Monday, February 3, 2014

America still has a long way to go...

I don't know about you, but in elementary school we were required to dig in as much as we could during Black History Month. I remember having to do projects on famous African-Americans who have shaped our world while also learning about why this month is so important.

When you're a kid, you don't really see the importance. To me, I didn't see colors- I just saw people. And it baffled me that people were persecuted, forced into slavery and treated badly just because they had dark skin.

I've grown up now and haven't done anything special for Black History Month since I was in the 5th grade. But, I think it's important that we as a country are reminded of why this month exists. It's more important than ever before.

I am biracial though I am not African-American. I remember in elementary school having to answer what race I identify with. The choices: White, Black, Hispanic, Native American, or Asian/Pacific Islander. And each one of those tests, I had to make a decision- what am I? I'm half white, but I'm half Asian/Pacific Islander (I am half Indian, just to clarify). So- which one would it be? Usually, I just chose other if it was an option and I would split whether I was white or Asian/Pacific Islander. Finally near the end of high school, I saw an option meant for me: Two or more races. In 2007, we finally realized that multiculturalism is a real thing.

I talk about this because I realize so much that the idea of "if you're not white, you're not right" is still predominant today. It seems still, in many people's minds, if you are not a White Christian who is straight, you are in the wrong. And that mindset needs to go away. It should have gone away back in 1776. Heck, it shouldn't have existed to begin with.

This weekend opened my eyes to it by two Super Bowl commercials: one from Cheerios and the other from Coca-Cola. I will talk about them both below:

This isn't the first time we have met this family. In 2013, Cheerios also featured this multicultural family in a television spot. The ad, also placed on YouTube, was given some harsh comments on the site, so much so that Cheerios had to disable comments altogether. Some people didn't like to see a white woman and black man married with a cute kid, and Cheerios response to the original ad was that there were many families like this so what does it matter? And they made that statement with featuring this family yet again in front of the biggest television audience of the year (take that critics). What's even better: the fact this family is of mixed race is not even pointed out. There's no talk of the fact that there are different families at all; it just shows that families are incredibly similar no matter what they look like. And I heard barely a peep this time around from those commentators beforehand. Though, I would see them again after this next ad premiered.

Coca-Cola has always had fantastic ads. This one is no different. America the Beautiful, sung in many different languages and showing many different people. Some were angry, saying one of my favorites, "THIS IS AMERICA, SPEAK ENGLISH." Hey, sometimes I wish we could all communicate the same way too. But let's be honest folks; America has, and always will be, a melting pot. We are made up of different races, cultures, languages and religions. Not everyone speaks English and not everyone ever will. And, hate to break it to you, but we will live in an America where the language won't be predominantly English. In the next 20-30 years, there will be more Hispanics than Whites in this country and more Spanish spoken than English. I see it now working in Florida. So, as frustrated as we may get, maybe we all need to learn another language? After all, go to any country in Europe and you will find a person who speaks at least 3 languages (I guarantee it). 

Bottom line: These ads show what America has become and what it will be from now on into the future. The mindset of this country needs to change.

Let's take this back to Black History Month. Maybe you don't like him. Maybe you really don't like him and wish that he wasn't President with every bone in your body. But, half of our country voted for him and that says a lot about how times have changed. Our President, Barack Obama, is like me, like many other people in this country: biracial. When I was even young, the idea of having a President who wasn't "the status quo" of White, Christian and straight was a distant thought. Even when President Kennedy was elected, it shook things up because he was Catholic. Half of the country voting for President Obama shows that half of this country doesn't care if he's black or if his father was Muslim meaning he could possibly be Muslim. No, half of this country voted for him because they thought he was fit for the job, and isn't that why we should vote for someone?

He's not the only African-American who has been looked past the color of his skin. One of the most influential people in the world is not only African-American but a woman. Oprah Winfrey is someone that could have a category all to herself. Say what you want about her, but there's something about a person who says that she likes a book and it becomes an instant best-seller. She has launched careers for dozens of people and made them world-famous. She even put a huge league of women behind voting for the President! Not only that, but she is incredibly talented, being Oscar-nominated for "The Color Purple" as well as winning countless Emmys for her talk show. And barely is it mentioned that she is an African-American woman. There are countless other people besides the President and Oprah, but they are two in this modern world that have changed the way we think.

