Mind Love Life Stories Advice

I wrote a letter to the one that hurt me and this is how I healed

There comes a point in life when you reach a place of self-love and healing. The healing is gradual, it is a constantly fluctuating line that slowly staggers upwards, but this place of self-love is one that takes a long time to reach.  

People deal with the realization that they are no longer affected by the person who broke them in different ways. Some go out and enjoys themselves, maybe even at a party, some decide that it’s finally time to meet a new person, some stay at home and write in their journal about their feelings and some, like me, write a letter to the one who broke their heart.

I’d come to terms with the experience and I’d soaked up all the lessons like a sponge, squeezing out only the bad feelings and the negative emotions that came with them. I was happy, content, and getting on well with my life. But one day, I sat down and absorbed everything—the lessons, the hurt, the love and what it all taught me—and I decided to write to him.

I’ve accepted that healing is not a destination, it is a process and it is a long one at that. And sometimes, while you’re journeying in your path from a jungle of confused feelings to self-realization and soft happiness, you might want to take a breather and reach out to the one who caused this much growth in you without reaching out to them. And that’s what I did. I got a pen and a paper and started writing the traditional ‘Dear…’ letter to the person who broke my heart.

Later, I turned this letter into a poem which I shared on Instagram, and I realized that maybe he would have read it by now, but that wasn’t the point. The point was that I was finally in a comfortable place to reflect on the experience that I had not many years ago, enough to write about it. The letter was called ‘indifference’ but I can reassure you, it didn’t come from a place of spitefulness or regret. Instead, it was an accumulation of everything that had happened and how it made me feel at that present moment—indifferent.

I felt indifferent because I was no longer affected by him. I felt indifferent because the heartbreak I experienced didn’t hurt me anymore. I felt indifferent because I knew then that no matter what happened, I was never going to turn back into his arms again. I felt indifferent because my heart didn’t know how else to feel about him.

It was like, the hole that he left inside my chest was filled with love and happiness and countless experiences since him so there was no room for pain. There was no room to think about the hurt he caused or the tears or the love. And because there was no room, there were no emotions for him either and instead all that I was left with was indifference.

It felt good. I liked writing this letter because as the words appeared on the paper, I felt stronger and more in control. The letter made me feel like I was the one in power this time, and I was. If you think about it–I was the one asserting, I was the one who was ‘telling him how it is’ and I was the one who had the final say because the last word was mine. 

I spoke about my feelings or the lack thereof and I even cared to add a little sass because that’s just me, and by the end as I put that letter in an envelope that wasn’t going to get posted anywhere at all, I was much lighter than before. I was already happy, but after writing to him, I felt happier. I felt like we’d had a conversation which went my way, and most of you will know that is never the case when you’re speaking to the person who hurt you, and now things were ending in the way that I wanted them to.

After writing it all down, I not only came to terms with the true depth of what I was going through, but I was also able to appreciate my journey and how far I’d come. This was the most fulfilling thing about writing that letter. I’ve learned now that often to close old chapters you just need a little ‘chapter summary’ of what happened so you can read over it and make sense of everything. This summary doesn’t need to be for anyone but you, and sometimes you don’t even need to write it out. Just think about it if you must but do take the time to reflect and absorb everything that has happened.

Eventually, when you start a new chapter you have that little bit of information about the previous one so you know how to prepare your heart and soul for what’s to come.

Race Books Inequality

How Claudia Rankine calls for us to grow as citizens with her writing

I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I remember the time I met Claudia Rankine at last year’s London Literature Festival with pride and wonder. Starstruck with her resolute and wise energy, I remember standing in front of her,  gushing about Don’t Let Me Be Lonely and Citizen before asking if she would mind signing my copy of the former title. Thankfully, despite my rambling inability to contain my amazement, she happily didn’t mind at all.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1963, Rankine earned her BA at Williams College and her MFA at Columbia University. While writing her poetry, she also teaches at Yale University. She co-edits the American Women Poets in the 21st Century: Where Lyric Meets Language anthology series with Lisa Sewell. Don’t Let Me Be Lonely (2004) and Citizen (2014), are part of her An American Lyric series in progress.

Rankine’s writing sets the groundwork for why #BlackLivesMatter is such a relevant, important movement that should include all of us. In Don’t Let Me Be Lonely, she recalls what her political state of existence when she watched the news. She talks about the time George Bush forgot whether two or three people were convicted of dragging a black man to his death in Texas:

… in Bush’s case, I find myself talking to the television screen: You don’t remember because you don’t care.

I forget things too. It makes me sad… The sadness is not really about George W… the sadness lives in the recognition that a life can not matter. Or, as there are billions of lives, my sadness is alive alongside the recognition that billions of lives never mattered.

Rankine voices the inequality that has always affected people’s lives, even before #BlackLivesMatter came to fruition. She holds readers accountable for the injustices that benefit the racially-privileged who are, in turn, actively indifferent to those injustices.

