Birthday Blues… and the Dude

Remember when you were a kid and you thought your birthday was the best day on the planet? It was filled with candles and presents and special treatment. Well, birthdays can suck it. I don’t want to turn 29- I really don’t. Birthdays are the sad reminder that I haven’t accomplished much. I haven’t graduated from college. Still don’t know how to drive. I thought I’d be married by now, or have at least made some poor romantic choices and would be running after a kid now.

I get that everyone has their own path to follow and you shouldn’t compare yourself to others’ journeys. But I know I have strayed on my path, not taking opportunities I should have and being completely lazy about others. I regret a lot of things in my short life and I’m finding that the older I get, the harder it is to find change and be gifted with such opportunities, like driving lessons and advances in my career.

A few weeks ago, I sat down with my boyfriend and some friends to watch “The Big Lebowski.” I fell asleep within the first twenty minutes. This week, I’m nursing a cold and wanted something a little slow to watch to help me fall asleep. I ended up putting “Lebowski” but I stayed up, watching the entire film. If you’re not familiar with the movie, Jeff Bridges stars as Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, a simple but cool-headed man who finds himself in the middle of a scandal. My fellow swears by “the Dude,” and his easygoingness. This guy is the epitome of keep calm and carry on. He is just happy to hang out in his slippers, while drinking his White Russians. The Dude abides– The Dude will take it easy. The Dude lives on.

While I’m not a fan of vodka and cream, I really admire The Dude and his attitude towards life. Last night, I thought about how The Dude would feel about turning 29… He would probably shrugged and help himself to another alcoholic beverage. He would tell himself that you still have time to accomplish things, whether its getting a license, graduating from school, becoming an editor or a mom or a professional bowler…

Bring it on, 29. Bring it on.

Change and Growth

Daniel Johns, my ultimate crush. A musician I’ve been into since the tender age of 13. He was the lead singer of Silverchair, screaming his way into my preteen heart. When the band broke up in the early 2010s, he went into producing music for commercials (and was called a “cop out” for doing so). He went back in the studio last year to record his first solo album and just release his first single, a breathy and gorgeous R&Bish track with a soft EDM beat. I was thrilled to hear it. Others, not so much. The comments on his YouTube page slammed his new style, insisting that he’s better with his former band and how much they now hate him. It’s disappointing to read such negativity for an incredible talent.

For a while, I was really into kid-hop. And then, British pop. And then, singer-songwriter. And then, punk. I went through a goth phase and an emo phase and then a hipster one and then a phase filled with designer shoes and Burberry coats. I’m like most people I know, always changing. Always growing. Always learning. If there is one constant in life, it is change. So, why is change, growth, such a difficult thing to accept?

We humans are creatures of habit. It’s human’s nature to constantly want and ask for things just the way you wants them to be- we prefer the devils we know how to deal with rather than to have to face the new ones that we are not sure we can face.  The reality is you can’t always have things your way and we have to understand that nothing is permanent. Accepting change is not an easy thing to do- all you can do is to look forward and find a new path around it. With that change, we are growing. We are seeing things differently and are moving beyond our comfort zone. When that comes to the territory of music, we need to remember that artists are always evolving. They want to expand and it’s only natural to do so. So, the next time a band or a musician changes he or her style, accept it. That change is a good thing.

What is YOUR Dawn Wall?

A few couple days ago, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson completed what some say is the most difficult climb in the world. They were the first people to free climb the 3,000 feet Dawn Wall, a side of the El Capitan monolith in Yosemite National Park (free climbing is when one uses only their hands and feet to pull themselves up. Ropes are only used to break a fall). The climb took three weeks and the men’s hands were worn and bloody as they clung on the stone. But when they reached the top, their families and the feeling of accomplishment were there waiting for them- what a reward.

