Thursday, May 19, 2016

Society and the Single Girl: The Best Dating Advice I've Ever Received

Dating is the single most confusing thing in the world. There are so many confusions and questions about what to do, what to wear, how to act and additionally, how to know if someone is actually really into you. This can cause anxiety, especially to those who may not have the most experience when it comes to the dating department. (Ahem, myself)
To counter this confusion, I began to seek the advice from friends, my beloved pastor friend who has never steered me wrong whenever I needed advice and my therapist when it came to approaching the dating world. The number one piece of advice, perhaps the best advice I have ever received, is be yourself.
And, today, I am sharing that with you all.
In the dating world, we present ourselves in the most prim and proper format possible. However, we are not meeting the Queen of England, rather we are meeting someone who could possibly be our potential partner. I think that while we should avoid acting like a cave person on a first date, we should just be ourselves, in all our flawed glory. In the confusion of going on a date, we often forget how wonderful we truly are, and that when someone doesn't like who we are, it's not our loss, but their own. And, if they like you for who you truly are? Well, that makes it all the more awesome.
So, for those who are new to the dating world, those returning to it after some time, the best advice I can give you, despite the cliche aspect is to be yourself and (try not to) don't worry about everything that follows.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Semester Reading List Final Update/Summer Reading List

Hey everyone!
So, it's been a while since I've last posted my reading endeavors, so I'm going to take some time to update you all what I've been reading since I've last posted a reading list update back in March. In January, I've posted about what I wanted to read this semester. Now that it's over, I can safely say that I'm satisfied with how I fulfilled my reading goals and am now am interested in creating a summer reading list for the summer. (Since that's when I do the bulk of my reading anyways)
Throughout the semester, I have read 15 books. They were:

  1. "It's Kind of a Funny Story" by Ned Vizzini
  2. "Distance Between Us" by Kasie West
  3. "Better Than Before" by Gretchen Rubin
  4. "What I Thought Was True" by Huntley Fitzpatrick
  5. "City of Bones" by Cassandra Clare
  6. "City of Ashes" by Cassandra Clare
  7. "Crown of Midnight" by Sarah J. Maas
  8. "Every Day" by David Leviathan
  9. "The Geography of You and Me" by Jennifer Smith
  10. "Girl Online" by Zoe Sugg
  11. "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee
  12. "Wedding Night" by Sophie Kinsella
  13. "The Fill-In Boyfriend" by Kasie West 
  14. "The Rosie Project" by Graeme Simison
  15. "All the Bright Places" by Jennifer Niven

This summer, I aspire to read:

  • "Me After You" by JoJo Meyes
  • "P.S. I Love You" by Cecila Ahern  
  • "Rocks" by Joe Perry 
  • Books 3-6 of the City of Bones series
  • The rest of the Throne of Glass series 
  • The new Emily Giffin novel (expected to be released in June!) 
  • "Shopaholic to the Rescue" by Sophie Kinsella
What are you planning to read this summer? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, May 9, 2016

New Chapters

A few days ago, I had received a letter from myself. Before you scratch your heads and wonder 'how could you receive a letter from you," let me explain. When I was a senior in high school, one of the final assignments from my AP Psychology class was to write a letter to me as I'm graduating college. Back then, the year 2016 seemed so far away and so out of reach. And now that it is here, Hamden High School seems so far away.
In that letter, I asked if I was still friends with my high school friends, if I was seeing someone (I'm not) and discussed some high school memories. Now, as I look at the letter written in purple sparkling ink, it feels like an entire lifetime ago. Next month marks four years since I put on that yellow polyester gown and walked the stage at graduation. Out of all of the people who I've mentioned, only one of those people still remains to be a person who I talk to on a regular basis.  It seems like my life has blossomed and changed completely since then. My list of accomplishments are an ever-growing list that doesn't seem to end-I've worked as an Opinions Editor, I currently hold positions at my local paper, have met several politicians/musicians and have travelled to different parts of the world. I've learned that my true calling in life is to hold a pen to write the stories of people who do great things, and that the best way to express myself is through the written world. I learned that sometimes you outgrow people, even though you have a textbook's worth of history with them. I learned that the friends that truly love you are the ones who are not only there for you when they are needed, but they also provide an outlet of entertainment as well. And finally, I've learned to stand up for what's right for you. This means that sometimes this can cause a relationship to end, all in the name of staying true and honest with yourself. 
I hate it when people say that "I wish I can go back in time to do that one thing over." I don't believe that is true. I think to be the person that we are today, you need to have lived through the cards that you were dealt with. In this experiment that we call life, you are the variable that is constantly changing. While I have another semester before I rock another polyester gown, I am still not the person who I was when I started. As expected, I learned some things and met new people. But, I also went through hardships and I went through periods where I've experienced exponential growth. Thanks to that growth, I am the person who I am today. I'm turning 22 in a few months, am learning to control my anxiety on my own and have a lot to look forword to. I said goodbye to dreams and ideas that I never thought I would get the courage to do so, and opened myself up to the new beginnings. 
This is similiar to how it was when I graduated high school. It was a new beginning, something that every 18 deserves to have. 
Here's to new beginnings. Here's to laughter, to working hard but knowing when it's time to stop. Here's to the graduates, the members of the class of 2016 who will enter a new phase of their lives, whether it may be to more education or the work force. Here's to the couples, whether it's for the ones who are just starting out or the ones reaching milestones. 
And most importantly, here's to you. 
Cheers to new beginnings.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

2016 Summer Music Festival Bucket List

Hey everyone! So, it's been a while since I've been in this part of the Internet (gotta love the looming finals season). However, as finals approach, which signal the end of the semester, I am looking foreword to enjoying my last "real" summer before I'm expected to be an adult and have a job. One of the things I want to do this summer is to attend a Music Festival. Here's some of the ones that are on my list.

  1. '90s Fest In Brooklyn, N.Y.--Who doesn't love the '90s? I am definitely interested in attending. Let's party like it's 1999! 
  2. Grand Weekend on July 8-10, 2016 in Lakeville, Conn.--This looks like such an amazing festival, and a fun way to spend my birthday! 
  3. Governor's Music Festival on June 3, 2016 through June 5, 2016--With big acts like Kayne West expected to be performing, I am so there. 
  4. Northside Festival on June 6, 2016 through June 12, 2016--With a bunch of up and coming indie acts expected to perform, who doesn't want to be here to say "I heard of them first?"
What is on your summer music festival bucket list? Please let me know in the comments below.

