It Rained Today

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Today it rained. A lot. And like most Cincinnati days of torrential down pour, weather men and women everywhere were 100% sure it was going to be nothing but sunshine. This pop up weather really put people off. As in it absolutely ruined everyone’s week as I watched them trounce in dripping while at work.Want to know how I know it ruined their week? Because of the near tantrums that I witnessed as they demanded an umbrella. You could see it in their eyes, dripping wet, arms out starfish style whirling around disoriented like they hadn’t had food or water in 30 days.

That “OMG I must be dry this instant or I am going to lose it” look.

They stomp-sloshed (when a wet person angrily moves in your direction) into the office ready to tackle the next person they saw for an umbrella…

Wet person: Tell me you sell umbrellas here?! Don’t you know it’s pouring out there?!
Me: *Rain continues pounding roof as it has the past 2 hours* So sorry no umbrellas
Wet person: What am I supposed to do!!!? I am soaked!!
Me:…

Every single melt down I participated in I kept thinking, 1: these grown adults need to suck it up and 2: oh my gosh I am the soaking wet umbrella-less grouch too. Type A people just can’t resist a moment to control…just my opinion…coming from the girl brought two umbrellas today…just in case. It is such a blessing and a curse, and in the case of the distraught wet person, mostly a curse.

No I don’t think I would ever throw a tantrum at someone else because I got rained on, but I totally freak about similar moments on a daily basis. Those moments when even the most excessive effort to control everything wind up being out of your control. Things that you couldn’t have prevented no matter how hard you tried. Computer crashes. Recession. Money. Traffic. Car crashes. Layoffs. Other people. Sickness. Breakdowns. You name it.

So many of these little moments are 110% out our control and you have two choices. Cry about being soaking wet from a pop up shower, or do your darndest to find an umbrella, change into dry clothes, or whatever it takes to make your situation better. No one wants to pat the person who forgot their umbrella on the back.

These things happen, and you control the outcome not the event.

It rained a lot today and you are going to be okay.

 

 

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2014 for the Rest of Us

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It’s the New Year which means that future college graduates of spring 2014 are entering panic mode at the prospect of being a real world human being. You truthfully thought it would never get to this…although it was cool to act like you were ready for adulthood up until this very moment. As you avoid the miserable slump of dreading the future, it is easy to see your life as leaving the best years behind, as many 9-5ers would have you to believe. You reminisce over the sleepless nights, hilariously pointless part time jobs, and a social life fit for the entire cast of your favorite TV show. Which means that talk of student loans, insurance, and car payments will most likely bring you to tears. And the worst part is that it’s all true. Your post schoolin’ routine will take on a lunch line monotony and real life responsibilities that are less like “who’s hosting the tail gate?” and more like “did I prep enough meals and set my alarm for the right time?” There ya go, the reality of the situation, you’ve acknowledged it, the first step towards progress.

This is the norm, what everyone who is past the 16th grade will say. Why then can’t everyone start taking a more positive look on the greater 3/4 of the rest of our lives?

The future will always be uncertain, but right now it seems quadruple uncertain. And that’s because it is! It is downright unnerving.   Part of dealing with the dread of adulthood is recognizing the fact that much of it is left to be seen. If you went the traditional route of school, more school, and then face planting it into the real world, then all of the things you have experienced for the most part have been relatively planned for the past 16 years. Understanding that the uncertainty is finally your que to take control, will help make this whole be a real world person a lot less daunting. For the first time in your life, your life is at your fingertips so take advantage of the situation and go with it.

Another aspect that heavily contributes to the level of panic that is experienced right now is your own personal self-awareness. I am so convinced that self-awareness or lack thereof not only correlates with your well-being in future endeavors, but your overall likeability. No one likes an obnoxious self-centered Needy Nancy. Sure you were the queen of your sorority, or employee of the month at Chipotle for the past four years, but a major part of seamlessly exiting your college bubble is to recognize the fact that you are not in fact the center of the universe, and that is not necessarily a bad thing.

As a real world participant you will be exposed to the rest of the world trying to figure it out just like you are, as opposed to your little learning community you just spent 40 hours a week with for the most recent years of life.

Things will be changing, and you need to know that they are for the better. The alternative is to cling to your mini fridge and beer pong table, summoning freshman year into reality. By choosing to look at your adult-ish (right…I mean we are now college grads not quite adults let’s not get ahead of ourselves) future with hope and anticipation, you are setting yourself up for a more successful state of mind. Suddenly finding and/or landing a job won’t seem so horribly depressing. While paying bills is never a sunny subject take pride in your impending independence which carries far greater value than the old remembering to take the trash cans out on trash day fulfillment of college life.

