Here's my story (the author of this blog)

Excuse my brief dip into potential narcissism, but it occurred to me the other day that you might want to know a bit about the person behind FluentlyForward. If you don’t, feel free to browse my other posts more suited to you, but if I am on the right track, continue on ahead.

Let’s start with the basics. I was born May 26th (Gemini, baby!) 1993, to a family of five. My mother, father, older brother (by 5 years) and older sister (by 4 years).

I grew up in suburban New Jersey for the first few months, and then our family moved to Ireland for two years. That’s right, I learned how to both speak in Ireland, as well as how to use the toilet. No one has officially put this together, but I believe that crossroads of linguistics and pooping is where my love for bathroom humor comes from.

Me in Ireland with a friend. Digging for gold  hard .

Me in Ireland with a friend. Digging for gold hard.

We moved back to New Jersey for a bit, and then when I was 5 we moved to New Zealand for about a year. Most of my childhood memories are shot to shit, but the memories I do have of New Zealand are wonderful. Running around in a yellow school uniform, being friends with a kid named Kitchen (yes, his parents named him Kitchen), and realizing during daily swim lessons that I was an atrocious swimmer, and then trying to weasel my way out of all future swim lessons.

We then moved back to New Jersey (Basking Ridge), and that’s where I lived until going to college.

Ah, the teenage years.

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Firstly, I want to stress this, I wanted for nothing. I have a incredibly loving family, went to a great school, and a lot of my memories are those white-picket-fence ones of walking home from school, playing with my dog in the backyard, and then heading in for a family dinner. My parents were always at home and there for me, and I had a great relationship with my siblings. We had a family library (an entire room, filled with bookshelves and a gold tin ceiling) and some of my favorite memories are reading Calvin and Hobbes comic books in the library, in front of the fire, with our family dog at my feet. I never fought with my siblings, which looking back on it, is crazy. Megan and I would steal each other’s clothes, but I don’t ever remember being mad at them. I really owe it to my parents for keeping us all so close - and even to this day we have the same relationship.

A big part of my life in high school, was volunteering. I started a non-profit called Share in Africa when I was 15. To be honest, I don’t talk much about it now. A lot of people I’m currently friends with have no idea that I’ve ever been to Tanzania - let alone that the country is a huge part of my life.

The non-profit works to educate girls in Tanzania by providing them with scholarships to secondary school, and working with one particular school, Hekima, to turn it into the best school possible - fixing their dining hall, building new dormitories, repairing the school after earthquakes, etc.

I first traveled to Tanzania in 2008, and I’ve been there 7 times since. I absolutely adore the students, and the teachers, that we work with. One of the girls I’ve kept in touch with for a decade now. Our relationship started as mostly playing games outside because of our language barrier, to a place where now we Whatsapp on a weekly basis. I truly care for her and her family - they have a piece of my heart. And I love the country, I consider it a second home.

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Sadly, I don’t talk much about it now because in simple terms - kids suck, you know? I was fortunate enough to have a lot of success with Share in Africa. At age 17 I spoke at The White House, I served on a board of the United Nations, and I was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, Forbes Magazine, and just a host of wonderful, unreal opportunities came about. I am very fortunate. (And in writing this down I realize again: I’ve always been very fortunate)

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Anyway, kids in my high school were dicks about it. They said my mom did all the work. They said I only went to Africa to take photos with children and leave. They said I was stuck up. I got into Rice University early decision, and Rice sent out an email about how I was going to be in their future class, and detailed the volunteer work I did. Someone in my high school got that email and forwarded it around to kids in the school, and my ‘friend’ started a rumor that I only got into Rice because of my volunteer work - that on my own I wouldn’t have been smart enough for it.

I definitely was upset about that. But what I’m the most upset about is how that experience stopped me from talking about what I do with Share in Africa. Talking about my work in Tanzania only benefits the girls down there. I’m a bit embarrassed, to be honest, that high school jags still have an affect on me today.

But, those high school kids can eat it because I did get into Rice! And I left New Jersey to travel to Texas.

I had the time of my life at Rice. Everyone says college is an amazing time, they meet their best friends there, and never forget what happened…so I won’t be a broken record. I started doing improv and joined the improv troupe at Rice. I danced, I drank, I was a certified Party Girl. I had the time of my life, truly.

Instead of taking a semester abroad, I took a semester to go to comedy school. (Seriously).

I was accepted into the Comedy Studies program by The Second City in Chicago. So for 6 months, I lived in Chicago’s Gold Coast (in the middle of winter) and took classes on improv, sketch writing, acting, the history of comedy, you name it. We even had a class focused on physical comedy where we learned how to do accent work and fake punch each other. It was wonderful, and I met some hilarious people there.

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That summer, I had another incredibly fortunate experience when I interned at The Colbert Report. It was the summer before the show ended, and working for the show was unforgettable. I left my internship knowing that I wanted to work in comedy. And then I went to finish my senior year at Rice, and realized that I would probably end up with, as they call it, “a real job”.

I graduated and moved to Florida to work for a healthcare start-up company. I was living (and working with) my best friend, Bridget. We became fast friends in middle school, and to this day she’s still the person I love most in the world. Trust me - blog post coming soon on that. Bridget is my mahn.

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Florida, however, I didn’t share the same feelings for. So after a year I moved to San Francisco to work for a different healthcare start-up company. I was in a bigger city, knew more people there, and enjoyed my job a lot more. I had some high highs in San Francisco, and a very sharp, painful low.

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So after two years there, I moved to New York City, where I’m currently living. Guess where I’m working. Another healthcare start-up company, you guessed it! What can I say, I have a type.

There have been a host of other things along the way that impacted me a lot as well. Waking up at 5am as a kid to play mancala by myself and read Calvin and Hobbes comic books. Running away from home as a teenager to be with my friend (I obviously was in love with her but hadn’t come to terms with it yet). The people I dated along the way, the bars I became a regular at, the trips I took, the conversations I spent hours on.

But if I wrote all of that, this blog post would be even grossly longer than it already is. If you’ve made it down to this section, I’m very impressed. And as a token of my gratitude, I’ll Venmo you $5. Just tell me your username.

And the rest is yet to come! I know the phrase says “the best is yet to come” but believe me - I had the time of my life at Rice. I think that was peak happiness.

Thank you for reading my long story, and I hope to see more of you on here!

S

MiscShannon McNamaraComment