Saturday, August 30, 2014

Learning to Learn: Can you DIY Socialization

Forum thread on teaching yourself physics with a focus on learning a certain thought mentality and cognitive strength. In Intro to anthropology, we talked about the difference between a formal education and traditional socialization. Here the person wants the values and mentality that comes with the socialization and is pursuing that by DIY-ing the education process.

Reading this, my mind is drawn back to the differences between the majors at MIT. It's a difference not only in the material but also in the mentality of the classes. Be it the length of the lectures or the set up of the recitations, different majors convey to their students the importance of different skills. When you are teaching yourself, you have the ability to self select the methods of learning that work best for you rather than being forced to adapt to the style prefered for the subject.

Additionally in self teaching, you determine the metrics of success. In the post, this person talk about wanting a qualitative skill out of a field that focuses (at least on the undergrad level) on quantitative results. Looking at my experience, I see how important the choice of metrics are in conveying values to a young mentee. When I was taking course 2 classes, the exams were formulaic. Students had access to a decade of past worked exams so students knew precisely which "style" of question was going to be asked and could practice until they attained proficiency. The course 3 exams I have taken have the material vary widely in comparison. There is no standard for the style of question asked so the breadth of understanding for exam prep is much wider. Conversely, course 2 has design/building classes where the entire project is up to the individual student as long as their project completes certain tasks. It's in these design classes that students apply the entirety of their knowledge in a creative hands on way. Course 3 lab classes are very driven by directions, usually involve groups, and are carefully supervised. While students are applying their knowledge in a hands on way, the formulaic aspect of lab classes are pretty high. The type of student and the type of knowledge gained from these two learning experiences is very different.

While I am able to unpack these aspects of my training at MIT, I wonder if I would be able to construct such a paradigm without having gone to MIT. I have my doubts! Certainly high school didn't have the entrenched culture for different classes. An AP chemistry class was not that culturally different from an honors history class nor were the style of teaching very different. The discussion board seems to focus on whether you should tackle tons of problems to achieve proficiency at IDing styles of problems, listen to lectures to understand overarching concepts and qualitative ideas, or utilize formulas to achieve quantitative proficiency. While these are in some ways cultures of methods, I don't know if I would see the same development of culture between them. They all rely on a single student sitting down with a book (or video) and measure based on whether that student can produce an answer found at the back of the book.

I don't know if you can DIY the socialization aspect of learning. I don't just mean that you can't get your hands on the lab materials! I mean that, in teaching yourself, you aren't going to be able to find a group of 3 other people to do presentations with much less a large audience of more experienced and knowledgable professors to review and critique your presentation. No matter how many practice problems you do or blind powerpoints you practice alone, you can't replicate the feedback of someone more knowledgable. Similarly, self teaching may not involve the study groups where you explain concepts to your peers. (Although I suppose you could try to get a tutoring job, but may not be able to if you lack certification.) The immersion in the culture - including the members of different levels of knowledge - is very important to the pressure I feel at MIT to learn and achieve. It's that socialization that ultimately leads to the mentality of thought in addition to technical proficiency.
I suppose this is more open ended because it makes me wonder about students who don't live on campus at a school with an on-campus full time student culture like MIT as well as the strength of culture and efficacy of socialization at night schools for working people.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Faith and Service

"It wasn’t until I began to do heavy community work and writing regularly that I realized where my niche was and what kind of role Kemeticism would play for me. My ma’at, my balance is in interacting with the community and creating resources for other Kemetics to use. I find more benefit for myself in these actions than I ever did inside of a shrine or ritual setup. For me, living the faith is equivalent to doing regularly community work, keeping this blog updated, and reading regularly."


