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.

Living the Crazy, Good Life

Life in New York City is crazy.

But in such an amazing, satisfying, beautiful way.

I’ve been so extremely busy at work but I love every second of my day. I work almost nonstop from 9 a.m. to around 5:30 p.m., but I love everything I’m doing. The days just fly by and then I have events to go to at night so I can get my networking on.

Tonight I went to a Microsoft preview event at Stage 37 with my ASME mentor, Lorelei, and my ASME coordinator, Nina. Technically, they were set up with me to help me succeed, but they’ve become so much more than that. They’re my friends, my confidantes, and they’ve got my back in this crazy magazine industry we all love to immerse ourselves in. Believe me, there’s nothing like having a few good people behind you to make sure you succeed in the end. And when you’re friends with those who have already broken into the industry, it’s even better.

So back to the Microsoft event. They had some pretty cool new equipment coming out — my favorite involved a system for the XBox 360 called Kinect. It tracks your movements through camera sensors and allows you to move around without any controllers. My favorite game was Dance Central, which was made in collaboration with MTV Games. It reminded me of Dance Dance Revolution, but it’s a lot less complicated and more fun. You can pull off silly dance moves (such as disco moves and chicken leg) and advance the levels through a wide variety of songs. We were able to test out the game right then and there, and it was a lot of fun. Personally, I rocked Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.” This game is definitely going to sell.

But my night wasn’t over.

After we left Stage 37, we headed over to West 30th for Robert Verdi’s fashion event. It was held at this really high-end apartment (I wish I could live there) and we enjoyed casual conversation while learning about his new endorsements. I wish I had some pictures of the apartment for you, but here’s some of the stuff from the goodie bag.

There was a lot of other great stuff in the bag, but Lorelei, Nina and I split the bag.

So that was basically my day, once you add in a lot of work for FITNESS, too. Oh, and did I mention I had lunch with the Deputy Editor at The New Yorker today? Yeah, that also happened.

So yes, I love my life. I’ll have some more stories for you soon!

Diary of an Unwilling Couch Potato

Day 3 post-surgery: someone get me out of this bed.

I didn’t think it would be possible for basic cable to be so lousy every time I turn on my TV. How many times can someone bear watching Paula Deen, Judge Judy, and my mother’s soap operas before tossing the remote aside after five or six rotations through the channels? I’m getting a little cabin fever. I can get to other parts of the house in about 10 minutes or so, but I refuse to. Even just getting myself to and from the bathroom is a process. And once I get there and back, I’m shaking and nauseous and I’ve broken out into a sweat that makes Richard Simmons look like an amateur.

The further into recovery I get, the more I hear about my friends in Oswego working Orientation. I had to resign from my position as a Laker Leader this summer after learning about the surgery that I would have no choice but to undergo. While I adjust the straps on my immobilization brace, the LLs are adjusting to their new surroundings. When they get Bev’s ice cream for some team bonding, I’ll be making good friends with my pill bottles and my CPM machine. I know it’s inevitable, but man do I miss them. Orientation takes a special kind of person who has a knack for making people smile while keeping them interested and informed. I have so much faith in the current Summer 2010 staff and I know they’re going to create for themselves one of the best summers they’ll ever know.

I wonder what the sunset looks like up there tonight. I could go check out the webcam on the Oswego main page but I can’t help but wonder if there’s finally something good on TV.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want…

But if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.

November 26th, 2006. I was in the outpatient facility in my operation gowns and my hair french braided by my sister for the occasion. The IV in my hand poked and prodded at my vein with each motion I tried to make. I winced with each movement. Before I knew it, I was being led down the hallway into the operating room, and told to get myself up on the operating table. Not very accommodating, I thought. Once I woke up, I found myself the subject of my parent’s entertainment: put the kid’s glasses on crooked and snap some camera phone pictures of my droopy, anesthesia-stricken face. It’s all in good fun. :)

Physical therapy soon followed, and by March I was back behind the plate, catching for my school’s varsity softball team. We won leagues that year, but since then my health has deteriorated. Day in and day out I would experience my knee giving out and buckling on me, and I knew that my lifestyle was never going to be normal again. It took a lot of discomfort and daily knee dislocations and buckling to finally get an MRI on my knees shortly after finishing out the Spring 2010 semester.

So, here I am. I haven’t moved from this bed except to use the bathroom and I’ve finally figured out the perfect cocktail of painkillers and time to make recovery go as smoothly as possible. For 4 hours each day I have to strap myself into a machine that automatically bends my knee for me at a set degree (today was a pretty intense 40 degrees). This is to keep the joint lubricated, the blood flowing, and most of all to prevent scar tissue from building up. I also have a pad wrapped inside the bandages that is connected by a hose to an ice cooler. Ice water flows through the channels in the pad every 2 minutes or so to help cool the area. It stays on 20 hours per day and constantly needs more ice after an hour or two of running. Guess I have a hot knee!

It’s day three of recovery. Getting to the bathroom is getting a little easier each time; my brother and my mom have been helping me and I’m no longer in excruciating pain trying to crutch my way down the hallway. My dad is being so supportive too. He took Monday off to be with me for my surgery, and has been helping me every step of the way, even when he’s at work. I’m really itching to get out of this bed and I keep having dreams of walking again but soon enough I’ll be training for that marathon. Baby steps, baby steps….

The Best and the Brightest

Every day during our training for Orientation, we are reminded that we are chosen out of the best and the brightest. We represent the best of Oswego and define what a good student is. So what am I?

I am a Jr. Public Relations major with a minor in Marketing. I’m the president of Alpha Phi Omega the National Co-ed Service fraternity on campus and a second year Laker Leader. I’m an avid member of the Downhill ski and snowboard club, and a student. But, what does the best and the brightest mean?

It means I’m lucky. I get to spend my summer in Johnson Hall, on the beautiful shore of Lake Ontario with my best friends. Day in and day out getting paid to represent the school I love, and helping new students to love it too!

It also means my summer is a total of 3 weeks in June and 3 weeks in August. It means I get to see my boyfriend twice, and tell my parents Happy Birthday over the phone. My days turn from Monday through Friday to Day 1, 2 and so on. We work a lot of hours, and get to know each other very well.

From being “The best and the brightest” I have learned a great work ethic and a lot about people. So I guess it means I’m a people person. And by missing my loved ones it just proves it more. Let the programs begin!