SpotlightYouth Spotlight

When the Carpe Juvenis co-founders, Lauren and Catherine, were doing research for their book, they stumbled upon someone who immediately inspired them. Determined to get in touch, they sent out a cold email and were so happy to receive a warm reply. Claudia Krogmeier, just a freshman in college, has already experienced and accomplished a lot. When she was younger she moved with her family from Texas to Singapore, where she dove into working part time as a model and starting her own style blog (doing both while attending high school and applying for college). While living abroad, she also received permission to continue working toward her Congressional Award Medal and can proudly boast (although she’s probably too humble to actually boast) that she is a Bronze Medal recipient. We are excited to share Claudia’s exciting story, which is just getting started…

Name: Claudia Krogmeier
Education: Boston University
Location(s): Singapore, Houston, Boston
Follow: Website / Instagram

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Youth Youth”?

Claudia Krogmeier: I thinking seizing your youth is mostly about living up to your own potential and not standing in your own way.

CJ: You are originally from Texas in the United States but now live in Southeast Asia. What was that transition like and what were some challenges you faced during the process? How did you overcome those challenges?

CK: The transition from Texas to Singapore was of course difficult, especially when changing from an American high school to an American high school in Singapore (SAS). Culturally, Singapore is immensely different from America so it takes some time to better understand the locals, to adjust to the increased amount of work I had at SAS, and to strike a balance between everything that is important to me; service, time with friends, sports, traveling, and school work. Once I found a balance among all the things I wanted to spend time doing, I was able to really take in everything South East Asia had to offer.

CJ: You will be attending Boston University next year! What are you looking forward to, what are you nervous about, and do you have any idea what you want to study?

CK: I’m mostly looking forward to finally being able to learn at a more robust level with professors who are extremely knowledgeable in my chosen field of advertising. I’ve known since I was 7 that I want to be in advertising because of the dynamic and creative process. I’m also really excited to explore Boston, a new city that I’ve only visited once. I’m nervous about the immense change (like the cold weather- yikes!) and re-integrating into American culture, even if it has been only three years since I’ve lived in America.

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CJ: Let’s pretend you’re about to do the entire college search and application process over again. What advice would you give yourself?

CK: I would remind myself to remain calm! The entire task seemed so daunting at first, but now that I look back I should have stopped myself from being so nervous and worried! Everyone really does end up at a school that is right for them.

CJ: What’s the best advice you’ve received so far?

CK: My mother always reminds me that nothing will ever just come to you. If you want to do or be something, you have to be the one to do it. She always says, “What’s the worst that can happen? They say no?” So, with that in mind I’ve always gone after what I want, whether it is an internship at a marketing company or starting my fashion blog.

CJ: How do you measure success?

CK: Success is mainly internal. Of course positive feedback or outside support is nice, but the most important thing is to feel validated on the inside. I love to set clear goals for myself in all aspects of my life, and when I achieve them I feel I have a measured success, big or small.

CJ: You run the awesome style blog Claudia Krogmeier: A Style Blog. Where does your interest in style come from and what advice would you give any young person about figuring out his or her own style?

CK: Ever since I was young I’ve been very entwined in all things creative and aesthetic, so fashion was a natural progression for me. Style is really so different for every person and very personal, but the epitome of style is when someone feels confident about themselves with what they’re wearing. I’ve learned that figuring out your favorite self-aspects and accentuating them will make you feel unique and strong, no matter what your style is.

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CJ: How do you stay organized and juggle all of your responsibilities? Are there specific tools you use?

CK: Honestly, it’s really hard to stay organized. School is my first priority, then all other work and service endeavors follow. Staying organized really comes down to me prioritizing what is most important. Setting alarms on my phone before a club meeting at school or before a modeling casting also really helps!

CJ: What are your best tips for traveling?

CK: Take opportunities to explore, whether it is a great food truck a block away or a new museum across the globe, and do as much research as you can before you go! Ask friends and utilize Google to find all the best spots for wherever you’re travelling to. By knowing what to do and what to look out for, you can make the most of your trip.

CJ: You also do some part time modeling. What made you decide to pursue this interest? What was an unexpected aspect of that type of work?

CK: I first started modeling in Singapore because I arrived over the summer in 2012 and had nothing to do, so I thought modeling was the perfect way to stay busy and make a little money. I had been asked to sign with Elite Models in America, but after moving to Singapore I signed here. I quickly started getting booked for shows and jobs. It’s hard to manage it when I’m in school, but modeling is such an amazing way to meet creative designers, photographers, makeup artists, and other models from all over the world. Modeling has been such an incredible experience because I’ve been able to experience Singapore through such a different lens. I’ve met so many more different kinds of people and seen different parts of Singapore that I never expected.

CJ: How do you deal with difficult days and move past them? What have you learned about overcoming struggles?

CK: When I have a difficult day I really lean on the most consistent people in life, my friends and parents. I try to focus on what I can do to improve the situation or how I can move past it. Struggles are part of life and without them we wouldn’t grow into better, more dimensional people.

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CJ: You have earned your Congressional Award Bronze Medal – Congratulations! What are some of the activities you did to earn your hours?

CK: I’ve been a part of volleyball since the 7th grade, so a lot of my physical hours came from all my time playing volleyball. I earned a lot of hours for modeling and marketing/advertising internships under the personal development category as well. I’ve also been very involved in Caring For Cambodia, a Singapore based charity that builds and supports schools in Cambodia. Most of my service hours came from all the time I spent in Cambodia with the students and the club at my school that I helped run.

CJ: What did achieving your Bronze Medal mean to you?

CK: Achieving my Bronze Medal was mainly a huge validation for me. It was one of the few times I felt satisfied and rewarded for the things I have done.

CJ: If you could have lunch with anyone – dead or alive – who would it be, what would you eat, and what would you ask that person? 

CK: I’d like to have sushi with Kristen Wigg just so I could laugh for an hour and a half.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

CK: Avoid as much friend drama as possible (it is never worth it!) and allow yourself to be a little more carefree at times, and remember that there is so much more ahead.

 

Claudia Krogmeier Qa

Images: Ryan Al-Schamma

CollegeEducationRecipesSkills

Eating well in college is hard. French fries and ice cream are always going to be in the dining hall, so how can you resist them? You’re always in a rush and need to grab something to go. Sometimes the dining hall does not serve the meals that you enjoy (maybe you dislike Mexican food, so Taco Tuesdays are not for you).

Before you get started with the cooking, purchase a mini fridge! Although it is a $100 dollar investment, you won’t regret it. You won’t have to always look for healthy food options in the dining hall or on campus cafes because you can make your own meals. Even if you don’t plan on cooking, have snacks in case you don’t have time to eat. Keep some cheese and meat in your fridge, in case you miss dinner, and frozen fruit and Greek yogurt for breakfast. Raw veggies and hummus are good options for snacks too.

Even though college is the place where you can make the worst eating decisions, it is also a place where you can establish good eating habits for life. Here are some easy recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner:

Breakfast

Avocado Toast With Chia Seeds

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 slice of bread of your choice
  • ½ of an avocado, lightly mashed with a splash of lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • Honey to drizzle

What You’ll Do:

  • Toast up your bread.
  • Top the bread with mashed avocado, red pepper flakes, chia seeds and honey. Enjoy!

avocado

Oatmeal With Raisins and Walnuts

What You’ll Need:

  • ½ cup quick rolled oats
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup crushed walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar (optional)

What You’ll Do:

  • Combine the water and oats in a microwave-safe bowl and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  • Gradually stir the brown sugar, raisins and walnuts into the oatmeal.
  • Once cool enough to devour, enjoy!

1-Minute Ham & Egg Breakfast Bowl

What You’ll Need:

  • Thin slice deli ham
  • Beaten egg
  • Shredded Cheddar cheese

What You’ll Do:

  • Line the bottom of 8-oz ramekin or a custard cup with a slice of ham. Pour the egg over ham.
  • Microwave on high for 30 seconds; stir.  Microwave until the egg is almost set, 15 to 30 seconds longer.
  • Top with cheese. Enjoy!

Pro Tip: Grab some fruit and nuts, and if you have time, go to the dining hall and have some oatmeal or eggs, which will fuel you until lunch. Instead of a muffin, choose a wheat or whole grain bagel. If you like yogurt, go for plain Greek, because it gives you a lot of protein and has less sugar than vanilla yogurt. If it is an exam day, grapes, berries and walnuts are good for optimal brain health and focus.

Lunch

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wrap

What you’ll need:

  • Chicken breast
  • Medium carrots, shredded
  • Diced red pepper
  • Green onions, thinly sliced
  • Reduced fat Asian-style sesame salad dressing
  • Bibb or iceberg lettuce leaves

What you’ll do:

  • Stir the chicken, carrots, pepper, onions and dressing in a medium bowl.
  • Divide the chicken among the lettuce leaves. Fold the lettuce leaves around the filling. Enjoy!

Chicken Noodle Soup

What You’ll Need:

  • 3 14 ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
  • 1 cup sliced carrots (2 medium)
  • 1 cup sliced celery (2 stalks)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 16 ounce package frozen egg noodles
  • 2 cups chopped cooked chicken or turkey
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley (optional)

What You’ll Do:

  • In a 3-quart saucepan, combine broth, onion, carrots, celery, water, Italian seasoning, black pepper, and bay leaf. Bring to boiling and then reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.
  • Stir in frozen noodles. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 10 to 12 minutes.
  • Stir in chicken; heat through.
  • Discard bay leaf.
  • To serve, pour soup into bowls. If you like, sprinkle with parsley. Serves 6. Enjoy!

chickennoodlesoup

Winter Fruit Waldorf Salad

What You’ll Need:

  • Unpeeled red apples, diced
  • Unpeeled pears, diced
  • Thinly sliced celery
  • Golden raisins
  • Chopped dates
  • Mayonnaise or salad dressing
  • Fat free orange crème yogurt
  • Tablespoon of frozen orange juice concentrate
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Walnut halves

What You’ll Do:

  • Mix apples, pears, celery, raisins and dates in a bowl.
  • In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise, yogurt and juice concentrate until well blended. Add to fruit; toss to coat.
  • Serve fruit on lettuce. Garnish with walnut halves. Enjoy!

Pro Tip: Instead of getting burgers in the dining hall, eat chicken or lean meats. A salad and a soup combination or a wrap will fill you up and give you energy.

Mid-day Snack Tip

It’s that time between lunch and dinner, but you’re still in class and are hungry. Have a fruit like a banana or an apple in your bag, instead of a pastry. You can’t go wrong with raw veggies.

Dinner

Pesto Chicken Angel Hair Pasta With Herbs

What You’ll Need:

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • ½ cup basil pesto
  • 2 plum tomatoes
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese

What You’ll Do:

  • Preheat over to 400 degrees F. Cover cookie sheet with foil.
  • Put pesto and chicken in bowl. Toss until chicken is covered.
  • Bake for 20-25 min.
  • Place slices of tomato on top of chicken and sprinkle with cheese.
  • Bake another 3-5 min.
  • Serve with a box of angel hair pasta and herbs and French bread. Enjoy!

Fried Rice with Scallions, Edamame, and Tofu

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 4 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 4 cups cooked brown rice
  • ¾ cup seeded and diced red bell pepper
  • ¾ cup frozen shelled edamame, cooked according to package directions and drained
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 6 ounces firm tofu, cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

What You’ll Do:

  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat until very hot.
  • Add the garlic, scallions, and ginger and cook, stirring for 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Add the rice, red pepper, edamame, corn, and tofu and cook, stirring, until heated through, about 5 minutes.
  • Make a 3-inch well in the center of the rice mixture.
  • Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil, then add the eggs and cook until nearly fully scrambled.
  • Stir the eggs into the rice mixture, then add the soy sauce and incorporate thoroughly. Serve hot. Enjoy!

fried rice

Parmesan Breaded Fish Nuggets

What You’ll Need:

  • ⅓ cup Italian style bread crumbs
  • ⅓ cup crushed cornflakes
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ pounds cod fillets, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • Butter flavored cooking spray

What You’ll Do:

  • Combine the breadcrumbs, cornflakes, Parmesan cheese, parsley, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl.
  • Evenly spritz fish cubes with butter flavored spray, then roll in the crumb mixture.
  • Place fish on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.
  • Bake at 375 ° for 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Enjoy!

