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18 Tips for College

18 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting College

I feel like I was more prepared for college than most people are. I had been dreaming of a place where I could sit and discuss books at length in an academic setting with other people who were equally invested in the subject matter since I was in the second grade. Once I realized college was where I could do that, I spent a lot of my time researching what I would need to know. Even though I feel like a lot of my life experiences had prepared me for things like living on my own and handling school, from the academics of it to all the bureaucracy.

Still, there are a few things that I wasn’t prepared for, and I think they’re well worth discussing. These definitely aren’t the only insider tips about getting through college in existence, but they are the ones that kept me sane for four years and still help me keep it together now.

18 Tips for College

 

 

1. Be flexible. Sometimes, you don’t get the class schedule you wanted and you have to scramble to find something else to take. This will not ruin your semester. Nor will realizing you’re crunched for time and can’t complete assignments with the level of quality you usually consider your best. Do what you can, and move on.

2. Use your syllabus to ground your schedule. This is extremely helpful if you regularly use a calendar or a planner. When you get your syllabi, start penciling in the dates assignments are due and when exams are supposed to take place. You’ll be thankful later when a paper is due in two days and you completely forgot it even existed, but your calendar reminded you.

3. You are allowed one major screw-up with each individual professor. Use it wisely. Some professors are tougher than others, so this may not always work, but I’m adding it here because I think it’s important to let all of you know that I screwed up pretty badly more than once while I was in college… and everything was fine. Did I forget the day of the final for my Comparative World Lit class and not go? You bet. Did I not realize I was supposed to turn in my Human Sexuality paper on the last day of class? Of course! But despite these mistakes, I passed both classes with flying colors. Why? The professors knew I cared about the coursework, and I reached out immediately to ask for help. They were willing to give me the benefit of the doubt. Be consistently good and people will forgive your mistakes.

4. This one is super important. Never forget that your professors are people. If you’re struggling, talk to them. Not every professor is flexible or willing to work with you, but the vast majority of them are, especially if you’ve proven yourself to be trustworthy and consistent. (See #3 above.) Your professors are there to teach you specific material, yes, but they are also available when you need extra guidance, whether it’s with coursework or other life stuff. They are people, and most of the time, they care about you and just want you to succeed. Most professors aren’t trying to set you up for failure.

5. Write your schedule and to-do list down regularly. I’m not a huge fan of pre-organized planners, but I always carry a notebook everywhere to write down assignment details and notes that would help me compose a to-do list. When I was working shift jobs, I always put my shifts into Google calendar, along with my class schedule for the upcoming semester and any important due dates for different papers. Whether you use bullet journaling, a day planner, a calendar app, or just a plain old composition notebook, getting stuff written down somewhere you’ll see it is hugely important. Figure out what works with you and do it consistently. Organization often feels like half the battle in college.

6. Create a class schedule that works for you. I lived super close to campus, so I preferred to have my days really spread out. 2 hour breaks between classes were ideal, because I could walk home, eat, gather my notes for my next class, and then walk back. I also liked loading most of my classes into one or two days because that made scheduling work a lot easier. And, after I stupidly signed up for a 9 AM class my very first semester, I promised myself that I would never take a class before 11 AM again. Your freshman year, experiment a little to figure out what’s best for you. This is your education. Figure out what kind of schedule will help you learn best.

7. If you have to take out student loans, start paying them down ASAP. Future you will thank you. I put a significant amount of money toward my loans while I was still in school. I made a small dent in my loans and kept my loan interest in check, and I also created the habit of paying my student loans regularly. Now that I’m in repayment, it doesn’t feel like a huge deal since I’m already used to putting a significant portion of my income towards my loans. Even if you can only afford to put $10 toward your loans and it all goes to interest, I’d say that’s worth it. It’s a super important habit to build!

