When someone says this phrase, what do you think of?
Maybe your teacher doling out endless assignments with trivial questions. Or your boss loading you up with work that seems like a waste of time.
And you would be completely right. But recently, I’ve discovered a new kind of busy work. It doesn’t take the form of stacks of paper, or long office hours, or pointless tasks from a superior. It differs on one simple thing…
It is self-inflicted.
Self-inflicted busy work is, arguably, the hardest to manage. It can take the form of procrastination–doing any minor, easy task to avoid the most pressing matter. Ambition, the deep-seated desire to thrive in every possible field. Even obligation–a self-imposed feeling of guilt when you aren’t doing a certain activity or when you are doing something else instead.
The difficulty with self-inflicted busy work is that it is a gray subject. All the catalysts I just listed could have catastrophic effects… or wonderful, inspirational impacts.
Ambition is an admirable trait. Obligation to better yourself is much the same. But busy work of this nature can also cause you to overload your schedule, forget to prioritize, and push aside your passions in pursuit of more activities.
Earlier this year, I attended a youth leadership seminar where one of the speakers said roughly this:
“You need to actively choose to do the things you love, not just make time. Using whatever few spare minutes you have on these sources of joy won’t make you happy in the long run. Make the choice to spend time doing what you love.”
This struck a chord with me, and led me to wonder…
How much time do I actually devote to the things I love to do?
In the end, I came to the simple conclusion: not that much.
Each year starts out as a new slate, but, like most ambitious individuals, that slate is jam-packed within a month. I have so many interests it gets hard to keep track and my resume’s “activities” list devours the page.
Things start to fall by the wayside when I get flustered: writing for the blog or writing for myself, reading, playing my french horn. More demanding aspects of my schedule wedge themselves in until the “non-deadline” and “creative” passions wither and cramp.
Sadly, that’s just the way things are in life. Nowadays, people (especially kids) have so many opportunities that we start to overload.
Before you get angry, let me say what you were already thinking:
So drop a few things. Sure, it may suck, but it’s the right choice in the end.
Good point. The dilemma? I genuinely enjoy everything I choose to do. But most importantly…
I like to be busy.
It’s not often that I hear someone say that, but I’ll be the first one to admit it. Whether it is good for me, my hobbies, and my schedule or not, I like to be busy.
I’ve started to take pride in my ambition, bragging of my packed schedule with fake complaints. I won’t deny it–like most self-inflicted busy workers, I often compare my schedule to others in a “contest” of sorts. To those who aren’t the “try everything” type, this kind of conversation will sound incredibly petty:
“My schedule is soooo busy. I go straight from school to swim, then to leadership right after, then to band all the way til’ 9, and I don’t get to sleep until 10:30!”
“Me too. After school I have jazz band, orchestra rehearsals, chess club, online cooking classes, and track. I’m busy all the time.”
Like me, many ambitious people like to be busy. Why would we choose to add one more project, one more club, one more assignment? Because, in our minds…why not?
For those of you with this same mindset, I offer a word of advice–do everything you want to do. Sign up for the chess club, and golf, and track, and cross country, and culture club, and student council. With two conditions.
#1. Do not complain about your schedule to other people. I know from experience–they will either nod half-heartedly, vigorously compare and contrast their own busy lives, or tell you that you need to drop some things.
#2. Do not let the important things slip away while you chase all those paths. Family relationships. Friendships. Schoolwork. Your mental health. And, of course, activities that make you, you! Those things, large or small, that make you genuinely happy should not be shoved aside.
If you take away anything at all from this article, let it be this: it is perfectly normal to like being busy. To be interested in a lot of things and avidly pursue them is not a claim many can make.
So continue to seek out those ambitions for as long as they bring you happiness, so long as you never lose sight of what matters most: the people and activities that bring you joy.
As you and I know best, life is nothing without passion. Don’t let anyone make you feel stupid for chasing it.
Screaming. Slandering. It ranges from snide remarks shot with a sneer to not-so-sneaky professions of black-and-white opinion. Nonetheless, every side staunching human progress and treading water, circulating through the same endless debates like a tug-of-war game going nowhere fast: You’re wrong! I’m right!
This is true, this is false, this is what I believe and anything you say otherwise is invalid.
We see it everywhere nowadays: in the comment sections of Youtube videos and Facebook posts, in the news, in the halls of our schools, offices, and homes. Thus, the question is raised– why are people so rude to each other?
Instead of wondering idly for a moment and abandoning the thought with a shrug–”that’s just the way it is sometimes”–I decided to dive deeper into the concept. What does make people jump at each other’s throats? Is it just a few people hardwired with negativity or cattiness? Or is it something deeper…something biological?
Though perhaps I can’t crack the case, I can investigate. If you’ve ever wondered this same thing when faced with pointless feuds or cruel words, read on. Let’s investigate three of the main negative actions we see in today’s world.
Never budging on an opinion
In today’s world–especially in the weeks to months approaching Election Day–we are bombarded with infinite arguments and animosity between supporters of differing laws, candidates, beliefs, political parties, and more.
But in my experience, what escalates these debates and distorts them into malicious fights is the human nature of never budging on an opinion. Throw facts into the arena. Reason. Morality. And it still doesn’t matter sometimes…people just keep arguing!
What causes this? One of the main catalysts is a phenomenon called “confirmation bias.” What is this? According to The New Yorker, confirmation bias is “the tendency people have to embrace information that supports their beliefs and reject information that contradicts them” (Kolbert). After forming an initial opinion, it is human nature to stick with this opinion, even when faced with conflicting evidence.
Haven’t you felt it too? You consider swaying your opinion on a subject but you’ve already rooted yourself too firmly. Doubling down against mounting reason to cling to your ego with both hands… an argument that would seem logical if you hadn’t taken a stance now seems absurd or irrelevant. Defensiveness turns to aggression. Screaming. Yelling. Shame, if you know you were wrong. Twisted pride if it turns out you were right.
We can’t fully blame people for ignoring evidence and rejecting certain information. Confirmation bias, as stated in Encyclopedia Britannica, is “largely unintentional” and may just be a way for the human brain to process information more efficiently (Casad).
With so much input–facts, figures, words, propaganda, reason, data–zooming in from every perspective, our brain doesn’t have the time or energy to process each piece of information from an unbiased standpoint. Ignoring or dismissing evidence that is conflicting to our initial viewpoint could just be a psychological, instinct-driven method to quickly sort through the flood of input (Casad). This is a mental reflex that evolved from the need to make choices on the fly and evaluate facts in our environment.
From another scientific viewpoint, this phenomenon could be a way for people to shield their ego and boost self-esteem (Casad). Admitting you are wrong in an argument can be embarrassing or shameful, even more so the harder you dig your heels in.
Based on the theory of confirmation bias, the human desire to feel superior to others or better about themselves, and many other deeply ingrained factors, perhaps “never budging on an opinion” isn’t always done with malicious intent. Sometimes stubbornness truly is human nature!
However, confirmation bias and psychological factors don’t justify repetitive arguments or making ill-fated decisions to protect pride. Though it can be an explanation, it doesn’t excuse the behavior, just like how a lawyer saying “people have a natural tendency towards greed” wouldn’t pardon a bank-robber. So what can we do?
We can fight this by encouraging open-mindedness in debates and learning critical-thinking skills. Before entering into a heated debate, consider the already-formed opinions of yourself and the people around you and how that might influence the dialogue exchanged. Try to gather information from a variety of sources–you wouldn’t write a college essay about how oil drilling is good, then cite “Premium Oil Co.” as your only source, would you?
Spreading rumors and false information
Rumor-mongering is especially prominent around Election Day here in America, but it is also something we see daily. On Facebook, posts about which foods to feed your dogs, “life hacks” on Youtube that don’t actually work, trolls online literally telling you to microwave a spoon if your ice cream won’t scoop (Please DO NOT microwave a spoon!).
