SpotlightYouth Spotlight

When it comes to pursuing your passion, Katherine Ball doesn’t hesitate. After reading a book about Curtis Ebbesmeyer, a Seattle-based oceanographer, in the sixth grade, Katherine was inspired to study marine debris and its behavior in the oceans. Not only is Katherine now studying physical oceanography at the University of Washington, but she also focused her Girl Scouts Gold Award on researching plastic debris in the Puget Sound. In addition, Katherine recently earned her associate’s degree through the Ocean Research College Academy. Impressed yet?

We are very inspired by Katherine’s determination and passion for marine debris and oceanography, and for the ambition to follow through and desire to make a positive change in the world. Katherine shares with us her experiences at the Ocean Research College Academy, what actions we can take today to create a better tomorrow, and how she defines success.

*The Girl Scouts Spotlight Series is an exclusive weekly Youth Spotlight on amazing young women who have earned their Gold Awards, the highest award that a Girl Scout can earn in the Girl Scout organization.

Name: Katherine Ball
Education: Physical Oceanography, University of Washington class of 2016
Follow: tumblr

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

Katherine Ball: Seizing your youth is all about taking your passion, whatever it may be, and doing something with it. Take advantage of being in school, youth groups, scouts, and sport teams. Use the people around you to do something, many of them are willing to help you make an impact or they know someone who is. Use whatever passion you have to get better at it, to solve a small issue, or if you’re really aiming big start to change the world. It doesn’t matter what you do with it, but use that passion for something while surrounded by people who will help.

CJ: You are currently a student at the University of Washington. What are you studying, and what led you to those academic passions? What do you hope to do with your degree once you graduate?

KB: I currently study physical oceanography, basically fluid dynamics. Inspiration for studying marine debris and its behavior in the oceans stemmed from reading a book about Curtis Ebbesmeyer, a Seattle-based oceanographer, in sixth grade. While I lived in Idaho at the time, the ocean was something I loved without seeing it. My passion for the topic lead me to understanding that simply researching the issue won’t resolve it, but people can. I hope to work in citizen science to engage adults in the full scientific process. Current citizen science programs revolve around citizens collecting data without following through and getting to see how their contribution impacted the study. I aim to improve that using my passion for marine debris and oceanography.

KB 4

CJ: You recently completed an associate’s degree through the Ocean Research College Academy. What did this degree entail and what was this experience like?

KB: Completing my associate’s with the Ocean Research College Academy (ORCA) was an amazing experience. With the small running start program and an oceanography focus I was able to cover my general college requirements (Political Science/History/English) in small college classes with 40 other high school students. The small classes meant I was able to get any help I needed as well as tie something in each of the classes into the oceanography research I conducted in my science courses. Already having an interest in oceanography I used ORCA’s focus on student-designed research to conduct pioneering research in Possession Sound, a sub-basin of Puget Sound, by working with scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. One of the greatest opportunities ORCA gave me was the chance to present my findings at the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference 2014 and meet and discuss my research with professional, renowned oceanographers.

CJ: How did you get involved with the Girl Scouts, and what did you love most about being a Girl Scout?

KB: I got started early at age five thanks in part to a family tradition of Girl Scouting. My mom’s side has been active in Washington Girl Scouts since my great-grandmother worked to get girls outside. Being a member gave me the chance to do so many things that pinning down one favorite is nearly impossible. That is probably my favorite thing, do things from fashion shows to fitness days to council philanthropy groups to 90 mile backpack trips. I participated in many of the things Girl Scouts offered and enjoyed every one of them.

CJ: What are the top three lessons you learned from being a Girl Scout?

KB: 1) Leadership doesn’t mean being in charge. I participated in a lot of leadership opportunities as a Girl Scout but I learned some of the biggest lessons about it by being a team member during camp and on backpacks with YAYA hikers. Having grown up backpacking with my family I had random bits of knowledge and experience to share with the newer-to-backpacking girls on the trip.

2) Being fearless is nearly impossible. I thought I was pretty fearless as a young girl doing so many crazy things but the more things I tried the more I realized it wasn’t fearlessness, it was determination to try something new.

