I was catching up with an old friend the other day after work. She’s really active in band, and we were talking about how we were both excited but anxious to be leading our respective organizations next year.
We got to talking about the past school year. One of our football players and a star track athlete, George Atkinson III, was picked to play in the US Army All American Bowl. There was a ceremony one day at lunch to officially announce his selection and honor him and the coaches and the school in general. The Army came and we had TV cameras and press, it was quite a big deal. Well, when the ceremony was all over and the announcements and speeches had all been made, selected members of the marching band went onstage to play some patriotic tunes. But people in the audience, so attentive a few minutes before, wandered off into the quad one by one until there was no crowd left.
When the band got back to the music room, my friend noticed one little freshman trumpeter, usually a really happy kid, looking down. She asked him what was wrong, and he said, “I don’t get why they couldn’t just stay and listen for a minute.” When she tried to comfort him, he looked up and she saw he was crying. Then he said, “Are people ever gonna like us? Or am I just gonna be a loser forever?”
We always hear about the importance of reaching out to people and making everyone feel welcome, but it’s hard to really care until that idea is fleshed out, until it’s relatable. The fact this this boy thought he was destined to be a loser for doing what he was passionate about- that’s a pretty potent personification for me.
This is the kind of stuff that motivates me to try to be better. This is the stuff we’re going to change next year.
It’s amazing how easy it is for people our age to put on a front. I feel like it’s the norm to just act in a way that minimizes any significant social friction. In fact, when someone’s transparent in their feelings and actions, it’s usually considered odd.
How many people ask, “How are you?” and get, “Oh I’m fine” in return? It’s something that’s pretty prolific here on tumblr, and lots of people- myself included- can be awfully sarcastic about it, but the fact is, that “I’m fine” is so often a lie. But how would we react if we asked “How are you?” and got the truth? (I’m tired, I’m fighting with PersonX, I’m stressing over Y, etc)
And for people that, for whatever reason, really do care about how another person is doing, it’s disheartening to think that you’re being lied to in order to preserve a pleasantry.
I just wish we were all more honest, with other people, with ourselves, with everything. Call it a case of naïveté, but I still think that, in the long run, being more honest is never a bad thing.
At our very last school board meeting of the year, a measure was introduced that would allow second year athletes to opt out of PE and use their sport to obtain the necessary credits for graduation. Sophomores ahtletes wouldn’t have to take PE in whatever trimester their sport falls into.
This is something that I’ve heard an overwhelming amount of support for from students. Ever since my freshman year, I’ve heard people complain about our rigid PE system and how PE is a waste of time and energy for athletes that already know the basics of fitness. As a varsity tennis player my sophomore year, I know firsthand how inconvenient it was to run every day during school when I would have three hour practices right after. And I had it easy- I’ve heard testimonies from water polo and swim team kids that swim before school, during athletics fifth period, and then during their actual practice time. These kids don’t need an extra 70 minutes of running, stretching, and bowling.
The scheduling aspect of the issue is also something that we discussed. When it comes down to it, this is the district deliberating whether or not to give students’ more of a choice in what they do at school. At present, our school requires PE for two years. This is supposed to be for the benefit of some ambiguous, faceless overweight statistic that the district hopes to help live a healthier life. The idea is that two years of PE make enough of a difference in his life to inspire him to live healthier and educate him in order to do it effectively. Obviously, PE rarely goes this way- but that’s an issue for another time. This deals with the students who already have the basic knowledge about fitness and healthy living that PE is supposed to teach. For these kids, an extra year of PE is time that could be spent training in their sport of taking academic classes. I know of at least one girl that couldn’t take a science class her sophomore year because of required PE- which is odd because she was an all-league water polo star that definitely wasn’t in need of any more physical activity.
And this isn’t some revolutionary thing; most other districts in the county have some kind of customizable PE program for athletes. In EBAL, I know that the majority of schools don’t even require two years. But changing things in any school district can be extremely difficult.
