Talking About #mentalhealth (with quotes and advice)

*TW – discussing mental illness, so potentially triggering to some people*

 

reach for the and blue moon neon signages
Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com

Hi there,

it’s been a while, yes. I’ve tried writing a new post several times, or actually I’ve thought about writing one several times, but never got around to it because I had a bunch of ideas on what to write about, yet none of them would be a productive, not-so-pessimistic, coherent post, so I just never wrote it.

For today, I thought I’d look up some quotes about mental health/mental illness and share them here and just write some of my thoughts/struggles that relate to them, to get some perspective and some things off my chest etc.

I’ll start with a sentence that I noticed in the last book I read, How To Be A Bawse by Lilly Singh (or iiSuperwomanii, if you’re familiar with her channel and work). The following passage pulled some strings inside me:

“What finally got me out of my depression was learning what loving myself really meant. I didn’t understand I deserved to be happy. I thought I was meant to be sad, so I remained sad. But that’s not how you treat someone you love. You’re not okay when they’re sad. You work hard to make them happy. Once I started doing that, I started to rebuild my life.”

This paragraph, especially the bolded part, really struck a chord in me because I often feel exactly like that: I’ve always been a believer of destiny and predestination, and I often catch myself thinking that maybe I’m just supposed to be this sad and secluded and anxious and ill person and maybe there is not point even trying to get better because I’m meant to stay broken forever. But I need to learn to remind myself that it’s not true – that I can get better, that this can pass, that things can get better. It’s difficult as shit, however, and when you’ve spent years convincing yourself that there’s no point in getting better, it can really mess with your head and your desire/ability for recovery. But keep trying and do not lose hope. I’ll try, and I hope you do too.

“It’s my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting, and for the millionth time in my life I wish for measles or smallpox or some other easily understood disease just to make it easier on me and also on them.” 
― Jennifer Niven, All the Bright Places

This. 
I can understand this quote so well, particularly lately, because this blog and some of my poetry pieces are the most open and honest writings I’ve ever done about how I really feel, and even sharing that to (I presume) mostly strangers who stumble upon this website and do not know me in real life, is so difficult every time. And I can’t even imagine voicing all of that out loud to someone in my life face to face. And I’ve become almost an expert and hiding my thoughts and feelings from others over the years, and I do have that mentality of suffering in silence, and so at this point, it’s quite impossible for me to imagine ever opening up to anyone aobut these things. So this quote to me represents that struggle of not even knowing how to begin a conversation about things that are quite invisible to an outsider. Others often can’t see your depression, or your bipolar disorder, of your personality disorder, and often you can’t being yourself to ask for help, and it’s just an impasse then.

“Anyone who has actually been that sad can tell you that there’s nothing beautiful or literary or mysterious about depression.” 
― Jasmine Warga, My Heart and Other Black Holes

I both agree and slightly disagree with this one; because no, there is definitely nothing beautiful about the sight of me, curled up on the couch, gazing into space without having any clue what to do with myself and my life. There’s nothing beautiful about hopelessness. But at the same time, the fight with mental illness can, and often is, a subject and inspiration of many literary (among others) pieces, and so in that regard, I believe that certain positive things can come out of the pain. 

“The thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely.”
― John Green, Turtles All the Way Down

Downward spiral.
That’s what happens when you close yourself off from the world – you fall into a spiral of thoughts and behaviors that are shapes by your illness, and the spiral keeps going down and tightening. I’ve been there, I know the feeling. More people than we think know the feeling. But it’s so incredibly important to break the spiral and climb out of it – I was not having the best of day yesterday, for example, and things kept piling up one atop another, and I’d been hiding away from basically everyone, but then I just reached a certain point and talked to a couple of friends, opening up just a little, and it helped. Not in a way that suddenly all my problems have disappeared, no, but it’s just some weight off my chest, and the spiral slowed down a little. And it’s good.

Now, something a little different: here are two of my poems and the little explanation piece I’d recently shared on my Instagram (sorry, shameless self-promo – you can follow me there for more of my poems and writings and to find out a little bit more about my poetry collection, Starlight) @thewanderingwriter28 

(sunsets pt.1)
your sunset is not my sunset
you sunset is gold
bathed in warmth and pretty colors
an embrace of sapphire and lavender
your sunset is not my sunset
my sunset is crimson
a flash of fiery orange that turns you blind
bleeding reds until it turns black
your sunset is not my sunset.

