For my birthday last year, I wrote a post about 21 people I admire. This year, I wanted to be reflective yet again, because if your early twenties aren’t for moderately pretentious posts about how unique your perspective is, what’s the point?

21 was a big year: I presented research for the first time (and got paid for it!), started my senior year, began working on a year-long independent research project, applied and got into (!!!) graduate school, presented my independent research project, graduated from college, moved back to Virginia, and had a lot of other important moments along the way. So, I’d like to take some time to reflect on just 22 of these moments from the past year, so please bare with my sentimentality and nostalgia (for things happening no more than 366 days ago). I’m going to attempt a semi-chronological order, but also my memory is terrible, so it might end up being just a mish-mash of memories.

  1. (Technically this happened before I even turned 21, but it’s fine.) My puppies (read: 12-year-old fully grown adult dogs) came to live with me! We discovered a lot of new things, like they, like me, are not big fans of the South Carolina heat, and they love car rides!
  2. My 21st birthday. All of my siblings, including my then-future brother-in-law came to Blacksburg to celebrate! We had a really great weekend and it was nice to spend time all together 🙂 I also got to see all of my best friends from elementary school and go to the 1989 tour stop in DC, which was a good show regardless of personal opinions on the star.
  3. SURF. Last summer was both the first time I was paid to do research and my first experience presenting my results at an (albeit small) poster session. It was a really good experience to work so closely with my advisor before embarking on my bachelor’s essay thesis, and it was great practice for conferences I will attend in the future!
  4. Family Cruise. In August, my mom, brother, sister, aunt and I went on a cruise to celebrate my birthday/family vacation, which was super fun and relaxing just before the start of senior year!
  5. Landmark Festival. In early September, two of my best friends and I went to a small music festival in DC, where I saw George Ezra perform. I’m kind of nervous around big crowds, so this was a really good first festival experience for me! Also, George Ezra is really talented and I’m really glad I got to see him in concert!
  6. Nicole’s Wedding. My most brunette sister got married and had the shortest ceremony and most fun reception of any wedding that I’ve ever been to, and I got a new brother out of the deal! All around a very special and super great weekend 🙂 #nicoalson
  7. Disney World. This needs very little explanation, but I haven’t been to Disney World since I was teeny, and there was a suuuper good deal through my school’s student activities association and it was literally the best ever. I loved it so much I’m planning another trip in August!
  8. Article about summer research published in CofC Magazine. My SURF project was one of five selected for a feature in our school’s online and in-print magazine, which was pretty exciting! My aunt gave me a really beautiful frame with the cover and article as a graduation gift, and I can’t wait to put it up in our new condo!
  9. Finally got to see Zoe perform. Zoe and I have been best friends since elementary school (I’d say 5th grade, but she really didn’t like me until 6th haha) and yet, until our last year of college, I had never seen her perform at JMU. (I did see her perform the summer before the year started, but her choir actually came to Charleston, so it was a happy coincidence). In the fall semester, I got to see Zoe in an opera she was a part of, and she was the best person on the stage (in my totally unbiased opinion).
  10. Christmas. I just love everything about Christmas, so this will make it on a list of favorites every year, probably for the rest of my life. Only one Christmas in my history has a tarnished reputation, but it certainly wasn’t this year. This was Nicole and Dane’s first Christmas as a married couple, so they hosted the holiday at their apartment in Raleigh. Our traditions stayed the same, just in a new location, and it was really nice to see our expanded family this time around. Next year, Christina and I are hosting at our place in Blacksburg, fingers crossed.
  11. In January, I was accepted into my first choice graduate program, with the Human Development department at Virginia Tech. Not only was this great news, but it came super early, so I didn’t spend the last semester of senior year freaking out about the future!
  12. Sister cruise. Christina and I were given a cruise ticket as a Christmas present, and we had a really nice spring break as a result. Not only was it fun in the sun, but knowing we can live in a 10×10 room for four days without murdering each other is a great sign for our next few years sharing a 3-bedroom condo 🙂 plus, we closed out the week in Charleston with a belated celebration of my mom’s birthday, joined by our other siblings. A spring break for the books, for sure.
