Life announcement + “heavy” professions

Boy, do I have a lot to tell you all.

I think I announced a while ago that my life was, once again, changing pretty drastically. That I was in a transitional period, getting ready for a new life, as it were.

Well, everyone – at long last, here it is:

I’M GOING BACK TO GRAD SCHOOL!

That’s right. Me, a student again!

I have officially been accepted into the Masters of Science in Counseling program at Cal State Fullerton and will go back in mid-August of this year. It’s a three-year program, which means that I’ll be starting an entirely new career as a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) at the age of 30 and I couldn’t be more excited.

Now, if you know me, you’re probably not terribly shocked at me finally arriving at this career choice, but for those of you who don’t know me, it might be helpful to know and, dare I say, somewhat motivating for those of you still figuring it out? Here’s a (curt) summary below.

Didn’t know what I wanted to be for most of my life. Wanted to act and model as a youngin but my parents weren’t 100% stoked on that idea so I abandoned it. Knew roughly that I wanted to “make money” in high school. Dad’s an accountant and it was 2008 so I went to college for accounting while going through the following major progression: accounting>philosophy (thought I wanted to be a lawyer)>biology (thought I wanted to be a doctor until I remembered, oh yeah, I have severe emetophobia and can’t even look at a sewing needle without getting heart palpitations)>marketing (because it sounded “fun”)>accounting. Finished my B.S. (no, not that kind of B.S.) degree in 2012. Completed my Masters in Accounting in 2013 because it gave me credits for the CPA exam. Worked at a BIG accounting firm until 2015. Also got my CPA license then. Quit because I wanted to do something that was more focused on “people” problems and less on data. Took a little over a year to figure out that I wanted to help people professionally. Applied to grad school. Now I’m here.

What’s missing here is the sheer amount of angst and anxiety that went into figuring out what I wanted to do with my life, but that’s for another entry.

It took me a long time to get the bravery to even think about going back to school again, especially since I am the first to admit that my parents helped me through school and I have a massive sense of guilt about not sticking with accounting. It’s not that I think my degree or license are useless in any way – on the contrary, I think they’ll help me immensely in private practice. It’s just that accounting as a profession isn’t for me. It’s for many people, and I can see why many people love it. It’s just not for me, and hopefully the fact that I have not one, but two degrees in the subject doesn’t make me seem like a fraud for saying that.

I’m excited to go back and start this journey. I’m a super sensitive, compassionate person, a great listener, and a great thinker, if I do say so myself, and having volunteered as a crisis hotline worker for a few months now (and having volunteered in other capacities for years), I think I have a real knack for helping people. But of course, I do get the odd inquiries of…

But won’t that make you sad?

Won’t you get sick of listening to peoples’ problems all day?

I don’t know, doesn’t that job seem just a little…heavy?

I hear you. I get it.

But let me tell you: if I’m gonna choose between helping people in real trouble or my temporary feelings of discomfort, I’m going to choose to help people.

Because I’ve been there.

I’ve struggled with mental illness my whole life. It’s still something I have to manage. And let me tell you, it is not for the faint of heart. My therapists over the years have helped immensely and I credit much of my success to their guidance.

In a way, I think of it as me paying it forward.

Yes, having to keep it together to help people is hard. And yes, hearing unfortunate or non-ideal stories day in and day out has an effect on you. But for whatever reason, there’s a part of me that can step outside for a moment and at least try to help. I’m not patting myself on the back for this. It’s just what I want to do. It’s just how I want to live. It’s what i want my name attached to.

I’m sure doctors, nurses, social workers, volunteers, massage therapists, and plenty of other people hear from other people about how “hard” their jobs must be all the time. Hell, as mentioned above, I could never do some of these jobs. It’s not my skill set, not my strength. But someone has to do these jobs. And there are so many people willing to do them.

Which is freaking awesome.

So, in conclusion, I’m here. I’m doing this. I have no clue what the next few years will truly bring, but I thank you all for sticking with me, supporting me, and being generally awesome. Thank you.

-H

 

 

You can’t please anyone – except yourself

Happy Valentine’s Day! I figured I’d come back in full swing with a nice little double entendre. Actually, I didn’t intend for that to happen. But I know you guys – and I know how easily I set myself up sometimes.

I’m sitting here eating a sleeve of Thin Mints, enjoying a soy latte, and occasionally sneaking excerpts of The Bell Jar into my daily routine. “But Haley,” you say, “Act Like a Stereotypical White Person Day is still months away!” I know, I know. But for me, the consumption of these simple pleasures (the cookie and lattes) as well as the somewhat strained cultivation of my literary knowledge (the reading of Bell Jar) are for the purpose of something that is often highly neglected: self care/love.

On this day, I have no doubt that many people, including many of those in relationships, are feeling a sense of self-doubt. It’s unfortunate that a holiday that began as an excuse for a bunch of drunk Roman guys to whip women with animal hides causes us so much anxiety. As if we aren’t good enough by ourselves. As if we need someone else to dote on us and make us feel appreciated.

All this talk of self-doubt reminds me of something that I was thinking of earlier this week.

I roam through social media quite frequently. Now that I have reincorporated Instagram into my life, I find myself peeking through the comment section of many prominent players in the digital world, from models to makeup artists to personalities who are worshipped to the tune of thousands of “Likes” for every impromptu car selfie or latte portrait they post. I also spend a decent amount of time on Twitter, where the whole world seems to congregate for news, pop culture happenings, and musings from certain political figures.

Almost without fail, every picture, tweet, or post that is remotely recognized will have someone chiming in with negativity.

If a girl posts a “before and after” style photo to show the hard-earned transformation her body has gone through over the course of some months, I will see a comment that calls her a “slut” for displaying her body or “fat” for god-knows-what reason – regardless of what her body looks like.

