I originally wrote this for my internship on July 1. You can find the original blog post here. I wanted to share this here because the topic recently came up again at my job and I was reminded of how hard I had worked on this.

Ding. An email rolls in; it reads “Final Fourth of July Opportunities!” as the subject line. Ding. Another one. This one titled “Newsletter: July 2016”.

These emails slip through your spam filter and into your email because you specifically signed up for them. They are a slight nuisance, but not enough of one to take the time to unsubscribe or send them to the black-hole known as your spam inbox (just yet). They are about things you might have an interest in purchasing or reading later, but not at this moment. They are graymail, or, in keeping with the meat-themed emails, bacon (spelled bacn).

So what is graymail?

Graymail, coined by Hotmail, is a term used to describe solicited emails that don’t fit the definition of spam emails. In other words, they’re those annoying emails you get from that online store you bought your niece’s Christmas gifts from when you had to put your email in to finally checkout. Most people just pass over them when checking their email. They’re usually characterized by a waning interest over time until finally, out of sheer annoyance, you mark them as spam. It’s been estimated that 82 percent of emails in your inbox rights now are graymail and 75 percent of all spam identified by Hotmail users is actually unwanted graymail.

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HubSpot recently published an article on Medium about what happened when they unsubscribed 250,000 people from their new-content emails – without asking. “Although it’s not considered spam,” HubSpot wrote, “sending graymail is problematic because it can hurt the deliverability of your email overall.”

The first thing they did was to set up a system to unsubscribe subscribers once they became unengaged with the content. After six months of not clicking on the email, the subscribers become unsubscribed.

“If you think we didn’t have anxiety about unsubscribing 45% of our list, you’re dead wrong. But once we got over the sticker shock, we realized there wasn’t really anything to be worried about,” HubSpot wrote, “the people we were unsubscribing hadn’t clicked through to our blog from any of the emails we’d sent them over the course of the last 6 months, so we weren’t at risk of losing any email traffic.”

After cutting down the list by 45 percent, HubSpot removed the “instant” subscription option. Instead of sending users an email every time their blog was updated, these users now received a daily email with an aggregate of the day’s best posts. Subscribers were made aware of this decision with HubSpot noting “their inboxes would be a little lighter for it”.

But why does eliminating dormant subscribers and removing graymail from users’ inboxes matter?

It matters because your email server is smart. Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail, they’re actively studying their users’ habits. They learn what kind of things you like to read, what you’re interested in and what things you don’t pay attention to.

If you have 10 people all receiving the same email but eight of them don’t engage any further than opening the welcome email, the servers learn that this is something that’s of little interest and will start hiding these emails from consumers. Even actively engaged subscribers, the ones who want to see what you have created, will have their emails hidden because the majority view the content as graymail. By having a majority subscriber population that’s inactive, you’re actually allowing the servers to see your emails as irrelevant and unimportant.

Graymail isn’t spam; however, it is content that’s perceived to be spam-like by the receiver. It’s important to keep an eye on post-send engagement data. But don’t worry – lower engagement numbers aren’t a death sentence. Sometimes, like HubSpot learned, it’s important to rework your system to better blanket your consumers. Graymail and unengaged users are simply an opportunity to learn more about your target consumers and what messages work. Learning from your graymail, as HubSpot wrote, “[is] a better experience for the recipient and, thus, a better result for the marketer.”

Date Night

I’ve always said that right now Adam and I are in this strange nebulous world of dating. Before he left, we were in a traditional monogamous relationship where we saw each other weekly, went on actual dates (some of our dates will be a future blog post, Raleigh has such fun things for couples to do) and we spent time together doing couple-y things. Now, we’re still monogamous but we can’t really do anything at all other than talk on the phone. Sometimes I like to joke that I’m in a relationship without all the benefits (a partner to comfort me when I need it, someone to talk to and spend time with, someone who will come rushing to my side with Chinese food and movies when I’m sick) and I’m single without all the benefits (free dinner, um… that’s about it, actually, dating sucks). As much as a joke, I’m committed to Adam 100 percent– even if I’m constantly waiting on him.

