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Your thoughts are valid.

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Every day you are faced with decisions, some small and inconsequential, some huge and potentially life-altering. Every day you are forced to consider the pros and cons of every dilemma and act based on what you believe is best for you, your future, and those around you. Every day you make choices with your best interest at heart, and hope that every decision propels you into a better place. Every day you grow, and you learn more about yourself and what you want. You figure out what makes your blood pump and your heart sing, and you do it.

So, at what age are you allowed to decide what’s best for yourself? At what age do you really know?

Surely, you must know yourself better than anyone else. You’ve lived with yourself your entire life. You’ve explored the dark crevices of your mind, you’ve tested all of your boundaries, invoked and  experienced all of your emotions. You know what makes your heart race and your cells dance. You know what causes that sharp pain in your chest, and you know what can take every inch of air left in your lungs in a split second. You’ve experienced that moment of breathtaking euphoria, and you’ve experienced that moment of overwhelming hopelessness. Some nights your soul was tired and wretched and consumed with all the pain in the world, and some nights your energy levels inexplicably sky-rocketed and a feeling of invincibility dominated your thoughts. You’ve experienced all of this, so it’s only right that you get to decide what’s best for yourself.

Some decisions will stay with you forever. People will tell you to make a calculated decision, one that will benefit you in the future. They’ll tell you that this is good for you and that is good for you. And sure, there are times when they will be right. There are times when they will know. But more often than not, it will be your own inclinations that lead you to the right path. It will be a gut feeling, a little voice, a heart’s desire that will push you to where you need and want to be. It could be an ethereal figure; God, your guardian angel, whatever you want to believe, that is guiding you. But it is always within you, to know what is best for you, to know what will make you happy at the beginning and end of each and every day you are alive.

This life is meant to beautiful and exciting. You have the right to feel and experience all of the incredible things in the world. You have the right to wake up every day and be happy to be alive. There are things you will have to do that may not be easy, or even fun for that matter, but as long as it ultimately leads to something that will ignite a fire within your heart, it’s worth it. There is nothing more fulfilling than working for something you’re passionate about, something you truly want. And there is nothing more fulfilling than being present and enjoying every moment you are working for it. Make sure to do something every day that takes your breath away; watch the sun rise and set, run into the freezing ocean with someone you love, go on a hike with beautiful scenery, go cliff-jumping into a lake. Work for what you want, but also do what you want.

Your thoughts are valid. Your feelings are valid. You know what will make you happy. So do it.

 

Our Innovation Project

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As an innovation project for my English class, a couple of my classmates and I decided that there was a general public need that had to be addressed. School. We had been struggling, we had seen other students struggling, and we hoped that somehow, we would be able to help. We hoped that by providing some sort of guide to coping with school, life for a number of students would be made much easier. Aspiring to reach out to students from anywhere, we created a website on weebly titled schoolsucksbutitsok.weebly.com, because let’s be real, most students think school sucks. Our initial plans were to make an actual hand out that we would give out personally, but decided to first start by publishing online posts. That way, we’d be able to promote our site through social media, gain some recognition, and eventually make an actual hand out.

We made instagram and twitter accounts, and tried gaining followers. That was an obstacle, considering we hadn’t even posted anything on our website. It actually took a while to put up some posts, because we had actually been struggling with school ourselves. But we managed to first post a sort of introduction. It wasn’t really an informative post, it was more of an inspirational one. We wanted to start off by telling students how great it was to learn, which was actually pretty hard to write. However, I found it deep within my heart to appreciate school and share that gratitude, hoping that would spark a newfound positivity towards school in anyone who read it.

I’m not going to lie, I wish we had used wordpress instead, because it is so much easier. It’s a bit difficult to edit our site and, in my opinion, much easier to gain followers, likes, and comments on wordpress. I don’t even know how to hashtag, or if there is even such a thing on weebly, and I had initially planned on using that to gain some exposure.

However, since we did promote it on twitter, we got some 50 views on the day our first post went up. Not bad. But no comments, so we’re hoping to find new ways to gain more exposure.

We are in the process of making a page to answer common questions for high school, because our targeted audience is incoming freshmen, who are generally unaware of the varying aspects of it. We do need some suggestions for the type of questions that need to be answered. So if anyone would like to help us improve our website, please click on this link and fill out the form: http://schoolsucksbutitsok.weebly.com/questions.html

We’re still trying to get our writing featured on thought catalog, but it might be a couple weeks before we hear back from them. And it’s going to be a little difficult, because there’s a lot of other writers competing to get a spot on the site. I believe we eventually will do it because we’re writing about something that is of use for others to read.

