Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Dilemma: Focus, Focus, Focus

I started this blog after reading a lot about how a freelance writer's blog should be focused, have a niche. But I'm not sure about The Happy Millennial. I know Gretchen Ruben blogs about the topic of happiness and I don't think I can do it better than she.

After sitting down yesterday to write a list of topics I would like to write about and markets that publish articles on those topics, I decided that I'd really like to focus on entrepreneurship, small business and careers. I would like to do this in a combination of personal experience posts and reported posts.

But if I shift the focus of this blog to how to get ahead or build a business as a millennial, then should I change the name? I still believe that working towards and achieving your goals is a great way to get happy, so The Happy Millennial isn't far off. But should I add another adjective? Try The Happy, Enterprising Millennial" or The Happy, Ambitious Millennial?

I don't know. What do you think?

Friday, July 20, 2012

In Memory of Jessica Ghawi Redfield and Other Aurora Shooting Victims

My heart breaks for Jessica Ghawi, her family
and other the other victims of the Aurora
shooting. (Photo: Jordan Ghawi's blog.)
Look at this beautiful young girl, drink in hand. Toasting to life, I bet she was.

This is Jessica Ghawi Redfield.

She graduated from University of Texas at San Antonio and had just gotten a job in Denver, primarily covering hockey, according to ABC's report.

She was going to be a godmother on August 6th. And she sucked in her belly when she passed through TSA's scanners. And requested that "If you have a son as a result of a hook up after reading the 50 Shades of Grey books, please name him Greyson just for the irony."

And now she's gone, killed in the early morning massacre at a movie theater in Colorado.

This comes shortly after her narrow escape of a Toronto shooting in a crowded mall food court, which she wrote about on Twitter, according to ABC.

Ghawi attended a midnight viewing at the theater with her friend Brent Lowak, who may be the guy she referred to when she tweeted, "Never thought I'd have to coerce a guy into seeing the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises with me."

Ghawi's brother, Jordan, has blogged objectively about the horrible situation. He released this statement via his blog:

Jessica and Brent were seated in the middle portion of the theatre when a device was thrown into the theatre that produced a “hissing” sound. The theatre than began to fill with smoke which is when patrons began to move from their seats. At that time, shots were fired. Brent and Jessica immediately dropped to a prone position for cover. Jessica advised multiple times for someone to call 911, which Brent immediately attempted to do. Brent then heard Jessica scream and noticed that she was struck by a round in the leg. Brent, began holding pressure on the wound and attempted to calm Jessica. It was at this time that Brent took a round to his lower extremities. While still administering first aid, Brent noticed that Jessica was no longer screaming. He advised that he looked over to Jessica and saw what appeared to be an entry wound to her head. He further stated that Jessica presented with agonal respirations. Brent then took what may have been his only chance to escape the line of fire and exited the structure where he then contacted my mother. Brent’s actions are nothing but heroic. The veracity of any other statements not issued by myself or Peter Burns should be questioned.

Before the movie, she tweeted to her friend, Jesse Spector, "MOVIE DOESN'T START FOR 20 MINUTES." Minutes before that she'd called him a loser for not seeing the film at midnight.

Some five hours ago, Spector tweeted about the tragedy for the first time. "Words are useless. Guns more so. If you ever had any interaction with @JessicaRedfield, you know the world is much worse off without her," he wrote. About three hours ago, he wrote a piece about the young woman, his friend, for AOL's Sporting News.

I'm completely horrified by her death -- and the death of at least a dozen others -- in this senseless, abrupt way. I know others are freaked out, too. My friend Cara says she's been curled up in a ball all day. And it doesn't help that inconsiderate assholes are writing things like "Where is your God now?" and "When The Dark Knight Rises begins, then you may die."

It's a scary world we live in. Today I'm not feeling so happy. More knotted-stomach, totally sick feeling.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Songs to Put You in a Good Mood

When I feel down, there are a few things I like to do. Sometimes I watch clips from my favorite comedic movies. But mostly, I like to listen to good, upbeat music.

