My Addiction

I have an addiction to social media.

This is something I haven’t voiced to anyone before, but I think voicing it causes everything to make so much more sense to both me and my loved ones, because it really is a true addiction that has hindered my relationships with others. I wake up and sit on social media, I scroll before bed, and many times I scroll for multiple hours in between the beginning and end of my day.

It is quite literally consuming my life and driving me to apathy over how I’m spending my days, and that is what scares me the most. It has stolen too much of the past 7 years of my life, and I don’t want to live that way, so I’m indefinitely logging off all platforms until I can rid myself of this negative chain around my neck.

However it’s not easy for me to give it up, not just because it’s an addiction, but because the main side effect that I’ve experienced is FOMO (the fear of missing out). As the years have gone on, my FOMO has multipled, because people utilize social media more and more frequently, and I know my friends will be constantly using it while I’m not, so there’s the fear that I’m missing out on important information in their lives. Sad, but true, and not just in my case, but hundreds and potentially thousands of others’.

I think this is a prevalent addiction in our society, yet no one is talking about it. It exacerbates mental health struggles, it makes me feel guilty, it causes me to push people away, it forces me to be less social than I am, it fills me with emotions like apathy and anger. So WHY are we not talking about it and getting people the help they need?

According to an article written by the Washington Post, the 6 questions to test social media addiction are:

• Do you spend a lot of time, when you’re not online, thinking about social media or planning to use social media?

• Do you feel urges to use social media more and more over time?

• Do you use social media to forget about personal problems?

• Do you often try to reduce your use of social media, without success?

• Do you become restless or troubled if you are unable to use social media?

• Do you use social media so much that it has had a negative impact on your job, relationship or studies?

I personally would say “yes” to all of these questions. And honestly, I think there are a lot more people my age that would too, who don’t realize they have an addiction.

Over the past 10 years social media has become ingrained in our DAILY lives. People spend more time than ever staring at their phones over the people around them, taking pictures of experiences rather than just experiencing them, and making relationship updates on social media more important than the real life relationship! We choose to find our worth in the amount of likes and comments we get rather than conversations face-to-face, and we are overloaded in pointless or angry information that stirs up nothing but negativity, and oftentimes, comparison.

Social media has screwed up a lot of things in our lives. People under the age of 30 on average do not seek news from real sources, but deal with “news” mainly through angry Tweets by celebrities or grotesque pictures of violence on Facebook. We don’t know how to properly respect opinions different than our own, because we can just scream at one another through a computer screen and block the people we disagree with.

As a Communication major, I am utterly disheartened by how minimally we actually communicate with our loved ones. Sometimes it seems like people would rather divulge private information to 500 acquaintances than their closest friends, and I think there’s something really wrong with that.

Every culture, generation, and time period has to deal with unique struggles and distractions. Honestly, as I struggle to stay off social media for the next couple of months at least, I really wish I didn’t live in a time with social media. Social media can isolate in many ways: cyber bullying/hate comments, sending people to their rooms to be alone for hours at a time, increased depression rates, reading terrible news constantly…

But I think we overlook how social media can isolate because it can make those without it, especially millennials and generation z, feel out of the loop with the rest of their peers.

All addictions should be taken seriously; I truly believe that. And so, as I journey through the beginning/hardest stage of recovery to freedom, I think being honest about my addiction and allowing loved ones to know about my struggle is the most important part. To my loved ones, feel free to support and encourage me through emails, phone calls, or text messages. I know it may sound silly, but my brain has been in pure panic mode at the thought of giving up these websites.

But despite the panic and fear, I know it will radically change my mindset, my perspective of myself, and my productivity. This addiction has kept me from better relationships with others, productivity in work and school, proper health/self-care, and even the desire to do fun activities like reading and writing. I’ve allowed this addiction to run the majority of my days for 7 years.

I want to live and really live out my passions and purpose that I believe I’ve been given. I can’t do that when I’m stuck within the tiny confines of an Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat feed.

