Surviving vs. Thriving

I’m ashamed to look and see how long it has been since I last wrote a post on here. I do have quite a few posts to write about so I will probably spread them out over the week. For my first post…

Recently, my dad’s friend from Chicago (let’s call him Reader) came to visit with his daughter who is two years younger than me. He is a very intellectual guy who has loved to learn since he was a child back in India. He’d pick up any and every book just to expand his knowledge – and boy, did he really expand my mind when he came and stayed for a few days.

One night we were all chilling by the kitchen counter and he gave me a speech about how I should choose to go into my future and nothing has ever struck me as much as what he said that night.

As many people say or have heard from others, you should follow your interests and do what you enjoy. That was the message Reader gave me essentially but worded this way:

You need to find something you’re obsessed with. Something that interests you so much, and something you are so passionate about, that you will wake up in the mornings and chances are that THAT is what you will think about. It should be that way. Anyone can do any job in the future, humans are capable of adapting to their environments.

But if you choose something you obsess over, you will excel no matter where you go. You will be promoted sooner than later, you will get a higher salary raise if that’s what you care about, and people from other fields will come to consult you because you are one of the best in your field. But most importantly, you will have fun.

You can be really talented in one field, but if you don’t obsess over it or have fun with it, then in the end you will be surviving, like everyone else, when really you should be thriving and making a difference in the world – regardless of the field you are passionate about.

“Don’t just survive. That’s what we immigrant parents all over the world have done and are doing right now for you kids. All these immigrant parents have left the comfort of their home countries and are merely surviving right now. Don’t be like us, that’s not why we brought you here. Be better than us, make a difference.”

His speech hit me hard. I’ve always heard people say follow your interests, but it what how Reader put it that made me rethink my entire future. I had plans to go through the English field and become an editor of some sorts, because I enjoy going through the editing process and also that is one of my skills. But.. I don’t obsess over it. I don’t wake up in the mornings wondering what literature I’m going to read next (as much as I’m trying to read more nowadays) nor do I pick up and read any of the books on writing/grammar that I have received as gifts from family.

The one thing I obsess over is paleontology. I love it with all my heart and have since I was a little kid. Paleontology is the subject where I willingly go and WANT to buy books on and read on the train. Every time I go to a bookstore, I always search for a paleontology section. Currently I am reading a book on the Tyrannosaur family that I found at a thrift book store and I am learning so much.

Reader’s speech didn’t just affect me though, it seems like my mom was also enlightened by it. To my surprise, my mom, who had once strongly suggested neurology as a career path, is now encouraging me to follow paleontology. First, I should finish my English degree and get a masters, but afterward – go get that paleontology degree and maybe become a professor.

To be honest, I have yet to look at schools that have good paleontology courses and am still feeling slightly lost despite knowing what I want to do. But I have a good feeling about it.

A Non-Believer’s Hopes

People often find comfort in God or some sort of higher being when faced with a troubling issue. And that’s great that they have something in their lives to rely on through tough times. But I, unfortunately, do not have a lot of faith.

Could I say that? I’m not sure. Basically I just don’t believe in anything religious like other people do. And sometimes that sucks.

Classic college student, soon-to-be 22 year old girl with debilitating insecurities, emotional stability of a seesaw and is sensitive as fuck. Just like most people at this age, I’m lost and don’t know what to do with my life now and in the future. I don’t know how things will end up and there’s not much I can do at the moment about it.

I want to so badly believe that some higher being has great plans in store for me and that everything will be okay – but I don’t even have a lot of faith in religion so it’s very hard to make myself believe that everything will indeed be okay.

I could leave it to fate and destiny, but that also doesn’t give much comfort and hope for me because it still involves some sort of belief in non-physical things. Full belief in a concept per se.

I grew up in a religious, Buddhist family and some of those Buddhist morals shaped who I am today… but where did things just go astray? At what point in my life did things just take a sharp turn on the highway and make me NOT as religious as I probably should be (given how and where I grew up)?

I even went to the country of Buddhism for a whole summer and came back from my trip DOUBTING my Buddhist background.

Religion has never played a huge part in my life or how I see things, so perhaps the lack of importance of religion throughout my life caused me to develop a certain mindset. Or perhaps it was my love for paleontology as a young one where I learned a great deal about science – that too could have developed a certain mindset on how concrete evidence is more important than a belief.

