Live from France: Part II

Live from France: Part II

Today’s post is about an expat’s perspective on what is happening in her own country.

*Deep inhale*

Let me preface with this: I am not here to talk about politics. I am here to share what I have seen and heard from across the pond. (Which, if you want to talk politics or culture, we could totally do that privately. I’ve drawn some interesting comparisons between the French and American systems of government since being here.)

To give you an idea of where I’m coming from, let me give some context. Many of my close friends and almost all of my family live in the Southeast of the United States. I have some other friends scattered in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest, but I haven’t had the chance to talk with them at length about their current situations/cities/state government officials. More context: I enjoy reading the New York Times, Ouest-France, and the Morning Brew emails I get every morning. I listen to NPR and Franceinfo, but I try to also take in a variety of news sources, even if I recognize the bias (I expose myself to Vox, Fox News, HuffPost, etc…).

“Wait, Wait, Wait… What?” My exact words.

I’ve got to be honest. Americans have made me laugh more than a handful of times during the lockdown-that-isn’t-really-a-lockdown and stay-at-home orders that are more of suggestions. The CDC has also made me laugh by how much it has gone back and forth on information that is being dispersed. I try to give them the benefit of the doubt (sometimes) though. I mean, after all, it is a relatively new disease that people are still working to understand. Everyone is scared. No vaccines. Lots of weird symptoms. Et cetera.

Quite frankly I still search for the words to explain my feelings.

Disbelief? Apathy? Shock? Anger? Fear? Sadness? I’m not quite sure. It’s almost like watching a car wreck happen. It’s so horrible, but you can’t look away.

I’m seeing so many people spreading misinformation. Like, sooo many people. Things that are not just a matter of opinion. Straight up false information. No, a mask does not activate the virus in your body…

From what I have observed thus far, media outlets in America seem to be discussing the politics behind the pandemic.

No surprises there.

In college I did a very small content analysis comparing the writing styles and framing methods between French and American newspapers and found that American media is significantly more political than French media. (I can show you my paper if you’re interested.)

Long story short.. Bref, as the French say. Because I love journalism so much, I’m gonna shift the focus of this post to ……

The Rise of Citizen Journalism (plus some pros and cons)

Citizen journalism became exceedingly popular with the rise of the internet. And for good reason.

Citizen journalists are great. Don’t get me wrong. They are important (especially in the age of technology). It’s really a new avenue for people to see more of what’s going on around the world.

Problem is, citizen journalists and even some freelance journalists do not have access to resources needed for good, well-balanced reporting. Journalism requires people/interviews and records, records, records, records (did I mention how important records are?) So yes, we need to see the live videos of people showing what’s going on in their supermarkets and communities. But we need more.

“…Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” Thomas Jefferson’s words should not be forgotten in times such as these. Especially those who claim to love our country, I’d advise you brush up on the history of it.

You might not like this but…

This is not “the worst America has ever been.” It is a bad time, yes. I do want nor attempt to diminish the current evils. But please, please, please stop saying this is the worst time ever in the history of our country or making extreme comparisons like our country is similar to modern-day Nazi Germany. Because it was a lot more like Nazi Germany when we decided to stick Japanese American CITIZENS in literal detention centers, robbing them of their homes.

I guess my conclusion is this: Watching what is going on from the other side of the world, I know that I only get a piece of the pie, so to speak. I see a sliver of the reality. The truth is, there are multiple realities being lived out in our country in this moment.

Here’s a little visual to help explain what I mean.

The small portion I do see, however, is very disappointing and quite frankly disheartening. I’m hoping this is just a phase in American society, and that it will pass as quickly as it came. But then again culture and mindsets are not changed quite so easily. The double-edged sword of an idea. I suppose time will tell what will happen.

SOOOOThis is probably the most important paragraph of this blog post: I know it’s a touchy subject. But as I often say, this is my blog, and I post what I want. I take responsibility for my words, so I have no problem with you taking responsibility for yours and voicing your opinions! I also realize I may not be “right” (correct or accurate), and I give myself the opportunity to change my opinions and perspectives when I acquire new knowledge. That’s the beauty of growth and learning. We will not grow unless you also share with me. So, if you’d like to leave a comment, take comfort in the fact I will not respond to debate or argue with you. Thank you for reading.