Years after the publication of Don’t Let Me Be Lonely, Rankine advocates not only for the rights of black people to be recognized but also for white people to use awareness of their privilege to advocate for them. She states that the sociologically-engineered inequality of our society is further perpetrated by the problem of whiteness: “[its] inability to see how intertangled it is with white supremacy” and how there is a continued “investment in centralizing whiteness” everywhere.

Rankine points out the problematic behavior of statements that dominate white discourse on the internet. For example, many white people often state that it isn’t their responsibility to right the wrongs of their slave-owning ancestors. Furthermore, vitriolic responses of “All Lives Matter!” to the #BlackLivesMatter movement prove that blindness to the connection between whiteness and white supremacy. Reactions such as these show a further cultural investment in whiteness, whether via white people’s indifference to the oppression of black people or their societally-imposed desire to maintain the status quo.

Rankine does not blame President Trump for reverting a utopian social order of “post-racial” “equality” into regression. Instead, she classifies him as “a symptom” of white supremacy. She states that the election of Trump granted repressed white males permission to voice their disdain for political correctness. 

Praised as “the book of a generation” by the Sunday Times, Citizen takes Rankine’s critique of white supremacy further. Rankine highlights that critique not only in her words but also in their visual presentation. Most notably, she commemorates victims of police brutality such as Sandra Bland and Michael Brown in her “In Memory of” wall. As the wall fades out,  she leaves us with:

Because white men can’t
police their imagination
black men are dying

Pages with In Memory Of people of color who were killed in recent years on left page, and on right page there are the words Because white men can’t police their imagination black men are dying
Pages with In Memory Of people of color who were killed in recent years on left page. On right page, the words: Because white men can’t police their imagination black men are dying

The isolation of the aforementioned lines further accentuates Rankine’s point about the sociological investment in whiteness. By placing those three lines on their own page, she forces us to focus on the statement they form. Her prose forces us to think about how black people are at the mercy of white anger. Moreover, she forces us to confront the reality that white entitlement matters more than black peoples’ lives.

One year later, I am in awe of Rankine and her presence in our lives. As artist and advocate, Rankine uses her love for language to raise her voice above the cacophony of systemic brutality. She reminds us of the complex evolution of racist behavior, calling for us to know, grow, and be better. May she be a testament of Dylan Thomas’ urge for us to not “go gently into that good night” but to “rage against the dying of the light.”

May we be a generation that carries her torch of truth into our futures.

Tech Career Advice Now + Beyond

Here’s how you can kill it at NaNoWriMo – and finally write that dream novel

If you didn’t know already, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month which is a writing contest where writers write 50,000 words in a month. The young writer’s program allows students to set their own word count goal. It’s good for students who have a lot on their plate but still want to attempt to write a book in a month.

NaNoWriMo isn’t just for amateur writers. John Green participated in NaNoWriMo in a video that he announced in 2009. In addition, the first three novels in The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer began during NaNoWriMo. Meyer discussed participating in NaNoWriMo in this interview. Their advice is helpful to watch and listen to when you need a little motivation – particularly in this last stretch of NaNoWriMo. In addition, here are some great apps to use if you are struggling during this final stretch of NaNoWriMo!

Here are some great apps to use if you are participating in NaNoWriMo:

1. Work Flowy

workflowy via itunes
workflowy via ITunes 

This app lets you outline your novel. Outlining is especially beneficial for new writers in creating structure through a beginning, middle, and ending of their story. The app has a very minimalistic template that makes it easy to follow. Such a template is especially helpful when trying to keep track of changes in your documents, as well as seeing how your work is coming together.

2. Grammarly Keyboard

Grammarly via iTunes
Grammarly via iTunes

This app is perfect if you want something that will automatically correct your grammar. Technically, NaNoWriMo is supposed to help you get your first draft out there instead of focusing on the editing process, but if you want something that will help you to stay on track then use Grammarly.

Even if you’re not into writing novels, this is the perfect app for school or work. It keeps track of everything to make sure you don’t make any obvious grammar errors. It is great for when you want to email someone at work or for something school related such as asking someone to write a letter of recommendation for you. 

3. Everywriter- Write the novel, book

everywriter via iTunes
everywriter via iTunes

This app allows you to write, edit, and publish a novel. It provides the user with tools to design a stunning cover and edit the book once it is completed. In addition, it has an offline mode which is perfect for when you don’t have wifi or if you are traveling.  It offers different color options for the novels that you can publish using the app.

In this app, there are four different categories: Novel, ebook, script, and talk (texting stories). You can also import your novel from your Google Drive or iCloud in order to edit it on the app. You can also read other user’s stories.

Each of these apps has its own pros and cons, but all of them will help you to plan or write out your first draft. Keep in mind that your writing doesn’t have to be perfect (and what does that mean anyway?). NaNoWriMo can be a very daunting task, but these apps will help to make your life easier during this month.

That said, you should aim for at least 50,000 words this month – unless you’re participating in the Young Writer’s program. In that case, focus on the word count goal that you set for yourself.

Good luck with your novel!

