About Me

My name is Spencer. I'm 23 years old, and I'm a junior at Princeton. So far college has taken me five years. I've taken time off to work, transferred to USC and come back, and learned a lot along the way.

I like to think about life and what I'm going to do with mine.

I've met a lot of people my age with the same sorts of thoughts so feel free to read, take surveys, and comment.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Listen and learn: Ignorance is bliss

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday. I will now continue on with my series of posts about a conversation I had with a dear friend's father who I have dubbed Kevin for simplicity's sake.

In my last post, Perfection, I recalled what advice Kevin gave me about perfection: to strive for it, but never expect it. As we continued onward into deeper and more personal beliefs and ideas, I came to the realization that many people never contemplate maturity, perfection, college, stress, or life etc as I did with Kevin. To be blunt about it, I believe that many people either do not want to think about such things or simply aren't capable of thinking in such a way.

That does not mean that I find most people stupid or incapable, I am only suggesting that such deep contemplation of ideas requires a lot of maturity, life experience, and big picture thinking. Many people, as I have discussed, lack such a maturity until they are much older, if at all, and some cannot see past the little details and onto the big picture.

Some may realize that there is far more inside themselves to contemplate, but try as best they can to avoid confrontation and ignore any deep thoughts. In my opinion, the reason is fairly simple: thinking so deeply about one's life may open doors that one may not want to look behind. For example, a capable, relatively smart person who works a blue-collar job may not want to think about his or her life in the grand scheme of things. He or she may know, deep down, that they really don't like his or her life, job, or marriage so that person chooses to ignore any such thoughts (either subconsciously or on purpose depending on the person). By going on with life and not worrying about those thoughts, such a person can continue "fooling" him or herself into happiness. I say "fooling" because it's not true bliss, but simply the illusion of such a feeling; yet, one cannot deny that if a person really believes that he or she is happy, then that individual is no doubt happy as a clam. For those people, if you feel and believe it, then it doesn't matter whether or not it's actually true.

On the opposite side of the spectrum are those people who constantly inspect their lives and point out what's gone wrong or not according to some plan. Once someone like that begins to contemplate his or her life in such a way, he or she will most likely never think about him or herself in the same way again. Things will never be quite good enough or "according to plan," and such thoughts can only lead to extreme amounts of stress and depression.

Nevertheless, there are many types of people that range the gamut of said descriptions, but I'd say that most people are somewhere in the middle. Most of the time, they are happy go lucky, but on down days, they sulk and get depressed about their lives, and in many cases, once a person takes that first step into deeper thought, along comes a so-called "mid-life crisis," where that individual wonders who they are. Ultimately, my realization gave a lot of credence to the saying: "Ignorance is bliss." Many people choose to ignore or cannot think so deeply, and by doing so, they "fool" themselves into bliss.

In the end, I can't tell whether I envy the person who never gets to explore such areas of his or her mind, or whether I feel sorry for the person who cannot help but sorrowfully contemplate his or her life because it's not the way they thought it would be.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy holidays

Happy holidays to everybody who reads or simply runs into my blog!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Listen and learn: Perfection

"Strive for perfect, but never expect it." My good friend's father, let's call him Kevin, told me this the other day. It's something that I had known, or that I had at least come across earlier, but I had never paid much credence to it. I think that it's very difficult to separate the expectation from the action of trying to reach perfection, especially now when it seems as though nothing is ever good enough to get you into a good school or get you a good job, etc.

Nevertheless, after having that conversation with Kevin, it forced me to acknowledge that expecting perfection can only lead to an even greater amount of stress in an already high stress world. In other words, always try to do my best for the things that really matter to me, but if they don't work out as planned, everything will be okay. Don't look at it as something you "must simply live with" (that doesn't allow you to fully accept the outcome, good or bad), but imagine it more as a different outcome that may or may not lead somewhere else, perhaps an even better place than you thought was possible. You never know what's coming up, no matter whether you've achieved that "perfection" or not, and things will always change for better or worse. Just go with your own flow.

From another perspective, this also does not mean that you or I have to live with being "mediocre" in our own eyes (or even our parents' eyes), not by any means. As long as you can "strive for perfection," whether you reach it or not doesn't make you any more perfect, mediocre, bad, or any other adjective you could think of. The ability to try your hardest without any expectations is hard enough to master. Don't allow your parents and especially yourself apply gratuitous pressure and punishment upon yourself.

