My 2021 Resolution: Cut Plastic Waste by 50%

Did I seek out the most White Vegan Mason Jar photo I could find? Yes. Photo by Ella Olsson on Unsplash (no offense intended, Ella, I am making fun of me, not you).

I’m a fairly eco-friendly person.

I have a cupboard full of Pyrex that I use for food storage. I buy cleaning supplies from sustainable brands and make my own (baking soda can do just about anything). I bought in bulk instead of plastic in the pre-pandemic days. I use cloth menstrual pads.

I could be doing better.

This fall, I’ve been working for an environmental nonprofit, and I learned so much about the toll that plastic waste has on the planet. I want to reduce my impact on the planet, starting with my plastic consumption.

I wrote before about the ways my ethical eating habits have changed in recovery from an eating disorder. To be transparent, plastic guilt may present a challenge for me to make sure I am keeping my mental health top of mind while also making a change to my eating habits that involves rules and morality. We are going on an adventure, my friends.

Hopefully, I can find easy and accessible ways to reduce plastic and waste that I can share with readers while keeping things honest and authentic. (Because honestly, I think it’s near impossible to actually go plastic-FREE in our world).

My Plastic Free-Ish Plan

  1. Thirty Day Plastic Journal: Much like a food journal many of us had to keep in high school health class to learn about food groups, I plan on keeping a journal of my plastic use for the next thirty days to see how much plastic I’m using in my everyday life.
  2. Easy Swaps: For the easy swaps, I’m going to research alternatives and make the switch to a plastic-free option. I’ll include some of the obvious ones below.
  3. Harder Swaps: For the more challenging swaps and habits, I’ll do a bit more research and get back to you on those results! Hopefully the easy ones make a big dent.
  4. Homemade Foods: This one scares me, because I don’t always have the energy or stamina to cook from scratch due to chronic illness, and convenience foods and takeout are life savers for me. But I read an article today about a tofu factory that burns plastic for fuel, and I realized that trying to make my own tofu is worth the effort even if I can only do it once in a while. (Scroll down past the homemade tofu recipe in this blog for the plastic story).
  5. Plan to Re-Use/Recycle: My city is not currently recycling, and even when we are recycling, most recyclables end up in a landfill anyway due to contamination from improper contents. I’m driving my aluminum cans and paper to respective recycling spots locally, but there’s no solution for plastic. I’d like to research solutions for non-avoidable plastic like this donation program for medicine bottles.
  6. Implement Operation 50% Less Plastic 2021: Complete avoidance of plastic in my life is impossible, but I would like to reduce my personal single use plastic usage by half in 2021. I’m giving myself the month of December to prepare and take notes on my average use, so I have something to compare against. And then it’s onward to a more eco-friendly 2021 and beyond!

Easy Swaps to Reduce Plastic

In the kitchen:

  • Glass jars instead of using plastic baggies for chopped veggie storage and easy snack portions
  • Dishwasher powder in a paper box instead of plastic containers of pods
  • Beeswax wrap instead of plastic wrap
  • Reusable water bottles instead of single-use bottles
  • Sticks of margarine instead of plastic tubs
  • Hard Mode: Homemade foods instead of pre-packaged

In the bathroom:

  • Bar soap instead of body wash and bottled hand soap
  • Bar shampoo and conditioner instead of bottled
  • Homemade face scrub instead of bottled
  • Zero-waste toothpaste bits and bamboo/compostable toothbrush instead of plastic tubes of toothpaste and toothbrushes

In the laundry room:

  • Zero-waste laundry detergent strips instead of plastic containers
  • Wash in cold water to reduce the amount of microplastics that escape from polyester (yeah, I didn’t know that was a thing either).

At the grocery store

  • Reusable produce bags
  • Reusable grocery bags
  • Bring-your-own container instead of plastic for bulk bins
  • Fresh produce instead of bagged produce (if able)

I am actually excited to start this little adventure and I hope to inspire some of you to learn and change your daily habits along with me!

When You Don’t Feel Like Yourself

Photo by Allan Bueno on Unsplash

I haven’t felt like myself lately.

I used to always be there for everyone around me with a pep talk for every situation. I listened to people’s problems, authentically gave them an ear, and told them that it was okay to not be okay — but that they were great and deserved great things.

I used to check in on my Facebook page asking if people had taken their meds, eaten, and had water. It was a nice reminder for my friends and for me to practice these basic tenets of self maintenance.

I used to laugh, a lot. I shared funny posts on Facebook and made people laugh at parties or when we were out at the local geek bar playing board games. I loved being the funny friend who always got a laugh.

I used to write every day. I used to work 8+ hours a day at my full time job and then work on my passion project developing my course or writing my book.

January wasn’t that long ago, when I hoped to get two book deals, run my course three or four times, and launch a full time coaching practice this year.

Now, I rest. I sleep in past 8am. I eat when I’m hungry, nap when I’m tired, and work part time at a job I truly enjoy.

I write when the words need to come out. Like they do now, when I thought to myself, “I haven’t been myself lately” and the response that floated back up from inside me was “Yes, you have.”

I’m always myself. My self is the part of me I need to take care of, because I didn’t used to do a very good job of it. My self has been subjected to a lot of beliefs about what I needed to achieve and how I needed to behave in order to deserve love and support and a salary.

My self, right now, needs to rest and recover from burning out at that full time job. My self is processing the fact that my social circle has been tinier than ever for the past eight months. My self is understanding that the shiny, happy, warm, cozy, family parts of the winter months aren’t happening this year.

My self has always been here, and is not measured by how frequently I give of myself to other people.

Looking at the list of things that I thought made me who I was — listening, encouraging, checking in, writing, working — those things are all still happening. Just slower and less frequent than before. And that’s okay.

My self is here. My self is growing stronger, I can feel it.

Last night I applied to a dream job and I woke up feeling peaceful and content. Because my self was peaceful and content.

I sleep better when I’m next to my partner, because my self is safe and loved and warm.

I can write a new post whenever I feel ready to put the words onto the page, because my self is not defined by how often I write. (Sometimes my job is defined by writing, but my self is not).

If I don’t feel like myself, it’s probably because I’m focusing too much on things outside of me instead of my actual, inner truth of knowing my self.

So if you don’t feel like yourself lately, it’s okay to not be okay. We’re going through a long-term, no-end-in-sight, global trauma together. We have no idea when we will feel safe again. Our collective mental health is touch and go.

But your self, the deep down parts of you that make you who you are inside, they’re not gone. They’re resting, being slow, and they will be there when you are ready for them again.

Love,
Caitlin

Support My Writing

Hey, I have a book. It’s full of my sassy pep talk mojo and I’d love if you read it! Buy The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation and let me know what you think! (It also makes a great holiday gift for every human under 40).

Celebrate Biden’s Win, But We Still Have Work to Do

Photo by Hybrid on Unsplash

I went to sleep on election night 2016 confident that I would wake up to our country’s first female president, and I awoke the next morning and felt ice in my stomach.

