College is stressful, but enjoy it

Lessons taught outside the classroom

By: Autumn Barszczowski

At the end of my second week of junior year, I attended X-Fest, with headliners Bastille and Highly Suspect. But as I struggled through the workload of these past weeks, my mind has been stuck on one of the opening acts: K. Flay.

I’ve spent all day listening to her album and trying to think about what I have learned at Point Park. I’m at the halfway point of my college career, so what have I learned and where do I go from here?

Well, K. Flay has a song titled “It’s Just a Lot,” and honestly, I don’t think anything has better described what I’ve learned at college.

The chorus of the song perfectly sums up everything that I have learned about life during my time here: “It’s just a lot, it’s just a lot / I wanna hold onto the innocence I got / It’s just a lot, it’s just a lot / I wanna care for all the little things I got.”

So, why those lyrics?

After the most overwhelming three weeks of my time here, I realized that’s exactly what college is. It’s just a lot. I could go into detail about why and break down every meeting I’ve attended and every assignment I’ve completed up until this point, but no one has the time for that. Those four words get right to the essence of my college experience.

However, if I must provide detail, one of the things I have learned is that you’re forced to grow up overnight. Most of us had been getting accustomed to the adult life slowly over the summer leading up to our freshmen year, but the moment you step on campus, that’s it. There is no turning back. You’re an adult. You remember the years before fondly (or maybe not), but you can tell that the innocence is slipping away with every essay and presentation.

But from this I learned that the innocence you hold onto can be the simple things. You can hold onto the enjoyment of watching your favorite show in the comfort of your favorite shirt or the joy you feel when your high school friends visit you during breaks to play board games and buy you bubble tea.

I learned your innocence disappears for the most part, but in those moments, the innocence remains. By allowing yourself time to do the things that bring you happiness, you can hold on just enough to remind you that life is not all about stress.

Which is where the last portion of those lyrics comes into play. All I have done throughout these past two years is allow myself to enjoy the little things. While that wasn’t something new I had learned to do (I had a sign in my high school cubicle that said “Enjoy the Little Things.” It was from Claire’s and covered in painted flowers), I thought it was something important to mention.

I’ve met so many people since I got here, and sometimes I think we do not stop to appreciate the little things we encounter. We are so focused on the next big step that we don’t always appreciate things such as the milkshakes we buy or the people who stop to actually ask you how your day is going.

College is just a lot, and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that we can’t let college consume us. We have to be able to enjoy our time here. Enjoying the little things seems to be the only thing we have at times, so why not make it a priority?

We learn a lot at college, but what I’ve taken away from my time so far is that no matter how high the stress levels are, we still deserve to be happy and to feel innocent and carefree, if only for an hour. So from here, I’m going to keep enjoying the pictures I take with strangers’ dogs and the concerts where I don’t know a single lyric, because college is a lot, but it’s not everything.

Originally Published with The Globe
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The old Taylor is dead, but she still has a place in this world

Exploring what we made Taylor Swift do and why it’s important

By: Autumn Barszczowski

 

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Taylor Swift by Nicole Pampena

 

That’s right. The old Taylor Swift is dead. At least, that’s the narrative that Swift is selling in her new single, “Look What You Made Me Do.”
But what exactly does that mean?
Since 2006, we have witnessed Swift present a new version of herself with every album. She’s come all the way from America’s Sweetheart to… Well, however you see her now. Because in 2017, you either have an undying love or never-ending hatred for Taylor Swift.
Or at least, your feelings are based on how authentic or inauthentic you believe her to be. Many see this new Swift as a snake, who is money-crazed and does nothing but play the victim.
The only problem with that view is: Do we actually know who she is? We only see what she presents and, eventually, how the media and other celebrities discuss their own perspective of her well-woven narrative.
We have built up this idea of who she is, and with every new piece of information, we have re-defined what we know about her until the version we see is nothing like the one presented.
The problem with this? We still do not know who Swift really is. We only know what she is selling us, and frankly, no matter how she presents herself, people are no longer willing to buy it.
Over the years, we have seen her reinvent herself enough times that we no longer know who she truly is and, for a while, we didn’t care. She shielded herself from the world and we went along with it.
In her self-titled album “Taylor Swift,” she established her image as America’s Sweetheart. She went from “Tim McGraw” to “Picture to Burn,” where she exposed what it felt like to be in love and to be heartbroken. In “A Place in this World,” she discussed the thoughts we all face regarding growing up and searching for where we belong. It was littered with innocence and uncertainty at what was to come.
Fast forward to her album “1989.” At this point, she has grown up significantly. She found her place in the world through her music. Unfortunately, this is also the moment in time where people were more focused on the drama related to her lyrics than the shared experiences she sang about.
People were analyzing every lyric to see if they could find a story to sell. We began to lose the real Swift as she embraced the fact that she had to fight for her reputation in an effort to keep a hold of the title of America’s Sweetheart.
What many have yet to understand is that, we have taken away her ability to grow. Swift can no longer freely express her anger without people questioning the motives behind every lyric and action.
“Look What You Made Me Do” is Swift’s way of showing people that she can no longer be America’s Sweetheart. That after years of ridiculing her for her breakup songs and the way she handles conflict, she is finally accepting her role as the snake because we will not let her live in any other way.
We have this idea of who she is in our heads, that she has been given no other choice. No matter the effort to keep her music upbeat and innocent, she can no longer maintain it when that isn’t what sells.
Her place in the world is in the music industry and, unfortunately, she will do anything she can to hold onto it.

