Growing Up: 4 lessons I’ve learned from Books

With finals coming up next week and a weekend ahead of too much studying, instead I’ve been thinking about all the books I haven’t gotten to read this summer. From the classics I bought a few weeks ago at Barnes & Noble to my favorites that I still enjoy re-reading, I’m the kind of person who learns a lot from my books.

I’m also the kind of person who ignores what I learn from what I read.aga-putra-125108

That being said, I think we could all use a reminder every once in awhile take a break and hold onto the things that used to mean a lot to us. So as a little motivation for the upcoming weekend and a reminder that there are still two weeks to catch up on reading before the new quarter starts, here are four of my favorite lessons I’ve learned from literature. And you can bet that Fitzgerald made this list.

Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain

“There is no dishonor in losing the race. There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose.”

No matter who you are, how much money you have, or who you’ve been in the past, life is something that will always come with obstacles. If you’re like me, the hardship of doing something or the fear of what it will take to get there can stop us from even trying. We decide not to race. But in The Art of Racing in the Rain, told from the perspective of a dog, it really is the effort that counts. That’s the thing about life… We have to be willing to fail, otherwise what would life be to us? Failure is a part of the game, nidhin-mundackal-281287like getting on a bike for the first time. Even if your parents told you that you’re not going to fall a few times, you are. They lied to you. But that’s the point, you’re supposed to learn all about it along the way, it’s how we become who we are. As for the falling part, you don’t stop tripping as you get older. You simply figure out how to fall the right way.

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

“No good sitting and worrying, what’s coming will come and we’ll meet it when it does.”

If I told you that I do my fair share of worrying on a daily basis, that would be an understatement. I’m a worrier. A big one. Summer quarter hasn’t finished yet, but somehow I’m still thinking about the midterms I know are coming by the first week of October. Does that mean the worrying prepares me for the tests any better? Not really. But I’m not the only one who thinks about things like this, a lot of us do it. One thing that a lot of people forget to do, however, is live in the moment. Sometimes we have to take things in stride. If anyone was good at that, it would be the young witches and wizards in Harry Potter— with the wrath of Voldemort and the pieces of his soul breathing down on them, they didn’t have time to get caught up in what might be coming. Neither do we. Because as much as I would like to say we’ve got our whole lives ahead of us to worry, there’s no guarantee there will be a tomorrow for each of us. And at some point, we’ve got to start living. Why not now?

Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

When I made the decision to switch my major to English, I wanted to mark the change with something permanent, even if it was something small. So I filled the top of my laptop with quotes that mean something to me, little reminders of the lives I’ve lived through literature. Among them is this beautiful line of fiction, possibly one of the best. As someone who has high aspirations and dreams of who I want to be, I also want to change from who I’ve been in the past. robert-crawford-12905But it does not bode well to dwell on dreams and forget about reality in the process. I know that a lot of us hope for these changes, the hope to become someone better or to succeed in a way that fulfills our dreams… Even while we do so, we also have to remember that the only way to be better than who we used to be, we have to know who we were first. To get to the future, we have to be present.

Raymond Carver, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

“I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone’s heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark.”

Last but never the least, let’s talk about love— it all comes down to the beating heart of humanity. Love is the kind of thing that you can ask someone what it means get a different answer every single time. I wrote an essay last year defining love as “a manmade construct used to symbolize devotion, with no real concrete definition due to its reliance on singular experiences that differ from person to person.” It cannot be defined by gender or by passion or by sex or by society. Love is feeling, it’s telling someone to call when they get home safe, or asking how their day was and caring about the answer, or twenty seven years of sticking by their side in sickness, in health, and everything in between. Love is listening to someone’s heartbeat against yours, the only sounds in the room, and understanding that you don’t daria-sukhorukova-496 (1).jpgalways need words to tell someone how you feel. In a generation said to have forgotten what “love” means, I don’t think that’s the case. Like anyone else, we just express it in our own ways that grow and change with who we are. No one can tell us how we are supposed to feel it, we just do. And I can be okay with that.

 

No matter what you find in your life or how it impacts you, the lessons we learn have the potential to change who we are from little bits of our personalities to the people we want to be. I feel like learning from books is a chronicle of time, the timeless value of life in literature. If we can’t learn something valuable from that, can we ever learn anything at all?

Happy Friday everyone, until next week.

