Magic and Endurance: How David Blaine’s Crazy Stunts Help Banish My Fear of Messing Up

Disclaimer: I am aware that David Blaine has faced and is currently facing sexual assault allegations. I do not support people who do this, and in light of any new evidence, I may take down this post. I understand if you do not or cannot read this post in light of this information.  

During my favorite creative writing class that I’ve ever participated in, my teacher had us do something called a “Passiontation,” which was basically a presentation about your biggest passion. Now, my passions tend to go in cycles or waves, and to be honest, my biggest passion is the written word (reading it and writing it). Well, I thought that doing a 81Vx469u-pL._SY500_presentation on the written word would be boring since we were all there for a writing class. So I did my presentation on David Blaine, who I had recently become obsessed with at the time.

Now, I wouldn’t say I have a “passion” for David Blaine, or even magic or endurance stunts, but one thing has stuck with me ever since I first saw David Blaine perform on TV—he has literally proven that there is nothing we can’t do if we try. To quote Mary Poppins Returns, “Everything is possible. Even the impossible.”

For the last couple winters, every time I dreaded walking to class in sub-zero temperatures—sometimes telling myself I couldn’t do it—I just told myself that David Blaine stood in a block of ice for three days with way less clothes on than I was wearing. If he can do that, I can spend the ten minutes walking to class in the cold. And thus began what I like to call “David Blaine Perspective.”

The short explanation is this: whenever I feel like I can’t do something, or it will be too hard, or I will mess up, I put it in David Blaine Perspective. He spent 44 days in a glass box suspended over London, so I can deal with being hungry for a couple hours at work. David Blaine allowed a professional fighter to punch him in the stomach, so I can deal with banging my knee on the table and getting a painful bruise. It’s helpful to put things in perspective this way, especially when dealing with pretty pervasive anxiety. Anxiety causes everything to feel like a catastrophe, so I need to remind myself that that’s not true. (If anyone can beat down the Hydra monster, it’s David Blaine.)

Lately, my anxiety has been making me insecure about my social interactions and theworld-tour-2014-david-blaine-andreas-Poupoutsis-fire-logo way I look. It has been making me doubt my abilities at every little moment. Then, at a staff meeting this past week, someone made a comment about how trying your hardest to solve a problem is all you can do. This made me think of David Blaine, and how, to learn all of those fancy card movements and sleights of hand, he had to start small and mess up a lot. But he’s still confident in his abilities. He still approaches every trick, whether it’s a three-card monte trick or jumping off a hundred-foot pillar after standing on it for 35 hours, with the mindset that he can do it, no matter what. He has prepared.

And if he messes up, he fixes it by doing something new.

For example, there is a trick in his What Is Magic? Netflix special during which he mishears someone. He thought the person’s card was an ace, but she actually said eight. So instead of freaking out and being hard on himself, he merely continued the trick and, lo and behold, her thumb rubbed off the middle of the card to reveal the number 8. If I could recover that quickly after a mistake, I wouldn’t worry so much about mistakes. Being spontaneous in the face of a mistake is not my strong suit, but I’m working on it.

static1.squarespaceDavid Blaine’s crazy and amazing magic/endurance also reminds me how much we as humans can endure. We are strong. Our bodies and minds are strong. We just have to have the fortitude and confidence and practice to make them do what we want. Of course, we don’t have control over everything in our bodies and minds, but the things that we do have control over are more plentiful than we think. As someone living with mental illness, it feels powerful to say that my mind is strong. Even if I don’t always think it is. Even if it sometimes works against me.

My mind is strong. And that means a lot to me.

David Blaine says he performs magic to bring out the childlike wonder in people—in everyone—but he also uses his magic to do tangible good in the world. In one of his Netflix specials, he turns one-dollar bills into hundred-dollar bills for a group of people in New Orleans who had suffered losses from Hurricane Katrina. Watching his specials is incredibly heartening, because he approaches so many different types of people and treats them all with the same respect and ability to experience awe.

When looking into his backstory, it’s easy to see why he does this. His mother, who passed away young, always encouraged him as a little kid. She never told him being adavid-blaine-wcards_img_6526_600x600jpg magician was impossible or a bad career. She just cheered him on and gave him the confidence to continue learning. And even though a lot of his endurance stunts are probably borne out of the grief he has over losing his mother early, he has taken this confidence in other people to heart. Whether a celebrity, a person full of piercings, a person of color, a person experiencing homelessness, or any other random person on the street, he performs at his top game for them. He has confidence that everyone still has that childlike wonder lurking inside.

I feel lucky to have seen David Blaine perform live. He sewed his mouth shut and stuck an ice pick through his arm and performed amazing feats of mind reading and card tricks and tricks with puzzle pieces. And even though I usually hate uncertainty, I love not knowing the secrets behind his tricks and stunts. Sometimes, the truth is that it’s just real and he can ignore the pain of sticking something all the way through his hand. But it’s just as amazing as being able to trick someone else’s mind. In fact, it must be harder to trick your own mind than it is to trick others’.

Before this turns into a fanperson rant (if it hasn’t already), I just want to say that I know I won’t be able to do the things David Blaine does. Not because I’m incapable, but because it’s not my passion. It’s not what I’m putting my mind to. (Also, David Blaine has said before that he doesn’t fear death. Well, I do. That’s another problem for another day…)

MV5BZjc2MDE4ZWQtNjcyYi00ZmRmLWJjNjctNjdhZjg4MzQ2NjhkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyODUxNjcxNjE@._V1_.jpgOf all of the mind-boggling and insane things he has done, there is one particular stunt that has stuck with me. David Blaine has spent days underground, held his breath for 20 minutes, stood in an ice block until he had delusions, jumped off a 100-foot tall pillar after standing on it for a day and a half, and stood in place while tons of volts of electricity went through a metal suit he was wearing. All of these stunts have been visually stunning and difficult and beautiful and morbidly entertaining. But the one that stuck with me is the stunt he called “Above the Below.” He spent 44 days in a glass box suspended over the River Thames in London. People below him could watch and wave, but he was up there with nothing to eat and not a lot to drink. He had a journal. He had clothes. That’s it. If this stunt had gone on any longer than it had, David’s organs would have begun failing past the point of repair. He was sick. But afterward, he had so much enlightenment about people and connection and necessities. He parts ways with the crowd by saying, “I love you all,” and is then promptly sent to the hospital.

