California Summer

The California-summer depression has started. Cue binge eating and emotional drinking. Last night, I met with a Macalester alum who is a producer in town. While her view of the industry is just that, only her view, it scared me a little bit. Not enough to make me run back home and never look back, but enough to make me think twice. I need to know that this is what I really want. Unfortunately, I don’t know what I want.

The gist of what she said is that she knows that she’ll never even be able to afford to have children or buy a house because producers are paid so poorly unless they are the top 50 in the world. “If you can see yourself doing anything else in the entire world, do that instead.” She equated the profession to being an addict – you only do it because you can’t live without it. Isn’t that depressing?

It’s depressing in itself, but pile that on a woman who is living in LA for the first time with her fiancé on the east coast and a job that is boring and pays so little she can barely afford to pay her rent let alone do the things she wants to do. Hint: that woman is me!

Now all I want to do it sit in my room and watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer and drink my Target wine cube wine. Which is what I think I will do.

 

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I’m going to be a producer!

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I went to a conference my first weekend here in LA. It was a Film in California conference and while some of it focused on tax credits specifically for filming in California, there was a lot of useful information.

The best part of the day was a panel I attended that had producers from True Blood, Ugly Betty and Mad Men, and a Vice President of Physical Production from Paramount. After hearing more about their day-to-day roles and the impact they have on the content, I decided that it is the job for me. But production isn’t the easiest part to get into, especially for math nerds without any film background. So, for the past 2 weeks I’ve been reaching out to tons of people and meeting with various production assistants and anyone else that will meet with me. The more I hear about it, the more I’m sure it’s what I want to do.

I’m even trying to line up something part-time during the school year. If I could find a local news station that needed part-time production assistance, I could feasibly do that in the morning before any of my classes. I technically could also wait until I’m done with school, but I’m impatient as fuck and want to be able to get a better job once I’m actually done. I also want to be sure it’s what I really want.

Right now, my gut is telling me I don’t want to be doing heavy strategy work. That’s pretty much the focus of my internship and I don’t know if it is the content or the work-load, but I’m not completely stimulated. Which will make for a long summer.

How He Fell in Love

Holy cow I can’t believe I almost didn’t even go out tonight.

Earlier today, I had run out of things to do at work so I started reaching out to some people who I hadn’t spoken to in a while. A Macalester alum that I connected with about entertainment back in November, was on my list. Coincidentally, he was actually on a plane to LA from NYC (where he lives) for the LA Film Fest. AND, he had an extra ticket for tonight’s screening of the movie How He Fell in Love. I didn’t know anything about it and it sounded kind of mushy, but I went for it anyway.

The first face that appeared on the screen? CO Bennett! [Ironically I had just watched episode 1 before the movie too!]

I was instantly excited to watch it. It turned out to be amazing too. It was slow but exciting the whole time and it made me want to have sex with Matt McGorry (you’ll understand what I mean when you watch the movie). I even teared up a few times but probably just because I was tired. Obviously I don’t feel emotions from romantic movies. Duh. I think the two main actors were absolutely perfect for it too, I don’t think it would have been what it was without them.

Then, after the movie…. THEY CAME ON STAGE! Both Matt McGorry and Amy Hargreaves were there, along with other cast members and the writer/director and the cinematographer and the music guy. I left the theater and then did that thing where I walked back and forth changing my mind constantly about whether or not to ask him for an autograph when he came outside. While I did have my ticket stub and a sharpie in my purse, I hadn’t taken a shower in over 24 hours so I was embarrassed of my looks. Then he was talking to all these super models in high heels and I lost all confidence.

So, I went up to Amy because she seemed super friendly and less intimidating. I didn’t want to sleep with her as badly either. I was able to say hi and she signed my ticket and then even asked if I wanted a photo! She said I should get Matt to sign too and I was all like “but he is talking to tall women in heels” and she laughed and dragged me over and introduced me. Then I told him I wanted to sleep with him. Obviously.

By the time we got around to taking the picture I was so nervous I couldn’t even take the damn thing. Ugh, I need to stop going limp-fan-girl all the time! Why can’t I just be cool? Like, it’s no big deal, you know?

