Head over Heart

I don't know if I've ever been one to just follow my heart, a common cliche line that this society loves. This Bible verse alone should make you hesitant on following that advice:

The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
— Jeremiah 17:9 NIV
small-town-lights

Lots of people just rush into decisions based on the spur of the moment. They use quotes such as "live for the moment," "you only live once," and "no regrets" to justify it. Well, yes, you only live once, so I would advise you not to live like an idiot or else you WILL have regrets.

I was having a conversation with my grandma the other day about love. As I'm writing my new book, one of the themes it looks at is just that, specifically in a dating relationship. Something that I notice a lot of people doing, especially kids my age, is rushing to be in a relationship with someone when they're not ready for it. They only think they are because their brain is clouded by hormones, fuzzy feelings, and everything else. And they say it's just part of having fun or being in love. I'm not trying to undermine being in love, but there's a smart way to do it, too, without having to compromise your brain, something I don't ever think you should do because the heart and what it wants is fickle.

Sometimes it's difficult to make the right choice but always worth it in the long run. People have to think about who they fall in love with in an analytical manner—sure, doesn't sound very romantic, but hating each other down the road ten years because you were blind to their obvious faults isn't romantic either. Same with a job or any opportunities or activities people do. We've gotten so caught up into this heat of the moment mentality, and then you wonder why so many people can't make good decisions to save their life. More thinking needs to go into it.

There of course comes a point where you can think too much. I definitely lean more on that side, being the overthinker I am. Because nothing is going to be perfect in life, so you just have to do the best you can, always consulting God for His wisdom. I just read a few chapters of Proverbs today, and that was what it talked about: the importance and value of wisdom. I can't stand it when people degrade wisdom, especially based on age. They say that wisdom or maturity can come later, when you're older, and that when you're young you should just be wild and free and all that crap.

That right there shows the value of wisdom so that you can call stupid advice when you see it, which that is. Seriously? Just WAIT to learn what is right and good so that you don't have to end the fun, that's what they want. But God is not about ending your fun; He cares first and foremost about caring for you and making you righteous because only then will you prosper in life (Proverbs 2:7-8).

Yeah, you might have to sacrifice some things. You might have to sacrifice a fun party. Or a cute guy. Or an opportunity that comes at the wrong time.

But look at the big picture, the consequences of rushing into things without thinking. Would you rather have the fun now and have the rest of your life be hell or go through some tough periods of waiting and reap the rewards?

God is faithful, and He blesses His people for doing the right thing. So I challenge people—regardless of how young or old they are—to actually THINK about the choices you make. I hear people complain about their behavior and wanting to throw in the towel because they just can't seem to change, and you know why that is? When you look at them, they never seem to actually stop and reflect on what they're doing. They live by sudden urges and emotions without fear of God. That's not how we're intended to live, though.

Use your head first to consult God and think over the right decisions in life. Your heart can catch up—which, coincidentally, it always seems to when you make the choices that honor God. I hear people who are trying to justify sin but deep down there's this unsettling feeling in them that they're trying to battle in their attempts to excuse it. And I just want to say, you know what, there's a reason it hurts. Sin should never be justified; it will always stay in your heart and hurt it in the long run, after the pleasure dissipates as quickly as it came. Coincidence? I think not.

We can't and aren't meant to live off of our emotions, chasing finite pleasures. Fix your mind on something greater—living for Jesus—because trust me, your heart WILL catch up (2 Corinthians 4:18).

signature.jpg

An Honest Post: Me and My Thought Life

Whenever I do a blog post specifically titled "An Honest Post," it's probably really personal to me. I mean, ALL of my blog posts are personal and honest; I make sure to keep them that way, but there are some topics that even I feel more hesitant to talk about, or I just need a disclaimer to be completely real and raw because some things aren't the easiest to talk about, even if I want to. I've done one other post with this title, about my honest thoughts over what I'm like in school. Read it here. That was in SIXTH GRADE, people!!! It's just crazy to think that after this week freshman year is already done. And get ready for an honest post over that, too. ;)

But I do remember coming up with that title for that first post because I knew that really going deeply into my personal issues, such as feeling alone at school, may not be the easiest thing to write about on the internet. I had a lot of doubts because I didn't want people to worry about me or think I needed help, and I didn't want them to think that this had turned into my diary where all I do is whine about my problems. Because that is never my intent with this blog. Rather, the reason I ultimately decided to post those thoughts is because I thought that maybe they could resonate with someone, and I wanted to share how God had worked through that for me.

