Concordia Blogs-Lawrence

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A September Revelation Part II: First World Problems

Although the lights were out, the power outage did enlighten me. We had been without power for barely more than a day. In that time the school was struggling to cope logistically in terms of food (although sandwiches and BBQ were provided quickly), productivity in the administration offices ground to a halt, the lack of communication caused confusion amongst students and faculty alike, and everyone was fairly bored.

We as a society today are totally, completely and undeniably dependant on electricity, and the technology it powers. While we are still able to go out and do things; play games with friends, basketball, go on walks, read… we find ourselves a little bit lost without out phone or laptop.

It got me thinking, this is a real first world problem! Oh no, your iPhone 5c won’t work? Your top of the range Samsung Ultrabook ran out of batteries? Your lights won’t even turn on?! How shocking and horrendous!

At least we still had running water and plumbing! Could you imagine what we would have had to deal with if that had gone down for 26 hours too?!

But wait… aren’t there people living somewhere else in the world right now who don’t have electricity? Aren’t there people living somewhere else in the world right now who don’t have running water or flushing toilets?

As bad as our little episode was, when you put it in perspective, it wasn’t that bad! We often forget how fortunate we are; we take for granted all these things like electricity and running water, our iPhones and tablets and laptops and tv’s and games consoles. At the end of the day, we were without electricity for a little over 24 hours. One single day.

Just imagine what it must have been like for the people in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, when they weren’t just without electricity, but they were without water, plumbing, and most of all their possessions. In some cases, even family members and loved ones were lost.

Their electricity was out for months. They were without running water and toilets for much longer than 24 hours. Those who lost loved ones will have to live with that loss for the rest of their lives.

When you think about it in those terms, we really have nothing to complain about. I had plenty of time to think about it on Thursday/Friday, and I realised how I really have very little right to complain.

We are all incredibly lucky. We have fans to cool us down, internet to speed communication and give us knowledge, phones act as personal assistants that run our lives and connect us to friends and family. We don’t have to walk miles every day to reach clean drinking water. We have toilets when we need to use them.

For me, I’m a little disappointed that I took it all for granted, and that it took 24 hours without just electricity to realise it.

As the people who are going to build the world of tomorrow, let’s not forget what we have. Let’s come together and help out those who need our help, and share with them the luxuries we take for granted every day.

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Power Outage Part I

A September Revelation

 

On Thursday, September 11, at around 11.20 AM, the power went out.

Simultaneously, my fan stopped, my computer monitor went black, my clock stopped telling me the time, the fridge stopped whirring, my speakers went silent, and I was plunged back into medieval times.

At first, I didn’t think much of it. “Oh, just another silly power trip. It’ll be back on in a second.” Seconds passed into minutes, minutes into hours. The wifi took about 30 minutes to stop wifi-ing. Once that happened, I knew that things were going to get real.

My phone battery didn’t look good. It has a tendency to only last a few hours at best on a full charge, but as I looked at the little battery icon, it showed about 33% power.  

Panic.

I still went to my afternoon class. No power outage was going to stop me from being a good student. At 3 pm, right after my class ended, those with a phone received an email telling students (and faculty/staff) that classes and the campus was to be shut down for the day.

Although I was in a bad mood because the power outage caused the caf to close, and so meant I didn’t get lunch, that little message did cheer me up for about 32 seconds, at which point I remembered I was hungry.

With no food in the foreseeable future, my girlfriend outdid herself and ordered me a pizza. Happy Lawrence.

As I sat on my bed inhaling a large hawaiian pizza and reading a book, it came to me that we pathetically, hopelessly reliant on electricity in today’s day and age. Just 6 hours of power outage had shut down the school, stopped me from eating, made me extremely bored, and I’m fairly positive I experienced withdrawal from Netflix.

I ended up spending the rest of the day with a friend. My offline entertainment consisted of a tennis ball and a pack of playing cards. We didn’t play with the tennis ball, and we didn’t know any card games that held out interest for more than an hour. We decided to walk up french hill to see Irvine and Orange County at night, then walked over to the gas station to buy some food. By this time, the power had been out for about 12 hours. 

Since it was dark and my only source of light was a tiny LED flashlight taped to a water bottle, I decided there was nothing better to do so went to bed.

When I awoke, I looked over at my clock. Still blank. Darn. I looked at my watch. 9.30am. The power should be on by now! My roommate told me there was a power station where people could charge their phones outside. Of course, there were about 5 power strips, all of them packed with phones.

