Reading Roundup #5

A lot has been happening in my life since my last post and I haven’t been as consistent with this blog as I wanted to be. After spending a month and a half at my parents house in Wisconsin during quarantine, I moved back to Nashville to start my new full time job at the place where I had been interning. That’s right; somehow I got a full time job right out of college! It’s very exciting but has also been quite the adjustment. I am living in an apartment with one of my roommates from college while our other two roommates are in the apartment diagonal from us. In a lot of ways, I still feel like we are all going back to college in August. I’m struggling to feel like a full-fledged adult and also struggling to be productive in the times where I’m not working. Hence, me not posting on here for the past few weeks. It also means I haven’t been reading as much as I thought I would. However, I did read enough to pick three of my favorites from the past couple of months. I definitely recommend checking these out and as always, let me know what books you’ve been enjoying!

#3 The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Most of the books I decide to read come from recommendations from people or Goodreads, but occasionally I scan the aisles of the library and see what jumps out. That’s how I found this book. I wasn’t expecting much, but I was proven wrong. It follows the main character Victoria as she learns to trust the people around her after having a lot of mistrust in her years being brought up in the foster system. One way that she communicates with people (whether they are aware of it or not) is with flowers. Every flower has a meaning. Some mean love, while others mean loss or hatred. That is how Victoria connects with the world. However, when she starts to find a purpose in life and finds someone who can speak her language, it becomes overwhelming. I loved this book because the emotions felt were never sugarcoated. It gave a glimpse into how going through the foster system can shape a person. It is also inspiring to read about a woman finding her passion and her place in a society that wants to undermine her skills and downplay her accomplishments. You are rooting for her happiness the entire time. A book filled with emotion and feelings that a lot of people can relate to on some level. By the end, I wanted to learn this new language so that I could apply it to my own life. Maybe you will too!

#2 Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

I had heard about this book and it had been on my list to read for a while, so I’m super happy that it lived up to the hype. The reason this book works so well is because of the impeccable characterization of the main character, Eleanor. She is depicted in such a specific way, that you can picture her vividly in your mind. The way she talks is unique, her look is perfectly described, and her feelings (or lack of feelings) make perfect sense based on all of the details provided. This book also has a bit of a mystery element, as you start to piece together the events in her childhood that made her into the person that she is today. There is also a romance component for people who enjoy reading about people finding their person. You want Eleanor to break out of her guarded shell and live life to the absolute fullest, and it is incredibly satisfying to read a book where you can almost see the walls around her crumble to the ground in your mind. I literally couldn’t put it down and finished it in two days. I had to know what happened to Eleanor and if you read it, I bet you’ll feel the same!

#1 Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Everyone was talking about this book, so I decided to give it a shot and now I definitely understand what the hype is all about. Much like the other two books, the story revolves around a strong-minded and strong-willed woman. It follows Kya who lives with her family out in the marsh. She doesn’t have the best family life and eventually, at a very young age, is abandoned by her entire family and must survive on her own. Prejudices from the people in town abound, but she learns to get by with her own tenacity and a few friends. I love books like this that alternate between different timelines. In one timeline you read about Kya growing up, discovering what love is, and becoming a strong woman. In the later timeline, police in the area are looking into the death of a well-known man in town named Chase. These stories eventually intersect and the ending is definitely not what I expected, but it was perfect. The writing itself is beautiful as well and the description of the land shows a huge respect for the beauty found in nature. The best way I can describe how this book made me feel is by comparing it to the feeling I get when I’m on a long drive in the middle of nowhere, just admiring the vast land and enjoying the contrast of the music playing in the car to the silence that exists outside. I highly recommend that everybody read this book if they get a chance!

Bonus: Songs I’m Loving at the Moment

Here are six songs that I have been listening to a lot lately. Definitely check out these songs and check out the other songs from these artists as well!

– Die seems like an intense title, but it isn’t as somber as you may think! I’ve been loving Overstreet’s music for a while now, but this one is my favorite.

– Made It This Far is by Katelyn Tarver who is one of my favorite songwriters and also appeared on the show Big Time Rush which just makes her even better (haha). This song is super relatable. It talks about the fact that you may not know what your doing or your life may be a mess, but we can be proud of the fact that we’ve made it as far as we have. A tough mentality to keep in check, but definitely healthier than being weighed down in all the mess.

– Paper Planes is the ultimate driving song. It’s soft and airy and just makes you feel at ease. The songwriting itself is great too.

– betterman is an upbeat song about the artist wanting to become the best person he can be for himself and in his relationships. I found Virginia to Vegas randomly and really love all of his songs so be sure to check him out.

– Honey in the Summer just feels like summer. Upbeat and another great driving song. I also love the context of the song, because it talks about creating your own happiness instead of focusing on the fact that you’re not in a relationship. Super fun and perfect if you need a song to listen to with the top down flying down the highway.

As always, I’m always looking for new books and music suggestions so send them my way! I hope you have a great day!

