The Arbitrary Nature of Success

College students strive for success. Sometimes that means not failing that hard science class. Other times it means maintaining a 4.0 over four years. Sometimes it just means graduating. Success is a word that means you’re good at something, but most of the time when a friend thinking about their future says they want to be successful they mean they want to make a lot of money, have a nice house, drive a fancy car, and go on expensive trips.

Success looks a certain way. If you close your eyes and think of the word success you might picture someone in a suit, a celebrity, or a world leader. Maybe you think of a business man like Elon Musk or maybe you picture a public figure like Emma Watson. Whoever you choose, you almost certainly think of who they are now rather than what it took to get them there.

Forbes named Kylie Jenner as one of the world’s richest self-made women. The controversy surrounding this includes the reason behind her riches: her family’s wealth. Having already famous parents and siblings, or even just a handful of good connections, give you a leg up in reaching “success.” We don’t start from the same place. While we do all have the same amount of time each day, where we come from, where we start, and where we plan on going forces us to utilize those same twenty four hours very differently. The most motivated person might have to work two jobs to pay off their student debt and not have the time to follow their dreams. Another motivated person might have the money to spend their free time pursuing their education and working towards their dream job. All in all, the money can make the success story but the success story doesn’t always make the money.

A successful person is often seen as a busy person. They’re the ones with the busy schedules, the color coded planners, the phones constantly buzzing with updates. The successful ones eat, sleep, and breathe accomplishing mountains of work. In college, this can mean that you schedule your days jam packed with activities and meetings. You may tell your friends your schedule and find pleasure in the shock on their faces. It may feel like you’re winning an invisible game. But truth be told, the busiest people aren’t always the most successful. Spreading yourself thin leads to lots in involvement but little participation. If you have twenty organizations all demanding your attention you never put your heart and soul into what you’re doing. You may be known for lots of things, but if you’re asked in depth about your experiences in one of the organizations you’re a part of, what answer will you give?

If what you’re doing with your free time is only to boost your resume and not boost your quality of life, that’s not true success.  True success is getting what you want out of your life. To all the freshmen I mentor: true success looks like you.

Success is a series of small wins.

Success is a mountain of small accomplishments that felt meaningless at the time. Think back to graduating high school. It took a long time to get from A to B, but you did it. You took your classes, did the math, survived the dreaded beep test in gym, and had some fun along the way. But before high school you had middle school and before that you had elementary school and before that you had preschool and before that you had to learn to talk and walk. All the little things we do each day, like making goals for ourselves and eating breakfast, can amount to something monumental if we want them to.

Right now, freshman year is a stepping stone. You’re adjusting to college and trying to figure your life out. Some of you probably feel a little lost. College often feels like two steps forward and one step back. It’s slow going. In the end, even if you don’t think you’re going to get to where you’re going, you’re going to get to where you need to be. The universe has a funny way of making that happen.

One of the silliest, yet most life changing things that I read freshman year was a tumblr post about a dog begging for a chocolate chip cookie. It goes along these lines: imagine you are enjoying a chocolate chip cookie while at home with your dog. He’s going to whine and pout and whimper trying to get that cookie. You wish you could give it to him to make him happy, but you know that if you do you could end up hurting him. There’s no way to make him understand that what he wants is bad for him. That’s like your connection to the universe. Whatever higher power is out there knows what’s best for you. You can want that metaphorical chocolate chip cookie more than anything else in the world, but if it’s going to hurt you then sometimes the universe will step in and protect you. You’ll never know why, and you’ll be just like that dog whimpering and hurt because you worked hard for something you didn’t get. And that’s okay. That’s life. That’s success. Successful people have to fail in order to succeed because nothing ever really works on the first go around. That’s freshman year for most people. It’s a trial run for college, and college is a trial run for adulthood. Even if the whole way is two steps forward and one step back, you’ll still get to the finish line if you just keep going.

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For more of my thoughts on success during college, check out an old blog post I wrote by clicking here.

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Hurricane Florence: How to Help

Hurricane Florence devastated the coasts of the Carolinas two weeks ago. Relief is still needed in many areas. Here’s a quick list of how you can help:

You can donate to hurricane victims at Red Cross by visiting this website.

Operation BBQ Relief provides meals for victims and first responders. You can check them out on their website.

Hearts With Hands is based out of my hometown, Asheville, NC. They’re taking both monetary and physical donations right now. You can also volunteer with them.

Pets, farm animals, and strays were displaced during the storm. Organizations like the ASPCA have disaster relief programs anyone can participate in. If you want to foster or adopt any of the animals rescued from Florence, check with your local shelter or shelters in the Carolinas. I know that Brother Wolf in Asheville is asking for foster parents right now!

NPR came out with a list of awesome ways to get involved, volunteer, donate, and find resources.

Sometimes the easiest thing to do is give cash, other times hands on work feels like you’re doing more. Whatever fits your lifestyle, there’s a way to get involved and help out Americans that need our help right now.

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via NBC News

Fun Things

It honestly feels like life is moving at fifteen mph above the speed limit.  It’s been one of those “please, for the love of everything sacred, slow down!” weeks. And it’s only Monday. But the good news is that the Internet is always helping me find cool ways to distract myself from how overwhelmed I actually am.

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Owning a Dog Can Improve Your Life

Happy National Dog Week everyone!

For me, every week is National Dog Week. Just think about it: my university’s mascot is a bulldog, my sorority raises guide dogs, and I own two rescue pups. Everywhere I go I’m surrounded by dogs.

Not only are dogs are a great source of joy for many people, they can also be good for your health.

puppyspot_dogs_health_2000px I don’t raise guide dogs myself, but my little Rachel and Ashley, one of my best friends (and sorority house roommate from last year), do. The Guide Dog Foundation, where most, if not all, guide dogs in training on the campus of the University of Georgia come from, raises dogs for the blind. They go through intensive training, socializing (my favorite part – playing with the puppies!), and final exams before they head out into the real world ready to help their new owners live a more independent life.

