Why Twenty One Pilots Should be a Part of Your Playlist

I’m confident that at some point over the last decade you’ve heard a song by Twenty One Pilots, made up of Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun. It may have been Heathens from the less-than-awesome Suicide Squad soundtrack or maybe Stressed Out that played all over the radio in the summer of 2015. With the newest album release only a week old – this is why you should have Twenty One Pilots on your playlist.


Genre Bending Music 

TØP started out a rural, hometown band from Ohio playing small venues for a dedicated legion of fans. The first two large scale albums, Regional at Best and Vessel, were raw, rough and full of angst. Since the band’s beginning in 2009, they have ventured into rock, punk, rap, hiphop, alternative, electronica and more even winning a Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for Stressed Out in 2017. 

When it comes to live shows, there’s something amazing about the expectation and consistency from fans. I’ve seen three concerts, one from the Blurryface tour and two from Trench, and each time the comradery from fans is inspiring. They know the tours like the back of their hand, provide interactive paper cut outs to use at certain times and are all around – so great. TØP is also consistent. They never do encores, they always end the show with Trees. It’s a comforting experience.


Mental Health Struggles

I know that there have been mixed feelings about this but I really do appreciate the level at which Tyler shares his struggles. Most apparent during the earlier albums, Tyler pulled a lot of the creative inspiration from his own struggles with depression and anxiety. Hell, Blurryface is a literal personification of his anxiety. It’s realistic, honest and something that almost all of us can relate to. Even the newest album, Scaled and Icy, is said to represent being scaled back and isolated due to the pandemic. (Or is it a cover and really means Clancy is dead? #dema) 


The Dema/Trench Lore

If there’s one thing I’m a sucker for, it’s good storytelling. I won’t even pretend to know absolutely everything about DEMA or TØP lore, but boy am I a fan. Mentioned briefly in the Blurryface album (2015), DEMA is a terrible, prison-like place. During the hiatus between Blurryface and Trench (2018), a clikkie found a new 404 page on the TØP website, which include diary pages from someone named Clancy, along with graphics that would later be revealed as clues to the songs on Trench. In the first three music videos released for Trench, Jumpsuit, Nico and the Niners and Levitate, viewers see Tyler and Josh struggling in DEMA, being captured by one of the ‘Bishops’. 


The Quarantine Bop To End All Bops – Level of Concern

As the world was thrust into a pandemic and consequential lock down, our favorite guys released the ultimate quarantine bop – Level of Concern. It was as if they knew that the world needed something positive and upbeat during such a shit storm. Not to mention the 24 hour long interactive livestream where fans could post their own videos. 

Following up the livestream was an interactive puzzle for fans to try to decode. Designed to take up to six weeks to crack, fans a.k.a. The Skeleton Clique or clikkies figured it out in under a week. The puzzle included never before seen photos, graphics, audio recordings and more than anything – a distraction during lock down. 


Each Album Is An Absolute Masterpiece In Its Own

I know, I know, you’re probably thinking ‘damn she drank the kool-aid.’ Maybe I have, but I also know that I’ve been listening to this band for nearly a decade now and have not been let down once by their music. The first song I heard by TØP was Car Radio on 89.1 The Bash (a community college radio station from Illinois that only could be heard on good weather days). I was immediately caught by the intense lyrics, the interaction with the music – all of it. Everytime a new album comes out, I listen to it on repeat – deciding if it’s as good as the predecessors. Every time, without fail, that answer is yes. The newest album, Scaled and Icy, released this month and is full of bops. 


Looking for something deep and tragic?

Try these!

Looking for something light and fun?

Try these!

Looking for fantastic covers or videos to watch? Try these!

An Honest Review of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

I’ll be honest, when I first started watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, I did not see the appeal. I felt that the comedy show was playing into all of the stereotypes of crazy exes, female friendships and not to mention those god-awful musical numbers. But after watching the first season, mostly as background noise while doing chores, I actually found myself genuinely caring about the characters and what was happening. Don’t get me wrong, I did still speed through 90% of the songs every season though.

Premise: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Rebecca, serendipitously meets her high school love on the streets of New York as she’s experiencing burnout. He mentions that if she’s ever in West Covina (where he’s from) that they should hang out. Rebecca takes this as a divine sign from above and moves to West Covina, enmeshing herself into his life. 

**SPOILERS BELOW**


What I liked about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend


  • Portrayal of Mental Illness: At the beginning of the series, I’ll admit that I was hesitant about the way that mental illness was portrayed. Rebecca was deemed as being clingy and crazy right off the bat, which as someone who’s been called a ‘crazy’ ex before, that didn’t sit well for me. However, as the show progressed Rebecca was able to grow and not only accept her mental illness but also learn to thrive with it.

  • Complexities of Relationships: We all know that relationships are hard. Sure, there are some out there that have the ideal ‘fairytale’ relationship but for most of us, that’s not the case. Rebecca hopped from suitor to suitor throughout the show, hoping to find salvation with one of them but was never able to. Each main guy, Josh, Greg and Nathaniel, all represent something different for her as do the relationships in our own lives. 
    • Josh was the consummate young love that was never able to develop fully – an idealized love. 
    • Greg was authentic, raw and even uncomfortable at times because he would call Rebecca out all while fighting his own demons- a more adult, but tragic love. 
    • Nathaniel accepted Rebecca, ‘crazy’ and all, while even indulging in it at times – an unhealthy, flawed love. 