3) Everyone is capable of anything. Not only did I see the impact I could make on people through my Gold Award I also saw myself grow by doing backpack trips I’d never dreamed off.

KBA

CJ: For your Girl Scouts project,  Actions and Oceans: How Our Actions Today Affect the Oceans Tomorrow, you conducted pioneering research on plastic debris in Puget Sound and held events to educate and inspire others. Why did you choose this topic for your project, and what did it entail?

KB: From years of talking to people about marine debris and trying to understand the issue I started to see that a lot of people didn’t know there was an issue, which blew my mind since I had been aware of it for so long. The next point that drove home I could do something with my passion was that those people who did know there was an issue often did not realize they could do something about it on an individual scale. Therefore I decided to bring together local marine protection groups and scientists from local and regional science organizations to talk about different aspects of the issue.

To organize my event I worked with an advisor from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to create the best program. Overcoming a few fears of contacting strangers with questions I set up interviews with local organizations to talk to them about their events, primarily what worked and what didn’t work about them. I learned a lot from those interviews and was able to implement some of the improvements into my own event. Based on these interviews I also asked organizations to attend my event and provide information about how attendees could get involved with the organization.

Being in charge of organizing my event gave me a lot of skills, from talking to people to time management to proposing ideas, which are continuing to prove incredibly useful on a regular basis.

CJ: What actions can we do today that will help create a better tomorrow?

KB: The problem with plastic is that the United States, and the rest of the world, has been building a ‘throw-away’ society since the 1960s. The idea of this ‘throw-away’ habitat was advertised as a positive when Tupperware became a thing! Now don’t get me wrong, plastic is an amazing material and it works great for all the things we use it for. I’m not advocating we stop using it, we just need to get better about how we handle it. A throw-away society isn’t something we can stop doing, but as a society we need to figure out how to handle our plastic waste so we can continue to use such a great resource while protecting the environment. So be smart, limit the number of small containers you get, reuse, invest in a good durability water bottle, and recycle as much as possible, at home or in the bin.

CJ: How did you keep your project organized as you were working on it? How did you balance your workload with school, extracurricular activities, etc.?

KB: Since my Gold Award was based on such a huge passion I found ways to combine my school work with my project. By attending ORCA I was given the chance to choose a topic for projects in all of my classes. Therefore, while working on my Gold Award, I researched such things as effective education for citizen science in classes.

One of the biggest things I did to keep myself organized between college deadlines, school, my project, and my research (including conference deadlines) was use giant pieces of poster board to make a calendar for the entire school year. I tend to forget to look at calendars for deadlines, a problem the size solved since it was so large.

Basically my life became distilled down to working on classes, research, and my project which even though it’s not a long list of things left me overwhelmed at times. What I allowed myself to do most often to relax was to go on hikes with my Girl Scout hiking group, the YAYA Hikers. Hiking and being outside with my friends was not only relaxing, but it let me bounce ideas off them if I was stuck on something.

KBall Group

CJ: Do you have mentors? How did you go about finding them?

KB: I have a handful of mentors who have helped me in a lot of areas. For many of them I found them either by directly pursuing my passion or by telling everyone what I wanted to do and being directed to them.

CJ: To you, what does it mean to be a good leader?

KB: There is a lot to being a good leader but there is a quote by Lao Tzu that really rings true to me – “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” Something I have found to be the key is having a passion and inspire others to think and change. Rather than directly telling someone the best way to do it, leading means educating and providing all the information for them to make the decision. Give them some options, but leave it to them to make the final decisions.

CJ: How do you define success?

KB: Seeing the impact of a message is a huge success but for me success is knowing I’ve spread an idea, planted a seed in someone’s head.

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

KB: I’m definitely working on using the connections I’ve made through all my projects. Once I’m finished working with someone they often tell me I’m welcome to contact them with questions about other things or for a reference and I forgot to do so, sometimes thinking they wouldn’t remember me. Lately though I’ve been working on projects at the University of Washington that involve bringing together a lot of components.  People from my Gold Award and high school are coming to be crucial. It’s mostly been a curve of learning how to write professional emails that remind people how they know me and quickly getting to the point.