*This is a sponsored post. For more information on Eventbrite Events, please click here.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Looking to the Future

Today's the fourth blogiversary of my blog. I started this blog as a senior in high school, someone who just wanted a place to write their thoughts and share them on the Internet. Four years later, I still post onto this blog, although some of the posts have changed. I write book reviews, connect with other bloggers and use it as a way to just tell you all my feelings about the world.
As I head into my fourth year of blogging, I am looking to make this blog go back to its' roots of writing funny essays about, well whatever I'm thinking about. I want to write about issues, as well as writing about what book I've been reading and how I've been spending my weekend. I want to write funny op-eds where I just talk about what matters. I don't know where this will lead to. I also don't know what my posting schedule will be, as I've proven that sometimes I just can't stick to a posting schedule.
At the end of the day, I just want to write a blog with subjects that I'm passionate about. Blogging should reflect the blogger, not how many viewers the blog generates.
So, happy birthday to my little place on the internet. Here's to many more years of blogging and posting. And here's to the future, as I reinvent this blog to being about me, my thoughts and my opinions of the world around me.
Cheers to four years. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Private Life

Whenever I post things on Facebook, it's usually the following: a post of what I ate for dinner, something about my accomplishments as a journalist or student or something about my dog. Yes, I'm lame, but I think things that are personal--family, relationships, new cars--all should remain offline, in my opinion. I've probably written about this subject so many times before, however, my opinion remains more and more the same.
Sometimes, I go on Facebook and wonder what people are thinking when they click "post." Sure, it's cool to let your friends know what's going on in your life. I have a lot of my friends who I lost touch with on my Facebook that like my things regularly. However, I don't believe it's the Internet's business that I'm currently going through a mental illness (severe anxiety), nor is it the Internet's business that I'm not in a serious relationship. It shouldn't also be the Internet's business when I am in a relationship, because I believe those are private. (Other than the change of relationship status and occasional photo.) 
My qualm is that the Internet has taken over our lives, and is a permanent stake in our millennial world. Shouldn't we set the boundaries by dictating what it should or shouldn't know about us?

Monday, April 11, 2016

Music Monday: What I've Been Listening Too As Of Late..

It seems lately I've been interested in a lot of different types of music! I've been listening to Deep Purple, only moments later to blast the new Tegan and Sara songs that came out on Friday. (It's amazing, I highly recommend listening to them)
As we approach yet another Monday, here's a playlist to cure you of any Monday blues you may have. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Society and the Single Girl: Is Tinder The Only Way?

Recently, I was complaining to Gabu about not being in a relationship. Gabu, who is in a committed relationship, said to get a Tinder because it was the best way to meet guys pretty much, get dates and therefore get into a relationship.
My question is, is it really the only way? Are the days of actually meeting someone in person now forever gone, replaced by an app that's on a smart phone? Yes, Tinder is great for meeting people, perhaps people that you probably otherwise would have never met. But, it's just showing me people, and adding some skepticism. After all, how do I know that they are an actual person, not a Catfish? Or, better yet, how do I know that they don't want to kill me?
Statistics show that people who met online have a better chance of making it. But, has this become the only way to meet people? I would like to think that's not the case, however, more and more people are meeting each other on Tinder. Look at Gabu and their partner. They met on Tinder, and are extremely committed.
I'd like to think this about Tinder. It's a good tool to have in your toolbox if you're seeking a partner, however, it shouldn't be the only one that you use. Tinder's great because it exposes you to a bunch of people who you probably wouldn't have met otherwise. But, we shouldn't be using it as our only avenue to date people. I think there's cute guys everywhere, and you never really know who you're going to end up with. You could meet someone on Tinder. You can meet someone who was in your class, and fell in love. You can also meet someone at work, someone at church, and in the strangest of places. Just because you're on Tinder doesn't mean that you're going to get dates. It just means you're taking the first step to meet new people. It shouldn't shut you off from meeting people offline, because there's so many people around you that could be perfect for you. You just have to really look and really be open to taking risks. (The same goes for Tinder, I suppose.)
So, Gabu, I'm going to have to say that Tinder isn't the only way to meet people. I guess we're going to have to agree to disagree. 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Cruel Reality of Working Multiple Jobs As A Full Time Student

Being a college student isn't all that easy, at least it isn't for me. I work three jobs, something that I mention quite often in my posts, especially as of late. Add in the responsibilities of being a full-time student, and you got a constant state of anxiety and depression, which is what I am living in. 
I can hear you saying 'why don't you cut something out?' Well, I need one job for the money, and the other two are journalism jobs that I have in my field, which is the much needed experience that every journalism person on the planet will tell you is necessary until they are blue in the face. And, of course, I need to go to school and do reasonably well, because without school or education, I wouldn't be able to get anywhere. 
With all this going on, I have no time for a social life, something that makes me sad. I rarely have time to meet with friends, to do things I enjoy and basically just to be a normal 21 year old. I'm not here to complain, but the reality just sucks. 
As the semester progresses, I have less than six weeks until I get through this tough semester. That thought gets me through, although it's not going to help me now. Going to a therapist helps me learn how to change my habits, to learn to be nice and less harsh on myself and to help me deal with the cruel realities of adulthood. In life, there's sometimes when you have to go through something hard to appreciate the fruits of hard work. 
At the end of the day, that's all I can hope for. 
Six weeks until I can leave behind town meetings, long days at school and trying to squeeze everything in less than a week's time. I know I can do it, but I know I need to add something else to the agendas as well. And that's taking care of Natalie, and just doing things that make me happy. Why? Because it's more important than any grade or salary that I would receive. That's what matters more than anything. 
So, readers, if you're in college and having a rough semester, know that you're not alone. Tell me about your own personal experiences in the comments below. I know we can get through this, together. Just remember your sanity is worth more than any ol' grade. It's even worth more than a million dollars. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Matters of Mindfulness: Why Is Self Care Considered Selfish?

