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Good evening Reader, 

My name is Ravensunset (well, it is for blogging purposes at least). I love to walk, listen to audiobooks, and travel. I always work to improve myself, even when I find that I am ruining myself in the process. I think it’s important to try hard and to always remember one’s goals.

I am writing this all in the pursuit of one of my goals, namely, that of “self-actualization,” despite at times it feeling like a pursuit toward self-destruction. 

Sometimes I have trouble keeping a balance in my life. I have a distinct tendency to complete a task with an “all or nothing” mentality. I believe it is indeed this mentality that is the source of about 49% of my woes (the other 51% stemming from an odd mix of overanalysis, hyper-sensitivity, unrealistic expectations, and pop culture).

I hope that by writing here occasionally, I can be better at understanding myself and at helping myself (rather than self-destructing). Maybe through these musings I can bring you a shred of amusement, joy, or distraction, so in this hope, I am opening up my journey to anyone with internet access.

So, dear reader, enjoy (or don’t… free country)!

Love,

Raven

…Until Tomorrow

Sunrise from an airplane, all filters applied to this photo

Dear Reader,

When faced with a large task do you have a tendency to get everything done now or wait until the last minute? Although your tendency towards action or procrastination may depend on the specific situation, most of us have a natural inclination towards one or the other. I prefer to start things early, as approaching deadlines can be a source of stress for me. My friend, however, usually tends to hold off on projects. In our master’s program, this meant that I would start projects early and finish before the deadline. My friend, however, would start things much later and finish them at the deadline. On a whole, the quality of work was comparable. The biggest difference was that I would spend more time working and stressing about a project while she would endure more suffering but for a shorter period.

I am currently working on graduate school applications (yes, I would like to go back to grad school even though I already have a master’s) and the process is aging me. I have spent too many Saturdays in the confines of a cold office (they turn of the heat on the weekends). Although parts of the application are somewhat enjoyable, mostly this has been a process of tireless writing, deleting, and rewriting. Boy, do I wish I would have started this process earlier!

One problem that I have found with procrastination is that it is harder to get feedback on your work. Although I started on the grad school application process relatively early, I did not start asking for letters of recommendation or feedback until a bit later. Communicating with other people naturally means delays. So, although I am working on a tight deadline, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I will see immediate results from others.

Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA, fall 2019

Through the grad school application process, I have found that it is not the amount of time that one spends on applications, rather it is the quality of the work being put into them. At the beginning of the process, I started writing my applications before fully researching the application “dos and don’ts.” My eagerness to start for the sake of starting most certainly backfired. My motivation letter and research proposal suffered in particular because instead of figuring out what the admissions committee was looking for, I simply wrote what I thought would be good answers. When I finally reached out for input from friends and colleagues, 100% were in agreement that I was not putting myself in the strongest position application-wise.

Whether you choose to start projects early or late, it is always advisable to start with a clear plan/ purpose in mind before beginning anything. Preparation is an overlooked yet totally necessary part of the process. Sometimes for me this can be hard, because it means delaying the project (the tangible deliverable) and setting aside time for planning (the intangible undeliverable). I write this post today for you, Dear Reader, because writing, re-writing, and stressing is not the best use of your time! If I could leave you with a few words of unsolicited wisdom today, they would be the following: 1. always make sure to have a clear purpose before beginning work–this will save you so much time and headache!, 2. if you need help, ask for it 🙂 and, 3. you are a smart person and you should never let the process get the better of you– you are stronger than you think!

Love,

Raven 

P.S. Did you know “procrastinate” comes from Latin and literally means “to put off until tomorrow”? That’s the fact of the day for me!

Will You Stand Out?

Cambridge, MA, fall 2019

Dear Reader,

When was the last time that you had an interview for work or school? I’m applying for graduate schools now and just completed a preliminary interview today. The process of applying to work or a school can be both exciting and incredibly stressful.