So nothing has really changed in that sense, this post will be along the same lines. Except this time instead of talking about feeling lonely at school, I'm going to go even deeper and tell you about my thought life! Haha as if you want to know :) No but really, I have learned a lot, even though it feels like I haven't. Dealing with the mind is complicated, which is why I want to pursue psychology, but it's necessary because almost everything is dictated by it.

I mentioned in my post about taking a break from social media here how I didn't like my thought life. That was the summer after eighth grade, and that whole year, really, had been a struggle for me. Don't get me wrong, I had some really special memories also, and in terms of how school goes it was actually one of my favorite years, but just mentally, it was like I couldn't get a grip on my thoughts. I began to keep a journal so that I could document my craziness of one day being completely depressed and the next day as I try to regroup and reflect on everything. My thoughts were just a mess. I had experienced deep sadness before, but what I was even thinking about the other day, was that it seemed like my rebound rate was higher. Like I could sort of just come out of it faster. But then as I got older, these started turning into patterns. And what I've learned about the mind is that once you form a certain way of thinking, it's really difficult to simply break that pattern. Because against my best interests, that's what started happening to me. It just became a pattern. Even when every part of me knew intellectually the truth, it was hard for my heart to accept it because I was so stuck in the ways of thinking.

**Just a note before I go into this: even though I've felt depressed before and it's felt pretty crippling at times, I still wouldn't say I have literal depression. Some people have it way worse than me, where they literally have chemical imbalances, and of course I would advocate for them to get help just like I did here in my post on anxiety. And as always, this isn't professional advice, this is just my thoughts and observations on my personal journey of battling with depressing thoughts. I don't need help or to talk to anyone; I have people that I can talk to and go to if I need it. I've gotten to the point where I think I'm doing much better, and I feel confident about writing this.

Anyway, so I've mentioned that I'm seriously getting into psychology. So the more I got to be thinking about this, I sort of tried to self-diagnose myself. It wasn't like my intellectual ability was skewed when it came to these thoughts. I knew perfectly well what was the truth, and even though I had these thoughts, they never interfered with my life in the sense that I couldn't function properly. I mean, I was crying, like every other night, but even that I had some control over, because it wasn't like I would be sitting in class and just start crying. I always did it in privacy somewhere, and then I would talk to somebody. And don't freak out if this sounds new to you, because at first I did too, thinking that I was literally depressed. But then I would hear other stories about girls, and the more I thought about it I was like, okay, maybe this is just a teenage girl phenomenon. :) And again, I'm not trying to undermine the severity of sadness, but I feel like I can do that to myself because I know I don't literally have severe depression. If I took a quiz about it or something, maybe I would have mild depression. But I also believe that some of it is inevitable, and it doesn't mean you can't function and need to freak out about it. But I'll talk more about that in the future.

Anyway, so I started tracing back to the past. I started looking for where this curve was, where it switched from being some deep sadness that could be resolved the next day to always feeling this sort of longing and emptiness that was followed by a pretty jaded attitude. And then I realized that the curve honestly came around when I turned 13. :)

IMG_3396.jpg

Honestly, though, I do think hormones play a huge factor in this. That was when I began getting my wonderful monthly gifts, so that's always fun to deal with. And I've read stories from Christians I respect who look back on their childhood and are like, oh, that year I think I cried every single day, because you're an adolescent and that's just how it goes. :) But it was still difficult for me to cope with after awhile, which is why, ultimately, I'm writing this, is to share how, FINALLY, I'm learning to control my thoughts once again. This is going to be a long post, I apologize in advance... ;) And also, sometimes I like to blog these types of posts even for myself, for two reasons: 1) writing is SO therapeutic, but don't worry, I'll save the deep rants for my diaries, and 2) it really is assuring to look back in time at how I thought. Some of that is actually what has helped me with this. I can look back and see, oh yeah I was crazy then, too, so this isn't anything new. ;) Haha but seriously, it really does help. God can teach me things that you subconsciously begin to forget over the years, so going back and looking is a great way to refresh and remember that you can get through hard times.

So, I turned 13. My birthday is in February, so that would be maybe about halfway through the school year, or maybe a little more than halfway, I'm not entirely sure. At that time, I was in seventh grade, and if you read my post here on my middle school years, I went into my thoughts on seventh grade... Essentially, seventh grade was my worst year in middle school. Once again, academically it was fine, I even remember some of the projects I had that I enjoyed, and really, I did have some good memories made with some friends over the course of the year. But towards the end of the year, things really got bad, because I lost a lot of friends, and suddenly I wasn't just feeling lonely, I was lonely. I'd always felt lonely, clear back to the beginning of sixth grade, and I had some really good friends. But I just craved this deeper connection, especially with my faith, that I didn't get with anyone. But suddenly when I lost my friends altogether, I felt lonely, and then I was lonely. I hardly had anyone, and that was a struggle.

