‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’ and hello to what I’ve been waiting for my entire life

One of my earliest memories is from when I was two or three years old, sitting in front of my TV watching The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh surrounded by my kittens appropriately named Pooh Bear and Tigger. I have an E. H. Shepard illustration of Pooh tattooed on my right shoulder. Last week, I made my boyfriend watch Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin with me. I cried when I met Pooh at Disneyland. As I type this, I am sitting on my Winnie the Pooh pillow pet. You get the picture. I’m a Pooh person.

So you can imagine my excitement now that the first trailer for Goodbye Christopher Robin was finally released today (and my agony of knowing I won’t be able to see this film for four more months).

I am fully ready to see this movie every week it is in theaters and sob. My friends jokingly say that my catchphrase of sorts is *gentle gasps about Winnie the Pooh*, and today it’s *heaving sobs about Winnie the Pooh*. To quote the bear himself: “Today, I should say, is a good day for being Pooh [or, in this case, a Pooh fan].”

Though the books and Disney cartoons were made with children as the target audience, I have always advocated that the stories of Pooh and his pals can’t be fully appreciated and understood until you’ve grown up. The stories teach empathy, kindness, embracing your individuality, self-confidence and the importance of forming lasting friendships. As we grow older and leave parts of childhood behind us, we should never forget Pooh.

And now, after movies and TV shows and picture book adaptations of A. A. Milne’s novels, there is finally a Pooh story coming that’s made for adults.

Starring my love Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie and Phoebe Waller-Bridge of Fleabag glory, Goodbye Christopher Robin is looking to follow in the footsteps of Finding Neverland and be a strong Oscar contender.

(Now the question is: do you think Disney’s upcoming live-action Winnie the Pooh will be any good? I’m concerned).

The good of 2016

2016 was a rollercoaster of emotions. It was a year of overwhelming negativity for the world, but I managed to find solace in a few different outlets and support systems. For every moment I spent loathing school, there was someone to bitch about it with me. For every celebrity death, there was Disneyland. For every night spent feeling alone and worthless, there was a boy willing to make me a milkshake and watch The Bachelor with me. For every lost friendship, there were new relationships being formed over pizza, wine and Shrek.

It’s easy to remember the bad. The creeps in bars and the election and the social injustices and the not-so-good grades. But honestly, no matter how many bad things dominated 2016’s headlines, it was one of the greatest years of my personal life. Here are some of the memories that stand out, the material objects that kept me sane, and the people who held me upright.

Europe

The three months I spent abroad were the best months of my life. I had never been out of the country before, and flying an ocean away from all of my friends and family to live in London for a summer was terrifying. But I fell in love with England and Ireland and Scotland and France, and I now spend way too many nights looking through my hundreds of travel pictures, wine glass in hand, crying hysterically.

My London family

Europe wouldn’t have been nearly as amazing without these five girls I met and befriended. Together we explored the city’s streets and ventured out to Oxford, Bath, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Barcelona, Dublin, and the Scottish Highlands. It took traveling six timezones away to make friends for life who were around me all along. Here’s to the Southbank Squad.

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So Sad Today and other memoirs 

This year I began devouring memoirs and personal essays. My favorite book released this year was Melissa Broder‘s So Sad Todaywhich I now refer to as “the Sad Person Bible.” It’s unflinching and ballsy and makes me want to follow Broder’s example of not shying away from anything while writing. Along with So Sad Today, I also enjoyed Amy Schumer’s The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo, Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Womanand Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. All of these women inspired me greatly this year.

The YBAs

While in London, I took a class on British culture and learned about everything from the role the English class system plays in society to the mods and rockers of the 1960s. But my favorite thing we learned about was the Young British Artists movement of the ’90s. With the exception of Damien Hirst (I’m sorry I know he’s a big deal but I just can’t get on board), I was fascinated with their shock tactics and how they reinvigorated art for the 21st century. In particular, I loved the work of Tracey Emin. I bought her book of personal essays at the Tate Modern and it’s currently resting on my bookshelf, waiting for me to open. My favorite piece of hers that I was fortunate enough to see in person this summer (and literally cry over) is “My bed“, an installation of her personal bed where she spent days in a depressive state. I thought it was so powerful of her to take her mental illness, which has to be one of the most difficult aspects of her life, and display it to the public.

