Setting Aside Some Time for Yourself

This was originally posted on on 2/16/2016.

Given that the past couple of days seemed to be all about Galentine’s Day and Valentine’s Day and generally focusing on relationships, I think it’s time that we put aside some time to focus on ourselves today.


This time of year can be difficult for a lot of people because of the heavily commercialized, heteronormative, couple-dominated holiday that is Valentine’s Day which excludes a great deal of people who don’t fit extremely narrow societal expectations.

That being said, I do appreciate the idea of stopping to think about the loved ones in our lives, appreciating them, and spending time with those we care about.

I just wish it didn’t have to be a specific day. I just wish it didn’t have to be a holiday that teaches young girls to feel bad about themselves if no one gives them chocolate and flowers.

I’ve spent many Valentine’s Days with close friends—ordering food, watching Netflix, at little gatherings, and one time my friend and I bought a heart-shaped pizza. Taking the time to celebrate and appreciate these relationships and connections is worthwhile—but it can leave you tired at the end of the day and in need of some personal time at the end of the day.

This Valentine’s Day I spent half the day running on four hours of sleep and the other half sleeping. I don’t regret spending my Saturday in full Galentine’s Day swing with games, spaghetti, pink wine, and Harry Potter that continued late into the night—but I was very tired the next day and in need of recharge.

So the next day, I made it my mission to set aside a day for just me—not romantic partners, not friends. Back in 2014, I was really stressed out all the time, I worked a job that required me to take care of other people and respond to problems constantly. I had no time for myself or to take care of myself.

I had to consciously carve out space and time for that. For about six months, I had little “self-care Sundays” which meant that every Sunday I would leave my college campus, stay in my bed, eat a lot of food, or exercise—whatever my mental health and body needed at the time.

That tradition ended when I stopped living alone and I had less physical space to spend the day taking care of myself.

Although I don’t miss the constant stress I felt back then, I do miss that time I used to always set aside just for me.

Which is why the day after Valentine’s Day I bought myself a red rose, a chocolate vegan cupcake, and let myself relax. I spent the rest of the day taking a break, doing a facial, and getting plenty of sleep.

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Yes, you should set aside time to appreciate those you love but you should also set aside time to appreciate and take care of yourself. Doing so will allow you to cultivate better relationships with others.

Here’s to more self-care,


Healthy, Unconditional Love

I write a lot about relationships on this blog—but I mostly focus on what to look for, spotting negative behaviors, and expectations you should have. I don’t often talk about specific positive ones.

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought I’d highlight a particular example of positive love that I have in my life.

My parents visited me abroad this week for the first and only time this semester. They left yesterday. I almost never cry. I especially never cry in front of other people—ever. But yesterday I cried in a public tube station and then again in front of my roommates.

So that happened.

My parents are the most important people in my life. I’m lucky to have them as a support system, to be able to call them when I’m in trouble—even if it means they’ll be disappointed—to be able to call them, no matter what, with anything.

It’s hard for me to think about the fact that I won’t see them for over three months now.

But being that sad when they left means that the relationship is strong, that I love them a whole lot. Healthy, unconditional love like that means that you can be mad at them in one moment—and still know that you would never not want them around.

Sadly, not everyone can find this type of love in their familial relationships, so be grateful if you can. Tell those people you love them, even when they’re making you mad, and especially when you don’t feel like it.

I’m going to keep this post short and cheesy to give you space to think about similar relationships you might have in your own life. Take some space—amidst this time of year that especially glorifies romantic love—and think about the people who truly matter to you the most. Tell those people you love them.

All the best,


Some Thoughts on 2015, Ready for 2016

I started this blog on the very first day of 2015—and 2015 has been quite a year. In a semi-cliché way, it has been my best year so far—not because it was perfect or because all the things I planned on happening happened or because I didn’t fail at all the lofty resolutions I made—but because things were messy at times, because unplanned, unexpected moments happened, because I dropped my lofty resolutions in pursuit of tangible goals—moving away from aspirations to change myself and towards accepting myself.

One year ago today, I sat in a Subway in upstate New York when all the tables at a nearby Starbucks was full, typed out some thoughts, hit the backspace button, typed out more thoughts, hit the backspace button again, and repeated this for about an hour.