Got ideas for what I should ramble about next? Comment below!

So, What Do We Do If Uncertainty Is Our Destiny?

So, What Do We Do If Uncertainty Is Our Destiny?

I have this Spotify playlist.

“Listen kid, your life is about to change forever.”

The description of the playlist is as follows: just take a breath and enjoy the now. watch the sunset from your porch and take night drives down the highway and remember who you are in this very moment. you will never get this back.

Turns out I was right about the title. Life did change. Drastically.

One year ago today I graduated college, so sure that if I could simply secure a career path, I would never deal with uncertainty again. (Please join me in laughing at this naïve child…)

One year ago I drove down the freeway in Tennessee, blasting my Spotify playlist and crying until the street lights became blurry. Today I listen to the same playlist in my apartment in France, feeling the same emotions yet unable to bring myself to tears (not for lack of want).

Will I carry this feeling with me year after year?

Change + Uncertainty = ???? (Depends on who you ask.)

Change and uncertainty have defined my first year out of college. The result to this equation? Gratitude. The divine beauty of the path I am on has never been more apparent to me. I am so grateful for the experiences and (more importantly) the people I have encountered. These precious souls I never would have known if I had not, one year ago, taken a leap of faith and stepped out of my comfort zone into a place I wasn’t sure I wanted to be.

I realize that almost every single thing I wanted a year ago never worked out. The jobs I applied for, the relationships I pursued, everything. Looking back, I am so thankful for that. I learned so much during that time–lessons that have become invaluable to me.

I learned to find value in myself and others. That we are all a mix of sinful humans and creatures created in the glorious image of God.

I learned to let open myself up to love and vulnerability. And I learned that true love (on our part) demands the uncertainty of reciprocity.

If I had not been honest with myself, pushed myself and trusted that God would work in my life despite my own failures, I have no doubt that I would not be where I am.

Perhaps uncertainty is the path we must tread in order to live with an open heart and true faith. There are so many things we cannot and will not ever know, so we must be open. Thus in the midst of these same emotions, I will remember this one certainty: I have a peace that “surpasses all understanding.”

On Pain

On Pain

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.”

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

When I was in 3rd grade, my friends and I would play on this weird thing at recess. They were like spinning monkey bars, with three big, rotating rings. You climbed up, jumped onto the first ring, swung your body to jump on to the second, and so on. We would all see who could go the fastest, do the most tricks, and even swing their legs up onto the rings while spinning.

One day I decided that I wanted to try and jump to the second ring instead of the first. I was ready to up my game. Plus, my best friend could do it, so surely I could.

The problem was that my best friend was probably 5′ 2″ at the time, and I was probably 3′ 2″. However, my blissful ignorance completely blocked out any fear I had, and I was determined. So I climbed up to the little ledge, got on my tip toes, and took a deep breath.

I completely missed.

Like, not even close.

I was a dramatic child, but I could have sworn I broke my wrist. I was lying in the mulch, crying and screaming. No bones were broken, just a little bruising. But all I remember was that it hurt.

That’s a silly example. But the hurt we all experience in our day-to-day lives isn’t quite as silly as a tiny little girl thinking she could defy the laws of physics. For some, the hurt is constant. For others, it is sporadic. It is intense, it is mild, it is a mix of many things. And yet, we all have one thing in common in the midst of our hurt: avoidance.

Humanity has avoided pain since the beginning of time. Which is somewhat funny, because pain is the only indicator of something being wrong in our lives. If humans could not feel pain, a toddler could very possibly burn its hand off the first time it touches a flaming hot stovetop. If humans could not feel pain, we may not realize when we are really sick. Sometimes pain is the one thing that keeps a human physically aware of his need for something to be fixed.

And if we could not feel pain or loss or heartbreak, happiness would most likely mean nothing to us.

Pain isn’t bad in and of itself. Just like anger or sadness isn’t bad. Pain–whether physical or emotional–is merely a symptom or sign of something else. I would argue that not only is pain not bad, pain is necessary. We must use it to carve out the bad and make room for more goodness. I can’t really word it eloquently, so check out a couple quotes from people who can.

