Target: Every girl’s best + worst nightmare.

“I only need one thing, but I’ll grab a cart just in case.” — Me

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Ladies, ladies ladies. I know I’m not alone when I say that I am unhealthily obsessed with none other than the wonderful superstore that is Target.

I would be lying to you if I said that I was not there at least twice a week. I know, I’m sick. When people tell me they prefer other stores to Target, I literally go as far as to question their mental stability. How is this possible?

Just yesterday I went to Target for one thing, a Christmas gift bag [since of course I am always 12 steps behind]. Mind you, the entire Christmas/Holiday collection at Target is 50–90% off, making this gift bag a whopping — wait for it — 90¢. I should have walked out of there spending under $1. But did I? Of course not!

I was on my merry way to the self-checkout, basket in tow, ready to scan my things and move on with my day. From the time I picked up the 90¢ gift bag to the time I got to the checkout machine, I honestly think I blacked out. Well, not think. Know. I know I did. All the sales had my adrenaline pumping to the max, and I lost all self control. $67 later, I have added a turtleneck, nail polish, hand and foot warmers, a bag of ground coffee, a set of earrings, trail mix and a plethora of other goodies to my basket. I didn’t even want this stuff, but I needed it all, and walked out 3 full bags later.

I can go into Walmart, Hobby Lobby, or even Wegmans and walk out with exactly what I need. In and out, no questions asked. But 9 times out of 10, I not only leave Target with shit I don’t need, but also forget the sole item I was looking for, only resulting in yet another Target run. It is a vicious cycle, and I love every second of it. Target is a drug and I am a full-blown addict. Is it the dollar section? The crazy sales? The Cartwheel app? The ever-so-cute home decor? How about the clothes? I don’t know what it is, but my room is too full and my pockets are too empty.

I can’t be the only one wound up in this madness. I know there are more of you out there that are addicted like me. With that being said, happy shopping to all my fellow Target lovers. I know how you feel.

And to Target, I love you. I’m sure I will see you soon.

What we can learn from George Michael.

“I’ve achieved what every artist wants, which is that some of their work will outlive them.” — George Michael

It’s been widespread breaking news since Christmas Day — George Michael passed away, much too soon, at the age of 53.

Growing up in a household where music was always a staple, this somewhat rocked my world. When I was as young as 3 or 4, I can remember being introduced to various artists, mostly artists that my mother and father grew up listening to and learned to love. The list spanned across a wide aray of genres — anything from Van Halen to Bon Jovi, from The Police to LFO, and to none other than George Michael.

George Michael was someone that was adored by both of my parents; my mother loved him for his looks and charasmatic dance moves, my dad for his unquestionable musical genius. You don’t find artists like George Michael today — ones who write, produce, and perform their own songs. He was a true talent.

He found success during both his career with Wham! and his solo career. After winning 3 Brit Awareds, 4 VMA’s, 3 AMA’s and 2 Grammy’s, having 8 number one hits on the US Billboard Hot 100, and being one of the best-selling British acts of all time, it is almost impossible to find someone who doesn’t know at least one of his songs.

For today’s celebrities, the preferred method of coming out is to be on the cover of a magazine or to formulate an intricate tweet or Facebook post, ensuring they get the proper amount of fame and are talked about on every early-morning network show. Mr. Michael was quite the opposite. He had a quiet aesthetic. He never truly had to come out, as those who knew what to look for, knew. He avoided controversy by being subdued against the provocative queer aesthric given off by many of his peers. The single earring, the tight denim, the coded messages in his songs. He let audiences decide what they had seen or heard.

He was never ashamed of any of his beliefs or actions. Even after his arrest for lewd behavior in a public restroom in Los Angeles, he addressed it with poise. It was after this event, in the infamous CNN interview in which he announced to the world that he was gay. For many years following his coming out, he was open about the thrill public sex gave him, he was open about having non monogamous relationships, he was open about his entire life. Not once did he hide who he truly was. He was an activist for HIV/AIDS before it was “cool,” he was an activist for LGBT rights, he had a positive attitude toward sexuality, and most importantly, he was a role model.

Some important things we all can take away from George Michael are

to always stay true to yourself,

“Be good to yourself ’cause nobody else has the power to make you happy.” — George Michael

to never be ashamed of who you are,

“I want to say that I have no problem with people knowing that I’m in a relationship with a man right now. … I don’t feel any shame.” — Michael to CNN in April 1998

to work your way to success,

I watch people who are not driven by creativity any more, and I think how dull it must be to produce the same kind of thing. If you don’t feel you’re reaching something new, then don’t do it.” — George Michael

to stay humble,

I believe I have some kind of gift, but I don’t believe in myself as a star. To be happy as a star, you have to believe you’re really removed from people. I’ve never been comfortable with that. I know that deep down I’m the same as everyone else.” — Michael to USA TODAY in September 1990

and most importantly, to listen to your heart.

“You’ll never find peace of mind until you listen to your heart.” — George Michael

Rest easy, George Michael. You will be missed.

Here’s to a fresh start.

1*_JgZ9V8Wmb2YUZ0j83hoig.jpg2016… Where to even begin?

This year, it seems like we experienced quite a bit of everything. Who could forget Leonardo DiCaprio winning his first Academy Award, the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Queen Elizabeth turning 90, Donald Trump winning the United States Election, or the death of the now-famous gorilla Harambe? We experienced some tragedy — the outbreak of the Zika virus, the Orlando night club shooting, the controversial sentencing of Brock Turner, or the mutliple police shootings, just to name a few.

