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On the time it wasn’t a drill

Last night, my apartment building caught fire.

Sort of. They still don’t know what happened, which is honestly more discouraging than an observable fire.

I was rounding the corner to my building when I heard the sirens — and you know whenever you hear firetrucks you get the mini-est of mini sinking feelings but basically know it’s 99.9% likely they’re not for you? So, I had that, until I saw it slow down in front of the turn into my complex.

Now, the light-hearted part about this whole ordeal happened at this very beginning point when I neared the building and saw a weirdly spaced out group of people just outside the back door.

At first, I thought it was a group of friends waiting on someone or gathering at a meeting place, but with the context clue of the firetruck coupled with the fact that they were all standing at least 5 feet away from each other, I figured something was, unfortunately, up.

That was so weird to me. Like, our house is on fire!! Our HOUSE!! Talk to each other! Ask if everyone is okay!! Ask if anyone knows what’s going on!!!

Anyway, I, Tiffany Clark, walked up to the general area of the group and said, “Is something actually on fire or,” and thankfully the person I stood the closest to engaged with me with, “Maybe.”

I promptly announced that I did not have time for this, and that I needed to get my cat out of there, and went into the building now featuring an aggressively loud buzzer and that was also maybe on fire.

To accurately represent how frightened I was, I will tell you that I was able to run up 5 flights of stairs with a heavy bag without stopping or dry heaving after. The 3rd and 4th floor landings were hazy, and everything smelled like just-blown-out candles.

I did stop at the landing before touching the door handle — not because of fire drill training in school but because of that one scene in The Office — but my almost-adherence to fire safety protocol was quickly thrown aside as I heard what I assumed to be firemen bang the door to the landing above me and start clamoring down the stairs.

I, a small, frightened do-gooder knowing full well running inside a potentially burning building was way against the rules, flung the door to the 5th floor open and flew down my hall before the firemen who were just doing their job and would have been absolutely right to tell me to leave, what are you doing, go outside oh my god, could catch me.

I had to get my cat out safely, you see.

In retrospect, I should not have run at my cat when I got into my apartment. I know that now.

It took 7 nerve-wracking minutes of sectioning off my apartment into spots she could not hide under and tossing at least 20 treats into her carrier before she got near enough to me that I could get her into it, during which time the firemen came down the hall and banged on every door and yelled at us to get out, then made their clamoring way down to the next floor. Contrariwise, the aggressively loud buzzer was screaming at me the whole time.

Cat got outside unscathed, and while more cat scratches had been added to my collection I was otherwise fine.

I rushed down the stairs to see 3 firetrucks, an EMS vehicle, and a police cruiser near the front of the building, and the people by the side I came out were also spread apart like nothing was happening and they just thought they’d come outside and stand for a bit. I tried to talk to a girl near me using my cat as a cute approachable pet owner scheme, but she wasn’t really interested.

I literally do not get it. A) I am a treasure but B) connect with me in this frightening human experience we are having, Nicole (she was wearing purple and had dark hair and looked like a Nicole)!! This is a time for fellowship!! Do you know what is on fire, Nicole???? Are all of the dogs okay, Nicole????

After about 10 minutes of lonely anxiety, the buzzer shut off and the EMS truck and police cruiser left — I supposed that meant no one was hurt. But the 3 firetrucks were still there, so, do we go in?

I did, along with Nicole and a few others, but while they went up the stairs I went to the front of the building where the elevators are because my cat is weight and I was tired.

I got caught by the building manager, who said that I needed to come back outside.

Ugh.

We waited out front, where the bulk of the residents were, and it was nice to see little groups of worried people this time rather than indifferent stand-alones. It was NOT nice to hear that “smoke was spotted” but they didn’t know anything else, and though they let us go back in after a only a few minutes had passed, they had us promise that if the alarm went off again we’d come back out.

???????

“It’s probably nothing but you’re maybe still in mortal danger” is what I got from that, which neither achieved the least by offering an explanation nor served a decent purpose in comforting us.

Whatever happened, it didn’t happen again, and after half an hour the firetrucks left and I let Cat out of her carrier. She was grateful and not vindictive, and stretched cutely and gave my hand a little boop with her head.

I collected myself and rushed to my car (but not while in my car, @CHPD) and got to go see the last 20 minutes of The Little Mermaid, Jr. put on by elementary schoolers and starring some of the kids that come to our after school program at Morehead, so that was a devastatingly adorable reward for surviving an almost fire.

Moral of the story even though everything worked out okay: absolutely Do Not go into a building that is maybe on fire. If someone is about to Do That, like I did, stop them. And talk to them if they are scared. 

