What I learned from Wrestling

This year capped off the last year in my decade spanning career as a wrestler. I didn’t know that in seventh grade when I showed up to the wrestling team meeting, that this wouldn’t be like WWE Monday Night Raw. I didn’t know that even after hardly learning a move and losing every match I was in that year, that I would persist. I didn’t know I would have been one point away from being a state qualifier, but ultimately falling in the blood round senior year. I didn’t know that I was going to keep wrestling in college, becoming a three time national qualifier. I didn’t know that my biggest college win would be in the conference finals, winning by pinfall in double-overtime after being injured and sick the same week. Most improbable of all, I didn’t know that I would lose my dad, my biggest supporter in the sport, the day after my junior season started. Nor did I know what heartache lay ahead. I just didn’t know.

But there is a lot that I do know now. I know this sport has taught me how to overcome adversity. I know this sport has taught me patience when I couldn’t immediately excel. I know this sport has graced me with many great coaches, from middle school to college, who have shaped my path and strengthened my yearning to coach as well. I know this sport has truly taught me what it means to have teammates, and to call them friends on and off the mat. I know this sport has given me more than I ever thought I would have, and it allowed me to build a deeper bond with my dad. Most important of all, I know that while seasons may get cut short, the lessons you take with you have no off-days.

COVID-19 College Student Experience

Written March 23, 2020.

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus.  The COVID-19 outbreak was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China and has since been found in nearly every country.

The World Health Organization has declared this a pandemic. I have never experienced this kind of fear and panic. It started with a few cases and has soared to about 350,000 coronavirus cases as of today, March 23rd. It’s unsettling that a disease that started 7,000 miles away from the United States is having such a drastic impact on our country and the rest of the world.  

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting my personal life by halting all my daily activities – school, work, and the gym. Massachusetts, where I live, has prohibited public gatherings of 25 people or more. It feels like each day the situation in my home state is getting worse. Cases of COVID-19 are rising daily. It is urgent that we all participate in social distancing by standing 6 feet away from each other and even avoid seeing others. 

I work 40 hours per week at AAA and attend Bridgewater State University full-time. I live alone, so not being able to work or see people will be difficult. Bridgewater State University had to shut down and adapt by moving to online classes for the remainder of the semester. It will be stressful trying to focus on schoolwork and finding a stable source of income to cover expenses. I filed for unemployment and was unsuccessful -the online procedure requires that you be without work and income for a certain period of time before you can apply for this benefit. 

Preparing to stay at home has been difficult because many stores lack the food and resources that we need. “Panic buying” has started – if you go to Costco or Walmart you may find yourself waiting in line just to go in. Items like toilet paper, water bottles, medicine, and alcohol are harder to find. 

In the right conditions this virus can spread rapidly and, in some cases, become life-threatening. We toned to protect each other by staying home and practicing sanitization like frequent hand washing. Everyone’s lives have been impacted by this devastating virus. 

While many are out of jobs, this is a time to relax and take care of things at home. Bond with family members in your own household. Organize shelves and do a little bit of cleaning. With the extra time I have available now, I play with my dog and I started painting my house. I was able to paint a few rooms, organize shelves, and clean the house. Working full-time and being a full-time student does not give me a lot of time at home to take care of things, so one positive thing about this pandemic is that has given me more time at home. We don’t know when the COVID-19 pandemic will slow down or go away, but for now it is best to stay home and participate in social distancing. 

Foster Care: Importance of a Safety Net

Why It Matters and How You Can Learn More

Originally posted on One Woman’s Journey

I struggle with these posts. It’s why I only have one other on the topic. Each time I sit down to write about anything that connects back to my past, I wind up crying. It’s emotionally exhausting and therapeutic all at the same time. Truth is–I need to do this more. I need to be okay talking about my past. I have goals and a dream to inspire others, to lift up our youth, to write a book, to speak on my journey, all with the intention of showing others what is possible. Truly, the backbone of this blog and its purpose is my past, the way it has defined me, the way it pushes me, and the reason I strive for balance, self-care, purpose and a better life for me and my family. When I think of the purpose of this blog and who I’m writing for/to, it’s to show that even if you have suffered deplorable circumstances, even if parts of your journey were difficult and cruel, that there is greatness in you, that all that you wish and hope for is possible.

 

Challenges disadvantaged children are up against and how to support them

As I get older, how I spend my time grows in importance. I want to spend my years giving skill and time to organizations that are making a difference–those that are providing a safety net for children who have had to face bumps in the road. On second thought, the challenges many of our youth have to face are more massive than merely “bumps in the road.” A better way to put it would be kids who have had to climb mountains and cross oceans on their way to adulthood. 

