Avoiding the Sophomore Slump, from Someone Who Experienced It

Originally posted on NextGenJournal.com. For original, please refer to: Avoiding the Sophomore Slump, from Someone Who Experienced It – NextGen Journal.

My first two years at Loyola Marymount University were exactly the opposite of what you’d expect: I thrived in my freshman year, but just survived my sophomore year. While there were plenty of factors that went into that, some far beyond what an incoming sophomore might typically face, there were definitely some growing pains that almost every student can take care to avoid. So here are the best three bits of advice I would want to impart to any students entering their second year looking to avoid that sophomore slump.

1. Be flexible in your friendships

Not every person you forged a friendship with last year is going to remain a friend the next year. This is, of course, a recurring theme in every year of life, but it’s especially prominent when coming off your freshman year. People grow and change significantly in college, and often, that growth in your sophomore year can send people you once felt very close to in a completely different direction. If you’re feeling that separation growing and you think it’s not a momentary bump in the road but rather indicative of a greater trend, don’t fight it. Roll with it. Make peace with it. But most importantly, don’t let it impair you from making new friendships.

Believe it or not, you didn’t meet everyone worth their salt in one year. Even on the smallest college campuses, there are always more people to meet and get to know. You won’t like all of them, of course, but many of them you will. Some you’ll even love. Some will likely even surpass your freshman friends in how close you get to them. College is a four-year experience for a reason. Speaking of which…

2. Don’t waste your time

Guess what? You’re done with 25 percent of your four-year college career! Doesn’t it feel like it was just yesterday that you were moving in for your freshman year? Well, rest assured, sophomore year goes even faster, and at the end, you’re left wondering, ‘Where did half my college career go?’ It’s a feeling somewhat akin to getting punched in the stomach.

There’s no time to waste a single moment. No matter what school you go to, what you’re involved in or what you’re studying, you’ve got to seize the moment and do things you’ve always wanted to do. Don’t blow off your work, but also don’t let it be an impediment to doing what you want to do. You’ve got a limited amount of time, so use it well!

3. Find your passion

Most colleges require a declaration of major by the end of sophomore year, so there’s no better time to start figuring out what you want to do with your life. What classes have you taken that interested you? Continue learning about what inspires and drives you, and find career opportunities within that area. Be ready for every shift in the winds – even if you’re majoring in something else (say, screenwriting) but you’re given an incredible opportunity (say, the Arts & Entertainment Editor position at your campus paper) that launches you in a totally different direction (say, towards journalism – not that I’m taking all these examples from anywhere in particular, no sir).

Last year taught me that you can never be quite sure of where you’re going to end up, especially in college. Think of sophomore year as a transition year on a television show. The cast may change some and there may be a new theme, but you’re invested, and you’re not gonna bail any time soon. The only thing you can do is brace for what’s to come and watch what happens.

Ryan Lochte: The Flawed, Human Olympian

Originally posted on NextGenJournal.com. For original, please refer to: Ryan Lochte: The Flawed, Human Olympian – NextGen Journal.

Since the Olympics ended just eight days ago, the conversation in most press circles (especially here atNextGen Journal) has been thoroughly transfixed on one particular Ryan. The resulting media circus has left almost no room to discuss another high-profile Ryan; that is, the gold medalist Olympian-turned-90210 guest starRyan Lochte.

While debating Paul Ryan’s Medicare position, his Ayn Rand-inspired launch into politics, or his lack of necktie at the VP announcement for the umpteenth time sounds like a load of laughs first thing on a Monday morning, I’d much rather focus on Lochte, the swimmer known more for his reputation out of the pool than in it. Lochte has drawn considerable criticism on the Internet both in and out of the games, and his desire to make a career in Hollywood has only increased the volume of the ire.

