Being Human

A part of being human is having the ability to grow deep connections with other humans. Human connection is a wild and magnificent thing. I have a few people in my life that have taught me just how beautiful it truly is. With each of these people, I have a million moments that rush through my mind as I write this, and I wish I could project these little stories on a wall and show you, but I only have the power of my keyboard to help explain my infatuation with human connection. 

Do you remember the first time you talked to your best friend? Why did you connect with them? Take a moment and reflect on what your life would be like without your childhood best friend. Your high school best friend? What about your best friend in college? Although all of these friendships are different and happened for different reasons, you were meant to have those people in your life in some way. If your friendships with your best friends are anything like mine, then these people have been there for you through thick and thin. They have known you more than you may know yourself at times. How wonderful is that?

My best friend Caroline and I during our junior year of high school

Then we have family — the very first human connection we make. As someone who is the youngest of six kids, I know how nauseating siblings can be. They steal our clothes, eat the food we were saving for later, and say things just to get under our skin. However, if you have siblings, you probably can’t imagine a life without them, no matter how different you are from them. Your parents also have known you for your entire life and they are people you may not get along with all of the time either. However, whether you realize it or not, you share a connection with them that will last forever. The connection we share with our families lives inside of us. Our families helped us grow into who we are today and continue to do so. We share similar characteristics with them, whether it’s the way we look or how we handle our emotions; our families helped groom these traits.

The third and most exciting form of human connection is love. There comes a time in everyone’s life where you’ve grown close with your friends, you are able to recognize the impact your family has made in your life, and just when things begin to fall into place, there will finally be love. Of course, you experience love through friendships and family, but the type of love I am referring to is different. The best way to explain it is by looking at the photo below this paragraph. This is the love you may have witnessed your whole life from your parents, or maybe through a sibling and their significant other. But this time, it is yours. This type of human connection holds enough power to change a person’s life. I know it changed mine. Love is also probably the most frightening form of connection because of all of the uncertainty that comes with it. However, a few months ago I wrote a blog post titled, “Welcoming in Uncertainty,” and I think that alone speaks for itself. No matter if it stays or leaves, if you discover it young or old, or if your love is near or far, this form of human connection reminds you just how alive you really are.

“Parisian Roof” by Loraine Sorlet. (Instagram: @lorrainesorlet / Website: lorrainesorletshop.com)

Human connection is an amazing thing that we are all so lucky to be able to experience. It is one of a very limited number of things that everyone on this Earth experiences. Right now, the world is going through a strange time. The streets covering the biggest cities in the world are completely empty. Friends are no longer seeing each other, families are connecting over FaceTime instead of dinner, and it feels like there has been a drought of love. However, this lack of human connection will be restored, and one day we will hug each other again. Friends will reunite, family members will be able to come over for dinner again, and love will continue to find people once more. 

Lastly, I would like to provide an encouraging reminder. Throughout all of this chaos and this sense of new normal, I’m sure we have all heard how everyone is in this together and that we are all here for each other. However, people continue to fight online, protest against one another, and yell instead of listening. If you want to make a difference in today’s world and you want to preserve your own happiness, then be kind. Listen when people are talking to you and then take time to reflect on what they said before responding or creating a judgment in your head. Be kind to the people working in grocery stores, people working in restaurants still, health care workers, and anyone else who still has to go into work in order to make our lives easier. If we really want to experience a sense of unity through this, be willing to bag your own grocery’s if the store is understaffed, drive with extra caution in your neighborhood to protect the people walking, and if you are living with your parents, help them around the house. If we really are together through all of this, then kindness to everyone must be a priority. 

Tell That To Yourself.

Tell that to yourself. 

You heard me.

Look in the mirror, and tell that to yourself. Say everything that you tell your friends when they need reassurance to yourself. 

Being a good friend — or just a good person for that matter — requires the ability and desire to help and reassure others. If you’re anything like me, it can be easy to constantly lift up others and to lend advice; however, to be honest, more than of half of the time the advice I give to friends, loved ones, and even what I write about are all lessons that I need to hear too. 

