Out of the Fog: My First Time on Antidepressants

A little over two weeks ago, I finally caved and deciding to start taking a daily antidepressant. After many years of talk therapy and a vicious cycle of symptoms that always found a way to latch on, a psychiatrist diagnosed me with major depression and anxiety, advising me to take 10mg of Prozac every morning if/when I was ready. I had my doubts and concerns, but nothing outweighed the pain I was feeling inside. I could feel myself wasting away.

The first morning I took my new medication, I thought maybe I had felt something. A subtle shift. I couldn’t tell if it was just in my head and honestly, I didn’t care. Placebo or not, I felt lighter on my feet that day. The more I adjusted to this new solution, the more I noticed the benefits. I started to feel like I returned to my version of functional again. Things that crippled me with anxiety normally were much easier to overcome, from driving to zoom calls for work and everything in between. I even found myself organizing daily tasks more easily and enjoying the little things like cooking and reading again. Now I’m beginning to notice that my relationships have grown stronger because I’m less irritable and self-focused overall. It’s like there’s a whole new space in my brain and heart to pull from where my depression used to be. I have more to give.

I am in no way a licensed professional or advocate for medication. It’s a personal choice that requires a lot of research and guidance from experts. I just wanted to share my story because I think this could be one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. I can’t remember the last time I felt more like I could come out of all of this okay, like I’m putting in the work to make real change and progress. It’s not like Prozac has eliminated any of my problems or trauma and made me magically happier. All it’s done is lifted the fog so that I can see things more clearly and start tackling my issues head-on. I used to just sleep them away or cave under the weight of it all. It’s like this new combination of talk therapy with a therapist I trust and medication has woken me up, opened my eyes to why I’ve been suffering cyclically for so many years. It hasn’t been easy. I’m unpacking things I’ve repressed and grieving in ways that I needed to. It’s a lot of work.

Everyone’s mental health journey is so unique and complicated. Looking back, I never would have believed how much psychology, healing and self-improvement would play a role in my life and creative work. I was embarrassed initially to share this new part of my life but realized quickly that I’d be doing a disservice to anyone who’s read any of the pieces on my blog about mental health and could see their suffering reflected in mine. I couldn’t just omit this new addition. It’s the truth, and it’s part of the process. Who knows? In a month or two, I could pivot completely and decide it’s not working. For now, I’m just happy to be in a place where I’m seeing possibilities ahead instead of dead ends. It doesn’t feel pointless to keep trying. It feels like hope.

24/7 National Suicide Hotline: 800-273-8255

Bloganuary: What’s not to love?

What is your favorite part about yourself?

I wish we had to ask ourselves this daily. It’s so much easier to pick apart your least favorite features when you’re on the spot, especially since our culture gets off on a little self-deprecation. Comedians are so good at this, it’s like hating yourself is part of their job description. We eat it up.

While I’m all for a good joke at your own expense, it’s refreshing to see people own up to their strengths. I’ve loved reading everyone’s responses to this prompt and seeing how passionate people are about what they’re great at or even just listing off their favorite features. When do we really get the opportunity to do this?

Even as I’m about to answer the prompt for myself, I feel the need to package it in a humble way. I’m still performing.

Let’s give this a real shot…

I love that I can pour sunshine into any room or space I enter. I make people feel heard and loved or like their dreams are possible. I am a chameleon. Regardless of the environment, I adapt and find my courage.

I remember always being able to do this, like it was my superpower. When I was 10 years old and my parents would throw parties at our house, I would shift from climbing trees with my friends to having deep discussions about life with drunk twenty-year-olds. There was no limit to my ability to communicate and connect.

I used to think my chameleon powers were a weakness that made me hyperaware of my surroundings to the point of anxiety. And yes, that is still partly true. But what I’ve come to find is that it’s a gift when I use it well. It means I can go anywhere, find my way, and use that power to my advantage. I can travel to new places and adapt as I go. I can make friends in unlikely places and turn mundane moments into an adventure. I’d say that’s worth being proud of.

