When you’re five, you believe in fairies and dragons, pirates and ghosts, invisible friends and Santa Clause. The days before you are spotless pages, pleading for you to spill vivacious colors of adventure and thrill as you dance across them. Your life exists in two separate realms: the world of reality and the world of make believe, the latter usually dominating the former. You’re too young, too jazzed by the possibility and hope that these imaginary, self-fashioned entities truly exist to think otherwise. There is no time to be rational; you’re too busy being a superhero in never land. When you’re five, everything is possible because everything is believable.
When you’re in high school, make believe is a lost art. You mock those few souls who still hang on to the glimmer of hope that Santa really does exist. It feels hasty to believe in anything beyond the tangible, so you forget the days of dress up and pirates and succumb to the ways of high school conduct. Your sense of who you are, or who you thought you were, becomes hazy and tainted at the mercy of what other people say about you. Much of what you believe comes from a place of obligation: your parents bring you to church where you’re told to believe in God; you’re friends bring you to a party where you’re told “everyone’s doing it,” so you believe them; you volunteer to stack canned goods at the local food bank, but only because you’re told it will increase your chances of being accepted to college. Listen, comply, listen, comply – the cycle continues and you rarely second guess the arbitrariness of it all. And the thing is, you are certain that what you believe, or rather what you have been convinced to believe, has merit. All these different worlds you play hopscotch between begin to muffle your awareness on belief. Strip away what everyone else vies for you to stand by, and what’s left? What is it that you believe, not what your brother or sister, your parents, your best friend, or the kid down the block you wish you could be believes. You begin to juggle these sorts of questions in this chapter of belief making. And you wonder how the world of imagination you were once so familiar with, the world you could manipulate and change according to your wishes, felt more believable than the world you’re currently stuck in.
When you leave home, you learn that what you thought you believed about yourself, the world, and so forth may not be what you believe at all. You are no longer surrounded by people who have known you through those years of make-belief and belief making, so you must reevaluate what you and you alone believe. And this is no simple task. In fact, it’s a task that you and I may never complete, for there is always new knowledge to stack upon the old, new truths to replace misguided ones, and new wisdom to help retain what you truly believe.
I think the beauty of moving away from home is this wonderful journey we get to embark on, one that’s inimitable and unlike anybody else’s; it’s all yours for exploring. We get to rediscover truth apart from what others have inflicted upon us since we were born. In college, we can ask the new, fresh faces we now live in community with what their past has lead them to believe; we can read books upon books written by overly-intelligent dead people who seemed to have a pretty solid grasp on what they believed and why they believed it; we can go where we want, try what we like, watch what we may, all the while constructing a sharper idea of what makes sense to us in this often messy, perplexing world.
Mark Edmundson, author and professor of literature at the University of Virginia, says in his essay “Who Are You And What Are You Doing Here:” “You may be all that the good people who raised you say you are; you may want all they have shown you is worth and wanting; you may be someone who is truly your father’s son or your mothers daughter. But then again, you may not be.” (Best American Essays 2012, p.99). To some of you, this statement may be a little haunting. To others (myself included), it’s some of the most freeing words to drink in and let quench our thirst for truth. I don’t think Edmundson is saying that everything you’ve come to believe is wrong, but rather suggesting that your little boat of belief could be rocked, and you may have to be willing to get a little wet.
I think too often we want to believe we have it all together, and this can make for a bumpy, aggressive path as you pursue clarity in what you believe. Without realizing it, we build up walls of resistance to other ways of approaching life simply because we can’t get over the idea of being wrong ourselves. Moving away from home, away from familiarity into a Narnia-like world where new discoveries, new adventures, essentially new everything exists, poses an opportunity to destroy these walls, making room for a fresh foundation, or perhaps to just get rid of some rotting pieces. By moving away, we get to redefine belief.
THIS I BELIEVE: A lifelong discovery
Indie artists Sleeping At Last wrote a song called “emphasis,” in which they gracefully explicate on my above ideas on redefining belief: “But the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard/ Is that I don’t have to have the answers,/ Just a little light to call my own.”
I’m not sure there ever comes a point in life where you are 100%, without a doubt, certain that what you believe is right. We don’t have all the answers, and we shouldn’t bank on ever having them. But that doesn’t mean we are to give up believing in and standing by the truths that bring us joy, that allow for hope, and that give us life. What we come to believe reveals what lays at the core of our being; it’s that “little light to call our own.”
