What a byline does for the ego

At what moment does an aspiring writer actually become a writer? I feel like I’m always quick to indicate my hopes of becoming a writer rather than proudly announcing, “I AM WRITER. HEAR ME… type.” Or, of course, I refer to myself as a blogger with good grammar and call it a day.

But now, darn it, I am a writer. Because my first feature was published today at Bmore Media. And it’s slightly intoxicating to see my own name under the headline. It feels kinda like seeing my name in lights, except smaller and without the lights.

It’s sort of fitting that my first article with Bmore Media is about failure. When I met with Bmore Media’s editor, Neal, he said to me, “I don’t know why, but I trust you to do a good job with this.” I don’t know why he trusted me, either. I’m fresh out of college, I’ve never published anything aside from this blog and generic, get-paid-half-a-cent-per-article articles. So while I did have plenty of writing samples, I had no prior experience with real journalism. At various points leading up to my deadline, I felt failure breathing down my neck.

But after I got my first crappy draft out of the way, I decided to take a new approach and– go figure– have fun with it. Writing is supposed to be something I enjoy. God knows I don’t get paid to write this blog, so why do I do it? DINGDINGDING. Because it brings me joy and happiness. That’s when it clicked for me, and finally the editing process started going well.

So when I DIDN’T fail and instead received positive feedback on the piece, I felt that much more rewarded for the hard work I put into it. Now that I’ve had the experience of interviewing several people working on this one project, I’m looking forward to finding inspiration for my next published piece. I even went out and bought myself a voice recorder the other day. Which either means I love the sound of my own voice, or I’m finally going to be a writer. I choose the latter.

Read my article on the Failure Support Group here. And share it with the world!

WTH?!? Wednesdays – When viruses attack

Happy WTH Wednesday, y’all. It’s been a long week since the karaoke vlogring. The night I decided to share my superior singing and “dancing” skills with the world, a virus decided to find my piece of crap computer. Hilarity ensured. I mean insanity.

First, it started with the pop-up ads. WTH. I knew something was wrong, ’cause I haven’t seen pop-up ads since the early 2000s. Then some invisible man with elevator music started telling me about Angelina Jolie’s recent shenanigans with Zion or Shiloh or Orange or whatever her kid’s name is. I was starting to get worried, but it wasn’t till this happened that I knew I was in deep doo-doo:

That’s right. My non-existant wife and children would find out about every mouse click I made unless I did vague things like submit to spyware’s credit card information requirements. Otherwise, every word I typed would be recorded. Well, crap. I guess I can forget about all potential job offers, because this virus will now determine the outcome of my life. At least, that’s how it made things seem.

My feelings of hysteria only intensified when I made a phone call to the Geek Squad, who wanted to charge me at least $350 to recover my hard drive and protect my computer. WTH. Eff. That. Sheeit. It’s the HOLIDAY SEASON for God’s/Jesus’/Buddha’s/Beiber’s sake. Have some sympathy, guys. I gots presents to buy. The worst part was that the three-year warranty I bought at Best Buy that would protect the computer from EVERYTHING–including frat party beer spills, my god– expired last month. As in, the month before this one right hurr. I’ve done a lot for good karma recently, but apparently, it still hates me. So, I didn’t know what to do. I still had two final papers due before I could graduate from the school thing forever. At least until I feel I have no other choice but to enroll in graduate school– a whole other feat in and of itself. But finally, I found a computer genius who could fix my computer for 200% less than the other guys.

Long story short, everything’s cool, yo. My computer’s good for now– at least until I decide that no PC is worth it and I’d rather spend $2,000 on a Mac than increments of a couple hundred dollars every year to recover plain ole PC documents. I know it’ll be worth it in the end to own a Mac, but shoot– there’s too much to save up for: new computers, trips to Europe, adult diapers. I’m already looking forward to the time when I’ll be able to revel in my adult diaperhood. Yum?

So even though it’s now technically Thursday (shut UP!), I say WTH to another week’s worth of technological-related WTH?!? Wednesdays. But I also say one hell of a congrats to me– I am officially a college graduate, having accomplished such a feat in 3 1/2 years. I am gloating, right here right now. Now I plan on drinking generous amounts of things and casually browsing Craigslist for freelance opportunites. This is adulthood.

WTH?!?

From Book Fest to Beer Fest: 21 and then some

While usually long periods of time in between posts are due to my extreme laziness, debauchery or simply having nothing worthy to say, I have a decent excuse this week: I am newly 21.

Huzzah! Kudos! or Mad propz! you shout. Yes, this is indeed thrilling. A whole new world of opportunities is at my feet. New doors are opening to me– mostly the doors of bars and liquor stores, and I’m okay with that. I’m glad to finally be rid of the same ID I’ve been carrying around since I was 16, and I’m glad my other ID can go in a scrapbook. (I recently gave my old wallet to my youngest sister, forgetting this very important card was still lodged inside. “Cassie,” sister asks, “you used to live in Tennessee?” “…No, give that back.”)

