happiness: a constitutional right

Finals is a tough time. Today I woke up and I knew I wanted to write something, but no original ideas have really been coming to me. The focus on memorizing the steps of a factorial ANOVA statistical test have been really taking it out of me, and although I’m almost done, I’ve been struggling to stay motivated. When stressing about things like finals, it’s also really easy to start stressing about seemingly unrelated issues.

My first year in Richmond is drawing to a close, and because of this I’ve been reflecting a lot. I was making the decision to transfer here a year ago, waiting on tenterhooks for my acceptance letter and dreading the reaction my parents would have when I told them I wanted to uproot my life and move to a city that doesn’t always have the best reputation for safety. When I finally got my acceptance letter, their reaction was not what I hoped it would be, and I had set the bar low. They didn’t want me to transfer, but after a summer of coaxing they agreed–as long as I kept my grades up and got involved in research (which was my best argument for transferring, and not a false one either).

Now, a year later, I’ve been thinking a lot about whether or not this was the right decision for me, and although there have been a few hardships, the answer is an overwhelmingly enthusiastic yes. I’ve never been happier than I am now, living in a crappy apartment outside the city, commuting every day to hole up in the library and study for my exams. I couldn’t be more excited for the next two years of undergrad, with a beautiful apartment lined up in the city and friends I love. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t ignored my parents advice to ride it out and move elsewhere for grad school. Thinking about my life, sometimes I can’t even believe what a success the move has been so far, or how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to do something like this.

The moral of the story is this: chase your own happiness. It’s not always easy, it may not pay off immediately, and you will get discouraged along the way, but it is always worth it. I know I spout a lot of crap like this, but I can’t overstate how much it’s improved my life to be happy like this. It’s like my life has finally started for real, and I’m so excited.

P.S. Richmond is a great city for art; please enjoy this completely unrelated photo of my favorite mural I’ve seen so far!

 

Finding Solace in Science

Tomorrow (or I guess today, considering it’s after midnight as I start writing this) is a very important day. It’s Earth Day for one, and it’s also the March for Science in Washington, DC. Since I live in Northern Virginia when I’m living with my parents, I will of course be taking part.

Broadly speaking, science has been a hugely significant part of my life. From the time I was in the seventh grade taking my first biology class to now, as a real life scientist writing a real life research proposal, science has helped me to thrive.

When I went through a period of severe insecurity around the time I turned thirteen, learning about metabolic processes and anatomy helped me to respect my body for the perfect result of millions of years of evolution that it is.

When I started learning about philosophy the first year of high school, I started to search for what I believed in; maybe I still don’t know, but the Laws of Thermodynamics sure explained a lot when I started to think about it.

When I started to learn about the details of genetics that same year, I made the first (of what would become many) serious decision of what I wanted to be when I grew up. Having been a kid that was good but not great at everything else I tried, it was the first time I was truly skilled at something. I would later learn that the real skill I had discovered was simply pattern recognition, but being good at biology made me feel like a real person, like I truly existed in the world.

When I took my first psychology class two years later, I found my calling. There are those who would say that psychology is a ‘soft science’, or that it isn’t as important as, say, physics or chemistry, but the fact is that all of the other sciences come together in psychology. To run, read, and understand an fMRI, you have to understand more than basic chemistry and at least simple physics, not to mention brain biology and how they all interact.

Don’t get me wrong, literature and music have also given me an unimaginable amount of gifts. I’ve always known that. Now though, as a student and as a researcher, I look back and finally fully understand all that science has given me. It has given me confidence, taught me respect, frustrated me, educated me, robbed me of sleep, and most importantly, given me a purpose in my life. Some people find solace in going to church,  in praying, or meditating. Over the years, I have always found my solace in science.

I’m sure to many people this will seem grossly oversimplified, reductionist, and all other manners of mechanical, clinical, et cetera. But to me science is none of those things; there are so many theories and ideas and explanations that the way they can be combined to form ideologies and paradigms is artistic, complex, and completely the opposite of oversimplified. Tomorrow, or more accurately later today, I will be marching so that the next little girl like me will have the same or (hopefully) better opportunities than me, that she will be able to find herself in theories the same way I did, and that she will make the world better for it, the same way I hope to.

