The New Normal

I can’t believe I’m doing this. My whole life, I’ve naturally been a private person. Now, the very thing that I’ve been the most private about, I’m now sharing with the world. I was born with something known as neurofibroma, which gave me a tumor that made my face asymmetrical. As crazy as this may sound, I never really thought I looked different because my mom raised me as if I was one of “normal” kids. It wasn’t until I got older and I would go into public places that people would stare at me from the moment I walked in until the time I left. I mean people stared at me as if I was a celebrity, only I’m not one.

Did it make me feel uncomfortable, yes; but I learned to not let it get to me. For a long time, I thought beauty was what a person looked like on the outside, but as I got older, I learned that it was who the person was on the inside and the way you treated others. Cliché, but sometimes the most cliché quotes hold the most powerful meanings.

I spent so many years covering my face and allowing my scars to define who I was. Maybe at times, I felt insecure because for someone who looked like me, I allowed society to make me think I was “supposed” to feel insecure. Yet in reality, I felt stronger than I looked and more beautiful than what I was actually told. This statistic that Dove Beauty presented was right: “69% of women don’t see their lives reflected on the screen, me being one of them.” My greatest dream is to one day be a talk show host. I hope to one day inspire people to embrace and own who they are. Live your truth. Since there isn’t anyone who looks like me on daytime television, I’m ready to change that. I’m ready to break this glass ceiling on what society has defined as beauty. Society has such a vague definition about what beauty actually is.

They believe that beauty is being skinny, having curves in the right places, and donning symmetrical faces. Women turn to the media and magazines to see what we should look like, and many of us are willing to do whatever it takes to meet a look that is unrealistic. At first, it might be hard to accept yourself as you are, but when you condition your mind to think positively, it becomes a habit within your daily routine. This is a major reason I chose to one day be in television. I want other girls to see their lives reflected on the screen. Again, cliché I know, but this has been such a huge hot topic in my life. So, for anyone that feel insecure about anything just know there’s thousands of other people who can relate somehow to your story. Don’t be afraid to share something that could inspire someone else to keep going.

The vision that I have for myself is so much bigger than other people’s opinions. You are not your scars, and you are not who society labeled you as. You know yourself better than anyone, so you be the one to tell the world who you are and don’t apologize for it. Turn your fears into strength and your doubts into confidence. It’s time that the world get ready for the new “normal” whether they’re ready for it or not. To me, beauty is loving yourself without the validation of others, accepting yourself as you are, and being unapologetic for it. There’s nothing like doing the very thing that people told you, you couldn’t do. I just graduated college (December 15, 2017) with a degree in mass communication and I’m so excited for this next chapter in my life. So, for anyone that feels like there’s not a place for you in this world, there is and don’t let ANYONE tell you who you are!

Real Heroes Wear Dog Tags

“I fold it up and put it in my shirt, pick up my gun and get back to work. And it keeps me drivin’ on, waitin’ on, letters from home.” These song lyrics from John Michael Montogomery are the reality of those who dedicate their lives to serving our country. Including Texas A&M-Texarkana’s very own, Jon Robert Beck.

Jon Robert is a Junior Business Administration student at A&M-Texarkana. He is in the Honor’s Program, serves as a Student Ambassador for our campus, and wants to one day own his own business.

However, he is not just a regular student. He also serves as an infantryman in the Army National Guard Reserves. In February 2017, he was deployed to Africa for nine months and stationed in 5 countries; Djibouti (1 month 2 weeks), Kenya (2 months), Uganda (2 weeks), South Sudan (3 months), Somalia (2 months).

Throughout his deployment there were many different living situations. He said “Depending on what county I was in altered how good or bad the living conditions were. They ranged from Djibouti being the best, with a spacious two-man room, to Somalia with twelve guys crammed into a tent.” However, this wasn’t his primary concern. Location may have played a big part in how “comfortable” he was, but it also determined how often he was able to contact home. “In Djibouti, I had internet and could call at any time, whereas is South Sudan everyone there shared one phone, so calling home was very limited.” The limited contact was hard on both Jon Robert and his family, but they tried to stay in touch as much as possible. They sent him many care packages, but one of his favorites included some Girl Scout Samoa Cookies. He jokingly admitted that food was one of the things he missed most about America. When hard times struck, and he really missed home, he did his best to make the most of it. “There was group of me and five other guys that grew a brotherhood bond that could overcome any obstacle that was thrown at us, as long as we had each other.”

