“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”
- C.S. Lewis
I recently read a BuzzFeed Article entitled "43 Life-Changing Books You Need to Read," and it got me thinking about the books I've read that have shaped my life. I'll never forget the first time I finished a great book. The feeling is unlike anything else in the world. Reading immerses you in a different world, a different universe--when you come crashing down out of that new reality, the fall can be hard. My favorite example of this to look back and laugh at is thinking about finishing Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I was sitting in a hotel room with my parents and sister, and I closed the book and the tears started. My mom laughed and shook her head, undoubtedly thinking about how similar we are, while my dad looked on confused and tentatively asked, "Tatum, are you okay?" The answer, "It was just so good" confused him even more.
As far back as I can remember, I've loved to read. From the Frog and Toad books I devoured in kindergarten to the endless list of "must-reads" I've noted, my library card and I have been friends for a long time. I have so much respect for the storytellers of the world. I hate seeing the amount of pages left steadily decrease, but I have no self control. I can read a book in a day and completely forget that there's a real world around me--a real world that includes living people--and that maybe I should actually take a break from reading and have a real conversation.
One of the things that sometimes frustrates me about college is the lack of time for reading. Sure, we read articles and textbooks and the occasional novel for classes, but it's hard to break past the "ugh, I have to be reading this" barrier. I don't know what it is about assigned readings that annoy me, but I'm sure my fellow students of the world can relate. It's not even that I don't want to read, it's that the rebellious (lol) side of me wants to dig in my heels and read something, anything else. I know--I'm a bad-ass. Moving on.
To confront this internal dilemma of mine, I've got a new goal: replace Netflix with reading. Shocking words to hear from a college kid, I know, but I really think that this shift in priorities can only lead to good. It's so tempting at the end of a long day to sit in front of your laptop and zone out on an episode of The Office or Grey's Anatomy for an hour, and sometimes, you really do need Michael Scott's wisdom. But for me, there's something far more satisfying about making a cup of coffee and cracking open a good book. So cheers to reading, libraries, and library cards.
Some of our fantastic committee members
As one of three student Directors of Relay For Life of UNC, a yearlong fundraising event benefitting the American Cancer Society, I have a lot of responsibility. Our overall committee is made up of over 200 students, all of whom are separated into 15 committees. Our executive team consists of 23 members who lead the 15 committees. The events we host can range from planning a benefit night at a nearby restaurant to our signature fall carnival that’s lovingly entitled “breasticle festival,” to increase awareness of breast and testicular cancer to planning a benefit concert that draws in hundreds of students. Our main event in the spring lasts 15 hours and the idea is that participants make teams, and at least one team member is walking around the track for the entire 15 hours. Planning these events, recruiting participants, and fundraising for almost the entire academic calendar is exhausting, but you’ll never find something so simultaneously rewarding.
Taking on a the primary leadership role in this organization has taught me so much, a lot of which you’ll be reading about later in this blog. But for today, I want to start with the basics: taking issues in stride. As you might imagine, with a group of over 200 students, you’re naturally going to run into problems and complaints. The force of these complaints can be shocking, especially when in your own mind, the complaints are focused on minute details. When you’re planning everything and anything, complaints about small things can seem insignificant and frustrating, but something I’ve learned is that they are 100% worth a listen. At the end of the day, people want to feel like their voices are heard and that they’re making a difference in bettering an organization, and that’s where the majority of these complaints come in.
Now, at first glance, an email filled with harsh complaints does just seem like hate mail written with malice. Don’t get me wrong, when I first read an angry email, I spend at least two minutes thinking of all of the angry things I could say back. I think that path of thought is genuinely human. If you don’t do it, please call me and teach me your ways, because I’d love to save some time. But at second glance, you start to realize something important is going on and you think: okay, this student is feeling overwhelmed and needs some help with time management...how can I help them prioritize their goals and keep them involved? I love that my role in this organization gives me the opportunity to help people in this way. You'll never switch roles from life coach to tutor to personal therapist to professional motivator as fast as you do in a campus leadership position.
