After reading the daily updates from the camel group, I was intrigued by individuals’ reactions and strategy of how they used their allocated water supply. Although I realized the allotted amount of water was minimal, I did not realize how difficult it would be to keep track of each individual use of water. For example, it seemed very difficult to accommodate some water for the simple task of washing dishes or flushing the toilet. I was extremely impressed by the camel group’s completion of the task and their reactions made me realize how lucky we are to have easy access to water.
Month: November 2015
This Thanksgiving break truly allowed me to appreciate many things. I am from the West Coast and was able to go home to see my family and friends this past week. Upon talking to my different friends about their individual college experiences, I realized how special of a community Middlebury is. Even though I missed the city life, there were times throughout the break I really missed seeing my friends from MIDD and spend time with my classmates. I am very thankful to have the opportunity to learn in such a unique place.
I am from Colorado and was lucky enough to get to travel back home on Wednesday to celebrate Thanksgiving, and then return to Middlebury today (Sunday). Spending time in airports is always a great time for people watching. I am always struck by the fact that what we are all doing is awesome, but we go through it with blank faces. We are flying through the air in a metal tube! So cool! But I rarely think about this in the moment. I am usually busy trying to nap, counting down the minutes until I land, or staring at other peoples’ blank faces. I wonder how something so amazing has become so mundane and almost chore-like? It seems like if strangers should be able to connect over anything it should be over something as unique and exciting as flying, but I haven’t found that to happen very often, or ever.
the empathy of poetry
I have started reading more poetry lately- particularly Mary Oliver. I started asking people if they have ever heard of her, and almost every person has said that Wild Geese is one of their favorite poems. Every time I reread this poem, I wonder about the underlying message that so many people seem to connect with.
|You do not have to be good.|
|You do not have to walk on your knees|
|for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.|
|You only have to let the soft animal of your body|
|love what it loves.|
|Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.|
|Meanwhile the world goes on.|
|Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain|
|are moving across the landscapes,|
|over the prairies and the deep trees,|
|the mountains and the rivers.|
|Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,|
|are heading home again.|
|Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,|
|the world offers itself to your imagination,|
|calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –|
|over and over announcing your place|
|in the family of things.|
Dogs and Good Listeners
I’ve enjoyed spending some time with my dog while home for Thanksgiving break. It’s been a really pleasant break, but I do remember moments from previous years when I wasn’t as happy with things, and how in those moments my dog was type of companion I needed. This week, I also read something that struck me as incredibly innovative and practical. I’ll include the article, but it was about dogs from animal shelters being brought into prisons. For a period of time, the inmates would train the dogs. The result would be that the inmates gained a new friend and a purpose, and the dogs would be better suited to go into homes. It’s a program that embodies the symbiotic relationship. It made me realize that dogs are sometimes the perfect friend because they are absolutely never judgmental. Sometimes, we all need a good listener.
As I reflect with my partner, we both discussed our experience with practicing empathy- whether it is unconscious physical reactions to our environmental situations or emotional responses in reflecting on certain previous experiences/global news. We agreed that our main takeaway from this ongoing exercise is a growth in interpreting and reacting to situations on a variety of levels (physical, emotional, spiritual).I have been conscious about my reactions to immediate situations as well as my reactions to others’ reactions to events and experiences (which oftentimes influences and biases my interpretation). My reactions are often biased, which I recognize. My biggest goal from this exercise is to continue practicing unbiased empathy. This certainly has been difficult given the recent global news, but it is certainly a challenge for me which has caused me to open my perspective and understand all perspectives (not be quick to judge).
Empathy Wrap Up
In thinking about empathy and processing how I perceive other’s emotions this month, I feel better able to interpret my surroundings. One of my big focuses this semester was trying to understand how empathy develops over the course of one’s lifetime. Starting as children, we turn to our parents as models for how to act and feel. They teach us how to be polite, how to share, and how to respect the property and opinions of others. I think it is of the utmost importance that we have this foundation as our habits as adolescents translate into our adult lives. The basic principles of empathy are inherently present in some, however, we can always grow and continue to cultivate our understanding of what makes our peers, and ourselves, unique. As a goal for the future, I want to keep asking my friends how they are and I want to be the best listener I can be. Sometimes when we have other things on our minds, it is hard to fully hear another person. However, this skill is invaluable and essential for maintaining fulfilling relationships.