Now, I can drink the same drinks I’ve been drinking for years without feeling sneaky, guilty or paranoid. Plus, I won’t have to rub the top layer of skin off my hands while trying to remove unnecessarily large Sharpie “X”es off my hands. Let the good times roll.

Since my birthday was on a Sunday, John took me out for an incredible dinner late Saturday night at a restaurant called Tio Pepe’s in Baltimore. Oh mah gah, was it good. We ate artichoke hearts drizzled with heaven sauce as an appetizer, then moved onto lobster/crab/shrimp/oyster/chicken/sausage-filled paella while drinking a buzz-inducing amount of Sangria throughout. Later, I had the opportunity to bar hop starting at midnight and only drunkenly embarrassed myself once when I truly believed the elevator would totally open for me if I just walked right into it.

It was a great night, and it seemed my birthday could only get better. Sunday, John and I went to the first annual Baltimore Beer Festival, which was located at the Canton Waterfront Park. I got my first “over 21” wristband and a teeny beer mug which I could refill as much as my heart or liver desired. Wearing my brand new (pink!) Ravens jersey from someone who obviously reads my blog, I pranced around happily from vendor to vendor during what was the most gorgeous day of the season.

But as we left the festival, a (literally) sobering text brought news of a family member in the hospital. It was news that brought us back to reality, putting us face-to-face with a stinging reminder of human mortality and vulnerability. We spent much of the next couple of days pacing around in waiting rooms or elsewhere, hoping to hear good news. Finally, we did. And then, after what seemed like a forever-long wait, everything was going to be fine, and we could sigh a huge sigh of relief.

This event served as a reminder of the things that are most important to me that have nothing to do with beer or partying. And it certainly makes me take the people I love less for granted. There’s nothing like a surprise hospital visit to make you reevaluate your priorities.

Luckily, I get to write about this incident with only positive news. Aside from my birthday, there are even better things to celebrate now that everyone is safe and healthy. In the meantime, I get to enjoy my week off from some of my most time-consuming responsibilities and buy some beer just for the heck of it.

But if I don’t start getting carded soon, I’m seriously going to be mad that I didn’t try this stuff more often as an underager.

Don’t “judge” me

I mentioned in my last blog post that I earned an internship with Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts. That’s a crazy-long name, and family and friends are constantly asking me to repeat this name because they can’t remember it, so I usually give a slightly exasperated sigh before repeating BALTIMOREOFFICEOFPROMOTIONANDTHEARTS. I figure I’ll give each person three freebies, and from there on out I’m just going to call it BOPA and tell them they can Google it if they don’t remember what it stands for.

Long name aside, I am really excited about my internship with BOPA. I’m also really relieved my worries can finally be put to rest, because finding an internship compatible with my interests and school standards (City Paper, as credible and established as it is, didn’t make the cut for school) took all spring and summer of intensive searching, corresponding, and coordinating. My dedication to this alone proves my being worthy of BOPA, in my opinion. That, and their timing was perfect, so I believe it was meant to be. So congrats, BOPA! You’ve made the right choice!

In case you don’t know what it is I do, I am a Mass Communication major. This major is the umbrella to journalism, advertising, and public relations—my specialty. I think, for the most part, this has been a good fit for me. Despite my love for writing, I ended up deciding against journalism as a major and instead went with a creative writing minor to satisfy my need to write. Unfortunately, it seems a lot of people take me considerably less seriously when they learn that public relations is my major.

Example: when I went to court in June for a speeding ticket I had received a couple months prior (not guilty, BOPA, I swear), I watched the judge, clearly nearing retirement and just having a little bit of fun until that time came, question a number of defendants. Most people were nervous, irritated or downright guilty looking. Still, the judge was good-hearted, giving some folks a bit of a hard time just for kicks, and he let everyone get away without points on their licenses, regardless of their uber-lame excuses for speeding. (For the record, “I was driving down a hill” is a totally unoriginal excuse, and the judge hears it 0293482045 times a day.)

There were a couple of girls around my age who were still in school, and the judge asked them what they studied. One girl replied with “biology,” and another replied with something equally as impressive. Botany or law or something, I don’t know. After hearing these other students talking to the impressed judge, I knew exactly what was coming for me. “He’s going to ask me what my major is,” I whispered to my dad, who was there for moral support, “and he’s not going to take me seriously.”

And what did that judge exclaim to a clearly-anxious Cassie after asking what my major was? “That’s the easiest major in the world!” Thanks. Can I have my points taken off now? “Kids choose that major just so they can party!” That’s great. But can you please stop judging me for my major? Ah. Yes. You’re a judge. Crap.

I know the term “public relations” has certain implications and is often portrayed in TV or film as soulless work that any dingbat could do. And, truth be told, I do see many people in my major who don’t seem to take their work seriously—at least not as seriously as they take their hair-straightening rituals. Still, public relations in the real world is not how it seems for the most part, and it requires savvy skills and the willingness to work really hard. Also, if you can’t write a coherent sentence… well, don’t bother.

As it turned out, the judge that afternoon was nice enough and even went on to tell about his own son who was, in fact, a Mass Communication major who blew off his schoolwork and partied until he flunked out. (Meanwhile, during the judge’s long story, I’m shaking in my court-appropriate heels and trying to decide when exactly I should smile, nod, laugh, say “uh-huh” and the likes.) Afterwards, I managed to hold my head high leaving the stand while trying not to wonder what the other people in the courtroom waiting for their own sentences thought of me, just based on looks and major alone.

Overall, this episode served as even more reinforcement that I will have to constantly prove myself to be just as worthy, if not moreso, as any other soon-to-be college grad, which will mean working twice as hard, especially since I don’t go to some fancy $40,000-a-year school that looks awesome on a resume. I’ve had some great teachers at my school, and I think my writing skills and desire to learn have both improved and increased respectively since freshman year, but it’s not a school that causes people’s eyes to widen, heads nodding with a combination of surprise and approval, when you tell them you go there. But hey, when they’re drowning in $200,000 worth of student loans 20 years down the road, I’ll be debt-free. Who’s the smarty-pants now?

Luckily, this internship with BOPA will be the perfect opportunity to prove just how smart, talented and driven I really am. My sense of humor may occasionally be defined as immature (I’m a sucker for Michael Scott’s “that’s what she said” jokes), but I’m actually quite mature in all other facets. And, I’ll say it, I’m also damn smart.

So, starting tomorrow, I’ll be giving BOPA everything I’ve got. They’re a really great organization just based on what I know so far, and if the women I interviewed with are any indication of the rest of the people there, I can already tell it’s friendly and as non-threatening of an environment as a place can be to a new intern. BOPA is the organization that presents Artscape, which I attended a few weeks ago and mentioned in a recent post, and I’m excited to help put on the Baltimore Book Festival which will take place at the end of September and essentially be my project for the coming weeks.

Wish me luck and hope I don’t do something to embarrass myself on the first day like sneeze or fall at an inopportune time. That would surely leave a lasting impression… on my face.

Business casual-ing it for my first day of WORK. Photo credit: Elsbeth (little sister)

You and me– let’s go.

I am not a violent person. I might scream expletives at drivers who cut me off (everybody does), and I might occasionally get the urge to throw stupid people under a not-so-figurative bus (survival of the fittest!), but I am not a violent person. Consequently, I feel as if I’ve missed out on a key experience in life. A rite of passage, if you will.

That would be the fact that I’ve never been in a fight. Never ever never. Not even kind of. Well… maybe that one ti– Nope. Never.

Not to say that everybody has, but I must say I feel deprived and as if I am in the minority. Looking back over the years, I’ve certainly had opportunities to initiate fights, including those many times when middle school skankities made fun of my heinous outfit or when that one boy at the freakin’ McDonald’s playground of all places pulled my hair. Rather than combining fist with face, I sat and cried instead.

Let it be said that I am overly-sensitive and have chicken arms.

Pictured (center) here, I don’t particularly look badass, though I’m clearly trying. The stance, the polka dots, the… mismatched socks? No, I don’t think I was ever a real threat to anybody. I did get in a few verbal fights with my cousin (left) growing up, and the dissatisfied girl on the right once pushed my head against the school bus window because I managed to get the window seat (reserved seating), but we’re Facebook friends now and quite pleasant with one another.

In reality, there have been very few times in my life when I truly felt inspired to even ponder the actual possibility of throwing a punch at some deserving being. But I think I made the right call when I DIDN’T punch the 50-year-old, 250 pound Italian poop monger who once yelled at me for NOT SITTING DOWN at a Bon Jovi concert. He and his wife called me an asshole (I was 16 years old, by the way) when I politely said I didn’t want to sit down (when really I wanted to say, “This is not a Tom Jones concert, so no, I won’t sit down”) and then proceeded to kick my chair for awhile. Mind you, these were perfectly able-bodied individuals, despite their unfortunate looks. Instead of getting physical, I unloaded a few expletives (much to the shock of me), and they got the point and left early before my dad could give the guy the pounding he deserved.

I think that’s the closest to a fist fight I ever got.

It’s things like that which anger me the most– extreme unfairness, complete absurdity, and really mean people. Put me face-to-face with one of these scenarios and take note of my blood pressure, because something special and rare comes over me that brings out whatever violent tendencies I do have. This is still a somewhat recent development thanks to years of my being way too introverted and nonconfrontational. I’ve got a ways to go, but at least I’ve developed a backbone.

Really, though, I’ve got a reputation to maintain and a face to preserve. I don’t need to get in a fight to fulfill my life’s goals. Maybe when I’m old I’ll cross off what’s left on my yet-to-be-written bucket list, start a fight and blame it on senility. Being old must have some perks.

Until then, I’ll practice my angry eyes in the mirror.