2015

2015 has been a year divided. In the first half, I graduated high school, turned 18, and worked my ass off all summer at a job I hated. In the second half, I moved away from a home I loved but thought I needed to escape from, settled for a college I didn’t love, and regretted both of those things.

I figured things out– about what I like and don’t like, about my ambitious for the future, about which friends I can rely on and which ones I can’t.

Not that everything that happened was bad, of course. Even though I don’t (approaching hate) like Philadelphia, I managed to pull together a 4.0 GPA (and even though my sister tries to pull down this achievement every chance she gets, I’m still proud of it). Graduating high school and the week leading up to the ceremony was one of the best weeks of my entire life. Over the summer I grew closer to some friends and apart from others, which was for the best. I read 30 books this year, surpassing my goal of 27.

In the second half of 2015 I’ve been largely more productive and motivated than I ever have been. While I’ve been home over Christmas I haven’t been writing because I thought I needed a break. From writing, from everything. I think, now, that I was wrong. Writing is what I love and being productive, working, makes me feel good.

A huge influence on 2015 has been Casey Neistat. Some of you may know him, some may not. He’s a Youtube vlogger and filmmaker who puts out an amazing new video everyday. He’s inspired me in so many different ways. Namely, to be brave. I’d like to share Thursday, December 30th’s video with you, because it’s relevant to how I’m currently feeling.

Casey and his wife and baby have been considering moving to LA from New York, a place they both love and have lived in most of their lives. They’re in LA for vacation, and in this video, Casey describes freaking out and realizing that he can’t leave New York yet.

I can relate. I’ve realized I don’t like Philadelphia, and have made the decision to transfer colleges. For a long time I was worried about making this public, telling my extended family, writing about it. And maybe it seems a bit strange to take advice from a total stranger, but isn’t that the beauty of Youtube? That we feel so close to creators? But Casey has made me realize that it’s okay to fall in love with a place and to want to live there for years and years. Philadelphia is not my home, New England is, and Boston is my city. I love it there, and I was a fool to ever leave.

This post is quite spontaneous. Until an hour ago, I was still planning on not writing until I got back to school. I just decided to write down everything that was running through my head as this year, this strange and wonderful year, comes to a close.

For the Love of Christmas

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Every year I go through the same cycle: around Thanksgiving I dread Christmas. I’m always just so disappointed by it, it’s too early to care, etc. Then, mid-December, I go crazy. I clean, I decorate, I spend way too much money on presents. Then Christmas comes and I am, in fact, tragically disappointed like I said I would be. Why? Do I hype it too much? I always find myself struggling to live up to what I remember my childhood Christmases to be. Every year I want to believe in the magic of Christmas again and every year I fail.

I wonder what is so tempting about nostalgia. Is it because we hate change, or because we seek certain things that have made us happy in the past? We are dedicated to traditions, familial ones and societal ones.

I think this is a common problem.

This year is already set up to be a strange Christmas. There’s no snow, for one, and even though there wasn’t any last year the Thanksgiving blizzard more than made up for it. My mom isn’t coming over for Christmas breakfast, which should be completely expected but somehow still makes me feel upset. My favorite aunt and uncle won’t be at dinner. And my dad has refused to decorate– no lights, no tree, no nothing. Which means bringing the spirit is all up to me.

 

Life’s A Hustle // First Semester Reflection

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By the time this is posted, my first semester of college will be over. My last final will be over, and I will have nothing to do until mid-January when the Spring semester begins. Over the course of these couple months I’ve tried to be as open and transparent as possible about my experience, but I thought I would make one final wrap up post.

College is not easy, freshman year especially. I think it’s important to be open about our college experience, because I’m still insecure when I talk to my relatives or acquaintances about my time here. Everyone says that college is the best time of your life but no one really talks about how difficult the early months or years can be. I thought I was pathetic for not constantly enjoying myself. I thought I was pathetic when I didn’t immediately fall in with a tight group of friends. I thought I was pathetic when all I could think about was going home.

Insecurity is an uncertain feeling for me.

Life is a hustle. In order to get far, to do something, you need to work at it. Hard. Find what you love and chase after it; don’t let anything else get in the way of your dreams. If there’s one thing I can definitely take away from my first semester, it’s that dreams mean something. They’re what inspire us, what we care about. My dad always says that goals are dreams with a plan. So take your dreams, turn them into goals, and start the hustle.