8. Consider a more minimalist lifestyle. I’ve been in the same apartment since I moved into it before freshman year started, and I’m grateful to my past self for not buying a bunch of crap I’m just going to have to get rid of once I move. Really think about what you’re bringing into your space, especially if you’re living in a dorm and have to pack up at the end of every semester. Check out this post I wrote about the decluttering challenge I did last year. I highly recommend trying one of your own if you feel like you’re getting overwhelmed by stuff. Clutter makes it that much harder to succeed in school, and it makes life ten times better not to have it around.

9. Your local library is an extremely valuable resource. If you’re an English major, the library will probably have all the books you’ll need for the semester, along with tons of other helpful resources. Many libraries (especially if you’re in a large city) put on events pretty regularly. They also offer classes on everything from budgeting and money management to coding, making your own lip balm, and yoga, all for free. You may also be able to get into some local museums or other local attractions for free with passes obtained from your library. Most libraries also have extensive resources online. I’m able to get tons of audiobooks, movies, music, comics, and video games for free through my library. Take the time to get a library card. It’s free and it could save you a ton of money.

10. Speaking of libraries, your school libraries literally have degrees in how to research things. Ask them for help. I had more than one professor take advantage of the awesome library we had on campus and sit us all down with librarians who taught us how to use the university’s databases properly, as well as the basics of research. Even though I considered myself a strong researcher at the time, I still found a lot of their tips helpful and continue to use some of them to this day. If ever you’re working on a research paper or another project that requires finding X number of sources or that you just need to know more about, go talk to your librarians. They can help you find everything you need and then some.

11. Learn how to research! This goes hand in hand with #10, as your university librarian can probably teach you a lot of basic researching skills. This will save your butt in the future, both in college and in the rest of your life.

12. Good writing covers a myriad of ills. Knowing how to write and communicate well can sometimes cover up the fact that your paper’s argument isn’t all that strong. Taking the time to learn how to write well will help you so much, through college and beyond. But work on those arguments at the same time, though. Critical thinking skills are also super important.

13. Don’t feel stifled by research paper format. Whenever I read the papers my peers wrote, I was kind of stunned by how… boring a lot of them were. They were super formulaic and even if their arguments were strong, they just weren’t discussing them in a compelling way. I’m here to tell you that you’re allowed to have fun and be creative while getting your point across! You’re allowed to your own opinions! (Caveat: some professors really just want you to regurgitate what they taught you about the material. Those professors suck, but do what you gotta do. That said, most professors don’t really care what you’re arguing so long as you argue it well and have evidence to back it up.)

I highly recommend figuring out what argument you want to make and then just rolling with it. If it’s enjoyable for you to write and research, it will likely be enjoyable to read. Also, play with your papers’ formats and structures. The five-paragraph essay is a great starting point, but by the time you’re a sophomore in college, you should have moved beyond that. Look at the papers you’re reading in your field, especially the ones focusing on theory. (If you’re majoring in literature, that’ll be most of what you read anyway.) They don’t follow the five-paragraph format. They use whatever format it takes to make their argument. Those are the kinds of examples you want to try and emulate.

14. Learn how to study in a way that works best for you. Experiment with different methods. Different courses and exams may require different tactics, but overall, you should have a basic study method. I preferred to thoroughly read the material and make notes (even if they were silly, like writing “omg” in the margins when I was annoyed with a character) so that I knew I was staying engaged. Class discussions would allow me to cement that knowledge. My partner struggles more with that kind of intense focus, so he uses a method called junebugging. This method involves jumping around from one task to another, but knowing he always has to come back to his main project. There are tons of different study methods out there. Figure out what works best for your brain and your courses.

15. Avoid unnecessary shortcuts. You are paying to learn (or, at least, someone’s paying for you to learn). So learn the material. Don’t just learn it for long enough to do well on the test. If you actually take the time to absorb what you’re learning long-term and put it to use, you’re ten steps ahead of most of your peers.

16. When you’re giving a presentation, remember that no one wants to see you struggle. Everyone is rooting for you. Watching someone stumble and shake through a presentation is hella uncomfortable. I shake really, really bad when I present. It always helped to remember that even if people noticed, they weren’t judging me for it. I could just take a deep breath and keep going.

