Wednesday, May 25, 2016

college essay prompt #2

    Many strive for success, but few are willing to fail. There is a certain mindset that comes with the desire to succeed: the losers are defeated, while the winners are inspired. A time I experienced failure was when I competed for the title of Miss Rhode Island Teen Italia. This being my first pageant, I was hesitant when deciding on whether or not to enter. The negative reputation and social stigma that comes with being a pageant queen was a fraction of what concerned me; my main fear was losing. Despite the encouragement I received from my family and friends, this was a decision I needed to make through my own deliberation.
    My main concern was having the level of confidence needed to make myself vulnerable. After all, it's one thing to be comfortable in your own skin, but it is another to allow an entire crowd of people to judge you for what you are. I worried not only about what others would think of me, but also how it would feel to compare myself to contestants who may be prettier, funnier, or more talented than me. I wouldn't know the outcome unless I tried, so I made the leap and gave it my all.
     The pageant ended up being one of the most unforgettable experiences I have ever had. I was the first runner up-- an excrutiating two points away from the crown. Surprisingly, I wasn't mad. The adventure was a challenge that allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone. I had to applaud myself for trying in the first place, because that in itself was an accomplishment to me. Even though I may not have won, I did not leave empty handed.
      My new found connections, friendships, and optimism changed my perception of success. It made realize that failure is only a stepping stone; it is a fundamental building block to success. If you live in fear of coming up short, you'll never take risks. By taking risks, there will always be a slim chance that I will succeed-- and I would rather have some chance than no chance at all. I am undoubtedly my own worst critic, and toughest competitor. My journey has taught me to take risks, because behind every successful person is an opportunity to improve.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Originality is Dead

    Today's culture heavily depends on technology. Broadcasts, the internet, and various new innovations excite us, however many of these luxuries have little originality. Even our speech is seldom our own-- popular phrases emerge and are repeated to share with the rest of society. This method has become a lifestyle in our day and age. "Reading and writing" has become "reading only." Everything has already been discovered, and it is therefore our job to make something new with it.
    Think about it: there is no work that belongs to an individual. For example, research papers must have citations for every bit of information included. Professors assume that their students are incapable of making inferences for themselves; you must back personal knowledge with something that has already been discovered. A grocery list of each and every idea that has been referenced is then cited. Work relies on the internet which does not in fact evoke creativity but instead gets us into the habit of reading and copying.
    What happened to true art? Frida Kahlo painted self- portraits without the use of technology, but instead channeled her emotion to express new ideas of feminism, self- awareness, and resilience. Martha Graham, mother of contemporary dance defied the normal standards of dance to create her very own style. These inventors used ideas of their own to speak from within. Technology today has removed our vocal chords.
    In part, our generation has been silenced. We are told to follow the rules at all times and must face the consequences when we go our own way. Originality does not come easily when in fear of repercussions. A solution to these problems can be found within the technology. Creators should make work available to everyone. The ecology of freedom will promote society's ability to accumulate information and make inferences that are their own. Ideas will no longer have to be given up to the demoralizing processing of citing endless sources or giving credit to others that received their information from another previous source. The expression of ideas should be celebrated, not discredited. Present day culture is rich in diversity, therefore individuality and creativity is something we should all discover.

