Books I’ve Read: How Starbucks Saved My Life

I worked at a Starget ( a Starbucks inside a Target) for a little under a year. It was stressful. We ran out of coffee, and quite frequently. Our espresso machine was down for a whole week once. And there was often only one person scheduled for Saturdays from open until early afternoon– the time frame when EVERYONE decides to do their shopping. This was all after changing management and definitely influenced my decision to go back to Cedar Point for my second year. But it wasn’t all bad. A lot of the people, especially those early in my employment, were really wonderful. And this was what I thought about while reading How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill.

This is the story of a very well-to-do older gentleman who falls from the graces of high society. Mr. Gill was a big shot in advertising until he had too many years on him, and was fired from a high-ranking, high-paying advertising job which he got right after graduating from an ivy league school that he didn’t have to worry about paying for because his father was a big time newspaper executive. He was part of the 1%, and suddenly he wasn’t. As you can imagine, he lost everything: his job, then his money, then his family. And then he found true happiness when he was offered a job at Starbucks by complete chance– by a person he would never have thought would be his savior, namely a young black woman (the narrator is an old white man). And he gained friends and experiences that made him happier at 64 than he had ever been in his previous lifestyle.

How Starbucks Saved My Life is kind of sappy, though I appreciate the coming-up story. I enjoyed following the thoughts and actions of a son of privilege as he navigates life outside of his bubble, from his spiral into poverty to his extramarital affair and child, from his failed attempts at holding on to his spot in the upper echelon to his embarrassment at his family and former friends seeing him struggling. It may seem like I was laughing at him, but I was fascinated by his observations and the connections he made from is old life into his new. The fears he experienced were relatable for those who grew up with struggle, too. Fear of not being good enough, people not liking him, important peers and relatives being disappointed, being too old to do a job, and so on and so forth. His insecurities were universal, which made this easier to read.

My biggest complaint about this book is that the lows weren’t low enough– rather, they weren’t portrayed that way. This man, Michael Gates Gills, is almost too positive throughout his whole self-redefinition. He almost brushes over the whole divorce with his wife, he focuses on how bad his previous employment at a ginormous advertising firm is rather that how perfect it was which makes his firing less heartbreaking, and he uses such weak words to describe the discomfort of his children seeing him at Starbucks or his former friends watching him take trash out in his apron and hat. He’s so positive that it’s hard to feel bad for him. It just keeps going up.

It’s not a bad book overall. I think it’s interesting, and a good look into privilege and how it can frame the world, and also the hardships that come along with it (of course it’s not all rainbows and butterflies). I also find Starbucks to be a wonderful company, even if they are kind of expensive and there are ways they could do better, especially about their waste *cough cough*.

Would I recommend this book? For a light read, it is a good one to pick up.


Times Like These

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

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.

On the Road Again

Miles away from 50,000

600x750mm sign intended to match the specifica...

After a month of “writing”… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So… NaNoWriMo didn’t go so well… For me anyway. Maybe three months of planning wasn’t enough. Maybe I thought I could write a novel while also writing three papers at a time for school (can I include those in my word count?). Maybe I’m just awful at time management. Yeah, I think it’s more that last one.

I had a great idea for a novel. So great that I changed it twice now and am working on a third beginning. Yep, great idea alright.

Because I consider myself a writer, and because that’s what I want to do with my life, this awful (albeit better than last year) attempt at penning a 50,000-word piece of art is despicable. And that brings out my other problem: I can’t get rid of my inner critic. I talked to people who wrote several thousand words at a time, but confessed that it was complete and utter rubbish and they would be spending so much time revising it wasn’t even funny. I can’t do that. I need a strong manuscript with nominal revisions. I don’t want to go reworking my entire novel, in essence writing a whole new story. The more sold I can get it the first time around, the better I’ll feel at the end.

During the writing process is a different story.

Writer’s block is common practice– I can’t get past that awful section I just wrote, I have no clue how to connect two ideas, I can’t think of a suitable word or name for a character… All things that have given me pause in my writing. I often just give up at that point, thinking a break will help me clear my thoughts and find what I need to keep writing. It never works.

This year, there was one more downer than just not finishing my novel. I introduced my boyfriend to NaNoWriMo, and he decided to give it a try as well. And he made it into the winners’ circle. Talk about a slap in the face… While I don’t hold it against him, and I’m not mad at him for being as awesome as he is, it still makes me feel about a centimeter tall. He’s written something that, while not without need for revision, is a great starting point. And he’s talking about publishing down the road. He’s got the finish line in sight, and I’m still spinning my wheels at the starting line. So much for me being the writer in the pair.

But I can’t let all this stop me. God, I’d hate myself if I did that… I guess I just have to hop back on the writing roller coaster and get over it. But now the critical question: should I just start right now working on the novel and finish it in my own time, or plan the hell out of it so there is no failing when it November comes back around? Decisions, decisions….

And Cue Alice Cooper…

I can’t believe my first year of college is over already. It went so fast. Finals seemed to come out of nowhere, and they ravaged my brain and body for the past couple weeks (hence the missed blog posts; I do hope you, my wonderful readers, can forgive me). Summer’s here, which means more work, and as oxymoronic as it seems after that last phrase, more play. More hours at the bowling alley will (theoretically)  be balanced out with more time spent outside, more time reading for entertainment as opposed to academics, and more time writing.

The writing is especially crucial, as I managed to land a position as a student blogger for a student travel deals site called Student Universe. A little bit of extra money will be nice, as will another resume booster. Who wouldn’t like those? I just have to work on being more punctual. I’ll have to crank out 1-5 posts a week about college, travel, and other student concerns. Wish me luck.

As for the reading… I have an ever-lengthening list of books that I would like to read. Several books by Ben Mezrich (who follows me on twitter!), A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, among others, are on the first-time list. I also have a few that I would like to reread, like J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I just have to make sure I stay out of bookstores so I can finish what I already have.

Of course, these first few days of vacation have been lazy, lazy, lazy. I love it. My little sister’s jealous. Being in high schools, she’s stuck getting up early and sitting in class for six hours a day until June. I love college.

The problem now is just getting myself motivated to do something other than sleeping till noon, sitting around in my pajamas all day, and doing nothing but scrolling my Facebook page and watching T.V. Any suggestions?

An Introduction To My Obsession With The Outdoors

The weather has finally broken here in Northeast Ohio (for a moment anyway…) and despite a sore throat, I decided it might do me some good to enjoy the gorgeous weather outside. Who can say no to bright sunlight beaming through the window after so many overcast, rainy, snowy, bone-chilling days? And when it’s fifty degrees in January on the shores of Lake Erie, one must take advantage of it. That just doesn’t happen.

So that’s what I did today. I hopped on my new bike, made a pit stop at the grocery store so my throat would quit shouting at me, and rode as fast as I could into the park.

Berea is located in the heart of the Cleveland Metroparks, a system of natural parks with hundreds of miles of trails for biking, hiking, horseback riding, jogging… I think you get the point. I grew up traipsing around the Metroparks just a short distance from Berea, and I’ve been dying to explore the reservations around here. Each one holds something unique. For instance, The Viaduct is a tiny little park in my hometown, through which the inaptly named Tinker’s Creek flows. I say inaptly named because the term Creek means “a stream smaller than a river.” It lends itself to visions of small waterways that can be easily forded or hopped over and in which children enjoy playing. That is not Tinker’s Creek. It seems more like a full-blown river, complete with a powerful waterfall and a viaduct for the railroad (hence the name of the park). While many parks have viaducts, since the railroad has always been a big deal in this part of the state, waterfalls only cascade in a select few.

Half of the Tinker's Creek Waterfall

The Other Half

Where was I? Oh, right, riding as fast as possible into the park.

I followed the main trail for about three miles, passing through marshes and stands of trees, under overpasses and over bridges. While I really wanted to get off the beaten (paved, in this case) path, the combination of mud and not-mountain-bike bike didn’t seem to allow for it. So I simply enjoyed the wind rushing through my hair as I coasted along. Naturally, I wasn’t alone in my enjoyment. Dozens of people with dogs and mp3 players walked, jogged, and biked alongside me, taking in the delightful springy day.

Now the point to this post, aside from gushing over the wonders of the Metroparks and the amazingness of the weather is really what I found on my way back, though I had already passed it. My legs being angry because they haven’t had to ride a bike for six miles in quite some time, I decided to take a break and have a snack. In searching for a suitable place to lock my bike up and rest, I found something that made my heart stop, my jaw drop, and my brain scream YES!!


The most awesome thing ever-- for me, anyway

At the end of a little offshoot from the main trail is this most magnificent little observation tower. It looks out over a lake and waves of cattails, and seems to be a great place for contemplating and brainstorming. Though the sounds of the rest of the world can still be heard– cars zooming down the parkway, people talking as they jog and walk by, the drone of airplanes coming and going from Cleveland Hopkins– it seems to sit outside of all that in some strange way, and that makes it a perfect little niche in the world for me to write.

There is one downside to this delightful structure, though. It’s outside. Which means it can only be utilized in weather that is uncharacteristic of the climate I live in. Which means sunny and warm, as opposed to grey and cold. But that’s alright. I do my best writing outside on a sunny day. So I can be patient.

I think that’s all I wanted to say… My adrenaline was pumping when I decided to write this post, so if it seems sort of rambling, that’s why.

Where’s your favorite spot to write?

I Think I Can…

Had to use it. Way too adorable!

This is what has been incessantly nagging at my brain lately. Things keep popping up that lead me right back to thinking about success, what it is, what it means to me,  and how I can achieve it. Class lectures, memes, and my multitudinous readings all have this theme of success ingrained into them but little explanation as to what it is. I’m left to figure out what exactly constitutes success.

So I turned to my beloved dictionary and looked up the actual definition of the word success. This is what I found:

Success, n.:

1. (obsolete) outcome, result

2a. degree or measure of succeeding

2b. favorable or desired outcome; (also) the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence

3. one that succeeds

Since I hate the idea of defining a word with another form of the same word, 2a and 3 are automatically out. And of course, 1 is out because, as noted, it’s obsolete. So that leaves 2b.

For me, definition 2b seems to be the best definition of success. The first half, anyway. “Favorable or desired outcome.” It seems to imply that there isn’t really one set definition of success, which is completely true in my opinion. Success holds a different meaning for each individual.

My definition of success holds true for me and me alone. I would consider myself successful if I developed into an independent, sociable, financially stable young woman. But that’s only part of it. I wouldn’t consider myself a complete success until I established myself as a professional writer. This does not necessarily mean a famous writer, but merely a regularly published one who might get paid for her work. Becoming a reporter would fulfill my requirement. And if I do become a household name in the process, then so be it.

That’s it. That’s all that it would take for me to be a self-proclaimed success. Maybe that isn’t someone else’s idea of success. Maybe they’re more interested in the second half of definition 2, “attaining wealth, favor, or eminence.” And that’s far from wrong. Society seems to tell us that these are the keys to success, and in some realms that could very well be true. A businessman would certainly want his business to be lucrative; his life is devoted to making money. An actor would love to score a role on Broadway or in Hollywood. These things all define success. And all these goals express the individuality of what success actually is.

But there’s more to success than just knowing one’s personal definition. Now that I have my definition of success, I need to figure out how to get there. That part is really what’s been so thought-provoking and stress-inducing. The field I want to go into is so mercurial and competitive that I need to make myself stand out among the throngs of people vying for the same position. I need to do everything right, then do a little bit extra, to reach my goal of success.

My New Year’s Resolution is part of this. Writing more and in a variety of styles will help to develop my writing skills and build a portfolio of writing samples. This blog, my contributions to the school newspaper, and whatever fiction I have time for will bring together a diverse sampling of my skills, which could be very beneficial.  Yet there’s even more to it than just writing.

A huge part of whether or not I will be successful in the writing business comes down to being a savvy job-hunter and self-marketer. Resumes, networking, internships… These seem to be the necessary items for finding a job. And I’ve been focusing a great deal of my attention and energy on theses things, particularly since the very beginning of 2012. I’m determined to make myself look good on paper (writer joke!).

Success has been taking up a great deal of my time, even though I haven’t quite accomplished it yet. It’s work– work that I need to get a jump on. Four years of college won’t hide me from the real world for long. I’m already in the second semester of my first year. And by starting to work toward my goal of success, it’s more likely that I’ll reach it. Wish me luck!

P.S. I apologize for being late on this post. Kind of a crazy week. I’ll be sure to stay on track in the future.