My GDI TA Experience

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A few weeks ago I left my home on a cool, crisp, morning to embark on a brand new adventure. After attending quite a few Girl Develop It classes as a student, I decided it was time to give back to the organization and volunteer as a teaching assistant. This had been one of the items I had wrote on my “2016 goals” list.

Since I’m still learning HTML/CSS myself (the subject of the class) I wasn’t sure how helpful I’d be as teacher. Based on the conversations I’ve had with other developers however, I’ll never be a 100% expert in the field and the experience would help me move out of my comfort zone.

After a 45 minute train ride, I fumbled around with Google Maps and made my way to First Round Capital in University City. As I hadn’t drank any coffee, my mind was quite foggy,  but I was happy to contribute any way I could. Before the class started I spent the time exchanging meek greetings with the other volunteers, keeping the door open for students, and awkwardly wandering around the floor. I thought about making small talk, but I couldn’t think of anything substantial to say.

The class was taught by the quirky, yet knowledgeable Jenn Lukas. She was my instructor when I took the Intro to HTML/CSS class last year. While walking around to look for confused students, I couldn’t help but feel empowered. I’m not used to leading anything in life. When people asked me questions previously I often overthink so much that I had mental shutdowns. This time I buckled down and dished out explanations to the best of my abilities. There were occasions where an issues stumped me and I had to call for reinforcements, but I tried to not let temporary setbacks get me down. “Nobody’s perfect” I thought to myself.  Both weekend sessions were rather exhausting, but I stayed alert thanks to nice, smooth, warm cups of Saxby’s Caramel Macchiato.

Though I initially had my doubts, I would love to TA another class.  It stretched my limits, and even I learned a few things about Sublime Text. I can’t wait for the next opportunity!

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Old vs. New (Blog)

 

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For the past 15 years, I have been sporadically recording details about my life. Personal anecdotes can be found in notebooks, dairies, a Xanga blog and more.  I’ve evolved from writing short paragraphs to pages worth of stories. It’s funny to read my old entries where I only talk about what I had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It shows how much I’ve grown as a writer. A few weeks ago I stumbled upon my old blog titled Confessions of an Awkward Teen.  Being a history buff, there’s nothing more interesting to me than to dive into the past. 2009 seems so close, yet so far away. After reading the entries I couldn’t help to compare my failed attempt at blogging to my current endeavor. Here are a few things that stuck out while looking back:

1. Lack of proofreading before posting:

Now, I’m not claiming to be the perfect writer in any way, shape, or form. I know I still have a long way to go before I could even consider myself a proofreading queen. However,most of the time I’m able to spot obvious errors that would confuse reads. On my old blog many of the post contain mistakes that would make grammar Nazis red in the face. In fact, if I had just taken ten minutes before pressing the submit button, many of these issues wouldn’t exist. I’m not sure who I was trying to target, but it seems my posts in 2009-2011 just needed a bit of TLC.

2. Posting Frequency

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When I was about 16 years old I discovered the Swedish blogging scene.Even though I relied on Google Translate to decode each blog, I devoured entry after entry on a daily basis. “How did these girls seem so perfect?” I thought to myself. Bloggers like Blondinbella, Kenza, and Foki seemed like they had it all together. “Why couldn’t I have the perfect fashion sense, or take luxurious vacations to Bangkok or Paris?”. On top of all of this these people were making thousands of dollars (or krona) off blogging. For some reason I became inspired to start a blog like my idols. I knew it was almost impossible to formulate a business like Isabella Lowengrip, but if I could grow an audience, it would somewhat offset my loneliness. Day after day I toiled to think of topics, I scoured my favorite blogs and Google for inspiration, and took countless pictures of my surroundings. For a while this tactic worked. My heart warmed whenever my blog had a new comment in the queue. It was confirmation people were paying attention to me. As time went on  I found myself feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. By choosing quantity, the quality of my content suffered. I began to dread visiting Blogger each day. “How could people post multiple time a day?” I thought to myself. What I didn’t know at the time was these ladies had assistants and other staff following them around to take high quality photographs and formulate blog posts. In my naive mind I wasn’t trying hard enough. When my laptop fell apart at the end of 2009, I continued to blog , but not at the same level as before.