Not to say religion and belief is not important, I think it’s one of the greatest things in life that people can grow up with and live by. But I think my subconscious naturally leans more toward modern science and the need for evidence…

Thinking about it, maybe it’s my generation that is cultivating more non-believers. I know quite a few people my age who are atheists. Two of my ex’s were atheists and I’m pretty sure Gamer might be one too. And no, I’m not actively seeking out atheists as I don’t have a religious preference.

Science is great and, frankly speaking, I don’t have much faith in religion. I have a lot of respect for it and religious people/practices, but I’m naturally always dubious when I hear tales of miracles or people claiming superstitious religious beliefs (mainly thinking of Tibetan Buddhism here). Like, I don’t actually believe a monk touching my head is doing me any good, despite my parents finding it an important blessing. But I’ll naturally/instinctively bow my head and clasp my hands in respect because that’s how I was raised by my wonderful parents.

Overall, I take more toward science and evidence (and I suppose a good chunk of my generation would agree), but sometimes I wish I had faith. I wish I had something to believe in to get me through these tough times (yes yes I know – I’m young and have yet to encounter real hardship, but right now it’s difficult for me, alright?). All my life, I never believed in anything that didn’t have concrete proof. Not even Santa or the tooth fairy. I knew from day 1 that those were fictious characters.

Not having anything comforting through difficult times in general, for anyone, seems to make things much harder. I guess all I can do is wait and see if I get through these obstacles without much difficulty.

On a relevant note, does my not inherently believing in higher beings or having a lot of faith mean I’m an athiest? I mean, I don’t think that higher beings DON’T exist, but I don’t actually believe in them either. Or am I still a Tibetan Buddhist just going through a slump since I still live by some Buddhist morals? I’m not sure what to call myself. Ah, well.

World Heritage Sites

I recently learned about World Heritage Sites, and it’s really piquing my interest. Do any of you know much about those? Essentially, they are sites in the world that bear significant meaning, whether natural or cultural. Examples of natural world heritage sites would be like the Great Barrier Reef, various national parks and reservations (in places like Kenya, India, the states, etc.), and the Swiss Alps. Basically, sites that were naturally “made.” Cultural world heritage sites are man made, but bear significance whether in a negative or positive way. Examples of cultural sites would be Robben Island (the prison system where Nelson Mandela was held), the Taj Mahal, Statue of Liberty, and the Holocaust concentration camps.

Natural or man-made, all of those sites are universally important despite some being less well known than others.

What’s sad is that Syria has six world heritage sites (all cultural sites) and all of them are in danger of being destroyed or has been destroyed. One of the sites is Aleppo. Aleppo, I recently learned, is an ancient city. One that dates back to the 2nd millennium BC. Palmyra is also another city of cultural heritage as it contains monumental ruins of a great city that existed back in the 1st and 2nd century.

If any of you get the chance, go to the World Heritage Sites website and check out all of the world heritage sites that exist in the world. Also, check out the heritage sites of Syria and their pictures – they’re all beautiful and it’s sad to see that these heritage sites are under threat.

And World Heritage Sites are so important that it’s actually a crime to destroy any of them. The International Crime Court handles cases of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Destroying a world heritage site falls under war crime and so far, the ICC has tried 4 criminals. Three of them committed serious cases of murder, rape and torture, but the fourth had destroyed a world heritage site.

The leader of an Islamist group, Ahmed I believe, was sentenced to 9 years of prison for purposely destroying Timbuktu, a cultural world heritage site in Mali, Africa. Over 500 years of history and culture gone just like that in one day.

Getting 9 years only is measly, but my TA said that this is still, regardless, a good first step toward the future and protecting world heritage sites. I think it’s good that these world heritage sites are taken seriously and that the destruction of one of them is no petty crime, but I still wonder how the ICC will handle the destruction of Syria’s world heritage sites.

Maybe one day when the war ceases and it’s not so bad anymore, the ICC will take measures against it. The pictures of Syria’s world heritage sites are so beautiful and to have thousands of years of culture and history being destroyed is something that just… saddens me.

