Zero Energy PSA

I've been away a while. Granted, I did literally go out of the country for a bit, but that's not the majority of why I haven't been posting. Frankly, I haven't had the mental capacity or energy. That's in part due to a hormone disorder I have called hypothyroidism. It started effecting me around 19 and while I improved a lot with treatment, it turns out I haven't actually geared up to the necessary dose I need. Basically my body doesn't have enough thyroid levels so I have to take synthetic versions to make up for what I lack, and apparently I'm not taking enough. Luckily, I have recently found this out, and plan on gearing up my dosage with my doctor so that I can function better.

Hypothyroidism causes a host of things including muscle and joint weakness and soreness, dry skin, lethargy, fatigue, memory loss, hair loss, slowed heart beat... basically it makes everything about you feel very slow. I used to think it was really normal to just want to be asleep all the time but apparently people genuinely enjoy being awake most of the time. Who knew! (Not me, obviously.) My condition was really severe in college so in comparison, I totally thought I had this handled, but this just goes to show that "better" is very relative. I'm really excited because this means that all that fatigue and depression that I have been dealing with will improve a lot just by taking a pill every day! And you know, all the other symptoms too, but the fatigue and depression are going to be the big game-changers for me.

I say all this to let you know a few things:

Firstly, if you are having these problems, too, go get tested for hypothyroidism-- it's a super simple blood test and it's very very treatable. It's especially common in women. I wonder how many of my peers have this disorder without knowing and haven't yet found ways to deal with their depression or general tiredness. (PS: Your depression might have multiple causes which could include this or a host of other things. It might not be just one thing and that's okay! Work with a doctor to figure out how you can manage your own unique stuff.) I bet a lot of us are totally ignoring our suspicions and/or blaming ourselves like I did for a while in college, thinking I was just useless. More recently I totally suspected a lot of my hair was falling out but I have so much hair (my ponytail is 3 times thicker than most people's) I thought "maybe this is just proportional." Turns out, nah. My initial "oh my god am I dying??" every time a wad of hair shed off me was... well obviously not completely warranted-- I'm a pretty dramatic person, let's be real-- but correct in my gut instinct that something was Not Right.

Secondly, I am totally going to continue blogging and hopefully making youtube content as well. It's just been super hard with all this going on, but I'm not giving up on this. I'm just really, really tired. Most notably from this, but there are other changes in the world of Harper that take precedence over this blog. Hopefully I will have more energy within the next few months and get back on schedule!

Thirdly, I will eventually get all my content up about my trip to Europe and other things. In the meantime however, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram, which are much more manageable for me at the moment. I'm @harperyi on both.

Share 0

August Shopping Picks

This post contains affiliate links. That means clicking a link or purchasing something though the link may result in a small amount of money coming my way at no additional cost to you. My opinions are always my own. Thanks for helping this blog keep running!

This month I'm covering some things I've already bought alongside some things I wanna buy since it's been a while since I've done a wishlist post. It's just something it doesn't make sense to even think about when you are looking for work, you know? But now that I'm back on my feet, I must admit that I've been shopping with a bit of a vengeance. Here are my picks for this month!

1. Gold & Black Embroidered Reversible Bomber - One of the things I realized when I was working through Nicole's amazing workbook, Feel Good, Dress Better's first chapter is that I love bomber jackets-- they are super versatile, more put-together than hoodies (an adolescent fave), and they actually make me feel more confident in other outfits on days when I just wanna be a little more covered. I'm working toward getting them in all my main colors. So far I have baby pink/white, blush, burgundy, and black with pink and purple florals. This one is next up on my list! Black and gold, and it's reversible which really means it's two jackets in one.

2. Anastasia Beverly Hills' Subculture Palette - Look, I know I said the Two Faced palettes met most of my needs, which they do, and then I said I needed the Limited Edition Urban Decay Full Spectrum Palette for my intensely colorful looks, which is still very true, but this palette, I'm positive, is also going to be a very valuable add to my collection. It's got golden undertones which on a fairer person might be grungier, but on me, I'm thinking it won't be so grungy and will just come off looking very complementary to my tan, warm skin tone.

3. BASU Sound Grenade Personal Alarm - I'm a huge fan of safety, and personal alarms are a must-have in my book. Unlike weapons which can be difficult to obtain and can be turned against victims of crimes, personal alarms de-escalate dangerous situations by making loud noises that will send an attacker running the other way. This sound grenade is super compact, easy to attach to your keys or bag, and all you have to do to activate it is pull the colored part off the black pin. It emits a very loud alarm sound and doesn't shut up until you put it back together or it runs out of batteries. It's super easy to use and comes in a variety of colors. They also make great gifts! I bought the Sound Grenade+ which is larger but has 2 clippable ends (great for setting trip wires when camping or traveling), plus it's pink (always a plus in my book). I got a matching one for my sister and the compact one for my brother.

4. Tarte Rainforest of the Sea Aquacealer - I really like liquid concealers and Mia recommended this one! It works well and it's vegan and cruelty-free which is always a bonus. I'm currently using the Tarte Amazonian clay concealer but I'm frankly not a huge fan of the stick formulation (surprising because I'm a stick makeup person). At some point in the near future, I'm definitely switching over!

5. Studio 1 Short Sleeve Fit & Flare Dress in White & Coral - I'm a huge fan of coral and I've learned that I need more pieces I can wear for more social events. (Thanks again to Nicole's great workbook-- I'm really learning where the weaknesses of my closet are.) I'm really excited about this one because the colors make this a piece that can be worn day and evening to parties, brunches, dates, etc. The lines are super flattering and have a lot of bounce to them. I placed an order for a few dresses on JC Penney to take advantage of a sale and this was in the mix!

What are you lusting after this month?

Share 0

6 Tips for Getting Started with Snail Mail

Last week I talking about why I love sending snail mail as an act of self-care. Today I'm giving you tips on getting started as a letter writer and snail mailer.

1. Get your friends' mailing addresses. This is probably the most involved step but it's the first! Tell your friends you're making an effort to send letters and cards every once in a while and that you can get them in on it. The holidays make a nice occasion to ask for this info if you'd rather wait til you have a good excuse! If you don't wanna keep a physical address book you can sign up free with Postable (which I know is what Mia uses) to create an easy, secure, online address book for yourself.

2. Start small with postcards. One of my favorite things to do is buy postcards and send them to friends. Post cards are great because they are cool art pieces that also take the pressure off you to write a ton. Staring at a blank page can feel like a whole lot of responsibility, but with more postcards leaving about about the same amount of space as a post-it note, you'll probably be able to send someone a quick, nice thought. Pro tip: go to the post office and ask them for postcard stamps! They're about half the price of a forever stamp and will get your postcard where it needs to go without you overpaying.

3. Buy some nice stationery. Nothing wrong with the rustic nostalgia of sending a letter to a friend on loose leaf but getting to write a cute card or on a fun piece of Rilakkuma paper really adds a little oomph to the thing, doesn't it? It's a little more motivating and it also means whatever you write is that much more fun/interesting.

4. Send thank yous. There's very little that is as good for your brain and your heart as saying thank you to someone. You can thank someone for a gift or a dinner or recommendation letter, but you can also just thank someone for being a friend, teacher, or smiling face. I try to always have a stock of thank you cards at my disposal since they never stop being useful!

5. Keep things simple. I try to always start and end letters with a well-wish. Talk about something you have in common, an old memory you have with that person, something they recently posted on social media that you loved, or something you experienced recently that they would like. For some people it can feel kind of weird to "talk" to someone without having a conversation, but I'll put it like this: what do you wish someone would send you? It's probably not that complicated or long.

6. Make time for it. If you can put aside an hour a month, or maybe during the weekends to sit down with a coffee, listen to some music, and write something to someone, you're doing great. It doesn't have to be an intimidating production. Just put an hour aside to write something nice for your grandparents or a far-flung friend. One or two less episodes of a show during a Netflix binge won't kill you.

Those are my tips for making sending letters super easy and non-intimidating! What are your biggest hurdles or tips for sending mail?

Share 0

August Small Goals

I completely lost July. I have been so busy with work things and trying to figure out how to get groceries and have a social life and sleep, but I'm definitely back on track again so I'm here to jump back in on Nicole's Monthly Small Goals round up.

Last time I participated it was June, so first let's get old business out of the way and see how I did.

Wear sunscreen more. I am definitely doing better at this! I wear sunscreen almost every day I leave the house. Now my big problem is reapplying, but since most of my days I get sun in the morning and not much after that, so I'm ticking this one off as a win.

Edit my wardrobe. I'm working through Nicole's Feel Good Dress Better Workbook very slowly but I'm already learning a ton about where I've been going wrong with my closet. I sent a ton of stuff to ThredUp and hopefully I'll get some change out of it-- if not the items they don't sell will be responsibly recycled so I feel really good using them. (Get $10 credit through this referral link.)

Read two books. I'm definitely failing here, but I have been spending a good amount of time outside work being social and sleeping, which is not a bad thing! So many people are in town so I've definitely prioritized going out over staying in with a book, but I'm sure I'll get through these books eventually. It might just have to wait until the sun starts to fade.

Update my about and contact pages. I've updated my about-- but not my contact. That's a half a win, right?

Alright, now that that (very) old business is handled, let's get onto my goals for this month.

Be more active on Instagram. Twitter is where I spend most of my time but I feel like I'm missing out on a lot by not being on Instagram, especially since more of my IRL friends are on Instagram than on Twitter.

Pack my lunch. I recently booked a trip to London and Iceland for this fall so there has never been a better motivation for me to figure out how to make packing lunch part of my everyday life.

Go to the gym. I've honestly been telling myself that I've been getting out more (which is true and great) so I don't need to go to the gym, but a big part of my getting out more has also involved food that leans more toward "irresponsible choice" than "responsible choice." Frankly, I love eating foods for their enjoyment value and nutritional value takes a back seat-- but if I'm going to live like that, I really have to be less sedentary. I'm eating myself into a cycle of sluggishness. I know once I start going to the gym, I'll be better motivated to eat garbage food a little bit less since it's a lot more noticeable when you feel bad at than gym than when you are watching netflix.

What are your goals for the month?

Share 0

4 Ways Snail Mail is Good for Your Mental Health

College was a pretty hard time for me, mental health-wise. It's pretty common for your late teens and early 20s to hit you pretty hard between the drastic life changes (new environment, vastly different living situation, new people, changing relationships as you go from kid to some kind of adult) and the general still-not-fully-baked-ness of the brain. I struggled with anxiety, panic, and depression-- and still do on occasion. But luckily for all of us, mental health-- like most health-- is about managing and coping with whatever conditions we're born with and/or develop in whatever way works best for us. I put contacts in my eyes since I cannot naturally see things, take a synthetic hormone supplement for one my body doesn't make enough of, pop an allergy pill in case I go outside or encounter a cat, and a million other little things to keep myself happy and healthy. One of those things for me is sending letters and postcards to friends-- and maybe it could be one of those self-care things for your brain, too! Next week I'll talk about tips for how to get in the habit of sending mail, but for today, let's talk about the why.

1. Connecting to other people is a really good thing for your brain! We're social animals--isolating ourselves isn't healthy, but if you're depressed, anxious, or otherwise not feeling good, you're probably doing just that. You might be having thoughts that no one wants to talk to you or feel so ashamed or sad that you don't want to be around other people. Luckily for you, you don't need to be around anyone or even directly engage them over text or chat to send them a letter. It's a way of connecting to people without the pressure of responding immediately or making eye contact or any of the stuff that might be scaring you about interacting with people.

2. You're probably going to make someone's day-- and knowing that is a good feeling. When you get a piece of mail that's not junk, a bill, or a legal summons, it's a really great day. Most people rarely get mail, and whether it's a close friend or even a far flung one they aren't the tightest with but still care for, it's really great to know someone was thinking of them. Getting out of your own head to think about how someone else will feel is a positive thing when you are down in the dumps or just feeling "blah." It takes you out of your own sadness and gets you thinking about how you are a very small and manageable but also very real catalyst for good feelings in the world.

3. Writing letters without expecting reciprocity is an act of selflessness. Some people really believe that a letter must be reciprocated-- in some circles, that's just the etiquette. Personally, I don't like to follow that mindset, because it turns letter writing into something transactional. It's very easy nowadays to quantify everything, and while in many cases that can help us optimize our lives, it can also frame the way we see the world in terms of how much we give versus how much we get. And frankly, if you're anything like me (and in this way I think most people are) seeing the world in those terms makes you feel sad, unfulfilled, angry, and even cheated simply because you are noticing a lack of balance in numbers. We don't process everything we encounter or experience, and it's important to use that to our advantage. If you're focusing on a conversation with a friend at a coffee shop, you might not notice how many people come and go-- even if you saw those people somewhere in your field of vision-- because that brain energy is better spent going towards your goal of having a great conversation. In the same way, giving (or in this case, sending a letter) just for the sake of giving is a lot more fulfilling that giving in order to receive. Hanging on to an unnecessary expectation makes you sad or hurt or resentful, so why have one? Not only are you better off without it, but you start getting in the habit of choosing not to expect things in return and thus experience far fewer disappointments in life.

4. Snail mail changes how you perceive time and space for the better. Not to get all trippy on you, but time and space are very relative things. There are instances where a hundred miles is not too far to stay connected to someone, and others when a room apart feels like an ocean away.  There are times when a week feels like a day and when a minute has lasted for hours. Things are so instantaneous now, it's only natural that we've lost patience. I get frustrated if Amazon tells me my stuff will take more than a week to get to my apartment (I pay for Prime for a reason, dammit!). We spend a lot of perceived time waiting as seconds stretch between a sent text and a reply, minutes and hours become millennia as we watch our inboxes. We agonize over lengths of time that are actually very little compared to how we experience them. Writing and sending a letter changes the way you think about time and distance by making you feel closer and more present to people who are far away by sending them something physical and tangible, while at the same time dialing back your perception of time to remember that seconds and minutes don't have to be your primary frame of reference when it comes to time-- you can also think in days and weeks and still be totally okay. Maybe even better.

Basically, sending letters is really good for your brain-- especially when you are stressed, anxious, sad, or just finding that the pace of life is too burdensome. If you haven't done it in a while or ever, definitely give it a try! Next week I'll be giving tips on getting into letter writing because sometimes it's intimidating.

Share 0

Catching Up

It's been a while since I've posted and a lot has gone down. So let's catch up! In no particular order here are the big things I've got going on... it's a lot.

I started working at a new job! I think I've posted about this before, but it's both a big deal and a pretty big reason why I haven't been able to post as much. I started working at a really awesome company called Remezcla. We publish awesome content by, for, and about Millennial Latinxes. I work on the Revenue team and I love it but it's definitely pretty tiring between the occasional late night and the longer commute. I'm trying to get things sorted out in terms of how my routine runs. I've signed up for Amazon fresh, for example, so I can get groceries without having to go out and get them. Still nailing stuff down but I'm getting there, y'all!

I got started on Nicole's Feel Good Dress Better workbook. It's making me take a long hard look at my shopping choices! I've always loved fashion but I'm not most focused shopper-- I like pieces even if they don't always make sense for me or my wardrobe. This is helping me become a more focused shopper and I got rid of like 20% of my wardrobe for better pieces.