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

KB: Don’t let hard times stop you from pursuing your passions. I guarantee you’ll have a hard time with something you’ve always been good at and I totally understand that failing something sucks. When it happens don’t be afraid to talk to people, get help, figure out how to ask for it before college when it gets even harder to find the help you need. And most of all? Just keep going, you’ll learn too much from the hard patch and it might even strengthen your resolve to pursue your passion.

Katherine Ball Qs

Images by Katherine Ball

CultureEducationExploreWellness

If you’re anything like me, you’ve read a ton of articles about finding the right career path or how to pursue your goals. You know the articles I’m talking about right? The ones that list pointers and ask you to write down what you’re good at (you have no idea), your interests (Netflix?), and visualize your ideal work environment (wherever you get paid). Then they tell you to “go for it” and “have courage” because the future is yours! It all sounds dramatic and you write down a solid to-do list, and you’re like heck yes. You take a second to check Facebook, text some friends, and a few hours later, your roadmap to success has transformed into another scrap of paper. You’re over it.

For some people, finding their passion came naturally. They sang in talent shows before they could even walk and now they’re on Broadway. Meanwhile, you’re having a quarter-life crisis wondering why you haven’t figured it out yet. Deep down, you do want to have those sleepless nights with bags under your eyes, working toward something you love. The issue isn’t your willingness for grit, it’s that you don’t even know where to start.

The truth is, it’s easy to get caught up in what you think you’re supposed to do or where to be – especially when your parents have expectations or when the goal is based on the size of your paycheck. On top of that, social media makes you painfully aware of the differences between your life and the lives of others. But it’s okay to be unsure of where you’re going. It’s okay that you don’t want the same things other people do. In fact, not all dreams should be pursued, and not all passions should be made into a career. On the flip side, just because something isn’t a career path doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it for the sake of pure enjoyment. The best part of not knowing exactly where to go or what to do, is just that – you don’t know where to go! It doesn’t have to be dreadful or frustrating, it should make you excited about life.

Fortunately, there are a million ways to stumble upon your dreams. Personally, I’m a big fan of wandering. This doesn’t mean you have to travel the world because let’s be honest, that’s pretty unrealistic. You’re not Julia Roberts in Eat.Pray.Love. What I mean by wandering is simply being open to what’s new and interesting, whatever that may be. If you’re in school, check out some new clubs. Not in school? Join Groupon & try new activities! Pick a non-profit that you believe in and volunteer! I think one of the best things you can do is to conduct as many informational interviews as possible. Expand your network. Not only can you gain mentors this way, but it will help you learn (without experiencing it firsthand) if the path could be right for you.

Think of this as a deductive process: keep checking things off that you don’t like, and as a result, you’ll be many steps closer to finding what you’re looking for. Safe to say, this is not a passive kind of wandering. You have to make sure that you wander honestly and unapologetically.

By that, I mean it’s not always fun or easy. Many times when people talk about pursuing dreams, they paint a pretty picture: Follow your heart, work hard, and you’ll live happily ever after. Yeah, sure. What I never read about is the emotional toll it takes on you and your relationships. You may find yourself feeling guilty, anxious, or even wrong when making decisions that are for you, and not anyone else. It’s the scariest thing on earth, but that comes with the territory. You can’t find your passion by lying to yourself.

While you are beginning to change and finding your place in the world, the people you love may not be down for the ride. You can’t blame them – they didn’t sign up for it, they didn’t agree to it, and it’s not their path. Because of that, their opinions can hold you back despite their best intentions. The more you grow, mature, and learn more about yourself, the more you may realize that some people around you aren’t meant to stick around. Brace yourself for the possibility that you may have to go through the journey without their blessing, but it’s only meant to make room for new people who deserve to be in your present and future. That’s not a comfortable idea, especially when “where you are” isn’t even bad at all. But if you want to be 80-years-old and in awe of the life you’ve lived, settling won’t get you there.

