An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Voting

 

element5-digital-1126225-unsplash.jpgIt’s that time of year again! It’s voting time! As an awkward person, everything about voting in person is scary and stressful, but it’s such an important part of the democratic process. The system doesn’t work unless we all get involved… even the awkward people. It’s too late for early voting (which is probably the easiest solution for you awkward folks out there), but you still don’t have to be stressed or scare yourself out of participating.  Voting is an awesome responsibility but it isn’t as nerve wracking as it can seem. In fact it is one of the quietest, most introverted ways to make your voice heard. So get to it! Here are some last minute tips to make it as painless as possible.

Find your reason.

Find an issue or a race that matters to you and makes you feel like your vote matters. There are no shortage of issues facing our states and country as a whole. A couple of them probably matter to you, even if you haven’t thought much about how the vote you cast plays a part. If you’re a woman, remember that suffragettes fought for years and went to jail to get you the right to vote. Reminding yourself of the purpose and value in the difficult action makes it easier to go, at least for me.

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Declaration of Sentiments from Seneca Falls, NY, the location of the first Woman’s Rights Convention in the United States.

Do your research.

You can find your ballot online pretty easily. I usually use Vote411 but I’ve also used Ballotpedia. There are a lot of other personalized ballot tools online. If you’re in a more rural area, you might still end up with some local political races that you don’t know about, but you can find a lot of information about the statewide and national races you’ll be voting for. You can see, in many cases, overviews of the positions each candidate has.

From there you can also review their websites, interviews and social media interactions to try to get a sense of their positions. Understand that everyone is trying to say what they think you want to here, but you can get the basics to make an informed choice. Mark it on your ballot and print a copy to take with you. You don’t have to memorize your choices. Bring it with you and you can feel a little more confident in what you’ll have to do on voting day. It’s also a good idea to review your rights as a voter, just in case. Here’s a good resource from Rock the Vote

Make a plan.

Find your polling place and it’s hours. Again, a quick search will help you out. Figure out when you can fit voting into your schedule. Write it down. Block it off on your calendar. Don’t miss it. Factor in travel time and a bit of standing in line. Find a buddy to go with. Just have a solid plan that is feasibly built into your day. You can help yourself know what’s going to happen and hype yourself up for it. It will probably require a little more stress than your average day, but you can do it if you just think it through.

I also usually plan out other aspects of my day as well. I try to have an outfit planned (because a good outfit can make a good day better). If the outfit pays homage to suffragettes or matches my voting sticker- all the better! Having a lunch packed and a plan for the evening also helps because it helps me feel more in control of an out-of-the-ordinary day. Make sure you’ve located your voting card the night before as well!

Go at an unusual time.

Depending on where your live, certain time at a polling place can busy. Waiting in long lines of people talking about politics might seem like a nightmare for your poor awkward girl heart… at least it is for mine. If you can avoid peak voting times like the evening and during lunch, you might be better off. I try to go first thing in the morning. There are usually some people during that time, but I’ve always had luck getting through quickly.

Also be prepared to walk through a wall of people to to get in. Just put on a smile and let them know you’ve made your decision and keep walking. If anyone bothers you past that, please let someone know in the polling place. No one is supposed to harass you on your way to the poll. Also remember that your polling place is staffed by volunteers so offer them a smile too, if you can. Their might be some awkward interactions with them, but they also help the democratic process work.

Give yourself a reward.

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My husband once made me this sticker because I was mad I didn’t get an official one. He’s a good guy.

Ok, you did it! You voted. Now treat yourself to something a little bit special! I almost always go out for a coffee and a scone before work since I have to get up earlier than usual on voting day. But if you’re not into that sort of treat, treat yourself to some extra couch time after work or a special dinner. Anything that adds a little fun into a stressful day and allows you to look forward to a reward. Hopefully you’ll also get a sticker because there’s something magic about getting rewarded with a sticker (or is that just me?).