PS. Enjoy the picture I took at the last march on Washington I attended, the Women’s March. It’s not quite related to the topic, but I like it.

Life & Priorities: Things That Get in the Way

It’s been a long time since I wrote a post, and I feel bad about that. But also, I don’t. It’s been busy the past few weeks; I had the flu, then I started real work in the lab, it’s midterm time, and my wisdom teeth are breaking the skin (which, if you’re unfamiliar, means a lot of pain and trouble sleeping).

I feel bad because I made a commitment to write here. I don’t feel bad because life got in the way; sometimes that’s a good thing. In recent weeks I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking (easy to do when you have the flu and can barely manage to get up, let alone do homework). I had seen some old friends before I got sick, and they reminded me of how life used to be–and in turn, how much it has changed. In high school, I had a lot of friends. I was a social butterfly, and that had it’s pros and cons. I once had someone essentially end a close friendship with me because, “I had changed”. In reality, I don’t think the fundamentals of my personality have changed in years (As a psych major, I don’t say this lightly; I know that people do in fact change their personalities, I just feel that mine has been very stable over time).

Now I am in college, and while I might be almost unrecognizable as a person from the girl many of my high school friends first met during our freshman year, it’s not because the fundamental aspects of my personality have changed. I am still an incredibly social person, very agreeable and conscientious, and a little bit neurotic about some things. I’m always running a tiny bit late, I still put little to no effort into controlling my hair, and I’m an avid reader.

What has changed since that time is how I organize my priorities. In high school, I easily earned As and Bs and graduated in the top 25% of my class. I didn’t try that hard, I didn’t study that much, and frankly–outside of math class–it all came very easily to me. At that time, I focused more on being social; I dated, I went out with my friends (although nothing truly wild happened), and I played sports. College changed that for me. I still have friends that I hang out with, but working hard and studying have really become focus points for me. Because I never had to study that hard in high school–or at least because I felt I didn’t–I had never really learned study habits, so the first thing I really learned in college was not chemistry or psychology, it was how to really study. Especially once I transferred, I started focusing on school even more. There are reasons for this, but that’s a story for another time.

It’s true that people change, and in fact personalities can and most likely will change over time. It goes deeper than that though; sometimes it’s not the actual person that changes, but how they prioritize the things they have going on in their lives. ‘Do what makes you happy’ is a famous sort of saying, and for good reason. Different things make different people happy, but that doesn’t mean the same things will make you happy your entire life. These days, earning good grades and working towards a successful future is what makes me feel fulfilled. I had to grow up really fast, and it changed the way I see the world.

My point is that sometimes life gets in the way of priorities, and sometimes priorities get in the way of life. Happiness though, your happiness, is more important than anything.

I’m Back! An Update

So first of all, I want to apologize for taking such a long time off. Typically I like to write in my university library, surrounded by the smell of coffee brewing and the friendly sounds of other students, but over the winter I was at home, and didn’t get as much chance to write.

I’ve added some new factors to my identity over the past few weeks: I am now a real-live scientist who works in a lab, a new member of the honors college, and a name on the dean’s list. I’ve never been more proud of myself than I am right now, and that’s a brand new feeling for me. I wish I could talk about the research we are conducting in the lab right now–we’ve had some seriously interesting results–but since it isn’t published yet, I think  I should withhold. Once the results become public, I’ll certainly share as it is pretty interesting for those of us interested in psychology. This semester, I will also be beginning my own independent research project through the lab, which I am immensely excited about, and will possibly post updates about as I go.

Another recent event I participated in was the Women’s March on Washington in Washington, DC. It was an amazing experience; I have never felt so much a part of something in my life, and I can’t wait to participate in the Scientists March on Washington in April. The Trump administration has made many decisions that are unbelievably dangerous not just for America but also for the world, and I firmly believe in standing up for myself and others. As the child of two immigrants, a woman, and a scientist, remaining silent would be akin to betraying myself and my identity.

