got the blues?


we’ve all felt down at some point in our lives. more than ever, the world needs to hear this message: you are not alone.

I know life has been really difficult. I find myself going between boredom, sadness/loneliness, peacefulness, joy, and then the whole cycle again. sometimes I feel nothing. I just want you all to know that no matter what you’re feeling or not feeling, it’s okay.

you’re not going crazy. in fact, it’s completely natural to have all of the above and more reactions to everything covid-19 has brought us. it has caused so much loss for an immeasurable amount of people — whether that loss be in the form of life, events, relationships, opportunities, finances, or anything else.

what are natural reactions to loss? denial. anger. bargaining. depression. acceptance. the five stages of grief.

have I felt all of these? absolutely! I go between the stages constantly. today, I’m at the acceptance phase. a few days ago, I was in the anger/depression stages. a week ago, I was bargaining.

it’s okay to feel how you feel. sometimes we need to hear that from someone outside of our immediate family or friends. it’s okay. your feelings and emotions are valid.

the important thing isn’t that you “feel better,” although if you can find a way to do that, great! I’m proud of you! but the important thing is to acknowledge that you have these feelings. if you don’t know what is bothering you, you can’t start to tame those emotions.

look inside yourself. are you sad about not being able to go out, or by what you’re seeing on the news? are you angry because being with your family is difficult? are you in denial, perhaps because you think this whole thing is going to be over, so you’re going out anyway? all of these feelings are perfectly normal, healthy things to feel. but look at yourself and decipher how you’re reacting to the current state of the world.

now. take those findings and think of a way to help with the emotions. for being sad about not going out and seeing the news, schedule a zoom night with some good friends/family and don’t look at the news for a day. watch cute cat videos instead. in fact, maybe it’s a good idea for all of us to get off the internet for a while.

for those who are having a hard time with their families, taking a long walk in the sunshine or simply sitting on the porch steps with some music on might be just the escape you need.

if you find you’re in denial, perhaps doing some reading on the current state of the world and look up what’s been released by WHO (World Health Organization) and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). if might be a bit of a shock to see what’s going on, and it may bring up other emotions, but it’s good to be informed and stay safe.

I know this isn’t easy, but taking care of ourselves mentally/emotionally during this time is crucial. I love you all. stay home, wash your hands, and watch lots of Netflix!

-ellynn ❤

18 lessons at 18


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Photo by Anton Darius on Unsplash

I’ve just turned 18! Happy birthday toooooo meeeee… A few notes, though, before I get into the post:

  • I’m sure you’ve noticed that my website looks a little different. Yes, I’ve scored a sweet new domain name! Say hello to rachelellynnm.com. I’ve come a long way in the years I’ve had this website. I’m also writing to you from my shiny new MacBook Air — this is a nod in the direction of Jeff. Thanks, Jeff. 🙂
  • You may begin seeing affiliate links in the next few posts so I can keep this domain open and start saving a bit for college. Just be aware! I do receive a commission for some links, but that’s only if you choose to make purchases based on my recommendations. You are never obligated to make any purchases, and I would never put up an affiliate link if it wasn’t something I didn’t truly like or want on my site.
  • Also, goodbye WordPress ads and hellloooo WordAds! Yep, I took the plunge. I’m a big kid blogger now.
  • And two more housekeeping things before we get to the post: 1. I will now be uploading twice a week – Wednesday and Saturday. Yay! And 2. I am working on an option for a subscription to support the blog. It would involve motivational Mondays, personalized poems, and sneak peeks of my current writing (with each one layering, depending on which subscription you have). This is very exciting for me, and I hope you are excited to go on this journey with me.

Alright, without further ado: 18 things I learned at 18.

