Why I Write

I like to think of the mind as an endless and restless rollercoaster. It makes loops that don’t necessarily make sense to anybody else except for the builder, the beholder. Writing is a way in which to build backwards from this roller-coaster, to reveal the blueprints required to create it. Writing, essentially, allows me to see which parts work in which ways. When the rollercoaster makes a loop-de-loop, I can write and identify exactly why this is happening, why I am getting a rush from this particular thought. I can disengage with the parts that are less significant and thrilling, and reengage with the parts that will not release me from the seat.

However, the caveat in this metaphor remains – I never have, nor will I ever, completely understand the inner workings of my brain, and thereby, the blueprints of my personal rollercoaster. There are a million different ways to build one, by utilizing different types of screws and metals and velocities and beginning speeds, the list is endless. I can find a million different reasons as to why a particular section of track is interesting or important.

The metaphor itself is a fantastic example of how I think: it’s a bit of a mess. It whirls around and rises to fantastical heights, and it can be spurred by something as simple as rose-tinted glasses, or the glint of the sunshine, or the sting of a particularly sad break up. I notice the oddest things and ignore the obvious. And though this provides for honest writing, it fails to cater to a more sensible audience. This sensible audience would simply be too… well, sensible to join me on my mythical roller coaster. Perhaps they would find it amusing, or intriguing from afar when looking at it. Yet, to delve into it is a completely different action, one which should certainly be approached with caution.

Yet, why do I write if my consciousness of this audience makes me so shy? Why do I continue to lay my heart on a sleeve which will only be used for wiping snot off of a nose? Why do I write when my rollercoaster always has been, and always will be, a single-manned joy ride?

Perhaps I write in order to please this sensible audience. Because my mind makes no sense, I like to think that writing, organizing, and settling my blueprints may perhaps appeal to this audience so unlike myself. The critical type, the one that will tell me my world is full of fantastically unrealistic ideals.

Perhaps I write in order to speculate with the other rollercoasters in the world. To compare structure and whismy, to construct new ideals I’ve yet not explored, to fantasize and to dream with others with similarly messy minds, so beautifully chaotic.

Yet, if I were to choose a reason to write, without speculation, I would write to understand. As I grow and mature and intelligence weighs on my shoulders, I find I continuously realize how little I truly know. Knowing does not refer to the answers on an 8th grade biology test – truthfully, the only thing anyone remembers from that is that the mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell. No. Knowing indicates understanding, empathy, recognizing someone elses’ trials and tribulations while simultaneously realizing you will never share them because you are not them. Knowing is taking your own experiences and casting them out on the world, showing the world why these experiences are important. Why they matter.

I find that knowing and understanding gives my rollercoaster peace. And though I will never know everything in the world – not even a fraction of it – I will gladly take on the neverending project of writing in order to at least try. All of that said, I invite you to embark on such a journey with me.

Welcome to a little piece of my mind – it’s a rather odd place to be.

Day of the Expo

It was supposed to be crazy. No, really, I had things lined up from 2 straight til 10 and a few meetings before then. But slowly, the week leading up, one class got cancelled, then two, then one got cut short. I had several hours to myself to get ready, but here’s the thing, I didn’t really need to! I was already ready. I’d practiced what I was going to say, I’d timed myself, I’ve made my main points, I know how to sell it. The question at this point is whether I’ve done enough this semester.

But here’s the thing: the semester is over. It’s done. There’s no more I can do. And while there’s significant stress in that statement, there’s also enormous relief. There’s nothing more I can do. I’m proud of what I’ve done and what my classmates have helped me accomplish, and there is nothing more I can do, at least now. The response I’ve gotten up to this point has been positive and constructive. “It’s going in the right direction, just needs a little something extra”. The night of the Expo was the night I would see if I’d done that something extra. So I spent the hours I suddenly had relaxing, watching reruns of Friends. 

Turns out, that was the right thing to do. Was I nervous, absolutely. But I was excited. It was last night. And I’m tired, it was exhausting. But mostly, I’m so extremely happy, because every person I spoke to affirmed that “something extra”. It was there! I’d succeeded, all the work I’d put into the project and the course had paid off.

Now all I have to do is pitch it to the real deal. Wish me luck!

The Final Touches

The worst and best part about a project overall is the last little bit that needs to be done. Tying off loose ends, closing in on the finish line, whatever metaphor you would like to use. At this point, I realized that my project had very little, if anything, to do with my major. Oops!

My transfer mentorship program that I’ve now spent months developing has absolutely nothing to do with digital media. It has everything to do with people. Transfer is just another name for someone who left an old place to go somewhere better. I transferred out of my old institution for a million different reasons, and I’m sure the same story applies for other people who switch schools. The goal is to enjoy our time at college. I feel like this program is a way to make that happen – to offer a new student the opportunity for transition instead of jumping into the deep end at first try.

