Mind over Matter

Often when I tell people that I work out six days a week, work 22 hours a week, take 17 credits, sleep 6-8 hours per night and get all my work done days in advance while still maintaining a thread of a social life, they look at me like I’m crazy. They also assume I must drink copious amount of energy drinks or coffee or take some sort of medication to function like the Energizer bunny. I hate both energy drinks and coffee, so I tell them that it’s my dedication to time management and getting things done that allows me a schedule where I can freely go about my day well-rested, productive and happy.
As college students, when we think we don’t have enough time sleep is the first thing to get thrown down to the bottom on our list of priorities. The endless amounts of assignments, group meetings, classes and general perception of so-much-to-do-so-little-time we give ourselves should not induce stress but rather motivation. Part of the reason I stay so grounded and can do everything I want is that I realize that my free time should be used to fill in with these many life pressures, not spent social media-ing or watching a movie or trying to do productive housework like washing the dishes to avoid school work.
Why do I constantly hear people say they get excited when class gets canceled, or when they don’t have much work to do today? We’re here at the University of Michigan to learn something, to get an education. While it has been said that much of the learning you do at college happens outside the classroom, classes and responsibilities are important too. I choose to look forward to class and to studying, or writing or going to work because I know that it is what I’m supposed to be doing. It bothers me a lot when people’s attitudes don’t reflect this enthusiasm for learning and attending one of the finest academic institutions in the world.
Is my attitude and perspective just slightly too radical for my peers to adopt? Is the feeling of ranting on Facebook or twitter about how much work you have to do a rite of passage in the life of a college student? Why do so many faces I stumble upon across campus read as nonchalant or sad, when just a smile could instantly improve your mood and attitude and give you a whole new perspective on your day?
I do like to have fun, and I know I can have fun when I’ve earned it. But for having been surrounded with like-minded individuals for the past two-and-a-half years, I can’t help but feel that I’m an outlier in a sea of students who’d rather skip class and take a nap than go to class even if they’re tired because they want to learn.
Really, I let my attitude guide my philosophy on learning. It’s not like I came to this point that easily, it took about four semesters of trying to find my ideal life formula to be successful here. And as much as I talk about how balanced my life is, sometimes I’ll relapse and put off an assignment only to stay up late the night before finishing it. Mostly, I try to stay as disciplined as possible so I can stay happy and energized, willing to take on my responsibilities one day at a time. It’s mind over matter for me, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be for you too.

Winter Rant

I remember cold blizzard nights spent with pajamas worn inside out and spoons carefully placed under my pillow. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ve clearly never had a snow day. This was more than just a superstition. It was a way of life. And it worked every time. If for some wild reason I woke up in the morning to discover that school was still open, the reason was clear: it wasn’t the ritual at fault, some dumb kid obviously forgot to put a spoon under his pillow.

Snow days used to be the best part of winter. I loved waking up at dawn and watching the snowflakes fall, each building onto the tidal wave of white pushing up against the outer-walls of my house. My mom would bundle me in layers of clothing, yank the sliding door open and set me free to spend the day exploring the new world that used to be my backyard. I used to build forts, pack snowballs, and dig sled routes for hours. When my toes began to go numb, I would retire to the fireplace to let my body thaw, a cup of hot chocolate waiting for me. Life was easy, and snow was my friend. I wish I could say the same today.

Flash forward ten years: I’ve moved to Michigan, where snow looks more like swamps of grey slush, and the wind hurls hail into my face as I walk to class. Upon hearing my morning alarm, I don’t rush to the window in hopes that an overnight storm has painted my yard white. Rather, I moan at the sight of frozen mush on the sidewalks and streets. This may sound like a testament to my changed character. It may sound like I’m just no longer the vivacious kid I used to be. Yet, I still recognize snow for its beauty- just not when I’m hopscotching around piles of slush and patches of black ice. One day I’ll fully rekindle my relationship with snow. After all, it’s nearly impossible to resist a good snowball fight. But for now, you won’t be finding any spoons under my pillow.

Hate on Me Hater, As Long As you Hate Constructively

Most of you know that I am a member of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC) since I shamelessly promote our events in class sometimes. Caveat: I am not writing this as a representative of SAPAC because that would mean that this is our official response as an organization, and it is not, this is just my take on something that has been very frustrating the last few days.

This year, SAPAC has been introducing a new freshman workshop to the campus. All freshmen are required by the university administration to undergo a SAPAC workshop during first semester in order to teach them some basic things about consent, sexual assault, and safe sex. The dedicated individuals in charge of those workshops noticed some negative feedback over the last couple of years and overhauled the workshop over the summer, basing the new one in research, narrowing the focus, and making it more interactive. The result was Relationship Remix, a one and a half hour long exploration of consent, respect, and safety in romantic relationships. We have gotten fairly positive feedback from participants about  if they learned new things, or had gained new perspectives. Obviously, nothing is perfect, and any workshop we do is subject to improvement, but we do have a good thing going .

The Michigan Daily, our university’s main student publication, apparently disagrees. The Daily has chosen to publish two articles within four or five days of each other, one an Op-Ed piece, and another a Letter to the Editor, disparaging SAPAC’s efforts. I would not even be mad if either article gave even a speck of constructive criticism, but the authors (both freshmen who recently received a workshop) were less than what one would consider constructive. The first, the Op-Ed piece, stated that our workshops are a waste of time, as freshmen already know all about these issues. The second, a Letter to the Editor (yes, I am aware that this person was probably not on the Daily staff, but they did choose to print it) condemning the workshop because it helps foster a culture of “free sex” and if we all stopped having “free sex” sexual violence would be eradicated. This was also a response to the fact that, as SAPAC collaborates with Sexperteam on this workshop, we provide free contraceptives to promote safe sex. The letter writer was horrified at the prospect of free condoms on a college campus, and ended his letter by questioning the moral compass of the entire university.

I could spend this entire blog post writing furious, well-written counterarguments, and taking cheap shots at the writers for being freshmen, and other crimes against humanity. As my roommates can testify, I have already done this at length. Instead, I would like to discuss journalistic responsibility, the conscious choice to repeatedly print pieces bashing a student group that deals with sensitive topics, and the fact that when one writes an article for a newspaper, it should be more than spouting off about your own whiny opinions without any backup or purpose beyond venting. That is what blogs are for (natch).

But wait! Isn’t the Op. Ed. column and letters for the editor strictly designed for people’s whiny opinions? Yes, I suppose. I am only asking that a measure of accuracy, relevance, and respect be taken in the writing and publishing of these articles. Just because you can publish anything you want doesn’t mean that it is ethical or worthwhile. One article was titled “U mandated Relationship Remix program is a joke.” Thanks Michigan Daily. Thanks. Though the Daily, to its credit, did allow a member of SAPAC to provide their own article in response to the first one, the printing of the second just seems a little ridiculous. Neither article provides research, neither provides specific criticism besides “Don’t bring condoms” and both authors just seem annoyed that they had to take time out of their schedule to listen for a little while. That isn’t journalism, it isn’t news, and it certainly isn’t helpful. If the Daily wants to report on Relationship Remix, can they at least write something serious about it?

First Article: http://www.michigandaily.com/opinion/viewpoint-pointless-relationship-workshops


Response to first article: http://www.michigandaily.com/opinion/viewpoint-importance-relationship-workshop

Letter: http://www.michigandaily.com/opinion/letter-editor-university-mandated-relationship-remix-program-joke