On Night People

We’ve all heard the division between night people and day people or morning people. I’m such a night person that I’m basically a morning person. Really, though. I feel like I can’t do anything productive unless the sun is gone. I’m basically such a night person that I’m a morning person, considering I stay up so late that it’s practically time to get up anyways.

I’m pretty sure that there are a lot of people like me, especially in the college crowd. I don’t think that it’s procrastination, for me. After all, I do get everything done. I just wish I was a morning person. I feel like that would make studying and doing my homework so much easier.

As a night person, I would like to offer my fellow night people some tips.

  • I wake up late because I stay up late. In the real world after college, this is going to be unrealistic. I know that a lot of people love later classes because that means more time to sleep. On the other hand, this builds a bad habit. Last semester, I started scheduling my classes earlier. This means that I actually have to wake up early and get my butt to class. This puts me on a much better schedule, so I have more free time.
  • If I have an early test and I’m afraid of not waking up in time, I study until about midnight and then have a friend call me to study in the morning. This eliminates the need for all-nighters, and if you’re worried about waking up on time, the phone-a-friend trick really works. Plus, it’s nice to get a good breakfast and study session in before tests.
  • If you absolutely must stay up hella late, exchange online and down time for twenty minute naps. That way, you at least have some Besides, if you’re literally doing nothing, you might as well be sleeping.
  • Join activities that get you tired late at night. If you don’t have anything that interests you, work out. That will get you healthier (fight that freshman fifteen!) and also tired before your usual bedtime. This will help with the whole waking up early thing, too.
  • This is not a me trick, but it worked for my old roommate. She would shut the blinds and turn out most of the lights to simulate that it was late at night. That way, she was productive as possible in the day but her body kinda thought it was night. I don’t know. It was weird for me but it worked for her so to each his own!
  • I really try to cut down my coffee consumption. This one sounds obvious but if you’re a regular late-night person, you might drink a lot more coffee than you think. I don’t drink coffee after two unless I’m working a double shift and know I’ll be exhausted.

Well, I hope one or two of these is able to help. It’s best to get on a good schedule before school starts, so maybe try adjusting your sleep schedule now! I know that I definitely have to.

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On My Fiction Writing Process

When I meet other writers, it interests me on how my writing process differs from theirs. I have some friends who build characters around people they know and borrow characteristics and traits. I have a hard time with that. If I use traits from my friends, I feel like I’m using them. Sure, I use some stuff for descriptions, like my friend’s blonde hair or the way my sister’s eyes look in direct sunlight. I just have a hard time using actions and quirks.

For me, writing is an experience that requires all of my senses. I literally watch the scene unfolding in my head, trying to capture it exactly as it appears. I mentally rewind and fast forward and plug in different ending scenarios. It sounds so cliché, but my characters write themselves.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t get writer’s block. This probably sounds bad, but I’m usually working on two or three stories at a time. If I get blocked on one, I switch to the other for a few weeks or months until my characters start talking again. I suppose it is a slower way to work, but sometimes I need time off from a book.

Generally, the opposite happens. I work long hours and when I’m idle, I think my way through books. By the end of a shift, I’m usually bursting with ideas about a character or a scene or a plot change. I work about half an hour from home. I take this time to open the recorder on my phone and talk through everything that I’ve decided. When I get home, I listen to the recording and write a run-down.

Some people like to allow their stories to unfold spontaneously as they write the scenes. I can’t do this. When I read a book, I often start with the last page. I’m the same way with my writing. I like to know the end as I go into it and write a somewhat-detailed explanation of the characters and plots. The endings change throughout the process sometimes, but knowing the general goal helps through the planning process.

In all, my process leads to a deep emotional connection to my characters. That sounds really strange, I know, but I feel like I really know every thought and motivation that my character has by the end of the story. It’s kind of lovely, in a way, being so close to my own creations.

I hope that my extensive process (it takes about a year and a half to fully finish a book) comes in handy one day. Above all, I hope that someone has the connection to my characters that I have, and that they can love them like I do.