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Because I believe in belief, I decided to highlight the beliefs of a number of college students at the University of Sioux Falls. Before you graduate, students are required to take two semesters of Writing & Intellectual Traditions. One of the requirements for part II of the course is known as the Capstone Project. Basically, the capstone is an opportunity for students to reflect on what they have come to believe as an individual. Beliefs vary in gravity. You may choose to write about why you believe in Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups or going to the movies or fantasy football leagues. On the contrary, you can choose to express your belief on attending church or volunteering in the community or embracing change; where you run with the assignment is largely up to you. Sometimes, the most simple in essence beliefs are those that reveal the most about a person.
I hope you enjoy what these individuals have to say about what’s important to them, and what their journey has led them to believe.
Eighteen years old, eighteen birthdays, eighteen times my parents have snuck into my room in the early hours of the morning, on the 17th of February, to smear butter on my nose. Yes, eighteen times my nose has been buttered. Nose buttering? How strange! Why on earth would my parents put butter on my face, especially on my birthday? Well to help me slide through another year of course! Currently I am sliding through my nineteenth year of life so I would say that this family tradition is working pretty well. The buttering of one’s nose on one’s birthday started with my great grandpa buttering my grandpa’s nose, then my grandpa buttering the noses of my mom and her siblings, and now my mom and dad buttering my nose along with my siblings. Family traditions, such as this one, are passed down from generation to generation and tie each to the next. Family traditions provide fun for families and promote bonding; they are something to look forward to, especially on holidays and special occasions. As life happens and I grow up, I realize the importance of these family traditions. They are more than just something silly and fun to do, but they are part of my family’s identity. My nose being buttered has been something I can count on every year. No matter what has happened in that past year, what is currently going on, or what the next year has in store, on February 17th my nose gets buttered.
Sitting on the couch at age 13 listening to my parents tell me that they would soon begin the divorce process will forever be a day of infamy in my life. I could not understand why God was putting my family through these hard struggles and why they couldn’t just be together. This moment in my life has shaped the way I view events that take place day in and day out whether positive or negative. I believe that everything happens for a reason.
I do not believe in coincidence, luck, or karma. Everything happens for a reason that leads us to a divine plan that He has created for us. My belief has forced me to ask some questions and find some hope in a future that is unknown because I can put my faith and trust in the Creator. Circumstances cannot be controlled. The only aspect of my life that I have control over is how hard I work at life and how I respond to the circumstances given to me. Attitude and effort and no more than that. I put complete trust that through every situation God has a plan with the best intentions for me. “For I know the plans that I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
4-H. It is just two small characters to many, but to me, it is the reason I have come out of my shell. When I started 4-H in the 4th grade, I was a small, quiet girl. I didn’t say much and I didn’t like speaking in front of crowds. I didn’t like being in charge of anything. After being in 4-H for five years, I started becoming more involved. Before, all I would do is bring one or two crafts to the fair. When I hit my sophomore year of high school, I joined the County Council, which is the next step in 4-H. The County Council puts on workshops all over the county and helps at the fair. I learned to be the leader of all the workshops. Kids much younger than me were looking up to me. They trusted me as their leader. I was coming out of my shell. My senior year, I became the person I am today. I met my friends in 4-H and we hung out constantly. We were always doing some crazy, new thing. Together, nothing could stop us. We became the “faces” to the Lyon County 4-H. If Lyon County 4-H needed to be represented, we would be right there to step up to the job. Because of 4-H I have stepped out of my shell and become a leader.
I believe in the importance of a smile.
It is something that we are all capable of doing, but the question is, are we willing to smile even when times get rough? A smile goes a long way. It can brighten our own day, or even the day of someone we don’t know. Not only can a smile brighten a day, it is also capable of hiding a thousand problems.
From personal experience I find this statement to be true. A few days before I left home for college my family found out that my grandfather had been diagnosed with stage three colon cancer. This was very difficult to wrap my head around because my grandfather has always been an important part of my life. He is the reason I participate in sports, and one of the main reasons why I am still attending school. When preseason for soccer began, I placed a smile on my face to show the girls that I was ready for the season, but the constant thought and worry of my grandpa never left my mind.
As the season continued, the thoughts never left. My teammates were unaware of the battles I was facing every day until I was finally defeated. I cried out for their prayers and they began to comfort me with kind words and their smiles lightened my day. A smile can go a long way, from hiding ones emotions to brightening the day of someone we may not know.
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” –Plato
Music is an extraordinary sound. There is no silence in music. It makes you move, feel the beat and listen to the words. Music isn’t just a dance party; it is the movement of self… expressing yourself while listening. Through lyrics, music speaks to us and is considered a universal language.
Whether you are old, young, male or female, you engage in music. From country to hip-hop music, everyone listens together, breaking through the silence.