An Open Letter To College Freshman

It wasn’t until I had a conversation with an old friend yesterday that I realized I’m going into my second year of college— I’m not a freshman anymore. cole-keister-291568To look back on the beginning of college last year, it’s odd to think of myself as two different people; the me then and the me now. But things have changed, I can’t deny that, and the first year of college was a big one. Would things have been more different had I known a few more things going into the year? Maybe. Because I was terrified, I remember that much, in a new school with new classes and new strangers, with this thing called a major I had to work to get a degree in for the next 4 years.

Talk about daunting.

So as a college sophomore, this is my open letter you about what to expect, not expect, and what you need to remember going into your first year of college.

Here’s to you.

Dear College Freshmen,

Well would you look that, 12 years of mandatory schooling has led you up to this— your first year of college. I’m sure you’ve got some expectations, maybe crazy frat parties or super cool lab classes you get to take part in. Like I said last week, try to let go of those expectations and just live your life for a little bit, do whatever you think feels right. But don’t you worry, both activities are nice options to add to the great college experience, there’s plenty of time to do it all. Because people might say “welcome to college, best four years of your life.” And maybe it can be, but only if you make that happen for yourself. No one else will. 

First things first, college is an education. Amidst the weekend parties or the late night food runs, remember that you’re there for school first. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as an AP class to get your grades up when they’re lower than you want them to be. Instead you have two choices: retake the class, or simply do well enough the first time that your GPA doesn’t take a hit in the process. james-bold-343821That means going to office hours, asking for help or a tutor (when I got a tutor for Calc 2, I realized that I’m actually pretty good at math, I just needed some help), and stick to a study schedule. Whether you’re on the quarter system or the semester system, assignments and tests come up quickly, you definitely don’t want to be caught by surprise. And not the good kind. Speaking of AP, it may mean something completely different in college, but there are just as many students it applies to. Academic probation is a very common place for college students to find themselves, especially in the first year, because things happen and adjusting takes a little time. So if it happens, don’t freak out, but do your best to avoid it. Trust me, it’s just easier if you do.

So, you know how I mentioned that college is an education first? Well it is, always remember that, but also remember that this is about to be your life for 4 years… You can’t spend all your time studying or working that you have nothing to look forward to but good grades. Don’t get me wrong, good grades are fantastic. But they aren’t everything. I’m not a big party person, never have been, yet I tried going to a few college parties because you never know what you’re going to like doing in a new place. That doesn’t mean you have to do anything you aren’t comfortable with, know your own boundaries, but try to have a little fun too. Still not that into parties? Try a kick-back or a movie night instead, go to the market one day or take a trip downtown. anton-dee-343828.jpgThere are so many ways to get out there and meet new people, you just have to give yourself a chance. Check out a few clubs you’re interested in, join a gaming group, go to a few monthly lectures/seminars, just find a place to fit in and enjoy being a college student while it lasts. Just one year goes by pretty fast.

Now we’ve talked about the education part and the fun part, but what about everything you still don’t know? There are a lot of things that happen throughout freshman year, but the beginning can be a bit scary, maybe lonely, and definitely an adjustment. And that’s okay. Even while going to the same school as my brother, the first night was still a lonely one. Big new school surrounded by people I didn’t know, stuck in a major I didn’t like, and a whole year I just walked into not quite sure who would be walking out. I had a lot of questions going through my head: Am I going to make my parents proud, will I even find friends who like me, how am I supposed to start over again, what do I do if… That’s when the what if’s started. And those never really ended. But I can tell you a few things to hold onto, ready? First of all, you will find your people. Maybe you will have a whole group of people that matter to you by the end of the year, or some greek brothers/sisters to hold ontonathan-dumlao-287713.jpg, maybe you’ll find some nerds that like the same things you do, and maybe you’ll fall in with a crowd that likes things you never really cared for yet somehow you’re at home there. Just know that you will find a place to call home, even that place is just one or two people. As for the classes and figuring out where you’re headed academically, there are counselors around for that exact reason. No matter your area of study, there are people who are paid to help you map out your classes and find a little security in your future. And if you’re switching majors? They help with that too. All you have to do is ask.