17. In the same vein, make sure to practice your presentations out loud, preferably more than once! This is extra helpful when you’re working in a group. Even if it’s right before the group presentation, meet up and take a few minutes to run through it together. All of you will be so much less nervous. If you’re going solo, practice it to yourself in the shower or while you’re doing other mindless tasks. Then practice it in front of your roommate or someone else you trust a couple times. Actually moving your mouth and saying the words before you get up in front of the class will greatly improve your presentation technique and soothe your nerves. You got this.

18. Know your limits. Don’t take on too much. You will burn out, which makes everything ten times harder. Yeah, I worked 55 hours a week and took a full courseload at school and lived. My depression and anxiety also got really bad and I was stressed to my limit all the time. Sometimes, I feel like I’m still recovering, even though it’s been over a year! Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many commitments. You need time to relax, spend time with friends, and recharge however you need to.

That’s all 18 tips! There is so much more I could say, but these tips are the most important. If you take nothing else from this post, remember these three things: ask for help when you need itlearn how your brain works and work with it, and make time for self-care. College can be hard. Don’t make it harder than it has to be.

Do you have any questions about college or tips to share? Leave a comment and let’s discuss!

18 Tips for Surviving College

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North Carolina: Sightseeing in Topsail, Wilmington, and Durham!

It’s been three days since I got back to California. While I definitely missed the San Francisco fog while I was in North Carolina, now I’m missing being able to walk across the street and onto the beach.

It was my first time in the south, and my first time getting to dip my toes into the Atlantic. I’d never heard of Topsail before this trip, and if you haven’t, either, just know that it’s like every cute little east coast beach town you’ve seen in the movies.

I went with family to go visit more family, so most of our time was spent visiting, but we did see a few places that blew my mind in a variety of ways.

The first was The Copper Penny in Wilmington. Now, I wasn’t expecting much, since my North Carolinian relatives called it “pub food,” but then they mentioned that they just wrapped filming part of an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives there a short while ago and I started to get excited.

Y’all.

It was so good. We ended up getting an order of their handmade spring rolls and chose the “get both” option, so we got 4 southwest black bean rolls and 4 cheesesteak rolls. I thought I’d died and gone straight to heaven. I only got to have one of each, and both of them were so amazing I would honestly go back to North Carolina just to pick up a few orders of The Copper Penny’s spring rolls. The egg roll wrapper was crispy and perfectly fried without being greasy, and the insides of both kinds of roll had this amazing creamy texture.

I also ended up getting a spring mix salad because I was hungry but not starving and needed some greens, and it did not disappoint. I don’t tend to order salad in restaurants because I find it tedious to eat, and if I’m paying for food, I usually want there to be a little more protein in it. But that didn’t matter, mostly because the candied pecans absolutely stole the show. I don’t know how to describe them, but they were so crispy and delicious and filling that I actually felt completely satisfied by the time I ate my last bite of salad. The raspberry vinaigrette definitely helped tie it all together.

What I’m saying is, is that if The Copper Penny can make a salad that makes me swoon, you need to go. Wilmington is a fun town with tons of beautiful historic buildings and I’d love to explore it more, but if I ever get a chance to go back to NC, I’m hitting up The Copper Penny first thing.

On our last day on Topsail (pronounced Top-sull by locals, which is weird, but whatever), we drove to this donut shop that every single one of our family members and friends who live anywhere near Topsail wouldn’t stop talking about. Now I know why.

It’s called The Fractured Prune and they do donuts differently than anywhere else I’ve ever been. They make each donut to order and fry it right as you ask, so when you bite into your donut moments later, it’s still the warmest, freshest donut you’ve ever had the pleasure of taking a bite of. I’m a big fan of maple bacon donuts, so that’s what I got. It ended up being the best cake donut I’ve ever had, with maple glaze and cinnamon sugar topped with crispy bacon bits. I could’ve eaten a whole dozen of those alone. Everybody else raved about theirs, too, and we got a pretty wide variety of flavors. The experience of eating a fresh, warm, deep-fried cake donut is stellar, and if you’re near any of their other locations in other parts of the US, please take advantage of that fact. For me.