With the miserable nature of being without power taking its toll on me, I decided to charge my phone just enough to call the girlfriend, who had already texted me asking me if she wanted me for her to come down and rescue me. Silly question. Yes.

I decided to go to the beach for a couple of hours while she was coming down, and by the time I got back to campus, the power was back. Concordia had been down for about 26 hours.

Our nightmare was over.

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How to Beat Homesickness in College

I didn’t plan on writing this blog; it wasn’t a topic that was on my list. I suppose that’s because I overlooked it, because I’ve been in boarding school since age 11, so am pretty used to being away from home and having to be independent. But during work the other day I had a girl crying because she missed being at home. It’s nothing to be ashamed of; quite often college students have never been away from home for an extended period of time, and the adjustment that needs to be made is quite significant.

There are ways to help yourself overcome the learning curve. For example, developing strong friendships with like-minded people is a great place to start. If you had a routine at home, try to incorporate it into your everyday life at college. So if you used to work out every day at home, make a point to work out every day when you get into college.

College is about learning at the end of the day, so class/studying should take up the bulk of your time. If it isn’t, you’re probably not going to last long! However, that being said, it’s essential you find time for yourself; do what you like to do. If you need time for yourself, take it. If you need time to hang out with friends, take it. If you need time to talk to your parents because you miss them… take it!

Here’s one thing that I would say though; while you do want to make sure you talk to your parents/friends back home when you feel like you need to, try to make sure you don’t call them on a daily basis. I think a lot of people out here are surprised when I tell them I can go for months at a time without talking to my parents; but I’ve learnt over a long period of time to make my own calls and deal with my own problems. That, to me, is what college is all about. Making that transition from having your parents to help you out to dealing with things on your own. It sounds brutish and a little unfeeling, but being able to think decisions through and make your own choices is what being an adult is all about.

So here’s my final piece of advice. If you’re feeling homesick, you’ve probably only been away from home for about 3-4 weeks. After that, it gets easier, so stick it out. Don’t give up and move back home, because you’ll be missing out on one of the most useful lessons college has to offer.

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Surviving College: Time Management

In college, if you decide to get involved in more than just your school work, your time can seem to simply disappear. This isn’t fair; all too often we, as college students, have to choose between a social life, good grades, sleep and extra curricular activities. You may choose 3.

Balancing all of your responsibilities isn’t as hard as it sounds though. During my sophomore year, I was on the swim team (partially, I was injured for most of the season), commuting from off campus without a car, on Senate, LEAD and of course taking classes. I was about as busy as a college student can get. Even though I wasn’t swimming, I still had to spend time trying to rehab to get my injury back under control.

Sophomore year was a big learning curve for me, and it taught me a lot about time management. I learnt the fairly basic rules by trial and error; sometimes things worked out, and sometimes they didn’t. Here’s some tips that I picked up during my insanely busy year.

1. Be wherever you need to be five minutes early. This allows for a buffer time in case something goes wrong, you forget something, or simply get held up. It also means you will rarely be late.

2. Have structure to your day. Know what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it, and then get into a routine.

3. Remain disciplined. It’s no good having a timeline if you’re not going to stick to it, or go and do other things!

4. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Know your limitations; if you have too much going on, drop the least important thing.

5. Find time for yourself. Do what you love to do, whether that be work out, hang out with friends, or simply relaxing in your dorm room. Doing what you enjoy will help you destress, and make you feel better about everything!

6. Don’t procrastinate. Seriously. Get it done. Now.

7. Eat the ugliest frog first. Don’t literally go around eating amphibians, this is a metaphor. Do the thing you really don’t want to do first. That way it’s out of the way, and you don’t have to worry about it anymore.

8. Prioritise. It’s a good idea to write a list of things you need to get done in the morning, and then prioritise that list in order of most important to least important, and the thing you’re not looking forward to further up than the things you are looking forward to.

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Delay Gratification

Over the summer I read a book called “Spartan Up!”, by Spartan Race creator Joe De Sena. It’s a relatively short book, and I managed to finish it fairly quickly. Most of it was simply advertisement for Spartan Race, but there were some very good points in there. The main one that is really worth taking away is the concept of delayed gratification.

The idea behind delayed gratification is that you put off something that you want initially in order to get more later on. De Sena brings up the Cookie Test, which was a test run by a Stanford University researcher. He offered a  number of children 1 cookie to have an eat now, or instead wait 15 minutes and have 2 cookies. He then tracked the children’s progress in life and found that the children who took the 2 cookies ended up generally more successful than the children who took 1 cookie right away.

