Saturday, March 19, 2016

Black and White

It's about 45 degrees outside.

The light breeze coming off the choppy water of the Puget Sound wisps through my hair. The boat turns off it's engine and like a movie theater dimming it's lights, everyone becomes silent. I have fifteen pounds of camera equipment hanging from my neck, but as I grip the side of the whale watch vessel's bow, I don't dare touch my lens until my eyes see them first.

Slicing through the water like a knife, a huge, black dorsal fin breaks the surface. Soon after there are several others in it's wake. Before I grab my camera to begin taking pictures for a magazine piece I was writing, I look around me. People are gasping, screaming in delight, and nearly crying at the sight of a magnificent creature. A killer whale. As I look at the passengers, I remember where I was when I first had that very same feeling. The wonder, the curiosity, the respect. For me it was a feeling that turned into a deep love for a species, which had lead me to the very spot I was standing at that day.

My moment was when I was five years old and I was sitting in a stadium at SeaWorld. 

Just a few days ago, a "historic" announcement was made by SeaWorld's CEO, Joel Manby, that they have ended all killer whale breeding programs. While "historic" was their chosen word, to many SeaWorld team members and SeaWorld supporters, a word like "horrific" or "unthinkable" may have been more accurate. Needless to say, many of us are heartbroken.



Since the release of Blackfish in 2013, a film I can't ethically call a documentary, SeaWorld has made many changes. While many of these changes may have come about by Blackfish's terrible misrepresentation of SeaWorld and their core purpose, the changes to their shows, exhibits and animal experiences are something I believe most have enjoyed. They have added all new shows, such as Killer Whales: Up Close, which is narrated by members of the top-class Education and Conservation Department and SeaWorld trainers. Education has always been important to SeaWorld and since the media has gotten so much of what they do wrong lately, the reach for more educational programs has increased.

I truly believe that once we learn about something, we can care about it. But once we have a real connection with that certain thing, be it a whale, a shark, or a sea star...we not only care about it, but want to conserve it. There is a big difference.

That is what SeaWorld is all about. Creating opportunities for every guest to not only learn something about what they are seeing but also create a memory with it. SeaWorld is one of the only zoological parks in the world that staffs trained educators at every major exhibit. They narrate, answer questions and most importantly talk about what guests can do to help protect the species in the wild. Even the most prestigious zoos and aquariums in the world do not have that. Because SeaWorld is a theme park, it has the means to employ a strong department of educators who not only narrate in the park exhibits during the day, but also lead educational programs for school-aged children in the park after-hours, give behind-the-scenes educational tours, and provide outreach trips to underprivileged communities. Isn't it funny Blackfish never mentions any of this, or the fact that over 27,000 animals have been rescued and rehabilitated by SeaWorld over the last 50 years?

So if it is just the breeding of the killer whales that is being stopped, why are we all so upset? Because it means that future generations won't get to have the connection and the up-close interactions with the incredible animal that has made millions of us care about all animals, our oceans and our planet over these past 50 years. SeaWorld's killer whales are their icon. And while we are completely heartbroken to think of a future where people cannot connect with them at SeaWorld or the ability to continue researching them to protect their species in the wild, I think we are all scared of something even more.

Blackfish and PETA supporters aim to free all animals from captivity. They mean to see the end of zoos and aquariums around the world. The announcement to no longer breed killer whales means much more to those in the education and conservation community and I am sure to many individuals beyond. What it means to us is that media and "trends" can not only cause people to lose their jobs and rid animals of a chance for a better future. It also can steal from us the future and the very reason we all fell in love with animals in the first place. Our real-life connections with them.

Just last week I took some of the kids I watch to the San Diego Zoo. My kiddos, who would prefer to spend much of their free time on iPads and in front of the TV, were more alive along the paths of the zoo than I had ever seen them. They were asking questions, running to their favorite exhibits and loved all the "quiz" questions I was giving them for the animals we saw. They were having connections. They were making memories. And while sure, if it didn't have the consequences so-called "animal activists" ignore, I'd love to see every animal in the zoo and SeaWorld have a life outside of an encounter. But that is something that would most likely kill an animal ambassador, since most have been born in captivity. We have to remember that having these animals allows us to study them and educate about them in a zoological environment. It gives us better means to protect their species in the wild, and more importantly, the opportunity to create new, real animal activists who will fight for the animal's welfare and health both in zoological care and in the wild.