Rachel (:

Being an Ally: Black Lives Matter

Due to the events of the last week, people are beginning to speak out about the inequality that still exists in our country. George Floyd was killed by a police officer while pleading for his life, and while the officer was just arrested, it took waaaaay too long to make that happen. The three other police officers who were on the scene have not been charged with anything. This happens often, and unfortunately often goes unchecked. But people are finally starting to take notice of the issue. As a white female, I recognize that I am privileged and that I don’t know what it is like to be black in America today. I recognize that I haven’t been the ally I should have been in the past. I also know that I can no longer stay silent. I will strive to be a better ally in the fight for equality. I will listen to those who are closely affected by the systemic racism that pervades our nation. I will spread their stories, support their ideas, and celebrate their victories that I believe will come one day. Black lives matter.

Before I continue to talk about ways that we can all become better allies in this fight, I need to own up to my past. I have not always been the best ally. I have sat back and said nothing when someone said something racist. Sadly, growing up with family in the south, there is still a lot of racism present. I’ve listened to people say derogatory or judgmental comments towards the black community, and even though I was extremely uncomfortable, I said nothing to them. I didn’t call them out or explain to them why those comments are offensive. I know for a fact that subconsciously we all have acted differently towards people due to race. We avoid certain neighborhoods, laugh at stereotypes in the media, and have been unbothered by the preferential treatment we as white people inherently get. I own that. I also know that I can change that. Silence is easy, but it’s time to get uncomfortable.

There are a lot of things that we can do to be better allies in this fight. This is an article that I saw circulating on Twitter telling us the things we can do to aid this movement. https://medium.com/equality-includes-you/what-white-people-can-do-for-racial-justice-f2d18b0e0234 It is important not only to get involved politically but also to educate yourself. All of the books and movies on this list have gone on my list of things to read and watch next. I am not as informed as I should be. I want to better understand all of the injustices that exist in order to be a better ally. We can’t properly support black individuals without knowing the history and really seeing the despicable way they have been treated. I promise that I will do my part in learning about this movement and supporting it in any way I can.

No one should be seen as being below someone else. That is simply not true. As a Christian, I believe that we are all made in the image of God. That includes everybody. No matter who you are, you were created in His image. Everyone is equal. Everyone is a person. Everyone should be treated equally. There are a lot of people in the south in particular that are blindly following in the footsteps of their ancestors from the time of slavery. The biases have been passed down through each generation. But we do not have to be what our ancestry was. We have the ability to educate ourselves and understand that we are not better than black people simply because we are white. This fight is also not about us at all. Saying “All lives matter” in the midst of this fight is not helpful. Here’s the thing: society has already proven they believe that white lives matter. This fight is about saying “Black lives matter.” Until equality between races is achieved, that is all that we should be saying. We are not fighting for our rights. We already have them. Being an ally means pushing the voices in the black community to the top, not trying to insert ourselves.

So what do we do going forward? We educate ourselves, we speak up when we see injustice, we let our political leaders know that this is a problem that needs to be addressed, and we support those in the black community who are actively affected by the inequality that currently plagues our world. Listening is the most important. Hear their stories and let them sink in. Understand that this is a real problem and one that we should all be angry about. As a new generation grows up and starts to have kids, let’s teach them from the beginning that everyone is equal and should be treated as such. Racism is learned. Babies don’t come into the world seeing the world unequally. They pick up on the biases that are passed down to them. So let’s be the generation that abolishes those biases as we raise a new generation. Let’s use love and not fight hate with hate. Let’s educate and not condemn. Let’s continue to speak out even after the news coverage goes away. Let’s be an ally. #BlackLivesMatter

I think it is incredibly important to remember the names of those who have been killed because of discrimination. We can’t forget the names. I’m sure this is not a complete list, so if you know of someone else please feel free to put their names in the comments. We are fighting to not have more names make the list.

Here are some links where you can support the movement by signing petitions, donating, or educating yourself.

https://blacklivesmatter.com/news/ Black Lives Matter Website

https://t.co/vspdnJrDDi Ways to Help

https://www.change.org/p/mayor-jacob-frey-justice-for-george-floyd?recruiter=1096617288&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=psf_combo_share_initial&utm_term=psf_combo_share_abi&recruited_by_id=2943f820-a174-11ea-b563-a538d17ee3bd George Floyd Petition

https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd George Floyd Memorial Donation

https://org2.salsalabs.com/o/6857/p/salsa/donation/common/public/?donate_page_KEY=15780&_ga=2.209233111.496632409.1590767838-1184367471.1590767838 NAACP Donation

https://blavity.com/how-to-be-a-white-ally/how-to-be-a-white-ally?category1=opinion How to Be an Ally

https://www.theroot.com/12-ways-to-be-a-white-ally-to-black-people-1790876784 How to Be an Ally

These are just a few resources so please feel free to add links in the comments below to other ways we can educate and help! I know I can definitely be more informed than I am now, so I would love to have suggestions from you. If we all work together, I believe we can help make a change.

