Winter Blues

It’s winter. This is both wonderful and terrible. On the positive side, this means Thanksgiving, Christmas, and my birthday. All times where I spend time with family and relax. However, before this and even during (looking at you finals week) these times of celebration, comes big projects, big papers, big tests, less daylight, and more freezing temperatures. Winter is difficult. This time of year is a pressure cooker. I see it in the faces of students that I pass on the way to class. I see it in the faces of co-workers. I see it in my own face when I look in the mirror lately. The most wonderful time of the year isn’t actually always all that wonderful.

I’ve talked about before that as a senior, I was struggling with the motivation to do my work. That feeling has only increased in these last couple of weeks. Having the sun go down at 4:45 has really affected my mood and my overall energy levels. It is a constant cycle of feeling like I don’t care about anything and then worrying about the fact that I’m not caring. I find myself wanting to throw in the towel on my many projects and papers and instead curl up in my bed and sleep for a week straight. That’s not a great feeling, nor is it feasible. I find myself wanting to shut myself in my room and not talk to another human. It’s a feeling that I’ve been calling peopleitis. Also, not ideal considering I have to talk to people on a daily basis. I find myself feeling even more tired than usual. This year, I find that I’m lacking the joy I usually have when planning things like Friendsgiving and Christmas activities. I’m just struggling.

I was talking to my therapist about this when I saw her earlier this week. She was telling me how normal this feeling is. Some people get these kinds of feelings every year and are diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is the first year I have felt like this and therefore I am not diagnosed nor am I an expert but there are more than 3 million cases in the US every year. It isn’t abnormal. Symptoms include fatigue, depression, hopelessness, and social withdrawal. It usually presents itself in the fall and carries through the winter months. Those between the ages of 20 and 30 are also more likely to develop SAD than adults in older generations. Below are a couple of links that describe seasonal affective disorder in full detail.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651

https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/seasonal-affective-disorder#1

It is also important to note that you do not need to be diagnosed with SAD to be struggling during the winter season. A lot of things can cause stress and sadness during the holiday season in particular. For college students, the amount of work we have to do at the end of the semester is overwhelming. Other people may be grieving the loss of a loved one or spending their first holidays without them. Military families have family members that are deployed. People could be going through breakups. Others may be unable to take time off of work and therefore have to be away from family. It may be hard for people to go into work in the dark and then leave in the dark. All of these things are difficult and can be especially difficult when the holidays roll around. So is there anything that can help?

The answer is yes. For those who think they may be struggling with SAD, I encourage you to go see a therapist. Being able to talk to someone who understands this problem can be extremely beneficial and they can give you the help you need. For those who are having a particularly hard time this winter/holiday season, here are a few things that I’m trying to do. The first thing is to not disengage from the world. Instead of crawling in my bed and shutting the door, I try and do things with my friends. I also try to actively participate in holiday events. Being around others who are excited, can sometimes help you get more excited. My roommates and I have decorated the apartment for Christmas because one of them was really excited to do so. I was less excited, but instead of sitting at home, I went with them to shop for decorations. In terms of working on not feeling overwhelmed by schoolwork, I write out a list at the beginning of the week breaking all of my assignments down into manageable chunks. I also build “catch-up days” into my schedule so that if I have a less than stellar day, I am not immediately behind. It isn’t easy, but just doing little things can help you to feel better.

I feel like this week’s post was a little bit of a downer, but it is the reality of what people can go through this time of year. If you are struggling please reach out to those in your support system, or to a professional. I hope that this post has helped in some way and made you feel a little less alone.

Rachel (:

Mental Health Checkups?

Everyone knows that you are supposed to go in once a year to get a physical checkup, but why aren’t we required to get a mental health checkup? Mental health affects you on a day to day basis and can even cause there to be physical pain, so why isn’t it addressed as thoroughly as your physical health? It isn’t just me who asks this question. Below are a few articles that talk about this idea as well as my thoughts on the articles.