Food & Drinks Life

My food blog has enhanced my life in ways you wouldn’t expect

Three big things happened to me in 2016. I moved to Richmond, Virginia, I started a food blog, and Donald Trump won the presidential election

Two years later and my blog has evolved from a place for me to post recipes from all over the world to a logbook of my life. I’ve described blogging as screaming into the void, and sometimes the void screams back in the form of positive feedback or spam comments.

I’m young. I’m really, really, young. I’m not even old enough to vote. Every teenager has experienced their opinions being undermined because of their age. This blog gives me legitimacy.

The 2016 presidential election shook me deeply. I was 14, when it happened so I was not old enough to vote. I was scared, angry, and bitter. I began to write about it on my blog. It started off subtlety (some could say snidely). A recipe for guacamole would slowly turn into accusing President Trump of high treason. That sort of thing.

This blog has not just helped me channel my anger at the heartless, traitorous Trump administration. It helped me appreciate and embrace my culture. I am a first generation Indian American- but that isn’t cool yet. I never saw my culture anywhere. It has yet to be brought into the mainstream so all people know about Indian culture is chicken tikka masala and saris. I hid from my culture. I wanted to shove it in the back of my closet with my winter coats and old books.

So much of Indian culture is food. Hundreds of spices, lentils, and naans make up hundreds of regional cuisines. I never appreciated my culture so much as when I saw how broad and beautiful it is in a cookbook about Indian cuisine from different states.

I write about my life. I write about making meatballs for my dog on her birthday. I write about going shopping with my mom. I write about chipped nail polish, Starbucks coffee, my favorite fall trends, learning French, and the terrifying prospect of college.

If I had let my age get in my way, I never would have done all of this. The first few posts on my blog are *incredibly* cringeworthy. They have terrible grammar, unfinished thoughts and tons of oversharing. Even then, I didn’t think any of it was good enough to post. But I posted it anyways, and my writing has evolved into something I can read without feeling nauseous! It’s all about the small victories.

Every day I feel like I am in over my head. I have no idea what I am doing. It’s terrifying, knowing that other people read what I write, not just on my blog, but on numerous other places on the internet.

Writing is a messy, arduous, draining process. I get writers’ block all the time, and it is the most soul-crushing thing in the world other than reading the news, of course.

But what is far more terrifying is the thought of stopping. If you have a voice, you have to use it. If I were a soccer mom or a third-grade teacher, I’d say you either use it or lose it. I use it, so should you.

Life Hacks Tech Now + Beyond

7 tips and tricks for your iPhone Notes app you should know about

Sidekicks make the world go ’round.

Shrek has Donkey, Lizzie McGuire has tiny cartoon Lizzie, and I have the Notes app. It’s where I keep half of my brain, most of my feelings and all of my ideas.

I’ve loved Notes for a long time, but in recent years it’s improved exponentially. In case you’ve missed it, in Notes you can create folders, export as a PDF, make tables, bullets and checklists,  draw, take a photo, scan a document, and so much more.

I don’t know what I’d do without it, so to honor that fact, here are a few things I find it helpful for.

1. Save interesting things you’ve read all in one place.

Busy GIF
[Image description: a file drawer slowly extends to show thousands of files]
One of the folders in my Notes is completely dedicated to interesting things I find on the internet. This mostly consists of links to and excerpts from articles that are so revelatory or resonant I know I’ll want to go back to them. If you’re reading on your phone, you can highlight text and then share it to a new or existing note without ever leaving the article or losing your spot.

2. Prepare for the bad times without overloading your phone.

Go Away Cat GIF by jessthechen
GIF by @jessethechen [Image description: cartoon cat hiding under hat]
If I could marry the Notes App I would, because it’s already been there for me in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer.

I keep an entire folder full of things that make me feel better, like voicemails and texts from my friends and loved ones, uplifting articles, and lyrics to my favorite songs. It’s like a first aid kit for the soul: there if your friends are busy or if your next therapy appointment is far away.

The content makes me feel good, compounded by the fact that I’m helping myself.

3. Jot down ideas any and every time of day.

Taking Notes GIF
[image description: a woman writing down a note. caption: “Okay, alright.”]
Every good (and bad) idea I’ve ever had has first been written in the Notes app. I have folders dedicated to different ongoing projects and one that’s just a catchall for any idea, whether it’s for a birthday that’s 7 months away or something that would either be the best or worst tweet I’ve ever written and I have to sleep on it.

I don’t know how I ever held on to an idea for more than three seconds before Notes came into my life.

4. Make to-do lists/done lists and track your productivity.

Lazy To Do List GIF by SpongeBob SquarePants
[image description: “nothing” being crossed off to-do list]
There is a feature in the Notes app specifically for making checklists, with little bubbles next to each item that you can check off as you go. However, sometimes a long list of empty bubbles staring at you with a withering gaze can make the tasks feel a little daunting.

Maybe that’s just me, but if you feel it too, I recommend making done lists. List everything you’ve already done, no task being too small (ate breakfast: boom done). Notes can be home to any type of list your heart desires!

