Why Hate On Resolutions?

Why Hate On Resolutions?

“ughh all these bandwagonners at the gym need to GTFO”
“lol yeah they’re totally just there for the first week because of some new year’s resolution”

It’s funny—nowadays I feel like I hear far more people griping about people who make resolutions than people actually making resolutions. What used to be a common and typical tradition seems to have dwindled down to something that almost seems to induce scorn in disbelievers.

Unfortunately, I’m certainly no stranger to picking up a resolution regardless of the time of the year and losing sight of it within a few weeks. I know that statistically speaking, most resolutions wind up getting tossed over the shoulder. The reality of the situation is often that something gets in the way.

But recently, I’ve noticed less and less people proudly proclaiming that they plan to eat healthier, pick up the guitar, or study harder in school for the new year. In fact, I’ve been noticing the opposite. So many people I know have been claiming resolutely that new year’s resolutions are stupid—that you can make changes to your life any time of the year, that resolutions never last, that making resolutions is too idealistic and short-sighted. It seems like it’s more acceptable to condemn resolutions than to make them.

And while it’s true that you can make resolutions at any given point of the year, I find the contempt that has, as of late, surrounded new year’s resolutions somewhat disappointing.

Resolutions are fueled by motivation, and while motivation can take on any number of forms for each individual, it’s not atypical to see motivation taking a dip in the middle of a long year. The entire premise of the new year’s resolution is that the yearly clock restarts and with that, a sense of freshness and rejuvenation can be felt. For a lot of people, that becomes their  motivation. And sure, that motivation might wane a little as time goes on, but at the same time, habits can form. After a few weeks of less Netflix or more flossing, perhaps the resolution will have transformed from a conscious effort to a habitual routine that doesn’t require a second thought.

And to me, that mindset is why new year’s resolutions ever really became a big thing. If people can find motivation in the new year, why look down on their desire to make a positive change in their lives? If people want to make a genuine attempt at something that matters to them, why convince them that resolutions are doomed for failure? Why not provide those people with encouragement and praise for their efforts? Because if a resolution needs anything besides that spur of motivation, it’s the sense of strengthening support.

The Proliferation of the Quarter-Life Crisis

The Proliferation of the Quarter-Life Crisis

“What am I doing with my life?”

“Is this what I want to commit my entire career to?”

“What if there’s something else out there for me?”

It’s hardly uncommon to hear these laments from many a college student on campus. It’s understandable, certainly, what with major declarations and internship applications looming. But it made me wonder to what degree this sense of what a lot of my friends, peers, and classmates have been dubbing the “quarter-life crisis” has grown in comparison to generations past.

Personally, I’ve changed my mind a thousand and one times about what I want to do after I hopefully graduate with my bachelor’s degree. I’ve experienced first-hand that inner battle where you convince yourself that maybe you’d be good at Career A, or maybe you’d be better suited for Career B, , but you can’t seem to get your mind off of Career C. It took me quite a few months to even remotely move beyond the constraints I felt from my program in order to consider that maybe it wasn’t all about picking and adhering to a rigid career construct.

But that new development didn’t make things any clearer for me. I had spent so many years believing that college was the automatic progression after high school, and that deciding on a career based on my major was the next inherent step after that. I was lucky enough to learn in a great educational environment and it had provided me with a lot of tools to pursue a college degree, but never had I experienced so much autonomy as I felt right now in being able to say: “Maybe whatever I’m going to do for the rest of my life doesn’t entirely depend on my college degree.”

But that, I think, is the biggest catalyst in a college student’s mindset when entering the Quarter-Life Crisis—the consideration that there is much more out there than the career pathway that follows your college graduation. That’s not to say pursuing a college degree and a career that fits with it isn’t incredible or noteworthy. Quite the opposite. The constructs of higher education were undoubtedly set with the purpose of propelling graduates toward their specialized fields, armed with knowledge and experience.

And it has never been the case that a college degree determined an individual’s future, My parents have friends who studied geology in college and ended up working as a big-time manager at an electrical company, friends who never earned a bachelor’s degree and ended up heading a consulting department. There is no doubt that higher education has never had the final say as to what your future will hold.

