The Word: Books

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.” – Ernest Hemingway

With reading being one of my favorite hobbies my initial intention writing this post was to center on the word “read.” Yet, as I glanced at my overflowing bookshelf I realized I have just as powerful a relationship with the physical books themselves as I do with the stories they contain. With e-books growing in popularity I find myself clutching tighter to my real books than ever before, resolute to never possess a digital library. It is from my deep stubbornness and resentment to e-books this post grows, prompting me to write in homage to the countless books gracing my shelves and spilling onto my bedroom floor.

The beauty of stories, no matter their format, is the incredible ability they have to transport the reader anywhere, allowing one to cast away their reality and live temporarily in another world. This mental escape often permits the reader to return to reality refreshed and with a greater understanding of themselves and the world around them. Many advocate for e-readers by saying it lightens their load making this mental escape more accessible and practical for a busy lifestyle, but with this practice I feel they lose some of the power of those stories. I love feeling the extra weight in my bag for it reminds me that refuge from my current reality is never far away. I can see and feel the promise of escape, adventure and insight as I flip the pages through my fingers. The weight of the cover resting in my palms and the texture of the pages inspires a deep exhale and release whenever I need. It is this promise and sensation that keeps me grounded and tethered to what’s real.

My appreciation for books runs deep, stemming from a childhood emphasizing books and reading. When in the presence of books, I am met with incredible and vivid waves of nostalgia, impossible to ignore. For as long as I can remember, my days have been bookended with books. When I was a child, my parents read to my two brothers and me every night before bed, giving us each a turn to pick out that evening’s story. I remember bringing armfuls of books as suggestions for the bedtime story, stacking them all in tall, precarious piles next to the couch. I remember reading long after bedtime, breezing through the Harry Potter series by reading through the night by the dim glow of my nightlight, ignoring my parents’ knocks on my bedroom door sternly instructing me to go to sleep. I remember budgeting enough room for my book in my backpack by consolidating my school supplies, sometimes leaving home folders and notebooks for class to ensure I had enough space to prevent bending the corners of the book.

From childhood to now, I’m accustomed to having a book with me at all moments. Books have always been a part of my landscape, their presence shaping my environment and enhancing the atmosphere of every situation in my life. The sight of a particular book cover serves as a memento, possessing the power to bring me back to where I was when I first read it. Seeing a familiar book cover from my past not only reminds me of where I was physically when I first opened the cover, but where I was personally, emotionally and mentally.

Avid readers and book lovers are able to construct a timeline of their life based on the books they’ve read – books read while traveling, sitting by a roaring fire escaping the frigid and relentless chill of winter, nursing the pains of a heartbreak or seeking advice about a career choice. For example, I still have the books I read while I was sick in fourth grade for two weeks with influenza, I still have the book I read on my first day at my new high school and the books I read my senior year of college to help define my path after graduation. Throughout all these situations and more I found liberation and inspiration in the total captivation of the book in my hands. The weight of the pages keeping me connected to my morals and ambitions when everything seems out of control. These books still sit on my bookshelf not only as a beautiful display of literature but as a tribute to my life, preserving my past, sculpting my present and motivating my future.

To consolidate the effect of books into one cold, gray mechanism seems insulting to the stories and their readers. Books are cozy and personal, inviting the reader to curl up and lose him or herself in the story. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can’t see curling up with a piece of technology to be very comfortable. In addition to comfort, much of the aesthetic and historical value disappears when converting to e-readers. The cover illustration and font, a delicate and profound art form transcending decades and even centuries, establishes the tone of the story, often possessing as much character and heart as the story itself. Reducing such glorious and thoughtful works of art to a meager thumbnail portrait or eliminating them completely and merely displaying the title in a simple font is a tragic loss of artistic and historical value.

Furthermore, books passed down through generations become treasured, historical artifacts and family heirlooms, composing the landscape of many homes and gatherings throughout time. Survival through years of handling preserves the talent and skill required of the binding process. As skilled publishers ensure books are capable of standing the test of time and wear, they guarantee their dependability, year-to-year and day-to-day.

