Stop Rewarding Workaholism

Even as I begin to write this blog post, I struggle to put my thoughts on paper, knowing that the initial draft cannot be good enough or thorough enough to publish online. Excuse the imperfections — it’s an exercise in NOT being a perfectionist/workaholic. 

We live in a society that rewards subjectively “good” and “bad” behaviors. For instance, being a drug addict is categorized as very bad and associated with a number of negative characteristics–not to mention the potential court-mandated rehab or jail time. We also reward (or at least turn a blind eye) to things like caffeine addiction, which is seen as a “necessary” activity to maintain the busy lifestyles we lead.

Related to this busy lifestyle? Workaholism–in a nutshell, an addiction to work.

I would go so far as to argue that workaholism is the most highly lauded addiction in the United States.

I know this from personal experience. I have been a workaholic–although, unknowingly at times–for as long as I can remember.

I can distinctly remember being at a family gathering in the second grade and saying, “I hate eating because it wastes time.” I remember being mad at my art teacher in the fourth grade because she gave me a 99% on my ceramic mug. I remember staying up through the night in the 5th grade, crouched beside my night light because I had a story due for class the next day, and I forgot it was supposed to be written in cursive, and my cursive had to look just right. I remember running through shin pain and anxiety as a middle schooler in track, feeling like a failure if I fell short of first place.

In recent years, I’ve often sacrificed social plans. I will jolt awake before my alarm in the morning and walk straight to my computer before doing anything else. If I told someone I was going to get something done by a certain date, by God, it’s going to get done if I have to stay up all night. Some acquaintances no longer stop to chat when they see me because I’m notoriously hurried or late to something else. I say “yes” to things with zero regard to my current workload or the impact it is having on myself or my relationships. I will often go without eating or sleeping or won’t leave my room until I am satisfied with what I have accomplished.

But you know what’s worse than this “bad habit,” negative personality trait, or whatever you want to call it? 90% of the time, I am praised for such actions. Praised for being such a hard worker, for being so meticulous, so reliable, so ambitious. I have won numerous awards based on such workaholism. So frequently has this addiction been rewarded that I was shocked–offended, almost–when for the first time a year ago a mentor joked, “Now, I know you’re worried about just getting it done, cranking projects out no matter what, but every once in a while, stop and think about what you’re doing.”

Workaholism is not a laughable tendency to put in extra hours at the office or to people please–it is a debilitating addiction, and it needs to be treated as such. While a drug addict might be externally scolded if someone were to see him/her in the act, people will almost always go out of their way to reward my behavior and encourage it in the future. With the exception of a few closed loved ones, I am the only one who can hold myself accountable for workaholism while also facing external pressures to feed the addiction.

It’s very, very hard.

I can turn anything into a work activity. The recurring thought in my head on any given day is, “Okay, what else do I have to do?” Never do I ask myself what I want to do, or what I need to do. I get anxious when I spend time not working because I feel lazy. I am always reaching for bigger and better, and this stress takes a toll on me, negatively affecting the way I handle situations, relationships, and my outlook on life. In prior attempts to treat the problem, I have learned that I genuinely have no clue how many hours would be normal for me to work in a given day.

At the risk of abruptly ending this blog post, I simply want to point out that “hard work” is a positive societal behavior, while “workaholism” that interferes with daily functioning is an unhealthy but treatable addiction. Please do not praise the person who always bends over backwards and sacrifices their own time and personal well-being for the sake of the others, the company, unnecessarily high expectations, etc. It is such praise that makes people like me think that the behavior is okay, despite the fact that it is negatively impacting our personal lives and health.


2016 Year-in-Review

By: Erika Dietrick, Pirate Portraits Founder and Lead Photographer


It’s always a great day to be a pirate. 

Pirate Portraits was little more than a question mark at the dawn of 2016. With the exception of our first two clients, who took a chance on us in 2015, 2016 was essentially the foundation for a year of creative senior pictures, candid event photography, and unique special requests.


Sarah, our second-ever client

I had been toting around and annoying my family and friends with my digital camera since I was 13. At the time, I wanted a camera because some of my other friends had thumbnail pictures of themselves on Yahoo messenger. However, taking pictures quickly became a passion–a way to encapsulate cherished memories, people, and places forever.

I began to take my photography a little more seriously as a student at East Carolina University. I worked 2 years as a coordinator of marketing and another year as a director of marketing for ECU’s Honors College, where I frequently took pictures at our signature events for social media. By chance, I received a Nikon D3100 for my 18th birthday, and sunny afternoons were sometimes spent creeping around campus, secretly taking pictures of people and blatantly taking artsy pictures of flowers. The summer before my senior year, I wanted a way to make a little extra cash but danced around the idea of a photography business. Doubtful, I posted a handful of my outdoor portraits to Facebook and basically asked, “Anyone interested in senior pictures?” I was surprised and exhilarated by the comments and messages I received then and in the following months, praising my photography and asking if I could take their pictures.


Spring of my senior year, I enrolled in a non-majors photography course at ECU to hone my photography skills, gain technical expertise, and learn Adobe Photoshop. With some experience and instruction under my belt, Pirate Portraits was officially on the map.

As I turn Pirate Portraits from a side business into a full-time endeavor in 2017, I look forward to meeting a diverse set of people through the lens of my camera, capturing their personalities and finding innovative ways to tell our human story.

