Flu Vaccination — Is It safe? The Science Behind The Virus And The Vaccine

Photo Courtesy of guardianlv.com

For those that don’t know me as an individual, there’s nothing that bothers me more than people being misinformed. Lately, there’s this growing trend of “Vaccines = BAD.” People seem to think that vaccinating their child, or themselves, will cause some sort of plethora of plagued toads that will spread disease like wildfire, causing a million kittens to die and your limbs to fall off. The shocking aspect, to me, is that people don’t check their references: Sally’s neighbor’s cousin’s cat’s owner’s best-friend’s farmer’s nephew could have spewed some ignorant, misinformed “fact” and people take it to heart like it was Jesus’ last will and testament. Let alone, no one knows if that’s a credible source. Or even better, people read some article on some super reliable site *cough*not*cough* like http://www.theworldisflat.whyareyoureadingthisseriously and everyone believes this stuff. It’s insane. So how does this tie into the flu vaccine you might ask? Well, I’m not advocating either way regarding getting vaccinated or not. My purpose is to give you more information about it and hopefully you make your own, well-informed decision as to whether or not you’d like to contribute to kitten sacrifice….errr getting vaccinated. Below is a very detailed and — what I hope you would find — helpful article I wrote back in March of ’13, about the Flu Vaccine, provided from extensive amounts of research I did from scholarly/academic articles and peer review journals. It is important to be informed as best as you possibly can, about all issues in life, but this one — people fearing the flu vaccine for all sorts of crazy reasons — really gets me. So please, grab yourself a cup of tea and a Biscotti, it’s time for some learning to be done!

Flu Vaccination — Is it safe?

The end of the year is approaching and flu season has begun rearing its ugly head — we take precautionary measures, and yet it seems we still end up getting sick. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) notes that each year 5-20% of Americans contract the flu, and 200,000 people fall victim to complications from this vicious virus (“How Long Am I”). With illness looming around the corner as every autumn nears, how are people supposed to avoid what seems like the inevitable? Hand sanitizer, probiotics, and vitamins may help support your immune system, but they may not be effective for everyone. So what are some other options? How about that controversial flu vaccine?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the flu vaccine is 62% effective (“Vaccine Effectiveness”) in protecting against the current season’s most prevalent flu strains. And yet, according to surveys published on the Clinical Infectious Diseases (CID) website, half the U.S. population opts-out of receiving the flu vaccine, and roughly 2/3s of Americans think it would be better to build natural immunity to the virus (“Half of U.S. Adults”). So why are people less inclined to get vaccinated? The answer primarily lies in popular myths surrounding the flu vaccine and its safety on the general public.  Although there are many anxieties and misconceptions surrounding the flu vaccine, there is no scientific evidence that one can contract the flu virus from the flu vaccine or that receiving the flu vaccine damages one’s immune system.


The CDC notes flu season can begin as early as October, peaking typically in January/February, and then tapering off around May (“What You Should Know”). Contrary to popular belief, once you’ve contracted the flu virus, you are actually contagious before you even start feeling sick. According to HHS, the contagious period starts 1 day before symptoms develop, can last up to 7 days after symptoms disappear, and can remain longer in children (“How Long Am I”). The recovery rate in the United States is typically between 1-2 weeks (“How Long Does” and “Seasonal Complications”). This means that people can be contagious for more than 14 days — that’s quite a risk exposure to the flu virus, even for healthy individuals.

Symptoms of the flu develop anywhere between 1-4 days after the virus enters the body. As the strain of the flu varies each season, so does the severity of the symptoms. Primarily, aches, pains, fever, and respiratory complications are the most common symptoms people experience from the flu; however, children, more so than adults, can also suffer from nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The flu more commonly develops in the form of a “respiratory disease and not [typically a] stomach or intestinal disease” (CDC “Is the Stomach Flu”).  In addition to common symptoms, many people develop complications which can fall into a wide range from ear/sinus infections, to dehydration, to bacterial pneumonia, to even death. As the CDC notes, “People 65 [years] and older account for… about 90% of flu-related deaths” (“Do Flu Vaccines”).

Over the past 100 years, the instances of people dying from influenza has decreased significantly. With  large numbers of flu-related deaths merely clinging to the pages of history books, it is hard to remember a time where the flu virus took no mercy on its victims. Some may recall one of the nation’s greatest epidemics — the 1918-19 Spanish Flu — which claimed an upwards of 675,000 lives in the United States alone (Koszarski). This particularly unique strain of influenza swept the world with three consecutive waves, targeting healthy individuals mainly between 20-35 years old, killing roughly 5% of the world’s population within a year (Rosenberg). Thankfully, the world has not seen such a virulent strain of influenza since 1919; however, the recent emergence of the H1N1 virus (see next section) is a reminder that an impending threat of another potentially disastrous pandemic will happen again, as it is only a matter of time.

Although there are some who claim to have never caught the flu, the answer still remains — anyone is vulnerable to the flu virus. Because the virus changes seasonally, people who may have been immune to another strain in the past may not be immune to a newer strain of the virus in the future. There are two groups of people who should take extra precaution with the flu virus: those with high exposure rates and those who are naturally more vulnerable. The first group consists of people who have high exposure to those who are more naturally vulnerable to the flu: healthcare workers, caretakers of the young and old, and anyone in an environment surrounded by large crowds where viruses spread rapidly (hospitals, prisons, schools, cruise ships, nursing homes, etc). The second group consists of those who are more susceptible to contracting the virus, usually due to having a weak or compromised immune system: children and infants, pregnant women, travelers and people living abroad, people with disabilities, and seniors. Among the second group, even more vulnerable are those with chronic health conditions ranging from arthritis, asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS, due to poor health or medications that lower the body’s defenses (HHS “People with Health Conditions” and “Who is at Risk”). It’s also important to note that although it is highly unlikely to catch the same strain of the flu more than once, it is quite possible to catch a different strain of the flu within the same year, as there are multiple strains that circulate on an annual basis.

The Science Behind the Flu Virus

When analyzing claims about the flu vaccinations and assessing the risks of viruses versus their vaccines, it is critical to have an extensive understanding of the various structures and strains of the influenza virus and the vaccines used to prevent those viruses. The influenza virus is divided into three main categories: 1. Human Influenza Type A: This flu type is one of two strains that causes a seasonal epidemic every year in the United States. Type A can be broken down into “subtypes based on two proteins on the surface of the virus: the hemagglutinin (H) and the neuraminidase (N). There are 17 different hemagglutinin subtypes and 10 different neuraminidase subtypes.” Hemagglutinin acts as the agent that binds the virus to the cell, whereas Neuraminidase ensures the virus is able to leave the cell once the virus has multiplied.” Together, these two molecules control the infectivity of the virus” (Goodsell). Type A can be divided into different strains, such as the H1N1 virus (Swine Flu) and the H3N2 virus. Influenza Type A can undergo both the “Antigenic Shift” and “Antigenic Drift” mutation (see next section). 2. Human Influenza Type B: This is the second of two strains that causes seasonal epidemics every year in the United States. Although Type B does not have different subtypes, it can still be broken down into different strains. Type B can only undergo the “Antigenic Drift.” 3. Influenza Type C: Type C only “causes a mild respiratory illness and [is] not thought to cause epidemics” (CDC “Types of Influenza Virus”). Both Type A and Type B are included in the seasonal flu vaccine; however, the vaccine does not include Type C. The vaccines also do not prevent against other viruses that cause influenza-like illnesses (ILI).