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Voting

International Traveling for First-Timers

qPfq3m9FXkWYUfVRCfqmrPksJxhbLxf2wOxHXAQBpzwpX92IBI just returned from my first big independent trip abroad and let me tell you, there is nothing quite like it. As an awkward girl, travelling to 3 countries (four if you count airports) was a big undertaking that I was very nervous about. No matter how much research I did, I knew things would go wrong (they did). But it was an amazing experience and I learned a lot of ways to get through the world as an awkward girl. I may go a little deeper into things we learned, but I’m going to start with my overall awkward girl traveling tips.

A partner helps.

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Relaxing with my partner-in-travel and life on our terrace in Rome.

I took this trip with my husband and I can’t deny that having a travel buddy that leans toward extroversion was really helpful. You don’t have to have a romantic partner for this to work, however, a friend or family member  who knows you well can aid by stepping in when the awkward gets to be too much. There we times when walking into a restaurant seemed impossible or asking for help was really scary but my husband can usually tell when to pus me out of my comfort zone and took charge when I needed
to. Plus, two heads are better than one when it comes to problem-solving. And sharing experiences with someone you care about is all the more fun. Plenty of people enjoy traveling alone, but, for my unique brand of awkwardness prefers a partner.

Travelling light keeps you mobile.

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This was my only luggage for our nearly 2 week trip.

When I first announced that I wanted to do the whole trip in carry-on bags, my husband basically looked at me like I had casually requested we detach our heads from our body. This decision, which I made after a lot of research, was probably the best one we made on the trip. We wanted to do a lot of our travel via public transportation and trains and we always had a decent commute to the places we stayed. With a carry on and a shoulder bag each, we could move around pretty easily. There were a couple of factors that made our light travel easier:

  •  travel cubes and rolling clothes
  • a decent-sized, expandable carry-on.
  • limited liquids (I switched to bar shampoo, stick foundation, etc to help with this).
  • laundry facilities or the willingness to re-wear clothes.

We had a washer at our final rental and set some time on a travel day for laundry and honestly, other than that, our light travelling was pretty easy. I also packed a small duffel for later in the trip so we could have a little more flexibility to check some bags on the way home.

Over-scheduling leads to anxiety.

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Over-scheduling meant we had to rush through the Globe exhibit very quickly before closing, but at least we took some good pictures outside.

It’s no surprise that we overbooked our itinerary for this trip. Since this sort of trip had been the matter of our dreams for many years, there was so much we wanted to see and we didn’t want to waste our time. The thing that lead to the most consistent frustration was timing and exhaustion from packing our schedule full of too many items and not leaving enough time for lines, exploration and travel time. For this trip we struggled because we know it’s going to be a long while before we make it overseas again, and we wanted to see as much as we possibly can. But our ideas weren’t exactly realistic, which I think we knew secretly. The “sleep when the trip is over” mentality leads to a less pleasant trip with more bickering, in my experience.

You really should try new things…duh.. but really.

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Despite my deep fear of heights, I greatly enjoyed the London Eye… not so much the Eiffel Tower.

When you’re a first time international traveler, the whole experience is new, so this advice can seem super simple. There will be opportunities, while on this journey, to push outside your boundaries in ways you hadn’t thought of yet. Order something you would never order. Have experiences you wouldn’t normally attempt. On this trip, our experimentation was usually in food and drinks. We drank spring mineral water in Bath and did a shot of espresso in Rome after a meal because, of course. My husband tried escargot. I’m terrified of heights but I had to do the London Eye and the Eiffel Tower.  We are by no means the most adventurous travelers the world has ever seen, but there were definitely times when we had choice between the comfortable and out-of-our-norm and we tried to choose the latter. It made the trip better. I did cry at the top of the Eiffel Tower, though.

Find some comfort measures to keep you grounded.

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Our fearless English-speaking tour guide for Mont Saint Michel.