And go follow my cat on Instagram: @andromedasadventures. ♥

Photo credit.

On progress

“‘In progress’ has become my least favorite word combination. Ever.” (x)

Same, barn3398.

“In progress,” of course, is a specific status label when applying to Disney internships, and since I’m not doing much else these days I’m running with it as a double entendre.

A lot of things in my life are in progress. The probably smallest things that really just add an extra step to my day are my new ear piercings — don’t get excited, they’re the standard second ones right next to the first ones, I’m just behind with the trend. What I didn’t remember from getting my ears pierced for the first time in 5th grade (aside from it being $50, what the heck) was that I have to clean these things 3 (three) times a day, and also I can’t take them out for 6 weeks.

That’s so much time for both of those things.

So that’s in progress for the next five and a half weeks, I have an interview tomorrow that I probably won’t hear back from for potentially also five and a half weeks, and I have at least 10 internships I can literally see they haven’t even looked at yet. Also, my cat is still on her weight loss regime, so I’ve got to keep up with that.

I’ve got Netflix shows in progress.

I realized that younger me had already made the “tiffanyjoyclark.wordpress.com” account, and after an hour I finally figured out the email/passcode combination, and then discarded the URL, and then tried to claim it on this account and couldn’t because now it’s permanently disabled, so I obviously wanted to contact WordPress support but couldn’t because I don’t pay for any sort of premium account, so I posted my woes on the forums as suggested, but obviously no one responded because nobody not working for WordPress would at all be able to help me, so I thought I’d just pay for a month to get the help I need but turns out you have to pay yearly, so I wasn’t going to pay $36 to ask a question, so THAT’S in progress.

I’m growing my hair long again. That’s not even anything I can influence. That’s almost as infuriating as the $36 question.

But I can’t imagine a time in my life where something wouldn’t be in progress. I’m waiting and waiting and waiting for all these things to culminate into something final and perfect, but they won’t.

Things will fall apart, or more things will try and join in, or I’ll switch directions entirely. Or, everything I’m working toward and hoping for will happen perfectly (maybe it’s one of Tiffany’s Good Universes after all, but recently things have been excessively disproving that), and what then? Does everything just stop and be perfect and final for the whole rest of all of my time?

Of course not.

We’re always in progress. There will always be something new, whether it’s thrown at us or we decide to pursue it (insert “Some are born great” Shakespeare quote here). I feel antsy when I’m not actively moving forward, or at least trying to, and I know that even if everything I’m working toward now somehow came together just how I imagined, it wouldn’t stay like that.

I like change. I like doing new things, and I like doing them often. While I can’t channel that drive into traveling the world right now — because lbr no amount of optimism and free-spirited “just go” speeches can change the fact that I don’t make enough right now to afford even a one-way trip to anywhere — I can apply it to my everyday life, and I’d argue that’s almost more important.

Our perspectives are individualistic. It’s their thing. But the difference between being narrow or open-minded is our ability and willingness to see the world for the mosaic of human stories it really is. The world is run on stories. We’ve all seen that post, “Life is a book, and those who don’t travel only read one chapter” or whatever classist nonsense it says; I would like to counter and substitute “travel” with “engage in relationships with others and search for or take every opportunity given to them to enrich their understanding of the human experience,” and “read” with “write.”

So that’s what I’m trying to do. Small-scale book building.

This is more of a pep-talk for myself than anything else, but for anyone who’s gotten past the cliches and is still reading, I’d like to give you one more:

Being a work in progress does not mean you have failed to succeed. 

Moreover, having to work harder than you expected in order to reach your goal does not mean you are stupid, or less-than. When something is difficult, and you don’t think you can manage a perfect outcome, if you work your very best at it the end result can only be your very best — and your very best is always good, and enough.

Plus, every time you push yourself to experience/try/work at something different or new (or differently or from a new angle), I suppose you could say you’re writing a new page. Because I say you could.

///

Updates on my Disney internships here.

On love

It feels extremely selfish and unproductive and reeks of privilege to keep writing about mundane life when things are still happening, but I do have to write at least two posts a week (I mean, I don’t — I’m auditing the class so this is self-imposed but so far I’ve been determined to do work like I’m supposed to) and I don’t want another mouth-breather sniffing me out on LinkedIn for political ~discourse~ just yet, so, here we go!

Today I applied for an internship with Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings (and others, too, but obvi this is the big shiny dream one). I love weddings, and Disney, and love, and people in love, and myself the most when I’m acting out of love. Especially now, I think it’s crucial love is continually reintroduced into the world — and if expensive, outdated, commercialized ceremonies are the surest way I can be directly a part of the process, count me in.

