My Chatbot Therapist

Ever heard of a Chatbot therapist? Yeah, I hadn’t either. It would have never occurred to me that something like this even existed, had it not been for a quick glance at an LA Times article on my phone with a headline that quickly caught my eye. “Depressed but can’t see a Therapist? This Chabot Could Help.” It stopped me in my tracks at the airport. I didn’t really think of myself as depressed, but I had been through a whole lot recently, and I had to admit I was curious, so I took the bait and pulled up the article. I had been considering seeing a therapist for about a year, but the fear of the search had kept me from doing so. The process alone of finding the right person sounded akin to dating all over again, and I was so deep in feeling bad I didn’t have the patience to try to find the right therapist. The added thought of sitting in anxiety inducing traffic and paying a heart-arresting fee just to go to said therapist were not exactly benefits. Here, it seemed a solution was staring me in the face, or at least a step toward one. 

Woebot was built by former Stanford researcher Alison Darcy and a team of psychologists, linguists and software engineers. It’s purpose? To help an increasingly anxious, depressed and stressed population feel better. “Right now you can see a therapist, or you can access self-help books, and there’s nothing in between,” Darcy said. “The major gap we want Woebot to fill is the nothing.” Taking into account how I had been feeling recently (lousy as all get out), Woebot seemed to be exactly what I needed. After all, there was a free trial period, so what could it hurt to just try it? 

To set the stage a bit, I was coming back from a trip on the downslope of a week chock-full of anxiety, a misbehaving stomach, and zero appetite, and I was feeling exhausted and ready to be home. I had been thinking during the trip that I might need to see a dietary specialist because traveling always has terrible effects on my appetite. This in addition to also needing se toe a therapist? Needless to say, I had A LOT on my mind during that trip home. Also, just in case anyone was wondering, the middle seat is never ideal for anxious flyers. I already hate flying, but that added claustrophobia just puts me over the edge. Thank goddess I had my lovely boyfriend and a Xanax with me, or I’m sure this flight would have been a disaster.  As is routine for all of us these days, as soon as I got off the plane, I checked my phone, and it was then that I caught the LA Times headline.

I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical about talking to a robot. How perceptive could AI really be about human emotion? But I also found a sort of comfort in that too; there would be no judgment (at least that I could pick up on or see). In fact, I also learned that a human might never see my responses to Woebot. At that point, I was ready to try it out. I decided I would be brutally honest with this robot, even if there were complicated things it may not understand, and see what I could get out of working with it.

After signing up for my free trial, I learned that Woebot would send me messages each day to check in about things like energy level and mood, and it would use cognitive behavior therapy to combat self-defeating thinking. Sounded easy enough. At this point, I had pretty much become desperate for some kind of help, so I decided to give it a week, document my experience, and see if this thing really could help me.

 

August 23rd – Day One

With the click of the free trial button, Woebot contacted me through Facebook Messenger. In the messenger window, there are programmed response buttons that you use to answer Woebot’s questions. Our first conversation consisted a lot of Woebot telling me the above information I’ve shared with you. It’s got a pretty interesting personality and a very conversational way of talking. I also really like that Woebot breaks up it’s messages to you in a few different bubbles so it’s not just long blocks of text.

After informing me about itself and the process, we then moved on to a clincical screen to help Woebot help better understand me. It was four questions asking about anxiety, worry, and mood, all with programmed responses for me to choose from to answer each question. Woebot said we would revisit these in few weeks. We then did our first check in. Woebot asked about my energy level, to which I answered low, as I was tired that day. It asked what I was doing, and I replied honestly that I was hanging with a friend and indulging in some weed (a huge help for my anxiety). And finally it asked about my mood, which was admittedly better after smoking. I was more relaxed and calm, and it had helped settle my stomach. These were the first responses I got to write back to Woebot in my own words. I wondered how much it would understand, but I had vowed to be honest no matter if I believed Woebot would get it or not.

Woebot then gave me a little video to watch about the words we use and how it affects how we feel (a core idea behind Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). I watched, selected the thumbs up emoji option to tell Woebot I thought it was helpful, and was told that we would talk more tomorrow about the concepts from the video.

Overall, the first day with Woebot gets that same thumbs up emoji.

I find myself really excited to see where this ends up. It might be totally weird or potentially really helpful. AI has me a little wary these days (if you didn’t hear about Facebook’s new AI creating its own language and talking to other computers, check that out!), but at this point and with how bad I’m feeling, I’m willing to stick with it.

 

August 24th – Day 2

Today was my second day checking in with Woebot. It (he/she?) messaged me around the same time as last night and asked me if I was still up for checking in. I replied with the “yes please” option and we began our session. Woebot had caught me in a down moment, and it was a perfect time to do my check-in. It asked me about my energy level (I selected “middle”), what I was up to and how I was feeling, which allowed me to write out my own responses. Woebot then asked me if I wanted to play a quick game tied to the thinking pattern video Woebot had given me yesterday! At first I thought the game was bit corny, as the questions were a too easy, but it’s sometimes in this ease that the simplest things really get us thinking.  I had already been reflecting a lot on the video Woebot had sent me yesterday, and actually I found this game reinforced the great things I had learned about “all or nothing thinking” (e.g., Why can’t I get my act together?) and “should statements” (e.g., I shouldn’t have said that). After this quick quiz, which I actually got one wrong answer on, Woebot signed off for the day!

