When Was The Last Time You Lived Without A Plan?

This weekend I walked through Paris in the rain. It wasn’t much more than a slow drizzle, but it was enough to scatter haphazard puddles of varying depths. It was enough to make frazzled tourists jump into the nearest cab or hide under the awning of a café. It was enough to darken the sky at only 5 p.m. and create a blanket of fog over the very top of the Eiffel Tower.

But my friends and I didn’t sit at the nearest restaurant to wait it out. We didn’t order an Uber to go back to our apartment. We didn’t duck inside the nearest museum to wander aimlessly until the weather cleared. We walked down the very center of a muddy dirt path that, in the sunlight, houses a charming garden overlooking the Louvre on one end and the Champs Élysées on the other.

In the rain, it was little more than a sodden trail in the fog. But no one seemed to care. Parisian couples casually walked hand-in-hand, sharing an umbrella, stopping occasionally to kiss one another or to marvel at Paris in the rain. We walked alongside the nonchalant, dampened couples and admired the way the lights from the street lamps reflected in the water pooling at our feet.

We walked through the rain for about an hour, pausing only once to warm up with a steaming hot cup of coffee. We didn’t have a plan. We didn’t have GPS. We spoke in broken French, laughed and followed the golden lights of the Eiffel Tower back to our apartment.

There was no plan, no rush, no commitments. We talked, walked and admired a foreign city in its natural beauty. Our phones had died, so there were no photo-ops or Snapchat videos to document the moment. We documented each feeling, sight or sound in our minds only, and it made the experience even more beautiful.

But when was the last time I’d done this? Aimlessly walked? Felt such powerful emotions and seen such beauty without capturing it on camera? Slowed down? Didn’t worry about where I was going or how I’d end up getting there? Lived, just for the hell of it?

When was the last time you did?

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The Truth About Aix-en-Provence

I’ve been living in Aix-en-Provence for three weeks now and haven’t been able to write a damn thing about it. That’s right – three whole weeks in the city that inspired so many hundreds of paintings of Montagne Sainte-Victoire, which I’ve had the pleasure of seeing on multiple occasions. The city that some refer to as “the city of art and light.” The city famous for lavender fields and homemade almonds, crushed into a paste in the Provençal Callisons. The city that’s dripping with honey, Nutella and cultural nuances. The city that has a different type of market every single day, selling everything from kitchen appliances to homemade spoon jewelry.

Culture and history surround every inch of this city, and yet here I sit next to my 5-foot high window, watching the wind blow the light beige curtains onto my desk, starting out at the city of Aix, uninspired.

It’s not so much that Aix doesn’t have enough beauty to write about. It’s not that I’m caught in the shuffle to and from classes and permanently seated in the library. It’s the opposite.

How can I accurately articulate the unique scent of lavender, espresso and cigarettes that hangs in my room right before I go to sleep? Or the noise from motorcycles zipping through the too-narrow streets and how it’s somehow louder than New York City traffic on a Friday night? Or the life that happens in front of me every single day – the homeless woman that holds a cardboard sign reading “S.V.P,” the intercultural festivals that bring people onto the street at 9 a.m. to dance the Bachata, the cobblestone streets filled with young French students kissing each other on both cheeks in greeting and shouting, “bisou, bisou” in parting.

And how could I truthfully describe the feeling of hanging 120 feet in the air with nothing but a thin rope keeping me alive? Or the heart-stopping moment when my foot slipped while rock climbing against the side of the mountain? Or the view of the gorgeous water and the young French kids zipping around in kayaks?

I cannot. I could write a novel describing each and every activity I do, every cultural nuance I encounter, every life that resonates as I walk by, and I probably still wouldn’t have enough time or pages. Describing the distinct sound of heels against cobblestone, the lilt of the mellifluous French language and the church bell that tolls every hour would take up 20 pages in itself.

And I’m not sure if I could describe it that I would want to. Aix is worth more than a secondhand account. It needs to be lived and breathed. It needs to be experienced and not summed up by a 20-year-old college student with a pen in hand. It needs to be tasted, slowly, like trying a certain flavor of wine for the first time. It can’t be explained or described – it can only be felt, seen and heard firsthand to truly understand its writer’s block inducing magic.