As a person whose diagnosed with severe anxiety, one of the things that my therapist tells me to do is self-care, which is do something that makes you happy or take care of yourself. For me, this is reading, going for a run, getting a cup of Starbucks' lovely Tazo Iced Tea, eating a particularly good cupcake or just watching Netflix. (Basically, anything that isn't a responsibility or school assignment, which seems to have taken over my life as of late.)
However, to some, taking a few minutes to just relax and take care of yourself isn't essential. It's selfish. I don't know how, because it's important to take care of a mental illness just as you would take care of a physical one. It keeps you healthy, and it keeps you sane.
Let me ask you something. When you're sick, what are you told to do? Get some sleep, get some rest and take care of yourself. The same goes for mental illness. We need to get some rest, and take care of ourselves. It's kind of like being told to eat your fruits and veggies as a kid. Only, it's about preserving your mental health, not your physical one. Maybe the mental health aspect is even more important than the physical one. But, why is it considered to be selfish to take some time for yourself? That I still don't get.
Maybe it was because we are programmed to do things--whether it's work-related, doing something else that's productive or doing school work. By taking five minutes to just chill, we can do those things so much better than if we didn't take those crucial five minutes away from the world and our to-do list.
So, to answer the question I posed in the title, no self-care isn't selfish. It's essential, just as trying to cross something off of a 'to-do' list. In a world that's number and accomplishment based, we often forget that we're still people. We are people who have imperfections and require breaks. That's way more important than crossing things off of a 'to-do' list. And, that's something that we all, whether we are stressed out college students, going through a rough time in our lives or even those who aren't suffering from a mental illness need to remember.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Semester Reading List Update #2

Hey everyone! So, it's spring break, so that means it's time to check in on my reading list progress! I've managed, despite the challenges of a tough semester, to get a few more books read. Currently, this semester, I've read nine books thus far. That's definitely surpassing my goal to read ten this semester! Some of the books were on the list, while others were not.
While Spring Break continues, I hope to use the time to catch up on my reading! I'm currently reading "Wedding Night" by Sophie Kinsella. What have you been reading lately?

Not On List Reads:
Books Not On The List:
"It's Kind of a Funny Story" by Ned Vizzini
"Distance Between Us" by Kasie West
"Better Than Before" by Gretchen Rubin
"What I Thought Was True" by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Semester Reading List:
  1. The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West 
  2. Wicked by Gregory Maguire 
  3. The Choice by Nicholas Sparks 
  4. Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas
  5. Every Day by David Levithan
  6. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  7. Rocks by Joe Perry 
  8. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simison
  9. P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Why Journal?

Journaling has been one of my favorite things to do since I was a senior in high school and began jotting down things in a notebook. Fast forward to the end of my senior year in college where I have seven notebooks filled and am currently working on the eighth. However, many may wonder--"why should I journal?"(Yes, I probably read your mind, I'm just that good.)
But, there's something about filling a page with your thoughts. My therapist said one of the things to do when you're anxious is to journal. So many of my friends write in a journal, whether it's about what they did for the day or what they are currently feeling, including Gabu and their mom Kari.
The question is what do you say when you're writing? Well, anything really. The blank page can turn into a canvas of your emotion, the words painting a picture of you. For some, it's easy to get a journal, a pen and start scribbling. For others, it's not so easy, but have no fear. There are so many books out there to help you get started. However, it can be just as easy as just thinking about what you're feeling.
Unlike blogging, journaling can be private without the prying eyes of the Internet. You're writing just for you. I can not count how many times I've blogged about my love life, only to have the person I had a crush on click on it and figure out it was them. (Mad awkward, may I tell you.) That's why before I begin to write a certain kind of post, I ponder what the effects of that post would be. (It's sad, but there's certain things you just don't want people to read.) With journaling, you don't have to really worry about that, unless someone picks up your journal. Therefore, you can write about how hurt you're feeling about someone and not have them know.
I journal pretty much on and off, however, I fill a couple of them a year. There's nothing more satisfying then finishing one more journal and watching that pile get larger and larger. It's also a great feeling to just take some time and thumb through ones you wrote years ago, and remembering the day you sat down to write it. (I recently did that, and opened up my first journal. It was an interesting experience.)
Furthermore, with journaling there's no right or wrong way to do it. Just grab a pen,  a pad (They have some cute notebooks at TJ Maxx, that's where I get mine) and just write. It's that simple, folks.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

I'm Not Dead

In case you all haven't noticed, I've been absent from this parts of the internet. Between school, work (I work three jobs) and all of the other things going in my life, I haven't been able to do more than a few posts a week. If that.
Well, Internet, let me tell you this. I'm not dead. I'm just really busy.
While blogging isn't a responsibility, it's still something that I enjoy doing. And, as I head into the next half of the semester, I want to devote more time for the things I enjoy. Blogging is one of them. I want to have more "blog-worthy" adventures with friends and take more time to blog my thoughts. The semester can get really hectic, and I'm so done with not being able to do the things I love. It's just not fair to myself, let's be realistic. And, by avoiding doing things I love, I just get upset. That's not helpful.
During this week, I have so much going on in the attempt of lessening the work load for when school's back in session. I know in the end, it will help me be so much less stressed as the semester goes on. However, it still isn't enough motivation to get me through. So, I decided to add more fun things for me to do on the list. That way, it will balance out the whole stress thing, which leads to anxiety. And, I'm so done with that thing.
At the end of the day, the semester is what you make of it. Yes, I would love for it to be over. But, sadly, it's not yet. So, I'm going to try to make the most of it, and try to keep fun things on the schedule.
May 10, 2016 is less than 60 days away. (I have a countdown on my phone) And then, I'll be greeted with the sweet freedom of summer (jk, I'll still be working, but not having classes for a whole three months will be a luxury.) I just know by my hard work, I'll be rewarded in the end. Well, hopefully. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Book Review: "Better Than Before" by Gretchen Rubin

