Social Media versus Reality


Yes, we know celebrities edit their pictures, we know people wear makeup, and we know people sometimes lie on social media. In today’s world, people constantly remind us why we shouldn’t believe everything we see on that bikini model’s Instagram.  There’s a good chance that girl who took a selfie with perfect hair and makeup at the gym didn’t work as hard as you did when you walked out drenched in sweat; and you know that. However, sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the realm of social media, among pictures of people’s perfect, healthy meals, perfect outfits, and perfect significant others. Social media can alter our reality in subtle ways that negatively affect us more than we might notice, but there are ways we can mold our social media so that it becomes a helpful, positive piece of our daily lives. 

Here’s a video by Ditch the Label, an anti-bullying organization, highlighting the way people lie on Instagram to make themselves appear more put together, more organized, or healthier than they really are. It shows a guy getting out of his car, walking up to the top of a hill, taking a picture, and posting it with the caption, “30km bike ride done!” This type of social media behavior is damaging because it creates a domino effect of people scrambling to look healthy on social media, and it confuses your own perception of yourself. Are you healthy? Or do you only appear to be healthy on social media?

While people totally have a right to put whatever they want on Instagram, it’s important for us to remember that not everything we see is real. Most Instagram posts are snap shots— carefully set up and edited— of a much more complex life. The same thing goes for Facebook, Twitter, and even Snapchat. It’s easy to see these posts and think, “why am I not that healthy,” “why am I not that organized,” or “why am I not that pretty,” even though we’ve been told time and time again that not everything on social media is accurate. Other people’s stuff on Instagram sometimes makes us want to buy green smoothies just to post pictures of them and put on makeup just to lay in bed. Keeping up with a fake image like that can be tiring and unhealthy. It’s important to remember that we should be practicing healthy lifestyles to make ourselves feel better, not to create a false image for our social media followers

Despite the lies, there are so many ways to harness social media so it becomes a beneficial tool. For example, there are blogs online, similar to this one, that strive to help people by posting uplifting messages and guides to healthy, happy living. It’s never a bad idea to seek out positive, uplifting blogs on days you’re feeling down— cuddled up with your laptop in bed because you just don’t want to do anything else. Also, it’s helpful to follow accounts on Instagram that post things that make you happy— not just gorgeous selfies and pictures of healthy meals. For example, I follow Yrsa Daley-Ward’s poetry Instagram account because poetry makes me happy, and seeing her posts helps to break up the constant stream of people posting about their seemingly perfect lives. 

Another thing you can do to make your social media more beneficial to you is to stop trying to mimic the seemingly put-together posts of the people you follow. Sometimes being honest with your followers on social media can be such a relieving experience. So for example, if you want to post a picture of the brownies you made at 2 a.m. with the caption, “Much needed after a hard day,” who cares? To be honest, a lot more people than you might think will relate to such a post. And who knows, maybe it will create a ripple affect, and more people will be true to themselves on their social media. A little honesty goes a long way. So go ahead, post that sweaty gym selfie because it’ll feel good, and honestly, everyone could use a little burst of reality on their feed. 

Real Talk


The Sport We Call Life: Four female athletes battling chronic illnesses persevere

Living with a chronic illness sometimes means mustering up enormous strength to compete in the sport we normally refer to as life. There are some famous female athletes out there who accomplished great feats while battling chronic illnesses. Each of these women pursued their dreams with incredible strength and courage, despite the obstacles life served them. 

Here are some amazing female athletes who, despite battling chronic illnesses, have accomplished astounding victories.

  1. Venus Ebony Starr Williams

Venus Williams was ranked No. 1 by the Women’s Tennis Association three times in her life, she has won four Olympic medals, and is currently ranked No. 5 in the world in the Women’s Tennis Association single rankings. Aside from battling it out with an opponent on the tennis court, star athlete Venus Williams has also been battling another opponent: Sjogren’s Syndrome. Although this autoimmune disease forced Williams to drop out of the U.S. Open in 2011, she still returned to tennis and is still considered one of the most powerful female athletes in the world.

Venus Williams at the 2017 Wimbledon Championships

2. Carrie Johnson 

Carrie Johnson is a sprint canoer for the US Olympic team, competing in several sprint canoe world championships and summer Olympic competitions. Johnson was also diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. Despite her diagnosis, Johnson was still able to compete in sprint canoe races at an Olympic level.

