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Jamie Ballard

'Call Me Caitlyn' breaks the internet

Caitlyn Jenner introduces herself to the world in Vanity Fair

The Vanity Fair cover of Caitlyn Jenner (formally known as Bruce Jenner) was released today, along with a preview of the profile written by Buzz Bissinger. The print issue doesn’t hit newsstands until June 9, but early access is available through Vanity Fair’s digital edition.

Bissinger spent hundreds of hours with Bruce leading up to the transition, and many hours with Caitlyn, including the cover shoot with Annie Leibovitz.

“This shoot was about my life and who I am as a person,” said Caitlyn. Jenner publicly came out as transgender in April, and this cover is the first publicity she’s done since completing transition.

The already-iconic cover and interview has been trending on social media with the hashtag #callmecaitlyn. Celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Lena Dunham, Maria Shriver, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Sam Smith have publicly tweeted their support for Jenner, along with thousands of others.

My roommate and I were discussing Caitlyn and her bravery to be herself. “There seems to be a lot of acceptance for gay, lesbian, bisexual people, which is great, but I don’t think you really hear that much about trans people…it’s not as talked about,” my roommate said. “And since it’s not as talked about, it’s not as accepted. I think this might help.”

It’s true. Some generally progressive people have been less accepting of transgender individuals than other minorities, and while it’s naive to say they only feel that way because they haven’t been exposed to it, it may very well be the case for some people. Gender identity is a complicated concept to discuss, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore it. The Human Rights Campaign has a succinct and clarifying write-up of what the different terms mean.

Jezebel has collected some of the best quotes from the interview. The one that stands out the most to me (and I think illuminates the reasoning behind the decision) is this one:

“’I don’t want to be this way’ was the bottom line. Who would want to be dealing with all these issues?…I look at men and say, Oh my God, would it not be so wonderful to be comfortable in your own skin, male or female, so when you wake up in the morning you get dressed and go to work and this identity issue is not even present?”

What we should do is celebrate people’s right to be themselves. That’s all. It’s not hard to let a person express their gender identity however they see fit. We should look at Caitlyn Jenner as someone helping the cause of transgender equality, and opening the discussion on other issues like transgender health care rights.

The Human Rights Campaign is a great place for resources and educational material. Gender Spectrum and the CDC’s page on LGBTQ resources are also great for learning more.

Study shows millennials value experiences over things

A new study from Harris and Eventbrite shows that a majority of millennials are choosing to spend their hard-earned money on experiences, rather than things. 78 percent reported that they would sooner spend their money on a desirable event than a desirable object, and 55 percent reported that they are spending more money than ever on concert tickets or other live events.

Why is this happening? There may be a few reasons. One is the now-ubiquitous FOMO or “fear of missing out.” Living up to a reputation as the social media generation, millennials tend to share their experiences through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Seeing those experiences broadcasted by others can inspire FOMO, which in turn drives people to spend more money on events and outings.

Another reason might be the fact that millennials are old enough to have witnessed the crash of 2008, wherein many people had to give up their material possessions. Naturally, millennials became a little bit wary of spending all of their money on things that might not retain their value, or may end up being temporary. The sharing economy also eliminates the need for certain material possessions like a car, leaving millennials free to spend more money on experiences.

Additionally, the psychology of happiness plays a significant role as well. 77 percent of millennials say that some of the best memories of their life have been made at live events. 79 percent said that attending an event with a friend or family member strengthened their bond, and 30 percent said that they met someone at a concert who became a good friend. 69 percent believe that live experiences better connect them to the community and make them feel bonded to the people and places around them. These numbers show that what millennials find worthy isn’t only defined by the monetary value.

What do you think? Do you prefer to spend your money on experiences or possessions? Let us know in the comments below, or talk to me on Twitter at @BallardJamie23

Summer Road Trip Essentials

Summer is a great time to pack up your car, a few friends, and head out on the open road a la Jack Kerouac. Depending on the length, destinations, and type of road trip, what you need may vary. But no matter where your’re headed, make sure you bring these basic essentials.

  • First Aid Kit
  • Healthy snacks (to keep you from eating too much fast food)
  • Phone and charger
  • Sleeping bag and pillow
  • Warm, water-resistant clothes
  • Plastic bags for trash
  • Bottled water
  • Frisbee, deck of cards, or other form of entertainment
  • Sunscreen
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Dry shampoo
  • Credit cards and cash (keep them separate if possible)
  • A journal or notebook
  • A pocket knife
  • Swimwear
  • Sandals (to wear in communal showers if necessary)
  • Sunglasses
  • Camera
  • Duct tape (hey, you never know!)
  • Extra socks and underwear
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Deodorant (seriously)
  • Comfy t-shirts, shorts, and pants

Tips for Harmonious Living

How to have a smooth-sailing roommate situation

Most students at some point or another live with roommates during their college years. Since you’re spending so much time with these people, it’s important to do your best to create a happy and healthy living situation for everyone.

