Reflections on Senior Year

Reflections on Senior Year

Saying goodbye is just another part of thriving.

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We're in a moment of transition, at the time of year when we're figuring out the year ahead. As Students, but also as new adults trying to make life work, we're facing the ultimate paradox. We're seeing the greatness and gratitude of our accomplishments go up against against the very human realities of transformation: feeling afraid, feeling inadequate, not knowing what's next.

Maybe we're striving to live up the expectations of our life-changing opportunities.

Maybe we're still working to counteract the Imposter Syndrome worry of "do I even deserve this?"

Maybe we're enduring the hopelessness when our plans falls through. Maybe many plans --- the kinds that depend on one another to work: an internship, an academic program, a job, a secured living situation, and the ability to eat and pay the bills.

Maybe we're not even sure how to begin making plans. Maybe it's all too big, or too new, and we feel like we have no where to go -- or that everyone else is going bigger places, faster than we can think to keep up.

Maybe we're growing as we become more flexible, more ambitious, and hungrier for the opportunities that allow us to rise and those that we need to deal with just to get by.

Maybe we're also forgetting to enjoy the moment of what we've just accomplished. Maybe we're forgetting the magic that happens when we figure out how to move forward.

If you've felt this, or you're going through it, I feel you. My friends feel you. Everyone I know is going through the same things. Most of us know reach for the support that flourishes in groups, organizations, friend circles, families, and just general, simple, perfectly imperfect social human spaces. In the places we go to find answers for ourselves, we can find others struggling with the same things. We hear cries for help, stories of struggle, pleas for advice, confessions of worry, revelations of exhaustion, moments of weakness or heartbreak, and all the bittersweet and hard-to-swallow pieces of the journey.

They're all real. They're all part of this. They're growing pains. They're also, in a weird way, the things that make it all possible.

Often, those two Big Future words --- "I'm scared" ---- aren't just coming from our own mouths. We're hearing them from our friends too. When I hear them, I'm always torn when responding with my gut reaction: 'I've been there. Me, too. Yes, I know, personally – exactly what you mean.' The fact that we're all experiencing it doesn't make your version of this transition any less real. Shared experience is not the same as empathy.

At times, it's almost harder to say the other thing I believe: "it will be okay". If I have confidence in anything, it is confidence in us and what we're capable of. I have seen, over and over and over, that things come together, no matter how bleak or uncertain. My confidence doesn't mean much when looking ahead -- our nation, our generation, and our world is experiencing just as much anxiety about the future as you or I about our own. I can't promise things will turn out, even if I believe it. I know what it's like to be on the other side of a dismissive assurance that "everything will be fine," and to be frustrated. It can feel like a wash. I know I've been pat on the shoulder and cringed away, thinking a little selfishly, "gee, thank you but none of this 'this too shall pass' is helping."

I don't always know what to say, only the things I want to.

I want to say, heck yes! This is scary! Life is unpredictable! It's hard!

I want to say, in full 'Adult Who Doesn't Understand' voice, that I've learned that the most amazing things in life come with that risk, that even adventurers feel that risk, and that I'm sorry if my optimism somehow cheapens my empathy.

I want to say I know that it can feel like gambling with your whole life, your whole future, even your whole dream. How crossroads feel like Russian Roulette. How too many possibilities is as overwhelming as having none.

We're all taking on this monolith journey. We're all in the lawless games of change-of-life, radical-change-of-circumstances, still-manage-to-feed-yourself-and-make-rent.

We're all able to see the magic during the good times. The novelty, the wonder, the joy – that never leaves us completely. We're all gracious human beings. Gratitude is easiest to access right in the beginning, and only at the very end. You remember that joy you felt before starting college, and when walking across that stage at the end? They're peaks. Hindsight is full of the gifts of perspective. We know that it's okay, in the back of our minds. We try to keep in mind a 30,000 foot view of our journeys – but we're also human. We're also anxious and emotional as much as intellectual or intuitive, and cursed (blessed) to live in the now and dread (anticipate) the future and mourn (remember) the past.

I want to say that even when the "but, it's also wonderful" thoughts don't immediately follow the "this day is HARD" thoughts, everything you're saying and feeling and experiencing is still real. It still matters. It's still valid. You don't have to apologize for feeling it.

I want to say that I hope somewhere in those hard moments, there's also room for accepting the light found in the intentions of people who are trying. I hope you always have the perspective to know that you are not alone. That there is a community of people that understand. That so many are willing to hear you and see you. That have felt your situation and relate to your truth.


Ursula K. Le Guin said, "The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next." I think intolerable uncertainty is inherent to those of us just beginning to build our lives. We're setting off on foot, having to improvise a new road at every turn. We're walking blind and trusting the road will be there by the time our foot falls, inventing roads that haven't been paved yet.

