Writing as a United Nations Association Blogger Fellow

This post was updated on 10/16/2015 with a link to my new post for UNA on representation of women in the media (below).

Oct. 7 2015 — Last month I had the exciting privilege to attend the 2015 Social Good Summit in New York during the UN General Assembly. Then I got to write about what inspired me there for the United Nations Association as a Blogger Fellow. I’m still reeling from the experience and will be writing more about the ideas shared there soon.

In the meantime, you can access what we’ve already written on UNA’s website at the links below:

Click to learn about the 2015 UN Association Blogger Fellows

Click to learn about who the 2015 UN Association Blogger Fellows are

Click for the feed of Blogger Fellow posts about the Social Good Summit

Click for the ongoing feed of Blogger Fellow posts about the Social Good Summit

Click to read my post on crazy celeb sightings on the UN Association's website

Click to read my post for the UN Association on crazy celeb sightings at the Social Good Summit

Click to read my post for the UN Association on how young people can help refugees

Click to read my post for the UN Association on how young people can help refugees

NEW (10/16/2015):

Click to read my newest post for the UN Association on women in the media

Click to read my newest post for the UN Association on women in the media

And finally, if you aren’t convinced of why the UN and it’s newly-adopted “Global Goals” have been so hyped up recently, read this New York Times article that explains:

NYT article

Thanks for following along this exciting journey with me!

New German Language App for Refugee Kids

Photo: BKA/Andy Wenzel, TheLocal.at

Photo: BKA/Andy Wenzel, TheLocal.at

It was so inspiring to open my Politico Brussels Playbook email today and find that Austria’s government has created an app to help refugee children (and soon adults) learn German, so they can begin to integrate into society more easily. This is exactly the kind of creative solution I was calling for in my recent post, ‘I’m Young and Broke. How Am I Supposed to Help Refugees?

It’s especially important that the app, “hallo App Deutsch,” contains pictures and sound in addition to everyday words, because many refugees come from Arabic-speaking countries, and will never have used the Roman alphabet before. As I described in the post mentioned above, it’s much harder for refugees, who have endured unimaginable trauma, to then learn a language from scratch that uses an entirely different alphabet and numbering system than their own.

According to TheLocal.at, an English-language Austrian news site,

“The app, co-funded with corporate sponsorship, is also set to be launched in Germany – the main destination for refugees in recent months – and a version for adults is also planned. The kid’s version will be available for free download from the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store from the end of October.”

Many other creative solutions for aiding refugees have emerged over the last few days. The UN’s Refugee Agency recently announced partnerships with Kickstarter, Instacart, and AirBnB that allow you to help to whatever degree you can. Widespread participation and inspiring innovations like these programs will help end the horrors that refugees face.

How Blogging Got Me a Trip to New York

Cultivate your interests banner

I’ve always felt a little uneasy about the self-promotion required to maintain a blog: Posting links on social media asking my friends to read my work, assuming I have anything interesting enough to say to hold it up on the internet, let alone expecting people to like it. But this month, I learned what doors blogging can open. Not the kind of doors where advertisers pay you to talk about a product on your blog. My passionate rants about various social issues lent me to a slightly nerdier purpose – I was selected to attend a Social Good Summit as a United Nations Association Blogger Fellow in New York next weekend.

The Summit is a two-day conference examining the impact of technology and new media on social good initiatives around the world. The summit’s theme, #2030NOW, asks, “What type of world do I want to live in by the year 2030?” In addition to the event I’m attending in New York City, people “convene around the world to take part in the global discussion about how communities are using the digital tools of today to build a brighter future.”

Event Cover Photo

The timing of the Social Good Summit is especially important this year, as it will coincide with the 70th meeting of the United Nations General Assembly at its headquarters in New York, and the adoption of the United Nations’ new “Global Goals,” that replace its expiring “Millennium Development Goals.” (read more on these below).

My role at the Summit will be to amplify the message of thought-leaders, global experts, and “social good” advocates who will discuss issues ranging from resettlement of refugees, to using sports for social good, to using social media as a first-responder in cases of emergencies (like many of us experienced when Facebook notified us that our friends near the recent earthquake in Chile were okay).
Agenda_smallSpeakers_SmallI will share the discussions and ideas I hear throughout the weekend on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and this blog, and encourage you to follow the conversation using the hashtags #2030Now and #SocialGood.