Our last major stop before our trip was Duke University, specifically the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. I’ve been to quite a few botanical gardens and arboretums, but I was still absolutely blown away by these ones. I really enjoyed the historic gardens area (the ponds are so pretty! So many cool trees! The really cool and slightly ominous Patrick Dougherty art installation!) and the tulip gardens were absolutely stunning.

It was a short trip, so I know there’s still a ton left that I want to explore in North Carolina, but I’m so glad I got to see what I did!

Where are your favorite spots in North Carolina? Also, what is Waffle House like?? I couldn’t convince my family to stop at one and I’m still a little bummed.

Pushing Through a Reading Dry Spell

In the final months of my undergrad, I was dying for the freedom to read whatever I wanted. I dreamt of a day when I would go back to all those books that had been collecting dust for years, waiting for when I had the brain space to read them. At the time, it seemed like the only thing missing that would allow me to fully dive back into reading was free time.

Well, I have free time now. So what have I been reading?

Not much.

I’ve been able to delve into some nonfiction books. I’ve really been digging Come As You Are over the last couple weeks. I listened to a good portion of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up before 428374928 different life things got in the way. I was also really enjoying What Your Clutter is Trying to Tell You on my commute to and from work, but my phone battery just isn’t what it used to be. The point is, I never quite seem to finish the books I start. The last book I finished was Turtles All the Way Down (which I reviewed here), which felt like a weird exceptional blip in this reading dry spell I’ve been having.

A huge part of the problem is that I read for a living. I read books as I look for writers to reach out to, and then read those books again as I proofread them. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be reading dozens (or potentially even hundreds) of submissions to the writing contest I’m running for work.

When I’m not working, the idea of reading seems entirely unappealing. I’m much more interested in curling up on the couch and watching/yelling at Mad Men or attempting to take over the world in Europa IV for the 574356th time of just sitting quietly on my phone and scrolling through Pinterest. This feels like a moral failing to me, having been an English major and a voracious reader since I was a toddler.

So, what’s a proofreader and webnovel manager to do?

I don’t have a plan in place just yet, but once I start figuring out how to get out of my tech- and work-induced reading funk, y’all will be the first to know.

How do you handle reading dry spells? Any tips for keeping up a reading habit? Leave a comment below!

March Update

I finally feel like I’m out of the weeds and able to breathe more easily. Literally.

Back in September, I started complaining about just generally feeling gross. At first I thought it was just my generally terrible immune system, which likes to fall apart for about 6 months out of the year, leaving me with bronchitis that lasts for months and a constant feeling of malaise. From September through February, I had three or four low-grade fevers and could not stop coughing. Strangely, it didn’t seem like the bronchitis I usually get after a cold. It was mostly due to a constant tickle in my throat that never seemed to go away. It started getting hard to eat certain things because I felt like they’d just end up getting stuck in my throat the way popcorn kernels do.

I went to urgent care twice in about five weeks, and they were scratching their heads over what it might be. I took one strep culture, two rapid strep tests, one test for mono, and was prescribed antibiotics. Nothing helped. In between both those visits, I noticed my tonsils looking almost impossibly swollen, which explained the “something in my throat” feeling. I went to my usual doctor after about three months when it still wasn’t going away, hoping she might at least be able to confirm whether or not it was viral (which still felt weird, since I should’ve gotten over a virus much more quickly). She said my tonsils were really swollen and recommended I see an ENT, because she couldn’t confirm exactly what was wrong.

I finally got to the ENT, feeling exhausted by the whole thing and like a weenie for not being able to fight some basic infection. But I was a little heartened when he told me that my tonsils looked really, really swollen and he recommended I get them taken out, as the infection seemed unlikely to clear up since it just kept recurring month after month.

That led up to me getting my tonsils taken out last month, and I’m now starting week 4 of recovery. The first week after the surgery was pretty awful. It hurt less than I thought it would but also much more than I thought it would, if that makes sense. Drinking water hurt. Eating ice cream hurt. Accidentally eating something spicy was super painful, 0/10 do not recommend.

Luckily, everything is basically normal now except for the fact that sneezing hurts way more than you’d think it would. I can finally sleep properly because I’m not snoring anymore, and can eat like a regular human being again for the first time in almost half a year. You wouldn’t think I’d be super excited to have salad, but here we are!

I’ve been celebrating being tonsil-free for a couple weeks now, but my partner and I  culminated those celebrations this weekend with a few days full of frozen margaritas. (We… may or may not have finished an entire bottle of tequila this weekend.) I’m still trying to perfect my recipe, but I think my favorite of all the different combinations I put together was a strawberry-guava margarita that was absolutely stellar. I’ll have to take pictures next time I make them. There wasn’t much time to take photos this time around because they came out so delicious they honestly didn’t stay in the glass all that long.

After a weekend of enjoying margaritas and being cozy at home, I finally feel a little more ready to attempt to conquer the world again. Expect to hear a whole lot more from me in the coming weeks.

[Review] Turtles All the Way Down

Mental illness is part of my everyday life. On a good day, it’s quiet background noise, a voice whispering cruel things that my rational self is able to ignore and brush aside. On a bad day, my nerves are jangling, waiting for my anxiety to pounce again and force me into a series of repetitive thoughts that get harder to control as every new thought appears. On a bad day, my brain will settle on something to obsess over and pick, pick, pick at it until I am struggling to get through my day.

So when I heard that John Green, master of writing relatable teenagers with varying degrees of social and/or plain old anxiety, was writing a book with a main character with OCD… I was pretty excited. But I’ve strayed from reading YA in recent years, as I am getting to the point where they no longer feel like they’re for me. Reading about kids in high school feels like reading about an alien planet I once lived on but have no desire to go back to. So I filed the knowledge away to be taken advantage of at another time, figuring I’d maybe read it someday when I had time.

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Luckily, my partner knows me better than I often know myself and put Turtles All the Way Down on hold at our local library branch before the book was even released. (Frugal and romantic! He knows the way to my heart, y’all.) It took a few weeks before a copy was available, but as soon as it was, I started reading.

And… had to stop not too far in.

It wasn’t because the book was bad. Oh, no. It was because it was too good. Reading it spiked my anxiety like you wouldn’t believe. I don’t have OCD, but the main character Aza’s fears of germs and disgust of things like the process of eating and digestion, and her constant questioning of whether or not she was real felt extremely familiar.

I powered through it, though. There were so many portions of the story that pinged some core feeling inside me. Aza’s struggle with physical intimacy because of invasive thoughts about germs, her descriptions of “thought spirals” and questions about what controls our thoughts and whether our thoughts are us or not, and the way stressors in her life eventually get her to this point where she feels as if her control over her thoughts is even more limited than normal – so much of it felt like things I had experienced, and the writing is visceral enough that sometimes I had to stop and catch my breath for a minute and remind myself that I was okay.

However, while it felt amazing and made me felt seen to have these kinds of trials put to paper, the thing that really made Turtles feel important was its focus on healing. Note that I don’t say “recovery.” If you’re looking for a book where everything ends very neatly and the main character conquers their mental illness entirely and everything is hunky-dory, don’t expect Turtles to be that book. Aza is not perfect at the end of the novel by any stretch of the imagination. But she has taken the time to use the tools at her disposal to be the best she can be, and that was a deeply important message for me to read. This is a book about healing hurts and knowing that sometimes, even though you have healed, your pain can sometimes try to come back to haunt you, and that’s not the end of the world if you have the right tools to handle the pain when it arrives. It’s also about life going on, and how, despite mental illness often being an unwelcome guest that will likely never leave you, you can still go on to live your life and do all the things you dream of doing.

I felt like John Green summed up that sentiment really well at the end of his acknowledgments.

