Life isn't perfect. I'm not perfect. It's better that way!

You Don’t Even Know Me!

Can I start off by saying that life is not all about making a lot of money? I’m just going to put that out there before I begin.

I have a story that I need to share. Earlier today, a good friend and I went to the local Barnes and Noble to study for our AP Calculus AB exam coming up this week, an incredibly important one that for us requires a great deal of practice. We went to the back of the store where we’d be out of the way, and got down to business. A few people came to our corner of the store, looking around at books, and all of them stopped to speak with us for a moment. Three out of four of them asked us what we were up to, and each time we answered with a smile, “Oh, we’re studying for our calculus exam.” The next questions were always “Oh wow, what grade are you in?” 11th. “I see. What are you girls thinking about doing once you get out of high school?”

I want to go into experimental psychology, doing research and hopefully making some great scientific breakthroughs. My friend wants to major in language and international health, doing work abroad to help the sick in developing countries. Pretty cool, right? Most of the people who asked us thought so, telling us about what their children do or what their own jobs are. Then they went on their way, wishing us luck on our exam and congratulating us on working so hard toward our future. Simply put, these strangers sympathized with us. All of them except one. And that’s where I got angry.

One man came by and immediately took great interest in our work. “Oh, are you girls studying? What are you working on?” I showed him the review sheet, and he began telling us how great calculus was, asking us if we thought it was “fun”. My friend and I glanced at each other and shook our heads, laughing. We both hate calculus, and will be glad when the class is over. I think this is where we got off on the wrong foot. He blatantly disagreed with us before changing the subject to, you guessed it, our plans after high school. I went first, my friend explained her ideas after. “What would you do with international health?” She responded, explaining that she hoped to work for “maybe a non-profit organization, do vaccinations and that type of thing”. We smiled. I’m proud of her. This man, however, was not.

(And I quote) “Why the hell would anyone want to work for a non-profit?” My friend’s smile froze, and so did I. Was he kidding? Did he actually for real just cuss at us? “No really, why would you want to work for a non-profit?” He repeated with disgust. My friend timidly replied, “Well, I mean, I want to help people, you know…” She trailed off as the man interrupted. Something along the lines of “Oh, sounds like you’re a Democrat.You can’t just give people stuff for free. That won’t help them. You gotta get ’em a job! That’s the only way they can support themselves. Take a look here.” He pointed to some books on the shelf in front of us (the history section). At this point my friend and I, who are very active in our church and believe strongly in mission trips and helping others in need (yeah we’re pretty liberal), are thinking What in the world is going on? The man continued. “Who do you think created more jobs? Obama or Steve Jobs?” We paused, unsure of how to answer. After a moment of silence, he waved his hands. “Steve Jobs of course! He created more jobs for people than anyone in office ever has. Why don’t you go get yourself a job where you’ll be making money? That’s the only way to help people.” Utterly stunned at this man’s forwardness and shocked that he actually believed these things (as I agreed with nothing he was saying), all I managed to get out was “Yeah, it’s a lot to think about.” What was his mature reply, word for word? “It’s not actually, but whatever”. Wow.

He went on to tell us how he’s an engineer who goes around the world helping people fix technical things or something like that, listing all the countries he’s been to, implying obviously that he believes what he does for a living to be above whatever we had planned. At some point in the conversation he asked my friend what language she wanted to work with. Spanish was her answer. “You speak Spanish?” “I’ve been taking it for 4 years now at school,” she replied. He held up a Rosetta Stone program he was purchasing. “That’s all you need.” I glanced at my friend. Was this really happening? Who did this guy think he was? He turned to me, asking me about my plans in psychology. I explained that I wanted to get my PhD so I could do research in psychology, hopefully making a great discovery some day. I’m proud of that and the hard work I will be doing. His simple reply was, “Oh, you don’t need to waste your time being a psychologist in the U.S. Go do something in the world, blah blah blah” something that didn’t make sense to me. I don’t even remember what I replied.

Somehow the conversation came back to calculus. My friend and I made it clear that we were glad to be almost done with the subject for good. “Oh no, don’t give up on calculus!” he cried. “Well, I’ll be taking AP Statistics next year, so I’m not completely giving up math,” I told him, timidly. “That’s stupid! Statistics is so boring; I don’t know why they teach that. I’m an engineer and I never use statistics.” I was shocked at this man. “I’ve heard stuff like that,” I laughed timidly. “I’ll just have to see how it goes.”