3. Shannon Boxx

Shannon Boxx, a player for the US women’s national soccer team, won gold medals in three olympic competitions, third or better rankings in four FIFA Women’s World Cups, and first in one NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship. Boxx was diagnosed with Lupus in the middle of her career, but continued to compete in World Championships and still lives an active life after her retirement from soccer.

4. Jillian Michaels 

While Jillian Michaels may not be an Olympic athlete, she is one of the most famous fitness gurus in the world. Michaels holds certifications with the National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association, The Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, Kettlebell Concepts, and the American Fitness Professionals and Associates. She was a trainer on the reality series, The Biggest Loser,  and has released several books and DVDs on fitness and wellness. Amidst her successes, Jillian Michaels was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Although the illness didn’t do much to damage her career, the fitness guru was unable to have children. Instead, she adopted one daughter and had another son with her partner Heidi Rhoades.

These four women have put incredible displays of strength out into the world throughout their careers by accomplishing many victories all while facing chronic illnesses. Their stories are truly inspiring, showing that anything is possible with some determination and of course, a little #girlpower.

Real Talk

Celebrate Green Lights

Author: Samantha Thuesen

A sure-fire way to spark conversation is to ask a thought-provoking question; there will usually be multiple answers, none of which have to relate to each other. It fascinates me how something can be interpreted in several ways, and how every interpretation can be logical (most of the time). When I struggle to find a topic to write about, I like to ask myself these kinds of questions to see where my mind wanders. I googled “thought-provoking questions” and came across a blog post by Peter Pilt called “39 Powerful Thought Provoking and Inspiring Questions.” Immediately, I found what I wanted—the perfect opportunity to use the great power of the metaphor: do you ever celebrate the green lights?

First, let’s address the literal meaning of this question. We can all agree that red lights can be maddening, especially if you’re in a rush. If you live in a city, the incessant stopping and going can be even more infuriating. Red lights can easily get a reaction out of us, but what about green lights? Do we take them for granted? Personally, if I’m approaching a green light I feel anxious knowing that at any moment it can turn yellow, and then I’ll have to make the split-second decision to either speed up or slow down (but I’ll speed up most of the time). To put it simply, red lights make me angry because they’re preventing me from going, and green lights make me anxious because they have the potential to prevent me from going. NOW, let’s get metaphorical.

In life, we have many red lights—obstacles that keep us from achieving what we desire. These red lights can come in many forms: your health, your location, your education, your financial situation (rhyme only slightly intended). Obviously, these obstacles are frustrating; they make it harder for you to get what you want. You may tell yourself if the circumstances were different, you’d be able to do anything, but that’s not true; you can already do anything. For some, “anything” isn’t an option, but there is always something that is just as satisfying. The circumstances only interrupt you, and with time and patience, the light will turn green.

On the other hand, life offers many green lights as well. We can spend time with our family. We can go out with friends. We can wake up every morning to watch the sunrise. For those of us in the world who are blessed with freedom, we have the opportunity to pursue our dreams. However, that yellow light is always looming over us, making us think everything could come to a jerking halt, so how do we live with it? How do we keep driving without the fear of being stopped? The truth is, that fear may never go away completely. There will always be a chance of that light turning yellow, but that’s all it is, a chance; it’s out of your control. You have to keep driving and celebrate every green light you pass. Spend time with your family. Go out with your friends. Watch the sunrise. Pursue your dreams. Don’t let fear slow you down, because even if the light does turn red, it will always turn green again.

All of this many sound silly, but that’s the metaphor at work; it allows us to see truth in unusual places. Make the decision to always live your best life. And for the record, I don’t want to encourage speeding through yellow lights. Be smart and drive safely.

Real Talk

Leaders of Body Positivity

Author: Samantha Thuesen

We’re always told that “confidence is key,” but in today’s world, confidence is difficult to gain, especially for women. With appearance on social media becoming a priority in so many people’s lives, we’re constantly bombarded with the image of the “perfect body.” It’s crucial that women, young girls especially, have strong female role models who promote healthy bodies rather than “perfect” ones. Thankfully, there’s a good list of celebrities who are determined advocates for body positivity.

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer became widely known after being casted as Katniss in The Hunger Games. Many people in Hollywood commented on her weight, arguing that with society’s standards, she was too full-figured for the part. Here are a few statements made by Jennifer regarding her appearance, provided by an article from

“I’m never going to starve myself for a part … I don’t want little girls to be like, ‘Oh, I want to look like Katniss, so I’m going to skip dinner.’ That’s something I was really conscious of during training, when you’re trying to get your body to look exactly right. I was trying to get my body to look fit and strong – not thin and underfed.”
– to Elle

 “The world has a certain idea – we see this airbrushed perfect model image … You just have to look past it. You look how you look. And be comfortable. Like, what are you gonna do, be hungry every single day to make other people happy? That’s just dumb.”
– to Yahoo!

