Dealing with the Fear of Change

A few days ago, I took an online quiz with my friends to see which Pokemon best matched my personality (this is important, trust me). One of the questions caught me off guard, and I’ve been thinking about it for the past few days. The quiz asked what my biggest weakness was, presented me with several options (e.g. “loneliness,” “darkness,” “other’s ignorance”); I chose “change.”

Now here I am, awake at 5am, thinking about this. Among many other reasons (today’s reason is that my neighbors were playing basketball in the parking lot at 4:30am), I’ve been unable to sleep restfully for the past week or so.

Today is June 1st. I’ve been dreading this day for months. I don’t really care that I have to take finals, and the only reason I’m somewhat happy about being this close to summer is that I’m going back to Guam for the first time in years. I’m not ready for summer yet because my life is in such a good place right now (aside from the problematic environment I live in, and the fact that my community and I are still coping with the trauma of what happened in Isla Vista). I have a network of close friends who make me feel at home when I’m away from my family, and I have a boyfriend I get to spend time with every day. Unfortunately for me, he and a bunch of my close friends are graduating this year. So more than anything, I’m scared of change at this point, because I don’t want to lose the things that make me so happy.

I’m trying to understand exactly why I’m feeling so sad and scared. Change scares me, but it shouldn’t leave me lying awake in bed or using TV as a distraction for my real life fears, both of which I’ve been doing a lot lately. June makes me feel like I’m saying goodbye. It feels like this part of my life is over, and sometimes I fear that this is the peak of my life, and I’m never going to get it back. For months now, I’ve been having flashbacks to when I was 17, right before I moved from Guam to California, leaving behind a happy life to go into the unknown. The period from right before I moved to the end of my first long distance relationship was one of the most painful, traumatic experiences of my life. Reliving this experience makes me feel like the weak, scared teenager I was four years ago.

But after I moved, I grew so much. It was difficult and different and terrifying at first, but I made it through somehow. In fact, it led me to the life I have now which I’m so scared to lose. So if there’s any lesson I can take from that painful experience, and I know how much cliche quotes suck, but Marilyn Monroe’s words ring especially true for me today:  good things fall apart, so that better things can fall together. I loved my life on Guam, but if I hadn’t left it behind, I wouldn’t have met my boyfriend, or all my incredible friends who shaped my college experience; I might not have found my passions for blogging or social justice activism; I might not have come to terms with my queer identity; and I don’t even know if I’d consider myself a feminist today.

My life is beautiful now because I accepted and adapted to change. And although my heart breaks while I think about how I won’t see my friends who are graduating anymore, and I won’t get to be with my boyfriend every day like I do now, there will still be good times ahead if I stay positive and embrace change. If there’s anything I’ve learned from my life experiences, it’s that the fear of the unknown can be crippling, but the change I feared can bring about a better life I couldn’t imagine myself living without.

Endnote: I found some advice from my dad’s blog that’s really helpful with dealing with change and uncertainty too: Finding Peace with Uncertainty.

How I Survived 6 Months Without Shopping

Seven months ago, I had to pack all my clothes before I made the trip from San Francisco back to Santa Barbara for the beginning of the school year. I spent several hours sorting my clothes into piles, packing them into my suitcase, and trying to fit everything in. After re-packing my suitcase several times, I looked around at my living room, clothing awry, and realized how many items of clothing I actually owned.

I knew I spent way too much money on retail shopping, especially considering how I have inconsistent sources of income, but it didn’t hit me until I realized that I could go for a few months with only the clothes in my suitcase; I ended up leaving 3-4 large boxes of clothes back home.

As my bank account balance got so low that I was afraid to check it, I decided I needed to make a change. I was tired of spending my hard-earned cash on things I didn’t even need and only wanted impulsively. I could tell myself repeatedly that I didn’t want to shop, but when I hit the malls or saw a sale on the Urban Outfitters website, I felt helpless. I knew I needed to take action and go cold turkey on my bad spending habits.

I spent a few months working for my dad and reading his blog posts about quitting bad habits, so I turned to him for help. We came to an agreement about a reasonably difficult challenge. I promised to go 6 months without shopping, with the stipulation that for every piece of clothing I bought during this 6 month period, I would have to go a whole week without watching TV (which is an effective punishment for me; I wrote a post every single day for this blog for weeks because my punishment for not writing was no TV for 3 days). I announced the terms of this challenge to my Facebook friends to keep accountability, and agreed that I’d have to announce every slip-up in the challenge on Facebook too.