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Slow and steady week

I’m half way through week one and I’m still not entirely sure what I’ll be working on. Monday was a long day of orientation. Because I’ve only gone through orientation once before (directly after undergrad at Target), it is hard to determine whether this is how all orientations are, or just orientations that are catering towards first time full-time employees. Specifically, I don’t feel I needed to be told how to conduct myself in a meeting, but I’m also in the 1% of folks who have worked in the corporate atmosphere before. Everyone else is my program is an undergraduate intern and coming from a very different perspective. So I just went along with the program and tried to learn a few things. I paid special attention to what I’m able to disclose and what I’m not – that’s going to be difficult. I also learned what to do in the event of an earthquake… something I never had to think about in Minnesota!

A wrench was thrown into my week though, my supervisor is out of the country. He was pulled away last minute and therefore I only have a brief email of direction to go off of. The week has been a little boring because of that. I have taken advantage of all that the campus has to offer though. Monday I went to the free screening of Avengers Age of Ultron in 3D. It really pissed off the feminist in me. Seriously, the one female superhero had to fall in love and needed to be rescued? What the crap is that? Black Widow doesn’t need a man saving her, she is bad ass all on her own and wouldn’t even get kidnapped in the first place. Seriously. — End rant —

Yesterday I went to yoga, which is offered every Tuesday and Thursday. It was outside alongside the koi pond. It was even more beautiful than it sounds. The weather was perfect, which makes me concerned for a month or two from now when the weather will make me want to die. I probably will quit yoga at that point. Temporarily of course.

After work this evening there was a screening of Jaws. It was a part of the “movies you have not seen but should” series. This is perfect because I actually hadn’t seen it. And honestly, I couldn’t even really tell it was a movie from the 70’s. It really holds up really well. I enjoyed it and maybe will watch it again some day with my kids when I want to scare the crap out of them. I’m going to be such a good mom.

LA and Amsterdam and Israel

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I’ve arrived in Los Angeles. I flew in last night after a week of zero productivity back in Boston. Well, I guess it was productive in that I finished season 9 of Criminal Minds so I’m all caught up on what’s available via Netflix… that counts for something, right?

Coming to a new city and starting from scratch is so refreshing. I don’t have any bad habits ingrained in me yet and I can try to set better ones. I remember when I first graduated from Macalester and started working at Target – it was such a great time where I was able to get in shape, explore new hobbies such as baking and writing, and do a lot of self reflection. Then Joe came into the picture and while I’ve gotten a lot of good habits from him, I also picked up some bad ones. The lazy ones.

Last summer I had the opportunity to start fresh when I moved to Boston. Something went wrong though. Instead of having a home that encouraged activity, I feel the focal point became the TV and all of a sudden my entire summer disappeared. When Joe would get home from work we’d do fun things and explore the city, but I still managed to put way too much effort into Covert Affairs and Royal Pains.

Not wanting to fall into that same trap, I’ve decided to do something drastic. I am swearing off TV for the summer. Ideally I would find some sort of happy medium where I could watch some programs to stay up on pop culture but not so much that I watch hours upon hours. But I’m sort of like an alcoholic with my TV and I can never have just one.


In other news, Israel was absolutely fantastic. I believe it may be the best international travel experience I’ve ever had. On my way there, I had the opportunity to have an extended layover in Amsterdam. I was able to leave the airport and explore the city for about 8 hours before my next flight. I was a little nervous about managing all of this on my own. I had never been to another country alone before, but from what I had heard, Amsterdam is pretty accessible.

I quickly figured out how to buy my train ticket from the airport to central Amsterdam. I decided to take the Canal Bus, which not only allowed me to hop on and off the boat at places throughout the city, but it was a great way to see the architecture with a guide.

My first stop was the Van Gogh museum. I didn’t know much about him going in, but really enjoyed learning his story through the setting they offered. Afterwards, I went for pancakes at a cafe recommended to me by a friend on Facebook. They had a notice though that their credit card machine wasn’t working, so I made sure I would be able to afford something with the $10 I had. I found a Nutella pancake for $8, which also gave me enough for the tip. Once I got the bill though, I realized they charged me for water. Doh! I had to pull the whole “this is all I have” thing, and I felt like a dumbass. Boo.