But more and more, we have been seeing the success stories of tech company start-ups, entrepreneurial minds, life passion-seekers, and wayward career explorers crop up everywhere we look. I have a friend who developed an app after years of tinkering with coding and programming and has seen his app take off beyond anything he would have originally imagined. This all happened before he even step foot on a college campus. A friend of a friend launched an independent “bakery” as a side project, baking and delivering baked goods through an online website instead of a brick-and-mortar establishment. There are people making names for themselves on Youtube, blogs, and reality television.  What does this all mean?

Well, it certainly speaks to the power of the Internet and the expansive influence it has over careers across the board. But it also means that, with sites like Facebook keeping tabs on all of our friends and peers, people who have found success by taking, to quote Mr. Frost, “the road less traveled” are constantly under the spotlight. Your high school friend just updated his job on his profile. Your college classmate just posted an album of photos from her time studying abroad. Your old teammate just posted a status promoting her new start-up. It sets all the most awe-inducing “what if”s in the forefront, causing us to ask ourselves these “what if” questions.

What if science isn’t right for me?

What if I’d thrive in a marketing class?

What if my hobby for jewelry making could become something much bigger than a weekend pastime?

What if a backpacking trip to Europe will change my life?

Having access to so much information— about the world and its inhabitants—so readily has quite possibly shifted our perspective of the society we live in but just as significantly, our perspective of ourselves. Seeing others do big things almost perpetually has caused us to turn our attention to our own accomplishments, our own “status” in our lives. Where have we gone? What have we done? Who have we met?

It can be dangerous, I’ve noticed. I’ve felt sparks of jealousy over a friend’s new internship, stared in envy at someone’s photos from his trip to Thailand. In a society where our scope is ever-expanding with the help of the Internet and the connections it builds despite physical or geographical limitations, it’s difficult not to question just how far we’ve branched out. It forces us to think about how much is truly out there and how much of it we crave.

Hence, the Quarter-Life Crisis.

It gets its name from how much earlier people have been struck by it than by the more commonly known Mid-Life Crisis, and perhaps the lightning speed that the Internet offers has something to do with it. We get information instantly, we can search people, places, and ideas in a matter of seconds, and we find ourselves entrenched in a constant state of rapidly forward movement.

It might be easy to cast these crises off as flippant or facetious, which I have heard on multiple occasions by some who believe that they are much like trends or phases that disappear almost as surely as they materialize. But I think that the Quarter-Life Crisis is a part of something much bigger than a phase where you’re left itching to chase after something for only a week or a month. Instead, it seems to be a part of an expansive culture that seems to grow faster than we can run—a world where limits have been fading and people have found ways to unconventionally contribute to their communities. And that only lends itself to self-questioning—something that, if used critically and thoughtfully, could make all the difference.

You Can’t Please Everyone

You Can’t Please Everyone

Every summer vacation that passes by marks another homecoming for all the college students that diverged their separate ways after high school. And although the number of returners dwindle down every year, we make it a point to reconvene when most people are back in town. It always starts the same way- someone suggests a date, time, and location and from there, discussion erupts. Someone is always unavailable at the proposed time. Another person is busy the entire day. The only logical solution would be to change to a time that works for everyone, right? But factor in the number of people involved, the undoubtedly busy schedules of each individual, and the different tastes and preferences across the board, and the chances of finding something that works for everyone quickly become downright impossible.

That being said, we will try to ensure that as many people as possible can make it when we finally reach a decision. But before we ever settle on a time, there will always be a long, drawn-out conversation to figure out what works best for everyone, usually coupled with profuse apologies when someone absolutely can’t make it. There has never been an instance where everyone was able to make it. There is always someone too busy or unavailable and everyone always feels guilty for picking a time that ended up excluding a small handful of the group.

It may not seem like a big deal, this yo-yoing we do in an attempt to get everyone together for brunch or coffee, but it’s rather representative of our disposition to work our tails off to accommodate those around us, no matter how much effort it might take or frustration it might cause. I’ll often find myself feeling guilty if someone gets left out simply because the time didn’t work out in his or her favor. Lunch with the girls isn’t a big deal, but finding similar compulsions to please everyone in my other daily interactions with friends, peers, and family? Potentially problematic.