He may have been deployed to several different countries, but his job in base security remained consistent. “This job had many different tasks, but mainly consisted of searching and escorting locals on the base, as well as making sure nobody breached the outer perimeter fences. In order to do this, we had shifts operating 24 hours a day 7 days a week.” His job required long days and hard hours, but he also gained a positive experience. He was able to see and interact with different cultures all over Africa, and learn the ways of local life. He said, “I was with a great group of guys that always had a positive attitude. We would keep each other’s morals high no matter what circumstance or situation we encountered.”

What he learned from being overseas is something we should all gain from. It “taught me many valuable lessons, but the one that will stick with me forever is to never take anything for granted. Sometimes you don’t realize what all you have until you are separated from it for 11 months.” Jon Robert takes great pride and responsibility in serving our country, and it means more to him than he could ever explain.

He returned to the U.S. in November and the very first thing he did was visit with family and eat a big bacon cheeseburger. The first time his mom saw him face-to-face she was overjoyed. “I was so excited and I was told I said, “Oh my God there he is!” I couldn’t get to him quick enough for a hug and then couldn’t let go of him.” This is an important reminder that mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, and children also serve. They may not be fighting a battle overseas, but they are fighting the distance from home waiting on their loved ones return.

He said the first few days back were overwhelming with seeing friends and family, but after he put those days behind him he fell back into his normal routine and it was like he never left.

When asked if he was ready to start back to school he said he was looking forward to it, and that he is already signed up for classes in the upcoming Spring semester.

It is so important that we are aware of what the military is doing for us. We can become so accustomed to having a warm bed to sleep in at night, the convenience of contacting family and friends at the touch of a button, that we forget what our armed forces are missing out on. They are the reason we have these freedoms. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you Jon Robert, and thank you to all the brave men and women that protect and serve our country.

Here are a few more thank you’s from students around our campus:

“As I sit here studying for finals, surrounded by friends, eager to complete the fall 2017 semester, it occurred to me how fortunate I am. My blessings are innumerable. I have a place to live, a loving family, I get to play baseball in a collegiate atmosphere, but my greatest blessing is my freedom. It is because of the men and women of our armed forces that I am able to do all of these things. While they are out defending the front lines, we are able to be surrounded by our family and friends during the holidays. To our men and women in uniform, past, present, and future, God bless you, and thank you for your service!” ~Bryce Hudson

“Freedom definitely does not come without a price. We take for granted all of the opportunities we have, but these opportunities have been earned for us because of the sacrifice paid by the members of our armed forces. Thank you to all of our branches in the military!”~Brooke Rayburn

“Thank you is not enough for the sacrifices those men and women make at and away from home.”~Matty B

I really appreciate the men and women that serve our country. It is such a brave thing to do.”~Katie McCorkle

The Keys

If you’re looking for a good motivational read then this book is for you. The Keys by DJ Khaled is a self-help that offer five major keys to being successful. Khaled breaks down how he overcame hardships and turned his passion into a career. Most people spend most of their life searching for what it is they were meant to do in this lifetime. How is one supposed to know what their purpose is? When you find it how is one supposed to achieve it? One of the things I enjoyed about this book is that Khaled show us what to do when you run into certain road blocks.

“Patience really is a talent. Sometimes when you see your vision so clearly, it’s challenging not to just want to rush the next win. I always say timing is everything, meaning as in, there’s a right time for everything, so patience is important. My patience has been tested at every step of the way to see the level of success I’ve seen, and I know in my heart that really big wins take years.” –Dj Khaled

One of the five major keys that Khaled mentions is Stay Away from “they,” who is “they” you might ask, let me explain. “They” is just a simple word for negative people or the haters, if you want to accomplish anything in life getting away from negative Nancy is a start. Like Steve Harvey says, “Stop telling your dreams to small minded people.” Khaled says, “as long as you stay away from “they” you will prosper,” sounds simple enough, right? There will be people in life that will tell you that thing that set your soul on fire is impossible or you’re not capable or worthy of certain things…don’t listen to “they.”

“They want to put you in to a box or put limits on you, so make sure your vision is so huge that it destroys the box and those limits.” (page 71)

There’s a section in which Khaled mentions the importance of being yourself and that section my friend touched my soul. Sometimes it can be hard to be the “black sheep” especially when you are living in a world where people are hesitant about accepting anyone not following the social norm. However, the thing you have to remember is that you are unique and no one can do the things the way you do it.

