Chester

I am sitting in the frustrating irony of simultaneous speechlessness and the deep compulsion to write. Every single time the world loses someone, famous or not, to suicide, a leaden blanket of sorrow envelopes us all at once. We are heartbroken, we are lost, we are in agony, we are shocked. Every single time, we are shocked. This collective shock is poignant with celebrities: how could someone so loved, someone who had such an impact on this world and its people, be so miserable they would believe that ceasing to exist is their best option?

Today, Chester Bennington, lead singer of Linkin Park committed suicide. This was the first time I have truly felt the weight of a celebrity death. I feel heartbroken, I feel lost, I feel shocked. When I was younger, just starting to find the music that really appealed to me, I turned to Linkin Park. I found a band with an energy that I connected to, even at a young age. While I didn’t remain an engaged fan as I grew up, I still feel akin to this band and their music, and indebted to them for how they played a part in shaping my music taste – a deeply important component of who I am.

Scrolling through Twitter I see a storm of <140 character statuses ranging from #RIPChesterBennington to people paying homage to Chester, the band and what they meant to fans across the globe. Then, of course, are the brief (but important) sentiments urging us to take care of one another, to seek help when we need it and to be receptive to our fellow human beings who need help.

Chester Bennington’s death has brought on acute sadness, but it has also sparked in me the passionate urge to continue advocating for mental illness awareness and suicide prevention. These are monumentally complex things that afflict people in innumerable ways. There may be boxes that must be checked off for diagnostic purposes, but because all of our lives are so intricately nuanced, so are the ways that people experience mental illness and suicidality. It is imperative that we listen to people, that we tell our loved ones that we love them, that we never take a moment for granted. It is imperative to practice understanding and to consider other perspectives (maybe he’s not blowing you off because he doesn’t want to be your friend, maybe he’s cancelling plans because he can’t get a firm handle on reality).

I urge you to actively educate yourself on mental illness and suicide. Understand the statistics, know the signs, act compassionately, fight against stigma and listen. Be there. I imagine a near-perfect world and I see people who know they are worthy of life and I see people loving each other. I operate under no false hope that suicide will ever be completely gone, but even as a generally pessimistic person I maintain the unwavering hope that it can be largely prevented.

Let us celebrate the legacy left by Chester Bennington. Find joy in how he changed things for the world and for individuals who loved him and his music. Most of all, though, let us continue to care about the circumstances surrounding his passing long after the shock wears away. There is always hope. There is always reason to keep going, and we cannot care just today. We cannot care just the next time a celebrity takes their own life.

We must always care.


Suicide Hotline: 1 (800) 273 8255

Donate to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: https://afsp.org/take-action/give-a-gift/

Donate to To Write Love On Her Arms: https://twloha.com/donate/

 

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Montrose

She’s dressed in cool, muted colors to tone down her natural energy. She is perfectly manicured, every rough edge filed down and painted over to look pristine and untouched. She’s traded in her many eccentric accessories, for which she is so well known, for a scarce statement piece and crisp, elegant details. Her famous red is swapped for an appeasing taupe. She has to appear beautiful but not by her own standards. Strangers will walk and stare and say, “how lovely.” She is merely disguised; underneath the clean lines and fresh paint she is still herself: wild and warm, infused with art and zest and years of incense burned and ice cream had (sometimes twice a day) and stories written (and scrapped and rewritten) and black tea and hours-long Britney Spears dance-a-thons and memories upon memories. She is my childhood home.

My mom bought our house in March of 1997, before I’d existed for even a year. carolyn.baby2I’ve never lived anywhere other than that little cape cod on that cul-de-sac, and I realized that I’ve definitely taken that for granted. Through the never-ending, ever-changing tide that is life, my home on Montrose Avenue has been constant. It became my (still living) cats’ home when my mom and I (age 6) adopted them. I met my best friend on my front lawn on my 8th birthday. I hosted a farewell party for a friend moving to Utah after 8th grade. I cried on my kitchen table when, at 13 years old, I was told I had to have spinal surgery to correct severe scoliosis. It was where I returned after high school parties, good and not so good, to make pasta with my best friend before going to sleep. It was where I woke up on my 16th birthday to be surprised by 15 friends for a beach trip. It was also the setting for many bleak nights.

I laid on my bed in pitch blackness listening to Title Fight. I cried a lot. I told my mom I wanted to go to therapy because I felt I was losing my grip on reality at age 15. I worked through debilitating heartbreak. I fell into deep darkness and my home was the background for almost all of that time. I am much better than I was at high school age, and it’s weird to think about how horrible I felt for so long. But, my hometown and house unfortunately have retained a painful aura that creeps back inside of me and sinks its teeth into my heart when I come back from college for breaks.

Since I left for freshman year of college in August 2014, returning to New Jersey is something I’ve largely dreaded and I’ve been fairly vocal about the lack of allegiance I feel to the state and my town. And I knew that the second I graduated high school there was nothing tying my mom or me to Summit, where the property taxes are obscene and I don’t know many people anymore. When my mom told me she was finally, really starting the process of moving, I was ecstatic. I’ve bugged her about parts of the house that needed fixing up, about where the best place to move is, the whole she-bang.

