Why “New Beginnings?”

Homecoming (noun): a return home or an annual alumni celebration at a high school or college. I recently experienced a “homecoming.” However, my version wasn’t planned and certainly did not involve queens, kings, punch, and handmade parade floats. My homecoming was abrupt. The year was 2020 (maybe you’ve heard of it?).  March 9, 2020 to be exact. I was having a disgusting Monday. It was freezing cold and cloudy in Colchester, Vermont. My mouth tasted of chicken patties and stale peppermint tea as I walked to my 11am statistics class. I had just returned from Montreal, Canada and was feeling supremely lost at school. It seemed like everyone around me was having the time of their lives. Partying, posting on social media…partying for an excuse to post. I felt like everyone had great friends and everyone was having fun except for me. For the last couple of weeks, there were rumors about a certain contagious virus sweeping China and parts of Europe. It was that very Monday, on my rainy walk to class, that I first heard about cases in the United States. 

Coronavirus.

Within two days, my college would be closed. My mom rushed to Vermont to help me pack up my tiny dorm room, unsure if I would return to campus in five weeks as planned. News flash, I didn’t. I remained home for the remainder of the spring semester. We were all isolated, forced to learn Zoom: the communication vessel of our discontent. My Monday morning stats class looked less like a class and more like the Brady Bunch opening theme, tiny people in tiny boxes stacked on a screen. 

Amidst all of the chaos, I felt a strange sense of relief. I was free from a situation that was making me miserable. I went for walks with my parents, instead of alone. I ate delicious home cooked food, instead of cold chicken patties. I slowly began to rebuild my life. Surprisingly enough, I began to appreciate my “homecoming.” During that difficult time, I found my voice, and I began to write my thoughts down. 

Since March 2020, I’ve had countless new beginnings. New school, new friends, and a new way of looking at the old stuff. New Beginnings Blog is a combination of creativity, passion, and healing. My words and thoughts live here for your eyes and brains to enjoy. 

New Beginnings (big and small) are possible. My writing reflects that. If your life feels like a rainy walk to statistics class right now, my heart is with you. 

Begin a new chapter or an entirely new book..

Hoop Earrings: Power Through History (July 2021)

Hoops are more than just earrings. They’re a symbol of inner strength and confidence. Hoops can transform one’s mood for the better. Suddenly a simple tee shirt and jeans can turn into a fabulous expression of style. I couldn’t help but wonder, What gives hoops their power? Is it their rich history? Or is it the people who wear them? 

Turns out hoop earrings are one of the oldest fashion trends of humankind. The first hoop earrings originated in 2500 BCE in Nubia, a civilization that we now know as the African nation Sudan. In 1500 BCE, Egyptians sported hoops as a sign of beauty, wealth, and power. Hoops were also worn by Ancient Roman women as a sign of high class luxury. Hoops continued to grow with international trends throughout many decades. They reached prominence in the United States in the late 1800s. 

 During the Roaring 1920s, hoops became crucial in completing a high fashion look. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, hoops were the perfect accessory to compliment a low cut blouse and jeans. Cher and Diana Ross were notorious for wearing large gold hoops on stage in the 1970s. By the 1980s, however, hoops became a symbol of hip hop and rap music. This was a suitable transition because hoops served as a respectful nod to the African and Dominican cultures from which the style of music originated. 

The empowerment that hoop earrings provide is no coincidence. It is through their diverse history that I’ve realized that the wearer holds just as much power as the earring itself does. An influential history has paved the way for us: “The 2021 hoop obsessors of today.” Today’s hoop lovers are wonderfully flawed. We don’t always play by the rules. We are free to create, inspire, and incite change.     

Source:

https://www.romadesignerjewelry.com/blogs/education/a-brief-history-of-hoop-earrings

That Really Good Playlist (April 2020)

I recently read a New York Times article titled, “How to Make the Perfect Playlist.” The writer Tyler Hayes began the piece by stating, “Life is just one playlist away from being perfectly soundtracked.” I absolutely agree. Music can turn any situation into a memorable one. I often remember times in my life based on the album that I was listening to at the time. Kesha gained fame when I was in the third grade. My best friends and I were obsessed with her first album. We had a fully choreographed dance to “Tik Tok.” Luckily, we filmed all of our dance videos on my digital camera, so an 8 year old me will never be seen on the internet. It was because of the music that I have that memory today. Whenever “Tik Tok” comes on my workout playlist, I can’t help but laugh. 