 “Shows like the Fashion Police and things like that are just showing these generations of young people to judge people based on all the things that are wrong, and that it’s okay to just point at people and call them ugly and call them fat. They call it ‘fun’ and welcome to the ‘real world,’ and that shouldn’t be the real world. That’s going to keep being the real world if we keep it that way. It’s not until we stop treating each other like that and just stop calling each other fat … with these unrealistic expectations for women. It’s disappointing that the media keeps it alive and fuels that fire.” 
– to Yahoo!

Jennifer is saying that this world needs more confidence and kindness. We need to prioritize health over perfection, so younger generations can do the same. We need to see others for who they are rather than how many flaws they have. We need to live by the mantra “don’t care about what other people think,” but at the same time, we need to change the negative way those people are thinking.

Amber Riley

Amber is best known for her role as Mercedes Jones in Glee, as well as her win on the 17th season of Dancing with the Stars. Krislyn Domingue from For Harriet writes, “…Amber Riley has exhibited a continued commitment to body positivity throughout the years. Whether in magazines, interviews, in the studio, or on-air, Riley carries a positive and powerful message of self-love.” Here are a few inspiring statements made by Amber, provided by an article written by Jessica Torres from Revelist:

“I will never forget to walk tall ever again. No matter what is said or done to me that might want to cower me.”

 “I am a beautiful, courageous, black African queen with more curves than highways and more lumps than my mother’s potato salad and you will deal.”

 “Sometimes they don’t recognize your value, but that doesn’t mean you can’t prove them wrong.”

 “I love myself and that’s enough.”

Amber shows everyone how to be confident. She’s a beautiful, successful woman who is happy with herself, and that’s exactly the kind of person women everywhere need as a role model.

 Sonya Renee Taylor

Sonya is an author, poet, and the founder of The Body is Not An Apology movement. Here’s an excerpt from the website: “The Body Is Not An Apology is an international movement committed to cultivating global Radical Self Love and Body Empowerment. We believe that discrimination, social inequality, and injustice are manifestations of our inability to make peace with the body, our own and others.” You can watch a performance of Sonya’s spoken word here. Here are a few excerpts from her empowering poem:

 “The body is not calamity. The body is not a math test.  The body is not a wrong answer. The body is not a failed class. You are not failing.”

 The body is not an apology. Do not offer the body as gift. Only receive it as such.”

 The body is deity, the body is god, the body is god. The only righteous love that will never need repent.”

Sonya takes body positivity to the next level, creating a haven for people who want to experience “unapologetic self-love and body empowerment.” She saw a problem and did not hesitate to become a leader.

Demi Lovato

Demi is a singer, songwriter, and actress, starring on Disney channel before rising to have an extremely successful singing career. After being bullied in school, she developed an eating disorder. In 2010, she admitted herself into Timberline Knolls, a “residential treatment center in Illinois for women battling addiction and eating disorders.” (Source: ABC News)

Since then, she’s become one of the most outspoken celebrity advocates for body positivity. Here are a few of her profound affirmations, provided by an article written by Abigail Cardi from Bustle:

“We all have problem areas. I’m always going to have thick thighs. I can’t change that, and obsessing over it will only make me miserable. Learning to be grateful for our bodies and taking care of them are the best ways for us to empower ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually.”

 “Love is louder than the pressure to be perfect.”

 “It helps to even look in the mirror—and it sound so cheesy—but if you just say, ‘You are beautiful,’ and ‘You are worthy,’ those things really help you.”

 “You can’t love other people until you love yourself.”

 Demi has shown everyone that light can be found in the darkness. She has so openly shared her personal struggles in the hopes that people everywhere will be inspired to practice self-love, and she’s succeeding.

Self-love is so important, and these are just a few of the many women who truly embody it. With their influence, along with the influence of everyone they inspire, the world can be a beautiful, compassionate place for everyone.

