Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Mike Curato, author of the popular children’s book series, Little Elliot, is incredibly talented and creative. Mike was generous enough to let us into his workspace to see where the magic happens of making a children’s book and adored character come to life. His shelves are lined with children’s books that serve as inspiration, artwork illustrated by many of his talented friends, and plush Little Elliots. 

Having studied Illustration at Syracuse University, Mike’s passion has taken him all around the country. He worked as a graphic designer in Seattle while simultaneously doing small freelance gigs. Now Mike’s time is dedicated to creating the world of Little Elliot, as well as other creative endeavors. Mike is no stranger to hard work and dedication, acknowledging the fact that sometimes we have to take jobs we don’t want or eat Ramen noodles for months. We are so inspired by Mike’s hustle and for never giving up.

Read on to learn more about the steps Mike took to achieve his lifelong goal of becoming a published author and illustrator of children’s books, where his love of storytelling comes from, and the fantastic list of resources he recommends both personally and professionally. Don’t forget to pick up your copy of the second book in the Little Elliot series, Little Elliot, Big Family.

Name: Mike Curato
Education: BFA in Illustration from Syracuse University
Follow: www.mikecurato.com / @MikeCurato

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

Mike Curato: I’m presently in my mid-thirties, which sounds ancient to a 20-year-old (at least I thought it did at that age). I still consider myself “young,” now that I have a broader perspective, and while I’m not “really old,” I’ve been around long enough to experience a chunk of life. Looking back, I’m amazed at how much work it took to get to where I am, not just professionally, but mentally and spiritually. I think “seizing your youth” means not to waste any time living your life. You’ve got stuff you wanna do, right? Find out what you need to learn in order to make whatever that is possible. Live for quality moments. Find genuine people to hang out with. Don’t be content with the status quo. What can you do right now to make a difference in your life and others? Find out who you are and own it. I used to hear “old people” saying, “it will all go by so fast,” while I was growing up, to which I would roll my eyes and grunt, “uhuh.” Now that I am one of those “old people,” I am telling you, IT’S TRUE!

CJ: You received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration from Syracuse University. Where does your love of illustration come from and why did you choose to study them in a formal setting?

MC: I’ve always wanted to be an artist. Many of my childhood memories involve drawing. It made me feel special as a child, and still does. I went to art school because I was ready for challenges. I knew I had the potential to grow as an artist. I also wanted to be around other artists, both teachers and students, people who I hoped would understand me.

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CJ: Where does your love of storytelling come from? What stories have greatly influenced you?

MC: I am the oldest of three, and there’s a considerable age gap. For seven years, I was an only child, and I really had to maintain an active imagination to entertain myself alone at home, making up stories and acting them out. Then, when my sister and brother came along, I liked telling them stories.

Probably the stories that influenced me the most as a child were from a compilation of Golden Books – Tibor Gergely’s Great Big Book of Bedtime Stories. My mother says that when I was little, I made her read me The Little Red Caboose ad nauseam.

CJ: You spent time in Seattle working as a graphic designer. What did you do as a graphic designer and what did you learn from that experience?

MC: I started working in graphic design because it is so hard trying to be an illustrator right out of college. It was a way to pay the bills and still be creative. I started out at the very bottom as an unpaid intern, as I had no design experience even from school. Then, I started doing small freelance gigs for little or nothing while I worked as an office admin at a creative staffing agency. I really got to know the industry working behind the scenes, and eventually, I became one of their hired hands. I contracted at companies like Cranium and Microsoft for several years. Eventually, I became a full-time designer for Geocaching.com, where I eventually became the design manager. From there, I went back to freelance, working for companies like Amazon and Capital Group.

I learned so much being a designer that has influenced the way I make books. I have a strong sense of typography and layout now, which has strengthened my compositional skills. Meanwhile, working in corporate America taught me a lot about how businesses work and how to interact with a team to create a product.

CJ: You were the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Queer Getting Married, a wedding stationery company that provided invitations, save the dates, and more. What were your biggest takeaways from this experience?

MC: The funny thing about our little start-up is that my business partner and I opened QGM as a means to make a living working for ourselves while we tried to get published. However, I got my book deal before we even launched! We just closed our cyber doors several months ago, as both of our lives have changed dramatically since opening. My biggest takeaways are:

  1. If you’re going to start a business, it really has to be your one and only focus.
  2. Advertising and marketing are key. We had a great product, and no advertising money. It can be a hard pill to swallow, but without investors, it’s really hard to compete with the big dogs.
  3. It’s hard to predict what the consumers will want when you’re trying something that hasn’t been done before. We were trying to cater to a niche market, and it turns out that most just wanted the same old invites as everyone else. You can do all the market research you want, but sometimes, you just won’t know how sales will be until it’s out there.

Mike Curato Cover

CJ: Your lifelong goal of becoming a published author and illustrator of children’s books was achieved when Henry Holt Books for Young Readers (Macmillan) offered you a 3-book deal featuring the adorable Little Elliot. How incredible! What steps did you take in order to achieve this lifelong goal?

MC: Well, the biggest and hardest step was creating work for myself that I loved. It’s difficult to come home from a full-time job and commit to doing even more work. But, we have this one life, and so you just have to push through it. I booked a show at a local cafe to give myself a deadline, and then set about creating images for an exhibit, which ultimately became my new portfolio. The show was a success. A month later, I attended a conference by the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators. Attendees can submit their work into a portfolio showcase there, which is seen by many art directors and editors in the children’s publishing industry. I ended up winning first place, which got me a lot of attention. Elliot appeared multiple times in my portfolio, and everyone wanted to know what his story was. The next day I had emails and voicemails from editors, art directors, and agents. From there, everything eventually fell into place!

CJ: When writing and illustrating books for kids, what things do you take into consideration? How do you approach word usage, language, and visuals?

MC: Well, making a picture book is much like a dance. I usually start with some rough sketches, then write some words, and I go back and forth for months until a story emerges. Though I think picture books are for everyone, they have to be inclusive of early readers, so much of the story is conveyed via the illustrations. The words are there to support wherever the images need help conveying the plot, which is why my texts are usually very sparse. A lot of redundancies are edited out.

Mike Curato Cover 2

CJ: What is your book writing and illustration process? Do you have a routine or a strict schedule?

MC: I do not have a strict schedule per se. Every book is different. Some days I work a lot, some days the magic is just not coming. Meanwhile, deadlines are great motivational tools for me. I try to break a project down into milestones to keep me on track (and also to feel some form of accomplishment on the long road to the finished product).