Booked tickets for my first trip to Europe. I've never travelled solo or abroad before so I'm both excited and anxious! I'll be meeting up with friends during the trip but the actual flights are gonna take forever. The farthest I've ever travelled before is Los Angeles. If anyone has tips or resources about traveling abroad, or more specifically to London or Reykjavik, send them my way!

What's new with you?

Share 0

Harper Watched: Bella: An American Tall Tale

photo c/o Playwrights Horizons by Joan Marcus

Harper Watched is a recurring series where I talk about entertainment media I've seen and review it for you. From movies to musicals, TV to live theater, I cover it all and lay it out for you right here.

Friday night, I went out with a college friend of mine to indulge in our mutual love of musical theater. As per usual, I was very excited to see the latest musical production at Playwright's Horizons-- Bella: An American Tale. As the show closes July 2, I'll tell you now to grab your tickets before it's too late. If you're under 35, you can sign up for a Young Membership (and students can sign up for a even further discounted Student Membership) for free to get discounted ticket access. This show is absolutely amazing and total #BlackGirlMagic which I am ALWAYS going to support. Right at the top, I'm letting you know this show is a 5/5 and you need to grab your tickets now.

This show is a Western of epic proportions by, for, and about black women. The writer, composer, lyricist Kirsten Childs is a damn revelation-- not many people do all three to begin with, and she does it all with immense skill, heart, and humor.

The Plot

Bella Patterson is on the run from the law and off to be with her sweetheart Aloysius T Hunnicut. Under the assumed name Bella Johnson, she heads west on a train to meet her betrothed, leaving behind her mother, auntie, and grandmother. Bella turns heads everywhere she goes with her big booty and warms hearts with her unrelenting sunshine. She goes on wild adventures, meets wild and amazing characters, and reclaims her story and her identity, over and over again.

Bella deals with a concept I'm a huge fan of as a storyteller and a Psych major-- the nature of our owned stories, and who gets to write and tell them. Bella is a girl with a big imagination, and she sees fit to imagine a world in which love wins out, she is the hero, and her dreams can all come true. Being a black woman, the world rarely sees fit to give her control of her own story, or to listen to what she has to say. History will not write her in. In the opening number she tells the audience that history is the tall tale we learn in school-- but there are so many other stories to be told. And this is Bella's.
photo c/o Playwrights Horizons by Joan Marcus
We grapple with autobiographical memory (our own stories) and historical memory in this exhilarating musical. Bella's grandmother struggles with dementia, but holds herself together best when talking about The Itty Bitty Gal-- their foremother who was forced into slavery but refused to be broken. Bella herself is a bit of an embellisher when it suits her-- and that's her own way of taking better control of her life. Throughout Bella, we see that creating a tall tale out of an ordinary one is not just a means of having fun, but of coping with hardship, finding bigger truths, and connecting with others in the present, past, and future.

Bella is unapologetically black, and unapologetically woman. It delves into complicated issues like the conflicted relationship black women can have with their bodies and how parts of it are seen in the world. It deals with lynching and the unpunished murder of black men and the immense struggle to find hope to go on. It deals with losing hope, losing love, losing dignity, and even losing your mind. But it offers hope in all these struggles; the kind of hope found in having courage, honoring those who came before you, and in owning your story-- if not daring to make it a little bit taller.

Getting Down To Business

Bella is an absolute masterpiece in #BlackGirlMagic. It is so sincere and honest in its experience of both unsinkable laughter and the deepest heartbreak. Kirsten Childs has put together a show that is jubilant and earth-shattering. This show doesn't pull any punches and through the music and the brilliant performances of the cast manages to balance the highs and lows with the audience on the edge of our seats. Childs manages to touch on some of the darkest parts of the experiences of black women and still bring it all back around to hope and finding happiness. 

I'm an Asian woman, and I'm not here to pontificate on the Black Woman Experience because that is just not my lane. But as a Woman of Color, I am 100% here to tell you that you need to support the work of marginalized people (which usually means going out of your way since the mainstream usually doesn't do much for marginalized people). I'm telling you that Bella is by, about, and for black women not to tell anyone to stay away, but rather to encourage you to see it. As a media consumer, you can change the world and yourself for the better by being more critical about what you consume and engaging with works by people outside your experience and moreover outside straight whiteness. This show is not watered down, it's not filtered down to make audiences more comfortable. Bella's story is Bella's story, and true to form, it will not be made small for anyone else's comfort.

photo c/o Playwrights Horizons by Joan Marcus
Bella deals with the really hard stuff so I'm going to throw a warning out there that this show is pretty real about the despair and violence that black women and their loved ones experience. The scene dealing with a woman whose husband was murdered by a crowd of white folk was gut-wrenching and I felt the song being sung by so many black women whose husbands, boyfriends, brothers, fathers and children (as well as wives, mothers, girlfriends, and sisters) have been murdered by people without getting any justice. As fantastic and tall as these tales are, they are so very real, and echo across time and history into our present in a way that is cathartic and validating as much as it is tragic. The song about Bella's mother's struggle with her grandmother's failing memory was just as heart-rending. The loss of a person, an identity, and their history is felt on both a human level and a historic one. It is heritage and history that keep her mind together in the fleeting moments she has it, highlighting the triumph in remembering where you came from and the blow felt when that is lost.

This show also dealt a lot with the difficulties one faces in their relationship with their body. Bella's behind is both celebrated and hated, sought-after and reviled. She deals with the tension of wanting to own her body-- its magic, its sexuality, its reality as part of her!-- while others outside her may choose to objectify her for it, humiliate her, or even attack her. This is told of course through Bella's relationship with her big booty and the spirit of her foremother The Spirit of the Booty aka The First Itty Bitty Gal. She goes through phases of loving her booty, hating how other people see her because of her booty, and of course, appreciating her booty once again not only as part of herself but as part of the legacy of those who came before her.

But don't let all that heavy stuff get you down because the jokes and the comedy are so well done in this show. From over-explain-y bad guys to well-timed looks and occasional 4th wall breaks, this is a hilarious show that will have you laughing and whooping as much as it's got you wiping tears. This is a beautiful, wonderful show. You've gotta see it.

Ashley D. Kelley, who plays the lead Bella, is so charming and comedically brilliant and her voice is the sweetest thing I've ever heard. I will watch her in anything. I've decided. Kenita Miller (Mama) and Brandon Gill (Nathaniel Beckworth) are also standout performers in a cast bursting with immense talent.

photo c/o Playwrights Horizons by Joan Marcus
My favorite ensemble character is definitely the Chinese American Oil Tycoon Cowboy, Tommie Haw. He hits on a lot of underrepresented parts of Asian American identity. The fact that we can "be from here" in that it's the 1800s and Tommie grew up in the US or the fact that Chinese workers built the Transcontinental railroad (often a footnote or a fact after which Asians disappear in the American history books up until Japanese internment-- if that's even covered). Or the fact that Chinese guys can be pretty damn hot. (Look, I hate "emasculation" as a concept because it's usually code for men not feeling superior/entitled to women, but I will admit that Asian guys are routinely under-appreciated.) It also helps that Haw is portrayed by my one true childhood prince charming, Paolo Montalban (he's actually Filipino) whom you may remember from the race-blind Cinderella that aired in the late nineties and taught you the meaning of true love. I got a chance to chat with him and grab his autograph after the show-- he is as wonderful as he seems. I'll put a slight caveat that Bella's portrayal of Mexicans, Indians, and Chinese people are not fully-enlightened, but the show is told from the point of view of Bella, a girl who learned about them through a book written in the 1800s, so I'll give her imagination a pass since the portrayals don't take themselves to seriously either.

Bella is unexpected, with many twists and turns and an ensemble that is as gifted in physical comedy and timing as they are in music. The staging is pretty brilliant too and I'm always in love with Playwright's Horizons ability to make a small theater into something so magical and transportive. If you are in the New York area, go see this show!