Lastly, Dr. Joellen Hosler and Dr. Sunil Patel have made my life immeasurably better by providing the kind of high-quality mental health care that unfortunately remains out of reach for too many. My family and I are grateful. If you need mental health services in the United States, please call the SAMHSA treatment referral helpline… It can be a long and difficult road, but mental illness is treatable. There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn’t.

Despite some meandering plot lines and a kind of slowness that drags portions of the book down, I still think this is, if not one of the best, then one of the most important books I’ve read in a while.

What’s a Spice Witch?

As a kid, I was really obsessed with scents. I have a pretty strong nose and scent is really powerful for me. I picked up books from the library about making your own perfume and even dabbled in making some of my own from empty perfume bottles I’d find at the thrift store or these cute apothecary-style bottles I found at Michaels, some rubbing alcohol, and a variety of essential oils. I’d make my scents to suit the individual I was making it for.

My interest in making these homemade perfumes (which tended to dissipate much too quickly in the rubbing alcohol solution) dwindled over time. But I was still really attached to scent and the thought of being able to make beautiful perfumes. I just wasn’t entirely sure how to go about making those scents stick. I started focusing less on making gifts for others and more on creating a scent profile for myself. Jasmine was my favorite for a long time. All of my products would have that scent. I would wash my hair with jasmine-scented shampoo and conditioner, use jasmine-scented body washes and lotions, and put a few drops of jasmine essential oil on my pulse points and in my hair each morning.

Eventually, I realized that this regimen was a bit overwhelming and all the chemically-scented products were not exactly great for my eczema-prone skin. I relaxed a little and settled for reading Jitterbug Perfume rather than making my own for a while.

Then came college and being simultaneously broke as hell and also sensitive to every product known to man. I couldn’t find a deodorant that didn’t make me itch and burn like crazy and that also didn’t make it seem like I was neglecting my personal hygiene. I tried tons of different products and none of them worked. So, I returned to my crafty, kitchen-focused DIY roots and started digging through different recipes for homemade deodorant. I ended up using this one. It was great. I felt like I’d finally figured out a solution.

Then, a light bulb went off. I had all of this stuff to make this deodorant. Wouldn’t it make sense for me to make extra and try and sell it? After all, I was a broke college kid and every bit of extra cash would make a difference. I could sell deodorant, and maybe even solid perfume! I could get back to my perfume-obsessed roots! I could finally take the time to learn how to make bath bombs and candles and all kinds of fun, naturally-scented things!

It didn’t take long for me to start setting up an Etsy store. But I needed a name.

I needed a name that would describe me and my product. I needed something that was cute, simple, earthy, and memorable. I don’t remember what the first thing I thought of was, but it obviously didn’t check off the “memorable” category. After a few months selling my product, I felt like I needed a new name. My boyfriend and I were discussing the idea of there being different types of witches. I said I thought if I were to be a witch at all, I would be a kitchen witch, focused on bringing in good things into my home and life through food and cooking, working charms into soups and bread dough for good luck, happiness, health and the like. There would also be lots of gardening involved. He said that while that fit okay, there was something missing. After a few moments of thinking about it, he said, “You’re a spice witch.”

“A spice witch?” I was very skeptical.

He explained that a spice witch was someone who worked their magic by combining different scents into specific objects, like bath bombs and perfumes. Spice witches use scents to shape the world around them.

I loved this idea, and ended up changing my shop name to Spice Witch. I felt like it was fitting, and like the Spice Witch moniker could also encompass many of the parts of my identity that I would have categorized as falling under the “kitchen witch” umbrella.

My Etsy shop is closed indefinitely at this point and has been for a while, but I still consider myself a spice witch, and I feel like I probably always will.

How to Edit Your Own Writing Like a Pro, Part 2: Know Thyself

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Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

For part one of this series, “The Basics,” click here.

We all have quirks in the way we write. For some of us (*cough* me), those quirks include long sentences, overuse of commas, and overuse of em dashes. One of my best friends always used to mistype “minute” as “minuet,” not because she didn’t know how to spell the word, but because her fingers tended to jumble up the E and the T. Other people tend to mistype certain phrases – “all of a sudden” becomes “all the sudden,” for example.

