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Things I’m loving right now

I was offline for the past week while I was with Camp Kesem. Camp Kesem (a camp for children whose parents or primary caregivers have been affected by cancer) is one of the nonprofits I grew particularly attached to over the past couple of years, and I volunteer for them one week per year as a counselor for the 14-16 year old campers. This year was just as spectacularly amazing and life-changing as it was last year. I already had a year of experience with Camp Kesem so I thought I was mentally prepared, but again I was blown away by the campers. When they have every right in the world to be selfish and focus on their own difficulties, they are some of the most caring, generous and fun people I have ever met. There’s nothing quite like that warm fuzzy feeling after camp when the magic hits you.

Now that I’m all settled in at home again, I’ve returned my focus to the job hunt and post-grad life. While writing cover letters isn’t the most enjoyable thing in the world, I get pretty fired up thinking about the future and all the different opportunities I have ahead of me. I’m really enjoying this stage of life that I’m in. It’s totally flexible and could be anything at this point. I know that kind of uncertainty might make some people anxious, but I’m enjoying it. It gives me a lot of chances to follow my dad’s favorite piece of advice, “the sky is the limit.” Sidenote: I realize that there is a lot beyond the sky. In fact, the vast majority of everything is outside the reach of our planet. However, I still appreciate the spirit of the phrase that has motivated me since I was a little girl. And the jobs I am applying for happen to be within the limit of the sky.

I wanted to share a few of the things that I’m loving right now. I love being able to find joy and beauty in the little things. When that happens, I love telling my friends, or the whole internet in this case.

1. There’s a lot of awesome music in the world right now. Here are some of the tracks I’m listening to.

2. Maple View Farms chocolate milk. Ohhhh it’s so yummy. Chocolate milk is usually one of my favorite treats and theirs is especially creamy and delicious. (Like everything else they produce)

3. I’ve had a lot more time to cook from scratch. Thanks, Pinterest for these great recipes! I recommend them to anyone who likes food, even a little bit. I was really inspired by all the French, Italian and Greek cuisine when I returned from the trip with my sister, so I loved finding this recipe for the vinaigrette found on every salad in France, as well as homemade mayonnaise. You know there is truly no substitute if you’ve ever had it. I also brought back a box of macaron mix that I’m saving for later (I know! *hisses* Pre-made mixes, sacrilege. But this one was carried home from France so it’s okay, right?). All my travels helped me realize just how common processed food is in America, and how much more delicious it is to keep recipes to the essentials. It’s hard to beat something as simple as a homemade loaf of bread with olive oil with freshly-ground pepper. Simple, but certainly not plain. Also, let me just say that the Greek have a way with iced coffee. Other recipes I’m loving:
· Chickpea, Feta and Parsley Salad I found this one at Weaver Street Market and immediately searched for a copycat when I got home
· Kale Salad with Pine Nuts and Cranberries It might be a little faddish with the kale, but yummy regardless
· Eggs Benedict Brunch lovers, unite! Bonus points for homemade English muffins
· Green Goddess Sandwiches Lunch has just been changed forever
· Ranchero Breakfast Tostadas Anything with black beans, yes please

4. Breaking in my new running shoes. They might hurt my knees right now…I definitely should get some inserts, but still, there’s something fun about new shoes. There’s whole new world of adventure out there! And my feet are ready.

5. It’s not a million degrees outside anymore. Granted, there is always the notorious North Carolina September heat wave, but I’m enjoying the weather right now.

6. Working from my front porch

7. Rediscovering some of my mom’s old blankets with some awesome retro designs

8. I have time to do a lot of writing, like this!

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(Belated) Reflections on Sophomore Year

Ain’t no slump like a sophomore slump cause a sophomore slump hits hard.

Schlump.

