Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Prayer: The World's Greatest Wireless Connection

            The best part of going to school in Pittsburgh, but living a short drive from home, is that I can still go home to get my daily dose of country. Fall just doesn’t have the same effect in the city as it does in the sticks. Thankfully, fall break at Pitt allowed me to enjoy five glorious days in my hometown filled with pumpkin painting, high school football, apple cider, and colorful leaves (basically everything you’d expect fall to be).
            Before I left to head back to Pittsburgh, I had to pay a visit to two of my favorite people in town.          

Most people in the Tri-County area are familiar with Hepler’s Country Store. We’ve all stopped in once or twice (some of us may try to avoid visiting if we can help it so we don’t spend our entire life savings), but a trip to Hepler’s is never just for the shopping spree. It never fails to amaze me how Hepler’s is just this little backwoods store that seems to be filled with magic and wonderful people. (Believe me, Carhartts are magic and the people truly are wonderful).
For those of you who aren’t lucky enough to have ever been to Hepler’s, let me introduce you to two incredible people. Angel and Nona have become two of my biggest supporters and advocates for this blog. It’s reassuring to know that there are amazing ladies in the community I live in who believe in me and what I write, and are always supportive of what I have to say. They’re both genuinely nice people, incredibly thoughtful, and friendly. More than that, as adults, they’re insightful. That’s why it’s always so nice to chat with them about life so I can get an adult perspective on what I’m thinking.
Therefore, when I drop by Hepler’s, it’s never just a quick trip to pick something up. And the other day was no different.
Since these two lovely ladies are huge blog followers, they asked me right away why I’ve been slacking (they said it a lot nicer, but I really have been having writer’s block!). So the three of us tossed ideas around for what I could possibly write about next. As I browsed the store I mulled over a few of them, but none of the ideas themselves were really jumping out.
Instead, all I could think about is a simple phrase that Angel had said to me.
I talk about life a lot with Angel. She tells me about her kids (if I’m half the mother she is someday, I’ll be content because it’s obvious how much her kiddos love her), and I talk about school. This conversation was different though. We talked a lot about the future. Where school was taking me, and how I was going to get into my dream career, you know the usual stuff people ask a 21-year-old junior in college. I gave Angel a lot of “I don’t knows” because I don’t? I have a dream job but I’m not sure how to get there? And she said the most incredible and simple thing to me; she told me to pray.

From the outside, I don’t seem to be a religious person by any means. I’m not an over-bearing, shove it down your throat, make sure you go to mass every Sunday, and don’t break any of the commandments Catholic. I wear a cross around my neck and have a rosary hanging on my rearview mirror. Sure, I try to go to church every Sunday. I endured 13 years of Catholic education, but my mom still has to remind me of holy days of obligation to make sure I go to church. I have differing viewpoints from what the church teaches too. Where the church has a relatively strong standpoint on same-sex marriage, I don’t believe it’s an issue for the church to decide. I’m a firm advocate for the death penalty, as well as a pro-choice supporter. And let me tell you, I’m more than well aware that my guardian angel has a full-time job keeping up with me, but that doesn’t stop me from believing in God and living my faith in my own way.

            You don’t have to go to a church to pray.

            Prayer is everywhere. I try to remember to say a little prayer every night before I fall asleep, and I never forget every morning to thank God for giving me another day on this earth.
The quote, “Airports have seen more sincere kisses than wedding chapels, and hospitals have heard more prayers than the walls of churches,” makes my point.
God is a continual presence, not just found in a physical structure. So send an extra little prayer up to the big guy to let Him know you’re thinking about Him all the time and not just when you desperately need or want something.