Slander and misinformation are harmful, but more often than not, lies spread faster than the truth. The Washington Post article “We finally know for sure that lies spread faster than truth. This might be why” explains that a reason for this is that fake stories often have more novelty, drama, or are more entertaining than reality (McArdle). In real life, stories are not as clear cut or exciting, with 100% evil villains or completely innocent victims, which makes fabricated statements more compelling and “shareable.”
Let’s take this as an example. A study finds that a brand of dog food has been linked to cancer or premature death in 3 out of 1000 dogs. Two articles are published to Facebook on the topic. One is titled: “Dog Food Co. Kibble May Be Linked to Cancer in Some Pets, Studies Show, Among Other Factors.” The other is titled: “Dog Food Co. Kibble Is Killing Your Pets–Why You Should Stop Feeding It To Them NOW.” Which do you think will spread faster? The second headline, without fail. The title is falsely exaggerated to the point of clickbait–in the study only 0.3% of dogs experienced cancer, which may or may not be related to the food–but the shock value and novelty will spread this post like wildfire.
You cannot blame people if they genuinely did not know the information they spread was false. Ignorance is not excusable in general, but in examples like the one above, you can assume that the “facts” were shared out of genuine concern with positive intentions.
However, it is the same rumor-mongering that will quickly morph to slander in the political and social world. Negative campaigning is said to be more effective than positive messages as an election tactic, and public figures will often use this to their advantage.
When people intentionally spread lies it can be for social gain, to solicit attention from others, or out of revenge for some misdeed they perceive.
Some things we can do to combat the spread of slander and misinformation are to check our sources, whether they are online, in writing, or word of mouth. You should always look for credible sources.
Has this person been biased by something? Have they been trustworthy in the past?
Does this website look professional? Does the author have any expertise or education in the field? Does the information seem too crazy or too good to be true?
Communication is key in today’s world, now more than ever.
If you’ve ever dove down the rabbit hole called the comment section on a celebrity post or Youtube video, or walked through the crowd when someone is performing or presenting, you’ve seen this with your own eyes. Heard it time and time again.
Criticism. Blindly hateful–all out assaults on character traits. Assails on flaws. Snooty remarks for no reason other than…nothing. Hate for no reason but to be hateful.
Why do people judge others so intensely?
Science shows that our brains are programmed to make snap judgements about people and things as a method for mental efficiency (Hall). Think about it… could you imagine if you had to carefully analyze every single action of a celebrity on the news or a person you pass on the street? Just like with confirmation bias, judging others can be a mechanism to avoid overloading our minds while we focus on more important things.
But judgements aren’t always a bad thing. Where the true malicious spirit of criticism arises is in a type of judgement called “personality attributions.” Personality attributions are when we consider a person’s behavior to reflect their personality as a whole and not just their current situation (Hall).
For example, say I was watching a Youtube video and the person on screen momentarily ignored their hungry pet to talk to their friend. Immediately, my mind could make the personality attributions that this person is self-centered, uncompassionate, or didn’t care about their pet. Spewing this all over the comments sparks further criticism–his clothes are ugly too. Her hair is so greasy! That dog is a mongrel anyway! Or going as far as to write, someone should call the police for animal neglect!
But if instead I had made a situational attribution, considering the events or factors that may have inspired the person’s behavior (Hall), this firestorm could have been avoided. Maybe the Youtuber was stressed and overloaded with work. Maybe their dog is on a diet and begs for food constantly. Perhaps the friend was having a difficult time and the person was attending to their needs first to comfort them, and the dog was fed immediately after filming.
Studies have shown that when judging someone we don’t know very well, we are more likely to make personality attributions than situational ones. However, the opposite is true for loved ones or friends, from whom we may dismiss a hurtful word as stress or exertion…but the same hurtful word from a stranger would signal to us that they are a callous, rude person (Hall).
Making snap-judgements and spreading criticism may be instantaneous, like attributions. But when criticisms are thought-out or published truly with intent to harm, there can be many factors. Someone could be trying to boost their own reputation by withering another’s, as you will often see in campaign ads. Someone could be acting out of envy, criticizing a feature that they privately covet, or hoping to make the other person seem inferior in any way possible: she’s pretty, but she’s probably failing all her classes. That boy is good at everything, he probably practices all the time… he should get a life!
I myself am guilty of all of these judgements, especially ones out of envy. When a person seems too perfect, it is our egotistical nature to want to knock them down a notch to make ourselves feel better. So if personality attributions, self-esteem and ego issues, and the desire for political/social success are influencing these criticisms, what can we do to staunch the hate?
First of all, we can make an effort to be aware of our attributions (Hall). By attempting to make more situational attributions, our empathy for others grows and we can understand what other people are going through at home, at work, or in life.
As for judgements made from jealousy, it is increasingly difficult to avoid nowadays with social media. Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat are all bursting with the highlights in other people’s worlds, them presenting themselves in the best light possible. If you want to learn more about how to combat this, visit my other article, Envy–Why we feel it, how to get rid of it. Try thinking about yourself not as in competition with others, but on the same grand team.
If you see a beautiful girl on social media, rather than comparing yourself to her, lift her up with a compliment.
If someone is faster or smarter than you, do your best to encourage them to grow and succeed–they will most likely return the favor. If you believe that all of humanity is striving towards greatness together, you can feel good about lifting others up and improving yourself along the way. Driving progress for all.
Why are people so rude to each other? Why do we say awful things, do awful things? Why do people never budge on an opinion? Criticize others? Spread lies and rumors? I hope my research has helped answer a few of these questions to some degree.
In the end, don’t get too frustrated. As humans, some of these behaviors are picked up from our environment, ingrained in psychological and physical evolution, or just staples of personality. Keep focus on the positive nature of humanity also. We can’t rely on everyone being polite or perfect or even good…but we can work to better ourselves and our world. Together. One step at a time.
You sit with your head in your hands, staring down at your phone screen. Mortified. Did you really post that? Stupid, stupid, stupid: a post ranting about a new policy in your town, littered with swears. No–that’s not me, I wouldn’t. You think, but as you stare at the responses piling on top of each other and the dislikes rolling in, you know that you did.
You did this. But you aren’t entirely sure if you knew any better. There was no conscious thought to type it, really, just fragments of motion. Clicking the remote to the news channel. Rising anger, outrage about this new code that barely affected you. Fingers flying through your phone lock screen, to the nearest social media app, slamming down the keys. And just like that, your future was in jeopardy.
An apology post did nothing, you were sure, similarly, deleting the post did nothing. It had been screenshotted. Reacted to. Ejected out into the deep, infinite web of sharing and people and private information. You gaped at the sheer number of people responding to the post, clenching your fists in frustration, anger, self-pity.
What was done was done. But honestly, truly: did you know any better?
The honest answer? Probably not. Nowadays, there is an entirely new threat to your future and the future of all your peers. And it comes in the form of the internet.
A seemingly perfect superhighway of information and opinions and change, a resource and a danger, a temptation that has taken over much of society. With all this power–to speak your mind at any time, on any platform, in front of millions of people–how can you protect yourself from leaving a negative digital trace?
It’s not something you probably learned in school. Not something that can be very easily answered from an adult to a child or even in an article: it’s so subjective.
But there are some common things you need to know to keep yourself and your digital footprint clean and positive when it comes to online posting.
#1– Realize that NOTHING you send or post on your phone is private
When I mean nothing…I mean nothing nothing. Even on a private chat, photos and words and videos that you send can be screenshotted, shared, and sent to other people. All your data is logged and recorded, sometimes in places you wouldn’t expect and shared with people way beyond who you would imagine.
This means all your:
Social media posts.
Pins on Pinterest.
Texts and sent photos.
Youtube or other videos.
Reviews of books, products, movies.