Congressional Fundraising

    Politicians are particularly disliked in our society. They have a reputation for being deceiving and dishonest; greedy and corrupt. Extravagant amounts of funds are spent campaigning, which gives the impression of little commitment and too much fun. Congressional fundraising isn't as rewarding as some may assume-- the process has been described as tedious, demoralizing, and degrading.
    Politicians are removed from ornate legislative offices and placed into your quintessential cubicles complete with horrid gray fabric dividers and a call book. They may as well trade in their fancy coat jackets and slacks for a bright- orange jumpsuit. A supervisor is placed to monitor the politicians to keep them on task. Supervisors claim this process is completely necessary, as the congressional workers must "pay their dues" like imprisoned debtors. Nancy Pelosi, famed speaker within The U.S. House of Representatives, owed $800,000 in funds alone in the year of 2014; this is significantly more than the average American's annual income of $50,000 per year.
     So where does the money go? These funds are contributed to political campaigns, geared towards reform and popular sovereignty. The american people are not always fairly represented however. The money raised often goes towards personal agendas. For example, educational reform is promoted to gather funds. Once contributors have donated, their voices may or may not be heard. It is indeed quite a corrupt system... some may even call it a necessary evil. In addition, low- income taxpayers may be unable to donate and will therefore be denied a say in their state or federal legislature.
    Besides having a partial say in social reform, contributors receive tax exemptions. Giving to politicians is quite the gamble; it is not uncommon to find politicians fundraising at their own personal celebrations such as birthdays, anniversaries, and even pop concerts.
     The painful task takes up approximately 25- 50% of their time. This does not necessarily mean politicians just want your money-- it is part of the job description. Congressman Steve Israel spoke of the horrors. He plans on retiring and claims that he "won't waster any more time fundraising." He confessed to having attended over 1,600 fundraising events throughout his career. There is nothing fulfilling about begging for funds.
     In 2014 alone politicians raised approximately $1.7 billion dollars. Benefits such as tax- cuts or having a say in the state or federal legislature entices donors. Long hours, numerous phone calls, and thousands of fundraisers all help bring together money that brings these campaigns (and over personal affairs) to life. It is clear to see we have come a long way from the socialist ideals of reformers such as Stalin or Sir Thomas More. More's Utopia (1516) promoted the idea of eliminating private property and establishing an 'even playing field' so to speak. This included replacing the spoils system, corrupting the government with unfit associates, and incorporating wise leaders to rule society. Today, the environment we live in is hardly fair-- if you are poor, you will remain poor and be voiceless. If you are rich, you have power. The wealthy will receive benefits in addition to promoting their own agendas. Politicians gain titles unrightfully however their job description is not exactly what you may think-- it can be dehumanizing, humiliating and dreadful. None the less they are only practicing the necessary evils of our political system.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Visual Learning

     Art serves a similar purpose as language. Both are utilized to precisely describe a thought, feeling, or condition in a way that can be easily understood by others. Comic artist Scott McCloud guides his readers through art. Photos and phrases are broken up sequentially to provide a "picture book" effect. This supports basic human comprehension skills, creating visual connections between words and images. McCloud establishes ethos by skillfully combing the two.
     I can recall my struggle learning to read. In kindergarten, I stumbled through letters that looked like meaningless symbols. My mother bought me a case of BOB Books. This was essentially a collection of sight- words that were supported by illustrations. I remember trying read them as my mother pointed to the portraits. Before you know it, I no longer needed my mother's pointing skills-- when I struggled to find the meaning of a word, I used the visual context clues in front of me. Reading became easier for me, however I relied upon photographs to help me along-- almost as training- wheels on a bike. Now that I'm a high school student, I do not read picture books, but I am a visual learner. This means that I prefer diagrams, illustrations, graphs, and charts in order grasp a concept more efficiently (The Visual [Spatial] Learning Style, A visual learner appreciates the marriage of text and image.
     McCloud portrays a "show and tell" scene. A boy struggles to describe how he transforms his toy robot into an airplane. The story contains 16 panels; 6 of which without words. The story portrays the boy's simplistic communication skills. He cannot express each step he takes, uttering words such as "uh" and vague demonstratives to describe his object. Instead, he shows the class by doing. McCloud's work indicates that words are often not enough. Language can be supported by the most fundamental methods of comprehension such as motion, or picture.
      Mastering language is no easy task; I believe the most efficient way to describe oneself is through a deft combination of many. Scott McCloud does this to establish ethos in his art.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Celeb Bodies

    In his essay Celebrity Bodies by Daniel Harris, the author describes the unhealthy nature of celebrities we idolize. Their glamorous lives include strict diets, perfect features, and virtuous habits. It is argued that Hollywood has set the unrealistic standards, such as maintaining a size 0 physique. According to Star Magazine, singer Taylor Swift is 5'11 weighs approximately 120lbs; 7 inches taller and numerous sizes smaller than the average American female. Dangerously thin women of the spotlight seemingly defy male stereotypes of sex appeal. Skin and bones are the antithesis of voluptuous hips and large breasts.
    So who sets the standards? According to Harris, it is our middle class society who decides how perfection must be embody. Hollywood does not inflict these unrealistic standards; it is our notion of what the ideal person should look, dress, and act like. Celebrities should not smoke, drink, or swear just as we do. Brit song- bird Adele smokes like a chimney. Actress Melissa McCarthy fills a size 18. 'Bad Gal RiRi' uses profanity more often than the paparazzi accuses Kim K's butt of being fake. Our principles of flawlessness ultimately determines the success of the Hollywood stars.      
    For some reason, or opinions have a strong effect on these distant stars. We are infatuated with the standards of popular culture; our obsession is described as "pathological in part because they are an absent presence in our lives" (para. 12). Although they are not "physically" there, we seem to know these characters better than we know ourselves. The monsters we create are unfortunately accused as culprits. The bar is set by our mediocre society, yet we prosecute Hollywood for imposing unrealistic standards.
    The irony of it all is that we are in fact belittling ourselves. Under self- abasing tendencies, we collectively impose our deepest insecurities upon the stars. They may be distant, but that does not make them any less human. It has to do with the idea of putting others down in order to feel better about ourselves. There are no personal ties, therefore we feel free to ridicule other beings that are just like us. We drink; we smoke; we swear... just like them. By acknowledging the paradox, you will recognize that despite their physical absence, we are emotionally connected.

Friday, March 4, 2016

My Zombie, My Social Media

    The way I see it, we all have our crosses to bear, and zombies to escape. In his essay My Zombie, Myself, Chuck Klosterman draws a parallel between the principles of zombie slaying and life itself. Klosterman states, "The zombies you kill today will merely be replaced by the zombies of tomorrow" (para. 19). These attacks by the undead never stop coming; no matter how hard you try a new army will arise to devour you. Similarly, the battles we face in life will always hit consistently.
    My zombie happens to be social media. It is like kryptonite glued to my finger tips. The habit to check my accounts has become so habitual I completely unaware of my actions as if brainwashed. My obsession takes hold of me at all hours of the day, from the moment I first wake up, to the second  I fall asleep. It viciously intrudes upon my conversations, interrupts my school work, and damages my self- esteem.
    Scrolling past pictures on sites such as tumblr, instagram, and twitter makes me feel weak. Jealousy sets in, and I get that vacant feeling. A constant desire for the looks and possessions of others deepen the void I feel obligated to fill. How? I have no clue. Materialist items don't help. Buying all the clothing, shoes, bags, and makeup the money can buy will not help. Money truly does not buy happiness.
     Perhaps it is not about having it all, but rather never being content with what I have. Ungratefulness does not sit well with me. In fact, it plagues me. I know that when I check my social media, I am really thinking of how much better life would be if I were just prettier, skinnier, taller, and richer. It will never be enough though. No matter how hard I try, my life will never improve unless I face my zombie.
     The ultimate strategy is to fight my zombie with an attitude of gratitude. If I continue to compare myself to others, I will never be adequate. By loving myself, my family, my intelligence, and other abstract qualities I can rise above the attacks. Although they will never cease to exist, I can learn to live with them nagging at my feet.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Pop Culture

    Hip Hop raised me. I am a child of the late 90's who grew under the musical influence of artists such as Whitney Houston, Brittany Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Jay- Z. It is a part of up- bring. Hip Hop is my culture. It posses its own dance style, feeling, and fashion. The music is a language of its own. When I need a pick- me- up, I can rely on the music like an old friend. Catchy lyrics, contagious beats, and good vibes flow through my mind, transporting me to another place. The experience is almost spiritual; it resonates within my core and reminds me of my roots. Hip Hop built me.
   I have discovered myself through self- expression. Through dance and motion I can utter what cannot describe in words. By belting out song lyrics, I relate to others. Countless of my most fond childhood memories include Hip- Hop sing-a-longs. Friendly collaborations made bonds; the music brought unity. Rich or poor, black or white, boy or girl, everyone belongs to the same culture. We understand each other because we speak the same language.
    The music has less to do with the violence and drug use and popularity, but more to do with how it feels to portray society we live in. Think of it as a lens through which another world opens up. Sharing in the experiences of others is one of the aspects that brings the unity.
   Author and musician James McBride discusses the aversion he first had towards hip- hop music. As the cultural movement began in the early 1980's, its influence became harder and harder to ignore. McBride realized the culture of "dance, graffiti, and dance" was something he could not escape. "Its structure is unique, complex, and at times bewildering" (para. 8). The author expresses the ignorance that blinded him. On the surface, hip- hop seems to embody materialism. Behind the lyrics, a new world is exposed.
     Hip- hop hold roots deep within us; the music is all around. Experience the culture. It has evolved throughout the ages, shaping each new generation. Never has a movement been so strong, and I encourage you to join.