Real Talk

Lost and Found: Misplaced Identity

Author: Samantha Thuesen

One day you may find yourself questioning who you really are. Depending on the lives we lead, it can be easy to lose ourselves, whether it’s because of friends, work, or life at home. Oftentimes we have different personas for different situations: a serious demeanor at work, a goofy attitude with a childhood friend, an easygoing air with a new acquaintance. It’s not uncommon to behave differently in front of certain people; you’re not going to make small talk with your best friend, and you’re not going to talk about your enemy from high school with your boss. In some cases, you change personas for the worse, and you need to find a way to rid yourself of those negative identities. We can get so caught up in all our identities that we have trouble locating our original selfhood. I’d like to share some of my techniques for dealing with this sense of, what I’ll call, “identity misplacement.”

Write down what you’re feeling. You can spend all day thinking about how you feel, but until you write down your thoughts, they will remain an unorganized mess in your head, causing stress. Take a pen to paper and address your emotions in chunks. For instance, let’s say you’ve been spending a lot of time with one of your friends who gossips a lot. Being human, you may indulge in the gossiping yourself, but later you feel guilty about it. Because you’ve been spending so much time using that “gossip persona,” you start to question what kind of person you are. Am I a bad person? What happened to my morals? First, write down what you and your friend gossip about, then talk about how gossiping makes you feel. This will remind you of your morals. Address if this friend is a bad influence, and create a plan of action to confront them about it. Writing down your thoughts is much more constructive than driving yourself crazy; it allows you to find a solution to your problem, and thus find yourself again.

Volunteer. When all seems lost, kindness is guaranteed to bring us home again. If you’re taking on a negative persona, it’s possible you’ll feel selfish. There’s nothing more humbling than giving your time to those less fortunate than you. That’s not to say you should use charity for the sole purpose of making yourself feel better, but use it to remind yourself of what’s important—that there’s something bigger than yourself. Charity is not always a completely selfless act; you receive joy, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Surround yourself with kindness and you’ll without a doubt remember who you are.

Have one-on-one conversations with loved ones. It’s when we’re in large groups of people (mainly people with whom we’re not close) that we put on a thick persona. Sometimes you need to take the time to be one-on-one with those closest to you so you can spend time being yourself. Again, it’s not always a bad thing to “put on a face” for people, because that’s the whole point of getting to know someone. Just make sure you keep in touch with that part of yourself people want to get to know.

Lamisha Serf-Walls from HuffPost wrote an article called “7 Tips to Find Yourself When You’re Feeling Lost” where she addresses a similar issue: feeling lost in life and “going through an incubation period and transformation.” I found a couple of her tips to be applicable to the issue I’m describing as well.

Go on an adventure.I’ve given the same advice in other articles addressing completely different situations, but adventures are always beneficial. Lamisha writes, “Whether it’s a day trip, a solitary retreat, or a week-long drive along the coast, go out and explore the world. This will not only allow you to tap into the flow, but it will also give you the time and focus to really reconnect with yourself again.” Nature is where we originate, and it’s the best way to remember our roots, our morals, and our selfhood. You don’t even have to look toward nature if you don’t want to; find adventure anywhere that isn’t home, as long as you’re taking yourself out of your regular environment.

Get quiet and listen.Lamisha writes, “Everyday there are signs, messages, and guideposts that will inspire you to act, but you only notice them if you are open.” In context to her issue, you need to “get quiet and listen” so the world can guide you instead of trying to guide yourself. I interpreted it differently for the issue I’m addressing. Some may call these different personas of ours “acting,” which can get tiring after a while. Sometimes you need to sit back and reevaluate your environment; bring yourself back to reality. It’s important to take time for ourselves to be alone with our thoughts, but it’s also important to give attention to your thoughts when you’re with people, so you can think before you act. The easiest way to slip into a negative persona is acting first and thinking later. You’ll gain more respect from others and for yourself if you tread carefully in potentially uncomfortable situations.

Whether you’re trying to find your individuality or ridding yourself of negativity, these techniques can help guide you in the direction of your true identity. Putting on different personas isn’t always a negative thing, but regardless, it’s important to know how to find ourselves if we get lost.

Read the rest of Lamisha’s article for the entirety of her great advice!

Real Talk

Controlling Your Empathy

Author: Samantha Thuesen

It is our moral duty to listen to the problems of others, but it is not our responsibility to make those problems our own. You may be familiar with the phrase “therapist of the friend group.” This is the friend who everyone goes to for rant sessions and leans on for advice. If you are the “therapist,” then you’re familiar with taking on large amounts of responsibility. You may also be familiar with the toll that responsibility takes.

I recently read an article written by Malia Bradshaw from Tiny Buddha called “How to Be There for Others Without Taking on Their Pain.” She gives great advice on how to listen to your loved ones without trying to “fix them.” Malia offers four pieces of advice, which she then expands upon with stories and plans of action. I would like to share her pieces of advice here, as well as provide my own stories and perspective.