Communicate. This is probably the most important one, and I’d go so far as to say 90 percent of roommate disagreements could be solved with better communication. If something’s bothering you, then politely speak up. It’s far better for you to honestly say “Hey, would you mind using headphones if you’re listening to music after 11? I have early classes. Thanks!” instead of silently letting tension build up and eventually boil over.

Be considerate. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s also important. Every person has little household habits that matter to them, and you should try to reasonably accommodate them. Things like letting the bathroom mat dry over the side of the tub, or leaving a window open might not even cross your radar. But if they matter to your roommate, you might as well make the living situation better for everyone and just go with it. They should extend the same courtesy to you.

Respect their boundaries, and make sure they respect yours. Some people have no problem sharing clothes or food with one another. Others are particular about their habits or possessions, and prefer to keep them separate. Neither way is right or wrong, but all approaches have to be considered and respected. This goes for social interaction too. Some people need ‘alone time’ to just relax and not interact with anyone, and that should be respected. Similarly, people who are more extroverted should feel comfortable expressing their feelings as well.

Establish expectations early. Talk about things like having overnight guests and the distribution of household chores before they become an issue. That way, no one is taken by surprise or feels like their concerns weren’t addressed when a situation does arise.

Save Money With Your Student ID

Find student discounts for everything from tech to entertainment

Many businesses offer student discounts or deals. If you’re smart about using them, you could end up saving hundreds of dollars during the course of the year. So whip out that student ID – it’s time to get saving.

For everything:

Amazon Student is one of the biggest saves for students. The first six months are totally free (with a .edu email address) and include free two-day shipping and a number of special promotions. Once your free trial is done, you can get an Amazon Prime membership for 50 percent off. Given that Amazon can be used for buying everything from toilet paper to textbooks, it’s definitely worth looking into.

For tech:

Apple, Microsoft, Dell, Lenovo and Adobe all offer some form of a student discount for their products. You can ask about it in-store, but you may also want to try looking at your university bookstore. Sometimes the discount is built into the bookstore pricing (A $300 dollar device is only $275 at your bookstore, for example).

For fashion:

A surprising number of retailers such as Banana Republic, Modcloth, Madewell, and H&M offer student discounts at several of their locations. Many of them don’t advertise the discount, so it’s worth it to bring your ID with you and ask at the register.

For entertainment:

Both Cinemark and AMC Theatres offer student discounts on certain days of the week, or for certain showings (The AMC theatre near me held a free screening of the latest Hunger Games movie for members of Greek life, for example). Additionally, many museums, galleries, and local performance venues also offer discounted admission for students.

Nailing a Job Interview: Easier than You Think!

Whether you’re a recent college grad, or a fresh-eyed internship seeker, these tips will help you succeed at any job interview, and set you apart from other candidates.

Do your research before you get there.

This cannot be stressed enough. Investigating what the company is all about as well as what the job description requires is crucial to your success, and can really set you apart from other candidates.

Since someone told me this tip, I’ve abided by it faithfully, and gotten all four of the jobs I’ve applied to since then. It really works. At one of the jobs, the interviewer asked me what I thought the goals and purpose of the company should be. Based on my research, I explained what the purpose of the company was (in my thoughts) and what they strive to do. She smiled and said “I think you could have written our mission statement better than we did!” It pays to do your legwork and come into the interview prepared.

Show, don’t tell

You’ve probably heard this one from your writing professor, but it applies here as well. When you’re applying for a job, most people probably have similar qualifications. And anyone could say “I have experience with Photoshop” or whatever the case may be.

You should go above and beyond by getting specific. Instead of saying “I have experience with Photoshop,” say “My internship at Company Z helped me learn the ins and outs of Photoshop, and eventually I was put in charge of designing the brochures for the end-of-summer fundraising gala.” If you can bring examples of your work, (in this case, the brochure) then that’s an even better way to make yourself stand out.

I find it especially helpful to write down the requirements or qualifications that they’re seeking in one column, and a detailed explanation of why you fulfill that requirement in another column. If the interviewer allows it, you can even bring these notes with you.

 Have some questions prepared

At the end of the interview, when the employee asks if you have any questions, do your best to have one or two. Ask about what the company culture is like, how others in your position have succeeded, or even what your interviewer likes best about working there. It demonstrates a genuine interest in the position and shows that you aren’t afraid to ask questions. Be sure that you don’t ask something that was clearly covered in the interview (but if you have clarifying questions about a previous topic, then now is the time to ask them!) If the interview was so in-depth that you truly don’t have any questions, then tell them so by saying “I had a few questions about the use of Excel as it relates to the position, but you were very clear in your explanation. Thank you.”

