What happens when a words person and a design person make a multimedia package

Multimedia assignments have always freaked me out. I’m a words person. I don’t know how to operate expensive video cameras and audio equipment. I’m barely capable of editing clips into something coherent. I hate being so reliant on technology and I have often fallen victim to dead batteries and off white balances. So when I found out that I had to put together a multimedia project yet again for the Missourian, I was heartbroken.

It didn’t make me feel more at ease when I received an email informing me that my project was the first deadline in the class — nine days away. Me and my partner, Amy, scrambled to put together a one-minute piece of video for the Missourian Minute series in just one week, while every other group in the class had at least two weeks to do so.

And, as with all of my past experiences with multimedia, we hit a lot of bumps in the road.

Amy went out of town for three days, leaving me incapable to work without her. The two possible subjects wouldn’t return our calls. Finally we lined up an interview, but the subject wasn’t available until Friday — the day our final project was supposed to be filmed, edited and turned in. We met the source at a sketchy office below a parking garage downtown. As soon as we walked into the little office, my heart sank — we had nothing visually appealing about this interview. No available B-roll. The environment we were promised as we arranged the meeting was not delivered.

We conducted a quick interview anyway, unable to zoom and without a tripod. We left the interview in a panic. After explaining the situation to our TA, we were fortunate enough to get an extension and desperately scoured the interwebs for something new to cover and create a package on in under 24 hours.

Which brought us to DoDeca-Con.

I had no idea what I was expecting, but people dressed as Ewoks and anime characters wasn’t it. Colorful characters winded through the halls as they waited to participate in the costume contest. Vendors filled a convention room, selling everything from medieval swords to furry tails to comics and art. We approached one vendor, two women who sold steampunk-inspired accessories, and within moments we knew we had our story.

We ran back to Amy’s dorm and sorted through the video and audio clips. We spent three hours in the newsroom the next day finishing out final product. Everything worked out and it’s like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I know having these multimedia skills is important for being a journalist, but for now I’m happy to get to stick to words for the rest of the semester.

Sometimes, journalism is hard.

I started writing articles for The Maneater the summer before I came to MU, and last August I was hired as the Student Life beat writer. Over the course of the year, I interviewed so many different people, from notable alumni to a couple who were married in the Speakers Circle to the lead actor of an indie film, and made so many amazing friends.

In April, I took over the Campus Life section as Editor. It’s my job to come up with story ideas, assign stories to writers, pitch photos, edit with writers, manage Maneater Long Reads (a feat that terrifies me), go to workshops, work office hours, hand out papers on distribution day, recruit new writers/photographers/designers, come up with graphics, put stories online, and attend two weekly budget meetings. On a weekly basis.

Sometimes, I get a little overwhelmed. Sometimes, especially when I don’t return to my apartment until after 8 p.m., it feels like I’m working a full-time job. Sometimes, Maneater duties conflict with classes, and I’m left to make a decision — go to my journalism lectures/labs, or go do actual journalism.

Which brings me to why I’m writing about this particular topic: today, I had a super important interview scheduled during the middle of my J2150 lab. Thus, my dilemma — class, or The Maneater?

After I attempted to inconspicuously leave class, I ran to my car (the only relatively close/quite place I was able to use) to do the interview. And the source never contacted me. I spent 45 minutes sitting in my car in a parking garage waiting for a source to call me back and missed the class about camera basics (which I probably really needed to be there for, since I know literally nothing about cameras).

So, here I am, interview-less and camera knowledge-less.

Journalism is hard sometimes. Sometimes you end up missing a valuable lab, sometimes a source stands you up, sometimes you feel behind in your classes and totally overwhelmed and stressed. But sacrifices have to be made.

Before I applied to be an editor last year, I talked to some of my friends who were editors the year before. They told me it was hard, that I’d spend all my time in the office, never be home, and fall behind in classes. And now, just the second week into school, I’m realizing just how correct they were.

