Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Years Eve!


Wow. It's that time of year again- a day for everyone to go crazy and think of more and more elaborate ways to celebrate the coming of a new year. It's been a pretty good year, and like everyone else, I'm thinking ahead to this next year and all the things I want to do. My opinion on New Years resolutions? They can be good and bad. On the one hand they can really inspire people to start over with a "clean slate," to have a fresh start, to get rid of old habits and start new ones. On the other hand, it implies that New Years is the only time you can do that. I think every day should be cherished like New Years- every morning you wake up is another chance to start over, to live your life. But regardless, I'm still happy it's being celebrated all over the world.


The other side of the world is 12 hours ahead of us... they're already 4 hours into 2012. The picture above is one of Taipei 101. Needless to say, they celebrated by blowing a lot of stuff up. And Sydney, Australia? They're pros at this kind of stuff. People look forward every year to the new spectacles that Sydney Opera House will bring.


I guess this time of the year always brings need for a little reminiscing as well. A whole year's of memories can come crashing down on you if you just delve back into the past a little. It's a bit weird for teens, seeing as how we chronicle our lives in school years and the start of each new grade, but I can still remember last year's January 1st and New Year's Eve, the feeling of going back to school, the amount of snow still on the ground, waiting for February break to come... Anyways, I'm looking forward to tonight because I'll be spending time with friends and then later, after all the celebrating is over, spending some time in thought, reflection, and anticipation of the new year.

Enjoy New Years! Here's some premature celebration, but still pretty cool to watch. Handy if there aren't any midnight firework shows being planned around your area.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

WEEKLY CHALLENGE #11


It's awesome how my "weekly challenges" aren't weekly at all. I should call it "sporadic challenges" instead. Answer the question or challenge and I'll write about a blog topic of your choice!

WEEKLY CHALLENGE #11
Songs have different uses. Some are meant to make you cry, some are meant to make you laugh, some are meant to be sung at the top of your lungs in the car with all the window cars down... I have very different playlists for when I'm doing the things I like and when I'm doing my homework. Inception music, for example, is always a good kick to get you started on problem number one of your math homework. But what about creative writing? I never listen to songs with lyrics when I want to do some serious writing because they would distract me. Primavera is a beautiful song that I listen to over and over again because it sets me in a relaxed, peaceful mood. Here, try it yourself.


-So, what's a good song to listen to when you want to do creative work?
-Email me at tomilkyway4@yahoo.com with any suggestions and blog topics!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Christmas Story

Merry Christmas 2011 everyone!!


"But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.'" Luke 1:10. No matter how many times I go back to the bible and read about the birth of Jesus and the shepherds and the angels, it always strikes me as such a miracle. How miraculous was it that God actually sent his son to be born in the humblest of ways here on Earth! He came as the Savior for us all, and I think it's so amazing that people all over the world are celebrating the birth of Jesus right now. Not only are we celebrating Jesus' birthday, but we're also celebrating the salvation and love that he brought to Earth. It's not even a holiday limited to one country or one culture, but one for ALL the people. That's what I think makes Christmas stand out... it's not all the presents and Christmas trees and cookies, but the meaning of the day to people around the globe, who are celebrating in spite of hardships and financial difficulties. In the end, though, you're never too old or too knowledgeable to hear the Christmas story again. This retelling of the Christmas story by the children of St Paul's Church will make you smile.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!


Happy Holidays! There's something about the Christmas/Kwanzaa/Hanukkah season that warms the heart and lifts the spirit. It's something that is hard to pinpoint, but it lingers in the chilly December air around us. We have little reminders everywhere- small decorations in grocery stores, Christmas trees tied to the roofs of cars, holiday displays in stores, the surfacing of ugly holiday sweaters... people are excited. The year is coming to an end and people need a break from school and work. It's always a happy and eventful time of the year, but also one that is stressful. Go to the local mall and people are crowded in stores, waiting in lines, furiously shopping and preparing gifts. That nagging responsibility to buy gifts is stuck in the back of your mind. Sometimes it's good to just take a step back and smile, to appreciate all the winter holiday cheer without being buried in the stress.


The best part to the winter holidays is getting to spend some time with the family, though. With school over (thankfully), I can really take some time to just relax. The gifts and food are nice too, but it's important not to focus on them so much that you neglect the really important things in your life. Take a moment to really talk with your siblings. Watch a movie with your parents. Go out shopping with friends to spend time together with them and not necessarily to buy gifts. Though we're a bit lacking in snow in Syracuse this year, I still love the entire winter season and all the excitement leading up to New Year's. These are some of the best moments of the year, and I want to make sure I don't miss them. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bracelets to Change the World


I've always been a bracelet person. I like the individuality that comes with wearing something so simple and yet subtly noticeable. They're comfortable and not as bulky as watches. They come in just about every color and pattern. And for me, wearing a bracelet is like making a commitment- I always wear them for an extended period of time, for as long as I can. Whether it's one my friend made or one I bought one from some sort of fundraising event, I like to wear the bracelet until 1) it falls off from wear 2) I lose it 3) I'm forced to take it off during the school soccer season according to the rules of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association. (And even then I made sure to put it back on after the game).

I don't think I'll ever completely forget any of the bracelets I've worn during my life. Like songs, bracelets too can be tied to memories or certain periods of my life. Like the plain brown one I made at Sabattis Boy Scout Camp way back when, or the white-green-blue-black one I wore when my family went back to Taiwan to visit relatives, or the Salvation bracelet I made this past summer with my elementary small group at church. They looked something like this, and were especially meaningful to me because the colors explained and reminded me of my faith.


Other people certainly know what I'm talking about when I say I get attached to my bracelets. Some of my buddies on the soccer team never took off their bracelets or headbands during the season and taped them down instead, claiming that they were their "lucky bracelets" for all the games. There's also so many variations of the Livestrong bracelet out there that people seem to have their own personal version/combinations on their wrists at any given time.


The thing that really popularized Livestrong bracelets and just bracelets in general, I think, is the strong association they have with cause or mission. Livestrong bracelets were originally founded to raise funds for cancer, and have sold as many as 80 million individual bands so far. Other fundraisers consistently use bracelets as an eloquent and attractive way to make profit as well as spread popularity and awareness.


The one I'm wearing right now, pictured above , is a bracelet I bought at my church to help support a mission  trip to Guatemala. It's a constant reminder on my right wrist to pray for those less fortunate in the world and also for those who may not know God.