When applying for an opportunity, you are essentially committing your potential future down one concrete path. If you are only applying to one place and know that you have a good shot at acceptance, this can be a very exciting experience! However, in life, this high degree of certainty is not usually guaranteed.

I have applied to several schools and have perused university websites to understand the programs and get a feel for student life. The school search and application process has left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I am excited to see the many directions that my future can take. On the other hand, I am starting to feel attached to some of my potential futures and worried that I will get rejected to my “dream schools.”

Waiting for my interview!

The graduate application process can be emotional. All schools ask you what value you can bring to their program and about your plans for your graduate studies. This is a process of introspection. For each of my chosen schools I am compelled to not only learn about the programs, but also see myself in these programs. I am a pretty intense person, Dear Reader. “Seeing myself” in one of these programs is a mild form of emotional attachment. Now, my potential futures at these schools are more personal.

My interview today went well overall. My student interviewer and I had similar interests and we had a decent conversation together. The application/ interview process is almost like a professional flirtation. I always must make sure to play up my interest in the school. Every school is unique and special and I have to make sure to give the school the attention it deserves. The interviewer is unique and special. If the interviewer offers you any personal information, it is important that you receive it with genuine interest. You, the applicant, are also unique and special and it is important that the school you apply to can see that!

At the end of the day, the application process is a sort of skill. Can you convey your background fluently with attention to grammar and audience? Can write about your interests with grace, detail, and nuance? Are you able to provide examples and personal anecdotes to support your claims? You are a very human person, and trying to fit yourself into a few lifeless pages can be challenging. While applications can be difficult, Dear Reader, there is only one you, which makes you uniquely qualified and well positioned to stand out.

Love,

Raven

In the Moment

Reykjavík, Iceland, summer 2019

Dear Reader,

Life is comprised of a million unique little moments. In each moment of our lives, we make a sub-conscious decision – to live in the moment or not. It’s binary. Living in the moment means actively engaging in your senses and experiencing the present. Living in the moment means that you are neither dwelling on the past nor preoccupying yourself with the future. In short, you are either here or you are not. Unfortunately, I think I spend too much time – not.

Not living in the moment can play out in one of two ways, either you are living in the past or in the future. I never really had the tendency to live in the past. To me, what is done is done. I am much more interested in planning for the future. However, for me “planning for the future” is not always productive. Instead, often I find myself planning for the next moment rather than living in the current one. One small example of this is that I sometimes think about what I would like to make for dinner while I am having breakfast.

I think my tendency to preoccupy myself can be best summed up in my feelings towards baths. I do not like to take baths. While many friends say that taking a bath is relaxing and that they would love to have a large and elegant bathtub, I simply do not find pleasure in bathing. When one is taking a bath, the water is warm. However, the longer one sits in the bathtub the cooler the water gets. Of course, one could just add warmer water. However, if one adds warmer water that water will in time also become cooler. Sitting in a bathtub for someone who lives in the moment is a nice, luxurious, and relaxing experience. For me, however, sitting in a bathtub is wondering when I should begin to add warm water, how much, and for how long until I will inevitably have to get out into the cold air and drain the water all down anyway. Although in my head I am just “planning” this sort of mentality is not productive and can keep one from enjoying life to its fullest.

Dancing in the square, Reykjavík, Iceland, summer 2019

If you live in the moment, you can easily loose track of time. So often have I heard people excuse their tardiness with “oh sorry, time just slipped by!” I’m not sure what it is like for time to just “slip by.” Time is always there, I wear a watch, I’m positive about this one. When you are engaged in something, time is not a part of the experience. However, when you are distracted, time becomes a constant reminder that you are unfocused.

Dwelling on the past, living in the present, and preoccupying oneself with the future are all just patterns of behavior. The more we dwell, live, or worry, the more we are inclined to dwell, live, or worry. Life is nothing but a collection of moments. Let’s try to live in more of them.