One cannot properly assert the value of books over e-readers without mentioning the obvious and indisputable fact of reliability. Books will never lose battery power, require an outlet to charge, freeze or crash. Books are constant, offering sanctuary as long as you desire and as long as the pages remain intact. Escape should not be dictated by the longevity of a battery charge. Reading on an electronic device also presents the irresistible temptation to tap open a different app, check your email, social media accounts, or play a game. This creates distracted and anxious circumstances for the reader, diminishing the luxury of reading: ultimate escape. Connecting with a physical book engages all the senses, even smell, making it a restorative and meditative experience.

I have yet to find a channel for escape possessing more power than books. Books and stories have the uncanny ability to offer unshakable quiet and solace during the most chaotic moments in life, a phenomenon I doubt will change. I find my most peaceful moments occur in bookstores and libraries. No matter where I am, when life becomes too much for me to handle, I’ll steal away to the nearest library or bookstore to calm my mind. In the presence of books and the epic characters and stories they contain, life grows quiet and relaxed. Being surrounded by bookshelves instills in me the feeling of utmost safety with the promise of distraction, understanding and entertainment everywhere I look. Seeing titles I recognize from various points in my life, titles that helped shape who I am today, sitting on the shelves loyally offering their stories whenever I should require inspires me to push through life’s toughest challenges. Seeing titles I have yet to read assures me that no matter my position in life, there will always be a book to provide appropriate and resounding insight.

While many prefer to travel with a digital library in their pocket, I know I never will. For as long as books continue to be loyal to me, I will continue to be loyal to them, cherishing their covers and pages for as long as I live.

IMG_0287 Only a portion of my treasured book collection, overflowing from the shelves of my great-grandmother’s bookcase.

The Word: Learn

Children are notorious for asking an overwhelming amount of questions about anything and everything, liable to drive grown-ups absolutely insane. Often as we grow older this fervent hunger for answers and wonder at the world around us diminishes. We settle into a pattern with life, complacently accepting aspects of the world around us without question. No longer learning, just merely accepting. Rekindle that child-like wonder at the world around you. Question everything.

This time of the year means final exams for many students, a particularly hectic and stressful time of the year often resulting in some type of emotional trauma. For the first time in years I don’t find myself locked in the library, poring over old notes, mainlining coffee, frantically filling my mind with four months’ worth of information. Although I enjoyed school and made excellent grades, I don’t envy my friends enduring the trials of semester exams. In fact, I am positively elated that I never have to step foot inside an academic institution ever again.

Don’t misunderstand me, I am a huge advocate for higher learning and appreciate the wonderful education I received. Truthfully, I would not be the person I am today without school, both intellectually and personally. However, what I recently encountered and observed within myself as well as other graduates is a complacency toward learning after graduating. At first I felt justified in this mentality; I’ve gone through the recommended levels of education, acquired my degree and found employment in the working world. I served my time so to speak and am now free from opening a textbook ever again. Having a variety of interests and passions kept me busy in college as I joined many extracurricular groups and organizations both on and off campus. Extracurricular activities combined with academics made for an exhausting, albeit rewarding educational experience, but inevitably left me feeling burnt out once I graduated.

After a few months of R & R consisting of many “treat yo self” days, a philosophy I happily adopted through binge-watching “Parks and Recreation,” and the confidence and relief associated with landing my first big-girl job, I feel I can now finally release any lingering stress from school. Through that release I am surprised to discover the itch to learn creep into my mind. I’m not yearning for textbooks, term papers or lectures exactly, but for some other type intellectual stimulus. Despite years of education and the daily mental hurdles associated with adulthood to occupy my brain, I find my mind is restless and feeling far too empty for this large world.

I need to learn more, but I need to learn it differently. Now I strive to look at the world as I did when I was younger, eagerly seeking answers to a never-ending list of questions. Although school offers some freedom in exploring your own interests, I now have complete and total freedom about what, when and how I learn. The answer no longer lies solely in a textbook or weekly lecture, and the knowledge I learn post-graduation is no longer quantifiable in a final course grade. All learning occurring after leaving the confines of school happens on a much deeper and personal level. Realizing that I am now totally in charge of my own intellectual development from this moment forward is a responsibility I find incredibly daunting and invigorating.

