Saturday, July 26, 2014

Vice is Hitting it Out of the Park

About a week ago, I discovered the Vice News YouTube channel, and it has quickly become my favorite source of journalists reporting the truth from around the globe. For the first time in my life, I feel like I am getting the unbiased "whole story". They split up the videos into smaller clips of what eventually becomes half-hour long documentaries of current events. I have been pulling up YouTube on my TV and watching these instead of the other news channels that contain small clips and one-sided opinions of reporters.

So far, I have learned about so many different issues that I never even knew existed.

For example, I was SO EXCITED about The World Cup this year. You should have seen how many pizzas I made for watching parties. I am now an expert pizza chef. I actually got into futbal a lot this year, despite an old friend of mine trying to convince me to love Messi for a long time. (I understand now. God, do I understand the agony of Argentina's defeat.) I was too busy working at my old job 4 years ago when the last World Cup was on TV, so I never had the chance to enjoy it until now.

Little did I know how much of a problem it caused for Brazil. Once I saw this documentary, I just sat back and thought about how ignorant I am for being nothing but excited for FIFA, and yet I had no idea this was going on...And I know it's not just me- but how ignorant most of the people in the US are to the problems of the outside world. I really encourage everyone to check out their main YouTube page and check out their video library, because it covers so many current issues from all around the world.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Turning 25

I turned 25 yesterday.
If you had asked me how I felt at 24, I would say I was having a quarter-life-crisis.
Now, despite not being exactly where I had expected my life to be, at 25 I can say I feel content with the way things are going. I still have plenty of things I want to accomplish, but I no longer feel guilty or ashamed of not already having everything I could possibly want. It sounds stupid to even say that I expected that for myself, but society has put that pressure on me all of my life.

Growing up in the 90's meant that I saw prosperity at a young age all around me in real life and on TV.
Living in a rural middle to upper-middle class area meant that all of us were expected to graduate college, find great jobs, own a house with lots of land, a car, a pick-up truck, and go on vacations to Florida at least once a year. A lot of people were even married and had kids by that time.
...And if we didn't already have those things at 25, we were doing something wrong. We were a failure.
I remember even the 21-year old substitute middle school teacher who was still in Graduate School was buying a house.
As a kid, being in your 20's seemed like this amazing time period- like everything would finally become easy and fall into place.

Most of us late 80's early 90's kids were born as a way for our parents to live vicariously through us, and put all of their hopes and dreams on our shoulders.
 Nobody knew that the economy would tank like it did. All of our parent's plans went out the window, but unfortunately, sometimes their expectations are still high. If anyone in the older generation is telling you that you just aren't trying hard enough, they clearly aren't paying attention to the world around them.

I am no longer feeling like I am in a quarter-life crisis, because this past year of being self-employed has helped me grow and learn SO MUCH more about myself than I would have if I had taken on the job options available to me.

The single biggest revelation I have had about turning 25 is that by surviving this Second Great Depression, I know that no matter what happens in my life, I am now prepared for it. I feel like a survivor. Like most things in my life, I am grateful for the struggles, because they actually make me a better person.

If you don't know me at all, and you just stumbled on this blog post because you also turned 25, I would hope you look at your experiences and give yourself more credit for the good things. Realize all of the things you learned as a result of your struggles. Even if the economy is not to blame, and you made stupid mistakes in your 20's, that doesn't make you a bad person. The thing that really matters is if you are willing to change.

There is a universal debate as to whether people can ever really change. My answer to that is; Good people can change. Bad people don't....because they choose not to.
I plan on continuing to grow and change, hopefully for the next 75 years. I hope you do too.

Thursday, July 3, 2014


It is officially the 4th of July. Independence Day.
There is a lot I could complain about when it comes to the US, and I may trash-talk the state of this country often enough on this blog to make you believe I am practically packing my bags for Canada, but I truly I feel incredibly lucky to have been born here.

My problems are first-world white girl problems, and every other problem I experience is something that is universal, like heartbreak. Family problems. Every person in every country can roll their eyes and say, "Been
Country roads, take me home.
there, done that."