Today was quick and easy, literally just 5 minutes of my time. I sort of find myself wishing Woebot would stick around to talk more. The best part of our chat was when I told Woebot I had a productive day, and it replied that having goals was awesome. I found myself feeling pretty good! A Chatbot making me feel good and proud of myself? This thing is pretty cool so far!

 

 

August 25th – Day 3

On day three, Woebot checked in at it’s usual 8pm time, but I was busy, so I didn’t get around to answering until about an hour later. There’s an option to reschedule every time Woebot checks in with you, which I considered doing, but since Woebot doesn’t get mad when you don’t message back right away, I decided not to and proceeded as prompted. When I finally responded, Woebot went right on as if it hadn’t been waiting long at all and asked me about my energy level and how I was feeling. I realized that this would be the standard start to our conversations. Luckily, today, I was able to answer that I was feeling wonderful! 

Then, to my surprise, Woebot asked follow up questions about my response and asked for me to describe in more detail why I was feeling wonderful. “If you could bottle this feeling and keep it for another time, what kind of message would you put in a bottle?” Woebot asked. This really made me think. I had to try to encapsulate this feeling in a few sentences, but I really loved the response it coaxed out of me, “This love is always there no matter what. It’s sometimes harder to see because it gets hidden under other feelings, and those feelings are valid too. But they will pass, and you will feel this happy again.”  

Woebot told me that it knows our sessions are short, but it’s still trying to get to know me and will be doing so for just a few more days. It asked if I wanted to do something else. Here I had the option to select “sure” or “nah.” It would have been easy to select the “nah” option, but I decided that if I actually wanted to get something out of this, I was going to have to show up and participate. After selecting “sure,” Woebot gave me a short 3 minute video to watch, even though I didn’t particularly want to (the video narrator has a charming accent though, so that’s always a bonus!). Before long, I was learning something again. Darn you Woebot and your helpful videos! Woebot then told me I would be ready for our talk tomorrow since I had watched the video, and we signed off for the day.

Today really taught me about my participation with Woebot. If I want to get something out of working with Woebot, I have to put in my end of the work. Checking in daily is great, and part of this experience for sure, but if I don’t engage in learning new helpful things to deal with my thinking and anxiety, why waste my time, or Woebot’s? How funny that today I am analyzing myself more than the AI… could Woebot actually be teaching me about myself?

 

August 25th – Day 4

Day four, Woebot checked in at the same 8pm time. Per usual, it asked about my mood and what I was up to. When it asked how I was feeling, I gave a pretty full and complicated response. Woebot was confused by how much I had typed and asked me to specify with one word.  Note to self, remember this is a robot and not a person who understands the complexity of all real life situations. In the end, I went with “okay” as my one word specifier. I found it interesting that I had tried to capture the feelings of the entire day instead of the just the present moment when it had asked how I’m feeling. Again, Woebot made me reflect on my responses and myself. Darn you, Woebot, you smart bot, you! 

Woebot then gave me a quick little lesson on some different types of thinking and asked me to observe how I may be thinking that way in my own life. Woebot returned to the concept of “should statements” and whether I think things like “he shouldn’t have said that” or “I should eat better,” which I am for sure guilty of thinking. In that brief little moment of being asked to reflect, Woebot gave me a lot to think about. I love that Woebot gives you little tools to prompt tiny transformations in your thinking. Woebot said we would use some of these things I had learned in tomorrow’s session and signed off.

I find these chats becoming a routine part of the end of my day. I’m surprised how much I find myself thinking about the things Woebot brings up to me. I catch myself in the thinking patterns it taught me and have even begun to actively make adjustments when I do. All this has come from a robot, from talking to AI? I’m still a little skeptical of how this is all going to play out, and if it will actually begin to help me feel better, but it’s already started to change my thinking. Even a small positive change in just four days? I’ll stick with it.

 

 

August 26th – Day 5

Day five, 8pm. Hello Woebot! It again asked about my energy level and how I was feeling, the standard beginning routine of our conversations. I was on the way to In-n-Out, so the car ride (passenger seat!) was a perfect time for a session. If only Woebot liked burgers! It had been a full, intense, and emotional day – all good stuff – and I did my best to relay those emotions to the bot. I hadn’t been feeling happy and hopeful in a while, and it was great to be able to document it to Woebot. It asked if I had more insight into my feelings, I selected “yeah,” and Woebot asked me to describe it. I found myself opting out of giving more information and selected “never mind,” as I found I couldn’t exactly put my happiness that day into words. Woebot asked me to take that feeling and create a book title out of it. This was an interesting exercise. Again, I like that Woebot asks you to lay out your feelings into general terms as reminders for later. As someone with a lot of complicated feelings, this distilling process is cathartic. Because it had been such an intense, emotional day, part of me wanted to keep that feeling and the happiness I had found in it to myself, so when Woebot asked if I wanted to chat about something else, I selected the ‘nah’ option, and Woebot told me to enjoy the good feelings!