  1. Your happiness depends on you. There are so many people around you who love and support you, but if you rely on them to create your happiness, that joy will be cut short. Depending on another person may feel good in the moment, but it is not sustainable.
  2. You don’t have to be friends with everyone. Seriously. Not everyone is your friend. It’s not mean, it’s just the truth! Do you want that much commitment, anyway? No, probably not. Relationships take energy and effort, so commit to the ones that matter and leave the rest alone.
  3. Get organized. When you need to find that important paper or photo or password or book or item of clothing, you’ll thank me.
  4. Hold onto the important stuff. I didn’t want to mention the virus in this post, but I have to because it’s had such a tremendous effect on our world. Everything you know could disappear in an instant, so hang on to it while you can.
  5. Forgive, forgive, and then forget. People do deserve second and third and fourth chances. People do change, and they do make mistakes, and you would want someone to do the same for you. However: if someone hurts you over and over with no remorse or realization, do not waste time. Let them go.
  6. You’re never going to be ready. That thing you just thought about? Yeah, you’re not prepared for it. But it’s going to happen, and you’re going to have to do it, or you will never ever succeed.
  7. It’s not all about you. Yeah, yeah. Life might be crappy for a bit. But everyone has their own shit, and yours isn’t more pitiful than anyone else’s.
  8. Your environment matters. Your home. Your car. Your office. Make it comfortable. Make the places you live livable.
  9. Music makes everything different. Feeling like crap? There’s a playlist that can turn it around. Music is medicine, love.
  10. Success isn’t money. Enough is all you need.
  11. You don’t have to be productive 24/7. Society has major expectations for how much work you should be doing and how much you should be achieving, but you don’t have to appease society. Take breaks.
  12. But you do have to keep working at things you love. No one, and I mean no one is going to do the passion work for you. Writing novels has taught me this. Put in the time before you don’t have any time.
  13. Inspiration and motivation won’t keep you going. You have to have the habits, too. Brendon Burchard’s book saved me on this one.
  14. You can change right now. Sure, you can wait until New Year’s Day or your next birthday or your next promotion or when you move to L.A. to change up your life. Or you could start now, be happier now, and get inspired now.
  15. But you don’t have to change. Again, society really likes to tell us that we need the next big thing! We need to achieve x, y, z! But NO! You don’t.
  16. Stop holding back what you have to say. What is in your mind matters. Speak your truth.
  17. Drink more water. Seriously. This water bottle helps you stay on track.
  18. Breathe. The world waits for you, dear. Don’t speed up.

-ellynn ❤

some things happen for a reason.


ripple effects.

you decide to go get coffee and sit for awhile at a coffee shop you’ve never been to. you’re nervous to go, but you do it, and you find yourself pleasantly surprised by a friend you haven’t seen in a long time.

you go online to find a book you really want to read and come across a better one that’s cheaper and it’s by an author you’re going to meet in three months.

you speak french and love political journalistic writing and go to a university reception to do those things. you meet a student whose three majors are french, journalism, and politics.

i’m not saying life is perfect, and i’m not saying everything is meant to work out in your favor. i’m saying we, on this beautiful planet, are all interconnected. there’s not necessarily a reason for you to step in the mud, but there might be if the person to help you get your foot unstuck is the love of your life.

we may not have destinies or fates or grand plans, but we definitely find ourselves in situations that simply could not have happened had we not made a decision that led to that point. what things have happened to you that you felt were meant to happen? how would your life be different if they hadn’t happened?

so many pieces of the past make up the lives we have now. the language, the upbringing, the culture, the education, the access to knowledge… life is insanely cumulative. i believe that’s why some people don’t think they can change their lives.

they may be taught, from a young age, that they always fail at everything. the more they’re told so, the more they believe it. then, when they go to do something world-alteringly important, they may chicken out because their fear of failure has been encouraged from a young age. it’s just like water erosion. just a few drops, yes? but enough time passes, and rock disappears forever.

that’s why, too, we think life sucks. a family member passes, and we ask, “why does _____ matter if this happened?” insert god, living, love, passion, growth, trying… whatever the matter seems to be. it’s not the fault of god, life, love, passion, growth, effort, or any other scapegoat you might come up with. because life is cumulative. and if you’re going to tell you that god made all this happen to you, then you’re telling me that this isn’t your life. you’re telling me you’ve made no decisions, chosen no paths, and done absolutely nothing.

we aren’t passive creatures. we have emotions, convictions, desires, fears… we do not go gently into that good night. i’m not saying that your decisions killed your grandparent, but i’m saying the world happens and is going to continue to happen for as long as it does. we don’t even know how long that is.

so because the world is going to continue to happen for an undetermined amount of time, i’m offering up this solution: live. live every day, and never stop living until you’re dead. and then fertilize the earth with your corpse and let the next people live. it’s kinda crappy, that it works this way, but it does, so live a life of living life.

nobody and nothing made this awful thing happen to you, the thing you’re thinking about. it’s not your fault, it’s not god’s, it’s not the person you want to point fingers at… it’s the fact that life goes on. you’ve only got a little bit left, though, so move on from what’s hurting you and let yourself live the rest in peace.

let yourself have peace. ❤

-ellynn

my reading list.


