2020: The year of ‘Self’

Happy New Year, everyone!

I’m a little late to my 2020 theme post. Actually, I’ve been later. Did you notice I didn’t post one last year? Neither did I. I don’t even know if I had a theme in 2019, and it sure did prove to be a tough year for me.

Not only are we welcoming a new year—we are also welcoming a new decade. As I reflect on my life the past 10 years, I see tremendous growth: I met my husband, graduated with an undergraduate degree, traveled to places around the world, had many rewarding jobs, got married, got a cat, went to graduate school, won an alumni award, and rediscovered different hobbies like theater and avid reading and writing. Life has been good to me!

If there’s anything that I’ve learned this past decade, and continue to relearn, is my self-worth. It’s something we all have (not to be confused with self-esteem) and I’ve worked hard to combat those negative thoughts.

What I have noticed throughout the past year is that I have been super negative. From looking in the mirror and picking at my face, my body, and overall image, to writing and calling myself incompetent or worthless, I’ve really pushed myself down this year. I feel as if I can never say a good thing about myself. I’d like for that to change in 2020.

Writing a master’s thesis and starting a new job at the same time is extremely stressful, but they are both very positive things. I’ve become so stressed that I’ve been sick since October. I haven’t been eating well, and I haven’t exercised as much. It’s taken a toll. It’s time I start to become more positive and erase those negative thoughts that constantly swirl in my head telling myself that I am “not enough.” As a perfectionist, these thoughts occur often, and it is affecting my overall health and happiness.

In 2015, I learned that there is a key difference between resolutions and habits. Resolutions just don’t work. If you say you want to eat healthy, you aren’t really creating something that is SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based). If you really want to succeed in your goals for the next year, try to form habits.

In 2016, I took it one step further (all inspired by Gretchen Rubin, a happiness expert) and declared a theme for my year, which was Health. In 2017, I created a theme of Improve, and in 2018, my themes were Perform and Travel. This year, my theme is “Self.”

Coffee, Food, Drink, Hottest, Leaves, Winter, Cold

I was trying to find the perfect word to describe what I wanted to achieve this year, and I found that one of my friends has the same goals for 2020, calling 2020 the year of “Self.” So, inspired by her, that will be my theme!

Now, along with a theme, you must create goals that correspond with that theme. Then, you create SMART habits that will help you achieve your goals.

Here are my goals for Self:

GOAL: Become more mindful: Do you every feel as if your mind doesn’t stop? My mind has raced constantly and I cannot concentrate and complete everything on my to-do list.

Habit: To achieve mindfulness I will use my Stop, Breathe, and Think app once a day and meditate throughout the year.

GOAL: Be organized: From my full-time job and writing my master’s thesis to side gigs and a social life, I have found that I have lost touch with my organizational side (a side I took pride in). I want to be able to juggle all my tasks—from my blog and bookstagram posts (follow me @keepitkassual on Instagram) to my work meetings and academic projects.

Habit: Purchase a monthly/daily planner and a bullet journal and regularly update both items once a week, on Sunday mornings. Sundays will be your day to be organized for the week and start the work week recharged and focused.

GOAL: Prioritize fitness: This one is pretty straightforward. When I exercise, I am not only physically healthy, but mentally healthy. I am energized, confident, and can concentrate and complete my other tasks with a positive attitude.

Habit: Go to the gym 2-3 times a week, incorporating regular strength training with cardio (spinning on Saturdays or using the bikes at the gym on weeknights). I also plan on putting the gym in my planner to hold myself accountable and not move it if other things were to arise.

I am hopeful that these goals will be achieved this year! If I am mentally and physically healthy (mindfulness and exercise), I will feel organized and energized to complete my other tasks. I also hope to prioritize writing not only for my thesis and other academic projects and read slowly, enjoying the books I want to read rather than rushing through them. With the help of achieving these goals, I will truly be able to focus on myself—mind, body, and soul.

