PostSecret Experience

Last night, I went to a PostSecret show. For those of you who don’t know what PostSecret is, here’s a quick summary. Essentially, it is an ongoing art project where people mail their anonymous secrets to Frank Warren. Created by Frank in 2005, there are only two rules: The secret must be true, and it must have never been told to anyone before. Every Sunday, Frank posts secrets to www.postsecret.com. Secrets have been displayed in books and art exhibits. And now, its own live, interactive show.

The show, performed in Pittsburgh at the Byham Theater, features three actors and a guitarist. Some secrets are displayed on a projector with the night sky and twinkling stars as a backdrop. The actors read some secrets individually, or read secrets that are part of a series, as sometimes secrets respond to others.

This show was, simply put, amazing. I laughed and I cried. Secrets fall all over the spectrum. Some are lighthearted and funny. Some are hopeful. Others are cringe-worthy. Heartbreaking. And there are those that are even disturbing. Most importantly, some secrets are relatable. Releasing secrets is supposed to be therapeutic for the owner. But for the listener, it can be a source of relief to know that they are not alone.

The most common secret is “I pee in the shower. The most common items sent are both sad in their own right – rings and razors. Some secrets:

I am proud of my gay uncle. I watched him beat another man with a flip flop!

I wear an ACDC shirt under my clergy robes.

I miss the stars in Iraq.

PostSecret has impacted lives in other ways, too. One woman, Amber, responded to a mother’s secret that she felt horrible for telling her child that Santa wasn’t real. Amber stated that her son had just written a letter to Santa, requesting a special toy. But Amber couldn’t waitress due to an injury and wasn’t getting child support. She couldn’t pay bills. She wished Santa was real. A college student, Molly, saw Amber’s secret and sent one to Frank wanting to know how she could get the present for the child. Frank had Amber open a PayPal account. Molly donated…and so did more. Enough that Amber was able to get the toy, pay bills, and buy necessities she had been putting off. Writing Frank to close the account, she said Santa was real. In each and every one of them.

There are stories of wanting to commit suicide and the people who reach out to strangers, begging them to stay. There are stories of lost love, found love, hopes, dreams, failure, death, and everything else. As my friend stated, it is “a rollercoaster of emotions.” (I suggest checking out my friend Kelly’s blog here) Kelly also said she needed the experience,  and I understood exactly what she meant. There’s a lot of bad and evil in the world. You see that in the secrets. But there’s good in the world too. And that was what I overall took from the show. There is good in this world. Despite all the terrible things that happen, it is still possible to find good and to be good.

As Samwise Gamgee says to Frodo Baggins when Frodo asks what they are holding on for, “That there is some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.” (Tolkein). And so there is. And it is worth fighting for! We may not be battling for Middle Earth, but we’re all fighting some type of battle in life. Sometimes we need that push. As one secret said, talking about a failed suicide attempt, “It gets better.” Life is messy and full of emotions, and this show shows it. It is an amazing experience, and there is nothing else like it. You have to experience it. I highly recommend it.

Buying a Work Bag and Review!