Many of my friends said that they cried during election night and the morning after. I didn’t cry, I just felt numb and vaguely angry.

I was optimistic that he wouldn’t do as much damage as we feared. Certainly there were the checks and balances we learned in school that would keep him from doing so much harm.

I was wrong.

He harmed us. He harmed again and again and again. He harmed people of color. He harmed transgender people. He harmed the queer community. He harmed women. He harmed immigrants. He harmed Muslims.

Donald Trump ruled the country on a white supremacist power trip.

And today, Saturday, November 7, 2020, AP has called the 2020 election for Joe Biden.

A candidate I almost didn’t vote for because I was so deeply angry at the Democratic party. I still am. I think the Democrats are more of the same establishment, but they pretend to care about minorities. They’ll put a rainbow flag and a Black fist in their twitter bios while they don’t do anything to stop an unqualified right-wing Supreme Court nominee from being shoved onto the court just weeks before an election.

I resolved myself to the fact that voting for Biden was necessary. Our two party system and the electoral college are absolute trash, but they are the trash we currently live in, so I played by the rules. I voted for Biden.

And I cried today when the election was called for him because the wave of relief across my Facebook feed, from my poor friends, my Black friends, my queer friends, my disabled friends, was so palpable that it hit me hard. And their relief, even among all my cynicism and eye rolling at the Dems, was my relief too.

The work is not done. Not by a long shot.

But for now, we can breathe, and we know that we will not have to fight against active hatred coming from the White House for another four years.

We aren’t “safe” yet. But we can pause and make plans to organize and work for a more just and equitable government under an administration that isn’t inciting violence and throwing temper tantrums

Organizers of Color Made This Possible

This election result is possible because of the immense effort of organizers of color. The phenomenal organizing in Georgia by Stacey Abrams, Helen Butler, Nsé Ufot, Tamieka Atkins, and Deborah Scott led to nearly one million new voter registrations and an unprecedented Democratic voter turnout that turned Georgia blue.

Los Angeles Times: Celebs bow down to Stacey Abrams as Georgia flips blue in Biden’s favor

Indigenous organizing led to voter turnout shifts in Arizona and Wisconsin, which were called for Biden, as well as Montana and South Dakota, which were called for Trump — but the counties with high populations of Indigenous voters were overwhelmingly blue.

High Country News: How Indigenous voters swung the 2020 election

Remember when 53% of white women voted for Trump in 2016, and all the liberal white women were shocked? This year, 55% of white women voted for Trump. The success of the Biden campaign came from people of color, specifically Black women like Stacey Abrams.

Celebrate, but it’s not over

Take some time today to celebrate this win. But remember that it’s nowhere near “over.” Donald Trump was not the cause of the racism, islamophobia, homophobia, and other hatred that has been on full display over the last four years. This country is steeped in white supremacy, protections for the rich, and oppression of the working class.

We still need to talk about police brutality. We still need to talk about the school to prison pipeline. We still need to talk about cannabis convictions. We still need to talk about the racism baked into every system in this country. We still need to make an actual plan to address climate change. We still need to talk about the concentration camps full of kids in cages. We still need to talk about COVID. We still need to talk about the minimum wage. We still need to talk about medicare for all.

We still have work to do.

If you’re relieved to the point of tears today, thank a Black activist!

How to Eat Ethically When You’re Recovering from an Eating Disorder

Photo by N I F T Y A R T ✍🏻 on Unsplash

My mother put me on my first diet when I was twelve.

I still remember the way she traced a circle in the palm of her hand to show our babysitter how big three ounces of meat was, to monitor our serving sizes. I also remember choking down raw broccoli and bell peppers — two foods I cannot eat raw without feeling ill, twenty years later. 

I became a vegetarian in 2002 when I was in eighth grade, for the animals. Around age 17, I became vegan entirely, but added eggs and dairy back into my diet quickly because it was nearly impossible to stay vegan in an omnivorous home. I remained steadfastly vegetarian through college.

Since then, I’ve been on-again-off-again with animal products, but I chose more ethical products from local farms and sustainable sources. 

I was always struggling to find a diet that felt okay ethically, while also balancing the desire to lose weight. Was it meat? Was it veganism? Was it raw veggies? Was it paleo? Was it keto? Was it intermittent fasting?

I aspired to be vegan because it felt like the most ethical, cleanest way to eat. But even a plant-based diet isn’t without cruelty and harm. 

When Your Quest for the Perfect Diet is Killing You 

After realizing in huge, blaring, neon letters in my mind last February that I had a full blown eating disorder, I stopped dieting altogether. I stopped counting calories, started eating tortillas at Chipotle again, and even ate refined sugar without hating myself.

I let all the rules about food fall away, leaving only the need to eat when I was hungry and trusting myself to do so. 

In this period of recovery, I had to let my aspirational veganism go. First, because eating eggs was a way I could actually eat something consistently without needing to fight with my mental health. Second, because a plant-based diet was something I was doing to change my body, rather than fuel it, and I needed a break from a weight loss mentality while recovering. And lastly, because literally nothing is perfect or without harm – not even a vegan diet.

The truth is, I needed to take care of myself. The weight of researching everything, measuring the validity of a food choice against its impact on animal welfare, human labor, carbon emissions, and everything else that goes into making a choice, was too heavy. My mental health suffered as I agonized over the morality of everything I ate. 

We Aren’t Winning Points 

Have you seen The Good Place? Spoilers ahead!

In The Good Place, when people on Earth die, they get sent to The Good Place or The Bad Place based on point totals of their actions during their lives. But as society developed, it became impossible to get into The Good Place even if you lived a perfect life, because every single action is more complex than it appears. 

Each tomato at the grocery store carries an invisible price tag of ethical costs. The pesticides degraded biodiversity in local insect life, the crops were harvested with prison labor or other exploitative practices, the seeds were patented and those patents were used to sue small local farmers when the wind deposited an errant seed on their land. 

Or, to quote Chidi Anagonye four times:

  • “Oh no! I used almond milk in my coffee, even though I knew about the negative environmental impact.” 
  • “I read an article saying that growing almonds was bad for the environment, and yet I continued to use almond milk in my coffee.” 
  • “Well, if it is Hell, I know why I’m here. Almond milk. I drank so much of it despite the negative environmental impacts.”
  • “So, we’re in the Bad Place, and I know why. Almond milk. I knew it was bad for the environment, but I loved the way it coated my tongue in a weird film.”

We cannot eat perfectly ethically in a society that prioritizes profit over people, over animal welfare, and over environmental sustainability. Corporate responsibility is so much bigger than individual action can hope to overcome. 

What does this have to do with my eating disorder? I was focused so much on eating only clean, healthy, safe foods that I would starve myself rather than eat something that wasn’t organic, wasn’t gluten-free, wasn’t sugar-free, etc. If it didn’t satisfy the rules of the clean eating deities of the day, it wasn’t okay to eat. 

Hungry after 8pm? Go to bed hungry, the rules say you can’t eat. Refined grains only once a day. Eat fruit on an empty stomach. Make everything out of cauliflower. 

