Fellow Writer Inspiration: Diana Castaldini

mentoringThere are some people in your life that you just click with instantly. By the tone of their voice, the vibe of their personality and the light in their eyes, people let us know how receptive they are of us. Sure, first impressions can be misleading at times, but over the last 25 years I’ve learned that initial gut feelings about people are usually on point.

One person who struck me like that was Diana Castaldini. As a self-conscience but ambitious 18-year-old freshmen at St. John’s University, I walked into the college newspaper the first week of school and began writing editorial pieces in 2007. By the spring semester, I had several published articles and was a regular at staff meetings. One afternoon, the editorial editor had no articles left but I overheard another editor lamenting that she had no one to take an assignment for the Features section. Unsure if I could handle it but curious enough to try, I volunteered to take a stab at it.

That ended up starting my stint as the Features Editorial Assistant under Diana, who was a junior at the time and the Features editor. From the first time I met her, she instantly put me at ease with her bubbly personality. Each week, we worked together to get the weekly paper out. In a cramped cubicle, I received a crash course on creating story lists, managing writings, editing, print layout, and operating on little sleep after production night.

150px-Newspapers1Most importantly, I listened to Diana talk about her internship at Good Housekeeping. It was the first time I had heard of interning, and my eyes were opened to the possibility that my dreams of working in the magazine industry could happened while I was a student. Being exposed to that part of education by an upper class man so early in my college career was a huge turning point in my career planning. Without that experience, I doubt I would have had the internship experience that I did.

At the time, I was still battling homesickness and being part of the Torch newspaper staff was the factor of me finding feeling at home at St. John’s University. By the end of my freshmen year, I became the features editor, which was a position I held until my senior year. Seven years later, I still look to Diana for advice and often consult her about writing ideas. She was my first mentor in my career and still is one!

Diana is a New York City native and a beautiful writer. Over the past few she years, she has experienced near-death health experiences that would make most of us crumble. But not Diana. Through her illness, she was reborn with a new purpose of life. From discovering different forms of exercises, alternative holistic healing and healthier eating- her recovery has transformed her into a passionate health care advocate.

Recently, she lost her beloved grandmother but had the bravery to share the breathtaking experience of coming face to face with a loved one facing mortality. Anyone who has lost a loved one, especially a grandmother will be moved by her honest essay. You can read her essay on her blog, Thinking Less After Brain Surgery. 

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25 Lessons I’ve Learned in the Past 25 Years

After being alive for a quarter of a century, I’ve picked up a few useful pieces of information. The most valuable tidbits being the ones that I have learned the hard way. An activity on my list of 365 things to do in 365 days was to put together a list of 25 life lessons I’ve learned over the past 25 years. Honestly, this was a lot harder than I thought. Most of it is silly, some of isn’t rocket science, but it’s all gems of wisdom I now can share because of personal experience.