On Musicals

Hey all! Do any of you like musicals? I happen to love them. I was in seven different musicals throughout high school and have tried to see as many as possible. As a light post, I wanted to give you a rundown of three of my favorite lesser known musicals, just in case you were looking to discover any.

Spring Awakening

This has absolutely nothing to do with Glee, but the original Broadway cast includes Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff, so I’m sure the TV series was like a happy little reunion for them.

This particular musical is set in nineteenth century Germany. The plot focuses on a group of teenagers who were friends as children. Each character has some sort of struggle with his or her sexuality, religion, and/or relationship with an authority figure. The adults’ refusal to address these issues with their children leads to sexual abuse, unwanted pregnancy, suicide, and other painful situations. Throughout the twisting plot and music (which has a great rock influence), it is easy to get attached to each of the characters as their paths intertwine.

Favorite song: “Bitch of a Living

Full album

Tony performance

The Last Five Years

This one is relatively more popular because it was just made into a movie starring Anna Kendrick. I think that The Last Five Years might my favorite show of all time, next to Wicked.

The musical only has two characters, Cathy and Jamie. It is nice to know the premise going in, because the beginning could otherwise be confusing. The plot centers around Cathy and Jamie’s relationship, marriage, and divorce. Cathy’s narration begins with the divorce and works backwards to when they meet, and Jamie’s goes from their meeting to their divorce. The only time the two appear in the same scene at the same time is during their engagement/wedding song, which is insanely beautiful. If you can, I strongly suggest checking out the movie.

Favorite song: “Still Hurting” (Original Broadway Cast)

Full album (Original Broadway Cast)

Movie trailer

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder

A Gentleman’s Guide is the most recent of the three. It is actually still on Broadway, at the Walter Kerr Theater. I hope that it becomes much better known because it is a crazy good musical. Monty Navarro is a young man with no connections to high society and no way to earn a living. A friend of his mother’s arrives and informs him that he is part of a powerful family, and he is even eighth in line for the earlship. After being turned down by the woman he loves, Monty decides to kill everyone before him in the succession and take the title. It sounds incredibly morbid but it’s actually hilarious and the music is wonderful. If you are going to New York any time soon, check out this one!

Favorite song: “Sibella”

Full album

Tony performance

I hope y’all enjoy some of these selections! If you have any musicals you think I should check out, leave a comment below.

On Transferring

Deciding to transfer colleges was one of the hardest choices I’ve ever made. As I mentioned in my bio, I attended Boston University for a semester before I transferred to Pitt. Did I hate BU? No. Was it the worst decision I ever made? Not at all. Is Pitt perfect? Nope. Even so, I feel like I made the right choice.

There were a few reasons I decided to transfer. For starters, BU is expensive. Like, really expensive. Google it if you don’t believe me. I had a pretty great scholarship package, but still. Add on the fact that my sister is also in college. I felt like I was a huge financial burden on my parents, and though they never would’ve forced me to transfer, I realized that it was the right decision for the future of my parents’ finances.

As I’ve mentioned, I live near Pittsburgh. Most of my family lives in the same county. My family is the most important thing in my life, and it was incredibly hard being 600 odd miles away. On top of that, my grandfather, who was my main mentor and absolute favorite person, was in and out of the hospital during my first semester away. If anything would’ve happened to him and I wouldn’t have gotten home in time, I never would’ve forgiven myself.

I’d also always thought that I would go to Pitt. My entire life was spent in blue and gold. I started going to Pitt sporting events when I was around six or seven. Most of my family went there for some part of their education, and my sister is there now. It was a huge diversion from the path when I decided to go somewhere else.

“So T,” you may be thinking, “why did you decide to go somewhere else?”

I am majoring in English and anthropology. If I go on the English track, I’d love to be a writer. If I do anthropology, I will either do forensics or biological anthro, which is basically the study of human evolution. BU has amazing programs for anthro, which is my primary major. I didn’t realize how good the English program is when I started, but it’s amazing as well. Boston University is a fantastic school.

Besides that, I was a little shocked that I was accepted there in the first place. To be accepted to one of the premier private universities in the U.S. with a scholarship? That was insane. It felt like there was no way I could turn it down.

I accepted my acceptance at BU, but I knew that it would be heartbreaking to write to Pitt and tell them that I would not be attending. I actually waited until the last day to do it. On the page, there is a comments section. I wrote the sappiest break-up letter to the university.

I started having my doubts when I was packing for college. I had never been away from my parents for longer than a week and had definitely never been so far from them. A part of me was absolutely devastated. I’m one of those people that is pretty cranky when I’m upset about something. I take out my feelings on the people I’m closest to. Unfortunately, I took my fear and trepidation out on my parents. They left sooner than I’d wanted them to.

It was on a Sunday evening, right after matriculation. There is this big fair with food and games and school spirit souvenirs. I was walking around with my friend, B (who I never hung out with again after the first week of school) when my parents texted me to meet me at my dorm.

They hugged me in my room and told me that they loved me. At that point, I hadn’t had plans to be home until Thanksgiving. I didn’t know how to tell them goodbye for two months. I did my best not to cry until after they left, and as soon as the door shut, I was a weepy pile on the bed. For the first time in my life, I was officially 100% alone.

I made friends and did the college thing. The sinking feeling in my chest deepened every single day. I ended up going home for my sister’s birthday in October. The day before I flew home, I watched a movie with my mom and could not stop crying. Literally, for three or four hours. I didn’t know if it was because I missed home or because my grandfather’s health was still declining or because I realized that I had had my first huge decision and I had decided wrong.

Two weeks later, I applied to transfer to Pitt. There was a terrifying week and a half between withdrawing from BU and being accepted to Pitt. I didn’t know if I would be going to college the next semester. I received the news that I was accepted on December 12 while I was sitting on a bench at the Museum of Fine Arts.

My first semester at Pitt wasn’t all happiness and roses. I had gained a new independence in Boston and I am so beyond proud of that. I can do my own laundry and pay my bills and support myself without help. I joined a sorority and a choir and found new friends. I still miss my friends from Boston and I’ll probably have to devote a whole post to leaving my first college best friend and my roommate behind.

I just want to clear up a few things for anyone who is considering transferring: You feel like a failure, but you’re not. I think you’re incredibly strong to make such a powerful decision. You are a beautiful human and it is okay to admit that you do not want to go there anymore. It doesn’t make you weak, or stupid, or immature.

It is okay to be homesick. I don’t really know how much homesickness had to do with my decision. Did I miss home? Sure, but it was less about that. I do miss the independence of living far away. That being said, not everybody is suited to going that far so soon. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be closer to home. Will I move away again? Sure. It is actually my dream to go back to BU for grad school. I just wasn’t ready for it at eighteen years old.

In the grand scheme of things, I know that I am going to create a beautiful life for myself. I will accept my decisions and my failures and use them to my advantage. My time at BU taught me invaluable lessons: how to be an adult, how to adapt to a new environment, and more than anything, how to be fully and truly myself.

On Jellyfish

When I was twelve, I was stung by a Portuguese man o’war. I was just swimming in the ocean with my aunt when it wrapped around both of my legs. At first, I had no idea what was happening. It felt like someone had taken hundreds of burning hot needles and stuck them in my thighs. It didn’t even register in my head that I was screaming at the top of my lungs.

My aunt realized what was happening (she had a small sting on her shoulder as well) and grabbed me. She ran through the water with me and dragged me onto the beach.

My screams turned into pained sobs. A lifeguard rushed over. Already, my legs were swelling and angry purple welts marked my skin.

“What happened?” he asked. He was blonde and tanned, like most lifeguards on our strip of beach in South Carolina.

“It must’ve been a jellyfish,” some passerby behind us drawled.

The lifeguard grabbed handfuls of sand and vigorously rubbed my legs. “This will take all of the stingers and leftover tentacles away,” he explained.

