“Below My Feet” Mumford & Sons

Tonight, as I searched for a song for Music Monday, I came across this lovely melody, and I began to reflect. I began to remember the many bumps I’ve hit in my years, and I remind myself of all those to come. Yet even more than that, I realize how different I would be without my moments of weakness. There is a saying that you can’t find yourself until you lose yourself. And I think that’s what sophomore year was for me. I had to lose myself so that I could find myself. I had to face moments of unrelenting stress compounded with the pure agony of teenage heartbreak so that I could realize one day just what–no, who–I needed to become.

I can still remember the day that I fell in love with travel, that I tasted my first magical piece of wanderlust. After dealing with some particularly tumultuous issues, my outlook began to alter somewhat dramatically. It was from my breaking that I was able to pick up the pieces to form a puzzle more to my liking. But this scared me. It scared me to the nth degree. For so long I had believed I knew who I was and what I wanted from life. Now, all this was up in the air. But one day, I was on Pinterest (it sounds trivial, I know, but just humor me here) and I searched pictures of the places I would be visiting that June on my trip to Europe. Suddenly, I saw the world in a new light. Suddenly, I yearned to see it all, to experience it all. Suddenly, I had a new passion, one that I knew would not dissipate.

My term paper for English class is on Pantheism in Wordsworth’s poetry. For weeks I have been researching the love and divinity of nature through Wordsworth’s eyes, and after each beautiful line elevating nature more and more, I remind myself to “keep the earth below my feet.” Some people find their solace in religion, but I find mine in the oceans which surround me, the sky above me, and the earth below me.

“Let me learn from where I have been / Keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn.”

Live Below the Line

My favorite actress-activist, Sophia Bush, led me to this Australian based cause, mate. By participating in Live Below the Line, I am committing to living on $2/day for five days for both food and drink from May 6-10. On my site (<–click the link! click the link!) I have explained my plan of action, and I hope you’ll join me. Joining me can mean any number of things, really.

You can donate to my challenge (woohoo!).

You can join my team (let’s go!).

Or you can start your own team (flyin’ solo. . .I see how it is).

Anyway you cut it, you’re still helping the cause. The money you raise will go towards those living in extreme poverty in either Cambodia or Papua New Guinea. To help break them out of their poverty cycle, LBL helps provide education, skills training, and more.

So sign up today. After all, aren’t you curious as to what type of LBLer you’ll be? I know I am.

Wednesday Word Day

Wednesday Word Day

Before I begin my spiel, let me just say that you should notice two significant features of today’s poster.

un. It is the same William Butler Yeat’s quote with which I ended Music Monday.

deux. This particular poster is from Pencils of Promise! (hint: PoP may be the subject of an upcoming blog post. . .)

If you noticed these points before I told you, then you’ve earned yourself some knowledge points! If you expect anything to come from these knowledge points, then you are sorely mistaken. Sometimes, you should do something not for the reward but simply for the experience.

Today, I explained Coursera to one of my teacher’s (see Music Monday for an explanation), and unfortunately her reaction was not what I had expected or wanted. Instead of being intrigued by the idea of free college courses, she shot it down, asking why I was taking a class which would not give me college credit and therefore boost my GPA.

Let me first say that I am a rather opinionated person, and all too often simply don’t understand a certain perspective, mainly because I am viewing the situation from a completely different light. This was the case today. You see, I am dumbfounded by some people’s need to receive some sort of profit from every little thing they do. In my opinion, our choices and our achievements should not be motivated by personal gain, but by our passion for the cause, whatever it may be. For me, I have a passion for knowledge, for education, for college. Of course I would love for these classes to “boost my GPA” or give me college credit, but without those rewards, I’m still enthralled with the idea of being able to be taught my world renowned professors on some of the most intriguing courses, and all for free.

