Progression

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

― Martin Luther King Jr.

As a country, on this day, 
we must remember the steps
that have been taken in order
for us to move forward.
No matter how we get there,
we can't move back into the past,
we can't let harmful rhetoric
divide us even more.
They want us to focus
on our differences to the point
where our similiarities don't matter.
What we can bond over
will be the foundation we need
to progress into the future
instead of sinking back
into the past.
Let the markers in time,
fictional entertainment from decades ago,
mirrors in thoughts that predicted
where we are now
be the motivation to continue
working towards a hopeful future.

Fighting the Urge of Phone Addiction

Awareness of a technology addiction is one thing. Trying to change habits that are so ingrained in your psyche is a whole other beast. I’ve known for years now how dependent I am on technology. I’ve joked about it with family and friends. Joking about it makes it not real. Joking about it makes it a silly habit.

It wasn’t until Apple had a software update called screentime that shows how much time you spend on your phone that I was faced with the reality of what my casual phone habit had become. Once I could see the hours I raked up by numbers and data instead of estimates in my head, things didn’t change, at least not right away. I’d continue my old habits despite the evidence I spend too much had looming in my head several times. A few times, I even took off screentime so I didn’t have to know how many hours I was spending on my phone.

These last few months have been difficult and I found myself slipping into the habit of checking my phone at least every few minutes, if not every thirty seconds. I knew I had a lot going on so I thought it was okay to be distracted. That’s how I’ve always coped with unexpected shifts and major changes in my life. It comes as natural to me as breathing.

It’s not until I have distracted myself long enough that I can begin to really process and accept what is happening that I become aware of how much of a time suck a small screen can be. The worst part is being aware of a bad habit and trying to control it instead of allowing it to control me. It’s a battle within myself, my conscious mind trying to step into my subconscious. It takes time and hard work to change bad habits. Trial and error without judgment or criticism of myself are hard. Elimination of it all together only lasts for so long. Blocking of apps cost money. Setting controls and time constraints don’t work when I know the password.

Finally, I had enough of this and I asked my mom put in a passcode into my phone so I wasn’t able to extend past the limits I had set for myself. From 10 pm to 9 am, a lot of the apps on my phone are blocked off. This allows me to begin and end my day by doing other things or using my phone in a more productive way. For apps I use the most (i.e. Instagram), I have a two hour limit within that eleven-hour time span to be on it and when time’s up, I no longer have access to it unless I ask my mom to put in the code, which is surprisingly rare.

Now, a lot of you might be reading this and think, “two hours is a long time to be on an app.” I know it is. I could be doing more productive things with my time. However, I used to spend so much more time on that app, the number is too high for me to want to share it. Two hours is a reasonable and big drop from how much time I was spending on it before. It forces me to balance things in a way I wasn’t able to before. With only having a limited amount of time on an app, I have to prioritize my time if I want to check it throughout the day. Because once time’s up, I have to wait until tomorrow to check it again.

It’s been a real learning lesson for me. It’s better than eliminating it altogether and I’ve had to hold myself accountable for this habit I had unknowingly created. Obviously, I’m not the only one who has a social media/phone habit. Apple wouldn’t have created this screentime feature if only a few people had a problem. There wouldn’t be apps like Forest that forces you to step away from your phone any time from 10 minutes to two hours in exchange to build a tree and create a forest to have you focus and be present in your life. In the Apple app store, it’s said that over 2 million people in 126 countries have used this app in order to control their screentime.

The urge to always be on my phone is real. It’s both comforting and terrifying to know that I’m not the only one who spends too much time on my phone. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to spend less time on social media. I’m trying to break bad habits and find balance in my life. After months and years of struggling with my social media activity, I’m beginning to find balance and change how I use social media.

We’re living in a time where social media and the news cycle is both addictive and overwhelming. How much is too much? When living in a digital age, how do you find balance between using your time online vs. offline? How do you stay focused on what matters? Are you aware of how much time you’re spending on your phone? If you were able to see it in numbers, would you be willing to change?

There’s a real urge to look at your phone whenever you can. You only feel it when you’re trying to fight yourself from looking at it. All of this technology is still very new and it will be interesting to see what the future brings. Smartphones are already becoming less exciting with the updates not being extravagant enough for people wanting to upgrade their phones.

I’ve been reading articles about smartphone addiction and I came across this article worth reading. The fact that there’s shame around how much we use our phones is crazy to me. And yet, I don’t want to admit how many hours a day I was on my phone before I really began to find a balance because it’s embarrassing. I once told some people about how much I was on when it was on the low spectrum for me and they were appalled by how much time I was spending.

