Why A Vote For Clinton Isn’t Necessarily A Vote For Feminism

girl-voting-i-votedIn this 2016 Presidential Primary Season, there are obviously a ton of jokes going around – Kanye for President, Deez Nuts for President, Donald Trump for President (awk when not everyone thinks this is a joke)… And all of these jokes do a pretty good job of making me laugh.

You know what joke doesn’t make me laugh? The joke of women’s issues being taken seriously. Honestly, I’m sick of the fact that the most we talk about women’s rights – you know, the rights of approximately 50 percent of the voter population – is when a male candidate makes some unfortunate and probably offensive gaffe. We should be better than that, America. We should be discussing more than Donald Trump making insensitive period remarks and bringing to the forefront some of the more prominent women’s issues.

And one of the biggest issues I can think of right now is the fact that someone thinks they can tell you that you don’t support women’s rights if you don’t want to vote for Hillary Clinton or Carly Fiorina. Let me repeat that:

A vote for Hillary Clinton or Carly Fiorina isn’t necessarily a vote for feminism (but it could be).

One of the coolest parts of America’s democracy is that we as voters are empowered to pick whoever we want. There are no tests, no requirements, no bare minimum knowledge about the issues that you need to demonstrate – you simply need to be eighteen and you can sign up. Which is why I’m thinking it’s so f*cked up that people are saying that feminists vote for women, and everyone else votes for the other guys.

Because seriously guys, how anti-feminist is it to say you’re going to vote for someone simply because of their gender? How is that different from saying, “oh hey, yeah, I don’t want a woman in office so even though I’m totes team Carly Fiorina, I’m throwing my ballot to Ben Carson because he’s a dude.” I think the problem with that statement (or it’s inverse) is that it neglects to acknowledge that feminism is essentially gender equality. Saying you’re going to vote for one person just because of their gender (or race, or religion) is the minority really isn’t promoting equality.

I totally get it. A lot of women like Clinton and Fiorina because they want to see someone who has similar struggles and similar needs as them in the White House. Those ladies are getting a huge female vote because women want to see female representation in the presidency. But isn’t our end goal to live in a world where the gender of a candidate doesn’t even cross our minds? Don’t we want gender to be a total non-issue?

You know what? I’m a woman, I want equality, and I’m not going to vote for either of those women (or maybe I am. It’s not really anybody’s business who anyone else is voting for).  Being a woman and being empowered means taking the initiative to educate yourself on the issues, developing a standpoint, and choosing the candidate whose plan matches yours the most.

Don’t get me wrong. I really, really respect these women, and I understand the great step forward they’re making for womankind by putting themselves out there and running to be the first female to lead in the Oval Office. But I also respect the women all over the nation who don’t plan on voting for them. I respect their intelligence, I respect their instincts, and most importantly, I respect their autonomy as women to check of whichever box on a ballot they damn well please.

Featured image via flickr

Disappearing Marshmallow Blondie Brownies

butterscotch-marshmallow-blondie-brownie

So this past weekend I was rocking a major butterscotch fix, and the only thing that really satiates that specific craving are my Grammy’s disappearing marshmallow squares. These bad boys are basically a blondie brownie but with a delicious butterscotchy, caramelized sugary taste. The easiness of this recipe combined with its deliciousness definitely makes these my favorite of my Grammy’s old recipes.

recipe-book-blondie-brownie-butterscotch-marshmallow

The secret to these brownies’ deliciousness is definitely in the marshmallows, even though you’d never know that they’re there. They help make the consistency gooey and moist, while really kicking up the flavor of your typical blondie brownie. Since the marshmallows essentially just melt, toast, and caramelize, these blondie brownies are packed with a punch of fall flavor.

Ingredients:marshmallows-and-measuring-cup

  • 1/2 cup butterscotch pieces
  • 1/4 cup butter/margarine
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup miniature marshmallows
  • 1 cup semisweet morsels
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Directions:

Melt butterscotch pieces and butter in saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat — cool. While the mixture cools, prepare the rest of the ingredients. Add together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, vanilla, and egg. Mix well. Mix in butterscotch mixture. Then fold in marshmallows, chocolate chips, and nuts. Spread in 9″ square pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Be careful not to overbake these. The center will be jiggly, but will firm upon cooling. Bon appetit!

butterscotch-blondie-brownie

Why My Daughter’s Nursery Will Be Pink

girl-toy-pinkWhen I defended my senior honors thesis about Disney, it inevitably resulted in a conversation amongst the faculty in attendance about what Disney material is and is not appropriate for children. Something that kept on popping up was whether or not little girls should be watching princess movies. It’s a really tough call, you know? On the one hand, you really don’t want your kid thinking that her value depends on long, luscious locks and big doe eyes, but it’s really hard to uphold that decision when she’s surrounded by these images all over the place.

