New Semester Resolutions II. 31 to go…

Here I am, back at school, ready for another semester. I have to admit that I’m a little bit nervous for this semester. I know it is going to be academically challenging and emotionally draining, but I’m trying to be positive and excited about all of the exciting things that I’ll get to do this semester. As I wrote last spring I’m not a fan of New Years Resolutions, but I’m a big believer in New Semester Resolutions. So here are mine for this semester.

Keep my room clean:
This was one of my resolutions last spring that didn’t go particularly well… But I had a much better time with it this past semester and I just notice how much better I feel about my life when my room is clean.

Make my bed EVERY FREAKING DAY:
I’m pretty sure that when I’m able to make my bed regularly I will officially be an adult.

Get out of bed when my body wakes up:
I’m starting to realize that I think I am a morning people, but I have a terrible habit of waking up and then laying in bed for hours instead of just getting up. I’m super productive in the mornings, so all I need to do is get in the habit of just getting out of bed when I wake up,

Be in bed by midnight:
Doing this “getting up when I wake up,” thing is so much easier when I get enough. Plus, I turn into a pumpkin around 1am. Exceptions include Friday nights and certain Saturdays.

Be on time for EVERY FREAKING CLASS:
I am really terrible at being on time to things. That needs to change.

Go to church regularly:
It’s just good for my brain and my heart.

Go home more often:
I’m starting realize how important it is for me to be home to support my siblings and I just realize how much I enjoy spending time with my family.

Spend more time alone:
I know that most people would have resolutions totally opposite of this, but I’ve found that I’m far more introverted than I previously thought I was (which isn’t a big deal, because I was so extroverted that I was hardly functional.) I need more time alone to relax and get stuff done.

Eat less processed foods:
This one’s pretty self explanatory.

Read more books:
Just by being busy I haven’t had time to read books, which makes me really sad. My goal is to read three books this semester, including at least two that I’ve never read before.

Some updates on last year’s resolutions:

  • I’ve been regularly attending Cru.
  • I no longer eat meat of any kind, including fish.
  • I got a job! Two, in fact!
  • I have gotten a lot healthier, I’ve lost a ton of weight and I’m dealing with my emotional health. I’m super proud of all the progress I’ve made.

Some resolutions I didn’t meet:

  • I got pretty far into eliminating processed chemical products from my life, but I had to decide if it was worth all of the effort for the non-results I was getting so I’ve begun to use commercial makeup, but I have continued to use no commercial shampoos, conditioners, soaps, or moisturizers.
  • I didn’t end up eliminating dairy from my diet. I’ve decided that the impact of processed replacement products is worse than the impact of consuming dairy. Plus, have you ever had cheese?

I didn’t meet all of my goals in the last year, which is OK, but this semester I want to be very intentional about the goals I’ve set for myself and I understand that failure is always an option.

Do any of you have any new year/semester resolutions? I want to hear about them!

Love you!!

Abby

Update. 32 to go…

The past month and a half has been absolutely mad. I’ve been incredibly busy with school work, friends, and work. I’ve also been working through some issues in my life and between all of this I haven’t had the time or desire to write. I’ve also been trying to process through things on my own before I share them with the whole world. I guess this is what growing up is about. So here’s a little update on my life since early November.

I took my finals and finished the semester with a bang. It was a lot of work but I’m really proud of how I ended the semester and of the grades I got.

I went home for the first time all semester for Thanksgiving and had the most amazing time with my family and my friends. I have never been more thankful to be home in the warm arms of the people I love the most.

1799148_10153372325609972_2794151191504010471_oMe and my three best friends: my siblings.

My wonderful boyfriend came and stayed with me for a week before finals. We had an amazing time just being together, exploring, and going to Niagara Falls.

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Us in front of the American side of Niagara Falls. We went over to the Canadian side, but it was so dark out that it was hard to get a good picture on that side.

I’m now home for winter break and have been having a marvelous time relaxing and spending time with my family and friends. We had a really beautiful and low key Christmas. I’ve been working and playing the piano and sleeping.