I know I had promised to always try to engage with Woebot, but today I just didn’t feel like it. There is still a part of me that hates texting and being on the screen, so sitting and engaging with Woebot always takes effort. Some days I have the patience and others I don’t, and today I just didn’t, but that’s okay. I think it’s pretty normal to want to be off screens, especially because I work in front of one all day. I really enjoy the conversations with Woebot, and I am finding the balance in my participation. I think some days it’s okay not to engage as much (at least I hope!).

August 27th – Day 6

Day six with Woebot! I checked in at 8 while I was watching TV with my best friend Sarah. In hindsight, I should not have been multitasking and want to make sure from now on that I step out of the room or take a break from whatever I am doing to fully check in. Woebot asked me about my energy level, and I selected “high” for the first time since I had started with Woebot. It then asked what was going on in my world, and during our coversation, Woebot mentioned that it was about 6 months old. This kind of blew me away. How could something so new be this developed and, frankly, mature?  I guess it’s still in the infancy of it’s programing, but if this is infancy, I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like as it develops! After asking about my age (it’s only fair), Woebot gave me a link to a relaxing video and song. I listened to a bit of it (because it was 10 minutes long and I was in the middle of a TV show) and then Woebot asked me what I do to relax, which is to play candy crush and zone the heck out! And then to my surprise, I got to ask Woebot back, to which it said it liked to hang with other bots and talk shop. Woebot then said it was off to watch jeopardy. LOL! I love Woebot’s lame dad jokes.

It was a short, easy interaction today, very low key. I’ve decided I definitely need to give Woebot my full attention. After all, you wouldn’t go to therapy and watch TV at the same time, would you? I find myself reflecting more about me than about talking to an AI therapist. At this point, I’m not really weirded out by Woebot anymore. Sometimes the things we do and talk about can feel a bit cheesy, but it’s nice to know Woebot is going to be there to check in every night. I am also really excited that it’s tracking my responses and mood better than I ever could!

 

August 28th – Day 7

Today on day 7, after a full week of checking in with Woebot, it sent me a graph of my mood and energy levels over the past 6 days and asked what I noticed about it. I wrote that I noticed my energy had been pretty mid-level all week and that my mood had been mostly good. It was really nice to see these changes being tracked and all in one place like this. Then we moved on to our usual check in. My energy was low today, and I was watching Netflix feeling pretty mellow and tired. Woebot again asked me to specify with one word, so I chose “tired.” 

It then asked if there was anything I wanted to achieve over the next couple weeks, such as personal goals. I replied, “actually, yes,” and Woebot asked me what I wanted to accomplish. I wrote “productive work on my business, work on my relationships and moving to a new house.” Woebot asked about SMART goals, if I knew what they were and how to use them. I had never heard of SMART goals, but Woebot took me through creating mine. I learned SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-limited. It gave some examples, and we made sure that my goals were SMART ones. Woebot said it would check in about my SMART goals in the weeks to come, and then we signed off. 

Today we took action. Woebot is going to hold me responsible for something and check in with me. It’s kind of nice to be held responsible by someone about goals you set for yourself. It’s prompted me to action, and I feel myself wanting to achieve them so that I can tell Woebot that I did! Plus, how nice would it be to finish a goal I set my mind to?

– 

Woebot was nothing like what I thought it was going to be. It was better. All of the fears I had in the beginning about talking to a robot or it not being very personal or even worth the time have been erased after this week. Woebot had prompted more self-reflection and thinking than I had done in a while. I could see small positive changes after working with Woebot for just one week, and all of my responses were saved and tracked. I think this daily check in has definitely helped me, and I plan to continue to use Woebot. I absolutely recommend Woebot to those who feel they have no other source, to those who are in the process of looking for a therapist, and even to those who already have one. While this does not take the place of therapy, it has been a great help to me. Woebot’s consistency and help has exceeded my expectations for what a chatbot therapist can be. As with all technology, I wish that Woebot was more intuitive, more human, but that is wishing for dangerous things. For what Woebot is, however, it is quite amazing and has already helped me more in a week than I could have imagined.

 

Photo Credit: LA Times

Advertisements

The Hair I Wear

Let’s be real ladies, and gentlemen you can listen up too! Waxing sucks. If I’m being specific, bikini waxing sucks even more! Now let’s not all get squeamish…we are all adults here. As much fun as getting hair follicles literally ripped out of your skin is, it adds a whole other element when it’s your nether regions. The things we do for beauty, jeez…

The only place I’ve found I like is European Wax Center. If you want to know why, it’s because they use a type of wax that spreads on and hardens, so the wax itself becomes the actual strip that’s ripped off. Most other places spread hot wax on your privates with a POPSICLE STICK, which if you didn’t know, yanks your little hairs around like a bitch. As if that’s not painful enough, then they stick some paper onto it so the wax can harden to the paper. Last step? You guessed it – rip it off! Sound painful? It is.