Interested in booking a session with Pirate Portraits? Schedule here or e-mail with questions.



My alarm clock pounds in my head, begging for my attention–it’s time to get up. Snooze once, shame on early morning classes. Snooze twice, shame on me. I roll out of bed and grab my phone for the third time to finally silence it. My fingers lightly tap and glide over the screen, the artificial light burning my eyes so that everything around it appears as darkness. 82 degrees and sunny with a 0% chance of rain. Great! I think to myself.

I set my phone down and stumble into the bathroom to look at myself 2 feet away from a mirror. Grab my toothbrush, hairbrush, and other tools for styling, all within arm’s reach. (My make-up on a good day). Walk a few feet to my closet and ponder over my clothes, my eyes scanning a few feet of space. I then stare a few inches down at my breakfast and manage to sneak in some time a few feet away from the T.V. The news is important, telling me everything I need to know about the outside world.

I’m late for class. My steps are quick as I smoothly maneuver around the sleepless walkers. Sidewalk, phone, people. My eyes know the drill. It’s  a skill I’ve acquired in college.

My class is on the third floor, so I step into an elevator just a few feet wide. There are a couple other students on the elevator. We pretend to play with our phones a few inches from our faces because the few inches of space between us is awkward.

I go to class so that my eyes can follow a new routine. Notebook, projector, notebook, projector. My back hunches to get closer to the paper, writing as rapidly as possible. This particular professor has a routine of his own: PowerPoint, back wall, PowerPoint, back wall. The few feet of space between him and us feels like the Grand Canyon.

Sidewalk, phone, people. Elevator, class. Sometimes the stairs so I can get my exercise.

In the afternoon, I walk back to my apartment. I shade my eyes with my hand initially–I don’t remember it being this sunny and hot. I notice how pretty the campus looks today. The trees sparkle with golden sunlight, each intricately-designed leaf waving softly in the breeze. The vibrant, red brick path that winds around each building is passionately illuminated, and the flower beds are adorned with star-shaped flowers, all of it under a blue sky as smooth as a stone. The openness is electrifying.

I suddenly have the desire to drop off my backpack and play soccer on the quad, go camping, feel all of my muscles worked, allowing my eyes to gaze upon a large expanse of Earth and soak up all the details.

But I have a biology exam and work tomorrow. The deadline for my graduate school application is coming up fast. My surroundings fade away into non-existence as I take my time walking home: sidewalk, phone, people, the occasional tree.

When I get to my apartment, I throw my stuff on the floor, flop onto the couch, and take a break from the day. I text my friends a few inches from my face and watch Netflix a few feet from my face and don’t even bother to look down at my hand as it reaches into a box to bring food to my face.

When I know I can’t wait any longer, I get to work on studying. I hunch at my desk so that there is nothing but the view of my notes, my laptop, my book a few inches from my face. I guiltily take breaks to scroll my newsfeed, liking pictures of people being happy.

Outside my window is total darkness, so I close my blinds, maybe find more food, and get ready for bed. I walk a few feet to my bathroom to look at the mirror a few inches from my face, reach for my toothbrush, allow my eyes to scan a few feet of drawer space full of sweatpants.

I climb into bed aching even though I did not physically labor, exhausted though my brain flickers through e-mails and tasks for tomorrow like a slideshow. And with the few moments of energy I have between now and Stage 4 sleep, I remind myself how it feels to be able to see for miles.

U.S. Team Lives Up to Hype, Now Has #ScoreToSettle

June 26, 2015.

Days before the U.S. quarterfinal in Ottawa, Ontario, I concluded that, sadly, I was one of few American soccer fans who had traveled across the border to cheer on our women’s soccer team. As I explored the city, my eyes wandered amongst the pedestrians searching for proud U.S.A. apparel or some sort of “American look.” I couldn’t get a good read, but being the person that I am, I was certain that the stands would be stripped of U.S. stripes.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. A huge grin spread across my face while walking down the steps of my hostel…it turns out us Americans had been incognito (at least, in my mind) or drove just for the game to save some mullah.  My boyfriend and I took off in our simple U.S. jerseys to visit the Ottawa locks, and around every corner, we met the eyes and nod of an approving fellow American or a hearty, “Go, U.S.A.!!!” We were everywhere. The streets were adorned with red, white, and blue — official U.S. women’s jerseys and hipster patriotic tank tops, Uncle Sam shirts and outrageous ‘Merica shorts. On the sidewalks with our huge Nikon cameras, we nearly outnumbered the Canadian locals, who smiled in good spirit or teased us with, “Good luck when you play Canada.”

That evening, we each stood in line to board the free, school bus shuttles with excitement, anticipation, and a bit of fear. The day before, the Ottawa Citizen had printed a biting article criticizing the U.S. team’s “lack of offensive firepower.” They showed skepticism toward the American team’s self-proclaimed shield against the media, and the thesis of the piece was that “winning ugly hasn’t won them much praise.” It was true — we had watched the U.S. play Australia, Sweden, and Nigeria in the group rounds with ambivalence…proud to have moved on to the next game but a little dismayed at the uncharacteristic inconsistency in gameplay. But we believed. Even the skeptical among us still secretly believed.IMAG01207[1]

We stepped off of the buses onto the plaza that surrounds TD Place. Making our way towards the bright orange stadium, we stared in awe at theIMAG01080[1] crowds of people: children playing soccer on miniature fields, red-shirted Chinese soccer fans pounding a beat on drums, U.S. fans decked out in the craziest hats and clothing they could find. An impressive glass cinema towered to our right, and a nice burger joint had a line out the door to our left. Soaking in the atmosphere, I sensed no animosity or bitter competitiveness between the two groups of fans; some arrogant jubilance as if the victory was certain, for sure, but also respect and unbridled energy.