SeaWorld CEO, Joel Manby, put it best in a recent article in the LA Times,

"Wild animals and wild places will continue to disappear — biologists call this “the sixth extinction,” comparable to previous cataclysms such as the ice age — unless humans awaken and take action. In this impending crisis, the real enemies of wildlife are poaching, pollution, unsustainable human development and man-made disasters such as oil spills — not zoos and aquariums."

Someone standing outside on the freeway with a paper sign (which they probably won't recycle) while their friend sits next to them dressed as a whale, sitting in a bathtub, doesn't make them an activist. It makes them uneducated and close-minded. If you really cared about the animals, you wouldn't spend that unnecessary $100 on crap and instead donate it to a conservation project. Or even better, get off the highway and pick up trash on the beach instead.

Despite my disappointment in SeaWorld's choice to end any future breeding, I still stand with them. I honestly do not know who I would be without having gone to SeaWorld and falling in love with killer whales at a young age. It is something that makes up so much of who I am today. Good friends from kindergarden through college could tell you all about my plethora of whale folders, t-shirts, posters, stuffed animals, and even a whale bedspread (I was 9. Don't judge) I even had a whale dress when I was 20 (still no judging!). Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I was so fortunate to be able to see killer whales in the wild several times. I was incredibly lucky to get to write a story about the endangered Southern Resident killer whale population while I was in college.

Writing that article, and being on the boat in the middle of the Puget Sound, I knew I had to do something to protect and care for these animals for the rest of my life. Three years later I began working for SeaWorld. It was a first step in a path of learning to reduce, reuse, recycle, eat sustainably, buy ocean-safe cleaning products, and most of all, support programs and research that help killer whales everywhere live long and healthy lives.

Someday I hope to take my children and grandchildren out to see the Southern Resident killer whale pods. At this point, I am less worried about them not seeing them at SeaWorld and more worried about them not seeing them at all in the wild. Our toxic runoff and overfishing are killing these animals we love. SeaWorld educates about it. Blackfish ignored it.

I don't know what the future will hold for SeaWorld and all the animals that are cared for there, but my hope is that all people supporting the end of animal captivity take a step back and think about the future. Without zoos and aquariums, education and research is lost. Soon after, species will die out. It's not a black and white issue. I understand it is complicated. But may we all keep an open mind and think first about the animals we love, and not what is thrown at us by the media.

Kalia and her daughter Amaya. She was four days old this day. 


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Midnight

It's just past midnight.

I've only just stepped back from the closet-sized kitchen inside my studio apartment where I watched, ironically unplanned, as all three clock hands met at 12:00 am.

"I'm 27," I thought to myself. "I just turned 27." 

Birthdays have never shuffled by for me without my notice or care. For me, I believe they are a great time to self reflect, not to mention are the perfect excuse to make people hang out with you and not flake out. They are a legitimate reason to splurge on a vacation, a ticket to a theme park, a huge, fancy dinner or even a day to just do whatever in the world it is that you want to do.

I usually splurge on theme park tickets. 

I sometimes wonder if 20 years ago the 7-year-old Mandi would have thought I'd be over the whole "Disney Thing" by now, or if she knew that I would always find connection to my childhood stories and even find peace in them through hard times.

Buuut... I'm sure that with buckteeth and grass-stained knees, Mandi was already three songs deep into her Pocahontas cassette tape while playing with Barbies in the backyard to be too busy to think of such things.

Reflecting on my last 12 months of life and the journey it took me on, I'd like to say I could compare my story to the bravery of Mulan, the boldness of Belle, or the joyfulness of Anna. But in recent weeks I have discovered the exact thing that I have most incredibly identified with in my 26th year of life.

I've been the pumpkin. 



Yes, I am talking about the vegetable. Growing un-noticeably in the Tremaine estate garden and curiously chosen by the Fairy Godmother to be transformed into Cinderella's shining carriage for the ball. Before we get too far down the mouse hole, let's step back into the "real" world for a moment.

One year ago I was several months into working for a fantastic start-up company focused on helping people around the world. Coming out of years of penniless non-profit work, the bells and whistles of my new position, and most importantly testimonials of happy and inspired customers, helped keep me motivated even through the tough days of long desk hours.