I have been carrying three bags for work: my Adidas gym bag (one of those duffle type bags), a lunch bag, and my small Kate Spade purse (Jackson Street Small Kieran). I am lucky enough to be able to commute into downtown Pittsburgh since my mom goes through the city on her way to work, but getting out of the Jeep in the middle of Grant Avenue during rush hour was highlighting my clumsiness and getting myself tangled in straps. So my mom suggested that I get a larger bag that I could fit my small purse and my lunch bag in.
If you know me, you know I love purses. I went into research mode right away. I was checking websites like Macy’s, Nordstrom, Kohls, and Amazon. Pinterest was also an excellent tool to see suggestions on the type of purse corporate women carry for work and what they keep in it. So I started making a list of what I should keep in the purse as well, because instead of a bag where I’d put my purse and lunch bag in, I’d just buy what I’d need for work. Target’s great for that type of stuff.
I dragged my mom along with me to look at purses because I need a second opinion on stuff like this, especially because I had a feeling that I would be buying a more high end brand. I didn’t necessarily mind spending the money because then I knew it would be good quality and it would last. However, I can be weird with money sometimes and knew I would have to justify it to myself.
We went to Nordstrom, Tory Burch, Tumi, and Kate Spade. By the way, if you go to the Tumi at Ross Park Mall, they have a salesman who was amazingly helpful. I wish I had gotten his name! I decided to go to Kate Spade at the last minute, figuring it wouldn’t hurt to browse. Our saleswoman was really helpful, too. She showed as a bag that she thought fit the description of what I was looking for, and I thought it was a good possibility. But then the saleswoman told me to hold on a second, and she brought out another bag.
Another thing that you should know about me is that I love bows. I think they’re a great accessory, as both hair clips and jewelry. The first thing that I noticed about the bag was the huge bow on the front. My mom did too, and she said she knew what I was picking at that point! What’s interesting is that this bag is the Haring Lane Kenna Yoga Bag (Haring Lane Kenna Yoga Bag ). That’s right, it’s a yoga bag. But the saleswoman said that many business woman buy this bag. It honestly seemed perfect. The bow actually had two pockets on each side where you can slide a yoga mat in. On the inside, there was a zippered pocket, two side pockets, and two netted pockets for water bottles. Trying to gauge the size, I put my small purse inside and saw that it fit, so I knew that a lunch bag would. Thinking about what else I needed to keep in the bag, I was fairly confident that I would be able to keep everything in it. It also had an interior zipper closure which was really nice. A couple of the bags didn’t have closures. And, at $298, it was cheaper than the other bags I had looked at and it was bigger. It was a basic black and looked like a classic style and would look chic with anything. So I bought it.

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So far it has been working magnificently. It’s been much easier carrying only two bags around, especially because they have different strap sizes. They don’t seemed to get tangled at easily. But everything fits so well! On Friday, I was able to throw in some work documents and a full size legal pad in there no problem, along with my flats and rain jacket. There was no thought to it. My lunch bag also fits in there very well.
What do I keep in there? I have the basics of hand sanitizer, a compact mirror, lip balm and lipsticks. I actually bought a cosmetic case from Amazon (Find Here ) for those items and keep them in one of the side pockets. My umbrella and 32 oz water bottle fit in there; it’s nice to throw my water bottle for the gym in there in the morning. I also keep general things like my work ID, work keys, wallet, lint roller, gum, hand moisturizer, bus pass, tissues, sunglasses, an extra charger and wall outlet, tissues, a small first aid kit, pens, and some basics medicines. I have more than enough room if I need to add anything like a sweater or shoes or who knows what!


I get more use out of than just work. Although I already had another yoga bag, there’s other things it’s good for (although I won’t be surprised if I use it for yoga just because it’s so cute) I can use it for. At my fire department, I’m on the board of directors as the Membership Representative, and I can fit in my MacBook, iPad, notebook, and 3 inch binder. Between that and the quality of the material, I definitely feel like I got my money’s worth. The pockets on the side of the bow are useful too. On one side I keep a water bottle just in case I forget mine. On the other side, I keep my planner (the Happy Planner), a small notebook (I need this to jot down random thoughts and make lists to keep myself organized!), and my Kindle Paperwhite E-Reader (also highly recommend). This bag is quality, classic, and keeps me organized. It might not be meant as a work bag, but it is fulfilling its purpose perfectly. It is versatile. I highly recommend it. I love the style of Kate Spade, and you can’t go wrong with a bow!

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ANAD Week Again

This week, the Robert Morris University (my alma mater) chapter of Delta Phi Epsilon (my sorority) held its annual ANAD Week. ANAD is a foundation which raises awareness for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. There are a variety of events throughout the week promoting positive body image, healthy habits, and providing information about eating disorders. I had the privilege of planning ANAD Week my senior year, and it is one of my favorite memories from college. Events include talks from nutritionists, trashing your insecurities, post-it’ing positive affirmations in bathrooms, some type of exercise class, a candlelight vigil, and a beYOUtiful fashion show. At the fashion show, we have been fortunate enough to have individuals who have suffered from eating disorders share their stories. These have been some of the most inspiring stories I have ever heard. Another aspect of ANAD week is social media challenges which includes “No Makeup Monday” selfies, focusing on inner beauty. ANAD Week is important to me for several reasons which is why I wanted to write this post.

