Starting a business is scary. So are most major life changes. Changing careers, going back to school, moving, expanding your family, trying a new hobby, joining a gym, breaking your routine is a scary process. It’s uncomfortable and overwhelming, and it might feel like you don’t know anything about what it is you’re trying to do. Do it anyway. Begin the process. Learn as you go. Struggle. Learn more. Overcome. Learn more. Reflect and be proud of how far you have come from the first day you were scared to try something new.

Of course when it comes to a major financial investment like starting a business, take the time to do your research. Prepare as best as you can before you dive into applying for loans and pouring all your money into your big idea. But, if you have an idea that keeps you up at night, that lights a fire in your soul, chase it! There are people and resources in your community who can help guide you through the process. They want you to succeed. When you grow, you bring your passionate love to your community, and it only enriches the place you live. People want to see their cities blossom. They want to see you bloom.

In areas that are not typically seen as major business hubs like New York or Chicago, it might seem impossible to move and idea from planning to production. Many people in small towns complain there aren’t jobs let alone the resources to open a business from the bottom up. While investors might not have a building on every street like the in the big cities, they are present and actively looking for the best and brightest to grow their region. You are the best and you are the brightest. The first step to realizing your dreams is to start talking to people in your area. Open up to them and discuss what your goals are. Learn about their goals and what they do too. Maybe you can help each other, or you know someone who can help them, and they know someone who can help you.

In the North East Pennsylvania region, many locals often see the area as a washed-up, frozen, once-was, coal town. They have given up on the potential this beautiful community has to offer. The city of Scranton has a gorge with stunning views right in the middle of the city. The art scene is a growing and thriving component to the area that is literally brightening the streets with color to awaken the locals and show them how talented they all are. If you wanted to open a business, this is the place to do it.

On November 8, 2019 the 17th annual Entrepreneurship Institute Conference took place at Lackawanna College in downtown Scranton. The event was sponsored by tecBRIDGE, an organization committed to “growing entrepreneurship, innovation, and the knowledge economy in NEPA.” Several speakers provided their expert advice in workshops on networking, mindful living, website marketing, strategic business planning, and much more. More than the technical knowledge offered at the event was the opportunity to see the developers and creatives (established and rising alike) working to bring their dreams to life in a community often seen as decaying. Prior to this year, I had never even heard of tecBRIDGE, this conference, or most of the incredible projects that were discussed at the event. Seeking opportunity in your community is key. Often times there is more around you than you think, and if you don’t find what you need, then that is the perfect space for you to come in and innovate to create change.

Pennsylvania isn’t the only place with the potential for booming businesses outside of the typical corporate cities. In a piece published by Forbes, they list the top 10 small cities entrepreneurs can find success. Who made the cut? Cities ranging from Holland, Michigan to Cheyenne, Wyoming to Aberdeen, South Dakota. These areas embrace their natural features and market them to their fullest. In Holland, MI locals and tourists can walk along white sandy beaches, go for a hike, visit an art walk, and experience the world renowned Tulip Time Festival all in the same day. There are beautiful and unique characteristics within towns across the world. Everywhere has the potential to become a hub for growth. It just takes the people to believe in their neighbors, and to believe in themselves to make it happen.

It doesn’t matter if you live in the middle of nowhere or if you live in the center of largest business centers in the nation. What matters is you, and you matter. Get out and meet people, see what they’re doing to enrich your community. Learn from them and get new ideas. Keep trying your best, because consistency is key. Radical change will not happen overnight, but the slow growth you will see in your community when you begin to involve yourself in it will be awe inspiring. The more you invest in your projects, the more you yourself will grow. Your mindset will change from one of longing to escape your reality to one of hope to build your reality. Create change. You are capable of accomplishing so many wondrous feats. You can do anything, from right where you’re at.

Winter is coming, and as the cold seeps in the leaves will finish falling, the plants will go to sleep, and the sky will turn grey for the next few months. The colder temperatures will mean less days outside and the winter time blues will dampen the golden freedom of fall afternoons. Winter offers its own opportunities however, with time to rest, reflect, and learn. Spend your time inside to grow. Read a book, take an online course, or put extra effort into your self-care.

To help combat those dark and frigid days, I recommend reading Brilliant Green: The Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence, by Stefano Mancuso and Alessandra Viola. The book is the perfect winter time read to bring you back to the warmth of summer days. It offers a unique and inspirational look into the world of plants that is for more fascinating than your 10th grade biology class.