I can’t say there’s a “right” or “better” way to handle those situations, because the solution lies in your own personality, values, and what you can handle. All I can say is try to make the right decisions for you and be prepared to trust them wholeheartedly when they are questioned. Trust that they will lead you to where you belong. Trust that they will cultivate a life filled with love and genuine happiness in whatever path they take you. Trust that by being yourself, you will naturally attract others similar to you, and will push you to be better at whatever it is you embark upon. Success and happiness is different for everyone, so define yours. Just look at that girl who quit her $95k job to live on an island.

There’s a famous saying, “If you don’t write your own story, someone else will.” So make some big decisions and make some small ones that feel purposeful and fulfilling to you. Learn to take one fearful step in front of the other, and I promise the next step will be less wobbly than the last.

Image: Unsplash

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

Health

With all the necessities that need to be purchased, it can be a headache to look at $40 dollar foundation. With college loans, unpaid internships, and the daily expenses of day-to-day life, the costs of beauty products can make it hard to pursue your love and passion, especially when you’re just starting a career. Though beauty is skin deep, makeup can be a fun way to express yourself. With all the different makeup products and brands available, figuring out what’s worth the splurge and what’s really a steal can be the trickiest game in the business.

Steal: Foundation

There are several noteworthy drugstore foundations that range from $10-13 dollars. They all provide full-coverage (but can be applied lightly if you don’t want an as-concealed face) without looking caked on, they can be applied with a brush or with your fingers, they have a slightly dewy finish allowing them to appear as natural as possible, and they have a good variety of shades available for drugstore foundations. My top three drugstore foundation finds and steals (in no particular order as to which is better) include:

CoverGirl Outlast Stay Fabulous 3-in-1 Foundation: $9.79 at drugstore.com

Maybelline Superstay 24Hr Foundation: $10.39 at drugstore.com

L’Oreal Visible Lift Foundation: $12.63

Splurge: Bronzer

Though you can purchase an inexpensive bronzer, it can be hard to find one that looks natural on your skin tone. Benefit Cosmetic’s Hoola Bronzing Powder can be purchased on their website for $28, and I promise it’s worth every penny! This bronzer works beautifully on my beyond pale skin in the wintertime and on my glowing summer tan. I believe that this bronzer is worth the splurge because not only does it look stunning on all completions, but it also lasts forever, even when used generously!

Steal: Lips

There are an endless amount of lip products that can be purchased from lipgloss to lip stain to lipstick to lip liner. My recommendation when it comes to getting the most for your money is Jordana’s 5 ½” Lipliner Pencil which can be purchased on their website for an incredible price of $1.49! This lip liner lasts for hours and has an amazing pigmentation. It can be worn alone or topped with a gloss and look just as glamorous either way. With their beautiful twenty-four available shades you’ll easily be able to build up your collection of colors without breaking the bank!

Splurge: Self-Tanner

Whether you want to avoid the damage from the sun in the summer or keep from being pasty white in the winter, sunless tanner does wonders! With so many available on the market now, it can be hard to figure out which sunless tanner is going to keep you from looking orange. Sun Goddess’ Sunless Tanning Lotion only needs to be applied once a week to maintain an even, beautiful glow. It doesn’t have a strong, lasting smell like many self-tanners do and has a green base that allows the tan to look natural rather than that deadly fake tan orange. You can find it on their website for $39. Though the price tag seems hefty, the bottle goes a long way for the money!

Steal: Mascara

With L’Oreal Paris Voluminous False Fiber Lashes Mascara, the name speaks for itself! This mascara gives you the appearance of having false lashes without them being too over dramatic, clumpy, or a hassle to put on! You can find this mascara for $7.16 on drugstore.com.

