but what even is kindness anyways

Kindness is one of those mysterious things where you don’t exactly know how to pin it down at times, but you know it’s there. People who are kind just feel that way, and when we really think about it, it takes us a while to come up with a specific example. When we talk to strangers, we can sense a bit of their personality, and even right after we’ve met them, we assume how nice they are based upon it.

Kindness is a level of love that any two individuals can share. It means respect for the other person’s opinions, genuine compassion and interest in their life, and taking time out to do something the other person needs, or might find difficult on their own. Sharing food is often seen as kind because you’re directly restricting your own well being to give someone something they might require.

Yet, kindness is still mysterious because if you’re not used to it or not in very specific situations, it’s not clear what the right, nice thing to do is. Take the example I gave before with sharing your food with a small animal, like they typically show in movies to prove the protagonist is a good person. That feeding might teach animals in real life to become dependent on humans, which increases the likelihood they’ll be hurt because they’re hanging around humans too much. Furthermore, the closest animals we typically could feed are the common species that don’t need the extra food. Not feeding a pigeon isn’t going to kill them, they’re going to hop over to the next family and try their luck again. My point, regardless of your opinion on pigeons, is that kindness is a broad term, and there will always be ways to justify not taking action, for better or worse.

It’s okay to not know how to be kind. We get out of practice, and some people are naturally more compassionate than others. However, we should strive for it, as unnatural as it may seem. We won’t always know what the best, most sincere, and respectful route of action is. Life is ambiguous, but we can always be better. It’s a matter of keeping our eyes open and seeing where we can help. A good starting point is getting into the habit if literally asking, “Hey, is there anything I can do to help?”

friends are beds

Plenty of psychologists, economists, philosphers, and random individuals have tried to quantify relationships. There’s a MinMax principle that describes how we view relationships as what we give and what we get. Then you get poets and humanities based professionals who see relationships as immeasurable. Our actions and emotions are complex, afterall, and it seems to reductionist to judge all bonds off of what we directly get from the other person. However, most everyone agrees that friends are vital to living a full life.

Friends are like beds. You rest on them when you need the support, and you take care of your bed back. Afterall, we provide cushions and pillows and fancy sheets for our bed. However, the easiest test of how dear a friend is, is to see so effortless it is to trust them. It’s about feeling safe when the rest of life may not be. It’s about comfort when the conflicts of the day to day are uncomfortable. Things aren’t always easy, and the bed may prick you from time to time, but a friend is where you need them to be.

So appreciate your bed! Spend lots of money on blankets! Like our bed, friends are also not always acknowledged for how much they do. Its easy to take advantage of a comfy resting place. However, unlike a bed, people have feelings. No matter how friendship works, it matters. Friendship goes both ways, so think of yourself as some place that can be of solace them. Beds are amazing! But friends are even more so, don’t forget to hold them dear.

the joy of an okay day

We aren’t sure yet what tomorrow will bring. We have our best guesses, context clues, and past experiences to rely off of. Yet, these things are not inherently accurate. We could be thrown for a loop! However, for better or worse, tomorrow will probably be ordinary. And you know the most amazing thing? That’s okay. Your day doesn’t have to be spectacularly good or bad.

Perhaps the worst part of life is the uncertainty, and yet we must live with it. We don’t know what sort of day it will be, or what sort of day the next day will be either! While it would be nice to have everything planned out perfectly, many times, it’s out of our hands. We have to wait and see what comes. We need to be patient with both ourselves and others because people don’t change overnight! Rather, they are constantly growing.

Even if it’s an ordinary day, “ordinary” doesn’t automatically translate to bland. We should absolutely work hard and try to make the most out of what we are given! Yet we also need to remember that making the most out of our days doesn’t have to be flashy. If we focus on the little things, we can be more grateful. If we can be more grateful, ordinary becomes something special all on it’s own. So enjoy a warm blanket! Enjoy stretching! Enjoy shoes that fit well! Even if its cold, enjoy how it wakes you up! You don’t have to love everything, but rather as much as you can.

Give compliments, because wow! you’re doing a great job!

There’s a concept that says those who give lots of compliments are just gold diggers; they don’t mean what they say, they just want to “butter you up”. However, although we might  distrust those kinds of people in theory, in more practice, studies suggest that giving compliments actually does improve how other people see you. By giving genuine words of admiration, you show that you care about them. If you say you like someone’s hat, for example, you aren’t just saying you like the hat. You are saying you noticed that they took the time to wear it, and in short, you noticed them.

Humans have a need to belong. Without companions, people die earlier, are more likely to commit suicide, and are more likely to resort to crime. So many of the stories we surround ourselves with, from TV shows or movies or books, deal with relationships to some degree because it is such a potent part of our lives. Also in those same stories is usually a protagonist, picked for some special reason. This protagonist is set apart somehow, overcomes obstacles,  and although they may have difficulties with those they love, have some semblance of a family at the end of the day. We like this trope because we want to see ourselves in that way; we want to believe that despite our faults, we are special and loved.