Let’s keep the intro short for this one. My 2020 reading list!

  1. Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight: Honestly, I thought this was a great one to kick off the new year.
  2. The Dark Half by Stephen King: A little horror recommendation by a family member. I watch a lot of horror movies, but I haven’t read any books yet!
  3. People You May Know by Topher Kearby: One of my favorite writers.
  4. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs: I started this series last summer, but for some reason, I didn’t continue…
  5. Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs: The next book in that series. I know there are two more after this, but I’m going to cut it to the second and third.
  6. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green: The only John Green book I haven’t read yet.
  7. Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen: A gift from a family member! I’m super excited.
  8. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Fitzgerald just speaks for himself, doesn’t he?
  9. The Collective by Don Lee: Racism is very much still an issue, and it’s important to read books where the characters don’t look like us and experience different things from us.
  10. The Deepest Roots by Miranda Asebedo: This one was a signed copy that was sent to me!
  11. Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli: I’ve been meaning to get around to it ever since Simon vs. The Homosapien Agenda.
  12. Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout: Been seeing this one all over my Instagram feed.
  13. The Day is Ready for You by Alison Malee: It’s so important, as a poet, to keep reading other poetry and supporting other authors like myself!
  14. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: I love Adichie’s writings, and she is just so freaking cool. Also, she wears the most wicked Nigerian fashion. So much love for this woman.
  15. You Are A Bad*** by Jen Sincero: What is it with these profanity-titled self-help books? I want to understand the hype.
  16. The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey: I’ll be honest, the title just sounds cool.
  17. Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman: A friend of mine was really into this one.
  18. Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg: Always good to read some queer fiction.
  19. My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni: I was made aware of this one through a book talk. Let’s give it a shot!
  20. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt: Again, another one where the title is cool. Maybe afterward, I’ll watch the movie, but probably not.
  21. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: I’m not one for historical books, but I simply can’t not read this one, not with all the raving reviews.
  22. Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll: Alice in Wonderland is MY FAVORITE FANTASY WORLD. WHY HAVE I NOT READ THIS YET? AGH!
  23. The Boys Who Woke Up Early by A.D. Hopkins: This is a very old and powerful story that I believe needs to be in my mind.
  24. Catcher by Kalyn Nicholson: My favorite YouTuber! I cannot wait to meet the characters and see what it’s all about.
  25. The College Vegan Cookbook: 145 Affordable, Healthy & Delicious Plant-Based Recipes by Heather Nichols: This one’s obvious, but I’m going vegan in college, so I need some ideas.
  26. Whatever my English class reading is! Last semester, it was The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.

There you have it! At this rate, I’ll need to read one book every two weeks. For updates, be sure to keep up with my Instagram!

-ellynn

focus.


Finding your focus in a busy world like this one can be difficult. How do we manage it? The stress, the activities, the relationships, the daily tasks. It looks easy on the outside, but that’s only if you’re watching someone else do it seamlessly. When you’re the one trying to concentrate, it’s easy to lose attention. So let’s talk strategy.

I’d say sleep is one of the most important things for me if I need to focus on something. If I don’t get enough sleep, my mind is foggy, I’m distracted, and I would rather be doing anything than what I’m actually doing. That’s a problem! Now, this is just my experience, again, but there are so many studies that would point to the same solution. Get a decent amount of rest so you can do your best.

Change the level of noise! For some people, this may be silence. That’s awesome! I would suggest you find yourself a sturdy pair of earplugs and get cracking on those goals. For others, it might be white noise or nature sounds. Perhaps get a white noise machine, or for a more affordable option, find an alternative online. When I sleep, I use rainymood.com. Of course, I wouldn’t use that to focus because it helps me sleep… that’s a blog post for another time.

And the final few probably need music to focus. I’m in this group! I tend to turn on lo-fi hip-hop beats to keep me in the zone. Others like k-pop, classical, EDM… I would recommend, unless you find that it helps, to stay away from music in your language. It simply turns the brain on to listen in to what’s playing, and that’s not what we need.