            But with the unfathomable number of tragedies, such as shootings that happen much too often anymore, something is wrong. In my opinion, radical people who want to stir up trouble are the root cause of these catastrophic events, and it’s because religion is escaping this country.
            I’m not saying that it should be added to the constitution that everyone must attend a religious service, but I’m saying that people need to be reminded that God and religion are what this country is rooted in.
            God should remain in the pledge of allegiance. For almost 100 years, America has been, “One nation, under God,” and that should never change. Taking God out of the USA will make our problems worse. The only way we will ever have a moral society is by teaching kids that there is a higher power rather than letting them grow up and causing mayhem.
            Without God at the root of our country, it’ll continue to decline. More senseless shootings and violence will occur, drug use will continue, divorce rates and broken families will increase, and we will continue to crumble until we no longer can hold on.

            Two hundred years ago this country was built on faith. So maybe each of us just needs to pray a little more? Maybe something as simple as that will make this a better world to live in?
            One can only hope – and pray.

            To my Hepler’s ladies, thank you for finally getting me to write again.

            And Angel, thank you for your advice. It’s the best I could’ve possibly received.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
-       Romans 12:12


Sunday, May 3, 2015

God Bless the Broken Road


          I’m an advocate of the philosophy that every person comes into your life for a reason and those who have walked out of your life have also done so for a reason. Many of those reasons are lessons, whether big or small, that have taught you something and shaped you into who you are.

            The crazy thing about exes is that your mind automatically thinks about a boyfriend or girlfriend. It could be a best friend though. I know what it’s like to have ex-best friends and that hurts just as much as a relationship breakup. An ex is a person you use to confide in and be able to share anything with. There were memories and special moments you shared together. Sometimes it hurts and there is still a tug on your heart when an ex is brought up. But you never realize until later on in life just how much exes have changed you and shaped you into who you are. Despite wanting things to work out, some things just aren’t meant to be. Some of those things may be the bad. It may take you a long time to learn to trust someone new because you’ve been lied to so many times before. Maybe you are weary of putting your heart on the line because it’s been broken too many times before. You may have walked away feeling stronger though because you know you are a better person than what that relationship made you out to be.

Failed relationships don’t always have to be looked at in a negative light, in my opinion, most times it’s for the best. There is a reason a person is your ex or someone you don’t talk to anymore. There was a flaw in communication or a mistake made and you have to reevaluate what that mistake was so you don’t continue to make it or are no longer attracted to it.

Immediately upon breaking up with someone you’re not thinking, “yes! I learned so much and am walking away from this relationship with more knowledge.” Let’s be realistic. Guys are acting tough while drowning their sorrows in beer and girls are eating ice cream and watching romantic chick flicks.

After the sadness is gone though and when the realism sits in that you no longer have that certain person to talk to all the time, you look to fill that void, and along the way you figure out why you’re actually better off.

I use to lay awake at night wondering what I had done wrong or why I couldn’t find that guy who was going to treat me right. I came to realize that a breakup doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you. It’s just that you realized something you didn’t want or wasn’t successful and you need to move on. I don’t have that problem anymore. I may only be 20, but I’ve experienced my fair share of failed relationships and heartbreak. I’ve learned enough to probably write a book, but I’ll condense it into a blog instead. But the following are some of the most important lessons I’ve come away with and what have led me to where I am today.
(I’m sorry I say him throughout the duration of this post, but I feel like it’s girls more than boys who need the confidence boost. This advice goes for anyone and everyone though!)

Communication is key.
No one on this planet is a mind reader. If you’re upset, explain why you’re upset rather than acting mad and keeping your partner guessing. It isn’t fair to either of you to assume that the other one always knows what’s going on in your life or how you feel about things. Fill them in so they’re not in the dark.
I’m so guilty of this, and I fully admit it. When I’m in a bad mood or mad about something, instead of being blunt and saying what’s bothering me, I leave people guessing, as if to teach them a lesson. That just makes it more miserable for everyone.

