Monday, October 24, 2016

2016: Too important to mess around with 3rd parties

In case you missed it, the presidential election is less than a month away--and Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are not the only ones running to become the Leader of the Free World. This country has third parties, the most well-known are The Libertarian Party and The Green Party, and these parties do get some votes. People are voting for Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, people are voting for Green Party nominee Jill Stein. And with what’s at stake in this election, that is dangerous. The next President will determine who takes the late Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court. They will make decisions about the right’s of women, minorities, and the LGBT+ community. There’s a lot that could change after this election, not even taking Senate race into consideration.

Just to be clear, I think that the current two-party system of our country is deeply flawed. There is no way that two polarized parties can wholly represent the ideals of an entire nation. Having third parties makes sense, and the only way to slowly dismantle the two-party system is to vote for third-party candidates. Just, not this election.

Many of Johnson and Stein’s supporters are disenfranchised Democrats. People who are more liberal than Hillary Clinton and are looking for a more liberal candidate that is more exciting and better matches their interests. Many members of the Republican Party are also unhappy with Trump, but very few Republicans are turning to third parties as a solution. If these disenfranchised democrats turn toward Stein and Johnson, Trump gets a free ride to The White House.  And in this moment, nothing scares me more than the words “President Trump.” A man who’s only concrete plan, no pun intended, is to build a wall. A Trump presidency would be catastrophic for democracy in this country.

Often times it helps to look at the past to better understand what we’re dealing with. In the 2000 election Green Party candidate Ralph Nader split the vote with Democrat Al Gore and essentially allowed George W. Bush to obtain the presidency. Democrats were not united and that opened the doors for Bush, the president responsible for starting the war in Iraq and taking over 400 vacation days during his time in office.

This could happen now. If the Democratic Party does not unite behind Clinton we are in trouble. Trump supporters are extremely united. They will be at the polls when they open. They will bring their friends to vote with them. They will be vocal. If democrats are divided between Clinton, Johnson, and Stein they will lose the election and Trump will hold the highest office in the free world.

This election is too important. Now is not the time to dismantle the archaic two-party system. You may like Jill Stein, but there is too much at stake this year. Go to the polls Nov. 8 and vote, and maybe, just maybe, in four years we can start voting for the candidate we want--of any party--instead of voting against the candidate we don’t.

And if you are still undecided, it’s time to make up your mind. 

Peace and blessings,


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Cultural Appropriation

Kylie Jenner wearing cornrows and calling them box braids, white people wearing bindis at Coachella, Pat Boone performing “Ain’t That A Shame” originally by Fats Domino, these are examples of cultural appropriation. When the cultural majority, in our society, middle and upper class white people, adopt aspects of a traditionally minority culture, such as African Americans, and claim that these ideas are their ideas.  The difficult aspect with cultural appropriation is that there is not a clear boundary between paying homage to a culture and appropriating it.

Many people make the claim that if a person grows up around a certain culture they are bound to adopt the traditions as their own, however this is not what cultural appropriation is. Cultural appropriation is the majority’s exploitation of the minority. And this affects everyone. When our society can still sell Native American Halloween costumes and describe them with phrases like, “whoop and holler in this rustic Native American adult costume this Halloween…” something is wrong. This goes beyond “cultural borrowing,” situations like this continue the perception that First Nations and Indigenous peoples are simply characters from the past, not people who are still a part of society. When popular music artist Miley Cyrus’ producers can say she wants her music “to feel black,” they are using the culture of an entire race to advance a rich white woman’s career. Maybe these don’t sound important but these misappropriations are more common than many people realize.

So what can the majority do if they want to use aspects of other cultures? Give credit where credit is due. If a white man wants to sing a traditional African spiritual, no one is going to stop him but he should be aware that he does not own the narrative of the song. If someone wants to dress up like a Native American for Halloween, they should be allowed to, after all this country does still have freedom of speech, but perhaps it would be worth taking the time to research why they wear the clothing that they do. Every bead on a Native American headdress means something. Take the time to learn what these aspects of culture mean before using them for your own. Don’t rob minority groups of their history and culture. The world is a beautiful place because of all the cultures it encompasses, respect will keep it that way.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Inclusive representation

Last weekend I sat down to watch a movie with my parents and older sister, a typical night for us. We decided to watch The Danish Girl, the Oscar-winning film about Lili Elbe, the first person to undergo sex/gender reassignment surgery.

Immediately my father expressed his displeasure with this choice of entertainment. The idea of watching a transgender woman’s transition made him uncomfortable.

Throughout the film my parents made little comments and jokes about Lili, they didn’t seem to understand the character or concepts in the same way my sister and I did.

This is not surprising. My sister and I are members of the Facebook-Twitter-Instagram-Tumblr generation. We see transgender people every day on social media. We know transgender people. We have classes together. We don’t pretend to be experts, but we are aware of the proper language to use when speaking about transgender people and the entire LGBTQIA+ community.

Because we see these people regularly, we are comfortable with them. Our parents, not so much. My parents were born in the mid-60s, they saw the first interracial kiss on TV, they saw Ellen come out on her sitcom. The progress was slow, but it was there.

However, the sources that my parents use to gather news and entertainment still have a long way to go. These are people who get their news from the morning paper, the evening news, and the headlines that scroll across Comcast’s homepage. In 2015, there were approximately 14 depictions of transgender people on film and television. Fourteen.

Representation matters. Representation everywhere matters.

When LGBTQIA+ individuals are included in mainstream media, acceptance and understanding will follow. When my parents can turn on their TV and watch a movie about a man who identifies as a woman and not joke about it, we will have real change. When conservative politicians stop policing people’s right to use public restrooms, we will be a better society. We need to keep learning and fighting until every human being, regardless of gender or ethnicity, has a seat at the table.

Here are some resources where you can learn more about representation in media:

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Summer daze

I let the watermelon juice drip down my lips and across my stomach, it’s sticky but I don’t mind. It’s summer, I’ll just wash it off in the pool.

As the sun washes over me I close my eyes and focus all of my attention on stealing as much of its warmth as I possibly can before winter comes again. There is no breeze and the heat hangs heavy in the air, a bead of sweat falls from my temple. This is my paradise. I live for these sunlit-summer days.

I reach for my book and read until I can’t bear the heat any longer. As I stand, my vision becomes blurry and black at the corners, the result of hours of sun and no water.

A few sips later and I’m ready. I take off my sunglasses and leap into the water, it embraces me like an old friend. Gone is my sweat, gone is the watermelon’s sweet juice, gone is my blurry vision, and everything is incredibly clear.

As my arms cut through the water I feel so free. My childhood instincts return, I am a mermaid, I am an Olympian. I duck under the surface and can hear only the bubbles of my breath and the movement of the tide I’ve created.

This is peace, there is nothing else like this. Let me just stay here forever.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

It's going pretty well so far

Have you ever been having a great time and all of a sudden looked around you and thought; I could be in a movie montage right now?

There have been so many times I’ve been surrounded by friends, or in the midst of a breathtaking view, or walking hand in hand with my boyfriend, and I’ve had to stop and take in how perfect it all is.

Even now as I sit outside and type this, looking at the sunlight sparkle on my pool, I just have the overwhelming feeling that life is good.

I’ll admit, when I was moving out of my dorm this past April I was worried about this summer. I knew I was going to miss all the wonderful friends I had made and I also knew I would miss the fact that I didn’t need to rely on anyone.

At school it didn’t matter that I didn’t have a car (or a license), it didn’t matter if I stayed up until 2 a.m., it didn’t matter if I wanted to go to Chipotle three times in one week. I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted to.

So yeah, I was worried about losing all of that freedom. And this summer hasn’t been a complete walk in the park. I still have to deal with my less-than-amazing minimum wage job, the struggle of trying to get my driver’s license, and the fact that I really do have to ask my parents for permission before I do things. Yes, I also realize that these problems are incredibly small.

This summer has had a few hiccups but honestly, I’ve never been happier. My friends are wonderful, I’m in love, I’ve seen and done so many beautiful things, and I know it’s just the beginning.

Being home after a whirlwind year of college is difficult at times, and it’s easy to become disheartened because of that. My advice? Make the most of it. College is fun, but college is hard. We need to enjoy this precious time the best we can. I know I am.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Deserving of praise

About a month ago I was walking through downtown Pittsburgh. It was a magnificent day. The sun was shining, there was a gentle breeze, and I was in a pretty good mood.

I was walking from my dorm to Point State Park when I decided to stop at Dunkin Donuts and get a 99-cent iced tea (which actually comes out to $1.06 with tax by the way).

I don’t like to carry change. It’s heavy, it rattles around, and I just prefer to use my debit card or paper money when I’m paying for things. (I am lucky I can be particular about how I use money, I acknowledge that.)

So I left Dunkin with my tea in hand and my change in my pocket. I decided I would give my change to the first homeless person I saw. About a minute later I saw a middle-aged man with a paper cup outside of McDonald’s--a common sight--and I gave him my change. All 94 cents of it.

I was proud of myself. I probably made that guy’s day, I thought to myself. My first instinct was to reach for my phone and tell my friends about the good deed I had done. I wanted to be praised for giving a man change I didn’t even want.

But I continued on my way and didn’t fish for praise from my friends. But then I was proud of myself for not telling anyone about my “good deed.”

What is wrong with me that I feel I need validation and praise for everything I do or choose not to do?

Shouldn’t the knowledge that I helped someone be satisfying enough?

Why do I feel so deserving of praise?

These are the questions that flooded my mind as I continued on my walk and I knew I must not be the only person who has ever wondered about this.

Sure, I helped a guy out. But I didn’t lose or gain anything by doing so. I’m not going to suffer because I gave a homeless man money. I’ll still have a roof over my head and food to eat. It’s hard for me to view what I did as a selfless act because of that.

There’s always been a side of me that wants the world to see all the “good deeds” I’ve done even though I know that getting positive attention isn’t the point of giving charitably. I think as long as I acknowledge how I feel, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be praised now and then.

For me, that change in my pocket meant nothing, but for that homeless man, it was a show of kindness and maybe a chance for a meal. That’s what’s truly important.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

I write because I want to, it's that simple

It feels good to be writing here again, I had a lot of ambition when I started this blog in September. But then my first year of college happened. It was wonderful, and wonderfully busy.

I had great opportunities to write for my college newspaper, and I was able to write for The Odyssey Online during the spring semester. These platforms allowed me to grow as a writer, but I was limited. I had to write for the Odyssey once a week, and after a while it became very difficult to write an inspired and meaningful piece.

So I quit. I wanted to take some time to think and write on my own. What I want most is for my words to be carefully chosen and thought provoking. I don’t want to care how many times my pieces are shared on Facebook. Writing is very personal for me, I feel like I am having a conversation with each person who takes the time to read what I’ve said. I want to be proud of everything I share.

This summer I am going to focus on making this blog the best it can be. I am going to enjoy my time away from the hustle and bustle of college life and write about whatever my little heart desires. I will write whenever I have something to say and I will not force myself to write if I don’t have anything worthwhile to say.

Now I’m going to go rest my feet in the grass and listen to The Lumineers’ new album for the 200th time.


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Odyssey; a journey

I promised myself I wouldn't make a post like this, but it's been over a month since I've posted on here.

Fear not, I am still writing. I love to write and I believe I always will. I am taking as many opportunities to share my ideas with the world as possible.

Well, as many as I have time for. Being in college takes up a lot of my time.

About a month ago I was asked to write for my school's chapter of The Odyssey Online, an online blogging platform for college students to share their thoughts and ideas. I write an article every week and I am very proud of them.

You can read them here:

These are the types of things I would have been very happy to post on this blog, however I am able to reach more people through The Odyssey.

I will still write for this blog, this blog is my baby. I won't abandon it. But I might not be able to update it quite as regularly.

I greatly appreciate every single person who takes the time of day to read my ramblings, wherever I publish them.