Why Don’t Americans Get Regular Mental Health Checkups? It’s Complicated.

https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/why-aren-t-mental-health-screenings-part-our-annual-physicals-ncna839226

Mental health is just as important as physical health. I will continue to say that over and over for the rest of my life because I think it is important for others to understand. Your mental health can even affect your physical health. Going to see someone to talk about your mental health at least once a year would be incredibly beneficial. Even if you don’t feel like you are having a tough time, it doesn’t mean there aren’t stresses in your life that you could talk through. Having checkups could also help those who feel too embarrassed or uncomfortable to go to therapy. I especially think this would be helpful for teens. Helping them to deal with all the stressors that come with growing up and giving them tools to ease their anxiety is an important thing to do. I am definitely an advocate for mental health checkups.

Students Can Now Miss School for a “Mental Health Day”

https://www.edutopia.org/article/students-can-now-miss-school-mental-health-day

I’m actually in the midst of taking a mental health day right now. I think it is extremely important to give yourself a day on occasion where you can regroup and catch up on things that life has caused you to push aside. I don’t think it helps students to go to school when they’re having a day where they feel particularly anxious, overwhelmed, or depressed. If they go, they won’t take in the information being taught and they will only get more added to their plate. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and therefore I agree with students having excused absences for mental health days. It’s important to know when you need a break and schools should support students in those decisions. I hope that this becomes the case in all 50 states in the future.

Five Reasons Americans Fail to Get Mental Health Checkups

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/patient-engagement/5-reasons-americans-fail-to-get-regular-mental-health-checkups.html

I really hate that there is such a stigma around mental health because it not only gets in the way of people going to therapy when they need it, but it also affects the coverage provided by insurance. Not everyone can afford to go see someone because you have to be clinically diagnosed before insurance will help you out. If mental health checkups were seen in the same way as physical checkups, this would be less of a problem. But because insurance doesn’t place the same weight on each type of health, people will continue not going to therapy. Stigma must be dealt with before we can move forward.

Mental health is important. We should make sure to pay attention to how we are feeling and act accordingly. Even if mental health checkups don’t become normal, checking in with yourself will remain important. Take a mental health day when you need one. Get help when you need it. Be kind to yourself.

Rachel (:

Reading Roundup #3

It’s that time again! This time around I had a lot of books that were just so-so, but these three stood out among those and I liked them all for different reasons. Hopefully, you feel the same if you decide to read any of them. As always, I love getting book recommendations so feel free to leave a comment below telling me what you’ve been loving recently!

#3 Delirium by Lauren Oliver

I wasn’t sure I would like this book. It was a dystopian YA novel that was recommended to me by a friend. My favorite book series in that genre will always be the Giver series. This book reminded me a lot of the first book in that series. The premise is that at age eighteen everyone gets a procedure that gets rid of love. You can no longer feel love for anyone in your life. Love is considered to be a disease that destroys people. They read Romeo and Juliet in Health class (haha) and have their own handbook that they study in school laying out the rules and regulations. The city is separated from the Wilds (where people who survived the bombings live without the cure) and they are said to be dangerous. Lena, the main character, has been looking forward to the procedure. While her family history is a complex one (and one of my favorite subplots) she has a sister who is cured and living a perfectly happy life. She has never questioned whether or not love is as dangerous as they claim until she meets Alex. While a lot of this book is fairly predictable, the characters are well developed and there are no real lulls in the plot. It is always moving. I also just really like the theme. Love is always going to exist even if you try and stop it and watching that concept unfold really makes you think about how important it really is. It is the first book in a series and I look forward to seeing if I like the next book as much as the first!

#2 Hideaway by Nicole Lundrigan

This book is suspenseful, quirky, and pretty dark. It wasn’t what I expected it to be which made me love it even more. Gloria seems like a doting mother to the outside world, but she is actually pretty emotionally abusive. She is going through a separation with Telly who has his own set of flaws. Rowan and Maisy are the typical brother and younger sister, but Rowan does feel more protective because of his mother’s antics. The story revolves around Rowan who runs away with a man named Carl (a really interesting character battling a mental illness) and Gloria trying to win back Telly’s affection. It all goes downhill from there. It gets pretty dark as it continues, but the writing is quirky and you almost don’t notice how horrific it really is. The characters all have interesting arcs and the simultaneous plots are well done. It all comes to a climax that is both unexpected and gut-wrenching. I’m a sucker for a suspenseful book, and this was not a disappointment. It looks into the idea of family and what you’re willing to do to keep it together or to get out of it. It also illustrates that strength can come from unlikely places. Definitely read it if you love the thriller/mystery/suspense genre!