For women—or anyone whose identity marginalizes them—it can be challenging to allow yourself to take up space, to have valid thoughts and opinions, and to feel as if these thoughts and opinions are worth openly expressing. For a while, before I would start writing a post, I would have to shut down internal thoughts that what I’m saying doesn’t matter, that it’s unnecessary. Even though these thoughts still crop up every now and again, blogging has really helped me turn them off.

In 2016, I’m urging any of you out there with an idea for a project that you’re too afraid to start because you think it’s not important—go ahead and do it anyways. You don’t know what will come of it until you give it a shot.

I had no idea what was going to come out of that first post—a stipend to complete an internship with a progressive media outlet in Washington, D.C., which led to a summer position blogging for Young People For as their Civic Engagement Intern, starting their blog team, and joining their fellowship class. Through blogging and Young People For, I’ve been connected to a wonderful and supportive community of activists that I can lean on whenever I need a friend.

In 2016, don’t just set goals trying to fix things about yourself, create something. Do something with your hands, think critically, and use your body meaningfully instead of focus on the way it looks, its flaws, and what can be done to change it. Treat your body like a tool that can help you accomplish things.

On that note, in 2015 I made great strides towards loving my body and developing a sense of body positivity—something I’ve really struggled with in the past. I’m not saying that all is perfect now and that there aren’t still billion dollar media, fashion, and beauty industries in place propagating the idea that I should hate myself, but I’ve realized that self-love is critical and revolutionary and helps shut these industries down.

When I sat in that Subway to write my first post, I listened to two teenagers nearby talk about how much they hate their stomachs. It was what motivated me to stop backspacing and keep typing because we need to keep having these conversations, we need to be thinking about what still needs to change.

If I think back to my 13, 14, 15, or even 19-year-old self, I realize that I used to be (and at times still am) like those teenage girls at Subway. When degrading your body and degrading yourself for eating food is considered normal, it can be difficult to realize why we do these things and to even notice when you’re doing them.

In 2015, I started running in the daylight. I used to always run only in the dark because I didn’t want the people I passed to see my body, to see me sweating and breathing heavily—because that doesn’t happen naturally when we run, does it? It wasn’t until I lived in Washington, DC and was faced with the choice of giving up doing something I loved or running during the day in front of people that I finally stopped caring so much. Running became a tool for me to connect with my body, to use it for something, to learn how to like it.

I also started running in a sports bra. This may seem insignificant but it matters to the part of me that used to wear t-shirts on the beach and struggle in the dining hall every day over whether or not to eat fries or salad with no dressing. Exposing my stomach, unapologetically, amidst all these messages that my body is ugly and that I should change it, is a big deal.

In 2016, if learning how to love your body is too difficult, work on finding other ways to connect with your body. It doesn’t have to be anything physical like running, it can be painting, writing, going outside, or having fulfilling conversations. Find what works for you.

Another one of my favorite parts of 2015 was my internship in the Education Department at The Advocacy Center, a local sexual assault resource center, where I created resources for student activists and helped facilitate programs on healthy relationships and bystander intervention. Working there helped me recover from a bad part of my own life and taught me what I deserve in relationships and what steps we can take as a community to eradicate gender-based violence.

In 2016, don’t be afraid to demand more from the people in your life and set higher standards for how you deserve to be treated.

The theme for my 2016 is to be unapologetic. To let myself take up space and be unapologetic when it comes to the food I eat, clothes I wear, the skin I choose to show, the expectations I have for my relationships, and speaking my mind. To keep writing, learning, and thinking critically. To read more books and spend less time scrolling aimlessly through social media. To demand more from the people in my life, but to also learn how to forgive and heal and move on from hurt. To create more content, more blog posts, to express my thoughts unapologetically.

I think I’ll end my first post of 2016 there. Thanks for supporting and reading. I’m looking forward to what’s coming this year. Following my own first tip, I have a new project on the way in the coming months. I’ll keep it a surprise for now.

All the best,


How to Spot a Toxic Friendship: Things to Consider

Around this time last year, I realized that I was surrounded by several problematic, toxic people. I seemed to learn the same lesson over and over again—toxic, abusive relationships aren’t just limited to the people we’re romantically involved with and both can be equally as consequential and personally damaging.

I’ve written a lot about unhealthy relationships on this blog in the past, but today I think we should talk about something that’s often overlooked: toxic friendships.

I was friends with this guy all through high school and a little bit into college—and at times the friendship was really beneficial, and at times it was really, really bad. Stupid jokes were fine when we were fourteen, but through the years the friendship became more and more problematic. Whenever we would make plans, we would always end up doing what he wanted to do. Other times, he would leave little space for me in the conversation. I would text him that I was having a bad day and a message exchange later the conversation would have flipped to be about him. He would say mean things to me and then claim to be joking.

It wasn’t until the friendship ended that I looked back and wondered why it lasted so long.

There’s something about friendships—especially friendships between men and women that we excuse, somehow we think poor treatment is okay because you’re just friends and not romantically involved.

That’s not true.

That also doesn’t mean that doesn’t mean that unhealthy or even abusive behaviors can’t work their way into a relationship.

Here’s some things to think about if you think your friendship is toxic:

1) Are they always looking for you to be who you were at the beginning of the friendship?

If you’ve been friends with someone for a while or over a period years, it’s normal that you’ll grow as a person, learn new things, and mature (hopefully). These are positive things.

Think back to who you were in middle school. It’s tough, I know. I have a point, I promise.

You might have dyed your hair, you might have downloaded embarrassing songs onto your iPod, you might have been mean to kids in your class.

But you grew up, found new interests, and shed old habits. This is part of being a person.

People—especially women—are taught that being a good person means being a good friend, and being a good friend means being who their friends expect them to be. I encountered this a lot in high school and sometimes in college where I would act a certain way in front of some friends and then hide aspects of myself in front of others.

This comes from a need to accommodate others, but this isn’t healthy and it will make your relationships surface-level rather than fulfilling.

We are rarely taught to think about the ways we should—and deserve to—benefit from our friendships.

2) Can you be yourself unapologetically with them and express your thoughts and opinions?

It’s likely that you will come across people who you have differing opinions with. This can be a positive thing—they can open you to new ideas and ways of critical thinking. But this only positive if your friend doesn’t stifle your thoughts, opinions, and values that you bring to the table.

The same friend I was referring to before used to always challenge the way I felt and invalidate my thoughts—especially when it came to social justice issues I care about. Given that things like body image, healthy relationships, activism, etc. are things that I take the time to blog about and have conversations in my everyday life about, it clearly matters to me.

Your friends don’t have to share the same passions you have, but they do have to respect them.

3) Does the occasional bad outweigh the good?

Because we oftentimes receive false cultural messages about what respect looks like, it can be easy to minimize feelings of being disrespected as “overreacting.”

But here’s the deal: from time to time, friends might say or do things that hurt you—but this shouldn’t happen on regular basis.

A good exercise to do when thinking about how healthy the friendship is to think about how often you feel happy with this person. Do you genuinely enjoy your time together or do you always find yourself waiting for them to cancel plans or make an insulting comment?

If it’s the second, this friendship may be damaging to your well-being and anxiety and resentment can build up.

4) Do they feel entitled to your friendship?

This is a big one that I’ve encountered with a lot of past friends—especially male friends (speaking from my own experience). People who think they can behave however they want and say whatever they want and then feel as if you don’t have the right to take offense or expect an apology when they hurt you—even if it was unintentional—are not worth your energy.

Especially for women, it can be different to walk away from people who hurt us. Because oftentimes those exact people do an excellent job minimizing and invalidating our feelings.

I remember when I would call my friend out for things, he would later send me text messages explaining how he didn’t actually do anything wrong, that I had unrealistic expectations for him as a friend. In reality, I was expecting him to be a relatively decent person towards me. But he felt as if he could act in ways that upset me, and it was my job to get over it.

When our friendship came to its inevitable end and I told him to stop contacting me, I received text messages and Facebook messages telling me he didn’t do anything wrong, asking me why I wasn’t answering, and demanding that we start hanging out again.

I received these messages for an entire year after our friendship ended.

It wasn’t until I wrote about this friend awhile later for a writing exercise in class that I finally used words like “manipulation” and “harassment.”

It doesn’t matter if you appreciate their company and laugh and have a good time 40% of time if the other 60% involves that person making you feel inadequate. What you experience might not be abuse with a capital A—but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t toxic and that it doesn’t hurt.

Emotional pain is still pain no matter who’s inflicting it.

Either way—you deserve better.

You can love someone and care about someone, as a friend—and they can still treat you badly.

Being Different: Some Thoughts on Being “The Activist”

*Sorry for the delay in posting, please read some of my latest blogs for here.

A few weeks ago, I was on the phone with my Dad we were talking about an altercation I’d gotten into with someone via Facebook on the importance of saying #BlackLivesMatter vs. #AllLivesMatter and he said: “it seems like you have to deal with a lot of people who say ignorant things to you.”

