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Five Reasons Being “Cool” is Overrated

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When you’re in middle school, you eat, breathe, and live “coolness.”  Most likely, you’re not part of the “cool crowd” because that’s reserved for only a select demographic, but you want to be in that group desperately. Maybe if you buy those latest tennis shoes or cut your hair like the most notorious celebrity, they’ll notice you, and you can begin your ascent into the heavenly realm of “coolness.”

But seriously, is “coolness” really all that cool? Is it even a real thing? When you’re young and naïve, there is absolutely no question of “coolness’s” clout, but once you reach your twenties, it doesn’t quite hold up the same importance. Sure, there are still people trying to convince themselves that they have style and “swag” and fame—that is, the adult definitions of “cool”—but is it really worth all the trouble?

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I recently had someone comment on one of my videos to say that I “try too hard to be funny and ‘cool’” which I thought rather interesting. At first, I just rolled my eyes: “People are mean. Get over it, Kaitlyn.”  Then I realized that no one had ever made that kind of comment before. Sure, people tell me I’m ugly or stupid or “not funny,” but no one had ever claimed I was trying unsuccessfully to be “cool.” Then it became funny for me because I have never been “cool” nor would I ever try to be “cool.” I learned a long time ago that “coolness” is overrated.  Not just because I wasn’t part of the “cool” crowd, but because I realized it did nothing to enrich my life.

1.) “Coolness” doesn’t make you friends.

I don’t know if it’s movies or books or just grade school folklore, but somewhere during our maturation we come to believe that if we are “cool” and “popular”” then we will have lots of friends and be happy because of it.  No one likes to point out the dark half of this idea: that your “popular” friends are only worried about one thing, maintaining their own popularity.  Friendships are supposed to be based on mutual interests, care, and compassion for one another.  When all you care about is how “cool” you are, how can you have compassion and concern for other people?  What kind of a mutual interest is that anyway?  I imagine I would tire of discussing how popular I am all the time.  And yet somehow, this fake friendship is so enticing to our youth and really anyone who feels like an “outsider” to society.

2.) “Coolness” doesn’t help you excel at anything.

Maybe having straight A’s on your report card isn’t your ideal goal, but striving for “coolness” takes up your time and mental real estate that might have been better utilized for your own personal growth endeavors.  When you’re always worrying about your social status, how can you achieve any other goals?  If your whole life’s goal is to be popular, you might excel at that, but I can’t imagine it would be too rewarding.

3.) “Coolness” doesn’t garner you a perfect romance.

If you’re the most popular girl in school then you’re guaranteed to lock lips with the most popular guy at some point.  Or at least have a trail of suitors everywhere you go.  But these romances are about establishing, maintaining and destroying social standings.  The football team captain doesn’t date the head cheerleader because he loves her (although its within reason that he could) but because of who she is and how it will look to his friends if he’s with her and what kind of social power it will give him over his peers.  Unfortunately, people use relationships to grow their “coolness” and garner popularity—from teens to celebrities—so most likely, you won’t find the love of your life by climbing the social ladder.

4.) “Coolness” doesn’t teach you to value others.

As points one and three illustrate, “coolness” uses people and then disposes of them when they’re no longer worthwhile to the cause of gaining and maintaining popularity.  People just become objects, pawns in a massive, meaningless game of Life.  In your quest for coolness, assigning value to your peers means comparing yourself which would then cause your own inflated image of yourself to shrink—coming back down to normal size.  Essentially, if you correctly value others, you can’t lie to yourself about your own coolness.

5.) “Coolness” doesn’t build your self-esteem. 

Seeking coolness is one enormous attempt at convincing yourself that you’re better than the negative version you see of yourself in your head.  In my opinion, the “coolest” people are those who would scoff at the idea of being called “cool.”  (Can you say “hipster?” No, really. A real “hipster” doesn’t consider themselves a hipster either.)  They know who they are and are extremely confident in that identity.  It doesn’t mean they are without self-doubt at times, but they are comfortable in their own skin.  They don’t have to put people down or use others to make themselves feel “cool” or “popular” or worthwhile.  True coolness comes from inside us, and it’s never something we have to defend.

