Lessons I’ve Learned

A Government Of the People, By the People, and For the People

by Ariana Sadoughi. 0 Comments

When I went to the MVA this past October I really was only expecting to leave with my driver’s license. After passing my test (and reinforcing my belief that traditional academic tests are more of my forte!) I eagerly completed the paperwork that would award me with what I considered to be my ticket to freedom. However, the real step for me across the imaginary line separating childhood from adulthood came that day when the MVA employee asked me if I wanted to register to vote.   For ... read more

The Monster Named “Expectations”

by Ariana Sadoughi. 0 Comments

Forest Gump’s mother once said “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.” For teachers, the first day of school holds the same amount of uncertainty. They could walk into their classroom and find a class full of attentive and well-behaved students. They could also – just as easily - be given a class full of rascals who just want to throw around paper airplanes. In this game of chance, teachers are taking a gamble on their sanity for the next semester. However, ... read more

The Touch of Time

by Ariana Sadoughi. 0 Comments

There are few people who wouldn’t like to sit down with a steaming cup of hot chocolate and settle in with friends and family to hear a good story. Perhaps those stragglers would be enticed to enter the circle if they knew that they were about to hear a tale about themselves. There is definitely something special about such a personal story-time! I will admit that I find great excitement in having past experiences recounted to me by my parents and other relatives. Some special moments from early ... read more

Beyond the paper

by Ariana Sadoughi. 0 Comments

On the first day of school it is common to walk into each of your classes and have each of your teachers conduct almost identical “getting to know you activities.” Among very basic trivia facts about yourself, they might ask to know your favorite color, candy, or football team. Some, who are more creative, could possibly inquire as to who your greatest influence is or what you would consider to be your greatest accomplishment. This year, a new question was thrown into the mix and while it may seem quite silly, I couldn’t help but mull it over for a few days after hastily writing down an answer during class. The offender? “If you could have lunch with any person, real or fictitious, who would you choose?”

Most of my peers quickly jotted down the name of their celebrity crush and moved on. However, for some strange reason I was not able to continue the survey without coming up with an acceptable answer. I almost veered towards choosing Ryan Sheckler, then shied away and wrote down “Barack Obama.” I thought about the Pope, Michio Kaku, and Eminem. I don’t remember whose name eventually ended up on my paper, but I do know that I wasn’t completely satisfied with my answer. Considering the fact that the activity wasn’t a big deal at all, and my answer to this one question wasn’t determining my grade in the class, I found it interesting how much it bothered me that I couldn’t come up with a solid response.

Although I wasn’t aware of it at the time, deep inside I already knew exactly who I would drop everything for if it meant I could spend quality time with them. Unfortunately, this person has never actually walked this earth, and they reside among the pages of my favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. I’ve never been so drawn to a character, or been so upset by the fact that fiction is simply fiction. While he may not be alive and breathing, in my eyes, Atticus Finch is one of the most flawless, well-rounded people to ever be.

I had never thought that the existence of a “perfect person” was even a possibility until I first read this text. It only took a few pages of reading for me to become infatuated with the character and essence of Atticus. Working as an attorney in a small town in Alabama during the Great Depression, he is also a single father of two young children. He possesses a unique color-blindness for the time-period and is well-known around town for his respectability, integrity, and selflessness. He comes across as a bottomless-well of information and always keeps his cool even in the most emotional of situations. As a father, he works to be didactic and a role model, as he demonstrates how one should act with propriety and modesty.

Perhaps what draws me most to his character is his outlook on life and the human being. No matter how horrible of a person one may appear to be, Atticus treats them as royally as he would treat a king. He sees each and every person as one who deserves his respect and would never speak poorly about someone. Atticus chooses to turn a blind-eye to the more negative characteristics of the people around him, recognizing them as unfortunate traits that are just part of the package of being human. Instead, performing a feat that most would not have success in, he defines people by only their positive attributes. While others view Atticus as quasi-hero, he looks in the mirror and sees an ordinary man.

It is possible that my opinion of Atticus has been swayed because of the telling of this story from his daughter Scout’s point of view. As an innocent child, she views her father with complete and utter adoration, maybe leaving the reader in the dark to any flaws that he may have. Regardless, the character of Atticus Finch is one that has me completely enchanted.

While I will never be able to meet Atticus, I believe that after a couple thorough readings of To Kill a Mockingbird his being has made a profound influence on me. Whenever I think about Atticus I feel a great push to strive to be the best person that I can be. He reminds me to be kind and fair toward all and to have a positive outlook on life. I feel encouraged to never stop being a student, a teacher, and a contributing member to society. I can only hope that he won’t escape my mind next year when my teacher asks me who I would most like to dine with.

