Transitions

Absolutely no one reads this so I don’t even think I need to intro it. If someone other than me is here — what’s up. Also, why are you here? Go to a real website.

As 2018 comes to a close I find myself thinking back on every little move that got me to where I am now. At the start of the year I was reeling from the end of a relationship that almost destroyed me, I was applying for jobs like my life depended on it (well, technically, it did) and I was drowning all that stress in binge drinking. Ah, college.

As confusing as January 2018 was for me, I had absolutely no idea that my life would soon be infinitely more complicated. By some miracle, I graduated in May with decent grades, honors and a few job opportunities. I had signed a lease in D.C. and I was beyond ready to start the next chapter of my life.

Here’s what everyone doesn’t tell you: this chapter kind of sucks.

I hated the job I took. It was an hour commute both ways and I hated every second of the work I did. I made roughly 2 friends and spent most of my time away from my desk crying in  my bed. I was (am) so poor and I couldn’t imagine a scenario where things got better.

But they did.

I made enough money to get by and even have a little fun, I fell in love, my best friend moved out here and I got out of that shitty job.

This has been a year of transition. My life looks vastly different than it did 12 months ago, and while I do miss the simplicity of college, I’ve grown to be okay with my new life.

I mean, sure, I asked my parents for a blanket that’s supposed to reduce anxiety for Christmas — but that’s beside the point.

So much of my life I’ve felt like I was in limbo — and I know I’m not alone in that. Life is all about the moments that seem so small and then you turn around and realize they were the very instances shaping your future. This girl I hated freshman year is now my roommate and best friend. This random guy that texted me last summer is now the person I fall asleep next to almost every night. This shitty job I took in June opened up so many doors that I didn’t know existed.

I guess what I’m getting at is that the moments where you feel crushed by your own life and can’t foresee a single moment of feeling okay again — those are fleeting. If you had told me last December that I’d be moving to D.C. in six months I wouldn’t have believed it. If you told me in June that I’d feel less lonely a few weeks later I wouldn’t have believed it. If you tell me today that in five months I’ll be making a million dollars a day I won’t believe you.

But hey, anything is possible.

Empowering your inner creative

Well hulloooooo there, it’s been a minute.

I could say I haven’t posted on here since April because I’m too busy, or because I’m too focused on my job search, or because I’ve joined a cult and sold my soul— and while all of that may be true (ehh, scratch the last two), it’s really because I’ve been in a rut. Not so much in my daily life, but in my creative life. I haven’t felt that familiar fire in my belly, whispering to me that I had words I had to get out of my brain and onto a page, or that I had an idea I needed to execute immediately. No, that part of my brain dulled for a while, and I really wasn’t doing anything I didn’t have to do.

Well, buckle up (all -5 of you who still read this blog), because ya girl is back and she’s got a lot to talk, um, ramble about.

I spent my summer doing what I love most: sitting in the unbearable Mississippi heat with absolutely nothing to do except stare at my dogs and re-watch Broad City for the 9th time — truly a riveting 2.5 months. I now think back on that time with amazement of my own laziness— why didn’t you get a job? Why didn’t you finish that book you started writing? Why didn’t you learn to cook something other than pancakes?

At the time, I had excuses ready at the tip of my tongue. Now, I can’t think of any, and I know it’s because I was lacking that one little thing that fuels anyone with a purpose: inspiration.

Back in June, or July (everything blurs together when your days are filled with nothingness), I was scrolling through Facebook when something caught my eye. It was an application for a group I didn’t totally understand, but their website intrigued me, so I sent in my résumé and promptly forgot about it 10 minutes later.

Weeks went by when I got a call from a boy who sounded exactly my age. It was a phone interview for that agency I applied for that one time, an agency I didn’t know would end up teaching me more than I’ve learned in four years of college. I guess it went well, because shortly later I was invited to join the creative team at The Relevant Youth.

You probably don’t know what that is. Most of my friends who listen to me blab about it every week don’t know what it is. It’s this: a student-run advertising agency that operates right out of Mizzou’s campus. We started with one client: The Bridge, which is a store inside the MU Student Center that sells clothes & other items produced by students. Months have passed, and now Relevant Youth has grown it’s client base, and the creative team (that’s me) creates the content that these clients post on their social media, make flyers out of and more. Got it? Great.

I’ll be honest, my first week with RY made me want to quit. I was looking for a low-key last year of college, and this was already shaping out to be a time commitment. I told myself I’d give it two weeks before I decided to bow out, and ohhhh baby am I glad I waited.

I’ll fast forward to now, you don’t need to hear the tales of weekly meetings and my becoming friends with some of the most talented and creative people out there, you just need to hear this: I was finally inspired again.

“Surround yourself with people who are better than you” is a saying I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with. I love the concept, but the reality? I usually gave it a hard pass. I like feeling like I’m the best writer / creator / whatever in a room. But, and this may come as a shock, I’m not. You aren’t either. And that’s totally okay.

My involvement in Relevant Youth forced me to not only be ‘not the best’ in the room, it forced me to maybe be the worst. In that first meeting I realized I wasn’t just surrounded by people like me, people who claimed to be creative but really just did homework and wrote a blog post here and there. No, these people were the real deal. They design graphics for fun, they spend all their time exercising their brains and producing amazing content. And what do you know… they inspired me to do the same.

This blog isn’t a paid sponsorship with RY, I swear, I just don’t think I can keep to myself how much I’ve grown as a creator just from applying on a whim to some group I didn’t understand. How I weaseled my way into this team is a mystery unto itself, but I’ll be forever grateful for the year it’s given me.

My point is this: don’t be afraid to ask a question when you don’t know something. Don’t be afraid to be the worst at something — you literally can only get better. Don’t hesitate to throw yourself out there; apply for anything that sounds interesting, post that thing you’ve been working on even if you think you’re the only one who thinks it’s cool, write for fun— not just when you have an essay due.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in these last few years, it’s that having a creative outlet can change everything, at least for me (and probably you, too). Personally, taking time away from school or Netflix binges to sit down and produce something creative is more fulfilling that getting an A on a paper or finishing a tough workout. It’s holding something concrete, something you loved making, and thinking “I did that. I thought of it in my head, and now it exists.”

One last point and then I’m done, swear.

Don’t let what you think the definition of creativity is spoil what it actually is. You don’t have to be an artist or a writer or a designer to be a creative person (I have to credit Mara Wilson, the grown-up Matilda, for this reality check). Creativity is what you make of it. So let your mind wander and then have fun making something; and if inspiration is what your lacking, just open up your eyes to random opportunities.

Bye ladies / gents / FBI agent watching me through my computer,

I’ll be back soon? Probably? Idk?

 

48 hours in Africa

Monday, 11:45 AM

We were strolling through dirt paths lined with crumbling buildings. Two blonde girls with rolling suitcases and looks of panic steadily washing over our pale faces. We stuck out like soccer moms at an ecstasy-fueled rave.

The piercing glances and sexualized heckles bore into our souls. We continued walking, with no clear direction, because what else could we do?

“Riad Atlas,” we heard a voice shout. My head spun around to find a man beaming his welcoming smile at us. He was small, but older than we were. He was dressed in jeans, unlike many of the others sporting long robes and turbans.

“Yes,” I said, hesitantly, knowing that was the name of the hostel we were looking for, but unsure if I should put my trust in this man who seemed to know exactly who we were.

We began following him down a winding dirt path, away from the main road and even further away from our comfort zone, because what else could we do?

We finally arrived at a door. Waiting on the other side was a lobby, of sorts. Floors crafted out of mosaic tiles and an eclectic group of couches, pillows, chairs and lamps situated around the room that was bathed in sunlight.