However, for those of you who can't help but over think and are "perfectionists" (for lack of a better word), it does become difficult to know whether or not you've tried your hardest. If you "fail" to reach your goal, you feel as though you haven't tried hard enough. But that's okay! It's all part of learning to strive for perfection but never expect it. I think that over time it will become increasingly easy to know when you've tried as hard as possible, and it will become easier to do that all the time. And keep in mind, you can always keep trying your hardest again and again, and, no matter what, that experience and practice will always get you closer and closer to your ultimate goal.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Listen and learn

This past weekend, I had a great conversation about college, life, stress, and finding oneself with my very good friend's father. We talked for what seemed like nearly two hours or more. We debated, we challenged each other, we thought together, but mainly, he helped consolidate and form many of the thoughts going through my mind in the past couple years or so.

The main points we covered were stress, maturity, college, and just how closely and intricately related they are in so many ways. Over the next weeks, depending on holiday family plans, I'm going to try to break up the conversation into smaller bits and pieces to post on YCT (Your College Thoughts).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Academic track in other countries

As far as I can tell, American students are some of the few people in the world who can switch their major as a college junior without any issues. The main point being: most of us Americans don't decide or know what we want to do until we've already graduated or even already had a couple jobs. However, from what I've heard from many friends, students, and family members who grew up outside the U.S., that is not the case in many countries throughout the world.

Let me first be clear and say that I think that freedom to decide is a great thing, and it can be very mentally stimulating; however, at the speed that the world goes at, indecisiveness can drag you behind. Not taking every single class towards your major(s) or minor(s) can lessen the pedigree of your degree and college education. Because of that and especially in the current economic climate, that indecisiveness may be the difference between getting a job out of college and living at home again.

In many developed countries, many students get one chance at standardized exams. If they do well, they go onto higher education and university, but if they do not do well, then they are sent to vocational and technical training schools to be trained for specialized jobs such as auto mechanics and electricians etc. Unlike the United States where, if you can afford it, you may take the SATs as many times as you please.

Also, there is a far greater pressure at a much younger age to know what you want to study and what you want to do as an adult. For example, a few years ago there was an piece on NPR about Job Theme Parks in Japan where elementary school-aged children went to get exposed to jobs they might find interesting. Here's an article in Sky news: http://news.sky.com/home/world-news/article/15196242

In many Asian countries, the expectation to do well is so great that there is an eerily high suicide rate among teenagers. Just Google anything along these lines and you'll find hundreds and hundreds of articles on the subject: http://www.economist.com/node/11294805http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-15331921http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn4846-indian-teens-have-worlds-highest-suicide-rate.htmlhttp://www.atimes.com/atimes/Japan/FG28Dh01.html, etc.

Do you think that this "freedom" to choose whatever classes and tracks we want hinders us or leads us to our passions?

Regardless, as the world works and travels faster and faster, it's hard not to see the correlation between high stress environments and mental pain, disability, and suicide. At this rate, we American students will have to know what we want to do earlier and earlier in order to stand a chance in this world, but that simply means more stress. We're going to have to look out for our friends, children, and students in the future.

*Although I've heard this from many different people in many different countries, keep in mind that I have never lived for longer than a few months in a country other than the United States. I was told these things by students I've met from other countries, friends from abroad, and family members. Perhaps, some international students would like to comment and give their opinions concerning this subject?*

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Stress release

I originally started posting about alcohol in excess because it is by far one of the most vocalized problem when it comes to college and kids of our age. Now, I'm going even deeper into what I find to be the main issue at hand that no adults or administrations seem to even recognize as problematic.

And that is: stress caused by the ever increasing amount of pressure that surrounds our education and our "futures." As I wrote before, the amount of pressure stemming from the need to succeed and do well continues to grow. In order to get into a good middle school, high school, college, grad school, etc or to find a great job, it seems as though we must not only be at the top of the class in school, but succeed at our extracurricular activities as well. This "be the best" mentality only seems to create more and more stress for us.

During middle school and high school, there may be limited stress releases depending on where you grow up, your parents, yours school, whether you smoke, drink, or do drugs, etc. But, when we get to university, the easiest and most popular stress release is alcohol.

Let's say you get stressed out and don't want to think about anything. You have so much work that keeps piling up. Your parents continuously nag you about this and that. You've barely slept in the past week. You're fighting with your friend or significant other. So what's the best way to just stop thinking and enjoy yourself: go out and get drunk. At university, it's readily available, and without your parents there, you can do whatever you want to. When you're drunk, you don't think about these stress related issues. You just let go of everything. You're more outgoing. You dance more (or better as some might think). You just feel good.