There was also a ton of guilt that went with it. I started wondering about myself and having doubts, thinking things like, what did I do to cause that, and maybe I should've been more this and less that, etc. You start to wonder what it is that you're doing wrong. That hurt me, too. I began to think that maybe I was just unlikable and insatiable, where nobody would be "good enough" for me. And I tried my absolute hardest to be loyal, to be the friend that I wanted. I know I didn't do it perfectly; I could still get sucked into drama, things that I look back on now and ask myself what the heck I was thinking. But then, that's life, and that's middle school.

I wrote about this struggle here towards the end of that year. But I think that's where it all started. Life is hard when you don't have any good friends. Thankfully, I had my family, which definitely made up for a lot of it, but there's still that gap there, and then it made me really anxious because I kept thinking, maybe I'll never have friends, and it won't get better, and I'll be alone my whole life. But I know that's not true. I've made some really special connections with teachers, and I met this wonderful girl who's a couple years older than me, who really took me under her wing and was there for me through all of eighth grade and even into freshman year. I seriously don't know where I would've been without her and the teachers that God put into my life; it would've been an even longer year. And plus, it also made me feel a little bit better to know that I was capable of having human connections, haha. :) I wasn't turning anti-social just yet. ;)

That happened near the end of fall during my eighth grade year. But during the summertime of 2016, I think that's really where it all began. I was able to trace back my anxiety, also, when I was dealing with that, and sort of self-diagnose that, too, and I think that's really important. I remember looking back at years where I felt pretty stable emotionally, and I would go and make lists of the things I did during that year that could've contributed to that. It was just a way for me to kind of help think about what I could be doing differently, and it did help me.

Anyway, summer 2016. The beginning of it was pretty great; we went to Canada for the first time, which was a blast. (Oh, but this year they're going for the THIRD time in a row, and I refused to. The second time kind of killed me; I figured out pretty quickly that fishing all day wasn't really going to cut it for me, so I'm going to MY happy place instead.) After that, though, it seemed like it just went downhill. Circumstantially, nothing had really happened. But my thought life? Yeah... I blogged really in depth about it here as well as what I learned from it. I just started feeling down about everything. The country, people, morals, school, everything. And it was like I couldn't pull myself out of it; I just became obsessed with it. Which I learned is a big mistake. I become obsessed with things pretty easily. I don't like to admit that, because some of those things I am actually passionate about, and hearing that it's an obsession doesn't make you feel very good. But then again, when you're getting to the point where you're depressed about it, you probably should put some boundaries on it.

And, finally, I'm learning and reflecting on ways to do just that, which I'll go over.

But I'll tell you what happened first. I became interested in a lot of different things. One of those that I talked about in this post here was prison ministry and how it was something I wanted to go into. I won't say it was a phase because it wasn't; I still have that desire and feel passionate about that. But going more deeper, I think it was just this overarching goal to help people and make a difference. That wasn't a phase either; I still definitely have that. But I think it was a lot more intense then, where I would get so impatient and frustrated that I couldn't do anything. Then that just sort of morphed into an obsession, and whenever I heard of anyone doing anything I would get jealous and cynical that I would never do anything. That lasted all the way through eighth grade; I wanted to do things and just couldn't because of age or because the timing was off, my absolute favorite. Not. I was impatient then, and I'm still impatient, so I wouldn't be expecting any posts on how to deal with that anytime soon! You guys should be writing those for ME, haha. All mine would have is cry and throw a fit, maybe you'll get your way, maybe you won't. Sometimes I did, but lots of times I didn't. ;)

IMG_4275.jpg

So that, I think, is a summary of how I got to where I was. Again, I blogged more in depth about things I learned during eighth grade in this post. Looking back on my journals, those were the things that kept coming back, as well as a couple other personal things, too. The thing that I noticed is that these weren't any new feelings I had. I was feeling lonely in eighth grade, but I can also remember the night before school started in sixth grade, I basically threw a huge pity party and cried to my mom about the popular girls and how much I couldn't stand them and how great their lives seemed to be, blah blah blah. But yet, I didn't turn depressed or get cynical then. So I began to wonder, what changed? ALL of the things that I said had worried me or made me sad, none of them were new. In fact, there were times where they were actually worse, and I coped way better. So what changed?