The general focus of the work centers on the notion that most people tend to ignore plants, viewing them as unintelligent and passive beings. People overlook how vital plants are to the survival of all other living creatures. Perhaps because they are immobile, or because they are ever-present, they are seemingly silent, or that they are easily manipulated by humans. But imagine a world without plants. To quote the authors, “They… are the link connecting the activities of the whole organic world (that is, of everything we call life) with our solar system’s energy center.” Without plants we wouldn’t have food, clothes, breathable air, energy supplies- life would be unsustainable.

This notion does not just apply to plants. If people do not notice all that you do, it does not mean that you are not important. The things you are doing, the projects you are working on, the time you are investing in yourself and in others is valuable. Your work is beautiful. What you create and contribute to the world is worth creating, even if no one is paying attention. Just because people tend to pass you by does not mean you are any less vital to the larger ecosystem of the world, and if you left, people would definitely notice. Just like the plants.

The book goes into detail about the complexities of plant intelligence, explaining how they use their senses to engage with their environment (yes they have all 5 senses we do, plus 15 more!). It examines the historical reasons plants have been glossed over in philosophical, religious, and scientific texts. It even poses its own philosophical questions such as, are plants altruistic? Check out the book for the entire explanation, but in short I was inspired that this question could even be asked. This suggests kindness is an innate characteristic so fundamental to living things that even plants exhibit signs of a moral compass. Imagine being a plant: you can’t move, you have to fight all other plants around you for resources, avoid being eaten entirely by animals, protect yourself from the elements, it can’t be easy, and yet, you have a sense to help out other plants around you in need. This level of thoughtfulness existing within in plants means kindness must be a core trait within people too. Be kind to others. The world might have made some hearts hard, but they can be softened. Even if it goes unnoticed, even if people do not immediately pay attention, your efforts to be gentle will help reshape the world.

Another fun fact presented in the 2nd chapter is the positive benefits plants have on the human mind. Cited are studies showing that the presence of plants in classrooms improve student concentration, and neighborhoods with greener spaces tend to have fewer car accidents and suicides. The impact of plants on mental health is remarkable. Maybe that has something to do with the recent houseplant comeback. Another way to help battle seasonal depression is to bring the outdoors in. When you pick up this book, snag a few house plants to brighten up your room too. Your plant will love you just as much you will love the life it brings you this cold season. If you don’t know what kind of plant to get or tend to kill anything green you touch start with one of these beginner options and work your way to building up a collection.

Overall, Brilliant Green, offers a lot of interesting and detailed information about how plants work. In it’s own way though it is a work of inspiration, with an underlying message that the moments overlooked are often the most important and beautiful in life. Don’t waste your winter this year. Take advantage of the time you have to try something you wouldn’t normally. Don’t let people overlook you either, and if they do, it does not mean you are any less wondrous. Keep on putting in the work on your dreams, keep focusing, keep creating, keep doing your very best. Your actions today have the power to impact the hearts and minds of those in the environment around you- just like a plant. Keep growing towards the sun, and when the spring comes you will bloom the most vibrant flowers that will capture the eye of everyone who passes by. Plants are stationary beings, but without them, the world would crumble. You have been planted in your own unique situation, and your soil may not be rich, your water supply may be weak, but even cacti in the hottest deserts blossom the loveliest flowers in their own time. You are creating amazing work exactly where you are planted, and one day the seeds of your efforts will spread across the world. You can do anything exactly where you’re at.

Depression and anxiety manifest in many forms, and sometimes they become so draining that keeping your home clean is overwhelming and seemingly impossible. Or maybe you have physical limitations that make doing more than a few tasks a day too much. Or maybe life is just really busy right now. I’ve been battling all of these obstacles for quite some time, and as much as I wish I could be a tidy and organized person, I am just not. However, I have not given up on my mission to devise a system that works for me, so this week I have composed a list of tips to help other people who just can’t seem to get organized either.

  1. Change Your Mindset Towards Cleaning: I saw a quote a long time ago floating around on Pinterest that changed my outlook on cleaning. The essence was this- You deserve to live in a space that is clean and comfortable. You have worth and are full of love and creativity and passion and are worthy of a place that reflects your finest features. When you haven’t been able to muster up the strength to start cleaning for a while, the mess can be overwhelming to say the least. You might be thinking, “what’s the point? I won’t finish, it’s been this way so long, it doesn’t matter anyway.” It does matter, and no matter how much of your space you can sort through, it will make a difference and you are worth it.
  2. Reward Yourself Before You Begin: You read that right. You made the decision to start this task and you deserve to be rewarded for that. Something small that will help you while cleaning is probably the best idea for a treat. Maybe grab your favorite drink to sip on while you work, pick out a movie to play in the background, a new candle to burn while your cleaning instead of waiting until your done. Some positive recognition for yourself that you have decided to finally do the thing will help you want to do it again in the future, and help make the actual work not so bad.
  3. Start With One Area: If the room your working on is in a real rough state, break it down by section or task. Maybe pick everything up off the floor. Or just begin with one table. Or do the entire closet. This way if you run out of steam or have to go because of other obligations, you have a better chance of completing that smaller scale project. That sense of completion will bring pride, and if you can’t get to the rest of the room it can help serve as a positive reminder that you are capable of finishing a project and you can and will do it again. Embrace your accomplishment and allow yourself to fully feel that pride from your achievement too- don’t dwell on the rest of the room that remains. You will get there.
  4. Dedicate One Spot In Each Room To Stay Clean: If you finish only one area, or when you finish getting a room nice and tidy, designate a clean spot for yourself. Maybe it will be the dresser, or a certain part of the kitchen counter, or the night stand, or the chair, pick one spot that you will commit to keeping clean. If you walk in the door, you will not just throw down your coat in the that spot, you won’t pile the laundry that needs folding there, nothing. If you keep up with this spot and make it a habit to break the urge to allow it to go back to being a mess, eventually you can work up to more spots, then a room, then more rooms, then your home. It will be a long process, and if you break the commitment, forgive yourself and think about why. Were you tired? Were you upset? Did you just not care? Remember, you are worthy of a space that is comfortable. A space you can move in, stretch out in, breathe in. Commit to one spot and commit to yourself.
  5. Work Whenever You Have A Sparkle Of Motivation: If you feel any urge at all to start tackling the mess that’s been calling you for months, jump of it. Even if it’s an inconvenient time, do what you can in the amount of time you have to work with. If you’re getting ready for work but your bathroom is too frustrating to get ready in, and for some reason right now is your breaking point, wipe out the sink while you swish your mouth wash. Clean off the mirror before you go. These small steps, while only a piece of needs to get done, will help you to feel better about your space, and help you feel better about taking care of your space.
  6. Remove Any Barriers To Tasks That Bother You: I am a texture person, and hate the feeling of grime and dust on my skin. I also can’t touch dirty dishes that are already in a sink. If they are on the counter next to the sink, that’s fine, but once they go in, I just can’t. The thought grosses me out, the texture of the slime that forms on them is repulsive in every way. To overcome this, I use cleaning gloves, so I don’t have to feel dust or grime on my skin when I wipe off particularly dirty surfaces. Or I place my dishes next to the sink, and try to skip the sink altogether by putting them straight in the dish washer after rinsing if it is empty. Similarly, if you don’t like the noise of a vacuum, get a pair of good noise canceling headphones or earplugs to help muffle the sound while you clean. If the smell of cleaning agents bothers you, look for ones with limited to no fragrance and wear a face mask. By identifying what it is about a task that hinders you from performing it, you can figure out a way to overcome that barrier. This can be such an empowering step. You are not lazy, you are trying, and now that you have eliminated the physical reasons a chore was difficult, it will be a little easier to start doing it more often.
  7. Stop When You’ve Had Enough: Once you feel the aches in your bones creeping in, or your brain starts shutting down because you’ve been at it for too long, stop. It’s okay if you don’t finish your whole list today. If you keep pushing yourself when you’ve hit your limit, that will only cause you to need time to recover from your efforts. Do not keep going. I have an autoimmune disorder that causes a lot of joint pain, and sometimes there are okay days and sometimes there are really bad days. I don’t want to turn an okay day into a bad one because the societal norm that you must always finish what you start or you are a failure. If you push your self past your limit just to say you got it done, you might end up doing more harm than good, and you won’t be able to keep up with the room you just cleaned. You can always come back once you have had some rest and finish organizing your space. When you wrap up your work, step back to admire what you did accomplish. This positive reinforcement will help you to continue to look at cleaning as something that you do to honor yourself instead of a chore that just needs to be done.
  8. Ask For Help: This is definitely the scariest and most uncomfortable piece of advice on this list. It can be hard to open up about what happens when life just seems to hit you all at once and then everything else gets away. Then to tell other people that you haven’t been able to keep up with what is typically seen as basic daily tasks can be embarrassing. But your friends and loved ones do not want to see you sad and stuck. If you confide in a few close people who you trust and ask if they have an hour or two to help you fold some laundry or clear out a space, they can help get you farther in your efforts to get organized faster. They might also have a few tips and tricks as to how they organize their own stuff that might help you stay on top of things.
  9. Don’t Allow Negative People To Bring You Down: If you live with other people who make negative comments about where you are at in your life right now, do your best to ignore them. Keep trying to get yourself back on track, and do not allow their influence to limit you from working on getting better. If they say things like, “Wow, look who’s finally cleaning,” or “That looks nice but it won’t stay that way long,” take a breath. Then take one more. Do not engage with people like this who cannot see the power of their own words. Instead, wield the strength of your own voice, and remind yourself that you are doing this for your own benefit and no one else’s. You will do the best you can to ensure your space is clean and comfortable. If you fall behind again, you will pick it right back up. You accomplished so much by deciding to make the conscious choice to make a change, and your work is for your self care.

Some people have found cleaning as a source of relaxation and a method of coping with troubling times. Other people have just always been tidy and organized. And other people are just messy. There are many complex reasons why some people have a hard time staying on top of caring for their spaces, but there are ways to overcome the barriers that impede our journey to healing our hearts and homes.

Caring for your personal space is an extension of caring for yourself. It’s not as glamorous or peaceful as a face mask or a massage, but it is important. You could even put on a face mask while you clean and do a “quick clean,” just picking up as much as you can while you wait for it to dry. You deserve a space that makes you comfortable. A space that makes you feel safe, and welcome, and like you are at home. Sometimes you might not feel worthy, but you are. You are capable of accomplishing amazing feats, and in your clear space you might just find some clean head space to figure out those goals. No matter where you are at you can and you will do beautiful things.

Get out and explore. Go down the street and feel the breeze on your face. Walking outdoors can help you to overcome several personal obstacles in your life, through a journey of connection with your immediate environment and dedicated time for reflection on your personal pathway through life. Most North East PA natives have visited Nay Aug Park at least once, if not many times to find peace on its beautiful trails. It also offers pavilions, play grounds, an animal sanctuary, and a swimming pool. Spend some time clearing your mind at your local place of peace.

Below are a few ways exploring a local landmark can help you forge your way out of a cluttered head space:

  1. Removing Yourself From The Distractions Of Life: This seems to be the most obvious reason why getting outside- to any outside space (hiking trails or not) can help to clear out your mind. You are physically removing yourself from the places and distractions causing any anxiety. No matter where you live, being outside can bring benefits to your mental health, even if you just sit and listen to the natural world go about its routine. Studies show that the sounds of nature put people into a state of relaxation, and those who are more stressed experience a more drastic effect from the sounds of nature. That’s why there are so many soundtracks produced of the sea, the forest, the wind, birds, anything to simulate the natural world helps people to unwind.

2. Connecting With Your Community: We just discussed the benefits of removing yourself from the distractions of your world, but when you explore beyond the realm of your immediate street (or maybe even a walk down your street will foster the same feelings) you might learn something about your area that can help you to feel closer to the community where you live. Nay Aug is a giant gorge in the middle of the city of Scranton. While many locals blow it off since it’s just something that’s always around, it’s actually quite remarkable. This area has been preserved in the midst of an otherwise developed section of the region, and features several historical landmarks that represent the areas rich past. An entrance to a coal mine serves as a reminder of the city’s former residents, and to see the memorials around the park is a reminder that the things you are doing now matter. You are apart of history, and even if you feel like you just go to work everyday and are not making a difference, you are. Someone might see your name on a plaque one day. Keep working on your dreams, keep searching and learning from those around you and those who came before you.

3. Finding Unexpected Inspiration: The beauty of going new places (or revisiting old favorites with a new mindset) is that you never know what you might find. When your out on a walk take your time. It does not matter how far you go, how long it takes, or how many sites you see. What matters is that you take away at least one thing that makes you feel good and means something to you. Pay attention to the details. If you see something that sticks out while walking, stop and really notice it. Think about why did this jump out at me today, and just appreciate what’s going on around you. On this particular hike, I noticed a lot of graffiti. It was jumping out to me, not because of a disruption to the scene, but because of what was written. People wrote about their deepest secrets, their Snapchat names, art, words of inspiration. All of these expressions are other people like you and me who went for a walk to clear out a cluttered mind, and just wrote down what was inside for me and everyone else to see. *This is not condoning vandalism, just an appreciation for the expression of human emotion.* So go out, and clear your mind by connecting with what was left behind for you to find. Notice the details of the world around you. You might just find exactly what you needed you hear.

4. Exploring Creative Pathways: Walking has shown to improve creative output and through exploring your local sites with a new open mind, you might experience exactly what you need to pull yourself out of that rut. This particular park has views of a gorge, train tunnels, and wildlife to draw inspiration from. Check out what surrounds your home that can offer a fun day of creative enlightenment. As you follow the pathway of the trail, you will find your own head space clearing and begin to realize ways to redirect your own life path towards the goals you want to achieve. Hiking a literal mountain can help you to find the route to overcome the figurative ones in your own life.

Go out and explore your local landmarks. Clear your mind and escape the thoughts that thwart your progression or personal growth. Sometimes to find your way when you feel lost on your pathway in life, taking a walk on an actual pathway can help serve as a reminder that your past has provided you with the tools you need to get to where you want to go. You can connect with your area and remember that there are other people who walked the same trails and trials as you, who in their own ways worked through them, and you will work through your own mountains too. You will notice details of this complex Earth that will inspire your creative channels that you didn’t know where there. You will see remnants of acorns nibbled on by tiny squirrels, flowers growing in a crevice you thought light could never reach, rivers break off into the tiniest trickles that feed miniature ecosystems. You will see your world reflected all around you. Your place in this world, one part of a much larger whole, but still so impactful is a force that you drive. You have the ability to choose the direction you take, what details you focus on, what views you stop for, and what mountains you will climb. Find a place to clear your head space and overcome your obstacles. You can find inspiration all around. You can create beautiful dreams. You can overcome, where ever you are at.

Ever put off a project or idea because, “I could never do that”? Maybe you thought you didn’t have the talent to accomplish that dream, or there weren’t resources at your disposal to execute your vision exactly how you would like. Maybe it’s just not the “right” time. When you maintain this fixed mindset, you limit your potential for the progress and growth that comes from learning as you go.

It’s crucial to think of life in terms of what you will learn from an experience rather than how you will perform while executing a task- particularly for the first time. If your project turns out different than you imagined, it is not evidence of failure, but a reflection of progress.

Don’t put off doing something because you don’t have the resources you need to do it or don’t know exactly how to do it. If you want to get into photography but can’t afford a high tech camera, start with your phone while you save up to buy one. Although it might not have the fancy features more advanced equipment can offer, it will teach you how to be resourceful, play with lighting and focus to create interesting shots. This might even lead to you becoming a better photographer once you get your hands on a camera since you will have had to learn how to take advantage of your space and environment to get those jaw dropping shots.

Similarly if you want to become an artist but don’t know how, or don’t have the means to obtain premium art supplies, start with any pencil you have around your house and draw on any piece of paper you can find. Use a pen and your grocery receipt, just keep working and trying and practicing your skills. Sculpt out of empty containers and candle wax. Then once you save for the supplies you need you’ll have the skills and ideas prepared to execute a vision that’s been mulling to perfection.

Maybe you just want to get out more, but don’t know where to go. Start by going for walks at the park closest to your house. Check out the fliers they have pinned on board, see if anything interests you. Look around while you’re there and see what you can see. Do you see any buildings? Any other trails or parks? any people? What are they doing? Just by gong somewhere, anywhere, it can lead to to your next step, even when your not sure where you want that next step to be.

More importantly, start talking to other people about what you want to do. You never know people’s stories, just like they don’t know all of yours, and they might also be interested in your passions, or have a friend of a friend who is and can help you. They might know a lot about grant writing, or showcase events, or where to get cheap courses in a particular subject. Or they might just be a place to come to for support. Talking to people is probably the scariest piece of advice from this article, but always remember that when you are doing your best to build the life you want, if someone has a problem with that it is a reflection on them and not you. Connecting with your community will open so many opportunities that you didn’t know existed. They may start small, but the more time and love that grows from you persistence, the more you will see your relationships, and dreams expand to places you didn’t dare dream possible.

If you start doing what you want with what you have, you will begin to develop the skills to become a master at your craft when you get to where you want to be faster. You are also training your brain to act resourcefully and always stay on alert for opportunities that are around you. As you immerse yourself in the world you want your life to become you’ll find a new perspective on what it is you wanted to do that will help you to evolve. The key is beginning. No apologizing for not being prepared, no procrastinating because you are not ready, no waiting because maybe there is something you might want more later. Begin today. With exactly what you have. Right where you are at.

You never know what can grow from those first steps

There seems to be a rift in the rhetoric surrounding the impact consumer choices have when it comes to helping the environment. Last month’s enormous demonstration of students (and other activists) demanding systemic change from political leaders in a world wide movement was largely inspired by the work of activist Greta Thunberg. It brought enormous attention to a wide range of industries and powerhouses impacting global climate change. Many argue corporate power houses need stricter regulations, and that nonrenewable energy needs to be immediately banned for any measurable change to take place. Many critics of small scale changes claim metal straws, package-free shampoos, and meat free life styles just aren’t enough to save the planet. Why bother with small changes like that?

Ignoring the power of small changes is the result of small thinking. These people think they are doing a service by pointing out the deep rooted societal issues that prevent immediately impactful change, but they ignore the critical benefits small efforts towards sustainable living offers. The mindset developed from making small changes keeps the concept of environmentally conscious practices in the forefront of people’s minds. It can start with switching to reusable bags when grocery shopping, and then move into reusable cups, then bringing silverware for lunch to work, and then choosing to purchase from companies who put effort into sustainable practices. The growing movement of people concerned about the environment compared to even just a few years ago shows evidence that knowledge and small changes to instill a sense of personal accountability do matter. The more we learn to then come together then in mass, the more we have the ability to send a powerful message to the powerful how we want the larger contributors to climate change to be handled.

Since small changes are so important here is a short, and by no means complete list of ideas as to how you can make sustainable and impactful choices everyday:

  1. Reusable Bags: basic, essential, and impactful. Many grocery stores sell canvas bags to pack with products, and there are insulated ones to keep frozen foods cold the entire trip home. These bags often hold more food- so less trips when unloading later. You can even find bags with fun designs that are personal to you. My favorite to take is my Spider-Man grocery bag that has tons of room to fill up. Keep a few in the car so you don’t forget them for any spontaneous trips. Here are some for as cheap as 54 cents.
  2. Take your lunch to work/school: preparing your own food will save you money, but many frozen meals or fast food places produce a lot of waste. The packaging and products are harsh on the environment. Packing your lunch in reusable containers, bringing reusable silverware, and cups/bottles for your drinks will cut an enormous amount of waste.
  3. Get crafty: re-purpose old materials to make something new instead of buying brand new from the store. My dad and I built the headboard for my bed from pallets that were going to be thrown out at a warehouse. Not only was this saving waste, it saved a ton of money, only costing a few dollars for a can of stain, and a day of our time to piece it together. Check out resources like Pintrest, YouTube, and HGTV’s website to find tutorials on how to transform old materials into something entirely new.
  4. Thrifting: Thrifting doesn’t just have to be for clothes- although I have found many of my favorite pieces second hand. I have an enormous desk that was only 10 dollars (chair included) I got when a local hotel redesigned their rooms and sold off all their furniture. Check yard sales, the oldie but goodie thrift shops, and also locally owned specialty thrift stores. These shops tend to select pieces that are more unique and stylish than a generic second hand shop.
  5. Shop Small: speaking of locally owned, shopping from small businesses and from businesses local to your area is a great way to connect with your community and to help the local economic environment. Your dollars go even further as demonstrated in study published on score.org, small businesses tend to pay it forward with 75% donating an average of around 6% of their profits to charities each year.
  6. Insulate your house: Make sure your home has proper insulation to prevent heat and cold from escaping during the particularly hot and cold months. Also make sure to keep up with windows and doors to ensure they are properly sealed. This will save energy and money on your bills.
  7. Stay informed: The more we learn about climate change, they more we know how to prepare and the steps we can take to help. This doesn’t mean you need to read piles of scientific journal articles or dry publications (although if that floats your boat, go right ahead). There are many sources to get information and stay up to date about what’s going on. Many Youtube channels offer sustainable solutions and ideas for limiting waste. Here is a link to one of my favorite channels offering a ton of sustainable content, run by Madeleine Olivia, who also has a book about sustainable living tips launching in January of 2020. Other fun ways to find information are websites set up by people you find interesting that are creating change. Rapper Lil Dickey released a song called “Earth” last April, and with it launched a website dedicated to providing information on climate change, with a plan of action as to how experts say we can battle the issue at hand.
  8. Speak up: If you see people littering, disrespecting the planet, or denying scientifically backed facts, stand up for the Earth. We may not be able to live completely waste free lives at every moment of everyday, but we can do our best and encourage others to do their best as well. Greta Thunberg started out as one activist who inspired millions to take to the streets. Kindly, respectfully, and courageously speak up when you see gross circumstances of denial and mistreatment of the planet.

This list is no where near complete, but offers a brief look into how no matter where you are at, you make choices everyday that will impact the world around you. Mass and systemic change will be necessary, but the shift in mindset of the general public is also a crucial component to overcoming the climate crisis. When we start thinking about putting the needs of the Earth before our immediate convenience, it begins to change a self-centered mindset to a more caring one. You don’t need to change every aspect of your life all at once, and be able to fit your waste for a year in a mason jar to make progress. Every choice, everyday is a step in the right direction. Even if it just means skipping on the meat twice a week and bringing your own silverware to lunch at the office everyday, every choice counts. You count. Your ideas and decisions matter, big or small , at the corporate level, on a personal level, in your home, on the street, you change the world from where ever you are at.

Saturday September 21, 2019 marked the 3rd annual “NEPA Veg Fest.” The festival was held at the Dunmore Community center, and featured vegan friendly vendors from across the state of PA. There was produce, baked goods, t-shirts, sustainability information, soaps, jewelry, and of course lots of delicious food. The indoor/outdoor setup allowed for visitors to enjoy the nice day, but also get out of the sun when they needed to. The event also hosted several speakers that covered a range of topics.

Something that holds a lot of people back from trying out plant based foods or switching to a more planted based life style is a perceived lack of access to meat and dairy alternatives in places that aren’t extremely urban. This collection of vendors proved to me several key points regarding accessibility to living a life you want to live. This doesn’t just have to apply to plant based foods either- but we’ll get into that in a moment.

The festival only started 3 years ago, and this was the first I had heard of it. That means that it’s reach and audience is growing. The more people who campaign for change and the getting the things they want to see in their communities, the more activities and events surrounding those interests there will be. This can be for vegan menu options, art festivals, musical acts, museums, anything that piques your interest you can bring to your area if you advocate and collaborate with others around you.

I watch a lot of vegan YouTubers and YouTube in general, and I see them going to fun events and festivals all the time. I wished that I could do something like that, or that someone around here would host something similar. Turns out there was. I just needed to look for it.

Sometimes people get so stuck up in the idea that “their town has nothing to do,” or “they don’t have access to that stuff,” because of where they live. While it might not be as easy to find, and it might not be on as large of a scale as a major city, smaller communities have a lot to offer. And if what you want to do isn’t already happening, talk to a few people and find out how to make it happen. Instead of sitting by and passively contributing to the narrative that small towns have nothing to offer- change the story. Create something worth spending time at. Get out and see what other people are doing to. You might be surprised that your neighbors are as ready to make a change as your are, it just takes some momentum to get started. And remember you can do whatever you want want, wherever you at- you might just need some extra creativity.

Chocolate cookie dough cake from Vegan Treats that was as amazing as it looks

Your world is tiny, but it’s detailed and it’s beautiful and it’s you. There are somewhere around 7 billion people living on this planet and yet you will probably never see most of them. You’ll never hear their voices, or see their faces, or know their stories, and they won’t know yours. An article published by Forbes explains, that the average person can create meaningful relationships with around 150-250 people at a time. This is known as “Dunbar’s Number,” which addresses the limits of the mind’s ability to retain information about other people and incorporate them into our own tiny worlds.

This notion at first seemed disappointing, and creates a sense of serious FOMO for all the people you might never meet who could really change your life for the better. Looking deeper, I find this concept beautiful, in that it allows us to build our own worlds and create more detailed relationships with the people around us. Quality friends over quantity. The natural world reflects this with tiny creatures creating their own little spaces within a vast ecosystem.

These baby slugs and millipedes have created a world of their own on a tree stump in the forest. Their whole life is on or near this stump of tree that once was so much more, and now the stump, and the slugs, and the mushrooms, and me all coexist in one moment. Then I left their tiny world, and went back to my own.

That’s the strange and wonderful part about being the center of your own universe. You have the power to determine where you build it, who is allowed in an out, and how you want to impact those 150 people Dunbar says you’re going to change. Some spiders build their webs between the bark of a dark tree, others in between a flower and it’s leaves. Some people spend more time going through the grass like this caterpillar. It doesn’t matter where or how or why you build your world the way that you do. All that matters is that you fill it with people who bring you joy, pass by the ones who cut you down, and are conscious that you might one of those 150 people leaving a mark on someone else.

Even if you are the smallest, palest, loneliest flower among a field of big orange blossoms, you matter. Your world is important, and it is vital to the the larger ecosystem around you. At the end of the day our worlds might be small, but the chaos and magic you create while wrapped up in the bubble of your inner circle can make a difference that stretches across oceans and back again. What you are doing is important, where ever you are at.

This year from July 26th- 28th Readington, NJ held their annual Festival of Ballooning at the Solberg Airport. This field at a town in New Jersey transformed into a playground for people of all ages and backgrounds. Vendors from internationally recognized brands handed out samples and sold new products in between classic fair style rides. The festival also featured performances from groups such as The Band Perry and The Beach Boys.

The main event, of course, is watching 100 hot air balloons float across the sky, and for half an hour thousands have a reason to keep their heads held high. They stop thinking about the problems at home, the pain on the ground, all the reasons they stare at the sidewalk. Right now they can look all the way up.

I often wish I could fly away from everything on my mind. I feel like if I could climb into a hot air balloon and float off into the sun, I wouldn’t have to ever look back. But that’s not how hot air balloons work. They go up above the crowd of hate and negativity, dropping the weight of sand bags that keep them tied to the ground. Then they just float for a while. They get to rise and see things from a new perspective. Eventually, they must come back to the ground. When they do, they can touch down knowing how to get a little closer to the sun.

Standing in the crowd I heard at least 5 different languages, saw people of all ages around me dancing, laughing, and taking pictures. We were all so different, still on the ground, and yet so lifted during the experience. Taking the time to stop and drop the weights of whatever is weighing you down for even a few moments can be so freeing. Instead of running away from your problems, float above them for a little while. Then come back down with a clear mind, and a warmer heart. You will rise above whatever is hurting you, and you can float towards to sun, where ever you’re at.

A few weeks ago, I came across a concept that was put in a different context, but the way it was phrased resonated with me. I knew I needed to share it. It was a screen shot of a Tumblr post I saw on Pinterest, and the essence of the piece was this: Stop saying, “If you put your mind to it, you can do anything.” Instead, change your view point to something like “the things you are doing now matter.” This type of language is equally, if not more important and validating. Please remember that.

Don’t get me wrong, having the courage to pursue your dreams, to live your passions is beautiful. I do believe that we can reach the stars with hard work, determination, and love. It’s also important to set goals and look to the future. The problem lies in only setting goals, only looking to the future, only working for tomorrow.

Sometimes, we need to take a step back and validate the work we are doing at the moment. The things you are doing right now matter.

We live in a time of final products. We consume a constant stream of media, from all different outlets. We idolize finished products, and we never see the work that went into creating those ads, stars, songs, films, photos, books. We never see that all successes began with a seed of an idea, and likely took months to years of labor to bloom.

We don’t realize that the things we do everyday are what matter. Your smile at the stranger in the grocery store. Going the extra mile at the job you might resent. Writing one page of a book a day. Completing one piece of art for a portfolio a week. Cleaning off the table after putting it off for a month. Doing what you can, when you can. The things you are doing now matter.

Living with this mind set, alleviates some of the pressure to eventually reach some most likely unattainable standard set in your mind. The small steps you take each day are what will get you to a place you want to be anyway. Recognizing your own power and importance allows you to act with intent and love. To make choices that will actually help you feel good about yourself. To keep yourself healthy. To keep yourself sane.

We are always growing. From the time we enter this beautiful world, we grow. We will continue to change and develop until we leave this world, and when we do, what will have mattered most is how we felt and made others felt while we were here. Our actions everyday make a difference. The way you drive- aggressively or compassionately, the way you talk- kindly or spitefully, the way you worked- honestly or hastily; these are what change the world. If you put your mind to it, you really can do anything. But always remember, that every moment of your life matters. That doing your best even when you feel you can do better is still something to be proud of. You don’t always have to be working to some greater purpose. You change the world. Exactly as you are. Exactly where you are at.