Tuesday, March 7, 2017

You Want to be What When You Grow Up?

Art.

We love it, we hold up famous writers, singers, poets, painters, etc. as genius and praise-worthy figures.

But what goes through your mind when you hear someone, not one of those select successful few, say the words, "I'm an artist", or "I want to be an artist"?

In one of my classes this semester, we've been talking about how our jobs tend to define us. If someone asks, "What does your mom do for a living?" the answer is typically something like, "My mom is a [insert job title]." "My mom is a teacher" or "My mom is an accountant". 
Jobs tend to define identity.

It quickly struck me that this creates into a huge problem when it comes to the artistic community.

Growing up, though we may be encouraged to pursue artistic interests and abilities, there is still always the question of, "What do you want to do when you grow up?". Before reality sets in, there are excited, passionate answers of, "I want to be an actress!" or "I want to be a singer!", and these, while nodded to with a patient smile, are still followed up with, "But what do you want to be when you grow up?".

Friends, family, acquaintances, all alike, ask this question, and eventually we learn that, most of the time, "I want to be an artist!" is not an acceptable answer. As we do, an element of something like shame begins to connect itself with this dream of ours. Our answer to questions of what we want to be quickly become awkwardly mumbled, "Oh, I don't know"'s, or even well thought out alternative careers that would be acceptable, and we may even find interesting, but are far from what we actually are passionate about or want long-term.

We dream of telling the stories of our hearts, of creating pictures only we can see, of making new things that not only bring us joy to give birth to, but also spur wonder in those we share our works with. 

We want to be artists.

But that, generally, doesn't pay bills. Being an artist isn't a career, unless you are lucky and sell millions of books. Correct answers are things like wanting to be a teacher, or police officer, or doctor, or farmer. It doesn't even have to make a lot of money, as long as it makes enough to live off of, as long as it is stable, as long as it is easily labeled. 

"What does she do for a living?"
"Oh, she's a teacher!"
"Cool!"


End conversation.

Much more pleasant sounding than:

"What does she do for a living?"
"Well, she works in retail, or as a stocker, or something..."
"Oh." [insert quiet judgement about said person's life/wonderings of why they don't get a "real job"]

Yes, artists need a way to pay bills until maybe one day they can support themselves fully off of their art. It's just a fact. But the issue arises when that practical job oversteps its bounds. When that happens, the identity of "Artist" becomes clouded. The Artist could lose themselves in a job they may find interesting, but that they have little to no passion for. And what then? 

We all know that identity is important to human beings. We naturally find labels for ourselves and others to try and name them. We can have more than one  "identity", because one can be passionate about more than one thing, but the fact still stands that jobs tend to define a person's identity. Lawyer-- "super smart", Officer-- "super brave", Teacher-- "super brave and super patient"...... Fast Food Worker, Delivery Driver, Stocker... "unskilled", "college-dropout", "going nowhere"? There are exceedingly few positive connotations to these "lesser" jobs.

If we continue to be label ourselves by what we do to make money, it is easy to flounder. It is easy to lose sight of our art and drown in the practical job we have gotten for ourselves. We forget to come up for air by pursuing our real passion. And one day we open our eyes to realize that we have become lost, that we have lost sight of the surface, and have lost the spark that made us us

No. We are not necessarily what we do to make money. I may work at a grocery store, but that isn't who I am, and no matter what job I end up in to pay my bills, I will not let it overtake such a large part of my identity.

I am an artist. I am a writer. I am a musician. I create, and I dream of sharing wonder with people. Art is one of my deepest passions, and I refuse to let it be drowned.

We are our passion. Let's not lose it.  

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Life Hacking


I feel like I've seen that title somewhere before at some point. But "how to balance life, health, people, things you love, and sanity" seemed a bit much for a title, so "life hacking" was the best I could manage.

So, you probably know what this post is going to detail!

How to balance life, health,  people, things you love to do, and sanity!