(sunsets pt.2)
our sunsets are different but it’s a different state of mind
who am I to say where to find
that sunset, that color, that moment of magic
when your and mine minds are equally tragic
who is to say that your sky is brighter
your sunset more vibrant, your thoughts even lighter
I see everything from just my perspective
but that point of view is clearly defective
if only more people could realize this
there’d be so much less things going amiss
with our minds, our opinions, our views on others
both friends and strangers, both rivals and brothers
before you turn away, just hear me out
I promise to do better and lose all my doubt
but you have to promise and do the same
for everyone’s got their share of shame
and trauma and struggle and really dark thoughts
and everyone needs someone to untie these knots
so what can we do to make this better
the first step would be to always remember
this sunset, this life’s for both you and I
we all share some pain, but keep looking up at the same sky.

“Meanings of poems: poetry can be both straightforward and elusive, both reality and illusion, and its beauty lies in the fact that only the poet him- or herself knows the true meaning behind their words. The idea of sunsets pt.1 is a comparison of two sunsets, in which sunsets are a metaphor for state of mind or even life itself; it shows a distorted perspective we all have sometimes, in feeling like our problems are bigger and our sunsets more tainted than others’. I wrote the poem based on a single line ‘your sunset is not my sunset’ in such a style that it fits the norms of what seems to be a rising trend of poetry – short and straight to the point – but even before the last line was written, the need for a sequel, so to say, arose and sunsets pt.2 was born. The aim for that poem was to shine light on its predecessor and break the illusion of ‘other people don’t have problems’. Its tone was in great part inspired by the music I was listening in the moment of writing, and it was my intention to write something more melodic and with rhyme, something you can imagine yourself performing as you’re reading it; this poem could not be written in just a few lines.

So when it’s all said and done, these poems strive to remind you, when you catch yourself in that specific mindset of feeling misunderstood, that you’re not alone, that these sunsets come and go for everyone and everyone has dark moments and eclipses, but we’re all under the same sky, and everyone needs someone to sit beside them, offer look at the sun together, and say ‘when you’re ready, I’ll listen. and I’ll understand.’ Be that someone.”

I’ve written similar things before, and I’ll keep writing them because I really do believe in this: sometimes you just can’t know what’s going on in someone’s life. Some people are so good at hiding their emotions, for many reasons, and they hide it so well, that you’d never guess they’re struggling. And because of that there’s no room for judgement – we need more awareness and we need more understanding and we need more empathy for others. Less judgement, less guessing, less accusing, less hate. More love and kindness.

Another one of mine:

(my biggest habit)
self-sabotage.

I don’t know how many of you can relate to this, but… yeah. I have a tendency to screw things up, or rather let opportunities pass me by, and not putting effort into things. And it’s not something I do voluntarily – it’s something that an illness does; it takes your control away and it puts you in a place of not having energy and motivation to do things. Example: I’ve touched on this in older posts – I could have three very important exams coming up, and I’m going to take the book I need to read and learn from, and I’m going to stare at it for an hour and then I’m going to put it away because I literally cannot get my brain and my body to cooperate. And in the end, I do not take that test. And even if I manage to study at least somewhat, a couple bad experiences cause me to recoil from even the thought of being there, taking that exam. And so I don’t go.

And I cannot pretend like I have some wonderful wisdom to share if you’re struggling with the similar, because I still don’t know how to stop this. But. 

And this advice is actually not only for self-sabotage, but for struggling in general, and it’s for everyone who is feeling like things will never get better:

first of all, you are not a shitty person. I know you think the opposite, but you’re not. Just wanted to make that clear. Secondly, you’re here and you’re reading this, and I know that there’s still hope in you somewhere, even if you have to dig deep to find it. No matter how much I tell myself that it’s completely dark inside, I still find myself dreaming and hoping for things, and when you dream and hope for things, it means that you haven’t given up yet. And if you think about it, hope is the one thing that somehow keeps perservering; “hope is the only thing stronger than fear” – I can’t remember at the moment where this quote is from, but I think of it quite often, and it’s really true. So if you feel like you can’t find hope, dig a little deeper until you find it, and then you hold onto it with everything you got. 

Another piece of advice is this: dive into art. I am a tiny little bit biased when it comes to art, but I really think that it’s an amazing form of healing/coping/surviving. So create or take it in, find a hobby, find a passion and stick to it, and immerse yourself in it. Learn a new language – may I recommend Duolingo? – today I reached a 250-day streak of learning Italian over there and it’s a wonderful way to spend time because not only it’s useful, but it also gives you a challenge and a sense of pride when you stick to learning and you reach these big streaks and see how far you’ve progressed with time. So, my point is, read books, write books, draw, take walks through nature, observe, take up photography or pottery or learning new skills – do any of these things for yourself and your soul, because they help calm you and give you perspective. They help you see the light.

