The Happiness Project 1.2: Friends

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When I sat down to write about my friends, I wasn’t really sure who to write about first. I have friends in my hometown that I don’t see much but know I can count on, friends here at college that I see all the time that are some of the best people I’ve ever met, and friends that also hold other positions in my life such as coach.

Then I realized that I don’t need to pick someone to write about first; I needed to pick something. What about my friends in general makes my happy? They’re all in my friend group for a reason. Why?

They’re always happy to see me.

Without fail, my friends are happy to see me. Sometimes they don’t necessarily want me to stick around because they need space and sometimes they’re busy and acknowledge me only to proceed to ignore my existence, but they’re always happy to see me.

Some are like puppies, perking up, waving, and yelling hello with an enthusiasm I find impressive. Some are more subtle, greeting me with a joke or an interesting tidbit. Some give me hugs, some merely smiles, but either way, I know they’re glad I’m there.

I can trust them.

I’m not exactly a person that likes to me vulnerable. Sharing feelings, having deep conversations about my own beliefs or flaws or touchy subjects, and trusting people aren’t my strong points, although I am better at those things now than ever before. My friends from college have a lot to do with that.

They’re always willing to help me if and when I need it. They don’t share my secrets with random people and will only tell others in our friend group if allowed. They’ve seen me have a mental breakdown over a hypothetical situation and a memory and sat with me outside in the dark in autumn until almost midnight, petting my hair and talking to me, and view me no different since then. They’ve seen me fall, and fail, and stress, and threaten, and no matter what, they stay by my side, they see me just as strong and confident as they always have, and they never ridicule me for not being perfect.

It’s a beautiful thing to have, and I hope everyone has at least one friend like that. I have been lucky enough to be blessed with a group of them, and I will always be happy I met them.

They make me laugh.

Whether it’s quoting Despicable Me, making fart jokes, or dancing randomly, they never fail to make me laugh. I know if I’m around them I’m in for a good time, and even when there are problems and someone isn’t okay we manage to find a way if we can. Hours are spent at dinner and practice and in the rec room on weekends, at the pool and at the movies and in our rooms, laughing.

We once spent thirty minutes giggling and unable to stop by simply making ridiculous laughter in the dark.

Through track meets, long bus rides, and stressful weeks, they are my sunshine, my moonlight, and the stars.

They don’t judge me.

We all have those little weird things we like to do that we hope most of the world doesn’t find out about. I like to write about things that would be rated R (or unrated) if made into a movie. I like to crochet and knit. I was able to decorate a mug and diagrammed a sentence onto it. I spend my time reading, listening to audio books, exercising, and going to bed at a reasonable hour for a college student (usually before midnight).

Only the first thing is something I would want to hide from many people, but they don’t care that I’m nerdy, love to spend my time like a stereotypical grandmother, and like to spend at least an hour at the gym whenever I step foot there, usually two. They read what I write just because they want to support me.

They don’t judge my lack of interest in parties and don’t care about my relationship status. I know for sure I could kill someone and they’d still be by my side. Such a judge-free zone among people is wonderful, because it’s less lonely than only having a judge-free zone when no one else is around.

They love me, and I love them.

They (or I) might say it and not show it or show it and not say it, but I know they do (and they know I do), and that’s really all that matters. Ten years from now I might forget the inside jokes and the ridiculous things they say and do, but I won’t forget how they make me feel.

I hope you have fun writing about your friends, and please feel free to share what you decide. If you blog it, I’ll be happy to link to it here.

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Posted by on November 21, 2014 in Life, The Happiness Project


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What I Learned About Writing from a Sports Psychologist

Do you ever want to stop writing because you aren’t “good enough?” Or wonder how to get a character just right? Or even think “I’m not a writer, so why do I bother?” Taking a few tips from a sports psychologist can help.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending a conference NCAA meeting to gain wisdom from a speaker, meet some sports leaders from other schools in the conference, and discuss legislation up for vote in the next few months.

Our speaker was a sports psychologist named Joel Fish who works with pro sports teams in Philadelphia and worked with the gold medal winning US women’s soccer team in the 90s as well as the US field hockey team. As expected, we all thought we didn’t have enough time with him to talk about all the things we do mentally that hinder our sports performance, but in the time we had some very useful things came up.

And as I was reviewing my notes to share with the team leaders for the sports at my school, I realized a lot of the stuff can be useful, even necessary, for writers, too. I’ve chosen my three favorite tips.