#3 The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

My roommate wanted me to read this book and I did no real research into it before I read it. It surprised me how much I enjoyed this book. The book tells the story of Evelyn Hugo, an actress who had a long career and was also always in the news because, by the time she retired, she had seven husbands. At the beginning of the book, she calls on Monique Grant who is a low-level writer at a magazine and says she wants to give an interview for the first time in years, but only if it is Monique. There are two twists in the novel. One comes near the beginning and it changes the tone of the book. The second comes at the end and knocks you off balance. It is incredibly well written. What stands out for me is the character development achieved in the book. The characters are rich and in-depth. You understand them and hurt for them as the story goes on. They feel like real people. It also talks about the complexity of a human being. It plays with the idea that everyone has good and bad in them and sometimes people do bad things because they decide it’s for a good reason. It shows how doing something to save your family from hurting, can hurt somebody else. It also discusses topics that are relevant to today’s society. It talks about the LGBTQ community and discrimination. It talks about the inequality that exists between men and women at work. It looks at depression, domestic abuse, and alcoholism. It doesn’t shy away from anything. Evelyn Hugo is finally telling her life story and she is telling her whole truth. Nothing is held back which is what makes this novel so great. She is unapologetic which means that the book is that way as well. When you read the title and start the book, you may have thoughts on what it might be like, but I assure you that perception is wrong. What unfolds is a story focused on love, both romantically and for your family, and what you would do to protect that love. It is one of the most honest books I have read which makes it a must-read!

Thanks for reading and as always leave some recommendations below! I love discovering new books and reading things I wouldn’t have picked for myself. Follow me on GoodReads to see all the books I’m reading. https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/101673175-rachel-hutchings

Rachel (:

Fictional Characters I Look Up To

The other day I saw a quote from George R R Martin that said “You should grieve if a fictional character is killed. You should care.” As an avid reader and a writer, I couldn’t agree with it more. It made me start to think about what makes you connect with a character. Sometimes it is seeing a small part of you, but I think that more often than not we love characters because they possess a quality that we wish we had. Or at least that we wish we possessed more of. So today I decided I’d talk about some fictional characters that I love and look up to. I’d love to hear about your top 5 in the comments below!

Winnie the Pooh

In my opinion, Winnie the Pooh is one of the best characters that has ever been created. I loved him as a kid and I still love him now when I’m about to graduate college. My brother who is 25 loves him. My parents love him. But why is that? For me, every time I see a quote from him I immediately feel warm inside. Pooh’s like the embodiment of a hug. However, the two qualities that Pooh possesses that I look up to are his loyalty and his positivity. He sticks by the people that he loves through thick and thin. The newest movie where he goes to find Christopher Robin as an adult showcases this brilliantly. He senses that he is needed and he is there. It all comes from a place of genuine love and the desire for other people’s happiness. That’s an admirable quality. As my senior year continues to fly by, I’m forced to think about what comes after. Not all of my friends will stay here. In the past, I haven’t kept up with friendships as well as I could have. Winnie the Pooh makes me want to remember to make a conscious effort to maintain these friendships in a way that still feels meaningful. In a way, all of the characters in these stories model what friendship should look like. Both the things that you should do, but also how other friends should act toward you. Loyalty should go both ways and Winnie the Pooh is an excellent example of what that should look like. Pooh is also a beacon of positivity. I tend to lean on the more pessimistic side. Sometimes Eeyore reminds me a lot of myself. However, Pooh is always looking on the bright side. One of my favorite Pooh quotes is “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” He is always trying to build people up. He always wants people to see the best in themselves and the world. Every time I see a Winnie the Pooh movie, I leave wanting to live my life through a rose-colored lens. I admire his ability to feel a spectrum of emotions (like sadness when he runs out of honey), but still end the day feeling positive. I’m forever grateful that Winnie the Pooh was created and that I can always look to Pooh for models of friendship and positivity.