~Annah

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Body Image and Lies that Crippled me for Years

Two years ago, I would have never imagined writing this blog. But after writing a rough draft of my novel, where I placed some of my biggest insecurities on display through my protagonist, Ryden, I feel confident that it’s time for me to be vulnerable about my insecurities. So hello internet, this is the most vulnerable thing I have ever done. But I truly believe people need to hear this to feel less alone.

There are so many times I have felt utterly trapped in my skin and have desperately wished my body could be anything but what it is. To just write this makes me cry, because it’s so sadly true. But my tears I have right now also fall, because that is such an ugly, twisted lie that millions of people believe when they look in the mirror daily. I think about all of the young women in elementary, middle, or high school who look in the mirror and abhor what they see. The petite young women in high school, like I used to be, who look at themselves and think something needs to change because they are “not enough.” You are enough and you are perfect just as you are, and I wish I could’ve told my younger self that.

I have told myself so many lies based on my body, including:

  • My skin is ugly
  • My nose is too big
  • I’m not tall enough
  • I’m too skinny
  • I don’t weigh enough
  • I don’t have enough curves
  • My body is not deserving of love

And perhaps the worst lie I realized two years ago that I’ve told myself for years subconsciously:

  • You will not be loved because you don’t have boobs

These are my lies I’ve lived with since adolescence, and I cannot say I simply got rid of the lies because that would be a lie too, but I’ve realized how essential my unique body is and that I need to stand up for the other women who look like me, because they are likely silenced by their lies right now. It’s so scary and yet so liberating to be sharing this with you right now.

This might sound corny, but if you could please participate, I want you to do this with me. Find a piece of paper and write down all of the insecurities you’ve had over the years about what you look like. I will write mine down.

Have your list? Good.

Now I want you to rip it up and throw it away.

The physical act of throwing it away is so impactful. You are free. You are not those things you wrote down. You are worthy of love despite all of your imperfections and those insecurities don’t define you. Not anymore.

Every single thing you wrote down is a LIE and that is the TRUTH.

For years, I let my insecurities silence me. For years, I let myself feel isolated and alone in these insecurities. For years, these insecurities won and sometimes these lies try to creep back into my system. Sometimes they float around in my system for a little while. But they never stay, because I know I’m my own worst enemy. I know I pick up on little things no one else does about myself, things that don’t even matter. I believe I was given this body for a reason. I believe there is something out there that wants me to feel inadequate and insecure.

I know I’m just like every other human on this planet because I have doubts about my body.

Our bodies are unique, and because of that, there are numerous insecurities we have about ourselves that we feel alone in. But the truth is we are not alone. Maybe someone doesn’t understand what it’s like to be petite like I do, but they know what it’s like to look in the mirror and disapprove of what they see. To look in the mirror and doubt that anyone could ever accept what’s there besides your family. These are lies that the devil of my belief system (or whatever the equivalent is for you) will take and run with, to convince you that you are not deserving of love, whether romantic, familial, friend-wise or spiritual.

It’s hard. I know it’s hard to love what you see. But whether you can see it for yourself or not, know that you are perfect just as you are. You are enough just as you are. You don’t need to change for anything or anyone. You don’t need certain clothes or shoes or makeup or a hairstyle to be seen as lovable.

This is your one body. Love it as much as you humanly can… which means sometimes you won’t love it. So when the doubts start creeping in, step away from the mirror, walk outside, and look at the beauty in the people around you. They possess the same beauty that you do. You know how you pick your friends up when they talk themselves down? You deserve that kind of self-talk, too.

Your body is perfect, so get used to that beautiful truth. Even when you don’t feel like it is.

~Annah

Disconnected Communication

Honestly, I think we as humans are very imbalanced socially right now.