Originally Published with The Globe

There is (Not) a Feminist World Inside Your Phone – The Emoji Movie

By: Autumn Barszczowski

Before I begin, I should note that there will be spoilers. For my purposes, I cannot avoid them. I apologize in advance if you care enough to eventually see the Emoji Movie.

With every new animated movie, feminists like myself are scouting for strong female characters who do not fall subject to the typical romantic plots that overshadow their ambitions and dreams. We are looking for characters who have more than marriage as their end goal.

Walking into the theater at promptly 4:40 p.m. on July 28, I wondered what I would get out of the movie. I admit, I had grown to ironically love the movie. Everyone around me was sick of hearing “Emoji Movie, coming July 28.” I kept reminding myself that I had this ridiculous, silly movie to look forward to amidst the nightmare that is the United States.

We could escape the serious implications of our president’s actions for an hour and a half to listen to stories about emojis.

However, as the movie progressed, I stopped thinking about the pure joy that came from watching this cinematic masterpiece, and instead began to consider how Jailbreak, a female emoji, would be as a character.

 

In this movie, Gene the meh emoji is on a mission to fix the fact that he expresses too many emotions. In a society that expects him to only be “meh,” he has to fix his “malfunction” so that he will not be deleted. He ends up meeting Hi-5 who agrees to find a hacker that will help Gene solve the issue before the anti-virus bots can send him to the trash.

 

Jailbreak, the “emo” female hacker, starts out as our representation of people who successfully go against society’s roles and expectations. In the snippets I had caught before seeing the movie, she seemed to be Gene’s guide in his journey to the firewall where he would be able to restore himself to his original purpose as a “meh” emoji and rid himself of malfunctions.

 

Everything I knew about her led me to believe she could be a strong female character amongst the wild creation that is the Emoji Movie. I thought for a second that maybe, just maybe, we could salvage something from this movie.

Boy, was I disappointed.

There were clear moments where it seemed like the writers had considered establishing Jailbreak as a feminist character . In fact, I would guess that they had put a solid thirty minutes of research about feminism that they could sprinkle into her character periodically.

For example, the writers start by “surprising” Hi-5 and Gene, who wrongfully assumed that the top hacker would be male. Instead of a male, they find Jailbreak and are forced to say “she” instead of “he.” As a result, the writers show that the best in an industry are not always male.

Then, when she first meets Gene and Hi-5, she tries to brush them off, but she quickly realizes that by helping them, she could help her own hidden mission and dream. It is only when she finds out that she can benefit from the mission that she decides to help them. Thus, Jailbreak isn’t written to be willing to help wherever she is needed, the usual female role. Instead, she has purpose and seeks missions that benefit her goals.

Later, she encounters a moment where Gene and Hi-5 interrupt her thought and begin to claim an idea she has for their escape as their own. Instead of letting them, she firmly reminds them that the idea was in fact hers and she would not stand to have it taken from her. By standing up for herself, she shows that females do not always have to take what is given to them.

But the turn comes in the scenes that follow where we continually hear about how she helped a princess emoji to escape the phone through the cloud. Instead of discussing that journey, she lets Gene and Hi-5 ramble on about the stories they had heard. This is when my brother turned to me and said “I bet you $10 she is the princess emoji.”

I didn’t have to bet him anything because I knew that he was right. I watched as her princess crown is revealed and any hopes of her achieving her goals was lost.

 

Sure, the writers tried to develop her back story with minor emoji history details, like saying that she had left Textopolis (their world) because women could only be a princess or a bride in the first set of emojis.

