Category Archives: writing

When Your Parents Get Old

oak tree

The first time you realize your parents might be getting old, is when they forget the name of their favorite snack.

It’s subtle, and doesn’t bother you that much. It just creeps up a little bit.

“Honey, what is the name of that cheese snack that has the fish on it?” your mom might say.

“Do you mean ‘Goldfish?'”

And she’ll nod and say, “Oh of course that’s what I meant to say.”

Then you quickly forget about it. After all, everybody forgets something.

The realization doesn’t happen again until they forget where Best Buy is located. And you try to mention to your father, “You know dad, its always been here. You’ve been able to find it before, why can’t you remember it now?”

And while you’re in the car, trying to give directions, he’ll complain about how your music is too loud, and it’s distracting him, even though it’s actually his album of ABBA that’s playing from the stereo.

Then as soon as you go into the large blue building that envelopes you in a space that is filled with buzzing gadgets and white noise, the man who used to advise you on technology, is now asking you for help.

It’s okay though. Because really, technology is changing all the time. You think to yourself, “Well, not everyone knows what Android’s are.”

So you push back the idea again. Because it’s a little bit terrifying, and a little bit sad. That maybe, just maybe, they’re not the same person anymore.

But after you’ve been away for a few months, and you come back to visit, it hits hard. Really hard.

Your mom calls you by a different name.

Your dad yells at you for not feeding the cat, when in actuality, you just did.

You have to yell the McDonald’s order out from the passenger seat, because your parents take too long to order and end up forgetting what, “That thing with cheese and tomatoes” is called. Which by the way, is a single cheeseburger.

Probably the worst is when your mom can’t go out and do the one thing that she loves the most: running. She doesn’t mention it to you, because she’s embarrassed and knows you’ll harass her about it, but you can’t help but notice that she’s stopped putting on her florescent Nike tennis shoes early in the morning.

And you don’t want to ask. It’s the very. last. thing. you want to ask. But you have to — it’s not a choice.

“Mom. Why aren’t you running anymore?” you’ll ask when she pours you orange juice for breakfast (which by the way, you’ve told her since elementary school that you despise that stupid citrus drink.)

And she won’t look at you. No, she’ll go back to the kitchen counter and start buttering the toast. But she’ll mutter softly:

“The doctor told me I shouldn’t run anymore.”

Then that’s that. Maybe you’ll ask her to expand, and she’ll say something about a bad hip and maybe needing surgery, and then you have to face reality.

Your friends around you are getting married and having children. You, yourself, are making new relationships and learning more about what you want in life, bit by bit.

And while your life is going on around you and you’re focused on your own thing — the two people that meant the world to you are now changing themselves. They are still the doting people that raised you, but they’re also the people that you’ll someday have to dote on, and someday. Someday, you will have to learn to live without.

But until then. You will hold their hand as you help them up the icy stairs to the shopping mall, and both of you will curse the establishment for being too cheap to put salt on the stairs — completely ignoring the fact that it really isn’t icy.

And you will explain to your parents that yes, times are changing and more people are getting tattoos, and there is such a thing as liking too many Facebook photos in one sitting.

And when you bring your mom to the doctor as she gets ready for her hip surgery, you will whisper in her ear that you love her, and that no amount of time will ever change that.

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On Self-Loathing

shadow

Self-loathing is the unshakable tormenting imaginary friend that every 20-something young adult tries hard to break a relationship with.

It’s that invisible whisper in your ear that reminds you why you’re not good enough and doesn’t let you sleep at night. It’s that transparent body that blocks you from moving forward and tells you that you might as well just go back to where you came from. It sometimes takes the form of a parent, a friend, or even a stranger who chuckles at your naivety and mocks you with a middle finger.

For myself, my self-loathing became more prominent my fall semester of my sophomore year. In everything I did — no matter if it was successful — there was an auspicious awareness that it was not good enough and would amount to nothing. No matter what I did this semester: present a speech before First Lady Michelle Obama, get promoted to News Editor, meet amazing writers, and among other things that I was lucky to take part in — I still came back to my dorm riddled with anxiety and stress over my apparent inability to produce anything worthy of being called, “good.”

Even self-loathing made me stop blogging after I posted the most successful blog post I ever had.

