BLOG-MAS Tuesday: You’re your only competition

I remember looking at colleges, wanting to be a lawyer with a cool chemistry background. The schools that I was applying to were extremely competitive. I’d be applying to schools with much more competitive attitudes about applying than I ever had.

Now, as a writer with a whole other motive in life, I find it easier to compare myself to other creatives. However, here’s the plot twist: what if I were my own competition?

That, my friend, is the philosophy that I’ve been following in life nowadays. I haven’t fully come to terms with it until today when I was interviewing my Associate Editor at Rhode Island Monthly. She said she likes to compete with herself every year when entering feature writing contests every year, to see how she improves.

Now, I am at the end of my first semester of grad school, that has taught me more what I wanted to know than anything else (but I guess that’s the point of a master’s degree.) I am beyond grateful to what Emerson offers me, and I am blessed to have taken the leap of faith to write and publish my poetry book. Not only that, but I learned I am a Muckraker, which by definition is someone who uncovers the dirt. In the case of journalism, it’s someone who “uncovers the dirt” in investigations for the sake of reporting and informing the public of what’s going on. I knew this was a phrase already, as I love to playfully troll the page my “fans” created for me on muckrack.com. Who comes up with this? I have no idea. That’s just the beauty of the internet, folx.

I have known school for the past 20 years, now. I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready to give up learning quite yet. But the truth is, you’re learning everyday. You don’t learn from what other people do, you learn by doing, which is the beauty of grad school. Competing and comparing yourself to others, I’m sorry to say, won’t get you anywhere except for defeating your ostensible “competition,” or worse, getting heartbroken over something that won’t even matter in a year, months, or even a week. Not to mention you only damage relationships, that way.

You can’t help but have that expectation of yourself, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll get that 100% on an English test (that actually happened to me, yes.) I also have received the full credit on a paper. I’ve had teachers tell me, “you’re really good at writing,” or “you should be proud of this essay.” But I set beyond-unrealistic expectations of myself, and that’s just me. Perfection is indubitably a weakness of mine. But instead of competing with others, like I did in high school track & field, I compete with myself to see if I can do better, to improve myself.

Starting Over Versus Trying Again With Experience | 4 Years Of This Blog

Four years… wow. That’s about the same amount of time it takes to complete a college or high school degree. For some of you, it could be a Ph.D program! But everyone goes through life differently, it has it’s twists and turns and rotaries (that’s round-abouts to you, those who aren’t from New England!) It took me a bit of time, but perhaps I already knew, who my target market was. And it’s been all of you reading this blog! It doesn’t matter if you’re in high school, college, grad school, or beyond. I mean, hey, I bought my first issue of Cosmo when I was in elementary school! It’s funnier because the issue happened to be the prom dress issue. I’ve accumulated probably thousands of magazines since I was eight years old. Nothing unusual to me, at least.

I tried to start this blog when I left The Odyssey Online in June 2016, but didn’t quite have the words to say, yet. It turns out that a writer isn’t a writer because they say they are. They write because they have something to say — something important to them. If someone else doesn’t like it, that person can “go pound sand,” as my mom would say. My personal experience with writing has been a tumultuous one, at best. However, I didn’t “start over” with writing. I tried again with more experience in the craft.

I posed the question on Instagram, “Do you start over or try again with more experience?” And all of the respondents said, “Experience Necessary.” The same thing goes for getting a job or an internship. People can leave a job for whatever reason. They don’t “start over” in their career, whatever their career may be, though they do have the option to try something different. There’s that word again: try.

You can begin essentially anywhere, but you have to keep trying. I remember trying to film my first YouTube video and I tweeted at Katy Bellotte (whom you all know I admire) “my YouTube video came out like 💩” and she actually took the time to respond to my tweet saying, “Keep trying!” I also remember trying to start a literary magazine. That was a bust. But I used the platform for that same lit mag to create a new one. Yes, I’m full of ideas. Yes, I want to build a magazine empire one day. And I think already did. (Follow @ reallemag on Instagram.)