How does the flu virus change, and why do you need to get vaccinated year to year? The CDC refers to the “Drift” and “Shift” technique in which the virus can mutate in one of two directions. The first method of mutation, “Antigenic Drift,” occurs when the virus slowly changes over time. The human immune system builds up antibodies to certain strains, but with the “Antigenic Drift,” the immune system does not recognize the foreign strain that has slowly mutated — this is the reason people contract the flu more than once in their lifetime. Seasonal flu vaccines focus on staying updated with the current “Antigenic Drift” flu strain. The second method of mutation, “Antigenic Shift,” is an extreme change in the flu strain that occurs abruptly, and does not allow the immune system enough time to build up resistance to that particular flu virus. This type of strain creates new Type A subtypes, but it also is the product of the animal-to-human jump in influenza, such as the H1N1 virus. Because this mutation occurs too rapidly, the seasonal flu vaccine does not typically prevent against this type of mutation (“How the Flu Virus”).

Are viruses a living agent? The answer, put in simplest terms, is no. Luis P. Villarreal describes­­­ the living component of a virus in “Are Viruses Alive?”. Viruses are immensely complex structures, acting like a chemistry compound composed of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA), surrounded by a protective protein coat. However, once the virus has entered the cell, it uses the cell’s reproductive constituents to reproduce its own DNA and RNA. According to Dr. Ananya Mandal, “An infected cell will produce viral particles instead of its usual products.” Viruses are 100 times smaller than a bacteria cell, and even possess the capability of infecting bacterial cells, animal cells, human cells, and plant cells.

The Science of the Flu Vaccine

As stated above, the molecular variety in flu vaccines varies as the manufacturing of the vaccines attempts to keep up with the mutating strains of the influenza virus. In addition to each targeted strain produced in the flu vaccine, there are also different forms in which those vaccines can be distributed; furthermore, within those forms resides a slightly different distinguishing component of each vaccine type. Anita Manning, author of “Flu Vaccine Myths, Misconceptions,” elaborates on the differences between the flu shots and nasal sprays. Viruses used in the flu shots are “dead” whereas viruses in the nasal sprays are “weakened” — neither of which can grow in the lungs. The flu shot is considered an “inactive virus,” one that has been killed and is completely incapable of entering a cell to perform its dirty work. In general, the flu shot is given with a needle, typically in the arm, and is safe for people 6 months and older, healthy or with chronic health conditions. It works by injecting antigens[1] into the body to stimulate antibodies (CDC “Key Facts”).

There are three different kinds of flu shots people can receive: 1. The “Seasonal” Flu Shot: This flu shot is injected into the muscle (intramuscular). It consists of the three flu viruses that are predicted to be prevalent that particular flu season. This flu shot is safe for pregnant women and anyone 6 months or older, healthy or with chronic health conditions. 2. The “High-Dose” Flu Shot: The high-dose flu shot is also comprised of the three seasonal flu viruses but in contrast to the seasonal flu shot, it contains 4 times the amount of antigens found in the seasonal shot, to produce a strong immune system response. This vaccination is ideal for those who are 65 years or older as it provides the strongest protection of all three flu shots. 3. The “Intradermal” Flu Shot: The intradermal shot contains the three seasonal flu viruses; however, it is injected into the skin (intradermal) via a small needle rather than the muscle with a larger needle. It requires a much smaller dose of antigens and produces very similar effects of immune system response; therefore, it is safe for anyone  between the ages of 18-64. Being a relatively new vaccine, it first became available to the public in 2012-2013.  This flu shot is ideal for people who also have a fear of needles — it requires a needle 90% smaller than the typical flu shot needle because it only needs to pierce the skin (CDC “Key Facts”).

Aside from the flu shot, the vaccination can also be distributed through a nasal spray. Compared to the “inactive” flu virus in the shot form, the nasal spray contains a live yet weakened virus (LAIV for “Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine”). Given that it is “live” versus dead, does it make the vaccine any more of a risk factor for adverse reactions compared to the shot? The answer is yes, but only by a small percentage, and has been proven to be 92% effective when distributed to the proper vaccine recipient group. The benefit to this vaccine is that it is far less invasive than a flu shot and is much easier to distribute to children. Unsafe for children under the age of 2, adults 50 years or older, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions, those who have compromised immune systems, or people with a history of Guillain-Barré Syndrome, it is safe for healthy people between the ages of 2 and 49 (CDC “The Nasal-Spray”).

Education is Key

In “Reasons For Not Having Received Influenza Vaccination And Its Predictors In Canadians,” Thomas Wong and his associates found that in addition to the majority of Americans choosing to not get vaccinated from the flu, only 1/3 of Canadians receive the flu vaccine. The primary reason Americans and Canadians chose not to get vaccinated was because they feared having adverse effects.

So where does all the fear come from surrounding the flu vaccination? The most likely answer: The general public lacks important education about the flu vaccine and its benefits compared to its risks. In “Do Parents Understand Immunizations? A National Telephone Survey,” Bruce G. Gellin, Edward W. Maibach, and Edgar K. Marcuse research the significance behind educating people about common misconceptions regarding the flu vaccine. Their findings showed that 87% of parents support immunizations; however, a considerable minority of parents believed that children are receiving more immunizations than necessary, or that children’s immune systems could lower after receiving too many immunizations. Lack of education about immunizations has led to the “erosion of public confidence in vaccine safety,” which could lower immunization rates and could reintroduce vaccine-preventable diseases back into the general population. The issue is not necessarily that the information isn’t easily accessible; instead, it seems to be that some people feel little need for information regarding certain matters and are therefore less inclined to seek out that information. The solution to the lack in vaccination education may rely upon the strong influence of nurses, physicians, and primary care givers.

Ambiguous Facts Create False Impressions

Information, conveyed in an ambiguous way, can create misperceptions about subjects whose clarity is crucial to the comprehension of that material. Because of this, it is important to read critically, analyzing the deliverance of facts and reading between the lines. In “A Cluster of Deaths Following Influenza Vaccination, Israel, 2006,” Emilia Anis and her peers investigated the deaths of four flu vaccine recipients, which occurred within the same week. After extensive tests, the Health Ministry’s findings “concluded there was no reason to suspect a causal relationship between the vaccine and the four deaths.”

As the article notes, there is a correlation– that needn’t go unrecognized– between elderly people having the highest vaccination coverage and also having the highest mortality rate. Without recognizing the relationship between those who typically are covered for the vaccine and those who already have compromised/weak immune systems, the news about deaths (and furthermore illnesses) in recipients of the flu vaccine can give false impressions that the flu vaccine was the cause of those deaths (or illnesses).

