Teens these days.


(Photo: Carol Kaliff, Hearst Connecticut Media)

Today kids across America walked out of school to protest gun violence and the inability for our government to pass common sense gun control.

That’s incredible. I can only imagine being a government & politics teacher, or any other branch of history/American studies, and witnessing your students actively participating in and organizing peaceful protests. Or deciding not to participate because they didn’t agree with the protests. Either way, it’s a teach by doing moment. It’s teaching kids to be actionable instead of simply memorizing facts or spitting out theory.

Facebook is flooded with posts of alum, teachers and parents talking about the school walkouts or walk ins, where assemblies are being held in memory of the students killed due to gun violence. CNN is live-streaming the walkouts and the words of our CT Senator Chris Murphy. Across the nation kids are holding up signs stating their beliefs and desire for the adults in charge to be actionable. They are no longer complicit and trusting that adults will get the work done. The Parkland students showed them that their voice matters even when they are unable to vote. That you don’t have to wait until you’re 18 to voice political opinions.

I was young for my grade and didn’t turn 18 until I was in college. I remember being furious that I couldn’t vote in the primaries that year, even though I would be 18 by the general election. I was always highly opinionated when it came to politics, thanks to my mother who was always a well-informed citizen and my brother, who walked into the Democratic Headquarters at 16 to start volunteering. I would tag along with him, making calls to remind democrats and independents to vote, checking in on our elderly residents to see if any needed rides to polls, attending Chris Murphy’s debates when running for Congress, joining the Young Dems chapter my brother helped start and my favorite part of the process: going from poll to poll on election night to watch them count then ending back at Headquarters or a restaurant to hear the results roll in. I couldn’t vote, but I was more engaged in the political process than most adults.

Which was why I was furious when adults would undermine my intelligence in my teenage years. I would often hear that my opinions, and the opinions of my peers, were just echos of my family’s beliefs. I understand the thought, and recognize that may be true in some cases, but I could never understand why my civics teacher would take so much time explaining our nation’s workings to us, only to tell me that my opinions were just something I inherited from my parents when I got in a fight with a classmate over Bush’s reelection. Of course my family influenced my beliefs, but I was also smart enough to research and act on my own. I was old enough to hold opinions.

I remember a car ride where my mom and brother were talking a politics. I listened without much input, thinking instead of my recent civics lesson on political parties.

“What if I’m a Republican instead of a Democrat?” I asked my family.

I was constantly the lawyer of the family. I always wanted to think about situations from a different angle. A contrarian, always thinking of the other side before agreeing with my family.

“Your beliefs line up with the Democratic Party,” my mom replied.

“But what if they don’t? What if I’m a Republican instead?” I asked.

“Then you can be a Republican.”

I went home and did all the research I could on both parties. I spent hours trying to understand the difference and political platforms. I weighed policies against my moral beliefs and found that I did side with the Dems.

All of this was done my freshman year of high school. Clearly I was already intelligent and thoughtful enough to question my beliefs and recheck them against my political affiliation. My thoughts and opinions haven’t changed much. They evolved slightly with the times and my maturity. Whereas I used to think we should eliminate marriage entirely, calling everything a civil union, so we can eliminate the religious context of marriage, I’ve realized that battle gets misconstrued and calling everything a marriage is a better angle. I used to be much more fiscally liberal that I am today. I used to be pro-choice under medical necessity but am now entirely pro-choice. Tiny tweaks, but my adult mind is still in line with my teen mind.

So I still get angry that I was always underestimated. That adults did not believe that I researched my policies enough. To be fair, this still happens. I was constantly accused for siding with Hillary instead of Bernie because she was a woman, when in reality I thought she was the most qualified candidate we ever had and her fiscally moderate policies enabled me to reap benefits while still covering costs of social security and welfare.

People may say that I was a different type of teen. That not everyone was as mature. Well then, why not teach them to find their own opinions instead of dismissing them?

I think adults fall into an awful habit of thinking kids don’t know enough. We talk down to them and assume they can’t possibly understand. But clearly they do.

