‘Lacklusterism’ and Screens: A COVID-19 Account

Amidst the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic, the word ‘normal’ has been redefined. Many of us have been coping with the illnesses and deaths of friends and relatives, while others have been dealing with and contemplating on their family’s financial stability. If some of you were like me, you may have tasked yourself with finding the silver lining of this entire situation. Perhaps you decided at the beginning of quarantine that you would take this time to learn a new instrument or fit in a workout every morning. Maybe you wanted to devote your time to volunteering and helping others or planned to learn or improve skills that were beneficial for the future. And if you were like me, with the Thanksgiving season approaching, you reflected back over this year and are probably disappointed in how much you actually accomplished. 

I admit, most days, I am not as productive as I want to be. I wanted to take advantage of quarantine and become smarter, stronger, and more social than I was. I wanted to start that new coding project and practice for Cross Country. I wanted to prepare for the SATs on Khan Academy and commit to those early morning yoga sessions with my friends. I wanted to finish that random Coursera lecture on the History of Classical Music that I enrolled in three years because I was bored at my aunt’s house. However, most days, I felt unmotivated and lackluster. Most days passed by the same: wake up, get ready, go to school, finish homework, promise myself to do something productive, binge watch or read (fantasy might I add), and scroll through social media feeds for the rest of the evening after promising myself and my parents that I’ll get around to doing something right after this episode or chapter or meme

It’s like I was waiting for someone or something out of the ordinary to change my behavior, even though I know that I am in charge of my own future. I too have read the posters hanging in the PE locker rooms reading the “Push yourself, no one else is going to do it for you” quotes up on the walls near the mirrors. Heck, my entire bedroom wall is covered with motivating quotes from inspiring people. I know that I should be motivated to do something. But then why don’t I? 

Initially, I told myself that the root cause of my problem was due to boredom. Nothing exciting or out of the ordinary happens anymore. Nothing excites me. I barely even left my bedroom anymore, let alone stepped outside my house this past year. And I know many others who feel the same way. Just the other day, one of my teachers joked with my class saying that they almost logged onto their class on a Saturday because all the days passed by the same. 

To fill in the boredom, I read the stories of other people’s lives, real or fictious, whether it was on Netflix, Overdrive, or Instagram. During the first few weeks of lockdown, I watched so much television that my head hurt just thinking about a screen. I shifted to indulging my mind with stories in books to occupy my mind. When I was done with the collection in my home, I slowly shifted to e-books in the public library. And when I finally got my first social media account, I spent more than 14 hours each day on electronics.

Under my friend’s persistence, I watched the documentary, Social Dilemma. It was quite informative in explaining that my addiction was not unique and why that was the case. This is it, I told myself. This is the reason I am not doing anything productive. My mind is addicted to the dopamine that is released in my brain when I read all these different stories across different platforms. I needed to stop this. I needed to stop reading other people’s stories and start living mine. 

I forbade myself from looking at any screens until the end of summer. Thinking back, it was quite an unreasonable goal. Nevertheless, I was adamant on reaching it. I only managed to maintain it for one week. At the end of that week, I intensely debated in my mind on whether or not I should reach over to my phone. I promised myself that I would only spend one hour on TikTok if I allowed myself. One hour led to two, which led to four, then six, and then eight. 

This wasn’t new. Even before my screen-time restrictions, my mind fell into an abyss, disregarding all proponents such as time whenever I stared into a screen. A promise of a ten minute leeway on my computer or phone would spiral into sometimes even 10 hours.

Something was missing. I watched and tried to apply numerous Ted Talks on how to battle this. I talked to my grandparents, who ended up giving me lectures on willpower. Finally, I got my friends to limit their screen times with me. 

While listening to others and their perspectives, I realized one thing: the moment I allow myself a leeway when I am not supposed to, even when I tell myself it’s for one minute, I automatically throw myself down a spiral of screen staring that wastes my entire day. Those individual hours and days pick up until I’ve wasted months and even years of precious time on excessive screen time.

It’s like taking a test. Many juniors and seniors who take their SATs sit down and often reflect on how one test, a few hours of small marks on a single sheet of paper, could affect their entire lives. The same thing happens when I distract myself from my work for a few minutes. A few minutes of screen time can affect the entire day. When I promise myself a limited amount of screen time, my brain forgets that it’s limited. It craves more dopamine, and so I stay addicted to my phone, no matter how much I try to break the habit. The only difference between taking out your device and taking the SAT is that you don’t have hundreds of opportunities to take your SAT. Those moments that we think are small when we promise ourselves a few minutes of distraction come and go so often that we think nothing of them. We don’t realize how taking our phone, even for a minute, can make us want to waste the entire day. Those individual hours and days pick up until we’ve wasted months and even years of precious time on excessive screen time. That is why, whenever my eyes automatically drift to the TV playing in the background, I tell myself one word: now. Now is the time to focus. Now is not the time to get distracted. Now is the time to do the productive thing you want to do.