She sent me a link yesterday to our house’s listing on Zillow so I could see how the house was staged, and I knew it would look different but I didn’t anticipate the bitter taste it would leave in my mouth. Maybe that was a product of my own pessimism, convincing myself there was nothing good in or about my hometown – even my childhood home. I convinced myself it was simply a prop, and that the most prevalent part of my growing up was when I was miserable, and that that tainted everything else.18902659_10213719052277557_1786006700_n.jpg There is no doubt that my misery poisoned my life and the way I experienced it in profound ways, but seeing my home actually online and its walls stripped of my mom’s collection of masks and the Red Room painted taupe and the floors hardwood instead of carpet and the bathrooms totally foreign shook me out of my cynicism for a moment. I will miss my cute little house on my cul-de-sac (though I definitely will not miss being able to see my high school from my bedroom window) and I will miss all of the good times I had there(and maybe even some of the bad, because those shaped me too). I will be thankful that for nearly 20 whole years Montrose Avenue was there for me. I imagine I will say goodbye with teary eyes and a smile borne from knowing that beneath the crowd-pleasing makeover she is still the home I grew up in, and hoping that someone else will get to love her as much I have realized I do.

 

The C Word

It’s 12:55 am on Halloween of 2016 as I begin writing this. I’m not sure how long it will take me to finish, and after that there’s no way of knowing how long it will take me to post.

I started this blog over the summer to keep myself writing, and I started my Friend Friday series as a way to ensure that I did so on a regular basis. I really enjoyed doing that series (which I’m sure I’ll pick up again), but I also know it was, in a way, a cop out. I titled this blog “summer thoughts,” yet only once did I post anything outside of Friend Friday. I was writing, but I was writing about others instead of using this platform as an avenue for self-expression as I’d initially intended.  The reason for that is I’m scared shitless of putting any of my own, somewhat raw thoughts out there for consumption. But writing is one of the only ways I feel comfortable expressing myself, so you can see how this can become a vicious cycle.

The C Word: Creativity. It runs in my blood. My mother is an artist, writer and graphic designer. My father is a chef and artist.  As a child I loved to draw – and for my age, I was pretty good at it. One day I decided I wasn’t good at it because I compared myself to someone who was better, and I stopped drawing completely. I wrote (the beginnings of) many, many stories pretty much until I entered college. I tried my hand at songwriting, but I can barely play guitar and for some reason creating melodies is challenging for me. I place a lot of value on the creatives in my life. I’m in awe of people who are confident enough to do something because they like to do it, and don’t get discouraged when things don’t turn out exactly how they would’ve liked them to. I’m scared of imperfections in my own work, so I’ve essentially ceased creating except when it’s commissioned by someone or something else.

For years I’ve struggled with feeling locked inside my own head because I don’t really have a creative outlet in place. I’m very vocal when I have an issue – and I will reach out when I don’t feel alright and need to talk. But now, more than I can remember in recent history, I’m craving some kind of creative outlet in the same way one feels when you see your server carrying food but it’s food for another table.

I am surrounded by so many talented people and I love that, but I feel like I’m missing out. It’s not as though I’m simply not creative or possess a mind that’s more analytical. I am creative – but I’ve fabricated and continuously reinforced a barrier by telling myself I’m not good enough, or by being far too easily discouraged when I see people who are better at something I consider myself “good” at or want to try, or by being too hard on myself when things don’t turn out precisely as I’d pictured them in my head.

Writing for public consumption as a form of expression and creativity feels both safe (because it comes naturally to me) and scary (because putting my thoughts and feelings in the public sphere in such a straightforward way is just that). Therein lies the intrapersonal wrestling match I’m constantly having: writing in this kind of format is the easiest but most intimidating outlet. Things like drawing or songwriting are potentially more rewarding if done “right,” but I know “right” by the standards to which I hold myself is nearly unattainable so I’ll end up frustrated. The catch is that I know in order to reach those standards, I have to keep doing the things that frustrate me. Practice. Keep going. Every time you do it you’ll get a little better, learn a little more. But I want perfection on the first try – and that’s just unrealistic.

It’s now 1:25 am on Halloween 2016, I’m hungry, tired and I still haven’t done much with the paper I have due tomorrow at 2:15. I’m not sure if this has made any sense up to this point as it’s essentially a stream of consciousness, and truth be told I wasn’t even planning on writing about this. I had a completely different blog in mind, but here we are. Perhaps I’ll pick this up again later today.

It’s 12:49 pm on November 14th. I’m having a really bad day, and I don’t know what to do about it other than come here and write some words and hope it gets better. I haven’t drawn or tried writing songs in the 2 weeks since I began this blog post. I haven’t written anything that’s not related to my classes. I’m not sure what the good is in telling you this, whoever you are, except that I hope you’re not like me. I hope you keep doing creative things because you like them and that you don’t give up when it’s not “perfect.” 

I have a hard time taking my own advice, but I’m begging you to please keep brainstorming and doodling and strumming and singing and writing and keep creating, creating, creating. I’ll try, too.

Friend Friday: Chris Freedman

As a freshman at a relatively large university, my deepest wish was to find friends who liked and cared about the same things as me. This resulted in me being rather vocal about my interests, literally and in the form of constantly wearing band t-shirts. One day as I was walking down from my dorm in Brewster to Brockway Dining Hall with my roommate, I heard someone compliment the Brand New sweatshirt I was wearing. It was the first time someone had commented on any of my music-related apparel, and I was doubly elated because Brand New was (well, is) my favorite band.