It will be quite the honor to attend this event. If I hadn’t started this blog after graduating college more than a year ago, I wouldn’t have had any material with which to apply for such an exciting blogging opportunity in the career field I love and want to work in someday. Now, instead of grimacing at what I thought was self-promotion, I am so happy that I have used this medium to keep my writing skills sharp about issues that I truly care about. A seemingly-pointless blog has turned into my first networking opportunity with real UN leaders (that I’m fan-girling about hardcore). Moral of my story – While you might not work in your dream job or ideal career yet – continuing to cultivate your interests in your spare time can open big doors in the future.

To learn more about the #SocialGoodSummit and what I’ll be doing there, click here. To learn more about the Global Goals the UN will adopt this week on September 25th, read below.

The Goals

Millennium Development Goals Background:

In 2000, countries came together to put in place the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), that the world would use as a plan for ending extreme poverty. They focused on eradicating extreme hunger, and poverty; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment; reducing the under-five child mortality rate; reducing the maternal mortality rate; combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability; and developing a global partnership for development.

Sustainable Development Goals or “Global Goals” Background:

As the MDG’s expire in 2015, the new global goals the UN will adopt this week are built on their successful framework, but represent a better understanding of the connections between poverty, governance, health, gender, climate, and education.

Favorite Books From My Summer Binge-Reading

Here’s what I’ve binge-read lately – see what you might like.

I was overzealous with books this summer. This is not even the full list of novels that I devoured over the last few months, but they are the ones I liked best. Below, I wrote a little about why I liked each one and why you might enjoy them, too.

Scroll down to read more!

(But first, you might wonder, how do I access these books? Popular novels are expensive and hard to find in libraries. That is true. But – if you have access to any kind of e-reader [an iPad, Kindle, laptop, your phone if you don’t mind a small screen], and a library card, you can download most of these books FO FREE. It’s also very cheap to buy used books on Amazon. Then, you get a real, paper book in your hands, usually for less than $5.)

I’ve sorted these into categories based on the mood or genre you might be looking for, and I included some of my favorite quotations from each book (of which I keep an obsessive list in my phone) to give you a sense of their writing styles. I hope you find something you like!

If you feel like analyzing your place in the Millennial generation, read:

The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

“The story of Imogen Tate, editor in chief of Glossy magazine, who finds her twentysomething former assistant Eve Morton plotting to knock Imogen off her pedestal, take over her job, and reduce the magazine, famous for its lavish 768-page September issue, into an app.”

Book cover credit: Penguin Random House

Book cover credit: Penguin Random House

Upon first glance I assumed this would just be an updated version of The Devil Wears Prada. But it’s first in my list of recommendations because it was much more. The story was an eye-opening, hilarious reflection on how technology forces business to change, and led me to self-reflect a lot about how I interact with people of other generations (Do I act like the entitled twentysomething coworker?). This book inspired me in so many ways, including to start my own business someday, and to learn how to code. You don’t need to be “into fashion” to enjoy this.

My favorite quotations from this book:

  • “The girl visibly bristled and immediately launched into work chatter, avoiding the kinds of niceties that people with actual experience in business make sure to go through before getting to the point of any professional meeting.”
  • Everything looks better on Instagram, doesn’t it?” Aerin said. “Isn’t that what all that is for…the version of ourselves we wish we felt like all the time.”

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari


Book cover credit: Aziz Ansari

You’ve probably heard about this one. It’s a mixture of Aziz’s comedic commentary and sociologists’ analysis of dating in the modern tech world. As a former sociology student, I think it was the perfect balance between ridiculous things that Aziz says and acute insight about what it’s like to date in the age of Tinder. If you like Aziz’s stand up, and can relate to anxiety about read-receipts and double texts, you will enjoy.

My favorite quotations:

  • “The nights when you have amazing casual sex start getting outweighed by the times you wander home alone wasted and wake up hungover with a half-eaten burrito sitting on your chest.”
  • If you were in a bar, would you ever go up to a guy or girl and repeat the word “hey” ten times in a row without getting a response? Would you ever go up to a woman you met two minutes ago and beg her to show you one of her boobs?”

If you’re seeking a thriller with vibes like Gone Girl, read:

The Dinner by Herman Koch

“The darkly suspenseful, highly controversial tale of two families struggling to make the hardest decision of their lives—all over the course of one meal.”