The image I used to help title this blog post is one that I came across about a year ago on Instagram. The person who is black and looks drained from daily life was the one I related to. I had always been the friend that other people leaned on for support or for a laugh. I was always helping my friends through their problems by having thoughtful conversations and giving the best advice I could. However, a part of me knew that the advice I was giving them was the advice I needed to hear. This image was exactly what I needed to see, and sometimes it still is. When you are constantly lifting other people up, it is easy to let yourself fall down. For me, my focus was not on my own mental health, it was on my friends’ wellbeing. When I began slipping into my own personal battles, I was extremely apprehensive to lean on friends for support because I knew everything bad happening in their own lives. However, when I came across this illustration, something wonderful happened. All of the times I told my friends how beautiful they are, how they can get through anything because of their strength, how intelligent they each are, and how much I look up to them flew around in my head in a million fleeting moments. So, I sat up in my bed, looked in my mirror and said all of those things to myself. It became a part of my routine until I 100% believed it, and then I kept saying it. Becoming aware of my own capabilities and finding support from myself not only helped me better understand myself but also other people. Once you are aware of your worth and happy with yourself, it becomes easier to reach out a helping hand for people who are trying to do the same thing.

Looking in the mirror and telling yourself you are brave, you are intelligent, and you are beautiful is one of the most liberating actions we can do, and being able to believe it is not just liberating, it is life-changing. So, tell that to yourself. Get up out of bed in the morning, look in the mirror, and tell all of that to yourself. Give yourself the same advice and support you give your friends. Then, watch your life change. You deserve it.

Learning From a Daffodil

When I was growing up, each year there would come a time when the sun would begin to feel warm again and the grass crept up from the dirt, decorating my front yard in green. This meant it was gardening season. Each year my mom and I would gather all of the necessary tools and make our way outside. We would plant all sorts of flowers, but my favorites were the daffodils. 

Daffodils are grown from bulbs that you plant into the ground, and they return each year. While kneeling in the soil, feeling the warm sun and gentle breeze kiss out backs, my mom and I made deep holes in the soft soil, planted the bulbs, and nurtured them with water. Once planted, daffodils extend their long green necks up toward the sun as their yellow petals laugh amidst a similar spring breeze that they were once planted in. 

Consistency is something that many people normally yearn for, and they fear inconsistency. However, in the current conditions of all of our lives, each day begins to feel a little bit more like we’re in the movie “Groundhog Day.” I can say for myself that some inconsistency can be nice. Waking up and not knowing who you’ll run into that day or what you’ll end up doing that night can be refreshing. But we must learn from the daffodils that return each spring in the same place they were planted in all those years ago. Those yellow daffodils have always looked like they were laughing and talking to each other in my eyes. They have always flourished in that same row in the garden. Consistency has helped them thrive and come back brighter with each returning spring. Now, it’s our turn. 

Life may feel mundane and repetitive for many of us right now but that does not mean our happiness cannot still exist and we cannot continue to bloom. Nearly everything that blooms each spring has been planted in the same place for years, some from before we were born. Yet, they continue to flourish, generate flowers, and enjoy the sun. If you feel as though being housebound has put a wall up in your journey, step outside and realize that the nature that has been surrounding you for years isn’t stopping their growth, so you don’t have to either. 

Handling the Wind

As I sit here writing this blog post, I am in an environment I have yet to write to you from. I’m back home in the suburban utopia called Loveland, Ohio. I’m sitting in my backyard with a view of green grass leading into what looks like to be hundreds of trees that lead down to a creek. I hear my mom singing in the kitchen and a dog barking somewhere in the distance. These sounds blend perfectly with the wind whistling through leaves as the sun is still drying the morning dew off of the grass. The wind is swirling around my hair and piercing through my shirt, but I am not cold. This wind is a perfect metaphor for life recently.

