Millennials as Trendsetters

Millennials: the generation everyone loves to hate, including ourselves. You can catch us laughing at how ridiculous we truly are, sipping on our $6 cold brew coffees in jeans that reveal more skin than actual denim. However, there is no doubt that we are style and foodie icons, revolutionizing our lives with trends that are so outrageous that they somehow work.

Avocado Toast

Of course, we begin with the idolized avocado. It’s a fruit so perfect, it has endless forms. Need a kick to your salad? Throw in some cubed avocado. Smoothie time? Don’t mind if I scoop in some fresh avocado. However, it’s undeniable that the millennial’s favorite use of this treasured treat is simply mashed on toast. It’s the breakfast of champs: a golden-brown piece of your favorite toast (for me, it’s rye), topped with creamy mashed avocado and sprinkled with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. It’s as close to perfection as I’ll ever get. And that’s clear from a CNBC article, stating that Americans spend approximately $900,000 on avocado toast a month (and no, I didn’t add any extra 0s). While it may get some hate from our elders, claiming it is a huge investment in a piece of bread with green mush on top, it’s truly the perfect way to get in some healthy carbs and buttery goodness, without actually fatty butter, of course. You can surely find it served at almost every cafe or brunch place, perfect for a lighter breakfast or afternoon snack.

Unicorn Anything

You’ve seen it all over your Instagram feed. A series of rainbow-colored milkshakes, doughnuts, and even corn, not to mention the unicorn-printed shirts, hats, and room decor. If you’ve forever been a die-hard fan of fairytales, now is your shining moment, as millennials have brought the make-believe into real life. Some trends didn’t go as well planned (ahem: the Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino), but most are well-executed. And even if it doesn’t taste great in food form, it never fails to be an aesthetically-pleasing addition to your photo collection. Sure, most parents probably think it’s just full of unneeded sugars and artificial dyes, but what’s a little treat now and then? And if you’re trekking all the way to New York City, it’s a shame if you didn’t even try a rainbow bagel.

Millennial Pink

Fasten your seatbelts, because millennial pink might just be the new black (gasp!). It’s true, the color has spread like wildfire throughout our generation. From suede Converse to laptop covers to hoodies, millennial pink has made its mark. It’s the color that defines our generation, showing that we can make even the most innocent shade of blush into a rebellious, daring icon. You’d be shocked to find brooding college “sad bois” in baby pink hoodies, young women in rose-tinted shades, and professional boss ladies strutting to work with a tote bag in the same shade as Pepto-Bismol. The new craze has even been seen in our wine preferences: rosé beats red and white almost every time. It’s almost impossible to avoid giving in to the trend, what with it completely taking over favorite millennial stores such as Forever 21, H&M, Zara and Brandy Melville. What’s so empowering about this trend is that it is for all; finally, pink is no longer “just for girls,” but appreciated and supported by all millennials.

Whole Foods

This one might just be the most peculiar trend to non-millennials. Why go out of our way to a grocery store to spend almost triple what we might at a normal grocery store? Well, parents, it’s the idea of it. Whole Foods represents all of a millennial’s wildest dreams: organic produce, healthy eating, and a branded grocery bag to show off that, yes, I can afford to shop at Whole Foods. And, since our generation is infatuated with the idea of natural and healthy cooking, it’s a win-win. More so than past generations, we are all about fruity smoothies, roasted veggies, quinoa bowls and lean chicken breasts. And the perfect place to live out our organic dreams is in the heaven of all grocery stores itself. Not to mention it’s the best spot for a weekday work lunch with your coworkers. Talk about health goals.

Athleisure

Last, but not least, there is the golden fashion trend of our time: athleisure. It was honestly a gift from above. How we managed to make comfort look stylish is beyond me, but our plans have succeeded. Brands like lululemon, Adidas, Nike, and Athleta are absolutely booming today as millennial flood their prized locations. While the gym life has also become popularized in our generation, it seems that the idea of seeming as though you go to the gym is even more popular (much to all of our relief). It is now considered fashionable to show up to class, your favorite cafe, or the mall in track pants, neon sneakers, geometric sports bras, and sweat-resistant tanks. I could go even as far as to say it’s considered glamorous. Of course, regularly showing off brand-name athleisure products proves your wealth and good fortune. Those may just look like stretchy black running pants, but you know she dropped $80 on them. And the best part about wearing those clothes is the mystery of it. Did they just go to the gym and are now grabbing a post-workout smoothie? Are they pregaming their workout with a sweetgreen salad? Do they even have a gym membership? Who knows? It’s all about the perception you put out of being a hip, trendy, fitness icon.

