Mind Mental Health Health Wellness

Overcoming my childhood phobias made me who I am today

Much of my late childhood into my tween years was ruled by phobias. A phobia, for those who don’t know, is an irrational fear of something that is unlikely to cause a person harm. This fear can make daily life-crippling and anxiety-inducing. During my early life, I was extremely shy and fearful of other people’s perceptions of me. With that type of personality, my phobias thrived and intensified.

Needles, heights, swallowing pills and certain foods, and test-taking terrified me. My fears would manifest through panic attacks, hysterical breakdowns, and sheer avoidance of the things that triggered me. It was exhausting and demoralizing. I thought I would never “be normal” as a result. Looking back, I can now see that these irrational fears were the first traces of my severe generalized anxiety presenting itself.

As I grew older, I was able to overcome my phobias. However, new ones also cropped up periodically during different stages of my life. I developed a fear of taking out tampons when I first got my period at age 14. When I was 16 and learning how to drive, I began to develop extreme driving anxiety. All of these phobias weighed on me significantly. I felt embarrassed to tell anyone outside of my immediate family. I hid them from friends, which made me feel alienated from my peers. I thought of myself as lame and even baby-ish for allowing these fears to affect me so much.

I wish I could give a concrete, step-by-step guide on how to overcome phobias, but I have no perfect or universal solutions. A large part of my journey living with these anxieties was trial and error. Through continually pushing myself into uncomfortable situations that forced me to confront the things that I feared, I built up a tolerance. You could call it my own DIY version of exposure therapy.

During my time struggling with driving anxiety, I forced myself to drive as much as possible. I realized that avoiding driving only exacerbated my phobia. The irrational thoughts built up in my head the more I avoided driving. By making myself drive more frequently, I became used to being on the road. It became more muscle memory and less anxiety producing for me over time.

The same principle applied to taking my driver’s test. The test itself terrified me to the point where I had panic attacks while taking it. I had to take the test three times before I passed, but I finally did it! These experiences taught me that phobias subside through exposure and persistence. Calming strategies used in therapy like deep breathing and positive visualization also aided me significantly.

I am far from perfect now. However, I am happy to say that my phobias no longer hold me back from functioning in my daily life. My anxiety remains, but now I am able to see past fear rather than let it hinder me. I never thought I’d say I am grateful for my phobias, but honestly, I can now say that I am. If not for them, I never would have learned about my generalized anxiety or sought therapy.

My phobias taught me the importance of resilience in the face of adversity. Because of the obstacles I faced during childhood, I am a more confident and open person today. I am proud of myself for overcoming these struggles and becoming a better, stronger person as a result.

I can only hope that my story encourages others to normalize talking openly about mental health problems.

You are strong. Your disorders do not define you. 

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Love + Sex Love Advice

Should you get back together with your ex?

My first serious relationship has been a complicated one. We have broken up and gotten back together more than once. This on again, off again type of dynamic is confusing to the people in my life.

When I tell people about my relationship situation they often try to insert their own opinions. I appreciate friends trying to look out for me, but the constant questioning and advice can be draining and even hurtful. The truth is that as easy as it is to make judgements when you’re an outsider looking into a relationship, no one really knows the relationship but the people who are in it.

When deciding whether to call it quits or get back together, I firmly believe that you have to follow your gut. You’re the one who will ultimately be impacted by your decision. Therefore, the choice should be 100% your own. 

My boyfriend and I met for the first time in my junior year (his senior year) of college at American University. I saw him sitting with a friend of mine at a table in our on campus coffee shop and decided to go over. I had never run into him before. He was cute and he caught my eye, so I joined them at the table.

From there, the connection was instant. I was frazzled talking to him that first day. Afterwards we followed each other on social media and he asked me out on a date. We quickly became exclusive.

The beginning of our relationship was shy and sweet. We hung out on campus and went to events and parties together. I was constantly at his house doing homework and chilling with him and his roommates. I had never connected with someone so deeply so quickly. We said I love you within the first two months of dating. I had never said I love you to someone in a romantic situation before.

Around this same time, he invited me to come visit his home in central California and meet his family. I agreed. The trip was lovely and romantic. It really solidified for me that this relationship would be for the long haul. 

The following semester, the spring of my junior year, I went abroad to London to study at King’s College. We did long distance for the months that I was away. We FaceTimed everyday and he even came to visit me during his school break. The week we spent together there felt magical. We went on dinner dates and explored the city. I introduced him to my new friends. Everything was going well in our relationship at the time. 

The time without him hurt so badly. I couldn’t stop crying.

Things started getting rocky once I came back from London the following semester for my senior year. He had graduated and started a new job along with graduate school. He was under a lot of stress. I also was struggling with my depression and anxiety.

We broke up for the first time right around our one year anniversary. I broke up with him, worried that we were too unalike. We were at different stages of our lives and didn’t seem to have time for one another. I didn’t want to do it, but I didn’t feel like there was any other way. The time without him hurt so badly. I couldn’t stop crying. We barely lasted a few weeks before deciding to get back together. 

Our relationship was great after getting back together. We had a newfound appreciation for one another and were working through our problems in healthy ways. This continued for several months. However, come January our relationship started going south again. We fell back into old unhealthy relationship dynamics. He felt responsible for my happiness and I felt like he wasn’t dedicating enough time for us. We fought often.

He broke up with me later in that month, saying he needed time to figure out his own life and mental health and that he couldn’t do it while we were still together. This breakup felt much more final. The time spent without him and barely talking were painful. 

After a month or two he came back saying he had made a mistake and he wanted to be together again. I was hesitant. My trust had been betrayed and didn’t want to jump back into a relationship with him without solving our previous problems. Ultimately, I asked for some time to think things over.