Pro Tip: For your biggest meal of the day, go with some chicken, steak or salmon with a side of veggies or brown rice. Going easy on carbs will help you stay focused, and you’ll get higher-quality sleep.

Late Night Snack Tip

Instead of getting a slice of pizza, Van recommends grabbing a low-fat smoothie from an on campus café. It will fill you up, and fruit is high in anti-oxidants, which are great for your skin.

Find food-spiration! 5 Instagram Foodies Worth Following:

When you look at your Instagram and see pictures of healthy food that is aesthetically pleasing, you’ll get inspired and maybe skip a burger that day for a grain and roasted butternut squash mix from the salad bar instead.

@thenakedfigChelsea Hunter finds beauty in simplicity

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@deliciouslyellaElla Woodward will inspire you daily to eat healthy

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@jamieoliverJamie Oliver has 3.3 million followers on Instagram (He calls himself a proud dad & chef. Unlike other Instagrammers who focus on a particular type of food, he posts a good range of breakfasts, lunches, dinners and sides.)

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@sarkababickaSarka Babicka is a professional photographer who makes a plate of salad look like a piece of art

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@leesamantha: Samantha Lee is a food artist (She makes food that tells a story!)

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Happy cooking and happy exploring!

Image: Flickr

HealthSkills

The transition from summer to fall can be a little sluggish, especially when many of us are in denial that summer is coming to an end. It’s when the leaves start turning orange and the air becomes crisper that it really starts to feel like autumn. And what better time to reset than at the beginning of a new season? With fall comes a vibrant energy that was lacking in the warmer summer months. People are buzzing around getting ready to head back to school, start new jobs, and plan out the year ahead. Before the official first day of autumn on September 23rd, get a head start on thinking about how you want to spend the next few fall months.

  1. Set goals for fall. Look at your personal life and professional life with a critical eye. What do you want to learn this season? How do you hope to improve? Look forward to what’s coming up and figure out how you can set yourself up for success. Another helpful way to look at the big picture? Create a timeline of the past three to six months and fill in highlights from each month. Compare what you’ve done to what you still want to do, and then add those items to your Autumn To-Do List.
  2. Constantly edit your life. What’s working? What’s not working? Eliminate the negative from your life, whether it’s a bad habit or a toxic person. Add positivity into your life, should that be more vegetables, laughter, or new experiences and travels. Don’t settle for what your life currently is – make it the best it can be.
  3. Clean your space and wardrobe. Now that it’s time to break out the sweaters, scarves, and boots, you might as well go through and de-clutter your space and wardrobe. Clear your desk, donate items you no longer need, go through your kitchen cupboards and toss expired foods – these are all actions that will help clear your mind and allow you to begin the season in a fresh environment.
  4. Get serious about being healthy. As the temperature drops, the drier your skin will get. Hydrate more than you think you need to and take advantage of the vegetables that are in-season. Move your body more, take the stairs, and be more mindful of how you’re treating your body and mind.
  5. Reconnect with friends and family. It’s too easy to check out during the summer and retreat into your own world. If you haven’t been a social butterfly the past few months, strike up conversations with friends you haven’t talked to in months. Right now is the best time to reconnect. Don’t wait for another season to pass you by. Better yet? Make new friends. Join a book club, talk to the person next to you in class, join a sports team – you’re never too old to add new people into your inner circle.
  6. Adopt a positive mindset. It may be easier to have a positive attitude when the sun is shining and the summer days are brighter and longer. But when it starts getting darker earlier and the skies turn gray, maintain a positive state of mind. Surround yourself with positive influences, smile, compliment a stranger or friend, compliment yourself, challenge any negative thoughts that enter your mind, and start saying “I can” instead of “I can’t.” The little changes make a big difference.

How are you resetting for autumn?

Image: Autumn Mott

EducationSkills

It may seem strange to consider that as adults we need to set goals. Aren’t paying bills, going to work, washing laundry, trying to exercise, and eat healthy all goals we already set for ourselves? Technically yes, but they are also the things we have to do to keep the gears of our life turning. Ever since graduating from college this past winter I’ve been searching for a system that will help me organize, prioritize, and improve myself in ways that extend beyond these necessities. This hasn’t been easy, and what I’ve come to realize very recently is that I don’t have to reinvent a brand new plan. What I am going to do is re-use the program I followed as a teenager and student and apply it to my life as an adult.

When I was 15 I registered for the Congressional Award program. This meant that for many years I was involved in four different program areas: physical fitness, personal development, volunteerism, and exploration or an expedition. I would create goals in each program area with my mentor, and together we would develop challenging goals and ways to work towards achieving them. For a long time I had a very specific reason to improve myself (earning a Gold Medal from Congress while simultaneously building my self-worth by doing things I loved). But once I graduated from college and earned that medal I realized that I haven’t been as ambitious or excited about improving myself as I used to be.

I’ve decided that I’m going to adopt the Congressional Award program model again and apply to this new chapter in my life. Instead of playing for my high school tennis team or training for a half marathon like I did as a student, I am going to set a goal to go to the gym at least four times a week and limit my eating out to two times a week for physical fitness. For personal development I am going to use Rosetta Stone to learn a new language and maintain my speaking skills from what I used to study. For volunteerism I am going to reconnect with an animal shelter I worked for in high school and get retrained as a volunteer. Every time I go somewhere new my goal is to read a book and do research on that location before I get on the plane.

What I learned about setting goals from when I was still a student is that they need to be realistic but challenging. I am not going to challenge myself to go to the gym seven days a week for two hours a day, because I know that given my work schedule that simply will not work. I also know my body and understand that burning out and being exhausted only leads to injuries and frustration. When setting new goals after being rusty for a while, it’s crucial that you be kind to yourself. Set goals, map out how you can achieve them, but don’t burden yourself with self-hate if you don’t achieve them perfectly every single day. Forgive yourself for not being perfect, and move on. Take baby steps and eventually you’ll have walked more miles than you realize.

Image: Life of Pix

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We can’t say enough great things about Belisa Silva, the Head of Content and Communications at GLOSSYBOX. She’s smart, an excellent writer, warm, welcoming, well read, and insightful. A self-proclaimed “theater geek,” Belisa decided to pursue Journalism in college as a way to combine her natural talents and curiosity. After college, Belisa worked at a small newspaper in New Jersey, but eventually made her way to New York City to interview with Condé Nast. Having spent time as an Editorial Assistant and Editor at Beauty Inc. and Women’s Wear Daily, respectively, Belisa is now at GLOSSYBOX, a monthly beauty subscription box.

Throughout her years of experience with journalism, beauty, and fashion, Belisa has great advice to share. She’s a believer in hard work, quieting distractions, and finding your own perspective. Regardless of whether you’re into journalism or the beauty industry, Belisa’s motivating words are sure to inspire.

Name: Belisa Silva
Education: B.A. in Journalism and English, minor in Spanish from Lehigh University
Follow: @GLOSSYBOX / Glossybox.com

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Belisa Silva: Looking back as this someone now older and wiser, I realize how lucky you are to be young and discovering things about yourself and the world around you. It is amazing to be in that moment of your life where everything is fresh and new. You are defining the future of your life and the possibilities are endless! It seemed more scary than fun at the time, and I wish I had lived in the moment more. I also wish I would have taken on more that came my way with more zeal and positivity rather than fear.

CJ: You attended Lehigh University and majored in Journalism, English, and Spanish. How did you determine what to study?

BS: When I was in high school I was a big thespian, and I was really into theater and singing. I was Dolly in Hello, Dolly! my senior year, did the morning announcements, and I was choir president. I was your typical theater geek girl, but also very into culture, literature, and writing.

I went to college thinking I’d do musical theater. When I got there, though, it felt a little limiting. I had always been a good writer. My dad is a writer and English professor, so literature had been a part of my upbringing. I loved works like Hiawatha and The Tell-Tale Heart from a young age. In college journalism seemed really interesting to me because it was a good combination of my natural talents and my natural curiosity and affinity for getting to know people. I love to investigate things and find out an interesting backstory. It felt like an ‘aha’ moment when I declared the major, and as a journalist not a day went by that felt like work.

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CJ: What did your post-grad journey look like?

BS: When I first graduated from college, I realized writing is one of those industries that everyone wants to be a part of. It’s very saturated market and hard to break into. You have to pay your dues a lot, which I did. That meant not making a lot of money and a lot of running around doing grunt work, which I also did.

Directly after college I started working for a small newspaper in New Jersey, which was a very hands on experience. It was a tiny team and we had a lot of pages to fill every day! I had to write eight stories a week about a town that had very little going on in the way of news. To create stories I would drive around town looking for things going on, and stalk the phone book, then Google names of residents to find interesting stories. This experience really tested my creativity and I met some incredible people. In fact, the article I’m most proud of writing to this day came to fruition during my years at the paper. It was about a local girl named Maggie Doyne, who had just graduated from high school, and afterwards moved to Nepal. During her time there she witnessed a lot of poverty and saw so many children in need, so decided to open an orphanage on her own. Maggie was looking for fundraising to complete building her children’s home, and from my article she was able to get more donations and has since started a school. She is still extremely inspiring to me.

My next job took me to New York City, a place I always felt I wanted to live. A good piece of advice to share, which I learned from my first interview at Condé Nast, is how important it is to be open to saying ‘yes.’ I met with a recruiter who asked what I was interested in as far as a job. I told her fashion and beauty and would love to work for a magazine like Vogue. She then asked if I would be interested in doing something less glamorous and covering the trade side of the industry, as opposed to the consumer side. I didn’t know what that meant at all. But, I said ‘Yes, I’ll do anything, I just want to be here!” She told me later that this was a huge reason I was hired. If I had been closed off to the idea, she wouldn’t have remembered me six months afterwards when a job as an Editorial Assistant for Jenny Fine, the Editor-in-Chief of Beauty Inc, opened up.

Jenny was the biggest influence in my entire career as far as writing goes. She demanded excellence and really pushed me to be better. In my first few years I questioned my abilities, and there was a lot of hard work. I emerged from that experience able to edit my own articles, which is one of the biggest lessons in journalism. A few years later when a job became available at Condé to be a market editor, Jenny recommended me for it. Those experiences had its challenges and there was self-doubt, but ultimately it was all worth it. New York is a tough place, as is editorial, but I put in the time and the work and it paid of. Working as an editor at Women’s Wear Daily was amazing, and I worked under Pete Born, who is a true journalistic legend, not to mention the kindest boss I ever had.

When I was at Women’s Wear Daily I interviewed the president of GLOSSYBOX, Elian Pres-Gurwits. He was head of the U.S. business at the age of 26 and spoke passionately about his company and his life experiences, including living and working all over the world. I was intrigued. At this time, GLOSSYBOX had a job opening and Elian thought that I had the right personality and background, so he offered me the position. Leaving editorial was tough because I really worked hard for it. I put in almost 10 years to be an editor, but I felt that it was time to stretch myself and it was time to say ‘yes’ again to something different. I didn’t know a lot about business, and I figured it was a good opportunity to push myself, travel and learn the ins and outs of the beauty industry.

CJ: What an amazing journey. When writing an article as a journalist, what is your process from start to finish?

BS: I first start by aggregating everything I know I need for the story and I put it all in one place. Then I go through and eliminate what’s repetitive or uninteresting, and come up with an overall feeling and theme for how I want people to feel about it. For example, with the Maggie Doyne piece, I wanted to highlight how young she was, and how in a blink of an eye, made the decision to help complete strangers by opening an orphanage.

