Tag Archives: experiences

Legally Drunk?

A girl I went to high school with joked once that she wanted me to call her when I got drunk for the first time.  It was a joke because the thought of me ever being drunk was just that outrageous (I was kind of a goody-two-shoes I guess).  It wasn’t that I never had the opportunity to drink or get drunk; it’s just that it has never been something that sounded appealing to me.

This past Sunday was my 21st birthday, and like a lot of people on their 21st, I went out to get a drink at midnight with some of my siblings and friends—just because I could.

Arriving at a local bar, I got IDed, and I’m not gonna lie, I felt pretty cool being admitted.  It was like being initiated into some sort of exclusive club—if only what awaited me on the inside of the doors lived up to the hype…

There is a certain fascination with alcohol that a lot of people around my age seem to have.  My age group seems almost to live for it sometimes, especially in college.  We can’t wait for the weekends to go out and party (in fact, a lot of people don’t wait for the weekends, and getting drunk is something that happens on any given week night as well).  I’ve always thought this was stupid and frankly just childish.  Because of this and because of the fact that I didn’t drink before I turned 21, a lot of people think I am against drinking alcohol, which isn’t the case at all.  I just reject the dominant culture of my age group that says that you absolutely need alcohol in order to have a good time.

Growing up, my parents never really had alcohol around the house.  My mom doesn’t much like the taste of it; and when my three older brothers were young, my dad made a deal with them that he wouldn’t drink until they all were legally old enough to drink alcohol.  As a result, I’ve never associated alcohol with some false sense of maturity or “coolness”.  In fact, it became kind of a turn-off to me when people would use alcohol as a way to fit in or feel more confident in themselves.  And when you’re underage, I can’t honestly think of any other reason to start drinking if not to fit in or feel cool.

Alcoholism runs in my family, which is another reason why my parents took the alcohol issue so seriously when us kids were growing up.  My mom always said that, as a parent, you might think you’re doing right by your kids by allowing them to drink in the “controlled environment” of the home, but you never know which of your children could end up having a problem with alcohol through no fault of their own.  Adolescence is hard enough without introducing an alcohol problem into the mix.

Back to my 21st …  I didn’t have the typical drunken birthday that I think everyone expects a 21 year old to have.  The drink the bartender mixed for me at midnight was nasty.  I could only handle a few sips before I decided it just wasn’t worth the effort.  The next day I went out for lunch at a winery with my family and some friends and did enjoy a glass of wine.  All in all though, the best part of turning 21 for me was the best part of any birthday—getting to spend it with family and close friends that care about me.

4 Things Cheerleading Taught Me

Today I am making signs for an upcoming flag football game my University is playing in against a rival Catholic University in April.  It’s making me all nostalgic and whatnot for my days as a cheerleader in high school…

Say what you will about cheerleaders, but I learned a lot from my days on the Pep Squad.  I think the lessons I took away from cheer are applicable to all sorts of different situations in life, especially what it means to be a real friend.

1.)  Everybody needs a cheerleader

It’s tough to be the one cheering for a losing team, but this is the job of a cheerleader.  Whether you are cheering for the champion team or the team embarking on game nine of a losing streak, you don’t have the option of despairing.  A cheerleader needs to be there for the team even when it seems like all hope is lost.

2.)  Learn the Rules of the Game

There is nothing more embarrassing than starting an offense cheer when your team is on defense.  You can’t cheer someone on in a game that you don’t understand, just like you can’t be there for someone if you don’t take the time to understand his or her situation.

3.)  Respect the Players

I’ll be honest.  When you are a cheerleader, a lot of the people you have to cheer for may not be the greatest or nicest people in the world.  But this doesn’t mean you have the right to stop cheering them on, or worse, to hope they lose the game.  Even if you don’t like the people you are stuck cheering for, it is your responsibility to do your utmost to help them achieve their best.

4.)  “Just Have Fun!”

My mom used to say this to my sister and me every year in high school during the stressful week that is cheerleading tryouts.  She said it so we wouldn’t stress out too much and so we would remember it was just one week in the grand scheme of a lifetime, but I think it got to the heart of what cheerleading is supposed to be.  It’s about having fun and keeping a positive attitude that is contagious.

Even if you’ve never held a pair of pom-poms, I think we are all supposed to be cheerleaders in one way or another.

The Letter Project

Mailing Letters

Image by Smithsonian Institution via Flickr

I can’t take credit for the idea for today’s post.  It actually came to me a couple of weeks ago through a letter I got in my mailbox at school…

Going to college so close to home, it’s kind of a rare occurrence that I actually have something in my school mailbox, as most things that are sent to me normally arrive at my home address.  Needless to say, any time I check my mail at school and do have something in there, I get a little excited (and who doesn’t like getting mail?).

So a few weeks ago I checked my mailbox at school and lo and behold there was a small envelope with just my name written on it.  I opened it up to find a really sweet letter from an acquaintance at my school.  There was nothing particularly earth-shattering in the letter, it was just one of those letters that is nice to get from a friend on a random Thursday afternoon for no reason.  And it got me thinking…

Why is it that we don’t take the time to tell the people in our life we appreciate them more often?  Why do we wait until things like weddings or funerals to tell people what they really mean to us when we’re given a chance to every single day?

So I’m giving you all homework:

Write someone in your life a letter telling them how they have made a difference in or an impact on your life.  It doesn’t have to be anything really deep.  It can be as simple as thanking them for a smile or one particular conversation that meant something to you.  Sound uncomfortable?  Good.  🙂 It’s worth breaking out of our comfort zone every once in a while to brighten someone else’s day.

I only have two rules:

  1. You have to write it down (ink and paper, people).  Mail it, if you can.  Emails and text messages are efficient, but this isn’t about efficiency.  There is something about the power of physical letter that can’t be replicated in digital form.
  2. Don’t use this as an opportunity to hit on that girl (or guy) you like.  Choose someone of your same gender.  Make it genuine.

How cool would it be if everyone reading this just took the time to write one letter?  As with most things in life, it starts with you.

Happy writing!

(I would love to hear your feedback from this, too!  Leave a comment or use my contact form to tell me about who you’re writing to, why, and/or reactions you get from your letter.)

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I’d Rather Laugh with the Sinners…

The 1977 Billy Joel song Only the Good Die Young was controversial for its time because many perceived it as anti-Catholic.  Joel himself is quoted as saying that he didn’t so much intend to write a song that was anti-Catholic as he intended to write a song about being “pro-lust”…

Compared to the sexually graphic lyrics in most of the mainstream songs these days, this song from the 70s is hardly even on the register for being inappropriate.  The reason I choose to talk about this song rather than, say, any rap song from the past 3 years, is because I think that Only the Good Die Young hits right on the head the appeal of what all of the other songs are getting at when it says:

“I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.  …The sinners are much more fun.”

It’s an appeal to pleasure, to simple fun…and it’s a pretty typical way of looking at things.  We have in our minds these images of the saints as being dreary old people frozen in icons with their hands perpetually folded in prayer.  In contrast to that, we see the fast-paced lifestyles of our favorite characters in TV shows portrayed as fun and fulfilling.  What are we supposed to think of this?  We naturally deduce that either fun is “evil”, or the moral authority is lying to us, and things like lust aren’t really that bad for us.  I mean, if it makes you feel happy, it can’t be a bad thing, right?

If you think about that question for more than 3 seconds, you should be able to conclude that it’s a bad way to approach making decisions.  The alcoholic finds that getting drunk makes him feel happy, and then he ends up destroying his life for the sake of his “happiness”.   The drug addict, the cheater and the liar all can justify their behavior by the simple fact that their choices make them “happy” because they feel good in the short-term.  We have no ground to stand on for disagreeing with their actions if we’re using the same logic to justify our own behavior when we give into base inclinations like lust.

So why do we have these inclinations at all if they are “bad”?  Why can’t we just give into every desire we have?  If you read my post from last Thursday, then you remember that I said that simply by virtue of the fact that we are human, we are called to be great.  Greatness is not easy.  It requires discipline and hard work.  Like an athlete training for a tournament, we must all train and work hard to be the great men and women we are created to be.

Yes, we do have natural inclinations for things like food, sex, and sleep; and so do animals.  The difference is that animals are subject to these inclinations.  Their life is lived merely in service of them.  The life of a pig is to eat, sleep, and reproduce.  But we are meant for more.  We are meant for greatness, which means being in control of our inclinations, not merely slaves to them.

So to Joel’s “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints”, I quote the 19th century philosopher, John Stuart Mill, and say:

“It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied.”

And PS – if you read the lives of the saints of the Catholic Church, you will meet some of the most fulfilled and authentically happy people in the history of the world.  Freedom from slavery to our base passions means freedom for living the lives we were meant to live.

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Article first published as I’d Rather Laugh With the Sinners… on Technorati.

This May Make You Uncomfortable…

Everyone knows the couch potato doing nothing with his life has a problem. But I want to talk about someone a little closer to home. Let’s talk about that student in high school with mostly A’s and a few B’s:

On the surface, this student looks like she is doing great. Her grades are above average and she is on track to get into a decent four-year college. When she gets in, she’ll continue to do well in her classes, and maybe when she graduates she will use her bachelor’s degree to get a decently paying job to support herself. She’ll move out on her own and, aside from maybe getting a few promotions and pay raises every now and again, for the most part, that will be that.

Isn’t that, more or less, the kind of life we are all working towards?

I write about that girl because for most of my life I think that girl has been me. I’m pretty good at school and I get good grades. It’s not that it comes without hard work; but I don’t mind the work so much because it yields a result that I am comfortable with.

But for me, comfort alone has never really felt like enough. Maybe you can relate…

I think the answer to why it never feels like enough has something to do with the fact that no 5-year-old, when asked what they want to be when they grow up, answers, “I just want to support myself,” or, “I just want to get good grades in school.” Yet for some reason, as we grow older, it becomes more and more acceptable in our minds to settle for this answer. We settle for comfort as opposed to greatness.

It’s not that achieving comfort is easy or that it requires no work. It’s not easy to make it through four years of college, or to stick with a job and get promoted. It takes hard work and dedication. So why is that not enough?

The truth is that deep down, whether we are brave enough to admit it or not, we all have a desire to be great—to somehow use our life to make a difference in the world, and not just “get by”. That desire is not meant to go unanswered. You may not have the most important career in the world, but no matter what you do, that call to greatness never goes away.

Greatness is more difficult than comfort because, in addition to it taking hard work and dedication, greatness mostly means being uncomfortable. It means stepping outside of your normal comfort zone to stand up for something that matters. Whereas the ends of comfort are merely food, sleep, and leisure, greatness is so much more than that. It’s about making sacrifices for and believing in something greater than yourself. We are all called to be great.

So how are you going to answer the call?

“The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness”
-Pope Benedict XVI