#bloganuary #bloganuary2022 #dailyprompt

Bloganuary Prompt: What Makes Me Strong

This is one of those prompts that feels so important that I can’t seem to find the words to respond honestly. At first, I started writing about specific things that give me strength but it felt like a BuzzFeed list. These are tough to narrow down, but I like the challenge.

One of the first moments I felt truly strong was when I was about 13 or 14 years old. I walked into a lawyer’s office and gave them my statement that I no longer wanted my biological dad to have custody or any ties to me. I wanted to be free of him and the suffering our relationship had caused me since I was born.

After years of mandated abusive phone calls, arguments, and the guilt I carried for him, I was able to make a choice for my wellbeing. It was the first time I had ever braved something so immense that affected other lives as well. It was a lesson in doing what is needed for you, sticking up for yourself. Something that would continue to be a challenge for me moving forward.

Any time I’ve been able to accomplish something outside of my comfort zone and see it through to completion is a moment I feel strong. When I started sharing my vulnerabilities with others through my blog or my art. When I started talking about my mental health online or when I started trying to be comfortable in my body. Oh no, I’m starting to list things off. See? It’s hard.

The things that make me strong all have one characteristic in common: self-assurance. When I listen to my inner voice and I trust in my ability to decide what’s right, I always feel stronger for it. As young women, it can feel like everything from the warped beauty standards of the time to toxic male authority figures and countless other setbacks work in tandem to silence that voice. I believe every single time you acknowledge what is right for you and you’re brave enough to take inspired action, that is the true essence of strength.

#bloganuary #bloganuary2022 #dailyprompt

Bloganuary Prompt: Let Go

What is your favorite quote and why?

“There’s beauty in the breakdown.”

From the time I was about ten years old, Imogen Heap’s lyrics have taken life’s most difficult concepts and translated them in a way that makes sense. The quote above is from an electronic group called Frou Frou, and I listened to every song in their “Details” album until they became a core part of my story.

I didn’t give it much thought when I was a kid, but that line from the song “Let Go” kept creeping up on me over the years and developed more meaning as life became more nuanced, more difficult to process. When my grandfather died and my family seemed to be falling apart, everything had gone cold. I couldn’t make sense of the excessive suffering and I stopped looking for silver linings.

It wasn’t until I started abstract painting that I discovered my passion for duality and the realization that there was magic to be found in the contrasts of life. I was in my final year of college, heartbroken, and releasing pent-up pain on canvas with colors and textures that orchestrated those feelings like a symphony. I saw my pain reflected back to me as something beautiful. That’s when those lyrics really hit home.

I’m still relentlessly searching for my “calling” or whatever. I know it’s a cringey and narcissistic concept to many that we each have a reason to be here, but I think it gives us a reason to brainstorm what we can do to make the world a better place. When I think of this quote, I’m reminded of my mission. A pursuit to help people find comfort in the ebb and flow of a complex human life.

What if we could find beauty when things go cold? What would happen if more people found beauty in their breakdowns? Maybe nothing. Maybe we could save lives. All I know is that I could’ve used this insight when I was shutting down.

So I’d like to thank “Let Go” for gifting me this simple yet profound concept. I see it manifest in every facet of existence. I feel it in my hormonal imbalance, in moments when life juxtaposes in ways that leave me breathless, and I relish every lesson it teaches me. I also try to make these contrasts beautiful in the ways I know how, by turning them into some kind of self-reflection. And I invite you to do the same. Just as Imogen Heap has and countless artists before her.

#bloganuary #bloganuary2022 #dailyprompt

This Is What Happens When You Choose You

If you’ve ever felt like your life’s on autopilot or you can’t remember the last time you asked yourself what you want, this one’s for you.

Life moves fast. We get on the train and go from one stop to the next. We rarely ever stop to ask ourselves where we’re going or if our choices are actually our own.