I don't claim to be an expert on the matter, but since I've had the schedule of two and a half people for the past couple years, without having a health or mental breakdown, I'd say I at least I could give some helpful advice on the matter! Why do I think this? Allow me to give you my credentials:
I take between 17 and 21 credit hours a semester, and manage to maintain mostly A's.
I work 40+ hours a week at three different jobs, one of which is about thirty minutes away.
I still exercise on a regular basis.
I still have a social life.
I still make art (drawing and writing).
I'm still learning two different languages, and creating my own.
I still get through a non-school-related book about every two to three weeks, depending.
I still maintain three instruments (though, I will admit, not as well as I'd like).
I've only gotten really sick (more than a bit of a stuffy nose) once in the past year.
I've not yet gone insane! Yay!

So yes. There are my credentials.
Onward!

First, possibly most importantly, taking care of mental health!

1) Make time for people. Not having any social life and becoming a hermit is the first step toward slipping into an unhealthy mental state. Hanging out with friends is super important. And I'm not saying that as an extrovert. I consider myself an ambivert, but I'm slightly more introverted. I need my alone-time as much as any other introvert, but people are still important. So hanging out with friends at least once a week is important.

2) Next, is making time for things that you enjoy. For me, that entails taking some classes that are for pure enjoyment, making time for language learning, art, and reading. Lucky for me, since I attend classes, that gives me time for art and some language, since I need to be able to doodle to focus properly anyway. Also, driving time is something that is often overlooked as wasted time. Some people listen to podcasts that they find interesting, I play my language audio lessons or brainstorm for stories, some people listen to music they like. Breaks at work are another aspect I used to overlook. They are perfect for getting some reading done, or working on writing.

3) Take time to chill. Fun things are great. Hobbies are great. People are great. But whether you're an introvert or extrovert, you need quite time. Meditation has gotten a weird sort've rep, but it is super healthy. Just spending time sitting, not letting yourself think about school, or work, or anything worrisome, just focusing on a soothing sound or image.

Second is taking care of the body!
Seriously, this is one of the ones that so easily get overlooked, and you can't optimize your time if either your body or your mind are messed up.
So:

1) Make time for *some* kind of physical activity. This could be anything from a fifteen minute workout session (T-tapp can be good for this), to a walk, to a dance class, to whatever. Anything that gets you up and moving! I take a Ballet class twice a week, as well as a karate class once a week. When the weather isn't wretched, I try to walk my dog once a week as well. This isn't super intense, but they help keep me in a habit at least!

2) Eating healthy. This can be the hardest, but it's still important. If nothing else, cut out certain unhealthy foods. For me, that's been cutting out chewable sugars. That sounds stupid when I say it, but it actually cuts down on a lot of my sugar consumption. Because that mostly just leaves coffee drinks, ice cream, and pudding. Which I get tired of pretty quickly, and don't have unlimited access to.
Also, just adding small things helps as well. Drinking matcha on a regular basis (yay antioxidants and stuff!), fruit flavored V8, taking supplements, etc. And at least attempting to eat somewhat healthily. If budgeting is a factor, you can look at this here post I wrote about eating healthily on a budget: Poof!
Also, this may seem obvious, but actually take time to eat. For a while, I decided that eating was too problematic to deal with, so I ate less than half of how much I should've been eating. That is not a good idea, fyi.

3) Related to eating healthy, but I figure I should say it because I've heard of so many people ignoring this: Stay hydrated. Coffee and soda and energy drinks, etc. are not replacements of water. Eight cups a day *of water*, at least! 

4) This is super simple. Essentially, just SLEEP. I can't stress how important sleep is. This is coming from someone who first took sleep totally for granted, and then just plain old stoped being able to sleep like a normal person.
Seven to eight hours of sleep is optimal. Not seven to eight hours of laying in bed-- seven to eight hours of *actual* sleep. Which means that you need to be in bed at least ten minutes before you need to actually be asleep. You know your sleep best-- some people can fall asleep in just a few minutes of getting in bed. For me, it takes anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour to fall asleep.
If you have trouble sleeping like a normal person, look into supplements. I take Calcium and an herbal tincture before bed to help me sleep. I also sleep in a hammock, which also helps. Diffusing essential oils by my bed and having some sort of white noise going on are other helpful things that have worked for me.
Bottom line: GET THE SLEEPS. Take it from me, if you don't get the sleeps, you will not be able to do the super busy thing without keeling over.
And don't ignore the power of naps. I often will take a nap in between classes or just before work. Study cubby, car, couch... You don't need to be in a bed to take a nap! They say the sweet spot of naps is between ten and twenty minutes. More than that, and you drop into a deeper sleep that makes you groggy when you wake up, so avoid that.
I've also started utilizing "F.lux", which is a thing you can download that adjusts the color/brightness of your computer screen depending on the time of day, which lessens the trouble screens cause your sleep cycle.

