Follow Your Heart, But Use Your Head

In the wise words of MTV’s The Hills star, Lauren Conrad, “Go with your gut, but use your head.” Listen, I love The Hills as much as the next millennial. However, that line has always seemed contradictory to me.

Now my thought process may be a bit skewed, but hear me out. I always thought that going with your heart or gut meant “making a bold move” without regard for the facts. It is taking a risk or chance and hoping it all works out. Following your heart is motivated heavily by feelings and emotions. While on the other hand, I thought using your head meant paying attention to the facts and deciding what you know instead of how you feel. It is not taking a risk but making a calculated, informed decision.

When you think of it that way, (hopefully) you can see why these statements have always perplexed me. If not, then bear with me! How do you know what situations call for using your head and what problems call for using your heart? What if you use the wrong one? I suppose that’s part of the journey, as cliche as it sounds. I think part of life is learning when to make decisions using your heart or head.

Everyone gets it wrong sometimes but don’t let that discourage you. Failing is part of the process. It allows us to know when we do something incorrectly. Often words like “wrong” or “incorrect” have a negative connotation. Society conditions us to view mistakes as the enemy when they are essential to the process. Without mistakes, we can’t learn our limits and/or the truth. Sometimes you have to get it wrong a few times to get it right one time.

Next time you make a mistake that bothers you, remember the value. I bet you won’t make the same mistake again, or at least for a while. I have a quote on my desk that reads, “There are no mistakes, only lessons,” and I purposely put it there so I could read it every day. We all make mistakes, and that’s okay. However, our response is what makes the difference. Anger will only get you so far, but learning will unlock doors you never knew existed. Keep making mistakes (within reason, of course)!

To The Mean Girls

Do not be fooled; sadly, the “mean girl” still exists. While the 2004 comedy dramatizes mean girls, cliques, and the pressure to be “popular,” they were not too far off. No, mean girls don’t all wear pink on Fridays or perform a sexy version of “Jingle Bell Rock” for their high school talent show. However, these girls like to do their deeds behind the scenes by gossiping, cyberbullying, mocking, or excluding others. No matter how mean girls execute their so-called “meanness,” it’s incredibly impactful for the person or people targeted.

Kids are mean, but girls take it to another level. Every female reading this can think back to a time when they experienced a singular or group of mean girls. They are the perfect example of a bully, tearing someone else down to make themselves feel better. The sad thing is that some girls become numb to this and forget that what they’re doing has implications for others.

It’s not cute or cool to be a bitch. I’m sorry to be blunt, but it’s the truth, and sometimes the truth hurts. It’s very telling of the relationship you have with yourself. It shows you have low self-confidence and must boost yourself by bringing others down. That will always be different from the cool, kind, or right thing to do. Ever.

We all start “adulting” at some point or another. As the sunset of your youth wanes, it becomes more apparent how weak and pathetic it is to bully others. In time you may or may not learn more about the bully and why they are the way they are. However, it’s never an excuse to be unkind or bully others. We can appreciate others’ backgrounds and get them the help they deserve. That’s how healthy people deal with low self-esteem; build yourself up instead of tearing others down. I promise you will be much more respected and liked in the long run. I’ll end with a quote by the great Maya Angelou.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, what you did, but never forget how you made them feel.”

Suicide Awareness Month

Perhaps it was your sibling, best friend, cousin, aunt or uncle, child, parent, niece, or nephew; No matter who it was, we have all been touched by suicide. For those who are not aware, the month of September is Suicide Awareness Month. This month is a time to raise awareness of this stigmatized topic. We use this month to change people’s perceptions, spread hope and share essential information with people affected by suicide. The goal is to ensure that individuals, friends, and families can access the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention and seek help.

In some areas with specific Crisis Interventionist Teams, you call 911 and ask to speak to a trained team member. This trained member has been debriefed on how to best de-escalate the situation without adding to the problem. This is also a great time for local communities to assess their mental health escalation process. Research your community to see if this is something you already have. If it is not, you can visit CIT International’s Website along with National Alliance on Mental Illness’s (NAMI) CIT resources.

