Catching Up!

Dear Ceanray,

What do you want to do next year?

Being a senior student in high school, I’m asked this question on a regular basis. It seems that everyone I meet, from my dentist to my friend’s parents, is curious about my future. I don’t mind answering the question, because I know what I want to do next year. I know what university I want to attend, what program I want to take, and what I want to do after I graduate. I also know, though, that many teenagers have no clue what they want to do after high school – so for them, this question can be tricky.

American poet Mary Oliver poses the question in a different way, one I actually prefer: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” If someone asked me this, the first words out of my mouth wouldn’t be the school I’m going to attend, or the subjects I’m going to study. I’d eventually explain my career aspirations, but I would start by talking about my hopes and dreams. I’d say that I want to meet new people and see new places; that I want to write and publish books, not necessarily as a career but for fun; and that I want to address inequalities in the world and make a positive difference in the lives of others.

I’m extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to further my education. However, education – at least in a formal sense – is only one aspect of my wild and precious life. It’s the aspect that many people choose to focus on, and ask me about: and it’s the one that I see many of my peers at school stressing out about. The imminent unknown of the future is scary, certainly, and being constantly questioned about it doesn’t help. But you can feel slightly less stressed by deferring to the second aforementioned question. What do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Life truly is wild and precious – and we only get one chance at it. Use your one life to get educated, and to find something you love and make it your career if you’re able to, but don’t forget to make a life outside of school. Think about the things you want to accomplish over the course of your life, education-related and otherwise, and dedicate yourself to making those things happen.

What do I want to do next year?

I want to go to university to pursue a career in journalism: that’s the answer people expect me to give. But my more detailed answer? I want to go to university and pursue a career in journalism so that I can make the most of my one wild and precious life, while achieving the goals I stated earlier in my letter. When you think of the question in a broader sense, it seems a bit less daunting and a whole lot more exciting.

Here’s to our futures!

Sherina

 

Dear Sherina,

I can’t wait to see how your wild and exciting future turns out, which brings me to what I’d like to discuss with you: The fact is that in today’s day and age, everyone has access to instant information. Is this a blessing or a curse? We’ll see. In the meantime, it means is that information that might not have otherwise been widely known, is. This also means that misinformation can spread like wildfire – and often, it does.

A few days ago, an image which depicts dozens of dead bodies began to circulate among several of my social media ‘friends’.. The caption for the photo was something along the lines of “86 killed in Nigeria and Western media isn’t reporting it. Share to show that you care.” As it turns out, the photo was not current nor was it taken in Nigeria. It was taken in the aftermath of a gas tanker explosion in the Congo in 2010. It was, evidently, a tragedy and may those shown in the photograph rest in peace.

However, the danger here is that anyone can take an image and manipulate it to fit their desired narrative. When this is shared a million times, you have a legion of people angry that 86 Nigerians were killed and no one took notice. These people, who would be justified in their anger if this were in fact true, trusted the individual who posted the image. Most did not bother to authenticate the image for themselves – and herein lies the modern dilemma of instant news.

Now, more than ever, we need reliable sources of information. In a world that is evolving at every turn, we must know where we stand in the midst of it all. The news media cannot have their own ideological agenda that they feel obligated to advance at every possible opportunity. Although I am Canadian, I’ve been following the American presidential nominee race on both sides. I am routinely put off my media outlets with evident political bias, whether it be rooted in the political left or the political right.

Journalists have an obligation to be unbiased and critical for the sole purpose of informing the public, thereby enabling the public to make informed decisions for themselves.

As for your question – I would like to work in government because I strongly believe in its power to be a positive force in people’s lives. I sincerely hope that I will one day earn the opportunity to do this.

Ceanray

 

 

Never Suppress a Generous Thought

Dear Ceanray,

The other day at school I paid for my lunch with two five dollar bills. The total of my food was $9.10, so this wasn’t unusual. What was unusual was what happened after the women at the cash register asked me if I had a dime. I was sure I did – I always have an abundance of change in my wallet – so I told her I would check and see.