The friend I made that day was Chris Freedman. He’s a current junior in the Bandier Program for Recording and Allied Entertainment Industries at Syracus13912453_10208589575330186_8191643786029153595_ne University, and he came all the way out to the tundra of Syracuse, New York from sunny Los Angeles. Before living in Los Angeles he spent the first 10 years of his life in Connecticut.

I think moving from a small town in Connecticut to L.A. when I was young had a lot to do with who I am today.” Chris is, not surprisingly, incredibly passionate about music. The music he grew up with shaped the person he is in a huge way as well.

I grew up listening to a lot of southern rock, specifically the Allman Brothers. I also loved radio rap from the time like Chingy. Then once I got into middle school and started listening to the Ramones and Iggy Pop, it was game over.”

Chris is someone who’s constantly talking about cool music and bands I’ve never even heard of. Back in freshman year he introduced me to Touché Amoré, and it seems like I’m always hearing about more bands from him. His love for music is what led him to apply to the Bandier Program at Syracuse, and what pushed him to start his own tape label, Ghoul Tapes.

The label is home to a number of local/semi-local bands like Blasteroid of Brooklyn and two of Syracuse’s own: minnoe and Super Defense.

“Ghoul Tapes is the thing I’m most proud of. It’s been so great being able to help my friends out this way. I was heavily inspired by going to shows at The Smell in L.A. and seeing labels like Danger Collective and Burger Records start out by putting out their friends music. It was really inspiring to see kids around my age making it happen instead of waiting till they we12768327_10206686413773711_2827404516330727120_ore older or had more money. It was very clear that they were in it for the love.”

Since its inception, Ghoul Tapes has gotten tapes distributed at places like Rough Trade NYC and participated in Burger Records’ Beach Bash this summer.

Chris’s interests don’t stop at music, though he admits some of them go hand in hand with music anyway. He used to skateboard rather often (and wishes he did more today). Back in Los Angeles Chris volunteered with The A.Skate Foundation, a non-profit organization that offers skate lessons to kids with Autism “in an environment that is appropriate to their sensory needs in order to learn.” Back in freshman year, Chris let me try his skateboard once and I’ll just say I was not a quicker learner in that area.

While Chris spends a lot of time supporting his friends and their creative endeavors, his biggest support system is back in New York City in the form of his family and dog, Riley.

However, Chris’s parents weren’t super pleased when he got his first tattoo – but the significance behind the ink may have mitigated it a bit.

On Chris’s bicep is the black sheep that appears on the artwork of Minor Threat’s 1983 record, “Out of Step.” Punk music is another piece of Chris’s life that played a large part in shaping him.

img_4475“Punk music had a massive effect on me. I really admire bands like Minor Threat and their entrepreneurial attitude. The movement they created felt attainable and homegrown. Their music feels really authentic to me and that is something i really value. I saw this cross over with the bands I used to see at The Smell, like Peter Pants and Palm Reader.”

Ultimately, Chris is a DIY kind of guy. Nothing can cloud the passion he has for the things he loves. He says he tries not to agonize over the future too much, but I think it’s because he doesn’t have to – it’s gonna be a pretty bright one.

 

Friend Friday: Nate Currie

Drive, starring Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan, is a tough movie to get through. It’s only 195 minutes, but those 195 minutes are pretty slow for an action movie. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a little bit addicted to my phone, so I must plead guilty to scrolling through Twitter at some point as my friends and I watched the film in their South Campus apartment one night last March. I felt a tap on my shoulder, and turned around to find one of my best friends, Nate Currie, pointing me back towards the TV because he loves Drive and wanted to share it with us.

14192699_10208135580921984_4157891080686992574_nNate Currie is a junior studying Television, Radio and Film in the S.I. Newhouse School for Public Communications at Syracuse University. Shocker: he loves movies and TV, and can recommend a solid watch (or 10) for anyone who asks. He’s the kind of person who will give you a novel of an answer or recommendation because he’s smart and really passionate, and you don’t mind listening because he makes everything sound genuinely interesting. And if you want to talk to anyone about Comedy, Nate’s the person to go to. There’s a special place in his heart for comedy, and he dedicates a lot of his time to keeping up with his favorite comedians via YouTube, Netflix – any medium they’re putting content on.

I’m constantly fighting my inner snob when it comes to comedy because it’s my favorite and I love it lots,” he says. “I like making people laugh and I spend a lot of time working on my voice. Voice here means something like perspective combined with a subject. I always spend time thinking about what I want to say and it just takes time and work. The next step is really building my courage.

While comedy is paramount, music comes in at a very close second for Nashville-grown Nate Currie. It’s common knowledge that Nashville is essentially the music capitol of the country, so growing up in such a city means there’s no real hiding from music and inspiration.

He’s been making music for a while, but when he got to Syracuse University in fall 2014 he’d all but given up on the art. He says that his good friend Andy Horvath is the reason he picked up bass again, and Nate now plays bass and synths with Super Defense in addition to working on a lot of his own music.

“My music is two different projects. I have a really secretive, kinda going-nowhere electronic project that takes a lot of cues from fast club music and guys like Claude Speeed – that stuff is back-burnered right now, though, because I bought a guitar! That stuff is right around the corner. I’m kind of right into the deep end on songwriting and guitar, but 12748031_10208956976343897_5002463300834700926_oI used to play bass so I just took two strings off and started writing.”

