The Grad School Broke Code

Going to grad school is a doozy. You have to do a lot of work for very little pay, and most programs are a minimum of a year long. I know my program is looking more like 5 or 6 years, so what does someone like me do in a situation like this? After all, if you know me or you’ve read any of my blog posts, then you probably know I do like to enjoy the finer things in life – I mean, really, who doesn’t, but as a grad student it can get really tough! So, what I’ve done for my new grad student peeps is list off my Top 10 ways for you to stay on budget and in style during your graduate school career!

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  1. PRIORITIZE!!!

This may be the most important thing you do for your budget during your grad school career. Figure out what you like to do and the things you are willing to spend money on. For example, I know I like to live in nicer places and I like to have nice clothes. Anything that is not rent or clothing, in my head, counts as unnecessary spending. Now, also keep in mind you’ll need to budget for necessities like your groceries or that time you get a flat tire that’s not actually a flat tire, but now you have to pay the mechanic for checking anyway (true story), but we’ll talk more about that next.

 

  1. BUDGET

Staying on budget has never in my life been my strong suit, so what I did was get an app to help me – because, naturally, technology is the answer right? I got an app called Mint. I used it to clock my spending and in which places I spent what for three months. I then went through all of my purchases and charted where I was spending the most unnecessary money. THEN I finally built my budget. The app allows you to both build a budget and track your purchases (it does this for you!) This will help make sure you are staying on budget. When you are getting close to overdoing it, it will let you know, and when you have overdone it, it will let you know that as well! So, figure out your priorities, track your spending, and build your budget.

 

  1. EAT IN BULK Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 6.28.07 PM.png

So, what exactly does that mean – no, I am not condoning binge eating, I am simply informing you that cooking a large amount of food at one time is a GREAT way to save money.

1) As a vegan I have to go to the grocery store more frequently because most of my food needs to be fresh, but the plus side is that my items are less expensive – an orange for 49 cents, a tomato for 35 cents, so on and so forth. No, again, I am not advocating for veganism [although it does help the planet, your health, and your wallet 😉 ] what I am saying is that you should try and buy fresh, and ONLY what you need.

2) We all know only buying what you need at the grocery store can be like eating only Cheese It (no, I have not been vegan my whole life – I have had a Cheese It – or 86). What I did to help make sure I only bought what I needed was, first, invest in a cookbook and look up some great cooking blogs. Each week I sit down and go through my cookbook, Thug Kitchen, and see if there is anything in there I feel like eating the next week. If not, I simply hit the blogs. Then I compare the ingredients I already have to the ingredients I need to buy and make a list. Then I make sure the items I need will fit my budget.

*Vegan and vegetarian meals typically have very few items per meal anyway, so that always helps!*

I know this seems like a lot of work, but it’s really not! Once a week take 30 minutes to build your meal for the next week. The rest is just cooking and storage!

 

  1. DIY

So, the “old Alexis,” as I like to call her, would rather pay someone to do something really well than even attempt to do it herself. “New grad school Alexis” just does it herself until it turns out really well! DO THIS.! You would not believe how much money you spend buying things that you could make on your own.

Buying the ingredients for bread is cheaper than buying the actual bread (that is if you’re buying bread that is healthy for you in the first place and not incredibly processed. Processed foods are often very cheap but will have a dramatic negative impact on your health, so be warned!). You can do the same things with yogurt, parfaits, soups, dried fruits, juices, smoothies, sparkling water, and the list can go on for days! For example, I bought a juicer and I now get my juice for the same price as I buy the oranges, or apples, or berries. With websites like Amazon, which can help you find the cheapest options for the best value (discounts on prime for students), you’re juicing in no time! So, learn to do things and put in the effort!

 

  1. PATIENCE Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 6.28.55 PM.png

When you like really nice things they typically cost a lot. I wouldn’t say I search for nice things, I would say I go in a store and the things I happen to like just also happens to be the most expensive thing in the store. A talent really – not useful – but a talent nonetheless. The way I cope with this in grad school is patience. If I see something that I like I will save a little money at a time until I can afford to buy it. For some, taking the cash out of your account every two weeks may be the ticket, so you don’t spend it. For others, transferring money to your savings account may be the best way not to spend it. It’s dealer’s choice, but what is FOR SURE, is that buying it flat out is the quickest and easiest way for you to GO BROKE.! All good things come to those who wait, so get your waiting pants on and TAKE. A. SEAT.

 

  1. IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS

When you do your budget breakdown you’ll realize that you spend the most money on the smallest things. You probably don’t even think about gas, or that pen you lost last week, or that snack you got because you left yours at home *rolls eyes* (another true story), but those things add up. You have to remember that you may need to buy a book, go to a conference, go to a training, or buy a new blazer when you spill make-up on yours *rolls eyes to the back of her head* (yet ANOTHER true story). You have to have extra money in your account for unforeseen circumstances, but you won’t have any money left if you’re not careful about the miscellaneous things that you buy. Five dollars, ten dollars, twelve dollars, hell one dollar, adds up over time, so budget for miscellaneous and PAY ATTENTION when that warning comes that you’re spending too much.

 

  1. PUT YOUR GRANNY PANTS ON AND SIT DOWN 

You no longer have the luxury of going out every weekend with your friends. This is a fact. Just sit down and stare at the wall for a minute while it sinks in. YOU’RE POOR. That one drink at the bar that turns into five drinks can no longer happen. The twerk team is on sabbatical, so sit down and put your granny panties on.

Start looking for activities that you enjoy that don’t cost money, or are a minimum cost. I know I like to drink Grey Goose, so for me, going out can get quite pricey if I haven’t budgeted to do so. What I do now instead is have movie nights with friends, I go to coffee shops, which are less expensive than drinking alcohol because when you drink coffee your decision making isn’t impaired and (for most) you’re not at risk of buying way too many coffees lol. I go for walks at the nature trails we have here in Lawrence, or take my dog to the dog park. I may venture into the city for a day and window shop (I HATE WINDOW SHOPPING, so I’m probably just walking around the city being in the city atmosphere – I won’t lie).

The bottom line is you can’t go out as much unless going out is one of the things you prioritized in your budget – THEN GO WILD. For those of us who did not prioritize it, it doesn’t mean you can never go out, but it definitely means you have to plan it more than you used to, and that’s ok, because when the time comes it will be JUST. AS. FUN.!

 

  1. BUY A DAY PLANNER Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 6.42.44 PM.png

Hell, buy a life planner. Just start planning. I’ve always lived a heavily planned life. I think it has the most to do with being in competitive sports when I was younger and having several different practices at several different places, as well as trying to keep up with school work. If you’ve lived that life with any activity or hobby, then you know!

Trip down memory lane – off track – but the point is that your life is more structured now. You can’t just do what you want when you want. Well you can, but you’ll likely flunk out, or get kicked out, whichever comes first.

I love traveling, so traveling is a high priority of mine, but I also know that I need to plan a minimum of 6 months in advance in order to be able to go anywhere in the manner of which I want to go there. This means, I like going nice places and being able to afford to do nice things while I’m there. If I plan my trips in advance, then I can save slowly over time without it being a huge hit to my budget. So far I have Miami, Vegas, and New York coming up and two trips to California already under my belt – without missing a beat!

 

  1. I LIED

You will miss a few beats, at times. There will be times when everyone is going out, but you understand that you have a budget you need to keep so you don’t go. No one loves to be left out or feel like you’re missing something, but it’s a feeling you’ll need to get used to. And get used to saying no.

I am a yes person. I will typically say yes unless I am ill, and even then, I will probably make a way to do whatever it is. This journey, however, has taught me that I HAVE to start saying no, it’s no longer an option. At first, I felt crappy – really really crappy! Not putting in on something that everyone else can afford to do, just because even $5 out of place may throw off your budget is incredibly difficult. You feel just like a stupid Steve – just a greedy/selfish person and it sucks. Over time though you begin to realize that if you make an exception here then you’ll find a reason to make an exception there and there and over there and way down there, and then before you know it your budget is TOAST – crispy and charred. All I can really say to help is that the sooner you start saying no the easier it will get over time.

 

  1. THE CLICHÉ

I’ll end with a plug for minimalism, which I bet no one is surprised at – As it gets easier to say no over time, it also gets easier to get used to having fewer entities in your life (clutter, if you will). I used to have a bunch of stuff and when I say the cliché is right – it. Is. Right. – Less is truly more. We live in a society where the more you have the more status you have, and seemingly the better you are as a person, but that’s not at all true! We all buy into this idea of self-worth based on how much we have, when really, it’s all about the quality of what we have. This goes for relationships as well as material items. Having something of quality will end up staying with you for life, whereas having a lot of things and continuing to add, will only end with you being broke and lonely – and no one wants that!

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*I have no affiliation with Amazon or Mint, and everything here is based only on my personal experience*

Unmasked

April 10th, 2017

This week has been a weird week for me. It seems like the past few weeks I’ve started to realize I’ve been wearing masks. Not literal masks, but through my clothing. I’ve been wearing what everyone else wanted to see me in. I was wearing things I was expected to wear, styles I was expected to like, but now since I’ve started selling all of my clothes I’m stuck. I’m left with things I truly love, but those things aren’t enough to make a full wardrobe. Many of them are basics: basic long-sleeves, basic crop tops, basic one pieces, basic flannels. Just basics. Everyone needs basics and everyone loves their basics, but no one, or very few, have a whole wardrobe of just basics, right?

So now I’m left with essentially rebuilding from the bottom. I’m faced with the task of deciding what I want people so see me as, and building a wardrobe that reflects that. I tried, previously, to use the Nordstrom money for work clothes, for my new graduate school position, but I’m still lost. I look at everything I used to throw into my shopping carts and no longer find myself in any of them. I’ve realized I don’t like frilly shirts. I don’t like things with crazy patterns. I don’t like floral designs. I’m not a huge fan of the off-the-shoulder. I don’t like short shorts. I don’t like boob revealing shirts. I don’t want those 3-quarter length pants everyone is wearing now. I don’t like peplums. I don’t want anything with a huge graphic on it. I don’t like most things, now that I’m making this list, and this isn’t even the whole list!

But I do like basics. I guess it’s weird. I went through a preppy stage. I had a punk stage. I was a hipster for a while. But now I’m starting from the beginning and all I want are basics. I just want white shirts in innovative shapes. I just want long blazers in neutral colors. I don’t want shorts that cling, but shorts that flow. I don’t want pants with designs, but neutral colors in a pioneering style.

I started this piece to talk about how I feel like I don’t know myself anymore, but I guess I do know myself. I do know what I want and what I want to see myself in. I am an understated person. I’m chill, but I have a bit of flare. I’m calm, but can be very sharp. As I write this I realize that’s the exact style I’ve described. I’m not lost. I just need to become comfortable again with doing what I want, and wearing what I want. I need to feel comfortable not doing what people expect, but doing what I love. I guess that’s all I’ve got to do – Until Next Time My Friends – Be You.

Faux Locs

Pros

  1. Fully protects the hair from the elements
    1. I got mine to protect my hair from the harsh dirt/sand and heat that will be present at the Coachella Music Festival
  2. Hair used for installation is incredibly cheap
    1. I used Marley hair, which is a little more expensive, but I was able to find a vendor at aliexpress that supplied me with 15 packs for $85
    2. Other types of hair are much cheaper and still work really well
  3. Because the scalp is so exposed you have to oil your scalp daily, which is incredibly good for your hair health and growth
  4. The style looks more natural, in my opinion, than braids or twists
  5. The style is very unique

 

Cons

  1. Stick together a lot when you first get them
  2. The sticking together may cause some of the locos to unravel
  3. The upkeep is extensive
    1. Because of the sticking and unraveling you often have to use scissors to cut off extraneous strands
    2. You should also have a lighter on hand to re-seal the locs after you’ve cut the strands
    3. Use use the lighter on the strands running it up and down the strand briefly, then roll the locs in your hands to re-loc the hair
    4. Have de-frizz spray or oil on hand to help keep the locs from frizzing over time
  4. Because your scalp is so exposed, depending on how thick your locs are (mine are quite thick) you’ll have to oil your scalp daily, sometimes twice
  5. They are really tight and heavy when you first get them so sleeping and moving your head may be difficult for the first week
  6. The installation takes FOREVER!!! Mine took 15 hours

Underbudget

March 17th, 2017

Through one of my returns I managed to acquire about $400 in store credit. Usually I could blow through $400 like someone had just given me a quarter for a candy machine, but I used this moment to challenge myself. Usually I pick out everything I’ve ever wanted on the site and then dwindle it down to the few things I feel I really really enjoy. However, the things I end up wearing and the things I find pleasing to my eye are two completely different things a lot of the time. I now have a total of about 10 shirts, in my closet and about 200 ready to be sold. I know, I have a problem; I have completely and totally accepted it!

So through this exercise I began to try and separate the things I will really wear from the things I just think are fun. My goal was to become better acquainted with the things I love, versus the things I simply like. I was left with less than $200 in my basket and a face full of shock and confusion. This had never happened to me before – under budget. If there’s anyone you know in life that would not be under budget that person would be ME! This minimalist movement has really begun to change me, and this is the first time I’m really seeing it. I went from wanting and desiring everything to realizing it takes only a few things to really truly feel happy and satisfied. Surrounding myself with a bunch of things I like, be it people, clothing, objects, etc. just serves to fill a void. But to be surrounded by things I love gives me a chance to heal; feel real love and be loved by others!

It’s crazy how the most simple tasks, when seen under the light of minimalism, can teach you some of the most profound lessons.

Becoming Me

March 6th, 2017

The last time we talked I was confessing how greedy I felt, and how uncomfortable it was to be faced, so blatantly, with your imperfections. As my closet became more empty and my drawers more bare I started to feel it too, inside. I love fashion and my clothes are a huge part of what I felt made me who I was. I love putting together outfits; trying weird and outlandish styles; and doing crazy things with my shoes, accessories, and hair. I live for it! So to see my drawers and closets so bare made me feel like I’d lost a part of myself.

The more I sat with the idea, however, the more I realized that if anything I’d become even more me. I was even more Alexis than the day before. If anything, I was the most Alexis I had ever been. I was left with the bare bones of what it is to be me. With what I do have now I am undoubtedly and unapologetically exact who I want to be and nobody else. There is no second guessing me. There is no wondering what I’m like. I am just simply who I am. When I began to let go of my things as defining points I began to hold more tightly to myself.

I had valued myself as someone who could be whoever I wanted to be. One day I could be goth, preppy, hipster, hippie, etc., but the more I sat with this idea the more I realized this was just a physical way for me to say, “I have no idea who I am.” In a sense I had defined myself by having no real definition. I had given myself an explanation for what I thought was strength. “Be whoever you want – You can do anything.” Right? But now I know the hardest part is deciding to be something.

You can do anything and you can be whoever you want to be, but one of the hardest parts about life deciding to be it. It’s easy to be a free spirit, because you never really have to commit to anything. You never really have to make any real decisions that could influence your life one way or another. All you have to do is decide, that day, who you want to be. There’s no fear in it. There’s no expectation. But to take the time to decide who you are, who you want to be, and what morals and values you want to be defined by, that’s huge. That’s a responsibility. It requires accountability and commitment. It’s serious. But in the same way it’s beautiful. It’s confidence, the true and unabridged version of it.

I have entered this realm where I am exactly who I am, defined by my love for the environment, my activism for equal rights, my desire for a healthier life for the next generation, my sexual abstinence, and determination to succeed. I am a Christian and unashamed. I am artistic, creative, and I love my family more than anything in this world. I want love and a family and I’m not embarrassed to try things and get hurt by them. I don’t believe in many social norms, because I feel they perpetuate the unhealthy cycle of insecurity and perfectionism. I love and believe in the healing power of meditation, yoga, and evidence-based psychotherapy. I’m imperfectly perfect. I am Alexis and I have made a decision to be her. It is the most important decision of my life, and I wouldn’t trade with a single person. Not even for a day.

Minimalism is beautiful like that. By simply stripping away the unnecessary you are left with only what matters. You never realize how the physical impacts the mental and emotional. Stay Tuned My Friends – Because I’m Just Getting Started!

Minimalism – Day 1

February 20th, 2017

I was looking at the pile on my couch in the living room of all the things I plan to sell and it hit me. This is really happening. I’m really doing this. My closets are becoming emptier by the day as I challenge myself with what I do and do not need. For a minute I felt like a little kid whose favorite toy had just been taken away. It’s hard to explain the real feeling, but it felt something like the true essence of greed. I had the urge to take everything and put them back on the hangers, restore everything to its original place. When I noticed that 4 of my items had already been bid on and were going to sell, I felt the same twinge. I didn’t want to let it go.

I think one of the hardest things about this processes is that I am essentially redefining myself by the most bare and real definitions. Neither the things that I own nor the clothes that I wear define me, but only the real person inside. It feels as though I’m naked, almost. What I wear tells you nothing now about who I am. What I own tells you very little about what I like. For the first time in my life I have to let my personality, my real personality speak for itself. I have to put myself out there and allow others to really get to know me. It’s actually a bit terrifying, if I’m being completely honest with you.

I’ve worked so hard to become the person I am today, but I never really had to show it. I could hide behind my clothing, or my preference of solitude, and be myself by myself. I could let other things speak for me, but now I’m forced to speak for myself. And not only an I completely exposed to others, but I’m 100% exposed to myself. I’m forced to see those greedy moments where I want to turn back. Those selfish moments where I want to keep just for the sake of keeping. I’m not faced with just the beautiful parts of me, but the ugly. I didn’t realize this practice would be so profound, but I’m ready and I’m staying the course!

The “Only What Brings Me Joy” Challenge

As you guys know, about a year ago, February 28th, I became a vegan. I gave up meats, dairy, and any products that were not plant-based. As I’ve embarked on this path it’s made me realize society has influenced our desire and subsequent need for material things. I successfully transitioned in one week from eating everything to eating only things produced by plants. Society tells us it’s unhealthy. Society tells us it shouldn’t be done and we need meat, dairy, and everything else mass-produced to live a healthy and successful life. But it’s just not true.

I have had my blood tested and gone to the doctor several times to make sure I am healthy, and have passed every test with flying colors. I, among countless others, have successfully debunked this myth that being vegan is not something humans were meant to do. Literature says that not being lactose intolerant is a genetic mutation that developed because human beings insisted on drinking cows milk. Cows milk is meant for baby cows, just like breast milk is meant for baby humans. We don’t drink breast milk once we grow-up, and cows don’t drink milk from other cows once they grow-up. It’s statistics like these that have engaged many in re-evaluating our ways of life and general consumption.

Big business has fooled us into thinking the only ways to get what we need are from foods and beverages that they provide. But now, with the world’s environment going to hell in a hand basket, to save the next generation we must do something different. This is no longer the time where you can say, “Well by the time this happens I’ll be dead,” because that is no longer true. Change needs to happen and it needs to happen now, and by us. We must take responsibility for our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren. We can change this world. We just have to realize it’s OURS, and no other generation’s responsibility to get the ball rolling.

Through becoming a vegan, and learning to cut out certain foods and supply myself with exactly what my body needs to be happy and healthy, I’ve also begun exploring this idea in other parts of my life. Minimalism is the idea that you only have what you need. You only buy what you absolutely love, and you only keep things that bring you true joy. I have, for a long time, had a love-hate relationship with clothing and fashion. Each year I find myself staring at my closet and wondering when is it going to be time for me to give this stuff away? A positive quality of mine is that I do keep things until I absolutely have to throw them away: they rip, or break, or are just plain unwearable. So, it’s not that I buy a lot, but I keep a lot. Over the last ten years I haven’t changed shoe size or height and have barely grown anywhere else. I still have jeans from freshman year of high school, because they still fit and I still love them. The problem is that 10 years worth of clothing, shoes, and accessories tends to add up. I have way more than I need or can even wear.

The Challenge

What I am challenging myself to do this year is to go through my closet once a month for the next 12 months and pick out at least 5 items that I no longer wear, and “no longer bring me joy” – As Gilmore Girls would say. Over the next year I should have given away at least 60 items in my closet.

I challenge you, ladies and gentleman, to declutter your lives as well. Provide both your body and your mind with only what makes you happy. Stop living by the societal norms that we are worth more the more we possess, and start living for you and what you enjoy. Find love and happiness within, and stop looking for it amongst other people and things. This year and every year to come are going to be the years where we change the world! They are going to be the years where we challenge both ourselves and others to just Be You. in both the happiest, healthiest, and most sustainable ways possible, so who’s with me!?

Gluttony and Greed

 

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Images From Fed Up and Cowspiracy Documentaries

Recently I’ve been watching a lot of “cause” documentaries on Netflix. I stumbled upon two documentaries that have really changed my outlook on American and worldly big business: Cowspiracy and Fed Up . Based on just these two documentaries alone I have been provided with copious information about the environment and the world around me that I would have otherwise never known. Big business and big food corporations have done a fantastic job of keeping these shocking statistics out of the media. For example, 13% of children today are MORBIDLY obese, not just obese, but morbidly obese. In the next 25 years it is estimated that 1 in every 3 people will have Diabetes. Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the US [more than all modes of transportation combined (cars, trains, planes, etc.) – 13%] and 51% of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The gluttony and greed of the human race is destroying the lives of the next generation and the world as we know it. Please, I beg everyone, start paying attention!!!

The Change Starts Here

“The world suffers a lot. Not because of the violence of bad people, but because of the silence of good people.” – Napoleon

About a week ago the United States had over 100 lives changed forever. Orlando, Florida became the location of the largest mass shooting in American history, at a nightclub called Pulse. Pulse is known as a largely homosexual nightclub, and the shooter is said to have struggled with accepting his sexual preferences (a possible cause for his unhinging). I know I told you guys we were going to do a Top 10 posts in honor of the new Be You. Page, but I think this cause is way too large to be ignored.

Lately, the minority of focus has been African American males. It seems like every day there’s another cop shooting of a young African American male that can’t be justified by a simple “fear for one’s life.” I in no way try and belittle those wrongs or make light of those losses, but I think sometimes it’s easy to forget the struggles of others when we have such flagrant misuses of authority occurring so frequently. Last week was a shocking reminder of the prejudice other minority groups are still facing. Being different has become such a threat for American’s today. It almost makes you wonder why people would want to move here in the first place. The United States is supposed to be a melting pot of racial and ethnic acceptance, as well as social, religious, and marital/relational freedom. FREEDOM. That’s what we’re known for. We’re known for allowing people to be exactly who they are without judgment or persecution. But the more time that goes by and the more aware that I become, the more I notice that being different in the United States is almost a death sentence waiting to happen.

It is human nature to not like change and to prefer things that are normative to their group, but the extremes we’ve hit today are inexcusable. When you’re afraid to just be a minority, to just be gay, or black, or in a minority group of any kind then it should be a red flag to everyone in America that we’re doing something wrong. We’re teaching values that are giving way to violence and rigid thinking. We aren’t teaching our children to love and be loved by others, but to judge others that are unlike them, to fear them, and/or verbally and physically abuse them. Violence has become such an easy answer to delaying dealing with emotions we don’t understand. We’ve taught the next generation to take the cowards’ way out, even worse they’re now using guns. There’s no talking in gunplay, there’s no healing from death, there are no take-backs. We’ve given these children, that already lack the proper skills to process his or her emotions and already value prejudice over acceptance, access to guns. We’ve given them the ability to end the life of anyone who doesn’t see their side, agree with his or her way, or choose to live according to his or her standard. We’re failing. We’re failing to teach the next generation what’s important. We’re failing to teach them that’s it’s not about “Keeping up with the Jones’s,” it’s about being exactly who you are and loving yourself. It’s about accepting yourself and being tolerant of others.

These senseless acts of violence are cries for help from people who have lost their way. They are cries for help for entire communities and populations. It’s easy to look at the news and say, “Man, I wish that would change. There’s so much wrong with the world,” but the real change starts at home. The change starts with accepting our children and teaching them to love and accept others. The change begins when we do away with “the norm” and teach that what’s normal is exactly who they wish to be, whenever they wish to be it. The change begins when we are able to see someone different than ourselves and not see disgust or desire aggression, but see beauty and desire love and tolerance. Don’t put this burden off on the next generation, because guess who is now looking to us and paying attention to how we react to adversity and different lifestyle choices? The Next Generation. The next generation sees it all and is paying attention. The next generation sees this hate, judgment, and violence and is likely to imitate what they see if they aren’t taught otherwise. Be responsible for your part. Love all human beings and all life choices. Pass on this love and acceptance to everyone around you. Teach peace and open-mindedness. And most importantly never be afraid to, in your own life, just Be You.