“Realize that being supportive doesn’t mean fixing their problems.”

I’m guilty of wanting to fix everyone’s problems; it’s only natural to want the people around you to be happy. However, sometimes you just need to listen. Malia says, “…my loved ones never tried to fix me. They didn’t become obsessed with finding a solution, and they didn’t rush me to get better. All of that would have increased my anxiety tenfold.” I can understand the frustration in being given unwanted advice; sometimes I just want to complain, and I want someone to understand my frustration—not try to fix it.

On the other hand, sometimes advice is justified, even if your loved one doesn’t want it. Some people have trouble seeing a solution when they’re so engulfed in their emotions. It’s alright to point your loved ones in the right direction, but make sure you’re not belittling their emotions. I’ve had a friend point out my fault in a situation when I was complaining to her, and I’m thankful she did. It allowed me to reevaluate and redirect my emotions.

“Allow them to find their own way.”

When I was younger, I’d always ask my Mom for help with my math homework. She’d provide me with possible solutions, but I’d inevitably get angry with her. Why? Because I didn’t want there to be a solution. I liked being frustrated with my homework; I wanted to give up and be angry. Eventually, I’d get over it and figure out the problem, and that benefited me more than asking someone for the answer. That sounds confusing, maybe immature, but it’s normal for a range of people in difficult situations.

For instance, I had a friend who would ask me for advice about his relationship that ended, but when I’d give it to him, he’d get angry with me. I like to view this situation in the same way as my example above. He may like being frustrated. Of course, I may be completely wrong; I’m not inside his head. However, I know eventually he’ll be able to find his own solution, and he’ll be stronger for it. Sometimes you need to step back, because your advice may be feeding into the frustration.

“Realize that you’re only responsible for yourself.”

You can’t help everyone, because then you wouldn’t have any time to help yourself. Malia writes, “You can’t control who suffers and who doesn’t. And what a burden that would be if we felt we needed to safeguard everyone in our lives from pain. That’s too overwhelming.” A few years ago, I was approached by someone from my past who needed advice. Every day we would talk about her problems, and how she could possibly fix them. Just when things were starting to look better, they got worse. This went on for months, and one day I decided that I couldn’t help her anymore. I was feeling anxious all the time, and I had my own problems to manage. I cut ties, and it was beneficial for both of us. I was finally able to focus on my life again, and I heard through other people that she was also doing well.

You shouldn’t feel guilty for not being able to help someone. Airlines got it right: put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.

“Practice grounding back into your own body and energy field often.”

I need to turn off my phone sometimes to get away from people—to focus on myself and how I’m feeling without everyone else’s problems weighing on me. Malia writes, “Immerse yourself in nature. I love to go hiking when I get overwhelmed with others’ energy, and allow the grounding energy of the earth to support me. Spend time alone.” Her advice has encouraged me to go hiking more often. I couldn’t agree more that nature grounds us; nature is where we originated, so it’s only natural that we go there for comfort. Spending time alone is something I do often as well. After a long day of being with a lot of people, I need time to wind down and be alone with my thoughts. Read a book, take a bath, lay on your bed and stare at the ceiling, meditate—do anything to clear your mind and get back in tune with your own emotions.

Being empathetic is a great thing, and you can help a lot of people, but don’t forget to make yourself a priority from time to time. You don’t owe everyone everything, but you do owe yourself happiness. Read the rest of Malia’s article for the entirety of her great advice!

Real Talk

How to Conquer Your Pencil

Author: Samantha Thuesen

We all get trapped in the humdrum of life from time to time, which is why it’s crucial for us to indulge in our creativity, but what happens when we can’t get those juices flowing? Katherine Brooks from HuffPost wrote an article called “19 Daily Habits Of Artists That Can Help Unlock Your Creativity.” These habits come from a range of artists: painters, illustrators, designers, photographers. Majoring in creative writing, I feel that these routines can also apply those struggling with writer’s block. Therefore, I’d like to translate a few of these habits to apply to writers, as well as provide some of my own techniques.

(Although writers are also considered artists, I’ll keep the terms “writer” and “artist” separate for clarity purposes.)

Let go of your idea of “perfect.”

