Living

Dear Braden by Your Magazine

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Pitching an advice column seems a little narcissistic, don’t you think? There isn’t a guidebook or manual to surviving college and being a 20-something (if you know of one, please send it my way), but I hope this column can help us all figure it out. Look, I’m no Oprah. I’m not claiming to be a life coach, though I do think you can become one online in a couple of hours. However, I do believe that unstable people give the best advice. I procrastinate! I bite my nails! In fact, I’m writing this the day it’s due. God, I should really take my own advice.  

Dear Braden,

Ever since second semester started, I’m finding it harder and harder to be social. I have zero impulse to go out. My friends try to drag me to parties every weekend, but I just want to stay in bed and watch Netflix and sleep. Any suggestions for fighting off the winter blues?

Sincerely,

Seasonally Affected

 

Dear Seasonally Affected,

Have you ever seen the Lars von Trier film Melancholia? It’s a two-hour saga about the end of the world. Sounds fun, right? Kirsten Dunst plays Justine, a woman who is majorly depressed. She spends half of the film in a wedding dress crying on a golf course and eating meatloaf that—and I quote—“tastes like ashes.” Why am I telling you about this bizarre-o art house film, Seasonally Affected? Because every year when winter rolls around and rears its ugly head like a zit on my chin, besides muttering “Winter is coming!” in my best Jon Snow impression, I become Kirsten Dunst à la Melancholia—minus the wedding dress and the meatloaf, of course.

I too, Seasonally Affected, am seasonally affected. My mood is directly correlated to the weather. I hate winter. Hate it. I thrive in the summer; winter—not so much. It’s cold, wet, and miserable. It gets dark outside at 4:00 p.m., and it gets dark inside of me. Despite what anyone says, those “happy lights” don’t work. You do your best just to get by.

I spent the winter of 2014 (yes, that winter. Over 100 inches of snow in Boston!), my freshman year, in my single room in the Colonial building. It was a dark time, quite literally, as I kept my blackout curtains down for three months. I watched all five seasons of Six Feet Under and barely showered. I drank NyQuil with a bendy straw. I’d stay up all night and make collages on the carpet, listening to the same Fleetwood Mac song on repeat. I let strangers into my bed, and by strangers I mean various flavors of Doritos (have you ever tried the spicy and sweet purple ones? So good). I think I ended up gaining twenty pounds! Anyway, you get the picture. Having been to that certain kind of hell and back, let me tell you, no matter how cozy it may be, staying in bed is not the answer.

It’s easy to dig yourself into a hole and want to stay there. Trust me—I get it. And while it’s important to accept what you’re going through, you can’t let it ruin you. Feel your feelings; don’t try to numb them. Don’t drown them in wine, weed, and TV (even if it’s an Emmy Award-winning series).

Self-care is the name of the game. Take a shower! Do a facemask! Get yourself into a bootcamp class, or try spinning, yoga, or pilates! I swear, nothing is better than working out when you’re depressed. Bootcamp is my favorite. It saved my life. You’re running on a treadmill in a dimly lit room and Lil Wayne is blasting and you feel like you’re in a music video. The endorphins are insane!

Get yourself out there, Seasonally Affected. Bundle up. Beat the cold. You’re braver than the snow and the slush and the sleet. In order to grow, you have to ask more of yourself. Challenge yourself and put yourself out there, even if you don’t want to. Especially when you don’t want to. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself. Oh, and try those purple Doritos.

 

Love,

Braden

 

Dear Braden,

I’ve always thought I was gay, but I started getting feelings, emotional and sexual, for this chick. I backed away too quickly because I was scared there might be something. I’m also scared of commitment, so when she confronted me about how I felt, I couldn’t give a straight answer (no pun intended). We haven’t spoken in months. Do I reach out and make things right? Or should I just stay away and wait for someone new to come along, and hope I feel that connection with a girl again?

Sincerely,

Scared of Commitment (and Girls and Guys)

Dear Scared of Commitment (and Girls and Guys),

I’m going to give it to you straight (pun very much intended)—it’s time to look deep. You need to ask yourself why you’re scared of commitment (and girls and guys). What is it that you’re trying to run away from?

I’m right there with you. I’m pretty inexperienced in the relationship department, but I do know a thing or two about burning bridges. I went through a phase where I was an emotional pyromaniac. If someone confronted me with something I didn’t want to hear, I cut them out of my life. May the bridges I burn light the way. Burning a bridge is equivalent to running away from your problems, except in addition to hurting yourself, you’re hurting those around you. It’s self-destructive and lonely, and to be honest, it’s immature. I’m sorry for sounding so Dr. Phil-ish, but I can say these things because I’ve been there!

 

I think you need to reach out and make things right. That’s what I would do. It doesn’t sound like this person hurt or betrayed you. It’s not fair to cut someone out of your life because they’re making you face something you’re not ready to see.  She was only being honest, and I suggest you do the same. I’m not saying you two should start dating or even hook up, but if she was brave enough to confront you about how she felt, then you owe it to her and to your friendship to let her know how you feel. Keep me posted!

Love,

Braden

Illustration Credit: Taylor Roberts

Deeper Than a Hug by Alessandra Settineri

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Hug. Just saying the word sounds like a happy sigh, brings about a ticklish feeling deep inside your chest, and lifts a smile on your face. The gesture itself—one person encircling their arms around another and squeezing—is that feeling amplified. It suggests warmth, comfort, protection, and love. It’s a shot of oxytocin straight to your system. It’s reassurance that everything will be alright, even when you’re at your lowest point or wit’s end. It’s not that way for everyone, however. Let’s start with the huggers.

Good news! Hugging for college students is now more accessible than ever. “Those who are accustomed to hugs and enjoy them are likely to hug their new friends at college,” says Miami-based psychologist Dr. Sherrie Lewis-Thomas. She adds that this is because college campuses tend to have more sexual freedom, which inevitably leads to positive physical contact as a whole to be welcomed amongst peers.

Take “Free Hug” events, for example. Although Lewis-Thomas says that hugging a stranger can often create feelings of anxiety over anything else, imagine the person in your life who started hugging you the day after meeting them. It can be a roommate or friend you’ve developed a strong bond with. For those of you who love to hug, it brings comfort and boosts your mood. However, it is important to be aware of those who would not be as appreciative.

Not everyone is into hugs.

Lewis-Thomas says that hugs won’t always be welcomed, but on the contrary, could be “anxiety-provoking and unbearable” for some. “A traumatized individual or autistic individual may struggle with physical contact,” she says. Therefore, it is crucial to be mindful that the person you want to hug consents to it beforehand. Not everyone reacts to touch in the same way, and it is important to place the other person into consideration since they are just as involved in the interaction.