I also continued my trauma around being forced to eat “healthy snacks” (usually raw vegetables I did not enjoy) as a child. I would pack carrots in my lunch and tell myself all day, “If you’re not hungry enough to eat the carrots, you’re not hungry.” I hate raw carrots. I starved myself thinking it was good for me. 

I could only eat perfect, healthy food. Learning something new about each food became dangerous. And so my list of foods it wasn’t okay to eat grew and grew, leaving me with precious little I could eat to sustain myself. 

Only sprouted grain bread. Only organic potatoes. Only grass-fed beef. Only half an apple. Only what fits in these containers. 

But we don’t have running point totals guiding the morality of our choices — dietary or otherwise. We can only do the best we can with the resources, information, and ability available to us. 

I still care about the ethics of my food choices. But I have to eat. I have to nourish myself. I have to let some of the rules relax. 

Rather than only eating certain things, what if our only job was to do our best and listen to what our bodies need? 

Being Okay with Imperfection

I eat cage-free eggs, and I eat fish. I am otherwise plant-based in my diet. I limit consumption of foods with a high human cost, such as quinoa (once an affordable staple in South America, now exorbitantly expensive and used as an export for our White American Vegan needs). I buy fair-trade coffee and chocolate. I should get back into the habit of buying the Dirty Dozen organic, but I don’t always. I try to buy whole, fresh foods without packaging, but I have fibromyalgia and sometimes my ability and energy level means I need to buy a bag of pre-chopped fresh or frozen veggies. 

And the imperfection is okay.

I cannot be perfect. But I can feed myself.

How to Eat Ethically When You’re Recovering from an Eating Disorder

Your first priority in eating while recovering from an eating disorder is to feed yourself and work on the mental health aspects of your recovery. But as you get further into recovery you may want to start investigating more sustainable and ethical food choices. However, if you find yourself feeling triggered or backsliding into disordered eating, please take a break and focus again on just feeding yourself and taking care of you. 

If it is not triggering to place limits on food in your recovery, you can start to do research into the sustainability and ethics of your food. 

Certifications and labels can help you check at a glance if a product meets certain standards. But sometimes labels can say things that sound nice but don’t actually have any standards attached. This can be hard to navigate as you start exploring more ethical food, so this list should break down what to look for as a next step on more ethical eating. 

Though certifications and labels may not be perfect, they do help us to vote with our dollars and show brands that people are willing to purchase products that prioritize more ethical and sustainable methods. The more people can purchase with ethics in mind, the more the market will shift to provide more options that meet those demands. 

  • Certified Organic: USDA Organic certification means that produce was grown without synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, sewage sludge, and irradiation. Organic also clarifies that the product contains no Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Organic animal products come from animals that meet welfare standards including outdoor access, no antibiotics or growth hormone treatments, and were fed an organic diet. Packaged organic products are made with at least 95% certified organic source ingredients. Note: Organic crops are still treated with pesticides, but they must be approved for organic use — always wash those fruits and veggies. Learn more about the USDA Organic label at the USDA website. You don’t have to buy everything organic — check out the EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen list to learn which fruits and veggies are best purchased organic due to high pesticide levels. 
  • Rainforest Alliance Certified: Rainforest Alliance certifies farms that meet certain criteria, including environmental sustainability standards (climate-smart agriculture, deforestation, conserving biodiversity), working conditions standards (human rights, shared responsibility, living wage, gender equality), and more. You can check out all their standards at the Rainforest Alliance website
  • Fair Trade: A fair trade certification can be found on food, clothing, and other items that tend to have exploitative labor practices in their conventional production. A fair trade label protects against child labor, slavery, discrimination, union-busting, and environmental pollution – among so many other standards. This is a great label to start with if you want to move toward more ethical consumption. Coffee and chocolate are two major crops that benefit from a shift toward fair trade purchases. (Aldi is a great low-cost option for both of these!) Learn more from Fair Trade Certified and Fairtrade International, two organizations working toward more sustainable agriculture that prioritizes human rights. 
  • Certified Humane: Certified Humane is a nonprofit seeking to improve the lives of animals used in agriculture, and the organization is endorsed by 70 humane associations including the ASPCA. Like all things, they’re not perfect, but they make an effort. You can look up their standards for all animals on their website and decide for yourself if they meet the standards you have for your animal products. 
  • Cage Free: There are actually a lot of “cage free” standards depending on the certifying organization, and they are also (unsurprisingly) not perfect. But they do require chickens to be kept in better conditions than overcrowded factory farms. Check out this article from the Humane Society of the US on different cage free, free range, and other labels you might see. 

You can also shop more locally from farmer’s markets, local farms, and people who keep backyard hens for eggs — this way you can directly ask the source of your food what sort of practices they put into their produce and animal products. 

Access to Food is a Privilege

It is crucial to acknowledge the privilege in access to higher quality, organic, and local foods. Many people across the globe, including those of us in the United States, simply don’t have access to affordable food that meets every checkbox. 

It may be nutritionally ideal to eat fresh, organic, local produce that’s in season — but not everyone can. Whether due to budget, access to the stores and markets that provide these foods, the time it takes to shop and prepare meals while balancing work, life, and family responsibilities, etc. 

No diet is perfect or without consequence, from environmental effects to animal welfare to human exploitation. So please, do the best you can, and know that it is good enough. 

And for those people who would judge others for the food they can access and the time and energy they can put into researching foods (and I have been that judgmental person)… know that everyone is doing their best, and spend your energy donating to causes that help address food insecurity and advocating for better animal welfare and human rights in our agricultural systems. 

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Young Environmentalists Are the Key to Addressing Climate Change

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

By the end of this blog, I want you to share it with at least one eligible student who you thought of while reading!

Teen environmentalists have been making waves in recent years.

Greta Thunberg, a 17-year-old Swedish environmentalist, address the UN Climate Change Conference in 2018 and inspired student climate strikes across the globe. She became youngest TIME Magazine Person of the Year in 2019. And she’s one of millions of mobilized teens taking action to preserve our planet.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, an Indigenous hip-hop artist and activist since childhood, has spent his life working toward a better world. He has addressed the United Nations multiple times and is the youth director of Earth Guardians, a global youth organization focused on sustainability and accountability for our environment.

Jamie Margolin is a founder of Zero Hour, and she’s also an openly lesbian Latina. Zero Hour seeks to center the voices of diverse youth around climate change, educating and mobilizing young people to make change.

These are well-known youth environmentalists.

And my message to other teens and young adults in the world is this:

There is no reason you cannot be next.

One of the best ways to get started on becoming a change-maker is to participate in Project Green Challenge, a truly inspiring thirty days that has changed the lives of thousands of student environmentalists, leading to the development of new community organizations, nonprofits, and campus reform for sustainability across the globe.

Now in its tenth year, Turning Green‘s Project Green Challenge is gearing up to once again inspire and mobilize young people to take on lasting, important work in their communities and for the planet.

What impact does PGC make?

Let’s take a peek at last year’s winners.

