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?

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.

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.

The Struggle of a Millennial Writer in an Era of Listicles

The $40,000 I pay per year and the long hours I spend studying all amount to listicles and open letters.

Media have changed from providing consistent, informative substance to circulating “click-worthy” content written by millennials.

And I am guilty of providing this fodder.

I spend hours coming up with clever lists that feature the most relatable gifs and writing heartfelt letters to anyone that ever had a sliver of meaning in my life.

At this point I want to write an open letter to thank everyone for reading all the crappy open letters I’ve ever written. Throw in a listicle naming off everyone that hid their cringes whenever I wrote a cliché “20 things all college students understand” list.

Why do I continue to join the millennial bandwagon?

Let’s face it – listicles get the most shares, and therefore the most recognition for the author.

For the same reason, we give our best content away for free to websites like The Odyssey and Elite Daily. And by best content, I mean both well-written content and the content most likely to go viral.

We all sit around and write blog posts each week about different nail art designs or ways to get over a breakup and come graduation, we wonder why we can’t get hired at the job of our dreams.

In a world where social media circulates thousands of articles per day, why don’t more aspiring magazine journalists or bloggers get offered jobs?

We lack originality.

Try articulating to a potential employer why your nail art listicle that got 21.4K shares is different from any other nail art listicle.

Then there’s the pressure of a deadline – it’s hard to have a grand revelation about your life every single week by Friday at 5 p.m. Some of these websites have a strike system too, which means if you don’t produce content when you’re supposed to, you can’t be a contributing writer.

And so we succumb to the listicle or the open letter that takes 30 minutes at most to type up. It’s likely to go viral, please our editing team and it doesn’t take up too much time.

Isn’t it ironic that with so much information at our fingertips, we choose reduce our knowledge and entertainment to the simplicity of a list?

We live in a world where time is of the essence for both our readers and ourselves. The shorter the article, the more it’s shared. The shorter the time it takes to write, the more time we have to contribute content to more digital media platforms.

The endless cycle continues. The listicles live on. The open letters never close.

At what cost?

Just the small price of tuition and our creativity.

Why I Hate New Year’s Resolutions

I’m a quitter.

I have never gone more than a month of consistently working out because I don’t see results right away. I’ve switched my major twice because the work wasn’t something I could sit down and effortlessly finish in under an hour.

I’ve asked other people at work to help me when I didn’t feel like learning how to do something. My roommates light the candles in my room and open cans of soup for me because I’ve tried and failed at using both a lighter and a can opener.

I can’t even finish one goddamn stick of chapstick without losing it and just buying a new one because I don’t feel like hunting for it under my bed.

If something doesn’t come easy, I stop trying.

It’s not just day-to-day things, like using a can opener, that I quit. It’s relationships, jobs, clubs or even friendships. While I like a challenge, I prefer ones that I can see myself easily overcoming. The ones that require actual work and dedication I factor out of my life immediately.

Whether it’s out of fear, laziness or just lack of interest, I’m not sure. But this is why I hate new years resolutions.

Every year, I’ve made a resolution to try and fix one of these problems individually. I’ve promised myself I’d go to the gym at 6 a.m. before my 8:30 class, and promptly hit the snooze button on my alarm until 8:15. I’ve tried to change my personality to be more easy-going so that rough patches in friendships don’t occur, which usually lasts until there’s a sink full of dirty dishes that I rant about until someone cleans them.

That’s why this year, my only resolution is to  try. “Trying” isn’t a commitment. Trying could mean setting those alarms and maybe getting up in time to make breakfast instead of going to the gym. It could mean learning more things, like using a can opener, instead of letting others solve my problems for me. It could even mean buying 3 different chapsticks so that when I lose one, I have three more.

Trying doesn’t mean I’ll have effortless relationships, or that I’ll lose 15 pounds in a month. It means I’ll make the effort to work harder to eventually achieve those goals.

It also means my roommates won’t hate me as much for leaving passive aggressive notes on our whiteboard.

Dating is Antiquated and It’s Sad

Dating – what a silly concept in modern society. I can’t say that I’ve ever been out on a “true” date – the kind where the guy picks you up at your door instead of texting you saying “I’m outside.”

