Updates | 02

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Admittedly, I’ve been rather absent on this blog for a while, and that’s because the last few weeks have been an emotional free-for-all. This year has been an incredibly stressful one in terms of figuring out what I want my future to look like and the steps I need to take to make it so. And what I decided in all of my soul searching was that following the completion of my undergraduate degree, I wanted to get my master’s. So last summer, I began the process of researching programs, compiling letters of recommendation, editing my writing sample, and studying like a maniac for the GRE. When fall rolled around, I was doing all of that plus my schoolwork for my final semester, my duties as the editor of a literary journal and president of the English honor society, my work as a research assistant to one of my professors, and trying to make the most of the time I had left with my college friends before I moved back home. And I was stressed. I am someone who experiences stress both emotionally and physically. It caused my lymph nodes to swell, my shoulders and neck to develop severe tension knots, and my anxiety to spiral. But I got my applications submitted and graduated shortly thereafter, leaving me with a few months to decompress.

Fast-forward to March when grad school admissions decisions were being sent out. Because I am someone who wants to build my career on academics, I only applied to top tier programs. In other words, I had no safety school. But my GPA, test scores, and recommenders were really good, so while I was hopeful about my applications, I wasn’t too worried about them. And then the rejections started coming in, and I was crushed. One of the things I value most in myself is my intelligence, and rejection in an academic sphere felt like a rejection of what I saw as my most vital self. I was accepted to some programs but not given as much funding as I would have liked, and in my already discouraged state of mind, I counted those acceptances as nothing but softer rejections.

I applied to five schools, and by the first week in March, I had heard back from four of them – two acceptances and two rejections. The only school I had yet to hear from was my top choice and the most prestigious program I applied to. I thought that being rejected from the lowest-ranked program I applied to meant there was no way I’d be accepted to my highest-ranked program. But y’all, I was. I received the email right as got to my desk one morning and immediately burst into tears and called my mom and cried some more.

So I’m excited to officially announce that in the fall, I’ll be moving to England to pursue a master’s degree in English literature from Oxford University! If you’re a long-time reader of my blog, you may remember that I studied abroad at Oxford one summer and that I fell in love with it. I’m so excited to be returning and that all of my stress about my future and self-doubt over my abilities have subsided for the time being.

The point of this post – other than to keep you updated on my goings on – is that I’m an emotional gal. And that has meant that for the past month or so, I’ve been preoccupied with feeling all of my feelings and that blogging has not been something I’ve had the desire to do. But I’m slowly coming out of the funk, so expect to see some more posts from me soon. And within a few months, I’ll be coming to you from a new location!

– Lauren

1.30.17

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A word. A picture. A sound.

Lay your palms upward and gently crepe-ing upon these static spaces between us, and I’ll show you wonderment in fingertips stained blue. Our bodies wear and tarnish as even facades of magnificent cathedrals must. Another day, another rain shower eroding the stone pillars. Another day, another layer of grime. Invisible from one day to the next until one day becomes a hundred days becomes ten years. One Alabama January, I looked down at my hands on a steering wheel and realized I was moving much faster than I thought. “We’re getting old,” you said in the last letter you sent to me, and I imagined that it was snowing when you wrote it and that you were wearing the sweater with the moose on it. “We’re only twenty,” I replied in the last letter I sent you, and I put on three sweaters to write it because I wanted to feel close to you and also because you scare me. The Alabama winter did not demand such armor, but I left them on until I fell asleep and woke sweating in the early hours of morning, when I removed them one by one. I thought this an appropriate metaphor. In the lamplight, indigo ink gathered and settled in deepening skin canyons, and I started to cry.

Future People – The Alabama Shakes

– Lauren

5.31.16

6.16.16

Good Things

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Skincare | Glossier Mega Greens Galaxy Pack. I’m a sucker for face masks, so when I placed my first Glossier order last month, I had to get one. I opted for the Mega Greens Galaxy Pack, and holy moly it makes my skin so soft. I can’t wait to try the Moisturizing Moon Mask.