This week I had a conversation with a friend who was been working at company X for the past two years. While it was lovely to catch up with her, I was surprised by how much she defined herself by the place she was working at. She would refer to herself as a “company name-ee” and talk about the firm in almost a cultish way. What I found interesting was she would talk about her friends working at other firms, and her body language would suggest that those firms were not on par as the one she was at. It made me wonder how much my behavior was shaped by my associations. In a way, I reflected on myself and the labels I’ve accrued (“Middkid”, etc). Do they create a barrier and implicit judgement on others who do not fit those labels?
Supportive or Offensive?
But are you really? Changing your facebook profile picture may be a tribute and act of support to those who died or have been affective by the terrorist attacks in France, but adding the French flag to your profile may also be viewed as offensive. It emphasizes selective empathy and dehumanization of others. Why isn’t there a Lebanese flag option in support of the attacks in Beirut?
Manchester VT: Outside Looking In
I met up with my mom yesterday on my way home from Middlebury for Thanksgiving Break. We planned to meet in Manchester VT, right on my route and only a 45 minute drive for her. It’s funny that I’ve been driving up and down VT for three years now and had never stopped in Manchester before yesterday. But after spending a few hours there shopping for a couple items on my desperately-overdue-purchases-to-make list and grabbing lunch, I was able to see why it didn’t have much appeal to me. Manchester is an anomaly; more shops per capita than any other town in VT, an unnatural coalition of wealth. But though it is located right in the middle of southern VT, it doesn’t feel like VT. I suppose people have said that about Middlebury, too, but at least we have a college that brings the place together; Manchester only has its shops. I sound critical because as I drove into Manchester along Route 30, I couldn’t help but notice all of the rundown houses and beat-up old cars and trucks. The disparity between the Armani Outlet Shop and the trailer home five minutes away was striking. At first I joked about the houses–what could these people possibly to do make any money? But then I thought about where I live, and how I can find rundown houses in the town over, and realized that maybe the people in the towns outside Manchester resent the materialistic world of tourists and outlets. Maybe they would rather live in their modest homes than shop in the Manchester stores. Maybe they are the truest Vermonters, no matter how much money they make.
Global and Online Response
This week I (and probably everyone on campus) have been bombarded by opinionated, online, post-Paris attacks bursts of information. The main thing that has surprised me is the extremeness of all of it. It all seems to follow a zero-sum mentality. In response, I have been trying to give a little extra attention to the “grey areas” in current events and in day-to-day life.
I recently saw an article on Facebook that Nigeria had banned FGM, although it turns out this actually happened back in June. When googling for the article so I could read more, I discovered that I was completely unaware these practices occurred outside Africa and the Middle east, where we learned they often exist. I saw articles about FGM in the UK, Ireland, across Europe, and in America. When reading an article about America I learned that FGM was only made illegal in 1996, and “vacation-cutting”, or taking children to another country to receive FGM, was only made illegal in 2013. Additionally, only 24 states have adopted their own version of the federal law. This just seemed almost unbelievable to me. We often see our own country as a place where these injustices never occur, but that level of unawareness is detrimental to stopping the violence that occurs within our own boundaries. I just always feel its important to take a look in the mirror before we go out an try to solve the inequities of the world.
A Nip in the Air
November, so far, has been abnormally warm. This is not to say I am not a fan of so-called ‘sweater weather’, but I was a little uneasy about the implications of this weather on climate change. Thankfully, for my peace of mind, the weather has cooled down. I find these moments walking outside to be very meditative in a way – I enjoy the sensation taking deep breaths of fresh, crisp, chilly air. I know that breathing meditation has been proven over and over to be beneficial for mental health (especially anxiety and depression), but usually I do not have the time or patience to sit down and focus on my inhales and exhales. However, as I walk up the hill from my house every morning (which is a struggle in its own right), it is nice to take my mind off of everything and take a few deep, cleansing breaths to try and center myself.
Turn it all off
Recently, my first year seminar professor challenged us to not use our phones or social media sites for 24 hours as an experiment, encouraging us to make more eye contact with people around us. I was excited for this day without technology as I had a very positive experience this summer not using my phone for a full month when I was backpacking in Wyoming. The day began with me setting my alarm for practice with my watch, a device I had not used since I had been in college. Throughout the day, it was hard to coordinate where to meet my friends for lunch and how to get in touch with my teammates, however, the action of leaving my phone at home made me feel less caught up in responsibilities and better equipped to enjoy the present. In class today, we talked about our experiences and everyone seemed to agree that their day was more engaging and meaningful when they weren’t distracted or worrying about their duties to technology. In general at Middlebury, I found I have used social media sites less and I also take less pictures because 1) I am too busy and 2) I think my friends are far more interesting than the screen of my phone.