I started investigating that, and I started taking note of the things you should do to be mentally healthy. Things that tap into each level of who we are as people, like the physical sides of us, and the intellectual, spiritual, etc. There are a lot of great Christian resources out there that my mom shares with me and that I find, too. Ha, if there was one thing I remember doing in eighth grade practically every night was stay up until eleven, twelve, one just reading on my phone, on these Christian blogs where I would go to their topics, find what I was interested in, and there you go, read about it until my eyes are dead. No seriously, my eyes are a mess now and that's probably why. It was the first year I didn't have to follow any time-to-go-to-bed-now rules; I could when I wanted to. Clearly I handled that responsibly, haha.

But really, when I thought about it, there wasn't anything I had done differently or that I had stopped doing. Physically, they say exercise is great for you. I still walked my dog, though not as much, but I also ran a lot during the summer because of cross country. I did cross country during my eighth grade year again, and you can read about how fun that was here. Spiritually, I was actually doing more than I ever had to be close to God: we had found a new church with inspiring classes, I bought a study Bible that was helping me understand the Bible more deeply, and obviously I was READING tons of articles at night haha. So I started realizing that there wasn't a lot that had changed, but I had changed.

I had let the temporary times of being down turn into patterns. I let them fester and let myself grow bitter and cynical, something I wanted to remain committed not to do, as I talked about a long time ago in this post over basketball. Patterns of thinking, really, are what make or break you. I was telling my mom, you know, some sadness and feeling down, that's just normal and inevitable. There are going to be times where I cry and vent about popular girls, or feeling lonely, or because I'm sick of waiting, haha, and that's normal and bound to happen. The problem began when I started making these patterns, when I stopped chasing the light, stopped chasing God for my joy, and instead was bound and determined to seal off the pain by hardening my heart, essentially. Then it became a pattern, and that's what killed it. It's hard to break patterns of thinking. That's why so many people are messed up and why you can't just sweep in and save their life. That takes TIME. It takes God time to break down those walls that people build, to abolish those patterns.

But I'm tired of living with mine. I realize now more than ever that it seriously is a choice. I got so weary of going back and forth, of one day we're high, but tomorrow we'll be low. And I'm realizing that if I don't want to think that way anymore, I have to surrender to God. I can't keep shutting Him out, thinking that these petty things I'll keep for myself. Yeah, I might feel awkward telling God some of the REALLY petty things that bother me, but that's what got me into this mess. Because I don't tell Him, and so then I keep them to myself, and I obsess over them, and they keep festering, and then before you know it, that's a pattern of thinking that gets exhausting and out of control.

But guess what? If you get yourself IN to one of those patterns, you can get yourself out. Maybe not on your own. Probably, definitely not on your own. You'll need God's help, for He's the only one who can fix a mind that's broken. I never understood why the Bible said to take each thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). I mean, I tried to obey it, but sometimes I really didn't know why it mattered, why each thought I had was such a big deal.

Ha. I completely get it now. Our thoughts are literally everything; how you think is for sure going to determine how you act. You know that quote that everyone probably thinks is cheesy, over watching your thoughts because they determine your character? Yeah, well, it is so true.

IMG_4411.jpg

When I was getting into prison ministry, that was actually kind of a beginning for my interest in psychology, but I didn't know that until later. Because I always wondered why some people behave so badly, or what motivates them to choose to commit a crime. That all leads back to the mind. It starts there, ends there. It's just like when the Bible warns about not hating someone because that's the same as murder (1 John 3:15). You might say, oh get a grip, how can hating someone be the same as actually committing murder?

Well, how do you think murderers make their decision to carry out their crime? Do you think they just wake up one day and say hey I think I'll go kill that person? Usually not. Now I know a lot of them do have some legit mental illnesses, but not all of them do.

For a lot of them, that's how it starts. It starts off by hating someone. And that hatred and anger, when left unchecked, continues to grow and fester—it becomes a pattern of thinking. And ultimately it consumes you, and then you act on it. It's the same with lust, too—the Bible says lusting after someone is the same as adultery. It's true. Adultery doesn't just happen—it starts with a thought. And what you do with that thought is up to you, but let it become a pattern and consume you...it might not be good.

