I Fulfilled My Best Friend’s Promise Posthumously

Yesterday would have been my best friend Sascha’s 23rd birthday; sadly, she passed away just shy of her 21st. In those two years, she’s changed me more than I ever expected. Below is my tribute to her. I love you, Sascha Bu.


 “Maddie Marie, you know I love you, but if you don’t double major, I will kill you!”

That’s the last conversation I had with my best friend, Sascha Julia Franzel, before she passed away three years ago. It was two weeks shy of her 21st birthday. 

To say it was devastating was an understatement. How could my best friend, whom I told everything and had spoken with just hours earlier, suddenly be gone forever?

I grappled with this for a few months; I connected with mutual friends who felt similarly. But Winston Churchill once said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” So I did. And what got me through was my last conversation with Sascha.

I had always wanted to double major, but had yet to declare it. When Sascha died just hours after reminding me to pursue this new passion (in her true feisty way), I didn’t take that lightly. I believe in signs and this was mine. So for my remaining time at NYU, I pursued my double major — journalism and acting — with full, Sascha-fueled force. Whenever it seemed like too much, I thought of Sasha and kept going. The idea to double-major was mine, but its purpose was all her. Now, as a recent graduate, I can say it’s the best decision I ever made in college. And it’s all because of her.

We all know that life is short, clichéd as that sounds, but I think we forget how meaningful our lives can be. Sascha wanted to be a plastic surgeon so she could operate on kids with facial deformities. She also was a superstar actor, singer, and dancer, and loved dolphins more than Kanye loves Kim. Had I not met Sascha, I wouldn’t have found my love for journalism or created The HBIC Project. Not only did Sascha change my life, her legacy has helped build a new hospital wing, create scholarships and beautify a community. If Sascha could do all this posthumously, what can we do in our lifetime?

Sascha's Rock Garden in Steamboat Springs, CO

Your life means more than you know, and I encourage you to always remember your power to make a difference. The funny thing about life is that it’s seemingly infinite until it’s over. And with infinite time comes infinite possibilities. Let’s take advantage of them. 

This summer, I spent a few days visiting Sascha’s parents in Colorado. They gave me this piece of art she created with an accompanying poem.
photo (1)
Thank you, Sascha, for giving so many people the stars and the moon.

Maddie Marie


I’ll give you stars and the moon and a soul to guide you 
And a promise to never go. 
I’ll give you hope to bring out all the life inside you
And the strength to help you grow
I’ll give you truth and a future that’s 20 times better than any Hollywood plot 
I’ll give you the stars and the moon. 

Beyoncé and Networking

How to Network in Two Steps (Hint: It involves Beyoncé)

2014 MTV Video Music Awards - Roaming Show

I been networkin’, I been networkin’.

No, not quite as infectious as Queen Bey’s jam, but it’s probably just as important as her amazing VMA performance. And also an accurate depiction of my post-grad life. Because, I have been networkin’, all day every day. And while the term “network” has become ubiquitous, it’s also hard to really define, and really really hard to execute.

“Networking,” according to Webster’s dictionary, is “interacting with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career.” Yes, Webster, my pal, essentially use people to climb the corporate ladder, right?

Wrong. I think know networking gets a bad rap amongst the “millennial” generation. We view it as something that’s a necessary but stressful. How can I network without “using” someone? What if I’m not good at talking to strangers? Do I just brag about my accomplishments and wish for the best?

But here’s the thing—“networking” as we call it, is simply relating to like-minded people and capitalizing on a human connection. It’s something our parents did without having a name for it, and without thinking twice.

I believe that as we are a tech-savvy/social-media-minded generation, we are overly aware of our self-image. We have a pre-occupation of appearing as selfish. We edit tweets and instagrams so they border that line of  “my life is great” without being too great. We know that someone’s opinion of us can be determined by a single interaction, cyber or in person.

With that in mind, I think networking (essentially a presentation of yourself to a total stranger in the attempts to find a common ground and gain some career traction) reminds us of, well, ourselves. And for some paradoxical reason, that’s something we have a really hard time actually talking about. Tweets about Bey, sure. But self-reflection? Let’s be real, we’re not the best.

However, if you are passionate, driven and enthusiastic about life’s experiences, you have that “self image” down. You don’t have to worry about making a good impression while you network because attitude is contagious. When you are passionate about something, people are inspired to act. So if let’s say, you’re a journalism major speaking to a reporter at Channel 7, they’ll most likely want to help you. If you’re talking to your neighbor Karen about your wish to write for the Washington Post, she just might know someone who’s a section editor. And if she doesn’t, I guarantee she’ll remember you whenever she meets someone who does.

So, Step One: Be yourself and own your interests.

Step Two (I’m using Emily Raleigh‘s kickass term here): It’s all about the fearless ask.

All the meetings I’ve had the past few weeks have been from straight up asking friends and acquaintances if they know of anyone in journalism who could give me some advice. Key concept: I did not do this before we even got through the appetizers. I waited until I felt I had established a real connection with this person.

But eventually, when I felt that the time was right, I simply asked: “Is there anyone else in the field you suggest I speak with?” It’s not pushy; it shows determination. Also remember, people love helping other people! The mentor you are speaking with was helped by higher ups along the way, and now it’s their chance to give back.

My original point-of-contact gave me the names of two people, who I swiftly met with. They, in turn, each told me two more names, and you don’t need a flow chart to see where this is going. But it required me to fearlessly ask for these meetings (which your confidence and passion support), then show up and own myself, and lastly ask for the next piece of the puzzle.

This is where the word network comes into play. It’s building a web of mentors and experiences that shape your thoughts and progress. While it starts with some seemingly random strings, like a spider web, eventually something intricate and beautiful is created.

I have no doubt that one of these meetings will lead into something more. But networking is, as its name describes, work. It takes a lot of time and tenacity. However, I say we stop viewing it as “work” and more like Beyoncé-inspired “werk.” Because, it’s essentially: meeting inspirational people, learning so much from their wisdom, following your passion, and ultimately changing your life.

And what’s more #Flawless than that?


(Originally posted on The HBIC Project, 8/28/14)