things i like

To break up the longer/heavier posts, I thought I’d make a list of things I like. Maybe you can get to know me better?
Or something?

So here’s the list…not an exhaustive one at all but I covered some ground.

– Chicago
Gosh it’s brutal here sometimes and we’ve got some brokenness to deal with, but I still kind of think it’s just wonderful.
– Dogs
They are cute OH they are cute. They are also really sweet and they embody complete and total unconditional love…humans don’t do that all the time but dogs do…I think that’s pretty neat.
– Being an extrovert
I see so many benefits to being a classic introvert, classic extrovert, and everything in between. (We dichotomize these a lot but I think there’s a spectrum!) I, however, gain energy when I’m around people. I’ve learned to take alone time, but being connected to others is a big big part of my life.
– [In relation to the above bullet] People.
I love people. I think we’re all interesting and weird and that’s really good. We learn so so so much from being with and around people.
– Researching
I like learning new things. I also like reframing things and writing gives you the power to rewrite parts of language in a way. Cool, huh?
– Denison University
My soon to be alma mater is everything. The PEOPLE THOUGH…they’re my home. Leaving it in May is going to be unreal.

Whether or not you like all of these things, here is a video of a chihuahua chasing bubbles all bewildered and such. I dare you not to like this lil’ guy.

xox

Preview…next post? Storying comedy as cultural catharsis. #funstuff

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choosing optimism

IT IS 2015 YASSS WE DID THE THING.

Quick Megan Life Update: I’m coming off of a glorious night ringin’ in the new year. I’ve got a water and a vanilla iced coffee from Starbucks because today I am that human and it’s time to write the first post of 2015!!! WAHOO!!! What a glorious day!!! (Also, I’ve got some Hozier playing in the background and I strongly recommend…jam out to From Eden because it is perfection.) I’ve said before that New Year’s is my favorite holiday and it did not disappoint once again this year! I’d like to give a special shout out to things that made this one possible…Giordano’s pizza, Fat Tire, raspberries, Pandora…and some of my dear dear friends. You guys are as cool as beverages and pizza I guess.

So I wanted to write about choosing optimism today, because it’s a very relevant outlook as we enter into the new year. The philosophy of choosing optimism is something I think I’ve tried to embrace for some time now I think, but it was actually just recently put into words for me by my incredible friend/advisor/mentor/lighthouse-person Natalie over a table of some delicious sweet potato fries. This new understanding made it easier for me to live it out in the past few weeks…I firmly believe once something becomes a part of your everyday language it is easier to embody. It’s not a new idea or philosophy, but it was new to me so I thought I’d share out!

We all just have days that feel really shitty…just rough days/months/years all around. I bet when you hear the phrase “really shit days,” specific days pop in your head…we’ve all had them and I feel you because believe me I have been there (my colloquialism/code word for these days to my friends is that I am “goin’ through it”). I firmly believe everybody has their stuff and it comes in waves. The idea of choosing optimism is understanding that these days/months/years are never completely bad. That there is a reason to laugh, a reason to be happy, there is good in the world. It is taking specific moments of joy and using them to power through the toughness and unbelievable messiness of it all.

This is not necessarily a vision for a world with people who are 100% sunshine and smiles, though I am super pro-sunshine, pro-smiles. I am just also pro-authenticity. If you’re having a terrible time, own it. Vulnerability is powerful. You don’t always have to say “it will all be fine” because in that moment, it might feel like it won’t be. There are some really really awful things in the world. Humanity is hurting in so many ways and we are going to need a lot of band-aids, especially in the coming year. My understanding of choosing optimism is that we don’t live in willful ignorance of these things. My idea of an optimist is someone who does get affected. Who reads the news. Who cares about some things bigger than themselves that aren’t all that pretty. They embrace the messy parts of their own lives. These people are aware and realistic and they seek to understand. But they move forward in all of it, trusting a spirit of positivity to get them through.

Choosing optimism sure isn’t easy. We all put up walls. Walls that our body puts up without us knowing that make it harder to see good in the world. Walls of negativity. Walls to protect ourselves from feeling the full weight of our own misfortune or the misfortune of others. It’s not always fun to think about all the walls we’ve put up. I think we should do it though. I believe that it’s worth it when the reward is to feel deeply.

You can live a life where you understand and feel the darkness of it all but constantly move towards the light.

I’m going to give you a tiny call to action for the new year by way of a quote Natalie sent me a couple weeks ago. It’s a quote by Jamie Tworkowski, the founder of TWLOHA. His quote finishes with this:
…You will need other people and you will need to be that other person to someone else, a living, breathing, screaming invitation to believe better things. (You can also check out this very related and beautiful post by him.)

