Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Pursuit of Happiness

"Sometimes you forget why you were doing something as you try to sort out how to do it."

This is currently the story of my life. I feel like I've lost touch with what it is I'm trying to achieve. I thought I knew. That's why I moved here - to pursue this dream. But is it even relevant any more? Is it only in the pursuit of a dream that we find clarity to something more substantial than a dream?

Last weekend, I climbed a mountain. And when I say I climbed, I mean I literally scrambled, shimmied, crawled, pulled and lifted my way up a legitimate mountain. (Actually, the name of the mountain was Breakneck Mountain. I only mention this because it may lend some credibility to my story). So, anyways, I'm not much of an outdoorsy person, so that was a huge accomplishment for me. I would say that I would definitely tuck this away to save as a response to one of those moments where you feel that you've failed miserably at life. ("Hey, I may have just totally humiliated myself in front of my boss and ruined my professional reputation, but at least I've climbed a mountain before in my life!") But I don't think that was my first and last mountain. No, I think there will be more mountains in my future. (Not to sound like a fortune cookie).

It's funny because since living in New York City, I've actually become significantly more of an "outdoorsy" person. I crave nature now. As beautiful as the architecture and art and whatever is in the city - nothing, absolutely nothing I've seen in the city so far can compare to the heart-skipping, stomach-dropping, knee-weakening view from the top of Breakneck Mountain. And no accomplishment thus far has felt as good as standing on top of a mountain, looking down at where I started.

And I guess this is where I could draw the obvious comparison of facing a mountain in real life to those pesky "mountains" we face over and over in every day life. But I don't want to. Because there is no comparison, in my opinion. While climbing, scrambling, crawling my way up that mountain, everything that I had left behind for the day back in the city didn't seem so important or relevant anymore. The rush of the challenge was exactly what I needed. Every unsure nook and cranny that I shoved my foot in to heave my way up to reach the edge of a boulder, stimulated a rush of adrenaline and life to my brain and electrocuted my entire body. It was incredible. Upon telling my dad about my adventure, he told me, "You never feel so alive as when you face death."

I now have a new sense of what really and truly matters in reality. I'm less concerned with my social status and bank account, and more concerned with the time I spend doing the things that make me happy. I still don't know what it is I want to do, but I do know that I want to spend more time writing. I want to challenge myself more - physically and mentally and spiritually. I want to spend more time with my family. I want to climb more mountains, because something about sitting on top of a magnificent mountaintop brings clarity, and life just seems to make more sense up there.

Monday, August 13, 2012


Since the age I was old enough to think about my future as an adult, I always imagined myself doing great things in a great big city. Although I was raised in the South, I never felt any ties there. I remember feeling out of place and discontent being there. New York City was always my fantasy, all the way up to high school years and college, too. It wasn't until my last couple of semesters in college that I began to think realistically about where to start my career. And ironically, I was thinking about the South - Pensacola for a year, then probably Atlanta. So, when I landed the internship with Time Inc in New York City, it definitely shook my plans up a bit. But that's one of the main reason I decided to go through with it. All of a sudden, here I was, living my lifelong dream of working on a magazine, living in New York.

But, like most dreams, the reality of the dream is far less dream-like. Living in NYC on a minimum wage budget is not comparable to how they portray life in the city on Gossip Girl. It's tough, nothing is easy here. It's a topic that has been brought up multiple, countless times since I've been here. And even more so lately since a friend from home is visiting who is considering living here. She's seen both sides of the story. There's the one side that is thrilled by the city. The fast pace, the night life, food, activities, opportunities, everything - it's all exciting and nothing else compares to life here in New York. Then there's the other side where things are hard and difficult and exhausting and the city life isn't all you'd had it cracked up to be. It's a lifestyle you won't find many other places. Some people can't imagine living anywhere else, while others can't get out fast enough.

For me, it's the difference between those days where the subway is taking over 10 minutes to get to your stop and it's overcrowded and smelly when it finally arrives, and the tourists on the streets won't get out of your way, and you just spent half of the $30 left in your account on an overpriced sandwich for lunch; and the days where you explore a new neighborhood on a beautiful day and find the most delicious brunch spot with a view or watch a movie on the grass outside with the Brooklyn Bridge and city skyline as a backdrop. It's those kind of days that make up for the bad ones. And being in a city full of the most opportunities possible is pretty much the ideal place to start a career.

However, with all of that said, I've realized it's not somewhere I see myself staying for more than three to five years. And after all of those years of denying my Southern roots, I've suddenly found a new fondness for my home in the South. It's funny how you think you have your whole life planned, and then you get to that point in your life where you realize there's no such thing as a life plan because you can't predict where God may lead you next. It's almost comforting for someone like me, who always has the need for a plan, to find myself completely surrendered to the idea of a new direction at any time. And after accomplishing a place like New York City, no where feels impossible anymore.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

It's Just Bittersweet.

