Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Eventual 78 Degrees of Happy

This was a hard winter. My hands froze nearly every day, and the heat stopped working in my apartment several times. I woke up cold, drove to work cold, walked to my building cold, came home cold, and went to bed cold. I felt fortunate to have a place to live and warm clothes to wear, but it was still miserable. Generally I hate cold weather unless it snows, but this year I just wanted the wintry precipitation to stop. On two separate occasions it was snowy and icy to the point that my brakes wouldn't work, and the roads were often really bad. I didn't feel well; getting anywhere was difficult; and frankly consistently deplorable weather eventually depresses me. It was the worst winter (weather-wise) I can remember, and I felt like it would ever end.

Yesterday I sat on the porch in my bathing suit under the sun then went swimming. The puffy white-clouded sky boasted an unreal shade of blue, and a light breeze gently moved the branches of surrounding trees. It was perfect. Summer has come. Today it is mid-70s and beautiful. I thought about how the weather transitioned from -11 degrees, two-pairs-of-mittens, slick sidewalks, and biting wind to 78 degrees, shorts, sunny skies, and barefoot ventures into the grass. But I couldn't exactly picture the progression. It didn't happen overnight, the temperatures randomly skyrocketing 90 degrees. Slowly but surely, the seasons changed, and now I can walk outside without wondering if my nose will still be attached to my face after I finish getting the mail.

Times of grief, misery, and pain are often like that. They say time heals everything, but we want instant results. Time doesn't move fast enough, but we know we shouldn't rush it. We pray for our winter to disappear with the rising sun, but the stupid groundhog keeps seeing its shadow. And we might yell at the sky and say we don't care if there's a time for everything; we don't want to experience the time for pain. But look at the ground; a patch of four-leaf clovers grows where before only rocks rested. You have overcome past difficulties. You've forgotten former pain; you need only look back and remember.

Winter changes slowly into spring. Pain often turns slowly into joy. You just can't predict your victories and defeats and pain and happiness on a calendar the way you can usually predict the seasons. But look back and see what the Lord has done and appreciate the four-leaf clovers. Know that the winters serve a purpose, too, and even in sub-zero temperatures, the Lord is good. One day soon the ice will melt into joy, and you'll be 78 degrees of happy once again.

"And now I'm sunny with a high of 75 since you took my heavy heart and made it light. And it's funny how you find you enjoy your life when you're happy to be alive." —Relient K

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Real Meaning Behind 5 Slang Terms You Hear All the Time

Ever wonder where those strange words and phrases that kids are using these days came from? I don't have time to explain all of them, but hopefully this will help you out.

1. _______, they said. It will be fun, they said.

Go to work, they said. It will be fun, they said. You've all heard it, but you have no idea where it came from.

Several years ago, an anonymous writer associated with DreamWorks wrote a script for an animated movie about three penguins who sojourn from the South Pole to the North Pole because they do not believe that no penguins live on the other side of the earth. The sidekick character, Penelope Penguin, will not do anything unless she is certain it will be fun. Therefore, the other two penguins spend most of the movie telling her things like, "Come to the North Pole with us. It will be fun!" When the activities they suggest later cause the dark night of the soul moment near the conclusion of the film when Penelope is hanging over a volcano and she has an existential crisis, she says things like, "Go on a road trip with us, they said. It will be fun, they said."

Unfortunately, the movie was never produced. I'm not sure why. I thought it sounded interesting.

2. YOLO.

"Yolo!" the young whippersnapper shouts as he walks into the classroom to take the test he did not study for. Why does he say this? I'll tell you.

It all began with an elementary school-aged child who spent most of his time begging on the streets in New York City. He didn't have many clothes to wear, and the rags he had resembled pirate clothes. He became known as the Pirate. No one knew where his parents were, and he never attended school, so he didn't speak very well. In fact, the only word he ever said was, "Yo-ho." Whenever he said it, people began singing, "Yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirate's life for me!" Then they'd laugh and throw a few coins into his jar.

The kid did not respond as expected, however. Instead of expressing gratitude for their generosity, he became more and more frustrated, yelling, "YO-HO! YO-HO!" One day he totally lost it and attacked someone on the street. Then he was taken into custody. After years of therapy paid for by a wealthy benefactor, it was discovered that the only thing the poor chap wanted was a yo-yo, but he didn't know how to pronounce it.

Today we use "YOLO" before doing something crazy because poor little Pip yelled it one last time before beating a random passerby with a moldy sandwich.

3. Much ______. So ______. Very wow.

This one began when one of Miley Cyrus's best friends tried to start her own line of clothing. She originally got some funding because of her status as Miley's bestie. But when her fashion consultant tried to ask her about her vision for the clothing line, everything went downhill. She pushed her purple hair behind one ear and clear her throat. "I'm thinking, like, much artfully. And so sparkles. Just, like, very wow." Unfortunately, her command of the English language left something to be desired. But the fashion consultant wrote about the experience on her blog, popularizing the alterable saying and pairing it with a picture of her strangely expressive dog, which was only overly expressive because it had just tasted Taco Bell for the first time.

4. Cray.

Perhaps the most commonly used in this list, cray has actually been around the longest. Back when the Pilgrims first landed in Eastern Kentucky, the untouched areas around the beautifully green rivers seemed to smell of promise. But when the settlers tried to harvest the gold they heard was hidden there, they instead encountered impossibly ginormous lobster-like creatures known only as crayfish. They were close to five feet long and absolutely vicious. When the brave first four settlers ventured too close to the river, the crayfish mercilessly devoured three of them, leaving the fourth one traumatized and only able to utter a single word: "cray."

That, my friends, is why people say "cray" when something is, like, totally out of control.

5. I can't even.

This term began as a simple way to express a complex process of mathematics used only in Scandinavian Derivatives. The Norwegians have invented an entire number system (known as Absolute Negation Rationalization) that operates without acknowledging the existence of "0," the only number that is neither even nor odd. Mathematicians use this phrase to explain to students the necessity to utilize that system.

Unfortunately, Americans have begun using it to explain utter shock, horror, or disbelief of various circumstances, usually resulting from a lack of better words to describe the gravity of the situation.

I hope this list was helpful to you. Especially if you had trouble connecting with the younger folks, this should make you feel really relevant. Who knows, one of the young chaps might be unaware of the origins of these handy phrases. Why not share one of these stories? You'll probably impress those Millennials with your extensive knowledge about what is hip and awesome.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Post-grad Year One: 8 Things I Wish I'd Thought About Sooner

When I graduated from college, I didn't have much idea what to expect. During the first 22 years of life, the path is obvious for most people like me. You go to high school, go to college, pick a major, and learn stuff. Then you graduate. The first year of post-grad is hard for a lot of people because it doesn't turn out like they hoped. (I know that because I had a lot of friends a year or two older than I who thought so.) And of course, I went to grad school, so some people would argue that my supposed "post-grad" isn't post-grad at all. But I don't have time for naysayers, so I present to you: 8 things I wish I'd known before I graduated from college.

1. Despite what people say, college is part of the legendary"real world." 
"College is not the real world," well-intentioned people said to me a lot during my four-year time at my first University. Actually, college isn't another dimension; it's a part of life. I get it—they were trying to say that college is different from having a full-time job. Well, then say that. Stop saying it's not the "real world" like earning a four-year degree is akin to spending time in the Twilight Zone. (Besides, I worked in college, so I feel like that made my experience quite different from what some people do: take 15 credits and spend the rest of the time getting slobbering drunk and making poor decisions.)

2. Everything you experience is both a part of life and a preparation for something else.
People often say: "College is a preparation time for the rest of your life." True, but high school was a preparation for college. And your first years in the business world will be your preparation for years later in your career. All the years leading up to college graduation are not solely preparation, while the day after graduation the "real thing" magically starts. The truth is, everything—including college—is both a part of life and a preparation for something else. I think it's important to both live in the present and prepare for the future.

3. Budgeting is awesome, and even a little saving can go a long way.
In college, I didn't budget much because I didn't really have money. But now that I occasionally have enough money to buy a stick of gum, budgeting is one of my favorite things. When I first moved into my apartment, I constructed a rigid budget I intended to follow. For five months I kept track of literally every penny I spent. Once I was confident I was going to be able to suppress random urges to buy a ticket to New Zealand over fall break, I stopped keeping track of the money I spent. Now when I want to buy coffee or something, I don't feel guilty about it.

4. You aren't obligated to move away from your college town.
For some reason in college I thought that graduating from my University meant I was obligated to get a job in my field in some other state and live in an apartment by myself hundreds of miles from anyone I knew. Stupid, right? If you want to do that, great! If not, that's fine, too. One of my friends said it well (paraphrased): "We spent all this time building a community and forming connections here; why move away if we don't want to?" Also, the first place you move after college doesn't have to be where you stay forever. Which brings me to...

5. The first thing you do after college doesn't have to be what you do forever.
"What are you going to do after college?" the well-intentioned people ask. What I heard was: "How do you want to spend the next 40 years of your life?" Silly, right? Yes. Don't know what to do after college? Pick something! Don't like it? Do something else! That's totally allowed.

6. Graduating from college doesn't mean the fun is over or that you have to be boring.
Yes, I know. If you work 40 hours per week, especially if you have to get up early all the time, you might be too tired to go on Taco Bell runs at 2 a.m. like you did in college. And yes, in college, socializing, having fun, and doing a variety of activities is really easy. But now you just have to make time for what is important to you and be intentional about it. I don't exactly hit up 4 parties every week, but I don't spend 30 hours per week watching TV alone and wonder why friends don't magically materialize in my living room.

7. Leaving college doesn't mean you automatically have everything in order and never make a mistake again.
I know, I know. Some people graduate college and immediately marry the perfect person, move into a lovely apartment, and immediately get an awesome job. But even those people will have hardships and make mistakes. Some of us will graduate from college and apply to 35 jobs and not hear back from any of them. Some of us will have no idea what we want to do and subsequently spend a year working as an alpaca farmer in a foreign country. Some of us will forget to pay a bill or oversleep or burn the grilled cheese or mess up a presentation. It happens. It's okay.

8. Post-grad can be awesome!
It seems like older people try to scare college students about post-grad by talking about bills and full-time jobs and complications, etc. Sure, there are bad things about the years following college, but there were annoying things about college, too, remember? Like studying for 13 hours for exams, writing papers on topics you didn't care about, and having to buy the dollar shampoo because you couldn't afford anything else. Each part of life has pros and cons. Make post-grad awesome.