What are you afraid of?

Today I realized my biggest fear. The actual biggest fear. Not one of the shivers I get in closed spaces, airplanes, and complete darkness. I was struggling to fall asleep in the early hours of the morning when it came to me that I’m not afraid of anything that gives me shiver when I think about it. Like elevators, spiders and hanging bridges over the sheer drop.

What I’m really afraid of is wasting the time I have. The fear of not having enough time for whom I love and what I love is the only real fear I have.

The next thing I realized is that I will never have enough time. For any time I have is running out one second at a time. No, I’m not afraid of the limits of human existence. I’m afraid of wasting the timespan I’m given.

I’ve spent too much time worrying about being not good enough for too many things and too many people. I’ve put off too many things for the next salary, next summer, next Christmas, next apartment, next vacation that I’m starting to wonder what if that next never comes. That’s when the fear gets under my skin and makes me forget how to breathe.

Now, as my chronic illness got the most of my strength and has been keeping me in bed for several days so far, I’m finally realizing how much time I’ve already wasted. They say the time you enjoyed wasting wasn’t wasted…but what if you didn’t enjoy it? If all we have is now, and all the countdown timer is implacable and dispassionate, there is no reason not to get the most of what you have now.

Maybe the universe leads us with love only for so long. Maybe if we resist learning long enough, it starts to teach us through the pain so that the knowledge gets deeper. My pain made me bitter and depressed. It made me angry and hateful of the unfairness of life. And then, finally, it made me realize that it does not define me. I am not my pain, and I am not my illness. I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to be based on my experiences. I am me, my dreams, my goals, and my passion.

We all have the battles we didn’t choose to fight. We all have the situations we wish we could wake up from and forget like a bad dream. The only thing that matters is what we do with the time and the resources we have. If life is a game of poker where you cannot choose your cards, you can still enjoy a round and win by skill, by luck, or by accident.

No matter what your struggle is, I wish you only two thing – may you stand up more times than you fall. And may your fear make you exceed your capabilities rather than question them.

Writer’s Block Vs. Perfectionist’s Curse

One of my biggest fears is not being able to express my feelings in my writing well anymore. Long ago, when I was a little girl, I started writing poetry, and I continued doing so until I was a teenager. And then for some reason, poetry left me and never really returned. Now I can write a poem every few years. It always comes out of nowhere, from a state of daydreaming. Usually, a line hits me and I instantly catch its spirit and know what it wants to be.

Three days ago the first two lines of a poem came to me as I was walking down one of my most favorite streets of the city I live in. I wrote them down, and they have been staring at me from a pinned tab since then. And no matter how much I try, I can’t develop them into a poem. It’s one of the most frustrating feelings in the world that drives me insane – not being able to express what you feel. Perhaps that’s why we all love dearly music, books, and movies – they express what we cannot in ways we relate to the most.

I’m sitting at my kitchen table at 2 a.m., and I’m still working on that poem. I haven’t moved farther than the first four lines. What does one do when inspiration leaves them and the effort doesn’t help much?

Why Do I Write?

Girl holding a cup of coffee in front of a laptop screen.

I wanted to write before I actually learned to write. When I was a kid, I made up poetry and my mom would write it down for me. Then I wrote it myself. I even won some poetry contests for kids. I was proud of my talent and enjoyed spending time writing poems about everything that interested me.

When I became a teenager, I started my blog. Occasionally, I’d write a poem as well. At some point, I decided that my poetry is bad. And I stopped. Since that time, I cannot write a poem anymore. Sometimes I start writing it and I throw it away without finishing. Why? I never think it’s good enough.

My blog was my anchor and my hobby for years. At some point, I deleted it, partly because I thought it was not good enough, partly because it was a period of my life that was over and that I didn’t want anyone to associate me with. The thing with the Internet is that you put it out there and someone finds it years later and thinks it’s still you now. Whatever footprint you leave on the web will be associated with you years later, regardless of how much you’ve overgrown it.

After I spent some time blogging for fun and translating articles at my desk job, I started writing for businesses for money. That’s what I do now. Still, it’s not fulfilling enough for me. There’s not enough self-expression in it.

At night, I sometimes take out my laptop and start writing what I really want to write. And then there’s this voice. Telling me I’m not good enough. Telling me no one needs it. Telling me that I’m never going to be a real writer. Telling me that if my vulnerability will be displayed to the world, it will be used against me at some point. Telling me not to publish this post because it’s pointing out my lack of belief in myself.