It may have started off as a sarcastic one-liner, but as we come closer to the end it really seems like “nobody was safe.” We lost [what feels like] so many icons this year — David Bowie, Nancy Reagan, Prince, Mohamed Ali, Gene Wilder, Florence Henderson, Arnold Palmer, Alan Thicke, Zsa Zsa Gabor, George Michael, and Carrie Fisher — staples of our childhood, and as we come closer to the end of 2016, the list is continuing to grow.

If there is one thing that we should take away from this year, it’s that anything is possible. While I do not know your own personal triumphs or sruggles that you may have had this year, I do know mine. And I can confidently say that this year shook me up, but not necessarily in a bad way.

Never in a million years did I expect this year to turn out the way it did. I overcame some pretty tough battles. I worked through the pain I was experiencing. I overcame my struggles with anxiety. I changed my life — joined a gym, fell more in love, enrolled at a new university, spent time with friends, cut my hair, changed my job, and started to focus on me.

I educated myself in the things that matter [well, to me at least]. I watched the first woman become a Presidential nominee, and watched a well-known celebrity win the token spot. I learned to embrace change. I learned to respect others and the differing opinions they have while standing up for myself and what I believe in. I partook in research, fieldwork, and internships to help individuals with developmental disabilities flourish in today’s soceity — something I stand so strongly for. I started looking and applying for new jobs in my field. I worked my ass off in school and was rewarded with a 3.9GPA; something I never thought was possible while juggling these multiple batons.

All that, and the most important thing remains. Although sometimes I got knocked down, I always got back up.

2016, thank you for the memories. And to 2017…you are 4 days away, and I am ready for you.

(PSA: My New Year’s resolution is to start blogging & to be more open about my personal experiences. Stay tuned!)

The Power of Putting Your Happiness Above All Else

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Growing up, I have always had this aching need to make others happy. I thought that by doing everything by the book, everything expected of me, that I would find my own happiness in knowing I never did anything to let anybody down. I wanted to accomplish things so that others would be proud of. I wanted to be perfect in the eyes of everyone I knew.

I got by living this way for a solid twenty-something years. I went to Catholic school and was a “star student.” I rarely broke the rules. I graduated high school with distinction. I was in a long term relationship with a guy my family loved. Wasn’t a teen mom. Wasn’t addicted to drugs. I moved away to college and graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in 3 years. My life seemed to play out in a way in which I thought, “this is too good to be true.” I was right, but I didn’t know then what I know now.

Spring semester of my senior year of undergrad, my world slowly felt like it was crashing down. All this hard work over 21 years brought nothing but rejection after rejection to graduate programs for my chosen field. My love life was rocky. I lost connection with friends. Things were going on in my life that I never thought I’d face. I felt worthless. I felt as if I had wasted all of my time and worked hard for nothing. This didn’t seem right. It didn’t seem fair.

Instead of sitting down and putting immense thought into my future, I hastily accepted a spot into a program at a school that I did not care for. It was the first acceptance letter I had seen in months, and I jumped at the opportunity. I thought it was an easy fix. My parents wanted me to go there, my friends went there, and I wouldn’t have to endure a “gap year” — something that I didn’t think I needed until now.

I lasted an entire two years in that program — halfway through getting a Master’s degree — only for me to pass the point of no return and have a mental breakdown. From the outside, nobody would have ever known. My grades did not suffer, but my mental health did. I was faking a smile, telling people I loved my school and I loved my potential career choice. I felt as if everyday I was living a lie. I knew I wasn’t happy, but I didn’t want others to know it.

Everyday, I would wake up and go to bed anxious. I was afraid of backing out because I didn’t want others to see me as a failure. I wanted to prove that I could overcome hardship. That although my original dream did not come true, I could make it better. But instead, I was only making it worse. I lost friends. My stress put a damper on a new relationship. I went out more. I ate less. I tried so hard to find a glimmer of happiness to keep me going. I tried until the very end, until I decided to be brave and to forget what everyone else thought.

I remember leaving my now-old school after my last cumulative final. That was the day I learned I got accepted to a school I loved into a program of my dreams. I cried the entire drive home. How would I tell my parents that I decided to change my mind? How would they react to me getting accepted into a different program at a different school? This would be my third college and I only have one degree, would they be mad?

It was the overwhelming excitement and support from my boyfriend and my best friend that made me realize something — nothing else matters but my own happiness. Why wasn’t I proud of myself for getting into a program that only accepts 20 students? Why wasn’t I proud of myself for being brave enough to walk away — walk away from fear, from stress, from a life I didn’t want?

My friends and family could not believe all I have endured inside of my head. My mother was upset I didn’t share any of this with her so that she could help me get through it. The more I opened up, the more I saw that I made the right decision. I had nothing to be afraid of. I don’t regret it, but I wished I had found help long before I realized I needed it.

It took time, but I am here. I am ecstatic knowing that in one short week, I will be pursuing something that I love. Contrary to my prior beliefs, I do not see anything that I have been through as a failure. It was terrible, but I would not take any of it back. Sometimes, the road to your happiness can be rocky. Hardships are brought into your life to be a stepping stone to get you where you need to be. It won’t happen overnight, but things do get better. I am surrounded by love and support, I am excited for my future, and — most importantly — I am happy.