Country Deep in the Red Stick

Country music has always reminded me of home. Tailgates are the norm, and driving 30 minutes down a back road to get to the perfect rope swing spot is never an inconvenience. David Nail and Sam Hunt sing about the simple things that make me feel as if I’m home, no matter where I am in the world.

Image courtesy of AT&T Country Deep and David Nail

Image courtesy of AT&T Country Deep and David Nail

For me, there’s no better feeling than losing myself in the lyrics sung at a live show. Swaying back and forth with a local brew and singing along with an artist brings me to my happy place. Pictures and videos just can’t do the feeling justice, but I’m going to do my best to provide an experience for you as a reader. I might even persuade you to join me next Wednesday.

AT&T U-verse, a service that brings country music to its viewers’ screens daily through the Country Deep App, announced in February that they’re presenting the Country Deep Tour. One spot on the tour is my current home — Baton Rouge, also known as the Red Stick.

A favorite local venue of mine to see a show, The Varsity, will host the tour on Wednesday, April 30 at 8 p.m. The show will headline rising star David Nail and features Sam Hunt as its opener.

I have no shame in admitting I tear up every time I hear “Red Light” by David Nail; I can’t imagine how incredible he will sound on stage. Sam Hunt reminds me of the guys I grew up with who just loved to live every day like it would never end. There was always something to do, no matter how boring the summer days seemed.

In association with AT&T U-verse and the Country Deep Tour, I’m giving away two tickets to the concert. (Yes, you read that correctly.) As part of the association, I get to attend the concert and get exclusive access to David and his team, so I can share my experience with you. Maybe I won’t cry during the show when he sings the song that gets me every time; I need to keep my cool in case I have an opportunity to interview the man himself.

If you are interested in joining me next Wednesday, I encourage you to you mention me in a tweet (@ErinMKenna) using the #ATTCountryDeepTour hashtag to be entered into the ticket giveaway. Another option is to retweet anything I post about the concert. Seriously, it’s that simple. A winner will be chosen next Monday, April 28.

 

This post was made possible through my association with AT&T Country Deep. The prize was provided by AT&T, but AT&T is not a sponsor, administrator, or involved in any other way with this giveaway. All opinions expressed in this post are my own and not those of AT&T.

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We’re the gladiators

Be emotionally strong.

I had an awesome discussion with a coworker about the stigmas that precede women. Some were trivial while others touched on a deeper issue. As a child, I was never told to smile if I was sad. I was never told to be incessantly nice when something was wrong.

I find that this has served as a strength. If I don’t want to smile, I most likely won’t. If I do, it will be incredibly obvious that I’m putting on a “pretty face.” Even that phrase…why is that commonplace?

I digress. I see so many women who are frustrated. They’re pissed off due to work, significant others, etc. Instead of displaying any natural emotion, a smile is plastered on their faces. They’re faking it until they make it. I understand that  social norms tell us to smile and take it, day after day, female or male.

I’m not going to. I’m going to tell you if there’s something wrong. And believe me, I will be a walking emotional billboard if I’m unhappy — I can rarely hide my disdain for anything. (My disdain for things is rare, by the way. I don’t get pleasure out of being aggravated).

What if we allowed a freeflow of emotions every once in awhile instead of covering it up, sweeping it under the rug, metaphor, metaphor, metaphor. Let’s just talk candidly about the injustice of the day instead of portraying an unattainable ideal for ourselves that others can attempt to live up to. Maybe if there was more discourse about small issues, larger ones would be easier to talk about.

I’ll be a gladiator, I’ll express how I feel, and I’ll be strong. Want to join me?

Phone calls and campaign books

This weekend has been one I’ll never forget. But let me provide some history first.

Two months ago, I had no idea where I would be starting May 17, the day following my graduation from the Manship School of Mass Communication. I weighed my options for full-time positions in Baton Rouge and on the Gulf Coast.

In the midst of job searching and networking events, I was trying not to become overwhelmed with the Bateman Competition. January through March now seem like an absolute whirlwind to me, and thinking about what our team of five women was able to accomplish at a university comprised of almost 30,000 makes me exhausted.

Delirium at its finest.

Delirium at its finest.

The news was officially released on Friday, March 21, that I am the inaugural Ruth Edelman/PRSSA National Award winner. Humbled is an understatement. This woman inspired anyone she came into contact with. She uplifted those around her, and she made them feel as though they were each critical to the vision of the company.

I applied on a whim. I read through the application once or twice in early December 2013. I counted myself out (almost entirely). There’s something odd and self-reflective about filling out applications. A fine line exists between boasting and identifying your talents within a maximum word count. I discredited my capabilities after a few first glances. Then, after a moment of clarity on a long run, I decided to just apply. The worst Edelman PR could say was no.

On Saturday, January 25, I began compiling a portfolio along with my application materials. I became disheartened again; I needed some reassurance. Jensen, my adviser for PRSSA at LSU and the Bateman Team, was quick to respond to my text asking for advice. After a phone call, I knew it wasn’t far-fetched for me to apply…or win.

I asked Jensen and a former women’s history professor for letters of recommendation. Both had letters ready to be picked up by Monday, January 27. The application was due to PRSSA National headquarters in New York by Friday, January 31.

On my way to the gym, I decided to send my completed application. The rest of the week was looking stacked, and I was concerned about the limited time frame. As I walked into UPS, the cashier asked if I was sending a package. My application was the last item picked up by the truck that evening — with five minutes to spare before closing time.