While some of our millennial trends may be borderline preposterous, there’s no doubting their influence on today’s world. We are constantly coming up with new and exciting ways to improve our lives, both physically and aesthetically. We are rebels, within reason, and love nothing more than finding the next best thing to show off to the world via our social media. The pursuit of each social trend stems from our desire to both stand out from the crowd and be supported by our millennial community. And with that, we continue to push forward (maybe with significantly less deconstructed dishes and overly-priced basics).

The Difference Between Healthy Eating and Dieting

Lately, I’ve been struggling with this idea. I’m someone who has always tried hard to live a healthy lifestyle. I rarely eat fast food, work out when I can and would much rather snack on hummus or fruit than on popcorn or cookies. I would classify myself as healthyish. I’m not the type who would turn down pizza on a Saturday night, but it’s not something I like to do on the regular.

As someone who will soon be going abroad to the Castle, I’ve been trying to dedicate the rest of my summer to losing a few pounds and slimming down. I started off by going on a “diet,” which consisted of limiting my carb intake to one meal; a banana or yogurt for breakfast, salads with fruit and nuts for lunch, and typically stir-fried chicken and veggies with multigrain rice for dinner. I felt that, if I didn’t title it as a “diet,” I would be lazy and give up easily. This turned into a competition with myself; every time I was hungry, but opted to go to the gym over snacking unnecessarily, I was washed over with immense pride. I could do this! But when the scale was stubbornly unmoving, I got frustrated. What was the point of eating so little and healthy and going to the gym multiple times a week if it wasn’t going to do anything?

This is where I started recognizing the difference between healthy eating and dieting. For me, the problem with dieting is that it puts too much pressure on an individual. “Carbs for just dinner” sounds so easy, but then when you break that even once, you lose hope and confidence. You think, I already failed, why bother continuing? In a lot of the diets in which we partake, from guided ones like Weight Watchers to self-guided ones like paleo diets, our daily routine revolves around never wavering. We have to be perfect, never giving into cravings and keeping our eyes on the prize at all times. That is a recipe for implosion. And even when we allow for cheat days, those days sometimes lead us to eating way more and much unhealthier than we might have had we been eating more balanced meals every day.

The idea of balance is the key to differentiating between healthy eating and dieting. Healthy eating is so much more effective because it’s all about balance; maybe you ate a lot of protein and fruit for breakfast. Well, then maybe some veggies and grains for lunch. And if you ended up eating a lighter dinner, maybe you can have some frozen yogurt for dessert. You aren’t controlling the quantity or quality of what you’re eating. No more calorie-counting or food-deductions, just balanced eating that leaves room for some cravings, but incorporation of all important food groups. Even if you have a “bad day,” you can always balance it out the next day with healthier meals and a trip to the gym. Healthy eating is a lifestyle, whereas dieting is a temporary phase. It puts less pressure on you to abide by self-proclaimed rules and recognizes that we’re all humans with cravings. Life truly isn’t worth it if we never allow ourselves to eat the foods we really love, even on occasion. And it’s not fair to reprimand ourselves for giving in to a gooey plate of nachos or a moist slice of chocolate fudge cake.

In my new version of “getting my body ready for Europe,” I’m not going to force myself to not eat when I’m hungry and say no to something if I really really want it. I’m still going to try my best to eat beautiful foods that are good for my body, drink as much water as I can, and work out a few times a week. But, on the weekends, I’m going to treat myself to breakfast sandwiches, Rocky Road ice cream, and late-night Maria’s because life is too full of delicious eats to say no.

Being a Non-Music-Major Pianist

I’ve been playing music for as long as I can remember. My childhood was more so a series of staffs, black notes and complex finger patterns than it was words or steps. I learned music as a third language (after English and Tamil), and it brought me a type of simultaneous joy and frustration that nothing else in the world brings me. It’s the fire that lights my every move.

I was 5 years old was when my parents drove me to my first piano lesson. I’d be lying if I said I remembered it like it was yesterday because I don’t recall it at all. I prefer it that way; it wasn’t some huge moment in my life. Instead, it was just what was meant to happen, simple as that. I’ve had 3 piano teachers in my life, each one growing in difficulty and sternness as I, too, grew. Although I don’t remember these first few piano lessons, I will never forget that rush when I’d struggle through a piece and make it through without a single false note. That rush started in my belly and glowed all the way up my esophagus. It was a pride like none other.

After those many years of youth piano books, I finally got into the good stuff. Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, and, my favorite of all, Tchaikovsky. I wasn’t anywhere near being a perfect pianist. Every piece I learned was tough, and I suffered through misplaced fingers, misread notes and misunderstood key signatures. I was so beyond frustrated. All I wanted was to be a piano maestro, taking one look at a page and playing it as fluently as I can speak a passage of the English language. All my friends were playing pop music in their lessons, and I craved the ease of Adele’s chords under my fingertips. I lost sight of the treasure that was classical piano.