Ultimately, I decided to try things again, but to take it slow and re get to know each other like in the beginning of our relationship. That is exactly what we have been doing since then. 

I have learned valuable lessons through our relationships and have taken away a lot from us breaking up and getting back together.

Relationships are hard work and compromise and clear communication are key to making them last. Taking time to listen carefully and considering the other person’s perspective is essential. Showing appreciation and love for your partner through doing little things to make them happy also goes a long way.

No relationship is perfect, but repeating past mistakes and having the same fights are not productive.

My biggest piece of advice for people who may be going through similar situations is to give yourself space and time to really think over the relationship. Journal, make a pro-con list and really mull things over. I encourage you to ask yourself important questions like if the circumstances that caused you to break up in the first place have changed? Have you both grown since the breakup? More importantly, why do you want to get back together now? Obviously, no relationship is perfect, but repeating past mistakes and having the same fights again and again are also not productive.

Above all, listen to your heart. No one can tell you what’s right or wrong for you better than yourself. Talk to friends and family if you want advice or second opinions, but make sure your final decision is your own. If you’re anything like me, you let your feeling get clouded sometimes by other people’s judgements and opinions. The only thing that matters is the relationship being healthy and fulfilling and making you happy. If it checks all of those boxes, trust yourself, and go for it. Getting back together with an ex can work out if you take the time to address your issues and make sure the timing is right for your relationship to succeed!

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TV Shows Pop Culture

Why is the Netflix documentary series Tiger King so popular?

Tiger King was the Netflix sensation that no one expected. 34.3 million people watched it within the first 10 days of its release. Released on March 20, 2020, the mini true crime documentary series follows the life of zookeeper Joe Exotic and other major players in the “big cat” world. 

Every major character its ethically dubious.

If a show about a man who owns a zoo full of big tigers and other exotic cats seems a little too bizarre to be highly popular, I totally get it. I felt the same when I first heard of the premise, but with some urging and recommendations from friends, I bit the bullet and decided to watch. I was enthralled and trust me, you will be too. 

Tiger King is definitely unlike any show you’ve ever seen, but the big personalities and crazy premise combined with the intrigue of a true crime, make it a perfect guilty pleasure watch. I binged it in two days and the drama and twists did not disappoint. 

The show quickly sets up a fierce rivalry between Joe Exotic, the owner and operator of The Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, and big cat conservationists and activists like Carole Baskin of Big Cat Rescue (an animal sanctuary in Florida). The lines between right and wrong and good and bad blur as the show continues. Toward the last episodes of the series, law enforcement and criminal activity weave its way into the plot (no spoilers). 

The show blurs the lines between right and wrong.

However, throughout the 7 episodes, the series creates a complex portrait of the flawed documentary subjects it focuses on. What is so interesting about Tiger King is how almost every major subject introduced is ethically dubious. A show with no heroes or even clear scapegoats leaves plenty of room for intrigue.  

A large part of the appeal of the show undoubtedly also is the big personalities that it showcases. Joe Exotic, born Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, is a prime example. His last name, “exotic,” which he adopted himself, tells the audience immediately that he is bound to be unconventional. 

The rest of his mannerisms, appearance, and life story only enhance the bizarre spectacle that is Joe. His strippy, bleached mullet, ostentatious wardrobe, gay, polyamorous identity, and cultish-following make him seem almost cartoonish and unreal. Throw in his attempted political career (a 2016 presidential run and race for governor) and his country music videos and Joe exotic seems downright scripted.   

While watching, I found myself continually intrigued and incredulous at the antics of all the main people involved. I formed strong opinions quickly. For example, I firmly believed Carole Baskin was less innocent than she seemed. I even had a bit of a soft spot for Joe Exotic, despite his clear guilt at times. Overall the story and the personalities were what sold me about the show. I couldn’t get enough of the drama. It pulls you in the way most true crime stories do; it’s like a car wreck, but you just can’t tear your eyes away.

The show thrives on pageantry and spectacle.

The show since then has infiltrated all the popular social media app. TikTok in particular was buzzing for months after Netflix released the show. Trending TikToks featured men and women dressing up and doing makeup looks inspired by Joe Exotic, decked out in tacky animal prints and trucker hats. TikTok user (@caleb jaxin) even created an original sound to the tune of the song Savage by Megan Thee Stallion, with Tiger King based lyrics. The song lyrics go like this: “Carole Baskin. Killed her husband, wacked him. Can’t convince me that it didn’t happen. Fed him to tigers they snackin’, what’s happening. Carole Baskin.” Tons of TikTokkers have danced to his sound since he created it, and Megan even shared it on her Instagram:

Tiger King on the whole is enjoyable trash TV at its finest. It is so confusing and weird and fascinating that you can’t seem to peel your eyes away. Watching it almost makes you feel like you are at a circus of sorts yourself. The show’s success thrives on the pageantry and spectacle of both the animals and humans portrayed within it.

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Science Now + Beyond

It’s time we normalize talking about anxiety and depression medication

Medication for your mental health can be a controversial and touchy subject. Some people veer toward the anti-medication side, while others are big proponents of doing whatever works for you best to manage mental health concerns. I personally am in support of medication for anxiety, depression, and other issues as long as the individual wants it and it works for them.

Much like if you were sick with a cough and took cough medicine, I think mental health issues should be approached with the same mentality. Mental health is just as important as physical wellbeing and the two can often be interlinked. 

I myself have had my fair share of experience with anxiety and depression medication. I was on Prozac, then Effexor, and now I am back on a higher dose of Prozac. From trying these medications, I can honestly say that different medications can affect people differently.

For example, on Prozac, I didn’t experience any negative side effects and I still don’t. However, Effexor, although it is considered a more fast-acting anxiety medication and antidepressant, didn’t work well for me. Instead, I had a lot of negative side effects such as increased anxiety and insomnia. The moral of the story is that everybody is different and there is a lot of trial and error involved in finding the right medication for you. 