There were definitely days when we just felt overwhelmed by everything new. From not knowing the language or where we’re going, to the day my phone got stolen, there were days when we needed something familiar. In many cases ending the night a little early and going back to our place to stay was helpful (and it also helped with our general exhaustion). We also ate at American dining chains for dinner two nights, just so ordering and eating wouldn’t have to be an ordeal. It felt kind of like a failure at the time, but honestly it was nice to be able to chill out. Having a couple of tours booked in English also helped. We didn’t do a lot of guided tours but we did have two semi-guided tours which gave us a brief respite from feeling surrounded by unfamiliarity.

Have a back-up plan.

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An amusing warning sign from the Vatican Museum’s spiral staircase.

Establishing some back-up plans give you something to turn to if something goes wrong. What would you do if your phone, wallet or passport was stolen? As I mentioned before, my phone was stolen in Rome, so having my tablet/e reader as a backup device helped a great deal for our last day of tourist-ing and our final travel day. It’s also good to have a back up plan for your day in case the weather changes or the museum you were planning on attending was unexpectedly closed.  You can’t possibly plan for all eventualities but you’ll feel a little bit more comfortable if you have some things in place.

International Traveling for First-Timers

An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Attending a Professional Conference

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It’s been almost a year since I’ve been blogging here on An Awkward Girl’s Guide. I’ve found that it’s very difficult to produce content all day for work and then come home and do more. What a writer’s dilemma.

I just came back from Content Marketing World, and I’ve been feeling incredibly inspired.

When anything is your job and your passion, it’s easy to get a little cynical and burnt out. Good professional enrichment is essential, and a professional conference is one great way to get on fire for your work again!

As an awkward girl, a professional conference also come with stresses. I hadn’t been to a professional conference since becoming a real-deal professional, so there were some things that worried my awkward little heart. I have some ideas of how to overcome your fears and have a wonderfully productive professional conference experience.

Set Goals for the Conference

When you’re looking through the schedule before you leave, set yourself some goals for the conference. Are you looking to network, or wanting to focus on learning? Is there a resource or provider information you want to come home with? Are you going alone or with some collegues?

All these factors will affect how you proceed with your time at a professional conference. If you’re hoping to network, you’ll be sure to be at those events, but if learning is your main goal, you’ll prioritize the educational sessions. I found in order to get a good seat in a session, I didn’t have much time for the networking breaks. Since I was attending with my bosses and networking wasn’t my goal, that was ok! You can’t possibly do everything at a busy professional conference like Content Marketing World, but having goals made my decisions easy.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Plan a couple of things at a professional conference that are a little out of your comfort zone. One of my favorite sessions was one that I attended just because I thought it was a good “business choice.” After all that, a session about Return on Investment (which is typically a very math-heavy subject) ended up being wildly helpful and inspirational. I never would have guessed.

In the same line, any time I struck up a conversation with people around me, I was pretty nervous. My awkwardness is not always conducive to small talk. I didn’t ignore my introverted personality entirely at Content Marketing World, but I did find getting out of my comfort zone a little bit improved the experience.

Don’t Ignore a Refresher Session

As a professional writer, I tried not to take too many sessions that were just about the craft of writing. I didn’t want to sit in a lot of sessions where I knew all the concepts already. However, the writing sessions I did attend were incredibly instructional. I took a class about using journalism skills in content, even though I went to school for journalism, and I still found new concepts and ideas I hadn’t thought of before.

I would have missed out on some great learnings if I’d avoided all the sessions that seemed like they were about things I should already know. Not only that, but hearing fellow writers talk about how their careers have progressed and what drives them was incredibly inspiring. I left the conference itching to write and it had been a long time since I’d felt that sort of itch.

2018-09-07_23-55-35_000Gamify the Experience

When you’re nervous, making a professional conference into a game takes some of the pressure off. If you need to make up a point system, do it! There’s plenty of research that gamifying work helps you get it done. If the expo hall makes you nervous, try to get as much swag as possible by talking to and learning about providers.