If that same woman posts a picture of herself dressed in a covered fashion with a bare face, someone will call her “ugly” because – get this – she’s not showing them her body or putting on makeup for them.

If a black person posts about Black Lives Matter, a swarm of dissenters will chime in with accusations of that person being “racist” or “radical” .

If that same black person stays silent on issues of black oppression, they’re an “Uncle Tom” or a “traitor”.

If a man posts a picture of himself in makeup, he’s called words that mock his sexual orientation.

If this same man posts a picture of himself espousing a traditionally “masculine” appearance, someone will say he’s “not fooling anyone”.

If someone identifies as conservative, they are immediately classified as a virulent, heartless, anti-gay war monger, because nobody has taken the time to actually ask about their views in detail.

If someone identifies as liberal, they are immediately classified as a virulent, idealistic, free-loading tree hugger, because nobody has taken the time to actually ask about their views in detail.

If we do one thing, we are punished. If we do the opposite of that, we’re punished. If we happen to Goldilocks our way into to the middle – sorry, still punished. Sure, loads of people might be happy that we voiced our opinion, and we might even be happy that we did that. But someone’s always going to speak out against us, especially in the age of ubiquitous social media presence.

I don’t need to go into detail about much harder it is for women, people of color, people of queer (including trans) experience, people who are disabled, people who are Muslim, or people who are otherwise not reasonably educated, well-off, white, heterosexually-identified males to avoid negative comments. But that’s for another post.

Keep in mind: this isn’t me being negative. This post might even cause you to laugh at how ridiculously hard it is to please anyone. And if you’ve been hurt by these types of comments in the past, you might be relieved that someone out there notices what’s going on – and is just as frustrated as you.

But I’m here to tell you: it’s okay.

Because the most important thing to do in our current climate is to do what makes YOU happy.

I know that by posting this, I will make someone unhappy. Guaranteed. That’s okay.

I know that my views inspire fear and anger in a lot of people, even people close to me. That’s okay.

Because I love myself, a lot of people love me, and I believe in myself and what I stand for.

All of this being said, I do think it’s important to apologize when we hurt people. I do think it’s important to thoroughly research (!!!) things before we try to publicly state facts about said things. And yes, I understand that it’s hard, even downright scary, to voice our opinions sometimes. Unfortunately, safety can be an issue when it comes to expressing ourselves. But to the extent that we can, we must still try.

So on this Valentine’s Day, be proud of you. Keep voicing your opinion. Keep fighting your good fights. Keep standing strong. The world needs you, even if it doesn’t know it yet. And it all starts with you loving (and pleasing [LOL]) yourself.

Oh, and while you’re at it, eat some cookies or donuts or something. You deserve it.

Haley

How to handle the people you don’t like

I dislike very few people in my personal life. This is a terrible thing.

I give chance after chance to most–often ending up hurt in the end. If I’m unsure about someone, I may still wait in a purgatory of indifference until I can make a full decision about them, often for years. It usually takes a personal assault or a litany of human rights violations before I really, truly dislike someone. At best, I am seen as a wishy-washy “Switzerland” type; at worst, I strain friendships and get caught in the middle of some incredibly tenuous spats. Sometimes I explode, letting the floodgates of my feelings open and my hatred flow out in a concentrated stream towards the rare individual who dares to provoke my ire. It’s not fun. Now do you see why this can be terrible?

I am–horn-tooting time– a nice person. Like, ludicrously nice. Nice to the point where people in my first job disliked me at first because they thought I was faking it. That is, until they were proven wrong by my impassioned dedication to getting my work done and bringing in my own baked goods for everyone to eat. I look for the best in people. I try to be nice. I always try to be honest. I try not to speak too off-the-cuffly. And I give, and I give, and I give.

At the same time, anyone who has spent a decent amount of time with me can also tell you that although I have this ball of exuberant emotion for a heart, I can be awful. My awfulness stems from two things: (1) my profound insecurity with myself and (2) my inability to hide my emotions. Some have referred to the latter as something that makes me “So authentic!!111!@” but ugh–no. It sucks.

I have not been above posting awful subtweets about people with different political viewpoints. If I feel slighted by someone, it’s not unheard of for me to visibly glare at them when I see them, to the tune of “I. Will. Destroy. You.” Sometimes I’ll raise my voice and use bad words at my boyfriend if he does something to upset me, instead of listening to him and calming the crap down. All of this happens because (1) and (2) are facts with varying degrees of inescapability.

That said, I can see why people might not like me.

But I’ll go into that in another post. I say the above because it helps me understand where others are coming from. If I feel like I don’t like someone, I ask myself the following questions:

  • Does this person remind me of a worse version of me? A version of me that carries my negative traits?
  • Do I know all of the facts about this person’s life?
  • Does this person have as many awful qualities as I think they do, or am I making up some of this in my head?
  • Did this person personally hurt me, either intentionally or unintentionally? Have they apologized for doing so?
  • Did this person hurt people I know and/or love? Have they apologized for doing so?
  • Does this person simply have a fundamentally different personality than I do?

And the kicker:

  • Do I spend enough time around this person to actively dislike them?

If you can answer “yes” to most of these questions, I would figure out a way to get away from this person, whether they’re a family member, a friend, a coworker, or anyone else. However, if most of it is concentrated in a “yes” answer to the first question above, this adds an incredibly complicated layer to it all. You may, in fact, need to take the time to further understand this person–provided you have to be around them. In the end, you may better understand yourself.