But, to me, it’s all worth it — I get to tell peoples’ stories. I get to be a part of the Maneater family. I get to take wide-eyed freshmen writers under my wing and be a mentor to them. I get real-world experience with reporting and meeting deadlines and editing, which I believe will benefit me more than getting straight A’s in college (though, straight A’s would be nice).

So, to the stress, to the workload, to the irony of journalism classes getting in the way of my journalism job: bring it.

She’s a Maneater

Today the July issue of The Maneater was published, the website is completely finished with its awesome redesign, and the next issue we produce will be published August 27 — the first week of school.

That realization hit me today. The beginning of sophomore year is right around the corner, and soon I’ll have little wide-eyed Maneaters coming into the office.

I’ve already had a handful of “baby journos” write some really stellar stories for me. A couple of them have already been asking me about how they can apply for a beat writer position and, in one case, “what is involved with eventually becoming an editor?”

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Oh my god, they’re all just so cute. I can’t wait to meet them and love them all. The semester can’t come fast enough.

It’s so funny — I remember being in their position last summer. I was so nervous about everything I submitted to Heather and Jack and Jill and Bia. All of my stories were accompanied with “I hope this works! I can change anything that you don’t like,” (implied: “PLEASE LIKE ME I’M TRYING SO HARD THIS IS SO NERVE-WRACKING UGH”). And now I have little babies asking me the same questions I asked old Ed Board. Who’da thunk it?

From the stories that potential Campus Life babies have turned in already, I’m really optimistic about the content the section will produce this year. I’ve had some really great feature stories come in, and I’m hoping that this year Campus Life will be more defined and established than it was last year. (I also hope the baby journos appreciate the gifs I put in my listserv emails, because I put a lot of thought into them).

And after my initial freak out (which still pops up every few days) about Long Reads, I’m really excited to begin the series, too. I have a few ideas that I think will be really cool, the first one already lined up (September 17!), and I’m excited to see what happens (and also a little terrified).

I’m sure there will be times as Campus Life Editor where I will be totally overworked and stressed and burnt out, but I am really so very happy that I found my niche to belong to on campus and that I have my lovely Maneaters. I miss my Maneater family dearly — both this year’s Ed Board and last year’s.

I can’t wait to get back to Columbia and see all of their beautiful faces. I can’t wait to meet all the incoming freshmen. I can’t wait to work.

Is it August yet?

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Today a very special issue of The Maneater hit newsstands around campus. Not only was it the annual “Mizzou in Review” special edition, but it was also the first issue where the new ed board took complete control of their section.

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Over this last week, the Campus Life section was under my management for the first time. I pitched out stories, I checked in with my writers’ progress every few days, I made edits (my former editor and Campus Life dad wrote a killerrrr story for me, which was complete role reversal and almost too strange to deal with). I uploaded my content to the website, I came up with tweets and faceposts, I sent photo and graphics pitches.

I was busy, but it was a blast.

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Fun as it was, this week came with challenges. I struggled to come up with an idea for a graphic about HIV treatment, I had a newbie write a story for me who didn’t even have a remote grasp on the basics of AP style, I had to do last-minute event coverage (and by “last minute” I mean I was literally asked to cover something 10 minutes before it started in exchange for Hotbox cookies) and I’ve already begun searching for online and print story ideas for the summer.

I’m so incredibly proud of this first issue and June 4, the date of the 2014-2015 school year’s first official issue, can’t come soon enough. I can’t wait to have a gaggle of wide-eyed freshmen journos fight for my pitches over the summer. I can’t wait to hire beat writers in August. I can’t wait to have a Maneater child of my own and see the newly-formed Campus Life family grow over the years.

And I most definitely can’t wait for next year’s Dead Editors Night.

Dead Editors Night — a night of mass chaos, turmoil and anarchy in the newsroom. When the new editors take over the old editors die, and all of the newly deceased editors drink an unfathomable amount of alcohol and then proceed to sabotage the new editors as they’re putting their first issue together.

Last night the dead editors swarmed into the newsroom bellowing war cries and armed with silly string. They danced on desks to “Drunk in Love,” they ripped up notebooks and phonebooks and threw the pages into the air, they opened a bag of coffee grounds and poured it all over the floor, they paraded around the office taking selfless and screaming things like “Campus Life foreva!”