Love,

Raven

New Old Places

Fenway, Boston, fall 2019

Dear Reader,

Have you ever lived in more than one area of the same city? I have had the pleasure of living in a few different places around Boston. Today, one of my jobs took me to Boston’s Fenway neighborhood (home of the Red Sox ball park). When I lived along Boston’s green line, I often passed through Fenway on my commute.

Today, instead of commuting through The area, Fenway was, in fact, my destination. To get to the location, I walked along a few back streets that had me weaving in and out of the main roads. Although I was aware of where I was going, I didn’t really think about the route. In fact, while walking through the back streets I found myself thinking, “oh, this looks familiar” without really knowing why.

Fenway, Boston, fall 2019

Structurally, everything about the area was how I remembered it. However, my brain did not process everything through a simple ‘see it’ input, ‘remember it’ output mode. Instead, I processed everything through an emotional lens. Beacon Street, which runs straight to downtown Boston, reminded me of my long morning walks through the rain, snow, and cold. St Mary’s Street, which cuts through Beacon Street perpendicularly, reminded me of how I divided my commute in my head into shorter segments to make the distance more bearable. Crossing St. Mary’s Street used to be my indicator that I was very close to home. Seeing the Target in Fenway reminded me of my few trips there in which I meandered but never bought anything, because I was shopping on a tight budget.

My emotional filter is strong when it comes to my surroundings. My time living along the Green Line, although a nice area, was tough as it was a period of uncertainty for me. Returning to this area was like the opening of the mental flood gates.

Everything about the area looked the same, but better. This is because I am in a better place in my life now. It is like holding a snow globe. I once was confined inside my surroundings by an invisible dome, comprising my job, routine, and empty social life. Now I am holding the snow globe. I can simply glance in and behold the scene without having to experience.

Things literally and figuratively look different from a different angle. Today, I inadvertently took a trip down memory lane. We are very human creatures, Dear Reader, it can be oddly fulfilling to allow memories to flood back without having to feel bad or sad about them. Wishing you good times as always.

Love,

Raven

You had to be there

Dear Reader,

Have you ever tried to take a picture of the moon? Well, if you were using just a camera phone, you were probably left disappointed with the outcome. Pictures of the moon and many other moments in life are simply you-had-to-be-there moments.

A you-had-to-be-there moment is often a great moment! Good, bad, or just downright peculiar, a you-had-to-be-there moment is usually something notable. I had an you-had-to-be-there moment today on the subway. I was traveling on the Red Line from Cambridge towards downtown on Boston’s subway system (aka the “T”). There is a section of the T that rises above ground and crosses over the Charles river. The view can be absolutely stunning on this section of the T as it affords the passenger a picturesque view of Boston’s skyline.

Today, I got on the T during rush hour and mostly just kept my head down during the ride. However, I did look up as we crossed over the Charles river and I’m glad that I did. The view was absolutely stunning and I hate to say it, Dear Reader, but you had to be there. It was around sunset (which is unfortunately early this time of year — around 4:30pm!) and the sky was purple and orange.

Sunset on the Charles, somewhere between Boston and Cambridge, MA, fall 2019

On the right, Cambridge looked like a painting. I have seen many beautiful sunsets, but I don’t often see such deep purples, vibrant oranges, and golds mixed together. On the left, Boston was drained of color. Downtown was what was left in the sun’s absence. Anemic and still, Boston paled in comparison to the lights that danced over Cambridge. You know that saying “look on the bright side?” Well, it’s towards Cambridge, fyi.

Many passengers found the scene to be fascinating. I saw that I was not the only one attempting to take an awkward phone photo. Unfortunately, I was on the side of the train opposite of the window, which meant that I was poorly positioned for a photo. Regardless, I tried. Above you will see my puny picture of the pulchritudinous scene. Dear Reader, today I witnessed ethereal beauty from a cramped subway car. I hate to say it… but you just had to be there.