For the past couple days, I have woken up in incredibly good moods, to the point where I find myself dancing for no reason at all. I am happy just to be alive. I am single, and I don't have very many friends. There is not much spending money left for me after I pay my bills, so I can't travel like I want to. I'm still living in my parent's house. It is enough to make a lot of people in the First World depressed.
 I can't say that I haven't had my share of bad days. I have spent the past few months crying and being angry
 I guess I am just finally looking on the bright side of life. I really hope this feeling never stops.

I may not own my own house yet, but I live in a beautiful home that belongs to my parents, which is more than many people can say- even Americans. I have a Bachelor's Degree. I am healthy. I am not disabled, or deformed, or anything like that. I have clothes on my back and food in my stomach. I can walk around my town without worrying about being kidnapped or mugged. I have debt, but I'm making enough money to manage it, and I will have it all paid back soon enough so that I can live out the rest of my life making choices that keep me debt-free. Most importantly, I am doing exactly what I want to do with my life, and no one can stop me.

Something that many Americans take for granted is that we truly do have the freedom to do what we want, as long as we aren't hurting anyone else. No matter how "poor" or "broke" we get, we are still very wealthy in comparison to the rest of the world. The shackles that hold us are responsibilities, but no one is holding guns at our heads. We do not live in a culture that forces us into anything. It may feel that way, but in reality, our lives are no in danger if we decide to do something differently than the status quo.

So, I will celebrate Independence Day by remembering my own freedom. I won't ever take it for granted.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Being Happy Right Now

Completely irrelevant picture I took of a sunset on the lake.
Last night, I was watching a video by the enormously successful Shay Butler, and he was reflecting on all of the life changes he has gone through in the past five years- most noteably, his company Maker Studios being acquired by Disney for $500 million.

He said, "The key to happiness is to be happy with what you have right now. Don't think about what you
had in the past that you don't have right now. Don't think about how happy you are going to be in the future and how you aren't there yet. Find reasons to be grateful for the present."

After hearing this, I wrote a list of all of the things I have today that I did not have a year ago.I don't know how far back I was supposed to list my achievements, but once I made the list, I realized that I really have accomplished a lot in the past year that I should be proud of. They are all things that I accomplished or acquired slowly over time. There was no single explosively wonderful moment, like how Shay sold his company, so it was easy to feel as though my life had been stagnant. But after making my list, I realize that my life has improved in many ways, and I wasn't able to see it until I began thinking in that mindset.

If you are a perfectionist like me, it's really difficult to look at yourself in the present and feel fully satisfied, because there is always room for improvement. It's fine to want to get better. They say that after retirement, people die soon afterwards. If that data is even accurate, I think that it has a lot to do with waking up each morning with a goal you want to reach. We are so used to working hard that once we stop, we wonder what we have left. So obviously, striving for your future is necessary. However, it's all too easy to get caught up with who you want to be 5 years from now, who you thought you would be by a certain age, etc. and not just step back and say, "Hey, I'm doing OK."

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Someone Give This Man An Award

I have only experienced being stuck overnight somewhere once- Penn Station in New York City. It isn't quite as dead in the middle of the night...There are always people working in the city that never sleeps. I've heard friends talk about their experience stuck overnight in an airport- usually they sleep in the waiting area. What did Richard Dunn do? Make the most amazing music video all by himself.
Seriously, this is hilarious.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Life From The Ashes

My parent's house sits on an acre of land and even more woods, but due to years of personal issues my parents were having, the yard had been unkempt for a very long time. So, one day last summer, I just got outside and started landscaping. I liked it so much, I started doing it almost every day. Apparently, my interest in yard work was contagious. My parents saw how hard I was working for absolutely no reason, and they decided to join in. They even went as far as paying to get some dead trees chopped down, and there was a day when our entire family was working together to clean up the wood. I think it was the first time that my family had actually worked as a team, and it felt amazing to see what we could accomplish together.

One of my stubbornly determined DIY projects was to build a fire pit. I'll admit, it kind of sucked. I found random stones my dad had discarded in a pile in the woods. They were mis-matched from various projects of siding the house and making stone walkways in the garden. I pieced them together like a puzzle to create a circular hearth, and stacked larger stones to create a primitive barrier before I put up a metal grate. I made several bonfires, and every time a fire dwindeled down to ashes, I would shovel the black soot into a giant bush once the ashes had cooled, wondering if I was going to kill the poor thing by subjecting it to the ash.