School provides our minds with essential information during the most impressionable ages of development, but I believe the most important structure school imprints on our minds is the basic system for seeking answers. A teacher poses a question, and the student researches textbooks, lecture notes, etc. to find and provide the answer. This pattern diminishes upon graduation. The self-driven responsibility appears with the absence of the teacher to pose a question. Of course after graduation questions don’t disappear. In fact quite the opposite happens, they appear in abundance. What I notice disappearing today is the desire to seek the answer.

Based on conversations with friends who graduated before me I learned many of them still harbor negative sentiments toward learning, often shrugging off the unknown with a meager “I don’t know” and never probing further. These are people who groan at the thought of working to harvest the most basic information. This disregard for knowledge after school, after years of learning different tools and methods to find answers, is concerning and needs to change. Blatantly depriving yourself of any opportunity to explore, discover and learn doesn’t make your life easier, it makes it dull, stagnant and repetitive. In this scenario, ignorance certainly is not bliss.

The process of seeking an answer to a question is sometimes more important than the answer itself. Listen to the basic, childhood instinct to push further and learn more. Again, I’m not speaking in the traditional sense of learning by scouring textbooks for answers. I’m referring to learning through experience. Listen to that initial spark and feed that desire for answers through experiences. Now you have the chance to create your own syllabus, your own curriculum. Every question leads not just to an answer, but an experience.

Often we are self-conscious and embarrassed about what we do not know, especially when we reach ages where we’re expected to have a firm grasp on the world around us. Approaching new tasks and ideas with low confidence prevents us from fully expanding our minds. There is something to be learned from everything. No experience is beneath you or above you. Be ready to leap at any opportunity that crosses your path. Even if initially it doesn’t appeal to you in the slightest, try it anyway. There’s no telling where an experience will lead. Learn from your failures, learn from your successes, and let your experiences enlighten you.

Accept that you will never fully understand all aspects of this world, but also accept that there is much more to learn, and this knowledge is yours for the taking. Be brave enough to claim it. Relinquish the fear of judgment from others about what you do not know and question and explore the world around you. What you discover will fill your mind and change your life more than you could ever imagine. Try something you once told yourself you couldn’t do. Volunteer with an organization you know nothing about. Plan a trip someplace you’ve never been. Better yet, plan a trip somewhere that doesn’t speak your language. Attend a weekend seminar or convention. Provide some type of stimulus for your brain. All experiences lead to intellectual insights as well as personal revelations. You have a better sense of self when you continue to push the limits of you mind and learn. You now have the liberty to fill your mind any way you want. Let that instinctual spark to know fill your life with beautiful and rich experiences.

“The questions are always more important than the answers.” –Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

The Word: Think

With digital screens composing much of the landscape in our world today, the importance of thinking diminishes as we plug into seemingly more entertaining venues. This bombardment of outside stimulation programs us to believe our own thoughts and ideas aren’t enough to hold our interest. In today’s constantly moving world, we are rarely left alone with one of the most important people in each of our lives – ourselves.

Often when I let myself stare off into space and get lost in my thoughts I encounter strange looks from those surrounding me, provided they can tear themselves away from what currently occupies their attention to notice. There is no time to think. There is always some matter more important to attend to, requiring our undivided attention. Today it seems many classify the simple yet greatly involved activity of thinking as “doing nothing,” a notion I find utterly devastating.

Although the magnificent technological advances make a wealth of resources accessible anywhere, anytime, to anyone, this inundation of countless sources of entertainment, information and communication limits us. Today, our thoughts are underrated, underappreciated and underdeveloped. In essence we think all the time, in one capacity or another, but how many of those thoughts are original or personally reflective? People aren’t thinking for themselves as much as they used to, frequently spending that energy glued to digital screens. Our lives become a chaotic frenzy of activity as we attempt to keep up, constantly moving from one medium to another, offering little time to consult with ourselves about our own desires and needs. Thinking is worthy of the same amount of time, if not more, that we dedicate to everything society tells us to read, watch or experience.