Yesterday I sat in my religion class and our professor gave us a short break halfway through. I kid you not, a handful of people immediately left the room to grab a drink or use the restroom, but everyone else instantaneously grabbed their phone. I would be lying if I said I didn’t reach for the front pocket of my backpack where my phone rests when he told us we could have a short break. However, my hand paused when I looked to those above my reaching hand, who were buried in their devices. I turned around to those behind me and to the other side, and sure enough, every single person had their nose buried. Two girls talked a little, but still held the devices firmly in their palms.

That’s when I decided to spend the mini class break without my phone. And I honestly felt a twinge of sadness, realizing that this is our default as people now, at least, in a first world country.

More than ever people crave to have deep relationships with others, where they can feel heard, valued, and loved. Yet, more than ever, people spend their time more engaged in online activity or texting friends, rather than hanging out with the people around them.

I think it’s vital to remember that if you choose to hang out with other people, you choose to hang out with those people. Not the ones on your phone.

I know that sounds a little harsh, so allow me to convey my sentiments another way. In my experience, the more I’ve placed emphasis on long distance/electronic friendships, the more I’ve pushed away the people who’ve blessed my life in the present.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s so crucial to stay in contact with the people you love and can’t see often.

But I think we also need to trust that the people who are currently with us outside of our devices are there for a reason and we should attempt to invest into those relationships more frequently, because those others will always be a tap away, but whoever’s with you in person can only be face-to-face with you temporarily.

I know that’s so easy to say though, trust me, I know the phone addiction too well. But if you’re anything like me, sometimes I get a little bummed when I hang out with friends and they keep reaching for their phones, not because I think they’re trying to bother me intentionally, but because it’s just a bad habit we resort to. Personally, I’d love the reminder to put it away when I’m hanging out with friends and would love to keep others accountable who wish to break the habit.

I strongly believe that we should be present in our physical world around us and then catch up with the phone later when we’re not with others.

When’s the last time you hung out with someone and forgot about your phone? Wouldn’t you agree those times are some of the best memories? Feel free to share your thoughts!

~Annah

Aaron Burr & The World’s “Villains”

Yesterday I saw Hamilton in Chicago and after a year and a half, it surpassed any kind of expectations I had. It really did blow me away. And it made me cry 3 times… but that’s no surprise, considering I teared up after the first song had finished.

Finally getting to see the musical live confirmed that my favorite character is definitely Aaron Burr, which might sound odd considering he’s the “villain.” Basically, the reason has everything to do with Lin Manuel-Miranda’s writing (as does the reasoning behind all of my emotions while watching the show).

Manuel-Miranda wrote Burr dynamically and I really appreciate his decision to make Burr the narrator of the entire show. You cannot completely hate Burr and I think especially in today’s finger-pointing society, that’s really refreshing.

Burr’s main songs are “Wait for It,” “Dear Theodosia,” “The Room Where it Happens,” and “The World was Wide Enough.” While it’s no secret that I love Leslie Odom Jr., the original actor that played him, Burr’s songs are some of my favorites from the entire musical. “Dear Theodosia” and “The World was Wide Enough” especially. I love that in both songs you see Burr’s story compared and contrasted to Hamilton’s, and how they really do have a lot of similarities. One decision changed everything, making Burr the villain, but that’s just it–it was one decision.

The truth is, Burr is just like anyone else. He loves his daughter and values being a father, he gets jealous when it seems jobs he thought he deserved are ripped out from his grasp, and he has regrets.

Right before he shoots Hamilton, Manuel-Miranda wrote, “I had only one thought before the slaughter | This man will not make an orphan of my daughter.”

Moments like that are why I believe that Hamilton is ironically less about politics and history, than it is about the human experience. Because the truth is we try so hard to label people evil or good when human beings are much too complex for that. Believe it or not, we all have the same capability for evil as a serial killer or terrorist, as the people we abhor most, as the people we subconsciously treat as less than human. We don’t want to think about how classifying them as our own race affects us… it shows that we’re all alike, even the ones committing horrific acts. But I truly believe that “bad” people have just as much ability to do good as I do, because I know I have the ability to be just as bad as them.