Gwen Stefani singing.
(Photo: No Doubt Facebook Page)

Here are some of my favorites:

No Doubt: "Settle Down"

Okay, so this just made it onto my Happy Song list. This new single from No Doubt's next album, Push and Shove (to be released September 25, 2012) has an infectious reggae beat and the lyrics, sung by Gwen Stefani, are all about being unbreakable, unstoppable. "I'm fine (and nothing's gonna knock this girl down) / I'm feeling positive for real, I'm all good," she sings. Seriously, just listen to the words and try not to feel like you can do anything, just because you've got Stefani's strength behind you.

Gavin DeGraw: "In Love With a Girl"

When I was single, love songs used to get me down. But now that I'm in love, this is one of those songs that just make me grin. The song is the lead single from DeGraw's self-titled second studio album. Though Katie Hasty of Billboard lamented the presence of auto-tuning but ultimately called it "a rocking home run in the same ballpark as 'I Don't Want to Be.'" Auto-tuned or not, my heart feels a little lighter when DeGraw sings, "Don't let nobody put you down, who you're with / Take the pain of protecting your name, from the crutch to the cane to the high wire."

Hanson: "Give a Little"

So, a story for you. We'd been living here in our apartment for a couple of months when we got upstairs neighbors. They loved to blare their hip-hop and R&B a loud as possible. The repetitive beats and simplistic, chauvinistic lyrics drove me nuts.

One day, I'd had a particularly rough time at work and was in no mood for their music. So I pulled up Spotify on my computer and blared Hanson as loud as possible. The computer speakers still weren't loud enough to compete with their music system so I sang along to this song (off their eighth studio album, Shout It Out) and dancing wildly across the apartment. "Give a little heart and soul / Let your body lose control," I sang along with Taylor Hanson. Eventually they turned their music off. But the biggest reward of that day was learning how much better singing at the top of your lungs and dancing like a fool can make you feel.

Natasha Bedingfield: "Pocketful of Sunshine"

This song just sounds like sunshine feels. There's no other way to describe this upbeat pop song. Natasha Bedingfield, a singer/songwriter from Britain, released this song as the second single off of her North American album by the same name. "Do what you want, / but you're never gonna break me, / sticks and stones are never gonna shake me," Bedingfield sings. I always feel better listening to this song.

What songs do you listen to to get happy?

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Happy Millennial on Finding Body Peace

During her freshman year of high school, The Happy Millennial went on a strict, torturous diet. Now, she loves her body, wobby bits and all. (This piece is reprinted from the third issue of M.L.T.S. Magazine.)
(Photo by Michele Elaine Hannon)

I thought I was up for the challenge. Certainly the pay-off would be great. Pictures of Gwen Stefani’s rippled abdomen and Sarah Jessica Parker’s toned arms danced in my head. This is funny because the challenge I thought I was prepared to face was a diet—not a fitness regimen. In fact, the woman who had created the diet did nothing to encourage exercising. Perhaps this is because building muscle would skew the results of the weekly weigh-ins that cost $3.

This was six years ago and three of us – Mom, my sister Lily and I – signed on with big dreams of smaller frames. It certainly sounded promising: this was a diet designed by a maternity nurse to help new mothers shed pounds, and quickly. After several of her patients lost weight on her diet, she decided to expand her clientele, renting a doctor’s office, which was across the street from the hospital where she worked, to host those $3-a-pop weigh-ins.

She held orientations for new patients in that same office. At the orientation, she gave us a folder with information about our new restrictions and pages designed to keep track of our daily eating habits. First, we were allowed to binge for a week—eat anything and everything! she said.

After that, we were on a strict cleanse and had to drink more than 64 ounces of water a day. I probably had to pee every 15 minutes! Then, after roughly two weeks, we were able to reintroduce carbohydrates to our diets. But only three days a week. Since we did weigh-ins every Saturday, we were allowed one baked potato, servings of French fries or a piece of bread a day on Saturdays (only after the weigh-in), Sundays and Mondays. The rest of the week, it was fish, turkey burgers without buns and lots and lots of vegetables.

