A Review – Part 1: Books

I’ve been thinking about this series for a long time. I’ve spoken about starting it several times, i’ve thought about publishing different versions, but it just didn’t feel authentic or right. Plus, nowadays everyone has a blog, and I recognize mine is just one of the many, but what makes it worth it are the awesome messages of support from readers I’ve never met but who seem to get why I started this blog in the first place.

So here it goes, an attempt to end the hiatus for real this time.

A Review of What’s Been Happenin’: Books

When I moved to Carrboro. I was scared out of my absolute-freaking mind. The support and encouragement from my mentors, family, and friends, was the security blanket I clung to for what felt like weeks. The bubble of comfort and “safety” I had in Asheville? Was popped without my permission (Or so it felt) and I was in a totally new place, without a clue of how to feel about my least favorite thing in the world – change.

But i’ll get into that later…. this post is going to recap for you all my academic experience for the past year. Which can arguably be summed up in a loud audible sigh.

First, a round of applause for my professors who challenged the mess out of me at UNC Asheville.

Second, a round of applause for my bosses/coworkers who taught me everything I know about professionalism and developed me as a leader, and employee.

Third, for my parents who taught me to be stubborn and raised me with a work ethic that makes me want to roll my eyes at my own self sometimes, but I digress.

What has Graduate School taught you so far?

one year

This is a question I get asked a lot. It’s hard to sum up the amount of notes taken or lectures and classes that I sat through because the learning process changed so much for me in grad school. And to be honest that I don’t think you realize how much you learn in that first year until you’re at work and spit out vocabulary words from your organizational theory course or cite case from public administration law as if it is the most natural thing of life. However, since the post is titled books, here is a quick list that I think sums up the year.

Stop ignoring your local governments like they are antiquated and don’t do anything. They do everything.

I came into my MPA program, not wanting to really go into local government, but rather understand it’s role in whatever career related to housing that I would end up choosing, and what I got instead of guidance on the housing piece was a whole lot of knowledge and understanding about how crucial local government is to everyday life.

And the sad thing is? We ignore them. We ignore it and take for granted what local government’s contribute to everyday life. We don’t understand what public servants really do. We rush to look at the state level (oh NC….ohhhhhh NC….) and the federal level like that’s where it ALL happens when that’s where A LOT happens but not ALL things happen.

From housing, to roads being paved, to public transportation. Safety, making the community look nice, programs for the young, old, and in between. Things are really really happening at the local level, and despite my resistance at first, meeting what’s felt like hundreds of county and town managers (really just dozens) across NC, has really put the role of local government into perspective. So I challenge you, look up your town or city’s official website/twitter, look at what they’re doing. Even if you don’t get involved. You’d really be surprised as to how much is going on.

I can’t run away from math anymore.

Ya’ll. I took budgeting this past semester. Had a phenomenal professor who was patient in every single way you could be patient, and I learned so much about math I didn’t understand before. And maybe it was just the practicality of the course and how I realized I had to actually understand the math she was describing and educating us about, but truth is, I just can’t run from it anymore. It’s been a good streak though. #RIPmathavoidance2012-2016

There are more and more acronyms being created everyday and ya’ll might as well start tracking them.

I’ve been hearing acronyms for things I didn’t realize had acronyms from day one of graduate school. Eventually most if not all were explained to me, but my goodness it was so daunting for the first few weeks. My most salient example however is from my first day of work this summer. I learned a total of 11 acronyms on my first day. ELEVEN. Come on housing world…. do better….

Procrastination is the devil.

All I have to say about this is that my worst nights (and some of the funniest) came from times I procrastinated and I never want to do it again, and am fully aware that come October (that’s my goal) that’ll probably not be realistic but hey… i’m trying.

A lot more goes into your environment than you realize.

This is kind of like the “stop ignoring your local government” lesson, but the planning version. This past year I decided to apply for the City & Regional Planning program, was accepted and will be officially joining in the fall as a dual degree student. However, I had the opportunity to take a workshop in the Spring, and it blew my mind on a weekly basis. Despite it being housing focused, it consistently explored the intersectionality between other policy areas and over time, I realized how interconnected the players that construct the towns and places we live and enjoy on a daily basis truly are.

Sleep. Please do it.

I can’t really talk about getting sleep because I started writing a part of this at 1:30 in the morning  BUT, the first year of graduate school has really taught me to value sleep. Partially because it would happen anyways, and partially because I didn’t like how my body was reacting without it. Sleep matters. Do you best to get it. #tipofthecentury


Of course there is more….

struggle story

So 6 items is not an accurate depiction of ALL that I learned, but these six I’ve listed above really capture the year in a nutshell.

My hope is that over time i’ll be able to change and grow from all of it, but for now I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

So, that’s why i’ve broken up this series into four sections: Books, Pugs, Stresses, and Joys.