Over the past three weeks, everyone’s lives have changed in ways we wouldn’t have ever expected. Like the wind picking up seeds off of the ground and spewing it out in a completely different place, this pandemic has done that to nearly all of us. My brother, who lives and works in New York City, was swept off of his feet and was forced to be placed back here, in Loveland. People’s finances were stirred and thrown in directions they weren’t expecting. College students across the country were picked up by this dancing wind and were told to pack up their belongings and leave campus for the rest of the year. Not to mention the countless grade school and high school students, whose only consistent source of food is from their school, who have been informed that they will no longer have access to that because their school is shut down. Human life and almost all of its normality has been picked up by the wind, tossed around, and scattered in a brand-new place. So, how do we as individuals and as a group make life feel OK? How do we maintain the regularity of ourselves?

The first week or two through all of this, I was a complete wreck riddled with anxiety. I have five siblings that all live in big cities across the U.S and fear began to take over my every thought. My parents are big into politics and by watching the news, dreadful information was being fed to me multiple times a day. My freshman year at Ohio University coming to a sudden halt also had some influence on the feeling of irregularity and nervousness. I often begin to feel this way about life when I think too far ahead. I am a planner. I like to have an idea of when and where I am going to do things whether that’s five years from now or tomorrow afternoon. However, the biggest lesson I have gained from being in college is that you can make a plan and you can follow that plan but somewhere along the way, that plan is going change. I’m not saying it will fall through, but it will morph into something else or take an unexpected direction. So, with this lesson on my back pocket and an overwhelming needing of life feeling OK again pushed me to enjoy this temporary way of life as much as I can. 

To begin, I stopped watching the news but because I am a curious person and enjoy being informed, I limited myself to only reading the news once a day, normally when I am having breakfast. I don’t watch press conferences and I don’t stay in the room if one is on. I also discovered how liberating it feels to put on an actual outfit instead of doing all of my work in pajamas. It’s surprising how much your favorite pair of jeans and a soft blouse can lift up your mood! The sun has also been working in my favor recently. Whenever it is sunny outside, I make sure to soak in the warmth coming from the sky. The blossoms have also begun to grow and the grass outside is beginning to turn green and each of us has the amazing ability to see that beauty. I also have found the pure beauty in celebrating oneself. I have made art my entire life but never really did anything with it. So, I have started to hang up each new piece of art I make on a wall in my room. Being able to say you’re proud of yourself during this time is essential. When you haven’t left the house for days it begins to feel difficult to feel accomplished. Practicing recognizing beauty in everyday life has also been extremely important and eye-opening. Morning routines have so much beauty when you pay attention to it. We wake up, we eat amazing food (even if it is just cereal), we can listen to music, we can play with our dogs, and we can get dressed. These are all small factors of a morning routine that hold so much beauty.  These are the ways human life will continue to feel OK and to feel regular. 

Lastly, I just want to share this as a reminder: you may not have everything in common with your neighbor but remember that each of you has been swept off your feet and tossed in the air by the wind and were planted somewhere new. Take the time to understand people right now and take the time to understand yourself. What is going to improve your quality of life right now?

Everyday Miracles

Last night, I was flipping through a sketchbook I kept in high school. As my fingers turned each page, I rediscovered treasures from a seemingly past life. Some made me laugh, some made feel nostalgic, and others brought forth memories I almost forgot I had. However, in any sketchbook I have kept since middle school, I have dedicated multiple pages to different quotes I have come across as I walk through life. So, last night when I was reminiscing on an awfully innocent time in my life, I came across a quote I had written down by Albert Einstein, and it read, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Everyone faces adversity in life in some form, and everyone will experience times where their mental health begins to regress. For me, this happened in high school, specifically during the end of junior year and all of the senior year. When your headspace is dark, the world around you grows dark too. It begins to become increasingly difficult to recognize the good and to ignore the bad, and somehow miracles seem impossible.

But I found that quote in the summer of 2019 during a time of extreme growth and I had just finished reading the story “The Alchemist.” I devoured that novel in the course of three days and it changed the way I viewed the world forever. Like Einstein, I began to look at the world as though everything was a miracle and have ever since then. 