And the way I see it, bracelets have and will be a way to change the world. A few weeks ago, my school held an assembly to talk about the Invisible Children organization and showed the video Tony, a powerful documentary detailing the story of how young people across the nation have been rising up to help the children their age in northern Uganda. For years the area has been plagued by war, riveted with violence and child abduction led by Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army that is responsible for much of the war. Invisible Children is a non-profit organization that is looking to raise funds to provide education and scholarships to students in Uganda, to improve village and refuge camp conditions, and to create global awareness to pass legislation and suppress some of the terrorist actions led by Joseph Kony. The bracelet campaign by Invisible Children as explained here is something truly motivating. It ties in everything there is to say about the situation in Africa, and makes the contribution that much more personal and memorable by including a story about a child in need.



After the assembly at my school and some time spent watching all the videos on the Invisible Children website, there's a profound emotion that's still pulling at me. 75% of you right now are reading this from somewhere in the U.S. Another 20% are from the United Kingdom or Canada. How many children in Africa do you think have access to the internet? How many in northern Uganda even have a safe home to return to? And I'm not saying we should just focus all our attention on Africa- there are so many parts of the world that are not as privileged as we are. They're not fortunate enough to have basic amenities or a place to stay. Half a million Americans are homeless right now. And yet all I'm doing right now to help them is typing on a computer screen, sitting in a chair and wondering how much of an impact words really have. We HAVE the resources to make things right in the world. All we lack is time and effort and commitment. Which is why I like the bracelet campaign so much, because having something to wear really reminds you and keeps you conscious of the things outside your own life. So could bracelets change the world? Maybe. But the awareness that they bring would be a pretty good start. 



Daft Hands - Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

This song brings back memories of working out over the summer at LeMoyne college. Great song, but this person takes creativity to a whole other level. Seriously, who has time to think up something like this? Kudos to them I say, I was bored for the first 50 seconds but was smiling for the whole rest of the video.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Finding Your Identity in Life


I am here. The peak of my senior year, the youngest I will ever be for the rest of my life. So many possibilities and dreams before me, so many decisions and opportunities awaiting my first footsteps. I have 17 years of life, experience, and knowledge behind me, yet I wonder- how can one not be petrified to continue stepping into the vast unknown? I'm almost done travelling through this gigantic, dark underground tunnel we like to call high school. College is approaching, and I can almost feel the light on the other side. (Well, I don't actually give my high school enough credit- it may be a dark underground tunnel, but it's filled with flashing neon signs and all kinds of cool illuminated objects, floating memories, loud, pumping techno music, and the laughter of close friends).


It's been quite the journey- late nights laboring over homework, agonizing over questions in numerous textbooks, staring at a computer screen with sleep-deprived eyes for half the night to finish essays, trying to stay awake during class... and what has it all been for? To get into college. But now that that's said and done, what's to become of the rest of my life? I'm no longer swimming through a multitude of deadlines, projects, scholarships, homework, and obligations, so what becomes of my time?

I'm using it to find myself. For the past twelve years, school and grades have been such a large part of my identity, and for good reason, too- when you spend so much of your time and effort into one thing, it starts to  naturally become a part of you. We all have definitions of ourselves, definitions of our existences, and deep down, school has always been a part of it. I'm only now starting to realize the scope of my life that comes after school ends, my whole life ahead of me. School has done a great job in preparing me with an education, but the true test comes afterwards. It's during these next few decades that I'll really find my purpose and identity.

Let me explain further. I've always been a relatively competitive person, something that came about from being a top student in school and being around others who similarly worked hard to be the best. It was a contradicting side to me, because I don't like to be competitive and I hate the pressure that comes along with it. But I would naturally compare myself to others, to try to gauge my own merit, to have a piece of identity to tie myself to. Everyone does it, I think, but people have varying degrees of how they show it or deal with it internally. At any rate, I do it to feel secure in myself and my identity. I'll be the first to admit that I used it to rationalize failure as well... "Oh, I did worse on that test, but at least I'm still better at sports." We all play the game where we internally compare talents and traits to others, something that is extremely hard to refrain from when you have friends of similar talent and accomplishment. There's a fine line between admiration and jealousy, I've found, and it's hard to control which side of it you feel most, even if you can control which side of it you show. You congratulate your friend and shower them with compliments, but secretly you feel a bit sick to the stomach because they achieved something great and you didn't.

It's not the most positive topic to talk about, but it's something I feel the need to address because we all experience it. In the end, I think it's character that determines how you control your competitive nature. You might be bitter at first that your friend got the lead role in the play, but bitterness eventually gives way to joy for your friend- pure, untarnished joy for what they've done and accomplished. And there is hope because that too, is an inherent characteristic to humans in my opinion. And so comes the ultimate question- how do you control your jealousy in those types of situations? How can you be happy with yourself without worrying about others? Competition certainly isn't bad, and it's definitely brought out the best of me these past few years, in all aspects of my life, but there comes a time when I just want to shed all of that and truly be happy with my own identity.

I think that time is now. I've come to accept that there will always be people out there who are better than me, whether it's at soccer (okay I realized that a long time ago), sports in general, music, writing, studying, or any combination of the above. There are unbelievable people out there, and it's hard to have faith in your own worth and talents. So how do you differ from 99% of the other people who aren't "the best." Passion and attitude. Those two things alone, I believe, greatly define people from high school and on through life. Back to the tunnel scenario- academics and the gain of knowledge are represented by the tunnel itself and the tracks I was moving along on. But all the other things, the embellishments and the rainbow streaks and the lights- they represent the clubs I've joined, the sports I've played, and the music groups I was a part of- the whole rest of the high school experience that many people overlook. Those are the passions I've developed. Sure, I wasn't first chair in band all the time, but I loved playing music and I love playing duets with my brother or other people on various instruments. I might not get recruited for Division I soccer, but it's still my favorite sports and brings me immense satisfaction. So really, in the end, it doesn't matter how you compare to others in the world in terms of pure accomplishment or talent. Not many of us will reach a point where they can truly say they are the best at something (unless your name happens to be Usain Bolt, for example), so in the end it's how you view life that's important (quite the paradox, huh, you live life to discover how best to view life).