Let's be honest, a lot of us have done this before or do it currently. But think about it a little more. Here's where maturity comes into play. Don't you think that if we were all a little bit more mature, then we would be able to handle the extra stress and freedom that we experience in college. What if, after high school or Freshmen year, you took a year to work or travel and were able to relax a little bit? Take the weight off your shoulders and see what the real world is like. Do you think that would help?

Yes, I know that we do grow a lot our Freshmen year because of our experiences. Nevertheless, we are also simply at that age where we are just figuring out the world and what we want to do. Perhaps a little less stress would do us some good.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Too many prep classes

As a sophomore in high school, I started taking classes to prepare for the SAT exams. Every week I had extra homework, more class, and, on occasion, I had to take an extremely long practice exam. At the time, I hated having extra homework to do; all it did was make me go to bed later, drive to another place after practice, and give me more stress by highlighting the ever more present parental pressure to do well on my college entrance exams. Nevertheless, in the end, I knew the class had helped me do better than I would have.

In a similar vein, I recently found out that a kid I know is taking a prep course for the ISEE (the exam to get into private middle and high schools). A 6th grader!? I can't believe that ten and eleven year old children are now taking extra classes to get into middle school! That just seems so ridiculous if you think about it. It means that other children who can't afford these classes or don't know about them are at a severe disadvantage at the beginning of their educations whether they know it or not.

First and foremost, schools (starting from middle school or even earlier) are becoming so competitive to get into that sixth graders are attending prep classes for middle school entrance exam. We all know what that kind of competition feels like; we all applied to a ton of colleges and know how much of a crap-shoot it is.

Secondly, these classes end up putting a lot of pressure on the kids. At that age, the parents are the ones signing their kids up for these prep courses, and most likely, they will try to encourage (or pressure, in more realistic terms) their children to do better in order to go to the best middle school to get into the best high school and then attend the best university and so on and so forth. So many kids, even younger than our generation, are growing up only knowing that competition and pressure to do well. They grow up stressed before they know what the word even means!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Greater implications

Now that I've expressed some points of view and issues concerning excessive alcohol and binge drinking, I want to continue onward in related, but different directions. This will help clear up any questions from people who might wonder why I care so much about my peers getting drunk.

Let me start with this: do you think that we students begin college at too young an age?

I've been thinking about this for a long while, and I've recently come to the conclusion that I think we do begin university too early. I think that we're not as mature as we should be when we begin college and that that immaturity can lead to stress and a harder adjustment for many of us. More to come soon.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Mike Greeny

Over my years in middle school, high school, and college, I have attended many mandatory alcohol education programs and classes (mainly boring lectures) starting from even the 8th grade. Our class had heard the same thing old speech so many times that these meetings felt like a tortuous waste of time in which we would be told what to do and what not to do.

Once I got to college I thought that I'd be done with all this nonsense, but I soon found out that I had to attend yet another mandatory athletes and alcohol talk.

The first thing I noticed when I walked into the huge classroom: only about 25-35% of the freshmen student athletes were even at the meeting. We had become so jaded by these pointless alcohol lectures that a majority of the students never bothered to show up.

The second thing: nobody cared who or how many students were present. Not a single teacher or coach came to see whether or not his or her team was present so I naturally thought that this would be another huge waste of time...

However, a couple minutes into the start of the discussion (Yes, it was a discussion, not a lecture.) I knew that this would be the most entertaining, attention-grabbing, and informative alcohol education meeting I'd ever been to. Our speaker Mike Green connected and interacted with us by involving the crowd with a lot of energy, asking questions about how much we drank, and getting us to speak up. He didn't tell us what to do. Rather, he empathized with us by showing that he knew what it was like to be a young person just starting university. He himself had been on a college football team pounding drinks and partying hard week-in and week-out. And through his different alcohol education methods, we were able to better understand the potential disasters and tragedies that can come out of binge drinking such as fatal car accidents, alcohol poisoning, and, in his case, alcoholism. Most of the time, we simply dismiss whatever we are told in these kinds of meetings; however, this time, because we trusted that Mike still remembered what it was like to be our age and because he never told us what to do, everybody payed attention and left with a better understanding of the potential dangers of excess alcohol to ourselves and the people around us.

Here's a video of Mike speaking: http://www.soccercoachtv.com/TheCoachShow/site/Show23/Show23home.html
If you're interested in Mike, check out his website: http://www.mikegreeny.com/
He travels all over the country to discuss binge drinking and alcohol safety at universities. If you'd like to have him speak to your class and/or athletic team, then please contact him!

Mike "Greeny" Green