Tickets checked and poutine in hand, our mouths gaped in amazement at the bright, open stadium. It was breathtaking–the camaraderie among the U.S. side was palpable. After some friendly chitchat and crappy pictures of the team warming up, the game began. IMAG01093[1]

The first half exuded American dominance and possession but produced no goals. We took over 15 shots but had few on goal. The threat of the Chinese scoring seemed slim despite their technical prowess. We played hard, perhaps even intimidated the Chinese team, but could not finish. Julie Johnston remained the bastion for the fullbacks as Alex Morgan quickly maneuvered around their opponents, attempting to score. Abby Wambach and Sydney Leroux sat the bench, and Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday sat apart from the team due to their one-game suspension. Chants of “U.S.A.!” and “IIII believe that WE WILL WIN!” echoed throughout the stadium and were countered by Chinese songs and battle cries, their underlying meaning still translatable.

Suddenly, in the 73rd minute: Johnston crossed the ball to the mosh pit of players in the goal box.  Carli Lloyd jumped, legs karate-kicking, above it all and powerfully headed it into the right corner of the goal.

By the end of the game, the U.S. had proved that they were still the same fierce team with no thoughts of rolling over during this World Cup. However, their passion didn’t go unchallenged or unchecked.

Flash-forward to the semifinals: U.S. vs. Germany, June 30th. In direct contrast to the stoic strategy of the Chinese, Germany immediately burst into battle blitzkrieg-style, pressuring the U.S. team in every moment and causing mistakes. The first 5 minutes looked disastrous for the U.S. as we played catch-up, disoriented by the fast, aggressive movements of the Germans. To top it off, the U.S. gave a penalty kick to the German team after a heart-broken Johnston held a German player back from scoring. Lucky for us, Germany’s Celia Sasic missed entirely. Even luckier was the fact that Carli Lloyd scored a penalty kick just minutes later. Although slightly relieved, U.S. fans held their breath–Germany was not giving up without a fight.

As the game wore on, the U.S. calmed down, maintaining composure against attacks and (arguably) out-playing their opponents. What some were already criticizing as, if the U.S. won, an undeserved win was completely silenced during the 84th minute. The U.S. weaved the ball fast and Ping-Pong style around German defenders to Kelley O’Hara, who scored the second goal of the game. Germany’s spirit fought back, faded, quickly broke.

Today, the U.S. will play in the Women’s World Cup final against Japan, who beat the U.S. during penalty kicks in the final of Germany 2011. What began as a rocky start for the U.S. team has transformed into a rematch for revenge. The U.S. has a #ScoreToSettle with Japan. And if they keep the fire and ferocity of their recent play ablaze, they are certain to come out victorious.

10 Things To Do in Ottawa for $20 or Less

It’s summertime, and you’ve been looking forward to taking a road trip all year. You want to go somewhere beautiful with lots of things to do and a rich history to explore…you’ve taken one too many trips to Florida and Gatlinburg. Well, look no further than Ottawa, Ontario (Canada)! The capital city of Canada is a vibrant and friendly community with an eclectic mix of activities, restaurants, shops, and attractions. While it’s easy to break the bank eating at renowned restaurants and hitting pricey tourist attractions, one of the fantastic things about visiting Ottawa is that you can spend as much (or as little!) as you choose.  Here are 10 things you can do during your trip to Ottawa for $20 or less:

1. Take a bike ride along the Rideau Canal


The Rideau Canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the best way to go sightseeing in Ottawa. A paved, road-like pathway accompanies the 125-mile canal through the entire city.  This is not your average, run-of-the-mill walking path! As you cross over scenic bridges and rush past luscious foliage, the city and all it has to offer will open up for you to explore. The path can be walked, jogged, skated, or bicycled (if that’s a word), which also makes it a cheap form of transportation.

Cost: $20 for the entire day if you are staying at the Ottawa Jail Hostel; $10 an hour from Rent-A-Bike. Includes bike lock and helmet.

2. Eat some Canadian junk food!


Ah, a fattening Canadian delicacy! Poutine (pronounced poo-teen in English) is a hearty dish of french fries slathered in gravy and topped with cheese curds.  Yes, it’s unhealthy, but you just burned all of those calories riding alongside the Rideau Canal! You can find poutine at nearly any diner in Ottawa.

Cost: $10 (I payed this price at a pub, but it can definitely be found for cheaper!)

IMAG01158Beaver what? You heard it right–BeaverTails. This pastry-stand chain is named for what it sells: fried dough in the shape of a beaver’s tail with the toppings of your choice. It tastes a lot like some of the fried food you would eat at a state fair. Some of the BeaverTail varieties include apple cinnamon, banana chocolate, maple butter, garlic butter and cheese, and chocolate hazelnut.