Although they are few in number, I do have a few people that I actively dislike in my life. I won’t say who, only that they are somewhat powerful forces in my life and will likely continue to be for a while. Because of this, I make efforts to understand them when I can, I show them kindness, and I find ways to at least reduce my time around them. The hardest part is hiding how I feel. I’m sure that these people have seen my death-glare more than a few times, but I make it an effort to stay as kind as possible. If I can offer any one bit of advice, it’d be to stay kind around these people you must be around.

In any event, hope everyone’s enjoying the new year. I’m sure 2017 will bring of bevy of interesting things for all of us to the table. Let me know what you hope to accomplish this year in the comments below!

-H

I fell out of love with writing, too (and other updates)

I come back to this blog with my tail between my legs. It’s been a while.

I’ll start by saying that this year has been rough. In 2016, I began a new relationship, which I learned this year is terrifying for me due the weight of my past experiences (not because my partner isn’t the greatest thing ever, because he is). I met my birth mom for the first time in my 26-year-long life. I quit pole for almost 6 months, simply because I let myself get too serious, too quickly. I came face-to-face with the amount of privilege and ignorance I possess as I trained to become a crisis line counselor (okay, more on that in another post, because that’s actually awesome – but, yes, the confronting stuff part was hard). I’ve had difficulty at work. I’ve had to quit social media due to the amount of stress it causes me. I’ve had family issues. I’ve sharply questioned my future and my career path. I’ve battled with mental illness more so than I have in other years. Most oddly – and, in a way, most devastatingly – I started to hate writing.

Yeah, me. And yeah, “hate”.

I went back to working on the novel I wrote last November for NaNoWriMo over this past summer. Around the same time, I also started a new blog, one that would be solely centered around confidence issues. Although both projects were meaningful to me, I went in with them without thinking things through and watched my interest level crash and burn – nay, incinerate. I started to re-read my work, cringing at everything from my use of adverbs ad nauseum to my obnoxious white-girl fillers. My creativity became clouded. My motivation was shot. Worst of all, I realized that I was writing about a topic (confidence) that I myself was shaky on and I didn’t feel like being a fraud any longer. Moreover, I realized that my novel was one that required extensive research and reworking before it would be fit for public consumption. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I felt like I needed to take a huuuuuge step back before I began these arduous processes.

And now, here I am. I haven’t written a word to the public for months. Who’d have expected that?

Overall, I realized this year that writing wasn’t and isn’t going to be my way of making a life for myself. To make a living writing, I would have to become passionate about online journalism or blogging with a business edge and…sorry, but I’m just not. I could also, in an ideal world, become a best-selling novelist, but I don’t think I’m cut out for that either. I like to write about whatever the hell I want with no negotiation or pressure. For so long, I tried to delude myself into thinking I was different, but I’m not. I’m not a selfish person, but I’m a really selfish writer. I want to dedicate my life to helping people, but writing is NOT how I’m going to do that.

In case anyone’s curious about what all of this means, here are some conclusive takeaways for ya:

NoBuilding Your Bold will not continue. I’ll be frank with you: I am not a confident person in many aspects of my life. I certainly can’t call myself an expert on it. (Note: I’ll have an announcement on that blog about my leaving but will keep the non-tragic articles on there).

However, Infinite Corners WILL. I still plan to come here to write about my travels, favorite sociological phenomena, political things, and life updates. Some people have said that I entertain them, so I’ll remain on the internet for them. As for how often I will post, I have no idea, but will try and do SOMETHING monthly.

Yes, I will still work on and eventually publish my novel. I just might be in my 40s when I do it. Or maybe my 100s. Who knows.

Yes, I am still happy to write or edit for people who specifically ask me for writing help. I acknowledge that I have a talent for writing and I won’t waste that completely. If you need writing-related help, my services are 100% free.

Yes, I am still staying off social media for a while. I don’t currently have a Facebook and I rarely use Twitter and Instagram. This has been helpful for me and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Yes, I still have a lot of exciting things in the works, especially related to my career. I won’t talk about these now, but expect a much sunnier post in a few months.

Lastly, yes – returning to pole is my New Year’s Resolution. I don’t usually do those, but I think going back to pole classes is a worthy and achievable one.

This post isn’t meant to be a downer, though I acknowledge that it has some elements of downerism. Please know that if you’re bummed out, I can bake you cookies and sing you entertaining songs rich with scatalogical humor as condolence.

Happy holidays to all and I look forward to speaking to everyone through the magic of the internet again soon.

Kind regards,

H

Why I (temporarily) fell out of love with pole

I took my first-ever pole class about two years ago. One of my closest friends had started doing it and looked amazing, so I decided I wanted to be just like her. Plus, it looked like a fun, challenging, and truly artful way to get and stay in shape. What wasn’t there to love about it? Although it took a while for my practice to finally “stick”, I decided in March of 2015 that I would start poling at least three times a week. And I did it.

It was difficult. I remember crying my eyes out because I couldn’t even manage a “chair spin” after my third class. I remember seeing girls hold themselves upside down twenty-feet in the air in 6-inch heels, wondering if I could ever be so fearless. I went alone to every single class, so I never had a friend to relieve stress with if I messed something up. I had to get comfortable looking stupid in front of girls (and boys) who were really, really good.

Eventually, though, I too got good. I started inverting a few weeks into my consistent poling regimen. I increased my flexibility. I could do complicated, often scary-looking tricks. I learned how to put routines together. Soon enough, I was helping out the other girls in class and even got to teach a class of my own for my friend’s bachelorette party. I even bought a pole for my apartment, rearranging my entire place and getting rid of furniture to do so. I was feeling fabulous and felt that pole had become my “thing”.