Love,

Raven

That Vampire Movie

Can’t believe I managed to take this photo with no hands

Dear Reader,

Were you ever a fan of the Twilight series? Whether you loved it or you hated it, I’m sure (if you are in the U.S.) you have at least heard of it. Last night my boyfriend surprised me by asking if I wanted to watch the first Twilight movie with him. He has never expressed interest in anything like Twilight before, so I asked him if he was serious. He then asked if Twilight was the movie about vampires. I confirmed and he repeated his request to watch the movie.

My boyfriend was totally oblivious to the Twilight craze that swept through the U.S. about a decade ago. He did not know about the sparkly-skinned Cullen clan, the team Edward vs. team Jacob debate, or even about the critiques on Kristin Stewart’s acting. I, on the other hand, was just starting high school when the first Twilight movie came out and am all too familiar with the books, movies, and popular culture surrounding the series. It was an interesting experience for me to watch the Twilight movie again.

I am not really the type to re-watch movies. There are only a small handful of movies that I have viewed more than once in my adult life. Watching the Twilight movie was strange, because I feel like I was watching both with my teenage and adult minds. Some scenes seemed new to me like I was watching them for the first time. However, whenever there was a scene that I remembered, it was almost as if my brain was processing it in the same way that I did as a teenager. I was very emotional as a teenager in a way I no longer am. When I was younger, there were very many books that evoked strong feelings within me. If something sad happened, I would feel hopeless. If something amazing happened, I would feel light. If a beloved book or series came to an end, well, I would need a few days to recover. While I was watching Twilight, I felt physical emotional reactions, as if the moving pictures excited my now-dormant teenage brain.

I must say that it was very nice to watch this movie with my boyfriend. His ignorance for Twilight made me feel like I was watching the movie with a child. He came in without any biases and genuinely wanted to understand the plot – it was sweet! Watching this film again has inspired me to dig up other movies from my teenage years. It can be fun to watch an old film with new eyes! I might have to wait to start my search though, because at the conclusion of our little Twilight viewing, my boyfriend eagerly asked if we could set aside a time to watch the sequel “New Moon.” 😊

Love,

Raven

Out of Nothing

Glasgow, Scotland, summer 2019

Dear Reader,

Creativity takes time. At my job, I am responsible for handling administrative functions and other logistics. Much of what I do is the implementation of other people’s plans and ideas. While I’m good at my job, sometimes working as an ‘arm’ rather than a ‘brain’ can be mentally draining. However, every once in a while, a creative task appears that I jump on before it is assigned to someone else. Today, this task is designing an event program.

Harvard Arts Museum, Cambridge, MA

It can be hard to focus on creative tasks when you work in an administrative capacity. In my role, I am the one who is supposed to quickly answer emails and make myself available when needed. This sort of work is not exactly compatible with creative tasks. What does it mean to be creative anyway? According to Wikipedia, creativity is a “phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed” either intangible like an idea or physical like a painting or invention.” Creativity is making something out of nothing. In this way, being creative is truly an extraordinary task.

While I can type emails quickly and craft responses appropriately, creating something like an event program is a whole other skill that I am not yet adept at. There are so many little pieces to consider when designing an event program. I am using Word Documents, which is in itself an arsenal of tools at one’s fingertips. I can choose different fonts in different sizes in different colors and with different backgrounds. A simple colored square in the top right corner of a page adds a little flair in an otherwise plain text. Big bold font in the center of the page screams for your attention, while italicized gray text on the side adds subtle, but necessary context.

Harvard Arts Museum, Cambridge, MA

It is very enjoyable for me to manipulate lines, colors and text in this way. Unleashing my creative side can be very fulfilling, however, it takes time. I spent several hours designing and formatting the program this Saturday. It was astounding to see that the sun had already set by the time that I was satisfied enough to give it a rest. Performing administrative tasks never leave me with a where-did-the-time-go sort of feeling. No, in fact, administrative work can often leave me counting the minutes. The creative work, on the other hand, was something that I volunteered to do on a Saturday. Although this was technically work, it was enjoyable and well worth the time that I put into it. I don’t know what I would like to do long-term workwise, however, I know that a large degree of creativity is necessary.