Back in November (I believe) I got a message on LinkedIn from someone who comes from a very similar place as me. He saw my volunteer experience for a not-for-profit foster care association on my LinkedIn, and we started talking about our common upbringing.  He mentioned that he sat on the board of the Wily Network, a not-for-profit organization that helps youth who are navigating college on their own due to foster care, homelessness, absent parents, etc. They assist with coaching, financial assistance and by providing a sense of community. 

This safety net is significant when you consider that  97% of foster children don’t graduate from college or that most students who are estranged from their parents have never even had contact with social services. The number of children affected is hard to fully grasp. Many of these children separate from their parents as they get older and struggle to make their way through college, not connected to a group like those in foster care and possibly even more likely to fall through the cracks.

I’ve been working with the Wily Network, working with their amazing and passionate team and trying to offer any support or experience I can, as both a foster child alum and someone who has carved out her career in digital marketing and social media. I encourage you to learn more about what they do and the tremendous impact they are making. 

 

Do you know a child who has had a challenging life?

If you’ve made it this far, please take a second and think, is this anyone that you know? Do you know a young person who has had a tough childhood? Abusive parents? Parents with mental health issues, parents that are incarcerated, parents that are so focused on making ends meet they aren’t able to support their children’s passions or future? Even if you decide not to donate your time or your resources, please learn more about the plight that these children face. Just take a few moments and imagine a child, broken, beaten down, no sense of self-worth, no positive example for them to look to, someone who has all the potential in the world, someone that just didn’t have a chance in this life. Now look at your child, your niece or nephew, your grandchild, and imagine this was one of them. What would you do, how far would you go to make their life better?

These kids don’t have that person. 

We all need that person. Someone who believes in us and doesn’t give up. Can you look for opportunities to be that person, even in the smallest of ways?  

 

Do you want to learn more? Join this virtual discussion – A Chance in the World

If you would like to learn more, the Wily Network is hosting an online event where you will have the opportunity to join author Steve Pemberton for a virtual discussion and Q & A on his book, A Chance in the World. This fireside chat–like discussion will be moderated by Carmen Ortiz-McGhee with an introduction from Wily Scholar J’Saun Bastien.

I watched the movie. I cried, mourned and felt empathy for the childhood he lost, the pain he experienced, and I smiled and felt joy and identified with his journey. I was inspired by how he overcame his challenging upbringing and let it propel him to where he is now, an executive, a leader, a visionary and advocate for youth. 

Steve will share his thoughts, insights and perspectives on the impact of the current crises on college students and the challenges that Wily Scholars and other disadvantaged youth are facing today.

You can register for the event here, and add it to your calendar for Monday, 6/27 from 6-7 p.m. EST.

Active Aeroelastic Aircraft Testbed (A3TB)

I spent my sophomore year summer in Israel through the MIT International Science & Technology Initiative (MISTI). I knew that during my time at MIT I wanted to travel the world, especially if it’s free!

I grew up in a moderately religious household and went to religious classes, so I knew about the biblical Israel: the land of Abraham and King Solomon. But I knew Israel was more than that, so I wanted to travel there. I also knew there was a lot of cutting-edge aerospace research in Israel, which would be perfect for me to see.

After getting accepted into the program, I matched with a research group at Technion University’s Aerospace Faculty. I was told many times that Technion was the MIT of Israel, and once I heard that MIT was the Technion of the US.

The faculty was incredibly welcoming, and I felt right at home as soon as I arrived on campus. My lab was researching active flutter suppression and was ready to build and fly a drone that would serve as a test bed for aeroelasticity. I was eager to help as I have built many drones before with the Design / Build / Fly team at MIT.

I spent my first few weeks on the CAD model of the three-meter wingspan drone.

The drone was 3D printed from ABS plastic covered with Monokote and with a carbon spar at the quarter chord. I helped with the mechanical integration.

In July, we had our flight test! Unfortunately the plane didn’t exactly fly…

In the second half of my summer, I took the lead designing and preparing for a ground vibration test of the aircraft. We used motion capture software from OptiTrack to find the step and frequency responses of clamped wing sections with the help of some MATLAB.

In between workdays, I traveled a lot in Israel. I explored Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, and many more places, which included tasting the best food in the region.

And in just a few weeks, the summer was over. While I can’t say I’ll miss the Middle Eastern sun, I will say that my time in Israel, both in lab and touring the entire country, is one I’ll never forget.

The step response of a clamped section of the test bed.

The step response and frequency

Staying Calm During Quarantine

During this pandemic it is important to stay home, but also not get bored. Luckily, as a huge introvert, this is my time to shine and spill the beans on what introverts do all the time to recharge their energy. Below are a few ways to not only avoid boredom, but also stay calm and relaxed while at home.

