Picking Up the Pieces

If any of you know me well, you are well aware I am currently in possession of four or five diar- journals. They’re journals.

I’d be in possession of six if I could find the journal I wrote in fifth grade when I recorded my feline endeavors at recess as “Blackstar”, leader of Thunderclan, but I think I must’ve done a great job hiding it because I’ve been looking for years now to no avail. One of my high school friends will undoubtedly bring it out just in time for my engagement party within the next ten years. Thanks! ❤

The first journal (alright, it really should just be called what it really is…a “diary”) is a spiral notebook with a hard pink cover. A flower adorns the cover and “MY JoUrNaL” is printed sheepishly around the stem, as if an afterthought. My first entry is dated November 18, 2005.

Once inside (if you could unlock it, that is), you’d realize all of the entries are pretty mundane- unless you were my younger sister at the time. The diary included the classes I went to in seventh grade, Venn diagrams of my crushes and their strengths/weaknesses, and random song lyrics I had been feelin’ at the time (Duran Duran). Basically, anything you would imagine would be in a journal which has, “THIS BOOK BELONGS TO NO OTHER THAN THE GREAT KRISTIN, NOT YOURS SO DEAL WITH IT” scribbled on the front inside cover. Yes, it was scrawled proudly across the page in sparkly gel pen. It was 2005, man. A hell of a year for any millennial.

The most satisfying part of having a diary (or several) is being able to glimpse back to a time where memories might ordinarily have become muddled by time or bias. Having the ability to look back at written material has served me well. When I wasn’t meticulously recording my crushes and their daily interactions with me (“omg Alex saw me in the hall today, I think he looked at me”) or showcasing the spelling fads of 2007 (“i no i shouldnt b saying this but i ❤ jordan. his eyes r awesome tho”), it is interesting to see how my brain processes information at the time.

Though my spelling has gotten much better (I still struggle with “i” before “e”, except after “c” or whatever the hell it is) and I’ve become less boy crazy since the days I hid behind my bed to scribble down the events of the day, parts of my thirteen year old self carried over into my college years- for better or worse.

Hidden between the hundreds of pages I’d written about volleyball, soccer, and crushes was a girl struggling with self acceptance. She just didn’t quite realize how much this struggle would impact her late teenage years quite yet.

Middle and high school can be remembered fondly to some, while others bask in the glory of having the class bully unclog their toilet forty years later. To say the least, it may be a time best described as having many highs and lows. :.)

Our innocence waned as we learned cuss words on the bus from the older kids, we finally figured out what Chat Roulette was while at a sleepover, and broke curfew…again and again.

My childhood was somewhat more sheltered than most in the sense it was mercifully uneventful until my teenage years.

My diary entries noticeably shifted as 2005 slipped to 2007, then 2008. I continued to sporadically write into high school, but did not write much beyond a few entries in 2008 and two in 2011 (one had been ripped out). I began writing less about my crushes, favorite songs, and daily encounters with my teachers and family.

The girl whose biggest issue was worrying about not making the soccer team now drew a picture of herself pointing out her flaws, writing “ugly” repetitively over the page. I was pale, fat, had too large a nose, regretted cutting my hair, overdid my eye makeup, and hated my freckles. The date above the crudely drawn picture was March 21, 2008. I was sixteen.

Why couldn’t I look like the pretty, popular girls at my school?


Above: Teenagers tend to be a bit hard on themselves when encountering a herd of their own kind at school. It’s a time often characteristic of trying to fit in- I was no exception.

It was the beginning of a long and difficult road, a struggle not singularly unique to my life.

The girl who looked back at me in the mirror continued to remind me of everything I failed to be. Not only was my appearance unsightly to me, but my perceived personality flaws were now under scrutiny as well. Bashing myself became a cruel hobby, the innocent child in me struggling to stay afloat with compliments I now felt were lies.

I was under the impression nobody liked me, I was a weak leader who constantly underperformed at volleyball, I was a failure/benchwarmer at soccer, and I was selfish. Coaches constantly told me to “fix my face”. Why did I look sad or bitchy one minute then become overly cocky the next?

Unbeknownst to me or anyone else at the time, I was in the early stages struggling with some mental health challenges. While it is normal for a middle or high school student to feel awkward and unconfident, my brain had been in overdrive and had convinced me I was an evil, horrible person undeserving of affection. While not an excuse for my behavior at the time, it definitely gives some insight looking back. It didn’t matter how much my parents and siblings loved and cared about me. I had convinced myself otherwise.

The insecurity, anxiety, and pessimism I had been feeling was further amplified when I thought I may not just be attracted to just boys like the other girls in my grade.

My hometown was a great place to grow up, but is not the forefront of progressiveness like many larger cities. Sexuality was viewed as a choice by many and the church I had attended since I was in preschool condemned gay marriage. I spent much of my junior year worrying someone would think I was disgusting, repulsive, and gross for feelings I had recognized since seventh grade. Taunted by upperclassmen in the halls, I spent time overthinking my every move while with my close friend.

