Monday, February 18, 2013

9 Reasons I Think I'm Destined to Be a Journalist

Grad School is a bitch, bitch, actually. I don't know why I thought I could actually work full time and go to graduate school part time. Then I look at myself 3/4 into my second year of grad school and I'm like "oh yeah, that's right. I've already been doing this for almost 2 years." I'm going to be in severe debt (keep on coming student loans that charge interest, like now) and I'm entering a dying field (with civic journalists reporting stories via their Iphones, who needs read journalists these days) and I'm fending off panic attacks weekly because of it (I need to interview 5 sources in two weeks or I will fail). But despite all of this, I'm destined to be a journalist and here are the reasons why:

1) I tried to write my first chapter book in 2nd grade. It was about unicorns and every new page was a new chapter. Like most original literary works in my life, I never finished it. But my love for writing began at a young age. My teacher asked me, "Mary Anna, do you like to write." I was young and stupid and said, "Well, I like telling stories but I don't particularly enjoy pushing my pencil back and forth."

2) Journalism forces you to get stuff done. I have a deadline. I'm toast if I don't make it. Unless someone close to me dies or I almost die, I have no excuse but to meet the deadline. There is no half-written story. There is no idea that remains an idea and never a concrete piece of work. I'll have an editor riding my ass, pushing me to write better, in the time frame he assigns. Bam.

3) I doubt I'd get bored. When I freelanced for The Eastern Shore News, I loved every minute of it. I got to cover tourism seminars. I got to spend the day out on a boat with a bunch of high school guys deploying reef balls into the bay. I got to go to meetings I wouldn't normally care about if I wasn't assigned to cover them. I went places, I met people, and it never got old. This morning while I waiting for the trolley to carry my cold ass a few blocks to my job, I felt great sadness. I don't really wake up looking forward to my job anymore because it is the same thing every day. I will inevitably work on enrollments, assessments, attend team meetings, and organize monthly programs (the same programs) for our families. While this work is meaningful, it is the same work each and every day. I see the same people, do the same tasks, have the same meetings. There is no room for promotion. The incentive to do your job is the paycheck (and to help the families). I'm one of those people who can't settle down for long periods of time because I get ADD and start doing things like blogging about my desired career instead of focusing on my current job. If I was a full-time journalist, I'd spend every day tracking down people, researching, hearing stories, re-telling stories, traveling around the city, making hard phone calls, following little treasure hunts to potential sources. Each day would be different, even if I was working on the same story. Constant stimuli. Constant rush.

4) I like telling stories. I've always been that way. I'm the storyteller, the walking entertainment system. If it can happen, it will happen to me. I love sharing news, both good and bad and other peoples'. I like engaging in interesting conversations and sharing that with others.

5) I'm a people person with empathy superpowers. No, really, I've decided its true. I'm an empath. I can read people easily, gauge their attitude, feelings and alter my own attitude, personality to complement their own. It is weird, but this power is great because on one hand I sort of manipulate the other person's perspective of me but on the other hand, I get the information I want because I'm trustworthy and I'm easy to talk to. For years, random people have engaged me in conversation about random crap for no reason. Its like they know. It is also why telephone calls to people I don't know freak me out. I'm only really good at reading people in person and sometimes through text, but not so good on the phone. My superpower is also my crutch in that, I don't like not being able to alter myself appropriately to accommodate whomever is on the other line. It is weird but in the face to face world, it is quite useful.

6) Go with your gut. When I started out at William and Mary, I wanted to double major in English and Theatre and pursue a journalism career. While the works of Chaucer were interesting, I knew this field of study would not prepare me to be a good journalist. So I switched majors and decided to major in Sociology. This has been the one career path that has been somewhat consistent in my ADD kind of life. I've toyed with many career ideas, but this one has stuck and this one brings me the most joy.

7) That feeling you get when you book an interview with the perfect source. I can't describe it but its this massive overwhelming feeling of pride, excitement and accomplishment. You know that person is going to make your story. You have it in the bag. You're just so damn happy about it. Its like winning the lottery or finding out you don't have a terminal illness. I dunno, its a great, amazing feeling and I totally live for it.

8) I'm good at it. Hey, not to brag, but I'm carrying a 3.93 GPA in graduate school. My professors have patted me on the back for my work. I'm not a Jschool mogul like some of my classmates, I'm more of a name than a face. But people recognize I do good work and my grades reflect that.

9) I'm naturally curious. Why does that do that? Who is this person and why are they so influential? Why does this issue exist? What is being done about that issue? If I don't know it, I look it up. Being naturally inquisitive about life is a great characteristic of a future journalist. Its almost mandatory.

And that my friends, sums up the reasons I think I am destined to be a journalist. Now to make destiny a reality.

Until next time...

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Who Do You Root For When Heroes Keep Falling?