With a little positivity, and self-awareness this whole real world thing just might work out.

Happy 2014!

-RV

10 Things you Realize after Visiting Africa

Last spring I spent 2 weeks in Africa.  I didn’t go live in the jungle without electricity, nor did I help rehabilitate cities for an extended period of time. I wish I could confirm that I spent a year of my life giving back to a community that needs it. I went with a study abroad opportunity to learn about public health and how care is managed in this part of the world, more specifically Ghana.  While we didn’t volunteer our services, the information gained was incredibly eye-opening and perspective broadening. We focused on major diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.Throughout our stay we were able to travel to clinics,hospitals, and related organizations to meet with health and medical professionals (and tons more than I can fit in this little background shindig).

   

I have thought a lot about why I wanted to travel to Africa. I guess it wasn’t because I have always had some deep desire to fix the world and save lives. I can’t even say that I went because I wanted to help the children (please don’t get me wrong here! I would have loved to help and volunteer at a site, but it was a general public health trip). I think I went because I needed to see it first hand. To understand why and how a region on the same planet with the same people could live in such an entirely different situation.  I needed to see the poverty, abundance, and infrastructure (or lack thereof) to grasp how I felt about it all. You see the commercials and hear heart warming tales of how someone came to aid and lives were changed. But then that someone leave to go home, the money runs out, and then what? What happens in the day to day? Does the help make a difference, or enhance the problem? I wanted to face the big health issues from the ground level and try to imagine some shred of a possible solution.

It was hard while there to face the blaring possibility that there is no single quick fix. We think the answer is a vaccine, or volunteers, or money.  While all of those are positive steps in the right direction the issues go much deeper than that.  There are deeply rooted variances in thought processes that hinder a mindset towards universal problem solving.  When it comes to health there is no single answer, but more so a lifestyle shift that must occur.  Lifestyles and societal norms must be addressed. You can sit all day and consider every “if-then” scenario and wind up not having arrived at a conclusion, but opened one hundred more doors towards problems that must be overcome.  When people as me why Africa I really can only say “to know what things are really like.” Here are a few things I learned as a college student in Africa.  They aren’t necessarily understandings that tackle the big ideas, but simply are lessons that matter to a 20 something looking for answers.

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10 things you realize after visiting Africa in college

 1. Value your health: health is something denied to many and is not a guarantee. While finding time

to go to the doctor can seem like the worlds most inconvenient and bank account draining burden we need to remember that we live in a culture where even the grocery store has a clinic. We can literally go buy break-n-bake cookies and then go get a check up.  In most of Ghana there are only about 1.5 doctors per 100,000 people.  It is easy to forget what a luxury it is that we have the information available at the mere tap of an iPhone or trip to Kroger.

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2. Having options is not a burden: I was honestly stressed out yesterday because three of my favorite yoga classes are now scheduled at the same time. You get upset when the grocery store is out of one of your 10 favorite types of shredded cheese (sorry clearly groceries are on my mind). I feel so ridiculous when I get overwhelmed by the fact that I have more electronics than I know what to do with. The majority of the world doesn’t know what a twitter handle or Pop Chips are. Image

3. We live in a ‘me’ centered society: At this point in life we are so focused on answering questions like “what will I do after college?” “how can I make the most money?” “why don’t I have more likes on this status?” A huge difference that struck me about Ghanaian was their communal mentality. They live in a culture where you have an obligation to serve your family, or your community.  While the environment may not give people living in east Africa much of a choice, seeing this mentality from the outside is a beautiful thing.

4. Your roommates aren’t as bad as you think: Not even having a sink where dishes can pile up, a shower to clean because you run so much water in it, or never having space on the DVR are the age old roomie disputes that accentuate and reinforce the ‘me’ focus discussed above. They, believe it or not, are not issues in other parts of the world because they simply don’t have those things.

5. Embrace help: This one was interesting to see. How willingly help was sought after, and how graciously it was received. As a young college aged person you feel conditioned to fiercely guard your successes and do it all on your own.  From dislocating your shoulder carrying 20 bags up the stairs to landing a big job we have a hard time accepting counseling and aid when needed. It is hard to consider letting someone assist you; any more you are just terrified that they are going to tell you there is a service charge (thanks for that Time Warner). In the Ghanaian culture many people genuinely helped one another out for the sake of doing the right thing. Image

6. Independence is empowering: We get choices. You can say what you want to say and think whatever you want. In fact not taking advantage of this is viewed as downright wasteful.  It is taken for granted that we live in a society that embraces these freedoms.

