A Great Friend or Horrible Adversary to the Writer – The Power Nap

Blessing or Curse, do Naps hurt or help you and your writing process?

It’s something you’ve been doing since you were young. Kids hated them. They proclaimed that they weren’t tired and that they were too grown up for naps. Their parents would not relent though. Nap time was hated by many kids for a long period of time.

Now as an adult once again the power nap enters the fray. Nothing beats going for your lunch break and passing out for a bit to regain some necessary energy for the afternoon. Plus sleeping feels great. Making sure you get enough sleep without going overboard is extremely important. The recommended amount can vary. I’ve heard 30-60 minutes is fine (great source I know), while other articles get as low as 10-20 minutes.

There have been plenty of studies on the impact of naps. Research like the one linked here discusses how naps offered a positive effect in adult workers ranging from minor to dramatic increases in alertness and memory recall. A good nap leaves you feeling more energized than ever before and can cut the afternoon grogginess from slipping in after lunch. Granted when it comes to researching the effects on people in general, your mileage may vary when it comes to the positive impacts.

Note however, that there has also been research that showed that those who napped longer than 60 minutes had higher mortality rates. Super scary, but once again when we’re talking about people there are so many factors that go into who we are overall that there are many potential explanations for this relationship.

However, the reason I bring this up is because I’m curious on if authors nap. There are some interesting works on when certain famous authors wake up like this one. Naps are a bit of a different beast. Some people loathe them because they leave snoozer groggy and unsure of the world, while other people receive that positive benefit that was mentioned before and use that newfound energy as a spark for their creative process.

I for one enjoy an early afternoon nap to refocus for work and regain some energy I lost from an early day workout. It makes it feel like my days are split in two and I am by no means complaining. One can make the case that I could be spending that time writing instead, but I think of naps more like an investment. I use up some time now so I can be more ready later.

What are your thoughts on naps’ benefit/risk on your routine and writing habits?

Finding the unlikely factors to deal with Writer’s Block

Sometimes the smallest differences can lead to big changes

It’s a common theme that novelists, students, and pretty much anyone else that has to deal with the written word has to deal with.

Writer’s block.

Run from it, dread it, it arrives all the same. There is something extra annoying about staring at a blank white screen with one cursor blinking- mockingly of course.

The run of the mill responses for dealing with such a problem are good places to start: do a writing prompt, just write about the first thing that comes to mind, and browse the news/social media for some inspiration (although be very careful with that). Yet some either do those steps to no avail or don’t feel like those steps would work to begin with.

It can reach a point where not writing anything during a writing session becomes the norm. Days turn into weeks into months and soon you’ve given up for the long haul. You’re mad at yourself for not pushing past it, you’re mad at the world for creating such a concept as writer’s block, and you’re mad at being mad.

However, when you do reach this step there will come the odd day where writing is like the inverted brother of writer’s block. There will be some days where the stars align and you’re able to pound out that story or article like it was nothing. Like your mind’s gutter was briefly unclogged and all your creative juices pour out.

Take note of everything happening when this occurs.

It doesn’t matter how big or small the various factors could be. Just take a step back and note whatever comes to mind as being slightly different than usual. Attempt writing with different surroundings to see if something sparks in you.

For me, I do a lot better writing while it’s dark or gray outside. If the sun is out I get antsy to be outside or doing chores outside. I noticed that when it rained out all of a sudden I was like a mini Stephen King, pounding out doubled my word goals. In parallel, after the gym my body is exhausted, but I’m twice as focused on the computer thanks to the fact that I don’t really need to move much.

That is to say there will be factors that you think work, but don’t at all. I thought for a while that I needed to eat before writing to get stuff done. This lead to a weird rush for me to eat breakfast quick so I could write before work and boy did it make my meals horrible. Turned out that it wasn’t about eating that was making me write more, but rather the not being hungry that was helping. Something much more manageable.

My friend has a cat and when he writes the best he claims that the cat is sleeping right between his monitor and keyboard. Is that a sustainable way to get you to write more? Heck no. Getting a cat to do anything is a losing battle. That isn’t to say that having your cat not meowing at your feet every 2 seconds isn’t helpful.

Is this groundbreaking stuff?

Not in the slightest.

Will every factor be helpful/controllable?

Nope.

But each little piece you can add to your arsenal is a step in the right direction. Or dare I say the “write” direction. I’ll take my comedian check now.

Graduation Blues

Graduation is bittersweet. But it’s for the best.

For college students, May is always a bittersweet time.

