Lesson #364: How to Amusement Park.

7/20/15.

It’s a verb now.

Four of us woke up at 6:30am to head to Disneyland in Anaheim for the day, and we returned to Burbank at 11:00pm.

Not once throughout the entire day was I bored or sluggish or tired,

because it was absolutely one of the best days of my life.

Here’s what I learned from a wonderful day spent with good ol’ Walt, and a few hilarious people.

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1. Don’t wear your hat on rides because that just makes a lot of sense. AKA on the swing ride, we watched someone’s brand new Disney hat fly off her head and into the body of water below us. AKA it was sad. AKA it’s not worth it. AKA just don’t do it.

2. For the love of God, don’t wear make-up. Sorry, but no one actually gives a shit how you look because everyone there looks like shit by 10am. At some point, you will probably question whether you are a human, or a breathing waterfall. You will sweat in places you didn’t know you could. By 8pm, no one will even be able to see your face because it’s dark. If they can, it will be covered in crusty, half rubbed off make-up. Why look pretty for people (even the hot ones) that you will never see again, when you can rub your eyes and not have to worry about looking like Elle in the break-up scene of Legally Blonde instead? Going all nat-u-ral was the best decision I made since the Egg McMuffin I had for breakfast this morning. So I’m sharing the wealth. You’re welcome.

3. Bring a change of clothes and a plastic bag, always. It doesn’t matter if the forecast says it’s going to be 80 and clear—something disastrous is bound to happen. You’re going to get mustard on your pants. You’re going to sit on chocolate, or chewed gum. Today’s the day a bird is probably going to shit on you. I don’t know. But it never really fails. Even if you’re able to make it through the whole day in one piece, better safe than sorry. Shout out to Ale for teaching us how to pack for a theme park the right way, because of of course it ended up pouring. Speaking of pouring…

4. Dance in the rain. Play in it. Do flips in it. Splash through puddles. Whatever you do, just don’t run under a shelter or into a shop or to your car to head home (especially if you paid a load of money to be there). Take a picture under a lamp post, do a quick set of time steps, make it a musical number, and call it a day. Just kidding. Don’t call it a day. But call it a moment of fun, and keep moving. Don’t let anything rain on your parade—literally.

5. Don’t spend $10 on a poncho that you’ll never use again. Spend it on a shot glass from the Tower of Terror. Because that’s cooler.

6. Be a kid again. Sing in line, dance in the streets, meet the characters, buy a hat (even if it’s $30 dollars), and eat five ice cream cones. When’s the next time you’re going to get to do this again? In your office tomorrow morning? Yep. That’s what I thought.

7. Get there early. Wait in lines. Ride EVERYTHING. It’s what will make your experience, and it’s so worth it. Just do it.

8. Make a game plan before you start your day. Having a game plan made today happen the way it did, which was awesome. We got through everything in the park. A plan makes everything a whole lot easier—and a lot more motivated too. When you go into the day like “I’m down for whatever,” that’s a great attitude to have. You rock. But that also just really means you’re down to do… well… whatever. And when you’re down to do whatever whenever—you begin slipping into a state of laziness. Everything sounds good. And when everything sounds, you don’t care what you do. And when you don’t care what you do, you start not wanting to do anything at all. And when you don’t want to do anything at all—well—you get the picture.

9. But be ready for the game plan to change. It always does.

10. Take your phone off your food tray before you throw it in the trash can. Because I’m dumb.

11. The single rider line saves lives. And time.

12. Post as many pictures as you want because YOU’RE AT DISNEY/INSERT AMUSEMENT PARK NAME HERE. As Ale would say: “I paid 99 dollars for this. I’m going to post as many f*cking pictures in as many places as I want.”

13. Just accept that you will always get more wet on water rides than you thought you would. Let’s face it—you can’t escape the wrath. No matter how many layers you wear (or don’t wear), or how many waterfalls you dodge.

14. Make it work, even if you have to force yourself through it. I wrote this lesson while in line for rides. I knew I would not be able to do it when I got home—so I made myself do it—even though I wanted to do anything and everything but. You have to make it work sometimes; you’ll be grateful you did in the end.

