Throughout my whole childhood, I made sure to designate some time each winter break to crafting a well thought out New Year’s Resolutions list. The holiday season has always elicited a strong sense of inspiration and made me super hopeful about the potential of the year ahead. I tried to be specific when it came to making my resolutions, having two separate lists: one for tangible goals to achieve in the coming year, and one for more intangible goals: such as personality traits and habits to work on developing in the year ahead. The first list always featured big benchmarks, from getting my driver’s license to running my first half marathon. The second allowed me to do some introspection. I would encourage myself to improve my Russian and practice guitar for fun more often (both of which were featured on the lists too many times throughout the years before I gave up…oops?) I was decent at accomplishing everything I set out to do because I’m the kind of person that thrives in accomplishing things when the steps to get there are within my control. I knew the exact measures that I had to take to achieve each goal, whether it be the more tangible or more character-based ones. At the end of each year, I would sit down for my annual ego boost as I checked off resolution after resolution. And then came 2020. The year of absolutely no control.Continue reading “Why I Won’t Make New Year’s Resolutions Anymore”
The search for summer internships this year was anything but easy. Last year, I was lucky enough to be hired for the only internship I applied for, and it just so happened that it was my dream position. This year, however, my luck very much shifted. Like many college students, I applied to more positions than I can remember and didn’t hear back from 90% of them. It was extremely frustrating to spend hours and hours researching different organizations, writing countless cover letters, and not knowing when/if there was an end in sight to the search. By the beginning of May, I gave up and became set on working at a fast food restaurant instead to make some extra spending money. It wasn’t the ideal outcome, but I became more content with the idea of it as the days passed by. I was thus very pleasantly surprised when I got an email from the customer service representative at the Pennsylvania Prison Society, explaining that my email somehow went to their spam folder and that they were still looking to fill some internship positions. I very much felt conflicted after reading this email – do I write yet another cover letter that they very likely won’t read? Do I pour a bunch of effort into this application when I’ve already accepted the fact that an internship is likely not in the cards for me this year? Why do I even want an internship so badly – Is it experience that I genuinely want to gain, or is it the toxic work culture that begins building the moment you step into college? What’s the point of wasting all that time when I could be studying for finals or spending some last-minute quality time with my friends as the semester winds down? At the end of the day though, I decided to bite the bullet and send in that last application. The more I researched the organization and its mission to help the incarcerated and fight for just prison reform, I knew this was a group I would genuinely enjoy volunteering my time to.
I interviewed with the representative the next day, and the interview went extremely well. When I got hired a few days later, I felt a real sense of peace about the upcoming few months. I knew the once-a-week commute to the Philly office would be a challenge at first, as I had never walked the Philly streets alone before. I also knew I wouldn’t be earning anything, as the organization is a non-profit and cannot offer compensation. Most importantly, I knew that committing to a full-time position for the very first time would require a huge learning curve. Nonetheless, I had a gut feeling that all of those challenges would be worth it, and I was very much correct.Continue reading “Why Unpaid Internships Shouldn’t be Overlooked”
Amtrak has become a huge part of my life over the past few years. Though it’s often quite pricey, it gets me from college to home and vice versa safely and soundly. I used to be quite scared of sitting on the train alone for 7 hours, but after a couple of solo trips, it became a pretty natural process for me. Those 7 hours give me the space to catch up on a good book, process the things in my life that I’ve been too busy to give real thought to, and get ahead on work or school. The alone time does me wonders, and it’s something I was really looking forward to as I stepped onto the train to Richmond last week.
