The College Experience: My First Semester

When you were a kid, chances are, your parents enforced the idea in your head that you must go to college in order to pursue a good career. I was always an education-geared person and imagined big things for myself–going to University, becoming a teacher, and leaving a mark on the world.

This year I started my first semester of college. Technically I did two, because I took a summer English class and passed with an A, but things went downhill very fast from there. When the semester started in August, I was enrolled in five classes. English, Educational Psychology, Psychology, Math 95, and Intro to Secondary Education.

I will admit, I was thrilled. It started off wonderfully, and I was extremely dedicated. At the start of the semester, I was only working 25 hours a week at McDonald’s, so I had a lot of time on my hands. A few weeks into the semester and things quickly started to change.

For starters, Math 95 was much harder than I anticipated. Even though it was considered high school Algebra, there were many things I’d never even seen before. While starting off strong, my grades started to slip, and the speed of the course really threw me off. Meanwhile, even though I was staying after for study groups and tutoring, I got a new job where I was working 48 hours. This made my time for studying even less, and my Math 95 class grade went from an A to an F in a matter of weeks.

Fast-forward to mid-October, I realized I couldn’t keep it going. There was too much work and not enough hours in the day, so I made the decision to audit three of the five classes, choosing to stay enrolled in Psychology and English. This, of course, caused me to mess up my financial aid because over $500 was due. There was not enough time for me to raise the money, and now, almost mid-January, my financial aid has been revoked and I was immediately unenrolled from all of my Spring classes.

Of course, this got me thinking: Where do I go from here? I can’t possibly be the only person that’s dealt with a situation like this in college, but sometimes it feels like I’m alone as far as this college thing goes. I truly don’t know how to do it, and I’ve finally realized it’s okay for me to admit that.

When I was a high school student, I did so well. I always had in school, and all my teachers told me that when I got to college, I was going to love it. I was going to do well. I was going to get good grades.

Well, I’m sorry, but that was not the case. That is not the truth. I entered college completely unaware of what to expect, and was down the drain before I even started.

So now the biggest question is: Where will I go? What will I do? I’m not writing this as a pity party. I am writing this because I know I am not, and will never be, the only college student that has gone through this. Whatever has happened, you can overcome it. For now, I will find my way somehow. I know what I want and I will never throw my dreams away. There just has to be a different way of approaching it.

I will continue to keep people updated on my journey, in hopes of inspiring those around me. Because if anyone knows me, one thing I am not is a quitter.

 

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Icon for Hire: “You Can’t Kill Us” Album Review

icon-for-hire

Although I am nowhere near a critic, I would like to review Icon For Hire’s new album, You Can’t Kill Us, which releases November 25th.

There are a few reasons why I wanted to review this album, but one of the biggest reason’s is the message behind it. As a big fan of theirs for over a year now, the announcement of a new album made me extremely excited. When I found out they were funding the new record through Kickstarter, I desperately wanted to help out, but due to some hard times in my life as far as getting money, I was unable to afford it. Despite that, Icon for Hire still made the new songs available to those who were unable to help out with the Kickstarter, and I will be the first to admit they made my 2016 a year I will never forget.

Going independent is never easy. An an indie author, I understand the struggle entirely, which is why I feel the need to help them out so much.

Anyone who follows me knows that one of my biggest issues that I like to tackle is mental health, as seen through the few books that I have written. Their previous songs even helped me write my newest book, The Long Road Home, which released earlier this year. This is the exact reason why I feel the need to do my part, as a fan and a person who has greatly benefited from their music, and write them a review. Unlike most reviews, I decided to take an in-depth look at each song, picking out my favorite lines from each, and giving my own interpretation of each. So let’s give this a go!

1. “Supposed to Be”

The album opens up with an electronic, yet rock, song called “Supposed to Be,” where Ariel sings, “Tell me who I’m supposed to be now. Make me better, I can’t stay halfway dead forever.” The song, while not heavy, is seemingly the lead single for the album, and talks about the struggle of depression, and mental health in general, and our tendency to allow it to define us. Because of my own personal struggles, the song really connected with me, and I found myself wondering the same things as Ariel. For so long, depression defined not only everything that happened in my life, but it became me. I was depressed. I wasn’t Alec, I was depression. I was anxiety. For the song’s bridge, Ariel sings, “For years, this is all I’ve know, this has had my heart, and this has been my home.” As a song of question, it’s also a song of hope, and overcoming these labels that we use to define ourselves. We are not our sadness. We are human. And most of all, we are who we shape ourselves to be, and we should not let anyone or anything tell us any different.

Favorite line: “I don’t wanna be stuck, I don’t wanna be crazy–this is the way that my sadness made me.”

2. “Demons”

The album takes a sudden turn with the second track, titled “Demons,” where, although still heavy, the song’s intro takes a more electronic sound to it. Despite that, I feel that this song is one of the few that sounds close to their previous albums, yet still stands well on its own. The first thing that caught my attention with this song was the repeated phrase “Ashes, ashes” for each verse, especially in the line where Ariel sings, “Ashes, ashes, dust and dust; it doesn’t hurt enough yet, does it, does it?” Where “Supposed to Be” focused on the labels and figuring out who we’re, well, supposed to be, this song focuses more on overcoming the things that hold us down. Each and every person has their own personal demons that they have to deal with, and this song is all about letting go, moving on, and not being a victim to yourself and your struggles. “Oh, fight back your demons, don’t let them take you down,” sings Ariel in the chorus, reminding us that we have the power over our emotions, our pain, and how we choose to live.