It’s hard for me to articulate why this was the stunt that has stuck with me for so long. I watched it years after it actually happened. And I’ve watched it several times since. And, to be honest, it is really hard watching someone starve themselves of food and interaction. Fasting for that long is not something anyone should be doing, even for enlightenment…

But during the special, there are clips of people dancing and hanging out on the streets below. And I think that’s what this stunt was really about. Observing humanity coming together when that’s all you can really do. As much as humanity can suck and being alive can be hard, this stunt reminds me that in weird and unfortunate circumstances, people tend to flock together and find joy. They hope for the best for other people. They cheer people on.

So what have we learned today? David Blaine is awesome. Our minds are strong. And humanity is beautiful. I love you all.

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June 2019: How This Month of Reading and Connecting Reinvigorated My Mind

What I Read:

  • Dreadnought by April Daniels
  • The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag
  • Real Queer America by Samantha Allen
  • We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
  • The Love Songs of Sappho translated by Paul Roche
  • Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann
  • Naturally Tan by Tan France
  • The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
  • The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
  • The Wide Window (re-read) by Lemony Snicket

What I Got:

  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  • Let’s Talk About Love
  • The Song of Achilles
  • Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
  • A Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
  • The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
  • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
  • Money in the Bank by P.G. Wodehouse

Sadly, it is the end of Pride Month, but June was a much needed month of hustle and bustle for me. I started out the month severely depressed and ended it being grateful for life and the experiences I have ahead of me.

This month was all about reading queer literature, mostly #ownvoices, but not all. I had planned to take part in the Queer Lit Readathon from June 2-8, but I’m not that fast of a reader, so I extended the readathon to the entire month so I could check off all of the challenges over a longer period of time. Dreadnought, The Witch Boy, Real Queer America, We Set the Dark on Fire, The Love Songs of Sappho, Let’s Talk About Love, The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (which I actually read in May), and Anger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro were my original list for the readathon. The only two I didn’t read during June were The Prince and the Dressmaker (because I just couldn’t wait to read it) and Anger Is a Gift (because it is now the July book for my queer lit club). I think I did pretty well for my first readathon.

I also started a bookstagram account and have actually had so much fun keeping up with it and interacting with other people in the community. So many nice people were waiting with open arms to welcome me to bookstagram, and I can’t wait to see where it will take me in the coming months.

Okay, now onto the books!

IMG_9848.HEICDreadnought by April Daniels is an ownvoices superhero story about Danny, a trans girl, who witnesses the death of famous superhero Dreadnought and gets his powers passed onto her. This gives her the body she’s always wanted but outs her to her transphobic parents. This book dealt with a lot of deep themes all while being a very fun superhero origin story. Because I am a transmasculine person, I do not know much about the transfeminine experience, so this was definitely educational, but not in a boring way. It kind of reminded me of a very queer version of Sky High (the best superhero movie ever… That’s right, Marvel. Come at me!).

The Witch Boy had a similar tone to The Prince and the Dressmaker, so of course, I loved it. I think middle grade graphic novels are a new favorite genre for me and I can’t wait to read more! Molly Ostertag has such a colorful and whimsical art style that really adds depth to Aster’s journey as a boy who wants to be a witch, even though witchcraft is a “girl thing.” This book challenges stereotypes and is amazingly diverse and heartwarming.IMG_9873.HEIC

Going from this heartwarming, middle grade graphic novel to a book like Real Queer America was a bit of a kick in the pants. Samantha Allen is a trans woman from Utah, and this book details a road trip across the red states of America during which Samantha and a friend find the tight-knit LGBT+ communities that form in more conservative areas. I read this book at just the right time in my life. I am graduating in a semester and trying to figure out where I want to end up living. I love the Midwest, and have always loved the Midwest, but I never saw a place for me here as a nonbinary, asexual person. The labels I identify with are not widely accepted, and I thought my time here in the Midwest was coming to an end. Maybe it still is, but this book made me see that there is a place for people like me even IMG_9904in the most red states in the U.S.

The phrase I kept coming back to when trying to describe this book was “realistically hopeful.” Allen doesn’t sugarcoat anything, but she finds the pockets of acceptance and love that we all look for as queer people. It was inclusive and queer and heartwarming without losing any of the realism of being queer in the U.S. in our current political climate. I would recommend this book to anybody, but especially queer people like me who aren’t into the big city life, but thought that was the only option for safety and acceptance. I can be queer and love the Midwest; they don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

The other nonfiction book I read this month, Naturally Tan by Tan France of Queer Eye, had a completely different tone but dealt with a lot of things I was unaware of, such as the hatred toward Pakistani people that France experienced while growing up. I have aIMG_9988 lot of respect for Tan France after learning about all of the businesses he has started and the depression he went through because of overworking himself. He’s a cool guy, and to top it off, he lives in Utah with his husband. These two nonfiction books, though different in tone and topic, both have common themes that meshed well together.

The most surprising read of this month was We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia. I went into this book without knowing much about it except that it was queer in some way and had Latine roots. But I ended up loving this book. Even though it was a little predictable, I was completely lost in the story by about halfway through. The premise of the story is that, in this society, rich men get two wives that have different roles. Dani Vargas becomes the Primera, or the levelheaded housekeeper, for an important politico’s son—who is also a complete garbage human being. The Segunda of the household is one of her rivals from school. The best part about this book is not the spy aspect or the rebellion or the discussion of serious political issues, but the fact that IMG_9917.HEICDani and her Segunda fall in love instead of loving their husband. Their love blossoms slowly and unexpectedly in the face of this oppressive, sexist society. These women are brave in many different ways, and I can’t wait to see what happens in the sequel. The end left me hanging, and I want more!

The Love Songs of Sappho were actually quite fun and easy to read (in their translated versions, of course). If I learned anything, it’s that Sappho really loves nightingales, sex, women, and her daughter. Her words are beautiful and profound, even in snippets, and I thought Pride Month was the perfect time to delve into her poetry for the first time.

I moved on to Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann in order to boost my mood. Like I mentioned above, my depression was really daunting during the first half of this month. I needed something more lighthearted, and that’s definitely what I got. In this novel, asexual and biromantic Alice falls in love with her library coworker Takumi, even afterIMG_9970 swearing off relationships when her girlfriend dumped her for being ace. This book doesn’t shy away from the racial differences between the two, Alice being black and Takumi being Asian. Though this is a light, rom-com-esque novel, Kann does not ignore the difficulties of coming out as ace, especially when starting a new relationship. Nonetheless, it gave me all the fuzzy feelings I needed to get on with my month. Cute, adorable, dorky, and queer—this was the combination I desperately needed to get me out of my funk.