My hands were full with my food, so it was difficult for me to maneuver what I was holding in order to open my wallet. When I finally did reach it, there was no need – the girl in line behind me had given the cashier a dime. I was completely taken aback by her act of kindness. I found a dime in my wallet, and tried to repay her with it, but she insisted that I keep it.

Even now as I type this, I can’t get over how kind that simple act was. It didn’t take much effort on her part, but her humility in refusing my dime (worth only ten cents, but still) struck me as incredibly generous. In an age where bad news seems to be everywhere, it is amazing to experience positivity.

One of my favourite quotes is, “Never suppress a generous thought.” I love this quote because of the simple reminder it gives, and also because it highlights the unfortunate fact that sometimes we do suppress our generous thoughts.

If the girl in line behind me in my school cafeteria had suppressed the generous thought she had, the consequences wouldn’t have been dire. I would have found my dime, paid with it, and been on my merry way. However, the fact that the stakes weren’t high and she still acted on her generous thought says a lot about her character.

Our world can be very cruel, but every so often we are touched by kindness and our faith is restored. Because of that one girl’s simple action, I am inspired to act on my own generous thoughts and be that person for someone else. If we don’t suppress our kind thoughts, we can create a ripple of positivity.
Sherina

 

Dear Sherina,

I love that quote,  “Never suppress a generous thought”. This is important for us to remember, especially given the events of this past week. When I heard about the terrorist attacks in Paris, my first reaction was anger. The people who lost their lives were innocent, all they wanted to do was to enjoy a concert or get a bite to eat. They were not soldiers, nor high-ranking government officials. What did they do to deserve this?

After hearing about Paris, I then saw the news about a suicide bomber in Lebanon and yesterday, the hostage situation in Mali. With everything that’s going on in the world, it’s important not to lose hope, and to acknowledge the brighter side of humanity.

In everyday life, simple acts of kindness are underrated and, more often than not, cost nothing. Don’t underestimate the power of asking someone how their day was, or how work went. If someone looks sad or unhappy, asking if they’re feeling okay can make a difference – even if they don’t want to share what’s causing their sadness –  it’s reassuring to know someone cares.

I’m a firm believer in leaving the world a better place than it was when you got here, whether that means volunteering at your local animal shelter, food bank or senior’s home. It could also mean getting involved in the issues you’re passionate about. Even the smallest impact on another person’s life can make a profound impact.

Ceanray

Why stereotypes about the younger generation are wrong

Dear Ceanray,

Did you know that teenagers are lazy? All we care about is our phones and social media accounts. We have no respect for people older than us, the environment, or the world around us. At least, this is what we are made out to be. You know as well as I do that none of those things are true. Yet some people believe they are.

Teenagers are not lazy – we’re incredibly hardworking. Our hands are full with school work and preparing for postsecondary education, and most of us take part in co-curriculars like clubs or sports (and sometimes multiple co-curriculars). That’s not to mention the fact that many teenagers have part-time jobs, some work more than one job, and some are involved in competitive level-sports.

Sure, we might lie in bed on our phones occasionally; but with so much going on in our lives, who can blame us?

That brings me to another stereotype about teenagers: that we are addicted to using our phones and technology. We do use our technology a lot, but in my opinion this isn’t a bad thing. We connect with our friends and people we care about through texting and social media, and talking to people we care about just shows that, well, we do care!

In addition, by using our technology we are able to connect with the world outside of our own world. Yes, we know this world exists; and yes, we care about it. Keeping up to date with current affairs and breaking news gives us a deeper understanding of the world we live in – and what we can do to make it a better place.

I like to think of this blog as one way that you and I try to make the world a better place. It was partly because of our connection to the world through the internet and social media that we were inspired to write about issues that matter to us.

That’s the other thing – issues do matter to us. If this blog isn’t proof enough of this, look to 17 year old Malala Yousafzai who was shot in the head but continued to fight for girls’ rights to education. She is the perfect example that there are many issues in the world that affect teenagers, and that teenagers can make an incredible difference fighting for those causes.