Because it’s those small moments of ‘nows’ that add up in your life and tell your story. 

Procrastination, Stress, and Baking by Clara Labelle and Valerie Lam

Ah, baking. Preheating ovens, flour explosions, the sweet smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, and a little struggling gremlin of a student shoveling said cookies in her mouth at warp speed. Can you picture it? That may or may not be Clara the night before a big test. On the other hand, Valerie is studying for that test and will reward her guaranteed ‘A’ with some homemade sweet buns.

Clara: For me, baking has always been tied with stress and procrastination. Sometimes after a particularly packed day, I just want to eat a billion cookies and relax. Nothing is better after finishing an essay than a chocolatey brownie and some Netflix. Sometimes I also use baking to help me procrastinate. If I don’t feel like doing something: “hey, I should make some banana bread real quick.” It’s a great distraction and makes for a good snack when I “study” later (I don’t really end up studying, more like distracting myself even more). Plus, the delicious smells would relax anyone! Occasionally, I’ll feel like I need to have a baked good after a hard day, so I’ll head over to Market of Choice or another store like that to pick up one of those cake slices. I love having that variety and it’s perfect for my sugar fix!

Valerie: Unlike Clara, baking for me is a way to have fun and create aesthetically pleasing food that explodes with flavor. Whether it’s after school, on days off, or on the weekends, I bake chocolate cakes to sweet taro buns. Obviously though, eating that much sugar will probably kill me in the next few years, so I always share them with my friends. On days that I have a test or a ton of homework, I skip the baking and focus on studying; but, I always come back to baking as a yummy reward. With this reward comes relief from stress. Stress can be really hard to get through and overcome, but baking is a fun and easy way to feel achieved and successful. So I definitely recommend trying it!   

Clara: I don’t always bake because I’m being a bad student, I also do it for fun. For summer holidays or get-togethers I might make a key lime pie (those are really good!), or I tried making a banana cream pie, too! For some friends, I’ll make cookies and once for Valerie, I even made them purple. Sometimes I’ll just bake some cookies because my mom wants the house to smell nice. After some good days at school, I might just bake because I’m in a good mood. My favorite thing to make is chocolate chip cookies and I’ve gotten pretty good at it. Valerie can attest that my cookies are delicious 😛

Valerie: Yes. The cookies are definitely delicious. Salty and sweet…. Yum yum. Anyway, the baking I do is always for fun. Making delicious pastries and desserts for my friends and family is always a win for me and a win for the person I give it too. The most popular in my household is the Chocolate Castella Cake (also a fan of Clara’s family), Milk Buns (which sometimes are purple), and of course, blueberry muffins (my sister’s secret recipe).   

There’s a reason why baking is actually a good stress reliever. When you’re stressed, it’s usually because you feel out of control and things aren’t going your way. Baking is a great way to get that feeling of control back. When baking, you have to be precise and focused. These qualities may help you feel calm again. Baking also gives you a tangible reward at the end, so it’ll give you that feeling of accomplishment. Baking keeps you distracted from your stress, it provides comfort and something to look forward to, and it may give you that sense of control and accomplishment that you so need when you’re feeling stressed. Plus, stressed spelled backwards is desserts so that can’t be a coincidence!

Dealing with stress isn’t easy, so find healthy ways to cope. Some good methods are to talk to others, take care of yourself, and to take a break. Eat healthy (so maybe don’t bake all the time), get some exercise, and get plenty of sleep (we should probably do more of this stuff too). If you’re overloaded with work, then take a quick break and make a list of small steps for you to work on. This will break up the task and make it a lot easier for you to go through. Baking is a good way to take a step back from your work and is a great way to relax for a little bit. But don’t be like Clara and turn it into a procrastination method. Treat yourself, but stay healthy while you do it. 


Chocolate Castella Cake
Coconut Milk Bread (customizable to your preferences
Key Lime Pie (use any graham cracker crust recipe too!)
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Banana Bread

The Library and I by Allison Bisgard

When I was a toddler and my brother a baby, my mom would bring my brother and me to the Brookwood Library in Hillsboro. It was quite a drive from my house, but my mom would like to meet her friend(who had kids my brother and my age). Us kids would sit in a pack of wiggling toddlers, listening to the librarian read from a picture book and play with funny-looking puppets. After the story-time, we would spend time checking out books from the library and then running around in the park adjacent to the building. Eventually, we would crash from all the excitement and my mom would wave goodbye to her friend, and drive us home, my brother and I sleep in the car.

I know she probably brought us as a way to wear us out and to see a friend, but those earlier were the beginning of my love from the library.

As a Preschool student, my brother and I would stay with our neighbor Deb (who had kids my brother and my age) during the day when my parents were at work. Everyone week, Deb would take my brother and me and her kids to the library to hang out and check out books. In the corners of the children’s section of the cedar mill library, we would sit on bean bags flipping through picture books and national geographic magazines. Eventually, as I learned to read, I was able to check out my own pictures. And because I was a stereotypical 5-year-old girl, I found the Rainbow Magic early reader chapter books.