Finals and Graduation are the roughest time of the year and they happen right after each other.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 19.9 million students attend college in Fall 2018 and 1.9 million bachelor’s degrees would be awarded in the U.S. That’s a lot of student debt.

“First you have to take a test for a quarter of your grade for each class you took this semester and then you get to leave college forever.”

Finishing finals was like making it to the end of the tunnel. You put yourself through a high stress situation where you had a serious chance of death, or worse failure. There was always that one project that you had underestimated (or several) and at least one moment where you had to weigh studying for one class versus another.

“I need a A- in this class to get at least a C in Stats, but the Eastern European Paper is 50% of my grade. Guess I’ll write the first and last quarter of the paper and the middle will just sort of average out.”

There is nothing more satisfying than finishing your finals and spending the next week at home just sleeping and being as lazy as physically possible. Every time after finals I’d always return home tired and sick, pushing myself insanely hard.

However, there was also this aspect that I was one year closer to getting my degree accompanied with the fact that I was one less year of college to have fun. After all the point of getting a college education was to improve yourself and better your chances of finding a worthwhile job. Yet at the same time, college is probably the time in your life where you have the most freedom.

True you will be swamped with homework and prepping for test, but unlike high school you didn’t need to be in class for 7 straight hours. Plus you were at least 18 and according to you ID you were 22. Couple that with the fact that everyone else had an excessive of amount of free time would lead to some awesome experiences. Once you go full time there’s no more of that.

And on top of using up another year of freedom, your senior friends would be gone. Moving on to pursue careers, setting down their kegs and funnels for the last time. As an underclassmen its hard to imagine what that feeling is like. No more stresses about finals and homework, only stresses about finances and being an adult. Every senior I met handled it differently, some trying to fill every second they had left by being as not sober as possible while other sat back and looked back with quiet pride.

I’m not sure exactly how any of my friends truly felt upon graduation, but for me it was a sad transition, but a necessary one. My college days were done and what I had done during them were set. I was left only with my vague memories, my degree, and my regrets. I know there was plenty of stuff I wish I did in college that I was too short-sighted to do. I ignored people that would have made good friends and I avoided a lot of events and parties because I wanted that one extra tenth of a GPA point.

Would I completely change everything that I did in college?

No. I’m glad to have met the people I met and experiences I did have.

But I do wish I truly understood how special that time in my life was and the sheer volume of opportunity presented to you. It was all there for the taking, but you had to be aware of it and make an effort to try for it. At some level, I think every college grad experiences this feeling. It’s impossible to make the right decision every time and do everything that someone knew they would like.

If you’re sad that your college days are over, understand that ending them allow you to look back and appreciate the experiences that you had. It’s difficult to see what benefits those days truly were if you’re still in college. Once you’re out it becomes apparent quite quickly and all you’re left with your experiences and your growth.

Processing the change can be as easy as a day or as long as a decade. Everyone reflects at their own speed.

So seniors feel sad for finishing your college days. It means that what you had really was special. Just don’t get too sad.

The Thing Everyone Misses Most From College

The thing people miss most from college isn’t the parties. It’s something even more precious.

One of the most jarring things about post-grad life is the jarring shift in lifestyle. Now not everyone may have had this, but most people had such a massive increase in independence moving from high school to college. It’s jarring, Now you can go to sleep whenever you want or not at all. You can skip a day or three of classes and no one will stop you (although you are paying thousands of dollars to just skip class). A bag of Sour Patch Kids can be your means of sustenance for an entire weekend and cleaning your bathroom becomes optional.

Lots of kids thrive under all this increase in free-time; the kids who are seemingly doing it all from joining new clubs, getting good grades, and still managing to party every night somehow. Others are obliterated by it. Skipping classes leads to knowing even less about the class, worse grades, and the next thing you know a test is coming up, but it was only announced in the class they skipped. Getting high takes such a priority over everything from cleaning, cooking, and exercise that it’s all you’re really known for. Everyone reacts to this new independence differently, but its an independence that’ll only increase after graduation.

For those who could afford the luxury, the large amounts of free time were the best aspect of college. It goes hand in hand with the increased independence, but this free time disappears after college with full employment. Joining clubs, partying, getting high–they all required that you not only had the independence to do them, but the free time as well. And most college kids have that in spades. You can point to some kids who had to work while at college and it’s a shame that they had to deal with the extra stresses of college without as many of the benefits. Free time was a luxury that not even all college students got. Yet for those who did, it’s a feeling unlike any other. You only had to put in as much work into classes as you felt like and just get up and leave class itself if you felt like it. And then there were all the vacations on top of that.

