Life Update: In California for the Summer!

Ahhh, I can’t even believe I’m typing this post! The biggest adventure of my life so far began almost a month ago, on June 4…I flew across the country and temporarily moved to Los Angeles, California!!! (How is it July already? How have I been here for almost 4 weeks? Time scares me.)

In other words, I’m living out my number one dream for eight weeks of the summer. Wow!

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This phenomenal opportunity is taking place through a global internship program that is offered by my school back home; I applied back in February, crossed my fingers, and hoped for the best, never quite believing that it would work out. But thank God it did, because right now I’m living in the city I’ve fantasized about for the entirety of my teenage years. Along with about 20 other students from my school and kids from all across the country, I’m staying at a college dorm building in the heart of Hollywood — literally, I can see the sign from outside my room — while interning for The Mighty (an awesome media company/website centered around mental illness, disability, disease, and many other health challenges — I highly recommend checking it out) and exploring all that the City of Angels has to offer!

It still hasn’t hit me that I’m actually here, and I don’t know if it ever will. During the entirety of the flight — which was only my second time on a plane, and my first time alone — and the ride from the airport, the sightseeing around this area, the daily commute to work…all I could do and all I can do every day is take it all in and be grateful. There’s nothing like towering palm trees, perfect sunny weather, and the thrill of unknown streets to reignite the fire inside of you that you thought was long lost.

My first month here has felt a bit nonstop with getting to and from work every day, getting settled, and the group trips we do on the weekends, but I’m having so much fun! I’ve made a great group of friends and I’m absolutely in love with Los Angeles. I feel better than I have in a long time and I am so happy to be here.

I want to do separate blog posts with highlights from some of my favorite sightseeing trips & outings (like the Hollywood Sign and The Grove), especially since I got a new camera and I’ve been trying to use it a lot. So stay tuned for those posts! I hope everyone is having a wonderful, stress-free summer 🙂

Stay free! xo

— Morgan

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Why This is a Defining Moment for Greek Life

Why does Greek life matter? How do stereotypes still perpetuate other people’s views of it, and are they right? Does it do more harm than good? What can I do?

I’ve been pondering these questions and more on a daily basis since news broke that a grand jury is bringing charges against 18 members of Penn State’s Beta Theta Pi fraternity for their involvement in the events that led to the death of 19-year-old pledge Timothy Piazza back in February.

The details from the timeline of that night that were presented in the jury’s findings were so intensely disturbing, I read them through hot, tear-filled eyes. As a member of Greek life myself, I felt betrayed and sick to my stomach. Continuing news updates and reactions from people all over the Internet deadened the weight. I spent days trying to articulate my thoughts on the situation, and even still I feel like there is so much more I could say.

In the days since the charges were reported, I am astonished by the number of online comments from people who are calling for fraternities and sororities to be completely dismantled. They say that these organizations serve no purpose other than to foster the hazing, binge-drinking, rape culture environment that is prevalent at many colleges and universities, and society would be better off if frats and sororities didn’t exist at all. Eric Barron, President of Penn State, wrote an open letter to the school’s Greek community where he reviewed the administration’s past interventions to change the adverse behaviors and expressed disgust and surprise that Beta Theta Pi, a “model fraternity,” could fall prey to the cycle. He imposed new measures for all 82 official fraternities and sororities to follow from now on and predicted that if not, it would result in the permanent end of Greek life at Penn State.

One particular opinion piece from the Philadelphia Inquirer struck a nerve with me. In it, the author agrees with President Barron’s questioning of the future of fraternity life and takes it one step further by explaining the storied history of misogyny, sexism, and assault in fraternities as reasons for why they should be eliminated.

The main reason I take issue with this article (and many similar ones that have been published in the last few weeks) is because it skims over one very basic, very important fact: This is NOT limited to Greek life.

In my opinion, toxic masculinity is at the center of what happened at Beta Theta Pi that night and what happens in fraternity hazing rituals (I cringe at even referring to them as “rituals” because they don’t deserve to be associated with honor and the so-called values of these organizations). Acting tough in even the most extreme situation to prove yourself, staying quiet and internalizing fear or guilt in order to “man up”, the bullied becoming the bully…these behaviors are taught to boys at a young age and drilled into the way they experience the world growing up. When they become men, the pressure of performing masculinity to fit society’s ridiculously rigid mold makes it easy for groupthink to take over in risky situations, or for men to objectify women and degrade themselves to prove that they are strong. Toxic masculinity has dominated nearly every aspect of the patriarchal system we live in for decades upon decades. It is one of our country’s many systemic, institutional weapons of inequality.

