10 Challenges Before Graduation

8 Mar

Time is floating right on by, and my last days as a member of the public education system are growing few. In an effort to ensure that what remains of the road to graduation isn’t too smoothly paved, I’m proposing a few challenges to myself in order inject some valuable turbulence into my journey (apparently now we’re on a plane). For real though, I’m really looking forward to completing these tasks before graduation, and I don’t see why any of them are out of reach.

10. Write a 10-20 page report about a subject I find interesting
This idea was inspired by the Moody’s Math Challenge this past weekend, which reminded me how much I enjoy working hard to produce a written product that I can be proud of. So much can be learned from extensively pouring over research about a topic for a few hours and then condensing it into a report. This is definitely a challenge I’m up for.

9. Finish Josh’s Story 
If I combined it into one cohesive whole, I probably have about 20 pages written on the short story upon which I’m currently working. That being said, I still have a ways to go before I get anywhere near where I’d be happy making that alternate reality stop existing forever.

8. Start Vlogging
It really was only a matter of time before I made this decision. Like both Matts have reminded me (most recently Matt Albino) I would love nothing more than to grow up to be John Green. As Matt (Albino) pointed out, if I could take a “How to be John Green” class in college, I would. This class would surely include vlogging.

7. Read Twelve Books
Why twelve, you ask? “Why not?” I respond. Also, it’s realistic but not overly ambitious. My summer reading goals, now those are going to be overly ambitious. Also, obvious reasons.

6. Memorize 100 Digits of Pi
This is to ensure myself that I can, and in doing so to provide further evidence of the limitlessness of the human brain. Plus, I think it will be fun. I already have like 30: 3.1415926535897932384626433

5. Do a workout at the track later than 1:00 am
I’ve always wanted to do something weird like this. Plus, running around the track in the peaceful solidarity of a dark, warm night is just invigorating. (This will likely be after I’m done racing for my high school career).

4. Initiate conversations with random strangers
I won’t be able to easily check this one off the list, not because it’s overly difficult (even though it is), but because I don’t have any numbers anchoring it to the ground. Do I want to do this every week, every month, 17 times per 11 weeks (why not)? Also, what constitutes a random stranger? All I know is that I want to do this more than I currently do. There’s no reason not to make friends just because I’m leaving in a few months.

3. Write and perform poetry 
I have a shit load of uncompleted poems on notes in my phone, unpublished blog posts, and word documents. I find myself gaining and losing inspiration very quickly when it comes to manipulating the English language to bridge the gap between the concrete and abstract . That said, I want to sit down, write something that I’m really proud of, memorize it, and perform it.

2. Learn and perform”Cups” By Anna Kendrick
This entails both learning the words to the “Pitch Perfect” song, and the more challenging task of accompanying it with sound of clapping and cup tapping. I’d like to make this a video and embed it in as a blog post. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a shortened version:

1. Make this blog public
Making this blog public is something I’ve been on the fence about since I first started taking it seriously back in January. I feel like it would really let people understand a lot about me that they don’t know, and hopefully provide a source of entertainment and valuable content.  What am I waiting for? Maybe for life experience to chisel off a little more care-about-what-people-think-about-me stone. I’m not sure, I just feel like I’m not mentally prepared to start marketing the blog on social media, although I hopefully will be in the next few months. (I got my 1000th view on here today, which excited me)!

I’m Drowing-ing-ing-ing-ingggggg

5 Mar

(If you don’t understand the title of this post, then you should probably check out my facebook profile.)

So yeah, remember that metaphor in which I compared keeping up with this blog to swimming laps comfortably in a pool (as opposed to being pulled under by the current deep at sea). Keep that in mind.

Well, to put it lightly, my life has gotten busy as shit in the past few weeks. I’ve been constantly bogged down with the pressure to produce little tasks that can be exchanged for self-confidence in the form of a number, which can be exchanged for the ability to associate myself with a group of buildings in some arbitrary location across the country.  All this so I can complete more little tasks to exchange for more self confidence. YEAH.

