Category: Lauren Mottel

“The Seven Deadly Sins of Working from Home” by Lauren Mottel

With the current fall semester well underway, it’s hard to believe how quickly time has passed, with days upon weeks upon months since March and summer blending together into one purgatorial blur. I truly could’ve sworn that everyone was exchanging frog bread recipes and sharing other spring quarantine hobbies just the other day. However, staying at home for such an extended period of time can definitely have an impact on your behavior, inducing a monotonous cycle of waking, eating, working, and sleeping, akin to how the carefree, do-nothing quality of summer encourages rejuvenating laziness. What’s more, the adjustment period between the end of summer and the start of the school year is only exacerbated by the dull routines of quarantine, in which the sudden mountain of assignments, exams, and projects creates an abrupt change of pace that can leave just about anyone suffering from the whiplash of it all. 

Therefore, as we emerge from this blurred, purgatorial mindset and hit the books to do our best to muscle through this virtual semester, here are (in no particular order) the Seven Deadly Sins of Working from Home you may need to watch out for: 

1. Improper Zoom Etiquette: A Lesson in Hubris

Listen, we’ve all been there, but let’s just cut to the chase: please remember to mute yourselves. There’s nothing worse than to be listening in on a lecture only to hear the feedback noise of a classmate talking to their roommate—or in rare cases, cooking in the kitchen—ultimately drowning out the voice of your instructor. What’s worse is when your professor either mishears it to be a potential question and patiently takes the time to wait (only to be greeted with silence) or stresses for everyone to mute themselves, while you are none the wiser. Wow, I can’t believe people still need to be reminded to mute themselves, one may wonder. We’ve been virtual since March, you may think. Pride cometh before the fall. 

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“The Art of Solitude” by Lauren Mottel

For as long as I can remember, I have had this underlying feeling of curiosity in my bones, an itching to create—in whatever form it may take—and a large part of that feeling came from school. I read any book in sight and tried to pick up on storytelling. I would peer at the dance of light on a fruit bowl and transfer that to still lifes for middle school art class. I analyzed iambic pentameter in English class and composed my own poems with their own heartbeat of a  rhythm. Constructed stories out of Spotify music playlists, tried my hand at photography—quite literally anything. However, as I grew older, my class schedules left less room for the arts in exchange for a looming tower of labs and lectures. Yes, I will admit, the standard essay for English 110 and colloquium or lab reports may do the trick sometimes, yet other times I can’t help but feel creatively stifled, and over time this feeling can build quite dangerously. 

There’s a certain restlessness with being idle for too long, now more than ever in this quarantine; it’s a very acute feeling, as if your fingertips tremble with the ghost of a twitch. By the same token, there are times where you can’t help but feel the weight of this quarantine as loneliness. As someone who has danced along the precipice of burnout more frequently than preferred in my very young life thus far, the desire to be productive being blocked by such a weight can be very debilitating. Yet with the two together, restlessness and curiosity, one can begin to reframe that loneliness as quiet solitude. To me, there’s a drastic difference between the two. From my perspective, loneliness has always been something that grew from insecurities and relentlessly ate at my mental health, draining color from life, whereas solitude is isolation willingly taken up, a time for self-reflection and expression when you have the time to notice the different shades of green in the garden, the rhythm of your breathing, or the way branches dance in the wind—life’s colors become brighter. The difference between the two is awareness—awareness of the life around you—and with restlessness and curiosity, it stimulates a desire to create something that can imitate and immortalize that life in whatever form necessary. Continue reading

“The Good Place and Stress Management” by Lauren Mottel

Welcome! Everything is Fine. At least, the latter is what you try to tell yourself as you grapple with a mountain’s worth of papers, homework assignments, and midterm study sessions—to the point where you just know that the “recommended” eight hours of sleep is going to be just  another pipe dream. Even now, with what seems like an eternal loop of “Special Report” coronavirus updates on all the news channels, the combined stress no doubt feels physically and mentally exhausting. We’ve all been there, truly. Nevertheless, those four words are also what greet you when you enter the afterlife, at least according to The Good Place

Written and produced by Michael Schur, famed creative behind The Office and co-creator of Parks & Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Good Place follows the stories of Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper), Tahani Al-Jamil (Jameela Jamil), and Jason Mendoza (Manny Jacinto) during their time in The Good Place, designed by the architect Michael (Ted Danson) and managed by a “Janet” (D’Arcy Carden), a humanoid database of all the knowledge of the universe. However, this takes a turn when it turns out that Eleanor—a supposed death row lawyer but in actuality an “Arizona trash bag”—is placed there by mistake and tries to earn her place there by learning ethics from Chidi, a former moral philosophy professor, while also trying not to blow her cover. 