Next I attempted to go to the Anne Frank house, but the line was 3 blocks long. Only having a short amount of time I didn’t want to waste it all in line. So, I just went and picked up some postcards and then sat at a rooftop bar and wrote them out to people while sipping a cocktail. It was beautiful and marvelous and the highlight of Amsterdam.

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Israel was something else entirely. The first night we had dinner on the hillside at a beautiful outdoor restaurant. The food was amazing, I got to connect with some friends I haven’t seen in a while as well as meet some new folks. It was so tranquil and a really great way to start a vacation. [Once I got home, I tried texting Joe but it wouldn’t go through. We were kind of in the middle of no where. The next day I had a bunch of texts from him and he was pretty convinced I was dead because he Googled the cell phone reception in Israel and was sure I would have coverage everywhere. Aww…]

Photo by Matan Shiloach

Photo by Matan Shiloach

The next day we went to Jerusalem and did the Old City stuff. I went in the room of The Last Supper, saw the golden dome and where Jesus was crucified… very neat from a historical perspective.

The next day we started out at the Holocaust Museum and then it was time for the Dead Sea. Holy hell it was hot. I think it was over 115 degrees, and we were in the sun and it was humid as crap. I had thrown up a few times from night before (#winning) so I was hating the heat all that much more. It was the most amazing private beach party though. There was a beautiful buffet, slushies, massages, and great music. We got all mudded up and then dipped into the sea. I didn’t actually like being in the water. I floated too much, it tasted terrible (whoops!) and made all my skin sting. I didn’t stay in too long :)

Photo by Matan Shiloach

Photo by Matan Shiloach

That night we slept in tents in the desert. I was woken up at 1am by a jackal, who I thought was a cat at the time. I’m glad I didn’t know the truth then. I was woken up again at 4am because it was time to hike up Masada. Here is my paraphrased story of the land: Masada is this mountain in the desert that is flat on top. Thousands of years ago this guy, Herod, went and built his palace there because he was a nervous SOB and thought everyone was trying to kill him. The mountain top allowed him to watch his back most of the time, and then he had other protections in place for the rest of the time. Then he died and everyone left.

Then, years later, when the Romans took over the temple in Jerusalem, some Jews fled to Masada. They set up camp in Herod’s old palace and were able to use his cisterns as well. Then, after these 900 people spent some time on the mountain, the Romans decided enough was enough and came to get them. But because it is a mountain top it is nearly impossible to take over. Eventually the Romans used Jewish slaves to build an extremely large ramp up to the top where they then broke down the wall.

Not wanting to let their women and children be raped and made into slaves though, the man in charge decided everyone should die instead. So he chose men who would go around and kill all their families and then kill themselves at the end. The next day, when the Romans come in, they found that everyone was dead. They were pissed, I believe. There were a couple holdouts though, which is how we know the story. The Dovekeepers is a historical fiction novel written about Masada and it is an amazing book I would recommend everyone read.

Photo by Matan Shiloach

Photo by Matan Shiloach

Then I rode a camel.

Photo by Matan Shiloach

Photo by Matan Shiloach

The next day I rafted down the Jordan River and then ATVed up to the Syrian border. It was scarier than it sounds. Those red signs on the fence below say “Caution, Mines.” As in, land mines. I only walked where others walked… just in case.

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IMG_1377This is the inside of the former Syrian Military Headquarters. It looks like it was bombed… we took another set of stairs to the roof though, so it wasn’t completely destroyed. Because we hadn’t done enough yet that day, we went to a winery for wine tasting. That evening I was like, wow, how the crap is this my life. It all felt very surreal. But I can definitely see myself looking at Israel a lot differently now and have a new appreciation for the things that are going on in that area of the world.

After that we headed to Tel Aviv where the trip shifted to more of a party. It was amazing. We had the best resort on the beach and went to amazing outdoor restaurants.

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Somehow, I made it out alive.