In general, combination anxiety and depression medication SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) affects the human body in several key ways. SSRIs work by increasing the amount of serotonin (the chemical that promotes happiness) in the brain. SSRIs do so by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin into neurons.

Prozac, the medication I take, is one of such SSRIs that psychiatrists use to treat generalized anxiety and depression. People generally take these medications every day and they take four to six weeks to relieve symptoms. Some side effects that can result from SSRIs commonly are insomnia, agitation, dry mouth, headaches, nausea, fatigue, nervousness, sexual dysfunction, etc. These side effects all depend on how your individual body reacts to the medication. 

I, for example, have only experienced some mild nausea due to my Prozac, that usually only occurs when I take my pill on an empty stomach. The benefits of Prozac on my body and feeling of general wellbeing have been astronomical in comparison. I remember within a few weeks of when I first started taking Prozac, I felt a dramatic difference. I felt like I had emerged from a fog of depression and my anxious thoughts significantly decreased. It felt like someone had calmed all the negative thoughts and criticisms in my head and made them less noticeable. 

How any medication used to treat mental health problems affects you varies widely based on the individual. The only way to safely know what medication would be best for you is by consulting your doctor, psychiatrist, or a licensed mental health professional. Some people don’t need medication. However, for others, such as myself, medication in combination with therapy has been the pathway to completely transforming my life. I never realized before that other people didn’t have to work as hard as I did just to get through the day, and I learned that with these medicines, daily life wasn’t terrifying and impossible.  

Standoms Books Pop Culture

23 things only a true Percy Jackson fan would understand

I’ve never been much of a fangirl.

I didn’t swoon over Harry Potter or obsessively stalk One Direction members like some of my other friends. However, I have always been an avid reader. The Percy Jackson series in particular caught my attention as soon as I read the first book at 11 years old. I was instantly hooked. To this day, I still hold many fond memories of the series.

Test your knowledge and see if you’re a true fan like me by seeing if you relate to and understand the statements below.

1. You affectionately refer to the author of the Percy Jackson series as “Uncle Rick”

rick riordan wearing glasses and a suit and smiling.
Attribution: [Image description: Rick Riordan wearing glasses and a suit and smiling.] Via Wikipedia.

Who needs formality when you feel like he’s part of the family?! After all, he is like that kooky relative that you think about fondly. He’s friendly and off-beat. He even knows how to crack a good satyr joke that just tows the line between clever and cheesy.

2. You have shipped Percy and Annabeth since the beginning!

Gif of Percy and Annabeth leaning in to kiss from Percy Jackson movie
[Image description: *Gif of Percy and Annabeth leaning in to kiss from Percy Jackson movie.] Via Giphy.

Is it weird to be a little bit in love with a fictional character? Honestly couldn’t tell if I liked Annabeth, Percy, or just their relationship with one another as a whole. I swear it was as if they were close friends of mine, I knew so much about them and their relationship. They were my original ship. Percabeth forever!

3. You have written some low-quality Percy Jackson fan fiction on websites like Wattpad.

Illustration of Percy in a blue hoodie and Annabeth in a turtleneck sweater cuddled close together
[Image description: *Illustration of Percy in a blue hoodie and Annabeth in a turtleneck sweater cuddled close together.] Via

I personally was a big fan of the insert y/n here fanfics. They allowed yourself to really picture yourself within the world of Percy Jackson. I also definitely wrote some pretty embarrassing Percabeth romance scenarios. At the time, I was hopelessly single. Fictional character love was the only experience with what relationships looked like.


4. You secretly hold out hope that you could be a demigod. Hey, stranger things have happened.

Percy Jackson Illustration of Percy in the water with his sword during a lightning storm
[Image description: Percy Jackson Illustration of Percy in the water with his sword during a lightning storm.] Via

I don’t know about you, but I really was eagerly waiting around for my 13th birthday and wondering when I would find out I had an Olympic God in my bloodline. I honestly credit it to my active imagination and optimism. Poseidon was definitely the parent I wished for. Now, being 21 years old, I have officially given up on being a demigod. For a few years though, I held out some hope.

5. You know many of the Greek myths like the back of your hand and can be a bit of a mythology nerd.

The Birth of Venus famous renaissance painting
[Image description: The Birth of Venus by Botticelli]. Via Getty Images

Not only did I know all the names of the gods, but also their subsequent jobs and powers. I also knew many lesser-known myths like Narcissus and Echo and Prometheus and the theft of fire. I read countless supplemental mythology books to stay up to date on my knowledge. The stories and explanations of nature’s workings fascinated me.

6. You know the difference between Greek and Roman god iterations.

Four Greek God marble statues]
[Image description: Four Greek God marble statues]. Via

True fans will know that when the names change, so do the characteristics of the Gods in nuanced ways. Which camp were you in? Camp Half-Blood or Camp Jupiter? Were you a Poseidon or Neptune kid?

7. You will always take capture the flag a little too seriously.

Percy and other campers wearing armor and playing capture the flag at Camp Half Blood.
[Image description: Percy and other campers wearing armor and playing capture the flag at Camp Half-Blood.] Via Gif Hunts.

Let’s agree on one thing, it wasn’t just a game. This was war. This was some serious stuff. How could you not take capture the flag seriously after reading all about the Camp Half-Blood competitions? The stakes are high and your capture the flag team definitely valued you for your dedication to winning.

8. You have picked out which of the Gods of Olympus would be your parents.

Statue of the greek god Poseidon with his trident
[Image description: Statue of the Greek god Poseidon with his trident.] Via:

I personally feel like I’m Poseidon’s spawn. Maybe it was just because I like to swim. I also always dreamed about being a mermaid. Something about water powers really appealed to me and still does. Let’s face it, Percy’s powers were pretty dope.