The Nashville element of his musical being exists in the form of an unadulterated love for local music.

It’s embarrassing because I won’t shut up about them, but JEFF the Brotherhood released a new album and I’m basically only listening to them and a lot of other Nashville bands right now. That is, folded in to my constant rotation of electronic tunes that I use to relax. Drone-y stuff like Eliane Radigue, maximalist stuff like Rustie, sparse stuff like Mssingno and Koreless. I’m listening to a lot of southern music right now. Barefoot Jerry is my secret weapon, even though I’m not nearly as fancy as they were.”

Nate’s experience in Nashville was not all music and joy, though. He grew up a bit of an outcast.

“I was a weird kid. Kind of bad-weird to a lot of folks. If you asked me in middle school, I would have told you I don’t need to fit in. But I didn’t have a ton of friends growing up and it really wore me down after a while. So, I’ve been spending a lot of time working on just being with people I like. Like, unscheduled time. I had plenty of play dates, but those dry up when you get older and by that point I didn’t really have any regular friends I hung out with for very long. But there was a lot of good, too. Nashville and I kind of grew up together. It’s always been a fantastic city, but the last ten years or so have been explosive. I love my city and I love the music and I love the food and I’m so blessed.”

The college version of Nate is an intrinsic part of an eclectic, supportive, awesome community of friends, and he’s maybe still a little weird but only in the best ways. He’s impressively self-aware, and similarly aware of the world around him and his place in it.

Right now his place in the world, physically at least, is in Syracuse, New York. It’s a far cry in pretty much all respects from below the Mason Dixon line in Tennessee. Where Nate will end up next, he doesn’t know.

“Home. I don’t know where it is yet, but the biggest goal for me right now is to build myself a home. That means, to me, a space with a kitchen near a community I belong to and something to sustain me. I’m so ready to be done with moving every few months and knowing that all my friends are going to scatter come graduation. I do also see myself traveling and growing, but I want the chance to build a home on my own terms. I want it badly enough to know that’s what the future holds.”

Nate is a mature, wiseimg_6601 21-year-old. He seems like he’s got an answer for everything, and if he doesn’t you end up in an engaging conversation. He’s someone you don’t get tired of talking to because he has a lot to say and, on the flip side, is a good listener. He loves what he loves with no bounds and wants to share that joy with anyone who’ll let him.

It’s almost unbelievable to me that we’ve been friends only since last semester. He’s introduced to me to tons of new music, TV shows, movies and has honestly opened my mind to a number of different perspectives. He’s understanding, smart as heck, quite quirky and pretty particular and I really do feel lucky to be friends with such a grand human being.

 

Friend Friday: Katie Canete

It’s a small world, and New Jersey is perhaps the smallest as it’s the most densely populated state in America. There are about 2,000 people per square mile in the state, and it also happens to have the largest number of students traveling out of state for college compared to any other state. I knew upon leaving for freshman year at Syracuse University that I was about to enter what may as well be another small New Jersey in and of itself, but it never explicitly occurred to me that I would meet someone who would become one of my best friends after spending my entire life less than a 10 minute drive from her.

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Katie Canete (pronounced ken-yet-ay) is a junior in the Bandier Program for Recording and Allied Entertainment Industries at Syracuse University. In her New Jersey high school she was actively involved in marching band, which she’s continued through college. In marching band she plays flute, but she’s skilled in a number of instruments – it’s no secret that music is very, very important to Katie.

“I started pretty young, when I was 4, and discovered the upright piano in my family home. I would spend hours banging on the keys. Not long after, I was enrolled in piano lessons at my town’s music shop. In 4th grade, I signed up for my school’s concert band and learned flute. From there, I took guitar and voice lessons. Somewhere along the way I learned more instruments. I was always doing music growing up, and it came quite naturally to me. I’ve played in more ensembles than I can count, and I just love the feeling when everyone is in sync and creating aural art. Music can express any kind of emotion, and it is often more powerful than words alone.”

Her confidence in herself and her passion for music has allowed her to go after the things she wants for no reason more than that she wants them. She’s been publisher of 20 Watts magazine since spring 2015. She landed an internship at Sony ATV/Music Publishing in New York City this past summer – followed by a stint as a tour manager on CaIMG_1761mplified. She manages to juggle schoolwork, a job, marching band, extracurriculars, friendships, a relationship and a social life, all while maintaining her sanity and a joy for life. In my eyes, she’s nothing short of superhuman.

Katie possesses an innate drive and focus that many struggle to uncover for much of their lives. Her passion revealed itself to her before she even entered kindergarten, and she’s followed it without question ever since.

“I knew in middle school that I had to keep music in my life in some capacity. There was no way it could remain solely a hobby, thus it had to be part of my career. I knew I couldn’t make it as a rock star Katy Perry pt. 2, so I thought the next option would be to work behind the scenes handling the business. I didn’t know too much about publishing before college, but I learned quickly. Because the music business is powered by songwriters and artists, they should be the ones compensated handsomely to sustain their work and keep the creative content alive. I want to be part of the sect that advocates for songwriters and sees the lucrative potential of publishing.”