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Ariana Sadoughi writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.

An Opinion… for Forever?

by Ariana Sadoughi. 0 Comments

After successfully doing some summertime cleaning, I came across some old photos and soon afterwards, I found myself reminiscing over some memories that I had made while at summer camp, just a few short years ago. As a middle school student, I remember feeling very mature to be away from home and my parents, even though I was essentially under constant watch of camp counselors, equating to the same amount of supervision. I can still remember having fun with my friends, enjoying ourselves as we canoed, went swimming, and played kickball. However, more than anything, I will never be able to forget a conversation that one of the counselors had with the group of campers on the first day of camp.

Per usual, upon receiving a new group of kids to watch, and not having a single clue as to how they would act – if they would be troublemakers, if they would just do as they pleased without regard to others – the counselors talked about camp rules in order to be firm from the start. A couple of those included being respectful to adults and other campers, asking for permission before leaving an activity to go somewhere else such as the bathroom, and other basic guidelines. Before we finished such a conversation, one of the counselors made a note to add “First impressions are created in thirty seconds. I already have a particular feeling about each one of you, positive or negative.”

Regardless of if thirty seconds is an accurate amount of time to be assigned to the speed of which we make judgments of people, I do believe that we are very quick to categorize people and to decide certain things about them. Perhaps it is not intentional but it seems that we are wired to take in what we can physically see of people – how they maintain their appearance, as well as their body language – and to formulate an opinion of them based on purely qualitative data. Ever since we have been children, the mantra “Don’t judge a book by its cover” has been ingrained into our heads, yet we can’t help but to do exactly that.

Now, this can be applied in many different situations and circumstances. A prime, and painfully obvious, example would be to consider stereotypes; we already have preconceived ideas about certain groups of people such as homeless people, homosexuals, people with (or without) a lot of money, or college students. Each group has a stigma associated with them and whether we realize it or not, immediately once we recognize that someone belongs to a certain group, we stick a label on them. Just as easily as we will label our leftovers as we put them into the freezer, we take an outward appearance or a general piece of knowledge that we know of someone, and use it to craft a whole personality and lifestyle of a possible stranger. Admitting, stereotypes can be true, but other times they can be very misleading.

Probably one of the most meaningful applications to the “first impression” idea could be brought to the first day of school. Among my friends, my peers, and I, I would say that it is very commonplace for students to dress their best and try to put their best foot forward when they come back to school. Clearly, this extreme effort can be attributed to an attempt to impress other classmates and show exactly what type of person that they are. Inwardly, we realize that first impressions really are important, especially among teenagers, I might add. We know that it is possible that we might not get to speak with each one of our classmates within the first thirty seconds that they will see us, and that we have to make a positive image for ourselves by putting on the costume of the person that we would want others to see us as.

Keeping this in mind, more recently, I have been finding that it is so extremely difficult to change your opinion of someone after you have initially created one. This being said, I would say that there have been certain occasions in which I have come to think differently of someone, in comparison to what my first impression cued me to think of them. In fact, in a certain instance or two, someone that has given me a rather bad first impression has ended up becoming one of my closest friends. However, in proportion to all of the people that I have met in my lifetime, I would say that this percentage of people is rather small.

But why are we so adamant and steadfast to maintain our opinions regarding an issue, or a person, even if such a change should be noted? What if a person doesn’t deserve to be elevated to such a level of admiration? What if a new study has proven that the beliefs that you have held so true to yourself are not as true as they seem?

We certainly are all entitled to our thoughts and ideas; we shouldn’t feel limited by our own person to not feel as we think we truly should. Why is it so difficult to flip the switch?

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Ariana Sadoughi writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.

Taking a shot in the dark

by Ariana Sadoughi. 0 Comments

Often times when we let our minds relax we visualize ourselves in places where we have achieved our most unimaginable goals. We see ourselves doing things that we’ve never even considered to be a possibility; something that we could never fathom being part of our reality. After a while, however, we dismiss our thoughts and allow ourselves to limit our unbound abilities. We neglect the fact that success comes to those who push themselves and who aren’t intimidated by the prospect of hard work, dedication, and sometimes even failure.

In my opinion, the idea of not being successful right from the start is really what stands between us and achieving our goals. We become scared that failure will define who we are. Really, failure is just a pin to wear on our sweater to show off that we attempted something that was difficult, and although it wasn’t a huge success, it shows that we tried. We made it farther than those who couldn’t even start their journey because, as one of my favorite quotes puts it, they were “afraid to lose sight of the shore.” Venturing into the unknown is scary but after a few missteps one can learn how to accept challenges with confidence.