Music isn’t just a sound. It ranges from vocabulary to statements. Music today has became much more expressive and tends to make a difference… especially for the younger generation. We listen to music looking for advice, guidance, or happiness. It can change a mood very quickly and dramatically. Some music can make you cry, laugh and think, drawing you into a deep focus of self-awareness.
“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”
In life, I believe that how you interact and are taught things by your family will mold the person that you become. This is illustrated by the fact that we all share common characteristics with our families. This isn’t something that we get to decide, it is just something that occurs after being involved in the environment for so long and like those characteristics or not, we share them. For example, my family is loud; very over dramatic and over reacts most of the time. Since this is the type of surroundings in which I have grown up in, this is what I have developed into. On the other hand, we are also loving, caring, and would do anything for each other.
Your family takes off your sharp edges. Growing up I was selfish, my family changed that. It was unnatural for me to think of anyone beyond myself. My family instilled in me that I was wrong for conceiving things that way and helped me change that about myself and even reminded me of these new teachings when I would begin to fall back. Sometimes I would fight this, but because they love me they got through to me the importance of the change. Overall, family tests our patience. Being a family is hard, it’s messy and not always easy, but being a member of a family and having that group to fall back on is truly a blessing.
I believe in having an escape list.
In 2008, I was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. With the help of counseling and medication, I have been successful with managing these diagnoses. My counselor recommended that I make a list of things that would help me escape from anxiety or times of panic. I made a list of five things that always help me feel better, and having this list on paper has been very helpful as different situations have come into my life that are induce stress.
Life is full of stressful situations. As I get mature, I have learned to cope with obstacles. It seems as though there are always issues that cause worry. When the truly rough stuff comes around, I pull out my list. Having five guaranteed happiness boosters written down on paper, which was written when I could see the positive has helped me countess time rather than resorting to destructive coping options.
For example, when my mind continues to spin with worst case scenarios, fears, worries, and the “what ifs” of life, I do not automatically seek a sleeping pill to escape. Instead, I light a candle and insert one of my home yoga DVDs. Or, instead of going out and drinking after a difficult shift at work, a bad grade, or a plain bad day, I make a cup of hot tea and curl up with an enjoyable, non-academic book and give myself a break in a healthy way. Life sucks sometimes, but I have my list to help me when I need some help.
I have tried to encourage family, friends, and coworkers to educate themselves before casting any judges. Perhaps they will one day go through something themselves. If they do, I will be there for them, encouraging them to make their own escape list.
I believe in heroism.
One of my first memories I have is when I was a little tyke, and I was pulling my even littler sister along in a wagon at a family gathering by a lake. I was on a hill with a pretty good decline, and my sister and I fell over into the lake. Only being around the age of six (give or take a year) and my sister two years younger than me, we did not know how to swim. Luckily, my dad had been watching us and immediately swooped in and pulled us out of the lake. I realized to two things after that moment: admiration of my dad being like superman, and hating my inability to help my sister or myself… so I had resolved from a young age that I would become like my and become a hero.
A person does not just become a hero; the person must take on a difficult task or commit to an action that seemingly changes the life of one or many people.
Today, I am not out looking for trouble while wearing a cape and fighting crime, but helping another person is never out of reach.
I believe that parents’ effect on children in their home life can lead to happiness. Parent relations have a great influence on children. A child who is not happy with their home life will have trouble being satisfied when he or she grows up as well. A stable mother-father relationship shows children what they will want to find in a relationship of their own when they get older to be happy. The child learns from watching his or her parents interact, which will inevitably be how they will interact with their spouse when married. A healthy mother-father relationship will promote the child to find a spouse that they can achieve the same type of relationship with. A healthy relationship will promote happiness. A child will see how happy his or her mother and father are and urge toward that same happiness. Someone cannot have a healthy marital relationship without being happy. If one or both of the spouses is unhappy it will result in divorce. The person trying to find a relationship that will last and lead to marriage should take their time at it. It should not be rushed or forced. The person really needs to analyze if they are really happy in the current relationship or if there are things that need to be changed to achieve the full potential of happiness he or she has envisioned.
Happy relationships as a child will lead to happy relationships as an adult.
“You are never too old for Disney,” is one of the truest sayings I have ever heard. I think many people believe there is an age limit on when you should stop watching Disney, but in my opinion and many others, you are never too old. Disney has not just given children big dreams but also has given adults big dreams. A child at heart means to me, that even those who are business men, a lawyer, etc. a person can still be a little child and enjoy getting away from the toughness and negativity of reality and feel invincible.
