11 Things We Wish We Could Change About Shippensburg University

I’m not saying these things make Shippensburg University a less desirable school to go to, but if we had the chance to implement some change, the next 11 things would definitely make that list.

Where is the suggestion box for campus updates?

This article was originally published for The Odyssey on April 24, 2017.

Everyone has a million great things to say about their college because if you don’t love it, why are you here? However, there’s always room for improvement. I’m not saying these things make Shippensburg University a less desirable school to go to, but if we had the chance to implement some change, the next 11 things would definitely make that list.

1. The heavy doors.

Even the doors in the elementary school on campus weigh a ton! Also, what’s with the library doors? How come they’re like a foot wide and only open halfway?

2. The weird stairs by Shippen.

Implement a ramp. Last year, they played an April Fool’s joke on us and said they were going to replace the ridiculously wide stairs with a moving sidewalk, and we were all seriously bummed that they were kidding.

3. That class that could be from 3:30-4:45 p.m.

The 3:30 slot is when professors have meetings, clubs have socials, and no one wants to be in class. Eradicate this class time.

4. Kriner’s limited hours.

If we wanted to eat at Reisner, we would choose Reisner. Kriner can’t really be the finer diner if they’re closed on weekends.

5. The random-roommate system.

We fill out those preferences on the housing portal, but where do they go? Random-roommate has seriously ruined some people’s living situations. It wouldn’t take much effort to create a more refined system. Make us fill out a survey or something!

6. “No string lights in the suites.”

The key to the ultimate dorm room is string lights. Listen, I know it’s a fire hazard, but I’ve never had to evacuate a building due to string lights. It’s most microwave and smoking-related incidents. Let us have the lights!

7. Desire to Learn or Brightspace or whatever it’s called now.

First of all, when I go to d2l.ship.edu, why does it ask if I want to log into Ship or Millersville? I’m at a Shippensburg web address. Second, d2l mobile is the worst application to have ever existed. Finally, when it crashes, professors and students lose everything; it’s time to switch up the program.

8. The fact that you need a key to access the elevator in DHC.

The floors aren’t even equal! Hiking up to the third floor is a sin. We should have an open elevator like Grove does.

9. Limited food options in the CUB.

Not that we don’t totally love the fast food thing in the CUB food court, but some more options would be cool. More snacks, like soft pretzels or churros, anything small that we could meal, would be much appreciated.

10. The fact that we can’t meal chips or bottled soft drinks.

If you can make a deal to meal Papa John’s…why can’t you make a deal with Pepsi to help bundle some of that stuff?

11. The inconsistency of room numbers in Old Main.

Look, if we have to go anywhere in Old Main, you better hope we don’t get lost while we’re there for official business. Why can’t we keep all the evens and odds on the same sides?

Replacing Apologies With Gratitude

Often, people don’t know how to tell you things aren’t your fault. They don’t understand where the toxic roots come from, and they don’t understand how to comfort you when you feel the way that you do.

“Thank You” is the new “I’m Sorry.”

This article was originally published for The Odyssey on April 4, 2017.

When I was younger, I was a sounding board for many of my friends who felt they didn’t have anyone else to talk to. I heard stories of depression, anxiety, suicide and anything else you can imagine teenagers between the ages of fourteen and sixteen have to say. It was a really demanding and heavy job; I often felt that I had no where to release my own feelings and began to absorb others’ on top of my own. Soon, I found myself in a toxic environment where I was doing everything wrong and so I began apologizing for everything, even when there was nothing to apologize for.

Being in a toxic environment is like suffocating; being surrounded by several toxic people at once is like drowning. It’s heavy, it’s debilitating and you always feel guilty and shameful. Toxic relationships have a way of bringing you down, as if you were shackled to a wall inside a tornado. Manipulative people take your fears and insecurities and their own insecurities and demons, and your life becomes a whirlwind of darkness. You feel as if everything is your fault, because they make it seem like you’re to blame. You’re not, and sometimes you know you’re not, and that’s what makes everything harder.