  • Real Life Topics – I was not expecting a light hearted show to talk so openly about heavy, life altering topics like suicide, abortions, alcohol addictions, etc. Sure, a lot of shows breeze over these topics – it’s not uncommon. But the way these subjects were approached in the show were refreshing. At many times, I felt like these were conversations that I’d had before with friends or that were intimately familiar. 

  • Gal Pals – Rebecca forms unlikely alliances throughout the show at first to ascertain a better position in Josh’s life; but, ultimately these gal pals become her second family. Paula represents a motherly figure to Rebecca and tries guiding her through the mess that is her life. Valencia, the enemy turned best friend, is as authentic as they come. She knows Rebecca is a mess but also asks her to be a better, higher version of herself. Heather, a one-off experience, adds a level of normalcy to the group – keeping them all grounded throughout the shenanigans. Each friendship goes through a dramatic change during the course of the story – from enabling Rebecca’s behavior to holding her accountable and supporting her to be better.
    • I’m a firm believer in the power of a strong girl group of friends – even though this is something I’ve struggled with maintaining in my own life. 

  • You Don’t Need a Man – The best moment of the entire series was when Rebecca finally realized that she didn’t need a man or relationship, to be whole. She had begun loving herself in a wholly pure way which allowed her to create her own love for herself. At the end of the day, if we’re not actively dealing with our shit, it’ll be hard to find happiness in someone else. 

  • Rachel f*cking Bloom – Talk about a powerhouse of a woman. Bloom, who plays Rebecca in the series, was co-creator and writer on the show. Authentically, Bloom has been diagnosed with anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorders, similar to Rebecca. She also is not your typical main character/love interest – she’s curvy, short and real – something that they portray accurately throughout the show. (See hit song Heavy Boobs from season 2)

I went into this show thinking it was going to be a horrific, hack job of stereotypes but finished the series with a huge level of appreciation for Bloom and the story that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend told. If you’re looking for a fairly light-hearted show to binge through, give this a shot!

Neo-noir & Tech-noir films to add to your watch list

As mentioned a few times, I love films. I’ve spent a majority of my short life watching films and studying them – even majoring in a foreign language in college specifically because I loved French films so much. What I’ve recently realized is that I’m drawn to a very localized type of film: neo- or tech-noir. Neo-noir and tech-noir are a subculture of film noir which lasted from the 1940s-1950s. Film noir was popularized thanks to crime dramas featuring hardcracking detectives and police characters, not to mention the femme fatales. 

So what is Neo-noir & Tech-noir? 

Neo-noir is to film noir, what grunge is to rock. It’s a modernized version of film noir that includes similar themes. Neo-noir and Tech-noir films often feature a post-apocalyptic urban landscape set in the vague future with a flawed anti-hero traversing the story. Other telltale signs can include oversaturation/coloration of the scenes, stark lighting in close up shots (see chiaroscuro lighting) and plenty of violence or tension. In general both genres share a lot of characteristics with French New Wave films, neo-noir is set in the current time/recent past with heavy tones of realism while tech-noir is set in the future and often includes more science fiction tones (robots, etc). 

****TRIGGER WARNING: Rape, graphic violence, gore, abuse, drugs, alcohol, sexual assault, animal abuse

Here’s a list of some of my favorite neo-noir and tech-noir films.


Guns Akimbo (2019) [Tech-noir]

This film was a wild ride from start to finish. Not only was I thrilled that Daniel Radcliffe was in another movie but Samara Weaving really stole the show with her batshit crazy character. Set in a futuristic world where a villanous group streams real life murder as a game online, Radcliffe finds himself thrust into the middle of a seriously fucked up group of people. This film is dark, gory, raw and yet imbued with a strange amount of comedy and growth. 


**Delicatessen (1991) [Neo-noir]

A boarding house sits atop a butcher shop in post-apocalyptic France where fresh meat is hard to come by. The main characters spend their time trying to survive the chaotic building as well as the butcher as people continue to disappear. Creators Jeunet and Caro create a timeless world through their storytelling – a world that is dark, dirty, flawed and intensely saturated.


**La Cité des Enfants Perdus (1995) [Tech-noir]

(From the same creators of Delicatessen) In a topsy-turvy world where adults act like children and children are forced to provide and care for adults, our heros are Un (played by Ron Pearlman), a circus strong man and Miette, a young leader of the orphan children. Un is searching for his lost little brother Denree who was kidnapped by the mad scientist running the city. 


**Ex Machina (2015) [Tech-noir]

Words cannot describe how much I love this film. Aside from fanboying over the all star, kick-ass casting of this film (cough* Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander and Oscar Isaac* cough), everything about this was a masterpiece. Introducing a remote mansion, a beautifully crafted AI system and a helpless low level employee who won a free vacation – what could go wrong? This film will leave you with chills for days if not weeks.


Gattaca (1997) [Tech-noir]

While my mother was a biology teacher briefly, this was her go to film in class to explain genes and DNA. A fascinating science-led dystopia asks many large and uncomfortable questions: what is right? What is moral? How far can science go and still be deemed good? Plus who wasn’t obsessed with Jude Law, Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke in the 90’s? While the gore in this film is minimal and personally afflicted, the cinematography is peak neo-noir. 


Nightcrawler (2014) [Neo-noir]

At times, this film was extremely uncomfortable to watch. A ruthless journalist chases violent acts across the city to be able to be the first to ‘break’ the news on air. With Jake Gyllenhal as the lead, this film encapsulates so much of what’s wrong with humanity: our obsession with gore and depravity in the media. Similar to Guns Akimbo, people tune in to watch the slaughter. 