Harper's Rating: 5/5

Brilliant writing, music, and lyrics by the incomparable Kirsten Childs
By, about, and for black women
Paolo Montalban 
Deft handling of some really heavy material balanced out by incisive humor
Fantastic exploration of narrative as a critical part of collective and individual humanity
Fantastic loved story (I love a love story, because I'm an emotional weenie)
Amazing portrayal of how we live in our stories, and reality is secondary (I'm obsessed with this)
Bella's imagination has some pretty wild portrayals of Mexicans and the Chinese, but her ill-informedness is well-explained, and it feels more like a statement on her naivete than on how Mexican and Chinese people actually are in this universe.
I can't buy the cast recording immediately

I'll be going to see the show again on Tuesday night. Get your tickets and see this show while you can! I'm telling you, you'll regret missing out!

Share 0

june small goals

I'm back with another installment of small goals as part of Nicole from Writes Like a Girl's small goals link up! I did a lot of stuff in May, but very little of it was anything I posted in my last monthly goals. Frankly, I underestimated how much brain capacity my travel plans and job hunt would take away from remembering these littler things. I knew I should have picked only 3 tasks but I thought I was up to the challenge. Whoops! Anyway, before we get to this months goals, let me shame myself publicly.

Post a great Disneyworld vlog! I actually did this! I had a beautiful time with my best buds and I am so glad I got to spend that time with them. I didn't capture as much of it as I think I should have in terms of video content but I am fine with that since I only didn't capture it because I was too busy having a great time with them. You can watch the vlog here.

Post 3 blog posts. Well. This is awkward. I set the bar low, but I should have set it lower with my job hunt and not one but two trips out of town!

Make a more solid skincare routine. With all the travel I did-- via plane!-- I really wasn't able to pack, use, and solidify a routine with all the products I want to be a part of my routine. I should have seen this coming, frankly. 

Exercise during commercial breaks. Sometimes I'll do some squats, but with all the shows I watch breaking for the summer, I've not experienced pretty much any commercial breaks in my TV consumption. Honestly, I totally forgot that everything was season finale-ing!

Nail down the Major Arcana. I studied more for my interviews than for my Tarot practice. I can't really fault myself for that. 

So it turns out that I haven't done too badly this month-- I just picked bad goals. I didn't want to make goals about big things like job hunting-- this is a small goals round up after all! I also didn't want to make goals about my travel plans since the travel was scheduled and inevitable and therefore kind of already accomplished. This month I'm going to try to focus better on my small goals, and luckily I'll have much more stability to do so. 

Wear sunscreen more. I'm really diligent about this when I travel since I often go to sunny locations and spend much of the days outside on the street, but I'm not as good with this on an every day level. Generally this isn't too much of a problem since I'm fortunate to have fairly sun-resilient skin but I really should take better care of it and wear sunscreen more regularly at least in the summer months. I just invested in the NARS Velvet Matte Skin Tint with Broad Spectrum SPF 30 which will definitely help me up my sunscreen game since it'll just be part of my makeup routine. 

Edit my wardrobe. I'm really excited and nervous about this one. I got into a good place with a lot of my fall/winter wardrobe, but I need to get on top of my spring/summer wardrobe. Moreover, I'm no longer at my rad, super casual job and looking for a new one which might involve a more grown up approach to dressing. Despite previous purges, even now I realize I have a disproportionate amount of t-shirts that I don't wear out. It's good to have clothes for chilling at home or running errands, but I really ought to have fewer of those and more clothes I love wearing while I'm actually being seen! Luckily for me, Nicole's Feel Good, Dress Better workbook is out. I'm so ready!

Read two books. There are two books I'm in the middle of right now-- I love them while I'm reading them, but I'm still not used to making space for books anymore. I'm two years out of school but I haven't scraped that "reading is work" mentality off me. I'm going to try to make the space better because I really love these books! I realize I struggle a bit more when there's not a narrative story so I've gotta be more conscious about making time. I'm still reading a business biography called The Will to Win by Robert Herjavec (my favorite Shark Tank shark) and Her Eternal Moonlight by Steven Savage and Bonnie Walling which is all about the experiences of girls/women in North America whose lives were touched by Sailor Moon. 

Update my about and contact pages. I am really happy with how I re-did my fonts on the site last month (do you love it as much as I do?) and it's really inspiring me to spruce things up a bit! I've gotta update my about and contact pages and I'm really looking forward to it.

That's it for my goals this month! If you're looking for your own goal motivation, check out Nicole's link up and see what other people are trying to get done! You can also check out her rad workbook here if you also need to re-evaluate and change-up your closet. 

What are your goals for the month?

Share 0

may small goals

Lots of big life changes happening this month. I'm currently "between successes" but very excited about the opportunities I'm pursuing. I'm participating in Nicole at Writes Like A Girl's link up of small goals. Be sure to check that out and consider participating and linking up.

Before we get into this month's goals, let's check in on last month's goals:

Raise money for services for domestic violence and human trafficking victims. Granted, I only made it a little over half to my original goal, we did raise a decent sum of money that will help Sanctuary for Families, an organization that helps victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. These issues disproportionately and deeply affect women who are poor, immigrants, and/or women of color. The money we raised will go towards providing legal aid, shelter, counseling, economic empowerment, childcare, and more. The current administration wants to cut funds for programs that help victims of gender violence so please consider sending a donation to Sanctuary for Families

Take a walk at least once a week. I actually did this! In part because I've been running errands further from home to save money, I've gotten out more for longer. I'm glad I'll be able to process vitamin D better with all that good good sunlight.

Learn some new recipes. I learned one new recipe, but I don't think that should count since the spirit was more along the lines of 3 - 5 recipes. 

Do wrist and arm exercises more. I'm doing stretches and push ups more. Probably not as much as I should, but I have made a marked improvement from not at all. 

Bring weekly link posts back. Well. Definitely did not cross this one off my list. 

Three out of five isn't great but it's not bad. The past month was definitely slightly encumbered by the impending graduation of my siblings, Mother's Day shopping, and of course my job hunt. I also managed to get a hair cut-- which is a big deal for me since I haven't gotten that done professionally in... years. 

There's a lot going on this month-- my sister graduating, my trip to Disneyworld with my brother and best bud Jasmin, and job hunting! But we're here to do small goals. So let's focus on that. 

Post a great Disneyworld vlog! I'm trash for Disney and I'm going with some of my favorite people whom I live REALLY far from so it should be a fantastic trip. I'm so excited. 

Post 3 blog posts. The time has come for the bar to be set heckin' low. The lack of structure in my life is definitely making it weirdly easy for me to not post on the blog even though I do want to keep up! What the heck! I just kinda forget about it and assume I have time later-- because I do, but that doesn't mean anything if I don't actually use it.

Make a more solid skincare routine. I think the time has come for me to treat my skin really well. I don't think I'm horrible to it (unless you count my diet) but I would say I'm not strict about it, and that's definitely something I should be more disciplined about. I should be using day and night cream regularly, using serums as a preventative measure, and doing masks 2-3 times a week! 

Exercise during commercial breaks. I watch a lot of TV and I really oughtta take advantage of commercials to do more than check twitter. 

Nail down the Major Arcana. I've been teaching myself tarot with Labyrinthos Academy which is a cool tarot tutorial app! I've gone through all the Major Arcana lessons multiple times over but I still don't think I have it totally nailed down. The Minor Arcana is a lot more difficult so I'm hoping to get a solid grip on the Major Arcana this month before I proceed into Minor Arcana.

What are your goals for the month?