I was blessed. My own Fairy Godmother had turned my pumpkin vines into diamond wheels that were taking me down a path that seemed right for me. Only, as life would have it, speed bumps slowed my carriage down and details and responsibilities of my career path began to weigh heavily on my heart. I wasn't doing what I loved and I wasn't using my gifts. I wasn't singing, dancing, writing, or even loving as strongly as the core of my soul needed. Something in me was lost. Thinking a new environment would be a better fit, I made a switch to a new employer. One month into the new job... I hit my midnight.

In a painful and embarrassing moment, I lost my job. Without any warning I was transformed from the sparking, perfect carriage, back into a pumpkin. I was left feeling torn and shattered, nothing less than the midnight aftermath that I had read about in Cinderella as a child. You see, people on social media, and also in person, love to congratulate you on accomplishments, especially around areas that society has chosen as making the "most sense." Career/Marriage/Children/Income. If Cinderella had Instagram, her sierra-filtered Royal Ball transformation would have a whole lot more hearts than pics of her scrubbing the floor. #maidproblems

Even as children, our hearts sunk as we saw her glamorous carriage turn to a smashed pumpkin and watched as her rags replaced her sparking gown. But what I failed to understand then and only recently have understood now is that those things did not make her Cinderella. The carriage, the dress and the society status did not make her the princess that millions across the world still love today. Most of all, they certainly were not the things that won her her happily ever after.

Cinderella's rags were a part of who she was, no matter how undesirable it seemed to others or even sometimes herself. She wasn't really a princess, the mice weren't horses and the pumpkin was not a carriage. Cinderella reached her dream of marrying the prince despite not having the picture-perfect life or the fairytale upgrades. If one the most iconic stories of all time didn't involve finding a happy ending by being something you really aren't, then I am ready for my spell to be broken too.

What I have learned in this nothing short of transformative year for me, is that too many of us are trying to be a Cinderella grand carriage when we are really just pumpkins. Also, being a pumpkin is different for everyone. Whether you are a lawyer, an actor, a contractor or a circus performer. We are really just perfect the way we are at heart without having to look storybook perfect or look like our life is on track so others can approve of us.

Today I'm back to being a pumpkin. I'm a waitress and I'm really good at it. I love meeting new people, being on my feet, and I'm working for a company I love again. I'm writing more, reading more, and reaching for new dreams. Dreams that come from the core of who I am. I'm not depressed, I'm healing, I'm feeling like myself more and more everyday that I get farther away from trying to be something I am not.

When midnight strikes, it is dark. Pain can happen. Confusion, loss, and frustration will want to envelope you. But we get the chance to remember that it is a new day, a new year, a new opportunity to choose your own dream, your own glass slipper, by being who you truly are.

My name is Amanda. I am 27 years old and I am no longer a carriage. I am a pumpkin.

Monday, June 29, 2015

What Happened to the Women of Jurassic Park?

When I was in grade school I was enamored with science. While I did have my share of Barbies, I also had a super-special rock and fossil collection carefully stashed in the garage inside a cardboard box (hidden from the world since the gems were surely worth millions). I was glued to every Bill Nye the Science Guy episode and anytime we visited Seattle I begged for a visit to the famous Pacific Science Center.

I don't remember the first time I learned about dinosaurs as they had quite a name for themselves in my childhood. Movies like The Land Before Time and We're Back were all the rage. But it wasn't until I saw Jurassic Park that I think I really believed they could be real. The blockbuster film released when I was only five years old and I'm sure it took me another three years to actually see it (and probably still without my parent's permission). I don't remember feeling afraid while I watched it or suffering from weeks of bad dreams afterward. What I do remember is the following days and weeks, spending hours in my backyard, hands and knees in the dirt, sweeping it with a household paintbrush.

I was searching for dinosaur bones.

Whether I believed what I was doing was real or if dinosaurs really existed at all, I don't know. But that didn't stop me from daydreaming all day about being a scientist, checking out every dinosaur book in the library, and discovering the histories of earth's past.

Last weekend, after several months of great anticipation, I settled into my seat to finally enjoy Jurassic World. In a crowded theater I cheered, screamed and laughed along with everyone else (Jimmy Buffet grabbing his margarita before running from dino-death FTW), but for me something seemed to be missing. Where was all of the great educational information built into the plot? And what in the world was up with the female characters?

Besides Chris Pratt's character being a little bit too 1980s Harrison Ford for me (give me my Andy Dwyer!) I thought his character of Owen was the only thing keeping us connected to the great nature of these prehistoric beasts. Also, if you are going to be sliding through nearly closed doors, Chris, you might as well have a hat like Indy.