Koleigh Vachereau, a University of Vermont sophomore, was inspired by learning about food waste and food justice during PGC. Her action project was to develop a food pantry on campus after learning about the food insecurity facing students and the community.

Tatum Robinson, an Environmental Policy and Studies major at Champlain College in Vermont, and her teammates, developed a climate action plan and sustainability framework for their college campus with a goal of making the campus carbon neutral by 2030.

Josie Sparks worked with a local school garden, was able to make a statement to her local school board to address sustainability and food waste in the local schools, and ended up founding a non-profit in Bloomington, IN called Yellowwood Youth, focusing on environmental education and climate projects for school-age youth in the local community. She did all this as a high school junior!

Rowan Stalnaker grew up surrounded by nature and was pulled into environmentalism when he realized his backyard creek didn’t have the same insect life as a nearby stream. He investigated with the help of a local citizen science organization and found that polluted runoff was changing the water’s oxygen content, leading to less native insects breeding there. Rowan then joined PGC and restored his high school’s pollinator garden to restore soil health, feed pollinating insects, and provide a habitat for insects and small animals.

Julia Leonard, a senior at Champlain College, developed a climate action project to revamp her campus store to sell more Fair Trade, local, and sustainable products with more transparency behind the products sold to get the campus store on par with the campus sustainability initiatives that have already been implemented at the college.

Whether or not an activist “goes viral” or becomes a household name doesn’t change the fact that thousands of participating students, including these five winners, were able to learn about climate change, food justice, and other environmental issues — and they were inspired to make a change in their local community to address them.

This is the power of our youth caring about climate change.

Get involved with Project Green Challenge

So, what’s involved with Project Green Challenge?

Starting October 1, participants will have access to a daily challenge with multiple tiers. Complete the “Green,” “Greener,” and “Greenest” challenges and you can win prizes!

Each day’s theme is one aspect of sustainability, like Footprint, Climate Justice, Food, Soil, Adventure, Biodiversity, and more.

What’s in it for you?

  • Daily prizes awarded to participants who submit outstanding challenge entries (Greener and Greenest level submissions)
  • An opportunity to win an all-expense paid trip to San Francisco (pending COVID state and local protocols) for the PGC Finals, a 3-day Eco Summit
  • A Grand Prize valued at $8,000, including a $5,000 Green Award based on completion of a climate action project for the first place PGC Winner, and additional monetary prizes for 2nd and 3rd place Finalists

Inspire a student today

Students 16 and up are eligible for prizes and the PGC Finals, so share this blog with them to let them know you think they have what it takes to make the world a better place.

Sign up at ProjectGreenChallenge.com!

The Dos & Don’ts of Online Clothing Shopping: How to Avoid Returns & Scams

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Photo by rupixen.com on Unsplash

In the time of COVID, lots more people are shopping online for their needs rather than going to a store, and even if you do shop in person, there are limits to the availability of fitting rooms and returns might be impossible.

If you’re staying inside but still find yourself in need of new clothes, this post courtesy of guest author Jenny Bloom from ShirtMax will help give you tips on how to do so safely in an age of scams, fraud, and identity theft.


 

With more than 79% of Americans now doing at least some of their shopping on the Web, it’s become increasingly easy for cybercriminals to take advantage of online shoppers. Online shopping is fast, convenient and allows consumers to purchase just about anything without needing to brave large crowds or travel to other cities to find what they are looking for.

While most online transactions take place without any problems, people still fall victim to cybercriminals every day. Whether they are taken in by scams designed to steal their personal information or they are sold products that do not match their descriptions, shoppers can fall victim to numerous things when shopping for clothing on the Web.

Buying clothes online is appealing for numerous reasons. Whether you’re shopping for blank t-shirts, pants, shoes or accessories, the Internet boasts more selection than your local mall could ever dream of carrying, and the prices are often substantially lower than the prices found in traditional brick-and-mortar stores. It’s important to be aware of the darker side of e-commerce, though, and make yourself aware of how to avoid scams and returns. Here are a few dos and don’ts of online clothing shopping to help you stay safe on the Web.

DO: Shop from Home

It may be convenient to do some online shopping at your local coffee shop on your lunch break, but doing so makes you much more vulnerable to hackers. Even novice hackers can easily access public Wi-Fi connections and see everything you enter online – including your credit card number.

It’s fine to browse your favorite shopping sites while you’re at the airport, a coffee shop, a hotel or another public place with a Wi-Fi connection, but avoid entering any personal information until you are on your own secured network.

DO: Be Careful When Choosing Sellers

If you use Google (or another search engine) to search for products, be careful. Statistically, about three results on every search engine results page are fraudulent. Whenever possible, shop directly from a well-known retailer or directly from the manufacturer or brand you’re shopping for. If you are trying to find the best price, use a trusted price-comparison site.

Before entering any personal information on a website, take a look at the address bar at the top of your browser. The URL should always start with https://. If there is no “s,” it means that your information will not be transmitted privately once you submit it. Also, make sure any website you shop from has an SSL certificate.

DO: Shop Using Credit Cards

Generally speaking, credit card companies offer better protection against online scams. Whether you receive a product that does not match the description or you have your information stolen, they will normally work with you to help you recoup your losses when the seller refuses to cooperate. Using your debit card means that a criminal could gain access to everything in your bank account, and depending on your financial
institution’s policies, there may be little you can do if you fall victim to a scam.

Editor’s note: If you don’t use credit cards, double check your bank’s policies to make sure your debit card offers purchase protection. Shopping via PayPal Goods & Services also provides buyer protections. 

DO: Keep an Eye on Your Credit Card Bills

Pay attention to your credit card bill every month. Make sure only transactions you’ve authorized appear on your statement and watch out for recurring charges. If you notice anything suspicious, contact your credit card company immediately, as there are usually time limits for disputing charges. Also, make sure you’re only shopping within your budget and paying it off every month so as not to carry a balance.

DON’T: Use Your Personal or Business Email Address When Shopping

Having a separate email address to use for online shopping is highly recommended. In addition to keeping all those promotional emails out of your business or personal email account, you’ll be a lot better off if this email address gets hacked than if one of your main addresses does. Set up a separate account that is easy to access, and keep track of the orders you’ve placed, when they’ve been shipped, and when they arrive. Hang onto order confirmations until you’ve received your item and you are happy with it.

DON’T: Wire Money to Sellers

If a seller is asking you to pay by Western Union or a similar money transfer service, it is almost always a scam. Even if you order from an online auction site, you should only pay online using a credit card or a protected service like PayPal. If you wire a payment to someone, you have no way of getting your money back in the event of a problem.

DON’T: Provide Excess Information

When you place an order online, you should expect to provide your name, billing address, mailing address, phone number, email address, and credit card information. If the site is asking for anything else – such as your social security number or your driver’s license number – it’s likely fraudulent. There is no reason why you should need to provide this type of sensitive information when shopping online for clothes.