What do you guys think? I strongly urge you to look at the list of world heritage sites, you’d be surprised at just how many there are – natural or cultural.

Nature vs. Environment

I’m supposed to be writing an essay on a sonnet, but honestly there’s only so much Shakespeare your brain can handle before everything starts to not make sense. As I’m having this break, I thought I’d take the time to write an overdue post.

I label myself as an introvert, and my mom often tells me that I have to change from an introvert to have a more successful life (that’s another point for another day), but I also hear from some people that you are who you are and you can’t change your nature. I wonder, though, just how much of your personality is naturally who you are, and what parts of your personality is affected by your environment.

By nature, I would say I’m a “docile” and passive person. That, in turn, has been the base characteristic that shapes all my other characteristics. For example, I’ve never gone out a lot when growing up because as the only child, my parents are quite overprotective of me and worried about me when I happen to be off by myself late at night or such (In gentle words, I had relatively strict parents).

Now, people say that strict parents often end up raising kids who are more rebellious or want to go out more as an adult to make up for their lack of childhood. But I think that depends on your base nature. As I’ve always been a passive person, I grew up just accepting what my parents wanted and, thus, grew up to be someone who identifies more as an introvert – someone who would rather be by themselves, someone who gets tired very easily when out and about, and etc. If someone, by nature, was not passive but rather maybe more outspoken or lively, then I think there’s more of a chance that that person would grow up to identify more as an extrovert, set aside a rebel or anything of the likes.

I think it’s cool just how much of your natural personality and how much of your environment can take part in shaping who you are as a person and continue to grow as a person. Like, how much of yourself do you think is natural and environmentally affected? 50/50? 40/60? 70/30? It’s pretty intriguing to wonder and I’m sure we all can figure that out if we take the time to trace back through our lives and analyze it. I mean, for all I know my passiveness isn’t even a personality trait I naturally have.

What do you guys think?

Compassion Under Fear

This past Sunday, my family went to visit another family for a barbecue they were hosting. I had never truly met them formally before, and to my horror they had a five year old boy. Now let me tell you, as a 21 year old girl, I do not particularly like kids. At all. I much prefer animals. It may be because I grew up as a single child with cousins much older than I and instead watched a shit ton of documentaries on wildlife, but I am awkward around kids. Or at least, with toddlers and below. Not to mention I hate loud noises and some toddlers tend to be loud and/or make loud noises like throwing toys.

Anyway, their five year old son, let’s call him P., was super into me. He kept looking at me and doing things to get my attention. I eventually went inside with him because he wanted to play with me. And from there I was held hostage by a five year old boy for 5 hours. As an introvert who gets tired from socializing quickly and also someone who is not at all fond of kids, I was dying fast and furious.

That night when my family and I got home, my parents were teasing me about it because they know I am incredibly awkward around kids and babies. I kind of snorted and said that I disliked kids, which lead to my dad saying how that meant I’m not compassionate. I think that was just my dad’s slightly inebriated side talking, but it got me thinking.

I think you can still have compassion even if you don’t like something. Heck, I hate spiders. I fear them and every time I see one I will freak out. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have compassion for them. Whenever I see a spider in my vicinity, no matter how much I freak out, I won’t kill it. I’ll have someone else take care of it and throw it outside.

Of course, it’s a no brainer that if you don’t like something (or even hate it), you aren’t at all interested in them. For example, I won’t go out of my way to donate to a charity that saves some endangered spider species because I’m not interested in them in the slightest to begin with. But when it comes down to specific moment between me and a spider, yeah I will have compassion and avoid making any rash decisions that might mean death.

Same with kids. I might even go to the extent to say I almost hate kids, but that doesn’t mean I’ll stand by idly if I see a kid getting hurt or such. I do feel sympathy for kids who suffer through bad times, be it an abusive home or losing a family in war, and I wouldn’t wish harm to anything no matter how much I dislike them. And I think everyone can relate to that. You may not go out of your way to save or do something nice for something/someone you hate, but you might just have a separate container of compassion in yourself that has nothing to do with your fear or disliked thing.

Of course, everyone’s fear or hatred of something may very well exceed the point where his/her “emergency compassion” may not exist for that specific thing/person, but I think it’s there in everyone to begin with.

What do you guys think?