Monday, November 25, 2013

A more positive view: Guest Post from Mackenzie

Time has really been slipping away from me the past few days, so I'm making Tuesday a Monday and throwing a guest post your way!  Mackenzie is a good friend of mine now, we met a couple months ago and became fast friends.  As a freshman, she's kind of become my little sister over here in Boston and I'm thrilled to have her excited enough to want to post some thoughts here (she's one of the few people who reads this thing anyways).  So here's a less jaded view of MIT, and an experience very similar to mine.
Being a college freshman in a university on the opposite side of the country from my hometown, 
I’m an old pro at meeting new people by now. The influx of anxiety hundreds of new faces in the first 
few weeks of orientation is something anyone who’s been in my shoes can attest to. It’s beyond 
difficult to even remember the guy with the blue shirt’s first name, much less try and form any kind of 
friendship with him. For weeks, I was terrified I wouldn't find anyone to hang out with. Everyone else 
was going to parties, hanging out in the dorms, and just doing normal “college” things. I was honest to 
God trying to make friends, but it’s a scary thing to do. I’m from a small high school where I had known 
my friends since we were in elementary school. The entire population of my home state isn’t even a 
fraction of the people in the Cambridge area. I had culture shock, and I felt like I was drowning. 
Through calling my sister crying, annoying my friends from home by asking to Skype too much, 
and feeling like the biggest loser at MIT, some of the best friends I could ask for snuck up on me without 
any warning. The group of people I have to call friends now has already helped me through so many 
firsts. Failed tests, relationship drama, homesickness, and countless other issues have happened in the 
three month period I’ve been in Boston. (Dear God has it really only been three months?!) I’ve banged 
on doors at 2 in the morning, ate everyone’s food, and been a total loser in general, yet somehow they 
still seem to like me. Thinking back to what I now call “The Dark Ages,” I can’t understand why I was so 
worried. I can’t imagine my life now without the people that have come into my life here at MIT. 
They’ve already become my second family. I know that sounds cliché and cheesy, but in a big, dark, and 
scary place some call the worst 4 years of their life, not to mention away from everything I’ve ever 
known, it means everything to me. So to all of them, thank you. You mean more to me than you can 
know. Keep doing what you’re doing, because you’re all amazing, and some of the best people I’ve ever 
known. And if you’re reading this and feel anything like I did during those dark weeks, just keep doing 
what you’re doing. The best is always yet to come.

"Thanksgiving" dinner
Want to hear more from Mackenzie?  How did your freshman year go?  Let me know ;)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Impostor Syndrome

It's days like today when I question every decision I've ever made.  I'm sick, I'm tired, I'm overworked, and getting kind of sad.  I got so stressed that I proceeded to throw up the coffee-Dayquil cocktail that was the entire contents of my stomach.  I've been up since 8, gave a presentation, went to lab, am currently waiting to go fail a midterm, and then am going to stay up all night writing a paper due at midnight that I haven't started yet.
In short, I'm a wreck.
We all are.  Going through this school is the most demoralizing thing I have ever done.  No matter how hard I study I still feel like a failure when all is said and done.  You've probably guessed from the title of the blog that this is not a rare feeling for me.  Just when I think I have things figured out, I get slammed with a C- on an exam I thought I aced.  Gone are the days when I could walk out of an exam and know exactly how well I did.  Now I sit patiently for a 38% wondering if the average was a 60% or a 25% (both have happened).  
No matter what you can't win.  You either sacrifice all of your happiness, or sacrifice some of it and throw your grades down the toilet.
No matter what you're never as good as they think you are.
There's actually a phrase for this which I just learned recently: impostor syndrome. This is the idea that you are pretending to be the person people think you are, when really you're not as good as that.  I think we each have it to some extent, but I think it's pretty contagious here at MIT.  We often think we're stupid, falling behind or just not good enough  In reality it's quite the opposite, but when you're in an environment consisting of the "best of the best", of course a hierarchy will develop.  It's only natural that some people are "better" than others.  There are too many people in the world for it to not be that way.  Being in an environment where you're constantly judged and graded is incredibly difficult.  It begins to take a toll physically and emotionally and sometimes you'll feel like the lowest of the low.
This is when we need to take a step back.  We need to ask, "am I really dumb? Or is it just because I'm constantly in stressful, difficult situations?"  College is the worst because even when you don't have midterms, everyday is a test.  It's a test of endurance, a test of nerve, and ultimately a test of will.  I've thought about quitting countless times.  I question why I'm here, what it's worth, and whether or not I even like this anymore.  I've realized you can't question it.  Anything worth getting is going to suck along the way.  The only way to make it suck less is to step back, take a breath, and realize you're not the bottom of the bottom. You're not doing even half that bad, and maybe should even give yourself more credit than just bottom of the top.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dunkin Donuts Challenge