Their climb got me thinking about the things I’m climbing over in my life. What is my Dawn Wall? With the start of school this week, my schedule is going to be overloaded with commitments. I freak out when I have more than a lot to do and I usually set important things like studying aside, until the last minute. So, how am I going to conquer this challenge? I don’t need shoes and climbing powder- I just need a planner and patience. I look at last semester and how much I dreaded studying and how I rather hang out with friends instead. This time, I’m holding myself accountable and letting everyone know it- everyone said it was fine if they saw me less this semester (plus, it helps that most of my friends are taking classes, too). I’m blocking out time to studying during the week and am leaving my weekends for fun. And I will be letting that feeling of accomplishment be my motivation- that and maybe some graduation presents in May (hint, hint).

What is your Dawn Wall, dear reader? What difficulties do you need to climb and how will you conquer them?

20 Journalists Have Died This Year

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I’m walking in Sub-Saharan Africa, sweating and carrying a reporter’s notebook in my hand and a large pack on my back. I have a digital camera around my neck and a tape recorder in my back pocket. I just interviewed a family who sent their little girls to school for the first time. I felt welcomed in their home, in their village. Welcomed and safe. That image I just described is the kind of journalist I want to be. Trekking through Africa is one thing, but being safe is another.

Journalism and safety have been on my mind this past week, thinking about the shooting at the French satirical, Charlie Hebdo. According to Reporters Without Borders, 20 journalists were killed this year, only 15 days into 2015. Last year, 61 journalists were killed around the globe. These journalists covered everything from politics and policies to war to human rights watches. The countries, Syria and the Ukraine, are the top two deadliest countries for reporters. In the United States, reporters may not be dying, but they are constantly harassed by police and other individuals. When the riots in Ferguson first began, and the media started to cover the protesting, many reporters were seriously injured and wrongfully arrested. “Just cuffed and searched as we said we were leaving,” tweeted out Niel Munshi of the Chicago Financial Times. Robert Klemko with Sports Illustrated tweeted, “About 25 minutes after the gas attack, with the smoke cleared and the area secure, we attempted to go back down the street to report. When they cut cuffs off minutes later, I held onto it. Missouri Highway State Patrol captain, Ron Johnson, tried to take it…”

Reporters get a lot of hate from the public. People don’t like what they read and see on the media. While I agree that a lot of reporting is sensationalized and filled with unwanted opinions, there are genuine reporters who want to get the truth out there and they work hard to do so. If we didn’t have good journalists like that, we would never know what is going on in the far corners of the world, or even in our own country. We wouldn’t know about the Ebola epidemic, who is dating who in Hollywood nor let alone, the shooting in Paris. We need to protect the writers, photographers and editors of the world and show them respect- or we will lose our sources of information and entertainment.

Being Financially Responsible

Note: If you know me, you know that I have a bad Ebay habit (I just love bidding). I’m not a banker nor a financial wiz kid. I just know what I know and have done my research.

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I have a lot I need to save for this year. There’s Burning Man, a rental deposit for the new place my boyfriend and I haven’t picked out yet, my graduation party, wedding gifts and an autumn trip to NYC. For the longest time, I was that person living from paycheck to paycheck- I love buying new clothes and eating out often. But I do know the costs of not minding your money- you run out of it quick.

I started cooking at home (making a shopping list before I go to the SaveMart, not Whole Foods) and learned to not care about wearing the same pants twice a week. But that still doesn’t make a complete dent into the amount of saving that I wish to achieve. So, I came up with a small list to help me along my being financially smart and responsible journey. Below are some steps I took into to save money and get some funds into my savings account…

1.) I highly recommend meeting with a banker at your local bank. This is definitely the first step to saving. Your banker can explain your options and suggest new ones. I met with Wells Fargo financial planner who suggested a Roth IRA to my closed savings account and also recommended that I finally get a credit card in order to build credit (love her- my banker is a genius!). Also research, research, RESEARCH! There are a lot of great websites out there that will break down complicated banking options into manageable pieces that you can understand. I had no idea what an IRA- but now, I do. Once you explore, you can narrow down your options to fit what is best for you.

2.) Prioritizing your needs. Do you need this? Do you need that? I think about how chilly it has been this winter and how much I love heat. So, I have dedicated some of my paycheck towards that versus a new pair of heels.