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

MC: Ha! The days of the week are quite abstract to me. I work when I need to work, and I take off when I need to take off. I actually enjoy working weekends and taking off on a weekday. I guess “Monday” is the day I need to get back to work, which can be challenging. I need to trick myself into getting to work. I set little goals to coax myself back into the groove.

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CJ: What should a young adult who wants to be a children’s book author and/or illustrator do now to set him or herself up for success?

MC: Well, most importantly, an aspiring writer/illustrator needs to read as many children’s books as possible. You need to know what’s out there. What are the classics? What is current? What speaks to you?

Then, you have to do your industry homework. One needs to remember, though making books is usually born out of a passion, it is still a business. You wouldn’t show up for an interview at Apple and not know what an iPod is. Look up your regional Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators chapter and try to get to some meetings or a conference. Find out how a book is constructed. Keep tabs on what publishing house the books you like are with, then try to find out who edited them. If you’re an illustrator, start sending out promotional materials to art directors. If you’re a writer, find a writing critique group. If you’re an artist, try to get feedback from an art director (I actually was able to get a lot of feedback as a student from real art directors because I wasn’t looking for work, so take advantage of that generosity while you can).

I would also stress the importance of having an agent in today’s publishing world. It is very hard to get published without an agent, as many houses do not want unsolicited manuscripts. If you don’t know how much you’re worth and how to demand that worth, you need an advocate who will fight for the best deal. Most literary agents take 10-15% commission, but will most likely be able to get you more money than you would on your own. Finding an agent also requires researching an agent to make sure they’re legitimate and a good fit. What authors/illustrators do they represent? What books have they gotten deals for? What houses do they have connections with? How long have they been doing this? Also, do you feel comfortable working with this person? If all goes well, you’ll be together for a very long time.

CJ: What are some books, resources, and websites that have influenced you – either personally or professionally (or both)?

MC: The Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators really is the go-to resource for “pre-published” authors, as they like to say.

Get acquainted with the major publications about children’s publishing:

School Library Journal

The Horn Book

Kirkus

Publisher’s Weekly

Booklist

There are some really great “kidlit” podcasts out there, where you can learn about the industry and hear from working authors and illustrators:

Let’s Get Busy

Brain Burps for Books

PW KidsCast

The Yarn

There are tons of blogs dedicated to talking about children’s literature, mostly book reviews and author/illustrator interviews. These are written by librarians, who are perhaps authors & illustrators’ greatest advocates. This list is the tip of the iceberg, but these are some of the best:

Watch. Connect. Read.

Sharpread

7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Librarian in Cute Shoes

Kidlit Frenzy

Read, Write, Reflect

Teach Mentor Texts

Nerdy Book Club

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CJ: When you’re not working on your next book or other design projects, how do you like to spend your time?

MC: Eating, sleeping, karaokeing, and watching movies – not necessarily in that order, preferably with friends.

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

MC: As someone who works at a desk all day, I have been trying to really take care of my body lately. I’ve been going to yoga and pilates several times a week (luckily there’s a studio around the corner from me), and I’m trying to eat healthier. I also work from home, so it’s important to get out of the house at least once a day for a walk.

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

MC: It may sound corny, but “don’t give up!” When you’re fresh out of school, survival is usually at the top of one’s list. Sometimes we have to take jobs we don’t want to do. Sometimes we have to eat Ramen noodles for a few months. But I think it’s important to have a dream to motivate you to better yourself. Working towards the dream makes all the crappy jobs and Ramen noodles worth it in the long run.

Mike Curato Qs

Cover Image by Mike Curato; Images by Carpe Juvenis

Skills

Over the last few years I’ve been fortunate to interview some interesting, outrageous, and successful people. Whether they practiced medicine, started their own company, or acted in Hollywood, I noticed that their advice had common themes. If you’ve ever read success-oriented books or YouTubed commencement speeches, they all have similar principles. You’ve got “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill (1937), Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” (1989), and Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford (2005). These took place at least a decade apart, and still, their messages never centered on a specific industry, but rather universal laws that have stood the test of time. Some are little more cut and dry than others, but generally, they’re the same content in different packaging. This isn’t because they’re unoriginal, it’s because they are different people who internalized the principles differently, and therefore prove they are not exclusive to anyone or any discipline.

Yet, many of us still believe that the advice of wise, intelligent people is not applicable because of our circumstances. They don’t get it. We get caught up in what we can’t do and convince ourselves that while those speeches are inspiring, they “don’t apply to me.” Somehow, accepting the negative things in life is easier than telling yourself you deserve better. You feel like you’re stuck majoring in something you don’t even like, headed for a job you’re going to hate, and yet in our generation, people are making money just by Instagramming. Realistically, you could read all those books, watch all those videos, attend as many leadership programs as you want, and none of them could work. It’s a matter of figuring out what you think is stopping you from being “applicable.” There’s a reason why personal development is a never-ending process, why you can’t “do it all” yourself, and why your life makes your ambition so hard to accomplish: It’s because you’re human.

Just because you’ve figured out your insecurity doesn’t mean that three years later you won’t develop a new one that you’ll have to overcome all over again, bringing a whole new set of issues. The people in your inner circle who support you may not always be there. They might be on their own path that you don’t fit into, which you’ll have to deal with. And your ambition? There won’t always be a spark to keep the fire burning. Some days you’ll be over it and some days you’ll panic at the thought of it being a tragic mistake. But not all hope is lost, I promise. What I’m trying to get at is that being successful takes a lot of flexibility in handling your emotions, decisions, and curiosity. Even people who love their jobs still deal with challenges, because that comes with the territory.

At the end of the day, the only thing that keeps people going is that they believe in the decisions they’ve made. Burning out is much less likely to happen when you don’t feel like you’re forced into the nuances of your day. But if where you are right now is far from what you daydream about, don’t feel like you lost time. You are here on purpose. It’s not by accident that you’re failing class, or are going through something difficult, or have nothing exciting coming up. It’s exactly where you’re supposed to be, and you can always start somewhere. There is a person out there who wishes they were you, while you’re wishing to be someone else.

So the next time you pick up one of those books about success, or read another blog, or watch another catchy motivational video someone shared on Facebook, ask yourself what’s stopping you from taking their advice. Deciding to change one small part of your life at a time is not as inspiring as it sounds, but it probably seemed just as annoying to Steve Jobs when he was starting out, too. So what’s stopping you?