What had always discouraged me from being the best pianist I could be was the fact that I knew deep down I didn’t need to be, even if I wanted to. I wasn’t planning on majoring or minoring in any music-related fields. Music was my past and present, but it was sadly not my future. So the hours when I should’ve been practicing my concertos and sonatas, I was instead grabbing iced coffee with my best friends, scribbling out my Calculus homework or researching about and applying to colleges. I had lost my innate passion for music and, rather, treated it like an annoying chore. I instead focused my energies on playing simple chords to my favorite radio songs and singing along to them with my friends. I spent most of my high school career partaking in open mic nights and talent shows, always accompanying myself and my friends on those trusty keys.

It had been a long time since I had played my classical pieces, and I mean really play them. I quit piano lessons by the end of my senior year of high school, preparing for the inevitable move to Boston. My beautiful, rich piano books began collecting dust in the corner of my living room at home, aching for their pages to be turned and set up against the piano stand. But I was a Marketing Communications major, now, and I had no business playing piano.

It was a few weeks ago when I came home for a weekend and went over to my living room (a.k.a. The music room). I play piano often when I come home, but typically Ingrid Michaelson or Ed Sheeran sheet music that I pull up on my laptop. This time, however, I picked up my favorite piano book, Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons. It’s a collection of twelve pieces for every month of the year. I set open the book to January: At The Fireside and began stumbling through the notes. That rush from my belly to my esophagus returned instantaneously. I felt alive.

The point is that music should never have a life sentence. Music lessons are not for children and young adults, until they frolic away to college. Music is not just for the Music majors. There is something so soothing and electrifying about really playing music and forcing yourself through those tricky pieces. I feel the best musician when my eyes glaze over staring at the measures of black notes, sharps, and flats and when I have to keep restarting a measure. It’s when I am the most determined, confident, and focused. It has shaped every aspect of my life, making me a more attuned person. Even though I am no professional maestro, I know I am still a pianist.

How to be an Ethical Shopper on a Budget

Of course, we all want to save the world. We want to end world hunger, war, and animal abuse. But, honestly, being one individual in the middle of over 7 billion people can make you feel really small and helpless. Yeah, there’s the phrase, “It starts with one person,” but can one person really start a worldwide movement and create change?

These are the things I think about when I’m shopping. I think about people like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. If they could create such positive change in this world through their confidence, leadership, and determination, why can’t I? However, I understand that I, like many others in this world, want change, but don’t have the time or resources to commit my life to the change. Alas, this brings me to the topic of ethical shopping. As a fairly broke college student living in an expensive city, it’s not so easy for me to exercise ethical shopping. I want to shop at the brands that I know have the same morals I do, but my wallet doesn’t necessarily agree with that. This is what leads many people in my demographic to the world of fast fashion; stores like Forever 21 and Primark who produce clothes rapidly and sell them for cheap prices. It seems like a great deal for people who want style on a low budget, but fast fashion companies are able to sell their clothes for so little due to the unethical working conditions of employees and wasteful disposal of clothes, among other issues.

However, it is possible to shop ethically on a budget, and here’s how:

Thrifting

One of the worst parts about fast fashion brands is that, when trends come and go, so do the clothes. Piles and piles of clothes are thrown out, and this trash is extremely harmful to our environment. A way to avoid this problem, without emptying your bank account on expensive brand clothing, is to thrift! Shopping at thrift stores and consignment shops has become much more popular recently. There’s something very cool to us millennials about purchasing “vintage” apparel and items. It’s a stylish look, but it also helps us prevent tons of waste! Rather than throwing out those old clothes, people donated or sold them to these stores who are helping pass these clothes along. As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. And the best part about shopping at thrift stores and consignment shops is that items are often sold for much cheaper than their original selling prices, due to the fact that they’ve been previously worn or used. All the better! You can save tons of money and still get some awesome new clothes, all while contributing to saving the environment.

Research

An important part of understanding ethical shopping is research. It’s difficult to know which of your beloved brands are ethical and which aren’t without doing some good old-fashioned research. You can find out a lot about a brand, including employee wages, where the items are produced, working conditions, and environmental impact. Again, it’s hard to find a perfect brand who gets an A+ in all these categories, while still being affordable. However, it’s all about baby steps. While you may not be able to afford a brand like that, you could look into brands who are pledging to improve. For example, H&M used to be considered a fast fashion brand (and still technically might be). However, last year, H&M worked hard to research ways to become more sustainable. They put out a new line called H&M Conscious, and all the clothes were produced with sustainably-sourced cotton. While this cotton only represents 43 percent of their total cotton use, their goal is to have 100 percent of their cotton come from sustainable sources by 2020. Companies like this, who are still affordable, but who are making strides towards more ethical production, can be good choices for people who want to shop ethically on a budget.