It’s pretty much common convention that college students are professional binge watchers, capable of watching hours of content within the most unbelievable of time frames (time frames when we really should have been crossing some work off of our agendas, but alas). Regardless, this show is no exception, holding a coveted spot in my top ten list of shows, and there is no better time to chip away at your “To Watch” list than now.  Though I can’t provide much more context aside from this in order to avoid spoilers, the four seasons of The Good Place are designed with the creative precision of a Swiss watch, discussing major philosophical concepts with plenty of quick-witted humor slipped under the door that will make you belly laugh, alongside truly mind-boggling twists and satisfying character arcs. 

The characters and the chemistry they share in particular are what make this show so special to me and many other viewers. The Good Place was my go-to show to watch in the background while I did work/attempted to do work because in trying to manage my school work, I was enraptured by the storyline and found myself picking up on coping mechanisms exhibited by the characters’ personal developments—coping mechanisms that have been helping me from getting quarantine cabin fever during this difficult time. So without further ado, I present The Good Place’s Guide to Stress Management: Continue reading

“The End of the Year & My Spotify Wrapped” by Lauren Mottel

There is something special about December. It holds a certain nostalgia from childhood that is almost tangible — the warm, gentle glow of a fireplace; being bundled in a love of family and friends; the wafting scents of gingerbread and pine; that feeling you get where the clouds hang heavy and the air smells like snow’s about to fall. And, of course, there’s nothing compared to the unbridled joy of getting a call for the all-holy Snow Day.

 As we grow older, we make more and more associations with December, whether it be important deadlines, dreaded finals, or feeling as if we’re running out of time — especially with this year marking the end of not only the year, but the 2010s. This month also becomes a time of self-reflection, which brings a newfound sense of fulfillment, brimming with potential, and not to sound like a cliché motivational Instagram page, but it truly is crazy how much happens in one year, especially for freshmen such as myself. A year ago today, we were submitting college applications, with proms, graduation, and a genuine summer with no school work sitting as far specks on the horizon. A year ago today, we had no clue about the walks from Redding to Willard, building an automaton out of posterboard, or the bottomless pit of Turf rocks that collect in our shoes. We were completely different people then, with completely different people in our daily lives than those who are present now. 

December truly is a contemplative time when we can reminisce about our childhood and witness how much we’ve grown as individuals, and it just so happens that in recent years, we’ve been able to reflect on the past year in another fun and fresh manner: the annual Spotify Wrapped playlist (my condolences to all my AppleMusic users — this won’t be 100% relatable content, and if you still use Pandora — we need to talk). An in-depth analysis of your past year in music, from summer jams and lo-fi study beats, to songs to sing in the shower and songs from your “Mercury is in Retrograde, and Now My Life is Crumbling”-esque playlist, all wrapped up in one collection. 

In my (very humble) opinion, Spotify’s algorithm and graphic design team really outdid themselves with both the stats and presentation this year. I appreciated how Wrapped showed how your music taste shifted in the season — from wistful acoustics in the winter to the upbeat melodies of summer — because it’s representative of how we felt in those moments during the year, capable of bringing up memories long forgotten and reminding you of how those memories molded you into the individual you are today. 

Another new feature I appreciated was the World Citizen, where it broke down the countries of various artists; of course, some of mine were really obvious, with Lorde in New Zealand and ABBA for Sweden, but it also led to pleasant surprises, like discovering Hozier is from Ireland (the more you know!). The World Citizen feature is not unlike how we are broadening our horizons here in college — every day is a new opportunity to meet new people and have conversations about worldviews different than your own. This extends into another graphic in this year’s Wrapped, which included a bar graph of your top five genres listened to. In displaying the variety of genres you listen to most, I was reminded of how we as individuals  (and sleep-deprived college students) are not subject to only one genre, but rather contain multitudes and contain the most potential to explore what we desire to any extent. 

And, of course, the stats we all look for in our Spotify Wrapped: Artist of the Year, this time including Artist of the Decade in celebration of the end of the 2010s. I regret to report that after four years of having Sleeping At Last as my top artist (highly recommended, by the way), he has been dethroned by the (equally talented and lovely) Florence + the Machine. I won’t lie, it was a lot to take in. I had to sit down. Spotify pairs this by showing how much time you’ve spent listening each year toughout the decade, and like showing the top artists, it shows the time and dedication you have put into supporting these artists, appreciating their work, and catering to your study session needs. It also demonstrates and promotes the connections made between artists and their fans, which I found to be particularly beautiful, because it proves that we are truly never alone. 

Ultimately, December can bring many things: the holidays, finals, cozy nights in, existential crises, etc. — y’know, the usual — but it also brings self-reflection, and what better way to look back on your year than to listen to its very soundtrack? Obviously, growing up and finding our place in this world can be anything but easy, but at least we are able to shed some light on our troubles and embrace those feelings through music to help us cope. In the wise words of Smash Mouth, “the years start comin’ and they don’t stop comin,'” but we can at least say that for this semester, that’s a wrap!

“The Anatomy of a College Freshman” by Lauren Mottel

Picture this: the sun starts to peek out from the horizon, casting a warm glow on the autumn leaves, and a golden light trickles in through the window as you open your eyes, stretch, and sigh, basking in the warmth. You have a feeling it’ll be a good day today. You hear birds chirping, and—well, actually, they don’t sound all that pleasant anymore, each tweet getting louder and more jarring until—

Your 7:30 alarm is going off, causing your roommates to stir. The warm glow you were basking in was just the lamp you left on from last night’s study grind, and it’s, in fact, incredibly dreary and bleak outside. You stumble out of bed and attempt to get dressed before your 8:00 AM lab, only to make it halfway across the Turf to realize you left your lab goggles before sprinting back and to your class, furiously skirting around slow walkers so as not to be late. 

We’ve all been there. 

In fact, this happened to me within the first couple of weeks of classes, and while I was working on the biology lab, it had occurred to me that despite taking plenty of science classes throughout high school, I never took anatomy. I completely missed out on the cliché high school biology experience. Therefore, I took it upon myself to study anatomy independently during this first semester—the anatomy of a college freshman, that is. 

The Brain

Here we see reduced serotonin levels prompted by a failed attempt at time management and severe lack of sleep (see: midterms). College is a big adjustment that should not be underestimated; it requires a lot of mental and physical energy in adapting to living in dorms and navigating your schedule to find a balance between academics and hanging out with friends, and that’s not even taking into account dealing with being away from family, even if you do live locally. It’s important to recognize when your neurons get especially fried and to take the time to distract your brain with other things, like listening to music or watching The Great British Bake Off

The Heart

Despite the bags under your eyes that are so heavy they’re considered checked luggage by TSA, there is a love of learning and ambition to excel that drive everything you do. Pursuing higher education is no small feat, and in remaining passionate enough in a field to make a career out of it, you’re beginning to take the first steps into the stages of adulthood. This is further upheld by the love and support of your family and friends as you embark on such an endeavor.

The Hands

The hands of a college freshman can be found either desperately hitting snooze on 7:00 AM alarms or timers for in-between class naps, feverishly texting the group chat about an online quiz, or mildly shaking from drinking one-too-many cold brew coffees, sustained by the Caffeinated Quartet of Dunkin’, Starbucks, Peet’s, and Caribou Coffee. Regardless, your hands are what allow you to create, network, and stress-bake your way through life.

The Stomach

Among the most common things that come up in conversation when talking about college is the dreaded Freshman Fifteen, and with constant access to UDairy at the dining halls with an unlimited meal plan, this is proving to be quite the problem. With Caesar Rodney, Russell, the Harrington Pod, and Perkins all within walking distance from Redding, eating habits can quickly take a turn, but with there sometimes being an awkward hour break between classes or ungodly long lecture periods, you have to make the most of the time you have so as to carry on throughout the day. Regardless, nothing can stop us from running to Russell late at night to satisfy a sudden ice cream craving, and we have no shame.  

The Legs

It’ll be a crime if your quads and calf muscles aren’t incredibly toned from walking up the four flights of ISE every day or booking it across the Green en route to Purnell, and pray to the gods if you ever have to trek up the stairs at Willard. The lactic acid that is constantly coursing through your muscles every day is enough to work off any calories consumed at CR. The legs of a college freshman go through so much in walking everywhere that by the time they actually get in bed, they’ll be numb from a long day’s work. 

The Feet

The feet of a college freshman heavily endorse taking the path less travelled by in this new stage of life. Whether it’s finding a shortcut in your daily route to class to cut back on walking time or simply trying something new, the best memories are made in the shoes with the most worn out soles, and the quicker that college freshmen implement that into their daily lives, the more memorable of a college experience they’ll have. 

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