Last week, on Saturday, August 10th, 2013, I turned 20 years old. I’ve completed two full decades of my life, and prayerfully I have many more decades ahead of me. Every time a birthday passes me by I reflect on the past, evaluate the present, and plan for the future. This helps me to keep my goals in order and keep my life on track.
As I look back on my past, I realize how much I have changed and how different my personality is. When I was a child I was talkative, but soft spoken. I always had a lot to say, but I was afraid to be forceful about saying it. Over the years, I have realized that if I want to be heard, then I need to be outspoken and assertive. I spent years developing my social skills and my public speaking, and now I am almost too loud and outspoken. People often don’t believe me when I tell them that I used to be timid. Looking back on my earlier years gives me satisfaction in that I was able to successfully make a personality change that has greatly improved my life.
I am satisfied and content with my current situation. I am doing well in school, I am where I need to be financially, and my relationships with my loved ones are strong. I have maintained a 3.9 GPA throughout my first two years of college, and I expect to extend the streak through the end of my time in higher education. Ever since I started my first job I have been in the habit of saving my money, and my parents assist me where they are able, so I am stable and provided for. I put my all into my relationships with God, my family, my friends, and my girlfriend. I put a strong effort into being communicative, loving, and forgiving toward my loved ones. I take initiative and responsibility for everything that is within my control, and in everything I cannot control I trust God to keep order and make everything work together for my good.
Barring any major catastrophes, I expect my future to be great. I had a wonderful upbringing, I retained a lot of the things that my parents have tried to instill in me, and I have a lot of good things going for me. Some day I will have my own family, and I hope to give my children the same good life that I was given by my parents. I will also have a career as a professor, and I want to be as hard-working as my parents are. With every birthday that passes, I think more and more about what it means to be an adult and have my own responsibilities. I hope and pray that, as has been the case up until now, every one of my birthdays is better than the last.
So far, this summer has been the busiest summer of my life. I work two jobs (one of which is forty-five minutes away), volunteer at church, help out around the house, spend time with my family and girlfriend, and on top of all that I still try to find time for myself to do the things that I enjoy. In summers past it was easy to find time every day to sit down and read a book or watch T.V., but this summer it has become a rare occurrence. Sleep is in short supply and leisure times are few and far between. I placed higher priority on other things and other people than on myself and my own well-being. It would be easy for me to blame my dilemma on other people or on circumstance, but the truth is that it is no one’s fault but mine that I am overbooked.
Now that I have more things to pay for; such as car payments, gas, food and dates; I have begun to want as many hours at work as I can obtain. After all, the more I work, the bigger the check, and the bigger the check, the happier and more at ease I will be…or so I thought. Taking on two jobs and more hours than I could comfortably handle ended up being stressful, and the bigger checks did not make it any easier. I am blessed with enough to sustain me without needing to work more than one job, but over-ambitiousness caused me to go beyond what I needed to do and stress myself out. I need to be thankful and trust God that what I have will continue to be enough.
I have never been one to let other people maliciously keep me from progressing and advancing, but I am in the bad habit of helping others to the point of neglecting myself. It is easy for me to say no to someone who is doing or saying something intentionally to keep me down, but it is very difficult for me to deny the request of a loved one who genuinely needs my help, even when it inconveniences me. To a degree, this is a good quality to have, but it can quickly get to the point where I place the needs of others over my own needs and damaging myself just as much as I am helping the other person. This summer more than ever I have come to realize that I am doing others a disservice when I do not tend to my own needs before tending to theirs. I need to be at my best in order to give my all to people that need my help.
There is only so much time in a day, week, or month, and there are only so many things that can fit into that time. It takes foresight and experience to properly allot your time to accomplish what needs to be done and still salvage some time for yourself. Be careful when making commitments, because filling you schedule with too many of them can be detrimental.