And like so many self infatuated young adults, I assumed it was just me that had this problem. It wasn’t until I was at a party when a friend of mine drunkenly confessed her feelings of inept when it came to herself, her work and her future. In my opinion, she was an extremely amazing artist (her undergrad major) and that it was silly to spend time hating herself when she was perhaps one of the few people I admired my age.

In contrast, I think of my friends who are confident in themselves but are ignorant to their lack of ability. Like most young adults, I have many friends who want to be authors, photographs, artists, actors; but are acutely unaware that the work they currently produce is lackluster.

Why do talented people feel like their contributions are below average, and why do untalented people feel like their contributions are “God’s gift to mankind?”

In a quote from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird: Miss Maudie speaks about Atticus’ hidden shooting talent and says, “People in their right minds never take pride in their talents.”

While perpetual and severe self-loathing is never a good thing as it is detrimental to someone’s own psyche — an understanding of humility and one’s own lack of ability is a thing that a person can learn from. The person who believes they have a lot to learn will eventually outshine the person who believes they are superior and gifted.

In turn however — humility is a balancing act. Recently, I had an internship interview at a prominent newspaper in Iowa. I was 100% positive they weren’t even going to contact me for an interview. When I did get contacted for an interview, I was in immediate panic mode and was sure that I was going to do a terrible job and would be an unqualified candidate. My best friend’s father gave me the simple advice of acting like the paper would be lucky to have me, instead of the other way around. Through this simple façade of courage and vigor — I know that the interview went 10x better than it would have if I went in with a determination that I was unfit for the position.

But things like acting confident during an interview is obvious. It’s the balancing act of humility and courage that young adults need to sort through when applying for jobs/colleges, swimming through the dating scene or even living their everyday lives.

Most young adults in this generation lack assertiveness and confidence which is saddening. We lack the ability to feel strongly about something or voice our opinion for fear of offending someone. And then when we do stand up for ourselves or do something daring — we chastise ourselves for it immediately afterwards and follow up with, “but that’s just my own opinion” or “but I could definitely be wrong.”

At the same time, American society is individualistic and is focused on the sole person. Parents smother their children with overbearing compliments and comfort, and those children turn into young adults who fail to see themselves past the veil of, “Oh Johnny, you were the best pumpkin in the play out of all of them.”

So after rambling about the same thing over and over again — I leave you with this one belief that I’ve acquired.

I would rather do great things and self-loathe myself, rather than be mediocre and live in naive state of mind. I would rather be talented and not talk about it than be average and act boastful. I would rather believe other people are better than me, than proclaim myself as the best.

At the same time — there are certain things confident people have a better chance to get such as happiness, friends and certain things that require charisma such as a job interview or even a job offer.

So after today, I am going to try and learn how to live with my self-loathing imaginary friend, and take everything he says with a grain of salt.

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Why I Wish I Wrote More Often

At my age, I haven’t lived long enough to have any major regrets. There’s a few minor ones that I remember such as not attending a friend’s Bar Mitzvah or wishing that I actually stuck with that New Year’s resolution to lose weight. But for the most part, I’ve luckily been saved from any major self-induced heartbreak.

Right now however, I wish I would have written more often my entire lifetime.

If I chronicled my days in a journal when I was younger, perhaps I would have a better understanding of the person that I am right now. If I wrote poetry when I was younger, perhaps I’d have the ability to thoughtfully provoke life lessons in each thing I do and pair it with a clever metaphor.

Perhaps if I read and wrote more often, I’d be a more articulate person that wouldn’t be so damn lazy and occasionally look at writing assignment with disdain.

And maybe writing would become an easy rhythm and it would be easy to sit down with a blank Microsoft Word document staring blankly ahead of me and create content that would just be dashing and wonderful.

The title of this article before I published it on WordPress was documented as “FINISH THIS FOR ONCE.doc.” These threatening titles are a trend for my documents on my computer. I also have, “DON’T BE LAZY.doc” and the classy, “STOP STREAMING NETFLIX.doc.”

I mentioned to a family friend once that I felt guilty that I hadn’t blogged for a while. Her reply was simply, “Write when you feel inspired.”

That doesn’t cut it for me.

While for many, it can be a legitimate excuse, for me, it’s just that— An excuse. Thankfully, I’ve had many ideas. Shamefully, many of them don’t come into fruition because I just can’t bring myself to write. At night, I often worry that the ideas I have will drip out of my ear and on to my pillow, simply because I have not engaged in the act of producing and thoughtfully analyzing content for a while.

