The part of Christmas no one wants to talk about

I always scroll Facebook and look at the memes/posts people share trying to be funny/relatable/both. I saw one that said something along the lines of: “I can spend $200 on someone I love, but when it comes to myself, I can’t even buy a $20 shirt.” It made me stop in my (scrolling) tracks. Was that supposed to be relatable?

I am the complete opposite. I can drop $200 on myself like it’s nothing, then wonder why I have no money. But when it comes to buying something for someone, I spend a lot of the time pondering the item and wondering if I can find something cheaper.

When it comes to gifts for Christmas, I fully expect to do a gift exchange with my immediate family. It’s implied for both parties, we are together Christmas morning, it’s been tradition for me since birth, I am fully aware that I need to set aside money to buy gifts from my mom and sister, and so on and so forth. Then, my family, including cousins, does a secret Santa gift exchange. I buy one $30 gift for one person. Perfect. And I’m perfectly fine with only receiving gifts from these three sources. But then I remember I have friends.

Now, this isn’t meant to offend any of my friends. I love them dearly, most of the time. But sometimes I feel so blindsided.

“When can we hang out so I can give you your gift?” I remember one of my friends asking me a few years ago. Gift? I didn’t…are we…okay, so we’re doing this. I believe she sent me that December 23. So now I’m in panic mode, wondering what the hell she got me, how much I’m supposed to spend, and when and where I can scramble to get her a gift. It’s a lot of pressure. I need specific details laid out. Price limit (the lower, the better), what to buy, maybe even a hint at what I will be receiving. Honestly, it may be easier on everyone (me) if you just don’t get me anything.

Now, I’m no Scrooge, but let’s not do this. We will both be much happier if we just spend that money buying ourselves something. Maybe we’ll even prevent the end of a friendship.

I love Christmas as much as the next guy. Maybe even more. (Or less. I guess it depends who the next guy is.) If you want to do something nice for me this time of year, just drive me to see Christmas lights and take me to In-n-Out.

Afraid to Post Online

One thing that has remained constant about myself is my interest in the internet. Who can resist? When I was younger, I used to spend hours on the AOL Kids Chatrooms. I would draw dogs using characters (like this (/(*.*)\). Clearly, I still have artistic skills) and talk about the Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Then, one day, I did something that I will never live down. I must have been nine or ten. Instead of “LOL” or “XD,” I typed out “LMAO” in the AOL Kids Chatroom. Because of a simple letter A, I got my entire family suspended from our AOL email accounts. Not only did I have to admit to my parents that they wouldn’t be able to check their emails for 24 hours, I had to tell them why. I couldn’t even do it — I don’t even know if I knew what LMAO stood for back then. Yet, even though I typed it online, I had to face the repercussions.

Since that moment, I knew what I said online would have an impact. Even though you are alone in front of a computer, you are broadcasting to the entire world. There is clear and evident proof that what you say online is really what you said. That I know, and that I had learned.

Once I got to the middle school age, Myspace was huge. I actually wrote a five paragraph persuasive essay to my parents for them to finally allow me to get one. This was in eighth grade, so luckily my selfies weren’t too embarrassing, and I never posted anything I would regret. But around this time, Facebook was becoming increasingly popular, so I joined it as well. I had no hesitation adding my parents, sister, cousins, and older family friends. I knew I would never post anything I didn’t want them to see.

More people my age were different. They didn’t add their parents, because they didn’t want their parents to see the things they were posting. I feel like my generation grew up with social media being our generation’s thing, so people utilize it as an outlet. They post their innermost thoughts and feelings. They post what they’re eating and where they’re going. Around four years ago, everyone was scared people from school would find their Tumblr blogs, but I encouraged everyone to follow me so they could see the funny gifs of Chandler Bing and cute puppies that I reblogged.

Now, as everyone my age is growing into mature (some more than others) young adults, either pursuing an education or entering into the workforce, we no longer base our entire internet usage on looking at cute puppy pictures (at least not as much, anyway), but now actually care about current events and things happening that are truly affecting us. Whether the conversation is flocking around Caitlyn Jenner, or the Confederate flag, or Cecil the lion, or raising the minimum wage, people are talking about it. I love seeing people getting involved in these important conversations. But what scares me is how strongly and passionately involved people get.

Don’t get me wrong, I have an opinion about everything I have mentioned, plus so many more. But, for some reason, I can’t bring myself to join the conversation about it online. If someone discussed with me my stance on something in person, I love discussing it with them. But as soon as it comes to online, I get anxious.

