Disclaimer: I am not a licensed professional in nutrition or medicine. This is my personal story and journey. Consult a doctor before making major nutritional changes.
I have a confession: I'm a serial dieter. I've been hopping from fad diet to fad diet ever since the 5th grade. I've tried juice cleanses and single food diets and being vegetarian and cutting out carbs and even the Hollywood Cookie Diet that one time (I did it for 2 days before I quit, but I did end up with lots of yummy cookie snacks). All of this effort to try to achieve my perfect weight, which according to my mom, is always 20 pounds lighter than my current weight. Well, none of it had ever worked, not because the diets were crazy (well, the cookie diet was a little crazy), but because I never found one that I could stick to for one simple reason: I LOVE food. So, the years went by and my weight kept going up. I was never conventionally fat, but I was perpetually flirting with the line between healthy and overweight.
Last Christmas, 2017, I resolved to lose some weight. 10 lbs, not too crazy. Sure, I'd had weight loss as a resolution for the past 10 years, but I figured I'd give it another try. A real try this time. You see, I'd just graduated from college, I had a gym membership, a gym buddy (the boyfriend), and maximum control of what I put into my body. Armed with my Fitbit Alta and the matching app, I was ready.
Now, I've tried counting calories before, but those diets ended quickly due to 1) my lack of knowledge on how many calories are in any given food item, and 2) pure and simple laziness. But this time, I had help. The Fitbit app supplied me with all the information I needed including calories out, calories in, and a calorie counter set to losing one pound each week. For 4 months, I followed the app to a T. However, the results weren't so great. I was essentially binging and purging, but instead of throwing up, I'd walk laps around my building or in the hallway, just to earn that bubble tea. But I was obsessed. My Fitbit controlled my life.
It wasn't until I was in a performance that strictly prohibited jewelry that I was forced to part with my Fitbit device. Without the knowledge of how many calories I was putting out, I had to set a consistent calories-in value. That was when I stumbled onto Kathryn Morgan's Youtube Channel. She's a real life ballerina who danced with the New York City Ballet as a principle dancer. In one of her videos, she said that she eats about 1500 calories a day. And I decided if that's enough for a ballerina, then it's enough for me.
When I started limiting my calories to around 1500 each day, something unexpected happened. Something good: slowly but surely, the numbers on the scale started going down. To my surprise, the months of looking up calories for every food item and carefully measuring out food portions allowed me to eyeball food and get pretty darn close to it's caloric content. I started to gravitate toward whole foods and less processed foods because they are naturally lower in calories than their heavily-processed equivalents. I can have cheat days as long as at the end of the week, the average calories in clocked in at around 1500. And, best of all, it doesn't feel like a chore. It's completely sustainable for me.
Now, 7 months after my New Years resolution, I've lost 10 pounds. I wanted to share this story with you because counting calories generally gets a bad rap for causing obsessive behaviors. Or else, it's seen as a way to go on a junk food starvation diet. But I'm here to tell you that it is doable, and if you do it right, you'll think twice about grabbing that cupcake when you are in need of something sweet and reach for a peach instead. You may decide to wrap up half of a big meal and have the leftovers for another meal. Calorie counting is a tool to make you aware of what you are putting in your body. So if you would like to change your eating habits, don't blow off this method. Just be aware of why you are doing it and how this tool will help you. And if you try it and it doesn't work for you, that's great, too! Go on and experiment with other healthy diets and find the most sustainable one for you. And hey, good luck on your nutrition journey!
I thought I was going to go into opera. In opera, you don't need to dance. You just need to sing. So when I made the change to Musical Theatre, I suddenly realized how behind I am on my dance training.
Last week, I attended an audition for a show that focuses heavily on both singing and dancing. After the singer call, they seemed to like me - at least, they seemed to like me enough to ask me if I could dance. Now, my dance training consists of some afternoon dance classes in the 1st grade and two years of ice skating. Basically non-existent. (I'm working on it, though!) Anyway, they called me back to dance the next day (to be honest, I feel like a random high B will get anyone a call-back).
So there I was the next day, dressed in my yoga pants and long-sleeve shirt among dozens of beautiful girls dressed in nude fishnets and leotards. But, see, this isn't my first audition anymore, so I just wrote in my journal and minded my own business. After 3 hours of waiting, they asked us to go in. It was a group of 30 women, all called back for the same role. The routine given to us was, as described by the choreographer, half show-girl and half Latin.