Share 0

6 More Thoughtful Ways to Gift Money to Grads

My siblings are graduating this year! That's got me thinking a lot about graduation gifts. Money is a great and popular gift because frankly, most people could use more of it, and that's especially true when you're just starting out. Giving a cash gift for graduation is pretty common, and it's not seen as impersonal (like it might for a birthday). That said, there are a lot of thoughtful ways to gift someone money with a little more intention. Some things are just easier to spend money on than others, and those things aren't necessarily the most important things-- see: me ordering delivery food and then complaining about the cost of flatware. Sometimes it's a good idea to designate a purpose for funds!

Savings Bonds. If you're in the US, you can buy a savings bond for someone that will mature in a year and can earn interest the longer they sit. You can even buy them directly with your tax refund! Definitely do your research to see if this is a good option for you, but they especially make sense if you want to help your new grad think about the nebulous but important idea of investments and long-term money.

Gift cards for entertainment. Whether or not your recent grad has a job lined up post-grad, it might be hard for them to pay for some fun when they're just starting out. Handle it for them by gifting them a gift card for streaming services or movie theaters.
✨✨✨ Try gift cards for Netflix, Spotify Premium, Apple/iTunes, AMC, fandango, and Regal Theaters.

Gift cards for essentials. There are some places you just gotta shop when you are living your life. Gift cards to these places are always welcome and can make a hefty "starting the apartment" shopping trip a little less cardiac arrest inducing when they hit the register.
✨✨✨ Try gift cards for Amazon Prime, Target, Lowes, and IKEA.

Gift cards for dining out. Sometimes you just gotta treat yourself to a fancy latte or a dinner you didn't have to cook after a long day at work. And some gift givers like to give gifts that aren't 100% practical and necessary and are more fun and special-- an excuse to break from normal restrictions and live a little!
✨✨✨ Try gift cards for Starbucks, Chipotle, Darden Restaurants, Panera, IHOP, Coldstone Creamery, Dominos, etc. You can also get gift certificates for favorite local businesses if you know the grad is going to be living in a certain spot for a while. 

Gift cards for adult/professional clothes. Let's be real, the kids probably need new clothes for interviews and maybe even for their jobs if they're living the corporate lifestyle. But the other thing is that you probably should be picking them for them. So give them a gift card instead!
✨✨✨ Try gift cards for Nordstrom, Banana Republic, Gap, Torrid, JCPenney, Lord & Taylor, DSW, and Express.

Gift cards for travel. What better way to subtly hint that this bud better visit you than by giving them no excuse not to, am I right? But seriously, traveling is a ton of fun and often a key part of how we escape from the pressure of our regular lives whether for a summer getaway or just getting home for the holidays! Make it a little less burdensome for your recent grad with a gift card or two.  
✨✨✨ Try gift cards for and Southwest Airlines

Share 0

Say Goodbye to Complacency with Rain!

Hi all, sorry I haven't posted much lately-- been dealing with some crazy life stuff but I'm hoping to get back into the swing of things soon! In the mean time, my friend Rain from has got my back! She's a really kick-ass friend from LA and she blogs about all the good stuff from pop culture to her personal philosophies and today she's talking about kicking complacency's butt!

The biggest danger is complacency. Can we be continually great?

I do not believe in settling. Whether it’s settling for a job, love or even your next pair of shoes. Never settle. Because settling will leave you feeling empty inside, even if it’s slight. Or worse… REGRET. Now, I don’t believe in regrets either, but that’s a post for another day.

Life is too short to be complacent.

People who are successful and at the top of their game did not settle. The New England Patriots are the best NFL team ever, playing the most conference championships and now, with the most Super Bowl wins of any team in history. But that doesn’t come from settling. Tom Brady didn’t throw in the towel after winning his first Super Bowl (which is the most any player can be happy with), or his second, third or fourth.

Instead he went back to the field and trained harder and came back stronger. Same with Kobe Bryant. No matter what you keep fighting back strong against ALL odds. If you accept the fact that you’re #1, then there’s nothing that can stop you from being #1.

Seek new mountains.
Once you reach the mountain top, seek new mountains. There’s always a bigger and more challenging mountain waiting to be climbed. This will only make you stronger, more powerful and even better than you expected. But of course, with new mountains comes new challenges.

Do it again, but differently.
You’ve reached the highest point of success you dreamt of for a long time and may now be boasting to yourself about how you got there. Great. Now, if you’d like to do it again, make those tweaks and changes. Everything in life is constantly changing and evolving and we must do the same. To reach success, be #1 and reach a new height, we must be willing to do things differently and change. For a potentially better outcome awaits.

Repeat success.Success can be repeated and that can come in many forms. So you’ve got the highest grade on your Communication Law final. Repeat. Obviously not in that class, but in others. Or, perhaps you lost those last 5 pounds that seemed impossible to come off… Repeat success by keeping it off. Repeating success does not mean going out and doing the exact same thing, the same way and being successful, again! Ha, that does not happen. Why? Because you already did it.

Repeating success can come in many shapes, sizes and forms.

Recognize opportunities and seize them.
First and foremost, the most successful people are able to recognize opportunities, take them and run with them. The opportunity can be an innovating product or service, an investment, pursuing a dream career, whether it may be… it’s important to be open to the possibilities.

There are so many more opportunities! Don’t settle for anything less than what you know you deserve. Once you are given those seeds, continue to plant them even during a drought and hope they’ll blossom long term.

We can all bring out our inner Tom Brady or Beyoncé and let nothing stand in our way of being #1. Always strive for the best, nothing less than that is acceptable. Complacency is the enemy of success.

Later babes, xx Rain

Share 0

april small goals

I'm so excited because I'm turning 24 this month and that feels pretty awesome! I'm participating in Nicole at Writes Like A Girl's link up of small goals. Be sure to check that out and consider participating and linking up.

Before we get into this month's goals, let's check in on last month's goals:

Get on To-Doist. 
I immediately got on this and even sprung for premium. It's definitely helped me with the smaller and recurring tasks in my life. It's great for things like chores or incidental things that are important but not urgent. 

Finish a book-- maybe even two! I finished The Wangs vs. The World which I had on my plate forever. You can read my review here and follow me on Goodreads. I have not gotten onto a second book, but I'm glad I met my goal of wrapping one up!

Start Meal Planning again. Did not get to this... I have succeeded in trying out more recipes, but things have been a little too hectic to make time to fully meal plan. I'll try to do better this month!

Go to the gym twice a week. So, I had high hopes, but we were hit with a blizzard and the fact that it didn't warm up like I HOPED it would really put a damper on this. I think I need to generally get out more though. Last month had me so cooped up that I definitely need more sun and I don't think my gym (in a basement) is going to help with that so I'll definitely need to get some walks in the mix.

Blog more, get more videos up. I got a couple videos up and did some more blogging! I stopped putting pressure on myself to put videos up after Youtube's Restricted Mode started being really crappy to so many creators like LGBTQ vloggers and activists. I don't really feel great about the idea of putting up more videos while this is happening. As a bi person I don't know if it's a good decision to continue to create content for a platform that is screwing up so royally-- but on the other hand is it better to not let them stop me from creating? I don't know, but right now I'm leaning toward not putting stuff on Youtube until they fix it. I also got a couple more blog posts up. I feel good about it even though it doesn't feel like I'm fully in the swing of it. I think it will improve as the weather improves. 

Three out of five isn't so bad. That's kind of average for me so at least I'm not doing badly. Onto April's goals!

Raise money for services for domestic violence and human trafficking victims. I mentioned my birthday is coming up, but what I haven't mentioned is that I am using the occasion to raise money for Sanctuary for Families, my favorite non-profit organization in New York. Their mission is to end gender based violence, and work to address the complex problem in a thorough way, providing services ranging from shelter and child care to counseling (individual, group, family, and crisis), legal aid, economic empowerment, and educational advocacy. They work in over 30 languages with thousands of clients each year. This is incredibly dear to me as a child of immigrants and woman of color as immigrants and women of color and those living in poverty are especially at risk for gender-related violence. It's incredibly important with the current administration looking to cut federal funding for programs that fight domestic violence. If you've enjoyed my content over the years, please consider sending a donation their way

Take a walk at least once a week. Here's to hoping the weather makes this something I can actually enjoy. Granted it is also catcalling season but if I worried about that all the time, I'd literally never get anything done. 