Perhaps what Yeats is getting at is that education should not be a mundane or lackluster practice. Education should not limited by a quota with which we are forced to reach. It should not become some quotidian event that we begrudgingly complete. No, education should be enjoyed. Moreover, it should be relished in indefinitely. Education should never end. Like an eternal fire, a spark should ignite within us at the mere mention of the opportunity to gain knowledge. The truly magnificent thing about this world is that there will never come a time when you can truthfully say, “I’ve learned all there is to learn. My education has run out.” Teachers like to tell us we need to be lifelong learners–and they’re right. To be educated is to be empowered. To be empowered is to be passionate.

Be passionate. Be educated. Be empowered.

Music Monday: “I Don’t Want to Wait” Paula Cole

Excuse the extreme cheesiness of song choice, but it was honestly the best song I could find to even somewhat correlate to this post’s subject. (And if there are any Dawson’s Creek fans reading this post. . .you’re welcome).

This afternoon as I sipped my Starbucks Iced Grande Caramel Macchiato and began to dive into my enormous pool of homework, I received an e-mail from Brown University, notifying me of their new partnership with Coursera, “a company that provides a platform for free online noncredit courses available across the globe.” Intrigued, I clicked the link, and was transported to an unbelievable site. In my first two minutes of exploring the site, I was hooked. In the new two minutes, I had already enrolled in a class at Brown called “The Fiction of Relationships,” which starts in June. In the next two hours, I enrolled in yet another class called “A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior,” and watched my first college lecture given by my first college professor, Dan Ariely, at Duke University.

I won’t go into detail about how Coursera works–you can discover its magic for yourself. However, what I will tell you is that with Coursera, I have been given the opportunity to assuage my hunger for the college experience. After watching one twenty minute lecture, I already know I have begun to think on a higher level. My professor is passionate, humorous, intelligent, and engaging. He is everything that I expected, and wanted, from a college professor.

I may only be a junior in high school, but I am eager to jump on the college wagon. You see, I don’t want to wait. I want to begin expanding my horizons now. I dream of lectures which push my intellectual capabilities, which paint my world in a palette previously unknown, which unlock hundreds of doors by giving me the knowledge key. I hope I never stop growing, never stop testing my limits, and ultimately never stop learning.

Tonight’s blog post is rather short, (hey, I need to get to class!) but I’ll end it with a beautiful quote from a beautiful poet,

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” –W.B. Yeats

Wednesday Word Day

Wednesday Word Day

Happiness is the most sought after “gift” in the world. It is as elusive as it is enticing, as fleeting as it is ubiquitous. With the pursuit of happiness comes a level of paradox and frustration. Yet the reward is invaluable.

After a weekend of the quintessential high school experience–prom–I was welcomed with the ferociously desolate and unstable notion of Moving Day. For months I had been preparing for the day, yet as the date approached, I felt no semblance of worry or sadness. It was alarming, really. I kept saying these profound statements, like “this is the last time y’all [my friends] will drop me off at my house,” or “this is the last time I’ll lug my school books up these steps.” Still, nothing. Then the Sunday after prom came, and my mom told me it was Moving Day–a day earlier than what we had planned.

Boom.

It hit me.

But it was different than when the restaurant closed. This time was like having the rug ripped out from under you, falling down and not being able to get back up. This time was like realizing the boy you loved did not–and never will–love you back, all those daydreams you’d played out in your head were suddenly killed away in one fatal swoop. This time was like being in love with your best friend, but not being able to talk to him about your heartbreak because he was no longer an option. My bedroom was my sanctuary, my safe place, my warm hug when I felt too foolish to turn to anyone else. But now here I am, not only feeling foolish for my utter unhappiness, but without a warm hug or a sanctuary with which to recuperate.

I have never been willing to accept long periods of unhappiness. But unhappiness is like a leech. It grabs ahold of you, and inhabits the only tool you have with which to amputate it–your thoughts. However, I have previously fallen victim to prolonged unhappiness twice in my life. One because of the death of two loved ones back-to-back, and the other because of heartbreak. The former was cured by time and the resiliency that comes with youth. With the latter, however, I took matters into my own hands and allowed myself to let go of my heavy heart.