Matilda

I have read the book once, but I have seen the movie approximately one million times. I used to watch it every time I went to my Aunt Marla’s house and I never skip it if I scroll past it when channel surfing. It is one of my favorite movies of all time. If you have watched the movie and have not tried to tip over a glass with your mind, you are lying. But her powers are not the main thing that I look up to. I’ve always admired her intelligence and determination. Even though she didn’t have the greatest home life, she was able to dive into books and find other mentorships with people like the librarian and Ms. Honey in order to encourage her learning. She loved school. She actually pleaded to go to school. Sometimes I take for granted the fact that I get to go to college and get a quality education. I complain a lot, but if I take a step back and look at the big picture, I am incredibly lucky. She is a character who makes me look at the world that way. Also, I connect very strongly with her love of books. I bet she has fictional characters that she looks up to as well. I also admire her determination. She was not going to stop without making Ms. Trunchbull pay for the horrible things that she did. Even when others tried to stop her, she believed in herself and pushed forward. In the end, her belief in her goals and her follow-through allowed for everyone to have a much better life. When I watch this movie and think about this character it makes me want to dive into a book and accomplish my goals: both equally important for a happy life for me.

Phineas and Ferb

I haven’t watched this show in a long time. Probably not since I was in middle school, but these characters always made me want to try and do the impossible. These two characters are some of the most inventive and creative characters that I have come across. Their ability to start with an idea in their backyard and transform it into something spectacular was inspiring. They didn’t see anything as too big or too hard. They just did it. I love to write. But for a while now I have been having some sort of a creative block. It may be from stress or from my own anxieties. I’m not totally sure, but for whatever reason, no ideas are flowing. If an idea does come, it’s one that I don’t see ending up well. But characters like Phineas and Ferb wouldn’t just stop. They’d write those bad ideas out if there was even a .00000001 chance it would end up well. They wouldn’t just say “oh well” when writer’s block strikes, they would find a way or build some machine to solve that problem. Too often, I sit by and let things happen around me or ideas pass by without grabbing them because it seems impossible. But characters like these don’t see anything as impossible. They are definitely two characters who possess qualities I’m sometimes lacking.

Nancy Drew

I love this character with all of my heart. I read every Nancy Drew book when I was in elementary school, have played some of the computer games, and have seen the movie. I love the concept of a girl solving crimes with her own wit and strength. She possesses a fearlessness that I wish I had. As you know by now, I struggle with anxiety. I struggle in situations that are much less dire than the places Nancy ends up. She is always willing to jump into the unknown in order to help herself and others, but the unknown is what I fear most. It is what I struggle with coming to terms with on a day to day basis. I wish I had her fearlessness when it comes to diving in even if you aren’t certain it will turn out okay in the end. We aren’t God, so we have no idea what tomorrow brings. Or even what the next hour brings. However, that doesn’t mean that we should just sit in our comfortable bubble and never venture into anything that is uncertain. That is actually impossible. Not everything in life is a sure thing. Sometimes you have to take a deep breath and take a leap of faith. Nancy Drew did that in every book. Sometimes she got out of a sticky situation and learned valuable information that helped her crack the case, but other times she got hit by a bad guy and ended up in a worse position than she started. But she would always take the next case, no matter how difficult the previous one had been. She never let fear hold her back and that is something that I am actively trying to work on. Even just typing this paragraph makes me want to grab a copy and spend some time marveling at Nancy’s ability to walk into the fire. If you never read these books (which is insane to me that this might be the case), you need to. The books are fun but the character and character development that happens over the series is some of my favorite work by an author.