Sadly, suicide is not as uncommon as one may think. The twelfth leading cause of death in the U.S. is suicide. It is the second leading cause of death among people between ages 10–14 and the third leading cause of death among people between ages 15-24 in the U.S. So please, this September, don’t just nod your head at the cause but take action against this awful epidemic. Everyone must play a part in this to work. It cannot be an isolated turn of events. However, it must be a group effort to show that we are all still connected by our humanity. You should care about others not just because you have to but because it is the right thing to do. Wouldn’t you want someone to do the same for you if it were you?

Suicide is not inevitable. We do our part when we begin the conversation, give support, and direct help to those who need it. Research suggests that providing support services, talking about suicide, reducing access to means of self-harm, and following up with loved ones are ways we can help. Crisis Centers provide counseling to everyone. They offer irreplaceable support and a chance to connect with trusted and trained professionals.

If you have suicidal thoughts, please know you’re not alone; some people understand. You can and will get better. If you are suffering from suicidal thoughts, please contact one of the helplines below IMMEDIATELY to get the help you deserve. There is another option when it comes to suicide: life. Choose life because it does get better and there is so much awaiting you, don’t miss it❣️

Resources:

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Call or Text 988

Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741

The Trevor Project LGBTQIA+ Hotline

Keeping It Real

My biggest fear on this platform is to come across as a “know-it-all” regarding mental health because that is far from the truth. I’d be lying if I told you I never had days where my most significant accomplishments were getting out of bed and taking a shower. There are days when I feel “off,” and that is the best way I can describe it. Thankfully, those days are not as common as they used to be, but that does not mean they have disappeared completely. I look at this platform as if we (the audience & myself) are in this together. I have developed and researched coping techniques that have made my mental health journey more manageable, but the work never stops.

We know that coping varies from person to person. We continue to mold our coping mechanisms as we age; we develop new ones and retire older methods. What served us well in our 20s may be different when we reach our 50s, which is okay. The important thing is not to give up and continue along life’s path.

Feelings/Emotions ebb and flow – you will never be constantly happy, sad, angry, etc. Many factors affect this, so it would be impossible to remain in the same emotion all the time. Although it may feel like a disadvantage, this truly is to your advantage. Why? It gives you perspective and helps us relate to one another. We can find similarities in our feelings no matter who we are or where we come from. Human emotions/feelings are not unique but uniform throughout the world. These commonalities help increase our connection and understanding of one another.

While it may seem that the goal is to eradicate any perceived negative emotions, it is quite the opposite. Why? You feel grateful when you feel positive emotions because you know what it feels like to feel sad, angry, disappointed, etc. In a way, our negative emotions/feelings give us a better appreciation for life and remind us to cherish the good moments. The next time you read my blog post, listen to my podcast, or view my social media posts – know that it is not my intention to preach but to learn alongside you. We’re all students here. 🙂

Growing Up

Everyone tells you not to grow up too fast. Growing up or older is a strange concept that takes on a new meaning as you age. When you’re young, it seems unobtainable as time passes slower. As you grow older, you begin to wonder where all the time went. My grandad always told my mom and her siblings, “Don’t wish your life away.” Growing up and being an adult seems like the most significant thing when you are younger (no bedtime, no parents rules, no school, etc.). However, once you get there, you’d give anything to have just one more day as a young person.
The concept of growing up is a familiar one. In fact, many songwriters have written about their own interpretations. For example:

Ben Folds wrote: “Everybody knows it sucks to grow up…” (Still Fighting It)

Lorde wrote: “Growing up a little at a time then all at once…” (Secrets From The Girl Who’s Seen It All)

Fleetwood Mac wrote:
“Well, I’ve been afraid of changin’
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older too” (Landslide)

Green Day wrote:
“Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test, and don’t ask why
It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time” (Good Riddance)

As you can see, there is a genuine fascination with growing older. It seems to take forever, and then you blink, and it feels like it has gone too fast. We as humans are intrigued by this because we know time is something we can never get back. It is fleeting, and all we can do is make the most of each moment. This is where gratitude becomes so essential. Be thankful for your time, and don’t waste it on social media or binging on your favorite show. Those will never be the memories you look back upon with joy. In fact, do they become memories at all, or if they blend into the background?