I can pinpoint the moment this began in my own life to junior year when the pressure to pick the right college and a career path started piling on. Can anyone actually believe they expected 17- and 18-year-olds to know jack shit about their futures? Regardless, you follow the rules. You pick a major, a college and ride the wave. Eventually, it’s your senior year and now it’s time to find that dream job. Maybe you’re about 21 and you find the perfect fit right out of college. Maybe like the vast majority of us, your degree and university don’t help you find a job when you need it most. Meanwhile, your student debt looms over every passing day. By the time you do find a job, you’ve already given up on trying to reach for something that makes you happy or that at the very least challenges you intellectually and creatively — you’re desperate. You take what you can get. This is when you give up.

In my own experience, I bounced from one unfulfilling position to the next. It’s hard to believe you have any other choice as adult expenses and responsibilities accumulate. It’s all too easy to get sucked into the cycle even after you read all of the self-help blogs about traveling abroad and following your passions. Not all of us make enough money to eat, pray, love. Not everyone has the support to make their dreams come true at that time, and it starts to feel like the system is rigged against you.

Eventually, you reach a point where maybe you’re in your mid-twenties and you’re burned out and deeply unfulfilled. You don’t have any real reason for it because, hey, you have a job! You did everything right. You can afford all of the basic comforts of an “easy” life and you’re given the weekends to invest in your hobbies and the things you love. Why are you so depressed?

Let’s consider “The Great Resignation,” a name used to describe the millions of workers quitting their jobs after the COVID pandemic. Think about why this cultural shift is happening now. During the pandemic, all of us were affected differently. What we had in common was a collective introspection that forced us to rethink what actually mattered. When the stakes are this high, people remember what they want to live for. Turns out 40- to 60-hour weeks in an office doing something you’re not passionate about and having two days for yourself didn’t make the cut. It’s no wonder people started craving more.

The good news is that millions of people are using this shift as an opportunity to prioritize themselves for the first time in their lives. Whether it has to do with their relationships, work environment or location, people are shedding what no longer serves them and taking a leap of faith to find what does. For me, this meant saving enough money until I felt like I could take a break. I needed time to reassess what I actually wanted, time I didn’t have before. I asked myself questions I hadn’t been asked since I was a kid. What do I love to do? How do I want to spend my days? What actually matters to me?

It’s not easy to make this jump, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it if I didn’t work my fair share of unfulfilling jobs. While I no longer lean on my family for financial support, I do have a wonderful partner who’s been looking out for me during this shift as well. I fully recognize my privilege and the ways that I’m also putting myself at risk. Now that I’m taking this “work break,” my money is slowly draining. I can’t lie, though, I’m also the happiest I’ve been in a long time. With this new freedom, I started meditating again, working out, reading, writing for myself and prioritizing my artwork. I’ve started selling my paintings again and developed a new business plan for my Etsy shop. I’m working every day, but I’m doing it for myself and for the things I love. I forgot what that felt like. Actually, I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced that feeling in my adult life so far. I’m not sure many of us ever do.

Choosing you in whatever way that manifests in your own life is scary, but it’s incredible too. I wish I could give every single person the same opportunity to stop the clock and make their own choices again, find ways to make that possible because I know how impossible it can feel. If you’re reading this, I hope you’re able to start making a plan that works for you. I hope you’re doing it in small ways every day, and I hope the tugging in your heart that craves more never fades away.

A Realistic Self-Care Routine For When You’re Down

I haven’t blogged or uploaded a YouTube video in quite some time. My excuse? Me time.

Our bodies have a knack for telling us when to slow down or speed up — it’s usually a good idea to listen. I go through phases where I can’t be stopped and feel guilty if I’m not being productive or creatively stimulated every day. Other times, I can’t seem to find the energy to do anything at all. In the past, those less productive times would result in a lot of binge-watching someone else’s life on YouTube or consuming media until the guilt made me feel lightheaded. These days, there’s a mix of that (let’s be honest with ourselves) and a few other key nurturing additions that have helped me find peace when I don’t feel like checking off to-do lists.

