Semester struggles — You are not your GPA

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This semester, I was required to take a class covering a non-Western culture and decided to take Buddhism. I’d always been intrigued by the “your thoughts create your world” mantra from the Buddha, and I figured it might be a neat class to take for self-improvement.

For my homework, I was required to read about the Buddha’s philosophy on teaching. The reading explained that the Buddha was more focused on instilling skills in his pupils rather than feeding them with knowledge.

At first this was confusing. What is the difference between knowledge and skill? Don’t you need knowledge to have skill? A quote from the reading helps distinguish the two:

“The nature of the knowledge that the Buddha was trying to convey to his pupils is more akin to a skill, like knowing how to play a musical instrument, than a piece of information, such as what time the Manchester train leaves tomorrow.” 

~Gethin, “Foundations of Buddhism,” pg. 36

As a college student, I have a habit of defining my success by how much knowledge I know. Instead of defining myself by rich character qualities and talents, I define myself by my GPA. And a lot of us do it, and I have a feeling that by the time we graduate, we are going to say to ourselves, “I can’t believe we did that.”

I have a feeling that when we graduate, we are going to go out into the real world ready to brag about our excellent GPA to all of our employers, only to discover that they could care less. Only to discover that employers know better than to think that just because someone has a high GPA means that they will make a great employee. Only to discover that we should have never let our feelings and our self-esteem be dictated by a number or a letter grade.

The Buddha wasn’t focused on how much knowledge his pupils acquired, rather how much skill they developed. News flash — knowing does not make you skilled. Having strong interpersonal skills, charisma, empathy, and kindness makes you skilled.

Knowledge is information acquired through sensory input: reading, listening, touching, etc. But skills, on the other hand, refer to the ability to apply knowledge to specific situation. Success isn’t about how much you know. It is about how you use what you know to kick ass in life.

You could know everything about a sport, but that doesn’t make you any good at it. The same applies to a job. One could know a lot about a subject, but might not have the skills to apply that knowledge to specific tasks.

I would love to live in a world where teachers recognized that to better prepare individuals to meet a desired performance, they don’t need lectures. What they need is practice. I think I am a credible person to say this because, well, I learn much more from my internships (where I put my skills into practice) than from my classes. I’m not saying that class is useless, because it isn’t. What I am saying is that the best way to learn, in my opinion, is not to read about it, but to actually do it. 

The day my eyebrows screwed me over

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WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO GET MY CARA DELEVINGNE ON!?!?!? 

It was Monday. It was pouring. I’d been on the bus for over an hour. I just wanted to get my eye brows threaded. (If anyone knows me well, you know that eyebrow grooming is a big priority for me).

I still had 30 minutes before the bus stopped at the mall, but I could’t wait any longer. After a grueling week of academic labor and cross country practice, I. just. wanted. my. damn. eyebrows. threaded. I decided to get off at an earlier stop — Fairfax Corner.

Now I’m from Buffalo, so I don’t really know too much about the Fairfax area. I didn’t realize that many of the stores in Fairfax Corner were highly specialized and expensive, but I learned that the hard way.

All of the signs were there. I was just too stubborn to ignore them. As soon as I saw the sign, “The Red Door,” I knew this wasn’t supposed to be a place for a frugal college student. If a store has an ambiguous name, it’s likely that it’s expensive as shit. Think of expensive boutiques like Adaline’s Wardrobe, and Kiwi Bird Boutique. Who the hell is Adaline? And there are no kiwis are birds in this boutique!?

Why is the door red? Is this a metaphor? What is happening!? Damn those ambiguous names. That’s how they draw you in — you have no why the name of the store is what it is so of course you have to go in and find out (I never found out).

Once I got to the lobby, I knew I was screwed because of the music. You know you can’t afford the place when you walk in and here that light, melodic harmony that’s supposed to make you relax and you have no idea where it’s coming from because there are no speakers or radio in sight. If you hear the New Age Music, RUN.

Also, the women at the desk were super hot twigs with fake eyelashes and extensions that actually looked fantastic on them. For someone walking in with a too-small youth basketball t-shirt from middle school and sweatpants pulled from the dirty laundry, I was intimidated.

But of course, their beauty and charisma drew me in even more and I made an eyebrow appointment. We will put you with Dalia. Shit. Dalia? Is some Egyptian goddess doing my eyebrows? A descendant of Cleopatra? I CAN’T AFFORD REINCARNATED CLEOPATRA DOING MY EYEBROWS I ONLY HAVE $4 IN MY SAVINGS ACCOUNT.

But then I noticed the free biscotti cookies in the lobby and moved on. That’s also how they get you — with free cookies.

I’m six biscotti cookies in when Dalia calls me in. She’s hot and tan like the rest of them and has on . . . wait for it . . . a lab coat. Yes. My eyebrow threader was wearing a lab coat. Jesus. What. was. I. getting. into.

I walk into her, uh, office, and she lays me down on some giant chair like the one’s you lay on at the dentist. She also pulls a bright light over my head like the dentist would. God I’m screwed.

My screwed-over status was confirmed as Dalia threaded through my forehead with grace and persistence. “Wow, your hairs are stubborn.” Yeah Dalia, I know it’s straight wilderness up there you don’t have to remind me.

Anyway, you know the service that takes forever but it’s not in an annoying kind of service where they could care less about you, rather an I-want-to-put-all-my-time-energy-and-effort-into-you typre of service? That was Dalia’s service.

When she showed me the mirror, I was infatuated with her work. As I made my way back to the lobby I prayed to the Gods of Beautification that they would give me a first-time-customer discount. But that was not the case. The long-lashed twig at the desk rang me up and said, “$40 please.” Well shit.

The worst part is, I went across the street, bought a milkshake, and devoured it in two minutes (stress eating is necessary sometimes).

Fortunately, I learned a very important lesson: stick with the sweet little Asian ladies across the street. They never charge over $10. Also, if they offer free cookies, play New Age Music, and have desk workers who look like they could be on the cover of Marie Claire, get the hell out. You can’t afford it.

Anxiety

Anxiety is

waking up to the yapping Shih Tzu in your neighbors yard

driving behind the plodding car in the fast lane

drudging over an essay on a wobbly table

picking your phone up off the ground to find a fractured screen

struggling to put on your favorite pair of jeans

discovering your pathetic bank account balance

brawling with your mother

seeing an empty container coffee grounds

feeling like you’ve gained ten pounds

hearing someone scuff their feet across the sidewalk

listening to Gluten-free fanatics who have no medical justification to avoid gluten

eating with someone who is more interested in their phone than interacting with you

having a knot in your stomach 

a lump in your throat

tears welling up

heart pounding fast

can’t breathe. 

But one day, when you think you would never overcome it,

you do.

 

The yapping Shih Tzu finally shuts the hell up

the car speeds up

you find a new table

you get your phone screen replaced

your jeans fit again and your butt looks great in them

pay day comes

your mom texts you out of the blue and says she loves you

you buy more coffee

you accept and embrace your body type

that asshole picks their feet up off the sidewalk

you meet someone who never picks their phone up when they’re with you

the knot goes away

you take a deep breath 

you smile

your heart rate is normal again

you can breathe. 

Tranquility comes

and all of sudden, life becomes happy

and you watch your favorite Disney movie

and sip on your favorite coffee

and fall asleep to the sound of rain pattering on your window

and enjoy a lazy Sunday

and receive a handwritten letter in the mail

and you kill your workout

and you grow a vegetable garden and actually eat the vegetables

and you have faith when things aren’t logical

and you wake up to sunshine on your face

and you find out your neighbor is taking that damn Shih Tzu to dog school

and you pay for a small drink and get a large instead

and your vegetables actually taste good

and you fall asleep on someone’s shoulder

and you know the anxiety will come again

but this time, you aren’t afraid.

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You are an arrow

College is off to a great start when it comes to the weekend — the parties are a blast and the booze is cheap (if you haven’t tried Burnettes Watermelon flavor yet, I recommend). My classes are great, my friends are extraordinary, and nothing could be better EXCEPT for the soft tissue damage in my ankle causing me to hobble around campus in an ugly brace pungent with the aroma of despair and foot sweat (I can wash it, it’s just that I don’t ever feel like it). What blows the most is that I can’t run for 3 weeks. Of course I despise grueling tempos and mile repeats, but I live for the euphoria that comes when it’s time for the cool down. Overall, I’ve been a bit mopey and pessimistic about the injury, but a pick-me-up happened this weekend.

On Saturday, I went with my roommate to get her first tattoo. She got a beautiful arrow ascending up her ribcage. When my other roommate asked her what the meaning behind it was, she pulled up this quote:

“An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. So when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means that it’s going to launch you into something great. So just focus, and keep aiming.”

We all have something in our lives that is dragging us back. It could be a financial problem,  your career, a relationship you’re in, etc. When my roommate read this quote to me, I realized how crucial it is to have obstacles in our lives. After reading the quote, I started to see the positives about my injury:

1. Going so long without running will make me that much more excited to come back, and it will like a sweet present to me.

2. It has taught me to do more injury-prevention exercises and take better care of myself.

3. I get to watch my teammates persevere through 3.1 miles of torture, and I’ve developed so much respect for them and myself because I know I will be doing that soon too.

4. Watching them race makes me realize how beautiful distance running really is.

Think of a setback in your life. I challenge you to find the positives. Write them out like I just did and put the list somewhere where you can see it every day. You’re going to be launched into something great.

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How to Translate Women Language into English

Feminists don’t hate me.

Women language: “We don’t have to if you don’t want to.”

English: We HAVE to.

 

Women language: “I want a 50/50 relationship.”

English: I want an 80/20 relationship where I have my ways most of the time. I’ll let you have your way when I’m in a good mood.

 

Women language: “I love being single.”

English: F*** this. F*** this so much.

 

Women language: “I want a romantic relationship.”

English: I want a relationship where he spends a lot of money on me.

 

Women language: “Chivalry is dead.”

English: Why won’t anyone take me on fancy and expensive dates before we have sex?

 

Women language: “We’re just talking.”

English: We’re having sex but I don’t want to make it official because I want to see if I can find someone even better.

 

Women language: “I quit eating sweets.”

English: I haven’t ate ice cream in 2 days.

 

Women language: “Never.”

English: Occasionally.

 

Women language: “I’m fine.”

English: I am livid and want to cut off your genitals and feed them to a pack of wolves.

 

Women language: “Do you want to split this dessert?”

English: I want the entire dessert but I’m trying to exercise my willpower.

 

Women language: “Does this look stupid?”

English: Tell me I’m gorgeous.

 

Women language: “Sorry my car is such a mess.”

English: I’m pretending to be genuinely sorry about my messy car but I do not plan on ever cleaning it.

 

Women language: “I missed being single.”

English: I want to die on the inside.

 

Women language: “I think you’re too good for him.”

English: I’m bitter that you’re in a relationship and I’m not so I want you to dump him.

 

Women language: “I’m just going to shower really quick.”

English: I have to shampoo, condition, shave, moisturize, try on 62 different outfits, contour my face, stare at myself in the mirror until I think I look good, take a few selfies in front of my window, transfer money from my savings into my checking account and I’m good to go!

 

Women language: “I’m doing drinking for a while.”

English: I’m not done drinking for a while but when I say I am out loud I feel better about myself.

 

Women language: “It’s totally natural.”

English: I use Jergens Natural Glow.

 

Women language: “I haven’t ate all day.”

English: I’m trying to show off my will power.

 

Women language: “We should totally get fro yo.”

English: I want Ben and Jerry’s but I’m trying to be healthy.

 

Women language: “It’s all natural!”

English: The label said all natural!

 

Women language: “I want to have a chill weekend.”

English: Nobody asked me to hangout this weekend so I have nothing to do.

 

Women language: “I’m sorry.”

English: You’ll be sorry.

 

Women language: “I’m not mad, I just think it’s funny that . . .”

English: “I am mad.”

 

Women language: “I’m all about personality.”

English: I’m all about looks.

I love you but I don’t like you

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I love you

but I don’t like you

I’d take a bullet for you

but I would not spend time with you

sending Christmas cards and weekly text messages

out of obligation rather than desire

as if these are mere chores

instead of actions derived from the heart

 

I love you

but I don’t like you

and I want to like you

but I can’t

which is strange

because I am exactly like you:

infused with anxiety

and addictive habits

 

I love you

but I don’t like you

this relationship is congested

with timidity and fear

but I know that one day

the brick wall between us

will shatter

and I will like you

 

Living in a big city: 10 lessons I learned

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Growing up in a small town, I found Baltimore to be quite different from the cows and cornfields that I was used to seeing every day. There are some things I know now that I wish I knew before moving to the city, and here’s what they are:

  1. Don’t be so damn naïve

I spent my childhood growing up in a rural little town where everybody was kind to one another. Consequently, I thought everyone in the world was kind, so when an elderly philosophy professor started talking to me at Panera, I figured he just wanted to have some friendly, philosophical conversation, but this was far from the case. After telling him where I went to school he asked me, “So when did you discover yourself sexually?” Not everyone is safe.

2. Don’t assume homeless people always want food

I once saw a homeless man sleeping on a bench while I was walking to the bus stop. I gave him a Clif bar and he hurled it back at me and said, “Eat my shit.” What a lovely world it is.

3. Pace yourself (when it comes to booze)

I went way too hard one night and blacked out at an adult bar. The next morning I woke up to a wiener dog licking my face. It turns out that the bartender took me to her house to make sure I didn’t die walking home. I sent her flowers.

4. JUST UBER (or walk)

Parking is a bitch in any city you are in.

5. Be careful with apps like Bumble and Tinder

Big cities are filled with cute and interesting singles, so it’s a great place to use dating apps. However, you should be careful. My first Bumble date in the city was with a guy who ended up weeping in the car and explaining to me that he might be gay but he isn’t sure.

6. Money . . . does sort of buy happiness

I used to preach, “Money doesn’t buy happiness.” You need money to get the basics: food, water, clothes, a place to sleep . . . but the basics simply aren’t enough. We want to wear Lululemon clothes, eat food from Whole Foods and drink Rosé. The idea sounds sad, but it’s a good motivator to excel at your career

7. Gay guys know how to party

Trust me.

8. You will get catcalled

Someone proposed to me once when I was on a run.

9. Have brunch

The best way to end the weekend is with bottomless mimosas.

10. Life is too short for chains

I LOVE Chipotle, but if you’re a true foodie, you’ll explore as many mom-and-pop restaurants as you can. This goes for shopping too; you’ll find the best clothes in the boutiques you’ve never heard of. Privately-owned is the way to go.