For me, I gamified getting from session to session because I was nervous about being last in line or entering late. Strategizing my timing helped keep me confident and I always beat the majority of the lunch line (food is a powerful motivator, my friends).

Take Notes

Taking notes helps me feel professional and helps keep me focused. When you’re waking up early and rushing around, it’s easy to feel tired and distracted, especially towards the end of the day. Taking notes helps focus your brain. I find an old school notebook the best for that but plenty of people were typing. I find a computer or my phone just another avenue for distractions.

In the case of Content Marketing World, we had access to presentations after the fact, but I still liked to take my own notes. I also found it helpful to keep an idea list, because I was coming up with tangential ideas throughout the whole event that I’m excited to bring to the office next week.

2018-09-07_23-56-11_000.pngLeave Some Recovery Time in Your Schedule

Running yourself ragged at a professional conference will probably counteract all the learning and inspiration you’re experiencing, especially if you’re an awkward introvert like me. For me, having a quiet breakfast and dinner counteracted a day of running around. I also avoided some of the evening fun activities because resting and taking my introvert time was essential.

If you need some time during the day, you can always find a quiet corner or skip a session block that you find less interesting. Give yourself the time you need to keep the experience productive. This is extra important if you have to go straight from a conference back into a work day.

 

An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Attending a Professional Conference

THIS WEEK’S READING

 

alisa-anton-166247I take a lot of “content” in each week. I love to read and I am constantly listening to podcasts at work, on my commute and at home. Some things really stand out, and to be honestly, I rarely get a chance to reflect or talk about how much I love certain stories with which I’ve interacted because I’m awkward and I don’t want to force others to listen to my nerdy ranting.  Since this is a place where I’m supposed to be nerdy and rant… here we go!

The three best stories I experienced in the last week are below. There’s a lot of women writing and suffering this week so… sorry about that? I’m not sorry. I got a lot out of reading these things this week.

A Tale Of Two Sylvias: On the Letters Cover Controversy by Nichole LeFebvre
I ran across this article randomly on Facebook and it gave me so much to think about. How women are portrayed is important to me, but trying to solve inequality by holding women to impossibly high standards isn’t the answer. Basically truth isn’t simple, but this article was an interesting way to explore it and it made me want to read more Sylvia Plath.

Emily Dickinson’s Legacy Is Incomplete Without Discussing Trauma by Isabel C. Legarda
My mom and I are pretty big Emily Dickinson fans. We’ve visited the home she spent most of her too-short life in (it’s a good museum and you should go). This was a thought I’d never had about Emily Dickinson but the author does point out some compelling evidence of trauma in her life. As a mental health advocate, there was a lot to thinking about here. And we’ll never know what was going on behind the scene in Dickinson’s life, but if people who are struggling can find something new in her writing because of this perspective, it’s a valuable one. It makes me sad for her and all the women who have suffered and are suffering under oppression and wrote beautiful things.

What Else by Carolyn Locke
I love fall. I love poetry. I think we all have a lot to learn from both. I’ve been turning to poetry a lot for dealing with the sadness but also beauty that persists in our world. Fall provides some insight into that intersection as well, because leaves die so beautifully. In this poem with just four words all this is summed up in my heart: “impossible light, improbable hope.” I hope you find impossible light and improbable hope this season.

Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash

THIS WEEK’S READING

An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Participating in WSPD

DJNMJahXgAEcbDFSunday is World Suicide Prevention Day. It can be hard to raise awareness when you’re an awkward girl and you don’t just want to bring suicide up in your everyday conversations. These conversations are especially hard if you have a personal connection to suicide loss or if you’re worried that you won’t know how suicide has affected others around you.

I personally wanted to step up my participation this year so I came up with some ideas for participating that will work for all kinds of awkward people.