Rachel (:

Grief

Disclaimer: I haven’t been able to share this post until now. I wasn’t ready to let it all out there. I wrote this over the last seven or eight months. I couldn’t sit down and do it all at once because it was too much. I hope this helps other people who are grieving feel a little less alone. I wrote a song at the time it was all happening and had my brother put music to the lyrics. If you want to hear that, I’ve posted a video of him singing it at the bottom of this post. This is a pretty long post, but grief is also a long process. Thanks for reading!

This is going to be pretty stream of consciousness, and there won’t be much editing so that you can see how I process everything through this post. From all of my previous posts, you have gotten glimpses into who I am and how I think. However, grief feels a lot more personal. I’ve also come to learn that grief isn’t just something that goes away after a funeral. It lingers and shows up at random times, knocking you off balance. I have become all too familiar with grief, but I bet some of you have as well, so hopefully, this post can help you or just make you feel less alone.

My family lost both my cousin Kimberly and my grandaddy within a three month period. Their deaths were the first time people extremely close to me passed away. Both experiences were incredibly difficult. I’m already tearing up a little just writing this paragraph when I haven’t even gotten into the middle of it all yet. This bodes well for me. But, I will continue anyway.

I’ll start with the experience of losing Kimberly since she passed away first. My cousin was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) a little over two years before she passed. It was a shock to everyone. She was 38 when she was diagnosed, which is earlier than most people are diagnosed. She was having trouble with her hand and thought it had something to do with a tennis injury. No one was expecting the news. The most I had heard about ALS before the diagnosis was the Ice Bucket Challenge that went around. I wasn’t completely sure what it was. My parents called me one night in my freshman year to let me know she had officially been diagnosed. They asked if I had any questions and I said no, but I think I just had so many I couldn’t process any of them. When they hung up, I did the one thing that never helps a situation: I went to Google. It quickly became clear that this wasn’t something that got better. It actually got worse. There is no cure for ALS and the average survival time from diagnosis is three years. That is not a long time. Especially for someone diagnosed so young. When I read those facts, it was hard to wrap my head around. That night I just stood in the shower and cried.

Kimberly’s diagnosis and life expectancy made the grieving process longer than it is for someone who just dies in an instant. My therapist and I talked about how in a lot of ways we were already starting to grieve before she even passed. There was never a moment where we just gave up, but it became clear that she was getting steadily worse. For a while, you couldn’t really tell that she was getting weaker. The day she started having trouble walking was an eye-opener. Then she became unable to walk. Eventually, her ability to speak began to fade. What made this deterioration so much harder to watch was the knowledge that her personality and her quick-wittedness never went away, but her ability to express those things did. Every time I saw her, no matter how far her illness had progressed, she was still Kimberly. We still laughed about dumb jokes and ridiculous stories. I found myself telling more stories when I was around her, making it feel normal. But, the reality was it didn’t feel normal. It was really hard to watch. There were a couple of nights where I cried after visiting with her for the day because I just couldn’t understand why it was happening and I couldn’t face the reality that she was probably going to pass away.

My family is a family of believers. And as Christians, we are told stories all the time of miracles that have happened. God made the blind see, the lame walk, and even brought someone back to life. We all wanted a miracle for Kimberly. We all prayed for a miracle for Kimberly. We didn’t get that miracle, and that was one of the hardest things to deal with. Why not? Why did God let this happen when He had the ability to make it go away? I really started struggling with my faith. I stopped going to church, mostly because life got busy, but a small part of me didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to sing songs about God’s ability to heal and then go back to life where Kimberly was getting worse and not better. It was a weird relationship to have. I prayed for Kimberly all the time and still fully believed God was capable, but I was also really angry that a miracle wasn’t happening. That has been something that remains a struggle while I deal with grief. I still don’t have answers and I’m still a little angry. I’m working on it. Part of growing stronger in a relationship with Christ is admitting when you have doubts. The really hard part is not letting those doubts turn you away. I work every day to remind myself that God is there for me. But in times where grief sneaks up on me, I find myself asking those questions all over again.

I really loved Kimberly and we had gotten closer the older I got. I was a really shy kid even around some of my extended family and I was quiet a lot of the time. I remember one time when I was around ten or eleven, I stayed up late to play some card game with my dad’s side of the family. I took a shower and came back to the table, and just started talking. I remember Kimberly telling my mom that it was the first time I really showed my personality. After that, it’s like a dam had been broken and I was talking all the time. Kimberly, my brother, me, and my other cousins on that side joked around all the time. We had the same sense of humor. Almost every time I was around her Kimberly would tell some story that made me laugh until I cried. I miss her storytelling. We shared a love of playing board/card games, pink vanilla cupcakes from Smallcakes Cupcakery, and bathroom jokes. When Snapchat became a thing my brother, Kimberly, and I got very serious about keeping streaks alive. Every day she would get a glimpse into my day, and I would get a glimpse into hers. Our streak lasted 593 days. I took a picture of it on the morning she died before it went away. It seems like a silly thing, but I really did love that we had that connection. Watching that streak disappear is one of the first times it felt real. Reliving that moment just now started my tears again. Losing somebody doesn’t happen all at once. Each time something happens without them there it becomes a little more real.

