Why not write a novel?

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November is notoriously known as National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo for short. It’s a month where you write approximately1,666 words a day with a goal of 50,000 by the end of the month.

In 2012, I attempted to write a fiction novel, but I did not like the story and I also was too busy with my senior year of high school and college applications.

In 2015, I sat down to write a non-fiction story about my life with anxiety. I wrote 11,000 words and then I was just too consumed with my senior year to continue to write.

I promised myself that when I was out of college that I would continue the story that already had 11,000 words and keep going. I’ve always wanted to be an author and I have wanted to do a lot of writing to work towards eventually publishing a book.

Even though I was out of school in 2016, I was going through a lot of anxiety as I waited to find out when my surgery for wisdom teeth would be happening. I was experiencing so much anxiety, that writing about anxiety just did not feel right at the time.

Fast forward to this November — I’m settled in my life in Cape May, working the motel front desk and writing for the local newspaper weekly. I have no excuse to not be writing, so I decided that this year is going to be the year I write a 50,000-word novel.

NaNoWriMo’s slogan is “the world needs your novel,” and that is truly an inspriation to me to sit down and write this damn book.

Writing about my anxiety is not always easy, but if I could write a book that helps one person with their anxiety – then I feel my book will serve the right purpose. I have so many thoughts about anxiety, that writing it all down feels really good.

I thought I would share an unedited excerpt, for those who are interested in reading some of my thoughts:

      Once I started learning I had friends and family who struggle with anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder among others, I realized that we all cope in different ways.

            The treatment and medication that I have used to treat my anxiety work for me, but not necessarily for others. Finding what works for you is half of the battle and it does take some trial and error to find the right match.

            I am a strong proponent of therapy and medication, which is something I had to learn for myself. I was extremely resistant to both at first; but again, it’s the culmination of finding the right person to speak with and the right medication to take. Having a great therapist and being on the right medication is what allowed me to see that asking and receiving help did not have to be a scary thing.

            I have read a handful of books about anxiety, but none have clicked completely. I wish that there were more books about mental health, particularly with anxiety out there. With this book (and if you’re holding a copy or eBook in your hands, mama I made it!), my goal is to provide context for not only people in my life who have both understood or misunderstood me – but also to enlighten those with anxiety.

If you read this book and can take away that you are not alone and that anxiety comes in all shapes and forms – and realize that you should be patient with yourself, even when you are the most frustrated.

To those who have no experience with mental illnesses, but might be reading this book to understand someone who does have one, I hope that you might find yourself with insight into illnesses that might not be visible, but are very much real in every way.

A day in the life

Routines are important, which is something I learned in college. I did not have a good daily routine in high school because I never consistently went to school at the same time – which I 100% attribute to anxiety and insomnia.

College was an amazing learning experience for me, and not just from the classes. I learned how to manage a routine that took some flexibility. My first semester of college was at the local community college, and I was stuck with a 4:10-7:30 pm history class on Mondays, a bunch of random afternoon classes, and then Fridays I had a 9 am math class. I had Thursdays off, which were days I never used to do work.

Despite hating the three-hour classes, dragging myself out of bed to make a 9 am math class, I figured it out. It wasn’t always great, but it worked out.

Then my second semester of college, I transferred to George Mason, which was a whole new campus, new people, and new schedule. I learned that 10:30 am classes didn’t necessarily agree with me, which was something I figured out a little late in the semester (combined with a bad teacher…but that’s really another story). So I took afternoon and early evening classes and almost always had no classes on Fridays.

The last few semesters at GMU, I learned that if I really wanted to graduate “on time,” I probably had to take a few 10:30 am classes to get the rest of my requirements done. So I started taking a few 10:30 am communication classes and French at 11 am. Having my best friend in the classes helped encourage being on time (and going in general, to be honest).

By senior year, I had my shit together. I got on a better schedule, I was able to make it on time to classes and I worked harder than ever before. I graduated cum laude and on the dean’s list for the last few semesters.

Everyone always speculated how I would manage a 9 to 5 job. If anyone ever doubted me being able to function in the adult world most, it would’ve been one of the assistant principals at my high school. I proved him wrong by graduating high school, taking 10:30 am classes and graduating college. His “no, she can’t do it” attitude stuck with me in the back of my mind. Now I just had one more time to prove him wrong.

Flash forward to my first full-time job at the Victorian Motel. My schedule is 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. I like to prepare everything the night before, so in the morning I really don’t have to do much before I walk out the door. And I also like to stay in bed until the last minute possible.