Tyler Hayes goes on to write about how to create the perfect playlist for our different situations in life (read his article after this one). I was inspired to share some of my own tips for creating that really good playlist. You know the one, the playlist that perfectly compliments how you are feeling. I unapologetically have about 15 playlists on my phone and they are always evolving. We all need more than one because you’ll never find me listening to Norah Jones on the treadmill. 

The first thing I always consider is how I want the music to make me feel. Do I want to dance or do I want to cry?? The vibe is crucial because every song on the same playlist should compliment the next. Just like peanut butter and pizza, some songs have flavors that seriously clash. After choosing the perfect vibe, you should consider the following questions: Should the playlist follow a specific sequence? Should it be all old favorites or songs I’ve never heard before? Is this mix personal or for others to enjoy as well? 

After you’ve considered these questions, experiment with different songs and how they sound together. Remember that you can always add to the mix as time goes on or take songs away. Most streaming platforms have a “Discover similar artists” feature, so you can always add to the list. Consider creating a collaborative playlist with friends! 

The possibilities are limitless, but the bottomline is to always have fun when creating a playlist. Allow the music to distract you from life or make you uber focus on an assignment. You’ll know a playlist is a really good one when you’re dancing with your friends like you’re 8 years old again. You should be able to look back and say, “that moment was perfectly soundtracked.” 

Must Watch: Schitt’s Creek (October 2020)

I’m sure many of you saw the headline, “Schitt’s Creek Sweeps 2020 Emmys!” This lesser known Canadian sitcom won every comedy category, including Best Comedy Series.

I don’t typically follow television and movie trends. People are shocked when I say I haven’t seen Game of Thrones or Stranger Things. I have never seen Forrest Gump and you’d have to pay me to watch Dirty Dancing again (sorry!). I used to think the only trendy entertainment that wasn’t overhyped was Hamilton. That was until I watched Schitt’s Creek

Schitt’s Creek is simply THAT GOOD. It is more than a comedy, the characters are compelling and the audience gets the pleasure of watching them evolve on screen. Show writer and actor, Dan Levy describes the show as, “a celebration of love.” I would say he is spot on. 

For those who don’t know, Schitt’s Creek is a sitcom created by father and son, Eugene and Dan Levy. If Eugene Levy sounds familiar to you, you’ve probably seen American Pie or Cheaper By The Dozen 2 (yes, the sequel with Carmen Electra). The father-son duo star in the show alongside Catherine O’Hara and Annie Murphy (both took home Emmys). Schitt’s Creek follows the wealthy Rose family. Johnny Rose, family patriarch and owner of Rose Video gets himself into a bad deal financially and loses all of his wealth. Johnny, his wife Moira, and their two adult children are forced to leave their glamorous lives and move to “Schitt’s Creek”, a town that Johnny bought as a joke 20 years earlier. The town is for all intents and purposes, a shit hole, so the name is fitting. The show begins with the Rose family’s hilarious attempt to acclimate to their new home, an abandoned motel. However, as the show progresses, the family meets some wonderful people in “Schitt’s Creek” and their characters begin to recognize the value in their relationships. 

This show makes my day every time I watch it. It is funny, clever, and at times emotional. I must confess that I binged all of it in quarantine on Netflix. In order not to spoil the entire plot, here are 2 reasons why you should binge watch Schitt’s Creek right now. 

  1. The writing and the characters are seriously hilarious. Each member of the Rose family has countless, quotable one liners. Dan Levy took a run of the mill riches to rags story and gave it perfectly timed comedic elements. My mom, my step dad, and I all watch it together. All of us are laughing our asses off. By the end of season 5, I could do impressions of all of the characters, so I gained a party trick from watching Schitt’s Creek as well. Schitt’s Creek is the perfect escape from the stress of our lives. Life doesn’t get much better than laughing for 25+ minutes a day. 
  2. This show is beautifully inclusive and celebrates the best values. David Rose, played by Dan Levy, is openly pansexual. His sexual orientation is never addressed on the show as something unusual or controversial. His sexual orientation is never a storyline. His family and the community around him are accepting. David is an eccentric character. His humor and heart for other people are the most important things about him. Schitt’s Creek features people of color and LGBTQ+ actors. This show encapsulates acceptance and inclusivity that the media needs a lot more of these days. 

Schitt’s Creek is truly a celebration of love. The actors are real life family and friends, their love for each other is palpable through the screen. So, yes, Schitt’s Creek certainly deserved all those Emmys. Watch it on Netflix or Pop TV…thank me later!