As I said earlier, grief is a longer process than just the emotion you feel right when you find out someone has passed away. However, that moment is really hard. I found out that Kimberly died after my parents called me. I woke up to two missed calls from my parents and a text to call them before I got up for class. They know that I’m not really a morning person, so I knew something had to be wrong. My chest got tight (one thing that happens when I feel particularly anxious about something) and I braced myself before I dialed their number. I pretty much immediately started crying. I knew she was getting worse, but I didn’t expect her to pass away so quickly. I was already planning to go home a few days later and I was excited that I was going to get to see my aunts and Kimberly. That was one thing that was hard: finding out that I had seen her for the last time and I hadn’t even known it. I didn’t ever really say goodbye. A small part of me always pictured her getting better, even as the likelihood of that happening grew slimmer. But even when that thought makes me feel sad, I try to remember all the years I did get to spend with her. Nothing can take away the inside jokes we shared, the late-night Dairy Queen runs, or the looks we gave each other when we both were too hot and wanted to turn on a fan. Those little things suddenly seem like big things when you don’t get to experience them anymore. I miss Kimberly and I’m pretty sure I always will, but I’m grateful that I got to grow up with her being a part of my life.

While all of this was happening with Kimberly, my granddaddy was also battling a deteriorating illness. He was originally diagnosed with Parkinson’s like symptoms and was later told that he was battling multiple system atrophy (MSA). It is a degenerative neurological disorder and like ALS it doesn’t get better. It affects different systems in your body and most people die because of respiratory issues. It gets harder to do just about everything. I watched as over a few years he got worse. There would often be dips in his health, and then he would plateau for a while. Luckily during this time, the army stationed my dad at Fort Benning in Columbus, GA so my mom could travel to Columbia, SC pretty often to go stay with my grandparents and help out. It was really hard to watch his health decline and watch my mom deal with her sadness and stress. You just kind of feel helpless. My cousin died in October of 2018 and I got the call about Granddaddy passing away in January of 2019. That was a rough call as well. A week before they called to tell me that they thought this was it. He was taking another dip and didn’t look like he was going to get better. That was really hard. It was hard to focus on life stuff when your granddaddy passing away at any moment is in the back of your mind. He was in his eighties and had been sick for a while, so I was very aware that any time I saw him could be the last, but it is still a gut punch when it actually happens.

There were various moments throughout the time before he passed and after that were particularly challenging for me. The biggest moment that stands out for me was a day where I went with my mom to see my grandparents and my mom and grandmama had gone out for a walk. It was just granddaddy and me and we were talking about school and life. My granddaddy was always the one who drove because he loved it and grandmama didn’t. That was one thing granddaddy and I had in common. We loved to drive. So I knew it must have been difficult when he had to stop. But as we were sitting and talking he got choked up and said that it was really upsetting that he couldn’t drive anymore. I composed myself in the moment, but I cried later that night. It’s never easy to watch someone you love and look up to, struggle. There were other small moments like that throughout his illness progressing that were difficult because you could tell he was really upset about it. Most of the time he was his normal goofy and joking self, so those moments hit particularly hard. His funeral was also a tough day. My dad spoke and did an amazing job talking about how good of a man my granddaddy was. Watching my little cousin cry was also a difficult moment for me. I knew what she was feeling and it sucked that she had to deal with it at a younger age. But all in all, his funeral was a celebration of who he was. He had an enormous tie collection with all sorts of fun ties (Disney, M & M’s, Looney Tunes, holiday-themed, and more) and everyone in the family picked one of their favorites to wear to the funeral as a tribute him. It was really special and I’m sure granddaddy loved it. 

He was a really special person to me and to so many others. He was the best grandaddy a girl could ask for. My dad’s parents passed away before I was born so grandmama and granddaddy were my only grandparents growing up. Granddaddy was incredibly funny. He was always ready with a joke no matter what situation we were in. He let me play barbershop with him when I was younger, which consisted of me messing up his hair in all kinds of crazy ways and then him paying me a dime or a quarter for my troubles. Every night before bed we would give grandmama and granddaddy a hug and he would always tell us to look out for the imaginary internal organ he made up called the “goosenglogger,” so of course, we tried to squeeze it extra tight. He used to make us milkshakes at night that he called “Super Dupers.” I was always excited to drink mine and was always curious what the secret ingredient was (it was vanilla, but love was another ingredient that made them taste extra good.) When I was younger, I loved going on my grandparent’s lunch routine with them. We would get a salad from Wendy’s first and then head to McDonalds and get burgers to put the patties in the salad. Sounds weird, but it was delicious and I loved that the people at Wendy’s called him “The Salad Man” when he walked in. My grandparents always made things fun. The love they had for each other was also unmatched and was inspiring, especially as I get older and start looking for the person I want to spend my life with. I don’t ever want to settle for less than the love my granddaddy had for my grandmama. It was truly a beautiful thing to grow up seeing. He loved his family, his church, and his community. He was an all-around amazing human being who I miss very much. 