Via this AMAZING Blog post

I've been thinking about having my values and actions in concordance along with the roles I want to take on in my life. Amazingly blogging has been a large part of that. I've found it rewarding to think that there is an archive of my knowledge that some other young woman entering college could refer to as a resource. As I write blog posts, I try and think of what I would've wanted to know going into the situation, how I can convey my understanding so that the wheel isn't reinvented. One of the biggest things I felt I've done for the dorm is to update their handbook - the Random Hall cookbook. So I find myself relating very much to this post, that writing is a form of service to a community.

And there's a feedback between the service to a community and a service to self. I've written before that I know I don't have a large readership, but that writing down my goals to share with the internet at large increases my commitment to them. Writing for a blog - as well as journaling - has become a part of my practice of daily ma'at. While I don't share what I write each day, I sense the internal changes. In addition to helping to regulate my mood, writing helps me to find my internal goals. Writing is a type of spiritual work, I think. There's a lot to be said of the practice of heka, using word weaving to craft the world. For me, I'm realizing that writing is a major part of turning an internal intent into a practical action or practicing spell.
" As you begin to find the core “staples” of your practice, a lot of the useless stuff will fall to the wayside, which may seem scary at first, but I think that’s par for the course when you finally find the meat and potatoes of your practice."

Balance in the craft is a lot about coming in touch with your true goals. For example, I used to have a goal of writing every day, then every week. Now I write in large portions over the summer. I've embraced the seasonality as well as the external limits on my writing. Instead of having a method goal (write every day), I returned to a goal (write enough to post twice weekly year round) and found an internal truth (writing allows me to know and recreate myself). Ma'at is about creation in line with justice and truth. There is nothing more true about writing in small planned periods than irregular productive bursts.
"To force someone to perform daily rites when they are not well suited for them (for whatever reasons) would be counter productive and would not be conducive for building a sense of ma’at in that practitioner’s life and practice."

If that practice doesn't keep me balanced, I have the space and permission to discard it.

The catch for this is that the external world won't always get this. Your most productive times might be at dusk, writing and watching the sunset. But your workplace will probably operate 9-5. My preference is for strong routines, where I am at home and unwinding at the same time every night. But MIT culture encourages (read:forces) students to be available to email and group meetings at almost any hour. In this case, you have to practice ma'at. Balance between the daily practice that is forced on you and the daily practice that you yearn for. Can you find a job that allows you to do 10-6? Can I let my group members know in advance I can't start a meeting after 10pm? Yes!

I think that this bit is very important: by removing the useless aspects of your practice, you allow yourself to focus on the core of it. Giving that energy to a place it really belongs in! It also means that you see meaningful improvements in a practice that really matters, as opposed to struggling to make headway in something that is arbitrary. I can say that my actions have fallen more in line with my values. I can also say that I know myself better, both in terms of the changes I've made and those I want to make. Knowing where to focus my energy and castings means that I make progress more efficiently.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Values in Alignment

I wrote a while ago about the difficulty I had in getting my mental values and my dedication of resources in alignment. Since it's been a while, I wanted to check in on this again. I haven't written about it, but I've been turning this topic over in my head. Over the past months, I've been reading on my own and discussing with online folks how they approach it.

I think the most obvious change is that my intended work field is in alignment. Working as an archaeologist, anthropologist, or conservator means understanding and preserving different cultures. Additionally, the funding for this work usually comes from the government or private foundations. This work is very different than where I started out, interested in military funded work in mechanical engineering. My work goals are very much in line with what I believe should be done: I think we should collectively contribute to understanding world culture, unite ourselves to protect and promote learning and collaboration. I'm proud that I will be working in a way that aligns with my values; the guilt-free joy is probably the foundation for continuing my course work at this point.

The other changes are more personal. I practice political celibacy and I absolutely refuse to contribute my energy to being drained by men. I'm very at peace with being ace; I don't feel pressure to give my energy to men or ashamed of the intimacy I feel for my female friends. Lesbian has at last been defanged as an insult. Looking back, I'm amazed at the pain I felt and the knots I twisted myself into over being accused of being a lesbian. I mean that truly, the accusatory tone intended in something that should never be used as an insult! I've cut pornography out of my life for almost 5 years now. I want to increase my focus on sisterhood and supporting women in my life. It's so easy to get caught up in comparison and envy. We are trained early on that there can only be one token in our field, that all the good men will be grabbed by other women, that the happiness of others detracts from our own. I want to unpack this in myself in order to find ways to give meaningfully to other women.