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin
There are so many self help books out there, it can make your head spin. All of have the same goal-to help you become happy and make your life a thousand times better. "Better Than Before" by Gretchen Rubin is no exception. 
This isn't Rubin's first exploration of the study of happiness/habits, as she's the author of "The Happiness Project" and the "Happiness Journal." "Better Than Before" is like her similar works, however, it goes into the study of habits. 
Rubin goes into the four tendencies-rebel, upholders, questioners and obligors. These "tendencies" were the motivation behind your habits. I am an upholder, which means I'm self-directed, have little trouble meeting deadlines and am reliable. 
This book gives you a lot to examine, about yourself and the habits that you have. Ever since I read this book, I've been more critical of my spending habits, and asking myself why I'm buying things. This is a thousand times better than me just buying them for the sake of "treating myself." (The book even had a whole chapter on that very subject)
 It made me reflect on what I can do/change in my life to make it better. For example, one thing that I changed was putting things, whether they were responsibilities or not, on my schedule and in my planner. That way, I knew to make time for them. 
This book was extremely insightful, and pretty fun to read. I've been struggling with maintaining my sanity while juggling school, three jobs and life in general. This book taught me the root of some of my habits, and shed some light on what I have to change. I highly recommend it, because Rubin brings an extreme amount of insight that I would have never gotten otherwise. Furthermore, if you're a college student whose struggling to create positive habits or just a person trying to get a few good habits under their belt, consider giving "Better Than Before" a read.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Take a Walk

If you follow me on Instagram, you've probably noticed that I've been embarking on quite a few walks last week at East Rock park, which is located in Hamden, Conn. East Rock is about ten minutes away from my house, and I love the view of a beautiful river.
Usually, I go to East Rock with a friend of mine to walk and take dope Instagram pictures. However, the warm weather prompted me to wander new places by myself. So, I got into Rosie and drove, armed with sunshine and classic rock. The first time, I went after wandering around a nearby bookstore, and I decided to go there on an impulse. The second time, I wandered there on purpose, with a cup of Panera lemonade.
During my second walk.
And, both times, I enjoyed myself.
Taking a walk just opened my mind. The fresh air seemed to clear my anxiety, and the stillness was a great pause away from the normal hustle and bustle of life. Everything lately for me seemed to be moving a 100 miles per hour. Here, however, things seemed to slow down. I could breathe. It was nice.
As the weather gets warmer, I plan to wander around to other local parks. Sure, they are great destinations to wander with a friend. However, there's something liberating about taking a walk by yourself. It allows you to think, without the commentaries of someone else. You can think about, well anything. And no one will judge you by stopping to take several Instagrams. (Well, the bystanders probably.)
By taking a walk, I got a well-deserved break from school and work. It was amazing because I could just relax. And when I returned back to my to-do list, I felt more energy to take the tasks and complete them better than I tried. Who knew a 20 minute walk could be the cure for stress and anxiety?
At the end of the day, walking may not be the solution to why you got into a fight with your significant other. Nor, will it make your to-do list shorter. However, it does accomplish one thing. It helps you take a step back and relax. It freezes the world, even for just one moment. And, in a world filled with obligation, responsibility and expectations it can help you stay sane. It's the perfect medicine for anxiety and stress, at least for me.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Book Review:Every Day by David Leviathan

This book is great with a latte.
One of the books on my semester reading list was "Every Day" by David Leviathan. I'm familiar with a few of Leviathan's books and have been impressed, as I've read "Boy Meets Boy" in the span of a weekend and enjoyed the collaboration he did with John Green on "Will Grayson/Will Grayson." Next up, was "Every Day," which is one of the best books I've ever read as of late.
The book is in the point of view of A, who wakes up each and every morning in a different body. The book starts out when A wakes up in Justin's body. Justin is a typical teenager, and A thinks it's a typical day. However, it's not typical when Rhiannon, who is Justin's girlfriend comes into the picture. A falls in love with her instantly and decides to break one of their rules--which is to get involved. When A wakes up in the body of Nathan, he decides to attend a party, just to see Rhiannon. This in turn results in A getting Nathan in trouble, resulting in a whole mess of problems.
In the mean time, A begins to reveal themselves to Rhiannon. Rhiannon, who was reluctant at first, soon realizes that she's in love with A too. The two begin to do whatever they can to see each other whenever they can.
It isn't before long when problems of the relationship arise. I won't spoil the ending, but I can tell you all this--it's enough to make you cry.
Overall, the book is amazing, and I highly recommend it. The writing is amazing and the story is beautiful. "Every Day" is also one of the most unique love stories that I've ever read, and also one of the most powerful, next to "The Notebook." The book, which was Leviathan definitely wrote an amazing story, and it's definitely worth the read. Sometimes, love stories can be a bit of telling the same thing over and over again. However, "Every Day" is a bit of fresh air. Therefore, it should be on everyone's reading list.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Dear Future Husband

Dear Mr. Whatever Your Last Name Is,
Hi, it's me your wife. We may have met already. Or maybe we have yet to meet. Whatever the case is, I can honestly say you're pretty awesome. After all, you have such great taste in women.
I hope that whoever you are, you're awesome. And most of all, you know me. You know that I hate the ordinary and strive to find the path that is less travelled. You know I'm sometimes as sweet as a cupcake (which by the way you know are my favorite desserts), and you know that sometimes I'm as sour as a lemon.
I hope that you know, that I'm dealing with a lot and that I'm doing the best I can to not only make the world a better place but to keep myself together. I also hope you know that sometimes, I can be impossible to deal with. And, I'm working on that. People can be impossible sometimes, but at the end of the day, it's about learning how to deal with things better. I'm always going to learn how to improve myself, and I'm always going to be changing. I hope that you can be there with me, and grow with me as I go.
I hope you know that I'm looking foreword to whatever life we have planned, and reading whatever story we have to tell. I look foreword to a life adventures, and a life of new things. I only hope that the life we plan will be an exciting one. I hope you know that whatever we do, I won't be the June Cleaver type of wife. I won't have your dinner hot and ready on the table by the time that you get home. Instead, I'll be doing all sorts of fun things, as a journalist, and as a person who hungers to get the most out of life. I will never do the traditional gender role as a wife. And that's okay.
At the end of the day, I look for you in the strangest of places, but I'm done looking. I only hope that you'll one day find me, and say "hey."
In the mean time, I'll explore the world. And myself.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