Year One: Done

I’m officially done with my first year of business school! Wow. In a lot of ways it feels like it went really quickly but when I think of all the work I put into it, it totally makes sense that it has been a full year. My second semester was so much more enjoyable than the first. The core semester at MIT was hard! They take people from working just normal jobs to being in 7 MIT classes overnight. I’m making killer progress on my goals though, so I feel accomplished.

  1. Travel internationally
    1. Check! I’ve been to Turkey, China, and am leaving for Israel tomorrow!
  2. Explore entertainment industry
    1. This is the goal of my summer!
  3. Choose between entertainment and consulting
    1. Entertainment all the way! At least for the summer. ;)
  4. Engage with empowering females in business
    1. TBD
  5. Social connections
    1. I give myself a B. Moderate progress, but still need to improve for me to consider this an accomplishment.

I won’t be bringing my laptop to Israel, but expect a full recap when I return in June.

Things turned around!

It’s really too bad that I am so often rewarded for my ranting; it only encourages me. The day after my post about my internship frustrations, I received two internship offers for the summer. More specifically, I received an offer from a TV Network in NYC and they wanted a response within 1 business day so I applied pressure on the other company I had been speaking with to also make a decision. The pressure worked and they came to me with an offer the same day.

I went into the weekend with so much worry about the decision ahead of me. Both options were fantastic. In NYC I would be working on distribution analytics, something I’m incredibly interested in and passionate about. In LA, my job would be to manage a brand/franchise for the summer, something I have less experience in, but knew would be a great learning opportunity.

In truth, I knew my decision right away. My gut told me the LA position was the one I should take. Yet, I spent hours try to convince myself my gut was wrong, and then why it was right. I also had a lot of concern about turning a company down. I was so extremely interested in both roles though, and unfortunately I cannot be on both coasts at once. After two nights of very little sleep, I made the phone calls early Monday morning. There was that awkward time where I had declined with the East Coast but couldn’t yet reach the West Coast and was sorta concerned it would all turn to flames so I just went to workout.

But it is official! I passed the background check, reserved an airbnb room near the campus and bought my plane ticket. Wowza.

Oh the MBA Internship

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I’ve been thinking for the last three weeks about how to actually articulate my experience looking for an internship. Coming back from China I was freaking out a bit as most of my peers had already secured their summer jobs. I, however, had (and have) not. Even though I made it to a third round interview with one company, they stopped answering my emails and I was never formally rejected. I understood coming into recruiting season that this would be the case, though. Entertainment is famous for their just-in-time hiring, unlike consulting where companies know the exact number they need a year ahead of time. I knew what I was getting myself into and still I let the pressure get to me.

I thought that by going to a top business school this would be an easier process. For example, I applied to a Social Media MBA position with an tech/entertainment company. I was rejected within 2 hours of submitting my application. In my cover letter, I explicitly stated both my involvement with managing social media accounts for various organizations (Girls in Tech, Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Sloan Women in Management, etc.) and the Social Media Management class I’m taking. This, plus everything else on my resume, wasn’t enough to even get an interview.

The black box-ness is especially frustrating. I’ve submitted 40+ online internship applications, some with minor connections. I had one first round interview that I felt went pretty well, but I was rejected soon after. I requested feedback to, you know, improve my chances on the next position but, no dice.

Further complicating things is needing to decide between LA and NYC. I clearly fell in love with LA when I was there in January and have had that as my plan ever since. After spending time in China and having Joe go back to Minnesota for a week (stupid baseball), I remembered that I really like spending time with him and I’m just happier when I am around him. So, why move myself across the country from him for 3 months? Well, probably because this is maybe the last time I’ll get an opportunity to just uproot everything and try out my hand at an entertainment gig in LA without any worries. And really, even if I do get a little depressed being all alone in California, hopefully the sun will lighten the mood.

Right now I’m in the final stages with two different roles, one in NYC and one in LA. I haven’t received an offer from either yet so I don’t want to jinx it, but it would be a difficult decision to make if I were offered both. It is just such a roller-coaster of emotions – I get my hopes up and then they die and then I have to get excited about the next thing. I know it will all work out in the end but it is hard not knowing! I like to know things!

