How is it senior year already?

Graduation is imminent!

The summer has flown by! I can’t believe it’s halfway through summer! I wish that I had more time to work for the summer, but I also can’t wait to go back to school. I’ve been having the weirdest dreams about being late for journalism classes with Professor Gilligan, who I’m not even taking classes with next semester! I think that comes from being late for Investigative Reporting a couple of times and freaking out until I realized that Prof Gilligan was later than me, luckily.

In thinking about the summer flying by, I think the past three years have flown by, actually. For me college has been a blur of staying really busy and doing a million things, and now, all of a sudden it seems, it’s senior year! In less than a year, I’ll be out of college and into the workforce. Holy cow!

My first year, I started out as a freshman at Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondacks. I remember moving in all anxious about meeting people, but excited to start studying (I’m such a nerd). I had already been to boarding school my junior year of high school in Arkansas, so I wasn’t afraid of being away from home, but there were those moments of “am I going to fit in?”

The nice thing about PSC was that there were 800 students there. And there was a ratio of 7:2 guys to girls; that was very beneficial 🙂 Overall, people were very warm to me because of the size of our community. I loved it there. The students are fun, and the teachers are great. I miss it there sometimes. I left because the program wasn’t the strongest – environmental writing. I had my fun, but moving on to Oswego was a good decision.

Sophomore year came and went. I got used to the bigger size of Oswego and the weather. The classes are my favorite part of Oswego (nerdiness once again). Also, I really enjoy the ability to connect with other people on campus, whether they’re faculty, staff, or students. I feel like with the size of Oswego, there’s the opportunity to build close-knit groups, despite the thousands of students. You find your niche with people of like interests, and you gravitate toward each other, but that takes a little more time than I expected.

I feel like Oswego has been cliquey, though. It’s a lot harder to make friends at Oswego than it was at PSC because people aren’t as open with each other. Where I knew nearly everyone’s name at PSC (no joke), at Oswego my sophomore year, I felt a little lost in the masses at Oswego. It wasn’t until this past year, junior year, that I finally felt like I found my own niche.

The problem I think that I had was that there is only a relatively small group of student activists who have similar causes as I do, despite the thousands of students. Oswego has a lot of divisions from fraternities and sororities, who can tend to seem solely exclusive for members of Greek organizations, to sports groups, who seem to be exclusively for athletes, to the members of Humans v. Zombies, who tend to be just for those who enjoy LARPing (live action role playing).

Maybe it’s just my Southern background that makes me feel like the people at Oswego are a little more separatists than unitarians (in the literal sense of the words_, but, maybe that’s just college life. Anyway, tangent aside, I feel like my time at Oswego has been really great. I’ve made some friends and done A LOT of activities on campus. I’m just looking forward to life after college for a little bit. The time of living for partying on the weekends has been over for a while. I’m ready to start doing what I love as an occupation, and then go back to school in a couple of years.

A Teeny Bit Sick

Putting aside the Macho Man ego for a minute. I must admit something crazy…that I am going to be homesick come this fall. Which is beyond crazy to me . It’s a very weird and off-putting feeling. What is so puzzling to me about this feeling of homesickness is that I’ve already experienced “going away” and when I did I was 18 and big eyed. In my very first semester my freshman year I could count on one hand the amount of times I went home. Twice! Once for Thanksgiving and again for Winter Break. That’s it! Even on holiday weekends where we had to go home. I usually found myself at a friend’s school just to avoid the trip home.

My oh my has time changed! I now find myself sitting on the steps with my friends saying “mannnnnn I’m gone miss my city” its true these lights will inspire you and they have! A lot has changed from that 18-year-old time of avoiding home; to being placed in a situation where I had to come home to gather myself and get the ground beneath me. In that time I’ve come to fall in love with my city. Added to that, my older sister lives in Queens and although I didn’t see her everyday she has been my confidant, best friend and biggest supporter. So going 5 hours away from her is a little sobering. Also she is having her first baby, which makes her a first time mother but also makes me a first time uncle (Woot woot!). I’m already preparing (if its a girl I gotta save up to buy the pony, if its a boy 3 things he must learn fresh out the womb: Duke Blue Devils, Kanye is a Musical Genius and Kobe …unstoppable).