Pippi Longstocking

Last, but certainly not least, is Pippi Longstocking. Based on the mixed reaction I got the year I dressed up as her for Halloween, I would say she is a slightly less popular character than the ones listed above. Not as many people seem to have read these books. For me, she is a character that I have looked up to since the first chapter I read in elementary school. For those of you who don’t know, Pippi Longstocking is a little girl who lives on her own with her monkey and her horse. She has a unique look and a unique set of skills that lead her on a myriad of adventures including being in the circus and making burglars leave her house. The thing I have always admired about this character is her ability to be totally and completely herself without caring what anyone else thinks about her. I can be self-conscious sometimes even when I don’t want to be. I’m a little bit of a people pleaser and I don’t like to rock the boat. Pippi is not afraid of rocking the boat or being seen as different than everyone else. Her individuality is what makes her such a dynamic character. Owning who you are and being unafraid to show it to the world is something that I would love to do 100% of the time. Part of owning who you are is realizing you have flaws, which Pippi does. It is what makes her such a well written and well-rounded character. She will forever stand out in my mind as the most confident character I have come across.

All of these characters stand out for their own reasons. I love all of them for giving me examples of how to live my life better and to its fullest. I look forward to coming across many more influential characters in the future as I continue to devour books and movies. I want to know what characters you look up to! I think knowing someone’s top five can tell you a lot about them. Let me know in the comments below!

Rachel (:

Senioritis

It’s a few weeks into my senior year and senioritis has already set in, which bodes well. It has hit in a lot of different ways, some educational and others personal. With each passing day, I feel it a little bit more. My anxiety has grown stronger as the senioritis sets in, and I’m working to find ways to calm myself down. It’s a new stage of life which always brings along challenges that I have to face. As my therapist has reminded me and I try and remind myself, I’ve gotten through life so far, so there’s no reason to doubt I’ll get through this time as well.

I always heard people talk about senioritis in my classes, but didn’t fully understand what they were talking about or thought they were exaggerating. Now being a senior myself, I see that they were not. In terms of strictly education effects, I feel far less motivated to do my work than I have in the past. From day one, it has been a struggle to make myself sit down and focus on getting an assignment done. At this point in my school career, I have written more papers and done more presentations than I can count. I feel burnt out. This is a weird feeling for me because I have always been a student who tries hard and been a straight-A student. The ambivalence that I have toward school is a new feeling. I still want an A, but I feel no desire to do the work that would get me there. My roommates and friends are feeling the same way and therefore there is not a lot of motivation happening. It’s more just complaining. I’m trying to switch my mindset to being more positive, but it’s difficult. I want to enjoy my last year of college, even my classes. I don’t want to look back and regret not doing my best work just because I was tired. It’s a daily struggle and one that I hope to overcome in the days to some.

My senior year has also given me senioritis personally. This is my last year of college before I enter the real world. Just writing that sentence stresses me out a little bit. Even though it is only first semester, I can still see the finish line up ahead and it isn’t far off. I got an email about applying for graduation the other day. That’s insane. College has gone by so quickly and I don’t think this year will be any different. That scares me a little because it means I have to think about my future. I’m taking a Business and Professional Communication course this semester (sounds super interesting right?) and it is all about applying for jobs and getting ready for interviews and finding a career. It makes everything seem even closer. I am not a person who does well with uncertainty. Most of my anxiety comes from dealing with the unknown and not having stability. Those are the two biggest things you struggle with as a senior. I have no idea what job I’m going to have. Plans I thought were semi-stable with friends have started to shift and suddenly the ground beneath my feet is starting to move. I’m trying to picture what my life will look like, and I can’t and that doesn’t feel great. I’m really working with my therapist to talk through all of this and remind myself of the things that I can see and feel in the moment. I live in the future and play scenarios over and over in my head until I can’t see what’s happening right in front of me.

That’s the other part of senioritis. Trying not to miss out on moments. There’s a lot going on. All of my friends have school and jobs and internships. But I don’t want to look back on my last year of college and only see those things. I want to see concerts and eating ice cream and driving with the windows down. Trying to balance everything is difficult. Trying not to live in the future what-ifs and actually experience what’s happening now is difficult. But difficult doesn’t mean impossible. Often senioritis, and in turn, my anxiety feels like a looming presence unable to be shaken. As cliche as it sounds, it can feel like a rain cloud is following me around. With each new assignment or each new thought about the future, I feel myself deflating. But this isn’t forever. Also, in the now it is important to focus on all of the fun things about senior year. About all the memories I get to make. About that last assignment being written. As each day passes, I want to try and look at the bright side instead of worrying about all the stuff that hasn’t even happened. Senioritis is a frame of mind, I just have to climb my way out of it.

