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Forever Battling the Cost of Living

I am going to start off by stating an unpopular opinion: raising the minimum wage will only raise the cost of living. In Washington state, the current minimum wage is $11.50. While people on the lower end of the pay scale may be ecstatic by a larger paycheck, the world around them will continue to raise their prices to match, if not supersede, the minimum wage hike. Everything will balance in the economic world, and society will cycle back to fighting for a higher minimum wage. I am here to tell you that this is a dream that will stay just that; a dream.

The millennial generation is continuously being scrutinized for complaining about cost of living. People have actually told me that it is either because we as a generation are lazy, or we as a generation lack the proper skills to obtain a higher job. Here is a secret: one of these statements is technically correct. While we a whole are far from lazy, the cost of living has risen to the point that large amount of jobs available for people in their twenties cannot sustain a comfortable life. When I say comfortable, I mean a reasonably priced one-bedroom apartment, a reliable, used car, enough furniture to set us apart from the homeless, and a fridge full of healthy, essential foods. Apparently, this is a lot to ask for.

I am fortunate enough to have a job that pays above minimum wage; however, it is still not enough to live a comfortable life in the ever-growing Clark County. This generation is continuously working to obtain a job that makes enough to not live at their parents, but those jobs typically require an advanced degree with X amount of years of experience. Even when employers say that experience is preferred, but not required, they will still lean towards the person who has the experience. Jobs are not giving people in their twenties the chance to gain experience, or at least the experience that doesn’t require folding clothes or working a drive-thru. How can people in their twenties gain necessary experience when employers won’t give them the chance to do so?

My hope our society is that someone will have the courage to speak up again this counter-productive process and demand necessary job experience to obtain a decent job with a decent wage. If I could see this within my lifetime, that’d be cool too.

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Successful Does Not Equal Burnt Out

I work between 30-32 hours per week at a middle school, and am currently enrolled in nine credits at the local community college. As you could imagine, I live in a constant state of exhaustion. One might even say I am familiar with the feeling of “burnt out”.

Some people believe that, in order to be successful, one must be sacrificing sleep to accomplish everything that needs to be done. What those same people forget is that there are many kinds of success. Let’s take a look at a few that truly matter.

Success in mental health is a top priority for me, as I hope it is for many others. This is why I cringe when people tell me they sacrifice sleep to do all of the things that they do. With minimal sleep, there is a lack of energy. With a lack of energy, there is a lack of motivation. With a lack of motivation, there is a lack of confidence. With a lack of confidence, there is a whole list of problems. Do you see the snowball effect? Success in mental health is followed by success in many areas of life. A person can accomplish so many things and still get a full eight hours of sleep.

Success in personal relationships is also high on my priority list. One relationship I truly treasure is the one I have with my boyfriend. For almost five years, we have worked hard on building a relationship based on trust, communication, empathy, and flexibility. He understands that, though I put our relationship high on my list, I also have to work hard at my job and at school. Not only does he understand me, he supports me. When you have at least one successful relationship in your life, the pride you hold carries out to other aspects. There is a feeling of accomplishment and self worth; something everyone should feel.

Success in personal growth is yet another area that is high on my priority list. In a couple of my previous posts, I briefly talked about my journey from dropping out of college, to going back and succeeding more than ever. This stems from success in my mental health, as well as success in my personal relationships. Those other areas of success have given me the confidence and drive to grow as a person in every way possible. I feel as though what I am doing with my life as meaning and purpose, which is all anyone wants to feel.

In your twenties, it is easy to feel like you have to do so much in order to be considered successful; however, succeeding in these three areas alone can drive a person to their greater success without them realizing it. You don’t have to juggle a million things at once just to prove your worth. Most people cannot even fully succeed in the three areas above. Just know that, even though you may not be where you want to be now, even if you are succeeding in these three areas, you are successful. Keep going.

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What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

I used to envy people who knew with confidence what they wanted to be when they grew up. In high school, the only thing that was on their mind was working towards their goal of becoming a doctor, lawyer, professional athlete, and so on. I could never decide what I would wear that day, let alone stick to a career idea. By the time my senior year hit, I was dead set on becoming an Elementary music teacher. When I started college, everything changed.

After dropping out of college, I lost a lot of my confidence. I had no idea who I was as an individual. I had no idea what kind of role I wanted to play as a young adult in society. There were only two things I was sure of: my relationship, and that my job in retail sucked. From what I could follow on Facebook and Instagram, a large amount of people I graduated with were thriving in college and still working towards that career idea they had in high school. Of course, that shattered the very little confidence I still had.