Grieving is a crazy difficult process to go through. It ebbs and flows and you never fully get over the loss of a loved one. I have had some pretty low moments, especially when it comes to my faith. Ever since Kimberly was diagnosed and the health of both her and my granddaddy started to decline, I have been struggling with my faith. It is hard to wrap my head around the fact that God would allow a forty-year-old to die from ALS and then that he would take my grandaddy away at the same time. My relationship with God was on some rocky terrain there for a little while. It’s still on a little bit of rocky terrain now. I know that God is good and He knows more than me. I know that He is there to comfort me in times of sorrow. I know that he is real and present. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have doubts. Doubts are never stronger than when grief hits me all over again. On anniversaries of their deaths or when a song comes on that reminds me of them. I still have a lot of questions. But the most important thing is that I’m still asking them. I haven’t turned away or given up on God. I also know God’s not going to give up on me.

This song is really special to me because I wrote it in the midst of everything that I was feeling. I wrote the first verse and chorus the day after I got the call about Kimberly passing away. I wrote the rest a day after my granddaddy passed away. It encompasses everything I was feeling as I was feeling it. It still hits home now. Maybe some of you have lost someone recently and are feeling the same way as I did. Maybe you also have a lot of questions and no real answers. You are not alone. I wrote the lyrics and sent it to my very talented brother so he could put music to it. The instrumental sections of this song actually come from a hymn that we sang at my grandaddy’s funeral, which makes it even more special. I hope you can relate in some way. It didn’t have a name for a long time, but I finally came up with one that encapsulates what I struggled with most. Here is “No Answers” performed by my brother, Nate Hutchings.

Thanks again for reading this post. It was difficult to write, but something I needed to do. I hope this makes some of you feel less alone if you are grieving as well. A special thanks to my brother Nate Hutchings for providing the music and the video of the song. I hope you all have a great day!

Rachel (:

Mental Health in a Quarantine

When this pandemic hit, it caught everyone completely by surprise. Two weeks ago, we were living our lives and suddenly everything shut down. “Social distancing” wasn’t even a part of people’s vocabulary and suddenly we’re saying it multiple times a day. It has affected everybody in one way or another, but for people like me who struggle with their mental health, this is especially difficult. My anxiety is definitely worse since all of this started to go down. I know I’ve been feeling pretty down and limited social contact doesn’t make it better. Texting and Facetime are just not the same as chilling on the couch with my roommates talking about random life stuff. But I think its important to remember that we’re all in this together even if we are separated at the moment. This won’t last forever, even if it feels endless in the moment.

Something that I am struggling with a lot is my college closing for the rest of the semester. We are going fully online, like a lot of college campuses in the country. While this is the safest and most responsible decision, it is incredibly difficult as a graduating senior. I walked out of my last class without even knowing. I saw some of my classmates for the last time without saying a real goodbye. I left my dorm room like I was coming back. I walked across campus for the last time without taking it all in. I’m going to miss out on those last moments with my friends. Graduation is being rescheduled for August for whoever can make it, but I know not everyone will come back. It won’t be the same. We’ve worked our whole lives to get to graduation and that feeling of walking out of our last class ever won’t come. The same is true for all college seniors whose school has closed in this crazy time. It’s also true for high school seniors who don’t get to go their proms or on their senior trips. I know emotionally and mentally that its a tough thing to process. Not having closure is something that we have all struggled with in our life. The positive to this is that there is a huge community of people having these same feelings right now. I encourage you to reach out to your friends and classmates and just vent. I know my college has a student Facebook page where people are doing things to connect. Stay as connected as you can be to your peers in this very disconnected time.

Something that everyone is struggling with right now is the fear of the unknown. The word “unprecedented” is constantly in the news and it’s true. We don’t fully understand what this virus is or how long all of this will last. With each passing day inside, we are getting more restless. Some people are feeling incredibly lonely if they live by themselves. Others are struggling with the stress of constantly being around other people. It’s important to take care of yourself in the midst of the craziness. Call your loved ones if you are alone. Take some time to yourself if you are living with people. I just drove around for a while yesterday listening to music and it was just what I needed. Schedule a video call with your therapist if you had to leave the city you were in because of a school or job shutting down. I know it can be really hard working from home as well and finding the motivation to get work done, but it is important to set time aside each day to get things done. Dedicate a certain time to doing work. Try to keep up with routine as much as possible. Do some meditation if that works for you. Get out and go for a walk to get some fresh air. Do what you need to do to calm your fears. Feel free to comment or message me what you are going through, because chances are others or myself are feeling those things to. Social distancing is really hard on our mental health and its important to let other people know that so that they can try and help alleviate some of the loneliness, depression, or anxiety we feel.