There were other restrictions. Fruits and fruit juices were limited due to the natural sugar. We could only have a teaspoon of salt a day. In addition to salt, we could use only a specific amount of one condiment (any salad dressing, mayonnaise, mustard or ketchup). Oh, and we were allowed 12 ounces of any diet soda a day and no more.

Going in, I knew almost all of these rules and I believed I could handle it. There was one factor for which I could not account. This was the irregularity of my bowels. Once we started, a week or more might pass before I pooped. This posed a problem: a body full of waste weighs more than a flushed system. Our guru suggested we try things like cabbage and cranberry juice (although only as much as we were allowed of any fruit juice) if we wanted to see greater results on the scale. If that didn’t work, we should try special teas that made you go number two. Soon, we integrated the tea into our Friday night routine so that around midnight before our early morning weigh-in, we’d lose an extra half-pound or so.

We attended our 7 a.m. weigh-ins every Saturday for six months before we stopped. It was partly a money issue and partly a result of exhaustion. I think each one of us was tired of hitting plateaus. For weeks at a time, we lost nothing and sometimes gained a pound or two, even though we continued following the rules.

After six months of tuna in Glad containers and salads drier than the desert, I lost 32 pounds, going from a size 16 to a size 8.

One of the biggest motivations for our big weight loss was the hope that shopping would be easier with a thinner body. When I was a size 16, I usually ended up crying in the dressing room because all I could ever find were clothes too small for me. Then I got down to a size 8. I shook my tinier butt into short denim miniskirts and wore a small in some things for the first time. But ultimately, I found that I ended up crying in the dressing room because I couldn’t find any size 8’s.

And we tried to keep following our strict diet, but I could only eat so many more turkey burgers. Eventually, I stopped wrestling my natural urge to eat. I love a good steak, a baked potato with sour cream and a slice (or two) of cake. Bit by bit, I broke the rules. One day it was two servings of a condiment and the next it was a can of my beloved (non-diet) root beer. Now, I eat what I want when I want.

My mother stayed on the diet, adding an exercise routine (Walk Away the Pounds on DVD), and for a long time after we stopped going to weigh-ins, she continued writing in her food diary.

I think the reason why I didn’t stick with it was this: I didn’t really feel any better about myself even when I thinned down. The unspoken goal was to feel better about myself, to love what I saw in the mirror. Honestly? I didn’t feel any different about myself when I was thirty pounds lighter. I still felt like an unattractive chubby girl whose biggest crush – the Rita’s Water Ice Boy – would never know she were alive.

We returned once to the doctor’s office where the nurse ran her business while I was in my junior year of high school, two years after we started our diet. I had put on the weight I lost on her program and when she saw me, the nurse exclaimed that I should start anew so I could be skinny again by the time I’d need a junior prom dress. I made nice and returned her exclamations. “I should! That would be great!” Safely back in the car, I knew it would never come to pass. At that point, I just couldn’t hate my body enough to put myself through that torture.

Since then, I’ve struggled with my weight as many women do. One of my greatest concerns for years afterwards was that I would never find love at my size. It was no help that whenever I was depressed about my body or anything else, my mother would say things like, “Exercise; the endorphins make you happy,” and “You’re so much prettier when you’re thinner.” I’ll tell you; it’s a real kick in the imaginary balls when you find out your mother looks at you, thinking how much prettier you’d look if you lost five pounds.

But recently, a friend IMed me on Facebook and mentioned she planned to consult a doctor on a diet and exercise plan. This friend is a size 14/16 like me, and she’s beautiful. I asked her why she wanted to see a doctor and she said she was freaked out because she’d gained five pounds. Five pounds!