So, if you’re looking for some *realistic* advice on how to prioritize a little self-care AND get that guilt-free satisfaction of downtime well spent, here’s my take on it:

1. Take a long bath:

This one’s pretty standard, but it requires a few magical touches. When I’m feeling particularly depressed and sloth-like, sometimes the only energy I can muster is the energy to drag myself into a bathtub. I’ll light my favorite candles so the space matches my moodiness and play a relaxing Spotify playlist or mystical ambiance on YouTube that transports me into a different world.

Even just playing nature sounds starts sending tingles down my spine and makes me feel like everything’s going to be okay. If you know what sounds or smells make you feel safe and comforted, fill your bathroom with them. If you don’t have a bathtub, a long shower does the trick too. The key is to slow down your thoughts and be present.

This is your time to be still and vulnerable. Sometimes that can be uncomfortable, but sitting through that discomfort even as pestering thoughts arise is part of the magic. If you’ve been struggling to meditate, I find that this process is a great first step.

2. Move Your Body with Humility

I am not going to tell you to work out because, honestly, fuck that. You’ve heard it before. I’ve heard it before. That’s a personal commitment that you can choose when it feels right. Plus, everyone’s different and fitness doesn’t come in a one-size-fits-all package. What I will recommend is movement — any will do. Something as simple as taking a quick stroll outside and breathing in the fresh air works wonders when you’re anxiety’s running rampant. Just the sound of birds chirping fills my soul with serotonin. And if you’re like me and work from home, getting up and using your legs is crucial. My back and sanity need it.

I also recommend dancing — and I don’t mean taking Zumba classes or learning choreography (although go off if that’s what does it for you) — I mean just finding random moments in the day to put on headphones and get down in whatever way feels good to you in that moment, even if you’re not a dancer. Sometimes I sway fluidly to a song that fills me with emotion, other times I twerk and pretend I’m a stripper. It’s all about assessing the vibe and not overthinking. THIS is dance therapy at its best. Trust me, once you get over feeling awkward and remember to go easy on yourself, you start to feel the divine catharsis and confidence course through your veins. The magic of this practice is that it teaches you to resign to the idea that you have to be good at everything or achieve certain goals to be active. Sometimes life really is as simple as moving around like a Wacky Waving Inflatable Tube Man. Isn’t that such a reassuring thought?

There’s something to be said for yoga as well, how accommodating it is for newbs and experts alike. It’s become a staple in my movement practice simply because it feels good and, if there’s anything you should take away from this, it’s to follow what QUEEN Yoga with Adriene on YouTube tells us: “Find what feels good.” But more on yoga another time.

3. Remember: Playtime is Not Reserved Only for Kids

I don’t know when and why adults started committing to the idea that we have to be so serious all the time, but I would guess that this probably has something to do with why we’re all so depressed. There’s just “never enough time in the day,” am I right? When we were young, nothing stood in the way or ever seemed more valuable than playtime. I think we were on to something then, which is why I deeply believe some of our greatest lessons can be learned from our childhood selves.

So what does playtime look like for a twentysomething with anxiety? It starts with a question: What did you love doing as a child that still fires you up today?

For me the answer would be pretending to be a witch, making art, daydreaming about life’s infinite possibilities, dancing in front of the mirror like I was a rockstar and spending endless hours outside.

Even on the busiest or lousiest of days, there are little ways I try to bring this same magic back into my world. Sometimes it’s as simple as journaling about my deepest manifestations and desires. I write journal entries about the life I want like I already have it, which combines the mystical and the pretend I knew so well as a kid. Other times, I light candles and do a little tarot or oracle reading for myself in the moonlight. This really makes me feel like the witch I wanted to be when I was ten. Just last weekend, my boyfriend and I had one too many drinks and filmed ourselves dancing like we were in a music video. I was immediately transported to all the times I used to do this with my best friend when I was a kid and it made me feel just as much like a rockstar now as it did back then.