She’s already got her sights set on law school after graduating from ‘Cuse, and after that she hopes to be living in a major city finally pursuing her dreams of working in the music business.

For now though, she’s perfectly content living and learning as a student at SU. She’s at the halfway point of college – two years down, two to go – and with so much having happened in the first half there’s no way to imagine all of the wonderful that will come out of the second half of her time here.

“Syracuse has helped me see that there is so much about the world I don’t know – and that’s a great thing. ‘Cuse has exposed me to different types of people and backgrounds which is a big change from New Providence. It’s given me another place I can call home.”

Surely one of her favorite parts of living in Orange Nation has been the Syracuse University Marching Band. This year she’s a section leader, and she seems just as excited about it as she was when she first stepped on the Carrier Dome turf.

“Marching band is one of the coolest things to do on campus. I made some of my first friends in band. It’s one of those things that’s hard to understand unless you’re in it. It’s just energy and fun all the time. It’s like a second family.”

12183772_10206090233229570_4247593132498301092_oKatie is someone who can make anyone feel like family. She is one of the single most likable people I’ve ever known, and (at the risk of sounding cheesy) she simply oozes good vibes. For Katie life is just adventure after adventure waiting to be had, and her attitude is contagious.

If more people were like her we’d live in a much more functional, much happier world. She gets sh*t done and has a smile on her face the whole time, eager to move forward on her path to unavoidable success. It’s pretty spectacular to know someone like Katie, and pretty wild that it took 18 years of living 10 minutes apart to find such a fantastic friend.

Friend Friday: Allison Carr

Every year, I come up with a truly ridiculous list of Halloween costumes and more often than not, I end up scraping together a costume the night of that was never on my radar to begin with. College generally stretches Halloween over an entire weekend, so last Halloween I found myself with one planned costume and another two nights to figure out.

As luck would have it, the work was done for me when Allison Carr asked me to be the Garth to her Wayne for Scarier Dome’s Halloween special. Despite our partner costume and long list of mutual good friends, it wasn’t until this summer that our friendship truly came to fruition, which was long overdue. Life Hack: A drive through Connecticut’s insufferable, in13248594_10206425826390635_128439078716949405_oevitable traffic en route to New England can do wonders for getting to know someone.

Allison Carr is a rising junior in the Bandier Program for Recording and Allied Entertainment Industries at Syracuse University. She spent her summer interning for 23/7 Global, an artist services company, doing things like working for Justin Bieber’s VIP team. Her love for music wasn’t always rooted in the industry, though. Both of her parents attended Syracuse University, and that, combined with growing up singing and doing theatre lead her toward ‘Cuse’s musical theatre program – but then something else clicked.

“Music is something I kind of stumbled into. I’ve always loved it and have been interested in keeping it as an essential part of my life but I didn’t realize it would be something that I could feasibly pursue as my career. Being classically vocally trained for literally my whole upbringing made it seem like there was no choice there, I just had to perform. When I realized there was a way to pursue music as a career and still actually, potentially make money, that seemed like a better fit for me. I had always been passionate about music and the creation of it, so getting a behind-the-scenes kind of job was just really appealing. I was – and am sort of – a musician, and I felt it would be good to have that background while having so many talented people surrounding me.

During her time as a student so far she’s been able to experience things like unspecified-3the CMJ festival in New York City (where she nearly fainted upon seeing Sky Ferreira in the crowd with her watching DIIV), become the General Manager of the student run radio station WERW and has ultimately flourished as a person.

College radio ended up as a sort of heaven for curation-crazed Allison.

“Something that I’ve realized that I’m passionate about recently is curation. Playlists obviously are one thing that I curate, but also all of my items. I like everything to be cohesive and go together and I spend a lot of time thinking about things like that. That’s why radio is something I fell into so well. I love making a playlist for the hour that flows well from one song into another. I feel like it’s a waste of energy to care as much as I do, but it gives me a migraine if things don’t complement each other.” (Spoken like a true Virgo. Don’t forget to wish Allison a happy birthday tomorrow!)

Friendship is another area where Allison finds complements to be absolutely necessary. She’s someone who is there for her friends without fail; her heart seems bottomless and her loyalty boundless. Sometimes, though, her giving nature ends up being exploited. So, she’s made a point now to nurture relationships with those who give back and meet her halfway.

“I feel like I have a really rocky past with so many people and I struggle to understand why, but I think I just attract people who don’t treat me well. Being taken advantage of is kind of a recurring theme in my life, and I’ve been working really hard for the past year or so to not let myself be taken advantage of anymore. It’s lost me a lot of important people, but I guess it was for the best because they weren’t treating me how I deserved to be treated and in the end, I am better off without them.”

At Syracuse she’s been lucky enough to find a number of wonderful humans who make her need to take care of people all worth while and who share and foster her passions. The environment of the university, combined with the people who’ve made their way into Allison’s corner of it, have changed her for the better.

“I think Syracuse has made me come into myself, and I think I’ve grown so much. It’s kind of hard to articulate how I’ve grown, but I think I’m more adventurous and say ‘yes’ instead of ‘no’ so much more. I hope that I can continue that this year and I can be more able to branch out as I enter my 20’s.”

It’s a beautiful thing that such a work-oriented young woman has gained a level of adventurousness. Her work ethic is impressive and something that she’s proud of, but she too often forgets to take a moment to breathe.