****TRIGGER WARNING: Graphic violence, abuse, drugs, alcohol


Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)  [Neo-noir]

This is one of my absolute favorite films – not necessarily for the gory storyline, but the acting, cinematography and soundtrack are divine. A nearly neutral, bordering on cool color palette sets the stage for this frozen thriller. There are higher levels of gore in this film than others and harsh juxtapositions between the present and past as journalist Mikael tries to solve a decades old cold-case. Also, Rooney Mara is absolutely iconic in this film. (But I’ll be that person – you should definitely read the books, they’re just as amazing).

****TRIGGER WARNING: Rape, violence, abuse, drugs, alcohol, sexual assault, animal abuse


I’m Your Woman (2020) [Neo-noir]

This film hit me like a train – I love Rachel Brosnahan from her stellar performance in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, but I wanted to see how she’d be in a gritty, crime drama – and boy, was it a good film. I had no clue what the premise was prior to watching it and it lived up to every expectation I had. Meet Jean, a new mother married to a con-man, who is thrust into a dangerous journey to self discovery as her husband disappears after betraying his partners. 


Other Popular Neo-Noir / Tech-Noir Films

What’s your favorite genre of film?

. . .

What I’ve Learned From Supernatural (So Far)

So I know I’m late to the party – 15 years late – but I’m here. Over the holidays, my partner and I decided to start binging Supernatural. Admittedly, I’ve avoided getting involved in this show mostly because I witnessed first hand how crazy intense the Supernatural fandom was online (hello tumblr days). But I’m no stick in the mud, so I finally caved and began watching the show ad nauseum.


This is What I’ve Learned (So Far)

**SPOILER WARNING**


  1. This is not a show built for marathons – In just over a month, we’ve managed to watch five full seasons of Supernatural – a whopping 120 episodes roughly – and boy was that hard. About season three, we were able to accurately guess the dialogue before it happened and could laugh about how lackluster it was. This show was designed to be watched episodically – week by week, year by year.
  1. Not all deaths are created equal – Like in Game of Thrones, it’s important for regular characters to have a good, satisfying death and I assume it’s the same in Supernatural. Bela, one of the regular secondary characters, had one of the most disappointing deaths so far. So much so that I actually had to google and make sure she was actually dead. Ruby, on the other hand, could have had a more drawn out death sequence because she was the WORST.

  2. Sam and Dean are kind of dumb – Hear me out. Sam was fooled numerous times by cute-but-demon-or-evil girls (Ruby, Bela, Lilith) and he’s the one who went to college! Dean, bless him, is a simple man who thrives on simple pleasures – beer, meat and ladies, but still knew right off the bat that Ruby was bad news. Both boys found themselves in stupid situations multiple times throughout the seasons – primarily because of their stupidity for each other.

  3. Bobby is the best hunter – Hands down, Bobby is the only hunter worth a shit and this is shown again and again throughout the show. While he does get a fair amount of screen time, it’s always as the plucky sidekick. In season five, Bobby singlehandedly expels a demon out of his own body while possessed and NO ONE cared for more than a few minutes. That is some badassery if I’ve ever seen it.

  4. Yellow Eyes is scarier than Lilith – Yes, Lilith was awesome and I wish we could have spent more time delving into her character, but Yellow Eyes – what a villain. Carried through six seasons on loose lore, occasional sightings and a burning hatred, Yellow Eyes was the villain that kept giving. As new villains and characters were introduced, I kept coming back to Yellow Eyes and wishing that he would join in on the fun again.

  5. An actors rite of passage – I am fully convinced that at some point if you were trying to become an actor in the 2000’s, you ended up having a cameo on Supernatural. Half the fun of watching the show is going, ‘Oh hey, that’s so-and-so from (insert show title)’ or whichever show. From Jared Keeso of Letterkenny to Dylan Minette of 13 Reasons Why to Ashley Benson of Pretty Little Liars – everyone has been on this show.

  6. When in doubt, salt and burn the bones – For the first few seasons, every ‘evil’ encountered was able to be remedied by you guessed it – salting and burning the bones. It’s kind of up there with how every person sick on ‘House’ always seemingly had lupus at first. Obviously as the villains and demons started to become stronger and crazier, the methods had to change, but when in doubt, salt and burn the bones. You’ll probably be okay. 

While I am only a third of the way through the series, I’ll continue updating as new points come to light. If you’re looking for something lighthearted and fun to turn on in the background while doing laundry, this is not it. But this show can help pass the time regardless.

Literary Wellness To Pass The Time

For those aspiring toward self-betterment, or those simply looking to cope with mental illness: keep reading. When I moved to the ‘big’ city, I left my therapist behind. After switching companies twice and health insurance three times, I never found a new one. Maybe it’s social anxiety, maybe it’s laziness. Who knows. Instead, during an especially desperate, depression-spiral induced shopping trip to Barnes & Noble two years ago, I started buying self-help books. These are the ones I’ve found and what I’ve learned from them.


First, We Make The Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety by Sarah Wilson

This was the first self-help book that I purchased in my shopping trip of desperation and it’s also the one that’s been the most impactful. This book helped me reframe my depression and anxiety – my beast – into something that wasn’t so intense and scary. Wilson uses her own life for the spine of the story, sharing what’s worked and what hasn’t in her experience. But most importantly, anxiety and depression isn’t showcased as some supernatural horrific, plague-like thing. It’s just a part of you, something that can be made livable, or even beautiful.



Unf*ck Your Brain by Faith G. Harper, PhD, LPC-S, ACS, ACN

This book was a secondary purchase just in case the FWMTBB:ANJTA didn’t work out. Unf*ck Your Brain looks at what causes our brains to go ‘chemically batshit’ which results in anxiety, depression, you name it. If you prefer hard facts, straight to the point, no bullshit formatting over personal storytelling, then you should try this book out. I felt like this book gave me a good foundational knowledge on the ‘why’ behind the feelings, which is just as necessary as knowing how to work through them.