  1. Donated to a reputable organization. Consider To Write Love On Her Arms, The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention  or The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
  2. Wear some swag. I’ll be wearing my TWLOHA “Stay” Shirt.
  3. Random acts of kindness. Leave friendly notes, info cards, kindness rocks etc that reference the hashtag #WSPD.
  4. Tell your story if you have one and you feel ready. It can help you and it can help others to know they aren’t alone.
  5. Amplify the stories of others. If you don’t have your own story or aren’t comfortable sharing it yet, share the stories of others who have decided to share.
  6. Remind people in your life that you love them and that their existence matters to them.
  7. Learn the signs that someone might commit suicide and what you can do to help.
  8. Share facts and stats about mental health and suicide on social media. Here’s a great resource for that.
  9. Share a selfie. Tell us why you were made for and use the hashtags #WSPD and #StopSuicide.
  10. Take an assessment. If you struggle but have never pursued a diagnosis, try starting with a basic assessment.
  11. Become an Advocate. There are lots of places you can advocate, including signing this petition to show a Pittsburgh college reconsider Honor Code language that promotes mental health stigma.
An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Participating in WSPD

An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Getting Mental Health Help in College

jeremy-bishop-131058.jpgWhen stressed by school, you might not have time to exercise or wait a little too long to go to the doctor about your cough. Similarly, sometimes it’s easy to ignore mental health concerns when you’re busy with school. Mental health issues are becoming a larger and larger issue on college campuses and students often don’t know how to begin addressing their concerns with their mental health. Some colleges are more supportive than others, but regardless, there are attainable ways for you to get any help you need. You’re not alone.

Self-harm is estimated to affect up to a third of college students. One in 12 college students admit to having had suicidal thoughts. My college friends and I had many encounters with mental health in school. Dealing with these situations was stressful and at times alienating. I also learned from these experiences that help is out there. Here are a couple of places you can start if you’re struggling with your mental health.

  1. SELF-EVALUATE. Think about the feelings and difficulties you are experiencing. Are you overwhelmed? Frequently and uncontrollably depressed? Having trouble sleeping? Write these feelings and any potential triggers down. This resource will make it much easier to talk with providers about your experience.  ULifeline provides a free, online quiz that allows you to get a general self evaluation of your mental health. This doesn’t replace a visit to a professional in any way, but it’s a good place to start. Psychology Today also has a mental health evaluation if you’d prefer not to enter any information about yourself.

  2. EXPLORE YOUR SCHOOL’S RESOURCES. You can start by searching online if you’re nervous about asking someone. Your R.A. or school wellness center will likely be able to help you learn more… in fact, that’s what they’re there for. ULifeline also allows you to search for services by school, although it’s not comprehensive. Starting with the services your school offers is the most convenient route since they are set up for students. If you don’t feel like these services are working for you, they can also refer you. Some schools offer counseling at a reduced price from grad students in their counselling programs. This is an affordable option to look into if it’s available in your area.

  3. LOOK FOR OUTSIDE HELP. If your school doesn’t offer sufficient services or you want to avoid them for any reason, you can look for help outside the school. Psychology Today has a great listing of therapists and psychologists depending on your needs. SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), provides 24/7 info to help you connect with treatment options. Checking what is covered by your insurance can also help. You can also try online/ text therapy if you’re in a pinch, such as Talkspace and Better Help. If you are in immediate need of help and feel like you want to end your life, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or you can text the Crisis Text Line by sending CONNECT to 741741. These are good numbers to have written down somewhere in case you need them or are with someone who needs them. Both are available 24/7,  free and confidential.

  4. GIVE IT TIME. Finding treatment that works can be difficult with mental illnesses. The process can be scary and it can feel so hard, especially as you’re also trying to keep up with your life at college. Take the time to invest in your health and you may help prevent a major, debilitating crisis.  It’s important that you give the process time. It may take a couple of trys to find the right therapist/provider. It’s common to take more than one try to get the right fit. Don’t be discouraged, your comfort is important and this is worth the time. Also, talk to your psychologist/psychiatrists about any issues you experience with medicines and treatments. This will involve going out of your comfort zone but it’s all part of the process of finding something that works for your needs.Many antidepressants and other mental health treatments take 4-6 weeks to reach full effect and some can have some temporary side effects when first starting that you’ll eventually adjust to.