I have no idea what lies in the future. I think it is important to take it all day by day. I also think it is important that we let ourselves feel what we are feeling. If you are grieving the loss of the end of a senior year or time at a job like I am, then grieve. If you are feeling sad, cry on someone’s shoulder or by yourself. If you are feeling angry at the situation or even angry with God for letting this all happen, then get mad. That one is one that I struggle with, but my therapist and I have been talking about how it is okay to feel angry with God sometimes. People in the Bible shared their frustration with Him all the time. I think in the end, it will create a deeper bond. No one has gone through this, so no one knows how to feel. It is important to remember that all feelings are valid.

Some of these extra anxieties or depressing thoughts come out of having a ton of time on our hands to do nothing. With that time, we are able to just live in our thoughts, which can be detrimental to those who struggle daily with their mental health. Because of this, it is important to fill our time with other things. You can click HERE to see a list I found of things to do while stuck inside. It has some pretty good ideas. I personally am reading, watching some light-hearted TV shows, watching more movies, and trying to write more.

Let me know what is getting you through this quarantine. Also, let me know if you are struggling. We can get through this uncertain time together. Thanks for reading! This blog is really helpful for me to write, so I appreciate that others seem to find it helpful too. Have a great week and stay safe!

Also here are some resources if you are feeling overwhelmed:

If all the talk about COVID-19 is making you feel overwhelmed or frightened, contact the SAMHSA Disaster Helpline: Call DistressLine at 1-800-985-5990 or Text TalkWithUs to 66746

The SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline provides 24/7 365 day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human caused-disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents of the United States and its territories.

Rachel (:

Comparison Kills

As a human being, it is pretty impossible to never compare yourself to other people. It has become even more difficult with the rise of social media. We are constantly bombarded by people’s best moments without getting a glimpse into their actual life. Because of this, we are left comparing our struggles with their picture-perfect persona. That can be really difficult. I’ve been feeling this a lot lately. I feel like once you hit your twenties, comparison becomes commonplace because everyone is starting to pick the path their life is going to take. Suddenly people you knew in middle school are getting engaged or married. Others are already having kids. Some people already have good jobs, while others are taking a year off to travel. All of these things are found out through social media posts that talk about how great their life is going. Then you shut off your phone, and look at your own life and go back to taking unsure steps into the future with a sadness that you can’t be as content as everyone else. But we have to remember that we aren’t seeing the whole picture of other people’s lives or even our own life.

There is not a single person on this earth that is happy and content all the time. Even the people who you think should be the most content struggle with things. Letting yourself believe that you are seeing a person’s whole life based on three Instagram posts is damaging because we do see every second of our own days, which are not always good. Remembering this is the first step in overcoming the need for comparison. But I know this can be difficult. A lot of people who I know from middle and high school are getting engaged. Some even have kids with their partners. Meanwhile, I am single. Most of the time it doesn’t bother me, but sometimes when I see multiple people get engaged in the space of a week, I call into question whether I am really content right now or not. I question my own happiness based solely on someone else’s. I have to remind myself that that isn’t how feelings work. No choices that other people make should directly impact your emotions. If that is the case, it means you have fallen deep in a well of comparison, which can only lead to disappointment.

Some of my questioning whether or not I’m happy when I see other people hitting life milestones comes from feeling like I’m falling behind. There’s a song by Phil Good (great name) called Be Somebody that hits on this idea perfectly. One of the lines of the song says “Can’t help but compare, all my friends already there
I can say that it’s not fair but maybe somehow it’s my fault” and later “Every day I’m afraid I’m not even in the race and I’m feelin’ kind of left out.” I definitely relate to those lyrics. But I shouldn’t be living on other people’s timelines. If we all accomplished things at exactly the same time, we would be living in a very dull society. I have to try and remember that it’s okay that my priorities aren’t the same as some of my peers. I’m focusing on school and work right now instead of relationships and that’s okay. Relationships will come in their own time and when I have more time to give. Everyone moves at their own pace and there are no deadlines. Comparing another person’s timeline to your own is comparing apples to oranges because they have different life experiences that shape their path. Trust me, I know that reminding yourself of these rational thoughts is hard. Lately, I haven’t been doing a good job of listening to my own advice. But by comparing to others, we are only worsening our mental health.

I really liked this article that I found that talks about things to do when you start to feel yourself comparing too much. I especially like the point they make about this not being the end of your movie. We have no idea what lies ahead. Only God truly knows what will happen. So reminding yourself that you aren’t seeing the full picture can help you when you are feeling disappointed in the moment. Your time to shine could be just around the corner. Instead of spending time comparing, we should be actively pursuing goals and people that will aid us in our search for happiness.

Thank y’all for reading and I hope this is something someone needed to hear. It’s definitely something that I needed to write for myself. I hope you have an amazing week!