And this doesn't ever mean you don't have bad thoughts. Of course we will; we're human, emotions are a part of our life. But this is why it's dangerous to let them go unchecked. It really IS a big deal, because big screw ups don't just happen. They start off with the little things. That's why I'm so passionate about having good morals, because if we can't have good morals in the little things, what makes us think we can have good morals in the big things? How you handle the little things ultimately is what defines your character.

But about getting out of these patterns, and about what I've learned through all of this. First of all, renewing your mind is absolutely essential. And making sure you're being renewed on all levels—not ONLY spiritual—is something that I think sometimes Christians can forget. Being spiritually renewed is critical, but we're also physical, intellectual, emotional beings, so you can't let those things go, or else you might feel down, and it may have nothing to do with you being distanced from God. I've also learned that going to Him is essential—don't hide things. Even the bad things that fill you with shame. Seriously, God knows it anyway, whether or not you tell Him. And He wants to hear it from you, that's how you have a relationship. That's how you get your mind renewed. It's incredibly hard to hate someone when you're praying, especially when you're praying FOR THEM. Why? Because God is not going to let you hate them. Not when your mind is on Him, and you're filled with His love.

This morning, I was feeling cynical again, just bashing people and not really caring. Yeah, what happened to my lovey-dovey blog posts about unconditional love? They became nonexistent in my mind when I let these thoughts go.

I think that's what really killed my mental health, is the cynicalness. Because I've been sad before and deeply down because of the reality of life, but the thing was, I always had hope, so it wasn't crippling (to see more on what I mean: read this post). It was more of a pure sadness for our world and longing for Jesus, whereas this sadness, without hope, turned ugly and selfish easily. Then it was about me being a victim, which is something I never try to be. I have more of a realist personality; I always have. I don't spout cliche lines just for the sake of being positive, so if I'm feeling sad, I will not try to fake it. But I also had a legitimate, authentic knowledge of the hope through Jesus, so I was fine. But take that hope away, and you're headed on a downward spiral.

IMG_0134.jpg

Now, as I'm completing this on June 6 and actually am a sophomore now and have published my reflections on freshman year, this is the biggest thing I learned, or maybe relearned. And I praise God I did because I don't want to fall into that gloomy way of thinking again. I remember praying, on the morning I began this blog post, for God just to work a miracle in my mind. I didn't know what to say other than that; I just knew that my down, grumpy thoughts were out of control. I didn't know how to fix it, so finally I just asked Him to. And then, as I'm going through the day, the bones of this post just came to me, and it poured out. I'm so thankful for His patience with me and what He's taught me about this.

It's like I said from what He showed me clear back in fifth and sixth grade: pain doesn't last forever. And there's always hope through it, so never, ever lose sight of that.

signature.jpg

Reflections on Freshman Year

I am officially a sophomore now, guys! I finally don't have the freshman stigma surrounding me anymore, which is a relief. :)

So each year of school, I like to do a post covering everything I learned and how it went. I did one large post over each year of middle school and what I learned that was really fun to look back on for me; check that out here.

Freshman year, to be honest, kind of felt like a repeat of eighth grade, and my mental state pretty much stayed the same from then but sometimes even went back to my sixth grade mindset, yikes (read this post to find out why). So I really needed to be conscious about how I thought and, really, I flunked at that. I'm actually working on a blog post right now that talks all about patterns of thinking, because if there's one thing I figured out like seriously only two mornings ago, that would be it. Nevermind the fact that it had been drilled into my head all year. That was when it finally clicked for me. So stay tuned for that; it accidentally ended up being a book, so I have a lot of editing to do on that post.

Anyway, this year went by at rapid speed. Holy heck. I can vividly remember myself in eighth grade being bored to death, waiting for high school, waiting to get more opportunities, etc. I can remember being at a doctor's appointment, and when my mom set a date for the next one, it was sometime in the fall, and we were like, ooh, to think I'll be a freshman then! And now I'm a sophomore haha.

IMG_0344.jpg

To be completely honest, for awhile I wondered what I would even put in this post. Because freshman year didn't seem to carry with it any new life lessons since it felt like another repeat of eighth grade. Plus there was something about my mental state that was just lacking this whole year, which may have made me less openminded to learning new lessons. I was so ready to be done, though. Maybe it was because I had such high expectations of it, I don't know. But it did make me more aware of not wishing my life away. I don't want to be somebody who wishes everything away because they think they can't be happy until they're in high school, or college, or married. Because none of that can truly fix your happy state, that's between you and God. But I do have a sense of restlessness in me, and I don't think it's all because of me just choosing not to be happy. Oh, I'm sure that's some of it—the biggest thing I learned this year was how to take control of your thought life again, and I'm writing a blog post about that.