5. Journal, journal, journal!

Renee Zellweger Diary GIF by Bridget Jones
[image description: Bridget Jones writing “Dear Diary”]
I really want to be a person who keeps a journal, but whenever I start one I lose track of what notebook I started it in or I forget about it entirely. 

Maybe someday I’ll follow David Sedaris and publish a book of my Notes, but for now, it’s the best strategy I’ve come across for keeping a journal.  

6. Draft those risky texts or figure out that perfect Instagram caption.

Mad Work GIF
[image description: man tossing up papers]
Accidentally hitting send/post is the stuff of modern nightmares, but you could be living the dream if you just draft your missives in the Notes app.

Plus, you can write out multiple options and compare them side by side.

7. Illustrate a story mid-conversation!

Demi Lovato Television GIF
[Image description; Jimmy Fallon dancing and playing Pictionary]
Some stories are just better when you have a visual. Now that you can draw directly in notes, I frequently illustrate my stories while I’m telling them. They’re usually hideous and don’t make any sense out of context, but that’s beside the point.

No matter your needs, if you give it a chance, the Notes app can be your new best friend. (Sorry human friends.)

Books Pop Culture

An open letter to the writer that changed my childhood as well as my adult life

Dear Sarah Dessen,

I was 13 when I first read Someone Like You. I was not a book lover, a bookworm or into literature – none of that. But one day, a family friend of mine dropped off this book for me and I decided to give it a try.

Before that, reading was something I did when my mother told me to. I’d read Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, and more just because that’s what I was told. There wasn’t this inherent desire in me to read.

So when I say that reading that one book was when I changed, I know it is the cliche of cliches, but that was when I fell in love with books. Cliches exist for a reason, and this was mine. Reading Someone Like You was eye-opening. The characters, the mood, the connections, all of that – I craved and kept craving.

The book spoke a lot about grief; it dealt with the aftermath of loss and how grief works differently for everyone. I had lost my grandfather a few months prior and I couldn’t confront my grief, so I let myself go in the book. All the lines pertaining to the inherent grief Scarlett’s character held within her resonated with me. 

More than that, there was the friendship between Scarlett and Halley. It wasn’t a romanticized friendship, it wasn’t glamorised, it was real and raw and had all the ups and downs that I was facing with my own friends at the time. Towards the end of the book. there’s a line that talks about how everyone needs that one person in their life, and that relatability factor just struck me. It was a literature that I needed to so desperately connect with. Being 13 in Karachi, you don’t get a lot of exposure.

Someone Like You gave me real connection, real immersion with a culture that wasn’t my own. It was something I had never really felt. But reading that book made it come to life for me. Soaking in Halley and Scarlett, I realized that there was so much more out there for me to learn. I read and then re-read it; allowing myself to just live in someone else’s shoes because I so badly wanted to pretend my reality was not real. So I went to search for another one of her books. But none were available in Karachi.

That summer, I was travelling and I came across another book by Sarah Dessen. That was all I really wanted. I wanted to shop and the usual, but there was this need, this desire to read more that was so new. And that unfamiliarity made me feel good. That exhilaration is still what I feel when I walk into a bookstore. No one in my family was fond of reading or ever really gave it a second glance past Peter and Sally. 

I was so immersed in her novels that I craved to make the characters my own. That was when I started writing. I wrote fantastical stories of the characters meeting one another, making up a reality that was so completely far away from my own. And then I began my own project. It was never supposed to be a novel, but somewhere along the line, I found my own characters.

Sarah Dessen, I read and re-read Someone Like You, questioning my ability to write every second. Praying to anything out there to make my words flow as easily as yours. Wishing that I would finish this book, and get that same feeling I did after reading both those books. Years passed and I kept on writing. I read all of your novels. There is only one international bookstore here and every time I went there, and I would always ask them the same question,

“Any new Sarah Dessen books?”

It became a need to end my night with a world that seemed so far from my own yet one I identified with so well. I would ask friends and family who went on holiday to bring back your books for me. 

I finally finished my book when I was 17. And when the first printed copy lay in my hands, I skipped to the ending, asking myself if I got that feeling – that feeling I got every time I finished one of your books. I still haven’t been able to answer that question myself. It’s hard to judge your writing from a creative distance. The point is, if Someone Like You hadn’t found me all those years ago, I may not have published my book, I may not have ever even written it. I may not have realized that writing is the one thing that feels closest to home.

I think I read somewhere in your books that every story is worth telling, and I thought maybe you’d like to hear this one.

Love Life Stories

The 6 types of best friends you’ll have in your life

As an introvert, I find it important to keep myself surrounded by a few very close friends. These six friends became my bridesmaids at my wedding, and as I selected which girls I wanted standing beside me on my wedding day, I started to think about how different my friendship was with each one.

My friendships look nothing alike and I’m thankful for that. There’s no one-size-fits-all for friends, but each personality brings a unique relationship and plays a meaningful role in my life.