Leadership, I’ve decided, is not about standing at the front of the room telling people what to do. It’s actually about listening, listening, and more listening, and then building the organization based upon what you hear. Ensuring that an individual’s voice is heard and helping them decide on a plan of action that’s right for them will do much more good than fixing the problem for them and pushing them in what you might think is the right direction. I’m not saying I’ve got it all figured out, or that I’m a perfect leader, because I know that I’m not. But I love nothing more than celebrating a victory with the 200 students I lead, and so I’ll keep striving for improvement.
I got so geeked out about writing a blog that I forgot to introduce myself, so here's a bit of introduction as to why I am the way that I am.
The shorter version: just your average college girl ~living life and doing her thing~
The longer version: I'm a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill, and I love this place more than I could ever imagine I would. I'm studying Public Relations at the UNC School of Media and Journalism, and also Global Studies, with a focus on Latin America and transnational arts and culture.
One of my favorite pictures I've taken at UNC
Aside from that mouthful, what it really comes down to is studying the art of telling a story. And let me tell you, this is truly an art. If there's one person who can confirm that, it's my grandpa. This man can tell you about meeting world historic figures (like Martin Luther King, Jr.) over a game of rummy like you would never believe. Before you know it, he's beating you by 200 points, and you're sitting there awestruck (although, to be honest, he'd win even if he wasn't distracting you).
Hearing my grandpa tell these stories so casually and with such simple joy made me realize that likely, everyone has incredible stories to tell, and they don't even realize it. I think that's what really got me started on this path. If I could imagine a perfect job, it would be traveling around the world just talking with people, and then writing up their personal stories with them so that they could have them to hold onto, or to share with others. I don't think I'll ever get tired of hearing stories or helping people figure out how to tell them. I don't think I'll ever get tired of learning. And if I can't find a career path where I'm always learning and helping people share what they love with the world, well, as my mom likes to say....there's always grad school.
The end is near. I'm a second semester senior. I've got one thing and one thing only on the brain: how am I going to find something meaningful to do with myself in the real world, especially when I'm studying at one of the top journalism schools in the country with hundreds of other brilliant students? So, as you might imagine, I've got what I'm going to describe as "job search syndrome." This, combined with my love of overthinking potential disastrous scenarios, is what got me to this train of thought.
We've all been there: "What's your weakness?" The interview question poses an impossible situation: find something bad about yourself, but then magically transform it into a great quality that will make you an even better candidate for "x" position. Recently, I've been told by quite a few job search advice articles that answering, "I'm a perfectionist," is the most overused, common, bland answer possible. My first thoughts were, yeah, I get that, but then I started to think....why? Why is it the most commonly used answer? Most people might say, "Well, it's because it's the easy answer" or "It's the best adjective to describe something that seems bad but can actually be good." But I think the reality is, at least from what I can see among my peers, we're a generation of perfectionists. If an answer is true, why not share it?
At UNC-Chapel Hill, I encounter perfectionists every single day. I'm one of them. And trust me, we're unbelievably hard on ourselves. That doesn't mean that we're super serious, sense-of-humorless robots...but I'm sure it can seem that way on occasion. Perfectionism most certainly is a weakness. It really isn't great. It can make you obsess over every minute detail until your eyes water. But what I'm learning about perfectionism is that for me and for many of the people around me, first and foremost, it translates into passion. Passion that supports not only what we're doing but why we're doing it. That's what it all comes down to, right? The WHY. At UNC, I see so many people who have a fantastic WHY behind everything that they do. I think that I'm still figuring out my WHY--my perfectionism is helping me do that.
I'm sitting here pondering what my answer might be for that fateful job interview question in the future...and you know what? I just might stick with perfectionism. You can roll your eyes, tell me I need to do my best to stand out and say something unique, but to me, that answer is honest. It's overused, sure, but through that answer, I can portray my passion, my WHY, and so much more about myself. So, until further notice, if you want to ask me, "What's your weakness?," you know what to expect.