Using reductive Greek life stereotypes as your justification to get rid of fraternities may tug at the roots, but it will not improve things overnight. It will not remedy a complex cultural problem that extends beyond the Greek bubble and pervades Western society as a whole.

An op-ed piece from a Philadelphia Daily News columnist evoked even more outrage from me as I read the headline: “Why didn’t the women call for help?” Yep, seriously. Because why look at this tragedy as a moment to educate the Greek community and reevaluate what our society is or isn’t teaching young people when you can just blame the women who were at the function, right?!

The author goes on to say that women are “supposed to be the more nurturing gender, instinctively prone to help,” which, aside from being blatantly sexist and ignorant, conveniently places the blame on the Trilogy guests for not helping and therefore indirectly contributing to Piazza’s death. This cannot be explained by an oversimplified statement like “No one helped, someone died, they’re all cowards and Greek life is despicable.” It’s not that easy. The lack of action from the brothers and female partygoers failed Piazza, and the fraternity certainly bears full responsibility for what happened, but I think this goes beyond a gendered individual or group level. This was a failure of the college experience, of friendship, of respect and care for other human beings, and those are basic concepts that have to be taught from the beginning. That’s why this story is so gut wrenching.

But even with the bleak state of events, I believe this is a defining moment for Greek life at colleges and universities across the United States. It is heartbreaking and extremely difficult to grasp that things had to get to this level in order for attention to be brought to hazing and other internal problems plaguing some organizations, but this is an invaluable learning opportunity for students, parents, and college administration members.

I can only speak from personal knowledge and experience, but I know firsthand how positive and life-changing being a member of a Greek organization can be. My university has over 25,000 students and my sorority, Alpha Xi Delta, has given me a tight-knit place to call home within the larger community. I was timid, lonely, and thinking of transferring schools before I went out for formal recruitment, and now I look back on that girl as a completely different person.

I am more confident in my classes, my other extracurriculars, my career field, and everyday life because of my sisters. They are my roommates, confidantes, and friends, the ones who motivate me when I’m at rock bottom and the ones who celebrate every success with me. My sorority has connected me to countless people and resources I never even knew I needed and helped me experience the joy of giving back, both through philanthropy service events and through my position on the executive board. It has made me want to achieve more and try my absolute best to live out our values — courage, graciousness, and peace — every day for the rest of my life. When I entered college I never imagined such a constantly high level of commitment for anything I joined, but all of the time and energy I put in is worth it, and I have been rewarded with incredible growth as a sister, student, and person.

I also know that not everyone who goes through the Greek rush process has this kind of experience. Unfortunately, for many organizations, the instinct to work hard to achieve and maintain a successful reputation on campus is overshadowed by the negative stereotypes that many of them end up playing into: binge drinking, partying, sexual assault, hazing. Underneath that dangerous and lethal culture, though, lies the potential for leadership and positive legacy that attracts so many students to Greek life in the first place. The potential to become a more self-aware, self-assured person who is always striving to be better than they were, a person who wants to enact change in a way that is bigger than themselves, a person who knows what they are capable of and plays to their own strengths to empower those around them. That potential still exists, and it cannot be abandoned.

So instead of closing down all fraternities because, according to the Inquirer, they apparently “teach men that they must degrade women — and debase themselves — to cement their tough-guy bona fides” (a gross generalization that does have a grain of truth but is untrue for many fraternal organizations) then why don’t we try to change what they teach? If Greek life was shut down entirely, it would only drive members to create underground groups with even less moral structure and regulation, which would surely make matters worse. Why don’t we restore oversight, acceptance, and integrity to the organizations that have existed without them for so long? Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I truly feel that with a comprehensive overhaul of the Greek system and fraternity member programs and a long-term effort to remedy this warped sense of “brotherhood”, it can be done.

Penn State Interfraternity Council’s Executive Board penned a succinct, well-written, mature response to Barron’s letter that lays out some steps to achieve this; it is a perfect example of the open attitude that is needed going forward. They noted that the school has been without a Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life for nearly two years, which is a significant part of the problem. They expressed the need for student inclusion in policy conversations with the administration, and they directly encouraged the Greek community to take responsibility and staff and alumni to fully support members in their Greek life experience.

The letter has a tone of hope that a large-scale, collaborative effort at all levels will lead to significant cultural change, that a plan of action needs to be in place so one day standards will serve as a preventive measure, not a reactive one after a student’s death. And I couldn’t agree more with every word. It’s time for reflection and action to bring back a focus on the fundamental values of each fraternity and sorority. Greek members, it’s time to remember why we were created in the first place and think about what each of us can do to fulfill the promises we made when we joined. This is our defining moment.