The high that came from Let’s Talk About Love and Naturally Tan came abruptly to an end when I started Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller for queer lit book club. This book IMG_0122is SAD. I read the first little chunk of it while at Denver Pride with my aunt, but it took me what felt like forever to read. I wasn’t the biggest fan of this book even though I’ve heard it praised a lot. It is a retelling of The Iliad, so, of course, there was a lot of death and kings and politics and war. There was also a lot of sex and a problematic, codependent relationship. This book is told through the perspective of Patroclus, Achilles’s lover/companion/friend, and though their love seems very deep and real, Achilles is kind of a conceited asshole. There were parts I liked and parts I really didn’t like, but the ending was super amazing. I won’t spoil anything (though, it’s The Iliad, so…), but the ending is what really tugged on my heartstrings and made me care. The entire length of the book before it did not make me care for these characters as much as the heart-wrenching end did.

Though I didn’t read much of this book during my trip to Colorado, I did take a trip to The Tattered Cover bookstore. It was a half-mile out of our way, but so worth it. This is where I purchased Darius the Great is Not Okay and The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, because I wanted to buy queer books while I was in Denver for Pride. This place is one of my favorite bookstores ever because it just feels homey to me. I feel like I could spend hours there just browsing and lounging and reading.

Unfortunately, The Gentleman’s Guide was another book that just left me with a “meh” feeling. It’s a funny, quirky, and slightly anachronistic novel about Monty and Percy’s “tour” of Europe, with Monty’s sister Felicity in tow. There wasn’t anything very new inIMG_0146 this book. Monty has an abusive father and deals with the trauma by drinking, having lots of sex, and cracking jokes. Even though Monty was the main character, Percy and Felicity were the ones I was most interested in. Percy has the biggest heart and deals with his epilepsy alone for a long time just to make other people’s lives easier. He puts up with Monty’s bullshit and is still able to find a big place in his heart for Monty. Felicity is a badass, learned woman who is teaching herself about the medical field all on her own. You can see why I would love these two. This is actually why I will probably read the sequel, because it focuses on Felicity. There were a lot of good aspects to this book—alchemy, European politics, Venice, a sinking island, reasonable pirates/privateers, redemption arcs, discussions of race, and dark humor—but they didn’t mix into an amazing book. I had fun reading it, for sure, but it was a too cliché and I disliked Monty a bit too much for me to call this an amazing book.

The last book I finished this month was the next book in A Series of Unfortunate Events, which I’m trying to get all the way through by the end of this year. It was fun and quirky. IMG_0200I don’t have too much to discuss here except that I love the way Lemony Snicket inserts big words into the novel and explains what they mean without being condescending. This must be why I like using big words… damn you, Lemony! You made my vocabulary expand! Now people make fun of me for using the word dowager!

Now, I did start reading a sci-fi book while visiting my sister in Indianapolis this past weekend, and I’m really enjoying getting back into a genre that I used to read a lot, but what I want to discuss from my visit to my sister is our trip to yet another bookstore and why this past weekend has been so, so good for me.

If you know me well, you know I don’t like to cry in public. But I definitely cried on the plane home from visiting my sister. Part of it was the book I was reading being super cute and heartwarming, but most of it was the fact that I hadn’t realized how much I missed my sister. Our music and book tastes are generally different, but they overlap in small ways. We both love Walk the Moon and Twenty One Pilots. We both love John Green novels and local stores and coffee shops and dogs.

One local store we patronized was a bookstore. Indy Reads Books donates all of theirIMG_0231 proceeds to a literacy charity, which is so awesome! Drinking bubble tea and browsing a bookstore with my sister was one of the best parts of my weekend. There were books signed by John Green and a whole display of Kurt Vonnegut books—Indy really loves to lean into the fact that these two are from here. But I think the best part of this bookstore, besides the fact that they support literacy, is that I didn’t feel pressured to buy anything. I bought something (a random P.G. Wodehouse book) because I genuinely wanted to support the store and their cause.

Spending time with my sister browsing local stores, watching movies (any Howl’s Moving Castle fans out there?), and going to a Twenty One Pilots concert was a much-needed mood booster. I am happy to be alive and I am happy to have a sister as wonderful as Alisha. She is both my biological and chosen family, and IMG_0241she will always be my favorite person in the world. She and Twenty One Pilots reminded me why it is important to keep on fighting—fighting my mental illnesses, fighting my loneliness, fighting my fear, fighting my negative thoughts. Life is worth living, even if only for the good books I have yet to read and future visits with my favorite person.

I’ve read a lot of good, queer books this month. I celebrated Pride with my aunt. I got a job at a bookstore café. But, most importantly, I reconnected with my sister and my drive to enjoy life. I can’t wait to have more moments like this, both while reading and while taking the time to participate fully in my life.

VTSG

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Mom Hugs and Puppy Snuggles: How I Let Depression Get the Best of Me Before I Explored Why Life is Worth Living

As you already know, this summer has been rough for me. I have been lonely, dealing with an emotional new roommate, and starting a job at Walmart that was slowly sucking my soul out like a Dementor. I won’t go into lots of details, but I was in a dark place. I was unmotivated and found it hard to be excited about anything. Even the trips I IMG_9974had (and still have) coming up to visit family didn’t excite me. Basically, the Hydra monster grew a new giant head called depression—one I thought I had cut off in high school.

So I used the tried and true method of driving the hour to my parents’ house to snuggle with Reggie and go to the doctor to get some things checked out. (I experienced vertigo for the first time and, let me tell ya, it was WILD. I felt like I could fall over at any moment for a solid week and a half.)

Even though both of my parents were sick, we still had a good time watching Bohemian Rhapsody and going to a thrift store to shop for books and making a Starbucks run. But the best news that happened while I was home was that a local bookstore called to offer me a job. Originally, they had said no (hence the job at Walmart), but a position opened up so I got the okay! I am so excited, even if I do have to start as a barista before getting to the bookseller stage. This bookstore is so welcoming and so close to my apartment that it was a no-brainer to switch to this job. I can finally feel excited to go to work rather than dreading it. Plus, now I know how to make a good shot of espresso!

It was this instance of random goodness that made me reflect on my mood this past month. I hadn’t seen anything to look forward to this summer, and now, after this one small thing, my entire view of the next few months was flipped upside down. I thought IIMG_9981 shouldn’t have let myself get so low, I should have been optimistic about the future. But it’s hard to do that when everything seems to suck.