15. Kill them with kindness. But actually. On Friday after my internship, I came across a sign in a stroll through the city. It said Hate never wins. I was completely excited and moved when I saw the powerful message on the fence Mid-Wilshire a few blocks before the LACMA museum, constructed with a variety of random materials. It’s so incredibly true. Today, in the least (or maybe most?) expected place, I was forced to put it to the test. When you are kind to someone despite their rudeness, entitlement, or previous terrible encounters with them—you win. Always. You may mot win the battle of low blows, and you may not out-scream them, but I promise—you win. It’s not that you’re the bigger man. It’s the fact that you have nothing to prove because you are at peace with yourself. Honestly, the person will feel bad about how they were acting regardless, whether they admit it or not. People back down and retreat by nature when they realize they are not getting a rise out of you and when they see that you will not waiver in your kindness. When someone hurts you or attacks you, that’s only a reflection of them. What will your reflection be?

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When we first stepped out of the car and into the parking garage at 9:00am, a guy on the trip named Eric asked me how excited I was on a scale of 1-10.

I told him I was about a solid 6.

Growing up, my family and I did the whole Disney World deal back on the east coast once or twice when we were younger—but apparently five-year-old me hated it. (Was I even real?) My mom tells me that my brothers and I that would always get bored with it quickly. So we became a Universal/Islands of Adventures family.

I don’t know what I did differently this time, but 20-year-old it me loved it.

But now that I think of it—

I know exactly what I did differently.

The moral of this story is,

what kind of story do you want to tell?

When you look back on moments twenty years from now, what do you want to say you did?

I wanted to be able to say I danced in the rain. I wanted to be able to say I rode all of the rides. I wanted to be able to say I had ice-cream while in my Minnie Mouse hat, and that I finally rode the Tower of Terror, and that I took a picture with Buzz Lightyear, and that I saw the fountain light show at the end of the night.

Ugh, Walt would be so proud.

People tend to roll their eyes at the idea of doing things “just to say you did them.” But I personally believe that if the decision isn’t dangerous, harmful, or against your values—

do it.

Isn’t that the whole point of creating a story?

You’re the creator of this story. You’re the author, the artist, the orchestrator, and the leader.

You get the final say.

So what will your story be?

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Day 364.

Lesson #363: You can’t make them understand.

7/19/15.

Wait.

I can explain.

I swear this is not as angsty as it sounds.

As you all may know, I’m in Los Angeles for the summer with 20 other students. I have an internship that I love in which I work from 9am to 6pm—give or take—four days a week. Tack on an hour before and after those times to factor my the traffic-heavy commute, and that’s an eleven hour day. The one weekday I don’t have my internship, I’m in two entertainment industry classes for a total of six hours of my day. We have a homework assignment and mini-project for the classes each week. Weekends are “free,” but they’re packed with adventure, considering we’re only here for two months.

Welcome to my life in California.

I like to have fun, and I want to make memories. But as you may have sensed in previous lessons,

I like to keep busy.

My to-do list is constantly growing and growing, I’m constantly up to a million things, and I’m always on the go.

The trip is quickly coming to an end, and there are so many “real life” things I need to complete before my time on the west coast is over.

Let me fill you in on how my list is looking.

I need to complete a final project that consists of putting together a verbal and visual television series pitch, start an original screenplay that’s due before the first day of my final video production class at the end of August, finish the editing of a wedding video that I shot over a month ago in June, film and edit two fun and informative videos for my internship that I planned on making before I leave E! (that are not required… I’m just an overachiever), organize additional research that I put together prior to the start of my internship into something presentable and feasible, edit together clips of my LA adventures for my YouTube series (which is currently just not happening), plan and edit a book trailer for a close friend and client, and stay on top of this blog just days before it’s over.

My head is actually spinning.

Sometimes I don’t know where to start. Like Andy advised, my plan has been to work deadline to deadline.

But what are you supposed to do when your deadlines are all at the same time—and there’s 4 or 5 of them to meet?

On top of the stress coming from myself and the looming projects I’ve created,

there’s the stress coming from others—whether they mean to induce it or not.