On Sunday a few of my friends and I ran the Dunkin Donuts Challenge.  For those of you who don't know, the DD challenge is run 2 miles, eat a dozen donuts, and run another 2 miles.  We decided we couldn't handle that (most of us are girls)  so we cut it in half to run 1 mile, eat 6 donuts, run another mile.  I first came across this idea on Jenna Marbles' Youtube channel (if you're not subscribed to her channel I can't talk to you anymore) and I think she did it about 3 years ago. (If you're interested watch hers here)
I pitched this to my friend, Veronica, over the summer kind of as a joke and she took it very seriously.  Of course once the idea gets going, no one wants to be the wuss to back out.
Luckily we documented the entire thing for posterity and eventually we'll be able to look at the footage without throwing up. 
So without further ado, here is our Dunkin Donuts Challenge:

Hope you enjoyed it!  In the end, it wasn't that bad.  It's a good story we can laugh about, though I think Mackenzie might not be laughing yet.

What's a dumb fun thing you've done?  Ever ran the DD challenge?  Let me know ;)
(this post was not sponsored by Dunkin Donuts.  However, if they'd like to sponsor me I'm totally open to that)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Outfit inspirations

So I've recently discovered Polyvore which has been exciting for me, and also should be exciting for you because it means I can share my outfits more easily without you having to look at my horrible Photoshop skills.
One of my biggest problems concerning somewhat formal-ish wear for me is cash (isn't it everyone's problem?)  So it's really important to me to have a few key pieces that are pretty versatile and that I can wear over and over without worrying that people will notice that I've worn the dress before.  I was recently at an initiation banquet for a friend's fraternity and had a little trouble picking what to wear.  I had to look nice (duh!) but it wasn't that formal an event.  Here was my solution:

You can check out the outfit here
The dress shown above is from French Connection, which I really love but honestly can't afford.  I found a really cute look alike sweater dress at H&M a while ago that is perfect!  I paired it with some fun sheer leopard tights I found at Target for around $5.  My pearls are from my grandmother and the shoes I got on sale during Black Friday last year ($40!!!)
The dress has been super easy to take care of, and with different tights, shoes and a belt, it's a new outfit!
It may seem boring, but I've been a huge fan of tans and browns this season.  There's something kind of chic yet calming about the color.   From sweaters to dresses I've been putting a lot of beige in my wardrobe lately.

What have you been wearing lately?  Let me know ;)

Friday, November 15, 2013

House Envy

Living in a dorm I've started to realise that I took a lot of things for granted when I lived with my parents.  Aside from the whole, you know, having someone take care of you, the biggest thing has been having a house that's mine.  My kitchen faucet broke today and started shooting water everywhere and I actually started to cry.  Like, sat down and cried because I was so frustrated with living in a shitty dorm.  The heat breaks, the bathroom is dirty, the kitchen sink leaks and we have mice.  As far as dorms go it honestly isn't that bad, but I am counting down the days until I have a place of my own.
This is as close to decorating as I get these days

Aside from day to day mechanics of the house never failing, the thing I'm looking forward to most is being able to decorate.  It's hard to decorate a brick walled dorm room without it looking cluttered.
So I was kind of a weird kid, but I've always LOVED Pottery Barn.  When other 12 year olds were begging for video games or dolls or whatever 12 year olds like, I was begging for a Pottery Barn duvet cover.  I don't know how long I begged my mom before she got it for me, and for months I wouldn't let anyone sit on my bed because I was so anal about keeping it clean.
I actually found a picture of the one I had!  Unfortunately it's at my parents' house because I'm now sleeping on a luxurious Twin XL dorm bed.
Anyways, I've been having some serious house envy these days and have not been able to get off my "Home is where my heart (and junk) is" Pinterest board.  To tide myself over for a while I've been designing rooms of my "future house" on Polyvore (totally cool website I just discovered because I'm always fashionably late to these parties).  
Here is a bedroom design I've been ogling over lately.
Duvet || Vase || Curtains || Lamps || Bedside Table || Persian Rug
I can't wait to have space and money.
A few notes on the items I've picked:  I love duvet covers!  It's pretty covers without the commitment.  You get a really fluffy warm comforter as a base, then change the duvet whenever the mood strikes!  Perfect for me because I'm kind (very) fickle.  I'm also kinda wild about the glass table.  Maybe it's because my siblings and I were destructive kids (read: Malcolm in the Middle style crazy) so we never had anything glass in our house.  It's so shiny and sleek I really am in love with it.  Finally I know the persian-style rug seems a little out of place, but I really like them.  My grandparents are from Iraq and my grandmother had a lot of Persian rugs in her house (my sister and I were convinced that at least one of them could fly) so they've always had a special place in my heart.
I'm really enjoying getting used to Polyvore, it's a pretty cool site I think I'll be procrastinating a lot on ;)
Also in case you missed out, I have a Youtube channel now! I'm very excited about it and am seeing it as a fresh canvas for interacting with all of you so feel free to comment anything you'd like to see go up there!  I've got some awesome things cooking up that I can't wait to share with you!