And then one of my professors said something that completely changed my view on parenting: “I let my daughter watch it, but with trepidation,” she said. “I’m just more scared nowadays of her growing up thinking that things typically categorized as ‘feminine’ are bad.”

So now I’ve decided that when I have a daughter, her nursery will be pink.

It has nothing to do with me wanting her to wear ribbons and ruffles and all kinds of frills, nor do I want her constantly worrying about what’s staring back at her in the mirror. It’s just that fundamentally, from a young age, I want her to know that in a world that sometimes isn’t so fair to women, it’s still okay and cool and awesome to be one.

But that doesn’t mean I won’t let her play with trucks, or wear blue, or play in the dirt. The minute she tells me she doesn’t like pink, or that she wants a Thomas the Tank Engine, or anything more traditionally associated with little boys, it’s all hers. It’s not like I’ll have a problem with my little girl playing with toys other than princesses and tea sets, it’s just that I want her to know that those things aren’t bad either. Above all, I want her to feel empowered to make a choice about who or what she plays with, and I want her to respect other girls’ empowerment, too. I want her to know that for every little girl who wants to make model rocket ships, there’s another little girl who genuinely wants to play with baby dolls, and both are equally rad.

Because for me, that’s the biggest part of this feminism thing. Beyond men and women being seen as equals in all aspects of life and society, I value being empowered to make my own choices. Like when feminists scoff at my waist-length hair that’s almost always done, or my shaved armpits, or my pink painted finger nails — how dare they. How can they call themselves feminists while simultaneously tearing down me, a fellow woman? Aren’t we all supposed to support each other, regardless of our choices to look more traditionally ‘feminine’ or more gender neutral?

I guess that’s how I want to raise my daughter. To be ready to accept anyone – no matter of the choices they make – and to be ready to accept herself as well.

Why Ross and Rachel’s Love So Isn’t Romantic to Me

friends ross and rachel
source.

Today when I maybe shouldn’t have been doing so much Twittering and a little bit more working, I saw the most adorable Ross and Rachel graphic (you know Ross and Rachel—that couple on Friends who may or may not have been on a break?) It was a series of screenshots from the finale when – spoiler alert – Rachel got off the plane, and we got to see the two finally get their acts together. The Tweet got oodles and oodles of retweets, but all I could think was “ugh, I would never, ever, ever want that.

That’s right – me, the Friends-obsessed super-nerd, finds nothing romantic about the Ross and Rachel relationship.

friends shes your lobster

Don’t get me wrong. I’m an avid Friends fan who will always maintain that Ross is Rachel’s lobster, but I can’t in good conscience romanticize the relationship those two yahoos had, because I’m pretty sure when you look up the word “dysfunctional” in the dictionary, you see a photo of Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer as their iconic characters.

Because seriously, who wants to drag out a relationship with the supposed love of their life for ten whole years? Who wants someone as jealous as Ross, or as flighty as Rachel? Who wants to wait until their shared child is two years old before they actually get together for good? Who wants an entire relocation to France to be what makes you and your S.O. see that you were meant to be together?

It’s just nothing I could ever do, and I wouldn’t want to. When (if) I fall in love with someone, I don’t want it to be the juicy drug that I can’t kick; I want it to be like the sun. I want it to be the thing that keeps me warm, the thing that I know rises and sets the same, the thing that is in my life every day but never stops being beautiful.

friends i got off the plane

And I don’t want to get off the plane to show my S.O. how much I love him; I want to have something that makes me not want to get on it at all.

In a World Where Journalists Aren’t Safe: Reflections on the WDBJ Shooting

Despite everything,I still believe people

“What does democracy mean to you?”

I was 17, a senior in high school, when a civics teacher asked me that. After a semester of Democracy and Media Literacy with her, I’d realize that the answer to that question is pretty much absolutely everything.