Being A Working Woman In A Man’s City

Walking down Fashion Avenue with my white lace skirt blowing against my legs, I hear two men shouting, “Damn, I love this city. And I love gorgeous women.”

Mind you, it’s 8:30 a.m.

The two women walking next to me in pencil skirts and designer handbags rolled their eyes. “Sometimes I just want to turn around and yell back ‘would you talk to your daughters this way?’ That would shut them up,” one woman said.

“It’s disgusting,” said the other. “I can’t even walk down the fucking street to go to work without getting harassed.”

And then they turned the corner and their conversation shifted to their plans for this coming weekend, as if they’d never heard those men shouting.

Many women in New York City experience this every day, myself included. I feel like I have to pull my dress down even further or cinch up my shirt as I walk past the group of leering construction workers next to my building. I stood on line for a smoothie the other day wearing a very modest dress and a man looked at me agonizingly slowly from head to toe, and said “nice dress.” I can’t even count the number of times I’ve walked past a man and had him shout the words “so hot” in my face and walk away. Not to mention the men that sit at the tiny chair and tables on Broadway and turn around to very blatantly stare at a woman’s ass as she walks by.

It’s infuriating and demeaning, and yet, just like the two women on my morning commute, I do nothing but roll my eyes. Why? Because of the other hardship we face as the weaker sex — fear of retaliation. What if a guy shouted something at me, or touched me or harassed another woman? What if I said how I really feel, and told him to fuck off? Would he get mad and attack me? Would he scream back and further embarrass me?

So I keep my head down and keep moving. I roll my eyes and go off on a silent tirade. I complain about how a working woman can’t be noticed for her intellect and watch it happen all over again on my walk home from work.

The good men do exist. They stand up for us or tell the leering men to stop acting like pigs. A man once got off a subway and punched another man in the face for touching and harassing a woman standing next to me. But far too often these men don’t stand up, and the only voices heard are those of the pigs degrading women.

There may statistically be more women in New York City than men, but we seem to be nothing more than an objectified minority.

Come To New York For The Experience — Stay To Fall Madly In Love

I wish I could adequately describe the feeling I have ascending the steps out of Penn Station every morning at 8:30 a.m. sharp. It’s what I imagine a first love to feel like. It’s that first sip of coffee passing through your lips in the morning, or watching a sunset slowly paint the sky orange, but amplified by an innumerable amount.

I walk the same littered path every day, my heels clicking against the sidewalk. I cross the street quickly and walk three blocks uptown, dodging the people selling newspapers and shouting “good morning New York” with an authentic Brooklyn flair.

I turn onto 37th street and cross Broadway, smiling as the same man holding a Dunkin Donuts sign informs everyone that their store front is straight ahead, halfway up the block.

For the duration of the walk, the Empire State Building towers over our heads, causing tourists to stop in the middle of the sidewalk for a photo and causing NYC residents to roll their eyes, annoyed by the break in pace. But who can blame the gawkers? When you have a landmark of the greatest city in the world staring back at you, how can you not take a step back and appreciate it every once in awhile?

New York City in general makes me feel grateful. It makes me feel liberated. It makes me feel like I can do whatever and be whoever I want. It makes me feel drunk, high, happy. It makes me feel things I’ve never experienced with anyone before.

I imagine it feels like the joy a parent has watching their child take his or her first steps. It’s probably similar to the way that child feels at that moment as well — a little unsteady, unbalanced, unsure of what to do next or where to go with this newfound power.

It feels limitless, like endless possibilities exist.

It feels like receiving an embrace by all 8.4 million estimated residents, and simultaneously being told to fuck off by all of them as well.

The city pushes and pulls like the tides, dictated by the crowds of people instead of the moon.

It challenges, motivates, perseveres and pressures. Most might not call it welcoming, but it proves tough love to be true.

The buildings that seem to endlessly stretch toward the clouds have seen joy, pain, struggle, poverty, wealth and every other human emotion that exists. They breathe these emotions into the streets, intoxicating us by the sheer magnitude of it all.

I wish I could adequately describe the feeling I have when my train passes under the tunnel from Long Island and enters this “concrete jungle.” I imagine it’s a lot like falling in love.

Thoughts Of A Nostalgic College Senior

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always love my school.

I don’t bleed brown and white like many other students, I find myself complaining about the campus more often than praising it and a majority of the time it’s isolating and lonely, covered in a blanket of snow.