From my perspective, the fire and ashes did nothing but destroy. Ants and other bugs that I didn't even realize were on the ground ran for their lives as the smoke curled from the beginnings of a bonfire. Ashes mean death, I told myself.

After a year of letting the ashes sit, I knew it was time to pick up the stones so we can create an even better fire pit this year. My mom enjoyed spending time in the yard  and having bonfires so much last year that she is suddenly taking interest in going outside again. Weeds had grown around the fire pit, but I still didn't expect to find any life as I put my work gloves on and began picking up the stones.

I was wrong.
The first stone I picked up had two little snails living underneath it. The next rock I picked up had little worms scurrying to dig themselves into the ground. Rock after rock revealed the new life that I could not see from the surface. The more I pushed the ashes aside, I saw that new, beautiful brown dirt was underneath the black.

It's not like I never learned this concept in school...I always knew about deforestation from wild fires, and the life that grows back afterwards, but there is something that really hit me getting to see it in person, and hold the new soil in my gloved hands.

One of the rocks even had tiny plants growing on it, despite how shallow their roots must have been. Surely, there is no room for them to grow larger than the size they are now, and yet, they don't care. Life springs up when you give it a chance.

I'm not a religious person, but what I do have faith in is the resiliency of all life. Just when you think there is nothing but death and ashes, life finds a way. Maybe the original tenants moved out, because they weren't happy with the conditions, but the snails don't seem to mind. As the worms burrow through the ash, it will turn into soil, and the old tenants will return again.

I think I needed to see this right now, because I am at a moment where I feel as though so many hopes and dreams have been crashing and burning, and even the positive things are just dangling on a thread. I am trying to figure out where to go next.
 The real lesson I learned from the plants and bugs is that no matter how bad things look, life goes on. It always goes on. Maybe it won't be exactly as it was before, but there is always a way to fix what has been burned and make it new.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

MOOCs Are Beautiful

 If you had the opportunity to sit in the back of a Harvard University lecture hall and learn any subject of your choosing, would you? You are learning the exact same precious knowledge that students have paid mortgage-worthy tuition to learn, only you get to know it for free. The only catch is- You won't get college credit for it.

The answer will vary depending on what type of person you are. Many people might say; "If there's no college credit, then what's in it for me?" or "Why should I waste my time?"
 However, there are people that would jump at the chance to listen to that knowledge. There are people who could never even dream of listening to Harvard lectures because of financial or location constraints, and they would see the value in the knowledge. These people would be more than willing to attend the lectures regardless of whether they earned credit or not.

The difference between these two types of people may seem obvious- the latter is the academic...The person who is thirsty for knowledge, and appreciates when it comes from one of the world's leading institutions.

This scenario isn't just in a fantasy- It's called a MOOC.  Massive Open Online Course. I first heard of MOOCs in late 2012, when my Logic professor encouraged us to take a Logic MOOC online. I brushed it off, thinking about all of the other course work I had to worry about. I had homework and examines, and I sure as hell wasn't going to pile another online course on top of it.

Now, after being out of school for a while, I miss the academic life. My brother John told me about a website called Coursera, and I was immediately blown away at the variety of topics I could learn for free. There are other websites like EdX, and varying Ivy League Universities will pick a different MOOC providers. (I am taking UPenn and Columbia courses at Coursera, and a Harvard course at EdX,)

I am someone who has an Associate's Degree, and a Bachelor's Degree. . I have also audited enough classes face-to-face that would equate to a Master's Degree if I actually earned the credits, and I can tell you that the MOOC experience is even more engaging than many of the courses I have paid for and earned credit for- both face-to-face and online.

 Even if you enter a course past the start date, you have the opportunity to catch up with several weeks of material if you choose to. There is also no pressure to even finish the course, if you find that you don't have the time. The homework is optional, but it really benefits you to actually retain the information. (Just like real life classrooms.)

Currently, I am taking MOOCs in Computer Programming (Python), International Law, Marketing, New World Economics, and a class from Harvard called "Tangible Objects" which is sort of hard to describe, but it really benefits my antique business.

These subjects are so vastly different that any college counselor would tell me that I need to find more focus. However, without the pressure of trying to earn a degree in one subject, I have the freedom to learn as much knowledge as I desire, in any subject. I am picking the topics that I personally want to know more about, and honestly, it has made me a happier person lately.

If you're an academic at heart, and you have time on your hands, I recommend checking it out.