Last week flew by absurdly quickly. I knew it would, though. I had been looking forward to it for so long, and usually those things that are much anticipated are the fastest to end. It definitely took it's toll on me emotionally.

I flew home from NYC last week to see my sister get married. *My little baby sister. It was all so much fun, all of the family being there, bringing all of their love and support, and being with friends that you can relax with and laugh and forget about everything that was weighing you down before. Seeing friends that are so dear, yet so far away, and meeting new friends and welcoming new family who instantly found their way into my heart. The comforting, familiar embrace of family. It was all so beautiful and I never wanted it to end.

The entire time I just wanted to be near my sister. I needed to cherish every moment I had with her. I watched as she quietly struggled under all of the pressure and stress - all of which I wanted so badly to just lift from her shoulders and take upon mine (it's a big sister thing). I watched the way she adoringly stared at Keston, the love and hero of her life who had returned home from war to her. Then, I watched as she walked gracefully down the aisle and made her vows to Keston, all the while a smile never left her face. She was literally beautiful beyond words. Glowing. Elegant. Stunning. The two of them have conquered so many struggles together, more than most people twice their age will ever encounter or overcome, and their love has strengthened into this impenetrable bond because of it. It's just overwhelming experiencing that as an older sister. I'm so immensely proud of her. And I'm overjoyed to call Keston my new brother. I pray that he will accept the "big sister responsibilities" of protecting and guiding her that I handed over to him once they were married.

Anyways. Here I am, back in NYC. And my little baby sister is about to be in Germany. How am I going to stand being so far from her for so long? It's part of growing up, right? Moving on, starting your own lives, yet somehow managing to endure the pain of separation and share the precious moments you have together.

It was heart-wrenching having to leave my family. I felt like my heart had been cemented there with them, and I was dragging it back up to NYC, hard and heavy. I just wanted to stay there with them. But again, this is part of growing up. The part no one ever told you about when you were young, still carefree, dreaming of the day you would be a grown-up.

I'm in NYC for a reason. My time here isn't over yet. I have to make the best of it. I'm determined to.
After being back in the city for a few days now, I remember what I'm doing here. I remember I'm moving forward and experiencing and learning. And although my family is so far away, I have the moments when we'll be reunited again to look forward to.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Stars, Stripes & Skyscrapers

My past 4th of July's have been a pleasant variation lined with a layer of hot humidity of family, beach, friends, tons of food and a fireworks show over the Gulf of Mexico. Being in the city without any family or very close friends this year (My cousins Christopher and Paige were in Upstate New York for the holiday, or else I most likely would have spent it with them), I had honestly been dreading this 4th of July. Just the thought of it brought on a wave of overwhelming homesickness. I didn't want to be stuck in my room with nothing to do, while everyone else in the city was out celebrating, because the only thing more lonely than being alone is being alone surrounded by hundreds of people. Anyways, I ended up spending it with some friends from work and some of their friends by Pier 88, on the western edge of Manhattan, hanging out, eating, watching fireworks - not unlike my 4th of July traditions. It was actually really enjoyable. I felt totally comfortable with them, which was a real treat considering I haven't felt that in a while (besides being with my cousins and their friends).

One of the most difficult things about moving to a new place is having to build an entirely new network of friends. Many times I find myself wishing that I could pick up all of my friends and family from back home and plop them all down within a few blocks of me. But that would be defeating the purpose of moving to a new, foreign city.

Exploring the unfamiliar. Making a leap without the assurance of your safety net. Stumbling upon new inspirations. All of this leads to personal growth and discovery, on a level that would otherwise be impossible if not for pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Without the steady warmth of familiarity, yet stifling routine-ness that comes with it, you are suddenly left to figure out everything you've unconsciously, and consciously, repressed. You're suddenly left in a room with no one but yourself. And as you're staring into this person's face, you recognize someone you think you know, but the longer you sit there staring at each other, the familiarity becomes faint and replaced with confusion and concern. But slowly, the fact that the person you thought you knew so well is actually something intriguingly new, becomes less and less scary and more and more enlightening and encouraging.

So, as painful as it is to be thousands of miles away from my dear family and home and all that is familiar, it has been invaluably rewarding to set out on this journey of self-discovery, and within it, a path towards my future and a life of my own.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Forever the Intern

1-3 years minimum experience required.

"What. This is hopeless. I'll be an intern forever..." I think to myself, after reading that line again and again while sifting through job posting after job posting online.

I've had experience at three separate internships at this point - each lasting three to five months. So, according to my excellent mathematical skills, that sums to approximately nine to fifteen months experience total. (Once I finish at my current internship, of course). And I only graduated last month! Come on, don't I get some kind of credit for that? *cricket* *cricket* ... Guess not.

Unfortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to do an internship at an ad agency, which is where I'm really interested in working. And when it comes to ad agency job postings, they're not just looking for a couple years experience in the industry. No, no. They want at least a couple years of ad agency experience under you belt. Perfect. So, how in the world am I ever supposed to get a job doing what I want to do, then?

Well, I've learned that when they say "it's all about who you know," they're not kidding. Really. That's what it's all about. It's the difference between being an intern for the rest of your life - doomed to an eternity of dead-end monotony and the loss of hope for a real future - and a successful career.

So here I am in New York City, trying to expand my network as much as it will possibly expand. Thankfully, I have my amazing and helpful cousin, Christopher, at my aid - who I have to thank for referring me to this internship and helping me with the whole process of moving to New York. He has been introducing me to his connections, which have proven to be extremely valuable already. I've also been reaching out to those I come in contact with at my internship. It's been a plethora of coffee dates, lunch meetings and happy hours. Phew. It's exhausting, really. Especially for someone like me, who would much rather be relaxing at home listening to the latest mixtapes or watching Don Draper brooding on Mad Men, than to be forced into a social butterfly. But, hey, you gotta do what you gotta do. And plus, I can actually turn on the charm when necessary. And I have truly enjoyed meeting all of these people and hearing their personal experiences throughout their careers. (All the while trying to figure out how it comes so easy to them to be successful).

Anyways. Some days I think it's best to go ahead and find a permanent real job ASAP. And then sometimes I'm like, "Wait, I still want to travel and be young and carefree." And then I start getting all skitzo and begin arguing with myself in my head. "But wait! You still have bills to pay! And you can't get lost in the shuffle towards achieving a successful career as a young professional! You'll never be able to make it back in the shuffle!" And the next thing I know, I'm going in circles, trying to decide between living in a hut on the beaches of Bali or totally revamping my portfolio and attending the next career fair.

Who knows where I'll be this time next year. All I know is, at this point, regardless of my incessant need to plan every detail months in advance, I'm still young. I'm only 20 years old. And I have a college degree. (Heck, I'll give myself some credit for that if no one else does.) Oh! And plus, I'm single. Pretty much, I have my whole life ahead of me, so sometimes I should remind myself to just sit back and let life happen.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Instagram Fresh

An emerging social media outlet on the hip-hop scene is Instagram. It's an app exclusively for iPhone users that allows you to upload pictures and add filters, and it also provides you with the option to post your pictures on Twitter and/or Facebook simultaneously. You can follow other people, like their pictures and comment on their pictures. Many hip-hop artists have created their own Instagram accounts and already have thousands of followers. Even the fans who don't have Instagram accounts can see most of their favorite artist's Instagram pictures as Twitpics.

Fans love the personal aspect of the app. They can view their favorite artists post pictures of themselves, their friends, what they're doing, etc. all in real time. It's a fun, hip, creative and funky app that allows artists to express themselves freely in a way that fans enjoy viewing and following. It's also a nice social tool that easily links to other social platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, allowing a wider reach and versatility to users. I predict Instagram to continue growing in popularity and users. I know I personally get excited every time I find a new favorite artist of mine on Instagram.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Spark that Grew to a Fire

    Hello, readers! I'm Manda, a senior at the University of West Florida, studying communication, advertising and graphic art. (I'm graduating this May!) I have grown up with a passion for artistically expressing myself through writing, music and art.  I first started really listening to hip-hop about three years ago. When I began exploring different artists, it sparked something in me that has since ignited to a passion for the music and culture.
I'm going to use this blog to write about the two major influences in my life - the communication field and the hip-hop entertainment industry. I will explore the roles and trends of a PR manager working in the diverse and colorful world of hip-hop.

    Beneath the entertaining beefs, glitzy earrings and diva attitudes on the reality TV show Love & Hip-Hop, I discovered an interesting and relevant story-line about one of the characters. Yandy Smith is one of the young women the show follows, and she works as executive assistant to Mona Scott-Young - co-founder of Violator Management and founder of Scott-Young Monami Entertainment. asked Yandy where it all started for her career. One thing in particular that stood out to me was her persistence. She managed to land an internship with Violator Management, and from there she worked her way up to where she is now.

Yandy's career definitely inspires me as I am just embarking on the beginning of my own career. One thing I will surely take as a lesson from her example is the issue of mixing personal and professional life. In the beginning of the show, she is working as Jim Jones' manager. It is clear by their interaction that they have developed a close friendship, which is bound to happen when two people share a love for the same music and are working closely with each other and with the music. However, Yandy ends up resigning as his manager due to a conflict between herself and Jim Jones' fiance. I know this industry leads to many friendships built off of love for the music, which can make it difficult to keep the lines between professional and personal lives established. Yes, PR is all about relationships, but this issue is one that should be dealt with carefully. In the future, I plan on building and maintaining significant relationships while working in the communications and hip-hop industries, but I will keep a defined line between my personal and professional lives.

credits: for interview reference and picture of Yandy Smith.