“I do have to step back, take a breather, and realize that it is just a project and not the end of the world if it’s not perfect.” –Brooklyn-based illustrator and lettering master Mary Kate McDevitt

This is the first habit listed in Katherine’s article, and I can relate heavily. I tend to be a perfectionist when it comes to my fictional writing; I know exactly what I want it to be, but of course that’s not going to come out on the first try, so I struggle to finish. Great writing does not come right away. It takes months, sometimes years, to go through enough drafts until you’re satisfied with the final product. Let’s say you’re writing something that’s not fiction or something that shouldn’t be a long-term project­—the same applies. It may take hours or days. In either scenario, all you have to do is start somewhere. My mom always tells me, “Write something, and then you can fix it later.” Mom is never wrong.

Allow yourself to have fun. 

“It is when I find myself playing more than trying that I find my way out of a block.” –New Hampshire-based artist and teacher Aris Moore

This is the second habit on Katherine’s list. One of my writing professors once told my class that your writing is better when written in your own voice. In other words, don’t try to be someone you’re not. In the long run, you’ll have more fun being yourself. It’s alright to be inspired by another author, but don’t mimic his or her style exactly. Multiple authors can be great in their own ways. I once read an anonymous quote that I think applies to this concept: “Flowers are pretty, but so are Christmas lights, and they look nothing alike.”

When in doubt, ask for help. 

“I could easily go around in endless circles with myself, questioning whether or not I’m on the right track with something. I just have to stop myself, and ask for help.” –Milwaukee-based artist Cassandra Smith

This is the tenth habit on Katherine’s list. One of my very close friends is an artist, and just the other day she asked me for help with the arrangement of flowers in one of her paintings. We spent hours discussing different arrangements, pairing each with some metaphorical meaning. Although she didn’t hesitate to ask my opinion, it made me think that sometimes it’s hard to ask for help because we feel that our work should remain our own. I’m afraid to show my unfinished work to others because I don’t want to be criticized, but that’s what needs to happen. This past year I wrote a short story for my school’s literary magazine, and I forced myself to show it to all my friends before submitting it. It was the best thing I could have done. I learned that asking for help does not mean someone else is writing the story for me, but rather I’m being given the opportunity to view my story from another perspective. Sometimes you know what you’re talking about, but your reader doesn’t, and the only way to stay clear of that is to ask for help.

Those were the three primary habits in Katherine’s article that stuck out to me. Now I’ll share my two habits that never fail to inspire my writing.

Write down every idea, no matter how ridiculous.

Three years ago, I started to write down everything in a journal: ideas, dreams, conversations. I read a story on David Sedaris and his writing process, where he talks about the notebook he carries around with him. An Open Culture article writes, “To the Missouri Review Sedaris described himself as less funny than observant, adding that ‘everybody’s got an eye for something. The only difference is that I carry around a notebook in my front pocket. I write everything down, and it helps me recall things,’ especially for later inclusion in his diary.” This inspired me to carry around my own notebook, and it’s helped my writing substantially. I’ve learned from Sedaris, as well as my writing professors, that it’s okay to take things from your life—conversations and people—because writers are never completely original. You are who you are because of where you grew up and who surrounds you. Therefore, it’s only natural that your writing derives from your life.

Make your characters come alive.

I recently read an Ernest Hemingway quote that really spoke to me: “When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.” This goes back to taking ideas from your everyday life. I have a habit of basing characters off people I know because it makes them more believable. A professor once told my class that he likes to sit in the park and write down conversations he overhears. They’re raw. They’re real. When I’m walking around the store I like to observe what’s going on around me: an older couple complaining about the process of ordering shoes online, a man wearing a Mickey Mouse sweater buying at least ten pillows. It’s kind of creepy, I’ll agree, but observing people is the first step in accurately writing about them. I’ve never seen it, nor can I find it at the moment, but I’ve heard there’s a website you can visit to find out your character’s favorite toast. It’s silly, but it’s an important concept. In order to create people, and not characters, you have to give them likes and dislikes, no matter how miniscule. You never have to write about those likes and dislikes, but they will help you create a real person.

I am far from being a professional writer, so my advice and commentary is not perfect; I have a lot to learn and a lot of mistakes to make. I hope that by following my own advice, I can eventually perfect it. If you’re struggling with writer’s block, try some of these techniques, and read the rest of Katherine’s article to find more inspiration. All you have to do is start somewhere. Write something down, even if it’s a bunch of gibberish. Diamonds are even ugly before they’re cut and polished.

Real Talk

Best Friend Care Package

Author: Samantha Thuesen

It’s important to remind our loved ones how much they mean to us, especially when we don’t see them every day. After saying “I love you,” it’s nice to do something a little extra, whether it be surprising them with flowers, bringing them to dinner, or sending them a care package.

