Arts Majors Can Make it Big!

I had an encounter today that inspired me to write this post. I recently applied to a part-time business school and received a letter in return that stated, “Based on your undergraduate coursework, we don’t believe you have the necessary skills required to do well in an MBA program.” You can believe I was deflated, but for multiple reasons.

Firstly, I have had 7 years work experience in the corporate sector managing publications and making important business decisions on the daily. In other words, I don’t agree with them. Secondly, this only mentions my undergraduate degree (I’m finishing a master’s now), which is in English. Nowadays, MBA programs are designed for people of all backgrounds and people go to business school to acquire…business skills. A part of me feels like I am not being reviewed fairly because of my B.A. in English. However, sometimes what people study as an undergrad does not align with what they do today. In fact, I feel like that is more the norm!

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Ironically, I frequently am asked to speak at university panels about the success of humanities students in the business realm. This is perhaps my favorite topic to discuss because I am living proof that you can be a creative and make it in business – you can even thrive!

All in all, this is one story of one school not looking at me holistically but it makes me wonder: how many people out there are feeling pigeon-holed because they have an arts degree and never thought they could use it? Or how many people get rejections like mine and assume they made a terrible decision with their degree choice?  I am sure I am not the only one being judged, and it’s up to us to break the status quo. Let’s show them (whoever “they” are), that we are more than our degrees!

Let’s live our lives creatively and with exuberance. Whether you want to be a car mechanic, fiddler, or business executive, put your whole heart into it and don’t ever let what people think of you hold you back. 

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Adventures as a Library Volunteer

At the beginning of the year, I began volunteering on Saturday mornings at my local library. Since it is close to home and doesn’t require a large time commitment, I figured that some volunteering was better than no volunteering. Being in graduate school on top of full-time work, library volunteering is both convenient and therapeutic.

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A sneak peak of our “Used Book Store.”

Though library volunteering may not sound exotic, I feel like I get to step into a magical place on the weekends and to actually make a difference. My library has a “Used Book Store” that consists of books donations. My job is to re-stock, alphabetize stacks, and to create displays of books based on inventory and demand. For instance, with back-to-school approaching, I recently created a display of books that was more academic: the history of England. We had many books on this in stock and it seemed great for history lovers!

This fall was busy since there was a parade in town and we held our Annual Book Fair to coincide with that date. Hundreds came into the library to get their hands on used books (all of our inventory from storage had to be pulled for it), and I assisted people in the children’s book section.

The next day, I went back to the library but this time, solely as a buyer. I was told that on the second day, people could fill a grocery bag with books and only pay $5! I decided to fill a bag with kids books for my niece and nephew, a bag for me, and oh wait – it was later declared in the day that “all paperbacks were now free” and everyone could take home a single filled bag of them. Of course, this encouraged me to get even more. In total, I brought home three bags of loot and only paid $10 (since one one bag was free). I think I took home about 30 books! Yes, this is excessive but many will go to family and friends, and the ones that don’t may find themselves donated back to the library.

How to Start the Next Female Revolution, According to Elizabeth Gilbert

This week, I attended the Massachusetts Conference for Women, the largest conference for women in the United States. It is not my first time attending, and probably not my last, because it always delivers exceptional content with some of the most inspiring women on the planet. Some of this years speakers were Jesmyn Ward (author of Sing, Unburied, Sing), human rights attorney Amal Clooney, and Elizabeth Gilbert. Many know Gilbert as the author of her popular autobiographical book, Eat, Pray, Love, which was adapted into a 2010 film starring Julia Roberts (who portrayed Gilbert).

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Since that smash book, Gilbert has continued to write and most recently penned 2015’s Big Magic. However, I was struck by how this woman, with so many vibrant life experiences, spoke so softly to the crowd when she covered the topic of female empowerment.

Gilbert asked the nearly 12,000-person audience, “what is the one word that best describes what a woman should aspire to be?” Gilbert then listed a number of acronyms such as fierce, loyal, and badass but said that all of these words – though perfectly acceptable – are already words she would use to describe the women in life.

According to Gilbert, to start the next female revolution, there is one word to describe how women should behave – relaxed. Yes, you read that right.

Common fears with being relaxed:

  1. We will relax and then everything will fall apart: careers, children, and a never-ending amount of obligations
  2. Being relaxed will make us lazy.
  3. Relaxing means not giving our all, when we could be focusing on important social causes or things that change the world (such as female equality).

The idea of relaxation sounds relaxing but actually being relaxed is another story. Gilbert’s solution: “I’m not sure.” However, from personal experience she was able to finally reach a relaxed state when she realized that the world is a large place and many of our problems are trivial – well, trivial in the grand scheme of life.