What about you? What are your “themes” or goals for 2020? Share in the comments below, and wishing you and yours a Happy New Year!

‘Mastering’ the thesis: A student’s journey

For those who don’t know, I am currently earning my master’s in English—a very rewarding and fulfilling area of study for me. It’s been a whirlwind these past two years; working full time and switching jobs all while going to school full time can be stressful!

My project has many layers, but to simplify it, it focuses on the female heroine in fantasy literature. The fantastic as a genre offers readers the opportunity to explore the impossible, and because of this, authors of this genre are able to introduce readers to worlds beyond our imagination.

The genre itself also opens up doors for protagonists to do what might not be as easy to do in reality. A heroine establishing their autonomy and fighting solely to save the world they live in has unfortunately not been a storyline commonly produced by authors from other genres throughout the centuries. That’s what I ultimately argue; the genre and its elements allow these heroines to be who they truly are.

Since I was a child, I’ve been drawn to fantasy simply because of its availability of heroines. From Lucy and Susan Pevensie to Coraline alike, I have always admired them and been inspired by their valor. Growing up and entering academia, it’s easy to say that feminist theory has been the foundation of my research and a number of research papers at the end of each semester.

So, I spent the summer reading the fantastic (doesn’t that sound awful? ;)). Here’s what I read:

-Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (reread) – Lewis Caroll

-The Princess and the Goblin -George MacDonald

-The Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis

-A Wrinkle in Time -Madeleine L’Engle

-His Dark Materials -Phillip Pullman

-The Hunger Games (reread) -Suzanne Collins

-The Harry Potter series (reread, focusing on the development of Hermione Granger) -J.K. Rowling

-Coraline (reread) -Neil Gaiman

After reading all of these books (and a billion pages of scholarly articles), I found something inspiring about the heroines depicted in these stories: they all control their narratives (except Meg from A Wrinkle in Time…did anyone like that series?).

I found, overall, that each heroine works to control their narrative in their story and rebel against forces working against them.

I immediately decided that this was my project, but I couldn’t write about every single heroine (at least not yet).

I decided to take a contemporary approach and focus on three beloved heroines: Lyra from His Dark Materials, Hermione from Harry Potter, and Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games.

After more research, I began to dive deeper. I soon discovered that these three heroines not only establish their autonomy in their stories, but they also bend their gender.

I then studied the topic of tomboys and concluded that each Lyra, Hermione, and Katniss display different tomboyish characteristics, therefore separating them from the regular heroine: Katniss, the hunter, and Lyra, the rascal, and Hermione, the bookish and unkempt.

Further, they all own their identities, and even if they sometimes represent femininity in their stories (Lyra being dressed up by her mother, Katniss being dressed up for the Games, or Hermione dressing up for the Yule Ball), they do it as a choice and perform femininity without losing their core, tomboyish essence. They remain in control throughout their stories.

The fantastic offers endless opportunity, and because of the genre, authors can bring these heroines to the forefront; these lovely, amazing, gender-bending, rebellious heroines that we all love so much.

I am now in the final stretch: writing my master’s thesis. This past month, I submitted my first chapter for review.

IMG_4620Right now, I am focusing on my Katniss chapter. I am very excited to write more about one of my favorite heroines (and arguably, one of society’s favorites). And, I’m even more excited to present my project on Katniss at a national conference in Boston this March.

I bet you’re wondering how a person working full time has the time to write a master’s thesis? She doesn’t, folks. She just doesn’t.

It’s been a really tough process. Lots of tears, lots of therapy sessions. It’s hard to leave work and keep that creative energy to last beyond after-work gym sessions or making dinner/spending time with my husband.

It’s hard to say no to plans, to move plans around, or cancel plans to write or research. Heck, it’s hard to sit down and write. But, I wanted to be honest with those who are wondering, and an ally to those who might be going through the same thing as me.

This is what I love to do, and I’m excited to share my love of writing and the topic and genre I love so much with the world.