What they seem to forget though is the underlying romantic plot they thread between Jailbreak and Gene. The moment that plot starts, all hope is lost for the seemingly feminist character.

By the end of the movie, Jailbreak is willing to give up her dream of escaping the phone to stay with Gene. Instead of watching out for number one like she had always done, she remembers that Gene asked her “What good is it to be number one if there aren’t any other numbers.”

 

In that moment, Gene is telling her that she does not need to put herself first because her ambitions are useless without someone else to share it with. Unfortunately for Jailbreak, by not putting herself first, she gives up the opportunity to escape. Instead, she returns to a slightly improved Textopolis for a guy she has just met.

Overall, the movie was everything I expected it to be: Garbage.

But man, I loved watching every second of that train wreck. If you’re into lame jokes and the recycled plot line of Wreck-It Ralph, this is the movie for you. 10/10 would recommend.

Originally Published on Her Campus – Point Park

Caruso Heating

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Originally Published through The Reader’s Choice – Southwest Edition

Caruso Heating was founded over two decades ago and continues to be a family-owned business at 98 McNeilly Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15226. They earned the 2017 Reader’s Choice Southwest Silver award for Best Heating and Air Conditioning.

Caruso heating has been owned by Tony Caruso for the past 25 years. According to him, their services include heating and air conditioning, air quality and humification products. They offer affordable pricing on HVAC units and installation, which includes making their prices fit within your budget.

Caruso discussed how his business follows old school values. The company is dedicated to 100% customer satisfaction. He wants his customers to know that he will tailor their services to fit within the boundaries of their budget.

“We treat and deal with every one of our customer’s on an individual basis. We try to do the job right on the first time around. We try to meet and adjust to customer’s needs on heating and cooling,” Caruso said.

The technicians that work for Caruso are NATE-certified which means that installations will be done right. They rate high with the A+ Better Business Bureau and their workers are NATE-Certified technicians.

They are currently looking to hire HVAC Field Service Technicians. If you are interested in the position, you can call 412-882-6080.

Caruso Heating offers a variety of deals on their HVAC services, including 36-months of no-interest financing and saving up to $1650 in instant rebates.

In response to what customers should know about their services, Caruso said “We are committed to integrity, customer support and product quality.”

They guarantee that customers will be satisfied with their work on the first installation.

When asked about what Caruso believes is unique about his business, he said “We treat the customer’s house and property like it’s our house. We take the same amount of care as if we are working on our own house.”

Railyard Grill and Tap Room

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Originally Published through The Reader’s Choice – Southwest Edition

Railyard Grill and Tap Room, opened in October of 2016, and is known as a New American Craft Cuisine to loyal workers and customers. They are located at 413 Railroad Street in Bridgeville, PA.

“Our goal is to put Bridgeville on the map with quality of food. You don’t have to go downtown to experience a vast beer selection and elevated food selection. We are trying to bring that downtown feel to the South Hills,” said general manager Jeremy Rob.

Railyard and Tap Room has 50 rotating taps along with locally sourced food. They carry drinks from all over the world, but they focus their taps on local Pittsburgh or Pennsylvania beers, ciders and meads. They won two Reader’s Choice awards including a Gold award for Sports Bar and Silver Award for New Restaurant, both in Southwest.

As for their food, Rob said that “Railyard Grill and Tap Room is unique because we source all our beef, pork, all the stuff we get from local farms. It is all local grass-fed and cruelty free. The fish we sell can be swimming around the warm pacific ocean waters of Hawaii one day and in our kitchen 24 hours later.”

The food found at Railyard is homemade or sourced from other nearby businesses. They like to try different dishes at the restaurant but some of their speciality food includes local grass-fed steaks and burgers and craft-beer infused wing sauces.

“Being a new business in the area, we try to partner with other local businesses. Like we use a salad dressing from a place up the street. We are trying to grow the businesses of our partners that we team up with,” said Rob.

In doing this, Railyard is hoping to increase the impact of sustainability in ingredients and food. They make sure that they are creating an environment that helps to build the communication and execution of these ideas while giving people a place to enjoy their food.

On top of the normal dining experience, Railyard also offers a large space to host events and they include a full-banquet menu. They also host a trivia night once a month.

“It’s a neighborhood gathering place where you can get elevated food and a vast beer selection in an environment where the staff is friendly and knowledgable and where people like to keep coming back,” said Rob.