My family and I just returned from a week-long vacation in Orlando, Florida. We visited theme parks, enjoyed the gorgeous weather, and made good use of the resort’s recreational attractions. I was almost unable to join my family on this trip because of my limited vacation days at work, but thankfully I was able to make arrangements with my jobs and take the days off. My family vacation turned out to be the refreshing experience I needed to finish the summer off strong.
My family drove to Orlando, which was a surprisingly stress-less experience. More than twenty hours of driving would cause most people to be irritable and unpleasant, but our group was incredibly flexible and cooperative, and no one complained when things did not go his or her way. This cooperative attitude continued throughout the vacation. The adults took turns looking after the younger children, and everyone was able to do every activity they wanted at the resort.
The resort had a number of recreational facilities and activities, but a few of them held our attention for most of the vacation. My family spent the majority of its leisure time at one of the many pools. The pools had music, activities, small waterfalls, and large crowds of people. I, my mom, my dad, and my middle brother played a few sets of tennis when we wanted to escape the crowded pools. None of us are very good at tennis, so our matches are more comical than graceful. My brother and I also made frequent use of the basketball courts. Playing basketball helped to counteract the negative effects of all the food we ate! The worst of our overeating took place at the theme parks we visited.
Our villa was less than twenty minutes away from Disney Land. We went to Magic Kingdom and SeaWorld; the focus of these excursions was giving my youngest brother and cousin the Disney experience that all of the older children received when they were younger. It was wonderful to see the kids’ eyes light up as they viewed the fireworks behind the castle at Magic Kingdom and watched the dolphins do flips and spins at SeaWorld. I enjoyed the attractions as well; the Space Mountain ride at Magic Kingdom is one of the highlights of my childhood, and it was just as exciting to ride it again as an adult. In spite of my own personal enjoyment, being a part of the children’s Disney experience remained central.
The sun, the enjoyment, and the freedom from everyday responsibilities were very nice for a while. But, by the end of the week I began to miss home. The routine that I wanted to escape became the thing I missed the most. One of the best parts of a vacation is returning home refreshed and excited to resume your routine.
My family and I recently drove all the way from New York to Florida for the second time in my life. Our main reason for taking this trip is so that my younger brother and cousin are able to experience things like Disney Land and Sea World during their childhood, but the adults on the trip are appreciative of this vacation as an opportunity to escape from work and enjoy a nice resort with family. My family chose to drive down because it is cheaper, but we also believe in the value of experiencing a long road trip, especially in the summer weather. Through the full bladders and cramped legs, we were able to make it to our destination and enjoy ourselves during the ride.
There is not that much that I remember about my family’s first road trip to Florida since I was ten years old at the time, but I remember a few blatant differences between my first and most recent drives. First was how much less room there was in the car this time. Last time we took two cars, but this time we shoved seven people and their luggage into an eight-seat car. The most amazing thing is that my mom was able to maneuver and situate so many people and so many belongings without compromising anyone’s comfort. Even with enough leg room, it was difficult to stay comfortable and restful for nearly a full 24 hour drive. Towards the end everyone, myself included, began to become restless and agitated, but thankfully we were able to contain ourselves for the rest of the ride.
The second difference between the two that I saw was how much more of the drive I payed attention to and enjoyed as opposed to the first trip. At ten years old, I was not very capable of focusing my attention on what was right in front of me. I had the bad habit of looking forward to the exciting things of the future while disregarding the situation at hand. Now that I am older and more mature, I can be attentive toward what is going on directly in front me, such as what routes we take to get you to Florida, and how much money gets spent on gas.
The third and biggest difference between the first trip and this trip is my turn driving. Obviously, I did not get this opportunity ten years ago. We split the driving between the five licensed drivers, each having a shift of three hours. I had the fourth shift, which caused me to be driving through Virginia and North Carolina. Throughout the trip, but especially while I was driving, I noticed how much cheaper gas is in every state. Only a few places in Virginia had gas pricing similar to New York’s. I also enjoyed the scenery and conversations while I was driving.