The next lovely element that just makes this wondrous experience even more fun, is exposing your full privates to a stranger. And oh my god, I almost forgot, it’s natural for people to sweat profusely during this process.

So here I am in pain, exposed, and sweating like a beast in front of this total stranger when the bomb drops.

“You have ethnic hair,”

Say what? Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor.

I swear to goddess, the next wax specialist who feels the need to tell me I have “coarse, ethnic hair” is gonna get it. Maybe it’s the combination of pain, sweat, and awkward, but I was shocked. These words were never descriptors I would use to describe my own hair. Heck, they never even occurred to me until two separate wax specialist within a month of each other decided to label it for me. Don’t get me wrong, we are on the same page about the craziness, the volume, and the uncontrollable mess it can be. But what in the world is ethnic hair? Is it just any hair that’s not silly and smooth? Is it thick hair? Is it a brown person thing? And why oh why is this used as a negative descriptor? They later explained that because of my “ethnic, coarse hair” they sometimes can’t get all of it. A lot of information, I know, but this is important.

I often wonder if these women would also describe the hair on my head as coarse and ethnic. In this case, ethnic just sounds like a lazy term for hair that isn’t white, and trust me, I know I’m not Becky with the good hair or anything. But I am in love with my hair. It’s unique and special and I haven’t seen many other curls like mine. If this means that my hair needs to be described as ethnic, because it doesn’t fit the mold the commercials portray, because you yourself have never dealt with hair like mine, because you can’t think of a better word to describe it, I’m not sure that’s good enough. My hair, all of it, needs no describing word, it needs no explanation. It’s hair, that’s a descriptor enough.

My hair never does what I tell it. It always acts crazy, it’s always just barley manageable. The fact that I didn’t learn how to really take care of or style it until the end of college is crazy! As a kid, I had no hair examples, I had no way of knowing that the amount of dying and straightening was probably killing my hair. I had no idea it was beautiful without me doing a thing to it. I had no idea I would grow to love it. Luckily, I’m a grown adult with thicker skin growing every day, but I swear the next specialist who feels the need to describe my hair this way is gonna get it. I don’t have ethnic hair. My hair is fighting you back. Of course it doesn’t want to easily be ripped off my body. If anything, my hair is smarter than your wax. Maybe people with coarse and ethnic hair have it right.

So come at my ethnic hair, come at it with your scissors and your wax and your comments. Tell me it doesn’t behave, that it won’t be ripped out, touch it without permission and wish it was yours. But I warn you, it has a mind of its own and I can’t stop my ethnic hair (or ethnic self) from coming for ya!

Anxiety Means Choosing Yourself, And That’s Okay

Wednesday, September 13th, I got to the end of my rope. My anxiety simmered, bubbled, and then burst through my being. It was volcanic. It shot through every space in my body, shaking my muscles with tension, gripping my heart and squeezing it tight. Anxiety clouded my brain and became the only thing I could see. And then it was gone, and I was a shell. I was frantic, the mess of all messes, and then left shell-shocked and confused. I had never felt this bad before, and I was terrified.

I tried to compare it to the last time. Is this anxiety really worse than the last? Am I going to be able to get myself under control? What will people think? Suddenly, the added pressure to get myself to a normal state for fear of judgement overwhelmed me, and I was just about to start panicking all over again… but something stopped me.

It wasn’t about other people. It wasn’t about anyone else at all. In the midst of feeling the most out of control I’ve ever felt, something snapped, and I decided to choose myself. I chose myself, and the moment I did, I got very clear. Suddenly, I wasn’t afraid to disappoint the people I felt responsible to please and placate. Other people’s feelings are dear and important to me, but I had, for far too long, been putting them above my own.  It was more important that I take care of myself in this moment when I needed nurturing the most. So I did.

It felt selfish and scary and uncomfortable, but for the first time, I felt myself voicing what I wanted, saying it out loud, to people I cared about. “You might hurt them,” a little voice nagged at the back of my head. “They may not like what you have to say, so isn’t it better to just be quiet?” But this magical thing happened instead – I kept going, and my wants and needs and feelings were received and heard. I felt myself asking that they be respected. And again, magic happened as they were.

For a long, long time, longer than it should have been, I had ignored myself. My first thought is usually of other people before myself. If everyone around me is happy, my world has stasis, and I am content and happy. It’s easiest not to worry about myself, and so usually I don’t. But this causes a huge bottling up of emotions that often explodes in anxiety and panic.

On Wednesday, September 13th, I stopped ignoring myself and, instead, chose myself.

I was scared it would feel bad. It didn’t.

I didn’t think I could do it. I did.