However, I’m posting it because I’m too tired of grading myself and not scoring well. Too tired of the world grading me and everyone around. Too tired of being scared to be me. If there was one thing to do for free, I’d choose to write. Even if no one reads it. You know why? Because in reality there’s no grade when it comes to being you. You’re either running from yourself or embracing yourself. I’m tired of running from what’s always inside. Aren’t you?

Why New Year’s Resolutions Are Doomed (And How to Fix It)

Several days before New Year’s my Instagram and Facebook feed was full of people’s summing up the passing year and recollecting on the most significant events that took place during it. I don’t know whether it was YouTube with its Rewind or Facebook with its memories, but it became fashionable to share your annual wins on social media.

While there’s nothing wrong with being proud of what you’ve accomplished and how far you’ve gone, things get tricky when people start to compare their lives with someone’s Instagram feed and rating themselves according to it. If you score your reality against someone’s Facetune skills, your chances of scoring high are poor.

A month after New Year’s, I don’t see people talking about how they started working on their New Year’s resolutions. While most of us are happy to share our accomplishments with the world, most are reluctant to share their plans and ambitions. Is it out of a fear of an evil eye and bad luck, or out of little belief in ourselves and our power of will?

High. Higher. The Highest

It became a thing to set up high goals for every aspect of your life. We see successful people on social media all the time. There’s this guy who hitchhiked across Europe, and there’s this girl who wrote and published a book on her own in a year. There’s a couple that moved to Bali. Brainwashed by the media, we come up with a New Year’s resolutions list that has five countries, fifty books, and forty-five pounds of weight loss in them. And that’s only a beginning. We plan to work out three times a week (min, of course), jogging the park every weekend, hike, eat just healthy organic food, pick up a new hobby (nothing less ambitious than painting or playing the guitar) and live every day of the upcoming year to the fullest.

We’re high on emotions when writing that list, and with each point, it gets more ambitions and more insane. There are still points left, so why not add ten live shows, a road trip across the country and a published book to this year as well? People do that, after all. I’ve seen people on Instagram doing it in one year and being happy, beautiful, and glamorous. That can’t all be facetuned, right?

High-Speed Train to Depression

As the high wears off, and reality kicks in, you start to feel pretty…blah. You remember you’ve got work or studying to do, a family and/or chores. As you start doing things from your list, you realize some of them aren’t such a good idea, and some make you feel miserable and tired. Some points aren’t what you want any more, but you should keep pushing, it’s a resolution, after all, a promise that you made to yourself. However, you’ve got the same life that you did in late December of the year-long gone, and, most importantly, you are the same person with the same mind patterns.

All of these things write a death sentence to your resolutions and doom them to fail you and you to fail them. And here you are, on a Monday night in February, sitting in your pajamas with a slice of pizza at midnight, watching Netflix (Just me? Alrighty then). A list of overkill wishes stares back at you from your motivation board and makes you feel miserable. And those people on Instagram keep posting happy things, right? Welcome to the high-speed train to depression. Fasten your, please.

So, should you stop making New Year’s resolutions and just go with the flow? Well, it isn’t the worst idea. If you want to incorporate something into your life, let’s say, establish a healthy habit that will make you happier, you don’t need to wait for the first day of the year to start. If you’ve got a broken leg, you don’t wait for a New Year’s day to go to the ER, right? So why should you wait for the stars to align to fix any aspect of your life that causes you discomfort? After all, they sell gym memberships on a Thursday night in February as well.

Steps to Fix Your New Year’s Resolutions

You can still use the occasion of New Year’s and work on your New Year’s resolution list. For now, I have gathered the ideas that made sense to me. Here are the steps that can help to fix a New Year’s resolutions list:

  • Write down everything you want to accomplish as if you have it (For example “I get eight hours of sleep every night”)
  • Write affirmative sentences (I.e., I organize my time at work well every day” instead of “I don’t procrastinate at work”)
  • Categorize your resolutions (health, career, family, social, education, etc.)
  • Prioritize the resolutions to choose what you CANNOT go without in every category. Cross out the goals that are NOT going to make you better, healthier and happier.
  • Estimate how much time you need to complete every goal.
  • Turn your resolutions into plans. Write down the steps for each goal. Define what you can do in a week, in a month, in a season, and in a year.
  • Start working on a resolution and enjoy it.