Everyone wants to hear about grades, because besides the “growing as a human” bit, grades are the most important part of college for many people. They are for me, too, so I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. School is my hustle, always has been. In fact, I can say that my education is the only thing I’m confident about here. I’ll be honest: I don’t like Philadelphia. The city rubs me the wrong way and I don’t feel like I belong here. Maybe it could, but that brings me to my final point:

Don’t settle. Don’t throw away your dreams (or goals!) because of boring logistics. If you have something you care about you need to take the risk, be it a financial one or distance or completely uncharted territory, and go. If you don’t, a part of you will always regret it, always wonder what your life could have been. There’s nothing more dangerous in life than regret.

A Little Life // Review

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara; Published 2015 by Doubleday. 720 pages.

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Hanya Yanagihara Sophomore novel, A Little Life, is a massive, 720 page masterpiece. It is almost impossible to describe.

It is not a book about forgiveness. A 720 page novel is about many things, and this one is about triumph and failure and pride and love. It is bleak. It is unquestionably bleak and difficult to read on a level so profound and authentic. It is about life.

You will suffer. You will cry and laugh and smile. You will scream with frustration. You will feel nostalgic about things that never happened.

It is a rich novel, full of life and art. Law and structure is juxtaposed with art and artists– and love. Parental love, familial love, romantic love. I only cried once, but I thought I would break. There were times I hated this novel and its characters so much because they did not behave how I wanted them to. Of course they didn’t, because although they are fictional, the character behave exactly how real people do. Complexly, irrationally. We hurt the ones we love, we lie to them, and to ourselves.

A Little Life follows four male friends living in New York after entering the Adult World. That’s what it’s about on the outside, at least. Ultimately, the novel is about one character, Jude St. Francis and everything that has and will happen to him. You will love him and you will hate him. Although Jude gets the most screen-time, every central character is imagined complexly. Besides some of the obviously periphery ones there is not a single flat character.

Yanagihara’s prose is elegant. It’s very easy to fall into her world and her story– just follow the words down the rabbit hole.

It is not an easy novel, and it may not be right for a lot of people. If you shy away from darkness in novels, then please, stay away. There are major trigger warnings (which is not a concept I exactly believe in, but in this case, I do) that I will not include here but are easily located online. But if you think you can handle it I beg you, please read it.

Philadelphia Ad-Agency Crawl

I mentioned last week that I was going on an adventure on Tuesday. Well I did! Along with several other people from my school’s ad club, we went on an “agency crawl” as they’re so called, and toured three different advertising agencies in Philadelphia.

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EVOKE HEALTH

Pharma has a reputation for being stuffy and boring, the literal death to creativity everywhere. The treacherous realm of the review that widdles down fun ideas into boring ones because you might insinuate some drug or another cures cancer. Or that a house at the end of a path “represents the end of a person’s life” (actual example). From others I’ve heard that Pharma is the most professional advertising gets– the offices look like boring offices and the people dress like boring business people. Well, not Evoke! Their tagline is “making health more human” which, ok, I agree with. Pharma is how a lot of agencies make the money necessary to keep the lights on but Evoke makes it fun. The office culture (and aesthetic) seemed very upbeat and cool. And for a Pharma agency, they’re quite small and personable.

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MASTERMINDS AGENCY

Masterminds is located in a cute little office in the Philadelphia building. I had heard of them and knew they were small but honestly wasn’t exactly sure what they did. Well, they started out doing casino advertising in Atlantic City, but burst onto the Philly scene a few years ago. They do a lot of restaurant advertising and branding, and it was explained to us that while that industry gives you a lot of freedom creatively, there’s not a whole lot of money being thrown around. Also I think they’re website is a cool but also a pain in the ass to navigate. But that’s besides the point. Masterminds in the kind of agency a person could fall in love with (as long as you love long nights of course). It’s so small that by nature the whole experience is extremely collaborative. You can just poke your head into your boss’ office and ask people about what they’re up to. A place where you can wear a lot of hats. I love wearing different hats.

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RED TETTEMER O’CONNELL AND PARTNERS (RTO+P)

Is there a cooler ad agency in Philly (America? the World?) than Red Tettemer? Probably not. I was a little disappointed in my experience there, but it was the last visit we went on and I was absolutely exhausted. The office is amazing, colorful, has a fat cat named Pedro. They have all their awards thrown in a wagon. During the presentation they gave us they provided a big long spiel about why their logo was a cowboy, which was mostly bullshit, but to be honest it’s because they don’t give a fuck. They’re the coolest kids in town, damn it. They also happen to do amazing work, which you’ve probably seen. The Planet Fitness “no gymtimidation” spots are theirs. Side note: the corporate headquarters of Planet Fitness is very very close to where I live, and I had to bite my tongue from asking if they knew that the headquarters is where a Chuck-E-Cheese used to be. Also did I mention that their office is the 24th and 25th floor on One South Broad Street, aka where the Wanamaker residence was? And their offices are in this amazing space that used to be the penthouse apartment? No? Well, it is and it’s amazing.