And that makes ALL the difference. For a lot of kids who were at the top of their class in high school, college comes as a shock because it's a whole new ball game. Because they built their whole identity on being the "best," their self-image crumbles when they meet all these amazing people just like them, if not better. For me, contrary to feeling self-conscious about that, I feel pumped and extremely lucky. I'm excited to meet all these incredible people in college, and hopefully I'll learn a lot from them and be inspired by their accomplishments. I've decided that when I finally get there, however, I won't feel pressured to compete with them. I'll simply forge my own identity by being honest and true to myself. And with that mindset, I feel pretty invincible. School's ending, but at the end must come a beginning- the beginning to to the rest of my life. The beginning to explore the passions I've discovered during high school. The beginning to do the things I want to pursue for my sake and no one else's. One of those things for me, for example, is travelling and seeing the world, like the guy in this video. (A friend of mine showed me this video the other day, and it totally made my day- I was grinning throughout the entire video)


So even if you're like me and haven't really found your identity, just keep on celebrating life and you'll get there. I hate the idea of "finding a niche," but I think it's a reality of the world. We can't do everything, or strive to be the best in everything, so choose the things that matter the most to you. In fact, I think it's harder to choose what NOT to do in your life. That's why I love writing in this blog- at least for now, I'm free to write about anything and everything that crosses my mind. Sure, all the blog experts insist that successful blogs only focus on one issue or one particular niche, but I haven't yet decided if I can do that to myself. The same goes for college- I haven't decided which path I want to take, but I trust that the choice will come to me eventually. When it comes, though, I'll embrace it as finding my own identity.


For me, especially, this whole thing goes along a lot with my faith, and giving up my life for God. Bible study, going to Saranac Village, and quiet reflection have lead me to the conclusion that faith in Jesus Christ is the best solution. He will lead me if I put my trust in Him, and glorifying and getting closer to Jesus becomes my purpose in life. Proverbs 3:5-6 continues to reassure me. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." And so I'm here, standing at the end of a tunnel, waiting for the light to come so I can see which path to take and how to trust my own identity.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Wedding Dress- Taeyang (DJ Changsta remix)


Remixes are good. I love the original, but this song got me through my homework today. (You know, when you don't feel like doing any work, so you find an inspiring song on your ipod, listen to it fifty times on repeat, start dancing through the house in front of your confused parents, bob your head and drum your fingers in the air, and feel a rush of energy that propels you through an entire english essay and all your calc and chinese homework?) Music is such a lifesaver sometimes.


Matching your own standards


At what point do things become more of a matter of self-expectation than expectation from others? It's a feeling that's hard to explain. Everyone keeps mentioning that "oh, it's your senior year, you're basically done and can slack off." But there's something inside of me that refuses to just let everything go. Of course, people with senioritis don't completely forgo work, but it's the mindset of "I don't care" that starts to influence their work. I got a test grade that was much lower than usual a few weeks ago and I felt myself grappling with a similar situation. A part of me wanted to blow it off, but another part of me was berating myself for the low grade. No matter where you might be throughout your senior year, it's never a good feeling to achieve less than what you know you can achieve.

I guess it's something hardwired into my brain. It was just that feeling of "darn, I could've done better" that stuck with me the rest of the day. I get it all the time when I miss easy questions or get points taken off for careless mistakes. So at that point, I was trying to differentiate between being apathetic and accepting it and moving on. I definitely understand the whole senioritis concept but I don't think my brain will ever let me be totally careless about all my schoolwork. Or any work, for that matter. I was in the library the other day volunteering and shelving books. I had a huge cart of children's picture books and was dutifully shelving them alphabetically (well what other way would you shelve them?) when I saw a bunch of books misplaced on a shelf. I could've just skipped over it, thinking that it wasn't my problem, as long as I did my part right. But I couldn't. There was that twinge of guilt, that prodding of my conscious, that even against my rationale and will, forced me to go back and rearrange all the picture books on the shelf so that it matched my internal standards. Orrrr it was just a hint of my OCD, but I guess I'll leave that up to you.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

VERSE- brothers and sisters in Christ


Proverbs 17:17
"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity."

There is nothing more important to the Lord than love. As teenagers, we witness and experience the lack of love every day. It seems as if sometimes, there is anything but love for one another. Inadvertently we turn to jealousy, anger, disrespect, and hate as small conflicts come up in our daily lives, often using profanity and vulgar humor instead of encouraging and loving words. There are many, many passages in the bible that talk about loving your neighbor as yourself. The hard part is not necessarily loving your friends and family, but the strangers you don't know and the "enemies" you don't get along well with as well.

I was blessed enough a few weeks ago to be able to go to Saranac Village for Fall Weekend, along with forty-ish other high schoolers from our local Young Life group. Thinking back on the whole experience, I realize the thing that made the trip so memorable was not all the fun things that we did, but the fact that I was able to spend a solid three days with a group of awesome people. I got closer to the people I didn't talk to much, I strengthened relationships I already had, and I talked and understood more about people that I saw on a daily basis but never had quality time to really share together. They were truly my friends, always loving and always supportive. The act of worshiping God together, as a group, bonded us in a way that I never want to lose. We spent so much time together doing everything, including eating and sleeping that for those precious few hours I could see us as a real family in Christ, not related by blood by through our common acceptance and belief in Jesus our Savior. I was always safe in their presence, as secure and comfortable as if I were living with my own family.

I saw this especially with the guys that we shared a cabin with. Aside from me, there were 9 other seniors, 3 great leaders, and 6 underclassmen that made it the best weekend of my life. When we came together at night we would talk and share our thoughts without fear of being judged. All of us knew that if we had something troubling us, we could talk to one another. All of us knew that if there came a need, we would support each other through thick and thin. Having that close, tight bond for the days we spent at Saranac was worth more than anything I could imagine. I'm beginning to understand a bit more about God's purpose in creating us. He wants us to be together, to worship and pray together. As humans we weren't made to exist alone, but to seek each other out and build relationships, relationships that are enhanced by our devotion to God.


Now that I'm back, I have a deep desire to go back to Saranac, to experience again the times I simply walked around or sat down and talked with my friends. "A brother is born for adversity," Proverbs 17:17 says. It's hard to transition back into my old life, but reassuring to remember that if anything comes up, I can lean on my brothers for help. I want to surround myself with people who will keep my accountable, who lift God up through their actions. They're not perfect people, certainly, just as I'm not perfect and no one on the planet is perfect. But having God's love in them is good enough. I may feel sad and lonely and detached from the people I spent an awesome Fall Weekend with as time distances us, but I can remember that we are still brothers and sisters in Christ. I don't remember the exact moment, but there was one time during club that I distinctly remember feeling especially emotional about it. We were sitting down and singing, and I just took that moment to look around me, at all the joyous faces and familiar voices... people I felt a deep and powerful connection to after sharing just a few days together. And I realized- these were the people I would be spending eternity with. These people were my family. I don't ever have to feel sad because I know in the end, I'll be able to sing and spend my days like I did at Saranac- with a family of people that I trust and love.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Turkey Day 2011!


Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!! I would first like to say that I'm thankful for so many things in my life. My friends and family of course, and my brother (who I'm spending break with), but also for chocolate, sleep, cool morning fresh air, a keyboard, refrigerators, clean clothes, good music, and the ability to take a hot shower. I'm so grateful to have a few days off dedicated to relaxing and doing nothing. It's the little things that make break so awesome- having an ice-cold mountain dew in my brother's fridge to drink at night, comfortable t-shirt and sweatpants to change into it, hanging around the lounge and being able to play Foosball and pool, Raisin Bran for breakfast, a warm bed to fall into and sleep any time of the day, and just time to spend with family. God is so amazing to impart these blessings to each and everyone of us. Though at times they may seem mundane and common, they are really the things to be cherished. Take a moment today to reflect and feel like the luckiest person alive- because you really are- and then enjoy the day and fall asleep eating some good turkey!



Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dubstep- What Is It?


Whenever people ask me, "What the heck is dubstep?" I simply smile and shake my head. Without a word, I lead them to the closest computer and look up Skrillex or Nero or Mt Eden. If a computer's not available, I take out my ipod and hand them the headphones so they can experience the music for themselves. There's no other way to relate the experience. Any description I give them is useless. The definition I can think of for dubstep is "a genre of electronic music that makes heavy use of synthesizers, wobble bass, intense drum patterns, huge drops, keyboard, and unconventional sounds." But if you've never heard dubstep before, that doesn't really make sense- I might as well go with the above picture and say that dubstep sounds like armored tyrannosaurus rexes shooting laser beams through Cretaceous forests. Yeah. I encourage you to listen for yourself though- below are only two songs out of many. (When listening, keep staring at the picture above and comment on close you think it comes to capturing the music!)



It's a pretty jarring genre of music, but in a cool sort of way. It took me a while to get used to it, and even now I have specific preferences. There are a TON of artists and dubstep songs out there, so don't give up on the first few songs if you find them unappealing. Here's one of my recent favorites, a softer form of dubstep that ingeniously combines piano and dubstep.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

WEEKLY CHALLENGE #10

Double digits in weekly challenges! Let me take this opportunity to recap- I came up with the idea of doing these "Weekly Challenges" a month or two ago as a way to interact more with you, the reader. I figured if you're taking the time to read my posts, you're 1) a pretty interesting person yourself, with good taste in pictures, music, or videos to have stumbled across my blog 2) a fellow blogger 3) one of the other billion teenagers in the world. Whatever the reason, I want YOU to suggest a blog topic for ME to write about! And I'm not just being lazy in thinking of what else to write (I have huge list of unwritten topics at the moment), I honestly want to hear from some of you people out there and the experiences you've had. The "challenge" part is just an additional question I throw out there to make it seem more worthwhile- if you send me a blog topic without an answer I'll still gladly write about it. (If it gets to the point where my blog becomes a universal sensation and everyone is swamping me with responses, THEN I'll use the trivia to sort out the responses I'll use. I think I'm safe for now though).


Anyways, I recently finished all my college applications so I have lots more time. I just came back from the best weekend of my life. I'm getting back into the swing of things and I'm excited to be back and writing.

WEEKLY CHALLENGE #10
I think it's really interesting how colleges across the nations have changed their applications from long essays to much shorter response limits. For me, there's good and bad in both. For long essays, you have to worry a lot about organization, theme, structure, and the sheer volume that you have to proofread. Shorter essays may seem easier at first glance, but quality and creativity become much more important: short, concise, to-the-point statements need to be balanced well with the imagery and anecdotes and literary techniques that can fill up a longer essay. I'm very satisfied with the college app supplements I sent out, but it was during all the reworking and chiseling and remodeling my responses that made me think how much effort and time goes into writing a short piece. The famous quote goes, "Je n'ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte," or translated, "I would not have made this so long except because I did not have the leisure to make it shorter." (I'm glad six-and-a-half years of French education was not wasted on me, thank you Madame Hession!)


-Who was the original speaker of the quote, "I would not have made this so long except because I did not have the leisure to make it shorter?" (written in a letter to a friend)
-Answer and suggest a blog topic in the comments below, or email me at tomilkyway4@yahoo.com!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Greatest Weekend of My Life

People are always exaggerating in their speech- "That was the best cheeseburger ever!" "That was the best day of my life." "You saw that movie too? It was the best!" And so when I heard my friends from Young Life talk about going to the annual Fall Weekend camp and it being the best weekend of their lives, I always assumed it was just an exaggeration of speech. What could happen in two or three days that would really be life-changing and make it the BEST weekend of their lives? It must be just a really awesome, fun-filled trip, I thought.


Of course, until I went on it myself. It's one of those things you have to experience to believe. I literally just came home four hours ago from the Fall Weekend trip, having spent three nights at Saranac Village where the Young Life camp is located. The lake is right nearby and the cabins, though extremely nice, are dwarfed by the beauty of the trees and the rocks and the dirt paths and the Adirondack pine-infused air. I've been camping before a couple of times, but this was just different in all respects. There were about four to five hundred high schoolers at the camp, split between cabins and grouped by the areas they came from. At any given moment there was always something fun going on between the Game Room and the Club Room and the gym and the trails and the store and the hot-tub and the cabins and the lake, something exciting in the air emanating from all the high schoolers and their awesome leaders. Time was structured well- it wasn't a camping experience where the kids were just left there on their own for two or three days. It was a rotation between free time (which ranged from twenty minutes to an hour or two), meals, cabin time, crazy fun activities, and club- the congregation of everyone in the camp for passionate music and worship, hilarious skits, powerful messages/lessons, and all-around good fun to start things off. I don't want to spoil anything but it's beyond anything you can imagine (five contestants from the crowd were pied in the face within the first half hour of club Thursday night. And even then, though pieing makes everything better, it was tame in comparison to the things and competitions we had later on).


For club, we were all put into one enormous cabin, complete with a stage where things took place. I really gained a lot from the talks we listened to from Max, our speaker, who led us to the Bible and the Truth while telling us entertaining stories about his own life. The truth that was shared with us was that as humans, we're all people that are broken with sin. But as he talked throughout the days about Jesus healing people and saving them and giving them life from leprosy and fateful death, the execution of Jesus and his Resurrection, and his mission to give us life and forgiveness, I was able to get a better look at myself and my life.