The Yarn: My Story

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At Sloan, we have something called the Yarn. Once a month, 5-6 speakers from the community are chosen to share a story of deep importance to them. Some are funny, some make others cry, but either way they allow us to connected by sharing deeper parts of ourselves. Here is a link to some previous talks if you are interested.

Being someone who enjoys talking about herself, I’ve been throwing my hat in the ring every month since school started. This last go-around, I was chosen to tell my story. What I didn’t realize until the night of was that it was an all ladies night. I especially appreciated that (it just so happened to work out that way).

For some reason, I wanted to take the easy way out. I wanted to read a few excerpts from my book to give a glimpse into my childhood. Luckily, I met with one of the organizers to do a dry-run when she asked “why read something you’ve written rather than just telling the stories from your heart?” I realized I had become a little too fond of the work I had put into developing them and didn’t want to change it. But, the truth is, I’m good in situations like those and stories are so much better when told rather than read. Ultimately, I decided to tell the same stories, which also gave me more ability to read the room and adjust on the fly.

I requested to be the first to speak because I get pretty nervous if I have to sit in anticipation. I got up, told my story, and the entire time my arms got beet red from the nerves. Or maybe it was the bright lights. Yes, we’ll go with the bright lights.

Afterwards, a lot of people came up to me and thanked me for telling my story. It was really nice to get the feedback and everyone mentioned they are excited to read the book. At least 10 people told me they’d buy it, which means I only need to lock in about 999,990 more to have a chance at a book deal, right?

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These are the excerpts I was going to read. The first is the opening of the book, and the second describes a situation that occurred during 3rd grade.

“Katie, it’s all over. Everything. It’s done. The shit is hitting the fan here, it’s all over.” This was all Pat could say before his phone was taken away. I was sitting on the second floor in the Campus Center at school. It was my sophomore year of college and I was meeting with a tutor I had hired for help with my multivariable calculus class.

It’s strange, getting a call like that in a place that feels so safe. It was dinnertime and there was a lot of commotion on the floor below. I always preferred to sit near the balcony because it is so easy for me to daze out when I watched everyone else. I practically lived in that building my four years at Macalester. It was the center of life on campus, and because the student government offices also resided there, the center of my life.

My tutor was a fellow calculus student. She was extremely smart and really nice, if not a bit of an outcast, so one day after class I bashfully approached her and asked her to help me study. I quickly offered to pay her for her time, knowing that succeeding in this class would be more valuable to me than any money I could throw at her. I also think I felt comfortable approaching her because of the fact that she was a little over weight. As much as I hate to admit it, I don’t have the highest self esteem at times and approaching someone who was “below me” made me more comfortable.

Tonight wasn’t about that though. I was no longer concerned about getting all of my calculus homework done or even doing well on the quiz the next day. I had to, once again, step in to worry about, and take care of, my mother.

Yet, I had nothing to go off of. I knew nothing really, other than shit was “over.” What did that even mean? I packed up all of my belongings and rushed out of the building. I had no idea where to go- where does one go in situations like this? I couldn’t go “home,” if home even existed anymore. After a brisk walk across the campus on what had been, and I guess still was, a beautiful autumn day, I ultimately found myself outside my best friends’ dorm room.

I first met Devin and Mollie the week before classes started during orientation. It was a simmering late August day and without air conditioning, I was melting. Their dorm room door was open and on the inside, there was a fan. I hesitated for a moment, but then walked in and introduced myself. “Hi, I’m Katie and I’m melting – can I sit in front of your fan?” I pressed ahead before Mollie even had time to respond. By the chuckle she let out, I knew it was going to be fine. “I’m Mollie,” she replied, “it is nice to meet you.”

Mollie reminds me of a character I would read about in a children’s book. She has beautiful, brown curly hair, a kind smile, and a style that would make you feel comfortable leaving your kids with her for the evening. In fact, I instantly trusted her as I walked in her room that hot summer day.