We plopped down on the two chairs nearest the man, who had set up shop with a Mac computer in the corner of the room. I assumed this was when we would check in and go to our room.

I was wrong.

Immediately upon sitting we were offered two cups of tea. “You want sugar? Of course you want sugar,” the man said with a laugh and a grimace that was, somehow, simultaneously comforting and concerning.

I took a sip of the tea, more wary of the typhoid carrying bacteria I had previously read about than I was the scalding temperature of the beverage that would soon become a staple on our trip.

I glanced up at the man, who had finished his tea already. I then glanced over at Grace, who appeared just as concerned as I felt.

“So, you will not stay here tonight, you will stay down the road and come here in the morning.”

“What do you mean, isn’t this the Riad Atlas?”

“Yes, but construction, you stay down the road tonight, come here tomorrow, have your breakfast and then you will stay.”

“What about our friends?”

“They will stay down the road, come here tomorrow, you will have your breakfast and then you will stay.”

This back and forth interaction continued for a while, but eventually it was clear: we wouldn’t be staying in the hostel we had paid for, at least for the first night.

The three of us and the chef at the hostel sat in a bewildered silence for a few moments, before the man assured us that we would leave for the new hostel as soon as we finished our tea.

We chugged.

The man, whose name I soon learned was Rashid, led us down the same path we’d encountered him on. We ducked under archways lined with handbags, tan men begging us to buy them.

We stood against the pink building to make way for the donkeys strolling down the path, wheelbarrows filled with more merchandise attached to their backs.

We passed stores, restaurants and people. So many people. And then we arrived at the Madrassa.

The Madrassa appeared to be owned by a friend of Rashid’s. They seemed to have had this whole “thing,” for lack of a better word, set up before we arrived.

We hesitantly strolled up to the door, realizing we had just been taking this man’s word for what could very well turn out to be just the kind of situation we were warned about before arriving in northern Africa.

The door was opened by a short man wearing a black t-shirt and dusty blue jeans. He smiled, but not as wide as Rashid did.

The main room was in my direct line of vision. It was filled with upside down furniture and a sort of make-shift office.

“Storage room,” the man said in my direction after noticing my worried stares. To this day, I’m not totally sure that was a correct statement, as that’s also where we ate breakfast the following day.

12:45 PM

Grace and I were finally alone in an unventilated room with eight beds, each covered with a leopard-print, fleece blanket and a less-than-desirable flat pillow. We burst out in a series of uncontrollable laughter.

“I just, I don’t know, he’s just, he’s so….nice,” we mustered out through belly-aching chuckles.

And he was. Rashid was so nice. Before he left, we were given an extensive tour of the hostel, a drawn out map of Marrakech and his phone number.

“Call me, text me, wherever you are. I will find you and come help you.”

I believed him. I genuinely believed if I said his name loud enough he would just… appear.

About 30 minutes later, our other four friends arrived— each with the same dumbfounded look on their faces. They had experienced the exact same journey to the hostel that we had.

“We came here willingly?” Jenn joked.

We laughed again. And then we decided it was time to explore the city.

3:00 PM

Snake charmers, monkeys, henna tattoo artists, Muslim prayer calls— you name it, we saw it.

A few of us got juices from a cart, we each downed a bottle of water in an attempt to bear the stifling heat from the afternoon sun and, eventually, we found ourselves at a Mosque.

All six of us attempted to enter, as we had heard this particular mosque was a popular tourist attraction. We were denied entry by another man who we later, once again, probably put a little too much trust in.

He assured us he wouldn’t charge us, but instead wanted to give us helpful information about Morocco.

“Don’t drink the juices from the carts, the fruit is washed with water that is bad for you.” Those of us who had already had a juice exchanged nervous glances.

“You should go to the Argon Oil factory. You can see the women make it and they won’t charge you anything, I can take you there now.”

After a quick pow-wow, we decided to go.