Favorite line: “Pain didn’t change me; I changed my pain” or “You didn’t come this far just to get this far.”

3. “Pulse”

This song, out of all on the album, seems to move away from their typical rock sound, and I’ll be the first to admit that at first listen, I wasn’t a huge fan. After several times of listening, dissecting the lyrics, and hearing the music, I realized that although a mix of electronic sound and rap, rock still plays a roll, and the lyrics are worth it, despite the claim that they’re “weak.” Ariel opens up with a direct reference to their first album Scripted, “Do your thing but you oughta know, we just make it up as we go…They’re so scripted, they’re so predictable. Do your thing but you oughta know, we just make it up as we go…we’ve unscripted, now we do what we want.” *wink wink* Of course, this is all sung in rap, and while this is not something necessarily new for this band, it is definitely used more excessively in this song, but that’s not really a bad thing. One of the things that really stands out about this song is the meaning behind it, which is stated directly in the chorus: “Tell me, do you have a pulse? Do you have a pulse? Do you have a p-p-p-pulse? Tell me, do you even know? Do you even know? Do you even kn-kn-kn-know?” As people, we tend to do what others want us to, whether it be getting a job for the sake of family, denying who we are, or pretending to be something that we’re not. Ariel and Shawn pose the question of, are we really living? Are you a living, breathing person, when all you’re doing is listening to everyone else? Even though this song is far from their old rock sound, it is one of my top five songs on the album.

Favorite line: “Do your thing, go numb it down. Try to make them all love you now.”

4. “The Magic”

Icon for Hire has done many beautiful songs in the past, such as “Only a Memory,” “Hope of Morning,” and “The Grey.” The fourth track, “The Magic,” reminds me very much of these songs, and at first listen even made me tear up. With a slower, but not softer, take, Ariel sings, “When you close your eyes, somewhere are you still alive? When you close your eyes, somewhere does your heart still beat or are you lost like me?” Although this may not be the exact reason the song was written, my interpretation is about the “magic” or being alive. Each and every one of us has something offer the world, and we have the power to be something amazing or something terrible. Many of us who have struggled with our own feelings and challenges, it can be easy to feel like you’re not living enough, or that maybe even death is better than what we’re dealing with. Just like always, Icon reminds us that not only is life worth living, but that we can overcome anything. We are strong. We all have the magic in us.

Favorite line: “Imagine the magic that might be under the madness, between the mundane automatic and the silicone sadness.” 

5. “Happy Hurts”

For years, Icon for Hire has given us songs that are about things like depression, but this song poses the question, “Why does happy hurt sometimes? Why is it that when I’m happy, I still feel sadness?” Many of us who’ve dealt with depression or anything of the kind can understand that feeling all too well. As possibly the slowest song on the album, Ariel sings softer and gentler than usual, “Happy hurts sometimes, blame it on the monsters in my mind. I’ve been getting better at slowly getting worse, oh, what’s wrong with me when happy hurts?” This, along with a few others, made me cry upon first hearing, simply because it hit extremely close to home. I’ve found myself sharing it with many of my friends who I feel may need it, and I will never get tired of listening to this song. Although rap is in the song, it’s a lot less subtle, and fans who don’t necessarily like the rap sound can still thoroughly enjoy this song.

Favorite line: “A little less victim, a little more victory.”

6. “You Were Wrong”

It can be very easy for bands, when writing songs, to come across as whiny, immature, and like they’re venting about the loss of friendship, relationship, and so on. Icon for Hire is not one of those bands. Instead of sulking in the sadness or frustration of losing someone (the exact person the song is about is not obvious), Icon for Hire gives us a song about realizing that the people that try to break us down can’t have that power over us, even if we were once friends. Over the last few songs since this song first came out, I find that I’ve lost many people I never thought I’d lose. Instead of giving me a song that could be whiny, Ariel sings, “You were wrong all along, try to break me, make me strong.” As the song progresses, she states, “I thought we were one and the same, us against them and their dumb little game. Well, I guess I got played.” For me, this song is an anthem about getting rid of the toxic people in our lives. It’s about the joy, possibly, of being free, and I think everyone can take away something from this song, even if musically it is not their taste.

Favorite line: “I don’t go down easy, I don’t bow out quiet. I never lost a war unless I didn’t fight it.”

7. “Too Loud”

This is one of the top three songs on the album by far, and it’s also one of the last that we got to hear. Musically, it is hard to explain, as the song starts out with a electronic vibe along with what sounds like clapping, but later proceeds to be a bit more rock with a guitar very prominent in the chorus and at the end. “Let’s stop letting everyone tell us how to feel, tell us how to dream. Let’s stop letting everyone tell us how to live, tell us who to be,” Ariel sings right before the chorus, a message that relates back to “Pulse.” In the amazing chorus, Ariel, almost jokingly, sings, “Oh no, no, am I getting too loud, am I getting too loud, am I getting too loud? Oh no, no, am I getting in your head, am I getting in your head, getting in your head?” In my head, I almost consider this a sequel song to “Pulse,” because the chorus seems directed at us, whereas the chorus seems directed at people who try to bring us down. When we start questioning authority, or people close to us, they can get pretty defensive, and I feel as though Ariel is making fun, in a way, of how standing up can affect them. Ironically, at the start of the chorus, the song slows down a bit as she asks if she’s getting too loud, and it’s very clear that was intentional.  This is my second favorite track on the record and I feel that it’s also one of the strong songs they’ve ever done.