And then came the fountain.

Almost everyone ended up in the fountain outside the Student Center one way or the other, either by their own will (mostly the drunken dead editors who dove in) or by force (ex. me, who was pushed in by the dead CSN editor and then repeatedly dunked by my Campus Life dad).

This week has been crazy, and it’s only the first taste of what my life is going to revolve around over the next year.

I’m going to spend an ungodly amount of time in the Maneater office, constantly be searching Twitter for stories and awkwardly editing articles with writers. I’m going to be tired. I’m going to be stressed. I’m going to be busy. I’m going to complain. I’m going to be up late at night, banging my head against my desk and saying, “What have I gotten myself into?”

But no matter how overwhelmed and stressed out I get, being a part of the paper is completely worth it. I’m elated to be a part of the Maneater family, and I can’t wait for all that is to come.

Feel like MOVEing — er, I mean, Campus Life-ing?

I remember being an overly-excited incoming freshman, anxiously anticipating my impending college life. I couldn’t wait to move into the dorms, meet new people and make new friends, and, above all, write for the student newspaper.

I’ve been writing for The Maneater since last May. I was scrolling through the “Mizzou Class of 2017” Facebook page when I saw a post from a girl named Heather, the current editor of MOVE Magazine, the arts and entertainment section of The Maneater. I Facebook stalked her relentlessly until I mustered up the courage to send her a painfully awkward message, asking if I could write for the paper. And thus, I had found my way into The Maneater world.

I fell in love. I fell in love with The Maneater — with the responsibility of a weekly beat to cover, with the freedom of having my own column, with being able to pick up as many pitches for MOVE as I wished, with meeting interesting and often inspirational people who were always so happy to be covered, and with the editors who have always been so nice and let me show up to their parties uninvited. I’ve loved being involved and finding my own little niche on campus.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been going through the process of applying for a position on the editor board — specifically, MOVE and Campus Life. After answering numerous questions, responding to hypothetical situations, trying desperately to figure out how to work Adobe InDesign, and interviewing with next year’s Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor, the positions were filled yesterday.

I am the new Campus Life editor for the 2014-15 school year.

Initially, I had (and still have) a lot of mixed emotions. On one hand, I am incredibly honored, humbled, and grateful that I was trusted with leading the section. On the other, my heart was broken because I failed to get the position I had my sights set on since I wrote my first story for the section — MOVE editor.

I’ve always loved all things A&E. I nerd out about movies and television and books and music and concerts and plays and art. I want nothing more than to move to a big city somewhere in the world and work at a big entertainment magazine, where I can cover film festivals and interview Grammy-winning musicians. MOVE reviews movies and previews concerts and profiles artists. MOVE was what I wanted.

In the hours following the news, I received various texts and tweets from friends and fellow Maneaters congratulating me on the position. I thanked everyone, congratulated the very deserving girl who will be the next MOVE editor, continued the two hour drive back to CoMo from home, went into my room, called my mom, and proceeded to have a panic attack.

I had ideas for MOVE. I was confident in my ability to edit MOVE and edit it well, with every bit of snark and creativity that Heather brought to the role this past year. I had already thought of potential story ideas to pitch out, I was eager to hire columnists, I had a few ideas for regular features and how to balance the print content with online-exclusive content, and I was excited to be a part of the mysterious MOVE editor traditions that Heather had mentioned to me.

I can’t say that I have the same confidence when it comes to Campus Life. This was the section’s first year, and as one of Campus Life’s only consistent writers I know firsthand that the section was never really defined. Campus Life covers student features, university research and produces bi-weekly Long Reads stories online. It’s broad, it’s vague, it’s somewhat ambiguous. As I was hyperventilating in my room yesterday and laying in bed, staring at the ceiling last night (I only managed to get a whopping three hours of sleep, partially thanks to someone pulling the fire alarm at 5 a.m.), I was terrified about the task I have in front of me — of shaping Campus Life into a more definitive section; of producing Long Reads stories, a feat I have never attempted to approach before; of coming up with story ideas that aren’t completely dull.