Disney movies are fun and bring out the child in us, and the imagination we once had. Even when we are old, we can still be a child at heart, without trying to feel made fun of or a loser for watching them. I want to make a person feel young again, through the best eyes that is Disney.
Disney movies let me be a young kid again; it’s an escape from reality. Going through a hard day, it makes me feel better. Even Walt Disney as an old man loved children’s movies. Some people will say they are childish and not meant for adults. When in reality, a lot of the humor is more for adults than children. Now I watch the movies and get the humor, and can still be a child at heart.
I believe that families should support each other. Just as the Greek god Atlas holds up the world, families hold each other up. No matter what, through sports, school, work, or church, families should be there for support. When a family member makes a bad decision, the rest of them still need to be there, whether it be to back them up or to help them figure out what he or she needs to do to fix the problem created.
A family is a team. Teams must work together. They must support what the others are doing and be there to capitalize on things that the others have done well. Not only are families the team, but they are also the cheering section. So much support comes from family members just being on the sideline. It is always good to know that someone is there to cheer and support. That lets a person know there is someone who cares. My family has always supported me in my athletics and would drop everything they are doing to drive across the country to cheer me on.
It is not all about athletics. Decisions with relationships and jobs need support as well. If a person supports his family, there is a good chance his family will be there for him the next time he needs some support. We do not want to live our lives feeling alone. We need the support of a loving family.
I believe in the power of a smile and that it is a human interaction that keeps us united and healthy. I have worked with people since I got my first job as a waitress when I was 15, from then on I worked at Subway, chiropractor’s office, and two banks, currently at one now. I have learned to always greet people with a smile no matter what kind of day you are having or how rude the customer may be to me. There was a customer, when I was working at Subway, who was being very picky and rude with me while I was making their sandwich. I tried to keep a smile and be patient, but in the end it was hard. When the customer left and the next came up, she saw how rude the other one was to me. She smiled at me and made friendly conversation during the line, which made me smile. At the end I thanked her for coming; after she had left I realized how much better she made me feel about my day. Today I smile at all my customers; because they might just be having a bad day and maybe my smile can brighten it up for them, making them smile and passing it along as their day goes.
I believe everyone needs a day off. The Bible states that the seventh day was a day of rest. It doesn’t necessarily have to be Sunday for everyone because that wouldn’t work; we still need certain places to be open so we can’t all have the same day. But for me and my family Sunday is our day of rest. The day off really rejuvenates you and gets you ready for your upcoming week, and for me it provides me with more family time. My job asked me to work Sundays when I first started working even though I stated on my application that I couldn’t do Sundays. Since I was new there they made me. I did it for a while but I just got burned out of everything really easily. I didn’t have my one set day to just relax and prepare for the next week. After a couple of months I finally told them I couldn’t do Sundays anymore because it was cutting into family time. Now I get my day off.
My whole life, my mother has been in the Air Force. She traveled around the world as a flight nurse and was often gone from home. In the year of 2010, my mother was sent on her second deployment to Afghanistan. Where she was stationed, they had a Bazaar that sold local Afghan treasures. Every Sunday my mother was at the Bazaar. It was a fun pass time on that base until it exploded in a suicide bombing one Sunday afternoon. My mother went every Sunday, at the same time every week, and it was at that time the Afghan soldier went to the Bazaar with a bomb strapped to him and blew himself up. Later that day I found out, my mother was not there. The only Sunday in nine months my mother was not at the Bazaar, it exploded, killing twenty people. My mother told me she had a very strong feeling to work out instead. That day I almost lost my mother, one of the most closest people to my heart.
I learned after that dreadful day to never take anything for granted. Life is too short and you should spend that time expressing to those you love how much you truly care about them. It is those you care about that make your short life worth living.
Many people don’t realize the impact seatbelts can have on one’s life if they are involved in an accident. I have come to realize this through the loss of a loved one that was involved in a car accident and was not wearing her seatbelt. Stina was a close friend of mine who left this world too early at the age of sixteen. She was the type of person who was full of joy, love, and lived life to the fullest. She would always wear her seatbelt when she drove, except for one day when she was running late to get to a basketball scrimmage. Not more than a mile from her home was Stina found and was involved in a one car roll over.
November 26, 2008 is a day that I won’t forget because I lost one of my dear friends that day. Seatbelts can save you from having your body thrown in the vehicle around or going through the windshield. Not only are you saving your own life by wearing your seatbelt, but you are also saving the heartache of friends and family if something were to happen to you and you didn’t have it on. A seatbelt can reduce the chance of an injury by 50% if you are involved in an accident and is proven to have a higher chance of survival as well. This is why I believe in wearing a seatbelt when you are in a vehicle.