I watched “The Wedding Planner” (again) last night. Really phenomenal rom-com, horrible real-life implications — it scared me to death that the person I get engaged to and I will just fall apart after years of being each other’s one and only. That’s not the theme of the movie, but if it’s what I got from it, who’s to tell me I’m wrong?

Anyway, JLo and Matthew McConaughey basically fall in love at the beginning of the movie, except Matt’s getting married and JLo turns out to be the wedding planner (I said it, I said the title) his fiancée had hired. That’s horrible. That’s a bad thing. But a good, wonderful, magnificent thing is the passion with which we see JLo’s character go about planning and executing weddings. She does it with skill, with ease, with poise, and almost with a sort-of lovingness toward the event itself, not to mention her tenderness with anxious brides and drunk FOBs. She’s pouring love into her work, which is visibly glowing around every wedding scene — even the very first one in her childhood bedroom, where at around 8 years old she performs a ceremony for Barbie and Ken.

I’d like that, I think. I’d like to be able to help couples plan a day to celebrate their love, because that’s what weddings are to me. I don’t consider myself religious, so weddings are, aside from guarantees of tax and general spousal benefits, a celebration of honest, human love, period. And that’s a hard thing. A lot of people can’t do it, and it only gets harder the more times you try. Love as a partnership is a conscious, ongoing choice, from what I’ve gathered reading the blogs of normal people doing life together. It’s not a fairy tale all the way through — and I suppose treating it like one doesn’t help — but it is what you make of it, you, not the universe (it doesn’t care, it’s got better things to do), not your partner, you. You will keep loving as you choose to, not because of what someone else does or says.

I don’t even think I should keep talking about spousal love specifically anymore, either, because friendships and families are so full of love too!! And any kind of love is hard. For anyone, in any way.

But it’s beautiful, and worth it.

And, of course, healing, but not the end-all-be-all or something anyone should be dependent on, because we are our own whole people and nobody needs a “second half.” I’m spewing. I know. Nothing is getting fleshed out, and I’m sorry.

It’d just be nice to have more love in the world, wouldn’t it? It’s harder, but probably way more productive for literally everyone. If by planning and executing a wedding I might coax beautiful, eager love right out of the room and into the world for even just the next day, our little pocket of spacetime might slowly (achingly so) grow kinder. Happier, even. I think we need the help, and I think I’d be good at it.

I’ll post any updates on this particular internship as well as the five nonillion (I learned that measurement today actually, okay tangent — there’s a planet made almost entirely of crystallized diamond, which I’m sure you’ve heard of by now, but did you know it’d be worth 26.9 nonillion dollars?? That’s 29 zeros: $26,900,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Outer space has the most impressive engagement ring.) others I’ve applied to.

Stay tuned, I know you’re invested.

On continuing

I’m in the process of revamping my old Disney blog that I kept up with while on the Disney College Program in 2013! Check it out if you like — it’s still got some early 2010s gifs-and-memes charm.

My interview this evening for Talent Acquisition and Marketing went well, and I’ve already made a post about it on the blog; if the Disney internship ~community~ is the same as it was 3 years ago, updates and tips are always welcome. I started up the blog again before I’m even offered an internship position as a sort-of optimistic gesture to the universe, and I hope my independent initiative to help other people with their own internship journeys gives the impartial universe a small reason to suddenly care about my future.

If not, that’s expected, and I’m sure instead karma will pay me a visit for getting my hopes up.

A couple more updates on me, Tiffany:

  • I have started eating Greek yogurt because health, and even though I have for some reason operated under the assumption that I do not like Greek yogurt, it turns out that I, in fact, do.
  • However, there is a giant bag of (now-stale) Moe’s tortilla chips in our office, and I eat at least threefold of what it would take to cancel out any benefits from the yogurt.
  • My cat is 1 pound overweight, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but she’s 10 pounds so 1 pound is 10% and Too Much™. Needless to say, she is on a strict diet for small kitties until she is slim and trim at 9 pounds at most.
  • I do not yet have a bedtime routine since starting my Mon.-Fri. 9-5 job. It’s nearing 1 AM now, and I’m doing this instead of literally anything else productive to get me ready for sleep at a reasonable time.
  • But I am drinking more water, and am not often dizzy when I stand up anymore.
  • I took out the trash this morning and ran the dish washer, and my clothes hamper isn’t even half full yet.
  • Checked out a book on the history of magic (unrelated to Harry Potter, unfortunately), looks old, smells old, is extremely interesting but makes me bone-tired when I read it, is probably haunted.
  • Still haven’t finished “Emotional Intelligence” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • I have to hide my new alarm clock underneath a pillow bc otherwise cat will knock it off the nightstand.