Then I started thinking of what a friend told me last night, “This was the section’s first year. The beauty of that is you could totally take Campus Life and make it whatever you want it to be.”

And she’s right. I have the control to turn Campus Life into whatever I want it to be. Sure, I might not have any idea how to do that right now, but I will eventually. I’ll learn what works and what doesn’t as time goes on. Long Reads won’t seem as daunting after I tackle the first few stories. I can fill Campus Life with student profiles and make it fun. I’ve written some great stories for the section this year — stories about student veterans, artists looking to spread love, and people overcoming hardships. These are the stories I want to fill Campus Life with next year.

I’m excited for next year. I’m excited to be the second Campus Life editor, to take new writers under my wing and become their friend, to create a great section. I have my anxieties, I’m disappointed that I didn’t get my first pick, but I got something, and for that I am beyond thankful.

This is an opportunity for me to grow and diversify as a journalist. And with the experience as Campus Life editor listed on my resume, I am one step closer to moving to that big city and working for that big entertainment magazine.

To the 2014-2015 school year, bring it on.

If You Want to be Happy…

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a pessimist. I blow small things out of proportion, I have anxiety attacks over nothing, I always expect the worst, I throw pity parties for myself on a daily basis.

Do I enjoy being in a constant state of negativity? No, not at all. So why am I? Why do I deny myself the simple pleasure of being happy? What’s so hard about looking on the bright side instead of worrying and overreacting?

I have a lot of positive aspects in my life which vastly outnumber the bad, but I’ve noticed that I tend to focus only on the minuscule problems I have instead of focusing on everything that is good.

Today is the second-annual International Happiness Day, a day established by the United Nations that recognizes happiness as a “fundamental human goal.”  Today is a day for kind words, positive vibes and free hugs. And in honor of today, I’m making a resolution: to be happy.

St. Patrick's Day with Hatch 5. One of many very happy days I've had at college.
A Hatch 5 St. Patrick’s Day celebration. One of many very happy days I’ve had during college.

I have a lot to be happy about.

I’m happy that I’m going to college at Mizzou, which is home to one of the best journalism schools in the country. I’m a beat writer and a columnist for The Maneater. There’s no other place I’d rather be, especially when it comes to preparing myself for my career in journalism.

I’m happy because I have the best friends that anybody could ever ask for — both at school and back home in Kansas City.

Hatch 5 geeking out at the midnight premiere of "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire."
Geeking out at the midnight premiere of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” One of my favorite nights.

My Hatch 5 family at Mizzou has made Columbia a home away from home. It’s crazy to think that I’ve only known everyone for seven months. We’ve had many adventures since we all came together in August — an ill-fated trip to the Magic Tree, dodging creepy guys at frat parties, cosmic bowling, celebrating snow days, degenerate tailgates and being intoxicated at football games.

Outside the stadium before the Homecoming game. Even though we lost, it was still a great game and a very happy evening.
Outside the stadium before the Homecoming game. Even though we lost, it was still a great game and a very happy evening.

I’d be lost without my friends at home. It’s great to know that I have such a solid group to come home to when I’m not at school. I’m happy that I can be myself around all of these kids and that they, for some reason, still seem to love me.

One of many happy summer nights at the Drive-In back home.
One of many happy summer nights at the Drive-In back home.

I’m happy that I finally got my braces off, and that I can now enjoy eating without the fear of getting half of my food stuck between my brackets.

I’m happy that I’m in school, doing well, and have professors who inspire me, get me thinking, and genuinely care about the success of their students. (And I’m happy that I only had one class today).

With all of these beautiful things in my life, it doesn’t make any sense why I spend so much time obsessing over what I don’t have. Right now, I’m exactly where I need to be in life.

Today is a beautiful day. It’s the first day of spring, sunny, 68 degrees, breezy. The campus is alive with students playing soccer, walking their dogs and basking on the Quad. Take it all in. Make the 20 minute walk to Noodles and Company with your friends. Drive around town blasting Lady Gaga with your car’s top down. Be happy.

Happiness is a choice. If you want to be happy, make the decision to do so. You don’t have to have everything you want in life to be happy.

As Leo Tolstoy said, “If you want to be happy, be.”

The Struggle of Adult Braces

For the last one year and 51 weeks I have been enduring what most people endure during their middle-school awkward phase— braces.

I made the decision my junior year of high school to go through with braces. My parents were pushing for it, but ultimately the decision was mine to make. And, after a couple months of deliberation and asking my friends for their opinions, I went for it. Although I considered my teeth to be “not that bad” to begin with, the idea of having perfectly straight teeth seemed worth it to me.

And boy, did I come to regret that decision.

My day to day braces lifestyle consisted of getting half the food I ate stuck in my wires, icing my throbbing jaw after every trip to the orthodontist, and awkwardly trying to smile for pictures without showing off my metal brackets.

The struggle of adult braces is immense. Having people make comments like, “I remember when I had braces…” and “Why are did you get them so late?” was like getting slammed by a wave of humiliation. I’m not saying that people were being condescending or talking down on me for having braces five years after the normal age, but every time someone brought them up I was utterly embarrassed. I felt like my braces were the first thing everyone saw when they looked at me. It was especially distressing coming to college and trying to make a whole new group of friends (I’ve yet to run into a fellow brace face on campus. Not to mention, they made kissing very, very awkward).

On top of the awkward timing of having braces throughout my junior and senior year of high school and freshman year of college was the actual, physical pain. For a week after I first got them on, I couldn’t even chew french fries. The first day I got rubber bands I was sitting in my kitchen in tears because I was hungry but my jaw was too sore for anything I was offered. I had to get a tooth pulled so my bite would line up (I still don’t completely understand that). Months of your mouth hurting so much it gives you headaches, having your risk of getting cavities skyrocket, and having to get poked and prodded by an orthodontist gets really, really old.

“Straight teeth are not worth this,” I said more than once, usually followed by a rant on society’s ridiculous expectation for perfection.

But yesterday, a week shy of two full years, was the day my mouth was liberated from its metal chains. Yesterday my braces came off. No more getting bits of food stuck between my brackets. No more of my mouth aching from moving teeth. No more self-conciously covering my mouth with my hand when I smile.

My mouth looks pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. And I feel pretty damn good. My self-confidence has never been the strongest, but it’s gone through a major boost in the last 24 hours. I was wrong— all of the pain and embarrassment and discomfort I went through for two years was worth it. I’m looking forward to what life has to offer the new, braces-less me.

Oh, and here’s a picture:

Please pardon the awkward selfie
Please pardon the awkward selfie

Today, I love journalism

I love days like today. Days where it’s 40 degrees outside but after the sub-zero temperatures of the past month it feels like spring. Days when you find a clothing sale happening in the Mizzou Store and grab a MIZ SEC T-shirt for a mere $5. Days when you’re in a super positive mood for no reason. Days when all of your favorite sans-“Frozen” songs play on the Disney Pandora station as you procrastinate from studying for your geology test next week. Days when you have a hoard of the new cookie dough Oreo cookies stocked in your dorm. Days when you’re finally recovering from a cold that has been plaguing your immune system for the past week and a half. Days when you don’t care that you’re once again going to be single on Valentine’s Day because you have friends you can watch “The Princess Bride” and stuff your face with. Days when you find yourself walking down Rollins street with a spring in your step, inspired.

Today is a good day. Today I am absolutely inspired by journalism.

Lately I’ve been constantly busy with my duties at The Maneater. Between my beat, my column, and picking up the occasional pitch for MOVE, I’ve been feeling incredibly overwhelmed with the workload. Often I’ve found myself sitting in my lounge, working on a story, and venting my frustrations aloud to the people who are unfortunate enough to be in my vicinity.

“I hate journalism. I’m so sick of it. Only crazy people want to do this as a career,” I’d say. Or maybe something more along the lines of, “Everybody here is so obsessed with journalism. Their lives revolve around it and I don’t want my life to revolve around my career. I don’t want journalism to be my life.” Then I’d proceed to begin my writing ritual: complain how the story I’ve been assigned is boring, procrastinate on calling sources, freak out about interviews, bang my head against my desk (sometimes literally), stay up late writing a story I’m convinced is complete shit, and grimace as I email it to my editor.

But through all the complaining, through all the stress, through all the time consumption, there is nothing I want to do more in this world than journalism.

I want to write. I want to tell stories. There’s nothing like pouring your heart and soul out into a piece and seeing it in print. It’s an incredible rush, there’s no better feeling than knowing that you were the one who created it.

Today I went to journalism class. J1100: Principles of American Journalism, a class taught by my favorite professor I’ve had since beginning college. She’s worked as a reporter and editor at the St. Petersburg Times, The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires. This woman is an inspiration. She has so many stories from her time in the field about giving a voice to the voiceless, telling the stories of people whose stories would never be told otherwise, serving the public good. Even her simple motto of “Don’t Panic!” inspires- it’s exactly what I need to hear every week as I’m continuously hit by waves of work.

Today, we were told to know the definition of journalism: “Journalism is a set of transparent, independent procedures aimed at gathering, verifying and reporting truthful information of consequence to citizens in a democracy.” (Write it, memorize it, do it!) She showed us a video of Bob Woodward giving advice on reporting and offered a bit of advice herself (“If you remember nothing else from this class, make it this: get your ass out of the chair and check it out!“) After sitting through her lectures, I leave feeling motivated to write and create.

Today’s lecture only reinforced the journalism high I’ve been riding since yesterday when I interviewed Frank Pavich, the director of a documentary called “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” for a MOVE story. “Jodorowsky’s Dune” is one of the films coming to the True/False Film Festival in a few weeks. True/False is a film festival that is based out of Columbia, where some of the year’s best documentaries are shown, there are panels held with the creators, and there are secret screenings.

I could practically feel the excitement and passion radiating off of Pavich during our Skype interview. He was nothing short of giddy when he spoke about this film he had invested three years of his life into making and how “totally incredible” it was for it to be included in True/False. It was the best interview I’ve had in a long time. I loved speaking with this man. I loved writing about him and the success he’s been having with “Jodorowsky’s Dune.”

There’s nothing like the rush you get from a great interview and a quality story. The feature I wrote for “Jodorowsky’s Dune” rejuvenated the passion I’ve had for journalism since I was a sophomore in high school taking the Introduction to Newspaper class. I’m a storyteller, it’s what I was born to do. I am in love with journalism.

And no matter how much I might mutter “I hate journalism” under my breath as sources don’t call me back or when I have to somehow cut 300 words from my story, seeing my name bolded in that byline every Wednesday is worth it.

Welcome to Missouri, the “Snow-Me” State

“Most days of the year are unremarkable. They begin and they end with no lasting memory made in between. Most days have no impact on the course of a life.” February 4th was a Tuesday.

Ever since I visited Mizzou during Summer Welcome, I have been eagerly anticipating the day I get to see the the campus covered in a blanket of snow. Jesse Hall, the columns, Memorial Union, everything. Mizzou amazes me with its beauty each and every day, and I could only imagine how gorgeous it would be once snow finally fell.

Today was the day I’ve been looking forward to all these months.

Today I woke up to find CoMo transformed into a winter wonderland. Continuous flurries fell from the sky, accumulating into around five inches of snow. It was cold, of course, but not windy, making the weather bearable. A perfect day to go outside.

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Snow day at the Francis Quadrangle and the iconic columns.

The Hatch 5 family bundled up and braved the snow, trekking across campus and making our way to the Francis Quadrangle, occasionally stopping to pelt each other with poorly made snowballs. It was more beautiful than I ever could have imagined.

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Jesse Hall, our makeshift hill.

Winter has always been my favorite season, for a variety of reasons- the Holiday season/music/cheer, wearing cozy sweaters and sweatshirts, the warmth of fire places, and, above all, snow. I could spend hours sitting on a windowsill watching the snowfall and drinking hot chocolate. It makes everything so much more beautiful and serene.

Today was my very first college snow day, and it was a day that will stay with me for years to come.

My dear, dear roomie.
My dear, dear roomie.

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve had a rough start to the semester. I’ve been feeling sad and alone and more than a little angry, and I’ve been exhausting myself by trying to hide it. This day was exactly what I needed- a day of friends and fun in the snow, sledding down the steps of Jesse Hall (dangerous and terrifying but very fun nonetheless), throwing snowballs, making snow angels, watching the boys slide around playing football, and taking way too many pictures.

It’s crazy how one blissfully perfect day can cancel out two weeks of not-so-great days. Today, the problems that have been plaguing me for the past couple of weeks didn’t exist. Nothing mattered this afternoon. I was there, in the moment, with some of the people I love most. I think this is what Stephen Chbosky was talking about when he wrote The Perks of Being A Wallflower– today, I felt infinite.

And with another snow day called for tomorrow, I can’t wait to do it all over again.

Snow Day group picture
Photo courtesy stephennotsteven.wordpress.com

Today was awesome. Life is awesome. I love my friends. I am so lucky. Hatch 5 forever.

My return to reading

Despite my complaints about the past five weeks of Winter Break being a complete and utter snooze-fest of boredom (I return to CoMo in six days, huzzah!), there have been some perks. I got to spend quality time with my mother/BFF, I have finally finished (almost) Breaking Bad, I got to see all of my old friends from high school and, finally, I have finally had the time to read for pleasure.

Growing up I have always been an avid book worm. In early elementary school I devoured books such as The Magic Treehouse series and R. L. Stein’s Goosebumps before graduating to Harry Potter and the Warriors series by Erin Hunter (I mean, what fifth-grade girl wouldn’t love a seemingly never ending book series where all the main characters are cats?) I always had a book tucked under my arm. During my soccer games I would sit on the sidelines and read until my coach put me in. The summer before third and fourth grade I won my school’s “1,000 page reading challenge,” the second time with over 13,000 pages read in three short months. I would spend so much time sitting on the couch reading that my mom would sometimes take my books away from me and force me to go play outside like a normal child. In middle school I discovered Stephen King, who to this day is still my favorite author. I read Pet Sematary, then Salem’s Lot, then The Shining and Christine, and I was captivated.

Over the years, my love for reading hasn’t dwindled but the amount of books I’ve read has been on a steady decline. It just comes down to time. In high school I always had something assigned for Advanced English and then IB English classes. Shakespeare, Plath, McCarthy, Twain, Krakauer, Bradbury, Atwood. Some I loved, some I despised. But between assignments it was difficult to find the time and energy to read purely for pleasure. I’d maybe get a book in during breaks, but it was only over the summer where I would return to reading because I wanted to, not because my grade depended on it.

In college I have even less time for pleasure reading. I have classes and homework and articles to write for the newspaper, but the main reason comes down to the fact that all of your friends live right down the hall from you. All of first semester my mentality was, “why would I want to sit in my room alone and read when I could be hanging out with the Hatch 5 family until four in the morning?”

The great thing about winter break is it has reminded me that sitting in bed alone with a book is actually a great way to spend your evening. These past few weeks I finally finished the spectacular Under the Dome by Stephen King (which I began in July and only read about 100 to 150 pages of during the four months of first semester). I also began and finished Lucky, a memoir by Alice Sebold.

To motivate myself to keep my New Years resolution to read a little every day, I have constructed a list of books I want to read over the course of the upcoming year. It’s a bit ambitious, but I like a challenge.

  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  • The Stand by Stephen King
  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

On top of these newbies, I also want to reread all of the Harry Potter books before 2014 comes to a close. I haven’t read any of them since 2007, when The Deathly Hallows came out, and I want to see what reading them as an adult is like.

And so begins 2014: The Year of the Great Book Odyssey. Wish me luck.