Leaving a toxic relationship of any kind is stressful and scary; you’re never quite sure if you’ll make it out alive. The first few steps of freedom are light and airy, and you wish you had done it earlier, if only you had known you were being manipulated. The bad times don’t stop there though. After leaving a relationship like that, sometimes you take those habits with you long after the fact.

Always feeling as though things are your fault is a common habit that follows you and weaves its way into your other relationships. The roots a toxic person digs into you are so deep, even when you thought you had severed the last of them, there are still seeds hiding underneath your memories.

Often, people don’t know how to tell you things aren’t your fault. They don’t understand where the toxic roots come from, and they don’t understand how to comfort you when you feel the way that you do. They often say something like, “Oh my god! Stop apologizing!” or “It’s not your fault.” Well, we all know it’s not your fault, but it’s become a habit to feel like it’s your fault, so you speak that feeling.

The best way for both parties to decrease the amount of apologizing and animosity toward the constant apologizing is this: simply replace the word ‘sorry’ with ‘thank you’.

When someone is speaking to you about something that is bothering them, do not apologize. Instead try saying, “Thank you for confiding in me.” When someone is apologizing for something that isn’t their fault, try saying, “Thank you for listening to me.” or “Thank you for your concern.”

The thank-you-replacement can go for other situations, too.

Instead of apologizing for being late, try saying, “Thank you for waiting for me.” Instead of apologizing for speaking your mind, or expressing your feelings, try, “Thank you for understanding and comforting me.”

Stop apologizing for everything. It’s easier said than done, of course, but it’s pretty simple to replace an apology with an expression of gratitude. You will begin to feel less heavy with guilt, and the roots of that toxic relationship will eventually dissolve as you become more thankful for your surroundings.

When I was a junior in high school, and I found myself surrounded by toxicity, I found the clearest way out of the situation and rode the solo wave for a while. It was difficult to repel the signs of red flags I saw in other people; I was always on my guard so that I wouldn’t be in a similar situation again. I was so scared of being sucked back into the darkness that I didn’t know how to immerse myself in meaningful relationships again.

When I began replacing my apologies with gratitude, it was like I had opened an entirely new door to my future. There is so much beauty in the world, and we take advantage of it every day. Expressing gratitude for my friendships, my family and myself became something I would try to build on in the future, and attempt to gain more of as I grew older. The remnants of guilt and heaviness from my previous toxic experiences soon faded away and dissolved into my past.

I am still triggered by some things relating to those relationships today, but I no longer let them weight me down long term. I remember to thank my lucky stars for what I have in present time, and what those toxic relationships have provided me with since. Gratitude in place of apology has opened my eyes up to the little things, the little bits of beauty we forget to remember.

I am thankful for the light I have discovered outside of the toxic relationships I once had. There was a time when I thought I’d never see the beauty I have. Getting away from toxicity is difficult, but it is not impossible. Know that gratitude will always be waiting for you to embrace it, even when you think there is nothing to be thankful for. There will always be something to be grateful for, and unlike guilt, gratitude is never apologetic.

You Are Alive For A Reason

We help one another to realize their passions, ambitions, and reasons for fighting. We are a machine that cannot work without all of the parts acting in unison.

Just because you haven’t found it yet, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

This article was originally published for The Odyssey on March 20, 2017.

You are here for a reason. Plain and simple. That’s why you’re alive. That’s why you must continue to live, and that’s why you must fight for your life. Your reason may not be obvious to you; it may not be something you inherently know from the start. You may not discover your reason until much later in life. It may even become clear that you have several reasons for being alive. It’s okay to make up your own reasons, too.