If you are an individual who does not enjoy hugs, a pet or comfort animal can be a more relaxing and rewarding alternative. “The petting of the animal is calming for many people,” says Lewis-Thomas, “Most pets also have a tendency to provide unconditional love, obedience, and loyalty.” These traits could be much more beneficial to individuals who want to engage in physical contact that is less confrontational but who still need security and a form of assurance.

Finally, there are also those who could use a hug, but may be afraid to reach out.

Harry Harlow’s “Monkey Love” experiments showed motherless baby rhesus monkeys who valued physical comfort over food. The baby monkey would come into contact with either a “mother” made of wire with a bottle of milk attached, or a terry cloth-covered “mother” that provided no food. Most of the time, the baby monkey would spend time cuddling the mother covered in cloth over the wire mother with food, especially when they underwent moments of distress. Perhaps, the experiment in itself wasn’t the most ethical and should have taken into account the feelings of all sentient creatures. However, the results are still relevant, showing that individuals will value comfort even over things that contribute to basic survival.

The same applies to people; when one undergoes moments of stress or is depressed, physical contact can do wonders to improve one’s emotional state. “There are even some studies that have shown that hugs have calmed aggression, expansiveness, and other emotional difficulties,” says Lewis-Thomas. Once again, it may be better to receive a hug from someone you feel close to than from a stranger. If you are a friend to someone who is going through a rough time, ask them if they need a hug. Even if they say no, it is better to have asked than to leave them without that form of emotional support.

If you’re not into physical contact from others or no one else is around, and you need some comfort, don’t hesitate to give yourself a hug. In the end, caring about your own emotional well-being should be your utmost priority. Regardless, the same feelings of stress relief and contentment arise and make you feel better, especially when they come from the person who will always be there for you… you.

Art Credit: Taylor Roberts

Keep Calm, Zen On by Laura Cafasso

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The news is enough to make you believe there is no God. Pundits spin poison, snow falls in March, and facts are “alternative.” The air of hope seems to have been let out of America's balloon with this great divide: those that still support Trump and those who don’t (and possibly never did). Post-election anxiety and depression is warranted. But the real question is: how do we cope? Spirituality may seem taboo for today’s youth, reminiscent of the exodus from Big Band Music to Rock n’ Roll in the 1950s and 1960s. The younger generations especially are agitated by traditionalism and antiquities (like those stricter religions that have no place for LGBTQA+ youth).

But whatever you believe in, finding a peaceful center can help reawaken hope, relaxation, and a clear mind. Harrison Blum, Emerson’s new Director of Religious and Spiritual Life and Campus Chaplain, is ready to revamp his department with a “both and approach,” meaning a less formal decision making process. In this way, his department is entirely receptive to what students want and are looking for. Generally, Blum wants to work on “deepening, reconnecting, re-inspiring students to their own faith-based traditions.”

But this isn’t forced attendance to CCD or its equivalents. Blum is not trying to convert anyone but, rather, has an honest intention of "making spirituality feel relevant to those that seek it, including fostering and supporting the spirituality of those that don't identify within a specific religious tradition."

Blum’s holistic lifestyle derives from humble beginnings. Growing up Jewish, Blum found interest in Buddhism from a World Religion course at his high school. From there, a “seed was planted,” as he puts it, leading to the study of religions in college and receiving a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity school. Previously, Blum was a preschool and kindergarten teacher, worked at Franciscan Children’s Hospital and Northeastern, and led “contemplative” and “ecstatic” dance experiences.

“I love people and I love engaging with people... chaplaincy is a beautiful way to do that,” Blum says. Chaplaincy is a non-denominational cleric that aids a secular institution, such as Emerson College. His forthcoming goals include completing a community art project synthesized from student responses to his survey. So far, there have been 400 responses to Blum’s spirituality survey, which will be transformed into a word cloud and brief video.

Based on the responses as a whole, Blum will evaluate other projects that will benefit the Emerson community. Some ideas floating around are: an interfaith retreat (most likely next Fall), an interfaith Spring hike, and an Earth Day meditation.

“Nature is nurturing,” Blum reflects, “Something that transcends labels.” If an interfaith retreat occurs this coming fall, it would involve renting a house with a big common space to share stories and faith. The objective would be, “interfaith connection ... not just ‘oh, that’s interesting,’ but learning about your faith experience actually deepens my reflection on my own.

Recently, Blum was commissioned to speak at a Harvard divinity panel called, “What is the Moral Responsibility of College Chaplains in the Age of a Trump Presidency?

It’s a complicated question, with a not-so-easy answer. Blum starts off by mentioning context, something we’re still struggling with even after the election results. Being from New England or living in a progressive city stunts perspective. Coal miners in the midwest have a different context than Emersonians do, and that’s survival. Jobs, unemployment, growth, and finances. Not to say one’s right and the other’s wrong. Context changes, but compassion remains. Politicians, Blum insists, should focus on going from “soundbites and slogans to stories, hopes, and fears.”

So, however you feel about spirituality, Blum’s office can be your place to find inner serenity. It’s located in L155, right next to the Cultural Center, with mindful meditations every Friday from 11:00-11:30 am. There’s also one-on-one spiritual counseling (by appointment) and a Reflection Room, with prayer rugs, ablution materials, and a Qibla sign for Muslim students (need to reserve on SpaceBook).This may not be everyone’s answer to coping. Bitterness and anger are easy reactions, but finding a sense of compassion and self will save us in the long run.

Photo Credit: Benjamin Froham

Phone Home by Alessandra Settineri

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The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was an allegory for students going into college. An alien left behind in a new place, still adjusting and homesick, tries to “phone home.” I see you, Spielberg. I know the feeling. When I first got to college, I was that kid who paced up and down the hallway in the dorms and filled my parents in on my day, sometimes several times a day. Meanwhile, my new friends, while respectful, were quizzical. Often, they’d point out how cute it was that I was so close to my family, which is true. But, I’d also been trained from a young age by my divorced, immigrant parents to call them daily, whether it was to say good morning to my traditional Italian dad or let my concerned Cuban mom know I’d gotten home from school. Old habits stick, I guess. My friends’ comments made me wonder though: Did they not communicate with their family that often? Was it my peers’ way of gaining independence? Was it a result of culture or differing parenting styles? I set off to find out.

And in fact, many of these factors do play a role in communication between families, according to Miami-based psychologist Dr. Sherrie Lewis-Thomas. On a family member’s part, “I think cultural issues play a large role in the frequency of communication, as does gender and family dynamics,” she says. In my case, my Hispanic mother, who is usually occupied with work, still prioritizes her children above everything else and always goes out of her way to check in on me and make sure I didn’t procrastinate again (“Sorry to disappoint you, Mami but…” “Don’t you know stress kills!). Students with similar backgrounds probably feel this strongly. There is also the factor of how close a family is, or what sort of precedent they have established in how frequently communication will occur.