Hannah Montana’s 44 Year Old Brother and Other Musings (March 2021)

I recently learned that Jason Earles is 44 years old. Jason Earles is the actor who played Miley/Hannah’s brother Jackson on Hannah Montana. Hannah Montana premiered on Disney Channel in 2006. This means that Jason Earles was a 28 year old man playing a 16 year old kid for money. Not to mention, he had a wife at the time! He had probably already utilized a car rental service and been summoned for jury duty by that point. The viewers of the show hadn’t yet hit puberty.

Jason’s story struck me for several reasons. The first being that it’s funny af. Secondly, I began thinking about the concept of success. We’ve all heard the phrase: fake it till you make it! If you want that promotion, that grade, that parking spot, the first step is believing you can have those things. Jason Earles actually did that. He dressed like an early 2000s teenager. He acted the way teenagers on Disney Channel act. I added “on Disney Channel” to my previous statement because I acknowledge that teens on Disney are nothing like real life teens. Disney teens wouldn’t last a day in real high school. Can you imagine Billy Ray Cyrus filling out a FAFSA? Anyways, the point I’m trying to make is we believed Jason Earles was 16. He was really a 28 year old actor (with a sh*tty manager if Hannah Montana was his only notable gig). Jason Earles taught me that the key to success isn’t changing who you are. It’s just believing you can be something and being so damn believable that other people believe it too. I believe I can achieve my goals and be successful. So, I’m gonna take a lesson out of Jason Earles’ playbook. I’m gonna believe in myself, so other people will believe it too. Who knows maybe one day I’ll be watching my glory days on Disney + with wife number two, just like my pal Jason. 

Fierce Femininity (March 2021)

When someone says the word ‘feminine’ to you, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Do you think of makeup? High heels? Dolly Parton’s illustrious career? Well, what if I told you that all of those answers are right and all of those answers are wrong…This is because femininity cannot be defined in a word, phrase, or country love song. Femininity is unique and exists in all of us. Dictionary.com tells us that “femininity is the quality or nature of the female sex.” I wholeheartedly disagree. If that definition was accurate, then all females would be feminine and that is not the case. Femininity transcends gender. It is simply a quality that the soul emanates. So if femininity has nothing to do with sex or gender, what is it? It manifests in kindness and strength. Confidence, passion, and determination can all be uniquely feminine qualities. It manifests in walking into a board room and giving the best damn presentation your colleagues have ever seen. It’s standing up for a friend when you know there is a lot at stake if you do. It is more than hair, clothes, and shoes. 

You might be thinking, Abb, I thought femininity was submissive and modest? As I expressed earlier, femininity is unique to the individual, so for some people those qualities might be applicable. I really dislike the definition we’re given in Merriam Webster, as it leads us to believe that femininity is innately weak. That if you wear heels or a skirt to a meeting, you are suddenly stripped of your validity in the office. That’s why I wanted to explain the power that femininity holds, what makes it fierce. Femininity is fierce. It’s saying “I like to wear nailpolish and I’m a confident, strong college student.” It’s saying, “the way I dress has nothing to do with my intelligence and experience.” Just take a note from Dolly’s playbook. She has been equal parts singer-songwriter, business woman, and beauty queen for 50 years. Just think if Dolly held back her femininity to be “taken seriously.” She has been successful because she has always been herself. The same goes for icons such as, RuPaul, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Rihanna. None of them would be here without channeling their fierce femininity. Don’t be afraid to channel your own fierceness. Take the risk, take a stand, and when in doubt, belt out “9 to 5” in the car. Just don’t underestimate the power your femininity holds and how far you can go by being yourself. 

Must Watch: Demi Lovato, Dancing with the Devil (April 2021)

Content Advisory Warning: This article contains language regarding substance abuse and addiction.

“FYI, I’m just gonna say it all.” These were the first words uttered by singer-songwriter Demi Lovato in their four part documentary series, Dancing With The Devil. To the viewer, it seemed like Demi held nothing back. I have chills thinking about what more information they could have shared, but kept hidden. The series was released in late March 2021 after filming in Spring 2020, during lockdown. Demi tells a detailed account of their July 2018 heroin overdose, which nearly ended their life. Demi’s former assistant, body guards, friends, and family shared their own testimonies. Everything I thought I knew about Demi Lovato was tested upon watching Dancing With The Devil. Demi was more honest than I expected and more resilient than anyone ever knew. 