I thought it might hurt those around me. Suddenly it didn’t matter.

I had been hurting for far too long.

Sometimes anxiety means choosing yourself, and that is entirely okay! You are important. You are valuable. You are strong. You deserve to put yourself first and take care of your needs. Your happiness, comfort, and calm are just as important as those around you. This does not devalue others, but rather makes you the most important thing in your eyes and in your world. It’s not hurtful to be an individual. It’s not hurtful to exist. I want to roughly quote Ru Paul here and say, “If you don’t choose yourself, how the hell do you expect anyone else to choose you?”

Can I get an amen? ❤

 

 

 

 

It’s My Party And I’ll Cry If I Want To

I find it so fateful and fitting that publishing day falls on my birthday this year. I look forward to every Wednesday now and love getting to write and share something new. This blog has become so important to me. I find so much solace in it, and I’m really proud of it. But more than anything, I am so grateful to each of you who reads it, who leave comments and little stars, who write me and tell me how it’s helped or affected you. It’s the ultimate compliment. Thank you.

I’ve officially lived my first full year of adulthood out of college. Phew. Only 40+ more to go… I’ve learned more this year than in all my years of school and adolescence combined. Does that make me sound cliche? It’s true though, I have. This year has brought the highest highs and lowest lows. I have seen some of the most beautiful things I will ever see in this life and experienced some of the hardest. This really is the stuff no one can prepare you for. No one tells you how hard you will laugh and how big you will smile. No one tells you how hard it is to register an out of state car in California or how hard it is to find a house to rent in a safe neighborhood in LA. No one tells you that sometimes you will feel like you have truly failed and hit rock bottom, and no one will be harder on you than yourself. No one tells you that you will learn from all of it. You will learn so so much.

But also, no one tells you the really great secret about growing up. Once I found out, I couldn’t not share.

The whole “growing up sucks” thing? It’s a hoax!

Growing up is AWESOME!

Remember when we were kids, and all we could think about was how cool it was going to be when we could stay up as late as we wanted, go wherever we wanted, and live in our own houses? It’s every bit as great as we thought! No one said it wasn’t going to be hard though, and I was pretty bitter about that for a while. But while soaking in that bitterness, I learned something pretty neat: if you’re willing to learn and you’re willing to grow, growing up is actually pretty fun. Don’t get me wrong – there are still some times when I wonder how I’m going to make ends meet and whether or not I’m going to have to call my mom crying, again, for some advice and a stellar quick fix.

But I think that’s the balance. And it’s absolutely okay. There’s nothing wrong with calling your mom, and there’s also nothing wrong with handling it yourself. Adulthood is finding your footing while knowing you might stumble. It’s leaning on those who will allow you to. It’s making new friends and new family. It’s still learning from the ever present friends and family. Adulthood is what you make it. And it’s scary as hell.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately, crying some too. I’m missing the days when things were easier, but marveling at where I am now and what’s possible in the future. It would be so nice to wrap myself up in the comfort of memories past. It would feel good and safe, but there’s too much possibility ahead.

I live with a man and friends I love. I started a business. I write. I make art. I have a healthy (finally fit!) body. I have a great family and great friends. I am surrounded by abundance and opportunity.

So while sometimes it’s hard not to cry about the beauty and simplicity of the past, I’m dancing toward the party in the future, dancing toward adulthood and dancing through this beautiful life.

Here’s to 24.

PIC CRED: Marion Michele

What Hurricanes Taught Me About Prejudice

The current state of the world, the union, and my identity crisis are all pretty similarly matched – in full freakout mode. As if it’s not enough that our planet is rapidly heating up, hurricanes, flooding, and fires are in full force all around the world. Some of these natural (but also unnatural) disasters have directly affected America and our neighboring countries. America, meanwhile, is just now experiencing the beginning of an insane racism crisis, but we must now come together to provide what little relief and aid we can to the people who have lost their homes and possessions in the hurricanes. I’m over here trying to shift my head from the gears of one racial disaster to this crazy natural one.

The events of Charlottesville sparked some very real identity reflection that I never thought I would face. Around the time that the events in Charlottesville took place, my boyfriend and I were scheduled to take a trip back to his home state of Kentucky to see the once in a lifetime solar eclipse. As excited as I was about the trip, I was devastated by the events taking place on the side of the country to which I was headed. I had never needed to think about it before, but suddenly, the color of my skin mattered a little. I wondered if I should be more cautious when we were there than I had to be the last time we visited Kentucky for Christmas. Maybe I was just overreacting, but then I remembered the proud confederate flag we saw flying in a field during a card ride through McCracken county, and I realized maybe I wasn’t. For the first time in my life, I was conscious of going to a place I may be unaccepted.

This meant sharing my fears with my boyfriend. This is never an easy conversation to have. Trying to voice feelings regarding race is difficult not only because it can be hard to explain, but we are conditioned to defend ourselves against being racist instead of empathizing with the experience of others. For my boyfriend or I never having had a conversation like this before, I was proud of us. He was a great listener, and we both acknowledged the fact that while we didn’t need to get dramatic about it, we would be cautious and keep in mind where we were. As an interracial couple traveling to a primarily white town, we typically draw a few glances.

