Saturday, October 13, 2012

An extraterrestrial fear

Some people are afraid of heights. Some are afraid of spiders, snakes and creepy crawly things in general. Some are afraid of dying. Some are afraid of clowns.
Everyone has a phobia of some sort, but my biggest fear might surprise you.
I am not afraid of peanut butter sticking to the roof of my mouth (arachibutyrophobia). I am not afraid of long words (hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia). I am not afraid of beards (pogonophobia).
My fear is so specific there isn’t even a word for it. I’ll set the scene for you.
The year was 1995; most of America had been charmed by this particular character more than a decade before. I guess that’s why my mother decided to show her 4-year-old daughter this movie, though I think I would still be afraid no matter what age I saw it at.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the 1982 story of a perfectly normal boy who becomes friends with an extraterrestrial.
My name is Maureen Quinlan and I am deathly and pathologically afraid of E.T.
If I even catch a glimpse of the wrinkly skinned alien, I react much like the 6-year-old Drew Barrymore reacted in the movie: with a blood-curdling scream.
I’m cringing just describing him. Everything about him scares me. Everything about the movie scarred me for life.
The bike flying into the sky, the hazmat suit guys, the mother, the red hoodie. I can’t even recall much else because I try to block it out of my memory.
I would never want to be friends with something that looked like that and wanted to eat my Reese’s Pieces. Get your own.
To make things worse, when I was 6, my family took me on an Orlando adventure.
I loved Mickey and Minnie Mouse. I met Cinderella. I rode the tea cups and filled my autograph book with signatures from the greats like Chip and Dale and Pluto.
But it was the trip to Universal Parks and Resort Orlando that validated my fear. There was a photo studio where visitors could take a picture in a classic scene from a movie. My mother, not realizing I was afraid of the gentle E.T., made me sit on the bike from the scene at the end of the movie with E.T. hidden in the basket.
I barely remember the trip because I am trying to forget the memory of being so close to my least favorite creature.
My next encounter was many years later. It was Halloween. I was in high school. I was dressed like Wilma Flintstone. I enjoyed seeing everyone dressed as bees, nerds and princesses.
Then one boy was dressed in an all white paint suit. As we went around the room telling others what we were dressed as, the boy pulled out a stuffed animal of E.T. small enough to fit in a side pocket on the paint suit.
He was dressed as one of the government scientists in the hazmat suits. I squirmed in my seat and waited for him to put the toy back in his pocket.
The stuffed animal was harmless, but it sure as hell scared me.  As irrational or silly as my fear is, I don’t see myself conquering it anytime soon. I’m not about to sit down and watch the movie to see if I’m still afraid. I’m not about to try and see what is so cute and innocent and harmless about E.T.
If Universal Pictures decides to release the classic tale of a friendly alien invading earth in 3D, you can guarantee I will not be anywhere within a 10-mile radius of a movie theater until it goes out of theaters again.
I know it was nominated for Best Picture. I know it has one of the best movie scores of all time. I know it is one of Steven Spielberg’s most legendary films. I know it started Drew Barrymore’s career. I know it made Reese’s Pieces a bigger seller than M&Ms that year. But you can bet I will never want E.T. to phone my home.

