The Final Post of 2014. The Final Post of this Blog.

December 26, 2014 - Leave a Response

Naturally being a blogger I’m practically entitled to make an annual end of the year post. This is year is an exceptional one to look back on.

My end of the post last year was a reflection of mistakes, as there were countless in 2013. Not that there haven’t been any this year, it’s just 2014 was more or less a year of growth, and a year of change for the better.

With 2015 approaching so quickly it’s hard to believe the things I’ve accomplished and the fears I’ve conquered this year. This time last year I came to a realization of the need to fight off fear. I was scared of everything; car rides, heights, death, being away from home, facing things alone. I could not live my life without being in fear of something to the point where on several occasions I experienced panic attacks. As some know and most don’t, I was even taking medication to ease the anxiety that made my life a challenge everyday. But I didn’t want to. I don’t know where my life turned to create all these fears but I wanted, or needed, to be strong. On my own. If I wanted the kind of success I’ve always dreamt of for my future, the change needed to begin now.

So I fought. I challenged myself to step outside of my comfort zone, beginning with my trip to Italy. I put myself in this situation here I wouldn’t know anyone, where I would be forced to experience this new culture where I didn’t know the language or the area, alone. I forced myself to take the entire semester, so there would be no going back. I had to fight. And I conquered it.

That first plane ride was uneasy, but at where I am now there is nothing I would rather be doing than flying to a new destination. I’m no longer scared of things that I know nothing about, and in fact I want to learn more. I’m not scared of being alone or facing obstacles on my own, because I’ve discovered the confidence that has always been inside of me. When I returned, I was stronger. I was proud of the growth that I had experienced, and I earned it.

It makes me emotional to think about how afraid I used to be, and how much this fear affected how I lived my life. To think about how far I’ve come is overwhelming. Now that I’m back at home the things that used to feel like waves that towered over me, now seem like puddles I can easily hop over.

With all the milestones I’ve reached, from graduation to being abroad, 2014 will be a year I could never forget.

And with the new strength I’ve gained, I invite 2015 to challenge me even more.

I’m ready for a new beginning following graduation. I’m ready to leave Spartanburg in (fingers crossed) roughly 7 months to a brand new experience in New York City to work towards my goal of being an international journalist, and to travel forever.

This blog is titled “Live and Learn: Katie Casteel – college student,” as I created it to share the stories of my growth since my freshman year. It’s incredible to look back and see how much has changed, and how much I’ve been through over the past 4 years, with this past one being the most important and the most impacting. I feel this post should be the last as I turn the page on a portion of my life, to begin a new chapter of the one I’m about to lead.

I could only imagine more challenges will surface, but after every obstacle, every fear I’ve faced in the past few crucial years of development in my life, I feel, or rather.. I know, there is nothing I can’t handle.


The clarity I found upon being fired

December 5, 2014 - Leave a Response

I questioned whether or not I wanted to write this blog in fear of what may be reciprocated, but then I realized I’m about to have a journalism degree, so if I fear writing something controversial now, I’ll never make it in the real world. However, the words to follow are by no means slandering any person or establishment, but are more or less what I’ve gained from this experience.

Yesterday in class I received a text message stating “you’re service is no longer needed.” Being a grammar snark, my
initial thought was “you are service?” but that was followed by my heart dropping in realization of what was going on. I embarrassingly ran out of class in a hurry to call the sender and get to the bottom of what was going on, replaying my last night at work over in my head to figure out what I could possibly be being punished for to this extent. My rejected call was followed by a text explaining that I had a “bad attitude and always have.”

Okay, fine. I could sit here and defend myself in how that accusation was false and explain my work history with this individual, but that really isn’t the point here. Even though this job was something to keep me afloat while I finished college and got my bearings out in the real world, I enjoyed what I did, I worked hard, and more than that, I was very fond of the people that I worked with and loved getting to see them everyday (which if anything, this place has a wonderful/professional staff). It broke my heart that I was being so unfairly treated and terminated right before Christmas, but I’ve spent enough time dwelling on why my luck has so suddenly gone south.

I am not bitter towards this person, and in fact I’m thankful.

Now I’m by no means a full on believer in astrology, but I do glance at horoscopes occasionally when I come across them. I remembered the night before this happened mine said “you are entering a great period of clarity, Taurus (that’s me). That may not sound very exciting at first, but as you begin to experience a more realistic view of your life and the people in it, you will have plenty of reasons to be grateful.” It finished with “you will gain a deeper sense of knowing your own direction, and choices to make in order to enhance your best self. This is a new beginning, so don’t waste a moment of it.”

I thought.. “Hm, interesting. I wonder what this could be about.”

Then what do you know, the next day I was unemployed.

Impulsively in the mist of all the emotions I was feeling, I started sending my resume out for reporting positions in Charleston and Florida, and finally jumped the gun on asking the head of my department at school to write me a recommendation for the grad school I’m applying for in NYC (he said yes by the way). All of these things I was too nervous to start doing as graduation has been approaching so quickly, in denial about this chapter of my life I’m about to close. And that’s when it hit me, this is what I NEED to be doing. I’m not going to work at restaurants forever. I need to start being realistic about the REAL future that is ahead of me, which is way bigger than anything Spartanburg could ever hold for me.

That’s my “clarity.”

I’ve also found clarity in who my friends are by who has supported me in this situation, and I’m grateful for that.

And with that I’m still standing, unshaken, and as strong as ever. I may have had to burn bridges, but in the ashes that remain grows something new, and more exciting.

And as this brand new stage of my life unfolds, I just want them to know that they didn’t break me. 

An open letter to the person who coughed “easy” when I mentioned my major

November 13, 2014 - One Response

Dear individual with obvious interest in my degree:

If you’re wondering whether or not I heard your thoughtful interjection concerning my future career, the answer is yes. Sure, communications isn’t neurology, it isn’t engineering, or nursing, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t taken my coursework just as seriously as anyone else does during their college career. Being a perfectionist by nature, I have worked diligently over the past 3 and a half years to rightfully earn my 3.7 GPA, and “easy” is certainly something that has not been. Considering your major is much more difficult than mine, I am surprised that I didn’t see you working beside me in the library up until 2am last night.

Not only have I strived to earn exceptional grades over the past few years, I’ve also taken every opportunity to maximize my potential as a candidate for the type of job I desire when I graduate. Which by the way, although journalists aren’t millionaires, it is what I want to do, because I enjoy doing it. I didn’t pick this major because it was viewed as “easy.” If you knew me at all, and obviously you don’t, you would know I don’t take the easy way out of doing anything.

I took an internship as a local reporter in an earlier semester than my advisors recommended. I pushed my limits to take an opportunity to study abroad and learn, live, and breathe another culture. That wasn’t easy either. Not only have I spent time doing all of these things while spending countless hours studying over the past few years, but I’ve also worked 2 to 3 jobs at a time to support myself for the majority of my college career.

It isn’t the difficulty of my degree that is going to make more successful than you one day. It’s the perseverance and the dedication I have, the risks I’ve taken, and the desire I have to learn and grow as a person, that is going to make me successful. I wouldn’t settle for anything less.

Now I’m not claiming to say that you, too, aren’t working hard to establish a career one day. I’m not quite as judgmental. But you should realize that there are countless art majors, english majors, music majors, or any of those other majors that people consider “easy”, that are working just as hard, if not harder, than you are.

With all that being said, I wish you good luck on your endeavors to finish your undergraduate degree. Considering your statement, it sounds as though you are sure you will be successful. This time next year I’ll be continuing my “easy” major as a graduate student, I guess because it’s that simple to get a Masters too.


The Worthless Communications Major

Fall in Love with Living

November 3, 2014 - Leave a Response

“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.” – Anatole France

Sometimes I feel that as I grow up, I’m supposed to be developing into this one person, this ultimate version of myself, that I’m going to be for my rest of my adult life. But the more I make mistakes, and the more my life changes, the more I begin to realize its always going to be this way.

I’m always going to be climbing, and I’m always going to be falling.

I’m not perfect, but I try to be good. I want to be a person worth something; morally anyways. Even the with the slightest hiccup, I find myself falling into feeling some type of remorse. But with every mistake I grow. It means I’m alive. It means I’m getting better.

I’ve gradually become less hard on myself when things don’t particularly go right. Those who have known me a short time won’t find the truth in that statement, but those that have known me longer will see it. In fact, they have seen it.

I’m about to be at a milestone in my life where society will accept me into the “real world,” and this is very scary to me. But as I sit and think about all the growth I’ve experienced, in my mind and in my heart, over these past couple of years, I’m finding that excitement is starting to mix in with the anxiety of taking those next steps.

Before me are new lessons to mess up, to learn from, and new stories to write (literally). There are new faces in store for me to meet, and a new city to explore. Nothing in this current stage of my life is permanent, but each day I find myself even more grateful for it.

I honestly could not be more thankful for every person and opportunity that is my life at this time, or has been a part of it over the past couple of years. I used to regret moving home from Charleston after my first semester of college. But through the time I’ve spent in Spartanburg following my return, I’ve realized how much I needed the lessons I’ve learned here. These past three years or so have been pivotal times of growth for me.

I’ve beaten depression. I’ve beaten anxiety. I’ve beaten some of my biggest fears. All through mistakes, and through finding out more about who I am. And I did that here, with all of you.

I’m certainly not finished growing, and I’m slowly begining to find I never will be, but there’s no doubt in my mind that I have grown a lot. Enough to know I’m ready for the next challenge, although I may not quite feel like it yet. I know this because I feel as though I’ve fallen in love with growing and changing.

I’ve fallen in love with living.

In Transition

September 24, 2014 - Leave a Response

October is finally arriving next week, and fall is officially here. 2014 comes to a close in only a few months now, which brings me to graduation and a brand new chapter of life.

To think of how quickly this year has gone by overwhelms me. 2014 has been the most impacting transitional year of my life; an out with the old, in the with the new, kind of experience if you will. And as it dwindles down, I’ve begun reflecting on much I really have changed.

Thinking back on who I was this time last year almost upsets me even.  I was stubborn, selfish for all the wrong reasons, ungrateful for this beautiful world around me, and unfocused on what really matters. I found happiness in people, rather than myself. I was the kind of friend who would do anything for someone, but still in the back of my mind, felt a right to receive something in return. And although I still have 1,001 flaws, being someone who has always hated rejection and has had difficulty admitting and accepting imperfections, I think even recognizing these changes resembles some sort of new strength I have developed over this year.

I know seeing the world, or at least a portion of it, has been a major impact of these changes, but it was more than just that. Traveling and studying abroad may have opened my mind, but the reflection that occurred upon returning is what really began to change my mindset.

I’ve noticed myself becoming more easygoing, finally gaining an ability to let insignificant things roll off of my shoulders. I’ve become happy with myself, rather than relying on others to spark happiness inside of me. And with that in regard, I’ve remained selfish. Selfish in the right ways. Selfish in that I put my dreams, my future, my own well being first, not my petty wants as I did before. I’ve come to realize, not only how good, but how great I actually have it, and how undeserving I am for the wonderful life I’ve lived up to this point. And in that realization, I do good by others, not for anything in return, but because receiving smiles and touching hearts makes me an honest kind of happy I’ve never truly experienced before now. And even if people aren’t kind in return, I have learned how powerful maintaining that perception actually is.

The scary part about all this is realizing, in several ways, I’ve grown up. I’ve grown up enough just in time for the next chapter following graduation.

And although I don’t want to give away all of my plans (keeping my own secrets used to be a problem for me as well), just know, big things are ahead; bigger dreams to be achieved than Spartanburg can ever allow me to reach.

I admit, I’m scared of what’s next. But I have no doubt in my mind that it will be as beautiful and as beneficial of a lesson as all of those I have received thus far. And in the grand scheme of things, they’re all worth it.

The Value of Money

August 26, 2014 - Leave a Response

When it rains, it pours, seems to be the way things go usually. Usually it seems in my life that if things go well for a while they ultimately will suck shortly after, at least for a little bit. My current struggles come from financial issues, where it seems I just can’t catch a break these days. But I guess in society today, what college student can. Someone has to buy ramen noodles.

Then last night it kind of hit me. What is the value of money anyway? It’s paper. Paper we use to define each other’s status, when really it’s arbitrary. I came into a restaurant last night to see friends of mine to release my distress and I found more pleasure letting this paper, that I came in so entirely stressed out over in the first place, come out of my hands to help a friend over what I felt earning it anyway.

To me personally, money has never represented success. Success to me is wanting to be the best at what you do, and working hard to get there, and some how, for some reason, society says money is suppose to follow.  Success represents the process and strength of reaching the goal you want in your life, not the salary that may be intact. And I’ve always seen things way. I’ve never found happiness in materialistic things. I’ve been the kind of person to always work a steady one or two jobs while going to school, not for a lump some of cash, but because I’m the kind of person who enjoys hard work. I like to test my limits and see how far I can push myself, and when I succeed, say “I did that.” And I’m obviously not majoring in journalism to be a millionaire, but I do want to be as successful as a young woman in that industry can be.

So in the grand scheme of things, I guess it’s not so bad. I have enough of what I need, more than I could want in the future that is in progress in front of me, and even more than I deserve in the friendships I have with the people in my life. Maybe I’ll never be able to afford a Ferrari, but I’ll have pride in the journey I took towards my goals. And that, at least to me, is priceless.

Good morning Charlotte Douglas International.

August 12, 2014 - Leave a Response

Currently 6:46am with roughly an hour until take off, and I’m thinking so much I had to get out my laptop to get all my thoughts down. As I walked through security this morning I was reminded of how excited I get traveling, how happy I was going from place to place while living abroad.

I’m about to fly to Hartford Bradley International in Connecticut for my first trip to the Northeast. I only have a week, but in that week I’ll get to see a new state, as well as New York City, somewhere I’ve been dying to visit since I was young.

As strange as it sounds, this is what I want to do. I want to live practically at the airport with a new adventure every other week, with another mission to have an opportunity to experience something new. I know that’s a strange desire to most people. I guess an average person just wants a regular 9 to 5 career where they can settle down by 25 to begin that chapter of life towards a family.

But I just want to see everything. I love experiencing new things, I love new sights and sounds and smells, and food (most definitely food). And I’ve always been that way. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that’s why my life has gone that way it has. That’s why I don’t settle for people, and I don’t get attached, so I’m always ready to move on to the next thing without feeling a connection to stay put in one place. That’s why things “just haven’t worked out” sometimes. And as I’ve grown up and began to understand what I really want, the more I’ve become okay with that.

I want to write. I want to travel the world and write about what I see to hopefully inspire people my age, or maybe people older or younger than I am, to want to see the world just as badly as I do. To learn about people and culture as much as I want to learn about them. I want to inspire others to set out to get to know themselves, and feel comfortable with who they are and being alone, something I’ve been learning to do as I’ve grown. I know that everyone may not have the same desires as I do, but I think a passion for more than mediocrity is a powerful thing. It develops strength and keeps a hunger inside of me that I absolutely love.

I don’t know if the bachelor’s degree from USC Upstate that I receive in 4 months is going to open the door of opportunity for me that I want to travel for the rest of my life, but I’m going to keep working until I get that chance.

I guess, maybe, I can say I’ve seen a lot for a small town, southern girl at my age, but this is only the first couple of pages of the story I wish to tell, of the experiences I want to achieve for the rest of my life.

Don’t Settle

August 2, 2014 - Leave a Response

2 weeks until I start my final semester at USC Upstate. Roughly 4 months until I finish my bachelor’s degree. The past couple weeks I’ve been working all day, everyday. Literally. The stress is slowly beginning to set in, and the thought of finishing school fills me with excitement, nervousness, and maybe an ounce of fear for what’s next.

In this small town I’ve grown up in it feels like everyone I’ve grown up with, and everyone around me, is either getting engaged, married, or starting a family; entering into this “next step” of life. Which, if that’s what you want as your progression of life, then there is nothing wrong with that.

There are times I feel like I’m doing this “life” thing wrong. I’m awkward and super single. I have two cats (see previous statement). And I’m extremely focused on myself, and what’s in store for me in my future career. Is that what I”m suppose to be doing? Am I suppose to be settling in this town, for someone, for an average, traditional lifestyle?

While that might be the type of life that seems to be bringing everyone in this place happiness, I’m beginning to realize that that is just not what is in store for me, and more importantly, there is nothing wrong with that.

I’ve never been a “normal” Spartanburg resident, ever. I have always wanted more, from the time I was even beginning to formulate what my future could be like. And I’ve never wanted to end up here. I want to see everything I can, learn everything I can, and become the best possible woman I can be, and as I grow up I begin to realize that this can never happen, and will never happen, in the town I’ve grown up in. A town where everyone is so content with “settling.”

I feel as though young women in their 20’s, mainly in the south, are so pressured into being in a relationship, to the point where they often feel bad about themselves for being single. I mean, as females we’ve all been there, sat on the couch eating ice cream, watching The Notebook, lusting for the type of relationship Noah and Ally have. But the more I grow and experience, I realize this is and never has been the case. There is nothing wrong with being selfish. There is nothing wrong with wanting to accomplish something for yourself, on your own, or being by yourself. There is nothing wrong with being independent. And on a personal level, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being able to pay for things on your own, because for me, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

When I start to think about it, I love the fact that I work hard to support myself. I can pay my own rent, my own bills, for my own food and drinks, etc., and even though I’m only sharing all of that with my sister (and my cats), I’m perfectly okay with that.

To me, being a woman in your 20’s is a time in life where you are meant to be selfish, to be alone, to be independent, and to learn about who you are and what you want. Every year I learn a little more, and then I find I’m not even close to what I want to discover.

In four months I graduate, in eight, my lease runs up. In eight months I’ll be leaving Spartanburg. To where? I have no idea. But I will be getting out. I’ll move on from this place, more than likely alone, to start the “next step” of my life. I’ve had a taste of the world this year, and I’m starving for more. I don’t have it all figured out yet, but I think that’s the beauty of being young. Travel, life lessons, experience, and the end product: success. That’s what I think is in store my life. And settling is not, or has never been, an option.

I’m Not Sorry

July 16, 2014 - Leave a Response

These past couple of days, until today really, have really sucked. It’s as if everything kind of started twisting into a high-speed downward spiral all at once, and then when everything finally started to stop spinning I found myself wondering why I can’t just have everything figured out when I think I finally do.

And then I started to really think about it, why do I always blame myself and beat myself up over things when it seems like everything starts to go south? I always put myself in these situations where I think I have everything completely figured for what it takes to be happy and the correct way to go about things in life and when something goes wrong, I put myself at fault and I always apologize for my actions and wonder what I could have differently. I always think ‘I knew better’ or ‘I could have handled this in this way’ or ‘I shouldn’t have done that/said this/ate that pizza’ and I’m constantly apologizing to everyone, even to myself for my actions when things aren’t even necessarily my fault because I feel like that’s the easy way out.

And today I realized, I’m not sorry.

I’m not sorry for over-caring about everything, because at least I actually care. I’m not sorry for caring about people too much, because who else is going to. I’m not sorry for being a perfectionist and wanting to do the best I possibly can at everything I ever do in my life, even if that causes me to try a little too hard and mess up sometimes, because at least I’m fucking trying. I’m not sorry for having opinions. I’m not sorry for being honest in any situation ever, whether it’s too harsh, or too much at one time, or too sensitive, because the truth is always powerful and beneficial and one thing I never want to be is a liar. I’m not sorry for getting mad about things I’m passionate about, because I have a right to feel how I want to feel. I’m not sorry for making mistakes, because if I didn’t I wouldn’t learn anything. I’m not sorry for eating that Haagen-Dazs ice cream yesterday because I wanted it, and it was awesome, and at the end of the day I need to stop worrying so much about what society considers an attractive female body needs to look like.

I’m not sorry for being who I am, mistakes and imperfections included.

And I’m going to keeping messing up and doing things completely wrong at times and learning and growing and eventually, slowly get a little better at life because I’m young, and that’s what I’m suppose to do.

And from now on, I refuse to be sorry about it.

The Power of One

June 11, 2014 - Leave a Response

It’s been a while since I’ve visited this blog to do my posts. I’ve been home from Italy for a little over a month now. I almost feel as though I never left. It’s practically too easy to get back into the swing of my everyday life. However, after the most amazing experience of my life, I feel even more out of place than I ever had. In a good way, I suppose.

The little things I see and hear people complain about drive me absolutely 10 times crazier than they ever have before, especially at first. I was intensely excited to see my friends, and don’t get me wrong I was happy to see them. But once I got back into the life I had before, I found myself drowning in hearing drama and negativity. It makes me wish I was back in Rome in awe of everything around me. Whether it was walking through Piazza Venezia, or by the Tiber, or even going on my usual stroll during the week, rain or shine, to John Cabot. I find myself questioning whether I used to sound so whiney or ungrateful. Going abroad makes me you realize how much more beneficial just living life, your own life, is than anything else. A desire and thirst to learn and experience can drive you so much further than materialistic or shallow desires.

That experience made me realize how to love life, to love myself, and how strong I actually am on my own.

I want to ask why. Why do you people care about this stuff? Why do you care about rushing into an everlasting relationship with someone in your early 20s? Why do you NEED someone in your life to feel gratification or satisfaction? Why do you care about what some meaningless person said or did that, too, was meaningless? Why are you not doing that thing you want or love to do, in fear of another’s perspective or judgement?

Why is there no value for oneself?

People say that two is better than one, or that there is strength in numbers, but you can do so much more for yourself, by yourself, than you can even imagine if you just alter the perspective. I’m not saying stop caring, or loving, or befriending, or helping other people. I am saying stop allowing people to be a harness, an anchor, on your own life.

We are at the perfect age to be selfish, where it is perfectly normal, and beneficial even. We’re just now figuring out who we are and what we want.

Fight, and live, and crave, for what you want to see and be on your own.

“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
― C.G. Jung