  5. STAY HOPEFUL. You are not alone in this process. Hope is real and help is out there. It may help to read stories of others going through similar challenges. You can find such stories on the To Write Love On Her Arms Blog and The Mighty. You can find many supportive groups online and there might even be some in your area. But if you aren’t ready for a public support group, virtual options are out there too. Knowing you aren’t alone and that others have gotten through their darkest times can be just the seed of hope you need to get through another day.

 

 

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Getting Mental Health Help in College

An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Do-It-Yourself

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I’ve always been a DIY kind of person. Owning my own house has led to a definite increase in my desire and ability to take on bigger and more intense DIY projects. Sometimes I stay in my comfort zone, but sometimes I decide to try some new ideas which opens me up to all sorts of awkwardness. These projects can be pretty intimidating and sometimes that can be so stressful to me that it makes me want to drop the endeavor half way through. I’ve found some ways to offset awkwardness and overcome anxiety to get projects done and enjoy myself while doing it.

  1. DO YOUR RESEARCH. This is basically my number one tip for everything. Preparedness helps make almost any awkward task a little less awkward. The internet is full of resources for DIY projects and inspiration. Obviously Pinterest is DIY haven, YouTube often has video tutorials and doing a regular old Google Search is also invaluable.Look into the project steps, skill-level and necessary materials. This will help you with the shopping process and project implementation. Sometimes getting supplies can be overwhelming without research. For me, it’s when I have to walk into a home improvement store and pretend that I know what I’m doing. Research really helps. So does calling my parents from the store but that might just be me. 
  2. ANALYZE RISK. It’s important to figure out how much you’re risking if a project goes badly. This can help you decide whether to attempt a DIY or not. Sometimes it isn’t worth it to try to do your own plumbing or sew your own wedding dress (Author’s note: I have never tried either of these things. Attempt at your own risk and depending on your own talents). If you might lose a lot of money or destroy something that matters a lot to you, think long and hard about taking the DIY approach. If you got some outdoor furniture for free  (true story) or something from a yard sale that you want to repurpose, you can take some pretty big risks because you’re not investing much. Thinking this through also helps me from being paralyzed by the fear of messing up and without that fear your projects can turn out even better than you thought.
  3. SEEK ASSISTANCE. If you have a friend or family member who is also into the kind of DIY you are attempting, find a casual way to ask their advice. This can be a good conversation starter if you’re nervous about small talk and they will always have some tidbits you might not have considered. You might even be able to get some in-person help with your project or at least have a person to call when you are panicking.
  4. BORROW STUFF. Though DIY projects often have a money saving goal, the supplies and tools can add up in surprising ways. If you need something you’re never going to use again, ask around to see if anyone has one they can lend you or if you can rent it or buy it used. It can be wise to invest in tools for a hobby you’re hoping to pick up regularly (like knitting or sewing) but if you have a one-time need for a power washer or circular saw, you’re going to want to avoid buying one. Some cities even have spaces where you can borrow/ rent certain types of tools. That can be a scary environment, but it also can be a great way to meet new people with similar hobbies if you’re into that sort of thing.
  5. MANAGEABLE  STEPS.  Now you just need to DO the project and that can be an undertaking. If you’ve done all the other steps, you should be really ready. Still, it can seem like you have way too much to do and way too little time. I like to give myself small tasks with decent amounts of time. I don’t like to give myself overwhelming deadlines, but I do like to work from mini to-do lists that break the project up. If you have a whole Saturday to dedicate to a project, that’s awesome, but that might be a rare occurrence so aim to get little windows of time You can even use your DIY project as something to look forward to in the evenings  after work.

Have you undertaken any DIY projects lately? Share your pictures and your awkward stories in the comments.

Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash

An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Do-It-Yourself