Even if you don’t mean it, compliments implicitly give that sense of belonging and uniqueness. Putting in effort to notice a person helps the person giving the compliment and the one receiving it. It puts both giver and receiver in a good mood as well, which improves creativity and makes us more generous. Essentially, there’s no good reason to not give compliments. It’s a small thing that can impact you and those around you for the better. So take this chance! You’re going to do a great job!

 

 

 

 

Make your life your novel

 

Almost everyone has tried to write a book at some point in their life. It might be three pages long and half developed or it might be a full three page novel they can’t stop editing. If you ask someone what they would like to write a book about, practically every single person can think of something they’ve secretly been working on mentally. However, there obviously isn’t a book on the shelves for every person who wants to write one because they usually don’t even find their way onto paper.

There’s lots of reasons why a book doesn’t come into fruition. The person forgets the idea, they discard it, life gets in the way and they don’t work on it, they complete it and never get it published, they try to get it published and no one wants it; there’s so many things that can sway a book from publication. The big factor, though, is the individual who wants to write it. We don’t write books because we usually don’t have the self-control to do so. It’s not that the idea isn’t big enough, or that the plot isn’t developed enough. It’s the fact that we have to put our heads in the game on a daily basis and work on it until we make the idea big enough and the plot developed enough.

Not everyone is a writer, and not all writers are good at what they do. Writing is an incredibly difficult task, trying to get at the barest bones of communication. You don’t have to work on a book in order to feel successful in life, but we could all improve our self-discipline. It doesn’t matter what you want if you don’t do anything to get it. In some areas, writing a book is easier than other tasks because you can measure how much you’ve done through page number, word count, or chapters completed. So give yourself a measure! Make a checklist and fill out your goals. Don’t let your ambitions be unrealized, but seek them out every day, because every day is a gift.

“I want to die. lol.”

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The most beautiful part of any day is the fact that it exists. Particularly among the younger generations who’ve grown up alongside social media and computer technology, there’s a generally negative culture. Posting something means you are motivated emotionally to do so, and in most instances, we tend to feel more motivated by negative emotions than positive ones. That means what’s going onto our walls and blogs reflects those same emotions. There are jokes about the void, nihilism, and the ‘sweet embrace of death’ because we deal with these heavy feelings through humor. Linguistically, we’ve developed a form of hyperbolic speech contrasted with minor events and appropriated entire concepts into slang like “same”. However, we can get easily overwhelmed by this constant stream and begin to cultivate unhealthy thought processes.

Just take a moment to pause yourself and think about what you see everyday. We like to think of ourselves as unaffected by propaganda compared to the normal population (It’s called the third-person effect) but the truth is that, statistically speaking, you are affected by the media. There’s a whole slew of phenomenon and theories about it, but spending hours on social media has an impact on your psychological health. I am not immune, you are not immune, your friends aren’t immune; it’s just a result of living. It’s not always a bad thing either, but it is always good to be aware of what we are reading.

When you read these jokes and are surrounded with an atmosphere that mocks existence, it can be easy to feel purposeless. However, the existence of existence is important. Some claim that it would be better to not have been born at all. If you weren’t born, after all, then you would’t feel all the pain of living. You also wouldn’t even be able to appreciate nonexistence. Because we are, because we exist, we can feel every emotion. We can feel the positive feelings as well as the negative ones. We can laugh at stupid jokes and feel idiotic for not seeing something obvious. Existence and nonexistence aren’t comparable. Existence means being able to do something and grow past the difficulties. Existence means that you have the opportunity to both screw up your life, and also to fix it.

 

 

Davison, W. (1983). “The third-person effect in communication”. Public Opinion Quarterly. 47 (1): 1–15. doi:10.1086/268763

 

Don’t starve yourself from people

For social beings who by nature need communication and contact, we have a really bad habit of isolating ourselves. We would prefer to hide behind social media, small talk, and our own self-doubts rather than try and make connections. Socialization is hard work, even for extroverts. You are a bubble of experiences, ideas, thoughts, temperament, and genetics and you meet another bubble that has all its own experiences and beliefs. Who knows if youre bubbles overlap? Trying to find similarities is frightening because people don’t always click right away.

Making friends means being vulnerable, and vulnerability is uncomfortable because it means not being able to predict the future as well. Even something as minor as revealing you love dogs: what if they hate dogs and have had traumatic experiences with them? It’s unlikely, but the more personal the topics get, the more risky it is to share them because you don’t know how they’ll react. As much as social anxiety is seen as over reacting in our culture, it’s actually not that unreasonable when you consider how socialization puts identity and sense of self at risk.

We like focusing on the ‘good stuff’, especially in American culture. We like feeling good, looking good, and being happy 100% of the time. When we talk and risk oursleves, we demand and expect payback for that socialization risk. Yet sometimes the result is awkward and embarrassing. It’s not required to be pretty and it usually isn’t  smooth at all. In fact, it can be uncomfortable and unsatisfying.  Talking to other people is hard, that’s proven by how entire college majors are dedicated to simple communication.

It’s okay to be socially awkward, everything gets better with practice. It’s okay to miscommunicate something, you’ll keep at it and they’ll eventually catch on. It’s okay to not know what to say, you’re not a mind-reader. It’s natural to have some difficulties when bridging the gap between two entirely different lives. Keep at it! Keep taking risks and communicating with people. Closing ourselves off socially is starving ourselves of a basic pyschological desire, so stay fed! It might not always seem worth it in the moment but it is in the long run.

 

The Fans

Not all passions are equal in the eyes of our culture. People who care about TV shows seem somehow “less” or more frivolous. That arises from the fact that it usually doesn’t require a higher degree of education or complex thinking to watch it. Furthermore, spending all of your time thinking about a show takes away from thinking about something more valued by our culture. However, I’d like to try and change that view point just a bit: why do most people care more about shows than we do real things?

Shows are captivating because they have story lines. As humans, we love stories, we think in stories. Yet they are also captivating because a vast majority of them have character development. You can trust someone is going to change, and most likely it will be for the better. It’s comforting. Also, if they are done correctly, shows can be amazingly interesting. Science is absolutely fascinating, but not thrilling like watching dragons attack a castle. Books are entertaining, but people don’t like spending the energy it takes to imagine and process the words.

When you compare random bits of data, it’s much harder to get excited than over Person A killing Person B over Person C who loves person D who loves person B. In our lives, we love stories, but we also get frustrated when our lives work out more like a series of random events and less like a path that leads somewhere. Not all passions are equal because some roles seem to be only available to those who are skilled enough to achieve them. Fans are a dime a dozen, but lawyers? Learning the Law takes years of extra schooling. The problem is most lawyers probably aren’t that passionate about the law. 

 What if we were as passionate about our lives as we are by really good shows? What if we could see ourselves as the protagonist and the hard work as a mighty challenge that’s worth overcoming? Consider becoming a fan of your own life.

Asking questions 

What does it mean to be human? Are we a sum of memories? Is there some sort of innate seed of a soul we can’t ever get rid of? Are we simply a brain? Scientists, philosophers, and anyone else who has ever taken a really long shower have debated this with themselves. It’s good to ask these questions, it helps us define what we believe and who we are. However it can be a toil to really try and figure that sort of thing out; a trouble we don’t really want to deal with all the time. Some people do everything in their power to avoid thinking about existence, others spend all their time doing it. Overthinking can get you into a dark spiral, but ignoring the big questions can make it hard to find meaning. The real question is how do we find the balance between the two? Where is the perfect level of cognition?

The first time I had chocolate soymilk I was disgusted. The second time I thought it was alright. The third time was pretty good, and today it was absolutely delicious.  We might never get a clear answer when it comes to philosophical questions because even the small things like our opinions about a drink can be impacted by time, location, mood, etc. However by asking them, we force oursleves to take a hard look at the world we perceive, and surprisingly at the world within oursleves. It would be handy to have some sort of meter that guided you to the “perfect” level of cognition, or some sort of algorithm for life. Yet it is the nature of this ambiguity that gives us meaning and maybe a clue as to what makes us human. 

Life is more trial and error than a systematic procedure. We operate on general concepts and broad ideas. We can be cruel or kind but we exist. So exist! Overthink, underthink, make mistakes, feel terrible, feel terrific! Ask the big questions and do your best to answer them. Then watch some mindless TV because it’s fun. If you don’t know what you’re doing, try and figure it out! The greatest mistake we can make is tricking ourselves into thinking we don’t have a choice and stagnating. You can do this. 

It’s okay to be afraid

Fear is a part of our lives. As Americans, we don’t like thinking about that: “We’re free independent people! We do what we want because we want to do it!” But even if we say the only thing to fear is fear itself, we don’t apply that to our everyday lives. We fear being judged, failing, being embarrassed, and more. Then it stops us, freezes us up from taking risks.

However, fear is also a powerful motivator, if you’ve heard any villian-monologue. True in a lot of cases, fear is an influential emotion. It can even be a healthy motivator. Everyone experiences fear at some time or another, but it’s a matter of what scares you that drives your actions. If we fear remaining the same, we can strive to make a change. If we teach ourselves to fear the risk of doing nothing, we can convince ourselves to take risks that help us in the long run. 

And it’s okay to be afraid! Fear has such a negative connotation around it because it seems like only cowards get scared. However, fear is very real. It’s even a wise action to be afraid; it means you know the risks and are alert for your safety. Being afraid means being on guard in dangerous situations. If you are afraid, you can prepare yourself, it makes evolutionary sense. When we experience this fear, the key isn’t to try and ignore it, but push through it. Be afraid and take the jump anyways.