During Spring of 2018, Demi Lovato was touring the U.S. for their sold out Tell Me You Love Me Tour. Demi’s album had multiple hit songs. To the public, Demi appeared to be at the peak of their career. To millions of people, they were not only a popular musician, they were an activist. They were 6 years sober, an inspiration for those battling addiction and mental health struggles. Then, on June 21, 2018, Demi released a new single, “Sober.” Demi revealed publicly that they were no longer sober from drugs and alcohol. Demi explained in Dancing With The Devil that their former drug cocktail was Xanax and cocaine. When Demi relapsed, their dealer convinced them to try heroin and crack. One month after releasing “Sober,” Demi overdosed in their home, and the world was stunned. 

I won’t tell Demi’s story verbatim here. I could never do it justice. I do, however, want to share some of my thoughts about Dancing With The Devil. 

The series was raw and true. It was innately human. It was heartbreaking to hear testimonies from Demi’s family and friends. They were truly expecting them to die. I was inspired by their loyalty to Demi. Every person in the series stated that they would never give up on Demi; I could feel the emotion through the computer screen. I subsequently felt grateful for my own loyal support systems. 

  Demi Lovato is a creator of brilliant music. Their voice moves me now, like it did in 2009. Since watching Dancing With The Devil, I have been listening to their new album by the same name. In more ways than one, music heals. I am relieved that Demi still desires to share their gift with the world, after overcoming years of trauma. I hope Demi is proud of their new music because it is their most triumphant yet. 

Demi Lovato never signed up to be idolized. They never wanted to be the poster child for sobriety. Demi formerly lived a life that was out of their control. Their story is a bleak reminder that celebrities are still human. We hold our “favorite people” to insurmountable standards of beauty, class, and talent. We are trying to mold real people into a perfect image that to any “normal person” would be unattainable. We must encourage our favorite stars to burn bright, not burn out. Because even fame and money cannot help people do better. We must help each other do better.  

Navigating “Social Distancing” (March 2020)

COVID-19 is obviously terrifying. 

There are endless unanswered questions. In the attempt to keep the virus from rapidly spreading, the CDC has encouraged us all to practice “social distancing.” This means limiting our social interaction by staying home and not going to see people. What a heartbreaking time for this madness! We have all just arrived home for spring break, the first thing we want to do is see our family and friends. We all have mental lists of our favorite hometown restaurants, movie theaters, and shops. Now, many of those locations are closed down, leaving us inside our homes alone. This is the worst time for so-called social distancing. However, our safety and the safety of others should certainly be the priority. 

So, I guess my question is: how do we stay connected while social distancing?

My immediate thought is to Facetime and call everyone! Keep up the communication as much as possible. Call your friends who live across the country or one street over…it doesn’t matter. It is especially imperative to call older relatives who were expecting a spring break visit. It may not be quite as wonderful as seeing your grandparents, best friend, coworker etc in person, but it is so much better than nothing.

The second less obvious thing I thought of is to walk outside. If the condition in your area is really severe, this might mean going into your front lawn. However, if you are able, take a walk around your neighborhood. Simply, wave to someone passing by in their car or walking outside. This may seem extremely odd, but that brief interaction with a neighbor, aquantaintance, or stranger is meaningful. Getting outside is positively impactful for one’s mental health regardless, so if this is a possibility for you, take it. 

If going outside is not an option for you, challenge your immediate family to a round of competitive board games. My mom and I are Jenga fans, but it can be anything. Watching a movie with a sibling may seem like nothing, but that is a meaningful connection with another human being that is so necessary right now. 

We are never alone in scary times like these. Reach out to everyone and make meaningful connections. Use technology and social media as a tool when face to face communication is not an option. 

Love is boundless and can exceed “social distancing.” So, please keep connecting with those you love and who love you. 

Growing Up Grunge: Why I’m Grateful For My Dad’s Music Taste (February 2021)

Most of us reading HerCampus probably have Gen X parents. We lived the dream as young kids. Hot dogs and mac & cheese for dinner because it’s all our parents learned to cook in the ‘90s. Trips to the park in the double stroller. Raffi and The Wiggles blasting from a real stereo. Our parents shared stories about calling their friends on the landline, big hair at prom, and crazy nights at the drive-in movie theater. My upbringing was similar to those of my friends, but with a small twist. Instead of “Baby Beluga” blasting from the stereo, I rocked out to Pearl Jam and Nirvana as a toddler. While my friends were learning the ABC song, I was head-banging in my high chair. 

