The Unimportant Questions I Have


Though whether or not they are “unimportant” depends on your perspective, I suppose. This is a constantly changing list full of random and relatively trivial questions that float into my mind every once in a while.

(1) Is a sadist really a masochist who follows the golden rule? Full disclosure–I did not invent this little quip, but I read it in a philosophy book. Can you be a sadist and masochist at the same time? Is there a name for that? A sadomasochist? Spell check didn’t correct this word, but then I looked it up and realized that it frequently refers to BDSM acts, so maybe I need to come up with another term that doesn’t remind us of 50 Shades of Grey. Never mind then. Excuse my naivety.

(2) Of the following couples, which one, in your opinion, has the most toxic and dysfunctional relationship? (A) Christine and the Phantom from The Phantom of the Opera. (B) Buffy and Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (C) Amy and Nick from Gone Girl . I guess you could argue that Christine and the Phantom were never technically a “couple,” but considering how many people would have preferred them to end up together, I think it’s only appropriate to include them.

(3) If Person A tells Person B (who has anxiety issues) that their anxiety will shorten their lifespan, and Person B therefore becomes even more anxious about the detrimental effects of his/her anxiety, has Person A been a help or a hindrance?

(4) Does anyone actually read the warning labels on products prior to using them and not when they’re bored and have nothing better to do than read the warning labels on products?

(5) Are extra-large olives really that much bigger than large olives? If so, by what amount? And are they pumping these extra-large olives full of growth hormones? Do extra-large olives, as a result, have higher self-esteem than regular olives, and tend to win all the sumo wrestling matches? If olives wrestled, that is. Since they don’t have arms, I assume it would be difficult to do. Maybe they could just jump on top of one another and voila–olive tapenade.

(6) If a dessert is sugar-free and fat-free, can it genuinely be called a dessert?

(7) Was Hamlet a whiny and sulky prince, or a sensitive and vengeful hero?

(8) Are all truly entitled to our opinions? And should all opinions be treated equally regardless of how ludicrous/judgmental/hateful they might be?

(9) Why do certain brands of “nondairy” creamer still contain milk derivatives? (because they are LIARS).

(10) Why does the comic strip Blondie still run in newspapers despite it being chock-full of outdated stereotypes about both men and women that are probably no longer amusing to 99% of American audiences? I swear if I see one more strip about barbie-like Blondie going shoe shopping or Dagwood binge-eating enormous sandwiches, I’m going to lose it. Yes, it was created in a different era, so these stereotypes are understandable, but why not make room for other comics that are actually, ya know, funny?? Though that’s just my opinion, and this is turning into less of a question and more of a personal rant so sorry about that.

(11) Have you ever wondered when and how we first started giving people names? I mean, do you think the first people on earth automatically knew their names, or was it not until later in the span of human existence that we started giving each other names? For that matter, do you think names or pronouns came first? I would assume pronouns, but I suppose it’s hard to know for sure.

(12) Why do we say “Happy Birthday” but “Merry Christmas”? Are birthdays supposed to be happier, and Christmas merrier? Can “happy” and “merry” be used interchangeably? Honestly, though, what exactly is makes people happy about celebrating the day you were expelled from your mother’s birth canal amid screams of pain and gushing fluid? Isn’t there a point at which people dread their birthdays because it means they are getting older? So is it still appropriate to say “Happy Birthday”? I suppose it is, but in a far more cynical and sarcastic manner. As for “merry,” I just looked it up and in England, the word “merry” can be a slang term for “slightly drunk,” which I suppose is relevant to many Christmas parties, though people could also be drunk on their birthdays, so…Older people, I mean. Not kids, I would hope. Though I’m fairly sure that centuries ago, kids drank beer along with the adults because the water wasn’t always particularly sanitary and drinking ages weren’t a thing.

(13) Why are body shapes named after apples and pears? I mean, I’ve got nothing against these fruits–they’re delicious and nutritious and are excellent in pies. But I don’t think I’ve ever looked at someone and thought Damn. They look exactly like that Golden Delicious apple I ate this morning. The resemblance is incredible!! They would fit right into this apple crisp I’m making…That seems a little ridiculous, and not only because of the implied cannibalism. Sure, I know that these shapes are supposed to refer to those who store fat in the bottom/hips (pears) and those who store fat in the waist (apples), but (A) that’s an extraordinarily simplification and (B) not all pears have a fat bottom and a slim “waist”–fruit can look incredible misshaped and warped sometimes. Have you ever really seen a perfectly symmetrical apple?? Isn’t comparing people to fruit a little insulting (to both the fruit and the people)?

Consider this list my Christmas present to all of you 😉

Five Things That Intimidate, Frighten, Daunt, Overwhelm, and Petrify Me


I could have entitled this post “Things I’m Afraid Of,” but my inner grammar freak wouldn’t let me end the title on a preposition, though I break this “rule” all the time in verbal conversations, and “Things Of Which I’m Afraid” sounded stuffy and overly formal, not to mention awkward. I mean, who would even say something like that? “These are the things of which I am afraid…” Nope, not even I would talk that stiffly and pretentiously. Also, I clearly had trouble picking my favorite verbs, so I went with five of my favorite–I got the idea for “petrify” in the thesaurus, and I obviously had to include it because it reminded me of Harry Potter and the petrificus totalus spell (I had to Google that to make sure I spelled it correctly, not that anyone cares). I can’t say I’ve ever been literally “frozen with fear,” but most of these metaphorical cliches aren’t meant to be taken literally anyway. I’m hoping that by writing this post I will become painfully aware of just how stupid and irrational most of my fears and anxieties are, therefore giving me some impetus to just “get over them,” but who knows how well that plan will succeed…Anyway, here is an abridged list.

(1) Driving: I essentially had to be coaxed and prodded into getting my driver’s license in the first place when I was 17, since I was thoroughly convinced that I was 100% incapable of driving a car, and that I would, without a doubt, get into a violent car crash and either die or kill someone else in the process. Not melodramatic at all. I didn’t need those graphic DMV videos designed to scare teenagers into driving safely–nope, I had the cautious part down just fine! Granted, some of these fears probably stemmed from the fact that I was not in a healthy place at that time, mentally or physically, but I’ve always been an irrationally anxious person, so there’s that too. Even when I did realize that I could drive relatively well (I’m what you might call a “safe driver” or, as my younger sister would say, a “painfully slow driver”) without crashing or hitting the wrong pedal, I would still (er, still do) get stressed out by traffic, four-way stops, unprotected left turns, merging, driving on the interstate, going somewhere I’ve never been before, ice on the road, snow on the road, rain on the road, sticks on the road–well, you get my drift.