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My family has been taking Christmas selfies every year since my parents got married 23 years ago.

All of these things have been really great, but the biggest thing I’ve done in the last two months is a little less exciting. For many years I’ve dealt with depression in various different ways but this October I took a big step in the right direction. I went to the doctor to talk about this depression and see what I could do. The doctor told me that I have chronic depression and have been dealing with some PTSD after an incident that occurred last year. After talking about my options I decided that I wanted to try antidepressants. I was really hesitant in this choice because it felt like I was admitting that there was something wrong with me but the doctor told me something that really stuck with me.

This is an issue of brain chemistry. This isn’t your fault. You don’t refuse cancer treatments because you don’t want to admit that your cells are doing a bad job and it is no different with your brain.

I had never thought of it like that and I am so glad he said that to me. Let me tell you, I feel like a whole new person. I have had one day of unexplainable sadness in the past two months as opposed to three to five days per week. I have been so productive and motivated. I’ve done my homework, I’ve cleaned our whole house, I’ve cleared off my desk, I’ve slept. I can’t say how amazing it has been. I feel more alive than I have in years.

I haven’t really been able to write about this recently because it is so personal and because it has been such a process. I’ve found it really helpful to write poetry and I’ve been writing somewhat consistent updates here. As I continue to deal with this and continue to grow I think it will be easier to write more often and I hope to post here more consistently in the coming months.

Thank you for all of your support and all of the love you’ve all shown me, it means so much to me. I hope you’re having an amazing holiday season and that your new year is full of love.

Love you guys!!

Abby

I can breathe again. 40 to go…

This is my 700th post on this blog. Give me a minute to let that sink in. 700. What? I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around a number that big. I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to read any of those 700 posts and all those who have stuck with me through so many good and hard moments over the past four years (I had my four year blog-aversary a couple weeks ago. Crazy right?) You’re all so wonderful.

So it’s already been almost three weeks since I’ve gotten back to school and they have been three crazy, exciting, hard, confusing weeks. I’ve found myself getting really homesick and really struggling to feel at home here. I found myself lying awake at night and just crying about the littlest things. I really wasn’t prepared to feel like this. In fact, I was really annoyed with myself for feeling the way I did. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just be happy and content where I was.

Well I had applied for a couple of jobs and this Tuesday I got an email saying I had been hired to work at the Telefund for my school, calling alumni and talking about the school. As I read this email I suddenly burst into tears. The sort of relieved, joyful tears that you just can’t stop. I just sat in my room and cried for hours. I felt the weight of the world lifted off of my shoulders. I knew that I had been stressed about finances and the thought of paying for college, but I didn’t realize how much it was affecting me. I didn’t realize how alone and stranded I was feeling.

One thing I really struggled with last semester and this summer was feeling like God had abandoned me. That he could hear me but didn’t care enough to respond. That he had somehow decided that I wasn’t worth his time or love. Things had begun to change at the end of the summer, but I think I was still dealing with the remnants of those feelings. This job did not come as an answer to prayers, because I’ll admit that I gave up on praying months ago, but it came as a gift: an answer to the terrified prayers I couldn’t speak.

Money has never been something I’ve concerned myself with, I just don’t typically worry about it. But since starting college every once in a while I will start to think about the amount of debt I have already and the fact that it is growing at this very moment and I want to throw myself in front of a train. I live in constant fear of running out of money to pay for school, rent, and food and having to drop out of college and die alone as an uneducated loser. It sounds dramatic, but these are the honest fears I have. These are the fears that are too real to talk about.

So as I’m reading this email saying I got this silly job and I’m sobbing I felt the warmest, gentlest hug I’ve ever felt in my life. I knew it was God’s promise to me that I’m not going to drop out and die alone, and that I’m not going to have to go through this alone. I know this year is going to be full of amazing and difficult things but I know I’m not alone.

I’ve been walking on air for the past couple of days. Everything has been beautiful and happy and I’m just so content in all areas of my life. It’s like I can breathe again. I’m so deeply blessed.

Love you always!