Finally, something I already sort've touched on, how do you make time for these things? It's fine to *say* that you're going to exercise, but if you have all the busyness, it's harder to actually follow through on that.

Essentially, it's learning how to utilize the empty time. That is driving time, breaks at work, time between classes, etc. Driving time? Listen to audio-books, podcasts, audio-lessons... Or just brainstorm for writing or other art! Breaks at work? Read, write, nap, study language, draw, meditate, study! I was really surprised to find out much open time I had when I really looked. On the average day, I'll minimally have an hour in between one of my classes, a thirty minute work break, a fifteen minute work break, and an hour of driving time. That's almost three hours!  Once you utilize that dead-space with things that can be done in those times, you can use more open times to do more demanding things like exercise and spend time with friends.

Also, if you're a school-go'er, try to get an on-campus job that will let you study during slow times. That has been a life-saver (grade-saver?) for me, because once I finish work-related duties, I still usually have a decent amount of time to finish assignments, or get some writing or reading done, or whatever else can be done at a desk.

So yes.
It took me quite a while to finally get down a rhythm and know-how to figure out how to balance life, sanity, health, and people and hobbies I love. I hope this can help other peeps somehow!

-The Raven

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Happy New Year!

So, a new year and stuff!

I don't like doing "resolutions" and stuff, but I do have some goals that have sprouted up for the near future!

First, as some of you know, I just got back from a writers' conference. The combination of the awesome sessions and amazing friends has encouraged me to get back into writing on a regular basis. I've decided to take a new strategy in approaching my stories, and also intentionally making time to write at least 300 words a day, whether I feel like it or not. I know, I know, that doesn't sound like a lot, but at this point I'm more worried about getting to a habit rather than getting a lot written. Especially since school and work will shortly be eating up the majority of my life again!

Second: I recently joined NerdFitness, which I highly recommend by the way, and yesterday one of the regular four-week challenges started. Though these are regular, this is the first one I've been able to join in on, and I'm excited about it!  Essentially, it focuses on small goes to get to a larger end.

So, between now and January 29th, I will be working to maintain these goals:

Diet:
- Eat vegetable with one meal every day
- Keep a food journal
- Have no more than one sugary food and drink a day (but no soda, because I've already cut that out mostly)

Fitness:
- Complete the NF bodyweight workout at least once a week
- Go for a walk with my dog at least once a week
- Practice my wall handstand at least three times a week

Life Level-Up:
- Meditate for 10 minutes a day

-----

Yep! We'll see how well it goes!
Especially with school starting next week!

Three, two, one, jump!

-Raven

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Gossips, Those they Gossip to, And those Affected


There are many things in this world that I do not understand.
Weather, balance (the art of not falling over nothing), Kansas, why spiders are a thing...
Math.

But one of the biggest things I don't understand is people. Specifically, gossips.

Why do people feel the need to tell stories, false stories in particular, about other people? People they consider "friends"?

Why do people feel the need to believe those people? Without checking facts, getting the other side of the story, or even thinking it through. Gasp! What is this? Critical thinking? Not believing everything I hear like a mindless zombie?? Whaaat?

Yes, this subject really makes me angry. Yes, I have been the victim of gossip before, which has always gotten straightened out more or less painlessly. But more importantly, I've known good people who have been the victim of false gossipers, those who believe without thinking it through, and had their reputation messed up by it.

On the subject of gossip itself:

WHY?

Why would you talk about your friends (or just people in general, really) without speaking any sort of truth or love, and not caring what the consequences are for yourself or for the other people? Why would you intentionally lie about people just to "get back at them" or whatever the end goal is? Is that loving your neighbor? Is that treating others as you would be treated? Is that pleasing to God in the least? At all? Ever?