Other than falling out of it a few times for a couple of weeks at a time, I kept at it until the following March of 2016, when I competed in my first competition. I competed at Level 2 in the entertainment category, meaning that my routine had to be focused on tricks and spins rather than “flow” or displays of emotion. I didn’t place too highly, but I wasn’t in last place by any means and was proud of myself for doing it. Excited at the prospect of competing again, I kept at it, albeit much less consistently, for a couple of months thereafter.

About a month ago, though, things started to feel…different.

I had absolutely zero motivation to go to classes and interact with people. I barely felt like freestyling at home. While I partially chalk it up to it just being too damn hot this summer (and my apartment is like a furnace, even with generous wattage being spent on multiple fans), I realized that there was something else happening.

I had started taking pole too seriously, and it was biting me in the butt.

You see, when I start becoming interested in something, I feel like I have to eventually become the best, or one of the best. This sentiment may pass, but I always start out that way. With pole, it just happened to stick with me for a while. When I started, I knew that even though I sucked then, I would eventually get better and better until I was competing nationally, then internationally. I pictured myself being like Natasha Wang, who started pole at 29 and now teaches workshops of her own all over the world. I was determined to become a figurehead in the pole world and make my mark that way.

But here’s the thing.

Pole is not the only way I use my time. I have a full-time job, a novel I’m writing, two blogs, and a side writing project I’m working on with a friend. I have friends, family, and a relatively new relationship that I am developing and nurturing. I have other things I love doing, like reading and making visual art and getting outside. I realized that if I wanted to be where I supposedly wanted to be with pole, many of these things would have to be put on the back burner. And if I’m being 100% real with myself…I’m simply not willing to do that right now.

And I’m okay with that.

Me not being willing (right now) to put in the enormous, sacrificial amount of effort it takes to be one of the “greats” doesn’t mean that I can’t continue with pole. I doesn’t mean I can’t be good–nay, great–, that I can’t ever teach again, or that I can never compete again.

This is me being okay with not being the “best”, at least for the foreseeable future.

This is me saying that I’m okay with having pole as a part of my life right now, rather than being my whole life.

This is me telling myself that I’m still valuable, awesome, and talented even though I’m not dedicating hours a day to stretching, lifting, spinning, falling, and bruising my way to pole expertise.

I may have fallen in love with pole for the wrong reasons, but I’m willing to take a more casual approach and see if I can fall back in love with it for the right ones. I’ll still attend classes once a week or once every other week and I’ll still keep my home pole–even if it means I can’t have furniture. Heck, I might start taking online pole classes when it gets a little cooler. I hear great things!

Like any enjoyable activity, pole is one of those that can easily turn into a chore or burden if you take it too seriously without understanding what that truly means. But if you sit down and and have an honest conversation with yourself, you can figure out where you truly want to be and how you can get there. Maybe you are willing to make it your life, but need motivation to get started with that goal. Or, perhaps your time with that activity has expired and it’s time for you to move on–which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Or, maybe you’re like me and you just need a little reconfiguration in your approach. All of these outcomes are good and it’s important to do what’s best for you.

Is it easy to figure out what the answer is? HELL no. It’s probably easier to land a fonji or a Russian split than it is to answer that question. But try to have that conversation with yourself whenever you’re ready. You’ll feel just as good as when you land that split.

-H

p.s. If only for my own ego, it is still an imperative goal of mine to be able to fonji one day. And get into a hypersplit. And dance in heels. Maybe pole isn’t getting rid of me as easily as it thinks it will.

The Healing Powers of Pokémon

I’m not expecting any SEO miracles from me posting something about Pokémon right now. Despite only celebrating its 15th day of life today, there has been no pop culture topic more talked about during these past two weeks than Pokémon Go, the free-to-play, augmented reality app that seems to have captured hearts and sculpted legs the world over. So, I’m not unique in bringing it up, and even the most astutely crafted blog post about this game runs the risk of falling into the Black Hole of Overused topics, but I’m here today because I just might provide a unique perspective for those doubting the game or stating that they “just don’t get” Pokémon.

First, a little background.

In 1998, I was eight years old and in the third grade. I was just starting to come to terms with two heavy realities in my life: my anxiety, which I live with to this day, and my parents’ looming divorce. While I had a lot of great friends, I couldn’t help but feel noticeably different from the flock, moreso due to the anxiety than anything. This fact would be told to my face the next year, but it was I who picked up on it first. I couldn’t go into rooms with high ceilings; I felt like I was going to get sucked into the atmosphere. I would cry instantaneously if someone said something mean, because I thought it meant they hated me. During reading comprehension exercises in school, my teachers would sharply question where I came up with things and would blatantly tell me I was “wrong” for interpreting stories the way I did. One teacher suggested to my parents that I may have had a learning disability. I just wanted to be like everybody else, but I never once felt like I truly fit in.

One thing that did help me feel connected to others growing up was video gaming. My two brothers and I had played video games since we had control over our own finger movements. Like many-a child at the time, we found ourselves at the feet of our parents to get copies of Pokémon Red and Blue for our Gameboy Colors when they first came out in the U.S.. What started out as a trend-prompted request became a virtual lifestyle shortly thereafter.

In the wee hours of the night – well, as “wee” as my brothers and I could manage without getting in trouble – we furiously trained our Charmanders into Charmeleons and, eventually, Charizards. My brother traded his Haunter to me so it could evolve into Gengar. I emitted increasingly loud groans when I ran into Chansey in the Safari Zone and could never catch her. This may sound like gobbledygook to someone unfamiliar with the games, but the overarching symbolism was what tied us to it.

To succeed at Pokémon, we had to invest hours of our time to train our monsters to be the best they could be. We battled in-game trainers, sometimes continuously, to reach increasingly difficult goals. My brothers and I had to work together to catch more Pokémon. In effect, the games were a fun, entertaining way for me to experience real-life responsibilities, even if they were in a fantasy world.