In college and earlier school, all the vacations were ridiculous. You’d get multiple months off in the summer for finishing a grade level. No other reason. Spring vacation, winter vacation, holiday break; my parents would always be surprised (and annoyed) at all the time I had off. You didn’t have any work to do and its not like you had to use up your personal vacation days to use them. Lots of high-schoolers would start working or bolstering their college resumes with tests and classes over the summers, but it’s a shame that they don’t realize what they’ll soon lose.

In college, its the perfect storm of early adulthood with free time that really lets you start experiencing things that you wanted, or at least stuff you think you wanted. Freshman year is a blitz of hanging out with different people until you find the group you want to hang out with, clubs to try out each week, Greek societies, parties, figuring out your major. You can make some life-altering decisions for the better or worse. It’s wild to think that I made all these choices as an 18 year old. I may have been a legal adult, but I sure wasn’t one mentally.

Free time can be dangerous. You can be as productive as you want to be. Spend all your time partying and you’ll feel the consequences soon enough. Plenty of people will warn you about that, but the inverse is also true. One can spend all your time studying, working, and stretching yourself to the limit. After a point its unsustainable and there’s no one required to stop you from doing it. It’s something I fell victim to and regret immensely. I had so much free time and I used it all to study. Obviously studying is important, but college does offer other services. There were so many people I met towards the end of my college career that I felt would’ve been great people to hang out with, but I only met them once my final classes were more or less done. Clubs I would’ve loved to try were ones I only heard about in my final semester.

Party all the time and your grades will suffer. Study all the time and you will suffer. Both are easy pitfalls to fall into and its up to you and your new independence to find what works best for you.

Free time is a resource and it’s your goal to spread the wealth while you have it.

Public Transportation Brings Out the Worst in People

This all stems from a tweet I saw today which can be found here.

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I hate riding the subway. I am not a city boy by any means. I visit the city fairly often, but I still make the casual glance at the subway maps just in case. Public transportation is a wondrous thing.

Pay a fee, wait around, cram onto a train with dozens of others, and go somewhere else. It’s a beautiful concept. Sure there are kinks. I’ve never been a comfortable temperature on the train. And touching the railing is a coin-flip on contracting various plagues dating back all the way to the Jurassic Period.

But without a doubt the worst aspect is the people. To be fair public transportation brings out the worst in everybody. Imagine paying money to rub against some other sad soul as a large metal box carries you. Your personal space is violated, you have zero control over where you’re going, and there’s only so many directions you can blankly stare without being creepy.

Overall there really haven’t been any life-and-death events that I’ve seen on the train. Not to say I’m complaining in any way. I’m on a train to get from point A to point B, that’s it.

However, one particular event sticks out.

It was late at night and I had just gotten out of a pro-basketball game. We won handily and it was a fun night with some friends. I said my goodbyes and made my way to the subway.

Since the game had just ended, everyone was piling in. People upon people and I was lucky to be one of the first people to get on. Not early enough to get a seat, but early enough. As I got settled, my eyes started to wander. There were your usual cast of characters: college student on Red Bull number 10 and 11 , single parent corralling 3 loud kids, and so on. One person that caught my eyes was an older gentleman wearing a Charlotte Hornets baseball cap. The game I was coming from was against the Hornets and I hadn’t seen a single one of their fans while I was at the game. Clearly he had just gotten out of the game as well.

At first glance he looked like a nicer Steve Jobs. He had dad jeans, a solid-blue sweater, a fuzzy beard, glasses, and a nice half-smile. The smile you’d have after seeing your favorite team play live and watch them get trounced. Sad that they lost, but just happy to be there. Clearly this was a new experience to him, he was decked out in obvious visitor apparel. He had a backpack with a charger sticking out and he was staring at the subway map on the train.

Now I’ve never been to sports game where the team I was following was the away team, but I can’t imagine its the most pleasant thing. Imagine sitting in a stadium of thousands of other people that can tell that you have a different view than them by simply looking at what you were wearing and who you were cheering on. My city is particularly notorious for being rowdy and especially malicious when it came to sports and I’m always amazed by the bravery it must take to show one’s opposing fandom in the open like that.

It may be mainly my paranoia, but you never know who will get upset by your purely subjective views of what sports team you follow.

Emotions can run surprisingly high in sports, even among fans, and there are plenty of dumb, emotional people out there.