Sadly, this is a reality for a lot of people who do social justice work. It’s common for people who express certain opinions to be boxed into being “the feminist” or “the activist,” instead of a person with valid thoughts and feelings.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone say to me: you’re upset about x because you’re a feminist. As if the fact that I’m upset doesn’t matter anymore; suddenly, it’s my problem that I’m upset and I need to get over it.

Even though I spend a lot of time sifting through ignorant conversations and I’ve gotten better at tuning them out, it can still be draining.

Sometimes when you’re at a party and you mention to someone that you care about reproductive justice and someone starts drunkenly debating with you about where life begins—it can get old. Really old.

I recently got into a pretty heated argument with someone. I’ll leave the details out but let’s just say it wasn’t so much a conversation or debate but rather one person raising their voice at me when I wouldn’t suddenly change my values and opinions to match theirs. I wouldn’t cave and I kept responding to their claims; they got angrier. I left feeling frustrated and disrespected.

There’s nothing worse than conversations with people who don’t care about you, or learning, or having a productive discussion—their only concern is to control the way you think and feel.

You’re wrong. They’re right. The end.

People can have different opinions. People can disagree with each other. That’s all fine—what’s not okay is making someone feel like shit because they disagree with you.

Remember: it doesn’t matter if someone is a “feminist,” an “activist,” or any other kind of social justice person, they are also a human being who deserves respect and validation.

When I got in the car with my Mom soon after the argument happened, she could tell I was upset. She was upset for me.

“When you’re different like you are, and you have your own opinions, you’re going to run into people like that. It’s part of being different but it’s a good thing,” she told me.

She’s right.

Being different is a good thing—even when it’s difficult.

In those moments though, it can be easy to feel singled out. It can be easy to feel like you’re being punished for caring about the things you’re passionate about, for being different.

But in the end, it’s worth it to stand out.

At the end of the day, all that matters is knowing what you stand for and sticking to it. Knowing why you care your cause and fighting for it even when some people are against you. Knowing that for every stupid comment on a Facebook post or untimely debate at a college party, there are a whole bunch of people who are on your side.

Things You Deserve in a Relationship

Last year I helped facilitate programs on healthy relationships for adults with developmental disabilities. Even though I was the one teaching, I felt like I was learning all these healthy relationship lessons for the first time too.

Over the past year, I’ve come quite a long way in terms of what I deserve and how I deserve to be treated by the people I surround myself with. That program helped me get there and that got me thinking that we need to talk about healthy relationships more. We need to have a dialogue on what is and what isn’t okay.

From my experience, the best place to start is to have an idea of what is and isn’t okay, what you deserve (ex. respect) and what you don’t (ex. being treated like crap).

Here are some things that you deserve in a relationship (any kind of relationship):

1) Someone who makes an effort

If you’re always texting someone first or always the only one to really put in effort to spend time together, walk away and find people who are genuinely excited about being around you. This seems straightforward but sometimes it can be easy to want to keep trying to cultivate a friendship or relationship, when in reality, the other person might not always feel the same way. Relationships should always be somewhat even and both people should be mutually excited to spend time together and build a connection.

2) A partner who doesn’t take up too much space

I feel like we’ve all met or spent significant time with a person who doesn’t leave much room for you in a conversation or validate your feelings and opinions. If someone is always talking over you or spinning conversations to be all about themselves and their thoughts, it’s typically a sign that your partner doesn’t respect you.

I spent a chunk of high school and part of college really close friends with this guy. We had a lot in common and we spent a lot of time together. Our mutual friends would often think that we would end up together. It seemed to make sense too—but something always stopped me. If I tried to have a deep conversation about something personal, it would become all about him. If I wanted to watch this movies, suddenly we’d be watching a movie he’d picked out even after I said I preferred the other movie. He would also get competitive with me about who had dated more people, who’d gotten better grades, who could run a faster mile.

At the end of the day, I wasn’t given consideration, validation, or respect. It left me feeling small. Big surprise, we’re no longer friends. I got tired of being treated like I didn’t even matter.

For my lady-identifying friends out there, this can be a common trend. We’re taught to be small, to keep quiet, so it might be hard to notice when someone is edging you out but do your best to shut it down because you deserve someone who validates you and your feelings and lets you take up an even amount of space.