9. You consider The Lighting Thief movie and its sequel to be garbage in comparison to the book.

Minion meme about movies being nothing like their book versions
[Image description: Minion meme about movies being nothing like their book versions.] Via:

Since when are Percy and Annabeth 17 at the onset of the first book? Try more like 12. And why does Annabeth look nothing like her fictional description? Where did the brown hair come from? It feels like the producers and director didn’t actually read the book. 

10. You are painfully aware of how bad Olympian gods are as parents.

Meme about Kronus as a bad parent
[Image description: Meme about Kronus as a bad parent]. Via Reddit

There was far too much abandonment, cheating among Gods and Gods trying to kill their children. The family dynamics were very strange. They make you grateful for the family you do have.

11. You hold a weird appreciation for swords and niche things like lightning bolts.

Replica of Percy's sword called riptide
[Image description: Replica of Percy’s sword called Riptide.] Via:

Forget any normal human weapons. Those are boring. You were always trying to find a trident lying around. I even got my own Riptide here.

12. You have wished you had a best friend like Grover Underwood. 

Illustration of Grover Underwood from Percy Jackson series
[Image description: Illustration of Grover Underwood from Percy Jackson series.] Via:

He had all the qualities of a great right-hand man: loyal, protective, and brave.

13. You were probably also obsessed with Harry Potter and Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Aang from Avatar bending air
[Image: Aang from Avatar bending air]. Via:

Let’s face it, fantasy nerds are all pretty similar. Magical powers also drew you into other fandoms.

14. You own at least some memorabilia. Trident anyone?

Trident memorabilia in gold
[Image description: Trident memorabilia in gold]. Via: fabiovalle3D on turbo

Maybe you cosplay, have an orange Camp Half-Blood shirt, or maybe you just like a few trinkets to rep your favorite book series. It’s a spectrum.


15. You’ve read the spin-offs. The Demigod Files and Camp Half-Blood Confidential are staples on your bookshelf.

Book cover for Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Ultimate Guide
[Image description: Book cover for Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Ultimate Guide]. Via Amazon

You loved their field-guide-like format. You felt like you were uncovering the secrets all on your own.

16. The Lightning Thief holds a special place in your heart as the start of it all.

The Lightning Thief book cover
[Image description: The Lightning Thief book cover]. Via: Disney Books

There’s something about the first book of a series that is such a soft spot.

17. You remember The Great Prophecy clearly. Hell, you could probably even recite it.

Oracle of Delphi from Percy Jackson movie
[Image description: Oracle of Delphi from Percy Jackson movie.] Via:

“You shall go west, and face the god who has turned, / You shall find what was stolen, and see it safely returned, / You shall be betrayed by one who calls you a friend, / And you shall fail to save what matters most, in the end…” whoops.

18. You learned the ancient Greek alphabet and maybe even wrote some coded messages to fellow obsessed friends.

Greek alphabet written out
[Image Description: Greek alphabet written out.] Via:

Maybe you’re putting that to good use in Greek life at college now? I sure am.

19. Greece is on your bucket list of places to go for reasons beyond its natural beauty and architecture.

Mount Olympus peak in Greece
[Image description: Mount Olympus peak in Greece.] Via: The Independent.

Forget the Parthenon, where can I visit Mount Olympus?

20. You carry a ballpoint pen in your pocket. That or you wear a Yankees hat everywhere when you don’t even like baseball.

Yankee baseball cap
[Image description: Yankee baseball cap.] Via:

Are you more of a Percy or an Annabeth? I think I’m an Annabeth. There is a certain poetry of a pen that turns into a sword though.

21. You remember all of Percy’s friend group’s inside jokes.

The evolution of an inside joke between Percy and his friends
[Image description: The evolution of an inside joke between Percy and his friends.] Via Pinterest.

Anyone remember the dam snack bar lol?

22. You shrieked when you heard about The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical.

Percy Jackson, Grover and Annabeth sing on stage during The Lightning Thief Musical
[Image description: Percy, Grover and Annabeth sing on stage during The Lightning Thief Musical.] Via Jeremy Daniel on The Hollywood Reporter.

Your fangirl heart could have exploded hearing about the musical. It has been keeping the fandom alive and well ever since it debuted. You love to watch the YouTube clips when you’re feeling nostalgic and want a pick me up.

23. You’re counting the days until we hear more about the new Percy Jackson tv series on Disney+

I trust Rick Riordan to ensure faithful representation in Disney+ Percy Jackson adaptation

And you still can’t believe the fandom was blessed enough to receive a second chance at a screen adaptation, one where the author is finally involved, which is why I have faith in it.

The Percy Jackson books will never die in your heart. These books hold special memories from your childhood that linger to his day. Keep being your super fan, demigod self and don’t let the haters get you down!

LGBTQIA+ Race Music Inequality Interviews

Color of Music Collective is championing representation in the music industry

Pride month has come to a close and discussions about Black Lives Matter seem to be dwindling in some circles on social media, but music industry activists like Mia Van Allen, Carla Hendershot, and Emily Yankana of the newly created Color of Music Collective will not let these issues to be forgotten or silenced.

Spanning across time zones and currently operating fully online, this collective emerged as a way to put the spotlight on the lack of representation of people of color and LGBTQ+ folks in the music industry. The group specifically works to amplify the voices of people who don’t often have a seat at the table. They host weekly Zoom panels featuring LGBTQ+ and POC in the music industry with the goal of inspiring and empowering a younger generation of music industry hopefuls.

