First Impressions

Despite all the times I’ve been told how important it is to make a good first impression, I notoriously suck at it. Really, I should say it’s a (constant) work in progress, because I am (constantly) working on it.

I have a few things working against me from the get go. The first is occasionally crippling anxiety. The second is an often overwhelming sensation of self-doubt. The third is a horrendous case of RBF, or Resting Bitch Face, which causes me to look perpetually angry and unapproachable even though I’m probably thinking about kittens or debating whether or not to stop for Starbucks on my way home. And the fourth is my voice, which harbors a naturally “harsh” pitch. So, in short, I’m a mess.

But, due to a recent promotion at work and some positive changes to the way I treat my mental health, I’m on a kick to try and “improve” myself, and one of the steps I need to make is getting better at first impressions. I’ve even been practicing my handshake, which is already much improved!

I’ve been told by people that I am now friends/acquaintances with that they were “intimidated by” or “afraid of” me when we first met – which, if you know anything about me, is absurd. I’m about as intimidating as a Jigglypuff. This is me, when angry:

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Not scary at all, right? Of course, that’s partially my own impression of me, which is skewed. I suppose that I make bad first impressions because I look and sound mean, unless I make an effort to actively soften or mask the rough edges of my personality. Combine that with anxiety, and it’s a recipe for disaster. For the record, I’m all in favor of the “be yourself” mentality. I’m not ashamed of who I am as a person in general. But when being myself is prohibiting my ability to network, make and maintain friends, appeal to readers, or do my job effectively, then maybe there are some things that need a bit of tweaking.

In my self-improvement efforts, I have been practicing my eye contact when speaking to people, especially when first meeting them. I usually avoid this like the plague, but I’ve been finding it much easier as I do it more often. This has helped to soften the blow of the other factors working against me. However, it’s more difficult to rein in the “RBF” because it’s the natural state of my face. To combat it, I’ve been attempting to be more attuned to what my face is doing when I’m around other people, and especially when speaking to others. I don’t want people to think I’m bored with what they’re saying because of my face, when oftentimes, I’m genuinely interested. So I’ve made an effort to be more aware of the rest of my body language as well, such as my posture and arm-crossing/whatnot, so if my face slips, at least the rest of me appears engaged.

I also try to be more aware of my tone of voice. As the unfortunate bearer of a distinct, naturally monotonous alto with a dry sense of humor, an affliction many other women also suffer from, I have been making a concerted effort to add inflection and enthusiasm into my voice, in proportion to what I’m saying. I sort of think of it as adding invisible emojis to my sentences. Again, I don’t think of it as being “fake.” I think of it as trying to accurately project what I’m feeling or what I intend to convey without being sabotaged by the natural state of my voice/face, and I do think it helps me improve how I come across when meeting people. I don’t want constructive criticism to sound like lambasting, or genuine compliments to sound sarcastic. At least, until I get to know people enough that they become aware of and understand my idiosyncrasies.

And, of course, one of the most important parts of making a good first impression is… earning the chance to make a second, or third. Or, if first impressions go awry, working on making the second one better, if possible. Get knocked down, get back up. Keep plugging away at the things I need to improve. I am a big “catastrophiser,” as in, my thoughts continually stray into “worst-case scenario” territory, but I’ve been getting better at not giving up at the first misstep, and forging ahead instead. Stare fear and anxiety and “what-ifs?” in the face, then stomp all over them.

If anyone else has good first impression tips or advice, or have faced a similar struggle, I’d love to hear from you!

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

 

 

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Worth 1000 Words #13: Ol’ Reliable

On the first day of college, I was nervously approaching my first ever class – Health and Wellness – wondering who I would sit with, if I’d make any friends, and why on earth said class needed to be so freakin’ far away from the parking lot, when my backpack strap broke.

Now, superstitious folk might have perceived this occurrence as a bad sign. Unfortunately, I am one of those people.

I immediately assumed that one single stroke of bad luck was going to define my future academic career, and that my pending failures were all due to an unfortunate incident of faulty stitching. I wished I had bought one of those snazzy, colorful L.L. Bean backpacks embroidered with my initials instead of a dowdy brown messenger bag designed to carry my laptop, which I literally brought to class maybe twice in my entire three years of degree-hunting.