“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart.” -Fyodor Dostoevsky

“The great art of life is sensation, to feel that we exist, even in pain.” -Lord Byron

“It’s better to feel pain than nothing at all. The opposite of love is indifference.” -The Lumineers

“In most cases what Epicurus said should help: that pain is neither unbearable nor unending, as long as you keep in mind its limits and don’t magnify them in your imagination.” -Marcus Aurelius

Obviously, this is not some revolutionary idea or even theory developed by a philosopher/scientist/theologian/etc. This is the mere “research” of a woman who is longing to learn and grow. And on my journey, I am learning to stop running from pain.

The Lost Art of Emailing

The Lost Art of Emailing

Isn’t the email a wonderful thing?

E-mail. Electronic mail.

A beautiful concept, if you ask me. Britney Spears even wrote a song about it.

The 1990s, like, totally wowed everyone with the fastest form of communication available. And yet, in the year 2020, emailing is a controversial topic.

Some people love it. And some people hate it. There is no in between.

You sit down to the computer, mind focused, pointer fingers on the respective “f” and “j” keys. Typing class has nothing on you now because you can type 93 words per minute (true story). You crack your knuckles and begin typing. The words flow from your mind to your fingertips, and you’re lost in the current one-sided conversation you’re having.

E-mails are so versatile. They can be casual. They can be formal. They can be fun. They can be serious. Case in point below.

“omg hey grl !!! gr8 to hear from u! hope ur doing well, miss ya ilylas 🙂 ~~”
-2011 me

“To Whom It May Concern, I have recently read and dissected your article about the origins of human inequality, and I concede that your results are truly insightful. May you be so kind as to share them with me for the purposes of an article I am writing? Cordially,”
-2020 me

See? Beautiful. I can change my tone, the register of language, and my expressions. (Plus, my handwriting is tragic, so a typed letter is better for anyone involved.)

I know what you purists are saying.

I, too, am a fan of letter writing. But let’s be honest, sometimes it takes a little too long.

So, some of my close friends and I have opted to email each other our letters instead. It’s more practical in a quarantine age where touching anything requires immediate disinfecting.

How do you feel about emailing? Are you an avid emailer ? A person who leaves their inbox with 30,000 unread emails (Mom…)? Someone who prefers another form of communication? Perhaps write me an email to answer these questions.

P.S. Here’s the Britney song. E-mail My Heart, baby.

How to Give Yourself a Philosophical Crisis during Quarantine: A Memoir

How to Give Yourself a Philosophical Crisis during Quarantine: A Memoir

“I don’t think anyone can grow unless he’s loved exactly as he is now, appreciated for what he is rather that what he will be.”

Mr. Rogers

Hello again. *sighs*

Another week is over.

Only a few more to go before I get to very, very slowly move back into a normal life routine (unless this is the new normal?). This week had me searching for intellectual stimulation, only to mentally exhaust myself from seeking out too many questions that are often left unanswered. A few nights ago, I wrote in my journal the following confession:

“If nothing else, I’ve realized that the road to truth (in my mind, at least) is a lonely and narrow one. I feel my mind losing strength under the weight of all the overwhelming questions. Does your heart long for something more? It must. It must. If it does not, either it is not beating or you are not searching hard enough.

I’m not quite sure to whom I was posing that question. I do know, however, it was not to myself because I have evidence that I am longing for something more. In many ways, I have already discovered and know what it is. Yet there is still much to learn, and I have expended almost all my mental resources this week trying to understand a variety of topics.

So, let’s discuss. As I told my best friend in an email last week, “I’m just trying to hear more opinions. I’m tired of my own.”

Media Consumption in the Age of Quarantine

It’s times like these I am very happy that I was part of the School of Journalism and Communication because I was afforded the tremendous opportunity to study media, media trends, the history as well as future implications of media outlets. Simply put, the word media refers to the plural form of medium–a way to convey or express. In society at large, media often refers to the collective outlets of mass communication (newspapers, websites, radio, television, etc.).

Social media is a different thing entirely. Social media refers specifically to “forms of electronic communication (such as websites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (such as videos).” My blog, therefore, is a social medium. My Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are all social media.