The primary opponents of this new measure worry about the childhood obesity and unhealthy lifestyles that this option would allegedly encourage. But if childhood obesity is the issue, wouldn’t specialized classes be the best way to reach students that are in danger of becoming obese? I mean, even the best PE teachers can only do so much to educate a single child with a personalized, effective approach. These days, they’ve got 40-50 other kids that need to be looked after. If athletes were allowed to stop wasting their time in these classes, then PE teachers would be better enabled to give at-risk students the attention and care they need.
In the end, the board decided that it was a complex issue that needed much more research and deliberation, as well as “direct communication with the people it would affect most… (at this point I was thinking, ‘students?’ Wait, nope.) PE teachers.” It’ll probably be a month or so before this measure is revisited. In the meantime I’m hoping to contact those students who feel strongly about getting this passed. They’re entirely capable of showing up to the meeting and raging for their allotted three minutes- I’ve heard such speeches many times before, usually after running Boot Hill or 20 snake runs up and down the football field.
I’ve heard so much complaining about this policy, and now that it’s being discussed, I’m really excited for it. Because if we can complain about this the right way, future athletes won’t need to complain about it any more.
I don’t know. I understand why, but it still seems wrong to rejoice over someone’s death on a national level like this.
Then again, I didn’t have any family members killed on 9/11.
Our AP Bio class had a discussion today about a dangerous chemical affecting public health. Dihydrogen monoxide has been found in plastic bottles, plumbing systems, children’s play areas, and in vapor form in the atmosphere. This spring, levels of dihydrogen monoxide have been steadily increasing; the chemical is concentrated in lakes, rivers, and streams, as well as freshwater aqueducts that carry the county water supply. Rumor has it that the city will soon ask residents to take protective measures. I’ll keep you posted.
Anyone who’s taken chemistry should be laughing right now. Dihydrogen monoxide is the longhand chemical compound nomenclature for a molecule of two hydrogens and one oxygen. H2O. Water.
Everything I wrote up there was true. Water can be dangerous. Water can affect your health. Water can be found in plastic water bottles, in the atmosphere, and concentrated in lakes. And during spring, we tend to get more rain, hence “increasing levels.”
You see, word choice is incredibly important. Look at the effect that replacing “water” with “dihydrogen monoxide” had. The only difference between a seemingly urgent public notice and a series of no-brainer statements is delivery.
It’s not so much what you say, it’s the words, tone, and structure you use to say it. That’s why it’s possible to take a harmless sentence like “Water is found in plastic bottles” and turn it into “The concentration of dihydrogen monoxide in plastic bottles is shockingly high!”
So what’s the point? If you’re going to say something, say it with care- because content itself rarely carries the same significance as delivery.
PS- I wasn’t even at AP Bio today.
Regret Is Worse Than Failure
And the risk-taking teen in me emerges once again.
This might be simply because I’m young, but I’ve come to believe that submitting yourself to the risk of failure is by far preferrable to living with regret. The majority of what my friends and I complain about aren’t instances of failed plans, but of missed opportunities.
This isn’t to say that we never experience failure- we obviously do. But I can’t remember the last time I heard someone complain about putting in effort or going for something difficult, even if the attempt was unsuccesful. All too often, people let fear of failure stop them, and then they’re left with nothing but speculations and regret. It’s cliche, but sometimes the effort is what counts.
Of course, when you make those decisions, the last thing on your mind is the importance of effort. In those crucial moments, that split second in which you decide whether or not to speak up or jump in that cypher or raise your hand to volunteer- in those moments, safety seems preferrable to failure. That’s why, next time, it might be worth it to ask yourself, “Would I really rather live with the regret?”
Hopefully you’ll find that it’s better to try and fail than to never try at all.
"If you don’t like it, unfollow me"
A statement that, at first glance, makes complete sense. If you don’t like what someone posts, well, no one’s forcing you to have that on your dashboard. Unfollow them, and get on with your life. And so it would make sense if we just left it at that.
But all too often, people take it further. There are people that say, “Do this or I’ll unfollow you,” as if clicking on that unfollow link is some kind of weapon to be used to gain the upper hand. There are people that will unfollow you, and then tell you that they just unfollowed you, as if unfollowing is some kind of final disownment, and you’re supposed to be ashamed that you’re no longer a part of that person’s (tumblr) life.