Also, I’m working Astronomy Days from 9 AM – 5 PM at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences on Saturday, so if you’re reading this from central NC you should come meet some aliens astronauts and get hype about space!!

///

I don’t want every blog post to have a message, necessarily, because that gets heavy and extra and hard for me to write, not to mention hard for y’all to read every time. Sometimes, I’d just like to update anyone who cares on how my life is going as a moderate-to-average person living on this earth.

Maybe someday I’ll have experience-based advice to offer, like the everinspiring Mikala, but I’ll have to be content for now to offer only subjective thoughts and quaint life updates. The ordinary day-to-day is underrated anyway, I feel, and as a firm believer in finding joy in the little things, I will do my best to prove it.

Today, there were 4 different kinds of ice creams in the freezer at work — the freezer on our floor!! we didn’t even have to go upstairs!! — and one of them had three different kinds of chocolate in it. If that isn’t a worthy little joy, I honestly don’t know what else I could possibly offer you.

On magic and mindfulness

Desperately trying to find other material I cared enough about to put some space between politically charged posts, I was delighted to open my computer today and discover that applications for fall Disney internships had opened just this morning! I participated in the Disney College Program (DCP) during the fall of 2013 (my sophomore year) and have wanted to go back in a more professional role ever since; however, in agreement with my parents, I had to get my degree first.

I graduated this past December, and had applied to many spring internship opportunities with Disney that I would have started only a few weeks ago — if only I had applied to ones I was even remotely qualified for, and not just ones I thought sounded charming or prestigious. I am an experienced public relations graduate with considerable involvement in project management and an extensive background in education and presenting. I was not — much to my dismay — experienced in wedding planning at the time of my application, nor did I — or do I — speak more than one language. And I only applied to 3 of ’em.

Since Professional Internship (PI) apps opened this morning, I’ve applied to 6 different positions in PR, communications, events, and leadership, and hope to submit applications for positions in the education department tomorrow. Ideally, I’ll be able to have some small update about my applications every other blog post or so, and then this coming summer or fall this blog will be chronicling my adventures with Disney or the Smithsonian!

For now, I want to use this space to talk about how important the DCP was to me. If you didn’t know — and it’s likely maybe two of you do — I created a vlog for my college program. By the last video I made, I had 300 subscribers on YouTube (and somehow still have them), and my most popular video had around 8k views. That’s not a famously high count by any means, but it’s enough that recreating an internship vlog is something I plan on doing if I am selected for one of these internships, wherever it may be. I loved making the videos, and people responded! That’s what I’m here for!

All right. Working for Disney.

It was hard. Magical, sure, of course — we literally had training classes on how not to ruin the magic accidentally for children — but hard. I broke down in the storage room 2 months in because I still didn’t know where everything was and just wasn’t fast enough, not to mention my feet hurt, I had mega stress acne, my “costume” looked ridiculous on me, and my parents were three states away. I’d found the DCP in middle school and looked forward to it for yearsand what I got was not what I expected.

It was exactly what I needed.

School had been basically on autopilot my entire life, never requiring much introspection or self-awareness — until I got to college. All nighters were devastating to my psyche, not because I was tired but because I was failing at something that used to be better than easy. Every low score was a judge of my character, not of my aptitude in a standardized subject, and every hour spent rereading the material proved not that it was difficult, but that I was inherently too stupid to understand it at all.

I’d loathe to start assignments because I knew I wouldn’t get them perfect — and what’s the point if they weren’t perfect? — and so became a procrastinator, where in earlier school years I’d been unfailingly “work then play.” Procrastinating assignments made them even less impressive than I imagined, which led to stress, which led to more procrastinating, which led to more stress, and anxiety, and the absolute inability to take the necessary step back to deal with everything I was feeling.

So I went to Disney World, and it worked.

After I allowed myself my 2-month-mark breakdown, I realized I was surrounded by likely the largest, most supportive network of people I would ever come across, from my leaders and coworkers to my new roommates here with me and my family missing me back home. I realized that living and working in an area where one might interact with hundreds of people from all over the world in a single day, just passing through your life, was exhilarating, and almost sacred. I realized that the world was so much bigger than the forum posts and essays and research and PowerPoints I was never not anxious about, and that I really, really needed to take a few hundred deep breaths to make up for it all.