  1.                                                                          Cat’s like Spaghettios.                                                                                                                                                             200 (11)
  2. The knowledge gained at your first job will be much more valuable than anything learned during four years at college.   200 (1)      
  3. Interning makes a huge difference when applying to jobs. Skip the wine-tasting elective offered and apply for an internship or two.    200 (9)                                                                                                                                                                 
  4. When you only have $10 for food for an entire week before payday, McDonald’s Dollar Menu is a gift from God.      giphy (3)         
  5. Don’t listen to a nun who wears sneakers and marks your quiz wrong because you put Bill Clinton as an answer to the question ‘name a charismatic leader’ ,even if she lowers your grade.     200 (6)                                                                               
  6. When the car radio-presets are all screwed up, it does not mean a friend played an elaborate prank. Your car battery is about to die, so call a mechanic.         200                                                                                                                                    
  7. Eating seafood that has been marked down to clearance at the local Thriftway is never a good idea.      200 (2)                               
  8. Passion beats talent 95% of the time. A boss would rather have an employee with a great attitude that is teachable, rather than a skilled drone.   200 (8)                                                                                                                                                                     
  9. There’s no long term hurt that can come from going after a dream. The sting of rejection can be soften by the knowledge that at least you tried. And the payoff can be epic.     t8zvc                                                                                         
  10. Facebook stalking can lift up your spirits and make you feel inadequate in a matter of minutes.    facebooktwitter                                       
  11. Being cheap about something will only cost more money in the long run. Like that shitty $40 Ikea bed frame that is now propped against my wall used as a clothesline.          giphy (4)                                                                                                             
  12. It’s really terrifying to see your parents turning into a younger version of your grandparents.4OVLKQc                                                
  13. Friendship takes a lot of work after college.  giphy (5)                                                                                                                             
  14. Siri is not a friend to those of us who talk fast and have a strong ‘Northeast Philadelphia’ accent.    dImyJ                                      
  15. Finding the good bathroom at work is one of the most important things to do during the first week at a new job. bossy2                
  16. Fear of missing out and peer pressure isn’t always that bad. It all depends on the peers doing the pressuring.     I tried clean eating, and exercising because of the fear of missing out on the experience my coworkers were partaking in last year.                                                    giphy (1)                                                                                                                                        
  17. Cinnamon toothpaste is the most useless product created by the dental hygiene world.       200 (4)                                               
  18. Antidepressants only work half way, the user has to be willing to do the other half of the work to feel better.   btiffany                      
  19. Being in the good graces of your office’s administrative assistant, security team, janitor and cafeteria cook is more telling of your reputation than being in the good graces of the CEO.        tumblr_na0lx8bbpk1suzl23o1_500                                                                               
  20. Unit air conditioners get taken out of windows in the winter for a reason. Learning this hard way can result in getting a cold or freezing to death in your sleep.                                    200 (13)                                                                                               
  21. Your parents and/or your family’s way of life does not need to be how you live your life. Even if they tell you otherwise.  giphy (2)
  22. Motherly love can be appreciated at any age. And that doesn’t mean it has to come from your biological mother either.200 (12)   
  23. Never  be a jerk to someone who is apologizing. Even if you don’t accept it, give them the opportunity attempt.       giphy (18)         
  24. A person can actually overdose on vitamins. Especially Niacin, which I decided to take multiple times day to increase my happiness. My face was the color of an apple and I’m lucky my head didn’t explode.                  200_s (4)                                         
  25. Google is the reason why those reference books on my bookshelf at work are covered in dust. And has also encouraged my demand and expectations of instant gratification.200 (10)

Back to Basics

 

For the first time since early in my college career, I’m making a commitment to growing in my own voice. Somehow between earning a college degree, writing for publications, and entering the full-time workforce, my ability and craving to pen personal narratives fizzled.

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Moving on From Being Dark and Twisty

Originally seen on Huffington Post, Published on 06/20/2012

GAtumblr_mu0fxzuM701rjj1tzo3_500During a recent conversation with a boy I’m seeing, we were discussing hair colors we previously rocked in our younger years. I made a passing comment that my jet black hair was during my “dark and twisty” phase. Taken right out of the playbook of Meredith Grey, those words resonated with me more than anything during that period.

My dark and twisty period did not occur during my teenage years, when most people go through their “punk rock” or “goth” phase. To me, those phases aren’t really dark and twisty. The only true dark thing about that is the black nail polish and wardrobe bought at Hot Topic. My self-proclaimed “dark and twisty” years took place during college. Except for the period of jet black hair, from the outside I looked the complete opposite of dark or twisted. I held a full roster on the dean’s list, interned at major companies and wrote for my school paper. By surrounding myself with a stellar exterior, it deflected any attention of how rapidly my interior was deteriorating. Continue reading

Knowing Yourself, Not Just Your Expectations

Originally seen on Huffington Post, Published 05/02/2012

deepest-condolences-graduation-ecard-someecardsCongratulations to the class of 2012. After four years of pouring over textbooks, dealing with roommate drama and fighting with your college’s financial aid office, your college career has come to an end. This pomp and circumstance is the grand finale of the marathon of education, for most. Rehydrate with the beer at your graduation party because there is a more challenging feat that is next on your to-do list: start your career in your chosen profession in one of the worst economic periods our country has ever known. Hell, hard liquor may be needed at times to prepare for the challenge. Continue reading