In a lot of ways, it makes perfect sense that we often function on other people’s approval. From a young age, we are thrust into a world of uncertainty and unknowing, and we look to the people we admire and respect to make sure that we’ve got the right idea, that we’re heading in the right direction. After all, when we’re lost in the thickets of unfamiliar territory, sometimes all we need is a bit of confirmation to feel reassured about our decisions.

But what happens when that need to have someone validate our choices becomes less of a backup diagnostic and more of a lifeline? What happens when we no longer just gladly accept other people’s approval- when we end up needing it instead?

I’ve been in situations where I’ve been stuck at a crossroads, unable to settle on a decision. It’ll be a matter of proposed events for the semester for my student organization or a career choice that might seem foreign to those around me. No matter what it is, I always end up experiencing a major bout of cognitive dissonance- an unshakable discomfort that increases proportionally with the number of people who are unhappy with me. There are these constant battles in my mind: What can I do to make things better? How can I optimize the situation so that people aren’t upset with my choices? Is there a way that will ensure that people won’t end up resenting me?

Though this uncertainty has dominated my thoughts for years, I have been working to reassess exactly what it is that drives my decision making process. We are all conglomerations of our influences, no matter who or what they might be, and it’s difficult to separate our own will from the will of others. How can I know for certain what is purely me and what is made up of the opinions of my peers? Regardless, I’ve learned that if I spend too much time stressing over the way my perspectives stray from those around me, I will never truly be content with my decisions.

The only way that I can be at peace with my choices in life is to recognize the differences that might arise between my friends or family and me and be practical and careful about choosing which disagreements to attend to. Sometimes, other people will have incredible insights that I would never consider on my own, and neglecting them can be myopic and restrictive. But other times, it pays to trust a gut instinct. And worrying too much about how other people might not agree will simply create extraneous stress. Stress that is neither productive nor helpful.

Because sometimes we will wait impatiently, heart pounding with anxiety, for the world to slap gold stars on our foreheads, to pat us encouragingly on our backs. Because sometimes we attribute other people’s approval with our own success. But maybe sometimes, we have the power to define our own good judgment, our own accomplishments and triumphs, our own sense of rights and wrongs.

Why I Owe My Father

Why I Owe My Father

For when I was four years old and had more questions than I had answers, stuck in this tornado of not understanding, but never frustrated when the explanation wasn’t clear. He would tell me where the sink water goes, why we washed our fruits before we ate them, how we had to keep the cake a secret because it was a surprise for Mom’s birthday. He taught and he taught and even when I didn’t think I was learning, he would find ways to teach me.

For when I was six and wanted a birthday party with pizza and arcade games and as I giggled with friends and swung my legs back and forth in my plastic chair, he and Mom took photos. Lit candles. Stuffed ripped-apart wrapping paper into a big trash bag. I don’t remember giving them a second thought, was too caught up in pizza crusts and Whack-A-Mole to notice them.

For when he built the play structure in our backyard, stood in the grass surrounded by heavy lumber and tri-colored tarp with the instructions manual in hand. It was hot out but he stayed out there for three hours until he had managed to assemble the whole thing. Meanwhile, I stayed inside and ate cold watermelon while watching Arthur on TV.

For when I was old enough to sit in the passenger seat, and family road trips heavy with the weight of long hours and drive-thru meals would dwindle with the sunset. Mom would sleep with her head pressed against the cold windows in the back seat and my brother’s head would bob with slumber to the beat of the tires on highway asphalt. I drank in these moments like a fizzy soft drink, bubbles bouncing in my throat as he and I traded stories. He would unwrap opinions from the back corners of his mind and I would keep my feet planted on the dashboard as I thought long and hard about the things he’d have to say.

For when he spent hours teaching me multivariable calculus because math in three dimensions is hard and I felt ashamed for needing homework help after years of fending for myself. He would write his integrals carefully and when he explained his derivations, I would be floored with the “Why didn’t I understand this before?” feeling that pulsed beneath my temples. He would always ask if I was sure I got it after and I would nod impatiently, but he would summarize it all again anyway. And I would sit in the exam room, eyes scrambling across the test questions, and those summaries would sing in my head and I’d fight a tiny smile.