I told her about my experience dieting – and told her to stop weighing herself because I maintain that scales are evil. She said she couldn’t manage her weight without a scale. Because I’d never tell anyone to do the crazy diet I did, I suggested maybe she should attend Overeater’s Anonymous to deal with the reasons why she eats as much as she does. While she insisted that she would see a doctor, I told her I was available to talk anytime she needed to and I silently rejoiced that I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I am comfortable with my body as is. I must say, I quite like my wobbly bits.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Ignore the Small Minded Haters

Pardon me, but I'm just now getting into Dawson's Creek. When it first aired in 1998, I was six years old -- much too young to understand the complicated relationships of the 15-year-old characters it portrayed. But now at 21, I'm totally seeing why it was so popular. The other day, I watched with gratification as Joey got her revenge on the gossipy contestants by answering her final interview question with this:
"I'd like to tell today's youth that no matter where life takes you big cities, small towns, you'll inevitably come across small minds. People who think they're better then you because of minor things like being pretty or popular automatically make you a worthwhile human being. None of these things matter! If you have a strength of character, integrity, a sense of pride, please don't sell them. Don't ever sell out-so when you meet someone for the first time, please don't judge them by their station in life…who knows? They just may end up being your best friend!" 
Small minds are certainly something you'll come across throughout your lifetime. And it's hard at first to let their words roll right off your back. Especially if you're related to those small minds.

I know people judge me. They worry because I haven't studied abroad and because I've been with the same guy for more than two years. These people think they're better than me because they're older or have more money than me. These people can't possibly imagine how happy I am "given my circumstances."

And so I've learned to ignore the naysayers. They're usually the people who get a look of consternation whenever I talk about myself. You can't care what other people think of you. It's enough to break you down.

So I've decided in the last year or two: All that matters is that I'm happy.

As Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Do what you feel in your heart to be right for you'll be criticized anyway. You'll be damned if you do, and damned if you don't."

I'd rather be damned happy because I did what I wanted than damned unhappy because I didn't.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What Happiness Is

"Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product."

These are the words of Eleanor Roosevelt.

Mostly, I think she had things figured out. She made a lot of sense out of life. But I'm not sure how I feel about this particular belief of hers.

Part of me agrees. This part reasons that I'm happy because I'm pursuing my goals and choosing to feel loved every day.

The other part argues that one chooses to be happy. There's a lot of stuff in this world that could bring you down -- naysayers who try to make you hate yourself, obstacles that seem insurmountable, the nightly news with its tales of horrific crime -- and you have to make the conscious decision not to let those things get to you.

I think happiness is both the goal and the by-product. I think happiness is the best defense against the small things in life. I think happiness is the best decision I've ever made.

What does happiness mean to you?

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Happy Millennial Starts a Blog

The Happy Millennial, Rosella Eleanor LaFevre
(Photo: Michele Elaine Hannon)
      During a recent lunch hour, I withdrew the last $5 from my checking account. My savings account had only the required minimum balance of $5. I was at work and needed to eat something, lest I starve. And even though I asked for ranch dressing to accompany my chicken finger platter, I was given honey mustard. I didn’t complain and ate it eagerly.
      When I got home, all there was left to eat was half a ham slice and enough asparagus for me and Chris, my boyfriend. I wasn’t sure where we’d get money for more food since our rent was due the next day and a check for an assignment from a local magazine that I completed six months ago had yet to arrive. But was I miserable? No.
      Let me tell you why: Because my boyfriend was home after 12 hours of work, and I had gotten six more writing assignments in the last week. Life doesn’t get much better for me. And I write that with a smile.
This is how my first piece for began. It was given the title, "A Millennial Finds the Secret to Happiness." The readers of the website tend to be older adults who start sentences with the phrase Back in my day. They like to offer advice to us or say how sorry they are that things suck for us 20-somethings. While I immensely enjoy the site and think its writers are very talented, I cringe at the notion that my existence is bleak due to my youth or economic circumstance. 
It gave me great pleasure to tell people that I'm happy, despite all the things that should be bringing me down.
I'm happy because I choose to be. I'm happy because I'm working my butt off and getting increasingly closer to achieving all my dreams. I'm happy because I'm truly loved. I'm happy because it's better than not being happy.
This blog is for other millennials, those who have found happiness and those who want to find it, and a little for those of our elders who just can't seem to believe that we can be happy.
More smiles to come...