Debunking the Myths

There are a handful of reasons why people choose to not receive the flu vaccine. I’m going to delve further into some of the more common phobias and misconceptions surrounding the vaccinations, in hopes of debunking the myths or at least providing some clarity behind the safety and risk factors involved when getting vaccinated against the flu. Fact or fiction:

1. Flu vaccines give you the flu: As noted earlier in this text, the flu itself infects hosts when the live virus enters the body, attaches itself to a host cell, makes its way to the nucleus, and tricks the cell into reproducing the virus’ genetic material. Since the flu shot only contains an inactive (dead) virus, it is scientifically impossible for the virus to do anything beyond exist and be recognized by the body’s immune system. The nasal spray, containing an attenuated (weakened) virus, still cannot cause the flu. In addition to the spray being weak, it is also “cold-adapted,” which means during manufacturing, it can “only cause mild infection at the cooler temperatures in the nose.” It is virtually impossible for this virus to infect the lungs or any warmer areas of the body (CDC “Can the Nasal Spray”).

2. Flu vaccines can harm pregnant women: As explained above, there are risks to pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems, when getting vaccinated, but only if they receive a vaccine type that isn’t recommended for them. It is recommended that pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers get vaccinated against the flu, as they, and their children, are at higher risk for contracting and developing complications from the flu virus. Numerous studies conducted by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and CDC have not shown any evidence that the flu vaccine poses a health risk to pregnant women (CDC “Seasonal Flu Vaccine”).

3. Flu Vaccines Cause Mental Illness: After a 1976 swine-flu vaccine, in the United States, was associated with 5-9 cases per million of Guillain-Barré syndrome, scientists have been on the constant lookout for reoccurrences of this paralytic disorder with the distribution of newer flu vaccines. Studies of current vaccines have not shown a link between the disorder and flu vaccinations. Interestingly enough, 60 cases of narcolepsy appeared in 4-19 year olds in Finland, and more cases emerged in Sweden. Of these cases, many were recipients of an H1N1 flu vaccine called “Pandemrix,” which was made by a company, GlaxoSmithKline, in the UK. However, “Scientists have yet to confirm whether the vaccine caused the rise in incidence” (Kwok).

Laurence O. Gostin writes in “Swine Flu Vaccine: What Is Fair?” about the presence of strong social and political pressure on the FDA and CDC to quickly approve vaccinations before adequate research has been conducted regarding safety and  side effects of the flu vaccine. More commonly, this is found with “exotic infections” and their vaccine types, such as H1N1. He indicates the motivation behind the government spending copious amounts of money on research and fast release of vaccine to protect against the H1N1 flu, is to prevent a lethal, catastrophic outbreak — similar to the 1918 Spanish Flu — of an otherwise initially benign virus.

As explained in the earlier text, the seasonal flu vaccine does not typically focus on “Antigenic Shift” viruses, since the mutation happens much faster than companies can anticipate — this may be the reason for a “rush” with rare flu vaccines. Of course, any adverse effects from vaccines are unideal, but it may be important to acknowledge the potential risks the government faces when releasing a new vaccine to the public in order to prevent a catastrophic pandemic, versus the risk the government faces when there is a serious “Antigenic Shift” virus that could potentially devastate the population when there hasn’t been a vaccine distributed to protect against that particular strain of the flu. Perhaps the issue isn’t negligence on vaccine safety, but rather the preparation for an unforeseen flu mutation.

4. Flu vaccines make you sick (but not with the flu): Though rare, there is always a chance of experiencing side effects with vaccinations, flu vaccine or otherwise. Both the shot and the nasal spray can generate different reactions. The most common symptom for those who receive the shot is redness and tenderness in the arm, although symptoms can also consist of aches or low grade fever and are much less severe than flu symptoms. The nasal spray can trigger a sore throat, runny nose, congestion, fatigue, cough, chills, or headache (CDC “Misconceptions”). Outside of these rare symptoms, some people also have an allergy to the vaccine. Those who have an egg allergy should not get the flu shot because it is grown in eggs (MacDonald, Weir, and Langley).

Conclusion: Fear the Flu or Fear the Vaccine?

        Getting vaccinated against the flu is seen as a threat only by those who aren’t educated about the vaccine and its risks. It is important to understand which risk group and recipient category you fall into, to better identify the proper vaccine you should receive and which form it should be distributed in. The vaccination may cause some people discomfort or minor adverse effects, but a risk of negative side effects is no different with the flu vaccine than with any other preventative medicine. The important thing to recognize is the flu vaccine does not possess the molecular structure or capability to cause the flu in vaccine recipients. It is much more likely that vaccine recipients have either contracted the flu virus before their body built up immunity, contracted a strain of the flu virus not provided in the vaccine, or are sick from a virus, other than the flu, that causes flu-like symptoms.

The flu vaccine may not be for everyone; however, after evaluating the science and myths surrounding it, it appears to be a much safer option than many may have initially perceived. In addition to educating yourself on any substance you put in your body, it is important to weigh the risk factors between potential side effects of the vaccine, the likelihood you have of contracting the illness (in this case the flu), and the complications that could develop from the illness. Having a cold is one thing, but no one wants to get sick with the flu, and it seems getting the flu vaccine may be the best way in preventing that.

Works Cited


Anis, Emilia, et al. “A Cluster of Deaths Following Influenza Vaccination, Israel, 2006.” Journal of Public Health Policy 31.3 (2010): 318-23. ProQuest Research Library. Web. 8 Mar. 2013.

“Antigen.” Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com. Random House, Inc. Web. 08 Mar. 2013.

“Can the Nasal Spray Flu Vaccine Give You the Flu.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC, 2013. Web. 05 Mar. 2013.

“Do Flu Vaccines Work in People 65 and Older.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC, 2013. Web. 05 Mar. 2013.

Gellin, Bruce G., Edward W. Maibach, and Edgar K. Marcuse. “Do Parents Understand Immunizations? A National Telephone Survey.” Pediatrics 106.5 (2000): 1097. Academic Search Complete. Web. 14 Feb. 2013.­­­­

Goodsell, David. “Influenza Neuraminidase.” RCSB PDB-101. RCSB Protein Data Bank, May 2009. Web. 08 Mar. 2013.

Gostin, Lawrence O. “Swine Flu Vaccine: What Is Fair?.” Hastings Center Report 39.5 (2009): 9-10. Academic Search Complete. Web. 08 Feb. 2013.

“Half Of U.S. Adults Refuse Flu Shot: Survey.” Clinical Infectious Diseases 48.2 (2009): ii. Academic Search Complete. Web. 08 Feb. 2013.

“How Long Am I Contagious.”U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. HHS, 2013. Web. 05 Mar. 2013.

“How Long Does the Illness Last.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. HHS, 2013. Web. 05 Mar. 2013.

“How the Flu Virus Can Change: “Drift” and “Shift.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC, 2013. Web. 05 Mar. 2013.

“Is the Stomach Flu Really the Flu.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC, 2013. Web. 05 Mar. 2013.

“Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC, 2013. Web. 05 Mar. 2013.

Koszarski, Richard. “Flu Season: Moving Picture World Reports on Pandemic Influenza, 1918-19.” Film History 17.4 (2005): 466-85. ProQuest. Web. 10 Mar. 2013.

Kwok, Roberta. “The Real Issues in Vaccine Safety.” Nature 473.7348 (2011): 436-8. ProQuest. Web. 10 Mar. 2013.

MacDonald, Noni, Erica Weir, and Joanne M. Langley M.D. “Influenza and the Influenza Vaccine.” Canadian Medical Association Journal 177.9 (2007): 1028-. ProQuest Research Library. Web. 14 Feb. 2013.