And the last, but not least, be realistic about your goals. Instead of reading a hundred books per year set a goal to read two books per month. If you have more time, you can always overkill and feel good about yourself. While working on your goals, always keep in mind the right reason WHY you are doing it. I.e. “because I promised it to myself” and “because it will make my friends jealous” is a bad motivation. Try finding reasons how the completion of your goals will make your life happier, easier, healthier and better. Be kind to yourself. Let yourself be you and move at your pace.

Top 7 Christmas Apps in 2018

Is there anything else Christmassy to download to your iPhone beside a background image and a ringtone? I’ve been browsing through the App Store that claims to have an app for every occasion, and thought to myself “Wait, is there an app for Christmas?”.

Spoiler alert: there is, and not just one. This post is an overview of the best holiday season-inspired apps that I managed to find on the iOS app store. Take a look at these ten cheerful apps I found. No doubt they will add some Christmas magic to your mobile experience.

1. Christmas Planner – Gifts Manager & Shopping List

Having trouble with holiday budgeting? This app can help you with your struggle. Christmas Planner is meant to make holiday gift shopping easy and fun. The app lets you set up your gift budget, divide it by person, add gift info with picture, quantity, recipients, price, store, and status. Sorting the gifts by store, you will be able to get everything you need with a one-time visit so that you will save a lot of time. You can add notes to every gift as well. The app lets you track gift lists by store, by status (need to buy, purchased, wrapped, done), and note your gift ideas. You can archive your gift lists from previous years in the app as well.

Christmas Planner is a simple app that makes your Christmas gift shopping organized and under control. There is also a Christmas countdown that reminds you how much time for holiday shopping you still have. The free version has ads to it; nevertheless, it’s good for trying the app out. If you enjoy using it, you can get an ad-free version for under $1.

2. Santa Video Call and Tracker

This app has cute juicy design, well-chosen cheerful Christmasy music and a bunch of awesome features. It is developed using Unity, which means that its performance is smooth and consistent. There are lite (free) and full ($4.99) versions of the app. You can use this app to track Santa’s location on the globe, or even have a video call with Santa, reaching him in his Snow Pole residence. There’s also a cheerful Christmas countdown.

One of the coolest things in this app is a Naughty or Nice Scanner. You can set it up in the Parent Control section so that it always shows “nice” or “naughty” or set it to random. Set up your child’s profile to start a video call with Santa. You can include a child’s name, hobbies, and a lot more. Next, set up the reason for the call. When you see the guy playing Santa, you will be amazed at how well he plays the part. You can record the calls to capture your child’s reaction.

Besides Santa video calls and Nice/Naughty scanner, the app has other cool features like North Pole News, Santa’s List, Beardifier (a feature that puts a beard on photos), an Elfifier, a joke generator, Elfbook (the elf Facebook), and much more.

3. Christmas Wallpapers & Backgrounds — Xinmin Wang

Don’t have time to search for holiday spirit wallpapers on Pinterest? Just get Christmas Wallpapers & Backgrounds, and you’re fine for the season. The app has a wide choice of beautiful Christmas wallpapers, all in high resolution. Get the app so that your phone adds to your festive mood all season long. Whether you are looking for nature, Christmas tree or art, it’s all there.

4. Santa’s Bag

Santa’s Bag is an award-winning app that has been recommended by The New York Times, USA Today, Forbes Magazine, Buzzfeed.com, and a lot of other top resources.

This app promises to revolutionize the Christmas experience of its users, and it stands up to its word. Santa’s Bag has a Christmas countdown on the main screen to remind you how much time you have before Christmas. You can set up your gift budget, record purchased and planned gifts and their budget. You can make a list of your family and friends (manually or import from contacts), add present ideas, notes, links and tags for each gift. The app also lets you search for gifts from partner vendors. Don’t be scared to be exposed – there is a screenlock passcode with a FaceID option in the app. Your ideas are safe!

5. Christmas Tale HD

Christmas Tale HD is a beautiful digital book for your kids. This Christmas-themed story is bright, sweet and cheerful. You can enjoy it with your whole family. There are such sections of the app as Storybook (interactive Christmas stories that come to life as you read them), Placement Puzzle, Peekaboo (search for a hidden item), Paint (coloring pictures), and Maze (help Santa to deliver the presents). This app also includes a countdown to Christmas and a wish list that you can fill in with your present ideas and share it with friends.