For instance, we have a solar system with stars continuously being made and things in motion in faraway planets that we still have no idea about. If we were to take a deep breath, pause, and remember that the world is still going to keep rolling, then we can begin to welcome more gratitude in ours lives, and fight the factors that cause anxiety on a daily basis.

Have you ever encountered a big moment in your life that put things into perspective?

Book Review of “Transgressive: A Trans Woman on Gender, Feminism, and Politics”

In exchange for an honest review, I received an advanced reader copy of the book being discussed. Thanks NetGalley!

As reported by The New York Times, the Trump Administration is seeking to eliminate the protections of Title IX for transgender individuals. As a Massachusetts resident, this news comes amid a state campaign to repeal the Commonwealth’s Transgender Anti-Discrimination Law, which was enacted in 2016. Especially due the overly-negative political climate towards transgender individuals, I felt lucky to get my hands on an advanced copy “Transgressive: A Trans Woman on Gender, Feminism, and Politics,” written by Rachel Anne Williams.

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The over of the forthcoming book from NetGalley.

Williams’ book is comprised of a series of essays sharing her personal transition to being female, feminist musings, gender and politics, as well as a deep exploration into gender identity. Even if you are familiar with transgender issues, as I was when I ventured into this book, there is still plenty to learn from. I personally did not know much about the fetishization of transgenders (largely from the porn industry), nor did I know much about the dating scene as a transgender.

The section I found particularly touching is when Williams discusses how by transitioning into a woman, she was giving up the patriarchal freedoms she had as a man. In the essay “Giving Up My Male Privilege” she writes, “I had the privilege to speak up in class and dominate class discussions. I had the privilege to go through grad school in philosophy without people assuming I wasn’t ‘cut out’ for philosophy, rational thought, or argumentation….I had the privilege of mansplaining.” The list goes on about the privileges she gave up as a male, in order to be the person that she wants to be.

In a world where we are told to “be ourselves,” our society tends to draw the line at being transgendered. It is stunning to me how people can be mistreated, and even killed, for being different. Who a person is and who they choose to love is entirely their business. That’s why I think Williams’ book is a powerful testament to those who dare to be themselves, as well as those who failed. We need more people like this author to share their stories and their beliefs because as a society, we will only be strong if we are supporting and accepting our differences.

Rachel Anne Williams’ book will be on sale beginning May 2019. The book is not yet available for pre-order, but you can read more about this author on her blog.

Volunteering: 2018 in Review

In the past, I have discussed my experiences with taking a Volunteer Day. I have been fortunate to work for a company that genuinely cares for the community and is best-in-class with their sustainability efforts! This is something that I am personally very passionate about, both inside and out of the office.

For about a year now, I have been volunteering on Saturday morning’s at my local library and I absolutely love it! I understand that volunteering outside of work time is isn’t feasible for many – I work and am in graduate school so I definitely feel the pressures of time management. However, if you are able to dedicate a few days a year, I highly recommend it. With more and more companies encouraging employees to take off time each quarter to volunteer, it makes it easy for any schedule.

Here are some of my achievements this year, with reflections on volunteerism:

  • I raised money for education. When volunteering at the library, I was able to sort books for their Annual Used Book sale in which all proceeds go to charities that promote education. Last week, our sale raised $4,200 (I also snagged a lot of great books in the process too!)
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  • I helped a local nonprofit using skills I already use on the job. I recently volunteered the Nordic Bites 2018 Food Festival to promote Scandinavian culture in the Boston area. My uncle is the Director of a nonprofit which promotes Scandinavian culture and he has always taught me the importance of learning about other cultures, because it promotes the acceptance of others. While at the festival, I captured content that the nonprofit can use throughout the year to promote their cultural center.

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    Classic Nordic tunes music were featured at the Nordic Food Festival.
  • I was the Team Leader for my company’s Walk for Alzheimer’s this past weekend, in honor of my grandmother. My grandmother (“Nona”) was truly special and to watch her lose her memory was heartbreaking. By having my company rally with me to raise money and to promote the cure for Alzheimer’s, it was personally touching. And think about how many lives the cure will save! My company has a general matching program which allowed me to raise close to $1,000!
  • I made connections with people who have similar interests. You truly never know who you will meet when you are volunteering but no matter what the person’s background, you are brought together for the same cause. That is so powerful!

Being able to collaborate and connect with others translates directly back into your work environments, since working together leads to success.

This year was filled with great volunteer opportunities, so my hope is that more people will feel empowered to create change in their communities.

That said, which social causes are you interested in?

Over-Dressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion (Book Review)

“I bought a ton of cute clothes today and guess what I spent!” This is a phrase that my sisters and I have said dozens of times to each other over the years. The few times I directed my fashion purchases towards my father however, the first thing he would say was, “What’s it made out of? Polyester? They don’t make clothes the way they used to.” This echoed a comment a customer made to me one day when I worked at an Ann Taylor store in college.

Years ago, my customer remarked how she had shopped at the original Ann Taylor store when they first opened in Connecticut and as she felt the material on the sleeve of a blouse, said “Boy, how the times have changed.” Though I could nod my head and accept what they were saying as true, it wasn’t until I read Elizabeth L. Cline’s 2012 book, “Over-Dressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion,” that I truly understood what my dad and this customer understood.

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Book jacket image by Tom Schierlitz. Courtesy of Amazon.

Today, we can go out on a lunch break and instead of opt for a coffee, we could elect to purchase a $10 dress instead. This is a phenomenon that would never had been imaginable in the early 20th century. With retailers such as Forever 21, H&M, and Walmart, bringing new clothes to market at a faster-than-ever speed, we have gone from a generation that treasures clothing, to one that throws it away each season.

Cline’s book was exceptionally shocking so I want to share a few quotes from the book that resonate:

  1. “Carbon monoxide and other pollutants from Asia have been documents on the West Coast since the late 1990s are are actually affecting weather patterns there as well. Global climate change as a result of global industrialization is now a reality no matter where we live (124)”.
  2. “It’s a natural assumption that a book about cheap fashion will cover the grim issues of sweatshops and child labor. A common refrain is that garment workers should be glad to have jobs. Our expectations and standards for ethics in the fashion industry are embarrassingly low, but the potential for change is also grossly underestimated” (159).
  3. “China’s garment industry operates on an intimidating scale. It’s several times bigger than any garment industry…they have more than forty thousand clothing manufacturers and 15 million garment industry jobs [and there are 1.45 million garment and textile industry jobs that United States had at peak employment some forty years ago” (169).
  4. “Not shopping was not a total solution….human beings have been sewing for thousands of years; some peg it to the last Ice Age” (191).
  5. “Localism and more thoughtful, slow approach to eating [like with farmer’s markets] the movement has a huge following, and slowly but surely the movement is spreading to fashion” (208).

Though taking down the whole fashion industry is not a feasible goal, making more educated choices about the fabric and craftsmanship of our clothing is what this book advocates. The above quotes are just the tip of the iceberg for what Cline’s book delves into. She thoroughly investigates the Chinese textile markets, working conditions in mills domestically and abroad, and deeply delves into the ramifications of having so many clothes thrown away. Alternatively, the book discusses how we choose to re-use, mend, and place more thought into pieces that are meant to last.

To learn more about this book, visit overdressedthebook.com.

My Best Advice for Being Happy

Someone once told me, “let go of what does not serve you.” In other words, let go of negativity. If you’re like me, you will try to find the flaw in logic in just about anything (a year of law school did this to me). It’s true that we cannot drop everything (or people) from our lives because they do not agree with us. I think running from every negative situation that comes our way actually does the opposite of help us! However, we can choose to not be affected by negative situations or people, and that has been some of best advice I have received to date.

In order to stop negativity in its track, I had to self-correct my own thinking, in addition to “letting things go,” there were some changes I made to my everyday life that made big differences.

My largest moments of growth – and subsequent peace of mind- came when:

1) I learned to embrace criticism. Recently, I heard that a family member of mine did not like me – not for any real reason other than the fact that they don’t. Despite them not knowing that I know, I forgive them and still love them. In addition, I know that not everyone is going to like me or agree with me. Criticism can help us BE better. If it is truly unwarranted and people feel *gasp* jealous, I feel like I am doing something right.

2) I learned to say “no.” I would consider myself a do-er: I work full-time, get up early to exercise, study for class, go to salsa lessons, and the list goes on…However, there are times where I have reached my bandwidth. Knowing when to say no to drinks after work or an upcoming party is OK, but the key is to be upfront and honest. I personally like to keep my promises and dislike flakiness.

3) I helped others in negative situations. Look, I’m not here to tell you I am the next Dalai Lama or a therapist, but helping others when they are in need has always been an important part of my life. After training my own brain to be positive, looking out for the well-being of my friends and family has been paramount. Plus, I think we all know we need to practice what we preach. The next time you help a friend, let your own advice sink in.

I continue to learn ways to be happier, and to juggle work, school, and a million other things that come my way. Do you have a quote or saying that helps you?