DO: Shop Eco-Friendly

Unfortunately, shopping in general isn’t the most conscientious thing we do. Products are
typically kept in plastic, fast fashion is bad for the planet, and mass-produced boxes aren’t always properly recycled. But that doesn’t mean you can’t help lessen the overall carbon footprint. Shop from secondhand consignment shops, like ThredUp, to help save the planet. Plus, you’ll normally find a sweet deal and save a couple bucks.

DON’T: Fall Victim to Scams

If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. When you stumble on a website selling designer clothes in the latest styles at a fraction of their normal
price, it’s extremely tempting to load up your cart and submit your credit card information. Chances are, though, the deal isn’t as good as it seems. Entering
your credit card information may do little more than fund a scam artist’s next shopping spree. Or you may find out when your order arrives that you purchased
counterfeit clothing or accessories.

Scoring great deals is one of the best parts about shopping online, but when looking at prices, be realistic. If the price seems too good, it’s probably a scam in one way or another. When you’re shopping for products in bulk such as wholesale shirts, you can expect to pay significantly less than you would pay when shopping retail. Avoid scams by only ordering from established wholesalers with strong reputations for quality and customer service.

Conclusion

With more and more people turning to the Web to shop for clothing and other products every day, it’s becoming increasingly important to be vigilant. There are a lot of people out there who make their living by stealing from others, and they love targeting unsuspecting online shoppers. Exercising caution when ordering online, however, can help you avoid returns and scams while protecting your bank account and personal information from cybercriminals.

About the Author

Jenny Bloom is the Marketing Manager for ShirtMax. When she’s not spending time with her three daughters, husband and two dogs, Roscoe and Boone, she’s creating content on fashion, online shopping and saving money on clothes.

[Transcript] Lakewood Public Library Author Talk: The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation

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Hello readers! I recently recorded a Meet the Author talk at a local library. It was so much fun and I loved being able to add a little more about current events that obviously weren’t covered in the book that was published a little over a year ago.

You can watch the video here:

The audio is a little quiet, so it’s best watched with headphones (I got the best results watching on my phone), but I also wrote out a transcript in case you’re more of a reader than a viewer or if you miss any of the audio.

Check out the full transcript below, sans all my “um” noises as I checked my notes. (Ugh).


Title Card reads:
Caitlin Fisher
The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation: How to Succeed in a Society that Blames You for Everything Gone Wrong
Lakewood Public Library

Hi, I’m Caitlin Fisher, the author of The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation: How to Succeed in a Society that Blames You for Everything Gone Wrong.

I’m a local author, I live on the west side of Cleveland in West Park, and I have a bachelor’s in Psychology, a Master’s in Higher Education with a background in career counseling and marketing. We’ll talk about millennial job hopping later, it’s relevant. And I also write and teach about boundaries and emotional recovery after leaving an abusive marriage two years ago. So, a long and varied story like many millennials. 

About the book

I’m going to start off just by talking about how I got the idea for The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation. It actually started as a blog post I wrote in 2016. I had been doing some research into emotional abuse, recovery, and trauma work. And I kept coming across the idea of gaslighting, which is a manipulation tactic where essentially you make people doubt their own perceptions or reality. So, they tell you their experience of something and you essentially say, “What, that’s crazy, that can’t be right.” 

The more I learned about this concept, the more I realized that’s sort of how we’ve been treating young people entering the workforce. So we were raised being told, you know, “if you work hard, you can do anything.” And then we leave college, or maybe we don’t go to college, and we’re putting in the work and working very hard, and we’re not getting anywhere. And the more noise we make about this, the more we’re told “That’s not really how it works, you’re being entitled.” 

And this book came from that. So after the blog post I turned it into a full length book, it’s got 12 chapters, and each chapter is titled “Millennials are Killing…” something or other. Topics range from the American Dream to Relationships and Marriage to the Economy. Anything we can be accused of destroying as dirty, entitled millennials, I tried to hit the highlights of. 

Why this book?

What I wanted to do with the book is not only address this concept of gaslighting, I wanted to validate what millennials have been through. I wanted to have space for those experiences and let people know that they’re relatable, they’re not unique and they’re not doing it wrong and messing it up, they’re not alone. There’s a mix of reassurance, unpacking why we’re being accused of being so entitled when we want basic human necessities, and then each chapter ends with practical advice to make sure you’re killing it, since we’re killing everything.

I also want to acknowledge privilege. I am a well-educated white person. I am queer but can pass for cis and straight, and that affords me a lot of privilege in society. Society is set up for people who look like me. So, as much as possible throughout the book, when I talk about concepts I know that not everyone views their experience in our society through the same lens that I did. So I try as much as possible to talk about how racism, classism, and ableism might affect people’s experiences throughout the book. Because I don’t just want to be speaking about my experiences, I want it to be relatable to as many people as possible. 

I am a millennial with baby boomer parents, so those are the experiences that I talk about a lot. I’ve gotten a little bit of commentary about how I skipped Gen X in the middle (Gen X is kind of used to it, unfortunately), but that’s not my lived experience. I can’t really speak to Gen X because I’m a millennial with boomer parents, so that’s what I’m writing about.  

Overall what I want people to take away from this book is that, one, they’re not alone in their struggles. Two, I want millennials to keep standing up and speaking out when they see that things aren’t right and aren’t fair. I love that about us, I love that we are pointing to problems in society and saying, “Hey, let’s maybe do something about that.” And three, it’s also a call for the generational blame game to stop with us. I want us to pave the way for Generation Z to come through and be as amazing as they’re already showing us they are. And so, I don’t want us to argue about the kids these days on TikTok and the Tide Pods and everything, because that’s just more in-fighting and it’s not helping us get where we want to go. 

Also, this is not a book that’s just for millennials. Obviously I’ve been talking about Gen Z a lot, and I think it could be a really helpful primer for them, especially as they’re finishing high school and entering college. And I’ve also had Gen X and Baby Boomer readers say that they’ve really loved it and appreciated the perspective it gave them about the millennial experience. 

How to read “The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation”

So, just to get into the content of the book, I wrote it in such a way that you can read one chapter if that’s a certain topic that you’re interested in, or you can read through the whole book. It’s definitely a book you can take chapter by chapter, it doesn’t have an overall narrative that has to be read in order, but rather each chapter is its own unique section. 

Part 1: Millennials are Entitled, Disrespectful Punks

It’s divided into three parts. Part 1 is called “Millennials Are Entitled, Disrespectful Punks” and that section talks about the American Dream, difficult parent-child relationships once millennials enter adulthood and they’re starting to connect with their parents on that level, and the tension that can arise there, especially if we had difficult childhoods. There’s a chapter about the workforce and career path of millennials. Like I mentioned, there tends to be a little bit more job hopping and mix-and-match career building. And then there’s a chapter about the education system. 

I started the book off here because I think these are some of the biggest, most impactful claims that people make about millennials and about how we are up-ending the status quo, which I personally think is a good thing. 