Co-founder, Carla Hendershot explained the collective’s inception saying, “Mia approached me with the idea basically.” Hendershot continued, “We both have always gotten along pretty well because I am part of the LGBT community and Mia is a person of color, and we both have noticed that while there are people working in the industry who look like us or identify like us, they don’t always necessarily have a spotlight on them, so it’s kind of hard to meet people like that.”

Who are they?

The collective’s founder, Mia Van Allen, is a 21-year-old recent American University graduate with a degree in Public Relations and Strategic Communication. She has a goal to become an agent. Co-founder and panelist, Carla Hendershot, has a degree in Business with a music industry concentration and currently serves as an Account Assistant at FBMM in Nashville, Tennessee. Emily Yankana, the digital analytics manager of the trifecta, also graduated from American University with a Bachelors in Communications and works as a senior social media coordinator for a company called Carahsoft in Virginia. As a trio, they share a common drive for advocacy and a goal of diversifying the music business at all levels, by pushing for representation of all sexualities and races. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic relegating many people to working from home or seeking employment, Carla stated, “We figured this would be a good time to try and start something like this, where we can help amplify the voices of people working in the industry… We know that a lot of our audience are in college or even high school, and we personally feel like if we had seen more people like us in the industry, we would have felt more like we can do that.” 

What are their goals?

What sets them apart from other collectives pursuing similar goals? The answer boils down to specificity, and a focus on representation in all levels of the music industry. According to Mia, “We focus on a specific issue whereas most other collectives don’t. They choose issues like ‘woman in management,’ and Carla and I thought that was so broad. We wanted to focus on this very specific issue that was important to us.” Mia elaborated saying, “We wanted to amplify the voices of not only LGBTQ+ artists and artists of color, but also more people behind the scenes. So we want to hear from the photographer, the stylist, the booking agent, the manager, just basically everyone that makes the artist who they are. So yeah that’s something that’s a little more unique to us.”

According to Mia, a big issue they are interested in tackling is the use of the term “urban” to refer to categories of music like R&B, hip hop and jazz. She stated that “so far only Republic Records has switched the department urban music to hip hop and r&b. They’re trying to figure out a different name for it. But I guess they finally realized after over 40 years that it is offensive.”

Mia described how her own personal networking and applying experience in Fall 2020 influenced her perception. She explained, “I wouldn’t call it hiring discrimination, it’s just like they assumed things because of the color of my skin that I would be best suited for the urban department. I hate that word urban … I was actually really interested in rock.”

Why now?

Due to current events surrounding the murder of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, and countless other Black people at the hands of police, there has been a renewed interest in the Black Lives Matter Movement. People are also calling for more representation of people of color in brands, companies, and whole industries. Change is on the horizon, although the process and progress is slow. 

Mia well described the shift she has noticed in the music industry. She stated, “You have competitors coming together and agreeing we need to see more people of color in the high level executive positions. So over the past two weeks, I’ve seen in the news that over 70 people in Universal who are people of color have been promoted. We have diversity and inclusion committees that we are now joining for different agencies. It’s a slow change, but I can probably see within the next 6 to 8 months a significant difference, especially with the hiring process.” 

So, what next?

Color of Music Collective is currently looking to grow their staff a little more. Recently, the team has added Hannah Damico as their graphic design team leader. They are seeking more volunteers who are people of color or in the LGBTQ+ community for representation reasons. However, they are also open to guest panelists who are POC or LGBTQ+ with experience working in the music industry.

Volunteers make up different departments from outreach to social to digital analytics and production. That way the collective puts their interests and skills to good use. The collective hopes to be able to host live events once the pandemic ends. To contact the Color of Music Collective for more information, email them at: or visit their website: 

*Disclaimer: Some quotes have been edited for length and clarity.

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The Pandemic Love Life Stories

The way we love has changed and it may never be the same again

In these current times, dating (and interaction in general) is shifting rapidly. Love (in all of its forms) may even look slightly different during quarantine, even though some places are beginning to open up. I have noticed these changes in my own personal life since this pandemic has begun. Communication with loved ones is different. Checking up on people looks different. Dates have become unfamiliar. Love itself is changing. Physical touch has been taken out of the equation for most relationships which makes a substantial impact.

I have never missed hugging people more than I do now. However, there are still a lot of wonderful and unique ways people are expressing their love for people in their life during quarantine. Love during quarantine in my life looks like Netflix parties, hand written notes, care packages sent in the mail, walks with friends six feet apart, crying and laughing together over the phone, long FaceTimes even when no one has anything to report, zoom happy hours, air hugs, sharing memes, virtual graduations and proms, and much more. We may not be able to express love right now physically. But, we can still convey the sentiment. Checking in, giving little gifts, performing kind acts, and being open and intimate emotionally with the people in your life are all good ways to do so. 

My dating life in particular has changed significantly. I am used to being able to visit my boyfriend frequently each week. But now due to coronavirus, since he lives about a 45 minute metro ride away (a 20 minute Uber) I am unable to visit him at all without putting myself at risk. As a result, our relationship went from in person to long distance basically overnight. This change has not been without some growing pains. I am very affectionate and definitely miss getting to hug and kiss him. Coronavirus has made physical contact near impossible, however we still have plenty of FaceTimes, Netflix Parties and happy hour dates. I have also been hyper mindful of checking in with him often and telling him how much I appreciate him often.

Despite all the shifts during this pandemic, I am trying to put a positive spin on the situation. I am taking this as an opportunity to reconnect with friends and show my love for people in creative ways. I see it as a positive for my romantic relationship as well. No, I can use this time to emotionally connect with my boyfriend on a deeper level. Since our own form of communication now is over the phone and FaceTime, our conversations and the way we communicate with one another is of utmost importance. 

More than ever, being there for one another for emotional support is imperative. The pandemic can take a real toll on mental health and people’s general quality of life. In order to combat that, we must exercise compassion and empathy and help one another however we can during this time.

Love may look a little different nowadays and the role of love may be changing, but the love in our lives still remains. It even has the potential to be stronger and more poignant than ever before. 

TV Shows Aww Nostalgia Standoms Pop Culture

Avatar: The Last Airbender just broke records on Netflix

Avatar: The Last Airbender, perhaps one of the greatest shows of all time, is now on Netflix and fans are overjoyed to finally get to relive their childhood nostalgia.

For the first time, this iconic animated series is available on a streaming service in the United States. 2020 marks the 15th anniversary of its premiere on Nickelodeon. The show has a cult following, with fans absolutely loving every part of the series.

This show will have you crying, laughing, and feeling all the emotions.

Any show with that type of wholehearted support and positive memories gets the gold stamp of approval in my book. 

For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of watching Avatar: The Last Airbender before, first of all, pull your head out from under a rock and go binge it right now!

But, secondly, here is a little synopsis of the plot to give you some context. The Avatar world is divided into four tribes known as the Water Tribe, the Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation, and the Air Nomads that are based on the elements in their namesake. Members of these tribes or “benders” have the ability to control the element of their nation and manipulate it for their own use. 

There is only one person, The Avatar, who is able to control all four elements and is therefore extremely powerful.

The story follows the main character: Aang, the long-lost Avatar, who, at only 12 years old, who has to save the world from the military takeover of The Fire Nation. Throughout the show, Aang learns how to master the elements and channel his powers to help protect the world. There is something so inventive and creative about the storyline.

When it comes to TV series, it can’t get much better than Airbender.

Airbender deserves the hype it gets for an abundance of reasons.

Firstly, the animation is masterful and beautiful in so many places. Second, the story is so charming and transports viewers to a totally alternate and immersive world. The show may be considered kid-oriented, but its story arc and level of complexity are actually quite complex and impressive. Throughout its three seasons, viewers learn the rich history and lore behind the Avatar world. Avatar: The Last Airbender incorporates elements of fantasy, martial arts, and culture from across the world. Some consider Avatar to be a sort of Western “anime.”

Besides the show’s amazing storyline, its characters deserve praise and love.

Aang as a main character is endearing, adorable, and extremely lovable. He is so full of energy and enthusiasm and loves to fly around on his flying pet Bison, Appa.

Even the show’s villains stand out in complexity and character development.

For example, Zuko, the eldest child of Fire Lord Ozai and Princess Ursa of The Fire Nation who is exiled in the first season, begins as a ruthless, cruel, and vindictive character who is hell-bent on destroying Aang. 

However, as the show progresses, Zuko has some of the biggest changes of hearts and becomes a more sympathetic, ethically gray character.

Even the show’s villains stand out in complexity and character development.

The kind way he treats his girlfriend, looks after his men, and the mercy he shows for Aang at various points in the series convey how emotional and caring he can be underneath his harsh exterior. We also see throughout Airbender that Zuko’s childhood and poor past treatment impact and influence his behavior. 

The impact of Avatar on animated television feels extremely clear as it was one of the first lore-heavy cartoons. It may have served as a precursor to some modern favorites in the lore-cartoon category like Adventure Time and Steven Universe

In fact, the show has been so popular on Netflix that it’s been in the top 10 for the past 57 days, according to Forbes. That’s not just impressive; that means it’s in a tie with Ozark as the show that’s spent the most consecutive days in the top 10 ever.

For reference, here’s the full list:

  1. Ozark: 57 days
  2. Avatar: The Last Airbender: 57 days
  3. Outer Banks: 51 days
  4. Tiger King: 50 days
  5. All American: 42 days
  6. Love is Blind: – 39 days
  7. Space Force: – 34 days
  8. Dead to Me: 32 days
  9. 13 Reasons Why: 28 days
  10. Money Heist: 24 days

I cannot say enough good things about this series. Avatar: The Last Airbender feels like a piece of my soul and truly captures some fond childhood memories. This show will have you crying, laughing, and feeling all the emotions.

When it comes to TV series, it can’t get much better than Airbender.

Tech Now + Beyond

5 engaging podcasts we’re loving currently and why they are so powerful

There’s something so comforting about a podcast. If you’re bored with music or just want a little background noise for doing work, they can be a great go to. Especially during social distancing. I have been finding myself gravitating toward podcasts even more often than usual. I enjoy listening to them before bed as a way to fall asleep and during the day as background noise. I think a lot of the joy of podcasts has to do with hearing other people’s voices. Through listening, you feel a sense of companionship and comfort. This quality is especially soothing during a time like this where in-person socializing is a lot more difficult.

Podcasts also span such a wide variety of interesting topics. There is a podcast for literally any activity or subject you could possibly be interested in. Some of my favorite podcast types are crime, comedy, and life advice. I often alternate between these podcast types depending on my mood. Plus, podcasts are a great way to pass time while also staying somewhat productive and informed. When I want a break from watching TV, podcasts provide a similar level of entertainment without the eye-strain. 

These podcasts have been some of my favourites recently and really pulled me through quarantine:

1. Modern Love

Modern Love is a collaboration between WBUR and The New York Times and is based off of the publication’s column by the same name. The podcast often features famous personalities such as actors, TV talk show hosts, and other celebrities reading Modern Love’s published essays submitted by writers around the world. The episodes tend to be on the shorter side, ranging from 15 to 25 minutes. 

2. Thick and Thin

Thick and Thin, on the other hand, is an advice/stream of consciousness podcast by YouTuber Katy Bellotte. In the podcast, Katy talks about everything from dating, love, being a 20-something in New York City to fear of loneliness, dealing with criticism and more. I genuinely enjoy the podcast for how insightful, honest, and relatable it is. The episodes are on the longer side, usually 45 to 50 minutes. It’s a great option for millenials and Gen Z because Katy caters specifically to young adults navigating the world with her content. 

