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On Travel + Growth: Traveling with my Parents

This trip has been something that I’ve been looking forward to for almost a full year now. It’s taken tons of time to do the research and save up enough money, and now I’m finally here. Well worth all of the hard work, and certainly not easy, there are a few lessons that I’ve taken away from this experience even during these first few months.

Continue reading “On Travel + Growth: Traveling with my Parents”
friends standing on steps after graduating
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Important Lessons from a Small College

I hate to say it, mainly because of how much I spent on tuition, but most of what I learned at college took place outside of the classroom. So much of life happens beyond books and chalkboards, lettered grades and numbered GPAs. My most important lessons have come from the people and moments around me at my small college.

Continue reading “Important Lessons from a Small College”
woman standing on scale with weights by feet
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Ditch Your Scale and Break the Numerical Box

I had a doctor’s appointment recently and was forced to take a step of faith onto the ever-ominous scale.

I anxiously watched the numbers toggle back and forth before my eyes. Numbers bounced up and down, folding and unfolding, before falling still on a number that instigated immediate panic. I wanted high scores on my exams, not the scale I was standing on.

Continue reading “Ditch Your Scale and Break the Numerical Box”
Photography

A Girl, Her Dog, and a Beach Sunset

At long last, it was finally time for me to hobble home for fall break after the first half of the semester had stripped away all my energy and motivation. Being that my home is in the cozy beach town of Cape May, I figured what better way to recoop than to go for a sunset walk on the beach with my pup? I grabbed my camera and we scurried down to the sea. Continue reading “A Girl, Her Dog, and a Beach Sunset”

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The Key to Sticking with Your New Year’s Resolution

January first has become known as the magical, mystical day that you can resurrect yourself and start anew. We get to come up with that grand, ambitious goal or some habit we want to start, end, or improve upon for the rest of the year, and call it a New Year’s Resolution. Lose weight, eat healthier, quit smoking – you know the gist. But then you roll out of bed on January first, rising from the dead after a night of torturing your liver, or just procrastinating the start of this ‘new year, new me’ thing. That sparkly, shiny New Year’s Resolution doesn’t seem so exciting now that you actually have to do it.

Not surprisingly, only 8 percent of people are actually successful in achieving their New Year’s resolution. I’ve yet to be successful myself, so one of my resolutions is to successfully complete one! Because it’s so easy to give up or call it quits, here are a few key tricks that will keep you determined and on the right track.

Make your goal achievable… actually. We’d all love to drop weight overnight, quit a bad habit cold turkey, or buy that dream house for a few million dollars. Most of the time, that just isn’t going to happen. In order to achieve your ‘big’ goal, you need to reel it in a little bit. One big goal can seem like a daunting task and an overwhelming amount of work, looming over our heads as simply impossible. By breaking this goal down into smaller, achievable steps, the task is more realistic. For example, one of my ‘big’ goals is to try and have a portfolio of work done when I graduate to give me some experience and a leg up. So I decided I would blog more this year. It’s a great start to a New Year’s Resolution, but it isn’t just enough quite yet. We have a little more refining to do, which leads to the next tip.

Give yourself deadlines based on smaller goals. Wanting to ‘blog more’ means nothing. There are so many ways to get lost in that concept and end up floating in limbo. Vague goals are harder to fulfill, and make it harder still to remain motivated.

It’s important to a clearly define, tangible goal, so I decided that I will post a blog once a week. But I won’t be posting a blog once a week whenever I get around to it. I specified even more – posting once every Wednesday. Setting a goal is great, but without creating a plan there’s no way to keep track of progress. Creating steps and deadlines will make your ‘big goal’ seem less tantalizing and will help keep your progress on track.

Write your goals down. It’s one thing to come up with New Year’s Resolution; it’s another to actually pursue it. A study done by Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, found that “you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals and dreams, simply by writing them down on a regular basis.” Writing down your goals works because it engages both halves of your brain: the logic-based left hemisphere through writing the goal down, and the imaginative right through just thinking about the goal. By making a conscious effort to direct both physical and mental attention to your goal, you’re letting your brain know that you mean business!