On a less serious note, I know everyone thinks new year’s resolutions are overrated and no one ever keeps to them, but I wanted to share mine! The most healthy one I made was to drink more water; I’m constantly dehydrated because I never drink enough, and this year I want to take better care of myself in that aspect of my life. I also want to keep up the work ethic that I managed to incite in myself last semester, as the taste of success that I got as a result was and is the best feeling ever.

Anyway, the new semester has begun and I am so excited to begin this new journey, as well as share it with those of you who are listening. I’d like to point out that if any of you reading this need someone to talk to for any reason at all, especially now, please feel free to talk to me. I will help to the best of my abilities. I really think that love and support is the key to surviving times like these, and I want to embody those things as much as I can.

“Generation Me”, question mark?

As a very passionate psych major, I take a wide variety of psych classes. This semester, I decided to take Personality psychology at the 300 level, and I am so glad I did. Recently, we had a ‘hot topics’ class, which was interesting to say the least. One of the hot topics we discussed was narcissism, which is a characteristic that older generations like to attribute to my generation.

Every generation has a nickname, and they’ve given us “Generation Me”. This title, along with the reasons for it, are often espoused with a general sense of distaste, even hostility. As a member of this generation, maybe it’s only natural that I feel persecuted by this display of negativity towards my peers–but after having an objective discussion in class about the cultural and scientific factors behind the so-called narcissism of my generation, I see that my opinions are not unfounded.

It’s true, the average level of narcissism is rising as the years go by; this generation has a higher level than the generation before us, and that generation had a higher level of narcissism than the generation before them. Narcissism is on the rise. It has been for long enough that it’s acceptable to postulate that every generation is more narcissistic than the generation that preceded them. The main reason that this has become a controversial issue for my generation is that we have a way to make it public: the rise of technology has given us selfies, blogs, and other forms of public expression that were not available to generations before us.

This is also the age of acceptance if you ask me. My generation’s level of self-esteem is more positively correlated than any generation before us, although conversely the levels of anxiety and depression are also the most pronounced in recent history. This is because while we champion body positivity, productivity is at it’s highest and compensation at it’s lowest.

wage-productivity

But I digress; this post is about the levels of ‘narcissism’ that supposedly exist in my generation.

The most ironic thing is that this name was given to us by a generation of people who also decided to call themselves, ‘The Greatest Generation’. In my own personal opinion, I think the way we view ourselves is realistic, and positivity doesn’t take away from that. We see our world how it is: less jobs than people, low wages for high productivity, and high rent and tuition. In the face of that, it benefits us to be positive in any way that we can, including embracing our attractiveness–selfies, blogs, social media–and other ways we can express the beauty of the humanity we possess that is effectively our only tool in a constant war against the negativity of the world.

And besides, who is it hurting if I take a picture of my face or write my thoughts on the internet? This trend of so-called narcissism is only harming us because of the negative stereotypes that the older generations perpetuate against us with regards to it.

stereotypes

Other than that, it is only making the world a more positive, accepting, and amazingly interconnected place. Narcissism may be on the rise, but considering it’s not at a disordered level, why is that bad? Why shouldn’t we feel good about ourselves in the face of adversity?

Note: The images used within this post were in a powerpoint created by my professor that we discussed in class. I therefore don’t have any specific image sources for them, and if anyone knows where they are from I would appreciate that information.

Back to your regularly scheduled blogging…

It’s now been eight days since the election, and a full week since we all woke up in the morning to the news that our next POTUS would be Donald Trump.

But I don’t want to talk about that anymore. Of course it still weighs on my mind, and I fully encourage peaceful activism (in fact, had I not gotten sick, I would have been a part of a protest at my university. I’ll be at the next one, though). But to an extent, life has to go back to normal. I still have to work, study, and wring what enjoyment I can out of life, and so do you all.