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Lady Gaga’s Joanne

Lady Gaga has been a huge role model of mine since middle school. Her latest album Joanne just reinforced my love and admiration. It’s so different from anything else she’s done and highlights just how much she has grown since her meat dress days. The songs have such range and her vocals are stellar. Also, every time I hear “Million Reasons” I weep uncontrollably. Whenever I was frustrated with the world (basically every day post-election), this album was a hug around my heart.

Disneyland Paris

After waiting my whole life, I finally went to a Disney park for the first time. I waited 45 minutes to meet Winnie the Pooh and I cried.

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Girls

Girls. Girls Girls Girls Girls Girls – I know I’m super late since season 6 is about to come out and I’m just now starting the series (though, I have watched four season within the last week), but I can’t stop bingeing. It’s been the biggest inspiration I’ve had to write since reading So Sad Today in Heathrow airport. The more the School of Journalism sucks the life out of me, the more I just want to work in a coffee shop/bookstore and write essays and novels.

My best friend

This year I found my best friend, who treats me with so much love, compassion and respect. He keeps me together when I’m feeling low, and half of the adventures I had this year wouldn’t have been possible without him. Here’s to many more.

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Dave the Brave

This semester I’m taking a screenwriting class for funzies and to finish my minor in film studies. For our midterm, we had to write a short story about a character and then turn it into a screenplay. After struggling through writer’s block for weeks, the weekend before the short story was due I pumped this out. To my surprise, a lot of my friends and classmates expressed interest when I vaguely told them “yeah, I’m writing a story about an octopus with social anxiety.” So I thought I’d post it here for anyone else who might want to read it. Here’s Dave:

*

In the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, a couple dozen miles off the sunny coast of Virginia Beach, Dave was going to a party.

Wringing his front two tentacles together nervously, Dave’s stomach churned so forcefully that he wondered if the molluscs he ate for lunch were going to come back up. He clasped Jenny’s birthday present, a small sand dollar, tightly to his side as he scurried along the ocean floor.

There was no real reason for Dave to be so uneasy. As an octopus, he was much bigger than all of the others who would be at Jenny’s birthday party. But being bigger, to Dave, just meant that it was easier to make a mess of things. He was quite the clumsy octopus, always breaking things and tripping over his own arms. He hated social events. He always seemed to ruin them.

It wasn’t long before Dave arrived at the celebration. He was, as usual, perfectly punctual. He could hear Jenny’s cackling dolphin laugh and see her clap her fins together. Only two creatures had arrived before Dave – Carl and Xavier.

Typically, Dave would eat crabs like Carl. But Carl was Dave’s friend, and therefore Dave had promised to not eat Carl or any of his relations. Xavier was an electric eel, and everybody just called him “Slim.”

Dave tentatively approached the group, waved a tentacle in greeting and handed Jenny her present. Jenny thanked Dave and nuzzled him with her nose, making Dave blush and look down at the ocean floor below him. He thought Jenny was the kindest dolphin he had ever met, and he often wondered if she returned his crush.

As guests continued to arrive, Dave retreated to the background. He watched everyone grow more and more excited as they swam in circled around each other. Jenny started doing twists and turns and backflips. Carl clacked his claws together enthusiastically. Slim, a self-proclaimed DJ, spun some sick beats. It was all more than Dave could bear. With a suppressed sob and the squirt of some ink, Dave jetted backwards through the water, away from the party, and hid, camouflaged, among a pile of rocks.

Dave flushed through his camouflage. Hanging his head, he began the slow trudge home. He didn’t always used to be so skittish around other creatures. When he was a hatchling, he loved being in crowds. It was only in recent years that he had begun to grow uneasy and anxious, when he and his family had moved to another part of the ocean.

It began when he started to notice that nobody would really listen to him when he would talk. He would often stop mid-story and nobody would notice. Then he started falling out of the conversations, listening for hours without ever really participating. Now it had progressed to an all-out panic – whenever he got the slightest but uncomfortable or felt out of place, he ran away and camouflaged.

When Dave arrived at his cave home, his parents, Octavia and Oscar, were cleaning old coconut shells. Dave’s father worked building shelters out of discarded coconut shells and large seashells and his mother sold them to sea creatures in need of homes.

“Hi honey,” his mother said. “How did the party go?”

Dave felt tears fill his eyes and he brushed them away with his dorsal arms as he told his parents what had happened yet again.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I just get so nervous around other creatures and feel so worthless,” Dave said. “I’m so embarrassed.”