In early elementary school, I absolutely devoured these books. I would go to the library and take a whole stack of the series with their glossy, colorful illustrations on the covers. I still remember my heart swelling with pride the first time I was able to read the whole chapter book all by myself.

Throughout elementary school I checked out many books, being a frequent library patron with my parents. But on a Saturday in the spring of 5th grade, my mom started to allow me to walk the 10 minutes to the library with my down-the-street neighbor, Ruby. Ruby and I would borrow my mom’s phone(in case of an emergency) and walk up to the library in the morning. On our walk to the small Bethany library, we could excitedly chat about our siblings, elementary school adventures, and what sorts of books we read. Ruby recommended a series of teen novels, the Alex Rider series. The Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz was about a British teen who became an agent for MI6. When we got to the library, I timidly pattered into the teen section, a place I had never been before. I found the books on the bottom shelf of one of the grey, metal bookshelves. I grabbed the first book and crept over to the librarian at the desk. I stood stiff and nervous as she scanned the book, worried that she would scold me, a 5th grader, about checking out the book. But instead, she simply said “this is a popular book with middle schools”, relieving my anxiety. When I got home, I started the first novel Stormbreaker. Over the course of the next few months, I excitedly consumed the entire series, immersed in the charters and the action-filled plots. I felt so grown up, reading more complex action novels, and comprehending them as someone below the target audience. Ruby and I would frequently talk about the books in class and on walks. It felt so cool to be part of something and hang out with someone who shared my interests.

Reading YA books really got me hooked on the library. I would walk up almost every week to get a new book or movies on DVD. I loved the independence I felt, being able to check out books and go whenever I pleased. And the summer of 2019 I volunteered at the summer reading table helping spread the love of reading to younger kids by signing them up for summer reading. Being able to volunteer made me feel even close to the library. I was able to spread my excitement I felt about the library to others.

But then on March 13th, 2020 the library closed. I knew was the safest choice for our community, but it still felt so strange. Libraries have been such a constant in my life, and to not be able to check out felt huge, despite how small it was in the grand scheme of things. I tried to fill the library-shaped hole in my life by reading books I own but hadn’t read and biking around my neighborhood looking for free little library boxes. I had taken the ability to check out when I wanted and the community the library had provided for granted. When the library opened back up for curbside, it was such a relief. I know it will be a long time before things will go back to normal, and I can browse the library safely. In the meantime I got a position on the teen library council, immersing me in the community and making me feel more connected to the library and reading, just as I had as a wiggly toddler, sitting on the floor.

Toxic Friendships by Natalie Schluper

At any age, it’s nice to have friends. You may prefer to have simple acquaintances or people who know you through and through. Hopefully, your friends fall somewhere in between. The friends you choose play a role in your story, and we often underestimate how much your story changes when someone new comes in it. We have to ask ourselves – is our story changing for the better?

Like many people, I have had my fair share of toxicity in friendships. Because I never set healthy boundaries, I let people take advantage of me, get away with nasty behavior towards me, and distract me from my own identity and self-worth. I was friends with the same person for several years. Yes, there were good moments (as there are in most toxic friendships), but they didn’t define the way that this friendship functioned at all. For one, they made everything about them. It wasn’t just that they talked about themself all the time. It was also that they invalidated my own feelings by convincing me that they had it worse. Basically, the message that I got was that I should be feeling bad for them instead of sharing my concerns. They also made excuses for everything that they did wrong, or they denied that they did anything at all. They would use words like “I was having a really hard day”, or “we were having so much fun, so why did you ruin it?”. They’d make it seem like their behavior was normal. This gave me a completely false sense of how you should feel around a group of friends, or around people in general. They were also untrustworthy. I felt like I had to be so reserved and guarded around them because I never knew when they would blow what I say out of proportion or discuss it with the wrong people. They were also selfish on a whole new level. They made plans, decisions, and conclusions without ever thinking about how they impacted me and everyone else. They liked to instigate silly things just for the sake of stirring up unwanted conflict. It was exhausting, and I don’t wish that reality upon anyone. Sadly these occurrences are common. Of course these tendencies were what cause the individual incidents that lead me to discover the nature of this person. I won’t discuss the individual incidents because I feel like that’s irrelevant.

The first step, as I’ve stated before, is to set boundaries. Setting boundaries means knowing what makes you uncomfortable and communicating that with whomever you’re with. Maybe they’re talking about something (or someone) that you don’t want to hear about, or they’re trying to ask you questions that you’re not ready to answer yet. Another way that someone could push a boundary is by discussing things about you with others that you wanted to keep private. Even when they’re manipulating you or invalidating your concerns, boundaries can be of use. I know from experience that communicating boundaries directly doesn’t feel right (it can be awkward), so instead you can do things to indicate to someone else that you’ve set a boundary and you don’t want them to cross it. Maybe changing the conversation topic, asking if you and them (or the group) can do something else, or subtly stating why something is making you uncomfortable. Whatever you choose to do, make sure that you sound confident and true to yourself. You’d be surprised how different people respond when you sound confident. If people don’t respect your boundaries even after communicating with them, then they aren’t worth your time. It’s important to remember that people who don’t care about your boundaries are only revealing to you that they’re completely self-absorbed.