But then, once some of them started using screentime and began seeing their minutes add up, they began to change their tune. One of them even told me, “I didn’t realize how quickly all that time added up until I actually saw the numbers.” What can we do to fight this habit? It’s different for every person. For me, I try not to have my phone on or around me when I’m around other people. Setting time limits, build a tree with the Forest app, and leaving my phone in another room when I’m trying to not have it around me.

The first step is being aware of how you use your phone and why you gravitate towards it. The next step is to make a change. It’s not easy fighting the urge of a bad habit but if we want our future to be controlled by people and not robots, we need to begin the process now before it’s too late.

Surface Thoughts

I watch my cat watch the tv, every time a dog comes on the screen, his pupils get big, I wonder what goes through his mind, what must he be thinking, is the time he fell out the window from the second floor playing in his head, what is a cat’s memory, does he remember the season where he could go outside, can he tell when the night arrives sooner in the day, I try to read his mind, my thoughts come up with options but no conclusions, he will always be a mystery to me, the night is slowly beginning to be pushed back in the day, the new year has flipped forward once more, these thoughts have no home in my head, they come and go in one moment to the next, the ones I captured in this post are ones that come back from long ago, they only appear when I’m grasping for inspiration to write anything, what to write when I have no prompt, nothing to say, avoiding writing something that I’ll give into eventually, I have these thoughts to share with you, the lingering surface thoughts that mask the layered ones, my cat is on the couch beside me, sleeping, afraid of the dog who is staying with us, the dog who encouraged him to fall out the window, with only a small tree to ease his fall, the dog is calm but my cat shakes like a leaf in my arms and hisses at her like he’s facing his worst nightmare when she’s near, he’s purring now, the tv is paused, exhaustion crashes into me like a wave, but I know if I swim now, I will just end up floating on the surface, lost in my thoughts, staring up at the sky that’s fading into the night.

What a Year 2018 Has Been.

This year has felt like it has been five years at the same time it feels like it’s gone by in a blink of an eye. For America, we’ve gone through so many ups and downs that I have forgotten much of what has happened because so much happens every single day. For me personally, I’ve gone through some of the highest highs and some of the lowest lows I have ever experienced in this last year.

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s in February. Something I knew was coming but had avoided for much of last year, besides the fact that there were some physical signs that something clearly wasn’t right. That took a while for me to process because it’s a disease you can’t physically see. Acceptance came about a month or so later. Then, in October, after having gained puffy eyes over the summer and seeing double in early fall, I was diagnosed with Grave’s. Most people cannot have both antibodies at one time.

Last week, my doctor told me that I’m a mystery because my numbers aren’t where she suspected they would be at this point. I’ve been through a lot of trials and tribulations in 2018 and unfortunately, I see this continuing into the next year; though I’m hoping it will be a little less intense. My health has been the majority of my lows this year. It’s not fun not knowing what your body is capable of and finding out long after the damage had been done is a tough pill to swallow.

However, a lot of good things have happened this year as well. I published a short film at the beginning of the year. I got TWO pieces published that I’m extremely proud of and so grateful they have found a home. The essay is about how I found writing and the ways it has helped me with my stutter. The poem is about my stutter and how what you hear is only the surface layer of who I am.

I haven’t said this online yet but I might as well share it because it’s something I’ve worked hard on and I’m very proud of. Earlier this year, I finished the first draft of a story that has the possible potential of one day being published as a book AND last month I finished a fifth draft of said story. I’m very happy with how it’s coming along.

On top of all that, a couple of weeks ago, I graduated from college with a BA in English with honors! I never thought that would happen and with everything going on this year, I thought it may not happen. But I’ve worked very hard and so, so happy with finishing my degree.

I’m sure 2019 will be full of new adventures, hardships, and possibilities. I’m excited and ready to see what the next chapter of my life will be. It will be an interesting year. Personally, it will be a big one. As a country, I’m curious to see how much of this year we will remember at this time next year. I’m hoping movements formed these last couple of years continue to speak up and fight for rights in 2019. I hope you all have a safe and great New Year!

Be kind. Be brilliant. Be you.

The title is a quote from Michelle M. Lucero.

The week before last, I graduated from college with honors, something I never thought I would accomplish. I majored in English with an emphasis in creative writing. A few days ago, I got my final grades for my last semester. 3.93, my highest GPA of my education journey.

I wasn’t the most productive student in high school. I was an average C student. I didn’t care about school. I didn’t see the point of trying hard because I didn’t have a choice if I wanted to go or not. For the record, I didn’t want to go. Classes were too early (7:45am, I’d be there by 7, get a good parking spot far away, and sit in the library for 45 minutes before the first bell rang). I didn’t have a study routine, I was terrible at taking tests, and I barely turned in my homework.

