Friday, March 28, 2014

We Should All Live More Like Amy Poehler

I've talked in previous posts about the human wonder that is Amy Poehler. To the casual fan, she's funny and a talented actress. But look further and she actually has some amazing life wisdom to dole out. And who better to take gif-form advice from than one of the most successful, ground-breaking female comedians in the game?

Don't spend half your life wondering if something's going to make you look silly. A lot of things probably will, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't do them anyway. Anything worth doing is a risk, but sometimes risks pay off, and the only way to know is to try. Do as Amy says: own it. If you look confident doing something, whether it's an improv class or wearing an out of the ordinary outfit, people will be less likely to question you. If you're having fun and happy with yourself, that's what matters.

There's an old adage that if you wait until you're ready, you'll be waiting for the rest of your life. Things can't always be perfectly planned out, and that's okay. Some of the best things in life come when you go with the flow and figure out all the details later. If you want to move somewhere and build a life, or go for a big promotion, sometimes you have to stop psyching yourself out and just go for it.

I just want to kiss her for saying this. Too often, young girls pander in an effort to make guys like them without ever stopping to think about whether or not these boys are actually worthy of their time. I've seen so many successful, driven women settle for men who don't deserve them. So if a man isn't living up to your expectations, you don't have to pretend he is. Find someone who really makes you laugh.

Life is not the pursuit of searching for someone or something to complete you. You are complete in your own right, it's just a matter of bringing that out in yourself. So stop saying you'll finally succeed when you get that one thing, or that you'll finally be happy when you meet the right person. You have all the tools you need to be happy with yourself if you just use them.

It's easy to fall into the trap where you think the only way to be successful is to be hard and tough all the time. There's a time to be tough, but there is also beauty and utility in letting yourself be vulnerable. It's a natural human feeling that we shouldn't deny ourselves. Without vulnerability we can never let other people in, and letting others in is how we expand our own solitary happiness.

This may seem like common sense, but there are way too many people out there (myself included) who don't always know when to let go of toxic relationships and friendships. Friends and family and significant others should support you, and be proud of you, and make your life better, and bright, and happier. If they aren't doing that, it can be self-loving to cut yourself free of them.

It's another trap people regularly fall into to believe that the failure of others will further your success. The most successful people have friends in their industry, and actively root for the success of their peers. You might make it to the top pushing other people down at every turn, but it will be a long and lonely trip. 

Life is a constant state of self-discovery, and the things meant for you will come your way as you start to find yourself. If you're constantly attempting to make others happy before yourself, you'll have a much harder time figuring out what it is that fulfills you. Once you let go of those expectations and start working hard toward your own goals, the right things will start gravitating to you. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How to: Emotional Spring Cleaning

While spring hasn't actually really sprung here in Chicago, it is almost April, which means it's time for some spring cleaning. And while I'm not partial to the literal kind of cleaning, I can do the emotional kind. I think it's important to always be conscious of how you feel, and the start of a new season is a great time to put in the effort.

Take Stock of Your Goals
Everyone's got goals, whether it's a goal for next week or a goal for ten years down the road. And while it's awesome to have them, it's easy to lose sight of them when you're crazy busy with everyday life. Do yourself a favor and physically write them down. Make a few categories: goals for the end of the month, goals for the end of this semester/season, goals for the rest of 2014, goals for the next 5 years, ten years, etc. Once you have them written down, it's a lot easier to figure out smaller steps to actually get you there. Even if something is five years down the road, there's still probably some small thing you can do now that will help you achieve it.

Phase out Toxic Relationships
Whether it's a manipulative boyfriend or the girl at work who's famous for backhanded compliments, take care of yourself by ending things. With a romantic relationship there has to be an actual break-up, but it's sometimes trickier to end things with a friend. If you're looking to avoid a huge conflict, you can attempt to slowly phase them out by hanging out with them less and less. You might feel bad about it now, but toxic relationships do nothing but bring you down.