At the time, I didn’t find solace at home. My sister and mother had correctly guessed I was in a relationship with another girl at school and I was terrified. Was the comfort and happiness I found while with my best friend and confidant worth the constant stress of being an embarrassment to my family? I didn’t have time to make the choice myself, as my friend chose to end the relationship before she graduated that spring.

Not only did I loathe myself, but now someone I had trusted deeply had denied we had ever been together. Heartbroken and confused, I began confessing my feelings through a Word document on my MacBook. I had to hide everything from my friends who had no idea any of the previous events occurred. Steadily, my writing became more dark and poetic, but pulled me away further and further from reality. I had no idea what was substantive in my life. I didn’t know if I was drowning in pain or if I was just numb. I began self harming to feel something- anything.

I continued writing at college after a year break. My freshman year had been a whirlwind of social events and stimuli, but I picked up the hobby again my sophomore year in the fall when my past relationship became a breaking point. I felt alone, insane, and didn’t know where to turn.

Entries became sloppy, ink trailed off pages, mixed with tears. An entire entry consisted of an untidy scrawl wherein I tried convincing myself I was another person. I had repeating the same phrase countless times until the page ended. Another page contained confused last rites. I was drunk nearly half of the nights I wrote entries. The same girl who worried over her appearance at sixteen had gotten carried away into a never-ending cycle of self loathing.

Writing had once been a fun release, a way to express myself not unlike my favorite characters from Meg Cabot books. My confessions and heartbreak had morphed into a twisted monster, threatening to finally convince me I was insane and unlovable, a worthy candidate of ending life as I knew it.

However, years later it serves as a reminder of how incredibly sick I had been during this period in my life. Though the entries are painful to read, it truly shows far I have come and how far off the rails I had gone during this period of my life. I had convinced myself of an overwhelming multitude of entirely false information. I lived my life off lies, overreactions, and misconstrued encounters. My illnesses had twisted my outlook on life and stolen years of happiness off my life. It took me awhile to realize my writing was not beautifully tragic, reminiscent of existentialist heroes like Sartre, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche before me, but instead a clear sign I was not well. 

Though some of my behaviors are still evocative of the girl who loved to hate herself, it is more clear to me than ever how much I had needed help at the time. I was lucky to have friends and family who sought out help for me. I’m grateful to this day, because the girl in high school and college had no idea how hard she’d fight to find happiness- and how much progress she’d make by the time she turned twenty-five.

Self loathing had been built itself into the core of my being as a teenager, but I’ve changed this after years (yes, it took me years) of therapy sessions. More recently, I finally took a chance and let myself truly believe I wasn’t a horrible person. It didn’t come easily to me and is sometimes still a challenge, but by learning to dismiss the cruel voice in my head (not to be confused with schizophrenia), I am becoming happier. It turns out life is easier when you’re not trying to cut yourself down (wow!).

So although we don’t have a choice what challenges we are born with (or being born at all), we have a choice of who we become. With the right tools and attitude, humans can be remarkably resourceful. These tools and attitude will come more naturally to some, while others will need to fight more to gain the necessary skillset to be happier or even survive.

I was born into this world with some odds stacked against me (acknowledging my privilege as I am white). A few mental illnesses loomed on the horizon of my late teenage years when I was a kid, but I am incredibly lucky to be surrounded by a loving family and friends who wanted to see me succeed and gave me the resources to do so.

It hasn’t been an easy journey, but I’m learning to accept myself instead of resorting back to maladaptive behaviors and constantly putting myself down. Instead of allowing myself to get caught up in a tailspin of obsessive, pessimistic thoughts, I recognize my brain doesn’t interpret everyday events like a mentally healthy adult. Though it won’t always work right away, the fact I recognize my thoughts and behavior as unhelpful is a start.

Hopefully, I have a long life ahead of me (gawd willing). I might as well learn to like myself if I want to live my life to the fullest.


I’ve written less in journals or diaries as the years go on, but every once and awhile I take time to recount my day- no matter how mundane or uneventful. My journals have served as markers of my mental health through the years and continue to remind me that while life is ever changing, my overall positive attitude about life doesn’t need to.

In striving to find whatever positives I can, I’ve become healthier and overall happier. Even if I’m not entirely happy (who can honestly claim they’re happy all the time, let’s be real), I’m also learning through pain and sadness.

I’m not quite there yet, but I can say with confidence I am much better than I had been a year ago at this time. When morale gets low, I remind myself I’m not just living for myself, but I’m doing it for those I love. I know I want nothing more than to see my loved ones genuinely happy, so I try to put honest effort into becoming a happier, healthier person each and every day.

So far, it’s been working- because everyone deserves a chance at living their best life– one which includes true happiness and self-acceptance.

ELECTION 2016: The Paradox of the Informed Voter


Happy Election Day, guys. We made it! Here’s something I’ve written to voice some of the frustration I’ve experienced during the Presidential Election of 2016. Remember, what you’re reading is just more discourse thrown out into cyberworld and by no means should you take what I’ve written to be unquestionably true. Read it with a healthy dose of skepticism, as you should with everything out in the world today. So without further ado, here’s my take on 2016.


You hear it all the time.