Learn some new recipes. I think this will make meal planning more fun! Meal planning is kind of boring and I think learning new recipes will help make it easier to do. I'm frankly not the most disciplined person but my enthusiasm is so strong it usually compensates. I need to build my enthusiasm since trying to make this a chore is not helping me. 

Do wrist and arm exercises more. I am experiencing a lot more issues with my carpal tunnal and I think it's largely because I am mostly using them for repetitive tasks that strain them without actually strengthening or stretching them. I'm hoping to do a few more stretches for them every day and do more arm strength exercises. And maybe start practicing sword again since I am very interested and haven't done it in years. (Before you ask, I have always been a beginner.)

Bring weekly link posts back. I feel like I come across a lot of great content and I miss spotlighting stuff every week. I just want to recommend y'all stuff, and despite my original plan to share it all on Facebook, since making that decision, Facebook has changed a lot-- as both a platform and a culture.

That's it for me! Please consider donating to my fundraiser, and check out Sanctuary for Families-- their array of services is really amazing!

Share 0

1.5 Years Later

It's been a year and a half since I cut all ties with a long-time friend of mine. After over ten years of friendship, I think a lot of people would have a hard time dropping someone unless they did something catastrophic. Especially people who value Being a Good Friend. But Being A Good Friend doesn't make someone else be a good friend to you.

Some people think getting into your life early enough is all they need to do to be a life-long friend. Some people don't contact you unless they need something out of you. Some people don't know how to treat people with respect and don't care to learn. I'm not saying this as an indictment-- just fact.

This is a short post, but in the spirit of spring cleaning and new beginnings, I just wanted to remind you that you can get rid of pretty much anything you want if it is not helping you grow or be better. Just because you're used to something, or have put a lot of time and energy into something, doesn't mean that it is a good idea to keep moving forward with.

Share 0

Book Review: The Wangs vs. The World

As you may know, I'm trying to read more this year-- specifically books. I read a lot of articles and internet pieces but I genuinely haven't picked up many books since grade-school for non-academic purposes so I'm teaching myself to carve out time for that again. This month I told myself I had to finish the book I've been picking up and putting down for months.

I got a free copy of The Wangs vs. The World from Houghton Mifflin way back in October and finally got through it. Here's my take on it.

Centering on the fall of an immigrant family that "made it" and then suddenly found themselves "unmade" at the height of the 2008 financial crisis, The Wangs vs. The World centers on the family and their cross-country road trip to reunite and somehow reclaim their family's former glory-- once lost to the Communists, twice lost to America, where Charles had to start over, and now thrice lost to financial institutions.

This book is not "hilarious" but it does have some funny moments-- I would say the majority of the comedy is more in the absurdities of the improbabilities and indignities the family faces, which is a very common comedic sensibility in Asian immigrants and their descendants. The characters are well-written and multi-layered, each with their own quirks and absurd dreams which is also a hallmark of the first generation of Americans born to immigrants. The charm of those book lies largely in how very real the portrayal of the family dynamic is and the varying values of the different characters based on their generation, cultural upbringing, and social standing-- unique to each character despite their all being a family. 

My two main grievances with the book are these: First, I did not like the Charles, the patriarch, at all. He's the kind of man I have known very well in life and I find him insufferable. The story, though very much about everyone else as much as him is set in motion because of him. It begins with him and ends with him. To me he is the epitome of the idea of "loving your family, without liking them." He is the father that his children love, but don't really like. The story really did feel like, for all its expansion on the other characters, a universe built around him and his own ego and its results. Secondly, I did not get much closure from the book's end, which I will not detail, but I'd say I felt that only 60% of the emotional loose ends were tied up and the floor fell out below me on the last page. And not in a powerful way, just in a bewildering way that had me feeling like I should have read a version with about 30 more pages to wrap everything up.

Overall it's a decent read, and as someone who is trying to read more books by and about Asian Americans, it definitely represented the family dynamics in a robust and real way. It's a little crass, a little too-honest, and very much about humor in situations moreso than the turn-of-phrase in the narration. Perhaps it's just not for someone who is turned off by stories centered on a patriarch and how his mistakes affect everyone else. 

This review is also available on my goodreads account-- if you're a user too, feel free to connect with me there an recommend some books to me!

Share 0

Videos from Austin

2 weeks ago I went on a trip to Austin to see Mia (of xoMia and Fake Goth Girls) and Nicole (of Writes Like A Girl and Breakfast for Dinner). I finally got around to editing video from the trip so here is a little video of some of the fun stuff we did together!

I didn't capture everything we did-- we watched some serious Ultimate Beastmaster on Netflix. I also petted Mia & Colby's cats and we did Tarot things and had lunches with other new friends.

We also filmed some collab videos. The tag for Mia's channel isn't up yet, but you can check out the mystery Disney Lyric challenge we did together!

I still have to film a haul video for this trip too, but I will get around to it soon. If you want to keep up with my videos, please subscribe to my channel.

Share 0

march small goals

Okay, so I've really been neglecting goal posts, but they are pretty important to helping me focus on stuff each month, and Nicole has a really cute round up of them that I miss participating in. So I'm getting back on this (and worrying less about the blog image for them which was making me weirdly anxious). 

I didn't give myself goals last month, but moving forward I'll start with how the last month's goals went. For now, I'm jumping straight into goals for this month!

Get on To-Doist. So, I love my paper planners, but they are honestly better for conceptualizing outings and major tasks each day than they are my everyday functioning. After listening to Fake Goth Girls talk about their love of Todoist, I'm sold. 

Finish a book-- maybe even two! I'm in the middle of one book right now, and while I do want to aim for finishing 1 book every two months at least, I've also decided that I want to alternate fiction and self-improvement-y types of books. I'm hoping to finally finish the book I've been stalled out on for the past couple weeks and start a business-oriented book!

Start Meal Planning again. Another better use for my paper planner, I think this will help me stay healthier and make me better about grocery shopping. 

Go to the gym twice a week. I'm really trying to push myself to be more active as the weather gets less grim. Maybe I'll skip the gym if I can get in an hour long walk or something, but I need to stop planning weekends around food and netflix...

Blog more, get more videos up. I've shot several videos that I haven't edited... that needs to change. I'm hoping to get 2 more blog posts and 2 more videos up this month. 

What are your goals for this month?

Share 0

Life Update 013

So, it's been a while. I have been really slacking on my blogging game, and my content creation game in general these days. But I've been up to a lot so hopefully it will totally make sense why I have been super sluggish these days. I hope that the content I put out for you guys is still entertaining and thoughtful, if a little less frequent. I've been getting some good feedback on my last post about why I think unpaid internships are wrong so I'm hoping that's a good sign. Anyway, life updates.

My cousin moved in. She's makin' moves and one of them is in with me and my other roommate. We combined our living room and dining room into one common area, and now my cousin lives in our former living room. It's technically a bedroom anyway, so I guess it's really just being used for its intended purpose. I'm really glad to have her because not only is she generally a ton of fun, but I think this city is going to give her more of the kinds of opportunities she wants.

I've been sleeping in more than usual on the weekends. It's colder than ever and more often than usual I'm just sleeping in and napping. Part of it might also be the torrent of heartbreaking news I'm getting these days on social media and just not wanting to deal with it. I'm going to try to shift away from sleeping through hours and toward reading through them-- with books rather than feeds.