This thinking carried onto the first few years of college. Though the schedule was more flexible, I didn’t know what I wanted to study, therefore I didn’t really care. I got good enough grades to pass. When I decided to study web design (a decision I made because I didn’t know what else to study), I got decent grades, better than I did in my general education classes.

As fate would have it, the summer before I began studying web design, I decided to take an online English class to get a sense of what school would be like the following semester, with all online classes. From that summer class, I would discover my passion for writing. Life works in mysterious ways and puts the pieces together before your able to see the full image.

In fact, the Joan Didion quote currently at the top of my blog is from that English class. “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” The first week of summer school, I read that quote in the essay by Didion and wrote a response in an online discussion board. I cannot remember what I wrote but this quote has become a sounding board over the last few years. It’s been a reminder for me to keep writing, that this is why I love writing so much.

The last two and a half years of studying English have been the most fulfilling semesters of my educational journey. I’ve written numerous pieces, two of which have been published (poem and essay). I’ve grown so much as a writer and a woman. These last few years, I’ve come close to the person I can see myself being.

The quote by Michelle M. Lucero was shared in her speech at my graduation ceremony. It’s a simple set of six words with a relatable message, a good reminder in these turbulent times. Be kind. Regardless of how you’re feeling, try to be kind to everyone you interact with. Be brilliant. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box or to see life through a different lens. Be you. In a society filled with people constantly chasing trends or thinking of the next big thing, know yourself and follow your own path, marching to the beat of your own drum.

The Lingering Cold

I’ve been sick six times this year. For me, that’s a lot. Normally, I get sick once a year. Sneezing for a week or two, maybe lose my voice, and feel crappy. But it doesn’t last. I get my annual cold out of the way with and carry on with my life. 

This year, I’ve continued to get sick. Maybe it’s because I was diagnosed with an autoimmune thyroid disease at the beginning of the year. Maybe it’s because I was diagnosed with a second autoimmune thyroid disease in the fall. Maybe it’s because my immune system has taken a hit with all of the health stuff I’ve dealt with this year. Or maybe I just have terrible luck.

I get congested. I sneeze. I cough. I get too hot, then too cold, then too hot again. I feel like I have a fever when I don’t. I have a sore throat. I lose my voice. I can’t hear anything clearly. I eat cough drops like their candy.

Each day, the cold morphs into something new, impacting a different part of my body. Though I’m very thankful to have just had a common cold (six times), it takes a toll on me. I’m paranoid to be around other people, not wanting to spread my germs to innocent people standing near me. I complain too much about feeling terrible that I feel like people will think I’m either lying or exaggerating. 

Last week, I graduated from college. All I could think about was how miserable I was feeling. We had to stand for an hour and a half before the ceremony and all the noise around me created a buzzing sound in my clogged ears. Halfway through the ceremony, I discovered water under my seat which helped me deal with my very dry mouth. It was hot and the sweater I was wearing wasn’t helping. When someone asked me how I was feeling the morning before the ceremony, all I could say was, “I have a cold.”

It’s not fun being sick, especially for very important moments in your life. Being sick once or twice is not uncommon. Getting the common cold six times in a single calendar year isn’t a walk in the park. It’s important to take care of yourself and that’s what I’m doing now. Wash your hands, drink water, and warn people how you’re feeling before you hug them. It’s the polite thing to do.

Talking in Circles

I don’t know why we continually

repeat ourselves as if the people we’re talking to

haven’t already heard a thousand times before.

We’re a broken record on repeat trying

to convince ourselves what we’re saying

must be true because we’re saying them

the exact same way, refusing to put

the words in any other order.

We continue spinning

even when one of us gets dizzy.

What we see and what we know

are two different concepts.

We don’t claim to know anything

but this back and forth is continuing

like one of us will share something

to make this reality stop rotating.

I have nothing to add anymore,

my stutter has gone silent to the listeners

and I’m not even sure why I’m still here

when I know what has led me to the place

where I can forget the time and space

of what is meant to be getting something done.

I’m done running away from what I cannot change,

from what needs to be arranged. I feel like

I’m beginning to go insane. So I’m jumping ship

to free myself from this horrid habit that has

morphed and shifted one too many times.

Leave me be, I’ll find my way without a boat,

just leave me here to float. The rocking of the waves

is a much needed change from the blurred

reality I’ve known too well.  I need to trust

in my own vision instead of relying

on another story that has already

been written. I need to create my own

stories instead filling my mind

with speculation of realities that

will only exist in my imagination.