Finally this man left us, wishing us luck on the exam before walking away. I hope he was satisfied. My friend snapped her fingers at him in a oh-no-you-didn’t fashion, and I laughed. That’s all I could do, as I was speechless. Here are the things I’d like to point out that are so terribly wrong with that situation, including some things I wish I had said to him:

  1. Why did this man, who did not even know us, come up to completely interrupt two 17-year-old girls who were obviously studying in order to speak to us about something totally irrelevant to what we were studying. Two words: INAPPROPRIATE and RUDE.
  2. Was cussing at us necessary at all? No. Absolutely uncalled for.
  3. How DARE you tell us that what we want to do with our lives is a waste of time! You don’t even know either of us! Plus, our plans are pretty noble causes, I believe. We want to spend our lives giving of ourselves to help other people. Tell me again how that’s stupid.
  4. Life is not only about having a job that makes you a lot of money. Likewise, the only way to help people is not to get them a job. My friend wants to help people who need medical attention just to survive. There are a multitude of those people on our Earth. Getting them a job is not going to do them any good. What about people who do have a job, and all they can make is minimum wage? As is often the case, say this person isn’t making enough to support himself or herself. They need help; that is a fact. I feel it is our responsibility as human beings to help others if we ourselves have the means to. If you don’t agree (and this man obviously didn’t) that is totally fine. I just want to ask you this: how would you want people to treat you if you were the one in need?
  5. Really, you’re gonna pull the “Oh you’re a Democrat,” card? Did you even give either of us a chance to explain our beliefs before judging us? We were listening to what this man was saying, taking care to think about what he was saying. To an extent, I could see where he was coming from. But did he even listen to our point of view before judging us? Not at all. He didn’t take the time to listen at any point in the conversation.
  6. I’m sorry, but did either of us ask for your opinion on politics? Nope. Did he honestly think that he could just come up two random strangers, two teenage girls for a matter of fact, and just throw his beliefs on us, no questions asked? We were too flabbergasted to even know what was happening. If he came over thinking he could find two more people on his side, he picked the wrong two girls.

So thank you, sir, for interrupting our precious study session and blatantly affronting us. I am utterly offended at your insulting of everything I stand for in life. I hope you think through what you said to us and realize what a devastating impact you could have had on two people you didn’t even know. It wasn’t only your beliefs that offended me, but mostly the fact that you spoke so rudely to us without taking the time to listen to our side of the story. Thanks again for your inappropriate behavior. That really made my day, since you know, I wasn’t already stressed out enough.


Number Five

“Congratulations on being chosen as a junior marshal for the class of 2015!” You may be thinking, what in the world is that? I asked myself the same question all week, after hearing this statement for the first time on Monday. I have yet to find a satisfactory answer.
If you aren’t familiar with the idea of having junior marshals, they’re simply the top 12 GPA-ranked juniors in a high school. We’re required to lead in the seniors at their graduation, and stand on sore feet for what feels like 10,000 hours while ushering all the graduates on stage and simultaneously yearning for our time to come sooner, because what else would you feel except intense envy of those seniors? I mean, sounds like loads of fun, right? What an honor. Congratulations indeed.
Of course, it’s not all bad. Being a girl, I get to have my parents buy me a new lovely white dress to wear (that meets the 500 different guidelines for school dress code, naturally). They take a group picture of us to go on Facebook and in the newspaper and announce our names over the intercom at school that day. Then everyone knows what a nerd you are! “Noelle, you have a 5.055 GPA and you’re ranked 5th out of 486 people? Wow, that’s amazing! Congrats on all the hard work!” No, no that’s not it at all. I get something more along the lines of, “Damn! How is that even possible? You’re like a genius or something! I wish I was that smart…”.
Gee, thanks for the compliment. I mean, I appreciate the support I do receive. But honestly, I wish junior marshals weren’t such a big deal. All it does is create severely intense competition between students whose GPAs are within hundredths of a point of each other. And what about number 13, or 14, or 15? They aren’t good enough? No one congratulates them, or anyone else. I think students need to be rewarded according to their own personal achievements and efforts. I’ve made excellent grades my entire life, but what about that guy over there? He’s been through more than I’ve ever had to deal with, and he’s still making improvements; he’s still trying. That deserves more of a “congrats” than I do.
So what is a junior marshal? Just another student. Sure, I’m proud of my hard work and intrinsic motivation to do well, and proud of my friends for what they’ve accomplished. But we’re not that special. I can’t even open a fruit cup without spilling it on myself. We’re just like any other junior at our school: trying to make it through the daily life of a teenager, all the struggles, laughs, and embarrassing moments that accompany it. Our lives aren’t perfect, and even though the school might believe otherwise, we’re not perfect either. It’s just better that way.