Music

I like to listen to classical music, and if you combine this with doing assignments like homework, you have an amazing combo. A good start is the Youtube channel Rousseau – a great pianist, you will be able to hear many great pieces. Here are some recommendations:

[Red = intense and fast, Blue = slow and sentimental]

Chopin
All Nocturnes
Fantaisie Impromptu
Marche Funèbre
Ballade No. 1 in G Minor
Etude Op. 25 No. 11 (Winter Wind)
 
Bach
Toccata and Fugue in D Minor
Violin Sonata No. 1 in G minor
 
Liszt
Hungarian Rhapsody #2 (SO to Tom and Jerry)
La Campanella
 
Beethoven
All Symphonies
Moonlight Sonata 1st Movement
Moonlight Sonata 2nd Movement
Moonlight Sonata 3rd Movement
Fur Elise
 
Mozart
Requiem
Rondo Alla Turca (Turkish March)
 
Vivaldi
The Four Seasons
 
Modern Composers
Ludovico Einaudi – Nuvole Bianche
Yiruma – River Flows in You
Yiruma – Kiss The Rain
Joe Hisaishi – Kaze no Torimichi (The Path of Wind)
Joe Hisaishi – One Summer’s Day (violin version is also very good)
 

ASMR (Autonomous sensory meridian response)

This is something I often combine with homework as well. I describe it as euphoria and tingles on your brain, but Wikipedia describes it as “a tingling sensation that typically begins on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine…it is most commonly triggered by specific auditory or visual stimuli, and less commonly by intentional attention control.”
 
Have you ever felt suddenly relaxed with tingles on your brain, like a feeling that your brain is being tickled but you can’t describe it? It was probably ASMR and it is great. You can find it on Youtube – I recommend channels with quality sound equipment. ASMR Bakery, ASMR PPOMO, ASMRMagic, ASMRSurge, and Latte ASMR are some examples of high quality ASMR channels that come to mind. Just wear headphones or earbuds, find an ASMR trigger stimuli, and you are all set.

 

Exercise

Since gyms are closed, it is a good idea to exercise at home. Calisthenics is a type of exercise that uses one’s body weight as “equipment”.  Click here for a great list of resources on Reddit. There’s an endless amount of Youtube channels, websites, and social media accounts with workout routines you can easily do at home!

Gift Guilt

I actively try to avoid gifts, they often carry with them a lingering feeling of guilt. I’ve avoided birthday gifts each year by throwing a party for my friends. Instead of trying to remember everyone else’s birthday, I can spend my time planning a big ol’ party for them, on a day I actually remember. But Christmas, the holiday of unavoidable gifts, still carries guilt. My grandparents buy us little presents like pens and socks and other necessities, and also a bit of spending money, which is rarely spent. Each year my grandma says almost the same line, “I wish we could’ve done more”. I used to agree with that. Each year I would see toys on tv ads, dream myself as the kid playing with them, and watch the dream crash as I unwrapped another pair of socks. Who the hell wants socks?

Each year my grandparents could tell that my siblings and I were disappointed, but it took me too many years to realize that they were, too. That guilt exists in every buck I spend on something non-essential, and in every gift. I knew when I was asked what I wanted for my birthday that my Wily wouldn’t take no for an answer, so I was tempted to ask for money and toss it right into savings.  But, I didn’t think that would fly either. I begrudgingly pushed myself to make a wish list, and while it’s very short and money is still at the top of the list, it gave me the same feeling from when our college group would go out to eat. 

The first time I ate with the group I was prepared with my usual game plan when someone else is paying for dinner: pre-eat before going out then spy the cheapest item on the menu and act like it’s one of my favorites. But after asking my coach for the hundredth time that when she said “order anything” she really meant anything, I got something I actually wanted, and a dessert to boot. It was such a wonderfully odd thing to spend more time looking at the food on the menu than the number beside it. 

While guilt is still part of the odd feeling I felt at every dinner and while making my wish list, it’s a different kind of guilt. The guilt of “I don’t deserve this” is now the guilt of “I wish I could do something to show how much this means to me”. I won’t be able to ever explain how grateful I am to have Wily, but hopefully this long, unwarranted novel of an addendum in response to a birthday wish list request shows a piece of it. 

We hope you enjoyed reading this blog written about Wily’s Gift Giving Program by Middlebury Scholar Gar. Birthdays, holidays and graduation can be difficult for Wily Scholars. The Wily Gift Giving Program pairs Scholars with volunteers who provide personalized gifts from the Scholar’s wish lists on special occasions throughout the year.



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