Dogs are also great for getting in some exercise each day! I love walking my pups when I go home on break to see them. Seeing them happily trotting around the neighborhood makes me happy. It’s a win-win for everyone!

My mom also considered training our bigger dog, Boo, to be a therapy dog. My mom worked in hospitals and medical centers for many years and got to see therapy dogs at work first hand. Dogs seem to know exactly who needs some love!

What are some of the ways your dog has enhanced your life?

Four Fun Things

Here’s four fun things to make your week a bit brighter:

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Bees Bounce Back from Colony Collapse Disorder

Colony Collapse Disorder is a phenomenon related to the disappearance of bees. It happens when bees leave their hive and never return. I’m not talking about a few runaway teenager bees. I’m talking about bees en masse fleeing their hive. This year, according to the honeybee health survey, the number of colonies in the United States rose 3%! Whether this is thanks to a slight change in weather, shift in the country’s climate, or due to the many Save the Bees campaigns scientists aren’t quite sure yet. So really, in order to save the bees, it might help if we actually knew what was killing them.

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Another Bee Thing

Here’s a cute light up hive in the window of a shop in Downtown Asheville called the Asheville Bee Charmer.

Monster Popcorn

I found these cute bags of popcorn at TJ Maxx in early August while back to school shopping. They’re made by a company called LesserEvil. Does it remind anyone else of this sketch from Sesame Street?

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Here’s something not so cute: a praying mantis eating a bee (have you noticed that I’m a little bee-obsessed?). These guys loved to hang out where I worked this summer, but I’ve yet to see any in Athens. Fun fact: the praying mantis can be found in every state in the US and every continent except for Antarctica!

What’s Ten Inches Anyway?

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Chopping off my hair is one of the most exhilarating things I’ve done. And I’ve done it a lot. Actually, I’ve donated over four feet of hair over the course of ten years.

I’ve gotten some strange looks when I tell people that I donate my hair to organizations that make wigs for cancer patients. Here’s the thing about human hair wigs: they look and feel like real human hair because, spoiler alert, they are! I’ve also heard that they don’t slide around on your head as much as  synthetic wigs.

To us, it’s hair. To women battling cancer, it’s hope. -Pantene Beautiful Lengths

Real hair wigs can be very expensive, but thanks to the American Cancer Society Wig Bank wigs are donated to the people that need them. Pantene Beautiful Lengths partnered with the American Cancer Society Wig Bank back in 2006 and has donated over 40,000 wigs so far!

I donate my hair because, if I don’t, it’ll just go sit in a landfill somewhere until it decomposes. It wouldn’t be helping or hurting anyone. It’d just mind it’s own business until it becomes dirt. So, instead of letting my hair waste away, I decide to give it a new life by donating it. Granted the minimum amount of hair you can donate is eight inches, but I like the thrill of chopping all my hair off in one go, so eight inches is practically nothing to me. But those eight inches could mean a whole new outlook on life for someone else! I’d definitely encourage everyone to donate their hair at some point in their life. Some organizations, such as Locks of Love, send you a thank you card from the recipient of the wig made out of your hair. How sweet is that?

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Have you ever donated your hair? Let me know your story in the comments section below!

A Concept of Home

I have lived in the same neighborhood, on the same street, in the same house all my life. That is where I consider “home” to be. For others, home is the house they’re currently living in. For others, still, home is the place they grew up. Some have split homes, whether due to divorce or immigration or other circumstances. “Home” is sometimes defined as a state of being, rather than a place. “I feel at home here,” has often been the choice phrase spoken by travelers seeking comfort. During this election cycle, I found a new definition of home for myself.

I’ve traveled outside of the United States twice in my life. Always being the child up for adventure, I readily tried new foods and met new people on both trips. However, even as a girl, I knew there was something oddly comforting about hearing an American accent on the streets of Paris, or eating a hamburger in London. As loudly as the world beckons me to explore, the United States has always found a way to bring me home again.

Amidst the confusion, frustration, and impatience of the tallying up of the electoral college votes, with Trump in the lead, the immigration website for Canada crashed. I’d heard many people, my friends among them, joke about fleeing the country if Donald Trump became the President of the United States. I didn’t think anyone was serious until that very moment. While I can not understand the fear going through the minds of some citizens right now, who possibly feel threatened by the promises our new President has made over the course of the past year, what remains more unfathomable to me are the people who are fleeing out of anger with the election.

As background on myself, I will tell you that I have a kind heart. I believe that, because we are all human beings, we have a moral obligation to be kind to one another on a daily basis. I am also only nineteen. There is much I have yet to learn about the world. But, if I have learned anything in my short time here, I know that kindness takes courage. A home is built with love, care, and, above all, kindness. Walking around my university today I witnessed ugly exchanges of words between people about political candidates. I overheard conversations that would not make me proud to call the United States my home.

As Americans, we are loud. We like sports, spending time with our families, and somehow manage to pair sneakers with everything. If you travel abroad, it’s somewhat easy to pick out the Americans in the crowd. We aren’t assertive, but we carry a kind of independent, inquisitive disposition that often finds us at the front of the tour group. It’s admirable.

While there are many things that set us apart from one another, there are also two fundamental things that should bring us together right now: we are human, and we are American. Through the process of logical deduction, it’s safe to assume that we live on same soil. We share the same home. And while not all homes are the same, I’d ask you to re-evaluate what a home means to you. I hope yours is built with kindness for others.

So in this time of change for our country, do not run away from what angers you. As it has been recently said, one vote has the power to change an election. As of now, one person has the power to change the divide that has become our home.