“The fraternity experience” failed Timothy Piazza like it devastatingly failed many students before him, but it cannot fail any more. Greek life is a microcosm of the many problems at hand within college culture. It is just one part of the storm, not the eye. And getting rid of it won’t make the skies clear up. In fact, it would take away a vital source of social connections, academic and professional development, leadership opportunities, and a sense of belonging for young people across the country who are finding their place in the world. I know those may sound like empty buzzwords but trust me, we truly care about them and we need mentors who do, too. We need people to believe in us like we believe in our organizations and what they can become.

Instead of giving up on something that is broken, let’s come together to fix it.

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Where I’ve Been, Where I Am, Where I Want to Be

“I don’t know where I’m going, but I sure know where I’ve been

Hangin’ on the promises and the songs of yesterday

But I’ve made up my mind, I ain’t wasting no more time…”

Okay, enough with the Whitesnake reference. I just couldn’t help it — it was the first thing that popped into my head when I thought of the title for this post!

So, I haven’t written in a while.

I’ve written plenty of essays and research papers so far this semester, of course, but I haven’t really connected with my inner writer in a very long time…I think she disappeared somewhere. Poems once flowed from my brain to the page in steady little streams and I was inspired every time I walked outside, even if it was just on my way to class. I would sit in bed at night and craft groups of words into something that made me tingle, something I was proud of. I don’t know where that creative ease went or how to find it, but I need it desperately right now. Without it, my essence feels incomplete.

Where have I been? Who am I? School kind of engulfed me and I don’t really know anymore. I was so consumed by the stress of assignments and managing my schedule that I was running on empty every day. It felt like the world was out of focus.

But now the semester is over and I have a few days to finally relax (I forgot how to do that) and do the things I enjoy before I take my finals. The promise of summer in one week has me feeling a bit like my old self again! I hope my creative spark comes back with the free time and warm weather.

This summer I’m embarking on an adventure that I have such a positive feeling about! I think it will push me out of my comfort zone and help me grow in ways I can’t even imagine. It’s also been a lifelong (okay, half-lifelong) dream of mine to travel to this place, and now that the details are all confirmed I keep entertaining visions of what it will be like to live and intern there for two months! I CANNOT WAIT!!!

So to sum it all up: this year went by in a blur but I am starting to feel grounded in reality again. Blog posts will be back regularly (hopefully) as soon as I’m done with junior year. I love my family and friends dearly for supporting me on my upcoming journey. I’m super excited about life and all the opportunities that await!

“Here I go again on my own…”

Stay free! xo

—- Morgan

P.S. West Coast, I hope you’re ready for me…

 

 

Musings on Social Media: Ain’t It Romantic?

I wonder why so many things are romanticized.

It’s almost like they have to be in order for our culture to perpetuate the ideas behind them, whether they are good or bad. I think the word has a negative connotation because people typically use it in association with unhealthy habits or behaviors. Proper nutrition, healthy relationships, simple living, appreciating what you have, an equal society…these things are not romanticizeable. But they also don’t sell or resonate with the masses like drug use, abusive relationships, excess materialism, or traditional gender roles do. These things, if marketed well enough, can slip through the cracks of people’s ignorance or indifference and become acceptable in our society. These ideas are seeds that have already been planted in mainstream culture for decades and centuries, so all that The Big Guys have to do is subtly alter them to make them appealing or masked and unrecognizable.

Here is one example that has bothered me for years: living a life of self-deprecation and indifference is NOT cute, but somehow it has turned into a romanticized inside joke, especially with my generation. I get that humor is a coping mechanism for some people, but this seems different. Since when is it cool to hate yourself and the entire world?! This has always confused me because I see passion in any aspect of life as the most attractive quality someone can have. So why are people afraid to show that they actually care about things?

I think that to hide these insecurities, we have become desperate to present our lives as the subject of ultimate envy. We romanticize the moments of the past as better than they were (like a perfectly put together Insta photo of you and your best friends from last night before everyone puked an hour later, but the sparkle and glam is how you remember the whole thing) and the future as a glimmering vision of what we hope will be. Obviously no one wants to share the real, deeply personal, or negative parts of their life on the Internet — and realizing this is key to not letting them heavily influence your view of yourself and your own life — but it is scary for me to think about how many of my ambitions, dreams, and opinions are shaped by the media I take in. I am guilty of looking at photos of my friends all dressed up for a night out and shaming myself for not having as much of a social life as they do. I remind myself that what I see online is only the tip of the iceberg, but it still affects me and leaves me feeling bad about myself. Hell, at some point after I graduate I want to travel the country in a Volkswagen hippie van and “be one with nature,” even though in reality a road trip is nowhere near effortless or idyllic. Where do you think that #lifegoal came from? It was informed and shaped by what I read and see on the Internet. How much of what I actually think and feel is completely original and free of influence? Probably nothing, and that is so disconcerting to me.