DIY

One of the cheapest ways to be an ethical shopper is to make your own clothes! If you’re someone who is creative and would be willing to put in the effort and time into making their own clothes, than this is perfect for you! Just as with cooking, making your own clothes ensures that all the materials and production were done as ethically as possible. Plenty of arts and crafts stores sell materials like cloth, yarn, thread, sewing machines, and buttons, and it could make for a fun home project. However, if you’re not necessarily the artsy type, you could always buy homemade clothes from other sources. Websites like Etsy specialize in handmade products sold by normal people. You can often personalize the product to be exactly what you want. It’s a less expensive way to ensure that your product is being created by an ethical source. In addition, you know that your money is going to a good cause: a hard-working individual like yourself, rather than a multimillion-dollar, greedy corporation.

All in all, it’s not impossible to be an ethical shopper on a low budget. You have plenty of options, and it’s all about starting small and making strides. It may feel like your one action makes no difference in the big scheme of things, but it’s all about conversation. Talking to your family and friends about the changes you’re making to your shopping habits can inspire them to do the same! While you may not feel as prominent in this movement as, say, Martin Luther King, Jr. in the civil rights movement, you can feel confident that a chain reaction has begun.

The Appeal of Brunch

Clink. Sip. Slice. Munch. Laugh. Repeat.

Brunch has become a staple of our millennial lives. There is something so intriguingly special about a Sunday brunch with your friends. The table is always overflowing with mimosas, home fries, eggs three different ways and always at least one pancake. But, what is the appeal of brunch? Why have we placed it on a pedestal far above lunch and dinner?

Our generation is all about finding new and healthy ways to branch out from our parents. We are the kale-loving, SoulCycle-going, meme-watching generation. And our lifeblood is brunch. It provides a rich experience unlike any other; a time with friends when we can eat and drink to our fullest, without being judged for the time of day. Think about it; ordering multiple drinks at lunch is not exactly encouraged and dinner can end up being a more formal experience. At brunch, we can indulge in something out of the ordinary while still managing to meet our budgets. It’s a delightful way to order something that isn’t a classic dinner dish and to treat yourself. Especially in the late morning to early afternoon of a sunny weekend day.

And, if it isn’t obvious already, millennials are positively obsessed with photographing and sharing the exciting details of their day-to-day lives. The best part about brunch? It’s always aesthetically pleasing. Creamy Eggs Benedict on golden brown English muffins, fluffy Belgian waffles oozing with fresh fruit and maple syrup, colorful arrays of delicious Huevos Rancheros and, naturally, the never-ending flights of tropical mimosas and spicy Bloody Marys. As soon as the server arrives with the steaming, heaping plates, iPhones immediately emerge and the perfect, Instagram-worthy photo can be captured within seconds. After all, what good is a beautiful brunch if your friends can’t eye it on social media and be completely jealous?

Brunch fits the millennial lifestyle to a T. We are always hard-working fanatics during the week, juggling internships, classes, jobs and meetings. On the weekends, we like to treat ourselves to giant fishbowls, endless dancing, blistered feet and greasy pizza at 2 am. And brunch falls into this category perfectly; it allows us to still sleep in a little later on weekends, still get delicious breakfast foods and efficiently combine our breakfast and lunches into one filling, luxurious meal. And, of course, most of us arrive at our brunch dates relatively hungover. Well, no problems there! Brunch can accommodate even the most nauseous, aching people; coffee for those who need something strong, heavy dishes for those who need to fill their pained stomachs with plenty of carbs and even more refreshing drinks for those who aren’t quite ready to give up their alcohol intake for the weekend.

Since millennials fall into such a broad category when it comes to what we can and can’t afford, brunch is the perfect middle ground. For those of us college students who are broke beyond belief, we can alway manage to afford a couple eggs, home fries and toast for a reasonable couple of bucks. And for those of us older millennials with more successful incomes, there’s always an indulgent smoked salmon omelette, Nutella and strawberry crepe or eggs Florentine on which to splurge. It’s the perfect meal time to find something everyone likes and wants to immediately Snapchat to all their friends.

Clearly, the appeal we millennials have found in brunch is the aesthetic, diversity, and luxury in it. It’s a meal we have made our own, shifting it from a classic diner platter of pancakes and eggs to something for which one would wait two hours in line. We can’t deny the thrill it gives us to wake up at 10 am, dress up nicely, and be seated at a table at 11:30 with our best friends, snapping pictures of our strawberry mimosas and golden brown French toast. It’s alluring, tasteful, and as classy as we millennials can get.