When he was done, he sent me on my way. It took a few weeks before my legs were back to normal.

The removal of the tentacles and stingers with sand is instrumental to the healing process. If left alone, they will continue to release venom for an indefinite amount of time.

Ben* was my own personal emotional jellyfish.

I met Ben through a mutual friend in the beginning of my senior year of high school. We first ran into each other at a football game, then at the ACT’s the next day. He was cute and I was bored so I talked to him. Our love story was off to the nerdiest start possible.

I am not insinuating that this is a love story. It’s not. The truth is that he was perfect for me at the time. He was handsome and brilliant and talented and athletic. The kid was sort of a genius. Soccer captain, all-state musician, top of his class, and with the voice of an angel.

He was perfect and I fell in love with him far too quickly, as you do when you are in your senior year of high school.

Our relationship was the best of my life at that point. He called when he said he would. He introduced me to his friends and took me out. I didn’t have the best self-esteem when I was younger, so it was basically all I could’ve asked for.

Our time together was filled with memorable one-shot moments. It was like the universe conspired to give us the perfect romance. There was our first date, which ended on the park bench by the river. The time we went to a football game in the city, and how the snow fell around us in great cottony puffs. The afternoon at the museum and how he held my hand and marveled over Amar Kanwar’s A Love Story. But the thing about being stung is you bear it alone. I’ve relayed the memories to close friends and found that there is no possible way that there is no way to capture the perfect simplicity of two people in love, just as no words can capture the pain of the sting. I’ve tried to share the feelings, the moments, but it was a pointless endeavor. He was the only other person who knew the truth and depth of the feelings. When he left, he forgot his half. He threw the memories away like he was tossing a bag of feathers into the wind. When you are stung, you are stung alone.

I was being honest when I said this wasn’t a love story.

Little by little, Ben was trapping me. He was planting stingers in every millimeter of my heart. The pain was not pain; it was the intense teenage joy of loving, and being loved in return.

Except, there was one glitch in my perceptions.

Ben didn’t love me. He never loved me, in fact, as he informed me by text message while I was surrounded by two hundred strangers at a chorus festival.

It was another girl, a previous girl. Ben left the hardest sting on the very same park bench where we’d had our first date. The January wind froze the tears I refused to cry as he walked up the path without looking back.

I stayed on that bench long after he left.

When someone tells you they no longer love you, there isn’t a loss of feeling. In fact, I’m not sure if there’s ever a loss of feeling. It’s substitution. The love becomes guilt, or pain, or insecurity – but the amount of feeling never truly diminishes. If anything, the feeling grows.

If not removed, the stingers continue to release venom for an indefinite amount of time.

I didn’t want to give up on him. For a long time, I tried to convince him that he was wrong. It didn’t work. Finally, I chose to ignore him, sure that the distance would give me closure.

The funny thing about venom is it spreads. You don’t even have to know it’s in your bloodstream. Then one day you wake up and out of the blue, the venom has overtaken you.

In most cases, the only way to remove stingers is with sand. Sand doesn’t have to be another person. Most times, it isn’t. Making your sand another person just gets you into a cycle of jellyfish that never breaks. There will always be new stings. Sand could be a really good song on the radio that you download and play on repeat. It could be crying with your best friend until you just don’t feel the stings anymore. Sand could be a movie, the passage of time, making out with random people until you don’t remember how the stings felt.

I thought it was my fault for a long time, as if I was the one stuck on him. But that’s not the way stingers work. You don’t choose to get stung. Nobody chooses the venom, or the man o’ war, or the boy.

This isn’t a love story and it’s not a loss story. In truth, it’s barely even a story. The venom spread but then, so did the sand. I went to college far away and came back and met a great guy (looking at you, M) that I started dating even though I told myself that I should never date anyone again.

Jellyfish happen. Soon enough, though, something comes along to make it sting a little bit less. Sometimes, the healing process teaches you more about yourself than the hurting ever could, and I think that is what makes jellyfish beautiful.

*Name changed

On Jurassic World

I’m going to get one thing out of the way right now: I LOVE JURASSIC WORLD. I’ve literally seen it in theaters three times and I’m probably going again before it’s out. “But T,” you may be saying, “why do you love it so much?”

Oh, thank you for asking, kind, starving friend of mine. I would be happy to enlighten you.

For starters, Jurassic Park 3 and Star Wars were the first two movies I ever remember seeing in theaters. I’m not sure if there were any before that and there were definitely some after that, but those made a huge impression on me. I went to see Jurassic Park 3 in theaters in 2001. Sorry to age myself here, but I was five. That might not be too surprising but think about this: I remember that I had seen Jurassic Park many, many times before going. I probably started watching it when I was three. I am in college now, and studying to be an anthropologist – and possibly, an archaeologist.

We may not realize it, but influences from our early lives shape who we become. Without Jurassic Park, would I have gone through my dinosaur phase? Would I have jumped from paleontology to archaeology, from the Jurassic dinosaurs to the Egyptian mummies? Jurassic Park sparked my love of dinosaurs even before Land Before Time or Dinosaur or Walking with Dinosaurs (I was also crazy about the Discovery Channel).

The point is, Jurassic Park was one of my favorite movies as a child and influenced what I’m going to school for. I admit that when I heard Jurassic World was coming out, I ignored it. I didn’t watch any previews and I didn’t get excited about seeing it. When I went, it was because my aunt wanted to. I think a part of me had forgotten about the magic, or didn’t want to recreate it.

But then I watched it. I started feeling an inkling of hope when the dinosaurs were revealed. I appreciated the focus on consumerism in today’s society in the movie and then OH MY GOSH THE RAPTOR SQUAD WAS SO COOL. Okay, composure recovered. But really. Can I have a velociraptor?

Jurassic Park will always hold a special place in my heart. It is for that reason that I’m happy to say that Jurassic World most certainly did it justice.

On Traveling Alone

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A lot of people hate to do this. My parents hate it, my sister hates it, and most of my best friends hate it. I do not hate this and in fact, I think it is wonderful. In my twenty years on this earth, one of the most refreshing things that I have learned is how great it is to travel – especially when I’m by myself.

I have had multiple conversations with my sister about this subject. She absolutely detests the idea of going on an adventure far from home without anyone. She wants to share memories and take pictures. I prefer to tell stories on my own terms when I’m already home.

There is just something about learning a city, exploring the nooks and crannies of it, without being held back. I can sleep where I want to and eat where I want to and relish in the independence that comes from being in a city where there is literally not a soul that knows me. I don’t have to worry about embarrassing myself because without companions, nobody will know I embarrassed myself. Trust me, this has happened. Multiple times.

There was one particular instance where I was alone in Boston and I had to pee so badly. I was about to go into the Suffolk law building but I saw the sign that said that ID was required just as some lady was coming out of the doors. There was no way to hide that I was about to go into the building but suddenly changed my mind.

“Are you lost?” she asked me.

Mind you, I am an awkward person. I have a dry sense of humor that doesn’t work on strangers and when I’m not using it, I just kind of… stammer. By this point, I had realized that there was no way to just turn around.

“Um, no.” I said. I tried to think of something on the spot. “I was just looking for a building that… looks like this.”

Have you ever seen the Suffolk Law Building? Trust me. There isn’t one that looks like that.

“Oh.” She wrinkled her nose. I’m pretty sure she knew I was lying and I hate being caught in a lie. “Can I help you find anything?”

I sighed. She was walking now, and I was walking with her, and the whole thing was just hellaciously uncomfortable.  “I’m actually looking for somewhere to pee where I don’t have to pay,” I muttered.

She looked annoyed all of the sudden, as if I had said something to purposely upset her. I lost her at the next walk sign.

See? Embarrassing things happen. But nobody would’ve known that story if I hadn’t told all of you, right?

I feel like I’m really off track at the moment. The point is, traveling alone is wonderful. There’s nothing like getting to an airport and leaving, just you and a suitcase and your dreams.