John Green in Ohio: a Lesson on Adult Responsibilities, Literal Tears, and Celebrity PedestalsΒ 

Dear reader,

Yesterday, Columbus, OH was fortunate enough to receive a visit from the man, the myth, and the legend: John Green. Also Nat Wolff, Halston Sage, and top-paid British supermodel Cara Delevingne, but who cares, right? I was there for John. 

You may or may not know (you probably know) that I’m enthusiastic about John’s work. Not just his books, either, but his YouTube channels, philanthropic work, educational outreach, and of course, his brother. To put it simply, I have somehow acquired over 12 copies of the same book (most signed, two from other countries and in languages I cannot speak). That’s really the most accurate picture I can draw of my obsession.

All that being said, John’s visit to Columbus yesterday was something I had looked forward to since the city contest was announced, knowing that Ohio (who historically loves John a lot) would win one of the three nationwide visits. And we did win. Unfortunately, the date chosen for his visit was also a work day. 

This was the first lesson: adulting. I’m so lucky to work in a place that allows me the flexibility to choose my schedule and alter it when need-be. Shoutout to my supervisor (who will probably not read this?) for giving me the day off for a vague “Columbus city event” and then listening to me gush about John Green for a few minutes at the start of the day. I took a half day and arrived at the Palace Theater (luckily less than a block away from my office) at noon. Not having eaten, I was immediately hangry with the swarm of teenagers surrounding me who clearly had no responsibilities to attend to that day and had arrived two hours earlier to get a coveted space at the press event to see John. It made me think about how The Fault in Our Stars movie has changed John Green and the community surrounding him forever. For more on this, watch one of the many videos in which John discusses the future and growth of the community. For two hours before the theater doors opened, I listened to new drivers discuss their first car accidents, parents talk about college plans with other parents who were crazy enough to drive their kids four hours to see an author and actors, and a few young adults who were clearly fans since 2007 (my people). And while at times I was annoyed with the dillitantes that seemed to threaten what feels like my personal community, I reminded myself that OMG THESE YOUNG ADULTS ARE READING COMPLEX BOOKS, they are falling in love with literature the way I did when I was their age, and they are contributing to the success of my favorite author, who I love to see enjoying the spotlight in a profession so often unrecognized or cared about. This may not account for all of the new readers (or people who just watched the movie), but for now, it’s enough to comfort me in the transition.

Clearly, I care a lot of John Green, which brings me to lesson 2. Literal tears. When JG came on stage, I shed a few. I don’t care how embarrassing that is. I was so far away from the stage (that’s what happens when you work, kids), but seeing someone I admire so much FINALLY in person, was an emotional experience. 

 

receiving their OSU jerseys from the mayor’s office

 
But this also leads to lesson 3. While it was so cool to see JG in the flesh and know he was in Columbus, it was also a reminder that John is just a person. When a fan told Cara during the Q&A, “you’re the most inspirational person I know,” it was almost (no, it was definitely) uncomfortable. Because he doesn’t know her, and he never will most likely, just as I will never know John fully. The entire point of Paper Towns is to take people off pedestals, to imagine them complexly. And this is exactly what we should do with celebrities, especially those whose work we care about and love. It’s hard to imagine a John Green that isn’t perfect (as I’m sure it’s hard for everyone to imagine their favorite celebrity being anything less than they best self), but I’m sure that he, like all of us, has days where he is not a great human. 

This doesn’t make him any less important to me or others, but it’s comforting to know that even our favorite people have flaws. And it’s important that we let them have them.

Okay, this post really just served as a space to process my day, so I hope you enjoyed my ramblings. Hank, I’ll see you on Tuesday.

Sincerely,

Caroline 

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Tennessee Vacation

This past week was spent soaking up the sun with my family (even Tara, who was in from Wisconsin) in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. We stayed in a resort that had a beautiful lazy river and view of the golf course (and subsequently fireworks from Dollywood each night at 9:30pm), and most of my time was used trying to get a tan by our pool. 

When my family and I weren’t being lazy in the so-named river, we took a few trips to Gatlinburg and into the city of Pigeon Forge itself. Just like when we were little, we took a trip to the aquarium and got to pet stingrays (our favorite) and never wanted to leave. 