3. Personal Development

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Reading through my entries I’m surprised to see how much of my personal interests and situations have changed yet stayed the same at the same time. I might not be worrying about high school and community college anymore, but I still enjoy Korean dramas from time to time and I have yet to get my fashion sense together. I finally have begun to stop judging myself so harshly (though it’s still a daily struggle) but I still have negative thoughts about my appearance and actions. I know I can’t compare myself with bloggers or other celebrities. I have no idea what their life is truly like. When I look at my old blog I see a girl who is struggling to keep up with unattainable goals. Behind each picture is a restrained smile that hides her true personality like an iceberg. This years goal is to personally improve at my own pace. Going outside my comfort zone is a definite priority. It’s just hard when your biggest enemy is yourself.

Capsule Coordination

 

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Shopping has never been exciting for me. In fact, I cringe whenever my mom suggests I go out to look for clothes.  I’m usually not happy about wandering around in a department store for several hours while I struggle to find clothing that fits. My heart breaks when I find an outfit I visually enjoy that ends up engulfing my body or highlights my problem areas. I guess it’s just connected to body issues and lack of self-esteem. It doesn’t help I’m a slightly overweight small person. To me, the word “style” invokes anger and frustration rather than happiness.

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Recently however, I’ve felt the need to get my fashion sense together. I realize now as a recent graduate I have to look somewhat visually competent when I apply for jobs. Lazily putting on a shirt and pants won’t cut it anymore. Potential employers have more respect for an individual who is confident and composed. The problem is I don’t own a lot of nice clothes. My “wardrobe” can be best described as “random, yet comfortable”. Nothing is color coordinated or  organized. I don’t have a little black dress, I can count the number of shoes I own on my fingers, and I have more t-shirts than I can count. Still, I do have pieces of clothing that could be considered acceptable.The problem is I have no idea how to mix and match to make outfits. After searching through the internet, I think I’ve found the perfect solution; capsule wardrobes.

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For those who don’t know, the term “capsule wardrobe” was coined in the 1970s by London boutique owner Susie Faux. It involved formulating a small collection of timeless pieces (to be used in conjunction with seasonal items). There was some sort of color scheme involved as well but like I said before my wardrobe does not have enough variety for this aspect. So last Saturday afternoon, I gathered all my clothing in a room and shifted through the mess.

It took about an hour and  was exhausted afterwards, but I felt very pleased with myself. I even took pictures of the clothes by category (thought I wished the quality was better). I think I have enough to formulate two weeks of work attire, and with ‘clothing remixing” maybe even a month’s worth. I still see myself lacking in a few categories (tights and shoes for example), but I definitely think this is the start of something new.  I’ve been told if I shop for one category each trip my stress and anxiety will decrease. I still don’t have a personal style yet, but at least I look presentable.

 

Philly Give Camp 2016

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A few weeks ago I had another first-time experience. I was a non-technical volunteer at Philly Give Camp 2o16. For those who don’t know, Philly Give Camp is a weekend long hackathon geared towards nonprofit organizations. Now I know what you are thinking, why didn’t I sign up as a developer volunteer? I have been spending the past year learning all I can about building websites. Since I’ve only participated in one other hackathon (LadyHacks to be specific), I thought it would be interested to check out the atmosphere from another angle.  As you’ll see later on, insecurity played a big role in my decision.

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The event took place Friday-Sunday, but I only attended two days due to travel issues. On Saturday morning I lethargically made my way to the Microsoft Technology Center where everything was taking place. Once I arrived, the non-technical volunteer coordinator Kayla welcomed me, told me the procedures for volunteers, and directed me to the area where breakfast was being served. I felt my senses tingling as the taste of coffee reached my mouth.