I kept my eye on him because his team had lost pretty badly that day, yet the smile he wore definitely gave the impression that it was an overall good experience. It was  so wholesome to see. Win or lose, he at least got the experience of seeing the team he had been rooting for for years. My mind began to wander expanding his backstory for this cute old man on the subway. Like he had been saving for the cheapest seats he could find for years and finally after all his hard work he could finally go. I could see the looks of surprise his coworkers gave when he mentioned that he had never attended a live game before. He’d tell his friends about the full experience for years to come and show pictures of the game like new parents show their baby’s pictures.

It was a nice sight to see among the typical cast of riders. He had a level of wonder to him, still taking in the experience of the game and all the new things he got to do in the city. I remembered going to my first game as a young lad and soaking in the bustle of the city almost as much as the game itself. It really made me appreciate the memories I had.

It reminds me of that cute Chiefs fan a couple years ago:

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However, that didn’t last long.

As I mentioned before, he had been trying to discern the labyrinth that is my city’s subway. Unfortunately while looking, he wasn’t really paying attention to the area around him.

A man in a motorized scooter rolled onto the train and was blocked from fully getting on because of the older man. Uh oh.

The scooter guy honked his horn.

“EXCUSE ME?”

The older man jumped up a bit. The horn was military grade or something. A couple people turned to look at the source of the noise.

“Oh sorry about that, I got distracted.” The man moved aside.

And at first that seemed like the end of that. In fact it was stranger that not a single curse word was uttered.

But that wasn’t the end of it. The older gentleman tipped his cap to the man and he made his fatal mistake. The other guy’s eyes widened. I could practically see the connection being made that the older gentlemen was in fact not a local and the scooter man did not appreciate that.

“Can’t believe such a dumb fuck managed to make it out here”, the scooter man said to no one in particular.

“It’s a good thing your shit team managed to figure out what a basketball was. Maybe you’ll know better than to come out here next time.”

Obviously I don’t recall the exact words, but I do recall the scooter guy not being able to construct a half decent insult to save his life.

I was fully expecting the old man to retaliate with his own barrage of words, as is tradition on any public transportation. But nothing happened.

The old man just continued taking the verbal abuse. The half-smile dissipated into a grimace. Up until that point there had been a certain level of innocence to the man. One angry person later and it was gone. People around the two shifted nervously, pretending like they couldn’t hear a grown man yelling a foot away from them.

Once the tirade ended, the old man lowered his head, mumbled an apology, and pushed to a corner of the car. The man took off his Hornets hat and pushed his bag between his legs. He pushed his legs together and did his best to take up as little room as possible.

Just like that his day was ruined. His team lost, he got cursed out by a stranger, and no one else had batted an eye.

As the train started up, the gentlemen just stared at the ground around him. The smile was long gone, hand-in-hand with the wonder he had mere minutes ago. A couple stops later he bolted off the train, receiving a vocal “Good fucking riddance” from the scooter guy as he passed him.

It’s one of those instances where I wish I had done something and I’ve imagined countless of scenarios where I did, but that doesn’t change anything that really happened now does it.I did nothing.

I hope that old guy can look back and laugh at how ridiculous that situation is. However, I can’t help but think that experience would deter him from seeing his favorite team live ever again.

I’m sure the scooter guy was having a rough day as well. Using public transportation is rough enough, dealing with it while factoring in the logistics of a large motorized scooter must be unbearable. That doesn’t change the fact that he ruined someone else’s day for the simple crime of being slightly in the way. I guess I shouldn’t really talk considering I didn’t say or do anything to at least console the man.

I’ll never forget the wonder he had and how quickly it was stolen away. It’s just something I wanted to share really.

If you’re still out there older Hornets fan, keep your chin up!

 

 

 

In the Future will Algorithms Do Christmas Shopping For You?

How will online shopping change how Christmas shopping is done?

It’s that time of year. The time of year you have to buy things for other people that you’ll likely never get to use.

Watch any Christmas movie and you get one of two things: a whimsical mall filled with bright lights and toys or a WWE free for all. I think most people relate to the second option more, but at the same time there’s that feeling of options that you get from window shopping.

I generally fall into the WWE category as I hold off on getting presents until the last week leading up to Christmas and I’m stuck fighting all the other people who did the same. It’s a terrible feeling pushing your way to that novel that your Grandma would love only to find out it’s sold out and you’re stuck getting oven mitts for her or something else left over.

Don’t get me wrong, finding the perfect gift is one of my favorite aspects about Christmas. Figuring out what in a store or mall fits the people you’re shopping for most is a great way to reflect on the people in your life and what you’ve managed to learn about them or at least what they want you to know about.