I have to admit, it’s been pretty hard beginning a website. And it’s even harder to get viewers. But we’ve learned that it will take some time for our website to get recognized for its usefulness.

It would mean the world if you visited our website and liked/commented/ gave us feedback! We created it to help, and we won’t know if we’re helping unless we get some sort of response.

The Story of My Learning: BRAWL

So my English Class is a little bit… unorthodox. We do a lot of things that at first, make no sense. But as the class progressed further into the year, I began to understand the method to my crazy teacher’s madness. We aren’t just given information and tested on it. We are provided with an atmosphere to discover things on our own and share our own, original ideas. He provides the means of our learning, and we do the learning on our own. And that is what I love about this class. One of our most recent assignments was the BRAWL, and I thought I’d share my experience; the obstacles I faced, the successes my team shared, and everything I learned. Let me first start off by explaining the process. The class was separated into groups of 4, and in these groups we would collectively formulate questions and answers.

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Now the questions were a bit difficult to make, considering they had to tie into the text of the book, “All Quiet on the Western Front,” and be debatable. However, I do think my group did a good job. One of my favorite questions was “Can the “esprit de corps…the finest thing that arose out of the war” make up for the family they left behind or the life they might never build? How? Why?” Although it wasn’t chosen as one of the questions for the actual brawl, we believed it would have been a great question, considering the variety of approaches and stances to the question. Some people would say yes, many people have found families through their acquaintances, and some would say no, because what’s a life without a true, traditional family to share it with?  For the most part our entire group contributed a fair amount to the questions, and it wasn’t until later that we realized that there was a slacker in our midst. But hey, what’s a group project without one of those?

But once we received the questions made by our classmates, and chosen by our teacher, we were given a couple days to answer the questions by connecting it to the arts or sciences, and preparing visual aides to help in our debate. We were able to successfully connect our answers to broader examples, and I made a document with a few links to pictures. Unfortunately, the questions I had provided links for did not include the question we received. The day of the debate, each of the groups were live tweeting and providing their inputs on twitter. In our group, Andie did most of the tweeting, and she did a great job of combining all of our opinions into a simple tweet.

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We also had the option of “buzzing in” which my group did once for the question: Why is it that we can attach ourselves to material objects more easily than we can to actual people and how can we get people to care more for each other than for their worldly possessions? The groups that went up for that question were great, and we agreed with many of their points. We thought we’d add by talking about the symbolic logic of material objects. For example, a teddy bear, something that we’ve had growing up could comfort us in difficult times and act as a symbol of hope. Material objects cannot respond, and therefore cannot hurt or judge you. But we also forgot to add that our attachment to something like phones is in fact habitual. We have become dependent on its technology due to overuse, and we feel as if we need it. The only real way to combat that prevalent issue would be to somehow take it away, making people more dependent on each other, or themselves, rather than the technology behind cell phones.

When we were called up, the question that was chosen was, quite frankly, the question I had been least prepared for. Luckily, my debate partner was prepared for this one and even included a quote that he showed the class. I have to say, the debate between our group and the other group turned into one between one of the students that buzzed in and the other group. They were going back and forth about the issue of guns, and the violence attached to the weapon. Personally, we thought it was a poorly made question to begin with: How can we find the solution to making guns, weapons not as dangerous to others in warfare and in use domestically? Guns are supposed to be dangerous in warfare… Why would we try to minimize the danger to our enemies? Isn’t that the point of having weapons? However, the second part was more reasonable. There ought to be a way to make them less dangerous in use domestically, although there is dispute as to how to go about it. Our group simply decided that the only way would be to “dilute” the usage, and the other group agreed.

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I had a great time watching the debates, especially since some groups really went all out with background music to get them “pumped up.” People were really passionate about the topics, which made it even more enjoyable. Throughout the process I opened up my mind more to different opinions and ways to answer questions. And I became much better at connecting everything to ideas, or issues outside of the classroom.

Overall, it was a good experience. It was fun, and I learned a lot. I’m very grateful to have been a part of this class.