My 90s were all that

We all look back on our childhoods with rose-colored glasses, with 20/20 hindsight and nostalgic viewfinders. But there was something very special and unique about being a kid in the 1990s and early 2000s. Excuse me while I reminisce for the next 600 words.
While not an especially memorable decade current events-wise for me personally, there is so much I will cherish about my formative years. I was born in late 1991, giving me optimum time to enjoy 1992-2006 before I was ruined in high school.
Our generation is the first to not know what it is like to grow up without the Internet. We are the last who had to actually wait until middle or high school to get cell phones.
The style, the fads, the toys and the TV shows, shaped who I am today. I honestly don’t know who I would be without my teen idols, favorite characters and the trinkets of my past.
Angelica taught me how to be a spoiled only-child. Tommy taught me how to be a good leader. Chuckie taught me it is ok to be afraid sometimes. Phil and Lil taught me life is messy, but that’s all the fun.
Lizzie McGuire taught me that every girl feels self-conscious. Gordo taught me that every girl needs a guy best friend who falls in love with her. (I’m still working on that one.) Miranda taught me that you are replaceable. Do we even know what happened to her in those last few episodes?
“All That” taught me to appreciate the humor of sketch comedy, making “Saturday Night Live” even more enjoyable. It also showed me that true talent goes on to do great things, i.e. Kenan Thompson and Amanda Bynes. (Let’s just pretend Amanda never got a driver’s license.)
Mary-Kate and Ashley taught me how to solve a mystery in 30 minutes, throw the perfect sleepover and travel the world while getting into trouble.
Skip-Its taught me how to hop on one foot really well. Pokemon taught me a little Asian culture. Polly Pocket taught me to appreciate small toys before she got stuck up your nose. Lip Smackers taught me that every beauty product should come in 100 flavors.
Lindsay Lohan taught me so much before she fell off the deep end. She taught me that it is possible for an American to sort of pull off an English accent. She taught me that being a Mean Girl is actually really bad. She also taught me that I should never ever dye my hair blonde.
Pixar movies taught me to expect a lot of my animated movie characters. Disney princesses taught me to grow my hair long, hang out in nature and find my one true love. (Still working on that one too, since I live in a city and am not the daughter of a king.)
AIM taught me the art of flirty conversation not conducted face to face. It taught me how to socialize on the computer before “social media” was even a phrase. It taught me the importance of a username and an away message.
The Spice Girls taught me that if someone wants to be my lover, he’s “gotta get with my friends.” Britney Spears taught me choreographed dances and how to lip sync. N’Sync and the Backstreet Boys taught me to appreciate a good boy band, making my love for One Direction bigger than it probably should be.
Lisa Frank taught me that it’s all in the accessories, the colors and design. She also taught me that you can’t go wrong with a folder covered in purple and pink tigers.
Junie B. Jones and Captain Underpants taught me how to have a sense of humor. They taught me how to read and how to fall into a fictional world.
Every picture of my childhood clothing choices has taught me that I will probably always regret the style of the past. But I was looking fantastic in my Little Mermaid sweatshirt, bandana and Jellies at the time.
Looking back, my childhood was pretty happy. I certainly can’t complain that I got to grow up in one of the best decades for kids. Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, 90s pop music and the primitive days of slow computers and no cell phones gave me more than any future generation will have the privilege of knowing.
Above all, these things taught me how to love life.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hearing voices on your TV

When people ask me what my hobbies are or what I like to do besides write and go to school, I often want to lie. Should I say I read, hike, cook and hang out with friends? Those aren’t complete lies, but what I should really say is that there is nothing I prefer more than watching TV.
            I’m not just talking about flipping through the channels catching reruns of “Grey’s Anatomy” or HBO’s movie of the month. I mean marathon, never-miss-an-episode, obsessed television watching.
            There are so many wonderful things about watching TV, but there is one very obvious and somewhat painful chore that comes with turning on the boob tube: commercials.
            Everyone endures them, networks need them, and once a year we glorify them in between plays of football. As inevitable as they are, and as clever as some can be, there is nothing that bothers me more about commercials than the celebrity voice over.
            It is so unnerving when I hear Tim Allen trying to sell me a Chevy or Julia Roberts pitching Nationwide Insurance.
            I guess the idea is that if we hear a celebrity talking about it, we must assume they use it and we should too.
Am I going to buy a Mercedes just because the oh-so dapper voice of Mad Men’s Don Draper says I should? Probably not. Am I going to run to the store to buy all 100 flavors of Yoplait yogurt because Lisa Kudrow, better known as quirky friend Phoebe, can deliver the just-as quirky lines about a dairy product? I hope not.
            What gets me the most is that celebrities actually agree to it. Don’t they make enough money on my beloved TV or the silver screen? Doesn’t Jeff Bridges have the Academy Awards on his mantel to give him enough notoriety so he doesn’t also have to be known as the voice of those cheesy Hyundai commercials?
            And what do those companies offer in order for a celeb to agree to be their voice-over man or woman. Sure Jon Hamm got one of those Mercedes, but he probably could have bought one with his $250,000 an episode salary. And does Lisa Kudrow get a lifetime supply of yogurt? Again, I really hope not.
            To me the most tragic of these pitchmen are two of my favorite TV funnymen. The handsome and talented John Krasinski babbles on about Esurance, an online insurance company. If a gecko can’t sell me “15-minute or less” insurance, I don’t think Jim Halper can sell me online insurance.
And the perfect comically timed Jason Sudeikis talks about how sizzling and exciting Applebee’s is. The last time I went to Applebee’s there was nothing sizzling or exciting about it.
Some friends who travelled to Europe for dialogue this summer have told me that celebrity commercials are even more despicable over there than they are here. With one look at Uma Thurman dressed as a hooker on a couch talking seductively about Schweppes soda, I understood what they meant. (The commercial is worth a YouTube view for a laugh).
In our celebrity-obsessed culture (me included), it’s logical to have the faces and voices of our adored stars gracing not just the shows and movies we love, but also the ads.
I love seeing Emma Stone put on lipstick and Drew Barrymore swipe eye shadow across her lids. I love watching Sofia Vergara dance around looking for Pepsi and Ty Burrell talk to oranges. I just wish I didn’t.
Take me back to Mr. Moviefone, the deity-esque voice of movie trailers, or the good old days of jingles. Sure I’ll take another dollop of Daisy.
I miss not recognizing the voices of my commercials and taking in the meaning of consumerism instead of the direction of the next celeb’s career.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Red, white, blue and gold