My favorite talk was the one about chapter 5 in John. Near Jerusalem was a pool of water, where the blind, lame, and paralyzed are left hanging around and hoping that one day when the water stirs, they will be able to jump in first and be healed. With nothing left in their lives and no one to care for them, the disabled people there place all their hopes and lives into the pool, which in reality does nothing to heal them. Jesus comes in and doesn't even acknowledge the pool in the passage. He asks a man who had been lying there for 38 years, "Do you want to get well?" When the man responds yes, Jesus simply says "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk," and the man was healed. Max talked us through the story and related it to our lives as high schoolers, as adults, as humans in any point in our lives. Very often we place our hopes into these "pools," aspects of our life that we believe will give us satisfaction and healing when in reality they do not. For me, this would be music, sports, academics, relationships with others, and just about everything that a high schooler  deals with during their life. But like in the story, these "pools" do not heal us. They don't help us achieve God. They don't help us from our brokenness. Only our relationship with Jesus and his miraculous healing will give us what we need to live. That concept was hard to swallow.

Max had to explain that those things we do, schoolwork and extracurriculars and time with people, aren't necessarily bad. In fact, many of the things that we do are worthwhile and really great. But the important part was to understand the places they hold in our lives. These things shouldn't become our entire lives, the things we go to to feel good, the things we turn to for help and encouragement. They should come second to Jesus. And that really struck a chord within me. As a senior I had been stressing over applications and my future and which college I would get into. Hearing that message and story made me realize that if I place all my life and all my faith into Jesus, he'll take care of the rest. The other things that I do, the "pools" I sometimes dive into to seek fulfillment, really do nothing to help me without God. And Jesus, he's right there for me. In the story, Jesus walks up to the man and asks him if he wants to get well. Like that man, I want to get well. Before Fall Weekend I had been distracted- and I mean, horribly distracted, by just life in general. Soccer, college essays, fights with parents, whatever... everything but God seemed to find a way into my life. Having a few days to forget all of that, to have the most fun I've had in several years, and to be in the presence of such amazing people, was like a fresh breath of air. It was a relaxing break from life that I really needed. At one point I took a walk by myself through the trails to a spot where I could sit and look out into the lake, moved by an emotion within me to get away from everything and to find some quiet. Having time to be truly alone with God was a great blessing, and that time sitting on that rock was one of my highlights of the trip.


And the way I see it, everything about being at Sarance Village was a blessing. Some of it was pure fun for the purpose of having fun, but still important to clear my mind of all the junk I've had prior to the trip. It's also just a time to unwind, a few days of carefree-ness that I'm so grateful for now. And to top it off, I almost wasn't able to go to Fall Weekend. I had signed up late to a packed cabin and was one spot off from being able to make it. The day our area departed for camp, I was told that someone called in sick and that I would be able to take his place. I packed within the hour and was able to go meet up with everyone else.

And so it was just amazing. After a LOT of thought and consideration, during the night when I lay in my bunk, during the peaceful alone-time I had with myself in the woods, during the ride back, and during my first few hours back from the whole trip, I can honestly say that it's been the best weekend of my life. I can't remember any stretch of two to three days where I've had more fun. I can't remember any stretch of two to three days where I've had more meaningful conversation with my friends and leaders. I'm not saying that going to Fall Weekend with Young Life was life-changing, or that sitting on that rock looking out into the lake gave me a "lightning bolt to the head" experience, but that it was simply a good and pure time.

There's so much I would like to describe about the rest of the camp that I can't possibly hope to fit in. Meals were delicious, the kitchen staff really outdoing themselves in preparing us such a variety of great food. The Game Room was always a frenzy of foosball, Saranac Ball (an unconventional but addicting game played on a pool table), ping pong, and shuffle board. And of course, who can forget Deathack? That game deserves a post of its own. We played it until we dropped from exhaustion, then got up and played some more. It was awesome.

But all in all, I truly believe that the experience was as good as it was because of the PEOPLE that were there. I was in such good company throughout the trip that I can't even describe my feelings of gratitude and love for them. The guys in my cabin room, the eighteen other guys from my school, the leaders of our area Young Life... it was absolutely amazing being able to spend such quality time together. And everywhere I went, being with my brothers and sisters in Christ. It was such a comforting and secure atmosphere that I wish I could spend the rest of my life there, with those people.  I remember playing foosball with people I've never met before and chatting with random people in the trails. Everything felt close and connected because we were all there for the same purpose. I have to give credit to the leaders and directors of the camp as well. They made club fun and memorable. My two leaders were both parts of skits and performances, and watching them onstage was both exciting and inspiring. Getting to see my friend Irish step dance and cat daddy onstage was priceless. And of course, the 80's in the dance party we had was a million times better when I was grooving it out with my friends.

There are so many moments I want to cherish. Pieces of them fly out at me as I try to revisit the whole weekend in its entirety. Hot tub, water bending, shaving cream, cookie pieces, leprechauns, lobby, deathack, singing, four-chord song, sodypop, naptime, sunrise, zombie!, blow dart, moose moose moose, ewok, conch, single fist, 'Alec don't let go!', spartans... all of them shared with these awesome friends and leaders I got to bond with during an entire weekend. Being with the guys I roomed with even made things like car rides, sleeping, and eating fun. Good company makes anything infinitely better, I can tell you that. And as I look back, I realize something else. God clearly called and led me to Saranac this weekend, to have such an amazing and unforgettable experience. It was because of His company, and His company alone, that truly made these past few days the best weekend of my life.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Tossing Back a Starfish



It's so often that we look out into the world and feel dwarfed by the magnitude of the life and the seemingly insignificance of all our actions. I love this story because it reminds us not to lose faith in the small actions that we all go about every single day. We must never underestimate what a simple "thank you" or gesture can make in someone else's day. Did you hold the door open for a random stranger? Smile at someone who looked depressed or needed cheering up? Spent five minutes helping a friend with homework? Complimented someone for something you noticed about them that day? Or my favorite, offered someone a piece of gum? Yes, I was on the receiving end of that piece of gum the other day and I was just kind of taken by surprise. Usually it's always "that was my last piece!" or "I got this from someone else," but this person out of nowhere turned around, smiled, and offered me a piece of gum.

