Finding the Write Time

For the past week or so, I’ve woken up at 7 a.m. to the opening chords of Hamilton (no surprise there, if you’ve read some of my other blog posts recently). My new morning routine goes something like this: dance along to Hamilton before turning off the alarm and turning on my laptop to write. I gather my binders and notebooks and set a goal for the morningedit something, write something, problem solve a solution to a plot hole in the novel I’m working on. Then, for the next 30 minutes, I put on my “Writing” playlist and set off towards accomplishing whatever goals I wrote down.

This is a relatively new routine for me, and, despite not being a zealous morning person, I have to say that I’m loving it so far. I saw a quote yesterday that read, “Set a goal that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning” and I realized that my writing goals make me want to do just that. No matter how tired I am, I’m always excited to get up, walk over to my desk and crack open my writing notebook.

As I’ve written before, this summer I am working full-time hours in a communications role. By carving out this half hour in the morning to write, I arrive at work at 9 a.m. already feeling like I’ve accomplished something for the day. Before I set this routine, I was trying to find time to write at nightand while I wrote blog posts after work, I never ended up working on writing fiction. Now, I am certain that I am making more progress than I otherwise would have been had I continued writing solely at night. I find it amazing that I can make significant progress towards my goals just by waking up 30 minutes earlier.

It can be tempting to only write when motivation strikes, but most creative people know that motivation is fleeting. What is not fleeting, however, is routine. I am the type of person who falls into a routine easily. To be honest, I did doubt my ability to wake up half an hour before I usually do; but I motivated myself by writing “a.m. editing” in my planner every day. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by my ability to use this morning time productively. One day last week I woke up at 7 a.m., only to realize that, for some reason, my laptop wouldn’t open Microsoft Word. I couldn’t work on the project I wanted to edit, but I didn’t go back to sleep. Instead, I used the time to readsomething else I don’t make enough time for in my life.

Although this morning writing routine is new to me, making time to write is not. In the winter, I made it my goal to write 1,000 words every day. I didn’t set aside a specific time because my school schedule was different every day. I still ended up fulfilling my goal, thoughI wrote 1,000 words every day, without fail, until I reached my goal of 80,000 words. Even on days when I was exhausted from school, I still managed to sit down and write. Once I got started, I couldn’t break the routine; and the daily sessions of writing fiction were a welcome break from my schoolwork.

Knowing who you are goes a long way in finding ways to motivate yourself to write. I know, for example, that I am motivated by visually seeing my progress; so I like to track my progress through charts where I can write down what I accomplish every day. Making charts is a small thing, but I honestly think that the charts where I wrote down my word count every day were one of the main reasons why I was able to continue writing 1,000 words every day back in the winter. I hope that the goal-setting charts I am using now will make my current morning writing sessions successful, too.

I had a comment recently asking about what my writing schedule is, and I guess this is it. As of last week, I write and edit for half an hour in the morning and I also spend extra time at night writing blog posts. It’s a schedule that is still evolving, but one that is based on what I know works for me. In the end, it’s a schedule that allows me to wake up in the morning and spend time doing what I love while making progress towards my goals. What could be better than that?

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Dreaming vs Doing

What is your dream in life? How much time per day—or even per week—do you spend working to make that dream a reality? And how much time you do spend dreaming about making it a reality?

If you’ve read some of my recent blog posts, you might know that I am mildly obsessed with the hip-hop musical Hamilton. My favourite song in Hamilton is Wait For It, although it wasn’t always my favourite. One day at school this year as the soundtrack played in the background of a particularly stressful moment, I realized that the lyrics of the song were telling me exactly what I needed to hear. Aaron Burr sings, “I am the one thing in life I can control. I am inimitable. I am an original. I’m not falling behind or running late. I’m not standing still. I am lying in wait.”

In that moment, Wait For It reminded me that while I felt like I wasn’t progressing, I was simply working hard in the present to experience success in the future. But the song also had a simpler impact on me; it gave me hope, reminding me to wait for the things that I wanted to happen to actually come to fruition. Of course, unless you’re incredibly lucky, this isn’t the way life works. Most of the time, dreams don’t just come true. We have to work to make them happen.

When I saw Hamilton in Chicago, I got chills during the performance of Wait For It. And then I had an epiphany of sorts. In the play, there’s a scene near the end of the first act which isn’t in the soundtrack. After learning of the death of a close friend, an impassioned Hamilton exclaims, “I have so much work to do.” In the following song, Non-Stop, we learn that Hamilton has been working, well, non-stop.

He’s been practicing law; he proposed “a new form of government” at the Constitutional Convention; and he has been writing like he’s “running out of time.” Hamilton’s non-stop writing comes to a capstone when he partners with James Madison and John Jay to write the Federalist Papers. Burr emphatically informs us that Hamilton wrote 51 of the papers (I had to read one for a politics class this year; I don’t think I could read 51, let alone write that many).

My epiphany was this: that I could “wait for it” all I wanted, but all that waiting would be for nil if I wasn’t actively working to make my dreams come true. I had to work, like Hamilton, non-stop. This brings me back to the questions with which I began this post: What’s your dream in life? And do you spend more time dreaming about making it happen, or actually working to make it happen?

Obviously, going to school, having a job or other commitments makes it difficult to spend all of your time working on your dreams. But if you spend an entire week dreaming about how great it will be when you finally design that website and spend zero hours planning or executing your dream… well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s not a great ratio of dreaming to doing.

In all honesty, I am writing this as much to give advice to myself as I am to you, my reader. I love to dream about things happening—and what I’m trying to focus on this summer is putting in the effort and hard work to bring those dreams out of my head and make them into realities. For all the time I spend dreaming, I must spend more time doing—more time writing, more time editing, more time designing and reading and learning and creating. 

I still love Wait For It because I am naturally a dreamer; I love looking to the future with hope. But I know that what is better than waiting for a dream to come true, is to make that dream happen. One of my favourite quotes is by John Updike: “Dreams come true. Without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them.” I wholeheartedly believe this. But if I could, I would add to the quote: “Dreams come true—if we work hard to make them a reality.”

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19 Things I Learned By 19

This weekend I turned 19—yay! Among the celebrations and cake, I’ve found myself reflecting on the past year of my life. It’s been an interesting one: from moving away to university to beginning my studies in journalism to trying to make sense of these crazy political times. I’ve blogged throughout it all, of course, but I haven’t been blogging for my entire life (could you imagine?). I’ve learned a lot this year, both about myself and about life. I’ve also learned a lot in other years—so I decided that, to commemorate my 19th birthday, I would share 19 things that I have learned thus far in my life.

1. I am happiest when I am writing. I love getting into the rhythm of writing every day—be it fiction, blog posts or even just journal entries. I could be super busy with schoolwork and studying, but if I can make time to write then I am happy. Writing doesn’t feel like work—and that’s how I know it’s what I truly love to do.

2. Hard work pays off, even if you don’t see the results right away.

3. On a similar vein—what seems like a failure is often an opportunity to be redirected to something better. I can’t count the amount of times that this has proven true in my life. When one door closes, another one opens; you just have to be willing to move past the closed door to explore the new opportunity that lies ahead.

4. Yes, you will make friends. This was my primary concern going to a university where I could count the number of people I knew on the fingers on my right hand. My worries haunted me for the first few days after I moved into residence—and then, at journalism orientation, I met my now best friends. I think my worries actually propelled me into being more social, though. If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t change anything.

5. Being kind, compassionate and optimistic are strengths—and don’t listen to anyone who tries to tell you differently.

6. Set big goals and then break them into bite-sized chunks. I love Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s quote, “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.” If you can balance big dreams with achievable mini-goals along the way, you can work towards achieving amazing things!

7. Never underestimate the power of honesty. Whether it’s being honest with a friend, or even being honest with yourself in your own thoughts, there is power in telling the truth.

8. Both inside and outside of school, life is full of learning opportunities.

9. Sometimes life doesn’t make sense. And sometimes it does. Life is weird—but, in the words of Oscar Wilde, “Life is too important to be taken seriously.”

10. It is going to be OK. It sounds like such a cliché, but it’s really true. At the beginning of this year when I was moving away to university I wish I would have known how happy I am now. My year was more than OK—it was fantastic. And knowing that that experience, which I was worried about, turned out to be fantastic reminds me that other things that I am concerned about now can, and quite probably will, turn out to be great, too.

11. Leaving your comfort zone is the best way to grow. It’s challenging, but it can really pay off to jump and find your wings on the way down.

12. You can’t always be happy, but you can make a conscious decision to be positive. Positivity is a mindset that can eventually help you find happiness.

13. Similarly, you can’t choose what happens to you in life but you can choose how you react to it. (Hint: reacting with optimism helps.)

14. Work hard, but don’t forget to find time to relax. This is something I struggle with sometimes—I can get so focused on my goals and my endless to-do lists that I convince myself that relaxing is a waste of my time. But it’s not—I’ve learned that if I relax then I have more energy to be productive! It’s a win-win.

15. In the words of Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

16. You never know how what is happening now will impact you in the future. The not-for-profit organization I’m currently working for during the summer is where I did my placement during high school. Obviously in high school, I had no clue that I’d come back as an employee—and yet, here I am!

17. “Take it day by day” was a piece of advice my dad gave to me when I was feeling overwhelmed at the beginning of this year. I like to think about, and plan for, the future—but it’s also important to focus on taking each individual day as it comes.

18. Laughter makes everything better. I have an affinity for puns and bad jokes. Sometimes (most of the time) I’m the only one who laughs, but I don’t let that discourage me from trying to make others laugh!

19. Be kind. The world needs more people who are kind not because it poses some benefit to them, but simply because they have good hearts. Your kindness could make a huge difference in someone’s life, and it could have an incredibly positive impact on the world.

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Fleeting Moments

A bowl of citrus fruits was smeared across the sky, deep oranges and smoky yellows blended together like paint on an artist’s canvas. Then someone threw a shower of glitter on top of the fiery mosaic sky. It was a long weekend at the cottage and, over the lake, fireworks were exploding into the sunset. I wanted to run and grab my camera, but I paused. Could I have captured the beauty of the sky, without the camera altering the colours? Maybe. But I was less confident in my ability to change the camera’s settings and press the shutter at the perfect moment to photograph the fireworks. So I stayed by the window and watched not through the lens of a camera, but with my eyes.

The next day, I was struck by a similar situation. It was a sunny afternoon, the kind that feels too good to be true. I was in a kayak, enjoying the rippling water in the otherwise calm bay. In front of me there was a pathway of sorts, an arch of tree trunks bending over the water. I passed a cluster of lily pads as I paddled under the hanging trees. The trees, the water and the sun gave way to pure serenity. If I had my camera, could I have taken a photo that reflected the absolute silence of the bay? Could I have immortalized, in pixels, the clear water and the reaching branches? Maybe, but maybe not. I stopped wishing I had brought my camera and started to soak in the scene, sans technology.

Believe it or not, the evening after the fireworks display, the same thing happened again. The sunset had come and gonepink this night, not orangeand outside it was pitch black. But then the sky lit up. Someone was setting off a spectacular firework display from a raft. Red lights flew into the sky; then green, then what appeared to be purple. Then dazzling white lights erupted, stark against the black backdrop of the evening. This time, I grabbed my phone. I didn’t worry about taking the “perfect shot”; I used Instagram’s “Boomerang” feature to capture short videos that reversed themselves. In my videos, the fireworks exploded spectacularly and then retreated into themselves.

Oftentimes the moments we want to saviour are fleeting. We sometimes have a tendency to try to make those moments immortal; in other words, fool ourselves into thinking that we can make them last forever. Taking a photo is one way to make a moment last forever, but there are so many things that a photo doesn’t capture: the scent of fresh air on the open lake; the feeling of complete calmness when the blue sky fades into a painter’s palette; the screeching sound that the fireworks make as they soar into the sky, and the crackling sound they make as they fall.

Sunsets fade to black. People run out of fireworks. Moments end: this is an inevitable fact of life. But the fact that these moments exist at all is what makes life worth living. Because the sun rises the morning after it sets; because there is another firework-filled holiday to look forward to in the future. If we capture a beautiful moment, however imperfectly with a camera or however hastily with our eyes or other senses, we can find something to remember it by. And maybe, then, in a way, we really can make a moment last forever.

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Opening A New Door

I had this really weird dream once where I was being chased through a long, narrow hallway filled with doors. The rooms in between each set of doors were small, and I had to decide whether it would be faster to open the door in front of me and keep running, or lock each door behind me as I went.

Of course, since I was being chased, it would make a lot more sense to lock each door behind me, so that whoever was chasing me couldn’t get through the doors. I don’t remember if this occurred to me in the dream. What I do remember is waking up and thinking to myself, “Wow. There were a lot of doors in that dream.”

This anecdote may seem random, but I promise you that it’s not. I wanted to write about doors today; not literal doors, like the ones I ran through in my dream, but the figurative doors that symbolize the opportunities that exist in our lives.

Imagine, if you will, that life is like my dream: a long hallway filled with doors. However, unlike my dream, the hallway of real life is not a straight line. It’s filled with twists and turns, and often there isn’t just one door in front of us, but multiple doors. Some may look identical; others may be painted different colours, or attract us in some other way.

These doors represent the opportunities in our lives. Sometimes we have to make a decision and pick one of the doors to walk through. But other times, we have a different decision to make. We can choose to stay where we are, or we can choose to open a new door and explore a new opportunity.

As I’ve written before on this blog, I think it’s vital to seek out opportunities that scare us a bit, because those are the opportunities that allow us to grow. Be like the traveller in Robert Frost’s poem: take the road less travelled (or, perhaps, the door less opened). It may, as Frost wrote, make all the difference.

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Seven Reasons Why You Should Start a Blog

As I’ve written many times before, when I first had the idea to start a blog I had no clue what a blog even was. Now, three years later, I not only love blogging but I love helping other people learn about it, too. Since starting this blog, I have started a blog for my high school, created one for the organization I did a co-op placement at, and have encouraged numerous friends to create blogs of their own.

If it’s not already clear, I think blogs are awesome; and if you don’t think so, then allow me to try to change your mind. Here are some of the reasons why I love having a blog, and why I would encourage others to give blogging a try!

1. Blogging helps you figure out your opinion

Sometimes when I sit down to write an opinion-based blog post, I don’t really know what my opinion is. Of course I have a general idea, and some sort of opinion that has motivated me to write the post; but I often flesh out the specifics of my argument while I am in the writing process. This gives me a greater awareness of world events. It also forces me to consider the other side of the topic I am writing about, so that I can mention counter-arguments in my post.

2. Your words get an audience

I use the term ‘audience’ lightly, because it can mean whatever you want it to mean. Having other people read your writing can seem like a big step to take (side note: if you need some inspiration to leave your comfort zone, check out this post). You can make your blog private if you really feel it’s best for you. However, I would encourage you to open your blog up to the world. Interacting with other bloggers and reading comments on my posts has been one of the best and most rewarding parts of my experience as a blogger.

3. You have an opportunity to say something

In journalism school, something I have to do quite often is interview strangers on the street. I am often surprised by the answers I get to my questions. Everyone has something to say about some topic, and blogging gives you the perfect outlet to share what you have to say. Social media does this, too, but there’s definitely a difference between voicing your thoughts in a 140 character tweet and in a 500 (or however long you choose it to be) blog post. I love Twitter, don’t get me wrong; but when it comes to sharing my opinion, I prefer blogging.

4. Blogging isn’t just about writing

To me, blogging is actually all about writing; I started this blog so that I could get more experience writing, and develop my writing skills. But so many other types of blogs exist. You could create a photography blog, or one centered around videos (perhaps a YouTube channel would be better suited there). Even if you do decide to write your posts, you have so many options. You could write short blurbs; you could write essays. You could write articles in list-form (like this one!); or you could write in prose, or verse, or in a completely made up language (craft it the right way, with lots of humour, and I’d say you have the potential to go viral with that one). Whatever style of storytelling or communicating you enjoy, there’s a way you could create a blog centered around it.

5. You can write about anything and everything

If you’ve spent any amount of time looking through sites on the blogosphere, you could attest to the fact that the subjects of blogs are incredibly diverse. Some bloggers review books, or beauty products, or everything in between; others use their blogs as outlets to share poetry and creative writing; and others use their blogs as online journals where they document their lives. Again, whatever you enjoy and are interested in, you can blog about it.

6. It can become a passion project for you

Sherinaspeaks actually started out as just that: a “passion project” assigned to me by my grade 10 English teacher. I had to pick something to work on over the course of the semester, and I chose blogging. Clearly, I have chosen to work on it long after the semester ended. In a way, though, this blog is still my passion project. It’s really fun to have a special project “on the side” of what I’m actually doing. I am a university student, working towards a degree in journalism; but I am also a blogger. When I want to take a little break from my work as a student, I can turn to my blog.

7. It will make you see the world differently

This is probably my favourite thing about having a blog: that I now look for, and find, inspiration everywhere. Whether I’m reading the newspaper or walking down the street, I am constantly paying attention to what I am reading, hearing, and seeing; because anything could turn into a blog post. I always have my blog in the back of my mind, and I love that I can look at the world and see ideas that inspire me to write.

What would you say to people who are thinking about creating a blog?

Taking the Leap

Approach a stranger and ask them if they have a second to talk. Hold your phone microphone up and conduct an interview. Ask if you can take a photo of someone. Then ask them for their full name and email address, thank them, and do this all over again. Sound scary? I thought so too when I first came to journalism school and learned that those were all real things I would have to do.

When I did my first streeter (an interview with a random person on the street), I was really nervous. I remember cringing as I listened back to the audio recording of my first interview; I was talking so quickly it was as if I feared my source would suddenly run away in the middle of the interview (though, judging by my nerves at the time, it was me who was more likely to run away).

It’s only been a few weeks since that day when I did my first streeter, but I have learned so much. Nearly every week, if not multiple times a week, I’ve done some form of a streeter. And it’s gotten so much easier for me—and so much more fun, too.            

I wouldn’t say that I’ve completely overcome my nerves about streeters and interviews, but at this point I’ve done enough to know that it always ends up being fine. I’m usually just nervous when I’m thinking about the assignment: when I go out and actually talk to people, I find that I really enjoy it. I had to get through the frightening part, the learning experience, to get to a place where I am more confident.

I’m glad I pushed through that stage of nervousness, though. If I had waited until I felt ready, I’d still be waiting. Sometimes you have to take the leap, and build your wings on the way down (I think Kobi Yamada said that quote, but Google is attributing versions of it to many different people).

As I was on my way to one of my journalism classes yesterday, a saying popped into my head, one that I remember reading on an old Lululemon bag: Do one thing a day that scares you. I’ve always loved the idea of pushing myself to take a little risk each day; and now that I’m in journalism school, I’ve had no shortage of opportunities to take those risks.

Whether I’m approaching someone to ask about their opinion on something, or to ask if they’ll allow me to photograph them for my photojournalism assignment, I am constantly leaping, taking risks and finding my wings on my way down. And, surprisingly enough, I love it.

What did you do today that scared you?

Canada, Keep Telling America It’s Great

Having lived in Canada for my entire life, I’ve always raised an eyebrow at the “Canadians are so polite” stereotype. I mean, sure, we’re nice—one time the cashier at Tim Hortons “accidentally” made my mom a medium tea and charged her for a small, and another time I ran into a moose on my way home from school and it complimented my snow shoes (kidding). Seriously, though, Canadians are nice. But from my experiences, we’re not nicer than people in other parts of the world; people just think we are.

Reports of our kindness have been greatly exaggerated. Canadians being polite is an easy trope for Canadian news stories to fall into, because it’s such a prevalent stereotype. Such was the case with the recent ‘Tell America It’s Great’ campaign, an attempt by a Canadian marketing company to infuse some much-needed positivity into the lives of Americans. It is easy for people to assume that Canadians did this to fulfill the stereotype of being Canadian and oh, so polite. In fact, this is exactly what the author of a Vice Canada article did.

After explaining that Americans don’t care about what Canadians think—news to me, and, I would think, to the Americans who were moved to tears by the video—the author proceeds to declare that the “campaign is a thinly disguised excuse for Canadians to pat themselves on the back about how nice they are.” Not to be rude, (I am Canadian, after all) but, um, pardon?

This isn’t about being Canadian; it’s about being human. It’s about the 46 per cent of Americans who, according to an ABC News poll, have found this election to be a serious source of stress. It’s about bringing a positive message to social media, which has been plagued by toxicity during this election cycle. It’s about having the opportunity to do something small to bring a smile to people’s faces.

The problem with brushing Canadians’ kindness off as, well, a side effect of our nationality is that it puts a shadow over the kindness. Obviously, one video isn’t going to instantly cure all Americans of the stress that they are under. But if it helps at least one person, which it clearly has, then so what? Why would you ever discourage someone from saying something positive?!

The moral of the story is this: be kind to people, and encourage kindness when you see it. After the horrible, hurtful things that have been said in this election cycle, we absolutely need more empathy and compassion in this world—no matter what our nationality is.

International Youth Day

What does it mean to be young in 2016?

I’ve been wondering about this for a while now, not just because it is a question which pertains to me, a teenager, but because it’s been written on my whiteboard all year. Long story short: in January I was planning to write for an online publication with that question as the focus of my article, so I brainstormed ideas on my whiteboard. The article didn’t end up panning out as I quickly became swamped with exams and applying to university. Nonetheless, the question remained on my whiteboard.

Seven months later, every time I look at it I am reminded that it needs to be cleaned. I rarely procrastinate but with this, I have. Today, though, I’m glad I haven’t erased my whiteboard of thoughts on what it means to be young in this day and age: because today is International Youth Day. I thought I would spend a bit of time reflecting on, well, being young!