The train was fully booked, so our seats were assigned to us. I made my way down the aisle, eventually finding my seat – D14. In the seat directly next to mine was a middle-aged white man. He offered to lift my huge suitcase onto the overhead compartment, and my noodle arms were quite thankful that he did. I thanked him, sat down, and remained quiet for the first two hours of the train ride as I typed up some articles for my internship. Most people on the train weren’t talking unless they were sitting with friends or family members, so the lack of conversation between me and my seat-mate did not surprise nor disappoint me. As I chipped away at my work for the week, I noticed him taking pictures of the scenery that we were passing by, just as I often do when I am blessed with the window seat. When we were pulling up to the 30-minute Washington D.C. stop, he turned to me, explained that it was his first time taking Amtrak, and asked if it was a bad idea to leave his belongings on the train while he finds the bathroom. I told him that it’s a pretty safe train, but that I usually take my bags anyway. He thanked me, and we talked briefly about our respective destinations before getting off the train.Continue reading “My Train Ride with a Capitol Attacker”
Mental Health Awareness Month has been at the back of my mind for the past 28 days, as I contemplated whether or not it was worth it to share my own journey and insights on the topic. I feel slightly wrong commenting about the struggle when I’m still in the middle of it, and I was quite worried that this post would only add to the stigma behind mental health. Nonetheless, I know that there is no better time to take the risk and open up about this part of my life than during a month dedicated to exactly that.Continue reading “My Mental Health Journey”
Ever since I graduated high school and stopped running competitively, my relationship with the sport has changed for the better. I’m not able to run a 5k in 21 minutes anymore, but I am able to avoid physical therapy, gain pleasure from my runs, and feel energized instead of drained from my workouts. Though I loved being a part of my cross country team more than anything, I knew that I needed to chill with my running when I got to college. Joining the club running team at William and Mary allowed me to schedule my runs around my other commitments, and not the other way around. After quarantine started, running became the thing that got me away from my zoom screen, allowed me to clear my mind, and pushed me through some really hopeless days. The endorphin release was like nothing else, and whether I was running a quick two laps around my neighborhood or a long run in the park, I was able to find so much clarity and joy from my runs. I would track my mileage and set goals for myself, but never get bogged down on running slower than I wanted to on off days. Though my runs wavered when school started up again in the fall, I’ve been running 4-5 days a week for the last two months, and it has been the best form of self care I could ever recommend. I think I’ve found a really good balance when it comes to my relationship with running, and I believe this gives me credibility in talking about the toxicity of a certain part of running culture.
A few months ago, I saw someone post about the app Strava. For those who have never heard of it, Strava is an exercise tracking app with the additional aspect of social media. You can post your mileage, distance, and how you felt on any given run. Cyclers and other athletes use this app too, but I’ve stuck to examining its aspect on the running community. As a big fan of running, I found this app really exciting, but the more I heard about it, and the more I analyzed this kind of exercise mindset, the more I was appalled by the app’s implications.Continue reading “How Strava Destroys the Love of Running”
Coronavirus has killed more people this week than ever before, taking more lives than Pearl Harbor in single days. It is impossible to watch the news for long before hearing a Coronavirus death count update. People sick with conditions unrelated to Coronavirus are dying because they are too afraid to enter hospitals- virus hotspots. Moreover, suicide rates in our country are higher than ever before, for many people truly cannot deal with the isolation and hopelessness of this pandemic. Not to sound too existential, but it really feels like this disease is making the concept of death much more of a tangible threat to all of us. The saddest and most enraging part of this whole tragedy to me, however, is the audacity of the federal government to do what they did a few nights ago: deliberately choose to take an additional life. I cannot and will not ever be able to wrap my head around how the government, and specifically President Trump, found it permissible to carry out a federal execution during an era already filled with so many unjust deaths.Continue reading “The Search for Meaning in Brandon Bernard’s Death”
About a year ago, I wrote a blog post honoring the great Alex Trebek. At that point, he had been suffering from stage 4 pancreatic cancer for a year. I was constantly impressed by the fact that his diagnosis did not at all diminish the charm and wit that he was famous for exhibiting during his time hosting Jeopardy. Even though I knew Mr. Trebek was a hell of a fighter and thus wasn’t going anywhere for a while, I wanted to reflect on the immense impact that he had on my life. I discussed in the blog how he fostered my love for learning and for knowledge, and I encouraged other people to find someone that makes them as excited and curious about the world as Alex Trebek made me.
