Finishing the Race

Pre-[event] jitters.

I didn’t experience this before the wedding. I didn’t ever feel jittery before the first day of school or a new program. Excited? Yes. Jittery with nerves and adrenaline?

Barring a few traumatic moments in my life, the last time I felt what I’m feeling now was in the pool.

Surprising to some, I was a competitive swimmer in high school. I was even the captain my senior year, which looking back is like “how?” My strongest stroke was the freestyle but I got lumped into doing the individual medley and 100M butterfly because I was the only girl on the team who knew (and cared to know) how to do it by regulation standards.

Hey, it was a Buffalo Public School. Practices lasted an hour after school and we weren’t expected to keep any kind of regiment on our own. I think I utilized the weight room for swimming purposes three times in my three years on swim team. At Lafayette, it was a resume builder and a great way to do something other than go home and do homework (which I ended up doing anyway when I got home even later — overachiever since way back when…)

But it was fun and when I did practice, I practiced hard. Did I think I’d ever be an Amanda Beard or even a D3 collegiate swimmer? No. I had fun and I filled my time.

But have I ever mentioned to you that I’m super competitive? I’ve eased up on it since I was 15-16-17 years old but I was SUPER competitive at things I knew I wasn’t even that good at.

My parents used to tell me that being competitive like that was a waste of energy because “there is always going to be someone who is better than you at what you’re doing.” Well that might be true but it’s not going to be true about the person who I’m swimming next to. So there. Sass.

In BPS, we had these All-High meets wherein all the schools got together at ECC City where we’d compete amongst every other school at the same time. And it was nerve-wracking because it was the capstone of the swim season and I would invite my mother who was there every year. Friends from other schools and at least a hundred of the other competitors parents and so were there.

And I remember seeing my name on the list for the 100M butterfly. And my heart sank. I’m basically a spaztastic impostor of a butterfly swimmer and they want me to go up in front of City Honors, DaVinci, and Hutch Tech as their butterfly swimmer?

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Oy.

You’re probably wondering “And I’m telling you this story why?”

Last night, the last three presenters from my cohort presented their plans and defended their campaigns to the panel. The capstone of our graduate program. The last three presenters before it’s my turn, that is.

When I looked at my phone last night and it was 9:45, I knew that their defenses were done. And it was my turn. I’m on deck. And as unfortunate as it is, my mind automatically blanks and I’m suffering from impostor syndrome. They want me to defend what? How? Yeah I know the material… but do I know the material?

And as weird as it may sound… for a brief second I swore I smelled chlorine. And I started shaking my hands and bouncing side to side like I used to do at the starting mount. Time to psych myself out. I’m not an impostor. I’ve put in the work, I know what I know, and it’s time to own it.

Hopefully this works as well as it did then because all I remember from then is hearing the starting pistol, jumping in the pool, and I’d focus on my strokes. Going as fast as I can because I’m never more prepared than I am in this moment.

And at the end, I’d come out glaringly average. Not the best in the pool but not the worst.

But my parents always said that they were proud. And without fail, each time, said “at least you finished the race, Sam.”

I wasn’t sure what that meant then. In fact, it kind of made me feel a little mad when they said that. That’s it? But since its been almost 7 years since my last time in the pool (for competition) I think I know what they mean.

Tomorrow, when I go into my presentation, I have to believe in myself. I have to do what I’ve been working on for months. I know this.

And at the end, if I’m not the top student — at least I finished the race. I still have my master’s degree. And 7 years from now, it’s likely no one will care who the top student was (less our program stats/records and the person who was top).

It makes sense. I couldn’t tell you who won the butterfly race. Or who lost it the worst. Or even what place I came in. I finished my race.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing my high school swim meet to my graduate degree here. And I am taking my program a bit more seriously than an hours practice per day. But it’s a lesson I’m carrying over in dealing with nerves. I’m 24. I’m being critiqued by a panel of seasoned experts in the field. And I’m trying to convince them of a plan that utilizes all the elements of marketing communication that they could pick apart in seconds if it’s wrong.

Time to psych out. Shake my hands and bounce side to side, if need be.

I’m never more prepared than I am in this moment.