A newspaper is not social media. A newspaper is a medium and a form of media outlet. Just for clarification.


I was thinking about what media teaches us and how it teaches us. Are we powerless in the clutches of media moguls, as many Facebook moms seem to think we are? Do we–the consumer, the collective society, the individual–shape the media? Is it an equal give and take? (I seriously miss my Mass Communication and Society class right now. I’m lookin’ at you, Professor Natalia.) These questions have the ability to be answered, but the lines certainly aren’t clear cut. And that’s kind of the beauty of it?

Podcasts are really a cool, new form of communication. People can share thoughts without having to go through production houses, and small communities are created from various walks of life, which gives us an opportunity now more than ever to be conscious consumers of media.

But can we admit that it’s also overwhelming? There are so many. SO MANY PODCASTS. I mean, just go to Spotify right now and try to find one that specifically draws your attention and intrigues you within the next five minutes. I have the hardest time doing that because the tyranny of choice is too real for me.

And thus I’ve never really been a podcast person. I wish I was. After all, they’re pretty hip right now. But I almost always opt for music or, if I have a car, the radio (yes, I love the radio). Anyway, I have decided to venture out into the podcast world during this quarantine, hoping to garner some insight as to why I should continue listening to podcasts. There are a couple podcasts I have tried. I listened, in its entirety, to Up and Vanished Season One. I’ve listened to Throughline from NPR, an episode of On Being, and from time to time I listen to France Culture’s “Les chemins de la philosophie.”

Which brings me full circle to this week and the theme that followed me everywhere. It was in my morning devotions. It was in the movies I watched. It was in the stream of my unconscious thoughts. And in the podcast episode I listened to yesterday.

The episode was called “L’amour” and it was featured on France Culture’s “Les chemins de la philosophie.” Pour ceux qui aimeraient l’écouter, voici le lien. Sorry to my anglophone friends, you’re out of luck (unless you’d like to test your French comprehension. Then listen away!).

What Is Love? (Baby, don’t hurt me.)

Ahhh, love.

The thing that completes some people and completely undoes others.

The thing that drives people to madness and murder and love-making and acts of kindness to strangers.

Love is a fascinating thing. It is undoubtedly at its root a divine thing, being that God is love.

And every single philosopher has something to say about it. Which is precisely what the podcast episode discussed. The episode itself had a great setup, with high school students asking questions to college professors with Masters and PhD’s in philosophy. And yet, the professors had the hardest time answering these questions.

Whew. That makes me feel better.

Philosophers have been searching for answers to the simplest questions since the beginning of time. Because the thing about simple questions, is that they are rarely ever as simple as they seem.

After listening to the podcast, here are some quotes I found interesting from various philosophers. I’ll put the high schoolers’ questions below as well, in order to give you some context. (Disclaimer: I did very little research after listening, except to see more writings of the specific philosophers mentioned in the episode. I know, however, that many more names and quotes can be discussed.)

Question 1: L’amour fait-il le bonheur ? A-t-on besoin de se sentir aimé pour être heureux ?   
Does love make people happy? Does one need to feel loved in order to be happy?

To that, we find Spinoza’s response in his book Ethics (more specifically in part three, proposition 13). “Love is nothing but joy with the accompanying idea of an external cause. / L’amour est la Joie, accompagnée de l’idée d’une cause extérieure.” We also see in Michel de Montaigne’s essays a recurring theme of love in the context of friendship.

Question 2: Est-il nécessaire d’aimer ou peut-on se satisfaire de notre amour propre ?                      
Is it necessary to love or can one be satisfied with their own self-esteem?

This question was answered with a quote from Rousseau. Here it is in French. “Il ne faut pas confondre l’amour propre et l’amour de soi-même; deux passions très différentes par leur nature et par leurs effets. L’amour de soi-même est un sentiment naturel qui porte tout animal à veiller à sa propre conservation et qui, dirigé dans l’home par la raison et modifié par la pitié, produit l’humanité et la vertu. L’amour propre n’est qu’un sentiment relatif, factice et né dans la société, qui porte chaque individu à faire plus cas de soi que de tout autre, qui inspire aux hommes tous les maux qu’ils se font mutuellement et qui est la véritable source de l’honneur.”