But I didn’t think of it that way at the time. Pokémon just made me so happy. I didn’t think about my anxiety when I played. I didn’t think about my parents’ arguments or those scary ceilings or my mean teachers. I didn’t really experience negative emotions while playing the game. Sure, I got casually frustrated, but the game was just too dang enjoyable for me to ever become truly disenfranchised with it.

While I never got into the trading card game and only infrequently watched the first incarnation of the anime, I continued to be a fan of the game series well into middle school. I let it go for a while in an attempt to be “cool”, as the fad had died down, but would secretly return to it from time to time, especially when a new game would come out. I continued playing in high school, but figured that in college I would “grow up” like everyone else and stop playing it.

Turns out, I needed Pokémon more than ever in college.

Between discovering my social identity, painstakingly learning about love through my rather intense, often damaging romantic relationships, and experiencing what was, at the time, one of the biggest decisions I had ever had to make (my college major), college was an animal far different from high school. After a hard day of studying, working with my student business organization, and hitting the gym, Pokémon was there to pick up the pieces and calm me down at the end of the day. Because I used it as a reward system after I had taken care of my responsibilities, I felt zero guilt sitting down to play it. It may have just been a game, but there was nothing else that calmed me down and brought me happy feelings so instantaneously.

As I transitioned into my whirlwind grad school year and began taking the CPA exam, Pokémon became an even more integral fixture. In order to get done what I needed to get done each day, I had resolved to breaking up my days’ commitments into hourly intervals. I don’t think I would have been as happy of a camper without my daily 30 minute-to-one-hour responsibility of playing Pokémon Black (the version I had at the time).

Which brings me today – and Pokémon Go.

I’m open on both this blog and my new one (cue mandatory plug of my new blog, Building Your Bold) about my struggles with anxiety and depression. As I get older, I not only gain more responsibilities, but become ever-more aware of the painful realities of this world, which unfortunately makes these illnesses harder to suppress and deal with. It doesn’t help that I’ve recently been having a tougher time than usual, likely because of my new relationship combined with creative struggles. (Keep in mind that I’m over-the moon happy in my relationship, but literally any relationship is so, so stressful for me at first, due to the amount of inherent risk involved and the amount of damage I am still undoing from previous ones.)

When Pokémon Go came out two weeks ago, I was nervous. On its outset, the game looked super different from its console predecessors. It was supposedly rife with bugs and appeared to be way overhyped. But I gave it a shot anyway, because it had been a while since I’d played Pokémon.

I couldn’t have picked a better time.

Pokémon Go has revitalized my desire to go on walks and explore the beautiful city I live in. It’s helped me feel more comfortable making conversation with random strangers, because I finally feel like I have something in common with people. It’s given me a reason to exercise more during the day, which is vital given the sedentary nature of my job. Best of all, it’s reminded me that Pokémon has always been there for me as a stress-reliever and all-around “happy-maker”. I know I’m not alone in this, as I’ve seen dozens of people around the internet say the same thing.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not dropping everything else in my life in favor of Pokémon Go, and even though it’s great exercise (the game requires you to actually walk around to land items/catch Pokémon), I try not to spend too much time on it unless I’ve completed my “real life” stuff for the day. I still go to work, I still sit down for healthy(ish) meals, I still spend time with friends and family, I still volunteer, and I still make plenty of time for writing, pole, and all of my other hobbies. And to be honest, I think this is how 99% of all other Pokémon Go players are. Yes – even the ones who sneak in a gym battle or two during work hours :).

Moreover, I’m aware, albeit painfully, that Pokémon Go may not be here forever. The craze may pass and the creators of the app may cease developing new iterations. Worse yet, I may eventually find that the app doesn’t hold up for long-term play, especially since it’s so different from the console games I grew up with. I know that I may one day have to drag myself outside without the motivation of an egg hatching or a rare creature sighting to excite me. That’s okay. I can accept that and will enjoy it while it’s here. Plus, if anything, I always have the main series games to fall back on should I be specifically craving a Poké-fix.

In conclusion, I’ll say this: let people enjoy Pokémon Go and any other video game they might love – Pokémon-related or otherwise. You never know what kind of impact the game might have had on their life and you never know how productive they might be in their life outside of the game(s). And even if they aren’t productive? Who cares. I find life is most enjoyable when we focus on improving ourselves and not criticizing others. But that’s just me.

Now, excuse me while I try and track down the Hitmonlee I saw earlier.

-H

Changes Happening at IC + A New Blog!

Here’s the thing. IC started out chiefly as a travel blog. Light-as-a-feather, carefree, newly-graduated Haley anticipated having all the time in the world to travel back in 2013. And if she didn’t get to travel far, she’d still spend every weekend heading to a new place or finding a new adventure to write home about. So she thought, at least. Because this is what a lot of 23-year-olds think for a while.

Alright, enough third person.

Now, of course, life took some turns that, while awesome for my overall development and mental health, prevented me from having as much vacation time or money as I thought I would at this point. While I still get to travel an incredible amount (comparatively speaking), I am now in a position where I only get 2 weeks a year to actually take off and travel. What little time I had before (5 weeks, for anyone curious) has now become relatively miniscule.

I also noticed that my “off-travel-topic” posts, ranging from mental illness manifestos to interviews with Youtube-stars-in-the-making, kind of ran the gamut. And boy, was that a random gamut. However, I also noticed that a lot of my best posts had to do with confidence, insecurity, and anxiety.

So what did I do? Well, I started a new blog for those things called Building Your Bold.

BYB (as I like to shorten it) is all about confidence, insecurity, anxiety, and everything related to those things. It’ll be a weekly+ feature blog with new posts every Sunday or Monday and occasionally Thursday. In other words, it has that one key thing that IC has always been missing: consistency.

