Wonder: Taking action to get more kids into and through college at 826DC

Last night, I volunteered at 826DC to help teens with their college essays. It turned out that the essays were the least of their issues. The student I was helping turned to me at one point and said, “I’m so overwhelmed. I know I need to do this and I don’t know what I’m doing and I don’t have anyone to help me.” She’s the first person in her family to go to college, she doesn’t have a guidance counselor who cares, and she feels a lot of pressure from her family to make this happen.

This interaction brought back all those feelings for me. I was incredibly fortunate to have a guidance counselor, Mr. Weary, who did so much to help me. I knew he was in my corner and he was rooting for me every step of the way. (When I didn’t get into Princeton, my first choice school, he called their admissions office and gave them a piece of his mind. That’s how invested he was!) He was a gift and I knew it.

Not everyone has a Mr. Weary so in that moment at 826DC, I decided that I needed to play that role for this student. We each took a deep breath, and we went through the online application step by step. It wasn’t difficult to explain the parts of the application; this student just needed someone, anyone, to be in this with her.

Then we got to the financial section and she got really nervous. She doesn’t want to take loans. To her, debt is a frightening prospect. And I get that, too. I started working at 14 to help my family, and then I put myself through college and grad school thanks to financial aid of every conceivable kind and a lot of part-time jobs in college. I know debt is scary though when it comes to college, it seems to be a part o every solution in which parents aren’t paying outright for college. I don’t know if I convinced her to reconsider this idea, but at least I could offer myself as an example of someone who was in her shoes and worked hard to get into and through school.

As I walked home, I thought about what I could do to help more students and parents, particularly ones who feel overwhelmed by all of it. And then I got myself caught in the train of thought that senior year is too late. Student need to have their eyes on the prize of college in late middle school and early high school. They need to learn about how to get in, how to stay in, how to graduate, and how to pay for all of it while keeping themselves healthy and sane during an insanely stressful time in their lives. Education, writing, yoga and meditation, finance, technology, and healthcare. I have all that professional experience, and I’ve been where those students are. And I know what it’s like to climb the mountain and then enjoy the view you never even dreamed was possible.

If you have ideas of how I could do more for students like the one I helped at 826DC, I’d love to hear them.


Wonder: Maybe it’s about attracting what we want and making it happen

I’m sitting in meditation a little longer these days, getting more sleep, and consciously making more time to relax and be. I force myself to do it. I wish relaxing came more naturally to me. I wish I didn’t judge my days by how many items I crossed off my to-do list. That’s how I’m built and it’s served me well. But here’s what also serves me well – focus. And that’s what meditation, rest, and relaxation instills in us. There are two ways to manifest the life we want—make it happen and draw the goodness toward us. I recommend a healthy dose of both.


Wonder: It’s always a good time to pursue your dream

“Hold fast to dreams for it dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly. Hold fast to dreams for if dreams go, life is a barren field frozen with snow.” ~Langston Hughes

The guy I’m meant to be with believes in dreams as much as I do. On Sunday I went on a date with a new guy. He talked so passionately about food policy and public policy, the field that he studied for his PhD so I was surprised when he said he was an examiner at the patent office. I asked him why he wasn’t pursuing his passion around food in some way, even through hobbies and in his free time, and his response bummed me out: “At this point in my life, I’ve accepted that the best I can do is have a job I don’t hate.” Ouch! This person will never possibly understand me or appreciate my belief in dreams.

I’m a firm believer in the idea that we come across the people we do, when we do, for a very important reason. Though this guy and I are roughly the same age, we are miles apart in terms of how we think about life, our dreams, and our purpose. His response made me believe in my path more than ever, and strengthened my resolve to find someone who see dreams and life the way that I do. I can’t imagine ever giving up on my dreams. Even if I don’t achieve all of them, the pursuit is more than worth it. And so is yours. Please don’t give up. We can all do better than just having a job we don’t hate.


Wonder: What I wish I could tell my 20-year-old self

On Saturday, my friend, Chris, and I went to look at a house I’m interested in buying. We were sitting on the porch waiting for my wonderful agent, Yo-G, to arrive to show us the house. Chris and I grew up in a similar socioeconomic situation and we started talking about how lucky we both are. Our educations literally saved our lives, and the road wasn’t easy but it was worth it. For me to even sit on that porch with the possibility of making an offer on it is a dream come true. I feel the same way when I go out to eat, take a trip, or even pay my monthly bills. While it sounds simple, I’m glad I’m able to do all of that and still save for my future. For so long, that felt out of reach.