Even now, when I’m in a stressful driving situation, I have to constantly recite a soothing streams-of-consciousness monologue to prevent myself from having a carefully smothered panic attack or just pulling off to the side of the road and screaming I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE. JUST TAKE AWAY MY LICENSE AND TELL ME I NEVER HAVE TO DRIVE AGAIN. Except I do, since even though I live in Eugene and can bike to most places, I still have to use the car for my nanny job and grocery shopping and whatnot, so it’s a practical necessity. At least I have my classic rock music station to act as an anti-anxiety drug along with my repetitive mantra of “You’re fine. You’ll be fine. You’re OK. Just drive slowly and carefully. It’s OK if everyone passes you. Just let them do your thing. Breathe. BREATHE. You don’t need to hold the wheel in a death grip. Go to your happy place.” And heck, at least I CAN drive. It’s really a blessing, though I act terribly ungrateful for it at times.

(The following image is from a CD that claims this hypnotherapy session can help you overcome your fear of driving. I sincerely doubt it but appreciate his effort. And the tranquil expression of that woman who is probably about to careen off the side of a cliff because she has been hypnotized and shouldn’t be driving)

(image source: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/OVERCOME-FEAR-OF-DRIVING-HYPNOSIS-CD-FREE-MP3-VERSION-motorway-phobia-drive-/131361227602)

(2) Crowds: Well, this one depends on the situation. Sure, I grew up with four siblings and was totally accustomed to chaos and noise–that doesn’t bother me a bit, which is good because when you work as a nanny, you’d better be A-OK with a constant flurry of activity. However, when it comes to going out in public places and being in the thick of a crowd, I start to go a little crazy inside, though I’ve developed the ability to at least look calm and tranquil on the outside. I went to a farmer’s market once and was able to walk around for maybe 10 minutes before realizing that despite the delicious food and interesting items for sale, I was definitely not in my happy place and I should leave before I bolted under the table of berries and just hid there curled up in a fetal position until the crowd dispersed. Not like I would have done that anyway, since my Rational Brain is quite adept at steering me away from such desperate strategies. Or sometimes we’ll have a combined class in the dance department and there are 30-40 people in the studio and I start to get stressed out and think WHY ARE THERE SO MANY PEOPLE HERE? and then I have to remind myself that they’re all my friends or acquaintances and once we start dancing I’ll be perfectly fine again and won’t feel like a cricket trapped in an aquarium full of starving green anole lizards (we used to have those as pets, hence the unusual analogy. Though as far as I know, none of my friends are cannibals and therefore wouldn’t eat me, so maybe it’s not the most accurate analogy ).

(image source: http://images2.fanpop.com/image/polls/318000/318911_1256684092330_full.jpg)

(3) Telephone calls: And not only because I watch too many sci-fi shows and horror movies in which a phone call usually means that someone has died or someone will die or something unpleasant and horrible is about to happen (which will also probably eventually lead to the death of someone). You’d think that someone with anxiety issues and an overactive brain would stay away from those type of shows, but no, I find them oddly compelling and soothing instead….Maybe because they remind me that no matter how stressed I am, at least I’m not an FBI agent being targeted by a psychopath with mind-control abilities or a hunter who has watched several of his family members be murdered by demons. It could always be worse, right? But now I’m getting off topic.

If I don’t recognize the number that is calling my cell phone, I will of course let it go straight to voicemail, because I figure if that person really wants to talk to me, he or she will leave a message. Or even if I do recognize the number, sometimes I’ll let it go to voicemail anyway because I haven’t had sufficient time to sketch out a brief outline of (A) what words to say (B) what words to avoid and (C) what tone of voice I should adopt for the conversation. And then I’ll call them back promptly. Sometimes. Clearly, I’m a very responsible adult. There’s just something about talking to people on the phone that is far more nerve-wracking than speaking to them in person. Or texting them, of course, but I think that goes without saying, especially in this era. If I had to rank my preferred means of communication it would be (1) Writing (2) Face-to-face conversations (3) Texting and (4) Telephone calls.

(This image is basically what I’m thinking while on the phone, unless it is with one of my family members)

(image source: http://www.primermagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/phone-anxiety/phone-phobia-inset1.jpg)

(4) Watching my family members get sick: Interestingly enough, this one only applies to my close friends and family members, not myself. If I come down with something, I figure that unless I’m hallucinating, bleeding from all my orifices, vomiting profusely, or running an 104 degree temperature, then I’ll be fine to go to my college classes and there’s nothing to worry about, except perhaps being a ticking time bomb of contagion. Maybe this stems from the fact that I had a roundworm infection when I was maybe 15 or 16, and once you’ve seen an 8-inch long worm come out of your body and occasionally felt the smaller ones squirming around in your intestines (no further details required, I’m sure), a bout of the norovirus doesn’t seem like a big deal anymore. Though I can’t say the roundworm infection was particularly enjoyable (really, Kendra?? You don’t say), I did develop an odd fascination with these worms and did quite a bit of research on them, all the while feeling a tad disconcerted by the fact that these creatures had moved into my body without even asking permission. How very rude of them. Oh, and my siblings and I named that 8-inch long worm Bob. Don’t ask, we have a weird sense of humor about those things. Also, the scientific name for roundworms is ascaris lumbricoides, which sounds like it could be a spell from Harry Potter or something. Just like petrificus totalus! Can you tell I love the Harry Potter books? And Latin words, for that matter.

Anyway, to get back on topic, I become agitated and anxious whenever one of my family members falls ill, and I will immediately start Googling their symptoms in a frantic and panicky manner, which is probably the number-one thing you SHOULDN’T DO when you get sick. Or I’ll hover around them 24/7, constantly monitoring their symptoms and asking “Are you feeling OK now? Do you have a headache? A sore throat? Are you dizzy? Nauseated? Chilled? Do you need water? Food? Another pillow? Do you feel like you’re going to pass out? Would you say the phlegm you’ve been coughing up is more yellow or green in color? On a scale of 1-10, how close to you feel to death right now?” My siblings are probably thankful that I’m living in Oregon right now, so when they get sick I’m no longer there to drive them crazy with my endless interrogations. I SWEAR IT WAS ALL OUT OF LOVE. Or paranoia. Same thing, really.

(this is not really illness-related, but I love the Pearls Before Swine comics, and it is Google-related, so….)