I feel confident (pun intended) that I can write something fresh and new about these topics every week, so I am choosing to do that with Building Your Bold. Moreover, many of the IC entries under those topics will eventually be moved over to BYB.

So where does this leave IC, you ask?

Well, first of all, IC ain’t goin’ nowhere. There is too much good material already on here to let it fold. Moreover, I will forever and always continue to blog about my travels here, even if I only go on 1-2 trips a year. Even if none of you guys read it, this is my “public diary” for some of the highlights of my life, so that it will remain.

To keep the blog going for the rest of the year, I will also try to be more diligent about writing about my local LA adventures. Given that I live in one of the most vibrant, entertaining, and overall poppin’ cities in the U.S., I don’t see why I can’t come up with at least one good entry a month–even if I’m not oozing wealth or free time out of my pores.

What to expect from IC moving forward

My goal for IC right now will be one well-done entry per month about LA living or general travel, unless I actually go on a trip. If I go on a trip, I will always have at least a few entries related to it. All of my entries moving forward will be complete with awesome pics and good stories, as they were with the Australia trip.

Anything related to the topics in the “Life Stuff” category on this blog will eventually be moved to Building Your Bold and from here on out, that blog is where I’ll publish anything related to those topics (which, again, are things like confidence, insecurity, relationships, anxiety, etc.)

Obviously, my primary goal with IC is to provide meaningful, entertaining information to you wonderful readers, so hopefully these changes do not impact your interest in this blog. Moreover, I hope that you do end up checking out Building Your Bold and reading the entries there each week. My written body of work is always evolving and I will always keep you all in the loop. Thank you for always being incredible–without you guys, I’d be nowhere.

Sincerely,

Haley

p.s. I know it’s kind of late in the game to say this, but…Happy 4th! Eat plenty of patriotic red, white, and blue for me. My stomach can only hold about 15-20 but my heart yearns for more.

 

Australia, days 8 and 9: The mountains and the music

Wow! I’ve been decidedly not-so-good at keeping up with you guys. However, I want to assure any concerned parties out there that, no, I was not eaten by a shark, accidentally locked inside the Opera House, or knocked on the side of the head with a didgeridoo. I am, in fact, intact and back in sunny(ish) Santa Barbara for a wedding with my partner this weekend! He’s the best man, so I’m helping him with his speech even though he would do splendidly without me. I think he might even give me a run for my money writing-wise. He could easily take my job as Master of IC if he were so inclined.

Anyway, let’s see what I need to fill you in on. Wednesday and Thursday were my last full days in Sydney. Wednesday consisted of an incredible all day tour of the Blue Mountains with the very appropriately-named Blue Mountains Tours and Thursday consisted of getting in some last-minute beach viewings and miraculously being able to see David Bowie: Nothing Has Changed, an exclusive 3-day show at the Sydney Opera House.

That said, this is going to be THE most picture- and word-heavy entry of this trip, so hang in there. I’ll try and separate everything with headings for once.

Blue Mountains Tour

The tour began just after 7:00 am on Wednesday. I had gotten up at 6:00 and had responsibly headed over to McDonalds to load up on an, uh, filling breakfast prior to our departure. I was disappointed (but not surprised) to see that the bacon that came with my bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich was the floppy, thick Commonwealthy kind I had seen in England and Scotland. I don’t eat meat, but I’ll be danged if I can’t occasionally eat something with crispy, black bacon on it. However, given that this was one of the only complaints I have about Oz, I think I’m doing okay.

I ended up chasing – literally, chasing – a bus that turned out to be from a different tour. Thankfully, I spotted the correct bus shortly afterward and hopped on. Though I felt like a nimrod, my tour guide was thankfully uber-nice and quelled my fears of looking doltish.

Our first stop was Featherdale Wildlife Park about 45 minutes outside of Sydney. Although it seemed a touch smaller than the Wildlife Habitat of Port Douglas, it seemed to have a little more diversity animal-wise and it was easier (and free) to see the koalas up close. At WH, you must pay for such encounters.

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And once again, I fell in love with a kangaroo. Or, at least I think this was a kangaroo.
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Yes, they have penguins in Australia! How cute are these guys?
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I just loved the intense stare of this owl. Not sure if she was as happy to see me as I was her, though.
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“Oooh, hey human! You look nice, what’s your name? Hey, do you have food?”
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“No food, then? Oh…”

I’m telling you, these koalas were hysterical.

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*gratuitous chewing sounds*
koala eating
Nyamnyamnyamnyam.

I was also pleased to see macaws, dingoes, bats, dingoes, and wombats here. Though, fair warning, the wombats were pretty shy and it was tough to get just one good picture of one. There were echidnas, too, but they were all sleeping. I think I would have died of cuteness overload had they been awake.

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After the park, we headed to the mountains themselves, which were an additional hour and fifteen minutes away. People aren’t lying when they say the Blue Mountains are like a greener (and, of course, bluer) Grand Canyon. It certainly has the same vibe and it’s much drier up there than in Sydney proper. There are some rainforests, but they’re not as wet and populated with creatures as the ones up in Northern Queensland. The mountains are a sight to behold and I can’t imagine visiting Sydney without making the journey to see them.

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The Blue Mountains’ premium viewing center, or Katoomba Scenic World, is the ideal way to experience a 360-degree view of the mountains. Here I am on the gondola, which has a glass floor to look down into the canyon. ‘Twas dope.

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The tour also included an Aboriginal show and a trip to a nice little mountain town called Leura, a small, garden-like village known as the “Jewel of the Blue Mountains”. There, we went on a mini hike and had some lunch. Well, other people had lunch. I had quiche, cake, and sourdough bread. My kind of meal.