Reykjavik, Iceland, summer 2019

I believe that anyone can be creative. Visual art, writing, music, design, and even engineering all take practice. Sometimes I feel that we are too hesitant to engage with our creative side. Because there are less “rules” in being creative, sometimes people feel afraid to experiment without clear guidelines. Additionally, I feel that many of us were taught that subjects like music and art are hobbies rather than serious pursuits. Also, creative tasks are deeply personal and it can be hard to share our creative side with others for fear of criticism. Feeling afraid to share your creative side is valid — people can be tough! However, if creating makes you happy, Dear Reader, just do it, even if you are the only one who gets to enjoy your creations.

Love,

Raven 

I can a little German

Dear Reader,

Sprichts du Deustch? Well, me neither, at least not yet anyway. Usually, I would answer the “can you speak German” question with “ich kann ein bisschen…” (I can a little). I am on a German-learning journey right now. I love learning languages and although I am not fluent in any foreign language, I’m advanced in a few and am hoping to learn more! However, it can be quite hard to learn a foreign language in the United States.

In the United States, we are just not compelled to learn a language to proficiency outside of our mother tongue. I have always loved languages and have taken language courses when offered, however, 90 mins of a language a week in high school does not usually lead to fluency. Foreign-language learning in college was not much different. In college, students are expected to juggle multiple classes and hundreds of pages of reading a week. When a Spanish class is just one of five, it can be pretty hard to devote the necessary time to achieve fluency. Even when I studied abroad in college, I was with a group of Americans and our core courses were taught in English.

Although I know that I can gain fluency if I work harder, I cannot help but get frustrated at my own foreign-language learning ineptitude. For example, one of my colleagues comes from abroad and English is his third language. He was clearly a diligent student. Oftentimes he asks me to proofread his emails. His grammar is usually flawless, and his English vocabulary is superior (he writes better than many college-educated individuals that I know), but he still asks if I can proofread his work. He uses words like “plenary,” “tedious,” “germane,” and “foster” with ease. At the same time, I do not even know the word for “fluency” in German, the language I am trying to learn (okay, now I do, I just looked it up, it’s “Geläufigkeit”).

Salzburg, Austria, fall 2014

I frankly just become jealous of those people who can speak another language fluently. I sometimes just think to myself that if I lived in another country then yes, of course, I would learn the language to fluency. But, alas, I was born American, I grew up American, and I live in America like an American. However, I am not ungrateful. I know that that the reason that so many foreigners learn English is because it is a prerequisite for other opportunities. In this way, we native English speakers are lucky that we do not need to devote our time to English-language competency. Regardless, I really do wish to learn another language to fluency. I wish to pick up a book and read without a dictionary. I wish to watch a film without checking for subtitles. And, I wish to begin a conversation without worry that I will soon be out of my depth.

Although I am just in the beginning of my German-language journey, I hope that I can see this challenge through until Geläufigkeit. Afterall, “no pain no gain” or as they say in German “ohne Fleiß kein Preis.”

Love,

Raven

Cold Dark Places

Cambridge, MA, fall 2019

Dear Reader,

It is the point of no return in Boston. There comes a time every autumn when the temperature plummets overnight and there is no sign that it will be warm again until spring. Although it has not exactly been warm lately, this is the first time that temperatures dropped below freezing. As a northerner, I am not afraid of the cold, however, the wind in Boston bites!

I imagine life must be very different for people living in places like Arizona or Texas where the temperatures are somewhat “normal” all year round. Do the seasons lose their meaning when the weather is moderate? Is it harder to recall specific days when all of the days are pretty similar weather-wise? In Boston, we have entered the dark period. The air is cold, the wind hurts your face, and the sun sets before 5pm. 

Reykjavik, Iceland, summer 2019

It’s kind of crazy if you think about how seasons affect our lives. A tiny example about this is weddings. Summertime is the most popular season for weddings in the U.S.. Another summertime phenomenon is crime. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, crime is higher in the summer months, specifically these crimes rise by the following percentages in the summer: Burglary 11% , Theft of property outside the home 8% higher, Reported sexual assaults 10%, Reported domestic violence assaults 11.5%, other assaults 4-7%.