The best analogy I ever heard (okay, I made it up) was that being long distance like this is like trying to swim across the ocean. When you’re together, you’re a team. Helping each other across the ocean, cheering each other on, making sure no one is left behind. You can physically help the other person. But, when you’re long distance, you’re no longer swimming, you’re treading water. You’re trying to keep your head above the waves and playing a game of Marco Polo in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It’s not impossible but it’s just very difficult.

One of the things Adam and I liked to do when he was here was to watch movies together. Our favorite thing was to make dinner together and curl up on the couch with some Netflix and watch different movies– usually a scary movie– and eat our dinner. It’s obviously hard to watch movies when you’re in two different countries with at least a seven hour time difference between you.

That’s where rabb.it comes in.

I know this will sound super infomercial like and I apologize in advance but if you’re long distance, rabb.it is great. You can video chat and watch Netflix/Hulu/Youtube or even surf the Internet together. We’ve found that if the person with the better internet (me) streams the content and hosts the video chat room, then the person with the weaker internet has fewer interruptions. Their browser seems to read both the video chat and the streaming as one.

So, what we did Sunday was watch Black Mirror together. It’s a TV series with hour long episodes that don’t have an overall story throughout each episode you need to keep up with. The episodes are independent of each other. But, we could watch this together, talk about the episode, see each other’s faces and actually have a real-life reaction to what we were watching.

There’s separate audio channels so you have the ability to turn up the volume on whatever you’re watching and turn down the audio on whoever you’re video chatting with– if you so desire. I do desire because it can be really jarring to hear laughter in the middle of the episode. There’s even a neat feature where you mouse over the bubble your partner appears in and it puts them up big on your screen.

Other things I think we might use rabb.it for in the future:

  • Looking at apartments together– a lot of the websites are banned where he’s at
  • Updating our (his) resumes for future job hunting
  • Picking out products for our future apartment– I’m on the hunt for a plain gray bedspread and it’s the hardest thing I’ve done in weeks

There’s so much we can do with rabb.it to “spend time together” that we couldn’t. Ironically, even though we love Black Mirror, I’m grateful for the technology we have because it gives us the ability to be as normal of a couple as we possibly can.

So, thank you world for WiFi, the Internet, rabb.it, and Netflix.

Oh, did you also know rabb.it has an iPhone app? Me neither since I don’t have an iPhone.

Dealing With Loss When You’re Alone

Last Monday we got the news that my great-grandmother had passed. She was 96 years old and we were closer than you’d expect a great-grandmother and her great-grandchild to be. She was one of my heroes and I looked up to her my entire life.

Wednesday we went to the funeral and internment and it was, um, interesting to say the least. There was just a lot of unnecessary drama that wasn’t needed at a funeral. It could have waited at least until Maw Maw was in the ground but what’s done is done at this point.

But, one of the hardest things is knowing your partner wants to be there to support you and can’t be. Adam was there on Monday when the news broke but had to leave that night. It was a rough twelve hours; at 7 am, I got the news that my great-grandmother had passed and at 7 pm I had to leave Adam at the airport. Monday was probably one of the hardest days– emotionally– of my life.

My great-grandmother isn’t the only one I’ve lost while Adam has been deployed. I lost my grandfather (her son, actually) in November the same week of Thanksgiving. Ironically, we lost my grandmother, another of my dad’s family members, a week or so before Christmas two years ago. My family kind of sucks about holidays, I guess. But I’ve experienced significant loss during the 7 months he’s been gone.

Loss of a loved one is already something that’s incredibly difficult to take in and deal with and it’s even harder when you’re dealing with it alone. I hate to say alone because I had my family and we all came together to mourn and to heal but I was without my partner. You learn to rely on someone that you love to be by your side through everything.

What do you do when they can’t be there?

You just move on. There really isn’t a choice– you have to keep moving. Did Adam want to be there? Yes, he did. Did I want him there? Yes, I wanted him there. But sometimes, when you’re in that much pain, you can’t spend your time wishing and wanting for things that cannot happen. You just have to keep moving and going and being.

I know it sounds insensitive of me but what can you really do?

 

When He Has to Leave After Leave

Adam’s time on leave with me has finally come to an end. We spent a great few weeks together and enjoyed our time on vacation immensely. It was nice to get to sit together and do simple things like watch TV or make dinner together. We got to talk about doing laundry and how my day at work was. We got to talk face-to-face rather than over the phone and there wasn’t that terrible delay that you get with Facebook Messenger.