His parents sighed and patted their son sympathetically on the head.

“Well, son,” his father said. “You just need to learn to have more confidence in yourself.”

“Be brave!” his mother said.

“But how can I be brave?” Dave asked. “I literally don’t have a backbone!”

Dave sighed sullenly and sulked to his corner of the family cave to be alone with his sorrows. His inability to interact like a normal creature always left him feeling a deep sense of shame. He always felt distant from the other creatures he hung out with, and that nobody ever really liked him that much. He was just always kind of…there, in the background of everyone’s life.

Dave acknowledged that he was a rather sensitive mollusc and felt a lot of feelings. But above all, he was tired of feeling this way. He didn’t like being sad and disappointed in himself. He especially didn’t like feeling embarrassed about freaking out, for seemingly no reason, in front of his friends. It had been an ongoing instance for months. He was sure that, by now, his friends expected him to jet out in a panic of ink and camouflage every time they hung out. He felt especially embarrassed when he thought about what Jenny must think of him. He didn’t want her to think he as a joke.

“I can’t keep doing this to me and my friends,” Dave said to himself. “I can change. I can be better. Or, at least, I can try.”

Dave started making a list in his head of things he could do to try to keep his anxiety under control and vowed to better himself, both for himself as well as his friends. Especially Jenny.

Over the next few weeks, Dave was hard at work on his new project. To clear his mind, he started practicing mindfulness, meditation and yoga (which he was quite good at, considering he had no skeleton which allowed him to be very flexible). He took up painting, mostly pictures of objects he found on the ocean floor and a couple creative portraits of Jenny. He helped his parents with their work building shelters. He started volunteering at a shelter for battered sea lions who had narrowly escaped the jaws of Great Whites. He felt within himself an awakening. He took pride in each task of creation. He fell into a daily routine and began feeling more and more confident about himself and his capabilities.

One day, Carl scuttled over to Dave’s family cave.

“Have you heard?” Carl asked. “Slim is throwing a party at the reef.”

Dave hesitated. He didn’t know if he was ready. Sure, he had made progress over the last few weeks with his self-esteem, and meditation had allowed him to start gaining control over his nerves. This was his chance to show his friends, as well as prove to himself, that he was brave and could handle social situations without panicking and running away.

The night of the party arrived. Dave scurried across the ocean floor to the coral reef. He had felt confident about the party until a few hours before it was time to leave. Then he had started to grow uneasy. What if he starts feeling like an outsider again? What if he runs away again? What if people make fun of him?

He heard the party before he saw it. Slim always played loud music at his soirees. Taking a deep breath, Dave entered the party. Carl and Jenny were both already there. Dave swam up to them, where the dolphin and crab attacked Dave with hugs in greeting.

As crowds started flooding in, Dave found that he was not growing uncomfortable like usual. He wiggled and jiggled his arms around to the beat of the music late into the night. Slim even let him request some songs to add to the playlist.

“We’re so glad that you’ve stayed here so long,” Jenny said as she twirled around Dave. “You always seem to disappear so early, we miss you!”

Dave couldn’t believe it. He was missed? After all these times of feeling out of place and unwanted, it warmed his three hearts to hear that Jenny wanted him around. Maybe there was no reason for Dave to be so self-conscious in the first place.

Dave wrapped his tentacles around Jenny in an embrace.

“I’m happy I’ve stayed so long, too,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll be disappearing as much anymore.”

People Whose Stuff I Like

So far, my winter break has been an endless vortex of working retail 20+ hours a week, babysitting my sister, bingeing “Friday Night Lights,” and writing scholarship essays so I can (hopefully) study abroad this summer. As a much-needed break I, as a lover of lists, have decided to steal Mara Wilson’s page and make a post about the things I’ve been reading/listening to/interested in lately, so others (that means you) can check them out, too.

How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran — Before college I never gave feminism a thought, and I most certainly didn’t think of myself as a feminist. Things have most certainly changed, and can best be encapsulated with one of Moran’s many, many quotable lines in this book: “So here is the quick way of working out if you’re a feminist. Put your hand in your underpants. a) Do you have a vagina? and b) Do you want to be in charge of it? If you said ‘yes’ to both, the congratulations! You’re a feminist!”

Christopher Poindexter — I’m a hopeless romantic and Poindexter speaks to me like no other poet has. I’m forever in debt to my friend who first sent me one of his poems when I was feeling sad.

