Links to heal your heart

It’s been a hard week after the events in Charlottesville, and I’ve been having a really hard time processing. And while I definitely believe it’s vital to pay attention and stay aware of what is happening surrounding the white supremacist movement and the removal of Confederate statues, I’ve been letting it consume me to the point that my mental health has been suffering.

If your heart is hurting as much as mine, here are some things I’ve been turning to recently that have made me feel a little better:

  • Watch Zootopia. It’s a big, beautiful metaphor that addresses the harmfulness of racism, and is painfully relevant to today. But it’s so clever and will restore the sliver of hope you still have in humanity.
  • Vanity Fair filmed a celeb interview parody video with Jennifer Lawrence and it’s incredible.
  • The New York Times built an interactive matrix where you can plot each Game of Thrones character’s goodness and beauty. I spent an ungodly amount of time filling it out.
  • Entertainment Weekly‘s “The United States of Movies” combines two of my favorite things – maps and movies – and also reminds me of a man I met in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, who immediately brought up Gone Girl when I told him I’m from Missouri.
  • My boyfriend says I can’t listen to Lorde’s new album Melodrama anymore because it makes me sad, but I can’t resist watching her music video for “Perfect Places” again and again.
  • Speaking of new music, Kesha’s new comeback album is her best yet – especially “Bastards” and “Learn to Let Go.” Blast it on your drive.
  • Liz Climo. I know I’ve posted about her cartoons before, but they can’t not make your heart smile.
  • Melissa Broder’s So Sad Today column at Vice. Hey fellow sad people, you aren’t alone!
  • The “Great American Eclipse” is this Monday and Columbia is in the line of totality. I was already super excited, but now I’m practically bursting because Bonnie Tyler is going to sing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” during it.

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.

If You Want to be Happy…

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a pessimist. I blow small things out of proportion, I have anxiety attacks over nothing, I always expect the worst, I throw pity parties for myself on a daily basis.

Do I enjoy being in a constant state of negativity? No, not at all. So why am I? Why do I deny myself the simple pleasure of being happy? What’s so hard about looking on the bright side instead of worrying and overreacting?

I have a lot of positive aspects in my life which vastly outnumber the bad, but I’ve noticed that I tend to focus only on the minuscule problems I have instead of focusing on everything that is good.

Today is the second-annual International Happiness Day, a day established by the United Nations that recognizes happiness as a “fundamental human goal.”  Today is a day for kind words, positive vibes and free hugs. And in honor of today, I’m making a resolution: to be happy.

St. Patrick's Day with Hatch 5. One of many very happy days I've had at college.
A Hatch 5 St. Patrick’s Day celebration. One of many very happy days I’ve had during college.

I have a lot to be happy about.

I’m happy that I’m going to college at Mizzou, which is home to one of the best journalism schools in the country. I’m a beat writer and a columnist for The Maneater. There’s no other place I’d rather be, especially when it comes to preparing myself for my career in journalism.

I’m happy because I have the best friends that anybody could ever ask for — both at school and back home in Kansas City.

Hatch 5 geeking out at the midnight premiere of "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire."
Geeking out at the midnight premiere of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” One of my favorite nights.

My Hatch 5 family at Mizzou has made Columbia a home away from home. It’s crazy to think that I’ve only known everyone for seven months. We’ve had many adventures since we all came together in August — an ill-fated trip to the Magic Tree, dodging creepy guys at frat parties, cosmic bowling, celebrating snow days, degenerate tailgates and being intoxicated at football games.

Outside the stadium before the Homecoming game. Even though we lost, it was still a great game and a very happy evening.
Outside the stadium before the Homecoming game. Even though we lost, it was still a great game and a very happy evening.

I’d be lost without my friends at home. It’s great to know that I have such a solid group to come home to when I’m not at school. I’m happy that I can be myself around all of these kids and that they, for some reason, still seem to love me.

One of many happy summer nights at the Drive-In back home.
One of many happy summer nights at the Drive-In back home.

I’m happy that I finally got my braces off, and that I can now enjoy eating without the fear of getting half of my food stuck between my brackets.

I’m happy that I’m in school, doing well, and have professors who inspire me, get me thinking, and genuinely care about the success of their students. (And I’m happy that I only had one class today).

With all of these beautiful things in my life, it doesn’t make any sense why I spend so much time obsessing over what I don’t have. Right now, I’m exactly where I need to be in life.

Today is a beautiful day. It’s the first day of spring, sunny, 68 degrees, breezy. The campus is alive with students playing soccer, walking their dogs and basking on the Quad. Take it all in. Make the 20 minute walk to Noodles and Company with your friends. Drive around town blasting Lady Gaga with your car’s top down. Be happy.

Happiness is a choice. If you want to be happy, make the decision to do so. You don’t have to have everything you want in life to be happy.

As Leo Tolstoy said, “If you want to be happy, be.”

Sometimes you just need to drive

One of the good things about going to school two hours away from my hometown is the ability to go home as often as I want. To be able to get away for a weekend and escape the problems at school which threaten to overwhelm me- classes, boys being stupid assholes, that annoying kid on my floor- is something I will never take for granted. Knowing that home is just a couple of hours down the highway waiting for me is comforting. Home is where the heart is, where the dog is, where the DVD collection is. Sometimes I just need to go home.

But sometimes I just need the drive. Two hours of being alone in my car, being lost in thought, listening to my favorite songs and belting them off-key at the top of my lungs.

There are those songs you dub Driving Songs, the must-haves on your highway playlist. Songs you lose your voice singing along with as you weave through traffic, making awkward eye contact with the other drivers who are having visibly worse days than you as you rock out to AWOLNATION or Katy Perry in your car. And as you sing along, drum on your steering wheel, and dance as best as you can without crashing, a sense of freedom washes over you.

I didn’t get my license until I was 17. I had terrible anxiety every time I would get behind the wheel. I always thought someone would hit me, or I would hit someone, or I’d get lost, or my car would break down on the side of a busy interstate, etc. I hated driving. And I still do. I still suffer from those anxieties most of the time I sit behind the wheel of my Sebring, but there’s something different about being out on the highway for hours with surprisingly few cars surrounding you. There’s something therapeutic about the solace that comes with being alone on the road.

Today, driving and listening to Lady Gaga’s “ARTPOP” album, I found myself thinking about the problems that I’ve been obsessing over these last couple of weeks. After replaying everything again and again in my head, I realized: I am happy. I’ve been obsessing over a minuscule issue, a minor setback in the grand scheme of life. The things I’ve been freaking out about all semester will all be completely irrelevant in a matter of weeks. And with this revelation, I’m moving forward into the future, not looking back. What’s done is done. Time to look ahead and drive on.