Anyone else out there with house envy?  Have a house of your own?  Comment me some links to how you decorate your place! ;)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Feeling kinda sick lately

Hey so kinda short post today.  Long story short I've been kinda sick lately and falling behind.  Crazy week but I've been planning a lot for you guys and growing the blog.  Look forward to Friday and next week.
For now enjoy this picture of me with my heart monitor.

See you in a couple days!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thank you Lilly

Yesterday was Lilly Pulitzer's birthday and I thought I'd take a moment to say some things about how she changed my life.  It may seem stupid, but before I knew who Lilly Pulitzer was I was a completely different person.  Her playful designs pushed me from being an apathetic teenager to being a fashion forward driven young adult.
Me back in 2011
Just to get things straight, I've always been awesome ;)  I tried to stand out as playful and energetic and I let those qualities define me.  I found a wonderful family in the jam community (as in jam music like Phish and the Dead) and I got lost in it completely.  I was a tie-dyed, dancing, bright eyed modern day hippie.  Looking back I still see nothing wrong with that, but I grew up and acquired responsibilities and had to move on.  I had defined myself as a Deadhead first, and a professional second.  I loved wild colors and in the midst of that threw style out the window.
Then I met Lilly.  Or rather, I met Lilly's clothes.  I was a little behind on that bandwagon and only discovered her style in college.  I was in LOVE though.  The color, life, and professionalism of the dresses really drew me in.  
Cherry Begonias has always been my favourite print
I had to have it.  All of it.  I started small with an agenda, then a belt, and more and more and more.  Soon my paychecks were almost being directly deposited to the Lilly store.  It was then that I realized that I could look bright and playful, but still professional.
But not too "professional"  in the traditional sense.  To me, as a woman in a man's world (i.e. in engineering), it became very important for me to maintain my femininity, especially in a lab setting.  I craved color, but also needed something that said "yes you can trust me with your multi-million dollar plant".  Bright shirts and dark jeans with heels, a sleek tea dress and boots; I became part of a world I barely knew existed. 
The more Lilly I got the more I figured I should spice up my entire wardrobe.  Enter Kate Spade, J Crew, Ivanka Trump et al.  So long story short, here I am a Deadhead engineer running a fashion blog and nearly going broke getting "free" gifts from Lilly Pulitzer.
Me in April
So I guess yes, I am a Lilly Girl.  I don't dress head to toe Lilly, but I feel like I've gained the spirit all Lilly Girls have.  It's the fashion forward fun and color we add to our lives that makes us stand out.  Bright eyes and a laugh are as essential to an outfit as bows or lace.  Clothes don't make you who you are, but a bright dress compliments a smile so well.
So thank you, Lilly.  Thank you for helping me into a world where I can be taken seriously without being too serious. And most importantly for teaching me that "life is a party.  Dress like it."