The American Dream

The American Dream chapter really tackles that avocado toast headline, where it says “if millennials want to buy a house, they need to lay off the avocado toast.” So this chapter tackles the assumption that we can’t be home owners because we’re too busy spending frivolously on brunch. And I really address the structure of the “American Dream” — air quotes — and the fact that it’s really built on that idea that if you work hard you’ll achieve it. The American Dream being a stable career, retirement savings, a nice house, marriage and kids if you want that. But what’s sort of sinister about the American Dream is that if you tell everyone if you work hard you can achieve it, anybody who hasn’t achieved it, there’s this easy finger-pointing we can do to say that they’re obviously not working hard enough. 

And then millennials are coming in to ruin the day once again and they say, “How can we buy a home? It’s not the avocado toast, it’s student loans, it’s the fact that the minimum wage hasn’t been raised since 2009, it’s the fact that we can’t afford rent and retirement and healthcare.” So we’ve started to see the American Dream fall apart around the edges. 

And we really need to acknowledge that the original American Dream is only accessible to a privileged few. People who can afford to go to college without too much debt, or no debt. People who don’t need to work two or three jobs to make a living. There’s definitely a lot of privilege involved in the American Dream and I think that millennials on the whole are realizing that and pointing it out. And so that gaslighting effect comes in when they say “Hey, this seems kind of messed up, maybe we should change the way we’re doing things,” and the establishment says, “We don’t talk about that, just keep working hard and you’ll get there, I promise.” And we’re starting to see that that’s not necessarily the truth. 

Millennial career paths and company culture

So, related to the American Dream is the career trajectory of millennials. So I’m going to speak a little bit about that workplace chapter. As I mentioned earlier, I have a bachelor’s in Psychology and then I went to grad school to work in Higher Education. I ended up doing purchasing and was doing freelance marketing also, and now I do full time marketing. So none of what I studied in college is necessarily relevant to what I do as a career now. And you find that a lot, I think, with millennials. 

So your classic career path for, let’s say, a baby boomer, is you get an entry level job, you put in time, you get a promotion, you put in time, you get another promotion, you put in the time, and then you retire comfortably at 65. Obviously not everybody, and obviously there are barriers and struggles across generations, but that’s your typical ladder — they call it the corporate ladder for a reason. 

And millennials are coming in and they are leaving jobs without putting in all that time because they want a better work life balance, they want a better culture fit.  And this is really forcing companies when they’re hiring new talent to consider what millennials want. Millennials now are basically adults under 40, so people are hiring millennials, and millennials want flexible hours, they want flex time so they can go to a doctor’s appointment, we really like remote work, which is now especially relevant in the COVID pandemic because we found out pretty quickly that most office work can be done from home without losing any productivity. So I think what we’re going to see post-COVID is that there will be a lot more companies offering remote work as a flexible perk when they’re hiring people, and that’s going to attract the millennials because we like that flexibility and we like the work life balance. You know, when you don’t have to get up super early to get ready and commute, and then commute home before you make dinner, you get a lot of hours in your day back that you can spend on things that make you happy, such as sleeping or having a hobby.

And we also want better paid parental leave when we have kids, better vacation time, wages that are more in line with the cost of living, and even union protections. And once again we say, “Hey, what about these things, they do them in other countries, they’re working, people seem really happy over there in those other countries,” and we’re again told, “No no, don’t talk about that, don’t question it, just keep working, you’ll get there.” And again it’s this cultural gaslighting. 

Just some stats out of the book, a 2014 study from Bentley University reported that millennials would take a pay cut of $7600 a year to take a job with a better work-life balance, better company culture, or that they felt was more purposeful. So, we don’t like work that just feels like droning along for somebody else’s dollar. We like work that makes us feel good about ourselves and the work that we do as well as what the company as the whole is doing. So we want to do work that we feel matters. And I think we’re going to see this also with Gen Z as they enter the workforce. 

So I think that companies are going to have to adapt as we continue. Because if you can’t lure in the talent with money when you have a bad company culture, you’re going to have to adapt your company culture. Which I think is a good thing! 

I do resume and cover letter writing and help people find jobs as a side business (because millennials have to have four businesses, I guess), and I’ve noticed that job descriptions that are being posted by companies now have a really big focus on what it’s like to work there and what the culture is like. So we’re seeing a lot of “one Friday a month we do a team outing,” and they’re really trying to showcase the ways that they value their workers, and so that’s going to attract the millennials that want that sort of more fun, more purposeful, team oriented work. Which I think is exciting! 

The education system – do we need college?

And then, on your way to those jobs we need to talk about education. And the education chapter not only talks about college but starts in preschool. Your school experience can add a lot to your struggle or can add a lot to your privilege, which is important to recognize. 

So a big question that comes up is do you need to go to college to be successful? What does it mean to be successful? Does it mean having a degree, does it mean having a certain income, does it mean being debt free, does it mean the American Dream? Only you can decide what success means for you, which is good and also sometimes a struggle, because you look into the void and you don’t know what success means to you and there’s a little existential crisis sometimes, but I think that college is not always necessary. I think we put a lot of pressure on very young people to decide what they’re going to do with the rest of their lives, and at 18 if somebody’s not sure they want to go to college, I think it’s irresponsible to force them into debt because college is just part of the process. 

I think it’s completely valid if you want to take a couple years off to decide what you want to do, or if you want to go to trade school instead, or if you want to go to school part time, or you end up in your 40s and decide you’re ready to get a degree now. So however you want to do it, whenever you decide you want to go to college, I think it’s really important that we don’t put so much pressure on “the way you’re supposed to do it.” Which I think is pretty important. And you’ll even have people making their own businesses, whether or not they went to college. There’s all sorts of lists of “careers you can get without a college degree” and that’s super valid. And that’s what I explore in the education chapter. 

Part 2: Millennials are Destroying Society

Next up in Part 2, Millennials Are Destroying Society, there’s a few chapters but what I really want to talk about is the chapter about the economy. Because there’s headlines like “Why aren’t millennials buying diamonds?” and “Millennials aren’t saving for retirement” and “Millennials have killed the mall” and I once again think, that’s a little unfair to blame all of that on the millennials. 

We don’t need malls because all those stores are online, and we don’t buy diamonds because we have found out that diamonds can be very unethical. And also, we have to pay rent and healthcare, so we don’t have a lot of diamond money laying around. So we can’t afford those luxury items — it goes back to the minimum wage issue, goes back to housing costs, goes back to wealth in general. 

The latest numbers from the Federal Reserve say that baby boomers have 56.8% of the wealth in the US, and millennials have 3.4%. So, were not buying diamonds or (insert industry) because we don’t have the funds to be doing that. We’re basically just trying to survive. Especially during COVID right now. 

Living paycheck to paycheck

This chapter also tackles poverty and the poverty line. Millennials are the most impoverished generation, as of 2016 data from the Pew Research Center. I could not find more recent data, I tried, but that was the last big report that came out. So in 2016, we had 5.3 million millennial households under the poverty line in the US. Obviously this affects other generations as well, there were 5 million baby boomer households and 4.2 million Gen X households under the poverty line also. 