Most importantly, make sure your goal is something you actually want. Just like playing a sport, you aren’t going to do very well if both your head and heart aren’t in it. Just because your friends are going vegetarian or your mom wants you to take up knitting with her doesn’t mean you have to, too. Your resolution should be something that you want, for whatever reason that may be. If it’s something you’re passionate about achieving, you’re chances of reaching that goal are already higher!

Completing a New Year’s Resolution takes discipline and dedication, but is totally doable. This time next year, hopefully we can tick off the goal of actually completing a New Year’s Resolution.

 

screen shot of instagram account
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I Deleted My Instagram – More People Should Do The Same

The Thought Process

I never thought I would be addicted to anything – alcohol, drugs, or any of the stuff my parents told me to stay away from. Little did I realize that I was carrying my addiction with me everywhere I went. It was always in my pocket or my hand, next to me when I slept, in my backpack during class, on the beach with me during the summer, in my car while I was driving, in the bathroom while I showered. You name it, and my addiction was always there, just waiting for my attention.

I realized that my addiction was my phone. More specifically, Instagram. This one little gadget designed to share photographs with friends has completely revolutionized the way that I, and much of my generation, define socializing. At one point in time, you could only talk to someone in person or on the telephone. A good old fashioned land-line telephone. With a chord. (Does the youngest generation even know what those look like??) Nowadays, we can not only talk to someone at any time, at any moment, at any place in the world, but we can also see what they are doing through pictures and videos. Is it me, or is that slightly creepy when you actually say it out loud?

We have learned to “post” about our lives so that the world can see what we are doing, who we are with, and the kind of life we appear to be living. The key word in that sentence is “appear.” After checking Instagram countless times during the day and always comparing my life and body to other’s, I realized that people only post what they want you to see. On Instagram, we can perfectly edit our lives to appear precisely how we want them to. I’m not saying that everyone does, but there’s certainly a lot of thought that goes into posting.

After watching zombies walk around my campus on phones and listening to silent conversations at restaurants, as well as my excessive amount of time essentially watching other people’s lives, I decided to delete the app. I sent out a farewell post, my freshly showered face without makeup, and was on my way back into the real world. Using this experience, I wanted to share my withdraw, if you will, from social media over the course of the following days.

Day 1: Deletion Day

If I was going to do this right, I needed to fully commit. Once the photo posted, I hit delete. It sounds strange to say, but as soon as I deleted the app I wanted to see how my farewell post was doing. That in itself proved that it needed to be done.

As I drove to class, I couldn’t help but feel proud, like my Pinocchio strings had been detached and I was finally walking on my own. No more proving to the world that I was having a great time with my friends, or that my winter outfit is #supercozy. My hands and mind definitely itched for my phone a few times during class, but when I picked it up I realized I had no reason to. Having no Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat is surprisingly liberating.

During down time is when my mind itches for social media the most. Commercial break? Instagram. Walking alone in public? Instagram. Waiting in line? Instagram. Where social media once filled these pauses, I now notice peaceful, calm moments. I don’t always need to be on my phone, looking at a screen. These moments can be used as a conscious break for myself, a moment to look up and notice the world around me.

Day 3: Transitioning

I admit it. I’m not proud of it. I caved. I wanted to see how the post did so I had my boyfriend show it to me, and I was delightfully surprised by how many supportive comments I received… and also humored because people left comments even though they knew I was deleting my account and therefore wouldn’t see them. Well, if I hadn’t cheated by using someone else’s phone, I wouldn’t have seen them. One of my friends commented, “take me with you lol” and another “see you in real life, Tofu.” (My nickname is Tofu but that’ll have to be explained in another article.) I felt an overwhelming amount of support, and with that in mind, I closed the app before my addiction could get the best of me.

Later that night I received another comment, this time in person, from my friend Erik. He said, “Tofu, you inspired me to delete my Instagram, too. I hope you start a movement.” At first I just smiled and laughed, saying I was glad to have been a positive influence. But then I started thinking… What if I could start a movement?

Day 7: Liberation

This may be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve gone from checking my phone every ten minutes to only looking at my phone if someone calls or texts me. There’s a slight urge to reach for that little tech rectangle every once in a while, but I find myself paying more attention to conversations, focusing for longer periods on school work, and using my time more productively.