The kind where the guy takes you to a restaurant and asks you questions about your family instead of asking you to “Netflix and chill” while meeting your mother via Snapchat selfies.

The kind where you get nervous when he walks you to your door because you’re not sure if he’s going to kiss you, instead of remembering that you made out with him drunk at a party last weekend.

Proper dating has become an anomaly. There are so many levels to dating now that I’m not even sure how to do it anymore. People are either “seeing each other” or “talking” or “just hanging out.”

I’m not saying I want a guy to ask me to “go steady” or ask my father for his permission to take me out. I think that part of dating is kind of antiquated.

All I want is for a man to ask me out to dinner, not meet me at a bar and ask me what I want to drink.

The man isn’t the only person to blame in this situation – women are just guilty.  Continue reading

How to be a Heartbreaker

This week, my thumb finally healed.

Three weeks ago I sliced it against the jagged edge of a metal can, trying to cook dinner.

For two hours it bled uncontrollably onto a Band-Aid, distracting me from everyday activities.

I wore the Band-Aid consistently for the next two weeks and it consistently got in my way.

I’d try to wash my hair in the shower and I’d feel it. I thought about it every time I picked up my pen. It prevented me from texting with both hands, decreasing my communication.

It was in the back of my mind for three weeks, disturbing me.

Routinely, I woke up each morning and changed the Band-Aid, cleaning the wound in the process.

Eventually, one day I woke up and it didn’t hurt anymore. The skin grew over the cut, the blood had dried and all that remained was a   scar – a subtle reminder to be more careful.

Three weeks ago, I broke my own heart.

I sliced it with the sharp edge of my words.

For two hours it bled uncontrollably, distracting me from everyday activities.

Eventually one day I woke up and it didn’t hurt anymore. All that remained was a metaphorical scar – a subtle reminder to be more careful.

Why I Love Being an Editor

In high school, I volunteered to be one of the student editors of my school paper. Originally, I wanted the position because I love being right. Being able to correct other’s mistakes gave me a feeling of power and confidence. It also helped my own writing because I learned what great writing should sound like.

My freshman year of college I joined the online school newspaper as a staff writer for the news section. Suddenly, I wasn’t the one pointing out the mistakes – someone else was pointing out mine.

So I learned from it. I corrected my mistakes and didn’t make them again. I googled something if I didn’t know how to spell it, I looked up AP style references and I made sure everything I wrote was mostly error free.

Eventually, I became the news editor and reunited with my red pen.

After about 6 months, my focus shifted from news to the notorious “listicles” and magazine-style writing. I interviewed for an editor position with Her Campus and began the editing process all over again.

But this time, I noticed editing became less about correcting the mistakes of others, and more about watching my staff writers grow. Our chapter of Her Campus has about 40 members, and a majority of them are freshmen. Some are journalism or strategic communications majors, but some are not.

I watched throughout the semester as each feature story my staff turned in improved. I read stories at the beginning of the semester that were struggling listicles with a clichéd title.

By the end of the semester, I read stories about struggling with depression, a parent’s divorce and the loss of a loved one. I watched my writers turn impersonal features into relatable stories filled with passion. I watched them grow and struggle to do what I’ve been teaching myself since high school – to learn from mistakes.

I love being an editor. I love watching growth, improvement and passion come from young and inspired students like myself. I love knowing that these writers are inviting me into their hearts every time they type their feelings onto a blank page.

Yes, it is true that a large part of being an editor involves copious cups of overpriced coffee and a lot of late nights. But when I finish editing an article at 2 a.m. and I look at the incredible feature it’s become, the caffeine high is worth it every time.

48 Things I Wish I Knew as a Teenage Girl

  1. Your mother is always right, no matter how much you don’t want to admit it.
  2. You should learn how to cook at least one meal.
  3. Those 5 or 6 Oreos won’t kill you – eat them while you still can.
  4. Being a nerd is more attractive than purposely acting stupid.
  5. You won’t miss the party of the year just because you decide to stay in one weekend.
  6. Most people drink in college, but it’s okay if you don’t.
  7. In moderation, alcohol isn’t poison.
  8. A man that doesn’t respect your decision not to have sex is not worth your time.
  9. Sexism still exists – never stop fighting for what you want.
  10. You won’t automatically gain the freshman 15 just from drinking a couple of beers and binging on pizza every now and then.
  11. Running sucks, and there are so many other ways to stay healthy and exercise.
  12. Brussel sprouts don’t suck as much as they did when your mother made you eat them before you left the dinner table.
  13. Bubble baths are not just for babies.
  14. No one will remember or care what clothes you wore to school.
  15. College is nothing like your high school english teacher says it is.
  16. You shouldn’t have sex in high school – not for a religious or moral reason, but because it’s inexperienced. Men don’t understand how to make it a pleasant experience until you’re older.
  17. Your number doesn’t mean shit.
  18. Every person who enters the women’s bathroom gets their period. You don’t have to try and muffle the sound of your tampon wrapper.
  19. It’s not the end of the world if you miss a practice for an after-school sport.
  20. College is so much better than high school.
  21. Most of the friends you have freshman year of college won’t be your friends by senior year and that’s ok.
  22. You don’t have to be friends with everyone and it’s ok if you’re not loved by everyone.
  23. Bars are not the place to meet quality men.
  24. Your mom’s cooking really isn’t that bad, especially compared to dining hall food.
  25. Making money during the summer is a lot more important than taking days off to work on your tan.
  26. A tan isn’t worth the risk of getting cancer and using a tanning bed wastes a lot of money.
  27. Being an undeclared major is almost smarter than coming into college declared – most people change their major anyway.
  28. It’s ok to quit a club because you don’t like it anymore, even if you hold a position of leadership or authority.
  29. Taking a personal day every now and then won’t ruin your GPA.
  30. Ben & Jerry’s can heal all wounds.
  31. Wine has the same power.
  32. If your friends don’t like your boyfriend, they’re probably right about him.
  33. Everyone gets zits.
  34. Remembering to wear your retainer every night may be a pain in the ass but you’ll be thankful when your teeth stay straight.
  35. Coffee is not bad for you, it is not disgusting and it is 100% worth the risk of stained teeth. That’s what Crest white strips are for.
  36. Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but sometimes it’s not doable. Keep snacks in your car.
  37. Sleepovers suck. Don’t be angry when your mom says you can’t go.
  38. Your siblings will be your biggest allies in the future – don’t burn bridges.
  39. Always have an umbrella handy and dress in layers.
  40. Bagels don’t cure hangovers – iced coffee does.
  41. Sit near the door in class if you’re hungover.
  42. Never leave the house for an extended period of time without a phone charger.
  43. You have your entire life to make your own rules so abide by your curfew. Staying out past 10 isn’t worth the consequences.
  44. Never go shopping when you’re hungry.
  45. You don’t have to be nice to everyone – stand up for yourself.
  46. Don’t buy every “required” textbook for a class.
  47. Don’t get caught up in all the crap life hands you, because in 5 or 10 years it won’t be relevant. Live a little and enjoy the time you have.
  48. Nothing will make you happier than doing what you love.

An Open Letter To My Older Sister

I remember the days where I used to tell you I hate you more than I love you. It was never that I actually hated you – it was always out of jealousy.

I used to spend hours searching your room trying to find your diary, hoping to get a glimpse at the life you had. Compared to mine, yours always looked better.

You were allowed to stay out until 10 p.m., which to a 9-year-old was pretty awesome at the time. You played spin-the-bottle with boys while I was still calling them “icky.”

You were always smarter than me, and you had 4 more years of experience than I did. Your writing was beautiful, you knew how to put on makeup, you learned how to drive first, you had a boyfriend first – you did everything first.

And here I am at age 19 and I still envy you. The only difference is that since I’ve matured, I won’t pinch you or call you names because of it – I’ll just work harder to become half the person I know you are.

Most of the time I watched you grow up and succeed. But sometimes I watched you fail. I watched your heart break, I watched the ever-present smile fade from your face, I watched lock yourself in your room to cry because you didn’t want anyone to see.

Continue reading