This tweet I found while Twitter-stalking Brian Hiatt, my favorite “Rolling Stone” writer.

Muskrat Love — I got a record player for Christmas and I’m absolutely in love with it. As a joke, my mom got me a Captain and Tennille record. But the joke’s on her because I’ve been playing it more than any other album I got, even “Imagine.” Looks like Muskrat Love, y’all.

Speaking of music, some things I’ve been listening to recently — The 1975, Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness, Meg Myers, Milky Chance, the one orgy song from AHS: Hotel.

Positive Strawberry — Having a bad day? Instantly feel better with this Twitter account.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow — I also got a ukulele for Christmas and I am determined to learn how to play this song.

Lady Gaga. — I have always had a deep love for Gaga since I first heard “Poker Face” play on the radio in eighth grade. I think we should all look up to Lady Gaga. She exemplifies what someone’s capable of if they a) be who they want to be and b) do it with bravery. This year she belted at the Academy Awards, slayed as The Countess on “American Horror Story: Hotel,” and made me weep with her song “Til It Happens to You,” a tribute to survivors of sexual assault. She’s a huge role model of mine.

Liz Climo — Her cartoons make my heart happy.

Litographs — Art made out of words! (my birthday is in three weeks, people!)

Artparasites — Art and quotes and essays and musings on life and love and sex and mental health. Read more in this Q&A I found.

Cat shaming — Nothing makes me laugh harder. I will shame Albus one day.

Broadly — Where has this been all my life?

‘Other People are not Medicine’ and Other Things I Learned from ‘Yes Please’

I love to read. “Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card” is basically my life motto. Over spring break, instead of doing productive things like work on my city issues story for my news writing class or catch up on The Aeneid for my classical Rome class, I devoured Amy Poehler’s book, “Yes Please.” All women should read “Yes Please.” All humans should read “Yes Please.” This is what I learned from “Yes Please.”

1. Other people are not medicine.

The pages of “Yes Please” are filled with words of Amy Poehler wisdom. The book is divided into three sections — “Say whatever you want,” “Do whatever you like,” and “Be whoever you are.” Chapters are also sometimes divided by two-page spreads of big bolded words. “Other people are not medicine.” “Everybody is scared most of the time.” “Symmetry is pleasing but not as sexy. Einstein is cool but Picasso knows what I’m talking about.” As soon as I get back to my apartment, I’m writing these on sticky notes and posting them all over my room. I’m serious.

For more specific examples of the wise words of Amy Poehler, read this.

2. New York is wonderful but also seems terrifying. And sometimes you will live under meth heads and mice will crawl up your apartment’s stove.

3. Be nice to people. But also be strict when you need to be.

I am very much a people-pleaser. And a pushover. If you ask me to do something, even if it inconveniences me greatly and you are perfectly capable of doing it on your own or getting by without it even being done in the first place, there is a good chance I will still do that thing. I need to be more like Amy Poehler and firmly say “No!” It’s not being mean (I mean, Amy Poehler seems like the nicest person in the world and if she can do it then I can, too).

Ex. No! I will not use my printer to print this nine-page, bolded-font packet for you. Ink is expensive, fool. You have a print quota on campus. Use it. Geez.

4. Love your friends

5. Treat your career like a bad boyfriend

“You have to care about your work but not about the result. You have to care about how good you are and how good you feel, but not about how good people think you are or how good people think you look.”

“Remember, your career is a bad boyfriend. It likes it when you don’t depend on it. It will reward you every time you don’t act needy. It will chase you if you act like other things (passion, friendship, family, longevity) are more important to you. If your career is a bad boyfriend, it is healthy to remember you can always leave and go sleep with somebody else.”

6. Time travel is real. (Read the book, the woman has proof).

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World Poetry Day: four of my favorites

I admit I’ve never been the biggest fan of poetry. I suppose I blame this on years and years of English teachers making me annotate every little word and phrase of Sylvia Plath and Seamus Heaney until the “one definite meaning” is discovered, which turned me off to the medium. Poetry is something I’ve always felt can be interpreted differently depending on the reader. Like any other form of art, there isn’t a definite right or wrong interpretation. But lately I’ve been trying to read more poems, and in honor of World Poetry Day, here are some of my favorites and what they mean to me:

“(love song, with two goldfish)” by Grace Chua

I complain about the poetry units I was put through in high school (if I had to read one more Seamus Heaney poem about a bog I was going to scream), but I actually have IB English to thank for this discovery. I first read “(love song, with two goldfish)” senior year in IB English class. We were given a poem we had never seen before at the beginning of class and had the whole hour to annotate and write a paper about it — practice for the big scary IB test at the end of the year.