One of my closest friends is away at school completing a summer course, and I won’t be able to see her for two months. She’s on a pre-med track, so you can imagine how stressful her classes are. I thought she could use a little reminder of how much I appreciate her, and what better way than with a care package? A best friend care package.

Putting a good care package together is no simple task; you need to plan. How big should the box be? Should I decorate it? Will there be a theme? These are all important questions that I didn’t ask myself ahead of time. In my defense, I’ve never put a care package together before, but I did learn a few things throughout the process. First, find a box. This will help you determine how many items you can fit inside. I ended up buying all the items first, then scavenging the house to find the right-sized box. If you want to choose a theme, go ahead! I’ve seen people decorate boxes with a certain color, then fill it with items of that same color. For instance, Happy Go Lucky created a “Box of Sunshine.” I chose a simpler route: pink paper and butterfly stickers.


Next, make a list before you go shopping. I didn’t make a list, but I knew I wanted to fulfill three categories: food, health and beauty, and love. Food is a college student’s best friend, especially snack food, but it’s important to stay healthy. I chose veggie chips, yogurt covered raisins, and of course some dark chocolate. Studies show that dark chocolate helps with studying, and that sounds like enough reason for me.


Health and beauty comes next. College students need to remember to take care of themselves in between classes and studying. What better way to relax with your snacks than with a nice face mask? Or three.


Finally, most importantly, comes love. Food will be eaten and masks will be washed away, but love always stays. Originally, I had planned to get a cute stuffed animal, but while walking through the store I came across something even better: Disney pillows. My friend loves Disney, and I had the choice between Genie, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Cinderella, and Ariel. I’m not very good at being sneaky, so I just texted her the characters and asked which one she preferred. She answered Genie, but thankfully assumed I was just taking a Buzzfeed quiz, so no questions were asked. The best part about her picking Genie was that I could attach a little note to him.


I was walking out of the store, ready to make my purchases, when I came across something I knew I had to get. I was in the book isle, and sitting on a lone shelf was a Golden Girls coloring book. If there’s something my friend loves more than Disney, it’s The Golden Girls.


Now, not only can she put on a face mask, enjoy some veggie chips, and lean back on her plush Genie pillow, but now she can do it all while coloring some Golden Girls. Perfect. Mission success.

After packing everything into the box at home, I topped it off with a card. And what better than a kitten card? Write whatever you want in your card, if you choose to include one. I wrote a funny poem and a personal note.


And here’s the final product. Add some wrapping and decorations if you’d like. I wrapped the pillow and coloring book in tissue paper and tossed some pieces of curled ribbon in there.


All that’s left to do now is send it on its way and hope the chocolate doesn’t melt. Obviously, this care package won’t be for everyone, but I hope it can give you some ideas! Food, health and beauty, and love work for everyone, not just college students. Amy Allender has a great list of care package ideas if you need inspiration! As long as you show your love, in any form, you’re doing it right.

Real Talk

How to Overcome Negative Occurrences

By Sarah Pasia

In life, we face many trying times that test our personality. These “bumps in the road” can include situations such as: being laid off from your job, being diagnosed with a chronic illness, or even realizing you are unhappy with where you are in life. When we stand head on with adversity, it is our decision how we deal with it. Some of us may feel that there is no hope of getting better or no chance of improving the situation, but when there is bad, there is always good too. Though it’s easy to act in haste and become consumed by the situation, it is important to stay grounded and stay positive. How can we do this, you ask?
When you feel like you are facing a setback, remember to breathe.
Breathing gives us a moment to assess the situation. It gives us a chance to catch up with ourselves. Breathe in, breathe out. Do not allow the situation to consume you. Although it seems like there’s no hope, there is always a silver lining. Inhale the positive and exhale the negative.

Once you’ve calmed down, understand that you’re not alone.
Understanding the situation also brings you closer to accepting the hand you have been dealt. This may take minutes, hours, days, or even years to come to terms with the situation and that’s fine. We are human. It is a part of life to struggle and be thrown at awful situations. It’s how we become stronger. Remind yourself that many people have once found themselves in the same place as you and were able to continue on. If they can find strength, remember, you are just as strong and you can too.

Research what you can do to better your situation.
After accepting the negative occurrence, I hope that there is a burning desire within you to make your situation better. Whether it may be trying the newest medication or changing careers, it’s always important to consider all possibilities and outcomes. As you seek additional information, it may also help to reach out to those who have been in the same situation as you. These people will not only provide you with their experiences, but could offer support and friendship as well.