So, how do I take a project made for people and present it to people? Why, I have a conversation with them as a person. I made a poster and stuck all the necessary details on there: what we’ve got so far, why I’m doing this, what it’s going to look like, etc. But the real work was standing in front of my mirror, talking to myself, telling myself over and over again why this was important. Why the hell a mentorship program would make any difference. Talk to the mirror as if it was a person asking me about the project, being skeptical about it, and answering with well-thought out responses rather than robotic and automatic ones, as I have done in the past.

I took my project about people and gave it to people. Now the question was whether the people would like it. The final expo would prove that – but I’ll tell you more about that in the next post. Stay tuned!

Independence and Beta Testing

The majority of November was spent ironing out the kinks in my pitch, because that’s essentially what my project had become – a pitch. I was busy finalizing training program documents and what the responsibilities of a mentor was and how it would all work out in the end. 

It was something else. Really.

Having a project that was completely self-directed and that I cared about so extremely was really tiring. Exhausting frankly. Several points in the project I didn’t want to do it anymore because it felt so overwhelming, and suddenly I felt as if I’d put a responsibility on myself that I hadn’t felt in a while. I was making something real. And that was terrifying.

And perhaps that is the real reason I fell off the wagon. I was focused so much on the end-product that I was getting lost in the process. I was thinking about all these details and how to do all these things that it was just not going forward anymore. I had come up with a group selection process, a training process, a schedule to follow, several examples of group-based activities that would be safe, a terms of service, all the while predicting that something was likely going to go completely and utterly wrong.

And it didn’t. I printed out my pitch, it was the day of beta-testing. I presented it to the people who would test it as if they were my superior who would help me make it happen. And they loved it.

There were three different people who saw my pitch. All three had the exact same suggestions, little adjustments here and there, and all three had the exact same comment: you need to make this happen. And there is nothing quite as gratifying as hearing something like that. 

Alpha Testing with Greek Life

So in class, we were told to pair off and test each others products. Usually, the person you’re testing a training program on doesn’t really matter, they’ll let you know if it was effective or not, at least in my experience. If it works the way it should, there is nothing more to say. However, the fact that my partner happened to be an active participant of Greek Life had a huge influence on the direction that my project ended up taking.

When we were testing at the end of October, I’d put together a pretty decent training schedule for the mentors and shied away from the project-based mentorship idea. There was a schedule and everything to indicate what would be happening when, and then a brief note that groups would be selected. My partner, Phelize, realized that there was no way for the groups to be separated. I knew there was supposed to be one mentor for every two-three transfers, but there was no way to ensure that these groups would be compatible with one another, that they would actually enjoy spending five weeks together. She assured me that the training program would be good and effective, but she pointed out a pretty key thing that was missing from my program – a consistent way to select groups in a way to ensure the personalities and activities are compatible.

And so, I was back to the drawing board, and I asked her for suggestions. She immediately brought up her experience in Greek Life, and told me a little bit about the rush process. I don’t know much about Greek Life, but I was surprised at how similar my mentorship program was to the Big-Little program that’s so popular in Greek Life. So, after interviewing her a bit about what rush was like, I was back to brain storming.

I returned to the idea of project-based groups. I ended up settling with the idea that every mentor would be responsible for presenting one activity that they would be doing with the transfers for the five weeks. It would be set up like an expo – the transfers would mill around, talking to different stations, and decide which one might be most suitable for them. This way we are much more able to pair personalities and similar interests together instead of random selection. 

That’s at least the idea so far – we’ll see where it goes!

Falling Off the Wagon

So it’s been a hot sec!

Last I wrote I was over-zealous with joy about the meeting with Jan. Since then, I have put my head down and worked hard at a pitch that might be sufficient for a proper pitch.

She’d given me some good bones to work with, regarding beginning a training program and what the mentorship program might be. I took all my experience from RA training and applied it to what might start to look like a proper training programs for mentors that were going to guide their mentees for about a month. I took ideas like conflict resolution and group-building skills and applied them to transfers.

Meanwhile, I was interviewing a ton of transfers – a few from my year who also had the questionable half-hour orientation, and a few even from this most recent group in Fall 2018. I pitched the idea to each of them, and they were also enthusiastic. Having a mentor would be like having a friend during the transition period from orientation to the “real” college life. The most difficult part about being a transfer isn’t so much the new school – it’s how to get into the flow of the school. There were several places I hadn’t been – like the Red Doors, for example – until December my first semester at Muhlenberg. When I asked what the Red Doors were, people would scoff. Of course you’re supposed to know what they are, they’re the trademark of Muhlenberg. But, if I hadn’t received a tour, how am I supposed to know that? 

