Musings

My Response to an Angry Letter About my Alma Mater

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The written word is a powerful thing and in this super-social-digital world that we are in, words spread fast. Videos are clickable, viral. Tweets are retweeted, liked, shared, sent. Impressions reach 1 million. Facebook posts get shared, emailed, messaged.

Recently, I read a WordPress blog from a newly graduated senior, and she/he seems to be very disappointed with her education she received at my alma mater, bashing things like parking, food, lack of clubs, mean people in the Bursars office.

This post spread fast on Facebook. I saw all my friends sharing it. I saw my friends get angry, cheer. I saw strangers share, share, share.

The reason I am writing back to this letter is not because I was that in love with my university. But, it’s been a year since I’ve graduated, and I realize, I do love my university. I love that I was able to get an education, no matter how many problems I had while I was attending (ie: Lack of student newspaper).

When you get out into the real world, you realize how truly special getting an education is. Of course, I do believe society needs to address many issues in higher education, especially the fact that the average student leaves college with $37,172 in debt (2016 statistic), but I just have realized that it takes more effort to be angry, than to be happy and try to make a difference. Standing up for what you believe in is no easy task, so if being angry and anonymous is easier for you, by all means, take that stand.

I chose, at my alma mater, to use the power of the written word to make a difference.

To this day, I am still doing just that.

—-

Here is my response to diaryofasciencekidd (I chose not to link to the blog):

Hi Diaryofasciencekidd,

After seeing this all over social media, I’ve been wondering if I should comment or just choose not to get involved. After seeing this post again come up, I decided, why not? There are numerous problems that need to be addressed at the school, that cannot be argued, but to write out petty problems like parking and staff members being mean only makes DelVal seem like a place where children graduate, and remain children. I really do not support this letter, mostly because I think you poorly articulated some of the real issues at DelVal, and I think you could have used the power of the written word to your advantage, to perhaps actually make a change.

I for one, during the four years I attended DelVal, actually tried to address some of these problems. I went to administration, had meetings, met with the president and several deans for problems that I wanted to see solved. This took many weeks, months, and years of planning, emails, sweat and tears, frustration, and hard work.

Did all of these problems get solved? Not really, no. But, I made myself seen and heard and tried to make a difference. I too have written posts and blogs and letters expressing my concern for things–things that I wanted to see change for the future of DelVal students. I saw a lot of other students do the same thing. The processes were long, the battles were long, and the stress trying to make a difference is indescribable.

I wanted to make one response to your comment: “Most important one: why don’t you listen to your students? We have a lot to say and we never get heard.” — Perhaps we never had a chance to be heard because we don’t go about it in the right ways. I am not too sure what your background is or your history with DelVal may be. Perhaps you did try to make a change only to be shot down. For that, I would say I am sorry that you had to deal with this. But, nowhere in this angry letter do I see anything from you where you tried to make an actual difference.

My privilege might have been different from your privilege. You might have been more privileged, or maybe it was me. My college experience certainly wasn’t like any other individual at the university. Not you, not my friends, not anyone. All experiences are different, but while we can’t change everything, it’s important to show future students that they do have the power to at least try to stand up and make a difference. It’s not easy.

Also — it’s quite a shame to see yet again another person bashing the liberal arts department. I graduated with a liberal arts degree, I got a job right out of college in New York…with my “not so great liberal arts degree from DelVal.” I was less fortunate and could only afford to go to DelVal instead of one of the “better” liberal arts colleges because I had to commute to school, my mother only works part time, and my dad was laid off from work. I don’t regret it because I had a great mentor(s), Dr. O’Connor to name one, and I made some amazing friends along the way who helped me even through some of the most stressful times. Shame on you for discrediting someone’s program, which you are not a part of, and shame on you for putting down some of the great professors that work in the liberal arts department. You are incorrect in saying that DelVal is trying to make it a liberal arts school. The school is just trying to grow, it will never lose its love for agriculture and science. Ever. But you will never know how much support the liberal arts department still needs, how much funding is still needed, and how the people in that department do everything in their power to give those liberal arts students the best education they can get.

Additionally, I found it amusing that you wrote this post anonymously, for two reasons. One: If you wrote this and signed your name, I can imagine you would have a very difficult time getting a job out of college, seeing as you bashed your alma mater after a few days of graduating. Maybe you skipped the class where we learned how to prepare for the real world (perhaps you were too busy being angry?) Two: It would be easier for the marketing department to find who you are and send you a cease and desist letter for using the school’s logo improperly. You should consider that.

Finally, I will not say that I left DelVal completely satisfied. I would have loved to see a few changes made during my four years there. Anyone else commenting saying they agree, you should consider trying to make a difference. That’s just my advice. It takes more effort to be angry than to try and enjoy life. I wish I would have told myself that sooner.

But, I know that I at least tried to make a difference, and that brings me some comfort, and I know it brings people at the school comfort. I hope that you too will find some comfort, and perhaps, this slam letter will do for now.

Sincerely,
(without anonymity)
Madison M. Moore
Media and Communication ’15
Delaware Valley University

A Wallet in Manhattan

I recently had my wallet stolen. 

Getting your wallet stolen is probably one of the worst feelings in the world. It’s the sudden panic knowing you have to cancel your cards, the fear of not remembering how much cash or what cards you had in your wallet, and the wondering if you’ll ever get it back. Unfortunately for me, I was not so lucky to get it back — which is a true disappointment because the wallet itself was sentimental (an old friend had brought it back from Spain, and it had a cat on the front of it). 

I was in New York City (when I say that, everyone goes “ohhh”) in a cute little coffee shop on 7th avenue. I sat down in the corner and pulled out my laptop, hoping to get some work done before an interview I had west of midtown. 

As I was drinking my chai latte, I saw a woman from across the shop, and she had a huge price tag sticking out of her dress. Her dress was brand new, and she was walking around Manhattan with the price showing, definitely an embarrassing start to the day. 

I had to get up to get a packet of sugar anyway, so I pulled her aside and let her know it wasn’t cut, and if she needed scissors. Obviously, she didn’t even thank me and her reply was curt (insert comment like *that’s New York for you*). 

Disappointed that I wasn’t greeted with a thank you, I sat down back at my seat and went to grab my headphones out of my purse. As I dug around (it’s often extremely messy and packed with things like nose spray and bobby pins) I noticed the headphones weren’t there. And then I noticed my wallet wasn’t there. After I did the quick maybe-it’s-in-here-somewhere, I knew it had been stolen. 

…..

After an hour of panicking while I called my credit card company and my bank, and waited for the NYPD to show up (which they did four hours later and then it couldn’t even be reported because I wasn’t there…not like it matters because the man was probably halfway to 242nd street) I sat and thought about how stupid I had been for leaving my bag alone for a second. I blame my Pennsylvania-ness, after all, you could probably leave your baby somewhere and no one would steal it (not that I would recommend doing that at all, it’s still against the law even if you are in the burbs). 

The worst part about getting my wallet stolen was that I wondered about the “what-ifs.” If I had caught an earlier subway, maybe he wouldn’t have stolen my wallet. If I didn’t choose that cafe, maybe it would have been more crowded and I wouldn’t have stuck out. What if he had taken more than just my wallet and instead, took my whole purse and laptop and phone?

It’s obvious that I learned my lesson that day, but I also learned that I really do believe in everything happens for a reason. Of course there are things that happen that we can’t control and that we wish we could control.  Everyone needs something to keep them moving onward. For some, it’s fate or destiny, for others it’s a higher being. I just believe somehow my life will fall on the course that I want it to go on, and eventually, I will reach what I’ve been trying to reach. Along the way, there’s been a lot of what-ifs. 

***

Three days after I got my wallet stolen, I got a phone call. 

It was a job offer for a small media company on Long Island. They were offering me a position to become their online and social media editor. I had two weeks to pack up my Pennsylvania things and head to New York, the state I had so desperately been trying to move to, permanently (and the same state that I unfortunately had to lose my wallet in).

I’ve been seeing that sometimes you just need to wait for that moment. There is a moment where things fall into place, the stars align, you see a rainbow — all the magical stuff that comes with following your dreams and not giving up. That’s the short WordPress version, minus all the picture-perfect memes that talk about struggling before succeeding, shooting for the stars — the mumbo jumbo you share on Instagram. 

So I’ve been learning not to dwell on the what-ifs. What-ifs cause anxiety, what-ifs make you feel lost. Focus on the now and wait for the future.

And never, ever leave your bag alone in New York City.

Too much Citalopram, not enough words

Neglecting my own personal writing has been something I have gotten used to over the past four years of my college career. Now graduated, I hear people talk about how they rarely write for fun anymore because work and families and daily life get in the way of writing for one’s own personal portfolio. 

I can’t let this happen to me — yet. Really, I shouldn’t ever let it happen. 

I freelance often, since I am in limbo, just having graduated college in May and job searching/interviewing in the meantime. I write for a variety of publications, including an online food magazine, a digital news outlet, as well as my university’s marketing and communications. Most of my day is spent writing for these publications, and when I’m not writing, I’m job searching. And when I’m not doing that, I’m taking pictures of my cat(s) and creating Instagram accounts for said cat(s) (see @zooeythetabby on Instagram). @Zooeythetabby

How can I possibly find the time to write for myself?

And if and when I sit down to even begin to write something “worthwhile,” I always end up sending things to the draft folder or scrapping it altogether. Who will read it? What will they think? Will they care?

These are the questions I ask myself, and then by the end, I decide not to write. 

I’m constantly battling with myself trying to figure out what it is that I should write because I have gotten to the point where I care so much about the words that people are reading. These words are coming out of my brain, and into the keyboard to some sort of blog post, magazine article, social media something-or-other. I write for multiple publications because I care about updating people on what is happening in the community. I transfer this mentality of who is seeing it, why are they caring, how is it news, how many clicks will I get…into my own personal writing (*if you write for news, you understand how I might feel). 

Everything becomes a measurement. Each sentence I type becomes judged…do I keep it? Does it make sense? What am I saying?

I recently started writing in a journal, just to get back into this feel of nonjudgmental writing and writing purely for the sake of “writing.” Journals are a symbol of this secret kept, this hideaway book stashed under pillows so our brothers won’t find it and read it. Each curly-gel-penned signature at the end of the post was this simple little sign off, like the journal was a person listening to our thoughts, understanding the words on paper. It’s so private, so innocent. 

My favorite journal was this spiral bound silver and shimmery square notebook. Hearts drawn with a name called “Keith” in the center dotted the inside of the back page, and gel penned dates were at the top of each page. 

I also remember writing in a password journal, which was an innovative piece of technology a 12-year-old could get her hands on [Looking back I realize how silly it was because all you had to do was pop the batteries out and you could get into the journal]

Journals give off this vibe that you’re talking to someone that will never judge you, interrupt you, give you looks, get distracted, or make you feel like you’re wasting its time. Then again, it is just a book bound together and it’s totally inanimate. It’s just this little safe haven where you can pour all your secrets into. 

Another reason I have neglected my blog and my personal writing is because towards the end of my college career, I found myself increasingly overwhelmed, and anything that wasn’t on the high priority to-do list was just not important. I found myself increasingly anxious, depressed, agitated, stressed…panicking…about my future. 

And it all makes sense, given a recent study by The New York Times, which pointed out that one in six college students will develop an anxiety disorder during their college career. The pressure to succeed and do well and become more than a statistic, it’s all too real and it’s all too much. 

quillpenI believe now that my issues had developed before college but increased around sophomore and junior year. Anxiety is something that I live with, along with several other members of my family, and it’s so hard to explain to people how debilitating it can be. People tell you to just breathe, do yoga, relax, don’t be so stressed. It’s not easy, and if it was, I’m assuming there would be more yoga instructors and less pharmaceuticals. 

Recognizing that I have/had depression has been eye opening, and I’ve found that once you talk to people about it, you find how many other people are going through the same thing. And from coming to terms with myself, who I am, and what I’m going through, and finding what I need to do to be “okay,” I’ve found that writing in a journal and writing finally for pleasure, is what I need to do. 

A friend who’s a nurse recently told me that when you talk to people, you’d be surprised how many are medicated [and how many should be]. It made me laugh but it also gave me some comfort. It also made me think that maybe sometimes, the feeling of pen against paper is all the therapy I need. Maybe it’s time to go back to being a writer that takes risks and makes mistakes, and stops worrying about who the story is going to reach. Maybe the person it needs to reach is the person writing it. 

In Time

When you’re a creative soul, you can’t help but be your worst critic.

Can you help when you look back at old stories, poems and the times where you just wrote. You can only grimace by how lackluster it is. Can you help when you’re an artist and your old paintings are hidden in attics or stashed away in storage because they just wouldn’t sell? They spoke to you. Can you help when you’re a performer and the recollection of a past performance haunts you? You cried when you left the stage.

I critique as a way to become better — to unleash creativity that hides in small spaces of my skeleton, the kind that harbors until it is discovered. I critique to feel whole again — to know that I am human and I have something to reach for and find that part of me that needs to grow.

When pen meets paper, when fingers brush keyboards or pencils scratch at old napkins, I can’t help but remind myself of the writer I was and the writer I am and the writer I’m becoming and the writer I’ll never be….

Can I help it when I look back and read what I’ve written and I can’t help but be reminded of my past? And is it my fault that all I want to read is my future?

Definition of Music

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In my Introduction to Music course that I am taking this semester, my professor asked the class to define music in our own terms, and I thought the best way to describe it is with a blog post.

The past weekend I went to Winter Jam in Philadelphia, PA, which was a free outdoor concert. When my friends first invited me, I thought they were completely crazy, because not only was it an outdoor concert, but it was an outdoor concert during one of the coldest/snowy weekends. I didn’t think my first choice for a weekend outing would be standing in the feels-like-below-zero weather and snow, but I was clearly mistaken.

My friends and I stood at that concert for more than five hours, but it’s a memory I hope to hold onto. During the concert, I had to just look around and see how many people had showed up. It was such a surprise to see that many people willing to stand in the cold for a concert, but it made sense to me. Music brings people together.

There’s something amazing about that idea, that no matter the weather, the time, the place, if music is somehow involved it’s like none of those things matter. Complete strangers can get together and bond as one unified group for the same love they all share: music.

This concert stood apart from all other concerts I had attended. I was able to bond with complete strangers, hold hands with girls while we danced to the music, sing to my favorite songs with my friends and crowd members, let go of agendas and stress and just enjoy the sound of talented musicians and crazy fans. There is no textbook definition that could best describe music as an experience like that.

 

Solitude

Recently, I’ve been taking time out of my day to just stop and think.

That seems like such a silly thing to say because I am always stopping and I am always thinking. But I think what I mean to say is that I’m finding how truly refreshing it is to just let myself be.

Freshman year, I took a Psychology course where my professor taught us how to meditate. At the end of every class, we would take the time to let go of our thoughts and find the space inside of us where we can have inner peace. I always enjoyed these end-of-day rituals, despite that the kids around me thought it was weird we were meditating in a college setting.

"You don't write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say." --F. Scott Fitzgerald

“You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.” –F. Scott Fitzgerald

Sometimes I think back on that class. I liked the way I felt when I could actually stop and let go of what was bothering me. These feelings linger with us; make us exhausted and nervous or uptight and frustrated. I think especially now, in this world we live in (fast-paced and unable to slow down), that it is important to take little moments to myself.

I never used to be alone, and rarely do I choose to be alone. I prefer to be in the company of others, hear the sighs of people in a library, the computers tapping around me, or maybe the sounds of a train station with bustling passengers, with the pages of newspapers turning or music coming out of too-loud music devices. I choose this over the silence.

Now, I try and relish in these moments of solitude. If the sun is out, and it isn’t too chilly (now that fall is here, and staying) I try to go to a small bench in a patch of woods on campus, or visit a bench swing down by a gravel path. These spots are normally vacant, and students rarely pass by. I like to sit in these secret spots, and whether it is a moment I am working on homework or writing for myself, I have started appreciating when I take the time to be alone.

Recent events in my life have expanded my boundaries of writing. One reason is the college course I am taking on creative writing; learning everything from poetry to prose, film to fiction. From this class, I feel more accepting of unfinished sentences and thoughts in the form of broken lines and rhyming stanzas.

I think some of this creativity has come from these moments when I am alone, when I can focus on what I actually want to write, what I have to say and what I want to make meaning of in my world. Most importantly, I think this ability to reflect stems from the idea that I may very well be unbelievably full of bliss. The idea that one person can make me feel this way is eye-opening, life altering, but I don’t think I’d have it any other way. While I am beginning to focus more on taking time to be alone, it’s in these periods of isolation that I think of this happiness, and the person that has brought out everything good about me, including giving me the strength to explore writing even more than I thought I could.

Embracing the Change

I haven’t posted in over a month. I always write to clear my mind, to make a point, to bring meaning to something in my own life or others. It’s painful knowing I have been neglecting my passion, a part of my life.

If I am being honest with myself, I have been afraid. I have logged on several times to this account, hoping that these feelings I have had will come out. I have been hoping to find the answers to questions that have been left for me figure out.

I don’t think I will ever have the answers to some of these questions. However, I have come to terms with one thing, and that is change is inevitable and no matter how hard I try, I cannot determine what the future has in store for me. My experiences over the last year, the last month, have changed me more than I could handle, but I think now I have an understanding of where I am in my life.

Where does that leave me? If I start back in the beginning of college, I realize how young, stupid, naive I was. This is not to say I didn’t have a good head on my shoulders, I really did. I worked so hard, knowing every hour spent studying was a dollar worth spending. I made relationships, kept relationships, broke relationships, experienced heartbreak, drama, and a whole lot of bullshit. I tried to add onto the person I wanted to be, the person I was becoming.

It’s so unbelievably hard to become “someone.” We all have this grand master plan that we shoot for, and we end up falling hard with disappointment. We want the perfect job, the perfect scores, the best GPA, great friends and the guy/girl of our dreams. We want this house and that car. We want to live in close proximity to a school so our kids are safe. We want some life that we don’t know if we can have.

I’ve realized dreams are something that should pinned on a bulletin board, tattooed on an arm, plastered on a wall. They should be engraved in our brains. At the same time, I have realized that these dreams or goals or whatever, shouldn’t stop you from taking a chance on something new, exciting, different or scary. I can still have goals, but I can also be a risk-taker, a go-getter, a spontaneous woman ready to live her life.

I had this plan that I would marry this guy. Everything was great, wonderful. We never fought, well we never would, but I would nag at things I wanted to change. And they never did change. They got better at times, but still these things that I wanted to change remained the same. That’s so unbelievably wrong of me to think I can change a person. You can’t change anyone. They can change themselves, but ultimately in the end, people will be who they want to be. If I could only say every racing thought I had in that short span of time when I broke his heart, maybe he could understand. Maybe he could not hate me, his mom could stop telling everyone at work that I broke up with him out of the blue. It’s not my fault….I didn’t mean to change. How can you get a person to not change? I’m sorry for hurting him. I’m sorry I couldn’t be sad, that I moved on so quickly. I had this unrealistic idea that we would graduate, I would work in the city, so would he, and then we would live together, followed by marriage. Seriously. What the hell was I thinking? I sound like a 13 year old girl cutting pictures out of magazines of bridal dresses and cakes saying, “This is what my life is going to be like.” No one knows what life is like, it just happens. So, if I had to tell him anything, which I promised him I would (and I never did out of more fear of hurting him, and the sheer fact that I don’t think I owe him anything), I would say I am sorry for becoming a different person. This is the best thing to happen to us because if we continued walking down this comfortable, no-thrills path, I surely would regret the person you are and the person I had become. You have given me a special time in my life, one for which I am grateful of, and I will never forget it.

There’s love that falls apart in relationships and then there’s love that falls apart in friendships. I can’t say which I hate most, losing a relationship or losing a friendship. Friends are intertwined in our lives, at least they should be. The worst part in any relationship is giving 110% and receiving less than that. I always try and do my best to be a good friend. I don’t even know what a good friend is, and I don’t know if there needs to be a specific definition. I do know that I don’t regret leaving behind any of my friendships. I refuse to be walked on, have no self-respect, and be treated like a fool. I am willing to go to the ends of the Earth for people, and I sometimes think they wouldn’t even go to edge of the water for me. I was supposed to be in a special time of my one friend’s life. I tried so hard to mend the cracks in our relationship, some created by me and some created by her (although she’s so perfect she won’t admit she did anything wrong). All my effort was overlooked, all my cries for attention buried under an enormous mound of lies and laziness. Thank you, for teaching me to stand up for myself, something I don’t know if I ever will fully be able to do on my own. If it wasn’t for my mom, and the actual friends I had, I would have stood next to you and listened to you say, “I do,” and have to put on a happy face, knowing I am filler, an object to fill a space that you couldn’t care less about. You didn’t care about me, and in fact if I wouldn’t have tried to text, Facebook, email….whatever….you would have just let it fade. I’m sorry that I ruined your night, but you ruined countless of mine and made me think I was a worthless friend, and a worthless individual. I’d rather be self-centered than a liar.

Then I had this crazy rebellious stage. They say college is all about the “college experience,” and you know what? They are right. Kids need to get out there (being smart about it) and drink, have sex, do drugs, run around, stay up late, eat bad food–all of it. I think we all have this feeling, this urge, to just do something. You don’t know what it is until you are in the moment. I don’t even know what this “something” is. I just know that when you feel it, you just want to be so spontaneous you couldn’t care less about the outcome or the time of day. You just want to flirt and be with everyone you come in contact with, or at least that’s how I felt. I guess I didn’t want to be alone.

That’s when I met him. He had his “eye” on me for a span of time. A couple dates, a couple kisses, some late-night flirtatious texting and I thought maybe, this could be something. Then I realized he wasn’t going to treat me how I wanted to be treated, and what’s the point of seeing someone who doesn’t make the fireworks go off? Reminds me, I still need to text him.

When I think about sparks, I think about this guy. It’s a crazy love story, almost taken out of a Nicholas Sparks book or maybe just a cheesy rom-com on a Saturday night. He’s ridiculous. If I could manufacture the ideal guy, it would be him. He’s everything that I’ve ever wanted in someone, and more. We met while working in the same town, and thank goodness he decided to have some courage that day. Every time I pass that corner I think about him. It’s crazy, it’s just a corner! Now he’s back in my life. Let me tell you, this time I can be honest about my feelings for you. I wish I wouldn’t have held back. I hope that you and I can make this work. I don’t care about distance, labels, time.

Honestly, I want to see you be brave. Say what you want to say, and let the words fall out.”*

I know you’ve had bad experiences with a situation like this, but maybe one day I can change your mind. In the meantime I’m willing to do almost anything for you, because a connection like this is what everyone is searching for, despite how cliche it sounds, I think it’s that whole “missing puzzle piece” thing that everyone talks about. My music professor said, “Don’t be with someone you love, be with someone you can’t live without.” I think that fits for us.

Not every learning experience I have had has come from something bad. I’ve met a few amazing, inspiring, funny, and easy to get along with people so far this year. One young woman, who I hope will be my friend long after college, has opened my eyes. She just has the same morals, same ideas, same goals and dreams as I do. I don’t know what I would have done during this time of change, this time of confusion, without her. And as always, my mom has been a huge help and a huge supporter of everything I do. She can play devil’s advocate pretty well, but more often than not, she is always on my side. I am thankful to have another close friend, who may not be close in age, but she is someone so close and dear to me, I cannot imagine life without her. She’s just a great example of someone who has struggled in life, but continues to give and help even though she needs it more than I do.

I’ve heard people say change is good, and I’ve heard people being afraid of change. I can say now, that I can embrace anything that comes my way. I’m ready to be daring, different, spontaneous, loving, mindful, and at peace with myself and the people around me. Much like the journey to discovering myself, I am constantly traveling down new and exciting paths that tests my understanding and love of the written word. Without writing, there is no meaning. Without change, there is no future.