I have so many drafts of posts ready to go as soon as they got a little more love, so I’m starting on that list by finishing the ones I said I’d start about my four years at UNC (if you followed that train of thought). For reference, here’s where I said I would do this. (And I’m going to back date this post so it’s like I never forgot to do it. Time travel! OooooOOOoooOoooo)

Back to the schlump. So sophomore year started out optimistically. I was living with three friends in a kickin’ dorm on south campus, getting more into the sorority life and considering a leadership position, and narrowing my interests by focusing on UNC Dance Marathon rather than 15 different clubs. I had made it through CHEM 101 and 102, and had a good start on my pre-med pre-requisites. Sophomore year is when things start to get serious. Other students begin being accepted to the professional schools and delving into their personal tracks.

Here’s the thing though. I had no clue what I was doing. I just wanted someone to tell me why everyone else in pre-med was having such an easy time knowing exactly what classes to take with whom, how to get started on research positions and where to shadow physicians. I asked my peers a lot of questions, but I knew I just wasn’t as into it as they were. I even talked to the super intimidating pre-med advisor, and he confirmed everything that I had heard: I could do it, but it would certainly suck along the way.

Not being thrilled about a life full of suck for the next 10 years, I decided to see where my heart was. To put it to the test, I decided to shadow a D.O. and an M.D. (a good family friend and my uncle, respectively). If I was still passionate about helping people, I would stay the track and suck it up like everyone else. I believe I shadowed my neighbor first. She’s an incredible physician at a back clinic (now she has her own practice elsewhere, but at the time she was at a back clinic) and let me watch x-ray guided procedures. It was super cool. She answered a ton of questions and I felt really good when I left. But not inspired. I shadowed my uncle in Michigan, where he’s a general practitioner, over spring break. He was very welcoming and let me observe his hospital visits as well as clinic visits. It was so easy to see that his patients loved him and trusted him. Again, a great experience, but not inspired.

It didn’t add up. I had always loved my science classes and had a great memory for anatomy and the different systems, drugs and diagnoses. I knew I wanted to enter a field where I was helping people. So why wasn’t I enjoying medicine? First semester, I tried taking organic chemistry and dropped it when I found myself hating it. I knew at that point that I wasn’t happy, so why bother taking that class that could ruin my GPA forever. There’s one thing I should mention. I was not a purely math and science person in high school, or ever for that matter. There’s a tinge of hippie in my mom’s side of the family, so my sister and I were always encouraged to do what made our hearts happy: draw, run, play and immerse ourselves in the world around us. I found myself loving the arts, especially every form of the visual arts. I loved the creativity involved in expressing your own style and take on the world. I loved that I could use my hands to take my thoughts from inside my brain to outside where everyone else could see them.

So when it came to it, I realized that I was missing that sort of opportunity for expression and connecting with people on a deeper level. I didn’t like that in medicine it felt like it was treat one, on to the next. I most of all didn’t like that there was no room for creativity. That was one of the things I asked my uncle, once I realized that was how I felt. I asked him, where do you get to be creative? And he had a perfectly legitimate answer, that you can be creative in the questions you ask your patients in getting to know them, or in coming up with a treatment regimen. It just wasn’t the kind of creativity I was looking for.

SO.

That left a big freaking uh-oh in my life plans. By the time I realized I needed to go in a completely different direction, it was April of sophomore year. It was a long process of self-discovery, but ultimately I got lucky. My mom was a pharmacist, and she always had big dreams of me becoming a doctor. Literally. She told me once, “Last night I had a dream that you were a doctor and your patients loved you and it was the best dream ever! I’m so excited for you!” (Or something along those lines) Try saying “sorry, ix-nay on the octor-day, okay?” to the most supportive and happiest person in your life. She was never the kind of parent who hovered and demanded that I got good grades (although I still did) or pushed me in one direction over another. She was just happy for me no matter what. I didn’t realize that at the time, and was worried I would let her down. But, again, I was lucky. She said she was happy that I came to her and said what was on my mind, and that she knew I would succeed no matter what I did. (Seriously! How did I get so lucky?)

Lucky for two reasons, actually. One, Mom. Two, my perfect path was right in front of me. When I signed up for UNC Dance Marathon freshman year, I told myself it was at least partially for the experiences it offered me in a hospital. I had been considering pediatrics and loved helping people, so UNC-DM was a perfect fit. But, plot twist, I was placed on the Publicity committee, not Hospital committee like I had originally hoped. I was bummed for about 3 minutes when I found out freshman year, but stuck with it because I was surrounded by awesome people. And I’m not a quitter (okay fine except for medicine, but that was for a really good reason so back off). Publicity was fun. So I started asking around because I really looked up to those awesome creative people. And they told me I should try the J-school. A few of them were advertising, so I started there with an intro to Ad/PR class. And I loved it. (Hey Joe Bob! That was your class! Good times.) I met more people who I thought were really cool and decided yeah, I could enjoy doing this for a job.

Around the same time of my big realization, I moved into the sorority house (I got priority because I was a chapter officer, philanthropy chair), and spent spring semester there. After getting over that hump, the rest of sophomore year flew by.

Other highlights from sophomore year: being the website subchair for UNC-DM, starting Kappa’s Q for the Cause event (now in its fourth year!), crowd surfing during the annual finals week rave.

Sophomore year was not a good year in the music world. It was the year of Call Me Maybe, case in point. It was also the year that I caught onto the One Direction trend and Britney Spears tried to do another comeback. I went on an 80s kick because the current music was such a letdown. Well, what happened is in the past. There’s my playlist. Take a trip down memory lane or whatever.

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LLWOC: On Freshman Year

For my last last week of class (LLWOC), I’ve decided to dedicate each of the four days to reminiscing about each of the four years. Yesterday, Monday, was freshman year. So all day, the only music I listened to was from the time period of August 2010 and May 2011. Music, like scent, is one of those powerful things that can instantly transport you to a moment of time. In listening to these songs, I was carried through a lot of those little moments that slipped my mind, and it was really nice.

Last Friday Night, Cooler Than Me: Remember when these were the popular, overplayed songs on the radio? Hah!

The Lucky Ones: I thought I was pretty cool for discovering this singer-songwriter all on my own. I bought the whole album and listened to it often while making the 20-minute trek from good ol’ Craige to north campus. Gosh I can see it so clearly right now. Making a left out of my suite, down two flights of stairs, passing the magnolia leaves on the ground and sketchy bridge leading to the Manning/Ridge intersection, emerging out of the parking lot, waiting for the light outside Craige North, hating every single stupid loud beep from the crosswalk sign, climbing past Hardin and Morrison, through Rams, down Stadium, across South, and arriving to class thoroughly sweaty and out of breath. But I really loved that album. It was so soothing and seemed perfectly appropriate for my first year at UNC. Then, at a Clef Hangers concert when they were calling out alumni in the audience and they said Brendan James’ names, it all made sense.

Just The Way You Are, Misery, Fader, Black & Gold, Little Lion Man, Magic, Impossible: These are songs performed by a cappella groups that year. Shout out to the Achordants, Loreleis and Clef Hangers! After Sunset Serenade, a free a cappella concert on the quad the first week of classes, I was hooked. I became such an a cappella junkie. Not that I’m a particularly gifted singer myself, I just really loved hearing the groups perform together and make my favorite songs even better. When I first heard the Achordants sing Fader, I probably looked like Buddy the Elf meeting Santa Claus. My favorite song, sung by really cool people? Sounding even better? Best day ever! I was secretly one of the Achordants best fans for a while, not missing a single concert until junior year. I also made it to Clef Hangers, Loreleis, Cadence, Tar Heel Voices and Tarpeggios concerts over the years. They were all awesome. Just awesome.

Stereo Love, We R Who We R, Till The World Ends, No Hands, All Of The Lights, Driving Me Crazy: Ahh, yes. The songs of late night freshman year. The frat parties and the dorm rooms. I very clearly remember We R Who We R being the song I got ready to for my first Franklin Street Halloween experience. I remember Sammy Adams came to Lambda Chi that year for a concert. I didn’t actually get to go, but my suitemates did so I got to listening to his stuff. The rest of it, no good explanation. Bad music just happens sometimes.

Never Gonna Leave This Bed: This is the other hallmark album I associate with freshman year. I will only buy an entire album if I love every single song. And that was the case with this one. This song is still one of my all-time top favorites. I listened to this album so so much that year.

White Winter Hymnal, Your Ex-Lover Is Dead, Home: These songs are part of a moment halfway through freshman year. A couple of my friends lived in Morrison, so I was over there all the time. One night when we were in the lobby, they broke out a couple guitars and we started jamming. It didn’t matter if your voice was raspy or you didn’t know the lyrics. I think there were 7-8 of us. It all felt so natural and comfortable. It was a really good group of people and a great night. A lot of the time I spent with that group involved music actually; it’s something engrained in who they are and part of why I loved spending time with them.

The Show Goes On: I clearly remember this being a warmup song during my first ever Carolina basketball game. It was UNC vs. NC State. We won. It was awesome.

Life in Technicolor ii, I’m In Love, Teenage Wasteland: These are my freshman year UNC Dance Marathon songs. Life in Technicolor ii played in the background of a For the Kids story video, and from then on I associated this song with the organization and everything I love about it. Even this year I had it as the sound for alarms for UNC-DM events on my phone. I’m In Love is a song I remember being played at setup, as I was seeing it all come together for the first time. I don’t remember a lot from my first dance marathon– the earlier ones blend together– but I definitely remember that song and seeing my friends so excited to dance for 24 hours together. Teenage Wasteland. Ahh, the single song with the ability to make me emotional at the press of a button. This is the song that plays while the Executive Board reveals, one by one, the numbers that create the year’s fundraising total. I’ve written a lot about dance marathon, so you know how much it means to me already. I’ll just say the first time I saw the balloons drop after revealing the number was one of those eye-opening events that made me see things differently, permanently.

Such a happy little freshman

Such a happy little freshman

If I had known how much my decisions that year would come to affect who I am now, I think I would’ve been more deliberate about them. But then again, I’m glad I had no idea. I definitely heard people telling me that advice, but if I had taken the time to really grasp what all my decisions would come to mean, I’m sure it would’ve been a much more stressful year. Don’t get me wrong, parts of that year definitely were stressful. I was pre-med then, taking chemistry and biology classes way more difficult than I enjoyed at the time. I went through rush and joined a sorority. I was on the club field hockey team. I was in UNC-DM, Habitat for Humanity, Relay for Life, and trying out a few other clubs. All things considered though, I was having a blast.

The first two weeks of UNC, from Carolina Kickoff and moving in to classes getting real, were two really awesome weeks. Coming from a small, nerdy high school where I wasn’t anyone spectacular, I was led to believe I was shy. I was incredibly nervous about being at such a big school. It was also my first time being completely on my own, in the sense of not being at the same school as my twin sister.  A place where I could be Renee, not “Michelle’s twin.” I don’t mean this at all in a negative way toward my sister. I only mean that having my own space to grow like UNC did a lot for my individuality and knowing who I am and what I stand for. The first two weeks I found out that I was actually a social person, and I loved meeting new people. More so than the people around me did. It was totally unexpected and I was loving it. That freshman mentality, when everyone is a potential best friend, is so valuable.  I was getting an early start on my bucket list and doing quintessential UNC things like getting YoPo with friends and riding a full circle on the P2P because at that time it was a wonderful, amazing system, so convenient for transporting students across campus. (Hah.)

It was a great first year. I found my niche and got into a groove. I met a ton of awesome people and got started on things that would grow in significance later. I started to love this school despite my initial hesitation.

Post about sophomore year next!

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