“Get informed”, “know the candidates on the issues”, “read this article”. Insert link to a completely random website. It’s hard not to get bombarded by political articles and videos while perusing through social media sites and newspapers.

Do you consider yourself to be an informed voter? The data says most likely, yes.

According to a study done by Rasmussen Reports conducted in September of 2013, their model showed that a whopping 83% of American Adults consider themselves to be informed citizens while just 12% admit they are not informed citizens.

It’s difficult to imagine not being informed at this point unless you’ve been living in a World War II bunker a mile under Earth’s surface.

However, the issue at hand is not whether voters are informed. It’s more so an issue of how badly informed and poorly equipped to use the information at our disposal they are, claims Art Carden, Associate Professor of Economics at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.

I agree in many respects.

In 2012, he advised voters to stay off Facebook and Twitter and pick up a few books instead. We have a duty, Carden argues, to be informed voters and largely ignore the partisan propaganda that repeats “vacuous (or economically illiterate) platitudes for the umpteenth time”.

The same should be said for the 2016 election, an election taking place in a time characterized by clickbait, bad journalism, and biased data.

So what is one to do to become “informed”?

I wanted to find out.

I began this past January by trying my hardest to stay up date on the issues. I read countless books on economics that are far above my head and followed each state’s primary election and three major debates closely. Each day I began my day by reading the political news from NPR, New York Times, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, RealClear Politics, and FiveThirtyEight. I made sure to watch both Fox News and CNN’s headlines. What were the Democrats saying, what were the Independents and Republicans saying? I fact checked rigorously and tapped into what pollsters were saying in Podcasts. I spent an entire day teaching myself how polls work and how each poll determines the outcome of their data. I refused to let my upbringing and socioeconomic factors blind me from seeing the world through another person’s eyes. It’s nothing short of fascinating of everything I’ve learned in eleven months of following the election cycle.

And guess what?

The more I learn, the more I realize how little I truly know.

I am not an expert in economics, social issues, the national debt, and have no concrete plan on how to solve any of America’s problems. There are many schools of thought and methods political parties claim is most effective to make America successful, but historically, before any true results can be seen, a new president is elected or policy remains stuck in political gridlock in Congress.

What shocked me most was learning that often, presidents can be elected based on how the economy did under the previous president- whether or not the president realistically had control over the economy or not. We saw this after Bill Clinton was elected over incumbent president, George H.W. Bush (data from the renowned American Economist, Nate Silver here and here).

Furthermore, I can’t find any NONPARTISAN, raw data to conclusively prove that Keynesian economic policy is superior to Laissez-faire or vice versa. I don’t think there is a perfect answer to this problem as both have reliable evidence for and against them. Economic geniuses tout their preferred solutions, but who am I to determine what’s best for America? Which experts should I trust? I’m a 24 year old English major grad. Dream big.

Over the course of the past year, I’ve taken the “isidewith.com” quiz MULTIPLE times and have gotten highly frustrated trying to figure out what I think is best for America moving forward.

I collapsed into an existential crisis after being asked about whether or not I think fracking is okay or not.


How can we, experts in very little, expect to make an informed decision for the rest of America? I wasn’t an expert on fracking- in fact, who even is?

While my thumb hovered absentmindedly over the Fracking question, I realized I, and no one else, can truly claim they have EVERY solution guaranteed to work for any single issue. To further my personal crisis, I realized the most highly educated voter can vote for the same candidate as someone who decides to choose the candidate based on their hairstyle.

It’s completely and utterly absurd, but it’s part of our democratic system.

We have the freedom to vote for whichever candidate we’d like for based on whichever personal reasons or research we’ve done- whether the reason be we believe everything a certain set of news outlets report or what our own research shows.

That’s why candidates use certain tactics rather than others, they realize they can appeal to a portion of voters through specific tactics- some less noble than others.

Bottom Line? Not all hope is lost, of course. Through my search to become more educated on the issues, I’ve remembered two very important points that align with those of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU):

#1: Use reliable sources.

Remember in high school when you had to use research from scholarly sources and type a bunch of stuff into Easybib? Turns out this isn’t just something that’s valuable in the classroom, it’s something that is extremely important post-graduation. Here are some great links to reputable and informative sites from AASCU.


Are you being persuaded through political rhetoric? If the candidate uses political rhetoric to avoid answering a question, your red flag should go up. Learn more about political rhetoric here.

See? Not all hope is lost. Election year is a reminder to all of us that we should strive to educate ourselves and not fall into the trap of only reading headlines. If you already do this, great. I challenge you to truly try to understand those who oppose your worldviews. Why do they think the way they do? What is their socioeconomic status compared to your’s and how does that affect their decision making process? Try not to dismiss others as simply, “dumb” or “crazy”. It’s sometimes hard as hell, but it’s a great mental exercise.

So even though 2016 was a grueling, long year filled with plenty of crazy moments (remember when Ted Cruz appointed Carly Fiorina his VP?) and utter terror at the thought of electing either major party nominee to be the 45th President of the United States, I think it’s time to appreciate our democracy for what it is: imperfect, just like us. 

Get out there and vote!



As always, a public disclaimer on my political opinions: I identify as slightly left-of-center and am an Independent voter.