William Hook
William Hook

I’m no stranger to this beautiful gift from the “god of the interwebs.” I accidentally — but wonderfully — stumbled upon a forum of sorts a few years ago. It was a time when I just recently moved to America, 6,000 miles or so away from my home country. I didn’t know anyone and I had no friends at the time. This forum became my outlet of expression.

The internet is a melting pot of diverse amazing people. It started with a simple forum post, that quickly led into a conversation with strangers that I’ve never met before, but felt like I’ve known my whole life. Forum conversations became private messages, from there you move to Skype/Yahoo (or the like) where it starts from simple chatting, to voice calls, to video chats. Once you’ve really become comfortable with your online friend, next comes the swapping of cell phone numbers.

Oh, your friend lives on the other side of the world? No worries. We have apps for that now.

I’ve made friends for life because of this process. They know my most painful secrets, have heard my real laugh, know my embarrassing stories, and know my inner nerd like the palm of their hand. I am myself when I talk to them, no holds barred. A part of it may come from the anonymity of it all. You have the ability to be whoever you want to be — even if that means being yourself.

The circumstances may be virtual, yes, but the bond that you create is real. You share a piece of you to the person on the other end of the web; laughing until your belly can’t stand the pain, crying to the point where it was almost impossible to breathe, celebrating an accomplishment, being an ear for each other’s frustrations… you share raw emotions. It’s liberating. And no questions asked, you do the same for them.

I built an online friendship with a handful of people from that forum. We added each other on messenger services, and became friends on various social media platforms. Because when you’re thousands of miles away, how else can you communicate? A community was created where we were alike, yet different as individuals at the same time. We came from different countries, we were of different races, we had different cultures, and various native tongues, yet none of them became an issue, because we didn’t make them an issue (the different time zones did kind of suck though).

Countless hours of online gameplay were spent, ‘drunk group call nights’ were held, playful banters here and there, multiple book recommendations, amazing song suggestions, and artworks were shared. Movies were started with “Okay, we press play in 3… 2… 1… GO!” It’s surreal how real it can be. And the effort? Surely touching.

I’ve seen them grow and flourish over the years. The once shy English boy who didn’t even say a single peep, became the heart of the group and found love in the most unexpected of places. The Texan girl who shares the same emotional struggles as you, and just gets you in a deeper level than most, eventually became your best friend. You’re genuinely happy to know that she is doing okay. And you’re ecstatic to know that your friend from Virginia finally hit his goal weight and is doing his best to live a healthier life. They are genuine people, with genuine feelings.

From the French mademoiselle whom you had a falling out with, only to come back up stronger in the end, to the Canadian musician with a killer playlist who striving to live his dream, to the Indian girl whom you protect and annoy like your own little sister, back to Europe to your German soul sister, all the way down under to that Aussie guy with the hot voice (and accent!), it’s a virtual global road map of unforgettable people. Anyone who has had one knows that an “online friendship” is a precious thing. We try our best to keep it intact. Our real lives do get in the way at times, but at the end of the day we know that when push comes to shove, we’re there for that person. And no difference in time zones, internet lag, or shitty cellphone service will keep us away from doing our part as their friend. TC mark

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A friend was recently visited by an awful ex-boyfriend.

“Seeing him was like running into a ghost, you know?”

I understood what she meant, and in light of Halloween, it got me thinking.

Encountering an ex-lover is exactly like being visited by a ghost. It’s a flicker of your former life; an unnerving flash of your past. You catch a glimpse of them and you’re frozen stiff. Shivers fire up your backbone as your mind rapidly recovers painful, timeworn memories.

Haunted with nostalgia, the blood falls from your face and you spit out an incomprehensible, “Hey.”

Spooky, and odd. You were once so connected to this ghost, but now there are new, informal conditions. At one time you shared a toothbrush, yet the sentiment has eerily transformed into an atmosphere of unease.

Unfinished business.

This startling apparition of your past relationship leaves you feeling jolted and anxious. Be prepared for it. It’s the paranormal-first-sighting-since-the-demise-of-your-bond with this lover, and it’s terrifying.

How to Cope with a Close Encounter of the Ex-Kind

    1. Clear the ghost. Make it obvious this ex is not welcome. Be uncompromising, but not mean.
    2. Wear your Halloween costume for a few months to avoid any fluke encounters.
    3. Be confident in dealing with your ghost. Like animals, exes feed off fear. Emulate Bill Murray in Ghostbusters.
    4. Perform an ex-orcism. I recommend using a trusted platform like Wikipedia or Ask Jeeves for instruction. They are sure to offer a variety banishing rituals for all types of horrible exes.
    5. Make peace with the ghost. Melancholy is meant for October 31, not for every day. The sooner you forgive the ghost for the gloom, the better you’ll feel. TC mark

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Many people question how we can actually make a change in our society that helps women and men become more equal and I think the solution is simple. Raise your children to be feminists.
I was raised a feminist. And I didn’t even realize it until the subject generated so much buzz. It’s a hot topic and almost everyone has had a conversation about it.
But what does that mean to raise my children like that? Should I never give them razors to shave their legs? Should I tell them to never trust men? Should I always encourage them to be as masculine as possible?
Here’s a fancy secret:
Oh, but Heather, you’re 19. What do you know about raising children?
Well, I know that you should always have an endless supply of ice cream for bargaining and tears and a solid collection of Disney movies so obviously I’m very qualified to give advice.
But really, I’d like to give a big shout out to my parents for the things they’ve taught me to help me feel comfortable in my abilities.
Here are some key facts I’ve been taught growing up, many of which I never thought were that special but they seem to be a good starting point for the ideas that should be put in anyone’s brain.

1. Girls can be good at science and math.

Actually, in my house no one was good at math, but I think that had more to do with our boredom with the subject than lack of ability.
Recently there have been some ads like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XP3cyRRAfX0 one. That showcase how often girls are discouraged from pursuing STEM interests. In our house we were all about doing science experiments and we enjoyed, and were praised, for doing well in science classes.
Side note: I was also praised for having a writing talent and it was ALWAYS my choice to pursue a career as a creative. (My parents tried and failed to convince me to be an engineer. The really stressful, banging my head against the wall, writer’s block days I question why I didn’t choose that path.)

2. Girls don’t have to be silent.

Quiet women don’t really exist in my family.
Being taught that your ideas can be creative and unique and smart and worth listening to really shapes how much you’re willing to speak up.
If something or someone makes you uncomfortable, say something. If you think you have a good idea for a project, say something.
You have just as much right to say something when the time is right than anyone else in the room does.

3. You can be compassionate and not be seen as soft.

It’s okay to care about people and it’s okay to express your emotions. Doing so does not make you weak.
The world would probably be a better place if more people took stances of empathy.
Liking makeup and owning four different kinds of curling irons and various combs and brushes doesn’t make you a priss. (It probably just means you grew up in the south and your momma wasn’t going to let you out of the house unless you brushed your bed head.)
Beauty standards don’t have to be everything, but there is a lot of value in putting on a shirt that’s not wrinkled and a pair of real pants. People take you more seriously when you care about how you look, even if your style isn’t the same as theirs

4. Do things to make yourself happy not to please other people.

How you dress, how you speak, how you act, and what you want to do with your life are your decisions and your decisions alone.
If you want to drape yourself in pink glitter or camouflage, it’s your choice.
If you want to be a teacher or a construction worker, it’s your choice.
If you want to be quiet and reserved or loud, it’s your choice.
As long as you’re not hurting anyone with your actions, you can do whatever makes you happy.

5. Girls can take care of themselves.

I don’t think I’ve ever been taught that I can’t do something by myself just because I’m a girl — well, maybe walking by myself at night but that’s a whole other rant to be had.
I can change a flat tire.
I can carry my own boxes when I move.
I can open a jar by myself.
The idea that women need men for trivial things like this is ridiculous and should probably be a little offensive to men that that’s all they’re useful for.
I can’t kill the spider, but whatever. No one’s perfect.

6. Tears don’t make you weak.

One of my favorite quotes is, “The cure for anything is salt water — tears, sweat or the sea.”
Now I’m not personally a big fan of crying but one of the best pieces of advice my mother has ever given me is that sometimes a good cry fest makes you feel better.
It’s not a sign of weakness. Let the salt and Kim Kardashian-level ugly crying face happen and then move on.

7. You can be anything you want to be.

I’ve touched on this a few times already but I feel like it needed its own point.
Being a girl doesn’t limit the things you get to do in life.
You can want to get married and stay home with your family one day AND aspire to have a career.
Stay-at-home moms are rad. Being in charge of a company is rad, too. Women that do both deserve an award. And if you choose to do one and not the other, you are not less than in any way.

8. There are many other things you can be in life that are much better than being pretty.

 Don’t get me wrong, my parents have always told me how beautiful they think my sisters and I are, but we always were complimented on our brains, our humor, and our wit much more often.
I think this has more benefits the older you get because you’d really be amazed how many adults like to use the insult, “yeah… well …she’s not even pretty!”
Who cares? She’s got a degree in neuroscience I think she’s okay with her life. 
And on a super related note, being smart or athletic or whatever you are doesn’t take away from beauty so you shouldn’t believe that either.

9. There are A LOT of men on your side.

 There’s some kind of idea that’s out there that teaches people that all feminist hate men, which is really ridiculous, because the majority of men support women’s rights. (One time my dad proclaimed that he would never shop at Macy’s again because they don’t support equal pay for women.)
Being a feminist doesn’t mean you hate men. It just means that you think you should be on the same playing field as them. TC mark

featured image – Hillary Boles

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Εε μα:/
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People are perpetually confused about daylight saving time (DST), which ends this weekend. Do we do it to reduce energy expenditure? Or is it for the farmers? Is it a prank? Or, as the popular children’s myth goes, do we “spring forward” an hour and “fall back” accordingly to appease our dark overlord, Vengeful Baby Jesus?

A recent poll revealed that 93% of Americans were “completely clueless” as to the point of DST, with the other 7% responding, “Time is meaningless, for every second of my life is pure agony.” For most people, it seems that DST is just mildly inconvenient, like filing your taxes or listening to a Bruno Mars song.

There was one year in college where I thought it might be of service to me. I went to school in Pennsylvania, where the bars inexplicably close at 2 a.m., right around the time you’re getting into the mood to lose a bar fight or piss on a jukebox. However, DST traditionally takes effect at 2 a.m. on Saturday night, rewinding the clock back to 1 a.m. In other words, as my friends and I eagerly misunderstood, we were headed for an extra hour of drinking!

“Yeah!” we exclaimed, awkwardly attempting to high-five, stymied by the fact that we had a beer in each hand. Gazing emptily at one another, our faces brutal masks of a most thundering confusion, we paused to wipe the drool streaming from our mouths with our shirtsleeves.


Alas, the bar did not honor DST hours, electing to close at its normal time. We considered filing a class-action lawsuit on the spot, but nobody had a pen and one guy had puked inside his own pants.

Farmers 1, Drunks 0.

Until this weekend, that is. This weekend, I present to you… Drunken Time Traveling. (And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call burying the lede.)

If you A) Attended college in the past 10 years and managed to remain cogent/ambulatory or B) Have an internet connection and what medical professionals refer to as a “dependency problem,” you might be familiar with Power Hours. If not, here’s a quick rundown: A Power Hour is when you take a shot of beer every minute for 60 minutes, while listening to a pre-made playlist of song clips (or, if you’re fancy, video clips). The signal for taking a shot is indicated by the playlist switching from one song to another (in other words, there is a 60 second snippet of each song, for a total of 60 shots). Depending on how big your shots are, by the end you will have consumed somewhere between five and seven beers.

It’s the ideal method for getting certifiably drunk in exactly one hour. It’s precise, quantifiable, almost mathematical. If Microsoft Excel wanted to get drunk, it would do a Power Hour – it’s the spreadsheet of drinking.

There’s something about the mix of socializing and music, the steady progression of intoxication, and the welcome distraction of a simple, repetitive task that makes the Power Hour an ideal pre-game for heading out to a bar, a house party, or your plac*e of employment. In a world of uncertainties, it’s something you can depend on.

As such, my recommendation to you for this weekend is as follows:

  • I’m asking that for once in your sweaty, bibulous excuse for a life, you be sober at 12:59 a.m. on a Saturday night/Sunday morning. However, be ready with plenty of beer, a shot glass, and a Power Hour queued up. Other humans are optional.
  • At 1:00 a.m., commence the Power Hour.
  • As the clock strikes 2:00 a.m., take your last shot.
  • Wait, psyche, it’s really 1:00 a.m. again. Except now you’re drunk. You’ve drunkenly time traveled, accomplishing instantly what usually takes you an hour.

**ATTN: Nobel Prize Foundation** Please contact me at tedpillow@gmail.com. For engraving purposes, please take note that my middle initial is V. and my favorite color is malachite.

Although you can get drunk quick even without the aid of DST, there is value here: enjoying something without giving anything up. Whenever I’m absolutely exhausted at work – in one of those moods where I’d gladly forsake half my salary for the chance to go home just this one freaking day and sleep for 10 hours – I ask myself, “If I could take a pill right now that would wipe away this exhaustion, would I?” The answer is always yes, but a surprisingly reluctant yes. The truth is that I don’t so much crave the benefits of sleep as much as I do the (in)action itself – I want the joy of sleeping. I want to close my eyes and embrace nothingness.

But what if the pill allowed you to step into an alternate universe, take an epic nap, and then resume your life like nothing ever happened? Sleep without sacrificing time…

It’s not the drunkenness I’m after, but the drinking. Ideally you could drink forever, constantly floating somewhere between sobriety and unconsciousness. This weekend is the closest you’re going to get – an hour of getting drunk that exists almost outside of time itself, a temporary escape pod from the slow crawl of progress.

The closest you’re gonna get until I invent the Leap Year Power Hour Marathon, that is. TC mark

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~follow me~
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With the internet having taken over basically everyone’s life, freelancing is a viable career option for more and more of us out there. But in my struggle to actually make enough to eat and pay rent I have come across a serious of emotional states that strongly resemble the 5 stages of grief we all know so well. Unfortunately, unlike the stages of grief, these will affect your life on a never-ending rollercoaster of elation and despair. Enjoy!

Stage 1: Denial
Motivation Overload

This is the part where you vigorously apply for basically every job you find. Send articles to a hundred different publishers and track all of your glorious dedication in a well-designed Excel spreadsheet. Wake up early, shower, and get to it. I will make it happen! The power of positive thinking is spewing from your pores. Just keep working and keep submitting and someone is bound to publish or hire you eventually, right? Right???

Stage 2: Anger
Frustration Slash Totally Giving Up

When all those offers start to never pour in, you take a break. I can watch seven hours of television today, after all I worked so hard last week. It’s 2 A.M. on Monday night you say? Sure, I’ll have another glass of wine. It’s not like I have to get up early or anything. Of course, the following morning you’re too hungover to do anything productive, but you will definitely get back to it on Wednesday. Probably. Maybe. Wait, what day is it? 

Stage 3: Bargaining
Inventing Things to Make You Feel Productive

So, you’ve been sleeping in until 11 and haven’t written anything in a week. But there are always things to be done! It’s been too long since I washed the duvet cover and I’ve been meaning to clean the hair out of the drain in the bathtub. I’ve never made a stew before either, that should take up an afternoon. Man, these minor household chores sure make me feel like a slightly more legitimate human being.

Stage 4: Depression
Look for Real Jobs That Aren’t at All What You Want to Do

You’ve accepted your lack of success as a freelancer, but there are still other jobs out there! Time to hit the job postings and see what else you can do. This is the part where you remember your soulless corporate job that slowly killed you every day for five years and to which you vowed you would never return. Give up the job hunt and begin binge watching Season 2 of Orange is the New Black. Showers and pants are a distant memory. 

Stage 5: Acceptance
Admit You Have No Idea What You’re Doing

You’ve now come to terms with the fact that a 9-to-5 is never in your future. You’ve also come to terms with what you smell like after a week without showering. You still sleep until 11 but you write one last article and dust off the Excel spreadsheet knowing that this one, this one will be the one. When it finally gets accepted and you have written a real, live, published article, you remember why you wanted to be a writer in the first place. Commence sending submissions to every publication you can find (see stage 1).

Lather, rinse, repeat. TC mark

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