There are a million different kinds of friendships, but here are six:

1. Your ultimate BFF.

A gif of a girl saying "you are my best friend."
[Image description: A gif of a girl saying “you are my best friend.”] Via giphy

This is the friend who makes me laugh endlessly but is also always full of wise advice. We’re the kind of friends who do photo shoots every time we get together and have a Pinterest board full of cute best friend quotes. We have matching outfits (yes, plural) and braided our hair together once.

She’s the ideal friend for watching chick flicks or for some guy talk, and she’s absolutely the person you want around when you’re getting ready for a fancy event.

2. The big sister.

A gif of two sisters; one sister grabs and hugs the other sister.
[Image description: A gif of two sisters; one sister grabs and hugs the other sister.] Via giphy

In my case, this friend literally is my sister, but she doesn’t have to be related by blood.

She’s the friend that’s been around forever; you actually can’t remember a time in your life where she wasn’t somewhere in the picture. She’s also the friend you turn to for serious advice and, though you would never admit it, the friend you’ve always looked up to.

You kind of want to be like her and you consider her the ultimate role model, but she also knows how to have a lot of fun.

3. Your travel BFF.

A gif of two people walking around different cities.
[Image description: A gif of two people walking around different cities.] Via giphy

This friend is all about adventure and exploration. Not only does she love to travel but she’s adamant about traveling the right way: getting away from too much tourism, surrounding yourself by the culture, staying in sketchy places just for the experience.

This friendship is one that handles change well because when you travel with someone you both learn and change and grow closer.

4. Your work BFF.

 A gif of a girl saying, "I'm planning on writing an article that exposes all of my vulnerabilities to the entire internet."
[Image description: A gif of a girl saying, “I’m planning on writing an article that exposes all of my vulnerabilities to the entire internet.”] Via giphy

This is the friend you met through your college major or at your job.

In my case, this is my writer friend because we met through our passion for words and our dedication to making a living out of writing, no matter what anyone told us. She’s important because I can turn to her for help or advice, but I can also vent to her when things get frustrating and she understands.

She’s also critical because she’s familiar with my hopes and dreams and can encourage me to keep heading towards the goal even when I feel like giving up.

5. Your college BFF.

A gif of a girl telling a boy, "It's a cool book, you've gotta admit.
[Image description: A gif of a girl telling a boy, “It’s a cool book, you’ve gotta admit.] Via giphy

Honestly, most of my friends have a little bit of this trait because I’m all about a good story and have a way of latching on to people who are similar.

This friend loves learning, though not necessarily academic, and is full of interesting facts and stimulating discussions. She’s the thinker and the friend who makes sure you’re also thinking, whether it’s by starting an argument or sending you a must-read book in the mail.

6. Your college roommate.

A gif of two roommates dancing together.
[Image description: A gif of two roommates dancing together.] Via giphy

I had the same roommate for all four years of college and we clicked so well. We knew all about each other’s habits and routines and we had a system down for just about anything. This was my Netflix friend, my complain-about-school friend, my midnight-rant friend.

We spent so many moments laying on the floor of our room talking about anything and everything. I definitely wouldn’t be able to live with all of my friends, but this friend is hard to live without.

Life Hacks Tech Now + Beyond

How to put your phone down, for good

I am a social media addict.

No, this isn’t a quirky way of saying that I love social media, because as much as I do catch myself always on it, I learned to hate it.

Social media plays a vital role in fostering interconnectivity, making communication so much easier for us and the rest of the world. While it is effective in its fundamental purpose, the benefits are nothing compared to the drawbacks.

Excessive use of anything has negative repercussions. With the sudden rise of social media and people’s general over-reliance on it, there isn’t any surprise to discover that social media addiction is now considered as a valid, serious condition.

Just like all other types, what qualifies it as an addiction is if the social media activity constantly interferes with one’s productivity, if the urge to do it begins to feel uncontrollable.

I’ve encountered people who used it far more counter-productively than I do. People are so fond of oversharing on social media: what they just ate, where they currently are, their unfiltered opinions that no one asked for. Views and likes have become today’s social currency.

The number of followers you have defines the extent of your influence, and somehow everyone nowadays values being relevant. Attention brings forth validation.

Image description: a man saying "Yes. Well, too much is bad for you."
[Image description: a man saying “Yes. Well, too much is bad for you.”] via
I’m not necessarily on that end of the spectrum. I don’t overshare as much as I overuse.

The routine is plain and simple.

Somewhere in between checking my notifications first thing in the morning and staying up until wee hours of the night just going through my ever-busy feed, I compare myself to others way too often than I should. I go through portfolios of established people and wondering when I’ll ever be as admired. I look at someone else’s profile and feel envious of how well they pull off the illusion that they’re all happy and content.

As a result, I find it hard to celebrate my accomplishments because I often see other people who are doing better than I do. Tiring as it is, this so-called routine has become such a hard habit to break.

Ever since before, I become fixated on one thing that would eventually grow into a means for self-destruction. That’s been the routine for so long, and now that one thing is social media. It is my personal black hole.