As for the ladies, I wonder why 22 years later Hollywood felt the need to suddenly put these Jurassic heroines in healsBryce Dallas Howard's character of Claire just crumbled in comparison to strong characters like Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore) in the previous films. Female characters who weren't the least bit afraid to be armpit deep in Triceratops dung or to carry a screaming baby T-Rex into a trailer for surgery. I was also disappointed with the details of Claire being childless, career focused and uninterested in romance being so focused on, especially so negatively. These were completely unimportant plot pieces to play on for previous Jurassic women, so why now?

Laura Dern, Jurassic Park 1993
Julianne Moore, The Lost World: Jurassic Park 1997
Again, while I really enjoyed the film, maybe you noticed these differences too. If there are to be sequels in the future, which I hope there are, I put my vote in for a larger focus on the dinos, the science we know about them, and how about at least one bomb-ass female lead with a cinematic focus on the sharpness of her mind, not her heals.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

8 Things That Happen When You Live Alone

One month ago I did a something I have wanted to do my whole life. I moved into a studio.

Growing up in a big family and carrying out an active and social life in my adult years, I am used to 100% of my day being sheer madness. With a new job and new goals, I wanted to get my taste of life alone in my own place while I still had the chance. While living alone in a small space has been absolutely wonderful, it wasn't completely what I expected. Here are some of the things I have learned about solo studio life so far.

8 Things That Happen When You Live Alone


1. You never run out of room in the fridge


No more of that just-top-shelf nonsense. Now you've got whole shebang all to yourself and your overzealous Costco trips. In your new abode, you will always know which apples are yours, where the milk went and don't even get me started on the freezer. Your very own full-sized fridge is a prize you have won. Enjoy it.

2. But...you never have anyone to blame for the dirty dishes


While you swear you didn't eat Cheerios at 2 a.m. last night, it surely wasn't your goldfish. You learn your lesson around day three of the rotten smelling sink and never make that mistake again.


3. No one will be there to kill the spiders


That terrifying, spine-chilling moment will eventually come when you innocently step into the shower and there it is. Staring at you with it's million eyes, ready to kill you now that you are all alone. It is then that you know exactly the only thing you can do to save you. Make friends with your neighbors.

This is beneficial number one so they do not call the cops when they hear murderous screams from your apartment, but also because there is likely a braver soul in the group who just might be willing to save your spider-threatened life. Be proactive and take your neighbors cookies when you move in, this way you are already acquainted when sure spider-peril arrives.



4. You realize you have WAY too much stuff


Your new 500 square foot place seemed so much bigger than your old bedroom, so why is there not room for anything? Now is the time you have to take a serious look at your old CDs, piles of unread books and 30 half empty Bath & Body Works lotions and really ask yourself how attached you are to them. It's time to let go.



5. You take decorating very seriously


You've been dreaming of this moment since 1997 when American Girl came out with American Girl Mini's (Guys! Remember these!?) and from that moment on, all you wanted was your own 12x12 space to add bean bags and lava lamps to. Now while you don't actually have much more space than that now, your very own space is finally big enough for you to enjoy. And even though you may not actually have "rooms" in your place, you are determined to theme each area to your pleasing. Mermaid bathroom, Tuscan kitchen, travel bedroom. Yeah, you have got this down.

6. Naked time is all the time


Your shower robe hangs lonely on the shower rack on the backside of your bathroom door. After enjoying your first, I-can-belt-Aretha-as-loud-as-I-want shower moment, you realized that your robe was no longer needed in your new palace. And the longer you have lived alone, the more random things you have done naked. Binge watched How I Met Your Mother, danced to your ABBA album, poached eggs, did a full Jillian Michaels workout.

When one dost liveth alone, one dost not needith clothes. (Real Shakespeare quote... maybe)



 7. You realize utilities cost a lot more than you think


You get that first utility bill and your first reaction is pick up your phone and whine "Moooooommmm???" Yes, along with living in your naked, spidery, palace, you will have to dish out the cash for life necessities much more than you have been used to. To counter, you channel your inner Captain Planet and always turn unneeded lights off and take shorter showers. Saving the world one ghastly utility bill at a time.

8. You can do whatever you freaking want


It's really what it comes down to. Living alone is quite magical because it is really the only time in your life that you don't have to please anyone else but yourself. As selfish as that sounds, having a solitude to return to every day can give you the relaxation, reflection and karaoke practice that you need to make you a better person when you step out of the door everyday. And that is reason enough for me.