Once you’ve gathered your information, make the change.
Regardless of what you may think, there is always a way to turn a negative happenstance into a positive experience. It may seem like a daunting task at first, but once you begin to do something about the problem, the less upset and helpless you will feel. More often than not, the first move transitioning between the different stages in life is the hardest part. It will feel uneasy at times and perhaps a little challenging but know that every step makes you closer to your goal.
We all know how easy it is to be caught up in problems that seem larger than us. It’s human. It is fine to feel upset, but always remind yourself that it is what it is. You control your outlook and you control what you choose to make of this. Do not allow the negativity of an illness or a situation to be a part of you. Never allow it to consume you. Don’t like how things are going? If you can, change the situation. You will survive, you will succeed, and you will be stronger at the end of this.



Thoughts on Inspiration

Author: Samantha Thuesen

Inspirational quotes help to guide us through life. There’s essentially a quote for every situation and emotion: loss, happiness, confusion, love. It’s comforting to know that someone else has at one point felt the same as you. I was curious to see what some of the most popular inspirational quotes are so I could evaluate my own personal growth as well as provide additional thoughts.

Here are the “Top Ten Inspirational Quotes,” provided by BrainyQuote.

“The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.” –H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

When I read this quote, I think about procrastination. Personally, I always leave things until the last minute, a habit I’m trying to break. That’s more of a literal interpretation. I also like to see this quote as a motivation to change. We all want to change something about ourselves for the better. If we want to be more generous, the best way is to be kind today.

“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” –Joseph Campbell

It’s difficult to not plan your life out in your head. We all aspire, and we’re all worried about achieving our goals. Something I’ve been trying to do more of lately is follow life rather than lead it. Of course, it’s necessary to lead your life at times – to be a good person and to make decisions – but sometimes you must be a follower. Whether it’s finding a relationship or being unsure about a career path, it’s alright to see where life takes you.

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” –Helen Keller

This is a beautifully constructed statement we can all learn from every day. Helen Keller, being blind and deaf, knew what beautiful was just through touch. In the end, love is what matters, not possessions, money, or your job. In the craziness of your busy life, don’t forget to pause and look around for love.

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” –Jimmy Dean

This is one of my favorites because I love metaphors, especially ones about the ocean. For me, it simplifies conflict. On a boat, (for someone who knows how to sail at least) it’d be common sense to adjust your sails, and to do it immediately (I don’t sail, so I could be wrong). We should treat our problems like this, too. Adjust to the change. Don’t let your ship sink.

“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.” –Jim Rohn

Like Helen Keller’s quote, this can be applied to your life every day. We’re designed to be happy, so if something is hindering that for you, you need to reevaluate. I will say, however, that I believe in some situations things need to get worse before they get better. As long as you know you’re going to come out of something happier than you were before, you’re doing just fine.

“Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.” –Swami Sivananda

I’d say this is a difficult concept to fulfill. We’re not going to love everything we do, but it is true that success comes from hard work, and that work is not always going to be enjoyable. We need to remind ourselves regularly that everything we do is for our future. A teacher once told me something that continues to stick with me. I’ll alter it slightly to avoid profanity: don’t put your name on garbage. You’re representing yourself with everything you do, so do something to make yourself and others proud. Make a good impression.

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” –Steve Jobs

I think this quote says everything to the point. It’s been said many different ways, but “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” –Marc Anthony. It’s easier said than done of course, but as long as you’re determined to “keep looking,” there’s no way you’ll fail.

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” –Maya Angelou

Breathing is different than living. It’s important to survive, but it’s more important to be happy, and that means being good to people, laughing, and feeling confident.

“Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.” –Kevyn Aucoin

This is another one of my favorites. Being happy is important, but it’s not the only thing. We’re human, and we’re going to feel a plethora of emotions in our lifetime. “Every morning when [we] wake up [we] can choose joy, happiness, negativity, [or] pain,” but why not choose all of them? It’s what makes us human; it’s how we learn and grow. Embrace all your emotions, all your experiences, and you’ll feel whole.

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” –Rabindranath Tagore

Another metaphor! Automatically I’m in love. It brings such comfort to compare ourselves to nature. The sky is always so beautiful, whether it’s clear or cloudy, light or dark, pink or blue. Our lives can carry that same principle; we just need a new perspective.

Find your own form of inspiration through these quotes; maybe they mean something different for you. We motivate each other through our experiences, so share knowledge, and we can all succeed.

Real Talk