The past four years have been the hardest of my life, in ways bigger than exams and essays and wandering out blindly into the “real world” after graduation. The funny thing about being enlightened, and the one that no one warns you about, is that you suffer so much more mental and emotional pain as a result of being a more aware, more empathetic, and more humble human being.

The Moment that Made the Millennial | Part 2

When I say that Invisible Children ruined my life in the best way possible, I don’t just say it because it’s a nice phrase. The past four years have been the hardest of my life, in ways bigger than exams and essays and wandering out blindly into the “real world” after graduation. The funny thing about being enlightened, and the one that no one warns you about, is that you suffer so much more mental and emotional pain as a result of being a more aware, more empathetic, and more humble human being.


If you haven’t caught up on the story of my life, go ahead and read The Moment That Made Me: Part 1. Go on, I wouldn’t want to ruin the story for you.


Now you might be thinking, wow, this sounds like a terrible thing, why would I want to deal with all that extra baggage on a day to day basis? But I would argue to say that I am living much more now than I ever was before. This experience helped me come to two important realizations:

1. This is my only life.

Why would I spend it just going through the motions of what I think I should be doing? That not only sounds boring, but also unproductive. I strongly believe that if you do work you care about, you will work harder, you will work quicker, and your work will be better because of it.


And for those of you that are shaking your heads at the impracticality of it all,  this doesn’t mean you have somehow have to find this amazing dream job with a nonprofit or for your favorite sports team or one that lets you travel across the world. A lot of times, finding a job you care about just means one where you can support their ethics and work environment. A small business. A company that has a ping pong table in the break room. One that encourages creativity and sharing ideas instead of stifling them. Or maybe it means you get the courage to break off on your own and stop feeling like it’s “just too far-fetched.”


2. I need to start thinking bigger than myself.

Seeing the suffering in other parts of the world that one evening and even more so with current events today made me realize not only that it’s selfish to develop all your thoughts and opinions solely around your own wants and needs, but also, in doing so, you are lacking forward thinking. We can see on a grander scale how “me me me” thinking has plagued the United States and the world already. Global warming is setting up future generations (and even this generation) for catastrophic consequences everywhere from the 6th global mass extinction to an increase in horrible and devastating natural disasters. We knew it was coming and we were too greedy to stop burning oil and look for alternative, possibly more costly options. We refuse to cut back on our excessive meat consumption, thus releasing incredible amounts of methane through grazing agriculture. We’ve known that discrimination and racism is wrong for over 100 years, yet somehow so many kids still grow up thinking it’s okay to judge someone based on their religion or the color of their skin, and even kill because of it.


I could go on but I think it’s unnecessary. The root cause of all of these things is a lack in forward thinking, because why should we care what happens to the world after we’re gone? Why should I, one person, feel responsible for helping people in a country devastated by a natural disaster halfway across the globe? To me it is all connected. No one wants to say that they don’t care about future generations or people who are suffering in another country. Most people would probably strongly refute it. But when it comes time to take action, to show up, to change your habits, to donate just a little bit of your paycheck, we often hold back. We don’t take that action that we say we support because “oh, I just donated XX amount to this other organization last month” or “well just changing my eating and waste habits aren’t going to make any difference in the grand scheme of things.”


Guess what? If everyone made these changes, it would make a difference. Not only would you encourage people around you to make little changes in how they live too, you would be setting up better and more sustainable habits for your children and future generations. That is how we create change. Saying your own habits and actions don’t matter is an excuse and it’s selfish and just generally not true.


So I want to leave you with a few words of encouragement based on what I’ve learned over the past four years. 


When in doubt, do.

Learning shouldn’t stop once you’re done with school. We’re better people if we continue challenging ourselves and trying out new things. But fear of failure, laziness, and fear of being outside of our comfort zone often scares us into inaction. Saying “yes” is often higher risk, but the reward is so much greater and it keeps us moving forward.

"The Moment That Made Me | Part 2" | by South Ranch Creative

Ever heard the phrase, “the world is your oyster”?

Take control over your life.

