A MinD in MoTown

413 Harris Street, MoTown.

I sorted through the clothes that no longer fit or were too tattered to save. I packed the boxes of belongings I’ve had for years and those I recently purchased. I tossed food that lingered in my cabinets past expiration dates. I dusted, swept, polished and mopped an entire house just to bid it farewell.

But none of it felt the same as the other dozen times I moved in my life. Hell, it didn’t even feel the same as the last instance where I decided to share my residence with a boyfriend. This moment was much different, and I could pinpoint exactly why.

I was closing a chapter of my life — a two-year period based on independence — that held more importance than any other chapter before it. Sure, I have two diplomas to signify my college experience and albums filled with photos of those nearest and dearest to my heart. But that house and those walls, they were my security blanket, one that sheltered me as I changed and matured and developed from a confused post-grad with an uncertain path to a confident, organized, career-oriented person whose future had finally found clarity among the shades of grey.

Four hours into the move, with only a few boxes remaining but much cleaning to do, I stood in the center of my newly-bare living room talking to my mom and I completely broke down. I hadn’t wanted to move, but it wasn’t because of the situation at hand; it was because the house meant more to me than a place to live and leaving it behind carried more weight than the thousands of pounds of luggage I carried to my new home.

I moved into that humble abode on Harris Street in March 2008 following a breakup with my boyfriend of three years. He returned to Pennsylvania and I was suddenly left in MoTown, 600 miles away from everyone I knew only one year beforehand. I was living on my own, with the exception of a small and furry black roommate who only became a member of my tiny family days beforehand. I owned little more than a TV, futon, desk and kitchenware at the time, and had dealt with nothing but my credit card bills up to that point. At the age of 22, I was forced to learn how to budget my finances to ensure survival from day to day without seeing gas, electric or water services cease. I juggled being a new “mom” to my Sophie, teaching her not to pee in the house and not to eat my shoes, with two jobs. I cooked for one, cleaned for one, grocery-shopped for one… I learned who I was simply by taking care of myself, my household, my dog. The independence came easily, though the transformation within was masked.

And as I stood there in the empty room, my belongings en route to another town and a new residence, the swift realization of how much growth those walls saw in me and my life was overwhelming. The tears were inevitable so I let them flow for a few minutes before wiping them away and picking up the mop to clean another floor.

I’d lived in apartments before, lived with a boyfriend before, lived in a new town before, but this move was different because I was different. I wasn’t that same girl who was nearly homeless in a barely-known state two years ago, or the carefree new post-grad who moved to NC, or even the frightened yet eager college junior moving into her first apartment with friends in State College, PA; I was a real adult with life under her belt, ready to take on the next experience knowing that if it failed, I could make it on my own because I had done it before.

To everyone else, I was moving onto better things, leaving a small house in a mediocre part of town for a lakeside apartment in an upscale neighborhood. To me, I was turning the page onto a new adventure, looking back on the last one and seeing how those years and those four walls of my former home shaped every day henceforth.

It was more than a two-year residence. That house, humble little 413 Harris Street, was where I became me and although I’m not leaving that girl behind, it’s still a bit tough to bid adieu to the place that allowed her to emerge.

I’d give the shirt off my back.
December 3, 2009, 4:26 pm
Filed under: MoTown, Tis the season, When poverty strikes

“I’m here to do a job,” I say to myself as I walk into the Mooresville Christian Mission, carrying my fancy $250 digital camera with my two-month-old $175 North Face jacket half-zipped up. Sure, I might be wearing a pair of shoes that have been falling apart for nearly a year and I’m clearly in desperate need of a touch-up to my highlighted hair, but my personal version of “poor” in no way compares to what I see before me.

Here are people – perhaps down on their luck this holiday season or maybe just unable to truly make a moderate living – spending what little they do have on worn clothing, discarded household items and used toys in the hopes of making a better Christmas for their families. Some are even inquiring about free food they can obtain. They actually struggle. They truly need. They face hardships I can’t even imagine.

And there I am, not exactly “rich,” but evidently different.

People like myself – the middle class 20somethings, if you will – often feel as though we’re tackling the same battles that those individuals I encountered earlier today deal with on a daily basis. We cry “I’m poor,” we complain about our inability to purchase a new cell phone or iPod, yet we have no real idea what it means to seriously contemplate foregoing gift-giving because the heat bill can’t be paid. We’re the people who have bad days when it comes to cash flow, maybe even bad weeks or months on occasion. These people are the ones who confront bad years or even lifetimes. Their struggles are different than our own, no matter how much we sometimes feel they’re similar.