The best part about all of this? All it takes is an hour or less of your time to do one small thing that makes you feel like you at your most raw and free.

4. Be Easy On Yourself

Don’t freak out when you still feel the urge to do absolutely nothing at all. Some days, even the easiest things like hopping into a bath or going for a walk feel impossible to do. Please don’t bully yourself for not achieving even your favorite tasks. The whole point of this easy approach to self-care is that it’s exactly that, easy. Easy on your mind and your heart, not another reason to stress yourself out. I hope you find comfort in your own version of this realistic self-care routine and that you find the little things in your own life that make every day an adventure.

What I’m Learning From My First Psychological Diagnosis

When my therapist confirmed that I have an anxiety disorder with depression lingering not far behind yesterday, I wasn’t surprised. Instead, I felt relieved OR was it more like validated? It was a mixture of both. It’s strange how visceral the rush of serotonin was that came over me in that moment. It felt like I wasn’t carrying the load on my own anymore. Oddly enough, it didn’t matter that I had already guessed what was wrong and that my therapist had only confirmed it — the fact that I was having an open conversation about it at all and that my concerns were valid…? Groundbreaking.

Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about what a diagnosis means. Does it change anything? No. Does it magically fix the problem? Not at all. What it does is offer a point of reference, an outline to work off of so we can take the actionable steps needed to function with our diagnosis. It’s like adding another flavor to the rich, complex meal that is your life. If you’re anything like me and have to work a little harder to find order in your life, a diagnosis can help break through all the abstraction and confusion to give you something solid to hold onto. The irony is, it can actually help you feel like you’re not crazy at all.

Up until very recently, unfortunately, I thought I was defective. I thought everyone around me was moving through life normally and I was five steps behind. When I discovered that drinking made the symptoms go away, I leaned on that like it was medication. It was especially bad during my freshman year of college when I was pretending to be someone else and fear filled every room I was in. I was drinking constantly, numbing myself in social gatherings to present myself as fearless and crying myself to sleep every night. Eventually, I flunked out. The sad thing is everyone around me thought I was outgoing, happy and calm. Inside, I was working overtime to make it appear that way. Nobody knew. It was exhausting and I needed help.

I look back at this time in my life and if it hadn’t been for a hip injury that forced me to sit at home for months, I don’t know how I would’ve found my way. I so deeply wanted to be happy and stable that I did everything in my power to start over. I know now that I’m very fortunate to be able to say that, not everyone has the ability or the support to keep climbing. Although I developed healthier habits as time went on, the fear was always present. That’s where the diagnosis comes in.

There’s comfort in knowing that I’m not weak, off or incapable. Those were the labels I put on myself when I didn’t have an answer for why I was struggling to do seemingly normal things. Now, when my hearts starts pounding in my chest and it’s hard to breathe, I know why. When the weight of the world seems to press down on me, I know I’m not the only one that feels that way. Even when I fail to manage the symptoms — and I know I will sometimes — at least I won’t feel alone and broken. For a long time, I put off seeking help and addressing what I was feeling. It kept knocking on my door until it kicked the door down. Just last month I opened a bottle of wine at 9am to get through something that most people do every day, but that was making my whole body shake because it meant that people would have to really see me. While I feel ashamed and embarrassed sharing this, it’s worth it if my story helps someone out there who’s perfected the art of pretending everything’s fine. It’s okay if it isn’t.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. I hope you’re all doing well and intending to prioritize some much-needed self-care this year. Whether you’re planning on starting your mental health journey or channeling those buried feelings into art, I sincerely wish you the best along every step of the way.

Opening Up About My Mental Health

Let’s talk about anxiety!

We’ve all experienced it at one point or another. Maybe it was before you had to present something in front of a class or maybe it creeps into every conversation you have with someone. However constant or random it is in your life, it’s there all the same and it is the worst.