 

sting(bae)

  

it was shark week after all

  

begged mom and dad to buy me this

 
Outside of the aquarium, we were on the lookout for some really good food. We found homemade ice cream, the best caramel apple I’ve ever had, corn chowder, fried chicken. You name it– I think I gained 10 pounds in those 4 days we were there.

My dad, sister, and I also found the fastest go-karts in Pigeon Forge. My mom decided to sit that adventure out and probably for good reason. They were a tad extreme, and while I did pretty well driving the course, the best part of the ride was when I accidentally plowed into cones instead of hitting my brake after it was over (or at least that was everyone else’s favorite part).

Lastly, our family visited the Titanic museum. It sounds kitschy, but the amount of history the museum has gathered is pretty amazing. Additionally, they recreated the $1 million grand staircase so I got to live out my Jack and Rose fantasy right there beneath the clock. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed inside the museum.

 

never let go, Jack

  

found the heart of the ocean

 
Overall, it was a great vacation, filled with delicious food and great pool time, but I’m most thankful for the opportunity to spend it with family. I can’t remember the last time we all went somewhere together on vacation.  

sister sister

   
Lastly, this vacation from work was not only filled with a trip to Tennessee, but also a trip to Hamilton, Ohio to see a good friend say “I do.” I’m so happy I got to see Sierra and Kyle tie the knot (officially) in front of all their family and friends. Thanks again for letting me be a part of your big day; wishing you both the best! 

with the two maid of honors

Summer Internship Updates

Dear readers,

So far this summer, I’ve been interning with The STEAM Factory and working at the Recreation and Physical Activity Center here on campus. These experiences have been wonderful, but I’ve continued to look for other experiences, that in addition to my current positions, will boost my professional skills in the city and regional planning profession. In the past week, I’ve finalized a few new plans for the rest of the summer and want to share them with you all! I will be starting work as an intern with the Treasurer of State’s Office and The Columbus Foundation over the next two weeks. My responsibilities for each position are still being finalized, but I am so excited to work in these new capacities and better prepare myself for a future in community development!

At the Treasurer’s office, I will be an intern with the Center for Public Investment Management and Financial Literacy. With the Columbus Foundation, I’ll be working in the Community Research and Grants Management department. There, I’ll be helping the team implement new programming as well as cleaning up some database contacts.

My wide-eyed view of the Statehouse after my first HR meeting

My wide-eyed view of the Statehouse after meeting with HR

Being able to connect with both of these organizations is an amazing opportunity. Their work is critical to Columbus and the state of Ohio and having even a small role in their success energizes me to take on the rest of the summer full-force. As these experiences come to fruition, I will keep this blog updated with my thoughts and responsibilities. Already, I’ve felt the rush of excitement walking through the doors of each office space, ready to meet new people, serve my community, and enhance my professional skills. These internships are providing me with insight into life after graduation, and I could not be more thankful.

Sincerely,
Caroline

Thoughts from Places: Marion Correctional Institution

Dear Readers,

This past Saturday, around 14 Buckeye Leadership Fellows (BLF) students traveled to Marion Correctional Institution. As of May 2015, this facility held 2,572 men of various security levels. We toured the facility– different types of cell blocks, dorms, and community programming there– and felt the sense of separation from the outside world as we passed through security. Then, we made our way to the chapel, to have 2 on 1 conversations with the men of the facility. This may sound like an odd way to spend a summer Saturday, but I also believe it was the best thing BLF has ever done.

Before I speak about my time at MCI, some context seems helpful. This summer, BLF is hosting its inaugural summer challenge. Specifically, we are partnering with The Kirwan Institute’s More Than My Brother’s Keeper program, which aims to address the disparities faced by boys and young men of color in our community by increasing available opportunities and providing support networks. Our work this summer will be aimed at creating productive dialogue and engaging in conversation around police relations with the South Side of Columbus. To do this in a meaningful way requires knowledge of the community, of the issues at play, and of our own bias. As a result, BLF met with roughly 10 men inside MCI to have open conversation around the prison system, the ways in which their upbringing and environment contributed to their path, and their advice for creating conversation with South Side residents as outsiders to the community.