Everyone who gives their opinions online has a strong, unbreakable opinion. I have read Facebook fight after Facebook fight, wondering if I should give my two cents. But almost every fight I have read on Facebook is just that — a fight. It isn’t a polite discussion about two different stances on, say, abortion. It is a full blown fight.

Have you ever typed a sarcastic text out to a friend but they take it seriously and get offended? But you didn’t mean it seriously; You were joking. Your friend doesn’t know that, because they read it and interpreted it differently. That is how I feel many of the fights we see on Facebook are caused. Someone means something different, but someone else interprets it in a direction 180 degrees from the first person. Then suddenly people are throwing out phrases such as, “If you don’t understand that, you’re part of the problem,” or “This is naive,” or “Shut up, you’re wrong and a terrible person and you should just leave the country.” (I added the last one in for some comic relief, but I’m sure that has been thrown around too.) It is far too hard to put something into words without offending someone.

Once I simply corrected someone on a status about an American flag. After posting it, I called my mom immediately. My palms were sweaty, and my heart was beating at an abnormal rate. “Oh my God, Mom. I started a Facebook fight.” In the end, no one even replied to my comment. In this case, I was probably just being dramatic (as always). If I’m this nervous to post something that in the end wasn’t even a big deal, I cannot even imagine how I would react if I posted my political opinions online.

I love discussing issues in person. When it comes to online, I avoid discussions at all costs. As much as my love for the internet has remained constant throughout the years, I don’t find it a safe place anymore. And with issues becoming more important to young adults, and conversations becoming even more vital, I don’t know what the future will be for the internet.

On that note, please share your opinion about this if you feel inclined to do so. 

But no fighting, or I will be scared.

Dear Dad

Dear Dad,

It has been one year, six months, and four days since I last saw you — one year, six months, and four days that have felt like an eternity.

I wish your passing wasn’t so unexpected. I wish I wasn’t given a false sense of hope that you would survive past that week before you left. I wish I got another lifetime, or year, or day, or even hour with you. Most of all, I wish you were still here.

Given your choice, I know you would still be here with us. So whose choice was it that it was your time to go? I don’t know what happens after life on Earth, but I hope wherever you are, you are happy. That is all I want for you. I hope you have found a way to reunite with your mom, your sister, your dad, and everyone else you missed so dearly who has embarked on the same journey as you. I hope this for you, just as much as I hope we will reunite someday. I have to hope, because I don’t know. But if we were able to be together in this life, who’s to say we won’t in our next life?

All we have left here are the memories and legacy you left. It has been said that a person dies twice — once when they die in the literal sense, and secondly when they are no longer being talked about by those of us still living. As long as I am living, you will never die. I am lucky to be able to look back at memories with fondness. I am lucky you left with me an interest in writing and a curiosity for the world. I am lucky that because of you, I have an incredible mom and sister.

You are not still with us, as much as I still hate to utter those words one year, six months, and four days later. But you live on everyday, and I am so thankful for that. Thank you.

Remember, I love you most.


Where Has Respect Gone?

Image from SynergyByDesign on Flickr
Image from SynergyByDesign on Flickr

Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce, came out to us as her “true self” on Monday. She poses on the cover of Vanity Fair, with the headliner “Call me Caitlyn.” She has a Twitter account (@Caitlyn_Jenner) that reached 1 million followers in only 4 hours, faster than the @POTUS account, which took 5 hours to hit 1 million. One of Caitlyn’s earlier tweets: “I’m so happy after such a long struggle to be living my true self. Welcome to the world Caitlyn. Can’t wait for you to get to know her/me.” That was her second tweet only after her Vanity Fair cover and they both got over 250,000 retweets (when I can’t even get more than 5 retweets after having my Twitter for three years).

Those are just the facts about Caitlyn Jenner. Everyone has formed an opinion about her the second they heard the news. Or maybe their opinion formed during the interview with Diane Sawyer, when she was still referring to herself as Bruce. The thing about opinions is EVERYONE has them.

But that’s okay.

It is 1000000000000% okay to have an opinion. I cannot stress that enough. It would not be right if you were not allowed to have an opinion, about anything for that matter.

But you know what really frustrates me? When people’s opinions are so important to them, that they begin to ignore the facts and begin disrespecting other people. Before I say anything more, I am only writing this post because of the amount of disrespect I have seen, whether it be on Facebook, Twitter, or personal blogs/articles.

Refer to the first paragraph if you forget the facts. FACT: Caitlyn Jenner now refers to herself as Caitlyn Jenner. FACT: She said this is her TRUE SELF. FACT: She considers herself a SHE.

