Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Keeping Up Appearances

It has come to my attention in recent years that most people are simply selfish. It never ceases to amaze me the absolute disregard for chivalry with which most people go about their daily lives. I am so taken aback by the purely selfish motives that lie behind even the most seemingly selfless acts. Truly, I feel like an alien at times. Don't get me wrong: I certainly don't view myself as a saint. I simply do not approach life the way that many seem to. Perhaps it is the way I was raised and maybe it is simply Jesus, but I have an extremely hard time relating to a lot of people on the level of self-servitude.

In high school, I tried to be as active as I could be. I took a lot of dance classes and was generally absent from many social functions, but I was as active a member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Student Council, class council, French Club, Tiger Leadership and youth group as I possibly could be. I did these things because I liked them. I love people and I really enjoy interacting with others. Furthermore, I truly enjoy serving. Sure I participated in fun FCA and youth group events, but my ultimate favorite has always been putting a smile on someone's face. The best day of the whole year in high school was the day that the local chocolatier gave FCA all the free chocolate to hand out to our classmates. That chocolate made people so happy and Mr. Donaldson was a saint to have done that for us.

When I made it to college, I was eager once again to be an active part of the student body. I joined a sorority, looked into clubs and started going to student government meetings. It was then that I realized how self-centered all of these activities were. For me, they were a chance to experience, grow and serve. Others, however, would unashamedly profess how joining Tri Delta was gonna look great on their resume and would really help build their career network. I was shocked. I had always thought sororities were about sisterhood and service. This attitude was even more rampant throughout other student organizations. When I joined Alpha Phi Omega, a service fraternity, I discovered that nobody actually showed up to the service events. Big Brothers/Big Sisters was a sham, too. I thought I was going to help kids who needed help. Instead, parents with children living in one of the richest districts in the country would sign their kids up for practically a free babysitter. The other volunteer mentors were just looking for another thing to make them look good and they told me so in so many words. How on earth had I missed the memo on all of this? Did everyone do good works to garner some sort of reward?

Growing up in my house, you were taught to do the right thing because it was the right thing to do-- not because you got some sort of reward for it. It was expected and questions were not asked. How had everyone else's education been so very different? I also hold true to the proverb that much is asked of those who are given much. I don't need to do selfless things for other people because it looks good on my resume or gets me brownie points with my employers and coworkers. I need to do good things because good things have been given to me. In this fallen world, however, this is alien thinking.

When you think about it, you can't help but feel furthermore compelled to the cross. This world needs Jesus. That people cannot even do good in the name of doing good and that they must have some sort of personal gain from the act is simply appalling. Jesus Christ gave us the greatest gift in forfeiting everything he had. Should we not also give up everything for Him? The reward we are offered for doing nothing but trusting is truly awe-inspiring. The gift of a life with God is something I cannot even begin to comprehend. And so, because of this gift, I feel compelled to look even more on Jesus and act in a way that might repay that debt. It cannot be repayed, but it is so miraculous that there is simply no good excuse not to seek after it and live a life according to that of Christ. If it is able for this unbelieving world to see the glory of Christ through even my small actions, it was well worth the personal discomfort and sacrifice taken to get there.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Forgiveness Is A Hard-Fought Victory

A really good friend of mine reminded me about the importance of forgiveness today.

I have been pretty angry at my friend for awhile. Normally, we refuse forgiveness when we are angry, put-off and vengeful. It is no surprise then that I had not yet forgiven him, even though I tried desperately to convince myself I was not angry and that I had gotten over the whole thing. Neither of these things being true, it was just a matter of time before the lid was blown on the whole sham.

You see, this friend had refused to speak to me for months with little to no explanation. At first, I was heartbroken. One of my best friends just left me high and dry. How would you have felt? This heartbreak slowly morphed into hardened anger and I barely took notice. As I nursed my wounded spirit, I told myself this reaction was totally acceptable, natural and, indeed, right. I certainly had every right to feel the way I was feeling. Nobody would fault me there. I had been slighted. This gave me the right to pout and carry on and nobody was allowed to reprimand me.

I had the right to be angry. But was it what I should be doing?

I never really stopped to ask myself that question. Instead, when this dear, dear friend of mine finally decided to show his face again, I let him have it. I demanded an explanation. I refused kindness. I was a brute, to be quite frank. He didn't respond well. Mostly defensively. I can't really blame him for that. What was I expecting? People don't usually apologize as you reprimand them as harshly as I was him. It certainly did not end well. I have to say, I am quite ashamed of the whole thing. In all of that tumult and anger, I had forgotten two very important aspects of humanity: 1) Nobody is perfect and 2) keeping others' experience in perspective is of vital importance.

Instead of greeting my friend warmly after his 6 month absence from my life, I chose to let my anger get the best of me. Here was one of the people I had most identified with in my young life and I was willing to let him go for a bunch of prideful anger. True, he deserved it, but it's not my job to give him what he deserves. If I got everything I deserved, I would be one unhappy camper. Instead, it is my job to be merciful. This dear friend of mine should have received my forgiveness and mercy regardless of how he had wronged me. None of that should matter.

None of it does matter.

I just wonder if it's now too late to be in his good graces once more.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

D'OH!: An Open Criticism of Myself.

I am an idiot.

I do really, really unforgivably obnoxious things sometimes. The thing that kills me about it is that I CONTINUE to do them even though I am FULLY AWARE of how much they annoy other people.