Thursday, March 5, 2015

12 Ways You Are Ruined for Life After Being a Walt Disney World Cast Member

Just over four years ago, I left my job at Walt Disney World so that I could pursue other dreams. Since then there hasn't been a day that I haven't missed being part of the magic, but there also hasn't been a day when I haven't noticed how the job changed me and my expectations for reality forever. I loved every moment of my two years working for the Walt Disney World Company, but I have noticed the ways it has 'ruined' me for life outside of the company.

So if you are a past cast member, you may relate to these feelings. And if you are a current cast member, you should take into account these things before you decide to leave the most magical job on earth. Like, seriously. Think about it.

12 Ways You Are Ruined for Life After Being a Walt Disney World Cast Member


1. You have to wait in lines again


Unfortunately, there is no off-season, parade time, or friends who work in attractions when it comes time for you to go to the DMV, the doctor's office, or the grocery store. As a cast member, the only line you remember waiting in was to get on the cast bus. You were the wizard of Fast Passes, got back doored into pretty much any ride you wanted and definitely always entered the parks on your days off through backstage. In the real world, you aren't so lucky. Please take a number.

2. You have to pay to get into the parks


While you may still try for the usually unsuccessful plea for free tickets from friends who still work for the company, more often than not you now have to pay your hard earned money to get into the parks. This company. This wonderful, magical, super expensive company is now running your bank account dry just so you can re-live the magic every once and a while. You love being back in the parks, but that doesn't stop you from scoffing about it at the ticket booths. You did so much for them! How come you couldn't be in for life?

3. You can no longer count on the holiday discounts. Pay up


Oh, Dooney & Bourke, you have done it again. And look at that gorgeous new painting of the castle! In the past you could look at a price tag and settle to hold off for that wonderful, life changing, holiday discount. Now, you just have to throw your dreams to the wind and accept the fact that you are never going to have that designer Disney Princess clutch. You are also never going to get to eat at Le Cellier Steakhouse in Canada without that 40% off coupon. Pick a new dream.

4. Everywhere has the WORST guest service ever


You've been to the bank, the post office, the grocery store AND called your phone carrier and not once has anyone told you to have a magical day! In fact, the bank clerk skipped right over "Thank you" and went right on to "Next!" If they only knew how to treat a customer, you might even be nice enough to write them a review on Yelp!

5. Your friends judge you for all of your Disney stuff


As a cast member it was totally normal to have shelves full of Disney figurines, stuffed toys, and a very imbalanced DVD collection. And now...you just look like a crazy person. You've hidden most of your prized possessions inside a box marked 'Disney Stuff' deep inside your closet so not to scare off any new people you meet. However, you've figured that one Disney blanket, a mug and a music box are subtle enough to not scare anyone away, right?

6. You want to correct people saying wrong things about Disney World SO bad


They are sitting next to you on the bus talking all about the Universal Studios park at Disney World and all you want to do is lean over and scream, "It's Hollywood Studios!!! Not Universal Studios!!!"' But you know you'll be taken for a total loon and then they'd know you were eavesdropping. You can't help it if your ears perk up anytime you hear the word "Disney." It happens to all of us.

7. You talk to and wave at children that don't belong to you


You were having a completely sweet and magical interaction with this small, stranger child at the zoo until all of the sudden the parent had to come up and make it all awkward. Okay. So maybe this behavior isn't excepted outside Disney walls. But while in the parks, you still scream "Happy Birthday!" to anyone with a birthday button. That is still allowed. That has to be allowed.

8. No one understands why you point with two fingers


You've been wondering for a while why folks look at you so strange when they ask you where the restroom is, then you realize. It's the fingers. You wish you could go into how pointing with one finger is rude and this way is much less aggressive, but this person already thinks you are strange. The battle has been lost.

9. You are deathly afraid of any kind of large, international tourist group


Especially if they sing, have matching t-shirts and cary flags. You understand the pain. I don't think I need say more.

10. You have to decide what to wear to work every day


Wasn't it just SO easy to wake up and know exactly what you had to wear everyday for work? Better yet, you had a fresh costume to wear ready for you in the closet so you could take the dirty one from yesterday back to wardrobe to be washed. You probably only ever had to do laundry once a month since you never got to wear regular clothes anyways.