3.) Picking cheap hobbies. Doing stuff can be expensive and as much as I love having an adventure or two every week, I know that I need to scale back and not spend a $100 on skydiving every weekend (wouldn’t that be great, though)? Instead, I read a lot- I still check out books from the library- and I sew. I’ve been working on a quilt for the last year made from worn shirts. It’s something cheap to do on nights where I’m especially bored and I have something beautiful when I’m done.

4.) Budget. Budget. Budget. Budgeting is something I’m still working on. I hate looking at my account on the Wells Fargo website every day but it is helpful, especially when you’re trying to figure out trends in your spending.

5.) Looking for sales. If I absolutely need to have a new outfit, I research and try to find a deal. Example: All season, I wanted a pair of suede booties but could never find an inexpensive pair that I liked. When I found a pair on H&M, I noticed that you could get 25% off when you signed up for their email list. BAM- I signed up for their list, got the discount (I just made sure that all my H&M emails are marked as spam now).

6.) Piggy banks. Yes, that’s right. Piggy Banks. I put all my change into one. When I was a sweet treat, I don’t pull out my debit card. Instead, I use all that spare change. If I don’t have the money, I don’t buy the candy. Saves me on both the charge and the calories.

How do you save your money, dear reader? Any tips and tricks?

Hate and Free Speech

By Tome Toles, The Washington Post

By Tome Toles, The Washington Post

On Wednesday, gunmen entered the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, and shot 12 dead. Four of the magazine’s well-known cartoonists, including its editor-in-chief, were among those killed. Paris and the rest of the world are shocked and in mourning. The journalism community is completely flabbergasted- yes, plenty of newspapers and magazines have received death threats before but no one has stormed into a publication office with guns, killing people who are only expressing their right to free speech.

By Rob Tornoe, The Philadelphia Inquirer

By Rob Tornoe, The Philadelphia Inquirer

A little less than a month ago, the film company, Sony, pulled the theatrical release of its movie, “The Interview” starring James Franco and Seth Rogen as a television crew assigned to kill the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un. After the North Korean government threatened theatre goers who watched the film and hacked the movie company, Sony made the pull. Fans roared. Hollywood tweeted (my favorite tweet was written by Steve Carrell: Sad day for creative expression. #feareatsthesoul). Sony released the movie anyway, on YouTube (I paid for it and watched it- the movie is hilarious. That James Franco…), and has reported that it has nearly made all its money back (good job, Sony).

By Dave Brown, The Independent

By Dave Brown, The Independent

We, Americans (as well as the French), have the right of free speech. But what happened when that right is threatened? Are we supposed to keep our mouths closed? Online today, I’ve seen cartoonists from all over the world pay their respects to the staff of Charlie Hebdo. It’s comforting to see people who are giving their middle finger to the gunman- they are doing what they love to do and they’re not letting the negative bring them down. I hope that more cartoonists contribute their respects to Charlie Hebdo and the gunman will see that their hate is counteracted with messages of love and recognition.

Long live to Charlie Hebdo and I look forward to reading you in the future.

My Resolutions for 2015

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What are your resolutions for 2015, dear reader? Mine are:

  • Graduate (!!!)
  • Host more brunches and themed dinner parties
  • Go to Burning Man
  • Fix credit score and save money for traveling
  • Spend less time online and more time reading novels and practicing skating (both skateboarding and roller skating)
  • Stop backing out of plans made with friends (and write more letters to them)
  • Teach myself how to dance!
  • Get driver’s license
  • Stop being afraid of expressing my creativity
  • Write! Write! Write! Your idea notebook is filled with good stuff

Ten different resolutions is a lot, I know. I also know that I won’t accomplish them all- it’s only human. You can’t do everything you want to do. That leads to my number one resolution- being okay with the life I choose to live. I don’t want to live filled with sadness and regret. I want to think long and hard before I make that choice and stop beating myself if I make the poor decisions. I want to embrace the suck– the loneliness and sadness I feel and let that motivate me to be better; minimize that expectations I have about everything and surrender to what my life actually reveals. Instead of waiting to be inspired by someone else and being jealous that they’re living a life I wish I had, I want to start being the person I want to be by living the life I’d be envious of if I saw someone else living it. 