I’m not one of those super rebellious liberals who “isn’t sure they believe in democracy.” I don’t know man. That just seems a little drastic for me. Sure, I lean super far left and I’m not afraid to admit it (who is these days?), but I think saying that I don’t believe in democracy anymore might be a little bit of a copout. Do I think democracy means something different in our 21st century world than it did in our fore fathers’ 18th century world? Well, yes. Do I think the way we’re adapting it to modernity isn’t quite what our Athenian friends were thinking of when they invented the whole concept? Probably not. But I still believe in it. I still think it’s worth working for. I still think that democracy is the best thing for freedom, and I think a well-informed electorate is the best thing for democracy. I believe in democracy, and I believe in the news.

I consume the news like an addict looking for her next fix. I refresh my Twitter newsfeed with a twitching finger. I worship at the altar of Cronkite and Murrow in the church of CNN. I sit, I read, I think, I discuss, I think harder, and I vote. And I can honestly tell you that no other practice makes me feel more American, more democratic, than that.

Which is why Wednesday, when I learned of the massacre of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, my stomach lurched in pain. This has brought to the forefront talks of gun control policy and mental healthcare reform, and I’m so glad we’re having those necessary discussions. But the pain I felt was a far more visceral one—this felt like an attack on journalism, an affront on the news.

I think a lot of people are (sadly) conditioned to the dangers that lay ahead for journalists internationally; in the past year ISIS has been responsible for the beheadings of over 60 journalists. And America only really reports on the Western journalists. But the other day… I don’t know. This wasn’t supposed to happen in our country. Journalists are supposed to be safe here. I don’t know if, as an American, as a person who loves democracy, I feel safe in a place where journalists aren’t safe. Isn’t journalism, the news, the very thing which is supposed to feed our democracy? Yesterday I was deeply saddened.

But something that I think makes journalists, and writers in general, special is that we pick up all of these demons, cover these exceptionally upsetting stories and discuss these deeply disturbing problems, but we wake up the next day all the more filled with hope.

On Wednesday, I posted a graphic with the quote “despite everything, I believe people are really good at heart.” And I do. I do believe Miss Frank’s words, because if she can believe them, who can’t? But yesterday they were harder to type out. I’m glad I did, though, if only to remind myself for later. If only to try and keep this thing we have going in America moving forward.

Essays 101: 7 Steps to Getting that A

ESSAY WRITING POST

So I’m going to have to be pretty honest, seeing all of my friends who are younger than me move back into school is hardcore bumming me out. It’s not because I’m longing for the party-filled social life of college (because my social life at home is pretty dang good), but because I so badly want to be taking classes with them all. And the thing I’m really really going to miss the most? The essay writing, because essays are kinda my shit.

I haven’t taken a legitimate exam since freshman year of college because, as a history major and English minor, I was just tested via lots and lots of essays, and I couldn’t have loved that more. Throughout all of those essays, I’ve really gotten my process down to a science—the thought of a 10-page essay isn’t so daunting anymore, and I get so excited at questions I don’t really know the answer to just yet.

I’ve boiled that science down to my seven must-dos in order to seriously nail an essay so you all can, too!

  1. Actually read the books.

I mean I guess it’s kind of obvious, but there are definitely people out there who don’t read the books you have to write your essay on. I guess that reading a straight textbook might be a little bit dry, but they make up for it by being super easy reads. When you move onto upper-level classes where you’re reading more books books instead of a textbook, though, you’ve got to read them. On the bright side, these books are usually super interesting and well-written, so it’s totally worth the time it takes to read.

When you’re reading, do yourself a favor and underline/highlight, and maybe add a few sticky-notes in there, too. You’re going to need to use quotes in your essay, obviously, so marking where there are insightful comments is kind of a must-do. Another great way to collect quotes if maybe you didn’t completely read every word of the book is to use the index and refine your speed reading skills.

  1. Make a legit outline.

These bad boys are so, so important—if you make a proper outline, you’re already like 70 percent done with your essay. I like to come up with each paragraph I’m going to write, come up with the topic of each, and at least type in every quote I’m going to support each point. I don’t let this 100 percent dictate my essay-writing, though. If I’m writing and I feel like I need to split into a new paragraph, or should swap around ideas, I allow myself room to do so.