It’s one of the more materialistic aspects of Christmas that the movies tend to fight against, but when you have the time and money it can really be a relaxing and reflective time of year. Granted those two restrictions can apply to essentially everything. Of course if I didn’t have to worry about time and money I’d enjoy things more. They’re the two things everyone worries about.

And with the rise of online shopping is this aspect of Christmas helped or hurt? It’s hard to tell.

With the rise of online shopping it’s easy to get exactly what you’re looking for in a short amount of time. You reduce the time looking around and increase the time it takes to receive the package.

If you have a fairly good idea of what you’re looking for, great! Browse forums about the things your person of interest likes and see what other fans are into. Google enough Harry Potter wands and then all of sudden your twitter feed is filled with Harry Potter books and your top recommended Youtube video is Potter Puppet Pals (I’m kinda showing my age here).

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In a weird way, marketing algorithms are learning about you and doing its best to funnel the items you’re most likely to buy. Just like you learned about your friends and family to find the right gift for them, programs are doing the same thing as you continue to surf the web looking for items.

And just like the more you interact with someone the more you learn about them, the more info that is fed about you (or at least your IP) leads to more accurate predictions of what you’re most likely to buy. And not only will Google Ads and whoever else buys your info be able to figure out what you want, but compare you to other successful matches that worked in the past with people that looked for the similar things. Kind of like a behind the scenes “Other Shoppers also Viewed This” page, but on a global scale.

If not already, perhaps those marketing algorithms will be better at finding the perfect gift for people than you even if they never searched for anything online before.

As these programs improve perhaps the best way to shop for someone would be to spend a couple hours searching for various things you think they’d search for and see what ads pop up. It would at least free up more time for you to actually spend the time with the person you’re shopping for.

Maybe we could even let the program play some Christmas music as you did it.

Velocity by Dean Koontz (2005) Review: Why You Should Read It

Should you read Dean Koontz’s 2005 thriller novel “Velocity”?

No spoilers, this is a recommendation.

 

You should read Velocity by Dean Koontz because it’s an interesting concept combining the over-the-top theatrics of an antagonist with the fairly realistic main character to counterbalance. Follow Billy Wiles, a rather unassuming bartender who receives a rather strange message on his car window:

“If you dont this note to the police and get them involved, I will kill a lovely blond schoolteacher somewhere in Napa County.

If you do take this note to the police, I will instead kill an elderly woman active in charity work.

You have six hours to decide.

The choice is yours.”

Don’t worry that’s not a spoiler, it’s on the back cover of the book sleeve.

There is a rather consistent fascination with life and death thematically. As more is revealed about the note maker and Billy himself, a new layer of how life is viewed and what occurs comes into view. However, one can argue that this is pretty typical for a book in the thriller genre. A certain character could even predict the future using the corpses of the roadkill she saw.

A quote that sums it up perfectly, “while life could be avoided death could not.” Death is inevitable is a rather common theme, but that doesn’t mean the thought doesn’t have merit.

Billy is by every sense of the word typical. He’s slightly above average intelligence, but extremely aware of his abilities. The man is constantly an anxious mess throughout the story and you can’t really blame him.

However, the most prominent theme deals with action and decision-making. From the note one can see that both options are net negatives, there isn’t a get out of this situation. There is the idea that inaction is a choice as well and that’s something everyone can relate to. It is hammered home that Billy Wiles isn’t anything special. He says it to himself, Koontz says it us, and based on what Billy shows off he is. Yet as the story escalates and Billy begins to deal with crazier events, he becomes a man of action. The average-looking barkeep without any military background or 7000 IQ is forced to make decisions all by himself to stop the notes.  Near the end of the book, Billy becomes a new man in both resolve and even his friends begin to notice it and call him Bill instead. Perhaps, Koontz is trying to say that the choice of inaction holds us back from being who we truly are and want to be. Or at least that’s how I want to interpret it at least.

Outside of the themes, the novel itself is a very easy read and moves forward at a rather constant pace once the action picks up. The book is rather morbid (as if you couldn’t tell by the rest of this post), but nothing is overtly gory. For the most part, you’ll be following Billy going around town trying to figure out what to do next to stop the notes.

There is no doubt that Dean Koontz is one of the more popular thriller authors around and its no surprise he knows what he’s doing in terms of pacing and pulling various different aspects of his protagonist into one coherent theme. Check out his website linked here to learn more about him and browse his enormous collection of books.

