Tag Archives: jmu

Lesson #331: Adult things.


Guys, I’m an adult.

I know because of two reasons.

1) Yesterday, I wore white pants and didn’t spill anything on them.

2) Today, I went to my first ever real networking event.

It was like a whole new world. For me, it’s pretty easy to walk right up to people and say hi. But to be put in a room to do that—on purpose?

Eh…a little awkward.

But it ended up being a lot, a lot of fun.

Actually, I had a ball.

And I learned a few things too.

I’ve mentioned it before, but this summer I’m in a LA study “abroad” program with my university. Tonight was the program’s five year reunion dinner.

I talked to quite a few people, but the first person that really struck me was a wonderful young woman not too much older than myself. She did the program a few years ago and knew she wanted to live out here; now she’s currently out in LA doing her thing, working with ABC network, and making it on her own. The jaw dropper? She graduated college in two and a half years.

Me and the other girls talking to her were completely fascinated, and floored. Of course I asked: How?

“I made it happen.”

After interning in California, she knew she wanted to finish school but she knew she wanted to get out here as fast as possible. She met and talked to who she needed to talk to, she managed to get the big signature (they originally told her it wasn’t allowed), and she somehow survived nine classes every semester for two semesters (I can barely survive five). Somewhere between her telling us about her journey and me asking how she was so fearless, she replied:

“I don’t like rules. But I don’t like cheating, either. It’s all about winding your way through and then in.”

She told us when she got to LA, she had already been calling ABC for a period of time telling them, “Look, I’m coming to California in a month. Here’s my qualifications. Can you get me an interview?” They said they couldn’t promise, but she didn’t give up. The day she got to Cali, she called them saying, “Hey, it’s me. I’m coming in now, I’m here,” and then finally landed an interview. She didn’t get the position she wanted, but she did get a position starting with the company.

With that being said, I was definitely filling up on inspiration and taking mental notes from her as she talked, and I got this:

You don’t have to break the rules. But to stand out, you have to bend them.

The next guy I talked to was awesome. When he asked me what I want to do, I gave him my usual rundown:

1. I started making YouTube videos eight years ago.

2. I fell in love with development, pre-production, production, post production, engaging an audience and being on camera, and marketing—because I had to do all of it myself.

3. Now I love every step of creating videos and series and movies, which is a bust, because where do I start? I want to do all of it.

He gave me the best advice ever.

“Then do it. All of it.”

He told me about his journey as well; how he’s currently a writer and producer who also acts and is looking to make it in that way as well.

I got super excited because—well—same.

Finally, someone who understands!

When I asked him how to go about it this, because it’s generally frowned upon, he told me something like this:

“You have to put yourself out there. When people ask, you have to be honest and say, ‘Hey, this is all of what I want to do. I want to do all of this and act too.’ Then when an opportunity arises, you’ll be there, and people will have you in mind.”

It’s true. That’s how doors are opened.

And just by listening to these wonderful people and their great advice tonight, doors were opened for me just by listening and learning.

It all starts with a little bit of belief, a little bit of knowledge, and a little bit of inspiration.


Day 331.


Lesson #317: How to fail.


Today was the first day of our LA summer classes.

Phoef Sutton, the executive producer and one of the writers for the legendary show, Cheers, came to speak to our group of twenty students.

I know you’re probably all tired of hearing about the entertainment industry…

…but it’s sort of my life.

So buckle up.

There’s two very important things I gained insight on today.

1) How to fail…because it’s going to happen.

2) How to succeed………..because it’s also going to happen.

Let’s start with number one, shall we?

How to fail.

Sometimes, your pitch for a project or idea will be met with laughter—or even worse—silence. If you’re a chef, you’re going to have at least one or two shitty recipes. If you’re an architect, you’re going to create many blueprints that just don’t work. If you’re a teacher, you’re going to have one or three or five lesson plans that flop. Out all of the great things you are destined to do in your career or in life—there is going to be one or two things you produce that absolutely suck. That’s a promise. And that’s life. But that’s okay.

Walk in the room, know and believe that what you’re bringing to the table is the absolute best thing ever—and when the day comes that it’s not—laugh it off.

On to the next project.

And on to number two.

How to succeed.

Ah, some good news.

Turns out, success is promised just as much as failure.

Sutton said the entertainment industry is “impossible to get into.” He described it as a wall that can’t be penetrated.

But he reminded us to look around.

Every television show, every film, every Netflix series?

A producer, writer, director, and so on is behind every single one.

You have to find a way to get through the wall; a place to squeeze or break in.

Our professor, Tom, added on to the comment:

“Yes, there really is no real way to get in. But people get in all the time because people are always needed.”

Tom also said this, which I loved.

Everyone is searching. Talent is rarely undiscovered in LA, because people are always looking for something or someone great. Even if it takes 10 years, you will get found out.”

It’s all about persistence.

And it’s only a matter of time.

Yesterday at an italian restaurant on Sunset, I had dinner with my cousin who has been modeling out in LA for a few years. As we were leaving, a man sitting in the back corner with his entourage (I use the term lightly) looked over at me and said: “Beautiful dress. Beautiful girl.” I thanked him, and we engaged in a brief, friendly conversation.

Come to find out, this guy runs an entire modeling agency. While I wasn’t quite sure if he was attempting to recruit me or not, I told him I was from Virginia and was only here a short amount of time. He told me this:

“Los Angeles is a great place. There’s endless opportunity out here.”

So as it turns out, yesterday’s random fiasco ironically ties into part of today’s lesson.

Success is everywhere!

But here’s what I’ve learned from experience and from class today:

You can’t always go out asking for experience.

Sometimes, you have to create experience for yourself.

Both success and failure are promised. But you choose which one you let triumph the other.

Day 317.

Lesson #316: If you weren’t afraid…


My jaw dropped as I pulled up to the huge marble building.

I just can’t believe I’m working for NBCUniversal this summer.

After passing and waving to a few friendly but busy faces, I was introduced to the other intern, and was immediately excited to be working with her. She was incredibly nice, upbeat, and extremely helpful. She was also kind of intimidating—as she’s been there for an entire month already, and it was only my first day.

Let alone, my first internship.

After giving me a tour of the department and a speedy run-down of what we’ll be doing as interns, we sat down to eat our lunches outside on the terrace (a turkey sandwich, pita chips, and blackberries… I’m a big kid) and got to know each other a little bit better. She told me about her previous internship experiences: pitching reality shows, working at CBS news, and more. I was floored. Then she filled me in on how her time at E! has been so far. She’s already done so much: has gone on shoots, sat and watched on set, has scheduled lunch dates with producers and talent and other interns.

I told her that, honestly, I was intimidated. But that I wanted to do that too.

She told me this.

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” She laughed. “That’s kind of my motto while I’m here.”

“I love that!” I geeked out. I told her I was sticking that right next to my desk on a sticky note.

She shrugged. “I figured the worst they can do is say no.”

I’m the type of person who hates asking. I hate asking for help. I hate feeling like a bother. And it doesn’t help that I’m also easily intimidated.

But this summer, that’s all going to change.

At least, I plan on it.

It’s definitely going to be uncomfortable and hard for me. I have no doubt about that. But I’ve realized that there’s a recent theme in my life—one that I’m constantly asked to face and brought to confront.

And today, I’ll ask you too.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Day 316.

“Confessions of a College Grad” A guest lesson by Joey Cathey.

The questions that keep us up at night are often different from the ones we consider during the day. When the sun goes down and we’re left to the solitary moments in our mind, the things that have been in the back of our head push their way to the front like a superfan in line for the newest Avengers movie.

It’s often easy to make fun of these superfans, or dismiss them as unimportant or irrelevant, but as is often the case with extended metaphors, these superfans are of the utmost importance. The superfan-like questions in our minds represent our passions and values. They represent our hopes and fears of the future. They’re difficult to grapple with and hard to dismiss because they are just that: hard questions.

During the day when we’re around our friends, in class, or at work, they’re usually the last thing we want to be thinking about. What will we do after we graduate, where will we live, will I make new friends, can this relationship work out, what the actual f*ck am I doing with my life? It can be overwhelming.

During my last year at JMU, I realized that I had been suppressing those superfan questions in the back of my head, so about halfway through first semester, I sat down and tried to answer some of them as best as I could. I felt that if I could write it down, I could make it happen.

Flash-forward to right now. As I’m wrapping up my senior year, I feel much more confident about the future than I did at the beginning of the school year. Planning out what I wanted to do helped me a great deal, but acting upon my goals taught me even more. Through all of my experiences, I realized several things on a personal level that have helped me in every aspect of my life. So here they are:

Treat everyone with respect.

It can be tempting to get the last word in or tell someone off, but in the end, it’s almost never worth it. Being respectful towards others will open your life to opportunities and friendships that you may have never thought were possible. Be mindful of history and culture, and know that we’re all products of our past.

Realize that everything is connected.

People, places, communities—they’re all intertwined. The way you treat other people is something that will naturally be reciprocated. Positivity will create more positivity just as much as negativity will breed negativity. Your neighbors, whether they’re in a different city, state, or country, are your brothers and sisters. When things look grim for people far away from you, stick up for what’s right, because you never know when something similar could happen to you.

Do your best for you.

If you’re committed to something, don’t do the bare minimum just to get by. Put in that extra effort to do your very best and you’ll get a feeling of self-satisfaction that trumps any sluggish effort. Even if what you end up with is not the best there’s ever been, know that by looking with a critical eye at your greatest efforts, you will continue to learn and grow as a person or creator.

You are not a brand.

Don’t feel trapped by the expectations that you’ve set up for yourself. Never take yourself too seriously or be afraid to look stupid and admit you’re wrong. Once you get into a good groove, it’s easy to do things out of habit, but it’s important to get out of your element and constantly challenge your beliefs in order to keep growing.

Work hard at working smart.

Sometimes getting an “A” on a test isn’t all that necessary. In college, there is delicate balance between work, school, and social life. As the saying goes, “Pick two.” Knowing when to sacrifice one for the other is key, because all three are equally important. That’s not to say you should blow off studying for an exam to go to a party, but rather, you should prioritize the things that you value and think of the effects both short and longterm.

Take chances.

If there has been one thing that has shaped my life for the better, it has been this. Talk to the person sitting next to you on the first day of class, pursue a hobby or passion, tell somebody that you love them. Don’t let the fear of failure paralyze you. Life goes by faster every day and the people in your life won’t be around forever.


Trust in yourself.

Go with your gut feeling and think about the kind of person you want to be when you’re making decisions. No one can ever fully understand your actions except for you, but if you stay true to who you are, people will grasp what you want to accomplish and become invested in your ideas themselves. If you think you can do something; you can. So why not do what you want to?

-Guest Lesson by Joey Cathey-

Lesson #282: That time I hated it, but stayed.


When I walked out of my first poetry class of the semester,

I wanted to die.

My professor seemed cool and super intelligent, but she rambled.

The class seemed to have no structure, so I felt like my brain was being tossed around.

We workshopped online instead of in class, and I thought it was completely disengaging.

I was positive the class would be horrible.

But now I’m in the library, just coming back from the last class of the semester, and I can honestly say it’s one of the most meaningful classes I’ve ever been in.

It’s strange to think that on the second day, I almost dropped the class.

And it’s even more strange to think that my life—in the most inescapably cliché way— would not be the same if I had.

I have met some of the most kind, different, intelligent, and exciting people—artists, dancers, rappers, journalists—and we’ve all become closer through our writing and conversations. It saddens me to think that after this class we may all go our separate ways, but I can honestly say that my life and perspective has been impacted just from being in a room with these people for four months.

I have been put out of my comfort zone. I have learned to take chances, and put up with things I hate (aka iambs and pentameter), and have written things I would have never thought to write. I have heard many stories, and have had many, many conversations that I could never have in an everyday setting with people who are too in-their-ways or dismissive to talk about it with. I have learned how to be uncomfortable, but to explore why, and then talk through it.

I have become a little bit better of a person.

And by this, I don’t mean I—or anyone else who has come out of a good experience—was a bad person before. I just mean that every experience that you take and run with, you become a little bit more of who you are, and who you want to be.

I’m also not saying that everything we hate in the beginning will turn out to be wonderful and life-altering and perspective-shifitng.

It won’t.

But this is what I’ve found to be true.

Just because something isn’t how you first imagined it, and just because it’s not how you are used to learning, doesn’t mean it’s wrong and does’t mean you won’t benefit from it either.

Have you even given it a chance?


It could be the time of your life.

Even better—

it could lead you to a better you.

Day 282.

Lesson #246: You are seen.


Bare with me.

Last week, I was told to come pick up a sketchy letter.

I got an email from someone I had never heard of, and that’s all it said. It didn’t say for what or from whom. It just told me the room to get it from.

Lucky for me, it wasn’t in corner of some dark alley way. It listed a familiar office on campus, so I figured I had nothing to lose.

I went to pick up the letter, opened it, and was gladly surprised to find what was inside.

It was a letter addressed to me from a group I had never heard of. They explained to me how my school, James Madison University, was originally an all female college. Over many years, the college has transformed into an multi-gendered university, from half a quad into an entire campus with two sides connecting across a high way. There have been additions, changes, laws, and growth. Because of the students who first stepped foot on this campus over one hundred years ago, the school has become what it is today.

They told me that today, my efforts are making this university stronger as well.

They wrote: “You have shown a passion for excellence and because of your energy, every individual that you have come in contact with has had a better experience during their time here.”

They told me that they chose to recognize me because the joy that I bring to my life and involvement is infectious. They listed all of my leadership involvements: my position as PR & Recruitment Vice President for National Society of Collegiate Scholars (which is weird, because not too many people know this about me) and my newly earned position next year as Senior Class Treasurer. What really freaked me out, is what came next.

They talked about my blog.

So hello, you could be reading this right now.

It didn’t say it was a secret society, or an organization, or a club. It was just a group of people, connecting, encouraging, and inspiring the leaders of JMU—from today, yesterday, and tomorrow.

It told me to report to a certain room with the 11 other selected peers at a certain time next week—which was yesterday night.

So I did.

And it was one of the most rewarding, inspiring, insane, incredible, and odd nights of my life.

I’m still not sure who chose us, or if they were present during the meeting. Nothing on any of the letters said the selection was a secret, but the mystery and anonimity of it all boggled us. One of the guys joked around, searching the room for hidden cameras. We left the door open, we shut it. No coordinators ever came. Only the 8 out of 12 people who showed up.

Even now, it still gives me chills.

You may be the next one nominated—so I won’t spoil all the fun.

But I will say that we were left with a note, a box, and a camera. And we had two hours to sit with each other, talk about our experiences, and create something. Anything.

I was put into a room with seven other strangers (some familiar), and that night we walked out with seven acquaintances—with seven friends.

Every one of us was a different year, or major, and had different achievements and successes to share. Everyone came from somewhere different— New Jersey, Connecticut, Africa. Everyone ended up at JMU for a different reason—and for some, like myself, it wasn’t our first choice. Everyone had a different dream, or passion. One was a tutor, one was a business owner. Some want to teach, some want to act, some want to design, or tell stories, or work in the government creating policy. Some didn’t know at all.

But I think it’s safe to say we all had one thing in common.

The passion to leave an impact on others’ lives.

And through this—we bonded and talked for two hours.

I learned so many things and heard so many stories that at one point, I was so moved that I almost cried.

I could go on forever about what we talked about, but I won’t.

So instead: my favorite part of the night was this one.

An incredible girl who I had the pleasure of getting to know better that night told a story about one of the most powerful things that has ever happened to her, and how it linked back to the situation we were all in that night.

She said that last year she was struggling with a lot in her life. She didn’t tell anyone, and mostly kept it to herself. One day, her roommate came into her room and said, “Hey. I just want you to know that I see you. I see that you are going through something. You don’t want to talk about it, and that’s okay, but I see it. Come talk to me whenever and if you’re ever ready.”

I can only imagine how powerful that must have been for her, because just hearing her tell the story moved me deeply.

“You are seen.”

She told us how that connected to this night. How this letter, to all of us, said: “You are seen.” We didn’t ask to be seen, we didn’t necessarily want to be seen, but we were. And we are. We all are. And sometimes, that’s exactly what we need.

We need to know that we are seen, loved, appreciated. It’s just human of us. Whether it’s a friend comforting us at our worst, or a stranger praising us at our best.

We are humans, and we need to be seen.

Knowing someone knows is an awfully great thing.

Tell someone—anyone today—that you see them.

Tell them that they are alive. They are real. They are important.



I’m telling you to step out of your comfort zone.

Yea, maybe you should go pick up a sketchy letter and show up to a room with strangers on a Monday night.


you are seen.

I see you, and you are loved.

Day 246.

Lesson #193: Who run the world?


Women are often portrayed as catty. I’m not going to pretend like this is a perfect world—it can be true, of course. But the side of it most people don’t see, or choose not to recognize, is that when women come together, we support each other like none other.

We get shit done, and quite frankly, we’re just fierce as hell.

Today I attended James Madison University’s Second Annual Women in Leadership conference. I’ve always been a huge fan of learning, empowering and inspiring others, hearing other’s stories, and free things (naturally). So at 9am on a Saturday morning, I showed up in heeled booties and a blazer.

I wish I could share with you all the lessons that I learned today, but your eyes might burn a hole through the computer screen by the time you read through all of my notes. Instead, I’ll just share the top eight most powerful statements that stood out to me today. Hopefully you’ll learn a little something (I know I did).

1. Put yourself in awkward situations. Never say no. Be disruptive. Take risks. Virginia Coles, a lovely business woman and former executive director at AT&T, told us: “Sit at the table. If you aren’t at the table… where are you?” Be up front. Put yourself out there. Take on the tasks that scare you. One panelist said that her step-father told her: “Always ask for forgiveness. Never ask for permission.” Take risks, take risks, and did I say… take risks? This is the number one thing that most of the panelists and key note speakers regretted not doing in the early years of their careers. You get noticed for being a hard worker. But you stand out and create opportunity when you speak up, and most importantly, step up.

2. Be an ecosystem creator. Create an environment for yourself that’s collaborative. Bring people into your hub that support you. Build one that makes you happy, but also challenges you. One panelist called it “a personal board of directors.” Figure out who is for you. Seek diverse perspectives from people you trust.

3. Write down your personal core values. If you don’t know them, discover them. Now—do they match up with your company? If they don’t, say no. You will never be fulfilled. That’s a promise. Bethany Clark, the director of global customer engagement and community at TOMS, was a ray of sunshine. I, along with all the other ladies, basically cried when she said: “If your heart is being awakened, run towards it with full abandon.” It all comes down to this: Who do you want to be? She told us: “Your life plan is more important than your business plan.”

4. Follow people with a vision. Look for role models. Learn from the absolute best.

5. If someone tells you that you’re not allowed to do it, find another way to ask. Find another way to approach it. Heather Hart, a wonderful philanthropist who spearheaded California Pizza Kitchen’s charitable foundation Inspired Acts, told us that when she first decided to volunteer at a children’s hospital, a nurse wouldn’t let her bring up the toy she got for a little girl, because that meant that all the other children needed a toy too. She turned around, went to the store, and got toys for all of them. Heather said: “‘No’ means ‘Maybe.’ Maybe you just didn’t ask the right way the first time.”

6. If there is something you want, ASK. Can I just tell you—Lucy Hutchinson,  formerly one of the youngest members on the JMU Board of Visitors, is absolutely fabulous. She told us: “Go find 10 no’s. Ask to switch a daily special, or get a discount on a ripped shirt, or ask for his number. I guarantee you’ll get more yes’s than no’s.” She told us to “Always make the ask.” Chiquita King, an associate at Booz Allen, told us she had a huge personality and she didn’t want to sit behind a desk anymore. She asked her boss if she could do something different. She ended up doing just that, and everyone loved her. Lucy raised money for a huge trip during her time at JMU just by walking around to different programs and colleges on campus—even ones she had only had contact with one or two times—and asking for finances. And guess what? She got the trip y’all! She told us “We have to get over the like-ability factor.” Tell your manager, your boss, your supervisor, your co-worker, or your professor, exactly what you want. Quite frankly, they can’t read your mind. Articulate what you want. Know what you want. And most importantly: Have a plan. (Also… statistics show that women are less willing to negotiate than men, and that women’s salaries also tend to be lower than men’s. Coincidence? I’ll let you decide. How’s that for motivation? MAKE THE ASK!

7. Never be intimidated. They’re people, just like you. They’re facing challenges and hardships every day—just like you. And just because they may be higher up than you doesn’t mean that you are any less of a person than they are. Say hello. Be yourself. People are more willing to help than you realize.

If you’re really that scared, just pretend you’re Beyonce.

And finally…

8. Always, always, always be kind. I love how Hilary Mann, an actress on an upcoming HBO series, emphasized being kind to everyone you come across. You never know who’s vouching for you. She said that you never know who you’ll be working for in five years, or who can help you. My absolute favorite thing she said was, “When you’re on your way up, pull someone else up with you.”

And now that I’ve ended up writing a novel anyways, I’m finished.

In the end, autograph your work with excellence. Everything you do has your name on it. And that’s what you’ll leave behind when you leave this world.

I hope this helped.


Who run the world?

Well, you.

Day 193.