Remember the days of being in middle school and learning about all the places in the world you could travel to? I couldn't either until I was cleaning my room last week and found my old, 250+ bullet list of things I wanted to do before I die, also known as my bucket list. Let me tell you that this was one of the stupidest things I have ever written. I decided to update it and shrink it. After careful consideration, I have created my new version of my bucket list, comprised of 25 items.
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Even if both are beyond perfect.
From reading the books in eighth grade to watching the television show all throughout high school, "Pretty Little Liars"basically defined my teenage existence. I was completely and totally obsessed on all accounts. However, even though I loved the fact that the books and the show are starkly different, there are simply just some ways in which the books are much better. Let's take a look:
The Liars were not very likable at times.Giphy
OK, so I get that this is slightly controversial. I read the books first, and the way I see it, the Liars aren't just called that because of the Ali-related secrets they keep. Actually, the books have little to do about Ali- it's all about the negative impact Ali had on their lives, transforming them into the people they are today. Hanna was nasty and downright narcissistic in the beginning of the book series. Emily was a whiny girl willing to do anything to see Ali again, while Aria's desire for a more exciting life always left her with less than she started with. Spencer had this sickening need for perfection that drove her to do things some people could never even imagine. These girls were not angels, and could not be defended in their actions during certain parts of the series. In this sense, I think it is much more powerful to have main characters that you dislike in order to get a message across, which author Sara Shepard does stunningly. Although I liked the fact that I could sympathize and relate to the girls in the ABC Family show, to me it just does not fall in line with the premise of this series.
Spencer Hastings and Andrew Campbell were the ultimate OTP.
Yes, you heard me. Toby and Spencer were never even a consideration as a couple in the book series, due to Toby's suicide in the second book, "Flawless." (Note: Toby was an entirely different character in the TV series, and I have to admit that is something I like about the show more.) On the other hand, Spencer and Andrew were in a relationship for a considerable amount of time in the books, and were a fan favorite for many people. Their relationship made them the ultimate power couple in high school, and I shipped them so hard. I would have loved to see this happen in the series, even if it meant sacrificing a portion of Spoby's timeline
On the note of relationships: Ezra Fitz
Mr. Fitz was not a significant portion of Aria's life throughout the book series. Ezra, although cute at first, was deemed creepy and overall problematic early on in the series, leaving a bad taste in every reader's mouth. Aria and Ezra broke up rather quickly, and it was not pretty. So, I was very surprised to see how the relationship developed on the television show. I have the utmost unpopular opinion when it comes to Ezra on the TV show, in which I have always despised him. I really do wish that he was not such a huge part of the TV series, and prefer the message the books sent out when his relationship with Aria did not work out.
There is a lot more suspense and horror within each mystery.
I know this is a heavy claim since it seems that everywhere you turn PLL is unleashing a new bombshell on the show. What I'm trying to say is that there was a lot more of the classic mystery/horror element to the books that the TV show lost over time. Since the show can be all-action, all-reveal at times, inevitably at other times it can just seem to drag out. There is nothing I hate more than getting bored with a television show, and this happens quite often with PLL. The books can be deemed much more captivating and interesting. They keep to a few core mysteries, but within each of these mysteries lies a lot more suspense and horror that keeps everyone on the edge on their seats while reading. I love the intricacy of who killed Ali, which is focused on in the books, more so than the constant switching of A's and good guys/bad gals and whatnot, which is focused on in the show.
The families were more of an integral part of the book series.
I'm not saying that the families of each of the girls are irrelevant in the show, because that is not true by any means. Instead I'm saying that each family had a much different role and their roles fit in better within the entire context of the series. Hanna's mom in the books was nothing like her television counterpart- she was a barely present, careless business mogul who treated her daughter like she did not even exist.
