Times Like These

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It’s one of those nights when emotion runs high. I read words, hear music, see images, and a string is pulled inside me. Hairs stand on end. Tears fall to attention in my eyes. Breath leaps from my lips. Everything fills me with awe and wonder, and suddenly I find so much beauty in a world that not so long ago was so ugly I couldn’t stand to look.

It’s nights like these when I’ll lie awake, conversing with the dark, asking questions of the stars twinkling beyond the ceiling above my bed. How do they do it? I’ll wonder. How do their minds find these paths that lead them to such treasures? Then the mirror at the foot of my bed joins the conversation, and in the dark, the me staring back is not as pretty as in daylight. You’re not that good. You don’t try hard enough. You’ll never be on that level. It makes me wonder if the mirror isn’t right. Do I have enough skill? Is my vocabulary sufficient? Are my heart and my soul either tortured or beautiful enough to create something that sends a chill and a prickle through the system? Am I even a writer?

It’s days like these I wish I wanted to be something different.writing-utensils.jpg

Not a Huge Fan of Censorship, But Banning Bossy Couldn’t Hurt

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Straddling the fence between confident and bossy is really tough as a young woman. Where does confidence come from? Why is confident good but bossy bad? Guys can be called cocky, but that has nowhere near the detrimental effect that bossy has on girls. We live in a time when women are told to be confident and independent, when many guys want girls who are confident, so why is there a limit to how confident we can be?

I have been called cocky, arrogant, stuck-up, a know-it-all, and so many other descriptors with more negative connotations than positive ones. And usually when these adjectives are thrown my way, I’m feeling really good about myself. I feel like I know what I’m doing, like things are going well, and that I’m doing and giving my best. And when I hear these things, I tend to crash and burn, because that self-esteem I had built up deflates. Suddenly, I wonder what I’m doing, if I’m good enough, why I was put into positions and given responsibilities people thought I couldn’t handle– or why I put myself there because suddenly, I know I can’t handle it, and I should have seen it in the first place.

The twisted part is that once I’m paralyzed, unable to do anything because I don’t know if I’m capable, people suddenly start asking what happened to the confident young woman they used to know. Often times, it’s some of the same people who told me I was too confident. What’s a girl supposed to do?

I’ve read, seen, and heard many theories and practices to build confidence. Fake it till you make it; power poses; exercise; replacing the old with the new as in wardrobe, workspace, or even people. I’ve tried many of them. I have two go-to techniques. First, I dress to kill. There’s something about dressing to the nines that makes you feel like a bad-ass who could take on the world. Even just throwing on a little make-up and a nicer-than-normal outfit in the morning makes me feel great about myself. The second is as egotistical and shallow as it comes, but it works for me. I pick a song about a desirable girl and imagine that song is about me. Usually it’s upbeat and easy to strut to. Think “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield, “Downtown Girl” by Hot Chelle Rae, “Hot Child in the City” by Nick Gilder, and so on. Sorry, ladies and gents, One Direction¬†and Bruno Mars are singing about me. See? As shallow and egotistical as it gets, but it works. Until someone tells me I’m overly confident. That I’m not as good as I think I am. I’m not as sexy, as smart, as talented, as knowledgable, as suited for a role as I think I am. And it usually isn’t framed as constructive criticism when a comment bursts my bubble. It’s straight up derrogative.

Think about a time when someone called you out on a mistake, poor behavior, bad judgement, or really anything. It might have had an impact on you when they called you a dumbass or incompitent or ugly or add negative descriptor here. But unless it was a common plan of action with a really close friend, you probably didn’t respond too well. Either you got defensive and or you just shut down. Defensive can lead to change, but often times it just mean stubbornly pursuing the same course of action to spite the offender. Shutting down isn’t pretty ever. Do you really want to inflict that feeling, that situation, on another human being?

There are ways to tell someone they’re overstepping their bounds if that actually is the case. There’s no reason to fling profanities like bossy at anyone. Because seriously, who wants to be called a sexist pig in return?

Scenes from a Student Union

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The beginning of a new semester. The Student Union, a hub of life on campus, is even more lively than usual. Chatter fills the air, old friends catching up and politely discussing winter break happenings and new schedules and changes in plans for the course of school and life. The line for coffee and snacks is long, since everyone has holiday cash or money on their meal cards for a bit of a treat. The line in the bookstore snakes around bookshelves and other students still purusing. The ambiance is that of excitement and determination, the buzz of starting a new project with which one has yet to grow bored.

This scene is much more hopeful than the last week of a semester. That week, the union is a ghost town. The number of people sitting in the large gathering area is countable on one hand. Silence is more common than sound, and anyone who breaks it receives deadly stares from the few students with book or keyboard in hand, scrambling to finish studying or writing a paper. It’s a dismal and almost oppressive atmosphere, anxious and sleep-deprived young adults waiting for the pressure to be released.

I like the first week much better.

A Break at Last

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Today is the kind of day I’ve been waiting for since about mid-November. School had already grown more exhausting than exhilarating, and final exams, papers, and projects were far from my idea of a worthwhile use for my time. But now, the semester is done, I’m happy with the results, and I have ahead of me a much needed month of recharging for the next round of rigorous study.

Today, I’m sitting in a coffee shop, spending time with a novel that I won’t have to analyze in an academic paper. I’m enjoying the people watching, the cozy atmosphere, the many others with their laptops and their tablets and their books and papers. No lectures, no real demands on my time, just some time to take a break from the bustle of life and focus on something of my own creation and intent.

I’m about two-thirds of the way done with The World According to Garp by John Irving, and I’m really enjoying it. The prose may not be the most beautiful, but the story, the details, and the realness of the characters makes it a great read, in my opinion. I’m glad coffee shops are pretty bookworm-friendly places, because in many other settings, I’d look absolutely insane the way I’m reacting to the book. For those of you who haven’t read it– or seen the movie, which I hope is very much like the book– it’s the story of a man named T.S. Garp, a writer who never becomes as famous as his mother, a nurse who happened to write a best-selling memoir, A Sexual Suspect. This title sets the theme for the entire novel, in which sex and sexuality seem to be explored by every adult character by way of comical absurdness with a blush of embarrassing realism. For those of you who are familiar with it, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

I’m also working on a couple of short stories I wrote for the fiction workshop I took this now-past semester. I’m debating whether or not I’m ready to post them on here just yet– they still need some work. But I will tell you a bit about them. The first is the longer of the two, and probably the one I’d like to take farthest. Two people who went to high school together meet eight years after graduation. He was the cool guy, she was the smart girl, and they crossed paths as the leads in a high school musical. Now, he’s running a struggling music shop, and she’s a successful freelance writer working on her first novel. I originally wanted them to be almost complete strangers because they didn’t really hang around the same groups in high school, but that might change to make their reunion a little more dramatic– a confrontation of a rocky past, and maybe an attempt at a relationship they might have had in school, but they’ve changed so much since then. The second story is that of a recent college grad, looking for one last adventure before starting real life. A girl from the suburbs of Cleveland, she seeks a change of scenery in the mountains and forests of Colorado. Of course, she has to reconcile what she finds there with what she leaves behind– in the form of relationships, expectations, and reality. She gets an adventure, I’m sure. I just don’t know at what cost yet. For those who know me, these are pretty blatantly autobiographical at the moment, but I hope to find a different story along the way. I’d really appreciate your thoughts on this as well.

Beyond this, I’d really like to work on the professional side of things. I’m a little more set on writing for a career, so that’s going to be my main focus for break, when I don’t have classes to worry about as well as my job and the whole career plan. If anyone has any advice they’d like to share on this, I’m glad to hear it. The more input I can get, the better.

Alright, I think that’s all for now. The coffee’s gone, I’m starting to catch a chill from the opening and closing of the door to the wintry world outside, and while the atmosphere is cozy, this particular chair is not. So, off we go, back to participating in the life I’ve been observing through the coffee shop window.

Do Better

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I think the calendar skipped a few months. I swear it was August just yesterday. Where did the time go? Why is there snow on the ground? Why are radio stations playing Christmas music? I need that time back.

I’m feeling restless again. Restless to be doing something different than what I’m doing. A better job, a different job, more writing, less hating British Literature, a little more travel, a little less driving the same stretch of freeway twice a day. My to-do list consists of papers and tests, but what I’d like to do is worry about my writing and job preparation. I want to really get working on life instead of sitting in the isolated cubicle of college. And the missing months between August and today did nothing for that, except maybe inspire me a little.

I know it’s going to go by quickly. I’ll be writing another post with the same question, “Where has all the time gone?” in the future I’m sure. I guess maybe restless isn’t the right word. Maybe… off track, took a wrong turn, missed my exit is a better description. I always seem to come back to this feeling, too. I need a better routine. I need to increase my productivity. I need to achieve a goal and feel like I’m getting somewhere. I need to do better.

Any suggestions on how to do better?

On the Road Again

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So… Hi everyone. I’m back. For a second at least, though I hope it’s more. I’ve been away for a while, and I apologize to you, and to myself. I let other things get in the way, and I probably shouldn’t have. But here I am, so we’ll just forget the past, or at least forgive it, and move on with the blog.

Life has been driving along some interesting roads lately, somewhat literally and tremendously figuratively. Literally, I finally got a car back in April, so driving strange roads is somewhat of an everyday thing now. I also spent a lot of time driving back and forth between Cleveland and Sandusky, where I lived for the summer as an employee of Cedar Point. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s only the Best Amusement Park in the World. Seriously, it’s been voted so sixteen times in a row by some council. It was a pretty cool job, and I’ll definitely tell you all about it, but I’m going to save that for another blog. Also literally, I’ve become a commuter instead of a resident at BW. So lots of driving everyday. Surprisingly, I’m still as excited to drive as the day I got my license. Hopefully I can keep that going.

Speaking of BW, which will move us into the figuratively category, I’m currently a junior, still an English major, still a Communications minor. And I’ve still got my heart set on being a writer, even more so after taking a fiction workshop with the fabulous Michael Garriga. Some things have changed though. First, I made the decision to drop the Honors program. It was a lot of extra work for no good reason. The program was primarily built around music and science majors, and there would have been a lot of jumping through hoops to get the courses and credits I needed. So after talking to both my advisers, we came to the conclusion that I needed to turn my focus elsewhere– namely to my writing dreams. So that’s what I’m doing. Also, I’m working on the semester abroad I’ve always dreamed of, hopefully for Fall 2014. I have some details to work out there, but I’m determined to make it happen.

I’m also intent on securing an internship over the summer, perhaps something in editing or publishing. I realized with the fiction workshop that I love helping other people make their writing better. It’s kind of fulfilling as a reader to actually help an author improve. For this, I know I have to start working with the school newspaper, which will hopefully go better this time. And getting involved with Wordsmiths is an excellent way to work on critical reading– it’s a lot like the fiction workshop. If possible, I’d like to work as an editor of our fine arts publication,¬†The Mill. Since applications were already due for this year, I’ll have to be sure to work on that for next year.

Something else I’ve been thinking about is what to do after graduation. At this point, I have no set profession in mind. I’d love to be a writer, but that’s going to take some time, and I need something that can pay my bills right out of the gate. Maybe the internship or study abroad or some other unforeseen event will change that and put me on the path to a lucrative career I can dive into. But as of right now, my best option seems to be exploring. And I’ve found an excellent way to do that. My aunt and uncle told me about a job opportunity with Xanterra, Inc., a company that staffs tourist services in national parks. What better way to explore and travel, as well as make money? It would just be seasonal employment, but it would at least be something, and it would allow me to keep paying my bills while I look for something more stable. It would also no doubt provide some inspiration, considering the parks are in the Rocky Mountains, the Grand Canyon, the wilds of Alaska, the deserts of the Southwest. Opportunities abound, even while working such mundane jobs as retail or rentals.

For right now, I’m working through another semester while biding my time working the snack bar at a bowling alley near school. It’s keeping my bills paid, and that’s really what I need. That, and the encouragement of my closest friends and family and my brilliant and wacky professors, as well as my lovely advisor. And I have to be more open to change. Because as my closest companion keeps telling me, I can’t keep trying to recreate the past, when I was comfortable and happy and everything seemed to be going right (at least upon reflection). So I’m going to try some new roads, and hopefully, they’ll end at the destination I have in mind. At the very least, it’s going to be quite an adventure.

Happy Birthday to Me


Today is my 20th birthday. I celebrate this day with such names as Dr. Seuss and John Irving. Jon Bon Jovi, as well, but I’m more concerned with the writers. I don’t feel very different, not older or wiser or more like an adult. But I feel much as I have over the past few months, like I need to push forward with more fervor than I have as of late. Somewhere along the line, I lost something– my mojo, my verve, my spirit, my confidence. Whatever it was, I need to get it back. Feeling stuck isn’t for me.

Maybe I lost it my senior year of high school, when I was at the top of all the organizations I cared about, but everyone else stopped caring so I was essentially useless. Sitting in AP classes where no one wanted to act like honors students was insulting. Conducting musical ensembles where I was told flat out that I wasn’t respected was painful. Striving to maintain a tradition of high standards was exhausting and almost in vain because I was among only a handful to want to do it. Insult and injury were only intensified when my efforts were overlooked and went unrewarded– not that I did it for the recognition, I did it because I cared, but a bit of reward in the form of scholarships or just a senior spotlight in the yearbook would have been nice.

I didn’t just give up, though I did slow down a bit after that. Things weren’t quite as up to par as they had been throughout my years in Bedford. College was a transition that was difficult to make after a year of, “Well, no one else tried at all, so you only have to try a little bit to do better.” That wasn’t good. So I struggled to get back into a high-achiever state of mind. I’m finally getting it back, but not without even more difficulty pushing me back further.
Leaving the bowling alley this past August, a job that I knew well and had really come to love, struck a blow that’s left quite a mark. I know that job didn’t slip away from me because I was a terrible employee. There were entirely different reasons. But somehow, it still makes me feel like I don’t know how to do anything any more. I feel inadequate at the two near-mindless jobs I work on campus. Making smoothies for four hours a week and calling alumni for donations eleven hours a week is nothing compared to managing the desk at a small bowling center, where the desk person is also a custodian and a mechanic and an event host and a food server and a master of ceremonies and the person to take care of whatever else needs to be done that they’re capable of. Maybe I just like the challenge of multitasking. I did juggle a lot in high school that I’m not now– work and school as well as marching band and drama and National Honor Society and the literary magazine and and choir and even a social life. Now, I go to classes, and I go to work. That’s about it. So maybe I need to start doing everything again.

A combination of factors has also got me more and more concerned about money. Student loans, trying to save up for a car, and breaking even after monthly bills is nerve-wracking. And it leaves little room to put away money for something bigger, like an apartment after graduation. Knowing also, particularly after having to give a ten minute speech on it, that my intended career choice as a writer is not going to turn me into a millionaire overnight makes me even more anxious to find a good paying job in order to supplement whatever income I might get as a writer and make up for months where writing work just isn’t there.

I think on this day, the 20th anniversary of my birth, I really need to start over. I need to find a job that I love, where I can work a few more hours and get paid a little more. I need to get back in touch with my passions– start playing the trumpet and singing again, find a way to get back on stage, and really focus on my writing. I need to start knocking the academics out of the park again. I need to find something to fill my down time, because I have way to much of it, and I’m not used to that. I’m used to constantly going, constantly being engaged. So that’s what I’m going to do.

Happy birthday to me.

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