I always want to get to the root of the story. Whenever I write anything, it’s important to me that I understand it 100 percent. I don’t like writing anything I don’t completely comprehend because I know it won’t translate to the reader. I want people to feel what I felt, so I have to understand my interview subject. I’ve interviewed amazing people, and for me it’s about getting to the essence of the person. I want to provide insight from my perspective. I live by the motto, “Show don’t tell.” Create an emotional experience for the reader.

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CJ: Great advice! You are now Head of Content and Communications at GLOSSYBOX. What does your role entail?

BS: I handle all of our written assets that accompany each monthly box, as well as communications internally and public relations. I also oversee our partnerships.

In order to grow the business, I leverage existing relationships, and luckily I have a lot of relationships with people who I’ve met from the beauty industry. I try to pick a lot of people’s brains, because I know that I don’t have all of the answers. I like to ask my friends who work in various sectors for their expertise. All-in-all, I approach partnerships the way I approach journalism; aggregation and dividing and conquering. Since we have such a small team at GLOSSYBOX North America, my idea can become a new box in a matter of months. It’s such a rewarding experience.

CJ: What advice do you have for teenagers and young adults interested in working as a journalist or in the beauty industry?

BS: Be a sponge and be humble. Always listen. Model yourself after the people you want to be like. There’s a great word called propinquity, and it means that what you’re around you feed off of and become. You don’t have to be physically there, which does help, because it can also happen through your mindset. If you’re in the mindset of wanting to be a journalist and you start reading writers you admire, you’re going to get better and start writing in a more elevated way.

It’s also important to gather different perspectives so you can find your own way. You don’t want to imitate one person. When I reflect on my journalism career, I think back on a professor I had in college or a book I read or my first editor, and realize I incorporate elements of each into what I do now. Another piece of advice would be: don’t be afraid of hard work. Case-in-point, for my first internship at ABC’s 20/20 I commuted into New York City from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania three days a week, first thing in the morning on a train that took three hours. I made sure that no matter how exhausted I was from a full workload as well as an internship, I kept smile on my face and said ‘yes’ to everything I was asked. If I hadn’t been there and said ‘yes,’ I wouldn’t have had the opportunity for networking and eventually finding a job. Always remember, there’s no substitute for hard work.

Also, don’t be distracted. I can always tell if an intern is distracted, checking social media. It makes a difference when an intern is completely present. Quiet the distractions. Give 100%. Facebook will be there when you’re done with work.

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CJ: What are you working to improve upon – either personally or professionally – and how are you doing so?

BS: Self-doubt. Insecurity has always been my issue. I’m not the kind of person who thinks I’m the best. That’s just my natural thing – I’m very hard on myself. That’s something I’m working on, and I haven’t figured it out just yet and it is definitely a work in progress. Part of my role here means being confident and trusting myself. Sometimes I might overthink and over-analyze, and this is something that can make corporate growth more difficult. It’s important to remember that everyone has their own unique perspective and special qualities, which make them an asset.

CJ: What are your favorite books?

BS: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Awareness by Anthony De Mello, and On Writing Well by William Zinsser.

CJ: Is there a cause or issue that you care greatly about?

BS: One thing recently that I’ve been reading about that makes me angry is disrespect for women. I’m such a supporter of women and hate seeing when they are marginalized. Another thing that gets under my skin is prejudice and blind hate. People you can’t reason with and people who twist religion to support hate – that drives me crazy.

I’m also hugely into animals. I have a cat at home who I found on the street. She was two weeks old when I found her and she was in really bad shape. I was on my way to Fashion Week and I saw her – she looked like a dirty little rat. I took her to an animal hospital on my way to a fashion show, picked her up after, and I’ve had her ever since! I honestly love all animals and often times wish I could open a farm and adopt every unwanted dog and cat in the world.

CJ: What is a memorable travel experience that you’ve had?

BS: When I first got hired at GLOSSYBOX I went to Berlin to meet the whole team. I spent a few days after by myself exploring the city. It was actually really cool to travel somewhere by myself. I wrote down everything I saw. As amazing as it was I felt a bit isolated because I didn’t know anyone in the country. Traveling solo was something I’ve never done. I decided to spend ta full day exploring and found myself at the Pergamon Museum that has unbelievable relics from antiquity, including the Pergamon Altar, a massive frieze built during the 2nd century BC. I came alive that day at the museum. The rest of the trip was amazing, and it was because I allowed myself to enjoy the moment rather than be stressed.

CJ: Any travel tips?

BS: I created a book that I took on every spring break and all vacations with my friends. I traveled with the same friends for college spring break all four years. We wrote down all the funny things we said and did, and now it’s this epic book with all these different time periods. All of the hilarity is captured in this book and nothing is forgotten.

CJ: How do you stay organized and manage your time?

BS: I have a creative brain so organization and time management don’t come naturally. I have to proactively work on it. I used to just write notes on everything, and would have post its everywhere with random notes to myself. I’ve learned to compile where I keep my notes and calendar so everything is in once place.

As far as time management, I think of the day in blocks. The morning is a time to connect with the team in Germany. After lunch I do my follow-up calls, and then late afternoon is my creative time for partnership outreach. Overall there are certain things I know I have to do, but I put it in my schedule at a time when I know I can get it cranked out. I manage my time based on what’s logical and then frame my day around when the best time to do what is. I have to force myself to organize. I’m a creature of chaos.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

BS: First of all, start a skin care regimen. Also, I would tell myself to lighten up a little and that things that seem like huge deals now have a way of working out in the end. I spent a lot of my twenties very stressed about where I was going to be in life and what I was going to do. It would’ve been nice to trust in myself more and realize even if something goes wrong, there is always something to learn from it.

I also wish I would’ve studied abroad during college. I started a magazine and worked on the newspaper and was part of choir, and I felt like I had so much to do. I could’ve put it aside and done one less major or minor. The experience would have been more worth it. I now realize the power of travel and seeing new cultures and wish I could have experienced it when I was younger. I was a little overambitious in some ways and a little afraid in other ways.

Belisa Silva Qs

Images by Belisa Silva

Travel

With the wind whipping, snow slipping under my feet, and a view of the plunging cliff to my left, I had a full-blown panic attack on the side of the Grand Canyon.

But before I get into that, let’s rewind a little bit. During my sophomore year, I decided to detour from the beachy college spring break that I initially wanted to one that would be a complete adventure. I had never been to the American southwest and was looking forward to experiencing the open skies I had heard about and seeing the Grand Canyon in its entire splendor. Anyone who knows me can tell you that nature, hiking, and the outdoors is way out of my comfort zone, but I figured, why not try something new?

After a few days of exploring the sites around Phoenix, such as the Heard Museum and the Superstition Mountains, the plan was to drive toward the canyon and tackle its Bright Angel Trail, which the brochures listed as a difficult trail. From our entry point into the canyon to our destination point called Indian Garden and back would be a 9-mile journey. Why we chose this trail as novices, I will never know. But, that was the plan.

Waking up the morning of, I was uneasy knowing what I was about to do. A girl who had never even camped in her backyard before was about to hike one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.  Before I had time to talk myself out of it, gear was on my back and spikes were on my shoes. Yes, spikes. Did I mention the Grand Canyon’s high elevation created snow and ice on the trails?

grand canyon

Now, we’re back at the beginning of the story. The first mile down the canyon was simply treacherous. I was slipping across the icy, narrow trails and trying, but failing, to not look over the 4,380-foot cliff immediately to my left. The deafening gusts of cold wind were clouding the encouraging voices of the people I was with and intensifying my fear. I couldn’t master using the snow spikes and I was convinced this adventurous spring break was surely going to be my last. It was then I felt my face go hot and all I stopped dead in my tracks. I sat down right where I was and just cried.

Okay, I did a bit more than cry. There was some hyperventilating and uncontrollable shaking, too. I finally understood what an “anxiety attack” was. There were hikers piling up behind me, but I didn’t care. I had no plans to move out of my fetal position and didn’t let anybody touch me. With the help of my then boyfriend, I realized there were only two choices: hike back up and let my fear get the best of me or keep going because we didn’t fly all the way to Arizona for nothing. Truth be told, I wanted to turn around, but something in me (likely, just my ego) told me I would regret it.

After about 20 minutes of calming and pep talk, I slowly got back up and continued on. Everything from this point was nearly smooth. At about two miles down, there was no more snow and, in fact, it was dessert-like and scorching. We made it to our picnic spot and turn around point, and headed back up on the same trail. Hiking back up had its own issues, but that story is for another time. What I will say, however, is once we reached the top of the canyon; we literally kissed the flat ground.

Hiking the Grand Canyon is surely the most terrifying, but rewarding, thing I have ever done. Its power is breathtaking, in all senses of the word, and humbling. You never realize how strong you are until you’re put into a challenging situation. Regardless of the temporary strife it caused me, the canyon was absolutely beautiful. What is beauty without a little bit of pain?

Images by Aysia Woods

Health

“I will receive as much as I do.”

This simple statement helped me get through my senior year of college, which included an internship, a leadership position in a student organization, a full load of classes, and many other stressors. The simplicity of this one mantra (also known as an affirmation) helped me in times that I felt I was both overworked and not working hard enough.

For all you yogi’s out there, the term “mantra” might be something you’re familiar with. For everyone else: let’s ease into this.

What is a mantra? It’s a simple statement with an objective that you can easily repeat to yourself to help achieve some goal. It can be anything that is useful to you in the present moment or the future.

There are two parts of root of the word mantra. The first is man, which is the root of the Sanskirt word for mind, and the second is tra, which means instrument. Your mantra is therefore the instrument of the mind; it is something that you can use as a tool to redirect yourself as often as needed.

Words are powerful. By consciously choosing what you repeat to yourself throughout the day or in a difficult time, I have found that the “inner critic” inside loses its power. Instead of letting your mind wander, you can redirect that energy towards a more productive direction. This idea is called neuroplasticity, or the fact that our brains can change and be molded based on what habits we form. For me, choosing a mantra helps me focus when I am stressed or uncertain and better prepares me to deal with difficult situations in the future.

How to Choose a Mantra

A mantra can really be anything you want it to be. Think of a positive change you want to make, whether that is to be more receptive to other people’s opinions or more confident in yourself. Whether you have a short-term goal such as staying focused and energized during finals or a long-term goal of becoming more open to opportunity, there is a mantra that can help you.

I found my mantra while doing yoga. The instructor offered, “I will receive as much as I do” as an option for the yoga class, but I found that it applied beyond my practice. It resonated with me in multiple aspects of my life and has become a guiding mantra that I use every day.

How to Create Your Mantra

Below are some tips to find or create the mantra that is right for you:

  • Start with “I will” or “I am”
  • Pick strong adjectives or verbs that will inspire you
  • Choose either one sentence or multiple very short thoughts such as “I am flexible. I am energized.” to repeat in succession
  • If you need to just get through something sort-term start with “Today I will” and give yourself a simple but achievable goal for the day

Examples

My ability to succeed is limitless

I am courageous and I stand up for myself

I will abandon my old habits and replace them

I am bountiful, beautiful, and blissful

I love and approve of myself as I am

I will draw from my inner strength to spread light

Fear comes from the self-image, not the self

I will trust my wisdom to guide me in the right direction

I will see the multitude of options before me and find the right path for myself

I will engage in work that impacts the world positively

Today I am energized and able to conquer anything

I am capable of achieving what I set my mind to

I am deeply fulfilled with who I am

There are really no rules when it comes to mantras or affirmations! Try different sayings until something resonates with you. What’s most important is that you repeat with conviction and manifest your future.

Image: Life of Pix

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When it comes to leadership role models, Doris Daif is someone we look up to. As Head of American Express Digital Customer Experience, Doris gets to know the people she works with both personally and professionally. She also believes in flexibility and balance. Having studied marketing in college, Doris interned at Revlon and ended up working there after undergrad. After working at Revlon, Doris decided to continue her education and enrolled in Stern School of Business at New York University to earn her MBA. Now at American Express, Doris leads a team of over 130 people.