Say it louder for the folx in the back: I TRIED AGAIN WITH EXPERIENCE! I didn’t necessarily start from scratch. With experience comes the inevitable failure, but you take that failure, forget about it, and you LEARN SOME MORE! For me, I chose a magazine and business track at my grad school. No, I will never give that up no matter what people will try to tell me. I started learning via BonBillo and I have to tell you, it’s an awesome platform to help start and grow your business.

You’re always going to be learning, even when you’re not in school. As cliché as that sounds, it’s true as hell. Think about it, when a poet, like I was in undergrad (and still am on the side), they start out with a rough draft — a really rough draft. Then, they take it to their professor and possibly a peer reviewer. It’s a team. As frustrating as the revisions and [constructive] criticisms are, you end up coming up with something fantastic that can be shared with anyone.

Life is essentially poetry. It can be edited a billion times, you’re going to ask for help along the way, major changes happen, you may regret not thinking of the idea in the first place, but in the end, it’s something you’re proud of.

EMPOWER NOT TOWER: “Go big or go home?” Is it really worth sucking on bone marrow?

It was a Tuesday morning and I woke up an hour later than intended. I wanted to get up early, put on some makeup, and put on a cute dress to take over the createHER Collective Instagram story for the day. That didn’t happen exactly as planned, but I handled it better than what my expectations were the previous day.

I ended the night signing off to watch “Grey’s Anatomy,” but also signed off with a whole lot of new perspectives on empowerment and the phrase, “go big or go home.”

The first time I ever heard that phrase was on my very first day of high school when one of my teachers talked about the time she broke her vegetarianism to eat a huge burger — bone marrow and all.

But should we really go by this phrase? The answer is no, and I’ll tell you why.

I remember going by this phrase when applying to undergraduate schools — didn’t work out! I followed this phrase when I started submitting my poetry and artwork to the top literary magazines in the country — didn’t work out! That’s when I started looking at smaller publications that I never even heard of until I joined Twitter again. Those definitely worked out (and helped me build a killer CV to use for grad school apps if I do say so myself.)

When looking at graduate schools too, for my MFA, I had that same superficial outlook that I had when I was a junior/senior in high school. I wanted to apply to (and googled) “Best MFA schools in the U.S.” But coming from a “small-but-bigger-than-SAC” school like RWU, who knows if I even stand a chance? What I learned, especially from being in the [insert 2 Ivy League schools here] applicant Facebook groups, just because they are ostensibly the “best,” “top-tier,” and “among the elite,” that doesn’t mean they’re the right fit for you.

My point in bringing up undergraduate and graduate institutions is that it’s not worth gnawing on your thumb right to the bone marrow to prove yourself — to anyone or anything. I was reminded of a poem I wrote:

Perfection is a weakness of mine

To be honest, when I was in high school, I strived for perfection and I’ll be honest it gave me a little OCD!

I’m trying to gnaw on this idea of being perfect;

I chew it down right to that savory bone marrow

until there’s nothing left to even suck on anymore—

at this point all I’m doing is sucking on that

circular piece of bone. The bone is in my right thumb

and I’ve sucked on it so much to feel like I’ve lost

all feeling.

 

Perfection is like sucking on a piece of bone marrow—

you cleanse it of all the meat and the cells that go with it,

until there’s nothing anymore. It becomes addictive,

like a fidget toy. People tell you you’re doing great by

cleaning it and getting all the necessary juice to make you

feel manly, accomplished, whatever. Then you become

addicted to being perfect and receiving that praise.

Even when you feel like you’re unappreciated, just know that you’re doing a great job and people really do appreciate what you do and how hard you work. If they don’t, it’s their loss!

Moral of the story: PERFECTION IS UNATTAINABLE!