We’ve covered books! So be on the lookout for Part 2: on Pugs coming soon.


As always, Much love!



Heartaches & Heartbreaks #5 : Growing Pains

I apologize for the lateness of this post, but I think that everything that has happened in the past two weeks allowed me to make this more honest and truthful and transparent than I thought I was being in my initial draft of this post. So, let’s get started shall we?

Growing Pains!! Not the kind where you grow tall people, I have no idea what that is like.

When we’re young, we can’t wait to be old. We see our parents, our teachers, our role models, our idols, etc… with this air about them that seems so cool. At least I did. I though that my teachers were some of the coolest people in the world, and I couldn’t really figure out why , but what I did know is that they were grown.

Grown. To be grown. Why in the world do we aspire to get here so much when we’re little? And then once we’re here, wish we were little again? The irony kills me time and time again.

Now for a slightly sobering reason as to why I personally wanted to be grown up.

I wanted to help.

I was uncomfortable as a child…awkward too, but uncomfortable because I felt useless being young and in school…I loved school but whenever things were tight or a little rough financially. I was beyond frustrated when certain things happened and yet again there I was a student, no money to my name to help my family out to make sure my mom wouldn’t stress anymore to help out my dad once in a while…I wanted to be a grown up so bad… ever since I was 10.

When I turned 10, I learned to fear and dislike money.

Now I don’t fear it. I just still don’t like it very much, probably because I still don’t have much.. but hey, I digress.

I remember being 10 years old and feeling like the weight of the entire Watkins-Cruz clan was on my shoulders. I was going into middle school, and the frequency of my father’s “focus pumpkin you have to go to college” talks were really getting ridiculous.

SO that’s when it started really I wanted to come to college to be grown and one day help my parents out. I wanted to work hard in school the only place my parents would let me work (thank you by the way) so that I could get to a point where I could help them out, take care of them, lift stress off of them.

And let me tell you…. being a 20 something is great, but sheesh it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

I can picture the adults reading this and chuckling to themselves, but come on, think about how you felt at this point…there was no story book telling you what it would feel like…nor what it would be like. Even if you had parents that “kept it real” with you, you still had to go through a moment of ….oh….OH…. okay… this is grown.

Growing pains I believe come in a variety of ways. As someone who hasn’t grown since the 8th grade I’m not really talking about height here, I’m talking about emotional, mental, and physical growing pains (aside from bones).

Let’s look at what is added on when you begin to grow older:

  • Bills : There’s money again. Say hello world, and goodbye the awesome checking/savings you thought you’d have because bills exist, and self-control is needed constantly in this area.
    • Credit Cards are apparently the devil. Didn’t know that. Still not entirely convinced by I see the argument’s point.
    • Taxes. What?
    • Rent. Lawd, rent.
    • Car payments. That vehicle of freedom can be a burden now.
    • Fun money. I have $15 and that needs to last me for 1.5 weeks of fun at least.
  • Health: We cannot do what we want to do or have to do or need to do if we’re unhealthy. Simple as that. But when you’re 2.5 hours away from home, surrounded by people who all ceremoniously get sick or start coughing on the same day…what’s your move? You can’t just run home. Or when you see that all the beautiful junk food is starting to make those steps you have to climb everyday real difficult, it’s on YOU to change that. You need to find the balance in healthy food and exercise, and pinterest sadly does not count.
  • Work: Jobs are great. I’ve been blessed to have great jobs these past few years, but the greatness of them doesn’t discount the fact that they’re a huge responsibility. Those mornings you could sleep in? BYE. Those times you could sit around and procrastinate and do homework, hello office hours, BYE free time. I’m being dramatic, but you see the point.
  • Love Life & Relationships: I’m not going to go into detail here, for my last entry in this series is dedicated to this… but geez….another challenging one that changes again and again as you get older.

Ultimately I think growing pains shouldn’t be limited to describe when people grow taller. One, that would make no sense for me to talk about, and two, I think the phrase really fits perfectly in describing what a lot of growing up feels like. It’s sort of painful. I mean obviously not at once, but the constant yet erroneous changes that pop up? Painful. The transitions you go through? Painful.

And it’s not a matter of an “OW” painful. It’s the kind of pain that is what makes you dead tired when you go to bed at night.

It’s the kind of pain that makes your heart almost unbearably heavy but you know you keep going anyways.

It’s the kind of pain that is expressed as stress.


It’s the kind of pain that can often remind you of how far you’ve come, and how far you have yet to go.

Much love,


Heartaches vs. Heartbreaks : Your Dreams & Plans vs. Life

I know at some point you all are probably tired of hearing me rant and ramble about New York. This time is going to be a little bit different. I’m going to try and explain to you why my dreams pull me in that direction in the first place, and how life and my plans have changed alongside my dreams.

I stepped foot in New York City almost 8 years ago. The only way I can describe that initial feeling? It took my breath away.

The pivotal feeling NYC gave me was similar to the feeling I used to feel when being on stage dancing-Alive.

The city lights, bustling people of all shapes, sizes, personalities and complexions, made me smile. The aromas from garbage and sewers to italian food and McDonalds intrigued me so much.

And then I saw the purple flags….discovered NYU. Thus my dream of moving to NYC as soon as possible was born


When you first get an idea or first become passionate about something, the possibilities are endless. It seems as if nothing can stand in your way. And oh, what I would give to have that optimism every single waking day of my life. When I first decided NYC was the place for me, I chose the route that seemed most realistic. School. I would go to NYU live in the big city, learn new things, meet worldly people and BOOM. Dream come true. Right? Wrong.

I didn’t think of the OBSTACLES.

The first wall that presented itself was in fact the very same method I thought I’d gain entry to NYC by. School. I didn’t get into NYU. I was utterly devastated. Felt as if I’d done something horribly wrong, and that all my hard work had been for nothing. All hope was lost.

(insert dramatic pause here…)

Then I came to UNC Asheville. And because the memories, experience, and feelings I have about this school could be its own blog post i’ll save it for another time…but basically, I found my place. The place that I was supposed to be next… and now almost 4 years later, 8 months or 243 days away from undergraduate graduation I wouldn’t have had it any other way. 


You see, we have this idea of what our lives are supposed to be like. To some degree, we assume that by planning things no matter how specifically or generally we do it, that this plan ensures that what we want to happen will be what happens.

Lesson 1: Plans don’t always work out the way you hope they will


I would never give up the people I have met, interacted with , and learned from these past few years. I’ve learned new things, done big things, and met some worldly people. Just like I wanted right? 

So not getting in the first time around? Necessary. Didn’t kill my dream. In fact, the time spent away from NYC resulted in a few things for my dreams and I:

  • Helped me realize that I didn’t have to choose a career right away but that it was okay to choose a direction.
  • Why I actually wanted to go to NYC, and NYU in the first place
  • I had a lot of growing to do before I could take on this big dream the right way.
  • Allowed me to discover a new passion, which is fatefully stationed right in the big Apple and has allowed me to see NYC in a new professional light.
  • Taught me to appreciate home more than ever.

So obstacles? Are not all that bad. There are a lot of things that would have gone much much differently if I’d have gone to NYC right away.  It’s hard to imagine life that way now, because of all the wonderful things that have happened since.

Lesson 2: A part of achieving your dreams, is truly knowing the answer to the question: WHY?

If you ask me what I want to do now I’d tell you graduate school. For what? Public Administration. Where? NYC. Why?


Why? Is the question that trips everyone up. It is the question you can’t really contest, because the answer is yours. Why do YOU want to do this? Why is this the route YOU want to take?  I highlight the YOU part because when you really sit and think about this why question you realize how many other people have placed a stake in YOUR dream…. versus the stake you have in it. If the stakes other people have in your dream are bigger than your own? Technically it isn’t your dream anymore.

When I first wanted to take on NYC. I wanted to be a lawyer. I was going to go to NYU, learn everything I could. Go to Law School, do it again, and then work for a big firm in which I could find some way to impact housing laws and policies. Looking at that now almost makes me cringe a bit. Why? Because it was far from what I truly wanted.

Now? I would like to pursue a master’s degree in Public Administration or Public Policy. Why? I want to better understand the way policies and organizations interact with one another, how they can work together better, and how I can use the skills and knowledge taught in these types of programs to begin my own organization one day that is able to provide a substantial public service and collaborate with not only other non-profit organizations but local, state, and federal organizations as well.

Now, look at that, versus being a lawyer? The difference is huge to me when I see it laid out before me.

Lesson 3: Knowing what you want is sometimes more powerful than a detailed plan


The difference ultimately lies in my path. Either way I’ve always known that I want to make a difference, and that I wanted to contribute something to the world. It took the past few years for me to realize that whatever I do, I need to be rooted in it, I need to be intrinsically motivated. I can’t let the big flashy lights and beautiful scenery of NYC be the defining factor of why I want to go there. And to be honest, that’s what it was at first. It’s hard to admit it, but I didn’t know anything about the city, all I had to go off of was the pretty sights and scenery.

I’m grateful that i’ve been able to go to NYC three times in the last 3 years. That I found an organization that taught me to see NYC in a new light. It’s still bright and shiny, but I am not ignorant to its challenges and flaws. 

Is it still my dream to go there for school? Yes. I honestly, want to go to NYC period. It would be the ultimate blessing, and challenge for me. And I am okay with that.

Lesson 4: Learn to dream, prepare, and plan, and live life along with the opening and closing of doors and presentation of different obstacles.