Throughout our interview, Doris emphasized the importance of passion, hard work, and finding mentors. We not only found Doris to be motivating and empowering, but what she shared resonated with us deeply. When it comes to her advice about living more in the moment and not being so prescriptive, we couldn’t agree with Doris more. Read on to find out how Doris thinks young people can demonstrate confidence and poise, what her daily duties involve, and how she unwinds from an occasionally overwhelming schedule.

Name: Doris Daif
Education: Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Rutgers University; Master of Business Administration in Marketing and Finance from New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business
Follow: @ddsethi

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth?”

Doris Daif: Seizing your youth means living in the moment and not apologizing or feeling that you should be doing something other than you’re doing at that very moment. At least for me, that’s come as I’ve gotten older. When I was younger there was a lot of “shoulda coulda woulda” mentality around wondering if I was keeping up with what other people were doing or feeling like I was missing out on something. Seizing your youth is about feeling passionate and excited about what you’re doing at that time, knowing that it’s the right thing for you, and feeling comfortable in your own skin.

CJ: You majored in Marketing at Rutgers University. How did you determine what to study?

DD: I didn’t have a great plan when I was in undergrad in terms of what I wanted to do. My parents were both very academic and have master’s degrees, and they both wanted me to be in a stable job that earned money. I was in school in the early 90s and there was a lot of pressure around getting jobs post-graduation. It was a very tough time.

Before I went to Rutgers I thought about going to Carnegie Mellon and studying engineering. I ultimately decided to go to a state school. I may have headed toward marketing because I wanted to study something in business, and I knew I didn’t want something accounting and finance-related. Marketing really wasn’t planned at that point in my life but I knew it would give me the most options.

CJ: What did you do once you graduated from college?

DD: I was interning at Revlon when I was at Rutgers. I helped the chemists in R&D test their products on customers. It was awesome! All these women would come in to test out everything from shampoo to lipstick, and I really started to love the interaction with customers and thinking about what made them tick.

When I graduated from Rutgers, it was a difficult time economically. A lot of jobs available for undergrads with marketing degrees were sales jobs. I ultimately decided to go back to Revlon in a sales role. Going back to what I was saying about seizing your youth, it was not a typical job to start at with an undergraduate degree, so it was a risk but I loved the work and the people. After a few years, I turned the job into a full-blown marketing research opportunity and moved to the headquarters in New York City. I had the opportunity to work under really seasoned market research people where I could take what I learned in the R&D labs and translate it into more qualitative and quantitative market research at Revlon.

It was while I was at Revlon in NYC that I realized that I wanted to go back to graduate school and continue my education. I didn’t want to go back full time, though, so I applied for a part-time MBA program at the Stern School of Business at New York University. Then there was an opportunity that presented itself at Colgate Palmolive, and I got a call from them for a similar role where I would be working on much larger brands and doing more business analytics. That’s really what led me to leave the position at Revlon and go to Colgate.

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CJ: You are currently the Head of American Express Digital Customer Experience. What does that mean and what does your role entail?

DD: I lead a team of 130 folks located in New York and in the United Kingdom. We have responsibilities for making sure that when customers have a digital experience with us – whether they come onto our website or get an email or a text message – that we’re not only meeting their needs but that we’re delighting them.

We think about features that customers want to see, but we also actually listen to the voice of the customer. We have an internal design team that will sit down with customers and prototype and design with them. When we have a design that we think is really good, we figure out ways to put it into market and test it. It’s a really active place to work and there are no two days that look alike. I work with a really passionate group of people who are excited about what they do. The team ranges from data people to designers to operations people to product developers. There are some people who are in charge of the site or content management or personalization. We all work together to give the customer a great experience.

CJ: In an interview with theglasshammer.com, you noted that “confidence and poise are two of your greatest assets.” How can young people demonstrate confidence and poise?

DD: I’m so passionate about this topic because I didn’t have either of those growing up. I was a very shy, introverted kid. I didn’t fit into a natural clique, so to speak. What’s important to remember is to not put people in a box. People can be in many boxes or not in a box at all, and that is okay. The right kind of reinforcement is important for kids at a young age. Being able to celebrate not just the clear successes but also the effort is very important. You don’t just try once and get something; you have to develop the ability to come back repeatedly. You also have to learn how to step away. Take time to immerse yourself in why something failed, but then get up and try it again the next morning. We’re in a culture of wanting things to happen immediately, but that’s just not reality.

CJ: What advice would you give to a young person who is interested in working in the digital space with customer experience?

DD: During those first five to seven years, you want to work your tail off. You want to create great work that is meaningful and has high integrity. Go into something where you’re going to be happy putting in the extra hours.

Surround yourself with people you want to be like. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had a couple of early leaders and mentors who I observed. I watched them in action and saw their mistakes and what they did right. To a certain extent, they turned into advocates for me.

Also, you can’t fake it. Early on in my career I had a very false idea that I’d get one position and do it for two years, and then I’d get promoted and do that for two years. It’s not all that prescriptive, but the common ingredient is passion. If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, it’s way too much time and way too forced to amount to anything. Younger people get caught up in what they should be doing, but this comes back to haunt you later. Knowing that you’re passionate about something allows doors to open that you wouldn’t have expected.

CJ: Finding that passion when you’re young can be difficult. In your experience, how do you think young people can find their passion?

DD: There’s not a magic bullet with this one. Passion can ebb and flow for different things throughout your life. Some of it is not being so prescriptive. If you’re overly sensitive to finding your passion and figuring out a plan, it can get really stressful. I’ve been caught up in that! You learn as you go.

Having great mentors and leaders who have been honest about what I do well and what I don’t do well has helped me figure out what I am interested in. Family does this very well – they will put a mirror up and tell you what you do well and what you don’t. Be receptive to this feedback and ask questions. Sometimes we have a very self-centered view of ourselves. I tap my team a lot to tell me what I can improve upon. What would my biggest fan say and what would my worst critic say?

CJ: You mentioned that you didn’t really fit in with any certain “clique” in high school. It can be hard thinking you don’t belong to a certain group. How did you navigate that when you were younger?

DD: Not well. I latched on to academics. I really worked my tail off. If I had to be 98% prepared, that should have been good enough, but at the time I was so insecure about myself that I would do whatever it took to get to 110% preparation. Looking back, that’s not a bad thing. I’ve been told that I am extremely hungry for the next thing, and I think that resilience comes from the feeling of wanting to excel. The flip side is always having that insecurity of having to do 110% which is not always a good thing.

For me, I love American Express because some of my most formidable years have been at this company. I came in at an entry level job and now I’m running a large team. I appreciate that I work for a company that has put a lot of confidence in me, which helped me build my confidence.

We as a company talk about diversity a lot, which is important. Diversity in terms of the products we offer and the kinds of customers we want to attract. Therefore, your employee base needs to be diverse to reflect that. I’m first-generation American, and both of my parents are from Egypt. There weren’t a lot of other Egyptians walking around in the schools I was in. I don’t know how much that contributed, but I definitely always felt like a fish out of water and that I had to try harder to integrate with any given group of people.

CJ: Leadership plays an important role in your job. How have you learned to lead and how do you bring the community together?

DD: I always make an effort to get to know the people who work for me, both on a personal level and professional level. I think that’s really important. I don’t just get to know my direct reports, but I like to dig in and have deep relationships with all of my people. I like to do it in an approachable style, even if it’s not in-person; using instant messaging is great.

The second is giving people flexibility. Everybody has different needs in terms of what’s going on in their personal and professional lives. One thing I’m extremely passionate about is seeing women advance. Women in particular need that flexibility as children come into the equation.

We afford people the ability to have a full life. I feel like people’s best ideas come when they’re out living their lives and they’re outside doing other things. I try to ensure that people are balanced.

CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?

DD: There are two areas. When you rise in an organization, you spend a lot of time removing roadblocks for your team. One thing I’ve become aware of is not losing my technical skills, so I’ve been doing a lot in the area of digital technology.

The second is doing even more to figure out how to collaborate with people across different lines of business in the company – that’s a lot more fruitful. A lot of times, rather than going to people when you’re in crisis mode, it should be about how you can help them. This notion of “giving to get” is an important thing to understand, especially for youth. When you’re a millennial, there can be a focus on yourself and how you can get ahead. It’s amazing how much can get sent back to you when you’re outwardly facing and helping other people. When I get stressed out and so focused on my issue, I figure out how to call someone and help somebody with his or her problem. As an old Revlon mentor would tell me, “you get more bees with honey versus vinegar.”

CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?

DD: I value balance but for me that balance doesn’t mean I cut off work when I leave the building or vice versa. I self-regulate. There are times when I know work will be busier than other times, but there are other times when I end my day on time and go exercise. I make an effort to be more active. Meditation is something I’ve been wanting to try. I try to maintain connections with people who I’ve come across in my professional life. I enjoy going out to eat a lot. I enjoy reading.

CJ: What is your favorite book? 

DD: The Cairo Trilogy: Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street by Naguib Mahfouz.

CJ: What is a book you’ve read this year? 

DD: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

DD: I would have carried myself with greater poise and confidence. I also would have had more fun and not been so paranoid about what the next thing was going to be. I’d try to live more in the moment and not be so prescriptive. I’d also try not to be as introverted. There are people who are naturally introverts, but I was holding back on a lot of things that were in my head that I thought that no one wanted to hear or weren’t valuable enough to be said or done.

Doris Daif Qs

Images by Carpe Juvenis

HealthSpotlightYouth Spotlight

We’ll admit that like almost everyone else with a smart phone, we are completely dependent on and obsessed with Instagram. That includes scrolling through the ‘Explore’ option for endless inspiration. One Instagrammer we always find ourselves gravitating toward is Steph Yu of @happyandhealthy96. Not only does Steph share gorgeous photos of the yummy meals she creates, but she encourages all people to find their own happiness and health in their own way.

On top of that, Steph has written an e-book and runs the website A Happy and Healthy Life where she shares recipes, thoughts, health tips, and even more stunning photographs. Oh, and did we mention that she’s only 19?

If you find yourself scrolling rapidly through this week’s Youth Spotlight to see all the beautiful images, don’t forget that there are words of wisdom snuck in between! But if you look first and read after, we won’t hold it against you.

Name: Stephanie Yu
Education: Studying business at the University of British Columbia
Follow: @happyandhealthy96 | A Happy and Healthy Life

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Steph Yu: To me, seizing my youth is defined by not waiting to live my life, but rather living for the now and not for my future. So often you hear “Oh I’ll do that one day, when I’m older.” But I believe that age isn’t a limitation but rather an opportunity. It’s an arbitrary definition that society tends to use as a barometer for maturity, success, and expectations, but I just like to do my own thing, and live according to my rules and my authentic passions.

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CJ: What school do you attend and what did you decide to study?

SY: I go to University of British Columbia, and I’m studying business at the Sauder School of Business.

CJ: What sort of living space do you live in and how do you maintain a vegan lifestyle there?

SY: I live in a single dorm room on campus. It’s actually extremely simple staying vegan and healthy. I have a minifridge and blender in my room that I use daily! I make smoothies, banana ice cream, bring fruit monomeals for lunch, etc. And for dinner I always go to the cafeteria and get a LARGE salad, with rice, or some more fruit!

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CJ: You’ve written an e-book called “Living A Healthy and Happy Life.” What was the process of writing that book like for you?

SY: The process of writing my e-book was both inspiring and difficult. I had to face all my fears, vulnerabilities, and mistakes, and open myself up to possible criticism. But when I started writing it, I promised that I would be genuine and authentically tell my story. I share a lot more than I expected I would, but I’m glad I did, I’ve gotten a lot of emails from people who can relate and that makes everything worthwhile!

CJ: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

SY: Follow your bliss.

CJ: To our readers out there wondering how they can take one tiny step towards becoming happier and healthier right now, what one piece of advice would you offer to them?