However, the book is far from perfect. The beginning is pretty slow to start and the end seems far too abrupt. Considering the title it seems like its exactly as advertised, but the ending wraps up so well in places, leaving the reader feeling like certain aspects of the story were hyped up to be bigger issues than how the ending seemed to finish them off in a paragraph or two, but I can see how some people would be fine with that (which is perfectly valid).

Certain plot points hint towards something larger, but once the full reveal occurs, the story just keeps chugging along. With a small amount of rewriting it felt like almost a third of the book could have been cut.

 

TL:DR; Velocity isn’t the best thriller I have ever read, but given the quick read, cool premise, and likable protagonist there is enough to warrant a glance through. Those who love thrillers may burn out too quick before the story really gets going, but there is definitely a solid book underneath worth the time to read it.

 

Thanks for reading!

Hey if you liked this review why not check out another “Why You Should Read/Watch It” series? Like an old school anime without any of the crazy screaming or incest?

Dealing with the Anxiety of the Future

I’m not sure if everyone else feels this way, but I know at least one or two other people do.

Not knowing what the future holds is God damn terrifying.

There is so much out in life that is outside of your control that can happen to you. You could get hit by a car, someone could spill hot coffee all over you, North Korea could nuke your hometown, you get the idea.

Now obviously there are many more realistic options things that could happen, but they’re not as topical. Making sure you do well on that big test while ensuring your group project gets done before the midnight deadline, balancing sleep and keeping your skin clear. It’s so easy to be overwhelmed with tasks that never seem to end. You should always be eating healthy and exercising, but life doesn’t realize that doing those on top of taking care of your sick roommate is really difficult. Balancing your time is pretty hard when you don’t have a complete view of the problems you might have.

Schedules are a great way to keep yourself on track throughout the day, but they can only help so much. A late train could change the entire structure of your day. You missed the quiet hours at the gym and now you can either try to find the one open treadmill or skip out on it entirely to try to keep up with the rest of the day. Your schedule can’t account for everything. Even if all goes well, one can start to feel that they hit a rut. Sticking too closely to a schedule for too long can be dangerous. Live by the schedule until it gives you permission to die. Overall they provide good guidelines for your day to day life, but they’re not magically going to organize for every new event that occurs.

Problems come in all shapes and forms and you only have so much time and energy to spare. Planning for a test weeks away is much different than knowing your dog is gonna take a dump on your carpet. You can get away with cramming for one test, but good luck doing it for every class. The more you do at once, the larger the risk of mistakes or burning out. Some days can go without a hitch. Others require 48 hours of work to be smushed into 24.

Then there’s the really big hitters, the long-term goals. Finding that special someone, finding what makes you happy, leaving your mark on the world. How can you set aside time  for that? It sort of just happens. “Yeah I set aside an hour a day to hit on girls” (Then again I can kinda see people doing this. Point still stands). There are certain things that just sort of happen. Of course you need to put in the effort, but there are no easy ways of planning them out.

It seems like everyone else has everything together. They’re always smiling, good grades, good job, every problem comes and goes. I could keep going with the list, but I’m already disgusted. How come it doesn’t come naturally to some of us? It seems like there isn’t enough preparation in the world that could deal with every problem you have. There’s always some appointment or delay that ruins everything.

So what is the secret? How can you deal with every problem regardless of how much prep time you have?

The secret is you can’t prepare for everything. All you can do is train yourself to be as well-equipped as possible to handle a situation. Will you be able to handle everything? Of course not. But as long as you feel like you can handle as much of life that it throws at you then you’ll be fine.

Over-prepping is a dangerous thing. Everyone thinks they’re like Batman. Given enough prep time we could beat the gods themselves. Yet the real world is too chaotic for that. There are so many variables to consider. Even planning your work tomorrow is next to impossible because so much is out of your control. In your life pretty much everything is out of your control to some extent. You can pick and choose who you hang out with, but its not like you’ll know how they’ll act 100% of the time. There is only one constant in life and its yourself. That’s it.

It’s a scary solution. “Train yourself and throw yourself out there”. Well not quite that. Planning ahead is still helpful, but at the end o the day its only a guideline. The pitfall you need to avoid though is worrying so much about the future that you completely ignore the present. The present is what you can change. That’s where progress happens. You can set aside time in the future to practice playing guitar, but its not like you’re playing the guitar in the future. You’re just waiting until the future becomes the present. There is no direct way to impact the future. Only preparing yourself can help when the future becomes the present.

You can try to predict the future as much as you want, but it will never quite line up. Sure you can stay in your room 24/7 and know 99% of what is going to happen to you for the rest of your life. But is that really how you want to spend the rest of your life?