Of course, these facts that we know are all just her word on the subject. BUT GUESS WHAT? Her word on the subject is the only one that matters when it is regarding HER.

As a fellow human being with emotions and feelings, I try my hardest to never disrespect anyone, because I know I would never want disrespect to come my way. So why is it so hard to be respectful to Caitlyn, just because you maybe don’t understand/approve of her?

If you don’t think her actions are right, just know that constantly referring to her as a man or with male pronouns is not respectful, when she clearly stated she wishes to be referred to as Caitlyn. If you think her actions are right, please don’t disrespect/shun anyone who doesn’t.

Maybe I am just a dreamer. But I want to live in a world where respect is automatically given, not earned.

The Freshmen 15 You Do Need

I just recently completed my first year of college. Everyone says time flies, but you really do not believe them until you experience it firsthand. This time last year, I was nervous, excited, anxious — you name it — for college to begin. I would google “advice for freshman in college,” watch YouTube videos with people discussing their college experiences, and pin all kinds of college tips and tricks on Pinterest. Now that I am on the other side of the long awaited freshman year of college, I thought it would be fun to make my own list of advice. Rather than it all come from me, I asked other college students from a variety of schools what advice they would give to someone getting ready for college in the fall. Without further ado, here are the fifteen best pieces of advice from college students for college students.

“Be comfortable with change. Your high school friend group might fall apart. Your relationships might not work out. Your schedule is going to be completely different. But it’s all good.” -Chrissy, Elmhurst College

“Transitioning into a new environment can be hard, especially if you are a long ways from home. The best advice I can give with that situation is make friends, go out and do activities you’ll love, and call home as many times as you want when you’re feeling homesick.” -Taylor, Oregon State University

“My advice would be to be true to who you are when you are meeting new people. If you aren’t yourself, you will make friends for the wrong reasons and it will eventually crumble. Also don’t be afraid to try new things, college is a place to explore new things and ideas.” -Michael, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

“If someone you went to high school with goes to the same college as you, don’t feel any obligation to be friends with them/socialize with them” -Malissa, San Francisco State University

“Make friends with people besides your roommate, and don’t be afraid to try things on your own! Don’t always try to stick to one group of people.” -Brittany, California State University, Fullerton

“Get involved. Joining a club, greek life or an organization will be the best way to make friends and meet new people. You have the opportunity to bond with others over things you’re passionate about and it brings a new level of depth to friendships. Talk to the person you sit next to in physics lab, they might end up being your best friend.” -Ashley, Auburn University

“Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and get involved as soon as possible, [and] if you need help in a class, ask for it sooner rather than later!” -Lily, Sonoma State University

“Go to office hours whenever you get the chance. That’s how I passed my difficult classes.” -Brad, San Diego State University

“Who you are as a human being is not contingent upon your academic performance. You may get an A, but you are not an A. You may get a C-, but YOU are not a C-…Bottom line—you are not a failing grade, or a lost match, or a bad breakup. You have intrinsic value. Period.” -Samantha, Princeton University

“If I didn’t exercise, eat good, healthy food every day, and get a good amount of sleep, I would be really tried and wouldn’t be able to focus. Treat your body well if you want to do well in your studies.” -Trevor, University of Portland

“Don’t procrastinate, that is the worst thing you can do in college. Trust me, you would much rather be sleeping than pulling an all nighter for a paper due the next morning. Also, it’s the best feeling in the world to leave the library before all your friends do during finals because you’ve already studied.” -Nikki, Auburn University

“Realize that the amount of work that you’re going to be suffering through these next four years will be worth it once you’re doing the thing you love.” -Megan, University of California, San Diego

“1. Go make time to go to the gym or stay active because the freshman 15 is a real thing. 2. Get involved in clubs, student body or intramural sports. They’re [a] great way to [get] involved and you meet a lot of friends. 3. Make sure to manage your time wisely, [as] college is completely different than high school. You have to make sure you balance your academic [life] with your social life because you’ll have a lot of freedom and a lot harder work. ” -Brittany, Liberty University

“Don’t think you have to know what you want to do right away. It’s alright to change your mind or veer away from your planned schedule to explore other interests. Everything is fixable, and taking that photography class you’ve always wanted to take won’t kill any plans to graduate in four years.” -Kash, New York University

“Don’t let the fear of appearing stupid get in the way of having fun.” -Clinton, Brigham Young University

(Special thanks to the 15+ college students who contributed to the making of this article.)