Now English. “Amour-propre and amour de soi, two passions very different in their nature and their effects, must not be confused. Love of oneself [amour de soi] is a natural sentiment which inclines every animal to watch over its own preservation and which, directed in man by reason and modified by pity, produces humanity and virtue. Amour propre is only a relative sentiment, artificial and born in society, which inclines each individual to have a greater esteem for himself than for anyone else, inspires in men all the harm that they do to one another, and is the true source of honor.”

And then, of course, there is also Plato’s Symposium and the Myth of Aristophanes. You see how it’s really quite a lot to think about? How all these brilliant minds have something to say and how I am drowning in the sea of their words? Surely, you must now better understand my exhaustion.

I conclude this blog post with a very simple thought. I think it is a beautiful thing that we have minds to think deeply and curiously about the core of our human experience.

May we never lose to the desire to learn. It is one of the few glimmers of hope in this world for growth and change.

That was a long read. If you made it to the end of this, I would assume you like philosophy or sharing ideas (or maybe you just wanted to mock me, who knows). In any case, I’d love for you to comment your favorite philosophers, quotes, or any other small contribution you’d like to make to my little online community. And check out my other latest blog posts! They’re much more light-hearted, I promise.

Five Delicious Recipes to Try if You’re Tired of Making Bread

Five Delicious Recipes to Try if You’re Tired of Making Bread

I’m just going to call the next few blog posts my quarantine diaries. Because they basically are. So prepare yourself for quarantine diary #1:

Kristen is now a foodie. Une petite gourmande, if you will.

I know, I know. I never thought I’d live to see the day. I mean, for the first 12 years of my life I didn’t like any food that wasn’t Ramen noodles or peanut butter sandwiches. I was really that picky… ask my mother. As the years have gone on, however, I’d like to think I’ve grown out of it. I like almost any type of food now (except seafood and pizza. Ew. I will never like those two things, I promise you.)

I mentioned in my blog post last week that I have tried making so many types of bread while in quarantine (I also made pasta from scratch thanks to a dear, proudly Italian friend). I realized that cooking is definitely both an art and a science (don’t even get me started on French cuisine…), but I never thought I could be so interested in how to properly store vegetables or how certain spices mix perfectly. Cooking has become both a hobby and a stress reliever for me.

Though I still enjoy baking bread, I’ve decided to expand my horizons a little bit. And if you’re tired of making a sourdough loaf or the easiest Pinterest bread recipe you can find, here are some other ideas.

Crunchwrap Supreme : I made this for the first time the other night, and it satisfied a craving I didn’t even know I had. Why have normal tacos or burritos when you could make a crunchwrap? Pair this dude with a nice homemade guac or salsa for a slightly healthier rendition (and no, it’s won’t cost you an extra $0.99).

Crunchwrap courtesy of Pinch of Yum.

Mediterranean Sheet Pan Chicken with Homemade Tzatziki : Can someone say YUM? I don’t know if I have ever tasted a better chicken marinade. It’s so simple, so delicious, and so fresh. The best part is how versatile it is! Make it carb-free, dairy-free, or have allllllll the yummy ingredients you want!

Chicken Tikka Masala : This just might be my ultimate comfort food (besides mac n cheese). The process is kind of long, but the result is a well-earned and not insanely unhealthy meal! The velvety coconut sauce is so delicious. (pair it with a homemade naan if you’re really feeling adventurous!)

Chicken Tikka Masala courtesy of 40Aprons.

Power Bowls: Read that again. One more time. What do you think of? That’s it. Whatever you think of. Throw it in a bowl, and it’s a power bowl. Obviously, you want to stick to ingredients that are relatively healthy (I normally do quinoa, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, and a hummus or other creamy sauce). Experiment with different veggies, grains, and even add some protein if you don’t want it to be a vegetarian meal.

Greek Sheet Pan Chicken courtesy of Pinch of Yum.

Falafel : This was a tricky one, not going to lie. It took hours to get the batter right (and I’m still perfecting the crispiness since I don’t have a fryer). If you’re up for a challenge, try making this yummy Middle Eastern staple. Adjust the amount of ingredients to fit your needs, and even though she says you need dry chickpeas, you can get by with canned. Pair with couscous, pita bread and/or veggies.