We just are who we are.  And that’s “cool” in itself.

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Why Is It So Important to Make a Life Plan?

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I remember working on a scholarship application in college that asked me to outline my life plan. Where would I be in five years? Ten years? Fifteen years? It was so insulting to me to have to explain to some stranger how I imagine my whole life playing out.  At the time I was 19 and five years seemed like an eternity.  How could I possibly know where I was going to be in one year much less five? I remember wooing them with my “I want to keep all my options open because I’m young and creative and I don’t want to set limits on myself,” but after nearly two years out of my undergraduate career, I’m starting to see the benefits of a “life plan.”

I still believe that setting limits on yourself in the process of creating a life plan is detrimental to growth, but I think I’ve also learned to be less adverse to the idea of “life plans.”  Seeing many of my friends benefit from some certain semblances of their own “life plans” has definitely made me start rethinking my own “fly-by-night” attitude.

It’s not that the last two years have been bad.  In fact, I’ve probably learned more in my two years out of college than in all four years in college.  But at 23, still living at home and in my first job, I’m really seeing where I could benefit from some kind of plan to help guide me toward my goals.

1. A plan isn’t a limit. It’s a set of goals.

This is something I’ve definitely needed to learn. I’ve been so afraid of putting “limits” on myself and not reaching my potential that I’ve failed to see how setting a timeline of goals could give me something to work toward.

2. My life won’t be ruined if I don’t reach the goals “on time.”

I know one of the reasons I’ve been scared to make a life plan is that I won’t be able to accomplish it so I’ll feel like a failure.  However, isn’t it just another form of defeat if I choose to never try?  Five years. Ten. Fifteen.  They are a good place to start, but life tends to take us places we would never expect.

3. My goals can change.

I’m still young and figuring it out, and nothing is wrong with me if my goals change as I work on my life plan.  In fact, my hope for creating my life plan is to set overarching goals on the long-term and more specific goals that may change and grow as I do on a shorter timeline.

4. Planning is good.

Anyone who knows me know I love to plan.  I love to make lists and outlines and cross off my accomplishments, but making a life plan has always really scared me.  I think because I’m afraid of feeling compelled or forced into a “cookie-cutter” middle class lifestyle with a reliable job, a husband, and kids.  Those aren’t bad things, but they don’t fit my personality or life goals or vision for myself.  Essentially, I know those things won’t make me happy as much as society and the media likes to tell me most of the time.  Even if I don’t want the stereotypical sought-after life, planning my future and goals on a more specific level will decrease my anxiety and help me plan my daily life better so I don’t always feel like I’m missing out on opportunities.

I know I have so much to offer the world, and I desire to use my creative skills for good, but until I really start focusing my efforts I am going to feel like I’m wasting my time.  A life plan won’t make me reach my goals but it will certainly make the path seems less daunting.  Now if I can just make myself sit still long enough to think about my future in depth without getting too scared!

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Five Reasons Everyone HATES Valentine’s Day

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You hate Valentine’s Day. It may even be your least favorite holiday.   Even when you protest and say, “No! Valentine’s Day is a day of love! I can’t hate it!” I know you do. You might even say you’re just indifferent to it because you don’t have a significant other or maybe you do but neither of you make a big deal about the holiday.  No matter your excuse, you do hate Valentine’s Day, and I’m here to tell you why.

#1: Valentine’s Day warrants high expectations.

No one wants just a simple “Valentine.” You want ALL the candy. And ALL the cards.  And when you’re older, you want a new diamond ring or a bouquet of roses or another cheesy “I ‘woof’ you” stuffed puppy chewing on a heart. If you’re not into material things, Valentine’s Day still encourages couples to express their undying love for each other in an original song or skywriting or a post-it note covered car.