Mandal, Dr Ananya, MD. “What Is a Virus?” What Is a Virus? News Medical, n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2013.

Manning, Anita. “Flu Vaccine Myths, Misconceptions.” USA Today n.d.: Academic Search Complete. Web. 08 Feb. 2013.

“Misconceptions about Seasonal Flu.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC, 2013. Web. 05 Mar. 2013.

“People with Health Conditions.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. HHS, 2013. Web. 05 Mar. 2013.

Rosenberg, Jennifer. “1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic.” About.com 20th Century History. About.com, n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2013.

“Seasonal Complications from the Flu.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. HHS, 2013. Web. 05 Mar. 2013.

“Seasonal Flu Vaccine Safety and Pregnant Women.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC, 2013. Web. 05 Mar. 2013.

“The Nasal-Spray Flu Vaccine.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC, 2013. Web. 05 Mar. 2013.

“Types of Influenza Virus.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC, 2013. Web. 05 Mar. 2013.

“Vaccine Effectiveness.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC, 2013. Web. 05 Mar. 2013.

Villarreal, Luis P. “Are Viruses Alive?: Scientific American.” Are Viruses Alive?: Scientific American. Scientific American, 08 Aug. 2008. Web. 06 Mar. 2013.

“What You Should Know for the 2012-2013-Influenza Season.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC, 2013. Web. 05 Mar. 2013.

“Who is at Risk.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. HHS, 2013. Web. 05 Mar. 2013.

Wong, Thomas, et al. “Reasons For Not Having Received Influenza Vaccination And Its Predictors In Canadians.” Vaccine: Development & Therapy 2.(2012): 23-33. Academic Search Complete. Web. 08 Feb. 2013.

[1] Antigen: “Any substance that can stimulate the production of antibodies and combine specifically with them.” (“Antigen.” Dictionary.com.)

Written by Kysondra Brink. March 2013.
P.S. No kittens were harmed in the making of this post.


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Don’t Forget

Tick-Tock. Tick-Tock. I observe the sleek quartz, the staccato stroke of the second hand, counting each beat of life as it passes the crystal twelve, marked by golden hours. It ticks onward; the rhythm hasn’t skipped a note. Nothing has slowed, nothing has stopped – keeping pace with the bustling schedules, reminding us of these precious moments, lest we lose track of time. A professional, this one. So accurate, so on-point it has perfected its sole purpose. So reliable and so dedicated, it will beat until its heart stops. With this much work, one would think it necessary for it to care, for it to know its owner, or to understand its purpose. For it to be filled with a passion so strong, that only the most devout of workers would labor this hard without ever resting. Even just to recognize how monotonous its duty truly is. And yet, it does not care. It does not understand why. It does not know the arm that wears it. It is composed of indifference. It needn’t take note of who owns it, who looks back at it, or who relies on it to keep doing its job. It just keeps ticking away, counting those moments, grouped to hours, marked by gold.

The date – moving forward with each passing of the sun and moon– peering back at me from that cream face.  I often stare at it, wishing it had frozen on that day, in that hour. Cursing it for not taking notice of the moment it no longer needed to keep counting.  So bittersweet, to see today, and to wish it had been stuck on yesterday. It reminds me. But only of the literal time, the time that keeps going. But not of that hour. The hour I wish not to forget. And here I sit. Noticing the motion, the accuracy. Filled with conflict, I hold back emotions as they battle inside me. Why couldn’t you just freeze dammit! And yet, that opportunity has passed. Now I must adjust to the fact it is still going.

There is life to it, reflecting back to me the life that once existed, the life that gave this watch meaning. And as I struggle acclimating to the resilient tick-tick-tick, I now am apprehensive of that final wave of the hand before it ceases to keep counting. I wanted it to preserve that moment in time so I could always remember. But since it is still alive, I have grown accustomed to its routine, and I go to bed each night, expecting it to keep me updated when I wake the following morning. I now dread the day that hand waves goodbye. I am not ready to see it fall into its permanent slumber—for the brilliance to fade, in those hours, marked by gold. Please don’t stop ticking, I pray with silent desperation. If it dies, it’s almost as if it never lived. Then more-so, it’s almost as if he never lived. As those ticks are the symbol of when he was here. And I want to remember.

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How To Cope With Death – Insight For The Supporter And The Survivor

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In lieu of a recent loss of a loved one to someone very dear to me, and from my own experience having lost my father over the summer, I began thinking about what a strange anomaly death is, for the survivors of the lost one, and for the supporters of those who want to be there for the survivors.

As people’s hearts ache for the loss of someone dear, or for the broken hearts of ones they love who lost someone dear to them, we struggle trying to figure out ways we can help. Our intentions are sincere when we say, “Let us know if you need anything,” but we don’t always know exactly how to follow through with that. After all, death is a very delicate matter.

I’d like to offer some of my own advice (from personal experience and through observation) for the supporters, regarding how to help survivors as they’re dealing with the loss of a loved one. Hopefully this will provide a guiding light for those that want to help another who lost someone, but just don’t know how to go about dealing with a delicate situation.

  1. “Let me know if you need anything.” This is the most sincere of intentions and words, but as we lose a loved one, we often lose our own sense of direction or self for a while. We become stricken with grief and sadness. We are wrought with conflicting emotions and thoughts. We become overwhelmed with all the busy work following a death, like funeral planning, burial or cremation, notifying friends and family, writing an obituary, costs of funeral services, closing out their bank accounts, shutting off their bills, wrapping up any loose ends they had, going over wills and legal paperwork, going through their personal belongings, dividing and donating their belongings, figuring out how to manage their large assets, closing/forwarding their mail, and figuring out how to pick up the pieces now that they’re gone. All while we, being the survivor, are probably in one of the worst mental and emotional states we could be in. During this time, it might possibly be the worst time for us to know what we want or need, or to have the energy or mental capacity to delegate tasks or ask for help where we need it. Because of this, I suggest to you – being the supporter – if you did sincerely mean “let me know if you need anything,” spare the person the trouble of more thinking, and find a way *you* would like to help. Take the initiative to get creative or be supportive, because we more than likely aren’t in a good spot to reach out or know what it is we even need. But just because we don’t ask for anything does not necessarily mean we don’t need anything. So if you want to offer support, don’t wait for the survivor to come to you, rather, go to them.

  1. Figure out what it is that could help your survivor and what would also make you feel like you’ve helped them. Does the deceased have a lot of belongings? Tell your survivor you’ll be there to help them sort or move any heavy furniture they need, and actually show up to do so. It’s classic, but send them a card or some flowers. It is really nice to know, as the survivor of a lost loved one, that you’re thought of, and have life around you, in a time of loss. Make your survivor food. We (survivor) get so busy and caught up in the loss and what we have to do, we even forget to eat, don’t have time, or don’t care to cook. Make meals, and bring them to your survivor. They will greatly appreciate it and most absolutely need it. Find something sentimental or personal, and present it to them. Whether it’s photos of their lost one, an item that reminded you of their lost one, something you were given when you lost someone…. A special something really does feel special.