Haircare | Lush BIG Shampoo. I’ve had quite the shampoo debacle over the past few months. I haven’t been able to find one that works for my hair and isn’t filled with massive amounts of harmful chemicals, packaged in ridiculous amounts of plastic, or produced using unethical standards. The first Lush in my state opened up recently, and even though it’s an hour and a half away from me, I took a trip up there to see what I could find in the way of shampoo. The girl at the store recommended BIG to me, and I love it. It’s made with sea salt, which is really fun, and keeps my hair voluminous and oil free.

Music | Volcano Choir. I love how music attaches itself to specific moments in my life. When I listen to Volcano Choir, I think of my freshman year of college when I shared a dorm room on campus with three other girls and how we would go to the record store on cold Saturdays and get orange cake and coffee from our favorite German bakery afterwards. I bought this record on one such Saturday, and it fills me with nostalgia whenever I put it on.

Podcasts | Stuff You Should Know. Now that I have my first big girl job, I’m having to get used to sitting at a desk and staring at a computer for eight hours a day, which is a lot easier said than done. However, I’ve discovered that listening to podcasts while I work is the secret to making the time go by. Stuff You Should Know has become my go-to podcast since I started my job. The premise is that the show’s hosts pick a topic – anything from pacifism to Alexander Hamilton to poop – research the heck out of it, and talk about what they learned.

Essential Oil | Young Living Purification. I recently got a diffuser, and I’ve been loving coming home at the end of the day and diffusing my favorite essential oils. Currently, I’m loving Young Living’s Purification oil. It’s a blend of citronella, rosemary, lemongrass, tea tree, lavandin, and myrtle, and it smells so good.

Food | Sunday Suppers. I’ve had this cookbook for a while, but I’ve recently discovered some new recipes in it that have become new favorites. My favorites at the moment have been the shakshuka and the challah. And food aside, the book itself is an aesthetic dream. I highly, highly recommend.

TV Show | A Series of Unfortunate Events Netflix Series. This show has been getting mixed reviews amongst my friends, but I absolutely loved it. I read these books when I was in elementary school, and admittedly, I was a little skeptical about Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf, but I think he did a really good job. The style reminds me of a Wes Anderson film, which doesn’t hurt my feelings one bit.

Article | Am I Annoying? This article by Man Repeller really resonated with me. I have social anxiety and I’m very much a people-pleaser, so I’m frequently worried that I come across as annoying in school, work, or social situations. This article made several really great, non-cliche points about why we shouldn’t worry about seeming annoying to others.

Art | Tommy Ingberg Surreal Photo Art. I love surrealist art, so when I stumbled upon these surrealist photographs, I fell in love. The photos encapsulate the spirit of surrealism really well. They look like a Magritte painting come to life.

Activity | Ceramics. This past semester, I had an open space in my schedule. Most college seniors in that position would have been thrilled to have a light schedule for their final semester, but because I am the overachiever that I am, I decided to use that opportunity to take a class in something that interested me. So I took a class in ceramics, which was so fun. I’m not master potter by any means – in fact all of my mugs are incredibly asymmetrical – but it’s so satisfying to drink my morning coffee out of a mug I made myself.

What have you been loving lately?

– Lauren

My Ethical Fashion Journey: A Year in Review

IMG_3298It’s hard to believe that I started my ethical fashion journey a little over a year ago. Last December when I was on break from college, I watched The True Cost documentary, and it completely changed my outlook on how I shop. Before, though it seems silly, I had never considered that my clothes were made by actual people, and after watching the documentary, doing some additional reading, and learning about the conditions under which my clothes were made, I couldn’t continue to give my money to companies that exploited their workers and denied them living wages. It became very clear to me that by giving these companies my money, I was directly contributing to a system that treats real life people as though they don’t matter so that a few people at the top can profit. And that’s not to mention the havoc the fast fashion industry wreaks on the environment. So I swore off fast fashion brands, which I soon learned comprised essentially all major fashion retailers, and made the switch to ethical, fair trade brands and shopping secondhand. My experience so far has been extremely educational, sometimes trial and error, but overall positive. I’ve learned a lot over the past year, and I want to share my experience partly in the hopes that it will help anyone who’s undertaking a similar lifestyle change and partly to get any advice, feedback, or encouraging words you have for me as I continue to make changes to my consumption habits.