“I will walk you to the door and then leave you there, it is only a two minute walk, I promise,” the man from the Mosque explained, picking up on our uncertainty about following another man down yet another unknown path.

And he was right. After a short walk, we arrived at the factory and he left us there.

We spent the afternoon there, smelling oils, getting massages and, ultimately, buying a lot of products guaranteed to transform our skin.

7:00 PM

After a harrowing journey back to our hostel, we all settled in for a nap in our humid room, which was frequently interrupted by the prayer calls and noises from the other dwellers of the Madrassa.

We woke up and headed out for dinner at a rooftop cafe, where I ingested the best mushroom risotto of my life.

We spent hours admiring the Moroccan sunset and reminiscing on our adventure of a Monday. We unanimously agreed it wasn’t the spring break we had planned, but we were glad to be there.

10:00 PM

There’s no drinking in Marrakech, so it was time for bed.

Katie walked into our room first, and immediately walked back out.

I popped my head in to see what had dissuaded her to find a semi-nude german man and his female lover, or sister, or friend— we never found out.

“You can come in,” he said.

As we all settled in for what would turn out to be a restless night’s sleep, the woman got up.

“Is it okay if I turn this off?” We all said yes, assuming she meant the light.

She didn’t. She meant the fan. She wanted to turn off the fan. In Africa. In a room that could easily be mistaken for a sauna.

“I hope I don’t sleep walk tonight,” the man muttered.

“I do that, I sleep walk. And I kill people,” he added. We hoped he was joking.

Tuesday, 6:00 AM

We are awoken by the first prayer call of the day.

6:30 AM

The German couple leaves the room. Loudly.

8:30 AM

We all start coming out of our haze of sleep and heat exhaustion.

“Did anyone else see the monkey?” Katie asked.

No, we hadn’t. But, according to Katie, during the night a monkey had been sitting in our room. Now we could add rabies to our list of possible diseases contracted during our short stay.

We headed downstairs for breakfast: three pieces of bread, yogurt, butter, juice and tea.

Safe to say we were never short on carbs.

The man who owned the Madrassa, still clad in his black t-shirt and dusty jeans, agreed to lead us back to Rashid’s hostel.

Back down the winding paths we went. When we knocked on Rashid’s door, he was dressed in full robes and a turban— a change from his casual wardrobe on Monday.

“Hello!” He showed us our room, an undebatable upgrade from the previous night.

We settled in, charged our phones and headed back down the staircase to embark on the camel ride we had set up with Rashid the day before.

10:00 AM

Rashid took us back down the path. We were dressed a bit more “traditional Moroccan” than the day before, but our fair skin and American accents still invited unwanted comments and stares.

We approached a white van. A man in a suit was waiting for us.

“He will take you to your camel ride,” Rashid told us.

“In 10 years when we’re on the Today Show explaining the moment we knew we were being sold into sex trafficking, it’s now,” I semi-joked to the group.

We rode in the carpet-lined van for about 20 minutes. We came to a stop at the boundary between the city an the Sahara Desert— a stretch of land enveloped by palm trees and dilapidated homes.

Six camels were waiting for us. We hopped on.

5:00 PM

After several cups of tea, three cheese pastillas and one long sit to let our sore legs adjust to being off the camel, we headed to the spa— something Morocco is known a for.

We had a standard spa package set up: 45 minutes in the Hammam and a 30 minute massage.

It should be noted that we were under the impression that the Hammam was basically a big steam room. We were wrong.

The six of us were instructed to take off everything excepted for our thongs. We were led into a dimly-lit steam room with two sections, a bench in each.

I was first in line. A heavy-set Moroccan woman sat me down and immediately doused me with lukewarm bucket of water.

We were scrubbed until our skin was raw. We were massaged with oils that made caused difficulty in sitting without slipping. Our hair was washed and braided.

In short, we were bathed. Aggressively bathed.

7:30 PM

Clean and relaxed, but still confused as to what exactly happened inside the spa, we headed for dinner.

