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

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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.



“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.

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 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.

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. 😉

Have you ever wanted things to “go back to the way they were”? If you’re typing on the computer you just hit Ctrl+Z as many times as needed until poof! everything is back to the beginning. Or in a video game, you just hit the continue button, or restart, or reset level. Can you do that in real life? I guess not.
This is something I’ve been struggling with for about the past two weeks. I’d really love it if one of those “That was easy!” Staples buttons would materialize in mid-air, right in front of me. Bam, and that would be it. But where would the last checkpoint be? Would I start back at the week after Christmas break, when things got really crazy? Would I jump back to weeks before that, even months, to try to change people’s minds, keep them from making certain decisions? Now we’re getting into time travel, and that is an area in which I have no expertise. Let’s stop before we mess up all of history or something.
It’s easy to want to fix your life to be perfect for you. Maybe you don’t want it to be perfect; you only want it to be better, or simpler than it is now. That’s all I want, because I think I’ve made a few mistakes. In fact, I know I have. Some days I was jealous, I was ridiculously tired, I was sad. We all have those days. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that you have to do what you can to apologize, hope people will forgive you, forgive yourself, and then move along. In the end, things are going to happen, things you can’t always control. The best thing to do is move forward, and keep a positive attitude about what will happen next. Keep laughing and keep breathing. We’ll get through it!

I’d like to think of myself as a friendly person. Not necessarily outgoing or forward, but friendly. Being friendly, for the most part, implies interacting with someone you might not know that well. I mean no one tells you to “be friendly” to your best bud, because of course you will. I always try to make an effort to be nice and welcoming to people when I first meet them, because, well, isn’t that common courtesy? It’s just the way I am.

The only problem there is making eye contact. Everyone knows what it’s like to have to make eye contact with someone; we all had those spontaneous staring contests as children. You look into another person’s eyes for an indefinite amount of time, but after several seconds, one of you bursts out laughing. I have more self-control than that at my age, but the feat is none the simpler. There are a few problems I have with the acute skill of making eye contact with people:

  1. I can’t look at both of the person’s eyes at the same time. It’s hard enough to focus in on one of them, you can’t possibly expect me to look at both at the same time! It feels extremely awkward, so I usually end up glancing away. Then I come back, thinking maybe I just need to try again. Nope. Same problem: it’s one or the other. Which one do I look at? Do they think I’m lying or extremely nervous because I keep switching back and forth? It’s just too much of hassle, if you ask me.
  2. The other person has no problem with it. This is the worst feeling. You’re trying to have a conversation with a person you just met, when all of a sudden you realize they are staring into your soul. I don’t know about you, but whether I’m talking to a friend or an acquaintance, I look them in the eye once or twice, but a lot of the time I’m looking away while I speak. It’s not because I have an aversion to their face; it’s simply that I can’t focus on their eyes as well as the words I am trying to form and spit out. I’ve come across someone before who made nonstop-hardcore-extreme-constant eye contact with me while we spoke. What, are you trying to prove that you’re better at this than I am? You can take first prize, because I won’t even try to fight you for it.
  3. There’s always the awkward, I-didn’t-mean-to-look-at-you-but-we-both-did-at-the-same-time eye contact. This is the opposite of the purposeful eye contact required at interviews and public speeches. Seriously, does it get any more cringe-worthy than accidentally glancing at a random person, only to find they have done the same to you? I’d tell you to always be on the lookout, but unfortunately doing so would only increase your chances of an unwanted situation. It can happen anywhere, anytime, with anyone. My classes can get pretty boring while we take notes, so every once in a while I decide to lift my head up and take a look around. Of course, even though I’m not even trying to get this person’s attention, each time I look to my right he looks to his left. Whoops! Sometimes this can be used to your advantage, though. With a few carefully timed quick glances, you might be able to tell if he or she is looking back on purpose. (But use caution: results may vary.)
  4. Sometimes even I can get carried awayIt’s easy to stare into someone’s eyes is you find him or her attractive. Speaking from a girl’s point of view, I can tell in .5 seconds how I feel about a guy if I just look into his eyes. At this point it’s practically always “Uh, nope. Not at all.” Having a boyfriend changes your perspective. But every so often I see a picture of a celebrity I’m obsessed with (*cough* Joseph Gordon-Levitt *cough*) and it’s hard not to daydream about him staring back. If I’m talking to someone and I happen to be fond of the color of their eyes, I might stare for too long, thinking about aesthetic qualities instead of the conversation (which relates back to my second point). Talk about being awkward!

So, eye contact is not my thing. Maybe it will be one day. Do you grow into it? Is this skill acquired with time? Who knows. I want to know what your embarrassing “eye contact” stories are! Life’s not perfect, and neither are we! Leave a comment below so we can all get a good laugh today. Thanks for the support, love y’all!


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