7:30 am – The first of my many alarms start. I get out of bed anywhere between 7:50-8 am. Get dressed, make my lunch (I pack everything but a sandwich the night before) and be out the door by 8:23 am.

 

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Many alarms with sayings to remind me to hustle.

 

8:30 am – Arrive at the motel and begin working. My daily routine is signing in housekeepers, checking guests out and in, rebooking reservations and replying to emails as well as answering phone calls. I act as a concierge and I try to be as knowledgeable about Cape May as possible.

4:30 pm – I leave work and go home. What I do next depends on what other jobs I might be working that night. First thing I do at home is usually let my housemate’s dog, Nabs, out to do her thing. Sometimes I lie down and watch YouTube or TV. If I’m in the middle of an interesting book, I will read on the porch with Nabs. I catch up with my housemate Max. Sometimes I wander around the backyard, checking out what is growing in the greenhouse or in the gardens.

If I’m covering a meeting for the newspaper, I tend to eat dinner on the earlier side. Usually, my meetings are anywhere from 5-7 pm. Sometimes they are short, sometimes they are long. I never do any writing after the meeting – I like to let what I’ve just heard soak in overnight – so when I’m at work I can write my articles.

 

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Taking photos of the migrating monarch butterflies after work.

 

I often go to the beach after I relax at home. Nothing is better than going to the beach after a day’s work. One of the reasons I moved to Cape May is so I could go to the beach after work. Anytime I do that, I really feel like I moved here for the right reasons.

 

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Relaxing on the beach on a Fall day, where it was cool enough for a sweatshirt.

 

9:30-10 pm – I start thinking about going to bed. The goal is to be asleep by 11:30 pm. The last month I have had a hard time going to sleep before midnight, which means I don’t get enough sleep. For someone who used to typically not go to sleep until 2 am, it’s an improvement – but I know I can improve upon that even more.

I have been afforded such wonderful opportunities since I moved to Cape May. I got to live in my family’s beach house for a few months before finding my fantastic room with my housemates.  I have a great full-time job and I am freelancing weekly for the local newspaper, the Cape May Star and Wave.

But the thing I am most grateful for is that I get to live in the town that I have spent so much time in, for every year of my life. I love getting to tell people that I’m living the dream I’ve had for a while now and that I’m writing along the way!

MTV show puts spotlight on area’s teen moms

By RACHEL SHUBIN

Special to the Star and Wave

MTV is once again filming a reality television show in New Jersey. With a due date of this fall, “Teen Mom New Jersey” is the latest spinoff of “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” franchise. Teen Mom New Jersey will follow young moms in southern Jersey area.

The official announcement was made Aug. 27, during the MTV Video Music Awards. NJ.com broke the news on Aug. 30, stating that MTV was seen filming at the Cumberland County Fair. MTV had multiple casting calls this year, searching for teen moms and young expectant mothers located in the same area.

According to America’s Health Rankings 2015 report, New Jersey had a birth rate of 40 per 1,000 females ages 15-19 in 1993. That number declined to 13 per 1,000 in 2016.

Per the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, New Jersey has seen a 71 percent decline in teen pregnancy between 1991 and 2015. In 2014 there were 3,678 births to teens. Of Teen births in New Jersey, 72% are to older teens ages 18 to 19. Data shows that 16 percent of the births were to teens who already had a child.

In 2010, public spending on unplanned pregnancies in New Jersey approximately cost $477 million.

Cape May County has two programs that offer family planning. The Hope Pregnancy Center has locations in Rio Grande and Ocean City. The Hope Pregnancy Center offers free and confidential services. Family Planning Services is a program which offers family planning and gynecological services and care for women and adolescents. The program offers low-cost family planning services with a sliding scale.  There is no fee for teens 18 and under. No parental consent is needed due to Title X regulations that provide services to minors without parental consent.

MTV has been criticized for their shows glamourizing teenage pregnancy, as some of the stars of the shows have had major brand deals. Notably, Farrah Abraham, who become involved in the adult film industry.

Despite the claims of idealizing teen pregnancy, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) stated that their research has shown that the national teenage birth rate has steadily been declining in the years since the series premiered.

The state Department of Health states that NJ is ranked fourth out of 50 in teen birth rate and 18 out of 50 in the teen pregnancy rate. However, NJ is ranked 5 out of 50 in the decline of the teen birth rate. 1 is the lowest. So despite the decline, NJ is slower than other states at reducing the number.

New Jersey offers three programs to combat teen pregnancy. First is the teen pregnancy prevention (TPP) program, which identifies the multiple risk factors for teen mothers and their children. Next is the NJ Prep program, or personal responsibility education program. It is a school- and community-based comprehensive sexual health education program. The state also offers NJ AEP, Title V abstinence education program.