I’m not proposing that usage of these resources deters mental or personal development and growth, but I believe excessive use, which many of us are guilty of, including myself, could reduce our quality of life. I have happily fallen into a Netflix vortex, watching hour after hour of a television until I finish the series. Given the opportunity I gladly wile away an afternoon engrossed in computer games only coming up for air around dinnertime. Spending days like this from time to time isn’t dangerous and can often be rejuvenating for the mind. The harm exists when activities of this nature consume our lives, and we turn off our brains distancing ourselves from our thoughts. A stagnant mind quickly becomes dull and dusty.

Furthermore, the unstable condition of the world today leads many to let work and finance thoughts consume their mind, often leading to stressed and frantic thoughts. While these essential aspects of life cannot be ignored, intense focus here without giving yourself a mental break burns the mind out. Without letting stressful thoughts go, your mind will falter under exhaustion.

The key to this overflow of stimulation is moderation. Be diligent and smart with your time, and carefully plan moments entirely to yourself for pondering. Don’t let screens and outside stressors hinder the power of your mind. You do not need to constantly occupy yourself with some tangible activity. Mentally focusing on your dreams, recalling fond memories, indulging crazy ideas and letting your imagination wander recharges you, making you and your mind stronger. Get lost in your mind.

Getting lost in your own thoughts is easier said than done. The mind is a scary place. For an over thinker like myself, I often get trapped in my mind, overanalyzing a myriad of ideas and memories until I am mentally exhausted. Akin to therapy and meditation, thinking forces us to acknowledge ourselves in the most personal way. Nothing else can do that. Outside factors and people may lead us there, but we ultimately make the decision to delve further. In the recesses of our minds we develop solutions to problems, comprehend emotions and realize dreams. Our thoughts give us direction, insight, help us formulate opinions and ignite us into action. We remember the past and envision the future. Through deep thinking and reflecting we find clarity and peace.

Take time each day to put aside all other tasks, worries and devices and let your mind wander. Simply sit alone with yourself and experience the beauty of thinking. Where you go may surprise you and it may hurt you. But above all else, thinking will liberate you.

The Word: Purpose

Everyone has purpose. However, in the wake of my graduation, I find myself wondering what my purpose is in this world. The big question everyone has, myself included, is what comes next. Where will I go? What will I do? How will my future endeavors affect society? What will I do to change this world?

Hearing a slew of motivational speeches directed at graduates like myself, prompting us to become innovators; to propel the world to a higher level of greatness, I immediately feel compelled to go out and discover the cure for cancer. Sitting in the gymnasium, holding my crisp and shiny degree for Drama and Mass Communication, I feel a wave of selfishness wash over me. I pursued these degrees because I wanted to, to fulfill my own dreams and bring myself happiness. I suddenly feel terribly inadequate and undeserving of the responsibility bestowed upon my shoulders to change the world.

It’s wonderful to have that inspiration, and I’m honored to know the world puts that much faith in our abilities, but an intense amount of pressure rides on those expectations and it can be suffocating. To keep myself breathing, I’ve come to the realization that every profession in the world, even ones initially sought to fulfill our own dreams, has the power to help the world. That our purpose is not necessarily to blatantly change the world by eliminating hunger or solving all the world’s problems, but can be as simple as living the life you want.

Every career path serves a purpose in this world just as every person has the ability to change the world. Acknowledge your career as an extension of yourself and use it to propel yourself and the rest of the world forward. Challenge yourself. Work to become a better you, whoever that may be. I feel today many people allow society to determine their purpose, living the way society says you should, in a monotonous pattern, continuously sacrificing their dreams to live a safe and unhappy life. There is more than one way to live. It’s hard to comfortably stray from that pattern, especially in a world as unstable as ours, but if you have the courage to let your personal purpose guide you, you will lead a fuller life, I guarantee you. By indulging in your own interests, you will better the world (provided you don’t embrace a life of criminality). When you do something you love, you emit positivity, passion and creativity, key characteristics of problem solvers and innovators, providing one with the power to change the world. Of course, the world today can’t survive on happy feelings alone, but positivity is contagious, inspiring others to take hold of their life and enhance their personal circumstances. As long as you live with integrity and positivity, there is a purpose to every track in life.