About one year after dropping out of college, I decided to make a job change and try something new. I left retail to go manage a gym. Though the change of pace was refreshing, I soon figured out that the job itself was not for me. As a boss who was not even old enough to (legally) drink, I had to deal with people who were upset about the contracts they chose not to read, money they never had that did not go through, and drug addicts who thought it would be a good idea to shoot up in the locker rooms. The tipping point, surprisingly, was having a boss who never appreciated the extra mile taken to ensure success in the gyms. When I mean extra mile, I mean driving between SE Portland and Vancouver to make sure the gyms were running smoothly. I soon realized that managing a gym was clearly not the career I wanted, so I decided to go back to retail until I figured out what would be the right choice for me.

Upon my return to retail, I also signed up to be a Classified Substitute teacher in the Evergreen School District. Becoming a teacher was always on the back of my mind, especially at the Elementary level, but I was never sure if I had what it took. My confidence was still low. I began subbing in positions such as staff assistant and playground monitor, and I was surprised on what I could accomplish. I connected well with the kids, could adapt to different situations, and came up with my own methods of dealing with certain situations. After doing this for near one year, along with retail, I decided that this is where I needed to be. So, I quit my job in retail, enrolled in the local community college, and began my journey towards becoming a teacher.

I began working at a local middle school as a staff assistant in the Special Education department. Once again, I was surprised on what I could accomplish. I found myself working more effectively with middle school kids, and I saw that they were responding to me in a mostly positive way. I realized that, if I could be this successful as a staff assistant in a middle school, I could be this successful as a teacher in a middle school. My mindset changed, and I narrowed my goal to becoming a middle school ELA teacher.

If you take anything away from this story of my journey, know that it is okay to not know what you want to be when you grow up. Sometimes, gaining more world experience and societal exposure is the exact motivation and inspiration a person needs to guide their future. Even after obtaining some sort of education and entering a career, for many people, they do not make it a full 20 years before deciding they want to do something else. In a sense, they are still “growing up”. Those people are learning what makes them happy, and what makes them work for the weekend. If you find yourself feeling stressed about choosing how you want to make a living, my advice to you is do not stress. I know that this is easier said than done, but do not be afraid to explore your options and figure out what is best for you. As you saw, I went from one end of the spectrum to the complete opposite. I was exploring what made me happy, and was fortunate enough to stumble upon it. It is possible for everyone.

In June, I will have obtained my Associate’s degree from Clark College, and am transferring to Washington State University in August to continue on with my Bachelor’s. I feel as though I know what I want to be, but we will see once I get my first set of students. Who knows? I may decide gym management is right for me after all.

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Never Stop Learning

My dad has always said, “The second you stop learning is the second you stop growing, and that is when you truly hit rock bottom”.

From learning a language to simply reading a book, learning is the single most important thing a person can do to enhance their life. Your twenties are a pivotal time for gaining as much knowledge as possible. I, for one, am glad I continued learning, and growing in my knowledge of American Sign Language.

Let me tell you a story of why continuous learning is beneficial.

Two days ago, as I was chatting with my former American Sign Language professor, a girl came up to me and asked if I was learning sign language. I told her I had known it for years. She made the comment that she is Hard-of-Hearing and has known sign language since she was a baby. Her dad is almost profoundly Deaf and made sure her and her brother started learning sign language as early as possible. We ended up having a completely silent conversation that, from the look of her, lit up her day.

Imagine that. Just by knowing a second language, I was able to make someone’s day a little better.

Too often, I find that people give up on learning new things because they are “set in their ways”. To me, that is a big ol’ excuse and is translated as “I’m too scared to try something different”. I get it, new things can be scary; however, especially in your twenties, trying new things can open up more doors than ever. Reading a book about health and wellness can encourage someone to start a healthier lifestyle. Watching someone quit a job they hate to pursue something they love can push a person to find true happiness. Whatever it may be, learning something new can enhance your every being.

If you take away one thing from this post, make it this: try one thing that scares you, one thing that confuses you, one thing that excites you, and one thing that ignites you. You never know what it might lead to.

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Expectation vs. Reality

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I remember being a senior in high school and thinking to myself, “I cannot wait to move out, go to college, and be an independent adult”. Little did I realize that this was not what the universe (or God or fate or whatever you want to believe in) had in store for me.

At a young age, children are taught to plan for college right after high school. Up until my last couple years in high school, I never knew that there were other options post-graduation besides enlisting in the military. We as young adults see these socially acceptable standards that show us how to become a successful, usually middle class member of society; however, what we don’t tend to see is the process in which to successfully meet these standards.

Let me start off by telling you a short story. It came to my attention my senior year that attending a four-year university was not in my realm of capable possibilities, so I had to adjust to the fact that I would be attending a community college after high school. Upon my first day, I remember telling myself that I could not wait to begin pursuing my early childhood education and be first chair in the concert band once again. Why did I choose this career path? To be honest, I’m not sure. One societal standard that I continue to fight is that, come high school graduation, those eighteen year olds who probably don’t know how to do their own taxes or know the difference between a net and gross amount are expected to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives, or at least for the next twenty years. I am here to tell you that this not possible for a large portion of high school graduates.

Once my first day of community college arrived, I was both excited and nervous. My first class of the day was Math 122, and about an hour into it I was already having a slight panic attack. After that class, I went to English 101, and the same thing happened there. I attended my band and music theory classes, and surprisingly enough the same thing happened too. I noticed a common theme; the theme of unpreparedness. In high school, I was always nagged by my teachers to do my homework and participate. I barely graduated. I was not aware that college professors could care less if you turn in your homework or not. You paid for the class, their salary is paid either way. I fell behind in my classes, I became more and more silent, and after four weeks I stopped showing up. I dropped out of college.

Looking back, I feel as though my anxiety throughout that whole month was due to the fact that I was unprepared for how to do, well, almost anything post-graduation. I felt like such a failure because I had friends who were off at four-year universities or had just moved out, and then there was me; living at home and working a part time retail job.

Societal expectations on young adults do not account for the fact that many young adults do not have the capacity to think in a mature adult manor. The reality of the fact is high school graduates need time to adjust to adulthood and to grasp who they are outside of a classroom setting. Dropping out of college was the best thing I could have done for myself. I worked full time, ran my own gym, and now I am back, four years later, with a better idea of who I am and who I want to be. To those of you who read this and have been through something similar, I am here to tell you that you did or are doing what is truly best for you and I am beyond happy for you. Do not let anyone tell you how to proceed with your life because the only person who knows what is best for you is you. The difference between societal expectations vs reality is that no two people take the same path. The sooner we come to realize this fact, the sooner these high school students will enter the real world with confidence of success rather than worry of failure.

 

Anxiety Has People Convinced Everyone Hates Them

Stress, anxiety, and depression walk hand-in-hand…in-hand. The more than mental is put under a microscope, the more I am realizing that many people are blind to this deteriorating epidemic. More and more, people are speaking out about their struggle with mental health, temporarily or chronically. Even I have come to realize that anxiety has taken over parts of my life.

To put more of a positive spin on this post, I will say that I do not experience anxiety in my current job. For once, the respect and support I receive makes me feel confident and competent enough to exceed expectations. The environment reassures me that we are a team, and as a team, we work to support each other in every aspect. I always find positive moments that outweigh the negative ones.

Like every college student ever, I do experience a great deal of stress and anxiety when it comes to school. My personal reason is that I don’t want to make the same mistake three times. Twice was bad enough. When piling on a mentally draining full-time job, I live in a constant state or worry and exhaustion. I have missed out on family events, cancelled date nights, and secluded myself from society, all because of my damn school work. I have been worried that people think less of me because I have been missing some moments. I don’t mean to, but my priorities have to shift.

I have no idea why I worry so much in my relationship. When I start acting like a brat (yes, I do recognize it), I worry that he will change his mind about me and start to disconnect. Apparently, the almost-five years that we have been together doesn’t indicate his dedication towards us. I don’t know why, but I am afraid to tell him why I worry for the fear of being judge by my irrational thoughts. What’s worse is that I know they are irrational.

Why does anxiety make you believe people hate you?

It could be the fact that anxiety is blinding. Anxiety is not the real you. It is this creature that takes over your sense of self. Those who love you, despite of this creature, will know that the feeling passes from time to time. They know that anxiety doesn’t define you. When, not if, you are lucky enough to find those people who accept you, never let them go, and as much as you may think, not even anxiety can push them away.

Rid the Negativity

Lately, it seems as I have been drowning in negativity. I have been allowing outside stimuli to attack my sense of self, and have since been losing almost every battle I face. Has anyone ever felt like this?

Let’s start with where I work. I am a Learning Support Staff Assistant at a local middle school. As one could imagine, it takes a lot of patience just to be in a room with 28 other middle school kids. Due to it being the end of the year, kids start to lose their common sense, stop caring, and reap havoc on any environment they are in. This has been making my job so much harder. People always tell me to not take this so personally where I work because “kids will be kids”. With all due respect, when a kid is cussing you out and showing blatant disrespect, it is hard not to feel like the victim.