Suddenly the temperature drops especially when the sun sets behind the mountains. Everyone walks quickly as they adjust to the colder temperature, and people are also bundled up. Slowly I realize I’m wearing more and more layers: coat, sweatshirt, hat, etc. As I sit in my room doing my homework I realized my window is open, and I can feel the chill coming in through the window. I enjoy the fresh air but put on a sweatshirt to keep at a comfortable temperature. Not only does the weather get colder, but it is dark earlier and earlier. When I walked out of my 4:05 today it seemed as though the sun was already setting. Winter is coming.
I wanted to write this post yesterday, but I also wanted to give my thoughts the chance to settle regarding the recent events that occurred in Paris. As this exercise as is designed to heighten our awareness as it relates to empathy, there is not more striking event that could have occurred during this “experiment” than the very real and horrific terrorist attacks in Paris. I know many others have written about Paris in this week’s posts, but as someone who tends to process things slowly, I wanted to be able to sift through all of the news and social media before determining my true feelings. In some ways, Paris could be marked down as yet another terrorist attack, just one of many. Why should I prioritize my sympathy for these deaths over those that occurred in Beirut? And as someone who experiences psychosocial numbing like the rest of us, I will admit that I do not feel any different about the 129 dead in Paris versus the 44 dead in Beirut. But what I do feel is fear. I feared for those I knew who lived or were in Paris at the time of the attacks. I feared that they would be one or two or three of the 129. I didn’t experience that same fear about Beirut, and that is because I do not know anyone there. It’s both saddening to me that I feel this way, but it also feels humanizing. We cannot empathize with everyone, but we can give our full empathy to those we know and care for. And if everyone has someone willing to give empathy to them, then we all do our part in helping the world heal after tragedies like these.
Here’s an article I found interesting, too.
thoughts and prayers
My thoughts and prayers go out to all those living in Paris. It is times like these that we must join together to help those in need. Praying for Paris.
Appreciating the “Little Things”
As work loads and consequently stress levels increase at Middlebury, it’s pretty easy to get sucked into “the grind”. Sometimes I find when I put my head down and push through hours and hours of work a night that I forget to recognize and appreciate the small accomplishments or little things around me that make me happy. Those “little things” suddenly seem insignificant in comparison to a looming paper or exam because I have my mind on the “big thing” — the relief of it being over. When I take the time to appreciate the little things… a nice shower, a good practice, a compliment from a teammate, a perfectly ripe apple, stepping on a crunchy leaf, setting a new personal record for hours spent in bihall (just kidding!), the difficult parts of being a college students seem less stressful. I’ll leave you with one of the best “little things” from today, a quote that I found on my tea bag this morning that brightened my day:
spread the light,
be the light.
Mindfulness– “a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judgement. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”
I’m the type of person to have my live planned out, which adds a lot of stress to me. I’ve been working on being mindful this semester, and it has been a great experience. Absorbing my experiences without worriment and judgement has also made me open to more experiences, ultimately allowing me to step outside my normal habits and comfort zone. Join me in being more mindful as we reflect on our experiences with people day to day.
Online Mental Health
This is a link to an article about a new start-up company, Joyable, that “wants to end social anxiety.” Joyable uses cognitive behavioral therapy to help its clients overcome social anxiety via an accessible website and 1:1 “coaching.” This article caught my eye for a few reasons. First, I think it is super cool that someone has found a way to use the convenience and comfort of technology to address mental health. It also made me wonder how this new business model will effect the treatment and perception of mental health. For example, it is interesting that Joybale intentionally avoids calling their customers patients, will this become the new norm? I think it is great that this company is working to make mental health resources accessible and stigma-free for all, and I am curious to see how it develops.
social media empathy
In the wake of the horrible Paris attacks, social media has become an incredible source of worldwide empathy. People have the choice to temporarily change their profile picture to include an image of France’s flag. Statuses flood news feeds with articles and pledges of support for France. Facebook even created the option to be “marked safe” if you are someone who is currently living in Paris so that friends and family will know you are okay. The news about the attacks spread like wildfire, and I can’t help but think about how this age of technology has vastly increased our ability to feel global empathy (although some may beg the question- are technological shows of empathy truly empathetic?).