Flash forward to last night, I was on the phone with my sweet boyfriend, and the topic of curiosity came up. He described to me a podcast he had listened to that talked about how the American school system essentially destroys kids’ natural curiosity. As he talked, I started to feel really bummed, for I realized that my own curiosity had really vanished over the last few months. I don’t know if it was the pandemic, the craziness of school, or the challenges I’ve gone through mentally over the last few months- All I knew was that I couldn’t remember the last time I felt the love for learning that I used to feel on a daily basis. I used to watch documentaries about US presidents in my free time, listen to psychology Ted Talks on my runs, and stay very up to date with the news. I realized during that phone call that I don’t do all that stuff too often anymore. Before I knew it, I was in tears. I said to Andrew that I just miss the feeling of wanting to want to learn something, and though he reassured me that such wording meant that my curiosity is nowhere near gone, I don’t know if I fully believed him. Nonetheless, I calmed down and told myself that I would try to work on getting that love for learning back once finals ended.
This morning, I couldn’t figure out why I was so emotional during the previous night’s conversation. Then, I saw the news about Trebek’s passing, and everything made a whole lot more sense.
I’m not a big believer in signs from the universe, but this felt like one. It would have been easy for me to deem last night as simply an instance of me being overdramatic. It would have been easy for me to make excuses and blame my rigorous course load for my lack of desire to learn in my free time. It would have been easy for me to keep putting off re-finding my love for learning. Mr. Trebek did not let me do that though, and I’m really appreciative of him for that. Though I would give anything to somehow bring him back to the physical world, Trebek’s death reminded me for good that I can never afford to lose that curiosity ever again. After telling my parents the news and letting myself cry some much needed tears, I put all my homework aside and just listened to a podcast. It was about climate change, a topic that I have opinions on but honestly do not know much about. I learned a lot in those 15 minutes, and it felt so good to be learning it for me and my curiosity. Not for a grade or to impress others with my knowledge- just for me. I’m promising myself that I’ll make time every single dang day from now on to explore like this. It creates a sense of fulfillment that I cannot quite put into words, and I’m very thankful Mr. Trebek helped me discover it back then and remember it today.
Rather than try to reword my message from a year ago, I’m simply going to copy and paste a section from that post that I especially stand by and want to reiterate to honor the beloved host:
“To anyone else whose screen this post pops up on, I hope you find someone who encourages you to learn the way Trebek has encouraged me and many others to. We can’t be experts on everything, but there’s a world of knowledge out there for us to delve into, and we owe it to ourselves to take in as much of it as possible since it’s right at our fingertips most of the time. Trebek once said, “My life has been a quest for knowledge and understanding, and I am nowhere near having achieved that. And it doesn’t bother me in the least. I will die without having come up with the answers to many things in life.” We can’t learn everything, but we can learn a whole damn lot. And when we make our lives centered on a motivation to learn more and more, we become better, more empathetic and aware people and contributors to this crazy, opinionated, and often ignorant world. So whether it’s turning on your tv at 7 o’clock every night and taking in information from a Jeopardy category, reading the daily news from a variety of sources, or simply meeting new people and hearing their stories, I hope you choose to learn. It’s not my place to say so, but I think that’s the kind of world Trebek wants to be proud to call his own.”
I don’t think I knew back then how much I would eventually need to reread and internalize my own words, but here we are.
My heart is really sad knowing that such a remarkable man is gone from the physical world. I struggle with the fact that someone as genuinely good of a person as Alex Trebek had such a painful end to his life. He got 80 years, which is more than a lot of people get, but if there’s anyone who deserves to live forever, or at least not die from cancer, it’s Alex Trebek. The man was in the studio filming Jeopardy episodes up until ten days ago- Who else in this world has that kind of dedication? He focused on his contestants up until the very end, never drawing more attention to himself than he felt beneficial. He was the kind of person who you might not know personally, but you simultaneously feel like you know on a bigger level. I know that viewers all over the world will take his legacy and let it live through them, but it still doesn’t feel like enough.
In an interview, Trebek said that he wanted to be remembered as “A decent guy who did his best to help the contestants perform their best.” I think it’s safe to say he will be remembered for much more than that. Viewers all over the country and world will remember him as a polite, insightful, appreciative, and hardworking man. I will remember him as all of that and more. I will remember him as one of my heroes, the person that taught me what it means to want to understand the world, and an epitome of the kind person I will always try to become.
Thank you for everything, Mr. Trebek. You will be so very missed.
Last week, I was on a walk in the park with a friend talking about COVID-19 (there’s not much else to discuss these days, is there?), when he said something that really resonated with me. As we discussed the implications that this virus has on mental health, he reasoned, “never have we had so much in common with each other yet felt so utterly alone at the same time.” He couldn’t be more correct. I don’t think it serves as much of a surprise to anyone, but people are struggling mentally now more than ever. Obviously, the coronavirus has awful physical implications, but the pandemic as a whole has had more effects on the mind than we even realize. While many people have found productive ways to cope with the unknown, from exercising to taking summer classes, many other people have found it increasingly difficult to make the most of these times. Certain friends of mine who I used to describe to others as the absolute epitome of happiness are now on anti-depressants. Other friends who I looked to as sources of strength now tell me about the anxiety attacks they wake up with every morning. I’m in no way saying that everyone is now mentally ill, but the majority of people I know have more bad days than ever before. I couldn’t understand why our brains weren’t just adapting like they adapt to plenty of other challenges until I read a post that said that our brains are just literally not programmed to face a situation like this one. The phrase “unprecedented times” applies to mental health issues too.
My senior year of high school consisted of way too many coffee runs. Don’t get me wrong- each and every individual coffee venture has enriched my life by blessing that particular day with extra flavor and caffeine. However, one particular Starbucks run had a rather large influence in shaping what is now a pretty big passion of mine.
My friend and I were catching up in Starbucks after our weekly mentoring session when she asked me if I had ever seen the Ted Bundy Tapes, the new Netflix documentary series everyone was talking about. Before that day, I was already very much interested in the legal side of crime, but I knew very little about the serial killing sector of crime. I told her I hadn’t seen the series, and that I didn’t even know who Ted Bundy was. She gave me a brief synopsis of the documentary and told me I absolutely HAD to watch it. So I did- I watched the whole documentary in one weekend, and as horrible as it initially sounds, I couldn’t get enough.
I was so excited to tell all my other friends that they too had to watch this series, but often when I would recommend it to people, I would be met with the classic “Oh, so you’re another white girl that’s in love with Ted Bundy” stereotype. I was initially really confused when I got this response, for I couldn’t comprehend that there are actually fandoms of girls who swoon over a man who so brutally and mercilessly killed over 30 women. I genuinely believe my interest in this man and the crimes he represents stems from a psychological and sociological approach (those are literally my college majors…and also even if he wasn’t a serial killer, Bundy physically is just not.my.type). Nonetheless, if someone wants to psychoanalyze me and tell me I’m lying to myself, feel free.
Anyways, I still wanted to understand why there is a world out there full of women who fall for men like Bundy, and why so many women are interested in true crime in general. Is this fascination, and in extreme cases, obsessive adoration, innate or learned? If it’s just a matter of curiosity, why don’t men dedicate as much time as women to understanding killers? Is there something wrong with these women, or is something wrong with society for looking down on them? Though there’s not one clear theory that explains it all, my Google venture led me to some really interesting perspectives.
There’s no right way to get through a breakup. Just like there’s no right way to make a first move or tell someone you like them, this aspect of love has no singular correct path. There’s also no time period in which you NEED to be over a breakup. I am a big believer in taking your time through the grieving process. However, you should still put a little bit of work in to feel as best you can with every passing day of the process. I can’t claim to be an expert on breakups, but like a lot of us, I’ve experienced how hard they can be. A psychologist or love expert could probably provide much more credible information about how to best cope with one, but I also think there’s a level of relatability that comes from getting these tips from a peer. Nothing helped me more during my own breakups than getting advice from people I knew and trusted who had been in similar positions. So no matter what side of the breakup you’re on, I hope these tips give you some tangible steps you can take to get through a chapter of your life that likely won’t be easy.