Believe in yourself.

At one point Fish said that one of his coaches had him yell “I am a champion” into a mirror louder and louder three times, but on the third, most forceful time, he looked away. Why? He didn’t believe he was a champion.

So the question is: do you believe you’re a writer?

You don’t have to believe you’re an amazing writer, or that your work is brilliant, or that you will go down in history alongside Oscar Wilde and JK Rowling. You just have to believe you’re a writer. That is, you write stuff, and you’ll get better at it, and you can be proud of that, even if you never show your work to anyone.

You don’t have to yell “I am a writer” at yourself in a mirror, but reminding yourself every once in a while that writers write can help keep you from wanting to give up.

After all, if you don’t believe you’re a writer, who else will?

Get yourself a mantra.

I’m not asking you to get a pillow, cross your legs, and chant to yourself. Just find a word or phrase to get you jazzed up, focused, or able to write freely. After use, it’ll be automatic, and it’ll help you get your writing done and get passed any mental road blocks.

Some examples could be “no inner editor” or “who cares what people think?” for first drafts.

Others could be “kills your darlings” or “the red pen of death is merciful” for edits.

Whatever it is, it should help you with your writing, either and aspect you have trouble with or just something to put you in a mindset. It should be short and sweet so you can remind yourself of it easily when necessary, but you can also have a word that represents an entire quote if you’d like.

And if you want to sit cross-legged on a pillow and chant it to yourself, go ahead. Just let me know if it helped.

Use the Five “I”s of Communication.

There are a lot of tips and tricks out there for character development, but I like the Five “I”s of Communication as a way to flush out characters in specific scenes. Their moods will change, sometimes page to page, and being able to keep up with that is important.

Every time you don’t know how to write a character in a scene, try having them finish these five sentences. It will give you an idea of their thoughts and motivations so that you can write them effectively.

I see…
I hear…
I feel…
I want…
I will…

For instance, for me right now, I’d say:

I see my cell phone screen, the keyboard, these words, darkness, and streetlights outside the windows.
I hear the air conditioner.
I feel that the air conditioner shouldn’t be on because both me and my hermit crabs are cold enough.
I want to go to sleep and avoid my 8am class.
I will go to my 8am anyway.

So, based on this information, you can imagine how I’d act if someone next door started blasting music or my roommate returned with a bunch of her friends to watch a movie. You’d give me whatever personality you want (direct, passive, vengeful), but by knowing my desires and thoughts, you could create a believable scenario.

If you do this with your characters, you’ll have the advantage of knowing their personality and what they would do in such a situation.

In conclusion (which is how you should NEVER end an essay….).

Sports psychology contributed to how I think about writing by showing me that believing in myself, having a mantra, and using the Five “I”s of Communication can help my writing ability and habits.

And that taught me that writing tips, tricks, and topics (for scenes or entire stories) can come from anywhere…even an athletics conference.

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Posted by on November 18, 2014 in Writing


The Happiness Project 1.1: Activities

For my first entry in my Happiness Journal, I was thinking of doing a general idea of things that made me happy recently, but recently I’ve either been 1-unhappy or 2-happy because of so many things it would take at least an hour to write about them. Therefore, I decided to hone in on something that hasn’t been making me as happy as it usually does: pole vault.

However, since I know most people don’t do that with their time, today’s Happiness Prompt is Activities.


Throughout this exercise, I was reminded of the reasons I started to pole vault and kept at it.

It’s a challenge.

I was lucky enough to be blessed with the ability to do well in school and college without having to spend hours every day studying. Part of that is because I’m an English major and we spend hours reading if anything, and part of that is because I understand things relatively quickly. I managed to learn to juggle three objects in ten minutes and in an hour learned to swim the butterfly stroke and breast stroke. Granted, none of those skills are perfected or even great, but I picked up the basics.

I gravitated towards pole vault because there really isn’t such a thing as “the basics.” There are so many things to learn and every single thing is important. It’s a constant challenge. I experience the same thing with throws in track, but it’s so much more pronounced in pole vault. If you’re throwing, you can still get a distance, even if you mess something up and it doesn’t go as far as you want.

In pole vault, if you mess something up, chances are you either aren’t in the air or are in danger of injury both minor and serious.

There’s such a strong community.