At first, the challenge wasn’t particularly difficult. I was fine with the clothes I brought with me to school. But after a while, it got worse. Urban Outfitters (which was my favorite store at the beginning of the challenge) had a 50% off sale on the first week of my challenge; I wanted to die. I started having anxiety dreams about breaking the challenge. For several nights, I dreamt that I was at a department store and was tempted to buy something, even though I knew I shouldn’t. Once I even woke up stressed out because I thought I actually slipped up and bought clothes.

For me, shopping is less of a necessity than an impulse. I know I don’t actually need the clothes I buy, but I see something in the clothes that I think I need. At the onset of the challenge, I had insecurities about my appearance, and I subconsciously thought that the clothes I bought would somehow make me magically prettier. As I went further into this challenge, I began to look more critically at these insecurities. I don’t have the all trendiest clothes and I repeat outfits often. Without new clothes as a crutch, I have to depend on my personality and the way I carry myself to make me feel attractive. It’s a difficult process, but it’s working.

Unfortunately, I broke down a couple times during the challenge and bought a few items of clothing. I felt ashamed when I announced my failure on Facebook, or when my dad sent me sad-faced Snapchats in disappointment. Sometimes I kept the slip-ups to myself and wallowed in self-hate.

But what the failure taught me was that it’s okay to mess up. I saw what I did wrong and I experienced the guilt and humiliation when I had to tell all my friends and family that I messed up. Making these mistakes turned out to be a good learning experience: I know how horrible I felt to fail and do not want to relive it during the rest of the challenge.

A few things that helped me in particular were removing my triggers and having lots of support from others. I made sure to unsubscribe to email offers from my favorite brands (there will always be sales and they’ll always email you about the enticing offers). I also made sure not to follow any clothing brand accounts on Instagram to avoid temptation. I would have slipped up even more on this challenge, despite removing my triggers, if it weren’t for the support I gained from members of my dad’s Sea Change Program, who created a forum where they joined in on my challenge and looked up to me for sticking with it.

This challenge was probably one of the most difficult ones I’ve taken on in my life (and I know how much of a shopaholic that makes me look like). It’s hard to stop shopping, especially in a society that focuses so much on consumerism. If you don’t shop, you aren’t cool, you aren’t successful, and you aren’t like everyone else. If you take on a challenge like this, people will inevitably think you’re crazy. But what’s even crazier is being a slave to the system of consumerism. People refer to shopping as “retail therapy” — think about what that really means. As a society, we shop as a form of catharsis, but when I shop, it only makes me feel like a robot who needs to spend hard-earned money on useless, overpriced pieces of cloth.

Before you shop again, stop and ask yourself: do I really want to spend hours of my life working to make money to buy things I don’t even need? Instead, we can spend our money on what we do need and what will make us happy: going out to eat with friends, traveling, experiences with our families. So let’s put a break on the impulsive shopping, because we’re better than our urges and we’re better than the system.

Shifting to Relationship Topics

Hello, my little Lovescrews! (That’s what I’m tentatively calling my readers now)

I realize I haven’t written much for this blog for the past month or two–we can probably blame that on my hectic extra-curricular schedule and general laziness. It’s been especially tricky for me to write for Lovescrewed lately because I’ve been dating someone, and I’ve been trying to find my comfort level with posting what I write about our relationship. Is it more important to help others by writing about the issues I go through in my current relationship, or should I keep this part of my life strictly intimate? Will it be awkward if I still write about problems I had with exes? Will my boyfriend (and everyone else) think I’m not over past relationship trauma if I write about it? These are the questions that haunt me at night (but not really).

Just a few months ago, I had planned to stay away from dating for a long time. I was going through a period of personal growth and had no intention on letting romance get in the way of who I wanted to become. But as I’ve learned over the past month, dating someone doesn’t mean you have to stop growing as a person. In fact, being in a relationship is helping me continue to grow as an individual immensely. It’s challenging me to think critically about the choices I make, redefine the opinions I have on love, and work hard to find the perfect balance between keeping my individuality while being open to loving someone deeply.

If you continue to follow my blog, you will probably notice a shift in topics or my attitude towards relationships. Many of my past articles focused on self-love, self-healing from heartbreak, and dealing with loneliness. As I won’t be focusing on those issues in my personal life as much as I used to, my writing will reflect that shift (but self-love is still so important, so I’ll try to keep this a constant on Lovescrewed). Instead, I’ll write more about general relationship issues, long distance relationships (I’m working on my first ebook on this topic!), and personal growth topics.

I’m not sure where my current circumstances will lead my writing, but I’m excited to explore it, and to share what I learn on this journey with anyone who might find it helpful.