Last but not least, let’s talk about you. College is a lot of pressure, from the grades to finding a place to belong, it can all seem pretty daunting at first. It’s a process, one that you learn and adjust to throughout your college career. But whether you’re just starting out or getting back into the swing of things, you’re not alone in this. You’ll make new friends and keep in touch with your old ones, none of this means you have to leave people behind if you don’t want to. Just make sure you don’t leave yourself behind in the process. And if you’re like me, you might get a little lost freshman year. Or a lot lost. With all these questions and things to think about, it can get pretty overwhelming pretty quickly. The good thing is, just like there are counselors there to help you map out your classes, there are counselors there to help you through the rest of it too. I know a lot of students struggle with the anxiety of starting over and the pressure of getting things right, but you don’t have to do it alone. Most college campuses have matheus-ferrero-228716.jpghealth and counseling centers, if you ever feel the need, there’s nothing wrong with going to find some extra help. We all need a little help from time to time, and that’s okay. Like I said, all you need to do is ask.

From new friends and old ones to handling classes and balancing a social life, the first year of college comes with a lot of adjustment. In the beginning, you might have a hard time finding solid ground under your feet. All I can say is give yourself time. If I’m being honest, I didn’t find my feet until the end of my freshman year and at that point, I realize I had been building the foundation for it all year. I just never tried testing the weight. And speaking of weight, the freshman 15 may not be as big a problem as they say, but just because there’s a Chick-fil-A on campus doesn’t mean you need to eat it every day. Pay attention to what your body is telling you and go to the gym every once in awhile; just be healthy (stock up on Dayquil/nyquil now), get enough sleep, and that’s all that matters. It’s going to be a year of firsts, new people, new stories, and a whole lot of learning. So buckle up and get ready for one of the most life-changing years of your lives. Make it count, go live your life, and good luck!

Sincerely,

A College Sophomore

Getting Unstuck: 5 ways to get back up again

Welcome to the second week of August— aka, the time when all the high schoolers realize that a new year just started and all the college kids realize that the end of summer is inevitable. lisheng-chang-239427With a new year starting for everyone and all the adults giving in to the impending end to vacation time, sometimes we look in the mirror on that first day and realize something: We’re stuck.

Personally, I’ve been finding myself getting restless lately. As all my friends head back to college or move on to new things, I’m taking a summer class I’ve ironically already taken and doing most of the things I’ve always done because there aren’t many people here to do new things with. I guess you could say that I’ve been feeling a bit stuck.

We’ve all been there right?

But as a way to get myself back up and moving again, and maybe to help out anyone else feeling the same way, I decided to write about it. Let’s be honest, it’s what I do. So if you’re feeling stuck, if you’re looking for something new, or you just have a little time to read, here are 5 ways to remind yourself what it’s like to live your life.

 

Be honest with yourself

“Honesty is the best policy.” I know my parents used to always remind me of this and I’m really not sure who said it, but I can tell you that when it comes to ourselves, the truth is important. Are you pushing yourself in a certain direction even though it may not be where you want to go? Stop pushing, break those boundaries. When people get stuck, it’s often because we feel like we’re not headed towards anything special. The thing is, the only person who can make where we’re headed anything but boring is us. So be honest with yourself— if you don’t like dancing then stop dancing, if you need new friends then find new friends, if you don’t like who you’re becoming… Find a way to become someone better. Just because you’re stuck doesn’t mean you can’t get out. You’ve simply got to want to.

Try something new

Have you ever found yourself watching the same Netflix show or re-reading the same book because you liked it the first (few) times? As someone who absolutely loves to re-read books, even I get bored of it after a while. But our hobbies and our outlets, they change who we are— you cannot change if you’re still doing the same things you’ve always done. Maybe there’s a sport that you have had your eye on for a while, thinking “I wonder if I would enjoy doing that.” As a student, there’s no time like the present, put yourself out there! Even for the adults there are different things for different places, like wine tasting and monthly hiking meet-ups, or Thursday night markets and live music… The only way to try something new is to go all in and do it. It takes a bit of vulnerability, the idea of being in a zone that may not exactly be comfortable. But give it some time and effort on your part, and maybe that comfort zone can get a little wider.

Find a different path to follow

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what path we’re on, like Little Red Riding Hood finding herself going down the wrong one. Finding the right one is a trial and error kind of thing. ivana-cajina-337709If you don’t like the people you meet or the things you find along the way, change your direction. Easier said than done? How about this: everything we do is an attempt to get closer to that next chapter, whether it’s paying off bills for the house, picking a college major, or even working hard at a job in hope of a raise and later on, retirement. We do all of these things with a goal in mind. Yet sometimes these goals are too far ahead of us; we get tired. You have to set smaller goals. Allow yourself to feel like you’re accomplishing something every day, even you just read a few pages in a new book or tried that new yoga pose. No matter what you do, give yourself a chance to feel something other than stressed out or over-worked. By giving yourself that break and finding a bit of breathing room, you might feel like you’re headed in the right direction along the way.