Cost: $4.50 – $7.25 per BeaverTail

3. Jigsaw Escape Rooms


This is a must-do activity for people who love playing games and solving puzzles. After being read a chilling backstory and locked into either “The Cabin” or “The Study,” you and your group have only 45 minutes to escape by solving a series of real-life puzzles. Giving too much away would dissolve some of the allure, so I won’t go into detail about the rooms or the puzzles, but they are challenging! Participants of the Escape Rooms are anyone from couples to bachelor parties to families. As the website says, “failure means imprisonment, impending danger, or an altogether very bad ending.”

Cost: $20 per person. Reservations must be made ahead of time.

4. Yoga on Parliament Hill


A yoga-lover’s dream: every Wednesday at 12:00 p.m., hundreds of people gather on Parliament Hill to practice their downward dog and warrior poses. The session is led by a certified instructor who sends assistants around to make sure you’re doing your poses correctly. The yoga session is flexible so that both beginners and more advanced yoga-ers can join in! If you don’t have a yoga mat, do like many of the Ottawans do and simply bring a bath towel or sit in the grass.

Cost: Free! And afterward, you can tour Parliament for free.

5. Stroll through Byward Market


If you can’t go a day without shopping, Byward Market is a dream come true! The public market is about 4-blocks in size and has everything you could imagine–the best restaurants, unique shops, renowned nightlife, and more. You could easily spend an entire day (or longer) meandering through the market. Of course, shopping comes with a price, and the restaurants in this area are not for cheapskates…but you can stop anytime you want, right?!

Cost: Free! Unless you indulge in a shopping spree or a nice dinner.

6. Learn about Canadian history


So you want to know about Canada, eh? There’s a lot more to the country than maple syrup and moose. You can walk through the development of Canada in what feels like storybook fashion at the Canadian Museum of History.  There is a bit of overlap in information at the Canadian War Museum, but the war museum is for those interested specifically in the war and military history of Canada. Growing up in the U.S., I didn’t know much about Canada, so their perspective and history was interesting to learn while there.

Cost: Free on Thursdays from 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.; student price for both museums together is $15; see war museum and museum of history websites for further admission price details.

7. Visit the Ottawa Locks


Like a flight of stairs, there is a group of 8 locks that connect the Rideau Canal to the Ottawa River. If you could care less about Canadian history, the spectacular view above is still worth taking in before going on to your next activity. However, if it weren’t for these locks, boats could not have made the 30 foot drop from the canal to the river, and the city of Ottawa would not have been founded (or at least, would not have been nearly as successful). You can visit the Bytown Museum (the small building on the left in this picture) to learn the mechanics and history behind this revolutionary engineering development.

Cost: Free!

8. Indulge in a chocolate-y dessert at Cacao 70


Satisfy your chocolate addiction–I mean, sweet tooth–at Cacao 70, located in Byward Market. Here, you can find nearly any chocolate dessert (or meal!) your heart desires. Chocolate cake, milkshare, smoothie, pizza, breakfast…the most difficult task will be choosing just one!! To the right is a picture of the New York Style Chocolate Shake I bought while there — DELICIOUS! I highly recommend it.

Cost: Depends. See menu for Cacao 70.


9. Tour the old Ottawa Jail


The Ottawa Jail housed murderers and thieves, immigrants and the mentally ill. After a 150-year run, the jail was shut down in 1972 for the inhumane conditions in which its residents lived. Shortly after, though, it was reopened as the Ottawa Jail Hostel, allowing visitors to Canada to sleep in the shadows of its criminal past. Visitors stay in the jail-like renovated part of the building, while the rest of the building has been left as ghastly as it was created. Tours of the old jail are given everyday at 11:00 a.m. and last about 30 minutes.

Cost: Free!

10. See a show at the Ottawa Arts Court Theatre 


Located right beside the Ottawa Jail Hostel, the Arts Center is the epicenter of creativity and entertainment in Ottawa. Depending on the calendar and list of festivities, you can see everything from comedians to magicians to one-woman plays that travel all over the country to perform shows. The Fringe Festival happened to be taking place during my stay!

Cost: Less then $20, but typically ranging from $10 – $15 per ticket


…Of course, there are sooo many other things to do in Ottawa, but this list just includes some of the best and cheapest activities in which I participated while in the city. If you have any questions or reviews, feel free to comment!


Live Your Goals: FIFA’s Faulty Attempt to Support Women’s Soccer

Played by every country in the world, soccer is truly a global sport. Since 1930, countries have pumped money into their national soccer teams to vie for a spot in the (men’s) World Cup: an international soccer tournament governed by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). Arguably, the competition is about more than talented soccer players working to bestow soccer glory upon their country–it is used to make political statements, boost the hosting country’s economy, and to stoke hope and inspiration during dark times.

Over six decades later (1991), the first Women’s World Cup was held in China and won by the United States. This is the moment when women’s soccer was put on the map, so to speak…as in to say, when children started asking their parents who this Mia Hamm woman was on their McDonald’s bag.  Currently in the semifinals of the tournament, Canada 2015 is the 7th Women’s World Cup.

Women’s soccer (and men’s) has grown exponentially in popularity in the United States. However, women’s soccer is not only still a poorly followed sport in the U.S.–it is looked upon with neutral indifference at best and complete ridicule and sexism at worst. Soccer has come a long way from the days when it was only for “grass fairies,” but on the off-chance that a U.S. sports fan watches soccer, it is usually followed by the clarification that they watch men’s soccer.