  13. This isn’t a happy memory, but it was an important one. Nikki died in April and it was really hard for all of us, especially Godiva. I still think about her all the time, but it’s not quite as terribly heartbreaking and we’ve all gotten to the loss-adjustment phase. More than any of us, Godiva is living her best life after Nikki, so that’s a bright side.
  14. Zoe’s senior recital. In April, Zoe gave her senior recital as a requirement for her music major. I spent the weekend between Blacksburg and JMU, because Taylor (who I really have been best friends with since the 5th grade) and I got to see her performance together! The three of us have been so busy since coming to college that time we all spend together is rare, but it makes the moments that much more cherished. I also got to see her farewell a capella concert a few weeks later!
  15. Just before the end of the school year, I presented my Bachelor’s Essay research at a school-sponsored poster session, at which I also received departmental honors in Psychology. That event was really great for a number of reasons, but mostly because it was so satisfying to see all of my work, not just from this year but the past four, recognized. To see professors and community members alike engage in my research was really, really rewarding, and made me that much more excited to continue research at the graduate level.
  16. A Charleston Affair. The weekend before graduation, our school hosts a giant party for alumni and graduating students. While I’m not sure the food/DJ were worth the $60 price tag, having one last night to see all of my friends who were all in the process of moving out and leaving for who-knows-how-long, was really special. I’m really glad that I finally took pictures with some friends I’ve known for four years, and that I now have #freshmanvssenioryear photos with my best friends to hang on my wall in Blacksburg.
  17. Graduation weekend was the best. Everyone came into town and we had parties and ate great food and laughed a lot and everyone paid attention to me, so it was perfect. In all seriousness, it was actually really nice to be surrounded by all the people who love and care about me during one of those beginning-of-the-end/start-of-something-new/quarter-life crisis moments and I’m really happy with the way the weekend turned out.
  18. A visit from best friends. Just over a month after graduation, two of my best friends from school came back for a visit. Even though we had just left each other, it’s a really stark contrast between seeing people every day for essentially four years, and just talking to them on the phone. Luckily, we had a bit of practice because we were all so busy junior and senior year we saw each other less frequently, but still. They were overdue for a visit and I’m glad I got to see them just before I made the move to Blacksburg.
  19. Elsie’s wedding. Elsie is the first of the people in my age group getting married to whom I’ve been close enough to attend the celebration, which kind of expanded across the month of June, with her bridal shower, traditional engagement ceremony, and her wedding ceremony. Everything was absolutely beautiful, and definitely unique, and I’m so grateful to have been a part of it all.
  20. Research for SRCD. Though my program doesn’t actually start until August, I have been working with my advisor this summer on a poster that I will present at a conference in April. I’ve already learned a lot about the research process at the graduate level, with a lot of guidance from my advisor and another grad student, but I also felt really well prepared with the work I had done with Dr. Kolak during my time at CofC, so that was a good feeling. It’s a nice intermediary step between undergraduate and graduate work, and a doubly good experience because we have actually found some concrete results, so I’ll have good data to share at the conference!
  21. Technically didn’t happen until two days after my birthday, but Christina and I have started moving into our new apartment! We are very excited to have a freshly painted and newly carpeted condo for the next few years, and I’m having a lot of fun designing my room and making it feel like home.
  22. In the next month, I will have orientation, go to a Train concert with my aunt, and start classes and paid research for my program. I’m going to be really busy for the next few months (and really five years!) but there’s a lot to look forward to, too. In October, I think I might get to follow along as my advisor and fellow grad students present research at a conference in Seattle, I’m visiting my best friend while she’s on a Fulbright in Germany over Thanksgiving week, and then I’ll present my own research at a conference at SRCD in April!



Dogs are the best kind of people

IMG_6082Author’s Note: If you’re one of those people who doesn’t “get” why people get emotional about their pets, I’d first like to introduce you to the middle finger emoji, then invite you not to speak to me for several weeks. This post is not for you.