Now I’m certainly not perfect by any means, but I can already feel that deleting my Instagram has lowered my stress and anxiety levels by a good ten notches. It feels so satisfying to be “off the grid,” in a sense. If you want to know what’s going on in my life, you can text me, call me, or see me in person. Sure, a huge aspect of social media is the being social part, but it’s ultimately become a platform for comparison and watching others. We should live our lives in the present moment, not worrying about “capturing the moment” so that we can showcase it later for others on social media.

If you want a fresh perspective on life, I highly recommend deleting your Instagram, or any social media. It will break you away from all of the advertising and framing and glorifying that exists in the artificial world of technology and the Internet. Now that I’ve deleted mine, I suppose you’ll only know what I’m doing through my blog or if you talk to me. Did I just drop out of college or win the lottery? Guess you may never find out.

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It’s Just Hair: How Cutting It Off Changed My Perspective

To put my childhood into perspective, I once walked into a public women’s restroom at 10 years old and was asked, “Do you know that this isn’t the boys’ bathroom?” Don’t overthink it now, you probably guessed right. I had been mistaken for a boy, and, to be completely honest, I don’t blame her. I had extremely short hair, glasses, braces, and was an avid wearer of camouflage pants and basketball shorts. If that isn’t enough, there was nothing more I loved than to run around playing sports with the guys and getting into all kinds of muddy, outdoor adventures. Back in the bathroom, that random woman’s confusion made total sense.

For this very reason, I grew my hair out as long as I possibly could once I retreated from my hardcore tomboy phase. I was trying to escape my embarrassing childhood. Any inkling of having short hair immediately brought flashbacks of painfully awkward phases and bullying, memories that weren’t held too fondly. From freshman year of high school to freshman year of college, my hair grew longer and longer until it resembled something of a lion’s mane. It gave me a barrier I could hide behind, a safety net.

Then, the summer after freshman year, something changed. To this day I still can’t name exactly what I felt, but it was a mixture of confidence, courage, hope and maybe a little bit of fear, but what all of these feelings brought on was the desire for change. There was a little spark in the back of my mind that thought, hey, you can do this! Now, it may sound a little dramatic considering that I’m just talking about hair, but at this time I thought that my hair was not only a form of protection from the past but also a crucial part of my identity. Who would I be if I didn’t have my mane? It was one of the key features that people knew me for.

So I dragged myself to the hairdresser, a good friend just up the road from where I live. She sensed that I was nervous and reassured me with an overwhelming amount of positive energy. Piece by piece my mane fell to the floor, and it didn’t hurt. I wasn’t losing a thumb or toe or arm. All of my vital organs were still in place. It was just hair. Slowly the masterpiece was coming together, and it felt like I had lightened up by five pounds with it. My fear melted away just like the hair around me, and when I was spun towards the mirror for the final reveal, there was no little boy waiting for me on the other side. In fact, I didn’t recognize the woman looking back at me. She looked strong and confident, she needed no hair to hide behind, no past to run from.

And that’s when I realized, it’s just hair. For a long time, I used my hair as a protective curtain to hide behind, a way to feel just a little more secure, a little more comfortable with myself. When I cut it all off, I realized the only thing that was truly important was who I was on the inside. My hair is merely a different way to express myself, an outlet if you will. On top of that, I realized that even if I could do my childhood over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. As embarrassing as it can be, my tomboy phase is an integral part of my life because it shaped me into who I am today. I’m proud that even at a young age, I wasn’t afraid to express myself, and that’s the most important thing.

The big lesson from my haircut was that it really is just hair. It grows back, and it certainly doesn’t have the power to define me. In fact, from my very first haircut I have progressively chopped it shorter and shorter because honestly, it’s a little addictive. After this experience, I fully advocate that every woman should have short hair at least once in her life. My short hair makes me feel confident and fearless, not to mention it’s super easy to take care of. What’s a little risk? A new look? A new perspective? And if you really hate it, I promise it will grow back. It’s just hair. So, to make long story short, if you’re ever looking to spice your life up, grab some scissors and start snipping.