In the end, it really does matter…

I wasn’t always the happy go lucky girl I am today. Growing up, most of what others knew of me was a facade. I would wake up with the weight of the world on my shoulders, pull up my big girl pants, and go out and face the day. On the surface, there were no red flags that would make someone think, “Hey, that girl is dealing with some serious shit.” In fact, I’d be the one you’d pick out of a crowd that seemingly had it all together. That’s the thing about mental health, it comes in all shapes and sizes. The happy, the sad, the A+ student, the football player, the female, the male… Everyone is vulnerable.

There’s no such thing as a mental health check up, but there should be.

We take care of our physical health, our dental health, our gynecological health… why is it so hard to take care of our mental health? I’ll tell you why. Because sometimes, we don’t even know that there’s a problem. Sometimes, we’re so deep within our own issues that we become blind to life outside of them. Sometimes, the mental health issues we’re dealing with aren’t even our own. We’re just experiencing the trickle down effect of living with someone who is depressed. Or has a problem with substance abuse. Or has a personality disorder. But we don’t feel like we can claim these problems as our own, so we sweep them under the rug and keep living surviving.

Other times, we’re fully aware that we’re not living a mentally sound life. It’s been said that awareness is therapy, but awareness alone is not enough. Sometimes awareness is just enough to scare the shit out of us. We’re aware that there’s a problem, but do not think that there is a solution. So we turn to drugs. Or self harm. Sometimes, when we want to escape the mental hell we’re living in, we pour all of ourselves into something that we love. Some people find solace in expression, so they turn to art. Or dance. Or music. After the release of “One More Light”, Chester Bennington said in an interview, “If it weren’t for music, I’d be dead. One hundred percent.”

I can’t tell you what the answer is, because each person has to find it within themselves. What I will tell you, though, is this is impossible to do on your own. Asking for help isn’t as easy as it seems. You may feel embarrassed or vulnerable. You may think your problem is way too big, and nobody could ever understand. You may think that no matter what you do, nothing will change. But I’d like to slap that sort of thinking out of your mind.

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If you take one thing out of this post, let it be this: you are not alone. There is so much living out there to be done, don’t spend your time on this earth trapped in a mental prison. You deserve so much more than that. There are so many people out there ready to help you, you just have to take that first step.

I spent some of the toughest days of my childhood listening to Linkin Park. Their music made me feel like I was not alone. Like I wasn’t the only one who could experience such anger. Such disappointment. Such raw emotion. Looking back, it makes me realize that Chester Bennington had to have put up one hell of a fight. My heart is truly saddened to hear the news of his death, but it saddens me even more to think of the internal struggle that he carried with him for 41 years.

After Chris Cornell’s suicide, Chester Bennington said, “I pray that you find peace in the next life.” I wish the same for you, Chester.

Things aren’t the way they were before
You wouldn’t even recognize me anymore
Not that you knew me back then
But it all comes back to me in the end.

Out There Brocial

In researching the social media behaviors of millennials, Lauren discovered that the need for positive online role models was just as important (if not, more!) for young men as it is for young women. She teamed up with four inspiring fellas, that embody the collective spirit of what it means to be a Millennial Male in today’s digital society. Follow Colby, Wes, Eric & George on their adventures out of their comfort zones and into the world. #outtherebrocial

Colby Jennings

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Eric Washington

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Wes Mantooth

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George Costi 

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The Beauty of a Daddy Issued Diva 

Father’s Day: A day to celebrate paternal bonds. What if these bonds have been broken, tampered, or never existed to begin with? Fatherless day is a bit more grim. It is not exclusive to those who have lost a parent, but also exists for those whose fathers are very much alive, but are not a part of their life. For the children of fathers who were there… but never really there. For the children of fathers who were around, but also brought a whirlwind of rainclouds and eggshells wherever they were. For the daughters who have never been “daddy’s little girl”, and roll their eyes at anyone who is.

The term “daddy issues” has such a negative connotation. Urban dictionary offers some synonyms; “slut, cougar, attention whore, bitch…” you get the idea. While the population of “daddy issued divas” may be a niche market, it is a population nonetheless. And, like any other population, stereotypes always come out to play. Unfortunately, the daddy issue stereotype is a hard one to be associated with. The second a guy finds out a girl’s dad isn’t in the picture… BAM! She must have some serious daddy issues.

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As a believer in Freudian theories, I can’t argue the importance of familial relationships in the development in personality, emotions, and future relationships. What I can argue, though, is that a damaged parental relationships doesn’t always lead to a broken person.

Here are 5 reasons why a Daddy Issued Diva is ultimately a stronger, more well rounded female;

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1. We have thick skin:

When the person who played a main role in creating you is the person who tries to break you down, you learn how to take criticism. I would often come home from school and consider myself lucky that I would never have to deal with bullies there– because I learned how to deal with the biggest bully in my own home. Yes, you read that correctly, I considered myself lucky. Call it delusional, call it reframing, but I’ll call it surviving. An empowered daddy issued diva understands that their biggest critic is themselves, so we consider our sources, and simply dust any unnecessary negativity off of our shoulders.