Even though Ms. Marin was less present, her role was essential in understanding Hanna's story-line and why she acted in certain ways. The divorce between Aria's parents was a lot more significant and played into her relationship with her brother, Mike, as well as how she behaved during the series. Spencer's relationship with her sister, Melissa, took up a large portion of content in the books, and was emphasized to a greater extent. Their disagreements were physical, brutal, and downright terrifying at times, which contributes in understanding Spencer's personality and overall family dynamics. Lastly, Emily's parents were a lot more conservative in the books, and their reaction when she came out was a lot different from the television series. Emily's mom was still not very understanding on the show, but the magnitude of her disapproval is greater in the books. This explained a lot more about Emily's personality in the books and why Ali has such a strong influence on her, even when she was not there.
So, even though I love both the television show and the book series, there are many ways in which I believe the books to be better. Sure, there are definitely some ways in which the show is better. But, for now, I encourage anyone who wants to read something over their Winter Break to start the "Pretty Little Liars"book series. There is a lot more suspense, and it is fun to pick out the differences from the television show and see which one you like more. You never know, after reading them, you could come to an entirely different conclusion than me.
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I just want you to know you are loved. You are loved so very much.
Recently I was blessed to be a counselor at a wonderful camp, secluded in a cornfield somewhere in Virginia. I consider myself to be a seasoned camp counselor, as I have not only been a camper for most of my life but have been privileged enough to work multiple camps with all kinds of different facilities. I have worked camps with multi-thousand dollar facilities, with zip lines, rock walls, ropes courses, and boats. I have worked at camps with amazing water sports, camps with paintball, camps with canoes and paddle boats and floating blobs or trampolines in the middle of the water. I have worked at camps with in ground pools and camps without any pools, and even some camps with go-karts. I've had problem kids, kids who refuse to listen to anything I say, kids who sneak out after lights out to meet a significant other, and kids who are every camp counselors dream.
This past week, I was blessed with an amazing group of girls. They listened to almost everything I said, they cleaned like they were related to Danny Tanner, they sat on the front row every time service started, they lifted their hands in worship, they showed excellent sportsmanship during team games, and they were sweet, kind, caring, inclusive, and team players. It was wonderful. But while I watched my girls and I felt my heart swell for the wonderful experiences they were having I noticed something. I noticed the girl sitting in the back row with her knees drawn up to her chest. I noticed the boy slouched down in his seat, glancing around as if he was afraid someone would try and come speak to him. I noticed the girl with her her eyes on the floor, her headphones in, not joining in the service. Not hearing the words of love and hope the preacher spoke about their lives.
My heart, bursting with happiness and pride only moments before broke into pieces To the girl in the back row, I just want you to know you are loved. You are loved so very much. You may not realize it, but you are. I don't know your story. I don't know if you come from a broken home. I don't know if you have had something traumatic happen to you. Maybe you are just shy. Maybe you don't like crowds. But dear precious girl, do not let these things keep you from missing out on a wonderful experience. I know what it's like to be the girl on the front row, the happy girl with lots of friends. But I also know what it is like to be the girl in the back row, the girl who is terrified of being called out and embarrassed, but secretly hopes someone will anyway. I don’t know your story, but I can guess what you are feeling. You want someone to pay attention to you, someone to give you hope. Someone to tell you that you aren't worthless.
You aren’t worthless. You are worth more than you ever dreamed. My sweet beautiful girl, hiding on the back row, you are a princess. You were bought with the highest price anyone can pay. Have you ever dreamed of a prince charming to come riding up in a white Camry and whisk you away from everything? You have a prince charming. He is the prince of peace, and his name is wonderful, counselor, healer, redeemer, friend. He is a relentless lover, pursuing you without ceasing. I know you can't always feel his presence. Neither can I. But he is there. He is there when you don’t see him when you don’t feel him, and when you think everyone else has abandoned you, he is there. He will never leave you, he promises to stick closer to you than your own family. Oh my sweet girl sitting on the back row, I pray you will one day feel his loving arms surrounding you. I know how scared you must be.
The back row is safe. It’s a small island in the midst of the self-proclaimed Jesus freaks. The back row is where no one will make you stand up in front of everyone. The back row is where no one falls over and says weird things that you can not understand. The back row is where no one pays attention to you, and no one notices you, even when you secretly hope someone will. But there is a downside to the safety of the back row, perhaps you may have started to realize this as camp drew to a close. In the back row, you aren’t surrounded by people who want to love on you. In the back row, there is no one to come up and put their arm around you while you cry. There is no one to pray for you, hold you, or show you the compassion, mercy, love, forgiveness, and acceptance that you deserve and desperately seek. There is no healing in safety. Think of going to the doctor’s office.