So I hobbled to Health class, retained no information while there, then hobbled back to my car with my broken bag and similarly broken spirits. And that night, I went to Staples and shelled out $72 for a backpack that came to be known as Ol’ Reliable.

Ol’ Reliable is a High Sierra brand bag, black with silver/white accents, and contains five pockets of increasing size and a laptop sleeve, so it was quite a lot of bang for my buck. Now, I have owned many a backpack in my time, including one of those wheelie bags that were popular when I was in elementary school, a Big Dogs bag bought at an outlet store in the Poconos, and a really pretty white and purple plaid bag that also broke beneath the burden of weighty books. But I don’t think any backpack past or future can ever eclipse the enduring legacy of Ol’ Reliable, who has been my stalwart traveling companion for the last eight years. Who knew one backpack could carry so many books (I was an English Lit major, remember?), as well as all of my hopes and dreams?

20180926_110729.jpgHe’s suffered through some wear and tear over the years – one shoulder strap is ripped slightly, but it remains resilient and shows no sign of tearing completely. A pen exploded in one of the pockets during an intense rainstorm, so the interior is stained a splotchy black. And, as mentioned earlier, Ol’ Reliable has been through it. My last semester of college alone I had 25 textbooks, including two massive, dreaded literature anthologies. It’s a miracle that both Ol’ Reliable and my spine survived.

Ol’ Reliable not only assisted me on the road to an English degree, he has accompanied me on the literal road on many actual travels. He was with me when I studied abroad in England, which was my first time ever out of the country. When I hiked the steep stairs at St. Paul’s cathedral and then took in the gorgeous view at the top, he was there. As I strolled through Westminster Abbey, looking upon the memorials of poets and writers and kings and queens of yore, he was there. When my crew and I took a whirlwind one day trip to Paris, visiting the Louvre, viewing the Eiffel Tower, and walking through the beautiful and haunting Notre Dame, he was there. Whilst I toured the legendary halls of castles and prestigious universities, he was there. He was strapped firmly to my back when I stood upon the tomb of King Henry VIII in Windsor, and sat quietly at my feet during every exam and quiz. And when I returned to England three years later, he was with me yet again, as solid and hardy as ever. I took him with me to see Stonehenge. He came along when we glimpsed the white cliffs at Dover, rising from the ocean like pale stone beacons. He has visited the Shakespeare House, the royal crescent in Bath, and has graced the floor in many a pub and tavern while I sipped a pint of Strongbow and nibbled on a burger.

Ol’ Reliable was there on my recent trip to Vegas, able to carry everything from my laptop, to my Nintendo DS, to my Nook, and two spare outfits in his sturdy pockets, yet was still able to fit beneath the seat of the person in front of me on the airplane, so I didn’t have to cram him in the overhead bin. He was with me every time I traveled between New England and PA on school breaks and the like, able to fit enough of my belongings in his pockets that I rarely needed to check a bag. He’s been on planes, cars, trains, and ferries. Whenever I have a trip coming up, I feel somewhat less nervous just knowing that Ol’ Reliable will be accompanying me. Because he is exactly that – reliable. With him on my back, I don’t need to worry.

Since I currently work in a retail establishment, I have occasionally had to recommend items to shoppers. Recently, I was assisting a couple with the purchase of a backpack for their grandson from our online store. And wouldn’t you know, a slightly updated version of Ol’ Reliable was available. I sang his praises to them, recounting my eight years of reliable backpack ownership to help them make their decision. And – I like to think due to my persuasion – they made the right choice, and I hope their grandson has an Ol’ Reliable of his own.