If you have the option between driving and flying, then I would suggest driving. When in a large enough group, driving is much more cost efficient, and it is definitely more fun. It may be stressful or uncomfortable at times, but the overall outcome of a road trip is a good time.
I’m not a big fan of cliches, but a few of them hold true and timeless. My favorite cliche is “Actions speak louder than words;” the best way to get a point across is to act out the message you want to convey. On the other hand, there is no cliche more overused and under-done than “I love you;” many people use this phrase loosely and conditionally. I believe that by combining the two cliches, both will be more meaningful and valuable in every relationship, whether it be between a family member, friend, or significant other. Acting out love means much more than expressing it with words. Don’t just speak love; do love.
One of my favorite songs to play on guitar is “More Than Words” by Extreme. It is not only a fun song to play, but its message is very insightful. In the first verse it says “It’s not that I want you not to say [I love you], but if you only knew how easy it would be to show me how you feel.” There are two truths in this line: there is nothing wrong with speaking love, but it is simple and necessary to show your love as well. Acting out love can be as easy as remaining present in someone’s life during their times of need to listen to their problems and offer advice. The song goes wrong, though, by failing to mention that doing love with more than words can be difficult at times. It can mean denying your own wants and needs in order to cater to the needs of someone else. The times when doing love is most difficult are the times when your love means the most and comes across the clearest.
1 Corinthians 13 is more or less the instruction manual for how to love. The first verse of this chapter says “If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” As is clear in Scripture, love is about much more than what is said; it is about doing and having the actions and qualities listed in the rest of the chapter. Having patience and kindness; lacking enviousness, boastfulness, arrogance, and rudeness; not insisting on your own way, being irritable and resentful, or rejoicing with wrongdoing; and rejoicing with the truth are the things necessary to act out love. Doing love means bearing all things, believing all things, hoping in all things, and enduring all things.
One of my favorite things about the summertime is cooking food outside on the grill. To me, it represents warm weather, fun, and good times with family and friends. Whenever the grill starts, people gather together to enjoy the food and fun. Because I enjoy it so much, I am usually the one with a spatula in hand. I would like to teach you all some ways to make sure that your grilling is done right.
Safety is extremely important when using a grill. Be sure to completely understand how your grill works, and check to see if it is in good working condition before using it. Using a gas grill improperly can result in serious injury. Wrapping the grate in foil not only preserves the taste of the food and the cleanliness of the grate, but it also makes grilling safer by preventing much of the grease from dripping onto the fire and causing the flames to flare up toward the chef. To stifle grease fires, mix water with vinegar in a spray bottle, spray it over the fire, and close the lid until the fire goes out. Address grease fires quickly for your safety and so that they do not ruin your food.
Hamburgers and hotdogs are usually the first thing that people think of when they hear the word “barbecue.” Hamburgers are the most simple grilling assignment; slap them on the grill and flip them when the juices start to bubble on the side that is up. Put a slice of cheese on each patty while it is still hot so that the cheese melts. Hotdogs are a little bit more involved. Make a shallow cut into both sides of each hotdog before putting them over the fire so that they cook all the way through. Turn them frequently because it is easy to forget about them and burn them.
Steak and chicken are two more barbecuing favorites. It is more difficult to keep steak juicy when it is cooked on the grill rather than in a pan. It needs to be seasoned before putting it on the grill and it needs to be either marinated beforehand or sauced while it is being cooked. Some of my favorite seasonings and sauces are garlic salt, cumin, Italian seasoning, A1, and Worcestershire sauce. Grilling chicken is healthier and easier than frying it. Clean and boil the chicken to prepare it for grilling. Cook it until it gains color. I like to spread barbecue sauce over it right after it comes off of the fire.