7. The world is bigger than your 2 bedroom whatever: I am talking thousands of people crammed into the smallest of public spaces.  There are more people in this world than we can even comprehend who live in areas that don’t make the nightly news.  It is so easy to forget about the rest of the world outside your bedroom door.Image

8.You won’t always have an answer: In life there will be problems bigger than you can solve. They will cause your head to spin.  Even the best bullshitters have to admit defeat sometimes.  We spent much of our time in Ghana considering the big issues and for the first time in a long time, I didn’t have an answer.  Discussion and experiences like this give people the ability to ponder these answers and a perspective that is capable of contributing more than what happened on the Real Housewives of New Jersey last night.

9. Reality isn’t easy to face: Just like it wasn’t easy learning the truth about the tooth fairy, the reality of global regions can pose a discomforting picture.  In life we are challenged to live truthfully and build a future that encompasses success.  Being present in the reality of your life is incredibly important while accomplishing future goals or working towards change.

10. There is not a Sarah McLaughlin song playing when you do a good deed: Difficult situations and facing challenges are a part of being human and growing into who you are meant to be.  You may not receive the recognition that you feel you deserve, or obtain the positive feelings you anticipated from giving your time or aid and that is okay.  We expect glamor. If only John Mayer songs played when we fell in love and Josh Groban raised you up when you finished running a marathon.

This may all sound a little deep for what is normally up on here, but these are lessons that I think have helped change my thinking for the better. Maybe some of them can apply to you also :]

-R

The Boringer the Better(er)?

I have always had a big issue with people who seem to think their life is just so much infinitely more interesting than others and everyone else is boring. They are that person who hears you say “oh I just worked all weekend” and responds all big eyed “oh sounds like a blast” paired with the awkward ‘I pity you because I think your life is boring as shit’ nervous laugh (story of my life).  Then he/she will launch into some story about how their car got stolen as they were at dinner so they called the cops and Eminem showed up instead and went clubbing with them and who gave them a free cell phone and a song appearance on his new album, all weekend long.  I don’t necessarily resent people who seem to live above the level of cool in terms of their general life, but I certainly do not appreciate my 24 hour work weekend being knocked as excitement-lessly boring.  Hey…it was so exciting to see how busy a Saturday was and to get take out for lunch. That salad was the bomb! So you met Eminem, while I once again ate from plastic cutlery and had to eat one bite every half hour due to how swamped we were. Basically…I have always appreciated a routine and revel in the down time when it’s available.  Being boring really is way more fun than most people think. It poses all kinds of benefits like the security of a full night’s sleep, avoidance of ‘lost all my personal property at the bar’ nights, and the ability to answer what are your plans for this weekend (uh let me check…yep working again). It is okay to have consistency especially in your personal life.

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 In class the other day we had to go around and do those dreadfully painful introductions that professors make you do when they feel too awkward about reading you the syllabus and then letting you leave too early. The worst part is seeing the pain on everyone’s face as they stand up and try to look as nice and approachable as possible. I am constantly amazed at my ability to forget to answer a mere four statements about myself…I always leave out “what was the most interesting thing you did this summer?”  The entire class went around and there were the exciting people who had amazing hanging with Eminem summers. As the three exciting summer people rattled off their vacations the mood took a turn for the worst when the rest of the class responded by saying that everyone didn’t do anything fun or interesting, we all apparently just hung around and worked.  It was like we all were so let down by the lack of coolness in our lives. We went on to each new person, and every time it was like the entire class had such high hopes of hearing just one skydiving story only to be crushed to hear that they just stayed home helping Grandma (which I thought was absolutely adorable to say!). I looked around wondering if I should make something ridiculous up like swam with alligators while harnessed in a meat suit just to up the morale during the first hours of what is sure to be a very long semester.  

I didn’t really start to feel inadequate about my generic answer that was to come until the professor interrupted saying, “Is that really all you guys do? I’m sorry your lives are so boring.”

Aw man again with the why is your life so boring thing?  I even felt a little offended.  You should know that the most exciting thing he did this summer was that he made it to every single reds game. Look out we are in the presence of a regular old Nik Wallenda. Without ranting too much…what about repeatedly cooking in pure summer inferno, squished in between crowd members dressed in camo and sweaty jean shorts, sounds like fun? Not to mention that most of the time you go and the biggest excitement is the fact that you get a hot dog for a dollar. I love a baseball game as much as the next person but come on…my weekend takeout easily competes with your dollar hot dog.

What I ended up taking away from the class that day was that boring is in the eye of the beholder.  And even if you are legitimately boring you are a perfectly acceptable member of society. Us boring people are the reliable ones, you know where you can find us, and we will listen with ‘edge of your seat anticipation’ to how exciting your life is in comparison.  

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Exhibit A

-R