  2. Be there for your survivor physically and verbally. It’s so easy to Facebook your condolences and move on. But sometimes it’s hard to realize, this is someone’s current situation they’re really dealing with in their life. If you’re not very close to the person, it’s totally fine to keep condolences more informal. But if you are a good friend or family member, give your survivor a call. Better yet, show up for them in person. Sometimes we could really just use a hug or a shoulder to cry on. Other times, we may not even know what to say, until we’ve mustered up the strength to form words and analyze our thoughts. But to have someone there for us in any physical form is really handy because, I promise you, there will be a moment where the survivor needs someone in some physical form, whether it’s a hug or a voice.

  3. If the surviving person or family is struggling financially, figure out a way to reach out and help them. Many people have plans set in place for their time of passing, whether that be a will, life insurance, or some savings. But there are certainly people or families who are not in a strong financial situation. Funeral costs can be very expensive: obituaries, flowers, rental hall space, caskets or urns, burial plots, burial stones, memorial and food cost…all these expenses can add up very quickly. If you know of a family in need of financial support, get creative in helping with the costs – whether it’s volunteering some of your own time to help set up, reaching out to a church or rental hall that will host the service at little to no cost, starting a Gofundme.com page, or hosting a fundraising event or dinner with friends, family, and coworkers. The worst feeling for a survivor, beyond simultaneously dealing with the loss of their loved one, is for them to feel like they aren’t able to fund the burial/cremation or honor their deceased in a way they would have liked.

  4. If you are close to the survivor and/or their family, offer to help with setting up the memorial service. Whether that’s collecting photos, writing a eulogy, putting together a slideshow or music playlist, buying/bringing flowers, decorating, reaching out to a catering group, making food, or putting together a remembrance pamphlet, there is plenty of work that needs to be done. The survivor may not ask for help, but don’t be fooled. They’ll definitely need family or friends to step in.

  5. Try to find something for them that will make them smile, laugh, or feel happy. Rent a comedy movie and watch it with them, take them to a standup show, ask them to go for a weekend jog with you, invite them to your church if you’re both religious, or offer to join them at theirs, send them a funny meme or email, make them a photo collage of their lost one with happy memories, take them on a weekend getaway, treat them to a spa package, go dancing with them, grab a couple beers together at their favorite spot, get them out of the house and do something they enjoy, do something physical to release some Serotonin, buy them a self-help coping book, take them to a sports game, or bring over some nice wine and good music. Respect their process; however, booze and other substances can help alleviate some of the present stresses and numb the pain temporarily, but try to steer clear of letting your survivor fall into a path of strict substance coping, as it doesn’t actually address the pain they’re feeling, it simply masks it.

  6. Give the survivor time to mourn; handle supporting and giving them space, delicately. It’s an interesting process, losing someone close to you. Immediately following the loss of someone close, survivors are often bombarded with calls and emails, but this may be the time they don’t want to talk at all. The initial loss often puts the survivors into a state of shock. Everyone has their own process for how they deal with death; however, many people fall into a sort of cloudy, comatose state of being. The amount of time a person will be in this phase varies, but for a period of time following the death of a loved one, it feels very surreal for the survivor. During this time, the survivor might distance themselves. They might need to take a personal leave of absence from work or school; they may isolate themselves from others, drop their hobbies or social activities, lose interest in things they used to enjoy, eat a lot or not eat at all, drink more, stop talking or communicating with others, or even fall into a state of depression. This is normal. As the supporter, it’s important to realize this is not a personal attack or reflection on you at all. The survivor is dealing with a serious transition and going through a very distraught and unpleasant mental state. The survivor will come out of this phase. But everyone’s healing time is different.

  7. Keep in mind that everyone’s healing and processing time is different. Just because your survivor went back to work, started picking up old hobbies, or is beginning to seem like themselves again, does not necessarily mean they’re resolved and feeling fully healed. They may still continue to go through ups and downs. Often it takes many weeks, to even months, before the survivor really starts to feel and notice the loss of their loved one. Even after a few months have passed, it may still be a good idea to pull your survivor aside, or give them a phone call, and with genuine interest, ask how they’re doing. This is also typically a more normal time for survivors to open up, since they’ve had more time to process the loss of their loved one. They may have had a better chance to accept the passing of their deceased and can better articulate what they’re feeling or thinking.

Sometimes people need therapy, sometimes people need religion, sometimes people need antidepressants, sometimes people need meditation, sometimes people need space, sometimes people need support, sometimes people need a change in their lives, and sometimes people simply need time. Whatever it is that your survivor needs, know they might not know right away what will best help them, either. Be delicate and give them space if it seems they want or need it. But also remember to be proactive about being supportive. Don’t wait for them to come to you. They have a lot to deal with on their own in this time of loss. Find a way to be supportive and just do it. They will be so grateful later.

Featured image from Bluntmoms.com

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What It Takes To Make Your Relationship Work – The 15 Steps To Success

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Have you ever found yourself wondering why you’re spending your Saturday night, home alone, crying tears of sadness over Sex and the City marathons into a pint of Americone Dream? Or why you’re wasting another evening chasing the buzz over some Vodka Redbulls and regretful shots of Fireball whilst you and your buddies try to mastermind a liquid-courage-filled, not-so-cunning approach for that sloppily-sexy blonde getting white girl wasted at the other end of the bar?

“Some 124.6 million Americans were single in August, 50.2 percent of those who were 16 years or older, according to data used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics….In 1976, it was 37.4 percent and has been trending upward since.”-Bloomberg

50.2% of Americans are single?! That, my friends, is an appalling statistic! While relationships are not for all of us, there are many who long to just find that special someone — or as its more commonly referred to on popular dating websites — a “partner in crime.” If there are so many people yearning to find their “soul mate,” what’s the deal with these figures, then?

As many of us know, with today’s myriad of social media outlets a.k.a. “attractive people menus,” it’s certainly easy enough to find people to date or hook up with, regardless of whether we’re successful in a relationship with that person. And I mean why not take advantage of the plethora of fish in the sea?! Half the country is part of the Singles-Only club! That’s all fine and dandy for many people in their 20s. But as many of us also know, we reach, or will reach, a point where we’re looking for something more: something long-lasting, something genuine, something deep and meaningful, something special. After all, despite how much we try to glorify being single, these are tough times for most people looking for something more serious. So what does it entail if you want to go one step further and take your chances with making it to date #2, finding that special-someone, and potentially even settling down? Many of us try our luck braving the vicious dating scene, with hopes of meeting the right one and finding something special. Unfortunately, that ruthless dating scene often spits us back out, and most of the relationships we have had end up failing. So what are we to do?

Well, there are many factors playing a part in why such a huge part of society is single. But when we find someone we really enjoy, how do we make sure they stick around? What should we be looking for — regarding qualities — in our potential life partners? Furthermore, what rules should we try to follow to ensure success in our relationships?

Let’s start with the basics. Honestly, as far as generalizations go, both sexes want to see a level of financial and personal independence in someone ideal: working and/or in school; their own mode of transportation; a drive and motivation in life with goals they’re being proactive about; the ability to be on their own (whether it’s personal time, holding their own at a social gathering, or having their own place); having their own friends and life, rather than solely rely on their partner to fulfill every aspect of their individual life. In addition to that, it’s making sure the couple shares similar interests or hobbies, that they feel good when they’re around each other, that each person can be themselves in the other’s presence, that there’s mutual physical attraction and chemistry, that the timing is right, and that they both take some level of pride in having healthy or functional lives, possibly including (but not limited to) working out, having hobbies,eating well, personal grooming, etc. Being able to mesh well in each other’s circles, having similar communication styles and similar goals, the ability to enjoy each other’s company whether it’s romantic intimate time, just chill downtime with friends or relaxing, and having personalities that mesh nicely, are all aspiring attributes to look for as well.