You can find them on Facebook as Railyard Grill and Tap Room and on Instagram @RailyardTap. They are open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Cenacolo

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Originally Published through The Reader’s Choice – Westmoreland Edition

Cenacolo Restaurant started as a small pasta business in Steve and Jen Salvi’s basement. They began selling pasta to Pittsburgh restaurants in 2005 and eventually the business grew into Cenacolo in 2013.

Cenacolo’s is located at 1061 Main Street in North Huntingdon, Pa 15642.  It seats over 120 people and provides a full bar to customers.

“Being in an industrial park, I like when people enter the restaurant for the first time and are taken back by the design of the restaurant” said Steve Salvi in response to what he liked the most about his restaurant.

The pasta they serve is made by them with Italy-imported machines and some of the speciality dishes include tagliolini with crab meat and ricotta gnocchi with short rib ragu.

When asked to describe his restaurant’s services, Steve Salvi said “We are strictly a fresh pasta restaurant.  It is a dining experience that should not be rushed.  From the olives to the lemoncello, it is time to sit back and relax.”

The dining experience he discusses takes about two hours and his food is only a part of it. He believes that the company people bring and his food together create a great time for his customers.

Cenacolo won three awards from Reader’s Choice, including Gold for Ethnic food and Bronze for Romantic Restaurant in Westmoreland  and Bronze for Restaurant in North Huntingdon.

“We are very grateful for the rewards given, but the only rewards we strive for are the smiles at the tables” said Steve Salvi. “I would like our customers to know how grateful we are for their support. To know that we will always strive to give you the best in food, service and experience.

The restaurant also offers pasta classes once a month, sometimes more. You can make Cenacolo favorites and then enjoy them afterwards. To reserve a spot, call 724-515-5983.

“I welcome anyone who is looking for a great pasta meal. It is a dining experience that when you are finished, you feel that it was the best meal you have had in a long time, you feel refreshed and cannot wait to come back and bring your family and friends” said Steve Salvi.

Cenacolo is open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m, Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Sunday they have brunch from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and dinner from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. You can make reservations by calling 724-515-5983.

 

Trib Reader’s Choice “Advertorials”

During March of 2017, Autumn had the opportunity to write “advertorials” for the Trib Total Media Reader’s Choice. She wrote about Cenacolo’s in the Westmoreland edition and about Caruso’s Heating and Railyard Grill and Tap Room in the Southwest edition. To prepare for these pieces, she conducted short interviews with the owners and did research about the businesses on their respective website

The complexities of feeling safe

It’s more than using your common sense

By: Autumn Barszczowski

If I had written this piece one week earlier, I would have focused on how paying attention to my surroundings in downtown is what makes me feel safe at Point Park.

It would have been about how people do not always pay attention like they should because they do not look up from their phones or they listen to their music too loudly.

However, on March 6, the body of Dakota James was found in the Ohio River. From that moment on, my idea of safety was turned upside down and lost amongst the unknown facts of this case.

It was no longer just about paying attention and being able to save myself by controlling my own actions. After a case so close to home leaves more questions than answers, it is hard to prepare yourself to face the day as you usually do.

I have been going Downtown for school since I was 14 years old. That means the coming fall semester marks the beginning of my sixth year as a commuter student. I thought I knew a lot more than most about staying safe in the city.

In fact, the moment my family knew I would be in Downtown Pittsburgh, they began lecturing me on the importance of always keeping my head up and surveying my surroundings. In doing this, they often talked about the situations that everyone fears, including the one that James’ family has been facing since his disappearance.

Up until this point, I thought that being aware of my surroundings was enough. That if I stayed alert and used my “common sense” by never traveling alone or not going home on the bus after a certain time, I would be fine. Surveying my surroundings was supposed to be enough to keep me safe on my way to classes.

Clearly, this is not the case. There are tragedies that can happen no matter how much you look around or how many precautionary steps you take to protect yourself. We cannot control the actions of others simply by controlling our awareness of those people.

Paying attention does not save us from everything. It can help us in small situations like avoiding traffic when crossing the street and staying away from that one student you just cannot stand, but not all situations are that simple.

I feel for the James family and the loss they are enduring. I can’t tell you how future situations like this will pan-out or my ideas on what should happen in terms of safety of going forward. These scenarios are complicated and the solutions will probably not be simple.

All I can tell you is that I hope the family and friends of Dakota James can heal from this loss and that the city can continue to work on creating the best solution for us. It will not come easily, but I hope that with some effort we can grow to make our home a safer place.

Originally published in the Globe

The flaws of American nationalism

Citizens can’t ignore our nation’s past

By: Autumn Barszczowski

When you grow up in the United States, especially after 2001, you are bombarded by American flags and overly-patriotic songs, encouraging you to sing about how you’re obviously proud to be an American.

