Accountable

I was sparked with inspiration today; an inspiration that I haven’t felt in four years. And with that inspiration I began what I swore to never attempt again: I began to write creatively. Some may say that a blog is creative writing, but nay, I say that it is merely speaking through written word rather than verbal. This creative writing I undertook today came in the form of what I hope will be a novel. How ambitious! you might say. Indeed it is. Which is why I am here, writing to the four or five people that are reading this, asking for you to keep me accountable. This requires nothing on your part except presence. As I work on this project, I will continue to make short updates like this. The more people that know I am working towards an end goal, the more motivated I feel to put effort into achieving that goal.

Well, that’s all for now. Hopefully you’ll be seeing more of these posts real soon…

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Drink it up

This post is about the ongoing struggle to bring clean water to communities around the world. It has not been sponsored by any organisations, but if you would like to donate to this cause, click the link below.

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As I took a warm shower this morning, it occurred to me, though not for the first time, that I am extremely spoiled. I am bathing my body in water that I could drink it is so clean. I can adjust the temperature to my liking, from frigid to boiling hot and everywhere in between. The soap I use is an inexpensive commodity. And I can afford to partake in this bathing ritual on a daily or even bi-daily basis. Yet I rarely consider this to be something special. Rather it’s just a chore. I know to budget 15-30 minutes in my morning routine for my shower. While I mindlessly stand there letting the water rinse the soap out of my hair, I’m calculating the traffic I will face on my commute to work. I don’t consider the number of people who struggle to have access to something so precious that I waste in daily showering and monthly car washes. So here are some facts I came across today that I would like to share (sources listed below).

There are 7.4 billion people on this planet.

Over 800 million people do not have clean water. That’s 10.8% of the world population.

According to Water.org, 2.3 billion people “[live] without access to improved sanitation.” That’s 31.1% of the world population. (More about improved sanitation)

Approximately 250 children are born every minute, but “every 90 seconds a child dies from a water-related disease.”

In all, about 1 million people will die of “water, sanitation and hygiene-related disease each year” (Water.org). That’s .014% of the population. Every year. Because they don’t have access to something as simple as clean water. And here I am living in the suburbs where in every house we all wash our cars every other week; take daily showers; run the dishwasher twice a day; do three loads of laundry per week; and run the sprinklers daily, even in the heat of the summer; where every other house has a swimming pool and every other town has a water park; where, when a sprinkler or fire hydrant breaks, it’s left unattended to for hours; where there are drinking fountains in public places every 100 meters; where every community and public park seems to have a “man-made” lake or pond, because people like to look at the pretty water that no one can drink.

But not all hope is lost. Organisations such as Water.org and UNICEF are researching new ways to bring safe water to communities in countries across the world. By building wells,  “[improving] sanitation, … and [advocating] for government attention and funding to key sanitation issues,” they are capable of closing the gap between communities with and without improved sanitation and improving the quality of life for billions of people around the world (UNICEF). I can’t even begin to think of all the things I take for granted in my first world, middle class life, but this revelation put a lot of things into perspective for me, as I hope it does for you. If you would like to read more about what is being done to improve the situation for these communities, check out the following links:

https://water.org/about-us/our-work/

https://www.unicef.org/wash/3942_43084.html

https://www.unicef.org/what-we-do#research-and-analysis

To learn more about the statistics listed in this post (and the ones not mentioned), check out these sources:

https://www.wateraid.org/facts-and-statistics

https://water.org/our-impact/water-crisis/

https://www.census.gov/popclock/

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Left Behind, but Not Forgotten

Late-Night Ramblings of the Average College Student

Around this time last year I was expressing my disdain for so called “New Year’s resolutions.” My argument has always been that if you truly want to make a change in your life, you don’t need a special day to do it. Just do it. I informally resolved to do a great number of things in 2017 at various times. Some of them I was successful in achieving. Others, not so much. Nevertheless, here is a sample of those resolutions.

Take more photos — no

Read more books — yes; and I feel severely more educated, mature, and enlightened because of it

Spend more time with friends and family — yes; and I feel happier, more connected, and less lonely

Make new friends — yes; I had the opportunity to work at Disneyland (and continue to do so), where I have made many new friends that bring more joy into my life each and every day.

Explore my school — yes; my university has a challenge to its students to explore the school and the city in which it is situated. I took the challenge and have completed 57/57 items on the list (items varying from things like “visit a professor’s office hours” to “attend homecoming” or “visit the music library”).

Write more blogs posts — no

Some of these goals may seem insignificant to the anonymous reader, but it is not the size of the goal that creates significance. Rather it is the impact the mere thought of the goal, of the resolution, on the goal-setter’s mind that creates significance. For example, I am an extremely shy person, so to resolve to make new friends was a big deal, but to succeed was unfathomably exhilarating and rewarding. But more importantly I think, it is all the unplanned things in between that happen, the things we call life, that matter the most and have the greatest impact upon the meaning of a “success” or “failure.” For example, I did not have the time, energy, or motivation to write as many blog posts as I liked. I thought I would be writing one every week, but I had more important things to focus on like getting good grades in school (mind you, I was taking 18 units), or working my two jobs, or just trying to be a healthy, if extremely stressed, person.