On the subject of listening to gossip:

If you are bent on listening to gossip, please, at least check the facts. If it is a mutual friend you're hearing gossip about, stop and think it through for Pete's sake! Does the gossip really match up to that person's life, morals, and just what you know about that person? Get the other side of the story! As humans, both sides of the story are apt to be skewed to some degree, so get both sides and line them up and think.

So. Yeah.

C'mon, people.

Let us LOVE one another, and spread truth, hope, and love. Set your mind on things above. If you think you've been wronged, you know what, you are not called to deal with it. Where has God ever said, "If someone wrongs you, wrong them even more, or at least just as much, for this is pleasing to Me"? Doesn't sound like the God I know, people. Sounds like the opposite. Sounds like someone who wants to break friendships, ruin lives, and make God really sad.

Think about what you hear, think about what you say and do.

Peace out.

- The Raven


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Stitch Fix!

Not long ago, I heard about this new craze called "Stitch Fix". Essentially, it is for people like me who 1) are bad at putting clothes together, 2) dislike shopping, and 3) like getting random things in the mail.

So, I decided that I would try this wondrous thing. It's only $20, and they send you a box of five clothing items that you can decide to buy, or, if not, send back. The initial $20 goes toward any clothes you decide to buy. And if you keep everything in the box, you get a 25% discount.

After deciding this, filling out my style profile, and creating a Pinterest board to better help my stylist to send me things I'd like, my cheapskate side kicked in. And I decided that no, I do not want to spend $20 on a box of clothes that I may or may not end up liking, fitting into, or being able to afford. What was I thinking?? I needed to cancel the scheduled fix and the crisis would be averted!

Aaaand then my forgetful side kicked in. I forgot to cancel the fix I'd scheduled. And so guess what arrived in the mail today!

Stitch Fix!

First of all, it was super fun to get a box of random mystery clothes that were picked out specifically to match my style profile.

Second of all, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the stylist did picking out things that I liked!

So, here is a list of the various things that were in my box!


Number One:

A cute beaded bracelet. The clasp was a little confusing at first, but I actually do like it pretty well, and it fits all right. Won't be keeping it, because while I do like it, I don't love it, so I can't justify spending $30-something on it.




Number Two:

A pretty dark blue, flowy shirt that is super comfy and fits me like a glove. The little ties get tangled easily, though, which made me momentarily grumpy as I had to untangle a knot in them, but overall I really loved this shirt. A lot.
Price: $50-something






Number Three:

An open, off-white cardigan that is super soft and floppy and cuddle-up-in-on-a-rainy-day-ish. Wasn't a total fan of how it actually fit, though I feel like I would have gotten used to it pretty quickly. Main problem with this one was that it was off-white... any kind of whites and I do not get along. So sadly, this one was out of the running as soon as I saw the color.
Price: $70-something




Number Four:

Dark brown, super soft, pants. I actually really love the color, and the texture of the fabric, buuuut.... it doesn't fit very well. Actually, it might just be because they're straight-leg jeans, which I'm not a huge fan of. Sadface.
In the second pic you can see a pretty little embroidery thingy on the back pocket which was cool.
Price: $90-something




Number Five:

Okay, so.... this one is my favorite, hands down, though the blue shirt does come in close. A knit, funnel-neck sweater.
Is super comfy, has a front pocket, and fits really well. The sleeves are just a smidge short (which I actually think is just a me-preference thing because I like long sleeves to practically cover my hand), but is so nice!
Price: $60-something



Final verdit?
I approve of Stitch Fix. The price of the various items are kinda high (for me... being a cheapskate... ahem...) but the stylist got my style pretty straight on, and things actually fit.
Shall I keep anything?
I'm still undecided. But if I do, it will either be the blue shirt or the funnel-neck sweater. If I had endless money, I would buy both in a heartbeat. But alas, I do not, so I have a difficult decision before me. =P

If you decide you want to try this out too, you can use this link to sign up!
Click here!
^^ if you use that link, I will get monies toward my next Stitch Fix if you actually decide to schedule a box, soooo.... Use that link if you decide to do it!