The truth is that we teenagers have an incredible amount of respect for the world around us. It might give us a lot of doubt and stereotypes, but above that it has given us a chance to prove those stereotypes wrong. And I know that’s exactly what our generation will continue to do.

Here’s to teenagers!

Sherina

Dear Sherina,

You make excellents points in regards to how older generations sometimes view our generation. In my opinion, I would not be as engaged and as well informed as I am without social media. Newspapers and newscasts can sometimes present a one-sided perspective on global events – while the internet can help us paint a bigger picture. This appreciation for the ways that technology helps us become informed citizens is shared by many of my peers.

As you mentioned, teens often juggle schoolwork with multiple co-curriculars in addition to the constant pressure to get into a respected post-secondary institution. Although I am a few years away from graduation, I am already feeling the aforementioned pressure. Therefore, I do not find statistics that show 25% of North American teens suffer from an anxiety disorder surprising.

There are also intergenerational shifts in social attitudes that affect how we view issues such as gay marriage, trans+ people and so on. While at a family dinner a few days ago, the topic of gay marriage was brought forward. It was fascinating to see the difference in approach to this topic in relation to the ages of my family members. My grandparents grew up in an era where homosexuality was a taboo that was not discussed; I have grown up in an era where (for the most part) acceptance of other human beings regardless of sexual orientation was taught within the school curriculum.

When I was around ten years old, my parents made it clear to me that whether I was attracted to men or women made no difference to them. I was their child, and they would love me for who I was. As I look back on these conversations, I realize that my ten year old self found this incredibly reassuring.

I am incredibly proud of how far our generation has come not only in relation to our contribution to technological advancements, but how we view others.

Ceanray

On Keeping a Positive Perspective

Dear Ceanray,

“We can’t see the world through someone else’s eyes,” explains Laura Oliver in her writing advice book The Story Within as she is describing an essay by Scott Russell Sanders in which he tries to show his son constellations in the sky and realizes he can only point to the stars, but his son can’t see the constellation from his fathers eyes.

"You can't make someone see the world through your eyes."

“You can’t make someone see the world through your eyes.”

I have experienced this so many times, as I’m sure you have too – trying to help a friend see the bright side, only to realize that as hard as you try your words can’t make someone else see the world from your eyes.

You and I are pretty optimistic people – we see on the bright side most of the time, and generally speaking we are fairly happy. So it’s incredibly frustrating to encounter people who pessimistic and upset and not be able to help them, because they can’t see things through your eyes. That doesn’t stop us from trying, though.

I like to think that this blog is a way of us exuding positivity into the world. Even though we often blog about topics that cause unhappiness – gender inequality, racism – we try to keep an optimistic perspective, one of hope that things will get better and that the world will be changed for the better.

We can’t make people see the world through our eyes – maybe we can make them see it through our words, instead. A few positive words can be enough to spark an entire movement of change; let’s keep sparking the movement!

Sherina


Dear Sherina,

I agree, although we often write about topics that can be disheartening; we are both optimistic. In order to spread positivity we must first find it within ourselves to be positive, unhappiness is crippling and destructive in all aspects of life.

I used to be a very unhappy person, and it took me awhile to realize that there is much more to be happy about than to be sad about. Take pleasure in finding the little things that brighten your day – before long, you’ll find yourself lighting up someone else’s day as well.

Although it can be disenchanting to be confronted with adversity that may affect what you want to achieve, consider this; can you imagine what our world would be like if the pioneers of the women’s suffrage movement had given up every time they were told that women would never be able to vote? Can you imagine what would’ve happened if Martin Luther King Jr. had decided that people of colour would never be equal to whites in America, so what’s the point in trying?

I thought I’d share with you one of my absolute favourite quotes by Anna Quindlen; After all those years as a woman hearing ‘not thin enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not this enough, not that enough,’ almost overnight I woke up one morning and thought, ‘I’m enough’.

iamenough

You are enough, and we are all enough. Let’s continue to spread positivity!

Ceanray