Usually it's the small things like that that really makes a person stand out to me. It doesn't even matter if they're conscious of doing it, they're making a difference with their attitude and actions. They may think it's insignificant, but it may mean the world to someone else. I actually want to go to a beach some time and spend some time picking up starfish and throwing them back, to know what it really feels like. I can only imagine the starfish would be pretty happy and look something like this:
Also check out this link, it's fun alteration of the same story and well-drawn. The last two boxes are awesome.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

White Blank Page (literally)

The fear of staring out into the unknown... the trepidation of starting a fresh new journey... the dread of marking up a pure, clean sheet of paper. Go ahead, look up at that graphic of a white blank page above these words. Let it strike fear into your heart. Have the untarnished whiteness swallow up your whole consciousness. Let it envelope your senses and numb your resolve.

No, it's not a white blank page as in a song by Mumford & Sons. It's an everyday, ordinary, piece of paper that you might grab to start your Math homework or a lined piece of loose leaf you take out to finally write an intro for that English essay you need to do. Or maybe instead it's a new "Document 1" on Microsoft word, the cursor blinking expectantly at you as you think of what to say, or the empty space in the text message box in your phone as you think of how to apologize to your girlfriend.

But get this- it's not actually the page that holds so much weight, that makes it tower like Goliath before you, that freezes you with indecision, but the fear of writing on that page. Writers face this monster all the time. So do artists as they stare at a blank canvas. Or composers who hear melodies in their head but don't know how to transfer it to paper. The reality is that everyone has a seed of doubt in them. Somewhere beneath all the motivation and drive and will, there is an uncertainty that latches onto your mind and stops you from committing to whatever it is you want to accomplish. People are afraid of imperfection, of creating something that is below their level of ability, of failing. They are afraid of the things that could go wrong, the things that won't live up to their perceived ideals. The fear of falling short of expectations is what really makes people hesitate.

It took me a while to get back to posting in this blog. Sure, I could use the excuse that I've been busy with school and sports, but there's not one hundred percent true. There were definitely times I had time but was afraid of taking the chance or afraid of risking the expectations that you, the reader, as well as myself, place on every character that I type here. But it doesn't just apply to writing. Athletes have to learn to pass over this moment of indecision. Freeze for a moment in a game and you're dead. My soccer coaches have told me again and again to not to be afraid of shooting because I might miss. "You'll miss 100% of the shots you never take," the saying goes.

But it never disappears. Every time I see a white, blank page I'm brought back to the brink. It's a moment of fear you have to conquer. Remind yourself that you don't have to be perfect. After all, I still think a page marked up with mistakes, failures, and sub-par material is ultimately more interesting than just a empty blank page.

Friday, October 14, 2011

People are awesome, but God more so


This is both fun to watch and amazing to think about. Can't help but feel a little bit inspired after watching this, huh? You might not be able to do some of the crazy stunts in this video, but every day you are doing amazing things as a human being. Conversing with one another, caring for each other, being able to relate to each other and the other 7 billion people in the world. Every person has amazing potential- just look at all the diverse sports and interests represented in a short 5 minute clip! I personally think that all my talents and abilities were gifts from God- there's no way I would be able to do all that I do on my own. In my mind, this video could just as easily have been titled "God Is Awesome," in the way that He is directly responsible for each and every one of us.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Reunited with eating apples the old fashioned way


There's nothing quite like biting into a crisp, firm, in-season apple. Got the picture in your mind? Sinking your teeth into that first bite, the satisfying snap as you commit and bite through, the slight tartness complimenting the candy-delicious flesh....  I just finished eating a delicious honeycrisp apple and all I can think about is going to get another.

I'm a big fan of eating apples raw, the old fashioned way. It brings you more in contact with the fruit as you consume it, and it's a more personal experience than eating slices off a plate. Maybe it's just the fact that I've missed biting into a solid juicy apple right off the counter- having braces for three and a half years prevented that for a while. But now that I finally have them off, it's a small joy in life that I can enjoy once again. As fall approaches, more and more delectable varieties of apples are coming into season, and in New York it's a wonderful thing to walk into a grocery store and see aisles of green, red, and yellow apples of all kinds and varieties. It's an even better thing to be able to taste them all.

You never really miss something until you can't have it. Apples seem like ordinary, plain fruit to New Yorkers, but in reality we should be enjoying them more than ever. We have the luxury of being able to go apple picking and to go to a store and select the freshest, ripest apples. I mean, I still enjoy eating the other fruit that I love- mangoes, kiwis, asian pear, strawberries.... but nothing beats a good apple.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Procrastination

Ahh yes, our old nemesis and friend. We’ve all been there before… a big project at hand or an essay due tomorrow… it’s nearing midnight and all you seem to be able to do is sift through Youtube videos you’ve watched a hundred times already, resign yourself to stalking your friends’ photos some more, or chatting with anyone that pops online so you can complain about the work you have to do. And of course, reading blogs such as this because you have nothing better to do at the moment.

Maybe the title of the post should be renamed to “The Story of My Life.” I procrastinated a ton before I actually logged on and posted this. But don’t worry, I can make up for it because newbie blogger yours truly here has just made another killer realization: that blogs ALWAYS make posts with lists of some sort! So here you are.... “Tips to Fight Procrastination.”