11. No one understands your Disney acronyms


You are texting a non-past cast member friend about an upcoming visit to the parks. "Hey, so I was thinking we could start at MK then head to DAK but then head back to see the FOF and possibly the last DAWM that day, but maybe we should see FOLK that day." They have absolutely no idea what you just said, yet you probably read that sentence without a second thought. And we all know you should choose FOLK over DAWM.

12. Being disappointed with every new job, ever


Sure I get medical and a 401K at my new job, but I don't get a cast member only Christmas ornament every year!? The truth is, nothing is better than working for the Walt Disney Company. You are constantly surrounded by joy, adventure, magic and love. Even on the hard days of sweat and grime, you would find yourself waiting for the cast bus under a spectacle of fireworks, remembering how lucky you are, how special the company is and the magic you helped create that day.

Walt Disney World, we thank you for the memories and for the forever friends we made. We thank you for the highest class training in guest service and for the high expectations you give us for future employers. Most of all, we thank you for the magic and ruining our lives forever in the best ways possible.


"You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality." - Walter Elias Disney



Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Life Realities When Your Best Friends Live All Over the World

Maybe you are the adventurous type.

You love to travel and move from city to city following a dream. You've studied abroad, taken an internship in the big city, and have squeezed everything you own in your Honda Civic on more than one occasion. Every new place brought you new food, new experiences, but most importantly, new friends, some the best ones you have ever made.

Or maybe you are the friend. And the mention of the things above makes you want run and jump in your bed, disappear under a sea of blankets and never come out. But whether you are the home-loving friend or the gypsy soul, you've likely got friends scattered across the globe.

You may have met during travel or you've now been separated by time and jobs far away, but despite the distance, "goodbye" was never an option. Thanks to technology, it is easy for us to stay connected with people we may never physically see again for years.

But there are the struggles that come along with your multiple long-distance relationships as well. These are the all-to-familiar realities we face when our best friends live all over the world.



1. Skype is your best and absolute worst friend


You have been waiting for weeks to catch up with your friend in Spain and NOW Skype decides to glitch up.  It was perfect when you Skyped with your friend on the East Coast last week, but now all you get is a fuzzy image that freezes every 15 seconds. But alas, while you may have to communicate through frozen screens and delayed audio, it is the closest thing you have to being physically together again. And everyone totally hugs their computer when they say goodbye. It's normal, I swear.



2. As "disconnected" as social media is, it does in fact, keep you connected


Sure, no one likes someone who spends all their time on Instagram and Facebook, ignoring the world around them with their eyes constantly glued to their phone. But thanks to social media, I get to check in everyday and watch love stories, personal accomplishments, and growing families through small, square, filtered photos. I've never met my friend in Michigan's boyfriend, but I already love him. I got to hear all about a friend in Georgia's engagement just hours after it happened. And I get to celebrate with old friends as they achieve new accomplishments and goals. As much as social media gets a bad wrap, you know it gives you a daily dose of your loved ones and it keeps you together.

3. Good laughs and virtual happy times are just a click away


It has been three years since you have seen each other, but that doesn't stop you from sending hilarious new cat videos to a bestie you made in Florida. It makes you think of him and getting his equally pleased reaction (complete with an unhealthy amount of emoticons) kinda feels like a virtual hug. It makes being apart just a little bit easier.


4. Visits are always planned, even if they are months or years away


Travel is expensive. And making plans to take time off work for a vacation can be both hard and drawn out. There is no question that you want to see your friends, but with so many of them in different places, it takes some organization. You frequently buy plane tickets months in advance and save up vacation time for a cruise you know you want to take the following year. Even if nothing is set in stone, there is always a "plan" to see your friends again. You will never accept the thought of anything else.


5. Texts or chat messages in the middle of the night are totally okay from them, and only them


Your phone goes off at 4am. You shoot up from deep inside a dream of your under water wedding to Ryan Gosling. You wonder who in the world is awake at this hour to disrupt your ultimate fantasy. Your phone displays a text from your friend in Boston who felt the need to share her adventures last night with you despite the 3-hour time difference. You can't help but forgive these people and you usually stay up to text them back, even if it is just to show them you care even in the wee hours of the morning.


6. Being reunited proves that nothing changes true friendship


Whether you have been apart for a couple months or a couple of years, after an epic, slow motion hug at the airport and a couple of happy tears, you can literally pop down in their passenger seat and pick up exactly where you left off. You moan about so-and-so's annoying Instagram posts and you both already know that you are stopping for coffee on the way home - even though neither of you had to say so. There is never any need to "catch up" because you are always in the know of who they are dating and what they had for dinner last night. You guys are seriously on top of it.