And it’s important to talk about this in relation to that American Dream, in relation to the economy and the workforce, because while we do have security measures in place to help people under the poverty line, like food stamps, housing assistance, daycare assistance, things like that so that people can go to work and work hard for that American Dream, you can get a 25 cent pay raise that loses you eligibility for your benefits and then you’re worse off than before you got a raise. So our systems are set up to keep poor people poor. And the more we point that out the more everybody says “Hey we don’t talk about that, be quiet, you’re starting to sound a little crazy and entitled” — gaslighting. 

So definitely my intention here is to let people know, again, that they’re not crazy for saying “This is my experience and I’m working hard and it’s not getting me anywhere.” You know, the expectation is that that should make you successful and if you’re not successful by American Dream standards, and you think you’re doing something wrong and other people think you’re doing something wrong. So we’re creating this us vs. them thing of “Well, people who don’t have these measures of success must not be working hard enough, and those things will never happen to me because I work hard.” 

But 40% of Americans are one missed paycheck away from the poverty line. We wouldn’t know what to do, we’re paycheck to paycheck in this culture. And we’re so much closer to being homeless or jobless than we are to becoming billionaires, but if the billionaires keep us arguing amongst ourselves then we don’t notice the billionaires telling us not to worry and that everything will be alright. 

So I am apparently slowly radicalizing people with this. Or just pointing out that there’s issues in society and it’s okay to talk about them, and we should talk about them and we should make change. 

Part 3: Millennials Are Just Making Stuff Up Now

So that’s my hard hitter from Part 2. And then in Part 3, Millennials Are Just Making Stuff Up Now, I talk about gender identity, the Me Too movement, the relationship escalator, how we’re killing marriage by not necessarily going dating-marriage-babies, we’re turning all that on its head. Millennial parenting, which I had to consult with millennial parents about to make sure I knew what I was talking about. And then just sort of a call to action, once again, to stop turning it around and blaming it on the next generation when they show up and they start making this noise too. 

Millennials and Gen Z activism

I want millennials to cheer on Gen Z, which so far we’ve really been doing a good job of. Transitioning out of talking about the book and coming into the world of 2020, there’s so much going on since I wrote this that I really want to talk about. And that’s especially the fact that millennials and Generation Z are so active politically and in activism and advocacy work. 

We’re seeing a demand for more transparency from brands and businesses. We’re seeing that millennials and Gen Z consumers expect brands to stand up for social justice issues. And we expect to see more about their business practices. 

Nike did an ad for Black Lives Matter that said, “Just this once, don’t do it,” as in, don’t turn your back on racism, don’t look away. And the millennials and Gen Z were like, “Cool, well we buy Nike now” and that got them a lot of brand affinity. It’s a good business move now for brands to be chasing that millennial and Gen Z approval because those are the fastest growing generations with buying power. 

We also are voting with our dollar, shopping locally and with small businesses, trying to keep local businesses afloat especially during COVID. I know a lot of my friends are not eating out as much because we’re tipping higher when we do eat out. So with that restaurant budget, we’re trying to keep restaurants that are locally owned afloat more because we don’t know what it’s going to look like by the time whatever’s happening with COVID is done happening. 

We’re also seeing millennials and Gen Z, and the older generations too, purchase from Black-owned companies and crafters, and queer-owned companies and crafters. We’re saying “I want to support these communities that are typically marginalized and held back from businesses” so we’re spending what money we do have in ways that align with our morals, which I love about us and Gen Z. 

I specifically want to talk about the Black Lives Matter movement, just because that is so important to discuss in 2020. We’ve seen protests happening since May and it is now August and they’re still happening daily, they’ve been happening across the world. And there was some data from Y Pulse that came out this June, that said 50% of Gen Z and millennials have participated in Black Lives Matter protests or awareness, and 69% think that brands and companies should be involved in the Black Lives Matter movement, going back to that Nike story. 

Business Insider also reported that 90% of Gen Z supports the Black Lives Matter movement, 77% of them have been to a protest, and 62% are willing to be arrested at a protest. So Generation Z is not holding back, they are showing up, and I love them for it, and I’m so excited and can’t wait to hear more about what they’re doing. 

But that really starts with us as the millennial generation. We’ve been recognizing and pointing out “this isn’t right, we need to change the way our society is set up” and everybody older than us is saying “No, just pipe down, just put your head down and work hard and you’ll get there.” We need to keep saying that we need change, and then we need to give Gen Z the space to show up and have that 90% of them supporting really important justice efforts. So we can work with them or we can turn around and be our crotchety elders and I’d really rather we be the awesome generation that I know we are. 

Get a copy!

Buy The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, Target, or anywhere else books are sold!

Or borrow from the Lakewood Public Library (or any local library) as a hard copy or virtually via Hoopla, Libby, or your favorite library app. 

 

When Art is Your Love Language

When I’m so happy and satisfied and moved and full of love about something or someone, I make art about it.

I write poetry or love letters. I paint. I create little cartoon portraits on internet apps.

As children and still as adults, long afternoons and evenings were spent with my brother and sister, reaching over each other to get a tube of the next color we needed, trading brushes, just creating together. It led to a lifelong love of creativity and art as an expression of love, affection, and closeness.

When I love someone, I show it in art.

In April, coping with the early days of socially isolating due to the COVID pandemic, my partner and I sent letters to each other to get through the long stretches without seeing each other. I sent him six small watercolor paintings with my letters, and the last letter was a poem.

When my friend lost two pets over the summer, I thought “I should paint them a portrait of those pets.” I haven’t done it yet, but I’ll get there. Sometimes the art has to percolate.

My partner and his roommate love Skyrim, so I painted them a scene of a dragon flying among snowy mountains and a forest. I plan to paint my sister a similar one for her new home when she moves in with her fiancé.

An ex partner loved mermaids, and I painted her a scene of a mermaid looking out to sea at sunset. The mermaid had a back tattoo and a fin mohawk, and the sunset and water were the colors of the bisexual pride flag.

If I love you, I show it in art. In colors. In words.

I’ve tried selling art before, and it doesn’t always feel the same. It’s hard for me to get the art moving without that love behind it.

It’s okay to just enjoy your artistic hobbies and not try to monetize them — it’s a capitalist pressure to think we need to only do things that can bring in income.

Creating for the sake of creation is a radical act, and we should do it more often.

I’ve also made art for people who it turned out weren’t safe for me.

This art feels like a betrayal. Short stories I wrote for an abuser. A painting. A story recited in public about how real and true love and friendship could be.

That lost art was part of me, and undeserved by them. If I had a time machine I would write a different story. But I told that story — even if the story isn’t the truth anymore.

It hurts to know that I put that part of myself on paper or in words, when I later wish I never had.

I can’t take it back, but it hurts to feel like I wasted it.

When I’m feeling blocked creatively, is it because I don’t want to “waste” art on people?

In “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” Marie Kondo says that it’s okay to discard (throw away, donate, or otherwise re-home) gifts from others, because sometimes the joy of the item was in the moment of giving. If it no longer gives you joy, it’s okay to discard.