Toward the end of college I started adding in bullet points in each outline, and would allow myself to ramble on about that subtopic as much as I wanted. Then I’d go back and edit that all out to have more scholarly language and transitional phrases, eventually turning itself into an essay.

  1. Use EasyBib.

The absolutely, positively most important part of writing an essay is making sure the whole thing is sourced properly. That means making sure you have the right in-text citations, the right footnotes, and the right bibliography at the end. I love using EasyBib.com because it organizes my bibliographies perfectly. I still need to think about the rest of my sourcing, but at least I know one part of it will be flawless.

Pay attention to the citation format you use. If you’re writing something in sociology or psychology, you’re probably going to use APA format. If you’re writing English, it’ll be MLA. History is Chicago Manual of Style (AKA lots and lots of footnotes). Those tend to be how it works out, but make sure you double check with your professor to find out what he/she would like!

  1. Think about the connected ideas between all of your sources, and what those ideas are saying about the world at large.

When you start moving into upper-level classes (your 200 or 300 levels), it’s not enough to just give a report or summary of what you read. In most cases, you’re going to be balancing multiple books, or multiple thinkers, or multiple theories, and you need to make sure that you’re showing you understand all of them. The best way to do that is to show that you understand how they all connect to each other, and how they connect to the world at large.

Obviously, this advice is going to vary on a case-by-case basis. I honestly have no knowledge about psychology, so who the heck knows, maybe this is a terrible piece of advice for that subject! I do know, however, that in history, you need to demonstrate that you know how different ideas connect and that they don’t exist in a vacuum—that’s pretty much the whole point to the study of history, and English is pretty similar, too.

  1. Say something unique, or that you don’t think your peers are saying.

THIS IS HUGE. I had a professor who used to say that it would be impossible to get more than a B on an essay with him if you only went for the low-hanging fruit. That’s to say, there are a lot of obvious arguments out there—usually the ones you went over in class a lot, or the ones you would know whether you took the course or not—and those are not enough to show that you understand a concept. While you should definitely touch on those, don’t let them be your whole essay.

When I would write essays, I would try to say something that I didn’t think my peers would say. That could mean taking a qualified stance on an argument, or saying that an event occurred for reasons we hadn’t yet discussed. It didn’t matter to me if I had the best writing skills or the best research skills in the class—I wanted to say the most creative thing.

  1. Use your introduction not just to set the topic, but to capture your professor and show off your writing skills.

Sarah Vowell, one of my favorite authors, once said “the more history I learn, the more the world fills up with stories.” That’s why introductions are my favorite, favorite, favorite things to write. That’s my space to tell a story.

Of course, in my introduction I take the time to make my thesis statement and give the reader a teeny glimpse into what I’ll be talking about, but my first handful of sentences are always dedicated to storytelling, letting my reader know the context of my argument, of letting them know that I’m not just writing an essay, but actually demonstrating writing skills.

  1. Make your title last.

God, I hate titles. To be completely honest, I don’t have the best advice for them except to write them after you’ve written the whole essay. Sometimes when I’m writing, the essay I planned on doesn’t necessarily come to fruition, and it changed into something new. Maybe there’s a really interesting point I come up with, or maybe there’s one part that’s better written than another and I want to direct attention to it. Either way, I always make sure to reflect that in my title. Another way to go is super, duper general, like “Heart of Darkness as 19th Century Imperialist Commentary.” That shit’s real general to the point that it almost sounds dumb, but it’s not going to make you drop from an A to A-. I’m also a fan of the colon, like “Heart of Darkness: An Imperialist Commentary.” That makes you seem really smart, but doesn’t take a huge amount of brain power to come up with.

Why I Think Politicians Need to be More Like Doctors

I have probably the most badass job out there—yup, you guessed it, I’m a healthcare reporter. All sarcasm aside, sometimes I do find some pretty interesting stuff amongst all of the Medicare/Medicaid jargon I sift through on a daily basis. It’s on those days that I feel most lucky to still be able to find myself moved by even the most mundane of facts. I had one of those days a few weeks ago.

Before I dive in, for the sake of this article, let’s all just take our opinions of Obamacare and put them in the corner for like, five minutes. I am not a doctor, nor a financial expert, nor a politician. If I knew the answer to all of the healthcare problems in this country, I, not Donald Trump, would be running for president. I don’t pretend to have the next answer in universal (or privately paid) healthcare, but my love for democracy isn’t pretend either, and I think it’s important we don’t shy away from the tougher questions as voters.

According to a recent poll conducted by the American Association for Physician Leadership, 55 percent of the physicians are starting to get on board with the Affordable Care Act – or, as we politically robust Millennials so fondly know it, Obamacare – because they can see “more good in it than bad.” The physician support for Obamacare is growing and growing because doctors think that it offers great opportunities for patients who otherwise wouldn’t have health insurance.

I found that statistic so staggering not because it’s an overwhelming number (because let’s be honest, it’s not), but because of the rationale behind the respondents’ answers. A group of people who really didn’t think this bill was going to work, and who really kind of didn’t want it to, are starting to warm up to it because they see that it’s doing some good for their patients, and I think that’s really beautiful.

What I don’t think is really beautiful is the fact that even if 100 percent of surveyed doctors thought that Obamacare was the best thing in modern medicine, a lot of politicians would still try to kill the law, all because it doesn’t align with their political ideologies. And what’s pretty messed up is that this doesn’t start and end with healthcare—politics is so ridiculously partisan in all areas and it kind of makes me sick.

A liberal presidential candidate believes in affirmative action not because she believes it a great equalizer in higher education, but because they are a liberal and that’s what liberals do. A conservative candidate opposes gay marriage not because she genuinely believes in a constitutional right to freedom of religion, but because conservatives simply oppose it. Politicians vote along party lines not because they want to see their constituents win, but because they want to see their political enemies lose. Pretty soon the whole country’s going to lose because nobody can get a damn thing done.

I think politicians need to be a little bit more like doctors. Doctors have their beliefs and can be set in their ways, but when it comes down to the well-being of the patient, most of the time they completely pull through. I know there are politicians out there like that (at least that’s what Leslie Knope taught me), but for the most part, I’m looking at a Washington tangled in party lines and partisan politics.

But what we all bring to the table, doctors and politicians alike, is hope. I sure know I have hope. Hope that we’ll sort out Obamacare. Hope that we won’t defund Planned Parenthood. Hope that we’ll figure out how to stop shooting each other, how to accept each other, how to live and let live. I have hope that some day doctors can be doctors and politicians can be politicians and nobody will need to act like the other. I have hope that someday politicians will care so much more about the people, their people and their voters, than their party.

Dance Made Me Hate My Body (& Made Me Love it, Too)

I wonder if other girls remember the day they got fat, because yes, in a time where body image is so heavily influenced by the media, it is something that happens overnight; one minute you’re a happy little girl, and the next you’re one who only sits a certain way because she’s afraid her stomach will roll over her pants.

Sixth grade, the year I got fat, in an international award-winning tap routine.
Sixth grade, the year I got fat, in an international award-winning tap routine.

I remember the day that I got fat. I was in sixth grade, and all of the little girls in my dance class were in one of two jazz small groups. When my group, “Havana Nights,” was in our lesson, the other would sit in the waiting room, snacking and chatting and having fun; except one day, the they decided it’d be more fun to talk smack about their classmates who were in rehearsal, and I was one of their targets.

The rest is pretty easy to piece together—people gossip, and it got back to me exactly who slammed me for being too fat for their dance class (side note: that bitch eventually got hers; one year her high school’s senior prank was putting goose shit in underclassmen lockers, and guess who’s locker got hit?). From there on out, getting ready for dance meant a set of sit ups before leaving the house, strategically placing the elastic band of my tights so nobody saw where it pressed into my belly and not drinking anything for a few hours beforehand so I wouldn’t bloat. In hindsight my dance prep was super exhausting.

The body hate kept on going into high school. I never suffered with anorexia or bulimia like some dancers do, but that didn’t keep me from envying the girls who seemed to never hit puberty, or who didn’t need to wear a sports bra so the strappy backs of their leotards weren’t obstructed, or who didn’t need to pay as much for costumes because they managed to squeeze into child larges. I hate that so many of my memories dancing were plagued with worrying how my stomach looked doing the dance moves.

17 years old, award-winning soloist, but still not feeling okay dancing inside of myself.
17 years old, award-winning soloist, but still not feeling okay dancing inside of myself.