And then it began. Kicks and turns and ball changes and stuff I have never heard before were thrown at me. After the first couple of tries, I realized I'm drowning in the deep end. Why did I attend a dance call when I obviously can't dance? Before I could beat myself up for it, I remembered what my friend had told me the night before: If you can't do the routine, then act the hell out of it. So that's exactly what I did. I was called in the first group to dance. I got lost, but I gave them my best character.
We did the routine two times, and I was getting ready to be dismissed to the side of the room when the casting director called my name. "Kathee, can you do a single time step?" My first reaction: What is a time step? Turns out, it's a standard tap dance step, and I had no idea what it was. "If you can't, just say no. It's okay," the casting director said kindly. I guess he saw me panic. "Nope," I said, and my resume was immediately put in the reject pile.
Well, that was that. The moral of this story? I need to get more dance training, fast. But also, I evaluated how far I've come in just one month in New York. I didn't beat myself up. I didn't get disappointed. I got a free dance lesson, and now I know what a dance call looks like. So it's off to dance classes I go, and I couldn't be more excited.
Photo Credit: Robbie Frank, Reflections Film LLC
Recital season is always a stressful time for college musicians. I can't speak for how the instrumentalists prepare for their recitals, but, after 2 full length voice recitals of my own, I feel qualified to give some tips about voice recital preparation. Hopefully, this post will make your life easier during your recital year.
Do: start thinking about your program as soon as possible.
Do you want your recital to have a theme? What style(s) do you want your recital to contain? What are the requirements for you to pass your recital? Make sure you ask yourself those questions well before your recital date, and make sure you are consulting your teacher about your songs. Having a program that meet the requirements that you also enjoy is important to a successful recital and will make your preparations and practice sessions much easier.
Don't: pick music that is too difficult for you or not for your type.
If you're an undergraduate, the Queen of the Night aria might not be the best for you. Similarly, if you are a mezzo, maybe don't put in Glitter and Be Gay. Your teacher probably don't let you sing anything that is too difficult for you, and they definitely won't let you sing something that's not written for your voice type. Pick music that will show off YOUR voice.
Do: divide your music into sets as soon as your program is finalized.
Decide where you want your audience to clap. Generally, for a classical recital, people don't clap after every song. Note that in your program and practice your sets together. For my junior recital, I divided up my program by language. So, during my practice sessions, I'd practice my French set all together, take a break, then go into my Italian arias.
Don't: compare your program to other people's.
Programs are like tailor-made dresses. They're designed for you. Pick a program that you love and don't compare it to other people. Someone else's program might be more technically difficult or all in foreign languages, but that doesn't mean you have to cut your English set to make room for a Polish set if you don't want to. However, with that said, it is okay to get inspiration from other people's recitals. Did they sing a song that you really want to learn? Bring it to your teacher and ask if you can fit it into your program.
Do: get memorized early.
At my school, the unspoken deadline for memorization is one month before your recital date. For me, I finalized my program the summer break before my fall recital and was mostly memorized by the time school started in September. This gave me lots of time to play with the characters and the musicality of my program. I was also not as nervous when it came time to go on stage because I knew these songs so well.
Don't: let the last month freak you out.
The month before your recital is going to seem scary. You're going to feel unprepared, anxious, and have doubts about the whole thing. Don't worry. This is the month to explore and make mistakes. In my experience, you make the most progress and during the two weeks before your recital. Just relax and remind yourself why you are doing this in the first place.
Do: plan out what you want your dress rehearsal to be like.
I had open dress rehearsals for both of my recitals where I treated them as proper performances. I invited people to come so I could have an audience, and so that people who couldn't come to my actual recital got a chance to see it live. That's one way of doing it. You might decide that you want your dress rehearsal to only include you, your accompanist, and your teacher. You many want to work through things logistically or sing certain songs twice. The bottom line is: it's your time. Use it however it will benefit you most.
Don't: wait until the last minute to deal with logistics.
Logistics is half the battle. You have to book your dress rehearsal space, book your reception space, pick an outfit, pay your accompanist... Have a plan and enlist your friends to help. Make sure your parents know where to go. Girls: make sure you PRACTICE IN YOUR DRESS AND SHOES! Have a plan for everything that might go wrong way in advance so that you can focus on you the day of your recital.