“16 and Pregnant” was the original series that started the MTV franchise in 2009. The unscripted reality show featured a different pregnant teenager each episode. The series followed showed the teen moms throughout their pregnancies, the birth of their children and their first months of motherhood.

The idea behind “Teen Mom New Jersey” is to show teen moms from the same area and their interactions, much like the “Real Housewives” franchise. The other installments currently airing, “Teen Mom OG,” and “Teen Mom 2,” feature four to five girls located in different states. The only time the cast is typically together, is when they film their reunion special check-ups with Dr. Drew Pinsky.

“Teen Mom” originally aired in 2009 through 2012, before it was revived and rebranded in 2015 for the four original girls, hence the new “Teen Mom OG” tagline installment.

“Teen Mom 3” aired for one season in 2013, before its cancellation. Briana DeJesus, from the third installment, was added to the “Teen Mom 2” cast for the eighth season that premiered on July 17.

MTV has commercials that air during the series providing their viewers with websites to visit for more information. The websites include bedsider.org, itsyoursexlife.org and kff.org.

A millennial’s ode to complaining

If you know me well you know that I am a relentless complainer, especially when it’s hot outside. My dad is the first to remind me that air conditioning is a luxury, not a privilege. I know, I know – I’m lucky to have grown up not knowing air conditioning. The Victorian Era of Cape May must’ve been a hot and sweaty one.

Of course, there were the two weeks of summer when we rented a beach house without air conditioning. I said to my mom the other day, I don’t remember how I survived that when it was hot. Her reply? “Rachel, you complained. A lot!” I guess it must’ve been so hot I blocked it out of my memory.  Basically, anytime that I would get overheated, I would have a panic attack (as one does) and fret until I cooled down. Yeah, sounds like me.

Yeah, sounds like me. Coming from the girl who would crank the AC in her high school classes, without the teachers noticing. Granted all that did was run cold water through the vents…they found another way to make high school more miserable. I also spent four years of college complaining to anyone who would listen, that the classrooms were always set as if my grandma was in control of the thermostat – set to a minimum of a balmy 75 degrees.

Millennials complain about trivial, “first world problem” issues. But doesn’t everyone? We complain and get labeled as entitled.

I’m a millennial and I complain frequently. It’s kind of our thing…but people complain about millennials too.  Here’s a list of 6 complaints which we are “supposedly” sick of hearing. In my opinion…speak for yourself. Oh, and while I’m on my soapbox, I’d like to say that I’m not killing the napkin industry and I’m not buying so much avocado toast I won’t be able to afford a house…I just won’t be able to afford one anyway because of the economy.

 

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Oh look, I’m using napkins. Surprised?

Millennials complain about real issues too. Like low pay and difficulty finding a job in your field of study.

I think the reason millennials are pictured as “complaining” all the time has to do with the high expectations we have these days. My parents have two houses, so I expected I would have two houses. My Amazon Prime says my package will be here in two days, I expect it to be here in two days. But the expectations I grew up with have changed –especially because of the economy (I know, how many times am I going to repeat that phrase). The guy who said millennials buy too much avocado toast also says some people won’t even own a house in their lifetime. And maybe that will be my case. I just don’t know.

But I think that fact of potentially never owning a home is the exact right that I, as a millennial, has to complain. I want to be a homeowner (whether it is a house or a townhouse) and get the experience that my parents had. Get married, have a nice car, never have to worry about finances (well…).

Low pay is a serious issue, one that every generation has faced. Not all millennials work in high paying jobs. We also aren’t the ones who fucked up the economy (not the point, but just saying). Our families were (and still continue to be) impacted by the 2000s recession.

According to an article from Elite Daily, “Millennials face particularly high rates of unemployment and aren’t making as much money as their parents. That helps explain why roughly 32 percent of millennials are also living with their parents.”

It seems like the odds are stacked against us millennials. Finding a job in your field after college graduation can be tricky. Some people have student loans to pay off, so good luck with buying a house. And if you get a job, you’re lucky to make over minimum wage.

For those of us millennials who choose to work in our field knowing it’s a tough industry (hello journalism, I’m looking at you), we know making ends meet might require more than one steady job.

Yes I’m a millennial and I complain a lot, but I’d like to think I’m not entitled. I want to work and I enjoy the payoff of my hard work. And you know, not be a renter forever. I’m not above complaining and sometimes only focusing on my issues, but overall I want to succeed and be happy. Is that too much to ask?

