112 Reflection

Dear Meriah,

UNIV 112 has truly been a learning experience. Most of my classes this semester have been hard but I have been able to manage them without becoming too overwhelmed. UNIV 112, however, sent me through quite a loop. It was hard. It was challenging. It did make me think. I was forced to really push myself and see how far I could go. Initially, that made me angry and resentful but as I write this now I am grateful to have been pushed past the point of self-doubt.

In high school, my teachers always described college as this ridiculously challenging experience that was nearly impossible to handle. Over and over again, they scolded us, telling us we were no where near ready to take on such an obstacle. My senior year, my math teacher sat me down and told me carefully that she was “very concerned about me going away to school.” She may have been right, but the constant negativity certainly didn’t help. After hearing such disempowering stories about failure in college, I started to believe that, just like the rest, I wouldn’t make it through either.

What a shame that those instructors felt that they had to tell us that we were incapable of success in order to feel as if they succeeded in their job to motivate us. High school was designed to feed us doubt and make us small. It created an environment filled with fear where everyone was constantly searching for approval in order to feel as if they were worthy of recognition. Imagining my high school without this system allows me to envision a powerful environment where students are whole-heartedly encouraged to do their best and see that they are inherently beyond worthy of success, love and compassion.

Yes, UNIV 112 is undoubtedly a lot of work. Working a lot with things of ethical concern naturally causes you to question things you previously thought as true. It was really interesting to have classroom discussions where people were mostly open to speaking their mind and telling the class their thoughts and opinions. Because of that, my eyes have been open to other options and possibilities I had never even considered.

Education is such an amazing gift. When I was younger, I wanted to just go off the grid and live with islanders where I worked an average job that could get allow me to get off of work and go explore nature. I still want these things, but now I see the benefits of a higher education. This semester I have made so many incredible connections in my mind. These connections have led me to even greater connections that have completely transformed my life.

Creating a well-rounded mind is something that can’t be replaced with anything. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to challenge my mind and expand my knowledge by taking hard classes like UNIV 112 over the next four years.

Olivia Westerman

Stick It Out

Oh, wow. My first semester at a real university has almost passed. Who knew you could learn SO much in such a short period of time? In a few months, I have learned more about myself than I even thought possible. Everything I thought I knew about myself, I didn’t know. I definitely didn’t give myself enough credit. It’s crazy how bad a person can need change without realizing change is what they need most. I could have comfortably stayed back home for the rest of my life. I could have found a purpose for myself. I could have made it work. I could have maintained a happy, healthy life. If I had never left, though, I would have never seen how the move I made to Richmond has opened up my life more than I could have ever imagined. I always knew change was an essential component to growth, but I had never experienced it in such a overwhelming and transformative way.

Thousands of people come from all over the world to one university. So many different personality types, spiritual backgrounds and lifestyles.. all in one place. Isn’t that amazing? We all came here for the same purpose- to find our purpose. What a unifying ambition.

Even so, when I first came to college, I felt so alone. I had no friends. It wasn’t any different from back home because I had no friends there either. It’s not to say that the time I spent alone over my year off of school wasn’t the best gift I could have allowed myself, I’m only trying to say that after a while being alone becomes less enjoyable. My natural need for companionship was growing increasingly noticeable.

I waited two months after I moved in for the “right” friends to come along. I knew that when I met them, I would know they were the right fit for me. In those two months, I met a lot of people that were nice and funny but they lacked the kind of personality that I love most in a friend. As time passed, of course, I got discouraged. It’s easy to get discouraged. It’s even natural. It’s not easy to stay true to yourself and have faith in yourself and the universe that you are worth the friendship of the people you really, really want to be friends with.

To many young people, the need for social interaction is so intense that they let themselves become whatever it is will give them social and emotional support, however true to themselves it may or may not be. The thing these people don’t realize is that if they just wait a few more weeks, stick it out a few more weeks, they will find the friends they’ve been waiting for. They will find the other people that are waiting for friends that really build them up and push them to be their best while respecting their boundaries. There are people out there that don’t want to settle for anything but the best in friendships, too, and they are so worth waiting for. Having a healthy support group is essential to making the best grades and having the best experiences. Without these people to support you, it becomes very hard to stay motivated, excited  about learning and true to yourself along the journey. Without the grades and life-changing experiences, college isn’t what it’s supposed to be.

College (and life) should be a beautiful, challenging, happy, sad, confusing experience filled with honest, loving people. Anything other than that and I’m pretty sure you’re doing it wrong.

If I could give any advice, I would say.. Stay true to you. The right people with show up. Go do things you love. Even if they’re new or scary, if they are something you are interested in, then go do it. Explore your life and explore your passions. Let yourself grow. Along the way, you will find the people that want to grow and live as much as you do. When you meet them, you will know.

Below is one of my favorite quotes. I have this quote on my wall as a constant reminder to live my life through my own eyes..

“Don’t get stuck. Move, travel, take a class, take a risk. There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming. Now is your time. Walk closely with people you love. Don’t get stuck in the past, and don’t try to fast-forward yourself into a future you haven’t yet earned. Give today all the love and intensity and courage you can, and keep travelling honestly along life’s path.”



The Worthiness Program

I was scrolling through Facebook about a week ago, and on one of the groups I follow called “Wake Up World” there was an article on forgiveness. Even though I was really tired, I clicked on it. I continued to read one of the most incredible articles I have ever read to this day. It has completely changed my opinion on what it really means to forgive and let go. Inspired, I clicked on the author’s name, Nanice Ellis, to read more about her. I went to her website and after reading through most of her website, I decided to send her an email. I’m not sure what made me send her an email when I could have easily just gone to LinkedIn and found someone who would have made a decent interview. There was something different about Nanice. Something was pushing me to talk with her and ask her how she got to the point she was at in her life and in her career. Everything about what she had to say resonated with me. It is rare that someone shares such a spiritual outlook as you. I knew I would get insightful and relevant information from Nanice.

To my surprise, she enthusiastically agreed to talk with me. I was so excited. I haven’t actually ever been as excited to speak with someone as I was to speak with her. There are certain moments and opportunities in life that hold more weight than others- this was one of them. We interviews twice for about 45 minus each time. She answered my initial questions and then some. After both Skype interviews, I was (and still am) radiating inspiration and creativity. I l love this feeling, this is where I am the happiest. She told me about her childhood, teenage and very transformative early adult years of her life.

I interviewed Nanice for a couple of reasons. Not only were her very honest and intelligent views on subjects of interest of her also interests of mine, but I knew that her career was one that didn’t take the path most traveled. As it turned out, she didn’t take the “normal” college route. People who are passionate about holistic health and helping others (especially while transitioning towards and through change) tend not to seek education in the system we have created to educated youth and young adults today. Nanice is a Life Coach who helps people deprogram, make transitions and step into their dreams.

I always felt like the way we educated people, starting in elementary school, is backwards. Nanice agreed and we talked a lot about why we felt that way. She shared with me her insight on the education system today and reassured me that it is not wrong or abnormal to feel the way I do. Nanice shared with me her perspective on the educational system; she told me that she believes that “the program” starts when the child enters school for the first time. Children all over America are constantly being taught not to think for themselves. We are raised to think as a group- to have the same opinions, the same thoughts, the same lifestyles. Anything else, anything abnormal is looked down upon as wrong or foolish. We are constantly searching for self-worth through the approval of others. This creates what, we concluded as, a “worthiness program”. In this program, we are rewarded for following along.

I have always felt that when I started school, I was not pushed to reach my highest level of creativity. I think that the active, creative mind is something pure, organic and raw. In one complexity, it is the most basic and also most complex version of an individual. When I am creatively engaged, I am my most genuine and most powerful self. This is where I find happiness, self worth and inward love. When I think of a future career, I picture this feeling. One where all my thoughts and words and passions are fully engaged and able to run about in my head, heart and life. Now, what career will best suit this part of me? I don’t know. It’s hard to settle with something that sounds “just okay” and I don’t think I should have to. I don’t think anyone should have to do that. Life is too good, too fast.

With that, I would LOVE to travel the world and help people of all ages see the infinite amount of power they have within themselves. There is no reason to feel weak or afraid. There is no reason to feel as if ‘one day’ you will be happy. Happiness is today. Joy is today. Love is today. It is a choice and a commitment. Life is sad, yes, but it is a beautiful awkward sadness. I feel so lucky to be a part of this beautiful, awkward sadness and share this joinery with the people I love and cherish. I see it as such a blessing. A beautiful curse. It is encounters like ones with Nanice that give my life direction and remind me that is is truly a gift to see the bigger picture regarding the world we live in and that there is nothing at all wrong with following your dreams. As Nanice said, “Dreams are meant to be followed, that’s why we have them.”

Ellwood Thompson Travels


There are so many aspects of back home that I love so dearly and miss so much. I’m not sure why we, as humans, get so attached to places we go and routines we follow. I don’t believe they get the slightest bit attached to us. Before leaving home, I worried so much about how things would go on without me. Would these places I love so much still function without me? Would they change? What if I came back and they had changed? It’s scary to think they will change and even scarier to think that they will go on just fine without me.

Change is hard. Change is one of those things that I don’t think anyone enjoys. Change means unknown and unfamiliar. It means being alone within yourself and being confident and loving of who it is you are. Sometimes change happens to you, without you telling it it’s okay. Other times, you choose change. You choose to walk into all black with everything you’ve ever known and been comforted by behind you. This is when change is the scariest, but also the most beautiful. This petrifying feeling is the feeling of opportunity, the feeling of aliveness.

I have lived almost my whole life feeling angry and defensive toward change. It wasn’t my friend. Because of these negative feelings towards change, change didn’t like me either. Instead of seeing it for what it is, an opportunity to grow, I saw it as something trying to take something away from me. It seemed that way to me; every time change came along, it took away something that made me feel secure.

The past two years of my life have been completely filled with change, big and small. I have had so much trouble maintaining myself through these changes. Dealing with change has been one of the things I struggle with the most since I was young. It has always seemed to startle me more than anyone else I have known. The past two years of non-stop change has really tested the strength I have within to stay positive, healthy and loving minded.

What is change? Will it ever stop?

I don’t think change will ever stop. We are change. Life is ever-changing. Nothing is ever going to be what it is in this moment ever again. That thought can both make me cry and laugh. It can fill me with deep appreciation and deep sadness. As time passes, though, it fills me with more appreciation then it does sadness.

It’s true, “change is the only constant.” Change is the only thing I can rely on to be consistent throughout my whole life. Change is always going to be around the corner, day in and day out. Change is now my friend. When change comes to visit me, I choose to embrace her with open arms and let myself become the best possible version of myself through whatever change happens.






One of my favorite parts of home is the comforting smells and kind people in healthy food stores. I am such a strong supporter of local, healthy, whole foods. I am so passionate about feeding your body the nutrients it needs to perform in this chaotic world we live in. I want to nourish my body so that I can live a long, healthful life and be around to see my family grow as I turn gray and wrinkled.




I have been going to healthy food stores with my mom since I was a baby. The aromas in healthy food stores is much more than just a pleasant smell.. It’s a comfort that I have experienced for many years. Wherever I travel in my lifetime, I hope to always have a place to go that’s filled with organic, local foods.

I had yet to find a place that I can sit and relax as well as shop for the groceries I prefer in Richmond, so I went out searching for one. After some searching, I found Ellwood Thompson. It’s such a lovely little community store. It has all of the foods I love and, of course, the natural smell that I have always loved.

I went and did school work for nearly five hours. In those five hours, I saw four people that I knew. I felt welcome and comfortable. It was easy to relax and I am so thankful that I have this place to retreat when I need to get away from the scholarly environment of VCU.



This is my favorite beverage on the planet; kombucha. It is a fermented drink filled with healthy probiotics. It has so many health benefits and I can immediately feel the difference when I drink it.

Some health benefits are:

  • Improved Digestion
  • Increasing Energy
  • Cleansing and Detoxification
  • Immune Support

All of things things are essential for your body to function normally in every day life.

At Ellwood Thompson I can refill my many containers for a relatively inexpensive price- yay!



Here are some of my favorite tea’s.




This is where you can buy kombucha and refill your own jars.



Another great thing about Ellwood Thompson is that there is a buffet of organic food. Not only is the food so delicious, it is made without canola oil which is a very processed oil that causes inflammation in the body which can lead to bad gas and stomach pains.





My lovely friend Eden accompanied me on the fifteen minute bike journey to Ellwood Thompson.





Here is our food we got at the buffet. You can sit either inside or outside, both of which are very clean and comfortable.




If you know me, you know that I love nuts and trail mix. Every healthy food store I’ve been in has had a nut selection similar to this and you can always find me testing out all the different kinds of nuts and trail mix.





Again, if you know me, you know how much I love natural body products. There are so many chemicals in the pharmacy sold beauty products. These chemicals are very, very harmful to your body over time. On a smaller scale, they can cause irritation and dryness on the skin.

Precious Time

It’s taken me years to understand the value and importance of time. I still have so much to learn. Time is something that you can never get back. Once it’s passed, it’s passed. It goes back into the cycle of life and is no longer yours to take advantage of. There are so many ways to waste time.. Some are okay, but most truly are just wastes of valuable, precious time.

I think it’s accurate that in order to succeed at something, you first have to try methods that don’t work for you… again and again. Most methods won’t work right off the bat, usually they need to be adjusted and rearranged. This is how learning time management skills went for me.

When I was younger, there was absolutely no management of time in my life.  It took a lot of bone-rattling experiences to show me time’s value for me to start to manage my time better. I realized what priorities needed to be first and slowly became familiar with what it felt like to be proud of myself. Who knew being respected and getting good grades would feel so good and be so empowering? I surely didn’t then but now I do. Once you get a taste of being proud, it is enough to want that feeling for a lifetime. I no longer searched for that feeling in friends or romantic relationships. I didn’t need to. I didn’t need these people to distract me anymore. Those people and those activities were truly wastes of my time. They did help me see that life can be managed so much more efficiently and healthfully though, so I am thankful for that.

As I grew up, I began to organize the ways in which I spent my time. I saw the benefits of balancing work and play. When your priorities are in line, amazing things happen. Things get done. Life changes. However, instead of the change being something that you’re constantly one step behind, you are the change. The change is you. This filled me with a unique kind of strength. The kind that carried into every aspect of my life. I could give it away as a gift to my loved ones. Strong, positive emotions like inner peace, self respect and a strong sense of self are contagious. I am so honored that someone helped me feel those feelings and also that I am able to project these empowering feelings onto the people in my life.


Who Am I At First Search?

Who you really are and who you are on the internet aren’t always the same person, especially if you have changed and grown a lot over time. I am sad for the people who’s unflattering moments are all over the internet. What a horrible way to learn your lesson about social media and technology. I’m also very grateful that none of my bad decisions ended up defining my digital identity. There was definitely a time in my life, and I’m sure in everyone else’s, where I felt as if I was invincible. I thought there were no consequences to my actions. There was no evidence. Nothing could have hurt my reputation because I just didn’t care what anyone thought of me. I liked me.. and so did my boyfriend and best friend. That was all that mattered.

I was so very wrong. My logic was non-existent. I was a teenager; young and reckless, entirely too prideful, totally naive. I am glad that none of the things I did in this time of my life got on the internet. There were definitely mistakes that could have costed me still today. I have learned from them and grown more than I ever imagined possible. It’s a truly beautiful feeling to look back and see how much progress you have made. Change is possible, for everyone.

This is why it is sad when people are bound to their mistakes through their digital identities. While I think it’s wrong that this has to be the way it is, it’s just the reality of our technology oriented society. Luckily, with time, there are ways to reverse any damage you may have done over the years and phases of your life.

When I googled my name, nothing came up except for an old photo of me from when I was a freshman in high school. I had creepy looking curled hair and had just gotten my braces off. My Facebook link also came up. I am lucky that nothing worse comes up when my name is searched. I know a lot of people who are working to create a better profile for themselves so they can be taken seriously when searched on the web.

In efforts to have a very respectable online profile that is also true to who I am, I recently deleted my old Facebook and made a new one. I went from 2,000 “friends” to 40 friends. The 40 friends I have now are people I actually care about. My old Facebook was pages and pages of useless information about people that had no place in my life. Now, I can scroll through Facebook and enjoy doing so without either being disturbed or annoyed by what I see.

These changes are necessary and important when trying to create a respectful digital identity. I can now move forward with my educational career while looking professional to teachers, family and look good for potential jobs I might have.


Beautiful Belle Isle


This past weekend me and my friend Eden went to Belle Isle. I have been to Belle Isle before but never when I had nothing else planned for the whole day and certainly never with someone who loves to explore just as much as I do. We had the whole day to bask in the sun and climb all over old ruins like little monkeys. I have always loved exploring. From abandoned houses to new cities, being surrounded with unfamiliar makes me feel new. Fresh. Excited. Within our city city, there is a place for every mood. I have enjoyed so much exploring all of these places and experiencing all of the emotions each of them project. Belle Isle is something special within Richmond, though. There are so many winding paths, enclosed with trees and brush. There are rocks to bask on for hours in the soft sunlight. There are even beautiful, mysterious ruins to climb upon. As Eden and I explored, hours passed. We climbed around talking and listening to music. It was so nice to move away from the city and and let my mind slow down, adjusting from a fast paced, very stressful past week.

It was so satisfying to be surrounded with other people who appreciate the outdoors as much as I do. It brought me so much joy to be amongst nature and close to water. It made me miss home. In Lovettsville, where I grew up, I lived about five minutes from the Potomac River and about twenty minutes from Harpers Ferry. Over the summer, we went tubing nearly every week, spending whole days outside sitting on rocks and calmly floating down the river. In the fall, we often hike up Maryland Heights and sit for hours at the top of the overlook and watch life go by. In those moments, life is far enough away that I can comfortably analyze it. I have space to be mindful of the moment I am in and appreciate the people who surround me in that moment. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen every day.

Little things, such as the feeling of fresh, warm sunlight on my skin as I walk into shade make me feel so happy. The energy I feel as I put my palms on cool rock and plant my feet on solid ground is something that sustains me. I am recharged in these moments- I leave with the power I need to make it through another week. Life is hard. School is stressful. Things that make my heart feel love and my mind feel strength are things I have to continuously commit myself to doing, even when I am too tired. If we don’t do these things, we fall into a predictable and emotionless routine. I suppose I can only speak for myself, but when I don’t feed my creative, emotional side, I start to become very stagnant in my schedule and in my mind.

As this week begins, even with all of the stress that has already piled up on my schedule (enough to give me a neck cramp), I am more present throughout my day. I am ready to take on the things I have to to have a successful week. I’m thankful for Eden’s friendship. Since meeting her, she has brightened my life tremendously. Sharing my day with her Saturday was such a blessing.



Who Really Defines Your Health?

Subish P., Shankar. “Disease mongering.” Singapore Med J. 48. 4. 2007. 275. Web. 19 Oct. 2014.

All over the world, the pharmaceutical industry is convincing people that they are sick. Whether it be from erectile disfunction or balding, people are being convinced through social media, television and unfortunately their doctors that they aren’t well. With the internet insisting that there is an illness or disease for every symptom that a person feels that might not be “normal”, it is very easy to be persuaded that you are sick. Medicine is constantly being marketed to people around the world. During the year 2000, more than $13.2 billion was spent on pharmaceutical marketing in the US alone. This does not account for the other high marketing countries such as Europe and Japan. Who is at the source of this distinction between natural health and aging and true illness? Who do you ultimately trust with your health concerns when the people who are throwing medication in your face are making money from your purchases? Luckily, many people reading this blog post are intelligent, curious people but sadly many people in the world are uneducated and unaware of the power struggle behind health and wellness. By doctors insisting that their patients are sick, they are greatly expanding the pharmaceutical industry’s market and practically feeding them the millions of dollars that keep them in business.

In this source, disease mongering is thoroughly explained. Disease mongering is when pharmaceutical companies and doctors (practically paid by the pharmaceutical industry) convince people that they are sick in an effort to generate sales in medication. A very accurate example, and one where I have had the personal experience, of disease mongering is young children having trouble focusing in elementary school and it meaning that they have ADHD. Nearly everyone in high school is on ADHD medication, regardless of the adverse side effects. With fear of failing school without the medication and too lazy/or busy to learn how to manage being distracted naturally, they continue to use it throughout the next few years, and some the rest of their lives. Many students and parents overlook this as doctors simply dying to help their patients be successful in life. Rare is it that a person is skeptical of their lack of assessment before prescribing pills to calm them down enough to focus for EIGHT HOUR LONG SCHOOL DAYS. Yes, this is sarcasm. No person, especially not young, bright and curious minds should have to sit down for eight hours a day five days a week with only a 40 minute lunch break. To be eligible for adderall, all I had to do was fill out a one page survey to see how hard it really was for me to focus. It was very easy to exaggerate my symptoms and just like that, I went to the pharmacy and got my first bottle of adderall. It was that easy. As I talked to more people about aderall, I quickly realized that everyone was on it. Some people who weren’t on it were selling it for extra money. Not one person went through high school without questioning their natural ability to learn and this is mostly due to the aggressive marketing of drugs such as adderall. Ultimately though, the money people spend on adderall (whether it is covered by insurance or not) goes directly to the pharmaceutical industry. This only gives them more power in their marketing efforts… and the cycle continues.  According to these powerful companies, there is always a medical concern, even for natural happenings such as sexuality, aging and unhappiness.

There are ways to change the direction of this cycle and combat disease mongering. Firstly, it is absolutely adamant that the healthcare professionals and the pharmaceutical industry become separate of each other. They cannot work together. When these companies work together, they promote instant gratification for health rather than well thought-out, educated and independent decisions regarding medical decisions. As I have seen and experienced many times in my life, there is no quick and easy way to absolute health. It is something that comes with a complete lifestyle change. Without this change, no long term health goals can be reached. Prescriptions for most things, excluding serious illness, will only manage the symptoms but not solve the source of the problem.

Healthy Body = Healthy Mind

Astin PhD, John A. “Why Patients Use Alternative Medicine.” The Journal of the American Medical Association. 279. 1998. n. 19. Web. 9 Oct. 2014.


There are countless reasons why people are adverse to alternative medicine, but what factors lead people to try alternative medicine and do they really see results?

One huge reason people throughout the world turn to alternative medicine is due to the connect between the approach of holistic medicine and the persons philosophical outlook on life. Because holistic health means finding health in all aspects, body, mind and spirit, these approaches tend to attract these types of people. These people are often described as “cultural creatives”. Described by Ray (24), these people are commonly always striving for personal growth through self-actualization and self-expression. They tend to believe in the body’s naturally given power to be healthy. While it may seem as if our society has been completely sucked into the lazy Western way of healing, Ray’s studies have shown that these “cultural creatives” and modern thinkers have grown quite a bit since the late 1960s, now being 23.6% of the adult population (44 million Americans). There is hope for an independent American society as the mindset changes from “I won’t ask questions, just fix me.,” when going to physicians to questioning WHY they are sick and thinking, “The health of my body, mind, and spirit are related, and whoever cares for my health should take that into account.”

The next most prevalent reason for people turning away from Western medicine is because they are simply unsatisfied with the results they have gotten. Usually patients must test out many different forms of medication for illness such as anxiety, depression and chronic pain before they find one that ‘solves the problem’ and does not create too many adverse side effects. This process is known to take a long, long time and when the patient has finally found the product that works for them, their body will adapt to it over time making it less and less effective… and the cycle begins again. Patients become frustrated as their bodies are not truly healing, only being masked by temporary relief. Not only have people reported conventional medicine not producing the intended results, they have also reported getting more side effects from the medication then they have healing. Western medicine tends to be for “general symptoms” while an alternative medicine treatment plan can be formulated specifically for a single patient. While Western medication is generally somewhat covered by insurance, the dependency created with using these products takes a financial toll as time passes. Many forms of alternative medicine can be learned and performed by patient on themselves or by a loved one, making it a life-long skill of self treatment.

Here are examples of most frequently used alternative therapies for common health problems Americans face today (From table 3):

ANXIETY- relaxation, herbs, exercise, art therapy.

CHRONIC PAIN- exercise, chiropractic, massage.

CHRONIC FATIGUE- exercise, self-help groups, megavitamins.

DIABETES- exercise, lifestyle diet.

DEPRESSION- relaxation, exercise, herbs.

DIGESTIVE PROBLEMS- lifestyle diet, other, chiropractic, relaxation, herbs.

As you can see, many people successfully heal their emotional and physical health problems through alternative medicine while maintaining their philosophical beliefs and reducing negative experiences impersonal Western medicine doctors and adverse effects of frequently distributed pills and other medications.