Peace out!

- Raven


Friday, July 31, 2015

Eating Well on a Budget

As a college student with limited monies, it can be hard to figure out how to balance food-budget and health. For a while, I actually just gave up and opted for the cheap, convenient, not terribly nourishing foods. Unfortunately, that didn't go over well with my body, and I ended up feeling tired 90% of the time, randomly feeling sick for no reason, and having bouts of dizziness. 

Not good, no?

So, I started putting a little more thought into what I was buying, and found out that really, buying certain healthy foods actually doesn't cost a whole lot more than buying cheap-y food from Wal-mart (ramen noodles, mac'n'cheese, frozen pizza) or going to fast food restaurants and buying off the value menu. Because admit it, sure, you can buy five things of ramen noodles for a dollar, but who is going to actually willingly eat ramen for every single meal? It's more likely you'll eat them throughout the week, but supplement it with more "tasty" foods from fast food restaurants, which adds up pretty quick.


  • Bread - loaf of wheat bread is ~$3 (lasts about a week and a half)
  • Eggs - a dozen of the free range eggs are almost $4 right now, thanks to the egg shortage, but usually are between $2 - $3 (lasts about a week and a half)
  • Beef - depends on what you get, but you can get those four-packs of little steaks at Wal-mart for $4 - $5 (lasts four days)
  • Milk - a gallon is about $4 (lasts a couple weeks)
  • Yogurt - the real good Greek yogurt is ~$4 (lasts about a week)
  • V8 - ~$3 (lasts about five days)
  • Rice - good brown rice is ~$2 (lasts about a week and a half)
  • EmergenC - if you buy it at Sams Club, you can get a three-pack for ~$15, rather than $8 for one box at Wal-mart (one box lasts about a month)
  • Frozen vegetables - ~$2 if you get one of the yummy stir-fry mixes (lasts about two weeks)
  • Frozen fruit - ~$3 (lasts about a week)
  • Frozen hashbrowns - ~$3 (lasts about a week and a half)
  • Applesauce - ~$3 if you get the good stuff without corn syrup (lasts a little over a week)
  • Lunch meat - the good, natural, no nitrate stuff is ~$4 (lasts about four days)
  • Granola bars - the good ones that have protein and fiber are ~$3-4

If I bought everything on this list (including the 3-month supply of EmergenC), it would cost about $64.  Needless to say, I rarely buy everything on this list for my week's supply of food. Typically, I only spend $15-$20 a week on food. The best thing is that these things lend themselves to diversity, so there's little danger of getting completely tired of something and not wanting to eat it ever again. Which is the problem I ran into with eating ramen noodles, mac'n'cheese, and dollar menu items too much.

Here's a quick overview of what I use these things for:

  • Bread - Used for sandwiches (obviously), egg-in-the-windows, toast, or dipping in yogurt
  • Eggs - Eaten on their own, as sandwiches, or mixed into fried rice
  • Beef - Cut up and frozen in individual bags with soy sauce. Then when you're ready to eat it, you can just thaw a single bag and cook it up on its own, or mixed into rice or veggies. * I make sure to freeze the pieces flat so they don't freeze together in a ball and make it ten times harder to cook.
  • Yogurt - Mix fruits into it, or use for smoothies, or just eat on its own.
  • V8 - I know, V8 is disgusting, *but*, the fruit fusion V8s actually taste good, and you get a good dose of fruits and veggies. If you have high blood pressure problems, this can be a bad choice because it has high sodium, but since I have low blood pressure, it's actually a good thing!
  • Rice - Most versatile thing ever! Mix in veggies, meat, or brown sugar and cinnamon, or eat it on its own... If you don't have time to make it in a rice cooker, the Minute Brown Rice is good too.
  • EmergenC - Drunk on its own, or, my favorite, mixed into yogurt. It gives the yogurt a yummy whipped texture because of the carbonation stuff, and the orange EmergenC makes it taste like orange cream. So. Good.
  • Frozen vegetables - Stir-fry, fried rice, etc...
  • Frozen fruit - Thawed and eaten on its own, or mixed into smoothies or yogurt.
  • Frozen hashbrowns - Delicious cooked up with an egg over it.