Friday, November 8, 2013

Thoughts on Love

This post has been a while in the making...
Love is one of the scariest things in the world. Ever. Period.  I usually like to think I'm thick skinned, but when it comes to love I break.  I'm not talking about Disney princess love story love.  I mean real life painful love.  This kind of love has the power to make you infinitely happy or painfully aware of solitude.
The reason I've been thinking about this is because a lot of my friends have been coming to me lately for relationship advice.  It seems like love turns the smartest people stupid and tests our ability to care about other people more than ourselves.  It's scary as hell.
Why does love scare us?  We're afraid of losing it.  Once you find your other half you'll do anything and everything to keep it.  It's not that easy though.  Movies say you'll know if he's the one and when it's right love is easy.  You never know and it's never easy.  I've found that humans crave a companion but also aren't suited to it.  It's hard to give up parts of your personality to accommodate your partner, and it's hard to grow together.  If you grow together too much you have nothing new to tell each other; grow too far apart and you no longer have anything in common.  Striking that balance is hard and I've had almost six years of working at it and am still learning.
I don't normally like to talk about my very personal life here but this might make more sense if I do.  I've only had one boyfriend, we've known each other since we were like 10, became friends and started dating our freshman year of high school.  Since then we've broken up three times, gotten back together within a week, and never dated anyone else.  We now live 300 miles apart at different schools (MIT and Cornell) and only see each other once a month.  Through it all I've learned a lot about myself, my relationship and love in general.
The most important thing I've learned is honesty.  I'm not talking about just don't lie and stuff like that.  I'm talking about complete, open, peer into your soul honesty.  You need to know everything about each other.  Obviously this comes with time, a lot of time.  You slowly build trust and just as slowly open up.  Eventually you know everything in each other's heads.  It's an incredibly vulnerable feeling, but also comforting that you have someone who knows you, the real you.  Even your family doesn't know your head this well.  The result?  Pure honesty.  If you have a problem, you have to tell them.  Doubts about the relationship?  Share them.  They have a habit that bothers you?  Tell them.  These little things build up and honestly, if you feel it they probably do too.
The scariest thing for me was expressing doubt this past summer.  We were living together and I felt like things were slowly going south.  I kept my fears to myself, got bitter, and things continued to get worse.  I was afraid if I even hinted that I thought it wasn't working then everything would crash down and it would cause more problems.  With a lot of prodding I finally shared my doubts.  We talked through them in about 4 hours, and everything was on track to go back to normal.
I shouldn't say normal though, there is no normal.  Relationships grow and change, it's only healthy.  Never expect things to "go back to normal", just make them go back to good.  You're never the same as you were 3 months ago, don't expect that of your relationship.  All you can do is grow into what you both need.
I'm still growing, we're both still growing, and I don't really know what the end result is.  I think that's the best part though.  Every day is a comforting norm and every tomorrow is an exciting mystery.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Chemical Engineering

One major "theme" of my life is chemical engineering. I recently wrote about how my homework and exams have been killing my love of it, but like it or not, engineering is still a huge part of my life.  I realised however that not a lot of people actually know what chemical engineering is or what we do.  Well gather 'round my possum pals and join the jamboree, because I'm here to tell you all about it.
First off, we are not chemists.  It's actually kind of mean (and we joke that it's degrading) to call us that, so don't do it.
This is a chemist
and this is a chemical engineer
notice the hard hats and way cooler apparatus.
The main difference is best summarized like this:  chemists will spend millions in a lab to produce a few micrograms of a substance; a chemical engineer will take the substance from the chemist, find out how to make 3 tons a minute of it really cheaply, then sell it and become rich.

What I actually do is scale up.  Chemical engineers take a small, experimental process and make it big.  It's like the difference between baking cookies at home and how Keebler does it.  Chemists are you, and I'm Keebler.  I also make it possible for things to be produced safely, cleanly, and cheaply.  When I do my job right, your aspirin is purer, your energy cleaner, and your overall quality of life improves.  You can look at almost anything in your house (including the electricity and gas and water lines)  and thank a chemical engineer for it.  If it is heated or flows through a pipe I can tell you how it works.

So what does this involve and why do I whine about it so much?  It involves a lot actually.  ABET (the board that accredits college degrees) has the strictest policies for chemical engineers.  We have the most required classes of any major and none of them are a walk in the park.  I've been a chemical engineer for 2 years and have already done 2 classes in thermodynamics, a class in fluid mechanics, biochemistry, organic chemistry, physical chemistry, MATLAB coding, transport phenomena, polymer science, plus a few more that all MIT students have to take.  The result?  I don't have to go to grad school.  My undergraduate degree is considered a "professional" degree.  This allows me to register as a professional chemical engineer with the state and hold the same status as doctors and lawyers.  I can give expert testimony and be considered a valuable source of input in my field with only a BS.  Pretty sweet gig.