Miracles are often viewed through a lens of magic or some greater power blessing you with an extremely unexpected occurrence. However, a miracle is much more approachable and simpler than that. Sometimes a miracle is as simple as a stranger handing you a flower, meeting a dog on campus who is just like your dog at home, or going to the market and seeing that they’ve finally restocked the strawberries. Some would argue that these are not miracles and that they are omens, but omens and miracles ought to be the same thing.

When I was growing up, my nana once told me that when a white butterfly passes by you it’s because someone who loves you and who has passed away is watching over you. Ever since then I have walked through life paying close attention to the presence of white butterflies. When I came to Ohio University, I was having some trouble adjusting and a part of me was aching because I had been here for a month and hadn’t seen a white butterfly. Then one day I met with my adviser to make some changes and as soon as I stepped out of the building, two white butterflies came out of nowhere and danced around me for a moment before floating away. To me, that is a miracle and an omen wrapped up in one. 

If you are living your life right now as though nothing is a miracle and it is hard to see the good in everyday tasks, I encourage you to read “The Alchemist.” If you’re not a reader, write down a list of things that relax you and make you happy. Avoid saying social media or Netflix, and try to talk about life; discuss your favorite colors, your favorite breakfast food, or how it feels when you are doing your favorite activity and what type of emotions it pulls from you. When you walk to class, take out your AirPods and listen to the world around you. If you do, you’ll notice how loud the birds have been singing recently (something I noticed a few days ago). If you begin to recognize the beauty in the simplest parts of your life and grow an appreciation for them, you’ll begin to see miracles every day, and the good in daily tasks won’t be so hard to find. 

I also encourage you to attempt to explore the miracles you hold within yourself. When you get to know yourself a little more, you’ll begin to see how many spectacular things you hold within you and how you’re a miracle yourself. Take some time alone, allow yourself to stay in for a day or two over the weekend while your friends go out. Practice things that you love but you may not have time to do normally. I once walked past a sticker here in Athens that read, “Everyone has the right to rest and leisure.” So use that right and be alone to rest. Give your brain a break from the world and allow your social battery to recharge. This alone time and opportunity to rest will give you a chance to learn about yourself and discover the miracles you hold within you to help others. Spending time with just yourself, even if you think you can’t do it, will help you step into the world and recognize everyday miracles. These miracles may not happen to you and they might occur to a stranger across the street from you, but you will have noticed it and that is what matters. 

A miracle is what you make of it. It does not have to be a lifesaving experience or some drastic change for the better. It can be anything you want to view it as, so let it. Let a miracle be seeing someone in a yellow hat while it’s raining out; let them be the simple, positive outcomes of life. The darkness that may be surrounding you will eventually fade, but it may fade faster when you decide to pay attention to the beauty and miracles of everyday life. 

Let’s Talk

Image by Shinetext; @shinetext on Instagram

We all own insecurities. By this, I mean we all own something about ourselves that makes us want to burrow down into a sweatshirt and hide from the world. Sometimes these insecurities get the best of us; they wrap their hands around our throat and stop us from being what we want to be, making new friends, pursuing a new relationship, and so much more. 

During the past few years of my life, I let my insecurities sit in the driver’s seat while I sat patiently in the backseat waiting for it to be my turn. During my senior year of high school, I became stuck in a hole that just kept growing deeper and wider with each passing day. I was riddled with anxiety and faked a smile every day to create a persona that fulfilled everyone’s ideas of who I was but also to pretend that I was the person I was craving to really be.

Everyone has insecurities, so how does anyone truly love themselves through and through? This is a large question that used to swirl around in my brain quite often. But, through growth, patience, a little TLC, and a compilation of fleeting moments that play in my head from time to time, I may have found one thing that leads to self-acceptance and love: talking.

Talking about your insecurities with another person who you trust is one of the most important things you could ever do for yourself. In a time infested with new media being presented to us every second of the day, we encounter thousands of images and stories of people being happy. When was the last time someone like Kendall Jenner expressed to her followers that she was depressed? See my point? Due to this toxic suggestion that everyone is happy and loves themselves without question, we, the readers of this content, begin to forget that we are not alone in our insecurities. 