Favorite line: “You know, they’re coming for your fire when they try to push you lower but you keep on going higher.”

8. “War”

This song was previously titled “Perfect Storm,” and although I’m not really thrilled about the title change, I find this song way better than the demo that was previously leaked a long time ago. Being my third favorite song on the album, we start out with a the sound of a piano, which I assume is by Ariel, where she sings, “You and I go deep like water…” and then goes into, “It’s a brilliant game you play, when you lock yourself away and make me fight for you.” The chorus, which is soft the first time, gets a little louder and heavier the second time around, where she sings beautifully, “I can’t keep you above water, I can’t drag your soul to shore. Don’t know how to fix a sinking ship, or win a losing war.” There have been many people in my life that are like this, and hell, I may have even been this person before. Sometimes people drag us down, and the track is all about letting go, loving them from afar, and learning that the “ocean isn’t big enough” for these other people in our lives.

Favorite line: “On the surface it looks perfect, underneath it’s just a perfect storm.”

9. “Under the Knife” (Album Spotlight)

There’s certainly a lot to say about this song, not only because it’s my favorite Icon song ever, but because it is also the most meaningful message I’ve ever heard in a song. I will also be using the lyrics to completely dissect it, for those who may not have heard the song As a writer myself, my readers know that I don’t like to sugarcoat things, and I’m very proud of this band for tackling the same issue in a similar way. Ariel, understandably, opens up with, “This is the song I’m too scared to write, but some of you may need it tonight.” Right away, the message behind the song is obvious, where she then goes into, “Oh, there you were, heart made of glass. Fragile little thing, shattered too fast. Tried to pick the pieces up, up, up, and that’s the way you first got cut, cut cut.” In the chorus, she sings, “You carved a special place for your pain…and wished it all away until you disappeared under the knife.” As if these lyrics weren’t powerful enough, the song then moves into a rap, where the chorus is unfortunately not heard again.

“Listen, I know it’s simplified from the other side,

It’s easy to gloss over all the messy reasons why,

and it’s easy for forget where you’ve been.

I guess that’s what the scars are for, huh?”

Ariel, although admitting later in the song that she seems to have no personal experience with this, knows exactly what she is talking about, and anyone who’s ever dealt with self-harm will feel just how hard the song hits to home. I am still unable to listen to the song without crying, and by crying, I mean bawling. Ariel then sings,

“When we were fifteen, we wouldn’t dare let that shit be seen,

But now it seems mutilation’s gone mainstream.

I see you at my shows, scarred up from head to toe,

Like there’s no point even trying not to let it show.

Cause we all know, ‘Emo kids like to hurt themselves,’

Too many feelings and not enough self-control.

I mean, does this mess with any of the rest of you?

It’s an epidemic and we’re cool with it, don’t question it.

As a high schooler, I distinctly remember the word “emo” being thrown around for kids that wore all black, had black hair, and were extremely goth. The assumption was that they hurt themselves, and only them, but that it not true. From personal experience, as a kid who wore Hollister, was kind of “preppy” and was seemingly happy, I dealt with cutting on a very hard level. Ariel pointing out the flaw behind the logic makes the song even better, and she then says,

“But it bothers me, our scars are currency by which we’re measured,

Like, let the record show who let it slip and who held it together.

Cutters, burners, and honorable mentions,

Posers who still cut themselves up for the attention.

I don’t care of your intentions, I just want you to know,

My self-hatred always took me where I wanted to go,

But at the end of the day you know I still had to face

That I could pick at the pain, but I can’t cut it away.”

As the song comes to a close, Ariel sings, “You know what else I can’t do is give you ten good reasons not to, I’ve wracked my brain for clever sayings of all the things you ought to do. But you’d think if there was something I could say, they’d have thrown it on a brochure and sent you on your way.” Admitting this is powerful, because it can be easy for people to say things like, “Go take a walk,” or “Go read a book,” or “How about try listening to music?” Those that are really struggling have heard these sayings over and over, and Ariel coming clean saying she knows that she can’t is a bold and extremely moving statement. At the end, she says, “So I’ll keep doing what I always do, drag my heart to the piano and make it sing for you.”

Before I continue the rest of this review, I’d just like to say, thank you, Icon for Hire. This is the most beautiful, authentic, and moving song I’ve ever heard, and I’m very proud to be a fan.

10. “Here We Are”

Another softer take, and also Icon for Hire’s first single for the album, Ariel questions, “Why are we still sad? Why are we still sad?” and bursts into an interesting, yet intriguing chorus, where a beat drops as she sings at the end, “Here we are” and that is all. Although it’s not my favorite on the album, many listeners can enjoy the song, and even if it’s not musically someone’s taste, the lyrics are incredible.

Favorite line: “Here we are, bruised and battle scared, all our beating hearts.”