The HD graphics and excellent sound effects in this interactive multimedia book will fascinate your kids. This app lets the whole family enjoy the story of Santa and the elves in a new way. The free version of the app doesn’t let you use some of its features and has ads. You can purchase an ad-free full version of the app for $5,99.

6. Xmas photo editor: new effects

Add some Christmas magic to your photos with the help of this fun photo editor. You will find over five dozens of photo frames, effects, and filters on this app. Creating personalized Christmas cards has never been so easy before! To create a holiday card, you need to choose a template you wish to apply, choose a photo from your gallery or take a new one with the camera, and add the text of your choice. It’s that easy!

Xmas photo editor lets you add some holiday spirit to your pictures. You can save them to your gallery or share to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram from the app directly. Some of the most fun features of the app allow you to add a Santa hat or an Elf Hat to your pictures. Wonderful snow effects will make your pictures more festive.

The free version of the app has ads, so if you like using it, you can switch to a PRO version to get rid of them. As a bonus, you will gain access to a bunch of beautiful PRO effects.

7. Christmas Countdown (2018)

Christmas Countdown (2018) is a fun and simple way of counting the days till Christmas. The app has a fun snowy countdown and lets you choose one of the eight holiday-themed backgrounds, and listen to classical Christmas music.

The app has an advent calendar that lets you open a gift every day of December. The gifts are HD holiday-inspired images that can be set as your wallpaper.

A cool thing about this particular app is that it has no adds in the free version. If you like it, you can upgrade to Pro to obtain a countdown widget for your home screen. There are also more backgrounds, music and countdown styles in the premium version.

It was my top 7 of Christmas-inspired apps. Do you use any holiday-themed app? Is there one you’d like to use but cannot find? Let me know in the comments.

10 Ways to Cheer Up In Gloomy Fall

If you live somewhere with all four seasons, late fall is probably not your favorite time of the year. The days get shorter, the nights get longer, and the greyness outside of your window hardly makes you excited about anything. If you’re like me, in desperate need of inspiration and mood-lifting activities in this inter-season, this post is for you. Every year I try to come up with some activities that can cheer me up in the gloomy season. I’ve already tried some and feel excited about trying the rest from the list I’m presenting you now. I hope that you will find a thing or two for yourself as well.

Without further ado, here’s my list of activities that perk up the mood in gloomy late fall and help to hang in there till the Christmas spirit takes over.

1. See a Movie

As cliche, as it may sound, seeing a good movie is always a good idea when the weather gets gloomy. I hate staying indoors when it’s nice and sunny, so I tend to see more movies in cold months. They keep me warm, entertained, and inspired. I’m thinking of updating my Netflix subscription, but that might make me stop on point one of this list.

2. Decorate Your Place

Scandinavians are known for creating very comfortable, bright and cheering indoor spaces. You know why? It’s gloomy and cold most of the time in Nordic countries, and some of them even get polar night as a bonus. So, Scandinavians mastered the art of turning their indoor spaces into mood-lifting, comfortable and happy environments. Why not try to do the same at your place? A few bright pillows, a garland, and a candleholder can change the whole room. If you’re clueless for ideas just like me, there’s always Pinterest to help you out.

3. Go for a Walk

No matter how nasty the weather gets, your body still needs that breath of fresh air. Go out for a short walk in the park, listening to your favorite podcast and enjoy a takeaway coffee or herbal tea from your favorite place.

4. Cook Something Fun or Fancy

Nothing makes a home more comfortable than an aroma of a tasty meal. Autumn is the time of the ripest fruit and vegetable, so why not make the most of them and cook a fancy meal or dessert? When the pumpkin season is all the rage, I usually make pumpkin spice cream soup. Last fall I tried making cinnamon cookies. And, there’s always apple charlotte, simple, quick and so yummy! Fall doesn’t seem so gloomy any more when you’re enjoying your favorite drink and an awesome new meal you’re just cooked.

5. Host a Party

In late fall people tend to spend more of their leisure time at home. If you catch up with your friends who live in the same neighborhood on Instagram, it’s probably time to invite them over for a board game night and treat them something from point four. You can get more creative and make a real party for Thanksgiving or no reason at all.