Do: take your time to prepare yourself before the performance.
On your recital day, you are the most important person. You get to be a diva. Make sure you eat something that makes you feel comfortable, and don't be afraid to tell people to leave you alone or be quiet. My parents fight exclusively during times of high stress. I've had to tell them to please be quiet or fight somewhere else before both recitals. Also, once you've gotten to your performance space, think through your songs, meditate, or have some tea to calm your nerves.
Don't: kick yourself if you're not perfect.
Trust that you've prepared enough for this performance. Everyone in the audience is on your side. Strive for meaningful communication and not for perfection. And trust that whatever you are doing is good enough.
Do: enjoy performing and have a great time!
This whole day is about you and your achievements. You are giving people the gift of your talent. So enjoy, and have fun with it. You are going to do great.
Hi! Mommy finally came back from NYC this weekend! It's been the longest time. I was so happy when she came home with grandma I ran around her in circles to show how ecstatic I was that she's finally home! Mommy told me I should formally introduce myself to the world, and I've never really done that before (though I have appeared online before). Here I go:
When I was little, barely covered in fluff, I had to go around the streets looking for food. Then, a long time later, some nice people found me under a bridge where I was digging through some people food that smelled really odd and brought me back to a place with big lights and doors. There, they gave me some doggie food and lots of water. Then, one day, I woke up, and my belly was all sore. Soon after, I was moved to my own room.
The people kept talking about the SPCA while I was in my own room. There were different people there all the time, but I didn't like them very much. They wanted to pick me up and pet me, but I didn't like it. And then, one day, mommy came in and I took one sniff and realized that she is my human! I jumped into her arms and she cuddled me for an hour straight! Then she left and I was so sad I didn't want to eat anything. I thought she'd never come back! But the next day, she came back with grandma and grandpa, and I've been with her ever since.
I try to be a good girl. I potty trained myself and I never complained. When I was little, I'd defeat all of my squishy opponents and tear out their stuffings. But these days, I prefer to cuddle with them instead and only chew on mommy's underwear.
When I was one, mommy brought home a little black squishy thing. He had the biggest ears I've ever seen! I thought he was a toy, so I tried to bite him and tear out his stuffings, too. But then he looked at me and sniffed me! Well, I was so scared I jumped and ran around while that little thing chased me! It was really quite embarrassing. Eventually, I got it through my head that he's my little brother his name is Milo. But, oh gosh is he annoying. He is always following me and cuddling up to me. Can't a girl just get some peace and quiet once in a while?
When I was four, grandpa drove Milo and me from home where the weather is nice and we're close to the beach to a place where it's scalding for a long time and then freezing for a long time and then scalding again. I mean, what's that white stuff on the ground and what does it do besides make my paws all cold and numb?
Now I'm six and my favorite thing to do is help mommy with cooking. She always puts things on the ground for me to eat. Sometimes she throws things on the ground and then yell at me when I try to eat it and feed it to the trash can. I wish I were the trash can. He gets all the good stuff.
Some hobbies of mine: cuddling with mommy in bed (though she has recently moved our cuddling to the bath tub... But there's no water so I guess it's okay), eating Greenies (those things are so yummy), taking walks outside (preferably without Milo, but that doesn't happen often), and sitting behind mommy while she works at her desk. My biggest pet peeve is that mommy sometimes leaves me with grandpa without any warning for a long period of time, and I don't get to see her. My dream is for mommy to be home all the time and for Milo to disappear when I don't want him to be here and reappear when I get lonely. Also, I wish mommy would stop holding me while she practices. She used to squeeze me too tight but now she's gotten a little better, but it's still loud.
So that's a little bit about me. I'll probably be writing a couple more posts in the future. Nice talking to you! Have a good day and I wish you many Greenies in the future.
I did a thing this week! I moved to New York City with my boyfriend to pursue my dreams of being a successful musical theatre performer. It’s terrifying, I’m not going to lie. Now that I’m here, “living too far away” is no longer a valid reason to not go to auditions anymore. All that is left is my crippling fear of failure. *forced laugh turns into crying*
Now, I’ve moved many times (like… in the double digits times) in my 22 years of life. They’ve all been quite painful. But this time, I think I’ve finally figured the moving thing out, and I’m here to pass on my new-found knowledge. Here are 8 tips to make moving less painful for everyone involved.