The Problem with Emerson Attendance Policy

We’ve all been there. You open your eyes at 9:20 am, knowing full well you have your elective at 10. But you also know that your head is pounding, your throat is drier than the Sahara, your nose is running faster than your legs ever could and you feel like ten bricks were just chucked at your body. Nope, you’re not hungover; you’re sick. But you also know you only have one unexcused absence left and…there are two months left of the semester. Groaning, aching and melting in your own skin, you reluctantly roll your limbs out of bed and begin your routine.

Emerson’s attendance policy is, needless to say, strict. It’s said that most professors assign a policy of 3 unexcused absences and unlimited excused absences. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve had professors only allow 2, 1, or even no unexcused absences for the entirety of the semester. And when the pool of reasons from which excused absences can be drawn is so small, it becomes increasingly difficult for Emerson students to maintain a good grade in class while still tending to their physical and mental needs.

I have never before experienced such a hard-working, dedicated environment of students who will go to class through so much. I myself have sat through classes even with treacherous stomach bugs and eye infections. The scary part to me is that it seems the school would prefer we come to class with our contagious illnesses than stay home and rest. It’s clear the quality of our work in class is greatly diminished during these instances, and yet, we still push through.

I find it absurd the inconsistency between professors’ policies. I’ve had professors who have excused people for public transportation issues, colds and picking up extra shifts at work, as well as professors who have refused to grant excused absences for family deaths, funerals and weddings. As adults between the ages of 18 and 22, students should be given enough responsibility and respect to come to class on their own terms. With such strict attendance policies, it feels like the college doesn’t trust us to manage our own educations. And it’s saddening that professors will often assume dishonesty or laziness, no matter the excuse a student gives.

When a professor once addressed my class on the first day with “You will be given no excused absences. You are adults, and if you want to come to class, you will,” it was unbelievable to me. Being absent from class is so much more than merely not wanting to come. We as adults understand the economic toll our education has on our lives, and we know to take it very seriously. Yes, there are days when we are tired, bored or hungry and don’t feel like going to class, but professors need to start taking our health more seriously. Nothing, no not even your hour-and-45-minute-long seminar, matters more than our health.

At the end of the day, students are in control of their education. They will take as much, or as little, from it as they desire. It is not a professor’s job to force students into their classroom; if a professor is being respectful and fair, then students will naturally want to come to class. It’s as simple as that. Health is wealth, and us Emerson students are going to be needing some major wealth if we dream of funding our expensive undergraduate educations.

Being a Second Generation WOC in America

“Where are you from?” 

“Born and raised in Shrewsbury, Mass.” 

“No, where are you really from?”

It is difficult being of Indian descent having grown up in the United States. It’s like being caught between two different worlds, forever being pulled and shoved back and forth between two nations. I’ve always felt like I was having an identity crisis: am I Indian or am I American? Can I be both when it feels like people always need me to just make a decision? It’s like the whole nature vs. nurture conversation we’ve all had at least once in a high school science class. Are we defined more by our genes and roots or by our environment and upbringing?

My parents grew up in India, raised in the colorful, vibrant culture of our homeland. They had an arranged marriage when my mother was 21 and my father was 28 and moved to America a few years later to start a new life. I always wonder what that must feel like: leaving behind everything and everyone you know, packing up your entire life, and moving to a foreign country with a person you just met. Terrifying, confusing, and… thrilling.

Both my sister and I were born in Framingham, Massachusetts. I have always felt like we were raised in different ways. When my sister was born, my parents were still very attached to their Indian culture. She grew up only speaking our native language Tamil and didn’t hear English until she started going to school. I think my parents felt that they hadn’t assimilated her into America properly. That was what it was always about for people moving from India to America; it was about assimilating into the new culture and fitting in, not bringing in a taste of an old culture to a new world. So, when I was born, things were different. I was raised on an eclectic mix of Tamil phrases and English sentences. I could’ve grown up to be fluently bilingual but my parents stressed English with me much more than they did Tamil. I’ve grown up understanding Tamil almost fluently, and being able to speak it pretty well, but viewing Tamil texts as meaningless, confusing symbols.