 

2019: The Year of (actually) Following Resolutions, Graduation, Purple, Lions, and ME

Happy New Year, everyone! It’s hard to believe that one of the best years of my life has gone by so fast. I’m not going to do one of those cheesy “year in review” things (mostly because I did that on my Instagram story — LOL.) However, this year, like the last one, has a lot to offer me — everything from a thesis due in May to graduation in December. Then we start all over again in 2020 with graduate school!

For those of you who don’t know, I am extremely superstitious in terms of colors. I have been oddly attracted to the color purple recently. I also strongly believe in signs and tarot readings. I have additionally been attracted to the lavender rose-quartz crystal. With that being said, I am taking matters into my own hands and pioneering a MAGAZINE called the Bold Lips and Coffee Talk.

My thing about New Years Resolutions is they can have meaning if you’re willing to put in the work to make them come true. Some of mine include the following:

  1. Graduate with the highest honors (if not Magna Cum Laude)
  2. Make my vision of the Rose-quartz Lens come to life
  3. Get a job in writing/editing, or take part in a residency this summer

These are just some, but my list is certainly not limited. But one thing is for sure, is that I may not have a ton of support, but in the end, I have the support of myself because I have the abilities, power, and potential to make my dreams come true.

There isn’t really much to say here except KEEP CREATING. Be as fierce as a lion, and never stop going after what you want in 2019. This is your year as much as it is mine.

A Year In The Books | The Rest Is Still Unwritten

It took two years, but I am finally a junior in college. Woo! That’s right, I just finished up the last semester of my (second) sophomore year. I can honestly say I have no regrets after this incredible year. I don’t regret choosing Creative Writing. I don’t regret the friendships I’ve made. I don’t regret choosing Literary Publishing over Critical Writing. These are just a few. But one thing’s also true: I don’t regret transferring.

A year ago, I would’ve never thought I’d be where I am today, and I have so many people to thank for that; supporting me, guiding me in the right direction, and giving me that constant reassurance that everything will be okay. I didn’t think a “bright future” existed for me after what I’ve gone through last year. But I’ve come out the end of the tunnel a better person who knows what she’s doing and fighting for what she deserves.

I also came out of the tunnel a more confident person (though I’m not confident that I passed my Marketing final!) I began going to the gym again and even got a personal trainer! This has definitely been a semester of figuring out who I really am and bettering myself; I know, how cliche does that sound? But I promise you that I have.

In just two weeks, I’ll be starting a little mini chapter-within-a-chapter in my life as I embark on my internship and my second job. I feel like I really am living the Carrie Bradshaw lifestyle.

Picture this: Me walking down the streets of Providence while I narrate to myself, “Before there was sex, before there was the city, there was just me, April, from Bristol, RI.” 

Watching these seniors at RWU getting ready for the graduation really has me eager to graduate. In December 2019, if not May 2020, I’ll be the one wearing my decorated cap and donning my black gown with that gold and blue hood and that white collar.

I’ve never really thought of how blessed I am until now as I sit on my white leather couch topped off with pink pillows. I can’t wait to see what this summer will bring for me before I start senior seminar/thesis in the fall!

Some of my top moments this semester:

1.)  Choosing poetry as my focus for senior thesis/sem.

2.)  Taking a poetry class

3.)  Scoring an internship for the summer

4.)  Writing about fashion/recipes for Hawks’ Herald

5.)  Being a part of a Literary Publishing course and learning how to copy-edit

Be sure to follow me on my summer journey! ☺

xoxo, April

Finding Your Place | Transferring | Look At Me Now

I quoted this in another blog post, and I’m going to quote it again:

“Sometimes to chase after your future, you have to stop running and plant yourself in one place. Take a stand and fight for what you want. And know that even after the darkest of nights, the dawn will come. And you will find a place where you don’t have to hide. A place to call home.” — Carrie Bradshaw, The Carrie Diaries