I’m trying not to be too upset at myself for the way my mental illness took over the first half of this month, because I want to enjoy the rest of the summer if I can. I want to make a conscious effort to see the good in my life, to really take stock of what I’m grateful for, instead of spiraling into a deep, dark hole where my only companion is the Hydra monster. In this vein, I’ve started a bullet journal to try to gain back some of my artsy roots, I’ve been keeping in better contact with my friends, and I’m forcing myself to write more of my novel after such a long slump. (Forcing means actually getting myself to sit down and not judge every single word I write. Because once I’m doing it, writing is actually pretty great.) I keep telling myself to get back into better self-care practices, but this really deep slump has actually been a much needed kick in the pants. My life doesn’t suck and there’s always something worth living for.

One of the things worth living for happens to be the very reason this blog post is going up a little late—I drove up to Colorado to spend time with my aunt and attend Denver IMG_0038Pride!

My first moment of “pride” on this trip was making the seven-hour drive to Denver by myself. Driving isn’t my favorite thing to do, and since my car was being fixed, I had to drive my dad’s car, who I loving dubbed Harrison Ford Fusion. I was nervous about being behind the wheel for that long. But it ended up being fine, if a little boring. I made it up there with only one stop, and the same goes for the drive back. And the drive ended up being so worth it.

After a relaxing first afternoon/evening with my aunt and uncle, Saturday came roaring out of the gate. My aunt and I drove the hour to Denver and our first order of business, of course, was to go to a bookstore. I’ll discuss that more in my wrap-up of the books I read/got this month. Basically, that was the one thing aside from the actual Pride festival that I wanted to do. The Tattered Cover is amazing, and my aunt was so nice to walk a half mile out of our way to go buy books and then she carried them around in a backpack. Real ally, right there.

Pride itself was hella overwhelming. There were so many people and colors and booths and dogs and noises and free stuff. It was a lot. But it was a lot of great people and a lot of love and a lot of acceptance. So even though it was a lot, I was able to have fun soaking itIMG_0052 all in.

One of the best things at Pride were the groups of moms and dads offering free mom and dad hugs. Although I am lucky to have a mom that loves me, I still enjoyed seeing such enthusiasm and acceptance in a generation that uses their age as an excuse to discriminate. There were also so many churches out there defying the norm of hatred in Christianity, which, as a person who grew up Catholic, was heartwarming to see. At one of the churches, I was able to write down a prayer request for my friend with a terminal illness while feeling like these people would actually respect who she is as a bisexual woman.

Though Aunt Karen and I stayed on our feet most of the day, we did sit down a few times. We found our way to the main stage for a few performances, the highlight of which was

IMG_0097

My aunt and I!

the Kingz Rule showcase. Though I can’t remember his name, the king who performed to “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor” was AMAZING. My aunt and I couldn’t get the song out of our head all weekend, and that king had so much energy that we were ready to stand up and walk around again after the show.

The next day was the actual parade. It lasted so long that we were able to stop somewhere for lunch in the middle and come back an hour later to watch more, and it still wasn’t over by the time we left Denver.

Though I enjoyed the Dykes on Bikes and the dancing condoms in the parade itself, I remember the people around us the most. We found a spot near a gigantic Great Dane named Olaf who was wearing a rainbow tutu. He was so friendly and lovable and just wanted all of the attention. Dogs automatically make me feel calmer and more grounded, which was helpful in such a huge and loud crowd. I also remember chatting with a guy named Gil who sat next to Aunt Karen. He came from a horrible home and a father who called him hateful names, but he had so much life and hope and sparkle (literal and figurative).

IMG_0082

Olaf!

When looking back on overwhelming weekends like this one, it’s important to pick out the moments that felt real, that felt like a calm in the middle of the storm. Those moments involved the dogs I pet like Olaf, the hugs from nice people, the meals and chill sessions with my aunt, the trip to the bookstore, being able to watch drag kings and queens while seated and resting, and getting to know other people’s stories and passions. Back at my aunt’s house, we snuggled with Bella (the queen of all Boston terriers) and went for a walk in the rain and had tea while watching cheesy gameshows. These small, quiet moments are often my favorites. It’s been hard to remember that this summer, because most of my moments have been small and quiet but alone. This time, I was able to experience them with people who love me—my parents, my aunt and uncle, and dogs. Focusing on these small moments is one self-care practice that always seems to go by the wayside when my anxiety or depression get overwhelming, but I just need to remind myself that these are the things that make life worth living. Sure, Denver Pride was fun, but this past week has been all about reconnecting with the little things I love about being alive and human and fully, unapologetically me. I needed that, and I hope whoever is reading this finds some moments like this that remind them why life can actually be pretty neat.

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May 2019: How I Read Too Much Because of Boredom, Anxiety, and Unemployment

What I Read:

  • The rest of Do What You Want edited by Ruby Tandoh
  • Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto
  • Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol
  • The Bad Beginning (re-read) by Lemony Snicket
  • The Reptile Room (re-read) by Lemony Snicket
  • Parts of Let Fury Have the Hour by Antonino D’Ambrosio
  • American Radiance by Luisa Muradyan
  • Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
  • To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
  • Part of Good Omens (DNF) by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
  • I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver
  • The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1: The Apocalypse Suite by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá
  • Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju
  • Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
  • Mick Jagger: The Unauthorised Biography by Alan Clayson
  • P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
  • The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

What I Got:

  • Anya’s Ghost
  • The Bad Beginning
  • The Reptile Room
  • Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, 1991
  • The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1
  • I Wish You All the Best
  • Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens
  • The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket
  • The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket
  • E = mc2 by David Bodanis

IMG_9800If you can’t already tell by those daunting lists up there, I was suuuuuper bored in May. The semester ended, I wasn’t having much luck finding a job, and all of my friends had moved back home for the summer while I stayed in Nebraska. The bad part about this boredom was that my anxiety and loneliness skyrocketed. The good part: I had lots and lots and lots of reading time.

So grab a snack, snuggle up under a blanket, and get ready for this marathon of a blog post.

I don’t have much new to say about I Do What I Want than I did before. It was helpful and offered a platform for diverse voices and helped me learn about myself and others.

I got Crown of Feathers when I ordered the February OwlCrate box as a birthday present to myself. The premise of this book is so interesting—sisters who hate each other, img_9841.jpegsweeping matriarchal world, people riding phoenixes—so I’m not sure why it took me so long to pick up. It wasn’t the best book ever, but it’s not a book I regret finishing. In fact, I’m mad at the book, because even though it was mediocre, I want to know what happens in the next installment. Will my curiosity be enough for me to pick up another book in the series? I’m not sure. We will have to wait and see. Maybe someone will post an amazing summary online so I can keep up with the characters without the mediocre writing. The author had a tendency to info-dump, then have some scenes, then info-dump, then have some scenes. This made it harder for me to remember things about the history and geography of the world, so I needed to refer to the Index quite often, which disrupted the reading process.