Abby

To the college freshmen. 43 to go…

So I’m officially becoming a second-year student which I figure gives me the authority to give advice to first-year students. So here are some words of advice to my friends who will be starting college in the next couple of weeks.

To buy:

HOT WATER KETTLE – seriously, buy an electric kettle. It costs $20 and will make your life so easy. Ramen, tea, oatmeal, hot chocolate and so much more. Make sure it has an automatic shutoff so it’s dorm room appropriate.

HUGE BAG OF OATS – chances are you are going to be way too lazy to go to the dining hall to eat breakfast before your 8am chemistry class. Buy a big bag of rolled oats/quick oats and some brown sugar instead of paying twice the amount for the instant oatmeal packets which are full of gross things. Add half cup of oats to a bowl, pour boiling water over oats and cover for 5 minutes, add brown sugar, be full of deliciousness and happiness.

COMMAND STRIPS/HOOKS – seriously, who invented these? They’re actually perfect for everything. The velcro ones are great for hanging picture frames, mirrors, and other decorative items while the hooks give you a perfect place to hang jackets, towels, lab coats and more.

EXTRA UNDERWEAR – if you’re anything like most college students you will put off doing laundry until the last possible moment, which usually comes when you run out of underwear. Put it off a couple more weeks and buy  yourself some extra underwear.

BACKPACK – shoulder bags are great, but if you’re lugging textbooks, laptops, lab equipment, and a hundred travel mugs two miles to and from your dorm every day you’re really going to want a backpack that goes on both of your shoulders.

MATTRESS PAD – find out your school’s policy on mattress pads and try to find one that fits it, (if not it’s super unlikely that anything will happen if you have an “illegal” mattress pad. I did that all year and no one ever said anything to me.)

GOOD HEADPHONES – whether you’re using them to listen to music, a lecture, watch a movie, or just make it look like you’re occupied it’s important to have headphones that are comfortable and work well.

STICKY TACK – perfect for sticking anything and everything on the walls.

ROBE – no questions asked, you need a robe.

To bring:

HOMEMADE RAMEN SPICE – this stuff is the best and is so easy to make and isn’t full of sodium and other things that want to stop your heart. Combine this with a splash of soy sauce for the best ramen you’ve ever had.

TRAVEL MUG – I can assure you that you have at least six lying around your house, pick one with a sturdy top and just wait for it to become your best friends in 8am classes.

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS – overhead, fluorescent dorm lighting is great and all, but christmas lights are perfect for late night studying while your roommate is trying to sleep or for watching movies with friends.

EAR PLUGS – it doesn’t matter that you have an exam first thing tomorrow morning, the guy down the hall doesn’t have class til 2 and is going to stay up screaming at his computer while playing DotA all night.

TISSUES – you’re gonna get real sick of blowing your nose on the sandpaper they keep in the bathrooms when every single person on your floor is dying from the flu. Bring at least 2 boxes per semester.

LESS CLOTHES THAN YOU THINK YOU NEED – you’re just not going to wear it all. Accept it. Bring only what you love and need and will actually wear.

STAMPS – you’re going to be too poor to buy them at school, bring them ahead of time.

To do:

TEACH YOUR PARENTS TO SNAPCHAT – I know this may not sound entirely appealing but trust me it’s worth it. If you’re anything like me you’re terrible at texting back and answering your phone. SnapChat allows you to show your parents the little things you’re doing and seeing and it will help them feel included in your life. Plus, it’s really great to see their faces every once in a while.

LEARN HOW TO DO LAUNDRY – if you’re eighteen and still can’t do your own laundry you’re probably doing it wrong.

PRINT PICTURES – get some pictures printed. Or do what I did and get tons of pictures printed. Wal-Mart’s system is super easy to use and fairly inexpensive. Just choose some pictures that make you smile and put them up in your dorm room.

SPEND TIME WITH YOUR FAMILY – they’ve lived with you for this long and will probably miss you very much when you’re gone. Spend some last little bits of quality time with them.

BE OPEN MINDED – realize that it’s hard for everyone for you to leave and realize that the people closest to you might not react in the way you wanted or hoped they would. Everyone deals with these things differently.