Humans are just that, human. We go through lives meandering through an epic process of trial and error. We put pressure on ourselves to be the best. We feel the pressure from others. We try. Sometimes we rise to greatness and are hailed as a hero. Other times we cheat to get there and when the truth comes out, another modern-day superhero is put to rest.

I'm writing this on Valentine's Day. What I'd prefer to be a post about true love, loving everyone and generally being happy as a clam, is actually a social commentary on our heroes who have fallen from grace.

You have Tiger Woods, one of the greatest golfers of all time. His winning streak and acclaim is tarnished by his addiction to sex. The man was knocked off his golf pedestal and is trying to rebuild his life and image. The world uttered a collective tsk tsk.

You have Lance Armstrong, the miracle biker who beat cancer and won Tour de France competitions, smashed world records and became a legend...that is until the truth about his doping habits came to the surface. Every title was stripped, every award taken back. Now he is nothing but a former star in an empty award room left to think and re-think about his actions. Despite the pressure, society would always agree that it is better to admit defeat than cheat your way to the top just to live up to this ideal image bestowed upon you.

Politicians like David Petraeus, Anthony Wiener (unfortunate name), Bill Clinton and John Edwards lose political credibility because of sex scandals and affairs. Was the lust, love, sex really worth destroying your career and creating this giant black streak against your professional record?

Legends such as Joe Paterno spent their lives building a legacy only to have it stripped away by a covered child-abuse scandal and to add insult to injury, succumb to cancer after being fired from their long standing job.

Then you have Olympian Oscar Pistorius who 'allegedly' shot his girlfriend in the early morning hours of Valentine's Day. A hero for amputee survivors everywhere, Pistorius gave the world a hero to root for. Overcoming all odds and becoming the first amputee athlete to compete in able body Olympics may be his biggest accomplishment. He ponders this as he sits in a jail cell awaiting his fate.

What causes our heroes to fall from grace? Why do these notable individuals who millions of people look up to, make the gravest of mistakes? Its one thing to fall. Its another thing to fail. But to intentionally make incredibly poor decisions in the moment comes with a steep price: dwelling on said decisions for the rest of your life and losing your credibility.

It is such a shame.

Until next time...

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

End of an Era

Here's to all the Phi Mus who wear their heart and hand. To the rose and white ribbons that bind us in our bond. To the lion, we get our courage, our strength and honor too, may we always have the memory of the love that means Phi Mu!

Memory. Soon that will be all we have. Last night, after a particularly horrid day at work which resulted in me having to stay late to babysit some very wound up kids and miss my kickboxing class, I got some bad news. Phi Mu Gamma Alpha Chapter, that is the Phi Mu Chapter at the College of William and Mary, is shutting down. The National Committee, after many meetings, consultations and different recruitment approaches, has decided that Gamma Alpha can not sustain herself and must take a break from W&M Greek life until "the College climate changes."

So no more lions. No more carnations. I have no idea what will happen to our house. The poor sisters who are not graduating in Spring '13 will be left without a sorority. I hear they plan to appeal the decision but I feel since Nationals e-mailed the Gamma Alpha Alumni, the appeal won't go through. There is talk that the shut down is temporary and that the chapter needs a "break." Sorority membership quota at W&M is 90 and the chapter will have around 30 members after Spring '13 graduation.

I can't sit back and think "damn, those girls really can't recruit for shit." Because I don't think it is their fault. You see, what makes Phi Mu Gamma Alpha special is that we were not a stereotypical sorority. We didn't judge pledges on what they wore, how much money they have, who they know and how pretty they are. We looked for strong diverse women with high morals and a beautiful spirit. This decision to remain faithful to our values might be what eventually killed us.

Many women enter Greek Life at W&M because they are looking for more than a Sisterhood. They're looking for status symbols, a popular reputation, the opportunity to be desired by all the 'popular' fraternity boys and the same crap that high schoolers deem to be important and noteworthy. When you graduate W&M, popularity and social status are no longer important. You need to be smart, independent, hard working, foster professional connections and be innovative to succeed in "the real world." Nothing else matters.

During my run with Phi Mu, our reputation on campus was less than stellar. Despite this, we valued ourselves and our Sisterhood. We followed the rules but had a blast too. We were a melting pot sorority and reaped the benefits because of that. No cookie-cutter structure for us.

Now all we have is "the memory of the bond we share." Facebook statuses proclaiming Phi Mu pride and love are posted, cover photos are changed, the Gamma Alpha Alumni are celebrating years of Sisterhood and remembering "the good old days." I guess the shut down will temporarily bring Sisters together. Funerals bring people together too.