Speaking of books, I read milk and honey. I really enjoyed it. I love poetry and I appreciated the journey this took me on. Being made up of short poems, I think it was a good transition into making time to read again. I highly recommend for poetry lovers out there.

I'm getting out more. I'm trying really hard to really connect with more people these days. Being someone who loves people but hates getting out, I've really built strong circles of convenience and digital access with close friends, but I have a hard time meeting new people, or even hanging out with people I care about who are a little less convenient to meet up with. I'm trying to grab more lunches, accept more invitations, and generally be outside my house more.

I have been treating myself too much. In the midst of unprecedented not-good societal conditions in my lifetime, I require more self-care than before. Unfortunately, due to my generally outrageous personality this means I have been a little too spendy. My fatalistic sense of humor is compounding this with thoughts like "what's a little money when the president is anti-science?" (Can I blame Mia 'what's a little debt when we don't even know if any of this is real?' Moore for this new thought process?) It also kinda goes hand-in-hand with my being out more... I spend less money when I am off the streets.

Hidden Figures gave me life. Give it all the awards. Go see it if you haven't yet already! Honestly I'm trying to watch more movies about POC fighting the odds and achieving greatness. We also watched Spare Parts on Amazon Instant Video (free with Prime, y'all!) and I loved it! That one is about 4 undocumented high school students who enter a robotics competition despite having the cards stacked against them. It was fantastic and is also based on a true story.

I found a new lunch spot. I'm always happy for a new and delicious lunch spot I can walk to from work. Even better, it's a Japanese street food joint. Nothing better than a cabbage and shrimp pancake!

I'm hoping to pick up my blogging pace a bit, but bear with me. With all the change happening around us, I think we're all re-examining and redefining our relationships to the things we hold dear and the ways we use our most limited resource: time. I still love this blog and all the people who read, but it's definitely not the good old days when I put out like 8 posts per month.

Share 0

We have to talk about unpaid internships

Once upon a time, entry-level jobs were just so: entry-level. You could get a degree and pay for it within 10 years of graduating. Nowadays, you are likely to have tens of thousands in student loans, and will probably graduate into a job market that leaves you wondering how to get experience if no one will give you any. Times have changed and there's this really ugly tradition that is exacerbating the situation: the unpaid internship.

As a person who believes in the importance of creating situations where everyone wins, unpaid internships are appalling. They are inherently exploitative, they are rarely beneficial for the intern, and they stunt the talent pool for companies and entire industries. But if you've not really been a part of unpaid internship culture, or not really examined it, you might not even realize these things. If you're a kid coming up into your adulthood and preparing for your career, you might not even realize you have other options. If you're an school administrator, or an employer, you might not realize how harmful unpaid internships are to the interns and to you. So I'm breaking it down for you, (and I'm going more in depth than the original twitter thread I wrote about this).

What internships should be

The concept of an internship is not at all the problem. Internships provide a whole host of opportunities and benefits, many of which I experienced myself as an intern. Internships are an opportunity to test-drive a job and learn things outside a classroom and in the real world. They're where you can try things out that you might not be able to commit to for 1-2 years when you've graduated, but can definitely commit to for 3-6 months. You can learn about specific companies, or roles, or industries in a way you simply can't (or would have a really hard time doing) in class. Internships should be educational. They should provide you with exploratory opportunities. I've even had paid internships where the company also set up sessions and lunch and learns for all the interns to see different parts of the company and learn about different roles and facets of the industry. Internships should provide you with the opportunity to not only experiment, but to contribute something of value. You should be working, not necessarily at the level of a full-time employee, but in ways that are relevant to the career you are exploring.

That is one of the most obvious reasons why you should be paid. If you are doing the work of a paid employee-- not all of their role, but some parts of it-- you should be getting paid. In my work history, that meant doing things like data collection and entry, copy writing, deck building, and research. These were all projects that a paid person on my team would do if I didn't do them, or conceivably could be assigned to do if they had the bandwidth. Interns are supposed to help teams do a little more and in exchange get paid, just like any other worker.

The problems with not getting paid

As you can imagine, there are a ton of problems with not getting paid for your work. The most obvious and immediate being that unpaid people can't pay for things. Being alive costs money. Paying for transportation and food are critical expenses for anyone, and they don't go on hold because you've got an unpaid internship.  Some kids may find that in order to pursue their careers, they have the best opportunities in both quantity and quality in faraway cities, which could mean additional costs compared to those living at home in the form of rent and moving costs. This adds up to a lot of money that a lot of intelligent, capable young people realize they can't afford to part with. You can talk all you want about the importance of learning to "invest in yourself" but with many students taking on so much in debt to pay for their education, it's a completely rational choice to sit-out so-called unpaid internship "opportunities."

And that leads to an even bigger problem: financial and class-based barriers to opportunity. It's easy to understand why any employer would prefer to hire a recent grad with a couple relevant (or even impressive!) internships under their belt as opposed to a kid with none when they are both competing for the same entry-level role. Everyone is looking to hire the most qualified, most competent candidate. But you have to look beyond "what are people bringing to the table?" to consider "who has been uninvited from the table?" While weighing qualifications is a big portion of the talent selection process, we also have to consider what the lack of qualifications or experience really means. The easy answer is that a lack of experience means that someone is unfit or unmotivated, but the best answers are rarely the easy ones. If we consider the prevalence of unpaid internships as a whole, with them being commonplace across industries and the standard in too many, the best answer as to why a fresh young graduate might lack experience when applying for an entry-level job probably has a lot to do with the fact that they likely couldn't afford to get any. Those who have experiences that are unpaid are those who could afford not to be paid, which means you're really only giving opportunities to well-to-do kids. I don't think that students from privileged backgrounds are the only ones who bring innovation, dedication, and brilliance to the table, so why would you want to keep them out of your companies (and sometimes by extension, whole industries)? Unpaid internships do not encourage young talent to "bootstrap"-- they tell young people with nothing but brains and bootstraps that your company or industry does not value their time and effort the way a paying job at a restaurant or store does.

There are students who do whatever it takes to keep up. They'll live in an apartment with three people to a bedroom and eat peanut butter sandwiches and ramen all summer. They'll wake up an hour earlier to walk to work, not because they were able to afford living somewhere close to the office and they like a good stroll but because they couldn't afford a car to drive from their place. I'm not denying they exist. I'm just saying that it shouldn't be so hard for these people to make the decision to intern somewhere and further their career instead of staying home and helping out their parents or getting a job at the local movie theater for the summer. If a kid who is smart and creative and hard working wants to work for you and contribute to your business, why would you make waiting tables seem like a more sensible option? And what student facing loans would rather do unpaid work instead of making a dent in their debt? Who wins?

Financial barriers affect some groups more than others. Students from underprivileged backgrounds, immigrants and children of immigrants, the poor, those living outside major metropolitan areas, people of color, and women. If your industry is having issues with diversity, and is struggling to find ways to help improve the diversity of the talent pool, consider doing away with unpaid internships and advocating against them in your industry. You suddenly take away a huge disparity between the rich kid with several internships and the kid who is just as smart who couldn't afford to burn through money without making any those summers, and give them a better shot.

Legally there are also ramifications. As mentioned before, if an intern is doing real work at a company, by law they must be compensated-- you can't have it both ways where you make money (in one way or another) from their contributions without paying them. This is an easy to understand concept. In addition to that though, giving interns paid roles helps ensure certain protections for them as employees. As reported in 2015, a shocking number of states don't protect unpaid interns from discrimination or sexual harassment. If a person is not being paid, they don't technically qualify as "employees" who are covered in federal or state workplace laws. Unpaid interns often can't report things like sexual harassment because they aren't protected from retaliation.

Unpaid conditions make for an inherently exploitative relationship between the employer and the not-legally-recognized "employee." 