Can the same be true of art?

In the moment, the creation of that art was joyous and full of love. In the moment, the art was pure. The words, the brushstrokes, the art, the love — it was all real.

And the love being real doesn’t mean that the pain wasn’t real. The love being real doesn’t mean that the abuse wasn’t real. The love being real doesn’t mean that the betrayal wasn’t real.

I can be at peace with the fact that those people received my art, and my love.

The authenticity of my love, and my art as an extension of it, is about me. Not them.

And I will keep making art.

And I will keep loving.

Doing the Work

Thanks to James Eades for sharing their work on Unsplash.

You may have noticed a distinct lack of blog posts around here for the last few weeks! I took June off to rest for my mental health and I’m looking forward to getting back to a regular writing schedule.

It’s been hard to know what to say lately. I support the Black Lives Matter movement (both ideologically and financially by paying monthly reparations to Black activists and families in need). I haven’t wanted my voice to take up space that should have been taken up by Black voices, but I also don’t want to ignore the reality that this movement needs attention and that I can use my privilege and platform to call attention to the work.

Your mission today is to follow Black activists, especially women or trans folks who are multiply marginalized. Some suggestions: Ijeoma Oluo, Sonya Renee Taylor, Ava DuVernay, Ericka Heart, Jessamyn Stanley, Devin-Norelle, Laverne Cox, Serena Hicks, Graeme Seabrook.

Follow Black artists, creators, and writers too, because anti-racist work isn’t just about learning about racism, it’s normalizing the presence of Black content in our social media feeds as beautiful and important too. Suggestions: Billy Porter, Lizzo, Jaime Milner, Shanee Benjamin, Gabriella Grimes.

Racism is a white supremacy problem, and it’s the responsibility of white people to stop being racist, to make reparations, and to do anti-racist work. This is hard because we were raised in racism and we often don’t recognize racism in our own behaviors. When it’s called out, we feel defensive.

That discomfort is where we do the work, friends. When you feel defensive about it, stop and listen. Research. Learn.

I recently had a friend let me know she was unfriending me on Facebook because her experience being called out for a racist comment about China was too uncomfortable. Even though she listened and learned, apologized, and said she wouldn’t say something like it again. The experience of being called out was uncomfortable. But we can’t let that stop us from doing anti-racist work.

Keep an eye out for new content soon. I’ve missed you!

And yes, there will be more commentary on anti-racist work. If that makes you uncomfortable… maybe stick around.

5 Tips To Overcome Loneliness While Social Distancing

As COVID-19 continues to impact the lives of millions around the world, Americans are being urged to stay home and practice social distancing to help slow the spread. That means that numerous non-essential businesses have closed, non-essential events canceled, and people are limiting their interactions with one another.

While all of this is for the greater good, the isolation can still get to people, generating overwhelming feelings of loneliness. And it’s not easy to get through the day when you experience loneliness. As a result, the pandemic is now more than a health issue, but also a mental issue.

However, there is good news so far. You can overcome loneliness – it’s possible. Here are five tips for coping with isolation and reducing feelings of loneliness, while practicing social distancing.

1. Practice Self-Care

“Take time out of each day to take care of yourself,” says Madeline Prichard, a content writer at Study demic and Australian help. “This may include catching an extra hour of sleep, or imagining someone giving you an uplifting affirmation – or maybe you can give that affirmation to yourself. Also, make sure that you’re eating right and staying active. The healthier you’re eating, and the more you exercise, the better you’ll feel.”

Also, take the time to self-reflect. In your mind, ask yourself how you’re feeling today. Know the difference between what’s temporary and what’s permanent. The pandemic shouldn’t get to you: Instead of saying “My life is forever changed,” think: “Okay, things are hard now, but I look forward to tomorrow.”

Editor’s note: While eating a balanced diet helps make sure you get a variety of nutrients, be mindful of eating disorder relapse or trying to reduce your food consumption out of fear you’ll run out of food. Now is not the time to be dieting or worrying about your weight.

2. Practice Breathing

As you meditate, incorporate breathing exercise. Even when you’re not meditating, practice breathing. No materials or equipment is needed to do this. 

Start with a few slow deep breaths, while focusing on the sensation of air going into your nostrils, and down your lungs. This helps you relax your body and mind while maintaining breath. 

3. Stay Productive – Occupy Your Mind

A good antidote to loneliness is keeping yourself busy with things you enjoy. If you’re feeling tired of doing the same old thing, now’s a great time to do something different. Maybe you’ve put off something for a good while, and you want to go back to it? If so, do that thing instead. And remember to start off small and focus only on what you can do, instead of what you’re “hoping” to do. Here are some good ideas on how to occupy your mind and find joy in variety:

  • Restart a hobby
  • Discover a new hobby
  • Tackle a new house chore
  • Read a book in a new way to mix things up – hard copy if you usually read digitally, or audio if you usually read hard copy
  • Do some exercise – some gentle stretching or a walk around the block for fresh air is a great way to stay active and give yourself time for your mind to wander and process things

4. Virtually Connect With Others

Now more than ever, it’s imperative to connect with people, even during this period of social distancing. Reach out to people through messaging apps, social media, etc. Or, you can be there for somebody who’s struggling right now, just by listening to them. But above all, it’s okay to express how you’re feeling, because chances are, you’re not alone in this pandemic, you’re not alone in the sadness, and you’re not alone in the loneliness. 

5. Stay Positive And Grateful

“It’s always a good idea to savor the little moments that give you joy in your daily life,” says Toby Aronson, a lifestyle blogger at Writemyaustralia and Studentwritingservices. “Whatever gives you joy, write it down somewhere so you won’t forget it. Also, stay positive with your thinking – appreciate the things in your life that you already have. Enjoy the time you have with your family, with your partner, and where there’s something that doesn’t stress you out.”

Social Distance Doesn’t Mean You’re Alone

Social distancing is what people have to do to try and contain COVID-19 — but along with these necessary steps come negative emotions in some people. In fact, people in social isolation will surely experience excessive points of loneliness now more than ever, even to the point of depression or thoughts of self-harm.

If you are feeling depressed or have thoughts of self-harm, don’t be afraid to reach out to a certified counselor or crisis hotline. There are always people standing by, waiting to help, despite the pandemic. If you suspect a friend is experiencing poor mental health, try reaching out to them to see if they’re open to receiving help. Sometimes just checking in with someone can alleviate their loneliness, but it’s important to remember that their mental health is not your responsibility – protect yourself with boundaries and know when things are no longer at a level you can help with. It’s okay to refer your friend to a professional who is trained to help them through crisis. 

For immediate help, call 911, or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990, or text TalkWithUs to 66746. (TTY 1-800-846-8517).

Remember that although you may feel alone right now, just know that you’re not facing the pandemic alone. We’re all in this together.

Molly Crockett writes for Bigassignments.com and Stateofwriting.com, and teaches writing skills for Eliteassignmenthelp.com. As a health writer, she not only shares nutritional tips and great recipes, but also documents the ups and downs of her diet journey.