As a former Vice President of Gamma Alpha, I'm not ready to be positive yet. I'm still mourning a loss. Despite the fact I haven't been an active part of Phi Mu anything since 2009, I still feel this huge, gaping, looming loss. I'm not ready to celebrate the internal glory that was once my Sisterhood. I'm going to process this first. I'm going to get my mind right so when I return to W&M for a Homecoming I won't be disappointed that I can't visit the Phi Mu house because its not the Phi Mu house anymore. I need to get over the fact that status symbols and popularity are still insanely important to the 18-20 demographic. Once I come to terms with all of this, I'll be able to celebrate the memory of the love, honor and truth that is Phi Mu.

Until Next Time....

Monday, February 4, 2013

Top Highlights from MA's Epic Superbowl Bash

In case you weren't there, which many of you were not. Here is what you missed during last night's epic Superbowl Bash.

1. Before my guests arrived a bottle of Trader Joe's Potsticker Goyza sauce flew out of one of my cabinets, crashed onto my floor, exploded everywhere and projectile splashed as far as my bathroom sink. I was in the kitchen. It was epic and horrible and looked like someone had been shot. I was pissed but I got everything clean before my guests arrived. Thank God for paper towels and Lysol wipes.

2. The Dip. Its an amazing turkey chili cheese dip which was a huge success and a fan favorite each year. Noms.

3. Our Halftime Freakout. The whole time leading up to the Halftime show, I kept saying "Oh my God guys, Destiny's Child is going to have a reunion." Cue the halftime show. Beyonce is out on stage shaking her booty and making really weird facial expressions which I keep commenting on. Dialog ensues. "MA, I don't think its happening. I think its just Beyonce." "SHUT THE HELL UP IT MUST HAPPEN." "MA, no really." "KELLY AND MICHELLE WILL POP UP OUT OF NOWHERE DURING BOOTYLICIOUS!" "MA, I'm sorry, this is such a disappointment, but its not happening."

Then it happened. Kelly Rowland popped out of NOWHERE onto the stage during Bootylicious and we all had a collective freak out moment of screaming, clapping, cheering, and loud exclamation. Did I call it or what?

4. Tequila. We did shots. Often. At one point we took a shot and toasted to Michelle Williams. She always gets the short end of the stick.

5. Team switching. 3/4s into the game, my friend decides she's suddenly a 49ers fan. She literally peels off her purple sweater and wears her red scarf. She cheers on the 49ers (which to my non-football friends got simplified to "purple team" and "red team." Then when the Ravens won, she put her purple sweater back on and said "I'm for the purple team now."

6. The epic HOLDING CALL that never happened and the 49ers coach's manic gestures. We had fun with that one. We made an exercise routine out of it. We made dance moves. We pretty much did everything we could to enjoy that slow motion holding call demand which never happened.

7. Narration. The second half of the football game was complete with nonsensical narration which inevitably was decided should be turned into an annual podcast. Such commentary including "Whatcha doin? Where you going? Why you holding a ball? Why you wearing tights? Why are you on the ground? Did that hurt?"

8. Our affinity for the Nor'leans ref who after the power outage said "Play on!" We loved his calls. We loved his accent. He was kind of attractive. He was awesome. As was the power outage where we relayed all the fantastic Tweets and Facebook postings about the outage.

9. Deja vu. Exactly one year ago I had friends over for the Superbowl. We were loud and raunchy and had a blast. I left my phone in the other room and somehow missed several late night calls from my landlord. I thought I was being too loud and someone called to complain about the noise. So, I admitted to doing something I wasn't even sure I was guilty of and sent a long e-mail to him apologizing for my loudness. He replied, stating the girl that lives below me was locked out and he wanted me to let her in. #fail. Exactly one year later (last night) my landlord calls me again. This time, I know better. I answer the phone with poise and turns out, the bitch locked herself out again and I have to let her in. My landlord was surprised I was home but grateful I could take care of the problem. So, bizarre and why the hell does she lock herself out every Superbowl?

10. Favorite commercials. #1 the old people that escape from the nursing home and do crazy things and then go back at the wee hours of the morning. #2 Clydesdale pony commercial. #3 That was it. Also, glad I was alone during the Sandy Hook chorus performance at the beginning of the game because I definitely teared up.

My favorite quotes:

"He shut him down! He didn't go to start, shut down, turn off computer. He just pulled the plug!"
"Thanks for telling us about the power outage, now explain it, bitch."
"So, this family is going to have an awkward family dinner after the Superbowl had two brothers as opposing team coaches. 'How can we forget the time he put crayons on the heater and they melted? Or that year he spit in the Thanksgiving turkey? Noo, that's all forgotten now that he has a Superbowl Ring!" haha
"To Michelle Williams!"
"I'm not sure how I feel about this commercial."

All in all it was a good night with excellent food and excellent company. I'm a regular Martha Stewart with some tequila on the side.

Until next time...

What if I'm not a Writer?

I've mentioned this before. My first book I ever wrote was a few chapters long. Each page was a new chapter. I was in second or third ...