Whirlwinds, Forest Fires, Comets

The following is an excerpt from the novel Boy’s Life. I have not yet read it, but I will after reading and being moved by the following passages.

See, this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up, for God’s sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they’d allowed to wither in themselves.

After you go so far away from it, though, you can’t really get it back. You can have seconds of it. Just seconds of knowing and remembering. When people get weepy at movies, it’s because in that dark theater the golden pool of magic is touched, just briefly. Then they come out into the hard sun of logic and reason again and it dries up, and they’re left feeling a little heartsad and not knowing why. When a song stirs a memory, when motes of dust turning in a shaft of light takes your attention from the world, when you listen to a train passing on a track at night in the distance and wonder where it might be going, you step beyond who you are and where you are. For the briefest of instants, you have stepped into the magic realm.

The truth of life is that every year we get farther away from the essence that is born within us. We get shouldered with burdens, some of them good, some of them not so good. Things happen to us. Loved ones die. People get in wrecks and get crippled. People lose their way, for one reason or another. It’s not hard to do, in this world of crazy mazes. Life itself does its best to take that memory of magic away from us. You don’t know it’s happening until one day you feel you’ve lost something but you’re not sure what it is. It’s like smiling at a pretty girl and she calls you “sir.” It just happens.

-Robert McCammon

The Importance of Keystone Habits

Habits create the foundation of our lives and shape who we are. They either lead us to success or detract us from it.

Some habits, however, are considered more important than others. They have the ability to start a chain reaction of other good habits. They influence other actions and routines such as how we sleep, eat, live, and think.

These habits are aptly called “keystone habits,” because they lock all the other habits in place.

It’s clear upon reflection that for me, exercise is my keystone habit.

I’ve noticed that following workouts, I eat more (I’m trying to gain muscle), eat healthier, sleep better, feel calmer, and am even more productive. Everything else seems to fall into place easier. On days where I don’t workout, or don’t exercise at all for multiple days in a row, I feel sluggish, eat terribly, and feel like my head is clouded with fog.

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Advice to High School Students: Take a Gap Year

My sister is in her final year of high school and is applying for colleges right now. I’ve thought about what kind of advice I’d give to her, or what I would tell myself at 18.

I’d say it boils down to just one thing:

Delay your college acceptance, and take a gap year.

I didn’t do it myself, but it’s what I would do knowing what I know now.

When I was in my last year of high school, I was eager to leave. I was sick of studying, excited at the prospect of living by myself in a big city, and desperately wanted to meet new people. However, I thought attending college immediately after was the only option. It was just what you do after high school. I had heard of a gap year before, sure, but I wasn’t aware of anyone who had actually done it.

I also had a deep fear of missing out. All my friends were headed straight to college, and much of our conversation that year revolved around who got in where, which classes we were going to take, and how cute the girls would be at various schools. Not going to college would mean that I would be left behind by my friends, that I’d graduate a year later, and that everyone in my classes would be younger than me. These thoughts further prevented me from considering any other option but to go to college right away.

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Why the “College Grads Earn More” Statistic is Flawed

There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

It’s a statistic everyone has heard of at some point in their life: college graduates earn more than high school graduates. A Google search of the phrase ‘college grads earn more’ leads to over 1 billion hits. Numerous studies have been conducted, and they all seem to reach the same conclusion. The most recent study as of writing this is from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, which alleges that college graduates earn $800,000 more in their lifetime than high school graduates. The study does come with a caveat, though. College grads won’t see the fruits of their labour until age 40 – when their student loans are paid off and they begin to amass enough work experience that their earnings elevate above their high-school grad peers.

I had some free time, so I decided to actually take a closer look. There are a number of issues I have with this study.

1. Most apparent, the study was conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. This is an institution that literally makes its money by issuing student loans, which is over a $1 trillion market. It would be naive to believe that the Fed would ever tell prospective college students not to take out student loans. Similarly, I’ve found that other studies of this nature are almost always presented by an institution that benefits from kids going to college. A 2011 report from Georgetown University titled “The College Payoff” proclaims that college is indeed worth the payoff. But again, this is a university that is issuing the study. It’s akin to an alcoholic citing the numerous benefits of drinking alcohol. There is an enormous bias before these studies are even conducted. It is very easy to manipulate numbers in a way that presents a certain side of a story, and it’s evident some of this was at play when you look at the models, as I explain below.

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