Every second of every day is saturated with images, videos, movies, music, and constant media, so much so that it’s basically unheard of to actually like your life as it is now. Why enjoy the present reality when you’re surrounded by messages telling you to reimagine it as something different and better?

Can I digest things at face value or do I need a layer of fluff to make them more palatable? Am I even able to take a step back and recognize the good, the bad, the real, and appreciate it all? Can I separate myself from the romanticism?

Can any of us?

I wrote this in my journal a few months ago and recently found it, and it’s brought up a lot of ponderings for me. I’m sorry if my thoughts seem jumbled here — I was just bursting to get it out! I hope my words make sense. How do you feel about romanticism in social media and our digital lives today? How does seeing other people’s lives on social media affect you? What does all of this mean? Leave a comment and let’s have a conversation.

Stay free! xo

— Morgan

Taking a Deep Breath

I am officially done with the fall semester of my junior year of college. Winter break is here at last! It feels so good to say that.

I can breathe again for the first time in months, and while I am grateful for the relief I am also saddened by its rarity.

I throw myself into my college workload and operate at full speed basically every day of the week, always attending meetings or completing papers (I had six final papers due over a two week time span — how is that even allowed?!) without taking time for myself. In a school environment where you’re surrounded by students who are constantly competing to see who has the best grades, who has the greatest internships, who is the most caffeinated, and who sacrifices the most hours of sleep to stay up and do homework, it’s easy to get swept up in the pressure. About halfway through every semester I reach the point where I am overcome with guilt for taking a break from my work to call a friend, read a book, or relax for just one moment. The education system shouldn’t make me and every other student out there feel this way.

But that’s a subject for another time.

Now, after a lovely holiday season surrounded by family and loved ones, it feels like I have nothing but time on my hands. I can teach myself how to truly appreciate “boredom” and get back into the hobbies and interests that made me happy when I was able to indulge in them — yoga, meditation, reading, discovering new music, writing, going for long walks (weather permitting), and thinking about the world. I can pause and refresh before the madness of a new semester, which seems ages away right now. I can finally take a deep breath!

With this dreadfully long and difficult year almost over and 2017 just a few days away, I’ve been trying to reflect on the good things that happened in my life in 2016 and the excitement of a fresh perspective. Approaching college graduation and “real” adulthood is scary, but I honestly believe that the future holds so much potential for positive growth for me.

I’m also hoping to do a lot more with this blog in the new year (like secure an actual domain and pretty theme, and post as regularly as my busy collegiate schedule allows) so stay tuned and feel free to leave any suggestions in the comments! I want to know what you want to see this space used for. And to all of my fellow college students out there: I know many of you already sick of being at home and ready to return to school, but try to soak up the last few weeks of break. Spend quality time with your family and close friends. Go to your old hometown haunts or find new ones. Do all of the things you’ve been meaning to do in your free time. Prepare to enter 2017 with a clean heart and good intentions. Live.

Stay free! xo

— Morgan

The Storm: Post-Election Day Thoughts

Writing has always been my catharsis in times of trouble and, since the results of the 2016 presidential election were made official early Wednesday morning, this is one of those times for a lot of people across the country.

This blog is supposed to be about living mindfully, but it is also somewhere for me to share my thoughts on what is going on in the world. Although it may irk some that I am bringing politics into this space, mindfulness is still a key part of what I have been thinking about in regard to the election. The next president-elect is a man who has never been mindful with his words, actions, or the promises he made on the campaign trail. And as a result, far too many wonderful people in the United States are increasingly fearful of what might happen to them over the next four years, of what human rights and protections they could lose. They are afraid for their own futures and those of their loved ones. They are grieving.

TL;DR — I was waiting for words to come to me through the pain and they finally did. So yeah, I’m talking about it.

Wednesday was difficult and devastating. I went through the day in a haze, weighed down by defeat and grief, but I couldn’t help noticing how eerily quiet my college campus was. I had never seen it like that before. I took a necessary social media break (okay, mainly Twitter and Facebook) for the rest of the week to escape what I’m sure has been nonstop arguing about every aspect of Donald Trump’s win and its aftermath. Events like this open your eyes to the toxic nature of being online 24/7. I cried myself dry, burned incense, read books, listened to meditative music, and practiced self-care more than I ever have in my life. I am extremely fortunate that I had the time to do these things without immediately having to fear for my safety.

