Repost: Is life what you make it?

Sometimes, on rare occasions, I dig through my archives and read through some of my past posts. Usually, this exercise makes me laugh because what was I thinking a writer is his/her own worst critic.

The other day, however, I read one of the first posts I ever wrote, and I actually kind of liked it. I wrote the article in more of a free form writing voice than I currently use, which is refreshing on days like today when my writer’s block is more frequent than Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes.

What do you think?

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Originally posted: August 19, 2012

My sister left for college this week. She’s officially a buckeye. I know that those of you living outside the state of Ohio find our mascot ridiculous since it is, well… a nut, but the scarlet and gray hold a dear place in the hearts of those from the state that is at the ‘heart of it all.’

As I texted my sister on the morning of her departure, I felt sentimental. But, not in the way that you might think. I didn’t think about my first day moving into my dorm room, the two-hour drive that I endured from our hometown to the new ‘big city’ of Pittsburgh or the way that it felt to walk a college campus on the first day as a real college student. Instead, I felt old. I still feel old. Boo. These memories are not something that I easily conjured up like it was for me when my brother embarked on his first year of college four years ago.

I was, however, reminded of how I actually chose which school to attend. You see, I was an oddball. I had NO IDEA where I wanted to go to college – all I knew was that I needed to escape Ohio. I applied ALL OVER the place – New York City, South Carolina, Kentucky, Clarkson University (just google that one)… in basic words, I was a hot mess. I remember my dad, who was most likely scared shii-less of my college ADD-ness, asked how I was going to choose which school to attend when my options were all scattered. How would I decide on the criteria and decision-making factors when every school was so unique and non-comparable?

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Hmm… good question, dad. I remember pondering it for a while before declaring… “well, isn’t college just what you make it?!!” Sure, I could frolic around the Big Apple with the social elites, sip on moonshine in the south or freeze my bootay off in a place where hockey overrules football as the official sport, but really, when it comes down to it, I would be the one to ‘make’ my college career. I would decide how much energy to apply to school work, internships and friends within the environment that contains it all.

What I didn’t realize at the time was how mature of a statement this was to declare at the age of 18. I’m sure that I am not the only one who feels this way. There are plenty of young adults and people who have similar realizations, including my very own sister. However, I’ve been surprised by how many other people in the world do not have these similar viewpoints. The universe is full of people who blame their circumstances; coworkers who blame the company and others who blame their establishments.

What is it about life that causes people to continually explore their options? Between jobs, hobbies, significant others, even places where we work out and where we live, it is as if everyone is living their own version of Goldilocks. It’s too easy, too hard, too hot, too cold, not the right fit, etc.

I guess ultimately my point is that I’ve always lived my life with the attitude that life is what you make it. I hope that I don’t come across as egotistical or boastful. I’m just saying that this attitude has always worked for me. Whether it is my college choice, my career or the basic decisions in my life, I tend to give things my all in the hopes that the ‘all’ will make those things great. So, the next time you think about exploring all the options, perhaps try driving your energy into one thing; it finally might be the one that’s “just right.”

Repost: Cleveland – Land of the Creatives

I have to be honest. When all the buzz surrounding Lebron James’ possible return to Cleveland started, I ignored it.  To say that the whole situation reminded me of his departure to Miami four years ago is an understatement.  For me, Lebron or no Lebron meant nothing. He departed my heart many years ago.

When I heard of his actual decision, I was shocked. Truth be told, my ignorance of the team debate partially stemmed from a strong belief that he would never return to Cleveland again. When I started to see friends’ posts on Facebook with the link to his Sports Illustrated article, I ignored those as well. Why would I want to read the words of a guy most recently known as a traitor?

Eventually, I succumbed to the peer pressure, otherwise known as news feed takeover, and read his article. Shoot. I found many detailed arguments that resonate with me – the desire to spread his wings and leave the Ohio borders for a period of time, the constant lure back to his home state, the determination to give something back to the city by the lake that raised him.

The underlying message throughout the article emerges prominently in one of the very last lines:

In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have. -Lebron James

This is a common thread within each Clevelander: we know what it’s like to be at the bottom and fight for what you want or rather, more often that not, fight for what you need. We know what it’s like to be an underdog more frequently than the number of times we’ve tasted Stadium Mustard. Lebron’s words are not foreign to me; in fact they are something I’ve written about on this blog before.  And although at the time of the original post I was a little perturbed with the King, many of these words still ring true today.

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Originally posted: January 18, 2013 (slightly edited)

Whenever I tell someone that I’m originally from Cleveland, I usually get the standard response “Oh, I’m so sorry about that.”  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I’ve heard it all before.  I used to try and come up with an intriguing response like “You just need to know where to go or.. visit in the summer; the lake is beautiful!”  Well, from now on, I’ve come up with something more appropriate:

F%*! YOU

And here’s why:

I’ve formally lived in only three cities so far in my lifetime: Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Washington D.C.

In D.C., I met the most physically fit and intelligent people of my life.  It’s hard to keep up with them most days.

In Pittsburgh, I ran into the most caring and simple individuals.  A parking lot and a case of Iron Cities are enough to keep them entertained for hours.

But, in Cleveland… good ole Cleveland; that’s the land of the Creatives.

Covering 82.4 square miles (thank you Wikipedia) just south of Lake Erie, Cleveland ranks as the 7th most dangerous city in the nation. The city hasn’t won an NFL Championship since 1964, the World Series since 1948 or the NBA title.. ever.  Lebron, excuse me, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is still an a**hole. But please media keep calling us the Mistake on the Lake or poking fun at why Nick Saban would EVER want to go to Cleveland.  Salt to the wound feels good.

In December 1978, Cleveland became the first major American city to enter a financial default on federal loans since the Great Depression.  The per capita income for the city is $14,291. 26.3% of the population and 22.9% of families are below the poverty line.

In Cleveland, there is no “blue blood trust fund that we can dip in to.”  I learned that to get anything in life, it must be achieved through hard work ethic and fearless determination.  Complaining is the quickest shortcut to a dead-end, which is hard to accept because trust me, we have a lot to complain about.

My family is fortunate, but I witnessed our fair share of struggles.  I watched my father get on an airplane to Chicago more times than I could count.  I watched my mom leave her 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son at odd hours of the night to work night shifts at the local hospital.

I know far too many people who work more than one two jobs just to get by and support their families.  What is even more special, though, is the amount of talent that flows through my newsfeed each day.  Singers – like him and them.  Musicians, photographers, skateboarders with a dream and DJs, too.

It’s well-known that Cleveland has its limitations – but to make art out of the limitations – that is where the true magic lies.  Clevelanders are the creatives quite simply because we can create anything out of nothing, even nothings that are laced with poverty, social injustice and lack of media coverage.

I realize that I don’t live in the city any more, but I carry it with me wherever I go.  I see it in others who have grown up in the area and moved on as well.  Cleveland  and its weaknesses quite simply motivate all who covet it to rise above what holds them down.

And, to go out on a limb, I think that is worth far more in the long run than any championship ring.