So back to the metaphor: I’m floating out to sea in a riptide, fighting hard to get back to land where I can jump into the pool again. This wave of responsibility will inevitably give way to calm seas that will allow me to float back gracefully to shore. Well, that sounds nice, at least.

I really don’t want to put out lots of junk posts (like this one) because then there isn’t much of a point. However, the time it takes to put together a post of the quality that I’m looking for is difficult to justify when there is always something else that Conscientious Dan is reluctant to put on the back burner. Ya dig?

The purpose of this post is to reassure you (and myself) that I will not fucking roll over (drown? drown.) when it comes to this blog. Ever. I will make up all of these days that I’m missing, I promise. It’s not going to be easy, but nothing worth being proud of is.

(I’m cringing at the awkward wording there, but I have no time to fix it.)

In the next 10 minutes after reading this, I implore you to do something really nice and out-of-your-way for anyone. I’ll be checking back in on that.

5 Consequences of Bad Sleep That You’re Severely Overlooking

3 Mar

If sleep is for the weak, then i’ll never lift another day of my life.

That heading is multi-purpose. It first immerses you with a sense of my feelings about your feelings about the 1/3 of our lives (or, as this post will point out, often less than 1/3) that we spend unconscious. However, an astute reader might also notice the blatant satirization of the often misunderstood concepts of causation and correlation. But I digress.
Yeah, yeah, I get it man. Sleep is good, everyone nose that. if u dont sleep yur tired and stuff.
How convenient of you, ambiguous, imaginary, inarticulate and cynical commenter. Your dissent is well appreciated in that it allows me to transition seamlessly to my next point.  No one likes to be sleep deprived because there are some glaring consequences that can be traced directly to spending fewer minutes with your eyes closed than your body demands. (Take note of that diction). For example, (brace yourself) you feel tired when you don’t want to feel tired.
After looking past these obvious correlations, there hide several sneaky consequences of depriving your body what it needs to function to the best of its ability. The connection between bad sleep and some of these activities often goes unconsidered, and the reasons for certain behaviors are attributed to, in some cases, personality deficiencies that cannot be fixed by simply squirming into the sheets an hour earlier.
Let’s say you have an awful job interview after getting 3 hours of sleep. Your reflection on the experience during the car ride back to your trashed apartment may involve you berating yourself for not doing enough research about the business, not thinking quickly enough to respond to questions, or maybe you’ll just label yourself as a “bad interviewer” who couldn’t help it.  All of these things could be true, but it’s my example God-dammit and I say they aren’t! But in all seriousness, most people would give no thought to amount of sleep they got the previous night in a situation like this, when it is almost surely the root cause of all that went wrong with the experience. As a result, someone might spend hours doing more research instead of simply correcting the simple problem: give your body what it needs. It doesn’t ask anything else of you.
Here are five consequences of bad sleep that you probably won’t hear about in Health class. Keep in mind this list purposely does not include the biggies.
1. Bad Memory 
-When struggling to remember material for a history test during a study session, you might give up and claim that learning the material is a lost cause because you have a “bad memory,” when in reality your sleep debt is preventing knowledge from sticking. This is also the case the next day when you get a less-than-favorable grade on your test because you couldn’t recall information that you’re sure had been seared in over the past few weeks in class. Bad sleep over a long period of time has been proven to damage long term memories as well.
2. Lack of Engagement in Conversation
-Ever kick yourself for sitting back during a conversation, as if you’re in a daze just watching it unfold around you, never confident or prepared to participate or actively listen with interest? If so, you probably declared yourself  lame and uninteresting, when in reality your bedtime has a lot to do with this lack of engagement.
3. Long-Term Health Effects
-Bad sleep over time has the potential to build up insulin resistance in the blood, allowing type 2 diabetes to develop. If that’s not enough, how about high blood pressure, depression, and heart disease? These are all risks that you would likely attribute to more convenient and available factors once acquired.
4. Increased Irritability, Temper, and Moodiness 
-Why was it that sometimes the unusually long time that your mom spent in the bathroom (preventing you from brushing your teeth, of course) this morning makes your blood boil but yesterday you were content to retreat to your room and play Bike Race, waiting patiently when dealt the exact same circumstances? Probably those gosh-darned mood swings-getcha every time! But wait, what causes mood swings? Among other things, sleep deprivation.
5. Trigger for Unhealthy Dietary Changes
- “Why am I eating so much tonight?” Probably just that will power acting up again. You might accept the fact that will power and appetite change on a day to day basis as a result of changing circumstances. Well, one of those circumstances is sleep gotten the previous night. Bad eating habits (binge eating or under-eating)  are triggered by hormonal imbalances when your body gets confused and angry that you’re not letting it rest enough. (Ahh, the joys of personification and its ability to save us from actually understanding biologically processes).
This post was suggested by Katie a while ago since she’s been struggling to get ample sleep in France with some early classes (hope you’re doing better)! It was also inspired by Tentblogger, a blogger whom I follow. He gives advice on writing blogs that people actually want to read. This list format was one of the suggestions, I hope I did it right (although I’m pretty sure I didn’t because people probably have a tendency to skip over all of the intro stuff just to get to the list). Ah well, I’m learnin.’
I’m not an expert on sleep, nor am I perfect at getting my 8 hours every night (lots of talk about how much is enough, I vote 8 but I have no idea–it all depends on what works for you), but I recognize the vast importance of doing my best to treat my body and mind well so they will do the same in return (there I go again with the personification). Now, I’ve gotta get to bed!
Sources:

Source Two

Chapter 10

3 Mar

Josh parked his bike against the paint-chipped wall near the loading dock behind JST Sporting Goods. As he made his way around to the front door, he could feel the sharp gravel cutting at the soles of shoes, eager but unable to penetrate through. Once he arrived at the entrance, he reached for the handle, but it was ripped away from him as the door swung open.

Henry stood on the opposite side, with sarcastic excitement on his face. “7:41, woah there Johnny. Well aren’t you early. Go work with Brian while I figure out something for you to do.”  He sped past Josh out to the back. “Don’t think you’re gonna get anything extra for this, kid.” He said without turning back.

Josh waded into the small shop. He saw the three aisles that he would undoubtedly have to sweep on several occasions throughout the course of the day. His eyes then shifted to the dusty check-out counter where Henry sat on his computer for the majority of his nine hours.

“Tha fuck you lookin’ at?” Brian’s voice startled Josh, who had briefly lost track of reality.

Josh checked his watch again. 7:45. Did Brian always get here this early? Josh looked straight down the aisle and found himself staring into the kid’s wide, interrogating eyes. He was sitting on an overturned pail sorting through what looked like fishing rod reels in a box on the ground.

“Nothing. Well, you now. What are you doing? Boss wanted me to help you out.” Josh said.  He was frustratingly intimidated by the boy, but tried his best not to show it.

“I heard what he said, Johnny Boy. Remember, I was sitting on this fucking box over here the whole time. I don’t need your help, though.”

“First off, you don’t need to swear every sentence, kid. It makes you sound like an asshole”

“Oh no! Poor Johnny isn’t used to hearing big bad words at home, is that it?  His little parents give him 10 minutes in the timeout chair whenever–“

“Would you shut the fuck up, punk?  Don’t pretend like you know me- you don’t. You know what, you might as well keep swearing, you are an asshole.” Josh heard the door shut behind him, and his adrenaline retreated back into his veins. Shit, he thought.

Henry heard everything (well, everything Josh said) and he wasn’t happy. He said that he was starting to actually believe Josh could work here when he saw that he showed up early, but not anymore. “I have some jobs that’ll keep you real busy today, Johnny. Real busy. Follow me.” He demanded this as a ruthless grim crept across his face.