Image: Gratisography

EducationWellness

The “What’s next?” question has been trending lately. I hear it every day from myself, I hear it frequently from my friends who have just graduated from college and are deciding what their next adventure will be, and I hear it occasionally from my curious parents.

There’s a familiar déjà vu to this question, and I recently realized it’s because I remembered hearing it all the time when I was about to graduate from high school (maybe even more so than when I was about to graduate from college). It’s the ultimate “transition question.”

When I was eighteen and still deciding what to do with my life, being asked “what’s next” used to bother me. I was so concentrated on giving people the “correct” answer and validating a decision I hadn’t even made yet.

This question has begun is popping up again and I’ve decided that I need to shift my perspective. Instead of feeling limited and rushed by the question, I’m trying to let it guide and focus me. I might not owe myself the perfect answer, but I owe it to myself to put in the effort to figure out the next step out.

Figuring out the next step has meant looking at all possible options. What can I do now?

Volunteer

If you have enough money saved and are figuring out what to do, consider what activities and groups you gave your time to without getting anything in return except enjoyment. Did you work at an animal shelter? Help feed the homeless? These might be passions of yours and great stepping-stones for deciding what your next chapter will be.

Travel

If you’ve never had the opportunity to study abroad or travel for any other reason, now is the time! You’re less likely to have permanent responsibilities that motivate you to stay in one place. Traveling might be the best way to cleanse your life palate and inspire you to make your next leap of faith.

Apply (and apply and apply and apply) for jobs

It’s easy to get discouraged. Remember when you were applying for part time jobs in high school and then to different colleges and again for internships during the summer? Applying doesn’t get easier, but you can get better at it. Grab your old resumes and spruce them up. Use old cover letters to refresh your memory. Talk to peers and teachers about opportunities they might know about. Make Google and The Muse your best friend. You have the tools in front of them – utilize them and don’t stop until you have offers coming at you!

Write

Where you’re starting a journal or a diary or a blog, just write. Write things down so that 1) you can get all those emotions of being free but lost out on paper 2) you can document this amazing time in life and read back and remember it all. When you use writing as an outlet you never know who might be reading.

Return to your roots

Don’t be ashamed or afraid to go home. It’s not taboo. I repeat, it is not taboo. If you’re fortunate enough to have a home to return to when you’re finished with school or in a transition period, throw that into the opportunity pot. You never know how your new brain and new eyes might interpret a place you once thought you knew perfectly. Just like you, other places and other people grow and develop. Don’t ignore that growth.

Continue your education

If you feel like you’re not done with school, don’t be. There are so many things you can do and sometimes having that degree can catapult you to the next level. Whether you’re aiming for med school, law school, business school, clown school, the sky’s the limit.

Start something

Just like traveling, right now might be the time to take a huge risk. If you haven’t found a job yet or you’re in between gigs, take advantage of this open time and make something you wish you’d had growing up or start something you really could use.

Reconnect

Chances are you have a friend or two from your past that you haven’t seen or spoken to in a while. While this might be the most informal idea on this list, it’s still a great reminder to utilize the network you’ve built throughout your life. When people propel in different directions you never know what kind of golden nuggets they might be able to offer you (or that you can offer them!) when you reconnect.

It’s up to you what to do next, just like it’s up to me. The trick (and sometimes the hardest part) is to just do something, even if it means going to the gym regularly or pursuing an interest. Motivate yourself through action and you’re bound to land someplace good. So, what’s next?

Image: Jay Mantri

CultureSkills

‘Talent’ is a word that receives more adulation than required. We often praise an individual for being talented at something. But I believe that is a red herring, a misleading supposition. In fact, I am against the whole notion of using the word talented to appreciate someone’s efforts or achievements.

To have talent is to be gifted with an ability or skill. Many even call it ‘god-given’. But this is not the quality that takes a person from zero to hero. Talent is a definite plus-one, but it does not complete the puzzle of success. The biggest piece to achievement is ‘commitment’. And as overly-repeated as it sounds, hard work is what really matters. Talent might give you the first big leap, but consistency is what lets you leap further.

In my own experience with media related jobs, I have noticed two types of people; those who are extremely skilled writers but don’t stick to deadlines, and those who may not be as adroit but send in their articles on time without fail. I personally prefer the latter group of writers. They might not produce the most beautiful of writings, but they remain committed. Their dedication invariably leads to the betterment of their writing skills.

As the great Will Smith once said, “I’ve always considered myself to be just average talent and what I have is a ridiculous insane obsessiveness for practice and preparation.” Lack of talent should not demotivate us; depravity should serve as an impetus, a source of motivation that propels us. After all, the many exemplars who have moved boulders aren’t ones who pride on talent, but those who truly persist against all odds.

Image: Raumrot

EducationSkills

“Hide not your talents, they for use were made, what’s a sundial in the shade?” – Benjamin Franklin

Think of the most successful people you know. Some may come with a fancy job title or an impressive LinkedIn profile, but what is certain among the very successful are these three things: they excel at what they do, are established in their chosen field of interest, and seek constant growth.  Now it’s up to you how you measure success, but in this millennial age there is no doubt that happiness and purpose must coincide with any sort of big career move. This is difficult at times being in a world that says good grades and a steadfast work ethic are still not enough to break through an industry. There are many people out there with extreme creativity or academic dedication or innovative mindsets who are all suffering from an epidemic of untapped potential. One defining factor between the successful and the almost-there is the proper use of one’s talents. Those people who have made it, they are the ones who have realized and utilized their unique skills. It is possible, dear friends, to become the person that other people refer to upon hearing the word “successful.” Understanding and using your talents could be your gateway into finding the cross-section of work and passion. But first, let’s go over two common and very unfortunate misconceptions:

  1. I don’t have any talents.
  2. I do have talents, but they are useless.

People must be able to surpass these ideas and realize that everyone is talented and there are practical ways to make talents relevant. We’re not talking about the whistling or saying the alphabet backwards kind of talent (though do keep those in your back pocket, countless dinner parties await you), but rather, the particular skills and capacities that are transferable into your everyday ventures.

The search is on: Discover & Develop

Everyone is bent a certain way and because of this, we each fit into our own niches in life. The crucial first step in engaging your talents is to find them. Here are a few thoughts to ponder to start your very own talent search:

  • What’s something that you find yourself thinking about and getting lost in thought?
  • What activities do you excel in or wish to excel in?