Even though my college experience has had its trials and tribulations, that doesn’t make the realization that I only have one year left any less sad.

Didn’t I just arrive on campus yesterday, nervously clutching my welcome folder? Didn’t I just break my lanyard for a third time from swinging it too much during my walk to class? Didn’t my parents just kiss me goodbye and wipe away my tears after Phillip Phillips’ “Home” carried the candlelight ceremony?

And how did I finally outgrow my freshman going out clothes? How did I trade that crop top for a blazer? How did my schedule evolve from University 101 to French 406? How did my friends become the hosts of the off-campus parties instead of the underage and inexperienced guests? How do I already have three free basketball home-opener t-shirts?

How do I already have to leave my family?

People warn graduating high school seniors that college goes by quickly, and that in the blink of an eye, you’ll be walking across the stage clutching a Bachelor’s Degree as tightly as your welcome folder. You’ll be crying listening to “Home.” You’ll be blowing out a candle at your last candlelight ceremony as an undergraduate, this time crying harder than your parents did three short years ago.

You’ll miss the crappy dining hall food, pushing your car out of the snow as quickly as possible so you’re not late to class, standing on the sticky floors of some party at some house.

You’ll miss learning, you’ll miss discovering things about yourself that you never knew existed, you’ll miss getting your heartbroken and laughing so hard you can’t breathe.

You’ll miss the friends that have become family and the professors that have become parents, mentors and friends.

You’ll miss home. It took me three years to realize that Bonaventure isn’t just some small town college in the middle of nowhere. It’s a place of acceptance, growth, caring and learning.

And as much as I love to hate it, I have no idea what I’d do without it.

I’m Sick Of Seeing Such Preferential Treatment Toward Athletes

From a young age I was exposed to the preferential treatment of athletes. 

At my small high school on Long Island, being an athlete meant an automatic ticket into the “cool” friend group — the one that threw parties on the beach and consumed alcohol before we had our Sweet Sixteens. 

And there was nothing wrong with that, and I didn’t expect anything else — that’s just how it was. School administrators allocated money to a new turf field or new team uniforms, and at the same time threatened to cut academic programs such as French. 

I watched money being poured into athletics throughout my entire high school career — not just at my own school, but schools in the surrounding area.

I watched helicopter parents worship their child-athletes and defend them until their last breath. “Well my child is a football player and he didn’t have time to do the assignment,” was a common phrase in parent-teacher conferences.

Then I started college at a small, Franciscan university in Western New York with a declining enrollment and administrators who seem to think that sports, not academics, should be our claim to fame. 

I’ve sat in classes for an entire semester where, on the very last day of class, a sports player shows up for the first time all year. He or she had been traveling the rest of the time, or at practice, and couldn’t make it to class. 

In one of my international studies classes specifically, I watched a professor give a sports player yet another extension on an assignment due two weeks prior. 

I’ve watched sports players walk around with textbooks that they don’t pay for because athletes in some sports do not have to pay for their textbooks. I’ve watched them eat lunch at places for free that others have to use Bona Bucks, additional money added to meal plans for certain cafes on campus, to pay for.

I’ve seen the favoritism of athletes for years. And not every school, every team or every athlete conforms to these norms – not everyone gets handed money, extensions on assignments or special treatment.  I’ve met outstanding athletes who do not get scholarship money and who receive a 4.0 for the semester. I’ve seen hardworking athletes. I’ve seen respectful athletes. 

But I’ve seen the athletes that get away with actions others face repercussions for, simply because they can run fast or swim fast or throw a ball well. 

A prime example is Brock Turner, otherwise known as the Stanford student convicted of raping a woman and leaving her naked on the ground behind a dumpster. 

What makes his case special? What does being an athlete have to do with raping a woman?

Nothing — unless the judge agrees that he is, in fact, guilty of rape but only punishes him with 6 months in prison, with parole. 

Why? Because he has Olympic-level swim times. 

If you’re anything like me, that sounds ridiculous. Why let a convicted rapist get away with such a meager punishment when, in comparison, the victim will be haunted for the rest of her life? 

Apparently many other people, including the judge in this court case, don’t see it that way. Just take the “Brock Turner For 2016 Olympics” Facebook page [since deleted] that refers to the judge’s decision of a six month sentence as, “a tragic miscarriage of justice.” The genius that created this page believes that because this short jail sentence cuts into Turner’s precious swim practice, people should support his path to the Olympics. 