-Chloe

How I Started My Long-term Blog and Stay Motivated to Write

Since I started publishing my writing through Lovescrewed last year, people have asked me how I stay motivated to write. I’m no writing expert, and I certainly don’t post as regularly as I’d like to–this almost seems like a joke post, since the last time I published an article on this blog was over a month ago.

In any case, I have a few pointers for starting long-term blogs. Here are some tips for anyone interested in the process of how I started Lovescrewed:

  1. Choose a general theme/topic you’re interested in. Before I started Lovescrewed, I had a few other small blogs I’d started in the past, often because my dad encouraged me to write. None of them really stuck though, because they lacked purpose. In high school, I’d write superficial posts like, “10 things you didn’t know about me” or “why Jake Gyllenhaal was hot in Prince of Persia,” then I’d lose interest. But when I began writing for Lovescrewed, I had a wide breadth of topics I was eager to explore, and I had chosen an area that I knew a lot about. Choosing a general theme or mission is an important first step to starting a long-term blog.
  2. Brainstorm. When Franceska and I first came up with the idea for Lovescrewed, we got serious and went into a brainstorming frenzy. First, we started a collaborative Google Doc (I highly recommend Google Docs for saving all your writing and working with others online, by the way) and listed about a hundred different topics we wanted to write about that dealt with heartbreak, self-love, and relationships. Brainstorming article topics or general subject areas gives you a resource to fall back on when you run out of ideas to write about. Whenever I was in the mood to write, I’d turn to the list and pick whatever topic was the most interesting or most relevant to my life at the moment. And I’d add to the list later when I thought of new topics I wanted to write about in the future.
  3. Identify your blog’s mission and focus. After brainstorming topic ideas, we asked ourselves the important main questions: 1. what do we want to write about? (our original focus was “girl power/women empowerment/punket power stuff”) and 2. who is our target audience? Looking through the topic list, we figured out that we generally wanted to write about love in its many different forms (relationships, self-love, loving life, positivity) and decided that would be our focus. After identifying the blog’s mission and focus, the blog title ideas came more easily, which is how we came up with Lovescrewed. Figuring out who exactly we wanted to write for was important too, because it’s important to set the tone of your writing with the audience in mind, especially when writing an advice/self-help blog like ours.
  4. Figure out your optimal writing conditions. I’ve discovered that I write best in the morning soon after I wake up, so I try to take advantage of that burst of creative energy as much as possible. It helps to try writing at different times of the day in different environments (at home, in a coffee shop, etc.) to see what works best for you.
  5. Stay motivated: create deals for accountability, punishment/reward system
    The next step was the hardest: staying motivated. Writing consistently for your own blog is a struggle, and in order to create a habit of writing daily, it helped me to make a deal with my dad to keep me accountable. We agreed that for every day I didn’t write for my blog, I had to go three days without watching TV (which is nearly impossible for me to do, especially because this happened during Breaking Bad‘s final season). This accountability deal worked well for me, and I ended up writing daily for a few months before I got too busy with school.
  6. Extra resource: My dad’s article on what he’s learned as a writer really helps with starting a blog.

Seasons of Love: The Effects of Anti-Feminist TV Characters on Self-Image

Over the past month or so, I’ve gotten into re-watching Gilmore Girls. I went through puberty and adolescence watching this series. As a dorky 13 year old, I identified personally with the show’s protagonist Rory Gilmore–a beautiful, smart, nerdy, charismatic teenager who loved reading and was hopelessly awkward with boys. I looked to her in my teens (and still have up to this day) as my role model while I formed my opinions about romance and dating.

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Each season of Gilmore Girls is characterized by the boy Rory is dating. We all know season 1 as Dean’s era, season 2 as Jess’s introduction, season 3 as Rory + bad boy Jess, season 4 as Dean’s era pt. 2, and the last few seasons as Logan’s stint with our heroine. This article debates about which boyfriend was best for Rory–obviously Rory was nothing without her love interests.

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Source: Wetpaint

Many other TV shows do this with female lead characters–Buffy the Vampire Slayer switches from vampire to human to vampire love interests each season, Mindy Lahiri has an endless slew of boyfriends in The Mindy Project, and even the feminist Tina Fey’s 30 Rock seasons can be categorized by Liz Lemon’s boyfriends. With very few exceptions (if there are any exceptions at all), TV shows with female leads center on the lead’s romantic life.