Emotional Detox: 7 Steps to Release Toxicity and Energize Joy by Sherianna Boyle

I purchased this book on a whim without reading the back – I thought the front cover looked interesting enough. I only started reading it after realizing that a friends’ emotions were causing sleepless nights and emotional stress for myself. This quick read is packed with useful information as well as a C.L.E.A.N.S.E. method for working through your emotions. Boyle, the author, was in an extremely emotional and traumatic point in her life when she began writing the book which made it easier to relate to. I think that it’s never too late to learn how to cope or deal with emotions.


Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans

This book is a part of the design-thinking phenomena created by Burnett and Evans at Stanford. Formatted around the idea of ‘reframing’ your thinking to create a life you enjoy and like, it’s a good tool for those who may be more apt towards ‘workbook’ type learning. There are small prompts, check-in dashboards and more to help you stay on track towards creating a better life. While I’m ultimately not a fan of ‘feel good’ books like this, it was an interesting read and did help reframe some destructive thought patterns. I think that creating physical dashboards for love, health, play and work can help to keep you focused on your goals.


What’s your favorite feel good book?

Movies with Kick Ass Soundtracks

And I’m not talking musicals. Soundtracks are a crucial backbone to films, a way to engage the audience and let them relate on a subconscious level. Throughout high school and college, I worked at the local movie theater in town. One shift, called ‘Door’ or ‘Doorman’, was responsible for cleaning theaters after each showing was complete (among other things). This ultimately meant a front row seat to the credit soundtracks on every movie as well as the ability to pop into every theater during the film to catch bits and pieces.

Here are some of my favorite films/soundtracks.

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)spooky, dramatic, ethereal and full of longing.

Not only was the film a masterpiece in many ways, the soundtrack really brought it to the next level. The closing credit number was ‘Breath of Life’ by Florence and the Machine and boy – was that a banger. Besides some amazing graphics, the pairing of Florence with this moody, fast tempo bop was pure genius.

Anna Karenina (2012)timeless, playful, enticing and full of passion.

This is one of my favorite films of all time but the soundtrack is what truly makes you fall in love. The storyline, adapted from Leo Tolstoy’s 1878  novel of the same name, is an explanation of the common themes in life: hypocrisy, jealousy, faith, fidelity, society and progress to name a few. If you’re a fan of Kiera Knightley or period pieces, you’ll probably notice a familiar filming pattern and character groups in Anna Karenina – it was directed by the same director of Pride & Prejudice, Joe Wright.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)dark, moody, intense and melodramatic.

This film is not for the faint of heart – nor is the soundtrack. This soundtrack is dark, bleak and moody just like the film, starting out with a killer intro introducing an alt version of the Immigrant Song. (Trigger warning – the intro is intense, graphic and has strobe effects). I don’t know how many hours I’ve spent just thinking about this intro and score. 

The Hunger Games (2012)realistic, foreboding, rustic and folky.

While I am not a fan of the Hunger Games series, I can’t deny that this soundtrack is great. Specifically, one song: Safe & Sound by Taylor Swift and The Civil Wars. I mean, it’s just jaw dropping. This was the first song to play during the credits and let me tell you – I scream-sang this song every single time. It’s a song that just gets under your skin.

Honorable Mentions

Atomic Blonde (2017) / Suckerpunch (2011) – These two films have a few overlapping songs on their film scores, which is why I wanted to give them an honorable mention. I’ll be honest, I was not a fan of Atomic Blonde – the score in the trailer made me think it was going to be much better of a film than it actually was. Suckerpunch on the other hand is one of the most jarring and ‘mind-fuckable’ films I’ve seen and I truly did enjoy watching it. 

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) – Really anything directed by Wes Anderson is going to have an eclectic and unique score. This is not a score I’d listen to all the time, but it’s still a fun one to turn on in the background. Alexandre Desplat is the man responsible for crafting each unique, timeless score for Anderson’s films. While similar in theme or type, the scores are presently true to each individual story.


Game of Thrones (2011-2019) – Composer Ramin Djawadi is a genius, without argument. Scoring a show is difficult no doubt, but scoring a show that runs for nearly a decade? Unthinkable. His scores are unique, effervescent and transcending. As soon as you hear one of his scores, you’re immediately transported into that moment in the show. Plus, he cleverly reused the intro theme multiple times in different ways.

I Made a Vision Board for 2021: Part Two

As promised, here is part two of making vision boards for 2021. If you haven’t read part one already, go ahead and check it out now!

I Made a Vision Board for 2021 and Here’s How it Went: Part One


What is included in a vision board?

It can be anything you want. There are a few different ways to go about building a vision board, so truly there is no wrong answer. I made two – one for general ideation and one for specific goals. For the second board, focused around goals, I kept it simple. I added twelve goals to achieve throughout the year as well as imagery to help manifest that.

How does it work?

Vision boards serve as a physical reminder for what you’re wanting to achieve. Seeing it everyday will help keep your goals or ideas at the forefront of your mind as you progress through the weeks and months. It can help to motivate you in a passive way. Rather than an obnoxious alarm on your phone or a calendar reminder, you can be met with a peaceful, self-created image that hangs on your wall as a friendly notice.


Here’s my vision board, broken into two segments: imagery and goals.

