Mastering a Goal

Good morning and Happy Monday! I’ve been a little more quiet on the blog lately, because I’ve been putting the finishing touches on a very long-term goal… my THESIS!

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I started graduate school in 2010, twoweeks after I got married, and two months after I had scored a big promotion. I remember nervously sitting around a table of unfamiliar faces, still glowing from my honeymoon, starting to freak out a little bit as my eyes scanned the lengthy syllabus of research methods. At work, I went from a copywriter to a content manager, managing a team of three people, writing Facebook updates and blogs for nine different brands. I worked at least 45 hours a week and went to class at night, exhausted, bleary-eyed and hungry, but I made it through with my laptop, diet coke and the support of my husband and family.

I had intended for grad school to take two years, but as the reality of school set in, I knew it would take longer. I ended up staying for three years, and in those three years, I met wonderful friends, some of whom read this blog. (Hi Julie, Emily, Lauren, Virginia and Luis!) I also worked my way through stress-eating (Something I’m still fighting), cried when my 36 page literature review came back for the 10th time needing more revisions (I’m not exaggerating. That %&$#! lit review came back ten times!), traveled to Thailand, lost my sweet kitty Leo, and did a million other things. Life always went on, but it went on with a giant weight on my shoulders – my thesis. I turned down fun party invitations, missed family vacations and spent hours glued to my computer. I wrote and re-wrote huge chunks of the same text, over and over again. I made a lot of sacrifices for the past three years to work on this thesis, but I was always grateful I had the opportunity to be learning and to be in grad school. It was hard. But I did it.

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The first photo of me as Alyssa Curran, MA. Taken minutes after my thesis was approved – with happy tears still shiny in my eyes!

Last Thursday, at 2 pm, I paced the hallways of the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media and Communication while my thesis committee deliberated my final project. I had come prepared with 106 pages of my own work, two PDFs of the social media handbook you can read at SocialSyllabi.com, and a cheat sheet of notes. I defended my project in front of two women I greatly respect, both who are doctorates, one in education, one in journalism, women who have worked at the Los Angeles Times and have been embedded in war zones. At the end of an hour and a half of changes, they signed a paper and shook my hand – I had just earned my master’s degree!

When they signed the paper, I wanted to leap across the table and hug them. Tears flooded my eyes and I had to do that embarrassing fan-your-face thing to prevent myself from bursting into happy, joyous tears. I have worked SO HARD for this degree, and I am so proud of myself. I’m not usually a braggart (ok, fine, sometimes I can be), but I’ve been basking in my accomplishment the past week. I have a MASTER’S DEGREE before I’m even 28 years old. THAT is awesome. THAT is accomplishment. THAT is hard work, and opportunity, and commitment – and THAT reminds me that this whole weight loss thing? It might be the hardest thing I’ve ever worked on in my life, but I can do this, too. My Master’s Degree taught me a lot. Not just about dedication and time, but about perseverance. About not throwing in the towel when all you want to do is quit. About keeping going, when your eyes are heavy and your heart is tired. About not comparing yourself to others, about realizing this journey is your own – no one elses, and if your heart is in it, you will get there, regardless of your pace. I need to remember these thoughts, these feelings, when the number on the scale is up, when my jeans feel snug, when I compare myself to a thin girl and think that I am not enough. I can do this. I will do this.

My sweet friend Ruby and I in 2008. We are still friends to this day!

My sweet friend Ruby and I in 2008. We are still friends to this day!

My master’s degree is so much more to me than just a paper saying I’m well educated in the field of mass communication and media. It’s a reminder for me that when I work hard, I can do anything. I just need to remember to take it one step at a time, believe in myself, and try my best. On May 21 I’ll once again walk across the Oviatt Library steps, exactly five years after I earned my BA in Journalism in the same spot. In a lot of ways, I’m a different person than who I was in 2008, but one thing remains the same – my ambition to make my life worth living to the fullest, every minute of every day. I am proud of the person I am, and you should be proud of who you are, too.

So tell me – what is one thing in your life, big or small, that makes you proud of the person you are today?