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First, ANAD Week focuses on mental illness. Mental illness is such an important cause to me. If I was a celebrity, that would be my cause. I try to advocate for it now. Eating disorders are so misunderstood. Society paints such a warped image of body image at times, it’s important to learn about. You never know who it can affect. I remember listening to a young man tell his story at the fashion show with anorexia. Former Penn State kicker Joey Julius made headlines when it was revealed that he had gone through in-patient treatment for bulimia. It can be anyone.

The second reason is that “anyone” was my best friend and sorority sister. I’d like to share her story (I have her permission). It is such a helpless feeling not knowing how to help – and I’m just on the outside. I wasn’t the one suffering. But her story is one of resilience and strength, and I am so proud of her.

Finally, I want to talk about my own problems with body image. It’s not easy. But I figure what do I have to lose talking about it? I also know that I can’t be the only one feeling like this. Maybe it’ll make someone else feel like they’re not alone. Because you aren’t.

But first, I’m going to talk about Gretchen. She is one of the sweetest people I have ever met and an extremely smart individual. She was my first friend in DPhiE! I remember we were both at recruitment and didn’t know anyone, so she introduced herself to me! And so we became good friends that year. But the next fall, Gretchen had gotten very skinny. She was always very athletic and on the rowing team (Major props there, I hate the rowing machine at the gym). But this wasn’t that. One day, she asked me if I wanted to go to McDonalds for an ice cream cone. Being the ice cream lover I am, obviously I said yes. When we were there, she struggled to eat the cone and confessed to me that she was having a problem with food. She told me her fears, and I have never been so dumbfounded or scared in my life. I had no idea what to say. I just let her talk and I listened. The first thing I did when I got back to my apartment was call my sorority adviser because I had no idea what the hell to do.

A few weeks later, after a health scare, Gretchen was admitted to an inpatient treatment. She didn’t come back to school until the next semester. I don’t think a day passed when I didn’t think of her when she was in treatment. Eventually, she came back stronger than ever. It’s funny because this was back in 2012-2013 and it feels SO long ago now. And she’s doing so great for herself. Honestly, I’m getting choked up writing this because I’m so proud of her and grateful for her friendship. This was the first time I had dealt with an eating disorder, and it was honestly heartbreaking. I felt helpless – how do you convince someone to eat? It’s so much more complex than that (because it’s a mental illness, duh), and you really can’t understand if you haven’t had the disease. To me, it’s like trying to untangle a tangled bunch of string – a slow, tedious process. What you can do for someone with an eating disorder is be there and supportive for them, and I really hope that’s what I’ve been.

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It seems kind of trivial to talk about my own insecurities with body image after that, but I’m going to because I know I’m not alone. And I’m going to be pretty honest because we’re all friends here, right? Anyways, currently, I have terrible body image. After college, I gained so much weight. I was no longer walking up multiple hills every day with a bokbag on my back every day and was no sitting in a cubicle eight hours a day, but my dumbass was still eating the same. In the past six months or so, I’ve really tried to take hold of my eating habits and started Weight Watchers. It was working for awhile. Then I had a setback and just recently started again back at square one. It’s really frustrating. I feel like a yo-yo. I’m back in an exercise routine, so there’s that, but it’s the eating one that’s really taking time. I’m trying though. I keep telling myself it takes time. I have to do it though. I’m a firefighter I need to be in better shape.

Honestly though? I don’t feel good about myself. I don’t like what I see in the mirror. I don’t like the size on my jeans. And I’m not even gonna give anyone a clue on my weight. It is so hard and frustrating when you try on some cute clothes and feel like you’re shaped like a potato. I hate how I’m shaped right now. I know I’m overweight but rectifying this is not easy. And it does not happen overnight. It’s also really easy to fall into a trap of insecurities. First, it’s your weight. Then your hair. Then your complexion. Then you aren’t that funny. It is all ridiculous and just spirals out of control. If you let it.