Now let’s move on to college, As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I go to college at night. In June, I will have my Associate’s in Arts degree, and will be transferring to Washington State University to pursue a Bachelor’s of Arts in Social Sciences. I couldn’t be more proud of myself. It is, however, a struggle to balance this while working full time in a place that is mentally draining. I try to achieve the best grades that I can, but towards the end of the term, I tend to stop caring. Whether it be I’m mentally tired, or not prepared, my progress tends to take a nose dive. I always end with B’s and C’s, but I know I can do better. Anxiety and exhaustion try to fight me, and most of the time, they win.

My relationship. I am in a happy, strong relationship with my high school sweetheart. We have been together for almost five years, and I cannot wait until I can finally call him my husband, and change my last name. Though we are happy and strong, like every relationship, we have our struggles. Sometimes, he can’t distinguish when to be serious and when to be funny. This can lead to arguments that can easily be avoided, and can lead to one or both parties overreacting (usually me). I can usually handle this and can diffuse the situation; however, when you pile on work and school, this can lead to something that can, once again, easily be avoided. Sometimes, I wonder if he will ever realize that this is not a funny game that he plays.

With a sincere heart, I am reaching out to you readers. How do I turn this negativity into a positive mindset? How do I become myself again?

Education, Technology, and the Gap Between Common Sense and Entitlement

People in their twenties remember a simpler time in education. MySpace was the craze, the ELMO was the coolest piece of technology in the classroom, and you were considered the coolest person ever if you had a Motorola Razor or a phone that could act as an iPod. You only had an iPhone if your family was extremely wealthy, and computers were blocks that used a dial-up modem. Does this bring back some sense of nostalgia?

As you can see, technology was simple. Today’s kids in schools have phones as early as seven years old, and iPads as young as nine. Chromebooks have recently been introduced in some school districts for the sole purpose of switching to a virtual education. The question is this: are we advancing in education, or are we adding more distractions that prevent education?

I work at a middle school that was the “test school” for introducing personal chromebooks to each student. Initially, the intent was to break the education barrier between student and parent and create a more interactive environment. What actually happened? Middle school kids became more focused on Google Hangouts, Fun Unblocked Games, and what Youtube videos they could or could not watch; therefore, education was the last thing on their minds. Standing in front of the classroom to run a lesson became mentally draining, assignments that were presented on paper became less appealing.

Why wouldn’t they become enticed by this personalized technology? Middle school kids are not mature enough to handle this sort of responsibility. The basic skill of learning self control when it comes to multiple stimulus has not been fully presented. Whether it be a home situation contributing to the problem, or schools not fully communicating what it means to have this sort of responsibility, kids are not prepared to handle personalized technology. Don’t even get me started on what I saw three of my boys on in class last week.

Education is moving towards modern technology, and we need to begin teaching this new generation that having this sort of technology is a privilege, not a right. It is just as easy to present these digital lessons on a piece of paper. The more we push technology without proper education on how to use it, the more we are setting these kids up for failure, and that is a generation I do not want participating in our society.

Happy Me-Day, not V-Day

Do you remember making Valentine’s day boxes in grade school? Heart pounding and thoughts racing as you give your crush that one special High School Musical card, while not giving any fucks as the person you despise gets the plain Hannah Montana card. Only your besties received special candy attached. Do you ever wish Valentine’s day could be like this again? I surely don’t.

When thinking back, it was truly a tough decision figuring out which classmate received what card. Even at eight years old, a child had to decide which person was going to get more attention on this “special” day. To me, the time it took for planning could have been spent doing something better, like watching Boy Meets World or checking out MySpace.

When comparing that time spent to today’s planning, I don’t see much of a different. One person is spending an obscene amount of time and money to meet the Hallmark expectation. The other person is getting all dolled up and putting on some, quite frankly, uncomfortable lingerie under a dress that shows off too much chest and booty. In my opinion, that is not what National Love Day is all about. This sounds more like National Sex Day.

I encourage you all to look at February 14th in a different light this year. Instead of making it V-Day, make it a Me-Day. Learn to love yourself and treat yourself to a nice day. I, too, will be doing the same.

Too often, many people become sucked into their daily routine that they forget about their personal health and well-being. In my earlier post “Your Mental Health and You”, I discussed the importance of inner peace. Take February 14th as an opportunity for some self-love. Take yourself out to a nice dinner. Buy yourself some flowers (or better yet, Ben & Jerry’s Brownie Batter Core ice cream). Indulge in your favorite RomCom. At the end of the night, put on something that makes you feel sexy and make yourself feel alive.

The best part about all of this? You don’t have to be single to enjoy Me-Day!