Also, I’m just going to throw this out here: I discovered a new Imagine Dragons song yesterday, it’s called Birds, and it was love at first listen – there’s something really soothing about it, so should you want, go and take a listen. Oh, one more thing: all the books from which these quotes are taken are really wonderful – most are Young Adult fiction, but they carry beautiful messages, so if you’re in a reading slump or something…

And, utimately:

“There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn’t.”
― John Green, Turtles All the Way Down

If you have any questions, thoughts, comments or anything, feel free to write to me; until next time, stay safe and big hugs.

Oglasi

Writing Advice

Hey everyone and welcome (back)!

I’m going to go and guess that you opened this post because you’re a writer and/or aspiring author and you’re trying to find any advice on writing. You’re mostly likely familiar with some of the most commonly said phrases on this type of articles: read a lot, write what you’d want to read and write every day. Which is all solid and legit advice.
But, maybe you haven’t yet come across what I’m about to write, and maybe some of my tips turn out to be of aid to you. If so, then this post will have served its purpose.

Let’s begin, then.

#1: Dream big, but stay grounded

I tried writing one of my very first novels at the age of 12. It involved a girl who stumbled upon a dead body, an attractive investigator who took on the case, and a serial killer who was almost impossible to catch because he was one third of a set of triplets, who all had the initials J. M. and were all actually committing murders.

My next project involved the new girl at school, strange things happening at night, a fallen angel named Sebastian, a final battle on a high-school rooftop and a human/angel romance threatened by a sequel.

Then, it was an academy for angels, followed by something involving vampires and kissing, followed by a variety of demon-hunters and the monsters they’d end up falling for.

In my mind, there was no doubt, even at that early age, that I wanted to write novels that would become bestsellers and get adapted into movies. I daydreamed about book tours, signing thousands of copies of my books, participating in various panels alongside some of my favorite authors, and getting messages from readers all across the world. This was my ‘dreaming big’. There’s nothing wrong with it; in fact, I encourage you to shoot for the stars and hope for the universe. Hope is a wonderful thing, and it can serve as a powerful fuel that keeps the passion going.
But staying grounded is a must. While I did dream about all these things, I also never really expected for them to actually happen. I understood that spending fifty weeks on the bestseller list is not something that happens to every writer; I understood that I lived in a place where literature is not so much valued as it is overlooked, I understood that I write because my soul commands it, not because it is guaranteed that I’d reach a status of a celebrity one day.

And that’s the point. You write for yourself; you write so you could spread a message to others, you write to tell your truth, you write because stories are about to explode from your fingertips. You know that you most likely won’t ever become a household name. And that’s alright. If it happens – great. If it doesn’t – also great.

 

#2: Write in all genres, all perspectives and all tenses
(not in the same project, of course)

Like I’ve mentioned, I started off by trying to write a bunch of novels in various genres – more specifically, most of those projects were in the realm of paranormal romance, with varying otherworldly creatures and plenty of human heroines involved. My attempts were fairly unsuccessful; not only did my mind keep jumping from one idea to another (a problem I still face to this day), which meant that I would abandon one project for another and then abandon that one for a third and so on, but I also couldn’t seem to plot any of those books to such detail that I would have enough material for a 300-page book.
One of the ideas I had when I was around 14 was a novel about a girl named Ellie, who met Will, a faerie that fed off human sadness and negative emotions. It got discarded for another idea, I can’t even remember which, but then something happened: I stumbled upon a call for short story submissions by an emerging publishing house that one of the authors I’d known about was involved with. It was one of the first real publishing opportunities I’d found, so I knew I had to try.

The problem was, I had no short stories written, nor any ideas for one. Until I remembered Ellie and Will. And so the premise of a novel became a short story. And that short story got published.

Some time later, I discovered a new passion project: poetry, which I scribbled in bursts amid first time falling in love and first time feeling heartbroken.
At 16, I finally wrote a novel.
At 21, I published a poetry collection.
Today (which is still at 21), I focus mostly on novels and poetry.

As far as the writing style goes, when I was beginning to write more seriously, I used a lot of third person view and past tense. That later switched to first person present. Now, I use the latter for my contemporary novel ideas, but I did find a renewed liking for third person past tense for my fantasy novel ideas.

The point of this is – try out as many different things as you can. If you write mostly poetry, that doesn’t mean you can’t write an amazing novel and vice versa. Just because you prefer writing from a first person perspective doesn’t mean you won’t ever want to switch to a third person for another project. Diversity is wonderful and important and will help you improve your writing and find different ways to tell stories you want to tell.