Manuel-Miranda has crafted humanity in an authentic way. We are all good and bad. Every villain can be a hero and every hero can be a villain.

“Now I’m the villain in your history

I was too young and blind to see…

I should’ve known

I should’ve known

The world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me.”

-Aaron Burr

 

~Annah

Pre-Hamilton Thoughts

I’m not going to say I like Hamilton any more than the next person, because I know there are thousands of more devoted fans than me, but there’s something about listening and experiencing it as a writer that really gets to me. Or maybe I’m just too empathetic? I don’t know, but the lyrics, especially the questions, really stick to me. How does one write like they’re running out of time? Have I done enough [with my words]? Who will tell our stories—will anyone?

How does my writing play into this narrative that is the vast planet we live on? You know it’s kind of terrifying, writing. You put your heart and soul into characters, you believe in your stories in the midst of millions of others, enough to spend months and years on them. Then you publish them for anyone and everyone to read, you put your story on the line because you believe so immensely in it, resulting in inevitable rejection by some readers. Stories can easily be looked over, even if they are published, because of the sheer volume of them. But they’ve all been worked on and loved so well by the ones who penned them.

The vast majority of stories will not be heard by the general public, but does that mean we stop writing them? No. Because as scary as it is, we shouldn’t write with the numbers or lack thereof in mind. We write because we have faith, we write because we’re gamblers, we write because we’re not scared of the odds. We shoot our stories blindly into the dark because we know they’ll help someone somehow. And that’s pretty dang cool. So keep writing and “keep fighting in the meantime.”

(10 days until Hamilton.)⭐️

~Annah

What to Know about Writing a Novel in One Month or Less

I just had my first baby and she is a hefty 223 pages. I conceived her over 24 days and she is already proving to be a thoroughly sassy child. Her name is “Status: Untilled, Moldy Heart.”

1. It’s harder than you think.

For me at least, it was really difficult to get rid of my inner editor while writing. Part of me wanted to reread bits and fix them (in which case I would minimize the screen as much as possible to write) and part of me was whispering this is terrible for a majority of the time. But in both cases, you really don’t have time to stop and consider those thoughts, even though they are negative, because if you waste time it will take you that much longer to get to sleep at night. (Especially as a college student juggling 50 other things.) I made sure I never stayed up past 2 a.m. and always went to bed by the time that would give me 8 hours of sleep, which will be scandalous to some of you but was actually an accomplishment for me, because believe it or not, last semester I stayed up until 3 a.m. multiple times. (We don’t talk about it…)

It was also hard for the sake of my Novel Writing class, because our professor wanted us to write from the seat of our pants. Besides the main plot turning points, we were not allowed to plan out anything. Many times, especially in acts 2 and 3 of the plot, I had no idea what was going to happen, which made staring at the daily blank page daunting.

*We used the program Scrivener to write our novels. Some people broke up their novel documents into scenes, but I did it by day. Turns out, almost every day I managed to write a mini story, so I ended up turning my daily documents into the chapter breaks.*

Finally, and most importantly, writing a novel in a month is incredibly difficult because you actually create a story that’s much longer than 50k words, which is the monthly goal. So what I ended up with was a very rushed version that time-jumped a lot to get to where I needed to be by the end of the month. As my professor told us, and as I now know firsthand, we’ve actually created stories that are more like 80-100k words.

2. It’s easier than you think.

Now I’m going to refute my previous points–because in every case, there is an upside. Don’t get me wrong, writing a novel in a month is incredibly difficult and you should take great pride if you do it in knowing that not only have you bested all the people who want to write a book but haven’t, but you’ve bested everyone who takes years and years to write one.

If your inner editor starts nagging at you (when it clearly shouldn’t be), just dash in something completely unexpected. Use the nagging thoughts to your advantage. Feel redundant in sentence structure? Start writing one word statements. Start writing long, winding rivers of words. Character falling flat? Create some huge drama in that character’s life. Make them react to a situation in complete opposition to how they normally would. Also, my personal favorite: are you stuck on a scene? Not sure what you want your characters to do next? Have them talk it out. Dialogue will bring their personalities alive and I guarantee they’ll think of something to do.