2. We say how we feel:

And we mean what we say. We’ve learned how to deal with our issues by discussing them (…thanks, therapy!). Bottling things up inside only leads to an explosion, and who wants to deal with that? We’ll write letters, draft blog posts, maybe even send a pigeon carrier to let you know how we feel. The trouble comes when these conversations land on deaf ears. But hey, we’re use to that.

3. We know better: 

When your baseline of comparison is an unfortunate one, you learn to raise the bar. We won’t settle for the shady characters of the world– because we’ve dealt with enough in our own home. I would rather be single for the rest of my life then settle for a relationship that is anything like the one my parent’s had. I learned by opposite example, which is a very difficult thing to do. During the worst of times my mom would tell me, “don’t do what I did.” I won’t, and you shouldn’t either. Never, ever ever ever allow anyone to make you feel like you’re not worth love and respect, because you are. 

4. We are appreciative: 

The little things count. Grand gestures are red flags, because we are use to them being distractions from the garbage that lies beneath the surface. You can’t put a price tag on a good relationship. People show their love in many different ways. In fact, receiving gifts is only one of the five love languages. In my experience, someone who only talks this language of love probably doesn’t have much love to give. However, the other four languages, (words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, and physical touch) are appreciated by daddy issued divas tenfold.

5. We are genuine: 

Knowing that we are “daddy issued” makes us vulnerable. In being in this position, the best way to carry on is to be 100% genuine in everything you say and do. My daddy issues are not something that I talk about frequently, but Father’s Day strikes a nerve for me. I cry every time I watch a father-daughter dance, because that type of love is one that I have never felt, or will ever feel. It is not the same sadness experienced by someone whose father has passed on from this world, for they can find some type of solace in their loving memories. My memories are clouded with sadness, criticism, control, insults, and downright anger. But, from darkness comes light. Although I will never be daddy’s little girl, I’ve got a strong family of boss ass women that are now capable of anything.

So, the next time you meet a Daddy Issued Diva, consider yourself lucky. Look at this girl with nothing but respect, because it is more than likely that she has been experienced a life that you never could imagine. To my Daddy Issued Divas out there– stay true to yourself, believe in the beautiful person that you are, and never settle for less than you deserve. And dad, if you happen to see this… I hope your day is mediocre at best.

 

Freedom

 

The internet has brought light to many different holidays, from National Donut Day to World Penguin Day and everything in between. Today, we’re honoring a holiday that has a far reaching significance to both groups and individuals.

April 27th is celebrated as Freedom Day in South Africa, commemorating the first post-apartheid elections in 1994. On the first anniversary of this holiday, Nelson Mandela stated,

“Few of us could suppress the welling of emotion, as we were reminded of the terrible past from which we come as a nation; the great possibilities that we now have; and the bright future that beckons us.”

The term freedom can mean different things to different people. For those who have never felt trapped, “freedom” is a broad word. To be free, unrestrained, unbound, allowed. But, for anyone who has lived under a grand sense of restraint, the meaning of the word freedom digs deeper. 

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Freedom is the oxygen of the soul.

When we are denied freedom, our growth as human beings is being stifled. Suppressed. Denied. For South Africans under the apartheid regime, freedom was determined by the color of your skin. In other instances around the globe, individuals are being denied their freedom of religion, freedom of speech, or freedom to marry the person they love. Bound by rules, laws, and judgements; there is a hell on earth that exists, and it is a life without freedom.

But freedom isn’t strictly systematic. Freedom, or lack there of, can exist in relationships. Abusive partners, denying their supposed loved one the freedom to enjoy life. To enjoy love. Preoccupations with materialistic wealth, or visions of success, rob an individual of the freedom to live their life in a way that is altruistic. Mental illness, denying their host-body the freedom of a clear mind.

Freedom isn’t free.

If you believe in something, you fight like hell for it. Nelson Mandela said, “As I walked out the door toward my freedom, I knew that if I did not leave all the anger, hatred, and bitterness behind that I would still be in prison.” Freedom begins within. You cannot conquer the outer world until you are free within the world that you have created for yourself. Your mindset. Your attitude.

As I sit here, and proudly practice my right to the freedom of speech, I think back on a life I once lived that wasn’t so free. It was a life of being controlled and manipulated, with freedom being the light at the end of the tunnel- but it always seemed too far to reach. But I fought, and I trekked, further and further, until I escaped the cage in which I was once held prisoner.

Today I celebrate my own freedom. I celebrate the freedom of my Mom, and my Sister. I celebrate the freedom of South Africans in their equality of voting rights. But mostly, I am celebrating the freedom of every single individual who knows what it feels like to fight like hell for what they know is right. What is just. What is free. 