A disregard for boundaries is a huge red flag, but there are definitely more things to look out for. Friends should be bringing you up by making you feel happy. It’s okay for friends to tease you and whatnot, but making you feel like you don’t belong is one of the biggest things to look out for. Yes, acknowledging everyone’s differences is a natural part of human interaction, but if they’re making you feel out of place then you know something is off. Friends that belittle you in a serious manner, judge you for little things, talk over you, tell you that you’re not good enough, and leave you feeling insecure aren’t good friends. Another thing to watch for is jealousy. Jealousy has no place in a friendship because it really just makes both people uncomfortable. If someone else is showing signs of jealousy then they’re probably going to treat you differently than everyone else. These are the types of people that make you feel out of place and unwanted. People with many insecurities also can make others feel this way. One common way that insecure people cope is by bringing other people down to make themselves feel better. I’ve observed this firsthand, and what I’ve learned is that any kind of emotional disturbance (including being extra insecure) is contagious. If your friend doesn’t like themselves, they will use you to make them feel better. In addition to this they will try to fish out encouragement from you that they don’t deserve. For example, they might fish for compliments and/or praise. Long story short, an insecure and/or jealous friend isn’t a genuine friend.

The sad thing is that someone else’s actions, or wrongdoings, can have a significant impact on your life. When I first got rid of my toxic friendship, I realized that my situation was worse than I thought it was. I don’t know how I ever thought that this person’s behavior was acceptable. This person was giving me the wrong messages, so all the things they said to me and about me were still fresh in my mind. I found that I had gotten so used to being fake around other people that I had lost my own sense of identity. These are all unfortunate things that I have had to spend the last year trying to fix, and I’m still trying to fix them. If I’m being honest, all of this can apply to more than friendships. Anyone you meet can be toxic, whether it’s a parent or significant other. In all cases, you need to look out for yourself. I know this sounds like a cliche, but life is too short for toxic friends. You’ll be more stable, happy, and content with your life if you take the right steps to avoid them.

The Power of Sleep by Clara Labelle and Valerie Lam

Hello, our names are Clara and Valerie! Today we are going to talk about sleep! Everyone needs sleep; it repairs your body, helps you think more clearly, improves your energy, reduces stress, and it improves your memory and mood! Lack of sleep is dangerous and is bad for your mind and body. Despite sleep being extremely important and we do it for a third of our lives, that doesn’t mean we don’t have very different opinions on sleep.

Valerie: For me, sleep has been my best friend (well, after Clara). I have always fallen asleep pretty quickly and online school hasn’t changed that. I believe that sleep is an important part of your daily schedule and that everyone should try to get as much of it as possible. As always though, oversleeping is unhealthy, so make sure you are getting 7-9 hours of sleep.  

Clara: I’ve always disliked sleep. Even as a baby, I would never want to go to sleep and I’d only sleep after passing out from exhaustion (this was my parents least favorite thing about me, other than that I was an angel). Recently (especially since becoming a highschooler), I’ve grown to like sleeping a little more, but I still think it’s mostly a waste of time. It’s not like I stay awake for hours trying to fall asleep, I’m actually pretty quick to fall asleep, but I just enjoy doing other things more than I like being in bed. Even though neither are very productive, I’d prefer to look at my phone or read a book than to go to sleep. 

Valerie: Unlike Clara, I find that I am more productive in the afternoon so going to sleep late and waking up late has been the best way for my lifestyle. On school days, I usually go to bed at 11-12 and wake up at 8; but on weekends, I go to bed around 1 and wake up at 11-12am. To some people, this seems preposterous; however for me, this schedule works. Even though I wake up pretty late, I can also wake up pretty early. Do I like waking up early? Nope, but if I have plans or I have homework, I am able to wake up early pretty easily (if and only if I have a very loud alarm clock). My schedule at night is pretty simple: dinner, exercise, homework, and then sleep. In the morning, I’m usually reluctant to get out of bed, but once I’m in the bright, blinding bathroom, I’m nice and hyper.    

Clara: I’m not necessarily a morning person, but when I get up I can be pretty productive (if I feel like it). My sleep schedule is a very consistent 7-8 hours of sleep, maybe 7-9 on weekends. On weekdays I am usually in bed by 10:30 or 11:00, then wake up at 7:30 and on weekends I go to bed at 11:30 or midnight and wake up at 8:30 or 9. I don’t have any reason to get up early on weekends, so I could sleep in if I wanted to, but I don’t. I have zero desire to sleep in unless I’ve had a particularly draining week but even then my circadian rhythm sometimes doesn’t let me sleep in. I’m usually never drowsy and I don’t even drink coffee in the mornings unlike my sister who drinks coffee and gets more sleep than me! I also deal with jetlag surprisingly well. I even sleep well in hotel rooms that I share with my sister and loud, snoring parents! My sleep schedule has always been consistent so my mood in the mornings are always pretty much the same and I’m ready to start the day.