Reading Roundup #4

I read a lot of books since my last reading roundup so I figured it was time for another one. My goal for this year is to read 100 books. I read 55 from June to the end of last year, so I’m hoping I’m not shooting too high. Being in school always slows me down some, but I’m graduating in May and then I’ll have some more time on my hands (which I’m pretty anxious about, but we’re not going to think about that right now 😅). As always, let me know if there are any books you are loving at the moment as I am always looking for recommendations!

#3 The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger

I had heard good things about this book before I got it and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a literary fiction novel that looks at the lengths a parent will go to in order for their children to get into a new “gifted school” that is being built in town. It follows four families who have been friends for years, whose relationships are tested as they all compete to prove their children belong there. It’s a page-turner and you get fully invested in these characters. The characterization was extremely well done. There is also a twist later in the book that I definitely didn’t see coming. It’s witty, sad, and heartwarming all at the same time. I think anyone can relate to this story because of all the different family dynamics portrayed throughout. The author did an amazing job of describing all the insecurities and intricacies that come with familial relationships. I particularly connected with this book because it reminded me of one of the places I lived that held kids to an almost impossible standard and had a dog-eat-dog mentality. This book does a good job of showing the pitfalls of that kind of thinking. I’m all about doing well in school, but you should never overextend yourself to the point of it being detrimental to your mental health. This book is funny, yet poignant and I would definitely recommend you put it on your list!

#2 The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

You may remember from a previous roundup that I talked about how much I loved The Night Circus, so I was super excited to hear that she came out with a brand new book. I loved this one as well! Like her other novel, it is mainly a fantasy novel, but other genres are woven throughout. It follows Zachary Rawlings who picks up a dusty book one ay only to find that a story about him is hidden inside. As he reads more and follows the trail left by the words on the pages, he discovers another world made up of underground libraries and the protection of words and stories. He finds himself in a battle with a group of people who are looking to destroy this world and prevent the Starless Sea from reaching its full potential. Erin Morgenstern does an impeccable job of describing the universes she creates. Like The Night Circus, I could picture it vividly. It pulls you in. Especially as someone who loves reading and writing, the world she creates feels like paradise. Much like we all wish we could get a letter to Hogwarts, Morgenstern makes you wish you could find a hidden door and enter this secret world. Definitely read this book whether you usually like fantasy or not. There are aspects of the story that will resonate with everyone because in one way or another the words that are said and stories that are shared connect us all.

#1 Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

This book was one of the most honest and engaging things I have ever read. As someone who struggles with anxiety, I go to therapy. I think therapy is an important thing. I advocate for everyone to take care of their mental health just as much as they take care of their physical health. Therapy is something I think everyone should experience at least once in their life. The connection you have with your therapist is different than any other relationship in your life. They know everything about you and help you come to conclusions about your life and your struggles on your own. This book perfectly encapsulates what this relationship can feel like. It is written by a therapist and details accounts of some of the patients she is working with, as well as following her own journey through therapy that she is experiencing at the same time after going through a hard break-up. It not only gives you a look inside the head of the person on the other side of the couch, but also shows you that therapists are real people who are also going through problems. Everyone can benefit from therapy. It is funny and real. She has some powerful ideas but doesn’t take herself too seriously. It doesn’t shy away from the truth and it is cool to watch the progress of the patients. There are moments that made me tear up and other moments where I couldn’t stop laughing. If you support mental health in any way or are struggling yourself, I highly recommend this book!

Bonus: Songs I’m Loving at the Moment

Here are six songs that I have been listening to a lot lately. Definitely check out these songs and check out the other songs from these artists as well!

-The Last Time I Was Yellow is by my roommate and it is one of my favorite songs that she has written. It really speaks to how it can feel when you are struggling, but desperately want to feel peace and happiness.

-Guidance is a really honest look at what the relationship can feel like between man and God.

-Slow is a chill track that details how it can be difficult to move on.

-I love Alec Benjamin, and his newest song Demons is no exception.

-I truly believe everyone should listen to First Last Name for the songwriting alone. She went to Belmont and I still remember how impressed I was the first time I heard it. It talks about the special relationship between a father and daughter.

-Even When You’re Home is another chill track that details a feeling we all feel at some point: loneliness.

Books and music are two of my favorite things, so I always love discussing what I’ve been reading or listening to. Let me know if you have any book or music recommendations! I hope you have a great week!

Rachel (:

Where I’ve Been

I haven’t posted in quite a while. I had planned to take a break at the end of last semester and over the holidays, but I didn’t think I would wait so long into January to post again. This is my last semester of college and that idea has stressed me out more than I thought it would. Getting back into the swing of classes mixed with my internship and a part-time job is a lot. Simultaneously I’m starting to have to think seriously about my future. Thinking about all of these things at once has been a bit paralyzing and unfortunately, I let my blog fall to the wayside. I figured for my first post back, I’d fill everyone in on how my semester ended, what I did over break, and how I’ve been doing mental health wise.