It has been a month since Nikki died. The news was not, as I had originally hoped, an elaborate and cruel belated April Fool’s prank, but rather a harsh reality from which I am still reeling.

One of the hardest things about losing Nikki was the conditionals– the feeling that I could have or should have done something differently and that would have changed the outcome. She was in pain and ending that suffering was the best thing we could have done for her. But even knowing that doesn’t make it any easier.

Walking into the house for the first time after Nikki was gone was hard; it was really difficult to adjust to only being greeted by one dog when I walk through the door. My heart broke every time Godiva woke up or walked into a new room and whimpered in confusion when she didn’t see Nikki. I got a lump in my throat each time I saw  two water bowls that needed to be refilled. And my voices still catches a bit whenever I have to correct myself and say “They– I mean, Godiva will turn 13 in August.” I also just had to reread this entire post and force myself to change everything to past tense.

We had Nikki basically her entire life. We got her and Godiva as teeny puppies, almost as soon as they were allowed to be separated from their mother. We were really only supposed to get one dog, but due to unfortunate miscommunication between my parents, my dad dropped us off early when my mom was being introduced to the pups, Christina and I fell in love with the pups instantly, and the rest is history.

We got to snuggle Nikki for 12 wonderful years. She came to visit my 4th grade class in a laundry basket stuffed with a comforter. She never spent more than three hours away from Godiva. She was always thrilled to see anyone come home, and furious if they opted to pet Godiva rather than her. She refused to make friends with other dogs and prevented Godiva from doing so either. She was a rather well traveled dog, living in three different states over the course of her life. She could make herself at home anywhere. She never quite grew out of her puppy stage, causing mischief wherever and whenever she was.

She constantly tore up her dog beds and was the first to jump on the couch at any opportunity. I cannot count the number of times I came home to see Nikki calmly waiting for me on the leather couch she was forbidden to sit on, casually looking to see how long she had before I would force her off. Once, I was slicing some cheese for a party and turned away for a moment. When I turned back, Nikki had stolen the ENTIRE block of cheese from the counter and was happily chowing down, through the plastic wrapping.

She was the absolute best first dog anyone could ever have, and we’ll all miss her something terrible. We are adjusting to life without Nikki, though progress feels slow going. We each have our own ways to remember her. My mom keeps just a little bit of food in Nikki’s bowl at all times, I have a photo of Nikki as my phone screen saver, and Godiva doesn’t eat bones.

I bought Godiva a bone as a sort of sympathy gift, but it’s still sitting next to her right now as she’s lying on the couch. When Nikki was here, they would each get their bone and run to opposite ends of the house to chew in peace, without the other stealing their treat. I don’t know if Godiva is waiting for someone to attempt stealing her bone, though my grabbing at it seems to have no effect, or if she’s just refusing to eat bones as a form of protest to Nikki’s absence. Alternatively, she could have convinced herself that Nikki was reincarnated as this bone, since she carries it with her everywhere. Or maybe, she just decided at 12 years of age that she’s too mature to chew on a pig’s ear. Who really knows?

If you want to read the obituary I wrote for Nikki in an attempt to use humor as a coping mechanism, click here. If you, unlike me, feel 100% ready to look at pictures of Nikki without bursting into tears, click here. If you, like me, are in need of a pick me up in the form of interspecies animal friends, click here.


I have been 21 for 21 days now (actually 22 because I misread my agenda), so I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on what it means to be a proper twenty-something, instead of a twenty-nothing. And, in true twenty-something fashion, I’m expressing my thoughts through blog because why not share everything with the whole Internet?

During the past 21 (22) days, there has been a lot of focus on me, which, of course, I appreciate, but I decided to commemorate my milestone birthday, I’d put the focus back on those around me. So, without further ado, 21 things I admire about 21 important people.