Okay, now that we know what draws us in, we need to discuss how to keep that awesome relationship going! What can we do to ensure we get to the next step? What qualities do we need for a lasting relationship? Well, here it is. The key to any successful relationship will be if both partners are looking for the same thing, and if both are willing to practice these 15 steps. Here’s what you need to focus on if you really want to make it through life with that special someone, or as I like to call it, “The 15 Steps to Success”:

1. Don’t play games if you want something serious: Speak your mind and treat the person how you actually want to treat them. Call them if you want to call them, speak your feelings if you have them, ask them for a date night if you want some personal time, and lastly, be up front with what you expect from each other and what kind of relationship you’re looking for, or let them know if you’re just wanting something casual and/or sexual.

2. Don’t conduct selfish acts that will jeopardize your relationship: Cheating, lying, hiding things from them or intentionally excluding them/blocking them out, silent treatments, tantrums, victim playing, blaming and never taking responsibility for your participation, excessive or any flirting, intentionally sabotaging the other person, constant guilt tripping….these are ugly qualities that people should work on avoiding bringing into something they want to keep beautiful and healthy. Practice generosity, kindness, and compassion instead of trying ostracize your partner or make them your enemy.

3. Do communicate: Learn what their communication style is and try to work together and talk about how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking and what you need. It’s also helpful, as time goes on, to go back for status checks to make sure you’re both still on the same page or figure out if you guys need to re-calibrate. Do not keep things only to yourself, for fear of confrontation. Suppressed anger or disappointment will not be to anyone’s benefit if it’s kept bottled up. If there’s something that needs to be addressed, bring it to your partner’s attention. They are not a mind reader. The only way either of you can work on things is if you’re aware there is something that needs working on.

4. Do give your partner personal time with you: This could be cuddling time, watching a movie and laying together, cooking dinner together, talking, a date night, sex, massages, watching sports, gaming, showering together, going for a walk, etc. Make sure there’s time you can both focus on just each other — time to connect or talk — without a bunch of other people or distractions.

5. Don’t become complacent: Never take a good thing for granted. If another person wants to be in your life, that’s a gift, not something you should expect. Treat them like you’re grateful and thankful for them, not like you don’t have to work to keep them. The grass is always greener where you water it.

6. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable: It’s really important to let yourself be willing to feel things, whether it’s insecurities or love. People can only experience love or be in love when they’re willing to accept those types of feelings in their lives.

7. Don’t smother the person or project your own insecurities on them or faults from past relationships: Your partner is a new person in your life, not your ex. You can’t change people. You can’t keep them from doing what you want by smothering them, controlling them, or not letting them out of your sight. Both people need to have a little faith with each other, and learn to work on building trust together and maintaining that trust and faith. Let them be themselves and have their own time. Love them for who they are, not who you want them to be.

8. Do figure out each other’s love languages: Most people express their acts of love by doing what they think they’d appreciate. Gift giving, words of affirmation, surprises, physical touch, personal time… everyone’s language is different, and what makes one person feel loved is not necessarily what would make another feel loved. In addition to the love language, do sweet things for them randomly from time to time. Everyone enjoys knowing someone was thinking of them.

9. Do try to focus on life improvement together: Work out together, eat healthy, go for walks, practice more positive thinking, support each other’s goals, compliment each other…whatever lifestyle improvements work for you as a couple, remember your life together is supposed to make your life better.

10. Do remember them and include them: Whether it’s for holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, or your days off from work, remember to make time for your partner or invite them to participate in these activities with you. Remember to include them with family and friends too. (Family and friends can also provide more insight about whether your partner could be “the one.”)

11. Don’t be a sad or broken person relying on someone else to make you happy: Relationships work best when both people have taken the time to be happy themselves, and when together, they can amplify that happiness. No one should be a constant emotional or mental drain on the other.

12. Do work together, don’t give up on each other or bail when times are tough, accept each other’s differences and embrace imperfection: No matter how great your list is of what you want in a perfect relationship, you will never nail it on the head all the time. Some things you need to work towards. Some things you get right some days and not others. A good thing never comes easy. It always involves work, and for both people to respect each other and not do things like insult, name call, threaten, or break up just because you’re having a disagreement or you’re going through rough patches. Whether it’s professional, platonic, friendships, family, or romantic…. Every relationship has its ups and downs. It’s important to acknowledge that and never expect an entirely smooth ride. If you’re aware of those things going into a relationship, you’ll be more resolved from the beginning, and willing to stick around and work through the bumps. Our generation has a tendency to bail when it isn’t perfect. Perfect doesn’t exist naturally, it exists through work and devotion to each other.

13. Do pay attention to the other person’s physical needs: This could be massages, cuddling, hand holding, kissing, making out, foreplay, oral stuff, or sex. But try your best to make the other person happy — despite what you want. And tell your partner this, so they do the same for you. If people are selfish in this area and refuse to want to please the other, this creates a lot of issues and tension between a couple. So focus on pleasing your partner, and know it should be equally reciprocated.

14. Do challenge each other: This could include intellectual conversation, having your own opinion outside of your partner’s, making each other laugh, teasing or playful banter, introducing them to a hobby of yours, teaching them something you know, trying to match each other’s fitness goals, taking a class together (classes could be: fun, creative, productive, technical, academic, romantic, or fitness), learning something new together, or simply taking a day to do your own thing so you have something new to talk about.

15. Do remember they are their own person: Your partner, no matter how much you two have in common or can finish each other’s sentences, will never be you. They will always need you to share and communicate. They will make mistakes simply because they are human. You both won’t always agree. There will be arguments, and there will be apologies. It’s important to remember they are doing their best to be there for you, to support you, and please you, in all the ways they can think of. (If they’re not doing this, it might be time to move on, because no relationship works when one or both people are being selfish.) Despite disagreements and differences, it’s important to exercise compassion and forgiveness. I’m not talking about they cheated on you 5 times forgiveness, I’m talking about when you get frustrated and don’t understand why they did something, try to put yourself in their shoes. Practice empathy. When you guys argue, as you’re bound to do, remember you’re supposed to argue towards a resolution, not a barrier. And if your partner is willing to drop the argument for the sake of moving past it and patching things up, practice forgiveness. Anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. It benefits no one. If you can remember to be compassionate and empathetic with this other person who has decided they want to join you on this life journey, I think you’ll both be pleased at what a strong and loving relationship you two can have.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with this: Relationships aren’t really about “us.” If they were, we wouldn’t need them. They’re about finding a person that’s on the same wavelength as you, making them happy, being a happy person yourself, and working together as a team to get to where you want to be in life, individually and with each other. If both people are willing to work towards these goals, then I guarantee, there’s nothing you two can’t take on together.

Featured image from Bright Bold & Beautiful

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Education vs. Working Up The Ladder – Which Has The Bigger Pay Off For Our Generation?