GO TO ORIENTATION EVENTS – I know they’re lame, but my three best friends are all friends I made through Honors Orientation. Play the games, get the t-shirts, eat the food, talk to people.

LEAVE YOUR DOOR OPEN – there is no better way to make friends with the people you’re going to be living in close quarters with than leaving your door open.

BE UNASHAMEDLY ENTHUSIASTIC – get pumped about your classes. Take pictures with your new friends. Go to stupid events. Sign up for weird clubs. Decorate your dorm room. Wear your school colors. Be proud to be where you are and love every second of it.

GET INVOLVED – getting plugged-in to a campus ministry was the most important thing I did during my first year at college and it is so worth it to make the effort and make the friends.

So these are just some words of advice from me. Your first year of school is so amazing and full of new and scary adventures, but it is one of the most fun years of your life thus far. If anyone else has any advice please leave it in the comments so we can all benefit.

Love you and good luck!

Abby

The middle of the afternoon. 46 to go…

I always find myself alone late at night wishing I wasn’t so alone. My days are full of activity and people and laughter and fun but the sun goes down and I begin to feel empty and alone.

I guess I’ve always felt like this. I remember being 5 years old and dreading bed time because I didn’t want to be alone.

I’m just such a night person, I could (and often do) stay up until ungodly hours and then sleep til noon and feel like I’ve had a productive and meaningful day. I feel most alive when the stars are up, I feel like there is so much potential and freedom and space at night. Have you ever driven somewhere at 4am? There’s not a single other person on the road. You can drive for miles and miles without seeing anyone. You’re totally alone, you rule the world.

At school we would always make the joke “oh it’s only midnight, it’s practically the middle of the afternoon!” Unless you’re like me you have no idea how accurate that is. My day is just starting at midnight. I write at midnight, I read at midnight, I think, clean, sing, compose, dance, decide at midnight. It’s the time that I feel the most alert and ready to take on the world.

At school I was never alone at night. Between watching movies into the wee hours of the morning with my best friends and having a roommate, I could count on never being alone during my favorite hours of the day. It’s so  hard to be home where my family goes to bed by 10pm and my friends have jobs and responsibilities in the mornings. I’m often left alone at night with Tumblr and my fuzzy socks and something about this can be really destructive.

You see, I start to get really sad late at night. I start to feel this deep loneliness aching in my bones, the need for human contact clawing at my insides, a dark sadness settling in my veins. I physically feel it. And the more I feel like this the more I find myself reblogging depressing pictures, writing angsty poetry, and listening to sad music.

I’ve been listening to this song over and over again and I think it’s breaking my heart.

Pretty girl with the butterscotch hair
Your eyes and the sunshine smile you wear
I can see how you make his soul glow

Have you ever heard anything so beautiful? I want to be that girl with the butterscotch hair. I want it more than words can say and more than makes sense.

It’s like my thoughts have time to catch up to me, maybe I always feel like this but I just manage to run away from these thoughts during the days and it’s only when I slow down that I remember how I feel.

Maybe it’s just been one too many late nights alone, but the hard days are getting harder. I’m finding it harder and harder to keep my head up on the bad days. I honestly feel like I’m dying on the inside some days, like I’ve run out of the will to keep going. I keep telling myself that I’m OK and that the sun will come up and that there will be people around who I know love me but it’s like I can’t pull myself out of these slumps. I have no idea how to deal with this besides just continuing to run away from these feelings. I need hugs and help and I don’t know how to ask for either.

Abby

My conflicted Summer. 48 to go…

So I’m home for the summer. I don’t know if I’ve ever been more conflicted about summer in my life.  In high school I was always dying for summer by the end of the school year. I was ready to be out of school and to sleep in and to be free. This summer doesn’t feel like that. Yes, it’s great to be home and to see my family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and all the other people I’ve missed so much this year, but it’s different.