I think about that time in elementary school reading the stories of Martin Luther King Jr. and his dream that we would all live together. The dream is still coming true but it's not finished yet.

Our country is in the midst of yet another Civil Rights movement- this time for people who are gay, bisexual or transgender. Gay marriage has been a hot topic in the past decade and we are seeing more and more states recognizing gay marriage and gay rights. And there will be the day that all 50 states recognize it and extend those rights to everyone. Maybe we will even have a Gay History month like we have Black History and Women's History Months. We are witnessing history being made to better unite this country, why not join hand in hand?

I challenge you, America. We have come far, but we still have a long way to go. This Black History Month, let us all challenge ourselves to fight for equality and civil rights, just like Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr and many others did beforehand. Let's all band together and walk as a nation of equality in this melting pot we call the United States of America.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Why I may never go to Sea World again: Personal reaction to "Blackfish" and Sea World's PR Nightmare

**Disclaimer: All opinions presented in this article are my own and do not represent the views of any organization or other person. Thank you.**

The first time I vacationed in Orlando, my parents decided to give me the full Orlando experience. So, we went to all the major theme parks in the area: Disney, Universal, and Sea World. Unfortunately, a tornado had hit the same day we went to Sea World, so we couldn't do much of anything. We went there again a few years later, but didn't do much more since my brothers could barely sit through a show.

I always told myself I would one day go back to Sea World. I loved it because I love the ocean and ocean mammals (and Journey to Atlantis is an awesome ride). I have always been incredibly fascinated with dolphins, whales, turtles, seals, etc., so much so that I won't eat fish. And I loved being able to see them up close at a place like Sea World. 

I was naive when I was young; I didn't realize that maybe something was inhumane about it. I should have- there were a lot of clues. The tanks weren't huge at all. The dolphin nursery in the middle of the park looked as big as a fountain in the middle of a mall in the 80's. These animals were being used as a circus act.

I remember reading about the trainer death at Sea World in 2010. I didn't necessarily believe that the trainer should have been blamed (which Sea World did) but I didn't like that the media seemed to focus the blame on the whale, Tilikum. I didn't want this poor animal to be just tossed aside. There obviously was a reason that he had acted out so many times before. I really just wasn't seeing the entire picture. I wanted to believe Sea World was good because they had helped so many ocean animals and fish beforehand.

That all changed this week though. My friend, Stephanie, told me about how horrible Sea World is. It's hard to just take one person's words and completely change your opinion though. But, I was opened to listening. The points she made were interesting: how did these whales get to Sea World and become stars? Obviously they were captured somehow. And honestly, how humane is it to have an animal as entertainment?

So, when CNN decided to present "Blackfish," the critically-acclaimed documentary last night, I knew I needed to watch. And what I saw completely 180'd my opinion of Sea World and marine parks.

I watched men capture young whales in the waters, separating them from their families. I saw how horribly Tilikum was treated because he was a male. I saw the incidents that involved trainers' deaths first hand. I heard many former Sea World employees talk about how they knew it was inhumane but they were afraid to leave their animals to Sea World's care. I watched how Sea World willingly separated a baby whale born in its park from its mom and hear the mom cry out for her baby. It was heartbreaking.

Tilikum has been involved in 3 deaths: One at his old home at the now-defunct Sealand of the Pacific and 2 in Sea World Orlando. The first in Sea World was a homeless man believed to have entered the park after hours to swim with the whales and the second was a senior trainer, Dawn Brancheau, who was pulled in after a show. The documentary was a response to the major fallout after Dawn's death. Sea World initially stated her death was an accidental drowning, but the story was proven false from eye-witnesses. Sea World then blamed it on "trainer error," something those same eye-witness reports have refuted.

The fallout has led to a court case which resulted in the ban of trainers getting into the water with sea life. Sea World has since appealed the ruling. The fallout has also led to some major PR problems for Sea World, which have not gotten better because of the movie, "Blackfish."

In the past, I had defended Sea World in some way (although I never agreed with letting a whale with a known violent history perform in the parks). But, after seeing this movie, I can't do that anymore. Seeing how Sea World had captured whales, separated them from their families time after time, exploited these animals and had them living in horrid conditions has gripped me. 

That's not to say I don't think Sea World is a absolutely horrible place forever and ever. I know Sea World has done some great conservation work to help sea life. I saw it first-hand the last time I went to the park in 1999. But, overall I have realized that a "marine park" isn't suitable for these majestic sea animals. 