But even if there are no grand ideas, I believe people should still write. Perhaps that will be the biggest learning experience of them all: producing quality content when you know you have no idea what you’re doing whatsoever. It’s the challenge of coming up with something unique along with your ferocious combination of a lively vocabulary and some mean grammar.

And so with that, I have decided that for this school year, I will take my own advice and let go of the excuses. Even if something I write is complete and utter garbage, it is worth the challenge to have learned something and perhaps get those few perfectly articulated sentences.

I wish that I wrote more when I was younger. Well. There’s no better time than now to try and fix that.

And so I ask, is there anything that you wish you would have down when you were younger, and if so, what can you do now to try and achieve that past goal?

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The Heartbreak Bloggers Face

Today I visited campus to help with orientation. An acquaintance came up to me and asked me if I still write.

I said no.

He offered up a suggestion and then we were both on our way.

My “no” was a simple answer, but it doesn’t live up to the agony and self-loathing that has occurred for the past few weeks.

He doesn’t know that for the past few weeks, I have 17 blog drafts that have a few feeble sentences on each one. Born from a burst of light in my mind, but not strong enough and quickly dead on my florescent computer screen.

He doesn’t know that I have been trying to push ideas through my cranium, jamming my fingers against the cold unforgiving keyboard, begging my mind:

“PLEASE. PLEASE LET ME WRITE SOMETHING.”

And deep down inside, I question, “Is this the end? Will this be another project where I was too lazy, too uninspired, too unnoticed, too little reward… Will this end up in the depths of my computer’s recycling bin where I will try to forget it and not remember that this is another one of my many projects that started out great and ended in a complete catastrophe.

He doesn’t know that every time I write something, I question if someone will actually read it. Or perhaps they’ll press that little “like” star button without reading it, just because some other asshole also wants me to visit his blog. To actually READ his blog, because god forbid that it was too hard for him to read mine but he made an effort and pressed a little star to try and make me go visit his.

He doesn’t know that as a writer you’re EXPECTED to spill your guts, but if someone was to lay me down and dissect my stomach, they would only find spicy cheeto’s and sour gummy worms.

And in that one moment, in that one flick of an eye, I reach out for an idea and it’s gone. It’s gone. Or when I grasp that idea but then try to push it through my fingers onto the keyboard… My mind gets in the way and my fingers fumble and they don’t know what to do or what to say or how to feel or what the point even is. (And yes. Ending in a preposition is bad, but I don’t see the grammar police crashing through me ceiling.)

Why oh why does everthing that a writer loves, dies?

Shakespeare, for example. He kills everything. Why does he kill the people that he nurtured and loved and gave life to, only to take it away with the quickness of a pen scratch?

And perhaps I can’t think of any ideas because sometimes it feels like I’m writing not for myself, but for the views. Yes we all know that feeling. That little jump in our heart when we see that random person from Australia has viewed our post and we think, “Oh yay. Our miniscule part that we hope to leave on the world has actually been read from across the Atlantic.”

This evening I thought about my answer. “No.” It pounded against my head. “No, no, no, no, no, no, no.”

No– I don’t care about oxford commas or even commas in general. No– I’ve stopped trying to get people to understand the messed up shit that comes from my mind. No– I’m sick of trying to write for other people or for potential employers. No– I haven’t been writing for myself.

Yes. I will say it now. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

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Old School Meets New School

As time and technology tinker on, they either leaves us in the dust or we run alongside them, trying to improve ourselves and evolve our standards.

We’ve seen this in the realm of journalism. Major newspapers are enforcing paywalls, newspapers are cutting days from their publishing week and readers have such a vast variety of choices when choosing the news that we struggle to keep up.

Some see this evolution into the age of technology as a stab to newspapers. Other’s see this as a wake-up call, urging journalists to revolutionize and appeal more to readers.

Whatever you may choose, right now the most dangerous thing to do is remain stagnant.

Ignoring change and continuing on like it’s 1980 is doing nobody any good. It’s not giving readers the full experience that can come from quality journalism and creative technology.

Likewise, ignoring the past and assuming knowledge of HTML and embedding videos are all you need for journalism leave you without the solid background of good writing and high journalism ethic.