As I got older, into middle school, that’s when I started realizing I was inevitably “different.” I had skin as tan as roasted almonds, eyes darker than twilight and a head of black waves. I didn’t look like most of my friends, who were pale-skinned and blue-eyed. This is when I started recognizing the pressures of society to “choose” a side. And as most tweens and teens, I chose the side of fitting in with my friends. From late middle school to high school, I found myself doing as much as I could to dig out my Indian roots and conform to my American culture. I stopped watching Tamil movies and listening to Tamil music with my parents. I ate Indian food at home, but would never have done so in front of friends. I wore scandalous clothing, fought with my parents and spent as much time as I could with friends. I donned the reputation as “the whitest Indian girl” at school, and it filled me with immense pride. Finally, finally, I was cool and wasn’t known as just another Indian girl. I was special because I fit in with my white friends. I had chosen my side and that side was America.

It wasn’t until I got to college that I realized how wrong I was. Emerson has taught me so much about embracing your culture, your roots and who you truly are. I had never been in such a welcoming, diverse environment that celebrated each other’s differences. I had never been appreciated for being Indian by non-Indian friends. This is where I have finally embraced my title of a woman of color. And ever since coming to school here, I have made efforts to speak in Tamil more often with my parents, talk about my culture with friends and enjoy the rich traits and lifestyles of my homeland.

Being a woman of color in America is hard because your family is constantly reminding you to stay true to your roots, while your friends are reminding you that you are in a different world. As if being a woman isn’t already difficult in this world, being a woman of color means less opportunities, less rights, and being taken less seriously. It means picking and choosing which aspects of your life you want to remain true to which culture, and making sense of how your heritage and environment coincide and have worked together to create the individual you are. I know I would be a completely different person if I wasn’t raised embracing two different cultures, and for that, I am thankful. But, most of all, I am thankful to come from parents who have never once pushed me to do one thing or another, but have let me make mistakes, forget and remember what is important and finally understand who I am all by myself.

The Art of Tinder

Swipe left. Swipe left. Swipe left. Pause. Click. Scroll. Swipe right. Match. Swipe left. Swipe left.

We’ve all been there. You’re bored, and you’re scrolling through your Instagram feed. Then all of a sudden, you close out and click on that orange fire icon and start swiping. It’s mindless entertainment, and we can’t deny the rush it gives us to literally rate people based on a single photo. But, why?

For me, the Tinder journey has been just that: a journey. I end up going through phases in which I cover months without touching the app. And then, suddenly, I’ll see a friend swiping, and I realize I kind of miss it. Then begins the brief phase, lasting between one week and one month, where I’m back on the app, semi-regularly. No matter what prompted my return, I must admit it always stems from some level of boredom. That, I believe, is a commonality of our generation; with a constant stream of information being thrown in our faces, we’re always looking for ways to be entertained. For most, that’s spending hours each day tagging friends in memes and flipping through people’s Snapchat Stories. But, when that gets old, the best way to uncover some new content is through Tinder, since you’re always being shown new faces.

In my opinion, Tinder doubles as a dating (or hookup) app and a self-validation app. We can’t deny the little ray of pride we feel when we match with someone we find pretty attractive. Even more so when that person messages us. In this day and age, it’s hard to get that kind of validation in person. Face-to-face human interaction has spiraled downwards as we’ve become consumed by our devices at all times of day. It seems to be getting more and more difficult to meet someone in person and have them actually ask you out on a date. Some might say that chivalry is dead; I say that direct conversation is dead. If I’m being honest, I would probably find it very strange and uncomfortable if any stranger approached me and tried to strike up a conversation. So, to get that same feeling in a much safer and more comfortable environment (a.k.a our phones), Tinder can often be that outlet. You get to talk to people you find attractive, to whom you’d never typically speak, and feel validated by their attraction to you. And, if all fails, you can just stop responding or delete them and move on with your life. It’s as simple as that.

The problem with Tinder for me, though, is the varying levels of involvement each individual on the app has. There are some people who live by Tinder as if it’s a religious text; there are others, like me, who go on it once in awhile and often forget about their matches. There are some who are on the app solely to find one-night stands and meaningless hookups; there are others who are looking for relationships or even just friendships. This is a flaw in the app for me; it’s very difficult to find someone who’s on the same page as you. While I myself am not searching for my future husband on Tinder, it does get a bit tiring when most of the men with whom I match seem to only want to hook up once and then move on. It would be a lot better for me if Tinder added a couple more settings to their Discovery Settings. Since you can edit the gender, age range, and location range you’re looking for, I believe you should also be able to edit “what” you’re looking for (ex. relationship, friendship, regular hook-up, one-night stand) and only match with people who are on the same page as you.

However, what’s most interesting to me about Tinder is the emphasis we place on photos and bios. There are settings on Tinder that can place your photos in order of how attractive people will find them. There are articles and studies done on what types of photos receive the most right swipes. To many, Tinder is truly an art form; a lot of thought goes behind the making of a Tinder profile. Just as it is with any other social media platform, we are given the power to control how others view us. And, in creating this image, a lot of thought is involved. You can give as much or as little as you want, and in return, also get as much or as little as you want. That is truly the art of Tinder.