And that's that!
Make good food choices!

- The Raven

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Thank You to OYAN

So, I just finished doing a brief look over of my Facebook page, from when I first got it in the beginning of 2009, to now.

Six years.

Not only was I appalled at the frequency, randomness, and overall boring subject matter that made up my posts then, it also highlighted my major points of growth. From awkward photographs of me as a clumsy teenager, trying to hide behind people and objects to avoid notice, to over-exuberance in chattering at *everyone* on my news feed for fear of being that friend who is forgotten by everyone, there were two major consistencies: family, and the presence of the OYAN community (One Year Adventure Novel).

The latter got me thinking, because much as it has changed me, I never really fleshed out a well thought thank you to those involved.

I cannot imagine what I or my life would be like if my mom hadn't brought home a OYAN promo dvd and had me watch it and decide if I wanted to do it. I don't want to imagine what things would be like now if I had decided not to do it.

First, there are so many fandoms, interests, and skills that I likely would never have either learned of, or gotten into. My Little Pony customization, which led to manga and anime, which led to Japanese culture interest, which led to my now speaking Japanese. Anime and manga also later began to influence my artwork and get me excited about using new drawing styles.

Doctor Who, Sherlock, Supernatural.... all fandoms that I learned of via the OYAN community. The wonders of cosplay, which taught me that no, I was never too old to dress up in costumes, which led to the beautiful discovery of steampunk!

Also, obviously *writing*. Learning how to actually finish stories coherently, having a community to show my work to, having my work critiqued, encouraged, my characters brought to life. Being able to read other peoples' works and hear their stories and help them in return. These not only spurred me on to write and finish more stories, but also helped me to develop my own style and characters. Learning how to critique the works of other people not only helped me to address issues in my stories, but also gave me confidence, as I went from terrified to offer advice about another person's work, to learning that it was all right to give constructive criticism. 


Secondly, it was a safe place for me. I learned it was okay to be weird, that my friends wouldn't abandon me if I wasn't perfect and mature and quiet all the time. I didn't have to think, and rethink, and think some more about anything I said or did, to make sure there was absolutely no way it would reflect negatively in any way whatsoever. I learned that it was okay to have quirks. And moreover, I learned that I wasn't the only one like me. I know it's a little silly for me to have thought that there was no one else who thought or felt at all like me... And I'm not sure I really realized how stifled and abnormal I felt until I found myself surrounded by people who were like me.

At the first couple Summer Workshops, I found myself surrounded by people who were saying and doing the things I wanted to be doing, while I stood petrified against the wall, still not at all certain I could trust these people not to run away the moment they found out I didn't want to be standing all prim and proper and mature-like. And when I did get out of my shell, they didn't run away. It was normal, I was normal, and they were still my friends.

That realization was probably the most important. No, I didn't turn into an extrovert, I'm still an introvert and still know how to put on the mature face when it comes to people I don't know well enough, but what was important was that I now had friends I could be myself around.


Thirdly, most, most, most importantly, and probably blatantly obvious: the people I met. At *least* half of those in my friend group now are either direct OYANers, or people I met as a direct result. The number would likely go up even more as I counted the people I'd met as a result of becoming more comfortable with being myself.

Don't get me wrong now, it isn't that I'd never had any friends before OYAN, I did. But things had a habit of happening so that those friends moved away, or got busy, or just plain old lost touched, so I both had and lost a lot of friends. Even within OYAN I have made and lost friends. But I've kept so many more.


So yes.  Thank you, OYAN, for being my sounding board, safe place, reality check, and grounding area. Because of you, I have written twelve books, lots of short stories, done well in writing competitions. Because of you, I am not ashamed of the fact I have lightsabers, laser guns, spy glasses, steampunk goggles, and My Little Ponies-- all of which I painted and customized-- as a display on my desk. I'm not ashamed to go around cosplaying in public, and I have more fandoms to fan-girl over than I know what to do with.

Best of all, I have several of my closest friends here, who I can both talk with regularly via internet, *and* hang out with in person.

Thank you all for being awesome. Don't stop being awesome.

- The Raven