Got Skin Cancer?

I live at the beach and probably one assumption many people have about me is that I spend a lot of time on the beach. And you would be so very wrong!

I probably can count on one hand the number of times I have sat on the beach in the last few months – most of the times have been fairly recent.

It has less to do with the fact I work full time; it’s a combination of being unwilling to sit on the beach when it is hot and the heat is intense, as much as knowing that I have to slather a thick layer of sunscreen on before I meander the few blocks down the street to the beach. It’s a lazy millennial thing, but it is a habit I try to be steadfast about changing for the better.

I’m a pasty white girl and skin cancer runs in my family. Finding out a family member has skin cancer was the wake-up call that I needed to be better about constantly wearing sunscreen when I’m going to be outside. I always wear sunscreen on my face and I have even started using hair products with sun-shielding ingredients. The last thing you want is a sunburn on your scalp.

The three reasons I think that millennials avoid wearing sunscreen include (but is definitely not limited to): sunscreen is expensive, we forget it in the car and putting on sunscreen is time-consuming and sticky.

Not all sunscreens are expensive. Stores like Target and CVS have both brand name and store brand sunscreens. And 9 times out of 10, the store brand is cheaper and has the same ingredients. Of course, there are expensive brands and “designer sunscreen,” but really you don’t have to shell out $30 when you can spend $10 on a bottle. The price isn’t increasing the amount of sun coverage you’re going to get.  So skip the expensive Sephora designer brands and stick to your budget.

Chances are if you forget something in the car after you’ve dragged your beach bag and chair down to the water, you’re probably not going back to get whatever you forgot. But if you left your sunscreen in the car, going back for it has two benefits. First, you should not only apply sunscreen before or when you get to the beach, but you should also liberally reapply every few hours. However, the real reason you don’t want to leave it in the car is that the heat changes the composition and efficacy. Leaving your sunscreen in the car is going to make the sunscreen weak and not protect you properly. Don’t waste your money and leave it in the hot car (and don’t leave your kid or dog in there either, for what it’s worth).

And last but not least, yuck, sunscreen is sticky and messy! Well, I can’t exactly disparage that from the truth. I hate putting on sunscreen and then sticking to the seat of my car – which is why I sometimes skip going to the beach in general. But there are sunscreens on the market that are now being advertised as non-sticky or non-greasy or no mess! I can’t say if that is true, but I also have had pleasant results with all the Hawaiian Tropic brand sunscreens. It is my go-to sunscreen to use all summer.

I also like to use make up products that have sunscreen built into them – even though it’s usually a low SPF between 15-20 (30 if you’re lucky). And as I mentioned, don’t forget your scalp…also think about your lips and hands! For your hands, I found a great hand lotion from SuperGoop called Forever Young Hand Cream with Sea Buckthorn. It’s great for dry hands and it is so lightweight.

And last but not least, you have to watch your moles. It sounds gross and frankly, I think it kind of is…but checking your moles and regular check-ups at the dermatologist are what saved the lives of my family members. Even I have had full body checks (yes it is cringey but the docs are there to save you not judge you) and have had to get moles removed. It’s one of my least favorite topics to discuss, but it is important.

mole test glamour mag

Every year since 2006, Glamour Magazine publishes a mole chart that has saved the lives of nearly 90 readers who identified their skin cancer from the pictures. The ABCDE’s might just alert you to a mole that has changed and needs attention.

If you take away anything from this post, it is that I hope you’ll remember to wear sunscreen and go to your dermatologist at least once a year. If you can prevent skin cancer, why not? A little sunscreen goes a long way to self-care.

Farmville 2.0

It’s crazy to think sometimes that from the age of 2 you start pre-school and you often don’t stop going to school until you graduate from college, at age 22. Twenty years of schooling in the making, to put you out in the world to find a job (and probably not one in your degree field, but that’s a blog post for another day).

 

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When you ask your mom for a pre-school pic and this is the best she can do. Cute though.

 

I was supposed to go away to college. Specifically, Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. I know, I know, it’s the same name as that once addictive Facebook game, but trust me – the town was not as fun as the game.

I knew I wasn’t ready to leave home, but I was vehemently against going to community college. I wanted to go to George Mason University, which was two miles away from my house. I only got into two colleges, Longwood and Virginia Wesleyan University (it was private and even my scholarship didn’t help). Reality was, I was only left with Longwood as my choice and I dreaded move in day.