Hopefully, some of y’all can relate to these feelings whether you are in your senior year or you are just worried about the future. We’re in this together and we will overcome it. That’s the goal.

Rachel (:

Mental Health Medication Stigma

I didn’t have a blog post idea today and then something happened that really made me mad. My friend was working today and was telling a coworker that her new medication was making her a little nauseous. Another one of her coworkers walked up and decided to insert himself in the conversation. He proceeded to tell my friend several things that made her angry (and subsequently myself and my roommates angry). I wanted to break down what he said and then talk in general about mental health medication stigma.

Things he said:

#1 Anxiety/OCD/etc. are “just personality traits.”

It really annoys me when people try and tell you that what you are dealing with in regard to your mental health is not valid. By saying this, he invalidates the seriousness of mental health problems. Mental health issues are not just personality traits. They are recognized as disorders by psychiatrists and medical professionals worldwide. It is something that is treated by mental health professionals. It isn’t something easily changed or something you can just move on from. A personality trait like getting nervous before a big event is not the same as having a generalized anxiety disorder. A personality trait like cleanliness is not the same thing as having OCD. Having a personality trait like pessimism is not the same thing as having depression. These disorders are not just personality traits and it fully invalidates someone’s struggles when you say that they are.

#2 “I know exactly how you feel.”

Unless you also struggle with a mental health disorder, this is false. This is another way to invalidate someone’s struggles. Even if you also struggle with anxiety and depression, you don’t know exactly how that person feels. It affects everyone differently. This is especially the wrong thing to say before you proceed to give your unwanted and unsubstantiated opinion on mental health in general.

#3 Medicine is just not the way to help. It basically is unnecessary for mental health disorders.

This is what the remainder of my post is going to discuss because my friend’s coworker is not the only person to think that mental health issues are not serious enough to require medication. People often try and tell you that if you exercised more, ate better, meditated, did yoga, or thought more positively you would be fine. That’s not how it works. Don’t you think that we would all do these things if it magically cured us? You can’t just think happy thoughts and get over depression or meditate and get over anxiety. There are a lot of different treatment options from medical professionals because it is an actual disorder. Therapy is an option and one I highly recommend. It has helped me a lot. But medication is also a valid option for people who are really struggling. Sometimes people feel like taking medication means that they have failed in some way or that they’re weak, but that isn’t true. It just means that you need some extra help in dealing with a disorder. When you take an Advil for a headache (physical health), you don’t have guilt, so you shouldn’t put guilt on yourself for taking medication that helps with your mental health.

It is always important to consult with a doctor or a therapist when you are thinking about medication. It’s important to make sure you are a good candidate for taking medicine to help. Once you and a medical professional have decided it is the right next step, it could take some time to figure out what medication works best. There isn’t one magic pill that is going to be an easy fix to your problem. There are side effects to medications and it is important to find the one that works the best in your body. But it is possible to find a medication that helps you a lot.

Saying it is unnecessary is an uneducated point of view. As our friend who is in pharmacy school who heard about this statement said, “there are decades of research and clinical studies that show how medications do what they do.” There are many medications that are proven to help with a variety of mental health disorders. No one should feel ashamed or judged for taking medication. If you feel the need to shame someone who does take medication, I would encourage you to put that energy into researching mental health disorders and research instead. I believe your opinion would change. Medication is not the only answer, but it is a valid option for those who are struggling.

Here are a couple of other articles that talk about mental health medication:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-internal-debate/201812/breaking-the-stigma-taking-meds

Rachel (:

Reading Roundup #2

It’s time for another roundup of the books that I loved in the last month. My reading speed has slowed down a little since classes started, but I am reading much more than I have in past years. I struggled with what to put as my number three, so there is an honorable mention this month. These three books are all very different, but they each had something that I really connected with. Hopefully, y’all will enjoy them too!