I say all of this because in the past few months, and continuing into the present, I have been trying to push myself out of my comfort zone. I had been feeling like I was getting too comfortable with where I was and that I should be expecting more out of myself. I was becoming settled in my ways and I wasn’t really looking for new ways to challenge myself, nor was such an idea very appealing to me. It seemed like a big effort, perhaps one that I couldn’t see myself coming out on the top with.

Making the choice to end such monotony, with the support of my parents, teachers, and friends, I decided to run for the position of the Frederick County Public Schools Student Member of the Board of Education. I had to complete an application, create a platform, and participate in televised Town Hall and Candidate Forums.

It was exciting to take part in such a unique opportunity but I was equally as nervous. At times I experienced doubt. I was running against four other students who not only were a year older than I but were extremely intelligent and informed. I wondered how I would be seen in comparison to the others; if I gave the voting population (middle and high school students) a reason to vote for me.

Ultimately, I was not elected but as cheesy and trite as it sounds, I feel that I gained something else in place of the title of “FCPS SMOB.” I realized that if I didn’t even apply to be a candidate, I wouldn’t have been on the ballot. I made it farther than those who were scared to even give it a shot and that means something to me. Experiences like this one are the ones that have made me want to put myself out there and think about success instead of worrying about failure.

Also quite recently I was given the chance to attend a leadership conference held by the Maryland Association of Student Councils through my school Student Government Association. I will never forget one of the motivational speakers who came to talk to the student delegates. Mr. Ed Gerety has the gift of speech that allows him to not only effectively communicate an idea, but to make it stick in your head and make you reflect on it later. Using storytelling, he taught us to stop holding on to dreams, rather to make goals for ourselves. He told us to be grateful and to think positively. More than that, he gave all of us an appreciation for our talents and encouraged us to have faith in their development. His speech really resonated with me. I can only hope that I will never forget such an experience, especially one that came at such an appropriate time in my life.

As one of my favorite quotes reads, “If you don’t build your dreams someone will hire you to help build theirs.” (Tony Gaskins)

Only upon the full realization of our talents can we really live in our ideal reality.

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Ariana Sadoughi writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.

New Year’s and “new me”?

by Ariana Sadoughi. 0 Comments

First of all, I would like to extend a (belated) “Happy New Years!” to all!

Our clocks haven’t slowed down since the onset of 2013 and the fast pace of life that we are all encumbered with has only continued on into the new year. While we all would like a chance to lie back and stretch our legs, the world keeps turning regardless of what we decide to make of the time that we have. The only option that we have is to keep going forward, face new obstacles, and ultimately contribute to the world around us.

Of course, with every new year, it is customary for us to chat with our friends, family, peers, and co-workers about our annually-created “New Year’s resolutions.” Conceived in the beginning of January, the resolutions people come up with are goals for themselves that they intend to have reached by the end of the year or by another deadline that they have set for themselves.

I have never really been one to make New Year’s resolutions because I feel as if they are easily left in the dust of February and March, along with a few other reasons that I will get into shortly!

When we come up with New Year’s resolutions we are promising ourselves that we will fit such specific goals into our lives. We all have so many activities and responsibilities to take care of. In my opinion, these resolutions lull us into false hope where we assure ourselves that we will reach some type of level of attainment that might not be practical due to our packed schedules. Other times, we come up with places where we would like to see ourselves that aren’t even feasible.

I am not trying to say that we should not make goals for ourselves because we aren’t capable of reaching them, rather, we just push ourselves too far and become disappointed when we can’t deliver.

Say, for example, I decided that this year I wanted to run a marathon next December. Preparing to run such a distance takes an appreciable amount of training and conditioning that I know that I would struggle to find time for.

But have I ever mentioned how much I detest running? Even if Channing Tatum asked me to go on a run with him I think that I would have to pass. No matter how much I would want to cross the finish line at a marathon for whatever reason of self-fulfillment I lack the interest and initial spark to try and make it happen. Unless I suddenly conjured up a love for running, I wouldn’t even want to train. In other words, this would be a very empty wish to me.

In addition to my belief that we can’t always reasonably fit New Year’s resolutions into our day, it irks me that as a society we think that we need a new year to create a change in our lives.

Why wait? What is stopping one from beginning to improve himself or herself any other day of the year? Jan. 1 is just a day that happens to mark the first day of a new year but there is no special potion in the air that will cause one to suddenly have the motivation to work harder.

