The Great, the Unfortunate, and the Worst – Challenge Journal #4

Is using the phrase “the good, the bad, and the ugly” with alternative words interesting or just cliche? Maybe a little of both. Oh well.

As graduation approaches and my world will soon be completely new and scary, I feel the need to categorize and segment my feelings into these buckets – the great (yay), unfortunate (ugh), and worst (boo). It helps me to better understand my head space and to more easily identify potential problems. So let’s get to it:

The Great

I just bought a new car (71 miles!!!!!). My dog might be coming to stay with me this weekend (heart eyes). I packed away my winter coat and gloves/hats/scarves for the season. I have my dress(es) for graduation celebrations. I graduate in 10 days!!

The Unfortunate

My new car is still sitting in my parent’s driveway. I’m going to have to take her on a lot of walks. My hands have been cold every morning on my walk to class. I still haven’t found my shoes for graduation. I graduate in 10 days.

The Worst

I’m terrified to drive my new car because I’m afraid that I’ll total it before it reaches 1,000 miles. My dog hates staying with my because I don’t have a yard for her to run around in. I hate cold, dry hands. I still haven’t found my shoes for graduation and I told my mom that I did months ago. Crap, I graduate in just 10 days…

Alas, everything seems to have a good and bad angle. So much for categorization.

Happy writing everyone 🙂

A twinge of project regret – Challenge Journal #3

So it’s April. And that means a few things. First, my last semester as an undergraduate is almost over. Second, I have to start packing my stuff to bring back home (ugh). And third, I am having serious creativity regrets about my capstone project.

I mean, my capstone project is cool, don’t get me wrong. I’ve recently hit a productive patch where I’m working on it at every free opportunity I get because I’m so excited about how far I’ve come from the beginning of the semester. But, also, it could have been like a short video, or a podcast, or a video documentary where I would get to use those more classic creative skills of sound and editing and camera angles and stuff! I guess I’m just wishing I had pushed my medium just a little bit harder and had picked a different, more interactive media than a written article.

And that’s fair, right? I mean, the grass is always greener on the other side. While I’m asking my friends to read over my work for spelling errors, others are worried about editing sound bites and getting the *perfect* contrast on their vlog. I really should count my blessings. But as I hear and get glimpses of other peoples’ projects, I can’t help but wonder if I could have done something just a little cooler!

And yes, I know each project is cool and unique in its own way, and I’ve put in a ton of work and that makes my project uniquely cool to me. But the things that everyone else is doing are just awesome and so creative!

So, as this comes to a close, I’ll just summarize by saying that I’m so impressed with everyone’s work and creativity. And I can’t believe just how different everyone’s projects are turning out to be!

My lack of focus is only slightly alarming – Challenge Journal #2

As I wake up after another annual “spring forward” to some confusion to my phone saying one time and my stove saying another, I can’t help but notice a little blur in my vision. Now, this blur is partially due to the lack of tasks I have accomplished over the past nine days during break despite my ambitious list. But it is also due to that general lack of clarity accompanying long breaks from working on a particular project; i.e. my writing capstone project.

It would be easy to tell myself that it is okay, considering I still have 24 hours until I will be back in class to find my focus. It would be easy to say that this happens to everyone and I will get my focus back soon enough. Hey, it would even be easy to say that it’s fine if it takes me a couple of days because I have other class deadlines on my mind. And while the lazy person in me is telling me to take those thoughts and run with them, I also have a little voice telling me that that isn’t good enough. That I need to actually do something about my lack of focus rather than just let it envelope me.

Now, I wish I had a great solution to this. I really do. I wish I could tell you that I drank some questionable tea and sat in silence for a few hours and my head was suddenly void of the blur and full of clarity. I wish I could tell you that reading over my project so far and looking at all of my research made me excited to get back to school and start working again. But none of those worked. So I decided to sit here and write this very unorganized and rambling journal.

And so far, it really has helped. It has nudged me in the right direction of school and class and project and slightly numbed my thoughts to playing with my dog and watching Criminal Minds for the fourth time. As I am writing this journal, I have to keep stopping to right down little tasks for myself for afterward. Print out syllabus for new class. Find out class room. Fill out monthly planner.

So even though I do have a lack of focus, I’m pretty confident that I’ll be able to get it back. And writing was just what I needed.

The fear of a privileged point of view – Challenge Journal #1

Before coming to the University of Michigan and taking part in some self-awareness exercises, I had not considered myself to have privilege. I mean, I was a female coming from a poor/middle class family and town with no exceptional talents or opportunities growing up. I went to school, played some sports, worked at a fast food place, and had some friends. Middle average at best.

In media today, the word “privilege” is thrown around a lot. It was one of those buzz words I had heard but didn’t really know what it meant, like “sustainable” or “diversification.” I knew “privilege” had negative connotations and did not think it really applied to me because it was not really a part of my world. In my hometown, everyone basically came from the same money and opportunities, so the idea of privilege had never occurred to me.

But now I know that I am privileged: privileged to be able to attend a great university, that my parents love and support my desire to go to college, that I have no major disabilities that would deter me from attending college, that my parents are both working and able and willing to help with my tuition payments, and for so much more. Everyone has their own privileges, whether they acknowledge them or not.

But the point is, I had believed for the most part of my life that I was not privileged. I had carried myself without acknowledging that I had opportunities that others did not. I had spoken my mind and given my opinion without thinking that others may have a different experience and point of view. And the day that I realized this, I vowed to always “check” my privilege before saying anything or writing anything I was not an expert on.

Unfortunately for me, this promise to myself had turned into a little voice in the back of my head every time I went to speak in class on a tough topic or write something of substance.

What do you know about that? You’ve never done any research on it. You don’t even read the newspaper. Who cares about your opinion? 

I wanted to write about something important and have a real, valid opinion, but I was so afraid that what I say would be considered privileged or ignorant that I would stop.

I began to deal with this fear in Gateway last year; for the final project, I chose to do a presentation about sexual assault and sexual violence. Now, even though I have the privilege of never having first-hand experience, I had second-hand experience and was always very interested in the effects on survivors. I wanted to learn and write and teach about something that really mattered to me. But I had that little voice in the back of my head again.

What gives you the right to speak about sexual violence? Why do you care so much about it? It’s way too personal of a subject to be talking about. It’s only going to make actual survivors uncomfortable and resentful toward you. 

I snubbed that nagging little voice by doing a TON of research. I learned about the formal effects (i.e. PTSD, increased anxiety, etc.) as well as the informal effects that they don’t list on websites that actual survivors reported on anonymous forums. I learned about the many branches and trap doors of sexual violence and how just recently it is becoming normalized to talk about. I learned that, even with my privileged opinion, I can still do good by continuing the conversation and teaching others what it is all about and why it should be able to be talked about.

Although I cannot “solve” the fear of others viewing my point of view as privileged or ignorant, I can do research and learn as much that I can and then acknowledge my privilege. Acknowledge that what I am saying may not be immersed in experience and first-hand knowledge, but it is still an informed opinion worth speaking.

Challenge Blog Four: Fighting with Technology

This week’s challenge came as I was sitting down to edit my first podcast. At the start of this project, I chose to do a podcast series, because it seemed like the best fit for my project, but I also thought it would be relatively easy to figure out the recording, transcribing, and editing process. I was very wrong. After conducting my first few interviews, I just kept telling myself that I’d sit down and edit the recordings in a couple of hours and that it would be easy. Again, I was very wrong. Once I finally sat down to edit my first interview it dawned on me that the editing process wasn’t just converting a file to an mp3 and uploading it to my website.

I needed to listen to each interview (ranging from 30-40 minutes a piece) and carefully mark the parts I wanted to include by the exact seconds in order to edit them out later. Then I had to use iMovie to actually make these cuts, which of course first required me to learn how to use the program. This alone was an hour detour, because I’m technologically challenged. Now I understand how my mom feels when she can’t figure out how to send a picture through iMessage. It should be easy and in fact it is, but when you have no clue where to start, you tire quickly of searching aimlessly for the answer.

After I had a basic understanding of iMovie, I was able to cut and edit my podcast relatively easily. It was a different challenge figuring out how to transition from one clip to another in a way that didn’t sound awkward or choppy, however after a couple of hours I had something I was happy enough with. Something I’ve struggled with during this project is being ok with things turning out differently than I expected. I knew a podcast would be a challenge in itself, but the amount of time it’s taken to complete just one episode has been a wakeup call. Perfection isn’t the goal. The goal is to finish what I started.

Challenge Blog Three: Changing Gears

It was nearing 11pm. I was tired, still had an exam to study for and a paper to write, but I wanted to finish my annotated bibliography. It was a struggle. To make matters more complicated, I started questioning the usefulness of some of my sources. One in particular didn’t really seem like a modal source (as I had labeled it) and it wasn’t relevant to my project at all, except that it was an ethnographic study (which I’m only loosely using as a technique), so I took a step back and spent some time brainstorming different ways I could present my final project.

Without realizing it at the time, I was using a variation of Tharp’s 20-question technique to come up with a better idea. Eventually I had something. This past summer I went on a few road trips during which I listened to a variety of podcasts, one of which was S-town. Once I had this seedling, I visited the homepage and felt a dozen light bulbs going off in my head. This was it! This is how I would convey my ideas to others. This small discovery led to a slew of new research leads. One after the other, the majority of my compiled sources were cut from the list and replaced by more relevant and useful ones until I had a list that I actually wanted to use as references. What I thought would take me an hour ended up taking me three, but it was worth it.

For the first time since the start of the semester, I felt like I was in a groove instead of a rut. I was excited to reach out to those I wanted to interview and felt motivated to make progress. Unfortunately this groove came just a few days before winter break, by which point I was brain dead. Now, having returned back to school, I feel like I’ve lost that pre-break motivation that was so inspiring, but hopefully the first week sluggishness will wear off and I can jump back into my project with the enthusiasm I experienced briefly before.

From past experience—whether it be essay writing or a semester long project—I have found that sometimes it’s up to me if I want to shed the sluggishness. It’s too easy to fall into a pattern of laziness when the end is near. However, this is the time I really need to dig in. What has worked well for me in the past is setting aside a day (usually on weekends when I don’t have class to worry about) dedicated solely to whatever it is I want to get done. Having a whole day that I know ahead of time is the time I have to get things done, helps to put me in the right frame of mind.