And so much more, all of which can be distributed around the entire web in mere seconds, not just to your circle of friends. Embarrassment will likely be the least of your problems if an inappropriate, racist, sexist, discriminatory, private or otherwise piece of content is sent (or even just sitting on your phone!) Content like this might be seen by:
College admissions professionals.
Government or law officials.
“Haters” or rivals.
#2– Negative or controversial content can ruin your dreams.
Believe it or not, many college admissions and future employers will look you up. If they don’t like what they see on your accounts, you will probably get turned down from a future opportunity or booted out of a position you already have.
Even an offhand post of a private chat can get leaked. For example, if you had a bad work day and you text your friend,
You could get fired!
But wait. Hold up! Isn’t this friend trustworthy? Did you even mean what you sent? Maybe not, but either way, this could get you fired in a heartbeat. If your employer/college admissions official recognizes that your message–whatever form it may take–doesn’t align with their brand, it can douse a chance for you to follow your dreams.
#3– You are most likely posting/sending this reactively.
Not all negative posts to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other platform had malice intentions. Think about it: have you ever sent a text or an email to someone before you even processed their message?
Many times when we are angry, jealous, sad, or emotional, these feelings can blind our judgement and cause us to respond reactively (without thinking).
If possible, step back for a moment and think about what you are about to send/post. If that’s not working for you, try moving the apps or programs that you communicate on to a new place on your phone screen or stash it in a junk folder. When you don’t have that knee-jerk physical response to click the app where it has always been, it lets you think about your action before you do something you’ll regret.
#4– Exporting some content can put you in physical danger.
Especially now, with the internet flourishing and apps becoming increasingly open for everyone to communicate, there are dangerous people on the internet. You might not think that sharing where you live or even the general area can put you in any real danger. Not true.
Online, anonymous users or people that use fake profiles could be:
So be selective with what you share on the web. Most of all, use common sense!
How can I protect myself and make a positive presence online?
Being safe on the internet is very subjective, and there are billions of possible scenarios and things that you can say, do, and share. But from an objective view, it is smart to follow these general rules:
Threats of any kind.
Harsh, non-constructive reactions to others
Things said to you in confidence (unless the content is important, which then should be sent to local authorities or helplines).
Overly political opinions that are unprofessional or hurtful.
Discriminatory stereotypes, cultural remarks, or comments.
Content undermining a religion or group of people.
It might help to use certain privacy measures on social media or other apps to protect content you want to keep to yourself. Here are some ways you can do this. Use at your own risk and with the knowledge that these tactics aren’t 100% foolproof. ⬇
Trying to stay safe, but still want to be friendly to online strangers? Not sure what information to filter out? These are the basics not to share on any unsecure network or with anyone who you don’t know and trust. ⬇
Be safe and don’t share…
Your address information.
Email, phone number, or means of contact.
Any personal details that might be used against you.
The Golden Rule
Above all else, there is one blanket statement that applies all the knowledge stated:
“Don’t post or send anything you wouldn’t want your grandma to see!”
If you wouldn’t be comfortable showing your mother, father, sister/brother, displaying it on a slideshow at work or a family gathering, or reading it aloud in front of the whole world, don’t post it.
I hope all of this information will help my readers and perhaps give them advice they’ve never heard before about using the internet. Even though my parents always stressed online safety, eight year old me didn’t think much of sharing my name and age on just about every Minecraft server in existence; something as innocent as that information can open doors for dangerous interactions, and it could have been much worse than it was.
Share this article with anyone you think would benefit from it! Children, teens, and adults included. Everyone needs some guidance navigating this new world, and I’m happy to share some of the best advice that I’ve used in my life thus far.
Looking back on my education, there is a common theme in my writings, one message that was taught that completely dragged my story down into the muck. Can you guess it?
Just like many youth growing up today, I have heard teachers use the same phrase repeatedly throughout elementary and early middle school, meant to strengthen variety and add an element of emotion to any story. My teachers printed out charts of synonyms and taught the class about sentence fluency, always using the same phrase: “Said is dead!”
Back in the days of being an elementary-age kid with a tremendous passion for writing, I hailed this as a golden rule, scolding myself for using “said” even once as a dialogue tag. But whereas this tip should have been helpful to me, I took it to the extremes–as did every other one of my classmates.
Collectively as a grade, after learning this “useful trick,” our writings were flooded with unnecessarily flamboyant synonyms, proud of ourselves for always using a “show not tell” strategy that included not using said. But too much “show” bogs down your story and slows down the story’s pace to a crawl. This leaves the readers bored and dragged along by an endless stream of chunky, hard to read dialogue with weirdly specific verbs and dialogue tags.
So, I wrote these points to help all those writers that question the rule, or wonder why these crazy synonyms ruin the flow of their writing or destroy a good piece. Because to me, said isn’t dead! Here is my message to those who choose to take the essentially harmless phrase too literally:
Sometimes “said” is the exact right word
Using your billowing, five page long synonym list isn’t always the best option when it comes to dialogue. Sometimes, “said” really does get the message across better than any other word. Especially when writing an action scene or a piece in which a lot of dialogue is exchanged between characters, this “forbidden” word can be just what you need, for a single reason: you need to keep. It. Moving!
Let’s look at two examples, one using the rule religiously (which was not the intent of teachers using this curriculum, but was certainly the widespread outcome), and another writing freely with the ability to mix in the word said.
❌ Example 1 (without using said)
“Mother went to the kitchen, pulling down a jar of honey from the shelf and angrily twisting at the cap. It was obvious she needed help; my arms still hurt from baseball practice and I stepped hesitantly forward.
‘Do you need help?’ I asked.
‘No, I’m good,’ she groaned. ‘Just…trying to…get this thing…open!’
‘Uh–I can do it, I guess,’ I responded.
‘Honey, I can get it!’ she exclaimed. ‘No pun intended,’ she added.
‘Okay, I’m going to go to my room then,’ I stated, shuffling to the stairs.
‘That’s fine. Leave me here. I’ll do it alone.’ Mom amended.”
✅ Example 2 (mixing in said)
“Mother went to the kitchen, pulling down a jar of honey from the shelf and angrily twisting at the cap. It was obvious she needed help; my arms still hurt from baseball practice and I stepped hesitantly forward.
‘Do you need help?’ I asked. Every nerve in my arm protested at the mere thought.
‘No, no, I’m good,’ she said with a groan. ‘Just…trying to…get this thing…open!’
‘Uh–I can do it,’ I said, muttering to myself, ‘I guess.’
‘Honey, I can get it!’ she exclaimed. After a moment, realizing her words, ‘No pun intended, of course.’
‘Okay, I’m going to go to my room then,’ I said, shuffling to the stairs on sore legs. I thought I saw disappointment flash in her eyes, a disappointment entirely unjustified after I had repeatedly offered her help. As my aching feet touched the landing, I heard from below,
‘That’s fine. Leave me here. I’ll do it alone.’”
Now, can you see how the first one is no better than the second? In fact, the first version of this brief story is entirely worse. The dialogue stays entirely the same, yet in example #2 there is use of “said” and much more intermingled actions. What this shows is that:
Mixing in actions with dialogue makes the story flow better.
The use of the word “said” is good in moderation.
It is unnecessary to tag every line of dialogue in a two character exchange unless not doing so would be confusing to the reader.
You can also practice switching between pronouns and character names in you tags, for example, “he/she/they said…” rather than always “*character name* said,” or vice versa.
Hopefully those examples showed you how the “said is dead” rule is misleading, and why it is misinterpreted so frequently by authors young and old.
Why was this taught/promoted in the first place?
So, if this rule really is a detriment to your writing, why was it even taught in the first place? The answer is simple: variety. A huge focus in writing good essays or short stories is the use of a variety of vocabulary, sentence lengths, and sentence structures within the piece. But having good variety in your sentences shouldn’t only rely on synonyms for “said” when writing dialogue tags.