Valerie: I don’t take naps anymore. I used to when I was little, but now I don’t really feel like taking one. During the daytime, I usually feel better about myself if I do something productive or something I enjoy than taking a nap. But my older sister, a nap time lover, has needed naps ever since she started staying up late to finish homework.  

Clara: I never take naps and I haven’t had a nap since I was little and was forced to take naps. I think that they are even more of a waste of time and it spends precious daylight. I also don’t get tired throughout the day, so I don’t understand why people need/want naps (knock on wood, please don’t make me more tired all of a sudden). If I want to rest, I’ll just watch some YouTube or read a book, which are also restful and you can have fun doing it. Naps are boring, but if it helps put you in a better mood, knock yourself out (literally).

Staying awake is a problem for everyone, late risers and early risers alike. So here are some tips to be productive and get stuff done! When you first wake up, outdoor light is the first thing you should look at. Don’t look at your phone, don’t look at the blinding bathroom light, just look outside. Lights from your electronics and light bulbs can make you drowsy and sleepy again, so waking up to fresh bright sunlight is the best treatment for a sleepy morning. Early exercise and showers have also been a reliable habit to keep you awake. Any exercise will also boost your energy and help you get restful sleep, but try not to do it before bed. Some coffee or tea in the morning can wake you up as well. Short afternoon naps can also give you a quick energy boost for the later half of the day, but don’t sleep for too long or else you won’t be able to sleep properly at night! Try to be consistent and follow your circadian rhythm to get as restful of sleep at night as possible. 

Sleep is an important aspect of your life, no doubt about it. Whether you’re a lover of sleep, hater of sleep, late riser, or early riser, sleep is necessary for your survival. By spending time creating habits that will be beneficial for your sleep, body, and mind, you can become a healthier and happier you. 

The Importance of Self-Motivation & Care by Natalie Schluper

Hello, my name is Natalie and in this section, I’m going to be talking about how we can self-motivate. I am going to be talking about how quarantine has affected our ability to self-motivate and my personal story and journey with this journey. I’m also going to be opening up about how I struggled with procrastination and a few useful tips. I am also going to be describing some ways that saying home has positively benefited me both in my ability to do well at school and how it has laid down a good foundation for the rest of my life. I hope this is relatable to all of you and useful to those who are reading (or listening) to the podcast. 

The first thing I want to go over is some of the things that have caused a struggle for me. One conclusion that I have come to is that we spend a lot of time with ourselves when we are alone and that can have consequences. So, during this year we have had to cope with that reality and I have struggled more than I thought I would. There were many reasons why I struggled with this but the main thing is the huge lack of motivation. I kept thinking “what is the point of doing all of this?” I was having a mental battle with myself each time I had to do something. I wasn’t used to that because beforehand I used to live half a lifestyle where I was running around the entire day. We had school and I had a lot of activities that ran really late. Doing everything in one place is something I’m not used to. Most of us were pretty busy at that point in our lives before we had to switch. Like I said before, it is very easy when we are in that position to lose track of everything. It is so easy to start thinking that things don’t matter but they really do matter. We just have to work harder to believe that. That feeling can really stress you out and it can make you feel really unproductive. Spending a lot of time alone also means that we are really prone to creating a huge mental blockage which comes from what I said about feeling that things don’t matter, which can cause us to feel that things don’t matter. If I had to say what caused me to struggle the most, it would be that. 

How do I deal with procrastination? One thing I have to say is that it can ruin your mental health. People really underestimate how this can ruin your mental health, especially when you aren’t used to battling it. When I procrastinate, I tend to be very confident in the beginning of the day to get things done and periodically I feel more stressed out. At the end of the day, I don’t feel good because I didn’t do the thing I intended to do and this cycle continues and this just puts me in a miserable state. I know I’m not the only one who struggles with this. It doesn’t make you feel good, it makes you feel like a failure which makes your motivation even worse. 

On days where even before we had to spend so much time alone when we had weekends, holidays, or breaks, I ran into the same issue. I just didn’t have the time to really work through it and I didn’t really care to fix it. That didn’t really affect me because I was able to ignore it and achieve what I wanted to. Now, that is just not the case so I wanted to share some things that helped me minimize this tendency.

One big thing is that you shouldn’t set expectations too high, just remember that a little is better than nothing. When we are in the midst of something that is quite new, we kind of overlook how much that whole concept kind of affects us. We all as humans long for that sensation of “I was productive,” “I did everything I wanted to do.” We want to finish everything we wanted to do by 10 P.M. We want to have rooms in our lives for the things we enjoy. I knew this ahead of time but I was just doing so many things that I was on Cloud Nine thinking that I could literally conquer the world. I wanted to do so many things that I just didn’t have time to do because I wasn’t being realistic. For example, I woke up thinking that I was not only going to finish school and extracurriculars but think that I could read for two hours, go on a walk, do my chores, and go on a run and buy my friend’s birthday gift and so much more. All these things, you can’t fit them all on one day. When expectations are this high, you feel unmotivated all the time. Believe me, trying to fit everything in one day and trying to maximize every single minute isn’t realistic and puts more stress on you in the long run. 