For when my future would always seem gray and unsure, and I would skirt around bringing the topic up, afraid of what he would think, afraid that I would disappoint him- but he would give me a sentence that meant more to me than any career adviser or professor could ever say:

“Whatever you end up doing… I will support you.”

For being honorable and honest, for laughing with no inhibitions, for always having the answer- even if the answer was “work for the solution”- for being a source of inspiration with every passing day, for teaching me about taxes and social security and centrifugal forces…

And the irony of all this? He doesn’t believe I owe him a single thing. And for that, I am grateful and truly blessed.

Can Education Be Both A Right And A Privilege?

Can Education Be Both A Right And A Privilege?

I grew up in a very education-positive, innovative-thinking town that generally speaking, really strove to foster an environment best fit for learning. I was blessed with parents, teachers, and peers who encouraged forward thinking and good work ethic. I myself grew to find the value in determinedly working toward goals that I could form for myself. For my education. For my future career. I like to think it was a combination of these things that brought to me where I am today. It was all of these things that make me want to think critically about what education can mean for someone. I was- and am- extremely lucky in that sense.

If you haven’t heard about Malala Yousafzai, she is a fifteen year old Pakistani who is known for her fight for both women’s and educational rights in the Swat Valley. There, girls are frequently banned from attending school and receiving an education. She went to school despite the constant fear that accompanied this ban, and she was well recognized for the courage she showed in her determination to learn. On October 9th, 2012, she was shot by Taliban men while riding the school bus home. She survived.

From then on, her story fell into the spotlight of press, media, and people across the globe. She continued to express her adamant belief that education is a basic right, that no one can stop her from learning.

In today’s fast-paced news cycle, it might seem a little “outdated” to talk about Malala Yousafzai. We are entrenched in an onslaught of news that takes us by storm for a day or two, then leaves without explanation- almost like the way it arrived. But I, like many others, found her story inspiring. After all, she was (and is) fighting for something she truly believes in. Something that many people already have but quite often forget. Something that as a kid, I believed was ubiquitous all across the world.

We pay our taxes. A great majority of us attend public schools. Some pay and go to private schools. We wind up in hubs of active education, and even though some institutions might be “better off”- financially, instructionally, or even geographically speaking- one thing is constant.

There is a gradation of commitment to education. There are people who work hard from day one all the way until they receive their diploma or even when they head off to college. There are people who actively search for their calling or their passion or their future line of work, whether that require a college degree or not. There are people who put forth lukewarm efforts and glide by doing the bare minimum. There are people who cannot see themselves between the walls of their school and simply don’t do the work.

Among these people, there are these two factors that play a massive role:
1. The source of education. And unfortunately, it is clear that not everyone is provided with this. But those who are, are often subject to a second factor:
2. The degree to which they accept and act upon the opportunity to learn.

Because that’s what education is, after all. An opportunity. And it’s up to the student, the teacher, the principal, the parents, the peers- all of them- to make sure the opportunity becomes something more. That’s not to say that everyone must approach this process in the same way. Where some might be happy to pursue an undergraduate degree, while others might go onto graduate school, still others might not choose to study past high school at all. The level of education isn’t what’s important. It’s the application. The commitment.

And often times in North America, we talk emphatically about how education is a right. How being denied education is unconstitutional or against our human rights. Still others will insist that education is a privilege. That it is a luxury of the rich and wealthy, and that being denied education given the circumstances is not an inherent broach on our rights.

Isn’t it possible that it can end up being both? That denying another human being the chance to pursue an education is a denial of a basic human right? But that later on down the road, we must recognize that once given the right to an education, it becomes something almost like a privilege? Except instead of having the potential to be revoked by the government or some sort of higher authority, it can be revoked by our very own actions.

Because our other basic human rights- ones that we know and value like the right to life, privacy, free speech- are ones that we are fortunate enough to exercise nearly every day. But when presented with the right to an education, what happens if we neglect it? What happens when we choose not to dedicate our efforts to it? It’s almost as though we were given something immeasurably valuable, and we found our own way to get it revoked. Almost as though we’ve found a way to turn it into a privilege- one that we might end up taking for granted.