I am one of the biggest planners you will ever meet. I thrive on planning, I need planning in my life, I get anxious when I haven’t written things down. Maybe you’re like me or maybe a lack of planning is not that terrifying. Either way, know that the lack of plot planning is actually the best thing you could possibly do going into a one month time frame of novel writing. Trust me–I was told I couldn’t write on an already formed idea and I was SO SAD. I was frustrated, I was mad, I considered doing it anyway. BUT DON’T. DO NOT. Start something completely new. Trust me. I know exactly how you feel if that sounds horrific.

But the truth is, you have so many stories to tell. More than you believe you do. And the other truth is, if you’ve planned too much already you WILL get writer’s block. Plus, your planned story is probably WAY longer than 50k words and you’re not going to want to have to limit it or rush the story line that you’re already so attached to. You have complete freedom without a planned story because you’ve put no set-in-stone expectations on your characters or your plot. And the coolest thing is, your plot will transform and surprise you and you’ll love it way more than you initially thought you would.

Finally, your story will end up being rushed or not wholly complete because of the lack of time in one month, but that just means you’ll have endless more ideas by the time the month is over. (However, you NEED to give yourself a break before diving back in. At least a couple weeks. You want to look at it with fresh eyes.) By the time the month is over your plot is going to need some serious surgery. But you’ll also know and love your characters way more, so it’s exciting to consider delving in to better craft their story. It’s actually their story, not yours.

3. Your characters will do their own thing.

As I kind of hinted already, you will reach a point after the first week or so where your characters start acting and thinking for themselves. Think of yourself as an archaeologist picking up artifacts as you go. Pretty soon the artifacts have a much greater story to tell than the archaeologist does. That makes writing a breeze. Once the setting and external situations are established, you cannot plan for how or when the characters will steer off your neatly carved path. Just know that they will and they’ll show you some pretty cool places in uncharted waters.

4. In one way or another, you have writing patterns.

I’m a late night writer, but I also coincidentally switched every week. Weeks 1 and 3 I wrote later at night, week 2 I wrote in the early afternoon. (Week 2 is also the hardest, so I wanted to ensure I was getting enough sleep!) Similarly, you will find that you have writing patterns. Maybe you always write in the morning or maybe you can only focus well if you go to a certain coffee shop. I enjoyed changing my writing setting frequently. The cool thing about writing in such a condensed amount of time is that you find these things out about yourself as a writer much quicker, which allows you to better adjust for future projects and writing in general.

5. You pull from more personal experience than you expect to pull from.

I found myself pulling setting details or character action out of all sorts of random places. Your mind really is a palace of thoughts ,and you realize the full depth and reach of it while writing so rapidly. Since my story is realistic fiction I really enjoyed pulling from popular culture. Sometimes I’d be listening to a certain song or reminiscing on a memory, so I’d just stick those things into my story, and it usually suited the plot or characters! Subconsciously, I also included experiences or interests of mine that I never even intended to place in my story, yet looking back on it I can see the references. For example, the primary conflict originates around a talent show and I genuinely thought I was just pulling that from the air, when really I just spent a whole summer invested in America’s Got Talent so it’s no wonder that came to mind! That’s the cool thing: the story you write originates out of that particular time in your life more than anything, so you could try to write a similar story every year and it would never be quite the same, because you’re never quite the same.

6. You will grow incredibly attached to it.

I cried at the start of my last week writing. Because once all of the inner editor comments had grown stale from three weeks and once I had accepted that most of the word choice would be crap, I peeled away the technicalities to realize how much I actually adore this story. For a moment, I halted my critical eye and just looked at it as a dear piece of my heart. And it really, really is. Even if there are plenty of revisions ahead, I think it’s perfectly imperfect. It’s broken, just like me.