This next point, I know it will be really annoying, is to put your phone away. This isn’t with the intention that you are doing something bad on your phone but that there is no denying that it is a HUGE distraction. Coming from someone who is really prone to be distracted, it can really throw you off especially when you check your phone early in the morning. This bad habit means that you start your day off on the bad foot and you spend your time doing unproductive things and you have a hard time getting started on what you want to do for the day. One day that helps me steer clear of this issue is to put my phone downstairs or if you don’t have another floor, try putting your phone in a different room. Then, you are a force to spend the first few minutes away from your phone. It is really surprising how much of a difference this had made. Despite the fact that it is a huge pain and takes too much willpower, it is not always the best and you don’t long for that but I encourage you to at least try and make it work. 

Additionally, I want to talk about the importance of taking care of yourself because all aspects of your health are connected and the human body is not designed to stay sitting the whole day. However, we do have to sit for long periods of time. It can up your stress level more than you think even though you aren’t doing things that are physically demanding on your body. After doing a bunch of homework. We often don’t feel like exercising but feel like scrolling through TikTok and Instagram. We don’t want to spend time exercising. I advise you to try to push past this a few times a week because not only will you feel better but it will also improve your efficiency. Literally just going on a 30-minute walk or things like that. Also, when you are exercising your body, it releases endorphins and your stress level will go down. Ask yourself questions such as “Are you eating enough?” “Are you drinking enough water?” “Is your food healthy?” “Have you slept for at least eight hours?” Keep these things in mind too because when you do the right thing for your body, you feel less demotivated. You procrastinate less, your brain function is better, and you lead a healthy lifestyle. This is obviously important for gliding through difficult projects more easily because it makes your work feel less of a burden and keeps you from procrastinating as much. 

Another thing I want to go over, “What are some motivational tips?” Some fo the things I said above are part of self-motivation such as taking care of yourself, limiting time engaging in distractions, etc. Other things are to create a good space for yourself. Don’t work somewhere in a place that makes you feel unhappy. It doesn’t have to be perfect and I know that a lot of us have difficult circumstances when we are at home but the minimum thing is to keep organized. Don’t have them in a big mess because even when we are outside and we have to share a space with others, keeping it organized will help you feel more put together. Take baby steps. If you are in a place right now where you feel like you aren’t doing very well, you aren’t accomplishing as much as you want, trust me I’ve been in this place so many times it’s crazy. Really, you need to take baby steps. Every single day, you need to change and maybe incorporate one thing in your day that you didn’t do the previous day to help you reach your goals, being the best version of yourself. Don’t try to fix everything in 24 hours! Try to fix things in a month, this itself is a pretty ambitious goal because many of us overestimate how much we can do when it comes to things like this. 

Also, don’t compare yourself to anybody, especially right now when we have social media. We have Youtube videos and all these things. We often see somebody else’s life and see how good they’re doing and how many amazing things they’ve done. We tend to compare ourselves a lot. The bad thing is that you cannot replicate somebody’s life. It’s okay to be inspired by somebody but please don’t try to replicate their lives because it is not going to work. It will lead to more disappointment. 

Additionally, do things that you enjoy and incorporate them throughout the day. Make these things the reward and if you are really struggling, talk to your friends and family about things that are bothering you. Maybe if school is really hard or if you are working, these things are difficult and talking about them can help. If you don’t have anyone to talk to, at a bare minimum journal your thoughts and feelings. You need to be talking about your feelings. 

I also want to talk about how these current struggles we’ve been having will later have a positive impact. More specifically, if you are able to move past this mental blockage that we have right now, how will it positively impact our lives if we are able to fix it? Let me just say that when COVID-19 passes, we will still have times when we are alone and need to get things done. This is inevitable especially if you are a student. I used to hate days like these because I thought they were difficult and boring. This is because I wasn’t making a conscious effort to control my procrastination. If all of these things hadn’t happened, I would’ve had the chance to fix these things earlier on and I wouldn’t have had a problem when more pressure was put on me. Also, I had plenty of time for self-improvement without all the additional noise. I had the chance to analyze what my life looks like right now, spend more time with my family, pursue some new hobbies, and had some time to reflect and have things I want to change. I’m not sure if you can relate to any of this but I can tell you that it is okay to pinpoint the good things that have come out of this. It is just a good habit to develop. As a part of the conclusion, I want to say that many people are struggling more than I am and maybe more than you too. Those people still also deserve our love and support and you might want to reach out to those individuals you know of and talk to them. Relate with one another to help discuss these emotions. None of this is to downplay or diminish people that are going through a lot more struggles but it is to simply say that we can all better our lives by implementing a few simple practices. 