I thought about electoral systems and the institutions of our country. I thought about the white working class voters who voted for Donald Trump because they finally felt seen and understood. I thought about every discussion we’ve had in my class on the role of communication in the 2016 election. I am still questioning journalism and the media’s part in this. I am constantly thinking about women, people of color, immigrants, people of Muslim and Jewish faiths, the disabled, the LGBTQIA+ community, Native peoples, children, every marginalized group out there. I wondered, over and over again, how this could have happened…I know it shouldn’t have been a shock but it still came crashing down on us. I was upset with myself for not getting out there and protesting in the streets with my progressive sisters and brothers over the last few days, but I was (and still am) going through my own coping process. I was overwhelmed with sadness and heavy emotion then. Now I am angry, especially after hearing of the horrific hate crimes that are taking place. I am determined to fight.

I think it must be the epitome of disillusionment to wake up on November 9 and feel like everything you thought you knew about “democratic” American values is wrong. We grow accustomed to our bubbles and being surrounded by friends who share our political views. Even the polls and projections said that we would elect the first female president. It is so easy to forget about the silent majority until something like this smacks you right in the face and knocks the wind out of you.

I know the results of this election were a loud rejection of the establishment and formal politics, and I get that. I know priorities must radically shift within the Democratic Party. I know the problems that are being repeated in every news story. don’t want to pick apart the “what ifs” or every possible reason Hillary Clinton lost or hurl insults at third-party voters; I’m sure you have seen enough of that in think pieces and Facebook statuses. The main point I want to get across is that I hope no one is telling anyone how to feel about this. If you are in a place of privilege where you are mostly unaffected by a Trump presidency, please do not tell people that it will all be okay (because right now it is not), that they need to accept the results and move on, or even that they should keep an open mind. Please do not say cruel things about protestors who are bravely asserting their vision of an America who opens her arms to all. While you may see the uncertainty of the future as a possibility that things might not actually be that bad, that same uncertainty is exactly why people are afraid. Our next president is a man who is celebrated by the KKK. There have been numerous instances of some of his supporters committing public acts of hate against Muslims, Latinx, immigrants, and other minorities. Parents and teachers have to assure kids that their families will not be forced to leave the country or worse. The dust is not yet settled and people have every right to what they are feeling.

I know people who supported Donald Trump. Although I may not understand them (and I feel that this lack of understanding is a problem that will continue to plague politics and divide both sides until we start paying attention), they have their reasons for voting for him. I am trying really hard not to judge them for that. What really makes my blood race is that his rise to the presidency has resulted in the normalization of racism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, and sexual assault. His campaign and election have normalized white supremacy, hatred, and discrimination, and I do not respect him or what he stands for. Trump is #NotMyPresident and I know I am not alone in saying so. We’re entering uncharted territory and that’s fucking terrifying, but the popular vote affirms that is NOT the America most of us want to live in. So let’s make that known!

Now is the time for compassion, support, and strength in numbers. Now is the time to be an ally.

I am a strong advocate for healing at one’s own pace and I encourage people who still need to process this election to do so, then join the cause when they are ready. It is time to firmly stand in solidarity with those who have been oppressed for so long and elevate them. Demonstrate along with thousands of other people. Participate in constructive conversations and events in your community. Make sure your flame of passion stays burning. Share your voice with the world and do not let it be shut down or silenced by fear. Do not stand for bigotry but radiate positivity, openness, and love to those who need it most. Find the power in your tears of sorrow and pain. Try hard to include everyone in your efforts to uplift the marginalized. Give money or volunteer for organizations and causes that do ground work and need your help. This has all been said before but the future of America depends on it. Instead of apologizing, it is time to listen and take action. Progress must continue.

I do not know when that joyous, accepting tomorrow of our dreams will arrive, but let us always strive for it.

xo,

Morgan

“You will not be called a weakling nor a fraud for feeling the pain of the whole wide world.” – Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros

“They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”

Some helpful links:

If You’re Overwhelmed by the Election, Here’s What You Can Do Now (Huffington Post)

How to Cope With Fear After the Presidential Election (Teen Vogue)

18 Compassionate Poems To Help You Weather Uncertain Times (Huffington Post)

Today I Rise, a short film for women (Films For Action)

 

 

20 Meaningful Words to This Twenty-Year-Old

Hi, friends!

The month between my last post and this one was full of stress and preparation and contemplation and hellos and goodbyes. Summer is swiftly ending…it seems like it was just the end of July and I was soaking up the Florida sun with my boyfriend and his family! Now I’m all moved in to my apartment at college and I have officially started my junior year. It’s madness, I say!

Oh, also, I turned twenty on August 7.

I was pretty melodramatic about it the night before, driving around my small hometown for hours just brooding and desperately trying to piece together the fragments of my teenage years so I wouldn’t feel like they were a waste. And looking back, I can conclude that they most definitely weren’t. I know my adolescence technically isn’t over yet but when I flip through the events that took place in my life between the ages of 13 and 19, I get a warm, satisfactory ending feeling about it all. I did some of my most important growing as a person in those years; I feel confident the personality I’ve developed and the way I present myself to the world, as well as in the special people whom I have chosen to hold close to my heart — my best friends and family. I love my passions and hobbies and thoughts and I am striving to work on myself so I can become who I want to be. As a twenty-something (gosh, that’s strange to think about!) I know that this upcoming period of my life is the time to turn my dreams into realities, to actually make stuff happen.

So here are twenty words that have been circling around in my head lately! Some of them are more abstract than others. Some I will explain and others speak for themselves but they all reflect who I am, what matters to me now, and what will matter as I walk into the future.

  1. Clarity – This is the one thing I hope and pray for when I’m at a crossroads and need to make a tough decision. I also strive to live in a way that brings me more clarity every day. In my twenties I want to really expand on this through yoga, meditation, clean eating, and whatever else I can do to clear my mind.
  2.  Justice
  3. Oppression – It seems like examples of oppression have become daily headlines these days. You’d think that as groups like Black Lives Matter and other activists spread awareness of discrimination against women, ethnic and racial minorities, and immigrants, people would wake up and realize that things need to change. Unfortunately, the switch from bigotry to acceptance is an especially slow one in the Western world. This word, its presence in society, and its implications never leave my mind.
  4. Rhythm – I am a firm believer that a catchy beat in a great song can get you through anything.
  5. Coffee – This is probably the only way I am going to survive college and being an adult. Related words: cream, extra sugar
  6. Connection
  7. Ambition
  8. Listen – The power of listening — to loved ones, to yourself, to anyone and everyone — before speaking is so, so impactful. I want to make sure my interactions mean something.
  9. Learn
  10. Regret
  11. Outward – People like to say that your twenties are the right time to be selfish, to act and choose and live with yourself in mind first and foremost. And while I agree with that idea to an extent, I want to expand my perspective to include so much more than just me. I need to figure out where I fit into this big old world, yes, but that will come with time. I think taking yourself out of the equation and observing the workings of your city, community, the web of people in your life, and the parts of the world far away from you is such a necessary way of learning.
  12. Woman – I am one. I love being one. I love all of the amazing women in my life who inspire me and strengthen me more than they know. Womanhood is a beautiful, badass gift!
  13. Risk – I need to take one every once in a while.
  14. Spirituality
  15. Natural
  16. “Real World” – When the phrase is shoved down your throat 24/7 and mentioned by every adult professional you know, it’s kind of hard to not think about it. Can’t wait!!! Ha ha…
  17. Progressive
  18. Empathy – This is the best and most important characteristic someone can have, in my opinion! Practicing empathy lets you relate to others and gain insight that may prove invaluable later on.
  19. Long-term – At this point in my life I am only interested in things that will make me a better person in the long run. This applies to relationships, career opportunities, habits, friendships, et cetera…if it adds positive, stimulating energy to my lifestyle, I’m all for it!
  20. Alive – Something I aim to be (as well as fully present and aware) with every part of my being.

Stay free! xo

— Morgan

My First Tattoo!

When my high school peers started getting tattoos, I was completely turned off to the idea. Sure, I thought decorating one’s body with meaningful (or sometimes just cool) artwork was an admirable thing to do, but I could never see myself putting permanent ink on my skin. I mean, come on, I’ve never dyed my hair in my life and I only have double ear piercings…I’m not exactly the textbook definition of “badass teenage girl.”

Well, friends, I have some exciting news for you! I GOT A TATTOO!!! 

Yep, I did it. Two days ago I went to my local tattoo and piercing shop and held back tears as the artist drew the design I wanted onto my right inner wrist. And it was freaking awesome.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t awesome in the moment. Maybe I was too afraid to look at my wrist while the tattoo artist was at work and instead stared at the wall, gripping my boyfriend’s hand so tight that I almost cut off his circulation (because I have a low tolerance for pain and holy hell, did that tattoo pen hurt!). But I am so thrilled with how it turned out!

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I grew more open to the possibility of getting a tattoo (or two or three, we’ll see) when I started my second year of college and met more people who had them. And the best part was that each person lit up every time they told the story of what their design meant to them personally — how it memorialized a loved one who had passed away or signified an internal struggle they had overcome. I began sketching out a few ideas that represented my passions and life values and the many different ways I see beauty in the world. Then my boyfriend gave me a Christmas gift that solidified it for me: he offered to pay for my first tattoo! That’s when I knew I wanted to get it done this summer.

Now here is where I reveal the message behind the ink! After a lot of back and forth, I finally settled on the design in the picture above. It holds a double meaning for me that makes it even more special in my eyes. This symbol appears on the back cover of Florence + the Machine’s 2015 record How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. Since the first time I saw it, I was captivated by its simplicity and striking depth. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, Florence Welch’s music has helped me through so many dark, difficult times in the past few years and this album in particular continues to inspire me every day, so getting the symbol tattooed onto my skin felt like the perfect way to honor that. It is a reminder of the healing power of song, the free spirit that is within me, and my own strength. Fun fact — Florence herself has the same tattoo (just upside down from mine) on her finger!

It also has another meaning that I discovered later on when I found this jewelry website, where the author describes the drawing as a connection of the four alchemical elements. The top triangle of my tattoo is the alchemical symbol for air and the bottom represents water. And to everyone else who looks at my wrist, the plain triangle becomes the top one and stands for fire, while the bottom shape is earth. I have always felt connected to air and water, and now I can look at my tattoo and feel all four elements of the earth with even more energy.

I absolutely love the dual symbolism behind this beautiful design and I am so glad that it is now a part of me forever! It’s the perfect size for me and I feel like it was meant to be right there on my wrist. My first tattoo experience was very positive overall and well worth 10 minutes of pain, haha. I have some other ideas in mind but I think I’ll stick with this one for a while…after all, the story on my skin will last a lifetime.

Stay free! xo

— Morgan

 

My Personal Goals for July

Hey, babes!! Can you believe it’s July already? Summer is flying by and I’m not sure how I feel about it…but there is some good to come from the swift passage of time: I have a newfound energy and determination to better myself. Here are 5 life goals I have set for this month!

1. Improve productivity

The job I have at college allows me to work from home and on my own time…it’s basically a teenager’s dream come true and I love it! However, the flexibility can easily lead to laziness of the Netflix kind. So this month I resolve to set a semi-structured”schedule” where I dedicate a few hours a day to getting work done (and give myself a day or two off as well). Once I get the hang of it, sticking to the plan should be simple and I’ll hopefully feel like a more productive person!

2. Develop and stick to a night routine

Ever since the busy high school days of extracurriculars and homework, I’ve been terrible at making this happen. I can’t remember the last time I regularly fell asleep before 11 p.m., and during the stressful college semesters I consider it a blessing if I’m in bed by midnight. I want to get accustomed to a night routine so I’m prepared when I go back to school. Sleeping is already one of my favorite things to do so this goal shouldn’t be too much of a challenge as long as I commit to it! Plus, studies show that teens who get the same amount of sleep….etc. So finding a night routine that works for me is a win-win situation!

3. Plan for the fall semester

I’m moving into my first “big girl apartment” off campus this year, so I need to start furniture and decor shopping ASAP! Thanks to my constant Pinterest planning this task will be a breeze; it’s just a matter of finding pieces that are inexpensive and still quality…but hey, that’s what the Internet and secondhand stores are good for, right? I also need all of your typical college school supplies: textbooks, notebooks, an agenda, and pens. So yeah, the list is pretty intensive. And to top it all off I have my heart set on studying abroad in the spring (I don’t want to share the location yet but it’s one of my dream travel spots), which means I need to start researching and calculating every last dollar and tidbit of information and stay up to date on program application deadlines. Time to get a move on!

4. Read more books

This has been in the back of my mind for quite a while now. Ever since I learned how to read as a child I’ve had a love for books and the amazing wonders contained on their pages. In elementary and middle school I was a library fiend, and I even received school wide recognition for my bookworm habits! But life seems to get increasingly busy and fast-paced as you grow up, and somewhere along the way I swapped reading for staring at a laptop screen for hours on end in my free time. I have a decent sized “book wish list” saved in my phone notes and this month I want to buy as many of the items as I can, and then some! Knowledge and perspective are two of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves as humans living in this world, and I intend to expand upon them.

5. Be grateful for every experience

I am already appreciative of so many moments in my life, big and small, and I hope I always will be. With all of the exciting little events I have coming up in July (and one super exciting trip) I want to make sure I take a few pictures to capture the memories, but more importantly, I need to unplug and focus on making real memories that are genuine and free of interruption. This is an exercise that will help me with my lifelong goal of mindfulness and benefit me here and now. I am blessed to have good health, loving family and friends, and the very joy of existence itself — these things should be recognized and truly felt in my heart every day, and I will try my best to achieve this level of sensory awareness about my surroundings and experiences. As Eliza Schuyler so fittingly put it in Hamilton, “Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now.”

What are your personal goals for the month of July, or for 2016 as a whole? How do you plan to make them happen? Let me know in the comments!

Stay free! xo

— Morgan

Music Monday: Florence + the Machine

Every once in a while a musician comes around who changes your life and the way you go about existing in the world. I’m not quite sure how they do it (it must be magic), but in an instant they open your eyes and revitalize all the parts of you that had been fading away for so long. These special people are a rare few in the music industry, but you know them by the indescribable feeling you get every time you listen to the words they sing. This is my love story with one of these such artists, Florence + the Machine.

“You are flesh and blood, and you deserve to be loved and you deserve what you are given.”

This single line alone is my a-ha! moment from the How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful album. Each time I hear it I feel my skin tingle and my eyes tear up, and I suspect it will resonate with me permanently. I have never before received such a direct message from the Universe, a reminder of my unconditional worth. I deserve to be loved and I deserve what I am given — we all do. That is my first of many favorite things about Florence + the Machine: they draw on the human condition and its universal experiences.

It is surprisingly easy for me to explain what Florence Welch has done for me in the nearly six years that I have been listening to her music. She brings out an effortless confidence in me that courses through my veins like a winding river on a lazy summer day. The sound of her voice is sweet freedom and unabashed power and quiet comfort. Through her music, Florence has become my dear friend. Her records have saved me, enriched me, and carried me through life, and that is awesome to me.

It began with “Drumming Song.” A modern dance class at my studio performed a wild routine to the song during a past recital, and it absolutely stunned me. I was hypnotized by the primitive power and immensity of every beat and I knew I had to look up the song. This led me to the Lungs album and every FATM video that I could find on YouTube. Over the course of my middle school and high school years — trying times for every teenage girl — I always kept Florence close to me so her lyrics could serve as a reminder of the kind, patient, peaceful, mighty presence I wanted to put out into the world. Shortly after my grandmother died, my family went to the beach for a week. There, I did a lot of struggling and grieving, but I was not alone. It was Florence’s albums, the endless ocean, God, and me. That was a transformative time in my life, and I don’t know how I would have gotten through it without my favorite songstress.

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I still cannot listen to “Shake It Out”, though, and that is my only regret. I remember having a moment of breakdown a few years ago while the song was playing and ever since then, something closes up inside when it comes on shuffle. I have to skip it. It breaks my heart that this glorious anthem has suffered from my tendency to deny myself happiness. Maybe one day I’ll be able to dance to it again and heed Florence’s call to let the light in. I hope so.

Still, I want to continue this on a positive note. I am beyond grateful for the things this band has done for me. Every time I glance at Flo’s glorious Instagram account I get a tickle in my throat and a smile on my face because I am reminded of who I want to be: a free spirited faerie girl whose aura projects light, confidence, and independence, but who also remains young at heart. FATM’s lyrics have taught me that it is okay to feel, to really feel all of the emotions on the spectrum of life, because that’s the only way to stay alive. I have learned the importance of a creative mind and an open heart in every situation. I’ve learned to wake up and count my blessings, from loved ones to the simple joy of coexisting with nature. I am much more honest with myself in my journey to let go of the pain that weighs me down. I cannot express all of the bigger and better ways I have grown as a woman, friend, and human being since the day I discovered FATM.

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Florence + the Machine is holding hands with your best friend and skipping along a winding road to “You’ve Got the Love.” It is closing your eyes and feeling goosebumps on your skin as you envision a blazing sacrificial rite during “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up).” It is the internal connection you feel with some strange holiness as you listen to Ceremonials.  It is the messy, truthful narrative of life that is told throughout How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.

So there you have it, folks — the story of my passionate spiritual love affair with Florence Welch. I am planning my first tattoo right now and I’m almost certain that it will be related to the band I love so dearly. I can only hope that one day I get to see the Queen herself perform live in concert, because that will be the day all my dreams come true! Until then, I look forward to dancing down the paths of life with so many beautiful songs in my soul.

Thank you, Florence Welch. Thank you a million times over.

Stay free! xo

— Morgan

P.S. If you ever need to restore some of your faith in humanity, watch this incredible video of Florence singing to a young hospice patient. Grab a box of tissues.