I loved this poem immediately. Those who know me know I’m a sucker for love, and the male’s devotion to the female is just so adorable — “He would take her to the ocean, they could count the waves. There, in the submarine silence, they would share their deepest secrets. Dive for pearls like stars.”

I could say so much about this poem. The use of parentheses as a metaphor for a fishbowl. The humor in the fish references and water imagery. The whimsy (even though I personally find the ending really sad, it’s still cutesy and fun overall).

The main thing I can relate to is the idea of wanting more out of life — “a life beyond the (bowl).”

Charlie’s poem for Patrick in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky

I know I’ve written about this poem in another blog post before, but it’s just so devastating and I love it. The first time I read it I cried. The poem ends in the author’s suicide, and, to me, it’s about the loss of innocence that comes with growing up.

Each stanza is different stage in life, from childhood to around high school or college. In the first stanza everything is simple and happy — his parents kissed a lot, the girl around the corner sent him a Valentine with x’s (and, being a little kid, he had to ask his dad what the x’s meant), and his father always tucked him into bed at night.

By the end of the poem, his mother and father “never kissed/or even talked,” the girl around the corner wore too much makeup but he kissed her anyway “because that was the thing to do,” and at 3 a.m. he tucked himself into bed.

I’m still not sure how to put into words why I love this poem. I just find it, while dark and terribly depressing, truthful. To me, it captures the confusion of growing up and the world not being as simple as it was in previous years. As you grow up and learn more and become more observant about the world around you, it’s hard not to become critical and feel alone and wonder what it’s all about: “he tried another poem/And he called it “Absolutely Nothing”/Because that’s what it was really all about…”

“Elegies 2.15: Love song for Cynthia” by Propertius

Okay, so I admit I just read this poem for the first time two days ago for my Age of Augustus class, but I love it. (I also apologize for the absence of a link. I couldn’t find the same translation from my textbook online in my brief Google search).

The poem is, as you could probably guess from the title, a love song to Propertius’s elegiac puella (aka his strong/bossy/sometimes mean girlfriend, who doesn’t fit the norms expected of a typical classical Roman woman). Their love is often described as a “maddening enslavement,” and is full of turmoil and high emotions, with Cynthia almost always hurting Propertius.

However, this particular poem is one of the happier ones, of Propertius worshipping Cynthia — the opening line is “I’m the luckiest man alive! It was a night lit up with ecstasy.”

The whole poem focuses on an erotic night Cynthia. Again, I’m a sucker for love (even though Propertius and Cynthia’s affair is far from healthy), and this particular poem is filled with lines that get me right in the feels. “There is no pleasure if you close your eyes when making love, and blindly/Thrash around; did you not know, it is the eyes that lead the way to love.” “Her’s I shall be in life, in death I shall remain her love.” “My Cynthia, while yet bright are the lights of life, do not desert life’s joys/If every kiss you have you give to me, yet will it not suffice.” And my personal favorite line: “The man has lost his wits who seeks an end to love’s insanity.”

I’m really digging Propertius. He has whole books of Elegies filled with poems dedicated to his love for Cynthia. We were discussing him in class the other day and the whole idea behind his poems is that, because Mars and Venus are the gods Rome is said to be descended from, love is just as vital to Roman life as war, if not more so.

I also find it amazing that something written in the 1st century BCE can still be so relatable in the present-day.

“To Build a Home” by The Cinematic Orchestra 

Is this cheating? This is technically a song, but, really, I’ve always thought about songs as a form of poetry. I love listening to songs and reading the lyrics. To me, lyrics are the most important thing about a song, more so than the music. Some of my favorite lyrics come from Lorde, The Head and The Heart (don’t even get me started on their song “Gone,” it’s utterly perfect), and Florence + the Machine (her new song “What Kind of Man” understands everything about my life).

But, as I’ve said before, “To Build a Home” holds a special place in my heart. Largely because it was introduced to me by my then-new, now best friend during a tumultuous time in my life. I just think it’s a really beautiful song with gorgeous lyrics, and it always makes me think of my friends and I stargazing, night swimming, making s’mores, having bonfires, etc.

