Last Friday, the global community was shocked and saddened by a string of terrorist attacks that took place in Paris, France. Approximately 130 people lost their lives that day and 350 remain injured. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the massacre. Aiming to stoke and cripple nations with fear and anxiety, ISIS has vowed to strike against the U.S. and any country that joins France in launching airstrikes in response to their Paris attack. This is a group who takes pride in committing horrific, inhumane acts against men, women and children from all walks of life. We have witnessed for the last two years or so; their abhorrent crimes dominate the international news cycle. So we are all disturbingly familiar with the lengths this extremist group will go, to proselytize their ideology. As vigorous debates ensue over how our government should or shouldn’t respond militarily, I want to provide some simple steps the average person can take to defeat ISIS. That sounds like bold claim. That’s because it is. But hear me out. Yes, YOU, reading this blog can stop ISIS dead in their tracks. By doing this:
Be Kind to Your Neighbor
There was a time when we knew the names and quirks of all the individuals/families that lived on our block, building, or building floor. When we took a moment to greet the mailman, or have a brief conversation with someone in passing. Yet due to the distracted-task-driven-constantly-on-the-go-glued-to-my-mobile-device-society we are currently living in, we are missing a sense of community amongst folks in our own neighborhoods. We can take simple steps to change that. Greet your neighbor warmly the next time your paths cross. Compliment something they’re wearing just to start a conversation. Let’s take those tiny steps to foster community again. Be kind.
Grieve with Those Who are Grieving
We mourn with France over the lives that were lost last week. Why? Because it hurts. We should also acknowledge that feeling of pain, anger, and frustration when it rises up on the inside of us, when we hear of injustice anywhere. When our friends, neighbors, co-workers and associates are hurting, somewhere deep within us, should ache. Rather than ignore or deny that feeling, we should acknowledge it. A terrorist is someone who has lost a sense of compassion for their fellow man. We defy this kind of evil when we acknowledge pain over the senseless loss of life. We grieve with those who grieve because it’s the humane thing to do.
Do NOT Panic
That’s exactly what ISIS wants. To instill mass panic and cripple the spirit of nations and societies that opposes them. With the threats, constant news coverage, and actual attacks, it would make sense to feel some level of anxiety. Acknowledge the feeling. But don’t embrace it. Don’t allow that feeling to remain. Address the fear by saying out loud; what it is you’re actually afraid of. Is it death? Well the grave has a 100% acceptance rate. We will all end up there someday. Or is it the idea of dying too soon? Worrying about when you die won’t change what will eventually happen one day, but as long as you are still breathing your purpose on this earth isn’t complete…so get to work! If the anxiety remains, pursue hobbies that inspire you and make you feel at peace. Or engage in a new activity that you’ve been meaning to, but haven’t. Channel that negative emotion in a positive direction and it will produce joy.
Watching or reading the news can feel overwhelming as you hear about one terrible event after the other. Terrorist groups like ISIS would have us believe that evil is running rampant. But the truth is good has and will always overcome evil. Light always shines brightest in the midst of great darkness. So even in the midst of the devastating Paris attacks, light was shining by the heroism displayed that night. And we can shine our light in our neighborhoods and local communities when we donate our time, canned foods, and clothing to charitable organizations that provide dignity to others. We can shine our light when we demonstrate patience and speak words of peace in the midst of tense situations. We can shine our light in our homes as we love our families, appreciate our friendships and cultivate an atmosphere of peace by giving the love we ultimately long to receive.
Have you suddenly hit a wall while trying to write that term paper, essay, report, or manuscript? The ideas were flowing freely and you were making notable strides in your writing process. Every day, you set and hit your goal and that only made your confidence soar! You were on a roll. The Writing Fairies had sprinkled magic dust over you, and you had the daily results to prove it! Yet it abruptly comes to a screeching halt. Just like that, your luck has run out. Every sentence you write appears dull, drab…weak. You’ve hit the proverbial wall. Now what? How can you get your creative juices flowing again?
Get Off Social Media
Yep, I said it. Log out of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Periscope, Snapchat and all the other ones you’re a part of. Social Media is the ultimate distraction for a writer experiencing serious writer’s block. What started out as a quick moment to see what your “friends” are up to, can easily turn into hours of peeking into other peoples online lives. And the worst part is; you’ll never get that time back. So log off while you still can!
Step Away from the Screen
When you’re stuck, you’re stuck. Staring at that laptop or desktop screen won’t get you out of your rut. So hit the save button, stand up, raise your hands slowly, and step-away-from-that-screen. Where do you go? To a place where you can get your inspiration back.
Change Your Routine
Is there a new coffee shop in town you’ve been meaning to check out, but haven’t? Go, now. Nature looks great this time of year, but have you had a chance to enjoy your local park? Or a local event, festival, or Farmers Market nearby? The goal here is to break up with your daily routine, to find inspiration in an unlikely place. You know the routines you need to deviate from. Now replace that activity with one you wouldn’t typically engage in, but would like to.
Go to Bed
In times like these, the mind just needs to rest. And what better way to let go, than a daytime nap or night’s sleep? I would even suggest for nighttime, going to bed an hour or two earlier than you typically would, after drinking a hot cup of chamomile tea with honey. Keep a note pad and pen close, to write down any dreams or impressions you have the moment you wake up.
Every writer/artist/creative goes through inspiration-droughts. But you don’t have to stay there. You can minimize that drought period by implementing some or all of these simple tips.
As Early Decision and Early Action deadlines loom, most students might be reviewing, quadruple checking, reassessing and straight up doubting their chosen common application essay topic. Did I make the right decision?Is this essay strong enough? What if I sound like someone else? Do I appear smart? What if my essay offends the admissions officer reading it? And the list goes on. Entertaining the doubts long enough is not only emotionally draining, but can sabotage your efforts to develop an awesome Common Application personal essay. So let’s dispel some of those doubts by addressing the most important question – did you choose the right topic to write about? With each prompt, I’ve listed some questions/thoughts to consider while assessing the goal of each one. For the 2015/2016 School Year, The Common Application released the following prompts:
Somestudents have a background, identity, interest or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
Did you have a unique childhood upbringing that merits discussing in an entire essay? Did your parents overcome challenging odds to raise you? Did you participate in a life-changing volunteer experience? Do you have a particular hobby or talent that has played a significant role in your life?
2. The lessons we learn fromfailure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or a time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you and what did you learn from the experience?Describe a goal you were working hard to pursue over a period of time that did not go according to plan. Refrain from discussing getting a bad grade in a class or test. Did you fail to accomplish a task that merits an entire essay? Did you grow personally from this experience? When you recount the experience, does it stir up emotions? If so, what kind?
3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again? Have you ever defended someone who was being attacked, discriminated against or seen as weaker among your peers? Did you mobilize action to correct an injustice in your school or local community? Did you feel compelled to act on behalf of a defenseless individual, being, or group, and can you describe the actions you took vividly?
4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you would like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution. Have you addressed an issue that was impacting others in your school or local community? Did others recognize the role you played in solving the problem? Why did you feel called to act on this issue? Or on the other end, is there an issue that you have a deep yearning in your heart to solve? Where does that desire/yearning come from?
5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked a transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family. Think about a turning point moment or experience in your life. What made this event, moment, accomplishment so significant? Did it shift your perspective from that of a youth or young adult to an actual adult? How so?
The goal of these essay questions is for admissions officers to get a better sense of who you are. You will know that you’ve chosen the right question by whether you were able to reveal important aspects of your personality in writing. If you can read the outcome of your work and say – Yes, this is a real representation of who I am today – then congratulations, you made the right decision!