I’m Not Done Yet. From Finstas to Finding Yourself

 

“Protopia is a state of becoming, rather than a destination.” – Kevin Kelly, The Inevitable. 

As I flip through my copy of “The Inevitable”, my mind wanders to the corners of its own protopia. Kevin Kelly describes it as a state that is better today than yesterday, although it may just be by a little bit. A Protopia is the realistic future we should be striving towards. It’s the unavoidable tomorrow that will arrive come sunrise…

As a working member of this technological society, I know first hand that we are morphing. We’re growing, expanding, and changing, every. damn. day.

You may be reading this and thinking, “duh.” We’re not static beings, but instead are multi-faceted humans with the capability to learn and morph with our environment… This is universally understood. However, how often do you stop and think about how our technological presence plays a part in all of this?

Maybe you’re one of those naysayers who believes that social media is the devil. Maybe you’re a child of the 00′s, who doesn’t know life without an online identity. Wherever you fall on this spectrum, we can all agree on one thing: the internet isn’t going anywhere. So, let’s come together & brainstorm ways to use these intertwined virtual networks to create a very real protopia.

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Unless you live under a rock, it is likely that you are a member of at least one social network. Whether its Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, or a blog platform like Tumblr- you have created a virtual portrayal of real life you. I had an interesting conversation with my 17 year old sister yesterday about this topic. She was talking about how important “aesthetic” has become, and the great lengths her peers will go through to completely scrap an old look to become something new. “Finstas” are being created, and for all y’all who aren’t in high school, these are fake instagram accounts used to post photos that you only want your close friends seeing. It’s not even a matter of these posts being nasty or offensive, these are typically just photos that don’t go with the users “real” insta aesthetic.

The question then becomes, what is real? 

If you scroll all the way down to my very first Instagram post, I’m still the same ol’ Lauren I am today. Just younger, and strapped with an iPhone 4. The core of a social media identity is to represent who you are, but in a virtual world. This is sort of a crazy concept to wrap your head around, so it does not come as a surprise to me that we’re running rapid with finstas and gym posts, when we haven’t once lifted a weight IRL.

On or offline, there is a (not so) simple solution to this: self awareness. 

How do you define yourself? How would you describe yourself to others?

When I was in 6th grade, I shopped at Hot Topic and listened to Good Charlotte. In 7th grade, I had a change of heart and style, and started shopping at PacSun. The middle school years are when you’re searching for your identity. Trying on different masks, seeing which one fits. If I had an Instagram back then, do you know how many punk rock princess posts I’d have to delete before setting foot in PacSun…

It is concerning to me that kids have to go through this process of finding and creating themselves with a smartphone permanently attached to their hip. Social media has become a window to the world, and rather than developing their own identities, we’re clinging to the identities of others. Everyone wants contoured skin, a million followers, and an A1 aesthetic… but are losing touch with their own reality in the process.

Don’t get me wrong, if anyone is a social media advocate – it’s me. But, I am not blind to its dangers, In fact, I’ve made it my life work to create an anecdote.

Educate

We’re always learning, whether we realize it or not. While scrolling though Instagram, you’re learning about the world. About what people ate for lunch. About protopias. Literally– anything and everything.

This classroom is an interesting one, though. With the exception of posts that are created with the intention of being educational, most users aren’t putting their content out there with the thought, “wow, someone is really going to learn something from this.” But we should. What if everyone on social media stopped and thought for a second, “what can people learn from this?” before hitting that – post – button? Unrealistic, I know. But this can be flipped. What if everyone on social media stopped and thought, “what can I learn from this?” as they are scrolling though online content. This type of open-mindedness and thirst for knowledge can lead to a more fully developed sense of self. Think about thinking. Don’t just get lost in the mindless clatter that social media can be.

Inspire

Perhaps content we see or post isn’t meant to teach a lesson, but instead has the power to spark someone’s imagination. At the core of the platform that I’ve created, Out There Social, my goal is to inspire others to leave their comfort zone. This is the fuel that ignites the fire of everything I capture, ponder, write, and share. This is why I do what I do. This is why I love social media. Because I can reach the masses with messages that are so near and dear to my heart. I left my comfort zone in the dust years ago, and have been virtually screaming from the rooftops for everyone else to do the same.

We must realize the power we have as social media beings. Anything you post online, is seen by someone. It may not be a crowd of millions, but an audience is an audience. You have the conscious choice to decide how you will use this virtual stage. You have the free will to portray yourself to this audience anyway you choose. Your best bet, be yourself. Easier said than done, when most of us have a hard time grasping who we are.

Think of yourself as an online source of inspiration. Use your voice to challenge others to think for themselves. Allow people to walk in your shoes, but give them the freedom to tie their own laces. Close your eyes an imagine your own protopia. Then, get out there and make it happen.