Part of me, not cynical but resolutely determined, thinks of this journey as less as a voyage or a climb but more "hopping lily-pads in a current" to get across. Sometimes the river's lava. Sometimes the water's cool and low, we get portions with flat rocks and strong bridges.

When you get ready to graduate, you lose having a live structured by requirements and semesters. You let go of the stability of understanding how your finances work, where you'll be sleeping, what's expected of you, and where your friends are. We have to let go of the stability of knowing. Sometimes we don't even know the next week, nonetheless the next sixth months or few years.

From what I've seen, we do make it, over time. We make it, we excel, and we thrive. Early on, we also spend months of Intolerable Uncertainty while we're waiting for the wheel to come round again to refill our cup (with means, solutions, opportunities, internships, experiences, connections, answers). We can – often already have – spend years like that. We're all in a terrifying waiting room. There's also something to be said for the real life we're living - and hopefully not wasting - while we're waiting.

I won't dare say "don't stress". (We are human!!). Emotional, psychological, financial, and circumstantial realities do not have an on/off switch. Even if they did, random platitudes from your well-intended acquaintances certainly wouldn't flip it.

There may be times that despite the incredible gifts of your life, you also look at the hard work and the calendar to fill with "TBD Future". From there, there may be times when you're feeling low, or terrified, or depressed. These feelings are valid. Maybe they "demand to be felt."

I hope even with the hard days, you still have moments when you find a way to come up for air. I hope that you come to a day when you don't doubt your worthiness, even if you doubt everything else.

I hope that there's always a voice in the back of your mind, loud and bright and singing, reminding you that life has an infinite potential to get better.

I hope, also, that it never lets you forget that there is no rule, in any worldview of any Universe conscious or unconscious, guiding or indifferent, purposeful or randomly-coincidental that says all of life can only and will always get worse.

I hope that you still have moments where you're able to look back on the mysterious ways it's all worked out so far. Maybe it was an acceptance letter, a scholarship, an A+ or even a good hard-earned B- when it was most, a Pass when Fail felt impending-inevitable, a person we meet at the time we most need it, a gift that fills a need before we know to ask for it, a product of a mistake that makes see what beauty a wrong detour can offer, or a bill paid with a check that seems to fall out of the sky.

I hope you see the trends that brought you to where you are, and maybe even intuit a few more for what's next. I hope you remember that you've survived 100% of your worst days thus far.

Sometimes we cry our way through it. Our feet keep moving, even when our mouths are saying "I can't; I give up" or we're bawling our eyes out. Sometimes we feel like we're flailing – and in hindsight, we realized that "flail" was really the hustle we needed to get our heads above water again.

I'm not in the business of platitudes. I'm not as interested in telling you that it will be fine is being here for you when it's not. If we have one thing to trust in, it's not easy answers. It's our own muscles. We know when we're fighting. We know when we're working hard. We only really get dragged back when we stop fighting and let ourselves drift. We can trust our fire.

Know that we can and we do make it. Remember that you've made it this far. All you have to do is keep walking.

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A Friendly Reminder About The Science Of Happiness As Your Final Grades Come In

You may be about your grades, but try to keep things in perspective.

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So, it's that time of year again for college students when the semester has just ended and final grades are rolling in. Whether you've gotten your grades or are waiting on a few, here's something that we should all keep in mind.

Often times, there's a lot of stress placed upon grades being the route to happiness. We might think that a certain GPA and certain grades are the be-all, end-all of our futures. Frankly, it really does seem like that given our surroundings. To work out our feelings with this, we often hear that we just need a little change, maybe get out and shift our perspective a little. While advice like this holds merit, sometimes it takes something a little more concrete and a little less philosophical to really believe.

Here is that little reminder:

There was actually a study conducted for over 70 years on the nuances of happiness, and what they found might be of use to you and me. From 1938 to 2013, Harvard conducted a 75 year-long study on happiness led by renowned psychiatrist Dr. Robert Waldinger, and there are three conclusions that can be drawn from the entire experiment:

1. Happiness is achieved through close relationships.

2. Happiness is achieved through quality relationships.

3. Happiness is achieved through supportive, stable relationships.

Wow. Hm. I don't really see anything about grades in there, do you? Thank God there isn't, honestly. Based on the study, happiness is based largely upon the relationships that we foster with the people in our lives, and, while we're at it, with ourselves. It makes sense if you think about it: most of what we'll look back fondly upon is the time we spent doing things that make us happy (aka valuing the relationship with ourselves) and spending time with the people we love. When we have a support system there to help us through, then things become a little less of a chore to handle our self-believe goes up a notch.