3. Off Menu

Off Menu is a funny hybrid podcast, which is what I enjoy about it. The podcast emerged in 2018 and is currently on its third season. It’s hosts are James Acaster and Ed Gamble, two English comedians. It combines a food-related podcast and an interview-style podcast filled with humorous asides. In it, the hosts have a guest in their fantasy restaurant to talk about their life and career in between favorite courses of a meal. I like this podcast for its banter and ability to both inform and humor listeners. The guests are usually incredibly interesting people who are celebrated in their fields.

4. Gals on the Go

I first began listening to Gals on the Go because of its hosts, Danielle Carolan and Brooke Miccio, two YouTuber friends who I both enjoy greatly. This lifestyle podcast is a mixture of tips on how to be productive, story times, and college and young adult advice. What I love about it is the ease of Danielle and Brooke’s friendship and the way they play off of one another. I also enjoy how honest and refreshing their advice often is. It feels like you’re having a conversation with a group of your girl friends.

5. Bad Friends

Finally, Bad Friends is a great comedy podcast that my close friend introduced me to recently. It features comedians Andrew Santino and Bobby Lee. There are only 13 episodes in total, but despite being short, the podcast is hysterically funny. Andrew and Bobby play so well off of one another. The episodes span a wide variety of random subjects. They are generally an hour-and-a-half long and will have you chuckling the entire time. 

Podcasts have such a special quality about them. They allow people to feel transported through their storytelling. In fact, according to an analysis of people’s brain waves conducted by The New York Times, listening to podcasts triggers at least 12 different areas of the brain while listening.

According to communications professor, Emma Rodero, who specializes in audio design, audio is so powerful because it allows listeners to create their own version of a story in their head. Audio is more active in that way than reading because it requires the brain to keep up with and process the story at the pace it is played. These complex and multifaceted stories create complex reactions in our brains. We form tons of associations hearing even just one simple word. The power of podcasts then, seems to come down to their ability to stimulate our brains and engage and immerse us so fully in a story. If you need a way to pass time during social distancing and staying at home, podcasts are the way to go. 

TV Shows Pop Culture

Jess from New Girl makes me feel validated in my awkwardness

Recently I have been rewatching the 2011 Comedy tv show New Girl to pass my time at home.

For those who have never watched the show, the premise is as follows. After going through a bad breakup with a cheating long-term boyfriend, upbeat and quirky, Jess (played by Zooey Deschanel) decides to move into a loft with three single guys she met on Craigslist. Over the course of her time in the loft, Jess, along with Nick, Schmidt, Coach, Winston and Jess’s best friend Cece form a sort of dysfunctional family.

I have always loved the show for its unique, hilarious, and endearing characters. However, the character of Jess particularly resonates with me. As an often awkward girl myself, Jess makes me feel validated in my quirks. I have always considered my awkwardness to be a detriment. However, through watching Jess’s antics and how those around her react to them, I see that what I consider to be my flaws, may actually be endearing to others. 

To provide some background on Jess, she’s an innocent, glasses-wearing, big-blued eyed teacher who often sings to herself, doesn’t know how to act around men, and has a bit of old soul energy. She is often nerdy, clumsy, and emotional. A lot of her hobbies are that of a grandma (scrapbooking, knitting, croquet) while she herself is only in her 30s. 

Jess makes me feel validated in my quirks.

Not every single personality trait of Jess’ applies to me, but enough do that I feel comforted by her character. She is relatable in the ways that count. For one, I myself also identify as hyper-emotional and empathetic. Jess cares deeply for her friends and will quite literally go to the ends of the earth for them. Only a few days after moving into the loft with the boys, Jess tells them she loves them. She has an open heart with her feelings. I am very much the same way. Watching Jess ugly cry at Dirty Dancing made me feel seen in ways I hadn’t before.

Jess is also an old soul who sometimes feels different from her peers. She’d probably rather scrapbook or craft than go to a club. I have often felt similarly out of place for my age group. I’ve never loved partying all the time. Sometimes I’m in the mood, but usually, I live for the late-night Mcdonalds after the party much more. I am also the type who enjoys a quiet night in watching a movie with friends equally if not more.

Despite her awkwardness, Jess continues to be apologetically herself.

Besides Jess’s overall personality, her behavior is also super quirky. She particularly struggles to flirt with men and frequently embarrasses herself when she attempts to. I think all awkward girls out there know how that feels and have there fair share of embarrassing romantic encounters. I myself still stand by the fact that I don’t really know how to flirt. I’ve definitely tripped over my words and myself more than a few times when talking to someone I find cute. 

What’s perhaps most relatable about Jess though is how her character never quite grew out of her awkward phase from her preteen years. Sure, she physically “glowed up,” but a lot of her personality remained the same. I resonate with that feeling deeply. Even though I look at myself in the mirror now and don’t see the glasses, braces, and acne I used to have, I still have some of the same insecurities as middle school me. Seeing Jess’s flashbacks to her early life being unapologetically herself makes me feel like I can embrace my quirky and sometimes insecure younger self.

Jess’s character shows women that they don’t have to be put together and effortlessly cool constantly to love themselves and be loved. Jess’ quirkiness and awkwardness are what makes her lovable and herself. New Girl shows all the other awkward girls out there, myself included, that it’s ok to be yourself. So sing little made-up songs to yourself, talk during movies, and wear whatever makes you happy. Your identity is unique and awesome just the way it is!       

Work Career Advice Now + Beyond

How to optimize your LinkedIn and build a personal brand

Personal branding and building a strong work portfolio is key to getting a job in today’s technologically advanced world. However, I know it can seem daunting for people who don’t know where to start.  Trust me, the process isn’t as difficult as it may seem from the outside. Below are some of my best tips on how to optimize your LinkedIn and create a strong personal brand. Think of it as your digital résumé.