 

#3: Finish your first big project for yourself and yourself only

The novel I wrote at 16 never moved past that first draft. I gave it to a couple of friends to read, and they all wonderful things about it (well, mostly that it made them cry a lot at the end, which was the goal, soo…). Still, I decided soon after finishing it that I would never even try publishing that novel. Why? Because I had finally proven to myself that I could finish writing a novel. And that was the most important thing at the time.
So write what you want to write – write it like one day it might get published. But, once you do write it, sit back, let that delirious smile spread across your lips, and pat yourself on the back because you did it.
You did it.

 

#4: Also, the first draft of anything is mostly shit   

Let’s be honest here. The first draft of your novel, or short story or whatever else, is going to be filled with not only genuine grammatical errors and sneaky typos, but it will also be filled with cringy sentences, redundant dialogue and plot holes. That particular novel of mine I told you about – it’s not really good. I mean, it’s good in a way that the story grips you and makes you bawl in the end because, spoiler alert, it was a sad, sad story, but it’s also pretty bad in terms of the writing style and character’s voices and character development. There’s a lot of tell instead of show (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, google it. Trust me.). The quality, to sum it up, is not up to the standard I know I can reach. (example: I still look the same, though – round electric blue eyes framed with black lashes, over them two arches of eyebrows. Between the eyebrows, a straight nose and, under it, two red lips, the lower one slightly bigger than the upper one. –> I could rewrite this here and now and it would look and sound ten times better.) 
And, with time, I got better, of course. Not nearly as perfect as I’d like to be, but writing takes a lot of practice and trial-and-error, I’ll get even better. You’ll get even better.

Just… not on the first draft.

 

#5: It starts with a sentence

I’m really big on grandiose opening sentences. I like when that first sentence grips you by the collar of your shirt and pulls you into the story, leaving you powerless to break its hold. Frankly, the sentence is so good, you don’t want to resist it.

A single sentence is usually how ideas are born in my head. When writing poetry, I think of a single line and then build the poem from it, not knowing when and where and how it will end. When writing a novel, I write one sentence and then develop the plot and the characters and then I realize that I have a new project on my hands. This is my way of creating; I’m sure you have your own. If not, or if you feel your way is currently in hibernation and isn’t really providing good ideas, try this one out – maybe it helps. Maybe it challenges you in new, fun ways.

The important thing is to, again, find the thing that works for you. You have to kiss a lot of frogs to get to the prince, they say. It’s kind of like that with finding your writing voice – you have to whisper a lot before you learn how to shout.

#6: You’ll want to quit more times than you care to admit (and that’s okay)
This is coming from a girl who has been seriously questioning her writing abilities and career choices for over a month now.
Once, I was texting with a friend and I remember sitting on the couch and staring at the books I have at home, over a hundred and fifty of them; I don’t recall exactly what had caused my doubts, but I know I’d written to him that I don’t think I want to do this whole writing thing anymore. I think I was at a point where I was going through a bad case of writers block and there were no opportunities for me to share my work with the world and I was just sick and tired of everything.
I find it slightly ironic that, now, a little over a month after publishing a book that is solely my work, I’m having more trouble than ever with seeing the purpose of storytelling.

But you know what? I can’t stop doing this. Even if no one buys any of my work, ever, even if I go months without writing a single chapter or even a poem, even if people tell me that writing will never pay for my bills and show me that they don’t really believe in me and my passion – I’ll still be the girl madly in love with words and the exquisite joy they bring me. And I’ll still be the same girl who finds comfort through writing, who believes that a book, in the right hands, can make a world of difference to a person.
So I can’t stop. I won’t stop. Won’t quit.
And, you know what?

 

#7: There will be moments that make it all worth it

Like seeing this:

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Seeing your book on Amazon, with even a “look inside” feature, is pretty damn neat, I won’t lie.

 

So. I want to leave you with a couple of end thoughts: you have a gift. You are a writer, you are a storyteller, you are a healer. You are good enough.
Don’t give up on what you love.
We’ll slay those bestseller lists together.

Now, open that new, blank document and write.

 

My poetry collection, Starlight, is available to preview and purchase here
You can find me on Instagram: @thewanderingwriter28

Likes, Followers, Social Media And Comparing Yourself To Others

alone beach calm dawn
Photo by Tyler Lastovich on Pexels.com

Hey guys,

So, lately, whenever I set off to write a new post, I feel like I won’t have some grand, positive, uplifting message at the end, and I start wondering if that post is even worth writing. But, I started this blog for myself, to be able to get some things off my chest, and so I think it’s important for me to write even those posts that don’t end up on the most positive note.