I'm not here to say all zoos are bad. I think some of them are great. Research is always useful so we can better learn how to live with animals. And I think Sea World has learned a lot from this incident to better themselves. I think it's important for young people to be able to learn from these animals and zoos help with that. But, I think this country and the world needs to better its system for taking care of animals in zoos. Sure, they have access to medical care, but are they really better off? Granted, are they really better off being released into the wild now after being held captive for many years?

One thought did cross my mind while watching this movie. Remember the movie, "Free Willy?" The orca who played Willy, Keiko, was actually in captivity; though the movie chronicles the whale's captivity and eventual release back into the wild. Keiko was suffering in captivity due to the climate and size of the tank. But, the whale eventually died of pneumonia while attempting to go back into the wild. It's sad and ironic. Sure, he died after going back into the wild but if he wasn't in captivity to begin with, he probably would have lived longer.

There's a lot of questions for me and the public after seeing this movie. I don't see me taking my future children to Sea World; not necessarily because I don't think they're a good park, but I don't know if there will even be a Sea World. I think that, yes, Sea World will be able to survive little by little but that can only go for so long. Sea World's PR after the Dawn Brancheau death took a huge toll on the company (considering they knowingly lied to the public). Also, they refused to cooperate and comment on the movie "Blackfish" until after it was released.

Here is Sea World's statement after its theatrical release, courtesy of Wikipedia:
"Blackfish is billed as a documentary, but instead of a fair and balanced treatment of a complex subject, the film is inaccurate and misleading and, regrettably, exploits a tragedy that remains a source of deep pain for Dawn Brancheau's family, friends and colleagues. To promote its bias that killer whales should not be maintained in a zoological setting, the film paints a distorted picture that withholds from viewers key facts about SeaWorld -- among them, that SeaWorld is one of the world's most respected zoological institutions, that SeaWorld rescues, rehabilitates and returns to the wild hundreds of wild animals every year, and that SeaWorld commits millions of dollars annually to conservation and scientific research. Perhaps most important, the film fails to mention SeaWorld's commitment to the safety of its team members and guests and to the care and welfare of its animals, as demonstrated by the company's continual refinement and improvement to its killer whale facilities, equipment and procedures both before and after the death of Dawn Brancheau."
Although certain facts that this statement presents are true, they could have cooperated with filmmakers. Instead, Sea World refused. Should Sea World have cooperated? Maybe- the company's refusal looks like they are hiding something and worried about how they will be portrayed. But, if they did comment during this story, it could have been "twisted" by the filmmakers and spun in a negative light. That's the tough aspect of public relations- words can be twisted. 

Sea World needs to go on a huge PR campaign for its company if they have any hope of keeping the spirit of Sea World alive. Click on any single tweet Sea World has sent and see the replies. Here's an example of some of those tweets: 

Sea World has again, defended themselves after last night's network television airing of "Blackfish." You can read their statement here.

So- what's my official opinion on "Blackfish" and Sea World? The movie: definitely see it. Is it one-sided? Yes, but that is Sea World's own fault for refusing to comment on it. As mad as they are for the lack of positive facts about Sea World, the company had a chance and blew it. It's a good study on the history of whale captivity and is an eye-opener.

As for Sea World? I won't be spending my money to visit the park (even if it is only 10 minutes or so away). I don't know if I can support the park anymore after seeing this movie. Should you go? That's up to you- I wouldn't judge you if you decided to go and had a fun time. 

If this movie "Blackfish" has taught the public anything, it's that we as humans still have a long way to go in wildlife conservation. And, maybe the next chapter in how to go further will be highlighted by this movie.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Trying to figure out the next steps

I haven't written a personal update in some time, so why not now?

My internship extension is going fairly well. I love Florida weather: while it is freezing cold back home in Pennsylvania, it is sunny and an average of 70 down here in Orlando. For a girl who hates the cold, it's been bliss. I've been very much enjoying my extension, but the next steps need to be completed.

I have thought for some time that maybe a permanent move to Florida was in my future. I had applied for many jobs down here and one even got back to me. But, the pay is not much more than I make currently at my internship and if I stayed, I would make more doing what I do now. Although I do have a second interview for the job, I am not sure it's meant to be.

I have been looking at jobs back at home and surrounding areas. A few have gotten back to me, but unfortunately, they are looking for the positions to be filled immediately and I cannot commit to that. 

Public Relations is a field I do have a passion for. I know what it takes to promote yourself and a company. I like the world of communications as a whole, but it is a difficult industry to get your foot into. I knew that going in initially, and I think that my lack of an actual PR internship is making it difficult. Many of the jobs I am looking at are something I can't see myself being happy with. 

When I took a marketing class, I was really interested with the planning that went along with it. I found myself liking the marketing side even more than the PR side. Furthermore, I really liked the planning that went along with events here in Orlando.

When New Fantasyland opened, I saw so many media event and event planning people and knew it- that was what I really wanted to do. I loved the media and planning that went along with showcasing the grand opening (which was fantastic by the way). This was what I wanted to get into with Public Relations.

PR and Event Planning definitely go hand in hand a lot. I've been looking into the event planning world (including wedding planning) and I am thinking of taking an online course in becoming a Certified Wedding and Event Planner. More experience could equal a job. Unfortunately... it costs (obviously) and although I have the money to do a payment plan, it's still a lot to dish out.

Right now, I'm trying to figure out the next steps. I know what I want to do- events. But, I'm trying to figure out how to do it. Finding a job is the obvious solution, but it's rather difficult to do when there will be many new graduates looking for jobs at the same time as me (and by May, I will have been graduated a year. Ouch).

I'm still looking and hopefully something comes up soon. I just hope I have a clearer mind in the next days or weeks coming up.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

"Escape from Tomorrow"- Your move, Disney

When I first heard that a movie was made at Disney theme parks without the consent from Disney, I was pretty angry. 

The article I read about the movie talked about Disney being shown as a gruesome world and images of the parks being construed in a dastardly way. As a huge fan of the Disney theme parks, I was upset a film was made without Disney's consent. I was more angry that people at Disney (primarily cast members) are featured in the film without their consent as well.

Some of my friends thought the movie should be watched first and that I was harsh to say this movie should be done away with. I thought, maybe they are right. Although my problem was more with consent- what is this movie anyways?

I looked more into the movie to find out what it is about.

"Escape from Tomorrow" is about a man who finds out on vacation at Disney that he has lost his job. He realizes how unhappy he is with his life, which includes being in a loveless marriage and not having a tight relationship with his kids. He becomes virtually insane and sees the parks in a dark way He also becomes obsessed with two underage girls while trying to come to grips with reality.

Since the movie's premiere at Sundance, it has become the most-buzzed about movie this year at the film festival. The movie was shot guerrilla-style at Walt Disney World and Disneyland using a video camera almost anyone can buy for cheap at a store and they were not caught.

Disney has not commented on the film being released. This is probably the first (and maybe only ever) commercial film to be shot at in the parks without consent from Disney. Any TV show, special or video you have seen with Disney World being featured was used with consent. 

So, how should Disney react to such a thing?

The film itself looks good. Although the parks are the setting, the movie is not about Disney or trying to make a statement about the parks. It's truly a character-driven story that uses the parks as a backdrop. Does it show a different side of Disney? Yes, and it seems a little creepy but maybe cool in a film noir sense (as seen in the image on the right).

But, will Disney sue? It's quite possible- they have every right to. The film will probably never been screened in theaters or put out on DVD due to legal issues with the parks. It will probably rule the internet in the months to come for people to be able to see it. But, should they sue? Well, here is what I think.

Although I originally thought the film should not be screened and be pulled immediately, I believe I am going to retract my original thoughts. I was originally angry with it. But, learning more about what the film entails, I think it should be seen and be out there.

My main problem (personal and PR standpoint) with this movie is the "consent" thing. There are cast members that will be featured in this movie and have a role in this who didn't know and were not compensated. It's possible that this will be where the trouble with this movie will be. I know if I were to have some kind of role in this movie, I would not be thrilled. 

I believe that is the problem Disney will have. They may find some angry workers who were featured in this movie and are not happy. The company could be angry at themselves for not catching this (or just impressed that they could not catch the filming). It could become a huge liability issue for the parks.

Another issue would be with the movie poster and imagery in the movie. The film poster clearly shows icons known at Disney (the monorail, Spaceship Earth and Big Thunder Mountain) so that would definitely give Disney a case. They may not be happy with their likeness being portrayed in such a way as it seems to be in the movie with gruesome images of the characters (as has been reported).

If I were Disney, I think I'd let it go... for now. They should definitely watch the movie before they make any decision. And they should not make a decision right away. But, cast members should definitely watch this film (I know that once I can, I will watch it since I go to Disney all the time). I could see legal action being taken by a few of them (though not all). Do I think they should take legal action if they are in the movie? That is entirely up to them- since it's dealing with their own self, they should be the ones to decide.

But, they should definitely make sure it doesn't land in nearby theaters soon because if they do nothing and let that happen, then the legal battle will be hard to win.

Here is a clip of the movie. This scene (I believe) is one not filmed in Disney parks. But, it shows a little of what this movie truly is about:

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Fall from Grace: Image Restoration

**UPDATE** Here is the statement Te'o released: “This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her. To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating. It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother’s death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life.
“I am enormously grateful for the support of my family, friends and Notre Dame fans throughout this year. To think that I shared with them my happiness about my relationship and details that I thought to be true about her just makes me sick. I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been. In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious.
“If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was. Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life, and I’m looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL Draft.”
The statement is fantastic and was done within the 24 hours. I would have preferred to see him say this out loud so we could see the emotions on his face, but it is heartfelt. He is currently the victim of many online jokes, but that's to be expected. What he still needs to explain, along with the University, is the "meetings" he apparently had with this girlfriend. There are still unanswered questions that are going to need explaining in the coming days. That will truly determine whether he can move past this.


''ESPN must be having a fantastic week."

That's what I said today following the Manti Te'o news that has been posted all over social media. Just this week alone, two big star athletes have fallen from grace. 

The "fall from grace" story is one I'm sadly all too familiar with. Athletes are most commonly put in this category; few have ever recovered.

Here's how the fall from grace works. A person rises to the top, sometimes though not always, in the face of adversity. He or she is admired by almost everyone. Few can say they do not respect this figure. But, one mistake gets out or happens. And in a second reality sets in and almost everyone doesn't like you.

In movies that feature the fall from grace, the main character almost always recovers by apologizing and saying some witty dialogue to lead to a happily ever after. But, in real life, PR can only do so much- we call it the image restoration theory. The theory tries to restore someone or something after a major crisis. But, if done incorrectly, you may never climb out of the fall from grace, or have that image restored.

I witnessed the fall from grace first hand when I attended Penn State University. I witnessed the fall of the greatest college football coach of all-time, Joe Paterno. A moral mistake cost him his job, and he died just two months later. Though he started to climb out of the fall after his sudden death, he fell back in due to the Freeh Report. Many Penn Staters still admire him, but outside, many do not.

Two fall from graces happened within a span of 48 hours this week: Lance Armstrong and Manti Te'o. Armstrong's fall has been on a steady decline over the last year while Te'o's happened just a few hours ago. 

Lance Armstrong is famous for winning 6 consecutive Tour de France's (more than anyone ever) after battling cancer. He founded the LiveStrong Foundation which benefits Prostate Cancer research (and other cancers in general). Athletes all over the world sport those yellow wristbands that started an advocacy trend around the world. But, when certain cyclists started testing positive for performance enhancement drugs, many pointed the fingers at the 6-time winner. He was found guilty and was stripped of his titles though he maintained his innocence. He finally confessed to using the drugs this week, 3 months after being stripped of his titles.

Now, there's the Manti Te'o story. Manti Te'o is a linebacker at Notre Dame University. He had sort of a "Cinderella" story season. He lost his grandmother to cancer and his girlfriend in a serious car accident and sick but still had a fantastic performance in games. The guy won numerous awards and talked to many news stations about overcoming adversity. Today, Notre Dame announced that while the grandmother did die, the girlfriend never existed and was a "hoax."

The public is mixed when it comes to Lance Armstrong. There are many who believe that even though he did use performance enhancers at one point, it should not cloud what he's done. But, there are still those who are disappointed in him, for doing it to coming clean too late.

So, what's the verdict on Lance Armstrong?

Personally, I could care less that he used performance enhancers. Most people who had cancer could still not win 6 Tour de Frances, with or without the drugs. My issue (and this is part of my PR professional opinion as well) is the time it took for him to come clean.

He was first accused of doping in 2005 and it only grew stronger throughout the years. By then, he had not been using the drugs and he most likely ignored the calls because he didn't want to take away from his success since. But, the longer you wait, the worse it becomes. He had a chance after the USDA ruling found him guilty and his titles were stripped. But, he still said he was innocent until just this week. Why wait so long?

I've said before you have 24 hours to respond to a crisis. Armstrong should have, a long time ago, even before the ruling, admitted to using at one point. I personally hate using this example but look at Alex Rodriguez. He admitted to using drugs at one point in his early career and was not punished and was still able to play baseball. Granted, it's a different sport and the drug was legal. But, his credibility has not been lost. Armstrong still would have had issues to deal with, but he probably could have still regained respect. It will be hard for him to climb out of the fall at this point, after his career is over and now that he's left the charity foundation he started. 

So, what about Manti Te'o- can he survive? It's still too early to tell. Not much is known about this whole "girlfriend hoax" story. Notre Dame has said that Manti himself was the victim; that this was an online relationship. Unfortunately, the presentation of the hoax has not been presented well at all by the university. People did not realize that this was never a real relationship outside a computer. The facts are confusing and do not make much sense. Manti Te'o definitely can survive this fall if within 24 hours, he responds with the whole truth in as sympathetic of a way as possible. 

The real fall will probably be with Notre Dame, which is undergoing scrutiny for hiring a firm to investigate the Manti Te'o story but not the alleged rapes by football players that resulted in a female student's death. The story is still developing and it's hard to tell what will happen in the days to come.

My advice to Manti would be to release a statement that he reads himself admitting to the hoax and telling the story truthfully while tearing up, occasionally. If what Notre Dame is saying is indeed true, he will be okay.

But, you need to be aware of the "fall from grace." Joe Paterno may never climb out of it, same with Lance Armstrong. Hey, how's Tiger Woods doing these days?

Manti might want to seek advice from one survivor of the fall- Michael Vick. He abused dogs by starting a dog fighting ring, went to jail, and made it back to the NFL winning the Comeback Player of the Year award and becoming an advocate for animals and children. Not everyone has earned his respect back, but many have.

The Fall from grace is not something you ever want to be a part of. Image Restoration is very difficult to achieve when you have such little time to do it. My school, Penn State, has been actively working on the image restoration theory since the scandal fallout more than a year ago. Although it's starting to finally work, there are still bugs needed to be fixed.

My final advice: Get the best PR guru out there immediately- you will need him or her stat.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

It's amazing how differently things turn out

I remember one of my assignments senior year of high school was to write an epiphany paper. I don't really remember what mine was about, I know it was very philosophical since graduation was two weeks away at this point. Why I bring this paper up is because now, I am having epiphanies of my own as of late.

I'm 22 years old now, will be 23 in a couple of months. Especially now that I'm entering the "real world," I've been thinking about how I ended up here at this moment and thinking about the kind of person I thought I would be right now. Is my life better than I thought it would be? Worse? In between? Well, let's go through it shall we?

I think the first career I envisioned myself in was working for Disney. When I was 7, I came to Disney for the first time. One thing that really caught my attention was the tour of the Animation Studios at the then-MGM Studios (now Hollywood Studios). Seeing all the animators drawing, I thought, "That's awesome!" I really wanted to be an animator. 

Problem was, I couldn't really draw and my attention span was extremely short. So, the animator thing was definitely not going to happen. 

The girls I made friends with in elementary school and I decided we wanted to go further. I really wanted to be famous when I was little. First, we wanted to be singers. Then, actors. Hollywood stars, whatever. I even started writing scripts once I got into 5th grade. They weren't good, but they were a start. I wanted to work in Hollywood doing something amazing. I loved to entertain and dreamed of getting the Academy Award for... something.

My friends and I dreamed of being 22 and famous. Rich, with fancy cars and our own planes so we could go to Disney World whenever we wanted.

Well, I'm 22 now. I'm not world-famous, I'm not rich (the exact opposite). I have a somewhat fancy car now but not my own plane. But, I can go to Disney World whenever I want. So that's a win.

After I got my dog, I really wanted to become a veterinarian  I saw how they took care of Kahlua after she got really sick and nearly died. But, I also realized they also have the wonderful privilege of euthanize pets. That was not okay with me. After I went to the Florida Keys and swam with dolphins, I really wanted to become a dolphin trainer. Realizing they make nix to no money, I switched it up to marine biologist. But, not being very good at science nor interested changed that quickly. 

Now, once high school came, I went back to my entertainment phase. Acting I thought would be my calling but I realized that it was not. I liked being more of a behind-the-scenes girl. I really started writing a lot and dabbling in photography.

Everything changed on June 4, 2007 though. Watching your house burn down does things to you. I became very depressed and independent (in not a good way). I started writing a lot more. I realized that communication was my calling that summer. I wrote an op/ed for my school newspaper that I got a lot of praise for. I did extremely well on the English and Writing portions of my SATs. And AP English writing assignments were a piece of cake. I decided I wanted to go to college for communication (mainly journalism) so I could write more. 

Penn State ended up being that school I chose. I eventually realized that journalism wasn't exactly what I wanted, but PR was. I chose PR mainly because the economic downturn wasn't looking too hot for journalists. But, PR was even broader and could lead me in many more directions.

I was even happier with that decision after the Sandusky fallout at the end of 2011. Us students were trying to do our own PR. The image of our school had fallen and we knew it was up to us to bring it back up. And I think we've been pretty successful with that (can't say the same for the administration but it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks). The Sandusky scandal helped me grow up and learn what a true PR girl should be. 

So, do you think 7-year old me is happy with the 22-year old me? I'm pretty sure she's happy I'm working at Disney. I think she's also happy I'm single. Probably is wondering why the heck I didn't move to California, why I'm addicted to my phone and what a sorority is. I know she hates that I'm not rich and is wondering why I'm not BFFs with the same people as before.

But when you grow up, things change. You change. I'm a very strong person now because of what I've witnessed and gone through in my life. I have had incredible experiences and I'm thankful for almost every person I've met. Is my life perfect? Heck no; there are things I need to work on.

My future goals are to get a full-time job but definitely stay with Disney. I still need to learn how to scuba and surf. I want to get a dog. I really need to quit coke (the liquid kind). I need to make money. I want to be important enough that I get twitter verified. And I want to be a leader in autism awareness, the fight against pediatric cancer, marriage equality and limiting gun violence. There's so much of my life still to live.

And to tell you the truth, even though I didn't expect myself to be right here, right now, I'm totally okay with where I am and very happy with the person I've become.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

"We've been through this too many times"- a personal reflection

I've written and rewritten this post a dozen times already. It's difficult to find the words to say after a tragedy like yesterday.

I didn't know any of the children or adults murdered yesterday. I know someone who did, but personally I didn't. And yet, I mourned with the nation yesterday and tears flowed out of my eyes as I watched our President address the nation. Every single person had the same thoughts cross their minds: How could something like this happen?

The President said yesterday, "As a nation, we have been through this too many times." He's right. I remember Columbine, even though I was only 9 years old. I didn't understand and was so confused. And even 5 years ago with Virginia Tech I was confused. Although I understood what had happened more than I did at the age of 9, it still confused me. Now, I'm 22 years old and I still don't understand. Why would someone do this?

Gun control has always been an ongoing battle in this country. The arguments heated up again after the tragedy at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado (a place not too far from Columbine). But, they have intensified to the extreme after 20 children under the age of 10 and 6 educators were killed yesterday. 

Gun control is an issue. More people in the United States have died due to gun violence than people in the entire world outside the US combined. The facts don't lie- there is a problem in this country. The fights will be never-ending and when the government makes a decision on it, there will still be fights. Mental illness will also be addressed more so than ever before. Many of the mass shootings our country has endured have been as a result of mental illness. It's something we cannot ignore. I am not saying that people with mental illness are poised to do bad things like the gunman did yesterday. But, if we ignore the signs and don't help our friends get treatment, they can further hurt themselves. We as a country need to help those with mental illness and learn about the signs to help them heal.

I don't know what the future holds, but all we can do now is come together as a nation and mourn. Mourn those beautiful lives who were lost and the heroes who died yesterday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut  And help our country heal together and move forward. Truth is, the world will never be the same anymore after the events of yesterday.

Rest in peace to those 26 lives taken too soon yesterday. It's so sad when we are so close to a holiday that celebrates life and peace.

There's one Christmas song that has been sung by many. And I'm going to leave you with that song, here sang by Jack Johnson- "Someday at Christmas"