Your reason(s) may or may not be simple; they could be to serve a purpose, a person, and that person could be yourself. It’s OK if that person is yourself. That’s not to say that I’m encouraging you to be selfish, but rather self-serving. Putting your own happiness and interests first isn’t vile or rude; it’s human nature. If, perhaps, your happiness is reflective off of others’ happiness, then being self-serving really isn’t a crime at all.

If you find that your reason for being here is to serve some sort of purpose, know that it’s okay to change that purpose. If, for example, your parents had you so they could have an extra hand on the farm, that doesn’t mean you couldn’t leave and become successful elsewhere. Though everyone has a purpose in life, you are never limited to that purpose, and therefore, you can always change your reasons for being alive, and your reasons for living.

We were all placed here on Earth to change something. We are destined to fulfill the reasons we are here even if they change. Everyone can change the world even if the world we change belongs to just one person. The population thrives on progression, and all of us are a team. We help one another to realize their passions, ambitions, and reasons for fighting. We are a machine that cannot work without all of the parts acting in unison.

If you ever feel lost or alone, know that you are not either of those things. Life is full of twists and turns that will shake you up. Know that when you fall down, it is one hundred percent OK to rest on the ground before you attempt to get back up.

It is so incredibly easy to become bogged down by the pressures and demons of everyday life. It is easy to think that there is nothing out there for you especially when you let the darkness consume you. No matter how many demons drag you down, know that there will be twice as many hands to pull you back up. If you don’t see any hands, look elsewhere.

Don’t give up because you are unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Do not give up because you cannot see success in your future. Stand tall, stand strong, and never stop asking for help. Your light is there. Your future is there, and you will find your success where you least expect to.

You were put on this earth for a reason. Just because you haven’t found it yet doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Just because you feel as if the weight of the world is on your shoulders, does not mean that people will not help. All you have to do is ask.

13 Questions English Majors Are Tired Of Hearing

We’re not our major’s stereotype.

Encourage your children to choose a major they’ll be happy with, not just one they’ll become rich with.

This post was originally published for The Odyssey on March 14, 2017.

Have any of you ever received any flack from your parents and family for choosing the major that you did? Choosing something in the liberal arts field is especially dangerous because you better be ready to answer all the spit-fire questions coming your way. In the English major, those questions can become offensive, annoying, and exhausting real fast. If you’re an English major, you’ve definitely heard these 13 questions at least once.

1. “What are you going to do with that?”

Generally, this question is asked within the first two years of college, and usually, you don’t know what you’re going to do with the degree until later. Even if you have an inkling, you may change that later. Truth is, English majors can take a variety of jobs in the workplace due to their ability to think critically and analyze any situation. Plus, our writing and grammar skills can place us in just about any field as well. Many times, people don’t ask other majors what they’ll do with their major, so stop asking English majors.

2. “So, are you going to teach?”

Look, just because we’re English majors doesn’t mean we’re all going to teach. Like I said, there are a variety of fields people can enter into that aren’t teaching. No matter if your student is looking to teach or not, do not judge them. Even if your student doesn’t know what they’re doing, they’ll figure it out.

3. “You know you can’t pay the bills with writing, right?”

If I had a dime for every time my advisor said this to me in school, I could probably pay off a semester’s tuition. If your student is planning on being an author of books, they will work whatever jobs they need to in order to support themselves while writing. Also, there are loads of other types of writing, like technical writing, which could absolutely pay the bills. Keep an open mind with your major, please.

4. “Why don’t you pick a more practical major?”

There’s nothing impractical about learning to write and read critically through different types of literature. Why would I choose another major that I’d be miserable in, when I know I’ll be happy finding a career through English?

5. “Why would I pick a major where you just read all the time?”

Yes, we read a lot of articles and books. We also spend a lot of our time writing. Don’t act like you don’t read equally as much in Biology, Math, or Political Science.

6. “Why aren’t you going to teach?”

Not everyone wants to or feels like they can be a role model in a classroom. Maybe I want to go into publishing, editing, writing, technical writing, business, law, or literally anything else.

7. “What’s it like having an easy major?”

Please, kindly carry my backpack and read these three novels by Wednesday. Write these two 10-page-papers, learn all the lenses of theory and then check yourself before you wreck yourself.

8. “How can you be such a grammar nazi?”

Stop putting the word ‘nazi’ next to things you don’t like. It’s not politically correct, and it’s rude. Also, you’re in college and you should know the difference between basic words like ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ and ‘their’, ‘they’re’, and ‘they’re’. This is basic English that you will need no matter which field you go into. Get a grip and know when to use ‘no’ and ‘know’.

9. “Could you write my essays for me?”

Plagiarism isn’t just a myth your professors warn you about. Write your own one-to-two-page essay about your general education course. Read ‘A Doll’s House’, it might do you some good.

10. “So what are you going to do for money?”

Well, after graduation, eight of us are going to get a studio apartment for one in New York and we’ll just see where it goes from there! What about you?

11. “Do you think you’re going to regret your major later?”

Do you think you’re going to regret your major later? No? If you won’t, then why would I? Like everyone else who leaves college, English majors will figure it out, and they will maneuver the professional world with their elevated grammar skills and critical thinking. English majors will end up where they’re supposed to be, just like you. Also, worry about your own damn future.

12. “Why do you need to major in English? You know the language well enough, don’t you?”

My friend, let me dispel the myth for you that English classes aren’t just about language. In fact, they are rarely about the English language, but instead how to utilize and apply it. Maybe you should take an English class and learn a few things before you start judging me.

13. “Oh. You’re an English major?”

Yes, I am, and I’m proud of it. I’m well-versed in all the questions you have to ask me, and instead of looking down at me for what I’ve chosen to do with my life, how about you get to know me instead? We’re not our major’s stereotype.

 

What’s So Great About SU’s Literary Magazine, The Reflector?

The Reflector is Shippensburg University’s undergraduate literary magazine. It features students’ prose, poetry, and art.

Unfortunately, due to the format of this article, I’ll have to link you all straight to The Odyssey.

However, I’ll let you in on some background knowledge.

The Reflector is Shippensburg University’s undergraduate literary magazine. It features students’ prose, poetry, and art, and even rewards them for it if they’re chosen out of the hundreds of pieces of writing we receive each semester.

At the end of the semester, we create not only The Reflector, but each committee also create a smaller publication, a chapbook we call the SpawningPool. The SpawningPools are chapbooks made by each committee and often fall in with a specific theme.

Though the staff and committees of The Reflector are done for the semester, we are so thankful for all the submissions we received for all of our publications during the 2016-17 academic year.

My Experience With ‘The Vagina Monologues’

The topics were uncomfortably incredible; they were raw, emotional and heartbreaking.

“I’m worried about vaginas, what we call them and don’t call them.” – Eve Ensler

This article was originally published for The Odyssey on February 21, 2017.

When most people step out of their comfort zones, they start small. If someone receives anxiety from working out at the gym, they may only go late at night. Small, like, taking a hike when you’re not a fan of nature, or submitting to a publication even though you’ve never written before. Not small like feeling uncomfortable talking about sexual assault and genitals and then auditioning for ‘The Vagina Monologues’. Except, that’s exactly what how I started the diaspora from my comfort zone and became involved with the play. Here’s my experience in the wonderful show that is ‘The Vagina Monologues’.

Last year, when I was a freshman, I was stopped in my university’s dining hall by a man who happened to be selling chocolate vaginas. You heard that right; he was selling little chocolates that were shaped like vaginas. I was instantly intrigued because you don’t just sell chocolate shaped like things unless you’re trying to make a point. He was promoting a play titled ‘The Vagina Monologues’ and informed me that ticket sales and choco-vagina sales would benefit the Women’s Center on campus. I immediately bought a ticket and a baggy of chocolates.