Don’t get me wrong In no way am I indecisive as to whether I want to be in Oswego or not. That’s a lock I’d leave tomorrow if money and responsibilities permitted. But its just odd for me to have this feeling. You would think that after 2 years of wanting to be in this position and having worked as hard as I have to get to this point I would be screaming Good Riddance at the top of my lungs.

What’s my remedied chicken noodle soup for this homesickness? Its simple and its advice you’ve probably received before. Get involved. Having experienced first hand at my previous school. I can attest to the fact that when you’re involved it builds a greater sense of connection not only to the school and campus but it extends to the whole community as well. Most of the friends you have will either come through your involvement in campus activities and clubs or they will join you in those interests. Don’t believe me? Just look at my fellow bloggers. How else do you explain two being Laker Leaders ( Danielle and Kayle), and at least 2 other separate pairings of being in the same club or organization( Danielle also spoke a little bit on that notion of campus friendship in her post). Yea it’s real…Believe the hype. I’ll even do you a favor and give you a shortcut to that Chicken. Noodle. Soup. Thank Me Later.

Till Then I bid Adieu

Be Kind…

….for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” -Plato

This quote hit me hard today as I was unwinding with an icepack on the therapy table at physical therapy. Every single person you meet is in the throes of some sort of predicament. What a concept! We’re human after all.

Remember that one person through grade school who just seemed to have it all figured out? Maybe they were super popular, or obliterated the ACTs without studying, or was a star athlete, or out-shined everyone else for the lead in the school play. And hey, maybe for you, normalcy was so beyond your battles that you longed to be normal too. Whatever your muse, we’ve all come across that person at some point that made us say to ourselves, “Ugh, why not me? Why can’t I be like that?” And the saddest part is, we start to answer our very own accusatory, self-destructive questions. “Because I’m lazy”, “because I’m just not smart enough”, “because I’m not talented enough”, “because I’m not physically fit enough” … and BAM! There’s your self-fulfilling prophesy.

Now let’s back away from the philosophy textbook for a second…. allow me to enlighten you on some tried-and-true experience. Once upon a time, I came to Oswego with a thirst for reinvention. But, because of my knack for letting others take advantage of my hospitality, I allowed my goals to become overshadowed with arguments and a depressingly slow start to making friends. I wanted to shed my high school persona and rid myself of the blame-game and create a college experience that would change me for the better.

But it was my love for all things Orientation that kept me on my heels and helped me focus on ensuring a wonderful summer for myself and others. I even made my first best friend at Oswego through Orientation (you know who you are!….. PS it’s fellow blogger Lizz Wetherby). I made sixteen close friends last summer while working with Orientation, and countless more as I gained an invaluable network of peers.

By Fall 2009, one of my co-workers turned me on to the idea of a co-ed service fraternity, and my other collegiate passion was born. Alpha Phi Omega, or APO surrounded me with another set of friends, and the bonds I’ve formed with my fellow Greeks through our community service endeavors still surprise me to this day. And now I’ve got two best friends in the same organization! My wolfpack is now three she-wolves strong.

Anyway, after my pledging semester, I quickly picked up an executive board position as Vice President of Service, second from the President (a fellow Orientation staffer and blogger, Kayle Light – who knew?!) and made 33 more friends as our HUGE pledge class kicked major service butt in the spring. With over 40 active members and a supportive alumni family, you can imagine how my friend situation has progressed over these two years.

So, back to fighting our battles. Amongst all of this lovey-dovey friend stuff, I’ve got my battles, all right. Knee surgery at the very beginning of summer really puts a damper on summer plans (no beach, no swimming, no driving to the movies, etc.) and I’ve gotta admit, it hits hard on the mental and emotional gauges too. And my family is 100% in my corner, but I can see that they’ve got their fair share of battles too. There are times when I find myself laying in bed at 3:30 am staring at the ceiling and my mind’s doing that “Why not me” thing again. But what I never realized is that those people who seem to have it all – and in my case, right now those people are in relationships and have healthy ACL ligaments – don’t quite know how to handle battles like mine. My battles are unique to me, and ya know what? … maybe that person who seems to have it all would buckle under the pressure of a reconstructive surgery and the consequences that go with it while I’ve stored up the secrets and tricks to overcoming not one, but two knee surgeries.

I don’t want anyone else’s battles but mine. But while I sat on that rehab table today, I was amazed at how very little we know about each other’s inner workings. Perhaps it’s a good thing to keep those battles under wraps, but I choose to record them here for others to learn that it’s okay to be fighting.

Rest assured, we are all fighting.

A Proper Introduction

I’m a big believer that you get to know someone over time as opposed to just blurting out a whole life story upon first meeting them . So this much is true as well for this blog. Let’s take slow steady steps and over the long run we can hash out all the minor details and sub plots.

This is going to be my first year at Oswego. I use the words “excited” and “anxious” interchangeably when describing how I feel about this upcoming fall semester. I definitely have that  double rainbow feeling. Its been a long time coming for me. This whole going away to school and majoring in what you love thing.

I took a long road , which definitely included some bumps and rerouting along the way. All in all I’m grateful more than resentful ,excited more than discouraged and about 100 times wiser. I’m a 22 year old junior with 4 years of schooling at 2 different colleges in a different major before this big switcheroo. Which has to make me something like the George Clooney of the Collegiate Game. If it doesn’t then we can start talking about that resentment thing.

But seriously there are some valuable lessons I’ve learned a long the way. Some which I hope to share with you throughout my post during the school year. Mostly however this is more or less an invitation. An invitation to take this wild ride in Oswego with me as I navigate a new campus, new environment, learn my way around scene both extra curricular and socially. This is an inside view into me learning how to manifest my dreams and the opportunity to do great things not only in my major but overall college career. So stay tuned , because something tells me that watching this unfold just might be almost as exciting as me living it. Almost.

I am who I am

After reading Sam Shelton’s blog, I’ve started to realize how bland my posts have been lately. I think it’s time to kick things up a notch (thank you Emiril Lagase). I’m in my friend’s car on the way back from Buffalo right now and I e been doing some thinking. Sometimes I take this blog in directions that I never thought I would and right now is one of those times. There are things about me that some people don’t know, but other than that I’m pretty open about my life and don’t hide much. Here is something that most readers don’t know about me.

I am openly gay to all of my friends, my family, and anyone else who asks. Normally, I don’t advertise it like this, but for this special circumstance I’m willing to break my rule. This weekend I realized how proud I am to be accepting of myself and the friends I have who are accepting as well. I have also realized how much joking goes on at my expense. We all have those inside jokes with our group of friends that only we understand, but they are meant to be only known by us. The fact that my friends (and I joke as well) use my sexuality for punch lines has started to bother me lately. I didn’t choose to be gay, although at this point I wouldn’t choose any other way. When someone makes a joke about some stupid thing their friend said or a situation they were in, it isn’t so obvious that everyone around knows about it. When my sexuality is used as a joke is when that no longer happens. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t bother me if people know of I’m gay, but it doesn’t need to be announced.

I’m proud of who I am and I know that homosexuality is only someone’s orientation an it doesn’t define their life or who they are as a person. I’ve been “out” for almost four years now and have never had a negative experience because of it. What I have experienced is my inability to ask someone to not use that part if my life as a way to make people laugh. Each time someone cracks a joke is a reminder that I’m gay and I don’t need that reminder; I already know.

The fact that I’m “out and proud” gives me the strength to put my efforts and dedication elsewhere. I have friends who attend special events for gay, bisexual, and other orientations, but I don’t feel I need to do the same. We all make choices and live our own lives. I’m Steven, a college student attending SUNY Oswego. I’m not Steven, the gay friend.

I do, however, support anyone who is struggling or unsure of their sexual orientation. I just do it in my own way; not by attending PFLAG or a Pride event in a local city. I know what it’s like to go through difficult times and I’ve found ways to deal with them and get to where I am today. I never turn down someone who needs help with anything, especially working through the coming out process. It’s a life changing moment and must be treated carefully.

My point here is that sometimes people are a bit more sensitive with certain things, particularly aspects offhand lives. We should keep some things private, just as I usually do about this aspect of my life. The only way you’d know if I was gay is if you looked on my Facebook profile or asked me. I don’t expect my friends to tell everyone else or joke about it. I don’t go around introducing them as “straight” so why do they need to do the same.

My bigger point here is that everyone should be proud of who they are. Whether gay, straight, bisexual, black, white, or whatever. We are all different and there is no need to point out those differences to the world. It’s sometimes obvious and sometimes not, but those are the times when it’s up to us to let others in, not our friends.

I guess I went on a bit of a rant today, but I hope everyone understands what I’m trying to say. Live your life how you want to live it. Don’t let others get in your way or cause you distress. Be proud of who you are and of what you’ve achieved! I make this promise in front of everyone that I will continue to succeed and have pride in myself and my accomplishments.

I guess this was a few notches more dramatic than anything else, but I think it’s an important issue to address. Until next time readers… Be strong. Don’t give in. Live YOUR life. Be who you are without doubt or fear.

Fitness Required at FITNESS?

Ever since I started my internship, I’ve had one question asked of me over and over again.

“Do you have to be in really good shape to work at FITNESS?

I’m actually surprised by how often I’ve heard this, and some of my fellow ASME interns have even said, “Sam, I’m so glad you were placed at FITNESS instead of me. I’m not fit enough to work there!”

Well everyone, I’m here to let you know that it is not a requirement that you be fit to be considered for employment at FITNESS (I’m pretty sure if this were true, the magazine would be in a lot of trouble with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission). You don’t have to be an exercise enthusiast, nutrition expert or health guru.

However, it definitely doesn’t hurt if you are fitness savvy. The people I work with are not only knowledgeable about their field, they enjoy it. Casual conversation is often about the latest yoga DVD  that someone used or the class they’re going to test.

The office itself doesn’t hurt either. I can’t help but feel motivated when en route to the kitchen I pass a rack of bikinis, sports bras and workout clothes. Or on my way to the copy room I pass the shoe closet, which is filled with more sneakers than I’ve ever seen at one time. When I leave for lunch, I pass the fitness closet that is brimming with a wide array of workout equipment — yoga mats, medicine balls, bicycling helmets, etc — you name it; it’s probably in there.

Working at FITNESS has also inspired me to keep up with my own workout regime. I used to spend my summers somewhere close to home. In an old post, I made it clear that Oppenheim does not have a whole ton of civilization (I wasn’t kidding about the more cows than people quota). Well, minimal fitness opportunities go hand-in-hand with minimal civilization. The closest gym to my house is 20 minutes and it’s in serious need of an equipment upgrade. As a result, I didn’t work out as much. I’d sweat it out biking, hiking or running outside, sure, but it’s not the same as grunting out a fantastic strength training session at the gym where you can also escape the heat for a few glorious hours in AC.  (You didn’t think my house has AC, did you? Come on now!) Then top it off with all of mom’s fantastic home-cooked meals that you miss oh, so much while away during college and you’re on the fast road to out-of-shape city.

But being here has helped me stay in the fitness mindset I have while at school. This mindset can also be credited to my job at the Cooper/Glimmerglass Fitness Centers as a Student Manager and Personal Trainer. What always happens there happens at FITNESS, too. When you’re surrounded by people who love health and fitness, you can’t help but get sucked in. I’ve always been passionate about athletics and working out, but my love for it has grown exponentially the last two years. Working at this magazine motivates me to try the latest moves we’re telling our readers about or go to a yoga class that could inspire a story pitch. If I can combine my passions and succeed at my job while staying in shape, aren’t I getting the best of both worlds? I think so.

I’ve found my motivation to stay fit through my job at FITNESS, not because I have to be fit in order to work there. What’s your motivation? I’d love to hear about it here, or at The Pulse, my personal health and fitness blog. Hope to hear from you soon!

Oswego Meet Kwame ,Kwame Meet Oswego:

“Oh! She’s quite a beauty, what a nice campus, it’s so enormous and the lake you can reach right out and touch it!” Yep…that sums up my first meet and greet with Oswego State. This past week I had the most amazing time of my life starting with a 5-hour trip up from my hometown of Queens, NY. Over the mountain and through the woods (at least that’s what it felt like) to see the school I’ll be attending this fall .As previously mentioned Oswego is quite a beautiful campus, its the first thing I mentioned to my guide for the day, a good friend who currently attends Oswego. Second thought that came to mind was the Lake. Its everything you that you’ve heard, if you don’t believe me ask the people we saw doing Tai Chi on a light breeze filled summer day. When the class load piles up that’s where you’ll catch me right in the middle with those folks counting my breaths!