11. “Get Well II”

This song came as a surprise to many, because not a peep was made about a sequel song until it was released to the Kickstarter backers. Because I wasn’t a backer, it took me reading through comments to see what the titles were, and I may have squealed like a girl when I saw that they wrote this song. The second I got the notification that it was released on YouTube, I made my way there to hear Ariel open with, “Oh, I need my pain, don’t take it away. My sad makes me special.” Hitting fans right in the feels again, Icon for Hire creates a song even more amazing than the original (if that’s even possible). It’s also reassuring to know that even though they have deviated from Scripted lyrically, musically, and even emotionally (*cough* “Pulse” *cough), they still remain true to that part of their lives. In the chorus, Ariel sings, “We can’t undo the scars all up and down our hearts, can’t forget how it felt when it all fell apart. And we talk a big game like we want to get well, in our prison made of pain, only fooling ourselves.” In the original song, it seems as though Icon was saying that they wanted to get better, and maybe that is true. But once again, honesty shines through with this song where Ariel admits that sometimes it’s all talk, and our sadness is our home.

Favorite line: “My sad makes me special.”

12. “Invincible”

Definitely the most electronic song on the record, Ariel opens with, “I am, I am invincible,” then later sings, “I belong to the night, I learned to survive. Gotta fight the feeling inside.” The chorus is full of beats dropping, mixes of vocals, and it’s clear Icon was being a bit experimental with this song (although props to Shawn, because the song is fantastic either way). This is not at all rock and nothing you’d expect of a band like Icon for Hire, but have once again proven that their talent is unstoppable.

Favorite line: “From the flame I emerge with the strength I have earned.”

13. “You Can’t Kill Us”

The title track is one of the most reminiscent of the old Icon, but is also a fantastic representation of their new direction. Wrapping up the album perfectly, Ariel sings, “I knew I couldn’t stop, kept hoping one day I’d make it to a stage and tell you it’s all okay.” In the rocking chorus, she and backing vocals from Kickstarter supporters sing, “You can’t, you can’t kill us!” as an anthem, reminding us, and their old record label, that together we’re unstoppable. Not only in music, but in life. We as an Icon Army, everyone that adores this band, can’t be stopped because we know it gets better. We know that no matter what, we’ll survive, because we’re living and we’re breathing. Anyone that listens to this band is a fighter, a hero, and Ariel and Shawn take no pride as far as their music goes. They know they’ve gotten far with help, and know that their music is beneficial to many. This final anthem is simply a reminder that this is not the last we’ve heard of them and that together, we can move mountains.

Favorite line: “Like an army, we all know it’s not better yet, but we hold on, stay strong, and never forget.”

The record’s title You Can’t Kill Us is a perfect representation of what the entire album is about. It’s about overcoming the battles in our own lives, in our minds, and in our hearts. It’s about love, fighting for what’s right, and never letting anyone tear you down. This album is a solid 5/5 stars, although I’d give it a 100 stars if I could. I strongly suggest that anyone that relates to any of these messages portrayed in this album go take a listen and be sure to buy. Icon for Hire has certainly shown they deserve it.

Thank You, “Pretty Little Liars”

Three years ago, I was going through one of the hardest times in my life. Between switching schools in hopes of getting a new start, fighting an ongoing battle with my depression, and trying to take it day by day, everything seemed to be falling apart. As everyone who knows of my existence knows, Pretty Little Liars is my biggest obsession. Sometimes, sure, I probably annoy the hell out of my friends, but there’s a story behind the show that many of my friends don’t know.

It was my sophomore year in high school. I distinctly remember sitting in Spanish class (the same place I also came up with the idea for my novel Before I Break–interesting), and these two girls sitting near the front were babbling on about something. As I listened a little bit closer, I started to pick up little bits of the conversation.

“Oh my God, I can’t believe so-and-so is A!” one of the girls said.

“I know!” the other girl said. “I can’t believe it either! I never would have thought!”

Now granted, I’d heard of Pretty Little Liars before, but never actually watched the show. I always thought it was some type of girl drama show, not even realizing in the slightest that is was a mystery show, so I was a little confused. What the hell was an A and why were these girls about to go into cardiac arrest over a letter of the alphabet? I decided that when I went home, I’d do a little bit of research on the show.

I have no idea what urged me to do so. Maybe it was my curiosity over what a simple letter could do to teenage girls, or maybe it was my gut letting me that it was something I might enjoy. So I went home that afternoon and immediately looked up the show, just to provide myself with a little bit more information. To my complete and total surprise, the show was nothing that I thought it was. In fact, when I read the synopsis, it was something like this:

“After the death of their best friend Alison DiLaurentis, four girls face off with a mysterious adversary named “A” who has dedicated their life to exposing the girls’ secrets.”

Of course, that little synopsis made me look a little further. Upon searching, I then found an article with a title like,

Pretty Little Liars: Alison Alive and Ezra is “A”?

That was when I was immediately pulled in. So these girls thought their friend was dead and she was actually alive? Huh. Odd. Not knowing what else to do, I decided to check out the show and watch the Pilot.

To make a long story short, I watched quite a few episodes that night. A few days later, I attempted suicide for the fifth and final time, and was sent to a psychiatric hospital to receive treatment. Now, this is the part of the story that’s going to sound utterly ridiculous, but it’s true.

Inside the hospital, I met a few other friends who’d watched the show, and they told me that I just had to keep watching. I’d read spoilers from the books, but they kept trying to tell me the show was different. Of course, I had to believe it, because Ezra was not A in the books. This little show gave me the determination to get out of the hospital. I just had to solve the mystery!

Once out of the hospital, I binged the entire show while waiting to be put in online school. Since I had so much time on my hands, I was able to binge watch all three and a half seasons in less than a week. On top of all this, a really amazing and interesting thing happened. The entire time I watched the show, I was sucked in. I wasn’t thinking about all the bad things going on inside my head. I was thinking about who the hell this A was and why there seemed to be about twenty of them. I was thinking about whether Ali was really alive. I was thinking about my growing fondness of the female leads, and my growing attraction to the men on the show.