It’s impossible to be conscious of every little consequence of our day to day actions. But it doesn’t mean that they don’t matter or that we shouldn’t try. Next time you go out shopping, consider looking for locally made or fair trade products, so that you aren’t indirectly supporting sweatshops, poor working conditions, and unfair wages. Do you really need a giant hunk of meat with your dinner every day of the week? If so, can you purchase from a local farmer’s market instead? I’m not a vegetarian but I swear tofu is actually good, guys. Think a little bit more about the waste you are creating when you purchase items. Try to find one with recyclable, biodegradable, or just less packaging overall. Or consider if you really need the object at all. We are plagued by this drive to buy, buy, buy all the time, but it didn’t used to be that way and it doesn’t have to into the future. Small changes mean something. They add up. And everyone making small changes creates a movement.


Take control over your life. | "The Moment That Made Me | Part 2" | by South Ranch Creative

US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Powers, speaks about how influential young people are in society and why they should take greater action on issues they are passionate about at Invisible Children’s Fourth Estate Leadership Summit. 

Be more empathetic, stress less.

I’ve found that when I am more open to considering and trying to understand other opinions and actions that I disagree with, I tend to be calmer, happier, less angry, and less stressed. This applies to almost every situation, even when I think those other opinions or actions are absolutely absurd. Because I’m not necessarily changing my opinion on the absurdity, but I am choosing to take a more thought out, less aggressive approach. Let me give an example. Road rage is a serious and kind of terrifying thing. Driving up and down 81 for three hours every time I came home from college over the past four years caused me a lot of stress and a lot of anger. Because so many people are just terrible and angry drivers. And terrible and angry drivers make me a terrible and aggressive driver. And one day, driving home again on 81, I just decided that I was going to stop. I wasn’t going to get angry at bad or aggressive drivers anymore because I didn’t like how it made me feel or act. We can choose how we feel and how we react. It made a world of difference. I am more relaxed, and I’m a better driver because of it. It doesn’t mean I don’t still think people do stupid things on the road, but I try and be empathetic when possible and take control over my own driving so that someone doesn’t get angry at me for doing something stupid or aggressive.


One of the most important ways I’ve applied this tip is politically. As passionate as I am about my own views, a huge portion of the population views things differently. And for the most part, that’s okay. The majority of my family has hugely different political views, and they are great, well-intentioned people that I love. Promoting, explaining, and supporting your just beliefs is good. But being entirely close-minded to other beliefs and opinions is not good. I would argue that it can be devastating. If we aren’t willing to change, adapt, and compromise, we will never make progress. And the world (both the physical Earth and the people around us) are going to change and adapt and leave us behind. So empathize. I love this video by RSA , The Empathic Civilisation, that shows how we are hard-wired for empathy and how that does us good.



Value your own worth.

While there are a handful of people that value themselves a little too much (I’m looking at you, Mr. Trump), I would say the vast majority of people undervalue their skills, their opinions, and their impact. I have always done this, particularly when it comes to pricing my products and services, which you can read more about in my blog post, “What it’s really like graduating from college with a degree in ‘Art.’”


Why do I do it? I naturally assume other people are more of an expert on things than I am. I took a beginner calligraphy course on modern calligraphy recently, and while I had a great time and learned a lot, I realized that my skills were almost, or could be with a little practice, just as good as that of the instructor. And that’s not to put her down, she was awesome. It’s to say that if I took more progressive action on selling my skills, then I could be just as successful as she. I just haven’t made that jump yet. 


Another reason I undervalue myself is that I don’t want to come off as cocky or arrogant, but I have to keep reminding myself that it isn’t that black and white. Confidence lies between insecurity and arrogance, and that is the goal we should all shoot for. It makes us better people and we become more valued by ourself and those around us.



Value your own worth. | "The Moment That Made Me | Part 2" | by South Ranch Creative

Valuing you own worth breeds positive confidence which breeds success and action.


I live by the words: The future of the world hinges on our ability and willingness to stop at nothing.

Always take an active role in your own life.


I’m going to tell you a story. I’ve told it before. And it’s not life changing to anyone else but me. But it is important. It is how I developed compassion and humility. It is how I became me.