I think the big change that I need to make is to do political activist work. During the past three years, I was very focused on conquering my own little corner of the world. My activist work was focused on supporting women of color in my dorm. Be it serving as an Associate Advisor to encourage women and support them during their freshman year at a prestigious engineering school or hosting tea parties to make space to talk with and embrace the women I lived with in an antagonistic co-ed dorm, all of my work has been very small scale. Most this activism I would now describe as consciousness raising. While the personal is political, I think the gap is that I haven't worked or acted on anything that is explicitly political.

I don't think that individual consumer choices are particularly effective in advocating for political change, but they have eased my conscience since I last wrote. I enjoy shopping mainly at Whole Foods mainly because of the quality of the food. Not because I'm sure my $50 fair trade purchase is going to change the way a global food economy operates. I'm also aware that many other people in my neighborhood can't afford to shop at Whole Foods, much less dedicate the time and effort to home cooking. But this sort of liberal choice activism has been a foundation of my 'work' since I first confronted the gap between my words and actions. I want to make the big step into doing real work!

I'm not sure how to begin political activist work. I hope that I can share the journey I go on, as I slowly figure it out. Most likely I'll start small with volunteer work.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Summer Time Stress Less

I wanted to keep track of some changes that I noticed over the summer. By noting the positive effects of the summer, I hope that I can extend some of them into the school year.

The main change is that I am so much less stressed. I'd attribute it to a few core things: leaving the stress of work at 5pm, not living in a dorm, having a very stable routine. For me, most things are bearable if I know they have an ending! There's something extraordinarily stressful about a surprise flare up. I think that establishing a routine for the school year would be very helpful in lowering my stress level during the year. For establishing that boundary of routine, I will have a commute. Similarly, demarcating end points for projects, even if they're only internal, would help me to plan out my time and decrease my stress. So I'm going to dedicate the time I spend on campus to studying. I hope that my establishing a boundary between home and school work will decrease my stress the way the external boundary I had over the summer did.

I've noticed that I have less acne this summer! This might seem like a small thing and my acne isn't that bad, but I've been very frustrated with my acne flaring up during the school year. Acne can hurt! I have the bad habit of distractedly scratching my face when I'm stressed; I even scratch in my sleep. So even a minor acne flare up before finals can be quickly compounded. But my skin has been so clear over the summer that I haven't even needed BBcream! I think less stress as well as being able to drink more water helped with the acne. It's amazing - and a little scary - to see the physical effects that come with stress. I'm going to keep up with drinking water during the year!

The other aspect that I think has helped with my stress - and probably the acne too - is that I've been cooking for myself. I've cut down on eating out and frozen meals. Almost all of the food I've eaten over the past month has been food I made at home from scratch. I'm really not sure if Whole Food's organic food was a significant contribution to the health benefits, but I know that cutting out processed food made a big difference. I also tried out a farm share during the summer but it didn't work out due to the amount and selection of food. I'm so proud of trying out so many different recipes and sources. Experimenting with some failures led to accomplishing this major success! It really wouldn't seem possible based on where I was when I first came to college. And even looking at the start of this year, I'm glad that I've extended myself way past eating breakfast everyday. My new goal is to make all of my meals at home! I do still have my snack food weakness, anything chocolate based and bite sized, but I've also found a healthy granola that I really like to snack on at work. I can literally feel the difference in my energy levels now that I am eating whenever I feel hungry. My energy and mood stay nice and even rather than crashing; my work productivity also stays high. So I think that eating regularly and more healthily has made a big difference in my stress and energy levels. I want to keep that momentum for the school year!

Over the summer, I've read a number of books. I made myself a promise that I wasn't buying any more books until I finished reading the ones I already own. I'm amazed by the progress I've been making on that front! I've read all of my kindle books over the commute. I read through an introductory museum book at work. I'm now light reading through some course books for the fall term. Additionally, I've been keeping up with a few blogs. In turn, this reading has kept up my passion for writing for my blog. I never read this much during the school year, both as far as breadth and depth. I love reading and it seems like I had forgotten that, bogged down in coursework. It's great to have the time and focus to pursue my reading interests outside of coursework.

My summertime has really had less stress than the school year. Even with some external stressors, I'm still feeling more relaxed than I do over the term. By writing this out, I think I've got a more clear understanding of what changes caused this relaxation. Hopefully, implementing these significant changes during the term will lead to the same less stressed result.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Best Fit Opportunity

What's funny about being a student at MIT is that there are so many opportunities. Do you want to be pre-med? We have an event for that! Do you want to learn how to use end note? The library is running a seminar on that! Do you want to learn about thesis presentation? These are the names, subjects and room numbers of the thesis defenses in your major!

A lot of these 'easy' opportunities are no longer beneficial to me. Often this is because I have already tried something similar. Somehow, I think I've come to a saturation point for CPW; I no longer enjoy the rush of students and events in the same way. I learned how to plan, register, advertise, and execute an event for both small and large groups of people. I don't need more practice at that skill. Other times, the opportunity simply isn't relevant to me anymore. It can be simple: I can't apply to scholarships for rising sophomores but I still get the emails! Or it can be complicated: there is an upper limit to how helpful career and major information fairs can be. To be clear, as a freshman and sophomore, these events were critical to me narrowing my interests. These events helped me in a process of elimination. I learned that I do better in one on one interviews rather than the rush of a career fair. I now focus my energy setting up meet ups and interviews rather than diluting it on prearranged opportunities where I do poorly. The easy opportunity doesn't fit me because I already used it to my best advantage.

Now, I'm searching for opportunities that are a good fit for me. I don't need generic opportunities that show up in email blasts. These well publicized events are often low effort and low impact. I've gone to dozens of seminars and talks due to publicizing emails; I don't remember any benefit from most of them aside from the free food. What I need are carefully tailored opportunities that fill in the gaps of my experience. These niche opportunities aren't well publicized or low effort, but often they offer a big impact.

The carefully selected (or created) opportunities are the ones that you both have the best shot at and will garner the most reward for. For example, my Smithsonian internship was intended for students who didn't have much experience working at a museum. That was exactly the opportunity I needed; I was exactly the candidate they wanted. Now that internship is the foundation for my resume, displaying my interest in the field and interpersonal skills.

No opportunity is going to be perfect. If you find an opportunity that inspires you but has a problem, pursue the opportunity and get creative in improving it. At the Smithsonian, I was disappointed I wasn't working directly with their conservation studio but I ended up befriending one of the interns and also going to the Museum Conservation Institute symposium. That experience was a stepping stone to the opportunity I have now at the MFA. The internship I have now was a perfect fit for my interest - working directly with research conservators - but I was worried that it didn't pay. So, I got creative and pursued funding from other sources. The extra work you put into tailoring a self-made opportunity will pay off! I can now write about my successful pursuit of funding in addition to my hands on experience.

You have to find an opportunity that is the best fit for you. In that moment, look towards where you want to be in the future. Identify the experience, skills, or qualifications you need to get there. Then find opportunities that fill those gaps. Clearly demonstrating your dedication and excitement for the field, you'll make important career connections. If you create opportunities, no one else applying for a job will have that same unique experience and resulting skill. Focus on the best fit opportunities once you know what you want!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

An Examination of Passing

I feel that a large portion of my college learning has been learning how to pass.

And I have learned how to pass in a lot of ways: race, economic class, religion, location, political, gender.

Passing has in some ways been a concerted effort on my part. I choose to go to MIT because I wanted to get away from some things, racism being one of them. Like in tales of the tragic mulatto, once I made it North I found that race suddenly became less of a hindrance. No longer did I get questions of "What are you? What are you mixed with? Are you from [insert country]?" from classmates or passerby on the street. (Yes, strangers have approached me to ask questions about my race in VA.) I didn't get questions about my choice to go the MIT rather than a HBU from my new professors. My white friends didn't approach me for the secrets of relaxer, Brazil straightening, or twist outs. By some definitions, I have made no effort to hide my race. I have worked with and run events with the Office of Minority Education; I talk about my experience of being biracial; I write and read about racial issues; I do not alter my hair or skin to hide my race. Is just going to a school in another state hiding my race?

But I do pass! I can't calculate what combination of changes in my behavior, appearance, or perceived identity have changed that I can regularly pass for white. But I do. And I get benefits from that. And I've gained knowledge to pass in other ways too. What I mean is, even if I'm not making a conscious effort to pass right now, if I did want to make that effort I would now have the knowledge to do so.

It take a surprising amount of information and self-vigilance to pass. Ask yourself some questions focusing on economic passing: What is the cost of a meal plan vs cooking? Which is more common on campus? Are dining halls a social meeting place that cooking would exclude you from? If so, can friends bring a guest for free? What are the right kinds and brands of clothes to wear? How much do these clothes cost? What sort of trip for spring break have most college students gone on? What about traveling/studying abroad? How much does this sort of travel cost? Are you expected to have traveled before? What percentage of your campus was Greek affiliated? What is the cost of joining a sorority? Before being asked these questions, were you aware that you would need to know or prepare for these costs? If you didn't have to think about it, you're probably in the economic position that I am passing for. In order to pass, I have to weigh all of these options to find what I can fake and what I have to let go.

Some of it is about making things "presentable." I'm always amused by the careful balance that women are expected to play in professional settings. Women are paid more if they wear the "correct" amount of make up at work and are attractive. But engineers mock and belittle women who are 'vain' enough to adorn themselves. Of course, these engineers often don't know whether a person is wearing make up. I've had people say I looked ill when I skipped a day of concealer and I've had people compliment my eyeshadow when my face was completely bare. I once asked a male friend if he thought I wore make up. He responded no. I was talking with a different female friend who doesn't wear make up and she admitted that she thought I was always wearing make up. The truth of course is in the middle. The perception of the reality is more static. I can get away with a day without make up because most days people perceive that I look a certain way. Similarly, I can get away with being a little more stingy with money because I can present the right signs of affluence. The reality of race, class, or gender doesn't have to be there, just the presentation for others.

And the guidelines for passing vary every so slightly on the situation. It takes an incredible amount of knowledge and reading of a situation to pass appropriately. Women are encouraged to dress appropriately for their gender based on the setting. Once while working a public event for the Smithsonian, a patron suggested that one of the staff members wear a dress like she had last week, saying that she didn't look lady-like in her capris and blouse. Meanwhile, my course 3 presentation advice has been to wear pant suits or pencil skirts rather than dresses, to avoid earrings because they are distracting, and other careful limitations on femininity. It's like playing one of those cell phone games where you tilt your phone to balance. Even when you're sure you're holding your phone level, the stupid game has you sliding to the left. When you tilt just a smidge to correct, suddenly you're too far to the right! Always you have to be vigilant of where you hands are, subtly adjusting them while keeping an eye on the situation and score.

Some of my 'education' in passing has been unintentional. I wouldn't venture to say it was forced, but it would have been difficult not to change. I used to have a mild Southern accent and speech patterns from growing up in northern Virginia. While I didn't use 'ain't' on a regular basis, I was apparently an interesting spectacle of the South. Spectacle enough to be asked to perform! "Say daughter! Say drawer! Say crayon! Say crown!" Now I don't think that most people intended to be insulting or make me uncomfortable. A few friends complimented me on my lilting tone. But! Imagine if someone with a speech impediment or foreign accent was asked to perform this sort of thing: it would clearly be inappropriate. The reason I speak with a Southern accent and use certain phrases is because I am a mulatto woman from the South and grew up as such. Some of my family is from further south: Georgia. My grandmother attended church and said 'ain't' when she was pressed. Pages have been written to validate AAV as a valid form of expression. But the social pressure to speak with a very particular type of Northern accent is pervasive. Over time, my accent decreased. I don't know the slang or expressions currently used in what was once my community. I now pass in a way I had never even intended to. In fact it would take the conscious effort to NOT pass.

I know that this doesn't really have a clear cut moral or lesson. I just wanted to write this out. I think that I would have wanted to know that this informal education was going to be such a significant part of my life when I was picking out schools. I guess to some degree I knew because I had a really adverse reaction to the privilege I encountered at Dartmouth; I knew I didn't want to spend four years becoming more like that, or even getting used to folks like that.

Saturday, August 9, 2014


Today I'm going to Otakon!

I couldn't sleep at all last night. Too many rushing thoughts and excitement!

I'm going to a tea party from 12-3pm. I'm so excited! I've wanted to go to the tea party for the past two years but was never able to reserve a ticket in time. Now that I'm going, it's just so exciting to see all of the planning and excitement that's building up. Each day I see more and more of the planning and prizes posts on Facebook and my joy has become frenzied. Look at these beautiful floral decorations for the tea party!


I haven't picked out any panels for sure since I don't know how long picking up the badge or post- tea party chatting will go on for. For sure, I want to leave time to go through the artist booths and Dealer's room. I'm going to try and save my pocket book from any pain, but I still want to walk around. I'd be down there anyway for the Art show/auction.

I'm leaving around 10pm. Don't want anyone to fall asleep on the car ride back!

At this point, I feel like I go to cons less for the official events and more for the people. For five years now, I've attended the con. The fosters think it's a little strange that I migrate down for this, but have come to expect me and my strange outfits once a year. Looking back at the photos, I'm struck by the creativity and passion that con goers dedicate. Forward looking:After five years, it'd be a shame to combo break? I remember two years ago gasping at the announcer saying he'd attended Otakon for a decade. But I'm already at the half way point! I hope that I can keep attending as Otakon as it moves into DC in 2017 and maybe even past that. Friends and family laughingly ask when I'm going to outgrow the con, but the con really just keeps growing with me! The move to DC (and a metro stop) would certainly be more convenient for me. Guests, panels, and concerts get more exciting and prestigious each year. Growing with the con is such a strange and bizarre experience.  I'm so excited to go and get to share my experience - and excitement - with everyone!

This weekend is turning out to be overbooked with exciting things. Really! Friday morning was spent playing a game of telephone transfer with Pottery Barn customer service on behalf of Abuela. Friday evening the fosters & co returned from their vacation tail end in Miami. So happy to have them back! Today is Otakon. I can't even predict the excitement that will fall into a too short time frame. Tomorrow I'm meeting up with high school friends and then going to see the Lion King! Oh I just can't wait to be king!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

New Growth; New Branches

Some people think I'm crazy for changing majors the way I did. I changed majors 3 times! I didn't pick my final major until the second semester of my junior year!

I came to MIT my freshman year thinking I would be course 2 because I had enjoyed machine shop and building robots for design competitions. I was interested in course 3, but only in passing. I used to joke that it was my back up major! I spent my freshman year in Concourse, trying out philosophy, natural history and I even took a Women and Gender Studies class. All of those experiences and classes changed my outlook on life! Once I was taking the introductory course 2 classes in my sophomore year, I realized very quickly that I didn't enjoy them. It wasn't the same hands on process that I loved in high school. I had wanted to take classes in both course 2 and 3, but the schedules didn't work. So I had to wait until my junior year to begin course 3.


From the anthropology and archaeology classes I took in the spring of my sophomore year, I became more interested in 3C. I pursued my interests, narrowing in on a field that interested me. A lot of students expressed doubts about the process I went through. Why did I do the Friday seminar readings when they merely skimmed? Why did I meet with my HASS professors to review early drafts while they turned in their unedited first attempt? Why did I continue to sign up for difficult and writing intensive classes while they stopped after fulfilling the requirement? Why did I take an unpaid internship at the Smithsonian when they took a summer off? I didn't know then; I only knew I wanted to be challenged and learn. I do know now.


(Image via, source)

Now I am looking at 21E and Anthro, so that I can pursue the mix of classes that art conservation grad schools will expect. I tried a lot of things in college. All of those uphill meanderings led me here. The extra mountain scaling gave me the perspective to be where I am. I'm still trying new things. It was only by pursuing tangential interests - occasionally trying things just to see if I could - that I found a field that came easily to me, both in interest and in talent.  The detours gave me strength and faith in my legs. College was the first time I could pursue so many opportunities with both freedom and support. I am pursuing a degree in something I enjoy in order to have a job I love enough to do for free - unpaid internships turned into stepping stones to paid research positions.

I'd encourage students to explore the niches of knowledge at their university, be it Medieval Studies or a operating printing press. The skills and interests you develop can turn into a fulfilling career (or maybe just a hobby). If you hate your first major, try another. Don't lock yourself in based on an admission essay wrote when you were 18. Your major is neither static nor defining. Changing and growing into new interests and inspirations is almost certainly part of your college experience. Embrace it! Embrace your growth!


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Extend your reach

If you want something, go for it!


(Image via)

I've done all sorts of things that I didn't think were possible before. I'm currently attending MIT. I am going to an out of state college with a big sticker price as a kid from foster care and no money saved for college. When I was in highschool, I was advised to stick to local universities, not to waste my time or money applying to out of state schools, much less Ivies. When I talked about wanting to go to MIT after doing MITES, my college advisor brought out the stats for how often students from my high school got into MIT. It wasn't often. But I wanted to try. So I got the vouchers to apply, wrote my application and sent it in. If I hadn't applied, I wouldn't have gotten in.  The first step is always opening your mind to the possibility of something. If you don't think it's possible, you won't aim for it.

Often you can be happy with what's easily in your grasp. There's value in knowing how to be content with what you have. There's nothing wrong with going to a cheaper in state school; I applied to UVA and surely would've been happy there. Some of the worries I have in Boston, I wouldn't have there. I sometimes regret that I can't visit friends and family in VA more often. But I needed to apply to more than just what was comfortable! I wanted to see if could try something new and exciting.

Be Aware: You're not always going to get what you want just by asking. I didn't get into Yale. I've been turned down for apartments because I'm an undergrad. Professors have ignored my emails. The world doesn't magically respond to positive thinking. But I learned something from each of those attempts. There are some great articles about how women are worried about rejection and perception so they don't ask for these 'unreasonable' things. By only going for the surefire thing, you miss out on opportunities.

The biggest opportunity you miss out on is the learning that comes with reaching to far. When I was learning to swim over the summer, my teacher was really frustrated with me because I would tense up and refuse to go into water that was deeper than my height. She'd scold me, "How are you ever going to learn to swim if you cramp up like that? Doesn't it get tiresome being that tense?" as I would tightly cling to her wrist or a kick board. Eventually, I had to leap head first into the water, kicking to swim a lap. The first time I tried, I belly flopped, freezing on impact and sinking to the bottom. But by the end of the summer, I was able to swim from one side of the (very small) pool to the other.

I just made a call asking for a job. It was scary. After I put the phone down, I let out a big woosh of air and untensed my body. But I've done the cold phone call before and each time it gets a little bit easier. Each time you reach, you can see a little farther out and your arms get a little stronger. So reach that first chance you get!