The Need to Belong

In my psychology class we just finished discussing a unit on motivation. Of course, we spent time discussing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but specifically we looked at the need for belonging. In simple terms, this includes the need to feel loved and have positive relationships in our lives. That makes sense, right? Obviously humans need the love of friends and a group to which they belong. This whole idea is very real and tangible in my life at the moment, so I decided to share my thoughts with you.

If you’ve been following my blog for very long you probably have gathered that I’m not the most outgoing or sociable person; I very much prefer to keep to myself most of the time. Now don’t get me wrong. I have a few close friends, and without them I would be even more of a mess than I already am! They mean the world to me, even the ones with whom I’m just beginning a friendship. In other words, I understand this “need for belonging”. What I’m writing about here is when this need becomes an obsession.

Although I cherish my alone time and feel awkward in most social settings, I have an (at times) insatiable desire to feel wanted. It’s not that my friends don’t show me enough love and support, because they never let me down. It’s when someone I’m not already close to catches my eye that problems ensue. Have you ever met someone, or maybe only made eye contact a few times and you automatically thought, “That person has to be my friend. I have to get to know them because somehow I know we’re meant to be best friends”? It’s like going back to 6th grade when everyone had those tiny vacillating crushes on each other. Except this time, I can’t change my mind. Something about this person overwhelmed me and now my mind can not seem to let the issue go.

The problem here, in case it isn’t obvious, is that the person doesn’t always have the clarity of prophecy that you do, and they’re not always willing to jump right into a friendship. Maybe the two of you are in that weird situation where you’ve known each other from afar for some time now, but you’ve never had a decent conversation, so of course it would be strange to start now. Or it could be that you just met each other, and she’s not quite as friendly as you, or he isn’t ready to go for it yet. Best friends take time to form, right? It can be difficult to accept this if the desire to feel wanted by this person takes over your every thought.

For me, it’s not always that I’m so fascinated by this person, but more that I feel a strong need to be wanted by them. You know that feeling, right? Sometimes I get to the point where I feel as though I’d do anything if it meant that I’d earn their approval, that they’d want to include me. (I would never actually be like that though. I’m not insane.) Usually when this happens, the other person is “cooler” than me to some degree. We all know I can be very awkward, so it’s a satisfying feeling to be included by someone who would normally look right over you.

My question is, why do we get these feelings? Why such a severe need for belonging? Is it because we want to fit in with the so-called popular people? And is it okay to have such a strong desire to be wanted? From what I gathered in Psychology, it’s natural. In my opinion, as long as you don’t let your emotions get the better of you and your decision making, everything should be fine in the end. I’ve asked my friends for advice, and I always end up hearing something along the lines of, “You just have to let it go eventually. Especially if you can tell it won’t work out”. Maybe they’re right. I can’t help but be ever hopeful though. After all, I just want another good friend. Is that too much to ask? 🙂

Here’s My Take on Sochi2014

Yulia Lipnitskaya performing her skate program to the music of "Schindler's List"

Yulia Lipnitskaya performing her skate program to the music of “Schindler’s List”

Everyone knows the 22nd Winter Olympics is going on right now. In Russia. Where it’s freezing cold. Not my idea of a super fun time. I mean, it would be an experience of a lifetime to get to watch (or participate in!) the Olympic games in person. I simply feel that contracting hypothermia while doing so would make the whole ordeal not quite worth it. So I’m perfectly content with watching my favorite events, a.k.a. whatever NBC happens to be showing at the time, from the TV in my living-room. I guess that’s what being from the South does to you.