On Keeping a Journal

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I have always been terrible at keeping a journal. In fact, I’ve always been terrible at any sort of thing that required consistency, with this blog being the one and only exception. Everyone always says that the key to being a good writer is to write everyday and to keep a journal in order to do so.

There have been various times in my life when I’ve been able to do it. Once was when I was a Sophomore in high school I had to keep one for a class– and it was graded so I had to keep doing it. Then I worked with my dad and our horse and carriage company, which mostly involved just sitting around in a town square. I spent a lot of time people-watching and liked to write things down that I saw. And that was just about it. All the journal writing I did.

I prefer to type. I have lovely handwriting but I can’t write fast enough to keep up with the thoughts in my brain. Thanks to that terrible fifth grade program Type to Learn, however, I can type very quickly without looking at the keyboard. That’s helpful when my brain is working a thousand miles per minute.

I wrote in a journal the other day. I had a small notebook hanging around that I wasn’t using. Just some initial thoughts on a book I finished (and will be posting a review on… eventually) but I liked not having to open my laptop and get connected. As you very well know I am the last person who will complain about technology, but I do sometimes feel like I’m too attached to the internet. I also didn’t feel the pressure to finish anything. Some random, disconnected thoughts.

So I’ve decided to just carry this notebook around with me without putting any pressure on myself to write in it. Maybe that’s been the problem in the past, that I’ve felt too much pressure to write in it consistently. Or write about my own life (which I do a lot now but used to hate).

Recommended Reading: Magazine Edition

I don’t know how many people actually read physical magazines anymore. Presumable some people do or they would have fizzled up fast. Especially because I rock the dorm life, I do all my reading online. Like sensible people, obviously. I used to get Rolling Stone delivered to my house, back when they had credible content, and I know my dad reads TIME. But he’s also a social studies teacher and put the covers up in his classroom. I don’t know how much reading he actually does.

There are many, many online magazines and news websites. Clearly not all of them are made equally. I’m a dedicated reader of exactly three:

WIRED MAGAZINE

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Why should I read this? As a citizen of the 21st century, we all should make an effort to understand what is happening in the tech world. Not, to say, that Wired is all about technology. They do editorials and global affairs, but many of them are through a tech lense. The reporting is smart and thorough, and their twitter feed is updated frequently so you won’t miss anything if you don’t go to their homepage. There might be a paywall, but I have honestly never encountered this, though some of their subscription ads imply that there is one.

Where to start: This Silk Road story is two parts and long, but it’s one hell of a piece of reporting. The illustrations are superb and the writing style is extremely compelling and reminiscent of Capote’s In Cold Blood in terms of narrative structure. Not to mention that Silk Road and the deep web is fascinating. A great read for the bus or train. Nick Bilton, who helped write the story, is turning the case into a book set to come out next year (infuriatingly I couldn’t find anything else on it).

VICE

 

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Why should I read this? Vice is probably the craziest place on the internet. They do real news, of course, but the strength of the mag are editorials from people who have been places. Everything from gay hookups in Qatar, to illegal abortions in Argentina, to an analysis on if Donald Trump is a fascist. There is no fear. On Vice you can find stories that will be nowhere else. Right now the site’s top banner is an article on what it’s like to drop LSD in a high-security prison. How’s that for intrigue?

Where to start? I recommend just going to the homepage and seeing what interests you but the article that comes to mind is How I Figured out the Rules of my Three-Way Relationship , which is, you guessed it, an editorial about a man who is in a relationship with two people. Together. All the time. It may be just me, but stories like this aren’t told, and I’m so happy Vice is around so they can be.

BOSTON GLOBE

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Ok, to be fair, you’re probably not going to read the Boston Globe unless you’re from New England. It’s the only genuine news site that I visit with any frequency, however. It also has a paywall, five per month? week? Five per something, I know that. It’s most famous for its reporting on the molestation of Catholic priests, which brings the Globe back into the news again because of the movie that’s coming out soon (Spotlight). If you’re interested in learning the backstory behind the case, the Globe has put together a little guide on the story and movie that you can read here 

Study Smarter

No one likes studying. Even as someone who can honestly say they like school, I hate studying. It can be boring, tedious, and downright stressful. But don’t fear! I’ve got some tips for you that will have you nice and prepared for those crushing, oncoming finals.