A Reflection of my Blogging Experience

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It’s been a good 8 or 9 months since I started blogging, and I thought I’d publicly reflect on my experience so far. It’s been great, really. I have learned so much. My blog has evolved tremendously from the first time I created it. From small things like the title, or theme, to the overarching messages of every post that I try to keep consistent. At first, I had no idea what to do, how I could create a website that embodied everything about me. Heck, I didn’t even know what my URL would be. I think I juggled different names for weeks until I finally became “a standing paradox.” And to be honest, I do think it’s a bit pretentious now that I think of it. Maybe I’ll change it when I think of something better. My theme changed many times. I tried different colors, wacky formats, and I realized that I was very simple person, so I needed a minimal theme. And that’s how my blog theme got to where it is today.

When I first started my writing felt a little… unnatural. Of course I felt as if I was on a deadline to finish it and I really didn’t know what to write about. But as I continued blogging, I punched out a few posts that I was fairly proud of. And I realized that the posts that had the most “likes” or comments were the ones that were more personal. The ones that were relatable, and honest. I think I truly started to get the hang of it with my blog post titled “The Power of My Mind.” I dug pretty deep, I talked about the hindering obstacle of my own mind that, quite frankly, I am still struggling with today. Sure, it’s not a deeply emotional, heroic, life-changing story about me, but it was still personal. By sharing what was going through my head, and my heart, I think I was successful in connecting with the people who read it. People who could coincidentally be dealing with the same thing. And I think that showed when I received one of the best comments I have received to this day. And then, everything started to get much more natural, and my writing started to flow. The next blog post “Who I Want to Be” was another personal post, about my New Year’s resolutions and who I want to be, hence the title. I soon realized that I needed to add more details to my writing, it can’t just be an online diary, I have to also address the needs of others. Global needs. So I started adding more details, including links in the text, incorporating quotes from books I was reading. I started doing that in “If I had a week to live…” And with that, I also realized that my writing needed more exposure, so I started promoting it on social media and hashtagging all of my posts. I have learned so much about blogging online and I’ve truly improved since the beginning. I hope to continue growing as a blogger and writer.

I really wouldn’t change anything because I am content with where my blog is today. All of the different assignments I was given and all the mistakes I made ultimately led to this, and I am very proud. The only thing I would change is my interaction with other bloggers, I can definitely become more involved with the online community.

Some advice for future bloggers? Your blog is a reflection of who you are. But don’t get frustrated if you’re having trouble creating a website that truly embodies the essence of your personality. Just write about what you care about, and keep writing.

Because I am human

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I sit here and I wonder why I’m writing. Why I’m staying up typing away my thoughts only for the words to be forgotten and for my precious hours of sleep to slip right through my fingers. I just type. And I ask myself, Why am I doing this to myself? There’s important stuff to do. I might as well do something productive, like work. Or maybe I should wash the dishes or maybe I should just take a nice, long shower. Get cleaned up. And I never answer it. I just keep typing. And as I am typing I feel this feeling—relief. A feeling so wonderful, so joyous, so euphoric. Like a breeze rushing through the open gym door as I am in the middle of running 10 continuous suicides. Like the first step into an air conditioned store after walking around in the blazing hot sun that burns through my skin and warms the top of my dark brown hair. But it’s temporary. It goes away. Once I stop writing or typing, I am brought back to reality. I return to the agonizing pain of constant running and the oppressive heat of the sun.

And I keep typing. It feels good. I feel. I feel pain and happiness, sometimes separately and sometimes all at once. But no matter what I’m feeling… it still feels good. What makes us human is our ability to elicit raw, passionate emotion of any kind. So that’s why I’m still typing, I guess. I’m writing for the same reason as those who sky dive or surf or drive a hundred miles an hour for adrenaline. It makes me feel more human. It brings me back to earth after I have been distracted by everything else. Distracted by all the things that distance me from my real human soul. The truth-seeking-pain-feeling-everything-real soul that is not just in me, but in every single human being on this planet.

Maybe life isn’t just about constantly working to achieve things, or chasing the ever-changing definition of success. Maybe it’s just about being able to feel. Being able to keep in touch with the most human aspects of our lives.

I keep typing, and I keep writing because I want to feel things. Because I am human.

The Good Fight

There are many points in our lives where our dreams, our aspirations become buried within the depths of our hearts to make room for practicality, and conceptually “grown-up” ambitions. This post truly captures the essence of our dreams, the way we all live through them. Yes, there is a time to grow up, but there is never a time to stop dreaming. This post truly inspires me to keep pursuing my ambitions, regardless of the chances of actual success and regardless of the obstacles. Because what matters is the act of pursuing. Reading this post makes me extremely excited for this blogger’s future book, in which he included an excerpt in this post.