I for one am always freaking out about the future. I’m in my own head constantly badgering myself to get ready for the next big test or project. I’ve missed out on so much in my life because I was too focused on something that I couldn’t even control that I missed out on everything around me. Hundreds of regrets and I refuse to keep making this same mistake. Stay in the now and prepare for the future. But know that your success in the future is not because you planned for it, but because you prepared yourself ahead of time.

You can’t change the future. You can change yourself in the present and be ready for the future.

Stay Focused

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The internet will probably go down as the greatest inventions of all time. Fire and the wheel have been the Magic and Bird of our time and its about time they’ve been dethroned with a Michael Jordan. The capabilities of the internet are far from drying up, but there are also plenty of downsides that come with it.

Like a siren’s song, social media has attracted young people, old people, and even the weird people to partake with all their friends. These sites provide almost instantaneous to connect with friends that moved to Thailand “for work”, but at the same time you’re free to compare your social-media-centric life to people who actually do stuff. I never found the appeal of social media only because I don’t need to compare my life to others to understand how horrible it is.

One downside I hate the most is its tax on focus.

There’s always something happening somewhere. Did World War 3 start yet? Sometimes I can’t tell when I read the news… Between the Youtube videos, Facebook updates, Twitter spamming, Reddit uh-redditing, there is never a dull moment. Class time comes and I can’t focus on what the derivative of John Stamos is before I need to sneak a peek at my phone in case I miss the biggest story of all time. I mean it makes sense that I’d rather be engaged than stare at some textbook that I paid $200 too much for.

Being entertained for hours with no downtime could lead to some strange psychological shifts for these newer generations. The only stops of entertainment occur at school and that can be avoided with ease and the discretion of parents.

My parents were horrible with stopping me from watching television. I’d spend hours watching reruns and I could quote most shows that ran from 3,when I got home, all the way to 7 when I made my dinner. Outcries from parents about television rotting young minds would fill PTA meetings and blamed for everything from global warming to autism.

Now just replace television with the internet and you’ve got today’s kids. Great I already sound like I’m 60 and bitter. Can’t be helped I guess.

Downtime is just as important as being engaged. It allows the mind to figure out what the hell you let it process and store what it deems appropriate. Even though some of the community can get a bit nutty with their claims, meditation has some serious benefits. With how easily our minds can be engaged for these days, lulls become rare and its more difficult for the brain to find the time to do the maintenance it needs. There are a plenty of reasons to avoid playing video games before bed. The blue light makes your body think its day, MULTIPLAYER IS A BUNCH OF BULLSHIT THAT JUST RILES ME UP, and the constant action makes my mind race. Going 100 to 0 from gaming to heading to bed is not as easy as it sounds. Sure its possible and does happen, but slowing down your mind before bed may be a better alternative.

Some days that even while I am not actively doing anything my mind is racing. I’ll be walking to class and its as if my brain is hungering for stimulation. I’m always tempted to put in my headphones to alleviate this feeling, but I manage to catch myself every time. It’s just going to prolong the feeling and it will be impossible for me to focus in class. Sure class is boring without the insatiable hunger of my mind, but it does not help in the slightest. Throughout the day, I try to catch myself and figure out ways to stop myself from always being so stimulated. It is crazy the amount of media available to us. That little phone of yours can keep you entertained for the rest of your life. Don’t get me wrong this is a good thing as well. Much better than living in the medieval times where all you could do for fun was not die.

Is what I’m saying just complete anecdotal fake-science? Probably. After all don’t believe everything you hear on the internet. It’s probably just some placebo effect I get when I actively seek to calm my head down, but it works for me at least. Sometimes when I’m studying I’ll notice that my mind is screaming at me, “Put in some headphones. Listen to some music. Do anything.” A reasonable request. But as soon as I hop on my phone there is not turning back. The music itself will have me more focused on the same songs I play  every day over the class material that is brand new to me. Stupid brain.

Granted I’m a rather extreme example. Growing up an only child with old neighbors, not a lot of friends, and parent who had to work a lot of hours, I was pretty much left to my own devices. Or device really. The tv became my only means of entertainment and I’d watch the same dumb shit every day. I would be able to see a title card of a cartoon and instantly know what happens and who says what. I had seen the episodes that much. I’d go days on end with no social interaction. The television was my only stimuli and I’d watch it from when I got home all the way to bed time.

I could never figure out why I couldn’t fall asleep though…

Wait what was I talking about?

Finals Season is a crazy time

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Finals.

The worst concept ever created. Death is a more welcoming idea. Whoever thought that it would be a good idea to test students on every single class they’ve had in a matter of a week and have each of those tests be worth anywhere from 20% to 50% of your overall grade should get prize.

Like the complete opposite of a Nobel Peace Prize. A Hitler War Prize maybe.

Finals week is where the men are separated from the boys and it turns out everyone are boys. It really makes you put into perspective what important in your life. If you’ve been through it you’d understand and everyone should go through at least one finals week in their life because you can really find what your purpose is.

Just imagine this. You’re 2 finals in. They’ve weathered your confidence. Studying for Saturday’s two tests is looming over your head. Your eyes ache, your head hurts, and you have not moved from your spot in the library for hours.

What would you rather be doing instead? You start bargaining in your head. “If I study later tonight I can game for about an hour” or maybe “If I just study all night tomorrow, I’ll be able to write that novel I’ve been picking at for the past couple of weeks”

Whatever you’d rather be doing is the real you. You find out what you miss most and it can get pretty mundane. At one point, laundry became an escape from finals for me. I hate doing laundry.

Everyone is a little stressed about finals, but some either have such good grades that one C won’t hurt them while others need a 102 to pass the one last class they need to graduate. Semesters are defined in about a week. I remember freshman year I had A’s and A-‘s across the board. I was content. I was cocky. Why study for finals when I could watch some old cartoons I watched as a kid? I knew what happened in the episodes, but they’re still cool to watch. My good grades so far must mean that I already know everything that I need to know for the finals. I never stood a chance. My naivety was my downfall. That and my fascination with superhero cartoons.

I won’t give out any exact numbers, but it got ugly quick. Like 2017 politics ugly.

I vowed to never let that happen again. The pointless slaughter of my freshman GPA would not be in vain.

I started prepping. My notes marked dates and what the finals would cover. I’d figure out all my finals dates and when I should start studying for each weeks before finals reared its horrible mug. I can’t say that finals for me are easy in anyway, but I sure feel better during the week.

I got time to workout and write (with the occasional cartoon thrown in there). I mean sure I could study more to get that 89 on the final to a 90, but as long as my grades didn’t completely falter I’m content.

Other people I know don’t even bother preparing and it works fine for them. The stress finals puts them into some next level state where their sole purpose in life becomes to absorb information and then spout it out at given times during the test. It’s quite a sight. I’d ask them why they did that to themselves. Why hurt yourself for an entire week? It was the only way they knew and it got the job done. I feel like far too many people hold this philosophy and I respect that.

Some people don’t crack under pressure.

Finals affects everyone differently. At some base level everyone is stressed. I feel like I can relate better with other students because I know they’re feeling something similar to me. However, I don’t handle stress well. You can tell from a distance when I’m stressed; I dress worse, my hair is messy because I play with my hair when I’m unnerved, and above all else I’ll get a forehead full of bright red pimples. Don’t let the appearance full you, I’m used to the stress. I am always some level of stress about something and it is a habit I’m trying to fight off. I’m more focused when I’m stressed, hence why my high school baseball coach referred to me solely as “Mr. Clutch”. I stepped up when it mattered, but man do I feel horrible the whole time doing it.

I try to keep to my routine during finals. Try to eat as healthy as always (with obvious failure), workout everyday, and sleep in a regular cycle.

Some people show no signs of change. A girl I know still dresses like its just another day, her makeup is on like nothing is new, and her demeanor is just as happy as if she was at Disney World. It’s sickening. However, when we sat down to study, she broke down mentally. “I am so screwed, I don’t know anything. I should just drop out”. Fucking hell. Finals got to her too.

Finals induces stress which is dealt with in a variety of ways or not at all. It pushes you mentally and that can leave your body in a way worse off space.

One of my friends from back home always posts stories about him working until 4 AM and then starting his day again at 7 AM. It’s both a shame and a marvel to watch. The kid always tries his best, but putting shit up can add up quick. If I had to choose one piece of advice I could tell myself about finals when I was younger it would either be get as much sleep as you usual do (granted that isn’t much), plan waaaaaaaay ahead for finals, or maintain a routine so your body doesn’t go into shock from the sudden 3 all-nighters in a row.

My high school teacher would tell us while studying for the AP exams, “The hay will already be in the barn the day of the test”. You either know it or you don’t. At some point forcing anything else is only counterproductive.

Or at least I think that’s what that meant. Whatever, I should be studying right now anyways.