Since I’m the only person on my track team with vaulting as their main event, I don’t experience this as much as in high school, but pole vaulters end up close to each other even if they aren’t friends. Not only do you spend hours a day at practice with them, but they’re there through falls (both the good kind and the bad kind), victories, defeats, frustration, excitement, fear, pain, joy…you name it. The coaches and the athletes become close, and even vaulters from other schools respect each other and truly wish each other good vaulting.

In the end, we all love the sport, and none of us are really competing against each other. We’re competing against the crossbar, and we can all support anyone that manages to beat it at any height. We’re destined to lose, but we want everyone to get as close to winning as they can.

I have to face and overcome fear.

Many people look at vaulters and say we’re crazy, but we’re no different than anyone else who sees something scary and thinks “I want to do that.” At least we aren’t climbing cliffs with nothing but our bare hands.

However, most vaulters aren’t crazy enough to go fearless into their jump. We’re sprinting towards a stationary object with a long pole in our hands intending to stick it in a box, bend it, and shoot ourselves into the air (the whole motion of which I have yet to do successfully, but I will). Anybody with any bit of sense goes into that situation with a little bit of fear.

The best part is overcoming that and sprinting down the runway anyway.

I realized doing this that I often try to convince myself that I’m not afraid, and I think that’s actually backfiring on the production of my skill. Admitting that I am afraid, but I can do it, is better than squashing the fear. It allows me to focus on more important things like fixing my technique.

It’s so much fun.

I wouldn’t have been vaulting this long if I didn’t think it was fun. I started this sport because it was fun and I loved going to practice every day. My recent spree of dreading practice because I’m convinced I’ll make no progress is what has halted my progress, and that’s something I’m going to change.

Any day I can run with my pole in hand is a good day, and I need to make an effort to remember that. After all, if the things I do aren’t fun, what’s the point of doing them?

I’m proud to be a pole vaulter.

And I’m excited for the next time I can fly.

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Posted by on November 16, 2014 in The Happiness Project


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The Happiness Project: An Explanation

In the last few weeks, a psychologist came to my college to talk to students about something that we all crave but feel is just out of our reach: happiness.

She got me thinking. Am I happy?

The answer to that is, overall, yes. If I had to average my happiness over the last month or so, I’d say it would be somewhere around a 7 out of 10. Obviously, this could be better.

However, the thing that bothered me the most is that if I look at the month before that and average it, it would be somewhere around a 7.5 out of 10.

surprised dean and sam

WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT .5? And on a lesser note, how do I get above it?

It’s no surprise to me that my overall happiness level is going down. I can feel it in my brain and in the sinews that keeps my body together. I’m more easily frustrated, quicker to think negatively, and spend a few days around a 3 only to have a day or two at a 9, drop down to a 6, and then fall once again back to 3, or 2, or sometimes even 1.

I haven’t thought about it until now, but now that I am, I know I need to do something about it. It is affecting my ability to focus on things, get things done, and make improvements. Being productive for a few days doesn’t help much when I do nothing but knit and watch Netflix for an entire day.

The two keys to happiness: be mindful of and savor the positive things in your life.

Back to the psychologist. She had a few strategies to increase overall happiness, and they all focused on mindfulness. The two I liked the most were photography and writing. For photography, she suggests to pick a subject or a concept to hunt for. Then look for the beautiful things within those limits and spend 15 minutes wandering around and taking photos. For writing, it’s the same thing, except once you add a limit, spend 15 minutes writing about the things that make you happy.

These should only be done once or twice a week to have the maximum effect. The time in between should be spent trying to notice the good things in your life, like a beautiful view on a commute or the flowerbed you walk by into the coffee shop. Even the taste of your complicated Starbucks’ coffee should be savored.

A month ago, the choice between photography and writing would have been difficult. I was taking a lot of photographs for class and writing little because I wasn’t putting enough of my energy into it.

Now, however, I know that writing will be the best choice, and I write more often. I also know that others might want to come on this journey with me. Therefore:

I invite you on the mission to greater happiness, aptly (and obviously) named The Happiness Project.

The Happiness Project, for me, will last 13 weeks. I’ll have two prompts a week, one on Sunday and one on Friday, and will write for ten to fifteen minutes. I will post both the prompt and the main ideas of my own response and invite you to share your experiences, as well.

I hope you will join me, and I welcome you to give yourself a code name for the duration of the mission.

Yours Truly,

Dragon Child

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Posted by on November 14, 2014 in Life, The Happiness Project


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What Men Are Really Saying When Catcalling Women

What Men Are Really Saying When Catcalling Women.

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Posted by on August 16, 2014 in Life


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