Most of the criticism is based around Lochte’s personality: He’s not exactly Mensa’s next top recruit, to say the least, and is widely ridiculed for his exclamations of “jeah” (which, as Jezebel’s Erin Gloria Ryan so brilliantly put it, is “like ‘yeah,’ but said in a way that indicates you may have difficulty pronouncing the ‘y’ sound and could benefit from working with a professional speech therapist”). He even says it in his aforementioned upcoming appearance on 90210, for which he is shirtless the entire time. You can’t say the man doesn’t know his audience.

His own mother thinks he has one-night stands. He’s been declared America’s Sexiest Douchebag. And he wears an absolutely ridiculous American flag grill. Lochte is, in many ways, the court jester of the Olympics: hilarious, but utterly harmless. So why does he get under our skin so easily?

Particularly in America, we elevate our Olympians into the realm of superheroes. They compete at the greatest level of athleticism and we worship them for it. Even the Olympians who screw up –think Michael Phelps and the bong – we forgive, because they’re the best we have. An Olympian who doesn’t stand up to our high standards and expectations is almost a does-not-compute situation: how can such a thing be?

So Lochte, who doesn’t give good interview sound bites, wouldn’t be the conventional choice to bring home to Mom, and is unapologetic about it all, defies the Olympic standard. The big question is: so what? Why should he have to be the idealized Olympian? His job is to swim well and represent our country, and he did that with aplomb. He was a gold medalist for Team USA, and what he does after that has nothing to do with him as an Olympian and everything to do with him as Ryan Lochte.

Not every athlete who competes at the Olympics is going to be a role model. Some of them are going to do stupid things not because they’re screw-ups, but because they’re human – a fact we often forget when thinking about our Olympic heroes. Lochte is making clear through his words and actions exactly the kind of man he is, and frankly, I applaud him for it. If he was attempting to project himself as something he’s not, that would be far more insulting to us as an American people. He’s comfortable with who he is, and as such, we should be comfortable with who he is, too.

Plus, if his career in Hollywood leads to more hilarious quotes like “Memorizing lines and trying to like say them and still do movement, that was hard,” I simply cannot wait for what he does next.


When Chick-fil-A-Gate Broke: A Requiem in Five Acts

Originally posted on NextGenJournal.com. For original, please refer to: When Chick-fil-A-Gate Broke: A Requiem in Five Acts – NextGen Journal.


Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

The Chick-fil-A Debacle of 2012 has come to a close (for the moment), and now that the dust has settled and the eruption of controversy over whether the CEO of a mildly-above-average fast food chain has the right to hate on marriage equality or not has ended, we can all take a step back and wonder exactly what the hell went wrong with America for two weeks.

Let me be clear: Standing up for what you believe in is a very good thing. As a man who loves opinions, I’m all for making a stand. But I’m dismayed that the debate over marriage equality, which has been ramping up since Prop 8 passed in California more than four years ago, came to a head in the form of bickering over Chick-fil-A.

Unfortunately, much as America might want to forget its most absurd political battle in recent memory, there are lessons to be learned from the ordeal. So let’s take a look back and see how this hot mess came to be.

Act One: Delayed Reaction
Before we even get into the more recent mess, it’s important to note that anyone who thinks Chick-fil-A’s CEO Dan Cathy just up and decided one day to say ‘boo’ to marriage equality hasn’t done their research. Chick-fil-A has donated millions of dollars to anti-gay groups in the past — $2 million in 2010 alone. While the company may not have made an official statement about the issue before, one look into their finances makes clear that Cathy is an opponent of Adam and Steve.

However, the mainstream media only decided to pay attention after Cathy finally made a statement. Not only is this a testament to how poorly the issue was covered, but it also allowed Cathy’s defenders to make an entirely different argument — more on that later.

Act Two: The Statement and the Hypocrisy
As almost everyone knows by now, Cathy spoke in an interview with the Biblical Recorder in support of what he called the Biblical definition of the family, saying that his company was “guilty as charged” about their stance against marriage equality.

