habits

Alarm Clocks

Allison here, your local gal actually posting on time.

For my first two years of high school, my phone used to buzz every weekday morning promptly at 5:41 am. I had set the alarm at an odd time, promising myself I could spend the extra four minutes in bed before I really needed to get up. Yet, the alarm was, quite simply, agonizing. No one would invite a small mariachi band into their room every morning as a reminder that they had to wake up at some ungodly hour to get ready for a long day of classes, exams, and endless homework, yet I allowed the awful prerecorded music selected by a team of software developers somewhere in Silicon Valley to jar me into existence every morning. So each weekday I slid out of bed, resentful of the noise that sent my heart racing before I had even brushed my teeth for the day. I thought about changing the song. Maybe if it was something softer, it wouldn’t scare me half to death each morning; maybe if I set it to a song I liked, it won’t feel quite so awful. But, inevitably, I grew to hate the song I chose or resent the soft jingle I tried out. So I woke up each morning, jerked from a peaceful slumber.

College was a promise that my days of early morning alarms would be behind me, at least until I got a Real Job out in the Real World. Experienced college kids who had suffered through labs that began at 8 a.m. and three hour lectures that finished before noon all told me the same thing: avoid morning classes.

When I registered for the fall semester, I happily choose 9 ams three times a week and an 11:30 start on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Plenty of time for sleeping. And, for the first two weeks of school, this was true.

But then the running club entered my life. Long distance running felt like it was calling my name.

6 a.m. practices, however, were not.

Nevertheless, I begrudgingly set my alarm to 5:45, depressingly similar to the time that I used to wake up throughout high school. I got dressed in the dark while my roommate slept peacefully in the bed across from mine. I pulled my hair into a ponytail without brushing it and slipped my shoes on in the hallway. It was barely six am but the air was already heavy with humidity and the oppressive heat could be felt long before the sun dared reach across the horizon. I walked over to where the running club met, checking my phone, the screen fogging from the moisture in the air.

And I ran. Three, four, five miles. Two miles. Sprints. Some days I ran alone, sometimes in groups. Regardless of how far I ran or who I ran with, four times a week my alarm dragged me out of bed and I started each day in the darkness of the morning. I was awake before most students, before the locks to buildings automatically clicked open, or the garage buildings filled with cars.I was awake before the dawn had pulled itself from sleep.

Though I didn’t stick with the running club this semester, I do sometimes still wake up in the stillness of morning and slip on my running shoes, hitting my feet against the pavement before the sun dare touch the sky with its radiance. Something about the beauty of watching the earth turn a pale pink in the morning, the world glowing with newness before the air turns heavy with heat, will always be inescapable.

But even the beauty of the sunrise isn’t always stronger than the allure of a fluffy pillow and soft blankets.

Small Habits

Your local procrastinator here, Allison.

(*Disclaimer: if this post is riddled with grammatical errors and general nonsense, it was probably autocorrect’s fault. Or my general lack of ability to proofread*)

It’s probably been two months since I’ve posted, which might be a record for my laziness and general busyness. I visited a college in the midwest, flew to Italy, tried to make up three weeks of school in five days, and have maintained a vague air of still caring about my senior year of high school. Needless to say, its been stressful but wonderful.

Part of that insanity was a trip to Italy. While the European was extremely enjoyable (more on that later), it certainly added to my packed schedule. When my parents first asked me a few months ago if I wanted to go to Italy, I immediately said yes. I expected my brothers to be just as excited as I was. But they all said no for various reasons, and suddenly I was facing two and half weeks in a foreign country alone with my parents. I love my parents and respect them immensely, but I certainty use my brothers as a buffer between their nagging and general parental concern. Even though I knew before I left for Italy that it would be challenging to spend so much time with my parents, I didn’t realize living in the same room with my mom for sixteen days could amplify her motherly habits so much. Honestly, I didn’t even know it was possible for those instincts to be more amplified than they already were.

I’m a chronic nail biter. I always have been. One of my worst memories from high school happened while I was biting my cuticles during a class presentation and someone interrupted me while I was speaking to inform me there was blood dripping off my hand. And they were right. I had bitten my cuticles so severely I had caused a tiny genocide on my fingers. When I was younger, I read a book about Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, which causes people to compulsively eat their own flesh. The book concluded that people who compulsively bite their cuticles could have the same genes as those with the more gruesome Lesch-Nyhan syndrome. So I concluded I simply suffered from a form, albeit minor, of Lesch-Nyhan. Thus my excuses rolled forth when someone reprimanded me for my bad habit.

Naturally, while in Italy I found myself biting my nails. My mom began slapping away my hand, yelling at me, or telling me how ugly my hand was becoming. You know, the typical things that makes anyone respond positively to criticism. By the twelve hundredth or so time she did this, I snapped and told her to leave me alone. Only half jokingly, I reminded her I had Lesch-Nyhan.

She met my angry gaze with a smirk. “That sounds a lot like an excuse.”

I was indignant and tried to explain to her what I meant, but I found my mouth filled with an excuse explaining away my, well, excuse. She shook her head while she looked at me knowingly. Though the moment passed, I found myself dwelling on her words.