Being able to answer these questions may help you pinpoint certain interests that you can develop through practice. One of the best books about unlocking creativity is Austin Kleon’s “Steal Like an Artist.” As an artist and New York Times Bestselling author, he advises his readers to “write what you like” and “not what you know” and emphasizes the importance of everyone having side projects. Hobbies and side projects are the best ways to foster your interests and ultimately serve as tangible examples of your talents. Whether you are into photography, calligraphy, producing music, planning events, coding, blogging, analyzing movies, or whatever it may be, dedicate time to produce that kind of work. As Kleon says, “Take time to mess around. Get Lost. Wander. You never know where it’s going to lead you.”

Real use in real time: Harness & Employ

Sometimes people have talents that directly align with their studies and jobs. Sometimes they don’t. Either way, it is important to utilize them. Once you have identified your talents, spend time to create ways to share them with the world. Perhaps those photos you take on the side are the mere start of your traveling photography blog. Maybe your love for getting people together will allow you to start your company’s first-ever social retreat to boost employee engagement. With so many channels of communication through social media, everyone has the chance to appeal to the masses. Let your ideas be heard and create teams of people who share the same interests. Kickstarter.com is the world’s largest funding platform in which people can promote their ideas for a product or project to the public, gaining an audience and financial backing. It is a gold mine for ideas and the talented people behind them. It takes courage and planning to bring your talents to the forefront of situations, but allow yourself to create opportunities that not only welcome your talents but require them. You can be the person who has that certain skill, that particular edge that is needed for an upcoming project.

Today is the day to spend time with your talents and make something real with them. Sir Ken Robinson once said, “A strong passion allied with even a moderate talent, will generally get you further than a strong talent with little enthusiasm.” Translation: As long as you work with joy and resilience, there really is no stopping you.

Image: Ali Inay

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

It’s difficult to not think of Max Levine when we consider what it means to Seize Your Youth. Not too long ago we ran into Max at four in the afternoon on a Saturday, having just got off of his 24 hour shift as an EMT for the George Washington University Hospital. Despite his sleepless day, he was vibrant and excited to share what he had just spent the last 24 hours doing. It goes without saying that this is a person whose passion is contagious, and we are excited to share his experiences and advice with you. As a pre-med student at GWU, Max knows what it means to commit blood (literally), sweat, and tears into achieving his dreams.

Name: Max Levine
Age: 21
Education: B.S. in Biology and Spanish from the George Washington University
Discover: EMeRG

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

Max Levine: I would define seizing your youth as recognizing the times when it’s okay to not care about the future or really anything in general and just do what you want to do.

CJ: What has been the most unexpected aspect of college?

ML: The most surprising part of college has been working as an EMT as a student. I never would have thought that this was even a possibility never mind something that I would take up as a hobby.

CJ: What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

ML: Mostly class and an urgent need to urinate. That and morning breath that even offends me.

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

ML: Do what needs to be done, but do whatever makes you happy.

CJ: What has been your favorite college class so far? Why?

ML: My freshman University Writing course called “American Myth Through Western Film.” This class was awesome. All we did was watch sweet old western movies and then write papers about them. Our final project was to make up our own plot for a film and then write a brief summary of what the movie would be. It was fantastic.

CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

ML: It starts with four scrambled eggs and some cold water ( I can’t stand room temperature water.) Shower, dress myself with pretty little thought regarding color/pattern coordination. I’ll usually go to class and end up skipping lunch. Then I’ll either go to EMeRG shift, the parasite lab, or then go do homework and end up going to sleep around 12.

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CJ: How did you get involved in parasitology? What are the benefits and difficulties with that work?

ML: The parasitology class is offered to undergrads and I took it for my major. I ended up volunteering in the lab because I needed some lab experience for medical school and ended up loving the people I met there. The benefits are incredible. I have been given many projects to work on that are getting me invaluable experience in research methods and lab work in general. I am getting published by the end of this semester and will be looking to get a phenomenal recommendation from my professor as well. The difficulties of the lab include the time commitment and the general frustration of failing science experiments however I would hardly say that these are difficulties. The pros outweigh the cons by a long shot.

CJ: What advice would you give to incoming freshman who want to be pre-med in college?

I would say to not worry about the other pre-med kids because they’re usually pretty obnoxious and will do anything to let you know when they’ve succeeded and you’ve failed. Get out and do other things and learn how to be a social human being. Although grades are important, you won’t be a good doctor unless you genuinely know how to talk to and relate to people in a sincere manner. Also be open to other options, there are plenty of other things to do for jobs in the BIO field, not just medicine.

CJ: You spent a summer working at hospitals in Chile. Could you please tell us more about that experience and how it influenced you?

ML: I worked in both a public and private hospital in Santiago, Chile for 3 months. The private hospital was much like any modernized hospital you would find in the US, just in Spanish. Working here, I had the privilege of observing numerous operations that ranged from gastrointestinal procedures to vascular complications. These were the best surgeons and doctors in the country (possibly the continent) operating in this hospital.

The public hospital was in a rough neighborhood on the outskirts of Santiago that treated about 1.5 million patients a year and was named the busiest public hospital in Chile. The building itself was an old tuberculosis asylum that was converted into a hospital and the majority of people that come are pretty short on cash. I had met a younger doctor at the private hospital that was also doing rotations at the public hospital so I would go with him to and from shift. Here I was able to get my hands dirty, so to speak, and I learned how to give stitches and was fortunately able to participate/assist in a range of surgical procedures. This included appendectomies, cholecystectomies (gallbladder removal), one leg amputation, and a handful of other procedures. The leg amputation was the most memorable by far simply due to the gravity of what was going on. A woman with severe diabetes had neglected an infection in her leg, which had led to the necrosis of the majority of her lower limb. We amputated the leg from just above the knee in order to saver her life. It was a powerful and surreal experience that I will never forget. I won’t get too graphic with this but the most profound moment was the moment the leg was cut free. I had been holding the leg in a fixed position from the start of the operation and as it detached, I remember holding the leg and just looking at it and taking in what was in my hands and what this meant for the woman who had lost this limb. It’s hard to say how this has affected me, however I know for sure that this will be a lasting memory.

CJ: You are double majoring with Biology and Spanish. Can you explain why and if it’s been worth it?

ML: I have been taking Spanish since the 6th grade. I can’t imagine my life without the ability to use Spanish in some way shape or form. Additionally, Spanish is a really useful language to know in this country and has helped me in the medical setting, being able to communicate with Spanish speaking patients. On more than one occasion I have had to use Spanish on a call with EMeRG and even more so in Chile. Learning Spanish has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and the Spanish/ South American culture is definitely a prominent part of who I am today.