Those words ignited a firestorm of controversy — which is strange, because that was hardly the most inflammatory thing Cathy said this summer. No, that was easily his statement on The Ken Coleman Show, where he claimed that to support marriage equality is to provoke the good Lord’s wrath.

“I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,’” Cathy said. “I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”

Why that quote was underreported, while his statement where he did nothing but state his opinion was plastered all over, baffles me. As a Christian, I’m highly offended by his suggestion that my support of marriage equality means I’m prideful and arrogant. Not only that, but he’s clearly a hypocrite: how does he know what marriage is about? Why is he any less arrogant for assuming he can interpret Scripture into today’s customs and standards? Personally, I think that’s where Cathy crosses a line, not in his basic exercise of free speech.

Act Three: The Boycott and the Support
Regardless of any silly First Amendment protections, supporters of marriage equality decided to boycott Chick-fil-A because of Cathy’s statement, which, of course, they have every right to do. As plucky little Courtney Clem of Crystal City, Va. told ABC News: “We want to support their right to an opinion.” Of course, she was talking about Chick-fil-A, but that only stands to make my point.

Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and others decided to support Chick-fil-A, because hey, they have a right to do so, as well. Huckabee announced Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, to be held on August 1, which at the time sounded like the kind of empty gesture politicians often make that everyone just forgets about.

It wasn’t.

Act Four: The Appreciation Day and the Kiss-In
For whatever reason, Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day was a rousing success for the fast food chain.Hundreds of thousands came out to support Chick-fil-A either because a) they don’t support marriage equality; b) they support ‘free speech;’ or c) they were hungry for a chicken sandwich. The whole thing just reeked of bullying, especially when tweets like these were rolling in.

Bullying or not, though, the free speech defense is where we hit the main issue. While the marriage equality haters were going to support Chick-fil-A no matter what, plenty of visitors like Miss Courtney Clem were able to hide behind the ‘free speech’ defense because the virulent media reaction was to Cathy’s public statement, not the millions of dollars Chick-fil-A donated to anti-gay groups. Refusing to support a company because they turn around and donate your dollars to groups that fight against your interests is a whole different ball of wax than a simple free speech issue.

Regardless of why, the company hit record sales, though they didn’t divulge specific numbers. Marriage equality supporters didn’t react well to this. A kiss-in was already planned for the next day, but while some same-sex couples got very cute photos out of the protest, it had little-to-no effect compared to the behemoth that was Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.

Disturbingly, there was at least one report of graffiti on a Chick-fil-A in Torrance, Calif. “Tastes like hate,” the graffiti read, and though it’s entirely possible one might think their chicken sandwich tastes a little funny, it was hardly reason to vandalize private property. Additionally, the favorite word to toss at Chick-fil-A supporters became “fat,” something Lindy West at Jezebel took issue with in a far better manner than I ever could.

Ultimately, it was clear by the end of it all that marriage equality supporters had lowered themselves to their opponents’ level through hateful words and actions, and the whole thing had become a giant miserable mess of bullying and name-calling. In short: no one came off looking good.

Act Five: Where Do We Go From Here?
So now that the dust has settled, what happens? I’m not sure how Chick-fil-A is going to be affected — I’d imagine both the boycotting and the support will return to normal levels soon enough. UCLA’s Daily Bruin is reporting that their campus’ reaction to the restaurant’s potential Westwood location is a big ol’ ‘meh,’ so maybe the activism is already winding down.

As far as the fight for marriage equality is concerned, though, I’m really nervous about the negative turn this fight took. In order to see marriage equality become a reality, we need smart, positive arguments, like the one Suze Orman made on her CNBC show earlier this summer. Descending into bitter fights full of vandalism and name-calling isn’t how this battle is going to be won.

I’m hopeful that with so many young people in support of marriage equality and Democrats making the issue part of their party platform, marriage equality will materialize sooner rather than later. Let’s just avoid the mud fights until then, shall we? Especially if we’re fighting over fast food.