Book cover credit: Penguin Random House

One of the most thought-provoking and enjoyably creepy books I’ve ever read. I love stories that exemplify different aspects of human nature through their characters, and this book did an excellent job of exploring everyone’s darker sides. Thrilling to read, which I did in one day.

My favorite quotations:

  • “You’re looking good” could therefore mean that I did indeed look good, but it could also be an indirect request that I say something about her own appearance— in any event, to pay more attention to it than usual.”
  •  “Sometimes things come out of your mouth that you regret later on. Or no, not regret. You say something so razor-sharp that the person you say it to carries it around with them for the rest of their life.”

{Two other Gone Girl-esque psychological thrillers I highly recommend are Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty and The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins}

If you need a well-written apocalyptic novel, read:

Station Eleven by John Mandel

“An audacious, darkly glittering novel about art, fame, and ambition set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse.”

Cover image from: Penguin Random House

Cover image from: Penguin Random House

This was a fascinating and thorough examination of what would really happen in the case of a pandemic/apocalypse – how infrastructure would break down, how new “prophets” would emerge, how people would cope and continue to create art, and how society might rebuild. I was especially impressed by how well the characters’ lives intertwined. Highly recommend.

My favorite quotation:

  • “There had always been a massive delicate infrastructure of people, all of them working unnoticed around us, and when people stop going to work, the entire operation grinds to a halt. No one delivers fuel to the gas stations or the airports. Cars are stranded. Airplanes cannot fly. Trucks remain at their points of origin. Food never reaches the cities; grocery stores close. Businesses are locked and then looted. No one comes to work at the power plants or the substations, no one removes fallen trees from electrical lines.”

If you need a vacation, read:

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Beautiful Ruins is the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962…and is rekindled in Hollywood fifty years later.”

Cover image from www.jesswalter.com

Cover image credit: Jess Walter

This novel might look like a light beach-read, but the plot is deep. Seemingly-separate story lines take place in Italy, Hollywood, Spokane, Washington, Seattle, Washington, and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho (all special places to me) that are woven together perfectly by the end. If you like film, theatre, travel, or fantasize about Italy regularly like I do, you will love this.

My favorite quotations:

  • “He believed he could spot an American anywhere by that quality – the stubborn belief in possibility, which even the youngest Italians lacked. America with its expansive youth, and Italians living in the artifacts of generations, in the bones of empires.”
  • “So this is what ghosts are like, Michael thinks. Not white corporeal figures haunting your dreams, but old names buzzed over cell phones.”
  • “Pasquale recalled from his studies how some buildings in Florence could disappoint from various angles and yet always presented well in relief, always photographed well; that the various vintages were made to be composed, and so too, he thought, some people.”

If you want to think deep about family and your surroundings, read:

& Sons by David Gilbert

Book image credit: http://www.davidgilbertauthor.com/

Book image credit: David Gilbert

“Revolving around a New York writer of J. D. Salinger-like fame and reclusiveness, & Sons is about fathers and sons and the complications and competitions between them, all set within the world of East Coast preppy privilege. It has a twist with a tantalizing hint of science fiction and a devastatingly poignant ending.” –NPR

This book gives a fascinating picture of the uncomfortable sides of family relationships, as well as a reflection on the ongoing cultural transformation happening in New York City. The narrator/main character is like an outsider looking in on the plot, and it’s easy to relate to his anxieties, insecurities, and observations about people. The female characters feel a little like an afterthought to the story, but I forgave this because the writing was so good. As the novel is about a novel, if you enjoy writing, you will like it.

My favorite quotations:

  • “Ugliness seemed to signify emotional authenticity. Half my characters had problems with heroin, and I had never seen heroin before but please give me a hit of that tragedy so I might swim in more human waters.”
  • “She moved with the precision of a former urban athlete, eyes gauging the best path, chin balanced between no-nonsense and courteous, as though somewhere in the bowels of Manhattan a stopwatch ticked and a voice whispered ‘faster'”
  • “Years later he would wonder if his initial reaction somehow dictated all that followed…maybe thoughts, their synaptic charge, maybe they bump into surrounding particles and change their direction and help shape some of that spooky action at a distance.”

Canada by Richard Ford

“When fifteen-year-old Dell Parsons’ parents rob a bank, his sense of normal life is forever altered. In an instant, this private cataclysm drives his life into before and after, a threshold that can never be uncrossed.”