CJ: Between academics, working in the research lab, working as an EMT, and spending time on yourself, how do you juggle it all?

ML: There are three categories in college and everyone can only choose two. They are: Social life, Sleep, Good Grades. I have chosen to have a social life and “good grades” (in my case just study a lot and get okay grades) and I don’t really sleep a ton. I take medication for ADHD every day and it’s an amphetamine, which helps to keep me awake during the days (don’t worry it’s prescribed). I’m also just used to being tired all the time so little sleep isn’t a huge deal.

CJ: What is your favorite city?

ML: Boston. Hands down the best city on the planet. I grew up in the suburbs of Boston and it’s a city with a great personality and is more personal that New York.

CJ: What’s your favorite book?

ML: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.

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

ML: Don’t let high school get you down and don’t worry about your social status. The kids who peak in high school get what’s coming to them in college and don’t really amount to a whole lot. Don’t worry about what’s ahead; go run around without a wallet, cell phone or keys while you can because those days are long gone now.

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Skills

I recently had a job interview. It was my first in-person job interview ever. After a lot of hard work and preparation, it was finally time for the interview. The following day, I found out via email that I did not get the job. While the news was disappointing, I did appreciate having an answer so I could move on. This disappointment actually gave me more motivation than I had before. 

I will preface my stance by saying I am currently employed somewhere else. The job I have allows me to pay my bills. I will not starve based on getting rejected for another position. I can understand how rejection can weigh harder on someone else who needs a job for survival.

Even though I did not get the job that I applied for, there were benefits to the experience. I am a believer that you can learn something from everything you do in life. From the interview, I became aware of things I needed to work on. For example, while I was confident in my appearance and my handshake, I realized that I needed to be more present in the moment. I had learned little about the company, and I could have prepared better by doing more research. I also thought of answers to sample interview questions. However, when questions I was not prepared for came up, I drew a blank. There were long pauses in the interview. As I scrambled for an answer, I became less confident. I learned that I need to work on improving my ability to think on my feet.

After my first interview, I am less nervous for the next one and any that may come after that. I have experience to draw from. I have ways to improve. Even if I did not get this job, I have a better chance of getting one in the future by growing from my failure rather than by wallowing in it. No matter how your interview goes, if you keep developing and try your best, you should feel good about it.

My last point is that even if you get rejected from a job, you are not a failure. Despite expressions to the contrary, you can fail a class, but there is no such thing as failing at life. If you do not get a job, you simply are just not right for the job at the moment. It does not mean you will not be the right person for the job in the future. There is always time to improve. Learn your lessons now so when your time comes, you will be ready.
Image: Caro Wallis, Flickr

EducationHealth

We’ve all heard of the horrifying myth of the Freshman 15 and unfortunately—it’s real. Juggling classes, internships, and a social life can make it hard to find the motivation (and time) to hit the gym, so here are some tips to avoid the Freshman 15 even with that busy schedule!

1. Monitor What You Eat
You can’t always be eating healthy, especially with the sometimes limited options given to you on campus, but you can keep track of what you’re putting in your body and how much of that contributes to a healthy diet. Apps like MyFitnessPal really allow you to monitor what you’re eating based on your individual height and weight. It gives you a daily calorie intake based on this information and lets you keep track of the foods you eat and how many calories they contain. It also gives you other helpful information such as showing a pie chart of the carbohydrates, fat, and protein percentages you have consumed throughout the day. It also allows you to put in any exercise you do and the amount of calories it should make up for!

2. Have Healthy Snacks in Your Dorm
Having healthy foods in your dorm for midnight snacking is vital. When you’re craving something sweet, reach for fruit snacks instead of chocolate. Foods such as Goldfish, Cheerios, granola bars, and trail mix are snacks you’ll be able to eat at your heart’s desire without worrying about their nutritional value, or lack thereof.

3. Treat Yourself Once in a While
It’s okay to have that chocolate ice cream you’ve been craving—just don’t make it an everyday habit! Try making junk food a reward for doing well on a really hard exam or finishing a great workout. Also, an emergency stash of chocolate for times of need never hurt anyone!

4. Drink Plenty of Water
Water is the life saver of staying healthy and in shape. Make sure to drink a surplus of it and to drink water in place of soda and other beverages as often as possible. Drinking a lot of water will help curb the munchies for unhealthy food!

5. Find a Gym Buddy
Having a friend to go to the gym with will make working out and staying healthy way easier! A friend will help give you the motivation to stick with it, as well as make you feel more comfortable going to the gym rather than walking there alone. Take advantage of your schools facilities!

At the end of the day, don’t stress over the weight you may or may not gain in college. Do what you can to stay healthy and try to make more good decisions than bad ones. Enjoy the experience and the yummy food that comes with it!

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When you walk into one of Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream shops, the smell of waffle cone overwhelms you in the best kind of way. The stores are a light turquoise color with the cutest logo of Molly’s pup Parker Posey licking an ice cream cone. People of all ages, from young children to their grandparents, gather at Molly Moon’s and wait in the long lines that form down the block. Molly Moon’s is more than just an ice cream shop; it is a community gathering spot where locals and visitors from afar travel to get a taste of Molly’s delicious ice cream. With flavors such as Honey Lavender, Earl Grey, Salted Caramel, Maple Walnut, and Melted Chocolate, to name a few, it’s no wonder why Molly Moon’s is so beloved.

As big fans of Molly Moon’s ice cream, we were thrilled to talk to the woman behind the cone, Molly Moon Neitzel. In six years, Molly Moon’s has grown to six shops around the Seattle area. You can even get her ice cream at Hello Robin Cookies for some seriously good ice cream cookie sandwiches. Not only is Molly a savvy businesswoman, but having worked at an ice cream shop all through college in Montana, she is also a skilled ice cream maker. While she originally wanted to be a political reporter and journalist, Molly’s career path changed when she moved to Seattle and noticed a lack of ice cream shops and community gathering spots. She is proof that you never know where life will take you.

If you want to run your own ice cream shop, business, or just love ice cream, Molly has great advice and tips that she has learned over the years. We’re definitely inspired by her and all that she has accomplished.

Name: Molly Moon Neitzel
Age: 35
Education: B.S. in Journalism from the University of Montana – Missoula
Follow: Twitter / Website

How do you define ‘seizing your youth’?