NBC Drops the Torch

Originally posted on NextGenJournal.com. For original, please refer to: NBC Drops the Torch – NextGen Journal.


Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

There’s been a great deal of discussion since the 2012 Summer Olympics began about NBC’s broadcasting strategies, namely the tape delaying of events until primetime and some ill-advised promos spoiling results for the audience. #NBCFail is a common hashtag across the Twittersphere, and critics aren’t being kind to the network either.

In a conference call interview with reporters last Thursday, NBC executives Mark Lazarus and Alan Wurtzel fired back with claims that audiences don’t care about being spoiled and that the complaints weren’t representative of the viewing audience.

“We think it’s a very loud minority,” Lazarus said at the time.

Wurtzel also quoted a survey – that was taken by NBC, it should be noted – that 67 percent of viewers who knew the results ahead of time still planned on watching. Yet despite their defensive stance, they also apologized for a promo for The Today Show that spoiled results.

Clearly, NBC is in full circle-the-wagons mode, attempting to appease those who are angry but also defend themselves against the hordes of critics. What NBC executives don’t realize, however, is that the audience’s perception that they have botched the Olympics could prove to be the final nail in the Peacock Network’s coffin.

It’s no secret that NBC is suffering. They have been since the turn of the millennium, when the network’s absolute dominance in the ratings came to a screeching halt. As ratings behemoths like Friends ended, new shows leaned towards quirky critical darlings like Community and 30 Rock. Combined with a failure to produce buzzy dramas (gone were the days of ER and The West Wing), NBC primetime was hardly Must-See TV anymore.

Even in the face of slipping ratings in primetime, however, NBC was still dominant in two key areas: their morning programming and their late-night programming. Then, in 2009, NBC lost control of late night. Their long-planned transition in hosts of The Tonight Show – five years earlier, a deal was struck that Conan O’Brien would take the chair from Jay Leno – blew up in NBC executives’ faces as they struggled to have their cake and eat it, too. Leno was moved into a low-rated primetime talk show, while O’Brien struggled in the new, earlier timeslot. After attempting to move Leno’s show back to late night but before Tonight, O’Brien publicly stated that he wasn’t going to tolerate such a move, and he eventually parted ways with the network on incredibly bad terms. Leno took over Tonight once again, but the show’s ratings were much lower than before.

Fast-forward to 2011, when The Today Show’s beloved co-host Meredith Viera chose to leave, turning her chair over to less-beloved former news anchor Ann Curry. For a year, Curry struggled to connect not only with the audience, but with her co-host, Matt Lauer. In April of 2012, Today Show rival Good Morning America won the ratings battle by 31,000 viewers, breaking Today’s 16-year long winning streak. When Lauer renewed his contract, there were rumors that he had signed on again with the express wish for a new co-host. Sure enough, about two months later, Curry was ousted and new co-host Savannah Guthrie brought in. Adding insult to injury: in Guthrie’s first week, Good Morning America won the ratings battle again.

So it’s clear that NBC is now hurting in all aspects. Even where it formerly appeared invincible, the network has been proven mortal time and time again. The one thing that NBC can boast, however, is being the exclusive network of the Olympics. Every other year, NBC executives get hours and hours of advertising time to hype their new shows and boost old properties, all while America tunes in compulsively to watch superior athletes compete.

Right now, to get back on top, NBC would need a miracle – something that would force millions of Americans to do nothing but be exposed to their network for hours on end. Sound familiar?

It goes without saying that Americans would watch the Olympics no matter what channel they aired on, so NBC can’t really do much to lose ratings no matter how badly they butcher coverage. However, by irritating the audience, the only thing NBC is succeeding in doing is making sure their new shows won’t benefit from the endless advertising. Since NBC can’t even use their miracle to their own advantage, a resurrection for the former king network might simply be impossible.