During the summer, barbecues happen all the time. Special events like birthdays and graduations often need to be accompanied by large amounts of food, and the grill is a quick and easy way to cook in large quantities. You may even want to host your own barbecue for a special occasion or just for fun. The next time you are the one manning the grill, use this information to make your grilling safer and your food better.
No matter where you go or what you do, you will eventually encounter people who do not approve of you. You have probably heard it said a thousand times that “You can’t please everyone,” but you might not realize how true and relevant this statement is. It took me a long time to realize this, but it is impossible to make everyone approve of the way you are and the things you do. Unfortunately, even after realizing this truth it is difficult to balance the desire to please with the inability to please everyone. I have found that the best way to find that balance is to figure out who’s opinions about you matter the most. I disagree with those who say that you shouldn’t care what people think; you simply shouldn’t be affected by what everyone thinks.
I find it helpful to classify the people in my life by the degree to which I allow their opinions to affect me. The first and most important group consists of the people who’s opinions can change me. These are the people that I trust and that are closest to me. They include my family, girlfriend, and closest friends. When they disapprove of the things I do, they are aiming to make me better, not tear me down. Be very, very careful about allowing people into this category. When you let the wrong people change you, you lose track of who you are in the process.
The second type of person is one whose opinion can affect my mood, but not my personality or my actions. These are people who I know and am familiar with, but they are not very close to me. When they have a negative opinion of me, there may be good or bad intentions behind it. They may upset me with their opinions, but they cannot change me. Do not let everyone who is friendly with you have the power to change you.
The third and final type of person is one whose opinion cannot affect me at all. This group includes anyone I don’t know or know very little. When people like this disapprove of me, I ignore them. Negative opinions from this type of person should be brushed off and ignored. There is no reason to let someone upset you or change you when they do not know you or have your best interest in mind.
It is liberating to understand that few people’s opinions of you should really be very important to you. Enacting this concept in your life will help you to stop stressing over what people think of you, and you will expend less time and energy trying to gain their approval. Only be truly concerned with the opinions of people who have your best interest in mind; all other people’s negative opinions should mean little, if anything to you.
As the summer before my final year of college goes by, I can’t help but wonder what the next step in my life will hold for me. I am experiencing the same type of excitement and anxiousness that I felt as high school graduation neared, and I’m sure that the rest of the seniors are feeling it as well. This past week my girlfriend and I took a trip to Manhattan to visit graduate schools. She plans on going to law school and I want to go to a seminary after I graduate from college. During our time at the different schools, questions such as “Where will I end up after I graduate?” and “Is graduate school worth it?” arose in my mind.
A few days after our trip to the city, I had a conversation with my cousin about what happens once college is over. He told me some alarming stories about friends of his who never found jobs in their field. He knows brilliant law school graduates working as waitresses and college alumni tending bars. He also told me some great success stories; he found a great job in his field as did a number of people he knows. The conversation was both discouraging and encouraging. It seems that there are similar chances of succeeding and failing.
Once I graduate, the next step that I plan to take is graduate school at a seminary institution. I aim to obtain a masters degree in a biblical or theological field, earn a PhD, and teach at the college level in a Christian school. I feel confident about the path I am choosing to take because it is not a very common career choice, so I will not have as much competition as would a doctor or lawyer.
One of the things about post-college studies that stands out the most to me is the financial aspect of it. My mom often tells horror stories about graduates with unbearable student loans that take decades to pay off; I do not want to end up as the subject of one of those horror stories. From what I have learned from people who have gone through studies after college, the most important things to keep in mind when considering the finances of graduate school are to plan ahead and stay realistic. Know in advance what type of salary you will expect after coming out of graduate school, and make sure your loans do not exceed that amount.
Like me, many seniors are considering graduate studies, but graduate school is not for everyone. For many people, more schooling would mean more time, effort, and money than it is worth. It is important to choose a path that will be satisfying to you in the long run, whether that means continuing your schooling or going directly into the work force.