SY: I would say start with breakfast! That’s really the easiest meal to eat healthy. Have a large fruit smoothie or a fruit meal! Also WATER: drink enough water so that you’re peeing clear. And SLEEP! It’s so important to get enough sleep!

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CJ: You’ve experienced your own incredible health transformation. What were some of the difficulties you faced while beginning that process and how did you keep yourself motivated?

SY: It was really difficult for me to deal with social situations when I fist started. I would get a lot of questions that I wasn’t able to answer, and I really felt attacked. I realize now that most people were just curious, so I’d say don’t take things personally and do your research! Become informed about plant-based nutrition, and cover all the basic questions (where do you get your protein, calcium, iron etc).

CJ: As a self-starter you have to keep yourself on track with goals and deadlines. What tools and organizing methods do you use to keep everything running smoothly?

SY: I have a mac, and I use “Stickies” obsessively! I have daily to-do lists, and weekly agendas.

CJ: You have a huge Instagram following! What kinds of things do you do to engage with your community and how has that virtual growth impacted your real life?

SY: I love reaching out to local companies that support the message I do, and introducing them to my followers. I’ve also hosted fruit lucks, and gone to some vegan potlucks! It’s been incredible to find a community here in Vancouver of plant munching people! As for online, I love following and supporting other health foodies, and I’m constantly inspired by others on Instagram!

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CJ: What has been the most unexpected part of college so far?

SY: University has been just incredible. The inspiring atmosphere, incredible friends, and total freedom has made this year my favorite year yet.

CJ: You’re also great about making fitness a priority. How do you keep yourself energized throughout the day and especially throughout a workout?

SY: I workout in the mornings before breakfast. I love waking up, drinking a liter of water, and then getting my sweat sesh on! One of my favorite things to listen to during a workout is the Rich Roll podcast.

CJ: What is your go-to recipe for when you just don’t know what you feel like eating?

SY: DATE COCONUT ROLLS!

CJ: What advice would you give to your 14-year-old self?

SY: Your imperfections guide and shape your narrative, love them, embrace them, and accept them.

Steph Yu Qs

Images Courtesy of: Steph Yu

HealthSkills

Two steps forward, one step back. Or sometimes, two steps back or even three – and then we’re really lost, asking ourselves how we even got there. The setback comes in all shapes and forms, but always of the same effect. It has a tempting, toxic ability to keep people in a negative state of mind making it more of a stayback than anything else. We feel it when relationships end, whether with a partner or a close friend. We feel stagnant when our career choices don’t reach the expectations we have bred in our minds. We become self-degrading, unconfident, anxious, and fearful versions of ourselves whenever we face circumstances that stunt our flow of life. The sad part about all of this is not the fact that obstacles happen, but rather that our collective response to hardship is to blame ourselves by shutting down. After all, if it’s happening to me then I must be deserving of it, right?

Incorrect. Unfortunate things happen all the time, and a quick reality check can help many of us realize that our problems are not quite as hefty in the big scheme of things. But how do we get out of the mental rewind that keeps replaying the negativity reel? First and foremost, separate your true self from the problem.

STEP 1: You are not the circumstance. The circumstance is happening to you, it is not you. And too often, people feel entirely consumed by the problem almost becoming it.

Tim Storey, world-renowned motivational and inspirational speaker says it best when he describes how people ruminate on their issues. He says that “We nurse it, curse it, and rehearse it.” By doing this, we are conditioning our minds to react to problems by constantly thinking about them and repeating them in our heads. Storey explains in his book Comeback and Beyond that the best way to cope is to “accept the now and take inventory of what is happening.”

STEP 2: Thinking about a problem is different than being aware of what’s happening. When you become aware you are expanding your thought patterns from dwelling on a single issue to seeing the entire picture. Less thinking, and more recognizing. Recognize how you’re feeling and what triggers you to repeat bad thoughts. Knowing how often you nurse, curse, and rehearse will help you work towards stopping those thoughts.

There is great power in what we think. Because of this, we must be very careful with what enters our minds. Setbacks create space in our heads to think negatively, but we can train ourselves to make space in our heads for positivity. It’s about redirecting what we pay attention to. Instead of focusing on what went wrong or what we failed to do, realize that there are unlimited other ways to focus on things that will breed positive thoughts. If you feel like you have nothing, give more. Volunteer, call a friend, help your parents out at home, and experience firsthand what happens when you shift the expected course of action. Your mind is so used to repeating the bad, that when you begin to feed your thoughts with helpfulness and kindness, your emotions begin to change as well.

If you feel lost and confused, be open to getting help from others. It is common for people to think that success is a one person job, and if they can’t do it on their own they don’t know how to be successful. This is twisted thinking. The most successful people understand the importance of mentorship and having a strong team of individuals to support one another in both work and personal life.

STEP 3: Shift your receiver and pick up positive signals. Don’t stay in the setback. Choose to hang out with people that believe in you. Make an appointment to talk to a counselor or therapist. Only read beneficial and substantial articles and follow positive people on social media.

There are so many times in life that we can feel weighed down. A lot of that weight is in what we think and not actually what is happening. Take the time to redirect yourself and don’t forget:

Separate from the problem. Recognize your thought patterns. Shift yourself to get better reception.

“Life is all about course-correcting.” – Arianna Huffington

Image: Raumrot

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When we first saw Alexander Chinnici’s film reel, we were blown away. You hear a lot about actors, actresses, and directors, but rarely do you know a lot about those who are in charge of the artistic and technical aspect of the image, the cinematographer. Having watched movies such as Aliens, Predator, and Apocalypse Now growing up, Alex learned early on good films can influence you. Alex pursued film in college and by the time he graduated, he knew that cinematography was what he was most passionate about.

Alex is thoughtful in his artistic and technical approaches. He emphasizes the importance of building a solid foundation of knowledge and technical expertise, as well as highlights the value of collaboration, whether it’s with directors, producers, or the team he manages. These days, Alex spends a great deal of time on airplanes traveling between coasts for shoots. We were fortunate to meet Alex before he jet off for another shoot the next day, and he shared with us what it means to be a cinematographer, what films and which directors deeply influence him, and how he seizes his youth.

Name: Alexander Chinnici
Education: Film and Video; Cinematography from the School of Visual Arts
Follow: AlexChinnici.com

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Alexander Chinnici: Seizing Your Youth, to me, means “breaking convention.” First off, youth is subjective in and of itself. To me, a child, a teenager, or even someone in their early 20s is expected to do certain things. Depending on where they’re from, their race, gender, etc. …It’s expected that they do certain, specific things that are molded for them before they’re even born. Seizing that is about control. You can do whatever you want; you just have to want it badly enough.

For some people the stakes are much higher and the obstacles may be much greater, but anything is possible. I don’t mean to make it sound easy – sometimes it is, some people are born privileged. For others it can be very difficult. I’m very fortunate that I didn’t really experience that difficulty. Seizing Your Youth is about taking control of what’s yours and not giving in to conventions. They’re usually connected to fear and it ultimately hurts our culture. I’m very lucky to have grown up in a home and an environment that encouraged the opposite of convention. I have very little patience for excuses. Seizing Your Youth is about throwing those excuses away and taking control of what you want.

CJ: You majored in Film and Video with a concentration in Cinematography from the School of Visual Arts. How did you decide what to major in?

AC: The School of Visual Arts Film & Video program is set-up in such a way that your first year is an overall review of the general aspects of the film industry. They teach you the basics, but most importantly you can get your hands on cameras and just shoot away. At the end of the first year you have to choose a focus: Directing, Writing, Editing, Cinematography, etc.

My friends and I made many movies together in high school – basically since 6th grade – and I naturally gravitated to the camera. (I should also mention that my Dad is a photographer). Toward the end of high school we got more and more serious. After three of us went to SVA together, I naturally took over when it came to the camera. 16mm was introduced into our lives and we were terrified (“Wait, you can’t see what you’re doing!?”)

I can’t really say why, but when students in the class (and my collaborators and best friends from high school) asked “Can someone shoot my film?” I jumped at the chance. I had never shot film before and admittedly I was very scared of it. At the time I was struggling with the idea of becoming a director simply because in the world of film you’re told that’s exactly what you should be, especially in film school. Not having full control worried me but in the end I continued to gravitate toward the camera. This was also my first experience with lighting. I simply had no clue about it beforehand and now a brand new language was being introduced to me.

Combine the romance of film (like a first love), discovering the language that is constant lighting, my natural instinct, and the older thesis students telling me that graduating without a focused skill would mean certain death led me to the choice of majoring in Cinematography. Needless to say it was the right choice. It is a skill that takes a lifetime to learn and I plan on doing just that.

You are also a cinematographer for narrative and commercial work. What does it mean to be a cinematographer? What do your daily tasks look like?

AC: The Cinematographer is in charge of the overall visual language for the project. It is always this person’s task to put story first and foremost with the directors vision in mind at all times, to serve them, and to collaborate with them (the amount is usually dictated by the director). Consistency is also very important; making sure that the style stays consistent throughout and only changes when necessary. A cinematographer is one part technical, one part artistic. It is a wonderful meeting of the two. The goal is to achieve an image that the audience doesn’t think about. The technical becomes hidden in the background and the emotion of the image takes shape, hopefully affecting the audience in the exact way that the two of you conceived. In my personal opinion, this is when it is most effective.

The Cinematographer works with other department heads to strive for that consistency. Collaborating with them is extremely important and I try my best to make this happen each and every time. They’ve also spoken with the director and usually we’re all on the same page. We work hard to make the director’s vision come true, but we’re hired as the experts in each of our respected fields. We’re also usually hired because of a particular ability, style, technical know-how or even personality. We spend a lot of time together on set; you have to respect and trust the people you’re around. It is filled with constant decision-making and compromise. Those tasks are not easy if you don’t get along.

My daily tasks depend on what’s going on with the project. While in pre-production, my life is about preparing for production. Seeing locations with the director, locking in my crew, shaping the schedule with the AD and working within the budget constraints. I do my best to squeeze the most out of the amount that’s been allotted to me. The director and I work closely to discover the style of the film. We may watch films; review photos or works of art, discovering the right references helps us get on the same page. We also work hard to choose the correct camera and lenses. This is based on a desired look, the budget and specific logistics often shaped by the script. Often we compare past experiences and watch projects shot with similar combinations. The camera and lenses is arguably the most important choice before we get to set.

On set my daily tasks are always very different each and every day. That is one of the most exciting aspects of the job. To be broad I’d say that it usually begins with a strong plan that we had settled on the day (or days) before. I meet with the Assistant Director (AD) and the director to discuss said plan and we see if we can improve it. Or if a disaster has struck, how do we deal with it? If I’m lucky the AD will get a blocking rehearsal going and we can watch the scene. This will inform everyone of what’s happening. Not every set is so organized, but when it is you can do your job much better. I’ll quickly review this with the heads of my team and they’ll delegate and convey what needs to happen to their crew. After that it often comes down to maintaining a groove, time is extremely important on set.

We usually have 12 hours per day to get everything we need. We face many obstacles like the movement of the sun, actors and/or actresses becoming restless, locations only allowing a certain amount of time, etc. The clock is always running and you have to race against it. It’s often my job to keep us on track and constantly make sure that the shooting order is correct. I need to be thinking five shots ahead at all times. While this is happening I’m placing the camera in the correct place for said moment, with the correct focal length and such. These decisions are often shaped by the location and the blocking of the actors. I work simultaneously with the Gaffer on the lighting of the scene.

Moving a camera around is one thing but lighting a set or a real location can become very complicated. The two are strongly connected and affect one another greatly. The order of how all of this works must be taken into account. The director and I often discuss the editing as well. How is this scene going to take shape? This certainly informs the decisions we make. “Making our day” as we call it is extremely important. If we love the footage and we’ve made it, it’s considered a success. My day is about making those two things happen.

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CJ: When you’re on set, what aspects of the story and the characters’ movements do you have to consider? At what point do you come in – has the scene blocking been done, do you work with them while doing that?