Whenever a new controversy arises in the news, college students are very often the first to take part in generating national movements. Maybe its because of our undying need to create a better society for our future or our powerful connection with social media, regardless, college students love rallying together for a cause. Sometimes, these causes turn out to be empty promises of change (Kony 2012 anyone?) but sometimes I feel like we’re on the verge of something new. This past year and a half has seen radical changes in awareness within the racial discrimination movements. Colleges all over the country stood in solidarity yesterday, so it got me thinking. What do these movements actually do and how do outward portrayals of empathy help? I’m very aware that people experience empathy in different manners; some like to outwardly show their empathy and involvement in a movement by wearing certain colors, posting things on social media, holding meetings/protests, etc. Others prefer to feel their empathy in their own bodies, offering silent prayers or making a conscious effort to act in the way they want others to act in hopes that it will be passed on. I’ve always been curious which actually “works better” in terms of improving society. Is it even possible to reach the ears of every person with loud movements? Or will this turn people off from the cause? Is staying silent like ignoring the issue? Perhaps a combination of both would serve society better, or maybe people should stick to their guns and express empathy in whatever way they feel.
I lie in bed trying to fall asleep. I can hear the few doors opening and closing outside my room. The sink is running while someone brushes their teeth. There is music playing from somewhere below. However, the dorm seems still and quiet this late at night.
I sit in the grill and notice the mumbled conversations coming from all sides. I can hear the conversation about the exam tomorrow or the guy she wants to talk to from the other night. I sit and listen to the low volume conversations, but I’m trying to focus on my conversation.
I sit in the lobby with headphones quietly blasting music, but I can still hear the people around me. I hear the crunching of granola from the girl across from me. I can hear the pencil scratching the paper. I hear someone talking to her mom on the phone complaining about work. Meanwhile, I have five hundred thoughts running through my mind.
The Human Experience
Thinking about empathy this week made me remember a movie I watched in high school called the Human Experience. It was a documentary that features two brothers going around the world and essentially living as the “other”. First, they live on the streets of NYC for a week in one of the harshest winters on record, then they travel to Peru and spend time in a orphanage and hospital, finding hope where they could not imagine hope to be, and finally they travel to Ghana to visit an outcast leper community. What these men did exemplifies empathy in a way that I could not even fathom. It explores human dignity and shows that even in what I would imagine to be the darkest of human experiences, there is still light.
Thoughts on Gratification
There is a new-ish acronym that has been circulating over the past year or two, and that is FOMO, or “Fear of Missing Out.” I found myself excitedly anticipating winter this weekend as I ordered a few pieces of gear for skiing, and the weather reports of snow all over the west recently only fueled my desire for winter to come to Vermont. Thinking on this, though, I struggle with the fact that I cannot fully appreciate a beautiful, balmy first week of November simply because I know that elsewhere in the world there are winter conditions that I don’t have at the moment. And I don’t think that I’m alone here. It’s easy to blame FOMO on the immediate access and ever-presence of social media, but really, we need to look at ourselves and realize that the best type of gratification isn’t always the most instantaneous. I know that I’m really looking forward to skiing, and I also know that I’ll be even more psyched about it if I let my anticipation of the first big snowfall build up, so why can’t I just be happy with that? If I can’t, then I know I’m only decreasing my awareness of the present. So I’m challenging myself this week to work to accept delayed gratification over the superficiality of instant gratification. And who knows, maybe it will snow soon. For now, the blue skies and crisp fall air is just fine by me.
A closer look at “The Body Issue”
How media portrayal of female athletes fuels unhealthy behavior. Definitely worth a read.
Small Team Comradery
As a diver, I am on the smallest team on the Middlebury Campus with an outstanding number of 3 students participating. Even though we are only a trio, we still have our own coach and more boards than there are divers to practice on. Not only am I lucky enough to be able to use Midd’s beautiful natatorium, but I also have teammates who encourage and support me both in and out of the pool. Since I eat two meals a day with these people, it feels as if I know everything that goes on in their days (and they would say the same about mine). People always ask me if I am sick of them, but the truth is that we even choose to spend extra time together, sometimes heading over to the library after practice or going to other sport’s events. This week was the first week of our season, and I just wanted to give them a shout out for being the two very best people I could ask for as teammates. We may be able to cheer as loud as the swimmers, but we still have a lot of spirit.