Cover image from: Harper Collins

Cover image from: Harper Collins

Reading this felt a little like watching the movie Secondhand Lions. A sort of melancholy, coming-of-age story, the plot confuses at first – but the narrative is written in such a beautiful, calming way, that you keep reading until it all makes sense. I recommend this book for its well-written metaphors and observations about American life, treatment of Native Americans, family, and ultimately what Canada represents for the main character.

My favorite quotations:

  • “She at least could see their mistake, and the more misguided their lives became—like a long proof in mathematics in which the first calculation is wrong, following which all other calculations move you further away from how things were when they made sense.”
  • “It’s wrong to wish away even bad events, as if you could ever have found your way to the present by any other means.”

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

“Told from the alternating perspectives of teenage fraternal twins, a boy and girl named Noah and Jude, each of them narrating from a different side of the accident that forever changed their lives.” –NYT

Cover Image from Penguin Random House

Cover Image from Penguin Random House

This is another “coming of age” story that is probably most poignant for a younger audience than myself, but the story is mature. I was moved by the description of sibling relationships, difficulties of making friends, and strategies for coping with loss – all of which are filled with art/art history motifs, like Michelangelo’s David. If it’s not necessarily for you, this book would speak really well to a young person you know who’s trying to find their way into adulthood.

My favorite Quotations:

  • “I know from doing portraits that you have to look at someone a really long time to see what they’re covering up, to see their inside face, and when you do see it and get it down, that’s the thing that makes people freak out about how much a drawing looks like them.”
  • “Beer sucks. I lift my head. It’s still me in the mirror. It’s still me in me, right? I’m not sure.”

And finally, if you haven’t read one of her non-Harry Potter books yet, read:

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Book cover from: Little Brown/JK Rowling

Book cover from: Little Brown/JK Rowling

“When Barry Fairbrother dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock. Seemingly an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?”

J.K. Rowling has a talent that goes far beyond her creation of the wizarding world. This book had all the understated humor and subtle societal criticism that Harry Potter did, but with a focus on small-town politics and how the rich interact with the poor. She makes fun of so many different types of personalities that we all are familiar with, to which both adults and kids can relate. I’m so glad I read this and plan to read her other post-Harry novels asap.

As you can see, I’m a big fan of books that make a point about the world around us – how people think and interact with each other, how society functions, etc. Therefore, if there’s a book in this vein that you love and think I should read, or you have thoughts about the books I described – please share!

The postgrad freakout and awkward coffee-date networking: My job-hunting lessons learned

Twelve months ago, one month after graduating from college, with an Italian Studies degree and a Sociology minor, I was in the thick of the freakout. The everyone-I-know-already-has-a-job-I-still-don’t-know-WTF-I’m-doing-with-my-life-why-did-I-major-in-Italian-freakout. Friends who majored in accounting happily posting their life-plans all over Facebook. Family members not-so-subtly asking if you have a life plan, yet. Every entry-level job application to be found requiring “3-5 years of experience.”

One year ago, that freakout paralyzed me. I whined, hoping the next life-stage would present itself to me like high school and college so conveniently did.

I know a lot of people who are tackling the same ‘is this the right path’ doubts, student-loan anxieties, and job application difficulties that consumed me a year ago (and continued well into my 9 months of unemployment after graduation). So I’ve compiled a few of the most important lessons I tend to share with people that I have learned over the last year –  from interning in an extremely competitive environment, while also applying for jobs in one of the most competitive cities in the U.S. – and I hope that they can help you or someone you know navigate the inherent freakout of transitioning into post-grad life.

Overcoming the Freakout

For me, breaking out of freakout paralysis involved sending a LOT of resumes and cover letters into the black hole that is the Internet, to any organization I thought I might be interested in. Although applying and not hearing back from anyone right away can begin to feel fruitless, if I hadn’t forced myself to send applications repeatedly after graduation, one of those resumes would never have led me to intern with a Congressman, and my current job in Washington, D.C. Commit to applying to one job per day, and suddenly ‘figuring out the rest of your life’ will feel less daunting.

Standing out by acing the little things

If you’re like me, you might apply for some jobs or internships in a different city than where you currently live. Which means you’ll likely be interviewed by phone or Skype, which provides additional challenges to conveying your knowledge and skills. For example:

You might live in a different time zone than your interviewer. You might confirm that your phone interview for an internship with a Senator in D.C. is at 2 pm on Wednesday, prepare really strong answers the night before, and check your phone at 1:30 on Wednesday, to realize that you missed 3 calls from your interviewer that morning because it was at 2 pm EASTERN TIME, NOT SEATTLE TIME. You might not be chosen for that internship.