AC: I think it’s very important that everyone witnesses the blocking rehearsal. Doing any job well is about education. Without knowing what’s happening, you’re only guessing. This only wastes precious time and ultimately hurts many aspects of the day. I often find myself compromising simply due to a poor management of time on someone else’s part. It eats into my shooting time, thus forcing myself to set-up faster. It also forces the director to make faster decisions, do less takes, etc.

To answer your question, no, I am not that involved in the blocking. It is a time for the actors and director to thoroughly discuss the scene and to discover new things. We always come in with a strong plan but you quickly realize that certain things won’t work. You must be nimble and quickly change your approach. Sometimes it’s the location and sometimes it’s the blocking. Often the scene gets much better. If you have a specific idea that you come in with you can manipulate the situation to fall into it. This happens sometimes and it is usually a technical approach that can be effective. It’s important for us to know the difference between the two and when not to get in the way. I constantly try to pick my battles and know when the blocking of a scene has gotten better for the story and/or actors. If a “baby” of mine has to go, then so be it. The scene is usually much better this way. However, I will step in when necessary but only after they’ve discussed it a few times.

As for the characters’ movements and such, this is usually determined by the directors and actors discussions that they’ve had before and even throughout the scene. I often work around this and find a lot of inspiration from it. When an actor is cast so well you inherently trust them right away. If you’re fast enough, you can keep up and come up with new ideas on the spot based on what they’re doing. They know the character better than you so you better trust them and revolve the ideas around that. I always have the story in mind. The director, actors, and I will often collaborate on what’s happening in the scene since they constantly affect one another. With that said, marks can be very important, especially when it comes to lighting. Unfortunately, we’re in a time right now where the craft is being threatened due to the ability of how fast the cameras are and their ability to work so well with natural light. I believe that a combination of the two is the best recipe. Take advantage of what the new technology has allowed us to do, but don’t lose sight of the potential that film language holds. I see A LOT of movies nowadays that simply ignore that. They excuse their lack of ability, low budget, and poor planning as a “style” that is just plain bad.

I do personally like a moving camera (when necessary of course), but I do my best to make sure that the movement is correct for that particular moment. It can be hand-held, a dolly, a Steadicam, a jib, etc. …These are all tools that convey different emotions. It’s up to us to choose what’s right and to execute it correctly. This is directly affected by the blocking and that dance can be one of my favorite parts about cinematography.

CJ: When starting a new project, what does your process look like?

AC: I read the script a few times so that I can have shorthand with directors. You better bet that they know it a whole lot better, and they’ll feel a lot more comfortable if you know it well. This also helps me make fast decisions later on. I need to be very close to it, I need to care about it very much. When my instincts take over, they’re often the right ones because I know it so well and I care about it so much.

I like to meet with the director often. Getting into their head is very important for me. I need to have a very good understanding of what they want. Most aren’t that technical so they describe things in broad strokes. I have to be careful because I may take one sentence as meaning a very specific technical solution, but the director may mean something else entirely. I’m not at a point of being able to afford tests in pre-pro, so if I read that incorrectly we’ll often find out when it’s too late.

Showing examples and explaining things thoroughly often solves any issues. But it’s my goal to learn these things so that when we’re on set I can turn from the eyepiece and say “You happy?” When a director looks back with a huge smile, you know that you did your job right. I love that moment and I strive for it. I trust my director and if that smile is genuine then I know that we’re doing good work together. Ultimately that leads to a good movie, which is always the goal.

CJ: What is the most difficult part about being a cinematographer? The best part?

AC:  The most difficult part about being a cinematographer is the lack of control. You’re constantly striving to achieve as much of it as possible, but it’s constantly slipping through your hands. You have to pick your battles and know what (and when) to fight for what you feel is necessary to have control over. At times it can be liberating and exciting, your old ideas become new ones, often better ones. However, it can also crush your ability to do your job well. But if good people surround you and if you’ve come fully prepared and made the right decisions beforehand, you should be able to avoid this issue. Filmmaking is about constant compromise and working to react the right way so that you can make the most of it.

The best part about being a cinematographer is that you have the chance to live many lives. This is actually a direct quote from filmmaker Robert Altman. It’s stuck with me for years. I constantly travel, meet many different people from all walks of life, and immerse myself in the subject matter, which educates me and opens the way I look at the world. Sometimes the projects are set in different time periods and I get the chance to live in that time between action and cut. It also just feels right; many pieces have to come together. When you witness the best take you see all of your planning come together to make a great shot or sequence, its incredible exciting. We work in a 3-dimensional space for a 2-dimensional presentation that has constant movement. It’s absolutely fascinating. It’s the best job in the world.

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CJ: What should a young adult who wants to be a cinematographer do now to set him or herself up for success?

AC: This is said pretty often but it’s true…shoot, shoot, shoot. Pick up a camera and go for it. The beauty of film school is that it gives you the freedom to fail. You have the equipment, the faculty and the crew ready to make anything and everything. Unfortunately, at the time the projects are naturally seen as the most important thing in the world. It’s hard to understand at the time, but the stakes are actually very low and this should be taken advantage of.

With that said don’t ignore the technical knowledge that’s needed. It’s great that anyone can get their hands on a camera, see the results immediately, make a decision, and be able to hit the record button for very cheap. But it’s so easy that it has put the technical know-how at risk. It has simply made people lazy. This element is essential since it is directly connected to the creative decisions that you make. You simply cannot pull off certain techniques without understanding how and why and what tools you need to do so. Not to mention the time and cost it takes. It’s one thing to be able to shoot, but to be able to manage a crew, understand a budget and run a set…that’s really what a Director of Photography (DP) is, it’s not only about having a good eye. You’re the head of a very important department that interacts with everyone at all times. You can’t be an introvert behind your small camera. If you want to be a real DP, you need to learn how to delegate and manage. Film school allows for this experience early on.

I’d also recommend purchasing a photo camera. Learn how everything affects one other. First learn the different aspects of the camera. Shoot in manual and experiment with different ISO’s, apertures, shutter angles, color temperature, and focal lengths. You can learn all of them specifically with something you can carry in your bag. With digital, you can see the results right away. Once you start to truly understand these aspects you can try different combinations and understand how they affect one another.

Editing in Lightroom or Photoshop is also very important since color correction is a huge part of my job that I take very seriously. Actual movement and frame-rate can’t really be understood as well when practicing this, but the other aspects can be constantly educational throughout your day. You can learn A LOT from photography, certainly the basics. You need a good foundation to become good at anything.

It’s just as important to educate yourself as much as possible. Actually shooting is the best form of education but you also need to read about it. Get a subscription to the American Society of Cinematographers magazine and the International Cinematographers Guild magazine and read it front to back. Google everything you don’t understand. At first it will be very daunting, but in time you will start to understand more and more. There are many blogs and websites that discuss all sorts of aspects of cinematography and you can learn a lot from them.

I’d also tell them to consider film-school. I have issues with the current model – it’s very behind and needs a major revamp. The film industry has changed drastically and they haven’t caught up. However, I still advocate going and making the most of it. Trust me, the school will fail you in certain ways but you can get A LOT out of it and that is only up to you. I’ve met some of my best collaborators through film school and that was worth the cost alone. It really is an industry that depends on who you know. That’s not just a saying.

Oh and shoot film at least a few times. Trust me.

CJ: What are the three top skills you need as a cinematographer?

AC: This is the hardest question for me to answer since I think it requires many skills. Some will probably disagree with me, but I think these are the top three: Lighting, Camera placement/Focal Length, and Management skills.

Lighting: To understand the use of constant light is absolutely essential for a good cinematographer. Personally, it’s what defines the difference between the good and the great. Lighting sets the mood, time, genre, and emotion among many other things. Of course the camera can convey these things as well, but I believe that lighting is the most powerful aspect of conveying the visual image that you set and the director set out to make. I could go on for many pages, I should just stop here…

Camera Placement / Focal Length: This involves the director much more but you usually place the camera exactly where you think it should be. The director often has a very clear idea of what they want to see and when they want to see it, but it’s up to us to execute it correctly. A lot of my skill and talent is in executing these ideas well. The right camera placement comes down to millimeters; I’m very specific and exact about this placement. I often start with the farthest background, usually a wall or vista that I simply can’t change. This is because I can usually move everything else to make it work in the composition that I’m striving for. Focal length plays a huge part in this and I will often discuss this with the director. Some are very specific while others simply don’t know, luckily apps like ‘Artemis’ allow me to show them a rough idea very quickly. Depending on the format that you’re shooting (S35, Full-frame, 16mm, etc.) and your focal length combination can lead to many, many different choices. Every shot is different and discovering them is always a blast. I haven’t even mentioned moving shots and editing which greatly affect the above choices. But again, I’ll stop right here.

Management skills: This is overlooked a lot of the time in articles and write ups on Cinematography. It is one of the most important aspects of the job. You’re running a big crew and constantly interacting with the other departments. You also need to play politician before, during, and after the shoot with the production team. You need confidence and you need to be able to delegate. Surrounding yourself with a good crew can make this part of the job much easier. Plus, if they’re great they can make you look really good!

CJ: What films or which directors have inspired your filming style and work?

AC: When I was roughly six years old my Dad showed me all sorts of movies I probably shouldn’t have seen: Aliens, Terminator 1 & 2, Predator, etc. It completely blew me away, but I was hooked. At that time I only thought of movies as very basic genres. Of course I couldn’t articulate this at the time but it was simple: Disney movies, action movies, scary movies, funny movies, etc. On our large, rear projection TV in the basement he eventually showed me one of his favorites (on laser disc!), Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. I was probably 8 years old? I had no clue what I had just seen but I fell deeply in love with it. This was unlike any movie I had ever seen. I couldn’t categorize it; the intrigue was through the roof. The film is shot by Vittorio Storaro (one of the masters of color) and he’s one of my personal favorites. I personally didn’t truly understand cinematography until the year I graduated college but the moment I saw it and all throughout the years in between the film stuck with me for some reason. I love it for many reasons, but I know for a fact that it had a lot to do with the cinematography. Coppola and Storaro’s collaboration is one of the reasons I do what I do and it had an effect on me from an early age.

Stanley Kubrick, Paul Thomas Anderson, David Fincher, The Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino are probably my favorites. I’m aware that this is a very modern, American list. My film knowledge is pretty good, but it certainly pales to some people that I know. But from the films that I’ve personally seen those people have really shaped my education, love, and approach to filmmaking. I think of them very often while making decisions and I constantly study their work.

Kubrick is my first love, and I love Paul Thomas Anderson for his incredible story-telling and use of the anamorphic format (don’t get me started, I’m nuts for it!), Fincher for his absolutely perfect execution, The Coen Brothers for being so unique every single time, and Tarantino for having the most fun. I don’t think anyone enjoys his or her job more than that guy and it comes through. I love that and I want my work to feel the same way.

Recently my girlfriend and I watched Billy Wilder’s The Apartment on Netflix. It was shot Panavision, anamorphic in 1960 by Joseph LaShelle. The compositions and camera movement were simply perfect. The use of the anamorphic format was lovely. Rarely do we see modern filmmakers hold wide shots for that long, it’s a shame. After the film ended, Netflix suggested we watch Billy Wilder’s Sabrina, another favorite of ours. Of course we couldn’t say no. Shot by the brilliant Charles Lang in 1954 and in academy 35 (a more square frame), this film was done perfectly as well. Both films we’re directed by Billy Wilder roughly six years apart, both using two completely different formats. Both were shot in lovely black and white but by two different DP’s. What we witnessed was a master at work. Wilder completely mastered both formats and used their strengths wonderfully. The locations, the sets, the blocking, everything was completely different but worked so well. Watching them back-to-back was very educational and inspiring. I highly recommend it.

Last but not least I need to mention Star Wars. Specifically The Empire Strikes Back. There’s not much to say here other than “Thanks George.”

CJ: What is your favorite book?