When I went to the show, however, I had no clue what I was about to see on that stage. With the auditorium fairly packed, and my two friends on either side of me, we prepared for the show, which turned out to be one of the best shows I’ve ever seen live.

At first, the play made famous by Eve Ensler was funny and quirky. There were some dirty jokes, some F-bombs, some vulgarities, but I was entertained, to say the least. The first act was full of giggles and gasps when we couldn’t believe the actors said such things, and then we couldn’t believe we had laughed at such things.

The second act was more powerful than anything I’ve ever seen on stage before. As someone who appreciates theater with all her heart, I was honestly blown away at how influential the second act of the production was. The topics were uncomfortably incredible; they were raw, emotional and heartbreaking. There was power laced in each monologue on that stage that night. I left the theater feeling some type of way, yet I couldn’t explain just how I felt. The performance of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ was so emotionally enriching that I couldn’t believe how impact-full such a raw and blunt performance like that could be.

Sophomore year rolled around, and so did the auditions for this year’s performance of the play that had blown my mind just a year before. I somehow convinced my best friend to audition with me, and we hiked to the Women’s Center to cold read some monologues and eat some complimentary tootsie rolls. Though the giant felt vagina on the wall intimidated my best friend, it only excited me more. I couldn’t believe I had an opportunity to be a part of something so powerful, so meaningful, so real.

As soon as auditions concluded, I found myself with three other women in the group read for ‘The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could’. My family laughed when I told them the name, but I kind of dug it. Coochie snorcher has a nice ring to it, and it sure as hell sounds a lot cooler than vagina.

I was granted the parts of memories 10 and 13-years-old, which consisted of some pretty graphic language, a tale of child molestation and the guilt that follows the child later in life. With the women in my monologue, I was able to help tell a raw story with a happy ending. The story is written to shine the light on homeless women and the amount that report having been sexually assaulted, molested and harassed in their lifetimes, specifically before the age of eighteen in our case.

You would think that the atmosphere and the energy surrounding the production would be dark and gloomy, or at the very least intense, based on the blunt content of the show. It is the exact opposite, and it’s wonderful. There is so much positive energy both on stage and off-stage, both contributed by the cast and crew.

The cast members are all so nice to one another, and all of us are so different; we all come from different walks of life. There are mothers, professors, grandmothers, undergraduate students and graduate students. There are so many different ethnic groups and identities involved, that we truly capture the empowerment and equality that lies in the feminism presented in this production. You couldn’t have asked for a better environment to perform in.

I am truly honored to have played these parts with the ladies in the Coochie Snorcher in the Shippensburg University 2017 production of ‘The Vagina Monologues’. Though I took a head-first dive into the outside of my comfort zone, I know now that it was totally worth it.

Thank you to my best friend for taking this scary jump with me. Thank you to my cast-mates, who showed me that there doesn’t have to be drama in every show on stage. I’d also like to give a huge shout-out to my dad, who came to the show alone and totally embraced the beauty of it. If you came out to see the 2017 ‘Vagina Monologues,’ thank you. Thank you for supporting the Shippensburg University Women’s Center and Women’s Centers in the area.

Finally, a huge thank you to our director, who truly worked her butt off in order to make this production the best it could be. She never gave up on any of us, and she continued to make sure we were all comfortable and confident. A fantastic show couldn’t exist without a fantastic director, and for that, we are so grateful.

 

It’s Not Giving Up, It’s Stepping Back

Know that even if someone important to you does depart, that they may return. If they don’t, however, know that you’ll be just fine because you can stand on your own two feet.

What to realize when someone “leaves you” due to your mental illness.

This article was originally published for the The Odyssey on March 6, 2017.

We’ve all seen that picture that circulates the internet with a few words written on a photograph that reads, “Please don’t leave,” or “Please don’t leave me.” I’ve heard many people relay those same words to me as they beg me not to ‘leave them behind’ due to their mental illness. I wish they would realize that I’m not leaving them behind; I’m simply taking a breather. When someone ‘leaves’ you for reasons surrounding your mental illness, understand that they’re not giving up on you; they’re simply taking a step back.

Mental illness can be a very powerful and draining thing. Enduring it alone is difficult and many people believe they cannot survive without the support of others. This is true in some cases. The problem is that there will almost always be someone who ‘leaves’ due to the circumstances surrounding your mental illness, and you can’t give up just because that person is no longer around.

I don’t really like to use the word ‘leave’ or ‘leaves’ because I think that usually correlates with someone disappearing. Generally, you leave a place, not a person. You are not an object. You are not an island and your mental illness isn’t shark infested waters. A better word for your situation is likely ‘step back’ or ‘give in’. Giving up and leaving are generally not what a person does when they can no longer bear the weight of your mental illness.

Your demons are dark, no matter what kind they are and no matter where they originate from. They are dark and heavy on your soul. They try to eat you alive. That’s what creates depression, anxiety, and other types of mental illness. When a friend or family member that was once close to you decides to remove themselves from your life due to a circumstance surrounding your mental illness, it is not your fault. Let me repeat that: it is not your responsibility to keep someone from taking a step back.

Friendship is fluid. Family can even be fluid, though many don’t think so. Demons are scary and powerful. They will try to drag anyone and everything down with them into the pits of darkness. They are incredibly toxic. When someone close to you forfeits their relationship with you, it’s because they’re trying to get as far away from those evil demons as they can.

Many of us shoulder our own demons, and if someone takes a step back from their relationship with you, it’s likely due to the fact that they cannot handle both your demons and their own.

It feels personal, but I promise, in a real friendship or a real, genuine relationship, it isn’t. Friends are not generally equipped to handle those types of things. They aren’t registered therapists or psychiatrists, and no matter how many times they lend you an ear, they simply aren’t trained to help you in the way you require.

Understand that those who can no longer face your demons are not giving up, they’re taking a step back. In the bargain that is their mental health and your relationship, they will and should put their mental health first. Just as you aren’t to blame for your mental illness, you’re not to blame for your friends departing.

As long as you have not hurt those friends or family members on purpose, or manipulated them in any way to get what you wanted, you are not the problem. If you genuinely did not hurt someone and they step back, it is not personal. Know that, however, if there was manipulation and ill-feelings involved, that your relationship may not return, and sometimes that’s for the better. It is not someone else’s job to fix you. It is their job to hold your hand while you fix yourself.

Think of your relationships as one of those bridges that lifts up its ends to allow the ships to pass through. The ships represent time. You and that person are just lifting up your sides of the bridge. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to, the bridges cannot pass through if you do not lift your side up. Many ships will pass through. Sometimes, even after the ships have passed, your friend may not wish to put their side of the bridge back down. That’s okay, too. Sometimes it’s not meant to be.

After realizing the reason for your relationship’s hiatus, you have to remember that you are not alone, no matter how lonely you feel. Everyone has to put their mental health first, but that doesn’t mean that yours no longer matters. Your mental health and mental illness are just as important as anyone else’s. Know that you cannot give up just because someone you care about took a step back. You have to take a stand up for yourself and fight tooth and nail for your life. If life was meant to be easy, we’d all live forever.

You have to learn to be your own anchor. You have to prop yourself up and fight against all the negativity coming at you. Be your own ray of sunshine, and perhaps you’ll be a ray of sunshine for others too. You are meant to be here. You have a purpose even if you haven’t realized it just yet. If you weren’t meant to be on this Earth, the Universe would have picked you off long ago.

You are meant to be here to change the world, even if it’s someone’s world. Realizing that will help you in your process of healing. Know that even if someone important to you does depart, that they may return. If they don’t, however, know that you’ll be just fine because you can stand on your own two feet. You are strong. You will always be strong. Continue to be strong, if not for anyone but yourself. No one can drag you down but you, remember that. You are your own anchor.