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Lately, I’ve been having many discussions with people: peers, friends, loved-ones, co-workers, and mentors — ranging from “The Lucky Few/Silent Generation” all the way to “Generation Z” – regarding how much a standard 4-year college degree pays off for people, at this day in age, or whether it’s a better decision for most, especially current generations from Generation X to Generation Z, to simply try to gain work experience in a field and work up from there. Upon spending much time pondering this situation, I have started to wonder how other people feel about education vs. working to establish a career at this current day. (Before I go on, I’d like to apologize for any mechanical errors, as this is mainly a stream of conscious thought rather than a formal piece I’ve been working on.) So….here’s my question:

What do you feel is a smarter decision for one’s financial security and future, for our generation: To go to college for a bachelor’s and pay for it with student loans, or to jump into a field and try to establish a career through work experience?


Do you remember that time where you could, out of your own pocket, and maybe with a little help from your parents, afford to put yourself through college? Do you remember the days where you started making plans to be a full-time student while working a part-time job and were living independently – perhaps on a Top Ramen diet – but in the comfort of your own apartment, flat, or studio? Do you remember the time where you knew, as long as you went to school and acquired that 4-year degree, that you would be able to land a job, establish a decent career, and provide for your family? ….. Yeah, neither do I, because it seems the notion of a basic college education keeping you afloat for the remainder of your life, is just a romanticized nostalgic idea from when our parents and grandparents were growing up. I grew up in a household that preached, “Education is crucial to your professional future.” And although I personally have a fondness for academia, I have often discussed with family members whether that is still practical advice.
Now, there’s no denying that education is something — we as a country — can always benefit from (and currently are lacking in, on a global comparison). Furthermore, that being more well-rounded and educated as an individual is beneficial for our personal growth. Also, that we can certainly establish a higher-paying job from the get-go, along with having competitive opportunities open to us, when we have obtained our college degree. I cannot deny that my college education has been very beneficial for my personal growth and development of my mind and potential. Ironically enough, I find myself enthralled with the academic lifestyle: being surrounded by scholars and experts in a multitude of fields, participating in intellectually stimulating conversations, exercising areas of the brain I otherwise wouldn’t use on a regular basis, discovering my capabilities of hard-work and accomplishing goals, thriving in an environment thirsting for knowledge, and contemplating concepts I never would have fathomed on my own.

It also should be noted that these attributes do become valuable in desired professionals. However, my point is not to dabble over the personal benefits an education offers to an individual: personal qualities and individual growth, pursuit of happiness, intellectual broadening and stimulation, and honing of interests. I am not advocating for either option regarding establishing a career from a college degree vs. working one’s way up the ladder. I am simply interested in the opinions and observation of others, as to what my peers think, regarding the pay-off of working with (mostly) work-experience or working from an education. My main goal is to discuss whether education is still the sure-fire path to a strong and secure financial and professional future, or if perhaps the long-practiced “keys to success” now require some reevaluation given current and shifting economic times.

Given the above, one has to ask the question, why go to college? For some, it’s purely intellectual growth, but for most, college serves as a means to a better end. The structure of our educational system has been used to, ideally, prepare us for our futures and ultimately, our careers. It seems good-paying jobs one would obtain, from a 4-year bachelor’s degree, are getting harder to come by, and often some fields don’t promise much of a decent-paying career at all. Honestly, the term “decent-paying” might be too much of a stretch even-still, as we watch the disparaging rates of our middle class dwindle away year by year. There are most certainly fields booming in high demand: information technology, engineering and robotics, the medical field, and bio-friendly power/energy efficiency — and with high demand often comes better wages — but for a strong majority of other fields, comes a question about whether it will pay off for a desired household income, gaining some profit and live comfortably while trying to pay off student debt.

When our grandparents and parents were going to school, it was much more affordable to be in college, and to make a living while doing so. People could go to college, a private institution, or a public university by a simple combination of working and some savings without racking up bankrupting levels of student loan debt. In addition to that, people could also afford to work alongside school, and a full-time college student, working as a waitress or busboy 3-4 nights a week, could put themselves through school and afford to get themselves a quaint one-bedroom apartment while enjoying their college years.

However, it seems times are definitely changing, and that what once was seemingly attainable to go to school, maintain a standard level of independence, and then land a career that would pay for itself, is merely a dream of the past or a luxury for a rare few whose interests fall into one of those high demand fields.

Personally speaking, I know people who have had to go back to school, because whatever they got their bachelor’s in the first time, didn’t get them anywhere professionally that would provide them with the means to keep up with the cost of living . I also know of others hitting their late-20s to even early-30s, picking up the phone to tell Mom and Dad they need to move back home, because the cost of living is escalating at an exponential rate and they can’t afford to stay in their one bedroom apartment. I know people who are in their late-20’s to early-30’s, whom even past working a 40 hour work week, can’t even dream of what it would be like to have their own place, as they share their living space with (often more than one) roommate(s). I know of many people in my age bracket, who are consciously avoiding having children or getting married — despite their actual relationships or desires — due to the fact they “can’t afford it.” I know of people who are struggling to pay off their student loans and had to go back to school, just to have some more time to come up with the money, or are struggling to get deferrals because they can’t seem to pay off loans plus interest, while simultaneously providing for themselves and their loved ones. For goodness sake, I know of people with PhD’s who can’t find work or have been homeless at some point after receiving their college degree. The notion of anyone with a doctorate not finding work is beyond absurd and almost completely counter intuitive.

So I ask you, with regard to certain high demand fields offering a six figure salary, is the promise of a secure economic and financial future — from a bachelor’s degree — merely a retired concept of the past for many, or should it still be the prime focus for anyone who is looking for job security and the financial means to provide for themselves and their family before they hit 40? What are your thoughts?

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A Letter to the Men that Left a Mark on My Heart,


Dear First Boyfriend,

You were incredibly profound to me. A handsome guy who genuinely liked me, found me more beautiful than the girls that dressed provocatively, cuddled with me when I felt sick and unattractive, had the attention of all my female peers, and yet for some reason pursued me and made me feel wonderful every day…. You may have been the first teenage love of my life. It’s hard to tell when we were so young and it was so short-lived.

Dear High School Sweetheart,

You were an interesting learning experience. Never did I feel such naïve emotion and have as many “firsts” as I did with you. We created many memories together, some really good, some really bad. We shared a lot of experiences between us, quite a few that shaped my future; but in the end, you not only betrayed my trust, you made me feel as though I wasn’t worth anything. You gave other girls the attention I deserved, and you wandered. I can understand that now, as we were young at the time. I just wish you had treated me better. You were the first man to have me, and the first man to break my heart, and set me on a course of skepticism. It wasn’t all bad; I established many friendly and professional connections, from knowing you. But I am forever grateful for having met some of the people I did, through you. I hope in your future you can love, and be loved, in a way we all deserve.