During this course of my life, I was going through so much. Mental illness was seriously dragging me down, but when I was watching the show (or even theorizing) I wasn’t thinking about everything that was wrong. Eventually, I got my mother to watch the show, followed by my sister, followed by my grandmother. Then I got my best friend to watch the show, and even got some internet friends to watch the show (some of whom are still not caught up yet *cough cough* *wink wink*). What started off as a little thing for me has gotten my family and friends involved, and now we’re all sucked in.

Although we all knew this was coming, Freeform made the announcement just a while back that Pretty Little Liars would be ending with its seven year run. When I first heard the news, I couldn’t say I was surprised. I mean, we were nearing the end of the line. It’d been speculated about for so long that I couldn’t be shocked, but I could certainly be sad.

While the show’s had its fair share of criticism (mostly over the controversial, “plot hole” filled Big A reveal, or the new Uber A that apparently still feels the need to target these girls five years later), I’ve been a hardcore fan since the second I started watching. Through all the relationships, the drama, the red herrings, the twists, and the reveals, I never once complained. I never once questioned the direction that the show was going, because deep down inside, the show was what kept me alive during such a hard part of my life. It kept me alive (and willing) long enough to get help, all because I wanted to know who could be the face of a mysterious letter from the alphabet.

Now, three years later, the show’s reaching its end, and it’s going to be hard. What will I do when I no longer have something I connect with? What will I do with my Tuesday nights when I can’t expect another episode of my favorite TV show to suck me in, allowing me to forget about my troubles for at least an hour a week?

That I don’t know. What I will say is that the cast and writers of Pretty Little Liars have really given me strength, as has the story itself. People may be wondering, “How can a show about teenage girls being tortured give you hope?” But it’s not just that. It’s about the bonds of friendship. It’s about love. It’s about accepting those around you, even though they might be different. It’s about the consequences of being a bully. It’s about life and death. All the things we deal with on a day to day basis, just in one big tangled web.

I give a huge thanks to the wonderful leading ladies of the show (including Sasha Pieterse and Janel Parish). I give thanks to the wonderful men on the show. Thank you to Sara Shepard for writing the books for them all to play in. But most of all, thanks to Marlene King and the other writers of the show, who really gave me something to look forward to each and every week.

You’ve all helped make me a stronger person. You helped me get through the most difficult time in my life, even when I wasn’t willing to.

So thank you, Pretty Little Lairs. It’s been a fun ride.

Getting Anxiety In Public Places

The other day I went grocery shopping all by myself, the first time I have ever done this. I was excited to feel like an adult, shop for my own food and drinks, and without anyone telling me any differently. It was a nice feeling. I was ready for it.

As my roommate and I pulled up to the store, I got out and headed inside. At first, it felt nice. I’m walking around the store when I suddenly realized I didn’t have a cart.

Oh, I thought. Getting a cart might be a good idea.

Despite that little slip-up, I was still feeling positive. Knowing that first and foremost I wanted some Bolthouse Farms juice, I head to the back of the store where they keep the dairy, juice, and things along those lines. As I make my way back there, I soon discover that my said juice is not there.

It’s okay, I told myself. It’s got to me somewhere else in here. In the meantime, what else do I need?

This question left me stumped. It was at that moment I realized I made no list and had absolutely no idea what I wanted except my juice. While this is happening, I’m trying to reach into my brain to think of anything that I like to eat or drink.

Nothing comes to mind.

So of course, like any normal person, my heart starts pounding at about a million miles an hour, and I find my palms sweating, despite how cold it is. Deciding that it’s best to just go look for my juice, I start meandering around the store with no idea what I’m doing.

After finding my juice, I knew that I needed other things. One can’t survive with just juice. I once again ask myself what types of food I want, and again, my brain gives me nothing. I start talking to myself in the middle of the store, trying to calm myself down.

Do I like cereal? Yes, I like cereal. But what kind? Healthy kinds? Sugary kinds? And even if I get cereal, what else do I need? I can barely cook, so meat’s not a good idea, right? Then again, I should probably get meat because everyone needs it. But wait, I can just get the Bolthouse Farms Protein drinks. Yes, that sounds like a good idea. But what else can I eat? Fruit? And what kind? Pineapples, apples, oranges? There’s so many options. Will I even eat it if I buy it? Maybe I should just get some But again, what kind? Nah, I’ll just go get some bagels. But where’s the cream cheese? It’s not over here by the bagels.

Before I knew it, I was hyperventilating, tears forming in my eyes. I noticed several people looking my way, but were they really looking at me? I wasn’t sure. I’m still not. Maybe they were, or maybe it was just my anxiety telling me that their focus was on me.

After a good hour, I leave the store with $122 worth of food. I made it out alive. But did I get everything I needed? Maybe. Maybe not.

Fast-forward to today. I got my financial aid check from my college, and realized I needed some new clothes for the new year. Similar to my shopping experience at the grocery store, I went to Kohl’s and was dropped off by my roommate.

I enter the store, and spend a good five minutes trying to find the guys’ section. Once I get there, I ask myself, Okay, I’m here, now what do I want? What do I need? Some pants is a good idea. But what type of pants do I want?

And similar to the grocery store experience, my chest suddenly tightens up and my eyes begin to water. Instead of letting things get too far this time around, I picked up my phone, and called my mother, who was able to thankfully calm me down and help ease my anxiety through the whole experience.

Both of these experiences have given me some insight into the adult world, but I still have a long way to go. My anxiety is something that I deal with on a day to day basis, and probably will for the rest of my life. My mental illness is real, and regardless of what other people think, it exists in many others as well.

We are not alone. You are not alone.

New Website!

For quite some time, I have been using this blog as both a blog and a website. But now, I recently purchased my own website, which will eventually look a lot better than it does.

As of right now, it’s a very basic, simple website that I hope to turn into something much more over time. On the home page you can see my newest book’s Amazon link, as well as the cover for my upcoming book, Every Shade of Me.

I’ve also added an About Me page, a page that links to this blog, and a page with the list of every Fear Games episode on Wattpad. I’m very proud of taking this next step in my writing career. I’ve also submitted the first book in The Forbidden Darkness Chronicles series to a publisher (won’t say which one in case I get rejected–keeping my fingers crossed), so I’ll hopefully have some news about that series in a couple of months.

As of right now the website can be found here. Eventually I’ll have my own domain name (about 55 days is when I can transfer it) so I’m really excited. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy what you see, and I’ll have some more news for you in the future!

 

Depression’s Like A Big Fur Coat

“Depression’s like a big fur coat–it’s made of dead things but it keeps me warm.”
 
This is a quote from Icon For Hire’s song “Iodine,” which has become one of my favorite songs over the last couple years. Most people here know my story, although some only know bits and pieces. There’s people I can encounter on a daily basis that don’t know me, or don’t know the struggles I’ve gone through, or don’t know the reality of what goes on inside my head.
 
Back in 2012-2013, I had one of the hardest years of my life. I came to the realization, after many hospitalizations, that I had depression. Some people still refuse to believe that depression is a real thing, but unfortunately it is. It’s not just sadness. It’s not just crying every once in a while. Sometimes it’s as simple as feeling completely numb. Sometimes it’s as simple as being tired all the time, no matter how much sleep you get. Sometimes it can be difficult to get out of bed in the morning and do things that you have to do because you’re supposed to be a responsible young adult.
 
Writing is something that’s always been important to be, but over the last few years, I’ve used it as a way to channel my feelings. It’s been one of my easiest coping mechanisms and it’s been incredible hearing from readers who tell me that my books have made them realize something about themselves, of that a book of mine has changed their life in some way. When I look back at everything I’ve gone through and then examine where I am now, I see all the obstacles I’ve overcome. On the one hand, it’s refreshing to know that I’m no longer in that place I once was. On the other hand, every phase of life comes with a new set of struggles, and we must learn how to deal with what life throws at us.
 
Although I’ve overcome many things, the one thing I wish I could say I’ve fully overcome I have not. My depression. Some people may be wondering how that’s possible. How I can seem like this happy person all the time, whether it be at work or somewhere else, and still be depressed. Some wonder how it’s possible to have confidence in myself, yet still have depression.
 
I wish there was an easy answer, but unless you’ve been in my shoes, it’s not. I made a post a while back about being an empath, and about how everything around me affects my emotions. I’m a highly sensitive human being, and it’s both a good and a bad thing. The problem is that we live in a world full of negativity. There’s not a lot of light that shines through. Several people have told me that they believe most people are inherently good, and maybe that’s true. Over the last two years, I’ve come to realize that even though deep down they’re good, they do not come across that way, especially to me. I’ve been treated poorly by people when I don’t deserve it. I’ve been abandoned by people who swore they’d never leave. I’ve fallen in love yet again, only to have my heart ripped out of my chest. I’ve been played by people who seemingly have nothing better to do than to mess with my emotions.
 
So why am I telling you all this? Well, as a person who struggles with depression, although a lot of it is internal, external forces have a tendency of making things worse. I always have these two conflicting sides in my head–do I become numb like everyone else and turn into an asshole with no regard for others’ feelings to protect my own, or do I continue to love, to feel, and to be in touch with myself so I don’t fall into the darkness this world creates in people?
 
When I wrote my novel The Long Road Home, it was one of the most personal books I’ve ever written, and it has reached so many people. It’s my favorite book that I wrote, because I wrote depression as it is. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense. Sometimes it can be confusing. Often times it leaves the people surrounding the ill to wonder what the hell is actually going on inside their head.
 
Part of me feels like a hypocrite. Sometimes I wake up in the morning wondering what right I have to tell people that it gets better when I still have monsters in my mind. I wonder what gave me the right to write the things I do when I’ve not fully recovered myself, and potentially never will.
 
But that’s the thing about mental illness–it finds a way to tell you these lies. It finds a way to convince you that you’ll never be good enough and that it’s best to just keep quiet. Because if we keep quiet, no one will get better. If we ignore what’s there, no one will get better, and instead will only get worse.
 
September 2016 is National Suicide Prevention Month. On September 10th (which also happens to be my birthday) it is National Suicide Prevention Day, and my plan is to participate in the Suicide Prevention Walk in Reno.
 
We all have our battles, and this is mine. Every day I’m struggling, but I’m also overcoming the struggle every day I don’t self-harm or make an attempt on my life. Even though thoughts can be there, as long as I’m not acting, I’m winning. I’ve already won the battle.
 
Now it’s time to win the war.