I guess my point here is that it is important to keep things in perspective. We are all so much more than our image. The clothes we wear. How we style our hair. Our outward beauty is only one part of us. We are so much more complex than appearance. It is so important to recognize your inner beauty. Delta Phi Epsilon’s social media challenge was just awesome to do this week. For a picture I picked that I was happy in, I did one of me firefighter where my hair was sticking up and you couldn’t even actually see my face, but I knew my heart was happy in that moment. For someone I admired, I chose my mom and picked a couple pictures of us. Finally, for a picture I felt beautiful in, I did another one in firefighter gear but where I was wearing my sorority family letters. Again, I knew the love I have for firefighting and DPhiE made me feel beautiful. And it’s funny, because I have these moments of insecurities but I also know that I feel beautiful and my best when I’m working out or firefighting. Both of these can actually make me look really gross. But its when I’m working. It is when I am pushing myself and trying to get strong. And that’s what makes the difference. That’s what I value. I feel beautiful because I’m doing what I love or trying to better myself. I’m challenging myself. I think its really interesting how our inner beauty manifests itself. I think our inner beauty shines the most when we do what we love. And while it can be easy to forget, these are the things we need to remember when we are feeling down about the way we look, when those jeans don’t fit or the number on the scale is a little higher than we’d like. We are so much more. Think of all the good you do in the world. Think of the happiness you can spread. You are so much more than outer beauty -let that inner beauty shine.

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Be YOUtiful, always.

“Black Panther” Review – Spoilers!

Marvel’s latest movie, Black Panther, was released last weekend to wide acclaim and positive reviews. We were introduced to the titular character in Captain America: Civil War, but to be honest, I didn’t know much about T’Challa or his kingdom, the fictional Wakanda. Chadwick Boseman plays King T’Challa, the Black Panther.

This movie was amazing. I’m probably going to see it again to take my twelve year brother, Jake. Everything about it was just awesome. The acting was superb, but the winners here are Michael B. Jordan as the villain Killmonger, Andy Serkis as another villain Klaue, Danai GUrira as the fierce and loyal general Okoye and Lupita Nyong’o as T’Challa’s former love Nakia.

Wakanda may be fictional, but it felt very real, along with its people. Wakanda appears to the outside world as a third world country but is actually years advanced in technology, medicine, and science. They are a self sufficient people, relying on no one. They have an abundance of a meteorite called vibranium which has allowed them to become so advanced. They do not want their society to become like the rest of the world, a stance that was supported by T’Challa’s father, T’Chaka.

The movie begins back in the ’90s, during T’Chaka’s reign. He is in Los Angeles, where his brother N’Jobu is undercover. He suspects N’Jobu of conspiring with an arms dealer Klaue to provide him with vibranium. Another undercover Wakandan, Zuri, confirms this. It ends with T’Chaka ordering N’Jobu to return. Then, we are taken back to the beginning of T’Challa’s reign, after the events of Civil War where his father died in a terrorist attack on the United Nations. T’Challa and General Okoye, the head of the Dora Milaje which is the protective services of the king, go on a mission to extract Nakia from an undercover mission so that she may attend T’Challa’s coronation. Soon we meet T’Challa’s mother, Ramonda (Angela Bassett), and his younger sister, Princess Shuri (Letitia Wright) who is a technological genius.

Not long after, Wakanda receives information on Klaue and T’Challa decides to go on a mission to capture Klaue for stealing vibranium and causing an explosion which resulted in the death of Wakandans. While T’Challa, Okoye, and Nakia temporarily restrain Klaue with the help of CIA agent Everett K. Ross, Klaue is extracted by a team that includes a young man wearing the same ring as T’Challa’s grandfather who turns out to the be the main villain, Killmonger.

Killmonger turns out to be the son of N’Jobu who has come to challenge T’Challa to the throne. Once he succeeds in a ritual fight (while also killing Zuri, played by Forest Whitaker, who is wracked with guilt, in the process), Killmonger plans to take over the world using vibranium, freeing Africans whose ancestors were colonized and are still facing the consequences of today.

Michael B. Jordan is fantastic as Killmonger. He was young when he lost his father and definitely has channeled his rage into a mission against Wakanda. Everything he does led to the moment he challenged T’Challa. His acting is terrific. I really felt the emotion and passion in his role. He feels that he has been wronged, and he is determined to make it right. Not just for him – but for the descendants and people of Africa. In a sense, Killmonger’s vision is to make a better and more equal world. His means are just violent and suppress others. He is an excellent foil to T’Challa. The fight with Killmonger forces T’Challa to grow as a leader in a very short period of time. Chadwick Boseman gives a very regal portrayal to T’Challa. He appears as a confident leader, but you can see as he grows.