But I do think my personality has a need for deep connections, for meaning and purpose, to help and inspire people, and I just don't think I'm getting any of that right now. I still feel pretty stifled. I have a lot of dreams I get incredibly impatient over, which was probably the most challenging thing of this year. It just felt like it dragged, and I hardly did any writing the whole year, on this blog or on my book, and that's horrible, because they say if you want to be a good writer you should write everyday about anything—just to practice and perfect your craft. And now it's extremely evident how I've hurt myself by not doing so; my writing on my second novel has been so sloppy, I've already rewrote it once. And I don't know why I didn't write at all; I think, honestly, I get so lazy and worn out mentally from school that I just can't put anything into it. Because I'm not super busy; I have plenty of time to write; in fact, that's why I'm hardly involved, is because I want to devote that time to writing. But gosh, it just gets tough.

I would often find myself growing jealous of the juniors and seniors because they were able to start planning for college, sending applications, going on visits, etc., haha. One day when I'm their age I'll probably look back and wish I had these days of doing next to nothing, but who knows, I guess? Even as a kid I've always wanted to grow up faster. I can remember seeing my cousins or older relatives when I was a lot younger up at my grandparents' house, and I remember crying to my grandma because I would get so upset that I couldn't engage in the "big girls" activities—I don't even remember what, exactly, those were, but I know I was upset about something—or just the fact that it seemed like I couldn't fit in with them. Even back then I always hated being thought of as more immature, even though I know I was, haha. I've always been impatient, because even then I would get frustrated that I couldn't DO anything. And I think that's how I felt a lot this year.

My hopes are that now with summer I can somehow find the motivation to get going on my book; in 2014 I managed to get halfway through my first novel, and then I was only eleven years old, so there's no reason why I can't do it now! I'm sure some of it is just my perfectionist way of thinking, too, that everything I write has to sound perfect. But it doesn't—especially not in only a first draft. So I actually have the hopes to complete my second novel this summer; I feel like that's doable, but we'll see!

IMG_0354.jpg

The one good thing about this year, though, is that I did make some good connections and have a lot of special people who encouraged me when I thought I couldn't go any farther. For awhile, I would get frustrated because in many ways I thought that sometimes I was doing all of the pursuing and initiating in any relationship I wanted. And I don't mind doing that, but it gets old when many people don't reciprocate it. But I finally got the message that people do care, and I learned to quit being so cynical about that. It also showed me that no matter what, I want to be one of those people, too, who checks in on other people and goes out of their way.

This year mainly consisted of required courses unfortunately, but next year I get a little bit more freedom to choose courses in my areas of passion. This year, though, I got to take a college course! I didn't know I was able to do that as a freshman, but I was able to take an online course that I really liked. It was over current problems in our world and was a sociology course, so I definitely enjoyed it. I felt like everything I learned was transferable to all of my other classes, and I was thankful to have the opportunity to take it. I already got to see my schedule for next year, too, and I was thankful I got all of the classes I signed up for to fit into my schedule. Sophomore year has a lot of required classes, too (physics being one of them...banging my head against a wall already). But I got the electives I wanted, and I'm thrilled for them. I'm taking two online college courses again—one each semester—over philosophy and ethics. I think I will like philosophy; it seems like a deep subject that would be aligned with my personality. And I'm almost positive I will like ethics; I blog about morality all of the time haha. And then I'm taking a creative writing class (yay!) and Advanced Placement Psychology (can't wait!!!). I've never taken a psychology class in my life yet have somehow already decided that I think I would like to major in it one day hahaha, but my cousin has taken some psychology classes, and I remember from what she told me being fascinated by it. And as my obsession with people keeps growing, I think it'll be a good class for me to take haha. I'm looking forward to all of those things, so hopefully they will turn out good.

The other interesting thing that happened that I wasn't entirely sure how to think about? I got glasses. Don't even get me started on my eyes. Over the last couple years, I have been so worried about them as it feels like funky crap keeps going on in them, and I've been worried I'm going blind or have some brain disease on way more than one occasion. I sincerely feel bad for my eye doctor, because I kept making lists of things wrong with them and keep calling even though I've been told I'm fine. But at my last appointment, my focusing wasn't as good. It wasn't horrible, but they thought by me getting glasses just to have when I do work or am on the computer could help ease the strain. So I got them. I was pretty picky about which style I was going to get because believe me, I was less than thrilled, and I had no idea that big name designers made glasses! I probably sounded like such a snob rattling off all their names—Jimmy Choo had gorgeous sparkly frames that were expensive to say the least haha—but I honestly had no idea that they made them, so that made me feel a little bit better, ha. I actually did not pick out mine until the very end; I was indecisive about some simple black pair I believe, and then the lady helping us came out with this pair that wasn't on the wall, and I guess it was love at first sight because I knew I wanted them.