1)     Turn off the TV. Yup, it’s the worst thing you can do if you told yourself you would sit down with your math homework in your lap and you would do it slowly while watching your favorite program. Nope! Believe me, I’ve tried that many times and I always ended up with a blank piece of homework in front of me at the end. (Commercial breaks are far too interesting these days. More interesting than math homework at least).
2)     Log out of Facebook. This one’s an obvious one, but so hard to do. Make sure you log out and not just exit the browser, especially if you have it set to “remember account” like I do. Handy because you don’t have to type in your password every time, but dangerous because an hour of procrastination is just two clicks away.
3)     Don’t Work and Text. Not quite as catchy as “Don’t Drink and Drive,” but it’s solid advice nonetheless. If it’s important, just call the person now. Otherwise you’ll be stealing glances at your phone every five seconds and losing your concentration whenever you hear that familiar buzz. Flirting and chit-chat can wait. Unless, of course, you don’t mind doing it in detention tomorrow for not finishing your homework.
4)     Close the Door. This wonderful tactic works against both annoying siblings and pestering parents. You see, the barrier of solid wood that you put up makes it harder for these annoying creatures to come disturb you while you’re working. If you’re on the computer in the family room, I like to put earbuds or headphones on (without the music) to let others know I’m not in the mood to talk. Or, you can just announce to everyone in the vicinity that you are not to be disturbed until you finish XYZ. (I’ve had varying success with that last one.)
5)     Curb your Hunger. First ask yourself if you really are hungry and not just wanting an excuse to get up and walk around the kitchen. Then ask yourself if you will survive the next task without getting a snack. I find that I tend to want to eat more when I’m working on something I don’t really don’t want to do. If you really are hungry, eat first and then work. Otherwise it’s just another excuse to procrastinate that your subconscious is urging you to do.
6)     Turn Music Off OR Make a Playlist. This one’s particular and varies from person to person and task to task. I like to listen to music when I’m working on math homework, creative projects (English posters), and other busywork (chemistry problems or French translations), but not during other tasks, such as writing essays or reading a textbook chapter. If you choose to listen to music, however, make sure you are doing so from an ipod or Youtube playlist (or radio, if you can switch easily between stations to avoid commercial breaks). Do NOT go Youtube song hunting as I am guilty of a lot of the time, where you open a song you really like, then find another one when it ends. I always find myself drifting away on those Youtube links and then end up watching an episode of CollegeHumor, or just spending way too much time looking for songs. Playlists are the way to go.
7)     Do NOT Listen to the Endless Loop of Nyan Cat.  For obvious reasons. You WILL go insane.
8)     Stop Reading This. I know, this blog is incredibly entertaining and interesting to read but if you’re supposed to be finishing your homework right now, STOP READING and get back to work =D. I’ve even found myself googling “How to Stop Procrastinating” occasionally while procrastinating… the only way to stop procrastinating is to have self-discipline. Lists like these are just entertaining to read.
9)     ADVANCED TIP- Reward Yourself (Sparingly) Do not attempt this until you have mastered the above list. I find myself being more productive when I set a goal and then promise myself a “reward” upon completion of the task. Rewards can range from ice cream to an episode of your favorite TV series to going to a friend’s house. Just make sure it is proportionate to the task. For example, don’t promise yourself an hour-long TV episode for a 10-minute math assignment. But having that goal in mind is sometimes a really good motivator for you to finish that dreaded DBQ or novel you have to read.

That’s it! Happy working, feel free to comment any other tips against procrastination below. One can never be too wary against procrastination. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

WEEKLY CHALLENGE #9

After all those wonderful days of summer being able to post every day, school is exhausting when it comes to managing time well. So instead of giving you a regular weekly challenge, I'm going request for tips about high school. What's a good trick to make sure you don't fall asleep before you homework gets done? Best food to eat after a soccer game? How does a person stay on top of college applications? Time management and waking up early? What's a good way to clear your mind?

WEEKLY CHALLENGE #9
-What are some good tips relating to high school?
-Share below in the comments or email to tomilkyway4@yahoo.com!
-I appreciate the extra effort for commenting/replying. So why not, throw in another blog topic you want me to write about and I'll find time later in the year =]

Stereo Hearts- Gym Class Heroes

It's been a while since I've posted. School's taking more out of me than I expected, so expect less frequent posting for a month or two. Enjoy a great song while you're at it though. =D

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Lion King- 3D in Theaters


Disney certainly knew what they were doing when they decided to bring back The Lion King to theaters, this time boasting 3D animation for a limited 2 weeks. It was a smart move- I just came back from watching it tonight and the theater was packed, most of whom were teenagers. I mean, the original one came out in 1994. But having it brought back to us made it that much more exciting and epic to go see. The movie was GOOD. Better than I remembered from last watching it five or six years ago, though part of it is the retouched animation and high quality resolution. It's such a classic. All of it- the epic story, the music, the characters... they were brought back with just the added touch of being in 3D. It wasn't eye popping, but it fit nicely and was comfortable to watch. I think most of the awesomeness came from just the movie itself, which is a fantastic movie for all ages.

I'm hard pressed to think of a movie with more vivid and alluring characters. The grandeur of seeing Mufasa on the big screen, the antics of Rafiki, the sheer hilarity that naturally comes with Pumbaa and Timon, the chilling wickedness of Scar... I mean, the stampede scene and Mufasa's fall was just epic. Heart-wrenching, but epic. And just revisiting everything else and enjoying the movie with friends made it special to watch again. I was particularly moved by the songs- partly because my friends were singing along and reciting lines by heart throughout the entire movie, and partly because they were just awesome. The voices are so charismatic. Rafiki and Scar are my two most favorite characters, hands down. Scar's cruelty makes me hate him to death, but I love him as a character and the embodiment of evil. A lot of movies and books are defined by how well the bad guy is portrayed. And Scar's "Be Prepared" song in the movie gave me chills because I always hated that part when I was watching the Lion King as a kid.

Hans Zimmer and Elton John, I applaud thee. The music and voices in the movie are the absolute best. Listening to the soundtrack makes me want to go trek trough the African savanna, find a pomegranate, smear it on a lion cub's forehead and just hold it aloft a giant rock in triumph. Absolutely legendary.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Giving things a second chance


What what YOU do for a Klondike bar.... the second time around?

Let me tell you, I used to not like Klondikes at all. I was more of a vanilla ice cream type of person- the ratio of chocolate shell to actual ice cream in a Klondike was too much for me. The chocolate came across as an annoyance rather than a bonus, hindering the taste of the ice cream. I would always try to eat the chocolate shell first, which wasn't that good to begin with because the shards of chocolate in your mouth took forever to melt and were overly sweet. They just weren't as enjoyable as ice cream sandwiches for example, which were moist and chewy and more balanced than a Klondike bar, not to mention a lot less messy. Klondikes came across as just an all-around 2nd choice ice cream dessert... I would never reach for one if I had a choice, but I would occasionally eat one if there was nothing better.

The other day, however, I came home to find a big pack of Klondikes in the freezer, which my mom had apparently gotten at the local wholesale club without asking me. So I decided to give Klondikes another chance, figuring that it was better to eat them rather than let them go to waste. The first one was pretty mediocre. I wasn't too excited about having them, but having some ice cream is better than no ice cream after all. And so I came back for seconds and then thirds. And the interesting part was that as I had more, I started to look forward to eating Klondikes after mowing the lawn or finishing my homework or while I was watching TV. I don't know if I finally "acquired" the taste, or if I simply discovered a better way to eat Klondike bars.

You see, I always used to eat the Klondikes the same way: pick off the chocolate shell first, then try to enjoy the goopy ice cream mess inside without distraction. I was getting tired of that method, so I decided to try something new- I straight up bit into a Klondike bar and chomped my way through. And then I realized, that was the way it was supposed to be eaten- chocolate shards and vanilla ice cream together in one bite, not eaten separately. Each bite had a creamy but crunchy texture to it. You would chew into the shards of chocolate while savoring the vanilla tones as the ice cream melted first, leaving the chocolate on the top of your tongue, slowing melting away and leaving a nice aftertaste. That delayed melting of chocolate is a nice contrast to the ice cream and really allows you to enjoy each bite. The cold introduction of the ice cream, the combination of chocolate and vanilla at the same time, and finally the chocolate finish before you start over with a fresh bite.