When I was auditioning for colleges four years ago, I was lucky enough to have been offered a practice room 15 minutes before my audition at all of the locations. Of course, when auditioning to be a classical voice major at a college, you typically audition in the music building which contains an abundance of sound-dampening practice rooms. Then, when I was auditioning for Avenue Q at Rhino Theatre last December, I stayed in my car and warmed up before I went in. And then, just last month, I went for my first audition in New York City. Being that it was in a studio, I did not have the option of warming up (after the initial morning warm up) in a practice room or my car. I ended up going into the girls' bathroom just to do some sirens in private.
I came home after the audition and went on Facebook. In what was sure to be creepy proof that your phone listens to you and tracks your every move, an advertisement for Beltbox: "a portable voice dampener for performers" popped up. It claimed to let you "take the warm-up room with you" and is great for "warming up in the shower." Okay. I'm intrigued.
Three days and 50 bucks later, the Beltbox showed up at my door in an Amazon box. The back cover claimed to allow the user to:
The box came with the mask as well as a carrying pouch and a hands-free strap (not pictured). Excited, I promptly put it through a rigorous test by singing my whole senior recital program into it (not really, but basically). Here is what I've found:
For Musical Theatre and Contemporary Music:
For Classical Music and Opera:
The Beltbox accomplishes what it sets out to do: dampening your voice. I've used it a couple of times when other people were napping. When they woke up later, they did not report hearing my practice sessions. It has also made it easier for me to practice my belting due to the small pressure build up within the mask.
As to whether it is worth its $49.99 price tag, it depends. I think if you are a musical theatre performer or contemporary singing, this would be great for you. You'd be able to warm-up without disturbing others and hone your belting skills. It would also be great for high school and college students, or anyone living in an apartment. If you're a classical singer, however, I'd pass on this. The sound reduction is minimal and it messes with the breathe. Ultimately, I shouldn't have been surprised that this nifty little mask favors the contemporary singer. It is called BELT-box after all.
This week, as I sat at my cluttered dining room table scrolling through Facebook on my phone, I came across this interesting Buzzfeed article, I Lived By The One-Minute Rule For An Entire Week! More out of boredom than interest, I tapped on it. Turns out the One-Minute rule is the rule that: "If it takes less than a minute, just do it right now." Huh. Sounds like something my mom would say. According to Natalie Brown, the writer of this particular post, she has made small changes throughout the week like putting things away right after she's used it and making her bed in a minute, as well as bigger changes like starting out to put away a few dishes but then decided to just wash them all instead because she's already kind of doing the chore (though that one was driven more by laziness...). She stated at the end of the article that she will continue to abide by the one-minute rule.
I clicked off of the article after reading it and looked up from my phone. On my table, there were 2 dishes from dinner, a bunch of books and papers, two open folders of rep and scenes, and a ton (and I mean, a TON!) of colored pens. It was a total mess. So thinking of what I'd just read, I thought, "Well, closing my folders and putting them back on the shelf takes less than a minutes, and I don't even have to get up." And then, once that was done, I thought, "Hmm. I could just scoop up these pens and put them in a jar." So I did that also. "Just stack the books and papers on your shelf so the table looks kind of clean." Done. "Now the dirty plates are bothering me. They're taking up the whole table." So I brought the plates over to the sink and plopped them down. And then, because I was already there, I put on some gloves and scrubbed them and put them in the dishwasher. And, because my gloves were already on, I decided to scrub the stove. In 10 minutes, I'd cleaned my whole kitchen and dining room.
"Well, that worked brilliantly, and now I'm in a cleaning mood!" I thought to myself. I walked around my apartment looking for other things to clean. By the end of the night, I'd done 2 loads of laundry and cleaned my bathroom. This trick is awesome!
No, granted, it's not really how this trick is supposed to work. It's really for those little annoying things that you could do now but usually leave it for later. The next three days, I actually used the trick how it was intended to be used. For the first time in my life, the bed was made every day, the bathroom sink was wiped down at the end of the night, and things I've used returned to their homes after their useful fieldtrips.