Now you may be familiar with TEDx Marion Correctional Institution, an independently organized TED event that aims to give voices to those inside MCI. I know I was. But watching the videos of these talks is different from actual face-to-face conversations with those inside the facility. Obviously, it’s a lot more outside of my comfort zone; it was so easy to sit behind my computer screen, far removed from the men and their stories, and tear up at their brilliant TED talks, but never spend time getting to know the men or the system in which they live. Even after becoming more knowledgable about the prison system through social justice lectures, I felt an overwhelming sense of nervousness as I sat down amongst the men who we would meet with for the next hour on Saturday.

I think this stemmed from not knowing what to expect. Would I say the wrong thing? Would they resent my privilege? Would they feel embarrassed or hurt by my questions? My fears and insecurities consumed me, until right about the moment one of the men stuck out his hand and introduced himself. “Hi, I’m Wayne,” he said with a smile and firm handshake. He seemed so excited we were there, as did all of the men, as I looked around and was met with comfortable and courteous greetings.

For the next hour, I got to know three of the men pretty well: Wayne, Self, and Matt. I listened to their stories–ones of their home life before prison, their every day experiences inside, their past mistakes and “20/20” hindsight, as Matt so eloquently called it. They also had questions for me, like Why was I there? What did I hope to learn or take away from the experience? What were my future plans after graduation? Wayne told me that as much as we would learn from them in those few hours, they would learn from us. All of the men we met were there by choice, as they all volunteer through a program called Lifeline that gives their peers access to a variety of programs such as the TEDx salons, computer classes, and language prep. courses. They organize and speak at many of these events, and on Saturday we even got to hear a few new poems that would soon premiere at their next TED event.

I say all of this in great detail because I think anyone outside of our group that day will find it hard to understand the amazing exchange of ideas and thoughts and love that happened in the chapel on Saturday. It is so easy to read statistics and then put the prison system out of our mind– I am guilty of that often– but this Saturday gave me a glimpse of the people beyond the numbers. Reminding ourselves that there are millions of individuals in America’s prison system may be a hard reality to face, but when I think of Self (and the book he is writing), or Matt (and the family he is scared of losing while inside), I am reminded that I need to do something.

I am still figuring out what that action will be. I am still learning and educating myself on the issues. This blog post is in no way a declaration of my knowledge or piety; instead, it is a public service announcement of sorts. It is a call to read and learn and ask why. It is a reminder that while prisoners may seem external to society, they are very much a part of America. They are very much human. Additionally, this is a shoutout to transparency and empathy. I am shocked by how much the men shared with us and their willingness to open up to college students about difficult topics, but that openness inspires me to be open and an engaged listener, even when uncomfortable. Their stories encouraged me to empathize and then confront the complex issues faced by our inner cities and youth.

If this post seems a little fiery, I’m glad. It has taken me a few days to truly get down in words my thoughts and feelings toward this Saturday. So in conclusion, I am excited to continue the relationships BLF built this weekend, as well as continue pressing outside of my comfort zone to truly affect change in the South Side this summer and beyond. If you would like to learn more about mass incarceration in the US (a topic rarely discussed by politicians), I encourage you to watch the video below.

Sincerely,
Caroline

400 W. Rich

This summer, I’m interning with a group called the STEAM Factory, a grassroots faculty initiative on campus that aims to facilitate collaborative interdisciplinary research between faculty members and community engagement in Columbus through the dissemination of research. As their intern, I’ve been working in a lot of different capacities: as a student manager (there are 4 other interns I help project manage), preparing membership and communications documents, editing the website (still a work in progress), and graphic design documents such as fliers and brochures. Of course, as with most internships, it’s also “duties as assigned,” which currently is helping to film an “About Us” video and visualizing our new creative space.

Photo by 400 W. Rich - not my own

Photo by 400 W. Rich – not my own

This space about which I’m discussing is on the second floor of 400 W. Rich. For those of you who don’t know (and I didn’t until about 8 months ago), 400 W. Rich is an artists’ space in East Franklinton and basically the coolest place I’ve been in Columbus. It’s industrial and historical, but innovative and modern. The building is surrounded by collaborative neighbors such as Land Grant Brewing Company and the Columbus Idea Foundry. The STEAM Factory has recently opened a space in the larger building, and it will serve as the home base of the organization once it has been furnished and outfitted. I’ve been spending some time in it before it’s finished, working and touring, and it makes me excited to see where the STEAM Factory will go in the next few years. 400 W. Rich just feels inspired, and it will be great for the collaborative work our organization is doing.