I wish Andy Serkis would have been in the movie more. He was creepy as hell, and it was fantastic. This was the first time I had seen Serkis in a role that wasn’t stop motion, and it was just great. He really added to the movie. I just really enjoyed his contribution to the movie.

Martin Freeman didn’t have a huge role as Agent Ross, but he was some of the humor relief. He was another one who had some character development. It was nice to see his worldview change.

Lupita Nyang’o and Danai Gurira are badass. Simply badass. Gurira, famous for her “Walking Dead” role as badass Michonne, was an awesome warrior. Her loyalty was fierce, and you could see as it was tested between loyalty to Wakanda and T’Challa. Her character had some interesting developments. She had some wonderfully choreographed fight scenes. Lupita is just full of grace, but definitely could get her hands dirty in a fight. I was cheering for Nakia and T’Challa to get back together the entire movie. I wanted Nakia to be queen so bad. Lupita would kill the role as as a queen.

The underrated star of the movie was Letitia Wright as Shuri. How many princesses do you see as geniuses, developing technology and life saving medical procedures? She was a brainiac. She could hold her own in a fight, but her brain was just as dangerous a weapon, if not more. I think this is a great message for young women today.

I don’t know much about Afrocentric culture, but I loved those elements of the movie. The set designs, costumes, and even the accents were beautiful. I really felt like I was immersed in a whole different world in Wakanda. I loved the experience. I loved the mixture of old time rituals of their ancestors with their advanced technology; it was a lovely juxtaposition. It wasn’t your typical Marvel movie, and I loved it. Black Panther, Okoye, Nakia, and Shuri are awesome contributions to the Marvel universe, and I can’t wait to see them in Avengers: Infinity War. I would give this movie a solid 8 out of 10. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.

On a final note, one of the last post credit scenes was absolutely AMAZING. Go see this movie. You won’t regret it.

 

 

 

I Came Back

It’s been a very long time since I wrote. Far longer than I would have liked. But this fall, things got complicated for me. I have been very open about my struggle with depression and anxiety.  Back in October, I saw myself fall into a deep depression that I wasn’t sure how I was getting out of. I stopped working out, I stopped eating healthy-ish (I had started Weight Watchers in August). But in the past month or so, I started feeling different. I didn’t have a word for how I was feeling.

That’s because I was feeling happy, and it had been so long since I felt so happy, I didn’t recognize how I felt. When I was depressed, I had spurts of happiness obviously, I wasn’t miserable 24/7, but this type of happiness was different. I felt alive again. One time, I had a friend describe me as “being like a ghost” and that I wasn’t all there when I was depressed. Now, I felt fully present. For the first time since I was 19 – when I was diagnosed – at almost 26, I felt like myself.

It was crazy! When I made the realization, I couldn’t believe it. Me! I felt like myself again. It was like I had been lost for a while and just wandered back.  Lost for a long freaking while, but at least I came back.

Peace and Love,

VicMik

 

 

 

 

I came back.

I don’t think I have the words to describe how I felt when I realized I was getting better. That the darkness of depression wasn’t consuming my life anymore. Victor Hugo wrote, “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” (1862) And it did. I saw a sunrise that I don’t know if I believed in anymore. But I did it. I could even feel hopeful for the future. I came back.

Maybe you think I’m being dramatic. But mental illness really sucks. There were times I didn’t enjoy anything. Or would talk multiple naps in a day. Now, it is so different. I’m not sleeping as much (although I wish I wasn’t waking up at 7 AM on the weekends!), and I’m doing things. I’m back at the gym and getting a routine there, although I’m not quite as lucky in the healthy eating department (I’ll get there). I’m so much more productive. I’m getting things organized, I’ve gone through clothes I don’t wear anymore. I’m planning ahead. I picked out all of my outfits for the work week ahead of time! I’ve never done that in my life! I know that it can come back. I’m still definitely having problems with anxiety. There are still challenges to face and hurdles to clear. But I have definitely made progress, and that means the world to me. It’s like seeing an entirely new person in the mirror. It’s been almost seven years, I’m looking forward to getting to know myself again. I hope you are too.

With all of that said, I’m hoping to take this back up. I have a few blog post ideas stirring and I think I am going to be better organized with it. I’m very open to ideas and suggestions! It’s a new day with opportunity and my own future to write. I like that. I’m hopeful. And I hope you’ll join me. I’m very glad to be back.