So, I'm here to tell you, try it. Just try it if you're like me and get annoyed by the never-ending mini chores. Just take one minute and put that pen back, or load your laundry, or throw out that take-out from 4 days ago. Future you will be so much more productive and happier because past you decided to take one minute to do what we all hate to do.
P.S. If you are a naturally neat person, and you don't need the one-minute rule to be productive and keep the house clean, well... we're not all amazing like you, but we're working on it.
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I went to my first real life NYC musical theatre audition this week and it was terrifying. I would like to preface this story by saying that I have indeed auditioned before. (That's how I got into college...) But I haven't done a lot of musical theatre auditions, and I've definitely not auditioned for a production that's not community theatre.
I got up at 5:45am that morning to catch an early train into the city, since I currently still live in New Jersey. I arrived at my audition location an hour and a half before my audition appointment. Better too early than too late! Other auditions were already underway, so the halls were filled with people. I sat myself down in a comfy chair and put on my headphones while I looked at my audition song for that morning. As I sat there, I started to notice that everyone seems to know each other. And everyone had professional headshots. And a huge audition book. And were fearless.
45 minutes before my audition, I started to get restless. At this point, I just wanted to get my audition over with. I don't remember being this nervous for anything in recent memory - not even for my recitals. Finally, ten minutes before my appointment, the casting team showed up. They were amazingly kind and nice and brought us snacks. I was second in line to go in for the day.
I stood there bouncing on my toes while the girl before me sang her cut. And then I went in. I said "hi" to the accompanist. Gave him the spiel about tempo and the like. I planted myself in front of the casting table...
And I forgot my name. I literally forgot to say my name in the slate. So, after an awkwardly long silence, I announced my song, sang it way too fast, said thank you, and ran out of there.
On the train back home, I looked up law schools I could apply to. I texted my friends about what happened. Gosh, why didn't I choose something normal to do with my life? But just as I thought that, another voice in my head piped up: I mean, it can only go up from here!
And that concludes the story of my first big girl audition. I hope you laughed at it, because it is hilarious to me. And hey, at least I can rest easy knowing that however the next audition goes, it will be better than this one.
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Chinese New Year is probably the biggest holiday in China. Sometimes referred to as the Spring Festival, it marks the beginning of a new year according to the lunar calendar and welcomes in a new zodiac mascot. Since Chinese New Year is next Friday, February 16th, I figured it would be fun to share some stories I remember about this holiday as well as some traditions.
Although I spent most of my childhood in California, there was a brief 3 year period when I was in China. This is due to my parents' desire for me to at least have a basic grasp of the Chinese language, and it's the reason I am bilingual today. (I only speak Mandarin at a 3rd grade level, but it still counts!) I left China for good when I was 9 years old, but the memories of the red envelopes and firecrackers have stuck with me ever since.
Chinese New Year usually lands somewhere in February, though it can sometimes occur in January. Each year is named according to one of the 12 Chinese zodiacs. If the animal is identical to the one from the year you were born, then it is said that you will have good luck all year. So, no matter how your life is going, every twelve years, no matter what, you should theoretically be able to have a fantastic year. 2018 is the year of the dog, which symbolizes loyalty.
Growing up, the most iconic thing attached to this holiday was the national broadcast of the Chinese New Year Celebration on CCTV. Preshow started as early as 4pm the day before and the actual program started at 7 or 8 pm, right around dinner time, and continuing until after midnight. It is a massive event filled with skits, musical performances, and acknowledgements. Many of China's most important celebrities show up to perform in the show. In recent years, the overseas celebration program emerged to give those not able to return to mainland China a taste of home.
This holiday is all about gathering with your whole family and eating lots of food. I found out young that a lot of families eat similar things during Spring Festival. When I asked my mom about it, she explained to me the meanings of the dishes. There's almost always fish, which in Chinese sounds like the word for abundance. It carries the hope that you will have an abundance of everything good (primarily money) in the next year. Since the Chinese word for left-overs also sounds like fish and abundance, people will purposefully leave a bite of every dish on the plate. Dumplings look like traditional gold bars, so they're eaten to bring you money. Some families will have sweet sticky rice balls filled with anything from black sesame paste to peanut butter in hot soup for dessert, symbolizing togetherness and reunion.