The Act of Presentation
Yesterday, I had to deliver a group presentation in my class with three other people. Usually, I’m pretty comfortable with my actions when I talk with peers and my professors. I noticed that yesterday when all attention is directed on me during a presentation, I tend to clam up…which is natural. I tried something different yesterday- I took ten seconds before the presentation to “ground myself”. Meaning, I stood in front of the room and consciously slowed my breathing and relaxed my muscles. Then, I scanned the room and tried to make eye contact with everyone to get a sense of who I was presenting to. This ten second act really helped me deliver a better presentation because I was present and had an easier time relating to the audience, and I encourage you all to do the same.
Yesterday I went to Ross Dining Hall for dinner which was weird because I almost always go to Proctor or Atwater. The most shocking part was that I felt like I hardly recognized any of the faces in there! It made me wonder how many other habits I have that keep me segregated from other students on campus. Middlebury College seems to be pretty self-selective in the sense that you probably have quite a bit in common with any given student just because, for some reason, you both chose to live and study in this place for four years. It was strange to think that perhaps the only reason I haven’t met someone who I could be great friends with is just because we have different dining, living, or studying preferences.
Cleaning my Room
Over the past several days (okay, weeks) the clutter in my room has piled up on my desk and been scattered on my floor. I realized that it was taking a real toll on my mental clarity and calmness – I would immediately feel stressed (thoughts included “oh gosh I need to attend to this now” “why have you not cleaned your room yet” “why are you so lazy”) and angry at myself for letting my room get into the state of disarray it was in. My room is also on the smaller side (96 square feet) so the assorted clothes and magazines and food containers would pile up and make me feel even more claustrophobic than I already had in such a tight space.
At 11:00 AM on Monday, I took out the trash, which led to a cleaning/organizing spree. Now my room is not perfectly neat, but it is in much better shape than it had been. I realize that the space I was inhabiting and its cleanliness/neatness had a real toll on my mental state because now when I come home to a neat(er) room, I feel happier and calmer and am able to wind down more easily.
Empathy vs Sympathy
I have been thinking a lot about the distinction between empathy and sympathy. I know empathy to mean the ability o really feel what another person is feeling. Sympathy, on the other hand, is the ability to understand what the other person is feeling and then exhibit the appropriate supportive response. I think that empathy is one of the greatest qualities possessed by humans, but I wonder if there are times when it would be more beneficial to have sympathy rather than empathy. Too much empathy could result in the dissolution of the individual and could result in a decline in self care. In this way, it can be good to practice sympathy as a form of self protection. On the other hand, there are many instances in this world when people are not motivated enough to help (as Singer would argue about global poverty), and in these cases more empathy is warranted. How should you toe the line between these two values, and in what situations should you choose to lean one way or the other?
fall dance performance
The work-in-progress showing truly made me realize the time and effort that goes into creating and perfecting individual performances. Even though this was only the second work-in-progress showing, all of the dancers did a stellar job. I was so amazed by certain performances’ synchronization and complexity. Observing these performances allowed me to understand the meaning behind particular movements, repetitions, and song and lighting selection. Great job to all performers and directors.
The Thrill of Eating Out in College
Until I came to college, I never realized what a privilege it really is to be able to enjoy a nice meal with friends and family at a restaurant. As my days are structured around practices in the morning and at night, I am usually running around the dining hall putting whatever looks good on my plate and eating quickly in order to make it to practice. While eating meals has become efficient for me, I don’t often enjoy them or eat slowly in order to enjoy the company of others. This weekend, I went out for dinner twice and took my time, not worrying about when our food took longer to arrive than expected because the conversation was flowing and I was enjoying the environment of the restaurant. It really is a treat to escape the Proctor rush every once and a while.
What would you do if you were not afraid of failure?
My friend asked me this question, and I had a hard time coming up with an answer. Oftentimes, we are so engrossed in activities (sports, extracurriculars, what’s the “right” activity to do to get to xyz) that we forget what makes us tick/what our passions are. Now what happens if our plans get disrupted? You get rejected from your dream job/partner or you don’t end up where you think you should be. What would you do amidst failure? I thought about her question for a long time, and eventually realized the answer for me is to pursue what I really love even if failure may occur or does occur. But with failure, Victor Hugo once wrote: “Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots.” Even as we grow and mature, and fail, we ought to keep our core strong and learn from our mistakes.