I’ve been going through a strange time lately. About a month shy away from 22, I feel like I’m not really doing the best job at transitioning into a full-fledged adult. I often find myself musing about the importance of social media in this day and age, and how a lot of values and ways of life have shifted among younger generations, compared to our parents’ and grandparents’ ones. Some days, I can’t help but think social media and the Internet have brought sheer misery to us.
Let me explain.
If you’re familiar with this blog and my stuff, you know that I’ve recently self-published a collection of poems and thoughts and that I’m trying to gain some exposure through (mainly) Instagram I thought to myself, Atticus has done it. Rupi Kaur has done it. Many other have done it. Maybe I could do it, too.

But there are so many poets and writers and readers out there who have the same thought, who are trying to do the same thing. My words often get lost in the sea of poems and pictures and quotes. I write ten hashtags on each picture I post in hopes that it reaches a wide audience and a solid number of people. But, in this sea of poetry, people stop by, click on that heart button, and simply leave my profile. It’s a very quick game we all play – explore, click, scroll on to another, repeat. Every once in a while, someone follows my account; some of them are genuinely interested in what I share, but some click follow only to undo it a few days later. The numbers always go up and down, and it’s never a constant rise, and I can’t help but think that the majority of people who like my posts or follow me do that only to grab my attention and prompt me to like/follow them back.
Which I guess I understand, but I can’t seem to bring myself to spend a lot of time just commenting on every post I see. I might be a little paranoid about it all, but the fact remains that even when people stop by to check out my writing, no one buys my poetry collection. It’s not selling at all, and I’ve wrote about this before – it’s really not about money for me, it would take a lot of sold copies for me to make any significant money from this book, and I know that’s not going to happen, I don’t count on it to happen. But I write to share my thoughts and my feelings and give others words of comfort and joy and make them feel any less alone, even for a little while. I’m a storyteller – my mind lives in places no textbook will ever write about and I feel like this is what I was destined to do. I’ve been told a couple of times by friends something along the lines of, “Well, at least you have this talent; I don’t have a talent for anything like that.” And I get it – you can’t learn to be a writer, you have to be born with that special spark. But lately I sit in front of my computer and I just think to myself, what do I get out of this? What good is my talent when I can’t seem to use it, what good is my voice if I can’t seem to shout loud enough for people to hear, what good are my words if people don’t know their meaning?

So that’s a part of what I’ve been feeling lately. But, of course, there’s more.

One other thing social media does is allowing us to paint this wonderful picture of our life. A picture in which everything is bright and sunny and going according to the plan. Degrees are acquired, foreign countries visited, weddings and pregnancies and weekend getaways… everything is so perfect on screen.

As I’ve stepped into my twenties, the roaring twenties, I’ve been seeing more and more announcements and good news from my peers. People I went to school with are getting engaged and having babies and travelling all across the globe and getting their degrees and always smiling on their pictures.

And I’m happy for them, I truly am. But I look at those smiles and then I look at myself, at the fact that I’m behind in my studies, that I can’t seem to really accomplish the dream I’ve had for at least ten years now, that I no one’s ever really been in love with me, that I feel so alienated even from my closest friends at times, more and more often lately, that for all my writings, I can’t seem to find the right words to describe a certain emptiness that I feel inside. And so looking at those smiles hurts. It hurts because I am in a place from which I can’t seem to see things getting better. I’m letting myself go a little bit more with each new day. Most day, I’m not even really sure who I am, who I’m supposed to be. I can’t seem to recall where the last three months have gone – what have I done, what have I accomplished, have I done anything remotely important at all? It doesn’t feel like I have.

I feel like I’ve been trying to become invisible for a long time now; silent in a corner, uncomfortable when people try to talk to me, panicking when they ask questions to which the answers are so disappointing. Because they expect certain things from me, and I can’t seem to follow through. And I hate letting people down, so I’d rather let others let me down and try to make myself as small as possible. Because it seems I’ll never live up to the expectations of others and the standards others have set.

See? There isn’t really a point to this post. I am unable to give myself any good advice, because I know there’s a part of me too damn exhausted and too far gone to even care for it, much less follow it.
If any of you relate to this, if any of you have gone through this and have come out stronger, I’d love to hear your advice and your stories. 

Until next time.

 

Instagram: @thewanderingwriter28

Scars My Teachers Left On Me (Storytime)

abc books chalk chalkboard
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Hey everyone,

I had not actually ever planned to write a post on this subject, but I was browsing through some quotes for my Instagram (@thewanderingwriter28) and I stumbled upon this John Lennon quote:

“I believe in everything until it’s disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it’s in your mind. Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now?”

and it reminded me of something that once happened to me in high-school, and I thought that it would make a good story on here, so why not? Actually, it’s going to be three-ish stories.

