The Ultimate New Year's Resolution

The Ultimate New Year's Resolution

Better than starting that new gym membership that you will cancel in a month anyways.
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Welcome to 2017. Over the last two weeks, I have heard nothing but how awful last year was. But really, how different is 2017 going to be? I do not know the answer to that question. No one does. It is relative to how we, as humans, are prepared to conduct ourselves over the next 356 days.

Alas, the new year is a time for change in our lives. Therefore, I have the ultimate New Year’s Resolution for you.

As the new president takes over and change is enacted within our institutions and government programs, it will be more important than ever to discuss social issues, particularly ones concerning racism. It is hard to jump right into discussing racial issues, therefore I propose that you take a baby step first. In 2017, it will be important for all Americans to understand the implications of our own biases. Our own prejudices. Our own racism.

What does it truly mean to be racist anyway? Many claim that leftists throw the r-word around too much, and how it should only be used when people say they specifically hate a group of people.

I used to believe that too. I used to think that I could only be racist if I said something like “I hate black people.” That was my thinking before I left my cozy, rural, Upstate New York environment for the real world in college.

As much as I love my hometown, it offers no diversity. The high school makes an attempt with the international student program, but in reality the town could be much, much more diverse. The percent of white people who live in the town is into the high 90s if it isn’t already 100 percent. This allows no room to learn about other people’s cultures, traditions, and beliefs.

Allow me to be honest for a minute. Here are a couple examples of what I used to think was acceptable to say and think about people different from me.

I remember laughing about my dinner experience at the YMCA Youth and Government conference in 10th grade when I ended up sitting at the wrong table with a group of African-American students from a New York City school. I remember making fun of how they acted, how they ate, and how they talked; citing their behavior as a product of their skin color.

I remember making constant jokes with my friends about the Asian international students at my school. We joked about them being good at karate, enjoying more than their fair-share of rice, and shamed them when they weren’t good at math.

I remember talking about immigration policy in my American government class and thinking it was acceptable to deport illegal immigrants even if they were trafficked in against their will. I also thought it was acceptable to deport people if they couldn’t speak fluent English.

And yet, I did not consider myself a racist.

Once I arrived at college, I realized that I was extremely uncomfortable and untrustworthy about my black neighbors in my residence hall. That’s when I knew that I needed to change how I thought. I needed to change my biases and catch myself when I had a biased thought or said a biased statement. I knew that not doing so would not be helpful to my learning experience.

After spending over a year learning about diversity, I still catch myself thinking in biased ways. I try to always reflect on these moments and consider how I can change my thought process. When I catch people around my campus and in my home town saying biased things, I try to call them out on it, or at least open up discussion about it.

Even though I actively make an effort to change the world around me, I am not immune to racist thoughts or biased thinking. I have my moments. What counts is what I am prepared to do and say about it.

With racism built into our thinking, it is hard to avoid having these thoughts. Personally, I think it is impossible for anyone to not be racist. We are born looking at others the same, but mass media, parenting, and relationships twist our thinking.

Think about a time where you may have said aloud, “I’m not racist.” What occurred that required you to say that? Maybe someone called you out on something you said. Maybe you were about to say something that, deep down, you knew was wrong to say, so you felt obligated to disclaim your non-racist status beforehand.

My resolution for you is to stop defending your racist thoughts. Instead, fight against them. Learn about them. Learn why you had them in the first place and think about how you can think differently next time.

It is a process that takes work, but it is a more successful process than saying “I’m not racist” or “I don’t see color.” With that, you are not proving anything except for the fact that you are too uncomfortable to deal with your own biases.

This is the ultimate New Year’s Resolution. It requires deep thinking, constant effort, and feeling uncomfortable, yet does not require a gym membership or a new Amazon Kindle to catch up on that reading list of yours. Most importantly, it will allow you to make a difference in your life and in the lives of those around you.

Take a moment and consider it. I can honestly say that becoming more educated on my biased thinking was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. Get out of your mental shell and challenge yourself. Challenge the way you think. I guarantee it will be a rewarding decision.

Cover Image Credit: HerCampus

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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Writing Saved My Sanity

Write it all down when you can't talk to anyone.

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I love writing.

I have since elementary school, and I've dreamed of becoming a published author. I started off writing stupid plays in elementary school, then it grew it almost writing a full-blown novel in middle school. I have no idea where that thing went to. It was all notebook paper and bad writing. In high school, my writing was kinda pushed to the side so I could focus on school. When I entered college, I started writing small poems about my now ex-boyfriend.

I was scared to express myself to him sometimes, the intensity of my feelings for him scared me. So instead of telling him, I wrote them down. When I tried to share them with him, he hated it. He thought writing down feelings was weird and creepy. So I didn't share anything else with him. When we finally broke up for good, everything just poured out of me. What I couldn't express verbally, I wrote or typed out.

I always have ideas flowing through my head. They never cease and I wouldn't want them to. Writing gives me an escape, from stress, work, school, or fights. It gives me a place to vent and to be open with everything. This is a reason I love writing for Odyssey, not only has this place brought me amazing friends but revived my love for writing. I'm never without my notebook anymore, I'd get distracted in class by an idea and have to write I think then and there.

I love sharing my more personal writing with close friends, especially my poems as of late. I found that I have a voice for young women who find themselves in a toxic relationship much like mine was. I want to speak out and show them that you can grow from the bullshit. It may take some time, but you will be better.

Writing saved my sanity. It allows me to express myself without having to use my actual voice. Anyone who knows me, knows I hate public speaking. I tend to psych myself out leading up to it. My current projects include writing for Odyssey every week, I'm in the process of trying to continue my short stories, and I'm excited to announce that I'm currently working on my very first poetry book!

Writing has given me so much, and I'm so looking forward to making a career out of something I love so much.

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