I think I’m going to try tackling a shakshuka recipe next… For now, I’ve got to go get a snack because this blog post made me hungry. Until next time.

What are your favorite recipes? Are you a baking/cooking enthusiast now or are you missing restaurants right about now? Let me know if you try any of these! For more recipes, check out some of my favorite foodies below!

Kennedy Haffner
Pinch of Yum
Christina Robinson

P.S. None of the photos are mine. They come from the original creators of these delicious meals. All credit to them, for both the food and the photography.

The New Normal

The New Normal

I was watching Seinfeld last night with my roommate. (I’ve been trying to convince her it’s the greatest show ever, but you know, these things take time.) “Stop, Jerry, don’t touch your face! You’re on the subway,” we laughed. “This was definitely in a pre-quarantine life.”

I paused.

A pre-quarantine life.

I had just admitted it. That things have changed. Things are not what they used to be. Life feels different now.

There’s been a sense of it lingering in the air since this all started, but my fears were confirmed when that statement left my mouth. Will things ever go back to normal? Is this the death of the handshake? The hug? La bise? (Noooo!!)

Photo courtesy of

My mind is so scattered. I feel like I barely even remember what life was like before all of this. I’m living in a bubble, belonging neither to country nor city nor even community. Going to the grocery store is exceedingly stressful, leaving the house is more of a hassle than a thing to be enjoyed, and life being entirely virtual is something I only read about in dystopian novels from the 1940s. But it’s real.

We all know that even when country borders are reopened, when work starts back, when people are allowed to go out in public freely, things will not be the same. I would argue that it will not be the same for a very, very long time. Can we truly be prepared for how this might impact our communities in the long run? What will be the emotional, psychological and even philosophical response in our communities and nations?

The Coronavirus Culture

It’s no secret that people have been slightly panicky since the rise of the novel coronavirus. Fear creeps into our minds as grocery store shelves empty. We hear talk of not enough testing, not enough food supply, not enough, not enough, not enough…

What’s scary about this collective fear is how difficult it is to break the cycle of it. It’s like a cement that hardens into the crevices of society, leaving no room for any other way of thinking. It soon becomes all we know and all we project to know going forward.

We’ve stopped nearly all forms of face-to-face interaction (or at least, most people have). We are cautious of germs and people being too close to us, and some people even freak out when someone sneezes in public. Clinical psychologist Steve Taylor discusses current coronavirus culture in an interview with Discover Magazine. “Fears will wax and wane depending on what happens. There was a spike in fear when the [World Health Organization] started using the “p” word — pandemic. That caused a spike in people’s anxiety,” Taylor said.

Though fear is prevalent and understandable, we cannot let it control us. If we do, we run the risk of falling into a worldwide groupthink.

Groupthink and the psychology behind pandemics

Groupthink is the psychological concept in which individual members of “small cohesive groups tend to accept a viewpoint or conclusion that represents a perceived group consensus, whether or not the group members believe it to be valid, correct, or optimal.” Groupthink essentially dumbs down the part of the brain that effectively problem solves, resulting in a weaker collective mindset rather than a stronger, individual one.

Combine this psychological phenomenon with a pandemic and what do you have? A perfect storm.

And yet, this storm must be weathered. How can we overcome this overwhelming epidemic of fear?

  1. Use perspective: When looking at statistics or reading articles, keep in mind the various populations, perspectives, sources and relevant information. Do not diminish the tragedy of the epidemic, but make the numbers or news more comprehensible and manageable in your brain.
  2. Feel your feelings: It might sound counterintuitive when you are trying to be logical, but give yourself a set amount of time per day to feel the fear, anxiety, anger and whatever else you feel. And after that time is up, it’s up. Move on to other activities. This will prevent you from letting those emotions seep into other important aspects of your life, such as your interpersonal relationships.
  3. Analyze: I cannot say this enough. Analyze your thoughts. Analyze your actions. Analyze others and the situations around you. Do not fall into the numbness of groupthink nor any other type of complacent thinking process. We simply cannot afford it in times like these.

So, humanity, this is our test. We either sink or swim. We either adapt to the new normal or we spend our lives in fear. How long do you think it will take for us to get back to a pre-COVID life? (I’m not sure that we ever will.)

How are you feeling during all of this? What questions have been on your mind? How are you handling this new way of life? I’d love to hear from you. Comment below! Stay safe everyone. For more articles related to psychology and pandemics and all that jazz, check out this one, this one or this one.

P.S. Please wash your hands thoroughly and regularly, even after all of this is over. I am shocked at how many people don’t do that???? (Including Poppie).

Quarantine Activities for Everyone!

Quarantine Activities for Everyone!

Ahhh yes, another day full of random activities I really never saw myself doing before this.

I sit on the couch, cup of coffee in hand, trying to plan out what I would like to do.

Being that I not have ample time on my hands, I’ve started so many new hobbies since all of this began. And I’ve made so. much. bread.

Scones, banana bread, naan, baguettes, you name it.

Here, look at all these attempts I made to be a food photographer!

Anyway, in my search for fun recipes, I stumbled upon a cool New York Times Travel article showing what people’s weekend plans were while in quarantine. So I wanted to do my own version. I asked my Instagram followers how they were handling this strange period of life, and here’s what they had to say.

“My moment outside the house is a daily walk in the park with my roommate. Live for those.”

“I work a lot.”

“Reading and running!”

“Obsessively trying to learn German on Rosetta Stone.”

“I’ve been planning out my career future as much as I can.”

“Been meditating, reading books, cooking and cleaning. Staying busy is key.”

“I’ve started streaming video games on Twitch and found a great community!”

“Some days it’s Animal Crossing all day, others I create videos for YouTube.”

“Watching a TON of movies, which I never do.”

“Writing excerpts for a book. And binge watching community and Alison Roman vids.”

“Netflix and baking.”

“Applying for a Fulbright Scholarship and Master’s program in Asian Studies.”

“Playing a lot of Angry Birds and cooking!”

See? We’re all kind of doing the same things. Cooking, baking, working out, working, studying, relaxing, stressing. It’s a giant conglomeration of everything all at once. Which is kind of fun? But kind of not? (But hey, it’s weirdly bonding for everyone.)

Happy quarantining!

P.S. I’d like to say thank you to all the health care workers that I know personally (and even those I don’t) for your continued hard work during this stressful time. You are all making such big sacrifices, and my prayers are with you.

Though distance separates us physically, I am in your corner. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you need any help. I am eager to provide whatever I possibly can, even if it’s a simple word of encouragement!

I meditated for 30 days. Here’s what I learned.

I meditated for 30 days. Here’s what I learned.

*Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional nor a psychologist. I am simply sharing my experience.*

It all started because I was curled up in bed one night, getting over some sort of stomach virus. I was sick of being sick. I couldn’t catch a break. And my anxiety was beginning to cripple me again, both mentally and physically.

I remembered “Eat, Pray, Love” and writer Elizabeth Gilbert’s meditation journey in India. The thought of meditating always intrigued me. I grabbed my phone and started looking up guided meditations on YouTube.

I chose a Christian meditation on anxiety and figured it would easily solve all my problems.

That’s what meditation does, right?

To my dismay, I was still outrageously anxious after the 10 minutes had passed. Not to mention that I could not stop thinking about literally every other thing in the world.

Come. On. Kristen.

Let’s try again.

I took a deep breath, opened another one and closed my eyes.

Nope. Not working.

What is wrong with me? Why can’t I concentrate?

A million questions suddenly flowed into my mind as I tried to empty it. I laughed at how paradoxical this entire situation was.

It was 1 a.m., and I was thinking about my meal plan for the next week.

That night, however, I made a promise to myself.

Stick to it for a month and see if it’s even worth it.

Is meditation just a fancy buzz word or some little scam created by self-help gurus? What does it even entail?

What is meditation?

The word meditation stems from the Latin meditatum (to ponder). Essentially, the word encompasses any technique used to practice mindfulness and improve focus or awareness. According to many historians, meditation was first documented through art in ancient Indian culture around 5,000-3,500 B.C. Though the earliest written records of meditation come from Hinduism, most religions have some form or fashion of a meditative practice. It is not, however, a solely religious practice today. Western meditation moved from a religious focus to a philosophical and even scientific focus beginning in the 18th century. A growing number of psychologists believe that meditation is very beneficial for stress-reduction and physical healing.

There are six well-known types of meditation: mindfulness, spiritual, focused, movement, mantra, and transcendental.

My Meditation Journey

I’ll admit that I didn’t do a ton of research before jumping into this. Based on the research I have now done, I would say I practiced a mix of spiritual and focused meditation. I chose to listen to Christian guided meditation videos on YouTube, with the exception of one or two focused breathing routines. Here’s a little glimpse into my brain during this whole process.

Week One

I’m super excited about this whole meditation thing. It feels trendy. It also feels like a solution to my problems. So I lay in bed every night, clutching my pillow, listening to some sort of guided meditation. I treat is as some social experiment. I’m determined to do this and I’m prepared to share my results with the world. My mind still isn’t focusing like I want, but I feel good for trying.

Week Two

Okay, scratch that. This is stupid. All this effort is proving to be futile. I don’t feel any different, and it feels like a chore. Also, I keep falling asleep during my nightly meditations… Oops. Not very good at this whole focus thing. I might just have to change up the routine. Or maybe I should forget this whole thing.

Week Three

Okay, now we’re meditating in the morning! I still don’t feel like doing it all the time, but I have better concentration this way. I change my pose. No more lying down. I sit up straight and do deep breathing exercises. My meditations become more scattered and distracted. I pray and desperately try to clear my mind to no avail. It seems like the harder I try, the more my thoughts fight back.

Week Four

My brain still has a hard time sitting still, but I definitely can feel a difference. I can bring my focus back to the rise and fall of my chest with each breath. My prayers are less desperate. Time seems to pass quickly. When I close my eyes, I feel like I’m not even in my bedroom anymore. My inner monologue quiets as I appreciate the silence and stillness.

Final Reflections

I started out this whole thing near tears, covered in blankets, clutching a pillow. Reflecting back on that night, I think it was a symbol of how afraid I was of opening my heart to anything. Now I meditate on the edge of my bed, eyes closed, hands out. 100% still. Furthermore, meditation is now part of my daily routine.

Yes, I am still in quarantine and currently have plenty of time to meditate.

Yes, I know a mere 30 days of meditation is nothing compared to those who spend their lives doing it.

But I do plan to incorporate this practice into my life going forward.

It helps prepare me for the day, mentally, physically and emotionally. I feel so much more refreshed if I take even 15 minutes to meditate in the morning.

I guess my main takeaway from it all (thus far) is that it is so evident to me that my soul is longing for another place.

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

Got questions? Comment below! If you meditate regularly, I would be interested to hear your routine.

I’m not a good friend… But then again, are any of us?

I’m not a good friend… But then again, are any of us?

And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Friendship seems like a skill or topic I was never really keen on. I’m not really sure why. It’s something I am still learning about.

Yes, I had to learn how to be a good friend.

Don’t we all? I don’t know. Some people seem to be born with it. All these questions hit me when I found a quote about friendship from “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran:

“And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit. For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.

And let your best be for your friend.
If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also.
For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?
Seek him always with hours to live.
For it is his to fill your need but not your emptiness.

And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”

What is a friend?
What is true friendship?
How do we choose friends and why?
How are friendships so complex and yet so simple?

Pretty sure it was Voltaire (or another French philosopher) who said that friendship is like a garden to be cultivated. And it makes sense. Humans are pretty selfish creatures (the paradox being that we equally crave human connection), so we have to learn to give to others.

But I think that is precisely what makes friendship so beautiful. The sacrifice. The deepening of the spirit. The mutual care and cherishing. Even the Bible talks about the beauty of friendship. (I mean, look at Jesus and his disciples. The bond they shared was evident throughout the New Testament.)

“A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.” Prov. 17:17

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:12-13

So, in short, I’m still learning what it means to be a friend. A good friend. One who is willing to fill the needs of others, not their emptiness.

What is friendship to you? Would you consider yourself a good friend? I’d love to hear your thoughts, if you want to leave a comment below.

Until my next existential crisis,