I miss my friends at school more than I know how to say. I feel their absence in my bones. Getting involved with Cru this semester gave me the opportunity to get to know so many incredible people and to make so many friends who I love. A couple of times this semester we went out and had a campfire on a beach close to our school and one night as we were sitting there around the fire I just had to look at my friends and I was filled with joy. I didn’t know it was possible to fall in love with so many people in such a short period of time.

“I hate distance. You meet the best people and they are always far away.”
My best friend David posted this on Tumblr (go check out his Tumblr, it’s artsy and fabulous,) and tagged me and my other best friend Katie (check out her Tumblr as well, it’s so pretty that it gives me Tumblr envy) in it and I actually cried. David and Katie have quickly become two of my best friends and school. They encourage me, teach me, make me laugh, and make me a better person. It is absolutely ridiculous how much I miss them. I miss late nights, long talks, and all of the laughter with them.

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David, Me, Katie. Katie took this picture of us at the lilac festival this spring and I love it so much, it just makes me so happy (just like them.)

The other people I miss so much are Grace, Kelly, and Mike. I met these losers in Honors Orientation Group 6 so they’ve literally been with me since day 1 of college. They’ve been there to listen to me complain about any and everything, they’ve eaten way too much Common’s pizza with me, they’ve put up with my irrationality, and they’ve helped make me the person I am. I love them all so much and it has been so incredibly difficult to go from seeing them every single day to not seeing them at all. We’re all going to be living in a house together next year and there are no words for the excitement I feel about that.

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We’re in the most hilarious group text and this will forever be my favorite comment. There’s no context to give, it stands on its own. Egg plant tube sock potato salad.

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Kelly, Grace, Mike, Me. We took this picture on the day we signed the lease to live in our house next year. I can’t wait to share every minute with these people who I love more than words.

One of the worst things about going from college life back to home life is being alone. I don’t know if I’ve spent this much time alone since winter break. I’ve gone from having a roommate and hundreds of other people living in my building to living with my five  family members who are at school or work most of the day. College is great because all of your friends live so close. You can walk down the hall, up a floor, or to the next building and be surrounded by your friends. I have to drive at least 5 minutes to see any of my friends here and there are days when I wake up after my family leaves and come home from work after they’ve gone to sleep. This has made me feel really lonely while I’m home.

This summer is also really difficult because I’m living with my parents again. Don’t get me wrong, my parents are the coolest, most understanding, and reasonable people I know; but things are different now. I’ve been living on my own for almost a year now. I’ve been waking up, going to bed, coming home, and staying out whenever I want. I’ve been doing what I want when I want to and I just can’t live like that at home. I live with 5 other people with various work and school responsibilities and my college lifestyle of coming home at 4am and waking up at noon just isn’t going to cut it all summer. It’s so hard to remember that I can’t just leave the house whenever. Remembering to tell my parents where I’m going and when I’ll be back is a serious chore for me.

As hard as this summer might be, I think it’s going to be really good. It’s been so good to be home and see my friends here who I have missed so much. It’s good to be working again and to be back in a rhythm of doing things regularly. It’s been nice to sleep in and cook for myself. I want this to be a productive summer of reading books, doing the things I need to, exercising, earning money, and resting.

Yes, it’s hard to be away from so many people that I love so dearly, but I’m so glad to be home with so many other people who I love.

Love you so much!

Abby

Sustainability and learning. 50 to go…

I swear, I’m the last person alive still in school while all of my friends are already home.

So it’s finals week! Finals week is basically the best week of the whole semester because except for all of the projects, papers, and exams to do you have absolutely no responsibilities. I haven’t woken up before noon since Wednesday (except for church on Sunday,) and I’ve been able to do whatever I want during the day and it’s been so lovely.

A couple months ago I wrote this post for my Environmental Sustainability, Health and Safety class and I enjoyed it so much that I decided to write about it for my final project. I’ve been thinking for weeks about what to write. My first thought was to use lots of big words to discuss all of the things we’ve learned this semester, but the more I’ve thought about it the more I’ve realized that that’s not what the class has been about. So instead of throwing big words at you, I’m going to just tell you about what I’ve learned this semester and what it’s meant to me.