Someone Called Me A Prostitute Yesterday

Someone Called Me A Prostitute Yesterday

It’s 10:20PM and I am sitting outside an apartment building, waiting to help Ben and his friends move into their new place. I have a case of beer at my feet, as it seemed logical to bring a housewarming gift of some kind, and after the long day of packing, moving, and traffic, I figured they could do with a beer or two to help them unwind.

It’s balmy out. A nice change, seeing as how the winter seemed to have stretched past its welcome this year and we had been wearing our snow boots well into March and even toward the beginning of April. But there’s a gentle breeze that picks up every once in a while, so I button up my cardigan to keep the wind out. I rub my shoulders absently, as they still ache from lugging my backpack around campus all day.

When the woman walks by, I don’t think much of it at first. She’s slightly hunched over and dressed in dark clothes, and the way she shuffles forward makes her look as though she’s limping a little. I give her a friendly smile when she turns back to look at me, and that’s when I feel as though someone had punctured both my lungs.

What are you smiling at? Dirty Chinese prostitute. Whatchyou smiling for? Disgusting. Just sitting there… disgusting prostitute.”

My eyes glaze over. My mouth dries up. My palms even start to sweat a little. I feel like I’ve been attacked. She continues to walk down the street, casting a few acrid glares back at me before disappearing out of sight.

Obviously, I’m not a prostitute. I’m a college student with an unreasonably heavy backpack on my shoulders, an old pair of Forever 21 jeans on my legs, and a case of beer at my feet. I am not sitting at this street corner selling my body. And just because this woman accused me of being one doesn’t mean I should take it personally.

But it struck me as rather horrifying just how much her words had hurt me. There is a certain acidity to the word “prostitute” that stings when it’s used as an insult, and not just a description of an illegal occupation. I have no idea if this woman thought I was an actual prostitute or if she was just insulting me. Either way, I could feel my cheeks flushing and my heart pounding.

It made my mind spin with all the possible explanations as to why she was calling me a prostitute. Was it the way I was just sitting outside the apartment building near the street corner? Was it the way I was dressed? Was it the look on my face? Was it the way I held myself? Was there something about me that implied prostitution?

Earlier that night, I had been walking from the convenience store and a man had leered at me for a painfully long time. My brain flashed back to that moment, as if it was somehow related to the woman and her demeaning words. My eyes jumped to my outfit. I was wearing a cardigan and jeans.

I couldn’t stop thinking about that woman and her words for the rest of the night. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I immediately assumed that it might have had something to do with the clothes I wore or the vibe I was giving off. It scares me how much that moment had messed with my head. It makes me wonder about societal views on what women should or shouldn’t wear in public, on how people view others just in passing, on how it’s hard to feel safe from words like “prostitute”, “slut”, and “whore” that people throw around so often.

Someone called me a prostitute yesterday. And even though I am 100% not a prostitute, I can’t help but feel a little broken.

Do We Rely On The Internet To Fight Our Battles?

Do We Rely On The Internet To Fight Our Battles?

Recently, a whole slew of my Facebook friends have been sharing Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” video, which was created by Dove as a part of their marketing plan to encourage women to embrace themselves by “building positive self-esteem and inspiring all women and girls to reach their full potential” (as written on Dove’s site). Many of those who are sharing the video have been captioning it with “:’)”, “Love this”, or “Something to keep in mind…” And maybe in that sense, Dove’s video is working; it’s reminding women to reassess the way they view themselves (Not only that, it’s also getting Dove a ton of publicity).

But in an almost more uproarious response, still more of my Facebook friends have been sharing a different link, one that criticizes the way that Dove is approaching its target audience. Now, I think the arguments raised in this post are extremely well thought out and articulated, pointing out that Dove is only reaffirming a social stigma that the only value a woman can have is her beauty as opposed to her intelligence, courage, or strength.

I wouldn’t really have so much of a problem with any of this, to be honest. I think it’s healthy to consume media with a critical eye, so as not to become a pawn of the corporate giants that rule the market. But what I do have an issue with is how so many of my friends have been using these links- and only these links- as conversations.

