On the life you miss when you rush

When I was making myself pasta after school today, I found myself complaining about how long water takes to boil. “It takes a solid ten minutes for the water alone, and then you have to cook the pasta for another eight minutes after that!” I groaned to my mother, staring grumpily at the clock. As I sat there waiting for the water and lamenting the lack of Star Trek replicator technology in my kitchen, I started to wonder: what’s the rush?

Technology has warped the fabric of society—we now expect and require instant gratification. The need for speed started with communication, eventually spreading to every aspect of modern life. Food, from cream puffs to chicken cordon bleu, comes frozen and ready in ten minutes; you can buy makeup in a three-in-one color palette where a single swipe creates a smoky eye; the Internet is available anywhere on a smart phone, because posting those pictures simply can’t wait until later. The ten-minute workout, the breakfast shake, the protein bar: even healthcare must be lightning-fast. We live in a turbo-charged world, and it almost seems like we’re all rushing simply because we can.

The fact of the matter is, some of the best things in the world take time. You can live your whole life without experiencing it if you don’t stop every once in a while and appreciate your existence. Baking an apple pie from scratch, that takes time. You can complain and take the premade crust shortcut, or you can set aside a Sunday morning and enjoy the feeling of creating something delicious. Creating art, that takes time. You can try a sketch and throw down your pencil in frustration, or you can spend a while learning the basics and improving your technique over the years. Reading a book takes time. So does making a friend. Falling in love. Getting in shape. Learning a sport. Building a tree house. Even little things, like making a fresh pot of coffee, writing a letter, taking a walk. The world is full of shortcuts, but these things don’t happen right if you try to rush through them.

We are obsessed with results, and we are obsessed with having them as quickly as possible. No longer are people interested in the process, in the journey, in the why or the how. It’s sad, because these things are the beautiful part. Have you ever seen a time lapse of a flower in bloom? Sure, flowers are lovely, but the way they unfurl in the morning dew is breathtaking. And if you stick your head outside just before a summer storm, you can feel power hanging in the air. An author’s first draft is always about himself more than his characters, and the painstaking concentration on an artist’s face is often more telling than the finished painting. I like real, tangible books because when you put a long one down, you can feel the weight of the time you’ve spent in your palm. If you close your eyes and focus, you’ll begin to notice how hard your body is working just to keep you alive. I think that’s beautiful.

And maybe the process is a little messy, or confusing, or not as pretty as you’d like. But no one is born ready, and Rome wasn’t built in a day. Often, the destination is the journey. We certainly learn more there than by admiring a finished product. So take a moment today to appreciate growth, praise sweat, and celebrate half-finished projects. Take those two extra minutes. Step out of your schedule. The universe won’t crash around your ears, I promise.

On NOT being superman

via pinterest

via pinterest

I feel like there’s a lot of pressure for people our age to do something unheard-of and spectacular to get anywhere in life. This unsaid social requirement pounds against my skull nearly every waking hour of the day. I’d like to be able to just be young, do what I love and enjoy my life, but it’s hard to breathe when it seems like most other bright and capable teenagers are superman. Some sixteen-year-old boy in another state is winning awards for scientific genius, while another is starting a unique and successful charity, and another has her photography published in newspapers. I recently read an article about one of my classmates concerning the basketball fundraiser she’s created to fund cancer research, due to her experience with cancer several years ago. It was inspiring at first to read about her amazing story and efforts, but then the article went a little something like “while most teenagers are worried about grades and summer jobs, Caite is focused on helping others.”

That pissed me off, for many reasons.

For one, the phrasing of that sentence makes it seem as if she’s impossibly compassionate and dedicated. I know Caite, I see her every day, and while she does dedicate much of her time to this cause, she’s also a human being. She worries about her math test and laughs with friends and goes shopping for prom dresses just like any “normal” girl our age. She’s doing amazing things, but she’s also doing normal things. I think that distinction is incredibly important to make.

Secondly, is there anything wrong with worrying about grades and summer jobs? I am a junior in high school. I am not financially independent. I’m not quite sure what I want to do with my life. In my opinion, my main concern right now is getting through school and trying my best. This time of my life is meant to be the time where I figure things out and pave the path of my future. As a teacher of mine used to say, I am a “full-time professional student.” I would really like to be just that, but I am constantly being bombarded with the overwhelming feeling that I have to make a name for myself at this age.

While I’m studying for an AP bio test, I find my thoughts straying to charity work and plans for finishing that novel I’ve started. When I pick up my camera, I feel like I’m taking the pictures for someone else to notice and appreciate and buy. My art has become impersonal, tailored to the tastes of the masses. My transcript is exemplary, but I feel as if I’ve learned nothing. I am a robot trying desperately to make myself interesting for colleges and employers and talent scouts and I hate it. It makes my head hurt.