AC: The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

AC: Take more risks, loosen up, and experiment more. At the time I took each project very seriously, I always have and always will, and I don’t regret that. But in school I could have experimented more with different film stocks, techniques, and especially different lighting techniques and approaches. I could have done shoots on my own more often and simply played around more. By now I feel that I have discovered most of what I would have. But I simply would have learned it earlier thus effecting projects from years ago that could have been more well shot.

My brother is very involved in the world of racing and there’s a saying called “seat time.” It amounts to how much time you’ve sat in a racecar and actually performed in a race. Seat time is very important with any skill. I always want more and I only get better each and every time. I’m very hard on my work and I’m very rarely satisfied. It can always be better, always. The more seat time, the better.

Alexander C Qs

Images: Carpe Juvenis

Uncategorized

“Ordinary riches can be stolen from a man. Real riches cannot. In the treasury house of your soul, there are infinitely precious things that may not be taken from you.”

-Oscar Wilde

My mother recently found the above quote, written by my grandmother, on the back of a greeting card while she was going through old family photos. I don’t know when she wrote it, or why, but I think it captures her spirit. These words really hit me and have made me reflect on the lessons I learned from my grandmother, a formidable woman in her own right. She was strong, funny, kind, flawed, and I think she was amazing. I also credit her with, basically, giving me no choice but to become a true, unapologetic feminist and embedding in me a sense of confidence that my voice matters.

Many people have asked me when I realized that I was a feminist. The answer is, I never had that “moment.” I came to it honestly. I’m homegrown. I didn’t have a choice, and I’m glad I didn’t. Hillary Clinton (our next president?) said that women’s rights are human rights. It’s a no-brainer and it’s something I never had to learn. I guess I just looked around and knew. Thank you, Nana.

To really understand this story, we have to take a trip back about 85 years. We arrive in Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania and the year is 1930. That’s the year my grandmother, Anne Gaffney, was born to a very blue-collar family. Her dad worked for the railroads and money was tight. When Nana was about 13, the house burned down, and she lost her youngest brother, the baby, Larry. She was thirteen years old.

Not long after, the family moved to Albany, New York. Nana graduated from Albany High School. As the eldest girl, the responsibility often fell to her to help take care of her siblings. For many years she was the primary caregiver to my great Uncle Ed, who is developmentally disabled.

By the time she met my grandfather, Jack Gaffney, Nana was a single mother with three children. They got married and had six more of their own: Dan, George, Patty, Jackie (my mom), Kate, and Meg. Nana attended Schenectady Community College and Russell Sage, but was never able to graduate. She didn’t let this stop her. She was PTA president and worked for the state legislator for many years. She was also an active member of the Albany Democratic Women’s Club.

hannahgrandma

In the late 1970s, Anne Gaffney was elected to the Albany County Legislature. In my grandparent’s house in Guilderland, I walked by a campaign poster that proclaimed her “Anne Gaffney: A Woman of her Word in the 33rd,” almost every day. In her position, she was a tireless advocate for the disadvantaged. One of the biggest battles that she fought, the cost of which was her political career, was to protect the Pine Bush Nature Preserve and stop the construction of Crossgates Mall. Suspiciously, before her reelection she was redistricted and forced to run in Colonie against a long-time incumbent. The Democratic Party refused to nominate her, so she ran as an independent. She also had a stroke during this period and published a letter in the local paper to her constituency from her hospital bed. She lost the election.

Life went on for the Gaffney family, but something shifted fundamentally after this experience. I ultimately think that it is a testament to her absolute unwillingness to bend, to sacrifice her beliefs, even in the face of insurmountable obstacles. I try to carry a little bit of that unwavering commitment to my beliefs with me.

I recently graduated from college and am hoping to begin a career in public policy. I often try to evoke my grandmother when I make decisions and even when I read the news. I wonder about her reactions; I imagine what her advice would be. She taught me that a woman, a mother, a wife, could also be a career woman, a politician, a leader. We should all look to these role models; whether they are family, someone who inspires us academically, or even someone we have only seen on TV. In 2015, being a woman, or being a young person in general, during uncertain times, is hard and scary. Let’s all look to those who helped us understand the importance of our own voice for motivation to reach our goals, and, if possible, advice to help us get there. Mr. Wilde would say that this is something that can never be taken from us.

Images: Courtesy of Hannah Cohen

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

It’s not every day that we have the opportunity to interview someone who’s life ambitions are matched so closely to our own. Jessica N. Grounds, the co-founder of Running Start and also Director of Women for Ready for Hillary, is a champion for youth and specifically for women. While her professional career takes place in the field of politics, her mission and core purpose for the work she does is to empower young adults across the United States to engage with their communities, have their voices be heard, and make a real impact and change.

Jessica was gracious enough to answer some of our burning questions about what it’s like to be an advisor and leader in such a competitive world, and how she handles it all with grace and perseverance. We are thrilled to introduce to you Jessica N. Grounds.

Name: Jessica N. Grounds
Education: B.A. in Political Science from Pepperdine University; Graduate Certificate in WomenPolicy & Political Leadership from American University; Executive Masters in Leadership from Georgetown University – The McDonough School of Business
Follow: Ready For Hillary | Running Start Online | WUFPAC | @Jessica_Grounds

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth?”

Jessica Grounds: Seizing your youth means taking risks and not letting what you think you “should do” get in your way. It’s so important to experience life and not hold back. I think it means to not let expectations get in the way of you stepping out and doing things. And especially for women, it’s very important for us to challenge ourselves and step out of their comfort zones.

CJ: What sparked your passion for politics and women’s issues?

JG: When I was in college, one of my classes required me to work on a political campaign.  I decided to work for the re-election campaign of a local California Assemblywoman, Fran Pavley. Through that experience, I got to see what it was like to work on a campaign and how much responsibility you can have as a young person.  But more importantly, I saw politics as a very public way to show people that women make decisive and strong public leaders. Later in my career I learned there are too few women in these important decision-making roles.

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CJ: You work with students who are not yet at the eligible age to vote. What makes young people so important and why has their empowerment become a primary focus in your career and life?

JG: My particular focus is to inspire young women to run for political office. What we find is that women don’t approach politics the same way men do. Girls don’t see politics as an avenue to pursue a career. We know that we need to talk to girls before they reach voting age to get them to consider political leadership.  It is planting the seed early that is really instrumental in changing people’s perceptions, particularly for girls in leadership roles.

CJ: You’ve advised hundreds of female candidates throughout the country in their political ventures – what advice would you give to a young person hoping to set themselves up for success in the world of politics or non-profit?

JG: Build your network. Develop a robust network of people you know in different industries and communities. They will be vital to a potential political run because they will vote for you, volunteer, and donate. They’re also your ears and eyes to the people of the district. Build your people network and make sure it’s diverse in all facets of the word.

Think about where you want to be a political leader. Where do you want to build your network? Be strategic. Where you represent should fit who you are. For example, if you’re a conservative in San Francisco, you may not do so well.

Talk to people who have run for office before and get their advice about what they did to be successful. Also talk to those who have ran for your position to see what they did to win.

Lastly, don’t take no for an answer. Always ask, never assume.

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CJ: What has been one of the most unexpectedly interesting parts of your career to date?

JG: So, I’m now marrying a Republican who also works in politics. I’ve built this bipartisan network in both my professional and personal life, which has helped me with street cred and helps refine what I stand for as a Democrat. I feel like it also helped me hone how I talk about the issues I care about.

CJ: Every day in your life must be different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

JG: I never plan anything after work on Monday’s. I am big on work-life balance. By creating these boundaries, it has helped me to better balance my work because I make sure to take care of myself. I always go to the gym on Monday nights. During the day, I don’t schedule a lot of meetings, if I can help it.  Monday’s help me set the tone for the week and help me ease into things with control. I’m also on the phone a lot – building support for Hillary!

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CJ: You recently joined the ONE Campaign for a political delegation to Rwanda. What has that experience been like?

JG: That was a life-changing trip! Going to Rwanda was the most powerful experiences I’ve had to date. I was exposed to a lot of work that ONE champions to fund the combat against HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis in sub-Saharan Africa. I also learned more about the economic empowerment space and how NGOs and government organizations are working together. I was particularly excited about the potential for women’s political and economic empowerment. I actually met with the Kate Spade team and they are producing product in Rwanda. Not only is it an effective business strategy to train women in the country, they are doing it in a way that was economically viable for the company.  The line produced in Rwanda is called: “On Purpose.”

CJ: Leadership skills training for organizations and academic institutions is an area you thrive in – what are some ways young people can become better leaders?

JG: I always recommend learning how to talk about an issue you care about. Most people aren’t born with the ability to speak effectively, so learning how to be clear and concise in communication is really a powerful tool. Practice talking about what you care about, debates are effective. Also, work on your writing skills, that’s another tool you can use to talk about issues you care about. Push yourself to do public speaking exercises. Run for student government or sit on a board for an organization or volunteer for a local non-profit where you can be an advocate and speak about these issues.

Identifying mentors in your life will also help steer you in your career. Not everyone wants to lead and those that do sometimes feel lonely in their quest but finding mentors can encourage and nurture you to stay on the right track for inspiration. “Leadership is a lonely enterprise.”

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CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?

JG: I’m working on “being in the moment” more. I think as a professional type-A person, it’s very easy to think about what you did or didn’t do in the past, and what’s happening in the future.  It’s difficult to be in the “here and now” and enjoy it for what it is. One thing that helps me do that is yoga (which I also need to work on doing more) because it helps you to think about your breadth and what you need to do in the moment. It’s a great thing to practice and cultivate.

CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?

JG: If I feel like being healthy and unwind, I will go to the gym and work out hard and then hit the steam room because it makes me sweat. If I don’t feel like working out, I drink a very nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon or Super Tuscan.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

JG: Old school favorite: Catcher in the Rye; New school favorite: Lean In.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

JG: I would tell myself to chill out and that things work out the way they’re supposed to.  Don’t be so worried about making the right steps all the time. I do feel lucky, though, because I found my passion very early in life and this helped me make decisions when there was a fork in the road.  Over the years I have really learned to listen to myself.

Jessica Grounds Qs

Image: Jessica Grounds

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

It’s perfectly fitting that Maurissa Walls, a senior at The George Washington University, is also the Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Smart Girls Group (SGG). She’s definitely one of the smartest people we’ve met and undoubtedly has an extremely bright future ahead of her. We found out about this inspiring woman by word of mouth – her name kept popping up in conversation around campus and it was no secret that she was a leader at GWU, making her mark one student at a time through freshman orientations and volunteerism.

As both a student and aspiring market strategist, Maurissa has never shied away from a challenge. For over two years she has strategized all of the marketing and advertising campaigns for SGG, manages a full team of Smart Girls, and even contributes to the digital magazine – The Smart Girl’s Guide. We are elated to introduce to you Maurissa Walls!

Name: Maurissa Walls
Age: 22
Education: George Washington University, Bachelor of Business Administration concentration in Marketing
Follow Personal: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Maurissa Walls: Finding the balance between preparing yourself for adulthood and all of the responsibilities and pressures that come with it and being completely spontaneous enough to try as many things out of your comfort zone as you can. I think seizing your youth in this way allows you to make a life out of prioritizing having new, fun, adventurous experiences without compromising being a responsible adult because you’ve already made a habit out of finding the balance between the two.

CJ: What made you decide to attend college in Washington, DC, and how has the experience influenced you as an individual?

MW: I honestly ended up in DC because I was too scared at the time of moving to and living New York. I thought it would be a bit too overwhelming and hard for me to adjust. There’s nothing wrong with pacing yourself, if you know what would be best for you, and I truly believe DC is what was best for me at the time. I really wanted to be in an exciting city , and going to college in DC has impacted who I am today tremendously. Going to GW and living in DC has taught me not only to have an appreciation for culture and people but to also celebrate them. Being here has been an incredibly freeing experience. As I’ve developed and changed here I’ve allowed myself to celebrate my own complexities. I’ve learned from other people here that they can be a professional, and artists, and a mentor, and an activist, and so many things at once. I’ve learned not to limit other people or myself to just one box.