Let me clarify. One person will share the Real Beauty Sketches video. Several people will “like” it. Then, someone else will post the response written by Tumblr user Jazz as a form of rebuttal with a small side note like “Before you start jumping on the bandwagon” or “Consider this”. More people will “like” that. And that’s the end of that.

This isn’t the only time I’ve seen people use links to videos, articles, or online posts as arguments. I find it extremely common to find people using these links instead of providing their own insights. With so many of my Facebook friends insisting how unjust it is for Dove to post a video like this, I would be so interested in reading about their opinions. But instead, they simply post a link to someone else‘s opinion and people are quick to agree.

I don’t want to discount Jazz’s response to the video at all. I think it’s admirable to be able to watch something presented by the media, digest it, and put together a response that can be both lauding and critical so as not to provide a one-sided argument. But why have we all stopped doing that? Just the other day, in a conversation with a couple of friends, I witnessed one girl mentioning the video and suggesting that we all watch it. And then another girl promptly responded with “Yeah, but did you see that post saying how the video was actually, y’know, bad? Because all it cares about is beauty?” And that was the end of that conversation.

I would have loved to discuss the video more with everyone, especially having each individual bringing up his or her own opinion and then arguing the merits and pitfalls of Dove’s campaign. But no, the conversation started with the sharing of an online link and ended with the sharing of another. What does that lead to? A culmination of a small handful of homogenized opinions shared throughout social media, instead of each person exercising his or her ability to form an individualistic opinion? And that, I think, has become all too common- naturally, I suppose, with the rise of the Internet.

And since I’m sitting here emphasizing how important it is to share our own opinions, here are some of mine. I think both “sides” are valid. I do not believe that Dove is looking to eliminate diversity, as mentioned by the dissenting article. Dove has had a history of beauty and diversity campaigns (which is not to say it gives Dove the liberty to no longer consider diversity in the rest of its marketing), and I don’t believe that this Real Beauty Sketches video is trying to oppress non-Caucasian races. And yes, we can remain critical of the way companies create ad campaigns, because the United States is diverse and people should not be content with being poorly represented. However, this video is one fraction of Dove’s campaign initiatives, right? Before we get too quick to criticize a company’s negligence to encompass every possible race, gender, culture, or identity, I think it is important to consider just how possible (or impossible) it is to do so. When have we ever received a media campaign that is 100% politically correct, 100% diverse, 100% unworthy of criticisms? Does that make it okay to only represent 1 racial group and claim to be representing “real beauty” uniformly? I personally don’t think so. But I also think we have to consider racial representation on a larger scale as well, beyond just one video.

And yes, I agree that we need to remain wary of the way the media (as well as society) portrays women, especially because it is so common to see people demean women as nothing more than a figure of beauty or attraction. But before we start insisting that Dove is denying a woman’s value beyond her appearance, I think we have to remember that Dove, at the end of the day, is a beauty product company. This is a marketing tactic for the company, and while that might sound like an evil thing, I would hardly call the Real Beauty Sketches video “evil”. The intent of the video, it would seem, is to remind people that, as Jazz points out, “most of us are our own harshest critics”. Sure, it would be nice to see a video reminding women (and non-women alike) that women are worth more than just physical appearances, but would that really lie within the realm of Dove’s objectives? Personally, I don’t think so. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing either. We can be critical about companies and how single-minded and greedy they can be with their marketing campaigns, but we can’t expect companies to pump out PSAs unrelated to their products or services all the time. Ultimately, we should be taking marketing strategies like this video by Dove with a grain of salt. What is it trying to achieve? Is it offending anyone? Oppressing anyone? Misrepresenting anyone?

There’s a lot to be said about media, propaganda, sexism, racism, and other social issues that remain so prevalent in our society today. It is therefore important to remain critical about the media we take in, and to remember to take everything we see online or otherwise with a grain of salt. But in my opinion, it is equally important not to jump so quickly onto other people’s rebuttals. We can’t simply piggyback onto someone else’s opinion and brandish it before our friends in an attempt to be the unique, dissenting perspective. Of course, it would be unreasonable to insist that everyone must provide a complete dissertation on every single remotely controversial topic. But the best way to stay critical is to cultivate our own opinions whenever possible, to share them and discuss them with others, and to be okay, throughout all of that, with keeping an open mind.