I am truly struggling with the balance to make this experience the best that it can be (though it already has been—no doubt in my mind), and being productive.

What makes this to-do list more stressful than any other I’ve had before, is that in one way or another, my future depends on the success of a lot of the items.

Most of my life questions in the past month have gone like this:

Stay in on this beautiful Friday night to write a blog post and work on whatever which project?

Or go out on the town and have the time of my life?

Like I said, I’ve been having an absolute ball why I’m out here. I never pass up the super big opportunities, but it’s the little ones here and there that add up to make me feel guilty and a little bit sad sometimes.

One thing that I pride myself on, is that give everything I do 100%. Ask anyone who knows me: I’ll stay up until 5am to get something exactly the way I want it. In one lesson a while back, Chiquita mentioned that whenever we put our name on something—we put our stamp of excellence on it. And I live by that. I move slower because of my attention to detail, and I am self conscious about that a lot of the times. People tell me that my work ethic is good, and other people tell me that my work ethic bad—but I don’t need anyone to tell me that I know it’s both.

I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember, walking through my life with my hands full at all times. My friends are usually supportive and encouraging, and many understand. But at the same time, I’m definitely not a stranger to shady looks and judgement from people (even those who are close) who don’t understand why I am the way am, and the amount of work it takes to constantly be creating.

You work too hard. You do too much. Why don’t you just go to bed? Why don’t you do it a different time? Why do you do it at all? Why don’t you just go out and have a good time for once? Why do you never go with us?

I know that I need sleep. I know that I should have fun. I know that I am only skin and bones, and that I’m human, and that I have limitations. I know that to a certain degree, these people are definitely right.

But I do know that how I feel and the passion for the things I take on are right, too.

On Tuesday, I met up with a new friend, Mojan.

She is a wonderful and beautiful person, making it on her own in LA. She did the same program two years ago as I’m doing now. After Mojan finished her internship at Fox that summer, she immediately knew she wanted to move to Los Angeles. Upon returning to her junior year of college, she took double the classes, talked her way into getting the right signatures, graduated a year early, and moved to California. She’s now an Executive Assistant at ABC, as well as an actor, model, and singer.

I saw so much of myself in her that it was scary. Every piece of advice she was giving me related directly to every thought and concern that I’m having in my life right about now.

One of the very first things she told me was this.

“People wont understand, and you don’t have to make them. It’s not your job, and you shouldn’t have to.”

Mojan told me that when she went back to school after that summer—and even when she returned home after moving to California—many people questioned her career choice, her career path, and how she was going about all of it. They didn’t get the long hours, and the instability of it all, and the fact that you have to work your way up without knowing what’s next in order to get to where you want to be.

I’ve always felt a little surge of frustration upon hearing things like this too—even on my small scale of staying in to finish a project and constantly having to hear about it.

Although I understood the exact feeling of frustration that she was talking about, it was one of those things where I didn’t really realize how much it bothered me until someone else pinpointed exactly how I was feeling.

You know you aren’t crazy, because someone else has felt it too.

I thought that one day—especially in LA—it would magically become clear to me.

I thought that all of a sudden, I would be able to discern between when it’s the right time to have fun, and when it’s the right time to be productive.

But it’s not that easy, because nothing ever is.

I don’t think it ever will be.

But from what I’ve learned, from what I’ve experienced, and by the Grace of God—

something has become a little bit clearer to me.

Here’s what I know.

Believe in yourself and in what you do, and never stop.

It’s not going to be easy.

And you yourself are going to want to quit at times.

But just know that in the end—

if this is what you want, and if this is ultimately what brings you joy—

the blood, sweat, and tears (I know about this one) are so, so worth it.

And you’re the only one who needs to understand that.

Day 363.

“Tell yourself you can.” A guest lesson by Kandace Florence.

Chasing your dreams can be an exciting, terrifying, and insanely complicated task.

The toughest battle I had to fight was trusting myself. You can’t be persuaded by outside opinion, whether that be friends, family, or even your significant other. This is especially true in a creative field—because chances are they won’t get it but that’s OK. You know what you want to do, so just do it.

Everyday I had to tell myself that I can be successful, no matter what anyone thinks. And after I told myself that I worked hard through the obstacles I came across.

Now that I’ve finished school, I’m like: ” WOW I ACTUALLY DID THAT!”

Even though the process was HELL and there were days I felt like I couldn’t make it to the finish line, I just had to stick with it and trust myself.

Your dreams ARE possible.

Tell yourself you can.

-Lesson by Kandace Florence-

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Kandace Florence is a recent graduate of the Fashion Institute of Merchandise and Design in Los Angeles, California. She loves and plans to work in the fashion and beauty industry.

Lesson #362: The tale of a perfectionist’s nightmare.

7/17/15.

As a detail-oriented perfectionist, I bring this news to you with a heavy heart.

You don’t have to get it perfect the first time around.

At my internship, a good percentage of my time goes into transcribing interviews.

Word for word, we write down exactly what the interviewer and interviewee are saying in the video. It helps when a producer can quickly scan over a log to decide which pieces of the interview they want for a story, rather than having to watch and listen to minutes and minutes of footage.

Keep in mind that these interviews are usually ten or fifteen minutes; sometimes thirty minutes to an hour.

This whole time, my strategy was to listen to each sentence, write down exactly what they were saying, and then move on to the next one.

The two other interns I work with were finishing much quicker than I was. I was disheartened and confused as to why it was taking me longer. I quietly chugged along, my fingers quickly flying over the keyboard.

Today, I decided I didn’t want to feel that way anymore.

I wanted to know what I was doing differently, so I asked.

Another intern named Sarah told me the method to her madness:

Do now, fix later.

She would press play, write as much as she could, pause it, and then do that all over again until she reached a break in the questions and answers. She wouldn’t look back at the section until the end, then she would go back and add missing words and take out wrong ones and fix misspellings.

What.

Why hadn’t I been doing that all along?

I was so intent on getting it perfect the first time in order to dodge having to go back and fix a mess that I kind of made a mess anyway.

Or at least—I made a mess of myself.

The truth is, you waste your sweet time by walking on egg shells, correcting everything gone astray, and avoiding making a mess.

Because let’s be real.

You’re going to make a mistake, regardless.

Today I learned that sometimes you have to let things go wrong before they go right.

And while I bring you this news with a heavy heart,

I also bring it to you with a huge sigh of relief.

Make a mess.

You’re going to do it anyway.

Day 362.

Lesson #361: Hey, I just met you. And this is crazy.

7/16/15.

Today I rolled out of bed at 5:30am to start getting ready for my day, but no coffee was needed because I was headed to the Emmy Nomination Announcement Ceremony for my internship that morning—and that was enough to fuel me for the entire day.

I arrived at the Pacific Design Center and walked nervously through the beautiful halls complete with sleek modern design and old-fashioned gold detailing. I followed the Emmy Nomination signs to the theater destination. IMG_7368 I assumed I’d report directly to a set-up area labeled E! News like a few of the other shoots I had been on. I thought I would sit there until the crew and the producer arrived, and then I’d help set up.

Surprise.

When I arrived upstairs just shy of 7am, there was no area labeled E! News.  There was a medium-sized room full of breakfast foods and fruit, hot coffee, and a large number of very scary real life adults.

I love engaging with new people. But about 30 or 40 busy, experienced, and most likely stressed out professionals running around at 8 in the morning?

Not so much.

For close to an hour, I waited in a room with retro couches and standing tables packed with producers, camera operators, sound engineers, television hosts, reporters, anchors, and other high-up workers. The producer at E! that I was working under for the morning wasn’t there yet, so I had an hour to either sit by myself in the corner, or use this as an opportunity to chat it up as many industry heads as I could.

I sat in the corner by myself.

Luckily, I had an everything bagel and some strawberries and fruit to keep me company.

A few kind texts from my mom, too.

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I chose a seat in the corner next to a guy in his late 20s/early 30s—mostly because he didn’t seem as intimidating as the others and he was on his phone. This meant I wouldn’t have to awkwardly attempt to talk to him, awkwardly keep a conversation going, or scope out whether he was too busy to talk or if he didn’t want to talk at all.

I knew what an opportunity I was passing up, not out on the floor (or on the couch) interacting with others.

I mean—these are people IN the industry.

But I honestly couldn’t bring myself to do it.

I look 16, I’m obviously younger than the rest of them, and I had trouble thinking I would be taken seriously. What would someone do if I approached them to talk?

Who was I to them?

As soon as the guy next to me got off the phone, he turned to me, rolled his eyes with a kind humor, and a lightheartedly said: “Roommate drama.” I laughed and replied: “Yea, everyone knows about that.” We began talking.

Our conversation was interesting, and it lasted a good while. I told him why I was out here, how I got to where I am, and what I want (or think I want) to do. He seemed genuinely interested; it took me by surprise. Not that he seemed rude or mean from the beginning—or that any of these people did—it was just the fact that he was giving me a piece of his time. And that’s a precious, hot commidity out here.

After the first part of the conversation and a little bit of back and forth about our lives, I ask him what he does and how he likes it.

Turns out, he’s a producer at Time Warner.

We exchanged information, and now I have a new LA friend. Or at least, a connection.

A few minutes after 8am, we were finally allowed into the theater where the announcements would soon take place. Each network lined up in a row to begin preparing to record the live event. A few minutes later, the celebrity announcers, Uzo Aduba and Catt Dealy, gracefully pranced onto stage to greet the house and begin listing the lucky nominees. They were surprised at the end of the announcements when the president of the Television Academy came out on stage to read the last two categories. Both of them were nominated for their own show! They didn’t put that part in the rehearsal, so they had absolutely no idea it was coming. I had a huge smile on my face, watching the two amazing women humbly and adorably freak out on stage as they were selected for such an honor—especially Catt in her british accent.

Both seemed humble and sweet. Uzo was absolutely beautiful (she doesn’t have real life crazy eyes…hence the reason she deserves an Emmy) and flawless, and Catt light up the stage with the positive energy and presence she radiates. Before the interview, I told Catt I loved her romper (seriously it was so cute) and she smiled and laughed and thanked me. She went on to tell me how she loved them because they reminded her of Jimmy Kimmel’s pajamas. After the interview she thanked the crew and turned to thank me (for whatever reason). I wanted to shed a single tear of happiness, but I kept it together. What a kind lady.

On the way back to my car, I found myself walking next to an older lady on the way down the large ballroom stairs. She commented on how marvelous and grand the stairs were, and how she was waiting for her prince at the bottom. I laughed and made a joke about still waiting for my prince to come, and she said “I’ve been waiting for years.” We began talking—and again—I had a lovely conversation with yet another person.

Turns out, she’s a producer at the Television Academy for the Emmy’s and Tony’s.

I wanted to fall over and die.

I also wanted to tell her how funny and ironic it was that I applied to the Television Academy internship and didn’t get it—but somehow I still ended up here anyway.

I wasn’t sure if we were on that level yet, so I didn’t.

Even at my own internship, in one of the first weeks I ran into the executive producer in the bathroom without knowing it.

Sometimes we come across the best people in the most mundane of places.

Whether it’s a producer, a stranger with an interesting or inspiring past, your next best friend, or your future significant other—you never know who you are speaking with.

Be kind to all,

and most of all,

don’t be afraid to say hello.

Day 361.

“I forgot to floss today: A lesson on living your values.” A guest lesson by Taylor Jackson.

Values… what even are those? What does it mean to value honesty? To value kindness? To value flossing every day?

If I asked you to list every single one of your values, chances are it would be seemingly endless: from social equality to breakfast foods. If someone asked you, “Do you value the ethical treatment of living creatures?” you would likely answer yes. But the real question at hand, is what does it really mean to value something? How would I know you valued the ethical treatment of living creatures if you hadn’t just flat out told me?

What I’ve learned in my whopping 20 years is that there are two different people to every person; there is the person you are, and the person you say you are or the person you would like to be. Our entire lives are spent attempting to close that gap, attempting to push ourselves closer to that ideal self.

Prior to college, never once had I considered the importance of aligning my lifestyle with my values. All through my years, I had been taught the importance of having values and the things that I should value. But nobody ever told me what that entailed. It all looked great on paper, but I didn’t have the substance to back it up.

My first real attempt was 10th grade, when I researched the meat industry. I realized that it was an industry that didn’t align with my values, and I became a vegetarian. Now happily vegan, I look back and see that as my first real move towards closing the gap. My freshman year of college, I had a professor who taught a critical thinking class. The entire class was focused on sustainability, individuality, self-thinking, and values; he essentially created a class that asked people to take a hard look at themselves in the mirror and ask, “Who really am I?” I had never felt so passionate about self-improvement. I began stepping outside of my comfort zone and doing all sorts of things I never would’ve, all for the sake of aligning my life with my values. I valued independence, so I took myself out to dinner and a movie… alone! I valued working on my weaknesses, so I joined an organization that pushed me to be outgoing and conversational. I valued supporting local businesses, so I began going out of my way to always shop and eat local. That class was the real wake up call of what it meant to be an honest person and a good human.

Today, I am a completely different person than I was 2 years ago. Though I value all the same things, I now have substance in my life to show for it. I still have a long way to go, but I feel so much pride and love for the life I live and the person I am.

Compliments on my character or my lifestyle mean so much more than they ever did before. My values are now so much more than just words; they have depth and meaning.

As I mentioned before, your list of values could go on forever. It’s not easy, creating a life that aligns with every single person and every single moment. There are days when I’m whiny or lazy or careless, and those days become my fuel to be better. It’s okay to to be different on different days; our lives are a constant push and pull. The important thing is that you’re working on it.

My hopes in writing this bit is not to make you feel guilty or lazy, but to inspire and empower you to be your best self. As people, we are our own biggest investment, our own personal powerhouse; it’s important to be the best that we can be. It allows us to be better in everything else we do. Go ahead, write a list and think about those values. What are they? What does it mean to live them? And yes, it’s okay to skip flossing every once in awhile.

-Lesson by Taylor Jackson-

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Taylor Jackson studies Communications, Music Industry, and Anthropology at James Madison University. An avid animal rights and environmental activist, Taylor spends her time drinking coffee, looking at Instagram, and devoting herself to serving togethers. She has more hobbies than she needs and her favorite past time is to inspire and be inspired.

Lesson #360: Bad day blues?

7/15/15.

Remember this day?

I lied.

It gets worse.

The night after I got less than two hours of sleep, I stayed an hour and a half late at my internship finishing up work. Exhausted and ready to go home, I was forced to confront one of my worst fears: being stuck on an elevator. First in complete disbelief and then in complete panic, I called my mom to  tell her my final goodbye and that I love her. Finally, security answered my emergency call.

Turns out I wasn’t stuck. Interns just aren’t allowed to be there that late and my badge stopped working.

It was the best.

I walked past the man at the front desk with my head hung in embarrassment. I was the real life Damien from Mean Girls. (“Don’t look at me.”) I got in my car only to be reminded by the bright orange light on my dashboard that I had no gas.

By the time I got to the gas station, I was sobbing on the phone to my parents like a five year old. I felt out of place at stoplights and intersections, in a business blazer much like the other people making their way home.

Except I was 20. And crying.

Thinking about it now, I realized even though it absolutely sucked and all I wanted to do was sleep when I got home, nothing about it was too too bad.

I wasn’t hurt, I didn’t lose anything, and no real damage was done.

I don’t really know what I learned today.

But I was thinking about how long I’ve been writing this blog, and how many bad days I’ve had, and how you’ve had to hear me talk about all them—because whatever it was was happening in my life at the time.

And that’s just it.

It is what was happening… at the time.

Bad days happen.

They happen, and they keep happening, and they will happen until the end of our time.

It’s what was happening at the time.

It’s strange—because there’s so much power in that statement.

What’s happening “at the time” can consume our lives.

It’s what we know in those moments and days, and sometimes it’s hard to think outside of that.

So let it.

Like my very first lesson, use bad days as an excuse. (I mean… this blog was a product of a bad day and it turned out pretty okay, right?)

It the perfect reason to ugly cry, scream a little, give up momentarly—

and then reset.

And that’s the best part of it all.

Sometimes we need to crash and burn to rise again.

Day 360.