 

Fat Betty Draper on Mad Men – Let the fat shaming continue

Do you watch Mad Men? I recently got into the show, and ripped through all of the episodes on Netflix, one after another, on hazy Friday nights with a glass of wine and husband by my side. I really like it because it bears a lot of similarities to what I do for my day job (and yes, that is unfortunate in some ways), and it’s a well written, cheeky show.
~~~~Spoiler Alert: Do not keep reading if you haven’t seen the episode yet! ~~~~~~

Last night was the second show of the season, and there seems to be ONE thing everybody is focusing on. Fat Betty Draper. Betty Draper is the frosty yet freakishly beautiful housewife – the ex wife of creative director Don Draper and current wife of politician Henry Francis. Much of her role on the show has been to serve as the 1950s arm candy to her husbands – as a lithe, gorgeous blonde, her main job was to prove to hungry potential business partners that her husband(s) (be it advertising or politics) were all around good guys.

January Jones, the real life actress who plays Betty, was pregnant while filming, so the writers decided to write her in as having a potential thyroid problem, and in the episode she appears to have gained 30-40 pounds. The scene opens with her trying to squeeze into a dress and faking sick when she realizes she can’t get into it. I really empathized with Betty through out the episode – as someone who has perpetually been fat, I know what it’s like to feel like your whole self worth is based on your jeans size. The show was very well written, and didn’t seem to focus on fat as a bad thing, just a change for appearance in a main character.

However, I’m more interested in the reaction of the public. Check out this headline by the Hollywood Reporter – c’mon – was the pun THAT good? Really?

People all over Twitter showed their emotions with expressive tweets like these:

“Betty (Draper) Francis really needs to die. Can’t stand her and now that she is fat, she serves no purpose.”

“My motivation to hit the gym today is chubby Betty Draper.”

“After seeing what fat Betty Draper looks like, I kind of want to starve myself…”

“ill correct that. january jones pregnant. not betty draper fat. thats gross.”

I just want to know what it is about FAT that freaks people out in such an extreme way. I understand the tweets above are directed at a character, not a real person, but the reality is we all know plenty of people who look like Betty or are even heavier. Even with her excess weight she was a stunner, but people can’t seem to handle her metamorphosis from string bean beauty queen to larger leading lady.

Why do people hate fat people so much? Is the sight of obesity really so vulgar and offensive? Also, what makes fat people an easier target to pick on? Sure, sure, people picked on Angelina’s weight at the Oscars – many claimed she was skeletal – but I think this leads to a bigger issue, that we’re a society so accustomed to constantly picking apart the physical appearance of women that it’s become the norm. If Don Draper had porked up in the episode, I bet the reactions would have been more along the lines of, “Oh, he’s got a big beer gut – too much schmoozing with the secrataries!”, and his portliness would be applauded as a direct result of his success, not that he “let himself go”.

What do you think? As a fellow voluptuous blonde, am I just being too sensitive to people’s harsh comments about fat Betty?

5 years and 20 pounds – What a difference it makes!

Young Lyssa and Older Lyssa

Hey everyone!  As most of you know, I’m a grad student, studying Mass Media Communication at Cal State Northridge. What is the study of mass communication, you ask? Mass Communication is the proper name for the field of study of Mass Media – any means of communication used to disseminate information en masse. I’m most interested in how people consume media – what it does to our brains, how it makes us feel, think, act, react, etc. You can blame studying mass media for my lack of blogging the next few months. 🙂

I’m halfway through my grad program and I finally took the time last week to get my new student ID. The picture on top was taken at the beginning of 2006, when I was about 20 pounds heavier than I am now. At that time in my life, I didn’t exercise, I ate a lot more crap, and I had no idea what the number on the scale was. I’ve always hated this picture because my face is super round, my hair looks like Amy Grant stuck her finger in a light socket, and I have a gummy, fake smile. It’s just a bad picture. The picture on the bottom was taken last week,  and when I compared the two – WOW, what a difference 5 years and 20 pounds makes!!!