I reached the peak of this addiction when I began to felt uninterested in replying to personal messages that aren’t urgent, even when they’re from close friends.

It just felt like I was always connected to everyone, and this over-connection triggered my physical “asociality.” I wanted a sort of detachment from my own circles, to function as a Nick Carraway of the world. Eventually, I got just that. Not only did I like the safe distance, but I also thrived in it.

I was on social media, connected to the rest of the world except for my own. It was the perfect place for a budding writer: immersed but detached.

However, at the same time, I was losing friends at an alarming rate. What bothered me more was how indifferent I was. I often convince myself that this was a resolution to my social media problem, but the truth was that it was just an aftereffect – something that I also find hard to control.

At the beginning of 2018, I decided that I need to intervene and do something to get over this addiction. I tried to fix this by uninstalling my mobile apps. That worked out rather well, for some weeks or so. Even my therapist thought that it was a wise move. However, I realized that moderation might not be enough to correct this type of problem.

Okay, so how do you overcome social media addiction?

The ideal thing to do is to completely deactivate existing accounts.

Personally speaking, I still haven’t gotten to that part, but I intend to. Nobody tells an alcoholic to cut down on alcohol bit by bit. People who try to get over nicotine over-use by trying to smoke fewer sticks each week are less likely to succeed.

Image description: Neil Patrick Harris saying "Stop it"
[Image description: Neil Patrick Harris saying “Stop it”] via
The thing about getting over social media is that very few will commit to helping you when you’re at the onset of relapse because social media use isn’t widely considered as harmful. We fail to recognize the magnitude of its influence. This is why we find it hard to control it, so much so it has managed to turn things upside down.

Now, we are the ones controlled by social media.

Social media can most definitely make or break us, depending on how we use it.

With excessive and prolonged use and dependence, it can undermine one’s mental well-being. Perhaps the only way to surviving it is to acknowledge how powerful of a tool it truly is and to realize that there is a need for more thoughtful criticism of such platforms.

Whether you are better off to stay online with the necessary moderation or to finally deactivate your accounts is entirely up to you.

Work Now + Beyond

Dropping out of college launched my dream career

In my first week of university, I noticed small stickers pop up all around campus. “1 in 3 students will not graduate,” the stickers said. I later learned this startling statistic was true: many of us would end up dropping out of college.

“That won’t happen to me,” I thought. I didn’t think I’d drop out because I was so damn excited for university: I loved academia and studying, I had classes with some of my closest friends, and I was very hard-working.

I come from an upwardly-mobile working-class family: I was the first person in my family to attend university, thanks to government-subsidized student loans. At my semi-private high school, it was almost a given that everyone would go to university if they were accepted into one. My school career felt like it led up to me going to university; I could never have anticipated the challenges I faced once I got there.

Looking back, university encompassed the worst and best months of my life. For three and a half years, I met fantastic new people, learned exciting things, and worked on my freelance writing career in between studying. During those years, however, I also struggled with PTSD and depression, navigated toxic relationships, and got into a great deal of trouble for protesting on campus.

My downfall wasn’t that I wasn’t hard-working or passionate about my work. It was that college turned out to be an awful place for my mental health.

I tried to stay in university. I went to therapy, I transferred universities, and I moved across the country to give myself a fighting chance at staying in college. It didn’t work, and I eventually had to leave university, a few months short of completing my degree.

Dropping out of college was terrifying. I had never met a college dropout who was successful. Yes, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were college dropouts, but they seemed like the exception, not the rule. I was a normal person, not a brilliant entrepreneur. I didn’t want to be a billionaire, but I wanted to survive. I had no mentor, no blueprint, and nobody to tell me that I’ll be okay.

As most college students from working-class families will tell you, college often feels like the only way to escape a lifetime of financial worry. When I dropped out, I felt like I would be bound to that struggle.

But this wasn’t the case.

As soon as I dropped out, I started freelancing full-time – I mean, I needed to pay rent. After a while, I realized that writing full-time wasn’t just my dream: it was actually a financially viable pursuit. While I had written regularly for a few publications before that, I never thought writing could be a viable full-time career. This was why, despite writing being my first passion, I was studying to become a teacher.

I dropped out two years ago. I’m now 23, and I can safely say I have my dream job. I’m financially independent, and stable enough to help my family out. Most importantly, I’m in a happy and healthy mental space. Ironically, dropping out of college launched my dream career.

This isn’t me shaming college dropouts who haven’t ‘made it’. I have privilege (I’m a white person living in post-Apartheid South Africa, hello), and while I had to pay rent to stay with my family, I’m lucky I had a place to stay at all.

I’m also pretty lucky that I could achieve my dream without a degree. I didn’t need a degree to write, which was my passion, but if your dream is to become a surgeon – well, that’s a little different. Still, it doesn’t mean your plan B can’t be an exciting and fulfilling career choice for you.