The Olympics. Even just the word conjures the sound of the Olympic theme song incessantly played by NBC at every televised transition, the taste of victory and the sight of tremendous athletes showcasing their practiced craft.
            The event promotes feelings of triumph and patriotism, encourages healthy competition, and allows us to join the whole world in watching a spectacle. Because watching athletes fight for the gold can inspire us to work a little harder, dream a little bigger and do a little better.
            Even the biggest non-sports fans bleed a little red, white and blue in hopes that American athletes will bring home the gold.
            I like the Olympics because of all the great emotional, tense and exciting moments that come with the nature of being American in the midst of a world competition.
            Take for instance the Michael Phelps Ryan Lochte face-off. Who didn’t love watching the man-fish Phelps become the most decorated Olympian of all time? While he slides effortlessly into the end of his Olympic legacy, his teammate, the very confident “this is my year” Lochte, is taking the limelight. Their first event was almost a non-event except for the fact that Phelps had finally missed the medal podium. But watching their team work in the relays provides the drama of unspoken rivals working together.
             And Missy Franklin, from my native Colorado, gives the Olympics that fresh-faced fervor we miss when watching two, three and four-time Olympians take to the court, pool, field, etc. She is youthful and lively and purely excited to be in London. She does not show an air of entitlement to the seven gold medals for which she is in contention. She wants to earn every stroke she takes and every smile she shows.
            For every exhilarating win there is always an equally heartbreaking moment, and sometimes on the very same team.
As the women’s gymnastics team performed for the qualifying rounds of the team finals which would also decide the two contenders from each country who would compete in the all-around, two girls relished in the moment of making the very tough cut while the strongest competitor and reigning world champion, Jordyn Weiber, saw her Olympic dreams crushed before her eyes.
            The men’s gymnastics team entered the finals as the top ranked team. A few crashes and missed landings later, the team finished fifth. They were supposed to be contenders for the gold.
            But don’t we expect all our athletes to win the gold? I know I do. Why else would you be at the Olympics?
            Maybe it is the American spirit that demands not just the greatness it takes to make it to the games and take part, but to dominate and place first. Who wants to watch a medal ceremony where an athlete isn’t mumbling the words to “The Star Spangled Banner?”
It is a high order to ask our athletes to win gold every time. But the commercials, endorsements and never-ending profiles of the athletes trick us into thinking that only gold means you succeeded.
For most of these contenders they have devoted their lives to these sports. Starting from when they could walk, run or jump to the time it meant missing major life moments for that extra training session.
The only thing I’ve ever devoted that much time to is school or maybe watching TV. As a girl who barely knows the difference between a free throw and a freestyle stroke, I’ve come to expect that Americans sweep the events, (except maybe table tennis.)
But that’s why I love the Olympics. I love the way the country stands behind the 531 men and women competing. I love the pageantry of the ceremonies. I love the triumph and heartbreak. I love the hype. I love the non-stop coverage. I love those sappy profiles that tug at my heartstrings. What do you mean he came from a broken home and had to play badminton to save his life? I’m sold. I can’t help but root for these “heroes.”
Maybe I’m being brainwashed by the International Olympic Committee or the awful NBC commentators, or maybe I’m just indulging in an American pastime I only get the chance to do every two years. Whatever you call it, I call it loving every last minute of the Olympics.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Not the end, but a new beginning