Becoming Your Own Boss by Jessica Fong

Hey guys, welcome to the CyberVOICES podcast. My name is Jess and today I’ll be talking about my small scrunchie business that I started this year, January 2020, before quarantine. I hope you guys enjoy the episode, so let’s get into it. 

So, the sewing machine that I am working with right now, I’ve actually had for a couple of years. I don’t exactly remember where I got it but I think I got it from Target. It is a cute little mint-green Hello-Kitty sewing machine and it was just so cute and we just had to get it. So, I first got the fabric probably from Joann and the first thing I made was a quilt and that was pretty much all I did for many years. I did not touch it for a long time until January of this year. I am not sure what prompted me to get it out of the closet when I was bored one night but I guess I did. I just searched up on Youtube like “easy things to sew” or “easy sewing projects” and a lot of them had scrunchies in them. I had a lot of charities I could use and I just thought that I would follow along and see what I could do. Before I knew it, I made my first scrunchie. I was just so excited, I guess it was just something new: something new, and different, and exciting. I ran downstairs and showed my parents. I posted on my Instagram “close friends” story and it was just an exciting time. 

Some more backstory that kind of explains what made me want to open an actual shop and start selling things was in 2016 when slime was popular. I had actually sent a slime account and made a slime shop; that was actually my very first Etsy shop. I actually had one sale from that slime era, and that was really exciting. After that kind of passed, my Etsy shop was just empty and it just sat there. I revisited it when I had this scrunchie idea and I had to think of another name that pertained to my new scrunchie business. I will kind of walk you through my naming process, and I’ve gone through three names so far. It’s a little much but I’ll explain why I went through so many names. So, the first name I came up with was “Bloom by Jess.” I designed a cute, pink logo and did everything. When I finally started an Instagram account for “Bloom by Jess,” a couple of days or mauve a week into it another Instagram account messaged me and she told me that her business with the same name has a copyright over that name. I had to change it, and so back to the drawing board. I had to figure out another name. 

So, when I was sitting one night trying to brainstorm more names, this next name I came with was pretty spontaneously created. My dad was going to eat some of this honey cake that we had in the fridge. He kind of just blurted out the name because we were all collectively brainstorming words to use. He just said “honey cake” and I don’t know, I kind of liked it. Since I was selling scrunchies, I decided to put “hair” at the end. So it said, “honey cake hair;” it was kind of catchy and it was also ‘HCH’ and it has a cute, little monogram and that was my second name. It lasted longer than the first one and I had made a new logo and everything. I updated everything. I created some little business cards with that name so Honey Cake Hair went fairly far. There was a point where I wanted to expand my shop and not have the word “hair” in it since it was kind of restricting the things that I can sell in my shop, restricting it to hair products and hair accessories. I was kind of exploring the idea of having stickers maybe because I liked drawing and I liked art. The easiest way of taking “Hair” out of it, I was thinking of just changing it to “Co” or “Inc.” Then I thought about it some more and part of me wanted to completely change the name. Even though I liked the name “Honey Cake Hair,” it was missing a personal connection and it just didn’t have a meaning behind it. It was kind of, as I said, spontaneously created. So, I started kind of venturing off to completely different names that didn’t have “honey cake” in the title at all and so what I finally decided on was changing it to “Lemon Bun Co” which is what it is now. 

Now, I will explain what made me want to make that drastic difference and the backstory behind it. So, the reason why I chose “Lemon Bun” as the token word is that there used to be this bakery when we lived in California and my family used to go there quite often I would say. A couple of times, my brother and I would get these little baked lemon balls and I just remembered them being so good. Especially because we don’t live in California anymore and we can’t get those any longer, it makes them memorable and that item is especially nostalgic and reminiscent. I don’t exactly know why but it just kinda stuck into my memory and thinking about it just makes me happy and like I said earlier, nostalgic. I like remembering past experiences so I really liked the thought of incorporating that into the name because it had such a unique and personal backstory to me. 

So, now at this point, we have a solid brand. Our storefront has some products already there and I also have a pretty solid Instagram account. So, once you have a solidified base, you should probably focus on the more little details like the titles of your listings, your descriptions. Especially on Etsy, since it is an already established platform, they kind of have their own algorithm. So, for Etsy and other platforms as well, keywords are very important. The tags that you associate with your listings are important. Basically, that all feeds into the likelihood of your product getting found based on what the customer is searching for. Science, I started this process with basically no business knowledge at all, no e-commerce knowledge, pretty much what I have learned has come from the internet. I think there are a lot of good resources and videos that you can watch. In my case, I would search up “how to get found on Etsy,” “how to write tags for Etsy.” Try to optimize all my products and try to get the visibility very high and try to get a lot of people to see my products. Likewise, another point is of course you want to get your product out there and get people hearing about it, but of course, another factor is having a good product. I felt pretty good about my products, I hand-sew the ends of the scrunchie so everything looks pretty nice. I think it looks really high-quality so I kinda already had that. 