Left – Imagery 

Since this board is dedicated to goals, I didn’t want to overcomplicate or clutter it. I cut images from magazines that showcased what I wanted to emulate to help achieve these goals – a watch for time, candles and coffee for relaxation and focus, the galaxy as a corny way to ‘reach for the stars’, an upside down drop to symbolize change and a quote. More than anything I wanted the imagery to exude calmness and growth.

Right – Goals

Writing out goals was the hardest part of this board. Even though I am someone who is hyper-aware and anxious constantly, I am not someone that has a life plan. I tried to focus on things that were not so far out of reach, but could be tangible with a little hard work. I used the categories of play, health, work and joy to establish my goals; these are based off of the teachings in Designing Your Life. By grouping these items you’re more easily able to see areas in your life that may need extra attention. 

Ways to Fight Your Anxiety Demon

**DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional, but just someone who’s suffered for years with anxiety and has come out on the other side mostly unscathed. Always seek the advice of a medical professional first.


I first started having severe anxiety problems when I was about 14. I distinctly remember being at my grandmother’s house on vacation with my mom and experiencing what I thought was just shortness of breath, which turned out to be a full blown panic attack. I wasn’t knowledgeable enough to be able to say, “Oh yeah, that’s anxiety”. Instead, I ignored it and said my back hurt. For years, the physical symptoms of anxiety plagued me without any real thought towards it. My most common symptom was muscle spasms in my mid and lower back that made breathing nearly impossible. This would strike at seemingly random times, often when I was no longer ‘worried’ or ‘anxious’ and on one occasion took me all the way to urgent care.

The first time I had the can’t-catch-your-breath-pacing-around-like-a-weirdo attack was while working at my local movie theater. I was working the concession stand, which is essentially a long rectangle with a stock room in the back. It was a midday, boring shift but something triggered me. Maybe an ex came with their new beau? Maybe a surprising text message? Who knows, surely I don’t remember now. But what I do remember is pacing, panicking and meticulously counting the concrete blocks that formed the managers/box office right ahead of me. Over and over and over again. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. And again. And again. And again. Why eight? I don’t know honestly. Maybe it was from dance lessons as a kid or maybe something about eight just resonates with me.

But in the end, something had to give. After a breakdown call to my General Physician who referred me to a psychiatrist, I was diagnosed as high-functioning panic disorder and prescribed therapy and medication. I first went to therapy my second year in college when I realized that what I deemed my ‘crazy’ was affecting those around me negatively. I’d had some latent realizations of trauma from my past and it hit me like a freight train at 19. Therapy was amazing for me, but that isn’t a universal experience. From a spasmodic 14 year old girl to now, over a decade later, here I am kicking it with my Anxiety Demon like I would a friend. I’ve learned a lot of tips and tricks over the years, so here they are. I hope they can at least provide a reference if not a helpful trick or two to anyone else that suffers.


Learn the early signs

The tightening in your chest, the tunnel vision, the suddenly-fuzzy hearing, the rush of heat to your face and neck. Learning the early signs of an anxiety attack can be the most crucial thing. By learning the trigger signs, you may be able to slow or completely avoid a panic attack. That’s how I was able to truly control my little Anxiety Demon – because I figured out how she operated. As soon as I feel those few rushed heartbeats, I take deep breaths and try to relax. Normally, whatever I’m worked up over doesn’t really matter. 

Don’t mix medication and caffeine

I learned this the hard way one night while working at the local haunted house. I took my prescribed medication because I was panicking – then immediately chugged a Monster Energy drink because I was tired. BOY – was that the worst idea. Never in my life have I felt what my body felt during the next hour after drinking that energy drink – I could feel my heart palpitating in slow motion. (In general, high levels of caffenation will make your anxiety worse no matter what, so be careful when engaging with coffee, energy drinks, etc. if you’re not used to it). 

Find something simple and stupid that soothes you

When I started out, counting made me feel better for some reason. I have no history of OCD or any other numbers related ailments, but counting my breath, counting the ceiling tiles, counting the steps it took to get around a building mid-attack was comforting and soothing. A lot of relaxation apps will have you count your breath as a wind down activity, so there must be some reasoning to the numbers. I also used to run my hands under cold water, especially if I had an attack while working. I wanted to cool down – bring my senses down – as quickly as possible. I wanted to extinguish the fire roaring in my head and chest and by running cold water on my hands, it almost immediately brought a sense of ‘Oh yeah, I’m back now’.

Just know, as it starts it will also stop

One of the toughest things about anxiety is that you truly do believe that you will die. That you will always feel this way. That you will never be able to have a deep breath ever again. But that’s the thing: anxiety is just a mental block. It will stop, you will breath again, you just have to let it either pass or run it course naturally. You can create a mantra to remind yourself of this during the attacks or just let yourself feel the flow and know that it will end. 

Create a safety net

Whether it’s an aromatherapy inhaler, special bubble bath or your favorite food, create a small cache of things that make you feel better or grounded. I carried an aromatherapy inhaler in my purse for years that my grandma gave me after my first panic attack. I still have it and occasionally use it when I’m feeling full of lightning. Certain scents are good on the senses and can help you unwind like lavender, jasmine, bergamot and chamomile. 

Download apps or find books to help

These days, I’m sure you find yourself mindlessly scrolling social media, creating an even worse social anxiety experience for yourself like we all do. Sometimes taking a break from social media while staying connected to your phone can help. I’m a personal fan of Candy Crush (proud level 644) or a meditation app like Headspace. Not a phone person? Never fear, books are here! Over the last year, I’ve built quite the arsenal of books to help me understand my issues. From Emotional Detox to First, We Make The Beast Beautiful, there are plenty of books worth checking out about emotions and anxiety.

