George Orwell once said, “When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing."
His statement perfectly defines my relationship with writing. I seek to uncover, expose and educate society on the issues we face as a country and as a world today. My background in English and History has given me the means and the knowledge necessary to understand what is happening and how to explain it to others.
I want my career to take me into different parts of the world where I can continue to learn and grow in my personal life and my professional life. There is a clear separation between the people we could be and the people we are. I want to educate and promote the best in mankind.
With this, only then, can we be truly healed and find the success we desire.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is worth reading. I have learned many things so far, one, to choose what you will care about. You control your happiness.
While I generally limit the amount of cursing and vulgarity on my blog, the use of the F word in this posting is purposeful. I am reading “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k” by Mark Manson and I am really enjoying it. I will admit it did take me about a chapter to adjust to his use of the F-word and other vulgarity, (because there is a bit), but I am trying to appreciate this in terms of his message. I choose to write about this today because where I am today, at this point in my life, it really is speaking to me.
So, let’s paint the picture, I am sitting in Panera Bread working on my freelance assignment, stressing over my interview later today with a company that didn’t pick me the first time, happy I finally got a job, (a part-time retail), but knowing it isn’t enough to live on and has no benefits, worrying about finances, bombarded by emails from every retailer I shop at about sales, new fall styles, markdowns, and everything else, and just wanting to give into consumerism and go crazy but understanding that doing that will leave me in a worse financial situation and more stressed out! Oh it’s a cruel world we live in! So, as all of this (and more) is weighing me down, I am also trying to remember what I read from Manson last night.
To this point in the text, I have been faced to think about how I am always wishing I had something that I don’t have. for instance, more money, more work, more clothes, a certain car, a different dwelling somewhere nicer, etc. All of these wants and wishes subconsciously tell us that we are not good enough, we have not achieved enough, and that we are failing. We train our brains to think this way, we come to believe this and we are unhappy, overworked, stressed out, and we suffer, EVERY SINGLE DAY. Manson implores us to turn that on its head and only “give a f**k” about certain things. We are constantly bombarded with these trigger things and generally we simply react, but he says we decide whether or not to let it bother us. He talks about how when we are having a bad day, we go to social media and we see all these pictures from people who have f’ing perfect/amazing lives and we are pushed even further into our bad mood because we are convinced that we are having a worse off day than we actually are. Instead of just having a bad day and looking forward to tomorrow, we look at other people’s lives today and are convinced that we can never have a life like that and therefore, all of our days are bad days in comparison.
Damn, I don’t know about you, but that is a depressing concept to me. Lately I have been trying to remind myself how blessed I am despite all of the crap I am dealing with. In reality, I am not in danger of starving or being homeless. Worse case, I can break my lease and move back home or to my grandparent’s house. But I don’t have to do that because my parents are able to help and provide what I can’t come up with right now. I had the ability to go to an amazing university despite FAFSA not covering much. I have a car to get around, I can walk, talk and see. My family loves me and isn’t abusive. They are generally supportive. I have a great number of friends through Junior League, I am able to attend Junior League Southwest Conference next month, and I am in good health. There are many more things to be thankful for that I could list, but I think you get the point. So why do I still worry about what I don’t have?
Manson says that not giving a f**k, as he encourages us to do, is not actually being indifferent about everything, it is about being indifferent to the things that don’t matter. Those new fall arrivals at LOFT that I am not buying, they don’t matter. The new markdowns at Kendra Scott, those won’t help me be happy with myself. These are difficult concepts for me because shopping and buying makes me happy. But when you can’t do that, but you do anyways, remorse hits you hard. It’s a self-depreciating cycle.
My goal for today is to just give a f**k about what actually matters. I give a f**k about my freelance assignment, my interview this evening, and my safety on the road. Otherwise, I will ignore the emails that aren’t from a specific person, commercials that want me to buy something, and other’s actions that are infuriating, (like the a-hole who will inevitably cut me off sometime today :D). I encourage you to do something similar. Even if all you can do is choose two things today to ignore, to not give a f**k about. Life can be an amazing experience, so let’s focus on our own lives and figure out how we can be content so we can spread that contented feeling!
“We all do the best we can in life,” it may sound true, but is it really? And if so, can we really judge others?
You often hear the phrase, “We all do the best we can in life.” While this is true for many people, what about others? The criminals, the pedophiles, the cheaters, the abusers and other such people? Are they doing the best they can in life too? While I generally have an ulterior way of thinking that I present to replace the problematic phrasing, I don’t today. Today I just have thoughts on this subject.
It came to mind because I was alerted to the possibility that there are readers out there who may not be able to identify with what I write about. Which is great! That just means this isn’t really the types of subjects that they find captivating. However, I would like to think that those who follow my blog are thinking about these things, or they at least enjoy my thoughts on the subjects. The best part about blogging is that nobody is a perfect blogger. Blogging is a self-publishing outlet for a reason. I know some companies and businesses are trying to make their blogs make money and that’s great, but ultimately, most of us are amateur writers, just writing about whatever we feel the greatest pull or passion towards. Ultimately, we are just doing the best we can.
The best I can do is to talk about the things in life that really get me, the things that I feel like I can’t ignore. I talk to my friends about these things quite a bit and not all of the subjects make it here. And no, those things are not really nude shoes and t-shirts all the time, but the real things that keep me up at night.
So, who else does the best they can do? The thing that I just realized about this, and what prompted me to write this down, is that the best we can do is not always what someone else feels should or could be done. We do the best we can based on our own thoughts, emotions, perspectives and ideals. For me, I overthink everything and I ask too many questions. I have a hard time letting things go that hurt me. I tend to hold onto those things, I carry that around with me and they may cloud my actions. But I realize, that’s alright. It’s okay to do that, it is okay that sometimes the best we can do isn’t the absolute best option. The hope is that we find others who can know our hearts, other people who can understand that while perhaps you didn’t make the best choice, the place that choice came from was pure and well-meaning.
I also realize that not everyone really does the best they can. They give into feelings of temptation or they do really heinous things, (such as murder, pedophilia, and abuse). Again, to pass a judgement on someone’s actions, you have to know their heart. While some crimes can be understood, (such as shooting someone who has broken into your home and attacked), other crimes, (such as pedophilia), can never be understood. I caution that while we are busy judging other people and disagreeing with their menial actions, we should remember that they have a good heart, they are not malicious and they are not committing heinous crimes. Most of us are just doing the best we can.
You can create your own confidence. It does not have to scary or elusive. You have the tools, you are your best you and you can have the faith in yourself!
Confidence, what is it? Where does it come from? Who is to say whether I really have it, or I don’t really have it? It is an internal concept that people can see from the outside. Or they think they can. I had a conversation with a friend today and it made me think about confidence. I want to share these thoughts so they may help you.
I was bullied throughout school. In elementary school it was because I was more physically mature than the other girls my age. In middle school, I am not sure why, but this girl decided she did not like me and she did everything she could to be cruel, including trying to have me jumped. She went to my high school as well and I feel like she was constantly trying to show she could do whatever I could. So, in middle school, I decided if people weren’t going to like me for no reason, I was going to give them many reasons to not like me. In high school, I began umpiring and I spent my money (pretty good money too) on clothes. I wore new stuff all the time. I drove, I snuck off campus for lunch, and I did my best at the sports I played. I was in ASB and I was an IB student. I tried to look like I had it all together and not a care in the world. I wanted to appear “Confident as F**k” (as the saying goes), so they might back off. I thought if they didn’t have the satisfaction of seeing me upset they would just go away. Obviously, that is never the case. Bullies are bullies because they dislike themselves, not you. But I didn’t know that.
Through doing all of this, I actually pushed nice people away and ended up with almost no friends and a really rough high school experience. And I ended up with a shopping addiction to cope with all that junk in my mind that I masked with this “super confident” facade. This was so bad that I couldn’t even tell people I would be going to a community college after high school. I was too ashamed that I couldn’t get into a 4-year university, (due to a bad counsellor and a lack of fine-arts units), and even worse, that I might not be ready for a four-year university.
So, last night I had an in-home jewelry party. While I was setting up, I kept telling myself that I need to social, I can’t be shy, I need to talk and mingle, I can’t be shy about my jewelry, the brand, why I love it, second guess the pricing, etc. My friend said he didn’t understand my lack of confidence because time and time again I have proven that I thrive in these social environments, that I am capable of selling in a conversational form and that I know my product, the brand and the reason why it is worth it. And he is right, the party was a tremendous success and the ladies were super excited to place orders. Once I started socializing, the rest just happened naturally. And I knew this would be the case, so why was I nervous? Did I really lack the confidence?
Confidence is defined as “the state of feeling certain about the truth of something.” By this definition, I suppose I wasn’t truly confident in the possible outcome of the party. I knew there were many different factors at play and that many different outcomes were possible. All I could do is be me, be knowledgeable and be friendly! But I did not feel truly certain. I think there are many things that we face on a daily basis that we are not truly confident about. We can have complete faith in ourselves, but lack it in others and that will affect our confidence in a situation depending on others.
In high school, I seemed like I had this confidence in myself, but I was constantly doubting myself because I was bullied. It is really hard to believe you are beautiful and awesome and smart and successful when people are telling you that you aren’t. But, ultimately, that confidence does have to come from inside of you. If I had portrayed an uncertain persona yesterday, been shy and not knowledgeable and helpful, I doubt the evening would have been a success. It was a success because I was these things. I started the night faking it but it quickly became the truth as the others believed that I was confident. And I was quickly able to truly feel that confidence as well.
I encourage you to think about things you know about yourself to be true. What about you gives you faith in yourself? That is your source of confidence. It doesn’t hurt to surround yourself with things that lead you to feel confident either. I wore a necklace yesterday that I got a couple of compliments on before the party while I was going through my day. That helped me feel great. A great blouse, feeling 5lbs. lighter, a great hair day, or a new pair of power pumps can help us feel great about ourselves. When we feel great about ourselves, we walk straighter, we smile more, and people believe we are confident. In turn, we feel confident. This feeling isn’t built overnight, but it is inspired daily. So, what do you feel confident about? What faith do you have in yourself? Channel that, wear your favorite dress, and go kick some butt!
I have been quite on my blog for awhile, I know. I have been trying to make sense of something I have read about online. Through research and soul searching, I think I have come to some conclusions and so, I want to talk about suicide in youth and the Blue Whale Game in this post.
If you haven’t yet heard about Blue Whale, it is a game started in Russia that takes kids through 50 days of escalating tasks leading to them committing suicide. The players are found through social media sites and are encouraged to join specific chat rooms where they post pictures of their tasks as proof and are encouraged to continue by other chat room members. Pictures are often captioned with “I am a Whale” and other phrases relating to the Whale game. Why the game is called Blue Whale is not clear, some believe it may be alluding to the way whales beach themselves in order to die, or to attach to the negative phrasing of calling yourself a whale.
Just this week, one of the curators of the game was convicted on two counts of attempting to coerce two teens into suicide. Although he was originally arrested for 15 counts. It is possible that the reason why these curators are hard to find and capture is because they are utilizing the dark web to move between social media and redtube sites where they can have the victims upload their videos in ananominity. I don’t fully understand the way this works, but from my research, the darkweb allows you to hide your IP addresses, locations and identity. Unfortunately, the justice systems across the globe generally need some sort of proof/evidence, if you cannot prove its their IP or identity, how can you prove it was them? This means that these curators are still out there drawing teens in with their sick game.
Suicide is a very serious issue. Unfortunately, in order to decide that something is an issue, something drastic must happen. A couple deaths across the United States hasn’t yet been deemed drastic. It isn’t an emergency yet and there are still many who do not know about this issue. But I want to make sure that people do know about this. The game is ingenious in its design. The tasks serve direct and indirect purposes. A common task is to have the victim wake up early, about 4:20am for several mornings or to stay up all night watching horror movies. These type of tasks may seem better and easier for the victim than the tasks that require them to cut themselves, scratch their arms until they bleed and other self-mutilating tasks, but the purpose of the tasks is to make the victim tired, leaving them mentally unable to process the following information and make them feel alone, exhausted, strung-out and more vulnerable.
The tasks are both self-mutilating and serve to make the victim feel alone by telling them to tell their best friend that they hate them, asking them to ostracize themselves from their social groups. This makes the victim again, more vulnerable and prone to the kind of mindset that leads to the final task, suicide. The victims feel as if they cannot stop because they are told the curator knows who they are, where they live, and will hurt them and their family if they try and leave the game. It is a real game causing real deaths and it needs to be known, it needs to be stopped.
So, please, if you have children, know somebody with children, or just care about the people of this world, share this please. Suicide is the number two cause of death among teens. We do not need these kinds of sick games pulling these kids into feeling like suicide is their only option.
I had the opportunity to interview Breanna Reish who has stepped out and launched her own business to remain true to herself within her field. She shares some awesome advice on planning and self-esteem when launching your own thing.
Self-esteem is a huge factor in all aspects of our life, especially when we decide to launch our own businesses. Whether we are opting for a direct-marketing platform where the corporate side is handled by others or a self-employment model where we take our love and talent and create a business out of it, the better our business is and the success we reach is dependent upon how much we truly believe in ourselves. I recently joined a Manifestation group on Facebook, not realizing what it was when I joined, and although I don’t completely subscribe to their ideals, (that you can manifest anything just by believing it), I do believe that if we don’t believe in ourselves and what we want to accomplish, we are making it that much harder for others to believe in us and our product. For me, as a freelancer, I am my brand. If I do not believe that I am capable and that I can produce unique and publish-ready content, why would a potential employer believe it?
For Breanna Reish, self-esteem has been a huge factor for her. She recently left her 9-5 financial firm to start her own financial planning company, Wealth of Confidence, and is loving every minute of it. She was motivated to launch her own firm after realizing she wasn’t satisfied with what she was doing. Reish struggled finding how she fit in an industry that is investment heavy, while she prefers to focus on her client and their specific needs, investment based or not.
“I had years of experience working in it [financial planning],” Reish said. “And feeling that cruddy feeling – knowing how it feels to feel like I do not belong, and feeling like I am at rock bottom, wondering if I would ever make it. I would cry at night. I wanted to quit several times. My husband would watch me roller coaster every year and just said to me, ‘You know, if this is what you want, you have to do it.’”
Reish was also motivated by her two young children, she wanted to have more control over her schedule, giving her more time with her two young children and her husband. But she also wanted to be able to pursue financial planning for clients putting more stake in familiar obligations and needs in a field that is generally investment focused. While she can assist with investments, she loves to help clients learn how to prepare for the future, make financial decisions, and prepare for end of life.
Prior to making the decision to go out on her own, she started working with a coach who helped her figure out what her next steps would be and why.
“She peeled back the layers like an onion,” Reish said of her coach. “She got me to talk about why I was really doing this and she – before I met her I was frantic trying to figure out my place and then she really helped me hone in on why I was doing this, what is really important in my life – all of these things and it gave me a little more confidence, and focus.”
Since going out on her own, Reish has been able to enjoy time with her family and with her clients. Ensuring her clients’ needs are met and they are happy is her top priority. Wealth of Confidence is giving her the means to continue to do what she loves and help her clients succeed while also being there for her family.
“I will say that you do have to work your butt off and stay focused,” Reish said. “You can make it what you want. If you want your business to be at a certain level, achieve a certain goal, you have to figure out what that goal is and what that number is that you need to be making, and then put that much time into it. Your responsibility lies with your family and your children, whatever responsibility you have is to them. I do get to keep 100% of my income, but I am also responsible for 100% of my income now. My goal with the business is to, number one, take care of my clients, and in turn, take care of my family and be a good mom.”
While she and her family are enjoying their newfound time together, starting your own business is not a simple decision. You need to take into consideration that you are now the one who drives business and income. Without clients or dedicating a certain amount of time to your business, a large paycheck can’t happen. Beyond that, prior to starting on your own, Reish cautions that you formulate a plan and determine what your family can handle while you launch your business. Going a couple months without a paycheck is a very real reality for many people who start their own businesses. Despite this, owning your own business can be as fulfilling for you as it is for Reish. It can allow you more freedom in your schedule and the ability to participate in more activities with your family. The key is to believe you can do it!
You can learn more about Breanna and her business, Wealth of Confidence, by visiting her website here.
I love fashion, styling and jewelry. Polyvore allows me to do all of this for free and for fun. I am constantly forgetting what is in my closet, especially newer things. I love this app because I can go, like what I own, or clip it, (especially all my Chloe and Isabel jewelry), and then style outfits with it. Check out some of my sets, I am always making more!
I love apps like this that give us an outlet for our creativity. They also give us ideas about how to wear the latest styles and what to wear with them. I know sometimes I love new styles, but I have no clue how to wear them. With Polyvore, I feel like I am able to pick other people’s minds about how and what they would do. Plus you can put together looks without messing up your closet!
Follow me on Polyvore: http://jennlsch.polyvore.com/
Shop all jewelry: chloeandisabel.com/boutique/jenniferschmidt1
The Casual Encounters portion of Craigslist attracts a large amount of traffic everyday while people seek anonymity so they can fulfil their deepest desires. Selena* was drawn in and wanted to experience the type of response and attention a poster receives. A negative self-esteem led her to experiment, but a stronger sense of self was discovered in the process.
It is not everyday that I get to sit down and have an open conversation with a woman who has admitted to posting suggestive pictures of herself on Craigslist. If you aren’t already aware, there is a page on Craigslist for Casual Encounters where posters can post about seeking any type of sexual experience. Requests vary from the most grotesque to the average three or foursome. There are swingers, transsexuals, homosexuals and others seeking a little bit of Fifty Shades.
The New York Times gives some statistics for the site in an article written a couple years back. The Casual Encounter section accounts for 2% of all posting on Craigslist. Despite this small percentage, the Personals section, (of which Casual Encounters is a part of), has a higher rate of traffic than any other online personals site, (eHarmony, Match and Yahoo! Personals included). One major draw is the ability to remain anonymous, at least initially, and therefore, be honest about what one’s true desire. Despite all of this, it remains a taboo that isn’t openly discussed.
Posters can attach pictures to their posts to attract a greater response. At first, it might be thought that posters are all social outcasts, 40-year old virgins, and prostitutes. But that is not the case. There are a great deal of everyday people posting, looking for the partner with which to fulfill their fantasies. Selena* chose to post on the site for another reason altogether. Yes, she wanted to fulfil the curiosity that the site naturally encourages, but she was primarily looking for a self-esteem boost.
My interview with her sheds light on an aspect of her personality that led her to need attention enough to result to this. While she did not pose nude or show any part of her you wouldn’t see in a bathing suit, she still felt dirty after receiving responses. Ultimately, her experience is not one she recommends. She reminds us the very real things that could happen if a woman did opt to follow through and meet with a responder.
My Interview with Selena* – A One-Time Craigslist Casual Encounter Poster
Q: Selena*, my first question, why would you want to post pictures of yourself online? And what kind of pictures did you post?
A: Well, honestly, I have always wondered about the people who post pictures of themselves in this casual encounter corner of Craigslist. Sometimes I just go through all the postings reading and wondering what drives a person to do this. And, of course, what kind of response they receive. Sometimes the posters will refer to the responses they received as being unwanted or different than what they asked for. I just really wanted to know. So, I took four pictures of myself from shoulders down in a deep-v lace body suit. I didn’t want my face to show and they weren’t overtly sexual. I don’t want to have those out there forever!
Me: I understand, everything is permanent online!
Selena*: (Laughing) Yes, it really is. And I do value my career and my future, I didn’t want this one experiment to label me. And worse, what if I did have my face in the picture and somebody on the street recognized me, that would be terrible!
Me: Indeed, it would be. But let me ask, interesting word choice. You saw this as an experiment?
Selena*: Yes, I really did. I am not going to say that sleeping around is bad, but it is not my personal choice. I prefer relations with men after a personal connection has been established. Even then, I am picky!
Me: So you weren’t actually attempting to solicit sex through this ad?
Selena*: Well, in regards to what I actually wrote, yes, I was. My post was short, just four sentences, but I made sure it reflected mainstream pornographic culture to garner a healthy response. But I didn’t personally want to solicit sex. I was trying to see what kind of responses I would receive.
Me: What else compelled you to do this experiment? You must have great self-esteem to post any part of you online in a suggestive way. Especially on a platform designed for hookups.
Selena*: Honestly, my self-esteem isn’t very good. I am often worrying about what others think of my body and whether men find me attractive sexually. I am of a curvy frame and I often feel that I am not what is generally considered attractive.
Me: So were you concerned about the responses then? Did you ever consider that you may receive rude responses from these men? How did you weigh this against possible positive responses?
Selena*: Yes, when I did this, I was worried that I would receive nasty responses from men calling me fat or undesirable. But I also needed the affirmation from the men that I was desirable. My need for someone to desire me, even a creepy man behind a computer, outweighed my fear of being ridiculed. I suppose I just wanted to know what it would feel like to get that kind of attention, the sexual kind, in a safe way.
Me: Well, I think you look fantastic today. I don’t know why anyone would find you unattractive.
Selena*: (blushing) Thank you, I am trying really hard to remind myself every day that I am beautiful. I think this experiment really opened my eyes to the despair I could fall into.
Me: Despair? Please elaborate.
Selena*: Well, I guess I mean that I now understand something key. I follow a lot of plus sized models on Instagram and they are always letting their bodies show, and I think that is beautiful, the confidence. But sometimes they let way more skin show than I would feel comfortable doing, and I am not plus sized. Then I go to bars with my friends and I see plus size girls dressing the same way and I wonder if there is something wrong with my thinking that keeps me from showing all that skin. I watch these girls throw themselves at these guys and the guys pay attention generally, but never to me. I can’t help but wonder if they are attracted to the confidence, the girl, or the fact that she is letting it all hang out.
Me: Interesting, this is something I have also wondered about. I am also curvy, not plus sized, and I often feel lost between the thin and the plus sized women. It is kind of a no man’s land.
Selena*: Seriously! And you are built much more athletically than I. I am totally envious of your muscle girl!
Me: (laughing) Thank you! Well, I think the main question now is, just what kind of responses did you get?! Where they like you expected?
Selena*: Oh my! (blushing) I received some interesting responses for sure. They were all positive though! That was the best part. It was actually funny, I posted it and then I opened my email. I had no responses for five minutes. I was so sad, so I closed my email and decided to take a shower. 15 minutes later, I checked my email again and I had 42 emails. All responses. After that, I was receiving about a response a minute. I was so overwhelmed!
Me: Wow! That’s a lot of responses. Any that were memorable?
Selena*: Yes, originally, I hadn’t intended to respond to anyone. However, as the responses started flooding in, I was pleasantly surprised. Some of the responders said really nice things and seemed like really nice guys. I had to remind myself under what circumstances they were emailing me!
Me: So is the posting still up?
Selena*: No, I took it down after about 30 minutes. I got such a large response that it was too much for me. Plus, I ultimately wasn’t comfortable with the kind of talk that the posting elicited. I am very private about my sex life so the blunt responses were very overwhelming and kind of gross. I could just imagine the type of guy who trolls Casual Encounter postings on Craig’s List.
Me: I take it you weren’t imaging Prince Charming.
Selena*: Not at all! (laughs) I was expecting some creepy guys.
Me: What is the weirdest response you received?
Selena*: One guy said some nice things, beautiful body, that type of thing. And at the end of his email, he asked to be notified of any donations.
Me: Oh! Wow, I hadn’t considered that.
Selena*: Neither had I! Honestly, I didn’t understand that at first. Then I realized, he meant money most likely. Which opened up a whole new world of possibilities and I thought to myself, wow, suddenly the number of people posting on here is more understandable. Not assuming all are looking for money, but if you are already willing to have a random hookup, then the idea of donations would be a bonus, I assume.
Me: Going back to your self-esteem, after all this attention, how do you feel now?
Selena*: I felt a bit dirty at first. Especially when the responses started rolling in. But I did feel good too. It was so heartening to receive all that attention. Granted it was sexual attention and it was because I elicited it, but I still felt good to hear that all these guys wanted me. I understand that they might just respond to anything or that they are totally gross, but I felt good. I left this experience knowing that if I chose to be overtly sexual and dress provocatively, I would get a response.
Me: Is this something you intend to do again?
Selena*: Absolutely not! Once was enough! It wasn’t a bad experience by any means, but I defiantly realized how precious my body is and how much I value myself. I don’t want to receive attention just for the sake of attention, and that’s what I did with this. I want honest attention from guys interested in me, not my body. So, going back to the previous question, I suppose my self-esteem was affected because I am much more self-assured now.
Me: Is this something you would recommend other women do?
Selena*: Well, I suppose if you really want to, sure. But I would caution against it. You just never know with the internet. I realized afterwards that somebody could maybe trace my IP Address and find out my location or something like that. I am probably paranoid, but safety is important! And never actually respond or meet with these guys. The least worry is that they have a disease, the worst is that something terrible could happen.
*Name has been changed for confidentiality reasons.