So, story #1 – what you need to know before I get into it: I used to be a huge Twilight fan. That saga was among the very first novel series I’d read, and it played a very large part in me deciding that I want to become a published novelist one day. I did start writing more seriously and just more after becoming a Twilight fan, so I do admit that I have some pretty amazing memories related to it, and that it was actually the gasoline that made my writing spark burst into flames. And, amid me being a part of the fandom, I was out shopping once and in one store I saw a black t-shirt with glittery pink letters that spelled out “Looking for a vampire” on the front. And I bought it. And I was quite happy with that t-shirt.

Some amount of time later, I am a junior in high-school, and we get a new subject – Logic. It was taught by a teacher we hadn’t encountered yet in freshman and sophomore year, so none of us knew what to expect. I personally often can make out what the teacher is like pretty quickly, like, there are certain vibes that people have that absolutely do not go with mine, and so I’ve encountered a couple of teachers that I could barely tolerate.
Anyway. The Logic teacher comes in and the part of the class is alright, nothing special happens. And then he says, let’s go around the class and everybody introduces themself. Which I despise sooo much. I’m in college now, and we sometimes do it in classes there, too, and I still to this day absolutely hate introducing myself in three sentences. But fine, I’d do it, I’d survive, it would be fine. And so, I was somewhere around the middle in the classroom, and the teacher did comment here and there on what some of my classmates said, and so I was really crossing my fingers that he wouldn’t say anything like that to me.
And so my turn arrives. I say a few sentences, he says okay, I’m starting to expel this breath I’d been holding.

And then.

He says, “What’s that writing on your shirt?”
And of course, I was wearing the vampire-searching t-shirt. So I inwardly roll my eyes and tell him what my t-shirt says, and he then asks me whether I believe that vampires are real. And this is actually the part that I related to with that Lennon quote, because the following was, and still is, my stance on that question:
I do not believe that there are vampires walking among us. I do not consider myself a vampire. I do not sleep during the day and walk with fake fangs among the streets at night looking for people to attack. I do not drink blood.
I do, however, believe that there is no reason to think that vampires (and other supernaturals) should not be real. Like, maybe there are other dimensions and hidden worlds and glamours that keep our human eyes from seeing them, etc. I do not have any proof, nor would I ever go proclaiming that I encountered a vampire or anything similar unless it were true.

But I do believe that nothing is impossible. I grew up developing a great love for fiction and storytelling and things that seem impossible and otherwordly. Creative writing is my greatest passion, of course I’m going to believe in the unlikely.
And so, when asked that question, I replied that I don’t think they are among us, but that I don’t exlude the possibility of their existence. And this got a couple of laughs from the classroom, but fine, I wasn’t bothered by that. I was bothered, though, when the teacher laughed and said, “No, no, I want a one-word answer: do you believe in vampires, yes or no?”

Now, I’m the kind of person who gets really anxious when put under spotlight, especially in situations like this one. I have social anxiety, I get pretty wrecked before I have to give a speech in front of the class etc. So I think that, in many other cases, if I were confronted with a question like that, I would probably lie and say the answer that is more “socially exceptable” or whatever, just to get that attention away from myself. But there was something that time, something defiant in me, the want to stay true to myself and my beliefs and my thoughts, that made me say reply “yes”. Of course, that got quite a few more laughs, but then we moved on to the next person.
Later on, that teacher would reference that whole thing a couple times later – for example, in the summer between junior and senior year, here we have a tradition of going on a 10-ish day long international trip, and it’s a pretty big thing here, second to prom. As junior year was coming to an end, we had to decide where we wanted to go etc., and there were many discussions, and since that teacher was actually in charge of one of the other classes in my generation, he once asked us where we wanted to go, and he asked everyone individually. And so, of course, when it was my turn, he commented something along the lines of “Oh, I’m sure you want to go to Transylvania”. Because Dracula. Because vampires. Because I’m a freak who loves vampires.

 So… yeah. I mean, I will say that he was otherwise a solid teacher, and that I had an A in both that class and in one class in senior year that he taught. But still, the problem I have with that whole situation is the fact that he would often poke fun at not only me, but practically everyone else in the class. Sometimes the jokes were harmless and funny, but sometimes they were a bit distasteful. I actually had a teacher like that once in college, too, and I was so annoyed with him that going to that class was pretty much the worst part of my week. 

The moral of this story, I guess, is – don’t be that guy. Or girl. Don’t be that teacher that has to make stupid jokes at the pupils’ or students’ expense and put them in awkward and uncomfortable situations. I mean, not to be dramatic, but like, if I were in some other school with some other people and that happened, maybe I would have been bullied for what happened. And, considered I wasn’t really in a good place mentally during high-school, who knows what could’ve happened had that occurred. 