So you never really know about the foods and desserts that you dislike. Perhaps you haven't given it enough of a chance, or the problem lies in the way you think and perceive the food rather than how it tastes. I know Klondikes have won me back over. But that got me thinking, if I can give ice cream bars a second chance, I most certainly can give people second chances as well. That initial negative impression I might of had with someone might be totally false now. Or I haven't yet discovered a truly admirable characteristic of a person. Friends, family, or strangers... second chances can sometimes lead to awesome things. But it's important that you give them that chance to begin with. (Broccoli and brussels sprouts remain as exceptions, but I'm working on it.)

Monday, September 12, 2011

VERSE- Pattern of the world


Romans 12:2
"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will."

It is often too easy for us to fall into the patterns of this world. We live our lives in such predetermined routine that we lose sight of the most important things in life. We forget the bigger picture and focus on matters that really are of trivial importance but end up holding a big part in our hearts and minds. As a teen, school is the dominating force that most of our lives are based around, whether we're conscious of it or not. Many people are working hard and striving to earn good grades for their future. Sports and music and clubs all tie in to school, as well as other extracurricular activities. The people we go to class with and the people we are friends with, all these relationships hold a big part of our lives that we interact with on a daily basis. School and friends and clubs certainly are not bad, but in my life I find that they often take the place of God or reading the Bible. I get caught up in excelling in school and applying to colleges and practicing for soccer, things that this world values, but forget the simple act of doing devotions or talking with Jesus, the very savior of my life!

When you think about it, there are a lot things that people aspire to have in this world- good grades, friendship, athleticism, comfort, a job, an interesting hobby... but none of them can truly take the place of God. As a busy teen about to apply to college, I find that I often have to have "renewings of my mind" on a daily basis. Here I am, a top student, all happy because I'm doing well in school and soccer and clubs, but I forget that I'm not the one who can ultimately live my life alone. Take away all my activities and hobbies and successes, and what do I have? Nothing but Jesus. And that's the way I should strive to live- to do these things, to go to school and play a sport and play a musical instrument, but according to God's good, pleasing, and perfect will. To live my life for and through Him, and not controlled by the patterns of this world. Because we already live in the routines of this world, it is especially hard to break free of a certain mindset that earthly things are more important than a spiritual connection with God. We may know that deep inside, but we must try to act that way every day. Only then will you be "transformed" by this renewing of your mind.

WEEKLY CHALLENGE #8


If you're a teen or just enjoy reading this blog, submit a blog topic for me to write about! Fall's coming- you can feel it in the air. Before you know it the leaves will be covering the sidewalks in red, orange, and gold, delightfully crunchy underneath your feet.


WEEKLY CHALLENGE #8
-When is the first official day of autumn?
-Email or comment me the answer, along with a blog topic! If it's correct it'll be a done deal.
-The "Leave a Comment" link is right below, my email is tomilkyway4@yahoo.com =D

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Escape- Mt Eden (Dubstep)

A lot of songs sound a lot more epic when they include a choir part. It resounds more deeply and carries more emotion behind it- useful in fight scenes, film conclusions, or movie trailers. (Harry Potter 7 part 2 trailer anyone?)

Escape- Mt Eden:

Heart of Courage- Two Steps from Hell:

I rest my case.

Admiration vs. Jealousy

Isn't it funny how certain qualities have only a fine line distinguishing them from another quality? Take confidence vs cockiness, for example. What comes across as confidence to one person might seem like overconfidence and arrogance to someone else. A person who does not know them personally might have a hard time deciding which it really is, confidence or cockiness. The same holds true for ingenuity vs insanity... what might come across as an act of madness at the time might later be revealed to be an act of brilliance. Inventors, trend-setters, and scientists often have to deal with this initial misunderstanding.

There are plenty of others...  I can think of independence vs alienation and courageous vs reckless right now. Or how about admiration vs jealousy? That's something I find that as teens we may deal with a lot, whether we're conscious of it or not. There's a lot of competition in a typical high school student's life. Grades, for one, are always a source of contest. "Hey, what did so-and-so get on that last math test? 87? *fist pump* I got two points higher!" Or SATs and standardized tests, for example. And that's just academics. Competition gets fierce when it comes to high school sports or even music ensembles, where not everyone can participate so some sort of selection process is required. Sport try-outs can sometimes be difficult when it comes to making the cut for the team and then seeing who gets the most playing time. I'm lucky to go to a high school where our sports teams are really team-spirited and encouraging rather than cut-throat when it comes to practices and games, but I'm sure this is not the case in other schools.

The same goes for musical ensembles and auditioning for chair seating, auditions for a school musical or drama production, and even club competitions. All of these are opportunities for a student to compare himself or herself to all the others. And when one student rises above the rest, does that inspire admiration or jealousy? I find it difficult to gauge my own reaction sometimes... on one hand, I have admiration and respect for anyone that can achieve such success. But if that person is someone I know as a friend, sometimes the feeling of "why not me" (in other words, jealousy) masks the admiration and turns my feelings into resentment.
This is especially hard for friends in a competitive setting, where both are trying out for a team or auditioning for a part in a play. One makes it to the top, the other falls. What's the result?

It's so hard to be able to say "I'm happy for you" honestly. Disappointment often gets in the way of true and selfless joy for a friend. The line between admiration (even if reluctant) and jealousy is important to distinguish in order to better understand your own emotions. Jealousy has negative connotations and usually feels bad and self-destructive, whereas learning to admire and respect a friend (or stranger) for what they do is much more inspiring and positive.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Fans are awesome

Someone in the crowd brought a vuvuzela to our soccer match today. It was awesome. 
Fans are truly awesome. And by that I mean team supporters, not the electric ones you turn on when it's hot. Why do they call them "fans" anyways? For any sports team out there, it's always 100 times better when fans came to watch and support you. The feeling of being on the field or court or track and hearing familiar voices shout out encouragement while you compete has got to be the best feeling in the world for any athlete. And spectators- don't forget that your presence is always appreciated! It may not seem like people notice you out of the crowd, but the teams do. It's so encouraging when other classmates have school spirit and take time out of their day to watch a game or match. I had that honor this evening to have a sizable crowd at our soccer match. So you know what, fan-with-the-vuvuzela? You just made my day.