Out of all the outdoorsy tricks I learned during my brief stint as a Venture Scout, my favorite is the knot. You only need a rope and some special knowledge to build shelter, secure objects, and save lives.
Knots are important symbols in our daily lives as well. The legendary Gordian knot that Alexander the Great sliced in half is a famous metaphor for a difficult, complex problem. “Tying the knot” refers to two people getting married. Knots in a stomach indicate nervousness- perhaps something important is about to happen.
I don’t think people mean to judge each other. In dangerous times, it’s part of human nature to immediately determine if an unfamiliar person or thing is a “Friend!” or “Enemy!” But we’re usually encouraged to look beyond first impressions. For example, journalists have a responsibility to remain impartial and prevent their feelings from interfering with a story. Unfortunately, thoroughly fact-checked articles can be overshadowed by clickbait headlines that are aimed to incite a torrent of knee-jerk reactions.
Every Tweet thread, or article or YouTube comment section is now a courtroom with an out-of-control jury. The comments people make without considering the whole context are frightening. Instead of “Someone voted for this person. Why would they do that?” we can now anonymously write, “Someone voted for this person. They should be LIT ON FIRE and EJECTED INTO SPACE after being WATERBOARDED FOR THREE MONTHS!” Everyone thinks they’re an expert witness on every issue, and feels entitled to condemn others however they want.
Much like the Trump Presidency, the reality of my adulthood hasn’t sunk in yet. I graduated earlier this year, just as the world got much darker. 2016 hasn’t exactly been kind to us all. Many end-of-the-year articles list the catastrophic events that happened this year, and the other half reassure people that the world isn’t as terrible as we think it is.
But good or bad, every year is a chance for self-reflection. So here are some dull but important things I learned this year about post-graduation adulthood.
Many exciting words start with I, like “innovate,” “information,” and “invention.” As an introvert who lives mostly in my own head, I thrive off of all of these abstract ideas. But there’s something magical about the idea that drives them all: “imagination.”
Whenever I think of that word, I remember the hilarious clip of Spongebob Squarepants spreading his hands to form a rainbow. Spongebob’s eternal optimism and determination to create something out of nothing always impresses me.
When I casually stated the other day that the French horn was the most beautiful instrument ever, my friend argued, “No it’s the harp – you can put a mermaid on it.” Funny story, but I was actually talking about the horn’s sound.
Obviously, everyone has a different idea of what sounds beautiful. As a musician who grew up listening to and performing classical music, I’d like to call attention to the horn’s glorious power of expression.
Whenever someone suggests we play a game, my first instinct is to groan internally. I like games, but I place unbearable pressure on myself to win everything from checkers to flag football to video games. Every time I compete, I risk the humiliation of losing.
So I can’t imagine the pain of athletes who lose their events in the Olympic Games after training so intensely for four years. They sacrifice time and energy to perfect their game, only to miss their shot at glory. The media walks away with an image of them wringing their hands (if NBC decides to show them at all). The message is clear: winning matters a lot. And the winners make winning seem easy. I like to imagine myself on top of the Olympic podium, but fail to include in my fantasy the endless practice hours and gruesome injuries that accompany every elite athlete.
Fear motivated me to write this article. Last month, I decided to weigh in on a controversial issue, then chickened out before I could publish the post. I had too many doubts. Was I mature enough to handle this topic? Did I get the nuances right? Did I have counterarguments for every possible counterargument to my arguments?
People who weigh in on controversial topics can legitimately be in danger. I’ve seen how a slight misstep in wording or intention could attract a horde of angry, even violent commenters. I’ve underestimated the bravery of all the writers who spoke brutal truths online.