Being on LinkedIn is more necessary than ever for the job search. According to Omnicore, there are over 675 million LinkedIn users as of 2020. The opportunities for jobs on LinkedIn are endless with over 100 million job applications on LinkedIn every month. Not to mention, over 95% of recruiters also use LinkedIn regularly.

Do not skimp on your about section.

It is one of the first parts of your LinkedIn profile that employers will see. As a result, you should include your current work position, your relevant skills, and education. It may also be useful to provide information on what type of work you are seeking here. In order to write a killer About Me, consider these tips. 1. Make your current job title clear. 2. Weave in keywords pertaining to your skillset and past experience. 3. End with information about what you hope to accomplish in the future.

Pick a professional and appropriate photo for your profile picture.

You don’t necessarily need a professionally-done headshot. However, you should make sure your profile picture is of good quality and cropped to be a medium shot (shoulders up normally). Make sure your attire looks appropriate and professional. A picture is worth a thousand words, so make it a good impression. 

Add relevant links in your work experience section.

Links are a chance for you to show off your projects and publications for employers to browse through. You can also link to company websites for places you have worked. Links add visual interest and interactivity to your LinkedIn page. 

Be detailed and specific in your job descriptions.

Using the résumé format of listing out your duties while in the role is one way to approach it. You can also use a more longform, prose description of your job duties if you’d prefer. Giving numbers and mentioning specific skills and technologies helps show the employers your impact and what you have to offer. 

Keep all sections as up-to-date as possible.

Your LinkedIn can’t fully represent you and your accomplishments if you don’t take the time to update it frequently. It’s easiest to do so after a couple weeks working at a new job. That way you’ve had time to adjust and your duties are fresh in your mind. 

Ask previous employers to endorse skills in your skill section.

Having endorsements on your skills looks great and can boost your credibility in the eyes of potential employers. 

Don’t be afraid to input relevant courses, published work credits, and organization memberships.

Some people neglect the accomplishments section on LinkedIn, but it can be a great way to showcase who you are outside of jobs and internships. Plus, you never know what organizations could connect you to employers. 

Connect to your employers and coworkers on LinkedIn. 

Networking is a huge part of the job search. Connecting with people you have worked with in the past keeps them in your network, so you are able to reach out in the future and find new opportunities. It also builds rapport between yourself and coworkers. You can even reach out to people your own age whose work you admire and ask them if they want to connect and provide you with advice on how they got to where they are. Some other great ways to Network include: following thought leaders, putting up blog posts in connection to your career and accomplishments, and engaging with threads for companies you admire.

Consider starting a blog or portfolio website to showcase your additional work.

There a tons of easy ways to start your own website, either a blog or portfolio site. WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, and PortfolioBox are a few user friendly options. They are highly customizable and allow for you to house your professional work. It can also pop up (if you have killer SEO) when a prospective employer is Googling for people with your skillset. Tailoring a website to your taste is a great way to also assert your personal brand and showcase it to the world. I myself have been running my own blog for several years, along with a portfolio website.

Now, you’re well on your way to creating a personal brand. These tips will help you reach your potential when it comes to creating a professional showcase of your skills and experience. You’re ready for the job search!

Mind Love Life Stories

Here’s what you need to know about love languages

My boyfriend is a lovely human. He has many amazing qualities from his insane cooking skills to his goofiness and his ability to be there for the people he loves. However, being physically affectionate is not one of them. I am a super touchy person, so it used to bother me a lot that he wasn’t quick to hold my hand in public or give me kisses all the time. However, my feelings about his way of expressing himself all changed when I learned about love languages.

Now, I see that he is affectionate in his own way.

Love languages, for anyone who is not familiar, are the ways in which people express their love emotionally. They can also refer to how people like to receive love from others.

The five main love languages are words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, quality time and physical touch. Words of affirmation refer to verbal expressions of affection and care.

Gifts are relatively self explanatory, but they refer to tangible items that make you feel loved. Acts of service are kind and helpful things you do for your partner.

Quality time is doing something together that you both enjoy. And physical touch is anything from hugs, hand holding and kisses to sex.

I took a quiz to find my love language and learned that I am primarily physical touch with words of affirmation following close behind. Quality time was third with acts of service and gifts last.

My boyfriend’s love language, however, I have learned is almost entirely acts of service with occasional words of affirmation. 

Prior to learning about love languages, I felt insecure and worried that my boyfriend wasn’t as attracted to me as I was to him. However, since I have discovered love languages, I have undergone a mindset shift.

I realized I had not been giving my partner enough credit. Just because he didn’t show his love for me the same way that I showed my love for him, didn’t mean that his love was any less strong or valid. 

I started noticing the little things he did to make me feel cared for everyday. He loves to cook for me and often does the laundry and cleans when I am feeling stressed. He always gives me cuddles and hugs when I am feeling low.

When we are away from each other he checks in often and always gives me a call when he has a free moment. He calls me beautiful everyday. Those things are just as meaningful, if not more, than physical affection. 

Our relationship and the way we communicate has improved significantly through our understanding of each other’s love languages. We are more forgiving and appreciative of one another and we are more aware of what the other person’s needs are.

I would highly recommend to anyone (whether you’re in a relationship or single) to research love languages and figure out your own. You may be surprised at how much it can help your interactions with others and understanding of yourself.  

Exploring and understanding love languages can give you insight into how different people express their emotions. It is valuable to understand how different people like to receive love.

Understanding other people’s love languages can allow you to know how to communicate effectively with them. By catering to people’s love language, you can connect to them more deeply. Trust me and take a look into love languages. It will make your relationship stronger than ever.