Am I speaking from personal experience? Yes. Did I lose an internship opportunity because of my lack of attention to detail? Yes. Did my prior preparation still impress the guy in my rescheduled interview so he would eventually pass my resume along to another Congressman’s office, who I ended up moving to D.C. to intern with? Also yes. (Thanks, Nick). I got lucky here. Not everyone will be as nice as Nick. Moral of story: with any kind of interview, the little things, like double-checking your interview time and demonstrating an impeccable attention to detail, can make or break your chance of getting a job. Be the person who remembers the time zone.

Getting over your pride to intern until you find a job

For some horrible reason, “entry-level” jobs in many fields require applicants to have 3-5 years of work experience in that field. This is why so many post-grads end up selling their labor in return for the opportunity to make coffee-I mean-learn valuable skills through internships that count towards that required prior experience. Taking an internship while applying for “real jobs” right out of college may feel demeaning, especially if it is unpaid, and you actually are only making coffee. But I would argue that the three (THREE!) different internships I held after graduation, which included coffee-making, are what set me up so well for my first real-world job.

Using an internship to your utmost advantage

There are a myriad of articles out there with comprehensive internship advice, that I won’t try to replicate. But these are some useful lessons learned that I frequently pass on to other people. The first piece of advice I received upon moving to D.C. to intern while looking for jobs was to set up coffee dates. Not like meeting-up-with-a-friend-you-don’t-actually-want-to-hang-out-with coffee dates. I mean informational interviews – where you invite a colleague from your internship’s office to coffee in order to “learn more about what they do.” Apparently everyone knows that this really means you’re looking for jobs, and you want to know if they can help you find one.

Some people will swear this is the only way to find a job in highly-saturated job market cities like D.C.: you want to work in PR, but so do 200 other interns who live near you. So you get coffee with Senator so-and-so’s Communications Director who will pass your resume along to Congresswoman so-and-so’s office that has an opening for a press assistant – and thank goodness you met for that coffee because now the Comm.s Director will put in a good word for you over those 200 other interns. This is how “applying for jobs” was described to me when I moved here. That is a best-case scenario. Luckily, while they may not connect you directly to a job, seasoned professionals can help you in other ways (listed below), so you should grab coffee with any colleague you can, and ask about what they do and how they got to where they are today.

Once you’ve set up a few coffee dates, prepare intelligent questions to ask on each one. After listening and learning from the answers, you will usually be asked what your career goals are (if you haven’t thought about them, do so. If you have nothing to say here, they’ll wonder why you’re wasting their time). Then, it is UP TO YOU to figure out how they might help you. Most often, the person will offer you some really helpful advice, having been in your shoes before. But you can’t assume they will do more than this, unless you ask them to. Professionals in the real world have a lot on their plate at all times – and finding an intern a job is not high on their to-do list. However, you CAN politely enlist their help in a couple of ways:

  1. Ask them to look over your resume, and suggest any changes. These are people who probably look over resumes all the time, and will know what is impressive in your field and what actually isn’t (How I quickly learned nobody cares that you’re ‘proficient in Microsoft Word’ – because of course you are, you typed your resume right? Duh.)
  2. If it feels right, ask them to forward your resume along if they know of an open position in your field. Make this easy for them, by sending them your typo-free resume in PDF form after your coffee. (I now have a 3 page PDF doc that includes my resume, cover letter for the specific job, and list of professional references. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for a very busy person to read.)
  3. Always ask them to direct you to at least one new person to have coffee with. If you’re awkward like me you might get sick of meeting strangers in coffee shops. But, the more you do it, the better your interview skills, and the less awkward you become.
  4. Finally, don’t let your network of coffee dates forget about you. If you talked about editing your resume or obtaining contact info for a colleague in your field, send profusely-thankful follow up emails, paired with real, mailed notes thanking them for taking time out of their busy schedule to meet with you. People remember that kind of tangible gratitude.

I didn’t jump into the coffee-dates networking game nearly as soon as I should have when I began my internship. And I missed out on early advice and connections because of it. One of my best friends who found a job most quickly after graduation had been grabbing these informal coffees with local professionals months before we left college, gaining tons of advice and communication skills before the rest of us. Get on her level.