CJ: You are currently the Director of Marketing & Public Relations at Smart Girls Group. What does your role entail?

MW: My role at Smart Girls Group includes overseeing the strategic marketing and public relations vision of the company. I work with a really talented group of social media managers, PR managers, graphic designers, and writers to help drive our branding online and promote all of Smart Girls’ amazing offerings, services, and products.

CJ: What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work with SGG so far?

MW: Working with my team and our wonderful staff has been my favorite part of Smart Girls Group. I love seeing people grow in their positions. Going back to see work of girls on my team from a year or two years ago looks completely different from what they are able to do now. It’s so rewarding to watch people on my team develop their skills, talents, and professionalism and gain confidence in their own capabilities.

Maurissa 3 crop HZCJ: What has been the most unexpectedly exciting part of being involved with a young and growing company?

MW: I didn’t think it would be possible to grow such strong bonds with people online through emails and video conferencing. Those of us on staff are at several different colleges around the US and had never meet in the same room before. When we met for the first time all together at our first conference last summer, it was hard for us to convince people we were physically meeting for the first time. We get along and work so well together. We’ve created such strong bonds and I didn’t expect that to happen. Seeing this come to life at our conference for so many other girls that work together was so rewarding. It definitely proved to me that big results and big impact can come out of small packages.

CJ: How do you deal with difficult days and move forward?

MW: Remembering that I’ll still be alive in the end. There’s nothing more humbling and no easier way to calm yourself down than using a birds-eye view on a tough situation situation. My tough situations don’t even seem valid, considering what is going on in the world. Nowadays I’m usually laughing at my problems. There are some tough times that are harder to laugh through and I will just let myself feel what I am feeling for a moment. Crying, yelling, or whatever I need to do to get it out. But ultimately I realize I can either let myself just exist being upset or I can take action by doing the best that I can. The next day is probably coming, difficult or not, whether I like it or not, so I can at least try to make the best adjustments that I can to make it better.

CJ: What two main pieces of advice would you give to an incoming freshman college student?

MW: I told all of my new students the same advice all summer: use your resources and just take as much stuff as you can. You don’t realize how many “free” things that you are paying for in college until you start budgeting for life after. Then you realize how much free stuff and helpful resources that you left behind. There are so many departments at offices and schools that are begging for students to use their services and as a freshman I thought that I needed to work my way up in order to take advantage. Obviously that’s not true, you can jump in and start taking advantage. That’s not limit to school resources. I encourage freshman to apply for that internships they don’t think they can have or visit that place that they don’t think they can go to. The world is very forgiving of college students – especially freshman.

CJ: You are an aspiring marketing strategist. What originally drew you to this career choice and why?

MW: I’ve wanted to be in marketing since the 6th grade. I liked a writing project that we did where we had to design an ad and create the copy for a cereal commercial. I learned through that project that I like to influence people and I’ve kept with it because I realize there are multiple ways to do it. I’ll be going into buying in the retail industry, and that still feels like marketing to me, because I am in a position to influence and shape people’s experiences when they walk into a store. I like that marketing challenges you find new ways to influence because people are changing all the time.

CJ: What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

MW: My dad always told me growing up to stay connected with people. It’s becoming harder to do as you get older and busier, but I think it is extremely important. When people that I meet abroad, at school, or in programs have a real impact on me I try to stay connected to them. I think it helps to keep you aware of what you learned and how you’ve grown by be surrounded by the people that have helped to get you to that place.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

MW: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

Maurissa Group HZCJ: How do you stay organized and juggle all of your responsibilities? Are there specific tools you use?

MW: I’m not a master yet, but I have system that seems to works for me. I use a combination of iCal, a plan book, and a clipboard of to-do lists. I’ve found that it helps me to have multiple touch points. If I have something on my iCal for the day with a notification before, see it in my planner, and have it on my to do list it usually will get done.

Color-coding is also really important and I make sure that I use the same color codes across my three planners. I like being able to look at my schedule at the beginning of the week and visually see that there are a lot of orange student org activities and know that it will be a fun week or to see a lot of blue academic slots to know that I have to crack down early in the week.

CJ: You will be graduating from the George Washington University in 2015. What are your next steps?

MW: I’ll be working in the Merchant (buying/planning) executive program at Macy’s HQ in New York. I am really excited about my job, I think it is well suited for my skills and it will challenge me in new ways. I think it will be a more creative and challenging way for me to use marketing to influence people.

CJ: What advice would you give to your 15-year-old self?

MW: I would tell myself that I am exactly who I am supposed to be. I’ve mostly had the same personality, spirit, and energy my entire life and I’ve always known that. I would tell myself to keep listening to myself. I’d promise myself that I would be really grateful for being exactly who I am later down the road and that it is for a good purpose.

Maurissa Walls Qs

Photos courtesy of Hannah Ziegler, Emily Raleigh, and Veronica Graves

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We have followed Linda Kim’s Instagram for quite some time now, and it’s always fun to see her gorgeous photos pop up in our feed. Linda is a food blogger at Delish Thoughts (so many great recipes!) and an E! News Segment Producer living in Los Angeles. She takes stunning photographs (read on for her tips for great photos) and has a keen eye for food styling. It’s clear how creative and talented Linda is through her photography, recipes, and career in entertainment.

Whether you’re into food, blogging, photography, media, entertainment, or pop culture, Linda Kim has all bases covered. Linda gave Carpe Juvenis an exclusive look into what ‘Seizing Your Youth’ means to her, how young people can get involved with a career in media, and how she manages her hectic days.

Name: Linda Kim
Education: B.A. in Drama and Sociology from University of California, Irvine
Follow: Delish Thoughts / Instagram / @lindak68

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?  

Linda Kim: Seizing your youth means exploring opportunities and welcoming new adventures. It is important to live each day to the fullest and work hard to pursue your dreams.

CJ: You majored in Drama and Sociology at the University of California, Irvine. How did you determine what to study?

LK: To be honest, I wanted to study communications but it was not offered as a major. I thought drama and sociology would be a good combination to learn about society and be creative.

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CJ: You run the food blog Delish Thoughts. What sparked your passion for food and cooking? 

LK: I loved watching my mom in the kitchen as a young girl. I was so fascinated how easily she prepared the most delicious dishes and I wanted to learn how to cook like her. I love hosting and cooking for other people. I think food brings people together and we can share great meals and fun conversations.

CJ: What is the best piece of advice you would give a baking/cooking enthusiast? 

LK: I have learned a lot by watching cooking shows. It helps to see how things are done rather than just reading instructions.

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CJ: Great idea. You take gorgeous photos on Delish Thoughts and your Instagram. What are your top photography tips? 

LK: It is all about natural lighting for me. Make sure you have great lighting and try taking photos at different angles to see what looks best.

CJ: What is your favorite meal or dessert you’ve ever made?

LK: My eggplant parmesan and blueberry crumble are favorites among my friends so I will make anything my friends enjoy.

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CJ: You are also an E! News Segment Producer. What drew you to media and what does your job entail? 

LK: I always had a love for entertainment and knew that is what I wanted to pursue. I love that there is a variety in media and you can work in different fields. As a segment producer, I cover TV and music stories, set up shoots and interviews with celebrities, and work on red carpets and events.

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CJ: What advice would you give to a young person hoping to set themselves up for success in the world of media? 

LK: It is important to be a go-getter and be one step ahead. I always asked for more work and anticipated needs instead of sitting around and waiting for someone to give me work.  

CJ: What has been one of the most unexpectedly interesting parts of your career to date? 

LK: The most interesting part is the people I get to meet. I love meeting new people and have had the opportunity to meet friendly celebrities and become friends with my co-workers and colleagues.

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CJ: Every day in your life must be different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you? 

LK: It really depends on what is going on that day– if there is any breaking news, if I have to get in a lot of content that day, if I have a guest coming in studio, if I have to go off site for shoots. It could be a quiet Monday or a hectic Monday but I love that everyday can be different.

CJ: That’s awesome. When you do have those hectic days, what are your time management tips? How do you stay organized and efficient? 

LK: I have learned to multitask pretty well so I can do a few different things at once to utilize my time. I make sure to write a list of things to do on my planner and keep track of projects in a calendar.

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CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how? 

LK: You may encounter unfriendly people in the industry but I tell myself not to take it personally and still keep a smile on my face.

CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset? 

LK: Having a meal with friends always cheers me up or I like to have a quiet night, lay on the couch and watch my favorite shows.

CJ: If you could have lunch with anyone – dead or alive – who would it be and what would you eat? 

LK: My grandfather. We would have the best chats when I was a little girl and I wish I could have that moment now with him. I would eat steak because that was his favorite.

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CJ: That sounds really nice. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self? 

LK: To be bold and adventurous and not have any regrets. One of my biggest regrets was not taking the opportunity to study abroad in Italy.

Linda Kim Qs

Image: Linda Kim

CultureLearn

Today is National Pi Day, and we want to celebrate by highlighting some of history’s most amazing mathematicians (in addition to eating a big slice of pie!).

Some cool facts about Pi:

  • It has been represented using the Greek letter “π” for the past 250 years.
  • It is a mathematical constant that’s special, unique, and significant in its own way.
  • It is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.
  • It never ends or settles into a repeating pattern.
  • It is the most recognized mathematical constant.
  • Computing the value of Pi is a stress test for computers.

Five of history’s most interesting mathematicians:

DN-SC-84-05971Grace Hopper (aka “Amazing Grace”) was an American computer scientist and United States Navy rear admiral. As a child Hopper would dismantle household gadgets, specifically alarm clocks, to figure out how they worked. During WWII Hopper decided to take a leave of absence from Vassar where she was working as an associate professor of math and was sown into the U.S. Navy Reserve as a volunteer. A pioneer in her field, she worked at Harvard University for the navy and was one of the first programmers to work on a computer called Harvard Mark I that was used in the war effort. On top of it all, she invented the first compiler for a computer programming language.

 

williamplayfairWilliam Playfair was the founder of graphical methods of statistics, in other words charts and diagrams. He was a Sottish engineer and political economist who invented four types of diagrams: the line graph, the car chart, the pie chart, and the circle graph. Born during the Enlightenment – a Golden Age when the arts, sciences, industry, and commerce were all thriving – Playfair was involved in many different careers. He was an engineer, accountant, inventor, silversmith, merchant, investment broker, economist, publicist, land speculator, editor, journalist, the list goes on.

adalovelace

Ada Lovelace is considered to be the world’s first computer programmer. She earned this title after working on one of the earliest mechanical general-purpose computers called the Analytical Engine. The notes she took on this project are recognized as the first algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine. This has earned her the title of “first computer programmer.” As a young child Lovelace showed signs of being highly influence by math and science, and her parents pushed her to pursue this talent.

 

 

 

isaacnewton

Isaac Newton is best known for having developed the theory of gravity and physics, but he also invented calculus (as did Gottfried Leibniz, who he had many disputes with over this topic during his life). This Englishman formulated laws of motion and universal gravitation using mathematical processes. Born on Christmas Day, Newton was known to be an independent person who never married. His work in science and math are some of the core foundations on which many other developments were made.

 

 

 

sofiamath

Sofia Kovalevskaya was the first major Russian female mathematician. She contributed major original advances to analysis, differential equations, and mechanics. She was the first woman to ever be appointed to full professorship in Northern Europe and was one of the first women to work for a scientific journal as an editor. Born in Moscow, Kovalevskaya studied in Germany by auditing courses at a German university. For a long time she tried to build up her career but because she was a woman she was unable to. Finally she was accepted as a professor in Stockholm, Sweden.

 

 

Which leaders in math and science inspire you?

Image: Flickr, Grace Hopper, William Playfair, Ada LovelaceIsaac Newton, Sofia Kovalevskaya