I can to make sure that my anxiety was better for once and for all. I was successful to completing that goal – to some degree – thanks to the help of an amazing support system. By the end of the summer, despite some ups and downs, I was able to finally make the right steps to get better.

And, it’s safe to say that most of the steps I took worked for my last semester as an undergraduate. My anxiety, other than the confusion of what to do after with my life after graduation, was pretty much at a standstill. I thought that I beat anxiety for sure, and triumphantly gave a sermon at Luther House at Yale University about how I conquered anxiety and beat it.

As 2017 approached, I was certain that I would leave anxiety in 2016. But, I thought wrong. I struggled as I transitioned from being a full-time student to being a full-time employee. I reverted back to my old ways – crying at the drop of a hat, panic attacks, and being an overly irritable person. To top things off, I soon began to get really sick, to the point where I ended up getting really dehydrated to the point where I couldn’t even move.

At that point, I realized that I had to once again make the choice to do what’s best for me. I never once regretted it since having to do so, and now, am currently leading a life that I am happy with.

And, as I wake up every morning, I appreciate every morning I wake up.
Going through my journey with anxiety these past two years, I believe that it has taught me to love and appreciate myself – the person I am, the person I aspire to be, the journey I am on to get to that point, and the progress I have made to get to that point. I came a long way from that person that I was a few years back! I have learned to take the wheel and make changes that I need to see a result. I learned that my happiness matters above all else. I learned that sometimes life can take unexpected turns, but can fight it with a positive attitude and ‘I can’ spirit. I try to make light of what I went through with humor, and am grateful to be able to laugh at my experiences, rather than cry about them.

Many people – friends, family, teachers, my pastor and a therapist to name a few — have contributed to that journey and supported me to be the person I am today. That very cast of people reminded me that I was worth every challenging moment, were the arms of support when I needed it, and were the people who reminded me that everything was going to be okay whenever I had any doubt that it wasn’t. So, to those who this applies to, I thank you with my whole heart.

But, what I am so glad to announce, is that I have become that pillar of support for myself. I can calm myself down during a panic attack, and remind myself that despite the dismal appearance, everything will in fact be okay. And, that is everything.

Anxiety will always be a part of my life, just as my hair is brown. However, it’s not my whole life, and I refuse to let it consume me. There will be some days when panic attacks that are the furthest thing from my mind, and there will be nights where I can’t sleep because of my anxiety. But, I am not just my anxiety, as I reminded everyone during my sermon at Luther House. I am a bookworm, a blogger, a writer, and a human. But, most importantly, I am stronger than I could have ever imagined myself being. I will not let anxiety be the road barrier to my paradise.

So, as Mental Illness Month draws to a close, I hope that you all have gained insight about anxiety, and for those who suffer with some kind of mental illness, I hope that you know you are strong and wonderful beings. I hope that you know that you can get through whatever you don’t think you can, and you are worth every challenging moment that you have with anxiety.

And when you do have those moments, I’m going to leave you with some lyrics that have been helpful during times of turmoil:

“I won’t break/I won’t bend/But, someday soon we’ll sail away to innocence, and the bitter end” – “Simple Life,” Elton John.

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Aftermath of Manchester

Last night, there was an attack in Manchester, England at an Ariana Grande concert. At least 22 are dead, and over 50 are injured – not mention countless others missing.

When I heard the news – a notification on my phone during my first book club meeting – my heart broke.

This was a concert, one with innocent children and young adults. They were looking forward to seeing their favorite artist, and to hearing their favorite songs. They didn’t deserve this. It breaks my heart to hear a mother frantically cry for her daughter to come home. It breaks my heart to hear that these innocent children are victims to a crime that is so unjust. It breaks my heart to the footage of the attack.

And, all they did was go to a concert.

It’s sad that these have become more and common, and it’s sad that we’ve become immune to the intensity of attacks such as these. Right now, I’m thinking of Paris, Orlando, Nice – and those who lost their lives or suffered injuries. I’m thinking about the children who are victims to this, and the tomorrow that they have to live in. Those children have to live in fear. Those children will sadly never be children again. Stealing the innocence of a child is perhaps the most tragic loss of all.

So, today I pray for Manchester. I pray for those who are injured, those who are deceased, Ariana Grande, and those who anxiously await for news on their children. But, I also pray for the world, for peace, and a better tomorrow.

Book Reviews, Uncategorized

You Are A Badass Book Review

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One of the reasons why I love reading so much is because books truly have the impact to change your life. This is why You are a Bad Ass by Jen Sincero is one of my favorite books.

The book is not your mother’s self help book, and is truly unlike any other. It approaches the topic of changing your life and giving you the momentum to actually go out there and do it. Sincero approaches each with of the 27 chapters with wit and is extremely entertaining. In fact, one of the chapters is called “Your Brain is Your Bitch.” Take that, Freud.