Imagine this: you had to roll out of bed earlier than you wanted to, an hour-long drive lies between your home and your job, and you have an eight hour day of work to look forward to when you get there. Then you have to drive an hour to get back home. Your back and neck are stiff, your eyelids feel heavy, and your driving leg is killing you. Do you feel stressed yet? Now imagine doing it Monday through Friday for over a decade. That’s what my dad, and many other men and women like him, has had to do for years. I never understood how difficult this was until this summer when I entered the “real world” and started working a little less than an hour away from home, pretty near to where my dad works. I have learned a lot about what my dad goes through by experiencing it for myself.
On days that we are both able to do it, my dad and I ride to work together, but there have been plenty of days when I had to commute on my own. Often, it is hard to keep my eyes open and there is no one talking to you to keep you awake. I have to drive to work without enough sleep and I have to drive back from work after a slow, uneventful day. I am usually tired, cranky, and unpleasant at the end of a workday. What amazes me is that my dad is able to do this five days a week and still be pleasant and fun when he gets home. Doing what he does has caused me to appreciate him more than I did previously. When we ride together, I get to learn a lot about him through the conversations we have. These conversations and the stories that he tells reinforce the qualities that are already apparent, such as strength and determination.
When I was a child I did not fully understand the difficulties that my parents face to provide for our family, and I did not appreciate their struggles. Now that I face some of those difficulties for myself, I am more easily able to relate to and comprehend what my mom and dad have to do to keep our family fed and clothed. An hour commute has changed my perspective on my father and what he does and goes through for me. It’s hard to appreciate your parents or guardians when you do not understand their struggle, but before you get upset with them for being stressed out or angry with you, remember what they go through to provide for you and try to imagine yourself in their place.
As we leave the days when all of our expenses were payed by our parents or guardians, it is important to be conscious of how we handle our finances in the real world. This may be a new concept for many of us; I know some people that are good about monitoring their spending habits, but I am acquainted with many more people who view any money that they earn is money that can and should be spent right away. When you tend to spend carelessly or impulsively, you will often find yourself lacking the funds needed for better or more important things. Even moderate spending tendencies can be problematic when done without a consciousness of how much money is coming into and going out of your hands regularly. In it’s simplest form, budgeting is being aware of your income and planning your expenditure accordingly. Simply put: know how much you make, and figure out how to spend wisely so that you can save money. Many budgeting plans are available online and in books, but here I will give you a few easy rules to get you started on making your money last.
The first rule is the simplest, but can be the most difficult to abide by: spend less than you make! Planning ahead of time is the best way to go about doing this. First, pick a span of time that you will base your budget on. You can do it by week, by paycheck, by month, or however long seems best to you. Next, make a list of all of the things that you will definitely need to spend on in that length of time. Finally, calculate how much your necessities will cost, how much you have left over, and how much you want to spend on entertainment while putting the rest away for savings.
Part of the first rule is determining what is a necessity and what is not. This brings us to the second rule: prioritize! Movies, restaurants, and amusement parks are extras, not necessities. Things like bills, groceries, and gas are necessary.These should be the first things taken into account when budgeting, and entertainment should come second. When determining how much to spend on entertainment, be sure to allot enough to save.
The third and final rule is to stick to your budget! Falling back into your old habits of buying whatever you like is tempting, but don’t backslide into careless spending. Halfhearted budgeting is not effective; you need to make a strong effort and be determined to make your money last. You will soon see the positive results of creating a budget.
When most people hear “camping,” they think of tents deep in the woods, fires started by hand, and sleeping on the floor. When I say that I like to camp, people are shocked and almost horrified that I would willingly subject myself to such torture. Many people enjoy the simpler, more difficult type of camping, but in my family, camping means something entirely different. We like to call it “fake camping.” While we camp we are comfortable and there are a lot of ways to have fun.