In short, what teachers/online posters meant to avoid was:
“‘Hi Brett!’ She said.
‘Hey, what’s up,’ he said.
‘Nothing much,’ she said.
‘Oh, okay. Same with me,’ he said.”
Yes, I agree. Awful! Completely horrible to read, but here’s what happened to many student’s writing after “said is dead” was implemented:
“‘Hey Brett!’ She exclaimed.
’Oh, hi Ellie!’ He responded.
’It looks like it’s going to rain,’ she commented.
‘Yes, definitely, those clouds are pretty grim,’ he inputted.”
It’s obvious to me that the second version is no better than the first. Said isn’t dead. Therefore, instead of giving the advice “said is dead” to students or authors, I would recommend to use these tactics to promote sentence variety:
Mix in action with the dialogue to avoid boring scenes.
Switch between various pronouns.
Don’t tag every line of dialogue in a two-person exchange.
Include characters’ thoughts about the situation or people in it.
Use the five senses in your descriptions.
Vary the sentence length, punctuation, and the starting word of paragraphs/sentences.
Using these tricks can easily turn one of those disgustingly bland conversations above into this:
“‘Hey, Ellie!’ A voice called from across the room. A set of eyes caught hers, bubbling with energy, excitement rippling in the deep midnight blue. She turned away immediately. Her face flushed pink; she knew exactly who it was. The voice was familiar, a nasally, pitchy voice she had learned to ignore whenever possible. Sighing, Ellie turned back to face him.
‘Oh, hey Brett!’ She forced excitement into her voice, injecting as much enthusiasm as she could muster into the words. It was physically painful not to scowl, draw up her nose in disgust at the mere sight of him. Brett was just one of those people: nothing outwardly wrong with them, nothing they’d done to offend you, not particularly ugly or handsome, and yet, inexplicably, she hated him. Detested him. Him, and his infuriating love of small talk.
‘It looks like it’s, uh…’ Ellie trailed off, looking out the window, ‘going to rain?’
‘Yeah, those clouds are pee-rit-y grim!’
‘Yeah, I guess,’ she replied. This was why she hated chit-chat. What do you say to that statement? Always, ‘yeah,’ ‘uh huh,’ and ‘I was thinking the same thing!’ even when you couldn’t care less about the weather or their family or politics. Dead-end conversations, every one of them, with no meaning except to waste time and craft a polite facade. Ellie turned away brusquely. It was rude, sure. But she had an essay to write, not much time, and a last straw that had already been pulled.”
How much better is that? Not only does it give the petty small talk meaning, but it aptly describes the relationship between the two characters a thousand times better than the two examples above.
Is “said” dead?
Maybe you’ve been swayed by the infographics online, childhood teachers, or internet buzz over the subject…so here’s a question: what is your stance on this “rule”? If you were taught this, how did it impact your writing? Do you have any other tricks you use to create better sentence variety for essays, stories, or other pieces? Feel free to comment down below!
Recently, the COVID-19 shutdown, combined with the steady stream of “incoming freshmen” sports and activity notices, has brought me some stress. Lying on the couch, anxiously scrolling through Pinterest to block out the repetitive thoughts that slam around inside my head.
I’ve never really been a decisive type—at least, not when it comes to new things. If there’s a new activity available to me, my family and teachers know how easily my mind gets swept away: ”Hey, cheer looks fun! I did that in second grade, and that uniform would look great on me!” Or “What about Pom? I went to a summer camp for it when I was 9, how different could it be?” “I could stick with swimming, but cross country might have potential…”
And when it’s not about sports, these same bouts of indecisiveness strike for clubs and academics: “Intro to welding? That sounds cool…there’s good money in welding!” Or a thought that has passed my mind at times, even though my sense of strategy is practically nonexistent—I bet I could get good at chess if I really tried.
No matter what grade level I advance to, the same “overachiever” mentality manifests itself, getting stronger and increasingly out of control as hundreds of opportunities crop up. Even in the quarantine, Facebook buzzed with notifications from coaches about tryouts, different friend groups text me about a variety of sports, club advisors email about high school opportunities.
Some people would roll their eyes—and for good reason: “Wow, it’s such a shame that you have so many choices and opportunities to pursue.” Sarcastically, if you didn’t pick up on that. Or perhaps an optimist would view this trait of mine as less of a raging bull inside a china shop, crashing into life with an overloaded schedule, and more of a charming “Jack-of-all-trades” phase that I would inevitably grow out of.
But to me, this is a burden. My gut remains inactive, stalling at times or leading me to a choice I probably never wanted in the first place.
I choose track for a season, complain the whole time about missing swim, return to swim after, miss track. Love swimming with all my heart, yet still tangle with myself about giving my all at practice and not comparing myself to others.
No matter what, I can always rely on a war inside me over some choice or another…now, however, I’m finding that there are way more sides to fight on.
Of course, my life is no doom-and-gloom decision-making cloud of dread, but inconsequential choices like the one above do stress me out more than most.
I can attribute this to my lack of “gut-feeling,” or my simple desire to try out new things, test the waters, or be the best at any given thing…but no matter what decision I stress over, I find it easiest to step back.
Breathe for a moment. And do one–or all–of these things.
Write it down as soon as possible
Now, I’d like to say that I’m some kind of “self-care guru” that journals day in and day out, recording all my wonderings and emotions. But truthfully, the only time you’ll ever see me with a journal in hand is at my most stressed. It helps to pour out all the pros and cons and emotions swirling in your mind… you’ll find there is more room to think!
Think about the little moments
In any decision that I make, I always make an effort to step back from the large, dominating thoughts and focus on tiny feelings. This is a hard concept to grasp at first, so I will give an example.
Recently, as high school rolls around the corner, I’ve been debating between swimming and pom pon, two sports that run at the same time. I was relatively convinced in my decision to take a break from swimming to try out for a sport I had very little experience in.
But then, I stepped back and took a look at the little things I loved about both. Swimming hit me like a freight train, immediately dousing me in a thousand tiny things I loved about it: the feeling of flying over the water on a butterfly stroke, the joy of looking up at the clock and seeing you cut time, the powerful push of my arm through the water on a stroke.
For pom pon, it was the happy faces of the crowd, the uniform motions like a whole unit, one body, a team aspect that you couldn’t find in an individually focused sport like swim.
In the end, swim had more of these little things, so I decided that I will stick with swimming for the high school season, and then decide if I will try out for the winter season of pom pon. That is a very general idea of how I used little moments to make a decision that was big for me.
Talk to someone else
Most times, talking to someone else helps clear my mind. This is similar to the journal, but whereas the journal is good because it will accept all your thoughts non-judgmentally and in a private manner, a real person is good because they can give you their advice and support you.
Find someone you know and trust, and explain to them your situation and your thoughts on the matter. Whether you take their advice or not, it’s good to have a second opinion that isn’t your own.
It’s important for my readers to know that these aren’t carefully researched techniques, backed by science or experts in the field (whatever field that would be considered as). These are just some things I do at my most tumultuous moments of thought or when pondering any decisions: big, small, stupid, important. Mostly stupid. (:
This is my first informal post where I spill some personal experience with a topic I struggle with, and I thought maybe my readers would appreciate a little more about me and the choices I’ve faced and been facing lately. Follow your heart the best you can–when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
Questions for the comments
How do you handle decisions?
Are there any tactics you use that I didn’t mention?
Do you feel as though the COVID-19 shutdown has brought to you more decisions to make, or cut back on them?
Contacts are complicated. It can be scary, putting them in and taking them out. Keeping them clean. Setting up a station. Switching them out. Contacts can be stressful at first, but they don’t need to be! There are so many things that optometrists, pamphlets, and other online articles can’t tell you about contacts. So from a person that wears contacts myself, here is the ultimate guide to wearing, cleaning, putting in and taking out, and identifying and fixing problems with contacts that I wish I would have had when I started.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read): This article will answer:
How do I put in and take out contacts?
How do I clean contacts?
How can I tell if my contacts are ripped/torn/inside out?
Why can’t I sleep or swim with contacts in?
What should I do if my contact is broken?
First of all… calm down!
Before you try to put in your contacts, take them out, clean your case or do anything contact related, calm down! It took me multiple days to get adjusted to the feel of contacts and life with them, and for some people it will definitely take longer. But there is no need to feel overwhelmed or stressed. Patience is the key!
Contact station-the ideal set-up
Before you begin the process of contacts, you need a space where you can safely put in and take out your contacts without interruption or other hazards. There are some essentials you will need to establish your set-up.
Makeup mirror- A lighted makeup mirror is a necessity for any contact station…yes, even if you don’t wear makeup! A mirror is incredibly useful for placing contacts in the eyes and seeing whether the contacts have settled properly on the eye. The contact will have a bluish tint that is visible on the eye, but only up close.
Tissues- Tissues are an essential for a contact set-up. They are a sanitary, replaceable surface, useful for drying your fingers (a necessary step for putting in contacts so they don’t stick to your fingers) and dabbing away tears that may come while you are trying to put in your contacts or after you put them in. Most of all, they are better than a towel for drying hands because they are less likely to get microfibers on your fingers.
Towel- A towel is important to have near you so that if you need to dump the contact solution out of your case to replace it, you can dump it directly onto the towel where it will quickly absorb. Also, a contact will stand out against a tissue or a towel in the off chance that you drop it, making it easier to find. I do not recommend wiping your fingers on towels because of the hairs/fibers.
Contact Solution- You’ll need contact solution. And a lot of it. My one piece of advice concerning this is: don’t be stingy with the contact solution! If you see microfibers, hairs, dirt, or any other impurities on your lens or floating in the case, rinse the contact and dump the dirty solution for new stuff. My contact solution brand is called “Opti-free puremoist”, and it has worked perfectly for me!
Light source- In addition to a mirror, you will need ample light so you can inspect your contacts before putting them in and after taking them out. Holding the lense to the light will highlight any hairs, scratches, or tears in the contact so you know it is safe to put in your eye!
Dos and Don’ts
✔ Do~ Choose a spot that is isolated from pets and small children so you can not only focus on what you are doing, but also keep your contact case from being knocked off the surface or your tissues and towels getting dirt/hair on them.
✖ Don’t~ Choose a spot often used by other people, like a bathroom or shared bedroom.
✔ Do~ Choose a flat surface, like a desk or a table with a lot of room and no hazardous or dust-collecting items around it.
✖ Don’t~ Put your contact station by a sink! If a contact falls into the sink and it is not plugged, there is no chance of getting it back. Bathrooms in general are usually very unsanitary and a shared space with others. Bathroom counters can be cluttered with soaps, towels, lotions, and the like. You definitely don’t want soap on your contacts!
When going to school, going on a trip, or really travelling anywhere while wearing contacts, it’s a smart choice to bring a travel bag with you with a few essentials in it.
In your bag:
Contact solution- Extra contact solution is important in case you need to take out your contacts to clean them or handle them for any reason.
Backup case- For storing contacts in if the need arises, also useful to clean them out. Just fill the case with solution, take out contacts, swirl them in the solution until they are clean to your satisfaction, then put them back in.
Other travel essentials:
Glasses and glasses case- In case of a contact emergency out and about, having a backup pair of glasses is best so you know that if something does happen, you won’t be entirely blurry. Even if the prescription is slightly outdated, I would definitely recommend taking an extra pair of glasses if you have them.
Hair tie- If you have long hair, sometimes it is helpful to pull your hair back in a ponytail before you put in or take out contacts. This is to prevent distractions and touching your hair, which might have microbes on it.
Putting in and taking out contacts
These are step by step walk-throughs of my personal methods of putting in and taking out contacts.
Putting in contacts for the first time can be scary. There are many different methods for putting them in, and when you receive contacts for the first time, there will likely be a “contacts class” where they teach you the basics of how to put in contacts and take them out. But if you need a refresher or are entirely new to the processes, here they are step by step as it applies for standard soft contact lenses.
Step 1- Wash your hands. Always!
You will be touching an object that will be on your eye, and you will be touching your face… you need to wash your hands every time! Before you handle contacts, thoroughly wash your hands. No one wants an infection or a parasite on your eye.
After you do this, make sure not only your hands are clean, but also your contacts. Any microfibers, hair, or dirt specks will irritate your eyes once you put the contacts in.
Step 2- Put the contact on your index finger
Like shown in the picture above, put your clean contact on your dominant index finger, on the upper middle of the finger pad. It should be in a bowl shape–if it is inside out, you will be able to feel it (and visually, the contact’s “bowl” will look a little flatter).
Step 3- Pin your lids
The hardest part (in my opinion) of putting in contacts for the first few times is getting a proper pin of your eyelids. My eyelids were strong, and when I saw something coming towards my eye, the immediate reaction was to squeeze my eyes shut. That’s why my dad–who had worn contacts for about 8 years–used a certain phrase to help me imagine how to pin my eyes. He said I needed to do “zombie eye.” And that was the sole phrase that helped me pin my lids.
“Zombie eye” is essentially the third step. Take your middle finger of your dominant hand and place it on your bottom lid in the middle, and simply pull down. Next, take two or three fingers of your non-dominant hand and pin the upper lid. It is important to pin the lids super strongly so that your eye is all the way open and exposed, like a zombie!
Step 4- Place the contact on your eye
Place the contact directly on your eye. Once it is on, remove your fingers from your face and slowly close your eye. Pat your lid gently to get any air bubbles out that may have been on the contact. Slowly open your eye and test the vision by placing a hand over the eye without the contact in; if you can see perfectly and there’s no irritation, you did it right!
Do and Don’t
✔Do~ After you put the contact on your finger, it will wet your finger with the contact solution. Lightly pinch it between two fingers on your non-dominant hand. Wipe your finger on the tissue and then place the contact back on your finger. This ensures that the contact will easily come off your finger and onto your eye.
✖ Don’t~ Wipe your fingers on a towel when drying off the contact solution. Little hairs or fibers from the towel can get on your fingers and then onto the contact.
Step 1- Wash your hands. Again.
Even taking out contacts, washing your hands is a necessity! You’ll actually be touching your eyes more taking out contacts than you did putting them in.
Step 2- Pin your eye
Yep. Another repeated step! You’ll pin your eyes exactly the same way you did last time. The image for putting in your contacts is a great reference for what fingers to use and where to place them so you can properly pin your eye.
Step 3- Use your fingers to pinch the contact
Place your dominant index finger and thumb on either side of the contact (far sides of the eye). To get a grip on the contact, apply light pressure to the eye, then pinch the two fingers towards each other. The contact should be pinched into your fingers, where you can lift it away. And…that’s it! You’re done!
The same dos and don’ts apply as all the others. Key points: definitely wash your hands, and don’t forget the “zombie eye!”
Cleaning and Contact Hygiene!
To a beginner, it can be hard to put in and take out contacts. You might think that that will be the hardest challenge you will ever face with contacts… and some would agree. However, in my opinion, keeping your contacts clean is without a doubt the hardest part of wearing them. With that in mind, know that with contacts you will have to be patient and stay calm. Here are two cleaning essentials that people without contact experience might not know!
Case cleaning- To keep your contacts clean, it starts with the case. Change the solution in your case regularly so that dirt or hairs won’t be stagnant or drifting in the case. But even doing that, you should thoroughly wash out your case with hot water every couple of days. Just put in your contacts, dump the solution out, rinse case under hot water and leave it set out to dry. Do not dry the case with a towel, since that will just get little fibers and impurities right back into the case!
Inspecting contacts- Before you put your contacts in, hold them to a light. This will expose any scratches, tears, dirt, or hairs on the surface before you put them in your eye!
Things that can go wrong: how to know and how to fix it!
Inside out v.s normal image from Acuvue, dirty contact image from Tracking Zebra
When you first start wearing contacts, it’s common to start panicking the first time you put them in. Any weird feeling whatsoever can send you spiraling into worry: are they inside out? Scratched? Dirty? Ripped? Here’s a few things that can go wrong, how to identify the problem and how to fix it!
Inside out contact- A contact that is inside out will kind of flare out, whereas a contact that is the correct way will look like a perfect bowl. But if you do put a contact on your eye and you aren’t sure if it was the right way, here’s the worst explanation ever, but also the truth… you’ll just know! However if you still can’t tell, some things you would experience are blurred vision, eyes itching or stinging, and just an all-around awful fit on the eye. To fix it, try to stay calm. Take out the contact, flip it the other way, clean it off if needed and put it back in the eye.
Ripped or scratched contact- If you didn’t catch it in your inspection, once the contact is on your eye, it will bring about a burning or discomfort on the eye. Take out the contact and change it out for a new one. Make sure that once you get out a new pair of contacts you take note of when you began using them. Contacts have a time limit that you need to be mindful of (more on this later).
Hair or dirt on contact- Sometimes when you are looking over your contact before you put it in your eye, you might miss something, looking at it at the wrong angle or in the wrong light. If you put a contact on your eye with a hair on it, you will feel an itch, light burn, or discomfort. When this happens, take out the contact, clean and rinse in solution, then go about your day.
Changing out your contacts
Sometimes it’s necessary to change out your contacts when they are lost, ripped, torn, or something happens. But it is important to know that no matter what, you have to change them on a regular schedule.
When you receive your contacts, the box may have a time span listed or your optometrist will tell you a time span (for example: “these are 2-week contacts”). What this means is that from the time that you first take the contact out of its sealed package, it has a “time clock” that starts. After the specified amount of time you need to change out your contacts for new ones.
To make sure that you remember when to change them out, mark the date that you opened your new contacts and set a calendar appointment for when you need to change them out. One thing to know…
Be careful when you open up the individual packages! If you try to peel the seal off too quickly, both the solution and the contact will explode out; no one wants to waste money just to save a few measly seconds!
Things you shouldn’t do with contacts in
If you even look up the word “contacts” and click on images, some of the first things that pop up are disgusting. Eye infections, cloudy gazes, discolored eyes, slimy goop seeping out of the eye, all paired with warning articles: “Why You Shouldn’t Sleep With Contacts In,” “Man Gets Parasite in Eye After Showering With Contacts In,” “I Scratched My Cornea Taking Out Contact Lenses.” How many of these headlines are real warnings to be taken into consideration, and how many are just over exaggerations, meant to cause fear?
Here are some things that you shouldn’t do with contacts in, according to optometrists and scientists around the world.
Swimming- A big part of wearing contacts is not opening your eyes in water or getting a lot of water in your eye. Swimming without extensive eye protection and goggles while wearing contacts is a surefire way to expose yourself to infections, harmful bacteria, and the like. Water contains viruses and microbes that can attach to contacts as you swim, one such virus being the Acanthamoeba organism (which, if fastened to your contact, can cause permanent vision loss) (Swimming). Freshwater causes soft contacts to tighten on the eye and absorb bacteria and microbes; even swimming pools are filled with nasty viruses that chlorine can’t get rid of! To see where I got the information on swimming with contacts in and to learn more, go to Is swimming with contacts safe? Find out the answer here.
Sleeping- Though some people will choose to take the risk of sleeping with contacts in, first let me give some perspective–according to the CDC and an article by Healthline, sleeping with contacts in makes you 6 to 8 times more likely to get an eye infection! Eye infections can sometimes go on to cause blindness, corneal damage, and need for corrective surgery. This is because your eyes need a lot of oxygen and moisture to keep them healthy. Contacts already limit the amount of these your eyes can access, but when you are sleeping (not blinking or letting your eye have oxygen), the effects are even more severe, creating a breeding ground for bacteria (Sleeping). To learn more and see where I got this information, visit Sleeping with Contacts In: Just How Bad Is It for Your Eyes?.
Rub your eyes- Rubbing your eyes may be a hard habit to break, but when done while wearing contacts lenses, it can have serious repercussions. According to the article “10 Things You Should Not Do When Wearing Contacts” by PerfectLensWorld, rubbing your eye while wearing contacts can cause serious cornea damage. If you want to know some less general things that you shouldn’t do with contacts in, visit 10 Things You Should Never Do When Wearing Contacts.
Showering- Just like swimming, showering with contacts in isn’t advisable. Though it isn’t as dire a threat as swimming with contacts in, showering can still allow bacteria to absorb into the contact (Swimming). Sometimes–to be honest–I do shower with contacts in, just for convenience. But it is recommended by optometrists and contact lense distributors to avoid showering with contacts in.
You’re an expert!
If you took the time to read through all this–or even just scan over the key points–I can guarantee you are more prepared and informed than before, because let’s be honest…getting contacts can be scary!
I’m very lucky to have an immediate family member with contact experience, but not everyone is. If you know anyone that is new to contacts, or has any of the problems or questions mentioned, be sure to share this article with them and check out the other articles I have written!
Forgetfulness. If you’re anything like me, this one thirteen letter word causes an overwhelming tide of problems crashing into your everyday life: frantic calls, lost items, rushing around like a chicken with their head cut off. Plagued by a ditzy, wandering mind, that relentless forgetfulness that keeps surfacing has left me feeling frazzled and unprepared many times throughout my life.
It’s beyond frustrating to be an intelligent young woman with a strong mind, and yet still have to rely on others because I can’t trust my own brain to remember the simplest of things!
Though I’m still young and supposed to be “carefree,” I lead a busy life just like any adult. Even a brief lapse in memory leaves me spiraling into worry (and embarrassment!), cursing my own mind to no end. So I’ve come up with a few simple ways to be less forgetful and, as a result, be more prepared for life!
Sticky Notes will be your savior!
Sticky. Notes. I can’t emphasize them enough, and though I’m not sponsored, I can easily rave that Post-its have been a lifesaver many a time. Using these colorful papers to your advantage is beyond easy since… well, they can go anywhere! You might not always remember to check your phone or scan over the calendar on the fridge, but a sticky note can go anywhere, like a traveling reminder stuck in the most convenient places to make it impossible to forget.
Being a rather forgetful person with an incredibly visual learning type, if I don’t write it down, I’ll never remember. The most common excuse my brain conjures up is “I thought I would remember!” But my biggest advice to anyone with tendencies to forget things would be to never trust your memory alone!
Write anything that you think you may not remember (or even things you think you will remember) on a sticky note and stick it in a spot that you absolutely will see throughout the day or before an event or class you have. This little reminder will jump start the synapses (or connections) in your brain so that you can go back to firing on all cylinders and toss out the worries!
One of the best places to put sticky note reminders are directly on the screen of your phone, since most of us check our phones more often than we’d like to admit.
Todoist is a productivity app by nature and an organizational tool for all. Recently I found this app on the App Store on my phone and it has skyrocketed my productivity and reduced the number of frazzled moments by half. You can use it to log tasks, map out your schedule for months and months, categorize and organize your life all on one app!
Why not just use a traditional notes list? Simply put, keep doing that! But sometimes carrying around a piece of paper is less convenient and portable than having your phone. Checking off a Todoist task gives almost the same burst of satisfaction and dopamine as dragging a pen across paper to cross out a completed task. One of my favorite parts of Todoist are the milestones of Todoist Karma that mark when you’ve completed a certain number of tasks.
The notifications that Todoist displays in the corner of the app are an excellent reminder for any event or thing that you want to get done. Most of the time, the day flies by and I spend time relaxing, having completely forgotten about the things I so desperately wanted to do the night before. But if I write it down on Todoist, my memory will never fail and I can get everything done that I want to without the burden of cramming it into my thoughts. The world is rapidly becoming digitized… so why not let your memory and organization change with it?
Calendar: set alerts!
“Wait, what do I have going on today?”
“Ugh, I’ll never remember that date.”’
“Uh, I’m not sure what I have for that day… can we schedule later?”
“Oh, crap! That’s today?”
If you’ve said any of these more than once, or on a daily basis, there’s a simple solution that seems obvious. Most of the adults I’ve seen live by their digital calendars, and rightly so! Being less forgetful and more punctual is made easier with the calendar app on your phone, computer, or other device.
Recording any planned events and setting reminder alerts at least fifteen minutes before can make life a lot easier for busy adults and busy people as a whole… even the people with the best memory can always use a push to recall certain things. Inputting everything into your calendar as soon as you receive news is essential to avoiding schedule conflicts and laying out how much time you will have on a daily basis.
Staying grounded in the moment– a tricky task
This is one of my worst downfalls in my life as a whole: I find it incredibly hard to be completely present in the moment, the here and now. I’m not a worrier by nature, chewing my nails with anxiety, or a fuzzy-brained ditz with my head in the clouds wandering carefree off in my own personal space. I’m somewhere in between with an adventurous soul and jumpy mind, hands that urge to be moving and brain chugging ahead with a million thoughts.
Meditation is not always a perfect fit for everyone, especially those that simply feel unproductive and fretful when just sitting in stillness. But for some people the simple practice of sitting and breathing can be a centering, relaxing tool that you can use to strengthen your brain and memory as a result.
But sometimes a direct meditation isn’t the best option for people trying to become less forgetful, rather, taking a less strict approach can be beneficial. When you go outside, taking a moment to watch the sunlight stream through the leaves, painting the grass in gold. Looking at the bright blue sky and watching the clouds chart their endless course across the sky like voyaging ships. Gazing into the vast blackness, pin pricked with glowing stars shining their light from hundreds of thousands of miles away. A present moment like this acts (though less strongly than traditional meditation) as a way to clear your head.
A clear mind can make a world of difference in the amount of information you retain, synapses firing speed, and your memory as a whole, even if the effects are temporary.
Forgetfulness can be frustrating to no end. I know it better than most. But utilizing these four methods can truly make a difference, whether it be scrawling a note on a Post-it or taking a moment to ground yourself in the details of your surroundings. A faulty memory can drag you down into frazzled emotions and worried spirals… but it doesn’t have to.
Recently, I entered into a contest with the topic of “Why Words Matter” hosted by my city’s Cultural Awareness Society. I won in my age group with this short essay I wrote with the topic in mind. Enjoy!
Could you imagine even a day of utter, all-encompassing silence? As a child, the silent game was always a frustrating activity — straining to express opinions, basic needs, ideas; but the frantic hand gestures and facial expressions always seem to fall short in comparison to words.
Words. Inexplicably powerful, yet impalpable to humans except by ear and on paper. Communication changes lives all over the world, alters the course of history, drives human development into new ideas and technologies that would be unfathomable to someone from an earlier century.
Exactly one hundred years ago, the motion to give women the right to vote passed on June 4th, 1919. It is a thread we can follow all throughout American history and world history as a whole: Women’s Suffrage, Civil Rights protests, Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat, the Emancipation Proclamation, The United States Constitution, and The Declaration of Independence even before that. Hard to imagine that in the 1800s women could not vote or voice an opinion when you are basking in the present day, isn’t it? Two hundred years ago it would be an utter shock to any American woman that I could express an opinion so boldly — not to mention on a computer (which would be unimaginably complex at the time) where I can communicate with an audience all over the world at the press of a button.
You can see the never ending cycle: our progress is driven by communication, and communication is sped up exponentially by human progress. Tracing back every single event involving people (whether they be good or bad), it all comes back to language in one way or another. Our shared ability to communicate and express ourselves is what links generation to generation and weaves a tapestry of diversity and development.
That is what makes the power of words so truly incalculable. One single author can paint the fiery crimson-golds of a sunset sky across the minds of millions, one eloquent speech can plant a seed in the hearts of humans all across the world… one single word can change a life forever, and perhaps even history itself. Almost every single event in the course of human history stems from our ability to communicate through speech or written words. After all, we have come a long way from our caveman ancestors!
So why not keep the trend going? Write a new chapter in the history books, make your move to change the world. Great ideas have brought us everything we have ever known, all the new technologies and ideals that would never have seemed possible in the past. But ideas are nothing if you can’t — or won’t — act on them. The way to do that is through words. A book. A letter. A protest. A speech. Even a simply-written, passionate pamphlet like “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine inspired countless patriots in the Revolutionary Era to fight for a cause that was widely considered absurd at the time (a cause which we now perceive as a basic birthright: freedom).
I’m not going to say changing the world is an easy task, because if it was, everyone would do it. But we all have the tools to evoke change in the world, and they come in the form of words and language. If you believe in a cause, there is no excuse to remain stagnant and helpless when you can speak out and share your view with like-minded people or (perhaps even more powerful yet) sway others to change their perspective!
No matter what others may say or what limitations you may place upon yourself, you have the power to influence the world. There’s no need to think outside the box if you’re searching for a way to inspire the masses… every single person has that power hidden right inside a box. Your voice box. So let’s write a new chapter in the history books together, one word at a time.
“There’s always going to be someone better.” If you are anything like me, you’ve heard this before. And it breaks your heart every time. I’ve been there! I hate those words more than anything. Why? Because I want to be the best at something. Anything. A simple desire, yet one that causes a lot of pain for me and many others, a lot of tearful breakdowns and a feeling of hopelessness that festers, building up and bursting like a raging inferno.
You look at other people, doing the things you love, but better. Envy swells in you. In your mind, it doesn’t matter how much work they had to put in to get there, how much time and commitment. The only thing that matters is that they are there, and you aren’t.
Hopeless. Unmotivated. Furious. Maybe you’ve felt it before, or are feeling it now, that dark voice that whispers, “Why try if there’s always someone better?” and the yearning for a legacy, the insatiable desire to be the best, to make your mark on the world. You want what the other person has so much that you lose sight of what you have. It’s easy to do. So how can we expel that hopelessness and turn it into something great? How can you be the best you if there truly is always someone better?
Envy. It grows like a weed, and like a weed, it can take over and start to kill off flowers, or the good things in life. To beat envy, you need to find its roots and tear them out. Let’s find out how.
You are different- Stop Comparison!
Comparison is the thief of joy.”
You have hobbies, loves, interests. There will never, ever be another person exactly like you. And yet, that seems to get lost in seas of envy, comparison, anger.
I’ve met people, had friends that seem like they are better in every way.
I had a great friend in elementary school who had the same interests. We played the same sport, had similar hobbies… it seems great, but for me? That was a double edged sword. Sure, we had fun, of course, but I always found myself comparing me to her. I worked hard in gymnastics, writing, and yet she was just… better. At the time it was easy to be jealous because she simply seemed like a better version of me. Prettier. More athletic, more trophies, won the award I had worked so hard to get.
There will always be people like that- some worked hard to get to the place they are, but others seem to naturally be better. It can be infuriating when you try your best and someone else breezes past you without hardly any effort.
Judging your skills and self-worth against someone else’s comes naturally. It’s called the Social Comparison Theory, says Psychology Today. It states that humans compare themselves to others- usually someone with similar characteristics as their own (like age or gender)- simply because it is biologically ingrained in us as a way to judge how you stack up in development and other areas (Social Comparison Theory- Psychology Today.)
But ultimately, though comparing is a natural thing, it causes stress, anxiety and self-loathing. Studies have shown that people who frequently compared themselves to others were more depressed and had less self-confidence than those who didn’t. Try to be a better person instead of trying to be better than someone else.
Monitor your “diet”
No, not your food diet! What you read, watch, listen to, and look at. Nowadays, there are millions upon millions of opportunities for jealousy. As technology advances, envy grows stronger, feeding off its new platforms like a smug demon puppeteering our society. With social media being as it is, jealousy runs rampant in the streams of people posting their highlights.
Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, all showing pictures of people having amazing times. Countless beauty magazines portraying women decked out in the finest clothes without a blemish on their skin and men with six-pack abs and bulging muscles. Celebrities sharing their wealth on Instagram, TV shows boasting billion-dollar mansions decorated to the max with gold filigree and gorgeous sprawling gardens that rival the Palace of Versailles. All of it cultivates a breeding ground for envy like never before.
Poisoning our society with pressure to be like other people, to change yourself and who you are- it’s a real problem that only gets worse with the passing years. Unrealistic beauty expectations can cause body dysmorphia, anorexia, bulimia, unhealthy habits. Overwhelming envy of a celebrity (or even just a friend!) can cause depression and forms of anxiety. Envy goes deeper than momentary frustration. For many all across the world, it can be detrimental to their mental health and overall happiness.
To help eliminate any jealousy you may feel, you have to monitor your “diet.” Cut out anything that makes you feel like a lesser person, anything that gives you unhealthy desires. Skip the beauty magazine, don’t record the millionaire reality shows. Unfollow a celebrity on social media, stop scrolling through a successful friend’s pictures. Truly think about how things make you feel, if the simple things you do every day might be taking a toll in the long run. Make what you listen to, watch, and read things that have a positive impact on you and your self-confidence. It’s okay to want something you don’t have occasionally, but jealousy can be cured- and I guarantee you will be better off.
Think about what they aren’t showing you
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Social media can be toxic! It warps our perception of people’s lives like a fun-house mirror, a bright facade slapped onto a dingy gray building. In the age of internet and social media, envy and jealousy is made easier than ever. You look at a post of a person on vacation, lounging on the beach with friends under a shining sun, and jealousy takes over. But you have to remember- you only see what they want you to see.
Nobody takes pictures of their darkest days, crying on the couch surrounded by used-up tissues. Nobody shows the world how it stormed almost everyday on their tropical vacation, how they returned to the normal world in a week with a hundred chores and an overflowing inbox. It may seem like they have it all, but there are always hidden struggles behind the endless stream of smiling faces and beautiful photos.
The same thing applies to real life as well. You can never know what people have been/are going through. Festering envy can easily be cured if you imagine what they aren’t showing you, take the person who seems perfect and think about their dark days, how they have obstacles and fears and struggles just like you and everyone else.
Better at a sport? More attractive? Good grades? It can be hard to fight back the yearning to be like someone else, but they may have had to work hard for their reward. You will always be happier and more content in your own body, doing your own work, no matter how it may not seem like it. By putting yourself in their shoes, you will find that you like your own much better.
With any new (or old) hobby or passion, the desire for growth is always there. But growth and achievement seem virtually impossible when you don’t know where to start. Without a plan? Not only can you not imagine the challenges you need to face, but they will be tougher to manage once they do inevitably arise.
Who am I to say? Well, I’ll use an example. In 5th grade I joined the band and started playing the french horn (one of the toughest instruments which I thought looked easy… boy was I wrong). I wasn’t some child prodigy like you see on Youtube or in movies that’s been playing instruments since they could barely walk. I didn’t even know how to read music! So, of course, when it came time to test to earn our music books, I was second to last in a crowded class. It took me over a week to learn a simple 5-note scale that almost everyone else had mastered in my class.
Despite the challenge, I stuck with it. By the end of 5th grade, the band teacher referred to me as his “star french horn player,” and in 6th grade there was no doubt in my mind that I would continue to take band. Now, in 7th, I can hardly believe how tough it was to get out a single note as I play complex pieces and effortlessly play songs I once thought impossible. I went from “Hot Cross Buns” seeming incredibly difficult to “Champagne Song” by Mozart being very manageable. And I’m still growing, applying those same principles to swim, track, and writing!
So how can you mimic that same kind of growth, even from humble beginnings? Here are 5 simple steps that will get you on track to being better at your hobby or passion. Get better at anything.
1. Evaluate: Are you genuinely passionate about this? What is your reason?
Before you get really invested in anything, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. Are you genuinely passionate about it, doing it to impress someone, or just for something to put on your resume? Maybe you want something to boast about to your peers or to make someone you like notice you. That’s when you stop.
You can try to justify, but if you know that you don’t really like it, I wouldn’t follow the rest of the plan. Of course, exploration of new hobbies is great but there’s no reason to keep chasing something you don’t truly enjoy. If you are wanting to grow and get better for the right reasons, because you are either genuinely interested or it gives you happiness, procede! By defining your reasons, you are already so much better off. If possible, write the reasons down. For example, I swim for exercise, competition, because I love the water, and to hang out with friends.
⅕ of the way there!
2. Define a goal: major or minor! Now branch off of it.
Arguably one of the most important steps: setting a goal. People always say to set small goals first, but I don’t think that has to be the case every time. Something that works just as well is envisioning one big goal and then having smaller, interval goals within it.
Either way, you need a picture of success. This is absolutely essential to motivation. It could actually be your reason, like mentioned in the first one. Perhaps your hobby is baking and your reason/goal is to be able to bake and decorate a cake. Every time that you make a mess in the kitchen or absolutely fail (which you inevitably will at some point), your goal will give you the motivation to never give up.
To do this, some people make vision boards or simply write them down. Rather you decide to make a vision board or not, I heavily suggest putting them on paper so that you can physically be reminded and motivated each day.
For example, my goal for swim is to be able to do a 50 freestyle in 32 seconds, which at the start would have seemed impossible but now seems in-reach.
Setting a minor, achievable goal will help you along and ensure that you are making progress each time you set down to practice or work on the hobby you pursue.
3. Make a practice schedule!
So now that you’ve got a goal: let’s face it. That doesn’t mean anything until you have a plan. In any hobby or passion: a sport, instrument, writing, learning, cooking, art, whatever it may be, it’s going to be necessary that you practice. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Any kind of growth will take work and practice. Even the simplest of plans will take time, but you have to make time for it!
When you practice, if you want to do so for a sustained time, you need to do what’s right for you. Only go for as long as you can focus. If you feel yourself slipping, losing motivation/concentration, take a five minute break.
You can get a water or snack, go on a quick walk, or just get a breath of fresh air. Whatever it is that you choose, don’t work yourself until you are exhausted and unmotivated (unless in the case of a sport, where being exhausted is normal and part of practice).
A scientific method that many productivity gurus swear by is the Pomodoro technique. Invented by Francesco Cirillo, it is a strategy that is traditionally 25 minute work periods followed by short breaks. You keep going until you have made progress or have reached a satisfactory level. Depending on how small your goals are, you may actually want to keep practicing and taking short breaks until you achieve one.
Motivation is everything! Don’t lose it over one exhausting practice!
5. Never Give Up!
Never give up on your dreams. The wait can seem painful, but the regret of not going for it will be even more painful.”
It seems like with every passion of mine, I start out the lowest of the low. French horn? I couldn’t play a note without sputtering hopelessly. Swim? When they said freestyle, I thought it meant to do whatever you wanted. I doggy paddled for the first day, struggling to swim a single length when my whole life I had thought I was a decent swimmer. Though sometimes you have to step aside to explore other things, like how I put a pause on swim to do track, you will always return to it if it’s something you love.
Nothing worth getting comes easy. If you follow the first three steps and continue to practice, over and over and over for as long as it takes, you will improve. You can and you will reach that goal, climb that mountain. It just takes work. Practice. Effort. Repetition.
The most important thing is that you never give up. If you do that? There’s nothing you can’t do.