Winter, on the other hand, brings about its own set of problems. Cold dark weather can negatively impact us. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), depression associated with winter and related darkness, affects those more frequently who live in higher latitude regions. The highest percentage of affected individuals can be found in Nordic countries. This likely relates to the fact that these regions experience very little daylight during the winter months.

Reykjavik, Iceland, winter 2019

I looked up the daylight hours for Reykjavik, Iceland today (November 8th, 2019). The length of time between sunrise and sunset is only 7 hours and 16 mins. On the darkest day of the year in Reykjavik, the sun is only up for around 4 hours! However, Reykjavik, located just six degrees south of the Arctic Circle, also experiences long days in the summer (peak daylight hours reaching 21 hours!). I have visited Reykjavik in both the summer and winter times. Dear Reader, I highly recommend that you visit in the summer rather than the winter 😉

To put daylight hours into perspective, I have also searched Boston and Los Angeles’ daylight hours for today. Today, Boston experienced 10 hours and 3 mins of daylight and Los Angeles 10 hours and 35 mins. Although daylight hours are similar across Boston and Los Angeles on paper, it feels different in actuality. The sun sets in Boston at around 4:30pm, while it sets just after 6pm in Los Angeles. Boston’s days just feel much shorter because the sun rises earlier (before 7am), when many are not awake to enjoy it. On the contrary, the days in Reykjavik feel shorter, quite frankly, because they are! 

Some of us live in cold dark places for extended periods of time and this can be tough. To all of you out there living north of Florida, I hope you get enough sunlight and are spending the colder months with friends and family! We all need warmth, Dear Reader, hopefully you northerners are getting it from sources other than the sun.

Love,

Raven

Just Go to the Gym

Cambridge, MA, fall 2019

Dear Reader,

Why is it so hard to start new routines? Well, I guess that isn’t always the case. For example, if we one day decided to do something fun like enjoy a fancy pastry everyday after work that would probably be very easy to accomplish. However, if we decided that we wanted to go to the gym after work everyday for one hour, then, well… we all know how those resolutions go.

I so desperately want to start going to the gym more, however, I am having trouble turning these thoughts into actions. Some say it takes around two months to turn your actions into a habit. So, by that logic, I suppose I can approach my gym aspirations with a clear and straightforward goal. I must go to the gym consistently for two months in order to make going to the gym a habit rather than a chore. Oh boy. Two months is such a long, short time. Already now I have been blogging for over two months and I must say, there may be some truth in the two-month wisdom. After two months of writing every day, I really do feel compelled to say something by the time the early evening rolls around. So, I guess if I can bring myself to write everyday (something I certainly did NOT do before this blogging journey), I guess I can also get myself to exercise more regularly.

Holding myself accountable about going to the gym is perhaps necessary to make this habit stick. Luckily, my boyfriend would also like to go to the gym more regularly, so scheduling joint sessions is one, supposedly, “easy” way to stick to a gym routine.

Another way I imagine I could make this gym journey a reality would be to set some concrete goals. My boyfriend has some sort of an account set up on the fitness machines. With this system he can easily track how much and how intensely he exercises. My system is more simple and I just mark which days I bother showing up to the gym on my phone.

Also, I imagine that making working out a habit has a lot to do with one’s mindset. Viewing the gym as a dreaded activity is probably not how I should approach my fitness journey. I must be more optimistic. They say that envisioning the end goal is a good gym motivator. So here I am picturing myself fit and happy and eager to work out!

Lastly, I told my boyfriend that I was blogging about the gym and he responded, “you should just go to the gym.” So, there you have it, Dear Reader, I should just quit now and go to the gym. If someone else out there is eager to start on their fitness goals before the new year, my advice to you is that you should just go to the gym 😉

Love,

Raven

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