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“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

In life we often think about our goals, our dreams and our ambitions. We focus on these often at times, sometimes not so often, other times not at all. Sometimes we lose sight of them in our busyness, being caught up in life, set upon by trials, obstacles, regrets or other turmoil beyond our control. Yet with some, the focus on dreams and ambitions remains vigilant even in the darkest light, even among the heaviest of trials. Spheres of headlong focus, and fighting to achieve dreams exist within us all, if we should only grasp these pearls and know of their strength.

It is the fight. The good fight; a fight to realize our own truths, to grow into who we truly are. Without our fight, without our dreams, our soul becomes stagnant, suffocated…

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How am I doing?

IMG_7020I did something wrong. I know it. I don’t know what I did, but something I did must have been wrong. She barely shakes her head, so subtly that no one in the room would ever notice, but me. I can feel her eyes. Her stare is so sharp and unmoving that it feels as if there are 2 lasers burning through my soul. And she continues to shake her head… so slowly. And then she looks the other direction, a feeling of utter annoyance lingering in the atmosphere.

He’s a little different. He’s a little bit more vocal about his disappointment. Usually it’s along the lines of , “Wow…” or, “Really? What are you doing?!” There’s a tinge of red in his face and his eyes get so wide it’s as if they’re popping out of his face. And then similarly to my mother, he shakes his head. And he looks away.

Possibly one of the worst feelings to endure has been the feeling of sheer disappointment from  my parents. It can come from anywhere; from grades to sports— it’s easy to disappoint. And with school year ending in less than months, along with an influx of stressed AP students cramming in all of their studying, along with the workload of their other classes, it’s a season of disappointment. We are all stressed about our grades, all worried about what our parents will think. All worried about pleasing our parents.

But why?

The best way to deal with such stress is to rationalize. Think about it… The only thing truly in our control is our effort. Our actual performance can be affected by effort or external factors, but it all leads back to effort. And that’s the only thing under our control. So if we don’t get our desired grade—so be it. That’s the best we can do. There are some things we cannot control. And the reason people stress so much over school is because they have trouble grasping that concept. Some things are out of our control.

There is a time when we will not have to constantly satisfy our parents with our accomplishments. We will not have to worry about disappointing them. And similarly, we will not be able to look to them for approval. There will be a day for every one of us. We will no longer have anyone to tell us how we’re doing. It’s weird to think about it right? Everything we have ever accomplished, everything we have ever been proud of has been authorized by those around us, and it’s usually our parents.

But now the measurement our accomplishments will be based on our personal evaluations of our effort. Not by what anyone else thinks. And maybe if we are successful in evaluating ourselves, we will all be at peace with our own efforts.

Pure Serenity

A picture I took on that day of my dog and the sunset.

A picture I took on that day of my dog and the sunset.

I remember walking to the beach with my dog on Valentine’s Day. Because of course, she was my valentine. I sat down on the sand while the sun set and my little black dog Pepsi was running around, playing in the sand. She likes to dig in the sand and sometimes little specks of sand stick to her nose. She runs in circles, very fast circles. Sometimes I can’t even keep up with her, and she looks like a black blur. She’s deathly afraid of the water, she will not come near it without me forcing her with a leash.

I was just sitting there, looking at the sun. It slowly descended from the sky, and as it did everything got more.. yellow. The sky became tinted with a more orange color, and the rays were still shining in my face. The cold sand was pressing against my back and feet, as I was watching the sky. I also looked at the water. On the spot right in front of the water there was this beautiful reflection. It mirrored the image of the water crashing on the surface, and the sun shining above reflected off of it. As I was watching the waves periodically crash on the shore, I watched another lady with her dog. Their images appeared as a silhouette, and I watched as the woman silhouette threw a tennis ball at the dog silhouette. And I remember thinking, that would be a beautiful picture… If only it wasn’t weird to take pictures of strangers.

I looked back at my dog and she was smiling that beautiful little human smile of hers. She was running around happy, and that made me happy. She ran towards me as I looked at her and nudged me with her long nose, covered with sand. As I had refused to run with her, she stuck out her paw, begging me to get up.

That was the last time I felt truly calm. I didn’t have a single care in the world, not because there was nothing I needed to worry about, but because somehow everything that had occurred in those moments made me forget. Everything that had occurred had happened in such a perfect way that it’s difficult to explain now.  Sometimes, things unexpectedly fall into place. And it can be the simplest of moments that truly make us forget. Maybe it was the way the sand cooled my body down on the hot day, or the way the sun reflected off the sand. Or maybe it was the way the energy from my dog radiated off of her. Or maybe it was the way the scene I witnessed in front of me with the woman and her dog seemed so picture perfect. There was nothing special about that day, really. I didn’t go through anything life changing prior to this occurrence. It wasn’t a point of renewal or enlightenment. It was simply a moment of pure serenity, where everything just fell into place for a little while.