But I want you to know one thing: it’s okay to drop out. Dropping out of college doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It doesn’t make you a loser. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to be successful. It doesn’t mean your career can’t be fulfilling. It certainly doesn’t mean you won’t be happy.

I shudder to think about how many people stay in university, to the detriment of their mental and physical health, just because dropping out doesn’t feel like a possibility to them. I know I’d have left earlier if I knew it was possible for me to be this happy.

To all college dropouts, whether you consider yourself ‘successful’ or not, know that you’re not a failure just because you left college.

And to everyone who’s struggling through university only because dropping out seems like giving up, know that it’s a possibility. It’s possible to drop out and still be happy – in fact, dropping out of college is sometimes necessary for happiness to take root within you.

Tech Now + Beyond

I almost gave up on creative writing, but Twitter saved my passion

A good half of my life has been dedicated to reading books I’ve always dreamed of publishing novels one day. As early as 11, I began my attempts to write one. Because of this love for literature, I went on to taking Communication Arts in college. I went on to focus on the Writing track of the program. Through that, I got to practice creative writing through the track, but it wasn’t all for the better.

I wasn’t satisfied with my final grades in creative writing classes. For someone who aspired to become a published author, those average marks weren’t something that I could actually be proud of. It seemed as though the time constraint for doing literary outputs drained the creativity out of me.

In my third year, I took creative writing classes taught by a professor who was respected in the field, having won national awards that many writers dream of. It might have been inspiring to be a student of such a prominent teacher, but it was also one of the hardest semesters that I had to endure. Afterward, I actually started to believe that creative writing wasn’t for me.

The safest thing to say is that I’m comfortable with the so-called “traditional” way of teaching. The workload and pressure were already strenuous enough to even have to endure emotionally draining treatment.

Image description: Martin Freeman as John Watson in BBC's Sherlock, saying "That wasn't kind"
[Image description: Martin Freeman as John Watson in BBC’s Sherlock, saying “That wasn’t kind”] via
I took a leave of absence from school in the latter half of 2017. In the process of using the time in my hands productively, I found some literary magazines through Twitter. Literary magazines are, as the name suggests, publications solely dedicated to showcasing contemporary literature and art.

My first actual acceptance was from a poetry journal called Black Napkin Press, for an erasure poem that criticized the state-sanctioned Philippine War on Drugs.

It was a thrill seeing my name alongside some poets who already made a name for themselves in the literary community on Twitter. What’s more was that, upon reading my work, a former professor of mine messaged me to say that I should write more. That was when I became inspired to get to know more about the community and maybe get published once more.

Not only did I start writing again, but I also became more active in the community as a staff reader for some magazines. The job was primarily to read submissions and decide whether they should be accepted or not. Through these tasks, I was able to learn and develop my skills in both editing and writing.

Writing to get published isn’t the best motivation to keep you going, but it most definitely was enough to rekindle my love for the craft. The literary community that I found on Twitter, or at least the part of it that I managed to become a part of, has been nothing but supportive and welcoming. Fellow writers and editors soon became friends. What’s best is that I get to work on my pieces at my own pace.

There is a sort of discrimination of contemporary literature in the academy, which isn’t so surprising. People who have a degree in writing are often more likely to dismiss those who have no academic background in the field. As a student, I’ve often encountered professors who’d say that writers shouldn’t dare break the rules of traditional forms without having mastered them beforehand. Clearly, some amateur online writers in the Philippines are being given opportunities to have their work published in print. In their case, the appeal goes beyond tasteful deconstruction of proper structure and downgrades to mere relatability.

However, this is almost entirely different from the case of independent publishing in the literary community. The writers that I became acquainted with are nothing short of brilliant.

If it weren’t for Twitter, I wouldn’t have found such a supportive community that continues to fuel my passion. This revival of passion even drove me to found my own literary journal. Gaps remain in this new-found community. Writers and artists of color do not have enough platforms that are solely theirs, which was why earlier in 2018, I founded The Brown Orient, which exclusively showcases writers and artists from South, Southeast, Middle East, and Central Asia, as well as those in the diaspora.

Image description: The cast of Netflix's Sense8 in a group hug
[Image description: The cast of Netflix’s Sense8 in a group hug] via
This is the ideal learning experience: with people who give constructive criticism while also showing support in your craft. Published works may not always be compensated, but being a part of this literary community was the kind of inspiration that I needed to revive my passion for the craft, and I’m grateful.

Tech Now + Beyond

Sharing my art online changed everything for me

Art is constantly changing. In the same way that it evolves, so do the platforms we use to project it into the world.

One of the most amazing things about being alive right now is the ability to share anything you want, or anything you create, by simply choosing where to post it.

While these technologies grew over recent years, job opportunities grew as well. People went from not being able to make a living to finding opportunities in small-scale digital media. From video editors to make-up artists to dancers, a newly rapid influx of content demanded these types of artists. And now because of this, these types of artists are finding fulfillment while still bringing in a paycheck.