So after two weeks or so of unhappiness for various reasons–all of which are relatively out of my control–I am putting this emotional turmoil to an end. Yesterday I was at a loss for how to fix my attitude. There just seemed to be no area with which I could comfort myself with–my bedroom was gone, after all. I assumed that with summer right around the corner, and thus the return of my college friends, the lowering of my stress level, and the increase in down-time, happiness would find its way back to me.

But today is different. After reading Connie Chapman’s free ebook, The 12 Step Dream Creator Guide, I realized that I cannot expect outside influences to bring me happiness if I myself am not happy first. I had been searching for an outside space as a source of tranquility when I needed to look inside myself to find peace. We do not control much, but what we do control–our thoughts and our actions–are mightier than any outward force.

In the coming days (and even minutes), I will be altering my thoughts so that I can in turn cure my poor disposition. It may not solve everything, but it is the biggest and best step in the right direction. Happiness may be a mood, not a destination, but I believe we are as capable of changing our mood as we are our destination, if only we are willing to take the time and effort to do so.

Wednesday Word Day

Wednesday Word Day

Comparison is rooted in a lack of self-confidence. This is something I know from first-hand experience. When I was younger, I was never confident in my intellectual abilities. However, as I’ve matured and attained a greater sense of confidence, I have somewhat relinquished the worries and fears accompanying comparison born from self-doubt.

All too often we seek in others what we (sometimes unfairly) expect from ourselves. We tend to be our own worst critics. Whether this is for the best or the worst depends on our critiques. As an academically focused high school student, I am well aware that the amount of pressure I put on myself is unfair. I set high expectations for myself, which I believe is a good thing–at least most of the time. I have yet to come to grasp with my limits, and I all too often pretend I have none. Of course, this is not true. We all have our limits; we are human after all. But I have come to realize that this belief, once again, is rooted in my rigorous analyzations of my intellectual abilities. Putting yourself up against your peers is one of the most destructive acts you could commit upon your self-esteem. Worries weigh us down; this is a truth which I am sure we are all well aware of by now. They are written in the fine-print of the Comparison Contract, which you unintentionally sign when you begin to question yourself solely based on the likening of a peer.

As individuals we need to adopt the maxim which removes ourselves from all aspects of comparison. Joy should be a daily goal which we all check off on our mile long to-do list, but it is because of damaging deeds, such as comparison, which deter us from accomplishing such a basic yet fundamental task.

The New Synonyms: Selfish/Selfless

As a dedicated follower of both Stephen Colbert and Bill Clinton, I was thrilled, to say the least, when I turned to Comedy Central tonight, only to see both men on my television screen! And it wasn’t just about Bill Clinton. No, it was about the Clinton Global Initiative. Talk about perfection.

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So as I chowed down on my mom’s Eggs Benedict, I listened to former President Bill Clinton speak words of wisdom as he gracefully handled Colbert’s jocular, and often times satirical, interview session. One of the most intriguing moments was when Clinton proclaimed that being selfish and selfless are one in the same.

(I’ll pause here to give you a chance to review that rather paradoxical statement).

His explanation was somewhat to the effect of, “by giving back to the world–acting selflessly–we are in turn aiding ourselves [America]–acting selfishly.” When you really think about it, it makes sense. The way I rationalize it is by perceiving America as just a part to a whole. If we are fixing the whole–or even just another part to the whole–we are in turn making it easier for our part to fit into the whole. And hopefully with our aid, that whole will witness equality and stability on all accounts.

Then, he went as far as to say that his efforts to improve the world was a rather selfish endeavor. Once again, I understood completely where he was coming from. You see, like President Clinton, I am involved in the non-profit world because it is what makes me happiest. It is what I’m passionate about, and of course I believe whole-heartedly in the Three E’s (equality, education, and empowerment), but my reasoning for this blog and for starting my organization was simply because it made me happy.