Image: Beauty is my Duty

CollegeSkills

The question that will (almost) always be asked when someone finds out that you will be attending college is “What’s your major?” It will be asked during school. It will be asked when you are home for the holidays. It will be asked after graduation. Why is it so important anyway? Well, knowing a person’s major can give a general outlook on their plans for life after graduation. It doesn’t always apply (just because you’re an Art History major doesn’t mean you’ll be working in a museum for the rest of your life). Choosing a major can be extremely stressful. For one it can determine what school you attend (research vs. liberal arts vs. technical). Secondly, most schools require an official declaration by the end of your sophomore year. Here are a few tips to making this difficult decision:

1. Don’t Declare a Major Prior to Actually Attending Classes 

This can be difficult for those of us that are extremely passionate about a specific subject. I decided I would be a music major the summer before I started high school and I stuck with that…up until it was time to register for my semester of college. I heeded the advice of my elders and took classes from different areas and I ended up choosing to be a communications major. And I’m so happy with my decision. You might still love your original major or you may discover a new passion. Try it all.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Change Your Mind 

Even if you do declare a major early on and end up hating it, it’s okay! You can always to something. Of course, if you do this later on in your academic career it may be readjusting your expected graduation date. But it’s better to take classes in something you enjoy than to sit through a miserable lecture.

3. Career Path is Not Everything 

 I have met so many students that are majoring in something only for the sake of having a steady job after graduation. There are articles published nearly every day about the current job market and what it would wise to major in but guess what? These change! It’s not possible to predict what will be happening 10 years from now so pick what you like.

4. Find Out the Requirements for Your Major of Choice 

Be diverse with the 101 classes you take. Towards the end of my sophomore year, a close friend of mine decided she wanted to major in one of the sciences. So what was the problem? That major required a certain amount of pre-requisites that would’ve had to been taken during the first two years of school. Taking a broader range of introductory classes during her first two years could have saved her a lot of time later down the road.

5. Take Advantage of Your Counselors 

They’re there to help after all! I never would have considered being a communications major if it were not for my counselor. She told me more about it and after listening to her advice I realized it was the best fit for me. Counselors will look at the classes you have taken and realize your particular strengths/weaknesses and help you assess your options.

Image: Lime Lane Photography

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

There aren’t a lot of twenty-one-year-olds who can say that they’ve found their life’s passion. But luckily Carpe had the opportunity to sit down over a plate of pancakes with with somebody who knows exactly what gets them up in the morning. Meet Alex Kummert, currently a Communication student at Saint Mary’s College of California, and comedian at heart and on stage. As a young and upcoming performer, Alex had a lot to share with us about mixing pursuit with practicality and never giving up on a good thing. From his first 2011 TedX talk to an ongoing Podcast he shares with his Grandma, Alex inspires us to get up off the couch and pursue our passion!

Name: Alex Kummert
Age: 21
Education: Communication student at Saint Mary’s College of California
Follow: Twitter | Website | YouTube

How would you define seizing your youth?

Seizing your youth is the understanding that while our life is a tangible thing, our youth is even more so. Seizing your youth is pursuing your passions in life with no regard for what you are expected to be doing at your age. It’s seizing the opportunity of time and passion, and furthering progress towards achieving goals while still getting to understand the world around you.

When did you begin with comedy?

The first time I did standup was when I was 14, I was at church camp, and I did it on a dare for the talent show. I wasn’t that funny but I was funny enough that I wanted to keep doing it. I only started taking it seriously around 16 or 17, and from 16 on I’ve been doing it very consistently. At this point – six years later – I’m performing almost once a week, so it has been pretty heavily engrained into my daily life.

How do you come up with material?

Material can come from anywhere. I’ve never been one to sit down and decide to write jokes for an hour. It’s something that just kind of comes to me and I think “Oh that could work, that could be a joke,” and then I sit down and I write the whole thing long form. It’s about being in a mind set than necessarily having to block out time to do it. I’m a much more free-range sort of thinker when it comes to jokes. I pull material from my life and daily occurrences, and sometimes from conversations I have with my friends.

Did you ever have stage fright and how did you over come it?