My job was simple; I only had to check in developer volunteer and non-profit members via a spreadsheet on my computer. At first it was a bit difficult because the laptop I own can be a bit fidgety, but I managed to fix any bugs after a few minutes. This procedure went on for a few more hours. I would check-in people, take in the atmosphere, and browse Reddit on my computer.

It didn’t take me long to realize I’d made a big mistake. Perhaps the glass was greener on the other side?

After lunch was served Kayla asked if I wanted to work on a project as a developer. My eyes jumped up with excitement. I accepted her offer with a happy “yes!”. This was my chance to see all the action.

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The non-profit I worked with was called Women of War Ministries. When I joined the team the project was about 65-70% completed. At first wasn’t sure if I would be able to keep up with the other developers. My fears were tempered when the team welcomed me with open arms and gave me a simple assignment.  I was able to edit some written content and even installed/managed a calender plugin (it did take a bit of time to find the perfect one). Though I was nervous to be working on WordPress, a technology I am somewhat familiar with, the environment was relaxed and the other developers were very willing to answer my questions.

There was never a moment where I was in over my head or out of the loop. I felt so accomplished at the end of the day. It seemed the Women of War Ministries president was pleased as well. She didn’t understand all the minute details of web development; all she saw was a shiny new website upgraded from the last version. Sunday was a bit uneventful (the above project was completed early and I only checked-in people) but I’m glad I attended Philly Give Camp. When I attend in 2017, I’ll be a developer volunteer for sure.

Pop Pilates pitfalls and positives

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On Friday evening I felt like laying on the bed and having a nice long sleep. It’s almost as if the energy had been completely zapped from my body. My back was sweating all over and I could hardly write. Despite being  completely worn out, I was so proud of myself for the progress I made in my personal fitness.

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For the past month and a half, I’ve been following the Pop Pilates program on Youtube. For those who don’t know, Pop Pilates is a workout program created by fitness guru Cassey Ho. It’s similar to normal Pilates but adds a high-impact cardio aspect each workout. Each month comes a new Pop Pilates calendar with different videos to complete every day.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the program is making an impact at all. Often I can barely do the full routines (Burpees give me the most trouble) and I have to pause the video to allow myself time to drink water, and fall out for a few seconds.

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In these moments I feel like I’m cheating myself, but Cassey’s invigorating voice and cheerful smile makes me want to get right up and finish. My sister says Cassey is too perky, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.  She’s just like an encouraging friend who is urging you to stay strong.

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It’s been a long a bumpy ride in my exercise history. As a child I participated in a variety of activities such as gymnastics, soccer, and competitive swimming. It wouldn’t be too far fetch to say I was in great shape.  Sometime around twelve, I lost interest in  sports and became more sedentary. It didn’t help that the following two years became the one of the hardest periods of my life. As my stress grew, so did my weight.

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Coupled with a few failed attempts in the past 10 years, the best way to describe my relationship with fitness is sporadic and strained. For some reason I can’t seem to stick to a program consistently. Last January I made it my mission to work out to the gym on a daily basis. I brimmed with pride as I walked with my father to our local YMCA. The muscles inside me were burning during workouts, but I pushed myself until I could barely move. After a few weeks of this, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I stopped going to the Y.

This time my objective is regular physical activity and clean eating. I don’t care if Pilates is seen as less intense. If I feel a change, that’s all the motivation I need. Strict diets won’t make a difference, smart choices do. I am too hard on myself as it is. If I decide to only put cream in my coffee (without additional sugar packets)  and work out for 45 minutes a day, that’s an accomplishment in my eyes.

I already finished the beginner’s calendar for Pop Pilates and I’m ready to take on January’s calendar.  I did miss a week of workouts due to holiday travel, but I’ve re-focused and I’m ready take on the rest of the program!