Everyone has the power to change and be something incredible- you can be an amazing friend, actress, employee, mother, surfer, whatever. The key word is try. Trying to make the best choices for yourself (and for you alone). Trying not to let everything get you down. Trying to live the best you can. We just need to put in that effort- and I believe that in the upcoming year, we will all become our best and do our best.

Whether or now you make resolutions, dear reader, I hope that 2015 is your year and that you make it a great one.

Thank you, Captain Picard. I will make it great!

Thank you, Captain Picard. I will make it great!

Unplugged

I did it. I deactivated my Facebook page for three days. Yes, it is a small feat but I’m still incredibly proud of myself.  I am a child of social media. Sad to say, it’s one of my best friends. I visit Facebook more than my friends. I’m more involved in the conversations found on Reddit than I am with the ones people around me are having. It was about time that I quit, if even just for a moment. After a particular rough Monday, I unplugged from Facebook, deleted my Tumblr account, put a block on Reddit and fell asleep, not reading status updates but a book. My week consisted of lots of reading, especially when it came to homework. I worked on my Christmas cards, went running out in the rain and took proper care of my (still, unfortunately) infected eye. At work, I seemed more focused, getting more tasks done. In all seriousness, I can get use to not having social media in my life.

But at the same time, social media is great and I won’t lie- I missed Facebook a little bit. I wasn’t able to connect with different groups and people who I don’t have phone numbers for. I get more readers to this blog by posting on social media. I love Facebook for the event invites and the trending topics (it was from Facebook where I learned about all the Ferguson protesting). I know that my mom loves seeing photos of me on FB. It’s beneficial to have, yet I felt such joy being away from it for a bit.

I know that parting with social media won’t end all the problems in the world nor all the ones in my life. I have to admit that not looking at Facebook made me a bit happier-I didn’t feel the need to one up on everything nor compare myself to any other person (yes, I am that person who suffers from social media jealous despite knowing that most people post their highlight reel and hide their severe drama). Plus, I so was productive! Now, my dilemma: to keep Facebook or delete it for good?

I think the thing to do is limit yourself. It’s like ice cream- you maybe want the entire carton but you only dish yourself out a small serving- it’s healthier for you that way. I can be on Facebook/Reddit/whatever site during my breaks at work but once I get home and on the weekends, it’s all about my world and what I’m experiencing in the present. I don’t like to ruin key, beautiful moments by stopping to take a picture- I need to treat my social media the same way. I don’t need to disturb me time (especially since I get so little of it) by checking a status update.

So, dear reader, what are your thought on social media (Facebook, to be exact)? How do you balance your use of social media?

Disappointed…

I don’t like writing about race. It’s my least favorite subject to write about and honestly, it’s something that I try to ignore every day despite what I see when I look in the mirror. With my mixed background and my recently dyed hair, I’ve had some people come up and ask me what ethnicity I am- it’s easy to lie and hide, telling them that I’m not this. At the same time, I can be bundled up, riding my bike to school and someone in a passing by car shouts out “hey, nigger” from their window- that person knows my truth. Race is unfortunately a part of my life- as well as many other lives.

I didn’t want to write about the events from last night- Darren Wilson, the white officer many accused with the killing of the unarmed black teen, Michael Brown, was not indicted with any criminal charges. A St. Louis County grand jury, consisting of nine whites and three blacks individuals, made the decision last night, stating there was little evidence to press charges on the officer. This announcement sparked outcry all across the United States, with protests springing up in nearly every major city– including my own. If people in my city are upsetting, crying out about this, how could I not write about this and not let my own voice be heard?

I didn’t hear the announcement until a few hours later. My heart sank in disappointment and but in all actuality, I wasn’t surprised. It is not the first time a man was able to walk away. I don’t know much about our justice system other than what I learned about in school. I never served on a jury and I never studied a murder case before. But I still question the jury’s decision and wonder if any form of justice will ever be held. At the end of the day, a man was killed.