I will end with 5 of the most ridiculous messages I have received from recent Tinder guys:

  1. That’s funny.. My second girlfriend had the name Swetha too!! But the thing is I only had one girlfriend
  2. U like bad boys?
  3. if you were a flower you’d be a dammmmmnedelion
  4. I’ll make you a deal. I’ll set you up with my bunny if you set me up with your tall blond friend in the fourth pic?
  5. hey

What Sophomore Year Has Taught Me

College is quite a wild ride. I never expected to learn, change, and grow as much as I did. Sometimes, I feel like a completely different person. Other times, I feel merely like a more mature version of my high school self. Regardless of the impact college has left on you thus far, it’s inevitable that its going to teach you a few important lessons: some in the classroom and some in the broader sense of life.

Friendships are hard to maintain, but so valuable.

What everyone always told me about college is true: you do meet people who completely change your life, for the better. One of the absolute best parts about Emerson for me so far is the opportunities I’ve gotten to befriend some extraordinary people. It’s so rare to meet people who make you feel loved, supported, and cherished, but that’s what Emerson has done for me. However, I’ve also learned that friendships are hard. It’s easy to call someone your friend when you cross paths with them every day during the semester and can easily meet up at the DH after class or run down two flights of stairs to their room in LB. But, as soon as it hits summer, it honestly gets so difficult to see a lot of those people you still call “friends.” When you have to really go out of your way to make plans and schedule times to meet up with someone off-campus, those friendships might face a four-month hiatus. It’s disappointing, but I think it really proves to you, deep down, who your best friends really are. They are the people who you genuinely want to see and with whom it’s never a hassle to make plans. They’re the gems that college has given you.

Never take family for granted.

Family can mean something different for everyone. It’s not just the conventional family that we all expect; families can come from friends and organizations, too. Regardless of who it is you call “family,” college has taught me that those are so rare and meaningful. Family is the people who you know will support and love you unconditionally. And, as a college student when life is turned upside down often, it’s nice to have something like that. As most other high school people at that time, I hated being at home during high school. I was constantly out of the house and rolling my eyes about my parents. Now, I often can’t wait to go home and just lay around the house with my parents and sister, reliving old memories and laughing about things only we’d understand. Having a constant in my life has been such a breath of fresh air in the swirling vortex that can be Emerson. I’ve come to appreciate my rich culture and the caring parents who raised me in it. I feel wiser, stronger, and more independent because of my family.

Putting yourself out there is everything.

My first semester of college was, to be brief, a tragic mess. I, someone who was a social butterfly my entire life, finally felt like my wings had been clipped off. Starting fresh in a completely different environment was a major stress on my life. I didn’t know how to make new best friends when I’d known my best friends from home since the sixth grade. It wasn’t like I was holed up in my room alone every night; I just only really spent time with my roommates and went home every other weekend. I owed that solitude to the fact that all I did was go to class and come back to my enclosed dorm. I wasn’t a part of any organizations and didn’t have any opportunities to make friends. That simple idea of not putting myself out there by joining any new organizations and clubs almost led me to transferring from Emerson. However, second semester rolled around, and I got accepted into Emerson Noteworthy, an a cappella group. Finally having a group of people outside of class to see regularly and be myself around changed everything for me. Because that’s all it took: having an outlet where I could do something I was passionate about and also have people with whom to share it. That slowly led me to opening myself up more. And here I am now, a member of 6 different organizations and thriving (in most ways).

Nothing is certain, and that’s something you just have to embrace.

It’s really terrifying looking into the future and having absolutely no idea what it holds. That future for most college students is in the post-grad life; for me, it also includes the next two years of my life at Emerson. Since coming here, I’ve changed my major, made and lost friends, and had so many of my perspectives on life questioned and completely flipped around. I thought that I was going to graduate with a degree in Journalism to go on and pursue a career at a news station as an anchor. Now, I’m working towards a degree in Marketing Communications, hoping to someday be on a marketing team for one of my favorite brands (maybe even a CMO someday, or at least that’s the ultimate dream). I’ve had some best friends come and go with semesters and others remain permanently rooted in my life. I came into college extremely skeptical and uninterested in Fraternity and Sorority Life, and I am now a proud member of Zeta Phi Eta. It’s truly impossible to predict your every move in college. As you shift and grow, your likes, dislikes, beliefs, and opinions will shift and grow, too. I used to be the kind of person who needed to know exactly what was happening, when it was happening, and where it was happening. While I’m still like that at times, I’m learning to recognize that there are just some things that cannot be controlled. And while it can be disappointing and heartbreaking to lose people who meant the world to you once and have your entire future plans halted and turned on their heads, it’s also exciting. It’s thrilling that life can take so many twists and turns and that every decision can lead to a million wonderful things you never expected. Life is so moldable, and that’s quite beautiful (especially for an arts student).