I want to get out there and seize the heck out of the moment. Although I hate to be a downer, we do not know how much time we have left in this life. Would you rather spend it making memories or consumed by a device? We all can see the clear answer here. Check out this awesome video by Gary Turk below, which personifies precisely what I am talking about.

Back To School Blues

As the sun sets in Summer, it is only beginning to rise in Fall. At the end of the Summer, the night before school started, my parents had a saying they repeated each year, “Time to wash off the summer dirt.” Did they literally mean to wash off the dirt from the entire Summer? Of course not. They told it to be a sign of transition and renewal.

Some people, like myself, love the Fall and value the changing leaves and sweater weather. It is nice to be back in a routine and regularly see friends. However, the end of Summer is always bittersweet. It promises a new year as an older, more mature version of yourself. What will happen this year?

Whether on your education journey, take the time to take a mental picture throughout the year. Take the time to write it down when something good or bad happens, so you can read it and remind yourself of how you felt in that moment. Next year will be here before you know it, and you will be stuck trying to remember your favorite events of the year.

As I begin my final school year, I worry about life without class, homework, tests, and, most notably, a routine. Yes, I am excited to have more free time, but I worry I will grow bored quickly. That may be a sign to dig deeper into other aspects of my life – work, family, social life, relationships, etc. If you’re in a similar position, let me know how you plan to spend your extra time. I am open to suggestions!
As you hear the announcements today, remember Grease’s Principal McGee’s welcome back message to Rydell High!

Communication. Is It Really Key?

Communication is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior.” What does that actually mean, though? Communication methods are intended to deliver a message between two or more parties. We use it to communicate our thoughts, ideas, announcements, and/or information to another party. It is essential for survival. You must have some way of communication to function independently. Luckily our communication methods have continued to grow over the years.

We know cavemen learned to talk, but how has communication developed through the years? Take a look at the loose timeline (below) brought to you by Wikipedia. These may not be 100% accurate, but they give us a general idea of how communication methods have developed over time.

We are lucky to live in an age with many methods of communication. If you stop to think about it, how often are you in a situation where communication is impossible? Only sometimes. Think about when your phone dies or you’re unable to get ahold of someone immediately; we begin to panic. We are used to instant communication, and when it is impossible, we feel uncomfortable. Why? This is because we know communication is essential.

Recently I heard someone say, “Exceptional communication is what creates success. People are moving fast, and we’re all using different systems and coming from different experiences.” This is a lot to unpack. First, I love the idea that “exceptional communication creates success.” When working in a group toward a common goal, communication is not only needed, it is essential. How else can you work toward the “common” goal unless you are united on what that goal is? How do we collaborate to come to a common goal? We must communicate effectively to paint the picture of what we are trying to portray. Then if each member is clearly aligned, the project will likely be a success since the team took the time to ensure everyone had the same understanding.

We move so fast in our world today, and there is no doubt that communication has gotten quicker. We have become conditioned to this fast-paced communication so that when it slows, it bothers us. How often do we get frustrated when a text doesn’t send right away or calls drop? It inconveniences us, which frustrates us. However, we must be careful that clear and effective communication is preserved through this quick communication. Sometimes when we communicate quickly, we leave out details. While these details may not seem important to one person, they could be necessary details to another which helps them gain a better understanding of the goal.

What is my point? Is it to slow down communication? Not at all. It is to be aware of people’s different communication styles and preferences. Just because you understand something a certain way does not mean someone else will understand it in that exact same way. We are all different and come from different experiences and backgrounds that have shaped our perceptions. Let’s cut each other some slack and remember we all communicate differently.