Do Something for Yourself
With the drudge of daily tasks it's easy to forget to do things that make you happy. This spring, as the depressing winter lifts, lift your mood by treating yourself. Get a manicure, go on a day trip with friends, or read a book. You're bound to have a more positive outlook on the months to come when you're feeling emotionally cared for. Bonus points if you try something new that you've been meaning to, whether it's a workout class or a new running path.

Talk Yourself Up
"Positive self talk" may seem like therapy talk, but it really works. Being mindful about the way you perceive yourself can do wonders for your mood. Rather than beating yourself up for bombing a test or missing a workout, cut yourself some slack. Treat yourself the way you'd want others to treat you- with kindness and respect. If you don't appreciate and believe in yourself, it'll be a lot harder for other people to do so.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Match Made in Heaven: Printed Co-ordinates

I am, admittedly, obsessed with clothes. I live in downtown Chicago, where some of the best shopping is out my front door and down the block. I inhale fashion spreads in magazines, and I obsessively followed Fashion Month tweets. But in my own life, I'm a girl from the Midwest who's sometimes afraid to try the new trends I see and love so much. When I was growing up, if you went to school in a sundress and a cardigan, people asked why you were so dressed up. Jeans and t-shirts are decidedly the uniform of small towns, and it's hard to pull yourself out of that mindset. 

But it's my resolve now that I'm living in a big city to try new things. Not everyone will love it or get it, sure, but the way you dress can be a beautiful form of self-expression, so as long as it makes you happy, who cares? So with that in mind, here's one of the spring 2014 trends I am in love with, and can't wait to try myself: co-ordinates.

Co-ordinates are great because they're so versatile: buy a co-ord set and you can wear it together or wear the pieces separately, making it worth your money much more than a traditional one-piece dress. There's so much potential to create new outfits from the two pieces. Also, though, I love the idea of wearing them together. Getting matchy with print pieces (or texture knits) is a pop of excitement in the sea of people on the streets all sticking to solid colors and styles. You can match a skirt and crop top co-ord for a cocktail event, or go for shorts and a jacket combo for class. 

While designer co-ords are everywhere, they're still a bit hard to find for a reasonable price. I'm including some of my favorites here that won't break the bank. And just remember: buying a co-ordinates is like buying a shirt, a skirt, and a dress all in one, so you don't have to feel bad about the money spent!
Slimskii, $44.95 for set
AQUA, $58 for top, $78 for bottom, $32 for top and $26 for bottom, $40 for top and $32 for bottom
Topshop, $140 for set

Growing Up Sick

You could say I've always been a sickly kid. Growing up, I had pneumonia nine times before the age of ten. In junior high and high school, I had chronic migraines so bad that some days I couldn't see straight. And then senior year I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. It's been kind of a crazy ride, but I've always managed to keep my morale up. Even if I'm not feeling great, there's always someone who's sicker than I am, so why complain?

This week, though, put me to the test. I spent all day yesterday in doctor's offices trying to figure out if my chest hurt because of a cough, or my stomach, or something else. I've had pretty much every medical test known to man done on me at this point, so I'm used to all that, but sometimes it's really hard to balance not feeling great with all my other responsibilities. When you're little and you miss school, your mom just calls you in sick. In the real world, it's a little harder to explain why you're out of commission so often. Luckily my problems turned out to have a pretty easy fix, but it got me thinking about how people deal with chronic illness.
This would be me this past weekend, ignoring how sick I was so I could go enjoy St. Patrick's Day with my friends
In spite of always being sick, I've also always led a super busy life. In grade school I was in every club imaginable. In high school, it was a juggling act with AP classes, friends, cheerleading, and a part-time job. Now in college, I'm busier than I've ever been. I take a full course load, I'm in a sorority, and I have three jobs. And in addition to all that, I try to go out and have fun with friends as much as possible so I can really enjoy my senior year. I kind of don't know what to do with myself when I'm not really busy.