This is more of a personal journal entry than the type of posts I would like to write, but I want to make a permanent statement about my opinion of 2017. As far as national and world news is concerned, I hated it. It was such a tragic and deplorable year and I try not to spend my New Year’s Day thinking about all the depressing things that had happened the prior year, but it can be hard not to. And yet, sometimes on a large scale, and sometimes on a small one, beautiful things happen. After each tragedy, there was a strengthening in community. There were births and marriages, and I had the privilege of knowing many people who experienced one or the other. As for me, it was a difficult, exhausting, painful year. But I survived it. I am leaving it behind relieved and entering into this new year rejuvenated. I am hopeful and excited for the future that lay ahead of me. I have left the past behind, but I will remember my wins and losses, my successes and failures, because they make me wiser and stronger as I take each day as it comes and prepare for each challenge that arises.

Someday

2012-12-27-7ae2e3d

In my last post, I expressed my distaste for New Year’s Resolutions and resolved to make Life Goals instead. Well here we are, three months into the year, and I must say it feels great not having any resolutions to upkeep. By extending the deadlines for my goals from one year to one lifetime, I feel less pressured to be working on them every day. I feel no guilt in spending three months inactively working towards my goals, because what is three months when I’m going to live until I’m 104 (I really want to live in three different centuries. How’s that for a life goal?)? But I won’t have a blog a century from now (at least I don’t think I will…), so let’s analyse the first quarter of my year.

I told myself at some point in the last six months that I was going to make a greater effort to be social and that I was going to put more effort into my relationships. Because I’m an extremely shy and awkward human being, the whole reaching-out-and-making-new-friends thing didn’t go too well. I’ve met plenty of people in the last six months, but I only consider four of them to be friends. At first, that number really bothered me. ‘I can count my friends on one hand,’ I’d say to myself. ‘How pathetic.’ And then I realised that I was considering quantity and not quality. Each of those persons is wonderfully encouraging and interesting and they are the people I call on a Wednesday night and meet at a bar three hours away on a whim. There are dozens of people whom I have the privilege of enjoying the company of, whom I chat with at work or on the way to class, but these four people became my coffee mates, my drinking buddies, my hiking pals.

So what am I getting at? In previous years, I’ve tended to avoid social interactions for fear of not knowing the right things to say or not fitting in, etc., but the more time I spent with these people, the less I worried about those things. My overall mental health improved. Anxiety was reduced and an overall feeling of joy replaced my former fearfulness. This encouraged me to spend even more time with them, strengthening our relationships further. It encouraged me to reach out to people I had lost contact with and to seek new relationships. My point here isn’t just that having friends is a blessing and I’m so grateful for every person in my life, although that point does pay a lot of rent. I want to emphasise the nowness of it all. For ages, I’d put off facing my discomfort in social settings. I knew for a fact that if I practised at it, I’d eventually become more comfortable, but it was facing the temporary discomfort that pushed me away. So although I still encourage any one reading this to not constrain themselves to a year-long resolution, don’t use the life-long alternate as a fancy way of procrastinating your goals. Because if you keep procrastinating, waiting for some day in the future, eventually you’ll reach your last day and still be waiting. And if you’re like me and are putting off social interaction, you’ll end up spending that last day alone.

Inspired by the ever wonderful Minimalists’ video

I Don’t Like New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year! You’ve lived another 365 days! Right about now you’re probably planning out your New Year’s resolutions for 2017. For those that may not know what this, it’s when people resolve to change something about their lives in the coming year by exercising more, being nicer, volunteering, etc. (For more examples and a brief history of the origins of this tradition, read the 100% always reliable Wikipedia page.) In previous years, I’ve made such goals as ‘get better grades’ and ‘read more.’ I would never actually work any harder to achieve these goals than I had in the past, but it made me feel like I was working towards something when I looked at my list of desired accomplishments.

Let’s face it: we all do this to an extent. One of the most common resolutions is to get fit or exercise more. Maybe you start working out on January 2nd and you feel great buying workout clothes and going to the gym and eating celery at every meal. But then the first Saturday of the year comes, maybe on January 6th, maybe on January 3rd. And suddenly it’s just too cold outside to go running and your bed is so warm and comfy and no one could possibly go running in the rain when their bed is so inviting could they? So you say ‘just this once, I’ll take a break,’ and eleven months later you’re back where you started: no exercise routine, making goals to do better next year, feeling guilty that you didn’t achieve last year’s goals. But here’s the thing, and you might want to brace yourself for it because it may come as a shocker, January 1st is no different than December 31st!! The sun rises and sets like every other day in the year. There is nothing unique about January 1st. WE give meaning to it, saying, ‘This is my year. This year will be different.” Will it? Will it really?