IMG_2933.jpg

I would write more in depth about how I've learned to control my thinking again—which was the major takeaway from this year—but seriously, I have a lengthy post already in the works covering that, so stay tuned. I would say that freshman year for me was one of those years you just have to get through. It was one of those years where you do a lot of waiting (my favorite years haha...NOT), and so for me I just had to endure it and get through it. And I'm thankful God helped me through! It actually did go by fast for a year that dragged, so I'm glad. But of course I want to be thankful for each day and do the best of my ability to work on my dreams for God's glory. My first few days of summer, I have literally done nothing. I have been so lazy. Last night was the first time I took a shower since the end of school that was on Friday. ;)

I've been doing a bit of journaling, though, and put together a list of the things I want to do this summer and that I need to get done, so hopefully I can start being productive.

And if I had to give advice over freshman year? It would echo a lot of my middle school advice that you can read here: don't give in to peer pressure and stay true to who you are (being as quiet as I am, you wouldn't believe some of the conversations I overhear in my classes of things kids are already getting into...so it's very important to stick to your convictions). It's one of those years where everyone wants to establish themselves, and there's a lot of drama around that. But seriously, know that that crap means nothing. Focus instead on your academics (which begin to count this year and don't SLACK OFF like I heard some kids do just because it's freshman year—do your best and do the right thing anyway!). Focus on developing your passions and what you want to do with your life for the glory of God. I've had a blast doing that, and it's just those reminders that, once again, the petty crap—prom, cliques, to name a few—is just that, petty crap that no one will care about in ten years. So don't let that be your fixation.

Also, it brought me back to my sixth grade year that you can read more on here, where I just have to remember to trust in God's plan and not get sucked into the worldly expectations of society. It's tempting to do, but it's not worth it. And unfortunately, it basically took me all year to figure that out. But hopefully this summer I can get a fresh mindset and be better prepared mentally for tenth grade.

As far as my summer goals go, I'm hoping to write everyday about something and to begin working on some short stories, too, to keep my writing diverse and interesting. I also am going to go jet skiing at Okoboji this summer, which I can't wait for, but hope I don't kill myself while driving it. :D What are all of your plans for the summer?

beautiful signature.jpg

The Lost Art of Deep Thinking

In school these days, or at least in mine, I've noticed a similar pattern over the years. It's the fact that whenever there's a mention of really deep topics, it's like kids can't even handle it. They either tune it out completely, thinking it's irrelevant to them and they just don't care, or it honestly scares them off, and they just count down the time until they can get back to Snapchatting their friends. I've seen on more than one occasion and, sometimes, even watched in horror at people's responses to deep situations, where they're just plain inappropriate.

I was sitting in a class today when I really got to be thinking about this. We were doing an analysis of some material, and it just made me realize how kids simply do not have the attention span for that anymore. And I do understand that getting into abstract topics and analyzing things isn't for everyone, and not everyone has the personality where they really want to do that. So I get that, but I also think all of us, regardless of personality, are plenty capable of having a mindset that thinks deeper than just us and our life. If we can't do that, it's because we're choosing not to, and I've been guilty of that at times myself.

I think it's sad, though, how shallow society has become and how self-absorbed people are. And I'm sure this isn't anything new; I think that now, though, with the availability of social media, it's been emphasized that much more, because now people have these platforms where they can truly advertise themselves. And you can't make anyone think beyond themselves, either, or to look at the world and really stop to reflect on their own character and life. It's like those awkward group projects you have to do—when you want to take charge and be the leader, but you can just tell that the rest of the group is not engaged and really does not care about what you're doing. For me personally, I don't like talking to people about deep things unless I know they want to hear about it. It feels awkward trying to force that on someone, and if you do force it on someone, how is that going to make them think deeper? It won't; they'll probably just tolerate listening to you and then be on their way.

Of course, that doesn't mean you shouldn't ever try, because you never know if it might be your words that get through to someone. But it's just sad that most people don't have the time to listen or care about deeper things.