Dress to impress

This seems like an obvious one, but sometimes there is confusion over what’s appropriate. You should wear something you’re comfortable in that looks appropriate for the business world. When in doubt, wear something slightly nicer than what you think is necessary. Even if it’s a relatively casual company, it’s still important to put your best foot forward in the interview and show that you’re willing to put in the effort.

Female Badassery and Taylor Swift's Bad Blood Video

The video for Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood ft. Kendrick Lamar debuted yesterday, and I’ve already watched it seven times. Taylor Swift and Co. (which includes more than a dozen powerful ladies in entertainment) are stellar as a team of all-girl fighters.

The video, which is quickly picking up steam, is notable not only for its star-studded cast, but for the superhero-like quality and the neo-noir style. Media outlets and fans alike have been sharing the video, with one fan in particular issuing a challenge to Marvel about the lack of female superheroes in action.

George Takei tweeted yesterday, “Taylor Swift released her much anticipated video Bad Blood starring girl celebs as action stars. Come on Marvel, T. Swift is showing you up.”

Marvel has been publicly taken to task for the CEO’s claims that female superhero movies just aren’t profitable. What’s more, the female characters who are written into the Marvel universe are often given less dimension than the male characters, and frequently just prove to be support for the male superhero development. Jen Yamato at the Daily Beast writes an excellent explanation of Marvel’s skeevy and demeaning treatment of Black Widow through various films.

But as The Hunger Games, the newest Supergirl series, and Taylor Swift are proving, there is hope yet. Female superheroes (and hey, why not supervillans, too?) aren’t only a powerful direction to go in, but a profitable one as well. 

Your move, Marvel.

My friend is depressed – what can I do?

4 ways you can be a supportive presence

Disclaimer: I’m not a therapist, and I’ve never dealt with diagnosed depression. But I’ve had friends who shared their struggles with me, and who inspired me to try and learn more. To be frank, I didn’t understand depression for a long time, and didn’t know how to support someone who was affected by it. I did my best, but without knowing anything, I wasn’t necessarily a helpful presence. I thought, “What does he have to be depressed about? His life is great!” or “Everyone’s dealing with stress, it’s probably just a little worse for her.” These kinds of attitudes aren’t healthy, or even correct most of the time.

I’ve done a lot of reading on the topic, and found several metaphors for depression. One that stuck with me was the idea of climbing a mountain.

Imagine you’re climbing up the surface of a steep, snow-covered mountain without proper equipment. It’s hard. And there’s a ski lift nearby that’s carting people up to the top, but you can’t get on. The people on the lift are telling you “it’s easy, just keep climbing up!” And right as you see the peak in the distance, you slip and fall all the way back down the mountain. That’s what depression is like for some people.

People who are dealing with mental anxiety or depression should be seeking the attention of a counselor or medical professional. You, as their friend, should not take the place of a professional. But that doesn’t mean you can’t offer some form of support.

Invite your friend to hang out, and pester him or her to actually go
Sometimes, people with depression are worried about their attitude being a burden to their friends, so they quietly retreat. Be the friend who notices, and invites them to hang out. If they try to beg off because they’re worried about being a bother, make sure they know that you genuinely want to spend time together. Don’t pressure them to do anything they truly don’t want to do, but make sure they know how much you care.

Let them know they’re not alone
This doesn’t have to be in form of a dramatic conversation or speech. Sometimes just a hug or an afternoon spent watching Netflix together can be enough. (Not to mention, any kind of physical touch releases brain chemicals like oxytocin, which makes people happier. So that hug may mean more than you think!) There are a lot of ways to tell someone you care about them, and they don’t all have to be grand gestures. Sometimes, it’s the little things.

Be accepting
Seems obvious, right? But depression is a frustrating beast, and if you’ve never dealt with it, you might get confused or exasperated when your friend tells you he or she is having another bad day. Is it really that bad or is she just being dramatic? I thought she was seeing a therapist, shouldn’t she be over it by now? Nope, it takes time. Don’t make your friend feel worse about their problem, especially if they’re working towards improvement. Just be there for him or her.

Don’t try to fix everything
Being there for your friend is important. It’s also important to respect that this is a very personal struggle, and for him or her to share it with you is significant. Don’t mess it up by being patronizing, or telling someone that mediation/exercise/eating healthy/insert your mood-boosting activity is the key to everything. You should know that while you can be supportive, you can’t make the depression go away entirely. It’s not a character flaw or bad habit. And trying to “solve the problem” can be interpreted as you saying there is something inherently wrong with him or her. For a person dealing with social anxiety, that thought can be devastating.