After a few minutes of small talk and sitting spread eagle on the floor in front of a whizzing fan, Mollie’s roommate walked in and gave me a look that conveyed “what the hell are you doing spread eagle on my floor?” Mollie, seeing that I was at a loss for words, chimed in “This is Katie, she lives across the hall.” Devin let out an exasperated breath and I skedaddled out of there without much more than a “goodbye!” Let’s just say, this was the better of my first impressions that introductory week of college. The next interaction we had went a lot better. As a petite, blonde jewish girl from Wisconsin, Devin surprised me with her love of The Simpsons, a mutual obsession.

By the time I got to their room, tears were pouring from my eyes and I was in a deep state of panic. I couldn’t make out any words and I couldn’t decide how, or if, I wanted to tell them. Yes, something bad was going on at home, but home and school don’t mix. My life at college was in no way connected to my life at home and bridging that gap could have disastrous effects. But, what could be worse than what I was already facing?

I don’t know how long I sat on their futon hyperventilating. Mollie was sitting next to me trying to console me while Devin was handing me a continuous supply of Kleenex. I had spent just as much time in their room as I had in my own, so I definitely felt comfortable there. I knew I couldn’t be alone, but at the same time I hated ruining their evening. They were both good kids, working hard on homework, and here I was messing it all up.

I eventually began to talk.

“For as long as I can remember… my mom has sold drugs,” I said. They listened intently, with supportive and encouraging demeanors. “I just got a call from Pat and I have no idea what it means or what even happened, but he was crying. He said it was all over and the cops were there.” From what I could discern, my house was being raided. I knew it wasn’t a joke because I had heard the cops voice, but other than that I had no more information to go off. I did not know who specifically was there, why it happened (rather, what specifically set it off), or where all my closest family was.

Suddenly, as quickly as I had entered their room, I now needed to leave. I felt cloister phobic and I needed to yell. I needed to run and scream and cry. What I wanted was for someone to understand. Mollie and Devin were my best friends, but they came from such different families. They had perfect upbringings, parents who loved each other, enforced boundaries, and above all else, stability and security. How could they possibly understand what I was going through? How I felt like everything had been pulled from underneath me?

I thought talking to Alice might help. Alice was another close friend of mine, but unlike others, she had seen things in life. I knew that her father had struggled with alcoholism and that her family had their own faults. Mollie didn’t want me to leave alone, so her and Devin walked me over to Alice’s room.

I managed to stop crying as we walked through the buildings and underground tunnels. Often a blessing, Macalester is a small campus in St. Paul, MN. Tunnels and skyways connect a majority of the building to protect us in harsh winters. Today though, the smallness was suffocating and I didn’t want everyone to see me crying.

Once outside Alice’s room, we knocked a few times but got no answer. Eventually I just tried the knob and luckily it was unlocked. Alice was actually just sleeping on her bed. It was still relatively early, seven pm or so, so we tried to wake her up. She was groggy but was able to look up and recognize that we were in the room.

“What…? Huh? What do you guys want? I’m sleeping,” she said, clearly not happy to see us there.

“My mom has been arrested and I don’t know where to go or what to do,” I pleaded with her, hoping she would know the right thing to say.

“That sucks…” was all she managed to grumble before she passed out again. We learned later that she had taken a few pills and really had no recollection of us even coming in.

So there I was. 19 years old, just trying to make something of myself. My mom had just been arrested for drug dealing (I presumed) and I had no one to turn to. Alice was right, it did suck.


Before long, I realized something was going on downstairs. A combination of others talking in hushed voices and me always being asked where I was going if I went into the basement, clued me in. I started hanging out downstairs more, hoping to pick up on what was happening. Mark basically lived down there, playing video games or watching wrestling. Him and I became close during that time, and I developed a crush on Lara Croft.

My ploy worked like a charm. Every few hours, someone would come downstairs and enter the closet underneath the stairs. Sometimes there was a light glowing from inside and other times there was not. Once I saw inside, I realized what a dipshit I had been; weeks before, I found a roll of super awesome metallic wrapping paper that I wasn’t even allowed to touch. I thought they were just being selfish with the wrapping paper (something I understood) until I finally saw inside the closet. The walls were lined with it!

Let’s be honest; I wasn’t an idiot. The instant I looked in the closet, saw the lamps and the soil, I knew what was going on. Even though I was never explicitly told, I knew I was never to talk about what I saw in there.

So, a few months later when social services pulled me out of class, I knew what to say. The woman was really nice. She told me who she was, said she had received concerns about things going on, and just wanted to check in on me. As warm as she was towards me though, I knew she was the enemy. I knew that if anything happened to my mom or if anyone found out about certain stuff, she would take me away from my home.

The initial questions were harmless on the surface “does your mom have friends over a lot?” But I knew what she was digging for, and even though I knew how I had to answer, I was scared as shit that she would be able to see through it.

“I know she recently moved in with a man,” she began, “did you know Mark long before he moved in?” Of course I didn’t know him long, we had only lived in Minneapolis a few months “yeah,” I answered, “I’ve known Mark for a while now and I’m really happy he moved in with us.”

“How are things going living with another person now?” was her next question. “Well, even though it has basically been my mom and I forever, I’m used to having people live with us, like my cousins and stuff. So, it wasn’t weird for me.”

Soon her questions became more direct, “do you ever have bad dreams about Mark?” Instantly I got a knot in the pit of my stomach. Yes, in fact, I had been having really bad dreams lately, scary things about Mark. How did she know that? Was I being that obvious with my lies? “No, of course not, I like Mark a lot,” was all I could muster.

Next she went back to my mom. “Does your mom work at all?” Crap. This one through me for a curve ball. She didn’t work, but employment is more verifiable. Plus, it is illegal to work and not report it, so, even if she was working under the table she would get into trouble. “No, Mark has been really great and helps my mom out when she can’t find work.” Seemed… reasonable… no?

If you knew my mom, it most definitely did not. But I was banking on this woman being a stranger and not really knowing the ins and outs of who my family was.

“Does your mom like to garden?” was her next angle. “No, she hates plants. Once I got her an aloe vera plant for mother’s day and she managed to kill that thing in months!” I thought that by adding more context it would help sell my story. “Have you ever seen plants growing inside?” was the last of her questions. “No, I’ve never seen any plants.”

At the end, she gave me her business card and told me I could call her anytime if I ever needed something. I knew damn well I didn’t need that card though. So, the second I was brought back to the classroom, I took the card and flipped it into the trash. I remember thinking how bad ass I was doing that, like, I was protecting the family and no one could break me.

That evening, when I got home, my mom and Mark were already fighting about it. After visiting me at school, the social worker went to my home. Mark was the only one there at the time because he had weird work hours. This time, they didn’t even worry that I was listening. Turns out, one of my mom’s friends got upset with her because she had cut her off. So, in order to get back at my mom, she called social services. My mom vowed to never deal with the woman again, she was hysterical. She was never really concerned about herself, but as soon as anything affected me, her precious baby, she couldn’t hold back.

The Zoo in China

I’ve been to zoos in the United States before, and I have never seen anything like what I saw at Yunnan Safari Park. I don’t know if I’m being hyper critical because something in my own beliefs has changed, or if the conditions were truly much worse, but I have never left a zoo feeling so terrible.

First, they had these small tigers in an enclosed space that had extremely short sides. If I were a cat, I could totally jump out of it. Unless, of course, my hamstrings (or something) were cut. Which is what could have happened to these poor babies.

IMG_0781Next, they had these beautiful peacocks, including an albino(!!!) tethered to benches for people to sit on to take their pictures with. It made me sad to see this, but all in all isn’t the worst that I saw.

IMG_0791I believe the worst part was how I don’t think they are feeding the animals enough. The lions and tigers were so thin, I can’t believe they are being fed adequately. A friend I was with suggested maybe they just have been refusing to eat. However, because they allow people to purchase meat to “dangle” to feed to these cats, and seeing the way they fought over it, I have a hard time believing they are just choosing not to eat. I should not be able to see their ribs like this!

IMG_0797

The last straw for me was in the kitty hut. They had baby tigers that they allowed children to pet. These animals were larger than small dogs though, and nothing I would even get close to. Soon after we arrived, the kitties got hungry and started rebelling a little. In return, the “trainers” pulled them back from the gates by their tails, repetitively. Isn’t that super mean?

What do you guys think? Am I being over critical or is this terrible treatment of animals?