In any event please pardon my rudeness. I should introduce myself formally. My name is Kwame Belle. I’m a transfer student by way of SUNY Cobleskill & CUNY BMCC. I’m from NYC as previously mentioned and after a long hard academic journey I’ve finally arrived at SUNY Oswego. Which leads us to the reason I made the trip to this beautiful and enormous campus. A couple of friends and I came up to check out the off campus apartment I will be living in before I sign the lease. However, before that could happen I needed to take care of a great deal of things. A Res Life visit, a meeting about an extra curricular opportunity I was interested in, add in the 5 hour drive and a 20 minute state trooper pull over (for the record I adhere to the speed limit “Mr. Matombo” my trusty pal and driver apparently doesn’t) and all of a sudden it was 4:00 which was also the time the Mary Walker health center was closing. As I approached I saw all of the faculty leaving the side door most were already opening the car, holding my breath I barely managed a quick “everyone left already?” Sadly the answer was sorry we are closed. Before I could even contemplate begging while holding onto a pant leg, or summoning my puppy dog tale of driving hours, or needing to have my health forms in to begin my registration for New Student Orientation; one of the faculty members said she would stay. Now I felt guilty I thanked her and even said that she didn’t have to. I would understand I said after all it is a Monday, all the while I’m thinking please don’t listen to me. Not only did she take my forms but she was warm, courteous, patient and in a good mood. I was so touched by her hospitality I had to ask her name, so thanks Allison you’re the greatest! Next time I’ll be punctual I promise!

Honestly that experience was not the last time I was treated with such care and personal attention. At every turn some one was holding an elevator door, flashing a warm smile or offering their assistance. These encounters with SUNY Oswego’s faculty are the intangible moments that make a students college experience that much more memorable. It also puts an anxious new student at ease in a new environment. I walked away saying I know I made the right choice coming here. These were only a few of the encounters I had during my daylong trip that helped lead to my falling love with Oswego but there’ll be plenty time for that later. All in all I must say I can’t wait, and as I type this back home in Queens, NY I can’t help but get excited about the upcoming school year and what’s in store. With the kind of encounters I had and more surely to come, it won’t be long before I’m calling SUNY Oswego my home.

Livin’ the Dream

After completing six local journalism internships, I knew this summer was my chance to break out of my comfort zone and really chase my dreams. What it all boils down to is New York City. I’ve always wanted to live here and I’ve always wanted to work in the magazine industry. So after months of scouring for internships, frantically filling out applications and sending off my best work to people who didn’t know me, I waited.

And waited.

Whenever life got me down and I second-guessed my skills and education, I turned to two things. FRIENDS, and “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys. The two completely capture the essence of New York City and the dreams that I want to achieve. “Empire State of Mind” became my theme song, my mantra to keep me motivated and inspired.

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of

There’s nothing you can’t do,  now you’re in New York

These streets will make you feel brand new

These lights will inspire you

Let’s hear it for New York

It didn’t matter that I grew up in wide open spaces, in a town with more cows than people. Or that our best option for a night out was a 30-minute drive to the closest movie theater with some friends and a bag of popcorn. All that mattered was that the glossy pages that came in my mailbox each month meant the world to me, and I needed to immerse myself in that world. New York City wasn’t about the hustle and bustle that people automatically associate with this place. To me, New York City was about livin’ the dream.

FRIENDS captures the homey, loving and endearing side of New York City, and it’s the show that made me fall in love with this place before I realized what journalism really was. It emphasized that New York City, again, wasn’t always about hustle and bustle.

Instead, it was about opportunity. It was about being carefree. It was about enjoying life. I wanted that life.

The witty banter and carefree friendships on this show captured my hometown and the people I wanted to meet while living my dream. Whenever I need to relax with a few laughs, I pop in one of the ten seasons (yes, I have each one) of this show and it works every single time. This show not only made New York City about fulfilling a dream, it became about getting the lifestyle I wanted.

Without these things, I’m not sure what my mantra would have been, what my support system would be like. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not doubting my friends, family and teachers who have helped me along the way. Without them, there’s no way I would be here. But you need to enjoy the small things in life, too. You need something to keep pushing you, to remind you of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. These two things do it for me. I encourage you to find yours.

There’s nothing you can’t do, now you’re in New York.

Let’s show ’em what I’m made of.

One Sharp Injection of Optimism, Please

Okay, I will admit it: sometimes, I can be a bit of a, well, pessimist. I guess that’s the beauty of being interested in journalism: always looking at both sides of the coin and gathering perspectives from every angle. I’ve hit more snags in this post-op recovery than I can count, one of which landed me an all-inclusive, insurance-paid vacation to the hospital for a small but ever-so-stealthy blood clot in my leg. So this leads me to the title of this entry: bring on the optimism. But where has my mind been this whole time? Staring angrily at that half empty glass.

Spirituality is a pretty interesting thing. I grew up in a household that encouraged spirituality but did not force-feed its teachings. My grandfather is a very well-known deacon around my hometown and especially in my parish, and I grew up living the “proper” parishioner’s to-do list: baptism, communion, confirmation, and yes, somewhere in the distant future the site of my fairytale wedding where John Mayer will sing me down the aisle. Don’t worry, it’s gonna happen.

So while in the hospital, my grandfather came just after dawn to keep me company before my twice daily abdomen injections and phone-order breakfast. Our conversations are always entertaining, and my grandfather is truly a gem. He always greets me with a compliment (“Oh Danielly Belly, you just get more and more beautiful every time I see you!” “Aw Gramps, see, I tried this new look today called “hospital hair”, I think it’s really working for me”). The man really knows how to flatter a girl! Our conversations always make me smile and feel SO great. During my second morning in my penthouse suite of 404 South, he stuck around while a hematologist came to see me, and warily watched him examine me. I guess old nursing habits die hard, Gramps.

It’s experiences like this that really help me to gain a thirst for the happiness that surrounds me. I know that my disposition has been less than sunny these past two weeks or so, but I think it’s time that I leave those negative thoughts floating away with the dark clouds that have crowded my bedside window. As I get ready to remove my headphones, return my laptop to my bedside table, and pull up the blankets over my cold skin, I can’t help but notice my mouth feels a bit dry.

I’ve got a glass of water on my table, and I’m happy to see that it’s half full.

Just Do It

Cloud nine can’t even begin to describe the state of euphoria I am in right now.

After working all day,  my fitness editor, Mary, asked me to attend a press event with her. Clearly, I said yes. Then I found out it was for Nike and we were testing their new products that are launching in July. I couldn’t have been more psyched.

After our car service dropped us off at 555 West 18th Street, we mingled with other editors in attendance and waited for the event to start. For those of you who are not familiar with the media industry, press events are attended by various editors, writers, staffers and bloggers from multiple magazines. The goal is to find out about new products and come back with any new, exciting information that could possibly run in the magazine. Usually, you get gift bags as well so that all of the promoted products can be tested!

When the program began, a lot of the new products were discussed and technologically explained. Nike’s new gear is launching in July, and it ranges from new sneakers to sports bras. Everything discussed today was geared toward women because, well, everyone there was female and worked at some form of a women’s magazine. I’d tell you about the new stuff coming out, but you’ll have to check out my health and fitness blog, The Pulse, for that insider info.

A huge surprise came next.

Michael Johnson, four-time Olympic gold medalist and world record-holder for the 400-meter and 4 X 400 m relay, spoke to us about proper preparation for running. I was slightly star struck. To make it better, he also Skyped (possibly another system used, but I think it was Skype) with Sanya Richards, the defending U.S. and world champion in the 400-meter. She provided tips specifically for females to prepare their mind and body for running. But again, if you want that info, you’re going to have to check out The Pulse.

Finally, we were decked in Nike’s latest gear from head to toe, all the way down to the socks and sports bras. Everyone decided to run two, four or six miles and Nike brought in professionals to pace us throughout our run. I stuck with two because of my blood disorder, but I think next time I’m going to tough out four. Oh, and Michael Johnson ran with us two-milers! (I finished the run before he did, if that counts for anything.) And yes, we got to keep all of our gear, so I now have a ton of new fitness gear!

So this is just a few toes dipped into the ocean of things that magazine journalists are able to experience. I can’t wait to dive in.