Relationships involve two people, so should the conversations you have and the decisions you make.

3) Someone who doesn’t wield things over your head

Did you do something embarrassing one time? Make a mistake? Say the wrong thing? Probably. We all do these things.

Does your partner (or friends, relative, etc.) ever throw it back in your face?

If you said yes, you absolutely deserve better. Like I said, we all have made mistakes, done embarrassing or stupid things, and have private, personal experiences in our past. If you disclose these experiences to a partner and they start using it as a means to discredit you, embarrass you, or otherwise upset you, get out of that relationship ASAP.

If this is a repeating pattern of behavior, you most likely have an emotionally abusive and/or manipulative relationship unfolding.

4) Someone who doesn’t wield your level of (in) experience over your head

This is a semi-extension of previous paragraph, but it is an important conversation to have because I’ve seen this play out a lot in relationships—typically in relationships where one partner has more dating, sexual, or life experience than the other. This is tricky territory but it’s important to navigate.

If your partners shames you, mocks you, judges you, whatever, for the amount of sex you’ve had, people you’ve dated, etc. This is a gigantic red flag that your partner doesn’t respect you and that you genuinely deserve this disrespect simply because of personal choices you have the right to make.

One the other end of the spectrum, if your partner shames you, mocks you, judges you because you haven’t yet had a specific dating or sexual experience, this is also a red flag.

If a partner ever uses this as a means to pressure you to have these experiences or make you feel bad for saying no, that is one very large warning sign that should not be ignored. These kinds of behaviors are absolutely abusive and could very well be a pathway to sexual manipulation or coercion.

5) Someone who builds you up

I want to end on a more positive note than the previous section, so this last bit is all about how your relationships should be a positive one. I am adamantly against the widespread idea that boyfriends, girlfriends, or partners “complete people.” This just makes people without partners feel like they’re missing something or are less valuable and this concept only makes people put up with the horrible behaviors I described above.

However, your partner should absolutely make you feel good and help you grow (just like any non-romantic relationship. Don’t think your partner will complete you or fix flaws or anything, but remember that they should help you learn new things about yourself, offer new ways to look at the world, and encourage you while reminding you that you’re good enough the way you are.

Maybe this sounds difficult to find, but you’re worth it.

All the best,


You Deserve Healthy Relationships, Plural.

This past Thursday I started facilitating a program called SPEAK, a prevention program for adults with developmental disabilities that focuses on education around consent and healthy relationships. Although I really want to share my thoughts on this program and the ways that it acknowledges that people with disabilities have sexual desires and want fulfilling relationships just as much as the rest of us (something our culture often forgets,) today I want to focus on one component of the program: healthy relationships.

Our culture tends to put romantic relationships on a pedestal and tell us that we’re not complete on our own. For example, we see the same narrative played out over and over again in movies and sitcoms—the successful woman with a great career whose love life is a disaster. We see her lack of a romantic relationship as a complete failure. Its cultural attitudes like this that lead people (male, female, and otherwise) to settle for unhealthy relationships because that seems to be easier and more accepted than being single.

I think that stinks.

Early on in the SPEAK program, we had the participants tell us different people that they have relationships with. We got answers like mom, dad, cousins, co-workers, sisters, friends, teachers, boyfriends, girlfriends, healthcare professionals, bus drivers, and acquaintances.

One of the facilitators then went on to ask the participants if it matters if they are treated badly by a boyfriend or girlfriend vs. an acquaintance. Is one more acceptable than the other? She asked them.

The answer is no. We deserve to feel genuinely respected and appreciated by and safe with everyone we come into contact with.

That means that you should ditch that significant other that’s always flirting with other people as much as you should rethink your relationship with your aunt who always points out when you gain weight or the friend who always blows off plans.

Although there tends to me more emphasis on romantic relationships, you deserve multiple fulfilling, beneficial, healthy relationships that allow you to grow as a person.

I know many people, including myself, who have stayed in unhealthy partnerships for longer than they should have because they didn’t feel like they deserved any better or could do any better. I’m telling you, you do deserve better and you can do so much better.

Say it with me: I deserve respect. Now say it again.

The days surrounding Valentine’s Day can feel very lonely and isolating for some people. Take some time today to reflect back on the positive relationships in your life, not just romantic ones. Not to get to cheesy, but remind yourself of the wonderful people in your life who make you laugh and listen to your problems and make you feel better when you’re sad. Remember that you deserve all these things and more.

With love,