Josh glanced back at Brian, who was now silently picking through reels again, looking blankly at the ground. He turned to follow Henry.

Chapter 9

27 Feb

“Dad, we have to talk.” Josh looked up from his plate of under-cooked pork and broccoli, setting his fork down.

He recounted his first day on the job, being extra careful to exaggerate all that went wrong in explicit detail. He was trying to build a case. A case to never go back to JST Sporting Goods ever again.

“What do you mean he didn’t let you eat?”

“He said that a lunch break was earned for good work or something. And I didn’t earn it.” This was only partly true. Henry didn’t blatantly prevent Josh from eating lunch; he simply guilted him into making up for the time he missed in the morning.

This was working. Josh’s father’s eyes darted around the room with a look of disgust. Josh continued.

“Yeah, and there’s only one other kid that works there and he’s the biggest douchebag I’ve ever met.”

“Joshua! We don’t use that word in here. What’s gotten into you?” shouted his mother from across the kitchen. Josh knew this was coming. He would wager that fewer than 20 swears had been uttered in his household since he’d moved in 16 years ago, and that’s precisely why he said it.

“He is, Dad. He completely ignores me all the time, or he’ll go out of his way to call me a name or something. He kept laughing at me ‘taking the job to seriously’ when I was taking inventory. He’s gonna make it so much harder than it could be.”

Josh looked over to see his father’s reaction. He had him in the palm of his hand, and he hadn’t even brought up the fact that Brian and Henry both think his name is John. Josh seized the opportunity and went in for the kill. “Can I quit? I really don’t wanna go back there. Today was miserable and I know it’s only going to get worse. I’ll even call tonight and leave a message.” He had almost manufactured a tear or two when his father’s expression of pity evaporated from his face. This plan was backfiring.

“Here’s the deal, you’re not leaving this job after one bad day. That’s pathetic and not something I would ever allow of my son. I get it. It sucks. So do a lot of things in life. Maybe you would better understand that if you didn’t spend all of your time buried in those books of yours.”

That last part hurt. Blood raced to every corner of his body in and angry tidal wave, and his mind raced to conjure up retorts to defend himself. “But you–“

“IF by next Friday you’re still as miserable as you are today, we’ll talk again about quitting. But for now, you’re going back there tomorrow, and I don’t want to hear another word about it”

Inside, Josh’s heart sank. He imagined having to sweep the floor with Brian in bitter silence tomorrow and wished more than anything never to see that boy’s face ever again. But he didn’t want to press his luck with his father.

“Deal.”

Don’t Let Judgements Dictate Expectations

26 Feb

Making Judgments is a Natural, Often Useful Tendency of Humans

I’m not talking about surface-level and shallow pre-judgments [i.e. Vicki is wearing leopard print spandex--> she's a fugly slut] although they still apply. I’m talking about the judgments we make once we have gathered what we consider to be sufficient information about our subject. The subject can refer to people, books, movies, videos, poems, training schedules, teaching styles, blogs, or anything else upon which we menacing stamp our seal of approval or disapproval.
Since this is a natural process, we often make these judgments without much conscious thought. If you see someone from your school constantly tweet desperate pleas for attention in the form of hateful and irrational jokes at the expense of others, then [provided this isn't a quality you value in people] you might call him an ‘asshole’ the next time he comes up in conversation. Or maybe you’ll just refuse to associate with him. Either way, you’ve made a judgment based on what you considered to be enough data about this person. You didn’t sit around and contemplate the validity of this judgment; you simply accept it to be true. And there is often nothing wrong with that, if you ask me.

More often though, we are prompted by society to make judgments about certain subjects. Don’t have an opinion on the president? Well you’re ignorant and careless about our nation.  You don’t know if you like the book you’re reading? Good luck on your essay. We assess the quality of our educators like carnivorous savages, weighing the effectiveness of teaching styles with other considerations- like appearance or how annoying their voices are.