6. Do Some Crafts

Fall nights are so long that you might as well try the crafts you’ve bookmarked on Instagram and Pinterest. There’s so much exciting going on in the world of crafts that it’s a real crime not to treat yourself to at least one fun activity. Think of what you’ve wanted to try for a long time and go for it! Here are some easy crafts ideas I’ve put off for a while now and think of doing before Christmas: acrylic pouring painting, knitting a cup sweater cover, creating a table candle centerpiece for Christmas and making a Christmas wreath. The list of things you can try doing with limited time and resources is actually endless. All you need is to set your mind to it.

7. Have Me Time

In the rapid pace of our lives, we often forget to take care of ourselves. No surprise since we have so many things to care about every day, be it the career, family, kids, significant other, or household duties, there’s always a long to-do list that requires one’s attention. Quite often we forget to put ourselves on that list. So, no wonder that over time our energy level drops and we feel too tired because of doing too much of what drains us and too little of what lights a spark in us. Write down a list of things that make you feel happier and make time for at least one of them in your schedule. Just like your cell phone, you need to recharge to do your regular duties. And it’s ok to have me time when you need it.

8. Read That Book

Remember that book you bought in the new bookstore a year ago and never read? Or is it just me? Anyways, nothing feels as cozy than snuggling with a good book when the weather outside is nasty.

If you’re more on a gamer side, like my husband, late fall could be a perfect time to dive in a new game. As my husband says, a video game is an ideal relaxation. I’d still choose a book though. Tastes differ.

9. Go Shopping

It’s never too early to get Christmas presents. And it’s always a good idea to get yourself something new to brighten up your wardrobe. On a gloomy day in late fall, why not go shopping and find that cozy sweater, a perfect pair of warm winter boots or a perfect bright scarf? Shopping may be relaxing and fun if you’re not doing it in the late minute on a day of the biggest sale when everyone is trying to grab something.

10. Catch Up With Your Hobby

Whatever you like to do in your leisure time and whatever you call a hobby, chances are, you don’t have much time for it. In the gloomy days of late fall, try to make more room and engage in doing what you love. Be it painting, singing, photography, making YouTube videos, dancing, scrapbooking or doing anything else you love, take a night out of your schedule and just do it.

Final Thoughts

It was my list of activities that can help you cheer up in the gloomy mid-season and hang in there till the Christmas spirit takes over. Has anything worked for you already? Or, maybe, you love to engage in some other activities that make you more energetic and inspired in mid-season? Please share your ideas. Let’s talk in the comments below.

Instagram Blogger: A Dream Job or a Trap?

Instagram Blogger: A Dream Job or a Trap?

Suddenly I noticed that literally, everyone is an Instagram blogger. Either a successful one or an aspiring one. One morning while enjoying my coffee, I opened the app and noticed that the Instagram feed I used to is not there anymore. The content became more refined, better written, more attention-seeking and branded a lot. Perhaps I’m late to the party, but since Instagram for business rolled in, seems like everyone switched to it. To be honest, I did the same following the bandwagon. And now I’m writing this post to weigh all the pros and cons of being an Instagram blogger. I hope that my research will be useful to you as well and will help you decide whether Instagram blogging is worth giving a try.

Why Instagram?

If you’ve been on Instagram for a while, you must’ve noticed how dramatically things have changed over the last two years. This app used to be a place where people share their memories and latest updates with friends and family, and there was barely any text or product placement, not to mention ads. Since Instagram integrated Facebook tools for businesses, everything changed. Just like Facebook, Instagram became a marketplace for brand promotion, user acquisition, and retention. It is still a place for you to keep up with the updates from friends and family, but it’s far beyond that. According to Brandwatch, about a half of Instagram users follow brands, and as for 2018, there are over one million advertisers on the platform.

Instagram defines the lifestyle of the modern generation. Simply put, a mobile app dictates what millennials buy, where they eat and what they dream of. Looking at the popularity of top local Instagram bloggers, I can say that it’s truly fascinating how many opportunities for self-expression and self-promotion people get on Instagram. From the other side of the screen, it seems like the Instagram influencers have it all. And all of these opportunities are free thanks to the app. However, it’s also quite easy to get discouraged and lose your authenticity in the abundance of ambitions of millions who tie themselves into knots to get noticed, get famous on Instagram, get liked.