While I was reading the Phoenix Riders book, I took some breaks in between to read quick stories. One of these was Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol. Enthused by my successful img_9844.jpegforay into graphic novels last month, I found this one at my favorite used bookstore for pretty cheap and picked it up. This was another mediocre read. It was cute, but it was predictable. I also found it hard to tell what age group this book was meant for. The art style was childish and cute, but the storyline involved double homicide and an evil ghost. Maybe I would’ve enjoyed this book better if I’d read it at a younger age.

The other quick books I read while in the throes of Crown of Feathers were the first two books of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. Ever since the Netflix series adaptation came out, I’ve wanted to re-read these books. I read about half of them when I was younger, and I was always mad at myself for never finishing them. Well, it’s not too late to read middle grade, so I picked them up and thoroughly enjoyed them. They were easy to read in one sitting, and the tone of the books was definitely not lost in the TV show. One of the book tropes I loved when I was at the middle-grade reading level was the “author has their own story that intertwines with the story they are telling and offers asides about their own involvement” trope. (Another example that comes to mind is The Name of This Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch. I learned a lot about chocolate and homunculi while reading the Secret Series, and if that doesn’t intrigue you, I don’t know what will!) It was a delight and a nice brain break to get back into these books. Hopefully this time I will make it to the end of the series, to see if it is unfortunate to the very end.IMG_9782.jpeg

I’m still trucking along with Let Fury Have the Hour, which consists of a bunch of articles about Joe Strummer of the Clash. It’s nice to have a book to just pick up and read every once in a while without needing to sustain a narrative, so I’m enjoying taking my time with this.

The other book I didn’t finish, Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and terry Pratchett, I’m not sure I’ll pick up again. It sounded absolutely hilarious. A demon and angel mess up the Apocalypse and someone misplaces the Antichrist. Hilarious, right? Right. It actually was funny. I just wasn’t in the mood for this type of book. My mind was too preoccupied to keep up with all of the characters and storylines, so if I do pick this up again, it’ll have to be at a time when I can devote my full mind to enjoying the intricacies of the story. It was well-written and made me laugh, but it was too slow of a read at a time when I needed something fast-paced. Who knows? Maybe I’ll want to read a book about the Apocalypse next time a presidential election rolls around…

Just so you don’t think I forgot it, I do remember that American Radiance is on this list. It is a collection of poems that I got for free from my university’s press.. The poems weren’t memorable enough to have anything to say, and I’ve already given the book away, so I can’t even flip back through it.

Okay, for the sake of time, I’m going to lump Radio Silence and Eliza and Her Monsters together. Both are about anonymous creators of Internet phenomena becoming friends (or something more!) with someone who doesn’t know their identity, or doesn’t know that the other person knows their identity.

IMG_9634There is a booktuber that I watch named Kat (paperbackdreams) who absolutely loves Radio Silence and always recommends it. I figured it was about time I listened to her. And, oh boy, am I glad I did. This book absolutely captured the importance and beauty of friendship and platonic love. Aaaannnnddd…. there is a demisexual character with pink hair—amazing, right? I cried several times while reading this book, even at parts that weren’t sad, because I connected so deeply with these characters. The main character, Frances, draws fan art for her favorite podcast, which she figures out her new friend Aled creates. But Frances feels guilty about her art. At school, she is the Smart Kid, the girl who always studies and gets good grades. A huge theme of this book is about being proud of and enjoying your passions outside of schoolwork. It discusses different options for life after high school and made me wish I had been nicer to myself in high school. Frances is hard on herself to a fault, like I was, and this would have been a pivotal book for me to read as a teenager.

The reason I lumped these two books together is because they share similar themes. Eliza and Her Monsters is also about exploring and being proud of the passions you have outside of schoolwork, as well as taking a different path after high school. Eliza only feels like herself when she is drawing her webcomic, but when she makes friends with fans of the comic, she decides not to tell them she is the creator. This, of course, causes problems later, as, just like Aled in Radio Silence, she is outed as the creator. Even with these similarities, both books hold up so well on their own, with unique characters and perspectives on high school. They felt so real. And even though I liked Radio Silence slightly more, both of these books are must-reads for anyone in high school who feels like schoolwork may not be their true passion. Eliza and Her Monsters even lets the reader experience Eliza’s artwork and creative storytelling—something I usually get annoyed with—which added so much depth to the story. Before this turns into a Radio Silence and Eliza and Her Monsters rant, I’ll just stop now and say: READ THESE BOOKS!

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver, while not the most revolutionary in plot, was revolutionary in a different way. This is a mainstream novel with a nonbinary main character written by a nonbinary author that I have been anticipating for months. I’m usually super oblivious when it comes to new books, but I was so pumped to see a nonbinary author in a mainstream store that I drove out to Barnes & Noble on the dayIMG_9838 it came out. The cover is beautiful, the story is heartwarming, and I think that Ben (the main character) really does deserve the best. Ben comes out as enby to his parents and gets kicked out, so he lives with his estranged sister and goes to a new school, where he meets Nathan, a new friend and love interest. My heart was so happy while reading this book. I loved the reality of the story, even if it was extremely sad and triggering at times. Ben deals with abusive/manipulative parents and panic attacks, which can be difficult to read about, but it was such an important story that offered a hopeful, but not too perfect, ending.

Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens is, as the title suggests, a book about the drag scene. Unfortunately, this book was only okay. The romantic relationship wasn’t my favorite because the main character makes stupid, insensitive decisions, and the book took too long getting to the point when Nima finally does drag on her own. I also didn’t like the backstory about Nima’s mother ditching them (too predictable and obvious). But there were fun parts and cute moments throughout. I loved Nima’s relationship with a IMG_9839motherly drag queen and the complicated story of Gordon, who is questioning his gender. It was refreshing to see a potentially trans character who isn’t all sunshine and roses—he has anger issues because of his home life, which became a mask to hide questions about his identity. Gordon deserved more time in the spotlight. I also thought it was great that Nima was mixed race and queer, because a many queer books end up being whitewashed. The book was enjoyable, but not a masterpiece.