We spoke about religion and life and Morocco over pizza and salads. We sat for hours, laughing and learning.

Wednesday, 3:00 AM

Grace and I headed down to the main floor of the Riad Atlas to meet the taxi driver who would take us to the airport. Unsurprisingly, the chef appeared in a robe with a full breakfast prepared for each of us.

At this point, nothing shocked us.

7:30 AM

We fly out.

Morocco is a place filled with generous people and wonderful food. It’s encompassed in vibrant colors and enchanting smells and just about everything else imaginable.

It’s a  place unlike anything we had previously experienced. If we’d been moved to a different hostel with little explanation in any other country, we would have talked about refunds, other options. Not here, it’s just how things are done.

Would I go back? Sure. When I have plenty of money to stay in a resort and I know exactly what I’m getting into.

Am I glad I went and did it the way we did? Absolutely.

“Not building walls, but bridges, between people”

This morning I was sent to cover a peaceful protest in the heart of Brussels, which spurred in response to Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban.’

Held in the exact same spot as vigils were after the terrorist attacks the city underwent last spring, the cold, damp air felt heavy and full of emotions.

You can read my news story here, but below are pictures I snapped this morning, along with quotes I gathered from participants at the protest.

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I’ve struggled to understand people that support him, I think there’s a really deep dissatisfaction for a lot of people with they way the economy has been going, and their lives. I’m trying to understand that. I think it’s important to understand both sides and be respectful.” –Leonor Guariguata, an American citizen from Venezuela now living in Brussels, age 35.

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I think Europeans are very clear that it is coming from one man. The real America that we all love, that has been a beacon of hope and a beacon of light for decades, we want that America back.” –Jonathan Hill, a British communications professional, age 46.

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“Not building walls, but bridges, between people. That’s the most important thing”-Anton Schuurmans, Belgian policy advisor and co-organizer of the protest , age 28. 

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“I’m a Belgian national and I’m not Muslim, so I won’t be personally affected by it, but I think it’s important to show solidarity. I’m here in solidarity with the people affected by Trump’s ‘Muslim ban.’ I came here to show solidarity with the American people who are going to suffer under Trump for 4 years.” –Joseph Ngongo, Belgian student, age 18. 

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“What you see now is a big movement, a message to the rest of the world.” –Els Deschoemacker, Belgian native, national organizer for the Left Socialist Party, age 47.

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“It’s sad that people voted for him, but we remember that the majority of Americans did not. We stand by them.” –Aurore Guieu, French employee for the International Planned Parenthood Federation, age 27. 

Journalism, these days

As I sat down to write my blogs for the week, I went through my usual routine.

Exhausted from the *maybe* 10 minute walk to library, I felt like I had earned about 20 minutes of checking Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, ect.

So, I’m scanning every surface of the internet, knowing full-well I should have started on my homework 30 minutes ago, and then I find myself on one of my favorite websites: Buzzfeed.

As I scrolled through an incredibly compelling article titled, “Harry Styles Just Killed Every Male Model’s Career,” I thought, “Oh my god, some people consider this journalism.”

Maybe some feel different, but I’m willing to bet several people who work at Buzzfeed graduated with journalism degrees from various universities, assumed they’d be reporting on politics or national disasters, blinked and found themselves sitting on an exercise ball “chair,” putting the finishing touches on their think piece entitled, “We need to talk about how f***king disgusting pickles are.”

Geez.

I get it, thought to myself. I understand why websites like this exist.

They’re entertaining as hell.

“What Disney princess describes your aesthetic,” well, I can’t wait to find out.

“20 things you only understand if you’re a 30 year old vegan,” I’m neither of those things, but I’m still going to read it.

All I’m saying is that I hope entertaining websites stay where they are, as entertainment sites. And that people don’t blur the lines between “contributing writer for Buzzfeed quizzes” and “CNN reporter.”

Alright, I’m off to take “Which British Biscuit Are You?”