7. When they call you it is game over


Sooo you did have plans with your boyfriend tonight, but then your best friend in Texas calls you and you know you aren't going to be going anywhere for at least the next 3 hours. You don't even realize you've been talking for a long time until you have to switch the burning hot phone over to a new ear. Eating, showering, laundry, sleeping and attention for your significant other all get put on hold when your besties ring you up. You have got your priorities down.


8. They may never know it, but they inspire you every day


Though it may be the one thing you never actually talk about, watching and hearing about your friends successes and accomplishments from afar, drives you to push for new goals for yourself. New jobs, eating healthy, training for a big event, finishing school. You watch your friends go through these chapters of life and you are in turn inspired to follow in their footsteps or alongside them. While we may gush about Beyoncé and chat endlessly about how much we love Taylor Swift, but our greatest role models are really each other and always will be. No matter the distance and no matter the time.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

5 Reasons for Millennials to Give This Season

The millennials are a powerful generation.

We are passionate about injustice, are quick to spread the word, as well as our honest opinions on major issues. I am proud to be a millennial and believe that our generation will continue to create lasting change as we progress.

However, I do believe that there is more that we can be doing now. Many of us are quick to sign a petition or volunteer our time, but when it comes to letting go of our hard-earned money, we are gone before you can finish the word 'donation.'

While the majority of us don't have money to burn at this stage of securing a career and paying off our school loans, we certainly have some money to spare. And if there is any time to give, it is Christmas. So to celebrate #GivingTuesday, here are five great reasons for us to give this holiday season.

1. You aren't poor, stop telling yourself you are


I can't tell you how many times I have heard my girlfriends, people across the cafe, and even my own face in the mirror say things like, "I'm so broke," or "I am so poor right now," while clutching a hot, $5 pumpkin spice latte. As a 20-something, young professional myself, I know that a daily fix of caffeine and indulgence of sugar is something you plan your day around, but it is not something that "poor" people do.

It is ignorant to convince ourselves that we can't afford to throw some cash in the bell ringer's bucket while we walk out of Target with one bag of things we needed and two bags of things we didn't. Your school loans and bills won't get any bigger if you donate $10 to those who don't have enough to eat, let alone have two new pairs of shoes.












2. You actually really care


Do you remember sitting, scrolling through Facebook posts and seeing that one viral video, or that one article that really lit a fire under you? Whether it was gender equality, racial injustice or environmental conservation, you wanted to do something about it right then and there. While you may have shared the video, lasting change will always need to be backed by some amount of financial support.

Before your fears of charities using money wrongly, or that not all of your donation is going to the cause, I encourage you to listen to the words of AIDS Ride founder, Dan Pollotta, who in his wonderful TED Talk said, “We have a visceral reaction to the idea that anyone would make very much money helping other people. Interesting that we don't have a visceral reaction to the notion that people would make a lot of money NOT helping other people.”

3. You will inspire others


When you make a donation to something you care about, you are probably going to want to talk about it. While you may not boast on social media, your best friend, your mom and your boyfriend are probably going to hear about it. Why? Because you are excited about it! Your passion, but more importantly, your action will inspire those around you to do the same.

If you are not sold on the idea that your act of giving can inspire others, shall I remind you of the #IceBucketChallenge?

4. Small donations do make a big, lasting impact


In the developed world, it is hard to think that we could purchase anything of value for just $10, but in poverty-stricken countries across the world, that $10 can provide clean water, vaccines and food for a family, which in turn mean life. When those small donations build up, they create an even bigger impact. The American Red Cross' text message donation initiative, put forth after the Haiti earthquake in 2010, raised over $5 million though individual $10 texted donations.  Proof that those small decisions to give can go a long, long way.

5. It will make you happy


It goes without saying, you don't give to others to make yourself feel good, but it is a real side effect. Studies done in the book The Paradox of Generosity confirm that Americans who donate more hours of their time and money report higher levels of happiness and lower depression rates. But you didn't need science to tell you that. You are perfectly aware of that fuzzy feeling that comes over you when you give food to a homeless person or pay for the coffee of the person behind you in the drive-thru. It is worth it every time.


So, keep your change for laundry and parking meters. Let's reach deeper into our pockets this season and put our money where our mouth is. As Anne Frank says it best, "No one has ever become poor by giving."