Now, unfortunately, since you just read about the test, you can’t really perform it to see what you would do! However, you can take the principle behind the test and apply it to your everyday life. How do you go about doing that? It’s simple.

Delaying gratification basically means you put off something that you want and sucking up in order to have extra later down the road. You can apply this to school work as college or high school students; doing that homework before you hang out with your friends will pay dividends down the road when you don’t have to stay up until 2 AM the night before the project is due, desperately trying to finish it on time. If you’re an athlete, staying focused and training will lead to greater success down the road.

My favourite example De Sena brings up in his book is likening the first cookie test of your day to waking up and getting out of bed. He says that decided to “snooze” and stay in bed is taking the cookie now, but waking up and getting out of bed and starting a productive day is taking the 2 cookies later on.

I’ll let you in on a secret; going to bed earlier makes getting up earlier about 15 times easier. If you get up early and start productivity, it helps you remain productive throughout the day and if you get everything you need to get done done, you’re free to relax the rest of the day! And it’ll be so much sweeter because you’ll have nothing hanging over your head, lingering at the back of your mind nagging you and reminding you that you have stuff to do.

So deny the cookie now, and take two later.

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Surviving College: Staying Busy

I’ve decided this semester to do a recurring blog designed to help you survive your first year at college. Or your second, third or fourth if you haven’t worked things out yet.

When I first came to CUI, I had no idea what I was doing. I was a total college noob, as most freshmen are. I came in thinking all I was going to do was go to class and swim practice, and everything else can move forwards without me.

Then, somehow, I got into Fusion; a LEAD group designed to help freshmen get involved in Student Leadership around campus. One thing led to another, and I gradually found myself getting more and more involved around the university. Now it’s my senior year, and I’ve got a pretty nice list of things that I’ve done since being here. It sounds much cooler than it is, but some things I can’t even tell you about. Trust me though, it’s not as exciting as it sounds.

This semester, I’m going all day. My days start at about 6 AM, if I can muster the strength to get out of bed and run. Otherwise, I’ll get up at about 8 and get breakfast. Then I have class, work, more class, then work out again in the afternoon. The evenings are taken up by homework and/or avoiding homework in a desperate attempt to procrastinate.

I hate having lots of free time on my hands. I get bored easily, and being productive is far more rewarding than lazing around in my dorm room. I think that that’s the reason why I got into student leadership, other than the fact I wanted to be a student leader.

Being busy isn’t for everyone; there are definitely downsides. For example, I have limited flexibility. If something comes up, I can’t be impulsive without putting something else off. That’s quite annoying. It’s also exhausting being busy and moving all the time. But the way I see it, that’s what sleep is for.

But what about the up sides? Being busy helps you stay focused and on track. It helps you feel more accomplished and productive. Taking on more tasks helps build you as a person; the skills you have, discovering your passions and weaknesses alike, and I think that that develops you into a more well-rounded person.

It’s the thing I love most about Concordia. When people ask me what it is I like about this place, it isn’t the campus and its nice green grass, or the people and their nice smiley smiles, or the nice small class sizes and accomplished professors. No, instead it’s the opportunities granted to you. Anyone can get involved in anything they want, they just have to want to do it. Sure, some positions are highly contested, so you may not get to do exactly what you want, but that’s all part of the game of life. Better learn here, while you’re in a place designed to help you learn, than out in the scary, big wide world.

If you’re looking at coming to Concordia, or you’re new and looking to get involved, here is a very brief list of things you can do

Student Senate, choir, theater, walk on to a sports team, intramurals, student government, speech and debate, start a club or organisation, join a club or organisation, student leadership, join a bible study, get an on campus job. The list goes on!

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” — Mark Twain

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Coping With a Difficult Decision/Situation

In my last blog, I talked about how to make a difficult decision. Something I didn’t mention was one of my favorite sayings; something my Dad used to tell me when I was growing up. He would say, “every decision has a consequence”. It goes without saying, really, but I think sometimes it’s often overlooked.

In order to deal with the decision you just made, it’s important to always be looking forward. There’s no use always looking backwards, thinking about what could have been. There are literally an infinite directions your life could have gone depending on decisions that you may or may not made or things that happened that either were or weren’t in your control. Looking back to “what could have been” is pointless, because it isn’t. Make sure you recognise this, and it will help you deal with the reality of the situation.