How many things in my life was I just telling myself I was destined to suffer from? Nail biting was a small issue, but it didn’t take long for me to think of other things. I always told myself I could’t sleep well at night. Maybe if I even tried to fall asleep at normal hour, I could. I told myself I would always have anxiety. But had I ever tried to work through that anxiety? Had I ever tried to put myself in situations that would make me less anxious?

It didn’t take me long after getting to back to New York to try to actually be mindful about the little habits I have. Instead of bitting my nails, I filed them. I stopped myself from pulling at my cuticles. When it was one am, I decided to try to read for a little bit before going to sleep, instead of staying up on my laptop all night.

It’s only been a few weeks since I’ve been home, and of course my life isn’t radically better. But I do feel calmer. More under control. I have a lot of ability to shape my emotions and the events in my life, as long as I take initiative to do so. I’m not proclaiming a miracle cure from all my issues, but this is a general reminder to fix the things in your life that have been upsetting you, because a lot more is probably within your grasp than you realize. I’m not destined to be a nail biter, and it’s unlikely I actually share genes with someone who has Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, and I’ve finally taken the time to accept that.

(Also, someone please beat me with a stick until I start posting more often. I apologize to the Internet for being so bad at this.)

Compliments and Confidence

By Allison.

She’s pretty, but she’s probably dumb.

She’s a great dancer, but I definitely did better than her on the SAT.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the only one who’s walked into a room and immediately compared myself to every other girl there, trying to justify why I’m somehow better than each of them. It’s a sick competition, and I’m beginning to think I’m not the only one who’s participated.

She’s skinny but there’s no chance she’s athletic. 

Her average in school is awful, I don’t care if she has a cute boyfriend.

It took me a while to realize why all these sick thoughts were at the forefront of my mind each time I made a new friend, met a new classmate, or encountered a stranger. Initially, I justified it to myself. I love myself, that’s why I’m always realizing why I’m better than other girls. I told myself it was great self-love that turned me against each girl I met, and great confidence which caused me to always justify why my qualities were better than someone else’s.

But this kind of twisted self-praising criticism was ugly. It wasn’t coming from a good place, and it definitely wasn’t coming from love.

When I finally realized what was happening, it took me a long time to accept it. Ultimately, it was my own self-hate generating this disgusting thinking. My own discomfort with myself was subconscious, but it’s undertones played into every part of my life. I was unaware of how much I disliked the person I had become, and outwardly convinced myself I was better than everyone. But this defensive, egomaniacal thinking grew out of an insecurity that I wasn’t beautiful, or smart, or good enough.

When my own self-love grew, I stopped needing to be jealous of other girls. I no longer need to hate them for having something I don’t. They may have thin legs and be a well trained dancer, and I may have pretty eyes and be incredible at math, and neither has to be better or worse than the other. I am assured and content in who I am, and I don’t need to destroy someone else to be confident.

Recently, I’ve been finding myself meeting other girls and being struck by their beauty. By their laughs. By their resilience, passion, and strength. I am amazed by how talented girls are, how gifted, how creative. I’ve found friends with amazing smiles, great experiences, and unbelievable lives. I suggest you begin to do the same. Begin finding girls you love, finding qualities you love about them, and finding a true, honest love to do this with. Just remember to start by loving yourself.

Someday

by Erica

“I’ll do it later.”

It’s a habit that’s plagued me for forever.

Not now. I’m too busy. I’m not in the mood. I’ve already done so much today. I have more important things to do. Some other time.

I love planning for the future because it’s easy. It’s easy to make a to-do list for college applications. It’s easy to make an overly-detailed schedule for the week filled with designated times for homework and exercising and meals. But actually implementing this schedule or timeline is fifty times harder.

This past year has been a series of “when I’m done with _____, I’ll finally get my life together”, or “when I’m done with _____, I’ll finally do that thing I’ve always wanted to do”. When I finish midterms. When I finish studying for the ACT/SAT/APs. When I finish finals. When I finish my internship. Then I’ll do all the things I’ve always wanted to do. Then I’ll finally get myself back on track. Then I’ll finally get on top of homework.

I’ve never really taken it easy in school. It was always a constant 7-9 course load, plus homework, plus a job, and plus karate. It’s hard to stay afloat. I get things done, mind you, but my motivation to be productive comes at odd times and is quite sporadic. Having discipline would have gotten rid of most of the all-nighters, the bags under my eyes, the breaking points, and the general stressed outlook. Junior year was hard and a lot of it was my fault.

I’m trying to teach myself more discipline.

We’re one week into the school year, and perhaps my efforts may not be so futile after all. I’ve been good about going to bed by 11 and waking up by 6, and I’ve started to cultivate the habit of doing homework for 5 hours straight until burning out. There have been some messy days, some days where I come home from work and am in no mood whatsoever to do anything productive, or some days when I just listen to Spotify and eat Reese’s peanut butter cups and scroll through Tumblr, but that’s okay. The beginning doesn’t have to be perfect.

It’s going to be rough, and it’s going to be terrible, but I’m determined to stop saying “later” and start getting things done now.