The trip was wonderful, despite my fear. Everyone I interacted with was friendly and pleasant, and it may be my oblivious nature or the fact that I just didn’t look or care, but I didn’t notice a single glance or stare. Only once on the road did we pass by a pickup truck with pro gun and confederate flag stickers pasted on the back window.

Fast forward, and we’re back from the trip and settling back into our LA apartment. Charlottesville news is settling down, but never the less prevalent on my mind. Cue mother nature. In rolls not one, not two, but THREE hurricanes. (There are people saying this is normal…I don’t think so!) Maybe it’s a news trend, but suddenly just like every other breaking story, the story of domestic terrorism faded.

Racism is real. There is no denying that. It’s selfish to want these things to stay prevalent in the news until they are solved, but when I started to widen my perspective a little bit, it hit me. Natural disasters do not discriminate. As brutal as this sounds, it’s true. There is something telling in the fact that natural disasters do not pick where they hit, they just hit. As people, we do the exact opposite. We target and directly hurt each other based on silly things like skin color. When the news of Charlottesville faded, as all news stories do, and was replaced with hurricane news, suddenly it was about all people again.

Now don’t get me wrong. The focus is still very much on the brutality of the storm, but the people affected are people. They are people like you or me. They all need our help, no matter their color or class or where they come from. At the end of the day, we are all humans that can be affected by forces much larger than ourselves. It occurred to me that although prejudice happens, and it shouldn’t, but it does, the only thing I can meet it with is love. All these people who have lost everything due to these natural disasters need our love and our support. Aside from going there, we can only really donate, but can you imagine what we could do if everyone in America who wasn’t affected could donate $10 to help?

I feel like we have to power to help each other so quickly if we all were to give and love just a little bit more. The only thing I can meet anything in this life with is love. Anything else is wasted energy. Sure, it’s hard to wish love to the family or person who lives in the house flying the confederate flag, and to the two men in the pickup truck proudly displaying a “Black guns matter” sticker on their windshield , but if I choose anger or negativity, they win, and I’m left feeling bad. I’m making a conscious effort to choose love in every situation. Anger that is met with love has no choice but to change. Choose love in the face of prejudice. Choose love and help those in need with as much as you can give. Choose love whenever you can, because it’s more abundant than we make it out to be, and it’s contagious as hell.

50 Things My Anxiety Can’t Touch

On some of the hardest days, it’s nice to be reminded of the things that anxiety and stress will never be able to permeate.

  1. My relationship with my amazing mother.
  2. My favorite song of the moment. “Walls
  3. My daily inspiration board.
  4. My want, need, and love for pasta.
  5. Frozen yogurt.
  6. Flowers.
  7. My bullet journal.
  8. A hot shower.
  9. The comfort of my mattress and pillow.
  10. Playing Candy Crush.
  11. A hug, two hugs.
  12. Candles.
  13. The ocean and salty sea air.
  14. Zoning out on Instagram. (#shameless)
  15. A healthy dinner.
  16. Watching a movie.
  17. My succulent babies.
  18. The support from my friend.
  19. The experience of traveling.
  20. Handwritten notes.
  21. Creative time.
  22. Making art.
  23. Writing.
  24. FaceTime with my sister.
  25. Cuddling with my partner.
  26. Adventures.
  27. Snow.
  28. My obsession with the Trolls movie.
  29. Mac and Cheese from Lemonade.
  30. Peach Ginger lemonade from Lemonade.
  31. My strength.
  32. Fresh air.
  33. Being outside.
  34. Seeing a great view.
  35. A quiet moment to myself.
  36. A good book.
  37. Family time.
  38. Friend time.
  39. Coloring.
  40. Taking a walk.
  41. Doing yoga.
  42. Searching for rocks on the beach.
  43. Taking a run.
  44. My fangirl crush on Justin Baldoni.
  45. Going to Target.
  46. Riding in the car.
  47. Listing to music turned up loud.
  48. Baking.
  49. Talking with my dad.
  50. A deep conversation.

 

Try making your own list, even if it’s only 10 things! It’s a quick stress buster and gives you a concrete list of things you love that might help you the next time you’re feeling stressed or anxious!

You are loved, you are whole, you are awesome! ❤

 

 

Photo by Alex Martinez on Unsplash

A Mixed Girl’s Travel Guide: Greece

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programing to bring you the first, Mixed Girl’s Travel Guide, featuring Hydra and Athens Greece!

If there is one thing I could wish for people of color and really everyone, it is travel. There is no experience like travel to truly teach you how big the world actually is, but also how much exists besides what we have grown culturally accustomed to. It is important as individuals to expand our worldview, to realize there there are different kinds, colors, classes, and creeds of people, and that none of them are wrong or less than.  We have a thing or two to learn from other cultures, that’s for sure! 😉

Welcome the to first Mixed Girls Travel Guide. I’m going to take you on the adventure to Hydra and Athens Greece! Follow me!