Today’s teens are living in a world where any question they have can be answered in a matter of seconds on their phones. Teenagers are actually MUCH better at recognizing “fake news” than we are. Aside from their obvious increased technical literacy, they’re also taught how to seek out information. As students, they have access to online encyclopedias and academic research. They’re constantly being told not to trust sites like Facebook and Wikipedia, and instead fact check every piece of information they want to use. They’re writing research reports and getting graded on whether or not their facts are confirmed. They’re much better at finding the truth than we are.

Without the ability to vote, I believe they’re getting antsy. I remember talking to my cousins, just shy of 18, about how much it sucked to be unable to vote in such an important presidential election. And now here we are, with massive school shootings happening at levels that I can’t even comprehend, and they’re done with us adults. They can’t vote, but they can speak for themselves and remind politicians that they’re voting very, very soon.

We need to stop underestimating kids and instead listen to them. That’s how I treat the kids I babysit. I never want to influence their own moral and political beliefs, so I just listen to them and encourage them to think about where they stand. The other day a kid I babysat was doing a project on trans kids and I found that she knew way more than even I did. I offered no opinions and instead just let her inform me on the topic. When I was watching some younger kids, someone came to the door who was running for local office. What followed was an hour long conversation with the kids about what their platforms would be and how they can run for office within their school. While I would steer at times, like suggesting they invest in scientific research when they said they wanted to stop all hurricanes, I let them carry the conversation.

We invest so much time and money into our kids and their education. But often when they want to show us the results of that investment, we don’t listen. While what happened at Stoneman Douglas was horrific, it is inspiring to see the students use their voices and speak up for themselves when a politician is dismissive of their question. Unless you’re a teacher or school employee, the topic of school shootings will ALWAYS impact the kids in your life more than it will ever impact you. Empower them to use their voices, especially if they’re teenagers. I’m so proud of these teens who are speaking up for the students in Sandy Hook who are still too young to speak for themselves. There are no longer only parents representing their students, but students themselves being actionable.

Keep going teens. Stand up for what you believe in and know that your mind is worthy of respect and your opinions are worth being heard.

Moving on.


When I moved to Chicago, I thought I’d leave before college graduation.

I wanted to be a teacher and it made sense to my seventeen year old self to only go to an out of state college for three years then come back to CT or NY to get certified within that state. But when I changed my major three days into my freshman year, that plan went out the window.

I was supposed to move back to the East Coast after college graduation. Actually, I did move back to the East Coast. Well, kinda. I did not renew my lease in Chicago. I packed up and planned to move home but was called in for a job interview. The day before going home, I put all of my stuff in storage then went on the interview. I figured that if I didn’t get the job, I could come back and get my stuff. Then I packed all my clothes and headed home. We immediately went on vacation for a week where I found out that I was being called in for a second interview. After vacation, I headed back to Chicago and took the job. So essentially, I just over packed for vacation

When I started working in Chicago, I had no immediate plans to leave. I always knew I would eventually end up on the East Coast, but I never had a definite time frame. My standard answer was that I would be in Chicago for two more years, which turned into three, which turned into four. Two years ago, I was ready to pack up everything and move to Los Angeles but breaking my knee put those plans on hold. I wasn’t too upset about that though because Chicago always pulled me back.

I’m nine and a half years into my extended stay in Chicago. I love this city with my entire heart. I love the people I met and the strangers who greet me with the kindness and optimism that can only be traced back to the Midwest. I love taking an hour long walk after work along the lake and finding myself still in awe of our skyline. I love the neighborhoods I lived in – Lincoln Park, the Southport Corridor of Lakeview and now Uptown. I love that I always find something new in the city like how expansive Montrose Park is or where to order the best Chicken Shawarma plate. I love when I find myself back on DePaul’s campus and replay the memories: the quad where I used to run through the sprinklers after a night of drinking, the dorm where I met my best friends, the hall where I was initiated into Chi Omega. I feel the pit in my stomach churning when I find myself by my old place on Cornelia, wishing I had enough money to buy the townhouse that I loved so much. I like the way we all gather inside for long nights of beers and Christmas lights in the winter and eat outside every night in the summer. I love Eagles games at Mad River, our annual Christmas Trolley and late nights after comedy shows at Old Town Alehouse. I love how it’s in the middle of the country so flying to either coast is not a hassle. In college I cried on every ride to the airport down Lake Shore Drive. I knew I would be back soon, but I never wanted to leave. I would strain my neck looking back at the skyline on the way to Midway until it was completely out of view.