An Open Letter to my Readers

Dear Readers,
Let me say this first, this isn't goodbye. I'm not writing this because I'm quitting blogging nor am I writing this because I have the intentions of quitting this blog.
I'm writing this because I know lately I haven't been producing as much content as I haven't, and this is a pattern that I will likely continue for a while. My blog is my pride and joy, and I am so grateful that in the almost 800 posts I have on this blog, my readership never waned. Some of you are fellow bloggers who I met virtually, while others are friends of mine who I basically nagged to read this blog.
I don't think I'll ever stop writing blog entries. However, I've been so overwhelmed with everything, from the effects of anxiety, school, starting a new job and life to even think about posting. Therefore, I won't be sticking to a schedule of some sort, so I can allow myself the ability to post whenever I can, without sticking to a schedule of some sort. That way, I also won't be compromising the quality of this blog with the quantity of posts. It's important to me to be able to provide my readers with quality writing and insightful entries that truly get you thinking. Numbers are crucial in the blog world, but also the blogger should be too. Sometimes, we change our availability, and posting turns into a lesser priority.
So, I urge you all to stick around and still read my blog in the times I post. I'm aiming for at least two a week, however, I'm not going to feel guilty for not. Blogging is about life, and sometimes life goes into overdrive, causing you to not be able to write about it as much as you like. Stay tuned for more updates, and I hope you all stick with me as I reach my 4th blog anniversary.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Society and the Single Girl: Why I Now Understand Dear John Letters

I've dealt with so much rejection that I can probably write the book about "How Not to Deal With Rejection: A Memoir on Why I'm Going to Die in the Company of Cats." However, I never thought I would be the person that would be the one doing a rejection myself.
I met this guy in a class last semester, and I thought he wasn't that bad. He was kind of cute, and liked Star Wars. All pluses, so why not?
Therefore, I decided to get to know him by hanging out with him. It was then I learned that I probably shouldn't spend much time with him because we're totally different. Sure, I could be his friend, but I know that it's not going to span much further than that. And that's fine.
However, I think that he enjoyed spending time with me, much more than I could have ever imagined. So, now he hangs out with me whenever he sees me in the student center, and all I want is for him to go away. Yes, I know I sound like a bitch. Last week, I got a friend to pretend that she's in crisis mode. I don't think that I can use this excuse again, and I know he's interested in hanging out again.
While I don't want to be rude, I just don't want to spend more time with him. Honestly, I'm not good at being honest. (See what I did there) Instead, I dodge what I'm feeling as if it were a bullet, and hope it doesn't catch up with me. The thing about the truth is that sometimes it hurts, and I don't want to be the cause of someone else's hurt feelings.
I wish I can write a "Dear John" letter. That way, I can have the best of both worlds: being honest and not having to deal with the consequences of doing so. But how do you write a break up letter to someone you've only hung out with once?
You've got me.
If you have any advice for how to let someone down gently, please send it my way. 

Monday, February 29, 2016

Music Obsession Monday

Hey everyone. I've been listening to a lot of great music lately, so I've decided to share a playlist of music that I've had on repeat, which has a selection from Missy Elliot to Elton John. Hope you enjoy, and comment below with some of your own musical obsessions!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

I Will Find Anyway to Your Wild Heart

It's no secret that I've been single for a long time, and looking for someone to spend my life with. I've pretty much complained about being single for a while, and my relationship status has been a constantly been an inspiration for a blog post. Or several.
Lately, I've been thinking more and more about what I want in a relationship. I guess you can say I want a partner; someone who I can just be with. Maybe someone who I want to marry if the opportunity presents itself. However, my recent development in the whole relationship saga, is not only about what I want in a partner. It's about what I want in a relationship and what I want for myself.
I believe I'm like a bird, because I soar with my dreams. I want to be someone who does more than have children and be a wife. I want to write amazing things, meet musicians that I love and I want to travel. I want to do things not in the traditional sense, rather in the sense of doing things that are good for me. Call it marching to the beat of my own drum, if you will. I call it doing great things.
Every day, I am learning more and more about me. I'm the type of person who listens to Lil' Kim, Elton John and Ozzy, all in the same hour. I am the type of person who takes pictures for the perfect Instagram, and spend more money on my iTunes library than I do on food. To feel like a bad ass, I blast "Du Hast" while I'm driving.  I don't want to stay in the same place and I want to explore every path and try to find new ways to the same result. I have anxiety and I sometimes need moments to myself.  I am a wild heart, someone that sees whatever she wants in her hind sight and will do just about anything to get it.
I don't want the cliche thing. I want my own thing. I don't know what exactly it is that I'm looking for, but at the end of the day, I know I'll find it. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

This Is Me

I've gone through a lot of ups and downs in the past year. I worried about losing pretty much everything and then lost it. I'm dealing with anxiety and the effects of it on a daily basis. Can you say panic attack? Can you say having weekly sessions with a therapist? I'm a work in progress, but lately I've made some leaps despite the hurdles in the way. I've gotten out of a job that made me miserable. I'm trying to enhance a balance between the people that are making me anxious. I'm taking the damn wheel and it's pretty awesome.
I've entered a new phase in my life. I've entered a phase of my life where I want to hang out with people who make me happy 85 percent of the time, and don't talk about people as if they were on "Fashion Police." I'm over the constant stress of school, because I know everything will work out in the end. I'm taking time for self care, whether it's spending a night with a book and tea, or by treating myself to a damn cupcake.
In this phase of my life, I'm ready to be happy. I'm what Elton John sings about in one of my favorite songs ever, "Simple Life." I'm ready to sail away to innocence, to a world where I can write my own stories. Sure, I'm going to have my good friend anxiety following me around, but that's okay. I've learned how to make it go away or make it's blows less harsher.
And I won't break, I won't bend, but someday soon we'll sail away to innocence and the bitter end. Elton sings that, and that's my mantra I'm going to apply for when I'm stressed or sad or both. Because, it's not the end. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Society and the Single Girl: Why You Shouldn't Fall For The First Guy