Chinese New Year is also most Chinese children's favorite holiday, beating out Christmas and New Years. Not only do they get their long winter break during this holiday, they also get red envelopes filled with money. At the family gathering the night before Chinese New Year, children are told to wish their elders happiness and health in the new year. In return for their wishes, the adults give the children money. I've also heard that red envelopes are given out to "hit them over the head with money" so the children will grow up slower.
Finally, I remember that all over Beijing, right when the clock strikes midnight, firecrackers would go off everywhere. The purpose of this is to scare off a mythical monster named Nian that would come into town on Chinese New Year to steal anything from children to live stock. After the climactic firecracker show finishes, people would return to their homes and go to sleep. The next day, on new years day, people would put on new clothes to signify the arrival of the new year.
Although I haven't spent Chinese New Years in China for almost a decade now, I still remember it fondly from when I was little. Now, thinking about it, it is a great holiday. It ensures that you end and begin each year with your family. So whether you celebrate this holiday or not, I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about this holiday. I hope the new year brings you joy and happiness, good health, and good fortune. Happy Chinese New Year! 春节快乐，万事如意！
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2018 gave me the gift of a row of blown pixels on my laptop. On New Year's Day evening, I was watching iZombie and making paper flowers alone (like a normal person...). I looked up from my flowers, and there was a row of flickering pixels all along the bottom of my screen. I immediately tried to fix it with a pixel-fixer app, but that did nothing except hurt my eyes and give me a headache. So, it was off to Best Buy the next day, where a "geek" told me that it would cost upwards of $300 to fix. Well, I didn't have $300 sitting around to fix my one-year-old computer, so I called my accident insurance and was told that they only cover accidents. So basically, I would have been better off spilling a Coke on it. Frustrated, I looked back and found that I bought my laptop on January 2nd, 2017. Perfect! The manufacture's warranty still applied! I called Microsoft and, 3 hours and 2 call-backs later, my laptop was dropped off at FedEx to be traded in for a brand new one. All this to explain how I was without a laptop for 10 days. "Big deal!" you say. "It's just 10 days. How dependent are you on your laptop?" Very, is the answer it turns out. So, here are some things I learned from this experience.
1. Sometimes you need a bigger screen. Like most people, I have a super computer on hand at all times - I'm talking about my phone. While that's perfect for browsing Facebook and reading creepy pastas, it's harder to do actual business on it. For example, looking through Backstage.com is much more difficult on a phone than on a proper computer.
2. You can't multitask. I'm the kind of person who likes having noise on at all times. The silence freaks me out. (Also, white noise freaks me out because I start hearing voices in it. Must be those creepy pastas.) When I have a computer, I can have a show on in the background while I answer emails and/or surf the web. That's much more difficult to do with just a phone.
3. A real keyboard is 1000 times better than a tiny one. I have a Blackberry phone that runs on Android and I love it because of its physical keyboard. It's easy to use and more accurate in my experience than any digital keyboard out there. However, when I'm typing a blog post, I'd rather have a full-size keyboard. It's SO MUCH EASIER! Also, you won't get a thumb cramp, which is important (for health reasons?)
4. Everything you own is on the computer. My resume, headshots, dog pictures, important documents - all of them were on my laptop. I didn't realize how many documents I had on that thing! Not to mention all my sheet music, character analysis, calendar, you name it.
5. You need a computer to print things. I mean, I guess you can print things from your phone now because technology is so advanced, but I never got that far. I still plug in my printer to my laptop to print everything. So, because I'm behind on the tech game, I read sheet music off of my tiny phone screen for 10 days straight. That was fun...
6. It made me switch over to paper. I started putting everything I needed to do in my planner all the time. Because of this, I actually didn't need to look at the planner as much because the act of writing it down helped me remember it. I hope this habit will stick and I won't have to rely on reminders anymore. We'll see what happens.
7. The stigma is real (in my head). I feel like when you're on your computer, you're "working." But when you're on your phone, you're "messing around." Nobody actually talked to me about this, but it's just something I've noticed. I realized I apologized more for using my phone and had to justify it by explaining that I'm doing work. It made me realize the different main usages of these devices.
I have my computer back now, thankfully. This total first-world experience made me more aware of the benefit of putting pen to paper and, also, just how reliant on my laptop I was. To everyone I've ever said that "my life is on my phone," I take that back. My life is on my computer. But now, hopefully, less of it will be.