Anyway. Story #2.
When I was in elementary school (which is grades 1 through 8 where I live), I was perfectly alright with math. I was a solid B, sometimes even an A. But then high-school happened and we got this teacher who was infamous for being pretty strict. And I realized, right from the first test she gave us (which was basically a test on the subject matter from the years before), that I would not have a good time in that class.

Soon enough, I got my first F. Ever. Then another one, then another, and things pretty much spiraled down from there. (For the record, I also suck in physics, and am not the best in chem, either; and the combination of the bad grades I started getting in those subjects had a lot to do with how depressed I became.) She flunked me, a lot, I almost failed freshman, sophomore and junior year because I almost didn’t pass her subject. She lowkey hated me.
And you know what’s the worst part? I wasn’t the worst ever at math. Like, I could have done alright, if not for the fact that she immediately sought out three of four star pupils who were better at math than the rest of us combined, and then leveled all of the tests to their abilities. She would give us super advanced tasks because four people knew how to do them. The rest of us? Yeah, screw us.
There were a lot of ups and downs (more downs, actually), and there were quite a bit more things about her personality  and teaching methods that really bothered me, but the culmination of everything was near the end of senior year. Now, in my country, at the end of high-school everyone takes a couple of big final exams, something like the SATs: there are three mandatory subjects, among which is math, and the rest are optional and you choose which one(s) you want to take. For each of the three main exams, each person chooses whether they want to take the A or B level exam, B being the easier version, and A being the advanced, more difficult, level. As far as math goes, B level is child’s play, practically. All you need to do is put numbers in the right formulas, which you can have printed on the exam, and you’ll get a solid grade. In other words, even my harrowing math skills are more than enough to pass the B level.

So, back to that wonderful day of senior year. It was a double period (can you feel my enthusiasm leaking through this text), and I think that it was the day when the teacher brought the results of a test we’d had a week or so earlier. So she wrote down everyone’s grades, she looked at me with her wonderful smirk as I got an F again, all the usual stuff. But then, once all the grades were in, she decided to browse through the book in which all the grades were (I can’t for the life of me remember the word for that on English, if there even is one) and see who was doing well and who wasn’t and stuff like that. I braced myself iternally for what was surely about to happen, especially since I was the first one alphabetically so I would be the first one to get her wonderful commentary. And she opens the book and she accidentally skips the first page – my page – and I’m both nervous and suddenly slightly hopeful; but then she realizes that she skipped my page and goes back. 

And it began. It went like this: *opens my page, looks at my atrocious grades* *sighs* “I won’t say anything…”
But then. “You know what, I have a little bit of a cold today, so I won’t hold back.”

And then she proceeded to belittle me for about five minutes straight, telling me that I wouldn’t even pass that B level exam with my non-existent knowledge. And she ripped into me so bad that, when finally the five-minute reccess between classes came and she left the classroom for a break, I nearly started crying. It was honestly one of the most awful feelings I’d felt during high-school, and knowing that everyone else was there to witness that was even worse.

I took the B level exam. I was a point short from a B, and I realized the mistake I made on one of the tasks as I was going down the stairwell toward the school exit – if I had realized it five minutes earlier, I would have gotten a B. So there. I did that on my own, definitely not thanks to any of her encouragement and teaching.
Oh, and also? Try and guess how many of all those complicated formulas I’ve used since I gratuated high-school? NONE.

Story #3. As you might have figured out by now, I’m not the numbers, textbook-smart, science kind of girl. I’m more of a literature and language kind of gal. I am also not a sporty person, but rather a Netflix-binge-watch and pizza kind of person. In other words, I have no stamina and I never liked P.E.

Especially not in high-school, where the teacher tried to practically make athletes out of us all. And she was all about “I know not everyone is a sporty person and not everyone is built for that, but I want you to give it your all, to show any improvement and will to participate”. Sounds reasonable enough, yes. But, thanks to my un-sportiness, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to perform a lot of the things she taught us. And knowing that made me pretty much freeze whenever I had to try out something new I thought I couldn’t handle. I just couldn’t do it, especially knowing that everyone was watching and surely silently judging me. And because of that, the teacher thought that I wasn’t even trying to make progress, and she didn’t like me that much sometimes. On one instance, we were suppoded to practice dribbling a basketball ball and getting it across the room and she singled me out to show everyone how it’s not done. In senior year, we were learning how to do somersaults, and I couldn’t bring myself to even try it because there was such a mental block in my head. And she told me off in front of the whole class, and it wasn’t fun. So, things like that. And these things, every one of these events I’ve just described to you, plus a few more, they make me feel bad even to this day – I sometimes start thinking about them as I’m trying to fall asleep, and they make me feel so awful still. It will take me a long time to forget them, if I ever do.