The point I am trying to convey is that society puts too much of an emphasis on the “perfect” Valentine’s day. Why not put this sort of pressure and stress towards the one thing you should love most in the world? You!

After all, a little self-love never hurt anyone.

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Motivation: The Lost Basic Human Need

7In Lifespan Psychology, one term that is briefly discussed during the early adulthood phase is the “social clock”. Through all cultures, it is a timeline that pinpoints when each major life event should occur.

For example: In the Philippines, Muslim boys typically marry at 15 and Muslim girls typically marry at puberty. On the contrary, in the United States, it is expected that both women and men marry between their middle to late 20s.

For some, the social clock is just a socially constructed concept that is designed for order. For others, it is a series of goals that people strive to accomplish. So, how do those people achieve those goals?

Motivation. I truly believe that it is a lost basic human need. If there is nothing to strive for and nothing to keep us moving, then what is the point of even trying?

Motivation is different for everyone. I am personally motivated by my past experience. In other words, I know what my life could be like and I strive to make my future the exact opposite.

When I was a GM of Planet Fitness, I was working well above 80 hours per week, learning how to be a manager on my own, while firing people faster than I was hiring people. I was missing out on family functions because employees would flake on me, and I wasn’t being paid nearly as much as I should have. I had dropped out of college the year before, and knew that if I kept up what I was doing, this was going to be my dim future.

Shortly after my realization, I quit my job and enrolled in school again. I knew that, if I didn’t go back to school soon, I was less likely to go in the future and Planet Fitness would have the best of me (not that it didn’t already).

I look at people from my past who have carried into the present, and am in awe of the amount of motivation they carry. I have one friend who is working two very demanding jobs while going to school. I know a couple of teacher friends who are working on their Master’s online while enduring the stress that already comes with teaching middle school kids. To me, that is a true definition of motivation.

One wish I have for the future of society is to not replace motivation with the notion of gaining success because a person has a “right” to it. The popular term for that would be entitlement. The moment society as a whole accepts entitlement, the moment we crumble under what once was motivation and start to wither away into nothing.

 

Holiday Adulting

The first white Christmas that I remember in the Pacific Northwest was in 2007. I had just opened up what turned out to be my first cell phone, tried to old back my tears of excitement, and then looked out to see heavy snowflakes hitting the trampoline. This is the sort of joy I strive for every holiday season.

As children, a majority of us would have said that Christmas is our favorite holiday because of the presents and the food. To some degree, this sort of logic and reasoning does not go away; after all, who doesn’t love a new package while you’re eating a sausage and drinking hard cider? However, I have come to realize that many adults are not to fond of, maybe even dread the holiday season. Why? This time of year can bring a sense of financial stress, as well as emotional turmoil. Tis the season, right?

These sorts of emotions are, unfortunately, common and valid; however, they also consume the true meaning of this time of year.

Lets focus on financial stress for a second. Speaking as someone who works and goes to school full-time, I completely understand financial stress. It can be tough to keep everything afloat while spending, what we believe, is a reasonable amount of money on the people we love and adore. Here’s a secret: spending $200 on one person you admire is not necessary. Spending $50 on one person you admire is not necessary. Yes, it can show that person you care, but so does the gift of presence. The gift of time. The gift of attention and admiration. Remember the reason that these people are in your life to begin with. They love you, they cherish you, and they admire who you are. Gifts don’t change their perspective of who you are as a person. The greatest gift you can give the people you love is the gift of you.

Emotional turmoil. This can range from anxieties about family gatherings to negative nostalgic memories bubbling back to the surface. Once again, this is unfortunately a common and valid response to the holiday season. The holiday season has a stigma of family gatherings and parties, and for some, family time is not on the top of the priority list, for whatever reason. I encourage those who feel like this to remember one thing: just because you share some DNA, it does not constitute you as family. To me, the word family means love, support, and happiness. This can be brought on by a biological family, but it can also be brought upon closest friends. Parties and gatherings with your closest friends can bring upon the same feeling of love and affection. In some form, that need is met.

If you are the type of person who experiences these feelings during this type of year, I just want you to know that you are not a Grinch for feeling this way. Your feelings are valid and heard. You are valued, loved, and adored. Even in this dark time, there are people around you who love you for who you are and would rather see you smile than anything else. You have support and encouragement. Most importantly, you are not, nor will you ever be alone.

Personally, I love this time of year. I love it partially for the winter wardrobe, but I love it more for the comradery and relationships it sparks. Every year on Christmas eve, my nana and papa come over for snacks and conversation. We all sit around the Christmas tree, open gifts, and enjoy each others time. This doesn’t seem like much, but to me, it’s everything.