During our weekend or week-long camping trips we stay in a camper. Campers are trailers that attach to the back of cars and can be lived in, usually for recreational purposes. Some prefer to rough it in tents, but most of the people I encounter that like to camp prefer the comforts and luxuries of campers. Most come equipped with beds, a miniature kitchen, electricity, heat, and air conditioning. Some even come with televisions and can connect to cable. You can sleep, cook, watch movies, and play video games in a comfortable environment while being a few steps away from the beautiful nature that surrounds you. The only downside is that, for compactness’ sake, there is limited space to move around and things can easily get crowded. My family’s camper can comfortably sleep my family of five, but when a few visitors come it can become tight inside. Luckily, the outdoors are spacious and close by.
A campground is a somewhat enclosed area where campers can rent out sites to set up their tents or campers. Most campgrounds have facilities and activities that campers can enjoy. They may have a lake or pool, game room, basketball court, or playground, and they will often hold dances, game nights, competitions, and craft-making sessions for the children. While what the campground offers is fun and enjoyable, it is sometimes even better to spend your time on and around your own campsite. A campsite is usually big enough to park your camper (or tent) and two cars while still having plenty of space to move around and do activities. Most campsites have a table and a fire ring, in which you can have your campfires. The best times to be had are likely to be had around the fire; s’mores, stories, and games are commonplace. This is where you can bond and have engaging conversations with your friends and family. For me, time around the campfire is the highlight of a camping trip.
Camping is not always what people generally expect it to be. It can be comfortable and eventful. For me, it is one of my favorite modes of vacationing. Camping is an opportunity to have amazing adventures with your loved ones, even if you only go fake camping.
The summer is a time for celebration; graduations, birthdays, and barbeques are commonplace during this time of year. In our society, when someone says “Let’s celebrate!” they are really saying “Let’s eat!” Being docile is also easy to do during our time off from school. Those who work in an office setting may find it difficult to stay active. Healthy living is difficult when so many things around us act as deterrents to our health. Unfortunately, many of the things that are most enjoyable are the same things that can negatively affect our health and shorten our lives. Making small, subtle changes to your habits and routines is the best way to live healthier, longer, and better.
I have been back home for less than a month, and I have already gone out to eat five times for different occasions. My most recent outing involved eating a pretty large lunch at home and then going out to Johnny Rocket’s to catch up with an old friend (I regretted eating all of that food later…). One way that I counterbalance the unhealthiness (and expensiveness) of eating at restaurants is by replacing carbonated, sugary drinks with water. Carbonated drinks like soda slow down the body’s metabolism, causing more of the food that you are digesting to be stored as fat. Water does nothing but hydrates the body (and it’s free!). Sticking to water will be better for your belly and your wallet. Another way to make going out to eat more healthy is to put some of it in a box and put it in the fridge for later. Most restaurant food is not very healthy to begin with, but sitting there and eating enough for two or three people, of which I am often guilty, multiplies the damage that it does to the body. Saving some of the food for later makes eating out less of a problem.
I am used to being a life guard during the summer, which is usually a very active job. This summer, though, I am working in an office, which requires me to remain sitting for the better part of an eight hour day. Through working in this setting I have realized how difficult it must be for full-time workers in an office setting to stay active and healthy. I have come up with a few tricks to help make the work day less inactive. First, find a reason to get up out of your seat a few times every hour. I go as far as to schedule how often and at what times I will get up; I walk to the water cooler to get a drink every thirty minutes. You can go to the bathroom, walk over to speak with someone, run a work-related errand, or just stand up and stretch. Second, be active when you are away from work. Go for a jog in the mornings or play a sport with friends after you get home. To do nothing but sit for hours at work is made worse for your health by doing nothing but sit when you come home.
The enjoyable things in life do not have to be detrimental to your health. Celebrations that involve eating do not have to ruin your body, and inactivity at work does not have to make you an inactive person. A few small adjustments are all it takes to keep fun things from damaging you. I hope that you have a healthy summer and a long, healthy life.