My relationship with anxiety is still very much a gray area in my life as I’ve only recently found a therapist and haven’t been properly diagnosed. I don’t have a professional’s stamp of approval that I’m an anxious person but trust me, when answering phone calls at your job makes your bowels contort and has you looking for any excuse to run to the bathroom so you can cry and breathe, you know something’s off. That’s been an ongoing pattern in my life since before I can remember.

I don’t understand my anxiety yet, but I’m looking forward to getting to know her as my therapy journey unfolds. She’s sort of like a very on and off again partner — sometimes we can’t help but fall back into our toxic patterns. In the past, that’s shown up as getting drunk before noon to head into my serving jobs — it’s how I would transform into my “calm, cool self,” into a version of me that didn’t shake in challenging situations where I was being watched. I convinced myself that handling stimuli like this was okay, that it was only temporary and that I just needed a push before finding my footing. Now I realize I was harming myself to appear like I was healthy.

Anxious feelings are a common thread in all of our lives, which is why many of us find unhealthy ways to cope with them. More often than not, people think “the anxiety label” is only for people who’ve been told they’re “sick” and need medication, when really there are millions of anxious people out there who don’t have the proper resources or privilege to even get diagnosed in the first place. They go their whole lives with that fear left unchecked and numb it the only way they know how…alone. And that, my friends, makes me so fucking sad.

Therapy and mental health education weren’t prioritized discussion topics in my upbringing, which I know is the case for many other families. In my Portuguese household (at the risk of speaking for a group of people and being misunderstood), I was taught to be resilient, to repress things and to carry on. Having a therapist or talking about seeking professional help just weren’t commonly on the menu, but Bacalhau was (gotta love a silver lining). Looking back, I know this wasn’t anyone’s fault, it’s just the pattern we knew best. Unfortunately, it’s the pattern most people know best.

While I didn’t have a point when I started writing this, I guess I just wanted to remind people that you never know what’s going on behind closed doors. Humans have an incredible knack for burying their shame, even if what they’re afraid of is nothing to be embarrassed about. I’m still very anxious (roll credits) about sharing my own mental health experiences. I would never have made it this far without the help of all the people who shared theirs so boldly. So, with that being said, I want to open up a nurturing space to talk about it, to remove the shame and to make getting help something worth being proud of.

If you got this far, let me know if you want more blog posts about topics like this. I’d love to go more in-depth about my own experiences, too. Please feel free to share your own with me in our judgment-free zone and know that you’re never alone, even when it feels like no one gets it.

Filling Your Own Cup: Persevering in Uncertain Times

Do you ever feel like you’re stuck because pieces of you are split up in different places?

Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m in limbo. The feeling first started creeping in when I was living somewhere I was anxious to leave and I knew that better opportunities were waiting for me somewhere else. It’s like I was saving my creative energy for a new setting and until I was there, I’d keep coming up short creatively (or at least, that was my excuse). I thought paintings and blog posts would pour out of me the second I moved into this new apartment. But, I felt more uninspired than ever when I arrived at the “better” place.

I repeat this mistake a lot — making a change of scenery responsible for providing me clarity. In my experience, however, focus almost always comes from the inside out. It doesn’t appear out of thin air in a new place, as much as we might want or need it to. You have to go digging.

When you feel overwhelmed and you’ve been staring at that blank canvas or empty journal, ask yourself: what’s really slowing me down?

For me, the answer took a while to excavate but when I touched the nerve, it all came pouring out. I was grieving the fact that my family and I were separated by a greater distance than I had ever known. My parents had moved back to the Azores in July and I stayed behind in Los Angeles, which meant that we now led separate lives in different countries. It was a lot to take in and a little too much for me to acknowledge. You could say I felt those growing pains hard.

Things proved even more difficult with COVID-19. Whenever I thought I’d be able to see my family, new obstacles popped up threatening to separate us even longer. I’m certain many of you understand and I think we’re all missing someone or something more deeply than ever. You can almost feel the collective fear of time building in the atmosphere.