Make the best of the situation you are now in. An example of this would be now that I’m not swimming, I’m working out and/or running every day (except Sundays).  I’m using the time I now have freed up to work, study and do things that make me feel like I’m actually achieving something. This goes hand in hand with moving forward.

Be positive and smile about where you are now. If it’s a decision you made that has landed you were you are now, tell people why you did what you did, and tell them that you think it’s the best decision you could have made. It’s amazing how a positive attitude on one aspect of life can help you be positive about everything, and being positive is essential to happiness!

Let’s assume for a minute that you are being impacted by a decision you did not make. Maybe it was something your parents decided, or a significant other. In this case, you may have been thrown in the deep end, and are in a place you never thought you’d be, and there’s a good chance you don’t like it.

I hate to sound blunt, but you can’t sit around moping about it, and feeling sorry for yourself. You have to find a way to pick yourself up, smile, and move forward. Exercise has been proven to help people feel better by releasing endorphins that make you feel good. If you’re stressed or angry, boxing or some other form of martial arts is especially good at helping you release that stress. Otherwise, my advice would be the same; smile, make the best of your situation and be positive.

I’ll end with this. There was a guy I knew a few years back called Rob. Rob was one of the happiest, positive, genuine and generous people I have ever met. But I didn’t get to know Rob for long, because Rob had terminal lung cancer. Most people would think that if someone has terminal lung cancer, and they know that they will be dead very soon, that person would be sat around in a hospital somewhere feeling sorry for themselves. But that’s exactly the wrong thing to do. Of course, it’s easy for me to say, because I’m not in that situation, and it’s a huge testament of someone’s inner self if they can be in a situation like that and still wake up every day with a smile on their face and just be happy to be alive. But my point is this: for some people, it’s as bad as it can get., but some of them still find a way to make nothing stand in the way of their happiness; they make every moment count, and they always have a smile on their face. I always find it helps to think of people like Rob, because he makes me realise if he can be in a situation like the one he was in and still smile, I have no excuses.

 

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How to Make a Difficult Decision

If you have been reading my previous blogs, you will know by now that I was swimming over the summer. I had a great time, swimming for a coach that I liked with a fun and dedicated team. I also managed to drop time in all my events come the end of the season, in late July.

This summer, I can safely say that after 2 tough years, I finally fell in love with swimming again.

It may come as a surprise to some then, that yesterday I made the decision to retire from competitive swimming. After 13 years, 4 teams and 2 countries, I decided it was time to hang up the goggles and the Speedo, and become a “regular person”.

But if I loved swimming so much this summer, why did I choose to end it?

Well, it was a compilation of things. I don’t have a car, so I couldn’t get to a pool to swim at, so I couldn’t practice. I am also taking 18 units this semester, all of which are upper division history courses, which require between them 3-5 hours of reading per day. I am also working in order to raise money for my post-college life. In all, it was just too much to keep on swimming.

But I’m not sad, or upset, or even angry.

Sure, I’m a little disappointed. I felt like this summer I had found a form of training that was working for me, and I believe that if I had the opportunity to maintain it, limits simply wouldn’t exist. It also feels weird to say to my friends who I haven’t seen since school ended back in May, “No, I’m not swimming any more”. But here’s the thing. My final meet was one of the best meets of my life, up there with the NAIA National Championships my Freshman year. I couldn’t have asked for more from that final meet. I always said that I wanted to go out on a high note, and I couldn’t have done a better job of that. I can walk away with my head held high. I’m also able to look at the future; now I’m training to join the Navy after I graduate.

Making difficult decisions is never easy. It’s never fun. It can keep you up at night. But decisions have to be made, and sooner or later you have to find the courage to make that decision, otherwise you may end up in a totally unfavorable situation altogether.

I found that it helped to talk to someone. If your decision is such that you don’t want to talk to someone you know about it, visit www.blahtherapy.com and talk to an annonymous stranger. It sounds weird, but it can help. Otherwise, talk to your parents, friends, significant other, a therapist, priest or professor. Here at Concordia, we are lucky enough to receive free professional counseling (down at the Wellness Center) if we feel like we need it. Talking to others and getting things out in the open helps unload any burden you may be carrying, and often others will offer advice, which may turn out to be what you needed all along.

Also, take your time to weigh up all the options. It’s important to remain realistic, and I often live by the saying, “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst”. Whatever you do, make sure you have a back up plan. What do you do if everything goes south? If you’re putting all your eggs in one basket, be careful, because if you drop your basket, you’ve lost all your eggs. (How’s that for an analogy?!)