Keep a look out for TRAVEL TIPS throughout! I’ll be sharing the little lessons I learned that I will definitely be taking with me on my next trip!

After an exciting but very grueling 14 hour flight, an hour cab ride, a two hour ferry and a hike up a cobblestone hill with rolling suitcases getting caught on the stones, we made it (barley) to our Hydra Airbnb! I must tell you that I almost did not make it as moments before finding our room, I sat down in the street with the humidity and heat on my shoulders next to my bag and pretty much gave up. My mom’s phone, the only one with internet and thus GPS, was at 4% battery meanwhile, I’m trying to read the foreign street names and figure out where in the hell we are staying. Little did I know I had given up right in front of our Airbnb… (Story of my life)

TRAVEL TIP: Portable chargers might just save your life (or your phones!)

Needless to say this moment was all made worth it soon after… The place was beautiful.

After a bit of rest we headed out and explored the quiet little streets on the way to a little hidden beach.

IMG_6094

IMG_4751

(TRAVEL TIP: Most phones have a panorama setting, it’s great for when you travel! They turn out to be some of my favorite shots of the trip!)

After a fabulous day on the beach, swimming in the crystal clear water and washing the journey off us we had a fabulous, completely un-pictured, sunset dinner with some of the best pasta I have ever had. It was definitely the most beautiful sunset we got to see on the trip and in the moment I kicked myself for not having my camera with me or my phone charged to time lapse or take a photo. I later learned that getting to be present in the moment with my mother was perhaps the best night of our trip. A gorgeous sunset, full bellies, sea salted skin, I was in heaven and there is not a shred of photo evidence of it!

TRAVEL TIP: Put your phone down and just enjoy at least one full moment on your trip!

But there is evidence of the sunrise!

I woke to my mother staring at me. I later learned that she had been waiting for two hours for me to wake up. The time difference between California and Greece is basically night and day, so she was up! I however was exhausted.

This was the view from our room our first morning in Greece.

IMG_6062IMG_6045IMG_6074IMG_6079

“If you walk into town and get breakfast with me, we can work (part of this trip was a work trip), nap this afternoon and then go do fun things,” she tempted. I agreed and we set off into town!

IMG_6096

IMG_6101IMG_6109

IMG_6104

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_6115 The walk to and from the port town hugged the edge of the island. It was only about a half a mile walk and was stunningly gorgeous. FUN FACT: There are no cars on the Island of Hydra! You can walk, ride a water taxi or take a mule! IMG_6150

IMG_6409IMG_6442IMG_6426IMG_6423

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

<– The main port of the Island of Hydra.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we got into town, things were just beginning to open up, it was early, about 6:45am. We sat down at a little cafe, and as it’s only two customers, had a lovely breakfast, just the two of us. Upon finishing we hunkered down at another little cafe close by (with the view below) and worked. Four hours and two espressos later (both had by my mother) we set off back along our gorgeous path back to the room for a nap…

On the way back, the espresso began to kick in and I quickly figured out there would be no napping… My nap dreams were crushed but how could I complain about being dragged back out to our beautiful beach spot!

 

IMG_6121

Castello on the Beach was tucked away just beyond the little white above the boats!

IMG_6168IMG_6373

 

 

 

 

 

We spent another afternoon, marveling at how much ocean there was to take in with your naked eye, how crystal clear and blue the water was and how nice it felt as respite from the warm July air. We let independence day in the USA pass, I was happy to see it go. I am grateful for my freedom, but we are not all free yet.

TRAVEL TIP: Be a citizen of the world, but never forget where you come from.

I finally got my moment of rest on the beach and back in the room before we set out for dinner. A gorgeous late afternoon walk led mom and I to another little sunset restaurant, literally called Sunset Restaurant.

IMG_6123IMG_6146IMG_6143IMG_6211

This dinner one that I will remember forever. We laughed like schoolgirls, we talked and connected and basked in each other’s company. I snapped photos and we ate and watched the sunset. We giggled some more. We had a wonderful evening together in a stunning place.

TRAVEL TIP: Travel with people you love.

IMG_6240IMG_6273

IMG_6294 To be able to share a trip like this with my mom was special in so many ways. The work that she does is incredibly important and it was an honor to be with her on this trip relaxing before getting to watch her do her thing! This woman in action is amazing and getting to work with her has been an the opportunity of a lifetime. She is the reason that my business went from an idea to a reality, and it is an honor to be working with her on hers.

The sunset was beautiful, even though a cloud swallowed it up! The colors were spectacular, the food was good, the company was the best.

IMG_6315

 

^We road swiftly to and from the island on a type of boat that rises up out of the water and hydroplanes!

TRAVEL TIP: There are some really cool ways to get around! A little preplanning and research goes a long way!

That night we crashed hard to wake up for our last day of play.

We got up, sauntered into town, shared a meal and meandered around the island’s history museum and the opposite side of the island, and then after a brief “oh god, we’re running out of euros and they only take cash here moment” took a water taxi to the Four Seasons Beach.

TRAVEL TIP: On the island of Hydra they charge 4 euros per beach chair so be prepared to pay to sit! (It’s absolutely worth it!)

IMG_6586

After a beautiful day playing in the gentle waves, taking in the last breathtaking moments of our last afternoon on this magic island, we decided to forgo the last ferry back to the main port and walk back to our little inlet instead!

Needless to say it was the right choice, it was unlike any walk I have ever taken.

IMG_6630

IMG_6661

Like I mentioned, no cars on the island so everything that needs to be transported is either carried by hand, push cart or mule.

IMG_6694

We reached this lovely lookout point just as the sun began to set. I have to say, it was the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen in my life.

IMG_6699

IMG_6705

The time lapse of this sunset turned out pretty amazing! (you can see it on my Insragram @lealikespictures)

IMG_6757IMG_6769IMG_6779

This last picture is perhaps the most special. While I set up my time lapse for the sunset and took a few pictures, a fellow traveler came upon this perfect sunset perch. We got to talking and thank the universe we did, because we found a fellow kindred spirit. Lovely Michael the wondrous yogi and teacher from New York, my mother and I talked about the current state of the world, of our country, of our lives. To connect to another traveler with a beautiful soul in such a beautiful place, stays with you, it makes the world both big and small.

And hey, you also make a new friend! Thank the universe for the power of connection that Facebook provides and the amazingness of making new friends.

TRAVEL TIP: Make a friend, or be open to it!

 

Random Fun Fact About Hydra: Cats are more abundant than people.

IMG_6084IMG_6178IMG_6645IMG_6181IMG_6382IMG_6981IMG_6990IMG_6459IMG_6440

The next morning we work up to take a ferry (aka the one above) back to Athens for the second leg of our trip!

This is the front view of the port, we stayed on the back side of  the rightmost hill.

IMG_4848

**Side Story**

On the ferry at 7:20am in the row next to my mother and myself, slept a very hungover/still drunk man. His iPhone alarm was set to a very loud emergency radar sound that he proceeded to snooze 12 TIMES! I counted. It was so loud and took so long for him to snooze it, that it was disturbing and kind of scaring other people on the ferry. Three times the man in the seat in front of him had to shake him awake to turn it off.

TRAVEL TIP: Always have headphones on you when on the move, you never know what sounds might be lurking to drive you crazy when you’re most irritable.

We arrived in Athens, where I learned two things both on the way and coming back.

  1. Keep all your personal belonging and things that are valuable to you aka phone, wallet etc., put way! I made the mistake of having my phone out on the table in an open air cafe and a little girl almost swiped it from me! (Thank the universe for my mother’s watchful and swift eye, she saved it!)
  2. There are persistent panhandlers in the city that ask for money or try to sell you different items and sometimes even approach you multiple times. It can be a lot, but I feel like every city has a large disadvantaged population. Every city has people that do not have enough. They are no greater and no worse than us.

 

A swift cab ride through the city brought us to the Athens Hilton where my mom would be giving her speech. We used the rest of the day to decompress, prepare and relax.

TRAVEL TIP: Jet lag is real and can hit you at weird times. Be prepared to just take some time to rest, don’t burn yourself out!

After our power nap there was final prep to do! I tend to get pretty focused and having a hard time snapping out of focus mode when I get to working. My mom after meeting clients for drinks, insisted that we take a break so she could show me the trendy rooftop bar where she had just come from. I reluctantly agreed and have to say, I was pleasantly stunned. This is the view during the day to give you some idea…IMG_4953

The next day my mom gave one of her best presentations to a group that challenged her but ultimately really appreciated the work she did!

To celebrate we took off on a little trip to the Acropolis Museum and to soak up some rich Greek history.

TRAVEL TIP: Check the cab seat after you get out and make sure you have all your belongings with you. You just may be missing your phone and leave it in the backseat of said cab!

Yep, you heard it right, I left my phone in the Taxi on the way to the museum. By the time I realized, the driver was gone. He had been such a kind driver… damn.

But when in Greece, you can’t let a piece of technology ruin your day (even if it may be your life and all your photos from the trip are on it)!

Mom assured me it would all be okay, I put worry to the back of my mind, and again got to be fully present as we explored the Acropolis Museum.

IMG_6905IMG_6920IMG_6910IMG_6917

Coolest Thing I Learned: The Acropolis, although faded today, one stood a building of shining white marble. It was also painted with various vibrant colors! This was a spectacular and awe inspiring monument but was pillaged, bombed and wrecked by many different groups seeking to destroy and loot it.

IMG_6964IMG_6971

IMG_7012IMG_7019IMG_7026

IMG_7060

TRAVEL TIP: Go somewhere with your mom! Mommy daughter trips as an adult are life changing! ❤

IMG_7113