Well, here it goes: I am not proud to be an American. Or at least, I am not proud of what the reality of being an American means today.

Let me explain. On paper, the United States is meant to be all about freedom for all people, but in translation from paper to reality, we have somehow forgotten the rights that this nation was built on. In the past few weeks, we have taken a step backwards for transgender rights, freedom of the press and have taken a step closer to the nationalism that I fear.

This nationalism I speak of is this idea that the United States is the best country in the world. That this country is the greatest, can do no wrong and is always the winner. In the past few years, the nationalism that I witness the most, is a blind love for a country whose flaws people refuse to recognize.

The more I learn about the United States, the more I realize how willing we are to cover up the dark spots in our history.

I did not learn until 10th grade about the treatment that was received by Vietnam soldiers after they returned from a war that many were forced to fight. It wasn’t until 11th grade that I learned about the amount of indigenous people that were enslaved or killed by Christopher Columbus, our national hero. It took me until high school to see that our history is not as squeaky clean as I once thought.

I have learned that growing up in this country after 9/11 meant that I would continue to be taught this clean history, expected to stand for the national anthem and Pledge of Allegiance, even when I didn’t agree with the words and that I would keep my mouth shut about the glaring flaws of our country.

I cannot let myself stand by and watch as these groups of people who cannot see the hatred that is brewing at the core of their nationalism. The hatred that is taking away rights that people have just gained. The hatred that has taken away the voices of the people who continue to be oppressed in this country.

I can’t be proud of a country that says that all men are equal, but only means that all white men are equal. That being a woman, or being black, LGBT, Muslim, Mexican, disabled or anything outside of the realm of the “perfect American” means that your concerns will not be heard.

That instead, you’ll watch as your media becomes “fake news” for millions of people just because the president says so. That you’ll watch as your rights continue to be dismantled before you and that everything that has been gained in the past eight years continues to crumble.

America is meant to be for all people. I cannot find myself being proud to call myself a citizen of this nation until we truly take into account the writing that our country was built on and work on making that written freedom into a reality for everyone.

One day, I think that I could be proud of our country. The numerous protests that have happened in Pittsburgh alone have given me faith that we can restore what has been damaged. Maybe not for a long time but, eventually, it could happen.

So I’ll keep my faith in those people who continue to fight back and until then, I’ll stand my ground about why I cannot be proud of this country until it recognizes its flaws and finds a way to improve them.

Originally published in The Globe

Ranking important issues in your life

It’s all a matter of perspective

By: Autumn Barszczowski

The other day while sitting in my research class, a fellow student handed out a survey about his client’s brand. One question stood out to me as it asked respondents to rank a number of issues (like animal rights, feminism, etc.).

The idea of ranking the most important human rights or environmental causes in order from one to seven was a strange concept to me. However, since I am an advertising student, I understood that this helped researchers to establish my lifestyle, feelings and personality.

Ranking these issues felt like deciding which wound to try and heal first, at least in my mind. In some ways, it almost makes me feel guilty because in a perfect world, you would not have to decide which was more important to you because you’d be able to dedicate the same amount of time to worrying about each.

But the world isn’t perfect so without consciously knowing it, we begin to rank the issues in our mind. As a bisexual, cisgender white woman who grew up in an impoverished neighborhood, I have been faced with and witnessed a variety of issues in my life.

I was presented with the grief and stereotypes faced by my black classmates. I was faced with the beauty and lady-like standards that I was supposed to follow as a woman. I watched as my friends feared for how society would view them due to who they loved or who they were.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, when these issues are constantly in your face, they tend to rank higher. Putting a numerical value to an issue almost seems silly, but they speak a lot to who you are as a person and what you are faced with in life.

You do not consciously decide that something is less important; it just doesn’t feel as urgent when it is not constantly affecting how you live your life or even the lives of those around you.

I attended a public middle school with a large population of black students in a poor neighborhood. We did not focus much on climate change because we were focusing on diversity, and acceptance was much more relevant to the students.

Immediately following that, climate change and environmental issues grew in importance for me because my high school focused on recycling and emphasizing environmental issues alongside diversity in race, gender and sexual orientation.

Over the course of the past few years, I’ve been able to see how these issues became more or less important as you grow and learn more about the world. The importance of these issues at that time in your life reflect the world you were faced with and the perspective that you had.

That is perhaps the one upside to examining our own individual rankings. You can see exactly where you are or were in life just by the issues you fight for, and how you have grown as an individual.

Originally published in The Globe