 

“Whatever you are, be a good one.” – Abraham Lincoln

 

Everyone is part of a domino effect. Next time you find yourself having an existential crisis, wondering what the meaning and purpose of your life is, remember that everyone’s actions, especially your own, define future generations, living in the memories of youthful onlookers. Everyone leaves their mark. You may not be commemorated in books, monuments or films, but the memories and impressions you leave behind will hold a stronger tribute to your essence and your life. Don’t underestimate the power you have on those around you. Your purpose is to live a life full of passion, love and joy. That alone will provide endless inspiration to those around you to lead a similar lifestyle.

As I’m figuring out the next stages of my life, I reason with myself that I’m not going to go out and eliminate world hunger single-handedly or solve the global energy crisis. But I will live my life with meaning. A passionate life full of light and happiness doing what I love and encouraging others to adopt the same outlook. That is my purpose in life, and I will lead by example. Whatever you esteem to be, it will have a profound effect on the world.  Define the meaning of your life, don’t let anyone else define it for you. You and only you can decide your “why,” your purpose for pursuing the life you want. Go open that bakery, base your life in travel, write the next great novel or devote your time to mission work. Whatever you want to do, do it. Now is the time. This is your life, live it with meaning.

 

The Word: Fear

 “Fear is not real. It is a product of thoughts you create…Fear is a choice.” – From “After Earth”

Fear is a choice. That notion still rolls around my mind as both incredibly unfathomable and immensely empowering. I believed for years that fear was inherent in all of us; everyone is afraid of something and that’s an unchanging fact of life. Why would anyone actively opt to be afraid? I’ve come to realize that fear is safe. It prevents us from taking risks and allows us to continue existing safely within our comfort zone, day in and day out, living the same way forever.

As a basic survival instinct we constantly scan our environment looking for potential threats and responding accordingly. Although, lately it feels as though everything is a threat, preventing one from truly living. We live in fear of everything. We’re terrified of each other, ridicule, failure and the unknown. Retreating further into ourselves and our established lifestyles, becoming frail and dull, seeking refuge in our habits, encouraging a mundane existence of safe routine. This is not living.

I’m not saying everyone should be fearless; I believe that’s unrealistic. Fear is a necessary element of life, offering the opportunity for us to evolve individually and as a group. But only if we address the aspects of life that terrify us. By succumbing to our fears and allowing them to lord over us makes us weak and limits personal and societal growth. Finding it within ourselves to overcome fear is the greatest victory of all, better than whatever tangible reward we receive from beating that fear. The prize is staring fear in the face and telling it you are stronger than it, and you will conquer it. That sense of triumph is incomparable and worthy of tremendous celebration.

In five short months, I graduate from college. While a wonderful achievement it also means a complete upheaval of the life I’m accustomed to living. I haven’t the faintest idea of what I’m going to do after graduation, let alone where I’m going to live, and that is unspeakably terrifying.  

I’d like nothing more than to blame this upsurge of anxiety on my impending graduation, but this is not the first time I’ve felt paralyzed by fear. As I recognize fear becoming more prevalent in my life, I notice the same happening to everyone around me. People wear fear as though it’s the latest trend, worry lines and tension causing people to walk through life hunched over, completely withered by fear. Today, people are afraid of everything.

It’s tempting to simply claim defeat against my fear of the unknown and fear of failure, settling for a safe life rather than fighting for the life I want.  I’m afraid of making the wrong choice and becoming stuck on a track so distant from the life I want that it would be impossible to find my way back. However, a recent conversation convinced me that this fear is irrational. There’s no such thing as a wrong choice. Every choice is important and provides you with invaluable experience that will help guide you to what you really want. You just have to be brave enough to take the leap.

Therefore, as we begin this New Year, I urge everyone to take whatever your fears may be and challenge them with a new perspective. Learn to love the unknown. Let the unpredictability of this year fill you with life. Welcome anything that makes you afraid and find your strength to overcome it. Face your demons. Beat them down. Tell them they have no power over you. Fear may be a part of life, but don’t let it keep you from living.

“What if I’m not good enough?”

“Then you’ll get good enough.”