Yesterday was a rollercoaster! The day started out kind of badly; I got stuck in so much traffic on my way to an exam that even though I left early and took the most direct route, I was almost late. Then we found yet another water bug (which is in fact a type of roach, the oriental roach to be exact) in my apartment, even though my roommate and I are meticulously clean people. This makes the third in three months and two in the last week and a half. Needless to say, we are not happy. On the other hand, though, I also found out that I will officially be an undergraduate research assistant for the spring and fall semesters of next year, and I landed myself a seasonal position at home so that I can make some petty cash over break.

Next week is Thanksgiving, and I couldn’t be more excited. Not only does my job start, but I get to see my family and eat all the amazing food. I am thankful for all the good things that happen in my life, and honestly even for the bad things, because there would be no light without the dark. This post may seem a little pointless, but this blog is about the daily life of a college student, and most importantly I wanted to show that life does go on, even after bad things happen. We have to keep fighting for the good things.

To those who voted for Trump

To those of you who voted for Donald Trump:

I was going to start out by saying we are not friends. But I am a writer at heart, and I let things flow; once I wrote the end of this article, and I realized that that is not the answer. In my head an angry voice is saying that we can’t be friends, that I can’t possibly go near someone who holds so much hate in their heart. But then I would become the person that holds hate in their heart, and I don’t want that. I do, however, want you all to know what you have caused, and why I and many others are angry.

I know that there were rational reasons to vote for both candidates. I am aware of that, and I’ve openly said it before. I still absolutely believe that we should all exercise our civic duty. But now that the election is over, it’s finally hitting me what a Trump presidency would mean for this country.

A Trump presidency would mean that my dad, who legally immigrated here to chase the American Dream (which the Republican Party claims to be the champion of), will lose his dream of having a successful engineering business. The business my family built from the ground up will have to be sacrificed, because once the Affordable Healthcare Act is repealed, we will not be able to afford health insurance.

A Trump presidency will be proving to terror groups in the Middle East that we do hate them. It will strengthen their convictions, and bombing civilians will only drive them closer to radicalizing.

A Trump presidency will put hundreds of thousands of innocent people at risk for violence that occurs as a result of bigotry, as well as giving invalid prejudices a chance to flourish in this country. (see: https://twitter.com/i/moments/796417517157830656)

A Trump presidency means people will die. LGBTQ+ youth who feel there is no other option in the face of conversion therapy. Women who become pregnant in unfavorable circumstances who will suffer complicated pregnancies or coat hanger abortions. POC who go about their daily lives but are seen as criminals. Not to mention the possible foreign affairs implications; civilians will die in ill-thought-out bombings and raids ordered by a man who himself qualifies as a terrorist.

A Trump presidency will tank the economy, leaving those of us with student loans in debt for the rest of our lives, especially when the job market tanks as a result of a reduction in free trade.

A Trump presidency means the rest of the world is laughing at us. America. We the people who could forgive this vile, filthy man for assaulting multiple women, making fun of disabled people, inciting violence, disparaging POWs and people of color, and not releasing his tax returns, but couldn’t forgive a Yale Law graduate with 30+ years of political experience who has spent her life fighting for the good of this country for a “crime” she wasn’t even indicted for, simply because she’s a female.

So for those of you who actually voted for him, know what danger and pain you have inflicted not only on me, but on this whole nation. This nation raised us both, and I am angry that there is every possibility it will become a beacon of negativity in this world. We have answered the entire world’s questions about us with one word: hatred. To me, that’s not okay. In the future, I hope you can all educate yourselves and instead of using your prejudices and hatred to inform your decisions, use logic and love. Think of those other than yourself. And maybe next time, we can show the world all of our potential as the United States of America.

 

image source: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwii4NSEj5_QAhWGWCYKHSb3DjMQjRwIBw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.democraticstuff.com%2FLove-Trumps-Hate-Anti-Trump-Bumper-Sticker-BS55026.html&psig=AFQjCNH0cMoBA10UmsUvTWPGgKe7OcD4NQ&ust=1478899184813008