Monday, January 25, 2016

(Losing) My Religion

Every Sunday, since I can remember, has started the same way. Church. As a child I remember being dragged out of bed and dreading the hour and a half to come.

I was baptized Catholic and attended Catholic church until I was in middle school when my family decided to make the shift to Presbyterianism. I took part in most of the sacraments. I was baptized, I had my first communion and my first confession, I was confirmed. 

I went to Sunday School every week when I was too young to attend regular service. I went to Vacation Bible School every summer. When I was too young to attend, I volunteered. I taught Sunday School a few times with my mother. I helped teach children about Jesus at Vacation Bible School for several years. I volunteered for numerous causes. 

So there it is, my christianly resume. 

I did all these things because that was what my family taught me to do from a young age. My mother is very religious. She is active in her faith and is always looking at new ideas about how to best serve God and others. My father does not seem as rooted in his faith but he actively volunteers as a deacon in my home church. 

Religion has always been a part of my life and I have always struggled with it. As a child I had fun at Sunday School and Vacation Bible School and youth groups (I had fun singing and dancing and eating snacks and spending time with my friends.) As I got older I tried more and more to understand the Bible and the meaning behind the songs I was singing or the words I heard in church every Sunday. 

But I had questions. A lot of questions. And I still do. 

When I entered college I saw a new opportunity to explore my beliefs without the presence of my family. But when the first Sunday came, I chose to sleep in. I didn't feel bad about it. I still went to church when I visited my family at home. I didn't mind going. I prayed on Sunday mornings. I didn't think there was anything wrong with that. I knew that I should be more active in my faith but I couldn't quite figure out how to get there.

Honestly, I still don't know how.

I have recently decided to start going to church with a few of my close college friends. I sometimes (rarely) attend the Christian fellowship club at my school. But I often feel as if I have no personal connection with God. I truly want to believe that there is a God, but I struggle to make time for Him in my life. I try to read the Bible and I get lost. It's so hard for me to accept that a text that was written so long ago can still be 100% true. Have we discovered everything about God and Christianity already? Is there nothing new? 

And what about other religions? How did we decide that Christianity is the way? Many other religions have valid ideas about how to treat others and live a full life. Are people who are living meaningful lives and helping others destined to go to hell if they do not believe in the Christian God? Am I going to hell because sometimes explicates are the only words to express my feelings and I sometimes think about sex? 

I want to know God better. I would love to have the passionate faith of some of my close friends. I don't want to doubt, but I do, and I have a feeling that my doubts may never completely disappear. 

I will keep listening and learning ,and maybe someday, I'll have some answers. 


Saturday, January 2, 2016

(Off)stage Fright

Anyone who knows me knows that I love musical theatre. Many of my friends and family members have been forced to watch movie musicals, listen to cast recordings, and hear me spew useless facts about the performers. And although my obsession has mellowed out over time I still love theatre and I really enjoy(ed) performing.

When I started taking voice lessons during my sophomore year of high school I wanted to be a belter like Idina Menzel or Patti LuPone. I had always sung as an alto in choir so I decided that I would never be a soprano like Julie Andrews or Kelli O'Hara. I would screlt (scream-belt) songs in my room when no one was home. I even recorded them and put them on the Internet.

Bad idea. People online can be cruel. I already didn't think much of myself when it came to singing. The negative feedback made me feel even worse. 

As time went by I worked hard to improve. I took every opportunity I could to perform. I auditioned for every solo in choir (I even got one my senior year). I was cast in shows. I stopped trying to sing like Idina Menzel or Julie Andrews and started trying to be myself. 

Yet, to this day if I am not in the shower, in a voice lesson, completely alone, or actually performing in a show, I don't sing. Many times I have been in a car full of friends singing along to the radio and remained silent. Deep down I still doubt myself and my abilities. I know I'm never going to be a Broadway star but why am I so afraid to express myself? 

I am slowly gaining the confidence I know I deserve to have but I still have some work to do.

So to anyone who's ever asked me to sing, I'm sorry I said no. Be patient with me.