You need a shot to get better from an illness, but the needle is big and you are scared. The shot may hurt, but without it, how will you get better? Beautiful princess in the back row with your head down, please look up. I am here. I see you. You won’t be alone. If you need someone to sit with you, please just make eye contact with me. I will be there. You have left camp now. I don’t know what you are doing or how things are at home, but I am praying for you. At night, as your tears wet your pillow, I am praying for the Father to the Fatherless comes and surrounds you with his love. During your school days, as you seek acceptance from the other kids, I will be praying you find it in the one who wants to be your Savior. Someone saw you. Someone noticed. Someone cared. Next Sunday at church, next Wednesday at youth group, I pray you will move a seat closer. I pray you will find your courage and your boldness. Because sweet, sweet girl on the back row, someone noticed you, and someone cares. To the girl in the back row, if no one else tells you this today, I want you to know, I love you, and so does Jesus.
"As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th"- Donald J. Trump
The United Nations (UN) has been in existence since June of 1945. Since then, the world has come together to work on and solve some of the harshest problems that face the Human Race. Be it children in societal ills like Human Trafficking, natural issues like Deforestation, or issues of extreme poverty, the UN has worked together in an attempt to make it a better place for us all. It's the only organization in the history of the world to bring people together in a willing, peaceful way; a feat that not even the League of Nations could do in the Post- WWI era. Why was it that one organization failed, and the other one is still going strong, 72 years later?
Well, one could argue that it was and is United States involvement that has kept it afloat for so long. The League was created in the Paris Peace Conference following WWI at the urging of President Woodrow Willson as the first Intergovernmental organization who's sole purpose was to maintain world peace. However, when the charter was presented to the US senate for ratification, it was shot down due to extreme isolationism. Because of this, the LON was never able to gain the political traction that it needed to be an effective force in the world and ultimately led to WWII.
Through the horrors of WWII, it was revealed that the world needed to unite more than ever. Towards the end of the war effort, 51 nations signed the charter of the UN, though, it did not come into power until after the ratification of the charter by the P5 (Russia, China, France, UK, and the USA), as well as a majority of the remaining countries.
Since that time, the UN has done incredible things to make the world a better place. They created the Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, which affirms the basic rights of each and every individual on the planet, the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, which went into effect in 1970, banning the manufacture of nuclear weapons technology, countless Peacekeeping missions (we can debate the effectiveness of the peacekeepers at a later date), UNICEF, and lots of other things.
So, this brings me to the reason why I am writing this. In recent weeks, President-elect Donald Trump has been less-than-friendly to the Intergovernmental organization. Calling it a club for people to go to and "have a good time" and calling it a "waste of time and money." If the President-elect continues with this dangerous rhetoric, the dangers would be astronomical. The risk with this rhetoric is the possibility of the U.S. drawing out of the UN, which would have domino effects. It would effectively remove us from all the UN treaties that we are a part of, like the NPT, which would put us in the same league of North Korea as the only two nations to withdraw from it. Our support of peacekeeping ops, various UN programs, and risk the stability of the entire nation.
Now, I am far from biased in writing this. I have participated in Model UN for the past 2 years, this year will mark my third conference, and I have fallen in love with what the UN stands for. It brings people together, from throughout the world, to fight common problems. Yes, it may not be effective, or the best organized, or well oiled like smaller organizations, but neither is our government. Why would we not support something that has kept the world from full scale war for the past 70 years?
"Who cares if I'm pretty if I fail my finals?"
Quick-witted and insanely smart, Rory Gilmore has a track record for memorable, relevant quotes that have become a part of fans’ repertoires. With it being finals season, many of Rory’s words can be conveniently interpreted to reflect life during the last weeks of the semester. Here are some of Rory’s wisest words that explain your life during finals season.
"Who cares if I'm pretty if I fail my finals?"
