SELF-LOVE

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Throughout life people go through various obstacles in which they must persevere, learn, and grow from.  Although each person’s life paths and lessons may differ, everyone at some point obtains one of the most valuable lessons in life, self-love and self-acceptance. Like any other subject, some comprehend the concept, others do not.

For those in this life who have not been able to say “I love myself” and genuinely mean it, here are some things I’ve learned along my journey that have led me to loving who I am unconditionally and unapologetically being myself.

 

  • Stop caring about what other people think of you. Wear what you want to wear, dye your hair any color of the rainbow and then some, make weird facial expressions all the time, dance around when you want to, be loud, be quiet, be nerdy, be whatever it is that makes you the most comfortable and the happiest and don’t give a damn what anyone else has to say or think about it. You’re probably way happier than they are in that moment anyways so live it up!!
  • SURROUND YOURSELF WITH POSITIVE PEOPLE THAT BRING LIGHT AND JOY INTO YOUR LIFE!!! If you surround yourself with negative people that bring you down constantly, you’re going to feel down constantly. It’s no surprise. Don’t hesitate to cut the negative people out of your life and don’t feel guilty about doing it. Always do what’s best for you and what will improve your life and happiness.
  • DO NOT LIMIT YOURSELF! Don’t put yourself into a box and convince yourself that you’re only capable of that much and nothing more. You are capable of anything you put your mind to, you just need to put in the time and effort. The amount of success you have in your life and all of your achievements are because of you and your desire to complete those goals. Cut yourself some slack and believe in yourself every once and a while.
  • Stop trying to live up to other people’s expectations. Do what makes you feel most alive and don’t be afraid to chase your dreams. If the only thing holding you back from going for something you really want is the fear of disappointing others, you are not living for yourself.
  • When you feel a bit off or are in a funk, don’t be afraid to take some time for yourself and do things you purely enjoy. TREAT YO’ SELF.
  • Always remember that different people like different things, and unfortunately there are a lot of judgmental and close minded people in this world, but don’t let them stop you from doing what makes you happy. You’re a beautiful one of a kind person that has incredible talents and abilities to offer this world.

 

It is not expected that after you read this you’ll have a moment of sudden self-realization and your third eye will open or anything, but just keep these things in mind whenever you catch yourself feeling down. The key to happiness is self-love/acceptance, kindness, and positivity.

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TREATMENT OF THE EARTH

A pile of cigarette butts and wasted ice cream that I found in the middle of a parking lot.
A pile of cigarette butts and wasted ice cream: one of a billion items thrown on the streets and left for animals to fend off of.

What can be seen when closely observing the world is truly disturbing. The amount of litter forming mounds on the sides of every road and the way people carelessly clutter the earth is inhumane. Our built-in-autopilot routines need to change and we need to become conscious of what we are doing to our planet.

Littering directly affects many forms of life. For instance, the animals. By littering in areas where nature is common, such as forest preserves, beaches and even open fields, the lives and overall health of many wild animals are being put at risk. According to a study published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin, 80 percent of the time that animals eat or get tangled in bits of plastic and netting, the encounter either injures or kills them. Even if littering is done in places with limited nature, such as suburbs or cities, there are still animals that have found a home there that are now at risk of health issues and ultimately death.

If we continue to treat the earth as one giant landfill and support certain industries (such as zoo’s, pet stores, the meat and dairy industry, etc.) it can spiral out of control and ultimately cause some species to become extinct (according to Endangered Species International). Not only that, but if these behaviors continue, life on earth for humans (and any other living organism really) could be completely unbearable. If we, as human beings, have only occupied this planet for 200,000 years, and it’s already become this corrupt with violence, hatred, cruelty, and disrespect for life and our planet; it is unimaginable how terrifying it would be to live on this earth another 200,000 years from now.

In a survey taken by 80 people, 78% said they litter because they’re just too lazy to trash it, but trash cans are conveniently located outside (and inside) of many–if not all–stores, restaurants and houses! So as an alternative to throwing trash out of car windows or throwing it on the ground, hold onto it until you find the nearest trash can or get to the desired location. If you’re out having a smoke, instead of tossing the cigarette butt onto the cement or grass, dispose of it in outdoor ashtrays that are located in front of many stores/restaurants, keep it in your cars ashtray, or keep it in an empty tin (such as an Altoid tin) until it can be disposed of properly.

We must take a stance and start making small changes in our lives to benefit each other, other living organisms, and the future lives of our species and many alike. Most importantly, we need to take care of this earth, as it is the only one we have for as long as our species may live.

 

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THE IMPORTANCE OF RELATIONSHIPS

During my first semester of senior year, we read a book titled Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer in AP Literature. The book contained a quote that has stuck with me and changed a large part of my life, especially the way I view relationships.

The quote is thought by the main character Oskar in regards to the relationship he has with his grandmother. The quote goes as follows, “If I had to write her life story, all I could say is that her husband could talk to animals, and that I should never love anything as much as she loved me. So here’s my question: What were we spending so much time doing if not getting to know each other?”