Here are some of my thoughts after one year of conscious consumerism. Buckle up, because this is going to be a long one.

  • The first thing I did after deciding to become a more conscious consumer was begin researching the ethics of various clothing brands and compiling a list of the ones whose ethics I agreed with. In my experience, the clothing companies that are truly invested in the well-being of their workers are forthright about it. They make it a very obvious part of their branding, and you don’t have to go searching on obscure sections of their websites to find information regarding their factories.

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  • One major change I made was shopping less. I was never someone who was constantly shopping and buying clothes, but I did tend to treat myself to a clothing purchase from time to time. I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with occasionally treating yourself, but over the past year, instead of treating myself with clothes or material goods, I decided to treat myself with experiences and forego unnecessary clothing purchases. Instead, I tried to wear what I already owned in new and interesting ways, and I borrowed from friends. The result was that I consumed a great deal less and actually saved money despite the fact that fair trade clothing is more expensive than fast fashion brands. I think the monetary aspect of shopping ethically is what inhibits many people from making the switch from fast fashion (it was a concern of mine, too), but over the past year, I’ve realized that it is absolutely possible for many people to maintain these ideals while on a rather small budget. (Shameless plug: check out my Ethical Shopping on a Budget Parts 1 and 2).

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  • I’ve learned to think of the clothing I buy in terms of long-term investment. Whereas before, I would have scoffed at paying $40 for a basic white t-shirt, now I welcome paying a bit more if it means that the shirt was produced ethically, was sustainably sourced, and is of a higher quality that will last me for years. And by buying less, it becomes more feasible to make these investment purchases from ethical brands.

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  • For the most part, I’ve managed to abstain from buying anything made in a sweatshop, but I have had a few slip ups. Two of which were unanticipated purchases of necessity, where I was in pinch while traveling and didn’t have the time to order something online. The other time was a mistake. I was under the impression that the item I was purchasing was produced ethically, only to realize when it arrived that that was not the case. Those slip ups taught me to be prepared for all weather scenarios when traveling and to be more selective when choosing my sources for determining whether or not a company is fair trade.

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  • I’ve had a hard time with shoes. Shopping for clothes has been pretty easy. Fair trade clothing companies are a good deal more expensive than fast fashion brands, but I’ve always been good at waiting for things to go on sale and finding a deal. I’m also really into shopping vintage and secondhand clothing. What I haven’t been so good at is finding fair trade shoes that I can afford.

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  • Most of the shopping I’ve done in the past year has been secondhand. Like I said earlier, I enjoy finding ways to incorporate vintage pieces into my wardrobe. But shopping secondhand is often hit or miss and requires some vision. I’ve really enjoyed the creative challenge that shopping secondhand presents. Aside from some end of the year sales (which are a great time to stock up on clothing from ethical brands), all of the shopping I did this year was secondhand. I love that shopping at thrift stores, vintage shops, or online markets like Etsy or Poshmark allows me to cultivate a unique wardrobe that isn’t full of mass-produced items. It allows my personal style to shine through in a way that fast fashion doesn’t.