Poll: What Should My Next Book Be?

I did something similar to this about a year ago, and I seem to have come across this issue once again. The Long Road Home was last year’s winner, and between trying to get that book up, going to school, and now finally working a part-time job, I would love some help getting a choice cleared up for me.

I have many ideas for books in my head. So many that I wish I could just be a full-time author and write them all right now, but that’s nearly impossible (maybe not forever, hopefully). The choice is now in YOUR hands which book I write next, because I can’t seem to make up my mind. The choices are all listed here, and at the bottom, there’s a poll. If you don’t vote in the poll, your vote does not count.

Let the voting begin!

1. Every Shade of Me

I came up with the idea for this book a few weeks ago and started writing the first chapter. This book is intended to be a standalone novel, although set in the same world Before I Break and The Long Road Home are. This means a few familiar faces might come and go throughout the book, but I’m not giving any idea as to to who!

Here is the working synopsis:

“Everyone is made up of colors. I just have a little more.”

Caden has always been different. From the time he started truly understanding what emotions were, he knew that something about him was special. It wasn’t until he turned eighteen that he realized what he was.

An empath.

Being an empath hasn’t come without cost. While Caden is always told it’s a gift, the overwhelming wave of emotions is starting to run his life. Between starting his first year of college, living by himself, and trying to make a name for himself as a writer, he fears getting close to anyone. As he starts to fall in love with a boy he meets online, the worry strikes up. Getting close means getting hurt. Getting close means having to feel.

And as he’s learned from past experiences, feelings always have a way of taking control.

2. Spirit Walkers (Wattpad Series)

This series will be an official Wattpad series, with a new episode every week. I started it about two years ago, but then deleted everything I had, and I find myself having to start over. The idea has been nagging at me for a while now, yet I have such bad writer’s block with all these other ideas, it’s making it hard for me to write.

Here is the working synopsis:

When Holden ran away, he never expected he’d get into an accident. When he awakens, he finds himself inside a house with a group of people who are taking care of him. Although they seem normal, they all share one dark secrets–they are Spirit Walkers, people who are capable of turning into their Spirit Animals.

And they believe Holden is one, too.

Between getting feelings for Nathan, his primary caretaker, and discovering this new world around him, he realizes that not everything is as it seems. In this all-new series, friendship, romance, and loyalty will be tested, especially when destiny is inescapable.

You can also read the first episode here.

3. Fiery Passion (The Forbidden Darkness Chronicles, #3)

This is the third book in my paranormal YA series that I started years ago. After finally getting the nerve to publish the first book in 2014, and the second in 2015, I find myself wondering if I should write and release this book this year.

The problem with this is that I’ll need to get the first two books back up on Amazon, as they were unpublished. I’ve found the idea nagging at me again and I really would love to get back to it. I won’t post the synopsis, as it’s spoilery for those who have not read it yet.

4. The Long Road Home Sequel

The Long Road Home released in April of this year, becoming my favorite book that I’ve written. An idea for a sequel came to me, which will also take place around the same time as Every Shade of Me. This book might be relevant for a book that I plan on writing in the future, although I can’t give too much away on that.

Despite wanting to write this book, I have no concrete plot as of yet.It’s also a book that might not even happen because I’m so unsure about it, but I won’t know until I try diving head-first into it.

So what do you think? Let me know in the poll below!

 

Arise And Be All That You Dreamed

As we’ve seen over the last few days, there’s a lot of bad in this world. There’s a lot of pain, heartache, death, sorrow, and unhappiness.

All my life, I’ve experienced hardships that no one should have to go through. There’s a lot of things people know about me. For years, I constantly felt like this world wasn’t worth living. That the world would be better off without me, or that the world is too hard, or that life isn’t worth living. I’ve struggled with depression ever since puberty, and I’ve spent years trying to figure out what was “wrong” with me. I looked at the world and thought it was a horrible place.

While the world is often times a bad place, and sometimes the bad seems override the good, this song helped me remember that life IS worth living.

We all have choices. As I said in a previous post I made, in this world there’s good and evil. Sometimes the lines blur. Sometimes it can be hard to get yourself out of depression. Sometimes it can be hard to see all these shootings, all these deaths, all this chaos, and even things in our personal lives that make life even more difficult.

One thing I’ve learned over the last two years is that I have the power to make a difference. I have the power to change lives. Every single one of us can make a difference. Often times the only thing holding us back is ourselves. We believe we’re not good enough. We believe that because our reach is so small, it won’t make any real difference.

But if everyone took it upon themselves to be better people, the world would be a better place. Instead of giving up, we have to fight. Instead of saying it’s not worth it, we have to battle. Our lives are exactly that. OURS. Even when the world seems like a very dark place, as long as you’re a part of the light, the world will never be fully dark.

So in the words of Flyleaf, “Arise and be all that you dreamed.” Be a better you. Make the world a better place. The power is in your hands. What will you choose to do with it?

Writing the Fear Games Series Finale

Writing the three-part series finale of Fear Games, titled “Tear the World Down.” It’s funny, but also sad at the same time. When I started writing Fear Games a few months ago, my only intention was to have it be a Wattpad miniseries with 12 episodes and a conclusive ending.
 
About a week after I finished writing season 1, an idea came to me about what a season 2 could potentially look like, which of course, led to a season 3. As of right now I have no more story to tell for Fear Games, but that doesn’t mean I may not have a reason to visit it again in the future. But as of right now, the story that is currently Fear Games, will be over after season 3.
 