Honorable Mention

#3 Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson

This book was a mix of mystery and drama and was centered around one of my favorite things: a bookstore. The main character, Miranda finds out that her uncle (who she hasn’t seen in sixteen years due to a falling out he had with her mother), left her his bookstore, Prospero Books, in his will. Not only does he leave her his store, but also leads her on a scavenger hunt, like he set up for her as a kid, to find out what exactly happened that caused a major rift between him and the family. Part of the reason I loved this book was the many book references throughout. As a person who loves reading and works at an escape room, the idea of a book-based scavenger hunt was right up my alley. This book is mainly a mystery but also has romance and drama. The idea of family is a major theme. It makes you look at the question: What makes a person family? It also makes you think about where priorities should lie and what actually makes you happy. I always love when a story that you think is one thing turns out to be another and this book definitely felt that way. I really enjoyed this book and think other book enthusiasts will feel the same.

#2 Trust First by Bruce Deel

I decided that I should branch out from reading only fiction and picked up a few nonfiction books. This one was the first one I picked up from the library and I really connected with this book. It is written by a pastor who felt called to take over a church in an unsafe area of Atlanta. Soon that calling became something bigger and he started an organization called City of Refuge. His main philosophy and the philosophy of the organization as a whole is radical trust. The City of Refuge is a one-stop-shop for those who are trying to escape homelessness, drug addiction, joblessness, and human trafficking. They provide housing, treatment plans, doctor visits, career counseling, education programs, and childcare all under one roof. Their idea of radical trust is extended to everyone no matter their past circumstances and no matter how many times that trust is violated. He found that when you give people respect, trust, and love that they haven’t seen before, it can do amazing things. He shares stories of several people who have passed through the program and who have stayed on as staff. The City of Refuge has helped over 20,000 people and they are still going strong. This story was inspiring and made me look at the world a little differently. Why do people turn a blind eye to those in need? Why don’t we just talk to people instead of looking down on them? I found myself tearing up at the way Christ-like love transforms these people’s lives. Not just the people who come through the program, but those who volunteer and work there as well. If you want to feel inspired, this is a must-read.

#1 The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

First things first: this was one of the longest books I’ve ever read. I feel the need to tell you that in case you are a person who doesn’t like long novels. It was 771 pages. However, the story it tells is epic and fleshed out in a way that draws you in. It was worth the page count. The book follows Theo, who survives an accident that his mother does not. You follow him from age thirteen into his adult years and watch him grow, make mistakes, fall in love, and try to cope with what he went through as a kid. The one thing he holds onto is a painting, The Goldfinch, that he gets on the day of the attack. It is intertwined with him and his life from the moment he takes it. His life takes many twists and turns, but the painting remains a constant symbol of hope for him. The characters in this novel are so fleshed out, I feel as though I know all of them personally. Some standouts are Boris, Mrs. Barbour, Hobbie, and Pippa. All of them impact Theo in different ways, some positively and some negatively. This book deals with a lot of hard topics because Theo lives a difficult life. Fair warning: there is a pretty big amount of drug use and there are times when he deals with serious depression and suicidal thoughts. It can be difficult to read, but it doesn’t feel like too much in the context of the story. It is a raw and real look at how traumatic events can impact someone’s life. It also looks at what a support system or a lack of a support system can do for you. The imagery is vivid and I felt like I could actually see it all happening. I found out in the middle of reading that it has been adapted into a movie. I’m interested to see what I think. There is so much in this book and not very much that I feel could be cut out, so I hope that it creates the same emotional impact the book does. It’s a rollercoaster from start to finish and whether or not you agree with the final message, it provides a new perspective. I would definitely recommend reading it as long as you can get over the length.

I am always looking for book recommendations so let me know what books you’ve been loving recently. Also, if you want to see all the books that I’m reading, add me on Goodreads!

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/101673175-rachel-hutchings

Rachel (: