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Mundane is OK

Despite popular belief, not every day has to be the most exciting and spontaneous adventure. Yes, living a life full of 24/7 excitement is great for some people, but for those who are plain with mundane, no worries. It’s OK.

And why is it OK? Well, going through a period of time that is not very exciting or eventful is simply a period of time where life is revving its engines. For a few weeks, months or years you may be spending your days waking up, going to work, going to the gym, cooking dinner and going to bed, but that is just time available to really manifest into something greater.

The days spent at home or in the office are moments that can be spent planning for something bigger and better than you could have imagined during your random trip to New York. Time spent planning and money placed in savings is just momentum for a future of excitement, fulfillment and ultimate success.

So, as you lie down on your couch after a long day of working and enjoy that glass of wine instead of going downtown, appreciate the fact that your currently mundane situation is going to be a lavish lifestyle soon enough.

Life is full of turns, and right now, you’re just preparing for the biggest one of all.

The difference between journalism and fake news

Alright people, it is time to get to the bottom of this “fake news” pandemic. While everyone is throwing the term around like a boiling hot potato, nobody seems to understand what fake news truly is. Sure, it is easy to deduce that, obviously, someone is lying in his or her reporting and misconstruing information to create a set of “alternative facts.” What often goes unrealized, however, is that fake news is not journalism, and true journalists do not produce alternative facts.

The constant bashing of well-represented and esteemed media outlets needs to stop. Dubbing media outlets like CNN and the New York Times as fake is not only wrong, it’s dangerous. Companies such as these are known for pushing the envelope and searching for stories that matter and that people should be aware of. The only reason this inaccurate term came to life is because of individuals not wanting the public to realize the truth about what is happening behind closed doors. Essentially, the whole purpose for its birth was to make people doubt any and all information from highly-credited sources. To those throwing the fake news manifesto at these outlets, it is a matter of silencing organizations on the truth, not slaying corruption.

Now, don’t be fooled, there ARE fake news outlets out there. Companies like Breitbart, American News, Disclose TV, and World Truth TV purposely create content meant to deceive people into believing a certain point of view. They don’t write well-rounded and balanced arguments and do not display the very morale that journalism was founded upon.

For those who may not realize it, journalism was created to provide a well-established, balanced and honest voice for the masses. It is founded on the belief that any information that serves the common interest of the majority of people deserves to be shared. After all, we have Freedom of the Press; we have the freedom to investigate, to learn, to listen and to share the truth and nothing but the truth to all people with standards of ethical reasoning. Any outlet or individual who publishes content that is not fact-checked, balanced and as accurate as possible is not a true journalism organization or a journalist.

There is no room for deception in the truth and that is no alternative fact.

Embrace the Challenge Pt. 2

There are times when everything seems to be going right, but then, all of a sudden, it seems to go completely wrong. That great job falls through, the new apartment that offered such a great deal is actually terrible, or, in my case, that dream school is no longer a possibility.

When these seemingly unfortunate events happen, it’s OK to be sad, angry, and bewildered. Humans are meant to express emotion and disappointment is an emotion. It’s a sucky emotion, but hey, it happens. The important thing to remember is that everything happens for a reason. No matter what obstacles occur, it is all part of a bigger picture that will ultimately lead to the most ideal situation. But in order for that to happen, it is crucial to remain positive, flexible, and open to every opportunity that presents itself.

I’d be lying if I said that not being able to go to American University because of finances doesn’t absolutely break my heart. Throughout the last few days, I cried (a lot), yelled, and indulged in a bit too much wine, but I’ve also realized that it is not the end of the world. A school does not define me. A location does not determine my potential. Choosing another option does not mean I’m a failure.

There are infinite opportunities in this world. The inability to take one of them is not worth the heartache. Yes, it will be stressful and upsetting, but do not let that one loss dictate your ability to realize all that you can gain.

Embrace the challenge and embrace everything life brings.

A letter to…everyone 

Today was one of the scariest and most rewarding days of my life. I’ve always hated public speaking and it never fails to make me feel so small in a room that is so big. But today was different. Today I felt like I mattered, like my voice did have an impact, no matter how small, and I am eternally thankful for that opportunity. 

Never be afraid to dive into the unknown and do something that completely terrifies you, you might just learn from it. See my speech below! 

Good afternoon everyone and thank you for allowing me to be in the presence of such strong leadership and female empowerment. Just from looking around the room, I see so many people who are clearly committed to bettering themselves, the world, and the future of feminism. None of you are the same color. None of you have the same features. None of you come from the same background. But there is something that all of you do have in common, and that’s the ability to change the world.Now, I want all of you to close your eyes. In fact, lay your head down on the table or place your hands over your eyes so you truly can’t see anything. I want you to think about a time when you chose silence. When you witnessed something wrong and you stood by. Maybe it was racism while you were in line at the gas station. Maybe it was one of your girlfriends who’s significant other was blatantly abusive. Or maybe it was a friend talking about how the girl who was raped should have known better than to drink and wear a skimpy outfit when she went downtown.

Open your eyes and look around. Most of the people in this room have chosen silence at some point in their lives, myself included. And I want you to think back on that moment you just recollected. What if all of these people who surround you right now were there and they all chose silence. What if all of these dozens of people were watching something happen they know is despicable and chose to stand by. Now, what if they all chose to speak up.

Far too often, little girls are raised to become women who stand idly by. Parents teach their daughters that to be beautiful is to be reserved. That to find happiness is to be submissive. And that to be successful is to settle for second instead of striving for first.

There is a good chance that many of you in this room were raised on those beliefs, or who have a loved one who was raised with that mindset. But all the women in this room need to know that you are so much more than an aesthetic pleasure, and all the men in this room need to affirm that message to the women in their lives. Today, all those thoughts and all those voices that say “Don’t be so dramatic” and “You’re only one person; it won’t make a difference.” That “Other women have it worse,” and “Well, you shouldn’t have worn that.” That “You can’t expect people to take you seriously,” and, “You shouldn’t come across as so bitchy when you’re leading the meeting,” all end. Those voices are no longer relevant.

Because you see, beauty is not a measure of your complacency and is not determined by your ability to be seen and not heard. Beauty is confidence and bold is beautiful.

Women should not be forced into silence, no matter what that silence is for. Women should not be so afraid of losing their jobs that they refuse to demand the same pay as their male colleagues. Women do not deserve to be treated as objects just because they are comfortable in their skin and are proud of everything that their bodies have gone through and represent. No woman should ever be told she is less of a woman because she chooses to strive for a career, desires to stay at home, breastfeeds her infant in public, or chooses to have an abortion.

A 15-year-old girl was shot on her way home from school because she refused to stop advocating to a female’s right to education in Pakistan. Malala survived and continues to speak on behalf of women. A well-known actress used her status to push a movement that inspires men to become part of the feminist movement. Emma Watson turned #HeForShe into the critical lesson that feminism is about equality for men and women, not about promoting women over men. A senator chooses to continue fighting against the standard in politics and voices her beliefs even when others tell her to stay silent. Senator Warren continues to fight against political and financial corruption and has become one of the biggest proponents of women’s rights in U.S. politics.

These women and their accomplishments are not difficult to come by. They were able to make such incredible changes through determination and refusing to listen to the negative voices in their lives. Every single person in this room is strong. Every one of you is beautiful. And every one of you has the ability to prove that, as Hillary Clinton said, “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.”

Now, I want all of you to close your eyes again. Think about that situation I asked you to think of before, when you stood by and stayed silent as you witnessed harm. This time, I want you to imagine that you didn’t stand by. Imagine you spoke up and you told the person making the racist comment that the U.S. is founded upon diversity and that without diversity, we would never have freedom. Imagine telling your best friend’s significant other that he or she will no longer speak to your friend that way because now, she is not alone, and two is bigger than one. Imagine telling that friend who ridiculed the rape victim that anything that isn’t “yes,” is “no” and a woman’s clothes do not speak. Her voice does.

Open your eyes. Your voice does make a difference. Your opinion does matter. Your boldness is beautiful. Being bold proves that you have not only earned respect, but that you deserve it solely for being a vessel of humanity.

Today is the day you can make change. One voice can create a movement and can propel a generation’s future to bring them endless possibilities. You are all multi-talented, diverse, intricate human beings, whose mere existences are the boldest of statements within life itself. This is the time to push the agenda that women are just as strong, just as bold, and just as powerful as men. We work 10 times harder and march 10 times longer than men to prove that we deserve equality. Now, we must carry that tradition of badassery with us wherever we go. Be bold and be brave, and you will remain beautiful in all of your endeavors.

See my speech here: https://www.facebook.com/licohen94/videos/10155189944655984/

Embrace the Challenge

Not all the opportunities that arise instantly fill you with joy. Sometimes, opportunities make you feel anxious, scared, and may even seem impossible. The funny thing about those opportunities, however, is that those are the ones that change you forever.

I have never been great at public speaking. I tense up, my face turns the color of a fresh tomato, and I somehow manage to develop a stutter and an interminable eye twitch. But when I was offered the chance to be the keynote speaker at my university’s International Women’s Day Colloquium, I couldn’t turn down the chance.

This speech is going to be one of the single most challenging moments of my life, but fulfilling this task is the opportunity of a lifetime. If it doesn’t challenge you, then it doesn’t change you, and I am at the point in my life where I am challenging myself to be open to change.

With graduating college in a few months and seeing everything that’s happening in the world around me, it’s more important now than ever before to choose to be a voice. I am choosing to share my voice–no matter how stuttered it will sound–to get the message across that this is the time to be bold. Regretting yesterday is no longer the answer and procrastinating until tomorrow is no longer the solution.

So, this Wednesday marks the first day of my embrace to change. From now on, no stone shall go unturned and no opportunity shall not be seized. Everyone says that any individual can change the world, but far too many forget to include themselves in that equation.

Bold is beautiful.

CLICK HERE for more info on the colloquium.

Just Bein’ a Truther

Depression sucks. Plain and simple.

A mental illness like depression takes a painfully long time to truly overcome. Of course, there are times where it feels like it subsided, but when it resurfaces, it feels as though you are drowning all over again. Each drowning attempt feels deeper into some kind of intangible abyss that is not so easy to explain to others. No matter how far down you drown, however, there always seems to be some beacon of hope that appears when you least expect it.

This truly irritating and debilitating ailment takes such an invisible toll on people that many times, others really just don’t understand what it’s like. Not necessarily because they don’t want to, but because they just can’t. It’s difficult to empathize with a pain you cannot see, especially when, for many, it hits at moments where nobody is around. The 2 a.m. debilitating bedtime cries and 7 a.m. ceiling stares and ponders are not a tangible pain people can automatically detect when they look at others.

For now, I’m in this purgatory-ish state, but that’s OK. It’s unfortunate, but it happens. And at the end of the day, you just have to try your best to keep looking for that beacon of hope to pull you through. It may not be the following day or the following week, but in the end, it is OK. The beacon will come because every minute of suffering through depression is another brick of strength that builds in your soul. One day at a time is all you need.

 

The Thing About Artists

Everyone knows an artist. He or she can be a friend, family member, the person who sits in the back of your class, or the person you follow on Twitter but never actually met. Whoever they are and however you know them, there is one thing you need to know.

Support them.

Painters, designers, and writers bleed through their work (sometimes literally, depending on the medium). It is not easy, particularly when you allow your vulnerability to shine through for everyone to see. You don’t have to understand an artist’s way of life, share his or her way of life, or even pick up on the particular emotion they put into a piece, but you do need to understand empathy.

All artists share one common trait–insurmountable empathy. They open hearts to allow others’ feeling become their vulnerability and change that into works of art. Those pieces of art deserve more than a viral presence or a showcase on one’s wall; they deserve admiration.

One of those great artists is someone whom I haven’t known long, but who has a contagious passion for life and equality. She presents it through her words, actions, and, of course, her art. She’s a great inspiration to those who know her, and if you don’t, here’s your chance. Take a sneak peek into her world at haleytract.threadless.com.

Life of a Student Journalist

Write.
Take a sip of coffee.
Interview.
Another sip of coffee.
Write a hell of a lot more.
Time for a hell of a lot more coffee.

Writing is no joke, especially when you want to thoroughly report on a story. It takes more patience than you could imagine, and the backspace and undo keys become your best friend (besides that that very durable coffee mug).

Being a student and a journalist is definitely not for those who tire quickly and cannot sit for long periods of time. The majority of my day is spent right here, staring at my computer screen, completing class discussions and coming up with questions for my next interview. It’s something that’s so fascinatingly tiring, yet simultaneously exhilarating, and surprisingly, is different every single day.

When your passion becomes your life, there is no amount of hard work that becomes too hard of work because every second of it is a challenge you physically, mentally, and emotionally can’t wait to overcome.

This is my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

New year. Same (new & improved) me.

It is now the second week of 2017, and yes, I vowed to commit to a new year goal (surprise, surprise).

This is my last semester as an undergraduate student, and if I’m being honest with myself, I slacked a lot the past 3 1/2 years. I have some awesome memories and a great GPA, but all of it could and should be better. I just never put in enough effort…I put in just the right amount of effort to get by. But that stops now.

This is the year where, instead of vowing to lose 15 pounds, I vow to follow through with all of my goals–health, personal, academic, and career. The days of giving up on myself are over and the days of applauding myself for kicking some ass in the classroom and in the gym are approaching. There just comes a time when you realize you need to be your own motivation, and that time is here for me.

So, my goal for this year is to just be the me I’ve always wanted to be and to appreciate the steps I take to get to my dreams. A new year is not about changing yourself, it’s about bettering yourself, and that is exactly what I plan to do.

“Remember, the moment you accept total responsibility for everything in your life is the moment you claim the power to change anything in your life.”

 

Because equality matters

In a few weeks, I’ll start my drive to Washington, D.C. to join some incredible family members at the Women’s March on Washington. For those who haven’t heard about this movement, I highly suggest looking it up because it’s truly incredible. Hundreds of thousands of us our gathering together to show that despite the new president and his cabinet, we will not stand for inequality and injustice.

The people Trump placed in his cabinet are notorious misogynists, racists, homophobic men who have the unfortunate track record of minimizing the importance of everyone who is not a white male. Trump’s presidency is a testament to the significance of rape culture, hate culture, and an overall demeaning culture that people have accepted far too easily. This is not now, nor will it ever be, OK.

So I’m going to go march. I’m going to chant. I’m going to get excited and angry and motivated to cause change, and so should everyone else who believes in equality because this march is not just for women, it’s for everyone.

To try and get some extra gas/food money for the trip (because let’s be real, I’m still a college student with basically no excess money) I made some designs on RedBubble for everyone to check out. If you like one and want to purchase one of the products–great! That’ll make me super happy. If not, that’s OK, too, because now you know to look up the Women’s March on Washington and (hopefully) get involved.