COMMUNICATION TIMELINE

Let’s Agree To Disagree

We, as a collective human race, have forgotten how to agree to disagree respectfully. This hateful attitude towards those of opposing beliefs has gotten out of control. We are not all that polarized as humans. We all form our opinions based on our own varied perceptions and experiences. Of course, there will always be exceptions, but people are mostly good.

Remember the saying, don’t judge a book by its cover? The same notion holds true here. Don’t judge someone based on one or a few beliefs. Instead, inquire and understand why they believe what they believe. We must put the human factor back into our debates. No one is correct all the time. It’s okay to be wrong. It’s okay to agree to disagree.

Just because someone holds a particular belief does not make them less of a person. We must act like it to live on an equal playing field. No, l know it’s not always easy, especially when we have conflicting viewpoints. However, it is essential for our collective growth. If we never challenge our beliefs, how can we expect to grow? We can’t. We’d stay the exact same. Where is the good or fun in that? Non-existent.

No one has all the answers (no matter what they may try to tell you). Thus, if we want to continue to evolve, it is integral that we have debates and disagreements. That friction is where the growth comes from. It challenges someone to look at a topic through a new lens. It is humbling to learn and even more humbling to be wrong.

Why Do We Focus On The Average?

Shawn Achor proposed that if we study only what is average, we will stay average (view the full video below). This is a true statement. If we only study what is average, then there is no time or allowance to study the outliers. The outliers are what fall above and below that average.

We talk about averages all time. Don’t believe me? Okay, sports fan, you’ve never looked at a sports stat? Have you never checked a batting average? If you took the ACT, you probably heard about average test scores. We even predict future averages using previous averages (Actuaries or Risk assessors).

We pass people all the time because they meet a certain average we’ve deemed adequate. Average has become synonymous with good enough. If you meet an average, then you pass. You still pass if you score at least 70% on your driver’s license in some states. The difference between 100 and 70 is 30, which is a large number. Leaving a more expansive room for error.

If we studied the outliers, too, we could identify patterns that help them succeed in the future. While also seeing what makes people fall short, supporting development, and giving them the tools to succeed. We’d be helping each other reach our full potential instead of just being okay with moving the average and above. We wonder why people feel isolated or excluded. Stop being complacent with the average. It’s boring!

Making & Maintaining Friendships

This week I wanted to focus on the importance of solid, lasting friendships. They say in time, your friend quantity decreases as the quality increases. I can attest and say that is true in my experience.

Let’s travel back to your first year of high school. I know, I know it’s not the most glamorous era, but it is an essential one. Whether it was 2011 like me, 1992, or 1985, we were all in the same boat once. Nerdy freshman looking up to the seniors thinking, “Man, it will be so long until I am there.” What is the most important thing to a freshman in high school? To be liked and accepted. You may even say popular with all the bells and whistles. However, as you progress through high school and beyond, you come to realize a few things:

  1. You cannot please everyone.
  2.  You will only be liked by some.
  3.  There are some friendships worth fighting for and others not so much.

Ultimately, if you have to change or conceal any part of yourself from a “friend,” they are probably not true friends. What is a true friend? Someone who loves and accepts all that you are. You shouldn’t have to change who you are to please others and “fit in.”

In fact, your friends should be the ones who love you for your goofy quirks. If you ever need to repress yourself, look at your surroundings. Who are you with? Are these the people you really see yourself having lasting friendships with? Probably not. Your true self will eventually shine through, and if those “friends” don’t like it, they were not your real friends in the first place. Status should not come before a friendship; the minute it does, get out of there. You deserve WAY better than that! If you are not friends with someone because you are afraid of how it will make you look, I suggest addressing your values.

Kids are mean, no doubt, but don’t be fooled into believing friend issues end in childhood. They will carry on with you, along with many emotions. It is best to confront these issues head-on instead of letting them slide. Stand up for yourself and what you believe. It’s okay to disagree respectfully. What is not okay is putting down someone else.

Be proud of who you are, and don’t be afraid to let your light shine. Don’t let others, especially “friends,” dim your light. You’re not dimming theirs, so why should you settle for less? You should not. Simple as that.