1. Clean Space
According to the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute (fancy!) clutter– and chaos in general– restricts your ability to focus and therefore study. When I’m studying in my room, which to be fair isn’t often, I always like to clean it up first. Just pick up a few things off the floor, throw your laundry in the hamper and you’ll be studying better by doing something you probably should have done anyways.

2. Write it Down!
There are a million studies that say writing things down by hand helps you remember them better (Check out this medical daily article for more information) For me, any class or test can be lumped into three categories: flashcards, outlines, and essays. Flashcard are obvious and I really do recommend them. They’re just for simple information that you just need to throw back to the professor. Outlines are for the information that is a bit more complicated and nuanced, something that actually requires critical thinking skills. If your professor gives you a study guide, print it out with large enough spacing to mark it up and write down everything you know about each topic. Finally, essays. In high school I had a teacher who would provide the prompt ahead of time, and I’ve heard of this happening sometimes. Basically, write an outline, or a thesis or something for an essay you know you’re going to have to write. Maybe you write down quote– I don’t know, sky’s the limit.

3. Sleep for God’s Sake
Do I really have to say this? No, cramming all night before your exam will not help you pass it, especially if you accidentally sleep through your test because all the sleep you got last night was Red Bull.

4. Plan Accordingly
I am such a crammer, it’s true, but that’s because I know my limits as a student. I don’t need to study for three days for a quiz, but if you do that’s totally ok. Just know that it’s impossible to cram three days worth of studying into one. Studies show that studying the same information all day doesn’t even help you retain the information anyways.

Another, related tip (let’s call it 4b) is to study the information right after class or the day after.  Immediately reminding yourself of the information will store that stuff in your long term memory.

5. Know Your Test
Ask questions about the format. Ask questions about the format. ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT THE FORMAT. A multiple choice test is going to play a lot different than a short answer one. Unless you have a crazy professor, chances are you’ll have at least one other test in the semester besides the final (maybe it’s the midterm, I’ve got a few classes like that). These previous tests are invaluable, especially if the final is written, because for the most part instructors aren’t going to change their tried and true format. If you know how the questions are going to be asked, then you know how to study certain things. You may also get clues on the content. Say you got a 70 on your first test in a class because your professor is really into dates and you knew none of them. Well, now you know to study dates! Those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

Productive Enough to be President

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Being productive is so hard. You’ve got your phone, unlimited supply of microwave popcorn, and they just added a new season of Bob’s Burgers on Netflix. What’s a self-respecting student (or real adult, I don’t judge) to do? Just your luck, I love organization, so here are my tips that will get your tearing through your to-do list.

1. Stay Organized!
I cannot stress enough how important it is to stay organized, especially at the end of the semester when everything in piling up fast. Personally, I write down an assignment as soon as it’s assigned and keep writing it down until the deadline. I also have the deadline written down in flashy red ink so I can see it coming. This way, deadlines don’t sneak up on you, and I even find it helps with procrastination.

2. Give Yourself Little Tasks
Alright, so you have a massive project written down, and even though you’ve been working on it, you still feel like you’ve gotten nowhere. This feeling sucks and drains motivation. What I do to combat this is write down little piece of a bigger project on a sticky note so I can cross things off and feel good about myself. For example, Big Paper. I can’t write Big Paper in one day, but I can make an outline for Big Paper in a day, and I’ll be able to cross of Big Paper Outline from my list, and that way I’ll feel totally productive and awesome.

3. Overplan
I might be the only person who does this, but so far in my life, it’s been the only thing that’s helped with procrastination. Now, I’m definitely not a big procrastinator anyways, but on the weekends when all I want to do is nap it can be rough. I make a big to-do list with everything, not just school work, that I need to get done that day. Laundry, emails, phone calls, coffee, whatever. But I write down way more things than I would ever be capable of getting done because I know I will do about half of the things I say I’ll do. This is true even when there’s only two things on my list. But if there’s twenty… well, you can see where I’m going with this.

4. Get Out of Your House
A common tip, but it works! I love doing homework in my bed, but when I really need to be productive I trudge across campus to the tech center where I will be extremely motivated. The best places to go are where other people are also doing homework or studying. If you’re at home, you’re just going to sleep or snack or watch cat videos all day. Even if you don’t mean to! It happens to the best of us! Just make sure wherever you go, you don’t forget your headphones.

On Friday, I’ll be throwing down my best study tips!


As always, if you enjoyed this post, please like and comment. Cheers!