What most of this boils down to is: be a nice person. Someone dealing with depression might have the weight of the world on their shoulders. Anything you can do to make them feel happy is a good thing, and supporting them through the entire journey is something they (and you) will cherish.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts, or other crises, the National Alliance on Mental Illness has several resources and ways to reach out.

How to Ace Your Finals

A satire

It’s that time of year again — the sun is shining, flowers are in bloom, and every college campus is brimming with stressed out students low on sleep and high on Adderall.

That’s right, we’re rapidly approaching finals. And since you’ve come to me, pretentious internet writer, rather than your professor for help, I’ve compiled a helpful guide to acing your finals.

1) Study as much as you possibly can during all hours

Oh, what’s that? You need sleep? You’ve been studying for 21 hours without a break? Too bad. The only students who get A’s are the ones who live, eat, and breathe school. So cuddle up to that textbook, freshman. It’s going to be a long night. Everyone knows that study breaks are for the weak. Even if you feel like your brain isn’t absorbing any more information, power through until you literally collapse. And repeat.

2) Eat your feelings

We know that you’re probably stressed, and when your body begins to reject all the caffeine you’ve pumped into it for days, it might be time to eat something. Food is your only comfort during these long, dark hours, as you’ve scared away all your friends by yelling at them about how much you have to do. So go wild — pizza, candy, potato chips, soda (with just a splash of alcohol), cookies, whatever your heart desires. Health be damned, you’ve got a final to ace.

3) Make sure everyone knows how much you have to do

If something is happening, and you don’t tweet about it, did it even really happen? Obviously not. Therefore, make sure to complain loudly about how much work you need to do. Tweet about it, post a facebook status, Instagram a photo of your textbooks captioned “#study #finals #ughh #onthatgrind.” What’s more, social media is a great way to stay focused! Should any of your friends try to empathize by telling you how they’re worrying about their finals too, shut it down. Make sure they know that you are the king or queen of stressing about finals, and they definitely don’t understand because you have WAY more to do than them, and they really need to check themselves.

4) Avoid your professor/TA’s/classmates in the weeks leading up to the final

Everyone is the enemy. Your professor, who wrote the exam, definitely has it out for you and will probably feed you false information. Your TA’s are well-intentioned, but come on, they’re TA’s — what do they know? Your classmates are your biggest enemy, especially if your professor grades on a curve. There can only be so many A’s, and any information you share can and will be used against you. So don’t go to office hours, don’t sign up for any study groups, and make sure you study in an isolated place where no one will think to look for you.

5) Refuse to take responsibilities for any difficulties you face

If you find that you don’t understand a concept, it’s probably not your fault. The professor is supposed to teach you, goddammit, you’re not supposed to teach yourself! And you could have studied so much more if you hadn’t let your friend convince you to take a Starbucks break. If you fail, it’s definitely their fault, and has nothing to do with the fact that you skipped class to sleep in.

6) Make sure you understand the importance of finals

Your mother might say that getting an B+ on your Philosophies of Microbiological Engineering class isn’t the end of the world, but she doesn’t understand. This final actually is the most important thing. If you don’t get an A, your potential employer will discount all of your internships, perfect grades, community service, and leadership roles, and you won’t get the job and instead be forced to work at KFC for the rest of your life, and then, eventually you’ll die alone, and it’ll all be thanks to that B+.

With these tips, you’ll be sure to ace your finals, and all it’ll cost is your mental and physical health, all your relationships, and any non-academic parts of your life!


This piece originally appeared on Medium.


Selling Your Textbooks 101

As the school year winds down, you’re probably left wondering what to do with the now-useless Introductory Bio textbook you paid $130 for, and will certainly not need again. While it does make a good paperweight, or perhaps a stand on which to rest your computer, there are a few more lucrative things to do with your old textbooks.

Sell them to other students
While this requires you to wait until the fall, selling your books to other students at your school can be the best option for many. Facebook pages are a great way to advertise the books that you have, and you may even find textbooks that you need as well. It also allows you to sell directly to other students, without going through a bookstore or other retailer.

Sell them back to the store
Depending on where you got the book, it’s sometimes possible to sell it back to the bookstore. Be warned, the campus bookstore and other textbook retailers will usually only give you a fraction of what you paid for the book originally. But it’s still better than letting it gather dust in your room!

Find someone you know who is taking the class
If all else fails, you might consider directly reaching out to someone who you know will need to take the class you just took. Maybe offer them some of the study guides along with the textbook (if it wouldn’t be an issue with the professor) and give them a deal. If you’re serious about just getting it off your hands, you might as well just give it to them. Or…

Burn it.
No, you won’t make any money. But depending on how much you disliked the class, letting the pages of Introductory Bio keep you warm as they go up in flames might be exactly the cathartic experience you need.