I’m not planning on making any ‘New Year’s resolutions’ for 2017. Not because I think I’m perfect the way I am and there’s nothing I think I could do to improve myself. I’d like to volunteer in my community more and I’d like to exercise more and I’d like to have a diet that contains something other than goldfish crackers and cupcakes. But I find that making goals with a 365-day time constraint just makes me anxious. Instead of having ‘New Year’s resolutions,’ I think we should simply have ‘Life Resolutions.’ We all have things we’d like to do and things we’d like to work on throughout our life. Instead of making the same resolution every year and not 100% achieving it by the end of that year, or even the next, I’d rather set a goal for my life. When I’m lying on my deathbed, I’m not going to be thinking about the New Year’s resolutions I did or didn’t accomplish. I’m going to look back at my life and wonder if I was a good person, if people liked me, if I showed love and compassion, if I valued time with friends and family above money. And I guarantee you that if someone offers me a cupcake before I breathe my last, I will not tell them, ‘No thanks, I’m on a diet.’ I will devour that cupcake, even if it kills me a few minutes too soon, because I want to take chances and I never want to take advantage of the limited time I have. It’s also rude to decline cupcakes…

‘What you do today can improve all of your tomorrows.’ -Ralph Marston

Things I Liked About 2016

There’s no denying it: 2016 was not an easy year. It seems like when we refer to 2016 as a whole, we think of the lives lost to cancer and those taken in terrorist attacks. This year has had no shortage of bad news, but it has also contained some good news. Child mortality rates are decreasing worldwide, as are the statistics for world hunger. Several of the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria were found or released. And, despite your opinions on the outcome of the recent election, the United States continues to be a nation where all citizens (over the age of eighteen), regardless of race or gender, are allowed to vote. I’d also like to remind you that Leo finally got his Oscar.

I don’t like ending the day on a bad note because I know I’m not guaranteed to wake up any happier in the morning. I try to meditate and let go of all my unhappiness before settling down for the night. With only two days left to the year, this is the perfect time to meditate and prepare for 2017. Think about the things you actually liked about this year. I’m quite pleased with my list…

  • I read fifteen books
  • I met James Conlon
  • I got accepted into the university of my choice with a great scholarship
  • I shared a lot of laughs with friends over cute animal videos and memes
  • I headed a Dead Poets Society at my college for a few months
  • I watched my brother get married and gained an amazing sister
  • Three friends gave birth to healthy, beautiful children
  • I bought my first car
  • I met a ton of amazing people that have become great friends
  • I joined an a capella group
  • I tried my hand at retail work…
  • …And then decided that I would do better working at a gym
  • I watched SO many good films

I listened to great music and danced with friends and sang in the car and laughed until I cried and cried until I laughed. I spent time with family and friends and got back in touch with people I haven’t spoken to in years. Not every day was a good one. I truly hated a lot of days in 2016, but that doesn’t make it a bad year. There will be more bad days in 2017, but I have hope that I will find things in the coming year that make me happy as well. I look forward to the year ahead, knowing that it will hold many great adventures. I look forward to looking back on 2017 and thinking of how much I’ve grown as a person and all the things I’ve learned. I hope you do too.

Don’t Forget to be Awesome

Thoughts on Revision

I have no idea how to write a blog. I keep having this idea that I’ll start one; it’ll be a ton of fun; I’ll have so many good ideas that I write once a week; and then after a year, maybe less, someone will really notice me and ask if they can write a book about me or something. I’ll tell you what: my life is not Julie and Julia.

So I write fiction instead. That’s more manageable, or so they say. No audience waiting for me, no rules of being polite. Anyways, here I am revising an old short story I wrote my senior year of high school, and I have no idea how I even wrote it. Really though, I remember having the idea, I remember writing it in my notebook when I was supposed to be listening to my physics professor, but I don’t remember what it said. Now that I have the words in front of me, I don’t know how I came up with something better written than most of my work now is. As I’m reading it, I realise how amazing humans are. We can think and create and believe in so much.

I was trying to relate all of this to my boyfriend, and like the giddy little kid that I am when I talk about things that I like, I told him that despite being frustrated about not remembering how or why I wrote this story, that was okay. My life is so weird and I don’t even understand it. Sometimes it’s really scary, and sometimes I hate it, and sometimes really amazing things happen and I don’t know why, but they feel nice and I like remembering those times.

I guess Hans Christian Andersen was right. “The whole world is a series of miracles, but we’re so used to them that we call them ordinary things.” But he forgot one thing: the beauty of humans is that we have the ability to notice the difference between miracles and ordinary things when we open our eyes to them.

Welcome to WordPress!

Apparently cool people have blogs…

A bit about who I am now… Just your average college student, musing away her life in the Greater Los Angeles area, and wasting away far too much time on the Internet and with knitting.

As with most things I do, I don’t really have a plan here. I just thought a blog sounded like a good idea, and here we are…wasting away time on the Interwebs. We’ll see how long this lasts… (I like ellipses….)