With the hype of Valentine's Day far behind us, all singles can go back to browsing social media without the constant reminder that they are forever alone. However, there's something about the need of relationships, and the lack of one can send just about anyone to the unknown land of Tinder, where who knows what you'll encounter. When someone likes us, it's enough to make anyone happy and weak in the knees so that when they ask us on a date, we say yes. Why? Because, it's a date. Dates are crucial to have.
 However, there's something about the need to be in a relationship that we settle for one with the first person who comes along. We live in a society where you just need to have a partner, and when you don't have one it's like you are left out of this super-secret society. So when someone finally looks like they may have a chance at entering that ultra secret club, they are going to take it, right? When you've been single for so long, you're going to want to say yes to the first person that comes along for you.
But the first guy that you fall in love with or ask out may not be the guy for you. Sure, it's while it's good to go out on dates, you shouldn't do it just to have a date. Just like you shouldn't say yes to someone you maybe like or could like over time because they are the first guy to give you the time of day ever. Why? Because, you're selling yourself and that person short. You shouldn't date someone just for the bragging right. You should date someone for the fact that not a moment goes by when they don't cross your mind.
The label is nice, but it's just a label. It's important to look past the hype of getting a boyfriend, and focus on the person that you would want to share with. If you want go on the date to get the experience, but after that, evaluate your feelings. If you're not crazy in love, than maybe you shouldn't be dating that person.
Take home message here is that relationships are about feelings, not about labels. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Music Monday: Wonderful Crazy Night by Elton John

Elton John is one of my favorite artists, and his legacy is incredible. His career spans over four decades, and he's the man behind the piano for hit songs such as "Your Song," "Tiny Dancer" and "Candle in the Wind." On Feb. 5, 2016, Elton came out with his 32nd studio album, "Wonderful Crazy Night." And it was wonderful, but not so crazy.
The album reminded me of the similar tempo and mindset of his past releases--"Honky Chateu" and "Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player." When John went out to make this album, he wanted to make a happy album--with happy lyrics. The album's lead single, "Looking Up," mirrors that exact mentality. This is also the first album since 2006's "The Captain and the Kid" to feature the Elton John band. All songs on the album were written by Bernie Taupin and Elton John, the lyricial genius duo who composed "Candle In the Wind," and "Simple Life" just to name a few.
The album kicks off in the fast paced tempo of the title track, "Wonderful Crazy Night," which gets listeners up off of their feet. The album slows down for tracks like "Blue Wonderful" and "In The Name of You," however, the tempo speeds up again in songs like "Looking Up." The album definitely shows John's talent as well as Taupin's lyrical genius.
Overall, this album was a good listen. No, it's not going to be in the same league as classic Elton John albums, such as "The One," nor "Goodbye Yellowbrick Road," however, it still is a really good album. I recommend this album for two reasons. One it's Elton John, and pretty much everything he does is pretty good. Two it's just a really good album, and worth the listen.
Songs I liked: "Wonderful Crazy Night," "In The Name Of You," "Looking Up," "Claw Hammer" and "Guilty Pleasure" 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Semester Reading List Update #1

Already four weeks have gone by, and we're now finally in the middle of the semester. I'm hopeful more than anything that these next few months come by quick, and May 12, 2016 comes by quickly. With that being said, thanks to snowstorms and trying to relax more in the semester. Every morning, I make time for coffee and a book, and then finish every day with something to read. On average, I read about one book a week. Instead of writing reviews, I'm going to just update you all on what I've read and have yet to read. I recommend all of the books I've read, and am impressed with all of them. However, I especially recommend "The Rosie Project," "It's Kind of a Funny Story" and "All The Bright Places." Here's an update on my progress:

Books Not On The List:
"It's Kind of a Funny Story" by Ned Vizzini
"Distance Between Us" by Kasie West

Semester Reading List:
  1. The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West 
  2. Wicked by Gregory Maguire 
  3. The Choice by Nicholas Sparks 
  4. Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas
  5. Every Day by David Levithan
  6. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  7. Rocks by Joe Perry 
  8. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simison
  9. P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern
Looking foreword to my current read, "Crown of Midnight" and updating you more on my progress in the next month! What are you reading? Let me know in the comments below. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Ways To Be Your Own Valentine

Valentine's Day is fast approaching, and if you're a lot like me, then chances are you don't have a Valentine. Well, instead of moping around, here's a crazy thought. Why don't you be your own Valentine? After all, the best kind of love that one can have is the self-love. Here's some fun ways to be your own Valentine this Valentine's Day.
  1. Treat yourself. Whether it's getting yourself a new book to buying yourself a ring that you've been eyeing you deserve to treat yourself to something nice. After all, who needs to spend your entire paycheck on a boy who may or may not be there tomorrow, when you can buy yourself that ring on Etsy that you've been eyeing for months?
  2. Watch a movie. It's so cliche to be bitter and single about not having a significant other, that it's easy to just sit back and cry about what it's like to not have a significant other. However, I don't know about you all, but when was the last time you've just sat and watched a movie? Or, a TV show? Treat yourself to some Netflix, or some fun DVDs at the library. 
  3. Take a bath, or do something else just for relaxation. It's important to treat yourself to some R and R. Baths not only relax you but just make you feel refreshed and renewed. And, that's important, right?
  4. Eat a cupcake. Valentine's Day has the best desserts. So, eat a heart-shaped cookie or enjoy a cupcake sprinkled pink. Every now and then you just need to splurge. Just because a guy isn't buying you chocolate covered strawberries, doesn't mean that you can't buy them for yourself?
Overall, Valentine's Day is just another day of the week. Sure, it's hard to be single when there's thousands of statuses about how much someone loves their significant other, because it can seem like everyone is in a relationship. However, being single is okay too. Valentine's Day isn't for the couples in the world, and singles can celebrate it too.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