Time to go practice a little more so I’m more prepared in that moment than I am now.

Time to finish my race.

 

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10. Photo a Day Explained: For Papi

 

When I was 19, my father passed away. It was one of the most devastating things that has ever happened in my life.

But because he was such an amazing person, he taught me a lot about life. He always taught us how precious it was, and how it never lasts. Now, where that didn’t prepare us for his untimely death (what could?) it resonated with me in a way that allowed me to move forward in stride.

Two months later, I got this dedication tattoo in his honor. My father was really good about living in the moment and knowing when to just be Dad. We learned to be silly and how to be vivacious from him. We also learned how to hold steadfastly to our passions and learned how to be passionate. He was passionate about education and knowledge, about people, and most of all, about his family.

My father taught me the value of being passionate about your life.

So for him, I got this tattoo. And because it was something he taught me, I decided to get this tattoo in his handwriting. I had the tattoo artist put together letters from a post card my father had sent me while he was travelling for work.

The tattooist did a phenomenal job. My mom stared at it for 10 minutes after I got it done just taken aback by how it looked like my Dad had actually written it.

Dad would probably roll his eyes at me and tell me it was a silly thing to do. But he also said the same thing about my nose piercing. That man thought I was perfect and that these kinds of things would ruin it.

Aww Papi, how I miss him.

But that’s it. That’s my favorite word. And for many good reasons.

-For Papi ❤

When I Am The CEO of Sam Inc.

Someday, not now, probably not next year, but someday, I’d really love to have my own business. When I’ve become a bit more experienced in Public Relations, I’d love to have my own PR firm. And I’m most interested in having a say in everything, making decisions, and taking risks.

And while there are so many things to consider when you go into business (legal, financial, administrative), I tend to think of the following  things, because I’m still in the dreamy phase of considering a business.

  1. I want a Keurig in the office. Come the time this starts, Keurig’s might be out and space coffee might be in. I want it or something like it!
  2. I don’t require a lot of cash to live. Once Mark and I are taken care of, we don’t need a lot of play money. The rest will be invested into creating amazing jobs for people who deserve it.
  3. I want my company to have a lot of community participation. A lot.
  4. All interns will rave about my company. I will take care of them.
  5. Vacation time will be generous.
  6. Maternity and Paternity time will be generous. Also, a kid-friendly office space is ideal.
  7. Health care is absolutely a priority.
  8. I’m interested in a lateral form of organization rather than an upward chain of command. Believe me, I’m no boss on a power trip.
  9. I will know everyone and every name that comes through my place of business.
  10. Racist, sexist, homophobic, or other degrading, prejudicial/bigoted remarks will 100% not be tolerated. It baffles me that this even has to be brought up with some people, but as I’ve learned, it does.

I’ve also considered things like my business card design and the name of my company. I may have looked at desks at Office Max and considered which one might look nice in my spiffy own office. I may or may not have considered different restaurants that would be nice to hold a scholarship gala or an office party. Recycling will be a must. If I drink the last pot of coffee, I’m not above making another (same should go for everyone). I will have an open door policy, but I might keep it just slightly cracked if I want to listen to music when I work. Bagel Fridays.

These are not superfluous ideas, I think I’m building an office culture as opposed to building a business plan. But oh well, I can do that in this dreamy building phase, no?

I don’t have employees, any money, any clients, any real idea on how to realistically run a business, or a real plan for that matter, but I have an idea of where I want to take this.

That’s enough for now.

I’ve got big plans.

The Over-Ambitious, Over-Achiever’s Gripe to Bare

There’s this scene in a 1999 favorite of mine Never Been Kissed where our leading lady Drew Barrymore’s character is very cleverly (read: not at all) interviewing a current high school student on her dreams and aspirations. The bright-eyed 17-year old responds that she wants to be a “potter, a painter, an architect, a novelist, and she wants to go to Southwestern.”

You know, from the outside looking in, she sounds pretty naive and doughy eyed. But sometimes, I feel a slight kinship to that doughy-eyed idea.

I graduated roughly three weeks ago and in my job search I have about 12 unanswered resume/emails saved. Naturally, my busy body personality is feeling the sting of only having a 4-6 hour a day part-time job. I was sent off from internships and classes with a vote of confidence from superiors and instructors that I would find a job in no time.