Putting ‘the rest of your life’ into perspective

Sometimes throughout the job hunt, you’ll be tired of uncomfortable networking events, tired of your job application emails being ignored, and you’ll feel like you will never find a job related to the degree you went $30,000 in debt to obtain (Unless you’re an engineer or an accountant, in which case you can leave this page and go enjoy your eternal job security bliss). You will probably feel pressured to find the perfect first job that combines your major with your passion and long-term goals.

Well, stop fretting. The best advice that this Italian-Sociology major got during the job hunt was that careers are no longer simple ladders. They’re more like adaptable flow charts, that provide you with multiple, changing paths for achieving an end goal. You will very likely need to take internships and jobs that don’t seem related to your dream career goals, in order to learn the specific skills that you will end up needing later to achieve your dream career goals. Look at job descriptions* of positions you want to work in someday and figure out what jobs or internships you could work now that will prepare you for that goal in the future. I want to pursue international policy as a career, and my current job has nothing to do with that. But the U.S. policy analysis I do now is making me more qualified for my goals every day. Remember that your first job or internship is not the rest of your life.

I have been extremely fortunate to work many diverse, formative internships immediately after graduating from college. I am now employed, in a job I love, paying my student loans, and doing fine. The freakout is only temporary!

While I’m not an expert, postgrad anxiety is fresh in my mind, and I’m always happy to answer questions recent graduates might have.

*Also, www.Idealist.org is where I found my current job, and is one of the best free internship/job search resources I have used. Good luck!

Key lessons I learned from breaking my ankle in the middle of summer

Enjoying vacation without getting in the water - a tough mental challenge.

I had grand expectations for my first summer after graduating college. I was going to find a yoga studio, swim, get beautifully tan, and maybe even find a job.

Enter the 4th of July plot twist: a night with friends in Seattle, nearby fireworks at Gasworks park, and ringing in USA freedom with a stroll through the city. One second laughing hysterically, the Fremont neighborhood flying by me as I sprinted toward the fireworks – the next second, on the sidewalk unable to move, my dress covered in dirt, and my ankle broken. An injury that takes at least 6 weeks to heal, with crutches and multiple casts, rendering any physical summer activity, let alone showering, nearly impossible.

This is the first bone I’ve ever broken, so it’s been a mentally challenging 6 weeks, with plenty of lessons learned. I’ve taken those lessons and still enjoyed a fun, productive summer with my family and friends, whose support I couldn’t have enjoyed this time without.

As I prepare to walk on two feet again and move to Washington D.C., I decided to reflect on the challenges I’ve overcome and the unexpected knowledge I’ve gained from this injury experience. I hope my key bone-break takeaways are useful to others in similar situations, or at the very least, are fun to read:

If you’ve spent your evening enjoying some 4th of July beverages, it’s probably a bad idea to sprint for 10 blocks “to try to see fireworks better.” I was a gymnast and a cheerleader (and somehow never broke a bone), but I am not a stellar runner. I jog. PBR-induced downhill sprinting in gladiator sandals is not my forte and I should have recognized that and stopped instead of pushing myself to go faster. I ended up seeing great fireworks lit up-close by people on the street where I fell and waited to be picked up, anyway. Key takeaway: know your athletic limits.

Secondly, as our favorite yoga instructor on Orange is the New Black reminds Piper, “Your experience here is only temporary. Try to make it meaningful.” Obviously, a broken ankle and the inability to walk are not the same thing as a prison sentence, but it can feel similarly overwhelming, especially when I started to obsess about all of the plans I had that I now couldn’t do with a broken ankle.

Instead of spiraling into a negative depression, I forced myself to be optimistic about the summer. I pushed my thoughts toward still being able to travel to San Diego and successfully kayaking without ruining my cast instead of dwelling on my inability to swim, getting to park super close to businesses because of my disability permit instead of becoming angry about how slow and tiring moving on crutches is, how rock-solid my biceps would be instead of how much thinner and weaker my left leg muscles would be, and how great yoga will feel when I’m healed instead of whining about not doing yoga all summer.

Spending my energy on the positive effects of my injury kept me from wallowing in self-pity too much and allowed me to have a great summer despite the cast. Key takeaway: the injury, the crushing immobility, and constant dependence on others are only temporary.

This brings me to the greatest challenge I’ve faced because of my injury. I pride myself on being a very independent person. I would much rather complete a task on my own, and feel accomplished about what I’ve done, than surrender my independence and let someone else complete a task I was capable of myself. I guess you could call it a pride issue.