One Door Opens, One Door Closes

I guess you can say that this is going to be a period of transition for me. Many know that I'm unhappy with my life, and how things are going in it. This includes my situations with the combination of work and school, which lead to feelings of anxiety and depression. This went on for months and months.
One of the things that was causing me great anxiety was where I was working. It wasn't the job itself. I worked in the campus library, and the job consisted of shelf reading, putting books in order and ensuring that there was order in the library. When the library was dead, I would have the option of doing homework or getting some blog work done. However, I had a supervisor that wasn't the best to work for, to say the least. I'm not going to go into detail here, because I don't want to bash anyone, but she wasn't fair with hours and rules. Basically, the rules would apply to some and not to all. I would be getting the least glamorous hours, from working on Saturdays (which I didn't mind), and not getting enough hours to support myself.
While I took my job seriously, I was frustrated with how I was treated as I wasn't her favorites. I tried riding it out, and eventually consulting my head boss. Nothing changed. This went on for a year and a half, causing me anxiety about my job. Towards the end of my time there, I approached work with absolute dread. I hated my job. I needed to leave, because I couldn't let it control me.
About a week ago, I had gotten the position as a student worker at my campus accounts payable office. I would be doing simple secretarial tasks and sort out mail. I'm optimistic that this job seems like a better fit for me, and hopefully my new officemates and boss will treat me with fairness, something I crave more than anything. I'm extremely optimistic about this new opportunity, as it will hopefully alleviate my anxiety, and make things a million times more bearable for me. I don't disregard this opportunity as something that was a negative one, rather I look at it as something that taught me how to deal with mean people as they will always exist.
As I head into the next chapter in my life which include a new job, getting into the English Honors Society, I hopefully will leave my anxiety behind. I also will be leaving behind some toxic people, whether they may be that boss or friends that I should have cut off a long time ago. All of this in the intention of heading to a new direction in my life, one where I'm not weighed down by my anxiety, or toxic people. You only live once, so why should you live with things that make you either anxious or unhappy? Slowly but surely, I'm embracing these new opportunities, as I close one door and enter a new one. I'm unsure what exactly it's going to bring, however, I'm reading to unlock it with a shiny key to find out. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Music Monday: This Is Acting by Sia

Sia is without a doubt talented. Her vocals are strong, and she writes beautiful songs like 2014's "Chandelier," which is what originally drew me to her music. This past Friday, Sia released "This Is Acting," and I am blown away with its lyrical content as well as her vocals.
The album starts out with the song "Bird Set Free," a song that discusses singing for expression and not caring about the sound's quality. (Although I would like to argue that Sia definitely doesn't sing off key). This is often the theme of many songs on her album, from "Alive" to "Unstoppable," all of which are songs that talk about being strong and surviving hardship and struggle. However, the album is more than a dozen power anthems-songs such as "Cheap Thrills" and "Move Your Body" are songs that are upbeat and listeners can dance to. Other songs, such as "Space Between" and "Broken Glass" are stripped down and showcase her vocal ability.
Overall, I enjoyed the new album, and can't stop listening to "Bird Set Free" and "Alive" over and over again. Sia did more than just create a good pop album, she created a good album. Sia is one of the lesser known artists, however, she's extremely authentic, which shows in her albums. "This Is Acting" is definitely worth the listen, as many can use a power anthem to motivate them through mundane daily life and find inspiration in Sia's struggles to deal with their own. If you haven't listened to it yet, than I recommend you do so now. It's just that good.
Favorite Songs: "Bird Set Free," "Alive," "One Million Bullets," "Cheap Thrills," "Unstoppable," "Broken Glass," and "Reaper."

Friday, January 29, 2016

Why We All Need A Snow Day

This past weekend, New England has experienced it's first real snow day, a day where you are basically confined to your house because it's too dangerous to do any traveling. So, I had used the time to read "It's Kind of a Funny Story" by Ned Vizzini and get ahead of my articles and work. It was a relaxing weekend.
Through out my lifetime, I've experienced many different types of weather related days where you can't go anywhere or do anything for any length of time. Due to this, it gives you time to do your homework, get ahead or even time to do a hobby. Of course, Netflix is a must, giving you an opportunity to catch up on all of your favorite shows. This gives you a chance to just relax, as the world throws snow around like it's a real life snow globe. However, because you're confined to your house, you're able to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the real world.
While snow days are something that only happens in the winter and in certain areas of the world, I think that we should take a bit of that inclement weather mentality. Sure, snow is annoying, but it forces you to just take a break from everything. You can get ahead of your work, you can read a book that you've been wanting to read or even just breathe. Ahh, free time. It's so nice, but a fantasy due to the many things you need to get done in the week.
I think that we need to apply that mentality, maybe not a full day, but may be for an afternoon. Everyone needs a day to themselves, whether you're in college, or in the working world. The point is that the world needs a break, some time to just focus on you. In a world that demands a 100 percent of your attention 100 percent of the time, it's crucial that we focus on making time to do so. Even when there's no snow on the ground. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

An Open Letter To My Anxiety And Depression

Dear Anxiety and Depression,
            You have caused me to feel like I’m just a hopeless mess, someone who wasn’t good at anything or worth anything. If my ‘to-do’ list was haunting me, you were there to remind me that I wasn’t enough to do anything. You would eclipse me into a dark black hole, a reminder that I would never ever be rid of you, as my panic attacks came through like a thunder storm on a summer’s evening.
You’ve taken over my life. It was like one day I was fine, and the next I had to deal with a storm of emotions. And when the storm finally left, I was left to pick up the pieces all alone.
But, I’ve had enough of you. I’ve had enough of the tears, enough of the moments I can’t breath or think straight and enough of feeling like I couldn’t get up from this.
I’m coming to fight you. And I’m not going to stop until you’re dead on the floor gasping for air.  I’m going to learn how to beat the panic attacks, through therapy and through changing my behaviors and environments to create a better outcome. Sure, I can’t control everything. But, I can control you. And that I will. I’m done with feeling sad. I’m done feeling like my world is spiraling like a car losing control in a snowstorm. I’m taking the damn wheel, and I’m in control now. So, move over.
I may never fully beat you. Maybe, you’ll be that ghost in my closet that comes out on rainy days. I value myself, and my happiness more than the tears of loneness and the empty feeling in my chest when I’m all-alone. All of these things are thanks to you.
Thank you for coming into my life, for you caused me to become strong, to learn more about myself and to aspire to do what’s best for me. You may think I’m weak, but I’m strong.
            Basically, what I’m trying to say is you’re not going to be there forever, so I suggest you don’t get too comfortable.