Quirks like these are perfectly normal, and sometimes they can even be endearing. Unfortunately, a lot of people’s written quirks are pretty grating and can affect their audience’s experience negatively. Luckily, with some extra attention to detail, most of your more annoying quirks/repeated misspellings/regularly broken grammar rules will disappear.

So, how do you fix things?

The first step to fixing these issues is really analyzing both your own writing and other people’s writing. If you’re a novelist, read some high-quality novels and really take time to look at how they word things. If you’re a blogger, read some blogs written by professionals that have a really strong grasp of English and see how they put things together. Once you’ve done that, go back and look at your own writing. Older pieces will be better for this, as you’ve had some time away from them and they’ll feel a bit more like they were written by someone else. This will help you see your writing with new eyes.

Once you’re looking at your own writing, get really nitpicky about it. Are you using that word correctly? Are your paragraphs and sentences too long? Too short? Are they all one length with little variation? Are you using extra words you don’t need? (“Just” and “suddenly” are often used unnecessarily.)

Identifying these shortcomings can be difficult if you haven’t practiced it or if English isn’t your first language, but it’s a vital part of becoming a better writer and self-editor. Finding out what mistakes you make most often in your writing will help in two important ways. First, it will make your existing writing higher-quality and easier to read. Secondly, it will keep you from making those same mistakes in the future. This will allow you to update old posts and make them easier to read and increase audience engagement in the future by ensuring readers aren’t turned off by easily-avoided errors. With a little editing, everyone’s happier!

How To edit your writing

2017 Wrap-Up and Looking Ahead to 2018

It has now been nine months since I started this blog. My inaugural post was about the beer trap I put together to try and fight off the snails in my community garden plot. Over the course of the next few months, I wrote more about gardening, body positivity, and minimalism. I’m proud of all of the writing I did over the course of 2017. I was more consistent than I expected that I would be and found a way to discuss a broad range of topics. Every time I was running out of ideas, my gajillion lists of possible blogging topics I had squirreled away and my partner helped me figure out something to say. 2017 was a good year for this blog.

I am hoping to improve some things on this blog in 2018. I want to post more regularly and increase the quality of each post. As far as specific ideas I’d like to cover, I would love to make more posts about:

  • cooking!
  • San Francisco hiking, history, and cool places to visit
  • running a small business/flipping
  • financial health posts

I have a lot more ideas, but those four topics are parts of my daily life that I haven’t really tapped into and would like to discuss a bit more.

On a personal, non-blog-related note, I’d like to take a moment to say I’m pretty proud of what I accomplished this year. I finished up my last semester of school, graduated summa cum laude, and was offered a full-time position at a company I really like working for pretty soon after that. I’ve learned a lot of new things at work and am getting better at what I do all the time. I’ve become a better editor and a stronger communicator.

Outside of work, I’ve worked on strengthening my relationship with my partner and also becoming more comfortable being independent. Without school in the picture for the moment, my life looks a lot different and I’m still working on figuring out exactly who I am and what I want to prioritize in my life. 2017 has been the year of having enough space in my life to figure all that out.

I am hoping 2018 will be a year of finding my groove and generating a lot of forward momentum. There’s lots to do and learn and I’m ready for it.

Selfies and Self Esteem

It feels like just as a bunch of things start working out in my life, one thing has to start falling apart to make up for it. Gotta have something to challenge me in life, I guess!

Lately, I’ve been in a complete funk when it comes to my self-image. On a logical level, I know I’m a perfectly competent, intelligent human being who does her best and is not so horrendously ugly as to repulse people. But on an emotional level, where logic has little to no bearing, I… do not know any of the things that Logical Me knows. Emotional Me has been feeling terribly inadequate lately, and it’s hard to know whether to coddle her and give her the crutches she wants until she’s healthy again or to tell her to suck it up and then deal with the lovely variety of ways that she lashes out at me.