Why do I like it? I'm not sure anymore honestly.  I grew up with a chemical engineer.  My dad works in a nuclear plant and I grew up hearing stories of the cool projects he worked on fixing things around the plant.  He also inspired me with his ability to grow his own consulting company.  The freedom that comes with being self employed is something I really want from my life and I feel like being an engineer is a good path towards that.  Overall I do like my major.  Yes it's hard, yes I'm almost failing, but if I went back and told myself what I know now, I'd do it all again.
I like learning how fluids behave, how heat goes from one place to another and how to keep reactors from clogging when you run them for days or months on end.  It's one giant puzzle, chemical engineering is finding out how to make processes bigger, how to fix new problems, and of course how to make lots of money doing it.
Studying in places other than at my desk feels like a vacation.
Like I said before, I'm an engineer.  I always have been, I always will be.  I'm starting to be happier about it and look forward for what new challenges face me.

I love talking to other students!  What do you do?  How do you like it?  Let me know ;)

Monday, November 4, 2013

J Crew Haul

Popped over to J Crew a couple weeks ago for their Columbus Day sale and FINALLY got a Stretch Perfect Shirt.  I'd been really wanting one for a long time but let's just say I'm a little... disproportionate when it comes to buying shirts.  I decided I wasn't going to leave without one though.  After pulling every size of shirt into the dressing room and asking the opinion of the fitting room attendant over and over again I was surprised to learn I was an extra small.  WHAT?  Extra small?  I've never been an extra anything in my life!  It's true though.  The fitting room attendant had some wonderful advice when it comes to dress shirts.  She told me to always fit them to my shoulders because that's the hardest part to tailor.  If it fits your shoulders, it'll fit your waist and then you can deal with the rest.  
Excuse the lack of makeup, but yeah, pretty bad

That almost seemed like a lie though, because you could absolutely see through the gaps in the shirt from my genetic lottery win.  But I found a quick fix online.
I bought these small Sew on Snaps and carefully sewed them in between the buttons of the shirt.

Voila! No more gaps and I now have a beautiful fitted button down.  It's not my best sewing accomplishment (I'm more of a cook), but whatever, it got the job done.
Definitely needs ironing, but the slight stretch is definitely better than the gaps!
I'm really excited to put the miles on this one.  It's a stretch shirt, so the more I wear it the less the obvious the pull marks will be.  I got the light blue so I could wear it with jeans, or a nice pencil skirt.  Instant class!  

Ever have trouble fitting into clothes?  How do you take action?  Let me know ;)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Clarisonic Review

I bit the bullet and bought a Clarisonic Mia 2.  I had been finding that if I didn't take my makeup off right when I got home at 4 it would really start to sink into my face and clog my pores.  Getting it out was becoming a chore that was turning my face into a desert.  Dry skin leads to more oil production leads to more acne. Ick.  I was going to buy a knock off Clarisonic from Olay or get a Neutrogena Wave, but I decided to see what all the hype was about the Clarisonic and just went for it.  I'm using it twice a day (in the morning and before I sleep)  with my own face wash.  In my eyes, one try isn't enough to give you a comprehensive review, so here's seven thoughts from my first seven days with the Clarisonic Mia 2.  

Day 1: The brush is so gentle!  My face feels so clean without the harsh scrubbing.  My pores are cleaned out but they seem more exposed because they're empty.  At least they aren't filled with dirt right?
Day 2: Geeze my pores are huge! But they're so clean!  A lot of my little whiteheads are completely gone and my skin is so smooth after just one day!
Day 3: My pores are finally smaller!  But wow, if you pick at your skin Mia definitely punishes you for it.  I have a couple bright red spots on my face now.  New rule: hands off!
Day 4:  It seems to work better if you put the facewash on your face (it puts the lotion on its skin!), not the brush, and don't wet the brush before you use it.
Day 5: Wow my skin is so smooth!  My cheeks used to be really red but now the whole tone of my face is more even.  Most of my trouble spots on my chin and forehead are calming down too.  Today I started wearing just my foundation without the heavier color evening primer and it looks pretty good!
Day 6:   My face is almost completely cleared up and I've stopped using acne cream.  I don't think my face has been this soft since I was 12.  Even with the weather getting cold and dry my face is barely flaking like it normally does.
Day 7: All that's left on my face is the remnants of really bad old acne.  No new blemishes have popped up since I started using the Clarisonic and the old ones are going away fast!  My face routine is down to just face wash with the Clarisonic and some moisturizer.  Big time and money saver!

Overall:  Worth every penny!  I think this will save me money in the long run on acne creams, concealer, and primer.  I'm wearing less makeup and my face looks fantastic!  I HIGHLY recommend you buy one of these if you've been on the fence.  The price is steep, but it makes a world of difference.  My skin is clearer and much healthier.  I'm even starting to feel confident enough to walk around without makeup.  It's that good!

Are you a Clarisonic convert?  Any questions about my review?  Let me know ;)