This past year was a time for reflection and starting a new, and honestly, I have zero regrets. I remember almost two years ago, my family packed up our stuff in Medfield, Massachusetts and moved to Bristol, Rhode Island. I wish I had a better attitude about it, at the time. But it wound up becoming an adventure. Who knew that a year later from that I’d be switching schools, too? Transferring was something that was on my mind for a really long time. And according to my great philosopher, HelloKaty’s YouTube video, “If you’re not happy somewhere, or with someone, get out.” She also touches upon the complex and surely complicated process of transferring. To back up her argument, transferring someplace else is one of the most courageous things you can do. It is not a cowardly act. Everyone has their opinion, but I was certainly not happy. Being on the phone crying in the corner of the library is not healthy, whatsoever. And yes, it happened frequently. I knew that I would become a “double transfer” (as I switched high schools, too), but I knew in my gut and my heart that this was the right move for me.

For those of you who know me personally, you’d know that I switched my majors a billion times. Now, I can finally say, I’m 1,000,000x more confident in my choice at RWU. One thing that’s true about anything is that it takes time for anything to grow and find out who you are. It just took me a few more trials and errors than anyone else.

Listen, why am I telling you this? I was recently inspired by my poetry professor whom I talked to yesterday about poetry, and we both agreed that poetry would be my focus for next year, as I’ll be a junior writing my thesis and taking a senior seminar. This is not a “go to RWU!” ad, but I’m just saying the Creative Writing professors really influenced my choice to come and to take a shot at higher level classes and dip my toes into a few things. I’m now taking a Literary Publishing course, and I’m absolutely loving it. RWU students also reintroduced me to fashion: my second love (writing being the first). I’m slowly heading back into my Audrey Hepburn phase by taking a chance with vintage clothing, as seen here:

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I love playing with neutrals, as they are really in this season. I decided to put a little “spring” (and heel) in my step by appropriating my mom’s lace-up kitten heels — no, really, talk about vintage! Florals are definitely in this season, as well. And any printed pant with a v-neck sweater? Totes vintage and adorbs!

In short, I’m grateful to my parents for deciding to leave Massachusetts. If it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t be interning at Rhode Island Monthly this summer!!! That’s right, I will be an Editorial Intern at the premiere publication in Rhode Island! ☺

Moreover, wherever one door closes, another door opens to a new opportunity (or more). I’m one step closer to becoming a published journalist and poetry author. My professor said my voice is really strong and authentic. I was right when I said I had dreams too big for that small town in Massachusetts, and Massachusetts at large. Sure, Rhode Island is not that much bigger, but I’m following and achieving my dreams more than I ever thought possible.

This is me, and this is exactly where I’m supposed to be. (Yes, I just semi-quoted that song from Camp Rock).

Personas

Persona: (n). the aspect of someone’s character that is presented to or perceived by others; a role or character adopted by an author or an actor; “person” — (Spanish translation); or, in poetry, the mask that the speaker wears.

These are four definitions of the word “persona.” I’ve never thought about this word until we went over it in my Form in Poetry class. We then reached into depth about how this word applies to our everyday lives. A person can put up a front and mask their emotions. That way they are pretending everything is okay. I then start to think: what kind of persona am I showing in my poems? My blog posts? On Instagram? I once had to write a sort of erotic poem for that class, and in my poem, I made a point to say, “I’m a virgin talking about sex, how does that sound to you?” That’s one example of putting on a “mask.”

Artists tend to put on a “mask” at all times. When Demi Lovato was on Disney Channel, no one knew she was hiding an eating disorder and addiction. The same thing with Miley Cyrus — she started out on Hannah Montana as an eleven-year-old playing a fifteen-year-old, struggling with anxiety and body dysmorphia in the process. As for some of the more complex artists like, say, Lady Gaga? The world may never know why she dresses up in ridiculous costumes. Or is she just being herself? She is who she said she is at the 2011 VMAs: theatre.