Live Your Goals Campaign

In 2011, FIFA launched the Live Your Goals campaign to “increase the number of girls and women playing football worldwide from 30 to 45 million by the time of the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019.” According to the campaign website, “Live Your Goals aims to encourage more girls and women to play, participate and stay involved in the game.”

Sounds like an admirable goal, right? So, what does the campaign entail? What has FIFA done since then to support women’s soccer?

The answer: very little, other than to create a webpage with pink graphics, a hashtag for social media, and a “share” link for girls to post their stories to Facebook and Twitter. FIFA is encouraging member associations to join the campaign. To support those interested in joining the campaign, the profitable and oh so generous organization will give you conceptual advice, Girls Festivals that include soccer equipment, and social media support.

The campaign is nearly effortless in nature, based almost entirely in social media, and is completely overshadowed by several public injustices to women’s soccer.

2015 Injustice #1: Inferior Playing Conditions

The (men’s) World Cup is played on grass. However, when Canada was chosen as the host of this year’s Women’s World Cup, they announced that the games would be played on artificial turf. If you’re not a soccer player, maybe you’re saying to yourself who cares? Wouldn’t that be an upgrade? Golfers always play on really nice artificial turf.

Artificial turf is made up of ground rubber tires: it completely affects the movement of the ball and how the game is played, and it would never be allowed in men’s soccer. The surface allows the ball to glide and unnecessarily bounce with a much lighter touch, makes it harder to keep from falling, and lengthens recovery time after play…not to mention the recent studies showing that exposure to the toxic chemicals in turf grass can cause cancer.

In response to the announcement, many women’s soccer players filed a lawsuit against FIFA for gender discrimination.  After little media attention, a trial that was delayed multiple times, and threats of suspension from various soccer federations, 84 soccer players from 13 countries finally dropped the lawsuit. Attorney Hampton Dellinger basically summed up the dropped case by saying organizers of the tournament wouldn’t provide natural grass even if the players won the lawsuit.

2015 Injustice #2: Blatant Sexism from a Soccer Organization for “All Players”

FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who won 5 consecutive terms as leader of the organization, has been known for making sexist comments for over a decade. Blatter argued that women’s soccer would be more popular if they wore more feminine clothing, like tight spandex shorts. He mistakenly asserted that women play with a lighter soccer ball (as the FIFA president!), and at the 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year event, he didn’t even recognize honoree Alex Morgan (again…as our elected FIFA president). He is the self-proclaimed “godfather of women’s football.” You can find even more endearing comments made by our beloved, now ex-president with a quick Internet search.

If you play video games and love soccer, you’ve probably played EA Sport’s FIFA video games. The game allows you to play as hundreds of men’s teams from around the world but has never included a single women’s team. When a movement began to add women’s teams to the game, the franchise resisted because they didn’t think it would be worth the money. The company suddenly changed their mind, though, amidst all the recent FIFA scandals. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any news other than celebratory articles declaring how far we’ve come…they are finally reluctantly adding a select few teams to the FIFA game, ladies! What progress in 2015! I sure do feel supported and empowered (sarcasm). Of course it’s an accomplishment, but women are far from equally treated by FIFA or in the sports world in general.

Let’s talk World Cup earnings. After the 2014 (men’s) World Cup, the winning men’s team earned $35 million, with second place taking home $25 million. During Canada 2015, the winning women’s team will receive $15 million. In addition, many women’s soccer players outside of the U.S. don’t even earn salaries.

How about the fact that men’s soccer statistics are spouted off as common knowledge, their clout further heightened by extensive marketing, but people don’t know that first Mia Hamm and now Abby Wambach holds the record for most international goals scored among women and men? Or that our U.S. women’s national team has placed 1st-3rd in every Women’s World Cup thus far?

FIFA Secretary Jérôme Valcke didn’t even attend the opening games of this year’s Women’s World Cup because he was too busy cleaning up an investigation into FIFA corruption.

2015 Injustice #3: Rigging Canada 2015

Any sports fan can tell you that tournament brackets are based on random draw so that seeded or well-ranked teams are dispersed randomly through the tournament. However, after complaints from a bitter French team saying that they, as a No. 3 team, should have never played No. 1 Germany as early as the quarterfinal, FIFA admitted to rigging the tournament. FIFA explained that they pre-determined the placement of teams and cities so that they could sell more tickets, citing that women’s soccer is not yet popular enough to earn high revenue. It’s funny how an organization that makes over $31 million from the men’s World Cup (one of the richest sporting events in the world), produced a $10 million movie about FIFA presidents in 2014, and was recently outed for accepting millions of dollars in bribes can’t afford, at the very least, to have a fair women’s tournament.

Moral of the story?

Women’s soccer doesn’t need FIFA to create a superficial social media campaign that distracts the public from these issues.

We simply need equal treatment.


Sink or Swim

“My feelings are too loud for words and too shy for the world.” – Dejan Stojanovic

I can articulate my feelings in fragments—heavy like bricks that hurt to share but
terse enough to be temporary.
—it is difficult to articulate why I feel the need to explain myself to people.
In any given day, I feel that at least half of the interactions I had were misinterpreted.
I both love and despise being “different.”
I have always had a strong sense of who I am and what I believe in, and
I am genuinely shocked that this is never correctly conveyed to other people.
I’ve learned I have to be somewhat of a showman when I’m around others, or
they’ll think I’m disinterested, boring, rude, passive, or slow.