“I climbed the tree to see the world/When the gusts came around to blow me down/Held on as tightly as you held onto me.” Seriously, I need a tattoo of those lyrics. You can listen to the song here.

My Experience as a True/False Volunteer

Anxiously awaiting "Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck."
Anxiously awaiting “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck.”

True/False is without a doubt my favorite time to be in CoMo.

The True/False Film Festival is four blissful days of film, music and art. Four days of being downtown up to (or, in some cases, over) 12 hours at a time. Four days of spending way too much money on food and festival merchandise. Four days of waiting in Q lines and befriending Q Queens.

Last year, I was fortunate enough to cover the festival for MOVE Magazine, where I got to interview a director and review some films. It was a highlight of my freshman year and a big reason why I signed up to be a True/False volunteer this year.

This past weekend, I gave 15 hours of my time to the festival. I sold merch at the Missouri Theatre and the Box Office — if you needed True/False T-shirts, pocket knives, or bamboo socks, I was your girl.

Here's me looking like a dork in my volunteer attire in a picture I took for my mom.
Here’s me looking like a dork in my volunteer attire in a picture I took for my mom.

Before my first shift I was nervous, as only my anxiety-ridden self would be. What if I didn’t get to see all of the films I wanted? What if I fell behind in schoolwork because of all the hours I have to put in? (Spoiler alert: I did). What if I majorly screw up and by the end of my shift the Missouri Theatre/Box Office is crumbling to the ground or going up in flames? I kept playing out these ridiculous scenarios in my head of all the things that could go wrong.

But within an hour of arriving at my first shift, I loved it.

One of the best parts of True/False is the people. I met so many amazing individuals while I was volunteering. These people had dedicated time every year to making everyone’s True/False experience great, and they were incredibly nice. Both of my supervisors bought the whole team Strange Donuts. One of them now follows me on Instagram and spent half of my shift telling me stories of her drunken escapades at the gym. I spent my 15 hours surrounded by fantastic and beautiful human beings.

Merch was such a fun environment to work in. I was surrounded by quirky socks (pictured below) and scarves and shirts and stickers and posters. The Box Office was decked out with tortoise shells and clocks (all centering around this year’s time-related theme, “The Long Now”). I met fest goers who traveled from all over the country — New York, Tennessee, Texas, etc. — just to see some documentaries in little Columbia, Missouri.

True/False volunteer party aka the hippest place I've ever been
True/False volunteer party aka the hippest place I’ve ever been

TF volunteer party 2

Volunteering at True/False is the best way, I think, to immerse yourself in the festival experience. You also get a ton of perks — just to name a few: free films, discounted leftover merch, and the legendary True/False volunteer party, which was the coolest place I have ever been in my entire life.

I still got to see films I wanted to see — “Heaven Knows What,” “Cartel Land,” and my personal favorite, “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck.” I still got to wander downtown and look at the art and grab food with my friends. Volunteering did not hinder my True/False experience as I had originally feared it would — it made it so much better.

As a volunteer, you’re contributing to something that makes the community great and provides joy to so many people. And there’s no better feeling than being a part of something bigger than you.

Between the time I woke up on Friday and went to bed Sunday, I had gotten, collectively, five or six hours of sleep. I survived on free cups of Kaldi’s coffee (another volunteer perk) and a sugar rush from stuffing my face with donuts. It’s Tuesday night and I’m still exhausted, I’m still behind on school and work, I’m pretty certain I failed yesterday’s astronomy midterm, and I’m still struggling to keep my eyes open because I haven’t had the opportunity to catch up on the sleep I missed this weekend.

But if you’re not completely worn out at the end of True/False, you obviously didn’t do it right.

Day One

My overall resolution for 2015 is to be happier — do the things that make me happy, don’t dwell on the negative aspects of life, and recognize the good that I’ve been #blessed with. I often preoccupy myself with setbacks and negatives so much that all the goodness of life is overshadowed and often forgotten, and I’m making it a priority to stop these harmful habits.

This brings me to #100HappyDays, which challenges you to post pictures of what makes you happy every day for 100 consecutive days.

When I first found out about this challenge, I admit I thought it was a bit cheesy. But as I scrolled through the website the idea began to appeal to me more and more.