So all I ask is that you believe better things. I will try my very very bestest to do this alongside you.

OK. I’ll include two more quotes that say it better than I ever could and then I’m done.

I am a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.
Antonio Gramsci, political theorist and sociologist

I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lay defeat and death.
– The great Nelson Mandela, in his book Long Walk to Freedom

There is beauty in a life full of unpredictable things. Dark moments. Soaring moments of pure joy. Everything in between. Just remember to keep moving forward through it without giving in to the inevitable, heavy discouragement that sometimes comes hand in hand with the wonderful uncertainty of life. In all of this, I hope you choose optimism.

Also, I hope 2015 is really good for you. I hope you have fun and laugh and cry and do all the things you want to do and you enjoy the beauty of the mess.

Thoughts? Comments? Comment below or e-mail thewondergraduate@gmail.com!

Also, I admit that this one was a long post. My hope is that there will be a good mix of posts on The Wondergraduate…some longer ones, some little thought tidbits, some fun pictures and videos. The goal is a variety…I’ll try to stick to it.

sending you all some serious x’s and o’s.

re: my last post

I am just so blessed to know the people I do. The outpouring of support I got for sharing something that for many is deeply personal was unbelievable. It has honestly been one of my most wonderful days because I could just feel love from people who inspire me every single day.

I was going to wait until after the new year rolled in to post anything new, but I just had a lot of feels and wanted to share them. I made this blog with the aim of sharing positivity with readers and communicating some of my ways of being with the world through my words. But so far, this blog has been completely about readers sharing positivity with me and helping me to see things in new ways. So…thank you, thank you, thank you.

I hope I can spend my 2015 sending back to you even a small small fraction of the heartwarming words and beautiful, unique, special sentiments you have shared with me in the past 24 hours.

Love and peace in this new year…it’s gonna be a good one.

I can feel it.

My Really Personal Personal Narrative

Today, I want to bring attention to an older post that I put out on the Undergraduate last April. Why? The subject matter is important and it means a lot and I promised personal narrative for you guys and this is it in SPADES. Actually, it’s probably my most personal personal narrative. 🙂
So take a look at this post first and then come on back!

Here’s an update as of December 30th:

I have been off medication now for about 2 months, but honestly I have felt better every single day since I figured out what was wrong. It is the eternal optimist in me but every day that I didn’t want to lounge in bed until 3 p.m. was a win…it was all about the little victories. So basically, things are wonderful and great!
I wanted to draw attention to this post again because I think the subject matter is important but also because it’s a big part of me, as a person. I’m guessing that others who have dealt with something similar – or gone through anything really – will understand my sentiment that struggle is a wonderful part of life and you learn so much and it all becomes some part of you but in the moment, it really sucks. We don’t schedule disasters onto our GCals, nor do we ever plan to deal with personal stuff more than we absolutely have to. Not a great practice, I think, but it’s just kind of a human thing we do.
It is always OK to feel “crazy” (not a great word but we use it) or off or not like ourselves. We need to own that feeling of madness and work to return to some kind of equilibrium. It is OK to talk to someone to help figure out how best to combat the off-ness, the anxiety, the bad breakup, the change in appetite, etc etc etc. And to anyone who is reading this…I really recommend going to get a checkup. It may not work out for you, it may not resonate, but it’s worth it. Think of it like taking a daily vitamin. You don’t take your daily vitamins just to combat illness. You do it to maintain a healthy lifestyle and supplement your wellness. I feel like therapy, even one session, is like a shit-ton of daily vitamins but for your brain. 🙂
My favorite thing about feeling better (I hesitate to use the word “normal” because it’s a word with a lot of cultural heaviness and I don’t love it) is that I have the ability to feel the full, unadulterated wave of human emotions again. With my depression and anxiety (of course it is so so different for everyone), I was afraid of being sad for prolonged periods of time. When I was sad it took me over and I was super tired and then when I was happy or joyful, it didn’t stick as long as it should and I was exhausted again. Now, I give sadness and happiness the weight they deserve without being scared of what could happen if I cry about a movie or laugh so hard my sides hurt (which happens even MORE now!) It’s amazing and everything and a luxury I didn’t appreciate until I went through all of this. Yep, I still have days where I feel a little groggy but they are just groggy days and nothing more than that. And that’s an incredible and beautiful thing. I feel like “myself” again, whatever that means. 🙂
One of my dear friends recently said that I always seemed happy, even when I was goin’ through it (he said that’s because joy is just kind of who I am) but now I seem more content too. To me, that is my mark of a good life: being sad and happy and angry and frustrated and feeling all of the emotions in the book but being permanently centered and grounded in our personhood and identity…an identity we feel absolutely safe and content in. I feel that way now more than ever.
I chose medication to help out but that is ABSOLUTELY a personal choice and not always the right one. I definitely didn’t choose it as a quick fix…it actually takes a while for meds to kick in and for you to notice any difference in your energy (it took mine maybe a month or two to really stabilize…you’re changin’ some serious body chemistry!). I chose meds as a supplement to other lifestyle practice changes.  I learned to be a bit more patient and I started walking every day, because exercise can be JUST as good or better than an antidepressant.
So my final note for you is that in this new year, I hope you take care of yourself before using your very valuable energy for anyone else. This is NOT SELFISH. I promise you. (I spent a lot of time thinking it was.)
It is just a really really good practice in living a life where self-care is a revolutionary act that gives you the ability to love fully, laugh harder, and feel empathy and care for others without hurting yourself beyond repair.
Hugs and kisses peace and blessings, all. xo.
Oh and feel free to share your own story with me at thewondergraduate@gmail.com. I’m a good reader/listener and you can be anonymous if you want!

Hello yes this is me.

Here are a few little nuggets about me just to give the reader an idea of why I have a blog and also who I am as a human.

– I think a lot of different things about a lot of different things.

– I’m an activist. I’m super passionate. I’m really gregarious.

– I’m kind of an open book. I think narrative is incredibly powerful…and I hope that maybe mine will resonate with someone.

– I probably have over 100 notes on my new phone and many more on my old phone with little tidbits of thoughts or topics or quotes that stick with me. Hopefully, most of these will soon be blog posts…they need to not just sit there anymore!
For example:
One just said “Ida Lupino,” entered three times, and then said, “We’re all just god in drag.” Amazing.
Another said “Maybe I’ll name one of my dogs Kronk and one Abe Lincoln and one Boo Radley.” I stand by this…it’s a brilliant idea.
These notes are for sure super assorted but some have little glimmers of wisdom hidden in there somewhere.

– I LOVE writing. I used to abhor it when I was younger and I didn’t have a distinctive writing voice…it felt like a chore. Now, it’s a blast. And since I write the way I talk – sometimes jumbled, always fast, super colloquial, often quirky – I think it actually suits a blog format well!

Any questions? E-mail me. I even made an e-mail address: thewondergraduate@gmail.com! I have a lot of ideas…this’ll be really fun I think. I may do a podcast in the future too. And I’m going to bring back some of my old posts and retool them too. AHHH oh boy friends this could be huge oh man I’m excited.

Want to know a bit more about me? Check out the About Me page for The Wondergraduate!

xo.

THE WONDERGRADUATE IS A THING, Y’ALL

Hi friends!

I’ve had this blog for quite some time now just as a consolidation of some of my stuff. Some of it is from my scholarly writing (for my Communication courses), some of it is little wondrances from the past few years, some more serious fare, some a bit goofier…it’s just a smorgasbord.

I used to call this blog The Undergraduate because I was an undergraduate and I had thoughts and feelings to share which made a lot of sense. But I graduated in May 2015 (eeeeeee)! I firmly believe that not being in the college environment shouldn’t stop me from sharing my thoughts and writing a lot, goshdarnit! I have officially (just now on this blog) committed myself to continuing to write about things that I care about. Wahoo! Thus, the blog continues. (Just with a new title and more frequent, “fresh” content.)
In homage to the old name but with new flare, I’m going to call this one The Wondergraduate. It’s fun wordplay that my sister came up with, but it also has roots in my way of being in the world. I am frequently surprised, often in awe, and I get joy from learning to see the world in new ways.
I really just live in a constant state of wonder.
(See what we did there? Incredible. Pun-derful.)
Even if I crossed a stage last May to signify the end of my formal education (for now), it doesn’t mean I’ll ever stop wondering, thinking, and sharing.

I originally started a blog just as a safe space for some of my writing and a place to go if I wanted to put something out into the world. Now, I want to put my thoughts out into the world to give readers a new perspective or someone to relate to or a fun place where we share and connect and learn together. The possibilities in this community are endless.

So I hope you read and I hope it strikes a cord.
Writing feels really powerful to me, but this will be more powerful if people read it and something in my words feels meaningful to them.
If you love it, spread it!
I am a processor and dialoguer by nature…I’m loud but I try not to drown voices out. So if you don’t love it, comment and e-mail and let’s chat too!

With that, I’m sending you hugs and kisses, peace and blessings.
Thanks for embarking on this journey with me.
– Megan, The Wondergraduate

I LOVE NEW YEAR’S EVE

“Is your life more than just your own?
And are there broken things you were made to fight to fix?
Broken families, broken friends… Injustice.
Will you move for things that matter?”

This is from a blog post that inspired a movement by the organization To Write Love On Her Arms. called Welcome to Midnight. Please please take a read of this blog post (here: Welcome to Midnight.) if you have a sec…it’s kinda brilliant. The above passage is incredibly pertinent as we enter 2015.

New Year’s Eve is my favorite holiday. It’s been that way for years. I love that we’ve chosen to cherish a day just because of a new beginning (even if everyone kinda builds it up). Honestly, it’s a day just like any other day, but it hits midnight, and we are free.

I say we should use the model of New Year’s – the fireworks, the revelry, the champagne – to just celebrate every minute (and every midnight) of our lives. Use our energy and empathy to light up a room. Pop some champagne just to celebrate a day. Yell and laugh and dance just ‘cuz we feel like it. And try to treat every single midnight like we treat the night of December 31st.

xo.

Welcome to Midnight.

Big Questions and the Beauty of Idealism

http://umojacorporation.org/

At the end of July, Umoja held Umoja University, a professional development conference for over 100 educators from Chicago Public Schools and like-minded organizations. Each morning, attendees went to workshops that highlighted important and specific aspects of their work and were given concrete tools for the year. We had spaces to process lingering questions about our purpose and intent in schools. In the afternoons, partner schools outlined their goals and strategies for the upcoming year.

One of the most prevalent themes that has emerged to me as I’ve worked among the Umoja staff as the Umoja University intern this summer is idealism.

I was not struck by the storied dreaming or ignorance that has often been associated with idealism…we’ve heard it said that it’s too unrealistic and imaginative to be idealistic. I was struck by a different kind of idealism, a beautiful, unique, and moving idealism. 

During Umoja University, I watched both the immense growth and the inherent discomfort that came from asking our educators tough questions: “Why do you do this work?” “What does your school need?” “How can you best help your students succeed?” “What values do you need to establish in your school?” 

For most educators, it’s overwhelming, no doubt. There’s a self-talk occurring among so many of those in this work that we can only do so much in schools…we can’t do everything. So big questions about culture and change and personal values can be a lot to handle.

However, I don’t think we have to do everything. There are so many ways, so many facets of the identity of a student that come from their own reflection and from how they find their place in this world. We can certainly facilitate, we can ask those immense, heavy questions just to plant the seed. It won’t do everything, but it will do something.

Webster defines an idealist as “a person who believes that it is possible to live according to very high standards of behavior and honesty.” Operating under this frame of idealism, I’m certainly an idealist, as are so many others working in the realm of youth development. We see students for their potential. We see their passions as fluid. We see them for their ability to grow. We discuss ways to embody a growth mindset in our work and idealism is directly related to a growth mindset – we believe students can own lives of integrity and intellect. They’re not static or stuck.

But we aren’t pushing our students forward without empathy or intention. We are guiding, listening, and walking alongside them as they grow.

Attendees also completed quite a bit of concrete planning and visioning for the year ahead at Umoja University. It embodied a healthy idealism. After asking questions like “What do we need in our school to help foster a cultural shift?”and “Where can we be in 1 year or 2 years?,”our educators had the time to lay out concrete goals and to better understand their role in the school and within the community. It was idealism in action.

I think this has become a key call to action at Umoja: Help create a culture of possibility, introspection, and visioning. Don’t be overwhelmed by opportunities for idealism. Celebrate them.

The first time I was asked “What do you care about?” and “Who do you want to be?” it was unbelievably transformative for me…much more transformative than someone I trusted telling me how I should see myself.

My long-term vision for Chicago youth is that they are asked big questions (like I was in college) over and over before they graduate from high school and make their next steps into the world.

I sincerely hope that our participants at Umoja University feel empowered to be the first questioners in a student’s life. They can unpack a child’s experience by engaging with the big picture in an accessible way. Asking is listening, listening is engaging, and engaging is impactful. Our educators will continue to make an impact in the lives of students if they ask tough questions to themselves and to others and if they enable their students to think bigger than their peers, our society, or the world, is telling them to think.

We can foster change through idealism. This powerful and formative summer has certainly taught me that.

A Blessed Unrest

There is a vitality,
a life force,
a quickening
that is translated through you into action,
and because there is only one of you in all time,
this expression is unique.

And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.
The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine
how good it is
nor how valuable it is
nor how it compares with other expressions.

It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly
to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.
You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate YOU.

Keep the channel open…
No artist is pleased…

There is no satisfaction whatever at anytime
There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction
a blessed unrest that keeps us marching
and makes “us” MORE alive than the others.

Martha Graham