Because I am a human being who’s just trying to figure it out, like everyone else in the world. I don’t have to be superman. I’d sure like to start a charity or publish a novel or run a marathon or cure cancer or open a business before I turn twenty, but I don’t have to. I probably won’t. I probably won’t be spectacular or famous or distinguished. I want to change people’s lives, sure, but at this point I can hardly get through the school day without exploding from anxiety and stress.

I greatly admire my friends who have already dedicated their lives to charity work or composing music or photojournalism. They’re saving lives and getting into Juilliard and being published in papers. I am just trying to keep myself afloat. Maybe some day I’ll be the sort of person who does yoga at sunrise, volunteers in soup kitchens in the evenings and teaches creative writing classes on Saturdays. But today I am letting myself be average.

On feminism

via pinterest

via pinterest

In honor of International Women’s Day, I have to say this: feminism is not about “hating men.” It’s also not about hating women who act within typical gender stereotypes. Feminism is about gender equality. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman or both or neither, it doesn’t matter if you like to cook and clean or if you like bugs and cars, it doesn’t matter if you have short or long hair or hate skirts or love pink or wear makeup or don’t. If you think that women deserve equal pay and empowerment, you are a feminist.

The fact is that people don’t fit into neat little categories. I’ve yet to meet a “typical” woman. In fact, I’ve yet to meet a typical anyone. There is always that one little catch, that interest or talent you wouldn’t suspect, a quirk, a strength or weakness or trait. People are people, they don’t fit into boxes you check off on an exam or personality test. You can’t summarize the human condition like that, but somehow, our patriarchal society does.

Imagine a world in which gender is as relevant as being blonde or brunette. Of course, there are traits typically associated with being these things, but deep down, we’d all know that women aren’t really weak the way blondes aren’t really dumb. You could change your gender expression the way you might dye your hair, and a few people might grumble about “accepting what you naturally have” but no one would really think much of it. We’d all just be people, and we could mix and match different traits as we pleased.

What I’m trying to say is, you can be whatever kind of woman or person you want to be. Feminism is about fighting for equality, whoever you are. You could be the next Betty Crocker or a short-haired, tattooed black belt or a transgender yoga teacher or a football-loving man or a makeup artist who studies entomology on the weekend. I don’t care. No matter what you’re all about, if you just believe in gender equality, you can be a feminist. Because that’s what this is all about. You are not a neat little category. You are not a piece of meat. You do not have to rise to anyone’s expectations. You’re a human being who deserves to be treated as such.

On “prince charming”

whatI’m sorry, I’m going to say it. This is why we can’t have nice things.

The irony of the entire original image is unbearable. But first, let’s address the fact that this is the standard thousands and probably millions of guys are being held to. And frankly, it’s stupid. I don’t know if I’m a rare specimen, but I certainly don’t want someone pretending I’m right in an argument when I’m not; there is no room for personal growth in that. Secondly, this whole “the guy should start the conversation” mentality is absurd. Women fought so long and hard for equal rights and now so many of them are degrading us back to timid creatures who are too stubborn and shy to start a conversation with a man unless he starts it first. Third, as important as respect and all that is, you’re not fooling anyone by pretending you don’t like to “make out.” Natural physiological responses to an individual creates sexual impulses, and there’s really no shame in that. I won’t carry on this rant concerning the absurdity of this “perfect guy checklist,” because I want to get to a much more important point.

Spoiler alert: boyfriends like this don’t exist. And if they do, they really shouldn’t. Who wants to date a mindless drone who only lives to serve you? I think the answer to that question for many young girls is “I do!”, and this is what worries me. I think what most young people don’t realize is that relationships need to be two individuals in love, not one like-minded conglomeration. If your lover has no interests besides you, what is there to truly love? I have been in relationships such as these, and they were wholly unsatisfying. You can’t ask for someone’s whole undivided attention, because they need to have their own life, too. Their own friends, their own hobbies, their own ways of thinking and feeling. You can’t agree on everything, you’d be absolutely bored. You can’t expect them to go along with whatever you say.

Which brings me to my next point. You simply can’t expect someone to be perfect. You know, you would imagine that when you’re in love, you can look past the person’s bad qualities and move on. In fact, it’s the exact opposite: you don’t love them in spite of their imperfections, you love them because of them. You love them for the way you hate when they tickle you and how they like the wrong color of grapes, and you love them for their scars. You love them for their kindness and beautiful eyes and all that too, but you come to cherish the things that make them different. Your prince (or princess) charming may not seem so charming at first. In fact, they may seem hopelessly not so.

prince charming

I’m sorry if I’ve squashed your dreams or upset anyone with this post, but I speak out of experience and observation. You can’t sit around and wait for someone to waltz into your life and get down on one knee. You are worth more than that. Which is why I strong suggest that you use your energy chasing your dreams and being open to everyone you meet. If you let life take its course, you will find love. It will not be perfect, it will not be a fairytale, and it will not be prince charming. It will be better.