From the series finale of “Six Feet Under”

Live fearlessly, give it your all, don’t let the fear of failure hold you back from taking a risk and achieving something great. Even if your first effort isn’t enough, you will grow and adapt and next time, I guarantee you, it will be enough. Don’t let fear cripple you; let it fuel and inspire you in your every endeavor.

The Word: Technology

Spending time with my friends and family over summer break was essentially the same as always, except we were all joined by our smart phones. The numbers at get-togethers quickly doubled as smartphones and iPads quickly became “plus ones” each earning their own place around the table or a seat on the couch.   

One afternoon a friend texted me and asked about my plans for the day. I replied with “spending time with my brother.” Which was true, we were sitting on the couch together sharing time and space…however we were both scrolling through our phones. We were spending time together in the most literal sense of the phrase, hardly memorable or substantial to our relationship at all. It struck me that through the constant connection people now have with the world it was becoming rare to physically and verbally connect with someone sitting next to you.   

Our society constantly hears about the latest technology, advancing us to some supreme level of efficiency and power. We quickly upgrade to keep up with the world and see how this advancement improves our lives and overall well-being. Despite this promise of a better world, I can’t help but wonder if this societal advancement comes with a price: cultural destruction. To not participate in this phenomenon, one risks falling off the face of the Internet map, forgotten and nonexistent to those electronically attached.

In our haste to remain included in the ever-active, endless abyss of the Internet and the technological frontier, we lose sight of what is right in front of us.  We are surrounded by an abundance of stimuli. Personal interactions with friends and family keep our lives full. Physically exploring and discovering the diverse places in the world enrich our lives in ways technology cannot. In many ways, this dependency on technology enhances our world, providing us with an impressive exchange of information and ideas, offering tools to help us build a more connected and cooperative world. But this progress presents some negative side effects and I can’t help but wonder if our advancements are setting us back.

While technology shrinks our world it also shrinks our self-esteem creating hollow individuals, dependent on gratification from the Internet. Today people think in terms of Facebook statuses and Tweets, hoping to garner attention from their peers. I often find myself trying to escape that same trap, limiting the amount of times I check my blog, Twitter or Facebook for updates, views or comments. We need electronic gratification to boast our own self-esteem, because we seem incapable of doing it without the help of a few likes on our latest Facebook post. We turn to technology for approval. Everyone is guilty of this; being accepted in the online and technological social world carries just as much weight, if not more, than being accepted in the real world. A strong online presence is essential in today’s society and with technology it is easier than ever to achieve. This task and obligation of constantly being plugged in drains us, making it impossible to find the energy to experience and interact with the world directly in front of us, and that is a great tragedy.

Technology presents us with wonderful opportunities and helps our world progress in leaps and bounds. However, we need to recognize how much it affects us.

It can become a tantalizing obsession and if we’re not conscious of its hypnotic effects, great portions of our lives will be lost in the vast vortex of the Internet. I am in no way proposing a boycott of technology, in today’s world that would be ludicrous and impossible. I am proposing a balance, unplugging from technological devices and reconnecting with the world around us. Interacting with what already surrounds us will save our society from the threat of cultural destruction technology poses.

So go on that adventure you’ve had on your favorites bar online or pinned to your travel board on Pinterest. Consider the Internet and technology as a launch pad for enriching your life, a way to prepare you to meet it head-on. It’s time to stop experiencing the world through a screen and go explore it and its people for yourself.   

The Word: Dreams

Growing up in theatre, I’ve learned that more often than not, people will doubt you. Elaborate and daring dreams are adorable when you’re 5, but by the time you move on to college, people expect you to move on from your childhood dreams as well. You now must give in to society; succumb to its pressure to sacrifice that dream of being a Grammy winning singer for the respectable career of an accountant. Now is the time to squash whatever hopes you had of becoming an Olympian and embrace a career in business.