I wish I could go back and tell my 20-year-old self that everything’s going to be fine, that eventually after a lot of hard work and hardship life would get easier, less stressful, and be fulfilling in so many ways. I wish I could save her the sleepless nights, constant worries, deep depression, and intense fear that plagued so much of her college years into her 20s and 30s. I guess that’s why I’m so intent now on mentoring and helping young people. I can’t go back and save myself that stress, but I can help others who are on the same path. I can let them know that with determination they will be ale to build a life they love. And the difficult path certainly has an upside – it made me so grateful for what I have today.  I’m glad I got to see the world from my view now, and I’m intent on taking other people with me while I rise.


Wonder: It’s time to dream bigger

We put a fair amount of time and effort into shielding ourselves from disappointment by shrinking our dreams. What if we just realized that we are strong enough to roll with the punches, whatever they are and however often they come? And what if we redeployed the energy we spend on shielding ourselves from disappointment into actually hoping for and working for the best possible outcome? What if we took that energy to dream bigger and then make those dreams come true? Let’s do that. Let’s expand our view of what we think is possible, what we believe we can do, and how far we think we can go. And then let’s encourage other people to do the same. Dream it, and then bring it to life.


Wonder: Getting my health and wealth in order thanks to Fidelity

Yesterday, I attended a lunchtime webcast about health and wealth for personal and professional reasons. I want to make sure I’m doing everything possible to take care of my finances and my health. It was run by Fidelity and featured personal finance journalist Jean Chatzky and Dr. Mike Roizen from the Cleveland Clinic. It was incredibly helpful so I wanted to share the highlights that they sent in a presentation at the end of the webcast. I hope it’s as helpful to you as it was to me.




Wonder: I’ll be talking about YA books on the Lit to Lens podcast

I’m really excited to let you know I’ll be talking about young adult books and about my book, Where the Light Enters, on the Lit to Lens podcast. We’re recording at the end of this month and then it will publish shortly after that. I’m thrilled to talk about this wonderful genre and the impact it has on our young people’s lives.


Wonder: How to make sure you’re making time for your priorities

“We must learn to say no to some opportunities in order to say yes to our priorities.” ~Jocelyn K. Glei

I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea lately. We have taken the idea of “when opportunity knocks…” to an extreme limit. We worry about what people will think, say, and do if we don’t do X, Y, and Z. It’s a lot to manage. Recently I’ve gone back to an old filter I used to use that served me well for a long time. Here it is: If I can’t say “hell, yes” to an opportunity, then it’s a “no”. I’m going to try it again and see how it goes. How do you separate opportunities from priorities?



Wonder: A big thank you to the men who won’t condone Donald Trump’s comments about women

I have to admit that Donald Trump’s comments on Friday really upset me. What was more upsetting was to hear people in St. Louis cheering him on and laughing at his jokes. All day yesterday I felt upset about it, and then I started noticing something. So many of my male friends and men whom I admire made their perspectives loud and clear, in my conversations with them and all over social media: those comments are completely unacceptable and no, Mr. Trump, not all men talk that way. Not even close.

To the many men in this world who continue to speak out in support of women, I’m so grateful. I appreciate your candor, decency, and courage. It’s easy to hide behind the locker room talk excuse. You’re rising above it. Bravo! And please, for the sake of our entire nation, keep speaking your minds loud and clear well beyond election day. We need you.


Wonder: In every career, you can strive to make the world a better place

“What I build can influence the way people behave in these spaces. For me, architecture is a social act.” ~David Adjaye, architect

In every career, we have the ability to build a better world. We can follow our deepest personal passions and serve others at the same time. For so long, I thought I had to choose between making myself happy and helping others. To now know that I don’t have to choose has given me a lot of freedom.

I’ve been watching a lot of videos and reading a lot of books this past week about David Adjaye, the architect who designed, among many other buildings, the National Museum of African American History and Culture. He sees architecture as a form of justice, as a way to influence the behavior and mindset of a community. These may not be the end goals of architecture on the surface of the work, but they are the root of David’s work. It is a wonderful reminder to us that in every career there are ways to do well and do good.