For example, I will argue a point long after the subject has been exhausted. I get this from my father. I wish that I didn't do this because my sisters don't do it. Just me. My dad is a really cool person but he can also be really obnoxious sometimes. This is precisely the thing that has driven my mother nuts for years and the thing that caused my sisters and I to completely tune him out when I was growing up. When my sister graduated from high school, the general consensus was that she was the most like Dad. She has the same thought process, a similar intelligence level, etc. I remember feeling slighted and disenfranchised in some respect-- not because I wanted to be just like him but more that she somehow inherited all the admirable qualities and I had inherited all the ones nobody wanted to lay claim to. Don't get me wrong: my dad doesn't have many bad qualities. However, it does seem that the mantle of this particular characteristic has been bestowed upon Yours Truly with a general lack of the kind of intelligence and logic necessary to legitimize it.Sadly, it seems my family might agree with this assessment.

Another example is the way I just talk to fill up empty space. I feel like I chatter incessantly and it annoys even ME. Why can't I figure out how to shut up? I will talk about anything continually so long as it doesn't mean an awkward silence. I make myself look like an idiot regularly. I don't know if it's more annoying or embarrassing. I wish I had a chatterbox conscience that would tell me when to shut off my word vomit. Seriously, what is the value of going on about coloring inside the lines? Why talk someone's ear off about ballet when they couldn't care less? Will I ever learn to value silence?

I know I do other annoying things, too. I can tell by the way my classmates generally avoid me, family members skirt around certain issues and my friends space out in my presence. Still, I think these are the core of the problem. The issues herein is, however, that I have known these things for quite awhile. So, what's the problem? Are these my "pet transgressions"? Am I seriously so prideful that I am wont to rid myself of these things? Or is it simply who I am? And if it is, how do I harness these qualities and render them for good instead of repellent, self-destruction?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pet Peeves Die Hard

Imagine: you are reading a super-swank story about sneakers, chock full of nifty links to other sites featuring sneakers. You're loving the article, thinking,"this fella is totally on the money!" when, suddenly, the tempting link you have, at length, chosen from among the article's cornucopia of offerings and gingerly selected with your cursor has transported you to another internet dimension-- that is, another site. If you're anything like me, you are aghast. "What the truck!?," you say to yourself (well, maybe only Laura Flynn would say that to herself... out loud anyway). "I WAS STILL READING THAT!"

Imagine no more. Simply click the link up yonder to view (in another window!) the culprit.

I cannot, for the life of me, understand why it is that organizations/companies/people allow link to navigate from their pages. Newsflash: We are a much savvier consumer then you anticipate, organization/company/person. I do not care to be flung all over the internet while in the same browser/tab. The "previous page" button sucks and is for squares. Actually, I just find that tabs are useful for meaningful cross-referencing and would appreciate if you would recognize this preference. Your links are cool/useful, but it is time to graduate from potty training: MAKE YOUR LINKS OPEN IN ANOTHER WINDOW, YOU DUMMY!

Furthermore, why on earth would you allow eyeballs to get away!? In the case of Paste Magazine (That's where that link goes, in case you haven't already clicked. It's okay. Go ahead and click it. This page will still be here when you do.), I know the goal is not to get people to buy Adidas and Onitsuka sneakers. The point is to document pop culture. Also, they are in some hot water financially and may or may not stay afloat. So, why don't they utilize simple HTML and keep those eyeballs on their pages? I couldn't say why, because the reasoning would be absurd. Perhaps Adidas and Onitsuka are paying for this linkage, but Paste certainly has other advertisers who will pull ads if they don't generate enough traffic via web advertising. Thus, Paste (and others!) would be wise to utilize the "target='blank'" attribute of the <a href="link"></a> tag. This is how it works:

<a href="link" target="blank">CONTENT</a>

Simple, no? Also, simply smart. I doubt that Paste is trying to pull people away from its site. They probably never really thought about it. However, being successful on the web (or anything) requires some forethought. I don't purport to be a web genius, but I think the point of this post is a pretty obvious concern. Be a thinker, not a stinker, Paste!

So, now that you know, you will probably never forget this. I mean, is it really necessary to write many words on this subject? No. In all honesty, it's probably obnoxious and has you wondering why you've read to this point. However, I doubt you'll let links navigate from your company's site in the future. Surf on, dude!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

1976 Swine Flu Propaganda

Swine flu is one of the more ridiculous things we've been worried about this year. Apparently, 1976 saw a similar worry. This isn't the only thing we've got in common with '76, but I can bet I'd tick some people off by mentioning other similarities. I suppose I'll just shut my trap and let you enjoy the following:

Need I say more?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Quality, not Quantity

In high school, I was an avid ballet dancer. My evenings consisted of dance classes from 4:00-10:00 and weekends were filled with rehearsals. I didn't have much of a social life, but I absolutely loved every moment. I learned a lot about myself, my art and life in general through all of my dance training. I certainly would not be who I am today without it.

One of the things I remember most vividly is my Russian ballet and pointe teacher Rosanna Ruffo. She taught upper-level ballet on Mondays and Wednesdays. One of the things Ms. Ruffo reiterated throughout my training was, "quaaality over quaaant-ti-ty, girls." She said it just like that. Perhaps she was trying to emphasize her point and perhaps English simply was not her mother tongue. Either way, I always remember her words.

Ms. Ruffo's advice extends beyond just the dance studio. It's a lesson on life. It isn't the quantity, but the quality, that is so profound. Quality relationships. Quality work. Quality advice. These are among the many things that we sometimes over-do in an effort to make a difference, make ourselves known or infuse meaning.

As I graduate in just a week, I hope I can carry this lesson with me. It is among the most important lessons I have ever and will ever learn.

Oh-so cute!

You're gonna love this, ya big softie!

Wasn't that adorable!?