Throughout high school I had teachers try to convince me numerous times to not pursue theatre. They happened to be (failed) actors who sold out and became high school teachers instead. They feared I would be wasting my brains and should instead set my sights on a profession in foreign languages or a governmental job, something a bit more professional and lucrative.  After holding on to concerns like these from my teachers and others for years now, I began to look at it with a different perspective. Perhaps these people don’t have my best interests entirely in mind. Perhaps they were just envious. It must be intimidating to encounter someone who knows exactly what they want to do and believes so fervently in themselves that they will succeed. Why can’t we all have that confidence within ourselves? It was so easy when we were children to say with 100% confidence “When I grow up, I’m going to be an astronaut” or “When I grow up, I’m going to be a great actress.” Our imagination deteriorates with age, as does our self-esteem, and that is an epic tragedy.

Of course I should address that often people begin life in the real world fully intending to live out their dreams. I understand that extenuating circumstances sometimes lead people down paths different from their dreams, and living our dreams is not an easy task especially in today’s world. Obstacles do occur and deter us from the direction we really want to go, but they are obstacles for a reason. We are meant to attack our obstacles head on and overcome them. There is no reason why we all can’t have a job that makes us passionately happy.

Obviously, dreams morph and change a bit from our toddler days to college; ruling the world isn’t exactly a profession as you grow up, but it is absolutely essential to not sell yourself out to appease society. There are moments when you doubt even yourself and your abilities, another lesson I learned from my involvement in theatre. In those situations, get in touch with your inner child. Be true to your childhood passion and enthusiasm for your life and never lose that. Find what brings you happiness and fulfillment and live the life you dreamed about. If you’re embarking on whatever your intended career path is only because it appears to be more lucrative, stable and respectable than your dream job, then you’ve already lost.

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The Word: Writing

Writing is tough. Even with that first little sentence, all these rules and ideas come crashing through my brain exploding and jumbling into one big blur a GPS couldn’t even direct one out of to understanding.

There are some exceptions to the rules. Poets seem to make their own grammar rules and six year olds can write anything and anyone who reads it will instantly coo over it and applaud it.

Identifying the writing types can be relatively simple. Look for a notepad or a notebook filled with scribbles resembling an alien language that sometimes not even the author can decipher. When stricken with a writing bug they toss and turn at night, losing sleep as the bug plants a powerful idea in their minds consuming them, disrupting their lives, manifesting into an obsession.

Writers are a rare breed in our world today. Years of research papers, reflection essays, short answer response questions and the innumerable hand cramps harden kids against the appeal of writing. When a friend says they have a paper due, it sounds like a grim death sentence met with nods of sympathy from their peers. It is something one must do to pass a class, and we do it begrudgingly with groans of resentment. So why on earth would anyone want to do this to themselves in their free time for – can it be possible – FUN?

The answer lies beneath the academic pressures and rules of writing. Besides those guidelines there is something undeniably pure and beautiful about writing. I resolve to reclaim and revive this art form from the horrid connotations students associate with it.

There are various strategies writers use to rise above the roadblocks of writing to generate a great piece of writing. Some work with muses. There are of course those that get their best ideas sitting on the toilet. Some work best camping out in coffee shops or dimly lit bedrooms strung out on caffeine. Myself? I turn to my favorite quote from Ernest Hemingway – actually probably the only writing from Hemingway that I like – “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” That is the beauty and significance of writing. It is raw, real and alive. By simply combining words on a page you can inspire, create and imagine. The possibilities are endless. When writing, you are a painter without the paintbrush and spattered clothes painting just as vivid of a picture, sometimes creating an entirely new world by using one medium with more depth than any other art form. Nothing compares to the tremendous power a person receives when wielding words.

Because of this power, writing takes courage. It takes serious moxy to splay your inner thoughts on a page and allow others to read them, to show the world how you manipulate words to expose your innermost thoughts and opinions. It is therapeutic, expressive, risky and involved. The way you write shows a lot about you even if your thoughts don’t reveal much personal information. It makes you vulnerable to criticism and judgment of others that can cripple you. Your use of the written language can ignite a feud, demand respect or attention, negotiate peace, spark a romance and, it sounds cliché, change you and every aspect of your life.

Thus as the semester starts up again and you learn your professor requires five dense research papers, don’t let it bog you down. Channel your inner Hemingway or find another writer to use as your own muse and let your power flow through your words.

Here’s hoping you find the courage in yourself to unlock your words and give your writing power.

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