My project life cycle: all of the feels #mixer

While I was working at AIG this summer, I was introduced to a little thing called the project life cycle. It loosely looks like the following: initiate, planning, executing, monitoring, and controlling. If I were to describe my project/portfolio it looks more like this: initiate, planning, executing, sadness, excitement, anger, and then panic. Then it basically cycles around the last four phases over and over again.

All jokes aside, there is a lot between now and graduation, and I’ve definitely got my work cut out for me. Granted, my e-portfolio isn’t what I’m most concerned about because I’m quite excited about putting it together, making it look nice, polishing it, etc. I could spend hours on the computer just messing with the portfolio. The main issue that I’m having is working through my project to get it to a point where it actually constitutes a capstone project.

To give you a brief intro, I’m looking at the issues and concerns that college-aged women have when it comes to their professional lives and appearances and how seven women deal with that. I’m basically trying to determine what small things men and women can do every day to help mitigate for those issues. So I’m essentially just panicking about bringing this project into reality. I’ve got a bunch of wonderful material to work with, but it’s a matter of determining how to actually present that material.

Learning Adobe Illustrator

At the age of 10, my parents bought me PaintShop Pro 8 after I annoyed them with my constant begging. I loved all things web design and I wanted to be able to create beautiful original graphics for my kiddie web sites and blogs. Needless to say, PaintShop Pro is complicated and it’s not exactly made for 10-year-olds BUT I did manage to create some fun word graphics.

What I’d like to learn now is Adobe Illustrator. It’s much more user friendly from what I hear. I’m extraordinarily particular when it comes to how things look as I create a blog or website, so this will be the perfect tool for me to alter and create what I would like to for my capstone project website. There are two things that I’d like to do with this: 1. Create original graphics to use on the website 2. Edit photographs that I take for the project.

I plan on using Wix as my website platform, so I’d like to take full advantage of its customizability. Here are some examples of websites that I’d really like to emulate:

1. The Girl Effect – The design for this one is simple but effective. It looks like they just slap a bunch of triangles on the page, but look closer. The triangles have unique qualities and they’re placed just so.

2. The Guardian’s NSA Files – Again, this one is simple but they do a great job of switching up the kinds of graphic design that they use on the page to draw in the viewer

3. The 2014 Gates Annual Letter – This is similar to the link above, but it uses more high quality photographs and infographics.

Let’s get Creative

Right now my writing is going through another transition phase. This has happened several times in the past as I moved from elementary to middle school, middle school to high school, and then high school to college. Now, I’m about to head off into the “real” world and I know that my writing is about to undergo a major change, just like I am. In the past 21 years of my life, writing was always compulsory. I did do some small creative projects on the side, but the majority of my written work was produced within the controlled sphere of a classroom.

As I move forward, I know that I’m still going to write on the job, no matter what industry I find myself in. The beauty of having an actual job though is that my work generally ends when I’m off the clock (though on the clock could mean 12 hours). After work, my pursuits are up to me and I make choices on how to spend my free time. As a university student, it’s difficult to balance things like working out and reading for pleasure with the demands of schoolwork. I’m looking forward to having the time for the things that I enjoy doing, though I know I’m going to miss this place.

It’s always been a goal of mine to write a fiction novel. It’s not something I’ve had time to work on in the past, and I’m extremely excited to have that opportunity in the future. I haven’t written fiction since 9th grade, so it’s going to be a challenge to pick it back up again. But it doesn’t matter because I love writing fiction and I’m so ready to get creative again.

I really don’t know what to link to, so here’s an image that inspires me while I write.
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Having it All

As I look through the writing I’ve produced at the university, I begin to realize that it’s so varied in topic choice to the point that it’s almost erratic. Here are some examples of past titles of my work: Comparing Happiness in the US and the Scandinavian Countries, Prison Overcrowding: A Matter of the Law, The Girl Effect, and Control Issues: European Integration. It looks like there isn’t a consistent theme and it’s hard to trace a visible pattern between all of my essays. What I DID discover, however, is that when I was given the chance to take some liberty on my prompt, I tended to divert to what I was passionate about. Oftentimes, that meant women’s rights, whether that be here in the U.S. or abroad. I believe that a woman’s gender should not ever be the all-encompassing factor for how someone identifies her and that she is so much more than that and should be seen as so.

First it began with a CICS 101 essay: The Girl Effect: how educating women can be the key to guiding a developing economy through the process towards becoming a developed economy

Then there was a Strategy 411 Pecha Kucha presentation: Gender Equality and the Economy: how workforce policies geared towards assisting working mothers can open the economy to new frontiers

Lastly, there’s my final capstone project which will give a voice to seven college-aged women who are so used to being told what THEY should be doing.

In relation to the Writer’s Evolution Essay, I’d like to introduce the fact that it’s quite alright that I’m interested in so many things and that I’ve written about so many topics. Who I am as a writer isn’t defined by my major or what I am, exactly like how I believe a woman isn’t defined by her gender. In the end I believe that a woman CAN have it all, but sometimes to do that she just needs to stick it to the man (no pun intended).

Joss Whedon: The King of Creating Queens

I was nine when I discovered the amazing world of Joss Whedon’s imagination, though I didn’t know it was his work at the time. I watched Disney’s underrated Atlantis: The Lost Empire and it quickly became my second favorite movie (next to Hercules, of course. Have you heard that soundtrack?). The story was all Whedon’s, but this was before he created the cult success that was Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I rediscovered Whedon’s work again as a college student. It began with Avengers and I worked my way backwards through DollhouseFirefly, and Serenity. If you’ve ever watched a Joss Whedon film or TV show, you’ll notice that there’s a recurring theme: strong female characters. The women that he imagines are confident in their abilities, they’re witty, they’re intelligent, and they break every gender role that we know. He goes even further to create equal societies where the men appreciate these female characters and the unique strengths that they possess. For this reason, I truly admire the work that he’s done both inside and out of the entertainment industry.

Whedon gave an interview in which he provided guidelines for getting things done and if there’s anyone I’ll listen to, it’s him. So here are his guidelines:

1. Get specific
2. Get the fun stuff done first, and let the rest fill in instead of working chronologically
3. Reward yourself early and often (give yourself some chocolate for just HAVING the idea)
4. Fill the tanks. In other words, read and watch as much stuff as you can that is outside of your comfort zone. Otherwise, your narrow-mindedness will show
5. Enlist your friends. Have them help you with your project
6. Find someone to give you tough love

Now that is a step-by-step guide for getting stuff done if I’ve ever seen one.

So I’m supposed to be funny, intelligent, attractive, AND successful?

Before I get into what my project will be, let me start by showing you some of the messages that my female peers and I receive everyday:

“The women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, rich, or self-employed” – Anne-Marie Slaughter

“Except for one thing…she was not attractive. On a scale of 1 to 10, she should have hung herself. The pear-shape of her body was so pronounced she looked like a nesting doll made of owl pellets.”- Tucker Max

51k-UQOM6IL

It’s absolutely amazing how much material exists that tells young women how we should look, behave, and spend our time. It also seems like no one wants their opinion to be left out on the matter. Our wiser and older female counterparts try to provide us direction in the male-dominated workforce. Others tell us that it’s just not our fault that we aren’t economically equal to men. The media tells us that there’s only one “correct” standard of beauty. A select group of men tell us that we are nothing without our bodies.

What I’d like to know is how do these messages affect the experiences that a young woman has? Not just that, but what does she think about it? How does she act in response to it?

To do this, I’ll collect stories from the six women in my house that took place at some point during their college careers. I explained before that this is what I’ll be doing, but it is no longer purely for entertainment purposes. Instead, I am planning on generating some critical analysis on the stories to understand when outside messages come into play. The point isn’t to understand the sources of the messages, but instead to give a voice to the women to whom those messages are directed.

What’s it like to live with six crazies?

Yes, I’m referring to the residents of my house. But don’t worry, they’re not that crazy. They’re just quirky and I love them for it. So much so that my semester long project is going to be all about them and their antics. In fact, my project was inspired by one of my roommates. This evening, I sat on my couch, quite bothered and dejected. I still had no idea what to do for my project. It had to be interesting to me, because I would have to work with it all semester and it had to be bigger than me. I briefly explained my dilemma to my roommate, and she immediately had a wonderful stroke of imagination. She said “well, we keep joking about how we need to make a TV show about what goes on in this house. Why don’t you do that, but just write about it instead?” It was brilliant, and it’s exactly the kind of project I’d enjoy.

I love learning about people. I love people watching, reading about people, hearing stories about people, you name it. I find it all fascinating. For this reason, I read lots of biographies. One particular autobiography, BossyPants by Tina Fey, serves as a sort of inspiration for the way in which I’d like to write my memoir. Tina manages to tell stories in a way that is both humorous and interesting, which I truly admire and would like to emulate in my own writing. If you’ve ever heard Tina speak, it’s even better. For example, in this excerpt Tina manages to discuss her scar and how it effects her life in such a way that is both heartbreaking and funny at the same time. To me, the way in which you tell a story is just as important as the content of the story. This is why I turn to the almighty Tina.

 

YOLO/YALA

It’s 3AM on a particularly foggy night in November of 2012. I’m driving through southern Ohio and I’ve got three other passengers in the van. I’m the only one awake, which makes sense considering the fact that we spent the last three exhausting days competing in a mock trial tournament somewhere in the Northeast. I’m the only one who can keep my eyes open at 3AM, so I’m assigned the late night shift. I’m driving about 40MPH on a 70MPH road because it’s so difficult to see. I have the music on, a cup of coffee, and the air conditioning on high to keep me awake.

It’s such low visibility that I didn’t see it coming at all. Next thing I know, there’s a deer running in front of the car and the van rocks as I hit it. There’s a sickening thud. Everyone  jolts awake, and they’re asking things like “what happened? was that a pothole? is the car okay?” I respond with “well, that was a deer and I’m pulling off at the next exit to make sure the car is okay.” We pull into a gas station. While another team member calls the police to file a report, the other team members and I observe the damage. It’s only a broken headlight, but it still looks somewhat gory. The broken bits of headlight still remaining have a good amount of blood and fur on them and I can’t help but wonder if the deer got away.

Now it’s a particularly sweltering night in August of 2013 and I’m on the balcony of a high rise NYC apartment somewhere in the Upper West Side. I was there with a friend of mine, Patrick*, and his fraternity brother, Ron. Patrick and I had been friends all summer but I had only just met Ron that evening. Anyway, what I remember most is the view, and it was dizzyingly beautiful. High rises lined the whole street and lights lit up the sky. Ron looks out at the building across the street and points at a balcony. He says “see that balcony right there? Some woman was on her first date with this guy and she actually fell off the balcony all the way down to the ground.” I had to ask. “Well, was she okay?” He laughed and just casually said “nahh, she was most definitely dead.” I just stared at him, stunned at his nonchalant attitude towards the poor woman’s death. Ron went on “I mean…imagine being that guy. Go on a first date, and she falls to her death. I’d never go on another date again.”

These are the two stories that first come to mind when I think of those particular periods of my life. Immediately after I realized this, I was utterly horrified. Why was it that I picked out such morbid memories? Am I a complete psychopath? Last time I checked, I’m quite normal as far as normalcy standards go.

Thankfully, there’s another explanation. My greatest fear is death, which is also probably common in the general population. We exercise, wear seat belts, and find religion all in the hopes that we can stop death from happening or that we will continue on afterwards, whatever that may look like. I grapple with the idea that my lifetime is only limited to a mere 80 years, 100 if I do things right. The way I see it, there are two ways to treat death: confront it or avoid it. The only way I can confront it is by writing about it. It’s my truest and most fluid form of communication and writing about it is a lot less daunting than talking about it. On the other hand, I also use escapism as a way to avoid it. That’s where reading comes in. I do A LOT of reading. Sci fi and biography are my favorite genres because they seem to be the most potent when it comes to escaping the real world. I have the chance to think about someone else’s life entirely or imagine a place where living forever is a reality.

Of course, I realize the importance of taking action to confront something so difficult like death. So many before me in much more trying situations have done it, so it shouldn’t be so difficult for me. That’s where this last semester of college comes in. It’s a major time for me to consider the habits, friends, hobbies, and ideals I’d like to continue having after college. It seems that time is of the essence, especially since I’ve lived about a quarter of my life out. But the truth is, it’s almost debilitating to make those choices.

So…YOLO? I don’t really know. Maybe I should just take some advice from M.I.A instead.

*Note: names were changed

Motivation, Failure, and College

Motivation and failure. They can go hand in hand or they can be mortal enemies. It’s a love/hate relationship between them and I’m currently caught in the middle. Something I’ve considered a lot recently is the manner in which humans become motivated and how I can make myself motivated. At the University of Michigan I work alongside many intelligent students. We were all the high-achievers in high school and we were the kids that did everything and anything extracurricular whilst still mastering what we were learning in our classes. After being here for three years I’ve noticed that we’re all a lot of big fish in a big pond.

When we fail, it’s a terrible feeling. We’re not used to failing, we’re used to succeeding above everyone else. We’re the Leaders and Best right? Well, Michigan truly has a way of making high-achievers feel like they’ve hit rock bottom over and over again. I’ve hit many speedbumps on my journey to obtaining a degree, as I’m sure many other students have as well. I can’t help but thinking about the fact that college is something that is supposed to get us a good job and thus gets us a better life than we otherwise would have. So why do schools have to make the process so damn torturous? Does it make sense that the average for Calculus II courses are around 40%? Does it make sense that so many students, specifically LSA students, have a hard time translating the skills they learned in classes to something they can use in real life? Maybe it’s because colleges like the “find the opportunity in challenge” model to get their students a sufficient education and out the door to improve the employment statistics of the university. I agree with that model to a certain extent but I also believe that in order for someone to be motivated, they must be passionate. They must be passionate with the degree they’re pursuing and the future job prospects that they have from that degree.

From the standpoint of a student in LSA, I know it’s difficult for graduates to find jobs in todays economy because their majors simply aren’t practical. We all want jobs but without being motivated by practical skills that we could be learning in classes, college is that much more conducive to failure. I’m not talking about failing out, I’m talking about failing in our personal endeavors and our happiness with the career paths we pursue. College is hard and working is hard. But college shouldn’t make working more difficult.

Project E-Portfolio Status: COMPLETED

At last, it is complete!

After a whole semester, I think I’ve created what is my biggest project of my time here at Michigan. I’m really excited because I think it’s exactly the way I want it to be-a middle ground between professionalism and creativity.

The great thing is that I have a point of reference for those who want to see my writings and writing style. I can use this for employment purposes and for personal usage.

Anyway, it’s been a wonderful semester in the Gateway course. I’m definitely going to miss it next semester. Although that class is done, though, there’s still a lot more to come in the Writing minor 🙂

Here is the link, enjoy: My E-Portfolio