The Moment That Made The Millennial | Part 1

I’m going to tell you a story. I’ve told it before. And it’s not life changing to anyone else but me. It’s how I became the me that I call myself today. The one I refer to that will do anything for something she believes in. The one that timidly shares her problems of anxiety with a group of friends she first met over the internet. The one that’s always churning in the background, regardless of what me is showing at the front. It’s the me that makes my eyes tear up to think about.


Fall of 2011 I moved into a dorm on the beautiful campus of Virginia Tech. I had gotten credit already for most required core classes, but I still needed something for Area 7: Critical Issues in Global Context. I signed up for a class called World Regions. Now, history and social studies have never been my strong point. How am I supposed to remember the leader of every major country in the world if I can’t even remember what I ate for dinner last night, and I forget the word “strainer” when trying to tell my mom what I need from the cupboard?


True story, I actually forgot that word tonight just a couple hours before I wrote this.


But I signed up for the course because I heard it was easy, had 3,000 students in it, and the professor was a baffling mix of humor and offensiveness that drove around in plaid Scion xB. This is the girl I was. Normal. I had my own problems and quirks like anyone else. I was introverted, quiet, a little nerdy, and took art classes outside of school. Even on the weekends. But I had a normal middle and high school experience.


Life changed me towards the beginning of the end of my first semester in college. It was a movie. (If that’s not of sign of the millennial age, I don’t know what is). Professor Boyer of that very World Regions class convinced me (and probably at least 1,000 more of us) with extra points to come see a screening of a movie. He did this thing where he showed screenings of movies about other cultures and countries for extra points in the class if we attended, probably in an efforts to try and “globalize us” or something. Funny I’d be looking back at that four years later, teary-eyed and eternally grateful that he ruined my life in the best way possible. And to think I almost didn’t go.


IC Screening with Jason Russell | "The Moment That Made Me | Part 1" | by South Ranch Creative |


The film shown that night was called “Tony,” and it was shown by a group of weird looking things… err I mean, people… called “roadies” that drove all the way from California (one from Uganda) for a nonprofit called Invisible Children. Invisible Children is a millennial generation nonprofit that exists to stop a rebel group in central Africa called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and their leader, Joseph Kony, from committing terrible atrocities and human rights abuses, which they have been doing now for over 20 years.


Please watch. If you’ve seen it before, watch. If you’ve never even heard of Invisible Children or Joseph Kony before, please. Watch. I can’t promise it won’t ruin you. And I can’t promise you’ll care. But I did and I did with such a fury and a passion that I can’t not use every opportunity I have to try and convince others to do the same.




After the movie, there was a presentation about what Invisible Children was and a discussion with a young Ugandan who had been directly affected by the conflict. I can’t say I remember the words they said. I can’t remember the ones that struck my heart with such force, I was shaken and lost of strength. But I remember standing back up. It’s funny, actually. That I just kept standing up. Tears in my eyes, gripping the seat in front of me for balance, I just kept standing up in the middle of the room, while the roadies were still presenting. Good thing I was in the back, because I’m sure people were staring at me. The film, the talk, the staggering realization that this was going on in today’s world, that people weren’t stopping them, that people my age and younger were facing the worst human rights abuses imaginable was just more than my mind could bear. It’s like my body knew that I needed to do something that instance to help the cause, but my mind, in its utter astonishment, just hadn’t caught up yet.


Once the presentation ended, and I figured out how to move my legs again, I started to act. I immediately joined the Frontline, a campaign to raise $2 million in four months for Invisible Children’s Protection Plan. I organized a team in my dorm to raise even though there were only a couple of weeks of the tour left. I was a leader for the first time in my life, it was terrifying and humbling and exhausting. But I did because I wanted to, I needed to. Me, the definition of “that quiet art kid”, wanted to be a leader so that I could share a story that was bigger and more important than myself.  That sort of feeling only comes around a few times in a lifetime.


Young millennial repping the new IC@VT shirt | "The Moment That Made Me | Part 1" | by South Ranch Creative |


This was only the beginning. It was a seed and a spark. A moment. I happened to be there and it changed me forever. But this was only the beginning.


Stay tuned for The Moment That Made Me: Part 2 to see how this spark brought me to life. In the meantime, I’ll be back there reliving all my best and hardest and most inspiring memories since then and trying to pretend I’m not crying at something ridiculous.


Keep taking action and stay true to yourself.