I’m going to hold off on giving too many thoughts on To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You until I read the third book in the series. All I can say for now is that I enjoyed the first book a lot—probably because I had already fallen in love with the characters by watching the Netflix movie—and that, though the characters were better in the movie, the plot was better in the books. The second book I didn’t enjoy as much, but I’m still curious enough to eventually follow through with the third one even if romance usually isn’t my genre.

The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1 was another book I read because of a Netflix adaptation, which seems to be a mini theme for this month. I really loved the quirkiness of the TV show, plus Robert Sheehan (a beautiful man) acts in the show, and Gerard Way of MCR created this comic series in the first place, so my emo soul needed to read it. Quite frankly, I liked the show better. I still enjoyed the comic and will read the others, but the plot was harder to follow and the characters weren’t as diverse. Vanya’s story was a bit one-dimensional as were the relationships between the Hargreeves siblings. Perhaps they get fleshed out in the following volumes, but if I hadn’t watched the TV show, I’m not sure I would have liked it as much.

The Prince and the Dressmaker, however, is an amazing graphic novel. It is a middle IMG_9834grade graphic novel about a prince who hires a budding seamstress/designer to sew his dresses as he moonlights as “Lady Crystallia” in Paris. This is such a heartwarming and precious story—another queer story with a hopeful ending. Not to mention the art style: colorful and soft, just like the characters.

Lastly, at the end of this marathon, let’s talk about Mick Jagger. Now, I’m not a big fan of 1960s music nor the Rolling Stones, but the ’60s and ’70s still fascinate me. Also, Mick Jagger is a weird dude, so I figured his biography would be entertaining. Unfortunately, this biography mostly just stated facts one after the other rather than really telling a story. I would have rather read a book that focused closely on Jagger’s life rather than the wider scope of the Stones and the ’60s music scene. I almost gave up on this book, but I ended up finishing in case I learned anything super interesting. There were some fun facts and interesting phrases, but overall, it wasn’t a reading experience I particularly enjoyed. (I did rediscover the David Bowie and Mick img_9843.jpegJagger duet of “Dancing in the Street,” though, which is a complete gem.)

On my last trip to the library a few days ago, I checked out six books to supplement the two I already had. Maybe June will be a slower reading month with a busier schedule, but clearly, I have a library problem. As I told my friends when they saw the gigantic stack I carried up to my apartment, I ball too hard when I go to the library. But, hey, it’s free. Why not?

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Mixed Media and Turning the Page: How I’m Learning to Deal with (and Embrace) Uncomfortable Situations

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A photo I ended up not using for my photo class

The spring semester has been over for what feels like ages, but I can’t stop thinking about my photography class. I spent the entire semester complaining about how I wasn’t good at photography, how I had to try really hard, put myself in uncomfortable situations, and just follow my creativity even though I was constantly uncertain about my photos. My teacher seemed unorganized, the schedule was constantly changing, and I didn’t know anyone in my class super well. Basically, this class was a nightmare for me and a dream for the Hydra monster. My anxiety was so high surrounding this class, but you know what I’ve realized, after ending the class? I actually enjoyed it.

Now, my parents (who got the brunt of my complaining and panic about this class) are probably rolling their eyes. Ryn, why are you pretending you enjoyed that class? Well, besides the fact that hindsight is 20/20, there are lots of reasons.

After the last class of the semester, I felt weird walking out of class knowing I probably wouldn’t interact with this people so often ever again. I’d made some good friends—people like me, people different than me, people who were better at photography, people

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Yes, I know someone who looks like this man

who grew on me, and one guy who looked like Matty Healy from The 1975.

My teacher, even though he was pretty disorganized, became one of my favorite teachers. Not because he was amazing at being an instructor, but because he actually cared about his students’ progression as photographers at their own speed and was honest with me. So many times, during our one-on-one meetings, I would say, “I don’t really know what I’m doing. I’m just floundering through this project,” and he would respond, “Well, we all are.” And that was a big eye opener. As a creative person with lots of insecurities, I always assumed other people knew exactly what they were doing while they created things, while I just kind of go with my whims. It turns out I’m not alone. The discomfort and uncertainty I felt all semester is just a part of the creative process; and now I can embrace that uncertainty while writing or pursuing other creative tasks, which will make the process so much more enjoyable.

Nearing the end of the class, I became confident enough to think outside of the box for my final project. This is something I rarely do, even in writing classes. I am a rule follower, through and through, even if no one really cares if I follow the rules. But when I introduced the idea of taking black and white photos, and then painting on them, my teacher encouraged me to try it out. He seemed to be excited about the prospect of having someone do mixed media, which encouraged me even though I had no idea what I was doing. I hadn’t painted anything in years, and I’d never tried to paint in a way that complimented a photo.

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And you know what? Painting on photos is actually super fun. I might do it again. It was cathartic in a way that editing on a screen isn’t. It feels more human, more flawed, more open to error. I loved that about it. I know, right? Who are they? Ryn Baginski, enjoying the flaws of their art? That’s not the biggest shocker, though.

I was most surprised by the fact that I wasn’t too nervous about presenting this project. I was confident in what I created. I was proud of my final project, what it meant to me, and how people discussed it. And critiques are usually my least favorite (albeit the most helpful) part of artsy classes.

Now that I’ve cut down another head of the Hydra monster—and it has stayed dead, for now—I can look forward to a lot of things that would have previously made me too anxious to be excited about. Anxiety and excitement don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, they often come as a package deal.

I’m nervous about getting a new job this summer, but excited to have something to do and meeting new people. I’m nervous about completely rewriting a lot of the middle part of my novel, but excited to create a manuscript I’m more eager to write. I’m nervous about spending the summer without my closest friends, but excited to get to know my summer roommates and a couple of friends that I want to hang out with more.

IMG_9632In the effort to see the positives of these situations, I started a gratitude journal. I’m not super good at it, and I forget to write stuff most days, but on the days that I pause and remember the good, I feel so much calmer. It shows me that I can face uncertainty and anxiety without negating any of the good times.

I still don’t like being uncomfortable, and I still don’t like uncertainty, but I can see now that they are necessary and sometimes good experiences.

If I knew everything that was going to happen in a novel I was reading, I probably wouldn’t be as excited to read it. If there weren’t any emotional or uncomfortable moments in said novel, I probably would think it fell flat. The same goes for life. I don’t want my life to fall flat. I want to keep turning the pages, excited for what comes next, even if my chest feels tight and my brain won’t shut up.