The new picture shows me as a young woman – no longer just an undergrad student working 20 hours a week in bookkeeping, but now, it shows a wife, writer, online content manager and graduate student. It shows somebody who eats lots of fruit and vegetables, somebody who boxes for an hour on Saturday mornings, and somebody who now at least *tries* to avoid the siren song smell of popcorn at the movie theatre. My face looks more mature, and I look happier, leaner, more confident. (I’m also a lot more stressed out than I was in the first picture, but hey, I’m a lot busier now too! haha!)

This picture was exactly what I needed to see because I’ve recently been getting a little bit down about why I can’t seem to just commit and lose the weight. Even though the weight’s not coming off as fast as I’d like it to, I’m at a better place now than I was five years ago. Every little bit counts. Pictures like these are a reminder that all small efforts eventually lead to something bigger and more grand.

(PS: My weigh in Saturday showed a loss of 1.5 pounds – finally down after a few yo-yo weeks!)

Do you have any pictures that make you go ‘Wow, how the times have changed!”?

 

Big Sexy

I heard of TLC’s new show “Big Sexy” via word of mouth before I actually saw it being promoted. A few of my friends asked me what I thought about it, and being a “big sexy” myself, I decided I had to check it out.

The show follows “Five Fabulous and Fierce Fashion Divas” living their lives in New York City. The episode I watched tonight was about a singles party. Here are my initial thoughts (I’ll be tuning in later tonight, too – but these are my thoughts after watching the show for the first time.)

  • These chicks ARE actually big. So often in mass media, representatives of “plus size” are barely topping a size 10 and look just like your average sister, mom, cousin or girlfriend. Plus-sized means PLUS SIZED, aka, having to buy clothes from the ‘fat lady’ department. I like that these girls have “plus sized street cred”, if that makes sense, and they’re not the usual skinny girls with cellulite moaning about their fat thighs. Kudos to TLC on casting accurate body types for a show that’s about, well, big bodies.

  • Some of the typical comments from the brilliant citizens of the internet about this show are that it’s “promoting and celebrating the lifestyle of the obese”. I’m obese – and do I celebrate my life? Hell yes, I celebrate my life – I celebrate every breath I breathe, every rose that blooms in my garden, every day that I wake up next to my sweet husband. Life is something to be celebrated. I’m not going to mourn because I have fifty pounds to lose. Like my figure, my life is FULL. There’s a difference between celebrating obesity and celebrating life. These girls are proud of who they are. They have work to do to be healthy, and they acknowledge it – but they’re confident, happy and successful at the same time. I know this goes against mass media’s typical representation of the fat kid, but it’s time to progress. Lots of fat people are miserable, but lots of fat people are happy, too. One size does not fit all. It’s 2011. Celebrating life is a sign of gratitude, wisdom and knowledge – not celebrating the fact that you binged on cupcakes and can’t button your jeans.

  • TV is still up to its usual tricks. In one scene, the girl aspiring to be a plus sized model is shown boxing at the gym, and then it cuts to her working out on the treadmill. The camera zoomed in at least three times on her ample bottom. I don’t know if TLC zoomed in on her ass to be like “Hey male viewers! Look at this booty!” or to be like “Hey viewers! Here’s a big fat ass! We’re going to zoom in on it to make you worry if your ass looks big!” Regardless of the intent, it felt gratuitous and degrading, no matter the size of the ass. Women fight a battle EVERY DAY to be seen as equals and don’t tell me it doesn’t happen, because I see it happen on a daily basis. Zooming in on asses, cleavage and tummy rolls only further perpetuates the idea that we are THINGS, things that are made to be owned, prodded and analyzed. Size 20 or Size 2 – We are people. Leave the ass shots to Jersey Shore.

  • While I admire the fact that there is a show purely for larger women, I sometimes wish TV could just integrate and that so called “Reality television” could actually be realistic. I don’t choose friends based on their weight, so it seems weird to me that shows are always “segmented” by body type or appearance (think Real World, Jersey Shore, The Hills, etc). Does TV need to be so US and THEM? America’s Next Top Model integrates plus sized models among the regular sized models, and I always thought that was a refreshing change. TLC’s “Big Bliss” is another example of plus-sized programming. It’s great to have diversity, but I hope for the future that media will not always be so categorized. The reality is that big fat people mingle with little skinny people in real life – so reality television should follow suit. If we’re representing the mass – make sure it looks mass.

What do you think about “Big Sexy”? Have you watched it? No matter your size, how does it or other shows like it make you feel? Chime in!