Being quiet means that you’re never truly recognized as anything great.

Not speaking up in a discussion, having the straightest posture, or laughing obnoxiously at jokes
doesn’t mean someone is unconfident or dull.
I have a meltdown in my mind a minimum of three times a day.
Sometimes I feel like an alien.
Even as a showman, I can’t pretend to enjoy the same things or think the same things as other people.
An inability to pretend leads to misunderstanding and being ostracized.
Being ostracized makes you question who you are and why you were born that way.
Being misunderstood gives you the Walking Diary complex.
Being unique, ostracized, misunderstood, and having a complex leads to severe emotional stress.
Severe emotional stress continues to destroy the potential relationships you could have built—
Those if’s lurk like storm clouds and penetrate like lightning.
Sometimes it’s easier to avoid the storm by just moving to another place,
Pretending to be someone else,
Knowing that you’ll always be the one to love yourself for who you are.

Civil Rights Stereotypes

I grew up in a rural Ohio town with very few minorities.  Although I had witnessed discrimination for various reasons where I lived, racial discrimination was never something that was truly brought to my attention.  It wasn’t until I moved to North Carolina during my junior year of high school that my eyes were opened to other races, cultures, and backgrounds.

In many ways it was a shock to move somewhere so diverse.  I have vivid memories of my first encounters with other cultures.  I remember being in Golden Corral and thinking to myself that it was the first time I had ever seen a black family.  Until the age of 16, I had never had a Hispanic friend or met someone who was Indian.  As if moving to the South wasn’t a transition in of itself, I was also curiously observant of all these new types of people I was meeting.

As I settled into my new home, I began making friends with people from very different backgrounds, and I was perplexed by some of things I witnessed and experienced.  I heard white friends and non-friends make racist jokes that were met without opposition.  Sports, clubs, and activities were all very strictly divided by race.  There were things that “white people couldn’t do” or that “black people were made for.”  Students who were learning English were basically invisible.  I noticed that my Asian friends frequently had to laugh at and embody Asian stereotypes and jokes.

I could go into many specific examples, but it upset me how unnecessarily divided the high school and town was; how minority students were treated; and how some minority students had such low expectations for themselves or believed the false stereotypes that others perpetuated.  I had always seen myself as someone who sticks up for those who are ostracized or bullied for any reason, and race was no exception.  Moving to North Carolina had given me so many new opportunities, so many things to be excited about–and I wanted others to feel that they could seize these open doors as well.

If I could not be considered an activist in some form of the word before, then my activism can be traced back to when I joined the Wilson Youth Council during my senior year. The purpose of the group was leadership development and community involvement. To spare you a long story, WYC ended up being one of the best experiences of my life, and I made great strides in sticking up for all students who felt bullied or discriminated against (in any way) as the chair of an anti-bullying campaign.

As you might imagine, standing up for what is right had some consequences. There were a lot of people who didn’t understand what I was fighting for or, worse, denied there was a problem. Some people treated me differently, as if by standing up for minorities (among other groups), I was somehow “less white.” I had a racist track coach that did everything in his power to ensure that I wouldn’t run the 400 m dash, which “wasn’t a race for white people.” My sister, who was equally upset by the situation in our community, also struggled fiercely during this time—she was seen as someone who hung out with minorities (as if you can only have a white or non-white friend base), and she was highly discriminated against as the only white girl on a black step team.

It was frustrating when my family or I were discriminated against when we were rooting for minority equality, but I tried to never let it get to me. I knew that there would always be hateful people in the world and that it shouldn’t discourage or stop me from supporting an equal rights movement. Like any difficult situation, it was going to take patience and understanding from everyone.

The next eye-opening experience I had was my study abroad trip to Argentina the summer after my freshman year of college. I arrived eager to explore a new place, make new friends, and become fluent in Spanish…I had never even ridden in a plane before, so I was nothing less than starry-eyed and hopeful. But when I arrived at my host mom’s house, I quickly learned that not only was she not going to patiently help me learn the language, but that she had clear opinions about white people from the United States. She constantly told me how privileged I was. Random people on the street would glare at me, cuss at me, or laugh at my Spanish. The school coordinator would dismiss my health concerns or reports that I wasn’t being fed by my host mom because she attributed them to my privileged upbringing. It didn’t matter that I was someone who wanted to immerse themselves into the culture, learn the language, and appreciate another way of life—there were some people who would always treat me differently because of the color of my skin and the stereotypes about my country.

It has now been four years since I moved to North Carolina on a snowy December night, and I can say that my views haven’t changed. I still believe in equality and kind treatment of everyone; I don’t turn away from activities where I will be a token white person, and I feel strongly about extinguishing pointless stereotypes. However, after four years of being some form of an activist, I can also say that I am utterly exhausted and unwillingly frustrated.

As a white person with a huge heart and concern for other people, I can only take so many accusations of what white people “are.” Privileged, racist, stuck up, exclusive. There are some white people who are those things. You could argue that many white people are those things. But as someone who has spent so much time fighting for equality—risking my social situation and reputation, in some cases—it was only going to be a matter of time before these comments unintentionally wore me down.