These are the details we miss out on as transfers, this is what we need, and no matter how thorough an orientation is, the only way you can learn those things are through other students. A mentor would be perfect. I am perfectly happy where I am now at Muhlenberg – but having a mentor would have made a significant change and a much better experience, something I would like to provide.

Side Conversation

In order to cure my boredom even further, I included an extra page in my bullet journal today – a breakdown schedule for me, what I would be doing in every single hour of the day. I thoroughly enjoyed this, because it encouraged me to go other places – I had to go to those places, mostly because it was written down. I decided I would allot 1pm-2pm for blogging in the library. From 12pm-1pm, I was printing photographs in the photography lab.

On the way to the library, however, I bumped into a professor. We both had the time to stay and chat, and so we did. He asked me how my reading was going for the course – I stated that I quite enjoyed it, because the reading was in fact one of my favorite slam poets and I didn’t know he’d written a book.

My professor then asked me what was so intriguing about slam… and I realized I’f never quite thought about why I like something. This led to an incredibly interesting conversation about the self and authenticity and what self-knowledge one could find through different mediums. Often our answers include, “I don’t know, I just like it”, because what we like is what defines us, as opposed to why. Though not directly, my professor challenged me to think about why I enjoy slam. Not just this particular artist, but rather the genre in general. When he asked about the appeal, I simply stated that I enjoyed the “strong emotion”, which is true. This, however, is insufficient. This is not why I enjoy slam.

I enjoy slam because it is an expressive art form. It is a manner in which we can freely make statements in any sort of capacity with any sort of meaning we would like to associate with it, and we bring life to the words through spit and teeth. It is a way to be angry while still being eloquent, it is a way to laugh at the government, all with the protective cloud that is “poetry”. If more people listened to slam poetry perhaps there would be more change – slam is heavily associated with progression, at least that I have noticed. Perhaps I like the progressive nature. However, I now think of my professor, who would likely challenge me to simply not use the word “like” within my statements. And though I believe I am ready to meet that challenge one day, alas, my allotted time for blogging is up – I must move on to the next thing.

Why “A Cure for Boredom”?

Frankly it’s a pretty unfortunate name for a blog. But, it’s relevant. And I like it. So I’m keeping it.

I’m at the tail-end of my college career, and I find that the majority of my work is tying up loose ends. Taking the last few classes necessary to graduate, continuing the work that I like doing within the Muhlenberg community, etc, etc… nothing new. Nothing exciting.

The past few weeks, since the semester began, I’ve been shackled by boredom. Each day has around 3-5 hours of class, and the rest is completely unoccupied. Say I get 8 hours of sleep and spend 1.5 hours eating. On a busy day, that’s about 14.5 hours. That becomes a full 9.5 hours where I am bored, have no idea what to do except homework. And once I finished my homework… I found there wasn’t much else to do.

So, to cure that boredom, I’ve decided to dedicate this space to my thoughts. To my feelings. To allot an hour every other day to just writing about whatever I happen to be thinking of. As my poetry professor put it, “brains do not like to be bored”. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing in it.

And so, I dedicate this space to my brain. May your thoughts become gently soothed knowing that they will soon be occupied by projects beyond graduation.

Over-Excitement Yields Surprisingly Successful Conversations

It’s been a minute! With Fall Break and all sorts of other commitments, I’ve been unable to update – which is unfortunate, because a lot of good things are happening with this project 🙂

On the 26th of September, I burst into the Student Life Suite with a verve – needless to say, after reading that newspaper previously, I was excited to see what other work I’d be able to do. I burst into Steve Dutton’s office at 9:56AM, promptly seated myself, and spoke to him about my intentions to begin a mentorship program at Muhlenberg until around 10:02AM, when we both realized that I had come on the incorrect day, and that in fact, I was a full week early to this meeting… Oops.

That embarrassment aside, my 6 minute pitch was apparently very helpful regarding the meeting the following week. Unfortunately Steve was sick, but I was able to meet with Jan Schumacher (a wonderful lady, I might add) at the same time on October 3rd. She was kind enough to tell me all about the Transfer Orientation, how it’s changed, what still needs to be done to improve it, what things to add, what things to take away. This was the first year that they’d allowed transfers to come early to the college to provide a more involved orientation, and though it was a little bit too much like a freshman orientation for many transfers, it was a fantastic start.

This is where my part comes in – once orientation is over, you’re with a bunch of students that have already been there for years. As a transfer, you have to be with the upperclassmen, so you end up a little on your own after orientation, a fish most definitely out of water. My intention with the mentorship program is to almost create a reference point for transfers – a group chat that’s friendly, dinner plans once a week, a friend at the activities fair.

Jan offered so much advice and so many places to start on how to make this happen. Now I have the information – all I need to do now is design a program. Wish me luck!

A Bittersweet Success

Since I got to Muhlenberg I simply have not shut up about the fact that I’m a transfer. Sometimes I get odd, back-handed compliments, like ‘you know way too many people to be a transfer’, or, ‘really? never would have thought that’ as if there’s a profile I need to fit to be a transfer. I’ve made myself at home here, so people are surprised when they realize they don’t recognize me from freshman year.

I had to work hard for those backhanded compliments. I didn’t use my room except to sleep – I was always out, going to meetings and attending clubs and whatever I could do to meet people. Because, quite simply I had not met anyone through orientation.

So when I’m told to pick a problem and solve it, naturally I’d like to make it easier for my succeeding transfers to meet people and integrate into the social life at Muhlenberg. It sucks to spend your first Friday alone in Seegers because you don’t know anyone to hang out with but you don’t want to be alone. It sounds sad, because it is. But it is the reality of how difficult it is to meet people who’ve already made their friends in previous years. Orientation is an obvious place to start.

But, then, the other day my professor came into the room asking if I’d seen the newspaper yet. I replied no, (frankly I’ve never read the newspaper… perhaps I should get on that) and he flipped to the second page. The first word that stood out on the page was “transfer”. Needless to say, I was ecstatic – we are a selection of people that are often forgotten. This article summed up how and in which ways the transfer orientation program had been improved to replicate the freshman orientation – in other words, orientation now included transfers. They were welcomed with more open arms than I’d been. I was thrilled.

And then I remembered I had a project where, oddly enough, I had relied on the shitiness of the program. When I read that it was no longer bad, my goodness I squealed with glee – I’ve been rambling about it ever since I got here. And then I realized my path in improving transfer programs won’t be quite as straight-forward as I’d originally thought.

A mentorship program would ultimately be the goal – but what would it look like? Who will participate? Who will want to participate? Would it be helpful at all? Do transfers even need it now that they have a proper orientation similar to freshman? What will the ratio be? Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

My brain is in a million different places. Of course, the transfer program still needs adjustment – but it is no longer as regrettably bad as it once was, and therefore only needs fine-tuning. And fine-tuning, on an individual basis no less, is incredibly difficult.

Challenge accepted.

A Roundabout Start

I was told to pick a problem and to solve it. Picking a problem in the first place is a problem in itself – it needs to be big enough that I can call it a project, small enough that it’s achievable, and common enough so that my solution might actually make a difference. The first thing that came to mind for me was my personal experience as a transfer student.

I have never been a Freshman – anyone who has asked me about my transfer experience knows this. I deferred from the first semester of school in order to explore South America, and thereby started college in January of 2016 at American University. Because my fellow freshman were so few and far between, we were lumped in with the transfers and given the orientation there – there was no tour of the school, nor was there any sort of guidance as to where to go or what to do. Though I tried to brush it off, it made it terribly difficult to integrate into the college’s culture. This was only one of the many reasons of which I decided to transfer – nevertheless, I found Muhlenberg and was put through the exact same process: a sheet of paper and a “good luck”. Needless to say, I was mortified and lonely.

I don’t want anyone to have this same experience. Especially transfers. The reason I emphasize the need to welcome transfers is because something about their previous institution made them want to leave. The least we can do as their new school is make them want to stay. So, it seemed like the obvious decision for my project to do something transfer-based. How to make them feel like they belong as soon as Freshman do.

And so, I set out to interview several different people. However, no more than a week had gone by in my research when my professor approached me, armed with the Muhlenberg Weekly, and showed me a recent article regarding the revamped version of transfer orientation. Turns out, it’s changed a lot since my less-than-memorable pat on the back. They get an actual orientation where they get to know other transfers. They knew at least a few faces and names before they were set loose into the community.

However, as I continued to speak to more current transfers, they still feel lost. Despite the orientation, they felt like the school had yet not done enough in order to make them feel welcome. After digging a bit into the new transfer experience, I realized that the transfer orientation was similar to the Freshman orientation – they were being talked at for a day to learn about the different resources on campus and otherwise playing ice breaker games. There is nothing wrong with this orientation, however, as transfers, we have already learned how to do college. What we need to learn now, is how to do Muhlenberg.

And so, through this enormous train of thought, I’ve considered a few different solutions to this problem: how to we make transfers feel welcome beyond a traditional orientation? And I thought about a transfer I’d chatted with who told me talking to people was the biggest help for her. The hardest part, however, was approaching them.

And thus, my thought process led to the idea of a mentorship program specifically for transfers. Students who will teach fellow students how to do Muhlenberg. A person who can help the transfers around for the first three weeks until you’ve gained your ground. Perhaps this is ambitious – but we’ll see where it goes for the semester 