Trust your gut, but also listen to those who love you.
If your best friends and family are leery of the person you’re dating, they see something you are blinded to and refuse to see. Trust them. They love you so much and are only looking out for what’s best for you.
I dated a guy once my parents didn’t approve of and my friends didn’t like. I didn’t care though because I thought I saw this great person they couldn’t see. It turns out I couldn’t see what a jackass this kid was and what everyone had been telling me all along. If I would’ve listened to the people who love me continually tell me that I was going to get hurt because he wasn’t a good guy, well then I wouldn’t have gotten hurt and lost every ounce of self-confidence I had. Even though that was years ago, I still have issues from that relationship that resurface because he made me that insecure about myself.

Disagreements are healthy.
Now I’m not saying go fight about the slightest thing, but you don’t have to have the same opinion on everything. You have to accept and respect the other’s opinion though.

Don’t change for anyone.
Keep your own morals and values and don’t change just for him. Stay true to yourself; don’t allow him to feel superior for any reason. A little difference in a relationship is healthy.
I love my two horses as much as I love my family, they are family to me (yeah, I’m that crazy horse girl). My mare has some health problems though, but nonetheless she was my first horse and I will never sell her. I had a boy hell-bent once that he wanted to shoot her because "she was a lost cause and a waste of time and money". He said it would be better for everyone since I wouldn’t have to go to the barn to see her anymore since she was worthless. Sorry sweetheart, that is a major reason you’re an ex.

Happiness starts with you.
Another person isn’t the only one who can make you happy. You are the ultimate reason for your own happiness. If you constantly rely on someone else to make you happy, take a step back and reevaluate. Do things for you that make you happy, not because you know it will make others happy. It’s your decisions that affect your life.

You don’t deserve negativity.
If he puts you down or you’re the butt of his jokes, get out immediately. You don’t need that sort of negativity in your life and you don’t deserve it because he’s insecure and needs to make himself look good. Respect and appreciation are the pillars of a healthy relationship. Being told you’re not pretty enough or he could “get any other girl but he’s dating you” isn’t a compliment. It’s robbing you of true joy and making you feel insecure. Don’t feel privileged to be dating him. Let him know instead it an honor to be dating you and then dump his ass. 

A relationship isn’t based on “getting even.”
You shouldn’t feel like you have to do something just to make things even in a relationship. A healthy relationship is based on equality.

It’s your life.
At the end of the day, you are the one who has to live with the decisions you make. You get to choose whether or not you want to be in that relationship, and if you don’t want to be, then you don’t have to be. No one is forcing you to, and if they are, that is that much more of a reason to walk away.

As strange as it may sound, I’m thankful for my exes. If it weren’t for failed relationships and learning what I wanted in a guy and how I wanted to be treated, I never would’ve ended up with such a great guy. 

Colt makes me happy day in and day out. Sometimes it’s the little things like showing up with a movie and frozen hot chocolate to make my bad day better. And sometimes it’s the big things like letting me borrow his truck whenever I need it or dropping what he’s doing to help me out. If a person truly loves you, they will do things that they might not like just to spend time with you and make you happy. A person who loves you wants to keep you as happy as possible. He once spent his Friday night cleaning the silver on my saddles for hours. He could’ve been doing a million other things, but he did that for me. I spent my final days of winter break completely cleaning his apartment so his new roommate could move in. Both jobs sucked immensely, but we always want to help each other out and make life a little more bearable for one another.

I realized that he is the reason things never worked out with other guys, and it’s because they weren’t him. No one has ever treated me so kindly and looked out for me as much as he does.

When I told him I was writing this, he said to make him sound good. We may drive each other crazy every now and then, but he’s the perfect boyfriend and I could never ask for a better man in my life. He treats me like a princess (because I like to think I am), respects my opinions and the decisions I make in life, and always encourages me to be myself and not change because he loves who I am already. I treat him the same way in return because that’s what a real relationship is all about.