On January 1, 2012, I felt like I was looking into a deep crevasse at the top of the cliff knowing I would have to scale the wall and make it to the bottom.
Six months, 40 hours a week, winter, spring and a little bit of summer. Stories, odd jobs and a learning experience lay ahead of me like that giant crevasse. It was intimidating and scary, but not impossible.
Now that I am at the bottom of the cliff, it doesn’t look so big. In fact, six months seems insignificant. A blip in the radar. A very small amount of time in the span of a lifetime.
But I am proud of what I accomplished in the past six months. I embarked on a journey of trying something completely new. My first week of work I read a line in a book I was reading that resonated with the things I was going through.
“Just because you haven’t done something, doesn’t mean you can’t.” Just because I’d never worked 40 hours a week at a big newspaper with so many bosses and responsibilities didn’t mean I couldn’t do it.
Living up to the expectations others have for your success is the best motivator. I proved to myself that taking risks and leaping off the cliff with fear and faith is really the best thing I could ever do.
I wasn’t sure how to approach my co-op at Boston Globe South except with a positive attitude and an appetite for learning. What I got in return because of that outlook was so much more.
In the beginning, I approached each day as a stepping-stone to the big things that would come next. It worked. I was prepared and the perfect amount of overwhelmed at every new project thrown my way.
I worked my ass off. I performed every assignment to my best ability. I guess it was the overachiever in me that wanted to go above and beyond what was asked of me. I felt a need to prove that hiring a shy, somewhat inexperienced, red head from Colorado was not a mistake.
I wanted to prove that I was here to learn and do the very best job that I could. I think my bosses were pleased with how I took the job and made it my own by taking on extra projects and always helping out.
It was bittersweet to leave. I will miss the people I worked with and learning something new everyday (and making money). But I am grateful to be a college student again with papers and homework on the mind. But mostly I like having my free time back to myself.
I haven’t fully transitioned back to class. I can only take about five minutes of homework at a time before I want to tear my hair out, but I will get there.
Looking up at that cliff, I see the old me: a girl scared of her own shadow and achievements. At the bottom I see a girl poised at a new starting line with a newfound confidence and assuredness in herself. I see challenges ahead of me, but I also see all the challenges I happily hurdled along that cliff wall.
If I can do that, I can do anything. (I think.)  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Making it count

I officially have one week left in co-op. I remember finishing my first week and thinking, “One week down, 25 to go.” Well it is crazy to think now, “25 down, one to go.” I think this last week is all about making it count.
   I will do a full reflection on my co-op when I have some more time to really think and write about it. For now, it’s about tying up loose ends and making my mark before my time at Globe South comes to a close.
   The thing about being an intern is that there is a sense of temporariness. There is a timeline, an expiration date, an expectation of a last day on this job. That is what is great about it. I had to make every moment spent in this office count.
   I tried to absorb the greatness that oozes from the minds in the newsroom. I tried to take every mistake in stride and learn from it. I tried to see my value in every task, no matter how menial. If I wasn’t making it count, I would have been wasting my time. And those six months are not ones I’m getting back.
   I don’t want to lose focus in the last week from how hard I’ve worked in the past 25 weeks. It’s a bit like the feeling kids get that last week before summer vacation. “It doesn’t matter anyway; we’ll be done in a week.” But I don’t want to feel that. I want to make every second worth my time.
   I want to end this job on a high note of accomplishment and satisfaction of achievement. I think I’m headed in the right direction, but I can’t give up the determination I started with.
   The hardest part will be the goodbyes. I’ve never enjoyed goodbyes. I’m terrible at them and feel wholly uncomfortable at the thought of “This is it.” I think it’s because change is an uncomfortable concept. I know that change will always be cycling through my life, but it that is the one thing I will never get used to. (Probably because it is always changing. A catch-22 if you ask me.)
   Anyway, I know that change is good. It means new steps and new doors. It means a new path to self-discovery. It means I’m doing this thing called “growing up” ok. I’m not failing at becoming a fully functional human being.
   So in the next week, I want to finish strong with my head held high with pride in myself for coming this far and a little fear of what comes next and experience to draw upon. I want to make it count.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Forever young

It’s been awhile since I’ve last blogged, but I like to think I was spending the time being young.
            As a kid, all I wanted was to be grown up, and now that I’m growing up all I want is to be a kid again. But for once, I’m going to start appreciating the youthfulness that I have, not because I have a youthful spirit or a resilience to grow old, but simply because I was born 20 years ago.
            I recently read a blog about why being in your 20s is awesome. It pointed out that sometimes as a twentysomething, we can resent the crappy apartments and crazy schedules and sheer unpredictability of life.
But that we often take the really good things for granted. Things like feeling my smooth and healthy skin that has seen its fair share of sunburns and laugh lines, but nothing compared to a lifetime’s worth. Things like being able to make plans in a second and change your mind 18 times a day. Things that make being young so fun and envied.
It is time I start seeing all the good in being 20 heading into this capricious decade of life. The world is right in front of my peers and me.
Our dreams fill our minds and days to drive us to success and satisfaction. It is such an exciting time in life to hear about where my friends will be studying: Mexico, Italy, Argentina. It is encouraging to hear what people want to become one day.
They are no longer wisps of dreams in the clouds. They are realities. They are slowly and surely with hard work and perspiration coming to fruition. It is slowly becoming a reality that we are becoming adults.
But I think as we get jobs and begin the adventure of living on our own, we will cling to all the good things about being a kid and let go with grace of a happy childhood. That, I believe, is what defines being 20.  
Much like an Irish Blessing, Bob Dylan said it best.

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young

It is all about living life to fullest on every rung of that ladder that makes being 20 so important. And I hope I never forget that.