Adjust your environment! Personally, I have a dedicated desk to anything focus-oriented. I’m there if I’m writing, studying, editing, making art… and so on. It’s well-lit, comfy, and I’m surrounded by positive reinforcement (decorations and things that make me happy). I also make sure I’m surrounded by everything I need so I’m not tempted to get up and get distracted more.

Sometimes, the reason we can’t focus is that the designated environment we have is just cramping our style. If I have writer’s block, I’ll move my writing to a café or library. And when I’m feeling brave, I’ll switch from a computer to a pen. It could even be changing from your couch to the chair next to it. The body likes routine, but our minds like new experiences. It’s up to you to decide what you need, but a shift (even going outside) can help you focus.

Do something else. Seriously. If you can’t concentrate on a task, and you’ve tried everything, and it just won’t work, do another activity. Even if that essay is due tomorrow or the meeting is in three hours or you promised your audience it would be out by a certain time. Stop. Put everything down and do something else. When you come back to it, I can almost guarantee it’ll be easier.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post. I want to remind you that my book, the garden boy, will be released for pre-order on valentine’s day (February 14th). Follow this page to keep updated and be the first to order it!

-ellynn

ways to learn a language.


So, as I might have mentioned before, I am now near-fluent in French (well, as fluent as you can get when English is your first language). Students in my class, as well as friends and family, always ask how I’ve picked it up so quickly. I wanted to answer that here, as I figured some people might be committing to learning a language for the new year.

First and foremost, I want to make it clear that you cannot just absorb knowledge through osmosis. I do spend time studying and working at this; it does take a great deal of work. There are just a few simple things that can make your learning process more fun, and you can get much more out of it with the tips I’m about to show you.

Also, I am not an education specialist of any kind. This is just wisdom from a seventeen-year-old. But I’m telling you, these things work! Alright, now down to the nitty-gritty.

  1. Watch movies in your target language with your native language in subtitles: This is something I’d consider to be a baby step. Maybe even before you start seeking resources for learning the language itself. Sit with a notebook in your lap, and if you hear words you understand, write them down. (Double-check in Google Translate later.) SIDE NOTE: Here’s my thing about Google Translate: you can totally use it if you’re looking for a single verb or noun or something short and sweet. However, make no mistake! Translate is awful when it comes to translating direct sentences, no matter if it’s from English to French or vice-versa. Use it at your own risk. (The risk is insulting someone when you meant to ask where the nearest restroom is.)
  2. Try a free learning app such as DuoLingo, Babbel, or Memrise. When I was first starting out, I thought DuoLingo was honestly the best learning app ever. I was definitely wrong, but it did help me as a beginner. The thing is, DuoLingo teaches you nouns and sentence placement, but it does nothing for grammar or conjugation. It’s great to build up your basics. Babbel has more of a foundation in conversational language, but it only has half the languages DuoLingo has (14+ versus 30+). Memrise is a gamified version of Quizlet but for languages. I would say it’s a fun one, but it’s difficult for beginning speakers. The fact that you can have them with you everywhere makes these apps so important. On the train, in line for coffee, walking your dog, waiting to pick up your kids, letting the bath warm up… Apps are great, and you should take advantage.
  3. Watch YouTubers who speak your language. I love this one! If you’re trying French, Chloé Kian has a beautiful French channel, and she often makes parallel videos in English. It’s hard to beat this experience, as you can slow down YouTube videos, sometimes use subtitles, read the descriptions and comments, and you can watch them as they speak. YouTube videos are usually about a specific subject, which is why they’re great for building new, specific vocabulary and expanding your listening skills. Additionally, watching the person’s lips move and listening to them speaking is usually more effective than just listening. The only downside is, it’s hard to find the right YouTuber because YouTube tends to only recommend channels in your native language. If I’m looking for French creators, I’m going to search in French.
  4. Music! Honestly, this is my favorite one. I’m an auditory learner, which means I learn best through listening. I have a giant playlist of French music, and some of it, I found through an exchange student at my school. She’s super cool, and I learned that a lot of teens in France listen to rap music (which is how, accidentally, I learned a lot of curse words very quickly). Music just makes you want to sing along, and you can look up the lyrics and follow! Rather than pasting the lyrics into translate, there’s probably a website that has translated your song into another language. If not, then I guess Translate is acceptable. This is a good time to mention that a good alternative to Translate is WordReference. It interprets whole sentences, phrases, verbs, slang, and pretty much everything. It’s run by actual people!
  5. Keep a journal. If you’re sitting there and wondering what a certain word is in your target language, search it up, and then write it down. We learn so much better when we write things down. Take it with you when you’re using an app, listening to music, watching a movie or YouTube video… It can come in handy while traveling, too. Look back at all the words you learn after a handful of weeks and see that the more you seek knowledge, the more you’ll find it.
  6. Take a class. Obviously, one of the best ways to learn a language is by learning it from someone with a degree in your target language. That is the best way to go about it (unless you’re that guy who can learn anything in 30 days), and I highly recommend you at least consider the idea. If taking a class is not for you, there are several books that help you learn. The one I use for French is here. It’s a comprehensive workbook that you can write in. I would highly recommend it!