Last night as we drove home from dinner, my boyfriend and I talked about the rioting and looting in Missouri after the verdict was announced. I explained to him that I don’t necessarily support the rioting but I understand and sympathize with the reason why the people in Ferguson are doing so. Martin Luther King, Jr. said moments before his assassination, “a riot is the language of the unheard.” As disheartening it is to admit, sometimes one needs to see and experience violence in order to change. Yes, change can happen without guns and bullets and fire starters but in the end, years from now, will we remember the peaceful protests or the vandalism? After the fires smolder out and those who were arrested last night are freed, I wonder if the protestors will look at what they did and plan on doing something better- perhaps running for a position in their local government where they will be able to make a lasting change to their community.

One of the things I keep thinking about is how this will affect the future of Black America. My boyfriend and I talk about one day, adopting a family. I want to adopt sons- growing up in a house filled with sisters, I wanted sons since the moment I decided that I wanted kids. I can imagine a beautiful little boy- my son- with dark smooth skin holding my hand at the market. I don’t want that child to be afraid– to be afraid that people who are supposed to serve and protect him will end up hurting him; to be afraid of being accused doing something negative and violent just because he looks a certain way; to be afraid of being stopped for no reason. No child should grow up afraid. No one should walk out of their house afraid, terrified of words and other’s wrong actions.

As I look to the future, I hope… I hope that we can all learn what happened and make some serious change. I hope people will hold themselves accountable for their actions, both right and wrong, instead of hiding in the shadows or proudly boasting about it. I hope those who deserve both justice and punishment receive it. I hope more people will respond to their government politics and vote for those who actually represent them and their beliefs, so that everyone’s voice could be heard. I hope that people won’t turn a blind eye and an ignorant heart watching an event in a place that’s not in their backyard. I hope that people will start respecting each other regardless of their profession and their race.

One can hope…

A Balancing Act

Over this last year, there has been a lot of change in my life- going back to school, my new job at Artown, my new-ish boyfriend (we’ve been together for an amazing nine months), more social invites. With my new job, I’m determined to be the best I can be, pouring out most of my energy into my work. By the time I get home, I’m exhausted. All I want to do is sleep. I haven’t worked a full-time, 9-to-5 job in a couple years so I’m not used to this schedule- sometimes I feel like I will never get used to it. Add to the mix my social circles, the freelance writing I do and school. Lately, I’ve been having a hard time balancing everything. Friends call to ask if I want to hang out and I cancel- all I want to do it fall asleep to an old episode of “Friends” and not wake up until the next week, but I decide to keep myself up until three in the morning to finish my Spanish homework.

I do so much because I want to be the best that I can be. People tell me that I stress out too much; that I need to be easier on myself. Although, I understand and agree with that they’re saying, my philosophy is that you only have this one life to live and it’s up to you to make it great- be a doer, not a dream. If you’re lazy in bed all day, you have stamped  yourself “lazy” – it’s right there in big, bright letters on your forehead. If you work hard, you are labeled a “hark worker.” I believe those with incredible goals have to work especially hard to make those dreams come true- AND they will come true if you put in the time and effort. This is why I’m always busy- I’m making my dreams come true.

In this process of making those dreams come true, I found myself so buried with things to accomplish (see what was listed above). I know that I need to look through my list and pick out the things that aren’t essential to my life- but I have tried and I can’t choose. I need my job because I need my paycheck in order to survive. I’m a class away from finishing school- I need to finish. Plus, having my degree will allow me to purse bigger and bright career opportunities, especially since I want to move to a bigger city in the near future (hello, 2015!). I love my boyfriend- and even though I know that I shouldn’t rely on him for my happiness- he is that one thing that makes me constantly happy and I want to build a future with him. I need my friends for obvious reasons. I already sacrificed my personal time (which is fine). I read that if you need to de-stress your life, you need to cut the non-essential out. So, what do I cut: my job, school, my boyfriend or my friends?

During this time of busy-ness, I want to stress the fact of taking care of yourself. Sleep and food may be the last things on your mind but they are essential (this is coming from a person who hasn’t eaten in the last couple of days). No one can rule the world on an empty stomach and an hour’s worth of sleep. Remember that your body can only do so much. Your mind may be pressing you on but if your frame is telling you to go to bed, go to sleep!

Dear reader, I ask you for your advice– how do you balance everything? How do you go about the craziness of your day and manage to eat a proper dinner and sleep at the end of the day?