Ol’ Reliable isn’t winning any beauty pageants – he’s worn, almost a decade old, and not as glitzy or as glamorous as some of the other backpacks out there. But he gets the job done, and he gets it done well, and without complaint. Any trip I go on, he is automatically the first thing I think of to come along. He has never failed me, and I intend to keep him as my frequent travel-companion until he or I cannot travel any longer, or until that tear in his shoulder strap finally gives.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Autumn

All seasons have their own unique appeal and their own exclusive perks. My favorite season used to be winter…. until I learned how to drive. After several horrifying and near life-ending experiences navigating snowstorms in my old Subaru and my current Nissan, I no longer hold such favorable opinions of winter. Winter is also mega-depressing, especially in January and February. Spring should begin immediately after New Years, if you ask me… but anyway…

Now, in my adult years, my favorite season is autumn – a sentiment shared by many. This is not because I like pumpkin spice lattes, though. I actually detest all pumpkin-flavored treats, so you won’t find me clambering to get to Starbucks before a massive line forms, or bringing pumpkin cookies into work to share with coworkers. I love when the weather starts to cool, from abysmal heat and soup-like humidity to sweater weather. Nothing beats a nice, cozy sweater – except maybe a nice, cozy flannel. I like (a select few) horror movies. I love curling up on the couch with a good book as an autumn rain taps on the windowpane. I just feel happier when the leaves are changing, the skies are gray, and I can wear long-sleeves and boots and warm, fuzzy socks, and sip a salted caramel mocha.

The first “official” day of autumn was this past Saturday. Usually, the weather does not adhere to these markers and remains sticky and gross for a few more weeks, but in this instance, it actually listened – at least for now. I was at a family/friend gathering, and the weather was fairly autumnal – the air was crisp and cool, the skies were gray, and folks weren’t afraid to go and stand outside and chat and enjoy the outdoors. Beforehand, I got to browse a bit at Barnes & Noble and take advantage of their limited-time 20% off member discount. As far as first days of autumn go, it was pretty darn great.

And today (as I’m writing this it’s Sunday) the weather is much the same, though it’s also rainy. I’m going to an early-afternoon movie soon, I’ve already indulged in two cups of coffee with Cinnabon creamer, and I might even get to wear a sweater! And, later, I’m going to spin out some writing and be productive! This never happens so early in the season! It’s autumnal bliss, I tell you!

The major thing keeping me from looking into relocating into a state further south is the possibility of losing discernible seasons. I can’t lose autumn – I love it far too much.

So, I wonder  – what is your favorite season, and why is it so?

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

 

A Few Words

Scrounging up confidence, battling insecurity, and facing internal and external opposition is a day-to-day struggle for some writers. Myself included. And it’s not only with writing – it can bleed into other aspects of life, as well.

It has been difficult lately to sit down and write and work on queries. Nagging “what ifs?” and an abundance of pressure settle on my shoulders whenever I open up my MS, and I can’t stop worrying about whether or not it’s good enough to put out there. It’s self-sabotage, I know – but it’s like black clouds converge upon my brain and I can’t shake them off, and it spoils all of my efforts.

20180916_2142191762263572.jpgBut sometimes, all it takes is a few words to fend off the cold shroud of discouragement. I found this little note, from an old friend of mine, tucked into a book on my bookshelf the other day while cleaning my room.

And it was like a small dose of sunlight, scattering the storm. I pondered the words, mulling over them like a stream over pebbles, and thought, maybe the world does need my voice. I want to share it – and really, nothing external is stopping me. The only one holding me back is me – so I need to push myself, if I want my voice to be heard.

Sometimes, all it takes is a few words. One little post-it note can pack a lot of power. Now, when I look at this little green reminder tacked above my desk, I can battle those “what-ifs?” with renewed confidence, and remember that I have support.

Hopefully, a new story is on the horizon. I can’t wait for you all to read it.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Let us go then, you and I…

Though my favorite poet is Walt Whitman, and I own a well-loved edition of Leaves of Grass, he did not pen my favorite poem. That distinction belongs to “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” written by T.S. Eliot and published in 1915. I’m also a big fan of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, but that’s neither here nor there…

At it’s core, I interpreted the poem as being about an individual who wants so many things in life, but laments missed opportunities and fears speaking his mind and voicing his desires. Anxiety and fear and a bombardment of “what ifs” assail him, and prevent him from pursuing his dreams. But there are a variety of ways to read the poem, and many allusions and themes that can be discerned from it. Prufrock has a distinct feel and voice, and because it impacted me so much, I made a rudimentary “motion comic” for an English final in 2012.