Despite being in the middle of a much-needed four week break from schoolwork and The Maneater, I’ve been under a lot of stress. I’ve been anxious and feeling a lot of pressure from a number of sources. This challenge could help relive some of these negative feelings and help me become a more optimistic person.

Instead of bombarding my Instagram/Facebook/Twitter feeds with these daily updates, I created a Tumblr blog (even though I don’t have the slightest idea how to work Tumblr, but I assume I’ll figure it out) specifically for this challenge. I invite you to follow along.

Resolutions

Hey self, it’s been obvious lately that I haven’t exactly been treating you right.

I’ve been staying up late. I’ve been having self-destructive thoughts. I’ve been stressed. I’ve been sick on and off since August. Over these last few months, I haven’t been doing much to impede these and other destructive habits. It’s been a rough time.

But 2015 is right around the corner. A new year — a new start — is just days away. Self, I have wronged you, and it’s time to make some changes.

Resolution One: Do things that make me happy.

Have “Claudia Time” every day, even if it’s just for an hour or so. Drink an iced coffee and scroll through social media at a coffee shop downtown. Listen to Hozier in my beautiful, nest-y, Christmas light-filled room. Actually take the time to read for pleasure. Take lots of naps. Watch an episode of some show on Netflix before I go to bed. Which leads me to my next resolution…

Resolution Two: Go to bed at a reasonable hour.

Okay, it’s college and I recognize that this will be difficult, but I’m constantly feeling worn down. I’ve also been getting sick a lot more than usual lately, which my lack of sleep may be playing a role in. On weeknights, I want to be in bed by midnight at the latest. I’ve always been a person who needs a lot of sleep and ever since I came to college, that need has been seriously neglected. The fact is, it’s not healthy to get so little sleep. (I also recognize the irony that I’m currently typing this, and most definitely not sleeping, after midnight on a Thursday).

Resolution Three: Be selfish.

I don’t need to inconvenience myself every time somebody asks me to do something. It’s okay to say no to people, especially when saying yes to something will put me through unnecessary stress. I need to start thinking of myself first and not put other people’s wellbeing before my own.

Resolution Four: Reduce negative self-talk.

I say a lot of mean things to myself. Whether it’s telling myself I can’t do something or that I did a bad job or that I’m a bad writer or that my new haircut looks like crap or that my outfit sucks, I’m very hard on myself. Unnecessarily hard. It’s probably impossible to have this negativity completely eliminated, especially within a year, but I can take steps to reduce my harmful thoughts.

Don’t be so hard on myself. Don’t turn little setbacks into huge crises. Stop comparing myself to others. Stop thinking I’m weak. Stop assuming I can’t do anything — I can do a lot. Self-worth is something I need to build on.

Resolution Five: Reach out.

I often feel isolated from others, separated from other people. The best way I can describe it is by comparing it to “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble” — I feel like I’m John Travolta, alone in my own little barrier of thought and emotion while others circle around me. Unlike me, these other people are out of their bubbles, free to interact and connect to one another with ease. I’m physically close to the others but there’s always that invisible barrier preventing me from forming close friendships, sharing real feelings and experiences, and allowing people to really know me.

In the upcoming year, I need to take steps to connect to my family and friends. Break free of the bubble. Open up. Don’t keep my thoughts and feelings bottled or pass them off as a joke. Trust others. Not everyone is out to get me. Also, find a decent therapist.

Resolution Six: When it’s 2 a.m. and I come home from a night out and I feel alone, do not text anybody. Do not call anybody. Do not interact with anybody who is not my roommate. Go to bed, dammit.

I present this as a joke, but in all seriousness I have a problem with being alone. When I go from being surrounded by a lot of people with a lot of energy to being alone back in my quiet apartment, I don’t take it well (as my floormates from last year probably know). Usually my nights end with me watching “BoJack Horseman” and crying until I fall asleep. I need to learn to be okay with being by myself and not wake up the next morning to regrettable text messages.

Resolution Seven: (Regarding some of my previous resolutions) stop presenting everything I feel as a joke.

I’ve used humor as a defense mechanism for as long as I can remember. I like to think that I have a good sense of humor, but there are times when I need to be serious. My feelings matter just as much as anybody else’s.

When I started going to therapy, I would nervous laugh and mutter “it’s not a big deal” under my breath every other sentence. But the things I was talking about were not funny and they were a big deal. Don’t downplay my feelings.

Resolution Eight: Distance myself from toxic people.