I’m sick of seeing such preferential treatment toward athletes. Had Turner been a “NARP,” or a non athletic regular person, as so many athletes kindly refer to the rest of us as, the judge might not have been so kind when giving a sentence. 

Total Frat Move? More like Total F*cking Misogynists

“You may have seen your favorite celebrity like Taylor Swift or Gigi Hadid sporting one of these babies [referencing high-waisted bikini bottoms] on their latest social media post … either way, you’re not them. These girls have the body to pull it off. You do not. Snap me photo proof if you think you can.”

This is just an example of one of the unsupported claims by The Therapist, an anonymous user on Total Frat Move, or TFM, in an article called “Why Girls Should Stop Wearing High-Waisted Bikinis.”

TFM, a self-claimed “news and entertainment brand that consists of the #1 college comedy website on the internet,” (yes, they really left the ‘i’ lowercase), is owned by Grandex Inc. Grandex owns other “entertainment” brands like Total Sorority Move, Rowdy Gentleman and Post Grad Problems. Grandex has 47 executives listed on their website, and only seven of them are women.

Misogynistic posts like The Therapist’s litter the site, using derogatory language in most articles and treating women as sexual objects.

“Misogyny now has become so normalized,” Paul Roberts, author of Impulse Society, said. “It’s almost like we’ve gone back to the Mad Men days.”

Mad Men, a television series that premiered in 2007, follows the lives of advertisers working at a fictional advertising agency in the 1960s on Madison Avenue in New York City. The male employees often harass the women, almost all of which only work as secretaries, and treat them as sexual objects.

Total Frat Move harbors this misogynistic norm and maintains it by allowing users to remain anonymous and write what they please. Providing anonymity provides these men with the confidence to post an uninformed, ignorant, degrading opinion without fear of personal retaliation.

The author that wrote about high-waisted swimwear, The Therapist, also wrote articles titled, “Girls Should be Required to Shower and Shave Before a Guy Goes Down on Them,” “The Smaller the Dog, the Crazier the Girl” and “Should I Bang my Girlfriend’s Hot Mom?”’

One of TFM’s featured columns this week, titled “The Official Guide to Scoring a Threesome” starts by claiming, “In a new relationship, you’re pretty much inside your new girlfriend 24/7. You basically live inside her. You pay rent for her vagina.”

At least this writer, Wally Bryton, chose to use a name. Whether it’s real or not is up for debate.

Other articles on the site include, “The Time I Brought Home a Dime and It Blew Up in her Face,” “What Your Favorite Porn Category Says About You” and “I Banged a Fat Girl and My Life Will Never be the Same.”

To find those articles, I looked through the first 5 pages of the website.

Conversely, looking through the first 5 pages of Total Sorority Move, a parallel to TFM, not a single article criticizes men – most don’t even mention men. Instead, they feature more gender-friendly articles, such as “8 Reasons you Should be Celebrating National Wine Day Right Now,” or “13 Snapchat Filters We Actually Need.”

Like many other writers, I’ve received criticism from articles or blog posts that I’ve written. It comes with the territory. Sharing an opinion to a national, online audience always comes with the risk of backlash. Because of this experience, I support any and all opinions – supported opinions.

Someone could write a very conservative article about why gay marriage (which I fully support) should not have been legalized, and if it’s a well-researched and supported article, I respect the writer and his/her opinion. I may disagree completely, but I respect it.

However, an opinion based on claims not supported by any data, research or examples that shames a community based on both body type and gender does not deserve any respect, and neither does the writer or the website that supports it.

 

Image Source: http://cdn.totalfratmove.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/060a01e1820234c9c277f0e3f76c6ff11255442744.png

A Restless College Student Struggles to be Present

Lately two words have been stuck inside my head, refusing to leave.

“I wish.”

It’s human nature to think about all of the things that could have been accomplished or that could have been experienced.

Like many college students, especially those graduating this May, I can’t help but think of all the things I didn’t do.

I wish I’d joined more clubs that don’t specifically relate to my major. I wish I hadn’t wasted so many nights wasted. I wish I’d developed a more diverse group of friends with different interests. I wish I’d taken more electives like psychology or women’s studies.