Be okay with failure

This one is short and sweet— sometimes you are going to fail. And that is okay. A few weeks ago, I tried picking up a new hobby: painting. Not that I expected to be a prodigy or anything, but in hindsight, I’m not very good at painting. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun. Usually when I try new things, I have the security of knowing I’ll be good at them. Like pursuing writing or trying out for a capella— I knew I at least had a shot. But if you’re trying to get out of a slump, maybe what you need is a little failure. We could all use the reminder sometimes; we’re only human and failing comes with title… As long as we don’t stop there. So let yourself fail, let yourself try, and let yourself fail all over again. If you are enjoying something new, then it doesn’t matter whether you’re good or not. As long as it makes you feel alive or like a part of this life, never let failure stop you. Who knows, maybe you’re better than you think.

Let go of Expectations

Last but not least, this is something a friend of mine told me last week that I’ve been trying to take to heart: There will be times when you need to let go of the expectations you have and just live your life day by day. Simply expect yourself to keep going. As someone who loves to read and get lost in the fictional worlds others have build, it gets easy to lose sight of reality and the life that actually belongs to me. I was a little disappointed that some giant didn’t bring me a cake on my eleventh birthday to tell me I’m a wizard, or that I didn’t grow up with a satyr as a best friend because Poseidon is actually my father. My expectations were a smidge too high.But we all have them and sometimes, they don’t push us forward. They hold us back. So right now, I am asking you to do one thing: let them go, just for a little while. Live outside of your boundaries, brooke-cagle-336464outside of what you think you want, and go find something that makes you happy right now. Once you find that, go find another thing, and another thing, until your heart is so content that you’re running out of room. Then take a look at those expectations— have they changed a little bit? And most importantly, have you changed? I hope so.

With these 5 ideas, I’m hoping that I can find my way to change. I keep telling myself that I’m too young to be stuck, and maybe I’m not. I just haven’t been trying hard enough to get up. But if you’re ready for something new, then allow yourself to go chase life, whether you have all the time in the world or a just a few minutes here to pick up that book. Every little bit counts.

So here’s to getting unstuck, another attempt at painting for me, and to looking in the mirror to realize that maybe this truly is a good life. Good luck and until next week 🙂

On the short film— In a Heartbeat

They say a picture is worth a thousand words… What about a video?

Yesterday I was taking a break from bio studying to scroll through Facebook, as distracting as that can be, and I came upon a video that seems to be taking the internet by storm. Anyone heard of In a Heartbeat?gaelle-marcel-189753

Well if you haven’t, you’re about to.

On Monday, Beth David and Esteban Bravo, two students from Ringling College of Art and Design, posted the largely anticipated film as their a senior thesis. In summary, it is about “a closeted boy runs the risk of being outed by his own heart after it pops out of his chest to chase down the boy of his dreams.” With its own page on Tumblr and full funding through Kickstarter within the first 3 hours of the films inception, just 4 days after its posting the four-minute film has amassed over 15 million views on YouTube.

Talk about pay off.

Now this film has no dialogue at all; just a soundtrack (by Arturo Cardelús and available on Spotify), two main characters, and a whole lot of feels. But when I saw the short, it became clear to me how much a little really can go a long way.

On a larger scale, this film deals with something that is very important when it comes to entertainment: underrepresentation. From the LGBT community to those of racial minorities, as time goes by we see more and more portrayal of the people who truly make up our everyday lives. In minority cases, people often speak of breaking the glass ceiling, or surpassing barriers that stand in the way of certain equalities. As one of the hopes the filmmakers had for this project, I think film has reached farther than they can imagine and, in the very least, added another crack to that ceiling. 

eric-patnoudes-46029Finally, on a relatable level to so many of us in the world, the truth behind this film lies in one thing: A crush. The innocence, lightheartedness, and wonderful animation of the short, all tie into something that I appreciated finding in the end of this busy week. I wanted to share it with you all.

So without further ado, here is the link to the animated short film In a Heartbeat. Enjoy!

https://youtu.be/2REkk9SCRn0