So, there you have it! Six ways to speak a different language. Let me know if you have any questions, as I’d be happy to answer them. Happy learning! 🙂

-ellynn

what 2019 taught me about time.


As my first post of the year, it’s a raw one. It’s honest. I hope you enjoy it and take it to heart, and I’m excited to show you what I have planned for 2020.

This has been a year of lessons, and I’ve decided that the most important one I learned was how little time we truly have with the ones we love.

Before I elaborate, I did not lose a loved one — that’s not what I mean, although you could see it in that sense. Time slips through our fingers, and there are periods in our lives where we have good relationships with people, and sometimes, those relationships have to be taken from us. The universe does that sometimes. I know, it sucks, right?

I’ve been writing a lot about college, and one of the super hard things about leaving my hometown is saying “see you later,” when I know I probably won’t see a lot of those people ever again. I’m being forced to choose what relationships I truly value. If I decide that I want to keep ties with every single friend from my life right now, I will never keep up. I can’t remember them all. It’s hard. How do you decide who to let go of?

That’s one of my issues with life. Priorities. They’re something I’ve never been able to set, and I think that’s something I’m slowly learning how to do. I realized what my burnout point is as far as commitments to activities/clubs. I realized what I need in my social life. What’s hard is, after realizing what those limits are, I actually have to pare down now. I have to sit and ask myself, “what really matters? who do I really care about? what’s going to be important to me five years from now?”

It’s a process, but by choosing my path of study, I’ve already narrowed down my career priorities. Writing and foreign language. Those choices are leading me to become more active with my blog and start working on relations on social media related to writing. I also just took a test to obtain the Seal of Biliteracy, which sounds super fancy but really isn’t. Underneath that layer is the desire to travel, to interact with other writers, to understand other worlds. So that’s settled: I know what I want to do with the rest of my life. Right? Let me bookmark this post and revisit that in a few years.

But with relationships, it’s much more difficult. Yoga can handle it if I decide to make it less important than my other interests. Fashion can deal. But a companion actually has feelings. I can’t dismiss a person as easily. Not to say that prioritizing people you love has to mean dismissing other people. It’s not that at all. We need to choose first and foremost the people who deserve our attention, letters, facebook messages, emails, texts, coffee dates. We only have so much time, so we have to choose between visiting a childhood best friend or some girl with whom you cracked jokes in Chemistry class two years ago. Who matters? Who affects your daily life, emotional well-being, and your health?

Deciding what (and who) you want to stay isn’t selfish. On the contrary: it’s a kindness to the people around you. There’s no sense in spending time with people who you don’t feel are terribly important to your own happiness. And in my opinion, if someone isn’t dying to spend time with me or show that I’m valuable to them often, then I would rather they simply move on. Our time on Earth is way too short to have half-assed relationships. If you care, let them in. If you don’t, be honest and let them go.

One more thing, though. Don’t just randomly delete people and things from your life. It’s not like taking out the trash. This reflection, this change? It’s going to take some time, and it’s going to have repercussions. You can’t suddenly tell a friend you don’t want to speak to them ever again. You have to handle it gracefully, honestly. And even if you think you’re ready to let go, be prepared to feel a loss. Even if you’re the one cutting ties, you may still feel a pull at something that used to be there. It won’t be easy, but shedding what no longer serves you, like a snake in its old skin, is better for everyone and everything.

Much love, and happy new year.

-ellynn ❤