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Blue Ridge Parkway sightseeing

We enjoyed a lot of hiking.

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Climbing to the top of Split Rock at Grandfather Mountain

A. lot.

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The creek while waiting for our tour to start at Linville Caverns

I think we hiked every single day.

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Carefully scaling Blowing Rock

We had some birthday fun! It was my birthday, I turned 22 on February 23 and Adam really helped to make it extra special.

He made me breakfast in bed and even got me some cute cupcakes and put a candle in it. Which I blew out and made a wish, of course (I won’t tell you my wish, I really would like it to come true).

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All hand-made by Adam

We made some amazing dinners together (seriously, try this recipe and substitute the chicken with the shrimp. It’ll blow your mind).

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We walked around Historic Blowing Rock on my birthday while doing a little bit of window shopping and even got some ice cream.

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Ice cream from Kilwins. We had bought fudge there earlier in the week.

We went out to different breweries and I expanded my picky palate just a little bit.

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Cider from Appalachian Mountain Brewery

Of course, I think you can see a trend in the kind of alcohol I like to drink. Bring on the ciders!

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This was Mellow Mushroom– but it counts, right?

We saw a ton of weird stuff on our adventures.

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Giant wooden burl at Grandfather Mountain

We did a ton of touristy stuff at Old Salem like eating at the tavern and going to see the blacksmith.

We even found a little troll under the bridge.

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Adam gave me one of the most wonderful gifts for our anniversary. It’s a map of the world where we can put all sorts of pins in to signify different things. Green is where we’ve been, red is where we want to go, yellow is where we have a trip planned, blue is where family and friends are and black is where we have genealogical roots.

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It’s funny to look at because all his green pins are on the west coast and all my green pins are on the east coast. It’s a visual reminder of how lucky we are to have met.

We went out with my friends to celebrate our anniversary at the bar we had our first date at. It’s a fun bar to go to– even if you can’t talk over the music. It was a great way to celebrate being together for one year. To be honest, I’d probably get married at Rum Runners if that was allowed.

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Mango Tango fishbowl

All-in-all, it was a great month. The last day was sad but I just have to remember that we’re one day closer to the rest of our lives.

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Please Don’t Promote Me

I started writing for The Odyssey in April of 2016 and I’ve published many different pieces. Some have been about my job and others have been about my boyfriend and then even more have been about where I live and what I like to do. I’ve also written a lot about different music I like to listen to on different occasions.

I’ve really enjoyed my time with The Odyssey and it has really helped me in my professional life. I put my Editor-in-Chief as a reference and she helped me get my current job. She said so many nice things about me and how I helped make our team what it is and they decided they wanted to make me apart of their team because of what she said.

But some recent developments have me questioning how much longer my time will be at The Odyssey. My Editor-in-Chief is thinking of leaving due to school commitments (and, obviously, school has to come first) and wants me to take over her position. This has lead me to ask myself, “is this really the right move for me and for our team?”

I really think the answer is no.

Of course, one could argue that I’ve been there since the beginning with the team. I’ve helped build it up to what it is now (can’t take all the credit, of course) and I worked my way up from just a regular content creator to a contributing editor. But, of course, that’s when I had the time to devote to it. I had the time to write two or three articles a week to help keep us as a healthy community. I had the time to call creators and ask where their articles were. Now, not so much.

Carey does so much behind-the-scenes work for our team that it’s amazing she has time for anything else. She goes on conference calls with our Managing Editors during the day while I’m at work. Of course, there would be some days every now and again I could take one of those calls but– every week?– probably not on a consistent basis.

Of course, these past few weeks I’ve had my articles pre-written all the way through February and March so I could prepare for Adam to come home, enjoy my visit with him and then have time to mope when he leaves again. If I was Editor-in-Chief I wouldn’t have that ability to take that much time off.

Carey has everyone text her their article topics each Wednesday. If they don’t text her, she chases them down and talks to them about their ideas and what she can help them with. I don’t have the time for that.

Carey sends out reminders in our group chat. I forget.

While I would be honored to be considered for the position as EIC, I don’t think I’m the best choice for the job and it’s okay to admit that. Sometimes, you have to know what you can– and cannot– take on and be honest with yourself about your abilities.