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April 2019: How I Read and Loved My First Graphic Novel

What I Read:

  • The ABC’s of LGBT+ by Ash Hardell
  • Black Flag and punk rock zines
  • Under the Feet of Jesus by Helena María Viramontes
  • An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England by Brock Clarke
  • The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
  • Life Magazine: Queen: The Music. The Life. The Rhapsody
  • Punk Rock Jesus: Deluxe Edition by Sean Murphy
  • Part of Do What You Want: A Zine About Mental Wellbeing edited by Ruby Tandoh and Leah Pritchard

What I Got:

  • Punk rock zines
  • The ABC’s of LGBT+
  • Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
  • Do What You Want (gift)
  • Punk Rock Jesus
  • The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
  • Queen magazine (heh heh, it rhymes)

Oh, boy. April was a doozy. I know I say this about every month, but there were many ups and downs in my life this month. The reading experience, on the other hand, was kind of middling.

As a disclaimer, I am changing the “What I Bought” list with “What I Got” because I do get books/zines as gifts sometimes, and I feel like it is false advertising to say I bought them all if I didn’t. I also want to start using my public library more this summer, which

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Indigo Bridge Books

means that I will be reading books I won’t be purchasing.

Can you believe I started this month by telling myself I was on a book-buying ban? Yeah, neither can I. I broke that trend on the third day of the month, so… oops.

I’ve been wanting to buy Ash Hardell’s book The ABC’s of LGBT+ for a long, long time, but I wanted to buy it in person, because I like to support my local bookstores. I finally found it at a local store called Indigo Bridge Books, and as I’ve been searching for good LGBT books to give to my parents after coming out as nonbinary, it was like a sign from God Herself. My parents are in the learning stage, and most of the information they’re finding is online, but I feel like books seem more legitimate to many people. This book is a great reference material for many, many LGBT+ identities—some of which I didn’t know of and was excited to learn about. I saw my own identities represented in this book, which is exciting as my sexuality and gender are not really “mainstream.” What I love most about this book is that Ash made a point of sharing the perspectives of people who actually have these identities, rather than just giving definitions, which is super valuable in humanizing LGBT people instead of reducing them to a list of labels. I am happy to say this book is now sitting on my mom’s nightstand, and I hope she finds it as informative and accepting as I did.

The zines I read—surprise, surprise—were about punk rock. The one about Black Flag was super interesting, as I love reading books about bands and music, so why not read a zine about that? This detailed the story of Black Flag’s first album and their origins. I don’t listen to a lot of Black Flag, but it was still an interesting story.

The other one, I’m going to be honest, I don’t remember much. It was one of those Punks Around the World zines about the Moscow punk scene. I do remember thinking it was img_9581.jpeginteresting, but because it was only one limited perspective, I didn’t learn a ton except for this guy’s one story, which could have been better written.

The magazine about Queen taught me quite a few things about how very strange that band (especially Freddie Mercury) was, but the pictures were what really dazzled me. It’s not hard to find good pictures of a Queen concert, but with the story alongside them, these photos had so much more impact.

My mom got me the mental health zine (or collection of essays) for Easter, which I’d discovered after researching Ruby Tandoh, my all-time favorite contestant on Great British Bake Off. She has written several food-related books, but it was this zine that caught my eye. One of my general goals is to get back into healthier self-care habits that I’ve slacked on lately, and I felt like reading about other people’s experiences with mental health would be a good kick in the pants. So far, I’ve both related to and learned from this zine, and that’s the best thing I can ask for in a collection of essays. I can build compassion while also feeling represented. (Also, side note, Ruby and her partner Leah are ADORABLE. I mean it. Look at their Instagram.)img_9585.jpeg

Under the Feet of Jesus and The Dew Breaker were books I read for school, so I won’t talk about them much here except to say that though I understand that immigrant stories are extremely important and should be read about, I didn’t like the style of either of these books. They both jump around between perspectives a lot, which I’m not the biggest fan of.

Harry Potter was a re-read. This month is the last month of classes for the semester, and I always end up re-reading an HP book during this stressful time. The Order of the Phoenix was one of the two HP books I have at my apartment, and I didn’t want to re-read the first book for the thousandth time. I really enjoyed the second half of this book as a re-read, but the first half felt really slow. I’m not sure if this is because I already knew the story, or I was stressed, or something else. But I read much faster during the second half, when the action picked up and Dumbledore’s Army began and Umbridge was being her usual bitchy self. Not to mention, centaurs. CENTAURS. I love when they show up in the HP books.

And now, for the titles everyone is curious about: An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England and Punk Rock Jesus. Yes, those are two actual books I picked up, bought for myself, and read. If the titles aren’t enough to make you curious, I don’t know what will be.

Let’s start with Brock Clarke’s book about an accidental arsonist. This book tells the story of Sam Pulsifer who accidentally burned down Emily Dickinson’s house while two people were in the bed upstairs. He is now out of jail, has a life with a wife and kids—51y4F0H7TjLwho know nothing about his past—and is living normally until the son of the people who died in the Emily Dickinson house fire shows up again. More literary figures’ houses are getting burned down—a clear attempt to get Sam back in jail.

This book was a trip. The thirty-something-year-old narrator reminded me of Holden Caulfield, which was annoying at times and made him seem very childish and emotionally stunted. I don’t know, maybe that was the point. The narration wasn’t my main problem with the book, though. Sam’s passiveness really grated on my nerves. He did a lot of hemming and hawing and then ultimately deciding to do nothing. In the rare circumstances that he did take action, it was always the wrong action, and I could see the outcomes of those actions a mile away. There isn’t much active solving of the mystery, just information plopping into his lap conveniently. The book was entertaining, and I don’t regret reading such a quirky story, but I can’t say I’ll ever pick it up again. The only thing keeping me reading toward the end was wondering if he went back to jail or not. As the reader, I knew he wasn’t burning the houses down, but he did a lot of stupid things that implicated himself. That question gets answered—in the way I actually hoped it would—but I won’t spoil it in case anyone decides to pick it up.

Though The Arsonist’s Guide wasn’t a big hit—more like a pop song I listen to begrudgingly and end up liking only while I’m listening to it—Punk Rock Jesus was a IMG_9418roaring success. For the past few months, every time I walked into a Half Price Books, I would see this amazing cover and the title Punk Rock Jesus, reminding me immediately of Green Day’s Jesus of Suburbia character. This month, I finally picked up the book, knowing nothing about it except that it was a graphic novel involving sci fi, punk rock, and Christianity. I mean, that’s enough to hook anyone, right? I’ve been wanting to find a graphic novel to delve into, as it is a type of book I don’t really reach for, and this seemed like a good fit. I was a bit nervous about buying the book, because it was fairly expensive for something at a used bookstore (because it was a “deluxe edition” and unopened), but I went with my gut and brought it home. This is the last book I finished in April, and it is my favorite of the month.