A unique quality about youth is that you have far less to lose. That was a really big driving factor for me to start a business young and just go for it. I wasn’t married, I didn’t have kids, I didn’t own a house, I had nothing to lose. I had an $800 dollar a month apartment and a puppy, and I wasn’t going to lose her if I lose a business. That has been pretty defining for me.

You majored in Journalism at the University of Montana – Missoula. How did you determine what to study?

Since I was in 3rd grade, I thought I wanted to be a journalist. I wanted to be a political reporter for television or radio, so that’s what I went to school for. I wanted to be Gwen Ifill.

What was your first job out of college?

Out of college, I was a fundraising event coordinator at University of Washington Medicine. We raised money for all the medical research and the Medical School, and UW Neighborhood Clinic, Harborview Medical Center, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. I planned fundraising events for Harborview’s uncompensated care program, breast cancer research, and some Alzheimer’s research.

You spent time as a Founding Executive Director at Music for America. What did your role there entail?

I helped to start the organization with a bunch of other people in their early- to mid- twenties. I managed the people in the programs, partnered with bands to register their fans to vote, and then educated those people on political issues that might mobilize them to vote, and then we did a lot of voter turnout work. We brainstormed ideas about how to execute the mission and accomplish the programs and manage the people. 50% of my job was fundraising to pay to keep the organization going.

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You went from music and politics to ice cream. In 2008, you opened Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream. What inspired you to start an artisan ice cream company?

I really went from ice cream to music and politics back to ice cream. My job all through college was at an ice cream shop. I worked at the Big Dipper in Missoula. I worked there for three and a half years. I was a scooper at first, then I was an ice cream maker, and I helped manage the shop a bit. I had seen all of the ways to run an ice cream shop, and I knew how to make ice cream.

When I wanted to leave Music for America because fundraising is hard and I was burnt out, I decided to come back to Seattle. I was talking to my mom on the phone wondering what to do with my life, and she said, “Why don’t you just open an ice cream shop? Then you can be your own boss and do it the way you want to do it.” That sounded good to me and I ran with that idea. I wrote my business plan, found investors, and took those steps.

What have been the greatest challenges in running your company?

Well – knock on wood! – I don’t feel like I’ve had a lot of crazy challenges. We’ve had the normal challenges that a lot of small business have. You grow a lot and then you have to work with having more employees and make them feel taken care of. The people part can be tough. The biggest challenge for me personally has been juggling the business when it competes with personal life. That has been challenging for me as a business owner, and it’s something that people who want to own their own business should really think about. A business is like a child and it’s going to suck all of your energy and compete with everything else in your life.

Your experience at Big Dipper Ice Cream gave you experience running an ice cream shop, but what have you learned from Molly Moon’s about how to run an ice cream company?

I have a lot of small business owners in my family. My dad is a General Contractor and I watched him run his small business. My grandparents owned a saloon that was the central gathering place for politicians, lawyers, and professionals in our small town in Idaho.

One thing that I’ve learned from Molly Moon’s is that instead of cutting costs, it’s wiser to increase sales. Figure out how to make more money rather than skimping on things. That feels better for your customer, feels way better for your employees, and it keeps you in a positive and optimistic mentality. When you get focused on cutting costs, you can get really negative.

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What is the greatest lesson you have learned from being an entrepreneur?

I think that risk is really good. I’ve followed my gut and have taken risks. Know that you can fix mistakes and everything works out, but not taking risks is boring and stagnant and as likely to make you fail.

What does a day in your life look like?

I wake up with my one-year-old sometime between 5:30am and 7:30am. We hang out as a family for 30 minutes, then we get ready and start our days. Many days I’ll stop by our new shop on 19th and Mercer, which is inside a cookie shop called Hello Robin that is owned by a dear girlfriend of mine. I’ll check in on Robin, get a coffee or a scone, chat with her about the day, and get to work around 10:00am. Most days I have about six or seven meetings, and I am here until 5:00pm. My days are packed with talking and thinking, and I hardly have time to get to email. I’m often in bed at 8:30pm.

What should a teenager or young adult who wants to have their own ice cream shop and run their own business do now to set themselves up for success?

Work in an ice cream shop. Get practical experience and ask to do different jobs within the same company to get perspective. I was a scooper, but I also made ice cream and learned how to write the schedule for the employee shifts. If you’ve only been a scooper or in the kitchen or in the IT department, you won’t know the full picture. Learn how to look at things from different angles.

What motivates you?

Now what motivates me is being the breadwinner for my family. When I started, what motivated me was not having a boss, being able to do something where I could have my own politics. I paid for health insurance right away for people who worked for me and everything is compostable. That was very motivating for me, to be in charge of our role in the community at large.

Another big motivation for starting Molly Moon’s was what I experienced when I moved to Seattle in 2001. There were no ice cream shops and I never saw people under 21 or over 40 years old. I went months without seeing people from another generation. It was shocking to me. I thought, if Seattle had a cool ice cream shop, maybe there would be a place where multiple generations would gather at once. That was a big thing for me, and I think that we’ve accomplished that. I think all of our six shops are multi-generational.

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What are your ice cream making tips?

Don’t let anything thaw and then refreeze – that makes it icy. Pair flavors together that you think are good in savory dishes. If you’re using an ice cream machine that has a frozen bowl, make sure to freeze it more than eight hours. Make sure it’s super cold. The best texture you’re going to get is from that freezing element being the coldest is can possibly be.

If you could enjoy an afternoon eating ice cream with anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be and what kind of ice cream would you make?

Madeleine Albright and I feel like she would like Maple Walnut because people from her generation usually like Maple Walnut, but maybe she would be a Salted Caramel and Hot Fudge girl.

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

My 15-year-old self was pretty cool. I was such a hippie, but I don’t regret that. It was good to express myself that way. I am still pretty true to who I was at that age. I would say keep being true to yourself and your ideas. Keep being willing to speak your mind. As a kid you can feel tampered down or that you should fit in and be quiet, and I didn’t really feel that way as a teenager. I was okay with standing out and speaking my mind. I’m still that way, and I’m proud of that.