And before you call unpaid internships worthwhile in the long-run, consider that a 2016 study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that paid interns are almost 30% more likely to get an offer compared to their unpaid peers and across industries, the gap between how much paid interns are offered as starting salaries versus unpaid interns is staggering. Most surprising of all, on average, those who took unpaid internships were offered less to start than those with no internship experience whatsoever. While starting salaries are far from the be-all-end-all of one's income potential, they do set the standard against which raises are doled out, and can set a person's expectation and evaluation of what they are worth as an employee. Because of this, a large disparity in starting salary can significantly hinder someone's ability to close the gap between their salary and that of a peer who started higher up the pay scale despite having the same role.

College credit isn't really compensation

Many prospective interns are aware that some employers can't pay in money, but they can compensate in "educational credits." Educational credits, however, do not pay the bills. Moreover, college credit is a tricky thing to obtain. It requires that the employer meet the educational institution's standards to qualify as an educational experience worthy of credit. This can mean that students will have to complete additional projects as educational exercises, or that supervisors have the power to grade interns, or even, in some cases, that the institution can charge a student for those credits. That's right, it might mean that a student pays for a job. (Some of my peers did this and it absolutely boggles my mind.)

If you've ever had a bad boss (and I think everyone has), you know that even at great companies or while doing work you love, a bad boss can ruin everything. Now, imagine that you have no protections against your boss harassing, bullying, or discriminating against you. Now imagine that this person who is not a trained educator can grade you. Now imagine you are concerned about your GPA being in this person's hands, and not only are you worried about your GPA as it appears on your resume for the next year or so-- you are concerned about keeping your scholarships so you can actually graduate. Imagine that. That's the reality for far too many kids.

Some universities are engaging in misguided attempts to give students real-life experience by requiring internships in order for students to graduate. These employers are not beholden to legal protections for employees nor bound by the authority of the educational institutions and as a result, the quality of these internships isn't paid much attention or enforced, with many students unable to risk their ability to graduate or find work in tight-knit industries by reporting bad experiences. It is imperative in my opinion that schools stop requiring internships. I believe paid internships should be encouraged and facilitated by the educational institutions as much as possible, but requiring internships forces many students to take unpaid internships.

Unpaid internships aren't your only option

As previously mentioned, you might think that an unpaid internship is your only option, either because they are the standard in your industry, or because you haven't been able to land a paid internship. The good news is that there are lots of things you can do instead of an unpaid internship that will further your career.

Make stuff. Whether you want to write for TV or work in fashion or build apps or websites, you can spend your summer just making stuff. If you're not going to get paid anyway, you might as well work for yourself. You might not be able to put an internship on your resume, but you can write about your project, add it to your portfolio, and talk about it in interviews down the line. Make stuff that you care about. It might cost you money, but you'll have the flexibility to work paid jobs on the side, and you'll still come out ahead, rather than having spent at least an equivalent amount of money making it work for someone who won't pay you.

Learn a new skill and/or get certified. This might also take a little investment, but it's more tangible than an unpaid internship. Brush up on that foreign language you took in high school and become fluent. Get certified in a coding language or CPR or design program. Or get that driver's license you have been putting off. Or even just learn how to cook and shop well for groceries-- maybe that's not something you can put on your resume, but it's a life skill that will pay off in savings from all those meals out and spoiled produce you've learned to circumvent. Read books about self-improvement or productivity. Be a better (and more employable) you.

Job-shadow. Observerships are great because they're basically everything unpaid internships want to be but generally fail at. They typically don't last very long-- sometimes a few days up to a few weeks. This means that you don't spend your entire summer doing something you're not paid for and aren't contributing to (remember, those things are legally dependent on each other). You just shadow someone at their job, going through their day with them, and they take some extra time to explain what they're doing, why, and answer your questions. You're not expected to "do" anything, and you don't get paid, but you also get to learn what a job is like from someone who has it. Observerships are also a lot less commitment on the part of the shadowee since they don't have to take you on for months.

Do informational interviews. Learn about other jobs and companies by doing shorter interviews. You can do these in person or over the phone or video chat. While they aren't as hands-on as other methods, this can be a really efficient way to learn about many companies while also familiarizing them with you. It's a conversation, a two-way street, and it's great for making connections while also learning.

Volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to do hands-on work with much more fair terms than an unpaid intern. While you're still not getting paid, volunteers work on a voluntary basis. While you may decide to commit to coming in from 9-to-5 to help with accounting or planning, you're still there on a voluntary basis and won't have to worry about poor references if something comes up and you need to adjust. The stakes are lower because while you are helping out, you're not obligated to be there. You can learn and prove tons of transferrable skills like communication, team leadership, event planning, web design, and language skills while also working with an organization you care about. It could be a shelter or food bank or library or museum. Health organizations, political organizations, research organizations-- whatever your passion. Someone can use your skills in a way you can put on your resume, with much better conditions than what an unpaid internship might provide.

You can help fight unpaid internships

So now you know all about why I'm against unpaid internships and what some other options are. But now you might wonder how you can stop unpaid internships from being so prevalent. Here are ways you can help.

Don't take unpaid internships. This is an easy choice for those who can't feasibly do it, so this is really a request for those who can. Don't take an unpaid internship even if you can afford it. We need this entire economy to collapse. Unpaid internships cannot exist if there are no unpaid interns. Do some of the other stuff above instead. I know it can be hard, especially when it seems like unpaid internships are the only options out there, but ask yourself if you really want to contribute to a system that makes it hard for people starting out in their career to be a part of it and survive.

Don't make unpaid internships. If you are an employer, or even an employee at a company considering unpaid interns, fight against having unpaid interns. Interns should be paid for their work because people should be paid for their work. Pay your interns or don't have interns.

Advocate against unpaid internships in your industry. Speak out against unpaid internships. There are much better ways to scout talent early and improve the talent pool. Talk about how they cripple diversity and innovation. Talk about how they are unfair and dangerous to the well-being of the young people. If your alma mater has an internship requirement, talk to professors and administrators about why you are against them. Not to be all "children are the future" about this, but literally, the students of today will be the change-makers of tomorrow. It is absurd to ask students who have little to "invest in themselves" for the industry's benefit when the industry should be investing in them.

Open up your doors. As an employer you can scout and encourage talent in many ways, and most of them involve opening your doors. Take calls from students cold emailing you to learning more about what you do. Do panels or office tours for students. Present case studies at local universities. Hold information sessions. You don't have to be an amazing guide to the world of your work. You just have to be open to helping a couple kids figure some stuff out.

You don't have to agree

I don't pretend to be an expert in all industries. I don't pretend to know about your experiences with unpaid internships. But I do know what I know. I know that I have had internships that I loved and learned from, and internships that I hated and learned from. All of them were paid, and I could do them only because I was paid. The things those internships taught me about the work, and about what I need to succeed as an employee, have made me better at my ("real") job. If I hadn't been able to do those internships paid, I would not have been able to do them at all, and that would have made me poorer-equipped professional.

I do not know a single person who got a job offer through an unpaid internship. I do not know a single person who had an amazing unpaid internship experience. I have heard far too many unpaid intern horror stories. I know students and alumni who helped their school or program abolish internship requirements after having their own terrible unpaid internship experiences ranging from not-really-educational to abusive. I know in some industries, unpaid internships are standard. These industries typically have diversity problems. I know that even on my worst days at my least favorite internship, I still did my best and I still got paid so at least I didn't have to worry about how I was going to afford a dinner (over which to cry).

Sometimes a job is just a job, but what is it if you aren't even getting paid? When people aren't compensated or protected, when fantastic talent is abandoning the industry due to barriers to entry, when you are likely to get offered less to start than someone with no internship experience, who really wins?

Thanks for reading, and I hope I've at least made you think about this issue that affects tons of young people today.

Share 0