Monday, January 25, 2016

Book Review: The Rosie Project

One week into the semester, and I already can say that I can cross one book off of my semester reading list. This book is called "The Rosie Project."
"The Rosie Project" is about Professor Don Tillman, a genetics professor who is smart intellectually, but not with personal relationships. Don is exact with everything, from how he spends his week to week schedule, to what he eats on a specific night. But, Don lacks a wife. So, enter the Wife Project, where he figures is the perfect solution for his predicament. That way, he can rule out the vegetarians, the smokers, and the people that just weird him out.
Enter Rosie.
Rosie is the exact opposite of what Don thinks he wants. However, she's on the search for not a mate, but for her father. Don is instantly drawn to her, and agrees to participate in her search to find her father.
Throughout the search for Rosie's biological father, Don begins to fall in love with Rosie. He abandons his routines, and at long last, finds his partner.
I enjoyed the book immensely. I had heard a number of good things about this book through co-workers and friends, and I am always on the lookout for a good chick-flick novel. This book definitely does the trick. I loved seeing Rosie and Don begin to fall in love with each other, and I especially loved how Don was willing to change his day to day life just to win the girl. Don reminded me a lot of Sheldon Cooper, with his routine, however, he just wants to fall in love.
If you're a fan of "Me Before You," or any other chick lit, you must read this book. However, this book is also a great read for anyone, as I recommend it for anyone whose out there looking for a great book. I definitely will want to read the second book, "The Rosie Effect," soon. But, before I do, I will be reading "It's Kind of A Funny Story" by Ned Vizzini. (It was not on the list, but I saw it at work, and wanted to read it.) 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Shows I Need to Watch On Netflix

It seems like lately I have been far behind on my TV shows for whatever reason. However, as I head back to school and the constant chaos it ensues, I know I'm going to be needing some down time. Therefore, I know that I'm finally going to cross these shows off of my list, and making sure I get the most of my money using the subscription service. Here's what I'm planning to watch (in no particular order):
  •  "New Girl," Season Four
New girl season 4 2

  • "Sherlock"

  • "Friends"

  • "Everybody Loves Raymond"

  • "That '70s Show"

What is on your 'to-watch' list?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Expectations, The Pressures, and The Roles

I hate the fact that there's a bunch of "shoulds" and expectations in life. I hate that you have to measure yourself in numbers, such as how much money you have, how many likes you have on your selfie and how high your GPA is to measure success. I hate that as a woman, I'm expected to fill the role as a homemaker and mother or fill the role as a bitchy boss with no in-between. I hate that if you don't have sex than you are considered to be a prude, but if you do than you're an automatic slut. I hate that boys will be boys when they do something stupid. 
There's so many expectations out there that it makes my head spin. As a woman, I'm expected to be a certain way. And, it's a lot of fucking pressure. I want to talk about the pressure of relationships, as it seems to be a prominent one. Some people expect you to wait until you have a ring and a cupcake looking dress to lose your v-card. But, what if I don't want to get married? What if I want to have a partner, someone who I live with but don't share a last name or a legal right to? Does that mean I should never, under conservative view points, never have sex? 
Society is changing, but still we romanticize relationships and weddings as being the ideal goal. We still view marriage as being an ideal goal, but we don't know what that little expensive rock entails other than forever love and happiness. We've grown to have expectations for what marriage is, what it means and what will happen when we are married. The same goes for a boyfriend. We expect to be happy, the label means that you're one of the cool kids. 
However, the unofficial relationships, the kids who are out there committed to each other but don't label it, are the ones are even better. They are the ones who are two people who think they are special, they love and care about each other, yet they don't say what the relationship is. In some ways, those are viewed as cheap relationships, because the couple is viewed as being screwed up because they couldn't commit and make the label work. But they are the ones who are making things work their own way. 
Success is also measured in numbers. How many likes did you get on the last selfie you posted? Did it make you sad that you didn't get as many as your friend? Or, what about your GPA. Did you make Dean's List? If you didn't, but still got a 3.0 GPA or higher, that means you've failed. And that's fucking stupid. 
I think relationships, numbers measuring your self worth and trying to live based on what other people want you to be is just dumb. In life, the only person you have to please is yourself. Not your mother, friend whose outspoken or your grandparents. People will have their own version of you, and therefore give you their opinion to do what they think makes you happy. However, you're the one who has to live with it, the one who has to look in the mirror in the morning and like what you see. So fuck them all, listen to your heart and remember that sometimes the only voice that matters is the one you have internally. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

2016 Semester Goals

The new semester is fast approaching, and it's hard to believe that it's my second to last semester as an undergraduate student. Currently, I'm still debating about whether or not grad school is a good fit for me, so this might be my last year as a student. However, as this semester approaches and I have to learn how to balance several roles, I aim to make this semester the best one I can make it. Here's some goals that I've set for myself to accomplish through out the semester.
  1. Make positive friends, and actually hang out with them. After all, you are who you surround yourself with.
  2. Spend some time taking care of myself: getting nails done, etc. 
  3. Spending some time at night writing in a journal and reading a book for pleasure. 
  4. Know when you need to take a break. 
  5. Try to go to campus events with people. 
  6. Try to get anxiety under control. 
What are your goals for the semester? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, January 15, 2016

New Haven Adventure

Gabu and I
Last Friday, Gabu and I kicked off the weekend by going to have an adventure in New Haven. We needed to go to the Book Trader Cafe so Gabu can sell some books to make some extra cash. We deiced to make a day of it, and also get Starbucks in the process.
Tree, a picture taken while walking by. 
When we arrived to New Haven, the first thing we did was park. Parking in New Haven can be tricky, however, we were lucky to snag a decent spot. Once we parked and gathered our books, we dropped the books off. On our way there, we spotted the Tree in the New Haven Green. I told Gabu we simply had to take a selfie in front of it. Since we weren't sure of how long we would be, we decided to hold any selfie taking until we actually had time.
I love this picture of us and our tea!
Once we traded the books in, we headed to Starbucks. Gabu got a chai something, and I got Passion Iced Tea Lemonade. I also got a cake pop, as I am so obsessed with Starbucks' new cookie dough cake pop. It's one of my favorite things to get there.
Got my tree selfie! 
Then we headed back to the car, and realized we had more time on the meter. So, it was selfie time! After we took several selfies and pictures of the tree, we headed to the car, and headed home. Overall, it was amazing way to spend a Friday night, and it's always fun to have an adventure with your best friend!