Miss Musings

A modern miss provides commentary on sociological and psychological issues concerning politics, the media, literature, and everyday observances.

#MissCollege: Finding a sense of place

As I dropped haphazardly taped up boxes of school supplies on my floor and frantically gazed around the white cellar that I now had to call home, I wondered if I would ever feel welcome at the massive University of Central Florida. People were abuzz with joy during move-in day, but I felt on the outskirts of something great.

My first week of college felt like a vacation, competition, and an episode of Big Brother. I attended too many club meetings and had a copious number of awkward conversations that always included the following questions: “What’s your name? Major? Why UCF? Can we be best friends?” I scrambled to meet people with cars and baked a lot of chocolately treats. Oddly enough, I didn’t cry.

After the first two weeks life seemed to make more sense. I didn’t need a map to find my classes, and I pinpointed life-saving shortcuts to get from my dorm to across campus in 7 minutes. I discovered the unpredictability of on campus shuttles and nailed two committee interviews. I even made a few amazing friends. Often I questioned if I was socializing enough, even though I had already committed to too many activities and projects for others. So I kept running to meetings, studying, and scheduling.

Now I am in a comfortable “college rhythm.” A few days ago UCF had its largest homecoming event called “Spirit Splash.” At the event, thousands of UCF students run into the reflection pond and attempt to catch rubber ducks that volunteers hurl into the water. Often Spirit Splash can get violent, as the demand for rubber ducks is ample and the supply is lacking. That day I stood on the perimeter of the madness, awkwardly holding my phone to take video of the brawls, and wondering if I made the right choice in coming to UCF. I stayed close to home and made friends, but I still felt like I was chasing dreams too slowly. Suddenly, rubber ducks started being thrown into the crowd of eager students in the water, and surprisingly, to us, the misfits on the outskirts of the party. Hundreds of hands flew up in the air to catch a duck that apparently had wings and flew toward all of us. I spotted the duck and knew it was going to be mine, and I watched it land right onto my shoulder. Later that day I ran into the middle of the reflection pond, empowered by being wrapped into a tradition. I stopped hesitating. Instead of saying “maybe next year,” I thought, “why not go right now?”

Courtesy of Knight News

Courtesy of Knight News

With that anecdote, I will list of some items to consider if you are trying to find yourself at college or a new workplace.

  1. Take too many risks.
  2. Have an overriding reason to wake up every morning. For me, it’s the idea of working in New York and living among the magic of a big city. When I want to give up on an assignment, I just remember the vague outline of a potent dream and how I can reach it one day.
  3. Talk to people. In lines. At shows. In class.
  4. Make meaningful friends. Having a friend in class to remind you of a deadline or exam will be vital to your success.
  5. Remember that you can’t do college alone.
  6. Allow yourself to break down.
  7. Be vulnerable with a few people.
  8. Work on one big self project in your free time, such as writing a story or painting a mural.
  9. Be nice to everyone.
  10. Wake up earlier and use your mornings to write to-do lists.
  11. Speak louder than usual when you are nervous.
  12. Volunteer to do things you feel you are under qualified for.
  13. Relish the time you are challenged, because you will grow even if you don’t succeed with something.
  14. Join a lot of things and then evaluate what you enjoy most. Then drop.
  15. Don’t make promises or appointments you can’t keep.
  16. Be early.
  17. Do homework the day it is assigned, if possible.
  18. Take one entire day off every week.
  19. Don’t let anyone talk you out of your beliefs.
  20. Don’t let anyone try to define you.
  21. Avoid talking politics.
  22. Be wary of people in competitive environments.
  23. Dress up on exam day.
  24. Try something, fail, and remember why you wanted to try in the first place.

 

College is tricky. It can feel lonely even if you try to get involved quickly. All you can do is work hard and let people come to you. Chase your passions and everything else falls into place. Take classes for yourself and take care of your health. Life is long, and this is just a blip on the screen, so don’t worry about making all of your memories during these four years. This isn’t the highlight of your life; it’s just a moment. Learn from the experience and cherish it. You’ll find your place now and again later as you grow. Be an emotional nomad; life is more fun that way.

 

 

#TreatYourself, epiphanies, and the art of being Elsa

This piece started as a Facebook post, then it was fully drafted in an email with no subject line or recipient. I figured that no one in particular needed to read these thoughts of mine, so, naturally, I posted them on the internet.

Over the past summer I noticed that I was not a very happy camper; I was about to start college (whoo!), but I felt dependent and helpless. I couldn’t drive, I wasn’t taking care of myself, I lost my flexibility, my heart was empty and in need of a rebound, blah blah. I realized that I had completely lost touch with who I was and where I was going. Therefore I did what any lonely girl would do – read inspirational quotes and eat chocolate. I read one quote from a role model of mine, Gloria Steinem, which changed my perspective tremendously:

“We must become the men we want to marry.”

I am not a sentimental person all the time. When people would say “THIS BOOK/QUOTE CHANGED MY LIFE” I would roll my eyes. But this quote you just read gutted my mind. Wow. I was seeking to meet the people, particularly the guy, that I wanted to BE.

Pivotal. I stopped focusing on myself in search of self-actualization… yet I was only distracting myself from my own flawed perspective. Little did I know I had been doing this for at least a year, probably more. I dropped my laptop in surprise (kidding, I love this thing), and got to work on mission: be your own #flawless self, by doing the following things:

1. Yoga. I CAN BEND MY BODY IN COOL WAYS. I CAN FOCUS ON MY BREATHING, EVEN THOUGH I HAVE AWFUL ALLERGIES. EUREKA, THAT IS THE SPOT!!

2. Reading every day. I used to dislike reading because I am impatient, but now I see why I love books: you don’t have to look at beautiful actors and feel self-pity or turn the volume up-and-down. I read fiction, non-fiction, auto-biographies, and the news. I feel mentally fly.

3. Coding every day. I am going into computer science and was always a bit put off by the techy people who knew how to code everything ever. Instead of wallowing, I started using codecademy to learn new skills and brush up on old ones. Now I can make pretty glowing buttons using jQuery! Activate #STEMFemme super powers!!!

4. Learning a language. I signed up for Duolingo and do lessons in French and Spanish every day. Both of these are languages of the United Nations, which I fell in love on my trip to New York City, so I wanted to at least learn to say more than “Bonjour” and “Hola.”

5. Learning to drive. I was bad at driving for three years and just gave up on it, and in doing so, limited my freedom, adulthood, and individuality. So I began driving consistently and got way better at the mechanics of driving – I have even driven to downtown Orlando! Learning to drive has empowered me in unexpected ways, so I urge you to challenge yourself and do one thing every day that scares you (Eleanor Roosevelt quote).

As I heal myself from a life of self-limitation and underestimation, I gain pride in who I am and simultaneously stop caring so much about how I present who I am to others. But enough about me; this post was meant to help you. I am no Gloria Steinem and I am way too verbose, but I thought I’d lend you 26 quick, meme-worthy, sentence-long nuggets of wisdom I have gained during my coding/French/yoga sessions.

  • Instead of learning to shape society, we should learn to stop letting it control us.
  • If you do not try to own something, no one can steal it.
  • Your greatest insecurity will one day be the world’s greatest trend.
  • Just because you can operate properly does not mean you are over everything bad that has happened to you.
  • Venting is restricted flow.
  • Both love and pain are mental constructs, and you can control which one is greater than the other.
  • Just because you pick your battles does not mean you are a doormat.
  • You are not a paradox – you are balanced.
  • Love is flexible and undefinable and not designed for you to understand.
  • Jealousy indicates distrust and should not be felt in love. If it is felt, it is not love.
  • You are your worst enemy and your greatest ally.
  • You cannot change everything or waste energy being mad at social structure.
  • However, you can morph your own structure.
  • Trust that most people are dishonest sometimes.
  • Make yourself feel special.
  • Superheroes have unnatural superpowers… supermodels have?
  • You are not fat. You have fat. Everyone has fat. Everyone is “fat.”
  • Worry about your appearance. Motivate yourself. Then love what comes out of motivation.
  • Accept authority under most circumstances.
  • Stop complaining; it inhibits.
  • Do not settle. 7 billion people. You’ll find “the one” and your true friends.
  • Try not to change, because change is organic. If you try to control who you become, you will make the process of transitioning difficult.
  • Do not ask people not to pigeon-hole you. They will just pigeon-hole you as too sensitive and move on.
  • Pride is not shameful, it’s healthy.
  • I am not defined by how I was born but by what I do every day.
  • I love you. I love me too, though. Maybe me a little bit more. But it is okay because you should love you. Don’t make others do all the work. They won’t.
Finally, love is not about control, it is about relinquishing it. It is about trust. Loving yourself means taking care of yourself and letting yourself bloom out of your own two feet. Loving others is letting them do their thing and knowing inside that they won’t hurt you. I am a control-freak, admittedly, but I am learning to let the leaves change every year and the sun come up every day without my help or personal contribution. The world spins even when your world crashes down, and all you can do is enjoy the ride some higher power takes you on.
Namaste, go with Beyonce, and make like Elsa and –
let it go

#DearMe: An open letter to my 13-year-old self

The YouTube #DearMe challenge has been around a while, but I thought I would take my own written crack at it. Here is an open letter to my 13-year-old self.

letter

Dear Samantha,

I hope this letter finds you well. You’ve got a lot going on, from friends to feelings to body image. You’re beginning to find your own way among the patterns of teenagers. Gone are the days of being friends with your sisters friends – finally, you are finding your own crew! Yet, you are under internal and external pressure, sweating from the heat of feelings you shouldn’t have to deal with right now. That girl is going to tell you to date this guy, and you won’t want to. And you don’t. Good going! Resist, resist, and smile. Your boiling point is a bit higher than you may realize.

Right now you may be confused about what you are doing. Are you cool? Are you wearing the right things? Does your outfit for the 80s dance look good? Sip that butterbeer at HP world slowly and appreciate how wonderful your family is. At times, they will be all you have.

You just got over a big hump in your life: the body hump. Not your body, but the idea of it.

Your body is not the enemy. Food is not the villain. Exercise is not the solution. You are not the problem.

Sometimes you will wonder why no one has a crush on you. They do, you just don’t want to recognize it. Let the other girls have the boys. You’ve got yourself to work on.

Whatever you do, keep writing. You are going to find a voice that others want to hear! After all the listening you do, people finally want to know your story. However, make sure you aren’t so busy writing that you forget to live your story. It will be worth telling and living, even if at times it does not seem that way.

When you are 17, you will discover that you want to visit New York. When you are there, smile and breathe. It will be your last chance to catch your breath before you have to be an adult. You will go to summer camp and it will be a lot better than last year’s, even though last year’s should have been perfect and you won all those awards. Yes, when you are 17 you finally have faith in other people and be blindsided by humans you never thought you’d get along with. You’ll fall with your eyes open and break open and have to sew yourself back together, only to realize you aren’t sure who you are anymore or what you are about to become.

All throughout the years from 13 to 18, you’re going to have bad thoughts. You don’t need meds or therapy: you need to open your eyes. Those girls don’t mean to hurt you. Break every mirror in your sight with your own thoughts. Black and white definitions will cage you in. You will not lose anybody that you need. You will survive, and your stories will thrive. You will have faith in organizations that will fail you and your voice will grow so loud that silencing yourself and growing up will be painful sometimes.

Your best friends right now will not be by your side forever, and truth be told, very few people will be. Keep being supportive to your family and stop putting eggs in baskets only to watch them bust open. Not yoking.

Laugh at stupid jokes and take plenty of time for yourself. You will grow to love food and puns and pretty pictures. In two years, you’ll meet a great programming teacher and begin to chart your very own path. You will speak at conferences about your experience as a homeschooler, start a blog that you love because it is YOUR OWN, and you will win things and lose things. The college choice will be one you weren’t expecting, but you will be SO excited and proud of your school. Keep an open mind and don’t expect too much. Love while you can, and try not to regret.

Remember – no matter what, it’s not your fault, and you’re going to live a big life after. At times you feel helpless and want to go back to it, but don’t! You are all you need, perfect in the most complex and simple ways. Call yourself a paradox and life will be much easier to live.

P.S. You’ll won’t finish any of those novels you start, but you will keep writing. Your favorite quotes will be from Virginia Woolf, ee cummings, and Beyonce. You’ll become a empathetic feminist and slam-poetry-lover who finally feels smart. Take on the world but enjoy the ride; I love you.

– Samantha, age 18

Give up something you love right now

Most people don’t know I did ballet for eight years. The people who do often ask, “hey, do you still dance?” I am still working on my response, which is currently an empty “no.”

There is nothing I worked harder at in my life than my dance technique. I remember acting as a robot each day – stretching, doing yoga, practicing routines, even running home after a rehearsal to videotape the choreography I learned so I wouldn’t forget in the middle of a routine. While I enjoyed dancing, I began to realize that, as with any relationship, it is very easy to fall in love, and much trickier to notice when you fall out.

I began dance because I wanted to be like Barbie in The Nutcracker: beautiful, blonde, skinny, stretchy… but the journey to Barbiedom was a painful and difficult one. Discipline was something I possessed, but breaking down my entire body in order to perform certain moves, lifting people off the ground, and hearing constant critique over the fact that I couldn’t point my feet enough or “stick my tail under” became inordinately hard to accept. The embarrassment of forgetting combinations or being unable to stay on my box in my pointe shoes was something everyone had to fight through, in a way, and it was not an enjoyable battle. At the time I felt like I was achieving little successes and winning the fight against the physically improbable – the shoes, the body, the perfect bun. However, near the end of my journey, I began to doubt if the struggle to be perfect was really something worth engaging in.

When someone you love makes you stare in the mirror each day, wishing for constant improvement, or tells you that you are going to have to work for their attention, you would probably recognize that the person you fell for is not your perfect match. Sometimes, the pointe shoe does not always fit.

So, I stopped doing ballet. Perfectionism was something I worried about for years. Impressing people and performing with grace and power can make you stronger, think faster, and be better… but after a while, you have to realize the journey has a destination, and at that destination, you must realize you have come as far as you wanted to.

Giving up on something you love, or even just taking a break, can be healthy; it can even help you better understand what your goals are with what you love, and if they are worth continuing to reach toward. In the words of our hypeorlando prompt this week, giving up and moving forward can be the “road not taken.” The gravel path to personal achievement and pride, one that hosts only kind words and empowering memories, is the road less traveled by, but should always be taken with a satisfied strut.

(more…)

Don’t live your life like this

We all despise poor drivers, and the most common culprit to poor driving is texting while doing so. Whether you heard your phone beep with a new Twitter notification or want to see if people like your new profile picture on Facebook, your use of the phone in your car may prevent you from driving at the correct speed limit, going when the light turns green, or even staying on the road altogether.

Plus, you endanger your life when you do not pay attention to your surroundings. Are texts and tweets and instant acronym-littered communication that important?

This all probably sounds like a PSA about not texting and driving… and it is. But, this post is meant to be more of a life lesson, with the message being this: in the words of my mom, who told me this a few days ago, “don’t live your life in thirty second bursts.”

What?

“Three tweets, two texts… thirty seconds? I’m not living my life in thirty seconds. Nope.”

Think about it – the total time you spend checking your phone in thirty second intervals may add up to the time it would take to have several wonderful face-to-face conversations, ride rollercoasters, go canoeing like you have been meaning to, and read the book you haven’t picked up in a few weeks. You may do all of these things, amid the instant communication, mind you, but what if you used more of that insta-communication time towards learning new skills, exercising, resting, and relaxing? Life is busy. It’s back-to-back train rides, soccer practice trips, phone calls, headaches, and worries. Put down your phone. The world will slow down and your nails will suddenly get painted and you will have an evening to talk to your grandparents about all of the beautiful moments you have encountered since you opened your eyes.

I purposely did not invest in a smart phone for the very reason that I love to be in the moment. I will get one eventually for professional reasons, but for now, I limit myself to phone calls and a few texts here and there. Some days I go out and do not even take my phone with me, or I simply turn it off. I find that when I do this I smile more, talk to the people surrounding me, and appreciate the ambiance of the world. I don’t live my life in thirty second bursts when I could live my life in twenty-four hour marathons, with periods of rest and constant appreciation.

Don’t live your life glued to your phone. It will pass by too quickly.

Photo credits:

  • images.express.co.uk
  • buzzfeed.com
  • media.giphy.com

 

9 ways to be an excellent journalist

GLAMcamp London, England, GB, IMG 4965 edit

By Peter Weis (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

We all have our rock star dreams, literal or not. While journalism is an attainable field to go into, it takes a lot of effort, some connections, a bunch of luck, and the following skills.

  1. Know how to speak to people effectively. You know those people with the firm handshakes, easy tones, and understanding looks who you just want to open up to? Be that type of person. Speak with ease, smile, and do not pressure others for facts or be annoying. You never know who will fess up the right information to you based on your manner.
  2. Learn how to feel out situations. Are you in an intense atmosphere like a crime scene? Or are you in a friendly party setting? Be aware of your surroundings and try to analyze which people look the most willing to talk to you. Not everyone will want to speak to a journalist.
  3. Butter people up. Everyone loves compliments, but at the very least, try to get on a level playing field with the person you are interviewing; this will make them like you more and be more candid when they answer your questions.
  4. Listen much more than you talk. Journalists are meant to ask questions and tell stories – that’s it. Try not to be self-centered when speaking to interview subjects and turn their responses around on yourself. It does not matter what YOU would do in a certain situation, but rather, what your subject did. Be warm, ask follow up questions, clarify, and move forward in order to use your time constructively.
  5. Come prepared. Always arrive to interviews with questions in mind! No matter how great you are on the spot, it is always best to come prepared with some questions in hand.
  6. Focus on making people comfortable around you. Contrary to what you may believe, journalists should a. never be annoying, and b. NEVER try to be intimidating. No one wants to fess up facts to people who intend to intimidate others with their prowess. Whether you are talking to your grandma or interviewing the mayor, remember to make eye contact, be engaging, and approach your subject as a curious friend instead of a “big time” journalist.
  7. Never prompt interviews with “I’m a journalist…” This follows the same path as the last tip. In most cases, interview subjects will get nervous when they realize they are speaking to someone who can control their public images. It really does not matter that you are a journalist when you are attempting to get a quote from someone. What matters more is making a friendly first impression, getting your subject to trust you, and then throwing in the journalist bit.
  8. Remember that this is not about you – it is about the story. If you go into journalism just because you like seeing your own name in print, you might as well throw the dream away now. This field is way too cutthroat for people who are driven only by success. Journalists must always prioritize telling accurate, informative stories from original angles. The best journalists are the ones who could spend their whole lives without receiving any credit for their work yet still feel fulfilled by being the ones to tell the stories.
  9. Be willing to learn from others. The most crucial aspect of journalism everyone must remember is that journalism is a constantly evolving field. If Twitter gets big, learn how to use it in a timely manner. Be on top of new social networks. Ask questions. Be present. Finally, be willing to learn from your interview subjects, colleagues, elders, and youth. No matter how qualified you are, you are a storyteller, not the be-all end-all fact machine. How can you tell a good story if you are not willing to listen to the stories of other people?

Have more tips for being a great journalist? Tweet them to me or leave a comment below!