Gone are the days of actually trying to look decent when going out in public. Now you’re heading to the library in workout shorts and an old t-shirt with your hair in a messy bun. School first, fashion second.
“My books look sad. Can books look sad?”
“College is not just a crazy, wild, sleep-deprived, hedonistic society!”
Actually, it is. Emphasis on the sleep-deprived.
“I’ve now used the word ‘suck’ so much that it’s lost all meaning to me.”
And you’ve probably used it about your final term paper or your ability to stay focused on studying for more than five minutes at a time.
“I cannot do this alone. I need my mommy and I don’t care who knows it.”
It’s okay, we all turn into needy children during finals season.
“A ‘D’ at Stars Hollow High is like an ‘F’ at Chilton. It’s worse. It’s like a ‘G’…or a ‘W’.”
You’re basically accepting that there is a class or two in which you might just get a grade that comes after the letter ‘F’. You tried.
“A little nervous breakdown can really work wonders for a girl.”
A nervous breakdown doubles as an excellent study break!
“Can’t you shut up for five seconds, please? Thank you.”
Your response when your friends start daydreaming aloud about the imminent summer. Or your friends’ response to you when you procrastinate studying by rambling on about who knows what.
“I can’t finish all this and sleep at the same time."
It may seem like you can’t finish, but trust me. You can. And you will. Every difficult task eventually gets completed. And even if you’re seriously lacking some sleep, you have an entire summer ahead of you to make up for it.
As difficult as finals season is, and as much as these Rory quotes can relate to your life at this time, it’s important to stay motivated and focused on finishing the semester. Remember that summer is right around the corner. Besides, if you’re ever feeling in need of some motivation as you push through finals season, just ask yourself: WWRGD. (What would Rory Gilmore do?) I think you know the answer.
My experience welcoming the Jewish new year.
Well, the fall season is finally upon us. It’s time for pumpkin spice coffee, apple cider and lots of candy.
It’s also time for some holidays, such as Halloween and Thanksgiving. For myself and others in the Jewish community, it’s time for the high holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This past weekend was Rosh Hashanah.
Rosh Hashanah marks the start of the Jewish new year. Besides it being the time for apples, honey and challah bread, it’s a time when we think about all that’s happened in the past year. It’s also when we think of the changes we want to see in the new one.This was the second year that I was away from my family for the holiday. I go to school about three and a half hours from where I live, but this being one of the most important holidays, I made sure that I could get home. I packed up my heels, my clothes for temple and headed home. When I walked through the front door, I immediately saw how much has changed.
I walked into a house that was full of new furniture and everything had been moved around. People had moved bedrooms, some stuff had been painted and there were different cars in the driveway. And then I thought about how in just a few months things had changed so much. What about this whole year? I have so much to be grateful for.
I thought about my family and how lucky I am that everyone is still here and still healthy. I thought about my little siblings, who have grown and matured. I thought about myself, and how I’ve learned to be comfortable being away from home.
Before I knew it, it was time to have Rosh Hashanah dinner. I got a little emotional on the inside. My entire family always gets together for this holiday, which doesn’t happen often. My grandparents lead the dinner, we catch up and we talk about what’s happening in everyone’s lives. Everyone always has a new story to tell each year. Everyone is interested in the growth that’s happened around the table.
The very next day, I woke up early in the morning to go to temple with my grandparents. I used to hate going to temple when I was little, but now as an adult, I’m starting to see why my mother used to always make me go. It’s about family and growing closer to one another as Jewish people. I’m grateful that I still have the privilege of going to temple with my siblings and grandparents. I’m grateful I can be home to celebrate with them.
Not everyone can do this. Not everyone is able to be home for the holidays with everyone that they love. So, this Rosh Hashanah, I’m recognizing the blessings that I have. A lot has changed since the last Jewish new year. This year has been full of laughter, tears, heartbreak, growth and new experiences.
And I can’t wait to see what this next year brings.
1. Brittany Morgan, National Writer's Society
2. Radhi, SUNY Stony Brook
3. Kristen Haddox, Penn State University
4. Jennifer Kustanovich, SUNY Stony Brook
5. Clare Regelbrugge, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign