Tuesday, January 29, 2013


(Yes, this is the post I was hinting at in that tweet!)

College is a transitional period. The whole four years is a transition from youth to adulthood. But within college there are several periods and several transitions. You start off a freshman who doesn’t know anything about anything. Then you transition to the middle of college, which gets progressively harder until you transition into being a senior. While being a senior is a defined period of college, and there is a transition into adulthood at the end of being a senior, but the entirety of being a senior is a transition. You’re getting ready to become an adult, go to grad school or work or a combination thereof.

I’m a senior by credits now. I’ll be graduating in December 2013. (In fact, if you follow my twitter or instagram every few days I hashtag a new thing I’m looking forward to or afraid of, mostly the latter). Since I’m graduating and will be moving on into the beginning of the real world, I’ve been thinking a lot about transitions lately. I’ve been thinking about first apartments, first jobs, dogs, new cities, grad school, and life goals.

I want to teach history at the college level. If I don’t do that, I want to work for the National Parks Service doing history, the National Endowment for the Humanities, an alternative educational content company, or maybe just open a diner. I know I want to work in education if I can. Education is one of my passions.

I’ve been thinking about doing Teach For America after college but before grad school.
I’ve been thinking about the National Endowment for the Humanities.
I’ve been thinking about Michigan, Chicago, and California.
I’ve been thinking about buying a car.
I’ve been thinking about how to decorate my first place.

The world is constantly changing, and we are always changing with it. We’re changing to fit our place in the world, to find it, to form it.
Growing up is scary. But I’m doing it anyway. It’s unavoidable and inevitable. It’s our future. As much as we may try to stay young and watch our Disney movies, play computer games, and go out, we’re growing up no matter what. We can still watch Disney movies and play computer games and go out, but we’re not children anymore. We’re not going to be in college again, living in dorms and baking in tiny dorm kitchens (though some first apartments may be just as small), sitting at our dorm desks and writing. Maybe that’s just me. But either way, life is marching forward, carrying me toward jobs more serious than tutoring, homes I have to pay rent for each month, not a general tuition bill, and moving, yet again, to a city where I don’t know anyone.

Hopefully that won’t last long, and I’ll meet new people when I get to wherever I go for grad school. Hopefully I’ll find a group of people to connect with and feel at home with. Hopefully, I’ll feel at home wherever I go. Hopefully I’ll find a new home after college, a home that is as good to me as Washington has been, maybe even better.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Going (Professional) Greek

During my sophomore year I saw a poster in my hall for Phi Sigma Pi. I had several friends in it, but at the time I did not have the gpa to join. So I spent the fall semester working hard and I pulled my gpa up enough to join. When I rushed, I met a whirlwind of wonderful people who made me certain that I had rushed the right fraternity. And then, after pledging, I started making even more friends, and met my Big. I’ve since become a committee chair, and have never looked back.

What are professional greeks?
Professional fraternities (and in a few cases sororities) are Greek organizations based around specific careers or values. For some that value is community service, for others it’s international service, and for others it’s academic honors. Whatever the group’s central value everything will be based around them. If you’re not in the slightest bit interested in International Service, then you’re not meant for that fraternity/sorority. If on the other hand you intend to make it your career, then that may be just the fit for you. Of course, there are other benefits to joining a professional Greek organization. One is the often co-ed aspect. While social sororities are full of interesting women, professional Greeks don’t limit to just one gender.  This expands your horizon by about double.  The dues are also often much lower than socials. 

Why Rush?
If you only want to join a sorority or fraternity for the social aspect, then I suggest you join a social sorority or fraternity.  But if you want to join a group of people with the same core academic or community service values as you, then stay tuned, because a professional fraternity may be just right for you.  When you rush you get to meet the active brothers and find out if they really are your kind of people.  Rushing allows you to find the right fraternity as much as it allows the fraternities to find the right pledges.  Go into it with your eyes open and if something doesn’t feel right, don’t pledge that fraternity.  Be you, not who you think they want. 

Just to be clear, rushing is not the same as pledging.  Rush is a series of events where you come to meet brothers and find out more about the fraternity and specifically that chapter.  Pledging is once you’ve been accepted by the fraternity and you’ve chosen to accept their bid to join. 

I can only really speak about my chapter, but I know that many chapters don’t do Big/Little the way we do.  The AU attitude about everything is “Go big or go home” and that includes Big/Little Week.  For our chapter Big/Little Week is about halfway through the pledge process.  For the previous weeks you interview active brothers and get to know them, then decide who you want as your Big.  Your Big acts as your mentor, your guide, your confidant, and your friend, as well as your brother.  As such, you want to choose a great brother, someone you really connected with and would love to have as a friend forever.  Think about which brother you’ve met who you would want to stand beside you at every major event in your life.  Who do you want in your wedding party?  Who do you want to come to your college graduation and all of your kids’ birthday parties?  If there is a brother you’ve met that fits that description, then that’s the brother you want as a Big.  Our matching process includes a preference list from both the Bigs and the Littles. 
For Big/Little week at my chapter the Big makes a fake Facebook for you with a silly name like “BigLoves LittleJane” and uses that to communicate with their Little about what times the Little should be out of her room.  During those times the Big, and often friends, will come to decorate the Little’s room and leave her presents.  Many chapters don’t do it this way, but my chapter does and I can’t imagine what pledging would be like without it. 

Benefits Professionally
I don’t know about all the other chapters of Phi Sigma Pi or the other fraternities, but in my chapter you have to be in a committee.  We also change committee chairs every semester, so it’s very easy to get a leadership role in the committees.  This semester, I’m the Spirit Chair of my chapter.  There are also a handful of positions on the E-Board which is the elected board, they govern the chapter.  These leadership roles look great on a resume.
We also have a national network of collegiate and alumni Brothers.  When looking for a job you can reach out through the alumni network to find one. 
Hiring managers mostly just glance through the resumes, but there are more than 9 million people nationally who are or were in Greek life, and when they see Greek life on a resume, they’ll take an extra glance over.
When I find out someone else is in Greek life, especially professional Greek life, I know something important about who they are and what they stand for.  Especially someone in my fraternity, because I know that they’ve been vetted by a chapter of Brothers through rush and pledging.  It’s the same concept as being introduced by someone rather than cold calling.  You’ll get better results from someone who feels that you’re worth their time because they know you’ve been judged worthy of joining a fraternity like Phi Sigma Pi. 

Leadership Opportunities
I briefly mentioned the leadership opportunities present in my chapter before.  There are nine positions on our E-Board: President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Parliamentarian, Initiate Advisor, Rush Chair, Historian, and Brother-At-Large.  Most of these are exactly what they sound like, but to clarify Parliamentarian ensures chapter runs smoothly and knows our bylaws, Initiate Advisor teaches all the new pledges everything they need to know about Phi Sigma Pi, Historian takes photos and gathers other people’s photos, and Brother-At-Large is the liaison between E-Board and the rest of the chapter. 
Committee Chairs are also leadership positions, and many committee chairs go on to become E-Board members.  We have quite a few committees, and each has a chair.  Becoming a committee chair looks great on a resume and you get to work directly on events and plans for the chapter.  We have a chapter birthday party that I will be planning, a formal that the social committee will be planning, and a bunch of other events that other groups will be planning. 

Another unexpected benefit?  The blank space on applications.  Many job, scholarship, or grad school applications have a space that asks for anything else you want to tell them about yourself.  If you rush Phi Sigma Pi, you can always have something to write in that space.  The experiences of working in a team with your committee, learning parliamentary procedure, any leadership positions you may have had, planning events, balancing your time to maintain your GPA, there are a million things to write about with Phi Sigma Pi and any other professional Greek group.  Recently, one of my Brothers was applying for an abroad scholarship, and she had originally planned to leave the extra space blank, but then she hit upon the idea to write about Phi Sigma Pi.  She filled the space with three paragraphs about the teamwork, the confidence you gain, and learning to step up to do whatever is necessary. 

But most important of all, is the Brotherhood.  Phi Sigma Pi isn’t just about resumes and leadership, it’s about having a family and fun people to hang out with.  It’s about always having someone to study with and never having to be alone again. 

Why do I love Phi Sigma Pi? Because I always have someone to make silly faces with.

My brothers remind me every day, by their very steadfastness, that goodness does exist in the world. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Little Ways To Fight Stress

As a college student/writer/frat brother/treasurer/historian I’m always doing a balancing act.  I balance my class work with my fun work, and it can get pretty stressful.  I don’t have time for long spa days and massages, so I have to find little ways to fight my stress. 

1. Manicure
2. Long hot shower
3. Art
4. Lists
5. Early bedtime (when I can)
6. Journal
7. Reading


I’ve found that when I have a fresh manicure I feel like I can take on the world.  I always give myself a fresh manicure the night before classes start, and I’m going to make it a goal to carve out half an hour on Sunday nights to give myself a manicure.  Feeling like you can take on the world is way better than feeling like you’ve taken Atlas’ burden wildly unprepared.  I know that second feeling all too well.  So ladies, find yourselves half an hour, remove that chipped polish from last month with strengthening remover (better for your nails), clip and file them, then buff if you can.  Find a polish color you love (I love pastels, neutrals, metallics, and bright pops of purple or pink).  Layer it on slowly, taking the time to make each nail as perfect as you can.  A good manicure should not feel rushed.  Let the first coat dry completely before putting on a second coat, then top coat.  I use Confetti “Glass Slipper” top coat.  When you’re finished with both hands, let them dry thoroughly or else you’ll wind up with streaks or dents.  This is not something to rush through to get to the next task, so try to make sure your manicure time isn’t up against something that desperately needs doing.  Do it before or after dinner, before or immediately after a shower, when you’ve got a little extra free time before bed.  Put on an episode of something fun (try Lost Girl or Felicity), get yourself a big glass of water (great for stress levels) and just focus on this one thing.

Long Hot Shower
You know in high school when you thought getting into college would be the most stressful thing ever?  And mom told you to go take a hot shower and let the water run on your shoulders?  Yeah, in this case Mama knew best.  Showers are great for relaxing your muscles, but also for giving you a space to think.  You can’t actually do anything while in the shower, so you’re forced to just think through what you need to do and what you can realistically do.  I take the time that I’m in the shower to think about my next tasks for my goals, new posts to write, new angles on the stories I’m working on, and where I want to go with my life.  Take some deep breaths of the hot air and steam, let the water relax your body, and let your mind work its own knots out. 

I‘m not an artist.  I can’t draw worth a penny and I can’t sculpt either.  But it’s fun and it’s cathartic.  When I’m really stressed out, I take out my sketch pad and a pencil, and just draw.  No plans, no tasks, just draw whatever comes to mind.  Sometimes it’s doodles, sometimes it’s characters, sometimes it’s landscapes, but it’s always helpful.  You could also do photoshop art, take pictures, get some clay and make something. Whatever makes you feel destressed.  Creating something that’s not written is a huge difference for a writer.  It’s a different medium, which stretches and massages your creative muscles.  I also like to design stationery and computer backgrounds. 

(My real to do list from the first day of classes, already longer than the writing pad)
When everything you have to do seems insurmountable and enormous, try writing it down in a list.  That is of course assuming you don’t already do that.  But if you do, break the list down.  Three big scary tasks are more manageable if you break them down into their component tasks.  Need to finish a project for class?  List off exactly what you need to do for it.  Want to write a short story?  Make an outline.  Want to redecorate your room?  List every area you’ll have to do. 

Early Bedtime
Granted, this is not something that can be done all that often.  However, if you have the chance to go to bed early, rather than spending hours perusing useless websites, take it.  Sleep reboots your body and allows growth and healing.  Sleep also keeps you from getting loopy, and a good night’s rest will make you more productive. 

I know, more writing.  But a journal is a different kind of writing than creative writing.  In creative writing you create something from nothing.  You’re constantly pulling from your own imagination and have to keep track of various plotlines within the story as well as keeping your characters in character.  With writing in a journal you’re taking from yourself, but from a different place in yourself.  When you write in a journal you write about all the things you have to go through.  You can write the bad things, the good things, and the in-between things down.  It’s cathartic, and it helps release all of the stress by putting it down on the page rather than in your head.  When you have a story idea in your head you bounce it out onto paper, the same concept applies to taking stress and bouncing it out into a journal. 

I’m not talking about reading books, although that can help as well.  I’m talking about reading blog posts or magazines that focus on positivity and inspiration.  Reading a post about living in a positive way can make you feel better as surely as stretching will relieve your muscles.  Try something like Sweet Lemon Magazine or Yes and Yes or Gala Darling.  You can find through these more links to other positive posts that will prepare you for your day and make you feel better.  These posts also help you shoulder the stress.  I also subscribe to Prep Talk every week from Carly Heitlinger. 

Stress eats away at us all, so we need to mitigate it.  Today’s college students are trying to do everything, be everything, and not only do it, but do it better than anyone before us ever has.  We’re trying to be the best students, the best employees, the best friends, the best student leaders.  We can’t always be the best at everything, and trying to leaves us feeling run down and achy.  So before you reach for a bottle to deal with stress, try these tips, jumping jacks, water, or a deep breath of fresh air.  Deal with stress in a healthy way, and you can be even better.

Stay Tuned.

Monday, January 14, 2013

First Day of Classes

Today is my first day of my last spring semester.  I'm graduating in December.  I don't have class until 1, but I've been up and about since 9:30.  Between straightening out an id card problem, getting my first bagel of the year, and tackling my to-do list, I've been go go going all morning.  I've also been people watching.  It's weird to look at the freshmen still figuring out how to dress for their classes, and realize that I was there so recently.  My freshman year I experimented with various facets of fashion until I found a mix that works well for me.  It's somewhere between East Coast Prep, Midwestern biker, and Kate Spade's Live Colorfully campaign.  

It's also weird because previous semesters my to-do list didn't start until the first week of classes was over.  But now I'm a first semester senior, and I have grad school applications to do.  I have the finances for the Student Historical Society because I'm the treasurer.  I'm a committee chair in my fraternity.  It's a lot of responsibility and I have to get a jump on it, so I've already started on planning events and getting financial information ready for the two groups.  

It's also strange to think that this is my last semester to sit in the student union and watch spring come back to DC.  It's my last semester to picnic on the quad before it gets hot.  It's my last semester to become the person I want to be.  Next semester I'll be applying to graduate schools and doing interviews.  

Because of all of this stress, I decided I needed a power outfit to tackle the day.  A nice dress, cool boots, my watch (always wear a watch, it's rude to check the time on your cell phone), stud earrings, a headband, and pink painted nails.  I always try to paint my nails before classes start, because with a fresh manicure I feel like I can take on the world.  It's one of those little things that makes me feel grown up.  

Anyone else heading back to school today?
Chin up friends, we've got this.

(Click the picture for a full downloadable version)

Stay Tuned.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Blog Direction in 2013

As much as I love writing about writing (and thus procrastinating the actual writing....) I feel like part of the reason that I tend so much to leave this blog for months is that I've limited the content I can write to only writing.  But here's the thing: my life isn't just writing.  As much as I wish I could spend days in a writing cave with only cornflakes and Fuze for sustenance and no outside distractions, I have other responsibilities.  I'm a college student, and a fraternity brother, and a tutor and a treasurer and I have to balance all of that.  So in 2013 I want to start writing not only about writing, but about life and college and (just a little) my fraternity.  I want to share my other passions like vikings and King Alfred and graphic design and quotes.  I especially want to write about balance.  Being a college student is all about balance, for everyone, but especially so for someone who self-identifies as an overachiever and a perfectionist who's trying to also be a writer.  Just writing about writing isn't being authentic and it's not being me.  I'll still focus on writing, but I'll also write about those nights where I stay up until 2 a.m. writing a paper not a book, or the ways I deal with the stress of balancing working, studying, writing, and brothering.  I'll write as much about organizing your desk as why you should write at one.

In 2012 I became a brother of Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity.  I became a Little.  I wrote multiple short stories for classes, mastered statistics, learned more than most people ever need to know about
 the Black Death and Buddhism and the Arab-Israeli war of 1967.  I also came out of my shell and took over as treasurer for the Student Historical Society as treasurer.  I decided to temporarily trunk Serendipity and focus on Sister Psychic, the project I currently feel more at home in.  I allowed myself to be open to new possibilities, and the universe provided those new possibilities.  I became more of an extrovert, despite still being highly introverted.  I became a better friend, a better brother, a better person.

Here's to a 2013 that can improve on that.

Stay Tuned.
xoxo, J