SCIENCE
You may know this, but I’m definitely a science nerd. Hydrogen bonding, xylem and phloem, Mendelian genetics, these are the things that get my heart pumping. I love science and I love sustainability but I know very little of the science surrounding sustainability, at least I didn’t. Throughout this semester I have learned so much about alternative energy technologies, water systems, hydrofracking, alien species, habitat fragmentation, plant science, and so much more. I feel like I’ve gained so much knowledge and like I’ve formed a really strong base to continue learning off of. It’s also been a huge help that my Biology class has been a perfect parallel for my Sustainability class. We spent almost the entire semester in Biology learning about plant anatomy and function, animal classification, as well as evolution and ecology. I’ve been so excited to learn this semester that I’ve actually read text books for fun. I’ve been so interested to learn the science behind the way the world works and behind how we as humans interact with that world in both positive and negative ways. It has inspired me to learn even more on my own over the summer.

ENVIRONMENTAL/SOCIAL JUSTICE
Another thing you may know about me is that I am really passionate about justice, particularly social justice and environmental justice. A lot of this passion has developed since coming to college and has come with my increased feminist (a word I never spell right the first time) tendencies. My most read blog post is basically just one long feminist rant about the Victoria’s Secret fashion show (check that out here,) and this semester has done so much to strengthen my passion for justice. I’m taking a Values and Public Policy class this semester which has taught me so much about the concept of environmental justice. Environmental justice is defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” (here) This has gone hand in hand with my Sustainability class as we’ve spent a lot of time discussing hydrofracking (don’t even try to tell me that Wikipedia isn’t reliable. Ask any college student, that’s where we learn most of everything,) Cape winds, Love Canal, and Hurricane Katrina. I’m seeing more and more ways that environmental justice is related to sustainability and vice versa. I’m becoming more and more convinced that in order to have a more sustainable world we must be willing to strive for environmental justice.

CONVERSATION
One of the hardest things about being a crazy tree hugger is trying to explain to people why I’m so passionate about our planet and about why I’m willing to put aside my personal comfort to take care of the planet. It’s hard to explain to people why I don’t eat meat even though I love it, why I don’t believe in shampoo, why I reach into trashcans to grab recyclable materials, and so much more. I often feel like it’s my job to present a researched and well developed case for why I do the things I do. I feel like I have to be able to defend every single thing I do at a moment’s notice. My sustainability class has been so helpful at teaching me otherwise. The class was almost entirely discussion based and we spent a lot of time discussing who “needs to be at the table” in regards to discussions about sustainability. We spent a lot of time discussing various issues and doing mock town meetings, debates, discussions, and things like that. I’ve learned the importance of not just jumping to my own defense but of also taking the time to listen to other people’s opinions and views. Something my three best friends Grace, Kelly, Mike and I say is “I’ll throw the words over your head and you’ll throw the words over my head and we’ll just be talking past one another,” when referring (another word I just can’t spell. What made me think I should be a blogger? I can’t spell half of the words I want to use and half the time I just skip words in sentences,) to situations where people are just talking at one another while not really listening to each other, a thing that the four of us do a lot, and I think it really applies in this situation. So much of the discussion about sustainability is just people throwing words over each other’s heads and not really listening to one another. I’ve learned that just listening to people makes it so much easier to have productive, interesting, and intelligent conversations with people.

This semester has been an incredible time of learning for me. Three of the four classes I’ve taken this semester have been endlessly fascinating and I feel like I’m finally learning about the sort of things that I want to know. It’s things like this that convince me that I’ve picked the right major and that I’ve found something that I’m passionate about. I’m so thankful for everything I’ve learned. I also want to say a huge thanks to my incredible Sustainability professor, Kimie. She’s been so inspiring this semester and I’ve loved every moment of her class. I’ve learned and grown in my passion so much because of her and I never got a chance to tell her that during class. I hope that I have the chance to learn from and work with you again, Kimie! Thank you for everything!

I hope to write something about this year and this semester in review, but I’ll get to that some day when I’m not furiously writing essays, studying, and trying to pack up my life.

Love you!

Abby