Today, I officially close one chapter of my life. A chapter that has dominated my days since I was five. Now, 15 years later I am graduating college. I have gone through all of the ups and downs. I’ve pulled the all-nighters, felt like exams were written in different languages, and woken up at a much earlier time than my body could ever get used to. But I’ve also learned things I never thought of, felt proud of the work I turned in, and created bonds with kinds of people I could never dream of. Being a student had its moments of being tedious and completely unpleasant, but, for the most part, it was a great experience. I encourage everyone to make the most out of their days as a student, but, at the same time, I am ready for what’s next. I’m graduating a year early today and I have no intentions of looking back.
People wonder why athletes are so “overpaid,” but the same people who say this are the same individuals who don’t take the time to realize all that entails being a professional athlete. Yes, they play sports. They play games for a career, but they also are crucial in providing work for coaches, managers, agents, physical therapists, news people, referees, concessions workers, and every other position that is related to a sports team. Without athletes, all of these people would be out of work because there would be no teams to support and no games to watch. Additionally, athletes are ambassadors and spokespeople. Of course, there are the traditional endorsements for energy drinks, restaurants, and clothing brands, but athletes also do their part in supporting good causes. There are plenty of athletes who tie their names to organizations and events that can help change our society into a better place. So, yes, they get paid to play a game, but they also use their famous names and checks to give back to the community. As opposed to being famous and doing nothing, they do what they can to help diminish the negativity in this world and, honestly, I think more people can follow their lead rather than criticize.
My brother-in-law specifically told me about Ray Rice’s efforts to stop bullying and here I am sharing the story with you. Bullying was once just thought of as kids picking on each other by making up humiliating names with the occasional physical contact, but people need to start realizing that bullying isn’t so simple or juvenile. Bullying is a serious issue in schools and anyone can be a victim of it. Nobody is immune to bullying and the severe effects it can have on people. Aside from the trauma and mental effects that it can cause in individuals (and I say individuals because childhood is not the only place where bullying is seen), which is enough to ruin a person’s life, bullying can literally lead to death. Ray Rice, as well as many other famous names, have realized this and have decided to do something about it. Just like how hate crimes and assault are punishable by law, there needs to be more support for protecting people from bullying. It is not ok to let issues like this go unnoticed.
I’ve attached a statement that Ray Rice made on his Facebook earlier this week regarding the death of a twelve-year-old boy after he had been beaten by bullies. If you would like to help Ray Rice’s anti-bullying campaign you can make a donation here.
“A few weeks ago i shared a link to an article that a fan sent to me. It was about an 11 year old boy named Bailey who had been bullied at school. In the latest incident, Bailey was beat up on the school playground. Hit in the face and pushed to the ground, Bailey began to have severe seizures which required him to be placed into a medically induced coma.
After learning last Thursday that doctors said Bailey had no longer had any brain activity, I reached out to the family and was able to spend about 45 minutes on the phone with them. I could hear their sadness, worry, frustration and grief. They would be faced with removing their son, cousin, nephew, and best friend from life support.
Bailey passed away this morning, one day after his 12th birthday.
I don’t think I will ever be able to understand why kids bully each other and how we are all sitting here after yet another “bully death” getting ready to go through this difficult task of picking up the pieces and the even more difficult task of forgiving so we can heal.
I don’t know if we will ever get to a point where bullying is actually considered a CRIME, rather than “kids being kids” or a “playground incident.”
I don’t know if the kid that did this to Bailey will be punished severely enough or if he will receive the help I know he truly needs. Bullying doesn’t happen for no reason…we have to figure out what the underlying cause it and treat it like the illness it is.
I don’t know when parents, teachers, elected officials and administrators will sit up and take notice…and ACT.
But, I DO KNOW THIS: I will NOT give up my fight. Everyday I will continue to fight AGAINST bullying and fight FOR kindness.
Bailey – my little buddy, I will not let you become just another bully statistic…you are my inspiration and one more angel that will help me continue the fight for kids everywhere. You are going to help me save lives. RIP my little friend.”
There’s something particularly satisfying about knowing that what you do actually means something to people. As some of you may know, I spend a lot of my time working with high school students to help them graduate and prepare for their post-high school life. These are students that are usually overlooked by their teachers and are considered too far gone for help, but, honestly, that’s not what I see at all. One of the schools I work at has one of the worst reputations in their county, but this school has quickly turned into one of our best! The kids at this school are some of the most loyal, loving, and helpful teens that I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Simply said, I love them to death and I can’t get enough of them at each meeting we have.
Last year, I shared with you all the great experience of seeing all of my seniors from this school walking across that stage and graduating in their red cap and gowns. This year, I’m happy to share that the graduation rate for our target group at this school went from 35% to 70% in just one year. Sometimes it’s hard to realize how much of a difference you’re making, but I definitely see glimpses of it when I see my students asking questions, showing me their report cards, or simply showing their appreciation. Knowing that the graduation rate is reflecting this positive change solidifies the importance of what I do and shows the county the importance of what my organization does. I just couldn’t be more proud!
I’m glad to say that I am choosing to do what I love either way!
Today, my winter break comes to an end and it’s time to return to UMBC for my last semester as an undergraduate student. I’m not too excited about all of the work that’s lying ahead of me, but I’m glad I’ve come this far. It’s crazy to think that three years ago I was a freshman in college with no idea of what I wanted to do. I was an undeclared major, still working as a part-time dance teacher, and anticipating what the rest of my life was going to look like. Now, I’m finally at my last semester, something that I at times thought would never come. I remember the late nights, the weekends filled with homework, and the dire need for Starbucks throughout the past years. I can still feel the stress of taking 18 credits and working three jobs two semesters in a row. The thought of endless research papers are still too close in my memory to be the past and now here I am… about to start my last semester of college. I’ve taken on a lighter load, thanks to AP credits and jam-packing a couple of semesters, which is definitely making me dread the next four months much less than other undergrads and I must say I’m so proud of myself. Despite all of the stress, I think I did pretty well as a college student and I’m ready to finish off my education on a high note. I’m ready to close the collegiate chapter of my life and move on to the next stage.
The funny thing is that now that I’m nearing my graduation people always ask me if I’m going to go to grad school and, at first, I was dead set against it. I haven’t always been a fan of school and I always saw my Bachelor’s Degree as the end for me, but, I must admit, there was a point in time when I did think about grad school. However, I only thought about it for a very brief moment because then I remembered how much of a pain college can be at times and I was reminded of how badly I want to move forward in life. If I were to go to grad school, I would be using it as a crutch. It would be because I’m too afraid of the “real world” and truly going after my dreams. Yes, the thought of having a safety blanket for a couple of more years is absolutely enticing, but, at the end of the day, it’s just not for me. I would much rather jump now and get to my end goal without hesitation, than to stall in school for a few more years. When you’re a creative person like me, a formal education can only get you so far. There comes a point where you just have to let life experiences teach you what’s truly going to mold your craft and that’s exactly what I can’t wait to get started. That’s the next step and finishing this last semester of school is just the beginning.
So over the weekend I had to complete an assignment where I was supposed to spend an entire day without interacting with any texts. This meant no TV, no movies, no reading, no writing, and the list goes on. At first, I thought I would be able to do it. I figured it would be rough, but I’ve been without a phone before and I’ve gone without watching TV for a day before, so I thought I would be able to spend the day with no texts; however, I was very wrong. After a few hours, boredom took over and conversations began to die down. I was sitting in the kitchen with my mom and friend as my siblings were happily enjoying the football game in the living room. I had my mom checking my phone for me and letting me know what time of day it was, which are still forms of textual communication, so I guess I had already failed there, but hey my professor said that wasn’t breaking any rules!
Anyways, we ended up going out for a drive and I realized just how full of texts the world is. Streetlights, street signs, license plates, advertisements… they are all forms of text that are virtually impossible to avoid. The only way to not interact with texts is to be hyperaware of your surroundings and limit everything you do to the point where it becomes an obsession. The truth is our society has become completely dependent on texts. It’s not a bad thing. It’s just simply how our world has developed. I tried to finish the assignment, but those last few hours were brutal and I figured it was impossible to spend the day completely rid of texts, so why continue to try. I probably could’ve spent the day without texts, but I wouldn’t have spent my day in a normal way. I would’ve had to seclude myself in my room and do nothing. That is simply no way to live, so I wasn’t even going to torture myself anymore. Texts are a part of our way of life now, so embrace them!
For one of my classes, I have to complete an assignment titled “No Text Diary.” Basically, what I have to do is deprive myself of virtually all forms of text for an entire day and record how I’m coping with it in a journal. I can’t watch TV, I can’t watch movies, I can’t read, and I can’t even write, which means no blog post tomorrow. Sad, I know, but, while I’m gone, be sure to check out some of my previous posts you may have missed. Enjoy the reading for me please! Trust me, I will probably go crazy within the next 24 hours because of this assignment. I think I’ll be spending a lot of time with my family and writing a lot in this ‘No Text’ journal of mine as that will be the only form of reading or writing that I’ll be allowed to do. Hopefully, I’ll be able to remember any ideas I come up with tomorrow, since I won’t be able to write them down. Let’s see how I’ll do with only a journal, an iPod that I can’t even navigate through (those are the rules of the game), and just my family. This will be interesting and I’ll be sure to tell you all about it on Monday. See you then, my loves!