Talk to someone

The easiest way to come down from a panic attack is to discuss it with someone. When you’re walking someone else through the panic and fears you have, it may be easier to realize how outlandish or wild they are. Whether it’s your therapist, a friend, or a partner/spouse, talking it out can release the hold that your Anxiety Demon has on you. It can ease the tension while allowing you space to breathe. 


If you or someone you know is in immediate danger due to depression, contact 911. If you or someone you know is in need of support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255); En Español 1-888-628-9454 or text “HELLO” to 741741 the Crisis Text Line.

I Made a Vision Board for 2021: Part One

Let me be the first to say that I am a natural pessimist, an anxiety-ridden, serial depressive who is an enneagram 6. I’m not one for religion, overly positive mantras or crystals, but I’m willing to try just about anything at least once if it’ll improve my mental health and life. Like many others, 2020 was a rough year mentally, physically and emotionally. Fresh off the hell that was Q4 2019 (see How to Heal a Broken Millennial Heart for further understanding), 2020 was doomed from the start. It was to be a year of transition, a metamorphosis if you will. 

When 2020 started, I was at my heaviest – emotionally, physically and mentally – and the most uncomfortable in my own skin. Each day was a trial, presenting countless obstacles for my personal and professional life. However, through all of the changes and adjustments, one thing prevailed: I suddenly had time. More time than I knew what to do with. 

I began having to confront things that I’d been able to push away thanks to being busy at work or by spending time with friends. I discovered pieces of myself that I wasn’t a huge fan of and wanted to change that. Serendipitously, 2020 became the year of realization and inner growth. Now, I won’t be one of those bloggers or influencers that vomit positivity and about how great 2020 was. Don’t get me wrong, 2020 SUCKED. But through the darkness, we can find light. That’s why I wanted to make a vision board for 2021.


What is a vision board?

A vision board, sometimes referred to as a dream board, is a physical way to manifest what you want. It’s a visualization tool used to manifest or ‘visualize’ what dreams or ideas you want to project into the universe. Personally, I’m not into all that touchy-feely stuff, but again, anything is worth a try at least once. This year, I’ve learned that there is no bigger obstacle than myself. I am what creates (and thus destroys) my own happiness. I am the only one who controls that. 

What is included in a vision board?

It can be anything you want. There are a few different ways to go about building a vision board, so truly there is no wrong answer. I made two – one for general ideation (completed) and one for specific goals (in progress). I included quotes, reminders, photos, souvenirs, small tokens/gifts and stickers. Besides the cork board itself, I only purchased one magazine to cut up – otherwise everything else was just stuff I had lying around my house. This does not have to be an expensive project – but it will require some time and thought. 

How does it work?

Vision boards serve as a physical reminder for what you’re wanting to achieve. Seeing it everyday will help keep your goals or ideas at the forefront of your mind as you progress through the weeks and months. It can help to motivate you in a passive way. Rather than an obnoxious alarm on your phone or a calendar reminder, you can be met with a peaceful, self-created image that hangs on your wall as a friendly notice.


Here’s my vision board, broken into four segments: travel, healing, growth, reminders.

Top Left  – Travel 

Each year, except 2020, I plan a trip abroad. I love to travel and to help visualize that, I’ve included a photo of the airplane when I visited Scotland, a luggage tag from France in 2011, a polaroid from the condo in Marco Island and a few travel themed stickers. I hope to travel, whether a big or small trip, and remember how lucky I am to be able to do that.

Top Right – Growth

Midway through 2020, I was invited to join a personal and professional growth program through my company. I was hesitant at first, feeling that I was already at a transitional point in my life, but decided, ‘why not?’. I had nothing to lose, but so much to gain. I’ve included two acronyms to remember daily: one from the work program (S.N.A.P.) and one from the Emotional Detox book by Sherianna Boyle, MED, CAGS (C.L.E.A.N.S.E.)

Bottom Left – Healing

As mentioned in How to Heal a Broken Millennial Heart, 2019 was a shitstorm before 2020 dreamed of it. I’ve included a dream catcher from a Lakota reservation that my grandmother gifted to me, a postcard from Annecy, a fortune cookie and quotes. This section will serve as a reminder that healing is a priority throughout this year – even when it doesn’t always feel good.

Bottom Right: Reminders

The bottom right has no true theme, but just gentle reminders. The moon cycle is a reminder that everything will pass and change. The polaroid is a reminder to get out every once in a while, embrace nature and the relationships that I’ve cultivated over the last year. Lastly, the patch, simple and straightforward –  have a nice day. 

Stay tuned for part two: goals!

Anime for Beginners

So, you’re interested in anime. Great! While anime gets a faux bad rep, especially when you’re in middle or high school, there are some truly great shows out there that everyone should watch at least once. Whether you’re ready to jump all in or you’re still testing the waters, here are some great beginner anime shows you should try. 


Classics

Naruto / Naruto Shippuden

TW: Graphic violence, intense action scenes, death

Based off of the popular manga, Naruto is the 4th highest selling manga series in history. Both series follow Naruto Uzumaki, a young ninja who aspires to be Hokage of his village. This show balances action, drama and comedy through hundreds of episodes. If you’re looking for something to binge in a weekend, this show is definitely not for you at a total of 500 episodes. But if you want to watch a few episodes at a time and really experience the story, then check it out! 

Differences between Naruto and Naruto Shippuden – Naruto is the very beginning of the storyline, while Naruto Shippuden takes place around 2.5 years after the original. The characters are seemingly more mature making the show a little more palatable to older audiences.