  1. Mom- My mom is a go-getter. She does not give up, and whatever she does, she does big. She put herself through college and law school and has been consistently achieving ever since. The first time she went white water rafting with a group of friends, she went down a level four river. During her first trip to Europe, she saw two grand slams, took a cruise around Spain, France and even Tunisia, and closed it all out with a week-long stay in Paris. My mom has both an excellent job and a family and she has earned everything for herself.
  2. Dad-My dad is one of if not the most intelligent person I have ever met, and he’s also one of the smartest. See, I personally distinguish between intelligence and smartness. To me, intelligence is heavily rooted in genetics, ones natural capacity to gain and work with information, whereas smartness comes more from ones behavior (working hard, making good choices, etc.) My dad is definitely intelligent, but he’s also smart. He is one of the most pop and generally culturally literate people I know.
  3. Christina- My sister is my favorite person on the planet. I don’t think my parents would be upset to hear that since basically, I’m just saying I really like their work. It’s hard for me to think of one thing that I like best about her, but maybe what I admire most about her is just how good she is at being a real adult. She’s earning a graduate degree and buying her first condo and just generally being a productive member of society. Not only that, but the work she’s doing is actually beneficial to people. She works with Engineers without Borders to give clean water to people who would otherwise not be able to access it.
  4. Steven- Maybe a result of growing up with three sisters, my brother is very low maintenance. He is not one to make a fuss; he is the one to go with the flow. He adapts to new situations and gets comfortable easily. I am a pretty anxious person, so seeing how seamlessly he transitioned from college student to law student and now real-life adult is a big thing for me.
  5. Nicole- My most brunette sister is also one of the most effortlessly cool people in the world. She is outgoing, can easily strike up a conversation with anyone and she has lots of friends from all different parts of her life. She and her fiancé host the coolest parties and even though there’s a lot of prep work, the conception seems to come naturally to them. Nicole is my social role model.
  6. Grandma- My grandma is the epitome of grandmothers. I once left my glasses when I visited her, and she sent them back with a five dollar bill. She always makes sure we have entirely too much proper Italian food whenever she sees us. She loves nothing and no one more than her family and she expresses that love at every opportunity—whether it’s a Facebook comment, a phone call, a meal or a great big hug. My grandma’s love for her family is one of her best traits.
  7. Rita- My Aunt Rita is one of the strongest people I know. She has experienced more pain than any one person should ever have to experience, but she keeps moving forward with a smile and a heart full of love. She is one of the goofiest, silliest people I know and I never have a bad time with her. No matter what she’s been through, she never falters in her love and loyalty to those who love her. She will quite literally give you the shirt from her back (or the earrings from her ears) if she loves you, and she is a beautiful soul.
  8. Anne- Anne is my mom’s friend, who happens to be my mom away from mom. Anne is one of the funniest people and I know, and I am so grateful to have another support system just a few minutes drive away when the rest of my family is two states away.
  9. Patricia- Patricia is one of the hardest working people ever. She is so academically focused, but also has time to be what seems like a thousand musical performances. She is taking some of the hardest courses that I can’t even comprehend and she does really well in all of them. She has high standards for herself and she almost always meets them. She is the kind of person who will do big things. I can’t wait to see what they are.
  10. Ellen- Ellen may be one of the most wanderlusting people I know, and she takes great adventures. For her semester abroad, she didn’t go to central Europe, but rather to a program in Uganda. She’s from Idaho and has one of the greatest appreciations for nature that I’ve ever seen. In the most complimentary way, I could see Ellen doing some Walden-level exploration and living.
  11. Taylor- Taylor has been my very best friend since the fourth grade. And she still is, no matter it is between conversations, whether I’m calling for really serious advice or just texting to ask what color to paint my nails, Taylor is forever and always there for me. I love her so much. She is simply the best friend a girl could ask for.
  12. Zoe- Zoe-Elizabeth is the most talented person I know. She is the most beautiful singer, can choreograph/musical direct/arrange any production and I guarantee it would be the greatest show you’ve ever seen in your life. Coincidentally, she’s also the busiest person I know because she is doing all of those things at any given time. But even though Zoe knows she’s the most talented human specimen of all time, she never, never stops growing, learning or working. Her dedication is astounding.