I understand where these catch-all statements come from, and I know that so many bad experiences with a certain group of people can make you feel that they are all tainted or “bad” in some way. (I find this similar to when a girl who has been in bad relationships says that all guys are “pigs” or horrible.) But you can’t let bad experiences in life shape the way you feel about people as a whole; not only does it discourage those who care about you and your situation, but it is also hard to fight stereotypes by accusing white people of being a certain stereotype.

I don’t want some sort of gold star for being the white girl that stands up for minorities. I really don’t need any recognition at all—I just don’t want to be included with other racist or otherwise exclusive white people.

For those minorities who are heavily involved with social and racial issues, think about your audience and who you are trying to gain respect from. For the most part, it’s white people. As it is often pointed out, the people in charge of many of our institutions are in fact white. By basing an argument in the fact that “white people aren’t accepting” or using an accusatory style, nothing will ever change. People will get defensive—both those who aren’t accepting and those who are.

The best way for us to move forward with this conversation is to continue to assert, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did, that all people are created equal and deserve equal treatment. Don’t push that “white people are given many more opportunities than minorities”—even though you will often find this to be the case, you are only going to upset and shut down the white people you want listening to you. Instead, you should be pushing “we notice that there aren’t as many minorities in leadership positions, and we want to provide more opportunities for mentorship and education.” Instead of arguing that “white people aren’t accepting,” tell people—show people—why it is hard to be a token minority amongst white people without being accusatory.

I know that pointing out discrimination is a touchy situation, and I hope the points I’m trying to make aren’t offensive to anyone—they’re not intended to be. My hope is that anyone who reads this will use it to encourage white activists and to make a stronger argument for equal treatment. Regardless of your feelings of white people or how they behave, the point of this whole movement is to restore equality, and this cannot be accomplished without also restoring harmony. The point isn’t just to force respect—it’s to create a community in which those who are different are valued…where two people of different histories don’t view each other as “privileged” or as someone who “was just handed opportunities,” but as integral pillars of a civilized society.

I warn you—don’t twist this to show how white people are mistreated or to prove I’m subconsciously racist. This is an honest conversation, and no issue is black or white.

Happy Holidays from Erika and Seth!

Seth_Erika Holiday Card 2014By: Erika Dietrick

From new degrees to new home addresses and from new hobbies to newfound literary confidence, 2014 can only be described as a fast-paced adventure.  Read on to discover our shared and individual triumphs and what we are looking forward to in the new year:

Taking on Grad School: Seth’s Year-in-Review

After a chaotic senior year filled with varsity soccer games, two labor positions, and a senior thesis, Seth graduated magna cum laude from Berea College in May.  Thanks to the credits he received while in high school, Seth was able to graduate in just two years.   Erika couldn’t reach Seth for a comment on this story (because, as Seth put it, “Quotes are stupid.”), but she knows that he misses all of his friends and will always be a mountaineer at heart.

During Seth’s last semester, his senior thesis was accepted into Wittenberg University’s East Asian Studies Journal. He was also notified that he had been accepted to East Carolina University as a Master’s student in Military History.  He earned the Graduate Scholar Award which earned him a full ride at East Carolina.

Over the summer, he spent some time with his family while working at the Brown County Municipal Court.

Seth now has a semester of teaching American History Since 1877 under his belt and was elected Secretary of Phi Alpha Theta, a national History Honor Society. He is also serving as a Contributing Editor to History Matters, an academic journal published by Appalachian State.

Opening New Doors: Erika’s Year-in-Review

Erika began the beginning of this year as a research assistant for Dr. Claudia Jolls.  The lab studies plant ecology, and due to a recent grant, its main focus has been an endangered plant species called Thalictrum cooleyi or Cooley’s meadowrue.  She started out as a volunteer during the spring semester and was hired as a Field Assistant for the summer.  This semester, Erika wrote her Senior Honors Project proposal titled Embryo Development and Seed Viability: A Microscopic View, and she was rewarded an ECU Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Award (URCA Award) to fund her project.  She was also awarded the Charles Bland Scholarship Award in August.  She wouldn’t want to bore you with too many details, but basically, she has been working very hard and is now organizing her results to (hopefully) be presented at the Association of Southeastern Biologists conference in Chattanooga. (Read more about her URCA grant here.)  She has enjoyed working side-by-side with Dr. Jolls, an incredible mentor, and her graduate student Renee Fortner.

Over the summer, Erika continued to work at the Honors College as a Coordinator of Marketing to save up a little extra money. She took a trip to Ohio to visit her grandparents, Seth, and Seth’s family and spent some quality time with the Dietrick crew.

During her spare time, she devoted much of her time to writing.  Surprising even herself, Erika performed at her first spoken word poetry open-mic night and was later asked to join ECU’s Word of Mouth, the university’s spoken word poetry club.  Spoken word is different from traditional poetry in that it is memorized and performed on stage.  The experience has been nerve-wracking, challenging, and incredibly fun for her.

She submitted some of her short stories and poetry to ECU’s Rebel, a literary arts journal.  She was awarded 2nd place in fiction for The Twirling Effect and 1st place in poetry for Walking Through an Airport Parking Lot.  Her paper on heavy metal music titled Lyrical Likeness: A History of Hatred Despite Metal and Pop Lyric Commonalities was accepted into ECU’s The Lookout.