No time ended two weeks ago for me.

This lack of structured work, this schedule that would force me to do a certain task assigned to me has me off in la-la land in between resume/cover letter writing sessions.

In the last three weeks, not only have I only sent out a mere 12 resumes, I’ve researched 10 different graduate schools and programs that break off into about four different disciplines. Some related to public relations, some not really. I’ve researched MBA programs, MFA programs (that’s a laugh), and other programs I feel would help to enhance my writing or help create a nugget of visual art/media talent. I looked up fellowships, scholarships, and TA positions at local schools and schools I wish I had gone to for my undergrad.

On top of possible graduate programs, I’ve contemplated freelance work. I’ve contemplated starting my own business, services for programs/areas I’m truly passionate about. I’ve contemplated getting a start on that book I’ve always wanted to write.

To relate my opening paragraph to what I mean, I’m entering this time in my life where I’m thinking to myself, “I want to be a public relations/media relations/social media/marketing/advertising professional, a small business owner, a writer, an academic, and/or a community activist.”

Basically, I’d keep a similar schedule to what I had my last year in undergrad, but I’d make a little bit more money than I did. I’d love to have something akin to an 8-5 (although, anything I go into will likely be more than that), teach a class or two, have something to do that betters the community I came from and gave so much to me, and in my spare 20 minutes a day, write my first book while simultaneously running my own coffee shop/bar/restaurant/bookstore/winery/brewery hybrid.

Apparently, I enjoy being every where all at once.

If only money grew on trees, my lofty ambitions wouldn’t seem like so much to handle. If I still had my parents around I’d probably be much more motivated to take on graduate assistant positions at local colleges, study business administration in a very sports-specific way, but they’re not and I have to make a life for myself. If I had that kind of support, my ambitions would be met head on.

So, what am I going to do?

Well, I’m going to learn how to deal with this post-graduate, unemployed, bum-feeling I have and figure out which path(s) is best suited for the kind of life I dream of.

Here’s to hoping something opens up in 2012 that is well-suited for me but still strengthens my skills and tests my comfort zone.

Yay, #JobSearch12

Resound11: 12/28

Resound11: Five Things

Take today to jot down five memories that you would like to never forget about 2011. Try to write about five things you haven’t shared yet, but if you need to repeat, that’s OK!

1. Interning for the Buffalo Sabres/Working for the Buffalo Bills

2. Jumping ship to go hot mineral swimming in Santorini, Greece.

3. Star gazing in Ohi:yo’ with Parkus and my best friends.

4. That feeling of success I had when I walked out of my final undergraduate exam.

5. Running in my first 5K ever.

Can’t wait to see what kind of things I can put on this list this time next year.

Resound: 12/1

In addition to my own topics, I’ll take a stab at keeping up with #resound11, a blogging prompt to help recall and appreciate 2011.

December 1, 2011: What is one word to describe your 2011? Why does that word sum up your year?

Healing

I was able to heal this year. I was able to grow without stagnation or disruption from feeling lost or left behind. When Dad died, he died New Years Eve 2008, I spent all of 2009 feeling empty. It’s hard to fill such a hole. The 2009 holidays were significantly different and disheartening. Not one of us were wholly happy. Then in 2010, my Mother died, nearly a year after his death, and the same feeling stayed. I was on my way, I was healing from the loss of my father. Losing her was like scratching at the scab. Almost healed but still delicate enough to be reopened pending circumstance. The holidays in 2010 were cold and dry.

I only speak of the holidays because it is what I’m experiencing now. Of course, a lot of 2009/2010 felt this way.

This time last year, my house remained barren and without any holiday expression. The holidays resonate as a series of happy family moments. Though I had my sisters, fiance, extended family, friends who are family, and friends, nothing could shake me of the feeling that I had no reason to celebrate family seeing as, what I viewed as, the most important pieces of family were missing. The ornaments remained idly by in the basement until just last week.

I am thankful that I have had time to heal. That scab is now a scar, apparent to me. It affects me every time I think about it. But it’s easier to deal with it.