I personally experienced this for the first time in 6th grade.  I had my first real boyfriend and I made him a card for Valentine’s.  It was sweet and dorky—expected from an 11 year old—but I felt like it was appropriate for the holiday.  I don’t quite know what he was expecting.  In fact, I think he may have even forgotten February 14th was a holiday at all.  I didn’t bother me that he didn’t get me anything for Valentine’s Day, but when he realized I had made him a card and he had completely forgotten, HIS expectations for the holiday went through the roof.  The next day I came to school to balloons, a heart shaped plastic container of candy, a stuffed animal, a fancy hallmark card expressing his eternal love, and a rose.  Well, it was a fabric rose, but he said, “it would never die like our love.”  It was overwhelming and embarrassing, and that was the first time I realized that something so simple as “love” or “like” or “affection” could be ruined by the expectations of this horrifying holiday.

#2: Valentine’s Day reminds us more of heartbreak than any lovey-dovey feelings.

If you’re single on Valentine’s Day, you have the opportunity to visit a “Bitter Mixer” and mourn your singleness. Sounds glorious, doesn’t it?  If you’re in a relationship though, it doesn’t spare you from the heart pains of Valentine’s Day. This is because you’ve surely spent at least one Valentine’s Day alone, and everything in the media tells you that this is wrong.

During my freshman year of college, my high school sweetheart broke up with me at 11:30 on February 13th because he hadn’t “gotten me a Valentine’s present.”  This was, of course, just an immature excuse to break up with me.  Looking back now, it was all for the best, but it happened at the worst possible moment.  I didn’t expect him to get me anything—we were three hours away from one another—but the WORST “gift” you could give your girlfriend is a break-up.  Every Valentine’s Day after that, whether I have a boyfriend or a crush, THAT is the one I remember.  Of course, I still celebrate in all of its silliness, but there’s always that creeping feeling of disappointment at the back of my mind.

#3: Valentine’s Day is expensive (for no reason).

It started with candy, cards, and flowers—overall not that expensive, but with time it has morphed into a wallet-munching monster. The jewelry commercials starting mid-January take the cake for over-the-top, cheesy “love.” Yes, an expensive diamond will DEFINITELY prove to me that you love me.

My brother made this mistake. While a senior in high school and having a difficult time with his girlfriend of two years, he bought her a beautiful heart-shaped diamond promise ring for Valentine’s Day.  (She was a bit of a high-maintenance girl coming from a lot more money than my brother and I do so I think her “expectations” were already a little too high.)  Even though he didn’t have a job with a consistent income or a real “promise” that they would stay together, he bought her this ring.  She broke-up with him in mid-March.  And she’s never given him the ring back.  He had hoped to return it and get the money back (who knows what he had to do in order to get the money in the first place).  In the end, it was all just a sad situation that could have been avoided if we didn’t believe Valentine’s Day can somehow “save” relationships.

#4: Valentine’s Day insinuates that “showing your affection” should be reserved for one day a year.

Why can’t we make every day Valentine’s Day? That way no man will ever forget Valentine’s Day again.  It’s preposterous to think that we should hold all of our little sweet gifts of affection for a made-up holiday.  If you want to write a song to your love, why can’t you? If you want to make your boyfriend a woven wristband to symbolize your feelings, why not?  Why is it silly to do these little gestures of love during the year, but sweet and acceptable on Valentine’s Day?  I would much rather find a bouquet of roses or a box of chocolate on a random Tuesday in July when I’ve been having a terrible week than EXPECT to find it’s equivalent in mid-February and even be offended if these tokens of affection were not present or worse, FORGOTTEN.

#5: Valentine’s Day can effectively shame both single people and those in relationships.

You know what one of the worst things that you could have going on during Valentine’s Day? A break-up makes you bitter, but what about if you’re in a rough patch in a relationship? You’re surrounded by sickeningly cute couples and red hearts and candy and every media source telling you that you should be “so in love,” but right now, you can’t stand the way he chews his food or the way she always says “um” before every single sentence.  It’s not an unnatural or worrisome part of a relationship, we all have those days or months where we just can’t stand the other person. Most of us, come out of it.  Some of us break up because of it.  But on Valentine’s Day, you are shamed for having any feeling for your significant other besides unadulterated affection.  For single people, it comes from a similar vein, you are somehow less worthy of love because no one wants you to “be their Valentine” on this particular day. It is thus mind-boggling that a day devoted to love could turn into a shaming experience because you don’t meet the “Valentine’s Day” standards.