I really think people need to learn how to think more deeply, where it's not just about their own life and problems. I mean, one time I was having a conversation with my mom, and I made the comment that in today's world, there isn't a lot of concern for other people. When's the last time you sincerely felt grieved in your heart for someone you didn't even know and owed nothing, but you were just sad because you could deeply empathize with them and feel their pain as if it were your own? Have you ever done that for someone you don't even know or owe anything to? I think that's half the problem. There is no genuine concern for people. I'm not saying you have to cry about everyone and their situations, or you will become depressed (I know this from experience...), but feeling sadness over the brokenness of this world isn't going to hurt most people. It would be good for a lot of people to think this way for once in their life.

Believe it or not, writing has also been a huge gateway for me to practice empathy and thinking beyond myself. When I'm writing, I'm forced to think from perspectives other than my own. I have to write as people who think differently than I do. My characters have to have diverse points of view, or (a) they get redundant, (b) they think just like I do, which leads to (c) them being boring. One book with one character who may think like I do is the max; write any more along that point of view and nobody cares. The whole point of making writing relatable and authentic is that you have to get inside the minds of other people as best you can, even people you have NOTHING in common with or completely disagree with. And if I can do well at that, then I'll consider myself successful.

For example, in a short story I was working on a couple years ago, I was creating the most cynical character who was so done with faith and had these views about God so opposite to my own, sometimes I would honestly say to God something like, You know this is not me believing this, it's my character, right?

And now, in my second novel, I'm writing from two characters who not only have different views from me, but also completely opposite views from each other. One of my characters, it's kind of funny, because I read my grandma my story as I update it and so she's in the loop about who they all are, and one of them is just a complete wild boy in every sense you could imagine. Seriously. There's probably not a sin you could list that he hasn't committed. So I call my grandma every night, and a lot of times she'll ask me if I've been writing lately or sometimes she'll ask, so how is this boy doing and have you shaped him up yet? What is he doing? And then I'll say something along the lines of how he's probably hungover somewhere. And my job is to make readers like this guy, to somehow empathize with him and connect to his story. It gets challenging at times and definitely forces you to dig deep thinking wise, but I love the challenge of it.

I think that's where you'll get the most wisdom, is from allowing God to help you see people as He does. Everyone is fine with spouting off quotes about faith without thinking about their deeper meaning and applying them to situations or people they don't like. For example, everyone is fine with saying quotes like how God has never made a person He doesn't love and things like that. Which I completely agree with. But how many people, do you think, when they're citing those quotes, are thinking about themselves and how much God loves them? That's not a bad thing to do, but what if you take a quote like that and apply it to someone you can't stand or who has done unfathomable things like, say, the perpetrator of this last shooting? Would it still apply, or would there be hesitation about that?

Well, it would still apply, as God IS very clear there is no person beyond His love (2 Peter 3:9), but people don't think that way. They only think of that in the context of themselves, and then they'll go blast these evil people like they're not even human. But they are, and God still loves them, and that is what deeper thinking is about: thinking beyond yourself to people and situations in the world that God cares about just as much as He does yours. And if He does, we probably should, too.

I could say so much more on this topic, and don't worry I probably will on this blog, haha, but I think that would be a good introduction to my thoughts on this. Having a mindset that only focuses on ourselves is, honestly, natural. It's how we think, let's just be real. But it doesn't have to be that way, and we can make conscious efforts to be aware of other people and their lives, too. When you think about it in terms of problem-solving, the first thing you could ever do to attempt at finding a solution is to first be aware that there's a problem. And so by thinking this way, you become aware that there are other people in this world beyond yourself who have pain like you and are in just as desperate need of God's love and grace. And it really does change the way you think in life for the better. 

It really is the only way you'll change the world. And I'm not just saying that to sound romantic. Somebody who can't be bothered to think beyond themselves isn't going to do a dang thing—even if they are a genius. Why? Because what good is helping people if you can't even empathize with them and learn to connect with them? Trust me, there have been times I've seen the difference between authentically caring for someone and just doing it because I have to. When there's this passion put in my heart from God and I get this glimpse into their heart that God sees, it makes me so eager to do the things that are really going to have the potential to change their life. And that's how God uses people to be a light in a dark world. And in a world full of apathetic, egoistic people, this mindset is needed now more than ever.

And don't think it doesn't matter to people or pay off, because we all know lights shine brighter in darkness. And what I mean by that is when you authentically care for people beyond yourself, people who may not even have experienced that type of genuine kindness before, it will mean that much more to them.

Ashlee Mae