So this begs the question: ‘Abbs, why were you jamming to grunge in your Pampers’? My dad, Phil Murphy, is not only the inspiration for this article, but was my musical inspiration since before I could speak in full sentences. He consistently gave me and my brother lessons about great music when we were younger. He would play a Faith No More record, share a full history of the band, and why the song is important to rock culture. This guy should have a degree in ‘90s Rock Theory. Unless a song had an audible F-bomb, all hardrock was fair game. He would take me to Newbury Comics and carry me around the CD section. Four year old Abby wasn’t always the best listener, but she tried her best. This is why my first celebrity crushes were Zac Efron and Eddie Vedder (the early years of course!) 

Around the time I turned six, I decided I wanted to start singing lessons. I signed up for the children’s choir at my church. My dad came to every church concert that entire year and continued to attend my shows all the way through college. He has always been one of my biggest supporters. Little did he know that whenever I would get nervous before a concert, I would channel the creative, confident energy of the musicians that he played for me. All art has a purpose, even if no one else believes in it other than its creator. John Lennon to Chris Cornell, all started as dreamers. It was their drive to create something bigger than themselves that allowed them to eventually sell out stadiums. 

My dad often tells us stories about winning tickets to Lollapalooza ‘93 with his friend, Jason. Most of the concert attendees formed a giant mosh pit, so there was room right near the stage. He still talks about how cool it was to see his favorite bands up close. I hope to have similar stories to tell my kids one day. Flash forward to 2037, my children are listening to Kacey Musgraves and begging for new, weird robot music, written by Elon Musk. In addition to creative inspiration, rock and roll has always connected us as a family. My dad is responsible for creating the playlist for our annual trips to my Uncle Dan’s lake house. It is amazing how the music makes those trips so memorable. *Hey, Murphy’s! If you’re reading this, I miss you all!* 

So, I guess this article is a thank you. Thanks, Dad for bringing your music into my life.  Thank you for the social justice lessons from Rage Against The Machine. Thank you for inspiring my creativity from such a young age. Thank you to Gen X parents everywhere. You keep our bellies full of spaghettios and our hearts full of great music.

Why I’m Rewatching Gilmore Girls (April 2020)

I feel like I get into Netflix ruts quite frequently. I finish a series and have no clue what I want to watch next. So the browsing begins…reading synopsis after synopsis, watching trailers. I must spend 30 minutes trying to choose a new show and by the time I do…I’m bored and take a nap.

Last Friday was no different. I was searching and getting to that inevitable “I really need a nap!” state of mind and then I saw it…Gilmore Girls, goddamnit. I have not watched this show in SO LONG. I didn’t love the reboot mini series that Netflix released a few years ago, Rory was chaotic, but that’s another conversation. After pondering the idea for a couple of minutes, I decided to indulge. I started episode one, season one…

WELL, let me tell you, it is just as spectacular as I remembered. Stars Hollow remains an enchanting, peaceful oasis. Lorelai and Rory’s fast paced banter is as charming as ever (those two don’t miss a beat). Characters such as: Kirk, Miss Patty, and Babette’s weird, tall husband are all still hilarious. It was just heartwarming to watch. Obviously I’ve seen the entire series before, so there were no surprises in those first 42 minutes (or the last 27 episodes I’ve watched this week…oops?), but I was transfixed. I understand how it remains relevant 20 years post initial release. It is just freaking funny, but also emotional and real. I am not gonna explain the plot of the series here because I hope you will all go and watch, if you haven’t already…it’s just that GOOD. 

So, I guess you’re wondering, why is she writing this article? Gilmore Girls hardly needs the extra clout and Amy Sherman Palladino is doing fine (by “fine” I mean show creator extraordinar is currently producing the amazing show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel…watch that too). I guess this piece is not as much an endorsement for the show as it is a “thank you” to the show.

 Life has been tough the last few weeks. We are all home, doing Zoom-school. We can’t leave said homes to see our friends and family. The news is upsetting and there is no escape from constant Corona-related conversation. Yet, in all of this madness, 42 minutes of Gilmore Girls made me feel happy. When I watch that show I do not think about the current situation in the world, I think about why Luke and Lorelai can’t get it together. I think about how Emily Gilmore might be one of the greatest television characters in history. I think about how nice a stroll through Stars Hollow would be right now. This show is a wonderful distraction and I am smiling writing this right now. Gilmore Girls is the perfect television distraction for me, but if you have your own favorite, I encourage you to indulge as well. Just sit back for 42ish minutes and stop thinking. The calm feeling is temporary, but necessary. Dive into a story or something Kardashian/Jenner related…I dare you. Now, I’m going to stop writing and get back to season two.