As I was battling through my insecurities, I was aware that my friends also didn’t like certain things about themselves, but I always assumed they were happy, just like how they assumed I was too. It wasn’t until I opened up to them about everything I had been feeling, that they opened up to me. This was a huge lesson for us.

Since then, whenever I am beginning to feel down again, I am not afraid to reach out to a close friend to talk about it. In fact, oftentimes they relate to me and express that they have been feeling similarly.

Because of this feeling of connection that occurs when you talk to someone about something as serious as your mental well-being and insecurities, everything begins to feel more valid. One of the major reasons we hold our feelings back is because we feel as though they are not valid enough. But who could blame us? There is something so odd about telling someone you have been sad for no reason at all, right? However, there is a reason and telling the right people can and will help you. 

If you are a regular reader of my posts, you have probably noticed that I like to offer advice and encouragement to other people that I hope will help them in some way. However, one of the most valuable pieces of advice I could ever share with another person who is trying to love themselves is to talk to others about it. Don’t go through this journey alone, and allow people who care about you to help you, even if it’s just one person. It doesn’t need to be a therapist either; go to your sister, your best friends, a parent, or whomever you feel most comfortable being vulnerable with. You deserve to love yourself, so talk about it. 

Setting Your Own Agenda

Recently, I began a book called “The Moment of Lift” by Melinda Gates. If you are familiar with Bill Gates, you are probably aware of his powerful presence in modern technology and how he invests countless hours and insane amounts of money on giving back. More specifically, he attempts to give everyone he can the power of technology. However, his wife, Melinda Gates, plays just as an important, if not a more important role, within their organization. Her book is about women empowerment and how, through her endeavors in philanthropy, she has discovered the only way to truly save a community is by lifting women up.

A few days ago, I was reading her book while sitting in my dorm room when I came across the quote, “If you don’t set your own agenda, somebody else will.” After my eyes ran across the sentence, I hopped out of bed, wrote it down on a piece of stationery paper, and hung it up on my wall. As I stared at this sentence, I couldn’t help but feel as though it was staring right back at me. At the top of my stationery paper, my name is printed across each piece in blue cursive lettering which made this moment even more intimate. I began to read it more like, “Laine, if you don’t set your own agenda, somebody else will.”  But what does this really mean?

Most human beings have the tendency to get caught up in the “Herd,” if you will. The Herd includes the people who get walked on by others. They are the people spending their weekdays at a mundane job in a cubicle, and they are the people who go to college and don’t study something that they are actually passionate about but rather something that will provide a safe source of income. The Herd is made up of the people who let life happen to them rather than them taking on life. Although there are a lucky few who don’t get sucked into this greywater stream, that is how the majority operates. That is how most of our parents are, as well as our siblings and ourselves. But this only happens because we forget that we have the power.

Since the beginning of mankind, humans have had the power to create. When humans needed a way to tell stories, they engraved cave walls with images of dancing humans fighting a buffalo, and when humans needed warmth, they created fire. That drive and willingness to create lives in each person around us. The people who are brave enough to set their own agenda, even on just a day-to-day basis, are the ones who are in touch with that inner power to create. Being in touch with your capability allows you to sit down in front of your planner, calendar, or whatever you use to organize and plan out everything that you want to do that day. It allows you to be your own boss and to take control of your life by seeing and doing the things you always said that you wanted to. 

For me, coming across this quote was a wake-up call. I’ve struggled a lot in my life by doing what other people want me to do or acting the way that other people want me to act. Although it can be hard at times, it feels liberating to be able to lie down in bed at night and think to myself that I spent my day the way I wanted to spend it. Although I can’t say that it is a completely true statement because if I was really doing what I wanted to do I would be running through the streets of some crazy city in a completely different country or at the top of a mountain taking in an expansive view. However, for a freshman in college with no car, being able to reflect on my day and getting to say that I sat at my favorite spot on campus and read my book, feels good enough. Hopefully one day I will continue to create my own agenda, and I’ll be able to lie down in bed and think to myself how liberating it feels to say that I ran through the streets of some foreign city earlier that day. 

Taking Control of Gray

The color gray has invaded Athens. Nearly every morning I have woken up and the sky has been gray, the sidewalk has been wet, and a piercing wind has ripped through my winter coat. Stress had taken over my week and the gray sky only seemed to heighten my concerned, anxious self. A few days ago, as I walked from class to class, I couldn’t help but wonder how on earth could I bring some color into such a dreary January day. Then, as I walked up Court Street, I noticed a colorful parking meter, and the voice in my head went, “Art!” So, I sat down in my favorite café, pulled out my journal, and began to draw.

Stress is an overwhelming feeling that everyone experiences and nearly everyone’s stress seems to grow when everything around them is monochromatic and dull. The best advice I have for anyone who is attempting to try and figure out how to cope with these seemingly sluggish days is to pick up a pen and create. We often get so caught up in all of the tasks listed in our planners that we forget how to use pen and paper for fun. Being creative, no matter if you’re an actual artist or just someone like me who doodles in the margins of your paper, can release your brain from everyday stress. It also provides splashes of color during a rather dim day. Whether it’s stealing paint from your RA in order to create a masterpiece with friends (I may or may not know from experience) or just using the blue and red pens sitting at the bottom of your backpack, color can come into your day in a form that you may not have expected.

Carving out the time to sit down and draw or paint something you find wonderful, will make the world feel a little less big and a little brighter. The pictures featured within this post are all things I have created either alone or with the help of some friends and they have all been made on days when our window panes were painted gray. As you can tell, I am not the best artist in the world, but it certainly makes me feel better when I pretend to be! The next time you need color in your day, open up to the back of a notebook and scribble something that you find great, and feel some weight come off your shoulders.

Welcoming in Uncertainty

Illustration by Rukmini Poddar, Instagram handle @rockinruksi

In the midst of the busy first month of the new year, many people, college students especially, find themselves facing the fear of uncertainty. I especially relate to this overwhelming sense due to my lack of knowledge in what I want to do with my life career-wise or how I have too many dreams that feel I need to achieve but have no idea how I will ever get there. 

Uncertainty is an old friend that everyone seems to share but it only comes knocking at our doors in waves. For many, these “waves” come at times where we feel the most change. This is oftentimes at the end of a year, when we move to new cities, or on birthdays. I recently came across an image on Instagram by the artist, Rukmini Poddar (Instagram handle @rockinruksi), in which a man is staring into a large, approaching being as he utters the sentence, “Welcome, my old friend, Uncertainty.” To me, this is a perfect depiction of how many college students feel but no one outright says it.

I am a freshman here at Ohio University, and I am constantly surrounded by people — like my boyfriend, friends, or mentors — who seem absolutely certain. They seem so set on what they want to do in life, and they appear to already have the connections to get an internship. It even seems like they are already set on what they want for lunch tomorrow! I am an indecisive person and I have been my entire life. My mom has always laughed at me because I have too many hobbies to count but now, I have no idea how to use any of those hobbies to get an actual job. Is there a major for collecting snow globes? Nope! 

However, my point is that I am constantly uncertain about a lot of things in life. I have no idea where I will end up, what my career will be, or even, what I will be eating for lunch today. But the catch is, no one else does either. I have had to be told this a lot in this first year of college, but even though I am surrounded by people who won’t switch their major, who seem like they have already found their reason for being put on this Earth, those people are just as uncertain as I am. My birthday recently passed and the entire day, the large figure named Uncertainty consumed my shadow. I tried to turn my head away from it, to block it out, but then I scrolled past that image by Rukmini Poddar on my feed and I turned around and welcomed Uncertainty with open arms. If you are uncertain about something in life right now, don’t hide from it, don’t pretend you are certain. Embrace the fact that you may not know where or what your next endeavor will bring you. Focus on things that you are certain about and go from there. Remember that no one is certain about where they’re going or their future in general for that matter. It is okay to be uncertain. In fact, it’s probably better than actually knowing where you’re going. Although it can feel beyond frightening, there is something so exciting about stepping into the unknown. Your uncertainty will lead you to somewhere brilliant — all you need to do is welcome it.