In that moment, I was no longer worrying about myself, about my responsibilities. I was somehow able to deviate from my selfish thoughts. I started thinking about other people, other things. My dog. The woman and her dog. Maybe it wasn’t just the setting that granted me that peace of mind. Maybe it was my state of mind. Maybe it was a coincidence that in that moment there was also a beautiful setting in front of me. As Lao Tse said: “Freedom from desire leads to inner peace.” I had no personal desires. Nothing to fulfill.

Beginning Again

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Almost constantly we are granted new beginnings. The opportunity to renew ourselves, evaluate our faults, and potentially fix them. It doesn’t always happen at the beginning of a new year. Many times it happens unexpectedly. Sometimes we become so far removed from the people we want to be that we are forced to take a step back and re-evaluate ourselves. It’s like when we tell ourselves we’ll go through with our New Year’s Resolutions, and everything goes well for about 2 weeks… But we become distracted. We tell ourselves that it’s okay to stray from our goals once in a while, and eventually once in a while becomes often.

Sometimes we just wake up and decide to change. We decide to begin again.

In many cases, we are spiritually renewed after an unexpected event or a period of deep sadness. Like taking an extremely long shower after being covered in dirt and a coat of sweat. Once we’re all dried up we feel refreshed and clean, and it feels good. It feels good to no longer be smothered with germs; just like how it feels good to no longer be smothered with sadness or guilt. I like the idea that we are constantly evolving. And I don’t mean Darwin’s Theory sort of evolving, but improving. Continually trying to become better versions of ourselves. We are not  the same person we were 20 minutes ago. And that’s a good thing, because we might not like who we were 20 minutes ago.

This is a personal evaluation of myself because I need it.

  1. I do not like the thoughts in my mind; I have become selfish. I need to think of others more often, and think of myself less.
  2. Again, I do not like the thoughts in my mind; I have become too judgmental. I am so afraid of what others think of me because I fear they have the same judgmental nature in them. I must become more accepting of others so I can become more accepting of myself.
  3. I have become distant from God. I have been skipping church, not praying as often, and forgetting to thank him. I need to regain that closeness to Him through my actions and prayer.
  4. I am not trying as hard as I can. I am not performing to my full potential. I need to become more determined and driven.

And to everyone reading this, I hope you take the steps to re-evaluate when you need it, because we can all become better versions of ourselves.

Everything Changed

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“Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.” -Carl Sagan

Everything changed. February 14, 1990. The voyager 1 space probe took a photograph of our earth 6 billion kilometers away. The earth was no longer a vast being with an abundance of life and unknown crevices all over its surface. It became a pale blue dot, 0.12 pixels. Merely a speck in our universe.

Things change when we see them on a larger scale. Standing on this earth at this very moment, everything just seems so large. Our world is so chaotic, constantly evolving, constantly improving. We get caught up. Our trivial issues are magnified. Life just becomes complicated. But it’s weird right? Our lives become so caught up with what’s occurring on the news, what’s happening in our world, yet we don’t even realize that we are merely a miniscule particle in the unending universe.

I mean, what makes us so special? Surely, there has to be some other life form out there, much more intelligent than us, stronger than us. Yet we feel like we have so much power. We’re unique: We have this ability to feel things, the ability to feel deeply and passionately. Raw, passionate emotion— that’s what makes us human. We have accomplished so much on this pale blue dot. When we’re standing here, face-to-face with the items we have invented, the feelings we have invoked worldwide, the history we have made, our accomplishments seem endless. There’s just so much that has occurred on this little pale blue dot. And it’s crazy that a picture could change everything we have ever felt about our world. Our sense of entitlement, the feeling of importance within everything we’ve ever done—Gone. Vanished. All because we finally took a step back and recognized our insignificance.

Just by seeing the vastness of our earth; its countries, landscapes, 7 billion people, we are already embarrassed at the unimportance of our issues. Seeing the earth as a tiny particle 6 billion kilometers away can make our problems almost disappear. Sometimes, we need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. And it doesn’t just mean looking at the pale blue dot and the surrounding universe. It can sometimes just mean recognizing the importance of our dilemmas based on the way it affects our lives as a whole. By looking at this image we were forced to look at our lives on a much larger scale, and this changed everything.

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