After the hike, we headed back into Sydney’s Olympic Park and took a ferry back to Circular Quay. The day was basically over by around 5:30 pm.

Is it possible to see the Blue Mountains without a tour? Absolutely. You can take a bus there yourself and while it will take a little longer to get there, you will see the same sights as the people on tours. However, getting a full-day experience with the trip to Featherdale, the trip to Scenic World, the Aboriginal show, the trip to the town, and the ferry back to Circular Quay (Sydney’s city centre) was well worth the approximate $130 USD price tag. Plus, we got to travel in a new Mercedes-Benz bus that had USB charging ports in all of the seats. That kind of can’t be beat.

The Last Beach Hurrah and the David Bowie Tribute Show

This last day was pretty self-explanatory. I, embarrassingly enough, had not been to Sydney’s most famous beach (Bondi) during the entire trip, so we decided to do the walk from Bronte to Coogee Beach then take a taxi back to Bondi. While most people opt to walk directly from Bondi to Coogee, we did things a little differently because we first wanted to stop for lunch near Bronte. As one might expect, there are some amazing sights on this walk.

I had only my iPhone during this walk, as I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of protection/weather for my big-girl camera. However, these will hopefully still do the walk some justice.

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The park near Bronte Beach.
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Bronte Beach.
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More Bronte – I was a fan of these rocks.
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The pool next to Bronte Beach. They have quite a few of these pools here, which siphon water from the ocean.
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A pool overlooking the ocean.

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Bondi itself, at last!

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We ended the day at the famous Icebergs Club at Bondi, then bid farewell just a few short hours later to my brother and his friends. They headed off to Thailand that evening and will be going on to Shanghai and Tokyo thereafter for the next three weeks. So, they weren’t exactly jealous of my dad and I just because we got to stay an extra night.

Although, they were jealous of my dad and I’s final Sydney activity: the David Bowie tribute show at the Sydney Opera House. I didn’t get very many pictures because, again, I had only my iPhone and I felt like photos didn’t do it justice anyways. I did, however, snap one photo each of the inside of the lobby area during intermission and the end of the show.

Although all the performers were spectacular, one in particular, iOTA, stole the show. His costume, his mannerisms, and especially his voice were filled with Bowie’s aura and spirit, and when he sang “Let’s Dance”, “Fashion”, and “Is There Life on Mars?”, the crowd confirmed that he just might have been the low-key star of the show.

Inside the hall. The drink line was unreal as people gathered robotically into lines to ensure they could top off their champagnes.
Inside the hall. The drink line was unreal as people gathered robotically into lines to ensure they could top off their champagnes.
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Long live the Thin White Duke.

Reflections of the Trip

Going to Australia was something that, given my job situation and the generally high cost of visiting the country, I did not think I was going to be able to do for quite some time. I feel incredibly thankful that my dad just so happened to have some required business there and even more thankful that he graciously invited us to the trip.

Australia is unlike any other place you will ever visit. It is chock-full of mountains, deserts, rainforest, and beaches, all within close range of each other. It has more endemic flora and fauna than almost anywhere else on earth. The people are relaxed and laid-back, to the point where you could swear you’re hanging out with San Diegans or Angelenos. The Australians have a language all their own, and I’m not just talking about how they call ketchup “tomato sauce” or appetizers “entrees”. Being Australian is absolutely a way of life.

Will I be back? Absolutely, although I’m partial to exploring the more barren, sparsely populated, and desert-like Northern Territory next time around. I loved Australia and you will, too – but you have to go there to find out what it’s all about.

Until next time, my cornsnakes. I’ll be in touch. Need to go get this contour on fleek. After all, I have a wedding to go to.

-H

Travel tip: Sometimes, paying more for something while you’re traveling really is worth it. Remember that when you’re deciding between a $20/night hostel room that you share with five people and a private hotel room for $100/night.

Australia, days 6 and 7: Sydney city-slickin’

Oh, man. My calves are feeling these last two days.

Yesterday (my Monday, Sunday-ish for you statesiders) was my designated museum day. I ended up hitting up two museums (which was actually a lot, okay?!) and exploring the city for the rest of the day. I was actually amazed that any museums were open on a Monday here. For being in a workaholic country, U.S. museums have a whole lotta blackout dates (including Mondays for some of them, oddly enough) that are sure to enrage art-lovers the country over. But, I digress. Yesterday was fun.

I was very responsible with the big girl camera on day 6 and took some pictures of my favorite pieces from the two museums I visited: the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Gallery of New South Wales. While the latter was, well, contemporary and somewhat small, the Art Gallery of NSW had both contemporary and classic art and was yuuuuge. I’ll let the pictures do the talking from here on out; both of these places are a must visit, basically:

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sydney museum of contemporary art
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Now, day 7 saw a less-responsible side of me. As we ventured towards the Laguna Beach-like Manly Beach, I instantly regretted not bringing my big camera. Thus, I have but a few iPhone pictures to show thee.IMG_1725 manly beach manly beach IMG_1730 IMG_1731 IMG_1733 IMG_1739

The water was cold and the sand was soft, just like home. I smelled the same coconutty suntan oils I smell back in California. The teeny little waves reminded me of the summer trips my family used to take to Maui, where the ocean is like a giant, mellow jacuzzi. Except instead of being surrounded by pure touristic infrastructure like we were in Maui, we were surrounded by some of the most stunning residential architecture in Sydney. Seriously, I didn’t get enough pictures of it – the apartment buildings (like the one above) and homes were out of this world. Again, for me, Sydney is a place that is so foreign yet so comforting. I’m 17 hours away from my job and my apartment and my snake and my boyfriend and my friends and all the normal things in between, but pieces of home are scattered everywhere.