I picked the title “Tear the World Down” for a few reasons. We Are the Fallen has a song with the same exact title, and I felt that it was very fitting.
 
Part of the song says,
 
“My loveless life
I’m lost in you tonight
Waiting for you to turn around
Only to tear the whole world down.”
 
Everything about this finale will not only come full circle, but will have more deaths than any episode before. Blood will be shed, and at this point in the series, the main goal of the characters is to simply survive.
 
I’ve saved all the best twists for the final season, which I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I have writing it.
You can read the entire series from the beginning here.

Fear Games Finale Q&A: [SPOILER!] Is The Killer

The Fear Games finale has finally arrived, answering readers’ burning questions. The killer was revealed, and if you have not read the finale, you can go to the Fear Games tab near the top and find the episode to read before you read this interview. After you read it, grab a bg of popcorn and read on!

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For starters, how did you get the idea for Fear Games?

The idea actually came to me when I was in fifth grade. The story was very different, and actually included monsters and werewolves and such. The idea eventually evolved into something else, in which Esme was a robot (who didn’t know she was one) that was killing everyone. Finally, I came up with the plot that you have just read, and I liked it more than any of the other ideas. So here it is.

How far into the process was Ryan chosen as the killer?

For me, there was no choosing. I came up with the Ryan storyline before I even started writing and before some of the other characters even existed. There was one minor element that changed, which is that Noah had an emotional disability. That came in later on.

Ryan obviously had some mental health problems, at least that is what can be inferred, correct?

I think it depends. Ryan and Noah both struggled with some emotional problems, although, like Ryan said, Noah always had that desire to be normal. I think Ryan would have turned out okay if it were not for his brother’s death. That is what truly sent him over the edge. In his own way, he loved his brother. He wanted to avenge the death of someone he cared about and wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. While it was 110% the wrong thing to do, a lot of people can probably relate to his anger.

Ryan’s parents were aware that he was the killer, correct?

Yes. The reason why they were acting so strangely is because of the fact that they had a bit of an inkling as to who it was. When they went to his dorm, they immediately contacted the police. The reason it took so long was because his college, while unspecified, isn’t nearby. It was a long trip.

Who is your favorite character and why?

Honestly, I have to say it’s probably Ryan. I’ve always had a thing for bad guys in shows and books, and I feel like Ryan did have a heart…to a certain extent. He was hurting very much. It was sad for me to see him go down the path he went. I just spent 11 episodes trying to build this story, so being able to finally tell it has been my favorite part.

Did you ever consider making Noah alive at one point?

I actually did. When Noah’s story started unfolding, I had this little nudge that told me he could live and possibly come save the day LOL. Unfortunately, I realized if Noah was alive, it would completely take away from Ryan’s motive. Noah needed to be 100% dead in order for Ryan’s motive to be understandable.

How does it feel to finally say who the killer is out loud?

It feels really good, actually. I was so excited for this moment to come. I love the motive, I love Ryan, and the entire story makes me almost cry every time. I am happy that readers are having a similar reaction. To be able to start this conversation is exactly what I hoped for.

Bullying obviously played a huge part in the story, as well as Ryan’s motive. Why did you chose that as a running theme?

Bullying is a huge problem in America. It’s something that people don’t realize can have very negative affects. In a way, the story was meant to have a moral and a message. When someone trusts you with a secret, keep it that way. Don’t bully people. Don’t treat people as though they are of little value.

The ending was one of the most powerful scenes of the series. Do you believe Rachel saying Noah changed her is an accurate analysis?

110%. Ryan wanted to teach her a lesson, but in truth, it was Noah. She became a much more understanding person by the end, and I think many readers are feeling the same way.

So what happens to Isaiah?

You can imagine he’ll likely spend the rest of his life in prison. At least a good part of it. Because he’s 17, and laws can be stupid, who really knows?

Since Ryan was with the group the entire time in the Fear Games house, how did he manage to make the voice over the speakers talk at the right moments?

While that question is never answered directly, almost every time Ryan was on his phone. You can see that he was using something on his phone. He used a woman’s voice to mislead the group.

At the end of the episode, it said “The End” but then said “For now?” What does this mean? Will there be a continuation of some kind?

This is actually something that I’ve been wanting to answer for a while but haven’t been able to because I want people to read the ending first. After a lot of consideration, I’ve decided that I am writing a season 2!

Now that everyone from season 1 aside from Rachel and Isaiah are dead, how will the story continue?

I will actually leave the synopsis for season 2 below. I’ve written four episodes of it already–the premiere is “Let the Games Begin–Again”–and am currently working on the fifth. It’s another 12 episodes. Basically, there is a new set of characters. But that doesn’t mean Rachel won’t be in it…you’ll learn what happened to her by the second episode. It’s not what you’d expect at all.

Season 2 is a wild ride. It’s very different. The Games are different. This new person isn’t Ryan, because he’s obviously dead. That’s all I can say for now. You can read the synopsis here.

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One year after Ryan killed a group of teens, Josh and his friends are expecting who has the best school year ever as they approach senior year. When Damian, Josh’s best friend since childhood, goes missing, Josh can’t help but feel like something is wrong.

Soon the Fear Games start again, and just like Rachel once was, Josh is caught in the middle. As Josh races to find answers, he realizes the Fear Games run far deeper than he ever imagined.

And this time there may be more than one killer running the Games.