I had stage fright when I was younger but not in comedy – I did a lot of theater when I was a kid. That’s where the performance bug came from. I had stage fright then, and its kind of been “cured” now. I’m a little nervous when I go up onstage and before shows I’m kind of a wreck and I have a lot of butterflies because I just want to do it. But stage fright isn’t something I’ve had an issue with in my comedy experiences because of that past theater experience.  In terms of how to get over stage fright, I would say allow yourself to have fun. Don’t allow that experience to become stressful because the people that are in the audience are usually there to have fun.

What advice would you give to yourself right before your first day of college?

Leave the things that you thought were important home behind. Allow yourself to get involved in your new community and immediately ease in the new lifestyle rather than letting the things at home eat away at you or affect what you do. Explore and make more mistakes. Allow yourself to make mistakes. That something I didn’t let myself do early on but valued so highly when I went to college. There were so many things at home that I was worried about and they really didn’t matter.

c

You have a podcast with your Grandma called “Lazy Susan” – where did that come from and can you tell me about it?

It all started from a love of Chinese food, which came from my grandmother. My grandma was born in Shanghai, spent a lot of her life there, and still very heavily identifies with that culture. The podcast idea was something I had been kicking around for a while but I didn’t know what I wanted it to be, and then it just sort of opened up [to do this with] my grandmother. To me, my grandmother is the funniest person I know and it’s going to be very hard for someone to top her in my mind. I knew that people on the Internet would think she would be funny too, so that’s where it was inspired.

You also run a radio show at St. Mary’s. How has your informal work with the podcast helped you in a more professional setting?

In college radio you need to be able to improvise and think on the fly very quickly. With Lazy Susan it was about generating a conversation for 45 minutes to an hour every week, so I never felt super uncomfortable with that [impromptu work]. It’s actually allowed me to not have to be as professional because I know how to handle the things that a radio show will throw at you.

Has humor/comedy helped you in your daily life?

Definitely. 100%. Comedy gave me more of an identity. I don’t really know what I’m going to do what my life after I graduate, but I know something that I’m good at and something that I like to do. That reassurance has given me a lot more self-confidence in everything else I approach in life.

What about following a passion?

I would say that following that passion has allowed me to stay more grounded in what I want to do and it has allowed me to develop my own understanding of who I am. And even with the uncertainties in life I have something that is a foundation for when I go out into the unknown.

What advice would you give to someone who has not figured out what his or her passion is yet?

Don’t do things for the sake of finding the passion. It will find you the more that you experience life and are open to opportunities. It will become apparent what you want to do. That’s what happened to me, I just seized an opportunity. I didn’t automatically know “this is what my passion is,” it just developed that way.

What about someone who has discovered his or her passion?

To the person who has found their passion, I would say don’t lose it. Don’t associate your passion with money. That’s something that I struggle with also – you want your passion to be seen as a profession – and that’s great if that works out, pursue that, but don’t let the fact that it doesn’t become that disvalue what you do. It should be something that’s always going to be part of your life even if it’s not how you make money. That’s still what you should live for.

Where do you see yourself taking comedy in the future?

I also addressed this question in my TedX talk. Through the learning experiences I’ve had through pursuing comedy, the lessons I’ve learned will always affect me even if I’m not doing it anymore. Now I’ve had a couple of years where I’ve realized that ill always be doing this until I physically can’t. It might no be professionally, but it’s always going to be a part of my life.  The lessons I’ve learned are more about how I learn, and who I am as a person and how I understand the world.

Could you touch on your work with social media?

I got into social media not for comedy reasons, but the more I got involved and the more I started meeting people online the more I realized it’s a very powerful tool. It’s developed into something that is a very professional tool to me. And it’s opened up an incredible amount of doors to me that I probably wouldn’t have had access to before. That’s how I got on Good Morning America last year; it really was generated from a social media interaction. It allowed me to broaden my horizons personally and personally. I’ve seen nothing but positives in my social media interactions, and I highly recommend it for anyone.

What advice would you give to 15-year-old Alex?

Don’t take things so seriously. I was very over dramatic when I was younger and everything was important to me and I didn’t allow myself to have too much fun. I was wound up. I would tell 14, 15 year old me to relax and that the things that mattered then won’t necessarily matter now.