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What I like most about this book is that it reminds you that you have the tools to change your life, and that it is up to you to change the way you think to get change. The attitude of being a bad-ass is something that you can bleed into your daily life – whether it may be doing something because you want to, or deserve it, or going for things because you want to. She also prompts you to stop thinking about doing something, and start doing it. Being a badass means forgoing any feedback from others, and doing things your way. This is something each and every one of us could use more of.

Furthermore, this book also talks about going out of your comfort zone, and trying something that you always wanted to try for the hell of it, whether it may be sky diving or taking an art class. By doing things for the hell of it, Sincero stated that you learn to enjoy life, and it’s worth it.

However, what is unique about this book is how Sincero ends each chapter with two simple words – love yourself. Two simple words that truly have an impact on a reader who may need to hear them during a time of turbulence.

A little background information about my relationship with this book: it was actually recommended to me by my therapist. Since I read it back in September, my attitude towards life has done a complete 180. For example, when something in my life isn’t working – a relationship, job, for instance – I refocus my energies to figure out why that is and what can I do to find a resolution. Sincero writes that when you don’t you allow others (and yourself) to feel sorry for you. But, instead of allowing that to happen, you get out and do something about it, thus allowing change in.

Because of reading this book, I was able to have the attitude to go out and get what I want, and that I actually deserve it. Why, you may ask? Because I am truly a badass, and completely worth it.

Reading this book made me want to kick ass and get off of mine to do something about my life. With that being said, I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking to change their life or is unhappy with it. Why? Because you too, are a badass.

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Why I Deleted My Tinder

Recently, I woke up and decided to delete my dating profiles.

No, I didn’t meet some prince charming, although I got the numbers of a few prospective princes before deleting the apps.

The decision to delete them had very little to do with the outer world, and every bit to do with me.

You see, every day, I would go onto those apps and spend at least an hour of my time looking for a guy. Actually, looking is a mild way to put it. When I first downloaded the apps back in September, it was similar to when I went to three bookstores desperately searching for a copy of the Handmaid’s Tale. I was obsessed with going out with someone, and finding a boyfriend. It was quite unhealthy.

That attitude lasted for about a week and a half. Over time, my interest in the app waned to the point where I only checked it whenever someone of interest would message me. Going on these apps were exhausting! Swipe left, swipe right! I was tired of the endless amounts of let’s have casual sex messages, or the guy who couldn’t get the picture that I wasn’t interested in even talking to him. I was tired of having the

So, last week, I deleted every one of my apps. And it felt pretty great.

At the end of the day, I realized that I don’t want to be the girl who is so caught up with looking for a guy that once she finds him, she loses herself. I want to have solid, concrete interests, as well as opinions. I want to be able to say that I had more going for me then just being on a dating app.

Who knows? Maybe one day I will be back on the app for the fun of it. But, in the meantime, I want to enjoy life without the constant swiping. With that being said, whenever I do meet someone – online or offline – I want to do it simply because I want to get to know them or enjoy their company. Not because I feel like I just have to have a boyfriend.

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Happy Mother’s Day

My mom and I at my college graduation, December 2016.

For those who may not know, I was raised by a single mother. My father left my mother when I was two and a half, and never had much involvement in my life since.

But today’s post isn’t about that.

The best media comparison I can give you to what my life was like having a single mom is the relationship between Lorelei and Rory Gilmore, in Gilmore Girls. Of course, instead of being 16 years older, my mom was 33 years older.

But, what the cameras don’t show is the struggles that my mother went through.  Truth be told, I can never fathom what it was like for my mom to go through all that she did — a nasty divorce, taking care of a constantly sick daughter and maintaining a household on a single paycheck.

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Mom and grandma, circa 1994.

But, somehow she did. And, she did it with strength, class, dignity, and grace — and was able to raise a child in the process. That is why my mother is my hero.

Sure, there are times that my mother and I do not see eye to eye about things — but then again, in every relationship, that happens. With that being said, at the end of the day, I do know that my number one cheerleader is my mom. She read nearly every article that I’ve written since my high school newspaper days. She sat in every high school performance that I had, attended as many badminton games as she could, bawled her eyes out at my high school (and college) graduations, and helped me edit articles.

So thank you, Mom. Thank you for putting me through four and half years of college so I could be debt-free. Thank you for reading every article, even though you didn’t understand them. Thank you for buying me books, and feeding my love for the written word. Thank you for raising me all by yourself, and giving me the best that you can give. Thank you for sitting through boring high school concerts, and for helping me get through a rocky couple of months.

Thank you for being my mom. 

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

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Oh, The Places You Will Go!

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Myself with a baby goat named Disel! 