I often mentally categorize my life in similar yearly “seasons” too, because of how much TV has influenced me personally. I look back on the past few years of my life as the “casual dating season,” “the yearlong dramatic/long distance/engagement season,” the “shitty long distance season,” the “high school sweethearts season” and so on. My life in seasons categorized by relationships goes all the way back to my early childhood: the “preschool first crush season” was probably my first.

I’ve categorized the stages of my life in terms of my romantic interests for as long as I can remember. I’ve been coming to consciousness with how much importance I put on romance and men in my life, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized how deeply rooted this mindset was for me.

This makes me scared and unnerved to no end. How could I have lost myself so much in my pursuit of other people? Have I ever really had a true self if my sense of self has always been anchored by impermanent relationships?

Looking back on the TV shows that have influenced my romantic beliefs and behavior so strongly, I feel jaded. I spent my whole life strongly believing that I needed a boyfriend for my life to be interesting. All my female heroes’ lives seemed to revolve around a man; so logically, my life should do the same.

As an avid watcher of quality television (although I’m questioning the “quality” of my shows in terms of progressiveness now), it’s frustrating to know that it’s almost unavoidable to escape gender stereotypes or gender role perpetuation while watching TV. Do we really need to take breaks from being feminists to watch TV, as this article by the Onion pokes fun at?

I know TV shows are getting more progressive–Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation is one of my favorite feminist characters, but Parks isn’t without its problems (besides feminist issues, their portrayal of Native Americans is pretty bad). Ann Perkins, beautiful tropical fish, tries to date herself after realizing how much she changes for men, then ends up having the gorgeous Chris Traeger’s baby; we say goodbye to Ann as she settles into her life of perfect (although unmarried) domesticity. Also, can we mention white feminism here?

One of the reasons why I chose to major in Film/Media Studies at my university is that my greatest aspiration in life is to create my own (obviously very feminist) TV show with a strong womxn of color lead character. I plan to get there eventually, maybe after I’ve worked as a journalist for a while and have come to believe in myself enough to do something great with my life. I can sit with the frustration of the lack of feminist television options all I want, but who is actually going to do it? As Toni Morrison said, “if there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” If there is something lacking in television and the media, I believe it’s my duty to create it.

objects

I don’t remember
when I gave you permission
to judge my body

Is it inherent
for men to have the right to
compliment my butt?

Am I supposed to
smile and thank you when you
say my boobs look good?

When I wear lipstick
because it makes me happy
you don’t understand

You seem so confused
“Who are you tryna impress?”
(I must want the D)

How about myself?
You misogynistic shit
Oh but I’m sorry

I have forgotten
that women only do things
because men wish it

 

Note: I’ve been browsing through poems on the awesome misandry in haiku tumblr and it inspired me to write a (shittier) one of my own.

Know Your Worth

**Using gender-neutral pronouns here, so note the use of they/their as referring to a single person

A while ago I had a huge crush on one of my friends (which was reciprocated in full). We flirted a lot, but also shared a lot of our deepest, most personal secrets with each other. This person was still interested in their ex, and I thought I was okay with it. I mean, as long as we were together, I could overlook it. After getting pretty deep into it emotionally together, I found out this person was still talking and fighting with their ex even after I thought they were done. This person still wanted to be with me anyway, even wanted to talk to me about their problems from their previous/still ongoing relationship with this semi-ex/still-relevant significant other.

I had a few options at this point:
1. I could stick around. I’d had feelings for this person since last fall and I’d been dreaming about what it would be like if we finally got together. Was I really going to give up now?

2. I could stop. It wouldn’t really be quitting or failing at this attempt at love. I really did try. I gave this person a chance and an intimate position in my life. I opened myself up deeply and genuinely, connecting with them in a way I never had before with anyone else. I could accept that it was fun while it lasted, but know that I’m better than waiting for someone who got to see the real me and didn’t want me enough to take this opportunity.

I chose the latter.

Maybe at the beginning of 2013 or earlier, I would’ve stuck around. I had lower self-esteem before and often settled for whoever took any interest in me.

This person had their chance. I could have stayed and waited for them to make up their mind, but I didn’t. I know that I am an intelligent, beautiful person who deserves someone who will fully appreciate me for who I am. I know that I’m worth having a partner who wants to be with me, without having to fully weigh out their options before they decide they think I’m worth it. I know I’m worth better than playing second fiddle to some person who didn’t even give my person the time of day.

If someone is stringing you along, don’t wait around. Make your move, let them know how you feel, and put the ball in their court. If they don’t respond/don’t realize how great a person you are, then know when to let go and move forward. Know your worth, and don’t look back to someone who wasn’t smart enough to realize what a catch you are.