Some of you may recall that coming up to the end of last semester, I was quite stressed. I had a lot on my plate and was unsure what some of my professors were looking for in terms of the projects they assigned. I spent many long hours in coffee shops around Nashville finishing up papers and presentations. Luckily my professors liked my work, and I ended up with the grades that I was hoping for. It was a huge relief! I was really feeling my anxiety in those last weeks and my insomnia was pretty bad, but I was proud of myself for pushing through and finishing strong.

After that it was off to Wisconsin to be with my parents over winter break. First things first, Wisconsin is cold! It was cool to see all the snow and to walk on a frozen lake, but I definitely couldn’t be there long term. I’m very impressed with my parents who seem to be handling it well. I also got to spend time with my brother when we went to his house in Maryland for Christmas. It’s always good to see him and he made delicious cookies that I ate too many of, so all in all break was really nice. But there were aspects of break that were a little hard for me. When I went to Wisconsin, it was my first time seeing the house and my room in that house. My roommate came home with me for the first few days, and it was weird to not be able to answer her when she asked where something was. It was an inner battle to remind myself that it was home when in some ways it felt like I was a guest. Not when I was with my parents, but sometimes when I was getting used to the layout or trying to figure out where we were when they drove me around town. Going home looks different for me than it does for my friends and sometimes I am jealous of that. But, when I’m starting to have those thoughts I try and spin it to be positive. I got to see a part of the country I hadn’t seen before, I got to drink cranberry wine, and I got to spend time with my parents who I don’t see as often anymore. It’s always important to find the positives when you’re starting to focus on the negatives.

In terms of where I am in terms of my mental health, I’m struggling a little. I’m still having trouble sleeping. I was talking to my therapist about how there will be words said and things that happen that make me feel anxious during the day, that I shove to the side because I’m in the middle of class, or at my job, or working at my internship that all pile up and come into my head again when I lie down at night. I told her that it is kind of like when you are flying and you turn your phone on airplane mode and then when you land, you turn it back on and all the notifications and messages ding one after another. That’s how my brain functions at night. This has been getting in the way of my sleep. I’m going to take her suggestion and try some meditation, but we’ll see how it goes. As I mentioned at the beginning, I have felt a little paralyzed with all the things I’m having to think about this semester. Starting to plan a future is scary. Having plans get formed and then fall through and then making new plans seems to be the new norm. I struggle a lot with the concept of the unknown and all of the unknowns lately are not helpful in terms of my anxiety. There is going to be a longer post about this coming soon, but based on what we talked about in therapy last week, it has become clear that on some level I’m still dealing with grief. My cousin Kimberly and my Granddaddy played a big part in my life and I’ve been dealing with their deaths little by little. Coming to this realization in the midst of everything else is difficult, but it’s better to deal with my emotions, rather than push them all down. Even though I’m struggling, I’m trying to focus on the good things happening and making time to do fun things with friends. I want to work to be more present this semester instead of only focusing on the future.

I am looking forward to continuing this blog this year. I have some ideas for my next few posts. Some are hard to talk about and others are just fun. I hope that you all will continue to read. Your support means a lot to me! I’m going to try to post once every two weeks. So be on the lookout! Let me know what you all were up to while I was gone as well! Hope you have a great week!

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!

#1 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 (:

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 (:

Four Letters

Decided that today I would share another poem I wrote. I found it in my notes. In a lot of ways I still feel a lot of these things, but I think I’m in starting to be in a better place. Every time I share my writing, my stomach drops, but I don’t want to just keep it to myself because I’m scared. I refuse to let my anxiety get the best of me. Maybe some of y’all can relate.

Home

Four letters that instantly evoke an emotion

For most people they picture the house they grew up in

The friends they’ve had since preschool

The town they know every inch of

I don’t see anything 

Lost

Four letters that encompass what I feel sometimes 

A vagabond, but not by choice 

Wondering what my room looks like

Wondering what town I’ll come back to

I can’t picture it 

Okay 

Four letters said often with no conviction

A barrier between myself and others 

A lie so easily told that I hope one day to be true

A word everyone else seems to mean 

I hold out hope 

Sure

Four letters that stand solid and grounded

Used by others when decisions are made 

Nothing like the haziness I feel 

My indecisive nature grasping for it

I strive towards it

Fear 

Four letters that grab hold in quiet moments

It lingers in the back of my mind 

Unprovoked but suddenly thrust forward 

Often talking about my future 

I work against it

Mood 

Four letters that are ever changing

Day to day and moment to moment 

Lately tipping towards indifference

Longing for blissful stability 

I wait for calm

Cope

Four letters often heard in therapy

I don’t always do it healthily 

Jokes and sarcasm often mask my emotions

Working to be more open with each passing day

I try my best

Hope

Four letters that with each day grow stronger

Wanting everything to turn out better than I imagine

A wish that one day anxiety will be just a memory

A sense of peace I find through Him

I hold on tight

Thanks for reading! Next week I will be taking a week off because classes start next Wednesday. I will be back in two weeks. Thank you for all the support! Let me know what kinds of things you want me to post next.

Rachel (: