Letters to Me

letters1Many years ago, a 16-year-old girl sat down to write a letter. To me.

My senior year of high school, my favorite teacher encouraged his AP Lit students to write themselves a letter, and stick it with one of those fancy forever stamps; he promised to hold the letters in safekeeping until four and a half years later.

When I finally opened my letter (riddled with teenage sass, two spaces after periods, my characteristic double-period, and typos), I was overwhelmed with a maternal affection for my former self. Among other things, I talked about my accomplishments during my last year of high school, the boy I wasted a whole year pining over, and my hesitation about leaving California. Apparently, I wasn’t as stir crazy as I remember.

Underneath it all, there was a potent mix of excitement and fear. That year, I’d accidentally coined the term “exscared.” I’d lived it. Much of the letter was too embarrassing or personal to publish, but below, the bulk of its contents:

Dear Marian,

I’m scared to be writing this, to be forced to think about where I may be in 5 years. What happens if I don’t end up doing journalism? Or if I haven’t really been in love again (doubt that)? As you know, I’ve been on such a set road for so long; the thought that I might stray from that road is intimidating. I don’t really know why I’m even doing this assignment.. I guess I just know how much I love snail mail and the thought of being reminded sounds like something my 21-year-old self would smile at. [My teacher] really is incredible for having an assignment like this. It’s like that one country song, ‘Letter to Me,’ only reversed…?”

[a bunch of stuff about boys]

“So much for that brain barf.. that isn’t what my whole senior year was about. Just the mistakes. I really feel like I developed a lot as an individual. AP [English Language] showed me how to write and appreciate satire, how to hone and focus my writing for a specific audience. AP Lit taught me how to think. I loved the logs [extensive papers we wrote every couple of weeks] regardless of how much of a pain in the ass they were. But they offered me the opportunity to develop philosophies and to expand my interests and whatnot by reading a greater variety. Of course, I also learned that there are some things I still don’t like.. like, for some reason, I can’t seem to swallow anything existential. Did that change? [Nope.] Do you still keep up with Liz Gilbert? [Yup.] I’m obsessed of course.”

[more stuff about boys, including this golden, narcissistic nugget] “Can I really handle someone more intelligent than I am? That sounds hard.”

“Gosh how’s Boston, though. It must be… winter of my senior year? [Close enough.] So I’m 21…finally :)”

“Really though, I’m so ‘exscared’ about going to school. 3,000 miles sounds like so far away. And like I tried to tell [my friend], choosing between California and the east coast is like choosing between two different parts of me. The person sitting here with the laptop, fake nails, and hair in a bun, with an oversized button-down over leggings [Did I think that was chic?] is the east coast girl, sophisticated (kind of) and hopefully successful. But what about the Marian that wears her too-long hair in messy braids and walks around in cutoffs and no shoes. With the weather and attitude of the east coast, I feel like choosing Northeastern over Santa Barbara means leaving that love child hippie freak behind.. and I’m not so sure I want to do that. I mean, it’s that flower child freak inside me that wants to travel the world and eat everything in sight and hear and feel and experience different cultures. If that Marian is gone, I’m just an uninspired nomad traveling from third world country to third world country.

For now though, I’m still plain old me…”

[more stuff about different boys—fast forward one month. Pass graduation, 17th birthday, chopping off hair. Pass Go, collect $200.]

“I went to orientation this past week, which was an interesting experience. I don’t know how much I’ll like the people at NEU. I mean, I can pretty much tell I’ll like the classes and lifestyle and whatnot, but I always am iffy about the people [I am? I was?]. Maybe I just didn’t get the best crosscut of an example, but my orientation buddies were a little loud and unclassy and kind of standoffish (though I credit that to the fact that we’re all strangers). Anyway, for the purpose of finishing this letter, I’ll say peace. And also, how the heck did you fit everything in? I don’t know how to do everything I want to at NEU and still breathe!! And also, did you end up joining the Peace Corps [Lol.]? Consider it because I want to now and I probably will want to later too [Meh.].

Good luck at your new life (I can’t wait!)

Marian the younger”

I anticipated my letter’s arrival (I’d thought it was coming 4 years after graduation—when most would graduate college, but the winter makes more sense…More time to get situated, find a job, and come home for Christmas break). So I was naturally excited when it finally made its way through my chain of USPS forwarding requests to my most recent address. Reading my letter was insightful, embarrassing, and fantastical.

I vaguely remember sitting on my bed and thinking about the most relevant details to include. I see that version of myself and cheer her on, knowing that there’s so much life to live in her coming years. Following my first read-through, I immediately drafted a response to my teacher and friend, thanking him for the exercise. I’m grateful that I took the assignment seriously.

I put a lot of forethought into writing my letter, and as a result, reading through it felt like talking to a shadow of myself, a shadow because there are still remnants of that 16-year-old in me; I’ve just built and continue to build myself up around her. But she was—is—the foundation. When I wrote my letter, I was stressed about leaving home, starting school, and somehow fitting everything I wanted to do in college into what turned out to be 4.5 years (and here I was worrying that 5 was too short).

I wish I could go back and explain that goals and wishes change. Peru turns into Paris, and Marie Claire turns into…not Marie Claire. One strength of being naive is that one is never lacking for dreams. Recently, as an adult for “realsies”—Is one ever an adult if they use such terms?—I lamented my lack of freedom. Tied to a job and a relationship (both of which I’m eternally grateful for), I will likely never again have the same freedom to travel, and start fresh. I envy my former self in more ways than one.

It isn’t entirely a positive experience, though, reading this letter. I want so badly to be able to  write my 16-year-old self a reply, to coach her through the next couple of years. I want to tell her to give up on boys for a little while, to break away from the “set path” and seek opportunities she’s passionate about, not just those which beef up her resume. I want to tell her to taste duck, to invest in bitcoin, to think twice about the whole Mormon thing.

I want to tell her to hug her uncle.

It is a maternal protection I feel towards this encapsulated version of myself. But I suppose retrospect is always 20/20. All that aside, the last several years have been incredible, and I’ve been blessed with every opportunity to pursue whatever dream I dreamt that week. I’ve learned much, mostly from trial and error. Especially error. And I’m better for it.

To my teacher/mentor/friend, I wrote:

“Thank you for this exercise, for this unique and insightful look into just how far I’ve come. On my desk at work, I keep a Post-It that says “be better than you were yesterday.” It’s encouraging to see in retrospect that I’ve lived that mantra every day for the past 4.5 years. Thank you for playing your role–bigger, I think, than you’ll ever realize–in shaping the 16-year-old then and the 21-year-old now. I will forever count you among my dearest mentors and friends.”

Though I can’t pass my garnered wisdom onto my former self, I’m grateful others coached her in my (her?) stead. Cheers to the child in each of us.

Minimalism vs. Perfect 10

81v-vnEQ-oL._SL1500_I mentioned yesterday that I was whizzing through Francine Jay’s Miss Minimalist. Don’t stress—it’s really short, and if you can’t splurge on the 99 cent Kindle download, just head to her blog and get a taste for her minimalism taste and philosophy.

I’ll try to summarize: Minimalism (and “minsumerism,” being a minimalist and conscientious consumer) is a means of “sticking it to the man,” by acknowledging that not only does one not need much of their “stuff,” but they don’t even want it. As consumers, we’re bombarded with advertisements and ever-changing trends that tell us that we need something new. Minimalism says, “No I don’t, thank you very much,” and advocates that we only consume what we truly need.

A brief story of mine: Recently, I really, really wanted this cute elephant pillow from Francesca’s (because elephants are pretty darn cool). And so I bought it for myself. But only a few months later, I donated it. Turns out I guess I didn’t want it as much as I thought. And it wasn’t sophisticated enough to go with my decor. Wasteful?

Jay’s take on things: Minsumerism has many benefits—Less stuff means less stress, because you don’t have to worry about insuring, maintaining, and monitoring all of it. It also means more freedom, because you aren’t grounded to your “stuff.” There’s less pressure to keep up with the trends (because you don’t know or don’t care about them), and you subsequently save time and money that would otherwise be spent acquiring aforementioned “stuff.” On a grander scale, less stuff means a greener planet (none of those icky CO2 emissions from transporting stuff from China, and a more ethical one, because minimalists make conscientious purchases and by not harboring so much crap, the world’s wealth is distributed a little (teensy bit) more evenly. Oh, and it makes you happy. Not a bad argument.

A brief story of Jay’s: When Mr. and Mrs. Jay’s house was broken into, they had so little “stuff” that the burglar walked away with a portable CD player, an empty purse, a lipstick, and a ziplock bag of Canadian coins worth a couple of dollars. Nice job, dude. She writes that the only things really worth stealing—iPods, cell phones, cash, and wedding rings—were always on her and her husband. There was literally nothing to steal.

My take on all this: There’s a lot I agree with about Jay’s minimalist philosophy—weeding out the stuff I neither want nor need; keeping with classy, timeless pieces that don’t necessarily follow “trends;” and I think the idea of being a conscientious consumer is a very eloquent thing—I think that evaluating a potential purchase’s score 1-10 factors in a lot of different concerns, and I don’t see why ethics shouldn’t be up there with quality.

But there’s a lot about Jay’s philosophy that’s doesn’t necessarily jive with my Perfect 10 ideals. Perfect 10 is about quality and lasting style, about recognizing and reflecting one’s personal style, not whatever the media decides to endorse that week. Perfect 10 is about identity and quality, but perhaps it is not necessarily about minimalism, at least the pseudo-Buddhist kind of minimalism that Jay espouses. I don’t want to always feel like I’m living in a barren hotel room.

Jay advocates that we only acquire what we need, and I think that having some of the things we want is just as important, if they are in fact things that we want. And distinguishing between the want-it-nows and want-it-for-keeps takes time and clarity. Some creature comforts are okay, but within reason.

Perhaps it’s a taste thing, because while I appreciate a clutter-free space, the bare, white rooms that Jay posts pictures of are not comforting to me. Having moved so much, I want a place that I can return to that feels like it reflects my style, tastes, and interests. I want warmth and a big, fluffy comforter. I want real furniture, not IKEA. And that’s okay.

The takeaway: Even if our ideals don’t mix entirely, there’s still much to be gained from learning about the minimalist philosophy and lifestyle. It’s important to get rid of clutter, rather than just organize it. One of the most useful takeaways was a philosophy that my mom has always touted, as well: don’t purchase anything that does only one task (that means you, toaster).And I do agree that less stuff means more money in one’s pockets. But I also think that there is some sense of zen and comfort and happiness that comes from a true 10 purchase. Plus, I just can’t bring myself to adopt her style. Too hippie chic for someone working in PR.

May the odds be ever in my favor

PS_0251W_EXHAUSTING_ADULTI’m not good at goodbyes. And by “not good,” I mean I tend to avoid them all together (One big exception would be crying in an alley with my little before I abandoned her to study abroad, but I digress…).

With a major chapter of my life coming to a close, I feel obligated to write all these goodbye tribute posts. Farewell to Kappa. Farewell to college. Farewell to Boston. Farewell to childhood. But it doesn’t feel like closure, somehow. It feels like… I’m not entirely sure. It feels like I still have a ways to go before the chapter really concludes.

I’m not sad, necessarily, because there’s still much to look forward to. I’m not excited, necessarily, because there’s still much to do (and few people to help me do it). In all honesty, I feel like I’m faking it, like one of these days someone is going to pull back the curtain and realize that I’m just pretending to be an adult. Surprise! I have no idea what I’m doing.

I made the mistake of counting, and this upcoming move will be my 12th since I graduated high school. That’s roughly three moves a year. I’ve learned to save my boxes, leave certain boxes unpacked, and minimize. I’m looking for stability, yet I have a temporary position that won’t really support me financially and a savings account that’s dwindling at best. I joked recently that I’m going to end up buying a house when I’m 26 just so I can point to one red front door in a sea of doors and say, That one. That’s mine.

In all honestly, I’m absolutely terrified. I feel ill-equipped to jump into a new industry, I (quite rightly) feel ill-prepared to support myself. I feel exhausted by my potential (that’s a good thing?) and by having to itemize my priorities when I have little to go off of—What’s more important? Being near AB? Making money and supporting myself? Doing what I want to do? What about when those things conflict?

What people don’t tell you is that once you graduate, it’s no longer six-month co-op commitments. Every decision factors in the five-year trajectory. Where do I want to live in five years? Will I be in a comfortable position to transfer by that time? When do I want to have a family? Why is none of this—job, relationship, career path—guaranteed?

And perhaps I’m being a little melodramatic. Okay, a lot melodramatic. I have a uniquely potent dose of the real world right now and it’s a lot to handle. I’m trying for grace, grace and gumption during this uniquely turbulent next couple of months. Compared to all this “real world” stuff, college sounds easy as pie. Maybe that’s why I’m not too keen on saying goodbye just yet…

2013: The Year in Review

2013-010As December marches on, it seems only appropriate that I do what I always do this time of year—reflect on the good, bad, and ugly, and evaluate my Bucket List 2013 successes. As I go through the list, remember that over the year, interests and priorities change. So while I may not have completed some items, it’s not necessarily bad. Doing something just for the sake of completing it isn’t half as gratifying as these lists are intended to be.

Though I don’t usually title them, 2013 was a year of love. When I returned from Europe January 5, I jumped head-first into a fulfilling and incredible relationship with AB. I introduced him to my mother (success), traveled with him and friends to Puerto Rico for Spring Break, watched him walk at graduation, and helped him move to New York (by help, I mean I provided emotional support. No heavy lifting or apartment hunting, sorry babe). He, in turn, put up with my waking up at 3 a.m. to go to my internship, supported me throughout my job search, and, well, put up with me. So there’s that. Then, for Thanksgiving, I actually traveled down to the D.C.-area and met the whole famn damily (and loved them). How’s that for commitment (me?!).

There was love in other corners of my world, as well. My relationship with my mother, as ever, grew stronger still. I talked more, and subsequently more openly with my dad and my older brother, and felt overwhelmed by their unconditional love and support. My relationship with Captain America was strengthened by trips to Walmart, where we bought awesome-ly horrible tie-dye cat shirts (and then found a couple wearing equally hideous matching three-cat-moon shirts and took a picture. Small world), and by impulsive road trips. And flung together by mutual feelings of abandonment and a shared love of caffeine, my friendship with Batman grew, too. Then, this fall, my baby brother moved to Boston, and for the first time I had family (the real kind—not my haphazardly created, but nonetheless wonderful, fake family) with me in my city. And speaking of “fake” families, I fell back in love with all things Kappa, thanks in no small part to my amazing dreamlittle and an endearingly crazed fellow blogger named Sugarwoman (guest post to come!). Other highlights…

There were hardships, too, when I acutely felt the pain from the Boston Marathon bombings, as I struggled to manage an unideal roommate situation, deal with various financial hardship and instability, figure out “real world” stuff, and do long-distance. I also still can’t figure out what I want to do with my life (Four-year-olds know what they want to be “when they grow up.” Come on, Mar).

I dyed my hair. A lot (To his credit, AB noticed 2/3 times). I finally acknowledged the harmful effects of tanning—on both my skin and my wallet—and cancelled my membership, I cut out preservatives (sorta), and tried to be gluten-free (cookies don’t count). I started lifting weights with AB and found that I loved spicing up my workout. I read more about health and nutrition, and then took a class in it (97%, woop woop!).

And I started to do adult things. Like get a full-size bed. Buy a car. Gradutate. Get a job. Find an apartment. Get my wisdom teeth out (ugh). And five years late, I actually started to care about my classes and invest time and energy into learning things just for the sake of learning them. (Pause for reaction).

Some years (Ahem, 2011, I’m looking at you), I’ve looked toward the new year with a sense of relief because at the very least, a new year means that no more bad things can happen in this year. But I’m admittedly a little sad to see 2013 go. There are few memories this year that I don’t look back on fondly. 2014 will pull the rug out from under me, but here’s hoping it’s in the best of spirits. With the support network I’ve garnered, particularly in the past year, I can’t imagine any potential hardships would be unbearable.

So in that spirit, let’s evaluate my 2013 Bucket List: Continue reading

Some thoughts on time…

Girl-w-lots-of-watches-32

No, this is not me. Yes, I was one of those people that sported several watches. Come to think of it, maybe *that’s* what scared Eric G. away.

The time is running away. It’s already midway through the semester, and—ladies and gents—I’m struggling.

I just put together this “by the numbers” piece on Daylight Saving Time’s “fall back” for the Globe (no easy feat when the government kindly decides to go on hiatus), and it’s got me dwelling on time. That and what I’ve now come to not-so-endearingly call “The (Dreaded) Precipice.”

Things are not all terrible. I’ve made the mistake of letting this blog turn into a sort of ventfest, a slightly more mature and grammatically correct version of my 8th grade blog (which is forever entrenched somewhere in the deep, dark confines of the Internet, encapsulating my undying love for Eric Gulczynski… “i love him. so what if im 12, why doesnt anyone take me seriouslyyyy?? were like soul mates.” Sorry, dude).

I digress. But it’s just that the good things are primarily job-related (probably because I’m so single-mindedly focused on jobsjobsjobs). But because they’re job-related, I can’t write about them here, for fear they don’t work out, or other companies see them. Or for fear that I scare away companies with my enthusiasm-bordering-on-obsession, like I did poor Eric G.

In vague terms, however, I had an “informational interview” with a great company, and things are moving along. There are some other amazing prospects as well, and each would make me incredibly happy. Everything has its pros and cons, but that’s to be expected, right? It just feels great to see things going someplace.

I do, however, feel something of envy for my peers that graduated and then started applying for jobs. With all the buses down to NYC, interviews, modifying my resume/cover letter/whatever, I’m letting my study habits and commitment to Kappa fall by the wayside (read: disappear). And I wish I had more time to figure it all out, formulate To-Do lists, maybe clean my bedroom or do some yoga every once in a decade.

At the very least, I’ll be grateful for that extra hour Nov. 3. Every little bit helps, yes?

Life on the Edge

beach-cliff-cute-girl-water-Favim.com-419890_largeSo I’m at this really important turning point in my life, right?—Just moved into this amazing, new apartment, boyfriend moves to the big city to start up his life and blaze a trail for me to follow, and I’ve got a measly four months left of college before I’m dumped in the real world. So, naturally, at this precipice of all precipices, I go ahead and lose my planner on a plane. Go me.

But even without my color-coded little planner, I am choosing to take an optimistic view of the next couple of months. Sure, long distance will suck, but I’m going to make this an incredible semester, end on a high note, and… I don’t know. Figure it out or something.

Step 1: FOOD

As many people know, I am a total foodie, and I care a lot about the things I put into my body. I’ve also tried many different diet changes, and they each have their pros and cons. This semester, I’ve re-started my biweekly produce delivery with Boston Organics. This time around, I’m subscribing to the small 2/3 vegetable box (more variety. One of my biggest qualms with the dogma localvore box was the lack of variety. I can only scarf down so many beets). The rest of my diet will consist of basically quinoa and meat, because there’s one more diet detail: I’m cutting out gluten.

Now let me explain—I’m don’t have celiac, nor am I particularly gluten-sensitive. But I tried this for a week before, and it was hard, but I enjoyed the benefits. Most of my go-to, on-the-go snacks and meals (breakfast sandwiches, wraps, burritos) are bread-based, and no gluten means I have to eat more protein and rely on vegetables as filler. I found when I cut out gluten, I snacked less, packed in tons more fiber, and ultimately felt “cleaner” and skinnier. I’ll miss beer, but I think this is a great way to force myself to plan out meals, cut down on snacking, and save money by avoiding eating and drinking out.

Step 2: WORKOUTS

I briefly mentioned a while ago how last semester, AB got me to start lifting weights. We went three times a week and the benefits were awesome. I felt sexy and powerful. And then summer happened and it all just kind of fell by the wayside. But he and I worked together and found a new three-day-a-week lifting routine, with varying degrees of difficulty. I’ll lift three days a week, and do cardio two or three days. The lift routine is here, and for cardio, I’ll rely mostly on spinning and running (surprised?). I found this great app on my phone called Spin Class, which basically enforces intervals. You can design your own routines or use their pre-made ones. And it uses the music already in iTunes.

With AB gone, one of the most important things for me is to fill my time. Because busy girls don’t miss their boyfriends (as much). I’m hoping some gym time can help me out.

Step 3: LIFE

When I’m not cooking, or at the gym, or making a dedicated effort to be more involved in Kappa (another goal—better late than never?), my free time will be devoted to job hunting. I’m piecing together my demo reel, revamped this website (you like?) and my resume (coming soon), and am committing to applying to a job a day. I want to be in the Northeast, and doing something I love, but I figure variety is key. I’m looking for reporter positions, yes, but also paralegal work, research, writing, HR, nonprofits, whatever. I know that if I’m good enough at something, I’ll enjoy it, no matter what it is.

Here’s to an awesome semester at my new home (pictures to come), full of great food, fitness, fun, and drive to accomplish my goals. Now who’s down for some cliff diving?

Reflections on Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project”

happiness-projectRecently, two things happened: First, I talked to my dad about, well, life. Secondly, I read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project.

I’m not depressed, but there are a lot of things in my life right now that tend to stress me out, and prompt endless list-writing. So. Many. To-dos.

In the conversation with my dad, we talked about various frustrations—how my car is a money-sucking death trap, how my living situation is less-than-ideal, how I don’t have a consistent enough schedule to get a job—and my general lack of peace of mind. In a Joseph Campbell-inspired bout of guru-ness, he suggested that I spend sometime alone in a quiet, indoor place. I laughed/cried. It’s funny/sad because I don’t have any peaceful indoor place (my own head included).

Instead, I said I’d identify some other means of lightening my load. And I started with Rubin.

Rubin’s The Happiness Project was on the bestseller list for almost a year. In a Reader’s Digest-esque summary, Rubin spends a year following resolutions to improve her happiness and general demeanor. And then writes about it. It’s a forced memoir (I don’t usually like that sort of thing—It’s like writing a news story knowing what you want the outcome to be), but an eloquent one at that.

Rubin and I share an appreciation for lists, Elizabeth Gilbert, and a justifiable splurge. And we also share a short temper, lots of mental clutter, and a sometimes-not-so-positive craving for perfection. She also writes like she’s talking at a cocktail party, recanting her year of happiness (and thus has a natural, light, and almost cheeky tone). She laughs at herself. And she ends each chapter on a cheeky upswing.

So I loved it (and her).

Her book prompts the reader to consider some personal truths. Perhaps because I haven’t written “brain barf” in a long while, I thought I’d share mine. Rubin identifies eight splendid truths of happiness, and the first reads:

“To be happier, you have to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right in an atmosphere of growth.”

HER PROMPTS and MY REFLECTIONS:

What makes you feel good? What activities do you find fun, satisfying, or energizing?

In the margin of the book, I scribbled: writing for fun, cooking, viewing art that I’ve studied (especially Van Gogh, who struck a chord when I saw his exhibit in Amsterdam—amazing), writing lists, and accomplishing goals. It’s hard for me to list specific things because I limit myself. I love interior design and transforming my bedroom, but that costs a lot of money, so I don’t do it. I like traveling alone, but it’s kind of weird and very expensive, so I don’t indulge.

What makes you feel bad? What are sources of anger, irritation, boredom, frustration, or anxiety in your life?

On this one, I scribbled: feeling inadequate or less intelligent. For the first, I can pinpoint specific times when I’ve been made to feel inadequate—and it sucks. I like the satisfaction of outlining, pursuing, and accomplishing goals. I like challenge. I like learning. So whenever opportunities like that fall through the cracks or are made extraordinarily difficult, I get frustrated, or bored, or whatever. No bueno.

Is there any way you don’t feel right about your life? Do you wish you could change your job, city, family situation, or other circumstances?

On this one, I feel pretty good, honestly. I have previously felt a little out of whack, but I like to think that I take care to ensure that I am pursuing my whims and whatnot. When I questioned my commitment to journalism, I took a hiatus (read: Paris) and “discovered” an interest and passion for broadcast.

Do you have sources of an atmosphere of growth? In what elements of your life do you find progress, learning, challenge, improvement, and increased mastery?

In this aspect, I’m much like my mom, who loves taking classes—on anything from Spanish to mushroom foraging to sausage making. Right now, this “growth” aspect is easy because I’m in college, where the entire curriculum is based around growth. Moving forward, I think this growth aspect is especially important to keep in mind, because the feeling of accomplishment is one of my most reliable sources of happiness. Post grad, this could be in the form of a book club, fitness classes, traveling, adult classes, cooking classes—even challenges, like cooking all the recipes in a cookbook a la Julie and Julia. Whatever floats my boat, right?

#21for21st: How I celebrated my 21st birthday!

IMG_3381(NOTE: I’m posting this prematurely, but it’s been quite time consuming. I will finish all 21 acts and add links and updates periodically—It’s an ongoing project!!)

I’m finally 21! After legally being able to purchase booze in Europe, it was a little frustrating to return to the good ole’ US of A. Sometimes a girl just wants some wine, yo.

On previous years, I’ve drafted up lists of (typically cheesy) “Things I’ve learned in my __ years,” but that seems silly for some reason. I have learned many things in the past 21 years: one of which is that I don’t like using cliches. It’s… cliche.

Plus, this birthday is no ordinary birthday. It’s the big 2-1. And don’t get me wrong, I definitely had myself a good time when the clock stuck midnight on the night of my birthday. I more or less shoved my ID in the face of the bouncer, happy as a skunk to be legal. FINALLY. But everyone does that…

Not everyone decides to spend their birthday summer doing charity. I mentioned my plan a little before, but here’s the gist: 21 acts for my 21 years. Sooo much better than 21-things-I’ve-learned-that-are-maybe-in-a-galaxy-far-far-away-somewhat-relavent. I was inspired by a blog post I found on Pinterest, and decided to do my own little version. As previously mentioned, my goal is to vary the methods (money, races, goods, volunteer time), and the recipients. So without further ado, ladies and gents:

The 21 Acts of Kindness/Charity for my 21st Birthday (in no particular order):

IMG_33721. Buy a Boston Strong shirt.

I started drafting ideas for this list shortly after the Boston Marathon bombings. After the Boston Strong concept popped up (about 3.2 nanoseconds after the first explosion), hundreds of companies and students and Etsy designers started distributing designs, with some or all of the proceeds going towards the One Fund Boston. But today, as I was walking home from the Women’s Lunch Place (see below!), I stopped in on a pop-up charity sale with the proceeds going to OFB (which—as a brief aside—has raised almost $50 million!!). I found the most perfect shirt, produced by Marathon Sports (the store where one of the bombs went off) with a little design on the back of the intersection.

Recipient: One Fund Boston, me (I mean, I got a super soft, cute, patriotic shirt of awesomeness).

photo (7)2. Volunteer at a Red Sox game.

I’m actually doing this twice—once on my own when the Red Sox play the San Diego Padres (whom  no one else cares about), and then again with my parents when my family comes to visit later this summer. It’s a great setup that I learned about through my sorority: they feed you, then you sell raffle tickets for the first 7 innings—the proceeds of which go to the Red Sox Foundation, and then you’re free to watch the rest of the game at no cost. Awesome, right?

Recipient: Red Sox Foundation, me (I mean, I get to see a game. For free).

UPDATE: My friend Pitu came with me last minute and we had so much fun! We got great seats, post-volunteering (I could almost touch the monster), and finished our night with yummy, yummy beers at Yard House!

IMG_33803. Volunteer with Captain America at The Women’s Lunch Place.

Hi, this is my “besfrenn,” who will henceforth be referred to as Captain America or CA. Since many of my friends decided to ditch town this weekend, I asked him to come up from New Jersey and play with me—and he happily obliged. Best person ever, right? I also asked him to come with me to volunteer at WLP on Newbury Street, a pet charity of mine. We were originally slated to run BINGO, but instead we raffled off prizes to the wonderful women, and then organized their “freebie” closet. I might even go in once a week or so to organize their closet! It was simple work but fun nonetheless, and I had fun with my besfrenn!

Recipient: The Women’s Lunch Place, me (I mean I got to hang out with CA). Continue reading

Sloths and zombies and… other stuff, oh my

slothy1If you haven’t seen any new postings (and you haven’t), it’s because my life is kind of boring right now. Except when it’s not. But mostly, it’s boring. I have writer’s block.

And not even normal writer’s block. Like I-can’t-even-write-anything-in-my-journal writer’s block. I. Am. So. Uninteresting. And my journal doesn’t even need to be interesting. It’s a journal. Like, sometimes, it’s just a drunken list of “Things I did/thought/ate today.” I can’t even muster that.

So I will try to be more interesting, to tear myself away from the LoL vortex of (occasional) boringness that is AB’s apartment and try and go explore more. Maybe take a road trip, maybe just plan my birthday, maybe do… other things. I’ll make a list? Summer 2013 supplemental bucket list?

On a bright note, I’m in the process of refinishing my dresser that I bought in 2011 and have yet to revamp. Go me. Also, I read a book about zombies. So there’s that…

A Boston journalist’s take on the marathon bombings

58128_10151616813503760_94963851_nA week ago today, two bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Two hours before they exploded, I’d been standing at the second bomb site.

For the past week, the bombings are all anyone’s been able to talk about. It’s a “where were you when…” situation that’s sickeningly similar to 9/11 recollections. I’ve waited several days to try and grapple with, to evaluate how I feel about everything. I know it’s something I want to write about, something I want to encapsulate in the foreverness of the Internet, but something deeply personal, too.

The United States of America was assaulted on Monday. Boston was assaulted on Monday. The 190 people that were killed or maimed in the past week were assaulted. And so was I.

AB kept asking me if I was okay because I wasn’t talking a whole lot (To be fair, I’ve been really sick and couldn’t talk if I wanted to). Mostly, I’ve just kept quiet because I don’t really know how to process very well. When 9/11 happened, I was 9 years old and 3,000 miles away, so everything seemed eerily distant. Most of my classmates had never seen New York, and most didn’t have family working to rescue victims and clean up the aftermath—For the most part, I felt very alone in my naive perspective of terrorism.

Though the scope of this attack is only a fraction of the World Trade Center, it’s admittedly more impactful for me. I’m older, for starters; and I’m a witness to the horror. I’ve walked that street, I’ve seen people crutching through the city with bandages covering their shrapnel wounds. I’ve come to adopt this incredible city as my own in the past 4 years, and I was deeply offended that someone could attack it.

On Friday morning, I woke up at 3:00 a.m. to get ready for my internship. When I’d gone to bed hours earlier, two bombing suspects had been identified in photos by the FBI, and an MIT security officer had been shot and killed. Overnight, the events had escalated far quicker than I ever would have thought.

I got into the newsroom early and spent the next 13 hours stalking the Twittersphere, calling sources, running memos between the newsroom and the studio, and doing—for lack of a more comprehensive term—journalism.

Halfway through the day, I drove back into the city to pick up a friend. I was chilled by the empty streets, how a thriving “Hub” of a city could turn into a war zone in minutes. My city looked downright apocalyptic. I let the radio gab in the background and drove my friend to the newsroom, where producers promptly put her on air. A native Russian, she translated the living suspect’s social media page, summarized Slavic news coverage, and kept me company. Everyone was so thankful, and anchors and producers told me I’d done great work…

Me? I’d brought in a girlfriend. But then I kind of realized that that’s what journalism is: It’s networking and pooling resources, sharing knowledge—and I’d helped that process. With her knowledge and my journalistic intuition, we were able to pull relevant information that helped our viewers contextualize the situation.

If I’ve ever had a doubt in my mind whether I loved journalism or not—and we all know I have because it’s been on this blog—it was dispersed on Friday. In a sad way, that fiery, crazed mess of a newsroom was everything that makes me love journalism. Every scoop is a race, and even when I lost, I just kept running.

Hours later, I stumbled into AB’s apartment, crumpled onto appropriately named “Fancy Couch,” and fell asleep to the familiar sounds of on-air ad-libbing. I woke up to the 6 p.m. newser wherein officials basically said “We have no leads and can’t keep people contained anymore.”

When I woke up next, he’d been caught. Continue reading