(Oh, also, during all of these, I was quite a bit crushing on a boy from my class, so he witnessed everything. It was pretty horrifying.)

All in all, if I manage to get any messages across from these stories, I’d like it to be this: be mindful of other people. Be aware that maybe they’re not just lazy and not interested in the subject; maybe they’re struggling on the inside and are close to their breaking point and just can’t find the motivation to do stuff. Maybe they have crippling anxiety that’s preventing them from speaking up, from doing gymnastics, etc. And be aware, please be aware, that what you say to others might do so much damage, especially at that age when everything feels so big and eternal and awful and a lot of people are struggling already with other issues. 

On a different note, shoutout to all those teachers who are mindful and kind and genuinely have students’ best interest at heart. I had the priviledge of meeting a couple of them, and I will remember them fondly for the rest of my life.

Why Harry Potter Matters

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June 26th, 1997.

I was not yet one full year old on this date, and so it would be quite a few years until I’d take interest in the words “Harry Potter”. Yet on that date, one woman accomplished a childhood dream of publishing a novel, unaware of what a phenomenon both she and her books would soon become.

J.K. Rowling’s life story, not unlike many others’, is a bittersweet tale of its own – from poverty, a failed marriage and depression, one idea for a story about a boy told he was a wizard would turn her whole world upside-down. It is even here, as early as that one delayed train ride on which the idea of Harry Potter was born, that any person who wishes to become an author can learn the first rule of pursuing one’s passion:

the road to success is paved with courage and rejection.

 

It takes guts to believe in yourself and your work. It takes guts to turn your own pain into art. It takes guts to receive rejection time after time and yet still keep going, until finally you get that “yes”.

Yet she did it all. And that’s one of the reasons why J.K. Rowling will forever be an incredibly large inspiration to me.

July 21st, 2007.

Ten years later, the final Harry Potter novel comes out.

Some of my early memories are centered around HP, and the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is no exception: I remember the morning my mother bought the book for my sister and me; I remember wanting to know what happens at the end, because the entire fandom was buzzing with one question: who will die, Harry or Voldemort? And at that point, I had not read any of the previous books, yet I simply had to know how it ends (a habit I sometimes can’t resist even to this day), so Deathly Hallows became the first Harry Potter novel I would ever read. The memories spin faster after that – going to the cinema to watch the movies on their opening weekends, reading the rest of the books, crying at the end of book 6, crying throughout book 7, trying to make my own magic wand with paper (the idea worked; the wand was pink), joining Pottermore, discovering many franchise-related writing, shows and merchandise, entering giveaways, winning a Harry Potter messenger bag… finding other fans. Bonding over the books with others.
This summer, I took the time to re-read all of the novels, since some of them I had not read for a solid number of years. And it’s funny, how reading certain passages brought me the same feelings I’d felt when I read those books for the first time. It’s amazing how much reading those books felt like running into an embrace of an old friend.
But it is not just that.
There are so many beautiful life lessons scattered throughout those seven books. The following quotes are just a small portion of the wisdom and the encouragement that can be found inked on those pages.

 

“But you know, happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
(Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)

“I am what I am, an’ I’m not ashamed. ‘Never be ashamed,’ my ol’ dad used ter say, ‘there’s some who’ll hold it against you, but they’re not worth botherin’ with.”
(Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
(Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) 

“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”
(Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone)

“If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”
(Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)

“We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”
(Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix)

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.”
(Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
(Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)

And, of course, this gem:

“Not my daughter, you bitch!” 
(Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)

(Molly Weasley ftw)

 

And I am absolutely sure that I will be reading these books even fifty years from now, and even then, there will be something new to learn, a new detail to discover, an unknown gem to collect. For me as a reader, it is incredibly fulfilling to have such a well-written and thorough story, with characters that are no less flawed, no less human, than you and me.
For me as a writer, it is even more enchanting to see someone so talented and so passionate about their writings, someone who turned a single idea into a whole intricate, beautiful and breathtaking world.
And for me as a human being, it is most inspiring to see someone who, despite their unfathomable fame, never forgets where they came from, never forgets that the struggles they’ve been though, others are also going through every day, and who tries their best to do good in this world.

And so it is my conviction that, somewhere along the way, Harry Potter became more than just a series of fantasy novels to entertain the imagination of children across the globe. Somewhere along the way, it became a lifelong journey for every fan who fell in love with words, every fan who still secretly hopes for their Hogwarts acceptance letter, every fan who will pass on this story to next generations – a journey toward finding magic, within both the entire world and within themselves.

 

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