That's why I think I get so easily frustrated when I do get sick: I go at life full speed ahead, so it's really hard when something out of my control slows me down. I want to be constantly on like all the healthy college kids around me, and I get flustered when I have to take a step back to take care of myself. I've been feeling sick for a few weeks now and chose to ignore it because I had too much going on, a decision that just ended up making me sicker. I have all kinds of plans for myself and my life, and none of them include letting any kind of illness get in the way. It's usually a good thing, but sometimes I need to learn that it's okay to not always be at 100%.

So for the fellow sick kids out there, keep on working at it. As much as you can, don't let being sick get in the way of life experiences, but also know that it's okay to acknowledge if you aren't doing your best. It's never fun to fall behind in school because of doctor's appointments, or to be the one who can't go out because you're not feeling great. But I also appreciate the things that growing up sick has taught me: it's made me optimistic by default, and I work hard for the things I want because I don't take the bouts of being healthy for granted. I promise you, there's a silver lining to any situation if you look hard enough.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Let's Talk About Sex, Baby

A few weeks ago, it was revealed that a freshman at Duke had an unconventional side job: she's a porn star. I thought it was an interesting story when I first heard about it, but I honestly didn't think twice: to me, that doesn't seem like that big of a deal. Duke is an expensive school, so do what you've got to to get that first class education. Unfortunately, a lot of other people disagree, and decided to take to the internet to call this girl a slut and a whore.

This is indicative of a much bigger problem: as a society, we need to change the way we talk about sex. By censoring sexuality we're making kids think there's something inherently unnatural or dirty about sex. This breeds young adults who feel that it's within their rights to label a woman a slut for making personal choices in regard to her own sex life. Why should there be a negative connotation to a consenting adult who has sex with who they want to have sex with, for reasons all their own?

Porn might be an extreme example, but I think if you asked a group of young women if they've ever been called a slut or a whore or something to an equal effect, most would respond in the affirmative. I certainly have, and I hear men and women alike throw the phrase around constantly. I'm not sure what it is about sexual proclivities or frequency that people deem connected to a person's worth, but it happens all the time. Man or woman, two sexual partners or 20, we do not have the right to judge another person's value by the number of people they have sex with. Sex is natural, sex is fun, and whether you have it on the first date or wait for marriage? None of that has to do with your worth as a human being. Having sex does not somehow devalue you, and enjoying sex is a good thing.

I sincerely hope that if I have kids one day, the word "slut" isn't in their vocabulary. By calling women who make sexual decisions we wouldn't make bad names, we are taking away their personal agency and right to make their own decisions. I want young adults growing up to know that sex is normal, and a good thing as long as it's done safely. We shouldn't be embarrassed to talk about it. Masturbation is acceptable, sex toys are acceptable, watching porn is acceptable. What's not acceptable is shaming others for what they decide to do with their bodies. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Losing Yourself to Find Yourself

I was talking with my dad the other night about relationships, and how easy it is to lose yourself in them. At 52 years old or at 22, we've both seen it happen to others and had it happen to us ourselves. When you're in love, it's so tempting to throw all of yourself into your life with this other person: it feels comforting. Your life becomes "our life," which doesn't have to be a bad thing. Plenty of people have happy, functional relationships where they're part of a whole but still whole themselves. But today, I want to talk about the other kind: the kind where "you" ceases to exist in favor of "us."

When I was talking to my dad, he described getting out of those types of toxic relationships as being reborn as a person. That might sound a little intense or dramatic, but it holds true for a lot of people. I loved my long-term relationship while I was in it and would never regret it, but I can say that in the time since it ended, I've discovered a thousand times more about myself than I did during the years I was sacrificing me for us. In a matter of months I've accomplished more personally and become more self-fulfilled than I did in years in an all-consuming relationship.

But that's the point: I would have never found me, and the things that make me happy, if I hadn't had the experience of losing me. My independence and strong-will were something I had always taken for granted because I just assumed they would always be there. It wasn't until I started shrinking into a relationship and changing myself to make someone else happy that I realized that part of myself could slip away so quickly. In fighting to get it back, I've learned to appreciate it that much more.

That's why I like to think of everything in life as a lesson: losing my sense of self was a learning experience, and now I know that when I do decide to get into a serious relationship again, I want to do so without disappearing into it. For now, I think it's important to just focus on rebuilding the person I want to be. When I was focusing all my energy on my relationship, I didn't have the time, the energy, or the drive to put my all into my writing or my career goals- now I do, and it's really paying off already. But when the time comes, I know the right person will encourage my goals, love my big personality and opinions, and help me grow. The right person doesn't make you disappear- they bring out the best in you.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

New Day, New Adventure: Chicago Divergent Premiere

Because I'm a lucky girl (and also because I'm a college newspaper reporter), I got to cover the Chicago red carpet premiere of Divergent this week. I was thrilled for a number of reasons. First of all, I always get really excited when I realize I'm getting paid to do awesome stuff like review movies. I love to write, and I'm a pop culture fanatic, so when the two things come together it's amazing. But I was even more psyched because I'm actually a huge fan of the Divergent book series. I never would've imagined when I was lying on my mom's couch reading the books that I'd end up going to the premiere. Life is crazy sometimes, right?

But anyway, I'll get down to the good stuff. I got to attend the red carpet where I was surrounded by dozens of screaming thirteen year old girls, but it was totally worth it. Veronica Roth, Shailene Woodley, Theo James, and Ansel Elgort were all there, and all incredibly nice and gracious. It took them forever to get all the way down the carpet because they stopped and signed books and posters for just about everyone.
Red Carpet 
As for the movie itself, I want to do my best to talk about it without spoilers, because even if you've read the book, I don't want to ruin anything for you. Short response: IT WAS AWESOME. As a native Chicagoan, it was nuts to see Navy Pier in a swamp, or the Hancock building abandoned. The visual effects people did amazing work. It was pretty damn close to how I imagined it in my head.

When I first heard about casting, I was unsure, just as I am whenever a book I love is adapted for the screen. But I had no reason to worry- the casting on this film was incredibly on point. Jai Courtney was easy to hate as Eric, as was Miles Teller as Peter. Zoe Kravitz was perfect as the sassy, brutally honest Christina, and Theo James brought the perfect amount of dry sarcasm to Four. Shailene Woodley was absolutely amazing as Tris. She managed to really integrate all the "divergent" parts of the character, from bravery to selfishness to intelligence. Warning: there is a particular scene towards the end where her acting is so flawless that if you don't cry, I'm pretty sure you don't have a soul.

Disclaimer for the book purists out there: it is not an exact adaptation (but what is, really?). The screenplay takes liberties where it needs to, but I was happy with the end result. If you're looking for certain specific lines straight from the page, you may be a little disappointed, but the film flowed smoothly and kept me on the edge of my seat. (There were actually points where I'd think to myself, "Oh my god, is she going to make it?!" full well knowing the answers from the book. But it was intense!)

To further add to my unreal week, I woke up bright and early the morning after the screening to go to the cast press conference. I wasn't sure what to expect walking into the hotel, but it was a beyond surreal experience. I was part of a small group of about a dozen journalists who got to speak with the stars from the premiere and Veronica Roth herself. As a writer, it was insanely awesome to cover my first press conference. As a fan, it was crazy to get all my questions answered by the people who worked to bring the scenes in my mind while I read to life.

Veronica had great insights about the text itself, and she spoke to the process of turning her novel into a two hour film and working with the screenwriters to make Divergent a reality:
"They'd ask me about the world and I'd tell them whatever they needed to know, but other than that I think it's important to just trust the people you decide to work with and just let go a little bit."
The film does make changes, but as Roth pointed out, the ideals of the story stayed the same, which is really what's most important at the end of the day. 

Ansel was incredibly sweet, and when I asked what he's most looking forward to filming in the next film, he said more scenes with Theo. I was expecting something about Caleb's turn toward a darker character with more depth, but the thing about the cast was that they all seemed to genuinely be friends, so his answer was fitting.

Theo was incredibly funny, something that makes sense after seeing his performance as Four. When asked what character he'd like to play if he could be anyone other than Four, he replied "Dumbledore" without missing a beat. He talked a bit about time spent on set, and how he once made Shailene do push-ups in front of a group of strangers because she made fun of him during training. The vibe between the actors seemed very familiar and fun.
Blurry- but me with Theo
I would have to say I was most impressed, however, by Shailene. She was incredibly articulate without seeming rehearsed, and she gave really thoughtful answers to the reporters' questions. When I asked her what it is about Tris that makes her such a powerful role model for fans, I really liked what she had to say:
"At the end of the day there are a lot of powerful messages that come from being an empowered woman. And that was one thing that when I read the book I really responded to. There are a lot of empowered females in films, but Tris isn’t badass by nature. She wasn’t born knowing how to survive in intense situations, she had to build her strength and she had to dig deep for her bravery and for her courage."
Press conferencing with the stars

So all in all, it's been an insanely awesome week in my life, and you should all pre-order your tickets for Divergent right this second (it hits theaters March 21st!). I'm dying waiting to have people to talk about it with, so let me know what you think once you see it! And stay tuned to my twitter for links to my official review in the newspaper as well as video from the press conference. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014


Happy International Women's Day! Today is a day for celebrating the women in your life, the women you look up to, women in positions of power, and yourself. It's also a day to be cognizant of the strides we still need to make to close the wage gap and increase percentages of women working in certain industries. A number that really hits home for me as an aspiring comedy writer? Women make up only 14% of television directors, and in the 2011-2012 TV season, women accounted for a mere 30% of writers. This is just one industry in dire need of more female representation.

But because I believe my generation is full of strong, ambitious women who won't stand for those kind of numbers, I am optimistic that we'll see big changes in coming years. I hope that on International Women's Day fifteen or twenty years from now, the landscape will be different. As women, we must constantly remind ourselves that we are just as capable of achieving success in these male dominated fields. Because if you don't believe in yourself, who will?
So today's post is dedicated to some women I find inspirational in my everyday attempts to close the gaps and make a better world for myself and for the young girls coming into the working world behind me. 

In case you missed Davis' filibuster this summer, Wendy stood for over 11 hours in an attempt to block Senate Bill 5, an bill attempting to further restrict abortion access in Texas. The bill ultimately passed in second session, but the filibuster wasn't just a moment for Davis, or for Texas. I watched the livestream from my couch in Illinois, and I would be lying to you if I said I didn't tear up at the end, when other politicians like Laticia Van De Putte jumped in to help Davis achieve her goal. In spite of the end results, Davis' pink sneakers became a sign of inspiration and perseverance for women everywhere who demand the ability to make their own decisions about their body and health. 

You've probably heard Malala's story: she spoke out against the Taliban, and in favor of access to education for women and girls, and ended up being shot for her bravery. Thankfully, and in spite of all odds, Malala survived. She's gone on to continue her push for women's education, and has been called "the world's leading advocate for educating girls." In America, we have the privilege of believing education for all children is a right. But in Malala's life it isn't, and she's fighting the injustice of that with intense bravery. She said it best when she spoke to the United Nations: "One child, one teacher, one pen, and one book can change the world."

Amy Poehler
Amy Poehler could have just made this list by being a smart, funny woman who's constantly pushing the boundaries. Comedy has generally always been a male dominated field, yet when I start to name women who have changed the face of comedy, the list is far too long to name here. But Amy Poehler doesn't just stop at TV, or movies, or SNL. She started "Amy Poehler's Smart Girls," an organization devoted to empowering young girls and women. Not only does the site encourage them to pursue their dreams, but it covers issues of self-love and reiterates to girls that it's not only okay, but good, to be yourself. 

The news is another industry that has been traditionally run by men, yet Arianna Huffington managed to found one of the most successful news outlets of today: the Huffington Post. As a woman who currently does work in journalism, Arianna is personally inspiring. Women like her, who have unprecedented success in their field, show younger women like me that the sky is the limit and anything can be made possible with hard work. We need Arianna Huffingtons and female entrepreneurs like her to pop up in every field, if only to show girls that it is in fact possible to break those barriers. Talent and determination can get you anywhere.