Summer injury plot twist #2: the inability to walk or carry anything while using crutches means you HAVE to rely on other people to do things. You don’t have a choice. Putting dishes away, opening heavy doors, cleaning out your car, getting dressed on time for work – these are all everyday actions we rarely think about as difficult because walking and standing on two feet makes them so quick and thoughtless. Constantly carrying my backpack has solved a lot of these problems, but everyday life still encompasses an obstacle course of actions that have never seemed hard, but suddenly do. (Walking around a grocery store? Too tiring for my arms. Ugh.)

Most people in my life are more than happy to help me with these things, and I know that. But in my head, I convince myself that everyone feels obligated to help me but secretly hates the burden, so I avoid asking for favors. It makes me very uncomfortable to have someone interrupt their work to come help me open a freaking heavy automatically-closing door that I’m trying to prop open with my crutches on my own. I look ridiculous, and it makes me feel incompetent and powerless.

However, once I realized that people don’t actually hate giving me a hand, it became much easier to ask for help. Granted, my family is probably sick of putting my dishes away and helping me vacuum out my car (thanks, McNeil), but for the most part, people are very understanding of my predicament and eager to help me out. So I’ve learned to let go and accept the assistance that I clearly need. Key takeaway: depending on others sometimes doesn’t make you any less of a competent adult.

My family has endearingly (they claim) called me Gimpy all summer, which I pretend to dislike but really don’t mind. I understand that having a disability shouldn’t be something to be embarrassed about or ashamed of, and have generally embraced my temporarily crippled state.

But how is a girl supposed to still feel confident and fun when all of her clothes are dictated by how easily they fit over her ugly cast, she’s unable to walk around a party with her friends, and people look at her apologetically all the time? It was like being thrust back into my painfully awkward middle-school stage: I’ve been uncomfortable talking to cute guys (nobody wants to flirt with the cripple), left parties early because I couldn’t flow around the room like everyone else (if you’re immobile and people move, you’re left by the keg looking pitiful and lonely), and generally just haven’t felt attractive at all.

Luckily, learning to refuse to care about judgment from others has helped me through this phase. I have way more pressing issues such as healing correctly and planning to move across the country to address than worrying about other people perceiving me as the “poor cripple.” Before leaving the house I now say to myself, “so what if I’ve worn Soffe shorts and a Gonzaga t-shirt every day this week? People will understand that not falling on your face as you crutch is more important than fashion to you right now!”

Besides, I have some really great friends at home who have worked hard to make me feel comfortable and help me nearly forget that I’m the injured girl. Since I started caring less, I have more confidently attended parties and met new people, and finally realized that my injury is way less of a big deal than I narrate it to be in my head. Key takeaway: the embarrassment about being the “cripple” is all in your head.

Sometimes being injured has huge advantages, anyway. Flying to San Diego to meet my family for vacation was surprisingly the easiest airport experience I’ve ever had, with the best customer service. When you request a wheelchair, you get whisked past all the snaking lines of security, escorted to your gate in less than 10 minutes, and you are “invited” to board the plane first because of your disability. This is definitely worth the very thorough security pat-down (in case you’re hiding a bomb in your cast – it DOES happen in a Dan Brown novel). Key takeaway: breaking a bone transforms TSA agents into your best friends.

I read a message once that said, “sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us.” This might be a stretch when referring to a smile from the TSA, but it is a poetic way to reflect on how I might have actually benefitted from my broken ankle debacle this summer. Hashtag so blessed.

Using crutches forced me to cut excess out of all my routines (the fear of water seeping through a garbage bag into your cast is enough to cut  your normal shower time in half). I may not have been able to find a hip Seattle job or join Italian-speaking groups like I planned to, but focusing energy on tasks like studying for the GRE and excelling in my work at Global Peace Foundation gave me a lot of time to develop professionally. If I had had the ability to gallivant around the Pacific Northwest doing outdoorsy activities I might have slacked off more at work and not prepared as well for the interview that led to an offer for an internship in Washington, D.C., where I am moving in two weeks. It turns out that slowing down to let my injury heal helped open doors for exciting new opportunities.

I never thought I would break a bone this summer AND have something positive to say about it, but just as I told myself in the beginning – it was only temporary. And now, the best is yet to come.

A huge thank you to everyone who has helped me this summer. My friends and family rock.

– Meaghan