These judgments don’t always come easily, so when observing our subject we’re on the lookout for anything to influence our assessment of the quality.  When we finally arrive at what we’ve been waiting for, we often declare proudly to ourselves [and later with others] what we think.

Picture yourself in a movie theater when a scene comes on the screen that really moves you. You might triumphantly make the jump from the logical “this scene is awesome” to the irrational “this movie is awesome” in one fell swoop.  Really think about this, try to imagine a time when you’ve switched from being indifferent to having a strong opinion in a matter of seconds.

Expanding Expectations Irrationally

Once you make a dangerous snap judgment like this, there can be some pretty serious consequences.

Let’s go back to our twitter friend who has established himself as someone lacking values that we admire. From now on, when scrolling through our twitter feed, think about what you expect when you see his name come up, before even looking at his tweet. You’re expectations have adjusted the lens through which you view what this person has to say, and you will expect more of the same hateful tweets. Even if he actually had something thoughtful to say, you will likely dismiss the sentiment, contorting it angrily until it fits your expectation. Then you’ll delightfully toss it into the pile of other evidence that this person is an asshole, feeling better to have further proven your judgment.  You’ve unfairly primed yourself to expect a constant output from this person because you’re expanding your judgment irrationally. As we all know, humans are not functions; we are all far more complex to ourselves than we are to observers.

Or let’s say that you’re sitting at graduation, watching your class president deliver a speech when he starts stumbling over his first words, appearing nervous and unprepared. Maybe his salutations sound unrehearsed and cliche. You might turn to your neighbor and say [sarcastically] something like “well, this is gonna be a fun ten minutes.”  You’ve already determined your judgment of this speech, so the odds that your opinion will change is highly unlikely.  Even if he starts rattling off the most profound and useful advice that anyone has ever uttered, it will probably go unappreciated by the audience full of people who are using their judgment about one facet of the speech [speaking fluency] to shape their expectations about another facet [content].
I commit this error all of the time when watching interviews from really fast runners. Let’s consider someone who just set an American Record in the 5k. I’m so excited about this feat that I blindly attach a bunch of positive qualities to him, unknowingly. I often later find out in an interview that this person may not be as perfect as I assumed. When not on the track, he’s just like the rest of us.

The Bottom Line

When making judgments, be careful to ensure that you have ample data before coming to a conclusion, and resist the attractive temptation to use one especially poignant datum to dictate a strong negative or positive response on the subject as a whole. We’re tempted to judge subjects near the extremes [I hate him/she's an asshole/that book sucked/he's the smartest person alive] when almost everything falls closer to the middle of their respective bell curves than it appears from where you’re sitting.  Especially if a judgment is not entirely thought out, refrain from allowing it to dictate your expectations of the subject, because you might end up missing the most useful advice ever uttered while you sit zoned out, awaiting your diploma.

Should I Do That? The Process of Making Decisions

25 Feb

This blog was written entirely by Matt Nelson. The only way I affected it was changing up the pictures because I couldn’t figure out how to get them on here from Word. They are similar to what he had originally, though. I’m so glad that Matt put this together and am really impressed with how it turned out. I think the personal connection was really effective, and I’m sure this is something we can all learn from. So, without further adieu, let’s hold hands and plunge deep into labyrinthine abyss that is Matt Nelson’s brain.  

We are faced with choices every day, and while some are very easy to make we often run into difficult situations where the correct decision does not seem obvious. What should humans do in these situations? Well let’s see…
Some would say that it is best to go with your “gut” feeling. Many times it is recommended that a person should just ignore all other factors and do whatever they feel is best, not worrying what should happen if did not choose wisely.