I never wanted to permanently live in Chicago. I stand by that. For every reason I have for loving Chicago, I have another reason I want to be home. The thought of raising children so far away from my family is worse than leaving Chicago. I don’t want to be a long distance aunt anymore. I missed a lot of my nephew and cousins growing up and while I don’t regret my time here, it’s bittersweet to see all the time lost whenever I realize how old they are. While I pride myself in being a lot more present these days because I’m more financially stable, I want to be able to join in on all the little things the next generation of my family will bring. I want to be at sports games and school plays and whenever I have my own kids, I want sleepovers with cousins and dinners with grandma. Beyond family, I miss New England. I miss having four seasons instead of two and being so close to so many major cities. I don’t like that each time I come home it’s an event. I want to be able to visit with friends without feeling like I’m stiffing my family. I’d like to be able to relax instead of making sure I got to see everyone while home. And I miss New England falls. GOD how I miss New England falls. I miss the hills and the trees and the mountains. I miss the foliage and the scent of October. I miss being able to hike up real trails instead of city paths.

But each time I think I’m ready to leave, something pulls me back. It’s not easy being in love with a city so far from home. I wish New York or Philadelphia had the same vibe as Chicago.

I know that in the next few years I’ll be leaving this city. Where I’m going next I’m not too sure of. I don’t know if I want to spend a year in LA living in warm weather for once before returning to the East Coast, or if I just want to head straight home. I’m not even sure of where on the East Coast I want to live. While I’m 90% sure I’ll end up in New York City, which would split the difference between my extended family in New Jersey and my immediate family in Connecticut, I’m not positive. I may jet out to California in a year then head over to New York City a year or two later. But whatever way I split it, I have two years max left in Chicago.

I’ve set dates on moves before, so I know things can change. But the problem is that I keep on delaying my departure which makes it more difficult to leave. I fall more in love with this city with each passing year. There are some good reasons why I haven’t left Chicago, like breaking my knee and wanting to stay with my medical team until completely recovered, but the truth is that I’m also terrified. I wasn’t scared of going to college. Everyone made some sort of leap that year. And while I was constantly scared after college, it was also a normal transitional period. But here I am, in my late twenties, and there are no external forces like going to college or joining the workforce to push me out. This decision is completely self-motivated and I’m the only one that can execute it. I’m scared that I won’t find the same support group I have here. I’m worried that moving closer to my family will keep me from hustling in comedy. I’m concerned that my constant indecisiveness on where to live will be what keeps relationships from forming.

My friends in Connecticut and Los Angeles will all confirm that I’m not a great long distance friend. I miss and love them but get distracted when I’m in a different city. I push away from the ones I’m really close to because it hurts to know we no longer live close enough to be dependent on each other. I try to separate myself so I’m not disappointed when their life eventually goes on and they find someone to fill my void in their new city. I want to change these things about myself, but I know that it’s something I struggle with.

I know that Chicago will always be here to visit. But I loved being a resident. I know my close friends will remain my close friends and I’ll probably come back as often as I jet to the East Coast right now. And I know that if I ever find that I made the wrong decision, there’s a three story walkup on Cornelia Ave. that I’m more than happy to put a down payment on.

I chose the perfect city to become an adult in, both legally and mentally. Any pain or hurt is almost always the result of loving something, so I’m thankful that I found myself in a city that I loved so hard.

After almost 10 years, I’ll finally answer the most frequently asked question of an East Coast transplant: Chicago is WAY better than New York*. But sometimes the thing we love most isn’t what fits best.

*(Except for the pizza. NYC thin crust over Chicago any day.)

To the girls in my life.

Life Lessons, Uncategorized


We usually communicate through snapchat and dance parties, cards and sleepovers and many, many jokes and laughs. I think about you more than you may realize and try to live a lifestyle that does right by you. I’ve watched you grow up into young girls, preteens and teenagers and I am so proud of who you are.