Unlike the year E.T. was released1982when college students still had to use a landline in order to get in touch with their families and email didn’t even exist, let alone all the social media and other technologies we use to communicate nowadays, we have all that and more. “Digital media is also playing a key role in more frequent communication as it is now so easy to communicate and can take less than ten seconds,” says Lewis-Thomas.

After conducting a survey answered by college students, I found that nearly half of those who participated responded that they communicated with their families daily. The rest of the responders said they either got in touch multiples times a day, weekly, or two to three times a month. The most common means of communication was text messaging, followed by phone calls and then video calls.

Fellow students’ comments were also enlightening. Those who called daily said they did so because their parent was their best friend or that a close-knit family important to their culture, very similar to what Lewis-Thomas asserted. Meanwhile, others favored calling their siblings or cousins who they were closer in age with every day, and getting in touch with their parents once a week “for logistics.” This is actually quite common according to Lewis-Thomas who says, “Many students reach out to their parents for money or help.” Other students said they did not communicate as often because they did not get along with their parents. Some said their parents were their best friends. Lewis-Thomas emphasizes that calling is a way for students who are still adjusting to receive support from their families and feel connected.

Gender also seems to influence the frequency of communication between students and their families. “Culturally speaking, one can often hear a parent say they have a daughter so they get calls all the time, but their sonsthey feel lucky if they talk to them once a week,” says Lewis-Thomas.

I’m nearly done with my second year of college, and I admit that I still like to call my parents everyday. Make of that what you will, but I just want to make sure that they’re okay just as much as I’m sure they want to make sure I’m not waking up at noon every day (I don’t-I wake up at 11:30. Ha!) Now, my dad wants me to FaceTime him once a day though and I really don’t know how to feel about that. I think I’ll just stick to “phoning home.”

Photo Credit: Emme Harris and Taylor Roberts

Pure Serenity by Elizabeth David

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I wake up. I check my phone. I eat a crappy bowl of cereal. I go to class. Check my phone. I go to work. Check my phone. Go meet friends. Worry about tomorrow. Go to dinner. Check my phone. Hear the stories. Complain about work. Check my phone. Eat more shitty food. Go do more work. Check my phone. Go to bed. I wake up. And check my phone. I keep going, never stopping to breathe, never stopping to see this moment. Before I know it, months have gone by. Where did that time go? It’s easy to lose track of time. It’s easy for your mind to get cluttered with so many things going on. We are constantly bombarded with things and looking toward the future, never really paying attention to what is going on now. Even when we get a “break”, we really don’t because our mind is again distracted by the constant updates we receive on our phones, which aren’t relevant to us most of the time. Things get jumbled up, we lose sense of moments, and we forget to pay attention to ourselves and our bodies. Oftentimes, the mental stress takes a toll on our bodies, and vise versa. When this happens, we put ourselves in danger of spiraling and reaching a point of exhaustion or dysfunction.

Today, it seems as though we are never satisfied with the present moment. We get all these chances in between life’s busy events to just be present with our thoughts and ourselves, yet we don’t because we have the distraction of social media in the palm of our hands. We never stop to think and look around, we are continually simulating our mind with entertainment and something resembling social contact. And then we wonder why we are constantly tired, and constantly stressed. At our deepest points we question why it is we are doing what we are doing. Rarely do people know what it is to be at peace. What we must realize is that it is all interconnected—what we take into our bodies physically and mentally, how we balance what we spend our time doing, and how conscious we are of life itself.

The trick to finding peace isn't to try finding it at all, but to simply be at peace. Some people meditate or do yoga, but there are more than just classical methods that exist to still the mind and work the body. Tranquility in life means not just mental peace, but physical peace as well.  This can come in many ways, but is most often associated with pure being—so pure, we often fail to notice when we are in these peaceful states. When you drink water after being thirsty for a long time, when you climb a mountain and sit to rest at its peak, when you read a book for a few hours to finally finish it and put it down. All these events culminate in pure awareness of the moment. This, in Buddhism, is known as passaddhi manifest—the calmness in the mind and body, the silence and tranquilization of agitation. The more you do, the more you commit to what it is you do, the easier it becomes to find yourself in such tranquil states of being.

This physical body is temporary. Not only this, but what we can actively do with this body is even more limited. The body will one day decay by means of natural processes, so why speed up the inevitable? Why not use it to experience life as what we biologically are, animals? Go climb, run, swim, hug, meditate, make love, do yoga, and enjoy the activities you love. It not only improves your mental health, but helps you see just how blessed you are to have such a versatile vessel to experience this conscious existence with. Meditation comes in many forms: we can sit, swim, surf, skate, climb, fly, paint, and so forth. Anything that brings you to this present moment, a state of pure serenity upon what is in that moment, is meditation on the deepest of levels. When we can purify our minds, a pure life follows naturally.\

Art by: Julianna Sy

The Luminosity of Color by Alessandra Settineri

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As apartment hunting season finally arrives, my future roommate and I, like expecting parents, are constantly trading ideas about what our apartment will be like. Our vision is there: a cool, welcoming environment with a big living room and kitchen to entertain our friends, bedrooms the size of closets since we’ll always want to be out, and one bathroom that we’re fine with sharing because rent prices are very real. It’s like a page out of a coloring book—which we have yet to color in. The color scheme of your first home seems like an arbitrary detail in the grand scheme of things: school, extra-curricular activities, careers. Yet, the hues of everything from your walls to your couch seem to have a major effect on your mood and general emotional wellness. Not only has our cultural conditioning trained us to associate certain colors with feelings and concepts we see in nature and our societylike how red is associated with passion and anger, and green with success or envybut the way they’re presented also affects us.

A particular someone said, “Let there be light;” and in the context of color, light is a bigger factor than we realize. Interior designer Rose Ann Humphrey, founder of the firm Home Life, emphasizes the importance of light and color inasmuch as they affect individuals. “The energy that light brings to color is amazing […] without light, there is no color,” says Humphrey, who recommends considering regional palettes before personal tastes when deciding on colors. This includes taking the temperature, lighting, mood, and energy of the environment into account. While homes in sunnier locales can use more richly pigmented colors like terra cotta on the walls since the light brings them to life, doing so in places where light is more difficult to come by can come off as depressing—a reminder of how brilliant the color could be but isn’t because of that missing sunshine (think of how Seasonal Affective Disorder affects people during the winter months when there are shorter days).

Instead, Humphrey suggests neutral colors such as beiges, browns, and golds as background colors that dominate the room. Since the colors have less pigmentation, they don’t need as much natural light and provide a needed air to the room. Then you can use those “shots of [rich] color,” says Humphrey, in the form of accents, whether they be pillows, plants, tables, or chairs.