I declared a major in journalism in my sophomore year of college, but I knew I wanted to pursue a career in writing ever since I was younger. When I was growing up, I would write newspapers that detailed the happenings of my stuffed animals. In high school, I wrote a blog that was basically a diary where my friends read my innermost thoughts.

However, I didn’t declare a major in journalism, not at first anyways. When I first entered college, I actually was a psychology major and wanted to be a social worker. Once I took the classes, however, I realized that psychology wasn’t the career for me. It was time to the drawing board, where I constantly questioned what am I going to do with the rest of my life?

The answer came to me one day in journalism class. We were watching a documentary about George Seldes, a journalist who was dedicated to delivering fact based journalism without bias. I remember watching that, and thinking I want to do that!

I soon began to chase that dream of becoming a journalist by becoming a regular contributor of the Southern News Opinions section, where I would become the editor. Contributing my opinions on whatever matter I wanted was the beginning of everything falling into place. I thrived whenever I got behind the computer to write my stories, and developed a thick clip pile.

After leaving Southern News in May of my junior year, I became a Staff Writer and Copy Editor for the Hamden Journal before leaving to focus on my final semester last fall. Recently, I began to contribute to the Quinnipiac Valley Times as a reporter, and have taken to the position like a duck to water.

While my career has had both highs and lows, my passion for being a reporter never seemed to go away. And believe me, there were a lot of lows. Since I worked three jobs during my undergraduate career, I was always overwhelmed and unhappy. When graduation was rolling across the corner, I doubted whether or not it would be possible for me to have a job. (Luckily, I did find one in communications, before figuring out that communications wasn’t the right career for me.)

Even though I did have my doubts on whether or not I wanted to be a journalist, my passion will always and forever outnumber it. When I go out to cover a story – from interviewing someone for a profile, town meeting, or concert – I always come back feeling energized, and walking on sunshine.

Why? Because, I am in love with it.

I love talking to people. I love listening to their stories. I love learning more about something that I may not have previously known much about. I love hearing what makes someone passionate. I even love learning about what is next for the town in terms of policies.

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Backstage with the Hamden Arts Commission and Kansas, July 2015.

But, what I love most is the places that I’ve had the opportunity to go to throughout my career. When I was a staff reporter for the Hamden Journal, I got the opportunity to go backstage during a Kansas concert to meet the band and interview them. Recently, I got to hold a goat at a local farm that employs people with special needs. In addition, while at Southern, I was able to attend conferences in Los Angeles and in Disney World to network and obtain new skills.

I don’t know where I am headed next in the writing realm (I currently work at a radio station), but I am not worried. With every story, I fall more and more in love with what I do, and the opportunities that I have to do it. With that love and passion, as well as a stubborn streak to seize every opportunity that comes my way, I believe that I will be just fine.

So, while this is only the beginning of my journey, I am so excited to figure out some of the places that I will be going to next.

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A Letter to Those About to Graduate

Take a moment. Breathe.

Yes, I know that life is stressful for you now, especially with finals and trying to figure out what the next chapter of your life will be. For some of you, it may be out to the workforce. For others, it’s grad school, law school or medical school. The opportunities are endless for you, even though you are overwhelmed by them.

I know that this is crazy, but try to push the thought of needing to know the next step out of your head. It’s easier said then done, but here’s the thing – you’re about the graduate college. Trust me when I say this, this is a really big deal. All of the stress, hard work, and sleepless nights are worth it. You’re about to become a college graduate.

Six months ago, I was in your shoes. I applied to jobs while balancing final papers and projects. However, while I was lucky to be offered a full time position the week before I graduate, I quickly learned it takes a while to find a job that works for you. So, don’t worry about not having a position as you walk the stage. As cliché as it sounds, everything happens for a reason, and you’ll walk the path that was carved out solely for you.

In the meantime, just enjoy the last wave of college. Enjoy every last second of having your friends with you down the hall or in the same place, because once you walk the stage, it’s going to be hard to see those faces again. Cherish every moment and celebrate every ‘last.’ If you don’t, then you’ll easily let those moments go and you can’t get them back. Photograph every second, and soak in the emotion of the day, because it’s over just as fast as it came.

And yes, you’re going to make mistakes. Yes, it’s going to take some time to get used to the very fact that you’re not a student anymore – believe it or not, it’s going to take some time to adjust. That’s perfectly okay. Chances are, it took some time to adjust to being a college student. But, as you got through that change, you’ll get through this one.

Lastly, congratulations. This is your time. This is your day. You deserve to celebrate every moment of it, because you did it. You survived college. Not many people can pull that one off.

I’m going to leave you with a quote from Monica from Friends: “Welcome to the real world. It sucks. You’re going to love it.”

Congratulations class of 2017!