Lastly, Erika added a Hispanic studies minor to her biology degree. Her restless nature ensures that she doesn’t have too much free time. :)

From Long Distance to Roommates

August 21st marked the end of me and Seth’s 3-and-a-half-year long-distance relationship.  Words cannot describe how happy we are to finally be together.  Thanks to the support of both of our families, we now have a semi-stylish and comfortable 1-bedroom apartment at Campus Towers.  We were grateful just to do the little things together again, like have a meal together or have a face-to-face conversation, but luckily, we got to do a ton of other fun things together this semester.

We FINALLY got to play on an intramural soccer team together, and we also ran in our first 5K together (The Reindeer Dash for Cash).  We struggled through late-night homework, terribly cooked meals, and enormous piles of my clothes.  We traveled back to Ohio for Thanksgiving and took a mini-vacation with my family to Harry Potter World (a.k.a. Seth’s dream come true).

I was hideously messy, and Seth was predictably a smart-elic, but we’re both looking forward to many more years of bugging each other.

What’s in Store for 2015

Seth will begin his 2nd and final year of graduate school, and Erika will begin her senior year of undergraduate.  Neither are completely sure what they want to do after graduation, so they’ll still avoid answering any of those questions for a little while. :)

A trip to the Women’s World Cup is in the works, and after that, they will eat only beans for a long, long time.

In an ideal world, they will both also get in shape, write a book, and get a handle on what they might like to pursue…fingers crossed!

Thanks for a Great Year

Thank you to everyone who has left their mark on our 2014. We consider ourselves lucky to be where we are today and to be surrounded by all of our friends, family, and coworkers.  Happy Holidays, and we wish all of you a fantastic new year!


Erika and Seth










The Double-Edged Sword of Being a First-Person Writer

Since middle school, I have written almost all of my poetry and stories from the first-person perspective. Whether or not this habit formed out of teen angst is irrelevant–what’s important to know is being a first-person writer has many pros and cons in effectively telling a story.  Below I explain many of the positives and negatives I have learned about first-person writing and why and how writers should strive to use the third-person perspective.

1. You’re more likely to become wrapped up in the story.

Especially when first beginning.  Using “I” when setting up the scene for your story allows you to immediately delve in as a writer.  You’re the one in this story, not some random character that you had to spend hours creating and double the mental effort to maintain throughout.  Without worrying about staying in character, you can much more easily weave yourself into the thick of the plot.

This is both great and terrible.  Anything that helps the writer achieve a level of confidence when first starting out is a positive, but unless you want to be a one-trick pony, you will have to become somewhat of an actor/actress.

How to Become a Literary Actor/Actress

– Practice by choosing someone you know in your real life, and try to write a story in their shoes.  It will help you get into the mindset of using the “I” without always talking from your own viewpoint.

– Read some examples of third-person writing to see how you can use it in your own.  Revisit Harry Potter or The Giver to see how J.K. Rowling and Lois Lowry manages to successfully tell a story through another character.  Jodi Picoult also does an excellent job of telling a story through multiple perspectives, even within the same novel.

2. You will probably attribute many of your own personality traits to the main character.

This fact builds upon the previous statement I explained.  If you’re telling the story from an “I” perspective, it is all too easy to make the character yourself.  This can be excellent because you can explain how multi-dimensional you are as a character (and real live person), but if you’re writing multiple stories/novels, it can feel like you’re simply recycling material.

If You Choose To Make Yourself the Main Character…

– Recognize both your good and your bad personality traits. Don’t make yourself the completely perfect and unflawed hero of your own story, and don’t make yourself so pathetic and worthless that readers will roll their eyes.  Real people are both perfect and pathetic.

– Understand yourself, your motivations, and the results of your motivations.  To tell a story about yourself that is realistic, you have to truly know who you are.  You have to recognize that even though you’re a good person, you’re motivated by success and recognition and would sometimes make bad decisions based on these motivations.

– Decide whether your story would be more thoughtful as a fiction or non-fiction.  What message are you trying to send?

3. You can provide a much more personal and in-depth account of what is going on in the main character’s mind and heart.

Only you know exactly what you think and feel. Often, in a third-person or omnipotent perspective, inner feelings and thoughts aren’t directly stated. Again, stating them directly can both help and hurt you.

Should You Tell Them How You Feel?

– Remember that in writing, oftentimes the best way to tell the reader how you are feeling or what you are thinking is by showing, not telling.

– However, directly stating some thoughts and feelings can also improve upon your writing of the first-person perspective because it allows the reader to feel like they are inside your head.

– Moral of the story? Feel free to make direct statements, but use them in moderation! If you simply tell your reader everything, it’s not as fun to read.

4. You can easily leave the main character’s appearance out of the picture.

Depending on the goal or message of your story and your style of writing, this could be beneficial or detrimental.  Some stories are better told if the reader can create their own mental picture of the character or is unaware of their style/race/size.  However, appearances also are an important factor in how others treat you.

To Decide on Whether or Not to Include Appearances…

– Determine the overall goal of your story.  Is describing your appearance important to the message of the story? Will it help more effectively tell your story?


Being a first-person writer is both a blessing and a curse.  Play to your strengths and be aware of and strengthen your weaknesses!