You can also decide to play tricks with light. Dimmers (Lutron, $24) are an incredibly affordable way to manipulate how much light a room gets when transitioning from daytime to nighttime, helping you transfer your mood from a working environment to a restful or social one. Playing with textures is also an attractive method of managing color intensity; how you choose to upholster your furniture can either brighten or mute the colors. Using metallic and shimmery shades also adds stylish bursts of light without using radical colors or techniques. According to Humphrey, even painting different walls in the same room with various shades according to where the light hits them can subtly amplify the space without doing too much to it. “The right color brings luminosity to any place,” she says.

There is a slight risk, however, should one decide to use bolder colors where they do not fit. “Full-on intensity isn’t harmonious,” Humphrey says, especially when decorating public versus private spaces. Public spaces should always be welcoming and can be more whimsical by taking inspiration from the outdoors. Meanwhile, bedrooms should have restful, easy-to-look-at colors like blues, whites, and other soft shades. So while it’s okay to make a red dining room, you probably wouldn’t want to do the same for your bedroom (unless you fancy yourself Christian Grey).

If you’re really into a particular trend, try to purchase decor like you would with clothes from fast fashion stores. “Classic always comes back,” Humphrey says, so feel free to invest in pieces that are in shades of red, blue, and green, that you can use forever.

In the end, however, it all comes down to balancing between your wants and needs as an individual when decorating your new apartment or house. With each paint choice, you’re opening yourself to many possibilities. With each fabric comes another opportunity to show the world a different side of your personality. The process of decorating your home can seem daunting, but with the right-colored glasses, finding your ideal shades can help you discover more about how you can live the most satisfying life.

Photo by: Maddie Weinstein-Avery

Thank You, Tumblr by Ashley Dunn

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I thought I had broken up with Tumblr when I went to college. Although it served as my savior in middle and high school, I rarely find myself scrolling through my dashboard anymore. Absentmindedly clicking its bookmark while in class has often been a game of Russian roulette, with gifs of slobbery blowjobs and pictures of boobs popping up every three or four posts. I’ve outgrown Tumblr, and the content has most definitely outgrown me.

My most recent visit, however, surprised me with a message from Rhian, an Internet friend I made back when I was a high school sophomore. A now 23-year-old lesbian from Vermont, she played a very important role in my life while I formed my queer identity. In fact, Tumblr itself served as an incredibly crucial resource for me while I came to terms with being queer. Though the blogging site often gets written off as joke, a place for teenage girls to whine and post aesthetic pictures of places they’ll never go and people they’ll never be, Tumblr helped me form the basis of my identityit’s where I found most of my early information on what it means to be queer.

        Growing up, I was no stranger to the concept, as my aunt is a lesbian, but could never associate myself with the term due to some intense internalized homophobia. The first time I interacted with queernessno slurs attachedwas in 6th grade, the year I created my Tumblr account. Was most of it in the form of fanfiction? Yes, definitely. Did I also write gay fanfiction at a certain point in my life? Yes, but this is all beside the point.

        I’m not alone in my gratitude for Tumblr. Sara Barber, a second year Writing, Literature, and Publishing major, agrees not only on the informative nature of Tumblr, but the pressure-free space. “I wasn’t afraid to talk about being queer on my blog,” says Barber. “I had a community to accept me and to learn from.”

        I joined a writer’s community on Tumblr, a blog called Renata that unfortunately no longer exists. For the first time, I was watching queer stories come to life. I was reading and creating storylines where queer relationships had happy endings. I was seeing myself in characters, seeing my thoughts and feelings personified in positive ways. While it may be cliché to say I realized that I’m not alone, my low-key conservative hometown didn’t exactly provide me with a clique of queers to feel at home with.

        The first girl I ever fell in love with was a girl I met on Tumblr. Kass talked openly about kissing girls and being in a polyamorous relationship; she constantly recommended new blogs for me to follow that posted about queerness in various perspectives, from political to personal to sexual. My dashboard kept me up-to-date with everything my IRL heteronormative atmosphere was depriving me of. Tumblr is where I first encountered the word ‘cis’, my initial exposure to the fallacy of the gender binary, and where I learned the concept of being demisexual, something I am beginning to connect with now, in my junior year of college.

        Without access to Tumblr from a young age, I’d likely be a very different individual. My path to comfort and security in my own queerness would have been derailed. I am so incredibly grateful for this online community of activists, educators, and my favorites, the gays.

 

Cookbook Extravaganza by Esther Blanco

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There are three things in life that I consider essential. The first, a dog (or a cat, if you’re a cat person). The second, a good cup of coffee. And the third, a collection of cookbooks to get you through any season, holiday, event, or craving. I am more of a sweets person myself, but since a lot of people favor savory, I have a variety of cookbooks. I have also been through most diet trends (i.e., vegeterian, pescaterian, and paleo), except gluten-free because what’s the point of living if you take gluten out of your food? Whenever I cook, I always struggle with what side dish I’m going to eat my fish or chicken with. I grow tired of the same flavors quickly, so I find it helpful to buy cookbooks that aren’t saturated with complicated entrees, and instead include more side dishes. As a college student, it’s often hard to say no to anything fried or processed, so I forced myself to buy Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi in order to eat my veggies in a way that isn’t frozen or steamed. I especially like Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook because before each recipe there’s a short note about what inspired it. Also, the way he explains the steps is simple enough for an amateur chef to follow. On a separate note, it has a whole chapter on eggplants (yum!).

The Classic Cookbook by Christopher Kimball is probably the cookbook to have if you’re not too experienced in the kitchen, but still want to make delicious homemade American food; it’s like your own personal cooking seminar. The best thing about Kimball’s cookbook is that it has two books in one—the first focuses on savory cooking essentials and the second is all about desserts! So, this is an new adult’s best bet when it comes to impressing family and friends, or simply satisfying a craving without having to go out.

You didn’t think I’d end without a few mentions of pastry cookbooks… did you? And because I am biassed and could not make my mind up about which is most important or my favorite, I decided to include two pastry cookbooks. If you haven’t guessed already, I love baking and eating pastries, but it is really hard to find a good cookbook with all the essentials. So, when I stumbled across Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours by Sarabeth Levine I saw the pastry-rich gates of heaven open up. This cookbook has it all, but it mostly focuses on French baking. The first fifty pages or so are just about why she uses the ingredients she uses and what the best way of using them are. Then she explains the process of making different kinds of doughs (i.e., croissant dough, pie dough, puff pastry, and so on). After that, it’s organized into categories like morning pastries, cakes, pies, breads, ice cream, jam, and so many other special desserts.

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with Levine’s tips and methods, turn to Joanne Chang’s Baking with Less Sugar. If something can ruin a pastry, it’s too much sweetness. Joanne Chang offers alternative sweeteners and even no sweetener at all to make pastries just sweet enough. Don’t be fooled into thinking that less or no sugar means that everything will be bland and “healthy”; there’s a recipe for Cinnamon Sugar Monkey Bread and let me tell you, like everything Chang bakes, it will blow your mind.