Avatar: The Last Airbender / The Legend of Korra

TW: Violence, intense action scenes

Formerly a Nickelodeon show in the early 2000’s, A:TLA and LoK have seen a resurgence in popularity since landing on streaming giant, Netflix. Each show is broken up into four books – or chapters – while the avatar navigates through their objectives. A:TLA follows Aang, the first avatar in 100 years as he battles the Fire Nation, while LoK follows Korra, the next Avatar, nearly 70 years after A:TLA as she modernizes a nation.

While connected, these are two separate shows and each deserve a watch – with A:TLA at 61 episodes and LoK at 51, it’s fairly easy to binge through. Personally, I feel like LoK is a little easier to watch since it follows a more mature character Korra (aged 17) compared to Aang (technically aged 112 – but 100 of those years, he was frozen). 


*Fullmetal Alchemist / Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

TW: Graphic violence, gore, intense action scenes, death, alchemy/magic, war, genocide

This is, and has always been, one of my favorite shows. I originally watched FMA on AdultSwim, eventually rewatching FMA:B when it was released on Netflix. FMA follows the Elric brothers, Alphonse and Edward, as they learn alchemy and try to become State Alchemists. FMA is a steampunk, post-European industrial revolution dream – full of common themes like the seven deadly sins, social discrimination and ultimately, family and brotherhood. Spurring the storylines along is Alchemy’s First Law of Equivalent Exchange – to create, something of equal value must be lost.

Differences between FMA and FMA:B – They are the same storyline, however FMA diverges from the original manga storyline while FMA:B follows it completely. The animation in FMA:B is also better since it was created five years after the original. 


Action

One-Punch Man
TW: Violence, intense action scenes

As the name depicts, One-Punch Man follows the story of superhero Saitama, who grows bored of his ridiculous strength, striving to find a worthy opponent. Set in a super-Earth, overrun by heroes and villains, Saitama has his work cut out for him. Popularized thanks to fun animation and emotive styles of the protagonist, OPM is a fun action packed anime series that functions as a parody to traditional superhero lore; specifically Superman.  


Soul Eater
TW: Violence, intense action scenes

Soul Eater follows a team at the Death Weapon Meister Academy as they try to become a death scythe to be used by the ruler of the school, Shinigami a.k.a. Death. Primary characters, Maka and humanoid-weapon, Soul, battle other meisters as well as the organization Arachnophobia to save themselves and the DWMA. While this is an action heavy show, there is a heavy dose of comedy, often brought by secondary character Death the Kid and his pistol partners, Liz and Patty Thompson.


Fairy Tail
TW: Violence, intense action scenes

Another popular anime, Fairy Tail, follows Natsu Dragneel and other members from the Fairy Tail guild as they embark on adventures and missions throughout Earth-land. This comedic fantasy show spans over 300 episodes, running for nearly a decade. Although the storyline can be a little light in comparison to other shows, Fairy Tail has been a fan favorite across all age groups for the last few years.


Horror 

Parasyte: The Maxim

TW: Graphic violence, body gore, intense action scenes, death

High schooler, Shinichi Izumi, is inhabited by an alien parasite named Migi whose goal was to enter the human’s brain to control the body – however, the plan didn’t work out fully. This horror anime has elements of dark comedy, which make it a little easier to suffer through. The alien race that Migi is a part of is trying to colonize the Earth, by assuming and devouring their hosts bodies. At 24 episodes, this anime is fairly quick to binge, but it can be a little heavy and dark. 


Elfen Lied

TW: Graphic violence, abuse, psychological torture, genocide, nudity    

An absolute favorite of mine, Elfen Lied was also the inspiration behind Eleven/El from Stranger Things. This gripping 13-episode, horror anime explores the idea of social isolation and division and treatment amongst humans.

A graphic depiction of an attempted hostile takeover, Elfen Lied also has a warmth and love imbued into the storyline as well. Following Lucy/Nyu, a member of the newly mutated Diclonius species, Elfen Lied explores the effects of imprisonment, abuse and the darkness within human nature. Hands down, this is equally one of the most beautiful yet disturbing animes I’ve seen. 


Attack on Titan

TW: Gore, graphic violence, cannibalism

After colossal humanoids, called Titans, breach the walls of town, Eren Yeager and friends decide to protect humanity from these monstrosities by becoming a part of the Scout Regiment. This action heavy, dark fantasy anime has a little bit of something for everyone. While there is surely a high amount of death and destruction (and cannibalism thanks to the Titans), this is a very interesting watch. With 59 episodes and 8 additional releases, AoT will take some time to work through. 


Whether you catch episodes late night on AdultSwim, Toonami or CrunchyRoll there is an anime for everyone.

What I Learned Playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons for 300+ Hours

A true gift from this shithole year was Animal Crossing. Originally released in 2001, AC has been popular amongst audiences for almost two decades; releasing in the US in 2002. With over 40 million units sold worldwide and five spinoff games, there is clearly something for everyone to love and learn from Animal Crossing. 

The newest game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, released worldwide in the beginning of 2020 on the Nintendo Switch, eight years after the previous AC game release. A perfect storm of social distancing and much needed entertainment brought AC:NH to new heights, with over 5 million downloads in the first month alone. So what’s so great about this game?

First and foremost, I am not an avid video game player nor am I a good video game player. I typically get bored after a few gaming sessions, having only completed two games prior (s/o We Happy Few and BioShock!). But I love AC:NH and have spent 310 hours playing over the last six months. This is what I learned while playing AC:NH. 