Yet they, and even we, are the ones most willing to give, most eager to volunteer our time or put up what little we may have in the hopes of brightening someone’s holiday.

It’s the student teacher who decides he’ll assist at the soup kitchen and buy holiday gifts for a six-year-old girl he doesn’t know. It’s the college student who donates $1 to various organizations every time she’s asked. It’s the news reporter who works a second job yet “adopts” a 10-year-old boy for Christmas who only requests Star Wars figurines from Santa. It’s those of us who maybe live paycheck to paycheck, with little “extra” money each week, eating Ramen noodles far too regularly, who would give anything to ensure no child wakes up Dec. 25 with nothing under his tree.

We’re the ones who make sure a mom can get her sons haircuts or who ensure family-less senior citizens are still remembered during the holidays or who help dish out food to those who may have no home, let alone a place to cook a Thanksgiving turkey.

And hopefully you’re one of that “we.” You would step up if need be, if you saw poverty prevailing and Christmas slipping toward non-existant for someone in your town. If you came across a man who couldn’t buy his children the red wagon they wanted from Kris Kringle because the mortgage was due. If you heard a family would have nothing if not for the donations given to the local Goodwill.

It’s this Christmas feeling of giving, of hope, of love that we need to carry all year. It’s easy to remember those less fortunate when the holidays approach, but what about in May when you’re planning a beach vacation yet a young boy down the street won’t get to celebrate his birthday?

I, for one, must become more diligent in this and – I apologize for saying this already – I’m sure you have to, also. It’s so simple to go about our lives 11 months of the year and then when charities come begging because the countdown to Christmas has begun, we feel the need to do our part. Us 20somethings will soon become the 30somethings, then the 40somethings, and so on. Imagine how much good we can do in our own communities over time if we start the giving back now, while we’re young and barely getting by?

I walked into the Mooresville Christian Mission today just to take a few photos for the newspaper. I departed with more than a desire to give back, but an absolute need to do so. Me, a 24-year-old who sometimes borders broke and penniless for days at a time, wishes she could’ve “adopted” 50 kids this Christmas, but whose wallet will only allow her to make a difference in a little boy named Dylan’s life this holiday.

I’m doing my part – and I promise here and now to keep to it throughout the year – and I hope you are, too.

…I’m a Toys ‘R Us kid.
October 13, 2009, 5:02 pm
Filed under: I am getting old..., MoTown, Pourquoi?, WE ARE...

Every time I travel to Penn State for a visit – about once per semester – I leave the borough of State College with mixed feelings that seem to slightly cloud my first few days back in reality.

My weekends surrounded by the blue and white are always fabulous. Filled with plenty of laughs, crazy times, drunken debauchery (of sorts) and occasionally new friends, it’s easy to depart Pennsylvania feeling a bit more nostalgic and missing my college life oodles more than the day I arrived.

But – and perhaps this is a sign that I truly am growing up despite my attempts not to entirely – I also leave State College a little happy, anxious to return to the adulthood I’ve created for myself in North Carolina. I strangely start looking forward to lounging on my couch, in sweats, with my puppy and watching TV all night, rather than putting on my sexiest heels and tightest cleavage-exposing shirt as I head to the bar.

I typically expect to feel old and somewhat more mature diving head first back into college fun for a few days, but it’s a strange morose, glum mood that accompanies those sentiments as my brief vacation comes to a close. Days like today, only 24 hours after making my way back home, I find myself lingering somewhere between happy and longing for the weekend that passed and relieved and excited to have it end. Bizarre, right?

It’s easy to anticipate eventually noting a significant detachment from those college years, hitting that point where it’s clear how truly over those “glory days” are. Is this what that feels like? Because, if so, I never supposed it’d arrive while I still had students for friends and people there to visit. When I was married and had kids, perhaps, but not while I’m still only 24 years old, out of school just more than two years, and always longing to return to State College even if for a brief moment.

Is this something different? Maybe just a recognition that I am, indeed, getting older and farther from those days I so completely miss… As I type this post, that seems to be the most logical reasoning because why else – if choosing the former option – would such excitement envelop me in the weeks leading to my Penn State arrival as well as my total happiness throughout the weekend (and I will note that I had an AMAZING time this past weekend, without a doubt!).

Maybe it’s all just another part of growing up and leaving behind the college life I loved so much. Maybe it’s because there are things I would change about how I spent my PSU days, or maybe because I look at all those who are still students and I’m completely filled with jealousy at what they’re just starting to experience. Or hey, maybe I just totally miss the lack of responsibility or care for anything in the world other than fun.

I’m sure a variety of factors and feelings are contributing to my mediocre mood today – and a cold I seemingly got at Penn State is surely not helping – but either way, when this passes and I start planning for my next trip to State College, at least I’ll remember what to expect. Sure, I knew this time, at least to some extent, but writing it now, today, as I’m feeling it seemed like a wise decision.

I suppose the real question is: Will these feelings and emotions change my desire to jump on a plane and fly 500 miles north again in a few months? Will I forego the pure exhiliration of seeing friends, partying, shopping and happily laughing my way through a weekend because I might feel a bit “blah” afterward? Likely not. I can always deal with a little “meh” for something as amazing as a Penn State weekend because, when it truly comes down to it, that place and everything about it will run through my veins forevermore. After all, like the PSU saying goes, I bleed blue and white, and really, I’m not sure I’d have it any other way.

Build a bridge and get over it.
September 3, 2009, 7:12 pm
Filed under: Getting my RANT on, MoTown, Too liberal for the Bible belt

I tend to shy away from commenting on things happening in my own town because, as a journalist, I’m not supposed to have a public opinion. However, an issue has recently erupted that I cannot ignore on this blog or otherwise.

Several parents in the school district I regularly report on for the newspaper are up in arms today, but it’s not because of banned books or inappropriate teacher relations or even student misbehavior. Rather, it’s because the school district made a decision to air a national address from President Barack Obama this upcoming Tuesday; a speech that plans to discuss student achievement, working hard, staying in school and the student’s responsibility for his or her own learning.

He’s not ranting about health care or the war in Iraq. He’s not challenging children to think about adult problems such as unemployment or the economic crisis. He’s talking about education, something that daily affects every child in the nation. Yet some parents have complained to the school district about its decision to broadcast this national address for all students in grades three through 12.

And because of those few parents, the district has decided to allow all parents to choose whether or not their children watch the President’s remarks.

Now, let me start by saying I understand the school district’s cooperation with these parents in providing that option since so many parents seem perturbed about this broadcast. It’s the parents – the ones across the country who are furious about this school presidential address – I have an issue with.

While I have little to no idea why these parents have so uproariously refused to allow their children to watch Obama’s statements, I can only assume that it’s ignorance causing and creating their judgment. Perhaps these parents voted for John McCain in November and remain bitter that their candidate lost the election. Or maybe it’s because this is still the south and despite all hopes for equality, a rift – to some extent – remains between blacks and whites when it comes to personal perception. Or it could even be that these particular parents have something against Obama’s religion. But whatever the reason – and I assume it’s the first – this is a man discussing education and its importance, and yet ignorance prevails to the point where these innocent children miss out.

This is the President of the United States and regardless of someone’s personal opinions regarding his political party, his race, his religion, etc., we as a country need to come together and support him as our leader. That office commands respect. How many of us, after all, weren’t proponents of George W. Bush, but would have never in our wildest dreams thought of disregarding his position as commander in chief so callously? It’s one thing to catch a bit of flack from your critics for whatever reason. It’s quite another to defiantly challenge the president’s authority and standing in this nation.

And to make matters worse, the same kind of complacent ignorance is being taught to their children through these actions. As a person whose political opinions greatly differ those of my parents, being allowed to formulate my own stance without the pressure and coercion of my parents truly helped shape who I am as an adult. Imagine all these kids, forced to sit in another room as the majority of their fellow students watch this address. How much are they losing by this seclusion, by this blatant disregard for our president’s statements concerning education? These kids aren’t being taught to think for themselves; they’re being taught to mimic their parents and follow in the same footsteps as those before them.

It’s disheartening, to say the least.

I feel sorry for these children who won’t get to listen to their president this Tuesday. I truly do. And I’m equally appalled by their parents actions regarding this particular address. It’s a complete shame that ignorance has triumphed and caused a certain course of action by the school district to handle these individuals’ views on something as simple as a speech on education.

I vow this very moment to never, ever be this kind of parent. My future children deserve better.