At the same time, Allison does her best to focus on what’s happening now instead of stressing about the future.

“I try to not think about it [the future] too much because it makes me anxious. I’m just here now and have a ton of things to do in the next month, and then when that month is over I’ll take on the next. If you constantly plan your life out too much then you get trapped in the idea that you’re not living up to something you’re supposed to do.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 4.55.32 PM.pngAllison, regardless of her need for cohesiveness and organization, is a true embodiment of rolling with the punches. No matter what life tosses, throws or viciously catapults her way, she finds a way to tackle it while remaining the fun and dependable person that she is. In the words of Willy Wonka (whom she portrayed masterfully in a 5th grade musical) “there’s no earthly way of knowing which direction we are going,” and that seems perfectly fine with her. As long as she’s got her passions, her pals, her playlists and her wise head on her shoulders I’m confident she’ll find herself somewhere incredible.

 

 

 

Friend Friday: Tommy Kane

Dílseacht is a Gaelic word meaning pride or loyalty. Tommy Kane has this lexeme inked on his wrist, and there is nothing I can think of that is more fitting for him (except perhaps the Blind Justice tattoo he has on his thigh, but that one is fitting for other reasons.) A young man of Irish decent as one can tell by his freckles, fair skin and ebony hair, he is unfalteringly loyal to and in everything he does.

12438958_10205761586895779_8079104670678996212_nTommy is a rising junior studying English at Skidmore College. His major and athletics have defined his time at the small liberal arts college nestled in Saratoga Springs, NY, and he’s loved his college experience thus far. Though he grew up and played in a lacrosse-crazed New Jersey suburb, he wasn’t recruited to play collegiately so he took his immense love for the sport to walk on to the Division III team at Skidmore and has been playing since stepping foot on campus as a freshman.

“I’ll endorse playing a college sport to anyone who asks, it’s so sick. You get to campus your first day and you automatically have all these friends, and you’ll always at least be friendly with everyone on the team. Also, it truly does help with school work; keeping you on track struggling through the workload and athletic schedule with all of your best friends.”

The stereotypical image of a lax dudebro might include an array of pastel garments from Vineyard Vines, a trust fund and a Spotify library full of EDM and rap, but Tommy strays from the path. With an affinity for the genre of hardcore, his passions seem to be worlds apart but they meet seamlessly in Tommy. If you dug through his t-shirt drawer and his Spotify library, you’d likely find bands such as Heavy Chains, Losin’ It, Get Real, Regulate, Blind Justice and many more.

Back in senior year of high school, Tommy got his first taste of hardcore at The Stone Pony where we had gone to see pop-punk giants The Story So Far. Rotting Out, a now-defunct band from LA, was support on their fall 2013 US tour and Tommy was immediately drawn to the gritty, aggressive sound that was hardcore music.

“The first hardcore band I listened to was Rotting Out. It was mad cool to me because it was so radically different from the pop punk I had been listening to, but I could still dig it. So angry and raw – that dude Walter, their lead singer, had the nastiest voice.”

Just this month Tommy trekked to music festival “This Is Hardcore” in Philadelphia to spend a weekend in mosh pits (and likely bleeding and bruising as a result) and mingling with other members of the scene: musicians and fans alike. A genre so niche means that many of the bands are pretty small scale and thus easy to access.  It’s a lot easier for fans like Tommy to connect with the favorite artists when the genre is essentially underground.

13923621_1091953570891383_3281161445707595166_oTommy fronts a hardcore band by the name of Here To Stay, in which he plays with his little brother Danny (bass) and friends Anthony (drums) and Tom (guitar). The group has released two demos so far and has new music on its way. By the nature of the hardcore community, they’ve been able to form relationships with other bands and musicians, but not without a struggle.

Hardcore is a funny thing, man. To say it briefly, my friends and I are kinda rejects in the hardcore community around here. The few homies I have, we’ve all gotten amazing experiences from hardcore. I would have liked to make some more friends by now, but it doesn’t keep me up at night. If you go into hardcore looking for anything other than feeling amazing listening to a record or pitting at a show, you’ve come to the wrong genre.”

Music has always been important to Tommy, ranging from pop-punk bands like The Wonder Years to classics like his all-time favorite Bruce Springsteen and Red Hot Chili Peppers whose bassist, Flea, was Tommy’s initial inspiration to play music.

Despite how difficult it can sometimes be to get on the lineup for a show, Tommy finds the magic that makes it worthwhile when he performs.

screen-shot-2016-08-19-at-4-10-24-pm“It [Here To Stay] is such a low-key thing at this point, so we sort of have to scrounge for shows but there are still times when I play shows that I look up for a second and realize how distinct and temporary this opportunity is. So, that’s something I value from the experience.”

While hardcore and lacrosse both occupy large portions of Tommy’s heart, the rest of it is reserved for his family, his girlfriend Natalie and “the few who tolerate me as a friend: Tom, Josh, Will and Ian.” At the end of the day, he’s a person who loves fiercely and with reckless abandon. Pride and loyalty are the sharpest parts of Tommy Kane’s personality; he exudes both in everything he loves and it shows. He is loyal to his passions, but at the root of it all he’s loyal to himself, and that’s pretty punk rock.


