What do your tattoos mean?

Oh how I just love getting asked this on a weekly basis…

Well – for those of you who have wondered (and those who don’t give a rat’s ass) – below I’ve laid out each tattoo and its special meaning to me. All three of my tattoos are on my right arm and belong to a theme: places I’ve lived that have impacted me in inexplicable ways.

Tattoo #1 – the key

Oh my beloved key. This one is a tribute to my second homeland: Germany. I first stepped foot in Germany when I was 13 years old. My family and I made the trip across the pond for the 2006 World Cup and I was absolutely in LOVE with the place. People were friendly, but not over-the-top, food was yummy and fresh and the weather was phenomenal – even in the summer, which was a major plus to this southern girl.

My junior year at KU, I studied abroad for a semester in Regensburg. I minored in German Studies in college and had planned on studying in Germany for a semester since I was in high school.

The six months I spent in Regensburg changed me in more ways than one. It was the first time I lived alone, and if you know me, you know I used to hate being alone. I did everything I could to stay busy and be surrounded by people to block out the damaging thoughts going on in my mind. I also first injured my back when I was living in Germany. There was no accident, no fall, just woke up one day with insufferable back pain and a searing burning feeling going all the way down my leg to my toes.

Great. Here I am, in this beautiful country, and I’m immobile. After three trips to the ER, two ambulance rides, three days in the hospital, a creepy male nurse who hit on me while changing my IV (and then proceeded to LOOK ME UP on Facebook from my patient file and BRING IT UP in conversation as if it was NORMAL), tests, MRI, etc. etc., I found out I had two herniated discs at the bottom of my spine. The doctor told me he wanted to operate on it but I said hellllll no! My family is 5,000+ miles away I am not having major surgery all alone.

Alone. Thats what I was – a 21-year-old American girl in a German hospital with no A/C, no hospital gown, just my three-day old clothes and a book: Eat, Pray, Love. (Shoutout to Elizabeth Gilbert  because her book kept me inspired when I really wanted to crawl into a black hole and never come out.)

Fast forward to pain managed by drugs and several awesome weekends traveling Europe and I still had the most incredible six months of my life that year. Aside from my foreign hospital experience, I learned how to live alone and enjoy it. I learned how to converse with locals in German. I learned how to navigate cities where I didn’t speak the local language. I learned what it meant to truly o p e n  your eyes and take in each and every moment; experiencing foreign cultures wholeheartedly. Once you immerse yourself in a new place, where you know nobody and have no connections, you find out how large our world is and how small you are.

So, why the key? 

Well, Regensburg’s flag is this:

source: wiki commons

But, I knew I wanted mine on the outside of my forearm, so I opted to have just the one key. Here’s mine:
My first tattoo. My tribute to Germany. My reminder that I can get through anything and come out stronger on the other side.

Tattoo #2 – the diamond

The smallest of my three tattoos, but the one nearest my heart. In case you didn’t know, I was born and raised in Arkansas. My grandparents, parents, three of my four siblings and all my nieces and nephews still live in Arkansas. In fact, they’re all within a 3-mile radius of each other. I know…we’re almost annoyingly close as a family. But I LOVE us Barlings for it. 🙂

Arkansas is where I had my first school dance, my first kiss, my first hike, my first soccer game. Putting it shortly: I experienced a lot of life’s big “firsts” in Arkansas. Family means more to me than anything  and my fondest memories reside in the Natural State. My diamond tattoo is a tribute to my childhood, my family, my home.

Tattoo #3 – the sunflower 

“Despite knowing they won’t be here for long, they still choose to live their brightest lives.” – the sunflower, by Rupi Kaur

Wow. What a beautiful thought and one I like to apply to real life. Most people are here on this planet for 100 years or less and in the grand scheme of things, that isn’t a very long time.

Sunflowers have always been my favorite flower. I hate how over-used roses are and would rather receive a sunflower any day. I’ve always been drawn to them; their bright colors, big “faces”, long stems. They stand tall and regal – proud.

The wild sunflower is also the state flower of Kansas, where I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas in Lawrence. Those four years were a magical time. So many exciting and new endeavors. New friends, new hurdles, new accomplishments. My journalism career exploded at KU and I owe it all to my work at the University Daily Kansan.

Goals were made and reached. My life is forever changed after living in the beautiful hippie town of Lawrence, KS. My sunflower tattoo is my tribute to that stage in my life of constant learning and growing.

Well – there you have it: the meaning of my tattoos. Ultimately, these are for me and nobody else and if you have negative opinions about them I honestly couldn’t care less. 🙂

xoxo,

HB

 

Staying true to myself one bad day at a time

“My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the simplest way.” – Ernest Hemingway

What a beautiful sentiment. These words have resonated so deeply with me since I first came across them. The Old Man and the Sea was one of my favorite books in high school and I’ve always admired Hemingway for his writing, so when I came across this quote of his, I vibed with it.

While this was written decades ago, I see it ringing true here and now in 2018. Our country is in chaos, the president of the U.S. is the laughing stock of the world and the headlines in news get worse each day so intensely that we’ve become desensitized to horrific violence happening all over our world.

But, back to the quote above.

About a year or so ago, I told myself I would be honest about my feelings and not hide in my hurting anymore. Today, I don’t feel like donning my typical wide-mouthed smile. And that is OKAY. Am I moping around like Eeyore? No. But am I hiding behind a smile and saying “fine” or “good” when people ask how I’m doing? Also no.

Life is hard. It’s hard for everyone in different ways and on different days. On a hard day, the easy way out is to simply grin and bear it and hope for a new day tomorrow. Well – not today, junior!

Y’all know I struggle with anxiety and depression. I’m not shy about admitting it. But, it’s still hard on days when I’m down and don’t want to get up. My typical response is to laugh it off, act extra happy and hope I can convince myself that I truly am.

Well, here’s how I’m feeling today:

  • tired
  • lost
  • in pain

I woke up on Monday with back pain that I haven’t experienced since my surgery (for those of you who don’t know, I had back surgery Dec 2015 on two herniated discs at the bottom of my spine). While my pain level isn’t anywhere near what it was pre-surgery, it still sucks. I haven’t been sleeping very well this week because of the pain and the anxiety this pain is causing.

Broken. Let down. Failure.

That’s how I feel. I’m 25 years old – why the hell am I dealing with 65 year-old health issues?! I get stuck on that question a lot, “why?” or “why me?” But, this isn’t healthy thinking.

Healthy thinking is believing in yourself. It’s staying on task so you feel accomplished checking off your to-do list. It’s working on your full self: mind, body and spirit. So today, I’m letting myself hurt. I’m accepting the back pain I’m dealing with today and challenging myself for a better tomorrow.

I know this blog isn’t quite as strong or captivating as my others, but this is for me. I’m writing down here and now that I am working on myself, for myself, by myself and won’t stop until I feel like I’ve reached the top of this mountain.

                        xoxo,

HB

 

Please vote AGAINST current education reform in Arkansas

As I write this note from my office at the University of Texas at Dallas, I struggle to find where to begin, because the core of my being lies within the world of journalism.

I began writing for the school newspaper in 8th grade. Once I reached high school, I was thrilled to start taking journalism classes. From learning basic writing, editing and photography skills, to designing full spreads in the yearbook and overseeing a staff of 20+ students, my journalism education and experience at Southside High School in Fort Smith, AR, propelled me into my future. My senior year I was editor of the yearbook and really took my future in journalism seriously. The education I received from Southside, and the continued mentorship I have from Susan Colyer, the current journalism advisor, is unparalleled to any other experiences in my life thus far.

Because of my outstanding education in journalism in an Arkansas high school, I went on to work at the University Daily Kansan all four years of my undergraduate career at the University of Kansas. Starting out as an unpaid staff writer, I worked my way up the responsibility chain through various editorial roles and became the Digital Managing Editor by my senior year.

This would not have been possible without my journalism classes in high school.

Because of my experience at the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Kansas, I have landed jobs at two different digital agencies and now currently hold the title of Social Media Specialist for the Naveen Jindal School of Management at the University of Texas at Dallas.

This would not have been possible without my journalism experience at the University level, which solely stemmed from my education at Southside High School in Fort Smith, AR.

If this proposed education reform were to pass, it would be beyond hurtful to not only the current journalism classrooms, but also to future students who may never think to explore a career in journalism if they aren’t exposed in high school.

The future of digital journalism and education of such is my deepest passion, and I would be more than happy to discuss this more in depth. PLEASE vote AGAINST this education reform.

Sincerely,
Hannah Barling

Why is it so hard to love myself? 

Most of you who are reading this are probably thinking to yourself, “but she exudes confidence” or “she’s always so bubbly and happy to be here.” And most of the time I am happy to be where I am – I’ve always chosen to take the optimistic approach and try to find the silver linings in life. But realistically speaking, even the more sunshine-y people out there have bad days and question their worth.

Growing up the baby of a huge family, I’ve always tried to be louder (let’s be real, I didn’t have to try too hard to be loud) and get the most attention by nature. Working hard to be the best of whatever my latest venture was has always been my goal. Determined to succeed, I’ve held dozens of leadership roles in various student and non-student organizations since I was 15. I graduated in the top 10 percent of my high school class, excelled in the Journalism School at KU, moved to Dallas to work at an international marketing agency, moved back to Arkansas to work at an agency closer to home, and now am once again residing in Dallas and employed by the University of Texas at Dallas, doing what I love.

I’m 25 years old. I have my own apartment, the world’s sweetest dog (not up for debate), live with my amazing boyfriend and have had dozens more experiences than your average 25-year-old.

BUT. For some reason, more often than not I criticize myself, my work and my place in life. The majority of these self-doubting thoughts are along the lines of “why am I not more successful” or “why don’t I have the perfect body” or “why can’t I figure my shit out!?”

And you know what I think is a large contributing factor to my self doubt in this day and age? The brutal culture and expectations modern day America has on people, especially women. Growing up I looked up to all the supermodels and A-list celebs who are all size 0 and wear designer everything. How ridiculous is that? Even when I was in my fitness prime, I still wore a size 9-10, knowing damn well I’d never look like the entertainers on TV.

But instead of looking at my accomplishments and giving myself that much-needed pat-on-the-back, self-criticism trumped all. Comparing oneself to another’s accomplishments or body or life in general is only going to do damage and harm to the soul.

Thankfully, a friend very near and dear to my heart reminded me of my self-worth today and inspired me to write this post. I know I’m not the only one out here who feels like their appearance and demeanor on the outside doesn’t match what’s truly going on inside and felt I needed to share these thoughts with my readers.

Anxiety plays a role in this dilemma for me, but even the women out there not living with mental illnesses struggle with loving themselves daily. We need to stop comparing ourselves to others and instead learn to relish in our accomplishments and be proud of them in a positive way.

After reflecting on this, here is my mantra for the week:

I am strong.
I am beautiful.
I am worthy.

xoxo,
HB

Learning to let go

Hello again, my beloved readers. I know I’ve abandoned you for a couple months and I’m sorry for that, but – life happens.

The last time I wrote I was pouring out my indecisive tendencies and wishy-washy thoughts, concerned I hadn’t made the right life decision. But honestly, like, who ever makes the right “life decision”? Does every moment we witness not contribute to the grander picture of “life”? Anyway, I’m not in the mood to go psycho-analytical right now so I’ll leave that thought there.

By now you’ve seen everyone’s 2018 resolution posts and you’re definitely ~so over~ them already. So I’ll spare you that portion of my blog and get straight to the good stuff. Sometimes life sucks and sometimes it’s beautiful and unfortunately fate is a thing and we have no real control over what happens to us in our daily lives.

The second half of my 2017 in a nutshell: I quit my job in Little Rock, moved back to Dallas to be with my boyfriend, with no new job lined up. So many undecideds in my life, but I chose love and I am forever grateful for that decision. Since the move, I’ve been working as a barista at Starbucks, freelance writing and social media working here and there, but mainly, I’ve been lost. Emotionally, spiritually, physically – lost.

After some major soul searching (which, by the way, I’m still working on) I’ve decided how much I miss having more control over my life. I’ve let my barista schedule run my life, using my days off as an excuse to be lazy, and never giving myself the time and effort I needed and deserved to focus on me and my goals. When I’m not in control is when my anxiety really tries to take over. However, these past few months have been good for me in that struggle. Learning to let go of what is out of my control, while staying focused on what I can control is what I’m working on.

That being said, it’s time I take back control of my life. I was born to be successful. I’m social, outgoing, entertaining and determined to succeed in my personal and professional life. Every day, I’m promising myself to wake up and try my best to be happy and do whatever it takes to get there. I did not work my ass off and graduate from one of the top journalism schools in the country *Rock Chalk Jayhawk!* to be mediocre. One day, I’ll have bylines in magazines or on websites you read all the time.

I deserve happiness and success and I need to remind myself of that more often. Shoutout to my day ones who still cheer me on even while I am lost and confused and feel at a standstill. TRUST – y’all will be hearing from me more often.

xoxo,

HB

Does anyone think in black and white?

Less than 5 hours from now, I’ll be getting ready for another day in the world of Hannah. So naturally, my brain is going a mile a minute and I’m sitting here having lost a debate with sleep.

With too many things on my mind to simply list out, I’ll start with the one weighing heaviest: what the hell am I doing with my life? I know this may seem like a blanketed thought – and it is to a certain degree – but right now it’s more direct than usual. As I’ve shared with you all, I recently made a decision to step back from the corporate world, let my mind decompress and start a new part-time job as a barista.

This may sound like a fabulous beginning to an empowering drama, but sadly, my life is not a film and there’s no winning lottery ticket in sight. The immediate questions that pop into my mind tonight are: Is this going to work out? Am I going to have enough money to make ends meet comfortably and have fun? Did I make the right decision to move without a job lined up?

Different questions, all obtaining the same answer: I don’t know.

Now I’m judging myself for not knowing, because I’m 24 years old and should have a better idea in which direction to go, but then I remind myself I’m not a future teller and need to chill the fuck out. This 30-second thought train (anxiety is fun and may or may not include thinking 12 thoughts at once) has led me to a grander question: Does anyone think in black and white?

I truly want to know, because I’m not sure I’ve ever made a decision I was 100 percent sure of. Envious of those who seem to have a simpler way of decision making, I’m curious to know if anyone else has a dozen questions for each statement or thought that crosses their minds.

Of course, nobody knows what lies ahead because life happens and we can never be fully in control. We must simply ride the wave. But do some of you out there think more in terms of black and white, yes or no, instead of constantly lingering in the grey area? Because if so – teach me your witch-crafting ways.

I realize this blog is far different from my last one, which proudly disclosed my new life adventures. However, I promised myself I would be as transparent as possible, because I am so SICK of people on social media only portraying their good side and making their followers think life is purely happy all the time. So, here I am at midnight writing about my insecurities and second guesses.

What I have to remind myself is that time never stops and even if I never truly grasp this big ole meaning of life, the most important thing is to be mentally, physically and emotionally healthy, living life with a purpose. And that is what I promise to continue to strive for.

 

Unashamedly taking a step back

Life can get overwhelming…quickly. Whether you’re working too much or not enough, have bills swallowing you or a fully-furnished apartment equipped with cable and internet, it’s easy to get caught up and suddenly realize you’re in way over your head and need time to breathe.

Life in 2017 America is full of pressure: pressure to be successful, pressure to be pretty, pressure to be fit, pressure to be perfect. Adults in this country are expected to work 40+ hours a week, fully support themselves, workout daily, travel often and show off their material goods. All for what – affirmation that we’re following society’s ridiculous standards? Receiving recognition for all our accomplishments? Forget the countless nights of no sleep, early mornings, stressful days at work and god forbid more than one cheat meal per week.

Life is something you have; living, breathing creatures walk this planet, and if you are one of them, congratulations – you have a life. All right, before I tailspin off into an existential crisis, I’ll get to my point.

Life is for LIVING. That’s right, living, as simple as that. We all deserve to choose our own way to do so. The past couple of years, I’ve been working in the digital media and marketing industry. Since graduating from KU in 2015, I’ve left Kansas, moved back to Arkansas, moved to Dallas, moved back again to Arkansas and just moved back yet again to Dallas about a month ago. I’ve had two well-paying jobs for a 24-year-old with two different companies. Made some good friends through work, met a couple great mentors and learned a lot about myself.

The most important lesson I’ve learned recently, is what I don’t want to do. I don’t want to wake up each day dreading where I’m supposed to be, doing something that I’m not 100 percent passionate about and counting down the hours ’til I can go home and snuggle my dog in peace. I am a free spirit who needs to be able to explore, talk with people, hear their stories, share them with the world and walk around with a smile on my face.

When I moved back to Dallas, I didn’t have a new job lined up. I was suddenly unemployed and uncertain about what my next move would be. I unashamedly was taking a step back. Thankfully I have super supportive parents and an amazing boyfriend who helped me get on my feet. Going on about four weeks of funemployment, I’m happy to say I’ve secured a job as a barista at Starbucks and will be starting next week!

Some of you are probably sitting there judging me as I’m thrilled to share that I’m once again a barista (shoutout to my Sweetbay baes) and not currently “using my degree” for what it’s intended. But who fucking cares? I couldn’t tell you the last time I was this calm. My life has simplified and my over-analytical self has started to gradually ease into comfort. I can finally be on my feet every day at work, socializing with people and making them their favorite coffees and treats. I have time to focus on my writing and pursue freelance work on my own time, my own schedule.

Most importantly, my anxiety levels have decreased tremendously. Aside from the occasional freakouts (cue my weekly existential crisis), I wake up relaxed and go to sleep happy. Am I completely anxiety and depression free? No. Am I making plenty of money? Also no. But do I generally feel better each day and excited for what’s ahead? ABSOLUTELY.

Once I allowed myself to reconsider what it means to be a living, breathing adult in 2017, it’s like a whole new realm opened for me to explore. For now, I’ll be a barista and a writer. I may end up with enough Freelance work to make it my full-time career. I may end up pursuing a masters degree. Or, I may even end up back in the corporate world with the typical 9-to-5, who knows.

But what I do know, is we are all entitled to creating our own reality and pursuing our dreams, whatever they may be. Cheers to what’s in store!