EducationSkills

Running a 1/2 marathon is equal parts mental and physical endurance. Although I trained for about four solid months (January – April) before ever stepping foot on that race course, the actual event was an entirely different beast. Having never taken part of an athletic activity dedicated solely to running, I wasn’t sure what to expect. In the past I have played tennis and soccer, and I will also admit that I LOVE organized sports of any kind, so this was a brand new challenge for me. I wanted to outline the mental stages I went through during the race – I can still remember specific thoughts very vividly at certain miles so I wanted to share those with you. Looking back I can laugh at some of them and at myself, but when my legs had the chance to stop moving after those 13.1 miles I was most certainly the last one laughing.

I will genuinely say that taking part of this 1/2 marathon was one of the most invigorating experiences I have ever had. It was something I did entirely by myself and for myself. I was also reminded of how fortunate I am to have such an incredible family and network of friends who supported me literally every step of the way. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you. I am infinitely lucky to have you in my life. Also thanks to Nike for hosting such a well-planned event that benefited the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

What is an experience that meant a lot to you? Share it with the Carpe community!

Culture

Motivation can often be the toughest energy to muster. Whether it’s short term motivation like starting an essay early, or long term motivation like exercising consistently, finding motivation can be hard when easy excuses tempt us. But at the end of the day that little voice in your head is still encouraging you to step up your game and be the best you can be. Next time you feel yourself losing focus or getting distracted, remember that the weight of regret always drags you down but the success of discipline can make you feel light as a feather. 

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

Rachel Geisler is awesome. It’s as simple as that. We first met Rachel during an internship in New York City, and since that summer, she has been doing incredible things. For instance, she played Anna in the Spring Awakening National Tour. Pretty cool, right? She also spent a semester in London traveling and studying. When Rachel isn’t auditioning, she is honing her acting and singing skills and working part-time. We are beyond inspired by Rachel’s self-motivation and determination, and we can’t wait to see her again on-stage and on-screen! Read on for insight into her pre-show rituals, what she does when she forgets a line during a live performance, and a sneak peek into what life was like on the Spring Awakening National Tour.

Name: Rachel Geisler
Age: 22
Education: Bachelor of Fine Arts at New York University
Follow: Twitter

How do you define ‘seizing your youth’?

Seizing your youth means taking every opportunity that you might have in your youth that you won’t have when you’re older. Things like taking a job or an internship that doesn’t necessarily meet your desired trajectory just take that experience and to enjoy it. A lot of my friends still get a lot of financial help from their parents, so that frees you up to take a restaurant job and to audition, which is super helpful and something pretty specific to being at this age.

What did you major in at New York University and how did you determine what to study?

I majored in Musical Theater. I grew up in New York City so I was always exposed to theater. My parents took me to shows and to the ballet when I was younger, and that definitely had a huge impact on me. I always loved the arts. I didn’t know that I wanted to perform for a long time. I wasn’t that person. Some of my friends had that moment or the show that they saw that made them want to perform forever, but I think it was a gradual appreciation for me and once I started taking voice lessons, it became more serious for me.

I found a summer camp, Stagedoor Manor, that I went to from when I was 12 to when I was 18. It was a performing arts theater camp and I was inspired by the teachers and performers to pursue theater. When I started at NYU, Musical Theater seemed like the obvious choice for me.

Did you study abroad? What was your big takeaway from studying abroad and do you think it was worth it?

I spent a semester in London. I think that everybody should study abroad at some point. It was an unbelievable experience, not just for theater but for the academics. I decided not to take any theater classes when I was there, but I saw a lot of shows. It gave me a great perspective and refreshed my appreciation for theater, which I needed at the time. Just being able to travel and being in Europe and having access to cheaper flights was great and I got to see a lot of new countries.

What or who inspired you to become a professional actress?

I started at NYU, which can be a very overwhelming place. It’s a big school and there are a lot of things to study. After my freshman year I wasn’t 100% sure if I wanted to stick with theater. And then I got the Spring Awakening National Tour and when I ended up doing that, there was no going back. That experience solidified theater for me.

I interned at Seventeen Magazine the summer before thinking that I was really interested in publishing and the fashion world. I had never really made up my mind as to which direction I wanted to go in, and then after the National Tour, I knew that theater was what I wanted to do.

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You played Anna in the Spring Awakening National Tour. Tell us about that experience.

It was the best year of my life thus far. It was so much fun. I was a huge, huge fan of Spring Awakening when it was on Broadway. I saw it about eight or nine times. I was that theater geek who saw it every weekend I could.

I loved being on the Spring Awakening National Tour, I got to see the rest of the country. My family had traveled but we never really traveled within the United States. My mom is from Japan so we were always in Asia or elsewhere, but seeing the United States was a really fun experience. Especially getting to do that with 20 other people around your age and who also love the same thing that you love, it was a really wonderful experience and I grew up a lot on that Tour.

How do you prepare for a National Tour?

You have to be in the best shape you can possibly be in, vocally and making sure you’re taking care of yourself. You’re going from bus to plane to theater, and all of the traveling does take a huge toll on your body. Just going in with an open mind and being open to the new experiences. Take care of yourself but also remember to have fun and take advantage of what I was doing.

How do you stay motivated on-stage night after night of performing?

That’s a tough one. We did 137 performances of Spring Awakening. A lot of tours do upwards of about 600 shows. For Spring Awakening, the whole cast is pretty much on-stage for the entire show. We’re sitting on the side and watching the action happening. It’s easier to stay engaged when you’re on-stage and supporting your fellow actors. You don’t ever want to be that person who is zoning out.

Getting tired does happen and you can get jet-lagged. We were in Colorado and got altitude sickness. There were points in the show where I would make sure to embrace what was happening. Even if I was exhausted and wanted to be done with the performance and go to bed, I would remember that I was on the National Tour of Spring Awakening. I would remind myself that I wanted this for so long and that I needed to enjoy it. That would always bring me back when I got tired.

What is one of the greatest lessons you have learned from being a working actress?

One of the best things that I’ve learned is to be a good person. There are a lot of talented people. You think sometimes that there are some roles that only one person could play. But there were so many girls that could have played Anna in Spring Awakening, so I think the thing that sets you apart is to be a good person.

You have to be the kind of person that the director or casting director would want to spend 12 hours a day in rehearsal with. If you set yourself up with success by being nice and professional and being open and kind, that will set you apart from the millions of other people trying to act and land roles. Some of them might have an attitude problem or take the opportunities for granted and be a diva about it. I got really lucky with Spring Awakening because everybody was young and didn’t have much of an ego, but that’s not necessarily the case with other circumstances. Keep reminding yourself that you want to be the person that other people want to work with.

How do you overcome self-doubt or stage fright?