Game Premise 

You embark on a deserted island getaway and are able to create, morph and design your perfect island over time. You have residents that move to your island, along with shops, seasonal events and more to experience. Thanks to your raccoon overlord, Tom Nook, you start the getaway in debt, but don’t worry, you’re able to pay it off quickly. 

What I Learned

First Homesite; Island 1

Daily tasks are necessary – in the game and life.

As a person who’s struggled with heavy depression on and off for a decade, sometimes the essential tasks like cleaning, laundry or eating can be a burden. In AC:NH, your character is rewarded for doing simple things like picking up sticks, clearing weeds or chopping down trees. Being able to make a character push through mundane tasks made it a little easier to force myself to get out of bed and do laundry.


If you’re unhappy, restart.

New Campsite; Island 1

I spent almost 275 hours building an island which is roughly 12 full days. I received the coveted 5-star rating on accident at around 180 hours and was seriously unhappy. I really didn’t like my island – I started playing without knowing the purpose, creating a mismatched, haphazardly built island that I really wasn’t enjoying. So I restarted. Erased all that work and started over. That same principle can be applied to each of us every single day. If we’re unhappy with something – our attitude, mindset, exercise level, whatever – we can change that. Hit the restart button until you’re at ease and at peace with yourself. 


Everything changes and that’s okay.

Celebrating Summer; Island 1

You can build a perfect utopia from top to bottom, but inevitably something will change that you have no control over – like the seasons. AC:NH is set to recreate the seasons of your hemisphere, changing the available DIY crafts, ingredients and overall landscape of your island. This is not something that can be fought, but merely accepted. I do not enjoy change as a person, but playing this game has surprisingly made it a little easier to accept. (An overexaggerated reaction, but a good example nonetheless). 


Sometimes, people you love leave.

5-Star Status; Island 1

When you start your island, there are two other islanders who spawn with you. You’re able to interact with your islanders and swap gifts, etc. throughout the game. However, sometimes your islander will decide that it’s time for them to move on to another island. At first, I hated when islanders would want to leave – because I wanted them to stay with me. But just like in real life, sometimes you have to let people go so that they can be the best versions of themselves. Or alternatively, you need to let them go because they’re not good for you anymore (cough*Curlos*cough).


Just because my island looked different than others, doesn’t mean it’s bad.

Yoga by some trees; Island 2

A fun perk in AC:NH is that you’re able to visit other islands, deserted or inhabited, to trade or simply see a friend’s design. After watching a few of those 5-star island tours on Youtube though, I was feeling pretty dejected about my shabby island. Who cares? As long as I like my island and it functions for me, then it doesn’t matter. The same principle should apply to regular life too. Who cares if I’m not the same size, personality or type as someone else? It shouldn’t matter as long as I’m happy with myself. 


People can be jerks, but that doesn’t mean you should put up with it.

Turkey Day; Island 2

AC:NH contains over 400 characters that you could randomly meet or interact with. The characters are grouped by a personality trait: normal, peppy, sisterly, snooty, cranky, jock, lazy and smug. Snooty and smug villagers can be annoying to deal with, especially when they’re being rude towards other characters. You do have limited control of kicking people off the island if you so choose. There’s no reason to keep villagers or people in your life if they bring you down. Surround yourself with those who bring happiness. 


For anyone that’s looking to kill some time as we move towards another potential lockdown, maybe give Animal Crossing: New Horizons a chance. With bright colors, cute characters and a mostly stress-free gameplay, this can be a great escape for anyone experiencing heightened anxiety from lockdowns, COVID-19 or just the day to day stress of life. Spend your time fishing in lakes or growing flowers or diving for sea creatures.

An Ode to Jenna Marbles

If you’ve spent any amount of time on the internet – specifically YouTube or Tumblr – in the last decade, at some point you’ve probably run across Jenna Marbles. Considered to be a part of the original group of YouTubers, Marbles posted her first notable video in 2010 titled ‘How to Trick People into Thinking You’re Good Looking’. Instantly a star thanks to her witty humor, adorable pets, fun skits and relatable content, Jenna Marbles has continued to make thousands laugh every ‘Wednesday-slash-Thursday’, until now. 

From make-up tutorials to dog birthdays to drunk crafts, Jenna Marbles has been a constant in my life for a decade. There was a time recently, when I was deep in the waves of a gnarly depression spell, where the weekly videos she posted were the one thing I could count on to give me a brief moment of happiness. Just five minutes where I would feel okay – a few lighthearted laughs at whatever antics she pulled. Even if it was one of her less exciting videos where she dip-dyed Crocs just for the hell of it – it was everything to me. 

Her content has changed dramatically over the years. Starting out she was a foul-mouthed ranting 22 year old in the Wild West of the internet. She made some problematic videos which were removed over the years as she transitioned into her new style. She’s since become a much more calm, mindfulness-minded *32 year old lady*.

Jenna decided to leave YouTube, social media, the whole shebang, at the beginning of the summer this year after many fans brought back long-deleted videos where she was being problematic. She posted one of the most realistic and relatable apology videos (that has since been removed) that I’ve ever seen and trust me, I watch them all when I’m bored – shout/out James Charles for the never ending stream of them. This is my ode to Jenna Marbles.

Jenna,

You’ve allowed us unfiltered access to your life for a decade; through break ups, new pets, new homes, everything. You’ve created endless jokes and relatable content for a sea of greedy fish. While I’ve never met you and never will, you provided a light during the darkest times of my life and for that, I will be forever grateful. I hope that you feel as much love and happiness as you’ve given to us over the last ten years, even if you decide to never return to the internet world. 

Always a fan,

Bailey