Tomorrow, I’ll be taking a day-long tour to the Blue Mountainswhich is sure to be a much different view of Australia than anything I’ve seen so far. As my eyelids are currently falling down my face, it is best that I catch some Zs so that I actually wake up for this tour tomorrow. We leave at 7:00. I won’t be on my A game at first, but I have to pretend like I will be.

Till tomorrow, my cornsnakes.

-H

Travel tip: I cannot stress this enough. If you really want to do something that involves limited space (i.e., getting on a tour, seeing a certain show, or visiting a certain museum that has limits), book that stuff in advance. Like, now. Otherwise, you’re either going to miss it or pay way too much for it. Not that I have any experience with that on this trip…

Australia, days 4 and 5: Sleepless in Sydney

I couldn’t resist. I got up at 5:00 am today and 6:00 am yesterday. Corny as it is, can you tell me it’s not an apt title?

So, as promised, I’m getting reeeeeeeal picture-y up in here, especially since I am combining two days of Sydney-ing into one. While Day 4 was largely a travel-slash-Queensland withdrawal day, Day 5 was a day that we got to enjoy an impressive number of Sydney’s highlights. We opted for a 2 hour morning cruise around the harbor, followed by lunch at the Opera Kitchen at the Sydney Opera House. While the afternoon left room for some solo exploring, we all reconvened later for dinner at Doyle’s, a restaurant about five times as old as I am with terrific seafood. Seafood which, I promise, is not five times as old as I am. It’s actually quite fresh, I assure you.

Behold, photographic evidence of the days!

Right before sunrise.
Right before sunrise.
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During sunrise.
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A little after sunrise. Captured the three stages, I did! I gotta be thorough with y’all.

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An interesting building in the city of Sydney. Anyone know what this is?
An interesting building in the city of Sydney. Anyone know what this is?
More pleasant city walking.
More pleasant city walking.

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Pretty fountain.
Pretty fountain. That’s all, really.
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A solid view of the Opera House. Because it wouldn’t be a post about Sydney without that, TBH.
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Brother’s friend, Ethan (23) and little brother (9). Little brother looks like he’s about to bungee jump off of the Opera House.
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Brother’s friend Grant, dad, brother’s friend Brandon, brother, brother’s friend Ethan, and tiny brother looking like an appendage of one of the older boys.
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Another view of Circular Quay from the Opera House.
Some boy band I met in front of the Opera House. Heard they're bigger than One Direction.
Some boy band I met in front of the Opera House. Heard they’re bigger than One Direction. 
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Detail of the Sydney Opera House. Per an older gentleman on our cruise, “they could have done a better job”. Someone’s a shady lady!
This restaurant at the Opera House looks like it came out of my wildest design dreams.
This restaurant at the Opera House looks like it came out of my wildest design dreams.
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Another picture of this restaurant (which is called Bennelong, btw) because it’s just that amazing.
A picture my brother took of my other brother.
A picture my brother took of my other brother.
Da crew.
Da crew.
Seagulls in Sydney are cleaner, but meaner.
Seagulls in Sydney are cleaner, but meaner. Trust me on this.
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Fort Denison in the harbor. Fun fact: supposedly this is THE place to be to watch fireworks on New Year’s Eve. Who’da thunk?
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More Sydney skyline.
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I…think this is Manly Beach? Don’t judge me guys – it was our first real day!
A view into the open ocean. AKA, the path the sharks use to get into the harbor.
A view into the open ocean. AKA, the path the sharks use to get into the harbor.
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I WANT to say this is Watson’s Bay. Someone correct me if it’s not. All I know is that sharks are present here.
Quarantine Bay. Eery name, beautiful beach.
Near Quarantine Bay. Eery name, beautiful beach.
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We were utterly fascinated by this house. If you live here and are reading this, can we visit?
Gorgeous beach near the Taronga Zoo.
Gorgeous beach near the Taronga Zoo.

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sydney bridge
Another fun fact: these concrete pillars have NO structural value and were only built to assuage peoples’ worries about the integrity of the bridge. 
The Sydney Harbor Bridge. People spend ungodly amounts of money to climb this thing. I can only imagine.
The Sydney Harbor Bridge. People spend ungodly amounts of money to climb this thing. I can only imagine.
Gotta show you all the views of Sydney.
Gotta show you all the views of Sydney. I got you, fam.
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Near Circular Quay at dusk. We are still pronouncing it “Kway”. Somebody correct us, PLEASE.
The man who made this whole trip possible: my dad.
The man who made this whole trip possible: my dad.

Sydney obviously has an extremely maritime feel, but it also is uncanny for how similar to the U.S. it seems. Little green hills remind me of Washington or Oregon. The clean, tall, stone buildings set against slightly chilly weather downtown remind me of Minneapolis. The people’s casual attire and friendly, “no worries” demeanor reminds me of Southern California. I’m convinced that Australia, or at least Sydney, might be the closest thing to Southern California you can get outside of my home region. At least that’s what I have heard and have seen myself so far.

Today marks the one day this week that I get to do that which nobody else in my group wants to do: museums. Maybe a zoo visit. I know, how could anyone possible not love zoos or museums? But alas, I respect their desire to go to the beach. That is, after all, kind of what Sydney is known for.

You guys will forgive me for using a picture of the Opera House as my featured pic, right? Catch you on the flip.

-H

Travel tip: If you are looking for a little more variety in your trip wardrobe but also need to buy souvenirs, buy cute clothes that you know your friends will also wear. Wear the stuff on the trip while you’re on it, then wash and give the stuff to your friends as souvenirs. They’ll love it, and you’ll look cute on the trip, too.

Not that I’m doing that or anything.