Dear Soldier,

You were a glimpse of hope for me. The escape from a relationship I felt I couldn’t leave. You were a guy worthy of feelings and trust, laughter, and long drives. I looked so forward to the days we could visit. I knew you were going to be deployed. I knew that was a big reason why you never wanted to go steady with me. I guess I felt as though that wasn’t reason enough to not be together: when your friends were proposing, you couldn’t even commit. I felt a third of the time, that we were just friends. And the other two thirds, I felt there was something much deeper. It was hard to get a read on you, despite the effort I put forward. And yet, every experience and memory I shared with you I still cherish – I’m not sure if I cherish it from a romantic or platonic perspective, but I don’t regret it. I felt a void in my heart as it ended. If not absent in distance, absent in emotion. But alas, it’s the nature of dating a soldier. I guess, like the strength soldiers have to learn, there is a strength the women who date them have to gain as well.

Dear Nerd,

You introduced me to passion. With you, I felt intense emotions.You shared deep conversations with me, many difficult times, a majority of beautiful memories, and plenty of travel. I began a life with you. I fell in love with the city when I was with you. Because of you, I quit bad habits, and I felt the urge to strive to be someone better, working harder, studying more, being more communicative and more sincere — finding within myself a level of love and vulnerability I gave up on, or perhaps, thought I had lost, and I brought that to life once more. I saw a life with you, and for the first time, I looked forward to a strong future with someone. I thought I had never experienced more love in my heart…. But I’ve also never experienced such pain. With you, I lost my world. My dreams, hopes that rebuilt trust, years of my young adult life, my belief in lasting love and true soul mates, came crashing all around me, shattering into a million pieces. I have done the most of my growing, learning, and maturing, from what I shared with you. I discovered who I am, what I want in a partner, and what I want out of my own life, from the experiences I shared with you. I was lucky to have a lot of support and friendship from you, despite the broken relationship. I feel torn as to whether or not I should have ever pursued you, as it, for a long time, left me a shell of someone I once was. But in the end, I’d have to say it was worth it, for I learned valuable lessons about relationships and myself.

Dear Fighter,

You were the first guy to make me feel butterflies since my devastating break up. I know I wasn’t initially emotionally available to the degree you may have wanted. I also know that when I finally reached out to you, willing to give it a try, I had missed my chance. Between the time you pursued me and the time I was ready, you fell in love with another woman. I wish you had been more honest with me from the beginning. I wanted badly to see where it would lead, for I was rather enthusiastic about getting back into dating and sharing a level of intimacy with you. But I never was able to let go of the fact you hadn’t moved on. Although I never personally met her, I am sure she was beautiful to you. And I can understand the difficulty in letting go of something that means a lot. You are a strong man, but there were areas I wish you stepped up and either communicated more or stood up to others when I needed someone in my corner. I believe a big reason for that was that you were emotionally unavailable. I’m not a mind reader, nor can I say I understand your position 100 percent, as you never fully opened up to me. And I’m sorry that that’s all I have to go off of. But I do wish to thank you for getting me back to feeling somewhat normal, and for the fun times we had, though short it may have been.

Dear Future Whomever I End Up With,

I hope to be to a point where I’ve figured all this out — where I’ve realized the value in taking chances before I’m “ready,” and for allowing myself to be vulnerable despite my disdain for being taken advantage of. I certainly hope you pursued me – men often show interest, but often the interest seems short lived, and not unique. Everyone asks for dinner, and yet, no one tries to provide reason as to why they should be the one worth my time — so quick to give up; I don’t understand what happened to courtship. It’s been a while since I’ve seen true romance,  a guy sending me flowers, or writing me a love note. I hope you are someone that supports my goals and demands in life, but in the same regard, you are someone whom I find myself so enamored with, that I discover a strong reason to be everything and anything you could have ever asked for. I hope that we are a power couple, working hard towards our goals and our dreams, and yet constantly challenging and motivating each other to step outside our comfort zones, achieving and living new experiences and accomplishments we never thought possible. I hope that we can make each other laugh, even in our angriest of times, or that we can embrace forgiveness and compassion. That we not only hear, but listen to each other, out of respect for the other person. I hope that we share, and talk, about anything – stupid things, meaningful things, nothing, but that even when we sit in speechlessness, it doesn’t feel like silence between us. I hope that we aren’t perfect, because if we were, where is the adventure, and growth, that comes from learning and trying new things, and becoming better people? I hope that our love is passionate and intense, exciting and frequent — and that we understand that even when the flame gets dull as sometimes it’s bound to be, there’s always a way to rekindle that spark and reignite that flame. I hope that between us, we share a deep level of intimacy, trust, and vulnerability – one that consists of no harsh judgments, and always leaves us feeling like we’re never alone. I hope to have a good friendship with you, and that we can sit together, sharing stories of our past, respectful of those that helped shape who we are, and yet confident that we both deserve the best, and that we give the best to each other.

Until then…

I hope to figure this out, because I still seem to be rather lost on this road of life and love. Despite the message that I’ve received from past experiences, as well as the standard societal norm that has been adopted in the general male population, I still refuse to believe that men don’t want love. We all do; it’s human nature to yearn for being needed, important, loved, and to have a sense of belonging. I know all too well the wrong kind of love. And I hope, for my sake, I embrace the right kind of love when it’s standing in front of me, before I let it slip away. Relationships at this day-in-age are complicated: We have instant access to so many, the divorce rate is through the roof, and we’re moving towards a lifestyle of showing little emotion, needing no one, and finding instant gratification in short-lived interactions. I personally, have a hard time saying “I love you.” I used to make a vow to myself, that I wouldn’t get close enough to anyone to feel love, to feel hurt, or to cause hurt. I’ve had a lot of growing up to do in that regard.

To all the men who left a mark on my heart; To all those in between who have sprinkled bits of hope, sparks off short-lived romance, curiosities, or proved lasting friendships; To the ones I may not have even met yet; And to the rest of you who are just trying to figure it out,

If there’s anything I can suggest, it’s to be honest, raw, and passionate about pursuing the person whom you want to get to know; and alongside that, to recognize that love comes in many forms and with many people, but the only way to experience it, is by embracing the opportunity to feel it when there’s a person who is deserving. It’s hard to take my own advice, but the advice I have to give, and the advice I should be more receptive to, is to not let the opportunity pass you by – it may be a unique experience and a love unlike any you’ve felt before, and though not everyone is going to be someone worth pursuing romantically, nor should that aspect be ignored, there could be one whom you decide to dive head first into love with, and never look back. Meanwhile, I think we’re all a little lost, just swimming aimlessly, hoping to find one in this collection of many fish in the sea.



This blog post was made in honor of the upcoming Over-Commercialized Single’s Awareness Day.


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Filed under Lessons, Life, Love, Relationships, Romance, Valentine's Day

Tribute to My Very First Post + Unicorns

Well… this is what it feels like to blog… interesting. I was under the impression that unicorns fitted with sequined football jerseys would come prancing out on rainbows, carrying satchels of tiny bubbles filled with sparkly encoded secrets about how to rule the universe. But alas, it’s just me sitting on my couch, seeking a break from the daunting monster that some call homework a.k.a. the key to my future. Meh. I prefer this.

So, this post, if you can’t already tell, doesn’t really have much meaning behind it other than to pay tribute to “The First Post”… and to Unicorns. But wait! Do you hear that?! That’s the sound of you shaking in your boots you’re so excited to read on. Well hold on, because I’m about to wow your eyes with the magical bliss of what took me about 15 minutes in Paint. Yes, that’s right be amazed.


Alright, enough of that, let’s get to the good stuff.

original unicorn photo courtesy of theoatmeal


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