So do you believe me now? Don’t you hate Valentine’s Day? It doesn’t mean you can’t participate in the silliness if you have a significant other or the bitterness if you’re single—it’s a fun part of being human and living in a First World Country—but maybe you don’t have to take it so seriously.  If the chocolate isn’t exactly right, or if the roses have wilted just a little, I bet your significant other won’t mind.  I bet when it comes down to it, being with your loved one or being free and single with your friends and completely forgetting about a made up, greeting card holiday might make for the BEST Valentine’s Day you’ve had yet.

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Novel Writing: Month 1, Chapter 1

If you’ve read my earlier post on “New Year’s Resolutions,” then you know that one of my goals for 2014 is to write a chapter for a novel every month.  On the one hand, a chapter a month doesn’t seem all that strenuous in comparison to the brave souls who take on NaNoWriMo and write an entire novel in the month of November.  However, I have decided that if I do this, I will have 12 more chapters for a novel than I did in 2013.  My main purpose behind this goal is really to develop better writing habits and inspire myself to actually write.

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The story that I am writing is one that has been with me since I was 13 years old.  I don’t quite know how it came about, but I know that the story has not left me after all these years. In fact, I feel more like the story has grown with me so that I am much more capable of creating a story with compelling themes and plot than I was when I first started writing it in 8th grade.  There are actually 354 hand-written pages that I wrote from 8th grade through my freshmen year in college on this story.  It would be embarrassing to share here because my writing and plot-weaving was much more simplistic when I first started out, but I do remember letting some of my older friends (who I much revered as intelligent and well-read individuals) scan a few chapters and received veritable praise from them.

In the last year though, I have realized that if I really want to write this book then I need to start from the beginning. As I’ve grown older the story has grown and changed too, and the sequence of events and characterizations no longer entirely match up from my 13 year old to 23 year old mind.  So I made the terrifying decision to start from the beginning (AGAIN!)

This first chapter and month have gone relatively smoothly.  I had planned out the first few chapters before the beginning of the year, but I found as I sat down to write that the story was different than those plans. I think I’ve still been trying to fit the story into its old mold as much as possible.  Characters I once thought were tremendously important are now falling to the wayside in lieu of characters I barely gave a second thought to originally.   The first chapter isn’t long—only about 1900 words—but I’m banking on the fact that it is more of a prologue than a chapter and I really enjoy short chapters. My hope would be that if I continue to write short chapters I will bump up my goal to possibly two short chapters a month rather than one longer chapter.  For this first test-run month I’m very happy with my accomplishment. In the last few days of the month, I wanted to use my extra time to start a brainstorming journal. I tend to think in lists and charts so I’ve commandeered one of my sketchbooks to serve this purpose. I have a lot of old paraphernalia like a map I drew when I first started writing, and various torn out journal pages with scribbled ideas I’ve had over the years.  I also frequently get inspired by images so I’ll be including magazine cut outs and heavily utilizing my “Art Inspiration” Pinterest board to take visual snapshots of things that relate to my novel.  All in all, I’m very proud of this first month, and I’m excited to get into the meat of the story next month as I begin writing chapter two!

For those of you wonder what I’m writing about I’ll give you a few semi-vague ideas mostly because I find it terribly embarrassing to talk about the intimate workings of my mind.

  1. I refer to it in my mind as “Kamerell,” but that’s not necessarily the title.  It’s just how I distinguish it in my mind. Namely because “Kamerell” is the place in which it is primarily set.
  2. I think it will be a young adult fantasy/sci-fi novel.  That’s what I originally envisioned.  However, I have been wondering recently if some of the themes would work better as an adult novel.  Essentially, I’m having a hard time placing an age on my main character.
  3. It will have a pretty large and diverse cast. I could write hundreds of short stories on the lives of all the different characters that will be somehow involved in this novel. Sometimes I think they’re lives are more interesting than my main character’s.
  4. It will be set in the present day.
  5. It will not involve vampires. I’m so done with blood sucking boyfriends.

I hope these are some enjoyable teasers! Tell me in the comments section what you think the hardest part about writing is!