So, if Carey leaves, I leave.

And I think I’m okay with that.

My Life Doesn’t Match the Plan

I think I should just come out and say it.

Nothing went according to plan and I’m living a different life than I ever thought I would.

Up until college, I feel like my life was pretty much going as planned. I got into my dream school, I graduated high school with honors and as an NC Scholar. I had tons of friends, I was driving and I thought I was going to be a teacher.

Well, that obviously didn’t happen.

I went to meetings with several of my future professors to get a feel for what being an elementary education major would be like when I realize this was not for me. I seriously had been planning to be a kindergarten teacher since I was in the eighth grade and now I had no idea what I wanted to be in life. What was I good at? What was I interested in? What should I do? I was very lucky my mother suggested public relations– a field I had never heard of before in my life. So, before I even got to college, I changed my major.

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The dime piece to the left of me is the one to blame for my career decisions.

Best. Decision. Ever.

So what, college wasn’t already going as planned; in my mind, it was okay. A small little hiccup on the way to my eternal happiness.

Then, I met a boy. At the time, he was a great boy. Finally, this was the way things were supposed to be! Girl meets boy, girl and boy graduate, girl and boy get married and then girl and boy have kids. The end.

Except it wasn’t the end.

After two years together, the boy wasn’t right for me. It wasn’t the happily ever after that a college romance was meant to end in.

But that’s okay! I was surrounded by college boys who would all find stable jobs in the city that I loved and I would live in a small house in the suburbs with our dog-children.

Except, I wasn’t happy with  them, either. They were boring or they made fun of my  major. We didn’t click or we never even made it to the first date through some sort of weird coincidences. I was worried. What if I didn’t find my person while I was in college? What would I do then? How do adults date?

(It’s the Internet, in case you’re wondering. I’ve read a lot of posts about this)

So, instead of dating one person all four years of college, I dated someone seriously for two years and then went on a bunch of first dates. But, I could still find someone who will have a nice, stable job that doesn’t require them to come and go, right?

Wrong. Again.Life just likes to throw curve balls sometimes at even the best laid plans.

I met Adam.

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Pictured: another dime piece

I never wanted to seriously date anyone that’s in the military. The life style seemed so transient and not long-lasting. My friend lived in Fayetteville near the local Army base and the lifestyle was just so hard partying and I didn’t want to get sucked into that. I wanted to live in Raleigh and marry an engineer and spend our weekends going to the flea market and making weird Pinterest-inspired dishes. I thought being with someone in the military would mean an early marriage, having children at, like, 19 and being underpaid and underemployed for the rest of my life. I’m not knocking that lifestyle, by all means, but it’s not something I’m able to do.

When Adam came into my life, he dashed away all  the preconceived notions I previously held. He was supportive of me finishing college, he wanted me to get a job and he was just as comfortable at a party as he was at flea markets and in the kitchen making strange dishes off the Internet.

We met my junior year of college, spring semester. Our first date was March 4 and we went out to First Friday but, due to my inability to read a map, we wound up at a bar listening to dueling pianos, sharing drinks and enjoying each other’s company. It wasn’t even a week later that we went out again. Our second date was on a Wednesday and I drove down to Fayetteville from Raleigh. From there, we saw each other every weekend. Probably around late March/early April, he dropped the biggest bomb on me.

He was deploying.

An accountant doesn’t deploy. An engineer doesn’t deploy. I mean, good Lord, even a race car driver doesn’t have to deploy. But, of course, my boyfriend had to deploy.

We knew we had only  few months together before he left for a year. Every day was a small tick on the calendar, the sand trickling down the hourglass. Seven months away. Joking about what we would do when he left. Five months away. The jokes slowly started to turn more serious. Three months way. It was no longer funny. Four weeks away. Tomorrow. The closer we got to the date he was supposed to leave, the faster time seemed to move. Whole weeks seemed like weekends, weekends seemed like a few hours and every day I knew I was closer to having to watch him walk away.

The day came, I said goodbye and we started to settle into our new routine. He’d call when he could, I’d answer if I wasn’t in class, until finally we realized what each other’s schedule was like. Of course, there was some hiccups along the way and we didn’t always see eye-to-eye on everything but, for the most part, everything went smooth.