The moral of this story is to be completely open to the people that are in your life, whether it’s your friends, family, a significant other, or generally anyone that you appreciate. Don’t keep every relationship at the surface. Dive deeper than that and truly get to know them, because you never know when something will happen that ends their time with you, whether it be something extreme or just a parting of ways.

In order for us to do this, we need to get to know the details of the people’s lives, not just stick to the basics and the present/future. Ask them about their childhood, what their favorite memory was while growing up, or what they wish they knew at age eighteen. In asking people about their lives, they feel flattered and genuinely happy that someone cared enough about them to want to know the minute details, and it probably made their day. But the people you get to know deeper, doesn’t always have to be people you’re close with, it could be a complete stranger.

Another way to create deep rooted relationships is by continuing to make an effort in that relationship. Don’t just be present one week and disappear the next, continually check up on the person and make sure they’re doing well, ask them how their day was and wish them a happy Friday or whatever day of the week it is. Care about their well-being and be there for them when they aren’t doing too shabby. Let them rant about their annoying peers or jobs when they’re angry. Ask them to go on a drive to watch the sunset or ask them to go on a cute little friend date to get coffee or some yummy foods. Always be there for them instead of only being there when it’s convenient.

The most crucial way to have close, meaningful relationships is to appreciate! Appreciate their existence and that they have allowed you into their lives. Say ‘thank you’ for small things they do or even for just being themselves. Most importantly make sure they know they are appreciated and loved at all times, even if you’re angry at them. Love and appreciation for friends, family, and significant others’ should radiate off of you and be seen and felt by all of them at all times.

Everyone has a significant role to play in life, and it would be a shame if years down the line the guilt of not truly knowing those people becomes suffocating.

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GENDER STEREOTYPES

Conflicts amongst genders have rapidly expanded beyond the gender war in society today. Gender stereotyping is becoming a well-known social issue around the world.

There are more than just two options of gender. In fact, a person’s gender identity can differ from his or her sex. There is cisgender, cis-man, cis-woman, transgender female, transgender male, gender fluidity, and countless others.

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, a cisgendered person is someone “whose gender identity, gender expression, and biological sex all align.” In order for someone to be considered as a cis-woman, said person would have to be born as a biological female and identify as a woman.

There are also female to male (FTM) transgender and male to female (MTF) transgender people. The National Center for Transgender Equality describes a transgender man, or someone that is FTM, as “a person who was assigned female at birth, but identifies and lives as a male.”

The National Center for Transgender Equality also defines gender fluidity, which “is a fluctuating mix of the options available,” meaning this person can identify as either a male or female at any occasion.

Not only is there confusion due to multiple genders, but it is creating tension between the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, etc. (also known as LGBTQ+) community along with their allies and the remaining portion of society. Society has made and continues to make inanimate objects gender-specific, which adds to conflicts to the gender spectrum.

According to Women in the World (in association to the New York Times), “in the 1970s nearly 70 percent of toys had no gender specific labels at all,” and that “by the mid-1990s, however, gendered advertising had returned to 1950s-levels.”

Alice Robb, writer for Women in the World, explained that “children prefer toys they believe are intended for their gender.” When marketers realized this, they chose the gendered labeling tactic to get the mothers with children belonging to each sex to purchase two of the same product.

American society is not just known for making children’s toys gender-specific, but society as a whole genderizes colors. Women in the Word (in association to the New York Times) suggests that “girls’ preference for pink is learned, not innate,” and that all babies prefer blue.

Gender stereotypes go hand-in-hand with gender-specific toys, colors, and style choices.

The United Nations Human Rights defines a gender stereotype as “a generalized view or preconception about attributes or characteristics that are ought to be possessed by, or the roles that are or should be performed by women and men.”

“Gender stereotyping affects me because I wear makeup. Everyone believes that men cannot wear makeup because it is viewed as a sign of femininity by too many people in society and I’m frowned upon for doing what I want to make myself feel confident,” said Eduardo Avila, a senior at Plainfield South.

According to Women in the World, a team of researchers found that “children with gender-stereotyped decorations in their bedrooms also held more stereotypical attitudes towards boys and girls.”

The United Nations Human Rights explains that “a gender stereotype is harmful when it limits women’s and men’s capacity to develop their personal abilities, pursue their professional careers and make choices about their life and life plans.”

Elizabeth Bolton, the associate director in the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Art, Editorial, and Media Department agrees with this in her article Why Stereotypes Are Bad and What You Can Do about Them.

“Stereotypes and biases serve to unfairly and sometimes unintentionally keep qualified, capable people out of jobs or positions of power,” said Bolton.

“Characterize yourself how you want. Don’t confine yourself. Stand up for yourself. And do what makes you happy,” Avila advises to others that may face the consequences of gender stereotypes.

Another layer to gender conflicts is gender assumptions or assuming someone’s gender based on their outward appearance or qualities.

“Just because I have short hair, wear boy clothes, and like boy things [sports, video games, etc.] doesn’t mean I’m a boy or want to be a boy. I’m just G,” said Gianna Pometta, student at Aux Sable middle school.

According to Tara Culp-Ressler, a research observation studied by Maria do Mar Pereira, the deputy director for the University of Warwick’s Centre for the Study of Women and Gender, showed how girls that enjoyed sports would avoid physical activity at school because they assumed it would make them appear less feminine to the boys. The girls would also attempt various diets because they believed that in order for them to be seen as attractive by boys, they would have to be skinny.

Greaney also explains how “this categorizing phenomenon of intent and aspiration is the same that plagued past generations,” and that it is in fact “the same trend that told homosexual people in the past that they should ‘desire’ people from the opposite gender and not of their own. It took an entire movement to convince the masses that people want what they want and that there is no mold for what we crave based on the structure of our chromosomes.”

Even though gender is a broad element of life, there are many flaws in it that humans have created within its proximity subconsciously over the years. If people delve into each subcategory that comes with gender, the imperfections can be noted and hopefully within years to come people won’t have to feel ashamed about who they are, and won’t have to get misgendered due to subconscious assumptions.

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STAYING POSITIVE

There are times in life where nothing seems to go right and this is seen a variety of emotions. There’s agitation, anger, overwhelming sadness, and loneliness. For some people, there may not be anything in particular that causes them to feel these negative emotions, they just do. For some it may seem never ending, as if there’s no way out of this downward spiral. However there is beauty that lurks throughout this world, and for many, it’s just a matter of seeing it.

After being severely unhappy for several years, I began paying attention to small details in the world around me and used them to bring joy back into my life. By sharing some of these small treasures, I hope to spread smiles and appreciation for the world and everything that surrounds it.

Humans are beautiful, and the attributes that come with being human are beautiful. The way we create art in every form, even when we’re not trying to. When we’re born into this world, we are born into countless glorious things, like family. And as we carry on our journey we create friendships and make memories that can make you laugh or cry. We fall in and out of love. We get to see the way people in love look at each other. We get to witness all of life’s beauty happen to others. We get to see people making memories with their friends and family. We get to look up at the sky at any moment and see something inevitably alluring. We get to watch seasons pass, each with their own unique characteristics whether it be flowers blooming or the leaves of trees changing into an array of colors that mimics the evening sky. Each person is magnificent and can see beauty in their own way, and each person is on their individual journey’s to obtain complete happiness, whether it be alone, with another person, or a rediscovery of what happiness is to them. Anything can be looked at positively, even on the darkest day.

In the end, we all want to grasp on to one thing and hold it close to us and never let go, and that’s happiness. Whether we find it in art, the earth, food, pets, or even in another person. Hold on to your happiness and don’t take it away from others. Compliment people. Smile at strangers. Humble yourself by admiring how incredible the earth is and how tiny we really are. Take time to appreciate the little things that life gives us like how the sun kisses our skin on summer days, and being taken care of by cozy blankets, homemade soup, and your favorite Netflix binge show when you’re sick.

While some may be able to see the positive side to all, there are some that may feel that being content with life is beyond their control. If the feeling of sadness becomes unbearable and you’re thinking of hurting yourself or if you’re having suicidal thoughts do not hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255). You’re worth so much more than you realize and your existence impacts everyone around you. You are a significant human being that deserves to share incredible life experiences with others.

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HONEYMOON ERA

In Lana Del Rey’s recent album Honeymoon, she expresses the pain of heartbreak that was heard throughout songs on her 2014 album Ultraviolence. Although her inspiration from heartbreak remains, Del Rey expresses appreciation of times she spent with a past lover.

In her songs Honeymoon, Religion, and 24, Del Rey tells stories that hint at her connection and memories with her former love. When Del Rey sings, “and I lost myself, when I lost you,” in her song Terrance Loves You, desolate reminiscence of a past romance can be heard in her chilling vocals.

With each era that stems from the same three inspirations—heartbreak, California, and life experiences—there is a slight alteration in the overall sound of her record. In the Born To Die era Del Rey chose the retro-60’s sounding pop, but then created a darker feel during the Ultraviolence era by using various fuzzed-out guitar licks. With this new era, Del Rey combines aspects of jazz by using saxophones, the piano, and strings to create a hypnotic tone and put her listeners into a trance.

At the start of Honeymoon, the alluring sound of strings and her angelic singing captures the attention of listeners, but once her chilling voice collides with itself to make the most gorgeous harmony; the audience is left completely captivated. Although the Honeymoon album has a noticeably slower tempo than the others, Del Rey’s beautiful melodies and meaningful lyrics are powerful enough to make the toughest person cry.

Whether you’re thirteen or forty-five, Honeymoon is the perfect album for a rainy day, a bad break up, or if you’re just looking to hear something beautiful. This record is jam-packed with gorgeously composed tunes, and I highly recommend giving it a listen!

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