Don’t be dramatic, people. Unfollow as many people as you like, but do it quietly and privately unless you actually want to start something. I think it’s crazy that people get all worked up over something as trivial as a follower count.
And if you don’t like that, you can unfollow me.
Mind Control 101
Questions are mind control. By asking a question, I can direct your thoughts towards whatever I want. As long as you keep reading, I have a say in what your mind is thinking about. Every sentence I write elicits a response from you. You have no say in this.
What’s 2 + 2?
See what you just did? As soon as you saw that question, you immediately thought of the number 4. Maybe you thought of those far away days in kindergarten or elementary school, where you first learned how to add. Maybe you thought of a real life example of two things being put together with two things to make four things. Maybe you read my question and decided to be funny and answer “five!” in your head. It doesn’t matter. Because there’s one thing that I guarantee you didn’t do- you didn’t ignore 2 + 2. You can’t. As soon as your eyes hit that line of text, I had control over your mind.
What time is it?
See, I did it again. Questions are tools, used by people that want to control what you think about. Questions can be simple and seemingly pointless (2+2? What time is it?) but questions can also be powerful. What do you regret about your life? Who are the people that you care most about? What was the last thing you did to make a difference for someone else?
Questions force people to think. And sometimes, forcing people to think is exactly what we need to do.
I heard a talk this weekend about the Columbine shooting and a project called Rachel’s Challenge. Expect more posts regarding the latter. Anyway, everything about the presentation was extremely moving. There was, however, one part that made me scratch my head.
During the speakers’ explanation of the Columbine shooting, he made it sound like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were driven to violence because of their “goth” culture, as if dressing in black, playing horror video games, and listening to a certain genre of music increase your chances of snapping and going on a killing spree. This speaker ignored the fact that Eric and Dylan had been diagnosed by psychiatric professionals as mentally ill. Eric Harris was clinically depressed and Dylan Klebold had a supreme superiority complex. The mainstream media ignored these facts as well, and focused on bullying and social exclusion as the reasons for the shooting.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that raising awareness about bullying and invisible children is an incredibly important thing to do; I just don’t think it’s morally acceptable to cite the wrong causes for something as tragic as the Columbine shooting, no matter how pressing and urgent those causes are.
I don’t think that your choices make you; I think that you make your choices. I don’t think that Eric and Dylan were driven to kill because of rock music, or DOOM, or reading Mein Kampf. Eric and Dylan were mentally unstable, and made the choice to listen to the music they did, play violent games, read hate literature, and ultimately take the lives of 12 people and themselves.
I think that far too many people see the effects as causes and the causes as effects. Two things may seem to be related, but that doesn’t mean that one caused the other. You can’t blame music and movies and literature for a person’s actions. As awful as it is, you can’t blame bullying for it either. Eric and Dylan were mentally ill, and there’s no doubt that that was the biggest factor in why they snapped. Not the fact that they wore black. Look beyond the surface.
Don’t Settle For Average
I really don’t like it when I hear kids rationalize their mediocrity in life by saying something along the lines of, “Well, that’s what most people do.”
You might have the ability to get straight A’s, but since “most people” do just fine with a C average, you see no reason to put in those extra few hours of work. You might be perfectly capable of training harder in sports, but since “most people” just play for fun, you choose not to. You might have a capacity to improve in a hobby, or in your work ethics, or in your contributions to society in general, but if you see or hear that “most people” don’t, oftentimes it’s all too easy to justify your reluctance for improvement by citing the opinion of the majority.
I’m not pushing for us to suddenly get up and plan the rest of our lives, chug a few hundred 5 Hour Energies, and study for days without sleep to ace the SAT’s and get into Princeton. No, the path of the Asian student is not the path for all. I am saying that I think it would do us all some good to stop basing our decisions based on what “most people” do, and start focusing on what we want to do.
Why settle for average, if you’re capable of more?