Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The times I wish I didn't wish away...

For the next few months, most of my blogs will probably reflect the end of my latest chapter of life -- my college years. As much as I whined about it, wished it over, and said I hated it, now I find myself hanging onto it as much as I can. I want to attend every bar, I want to hit every drink special. I want to do everything I possibly can in the next 2 months, because all of a sudden what I thought of as a "timeless" journey is running low on time. In roughly two months, I'm out of State College, I'm done with school, I'm finally entering adulthood.

This aching in my chest is really making me think: Why did I spend so much time wishing my life away? I know my life is far from over; some would even argue it is just beginning. But when I think back to all the times I wished away too soon... here's what I come up with.

- Driving lessons with Dad: I can remember one time so clearly. My dad was teaching me how to parallel park, and we drove around West Scranton for what seemed like eternity to me. All I could think about was how much I wanted to hang out with my boyfriend, and at the time all I thought my dad could think about was how badly I lined up the car to park it. While I can't confirm what my dad really was thinking, all I know is this: After probably about a half hour, I turned to my dad and said, "I really just want to go out, Dad. I don't want to practice anymore." He just said, "Well, if you think you're ready..." It turns out I passed my test. At the time, I could not wait to get away from my parents, to be out on my own, to drive without supervision. But, sometimes, I think back to those days and wish I'd just spent a little more time with my dad learning how to drive.

- Sick days with Grandma and Grandpa: My grandparents lived across the street from me my whole life, so when I was sick, I usually became their responsibility while my parents worked. I loved my grandmother, but I hated being sick. At the time, my grandfather was the person that made me eat those awful-tasting cough drops. One time I threw up on the couch and made everyone miserable. But man, if I could get those days back. My grandmother has now passed, and to get another day -- even if it's a sick day -- would be more than okay in my book. Even just to have another day eating awful tasting cough drops with my grandfather -- it would mean I was young again. I certainly love my independence, but who doesn't miss a day at Grandma and Grandpa's house?

- Senior Year: Of high school. And yes, I mean it. If you read It Gets Better (a story about bullying) you may not believe it. I spent so much time wishing myself away from the drama, telling my parents I couldn't wait to get out of that school, and picking out my dorm room decorations for the following year, that I forgot to look around. I wish I could go back and tell myself that I'll never have an environment again where teachers actually know my name and care. Some of my best friends will soon live hours away. I'll never be apart of a sport I loved so much again; never be a class officer with my never-expiring hall pass. I'll never have the simplicity of coming home from school, emptying the dishwasher, and eating dinner with my parents night after night. I HATED it at the time; I thought my parents were ruining my life, chores were a wasted of time, and swim practice was too much work. But now I know differently.

- Being underage: I can't lie; I love myself some beer. I wish I could say I was into a beverage with less calories, but I can still remember the first time I drank a beer. The freedom of being able to go out to the bars is fun, but not nearly as fun as it was to sneak around and do something you weren't supposed to. The excitement is gone, it's just too easy now. In high school, you had to find somewhere to get beer, than you had to find somewhere to drink it, and if all the plans came together you knew you were in for a perfect night.

- Growing Up. Period.: I just have an overall sense that I could not wait to "grow up." When I was 5, I couldn't wait to grow up and go to kindergarten. When I was in elementary school, I couldn't wait to get to middle school. Then it turned into high school, and soon it was college. Throughout college, I couldn't wait to get a job. That brings me here. It's great to say I've had so many things to be excited for in life, I just wish I didn't spend so much time looking for my next big leap; I should have just enjoyed my stay.

Next year, I'll be in Miami for one short year. I'm sure I'll complain about the long days of work, missing my boyfriend and how expensive a plane ticket is to see my parents. Judging by how fast these last four years went, I'm guessing next year will be over before I know it. This time, I'm going to try to look around.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Though wonderful, THON could use improvements

Now that a few days have passed, and I have gotten to bask in all the post-$10.6 million dollar glory THON brought upon us, it is time to get down to the nitty-gritty. There's no doubt that THON is wonderful -- the hard work and dedication that I have seen throughout the last four years is enough to make me believe anything is possible. The smiles I see on the THON kids that come to the BJC make me feel better than anything in the entire world. Crying side by side with people you've become so close with during the last six months creates a bond like no other. So, THON really has changed me and made me realize what is important in life. The hard work and effort I've put in is nothing compared to chemotherapy the kids go through and I know that.

With that being said, I believe there are somethings that should be re-evaluated in order to make such a big operation run more smoothly. I understand that no organization or event as big as THON will ever be perfect, however, there are somethings that I feel could be changed, but for some reason cause problems year after year.

I'll start by saying that I have only ever been on a committee, I have not held any leadership position as far as THON goes. Therefore, I may have an inaccurate picture of what is really happening. These "changes" I'm suggesting are only from my own point of view as a committee member.

I understand how much work captains put towards THON to make it a success. Their leadership and hard-work does not go unnoticed. It is even more amazing that they complete difficult tasks under little sleep -- captains usually get two 4-hour sleep shifts during THON weekend. Those shifts still happen at the BJC, so you can imagine how hard it is to actually fall asleep. Though it's really cool to be able to see what they accomplished while "running on E," by 10 p.m. on Sunday night, it starts to make me wonder. I have been on OPP, which is the committee responsible for setting up the BJC and cleaning it up afterwards. Our captains usually have to be at the BJC at 4 a.m. on Friday, and stay there until tear down is completed Sunday night (this year it took them until 1:30 a.m.)

It seems to me that things could run much more smoothly if the people in charge were well rested. By this time on Sunday, they've been overloaded with loud music, stress, and constant flows of people on and off the floor, and that's not even mentioning the sleep deprivation. I was tired, and I got to go home and sleep. It just doesn't seem logical to me that people who are in charge of running such a successful and huge event do not get the chance to take care of themselves properly. There are more than enough captains - -and if not, enough people who can carry out the job -- that the people in charge of THON should be able to take some time off and rest properly. It may make things run more smoothly during tough hours when the BJC staff are setting their standards ridiculously high.

If you have ever been a part of THON, or know anyone that has, you probably have an idea that Rules and Regulations is the committee everyone hates. Since they are in charge of keeping order in the BJC, they are usually the ones to point out what you are doing wrong -- hence, the dislike. My roommate was on R&R and after talking to her I understood that their shifts were really long -- usually 6 hours on and only 4 hours off all weekend. So along with being exhausted, they also had the mentally difficult task of yelling at people, which isn't exactly easy. However, for things to run smoothly, it needs to be done.

That being said, sometimes our committee didn't know they were standing in the wrong hallway, or exiting through the wrong doors. I felt that their approach was way too rude -- many times I could have kindly been told I was in the wrong spot instead of having to deal with the nasty wrath of a R&R member. Being yelled at just made me want to defy everything they said instead of cooperating.

When it comes to break down on Sunday night -- we get there at 4 p.m. and do not leave until usually about 11 p.m. During that time, there is no food available at the BJC. This year, some of the tasks were outside in 25 degree weather, and committee members did not have access to their coats. Towards the end the bathrooms were even off-limits. I am 100% willing to do the shitty job -- cleaning up after everyone is already home in bed. But when I don't have access to my jacket -- even after asking 3 times for it -- I start to get a little agitated. The thing is, committee members want to help, but when they feel as though they are not being heard on things such as having a bathroom and completing outside tasks in shorts and a t-shirt, it makes it ten times harder for us to want to cooperate.

Lastly, I completely understand that to be kind to the dancers (the people who stand for 46 hours with no sleep, no sitting), people should remain standing while in the stands at the BJC. However, I've seen older people get yelled at for sitting after they've been standing for hours. On Sunday, most people get there at 8 a.m. and don't leave until 4 p.m. If you are older, this could be really hard to stay on your feet for (it's difficult for me!). I understand making sure the majority of people don't sit, but when my parents had been standing for four hours and decided to sit for a few minutes, it broke my heart to see them get yelled at. The R&R people weren't even nice about it. The way I see it, the dancers chose to dance. They knew they'd be standing for 46 hours and no one is making them. Like I said, out of courtesy, people should stand while supporting them -- but if an elderly person needs to rest their legs than maybe R&R should pretend they have a heart and turn a blind eye.

If THON is so successful now, imagine what it would be like if people took the time to critique what is working and what is not -- instead of making the same mistakes year after year. Like I stated before, I love THON; it has changed me in so many ways. Allowing the kids a weekend away from Hershey Medical Center is awesome, especially because they so clearly enjoy their time there. I love that we can say we've put millions of dollars towards helping them fight cancer. But every good operation needs some critique.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Dear Pediatric Cancer


Dear Pediatric Cancer, 

                I’m writing you on behalf of the students at Penn State, to officially inform you that we are an extreme threat to your cause. See, us Penn Staters, we like to play fair. So before we knock your feet out from underneath you, we’d like to just give you a warning first. 

The thing is, we’ve been watching you, and we’ve seen how you work. You sweep in and pray off the innocent lives of children (your relatives aren’t so nice either) and threaten to take them away. You’re just so sneaky; sometimes it’s hard to catch. We try not to let you get away with it, but sometimes you do. We’re working up ways to catch you in the future.

It’s not fair that you think you can just come in here and claim lives’ from kids who haven’t experienced anything, yet. It’s not fair that you harm their parents, who just a few short years ago were blessed with a miracle that you’re greedily trying to steal away. It’s not fair that you require such a battle in order to surrender – a battle that leads to hair loss, infection, pain and vomiting. Why do you enjoy seeing little girls lose their hair?

See, these kids have so much potential. They have baseball games they haven’t played; school plays they didn’t star in. They want to play and fight with their siblings; they want to turn 16. They have boyfriends and girlfriends and soul mates waiting for them. They want to get their license; they want to go to prom. They have hopes and wishes and dreams, and you have no right to take that away from them.

They also have parents; parents who found themselves blessed with the kind of miracle only parents can understand. Parents who see futures filled with success, happiness, and love for their sons and daughters. Parents who are hurting, badly, for how can you make them watch their kids battle a fight that most 50-year-olds aren’t strong enough to battle? You truly make me sick.

Well, you may be getting away with it now, but I can assure you millions of people are fighting against you. Thousands of Penn State students are dancing this weekend to kick your ass. We’re going to raise millions of dollars to put towards finding new ways to assure your methods fail. It just goes to show that you can’t steal all the fun – we’re still going to dance. So are the kids you are trying to take away from us. For this weekend, you can’t touch them. Don’t worry, they’re in good hands. 

The problem is, we can’t figure out how to stop you… you seem to powerful. No one stays king forever, though, and I promise you we are going to do everything we can to stop you. So I’d watch out. Take your grimy, greedy grip of life off our amazing children. I assure you, if you don’t, we’ll find a cure and you’ll be gone forever. 

You’ve been warned,
Monica


**THON is the largest student run philanthropy in the world, organized by thousands of Penn State students. To find out more, or to donate, please visit thon.org. This blog is my own and does not reflect the thoughts or feelings of THON. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Day is commercialized, important

Tomorrow brings Valentine's Day, and whether you love it or "hate" it, it's going to be impossible to ignore. I am sure I will see plenty of Facebook statuses with hearts and smiles, and a tenfold more of grumbling, cranky updates. Whoever you are, and whatever your stance is on the holiday, I'm sure you've heard the argument about how Valentine's Day is just a "commercialized holiday made up so jewelry stores, candy shops, and florists can make more money." True? Probably... but that does not mean we should be so quick to write it off.

According to National Geographic, people in the United States were predicted to spend $14.1 billion dollars on Valentine's Day in 2010. So I cannot argue that it is commercialized. However, I will argue that while corporate American seems to be making a great buck off of our personal affection for others, this holiday is important.

It seems only normal to say, "Well if you're in love with a person, everyday should be like Valentine's Day." To that I would reply, "What planet are you living on?"

Anyone who has had any type of serious relationship knows that loving someone is not about making every day feel like Valentine's Day. In fact, some days are spent wondering why you even fall in love in the first place. Relationships are challenging, and when a couple is going through a rough time, sometimes is can be hard to find the "magic" that brought them together in the first place.

Even if a couple is not going through a rough patch, the common hustle and bustle of everyday life can take it's toll. From a college perspective, there's exams, classes, homework, clubs, roommates, etc. Not to mention losing the magic through text messaging, Facebook, Twitter, etc. (Read Jourdan Cole's Don't give your heart away on social media) Personally, I have a 180-mile gap between my love, and that's a huge challenge on its own. At the end of the day, connecting with another person may seem like the last thing on your mind.

So in my opinion, Valentine's Day is doing us a favor. It's giving us a free day to shout our love, spend time together, and remember why we're here in the first place. It doesn't mean you have to spend $300 on a necklace for your girlfriend, or even $15 on chocolate. In fact, Dan and I decided to skip the presents this year due to money restraints. Still, send your girl/guy a homemade card, write them a note explaining why you love them. Even if you "aren't good at that kind of stuff", try to make yourself be. If you are really struggling, Hallmark makes great cards you can get for $4. I know every card I've received from Dan was carefully selected, so even if you didn't make it yourself, it still can help you express how you feel about the other person. It's important that you keep the love there.

Sometimes, if me and Dan have an argument, I make myself write 5 things down that I love about him. Anyone who has been in a fight with their other half knows that in times like this it's hard to find anything you love about the person. But trust me, it really puts things in perspective. It may be hard, but it makes you remember why the challenges are important. Valentine's Day can make you remember that, too.

So why not bite the bullet and give into V-Day? Everyone remembers how exciting it was to get valentines in elementary school -- why wouldn't you want that same excitement with your other half? Like I said, you don't need to put a dent in your bank account just to remind your girlfriend or boyfriend why you're here. But, if you are starting to forget yourself, than this  day gives you a great opportunity to spend some time together and remember.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Phil "Punxsutawney" No-name, Jr.

Imagine this... You wake up one morning famished. It's been so cold and snowy that you haven't gotten to hunt in three days. More concerned with where your next meal is coming from, you leaving your house without even checking the mirror. Suddenly, just after you step outside, bright flashes of blinding lights explode instantaneously around you. After gaining your composure, you realize that these are not bombs like you thought, but rather cameras three times the size of your body. So you run around frantically until you figure out the way back into your home, where you suffer from post traumatic stress disorder until you overcome it a year later -- which brings you to leave your house again. The same thing happens. All you can think is, "Man, my life sucks."

And this, my friends, is how our hero, Punxsutawney Phil feels every February 2nd.

There's no doubt that something as magical as P squared doesn't even need to go outside to know if there is 6 more weeks of winter. In fact, he can save some of his magical powers and just simply point out that WINTER HASN'T EVEN STARTED, YET. But no, year after year, he gets tricked into making these famous appearances that has the whole world wondering. What exactly did that little hog eat to get so freaking good at predicting the weather? I mine as well find it, that way I can become a meteorologist without having attended one class.

My guess? He's not even that magical. In fact, after he gets over his initial PTSD symptoms, he probably laughs his ass off. Those dumb humans are at it again. Maybe next year I'll borrow Harry Potter's invisibility cloak and really throw them for a loop. That way, there will be a shadow but no me, ha! Maybe then they'll think that Fall will make an appearance for the next 6 weeks.

I mentioned this to a few of my 500 Facebook friends this morning... What happens when good ol' Phil dies? Will the world run around in chaos wondering how we'll know which jacket to wear for the next six weeks? Will some of us have frostbitten toes because we wrongfully chose flipflops for spring time instead of Uggs for winter? WHAT WILL WE DO?!

Personally, although the world will be in chaos, I'll be happy because my good pal P Squared will finally get some peace.

Just a side note: I heard he's not even a groundhog...