The best thing about the past is that it shows you what not to bring into your future. A breakup is an opportunity, not a tragedy. Take what you learned and use it to meet someone new. Cry your tears, drink your beers, and eat lots of ice cream. But once the time of loathing in self-pity has passed, get back out there and continue to enjoy life. You don’t need someone else to make your feel complete, but life is just a little sweeter when you have a person who loves you by your side.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Not All That Glitters Is Gold

            They tell you to go to college to follow your dreams. “They” is your family, friends, teachers, community, and everyone in life who has impacted it in one way or another. It’s the people who tell you that you’re not going to be successful without a college education so they tell you to find something you love, learn as much as you can, and practice it every day for the rest of your life.

            Growing up it seems that everyone wants to be involved in the sports world somehow. Most boys, and some girls too, dream of becoming sports broadcasters, professional players, or somehow tied to that world.
            I was one of them. I had dreams of being a sports writer for as long as I can remember. In high school, while I was writing for the local newspaper and beginning my career, I had a lot of support. Random strangers would recognize my face from the paper and say that they liked my article or I was doing a good job. Coaches would tell me it was refreshing to see a pretty, female face in the sports department. Players were amazed I was their age or younger, yet writing about them so they could read their name in the paper the next day. I loved it, every aspect.

            While I was looking at colleges, I was solely focused on journalism schools. I wanted to become the best of the best and make my way to the top. Granted, being a female in a male dominated profession was going to be tough, but I was up for the challenge.
            When I toured Syracuse University, I fell in love with the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. It was the #1 journalism school in the country and I knew that if I could get in, I would be able to unlock doors so many other people would never even be able to imagine.

            Newhouse was the only school I applied to. Yes, I took the risk and only applied to one school. But I did get in. I was a part of the 9% who were admitted to the 2013 Newhouse freshmen class.
 My first class of my college career was an intro class to all of the different communications majors that Newhouse offered. You could feel the greatness of Newhouse when you walked in its doors. I made my way to my lecture, took a seat towards the front, and looked around. The other 119 kids that I sat amongst were too part of this elite group.

            I quickly discovered what it was like to be a Newhouse student at SU.
            When you introduced yourself to other students and they asked what school you were in at SU and you replied Newhouse, there were usually two responses. From my fellow Newhouse students, they would be overjoyed to meet “one of their own.” They would ask what clubs or organizations you were in or were planning on joining.  Every current event possible was free game for discussion or they would try to engage you in some sort of stimulating conversation about a topic that nine out of ten times I had no idea what they were talking about.
            Now if they were not Newhouse students. You were usually asked why you were talking to them then. “You’re too good for us,” was a phrase I heard many times in the first few weeks.

            Is this really what this school was like? Why did it hold this prestigious recognition in the country, but on its own campus, my fellow students couldn’t stand me?
            Nevertheless, the semester went on.

            I had two Newhouse classes my first semester. My intro to Newhouse professor liked to talk about herself, a lot. Her PhD, how she was from Florida and it was so much nicer to live there than Syracuse, her prior experience as a lawyer, and I could probably dedicate the rest of this blog to random, pointless shit I know about this lady, but I’ll spare you.
I went to her office hours only once because I’m not one of those students who suck up to her professors. I went this particular time because I didn’t do as well as I thought I did on an exam and she really encouraged us to come to go over the test and ask questions. I knocked on her door and she invited me in without looking up from what she was doing. I introduced myself and she told me to take a seat. She handed me my test and an answer key and said she didn’t have time for me right now because she had other things to do. I was confused because she practically begged us to come to her office hours and now she didn’t have time? I didn’t even look at my test; I simply walked out of her office and never looked back.

