Read it and Weep

What was the last book you read? Did you choose to read said book by choice? Or was it for something else like school or work?

When my sister and I learned to read, we didn’t just read them, we DEVOURED THEM. I remember most of our Christmas gifts would be books and by the time Christmas break was over, we would have finished a good chunk (if not all) of the books we had just received. We would read everything! We read novels, fantasy, science fiction, history, historical fiction, and nonfiction.

My sister and I are, unfortunately, increasingly rare specimens of people. In an age where consuming information at hyper-fast speeds is becoming more and more important, many people claim they don’t have the time or the attention span to sit down and read an entire book. We favor online articles and social media to consume information, and to be honest, real life has gotten so ridiculous (American politics anyone?) that it may feel like you’re viewing fiction every time you check the news.

But I still think reading full on books and immersing yourself in a story is important. The majority of books I read are nonfiction or science fiction/fantasy. And I think there is a huge benefit to reading a wide range of books for personal growth and development (and to be one of those pretentious show offs at parties). Below, I’ve outlined how I divide the books in my library and why reading books from each of these categories has more benefits than you might think.

Nonfiction books have obvious benefits. They usually fall into two categories: self-help or history/biography. There is much to be gained by reading these types of books. You can learn techniques to directly help your wellness, success, or productivity. Or, by reading history and biography books you can learn about events and people that have shaped the world into what it looks like today and can increase your understanding and perspective on your environment. I know people think these can be boring or cheesy, or like reading a dry, boring history textbook, but some of these are dynamically written and just as gripping as that tabloid article on that celeb that did that thing (you know the one). My personal favorites in this category:

  1. Never Eat Alone (Keith Ferrazzi)
  2. How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big (Scott Adams)
  3. Blink (Malcolm Gladwell — actually everything by him is great)
  4. GirlBoss (Sophia Amoruso)
  5. Alexander Hamilton (Ron Chernow)
  6. The Four Hour Workweek (Tim Ferris)

The next category is novels. I define novels as fictional stories that have realistic characters and settings. This category of book is important because it increases your thinking and perception about your world. Even though the stories told in this category are fiction, the struggles of the characters are usually very real and tackle topics that relate heavily with most people. This category of book resonates with me because it helps with my empathy and understanding of people. Going on a journey through a character’s life helps you see things through their eyes, and even though they are made up, that skill can transfer to your own, very real, life. My personal favorites in this category:

  1. A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini)
  2. Fates and Furies ( Lauren Groff)
  3. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo ( Stieg Larsson)
  4. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini – this guy is a powerful writer ok?)
  5. The Butterfly Garden (Dot Hutchinson)
  6. The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde)
  7. Rich People Problems (Kevin Kwan, a guilty pleasure but a fun read nontheless)

The last important category in my repertoire is fantasy/fiction/sci-fi etc. I define this category as stories about things that are completely made up. The setting, circumstances, characters, and story are all completely fictional. These differ from novels because the setting is not real. This is my favorite genre because reading these books is kind of like watching a film for me. They tell these fantastical tales that my own brain can’t imagine and immerse me in a world that doesn’t exist to tell a story that ends up being highly relatable. These books are also my favorite because not only are they the most entertaining for me, I feel like they combine the best of the first two categories into one. Their characters are still intensely relatable which adds the empathy element found in novel studies, and they also encourage outside of the box thinking. In order to truly enjoy a fictional world, you have to understand the fictional rules and workings of that world and that thinking forces you to expand your mind and think about your own world more creatively. My favorites (I have so many here so I’ll only list a few):

  1. The Harry Potter Series (J.K. Rowling, this is a classic)
  2. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
  3. Enchanted (Orson Scott Card, honestly I’ve read all his books)
  4. Game of Thrones (George R.R. Martin, another expected one, but the books are honestly amazing)
  5. Ready Player One (Ernest Cline)
  6. Queen of the Tearling (Erika Johansen)
  7. The Selection (Kiera Cass)
  8. The Veldt (Ray Bradbury, this is a short story, but I love it)

I have been a reader all my life. I LOVE books, I’m such a nerd for all kinds of reading so I might be a bit biased, but being a strong reader definitely carries over into other elements of your life. Many people don’t want to spend the time reading or they claim school ruined reading for them, but reading should never be a chore and there are MILLIONS of books out there so there is something for everyone. Reading novels and books not only offers the benefits I described above, but it also drastically improves your thinking, writing, and vocabulary skills. I know I sound preachy, but there is literally NO downside to reading more books. Comment if you can think of one and we can have a lively discussion on the topic!

 

 

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Bare Necessities

I’ve lived a pretty typical middle-class young adult life. I graduated high school, went to college, and now I have a job and am contributing (?) to society. However, because I went to a university across the country, studied abroad on the other side of the world, and now live completely on my own, I’ve realized that there are a few skills that I learned along the way that everyone should really know by the time they reach my age.

And obviously, as a plucky 22-year-old, I have TONS of wisdom to offer, and everything I say should be taken completely seriously. SO, with THAT said, the list below encompasses things you should’ve been figuring out how to do before you could even drink in this god-forsaken country.