Featured/2nd photo by Michelle Rose Photography

Friend Friday: Mikey Light

Entering Freshman year at Syracuse all I knew was that I wanted to work in the music industry, and that I liked to write. At the activities fair I stumbled across the table for 20 Watts, the premier student run music publication on campus, and my lightbulb went off. On the editorial staff that year was only one other freshman: a lanky, opinionated, talented Newhouse kid with a distinct voice and a name you can’t forget: Mikey Light. Since Fall 2014 we’ve worked together and become friends, and it’s been a privilege to watch him grow as a writer, music lover and human.

10995466_10205915305149072_1957436437387705162_nMikey is a New York City transplant from Connecticut entering his junior year at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. He majors in Magazine Journalism, will be serving as Editor in Chief of 20 Watts this year and spent this summer interning at Rolling Stone. At just 20 years old, he appears accomplished and driven – and he is. With half of his college career at Syracuse University finished, he’s able to reflect on the difference between how he expected college to go and how it actually went (so far).

I’ve had a good time, very few complaints about the college experience thus far. As far as things that I’ve gained or learned that I didn’t expect, I would say patience. I came here expecting to be able to fuck shit up in all capacities as soon as I got here, but that simply wasn’t the case. Sometimes you have to serve your time before you get what you want. I traded in my boyish good looks for slightly-less-than-boyish good looks. I’ve become less overtly mean-spirited and far less competitive, too. I really don’t have any interest in competing with my peers here at school or otherwise. Believe it or not, I’m pretty collaborative.

Being the collaborator that he is makes him a great leader. He’s the kind of person who’s able to – and will – take charge in any fitting situation, but not in a steal-the-spotlight kind of way. More in a he-almost-always-sounds-like-he-knows-what-he’s-talking-about kind of way. This, combined with his opinionated nature, can sometimes make for an argument or two, but it’s an ultimately a strong quality that is hard to come by.

He’s become more down to earth since beginning at ‘Cuse and despite the confident exterior he unintentionally projects, he struggles with himself just as all of us do. Dare I say, this seems to be a problem especially for the creatives of the world.

“I don’t behave as well as I should and my brain is all over the place. I kind of coast through life most of the time so I have a lot of trouble putting in real effort. I would love to be the kind of person who could sit for hours working on something or studying, but my creativity hits me almost exclusively when it’s time to be doing something else.”

The exception to that, of course, is at 2o Watts meetings. I don’t live inside Mikey’s brain (for which I am very thankful) so I can’t say I know when his best creativity comes out, but I can say – as I’ve borne witness to it many times before – that much of his creativity peeks out for this magazine that means so much to him. He regards his time working on the publication as the single best and biggest accomplishment of his life thus far.  While he claims it’s difficult for him to put effort into things, it’s abundantly clear where most of that energy goes, and it’s into that magazine.

12244639_10200977227309877_1420636251132989298_o

20 Watts has taken very good care of me, and that’s in no small part to the people I’ve met through it. People like Sam Henken, Lyndsey Jimenez, Joey Cosco, Jim Coleman…the list goes on…Adam Gendler…Then there’s people like you, Kyle Driscoll, Big J, Sarno, Jackie. Some of these people I consider to be on the short list of my closest friends at school or otherwise. 20 Watts gave me a chance as an unproven freshman and then a barely-proven sophomore to do whatever I wanted, and that’s worked out. Actually. if I had to pinpoint something in particular that was important, it was definitely my working relationship with Jim Coleman last year when I was Managing Editor. Jim knew what had to be done from a business point of view, and gave me a huge amount of editorial control. Together we masterminded what was without a doubt the biggest year 20 Watts ever had, and I’m very thankful for everything he’s done for me.”

There’s an enormous amount of love poured into the mag by every staff member, and Mikey is a true example of it.

What’s interesting is that he’s admittedly new-ish to the writing and journalism world. If you’ve read anything he’s written for 2o Watts or anything else, though it may not be a conscious thought it would be easy to assume he’s a young pro. For someone with such a strong and unique style of writing and sense of love for the thing, it’s hard to believe that he really only got his start just before college.

13040950_10207148479085055_7106701558314883988_o“Writing is relatively new to me. I started with two short plays that I wrote and directed my senior year of high school and since then I’ve been into it. As far as voice goes, it wasn’t something that I really developed. I write the way I talk, probably because nobody ever ‘taught me’ how to write for publication. To sum it up, I avoid rhetoric and don’t account for people’s sensitivities. I write stuff that I want to read, and if that means I end up with some esoteric garbage then so be it.” If nothing else, Mikey is candid and thusly unapologetic. That candidness isn’t just projected outward though – he knows he’s still a young kid with a lot to learn, and what’s better is that he’s ready to keep learning and absorbing.

The nature of this piece may lead one to believe that Mikey’s constantly flexing his journalistic and literary muscles, but when he’s not writing he may be found playing some self-proclaimed mediocre guitar, watching game shows or simply reflecting.

“I spend a lot of time quietly brooding in a dark room, recounting my past transgressions and planning my next move in my bid for world domination.” 

In all actuality, he’s probably just listening to some Vulfpeck or show tunes in his bedroom (though I’m not convinced the whole bid-for-world-domination thing is a joke).

Mikey Light is a communications student, a frat member, a friend, a fantastic writer and a pretty bad texter. He’s one of the very few people who’ve been a part of my college experience in its entirety; I see no signs of that changing as we army crawl towards graduation in 2018 – and I’m so glad for that. There are big things in his future, of that I’m sure, so don’t forget his name (not that you could).

Friend Friday: Joy Scull

February of my freshman year I sat outside Strong Hearts, a vegan café near Syracuse University’s campus, sipping on a chocolate, peanut butter smoothie as I waited for a new friend to arrive. By chance, she ordered the same smoothie and that was the first in a long list of similarities that we discovered during that meeting. Natives to New Jersey, we discussed our mutual insistence on the term “Taylor Ham” and disgust for the term “Pork Roll.” We gushed over our favorite bagel shops from home and she told me all about her major and creative passions. And I learned that she is her name: Joy.

Joy Scull is a rising senior studying Communications Design at the School of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University. For those of you who may not know what communications design is: The first time I went to hang out with Joy at her dorm, she was executing a concept she’d created for a new type of hair conditioner – but the conditioner wasn’t the main idea. She had constructed an actual, physical display, created labels for the little pots of fake conditioner and made up a description like you’d read on the back of a real bottle of conditioner. It seemed tedious and time consuming (okay it didn’t just seem time consuming, it absolutely was), but at the same time very, very cool.

11222077_10206201908399123_1785698857075177048_n“I wanted to go to a school that had the best of both worlds: amazing design / art school but also a campus that offered a lot of different majors where I would meet different people since most of my friends from high school were not art nerds like me. When I decided I wanted to go into graphic design, I specifically wanted to be a package designer. Communications Design at Syracuse really focuses on that along with art direction so that’s what really hooked me. When I was in high school I really did love to draw and paint, but I knew that I wanted to be in a creative field that would also have some business aspect to it which is exactly what design is – especially for branding, marketing and advertising.

Joy is a creative in that she creates on her own and possesses a deep appreciation for other art forms spanning from fine art to music to comedy – and she’s always been this way. Her father, a photo editor for the New York Times, kept all of the drawings and stories she made as a kid, and in high school she became absorbed by drawing and painting. In college, she frequents off-campus house shows at venues like the late Goon Lagoon and Scarier Dome, and art shows at venues like Spark Contemporary Art Space.

Art wiggles itself into every facet of her life whether it’s intentional or not.

Last summer Joy was a multimedia intern at the Clinton Global Initiative for the Clinton Foundation – the following Halloween she dressed up as Hillary Clinton. Her sense of humor is quirky and lovable and she never misses a chance to share a funny post with someone she thinks will appreciate it. On a more serious note, her design talents have brought her to other internships, including Smith Design and Ralph Applebaum Associates. While at Syracuse, she spends her time designing for WAER and the student publication, Student Voice. Joy spreads herself pretty thin, but she enjoys every last second of it.

“I really am so thankful to love what I do so much. I get a high off of coming up with a really good idea for a new project or being really successful in something for my jobs or classes. Design is such a powerful tool to change and influence the decisions that people make, and being able to be a part of that to make a positive change, or make people see things in a new way is exactly what I want to do.”

Syracuse has played a huge part in Joy’s growth as a designer – and person – and it’s given her many opportunities to indulge all aspects of her creative self.

13439012_10153885319219862_4838011329880596943_n“I feel like Syracuse has really helped me become the person that I have always been, but maybe did not start out as coming from the town that I grew up in. I love my friends from home and I wouldn’t change anything about myself, who I was, or the kinds of decisions I made before I went to college, but I will say that so many of my experiences in central NY have changed me and really helped shape who I am. Some of the most impactful moments that come to mind are just going away to school: the transition into college was not an easy one. I had no idea how nervous I would be not knowing anyone around me, and forcing myself to try to put myself out there. You constantly hear only about the “fun” aspects of college, but nothing really prepares you for the initial start. This new start really made it clear to me the kinds of friends that I would want to have, which has been huge for me.”

Joy’s choice to come to Syracuse University where she would have the opportunity to mingle with students of all different interests is totally apparent in the people she surrounds herself with. She’s found friends in Greek life, friends through design, music, writing and many more areas of expertise – and she is always open to learning from all of her different friends.

While her first love is design, she cares deeply for people and life itself. Her ability to look at situations objectively helps her in design and in her relationships, and she is one of the people I can actually count on to give me unbiased advice and tell me what I need to hear rather than what I might want to hear in a given situation.

“I’m really good at seeing different perspectives. I try to dissect everything from all angles, which can be exhausting, and really ask myself what was right or wrong in that situation. I would describe myself as someone who really looks for substance and meaning in life, whether that be in my relationships with people, passions or experiences. I really care about people, and I want everything that I do or every relationship that I have with someone to be meaningful.”

12194784_10206085891401027_7657338410415036986_oIt is an indescribable joy to know Joy. She is lighthearted enough not to take herself too seriously but passionate enough to know that her work is serious and meaningful. She’s a girl who loves cats and never misses a chance to send a Snapchat of eggs benedict yolk breaking; a girl who has absolutely no problem defying the status quo. Joy does things that make her happy for that reason alone, which is a skill many of us still need to learn. Her capacity to be silly yet well-composed is impressive and it’s quite remarkable the focus she already has for the path she’s following. She’s a young woman worth knowing and learning from, and I can’t wait to see where her future takes her because I know I’ll be right there cheering on my best friend from the sidelines.