(image source: https://thoughtfulrandomness.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/pearls-before-swine-google-it.jpeg?w=600&h=190)

(5) Giving presentations in my college classes: Or being called on in class to answer a question without having had time to prepare an answer ahead of time. Or just talking in general, really. OK, so that’s a complete exaggeration, and I feel I have to clarify this because my sense of humor is so sarcastic and deadpan that people often think I’m totally serious when I’m totally not. Anyway, I somehow managed to ace my speech class during my first year of college, probably because I rehearsed my speeches so obsessively ahead of time that I could have recited them off the top of my head, though technically we weren’t supposed to “memorize” them. I don’t mind public speaking too much if I have done an adequate amount of preparation ahead of time, but if I’m suddenly asked to speak up in class, my mind goes blank and I start desperately searching for those words that come out so easily once you give me a piece of paper and a pencil. I often feel terrible for not being a more active participant in my college dance class discussions, and am often told that I should “talk more,” which I completely understand. I mean, how are teachers going to know what I’m thinking if I don’t speak up (by the way, that’s a rhetorical question)? They want to know what’s whizzing along the freeway of my mind. That’s actually a decent analogy for my mind–it’s like a freeway that’s jam-packed with traffic, and people yelling at each other, and police officers trying to deal with the car crashes that are occurring at the speed of light, and huge trucks zooming around in the air because they don’t care about the rules of logic, and scientists screaming at the trucks because they do care about the rules of logic, and vultures flying everywhere waiting for a murder to happen, and frogs raining down from the sky, and–yeah, you get the picture.

So I feel bad about not talking more, I really do, but it is physically and mentally exhausting for me to try to change myself into a chatty and outspoken person, and I wonder if it’s worth the effort (by the way, that’s not a rhetorical question and I welcome any and all input). Sure, some teachers will say “We understand that some of you may be shy and quiet,” but this is often code for “We’re basically forced to say this because we’re not supposed to discriminate against any student, but if you don’t get start talking more and ‘get over’ your shy nature, then YOU WILL FAIL THIS CLASS AND IT WILL BE YOUR FAULT.” Yet somehow, chatty people are never told they just need to “get over themselves” and “be quiet more often.” Funny how that works, eh? Giving presentations are also a bit of a nightmare for me, and the anxiety I get on the days preceding the presentation usually gives me a host of digestive issues and insomnia–though the plus of the insomnia is that it gives me more time in which to get extra studying done, so yay for that!! See what a positive person I am? The irritating thing is that I know there is no reason to get so worked up about these things, and I know that my high stress levels will probably lead to an early death, but even my faithful Rational Brain can’t convince Panicky Brain of this fact. Damn you, Panicky Brain, for being so stubborn and resistant to the sweet song of logic. Honestly, though if someone tells you “Stress shortens your lifespan!” then of course you’ll immediately start stressing out about how you get stressed out too much, so it’s really not a very helpful bit of information.

I could go on, but I shouldn’t, so I won’t. Hey, I’m actually being decisive for once. I make light of these fears because I’m sure that many other people deal with them as well, so I’m not trying to label myself as a “special snowflake” who needs special treatment to deal with her special anxieties. On that note, I recently started reading Jenny Lawson’s book, Furiously Happy, and though I haven’t finished it yet, I find myself constantly stopping to nod frantically like a spastic bobble head and say out loud “YES. YES. YES. This is what it feels like to live inside my mind on a regular basis.” Check out this link for a brief interview with her, and I definitely recommend the book if you are an anxiety-prone person, or if you just enjoy reading anecdotes about a stuffed raccoon named Rory.

A Guide To Grocery Shopping For Those Who Are Socially Awkward/Generally Anxious About Everything


I do try to make my titles shorter. It never works. This post could also apply to other types of shopping, but I only go to “other stores” maybe a few times a year because I sort of despise clothes shopping and NEVER go to the mall just for kicks. So grocery shopping it is. I actually enjoy grocery shopping despite the nature of this post (because cooking is therapeutic for me, but I obviously need food to cook), but it still poses some interesting psychological dilemmas.

(1) Choose your shopping time wisely: This can be tricky because there are fewer customers in the early morning, but more employees who are milling around like hungry vultures waiting for the kill (er, I mean, restocking shelves and cheerfully greeting customers like the hardworking people they are). And if they spot even the faintest hint of confusion on your face, they will zero in on you and ask “CAN I HELP YOU? LET ME HELP YOU WITH SOMETHING. I KNOW WHERE EVERYTHING IS IN THIS ENTIRE FREAKING STORE.” Note, however, that you must me polite to these overzealous employees because chances are, they loathe this part of their job just as much as you do, especially when it is clear by their facial expression that they aren’t really super excited to ask you these questions. So take comfort in the possibility of this mutual loathing and give them your best pseudo-cheerful “No thanks, I don’t NEED YOUR HELP I’VE BEEN HERE A MILLION TIMES BEFORE AND I JUST WANT FOOD.” Actually, just the first two words would suffice. You could always go shopping in the afternoon, when there is more traffic on the road (and thus more driving-induced stress if you’re like me and would rather not drive anywhere if it can be helped) and more customers, but a significantly lower chance of having to engage in the aforementioned awkward small talk. Or you could go in the late evening, but I tend to enter full-fledged hermit mode after about 8 or 9 PM (unless I happen to be at dance class during this time) and the thought of voluntarily socializing with anyone other than the cast of Doctor Who or The X Files makes me want to dig a hole and hide in it. And eat food while in my hidey-hole. Not go shopping for it. So pick your battles wisely.

(2) Decide key strategies ahead of time: Case in point–you need to buy some apples, but there is an employee restocking the apple bin at the moment. Do you (A) leave and come back when the coast is clear and the odds of having to open your mouth and speak are approximately -5%, (B) brace yourself, seize a bag like a solider heading into battle, and swoop in, ninja-style, while humming the Mission Impossible theme music in your head, to grab those apples before the employee even has a chance to notice you, (C) convince yourself that you don’t really need apples and that oranges are basically the same thing, or (D) run up to the employee and tell him/her that a rabid squirrel has just entered the store and is terrorizing people in the bread aisle and he/she had better go call 911 before someone gets attacked. And then you calmly select your apples while said employee dashes off to look for the foamy-mouthed squirrel. Note that I can only vouch for the first three strategies.

(3) Be 100% dedicated to your mission: Enter the store with a fierce, bad-ass, powerful, no-one-can-stop-me-now expression on your face to indicate to your fellow shoppers that you are a person who must not be disturbed, question, or otherwise solicited in your quest for the cheapest pasta and the ripest avocado. When you are deciding between two brands of hummus, adopt a look of intense concentration that will make those employees hesitate to talk to you for fear of shattering your zen-like trance. While selecting the best sweet potatoes, make it clear that you cannot be bothered by trivial small talk when you are about to make a life-changing decision. While strolling down the aisles, channel your inner Scully (who is sort of my fictional doppelganger except I’m not an FBI agent or a medical doctor and don’t have red hair and am not half as intelligent as she is) and project an aura of I’m here on important business and I won’t stand for any interruptions.

(4) Bring a list with you: Not only to prevent you from forgetting a crucial item and having to return (gasp!) a second time to relive the horror all over again. You see, a list also serves as a handy way to avoid making eye contact with someone headed your way. All you have to do is whip out your list and scrutinize it with the same expression mentioned in #3, muttering either real or nonsense words under your breath for extra effect. If people see that you are talking to yourself, they may be more likely to avoid making eye contact anyway. Actually, we do live in America, where people can be freaked out by eye contact, so that shouldn’t really be a big issue…Alternatively, you could simply pretend to talk on your phone the entire time, though unless you have a hands-free device, keep in mind that trying to steer a finicky cart with sticky wheels using only one hand can lead to unfortunate accidents. Or you could just text people, though I’m often tempted to purposely run into those people whose eyes are glued to their phones and say “Oh gosh, I’m sorry, I just didn’t realize you were an actual living and breathing human being!! I thought you were some technology-dazed zombie. My bad.” However, I’ve never actually done this because I’m not a totally heartless person.

(5) Brace yourself for the unexpected: Maybe you run into someone who greets you by name while you stand there frozen thinking Who the hell IS this person and WHY DO THEY KNOW MY NAME?? Maybe, despite having been to this store 2.5 billion times before, you forget where an item is and have to actually ask Super-Duper-Cheery-Helpful-Smiley Employee where to find it. Maybe you’re faithfully following guideline #3 while in the produce department but a guy comes up to you and says that you’re beautiful and that he therefore assumes you have a boyfriend, and you say no, and he proceeds to ask you out, and you ask why, and he says because you’re beautiful, and you say that’s not a very logical reason to ask someone out, and he looks confused, and you send him on his way with a totally insincere “thank you for taking the time to comment on my physical appearance in the middle of a grocery store and for assuming that all ‘beautiful’ women must of course have boyfriends.” And you then wonder who in their right mind would go around trying to pick up women in a grocery store in the 21st century. Do we look extra sexy while picking out cabbage, or something? Actually, don’t answer that question. I’m at Safeway, not a bar, damn it. All I want to do is PICK OUT MY VEGETABLES IN PEACE!! We don’t typically go to grocery stores in the hope of finding ourselves a date. Unless you are referring to dates of the fruit variety. Which are delicious. Please remember that all of this was an entirely hypothetical situation and is in no way referring to a personal experience of mine. Not at all. Sorry, I got a little off-track there with that sarcastic rant. The point is, you can’t always be prepared for everything, though if you’re like me, you try to be.

(6) Familiarize yourself with the cashiers at the check-out: There are some who will try to engage in full-fledged conversations, some who are pleasant but not overly chatty, and some who don’t talk much at all (though these are rare because they probably get fired for not being “nice enough.” Though since when does being “nice” mean asking insincere questions because you’re forced to do so? I feel bad for grocery store employees sometimes…) Though it seems cold, I will sometimes avoid certain cashiers because I know they will start up a cheery conversation and I’ll feel bad if I don’t respond, so I’m forced to make awkward conversation until my groceries have all been run through. They’ll say “Got any exciting plans for the weekend??!!??” and I’ll just mutter “Ummmm….No. I’m just going to stay at home and study and clean the bathroom and eat food and stress out about all my failures as a human being and rehearse ahead of time all the conversations that I might have next week so I don’t end up in a situation like this ever again. What about you?? (with a pleasant smile).” Or something like that.

(7) Find ways to break through fits of paralyzing indecision: Say you need to buy some flour. You’d like to get some organic flour if possible, but there is only organic whole wheat flour, not organic all-purpose flour. Whole wheat is probably healthier, but also results in a different texture. The conventional all-purpose is cheaper, but probably has pesticides. The fair-trade all-purpose that you then discover might resolve the problem, but it is obviously more expensive than the conventional. So is the higher price worth it? Do you really need organic flour, or should you just get the conventional kind because it’s cheaper? But is it really that much cheaper? Will this decision really matter in the long run? Is this just a first-world problem? Or are you practical in trying to balance out your frugal side with my health-conscious side? If all else fails, and this constant dialogue in your head is driving you insane (more insane than you already are), then either (A) close your eyes and pick one, (B) go with your gut instinct (whatever that means), or (C) say “screw the flour. I’ll just make paleo cookies instead.” Problem solved.

I hope you found these tips to be helpful, or that they at least shed light upon the fact that although I am perfectly willing to be the first person into a haunted house, will watch horror movies alone in the dark, am not scared of heights or dark water, love snakes/spiders/insects/arachnids, and thoroughly enjoy roller coasters, I am not by any means a fearless or anxiety-free person when it comes to normal everyday activities such as grocery shopping. I guess we all have our issues 😉

 

How to Get Into the Christmas (so sorry, so not politically correct, I meant Holiday) Spirit


Listen to Christmas music 24/7–on Pandora, on TV, on your computer, etc…Because there’s nothing like listening to tunes about stalker Santas, socially ostracized reindeer, random flocks of birds such as partridges and French hens, “romantic” blizzards, and a snowman with a short life expectancy (poor Frosty) to get you into the holiday spirit. Just don’t overthink the lyrics and you’ll be full of Christmas (sorry, HOLIDAY, I guess I’m just not politically correct enough to live in Oregon) spirit in no time.

Play in the snow. Or if you live in Eugene, splash around in puddles. It’s the same thing, really, just in a different form. Except rain is like the dysfunctional younger sibling of snow–it can’t seem to pull itself together, it is associated with gloom and misery, and it’s usually no fun at parties.

Go “shopping.” Note that this doesn’t actually require you to buy anything. All you have to do is wander around different stores, listen to Christmas music until your ears start bleeding, make a game out of deciding which store has the most politically correct holiday decorations, and inhale the delicious smells of artificial pine-scented everything until you start feeling nauseated. At that point, you’ll probably be so disillusioned by the commercialization of Christmas that you won’t want to buy anything at all, thus saving you money in the long run! I think it’s a great plan.

Bake tons of delicious cookies, pies, cakes, etc…Because apparently, at some point, someone decided that the only time it’s socially acceptable–and even required–to binge on sugar-loaded treats is during a particular holiday. Therefore, we’re made to feel Scrooge-like if we decline a sugar cookie at a Christmas party, but guilty if we stuff our faces with brownies anytime after January 1st and before Valentine’s Day. Gotta love our country.

Watch Christmas movies. Bonus points if you can look at a quote from It’s a Wonderful Life and automatically read it in the character’s exact voice and tone. I promise I won’t judge you if you enjoy watching Heaps of Sentimental Drivel (sorry, small typo, I meant Hallmark Christmas movies) on a regular basis. Honestly, I feel like I can’t judge because I still watch Elf every year, so…

Post plenty of Christmas-related photos on Facebook or Instagram so that everyone knows you’re having the BEST holiday season EVER and that you’re OMG SO FULL OF HOLIDAY CHEER. 5 extra points given if your photos include any of the following: a pine tree, a Starbucks cup (which tragically, is only plain red now, since apparently a lack of snowflakes is a clear sign that Starbucks is the devil and our country’s morals have reached rock-bottom), a Santa hat (my spell check insists that I capitalize Santa), a reference to a Christmas song or movie, or a candid (AKA carefully posed) photo of you gazing deeply nostalgically at some twinkling lights or a snow-filled landscape. #deepthoughts, #holynight, #peaceandloveforall.

Wear your Christmas-themed clothes every day because if you’re going to buy a sweater that is only socially appropriate to wear for 1/6 of the year (or 1/12 if you believe that the Christmas season doesn’t start until December 1), then you probably want to make it worth however much money you spent on it. Unless, of course, it was a freebie handed down by some relative.

Read How the Grinch Stole Christmas to your kids/younger siblings/cousins/nieces/nephews/etc… and remind them that (1) Christmas doesn’t come from a box, (2) it’s nearly anatomically and physically impossible for one’s heart to grow three sizes, and even if it did, the Grinch would probably go into cardiac arrest, (3) Mary Lou Who must have had vision problems in order for her to mistake the Grinch for Santa Clause (guess she needs contact lenses for Christmas), and (4) it’s typically considered animal abuse to hook a dog up to a heavy sled loaded with what probably amounted to hundreds of pounds of presents.

Light plenty of holiday-themed candles and place them around your house in strategic locations. Just don’t forget to blow them out before going to bed or they might catch the furniture on fire, destroy your Christmas tree, scorch the mistletoe, and force you to start a holiday GoFundMe account to raise money in order to replace all of the fancy presents that you bought instead of having an “old-fashioned” Christmas by giving your kids oranges and pennies in their stockings and refusing to buy the aforementioned candles that have artificial ingredients and weren’t made by hand with beeswax or animal fat. Not that they didn’t have house fires back then, of course. They were probably just less forgetful because they had to rely on their memories and not their iPhone to remind them to blow out the candles.

And most importantly of all, don’t forget to maintain your sense of humor.

Where Did I Go??


To make a long story short, college life took priority over blogging, and so here I am three months after my last post, trying to think of how to sum up the past several weeks without being too verbose. Oof. It’s been quite an eventful term so far, and due to Thanksgiving break, there is only one full week of school left, then finals, and then winter break. The quarter system is a bit odd that way–you get Thanksgiving break as a sort of teaser of what’s too come, then you must plunge right into dead week and finals before emerging at the end of the tunnel, hopefully unscathed. So here is a very brief list (be proud of me for restraining from too much verbal vomit) of what I’ve been up to lately…

  1. Reading The Taming of the Shrew, Titus Andronicus, Richard III, and Hamlet for my Shakespeare class. It’s been an excellent course so far–it is essentially a book club-type class in which we all sit around, over-analyzing every iota of the dialogue, laughing at puns, and making jokes about how absurd some of the characters/plots seem from a cynical 21st century perspective. It’s great.
  2. Joining an African dance class/performance ensemble for the fall term in the dance department and gaining a deeper appreciation of the strength and cardiovascular capacity required by this particular dance form. Not only that, but also learning just how rich and complex the history of African dance is.
  3. Taking a dance somatics class and realizing that when you’ve trained yourself to repress and smother certain emotions as a result of past events, they are bound to pop up again someday as a result of deceptively “simple” exercises.
  4. Successfully applying for and gaining residency status at the U of O, resulting in a 2/3 tuition decrease starting next term in January and hopefully continuing until I graduate in June 2017. I’ll still be in debt for several years after graduating (let’s be honest here), but any discount helps!!
  5. Learning that one of my good friends will be getting married next year in December and feeling simultaneously happy for her and in slight disbelief at the fact that yes, I am 22 now and yes, people do get married in their early twenties. Let’s just say that’s not in my near future.
  6. Feeling grateful that two of my dance-related classes required us to keep a notebook throughout the term to track our progress/thoughts/ideas–because writing always makes me happy, and I’m not always the chattiest person in class, so I tend to make up for that in these notebooks.
  7. Spending hour upon frustrating hour trying to choreograph movement for my dance composition class, then deciding I simply suck at choreography and will always hate everything I create (melodrama at its finest), then realizing I need to get over myself and just try anyway because it’s good for me to be challenged and pushed to my edge. And because drowning in self-pity will get me nowhere.
  8. Watching Poltergeist and Insidious for the first time about a month ago, because I actually don’t mind watching horror movies by myself on Halloween in a dark room. They were both decent, but nothing too special in my opinion. Also attempting to watch Pitch Perfect and getting through most of it, but then turning it off and wondering why it got such rave reviews. Maybe I’m just past the point where I can watch those type of movies without feeling disappointed by the plot holes and unrealistic characters and numerous cliches/stereotypes. Or maybe I’m just a wet blanket who doesn’t know how to have fun?
  9. Continuing to create and experiment with different vegan recipes and sampling new products that are widely available because I live in the hippie town of Eugene. I recently bought the dairy-free Daiya chives and onion cream cheese, and I was definitely impressed. Of course, it’s been a while since I had regular cream cheese, so I’m not sure how it tastes in comparison, but I thought it was tasty.
  10. Continuing to be a bit of a hermit on the weekends, only going out to ballet classes, yoga, grocery shopping, or working at my nanny job. But hey, not being a party animal leaves more time for homework and studying, and I never have to worry about waking up hungover or unable to recall the previous night’s events, so that’s a plus in my book.

And here are some photos of random things: vegan pizza I made, a sunset, an amusing story from a philosophy book, my current computer background (isn’t it great?), a Pearls Before Swine comic strip, one of my favorite Demotivators, and evidence that Shakespeare was using the word “holla” centuries before it became popular slang.