The point is, when I finally allowed myself to look at the source of my blockage, all of the reasons I was exactly where I was supposed to be revealed themselves too. All of the friendships, opportunities and moments my boyfriend and I had created in LA came up. It was this incredible life we had built even if it was separate from my roots — what a scary and beautiful thing.

What I learned through facing my blockage head on was that I had been making people and settings responsible for my ability to create, and that’s why I kept finding myself in the same spot. I was giving outside influences all of my power even when there was little I could do to change them. When I finally acknowledged the distance from my family objectively, I realized what I actually needed. I needed to fill my own cup.

Now I know that whenever I feel creatively stuck because my heart is in different places or lamenting something, I can always choose to find beauty in where I’m standing now. People, settings, and things will constantly change and I can still choose to show up for myself. In the past, I might’ve thought this way of thinking made you a selfish person. Now, I realize it’s the kind of thinking that can save your life.

Still A Work in Progress

Last night I picked at the dry skin on my bottom lip and stared at the ceiling for hours until eventually, around four in the morning, my eyelids felt heavy. My mind was frantically planning an emergency escape from the absolute dry spell of inspiration and adventure that my current life had become.

Oftentimes, when I’ve reached the deep end of a low point in my life, I experience  random bursts of inspiration. They seem to come to me from an outside source, usually before bed, and they beg to be the fuel for something productive. Sadly, they often go unused and unfulfilled. During last night’s episode in particular, I found myself watching a TEDx Talk by Caroline McHugh called “The art of being yourself”. It was through this that a couple of things became clear to me.

To start, I’ve wasted too much time comparing myself to and appeasing others. McHugh attributes this habit in particular with a female-driven desire to be liked and appreciated. As a child, I never cared what people thought of me and it made me seem bizarre to other kids, especially to other young girls. In fifth grade while my “normal” female classmates were learning to straighten their hair and passing notes to the cute boys in class, I was designing identification cards for my three best friends as official entry into our magical world. We were young witches in a Harry Potter-based universe one week and ghost hunters trying to break into the haunted house behind the gym the next. I remember mustering the courage to ask the one boy I had a crush on if he liked me back and he laughed in my face. “No. You’re weird,” was the response I got before he sprinted back to his herd of cool boys. I shrugged and walked back to my friends unscathed. We had adventures to continue and the rest of our lives to fantasize about. Sure, it would’ve been nice if dreamboat Nick liked me back, but his opinion held no power over my confidence. I’ve been searching for that strength inside myself ever since. (P.S. Nick has since added me on Facebook and flirted his way into my messenger.)

My fixation on what others were thinking of me or what others were doing with their lives only held me back. Instead of allowing myself the time necessary to focus and think about who I wanted to become, I filled my time with Youtube videos of other people making their dreams come true. I soaked up the lives of the fictional TV and film characters that I adored and envisioned seeking out the same adventures and success. I’d often say things like “I could easily do what she’s doing!” or, after a random surge of inspiration, attack my parents with lists of ideas and dreams I hoped to accomplish to which they would nod and reply “It all sounds great Mariana. I want to see you do it.” I don’t regret soaking up all the inspiration, but I do regret not giving the same attention to myself that I gave/give to the people I admire. I realized that I need to build a relationship of admiration with myself to start making real strides.

Self-discipline is a bitch. I’ve been struggling with it my entire life, but more as a postgraduate than ever. Someone recently told me that talent is only 30% of what we can each rely on. The rest is how much work and dedication we are willing to put in every day to bring whatever dream we choose to fruition. I had been failing at this miserably, blaming bad luck and fate for how stagnant my life had become. The truth was right in front of me and I knew it all along. I was the one thing stopping me from moving forward.

So, what now?

As the title of this post would suggest, my path to pushing my limits and “making my dreams come true” is still a work in progress. I plan to make this blog my guinea pig, a place where I can track my creative productivity. I strongly suggest anyone who feels road-blocked or lost to watch Caroline McHugh’s Tedx Talk. She reminds us that we each have something powerful and unique to bring to the world. The first and most crucial step is to see it.