Sometimes, life says no. Since I believe in God, I see it as God, saying no. It doesn’t happen to us to push us down, and that I think is the hardest thing to accept.

When I first applied to NYU, I was terrified, second guessing myself, worried, a bit unprepared to be honest…and I would not have admitted ANY of that to you or anyone. Now, knowing what I want and being able to see it more clearly, recognizing the benefits in the obstacles that have been presented to me, knowing how to answer the question WHY? and realizing that plans aren’t always going to work out the way I hope they will… have prepared me more than ever before to take on the next big step towards my dream.

When your dream gets placed on hold it hurts. It is a definite heartache. When it doesn’t happen when you think it will, it can even feel like a heartbreak. What heals that pain though, are the four lessons that being away from NYC have taught me:

Lesson 1: Plans don’t always work out the way you hope they will.

Lesson 2: A part of achieving your dreams, is truly knowing the answer to the question: WHY?

Lesson 3: Knowing what you want is sometimes more powerful than a detailed plan.

Lesson 4: Learn to dream, prepare, and plan, and live life along with the opening and closing of doors and presentation of different obstacles.


I hope that whatever your dream is, you continue to fight for it. I also hope that if you recognize that it isn’t your dream anymore you can let go of it as peacefully.

As for my dream? NYC i’m coming for you. NYU?


Round 2, let’s go.

2014-08-07 21.41.32


Much love,















Heartaches & Heartbreaks : #1 Leaving Home

I was so excited to leave home in High School. I didn’t look at UNC Charlotte, I didn’t care much for the in-state schools, I was utterly convinced that NYC was the place for me, where I needed and wanted to be.

I wanted to leave so that I could enjoy “freedom” and “independence”.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified. I was absolutely terrified. Couldn’t let my parents see it of course, but I was scared.

The fear grew worse when I didn’t get into any of my out-of-state schools. I felt defeated, I felt like all my dreaming, all my hard work had been for nothing. I felt stupid.

When I was accepted into UNC Asheville, and then sent in my enrollment deposit, the fear wasn’t present, but it also wasn’t gone. Orientation was fun, I went through that and survived. However, when the first two weeks of school came along. I was miserable. The first weekend in Asheville I thought I was on top of the world. Come Monday morning  after an intimidating reading of the syllabi by the professor who ended up being my advisor months later-I was bawling my eyes out in the Honors Office, more homesick and distraught than I’d ever been at that point.

I was so distressed, I was essentially an introvert for 2 weeks. It was a dark time ya’ll.

You see, I wasn’t necessarily scared or distraught over school… Which was stressful don’t get me wrong, but it was the fact that I’d hidden the fear of leaving the people that loved me, and cared for me the most for the 17 years up until that point and I honestly felt empty without them. I had to wake up without my mom yelling and pulling off the covers or splashing water on my face. I no longer woke up to the smell of arepa and eggs, and bacon. I didn’t come home to my dad asking about my day anymore, and although I hated talking about my day as most angsty teens do, I missed having someone who cared about how my day went in the first place. I no longer could just run and hug either of my parents. That run would have been ridiculous seeing as it’s a 2.5 hour drive from Charlotte to Asheville. It all hit me like a ton of bricks.

All of this was new to me. And although I thought and dreamed of leaving and being awesome in a brand new place would be great and easy and not this emotional, I was floundering.

My two introverted weeks went by, and then things began to change.

I got involved. I was introduced to people, I spent time with my suitemates. I met the people who eventually became my best friends a few weeks later (still going well in case you were wondering). And just like that, I’d begun to form a new home. My second home, but a home nevertheless.

All that was left was the fact that I had to conquer the fear that without all those familiar things I wouldn’t make it. And slowly but surely I did.

Leaving home isn’t easy. Notice I’m not saying “wasn’t” because even now… 3 years later, I find it hard to leave my family. You develop a new perspective on your parents when you’re 112 miles away from them. They start to show you sides of themselves that they didn’t think you’d be ready for before college, and now that’s all changed. Funny sides. Weird sides. Sad sides. Awesome sides. Human-Like/Friend sides.

I think the hardest part is knowing that this entire time that I’ve been growing up they’ve been growing up too. Growing old. Changing. I guess i’d always seen them as superheroes and figured nothing would or could ever happen to them. And as an only child that’s really attached to her family, thinking of that is scary. And so each time I go home now I try and give one more hug, make them laugh a bit more, tell them more, ask for advice on life, school, and boys (even though that’s still not working, but we’ll get there), because I don’t want to miss out on any more chances to be a family for as long as I can help it.

And so there you have it:

Heartbreak #1 : Leaving home & family behind to a world both unfamiliar and terrifying.

Lesson #1: Family is something you cherish, leaving them is just an opportunity to work harder on developing your bond and connection. Enjoy them and every moment with them while you can.

2014-08-06 08.16.03

2014-08-05 19.09.24