Being Bisexual in College

Originally posted on NextGenJournal.com. For original, please refer to: Being Bisexual in College – NextGen Journal.

Does bisexuality exist?

It’s a question I hear more often than I’m comfortable with. Even more uncomfortable is the number of times people answer ‘no.’ As someone who identified as bisexual after first coming out of the closet, I’ve personally seen the skepticism in friends’ eyes as I came out to them. Constant confusion about my self-identification and whether others believed in my attraction to women led me to dropping calling myself bi entirely and identifying purely as gay during my sophomore year.

That decision is one I deeply regret, but given the chance, I would probably make once again. When pressed to explain, I have a little prepared speech about being a ‘functional bisexual,’ but that I’m not very emotionally attracted to women. Of course, that only causes the inquirer’s eyes to glaze over. So calling myself gay is simply easier. The problem is that sexual identity isn’t supposed to be about convenience, for others or myself.

Bisexuality is perhaps the most misunderstood mainstream sexual orientation – almost everyone knows the term and uses it, but almost no one fully grasps exactly how bisexuality works. Is it a 50-50 split? Is it all about sexual attraction? What part does emotion play? Or dating habits?

What is it about bisexuality that perplexes society so? My theory is that it’s about our binary culture. In a world where you’re expected to be red or blue, left or right, yes or no, etc., it can be hard to swallow an ‘option C.’ Even the gay community as a whole often doesn’t have the highest view of bisexuality – the common complaints are of using ‘bi’ as a transitional term on their way to a more absolute sexuality, or that they’re really just experimenting. They’d rather see an absolute answer versus somewhere in the middle.

As a society, I’d say that America is afraid of the middle. Look at this current presidential election: Republican candidate Mitt Romney is being harangued by the far right flank of his party to appeal to the conservative base despite his more centrist, moderate roots. By that same token, someone who doesn’t want to be pinned down into one of two sexual norms is confusing and challenging. So instead of trying to understand bisexuality, society simply shuns it.

I like to think about bisexuality in terms of Kinsey. Alfred Kinsey, that is. Don’t know him? You should; he invented the Kinsey scale in 1948. The seven-point scale is used to measure how homosexual or heterosexual a person is. The lower the number, the ‘straighter’ someone is, and vice versa. Zero is completely straight, and six is completely gay. Most humans fall from one to five. Three is completely 50-50 bisexual.

Personally, I’d put myself at five. I know fellow gay men who would rank at four or five. I also know self-identified straight men that would rank at one or two.  But I’m not sure I know anyone at either extreme. I don’t even know a pure bisexual three. So almost everyone I know is somewhere in the middle. It’s no wonder Kinsey isn’t that well-known nationwide – his system would force almost all people into an area they just aren’t comfortable with.

My grand idealistic hope is that one day, sexuality won’t have to be labeled – people will just be with who they want, without regard for arcane social norms. But I’m not very idealistic; I don’t think that future is coming any time soon. So here’s my hope in the meantime: if it tickles your fancy, allow yourself to let go in college.

Truly, there’s not a time in life that’s better suited for experimenting – college is meant for discovering things about you. Plus, there are already many cases of girls making out with other girls – it’s glorified by straight men in society. So let’s just apply that same precedent to everyone. Don’t be shy about your urges – no time like the present to seize the day and learn something about yourself. It’s not all about experimenting sexually, either – you can go out on a date and appreciate new, wonderful emotional connections.

For those of you who aren’t as inclined to experiment, don’t worry, we won’t judge you; that is, of course, assuming you won’t judge us. It’s a two-way street. Not everyone is bisexual, and not everyone should be expected to be. But as long as society still judges it, we’ll still have a major problem.

So until a bigger ideological shift comes along, let’s try this plan on for size.  After all, as Woody Allen once said, “Bisexuality does double your chances for a date on Saturday night.” I, for one, could use more Saturday nights out on a date. Couldn’t you?