Back to School: How I Do It, Now That I’m Out

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I haven’t been in school since I graduated from Arizona State back in May of 2016. That’s just over 2 years ago (wow… let me pause for a second to let that truth sink in. It definitely doesn’t feel nearly that long!)

However, despite the fact that I have no reason to purchase such things, I always get sucked in by back to school sales. I’ve always loved school supplies — but I guess now I should start calling them office supplies. Or maybe that’s just another way to justify the obsession.

Anyways.

Like I said, back-to-school sales always catch my eye. How can they not? From the middle of July to the middle of September, it seems you can’t get away from the back-to-school advertising, no matter where you look. (And by the time you do get a break from that madness, all of the fall decor comes out… which is an obsession of an entirely different level, and a blog post for another day.)

This year, I decided that just because I’m not technically going back to school, it doesn’t mean that I can’t capitalize on the mindset.

I think part of the reason I’ve always been pretty gung-ho about back to school — besides the fact that as a bookworm I had an inherently nerdy excitement engrained in me about getting back into the classroom — is because August always feels like my New Years. (More on that in this post.)

That said, I rounded up my top three ways to capitalize on the back-to-school mindset, even if you aren’t on your way back to the classroom:

Replenish your supplies
We all have an office of some kind. Whether it’s in a building full of accountants and lawyers and other PR people, like mine is, or whether it’s in the cozy corner of your living room, like my home one also is, you’ve got a place to sit down and get ish done.

I’ve always felt way more productive if I treat my workspace like an extension of my home (which, when it comes to my living room office, it kind of is). I keep it clean and organized, and I keep its supplies as well stocked as I keep my pantry. That means pens, paper, planners, the works.

And who says you have to be a student to take advantage of the student savings? Grab those pens that are on sale for a dollar and treat yourself to a new planner. You’ll be amazed at how much more organized your life feels once you’ve replaced your dwindling supply of paper.

Set some goals – or check in on the ones you have
Even though it’s not technically the middle of the year, I feel like most people look at the start of school as the halfway point. Kind of like how people look at Memorial Day as the start of summer, even if that’s not officially for another month, give or take. We humans like to take the Gregorian calendar more like a guideline, apparently.

So, while we’re playing with time, you might as well use this halfway point as a check-in on any big goals you’ve set for yourself this year. Or, if you’re a summer birthday like me, or simply couldn’t decide what you wanted to accomplish on January 1, or maybe your priorities have shifted a bit, now’s as good a time as any to reset, and outline new goals for the coming months.

Besides, planners are on sale, so why not add one to your restocking shopping list, and plan out a way to crush the next six months or so? (Until, of course, more planners go on sale at the end of the calendar year. I’m not a big January resolution person, but even I appreciate that there’s two time a year where you can justify buying a new planner.)

Readjust your schedule
Whether you’re on a school schedule or not, summer throws everything off. It’s just a natural time for vacations (thanks to that aforementioned school schedule, which apparently gets engrained in our minds), and in most of the country, it’s a time to spend less time indoors — aka, working — and more time outdoors… unless you’re living in the desert, but I digress.

Regardless, it feels like no matter what, summer is a time when we’re all a little lax with our sleep schedules, our workout regimens, and our vacation time. So take advantage of the fact that half the world is now adhering to the ring of the school bell, and adjust your schedule to one that makes you as productive (and happy!) as possible. Most industries will be in crunch time until the holidays now — weird how that works out, isn’t it? — and while your kid-toting coworkers are adjusting their schedules, it’s worth taking some time to look at your own, as well. For me, that means getting a bit stricter with my running schedule and meal prep, and remembering to take my weekends to actually take a break.

Someday, I’m sure back to school will actually be a part of my routine again, just not for myself. (Side note to anyone that wants to pounce on that comment – that someday is still quite a ways away.) But for now, I’ll take advantage of the cheap school… okay, fine, office… supplies and the refreshed mindset of those around me to readjust and get ready to do some damage to my goals for the next half of the year.

4 Goals for 24

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The older I get, the more I frown upon the idea of resolutions. I think there’s a lot of unnecessary pressure that stems from the concept of a resolution, this gigantic thing that you have to do in a set time period. Don’t get me wrong: I respect the concept, and I know that for some people, it works really well.

It’s just not my thing.

I am, however, a big fan of goal setting. Now, I realize that some may argue that this is essentially the same thing as a resolution, and to that, I beg to differ, and I offer this counterargument: resolutions are measured by whether or not they are accomplished, whereas goals are measured by how much you have accomplished towards it. Say you set a goal to save 500 dollars, and you only save 430… you’ve still saved 430 dollars, and that’s still a pretty darn good accomplishment.

I’ll admit that perhaps it’s just a matter of perspective, but that’s how I like to look at it.

Perhaps the other reason I am not so much a fan of resolutions is because I’m not a big fan of New Years. Beyond its overhyped expectations, I guess I also never really saw January 1 as the start of a personal new year. I’ve always considered my birthday more of a time for reflection and goal setting, as opposed to the arbitrary day that the calendar changes.

So, that said, it’s time to set some goals because, in case you missed it, my birthday just passed (and if you somehow did miss that, you must be new… and in that case, welcome!)

Once upon a time, I set goals based on how I old I turned, but the older I get, the more ridiculous that sounds. I doubt I’ll want to set 98 goals when that time comes.

So, this year, I’m instating a new system, a set of goals based on four key areas in life:

Professional. Projects. Personal. Physical.

And, yes, before you ask, I did intentionally start them all with the letter P. I’m a big fan of alliteration, okay?

Professionally, I want to continue on the same track that I like to think I have been heading. Admittedly, this is the goal I am probably least public about, at least over here on the blogosphere, because those worlds are somewhat and intentionally separate. So for now, I’ll go ahead and leave it at that.

As far as projects are concerned, I want to grow this blog of mine. I’d like to put the effort in and reach one thousand Instagram followers and continue to share a message of balance between faith & life for anyone who’s interested.

Personally, I want to work on my relationship with the Lord. I’ll admit that I have fallen into a pattern of leaning on Him when things get tough, and pulling away when all is going well. That’s an unfair give and take, and that’s not how He wants us to be with Him. He wants all of us, all the time, and I recognize that – it’s just so easy to unintentionally credit your idols when life is going well. So I’m setting a goal to be more proactive and intentional about my time with the Lord in order to further strengthen that foundation.

And when it comes to physical goals, I’m a bit of a broken record. I still haven’t run my first race, and it’s still a bucket-list item. I know I physically can run a 5K – I do it regularly on a treadmill. For whatever reason, though, I’ve always held back when it comes to actually putting on a number. This year, that changes.

Four goals. Four main buckets, if you will, where there’s room for improvement.

Then again, there’s always room for improvement, isn’t there? We can always work on being better versions of ourselves, and whether it’s a birthday or a new year, or you’re one of those lucky people who is motivated to evaluate their goals and progress without a calendar reminder, it’s important to set a course for what’s to come.

Books I’ve Loved (So Far) This Summer

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A while back, I posted about some of my favorite books that came straight from my high school summer reading lists (you can check out that post here). Then it got me thinking: what about keeping a log of all the books I read this summer? I’ve been trying to become a more active reader once again — I used to be such a bookworm, but as life got in the way, I found myself falling out of the habit of picking up a book versus, say, my phone. That’s not to say I don’t still love to read; give me a good book, and I won’t talk to you until it’s finished. It’s just more of the habit of it all that seemed to fall to the wayside as life picked up its pace.

So, I figured that creating a log of all of the books I read this summer would both keep me accountable, and might bring some new books to light for you, dear readers, as well. initially, I was going to wait until the end of the summer and do a full book list, but then I realized, what would the point of that be? It wouldn’t give you the chance to enjoy these great summer reads, too! That in mind, I opted to highlight 5 of my favorites so far this summer.

Note: The rest of this post contains affiliate links – if you click through any of the links in the post below & make a purchase, I may receive compensation, at no additional cost to you. Thank you!

The Identicals
My boss actually told me about this book last summer, and I’ve been seeing it everywhere ever since. I’m a huge fan of Elin Hilderbrand. This story of two twin sisters on the sister islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard (places I’ve never been, but must someday see), touches on the bond of sisterhood despite it all, the differences between even those we consider most alike, and the secrets behind our grief and love. I read it in about a week, though if I’d had the option to sit down on an island beach and read it straight through, I likely would have!

The Summer Girls (Lowcountry Summer)
Disclaimer: I sort of cheated with this one. I technically read the third book in this series back in December, but then I decided to reread the whole series in order. Again, it’s the story of sisters — Carson, Dora, and Harper — who come together at their grandmother’s house for the summer, just as they did when they were girls. (Apparently, I’m a sucker for stories of sisterhood.) Throughout the three books, the reader gets to know each sister, her stories and her sadness, and her shining light. We also get to know their grandmother, Mamaw, and her sweet best friend/housekeeper/confidant, Lucille. It’s a touching series that will make you laugh, smile, and cry… and wish your family had a house on Sullivan’s Island, too.

My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton
Okay – I’ve been waiting to read this book for AGES. I am one of the many millions who fell in love with Lin Manuel Miranda’s hit musical, Hamilton (but I have not seen it yet so… if anyone wants to surprise me with tickets, I would not be opposed ;)). Beyond just loving the musical, I’m a huge fan of historical fiction. It’s probably my favorite genre. And on top of that, I loved the first book that Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie wrote together, called America’s First Daughter. Both books are based on the letters of the women behind the Founding Fathers, and they’re fascinating. They’re technically fictionalized, but it certainly offers another perspective onto the lives of people like Thomas Jefferson and, of course, Alexander Hamilton (yes, every time I say that name, it’s to the tune of the musical). That said, I liked the Jefferson book a little bit better… but this one was still quite good. Perhaps the only reason I thought it slowed down a little in the middle was because I was waiting for Daveed Diggs to jump out and start a rap battle?

The Atomic City Girls
And here we have more historical fiction. This one, I actually did read in the span of a weekend, because I was so engrossed and because it’s fairly easy to get through. This book details the lives of the people behind the Manhattan Project — not the scientists, but the builders (and okay, one scientist). It tells the little-known story of the women who were sent to work on a secret project in Tennessee, and all that came with it. I was captivated, and recommend this to anyone who is a huge fan of history and, in particular, World War II.

What Alice Forgot
If you like Big Little Lies (the book, not the HBO series, though I’m sure if you watch you show you’ve read the book, or at least heard of it), I strongly recommend reading some of Liane Moriarty’s other books. This one is the particularly fascinating tale of a woman who hits her head in spin class and has the piece back the last 10 years of her life. The last thing she remembers is being happily married and pregnant with her first child — but now, she’s in the midst of a nasty divorce, with three kids, and has had a falling out with her sister. It’s a good story, and I’ve certainly picked up worse books for $4.99 at the airport. (Actually, I’ve never found a book that cheap at the airport. It was a steal.)

I’m sure this list will grow and change as the summer goes on, so keep your eyes peeled for an update. For now, let me know what you’re reading this summer – maybe I’ll add it to my list!

Travel Diary: Denver for a Trip Around the Sun

I am sitting at the airport as I write this and, first off, I would like to acknowledge just how much I love the airport. It holds such a sense of adventure, such a promise of what’s to come. Plus, it’s a wonderful place to people watch.

But I digress, because that’s not really what this post is about.

I am on my way home from Denver, where I just spent a lovely three days with one of my favorite humans and her two cute pups. This is becoming a bit of a tradition. Every year at the 4th of July, I fly up to the Mile High City to see my best friend. Of course, this year, the Fourth fell on a Wednesday which was mildly inconvenient, so we just bumped our timeline up a little. Which actually worked out so well, because we also have a mutual love of Kenny Chesney, who happened to be playing in Denver this past weekend.

Naturally, we went.

This was my fourth time seeing Kenny, and Jen and mine’s second Kenny concert with one another, and it was just as fun as it’s ever been. I’m the product of Parrotheads, which probably means I was destined to be a part of the No Shoes Nation, but even without that prerequisite, there’s just something about a Kenny show.

I’ve always loved water, and always felt like, eventually, I’m destined to live beside it. Every Kenny Chesney concert simply confirms that prediction. There’s a feel to him — he’s a little bit country, a little bit rock, but he’s island through and through.

Plus, there’s the fact that Kenny was my first ever concert (I don’t count the Cheetah Girls in fourth grade), and you tend to have a bit of an attachment to whoever that was, right?

Besides, in my adult years — more specifically, since my junior year of college — it’s become a bit of a tradition to see him every tour, and if you know me, I’m a huge sucker for traditions.

I love knowing that you can always have something to look forward to. I love know that every summer, I’ll buy a plane ticket to Denver (granted, next summer may be an exception as we potentially shift our annual reunion overseas… but still, you get the picture.) I love knowing that Kenny Chesney will put me in a great mood and that I’ll be whisked off to the islands no matter where I am — whether it’s in the middle of the desert, at the edge of plains, or in the foggy bay.

But most of all, I love knowing that a friend will be there. I love knowing that I can call her up in the middle of the night because she’ll answer, and not just because she’ll be awake because of her crazy producer schedule. I love knowing that I can text her about the most mundane things and she’ll at least read it even if we’re both awful at replying. I love knowing how easily we can freak people out by accidentally saying the same thing at the same time. I love knowing that there’s a person I can always go to to remind me what’s important. I love the fact that we went from random Spanish project partners to coworkers to roommates to twins.

I mean, come on. We even unintentionally matched our outfits.

Now, to be honest, I didn’t start this post with the intention of making it a note of appreciation for my Shining Twin. But, I also started this blog on the floor of the Denver airport and I’m finishing it sitting upright at my desk, so I guess intentions can change with time, right? I always fall into a post-trip funk (anyone else with me on that? Coming home is great and I love what I come home to, but there’s still an element of sadness when a trip concludes). It’s heightened, when you just leave your best friend.

Anyways. Thanks, Denver, for another incredible trip, and here’s to the next one, in (pretty much) one trip around the sun.

Becoming Sustainable, Sustainably

I’ve been on a kick lately – all about sustainability. It’s just at the very forefront of my mind, and honestly, how could it not be? It seems everywhere you look, there’s a new, horrific story about how human consumption is damaging the earth. God gave us this earth to take care of, to nurture, to love, and our rampant consumerism is killing it.

Literally.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and pretend to be a composting, family-towel-using icon of sustainable living. I’m quite the opposite, actually. But lately, I have been looking for easy ways to reduce my own footprint. Ways to be sustainable… sustainably, if you will.

Note: The rest of this post contains affiliate links – if you click through any of the links in the post below & make a purchase, I may receive compensation, at no additional cost to you. Thank you!

Get a reusable shopping bag

This, to me, is literally one of the easiest things you can do. In some states, like California and, I believe, Hawaii, there are laws in place to encourage people to do this simply by charging for bags. (Personally, I think Arizona should get on board with it, but that’s a ramble for another day.)

Most grocery stores these days sell reusable bags right at the front, and for a fairly decent price. I mean, come on. You can pick up a tote at Trader Joe’s for 99 cents. Just skip the oh-so-tempting caramel sea salt chocolate bar that they lure you in with at the impulse grab stands one day and get a bag instead… and then go hit up the sample counter an extra time to reward yourself for doing so. I won’t tell. 😉

Reusable cups – and straws!

Again, another super easy switch to make, and one that I can vouch will save you money on your daily Starbucks, while also conveniently limiting your use of single-use plastic, which is one of the biggest waste issues we’re battling right now.

Starbucks, and many other coffee shops, offer a cup discount for a personal cup – which, of course, makes sense as it avoids them having to use their own inventory. But it’s also a really good incentive to use one, especially now that they sell such cheap reusable options… Starbucks has a $2 hot cup and a $3 reusable cold cup up for grabs. I may or may not have bought multiples of both, and now am fully stocked for all of my iced coffee needs.

While you’re at it, maybe consider getting reusable straws too! If you’re like me (and my best friend, and my aunt, and many other people I can think of), you love straws. It just makes drinks taste different… and better! But have you ever paused to think just how many single-use straws you go through in a week, or even in a day? If you switch to something like these stainless steel reusable straws, you’ll easily reduce your straw consumption… and, on the bright side, won’t have to worry about running out of straws at home ever again!

Meal prep

Okay, this one might seem like a fairly odd one, but I’ve been really focusing on reducing my food waste lately. I don’t compost — mainly because I don’t quite know how, and because it’s a very intimidating concept, if I’m being honest — so I’ve tried to reduce what food waste I do have left simply by, well, making sure I can eat it all. I already try not to buy packaged food when it’s not necessary for the sake of cutting down of packaging waste (like packaged fruit, etc.) and the packaged food we do buy (deli meat, etc.) I try to find either recyclable or reusable packaging. I’m not kidding when I say that 90% of our Tupperware is from the deli section. The other 10% is “borrowed” from my parents… 🙂

Anywhos.

I’ve learned that prepping meals so that there are guaranteed leftovers avoids putting me in the awkward spot where there’s not quite enough left to save, but also way too much left to eat. (Although, again, being with a human garbage disposal does come in handy here, as he’ll usually eat clean up for the table if necessary.) Portioning out when cooking so that there’s a promised second meal helps me significantly reduce any unnecessary food waste from my cooked meal. It’s also made me more conscious of preserving what I can while actually cooking the meal, so I’d consider that a win-win.

(Plus, how adult do you feel when you’re bringing actual food to work instead of a PB&J? So adult.)

Search secondhand 

Garment manufacturing is a big issue when it comes to sustainability. I’ve always been a fan of making clothes and things last as long as possible. Shopping secondhand comes naturally to me (well, as naturally as any shopping might come. I’m not a huge browser and I love the sale rack, so shopping for clothes generally isn’t something I’d consider “natural.” But I digress.)

Plus, searching for finds secondhand offers the benefit to your wallet, too. I recently fell in love with ThredUp, which you can read all about in my awkward review. It was an easy and affordable way to refresh my summer wardrobe (I got my new favorite blouse out of it), and I felt better about my conscious purchasing.

Now, I realize this is only the tip of the iceberg… and that that might not be the best metaphor to use in this scenario, but I’ll assume that you catch my drift. But I don’t think that sustainability needs to be this huge, terrifying, intimidating concept that seems unreasonably difficult to implement into your daily life. Even the smallest things can make a difference.

So… what about you? Do you take any conscious steps towards keeping your own carbon footprint as small as realistically possible?

2 Years, 2 Lessons, 2 Words

Facebook memories are wild, y’all. Mine keep popping up to remind me that 2 years ago, I graduated from college.

Two years!? Are you kidding me?! 

On the one hand, it doesn’t feel like that’s even remotely possible. I still feel like a baby adult, just barely sprung from the comforts of college, with not nearly enough of this “real world” thing figured out to have been away from school so long.

(And, yes, I do realize that 2 years is really not that long in the grand scheme of things. But in the short-term, that feels pretty long-term.)

As I’ve reflected on the many, many pictures that Facebook has brought back to life, and as I’ve perused through the many, many other pictures of those younger than me in caps and gowns, I’ve also reflected on what I’ve learned in the past two years. I don’t know if there’s an adequate way to sum it all up, because if there’s a blanket theme here, it’s that these first couple of years truly on your own are so incredibly instrumental. I have learned more in the past twenty-four months than I ever could have expected. It’s true what they say: you never really do stop learning. It’s just that the lessons change.

However, I am going to ever-so-humbly attempt to sum up the countless lessons I’ve learned since graduating with two words. It’s two words for two main lessons learned in the past two years:

Speak up. 

These words, I’ve discovered, can be applied to the two main facets of life post-graduation: professional and personal.

Professionally, this one is probably pretty obvious, and I likely sound like a broken record of any professional development course for young professionals. I was told this so many times when I leapt into the full-time world. “Speak up,” they told me, “make your voice heard.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but that concept is incredibly intimidating, especially for a fresh graduate. It’s likely your first full-time job in your chosen profession, and you’re likely nervous, and you’re most definitely still figuring things out.

And there everyone is, telling you to speak up.

Well, I hate to tell you this… but they’re right.

It’s not, however, just speaking up about the big things. It’s not necessarily throwing out some wild and crazy radical idea that is going to entirely change the trajectory of a project or an account (although, sometimes, it is). Sometimes, it’s just as important to speak up about the little things. Don’t let the smallest things go unnoticed – point it out. Now, keep in mind I speak from the role of a PR professional here, but I’m sure there’s parallel ways to apply this concept. Don’t let an extra apostrophe go unmarked, just because it’s in a release written by someone above you. If you think a particular sentence is worded strangely, say something. If you notice that there’s a hashtag getting more use than the one that’s in that social post, suggest it. Speaking up doesn’t need to always be monumental. It can be small – sometimes, the quietest behind-the-scenes voices are the loudest.

That said, it’s also important to speak up about your professional needs. Do you need a little extra guidance on something? Would you feel better if someone reread that email for the fifth time before you hit “send” for the client? There is no harm in asking. The worst thing they’ll ever say is no.

The same thing goes for your personal life. Speak up. In some ways, I feel like this can be even more intimidating in your personal circle. Opinions are everywhere and the internet has just given us an even louder void to shout into (I can say that – this blog is one of those voices.)

But it’s so important to let your own voice be heard… especially by yourself.

College is a wonderful time for gaining knowledge, but it’s when you start to apply that knowledge that you really figure out what you think about it. Don’t get me wrong – I think a lot of our core opinions are formed in school and in what we learn from school, but as with anything you learn, it’s when you apply it that it really begins to click (or so they used to tell me in math class.)

Speaking up in your personal circle also encourages healthy conversation, and sometimes debate. It’s important to know the opinions of those you love most, and how to get past disagreements… because inevitably, there will be some, even about the smallest of things but more likely about the big ones.

Beyond opinions, though, it’s so important to speak up and just tell them you love them… or that you’re mad at them… when you want to spend more time with them… when you need a little space. Verbalizing our heartfelt thoughts and genuinely formed opinions is a crucial element of adult relationships, and as an adult, those relationships are an essential part of thriving.

So speak up. It’s the two-word phrase that I can offer to any graduate. Be it personally or professionally, just make sure that your voice is heard.

It matters.

So do you.

Oh, and congratulations.

Put The Phone Down

I will be the first to admit that I am a little bit addicted to my phone. Ask anyone who knows me — they will probably agree, and I don’t mind if they do. I know I’m not alone in this addiction, not that such a fact makes things any better. But it is a fact, nonetheless, and an inherent truth about the generation in which I was raised. I grew up alongside the smartphone, I evolved as it did, and now, it seems literally impossible to live without it.

Now, let me clarify something. When I say “impossible,” I mean that quite literally. So much of our lives — personally, professionally, what have you — depend on our phones. Think about it. How much of your life would be dramatically impacted if you had to leave the phone at home? For one day! One 24 hour period!

It’s hard. It’s downright near impossible.

And that is really unfortunate.

The more aware I’ve become of my phone addiction, the more it bothers me. Now, I know that the true key to breaking a bad habit is to quit cold turkey, but as doing so would massively impact my productivity, I don’t know if that’s a feasible option right now. That said, I have been challenging myself lately to find times where I can go without.

Now, there are of course already certain times where having my phone anywhere near me is entirely out of the question. I put it away any time that I’m at church or writing in my journal or reading the Bible. I put it away for family dinners and other “important” events. But what’s to say that I shouldn’t deem every dinner important, every event worthy of my full attention? Especially things where it feels so natural to have my phone with me because, frankly, I always have.

Take date night, for example. This is one that I’m especially aware of because it feels really unfair to keep my phone out. I generally try to keep it in my purse, but I am guilty of mindlessly scrolling while we’re driving, or waiting to be seated. The boy is incredible with how little he uses his phone in general. He, I’d say, is definitely not addicted. So I try to pay him the same respect when we have dates. There are even some dates that I put the phone away altogether. I’ll switch it off (but not before texting my mom and my best friends that they can reach me via him if she needs to, because that, too, is a state of the world in which we live… being unreachable is unthinkable).

Or, just lounging around the house. Back when I did my 40 days without Netflix, I also started to challenge myself to put my phone out of reach when I didn’t need it. If I’m reading, I try to keep my phone on the charger, out of arm’s length. If the boy and I are cozying up to watch Pokemon, I’ll put my phone on a different table.

Now, I’m not saying I’m great at doing it all the time. In fact, more often than not, I must admit that my phone is still glued to my hand, but I am certainly attempting to be more conscious about it… which, inherently, leads me to be more conscious about life, in general. And I love that.

So, I’m curious. Do you have a phone addiction? What steps do you take to break away from the screen?