I’ll be honest, for me personally, the dream of success through art felt foolish and unattainable when I was young. It was hard enough trying to be a budding artist. But braving auditions and competitions with anxiety piling on top of it all was even harder. I remember making firm goals in my youth but shying away from opportunities out of fear. My writing, my music, and everything else that I created was for myself, and no one else. Sharing was just too hard when you had to see the reactions on people’s faces.

I found small communities online as I got older. Unexpected places like Tumblr gave me a safe outlet from which to jumpstart my artistic motivation. I found myself in a constant state of creation. I would give writing advice to my peers and answer questions about my music. I was able to make small connections and help others find their own tiny victories. After a while, I started finding those tiny victories of my own.

It felt like something finally clicked, after all of those years of not knowing how to share what I make. That environment of constant feedback framed a perspective for me that still affects how I create.

Because we exchange content differently now than we did even ten years ago, mixing concepts, genres, and types of art forms to find what speaks true to you is more common than ever. And without the constraints of geography and travel, simply using the right tags can help connect artists to their target audience, no matter how far away they might be.

Even the simple, and often painful, act of networking is more accessible. Between LinkedIn, remote positions, and connections with creators who already have a digital presence, it isn’t so hard to track down opportunities. This especially makes finding these opportunities easier for disabled or chronically ill artists, like myself.

I feel like the industry I was meant to work in didn’t exactly exist when I was growing up. I look around now and see more chances to create and inspire rather than more challenges. By simply being alive right now, I’ve gotten to share art and build relationships with other artists in ways I would never have imagined. I’m able to supplement my income and build on my dreams.

Am I currently able to support myself completely by creating art? No. But I get the feeling that someday very soon, I will.

Comics TV Shows Pop Culture

Supergirl’s passion for truth and justice inspired me to pursue journalism

There is one thing we can all agree on, whether you believe The CW’s Supergirl to be a problematic show or not – sometimes I think it’s really messed up, sometimes I enjoy it. Kara Danvers is a role model to women everywhere. But the reason why I love her is not her superpowers. It’s what she does as a journalist.

Before we get into that, I want to express my opinion on the show as a whole: I really think the writers pander themselves on its easy, white feminism, striving to prove how being a ‘girl’ is just as okay as ‘man’. Their flaunted girl power makes me cringe most of the time.

But I also realize how important it is for little girls to see a female superhero on television. I cosplayed as Kara Danvers at a con last year – simply because it was an easy costume to make. But let me tell you, dozens of five-to-ten-year-olds pointed at me screaming ‘it’s Supergirl!’ in excitement. Boys and girls were throwing their fists into the air and asking me to take pictures with them, and I understood one thing. Not everyone is always going to analyze everything.

For some people, television is just entertainment, and for all its problematic aspects, Supergirl is an iconic show. It did pave the way for female superheroes. I didn’t even know a female superhero existed until The Avengers introduced me to the Black Widow, and I was already grown up by then. At least, in its own superficial way, Supergirl is representation. It may be unperfect, but it’s better than no rep at all.

Once we got that out of the way, I have to say that Supergirl inspires me for so much more than her x-ray vision and frost breath. She inspires me with her uncompromising sense of justice, and her steel will do to good.

It’s not only through her superpowers that she spreads truth and justice. She decided to work for the people in her ordinary human job as well, through her writing career. Her choice to explore a new path for herself and become a reporter gave me the confidence to admit that I wanted to be a journalist too.

Now, I’m willing to extend my suspension of disbelief from her superpowers to the fact that she instantly became an ace reporter in the matter of an episode. In the show canon, we don’t even have evidence that she went to college and studied anything relevant to journalism, or that she even had an interest in writing, prior to the episode when she is offered the reporter job. If we manage to overlook that just as we overlook her inhuman speed, Kara’s arc as a journalist is extremely inspiring.

At one point, she is forced to make a decision between what is right and what is easy: her boss tells her she will be fired if she publishes a particular piece of information, but she goes ahead and sends the article anyway. She loses her dream job, but she knows that telling the truth without withholding anything is more important. In the end, that particular article gives her more fame and recognition than any other, along with the deep respect of her readers. Even in her incognito persona, Supergirl is still making a difference for the best in the world.

People complained that not having a job was an unfeminist act on Kara’s part because she was content with saving the world AND having a boyfriend for a couple of days. But the way Kara lost that job was brave and selfless, not weak or in any way reinforcing the patriarchy. She was looking out for the people in her city with her very human talent for writing, in the same way she does when she’s punching evil aliens.

As Kara says, “Being a reporter is about connecting with people, about finding hidden truth and sharing it with the world, it’s about service, and telling stories that need to be told in order to make the world a better, more comprehensible place. And it’s going to make me the best version of myself because it will definitely push me out of my comfort zone.”

Supergirl is right. Writing can be difficult, challenging and intimidating, and it should be hard. But it’s also incredibly rewarding. It creates bonds, it requires a deep understanding and a stark sense of right and wrong. It’s not easy to keep a tight ethic in journalism, but doing it makes you a better person. Almost a superhero.

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