Fast forward to August 2012, when I left for Longwood. I was miserable, a mess and arguably the most resistant to change I have ever been. I’ll say that the resistance against me leaving was futile and that is why I ended up coming home. It was a miserable Tuedsay-Saturday for my whole family. I knew move in day wasn’t going to be a happy day, but I didn’t realize it was going to be a nightmare.

 

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Record for fastest assembled & unassembled dorm room? Span of 5 days.

 

I came home and had to reevaluate what I wanted to do about school. I was lucky and was able to reach a deal that would get me into GMU. I went to community college for a semester and then transferred to GMU  for the remainder of my time in college.

Yes, all of that was necessary background information to know before you understand why I feel like I’m living Farmville 2.0 right now.

I recently moved into a house with roommates, so I am finally getting the away from home experience as well as also having roommates experience that I didn’t have when I lived at home while in college. Living in Cape May is easy because I love the beach and the town’s familiarity is comforting. Plus with friends and family close by, it’s not as isolating.

I wasn’t resistant to having a roommate in college, I actually would have had a wonderful roommate in my friend Abbey, who blogs at Idle Ginger Manuscript (yes we are still friends). I was resistant (at first) to having roommates in Cape May, because it would mean living with strangers.

But when I found a place that needed a third roommate, it was a beggars can’t be choosers situation. And I’m glad I went along with it because Chelsea and Max are awesome people. The place I’m living in is a farm style house, complete with 1.5 acres of land, two goats and two chickens. The house however, does not have air conditioning.

 

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My room in the new house. It’s been fun to get new furniture to decorate.

 

Another part to Farmville 2.0 is living without air conditioning. When I was supposed to go to Longwood, I specifically requested the only dorm on campus with air conditioning. Virginia heat can get ugly and I don’t know how the dorm would have felt had I stayed into the heat. But now I’m living in a house without air conditioning – but I do have a window unit in my room.

I’ve never been one to handle heat well and when my room was 85 degrees the other night, I wasn’t happy. But The AC unit did it’s best and by the time I fell asleep it had cooled down to mid-seventies. But I fell asleep and that’s all that matters. It’s an adjustment for sure, but it is worth it to get to stay and work in Cape May fulltime.

I think the thing I’ve learned since I’ve moved to Cape May from Virginia and then from one place to another in Cape May, is that you can’t always be comfortable. Part of life is trying new things and being more open to that – and as cliche as that sounds, I’ve come to realize that not all change is bad if you put yourself in a positive mindset – which is something I lacked during Farmville 1.0.

*Bonus fact – for as small as I thought Farmville was at the time I moved there – the 2010 census said the population was 8,216 people. Versus Cape May in 2010 was 3,607 people. I think it’s all about perception.

College lite

Before I moved here, I came to visit in October for two weeks. One night while I was watching TV on the couch, I had a moment of panic. Did I really want to move here full time? Would I be lonely and isolated during the offseason? Would I miss my friends and family so much that I would spend too much time being homesick? The moment passed as quickly as it came, and I brushed it off as an unrelated, side effect of worrying about my impending wisdom tooth surgery

And as I biked to dinner a few nights ago to meet friends, I realized that in the few months I’ve been living here, that I have never once felt isolated or lonely. Don’t get me wrong, I miss my family, friends, and cats a ton, but I haven’t felt that homesick or panic again.

 

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Solo adventure outside of Cape May.

 

When you don’t go away to college and live at home, you miss out on an experience that is “supposedly” life-changing, according to some people. And sure, not having parents to supervise your every move and hover over you at all times might be nice, but I never had a problem with that.

But now I feel like I’m doing “college lite” without the actual schooling. I’m working full time as a front desk clerk at a motel and spending my off time reading, writing, binging on Netflix/TV and going to the beach. I have friends here, albeit not exactly in my age range (which is a fact, not an insult, because it doesn’t make a difference).

Is this where I saw myself after graduation? Yes, definitely. I was prepared from my summers here, what it would be like to be alone in a big house. And I like it and it has worked for me. Of course, just as I get used to it, I am moving out in the next few weeks – into a house with two really nice roommates. A must do, in order to stay through the rental season of summer and continue to live and work here.

 

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Backyard of the new place.

 

I’ve never claimed to be a typical millennial. I have often done things an unorthodox way.  And I’m about to make an even bigger change in my life than moving to New Jersey, bigger than starting a healthier lifestyle and bigger than leaving pretty much the life I’m used to living behind. I’m moving into a house with roommates, on 1.5 acres of land that is also home to two chickens, two goats, and a dog.

So needless to say, I have quite an interesting summer ahead of me and there will be a lot to write about.

I’m excited!

 

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Mom and her new goat friend aka my new roommate.