  13. Colleen- Colleen is one of my oldest friends, so it would make sense that I have thought about this a lot and have a fully ready, eloquently worded description of what I most admire about her. But, that’s not really how we operate. I’m not quite sure how to verbalize it, but this is the thing about Colleen. When we were talking about the Sandy Hook shooting, I told Colleen about an article that I read about Victoria Soto, the teacher who hid her students and died trying to protect them from the shooter. Colleen, who wants to be a teacher, just said was, “Well, yeah. That’s what teachers are supposed to do.”
  14. Sam- Sam is the most unbelievably creative people I know. She is a wildly talented clothing designer and she can find inspiration anywhere. I remember we were once exploring Lille and popped into a shop that had some really interesting buttons, so she picked some up and within what seemed like an instant, she had the sparkling of an idea for her senior project at school.
  15. Ashley- Ashley knows how to have a good time more than anyone I know. At least 50% of the adventures I had in Europe involved her and were much the better for that. But, Ashley is also one of the best real people I know. She and I have had the silliest conversations, but also some of the most serious. She is a great listener who gives good advice and I’m lucky to know her.
  16. Caroline- Caroline is one of the most confident people I know. While a lot of girls I know are so quick to tell you what they don’t like about themselves, Caroline has a shortlist of things she loves. Whatever she does, she does it big, because she has an attitude that gets her places. Consequently, she is also one of the happiest people I know.
  17. Ms. Briggs- My parents separated when I was in the second grade and officially divorced when I was in the third grade, which is when I had Ms. Briggs, now Mrs. Hampton, as a teacher. She was very kind and patient with me during the whole year. She often would take me aside to check in and have a quick chat with me, and it really made a difference. I don’t think that as a third grader I was able to express to her just how meaningful her compassion was, so maybe by the magic of the Internet, she’ll see this and know.
  18. Paul- Paul was my English teacher during my senior year of high school. He has since passed, and I wrote a tribute to him here, if you care to read more about what was so great about of him, but the gist of it is Paul cared more about his students learning than he did any sort of standardized test or school scores. That makes a teacher great.
  19. Dr. Marcell- Dr. Marcell taught my Psychological Statistics and Research Methods class two years ago, and I still remember it as one of my favorite courses, which just speaks to his immense talent as a professor. He was not only one of the positive people I’ve ever met, but he was also so enthusiastic about the subject and encouraging to all his students.
  20. Dr. Kolak- Dr. Kolak is my mentor and not only is she teaching me so much about psychological studies, but she is very optimistic. A few weeks ago, we were pouring over our data thinking it was to no avail, but she had a seemingly endless stream of ideas and different ways to run our data until we finally figured out the key to seeing our results.
  21. And finally, because everything should be at least a little bit about me… My favorite thing about myself is that I surround myself with good people 🙂

A real post is coming soon

I swear! In the meantime, I’ll leave a little tidbit of food for thought for anyone out there who actually reads this poor excuse for a blog.

Are you really making a valid argument for your opinion if you have to tear down someone else’s idea?

I know there are some cases where in order for you to be right, someone else has to be wrong, but there’s a difference between a constructive, well thought out retort and a vengeful attack on someone else’s views.

Keep that in mind, readers!
I’ll see you again soon, hopefully!



What better way to share my private thoughts than to broadcast them on the internet?

-Olive Penderghast, Easy A 

Basically, I have a lot of thoughts in my head, and I’ve never been much one for journaling, so I figured I might as well take my thoughts to the Internet. If there’s anyone out there who’s actually reading this blog: hello! I hope I sometimes write interesting things, or at least don’t bore you to tears (though I’d assume you’d click away before that happened, but hey, I don’t know your life and I’m certainly not in a place to judge).

I’d say I’m a fair writer, but by no means fantastic, so this is also just an exercise to practice. Please don’t be too cruel, people of the Internet. I’ve read comments sections; I know you can be brutal.

It’s 4:00 in the morning now, and I have to be up at 7:00 to take a friend to the airport, so I’m logging off for now, but maybe we’ll meet back here again another day.

You’re lovely!