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Overall, this first year of conscious consumerism has been incredibly informative. When I first undertook this lifestyle change, I was worried that I would feel in some way deprived by my decision to swear off fast fashion and that sticking to these principles would require much discipline even though I believed it was the right thing to do. But that hasn’t been the case for me. Sure, this change required that I redefine what I consider to be a need and make more informed decisions on how to satisfy that need, but I never once felt the urge to revert to my old shopping habits.  Even in the moments when I felt discouraged by the apathy practiced by the fashion industry towards actual human lives or by a system that encourages the ignorance of the consumer in order to make sales, I felt more strongly the need for change and the importance of sticking to my ideals.

I’ve grown to feel more strongly that the world does not exist to accommodate my harmful and wasteful habits and that mindfulness regarding my consumption is essential. This past year has inspired me to make similar changes to the amount of plastic I use and throw away, the ingredients in my bath and cleaning products, and the contents of the food that I eat. Essentially, our stewardship of the earth and compassion towards the people in it has the power to bring about social and environmental justice, and I want to be a part of that.

Leave a comment telling me your tips and tricks for cultivating an ethical lifestyle.

– Lauren

 

Update

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On December 10, 2016, I graduated from the University of Alabama with a bachelor’s degree in English, Creative Writing, and Art History. The following Monday, a friend and I packed up my car and drove from Alabama to North Carolina, where we picked up another friend and drove to Maryland, where we picked up another friend and drove to New York. After a week of getting lost in New York and DC and eating way too much pizza, I drove back to Alabama, slept at home for the night, woke up the next morning, and drove to Savannah, Georgia, where I spent a week with my best friend and roommate. I made it back home just in time for Christmas, which I spent at my grandparents’ house, and a few days later, I moved out of my apartment and back in with my parents and spent several days trying to fit an entire apartment’s worth of stuff into my tiny bedroom.

Meanwhile, I was accepted to a graduate school in Paris, and though living in Paris for a year while I complete my master’s degree would be a dream, I’m waiting to hear back from a few other programs before I make my decision. Regardless, I’ve already begun to search for apartments in Montparnasse, rank the paintings I want to see in the Louvre (The Oath of the Horatti is at the top), and consider learning some French.

In the meantime, I’ll be working and saving up my money in preparation for graduate school in the fall. And because I’m not currently in school and my schedule will be much more regular in the coming months, I’ll have more time to blog. I did a good bit of thrift shopping on my recent vacations and was able to get some material for a few upcoming posts that I’m really excited about. Stay tuned!

– Lauren

A Checklist for 22

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Breathe. Eat the fries. Choose optimism even when it’s hard. Live a life that feels good, not one that just looks good in photographs. Achieve. Aspire. Become. Be spontaneous. Decide there are things worth doing even if you have to do them alone, even if you do them badly. Be better at forgiving yourself. Stop letting people take advantage you, but don’t ever stop being compassionate. Still, be kinder to people than you think they deserve. Make the most of transition seasons. Read more nonfiction. Write more poems. Finish knitting that sweater. Get better at the mandolin. Don’t hide from people so much. Let them know you, but don’t give away bits of yourself to people who don’t deserve them. Stretch. Don’t try to quit coffee again. You like it too much. You’re allowed to like things, even things that are kind of bad for you. But cut back to one cup a day. Save up for a fun vacation. Spend time with family. Remember that as you get older, they’re getting older too. Remember to cherish this time. Things will continue to change. They will never be this way again. Think positively of yourself. Surround yourself with people who won’t invalidate your feelings. Serve others. Take care of yourself. Ask for help if you need it. Doctors are not a waste of your money. Go to the doctor. Get to know people who are different than you. Explore new ways of seeing. Never stop learning. Grow.

A New Name

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It seems like lately, every time I’ve written a new blog post, I start off by saying I’ve been so busy that writing has fallen by the wayside and been buried beneath a pile of school work and my job, and that would not be untrue. But there are some other things at play here, too.

Three and half years ago, after I graduated high school, I started this blog as a way to document the upcoming changes in my life. I had the idea around midnight one night, Googled “free blogs,” made a blog, and wrote my first post all within about an hour. The whole thing was really exciting, but I had no idea about the direction I wanted to take with it. Since then, I’ve written about all sorts of things from clothes to food to books.