But here’s some food for thought, if doing what makes you happy is a selfish act, then is selfishness always a bad thing?

Let me know what you think about President Clinton’s views on selfishness/selflessness, and how you view the occasional selfish act, by posting a comment below. I love hearing your feedback and holding conversations with my followers!

Music Monday: “Houdini” Foster the People

Spring break. It’s supposed to be a time of sun, fun, and relaxation, right? Well, unfortunately for me, I hit a major slump the latter part of my spring break, and sometimes I just wanted to “disappear.”

It was as if all of a sudden the clouds that I’d been floating on for the past couple weeks just sort of, well, evaporated. My music didn’t thrill me; my life seemed rather dull; I just lacked a certain vitality that I had grown accustomed to. The most frustrating thing about it was that there was no particular reason for it, either. The only reasoning I could muster was, “what goes up, must come down.” (Which, by the way, is a horrible life motto; I wouldn’t recommend plastering that one on your office wall of inspiration).

So I decided that the best way to cure my blahness was to pinpoint the missing–or added–factor in my life. The “happiness variable,” if you will. Want to know what I came up with? The very obvious answer was that I had substantially decreased my blogging time. Maybe to be happier, all I needed to do was to get back here, to learning about non-profits, to raising awareness, to empowerment. So I found my medicine, but the only problem was, could I muster up the focus and ability to write? You see, sometimes writing is like exercising (at least for me). When I’m not doing it, I forget how fulfilling it is and all I want to do is. . . well, anything but. Then when I actually get my lazy butt (or brain in this case) to work, I remember the benefits I receive from this “chore.” Endorphins race through my body, and I am one step closer to happiness.

Of course, I am well aware that we can’t be happy all the time. After all, “happiness is a mood and a it’s a condition, not a destination. It’s like being tired or hungry, it’s not permanent. It comes and goes and that’s ok.” But when you get down, it’s always nice to know there’s a way to get back up. Just do what you love, but whatever you do, don’t walk away. “Raise up to your ability.”

Wednesday Word Day

Wednesday Word Day

To say I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning would be incorrect. No, I woke up on the scary side of the bed this morning. But I suppose I should back up a few hours and start from the beginning. . .

Last night, as I watched a fabulous episode of Girls on my computer, a rather terrifying image entered my mind. What if I failed? What if no one showed up at the launch party, aside from the obligatory attendees (family, friends, the band)? What if I couldn’t follow through? What if it just plain sucked? What if an astroid hit Pawleys Island and blew everything into bits and pieces, and thereby destroyed my chances of ever launching my organization? (Okay, so that last one didn’t actually cross my mind at the time, but, still, what if?!) Of course, had I been the least bit rational, I would have realized that all of those “what if” scenarios were completely bogus. But I wasn’t, so I woke up on the scary side of the bed this morning.

As fear grappled my every thought, I swear I could feel grey hairs sprouting and wrinkles forming. The stress of the fear of humiliating failure really could screw with a girl. I kept trying to take my own advice–to embrace the fear and realize that it was completely normal. But it just wasn’t happening. Luckily, with the help of both a good friend and the publication of an article about my philanthropic work with Sseko Designs, I was able to shove my fears aside and rise out of the depths of despair. (To be honest, the Iced Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks aided in my recovery, as well).

I could almost see the weights as they lifted off my shoulders. Rationale found itself back into my head, and I could truly take my own advice. Hours later, I’m well aware that a little fear can help fuel my fire. After all, if I wasn’t a little scared, how would I know if my dream was big enough?

Goodnight, fellow empowerment junkies. May we all go to sleep on not the scary, wrong, or even right side of the bed, but instead on the revolutionary side where we can create while we dream dreams tall enough to touch the clouds.