Monday, February 9, 2015

you can always keep learning

I know I definitely have a bias when it comes to educational topics because, let's face it, the majority of my life has either involved actual enrollment/participation in education or teaching in an educational setting. Plus, my current goal is to enroll in a PhD program in order to ultimately be able to teach in a college setting. Clearly, learning in general holds a place in my heart. Going through a Master's program was a great step for me both academically and personally (though to be honest my finances did not come out unscathed, yikes!), but it also opened my eyes to what learning - even at an Ivy Plus, private research university - can look like.

One misconception that I held before enrolling at UChicago was that most people went straight from undergraduate studies into a PhD program. And those of us who didn't make it in right away either only took one year off, we weren't smart enough, or we had some Event in our lives that barred us from going. This is probably the most incorrect (and narrow-minded) idea I think I have ever held. When I started coursework at the university, I was surprised to see so many students who were a good deal older than I was - and I am talking about a good 10+ year age difference. In fact, I would say the majority of the students had taken a significant amount of time off after they completed their Bachelor's degree. Furthermore, as I spoke to more faculty members, it became clear that a lot of admissions committees looked favorably on going out into the world and gaining experience - go figure, right?

I am currently in the midst of a gap year, waiting to hear if I'll be entering a PhD program this fall, or taking another route. While I used to see a PhD as the be-all-end-all of my life, I have come to realize that there is nothing stopping me from continuing to engage in my love for academia. I might not have an institution attached to my name to give me academic "cred", but I can still dig deeper into the theories and ideas that truly capture my fascination. And I think this is an important thing to keep in mind: you can always keep learning, especially when whatever you are studying is something you are really passionate about. Most of the books that I enjoy reading are fairly obscure texts, but I can easily find them through interlibrary loans at my local library. This is true for any other type of knowledge you might be seeking. For example, I enjoy knitting and I like trying out new techniques, but I don't have any knitting gurus near me who can show me what to do - so I turn to YouTube videos. There is an abundance of ways to keep expanding your knowledge base and most of them are very easy to access.

At the end of the day what I care about is learning and always continuing to learn because there is so much that I do not know. There are many misconceptions that I am sure that I still hold on to while also remaining blind to their existence. Regardless of academic cred, or lack thereof, I'll keep learning.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

more thoughts on positivity

A week ago I wrote a post on how I personally keep myself positive. The more I thought about the notion of positivity and the more I have come to realize how much of a buzzword it is across the blogosphere right now (I guess it's part of the zeitgeist), I felt that there was a little more that needed to be said.

One thing I feel the need to clarify is the fact that although I do believe (from personal experience) that being positive is a healthier mindset to have in general, I do not believe in positivity in the sense of the law of attraction. I do believe that this type of thinking is true to an extent - for example, I find that when you always believe less of yourself, you tend to not be as successful, because you cannot visualize yourself succeeding. You absolutely can set up mental blocks for yourself that inhibit your ability to succeed. There is definitely some truth to the idea that having a positive mindset will lead to positive outcomes. That being said, if you do wish to go along with this worldview, you would need to agree with it's secondary implication: that if bad things are happening to you, it is because you are not thinking the right types of positive thoughts. In other words, you are not positive enough.

I do have a bone to pick with the law of attraction when you extrapolate its basic premise out to its logically conclusion: that good things will come to you if you think positive thoughts and bad things will come to you if you have negative thoughts. This view of positivity came out most clearly in the book The Secret and I will be honest will you: I believe that this worldview is incredibly privileged and places blame on individuals who are themselves victims of circumstances outside of their ability to "think the bad away". The universe is not that simple and placing the fault on someone's mindset is ridiculous, to be quite frank. If we are to actually follow through with what The Secret and books like it are contending, we would (logically) have to state that those in poverty are there not because of wide-spread and well-documented systemic prejudice...but because of their thoughts?  

I believe that focusing so much on the law of attraction-esque mindset is unfair to those who are going through difficult circumstances that are wholly outside of their control - let alone outside of their modes of thinking. It is not fair to simply tell someone to "be more positive" when they are struggling with depression, with abuse, with tragic loss, etc. Rather than telling these individuals that they need to be positive about their circumstances, we should be saying to them: yes, that really sucks and I will help you, as much as I can, to make things suck less.

There is a balance that has to be maintained between positivity and admitting when things are terrible, and outside of your control. A really pertinent example of this is the disproportionate number of people of color who are killed at the hands of police. The same thing could be said of children who are victims of violence that are completely and utterly unprovoked (such as the terribly Sandy Hook shooting). Are these deaths due to individuals' inability to be positive? At what age are individuals responsible for the bad things that happen to them because they did not "think good thoughts"?

And this is where my criticism lies with the law of attraction: it does not hold up to genuine critique once you move it outside of its own perimeters. Just to be clear here, I do believe that being positive is the better route to take, I truly do. However, I have been seeing so many posts on Positivity lately (and specifically the type of positivity that is laid out in the law of attraction) that I felt that I needed to be more clear on what my personal definition of positivity is. I believe that there are many, many aspects of your life that can be improved by staying positive - but I would never agree that positivity is the only thing that governs what happens to us.

Monday, February 2, 2015

burrantando's sloth yarn bowl

I have been an avid knitter since college and I still like to make time to have something going on my knitting needles. My boyfriend has been the recipient of a few of my creations so he is quite familiar with my love of knitting. For Christmas this year we decided to get each other one "big" item and as a kind of random fluke - or maybe a case of "great minds think alike" - we got each other something that encouraged our respective hobbies. I got him an autographed book on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (his main hobby) and he got me a yarn bowl!

A good friend of mine showed me a link to an Etsy store called Burrantando Ceramics and I instantly fell in love with their designs. I then showed my boyfriend some of my favorites and, lo and behold, a month later, I got my very own Ceramic Baby Sloth Yarn Bowl! I am in love with this little guy. Not only is he really adorable, he is also really useful; I took him out of his packaging and immediately put him to use. Even when not in use, I can leave him out around the house for decoration - so practical and cute! One thing that I am particularly fond of is the fact that when you put a yarn ball inside the bowl, it looks like he is hugging it. The quality is superb and the fact that they were kind enough to etch in a sweet little note on the bottom made it even more personal. I make it a point to buy handmade when I can and I am ecstatic to add this little cutie to my collection.

Although this was meant to be a Christmas present, due to the fact that each piece is made-to-order and because it was shipping internationally, I just got my Christmas present late last week. However, after holding it in person, in retrospect I definitely don't mind the wait. One thing to note about this seller is that (according to my boyfriend) the shipping was pretty steep. Again, this is something that is to be expected especially considering how fragile the product is and how far it came from - but that is still something to keep in mind before you make your purchase.

I am so happy with this gift and, being me, I couldn't help but go back to their website and take a peek at a few more of their designs. Seals are my second favorite animals (after otters), so I squealed when I saw these two designs. I am also partial to these little polar bear figurines. Overall, this is one of my favorite Christmas gifts ever and I am so happy with it!

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