I wish I’d explored more of the surrounding area by my university. I wish I’d gotten to know more of my professors. I wish I’d devoted more time, effort and energy to the clubs I was involved in. I wish I’d actually done some of the required readings.

I wish I’d listened more and talked less. I wish I’d spent more time focusing on practicing yoga. I wish I’d memorized the AP Style textbook. I wish I didn’t do things just to post them on social media. I wish I’d devoted more time to studying issues I strongly advocate for. I wish I’d been more involved with student government. I wish I’d read more.

I wish I’d had more time.

It all boils down to time. If I’d had more time, I could have easily accomplished all of my wishes and then some. If I’d had more time, I wouldn’t regret the things I couldn’t accomplish.

Too often I find myself wishing time away. I wish it would be summer vacation already so I don’t have to study. I wish it would be fall semester already so I could be in Paris. I wish I was 30 years old so that I could have an apartment in New York City and a “big girl job.”

My life is so focused around wishing for what I want to do and wishing for time to do what I didn’t do. Missed opportunities and future endeavors cloud my thoughts daily. I don’t focus enough on the present or making the most of the time I am given.

So my goal for the rest of the semester, this summer at my internship and during my time abroad is to stop wishing, stop regretting, stop planning. I want to learn how to live in the moment and how to live it for myself, not for my Instagram account.

I want to learn how to be, not think about what I could become or what I could have been.

 

 

The End-of-Semester Slump

It’s that point in the semester – I want to give up.

I want to lay in my bed with the lights out in my dark grey sweatpants and mindlessly binge-watch Netflix until my eyes start to hurt.

I have to give myself a pep talk every morning to get out of bed for class. “Only four more weeks left,” I remind myself.

Like many other college students, by the end of spring semester I can feel the stress and exhaustion of the entire school year pressing down on my chest like a weight.

Assignments, chores and tension all start building up the closer May gets.

Meanwhile, my motivation spirals and so does my mood. The smallest comments, accusations or questions invoke a full-blown meltdown. The smallest problems become difficult to manage.

I start to slack on basic assignments and I’m rewarded a lower-than-usual grade because of my obvious lack of effort. The lower the grade, the higher my stress level.

I start to slack on maintaining friendships and I’m rewarded with arguments and aggression. The more arguments, the higher my stress level.

I start to slack on maintaining a healthy diet and workout routine and I’m rewarded with weight gain. The more weight gain, the higher my stress level.

By the middle of April, I’m so mentally exhausted from beating myself up and feeling stressed out that I become hollow. I attend classes, I speak with friends and professors and I go to work, but mentally, I’m not there.

I let my laundry build up in the corner of my room, I stop taking the time to make dinner every night and a frown permanently settles on my face.

The end-of-the-semester slump sets in and I take to my bed, hiding from responsibilities. Four more weeks.

 

When Sleepless Nights Become an Accomplishment

Like many other college students, I’ve occasionally stayed at the library so long that I’ve fallen asleep on top of my books and notecards.

I’ve “pulled an all-nighter” to finish an assignment or to study for an exam I didn’t properly prepare for.

I’ve gone out to the bars and stayed until close and then stayed up an extra hour after that eating pizza and engaging in drunken shenanigans with my friends.

And then the morning comes.

The alarm goes off at 5:45 a.m. and you groan, desperately trying to quiet the obnoxious noise. You lay in bed for an extra 5 minutes contemplating if going to the gym/work/class is really that important.

Finally you get up. You make a cup of coffee – and then another. You dress in a zombie state of mind and drag yourself to your destination.

Eventually, you perk up little by little and proceed to tell everyone you only got 5 hours of sleep last night.

“I was up studying all night for that exam.” “I woke up so early to workout this morning.” “I stayed late at the office last night to get some extra work done.”

Society values sleepless nights. Staying late at the office is a sign of dedication. Sometimes I respect or envy someone that stayed up late studying for an exam more so than I respect myself for falling asleep at 9 p.m.

Pulling an all nighter is like being accepted into this cool, exclusive club of over-achievers. Staying late at work proves motivation to a boss. Waking up aggressively early proves effective time management. Being the last student to walk out of the library feels like an accomplishment.

Why does sleeplessness signify more respected values than a good night’s sleep? Why do I feel more accomplished the bigger the bags under my eyes grow?