  1. Cooking: I don’t care if it’s pasta, steak, or the meanest grilled cheese ever, you should know how to make yourself a quality hot meal. Extra credit: You can make more than one, and have a few go-to dishes for yourself and when you’re trying to impress! Look at you, you overachiever you.
  2. Skincare: Once again, this doesn’t have to be fancy, but so help me, if you’re not moisturizing your face and body then you are just asking for flaky lizard skin, not to mention, PREMATURE AGING (it’s ok to start screaming, I know it’s terrifying).
  3. Haircare: Get a hair cut regularly. Just DO it. You know it’s the right thing to do, and your hair feels so much better afterward. Also, don’t forget to shampoo AND condition.
  4. Shop for Underwear: You’re not a kid anymore and isn’t it just embarrassing to have your mom do this? You should know by now which kinds you like and what brands to invest in. People with boobs: if you so choose to wear bras, get fitted by an expert, it helps.
  5. Favorite Books: I know reading books for school sucks, but reading is good for you. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER. You should explore some genres and find a few books that blow your mind, the kind you’d recommend to others. A couple of mine: Ender’s Game, Perfume, and Never Eat Alone.
  6. Know how to change a tire: I actually fail on this account, but I know it is something I should learn. You never know when you’ll be in a tight spot with no cell service so your parents can talk you through it.
  7. Set a Schedule: I know this is EXTRA boring (unless you’re a planning fanatic like me) and I know you can set whatever hours you want since you’re an adult, but all that extra freedom is precisely why you need to learn to set your own schedule so you don’t turn into an ambitionless lump that has to peel themselves off their couch every Monday.
  8. Fitness: You knew this was coming didn’t you? I don’t care whether you walk, swim, yoga, or whatever. But pick something, and do it regularly.
  9. Traveling: Traveling alone can be stressful, you should know how to navigate airports, baggage issues, and how to get around in new places without your phone. Traveling is an unparalleled learning experience, and remember what I said earlier about knowledge and power? Yeah, exactly.
  10. Cleaning: Chances are, you have your own space by now, whether it’s a dorm room or an apartment. Being a slob is just unacceptable. Learn to pick up after yourself and how to clean different surfaces properly. There is no excuse for this. Don’t be nasty. Extra Credit: Doing your laundry without shrinking or ruining anything.

And there you have it, in my obviously learned opinion, these are the top ten things you should have figured out by the time you are a budding adult…there is literally no good way to classify this period of our lives is there? Young adult? Young person? Millenial? Comment the best way to classify those in their late teens/extremely early twenties because I have no good ideas for this…

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PC: the AMAZING Clara Yu

 

Living Up to Your OWN Standards

Every time I read an article about a twelve-year-old who sold an app to google, I die a little inside. Replace that twelve-year-old with a teenager who started a successful company or a young twenty-something who has already achieved millionaire status. It seems like everywhere I look these days, there is somebody younger than me who is vastly more successful and that reminds me just how little I have accomplished in my short twenty-two years on this Earth.

I say to myself ‘what have you been doing, Melina? You could have invented something, made a bunch of money, started a company, saved a species, if you had only tried harder, earlier’ I feel an enormous sense of failure having not done anything that anyone would describe as ‘remarkable’.

This kind of exposure can be tough to take. With social media, you can hear about every hyper-successful up and comer around the world. It is easy to be jealous of their success and to become filled with self-doubt that you’ll never amount to anything because you missed your window or because you believe these types of people are exorbitantly more intelligent or driven than you are.

I suffer from this A LOT. I feel intensely inadequate and like a straight up bum when I read or hear about these kinds of people. Consequently, I’ve had to develop a method to cope with this instead of just giving up on life because I wasn’t a pubescent tech genius.

I’ve boiled it down to the fact that I’m not jealous of these people because they’re successful, rich, famous, or smart. I’m jealous of them because they clearly had a direction. If someone is a world class pianist at the age of 11 or they made a million by 18, they didn’t get there by accident. They believed in a path of life so powerfully that they acted on it and gave their all to it. Those kinds of accomplishments don’t just take hard work and intelligence, they take devotion. To reach the highest echelons of success in a particular area, one has to be devoted to it. And THAT is what I’m jealous of.

For example, I have this friend who is currently finishing up an aerospace engineering degree at MIT. In short, her goal is to be an astronaut. But what is so astounding about her is that she has had this goal FOREVER. She is twenty-one years old, and as far as she can remember, she has had the goal of being an astronaut and has done everything in her power to achieve it. She has direction.

I, on the other hand, don’t have a direction. Sure, I have a great job, hobbies, and friends, but there is not one direction where I would feel comfortable and productive devoting myself to. And that is the part of these peoples’ success that I find myself being envious of. I wish I had a direction for myself because I know that if I had a clear idea of what I wanted to become, I would probably be successful at achieving it. Innately, I realize that aspiring to accomplish the same things as other people is not what I actually want. As cliche as it sounds, I want to be the best version of myself in the end.

In simpler terms, a basketball player would never be jealous of a successful gymnast because they know they have different directions. The basketball player wants to be the best basketball player, not the best at any other sport.

By the same logic, I cannot compare myself to these people I read about online because we don’t have the same goals. I can’t compare myself to the five-year-old boy who performed at Carnegie hall because it was never my goal or direction to become a world class musician. I can’t compare myself to the twenty-six-year-old billionaire founder of Snapchat because it was never my goal to be a tech billionaire (although I wouldn’t say no…). And that is how I have to think. I have to learn to be ok spending this time figuring out a direction and to learn to rely on the idea that when I find my own direction, I’m going to kick. its. ass.

 

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Smile to keep from dwelling on the confusion of your own life.