Obviously I’m not some hardcore “I-have-to-watch-every-event-and-cheer-on-my-favorite-athletes-GO-USA!” fan of the Olympics. I thoroughly enjoy watching the opening ceremony and deciding which countries’ outfits are my favorites. After that’s done, and I tire of hearing the announcer call out “Russia!” “The United States of America!” “Norway!” etc. in that iconic voice of hers, I wait until I get to watch my absolute favorite event: Figure Skating. Sure, every event is interesting (with the exception of maybe curling), but this one always manages to capture and maintain my attention more than the rest.

Figure Skating is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful and sophisticated activities a person can learn to do. A close friend of mine from middle school is a figure skater, an exceptionally talented one at that. I remember she would attend practice before school several days a week, and whenever we had free time during gym class she would attempt to teach me some of her moves. This girl was dedicated. It takes a lot of strength, agility, focus, and gracefulness to do what she and so many others around the world do so well.

Now, I’ve only been ice skating a handful of times in my life, so I am certainly not an expert on the subject. Not even close. But when I sat down to watch the women’s free skate a few days ago, I knew I was about to see some amazing talent. And I wasn’t disappointed. Everything from the stunning costume, to the fluid and perfectly timed movements, to the beautiful accompanying music, it was all perfect. The judges didn’t always think so, but I wanted to run out and give every one of them a gold medal simply for sharing such talent. Especially the ones who fell – I think they deserve a medal just for getting back up and continuing. I’m pretty sure I would stay there on the ice until I mustered up enough courage to crawl away and hide for the rest of my life. I don’t handle embarrassing moments well.

Anyways, hopefully you have heard that the girl who won gold was none other than 15-year-old Yulia Lipnitskaya of Russia. She unquestionably blew me away with her performance set to John Williams’ Schindler’s List. Her score of 141.51 (combined total: 214.41) is astonishing. Not only is she Russia’s youngest Winter Olympic gold medalist, she is the world’s youngest gold medalist in figure skating history! That’s amazing! Her performance left me and countless others speechless. The thing that took me most by surprise was the fact that she simply did not seem nervous or anxious from the moment she stepped out on ice to the moment she finished. Yulia was focused and at the end you could see the joy bright upon her face as she received a standing ovation.

Yulia Lipnitskaya is no doubt my hero. Her program was undoubtly one of the best in history, and yet she still wants to improve: not because others told her she needed to, but because she wants to do what she knows is her best. She didn’t let the circumstances of being in a huge stadium at the world’s most prestigious competition cause her any anxiety; she went for it and performed splendidly. I learned a few great lessons from this:

  • Work hard at what you love so you can reach your highest potential.
  • Even if you are young, you can be an inspiration to others.
  • Don’t let others opinions or your circumstances determine who you are.

I trust that you’ve enjoyed reading my take on the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Hopefully you’ll get a chance to see Yulia perform! Until then though, stay warm, watch all of the other amazing athletes do their thing, and remember to stay positive. If you have a favorite athlete or event that I should watch, let me know in the comments!

“And when we me…

“And when we meet, which I’m sure we will, all that was there will be there still. I’ll let it pass, and hold my tongue, and you will think that I’ve moved on.”

I heard Dido’s song White Flag recently, one I hadn’t heard in quite a long time. Sometimes lyrics jump out at me, taking me by surprise with how much of an intense impact they have on me. I never cease to be amazed at how some words, when put to music, can describe my emotions so perfectly yet without warning. There isn’t anything particularly special about these, but the poignant, plaintive feeling that consumes me when I heard these words was at the least overwhelming; I felt the need to share them with you. Maybe you aren’t experiencing this situation currently, but at some point you have (or will), and hopefully you will understand.