            My other Newhouse class was grammar. Now I took grammar in high school, and although I’m from the backwoods, my mom was an English major in college and has her master’s so she always made sure to correct me and teach me proper English so I didn’t talk like a hick. Therefore, I like to think I have a relatively good grasp on the language. I couldn’t figure out if this class was a way to scare me out of Newhouse, or just a complete joke. I’m thinking like many other things that involve this school, it was the latter. This particular professor made powerpoints and videos about her dog to somehow teach about grammar. And she was writing her own book for the class. Props to her for writing the book, but I had to pay $80 for this online book and she was writing it as the class progressed so there were many weeks where she would forget to post the chapters or they were posted well after we took a test. The icing on top of the cake though was when we were supposed to take a test for her class and usually my rule is, if a professor is 20 minutes late for class I leave. Well this day since we were to take our midterm I decided to stick around, 45 minutes into our hour and fifteen minute class she walks in, with her dog no less, and asked if we got her email. She said that her dog was having too much fun at the park and she just couldn’t pull her away. Seriously? I’m paying thousands of dollars to sit in a professor-less class because your stupid dog is at the park?

            As if my problems with professors weren’t enough, there was my run in with the assistant dean - multiple times.

            Despite my first two Newhouse classes giving me bad feelings about the school, I still wanted to be a sports writer. I thought the best way to do this was to double major in journalism and sport management. I talked to everyone in the sport management school I needed to talk to. They said that me coming in with 21 credits from high school and being a good student would definitely help and they’d love to have me in their program. I was told to be able to do this I’d have to make an appointment with the assistant dean of Newhouse and get her signature. So I did.
            I barely had a chance to get the words out of my mouth when she told me it probably wouldn’t be possible since the sport management core curriculum wasn’t the same as the Newhouse one. I explained how I came in with credits and had talked to multiple people in the other school, as well as a professor in Newhouse who was a former sports editor for a few major papers and everyone said it was going to work.
            She told me my dreams were stupid and maybe I should rethink another major and future job.
            Excuse me?
            The assistant DEAN of the #1 journalism school in the country told me my dreams were stupid? I had a lot I wanted to say to her but I was stunned. I never had anyone tell me to my face that my dreams were stupid. I grew up in a loving and supporting family and community where I was always taught to follow my dreams.

            I never cry, and if I do something is truly wrong. But when I left that lady’s office I broke down and called my dad. He told me to forget what she said, find a loophole, and if I wanted it badly enough to continue to go after my dreams, whatever they may be and however crazy they may seem.

            The semester progressed and every day I questioned whether I still wanted to be a sports writer. Maybe I should continue with my journalism degree, and find a way to be a sports writer without the sport management degree? Or maybe I should give up on sports writing in general. I mean, I was just a young girl who knew a lot about sports and liked to write. What made me think I could actually write for Sports Illustrated someday? Every day seemed like a constant battle of my dreams versus reality of what my future held.

At the end of the fall semester I was walking to take my final at Newhouse and there was graffiti on the building. I thought nothing of it because Newhouse people are usually artsy anyway and I was more focused on my final. I figured it was an advertisement or something someone did for a project. It wasn’t until I was walking out of the final that I really took a good look at it. “#1 in communication, LAST in free speech.” The more I thought about it, the more I agreed. I wrote something towards the beginning of the semester that didn’t paint the school in the picture-perfect light it’s grown accustomed to portraying, I was told to change it. That’s not how freedom of speech is supposed to work. For a school that won’t let you graduate until you can recite the First Amendment word for word, and that calls the First Amendment the foundation of its school, it’s very hypocritical. “Liars live here, are you one?” was also spray painted on the ground outside of one of the Newhouse buildings. As I was leaving campus to head home for Christmas vacation, I continued to think about it. Liars. That’s what I felt like when I was in Newhouse. The atmosphere was suffocating. I wasn’t a liar. I was not about to compromise my beliefs and writing because it didn’t fit the cookie-cutter mold the school wanted to exemplify. I was always taught to be honest and tell the truth. And even if that truth doesn’t paint things in the best light, or it may hurt someone’s feelings along the way, I have always been one to tell the truth anyway. This graffiti made me think of my own moral character and question why I was still part of a school that was restricting me and trying to change who I was.