The best part about having this year, this healing time? I see my family. I see the family I have. And I am excited to celebrate the holidays this year. My house was eagerly decorated for the holidays directly proceeding Thanksgiving. Old Nephew family traditions mixed with new Nephew-James traditions were enacted.

And old pre-adolescent-photo-adorned-paper ornament ceremoniously thrown into the garbage can. I reckon that to be the silver lining of not having parents around anymore. I can throw out that picture and no one on this planet has the right to bitch about it. Fist pump!

I could lose my entire savings/wardrobe/anything worth money in my home today, and that loss would feel nothing like what I’ve already experienced.

I am healing and I am a much stronger person having persevered. I’ve been told time and time again of how others would have easily caved. I am proud of the strength instilled and the strength embodied.

I cannot say healed. I don’t know if there will be a time I am wholly healed.

But I am healing and I am thankful. Everything else I have achieved, gained, experienced this year is because I am healing.

Tips from a Professional Intern

If only you could make money from a title like “Professional Intern” because then I would be in a much better position.

Internships are supposed to be an integral part of the college experience. It offers real life experience with that safety net of college credit to comfort you and keep you from falling on your head if you’re not ready for the big leagues yet. Internships are supposed to be the gateway to networking and establishing your personal brand. It also helps you narrow down your career choices and/or helps you determine what you are capable/willing to do.

Alright. Well this pretty much reinforced everything my mother ever told me about the “real world.”

Number one:It’s not what you know, but who you know.” My mother was a wise lady. She also happened to work in PR (with no degree, grumble grumble) as a program manager for Good Schools for All. She was also a graduate of Leadership Buffalo in 2005. She also worked with The Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo (which pretty much works with every organization you can think of in Western New York.) Well now, Mrs. Nephew, you were right. (Also, the apple doesn’t seem to fall to far from the tree, eh?)

Number two:You never know until you try.” This was usually in response to denying a food choice of hers, but it’s applicable here, too. I might have never known how much I like agency life had I not interned at Eric Mower and Associates. I might not have known that I like working in college athletics had it not been for the Buffalo State Sports Information Office. And I might have wanted to go into graphic design or production, but now I know I don’t thanks to Time Warner Cable. It’s just not my thing.

Since my first semester at Buffalo State in 2008, the importance of internships was preached to me. Man, I tell ya, if I was a church-going gal, I’d be the example for holy living because I took what was preached to me and ran with it.

Why do I think I have any authority in this matter?

Well, I’m not saying I do. But after nine internships, I think I’ve got a handle on how to get the most out of one. (However, I continue to learn ways to get even more from them. That’s just learning, folks. It’s never-ending.)

For reference, I’ll tell you where I have interned but for privacy’s sake I won’t really go into what I did for them. Also, all opinions here are my own and don’t reflect that of a single one of these places listed. Okay? Let’s go.

1. Eric Mower and Associates

2. Time Warner Cable Sports Network

3. Buffalo Bills

4. Buffalo State College Sports Information Office

5. Roswell Park Cancer Institute

6. Buffalo Sabres/Buffalo Bandits

7. IIHF World Junior Championships

8. Elmwood/Bidwell Farmers Market

9. Buffalo State College Institutional Advancement.

Whew! Okay, now that that’s done. Here are some tips I have for interning. Be it you’re just thinking of getting one, have already had one, or are moving on to your 10th.

Consider this your so-many-months interview.

I haven’t gotten a job out of my internships, per se, but I have seen it happen. Quite a few friends of mine were hired at the completion of their internships for entry-level positions. This is huge! Especially with how hard the economy is. But just remember, even if you’re in a position like me where you didn’t get an offer sheet, they remember you! That is if you’re doing this right.

Be who you are and it is what it is, but remember this is one long first impression.

Don’t be rude, duh. Don’t be gross, duh. Remember to be funny, but never crude, duh. Your supervisor might only be two years older than you, but you’re not friends. (Not yet, anyway). Don’t try to be the person they wish you were. It’ll never work if you try too hard to be someone who will fit in at your internship placement if you really don’t fit in.If you’re a hireable person, you’ll come off that way. Relax and be comfortable 🙂

You get out of it, what you put into it.

My production internship lead me to realize that I don’t want to go into production. What I got out of it was what production is really looking for from public/media relations professionals. I built from that. I may not be able to create cool news tickers or anything like that, but I know what I’ll need to know when I need something from the media. Same thing from my stint as a journalist. I may not want the life of a journalist, but I know what they need from me. What’s better is that I understand WHY the need it.

There is no such thing as a stupid question!

Okay, well there might be some stupid questions. But if you’re not 100% sure how to build a media list or know what resources you need to build it, ASK! Clearly, if you’ve been hired as an intern, you’ve demonstrated the basic skills they require of you. They don’t expect you to know everything. Even if you feel like you should know way more than you do. Learning is an ongoing experience. You’ll see seasoned pros referring to their AP Stylebooks.

Go above and beyond.

There aren’t nearly enough fingers and toes around me to count how many times I’ve done something to show my dedication to my placements. Even if it’s something as simple as asking “Do you need anything else?” or just saying “If you need any volunteers, please let me know.” I’ve volunteered to do so many extra things on the side of these internships because A. they remember this and B. it’s extra experience to gain. It’s as simple as that.

Know your placements policy on social media. Don’t just sign the waiver. Understand it.

Yes, I had issues with over sharing on social media. Thankfully, it didn’t cost me my internship because if it had I might have become a devastated and disgruntled college student. Know what I say? Play it safe. Don’t really talk about your placement. Period. This is totally up to you, use your best judgment, but I’ve been basically living by this rule since my close call. Know what your employer wants. Have your own social media ethic. I became nearly obsessed with the topic since said close call.

You don’t have to like them, but you do have to work with them.

This one is courtesy of Mrs. Nephew. She’s been telling me that since my first group project in Kindergarten. She’s told me that I won’t like everyone I work with, that’s inevitable, but I will have to work with said people. Maybe I fumbled with this one at one point, which would have been to the dismay of Mrs. Nephew, but I never not worked with someone just because we didn’t get along. Those times I fumbled with working with others, not my proudest moment(s), but I learned. Again, that’s why we get internships before we enter the real world!

And last, but not least…

Have the time of your life.

I consider my entire college experience (academically and professionally) a positive one because of my internships. I’ve had so much fun with my different experiences. Working with sports professionals, media professionals, and some of the most influential people in Buffalo, has been a rewarding experience. To say it was just a rewarding experience seems to lessen how I actually feel about my internships.

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I’m pretty sure there are some more insightful things I could provide but I’m in between taping shows at my current internship. It’s almost time to get back to work.

Also, I won’t get to my 10th internship. I graduate in two weeks and my time has come and gone in undergrad.

Although, there’s always graduate school…

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Edited from my smartphone: Gotta love these things.

One of my favorite lessons I learned being an intern?

People are so incredibly helpful and willing to help a hardworking college kid. This area, Western New York and Buffalo, is full of the most amazing people who I’m proud to say I’ve worked for. Such beautiful souls and plentiful minds. Never be afraid to ask for help!

15 Questions to Prompt Your Gratitude

Here is one of those ideas that I wanted to partake in. I got this from a friend of mine Sam who got it via The Shine Project. My life, though not terrible, hasn’t been easy.

What am I saying?

My life has been pretty awesome. It’s just been a few certain life events that lead me to believe that I’ve had it rough. Losing your parents, especially when they were arguably the best parents in the world, and me being merely 19/20 when it happened,  is tough. But I learned how to cope and I think I picked up on some of their lessons, finally, posthumously.

Here are those 15 questions that prompt us to remember what we are grateful for:

1. Who do I appreciate? That’s easy. Mom– for always instilling a sense of pride in my heritage and roots. It may not have caught on when she wanted it to, but believe me Lois, it’s there. She has helped me become this ambitious, hard-working, and goal-oriented person that I’m proud to be. I’m proud of my heritage, my femininity, my uniqueness. Dad– for his endless curiosities about the world and his eager thirst for knowledge. His unwavering love for his daughters and wife. His dedication as a role model. His quiet demeanor, yet goofy ambiance that could put a smile on anyone’s face. His hugs, which made all the world a better place. And of course, my friends who have put up with my ups and downs. My fiance, who has seen the ugliest, meanest, and blackest side of me, yet remains loving, loyal, and seeing the beauty I have. That’s dedication. My sisters, my sweet sisters who I love more than anything else. My best friends and bridesmaids. Homies.

2. How am I fortunate? I am still bright-eyed and bushy tailed. I’m still willing to take on the world. I fight, fight and fight some more. I have everything I need to make my dreams come true. I’m in good health. I have food in my fridge. I have a warm bed. I have clean, running water. Granted they’re gone now, I had the good fortune of being raised in a loving, caring home. I have clothes on my back. A full education (and continuing). I have no debt and a happy savings account. I’ve seen other parts of the world and I’m not done yet. I could probably keep going on but I should probably try to keep some of these short.

3. What material possessions am I thankful for? My laptop, it’s my main social media gateway and the keeper of all my ideas. My phone, so I’m never far from family or friends. My car (which is thankfully, fully paid for). My photo albums, for those nostalgic moments I have. I love nothing more than going back in time thanks to my photo albums.

4. What abilities do I have that I am thankful for? My ability to love. Honestly, there are people who don’t know how and they aren’t happy. My ability to laugh, even in the midst of terrible life events. I think my lighthearted disposition helped me through many dark nights. My ability to learn fast, it’s been a necessary trait since life is fast, so so fast.

5. What about my surroundings (home/neighborhood/city/etc.) am I thankful for? I love the city of Buffalo. I love the Elmwood Village. I’ve been in the EV since before it was such a thing. I’m happy to see how it’s grown. A hot bed of intellectuals, hipsters, money-begging vagabonds (just say “Sorry” or give them the quarter floating around at the bottom of your purse, no biggie!), and awesome coffee. Seriously, don’t bother with Starbucks. Go local. It’s better. I love the diversity of the city. I value the diversity.

6. What experiences have I had that I am grateful for? Every possible event, emotion, person I’ve met, and state of mind I’ve ever been in has contributed to the person I have become. “I am not original. I am a combination of everyone I’ve ever met.”

7. What happened today/yesterday/this week/this month/this year that I am grateful for? Today : I woke up next to my best friend. I woke up. Yesterday: Another 12+ hour day was in the books and I got to curl up on the couch, with pizza and wine, and watch Angel. I love hanging out with Mr. Sam. This week: Three day weekend! My first consecutive three-days off since July! This month: Winding down and getting ready for graduation next month 😀 This year: ok, this is going to sound bad, but no one died. No one I’m close to anyway. I’ve been to a few too many funerals in the last three years. This year, no one died. I was spared this year.

8. What opportunities do I have that I am thankful for? I am about to be unleashed into the working world and I have the tools necessary to begin a career. I can start planning a wedding next year :D. I have the opportunity to continue traveling with Costa Rica being my next adventure.

9. What have others in my life done that I am thankful for? Given perspective. Given love. Given acceptance. Given me a chance.

10. What have others done that I am benefiting from in my life (even if I don’t know who those people are)? Kept our culture alive. Kept optimism in their hearts. Loved one another. Shown me who I want to be and who I don’t want to be.

11. What relationships am I thankful for? Mother-daughter. Father-daughter. Sister-Sister. Best friends. Partners-in-Crime. Mr. & Ms. Sam.

12. What am I taking for granted that, if I stop to think about it, I am grateful for? My parents telling me when I was little “we won’t be around forever.” It used to make me very upset but it was for a reason. They aren’t here anymore but it’s those few words that allow me to face reality head on. I’ve been stronger for it.

13. What is there about the challenges/difficulties I have experienced (or am currently experiencing) that I can be thankful for? I can confidently say, with no reservation, that I am a strong woman.

14. What is different today than it was a year ago that I’m thankful for? I am looking forward to the holidays. I still get these little jags of emotion that make me want to cry, throw myself up against the wall, and want to do nothing until they come back. BUT- it’s not the focus of these holidays. I’m ready to have my first holiday season with my live-in husband-to-be.

15.What insights have I gained that I am grateful for? It could always be worse, I’m just happy with what I have.