To summarize, this graphic novel tells the story of Chris, who is supposedly the clone of Jesus Christ, and his life in the limelight as a reality TV star. When he learns about all of the shitty things that led to his creation and all of the subsequent bad things that happen, Chris escapes and joins a punk band to preach anti-religion lyrics and atheism. (This story is not, as it seems on first glance, completely anti-religion. There are several spiritual characters who are morally upright and good people. This story explores both the good and bad of organized religion.) The book even brings in the IRA—the Irish Republican Army—even though most of this takes place as a U.S. TV show. Sean Murphy is a creative guy, and even though the drawings were all black and white, I thought they were really well done. My only critique of this book is that some of the characters looked too similar (namely the children and women) and I could only tell them apart by the storyline. Even with this complaint, I liked the book enough to read the extra materials about the creation of the story, which made me like it even more. Murphy started writing/drawing this story in the mid-2000s, which explains why I like it so much. In case you didn’t know, the 2000s are my favorite era. Strange, I know, but I’m also a pop punk fan, so are you really shocked?

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Because April marks the beginning of spring weather in Nebraska (even if it is off and on), I was in the mood to spring clean, which for me, means purge my bookshelves. I even made a point of going through my bookshelves at my parents’ house, as well as at my own apartment. I won’t list all of the books I’m ditching, but to give you the general idea: I got rid of books I will never re-read, don’t have an emotional attachment to, or will never actually get to reading. A lot of them were children’s or middle grade books, but there was a big chunk of YA and adult books in the piles as well. They will be finding a nice home at Half Price Books or with other readers I know who want them. And, honestly, now that my bookshelves have extra spaces, I’ll feel way less guilty acquiring more books. Marie Kondo does something right—if the books didn’t spark joy, they had to go.

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Cookies and Jams: How Jamming to Music and Feeding Squirrels Makes Me More Resilient

A few days ago, I woke up, went for a 4-mile run outside, then jammed out to Walk the

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This is from 2014, but come on… Brendon Urie is so beautiful!

Moon and Panic! at the Disco while getting ready for the rest of the day. And honestly, it was one of the best mornings I’ve had in a loooong time.

The couple days before this great morning were rough. I’d cried a lot, been very sad and anxious, and had a lot of bodily insecurities. It was hard to focus on anything because I was worried about the past and the future instead of enjoying anything in the present. I’m graduating next semester and worried about life beyond school (and also excited, but mostly worried), along with a bunch of other worries such as when will I ever get top surgery and why didn’t I let myself be sad about family members and friends being in the hospital until now? I’d also gotten sick on my run (IBS flareup… yay…) and couldn’t enjoy my first run outside in months. The world seemed to be against me—even the wine and movie night I had with my friend wasn’t as fun as I’d hoped.

Needless to say, I was spiraling into a pit of negativity. The Hydra monster was dragging me down into the depths of its dungeon, having many more heads than before because I cut off the ones that were connected to sadness.

Then Saturday came, and I cried. I cried so hard that I panicked about how sad I was, and I was exhausted the next day. But by Monday—the day of the great morning—I realized how relieved I was to have expelled that emotion. I don’t want to be an emotionless robot, so I need to accept the sadness along with the happiness, the anger along with the comfort.

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Sunshine!

So Monday morning—I finally woke up to my alarm and to the sunlight instead of sitting in bed for an hour with my eyes closed wishing the day wouldn’t start yet. I helped my roommate stretch out her hamstring. I got dressed and went for a run, feeling so good that I went an extra mile than planned. I didn’t even let the annoying Nebraska wind detract from the experience, and I didn’t worry about how fast I was running. All I cared about was that I was working toward my goal of running a 10K this year. I could enjoy the scenery and the people and the muscle strain more than I could have if I were worried about how slow I am or what I look like.

Afterward, I had to ice my ankles (runner problems!), but then I got in the shower. And I put on a Walk the Moon song. And I jammed the heck out. I took an extra-long shower just so I could jam out to the other fun, upbeat songs that I love—“Hey Look Ma I Made It” by Panic! at the Disco, anyone?

I highly recommend starting your day with music you love. In fact, I made an entire playlist of songs that I would want to jam to every morning (which is always subject to change, as I change each day). The days that I start with music or books or writing that I love are often the best days I have. I am certainly more resilient on those days, because I start the day with some positivity.

For example, on the Monday in question, I thought I had an appointment with Career

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Outside with a friend!

Services to figure out a plan for the future and assuage some of my anxiety. Well, I showed up, and apparently they didn’t have my appointment scheduled. On a normal day, I would have been upset and annoyed and let it ruin at least the next few hours, if not the rest of the day. Instead, I made an appointment for the following Monday and spent the hour that was set aside for the appointment reading a book outside. I’m reading a quirky novel, so it was nice to set aside some time to read for fun instead of for school. I did get sunburned, but again, I didn’t let it bother me too much. I dipped my feet in the fountain outside of the student union and splashed some cold water on my neck to cool down. All in all, it was a good hour.

After I was productive, I walked to a local coffee shop and treated myself to an iced tea and cookie—which I promptly shared with my squirrel friend. Have I told you about my squirrel friend? There was another day when I was having a panic attack and knew I needed to distract myself and get out of the situation, so I got a cookie and sat on a bench. Then a squirrel came up and started begging for food. Now, normally I wouldn’t

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Name ideas for my squirrel friend, anyone?

feed a wild animal for fear of giving it something bad for it. But this squirrel had clearly eaten human food before, and sharing is one of the things that almost always puts me in a positive mood, so I shared. He got so close to me, even touching my leg at one point—I felt like a goshdarn Disney prince.

Anyway, I decided to take my cookie and tea to the same bench, and lo and behold, my squirrel friend showed up again. He didn’t show up until I was down to the crumbs, but I dumped them on the ground for him on my way over to sit in the shade (because, ouch, sunburns).

The purpose of all of this is to say that I’m trying to actively add positivity into parts of my day that have previously been neutral, therefore tipping the scales in my favor from the beginning. Then if bad things happen, the day is not ruined and I can handle them better with a clearer, calmer mindset.

And, you know, I think I’m going to stop telling myself it’s stupid for Walk the Moon songs to be the guiding light in my day. I think I’ll just shut up and dance.

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