            When I came back from winter break I decided to give the school another chance. Maybe I just took some of the wrong classes and got off to a bad start with the people at Newhouse?

At the very beginning of second semester I had to change a lab time for one of my classes. The lady in the astronomy department was very helpful and told me I just had to fill out a slip of paper. Leave it to Newhouse though to make sure nothing is simple. I got an email that they wouldn’t process my request because I didn’t fill out proper paperwork and get enough signatures. It’s not like I was trying to change classes, my major, schools, anything. I was only switching from one lab time to another.

            I also went to talk to my academic advisor the beginning of second semester to see where I stood and if I could double major in business. I figured if my sport management/journalism major was going to be shot down, a double degree in journalism and business was practical. She made me go through hell telling me that I didn’t pick the right classes and asking me when I thought I was going to apply to the business school because my grades probably wouldn’t get me in and neither would my lack of extracurricular activities. (Apparently a 3.3 GPA and member of the equestrian team meant absolutely nothing). I told her this was something I really wanted and asked for assistance. I also needed her to sign off on an ROTC paper for me. It was simply a list of my classes, yet she told me she wasn’t going to sign anything that was government controlled without first reviewing it. So I sat there for 20 minutes as she critiqued my class decisions and then told me at the end that becoming a member of ROTC wasn’t going to benefit me scholastically. I couldn’t believe the nerve of this woman trying to tell me how to live my life. I told her it wasn’t any of her business and she called me an ungrateful brat for not thanking her for her help. I had a few choice words for her and flipped a chair as I walked out of her office. I know that wasn’t a smart thing to do. I should have kept my mouth shut, thanked her for her time, and walked out. But I didn’t know what it was about people in that building that thought they were God’s gift to mankind.

            Things change and people change.
            I know that school certainly changed me.

            The more I thought about being a sports reporter, the more I didn’t want to. Not only had the faculty and staff of Newhouse crushed my dreams, but I don’t think morally I could be a sports reporter or even a reporter in general. Did I really want to go up to a coach after he lost the World Series and ask him why he thought his team lost? It was bad enough they lost; yet there I’d be rubbing it in and making him feel worse. Or did I want to be the one who had to interview an NFL player who was deemed not guilty of murder when the world knew he was? “Please tell me how you feel knowing you got away with murder because you’re an NFL player and can pay anybody off and have the legal backing to do whatever you please.”
            And from personal experience, I saw what it was like to have reporters go after people you love. I sure didn’t want that.
            I’m too opinionated, and I have a heart.

            When I decided to switch from a journalism to psychology major my parents really questioned my decision. I had busted my ass to get into Newhouse and here I was leaving because a few people had made it hard for me.
It was more than that though.  Those few people who didn’t have time for me and didn’t show me I cared in one semester were going to make it miserable for me in the remaining seven of my college career. They showed me that in Newhouse you’re just a number, but if you go on and do big things they’re going to take credit for it and make it known you were a Newhouse prodigy.

            Switching out of that school was one of the best decisions I ever made. Anytime I tell people around campus I was formerly a Newhouse student and transferred out, people judge me. I probably could have sold my spot there and made enough to pay for the rest of my college career.
            A piece of paper with a certain name on it doesn’t mean that much to me though. Neither does the lying, conniving, backstabbing, drama, and arrogance that surrounds the Newhouse school.

            Now I think back to what my dad told me freshman year when he said don’t let anyone get in my way of following my dreams, no matter how crazy they are. Getting into Newhouse was a dream, and I proved I could do it. Now leaving that school behind is helping me follow my real dreams in life. Ones that are bigger and better than anything that school could have ever provided me.
            So this is for you Newhouse. This is me expressing my First Amendment right of freedom of speech, which is what you preach; yet you don’t practice. I have the right to say what I want without you covering it up because it makes you look bad. Thanks for helping me figure myself out and I won’t miss you.