Thanks for reading! Has anyone taken on a project this large? Any advice? Want to just rant about it to a safe, open space/person? Feel free to comment below!

 

Mrs. Bridges Pantry | Woodstock, CT

This year, I’ve made it a goal of mine to discover quaint towns and travel to different places in my home state. Living in Connecticut, I have the unique opportunity to explore old New England towns and take in all of its charms. Today, I made my way over to Mrs. Bridges Pantry in South Woodstock in northeastern Connecticut with a close friend.

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Mrs. Bridges Pantry is a British tea shop with the quintessential decor to match. The tea rooms take you right into a tea shop in England, filled with English country-style wallpaper, tea plates and spoons covering the beams, frames with the bust of Queen Elizabeth II, old books, flags adorned with British flags, patterns, and corgis (!!), and more. The tables are appropriately set with doilies and old-fashioned tea trinkets, like the most adorable sugar cube bowls!

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The menu consists of traditional British fare like meat pies, spaghetti on toast, an assortment of English tea sandwiches, soups, salads—tons of options. I went for the Farmhouse Tea where you get an individual pot of tea, a choice of tea sandwich, and your choice of a scone with jam and butter. Mrs. Bridges has a long list of tea selections: black, green, herbal, white, and rooibos tea. I chose a ginger peach green tea, served in an adorable and unique tea and saucer set, egg salad tea sandwiches, and a “very berry” scone.

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It was such a relaxing, enjoyable experience. The tea is delightful, the food is delicious, and the atmosphere just takes you away from your troubles and you leave feeling like royalty. Connecticut residents: If you want an authentic British afternoon tea experience in your own backyard, visit Mrs. Bridges Pantry!

 

UPDATE: This place is now closed as of winter 2019.

It’s Summertime! Six Ways to Celebrate Summer

It’s summer! Yesterday marked the official start of one of the best seasons: sunny skies, fireflies, lemonade, and beach days!

While I definitely prefer fall and cooler weather, there’s something about summer that gets everyone excited and in a great mood—which I love!

Here are some of my favorite activities to do in the summer:

Go for a bike ride:
We live in an amazing part of the state where we can access a few of the many rails-to-trails spots in Connecticut. One of the trails follows a major river, and my husband and I love to strap on our helmets and ride along the shady, cool trails and take in the scenery. We love to stop and watch the flow of the river and listen to the birds and bugs buzz on a cool summer night!

Go to the beach:
Since my husband and I started dating, we have traveled to Rhode Island multiple weekends in each summer and spent time with his cousins and his family. It’s one of my favorite traditions that we plan on continuing when we grow as a family! I love the beach. I love planting myself in a chair with a giant sun hat and devouring books to the rhythmic sound of the waves under the warm sun.

Ice cream shops
On a hot summer day, nothing cools you down better than a cold treat. Ice cream, naturally, is delicious, and eating a giant ice cream cone outside with music playing and kids running around is quintessential summertime!

Travel
Summer is a great time to hop in the car with the windows down (or up with the AC blasting) and explore the world around you! Aside from our trips to Rhode Island last summer, we traveled to Burlington, VT, Washington and Montpelier, VT, D.C., and Montreal, along with stopping at different places in our state, like the Book Barn! Make sure you take time to travel this summer!

Drink iced coffee
I only drink iced coffee when the weather is warm, and I sure do take advantage of it! Iced coffee/iced lattes are such a delicious treat in the summer. I even started making my own iced coffee to save a few bucks, and I love my recipe!

Just celebrate summer!
This is actually a new favorite of mine! Yesterday, two of my close friends and I celebrated the Summer Solstice with a barbeque, lots of glitter, flower crowns, dancing, and music. It was a fun way to enjoy the nice weather and welcome summer with open arms (especially after such a cold winter in New England!)

How do you enjoy summer? In her latest blog post, Marycatherine shares her list!

Happy Summer!