Friday, September 12

A Strange Light

I spend a good bit of my time in public lately.

Now don't get me wrong, I still love pulling on a pair of sweatpants and hiding under my comforter for hours at a time, but since I've started dual enrolling, I have to go places and interact with people.
And even though for the most part I "fit in" (whatever that means) fairly well, I still kind of feel like this happens when I'm walking around:
(Only I don't look quite so fantastically beautiful.)
It's not because I sometimes spontaneously make spastic movements because I'm excited about something.
It's not because I look funny. (Usually.)
It's not even because I have this inexorable urge to break into the abandoned coffee shop at school and wander around dramatically singing "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables."
Don't judge.
I have this one teacher at school who is very interested in the fact that I happen to be a dual enrolled student who is also homeschooled. He told me he's always been a little skeptical about homeschooling in general, so naturally I felt a little pressure from the get-go to prove to him that whatever negative thoughts he had about homeschoolers weren't true, at least not for me.
So when we had our first test on Monday, my normal love for tests of all shapes and sizes was slightly tainted with anxiety. It was pretty typical as far as tests go, and as far as testing goes at this particular college, it was a pretty typical day. There were a couple of people who finished in five minutes, which used to impress me but I now know generally means they did quite poorly indeed. I finished in about twenty-five minutes, but I knew I wouldn't get picked up until later and I was quite comfortable, so I pretended to check my work for fifteen minutes longer.
I felt like I probably did okay on the test, but I wasn't sure, and I was worried.
Thusly, come the next class period, I was quite relieved when I walked into the classroom and the teacher said, "Here comes my star student!" I got the highest grade in the class, and I was pleased.

However, when the teacher was going over the test, I noticed one question that I had missed that he had not marked incorrect.
Oh, great.
My grade was already further away from a perfect score than I was happy about. To speak up and point out to the teacher that he had given me too high a grade would be stupid. I was at the top and I was happy about it and I did NOT want that to go away.
But on the other hand, honesty is the best policy, yes?
Nobody should have to deal with moral dilemmas at 9:45 in the morning.
Nevertheless, deal with it I did. I raised my hand and from my seat in the back row (I came in late on the first day and the teacher made us stay in whatever seat we had chosen) called out, "I think I missed one and you didn't take off for it."
Every head in the classroom turned around and stared at me.
The teacher is somewhat hard of hearing, so he asked me to repeat myself. The other students all looked at me, their confused expressions screaming, "What is wrong with you? SHUT UP."
I repeated myself and the professor got a little twinkle in his eye. He turned to one of the students in the front row and asked what they thought he should do. She said that since it was his mistake, she thought I should get to keep my original score, to which the professor replied that he decidedly disagreed.
He started walking down the aisle and I put on a brave face. I had literally just given away two precious points from my test score, and I felt like a tender part of me was about to have a giant red X scratched across it. But when the teacher handed back my paper a few moments later, instead of a glaring, blood-red -2, I saw a cheery, scarlet +2 written next to the question.
Now this teacher is a Genuine Antique Person, and he has a ball cap to prove it. I thought maybe he had just misunderstood me, but all I could get out was a confused "Umm..."
The teacher, talking to the whole class, said that because he's eighty years old and has been working at the school for ten years, he can basically do whatever he wants because the school isn't going to do anything to him. Apparently he also believes that honesty is the best policy, so in a case like mine, if the student doesn't try to hide the mistake, he rewards their honesty.
So that worked out.
Except that here I am, less than a month into the semester and already everyone in that class thinks I'm a little strange.
But that's okay. I didn't know that the teacher was going to reward me. I just knew this: Even though I don't loudly announce to the whole world that I'm a Christian, if I don't represent that in my actions, people definitely will never have a chance to see Christ through me.
So if looking a little strange to others means maintaining a good testimony, I'd say that's a pretty good tradeoff.
In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. (John 1:4-5)
People may not always understand the difference, but they will always notice it.
Be the light.
Be strange.

Thursday, September 4

Meredith Talks About Social Media

I am a very popular person.

I mean, come on. I have like, 512 friends.

Despite the fact that the average maximum number of people humans can actually maintain meaningful relationships with is about one hundred (and if you're me, more like five), I am most definitely personally connected with all of those people and we share a strong, unifying bond.

That bond is, of course, the all-mighty Facebook.