Another aspect of having a business is packaging your stuff. For me, I really liked the packaging and I liked looking at other companies’ branding and how they design stuff. Another pretty prominent aspect of my business is being eco-friendly as I can. I started off by packaging my scrunchies in little plastic baggies. After I used up all of those, I wanted to do a more no-plastic approach to my packaging. As of now, I use little cotton twine and I tie it like a little gift package and tie a little bow at the end. I think it looks really cute and it doesn’t use any plastic so that is always a plus. As for my little business cards, they are just made from cardstock paper so obviously 100% recyclable. Another tip I would say for trying to improve your shop and just make it as best as it can be is searching for other shops that are in the same niche, or in the same area. I would look at other scrunchie shops or other hair accessory shops. Since I am using a platform like Etsy, I would go on Etsy and look at other scrunchie and hair accessory shops because they are working with the same algorithm that I will be working on. So, if I see them using a certain tag, I can think “maybe I can use that one too.” If I see a unique way that they are formatting their descriptions to make them more readable, I will take note of that and try to edit my description. I will use bullet points, make them into smaller paragraphs so they are easier to read. One thing I would be careful about is going a little too far and comparing your shop to other more successful shops because you can just never compare your progress to other people. Maybe they started a lot before you or maybe they have a lot of money to invest and more marketing. Another thing Etsy has are ads and of course ads cost money so if you have a bigger budget, you can do this which means that more people will see your products. So, you just can’t compare to your situation. You just need to try your best under the circumstances and just take note of things those bigger, successful shops do and try to implement into your small business, which could turn into a bigger business. 

Another thing as I kind of touched on earlier, I came into this with no prior knowledge or experience. If you want to start a business or some sort of shop and you just don’t know how to and you’re just worried about how the outcome will go, I think you can totally educate yourself and learn so much from just a couple of Youtube videos. You can do some research and that in and of itself is a pretty good starting point and if you can do that, I’m sure you can get a lot farther and maybe have an actual shop. There are a lot of ways you can start a business. You can have a handmade one like mine. You can have a more “drop-shipping” style business where you can design something like a T-shirt design and upload it on websites like Teespring. They just mock it up for you and they will ship it directly to the customer. I think that is a pretty good way to start a business since you don’t have to make any of your stock. You don’t have to purchase the materials and worry if you’re going to make your money back or not so that is another thing to think about if you want a lower-risk way to start.

That was my take on how I started my business and how I managed it and I hope you learned something. If you are thinking of starting a business, I say definitely go for it. I have a lot of fun packaging orders and it is so exciting when I get a new one. There are a few other things I want to include. You can find my shop, it’s called “Lemon Bun Co.” You can search for it on Google, Etsy, and Instagram. It is the same handle @lemonbunco. If you know my personal account, feel free to message me there as well. Lastly, I just wanted to say thank you so much to CyberBORN for opening up their platform. Make sure to check out their other episodes and also visit their website where you can read their blogs with other super cool and amazing stories by high school students. I think that is all for this episode. I really hope you guys enjoyed it and I hope you all have a happy holiday season!

Green Card, A Luxury? by Jyotsna Tera

Many don’t know what the word “Green Card” means. But to me and thousands of others like me, a green card means freedom, peace, and equal opportunity.

I came to the United States when I was just two years old and lived here for practically my entire life. Yet, I need the green card to validate my permanent residence in America. Not only am I unable to live the American Dream, I’m also deprived of opportunities many of my peers have. I can’t get a job or an internship, I can’t start a business, I can’t apply for scholarships, and I even have to fight to get in-state tuition. The country of opportunities has done nothing but let me and my family down.

My parents sacrificed everything to move to America in hope of giving me a brighter future. They have left their parents, missed important weddings and celebrations, and my dad wasn’t even able to see my grandpa for the last time. Even after all these sacrifices, we still live in the fear of deportation. Everytime we have to renew our visa, I always fear that it may be denied, then what? All my family’s hard work and the lives we have built here goes down the drain.

Although I’m just sixteen, I have big dreams and a life of my own. If i don’t get a green card by the time I am 21, I don’t know if I will ever be able to achieve those dreams. I worry all the time if my student visa will be approved, or if any medical schools will accept me. But all I can do is hope. I can hope that one day our country will allow youth like me a chance at normal life. I can hope that one day I can actually live the American Dream. I can hope that one day I look back and make that little girl with big dreams proud.

On the last note, I wanted to share a quote from Biden’s 2020 victory speech.

“I have always believed we can define America in one word: possibilities; in America everyone should be given a opportunity to go as far their dreams and god given ability will take them”

I hope one day the thousands of kids like me will actually be given the opportunity to go as far as their dream and ability will take them.

a blog series for young adults

‘Lacklusterism’ and Screens: A COVID-19 Account

Amidst the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic, the word ‘normal’ has been redefined. Many of us have been coping with the illnesses and deaths of friends and relatives, while others have been dealing with and contemplating on their family’s financial stability. If some of you were like me, you may have tasked yourself with finding…

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