Monday, August 27, 2012

our heroes and their leaps.

"The important achievement of Apollo was demonstrating that humanity is not forever chained to this planet and our visions go rather further than that and our opportunities are unlimited." -Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong, the famed astronaut and first man on the moon, died on Saturday at the age of 82. We all know the stories and images and that famous quote--"This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."--and those who were alive for that incredible moment have stories to tell. Where were you when they landed on the moon? Oh, what I wouldn't give to have a personal story from that.

Armstrong's death brings the end of an era to America's front pages. As BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski pointed this out on Twitter on Saturday after news of Armstrong's death broke: "The youngest of the 8 remaining people who have walked on the Moon is 78, and America isn't making anymore of them."

Who are our heroes these days? What moments will we look back on and remember how we felt--that moment when we felt so American, so alive in this supposed Land of the Free? If someone were to ask me to fill in the rest of the question "Where were you when...," my answers would all be something along the lines of tragedy or heartbreak: Where were you when the Columbine shooting happened? Where were you when the Twin Towers fell? 

Of course, there are questions on the other end of the spectrum to be asked...Where were you when Barack Obama was elected president?, and of course that was a historic moment. Where were you when the Mars Curiosity rover landed? That was momentous as well. But to idolize a politician and call him or her a national hero in these polarized days filled with mudslinging feels strange. And Curiosity cannot be a national hero; it is the geniuses of NASA who deserve that title, but how many of us know their names?

I keep thinking about who I'll tell future generations about. What moments will stand out?

The answer, I've discovered, fall in two categories: journalists and writers I admire, and ordinary people who don't make the headlines. In many ways, perhaps there's something poetic and lovely about that: the heroes in my lifetime, the ones who jump to mind immediately when the word "hero" is said, are the people who are personally in my life.

But, then again...I'm only 23. I've got a lot of living ahead (I hope). Here's to hoping we can unite again as a country and turn our eyes toward a moment that will life on in our memories forever.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

the importance of independent college journalism.

The student editorial staff of the University of Georgia's campus newspaper, The Red & Black, resigned Wednesday evening in protest of the board of director's decision to name a non-student employee as the paper's editorial director. Ed Morales, who was formerly the paper's editorial adviser, was granted complete editorial control of The Red & Black, a move that led students to walk out and tell their story elsewhere.

As a former editor of a campus newspaper, this news hit home: for two-and-a-half wonderful years, I had the privilege and the honor to be a part of the New University during my time at UC Irvine. I began as a Layout intern, transitioned into a staff member and writer, and served as the paper's Managing Editor for a year and a half. The experience and the skills I gained at the New U, along with my involvement in UCI's alternative media publications, ranged from editorial to management, and I was fortunate to have the guidance and support of amazing mentors and veteran journalists.

The biggest challenge was the struggle to define ourselves to some in the community who did not understand the leadership and the history of the New U. We were a campus paper that, yes, was once funded and fueled by the power of the university and of the student government, but had since broken off. The New U remains today, as it has for decades, an independent and entirely student-run publication.

There were many stories in my time at the New U that led to controversy. There were stories that upset the administration and stories that upset various groups of students on campus. While managing the paper, I cannot think of a week that went by quietly. Our primary goal was never to incite unnecessary anger, but we did work to shed light on various aspects of campus life that needed attention: from safety violations to shutdowns of protests to shitty service at the campus Starbucks.

I can safely and confidently say that there was never a moment in which I or any of my fellow editors were told by anyone in the university that we could not publish a story. The university respected our independence (our funding came entirely from advertisements), whether they approved of what we were doing or not--and, yes, there were times when they did not approve.

Independent college journalism is vital to any campus community. To hear that a campus newspaper was taken over is a shame and, in my opinion, a violation of an important freedom. A student paper should be run by students. A newspaper for students that is controlled by non-students is not a campus newspaper anymore; it is a propaganda tool, a newsletter to promote an agenda while at the same time silencing the stories that are deemed unfavorable.

Monday, August 13, 2012

the way i see it: life is too short, pt. 2.

"You better learn how to find the joy in this journey because the journey is all that matters. This life is like a vapor." -Pastor Carl

Life is too short to not tell the people you love that you love them. Life is too short to let small irritations and unfortunate misunderstandings end friendships and relationships. Life is too short to not support your family, your friends, your coworkers, your "people."

Never walk away from people temporarily just in case it ends up being permanent.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

what do you say to taking chances?

There's an episode in season two of Gilmore Girls where Rory skips school and jumps on a bus from Hartford to New York City. She goes to see Jess and her return bus ends up leaving the city late and she misses her mother's graduation ceremony. "Note to self: impulsive definitely doesn't work for me," Rory says after crying at her mother about how horrible she is when she finally does get home.

Every time I'm presented with a "this way or that way" choice, I have a tendency to overthink the outcome rather than trust my gut instinct. Perhaps it's because I'm a pushover that I'll go out with people when I really don't feel up to it, or perhaps I'm just nervous to disappoint others. Sometimes I'll feel compelled to do something or go somewhere, but then hold back for various reasons (from "But I don't know anyone and it would be weird" to "What if I have a terrible time?")

After waffling and wallowing over a recent moment like this, Elyse said to me, "Well, you know what you want to do."

When you extend that metaphor wider, it just makes sense that overthinking ruins so much of our potential. Elyse is right: I do know what I want, and yet the stars don't always line up to work in my favor. In that case, flexibility is just as important as being impulsive.

And because life is so damn unpredictable, the most important thing we can do is be honest, be sincere. If we are confident in who we are, then there is little possibility that the risks we take can destroy us. If we are confident in who we are, then we can take chances and not be afraid to learn from our mistakes.

It's almost too simple of a realization, right? Stop thinking and, with all of the sincerity you have inside of you, just...do.