I’d be willing to bet that when most people think about today’s teens, their minds quickly turn to technology and social media. The rise of the hashtag. The selfie craze. The fact that “tweet” is no longer the sound birds make at 6 in the morning when we’re trying to sleep, but a 140 character message sent out for the world to read. These things, in part, have defined today’s youth. There’s another important aspect of technology, though: communication. Not only are we able to communicate with people around the world, but we can instantly read and see news about what is happening all over the world.

With the changing face of communication comes an increased awareness; an awareness both of the good and grisly things in the world. We can livestream the Olympics in Rio from a screen in our palm, and watch cute puppies chase their tails—but we are also inundated with stories of murders, of poverty, of wars. The benefit to seeing these things, becoming aware of them, is that we can work to change them. I know I don’t only speak for myself when I say that I use the Internet to stay on top of issues I’m passionate about.

Today’s teens aren’t the only ones to have strong social justice roots. The 1960s Counterculture, for example, fought for women’s rights, peaceful resolution to conflict, and freedom. We are, however, one of the first generations to have constant exposure to what is happening around us, thanks to technology. Perhaps this, paired with the strong convictions already existing within teenagers, will lead to lifelong quests for justice and equality.

Jumping off of the brainstorming bubble on my whiteboard are the words “safe from war”. An arrow jars off that point, though, with the words “terrorism” attached. Today’s youth are growing up in a post 9/11 world: a world that tries to be hopeful, one that hides quivering fear behind a face of resilience. I am writing from my perspective as a Canadian teenager; the reality is, I am very lucky. While terrorism is a threat in developed countries, as it is in all countries, war is not. I grew up listening to O’Canada in the mornings at school feeling thankful to live in the true North, which is not only strong and free, but is also, for the most part, safe.

This is not a statement that all of the world’s youth can affirm, sadly. According to the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth’s website, 14 million youth were displaced as a result of international conflict in 2011—the number is likely even higher today. Not only this, but over 200 million youth are living in extreme poverty (defined as living on less than one dollar per day), reports Advocates for Youth’s website.

So today, on International Youth Day, it is important not only to reflect on what defines the lives of today’s youth, but to hope for a better future for all youth. It is also important to celebrate the leadership of youth who are working to create this better future. Young people all over the world: keep being passionate about issues that matter to you, keep being leaders, and keep trying to change the world. One day, you will.

Look to the Stars

How has your life been recently? If someone asked me this question, a myriad of words would spring to mind: exciting, interesting, fun. A word I probably wouldn’t say, though one that I would certainly think, is busy. I try to avoid describing myself as busy – because really, we are all busy in some way – but I can’t help thinking it’s a good word to use to accurately sum up the past few weeks of my life.

From wisdom teeth extractions (and subsequent infections) to school event-planning, to French exams to essays, a lot has happened in the past month: and a lot is happening in the upcoming months as well. I’ll be graduating from high school in June, so I’m in the final stretch. The pages of my planner are full of events and to-do’s. With so much going on, it’s easy to get swept up in it all. I think, though, that these crazy times are the ones where it is the most important to take a moment to pause and reflect.

This past week, news broke that NASA has confirmed the existence of 1284 new planets. Some of the planets are potentially inhabitable. The thought that there could be another Earth out there is scary – aliens, and all – but in a strange way, it’s also comforting. Our struggles on this planet, busy schedules included, seem less serious when you think about the fact the incredible universe that surrounds us.

We like to think, as humans, that we are important. I believe that we are important, that upon our birth everyone has value and potential. But we are also kind of insignificant, in that there are billions of us on this one spinning rock and maybe billions more on another planet. I think humans matter – you matter, I matter, the guy who served you your Starbucks coffee this morning matters, the homeless woman on the street corner matters.

Having said this, I think there are some aspects of humans, of humanity, that matter more than others. Love matters. Kindness matters. Happiness matters. In the grand scheme of the galaxies and stars and planets, those things matter. They deserve to be cherished no matter how insignificant they may seem. Some other aspects of our lives, like stress, seem less important when you think about the world out there.

If you read the opening paragraphs of this post and nodded along, perhaps thinking about your own hectic schedule and crazy planner, take a moment to think about who you are – not just who you are as a person, but who you are. You are more than the things that stress you out. You have value, to this world and the things beyond it (newly discovered or not).

This post is as much a reminder to all of you lovely people as it is to myself. As I wrote earlier, it’s easy to get caught up in craziness; but it’s these times that are the best for reflection – especially if that reflection is the one you see of yourself in your window, looking up at the night sky.