I know that some people I care a lot about use me. I know that some people I consider friends take advantage of me or only hang out with me because I will do anything they ask. I know that I shouldn’t keep hanging out with these people, but for some reason I continue to do so. Maybe it’s just that I want everybody to like me. But if I continuously surround myself with negative people, they’re just going to have a negative impact on me.

Resolution Nine: Stop predicting the worst possible outcome to every situation.

No, Claudia, I’m not going to fail out of college if I get a C on this test. I’m not going to be fired from my job if one of my writers turns in a bad story. I’m not going to lose all my money and have to live on the street if I buy this five dollar latte from Kaldi’s. Find ways to relax and practice them.

Here’s to 2015. I have a lot of things to work on, but I’m going to be fine. I’ll make it.

Priorities

It’s about time that I get my priorities in check.

This semester has been rough to say the least. I can’t remember a time within the last two months where I haven’t been stressed, worried, or anxious. I’ve been biting my nails more than usual until they bleed and ache for hours. I haven’t been sleeping well. I’ve been eating everything in sight, and none of it has been very healthy.

When one of my friends came up to me at a party a few weeks ago and asked how I was, I responded with “I’m so stressed out” followed by a rapid list of my problems. Problems that I’ve been allowing to rule my life since August.

Last month, I started seeing a therapist. With the exception of one or two therapy appointments my mother forced me to attend in the third grade, I have never sought any professional help for my anxiety and self-esteem problems I’ve been dealing with over the last few years. So far, it’s helped. I’ve left each appointment feeling better. Calmer.

During my last session, I was talking about how busy I am, how behind I am, how I’m not satisfied with my classes and grades and work performance at The Maneater. And my therapist used a somewhat cheesy metaphor:

There are different aspects of a life. No person is completely one thing. For example, there is Maneater Claudia, who works, edits, writes and manages a whole section of a weekly paper; there is School Claudia, who struggles to stay afloat with 15 credit hours and a particularly awful multimedia class; and then there is Claudia Claudia, who likes watching “BoJack Horseman” on Netflix, reading before bed and going to parties with friends on the weekends.

Now, picture all of these different aspects as balls. It can be difficult for one person to carry so many balls at once, so you have to put them in a basket. But the basket isn’t always stable, so you have to put the balls you never want to drop in the center.

“Which of these balls is the most important?” asked my therapist. “Which would you put in the center?”

I didn’t hesitate. “Maneater Claudia,” I said. “And, like, School Claudia.”

Truthfully, my answer and the speed of my response caught me off guard.

The Maneater is very important to me. Making sure I have stories pitched out is important, everything going smoothly for my writers is important, successfully planning and managing Long Reads is important. Similarly, treating classes like a job and getting good grades is important. But what is more important is my health.

Claudia Claudia is the ball that should be in the center of my basket. Claudia Claudia should be my top priority.

I started thinking about how I never do things just for me anymore. I haven’t read a book since summer vacation, I haven’t gone on walks simply to walk, I haven’t stayed in and watched a movie I’ve been meaning to see for ages. And I am deciding to change that.

I need to start taking better care of myself. I need to start doing things I enjoy again, without constantly worrying about deadlines and due dates.

Two nights ago, I spent a few hours walking around downtown. I bought coffee from Lakota. I browsed through the shelves in Yellow Dog Bookshop for a solid 45 minutes, buying two books on a whim (“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson and “Cat’s Eye” by Margaret Atwood). I had girls night with my roommates and watched “One Day,” a movie I’ve wanted to see for the past three years (and it was kind of a letdown).

I didn’t think about planning future Long Reads. I didn’t think about the edits I’d have to make with writers the following day. I didn’t think about how I have a video project due in multimedia soon, even though I have no idea how to even turn on a video camera. I didn’t think about my Cross-Cultural final project and how I have no time to commit to it. I didn’t worry about the ungodly amount of chips and salsa I was eating, even though I’m fairly certain I’ve been gaining weight at an astonishingly unhealthy rate since returning to Columbia. I didn’t worry about updating my resume and making it non-ugly and applying for internships.

I need to have more of these nights. I need to start putting myself and my needs first and not let work, both school and Maneater duties, overwhelm my life.

Yes, Maneater Claudia and School Claudia are important. I love working at the paper and I love being in college. But I can’t lose sight of Claudia Claudia — the friend, the daughter, the sister, the person.