But what is the next thing that is going to make the reader’s head turn?

Is it interesting interactive features or more “soft news” type articles like celebrity gossip or house cleaning advice?

And when is that you care about viewership too much and lose the integrity and hard news that once appealed to readers?

Whenever I tell people that I’m interested in journalism, some of the most common responses are, “Oh, you wanna be on television? Kind of like Good Morning America?” or “The news is so sad/boring.”

It’s obvious that reader’s (especially younger one’s) have a distinct opinion of the news. It’s either that thing that pops up on your local channel at five o’ clock, or it’s a newspaper story that involves tragedy and war.

What is the next big thing we can do that attracts readers of all ages that doesn’t bore them but also retains integrity?

Putting more emphasis into online journalism is definitely essential. Sure, hard copy newspapers are nice to have and advertisements are more expensive, but more and more people are reading or watching the news on their cellphones and tablets. I admit that I only pick up a hard copy when I get a newspaper for free when I buy a tank of gas. Otherwise, it’s all read on my iPad or online.

I’ve seen many atrocious small local newspaper websites that don’t contain any special features or interactive part to their online site. Also, the interface is clunky and hard to look at.

There are other sites however that overdo it with videos that automatically play, obnoxious backgrounds and pop-up advertisements that show up with each page click.

Keeping a balance between the old and new is essential, just like with any job. It’s no secret, and it’s advice we hear everyday.

Yet why is hard news journalism so slow to change?

Don’t stand still. Think of what the reader likes right now, and be set and ready for what they’re going to want in the future. Use creativity and think of the next big thing– don’t wait for technology to blow your newspaper out of the dust.

It all seems like obvious statements, but why are we in the current state of newspaper purgatory right now?  We’re neither alive nor dead, neither needed nor unwanted.

We need to make ourselves alive and wanted. Think of what your readers want, and then one up that.

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Writer’s Block

writer's block, writing, blank

Writer’s block is one of the most annoying/horrific things that can occur. Whether writing a paper for a class or composing a poem for fun, there is nothing more stressful or time consuming than writer’s block.

For me, I’ve been stuck on things to create for this blog. Without much former blogging experience or set schedule for posting content, I just post things on a whim.

While I like having the freedom to do anything, whenever I want, that doesn’t help me stay inspired and create new content. It’s the forced, “Oh my god, I have no time!” feeling that keeps me going and makes me rush through a barrage of ideas.

While luckily, writer’s block is less prevalent for writing news stories, there are situations where I have no clue what the next step should be, or how I can fill some extra space with meaningful content.

Sometimes I just want to stick in a bland quote here or there and call it a day, but that doesn’t solve the true issue behind writer’s block, does it?

From Columbia University comes a great series of writing tips called “Break Writing.” I would suggest looking through them if you want tips on how to be a great writer, but for the particular page I linked, there are various tips and tricks on how to break past “writer’s block.”

One of the best tips they provided however was, “Just keep writing.”

No matter if it’s an utter mass of garbage, the act of thinking through something and typing it down gives enough momentum for something spectacular to conjure up.

For every crappy few paragraphs one writes, there has to be a shiny great sentence underneath the rest of the trash.

When I’m over-critical of myself, I find myself doubting my abilities and unable to create an idea that I find worthy.

I find that the great writers I’ve met in my life often have this problem. They start on a project, deem the content worthless and then decide to throw it all away when they can’t come up with what they consider magnificent.

Why do we do that to ourselves?

Creating something from nothing is always strenuous and extremely personal. When I write short stories for fun, I judge myself harshly for my work and consider what other people would think if they read my piece.

As writers, we are our own worst enemy. We are asked to delve into the depths of our minds and lay out a piece of ourselves, even if it’s fiction or non-fiction. It’s terrifying being asked to explain ourselves in words, and worse when we are misunderstood. It’s no wonder that writers often find themselves in a rut. We put so much pressure on ourselves that the free flow of ideas are hindered by nervousness and stress.

And that is why, for myself, being on a time crunch where I don’t have time to over-analyze myself is helpful when creating work. I wish I didn’t have to do that since I feel like I could create higher quality pieces with more time, but we have to deal with our own faults.

The best way to get through writer’s block? While it sounds ironic, just keep writing.

So I ask, when faced with writer’s block, how do you escape from it?

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