Do You

I’ve spent the last couple of years noticing trends. Avocado, SoulCycle, obscure makeup crazes like contouring your stomach- these are all trends I’ve noticed, and hated. (Avocado, I’m sorry, I really tried to like you- I swear)

However, I also noticed a trend of speaking out and “ending the stigma.” These are trends that I have loved.

I often hear people talk about the good ol’ days. You know, the ones where cell phones didn’t rule our world and we had maximum face to face contact with other people- cute, in theory, I guess, whatever.

To me, it sounds utterly agonizing to have to actually put in effort that goes farther than a couple of clicks on my phone when it comes to finding out important information such as “how old is Newt Gingrich?” and “one nipple bigger than the other normal?” But, to some, apparently the allure of having your phone ring and not automatically knowing who will bellow to you from the other line is nice.

Personally, I find it more anxiety inducing than something to romanticize.

Okay so Newt Gingrich, nipples, cell phones… where was I going with this.. oh right, yes, mental health. Normal train of thought, right?

So, while so many get caught up in the nostalgia of years past, I’ve spent a solid amount of time pondering the fact that we, and this may be an unpopular opinion, are living in one of the most amazing eras: the era of you.

Think about it, at what other point in time, disregarding the lack of technology in decades past, could you have scrolled through your Facebook feed and seen a dozen of shared articles at any given time geared towards making the reader feel less alone in whatever strange or cool or scary or heartbreaking walk of life they may currently be in?

I don’t know about you, but if sixth grade me had been constantly bombarded with articles written by normal people about how other’s perception of my body didn’t define me and if you were content with your appearance then just screw everyone else’s opinion? Well, I think I may have just been able to skip my pre-teen anorexia phase altogether! (*nervous laughter*)

Keeping with the trend of building each other up, there seems to be this overwhelming acceptance of mental illness- which something I hadn’t observed until the last couple of years.

In high school, if we knew someone on medication it was almost like a scandal. “Oh he’s crazy” was something I vividly remember hearing after a few girls found out a boy in our grade was on anti-depressants.

Once I got to college, I recognized a kind of openness amongst my new friends and I that I hadn’t felt in high school.

It wasn’t weird for us to openly share why we were down, we didn’t expect each other to act fine when things really weren’t fine- it was okay to casually say things like “maybe I should be in therapy,” or,”my anxiety is just out of control today.”

Maybe we all suddenly got mature and were willing to be our true selves, maybe it’s just a Mississippi thing to keep everything bottled up so you don’t disturb appearances, or maybe the world is beginning to shift into a more honest, more accepting light.

I know things seem out of control, and probably are out of control- police are killing people simply based on the pigmentation of their skin. People consumed by hate are shooting up nightclubs filled with people doing nothing but celebrating their love.

But, for a second, look past the random acts of violence, even the not-so-random acts of violence, and think about how okay it is, right now, in 2016, to just be yourself.

It’s better to like yourself than to care if others like you- and I think we are living in a time where you are encouraged to like yourself- even your flaws and even your “crazy.”

That’s kinda cool.

I think this might be a poem or something I don’t know

It’s an odd sensation, drinking for a purpose other than intoxication.

Take now, for instance. I’m sitting on a balcony, lit only by the fading sun, its colors cascading over the shoreline in front of me. Water meets sand, sand meets land, and up on the land is me, admiring it all and sipping a glass of Pinot Noir.

I’m enjoying each sip as a I read a book with hints of inspiration between the lines of each page. The wine only enhances the realizations of the beautiful simplicity within the pages, as if the bitter, bitter but good, taste of the wine somehow interacts with the words I’m reading.

Maybe that’s the point of alcohol, at its core. Perhaps the essential goal wasn’t to fuel nights out by giving a false confidence to the consumer, but rather the primary purpose is simply to be enjoyed. To accompany beautiful words, and enhance their impact upon the reader.

An odd sensation, sure, but a good one, nevertheless.