I’m usually the comic relief. The cousin coming home from Chicago for a party or celebration. The babysitter who lets you mix sour punch straws with popcorn because I’m just as curious as to how it tastes. The bridge between my generation and your generation… in return for me making sure that you don’t set the house on fire, you serve as as a distraction from the bleakness of adulthood.

I was looking forward to you seeing a female president so early in your lifetime. When I was your age, I didn’t think women could be president. I don’t mean that I didn’t think they’d be able to be elected, I mean that I genuinely thought there was a rule that women were not allowed to be president. I’m happy you won’t be as ill-informed. I was elated at the prospect that for some of you, you would only know a black president and female president in your lifetime, and ready for the task of helping you understand the historical significance of that feat.

Instead you have a president that does not respect your body or mind. One that is racist, islamophobic, xenophobic, homophobic and sexist. I hope you learn what those words mean and then how to fight them. I hope you get bossy and fight back for any of your friends that may fall victim to the bullying or violence that your president elect’s words have incited. I hope you understand the privilege you have and stick up for those who don’t. I hope you are taught history as it happened instead of a PG, whitewashed version.

The adults in this country elected a man that says it is okay to grab your bodies. That criticizes women who do their homework and show up prepared. That has been accused over ten times of assault. That has bullied women for the way they look and harassed them on tape. Who sees us as sex objects or nasty women. And you weren’t able to have a say in it, and for that I’m sorry.

Because someone is an authority figure does not mean that you have to accept their behavior. If a man on the street were to say these things to you, I would have you run as far away as you can from them. Just because the president elect is saying them doesn’t mean you have to support it.

The president elect won’t be the first, nor the last, man to say or do these things to you. I’m not naive enough to think that you will never experience them at school, work or in the world around you. If and when you do, I hope you are bossy. I hope you learn how to say no and that no is the final answer. I hope you scream and yell and seek help when needed. I hope you speak up for other women instead of putting them down. I hope that if you are ever violated, you know that it is not your fault and that those who love you will help you fight back. I hope you never accept limitations and that you promote intersectional feminism. I hope you know that you can love whoever you want to love. I hope you fight like hell to be treated equally, and I hope you win. I hope your generation can be even nastier than mine. You have a lot of fighting to do.

Fight back with intelligence. He’s afraid of your potential. Reclaim the names he calls you. Own being a nasty woman, a bossy kid, an angry feminist. Speak up and work hard. That’s what scares him the most.

Know that there will be a female president. Personally, I hope that our next elect will be a lesbian woman of color. While I’m not sure if it’ll happen in our next election, I know that it eventually will. We just have to work at it.

Work hard, study hard, and don’t let anyone tell you what you should or should not do. Women are not limited. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Landing your dream job.


By my sophomore year in high school, I had it all figured out. I knew what I wanted to do in this world.

I wanted to be an English teacher. It made sense. My family was full of teachers, and since I was able to understand what words meant, I loved them. My parents always stuck by the phrase “it takes a village” and in my case, my village was composed of teachers. Ones who challenged me, championed me, ridiculed me and were there for me when life got difficult. It was a way to combine what I loved with my urge to give back what was graciously handed to me.

But then my aspirations shifted.

When I was seventeen, I moved from Connecticut to Chicago to go to DePaul University. I didn’t know a soul within a twelve hour radius of the city, but I was dead set on Chicago. I came there to make my dream come true – I wanted to be a comedian. As we unpacked my bags and stared out my window to the impeccable view of Chicago’s skyline that my Lincoln Park dorm offered, I got teary eyed. Everything in my life lined up to this moment. The television shows that I watched growing up, my years in theater, the divine intervention that happened which led to me visiting the set of SNL, my Second City camps, the fact that Elizabeth Perkins told me about DePaul on the same exact day that DePaul sent a letter to my house. It was destiny, and I was here. I was going to be a comedian.

But then my dreams changed.

As I met new friends, joined a sorority and changed my major as often as I changed my sheets (about twice a year), I soon forgot about comedy. It quickly became “that thing that got me here – isn’t it silly that I ever wanted that?!” as I fulfilled all the stereotypes, magic and blissful fun that came with being a college student.

I was a secondary education major for about three days until my academic advisor told me all about the tests, dates and classes that were pre-planned over the next four years, up until the date of my graduation. I ran from that office as fast as possible with my mom by my side supporting my decision to change my major before my first class even started and sympathizing with the fact that I didn’t want my life planned out quite yet. From there, I became a journalism major. I loved to write, so it made sense… until my first journalism class where I learned within a few minutes that journalism and creative writing are two completely different beasts. I spent the rest of the term learning about libel, writing obituaries, and counting the days until I could change my major again. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I decided to minor in political science just in case I wanted to try “that comedy thing” again. I thought it’d be smart to keep up with the news and the only way I could do that was to force myself to through school. I also settled on majoring in PR/Advertising after a conversation with my mom where I told her that I wanted “to do what LC from The Hills does”. During my sophomore year, I grew so fascinated with one of my professors, Dr. Khalil Marrar, that I decided to move my political science minor up to a major so I could reap the benefits of taking so many of his classes. I decided to be a lawyer – I loved debating, had a disposable metal database of supreme court decisions, and it seemed like a cool thing to do. With my life figured out, I started to study for the LSATS.

Except I never took them, because I changed my mind.

During my junior year of college, I got an internship with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. It was a dream internship – connection my love of kids (I had been a camp counselor for five years, after all…) with a cause that I feel strongly about. It also happened to be my sorority’s philanthropy. It was a dream internship and I loved every second of it. I got to help plan a major gala in Chicago, meet tremendous children and learned that I was a really good event planner. From there, I did event planning for the YMCA, our dance marathon and got heavily involved in non-profit work. By my senior year in college, I had my dream job all planned out. I wanted to be an event planner for a non-profit that I cared about.

After graduation, I got that dream job. I became an event planner at a non-profit that I had very close personal ties to. I did it! I was one of the few that graduated in a crappy economy but still managed to get my dream job. My job was “cool” (as determined by the standards set by my friends), I got to stay in Chicago and I was very proud of myself. I was able to help plan very cool events in a major city. What more could I want? I was also really good at my job. There wasn’t a moment where I doubted my ability to thrive in the event planning world. Perfect, right?

Except it wasn’t. After the allure wore off, I hated my job. It was stressful, took up my life and left me exhausted at the end of the day. As student loans piled on, the non-profit paycheck left with with only a few bucks to my name. I learned that a can of black beans and a bag of brown rice only cost $2.30 and lasted about four days, and I relied on leftover granola bars from our athletic events for breakfast. My boss was incredibly mean to me – yelling at me for no apparent reason. I rejoined, and was thriving in, the  comedy world – which only made me realize how miserable I was in my daily life. I came home sobbing to my roommates on multiple occasions, and had many conversations with my family about how awful my boss really got. As I got more and more into the comedy scene, it became impossible to balance my job with my comedy career. I was miserable.

So I took a leap. I left my “dream job” that used to warrant reactions like – “No way! That’s such a cool job!” for a job where most people’s first response is, “that seems really boring.” And it is. Blissfully boring, which means I can turn off my creative mind during the day and fully utilize it at night, when it matters. I left a “cool” job for one that treats me well, pays me fairly, and shoves me out of the door after a 40-hour work week.

Here’s the thing about dreams and aspirations: they change. Let them. Follow what feels right – our instincts are usually correct. Right now, I’m enjoying the bliss of thriving in the comedy world, and hope that I can live the rest of my life that way. It makes sense. But at the same time, I might find that I no longer want that, which is okay too.

When my dream job turned into a nightmare, I could have done one of two things. Either sulk in the loss and remain terrified of my dreams, fearful that they may not pan out, or think, “Well… that was the worst thing that could have happened, and it wasn’t that bad.”

Jim Carrey once said, “I hope everybody could get rich and famous and will have everything they ever dreamed of, so they will know that it’s not the answer.” and I couldn’t agree more.

What’s the answer?

I’m still figuring it out. Until then, I’ll continue to follow what I love and what scares me just enough to get out of bed in the morning.

Figure out a way to make it work


Last night I was in Second City’s bathroom after watching the mainstage improv set when I heard the following conversation:

“Mom! I know what you’re going to say about this… but I don’t care. This is what I want to do! I don’t want to do anything else. I want to do this. I’ll finish college and get my degree to make you happy… but then I’m moving here and figuring out how make this happen. I want to perform for Second City.”

“If that’s your plan, you can move in with your dad so you can feel what it’s like to have nothing.”

I was speechless. I went outside to rejoin my friends and I was just in shock. On the L home, this really bothered me. I regretted not saying anything… I know I couldn’t change the mom’s mind, but what if I just pulled the girl aside and encouraged her to do it? It wasn’t until my walk home that I realized why this bothered me so much.

I had the same exact conversation with my mom… it just ended differently. When I was 16, my family friend took me to a Thursday afternoon rehearsal at Saturday Night Live where my brother & I were allow to run free and explore Studio 8H. After sitting in the audience for a live show just a few months before, he invited me back so he could take me backstage and teach me how it all happened. We got to meet the cast & crew, saw all of the rooms backstage and were allowed to spend hours in the studio watching the show come together. At the end of the day, he handed me his copy of that week’s show and asked me to promise not to show it to anyone until after Saturday. When I got home, I ran to my mom and had this conversation:

“Mom, I know you said that I have to go to a school within driving distance… but what about Chicago? You always said that you wanted to visit Chicago. I was so happy on set today watching them work. Everyone was so nice and encouraging and they told me that if I’m serious then I need to go to The Second City in Chicago. I promise I’ll still go to college. But what if I went to college in Chicago? I think I could be good at this.”

“If you figure out a way to make it work, we’ll talk.”

I can never thank my mom enough for letting me make my own decisions. It was always that way with her. If I wanted to do something, I had to figure out all of the details. If I presented a logical case where she could see that I was serious and understood all the work that would have to go into it, she’d support my decision. At 16, she trusted me to make a major life decision. At 17, we both cried as we stood in my dorm room and stared at my new (and impeccable) view of the Chicago skyline for way too long… prolonging our goodbye in the distraction of a September skyline.

My mom gave me the freedom to take major risks while staying practical. If I wanted to go to college in Chicago, I had to work two jobs the summer before college. That lesson in balance still helps me today. My 9-5 covers my student loans, rent and bills so if I want to take comedy classes, I have to babysit & volunteer for discounted tuition.

I wish I could go back in time and chat with that college student in Second City’s bathroom. I wish I could tell her all about how I’m making it work. That it’s possible to work full time while pursuing your passion. To show her mom what a group of people chasing their dream really look like. To show her that this thought that we have nothing is the most idiotic thing I’ve ever heard. I was so angry… but as my friend Sophia put it, “You have to just hope that she wants it enough to do it regardless of what her mom says.”

I’m not immune to questioning other people’s life decisions. Like everyone else, I judge people whose desires I don’t understand. Lately it has been friends of mine who choose to have children at 23. I can’t wrap my mind around how or why I would raise a child at this age. However, I have to realize that it’s not my place to tell them what to do. It’s not going to affect me either way, so why do I care at all?

It’s like Babs sings, “Don’t tell me not to fly, I’ve simply got to. If someone takes a spill, it’s me and not you.”

If someone takes a spill, it’s me and not you.

Trust others in their ability to make their own life decisions. If they’re thinking clearly and understand what’s at stake… why not just support them? What’s in it for you? If they screw up and fail, that’s their problem… not yours. Your life will remain unaffected. So please just support, support, support.

And don’t be an asshole.

I can’t delete her text messages.


A friend just passed this video onto me and I just had to write about it:

Chills. I didn’t understand the hype until the end. The second he mentioned the undeleted phone contacts, I almost lost my shit. I thought I was the only one.

When someone dies, you want to hold onto every piece of them possible. You start with physical things – notes, clothing, pictures that hang on your wall. Then you realize it’s all too sad, too pathetic. You fear that someone will see your room as a memorial site because for some reason, when someone dies, the picture that was always next to your bed now becomes too much for others to handle. Overnight it turns into a constant reminder of what you don’t have. People aren’t going to look at it and say “You were such an adorable kid!” Instead, they’ll give you this sad look that says everything they’re feeling.

So I got rid of the pictures, pieces of clothing… I tucked away the notes. Anything with handwriting on it is sacred and you throw it in a cabinet because the smallest spill on a seemingly stupid note would bring your world crashing down.

My dad died before I had a cellphone, so his contact info was never there. I have no old text messages or phone calls. My friend is different.

When my friend Amanda died, I put up my favorite photo of us. It was from my sophomore year’s Fest (an annual outdoor concert at DePaul). Things were simple and fun that day. Four Loko was still legal, the weather was warm and three of my best friends all lived together. It was right before the biggest breakdown of my life (obviously alcohol induced) and I was completely unaware that my entire life was going to change. We were just young and just so naïve.


Amanda’s death was awful. There is no other way to explain it. It was unexpected and cruel. To make things worse, the news covered it… and as much as you tell yourself to stay away from Google, you can’t help it. Then you realize how much it hurts to have your friend, someone you knew and loved, called the “Hit-and-run victim”. Hit-and-run victim in critical condition, Man arrested for hit and run involving cyclist, and ultimately, Hit-and-run victim dies, Remembering Amanda: Friends, faculty talk about student killed in hit and run accident.

So it’s no surprise that I couldn’t, and still sometimes can’t, let go. I eventually got rid of the picture. People looked at it and saw how young she was… instead of that happy, carefree and naïve vision I had. So I took it down. Instead, I held her memory in a private place – my cellphone:


She was supposed to move in with us, which means that I thought we had time. This was four days before she died. The day after the text, she went home for the weekend. I spent a really long time regretting not seeing her. I now know that you can’t always predict the future… but you better believe I still think of this constantly. We never have the time that we think we have.

And I refuse to delete her messages. I have a handful of dead people in my contact list. Why? What is the point?

If a picture gets lost, it’s not all my doing. If someone spills something on a loved one’s note, it’s not all my doing. If memories fade, it’s not all my doing. But deleting someone from my phone means that I’m saying it’s okay to let them go. You feel like you’re deleting them from your life.

And honestly, a part of me doesn’t want to let go of that.

Lessons from a political science major.


One of my majors at DePaul was political science. I wish I could tell you some intelligent and mind churning explanation as to why I majored in political science, but I’m afraid that I’m just going to disappoint you. There were two reasons why I chose this specific major:

  1. I initially picked it up as a minor so that I would be forced to follow the news. I thought that my comedy would improve greatly if I knew what was going on in the world.
  2. I had a crush on my professor. It’s so cliché… but it’s so true. Dr. Khalil Marrar stole my heart and I decided that I wanted to take more classes with him so I bumped political science up from a minor to a secondary major.

Regardless of why I picked it up, I learned invaluable lessons during my time as a political science major. Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Don’t just study the problem… find a solution.

One of the first things Marrar broke down for us was the meaning behind the name political science. It’s not history. If you want a history class, major in history. Political science is a form of… well, science. Which means that you study the problem… and then solve it. One of the most life changing lessons I ever learned in college was during Marrar’s Israeli-Palestinian conflict class. It was an advanced class where we spent weeks studying everything there was to know about the history and politics behind Israel and Palestine. We debated sides, read books on various wars and studied the psychology behind the leaders of both sides. At the end of the term, he presented us with our final paper: solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in four pages or less. Draw the borders and explain why you chose them. Every word you write over four pages counts as ten points against you.

Uh… excuse me? I have to solve it? Me? Numerous scholars, academics and politicians have already tried to solve this to no avail. And you’re putting it in the hands of a 20-year old sorority girl? It’s a conflict bred from hate, which means that no matter how logical a solution, they have so much emotional hatred towards each other that nothing works. But I had to solve it. And I did. In four pages or less. It was the most difficult paper I ever wrote – but I did it and turned it in.

No problem, no matter how large, is incapable of being solved. Maybe the solution won’t work, maybe people won’t listen to you… but at least try. Learning the past does nothing if you’re not going to help things move forward. No matter how impossible a problem seems, at least try to fix it. Proposing a solution shows that you were actually listening to the problem at hand. I use this lesson constantly with my friends. When they vent to me about a problem, I don’t stop there. I give my advice on how to make things better. I let them know that I was actually processing the information they gave me. It shows that you actually care.

  1. People will judge you. Prove them wrong.

I was an east coast sorority girl studying politics. The majority of my classes had no more than three females in them… and even some of the ladies were rude to me. I didn’t really make any friends in my major. While I had some wonderful classmates and professors, some weren’t so nice. People thought that I was stupid or airheaded and the amount of times classmates threw a Legally Blonde reference my way almost made me dislike the movie (almost, not quite). I had two professors make fun of my involvement in Greek life in front of my entire class… one dig was so bad that I had to take it up with my department head.

I got angry at first. But then I realized that anger is wasted energy. It all made me work harder. I felt like I had something to prove… that just because I may not look the type, I’m smart too. I had a classical political theory class where we had to write an essay every week about our readings. This teacher was known as a hard grader and only handed out A’s to those who blew his mind. I worked really hard in this class… I wanted to prove a point. I tackled Plato’s Republic and got straight A’s on my essays. One day, about five weeks in, we were chatting in class and my professor gave me kudos for my straight A’s. The look the faces of my classmates was enough to satisfy any self-doubt they caused me.

If someone slaps a label on you, defy it. Don’t get angry at another person’s ignorance. Instead, use that energy towards proving them wrong. You may be able to change their perception of an entire group of people in the process.

  1. There are so many other people in the world. Your problems are nothing compared to someone else’s.

Unfortunately, I’m not as traveled as others. Toronto is the furthest that I’ve been out of the states. I once had a history teacher tell me that being born in the United States is like winning a lottery at birth. For the majority of us, we’re able to experience opportunity and security that other countries only dream of. I understood this even more when I studied political science.

My every day is someone else’s dream. I haven’t experienced apartheid and no one ever recruited me to be a child soldier. As a kid, I was able to experience an education and didn’t have to worry about soldiers kidnapping me in the middle of the night. Clean water is a given and I don’t have to hunt for food. Not everyone has this.

There isn’t a day that goes by where I forget how fortunate I am. Even when times are tough and I feel helpless, I take a second to remember that I am healthy and I have more than enough. Just because I can’t do everything I want due to financial constraints doesn’t mean that I’m poor. Poor is relative. Poor people don’t have iPhones and an apartment in the city.

  1. You’re capable of understanding more than you think.

Let’s reemphasize that I took up this major because I had a crush on my teacher. He intrigued me, challenged me and treated me with respect. That means that I was pretty much a blank slate going into this major. I didn’t read the Wall Street Journal daily and had no idea what Al Jazeera even was. The area I knew most about, local politics, became irrelevant since no one in Chicago cared about the political happenings of Danbury, CT. A lot of my classmates chose this major because they were passionate about it. They came with prior knowledge that I just didn’t have.

I had to learn everything. I had to study and work really hard because I didn’t have the foundation that most other students had. There were times where I thought it would be impossible to get on the same level as everyone else. However, I reached out to my teachers and was honest and open with them. I let them know that I didn’t have the proper educational background and knowledge. I asked for explanations and supplemental readings. I worked really hard to be at par with everyone else. However, when all was said and done, I was extremely satisfied when I felt like I learned enough to step up to the plate. There’s this inexplicable satisfaction in knowing that you worked really hard to learn something that you didn’t think you would ever understand.

  1. There are multiple sides to every story.

Don’t just form an opinion based off of one perspective. When I was taking my Israeli-Palestinian conflict class, we had to read four books. Two were historical explanations of the events but two were from authors who were highly biased. One from Israel, one from Palestine. Authors whose families were murdered from the opposing side and had years of hatred in them. Authors that most educators would warn students to stay away from because of how biased their stories were.

But you have to look at every side to understand the story completely. By reading biased authors, we learned how deep seeded their hatred was. That this was an extremely personal conflict.

It’s easy to dismiss something you don’t want to hear. Most of us have opinions on topics. For example, I’m huge on gun control. It’s easy for me to see an extreme right stance and decide not to read it. I want to turn off the TV every time Fox is on. However, I listen to the other side. By listening to the other side, I can form an informed and educated position instead of one bred from emotion and personal taste. I can see the points that those opposed to me are making and counter them. There are two sides to every story.

  1. Read.

Oh man, did we read. Reading helps you formulate ideas… it helps you imagine and question the world. It gives you the opportunity to see conflicts through other peoples’ eyes. It keeps your brain active. Just trust me on this one and read.