Other specialty essentials include: Cooking Light’s How to Cook Vegetarian; Against All Grain: Delectable Paleo Recipes to Eat Well & Feel Great by Danielle Walker

Art by: Taylor Roberts

The War on Art by Laura Cafasso

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For the past three months, a permanent Star Wars opening crawl has trudged across our vision: It is a shit show. The new Dark Side has risen. The Empire has declared war on refugees, Muslims, gays, women, people of color . . . but rebel bases hide in plain sight. They are led by fearless artists. . . . But the fight is nowhere near finished. It has been brewing for a long time, way before Trump. As reported by Vanity Fair, Nixon attempted to slice the budget of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), but Fred Rogers (Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood) testified before a Senate committee, helping prevent the budget slashing. Then, both the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) were on the chopping block by Reagan, who ended up settling for reducing both of those organizations’ budgets to half of their original size.

And, as history repeats itself, Trump is allegedly determined to completely privatize CPB (which funds PBS and NPR), and eliminate the NEA and NEH. This would be a colossal and irrefutable mistake. To destroy the NEA, for instance, would take away the grants and monetary support that go to national, state, and local organizations and artists who depend on outside funding to jumpstart projects. To privatize PBS and NPR would erase federal funding and make them completely dependent on citizen contributions to survive.

In 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson ratified the NEA; fifty years later, their 2016 budgetary report states they were allotted $147.9 million, or 0.004% of the federal budget. Eighty percent of the $147.9 million—or around $118 million—was distributed as grants and awards. This barely constitutes 1% of the federal budget, but the current administration is reportedly mulling over the possibility of getting rid of the NEA because of its apparent “waste.”

This swamp drainage would only clog artistic license and hope. Art would essentially become a lost art. B.F.A. acting major Mona Moriya ‘17 who is graduating this May and moving to New York City in the fall to pursue her dreams, says “Art has been a big part of my life, it’s the reason I get out of bed in the morning. It keeps me feeling alive.”

Like so many other artists, Moriya fears the repercussions of Trump’s policies.

“My concerns are that the current president will cut all funding to the arts, making it difficult for many people, including those from underprivileged backgrounds, to have access to art.”

Moriya’s comment is on the pulse. According to the NEA’s website, “forty  percent of NEA-supported activities take place in high-poverty neighborhoods” and “thirty-three percent of NEA grants serve low-income audiences.”

Moriya is hoping that post-graduation she can propel opportunities for people of color whether on stage, backstage, or playwriting. At Emerson College, Moriya’s credits include The House of Bernarda Alba, Richard III, Lizzie Stranton (Emerson Stage), For Colored Girls… (Flawless Brown), and the upcoming Uncle Vanya (Emerson Shakespeare Society).

Speaking of Flawless Brown, documentary production major Lissa Deonarain is the current president with a mission of always speaking “your personal truth.”

Flawless is a collaborative effort of exploration. It is the only artistic organization at Emerson College that gives an outlet specifically to students of color. It has branched out since its inception to four departments: Flawless Stage (performing arts), Flawless Pictures (visual and media arts), Flawless Writes (writing and publishing), and Flawless Promotions (marketing). Its flagship campus is in Boston, but it also has a chapter at Emerson Los Angeles.

“I really want each woman in the organization to put themselves into their art, in whatever form that may be,” Deonarain says. “Women of color have been silenced, yet have remained hyper-visible for so long. I want the women of Flawless to be able to own their voice, own their space, own their story, and make art that speaks to those things. It's time to have our voices respected and acknowledged. I think now more than ever [it is important] to make our work as direct, expressive and truthful as possible.”

In terms of the Trump administration, Deonarain worries about censorship and accessibility. “It's scary to think about,” Deonarain says, “but I truly think that if the media and governmental departments are already being silenced and discredited, who knows what that could mean for art, especially political art. As a woman of color, your art is always seen as political, so we are always affected. I also worry about the government cutting art programs in schools. That's how I was exposed to the different forms of art I love now, I don't want to see that taken away from the next generation.”

Public schools especially depend on art programs, and when making budget cuts, it has almost become a cliche to see art, music, and theater programs removed from curriculums. Not everyone is born an artist; but art provides a safe space and the tools to form a culture. A culture devoid of art is not a culture at all, it’s more like the dull world of Blade Runner or the prophetic bedlam of It Can’t Happen Here.

Mexican-American Writing, Literature, and Publishing major, Anamaria Falcone was recently inspired by the Academy Award-nominated film Moonlight and the election. Falcone reveals, “My whole life I’ve been stuck in the middle as a third generation Mexican-American, which can bluntly be summarized as being too ‘white’ to fit in with other Mexican-Americans, Latinos, Hispanics, but too ‘brown’ to be considered a true equal in white societies.” She continues, “It’s a very odd place to be . . . but that oddly enough doesn’t bother me as much as the pity I’ve seemed to have gotten from white people. I don’t like people apologizing ‘on behalf of all white people’ or people who feel a need to tell me that they’re using their ‘privilege’ to help people like me—I didn’t ask for that.”

Battling themes of identity and belonging, Falcone desires to one day be a screenwriter so she can write a film about a person torn and ostracized by two communities, very much like her own personal story. While weary of a dystopia, Falcone affirms that, “art, like the people, cannot and will not be silenced.”

No we will not.

Photo by: Hana Antrim

Let's March by Katja Vujic

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Inauguration day is fast approaching, and despite the best efforts of many activists to avoid a Trump presidency altogether, his inauguration seems certain at this point. Trump, in the course of his campaign, has managed to offend and/or insult members of nearly every group of people in the United States. The violence his comments have incited is already posing a threat to the safety of many. So on January 21st, 2017, the day after Trump’s inauguration, the Women’s March on Washington is set to take place. According to the official website, “The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women's rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.” It will be a historic day; millions across the country have made plans to attend. The march will follow Martin Luther King Jr.’s principles of nonviolence.

Many Emerson students plan on attending the march, and even more say they would like to attend if transportation was made available with Emerson’s help. Reilly Loynd, a sophomore Political Communications major, believes the school should step up. “Emerson, especially our president, made an attempt to reach out to the student body and address and acknowledge that students were feeling upset. But I feel like there hasn’t been a lot of follow up. It feels like they kind of dropped the ball. It would be a huge gesture on the college’s behalf to say, ‘We want to provide students with the means to do this.’”

Chala Tshitundu, a junior Writing, Literature and Publishing major and president of EBONI, Emerson’s Black Organization with Natural Interests, is relying on the possibility of having transportation provided. “I want to attend the march because our fundamental rights, as women, as queer people, as people of color, are unsafe under a Trump presidency,” says Tshitundu.

With individual bus tickets going for $100+, college students in Boston are at a disadvantage, even though college students are exactly who should be going to the march, according to Loynd. “This is everyone’s future,” says Loynd, “but ours especially in the sense that we will be graduating into the Trump presidency. Students, in my eyes, are one of the biggest stakeholders in this presidency.” In addition to the individual, more personal impacts of the presidency, Loynd says that the shift in the workplace will greatly impact students on a professional level.

Matthias Kelley, a junior studying Interactive Media and a D.C. resident, says he plans on attending the march. “As cliché as it sounds,” says Kelley, “students are the future, and the nation [sic] being decided now will be ours to run very soon.” He wants to attend in order to show support for women, fellow queer people, and any other marginalized groups. “It’s kind of a good way for those of us already planning on going to build up confidence and a sense of belonging to a cause, which will help in the coming years of activism,” he says.

Some have wondered about exactly what kind of impact the march will have, as Christine Lavosky, senior Writing, Literature and Publishing major, explains. “A lot of people are saying that the march isn’t going to do anything because it’s too many different issues piled into one,” says Lavosky. “But I think it’s a good first step, because if women don’t do anything, then no one’s going to see their anger. I think the first step is to show that this isn’t right, obviously, and then through that comes more organization.” Her hopes in attending the march are to meet fellow protestors from all over the country, in order to gain a wider perspective on feminism of all kinds and make contacts for future mobilization.

Loynd has similar ideas in mind. “There’s such an opportunity for Emerson students to work closely with other students,” she says. Meeting like-minded activists with similar goals is, for her, an opportunity for growth. “It’s something I care a lot about, especially as a woman. I feel angry, is what it comes down to, and I feel the need to be involved in whatever way I can,” she says.

Marni Zipper, a sophomore Marketing Communications major, is unable to attend the march because she will be studying abroad for the semester. However, Zipper supports the march and wants to see as many Emerson students there as possible. Though the election results have left her feeling deflated, events like this march give her a sense of optimism.

“The first part of all of it was making sure Trump didn’t get elected,” says Zipper. “Well, that happened. And then it was trying to have the electoral college change their votes and vote in Hillary. And that didn’t happen, obviously. And now it’s, ‘We need to impeach Trump.’ I don’t even know if that’s a possibility. I think it’s going to be a tough four years if he’s in office [for all of them], but I also think it’ll bring [activists] a lot closer together. We’ll just have to work even harder.”

Emerson College is seen by many of its students as a “progressive bubble.” The most progressive action our little bubble can take now is to help students expand those ideas by providing transportation to the march. Click here to donate to the GoFundMe page.

Art by: Taylor Roberts

Oh, Cy$*! by Laura Cafasso

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I had been moody, distant, and confrontational. If you believe in teen angst, then I was the poster child for it. Unfortunately, I didn’t sneak out and ride off into the suburban sunset on the back of a motorcycle. I felt isolated and particularly emotional during my time of the month. My PMS was like a nuclear reactor: volatile and unaware. My anxiety, which was probably charming when I was small, got worse and affected my socializing. Obviously concerned, my mom thought it would be best to start me on birth control. I was a sophomore in high school and still kind of hesitant about that. I said, “I’m not even having sex, why do I need to take the pill?” But, as it was relayed to me, the pill helps ease pesky PMS symptoms and makes your period lighter and shorter. I got many blood tests and an initial ultrasound; an elevated amount of some hormone was found, suggesting Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome causes irregular or prolonged periods, acne, hair growth, weight gain, depression, and anxiety. Cysts crop up alongside enlarged ovaries, and although it isn’t curable, it is treatable and common. To top it all off, it heightens the chance of developing infertility and Type 2 Diabetes. Terrified, I assumed the worst. But that’s not what was in store for me.

The ultrasound showed a mass that didn’t belong. It was a singular ovarian cyst, dangling off my right fallopian tube. For a visual: ovaries are about the size of almonds, and my unwelcomed guest was the size of an orange or tennis ball. I don’t think I ever had symptoms of this intruder, which ranges from pelvic pain and nausea to pressure on your bladder. And since it was my first ever ultrasound, this cyst could have been with me my whole life.

Avoiding conflict and difficulty, I thought I could just ignore it and let it rent space. But my doctor told me that I was at risk for “ovarian torsion,” which could occur from the largeness of the cyst twisting my right fallopian tube and right ovary until it dies. I could lose my right ovary, severely limiting my chances of pregnancy in the future.

I was seventeen years old and faced with a seemingly adult burden. I had no idea what I wanted to officially be when I grew up (tentatively the next Jennifer Lawrence) or if I wanted children. Yet, my future was riding on this decision: remove the cyst or not.

The route was laparoscopy, or when a surgeon makes a small incision (abdominal and through your belly button) in order to see your ovaries and remove the cyst. Hell no. I had never broken a bone, gotten stitches, or had invasive surgeries. I had gotten stung by a bee, skinned my knees, and gotten sporadic bloody noses. I did not want to go under anesthesia and have my body ripped apart. What if I didn’t wake up?

The surgery was scheduled for the following July. Devastated, I went through the motions of college tours and AP classes, feeling that in the back of my mind I was a goner. They say ignorance is bliss, which I wholeheartedly agree with now. I would have been unaware but content if I had no knowledge of the cyst. Looking back, I don’t consider this an overreaction or pure dramatics. I was not terminally ill; I was lucky.

But I was immature. I focused on myself and my own problems during a time where tragedies and misfortune, like the Boston Marathon Bombings, still sadly clogged the atmosphere. The local cable news was reporting on the controversial Rolling Stone spread on the Tsarnaev family as I awaited going under for my surgery. I thought about fear and its hold on me while unsuspecting marathon runners, families, and bystanders were struck with the worst fate possible. A little boy lost his life. Fear is always a choice and those people had courage amidst a senseless and cowardly act of violence. I could suck it up for a routine surgery.

Apparently, the last thing I talked about before giving into the anesthesia was cheeseburgers. All the nurses thought that was a riot. My cyst turned out to be benign, but the entire summer was spent with two miniature holes in my pubic area. It took a month for them to disappear, but I still feel the slices of new skin even after three years. I still feel like there’s something out of place and empty at the same time. I’ve moved on but I replay those moments from time to time, sometimes when I’m daydreaming in class instead of taking notes on Rousseau and his “sexual perversion” for being spanked by dominant women. That’s a whole other story you should really research, it’s quite fascinating.

Anyway, whether there is such a thing as luck or fate, life is scarily unpredictable. Yet we can predict that there will be three million cases of ovarian cysts in any given year. After my surgery, my anxiety never went away. It grew debilitating and overwhelming, to the point where my parents had to sit down and have a “serious” talk with me. Yes, going on birth control did alleviate the Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde scenario. But I was still a nervous hamster, running on my wheel, overwhelmed. A couple years later, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Being a woman is hard, and not just because a man like Donald Trump could be our next president. We have to be happy, collected, and easygoing. The “cool girl” is ideal, just listen to Amy Dunne’s (Rosamund Pike) candid rant in Gone Girl. We should be in control of our bodies and God forbid if someone hurts us, it’s our fault for how we were looking or acting and what we were wearing. Realizing I had this cyst, which led to my anxiety disorder acknowledgment, showed me I can be vulnerable and out of control. Despite the inferiorities of being a human, I am invincible for what I’ve gone through, and continue to go through. I can shout, “I am stronger than my cyst, I am stronger than my anxiety, I am a superhero.” Women must practice self care. Whether it’s emotional and mental, like declaring a “me day” and binge-watching Gilmore Girls, or physical, by seeking a doctor to get a check up.

My cyst (in memoriam) and anxiety made me proud to be a woman. This is my thank you to my cyst. Yes, I have annual ultrasounds to check if anything grows back, like a cyst neighborhood (and drink copious amounts of water in preparation which nauseates like you wouldn’t believe), but if it wasn’t for that cyst, I wouldn’t have gotten the help I needed and the overdue diagnosis I deserved. Thank you, you stupid gross cyst, for making me strong and a better, more self-aware woman.

Photo By: Hana Antrim & Alyssa Geissler

Her Hirsutism by Rodjyna Beauvile

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There were ten minutes left in the class. We’d completed the lesson for the day so my English teacher decided we could use the time to talk. My friends and I were seated in the back as usual in a circle that didn’t always stay a circle because of bouts of laughter and bathroom trips. We were talking about kissing. One of the guys pointed to my friend and I and said our faces were perfect because of its round shape. He then proceeded to demonstrate. He reached out and gently cupped her face the way he would if he were to kiss her. He then made the motion toward me. I froze immediately. If he touched my face, he would feel the stubble of my beard from not shaving for four days. It was a stretch but I hadn’t restocked on razors. I smacked his hand and told him he’d have to buy me dinner first. I was able to avoid another incident like the one that happened earlier that week when a friend told me my face felt like his dad’s. I came across this memory after reading a Refinery29 article about Harnaam Kaur, a body image activist who landed herself in the book of Guinness World Records for 2017 for her luscious beard.

I wish I could say I was inspired to grow out my own beard and embrace my insecurities for what they were, but I couldn’t. I thought back to my days in middle school of staring at my stubble in the mirror after someone called me sir or the countless days in high school of holding my face because two days was too soon to shave. I remembered thinking to myself how I would never be pretty enough for any boy and no matter my parts that made me inherently female, I would never be considered a [real] woman.

It isn’t easy being a bearded lady. Although I have hair everywhere from my knuckles to my lower back, my facial hair will always be the most humiliating. Not many people can think past the idea of a woman with a beard essentially faced with forces outside of her control. When I tried to explain that I have Hirsutism, a condition of unwanted, male-pattern hair growth due to an excess of testosterone, no one wanted to hear my excuse about hormone irregularities. They also didn’t care that this it is also a symptom of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) which will make me and the other five to ten percent of women of childbearing age affected by PCOS unable to have children.

I did not, however, let this cripple my way of living. After years of razors bumps and shadows, I’ve learned to live with my imperfections. I decided my insecurities were nothing more than irrational fears that are the result of unrealistic societal standards. I no longer see myself as less than a woman for something as natural as fur on an animal. As a unique and truly beautiful human being, I am what I am. In the words of Harnaam Kaur, “My body, my rules.”

Photo By: Delia Curtis

Angry Asian Girls by Kate Bartel

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ANGRY ASIAN GIRLS began as a Teespring fundraiser. Seven of us were sitting in a conference room at the Northeastern Asian American Institute on a Sunday morning trying to brainstorm ways to raise some fast funds, given we had put off fundraising for our internship program until the last month. So far, we had “fundrager", “bake sale”, and “ask people for money” spelled out on the whiteboard, and the level of enthusiasm in the room was at a flat nonexistent. We had spent the semester working at the Massachusetts State House, putting up with a whole lot of White nonsense, learning how to vent about that nonsense in safe circles on Sunday mornings, and coming to understand the multitude of ways in which Asian American women are marginalized in every sphere of life. We started talking about the mental health issues Asian American women face, illnesses many of us feel the direct impact of in our daily lives. We recalled a presentation outlining the startling fact that most medical technicians and doctors aren’t even trained to look for signs of breast cancer in AAPI women. Like many Sundays before this one, we found ourselves sitting at table stewing in equal parts passion and outrage. We felt unheard—silenced, even. We were angry. By the end of the conversation, we had pasted ANGRY ASIAN GIRLS in repeating text onto what is now our trademark mustard yellow square in bold, italicized Helvetica letters (cc: Drake), and submitted the digital design to Teespring. Although none of us knew it in that moment, we had just coined a collective identity that would change everything to come.

We’re nearing the end of 2016 and I think we can all collectively agree this year has been one long nightmare. But the metaphorical silver lining is that the tragedies of this year have enabled entire movements of people to utilize online spaces as tools to create visibility in otherwise marginalized communities. The Black Lives Matter movement is perhaps the most notable example of hashtag activism, and its founders have faced a shocking amount of critique on their methods of organizing (read: White oppressors telling Black people how they would like them to voice their oppression). Few things elicit a visceral reaction of equal parts groan and eyeroll from me quite as well as the phrase “just an internet activist.”

We’re currently in an age of quick clicks: online petitions you’ll forget you signed a week from now and easy-to-curate profiles that can make just about anyone look like a well-informed individual. Certainly, slacktivism is a very real term, and rightfully so. We all know by now that setting an opaque overlay of the French flag as your temporary profile picture did just as much for the grieving Parisian people as downloading the free bonus filters on VSCO did for your Instagram aesthetic.

But there is a stark distinction between slacktivism and using the magical powers of the World Wide Web to advance political groundwork and create actual, tangible change—like, IRL. I’d like to think of our collective as the latter.

As 2016 has proved to us time and time again that it’s only going to keep getting worse (although we hope November 8th might put an end to this nightmare), our mission and projects have gained momentum in ways we hadn’t previously thought possible. This is the part where I shamelessly attribute all of our successes to the aforementioned magical cloud that is The Internet.

I think our generation, having grown up in this internet era, has a tendency to discount everything we see online as trivial in relation to the larger context of social movements and issues going on in our “real world.” This translates into the language we use online versus, say, in a letter to a potential employer. I find myself sharing links to my work with the caption, “Check out this thing I did!” about something I put a lot of time and effort into, which is funny in that endearing, self-deprecating sort of way, but it’s also a way to lowball my skill set and appease my internet friends. And when it comes down to it, the social movements that have taken our country by storm in this past year are in large part due to hashtag activism. The things happening in our real world are a direct result of “this thing I did,” so maybe it’s important to give ourselves a little more credit, y’all.

Hashtag activism is something ANGRY ASIAN GIRLS has adopted as our primary mode of communication. We’ve found that it can be not only useful in physical organizing tactics, but it can also be empowering and reaffirming. My cofounder Dahn Bi Lee-Hong and I have used it to align our mission and goals with local organizations, such as Asian American Millennials Unite, and We, Ceremony. We just teamed up with both of these nonprofits to put on an enormously successful panel and poetry slam on the importance of voting in the upcoming elections. Hashtagging on Instagram and Twitter have expanded our outreach from Boston and New York to across the globe, all in a matter of months.

I look back on that misty Sunday in April of this year and it seems like a figment of my imagination. Our outreach has since quadrupled. Our team has grown and redefined itself just as we are growing and redefining what it means to be Asian American, to be woman and femme and non-binary, to be activist and ally. We consider ourselves a solidarity campaign in line with the demands of the Black Lives Matter movement, and in loving support of and solidarity with all queer people of color.

From Emerson’s SheCult to rising movements like the Art Hoe Collective, we know we’re in good company. We strive to reclaim the word “girls” and push back against the model minority myth. We are expanding the definition of femininity and tearing down fetishization of AAPI women and femmes. We are shifting the narrative of what it looks like to be Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Desi. We are here. We are taking up space. We are angry. We are ready.

Photo By: Allison Nguyen

How To: Martha's Vineyard by Esther Blanco

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I had never been to Martha’s Vineyard before. I imagined there would be preppy guys dressed in Polo Ralph Lauren shirts, girls in tennis skirts, and wealthy people just hopping off of their yachts and ready to enjoy their million-dollar Martha’s Vineyard beach-front houses. My experience, however, was very different. My boyfriend’s family and I decided to go down to the Vineyard early October, since the peak season was ending and all that would be left would be locals and a few other late vacationers. We drove down to Woods Hole, stopped at Pie in the Sky Bakery & Café where I had a delicious oat apple streusel muffin and soy chai latte (ok, that definitely sounded stuck up, but in my defense, soy chais are delicious). We then waited in the car in line to board the ferry. I was a bit nervous about getting on a boat while also being in the car, I felt like a sitting duck. So, once aboard, we all climbed the rusty, tiny ladder up to the front of the ship. I stood near the railing, watching as we left the Cape Cod shores and sailed the short distance between the Massachusetts coast and the Vineyard.

During this forty-minute ride, I constantly fought with my hair, which had decided to attack my face for the duration of the journey. Whenever my hair allowed, I watched a family next to me. I watched as a four-year-old girl dug her tiny hands into a Cape Cod potato chip bag and I couldn’t help but smirk. Her younger brother would come by every couple of minutes and aggressively shove his hand in the bag, managing to grab a few chips, most of which would immediately fall out of his mandarin-sized hands. Adorable, and yet infuriating (also, who lets chips go to waste?!).

As we got closer to the Vineyard, I started to see pintoresque lighthouses and million-dollar mansions poking out of lush woods. I immediately started pointing to the ones I would one day buy and only come once a year to. We passed Vineyard Haven and finally docked into Oaks Bluff—the typical Martha’s Vineyard town—full of quaint souvenir shops, and Vineyard Vines and Black Dog stores. Once on the island, we took a wrong turn and instead of driving ten minutes southeast to Edgartown (where we were staying), and drove toward Aquinnah, where we stopped to take iconic lighthouse pictures and look at the waves hitting the cliffs. If you tried hard enough, you could almost believe you were in Scotland, in the Highlands, overlooking one of their impressive cliffs. Later, we drove through the remaining towns, though they were just mostly t long twining roads engulfed in a sea of trees. Again, I felt that if I was dramatic enough, I could be the protagonist of one of those movies where the camera zooms in on your pensive face as you look out the window, the image of the trees reflecting off the glass.

When we finally arrived at Edgartown, the town was desolate. It was kind of creepy, but at the same time exciting that we got to enjoy it without having hundreds of people crammed into the same narrow sidewalk. We had a late lunch at Newes From America Pub, a place I considered to be a tourist trap, but I kept my mouth shut because I was with six other hungry people. After a mediocre lunch, we walked through the streets (somewhat surprised and somewhat expecting to see a Lululemon Athletica store) and made our way back to the hotel. While the older members of the party dozed off for their afternoon naps, my boyfriend, his brothers, and I went over to Bad Martha’s Farmer Brewery where they drank and I played cornhole (for the first time ever!). There were a few friendly locals enjoying their happy hour under a canopy of lights in the chilly October weather. We were one of the last groups to leave; I remember thinking how great this place would be in the middle of the summer, when the nights are long and the beer doesn’t leave you frozen.

Fast forward to Sunday morning, also known as Apocalypse Sunday or Noah’s Second Calling. I woke up to what seemed to be Hurricane Matthew—the wind was blowing hard and the rain was falling like I had only seen in tropical storms or hurricanes as a child. Nothing like the gentle drizzle of Somerville, that I have become so accustomed to. So, at the mercy of the rain and the wind, we ended up at Espresso Love in Edgartown, where I munched on a blueberry scone and drank a latte in a sunroom, void of sun. Instead, I was surrounded by a surprisingly peaceful thunderstorm and the sweetest (and smartest) Pit bull I’ve met; Nico, who gave me a double high-five and enjoyed a bite of my scone!

After breakfast, we drove to Chappaquiddick Island and in a foolish attempt to see the infamous bridge where Ted Kennedy had his incident, our car got stuck in the sand. Naturally, I had a panic attack. I got out of the car and treaded the sand, looking for a spot to calm down. The rain was falling hard and my shoes were full of sand, but anywhere was better than inside that car. Luckily, after a few minutes, the men in the group managed to set the car free and we were on our way back to the mainland. Shortly afterward, we decided that the weather wasn’t going to let us enjoy the rest of the day so we headed back.

We were on standby for an hour, waiting for the seemingly-never-arriving ferry back to Woods Hole. Again, I was nervous about the trip back, fearing that the weather might impact the otherwise smooth ride. Once we got on the ferry, it was rough; the sea seemed angry that we were leaving the Vineyard, but reality was calling and we had to get back to Boston. After a few minutes in the car, I abandoned it and went up to the deck, where, despite the strong winds and torrential rains, others passengers stood and chatted. I got soaked, but I didn’t care. I had always enjoyed being out in the rain and soon as I saw that we were near the port, I went back in the car to change my drenched shoes and damp socks.

My trip was short and limited, but in my time there I got a glimpse of what life in the Vineyard is like; peaceful and laid-back, a lot like it is back home in Puerto Rico. So, although I’m not a white girl enjoying Martha’s Vineyard, I’m definitely an island girl enjoying one of New England’s most beautiful islands.

Photo By: Antonio Figueroa