Instagram Blogger: A Dream Job

Everyone who has a smartphone with a camera and Internet access can become an Instagram blogger. You don’t necessarily need to have something to say in words, there are tons of successful profiles without stories under the pictures. Instagram is a visual network, after all. Regardless of whether you are a photographer, a chef, a cat-lover, a traceur or a stay-at-home mom, you can still find your audience, build your brand and become an influencer.

Thinking of becoming an Instagram blogger, you probably have an image of an influencer who has it all: six figures of subscribers, due bills for a lot of cool stuff, brand deals for the most iconic products, and a lifestyle that seems to consist of photoshoots and amazing experiences.

Have you ever wondered what else you get in a change of putting your time, effort, talents and personality out there? Here are the major benefits of being an Instagram star:

  • Self-expression. Instagram allows you to reach out to millions of people directly and instantly. Here you can share your experience and point of view with the whole world.
  • Building a community of like-minded people. While it might be hard to find a community of like-minded people right where you live, it’s quite easy to find them online, using the right Instagram hashtag tools, search criteria, and ad targeting. 
  • Promotion of your business or services. Instagram is a great tool for taking your business to the next level. If your business is not online in 2018, it probably does not exist (or has little chances of surviving in the digital age). 
  • Brand deals. Most of the brands have already realized that they can reach out to their audience with the help of influencers. For this reason, every Insta blogger with tens of thousands of followers receives a lot of offers from the brands, searching for more social media ambassadors. 
  • Profit. While small bloggers usually get the goods and services in exchange for promoting it to their audience, bigger influencers get the products and services free of charge, as well as the commission for promoting it as well. 
  • Publicity. Instagram influencers and YouTube bloggers are the new celebrities with the hype around them. They organize meetups, get interviews, shoot ads. People recognize them in the streets and are happy to take a selfie with them. 
  • Career opportunities. While the publicity itself feels good, it’s also a chance for further career growth. The more people see you and know you, the better your chances of getting to the right people are.
  • Glamour. Simply put, being an Instagram blogger is the new black. It’s glamorous, fancy and cool. At least that’s what the kids say.

Insta Star: A Sticky Trap

Nothing is perfect, and it’s also true for the life of an Instagram blogger. Here are the major negative aspects you should consider before you decide to become an Insta blogger:

  • Criticism. Just like Taylor Swift sang, haters gonna hate. No matter what you do, how you look and what you say, there will always be people trolling you, hating you and wishing you were dead. You will see haters under each of your posts. It takes a lot of effort to develop a healthy attitude and pay attention only to constructive criticism while filtering the mudslinging. 
  • Publicity. It is already listed in the pros, and there’s a place for it in the cons as well. If you are an Instagram star with six figures of subscribers, it will be hard for you to go unnoticed. You will get recognized. You can get exposed more than you are willing to. 
  • Pressure. Instagram is a highly competitive social network where every blogger is striving to be better, bigger and more successful. It might be hard to remain yourself and keep your values under pressure. 
  • Constant availability. Instagram bloggers have to be online. Whether it’s Christmas morning or a dull, gloomy Monday night in the mid-season, you have to be there for your audience and keep the content they subscribed to coming. 
  • No guarantees. You can have thousands of devoted followers today, and a bunch of trolls who will get your page banned overnight. You can make a statement people don’t like, a joke that people don’t understand, cooperate with a brand included in a scandal (late 2018: people burning their Nike apparel on social media). Or, there can be someone else your subscribers like more. The Instagram algorithm can always change. While being an Instagram influencer might feel great today, there are no guarantees for tomorrow. However, I haven’t seen any guarantees in life whatsoever. 
  • Glued to your phone. While there are certain things you can do from the desktop, most of the blogger’s activity requires holding the smartphone in their hands. It might be not so beneficial for your eyesight and your life and work balance. Not to get overwhelmed, many bloggers hire assistants to help them with direct messages, partnership requests, spammers, advertising and Instagram giveaways.

What’s the Score?

Having written the list of pros and cons, I understood that there is no universal decision in this case. I can’t say that seven benefits overweigh six disadvantages or vice versa. Each one of us has their unique values, goals, and ambitions, so what seems a massive advantage for some might be an insignificant bonus for others. I suggest that you give Instagram blogging a try if you feel like it. Be ready to invest a lot of time and effort int the thing. If you cannot find time for your passion, it’s not your passion. It’s that simple. Looking at the top bloggers, I can tell one thing for sure – only those who love what they do stick around and make authentic content that is worth spending time on. Only those who cannot imagine themselves not doing what they do create inspirational things.Only those who stand up for what they believe in and take responsibility for every word they say get to the spotlight. And it’s clear why – if something doesn’t excite you and isn’t close to your heart – how can it be so for someone else?

My name is Liuda, and I write about things that inspire me, excite me and keep me awake if I think about them too much. Writing has been my passion since I learned how to do it. I’ve written poetry since I was a little girl, and later I started writing some fanfiction and short stories as a teenager. As I grew up, I switched to personal blogs and ended up being a freelance writer. Now I’m giving Instagram a try, but only as a promotion channel for the Mayfirster blog. I believe blogs have a future. As long as they keep being written and read.

What do you think about Instagram blogging? Have you joined the race for Instagram publicity to share your passion in the world? Or, maybe you have other ways of expressing yourself that don’t require this app the world got hooked on? I’m excited to know 😉

Thougths from the Athlantic Shore

As I was standing at the shore of the Atlantic for the first time, I was speechless. There’s nothing you can say that will surprise this wavering eternity. The first thing I felt when I approached the deep blue endlessness was the sensation of how small I am compared to it. And at the same time, I felt blessed beyond imagination standing next to it, observing its beauty and force.

For me, the ocean is nothing like others told me about it, and nothing like I read about it in books. They say each one of us creates own reality, so we all must have our own oceans in it. For me, the best description of an ocean is eternal freedom. Freedom beyond all bounds and ties. A true freedom that flourishes in solitude and stays away from everything that’s passing too quickly. It’s glorious and a bit sad, because it knows neither love nor fear. It’s a freedom that chooses to let go of everything for the sake of enjoying the peace of mind.

Ocean, you are a graceful reminder of how brief our presence on this land is. You are an observer of the silly little games we call life choices. We bounce on your waves and laugh because you make us light/hearted again and wash away the weariness of the land.

Thank you for reminding me how insignificant any battles I go through are and showing me the (much) bigger picture. See you again (and hope not once).

Is Happiness a Blessing or a Choice?

It’s almost funny how easy it is to hold on to a negative thought, to pick up a harmful habit, to develop a judgemental attitude. Sometimes it seems like it’s easier to surrender to the noise in your head than to block it or muffle it with a positive affirmation. It looks like the road of pessimism demands nothing but going down with the flow, when choosing to look on the bright side feels like swimming upstream a mountain river. And if you choose the latter way, there is eventually a point when you start wondering if it’s really worth it. That’s what my today’s post is going to be about.

I have always been a girl with a vivid imagination. An imagination that hasn’t ever worked in my favor. The first thought that comes to my mind is negative in nine out of every ten cases. And it’s not merely negative, pretty often it’s the worst-case scenario, painted bright across my mind. Sometimes, it comes with a paralyzing fear that makes it insanely hard to keep going in the chosen direction. And there is entirely nothing I could do about it for a very long time. I went with the flow and I thought that there was nothing better but to accept the circumstances and let things be as they are. My mind has always been there for me to tell me that there is nothing I could do to change things, nothing I could achieve and no way I could change my life. Even now, when I’m writing this post, a thought comes to my mind, and it goes like “why showing your weak side to a world that worships success and power”. Still, I have to write it for myself. I have to write it for those who could use a little encouragement today to see the bright side. I have to write it because I know there are times when we all need to drag ourselves to the bright side again.

Do motivational speakers and happy, encouraging people make you feel better when they tell you about their struggles and how they overcome them? Chances are, they do. When you look at current role models like Elon Musk or GaryVee, it’s easy to think that they are just lucky and have everything to be happy with their lives. But there is also a substantial possibility that motivational videos make you feel like a total loser. When you see people like Wheelz, Molly Burke or Nick Vujicic smile and say they are happy with the life they have been given, it seems that you have no right to be depressed. It looks like if you are blessed with good health and can make a living, you should be ashamed for not feeling happy. It would be so easy if there were a recipe for eternal happiness. However, there isn’t even a single definition of it. Ask ten people what makes them happy and you will get ten different answers. Ask the same people in ten years, and you will get ten new answers again. Life changes, we change along with the time, and our values.

What I learned so far is that happy people don’t have it all together. Positive people are not immune to life troubles. Bad things still happen to them on a regular basis. Why the hell are they still smiling, you ask. The only difference between a happy, positive person and a negative self-pitying person is their reaction to things happening to them and around them. The first and the foremost place you win or lose any struggle is your mind. I’m not trying to justify the laws of attraction, dwell on how karma and other theories of positive thinking work because I believe that some of them are far-fetched. However, I truly think that looking at the bright side makes you closer to it. If being negative or positive cannot change the situation, why surrender to despair? If the past is already gone and the future is not granted, and the only thing you can rely on is this moment, why not try to make it happier, for you and those around you? What I learned so far is that happy people are the people who learned a simple rule – no use crying over spilled milk.

When I was younger, my objection to positive thinking was “why to bother if it doesn’t change anything whatsoever.” Even if it doesn’t, and the worst case scenario may become a reality for any one of us any moment, why waste the beautiful moments we have now on being unhappy? For a million things dark and hopeless, there is another million of things beautiful and illuminated. And who knows, maybe if we all chose to look at them, the abyss of despair would stop staring back at us. We all know where negativity and dissatisfaction lead, so why not try part ways with them for a change?

If there is a possibility to make someone’s day worse, leave it as it is, or make it better, why not choose the latter option? You don’t lose anything when you stop spreading the negativity. I believe we all have enough of it in our lives. But, I don’t know a person who wouldn’t need a kind smile or a friendly “have a nice day.” You don’t have to believe in positive thinking or karma to understand that focusing on your opportunities instead of crying over your limitations can make a change. Even if it’s a small shift in your mind, remember – it’s the first place to win or lose.

On a Scale From One to Ten, How Beautiful Are You?

If you have a number in your head, they win. They are beauty industry, media and everyone who told you or made you feel that you need to change to be perfect, to be beautiful and to be loved. They are people who treated you as a minor person because of any of your body parameters. If you feel that you are not good enough because you don’t look like the next Instagram beauty blogger or fitness model with a 100k+ subscribers, they win too. If you cannot leave home without makeup on and avoid showing some skin when it’s melting hot outside, it’s another point not in your favor.

What I’m telling here with this blog post is not an attempt to moralize anyone or give advice on how anyone should live their life. Instead, this blog post is merely my point of view on the things I see happening on the Internet when it comes looks. This is my reaction that might inspire you to see yourself and the definition of beauty in a different light.

Last week, I got minimum five ads for apps that let you modify your face to make your pictures beautiful. My first thought: who said my pictures were ugly in the first place? Is fake the new definition of beautiful? Why am I a target of this? And no matter how many times I press the “not relevant” button, the ads keep coming back because the beauty industry wants me to feel insecure in my skin based on the fact that I am a girl who takes pictures.

Who defines the parameters of beauty? Are there any set values you can get and lose points for? Like, do you get a point for blue eyes and lose one for green ones? When turning to the dictionary, I got the definition of beautiful:

Beautiful: pleasing the senses or mind aesthetically.

See, there are no numbers, no scale. And what’s more, it’s highly subjective. Nothing is said that beauty is what appeals to all and everyone. Society has turned it all upside down making us want to comply with a general heavily photoshopped standard no one ever could compete with in reality. And if you do, will you feel happy, just because your looks match the society’s expectations? I really doubt it.

I asked the question that opens this article ten of my friends, both genders. And what surprised me is that only one person said she was definitely a ten, happy with herself in every way. The rest of my friends said they had issues that did not let them feel completely beautiful. They also said that personally, they feel they are beautiful enough, but they are not sure society would view them the same. One of my friends replied in words that I want to share with you too:

“Beauty is represented by what others think of you based on society’s standards, but if you love yourself, beauty or at least outward beauty is not a matter of concern. I’m happy with me, so personally, I’m a ten on my own spectrum.”

We are society, each and every one of us. We make other people think less of themselves because they don’t fit our definitions of beautiful, instead of celebrating their diversity and digging deeper than skin. Even if the standards are imposed on us by media and beauty industry, we aren’t forced to follow them blindly. Society and beauty industry standards change, and while chasing to comply with them, one may lose the really important things in life. And the joy of life as well. If you do your best trying to improve yourself and grow, either physically, mentally, intellectually or all at once, you are a ten to me. You’re beautiful because you strive to be a better person, and by doing it you already are.

What is your definition of beautiful? Does it comply with the one society and media offers? Who are the most beautiful people in your life and why? Please let me know in the comments to this post. I’m excited to hear your side of the story.