So, this is an open invitation to kick back, relax, let your hair fly in the wind, and give yourself a break.

You did what you could with what you had, and you already know that there's always room for improvement. Try to not be down on yourself, really.

If you made someone happier, if you took care of others or yourself, if you made yourself healthier, then you had a worthwhile year, and there are no two ways about it.

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No, Plants Do Not Feel The Same Pain As Animals

Vegans will not be eating air.
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There is a present argument regarding the idea that “plants feel pain” and therefore vegans are invalid in specifically dodging animal products. This, among many other myths and accusations, will be briefly debunked in this article.

Plants respond to stimuli, but plants don’t have the emotional sentience or feel pain and terror like animals (as developing it had no purpose evolutionarily because fear and pain are meant to trigger fight or fight response & plants can’t do either).

Meanwhile, animals (cows, piggies, deer, bears, chickens, and even fish —- just like dogs, cats, horses, and dolphins) suffer tremendously in being wounded, killed, having babies taken away, seeing others killed, anticipation of death, etc.

No one wants to think about it but look into the investigative journalism into modern animal ag practices and it’ll pretty much ruin your life knowing we all grew up on that. It’s horrible and cloaked by corruption-ruled lobbying, just like we see with gun laws and the NRA. Hence the dozens of Netflix documentaries, and mysterious deaths and assassinations of journalists looking into meat industry (especially its impact on climate change) worldwide (and, as you might know, meat in America is largely run by international companies.)

Looking at exploitation of the farmers they’re so quick to use in “happy lil milk cow!!!” marketing, and researching the testimonies of everyone from doctors to lawyers to small bought-out chicken producers, and it doesn’t take long after that. It’s bad for the farmers, it’s bad for the animals, it’s bad for the slaughterhouse and processing workers, it’s bad for the planet, it’s bad for the human body. I happen to think it’s bad morally, but many things we stay ignorant to for convenience in this society are.

There’s also a ton of research and writing on the intersection of racism, sexism, and xenophobia in speciesism, and how the current state of animal life and human laborer exploitation for the massive one percenter food industry execs (who, by the way, run American distribution and production but also run small US “yeoman” farmers into destitution and have US investigators killed in Brazil over their muckraking) is another gross abuse of a capitalist system. That’s another conversation.

The number one contributer to deforestation (esp. in Indonesian rainforests, relying on lumbar poachers) is cattle production. A massive contributor to carbon emissions is cattle production and its waste. And before I hear another person say “stop caring so much about animals when there are actual human kids in deep poverty out there”… there is enough plants and especially grain to feed the world’s starving population twice over that is fed to animals raised for their bodily products - more than twice over! At crop prices far lower than what people pay to eat the same. Because “capitalism.”

And the same systems that create abuse and exploitation of animals also exploit, profit, and institutionalize the abuse of people. It’s the same enemy.

Plus… all evils are evils. We don’t have to stand for one cause only. We can see wrong and stand up every time. It’s about injustice and those that can’t fight for themselves.

This is a really upsetting thing to wake up to when you agree to consider it seriously instead of leaning on “peta stereotypes” and laughing off a seeming fringe lifestyle as kids who never grew up, accepted the desensitization, and picture the children’s world of Charlotte’s Web behind their dinner.

The reality is horrifying and easily erased with willful ignorance. It’s so much bigger than “cows die and pigs die and chickens are cramped”. Be an adult and do your homework. There’s a reason Anonymous for the Voiceless just shut up and show you. You can’t even imagine. You think it’s a slaughterhouse from a hippie PETA ad. It’s not.

The animals humans eat have complex, self-aware, emotional and cognizant lives.

Pigs have the intelligence of a human 3 year old and can be emotionally attached, or play with, their owners just like puppies.

Cows bond with people and their calves just like horses do.

Not to mention… animal products are straight up bad for your body. And no, consuming them is not how we evolved and not biologically necessary.

(…not to mention unethical and harvested with violent cruelty and full of malpractice, and marketed by big food industry giants the same way big tabbaco got the US addicted to cigarettes.)

No I’m not angry at people who love bacon. I’m concerned about the Society we live in, the exploitation inherent to this capitalist nightmare, and the powerful figures behind it digging Scrooge graves with money.

No it is not immoral to eat meat. It is probably immoral to knowingly support the meat, egg, and dairy industry.

I do believe once you learn about this rabbit hole, really, you can’t ethically keep perpetuating it. (Conscious consumerism is the only Big Move.) In the same way I believe anyone educated beyond ignorance can’t vote for Trump and still be “innocent”. Once you know and still do it anyway, you become immoral and complicit.

Please learn. Be bigger than your assumptions. We should know by now… what we are raised to think isn’t always true.

Cover Image Credit: Anonymous for the Voiceless

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