WELL THAT SEEMS EASY…


Then why is it so hard to simply put any concerns aside and do what you want to do? It’s because there are situations in which there are very good reasons as to not blindly follow your desires.
For example, many high school students would want to drop out of school and try to pursue an athletic career or a music career. While it is great that this person is trying to pursue his or her own dream, it is not sensible to do so, as they are to (likely) fail and have nothing to fall back on.
Unfortunately, we tend to be able to see what can go wrong with a certain choice. As humans, we have the tendency of remembering our most extreme emotion associated with a certain event, good or bad. Because of this, if there is any bit the possibility that we would feel uncomfortable about doing something, we tend to shy away from it, fearing that negative emotion.

HOW THIS CAN NEGATIVELY AFFECT US?

“Do you always think this much, Charlie?”
“Is that bad?” I just wanted someone to tell me the truth.
“Not necessarily. It’s just that sometimes people use thought to not participate in life.”
“Is that bad?”
“Yes.” – Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
This quote, from The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, is directed toward an awkward, intelligent teenage student, Charlie, who often thinks about doing things but leaves these ideas in his imagination and never follows through with them.
Daydreaming, a mental defense mechanism is used to rationalize choosing to ignore pursing a goal. Like Charlie, people often prefer thinking about an imaginary, idealized situation rather than taking the initiative to actually try to experience their desire.

There are many mental defense mechanisms that our brain has constructed, as a wall to prevent people from actually carrying out these actions in fear of a consequence. While this can be beneficial as shown above, there are plenty of counterexamples where this mental barrier can prevent a person from accurately expressing themselves.

HIDING OUT AND REFUSING TO ESCAPE

You cannot control how another person makes an opinion about you based on your actions.

What holds us back from making many of our decisions is our fear of being judged by others. Each decision that we make is constantly changing the definition of who we are. And of course we care about that definition.  I feel this point is described well by Hank Green, most well-known for his efforts with his brother on his YouTube channel vlogbrothers. Definitely a worthwhile four minutes of your time.

And instead of trying to create as accurate a definition that we possibly can that we would cherish, we sometimes pathetically suppress these feelings and ideas and not participate in real life, instead living in our head, scared to do anything, each day just another day of monotony.

HOW TO GET THROUGH THIS WALL

I have not been that great in the decision-making in the past, agonizingly waiting a long time before finally making up my mind and not fully thinking through why I was doing that. When questions along the lines of “Should I agree to do that?” or “Should I say that to him or her?” the decision would often be to not do it, instead keeping the idea in my head and doing nothing.

“What will others think of me? What if I fail? Or embarrasses myself? I don’t want them to get the wrong impression about me. ”
If these thoughts (or similar ones) are going through your head, chances are you are making a decision based on the wrong reasons. Incessantly worrying about the way others may perceive you is worthless. Who cares if something goes wrong, how will you learn?
Recently, I have been trying to be bolder in my decision making. If any of the thoughts above were in my head, I would try to ignore them and, if I felt it was something I wanted to do, to just go for it. Many of these decisions I definitely would not have made a year or even five months ago.

SO WHAT HAS HAPPENED?

For the most part, making the bold decision has worked out. While I will definitely look back and question why I did certain things, often the change in my life has been beneficial. I don’t know how some things will work out, but at least I can say that I tried.

ENOUGH ABOUT YOU, WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

So often people refuse to express themselves. It is much easier to make a conservative choice for fear of something going wrong. But this almost always is the wrong choice. When I realize that my death is imminent, and the greater portion of my life has passed from me, the worst thing in the world would be regretting that I did not do something a while back.

So go for it. Doing the same thing every day is not fun. Challenge yourself. Maybe start up a conversation with your teacher or co-worker who you rarely talk with but want to learn about. Or wear a snow hat inside because it is comfortable on your head, or an expressive shirt. Or ask someone to do something with you, or agree to join something and get involved.
Once you start making these decisions you want to do, it will all come easier. And you will have more fun. Trust me. I just feel that … 

(Looking over this, I feel like so much can be said about this topic. For the first blog I have ever done, I wanted to write about this, because I think about it a lot, possibly because I’ve struggled with it. Just thought I would put my ideas out there.)

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