Pray about it. Talk to God, because often you will find that he will guide you to what is right. He may do this by offering other opportunities, unclouding your mind, or closing doors. Watch out for him, because he is working, even if sometimes it seems a little subtle!

At the end of the day though, whatever it is you choose to do, you must be able to walk away with a level of comfortability. You may not like your decision, but you have to be sure it was the right decision to be made, in light of the circumstances. Sometimes, you must choose the lesser of two evils.

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The Rewards of Sharing Passion

Over the summer, I got the privilege of coaching a group of 19 9-10 year olds and helping them start their own swimming careers. The job wasn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be, and I was hindered by the fact that some swimmers were clearly very new to swimming, while others were very comfortable and competent in the water.

Over the three months, all of my swimmers improved. But I’m not here to tell you about what I did to make these kids improve, as that’s really not important. What’s important to me isn’t whether or not these kids I had improved and got faster, what was important to me was them learning and understanding my passion for the sport, and hopefully getting them started in one of the most rewarding sports out there.

I would like to think that of the 19 kids, at least half of them decided to join the club I was coaching for and kick-start their new swimming careers (I am still awaiting to find out total numbers on how many transitioned across). To be honest, even if just 1 of those kids went away from the summer program with a newly found love for swimming, I would be happy.

It’s strange how good it feels to help someone else. It feels even better to know that you managed to inspire others and instill in them the passion you have for something you love. There’s something about opening doors for people, presenting new opportunities and teaching new skills that I find genuinely rewarding.

Now, granted, I was working with kids who have still got to experience much of the world and what it has to offer, and all of them have yet to make their own decisions in life (as currently, their parents should be controlling what they do and don’t do at age 9 or 10). But in the past I’ve helped a whole range of people, from youngsters, to teenagers, to the elderly grandma who’s fighting arthritis. The pleasures I found in helping them were the same. I walked away from each encounter thinking, “I just helped someone.” Everytime I think that, there’s a smile on my face.

Whether you are a college Freshman, high school senior, or something other, I strongly recommend you share your passions with others who seek help, guidance, or simply desire to experience something new. Everyone has something that they love, whether it be a certain subject in school, a sport, a hobby or anything else, and the chances are, there’s someone out there who would like to know more about what it is you love the most. So bring them in, embrace their curiosity and enlighten them.

You never know, you might change someone’s life!

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Blog 2: Return of the Blog

Well, I’m back.

It’s been a long summer, it’s been a mostly boring summer, but it was a good summer.

Looking back, all I really did was swim, work out in the gym, and do a little bit of coaching. I also got to spend some time with my girlfriend, Kristina (who will likely feature in some of the blogs to come), which was something I enjoyed much more than usual because I didn’t see her as frequently as I did when I was at school. I guess you could say, I missed her. (Awwww).

Like I said, over the summer I did get the opportunity to continue on with my swimming. I had a great time in the pool, swimming with a relatively local club team called ORCA (Orange Regional Competitive Aquatics), under coach Mark Tierney. With him I managed to score best times in all 4 of my events that I did at the Sectional Championships in California/Nevada at the end of July. If that’s my last ever swim meet, which it could be, at least I would be going out on a high.

Why could it be my last ever swim meet? Well, I don’t want it to be. Honestly, I enjoy swimming, even though there are many downsides (that include but are not limited to: smelling like chlorine, disobedient hair, early mornings, endless, boring laps following a black line, butterfly, cold water, getting wet), swimming is a challenge that I’ve only just realised I enjoy taking on. Unfortunately, because I graduate in December (excited cheering), I will not be swimming with Concordia this semester. However, graduating in December requires me to take 18 units this semester, all of which are history classes.

The average history student will tell you that just a single history class can require wading through more paper than the average Redwood tree can produce. 6 history classes then, seems a little bit like suicide. And I think that although it means I get to graduate in December (more excited cheering), come week 7 or 8, you may notice that my tone becomes a little less upbeat and more whiney as I complain about Plato and drivel on about “why did he have to write that stupid book that’s causing me so much misery?”

It’s funny that I’m actually very glad to be back. I didn’t think I would be, because doing nothing over summer sounds very exciting after 2 hard semesters that were jam packed with things to do. Changes in my life mean I’m no longer a student-athlete, so will be able to focus much more on being “just a student” and my classes. I know it’s only day 3, but I feel I’m off to a strong start. As they say, “begin as you mean to go on!”