I, of course, found distractions for myself. I finished my last semester of college rounding out a so-so college career with my best semester ever. I even landed a job before I had even graduated.

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And, guess what. It wasn’t the kind of job I was wanting. There was yet again another curve ball thrown into my life.

I wanted to work in a marketing or public relations firm rather than a corporate office. The pay might have been slightly lower but they all seemed to offer flexible time off policies for an easier work/life balance. Dating someone in the military, that’s a very attractive policy because you never know when they’re going to come and when they’re going to go. But, here I am. Working in corporate America in marketing, a job my field of study slightly touched on.

Things have a funny way of working out. I’m dating someone who is spectacular in every way and treats me like no one else but he’s in the military. What if I hadn’t given him a chance because of that?

I’m working at a job I love doing interesting and unique projects. It’s a small, very hands-on department where I can get a lot of experience and specialize in something. What if I had never even applied because it wasn’t in my original plan?

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It’s been eight years and nothing is getting rid of these ladies.

Sometimes, even the best laid plans have to change.

 

I Never Thought I’d Start A Blog

I’ve made it this far into my life without starting a blog because, frankly, I didn’t think I had that much to talk about. I could sit here and list all the things I’ve done in a day (wake up, shower, go to work, work, come home and repeat) or I could talk about life lessons I’ve learned on the way (don’t loan boyfriends any amount of money, you’ll never see it again) or I could even just talk about my fitness goals for  the year (see the inside of a gym at least twice).

But all that’s so cliche and boring. It’s overdone.

Google “fitness blogs” right now and you’ll see a million and one results pop up– some written by people far more qualified than I to talk to you about fitness. Or, look up “personal blogs” and, after sloughing through ads to claiming to help create a personal blog in three easy steps, you’ll find lists of the top personal blogs from places such as The Webby awards. Sidebar– what even IS the Webby awards and why should I care? I could write about marketing but I do that for eight hours a day, do I really want to exclusively write about marketing in my free time? Also, what the heck do I know about marketing? I’m not some self-proclaimed guru. I believe what makes a good marketer is their results and, as a new face in the workforce, I haven’t had time for results.

Then it came time to figure out why I might want to start a blog. For my family to keep up with my life? Probably not. I already write for The Odyssey and they (better) read that so that updates them on my life. I also live with my parents so they’re pretty savvy to what I’m doing. I think. Either that or they really don’t care too much what their adult daughter is getting into as long as A) it’s not illegal, B) I come home and C) I’m not hurting myself or anyone else.

I simply just wanted a place to put my thoughts out  into the Internet and practice my writing. I know I’m not important. I know I won’t make a living on a blog like some kind of knock-off Pioneer Woman. I won’t have– super cute– plates in Walmart and I won’t be making a book deal anytime soon (can’t say never but I can say probably not). I just wanted a place to write down things that I encounter.

So, I racked my brain for what makes me unique. Okay, I didn’t just rack my brain; I picked the brains of my friends to see what they would say. I asked them, straight out, “what am I good at?” and bless them, they answered.

My topic became clear. I’m in a very unique situation that there’s not a lot of people writing about. I have a full-time career, I work 40 hours a week in my marketing job and I teach guitar in the evenings. All-in-all, I work anywhere between fifty to seventy hours a week. But, I also happen to be dating someone in the military.

It seems like women (and men!) who are dating/engaged/married to someone in the military and also have a full-time job are very underrepresented in literature and in the blog-o-sphere. There’s the image of the “dependa” (thanks, William, for teaching me fun new words!), the woman feeding off her husband and taking all his money for herself without contributing anything to the marriage. These “vile” women are gossiped about by the boys during their working hours and the more established men warn the newcomers to stay away from certain women. Or, you read on the blogs about stay-at-home moms who are essentially Pinterest incarnated.

A lot of the women I’ve encountered that are my age tend to be more home-focused than career-focused, which is okay. It’s just not me. It’s also something I don’t think is talked about. I was so very lucky to meet a group of women, nine of us to be exact, that are all very similar. We all work, we’re all educated (in different things) and we all have similar goals in the end. But, I still always wonder and I get a lot of questions from curious coworkers/friends/internet people.

How does my boyfriend fit into my life?

How are we making things work with us both being gone for hours at a time?

I certainly don’t know but I’m finding out.