Now, I didn’t learn about self-awareness as a concept — and certainly didn’t learn about mindfulness — through this program. But I started to pay attention. What I did learn was that I was allowed to be not-great at something and still have value. My leaders showed me that. From my roommates, I learned to try things with my full heart, even if I wasn’t exactly sure how to go about it, and it would be more fulfilling than if I knew everything and had done it perfectly the first time. From my coworkers, I learned to watch, listen, and understand, and that that’s what could bring magic to my life, not fireworks or make-believe.

And from my parents, I learned that working in Disney World for the rest of my life was not a viable second option to getting a college degree.

Since I’m not trying to make this sound like a “why I want the job” essay on an application, I’ll spare you the summation of what I could offer Disney by going back to work with them. Hopefully they see that on my resume. I do, however, want to charge you with taking your own step back and for a moment viewing your life as an impartial, third-party observer. Who do you appear to be? How are your actions affecting others? And how are they affecting your own self?

This entire post has become a roundabout way of saying that we all should try to be kinder and more compassionate to ourselves and others. The world will remain tense, anxious, and self-destructive if we keep refusing to pay attention and listen. Make a conscious effort today to be mindful, and again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, until it’s second-nature. Be kind. Be kind. Be kind.

And if you’re planning a trip to Disney this fall — I hope to see you there!

On participating

“Flights packed with Women’s March participants are cheering all the way to DC.” x

“BREAKING: @CNN reports more people on National Mall for #WomensMarch than yesterday at this time for inauguration.” x

“The Women’s March movement is taking place on every continent, even Antarctica.” x

“Aerials over Chicago, Boston show large crowds that have gathered for regional Women’s Marches x

“Metro was half empty for Today: Crowds overwhelming Metro for x

“BREAKING: AP sources say crowd packs entire route of Women’s March, preventing organizers from leading formal march toward White House.” x

“It’s official. The is now the largest presidential protest march in history.” x

Today is important.

Already, the Women’s March (on Washington, Raleigh, Boston, London, Chicago, and NYC, to name a few out of the 600 worldwide) is a movement spanning continents, while just two months ago was a “mere seed of an idea” posted on Facebook by Teresa Shook, an older woman in Hawaii (x).

The closest Women’s March to me is at most an hour drive away.

And I am not there.

There is absolutely no excuse for my absence; one of my Facebook friends is the co-emcee for the event and I’ve seen no shortage of posts about it, I have coworkers and friends that would have gone with me, I have coworkers and friends that are there, my day is free, it is not freezing outside, I’m not sick, I’d have transportation to get there, and I care furiously about this message.

But not enough, clearly.

This post is one I needed to use to say definitively that I am not doing enough. As the immortal words of Kylie Jenner warned us at the beginning of 2016, it’s time to start realizing things — and I’ve realized that I am not participating. In this maybe-4th wave of feminism, in other causes I care about, in hobbies I insist I don’t have time for, in practicing mindfulness, and even in conversations and outings with friends, I am not engaging as genuinely as I know I am able to. I often say how much more I prefer to listen than to talk, but I’m not here to live my live passively, and I’m certainly not doing myself or others any favors by remaining a wallflower.

I care about feminism, because it matters to me how I and other women are perceived and treated by this country and the rest of the world. I care about empowering girls in STEM fields, because I was interested but wasn’t pushed to pursue them when I was still learning the basics, and my brother was. I care about being compassionate toward one another and aspiring toward a future of learning and understanding, because I believe that is the only way humanity will progress into a group of compelling leaders, explorers, educators, and caretakers. But no one knows any of this about me, and I haven’t made even a dent in any sort of movement, because I don’t participate. So that’s going to change.

First, I’m publishing this — which is a small step, but it’s relatively huge for me to admit an enormous character flaw, and one I’m going to have to do a lot of work on.

Next, I’m going to stop scrolling. I’m going to call my representatives when their phone numbers pop up from activist (participating) friends on my Facebook or Twitter feeds, I’m going to click “Going” more often, and I’m going to close my computer when I’ve done whatever task I opened it to accomplish — hopefully, most often, adding to this blog.

I’m going to send my application into the Smithsonian for an internship encouraging and educating girls in STEM, and I’m going to work harder at my job now to implement those same ideals in the after school program, and not just copy activity ideas from Pinterest.

I’m going to reach out to friends first, and show the ones I still have close that they mean the world to me. I’m going to take walks, and take pictures, and take chances on opportunities I often ignore or shy away from entirely. I’m what, 1/5th of the way through my life? At best? What am I doing?

This year I am going to care deeply, and then I’m going to prove it.

What are you going to do?