Now, three and half years down the line and with a better conception of what I want to say on this blog, I want to create better content. I considered switching blog platforms and quickly realized that I can’t currently afford to do that. Then, I tried to redesign this blog, but couldn’t find the time to really commit to it, and so I still haven’t found an aesthetic I’m thrilled with. And for all of these reasons, I haven’t posted in about a month.

As I’m sure you’ve noticed if you’re a regular reader of my blog, my blog has undergone a little bit of re-branding in the form of a name change. Until I have the financial means to buy my domain name, that will have to do.

Bluestocking: an intellectual and literary woman. But of course, with a name like Bluestocking, there is the connotation of clothes. Denotation and connotation combine to encompass the brand I want to promote: a stylish and intelligent and compassionate woman.

So what exactly does that mean for this blog? Stick around and find out.

– Lauren

Objects of Beauty

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I’ve lived in Alabama my entire life, which is something I used to complain about a lot when I was growing up. I was bored of small towns and couldn’t wait to leave, and it wasn’t until the past few years that I really started to appreciate the place where I live, its history, and the interesting and worthwhile things it has to offer. Like this furnace built after the Civil War for the production of pig iron that’s been made into a historic landmark and is perfect for an afternoon adventure. It’s hard to explain this change of heart. Maybe it has to do with the traveling I’ve done lately. The more I’ve travelled, the more I’ve realized that every place I go has something to teach and offer me. Or maybe it’s that, after high school, I figured myself out a little more and found meaningful friendships that have tied me here, emotionally if not physically.

My best guess, though, is that I’ve come to understand better the beauty in collecting small moments, the unassuming afternoons in small-town Alabama, that time my best friend and I decided to climb trees on campus and got reprimanded by campus police, taking the cat to get donuts at 1 am. I’m constructing my narrative out of bits and pieces I collect along the way and are small enough to fit in my pocket.

Now, I keep a running list of places in my state that I want to see and day trips I want to take, and one of my favorite things to do these days is check places off of my list with lovely and creative friends, find the best places to get coffee, and write it all down in my journal.

I like the idea of museums, that they are essentially the constructed narratives of human experience, but that they are perpetually incomplete. No matter how many objects are collected, they will never encompass the vastness and breadth of human experience, but curators continue to curate and buyers continue to buy. I think life is like that too. We go along collecting these bite-sized memories, these objects of beauty that construct the narratives of our lives and we discard others. We snap photos and write poems and tell stories and decide how to remember them. I guess what I’m saying is that lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my role as curator in a narrative that has the potential to be worthwhile regardless of place. I think the whole idea is pretty perfect.

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Like my last post, my entire outfit sans shoes was stolen from my roommate who stole the flannel from her brother and the dress from her cousin. It’s like a nesting doll of ethical fashion. I like it.

– Lauren

 

6.16.16

IMG_3860A word. A picture. A sound.

And it was unbearably hot. The best part of the day was the end, when the sun had just begun to descend but was still lingering. The temperature dropped to 80, and everything was brilliant. Lying on a blanket spread over a grassy spot in a new city, watching the sun dip down behind the Parthenon as the lightning bugs came out more abundantly than I had ever seen before, I felt the quintessence of summer, and it was yellow. Yellow until the very end.

Time of the Blue – The Tallest Man on Earth

– Lauren

5.31.16

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A word. A picture. A sound.

I’ve found I like to collect places the same way I would collect seashells on a beach – not unlike this one – on the coast of Florida when I was seven years old. I have this place that once was mine where five o’clock settles in slow, that built much of me out of cricket songs and Dogwood trees, and I didn’t realize it until I left it behind for someone else. I keep coming back, though I’m made of more places now. I’m looking for something worthwhile and always find it in the heart of a saltwater cure.

Upswing – Prinze George

– Lauren