“Being yourself is power. In some ways, of all the major keys, it’s the most important key. But it’s the hardest to master. It’s the one you have to keep working at as life goes on, and it’s the one that leads to the others. Ignoring who you are will eat at you. When you live life by what other people want from you, you aren’t really living.” (Page 21)

I highly recommend this book to anyone that feel stuck or need that little bit of a boost to keep you going. The four other major keys he talks about:

Secure the Bag
• Respect the Code
• Believe in the Hustle
• Win, Win, Win no Matter What

Within each of these major keys he offers other life lessons that are beneficial to a person’s life. There’s a possibility that you’re scratching your head trying to figure out what these major keys mean…well I guess you’re just going to have to read the book to find out

Fun Fact: DJ Khaled’s first and last name is Khaled…so yes, his name is Khaled Khaled.

Adios to the College Life

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” –Nelson Mandela

That quote that you see above is one of my favorite quotes of all time, because in the beginning of a new chapter in life from afar it does seem impossible…until it’s done. For me, graduating college is that thing that seemed too far-fetched.

Next week, December 15, 2017, the day I will walk across stage to receive my college degree in mass communication, with a minor in sociology. I can’t help but to think how bittersweet that moment will be. As I take a trip down memory lane of my college experience there’s a lot of mistakes that I made that sometimes I wish I could take back but never the less memories that will last a lifetime. After graduating high school, I knew right away that college was the next stop for me, coming in I had so many goals and expectations for myself that eventually diminished as time went on. Since I did so well academically in high school I just knew college wouldn’t be that big of a challenge for me and boy was I wrong. I thought I would graduate in three years, nope more like five, pass every class, yeah right, I ended failing one and had to retake it. Yet, in the end everything ended up working out despite the countless detours and let me tell you that there were many.

Right now, I feel like Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) from the movie The Graduate, (thanks to Dr. Morton for that class assignment and it ended up being one of my all-time favorite movies we’ve watched this semester). In the movie after graduating from college Ben was very unsure of what he wanted to do with his life. That my friend is what I am feeling now, very anxious, scared, nervous, excited, and unsure about what is to come for me post-graduation. Will I eventually go to grad school, will I get hired to work for a television network, or will I even be successful in general? One piece of advice that I would give any college freshman or someone still in school is to enjoy it and live in the present moment and take everything day by day. Time management is a big one, because most students get caught up in trying to have a social life that they forget that getting a degree is the most important thing.

I’ve learned that people expire, I don’t mean that in a negative or degrading way, but what I’m saying is some friendships fade. The people I met in college have become my close friends, while certain childhood friends are starting to become strangers. Prior to coming to Texas A&M University- Texarkana very few people understood this outlandish dream I had of wanting to one day work in television. Very few understood my plans of wanting to major in mass communication, but that changed when I came to TAMUT and met people in the MCOMM program. Maybe their dreams aren’t to work in television but the endless conversations that was had about all things communication were thrilling. I think when you get to college whether you share a common major or not everyone is here to make a difference in their lives.

In the end, all the plans you’ve sketched out in some random notebook may not work out that way…that’s okay! That friendship that you thought would last forever might fade…that’s okay! That guy that you thought was “the one” …isn’t…that’s definitely okay! If you feel like you’re a failure…you’re not! Questioning whether or not you’ll be successful…you will! (I probably need to take my advice on that one) The thing I want you to understand is that everything you’re worried about is nonsense. Live in the present moment. Stop dwelling on the past and don’t live in the future. So, cheers to closing yet another chapter in your life and congratulations on completing such a huge milestone. This right here is confirmation that you my friend will be OKAY!!

Need a Good Book?

Starting in 2015, I got back into reading and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. My favorite genre of books to read are motivational/self-help books, because I’m always in the mood for good energy. I also enjoy memoirs/autobiographies, because reading about how someone else overcame hardships remind me that it’s possible for me to. So, I decided to share some of my favorite books for those that enjoy reading or want to start reading.

1. Year of YesShonda Rhimes
This book is one I’m sure I’ll read for a second time and I benefited from it tremendously. For years Rhimes turned down any and everything that was outside of her comfort zone as most of us do. Until one day her sister Deloris whispered six simple words, “you never say yes to anything.” At that moment Rhimes decided to challenge herself for one year to say YES to everything that scared her. With this challenge, she learned so much about herself and the things that scared her ended up producing her biggest accomplishments. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone, because that is when you are really living.