7. You will feel lazy and a bit aimless afterward.

…And as my professor said to me, ‘yes, because you are being lazy.’ (Although, considering I still have 50 other things I’m working on, I don’t know if I fully agree with that.) When it really comes down to it though, if you want to be a writer, you have to keep writing. Not just when you’re in the mood. And that’s a fact that makes me really appreciate this novel challenge. Because, just like life in general, the vast majority of the time we’re not in the mood to do what we hope to do. But you have to be relentless and persistent. It’s just like your basic laws of motion. To keep it coming out, you have to keep it up.

But also, you have to live. It’s okay to feel aimless and sad that you can’t write about your characters anymore, but you’ll get the chance to revise and dive back in later, and if you really care a ton, you can always write a series. I truly believe to be a writer you have to keep writing, but you also have to live. You can’t be cooped up all the time, you can’t expect to write every day of your life, you can’t be too hard on yourself. You need experiences to draw from, you need the other stories within entertainment to inspire you, you need family and friends to remind you what you care about.

Most importantly, the world desperately needs you. Not just your writing, but you with your unique thoughts and passions and talents. So as much as you love your books and your characters and your plot, take time to offer yourself to the world and see what the world has to offer you.

8. You CAN do it.

Stop speaking those lies. Stop making up those excuses. Because the truth is, you can. Anyone can.

~Annah

book

An Unspoken “Inferior” Population

Let’s imagine you’re in a coffee shop and you’re looking for music recommendations.

Amiable chatter surrounds you, the cappuccino is hot in your palms, you want some random sampling. To your left, a man in his thirties is seated at a table, intently typing away at something important on his laptop. To your right, a couple of high school girls sit on stools, animatedly talking about something.

Who do you turn to for recommendations?

I have a hunch. You picked the man. (Unless, perhaps, you’re a teenage girl yourself.)

Upon first glance, nothing seems to be an issue. But if you start thinking more intently, I would imagine your choice correlated with a few prejudices and judgments. Start thinking more, and be honest.

Why didn’t you pick the teenage girls?

Maybe your age is closer to that of the man’s. Maybe you figured the man would know more music. Maybe you figured you’d be able to strike up a more meaningful conversation concerning music tastes with the man. Regardless, there’s one large assumption in place–that for whatever reason, the teenage girls’ opinions aren’t as legitimate or serious.

And this is not just the case with music! We feel this way about all topics, in regards to teenage girls, whether entertainment, political, or social topics.

I think there’s a problem with that. If we push aside their opinions or are quick to label their opinions inferior, we are damaging not only their self-worth, but their sense of worth in the future. Our future women.

Why can’t they have a legitimate say? Why does everything avidly enjoyed by teenage girls have to be looked down upon by the older population? What’s wrong with enjoying something that teenage girls like? There’s often this idea that people who enjoy musicians or books or movies that teenage girls like need to feel a sense of shame or embarrassment. Their interests are inferioryou state, implicitly.

Now, I understand labeling opinions invalid if teenage girls try to provide thoughts on topics they are not familiar with, as with any human. But rarely, if ever, is that the case. Teenage girls are passionate, and passionate about topics they are well-acquainted with. Therefore, there is no reason to consider their opinions invalid.

If we are going to continue promoting to young girls that they are capable of anything, we should treat their opinions with the genuine respect and acknowledgement that they deserve, same as anyone else. Otherwise, we inflate their sense of insecurity and hypocrisy rears its ugly head.

“Who’s to say that young girls who like pop music – short for popular, right? – have worse musical taste than a 30-year-old hipster guy? That’s not up to you to say. Music is something that’s always changing. There’s no goal posts. Young girls like the Beatles. You gonna tell me they’re not serious? How can you say young girls don’t get it? They’re our future. Our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, they kind of keep the world going. Teenage-girl fans – they don’t lie. If they like you, they’re there. They don’t act ‘too cool.’ They like you, and they tell you. Which is sick.” -Harry Styles

~Annah