“I always say that the times in my life when I’ve been happiest are the times when I’ve seen, like, a sunset.”

Chris Evans

Yesterday, I sat outside and watched the sun set. I was accompanied on either side by two neighborhood cats, and together we gazed in contented wonder as the sky’s vibrant pinks and oranges quietly gave way to twilight. As I always do in these rare moments, I regretted that they were just that: rare.

Once, in a similar state of awe, I set a reminder in my phone.

watch the sunset

I had hoped to recapture a sliver of peace on a more regular basis. However, “at peace” me and “regular” me occupy two very separate spaces. Getting up and moving in order to watch the sunset was lovely and sentimental, but I was always doing something else when my reminder dinged. More importantly, things that required zero extra effort.

watch the sunset

But I’m doing homework.

watch the sunset

I’m already watching Netflix.

watch the sunset

No thanks, I’m comfy.

The reminder quickly became nothing more than a momentary annoyance to dismiss nightly. I soon came to the conclusion that it would be less disruptive to delete than assume I would obey its next chime. And so I did. Until yesterday.

For whatever reason, I was once again overtaken by that extravagant calm. There are so many moments like this we miss daily: sunrises and sunsets, a favorite song unexpectedly on the radio, birds bobbing up and down on telephone wires. These things don’t have to be breathtaking or in any way significant to change our state of mind. We just have to be willing to seek them out.


Happy New Year

As far as years go, 2018 has been a significant one. From 120 million people gaining access to electricity this year to the fall of US cigarette use to the lowest amount ever recorded by the CDC, we’ve set precedents and taken steps towards the world we aim to become. The end of the year is an important and nostalgic time to look back and recognize our successes and shortcomings both in our world and ourselves.

Who we were in years past influences who we are now, but if I met the person I was last year on the street, I don’t think I’d like her very much. 2017 me was a bit of a chaotic mess. She was a stressed perfectionist who cared way too much about what total strangers thought of her. In the words of John Mulaney, she acted like she was “running for mayor of nothing.” 2017 me lacked a basic confidence I’ve really been able to gain this year.

The changes I’ve undergone have been spurred by several events building on each other. This summer alone, I survived my first plane flight, alone, and navigated a connecting flight in Atlanta (where my phone was stolen and I was left without the ability to contact anyone). I embraced responsibilities, independence, and fun as part of the planning team at Montreat Youth Conference, which were possibly the best two weeks of my life. I was on stage in front of over a thousand people! Multiple times! These things forced me to muster up courage I didn’t know I possessed and work my way through.

The new people I’ve met have influenced me as much as these experiences. In moving recently I’ve been able to meet so many incredibly talented and warm people, as well as learn from teachers who saw potential in me. Everything I’ve experienced this year, from adventures to fellow adventurers, has created a perfect storm that created the person I am in this very instant.

Of course, as the new year rolls in, new influences are introduced and we will be constantly met with situations that challenge and expand our idea of self. At the end of 2019, I will likely view the 2018 version of myself in much the same way as I currently view last year’s self, because I’ll have grown. We as humans are constantly trying to better ourselves and our impact on the world around us, and that is exactly what I intend to do.

The statistics used in the beginning of this post were from Quartz’s article The 99 best things that happened in 2018. It’s a smile-inducing read that helps counteract the negativity constantly present in news media and around every corner.

Why it Doesn’t Matter if Die Hard is a Christmas Movie

In my experience, people can get hung up on the little things. We love to be exposed to new controversies, even if they have little impact on the world around us. Cries of “but water is wet!” and “of course it was the chicken!” were ever present in elementary and middle school discussions, and have trickled into high school as well.

And why shouldn’t they? It’s fun to debate. These little practice runs for more divisive issues, be they political or otherwise, give us a chance to fight for what we believe in. We can enjoy arguing our side and find others who feel the same way. If they agree with me on this small issue, the logic goes, they must think similarly and therefore “correctly.” You could know nothing about a person but the fact that their pizza has pineapple on it and immediately want to either steer clear or go out of your way to introduce yourself, depending on your side.

Within that reasoning, however, lies a seed of division and hate. In deciding where you stand on something as trivial as whether or not a hot dog is a sandwich, you join a community of similar thought. Connections can be deepened between friends, and the starting points of future friendships can be created. It also gives permission to deepen dislike for a person who does not share your stance. The danger in dehumanization and us vs. them mentalities seen in politics and the real world is mirrored in these playground debates.

I am not above these thoughts, as I know exactly why water can’t be wet, and why the egg predates the chicken. I have my talking points covered. But recently, I’ve thought about how these topics can do more harm than good. I’ve seen them used in place of actually discussing problems between people. It sounds childish, but the real issues people avoid working through, from romantic relationships to teammate troubles, can spill leftover emotions into these irrelevant controversies.

In the end, and I cannot stress this enough, they do not matter. The world will continue on regardless of your opinion of it. One of the most important thing in life to remember is that people are not you. They will always have differing opinions, and that is okay. Pineapple on pizza may not be your thing, but let others enjoy it without ridicule.

So in the spirit of the holiday season, instead of arguing with Mom over whether or not Die Hard can be included in the holiday movie marathon, understand that what she really wants is time spent as a family. And in a climate so driven by an inability to cooperate, the last thing the world needs is another reason to argue.