There’s something romantic in knowing all of my body positivity came from my first and truest love—dance. It’s especially pleasing because for so many girls (me included at certain points of my life), dance has been the very thing that makes us hate our bodies. As a dancer and a woman, I am not unique in struggling with body image.

It has always been hard to be a dancer (or woman, for that matter) who loves their body—I will never forget being a child watching Center Stage and seeing Maureen, a beautiful ballerina, make herself throw-up because she didn’t like what she saw. I don’t really remember what I did with that image. I remember being really affected by it, like hey I feel you there, sister, but it’s upsetting that I wasn’t more affected—a dancer hating their body just seemed so normal, so ordinary, so run of the mill. And now, in a world of Dance Moms drama and InstaFamous dancers with flawless silhouettes, we don’t even need eating disorder storylines to feel like shit about ourselves—the standard for dancer perfection is everywhere.

I hope every day that everyone gets to have the kind of revelation I had in college. I spent most of the college search process looking for a school that had a smaller student population but still managed to have a nationally competitive dance team. I am so unbelievably lucky that I found Assumption College when I did, when its team was at its peak and when I was going to learn some of the most important lessons of my dance career.

After a second place finish at NDA Nationals, loving life and loving my curves.
After a second place finish at NDA Nationals, loving life and loving my curves.

Like I said, my team was pretty competitive on the national scene. We might not be dance team ‘famous’ the way some huge schools are, but we’ve brought home some pretty high national rankings. Somewhere in the hustle and bustle of dance teaming, all of my body shaming bullshit fell by the wayside. Maybe it was because practice was so hard that I literally didn’t have time to think about what I looked like in the mirror, or maybe it was being surrounded by such beautiful, talented, badass girls whose bodies looked a lot like mine. Maybe it was that I was put in a way more mature dance environment, and I started to see that I couldn’t possibly hate my body, the very thing that made it possible for me to turn for days and days or spin with my leg pulled up by my face (or, you know, bring home a second place trophy from nationals). I’m not really sure; I think it’s a combination of all three of those things. I realized that thick, muscular thighs helped my jumps have power, and a solid tummy held my core in place. My body was pretty freaking beautiful because it let me do some pretty freaking beautiful things on the dance floor.

I’ve always hated that I started feeling fat because of something that someone else said; it made me feel embarrassed. But now I realize that’s how it goes for everyone—we don’t start hating our bodies because we have some intrinsic damage that forces us to not like ourselves. We start hating our bodies because society tells us to, whether those messages come from a magazine, or a TV show or the models in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. But now it doesn’t really matter that I let someone else’s opinion of me dictate my own. What’s important is that my love for myself came from dance, something that lives deep inside of me. I guess that’s all any of us can hope for.

For dance. For being a role model. For all sorts of things. (The Final Curtain Call, Revisited)

It’s kind of a big deal in dance today– it’s the first tryouts for my college dance team that I won’t be participating in, and it’s the last recital my dance studios seniors are in. Any other year, it’d be a tough choice for me to decide which to go to, but this year it was a little too easy, because I can’t really put into words how proud of North Andover School of Dance’s class of 2015 I am, even if I’m going to try.

Image via NASD Facebook
Image via NASD Facebook

I feel like every dancer comes to the moment when they’re like 14 or 15 where they realize that all the “big girls” that they used to idolize aren’t at the studio anymore, and that somehow they’ve become the “big girls.” For me, it was during a giant production rehearsal, and everyone in the room was just messing around. I threw a bunch of pirouettes, and the ridiculously talented 10-year-old in the room looked at me, and then threw just as many. My teacher caught it, smiled, tilted her head, and cooed, “aw, big sis and little sis nailing their turns.”

Big sis and little sis.

The next year the same girl pulled my name for Secret Santa, and on the evening of our Holiday Show gift exchange, I was pulling out big sis little sis necklaces. I knew, in the best way possible, that I was being watched.

Over the years I continued to hear about it: you’re being watched, Sara, work harder, someone is going to match the work you put in, Sara, don’t post that, you don’t want people to think that’s okay.

Maybe I’m just really flattering myself, and maybe all these kids weren’t really looking up to me the way I was imagining (hoping), but it doesn’t really matter. Because for me, it’s not really about what I could’ve given to them as a supposed “big girl”; it’s about what they gave to me.

I kept on working hard throughout high school because these little munchkins were always a pirouette, a leap, a tap trick behind me. I genuinely believe that I wouldn’t be the dancer that I am today if I didn’t have the need to make sure the little kids never got better than me (although that definitely happened…) I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am, either; when they eventually did get better than me, I learned how to support someone, how to stand behind them during their journey. I learned how to dance with integrity and confidence and love because I wanted them all to have that, too.

nasd recital
Image via NASD Facebook

So, NASD Class of 2015, I want you all to remember this today: Stay absolutely still in your head and in your heart. From someone who has done that final bow on the Collins Center stage, as someone who walked off from her final performance a short month and a half ago, I’m telling you to be still. Feel the stage lights on your skin, look at every fallen sequin on the marley floor, hold onto those moments in the wings for as long as the music lets you. Look everyone around you in the eye, and thank them for making you into the dancer you are; thank dance for making you the person you are.

And don’t think today that you’re never going to have this (the dancing, the friends, the studio, and the love that’s inside it) again. You will. I’m telling you from experience that you will. After months away, after millions of moments of happiness at college, you’re going to walk into that studio, it all is never going to have gone away.

Sara Says: The Final Column

When I began this column back in September, I told you all this: I know that who I am is all that I have. That was all I seemed to know at the time that I started editing with the Provoc, and it was the main thing I had learned in college. But now, seven months later, I seem to know a little bit more—that words have a fickle way of sticking out of everything, of not wanting to bend to the circumstances you have, that sometimes they’re going to fail you, and others they’re going to run like a leaky faucet onto a page and you won’t be able to stop them.

I’ve come to know now, with all of the bravado and certainty in the world, that I was right when I started this whole thing. Who I am is all that I have, and all that I have and all that I am are words.

Words seem to have traced my entire trajectory throughout college. I’m a history major and (officially declared!) English minor, so pretty regularly I’ve found myself hunched in front of a computer pounding away at a keyboard. I have searched for them, and found them, when I’ve had a hot date with Microsoft Word and a Her Campus article or blog post or Provoc article. I have spent hours on end with the dance team when words have left me to go see something else. Words have been why I can fall asleep at night, and why I’m able to hold the folks around me with tight little hands.

And I blame you, Assumption College, for all of this. I blame the many people who have touched me, with positive rays of sunshine or with heartbreaking sadness. I blame the girls who have lived by my side for this little journey, the teams who have made my hands feel light and full, the lectures that have taken me to fantasy lands where I, from the comfort of a desk, have had the ability to see everything.

Shout out to the Provoc staff for being magical word fairies, for making me feel hilarious and for teaching me how to step into the large, large shoes that leaders often wear. My love for you is infinite, and if you need to hear about it again, check out issue seven.

Shout out to the dance team for being there when words weren’t. Thank you for teaching me how to dance and walk like a champion, how to ‘put my loser up’ in all sense of the words and for Sobfest 2015.

Shout out to 5J for being the most hilarious and unique women in my life. Thank you for the Wall of Shame, for the denim stains our dancing has left on walls and for the toxic group message that plagues my iPhone. Please stay weird. Always.

And shout out to my professors, for giving me books to read, and a whole world to explore. Special shout outs to Professor Wheatland, who gave me the worst grade I’ve gotten in 117, and for pulling out the best paper I’ve ever written in senior seminar; Dr. Kisatsky for letting me write an honors thesis about Disney, and for making sure it came out okay; Professor Land for reminding me that journalism, and writing in general, is all about talking to and learning from people you would never have gotten the chance to meet; and to Professor Hodgen. Thanks for telling me to “ruin my life” and become a writer; you—and writing—have saved me in more ways than you could know.

Thanks to the Andover High friends who never let me stop calling them home. You all are everything to me.

Thanks to Douglas, Colleen and Eric for being my first friends ever, for keeping me irrationally attached to Massachusetts, for teaching me to laugh deep in my gut and for teaching me that the earth is the greatest thing that we have and we should go out there and enjoy it. Thanks to Mom and Dad for making bill payments, high grades, extracurriculars and big dreams all possible.

Forever and ever I will always say that humility and gratitude will be the most important and most attractive qualities someone can have, so I try to pull them into my heart every morning and every night. Thank you Provoc, Assumption and everyone who has filled this space with love for always keeping me humble, and always keeping me grateful.