If you’re not scared there’s something wrong. It’s just a matter of learning how to channel the self-doubt and stage fright. I always get nervous. I’m always scared. I love performing but I’m not the best with public speaking. It’s just different ways of approaching different performances or exhibition.

With theater, it’s just doing the most work you could possibly do so you can do the best show no matter what. If something goes wrong, you should know the character and the story. If someone drops a line, you’ll know how to pick it up and keep the story moving. That is completely necessary in theater. People forget lines all the time. We did 137 shows and if you lose focus for one second, a line can leave you so you have to trust that the rest of the people you’re working with can handle the situation.

Have you ever forgotten a line and what are you thinking in that moment?

All the time! I didn’t have that many lines in Spring Awakening. There was one show where there was a horrible smell on-stage and I kind of choked a little bit, so everyone on stage with me thought I forgot my line because I couldn’t get my words out. It was horrible. But then someone was on it with the next line and you bring yourself back to it. If you’re in character and you know what your character wants to say, it might not be the exact line but something along those lines. Then you’ll get a note from your Stage Manager telling you that what you said wasn’t the actual line, and you’re like, yes, I know. I forgot. The next time you’ll get it right.

Do you have any pre-show rituals to get into character?

Some people go crazy with their pre-show rituals. I am really into music so if it’s a first night of a show, I try to figure out the right playlist that gets me in the state-of-mind. For Spring Awakening, that was more pump-up music because that show was a lot of energy. For other things it could be mellower. I love to listen to music.

I also try to go around to everyone who I’m in the show with and just say “hey.” When you’re on tour, you get to the theater and everyone goes to their dressing rooms and you don’t see each other until you’re on-stage. I just love to touch base and catch up really quickly and say “hi.”

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What advice do you have for youth who want to be professional actors/actresses?

Do it. There are so many people who will tell you so many different things about how hard it is, and it’s true, it’s not easy. There are definitely waves of success and sometimes you think you’re perfect for something and it doesn’t work out – maybe you’re too tall or you don’t fit into the costume of the previous person who played the role.

I’m a huge believer that you have to be a smart person to be a smart actor. I think education is insanely important and not just training. Training in the craft of acting is hugely important, but I think that learning the history of what you’re doing and keeping yourself informed on current events and being well-read just makes you a better actor. If you have things that are not related to theater or drama, that’s great because most of the time you’re playing real people and it helps to have those experiences.

That’s one of the reasons why I chose NYU – they have a huge emphasis on the academic side of theater and making sure you’re a well-rounded person as well as a well-rounded actor.

What does a day in your life look like?

It’s so different. I live with two people who have pretty standard schedules and mine is all over the place. If I have an audition, which hopefully I do, I like to go to the gym to wake my body up and do yoga. Sit in the steam room for a little bit. After an audition, I call my mom and talk to her for a little bit. I work at a restaurant so I’m there three or four times a week. That’s part of my day. Because I went to school in New York, I still have use of the facilities so if I have time, I’ll practice monologues and sing to help me feel connected with my craft. When you’re waitressing and auditioning constantly, you start to feel like you’re this product and you have to reconnect with your craft and what you worked really hard to do. I try to do that as often as possible.

What activities were you involved in throughout high school? Were there any experiences that were most memorable or life changing?

I loved high school. I did a little bit of everything in high school. I played basketball, did yearbook, and student government. I went to a really small private school in New York so everybody was involved in everything, which was great. I went to a school with somewhat of an art scene and they definitely appreciated the arts a lot.

One of my teachers, Margie Duffield, was a huge influence on me. I always loved singing and dancing and she was the one who pushed me to do more acting, and she introduced me to a lot of the techniques that I use now and when I was in school. That was a really big thing for me and having that influence who made me realize that I was enough and I could do more than musical theater.

What has your experience been like going to college in New York City?

I loved it. Clearly, I never left! It can be hard because sometimes the city is very overwhelming. My brother is now at the University of Maryland and I hear all these fun stories about what they do on-campus and all these things that are so foreign to me. One of the things about being in New York is that I was very involved with the theater community. After I came back from Spring Awakening, I was able to continue auditioning and working and do readings and workshops. Things that people not in the city don’t necessarily get to do.

I’m also a huge family person and my family lives here and at the time my younger brother was here, so it was important for me to be in New York. I thought NYU was the best fit for me so it all worked out. If I hadn’t been in New York, I wouldn’t have been able to audition for Spring Awakening, and I wouldn’t have had that experience. Everything happens for a reason.

What motivates you in your everyday life?

If you want to pursue theater, you have to keep yourself motivated. You won’t have someone everyday telling you “Great job!” Unless you’re doing a show you don’t really get that reinforcement. You have to take every little victory that you can get. If you’re standing in a studio and you hit a note better than you felt like you have a week ago, take that victory. That’s a step towards what you want to be doing.

I’ll go take a dance class and motivate myself to do what I want to be doing. When you’re not in school, there’s no one telling you that you have to go to this dance class or read this play. I try to read as many plays as I can. One of my friends is actually doing something that I admire – she’s reading a new play every day. Before she goes to bed, she reads a new play.

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Who is your role model?

My mom. It’s so cliché it almost pains me to say it. She studied art in college and didn’t necessarily end up pursuing it for the rest of her life, but she has such an appreciation for it and is so supportive of me. She’s one of those people whose words just make sense to me. She’ll just tell me what I was thinking – who knows you better than your mom?

There are definitely people whose careers I admire, but I don’t know them on a personal level so I can’t really call them a role model.

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

Calm down. Being in high school in general, especially with theater, it seems like so much focus on doing an exact thing a certain way to get into college. It just seems like that is your goal – to get into college. I don’t know anybody who didn’t figure it out for themselves. They might not have gone to the college they wanted to go to, or maybe they spent a semester somewhere and worked really hard and transferred, but it’s not the end all be all. People change their majors and idea of what they want to do all the time.

In high school, you’re thinking you have to get into a specific school for a certain program. I would tell myself to calm down and that everything will work itself out. Enjoy high school because it’s such a weird time where you’re old enough to start having fun but you’re still living with your parents and getting all the benefits of that. Enjoy it and don’t think too far ahead of yourself.

What’s next for you?

Hopefully a show! I went back to school after Spring Awakening and I put all of my focus on that because graduating was really important to me. I graduated this past May and worked a little bit this summer on a few projects. My friends have started writing plays and directing and choreographing, so I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of their work. You don’t get paid or anything, but collaborating is so fun.