 

400 W. Rich looking in

 
So far, I’ve learned a lot about working with faculty, working with multiple entities with different goals and needs (over 50 disciplines represented, community partners, and OSU administration), strategic planning, and results-oriented work. It’s also been wonderful to meet and interact with faculty from disciplines different from my own in a new way, as well as build connections in the City and Regional Planning field. I’m sure there will be even more to learn throughout the rest of the summer, both in working in the community and internally in the university!

Columbus Summer

Dear Readers,

So many of my friends over the years have raved about Columbus summers, and it’s true. The atmosphere on and around campus during the summer months is completely different from the hurried, busy fall and spring semesters. At the same time though, I can’t help but feel as if I’ve somehow wasted my first few weeks of summer in the city. 

For one, I’ve spent much of it working at my internship or on-campus job, and less time with friends than I would have liked. While it should be easier to connect with friends over summer, it’s actually been more difficult, with so many of us working full-time and so tired at the end of our days that we do not do much else afterwards. 

That being said, this summer has already proven both relaxing and energizing. Living in an apartment for the first time off-campus has been such a fun learning experience. Being an RA for two years and always living on campus definitely set me up for a big learning curve when it comes to “adulting” off campus, but I’m finding the joy in independence, cooking, and having a roommate again. 

Making plans for the rest of the summer, it seems that much of my time will be utilized in planning for the future: studying for the GRE, prepping post-grad applications, and working. But I hope that I can still enjoy the present daily experiences available in Columbus, the here and now. 

There are things I’ve never been able to attend before, such as North Market Drive-Ins, Zoombezi Bay at the zoo, the arts festival, and Pride. Or even just the casual hangouts with friends living so close to me with no schoolwork to worry about. Things someone can only do when so close to the center of it all. I will be sure to blog about these adventures, as I am so grateful to be living in Columbus this summer and finally take in this new setting for my city.

Sincerely,

Caroline 

Delays and Detroit

Dear Readers,

If you’re watching my snapchat story or reading my tweets, you’ll know I’ve experienced some travel difficulties coming back from Wisconsin.


Last night, my first flight from Milwaukee to Detroit was delayed 2.5 hours because of weather. My second flight was then delayed also, and continued to be every half hour (a total of 4 times). We finally boarded the aircraft, after switching planes due to issues with our first that were keeping us from flying, around 11:30pm. Already tired and 3 hours late getting home, imagine my despair when they had us unload the plane because of this second plane have mechanical issues (which we found out today was because of pepper spray being used on the plane).

After sitting in the airport for a while milling about, Delta booked everyone hotels. Just saying, mine was rather sketchy, but I was happy to finally hit the hay around 2 am. My flight the next morning was to take place at 11 am.

But of course, we were using the SAME plane as the night before, and therefore it was still messed up from the pepper spray today. We were boarded and then unboarded again, only to have the flight cancelled completely and asked to take a complimentary car service from Detroit to Columbus. What?? Yes, really a car full of 5 strangers just trying to go home left around 1:30 today and are STILL trying to make it there. By the time I get home, it will be just shy of 24 hours late.

Now, this has been done in the spirit of complaining, obviously, it has been a long day, but I’d like to also offer some thoughts on this experience. Mainly, I have been so thankful for the kindness of strangers these past 24 hours. Traveling by myself, at an age when I cannot rent a car, in combination with not receiving much information from Delta during the whole process, the kind people who went out of their way to offer me a smile, guidance, or share a laugh have been a blessing. Shared experience really does bond people and bring out both the best and worst of our natures. But for every pushy, impatient person I met yesterday trying to fix their flight, I met more nice, just frustrated people, who were more than willing to fill me in with information, offer me a car ride, or even let me cut them in line so I could get my hotel room first.

Be kind, people. It goes a long way. And also, think twice before going into the Detroit airport hungry.

Sincerely,

Caroline