2. Write It Down, Make It Happen- Henriette Anne Klauser
This was actually the first book that sparked my obsession with motivational books and the one that I picked up in 2015 when I wanted to get back into reading. This book Klauser discusses how simply writing down your dreams is the first step into making them a reality. There are many stories in this book of how everyday people wrote down their goals and saw things transform into reality right before their eyes. Klauser stressed that by writing down your goals and being clear about them makes you more motivated to want to do them.

3. Act Like a Success, Think Like a Success- Steve Harvey
I don’t even know where to begin about this book. Mr. Harvey, he helps you to find what your calling is. Once you discover that purpose he mentions how to make your passion your career. There’s a few times when Harvey talks about his personal life and how difficult it was to come from nothing to making a huge name for himself. Success don’t come easy, but as long as you work hard, don’t give up, and believe in yourself anything and I mean anything is possible.

4. Jump- Steve Harvey
Yes, I’m mentioning another Steve Harvey book, because when it comes to motivating people he’s perfect. One day after a taping of Family Feud, a game show in which Steve Harvey host he had an encouraging message to the audience. Well, without knowing someone filmed it and uploaded it to the internet and before you know it the video went viral. That video is what prompted him to write this book. This book talks about how nothing extraordinary can come staying in your comfort zone. All the real magic and joy is on the other side. In order to really maximize your full potential and your purpose you have to take that leap of faith and JUMP. He says that when you first jump from that cliff your parachute isn’t going to open right away. In fact, you’re going to get bruised up, scraped by the rocks but eventually your parachute will open, but you can’t be afraid to take that risk. I highly recommend this book for anyone that has been day dreaming about a goal and need that extra push to get started.

5. Life is not an Accident- Jay Williams
Talk about depressing this amazing memoir inspired me in a way that I can never fully put into words. This three-time Duke All-American player and number two pick in the NBA draft ended his career due to a motorcycle accident. Jay Williams the former player for the Chicago Bulls thought he was invincible until one day that came to an end. This book shows how he hit rock bottom and was still able to rise above and change his life around. I think this book also teach a person to always stay humble no matter how much fame or money you have, because there’s always something in life that will remind you being a good person is key.

The Passing Procrastinator

I don’t like to study and will go out of my way not to study. That makes me a normal student for the most part. With life taking one in several different directions it is crucial to find what kind of study methods work for you. It wasn’t until my last year of college that I figured out what really works best for me, but I’d rather learn it late than never at all. So what works for this procrastinator?

  1. Early Notes
    I am not the best note taker but I still try to take them especially at the beginning of the semester  and then again right after mid-term exams. Why, because at these times the professors are teaching a foundation that is often referred back to later on.  One should always take notes but let us be real, that doesn’t always happen.If the professor says it more than once, write it down!
    On the board, write it down!

    On a slide show. Write it down! Taking pictures for later use works too, however when you write something down you are more likely to remember it.

  2. Coloring
    I learned this trick very late in my college career and by accident. I knew the upcoming semester was going to be rather tough for me so I bought a daily planner that happened to have coloring pages in it. I quickly discovered that while coloring the pages, I was more able to focus on what the professor was saying. I didn’t zone out now glance at my phone. By coloring I was able to concentrate and better understand what the professor was trying to teach. Only drawback to this method of learning is that while you are coloring the professor can take it as a sign of you not paying attention. This method worked for me, hopefully it will help others.
  3. Show up and ask one question
    Attend class! Just being there goes a long way when it comes to exams and finals. You already paid for the class so make sure you get your money’s worth. The professor is getting paid whether you show up or not.  After all, it is your future not theirs. However, most professors will work with you as long as you try. If you don’t try with them, they won’t try with you.Ask one question. Professors like students who are involved and trying. When you can ask a question or add to the discussion. Yes, we all hate speaking up and end blankly staring at the professor but teaching isn’t easy when your teaching to zombies.  Active students break up the monotony of a straight lecture and opens the door for student professor communication
  4. Study Guide How To
    I make study guides to help me through exams and finals. I try to start the study guide a few days in advance but I am a procrastinator so I tend to start the study guide the day before. Part of the reason I procrastinate and most students will agree with me but I have more than one class giving an exam so by the time you study and take the exam for one class you barely have 24 hours before another exam or final comes into play. Last minute is how a student studies during this time. That is why it is crucial that a student is active in class.

Step 1.
Divide what you need to study into pieces. I usually divide it into chapters

Step 2.
Get in your study zone. Mine happens to be in my room computer and books scattered across the bed and some random YouTube video playing in the background. I tend to choose videos along the lines of 48 hours or creepy pasta.  Creepy-pastas tend to be voices that tell a story. I choose these videos because the don’t require you to listen to them and when you need a mini break you have something to focus on for a few moments.  Music distracts me and so do tv shows and are not compatible with a study zone.  Make sure you have something to eat and drink in the study zone else it will be an excuse to not study.

Step 3.
First you pick a chapter and read the first two paragraphs. From there, you read the first sentence of every paragraph. Lastly, you read the conclusion paragraph. Now you have a good idea of what the chapter is about.

Step 4.
While reading if you happen to come across a phrase or fact that jumps out at  you highlight it and type it up into your study guide. I try to find one thing on every page that I believe is important. Also while typing out the study guide if you can relate the fact or idea to real life it helps you memorize it better.

Step 5.
Next you take a short break.  If you are a procrastinator you don’t have much time for breaks. This break is only meant for those who need to go use the restroom or take a smoke break.

Step 6.
Repeat steps 3, 4, and 5 until the ‘chapters’ are translated into notes.

Step 7.
Now it is time to review the notes that you took during class. If you are like me the notes are at random and not that consistent, so you cherry pick information off of them.

Step 8.
I don’t focus too much on slide shows myself but I do cherry pick from there.

Step 9.
Put it down and go do something for about an hour.

Step 10.
Pick it up and read your study guide. If anything doesn’t make sense redo it. If you think it’s not needed drop it. Also remember it is your study guide you are not turning it. Write notes to yourself like “look at the graph on p256”. If you can’t explain it or if there is to much to type simply say “explained really well on page 75 2nd paragraph”

Step 11.
Review it when you think about it, which after the long study session into making the study guide I have a hard time looking at the guide because I still remember typing it up. I tend to get to class about 30 minutes early and read the guide and try to lock it into my memory. What helps me the most is discussing the chapters with classmates before the test begins. They remember things and cherry pick information that I don’t know or have.

Step 12.
Finally, take the exam.

At this point it doesn’t seem like I am a procrastinator, right? When in actuality I took barely existent notes and only made the study guide the night before. However, I do try to show up and take part in class every day.  By focusing on the lectures and typing up a study guide I do manage to be a passing student. Finally, remember, unless you are a rock star, procrastinators don’t get A’s

Do Not Resuscitate?

You are in the middle of cooking dinner and unwinding from a long day when you suddenly get a sharp pain in your chest. You are unable to call out as you collapse and blackout. The next morning you wake up in a hospital bed attached to wires and a little delirious. A family member informs you that you had died and the doctors managed to bring you back to life. Great, right?  In most cases, many would be happy, however in the case of a Miami man the story is a little different.

A 70-year-old Miami man had “Do Not Resuscitate” tattooed on his chest when he appeared at the hospital. So, when the doctors saw the tattoo, they began to question what they should do. They did not know who this man was, let alone how to reach his relatives. While they searched for more information to help them decide what to do, they bought themselves time by giving him antibiotics, blood pressure medicine, and fluids.  At this point, they also met with their ethics counselors as they struggled to decide. The doctors were starting to choose not to attend to the tattoo because life decisions can always change while tattoos are permanent. The ethics counselors said they should honor the tattoo. The question remained, should they honor the words on his chest or ignore them?

An interesting dilemma, yet in this case they were able to resolve the issue. They took the unknown man’s fingerprints and ran them through the Florida drivers license database and came up with his identity. From there, they looked up his file at the hospital and found that he had filled out a Do Not Resuscitate form. They also discovered that this man had a history of serious health problems including COPD, diabetes, and irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation). When he reached the hospital, he had high blood alcohol levels and an infection that led to septic shock.  Once doctors established that his tattoo corroborated with the DNR form they honored it. Throughout the night the man’s condition deteriorated, and he died without undergoing CPR. But a simple tattoo like his was not legally binding.

In this case, the doctors neither supported nor disagreed with the tattoo’s message. They resolved this issue in this case, yet one can’t help but to question what would they decide if they hadn’t found the paperwork.