To be honest, I don’t particularly want to do either. My throat has been sore for weeks now (a doctor’s visit is forthcoming, since I know it’s not strep, but at this point I’m guessing. Is it tonsilitis? Tonsil stones? Mono? Some random, annoying viral infection?) with varying degrees of pain, limiting both my ability and desire to do most things. It’s cold outside and gets dark early. Work has gotten busier and I have needed to bring it home more often. So a lot of the things Emotional Me requires for coddling are just… not in the cards right now. I dearly wish they were, but there’s just no room at the moment. And telling Emotional Me to suck it up only results in a deteriorated mental state that I absolutely can’t afford right now. So what’s a girl to do?

Well, this girl decided to take selfies. At least one every day.

A few years ago, I used to take lots of selfies. I would take ones that were just for me, to celebrate good hair days. (I am lucky in that I have many good hair days.) I would take ones to show my friends and family my makeup before I went to an interview. I would take selfies before dates to show my mom what outfit I’d chosen. I’d take selfies where I looked absolutely gorgeous (yay, awesome natural lighting in my apartment!) or absolutely hideous and send them to my boyfriend to brighten his day. I wasn’t taking them every day, but I was taking them when I felt good about myself. Which, happily, was often.

But at some point, I just kind of… stopped. I now go months without taking selfies. Which is not all that astonishing considering the fact that I don’t take many pictures to begin with and never have. But it’s quite strange to look at a history of my photos and see that at some point, I apparently got really uncomfortable taking photos of myself. This is extra hard to face now because I had to work really hard on my insecurities to get to the point where I didn’t balk at every photo of myself and ask for it to be deleted. This is not to say that I don’t still feel like I take bad photos. I am deeply unphotogenic, as numerous pictures of me at work functions and family events will attest to. But at a certain point, I decided it didn’t matter. Who cared if the photo didn’t look good? I wanted a record that I was there. I wanted my family and friends to have pictures of me if they wanted them. I wanted to feel comfortable taking a picture of my face, dammit.

And I got there!

And then fell off the wagon again into the pit of self-loathing that always seems to be waiting for me, even though I’m always so sure that I’ve left it miles behind me.

So I’m trying to get back on the wagon again. I’m doing it by promising to take a picture of myself every day. I even did it today, even though I spent my day working in bed because a raging sore throat seems to be my constant companion now. They’re not good photos. But they help me see myself again, and help me realize that it doesn’t matter whether I look good in them or not. They’re a gift to my future self, when at some inevitable point I wonder how I was doing when I was 22. What did I look like? What was I wearing? How was I feeling? Now, I’ll have photographic proof. Emotional Me is dissatisfied with this solution, as it does not assuage any of her fears that I am actually some kind of horrid troll being. Logical Me is rolling her eyes because it seems ridiculous. But I’m forcing myself to get comfy with looking at me again. Because that’s important. It matters.

It’s silly and self-indulgent, but if I’m being entirely honest, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a bit self-indulgent sometimes. And if taking a selfie every day gets me even a little bit back toward equilibrium, it’s worth it.

A Little Progress Goes a Long Way!

I finally got rid of all of the stuff I marked as clutter in October! I am still not done with my decluttering challenge technically (340-odd items to get through still!) but the pile of stuff in my living room has finally been either donated or properly organized while it waits to be sold on eBay. There’s still a lot more work to do, but having the space in my living room that had been swallowed up by my clutter over the last month has been really nice.

I also managed to get my act together and take care of holiday plans with both sides of the family, which was nice. This is the first year since I moved out that I haven’t had to worry about needing to work on the holidays or try and juggle both families in the handful of days I could get off and I am extremely grateful.

And, best of all, I FINALLY managed to go fishing with my partner. No joke, we have been talking about going fishing together for a year, maybe longer. He loves it and I know nothing about it. But it’s Dungeness crab season and it was beautiful out on a Saturday, so we finally went.

The view from Pacifica Pier

We ended up losing the crabber we had just bought a few minutes earlier because the waves were way too strong and our line broke, and then his line ended up snapping, too. But it was great to be near the ocean and out in the sunshine.

All in all, not a bad few days!