I Think I Just Lied

Have you ever been in a tough situation, and you didn’t know how to respond? Maybe that person you strongly dislike is asking to spend some time with you, and you have no real reason not to say yes, except for the fact that you genuinely hate the very idea of being with him or her. We’ve all been there. “Oh I’m really sorry, but I can’t today. I’ve been super busy and still have a lot to do.” LIAR! You were probably sitting on the couch watching TV when you said that. I’ve done it though, numerous times. I like to call it “giving an excuse” rather than “lying” because, well, the former just sounds better. (They’re the exact same thing though and we all know it).
There are all kinds of things we make up excuses for: turning in a paper late, coming into school/work late, not having a chore finished…and so on. We lie about how well someone sounded when they sang or played an instrument, how much we love the video they just showed us, how good they look in that outfit, how we actually feel at the moment, you name it.
Sometimes we lie so that we can do something, instead of in an attempt to get out of it. I had a friend who, on two separate occasions, lied about who I was so that he could hang out with me. We had a whole plan and everything if something went wrong. Now if that’s not dedication I don’t know what it is!
So why all these lies? I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings, nor do I enjoy getting into trouble. Obviously the way to avoid both of these predicaments is to lie! Duh!
Or maybe not. Sometimes I lie and it’s no big deal, so I don’t worry about it. No one gets hurt. Other times the lies just get deeper and more complicated until finally it has to stop. My point here is, try to avoid lying if you can. And if you can’t, think again. Then if you truly can’t avoid it, at least make it a small one. If it turns out to be a mistake, learn from it, and don’t use the same excuse twice. That can create some seriously awkward moments, and trust me, I know how that goes. 😉

“Motivational” Quotes

There is a trend on the internet (especially on sites such as Pinterest and Instagram) in which people like to post motivational quotes. Most of the time, these “quotes” are set on a background, usually a landscape, or view of the ocean, or city street, that has been edited by filters with varying degrees of intensity. Now, I understand what people are trying to do. It’s great to motivate yourself, or remind others to stay positive or be encouraged by a bible verse. HOWEVER. If you are planning on creating (or retweeting, repinnng, or posting) one of these lovely images, please check up on a few things before doing so. I’m begging you.

Let’s start with the most prominent problem here. The term quote implies that you are quoting someone else, which means someone else said it. And that person probably took a good amount of time coming up with whatever it is he or she said (although in some cases, probably not at all). Don’t you think you should give that person credit for his/her amazing bit of inspiration? No, not necessary? Apparently that’s what most people think, and then no one knows who actually said anything, which is precisely what gets us images like this one circulating the internet:

You see? I mean obviously Lincoln didn’t say that, but hopefully you enjoyed the satiric example. Anyway, the next problem is what many of these quotes are actually saying. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of quotes out there that inspire me, have deep meaning, have a right to be spread and infiltrate people’s minds. Some just get under my skin with their lack of…sense. These are a few of my favorites, all of which I’ve seen on either Pinterest or Twitter.

  • “May you always do what you are afraid to do.” Ok. First off, I’m pretty sure this is trying to tell me to have the courage to try new things, instead of never trying and missing out on wonderful opportunities in life. That makes sense. But this is literally telling me to do all the things I’m scared of. I’m afraid to drink lye, and yet I feel like, somehow, the fear in and of itself doesn’t mean I should do it. I’m also afraid to jump off of a building, befriend snakes and spiders, get electrocuted, and eat raw meat. Sorry Mr. Quote, it’s just not gonna happen.
  • “If you can’t be thankful for what you have, be thankful for what you’ve escaped.” Right. At first glance, this one seems reasonable. Read it again though. “…be thankful for what you’ve escaped.” Hypothetically speaking, let’s say I escaped a psychopath boyfriend. Maybe I was scuba diving when I narrowly escaped a pack of Man-of-War jellyfish. Or maybe I just barely escaped a kidnapper. I’m supposed to be thankful for these crazy people and animals? I sure will be grateful none of them killed me, but there is no way I’ll go back and thank any of them for being a part of my life.
  • “Some people are meant to fall in love with each other but not meant to be together.” Um, what? When I read this one I picture a boy and a girl, staring at each other with daydream eyes, eternally separated by a large force-field surrounding each of their bodies. They’re totally meant for each other…except not really. Yep.

There you go. Do you understand why I rarely look at the quotes section of any website? The gems are buried deep within piles of platitudes. I hardly can be motivated by words someone arbitrarily threw together in a vain attempt to inspire me. Try a deeper thought next time, and then we’ll talk. For now, I’ll leave you with one on perspective, a true favorite of mine. Remember what I always say, life’s not perfect, and neither are we. But it’s better that way. 🙂

” We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” – Abraham Lincoln


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