My mom has been bugging me - Wait. I mean...

I've been thinking about doing this for a while, and I have finally given in.

Meredith Talks About Social Media - Part One

Since Facebook is far and away the most popular social media site worldwide, we'll start there, shall we?

For my safety, I'm going to insert a quick disclaimer here: Whatever you may read from this point on is 1) written from the viewpoint of a teenager and 2) is my personal opinion. Admittedly, my opinion may just happen to be the best, but that's just my opinion (and it's the best).

My hope for these posts is that maybe - just maybe - one of them will reach people who have blankly stared at their computer screens in confusion, questioning their decision to join the social media world and wondering what in the world they're doing, and that I can educate them and send them back into the big, scary world of social media with confidence anew.

And that hopefully we can have some giggles along the way.

Facebook was initially founded in 2004, and it was essentially used to connect students at various universities. It's grown significantly since then. As you are undoubtedly aware, everyone and their cousin uses Facebook. Pretty much.

Let's walk through what happens when you create a Facebook account.

All you need is an email address.

Supposedly only people over age thirteen can register for Facebook, but some genius eleven-year-old realized one day that there's no way to actually enforce that and told all his stupid little friends, so basically, that's not legitimate and anyone can have Facebook.

Moving on.

1. Profile Picture

After you give away all your personal information, congratulations! You officially have a Facebook account. One of the first things you will want to do is add a profile picture.

Despite the fact that the default profile photo is adorable...

Having a picture of yourself helps people recognize you and distinguish you from other people when viewing your profile, especially if you happen to be joining the ranks of John Smiths on Facebook. (Fun Fact: John Smith is the highest occurring name among Facebook users)

The initial choice of your profile photo is not as important as it may seem. My first profile photo was a horrifying picture of me wearing glasses (I have 20/20 vision). Just pick one and move on to the fun stuff (but then find a stunning photo of yourself to change to later).

2. Adding Friends

The next thing you will do is start finding people you know and sending them friend requests. When you add someone to your friends list, they see the statuses and photos you post, and you see their posts.

"Friending" people is one of those things that doesn't really make sense all the time.

I have several Facebook "friends" who I don't really like, don't really know, or don't really care about.

And that's normal. On Facebook, it is okay to friend that kid you talked to once in kindergarten if you want to.

If you want to only be friends with your family members or close acquaintances, that's okay.

There is no right or wrong with who you friend on Facebook as long as you're comfortable with the people you friend.

3. Posting/Liking & Commenting

The main thing on Facebook is seeing people's statuses. A status can be pretty much anything, and in this case, with great freedom comes great responsibility.

I rarely use Facebook as a way to actually keep people up on what's going on in my life. Generally when I post a status, it's an attempt at being witty, adorable, or charming (and I generally miss the mark on all accounts).

Just a few guidelines about posting statuses.

1. Avoid posting statuses incessantly. Most people have a couple hundred Facebook friends at least, and they already have a lot to wade through on their page. 

2. Be aware of the length of your statuses. They are meant to be fairly short, because few people want to take the time to read a lengthy post in their news feed (Sad, but true). If you find yourself consistently waxing eloquent, consider starting a blog, or simply cut back the length.

3. Don't ever ever ever ever whine/rant/in any way express selfishly negative emotions via Facebook status. If your grandpa dies, that's one thing. If you're complaining about anything and everything, please don't.

4. Think of posting a status as yelling it to a room filled with all the people on your friends list. This is essentially what you're doing when you post something, so use discretion. If what you're thinking about posting could potentially send your grandmother into shock - DON'T.

When you see someone's status or photo, you are given the option to "like" the post, or you can comment on it. Commenting is fairly self-explanatory, as is liking, but I have to let my teenage girl out for a second here.

There is a deeply psychological level to "liking" on Facebook.

Whether or not a guy likes our posts on Facebook is a legitimate factor taken into account when we're overthinking things.

Not liking someone's Facebook posts is essentially the social media equivalent to giving them the silent treatment.

Liking a profile photo has significant meaning.

Girls are terrifying creatures, and we are watching you.

Which sort of leads into...

4. Stalking

Facebook opened up a whole new world for those of us with investigative tendencies. Before Facebook, stalking required binoculars, a camcorder, and a ghillie suit. Now, all you need is determination.