The winter months in Baton Rouge have been pretty dreary this year. On Tuesday, January 28, most roads were closed due to safety hazards. My application would not have made it to New York by Friday had I not dropped it off the night before.

I’m humbled to represent such an amazing woman and company. It kind of seems like fate, after all.

Aside from finding out where the next chapter of my life will be location-wise (Chicago), the 2014 LSU Bateman Team sent our campaign book to print yesterday. Ninety pages stacked with information about our campaign and its results — which are impressive, I might add — will be on its way to PRSSA National in New York this week. We have spent hours researching, planning, executing and evaluating throughout the last five months. There have been moments where I have felt totally inadequate, but I find those are the optimal opportunities for personal growth.

I’m exhausted, but I’m grateful.

Oh, and I’m happy.

A Love Letter To Mississippi

If I could write a love letter to the place I love more than anywhere, it would sound a little like this.

Thought Catalog

Loco SteveLoco Steve

Mississippi, you’re a wiry old bird, aren’t you?

I’ve lived in your state my entire life. I’d call it a love affair, really—we’ve broken up several times, and I’ve said that I’ve hated you in the heat of the night. I’ve wanted to get out so badly that I thought about transferring schools to some out-of-the-way, leaf-strewn place in Connecticut. Your antonym, out of pure spite, a chance to shed and change skins. But I’ve come back, time and time again, shame-faced and overwhelmed by your beauty, your understated charm. You’re like gravity—you release your natives to the wide world, but they are intrinsically marked by you, just the same. When we meet in another state or over the ocean, we’re constantly amazed by your pull, your warm broadness that extends past the crooked borders of your land.

Mississippi, you’re so pot-marked by your past. You’ve had it…

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From a senior perspective

Take it all in. 

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 9.07.38 PMThree months. Three months until I walk across the stage with several of my peers and shake the hands of the deans as I receive my diploma. Four long years of hard work, frustration (at times) and singing “Callin’ Baton Rouge” are about to end in one swift walk.

There are going to be amazing days when you feel as though all of your efforts are being noticed by those around you. The organization you stay up at night for to complete the work no one else was willing to do will recognize you as the “Unsung Hero.” The paper or presentation or midterm you prepared for well in advance will be subtly applauded by your professor because he/she knows the lightbulb finally lit.

Then there will be the days when no one notices the extra hours you sacrificed or the anxiety you endured while waiting for an exam to be administered. But it’s part of the big picture, so take it all in.

I have cheered in Death Valley until I’ve cried. I have witnessed proud traditions that other institutions couldn’t fathom. I have been asked to challenge myself in the classroom, through leadership positions, during internships and jobs. This University has given me more opportunities than I ever expected.

My advice to a freshman, sophomore or junior is to, yet again, take it all in. Work hard even when no one is watching. Challenge yourself more than the person sitting next to you. Accept opportunities that come your way, but don’t allow yourself to become nominal. Know that accolades do not accompany each pursuit, and be humble when they do.

Learn from your professors and learn from your mistakes. Ask questions because you’re inquisitive, and don’t allow the majority to silence your point of view. Question what you’ve always known to be true. Add to the marketplace of ideas. Stray away from your comfort levels.

More than anything, know that you didn’t achieve success alone. And realize that most seniors would love to be in your position again, if only for a day.

Staying authentic

What is authenticity? How do I maintain it when there are so many other things to be?

I was able to attend the Women’s Leadership Symposium last weekend. I attended a session led by Kat Macfarlane concerning authenticity in the workplace, and her advice inspired me.

This year, this semester in particular, has been one for sincere self-reflection. I find myself wondering each day if I’m becoming the woman I have envisioned or if I am moving into a direction of question marks and self-doubt.

Who am I? Well, I’m:

  • An activist of sorts for various groups, particularly women and young girls seeking guidance and positive affirmation.
  • A student who has been driven her entire life to accomplish everything at once — at times to my detriment.
  • A loyal friend who values true companionship and long-term relationships.
  • A lover of music, fresh food and exercise.
  • Someone who attempts to find the good in everything…again, sometimes to my detriment.
  • Determined to uphold my personal integrity throughout everything I do.

Being authentic means that I’m being myself. When I have those moments of self-doubt or question what the purpose of going the extra mile is, I realize that I’m being my most authentic self.

I love being productive, which makes going the extra mile that much sweeter. I love trying new things and challenging myself, which is evident in my ever-changing gym routines and in my determination to test my abilities both inside and outside of the classroom.

Being my most authentic self calls for long days and constant conversation. Do I live in the present? I certainly try. Do I lose sleep worrying or being anxious about my future and prospective opportunities? Absolutely. Do I feel like I’m trying too hard? Sometimes. I wish I could change these personality traits at times, but I know that’s impossible. Instead I’ll remain authentic and work diligently to lose the self-doubt.

Do you ever feel this way? Any advice for those down moments?

Days 11-24

The Max Phase.

In all, the Challenge went really well. I lost about two pounds and my energy was through the roof.  I don’t have the quintessential before and after picture because there wasn’t a huge transformation. My goal was not to lose weight; I wanted to gain more energy.

There was only one real drawback throughout this phase. The amount of supplements I had to take was a little obscene, and I felt compulsive when I had to leave each meal to grab a pack of pills.

My advice? If you want to challenge yourself, then this is a good way to start. Nothing is better than exercise, drinking plenty of water, eating correctly and sleeping enough. No challenge can teach you that; you have to motivate yourself to pursue a healthy lifestyle.

If you have any questions about my venture, feel free to ask! I will say this…I gave up coffee for almost a month, and I feel better than ever. I think I’ll stick with Spark no matter what.