So, regardless of if you absolutely love college or if you’re dying to get that diploma, it’s obvious that where you go to college, the classes you take, and the people you meet can have a huge impact on your life. It has an eerie mystery to it, yet that mystery holds so many unseen opportunities. It teaches you to exemplify your strengths and improve your weaknesses, making you a stronger and wiser human being. In the end, college is a brief time in your life, but it’s a special time that can really influence your path in the future.

How to Upgrade Your Favorite Unhealthy Foods

I hate to break it to you, but we all have a curse. It’s the curse of unhealthy food. Tell me you haven’t walked past a Wendy’s and audibly gasped. Or walked into a Starbucks, planning on just getting a tall iced coffee, and accidentally gotten a grande Mocha Frappuccino with whipped cream. Or sat in an UNO’s and felt your mouth actually water at the smell of pizza. So it’s true then; we are all cursed. But, you can trick your stomach. It’s possible to break this curse and “healthify” your favorite unhealthy foods.

Frappuccinos

How deliciously refreshing is an ice-cold, frothy frappuccino on a hot summer day? Well, did you know that a grande Mocha Frappuccino with whipped cream is 378 calories and and has 47.1 grams of sugar? Yikes! I know it’s easy to disguise the calories in our Starbucks orders because, well, they’re just coffee right? Wrong. Unfortunately, they’re closer to a milkshake. But it’s so easy to make your own frappuccino that is way healthier! Replace that whole milk with skim milk (or half and half if you can’t let go quite so much). Whipped cream and syrup alone could be the cause of an extra 150 to 200 calories! Swap out the syrup for more natural sweeteners; a combination of vanilla extract, cocoa powder, and a little bit of sugar can go a long way! If you can’t say goodbye to the whipped cream, try a dollop of Cool Whip on top. Add some coffee and ice and blend, and there you go: a much cheaper and much less sugary version of your favorite drink!

Pizza

I know, how can one live without this beautiful creation?! Pizza has become so integrated into our lives that it’s almost second nature to order Domino’s for dinner or grab a slice of New York Pizza after a late night on the town. Sadly, the old excuses of “Well, tomatoes are a vegetable!” and “Doesn’t cheese give you calcium?” don’t really fly with a Domino’s pizza; if you ate two slices of a large Domino’s cheese pizza, you’re looking at 580 calories and 72 carbohydrates! Yup, I’m being serious. However, do not fret! You can still get your pizza fixing with a healthier mindset. Consider making a cauliflower crust, a fairly new creation that has been all the rage online. You can grate cauliflower, combine it with some cheese, spices, and eggs in a bowl, flatten it into a pizza crust shape on a baking sheet, and bake it to create a crust-like consistency. Without a thick, buttery bread crust, you’re saving a ton of carbs while still getting that delicious crust feel. You can add your favorite tomato sauce and cheese variety on top and bake again for a savory, satisfying pizza. It may not be the same as Domino’s, but if you force yourself to forget that you’re eating baked cauliflower, it does taste a heck of a lot like a real crust.

Fries

Last, but not least, the infamous fries. They’re the side on every menu, taunting you as you try and fail to order a salad. You think, “Oh, I’ll just get a medium fry and no burger, that’s not that bad, right?” Well, a medium fry at McDonald’s has 340 calories! It’s a number you probably knew in the back of your mind, but have been subtly ignoring for years. It’s a sad reality; but, you can still eat fries and not bust your belly. Why not try baking your own fries? It sounds shameful, but you can still pack in a lot of flavor. Instead of deep-frying thinly sliced potatoes, you can toss them in some olive oil, salt, and any other spices you like, lay them out on a baking sheet, and bake them in the oven. You can achieve delicious fries with crispy outsides and tender insides. They have less than a third of the fat in a McDonald’s medium fry, with even more flavor! While it doesn’t have the same effect as a steaming hot order of fries from your favorite fast-food joint, it’s a quick and easy recipe to whip up.

There you go! Three ways to upgrade your favorite unhealthy foods to something a lot healthier. I, for one, have never had any success trying to cut out my favorite foods and eat only leafy greens. Just like anyone else, I get terrible cravings for the greasiest and sugariest foods out there. But, if you, also like me, are trying to watch what you eat, this is a great way to go. It’s finally possible to lay on the couch and eat a plate full of fries and have absolutely no guilt about it!