Depending on the privacy settings of your victim, you could be granted access to all their photos, statuses, and personal information (favorite movies, books, quotes, music, etc...)

Whether it be a crush or a mortal enemy, if you want to learn creepy amounts of information about someone while simultaneously viewing their terrible middle school photos, Facebook stalking is the way to go.

'Tis a glorious, developing art.

5. Common Irritations

Since people are involved with Facebook (unless you only got on to play games, in which case, what is wrong with you?) there are occasions where you will find yourself super ticked off. I'm ticked off about eighty percent of the time when I'm on Facebook because I'm impatient and not very gracious. But we're not talking about my character flaws here (If we were, it would be an even longer post than this one). Without further ado, things that generally annoy me on Facebook.

1. Couples. Now before you tell me to just calm down and enjoy watching young love blossom, observe a Facebook couple for a couple weeks (if their relationship lasts that long) and then I'll tell you to just calm down and enjoy throwing up a little in your mouth. I'm very happy that you guys are SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO in love. Really. But I don't want to see six gushing posts about the same thing in a row about anything, and your match-made-in-heaven is no exception.

2. Whiner babies. Like I mentioned before, it is not appropriate to whine on Facebook. The worst thing about whiner babies is that they create more whiner babies because they're so annoying. Don't do this. Just please don't.

3. Great debaters. I have a couple of Facebook friends who deliberately post statuses just to start arguments. I've only recently come to realize just how ready most people are to jump into an argument and prove that they're right. I'm sure you're right. But I don't need to see it on Facebook. Once again, consider starting a blog.

Now I conclude.

I'm not generally good at speaking succinctly, and I definitely squeezed a lot into this post. It's unlikely that your brain is feeling spongy enough to absorb everything, so it is fortunate that I (miraculously) managed to come up with a single sentence, a truth to live by.

In all things moderation.

Whether it be number of posts, number of exclamation points (personal pet peeve right there), amount of time spent online, etc., keep it balanced.

Don't worry, you can trust me - I have a blog, don't I?

Tuesday, September 2

The Character Secret

I'm a girl.

And being a girl is hard.

A few common characteristics of girls include tendency to overthink things, obsession with their appearances, and extreme concern for what people think of them.

Under the pressure of our overwhelmingly beauty-obsessed society, many girls entangle themselves with drugs or alcohol, develop eating disorders, or find themselves depressed because they are not pretty/thin/popular enough to satisfy the standards they think they must accept.

Because I'm a good, dedicated blogger, I've actually done a lot of research for this post, looking at statistics and whatnot. (And besides, I have a blog, so that grants me instant credibility.)

I noticed that it seems as though the percentage of girls who are happy with themselves is inversely proportional to the age of the girls surveyed. (English translation: the older the girls were, the fewer said they were happy with themselves.)

If you go on a valiant quest to discover scholarly literature on the top issues teenage girls are told they should face, poor body image/low self esteem are the omnipresent topics.

The overall impression given is that girls always have, always will, and always should be first and foremost concerned with how they look and whether their appearance is "acceptable" to their peers.

But I know a powerful secret.

If this secret were revealed to and accepted by everyone, it would likely result in the downfall of the modern beauty industry, the entertainment arena, and fashion empires worldwide.

This secret puts all of my teenage girl issues in perspective.

Meredith's Panacean Secret: Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. (Prov. 31:10)

In this verse and those following, we find a list of characteristics that should be desirable in a lady.

Only twice did I find anything remotely related to appearance.

However, more than a dozen character traits are listed. A kind spirit and good heart, trustworthiness, diligence, shrewdness, industriousness, generosity, a well-informed mind, compassion - the list goes on.

Society's obsession with beauty is in direct contradiction to the biblical truth: Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. (Prov. 31:30)

Girls who reject society's perverted views and seek the truth are more valuable than rubies.

Here's a little tidbit about rubies from this article:

"Among rubies though, there is no shortage of small gems, the kind used in cluster rings. They are somewhat expensive, but readily available. It is when you get into gems of a carat o[r] more that they get really expensive. Good quality rubies in this size range are few and far between."

It's not difficult to find a woman.

It's not even that difficult to find a woman of character. Like smaller rubies, they are readily available and have significant value.

But virtuous women are few and far between.

I want to be one of the few.

Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. (Prov. 31:28)