And that’s just the thing: we become our passions. It’s similar to the way method actors become and understand their characters. When I write short stories, I become and embody the main character(s) to try and get inside their heads. That is called “character development.” Or, when I wrote a poem dedicated to Henry David Thoreau, I had to crawl inside the head of a transcendentalist in order to create a cohesive, thoughtful ode to him.

As functionaries in society, we’re forced to hide what we don’t want our peers to know. I’m reminded of Elsa from Frozen: “conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know” when she finally unmasked her power to freeze anything in her path and finally said (I know, we’re aaaalllll sick of hearing these three overhyped words) “let it go.”

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As much as I’ve grown to be sick of that movie, it proves a point. How many of you remember those dark days we like to call… middle school? And this is where I’m going to be flat out honest with y’all. In seventh grade, I went from not giving a you-know-what, to caring incessantly about my appearances. It was all because of this stigma from the town I grew up in: conformity and to be “socially accepted.” Funny, I just wrote a poem about my old town and how transferring high schools and eventually colleges gave me my own voice — my own identity. When we put on these “masks,” we’re essentially locking away our own voices from these outside sources who are too stubborn to take them into consideration.

But when I think about Louise Glück’s “Wild Iris,” and she puts on the persona of a wild iris trying to push through the dirt, it’s almost a source of empathy for the poor being. Let this, alone, be an analogy: we are all wild irises, emerging through earth’s thick skin trying to survive. We have instances which we may be “reborn” and discover ourselves again. At the end of the day, we are still writing our poems in first-person — so somewhere in the midst of all that, our voices and identities are still being conveyed in our poems of life. Our words may be used in the future to be studied, and who knows? Maybe a little-redheaded girl looking at poetry for the first time will wish she knew that source of wisdom.

Self-Reliance Being Put To Use: A Semester In Review

I have at least eight drafts that I want to write, but, unfortunately, they’re not the right ones. I just finished my first semester at RWU, and so much is going through my mind: a sense of accomplishment, a sense of fulfillment, and a sense of gratitude. Transferring was something I thought long and hard about, and I have had some instances of regret. But all in all, I think I made the right choice.

While I was making the decision to transfer, I was also going through a mental breakdown that, as you all know, landed me in the hospital. I still wanted to go back to school so I could get my bachelor’s and lead a somewhat normal life. Even my psychiatrist and therapist said to me, “you’re going back to school after all that!? Wow!”

There were a lot of reasons why I decided to transfer. But while I was looking at schools in Rhode Island, I realized I wanted a program that was writing-oriented. When I looked at RWU, I saw they had a creative writing program. I knew I wanted a seaside education, too, with access to everything. So, I thought that RWU was perfect for me.

Here are my top ten highlights from this semester:

1.)  Being appointed Features Editor of the Hawks’ Herald

2.)  Being a Writing Tutor

3.)  Going to Dallas

4.)  Writing two of the best short stories I’ll probably ever write

5.)  Writing countless articles

6.)  Joining Writers’ Anonymous

…………… and I’m sure there will be more to actually make it a “top ten.” I have more tricks up my sleeve to make Spring 2018 an even better semester!

I took my last final today. It was for Early American Literature: Pre-Columbus. As I was doing some last-minute cramming in the library, I looked to my left and saw Mount Hope Bridge (another perk). Throughout the course, we studied romantics and transcendentalists like my literary husband, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau was a student of Emerson’s. Emerson, if you’ve ever taken American Literature in high school, wrote Self-Reliance. Self-Reliance is basically about being a non-conformist and forming your own opinions. Thoreau took this to heart and thought he would give this a try. He had his own garden in a tiny house by the water. I realized before writing this post that I am basically living that phenomenon at RWU and at home. It’s nice to write knowing you’re by the water.

Conformity is slow suicide. If there’s one thing I learned is to find your niche. And I’ll leave it at that. I’m still trying to relearn who I am, but I think I’m getting there.

 

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Happy Holidays! #stayfierce ♥