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We’ll see when I get around to creating another post–until then, I’ll be busy wrapping up this fall term of college. However, I’m hoping to post more during the winter break, though I can’t make any promises…Oh, and I’ll leave you with something I stumbled upon while looking through my dance improvisation journal from last winter term in January–we were told to write the “story of me” in a streams-of-consciousness manner, as quickly as possible, just writing down whatever words and phrases came to our minds. So this is what I came up with–obviously, the story of my life is far longer and more complicated, but we did have a limited amount of time to write this 😉

Running around with dirt on my feet, sun on my face, the laughing of my siblings ringing in my ears. The warm touch of a dog’s fur on my skin, such faithful companions they are. Spending hours writing down stories, the words forming in my mind and spilling onto sheets of blank paper combined with childish illustrations. Fear and grief penetrate my mind when my siblings are ill, when my dogs die in a car crash, when storms threaten the safety of my home. Plum juice running down my face, embarrassment heating my cheeks when my older sister teases me about a boy who supposedly “likes” me. Rows and stacks of books fill me with joy, happiness, excitement, peace. The words, spoken by my mother, fill my mind with images of mountains, palaces, dragons, magic phoenixes, carpets, wizards, hobbits, lions. Dancing, dancing, pointing my feet, working on my splits, spreading that dreaded makeup on my face. Playing the peacemaker, mediating arguments that I cannot solve on my own. Trees, flowers, forests, creeks, mountains–green everywhere, infusing me with peace and calm. A sense of unease bubbling beneath the surface, a sense of inadequacy haunting me with every step. Shyness, introversion, shrinking away from social interaction. Crashing waves, salt water, an endless walk along the beach, sea shells reminding me of happy times. Losing control, can’t lose control, must control EVERYTHING. Skinny limbs, thin hair, a slave to my own obsessions. Absorbing the emotions of those around me, soaking up stress, anger, frustration, sadness like a sponge. But the crashing train wreck begins to slide back on track, confidence and joy begin to wedge their way back into the foggy void. Still progressing, still changing, still learning. 

Why Do You Dance?


Ah, a dancer’s favorite (or least favorite) question in the world. As a dance major, I’ve had my fair share of people who, when they learn what my area of study in college is, often give some sort of vaguely patronizing response such as “wow, that sounds fun!” or “that’s great! So do you have a back-up plan?” while probably thinking to themselves gee, what a waste of time and money. Why doesn’t she get a practical degree? To be fair, I completely understand their skepticism, especially if they have never taken a dance class in their lives. I mean, I struggle to understand why someone would go to cosmetic school, since it sometimes seems like a trivial career to me, but that doesn’t mean my opinion is “correct.” So why DO I dance? I often wish I could give an answer that is either (1) mind-blowing in its length, wisdom, and eloquence or (2) short yet witty and profound. Or that I could simply say “because I love it!!” and be satisfied with that answer. Or, perhaps, that I could be satisfied with no answer at all. However, here is my best attempt at explaining…

In the past, I’ve often given the cliche response “because it allows me to express myself,” but in retrospect, I only said that because it seemed like an answer that people in our individualistic special-snowflake culture could easily understand. In all honesty, I don’t deliberately express myself through dance–yes, some part of me will inevitably show up in my dancing, but that’s not really the main objective. So no, I don’t dance “to express myself.” Not intentionally, anyway. 

Sometimes I dance because I want to shed my day-to-day self and become some other character or idea or concept or object, whether for 15 minutes in my room or 3 hours at a rehearsal. It’s like an out-of-body experience that doesn’t require hallucinatory drugs or being close to death. 

Sometimes I dance because I’m stressed and anxious and I just want to fling my body around and feel that sweet, sweet rush of endorphins and adrenaline. A selfish motive, perhaps, but it’s the truth, and if anyone says that they NEVER dance for this reason, that’s it’s ALWAYS to serve some higher spiritual/artsy/political purpose, then I call bullshit. With all due respect. On a physical level, dancing simply feels good. 

Sometimes I dance because it forces me to acknowledge weeks or months or years of pent-up feelings, habits, and flaws that I’ve tried to keep tucked away in a barricaded corner of my mind. Dance has a persistent and curious way of breaking down those barriers, despite my instinctual resistance. 

Sometimes I dance because I want to help create a world in which the audience can lose themselves and experience a heady rush of emotions–whether boredom, excitement, annoyance, happiness, fear, anger, grief, joy, content, or a million others. Or maybe it leaves them relatively untouched, shrugging and saying “what’s the big deal?” and you know what? That’s OK. I don’t think we should force people to love, respect, and admire dance. So let’s stay off our high-horses, avoid a holier-than-thou attitude, and not pretend we’re better than non-dancers for whatever reason. Or, for that matter, pretend that one style of dance is somehow inherently superior to another. Goodness knows the world would benefit from fewer elitist attitudes. Not that we can’t have our opinions, of course, but I think too many people get caught up in notions of what dance “should” and “shouldn’t” be. 

Sometimes I dance because I hear one of my favorite songs on Pandora and dancing just seems like the right thing to do. 

Sometimes I dance because the process is like an endless, fascinating, frustrating, and ever-changing archaeological dig. You unearth gems of knowledge, but also go for long streaks without finding anything. You may discover something that seems useless at the time, but then later realize its true significance. There are times when you just want to throw in the towel (and trowel) and give up, but the knowledge that there will always be something else lying beneath the surface, just waiting to be found, compels you to dig onward. 

Sometimes I dance because it keeps me humble, reminding me that we can learn so much from the people with whom we dance–that every single one of them can teach us something valuable, regardless of their skill level or technique.

Sometimes I dance because I want to help a teacher or choreographer achieve his or her artistic vision in any way I can–even if I constantly fear that my dancing just won’t cut it, or simply isn’t adequate to fulfill that person’s idea. 

Sometimes I dance in order to avoid thinking about those daunting adult responsibilities that, quite frankly, scare the hell out of me sometimes–because it’s difficult to obsess about students loans or post-graduation plans or making appointments when you’re flying across the floor in a grande jete. Dance: the ultimate form of procrastination. 

Sometimes I dance because I have 15 minutes to kill before heading out the door to dance class, and what better way to prepare for dance than by dancing? 

Sometimes I dance because it fills me with so many delightful paradoxes (or what seem to be paradoxes–maybe nothing is truly paradoxical)–relaxed yet energized. Frustrated yet satisfied. In pain yet pain-free. Fulfilled yet craving more. 

Sometimes I dance because I thoroughly enjoy and crave the experience of working toward a goal, whether technique- or artistry-related, because all the blood, sweat, and tears are usually worth it in the end. I say “usually” simply because I hesitate to use such absolutes as “always”–they leave no wiggle room. 

Sometimes I dance because it allows me to stay present and focused in the current moment instead of constantly fixating on the past or future, analyzing the 1.5 billion mistakes I’ve made/have yet to make, replaying past conversations in my mind, or thinking too much about the “would haves,” “could haves,” and “should haves.”

Sometimes I dance because it reminds me of all the wonderfully complex tasks that my body completes for me on a regular basis, everything from breathing and sweating to executing a pirouette or doing a handstand. 

Sometimes I dance because it teaches me to accept constructive criticism in a graceful and thoughtful manner, not taking anything TOO personally. Though this can certainly be difficult at times. 

Sometimes I dance because it actually forces me to engage in social interaction with other people (haha, only kidding. Well, sort of kidding). 

In another year, or five, or 10, this list will probably change as my relationship with dance continues to shift and evolve. So if I’m still alive by then (not to sound morbid), perhaps I’ll write another post similar to this one. Until then, I guess I’ll have to print this list out and give it to anyone who asks me why on earth I’m majoring in dance…

 

 

Summer Thus Far…


So, I’ve written exactly four posts since my college classes ended at the beginning of June. Well, my whole blog-more-during-the-summer plan didn’t work out quite as expected, but since when did anything ever go as planned, right? I could say I’ve been busy, which is true, but (1) you probably don’t care, (2) I’m not really sure if anyone is reading my blog anymore due to my infrequent posts, and (3) it’s not the reason why I haven’t been blogging much. I’ve certainly been posting fairly regularly on Facebook, which has become my writing outlet of choice, probably boring and/or annoying my friends to death with my lengthy posts on a variety of topics ranging from the movie Mean Girls to the debate over the Confederate flag to my bizarre dreams. Oh, and sharing numerous satirical videos and articles from sources such as The Reductress, John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight show, and JP Sears YouTube channel. Also sharing/receiving Supernatural-related gifs and jokes with one of my close friends who has a serious obsession with the show. OK, so I have become hooked on it as well, though I wouldn’t say I am obsessed, exactly. I’ve also recently begun watching The X-Files–a great show so far. Other than watching sci-fi TV shows and developing a slight paranoia of knocks at the door, strangers, and the possibility that the government is hiding information from us (I kid, I kid), I’ve been working at my nanny job, dancing at a couple local studios, voraciously reading books (I just finished Gone Girl, and wow, that was quite a twisted tale), taking yoga classes, creating new vegan recipes, and recently going on vacation to the Oregon coast with my parents, siblings, and other relatives. Some highlights (or lowlights, depending on your perspective, but why does high=bad and low=good anyway?) of my summer have included the following:

1. Reading Gone Girl and trying to decide which of the two main characters was more unlikable. I’m leaning toward Amy, but I didn’t really feel much sympathy for either one. It was a well-written and fast-paced story, with great character descriptions, but dang, talk about a dysfunctional couple. I would recommend therapy, but I’m not sure how psychopaths would react to that.

2. Doing three separate hikes in my sandals since I forgot to bring tennis shoes to the coast and subsequently straining some muscle(s) behind my knee. Or possibly my hamstring muscles. Luckily, it was only sore for a few days, but lesson learned. Sandals are not appropriate hiking shoes for me, despite my insistence that I would “be fine” in them.

3. Finally getting back on the vegan dessert bandwagon. Basically, back in May, I ate some vegan Brooklyn Blackout cake as well as some bites of cookie dough one day, then later on began feeling ill and threw up later that evening. In the midst of a dance performance. At least I threw up in the bathroom, not onstage. Plus, I was only in one short piece, so it could have been much worse. I’m 99% sure it was the norovirus, not food poisoning, but for several weeks after that, just thinking of dessert made me feel incredibly nauseated. I guess there’s something about vomiting partially-digested chocolate cake and cookie dough that will steer you away from such food for a while. But then I finally made vegan brownies one day and made peace with my newly-developed food aversion. Still, I don’t know if I’ll ever make that cake again…

4. Working at my nanny job, and once in July, staying with the three kids for five days straight while their parents went on a trip and NOT going insane. Sure, it was a bit stressful at times, but I love spending time with these kids, and it was such a great experience in multiple ways.

5. Dancing. Enough said.

6. Soaking up every minute spent at the Oregon coast and taking those cliche “long walks on the beach,” though since it’s the Pacific ocean, you can’t really swim without a wetsuit unless you want to develop hypothermia, and the wind can be a bit overwhelming at times. Still, the sand dunes, tidepools, and other features make it an absolutely incredible experience. I could have stayed there for much longer, but beach houses aren’t exactly cheap to rent.

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7. Watching the aforementioned TV shows–Supernatural and The X-Files. I’m on season 8 of Supernatural and season 2 of The X-Files, so NO SPOILERS PAST THAT POINT. Thanks.

8. Watching The Terminator and wondering why it got so much hype and praise. It’s basically one prolonged chase with a brief (and totally illogical) sex scene and a few severely underdeveloped characters.

9. Wondering when I’ll actually start to feel like an adult and not a 21-year old woman who is simply adept at pretending she knows how to function as a full-fledged adult. At least I’m not alone, judging by the plethora of list-articles on Buzzfeed describing, with a collection of humorous gifs and photos, the struggles of what we are now apparently calling “adulting.” I’m not sure if this evidence makes me depressed or relieved.

10. Finding amusement in articles like these.

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11. Joining a volunteer organization that makes homemade burritos once a week and passes them out to the homeless and hungry.

12. Writing my own Demotivators. 

And much more. If you are still reading my blog, congratulations on your patience. I will certainly make an effort to update it more often–if you have any post topic ideas, feel free to share any suggestions! Until then, I’ll Be Back (the only quote I remember from The Terminator).

Puzzle On, My Wayward Son (a Kansas song remake)


So, this post is dedicated to a dear friend of mine–basically, I have written a version of “Carry on My Wayward Son,” by the band Kansas, but mine is puzzle-themed. As in actual jigsaw puzzles. The inspiration behind this post is a rather long story that involves an amusing Facebook post, a corny pun (my friend and I have a fondness for puns), the TV show Supernatural, and my new obsession with writing absurd song lyrics. So without further ado, here it is–only a first draft, of course, so I will probably continue to tweak and edit it over the next several days.

Puzzle On, My Wayward Son:

 

Puzzle on, my wayward son.

No spare pieces when you’re done.

Lay your weary hands to rest.

But don’t give up quite yet.

 

*Musical interlude*

 

Once the edge pieces have all been connected,

The outside distractions have been deflected,

You’re prepared to puzzle onward,

Only pause to eat and drink.

 

Though your eyes may burn, your mind will keep working.

Though your mind may cloud, your eyes will keep searching.

You may turn into a hermit,

Still, it’s worth it in the end!

 

Puzzle on, my wayward son.

No spare pieces when you’re done.

Lay your weary hands to rest.

But don’t give up quite yet.

 

*Musical Interlude*

 

All those middle pieces driving you crazy,

Are they clouds or sheep or simply a daisy?

And when you manage to connect them,

A joyful sob escapes your lips!

 

 

As the hours pass the air fills with tension

The puzzle crying out for your full attention

And your friends dare not disturb you,

For they fear you just might snap!

 

Puzzle on, my wayward son

No spare pieces when you’re done

Lay your weary hands to rest

But don’t give up quite yet

 

*Musical Interlude*

 

*Bum-Bum* Carry on, the task is nearly over!

*Bum-Bum* Carry on, you’re the last standing soldier!

These pieces are counting on you,

To put them in their rightful place!

 

Puzzle on, my wayward son.

No spare pieces when you’re done.

Lay your weary hands to rest.

But don’t give up, don’t give up quite yeeeeeeeettttttt……..

*Brief musical interlude*

Quite yeeeeeetttttttt…………

*Cue dramatic ending music*

 

Inspired by this wonderful song–feel free to listen to it and sing my lyrics instead. I did my best to match up the syllables whenever possible, but it’s not perfect by any means. I mean, I’m very far from a professional songwriter after all:

 

 

 

 

My Own “Demotivators”


Have you ever heard of Demotivators? They’re basically like anti-motivational quotes that were designed for people such as myself who have a low level of tolerance for many of those so-called “inspirational” quotes. So, of course, I had to go about creating my own, just for fun.

1. Shoot for the moon—even if you miss, there’s still a slight chance that you won’t be sucked into a black hole, suffocate from lack of oxygen, or burn into a fiery crisp.

2. Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to past; it’s about learning to dance in the rain. Unless it’s a lightning storm, a sandstorm, or a hailstorm. In that case, run as fast as you can to the nearest covered shelter and forget about dancing unless you want to be fried alive, blinded by sand, or pelted with hail. 

3. Whoever said that stars can’t shine without darkness clearly forgot that the sun is technically a star. 

4. Don’t change just so people will like you, but DO change if you’re a selfish or inconsiderate jerk who treats other people unkindly and can’t figure out why they don’t like you in return.

5. A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step—it’s the next 999 steps that people always forget to mention.

6. If you want to smile for no reason, remember that fake smiles look creepy and do the exact opposite of spreading cheer and joy. 

7. Before you go around eliminating “negative people” from your life as though they were pesky mosquitoes, remember that they might simply be trying to rid you of your delusions of grandeur. 

8. Mistakes can certainly be proof that you’re trying. However, they can also be proof that you’re simply being lazy and NOT trying. It is important to recognize the difference. 

I plan on making a part 2 at some point in the future–if you have some of your own, feel free to share them!

How Do You Define an “Exceptional” Student?


I recently received a letter from the International Dean’s List Society, telling me that because of my “outstanding academic achievements” (AKA my 4.14 GPA, which I don’t really consider to be an “outstanding achievement”), I was invited to become a part of this organization along with other “exceptional students,” provided I was willing to pay the $55 membership fee. The letter seemed innocent enough at first glance, but as I read it again more thoroughly, several phrases popped out at me that rubbed me the wrong way, and made me wonder whether or not the IDLS provided any practical benefits whatsoever, or whether it was simply a snobbish elitist organization designed to bribe–er, coax–college students into becoming a member. Exhibit A: “Membership in the Society provides an opportunity for you to set yourself apart based on outstanding academic achievement.” (italics mine). No offense, but why would I want to “set myself apart” from people with a lower GPA? So I can strut around and pretend as though I am a “better” student for having been invited to join the IDLS? To me, this sentence reeks of (admittedly subtle) arrogance and pride. Also, some of the “benefits” of joining this group included a “certificate of membership,” a “lapel pin for you to wear proudly,” and a “personalized press release for you to place in your local newspaper.” I had to laugh about the lapel pin; it reminded me of those rather boastful “my child is an honor student” bumper stickers. Anyway, do college students even wear lapel pins on a regular basis? Is that a thing? As for the personalized press release, well, I don’t know why it is necessary for the entire town to know that I have a 4.14 GPA–what does that even tell you about me as a person, student, or prospective employee? Not very much. Sure, you could make the argument that people with a high GPA are hardworking, dedicated, intelligent, etc…, and this is true in many cases, but not in all. The fact that I could join the IDLS does NOT, in any way, make me a better or more successful college student than those people who were denied this supposed “privilege,” if you can even call it that. The existence of organizations such as the IDLS brings up a swarm of challenging and complex questions: “How can you measure success in college?” “What does it mean to be a ‘good’ or ‘exceptional’ student?” “What is the value of a letter grade anyway?” “Should students with high grades be given special privileges?” There are multiple ways to answer these questions, and I doubt that there is one right answer.

This letter called us invitees “exceptional students” simply because we had a high enough GPA to be accepted into the IDLS. As far as I know, there are no other criteria–it all hinges on the GPA. But what does it really mean to be an “exceptional” student (in the “positive” sense, as you could certainly be exceptionally rude or exceptionally arrogant)? Are letter grades an accurate way to gauge the “quality” of a student? Perhaps more importantly, do these vague labels truly mean anything? I’m sure every teacher has a different idea of what a “perfect” student might be like–one might prefer someone who is quiet, attentive, and respectful, while another might adore those students who are bold, outspoken, and always eager to speak up in class. However, when we think of so-called star students, there are typically a few common characteristics that pop into our minds: good grades/GPA, high test scores, always knows the answers in class, etc…There is certainly nothing wrong with these traits, but they offer an incomplete picture of who these students truly are. What about characteristics such as compassion, helpfulness, open-mindedness, or patience? I think we all know how important these are, but when the emphasis is placed on the product (high GPA, top SAT scores, etc…) instead of the process, students become engaged in a fierce competition in which many believe that the ends justify the means, at whatever cost. Organizations such as the IDLS don’t really know you as a person–they don’t care how you treat your friends/classmates/teachers/family members, they have no idea what kind of student you are or what your learning style is, and they probably don’t care how you managed to get on the Dean’s List, as long as your name is there along with hundreds of other students. So yes, I was slightly flattered when I got that letter, but I soon realized that it was just a hollow and (in my opinion) fairly meaningless “honor” that was offered to me based on a single statistic–my GPA.

I think every person on this planet is a student, in a sense. We can all learn important lessons from each other, whether they are older or younger than us, and this learning process is a never-ending one. Despite what honors societies and other such groups may want you to believe, we can’t really divide people into “good students” and “bad students,” nor do I think we should attempt to bestow awards and gifts upon those students who have obtained “outstanding academic achievements.” These extrinsic motivational factors may incite people to study more and put more effort into their classes, but are they doing this out of a love for learning, or simply because they just want a good grade or an invitation into the IDLS? Maybe both, who knows? Anyway, feel free to share any thoughts that you might have on the matter; I appreciate feedback of any kind!