I don’t see much use in keeping this stored on my computer collecting dust, so here’s the YouTube link! Yes… I am aware that I cannot draw proportionate hands. I couldn’t then, and I still can’t.

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If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon / Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

When I Left

When I left England, part of me stayed behind.

Part of me still rides the train into the city through the early morning haze, and sits at a table by the thatch-roof cottage, sipping tea and admiring the serenity of Richmond Park. Some of me still frolics through the fields of Kew Gardens, the air rich with the scent of flowers. Part of me still cringes at the thought of steak and kidney pie, but yearns for fish and chips with mushy peas. There’s a bit of me still wandering the streets of Bath, still sitting in an elaborate theater as the first haunting notes of a musical ring out, still getting lost in the maze of King Henry VIII’s palace, still nursing a pint or a Pimms at a cozy pub as the sun sets. In a way, I’m still standing in Leicester Square as dusk descends on the city, not ready to go back to the flat and call it a night – and certainly not ready to go back across the sea.

I went to England to learn and take courses, but some lessons could only be learned after falling into a puddle in Paris, exploring castles, or chasing a cat through a graveyard after one-too-many pints of hard cider. My first foray into the world beyond the East coast of the United Sates was too short, and my heart still pines for the fresh sea air of the beach at Brighton and strolls across the Thames. I want to see a snow-kissed England in the winter, and find out if the leaves look beautiful in the fall.

The rest of me eventually got on a plane and came home. I miss the part of me I left behind, but I know we’ll meet again someday.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Were

I don’t think I will ever forget the day I ran the third leg of the 4×1 relay at a track meet in Harrisburg. I remember noticing that the anchor was a little too far ahead for me to hand her the baton. I was so sure we were going to miss the handoff – we were going to step out of bounds, she was going to have to stop, our coach was going to be pissed because this was the week before the next big invitational. At the last available second, I did a move that the cast of the Matrix would probably be proud of. The anchor grabbed the baton and took off for the finish line. My foot got caught in the track and I hit the ground, and as I lay there on the turf, the line judge asking “Are you okay?” I knew that no, I was not okay, because knees are not supposed to protrude out the side of your leg.

I mean, at least we won the race. That was my only consolation as the doctor at the emergency room snapped my knee back into place – in the waiting room. A woman waiting for her turn exclaimed, barely audible over my screams, “Oh my god they broke her leg!”

I remember having to put on the blue bonnet, and the surgical gown, and the bright lights of the operating room fading as I drifted out of consciousness, and then waking up to the blurry face of my extremely handsome doctor looking over me. The morphine in me decided to tell him “I love you” and thankfully he just laughed and said “That’s what they all say.” He explained that they found a few bone chips during the operation, as well as a mysterious ligament in my leg – apparently, the existence of this ligament was debated, and I had provided them with more proof. Yet they refused to name it after me, which, to this day, I consider a grave injustice.

The first night, when the nerve block wore off, it felt as though someone had repeatedly plunged fiery-knives into my leg. A week later I returned to school and developed a burning hatred for ramps, which are surprisingly difficult to traverse with crutches. And a month later, when physical therapy began, I learned just how hard it is to teach yourself to walk properly again when your brain refuses to tell your knee to bend. It was a long journey, and though I languished through so much of it, I had a lot of help from friends and family.

Eight months after that, I learned that former glory is not always able to be recaptured – just because you used to win gold medals, and have trophies decorating the shelves in your room, doesn’t mean you’ll always be able to do that. Coming in dead last in the 200m trials, a race I used to dominate, during track tryouts the next season proved that my ability had shattered with my knee. Now, I can’t forget the flashing ambulance lights, and the x-rays, and all the physical therapy, and how one leg of my pants will always be ill-fitting, and the unintentionally biting words of my former coach as I packed up and left after the first day of tryouts, “You were a real good sport.”

And the worst part about it is that word.

Were.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.