It’s bothersome to me that we aren’t constantly trying to become a better version of ourselves and that we need a reason to do so. Maybe I’m the only one who thinks this way but as much as I can help it, I am always trying my best to make myself a little bit better of a person all of the time. I’m not always successful but it’s a constant process for me.

New Year’s Resolutions certainly aren’t for me but I’m sure that they work for some people. If they do, then kudos to you! Regardless, one should be proud of any accomplishments they have, regardless of how the road to those accomplishments was paved.

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Ariana Sadoughi writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.

What would you do?

by Ariana Sadoughi. 0 Comments

As a person who is not generally inclined to go sit in front of the television, I am shocked to say that I have been completely hooked on a show. Airing on ABC, What Would You Do? creates everyday situations where people are forced to see how they would handle themselves when morality comes into play.

This show has become one of my new favorites mainly because it actually gives me something to think about, rather than making me sit as a vegetable on the couch. The only issue that I find with this show is it has been airing for about five years, and there are many episodes online for me to watch when I should be doing my homework.

Actors portray characters in scenes where prejudice or law-breaking is present. Hidden cameras catch what random people do (or not do) in reaction to what they see. After they have carried out their decisions, host John Quiñones appears and explains that the situation is staged and that they are on television. Sometimes the experiment is repeated with a change in one variable, such as changing a Caucasian woman with an African-American to see if different results will be produced.

Examples of scenarios include a Muslim woman being denied service in a bakery and teenage girls bullying another girl in a park. Completely staged by actors, it is up to the general public in the area to decide if they will try and alleviate the problem.

As I watch the show, I am always so bothered by the fact that most of the time people won't bat an eye to whatever is happening, saying that it is “none of their business.” Depending on the situation, I would assume that people might be scared of the personal risks possible by interjecting, perhaps of a physical injury or a lawsuit. Other times, more unfortunately, I think that the only reason people don’t do anything proactive is that they don’t care.

I was talking to some of my friends about this show and the topic came up of what type of decisions we thought that we would make if placed in such a situation.

At first we all rushed to say that we would definitely speak up and try to fix the problem. I believe that this is typical of people. We would all like to think the best of ourselves. However, after putting in a little more thought we all came to the decision that we weren’t really sure of what we would do. In fact, we probably wouldn’t be able to come to an accurate conclusion about our behavior until we were actually put on the spot and forced to make a choice. Until then, I’m not completely sure if it is okay for viewers like me to complain about other people’s choices because we don’t know if we would be any better.

What Would You Do? makes the viewer reevaluate his or her own character and morals, and encourages one to speak up for others. If one wasn’t already motivated to be one of the “proactive people,” seeing all of the people who ignored the problems in the scenarios should fire one up to make a positive difference.

From a girl who doesn’t really find anything worth sitting around and watching on TV, I highly recommend What Would You Do?

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Ariana Sadoughi writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.

Is ignorance bliss?

by Ariana Sadoughi. 0 Comments

It’s that time again, time for the citizens of the United States of America to vote for and ultimately choose the next leader of their country. For the past few weeks and now continuing into the next few days, the candidates in the running are quickly trying to sweep up some last minute votes and make their platform look the most promising.

For many Americans, this is a very stressful time because they are worried about how the new president’s thoughts and opinions will line up with their own and how the changes that might be brought upon our country might affect them for the better or for the worse.

The last time that there was a presidential election in 2008, I was only 11 years old and in the fifth grade. I remember learning about the Electoral College and the distribution of votes based on population. I remember that Barack Obama and Joe Biden were running against John McCain and Sarah Palin.

I remember waking up the day after the election and my mom telling me that the new president of the United States was Barack Obama. I remember all of this running through my mind, but what I do not remember is how I reacted to all of this. The election was just a thought that was hidden in the back of my head and that was brought out just to be seen for a second time and time again. To draw a conclusion from all of this, the 2008 presidential election was an important event that meant little to nothing to me.

Four years later and I am almost 16 years old. I can’t vote and I most certainly am not the most well-read person when it comes to politics (although I am eligible to get my learners permit to drive the day before Election Day! Does that count for anything?) but I definitely am more aware of my surroundings this time around.

Last year in school I took a basic Government class which did not necessarily teach me about politics but it gave me a basis of how the government functions among important laws, documents and rights of the people. Other students in my school have taken other classes such as “Political Science” and “Law and Society” to gain some more governmental knowledge.

As a whole, my generation is proving to be a little more familiar with the struggle ensuing between the candidates and we’re starting to form our own beliefs on several issues. This election in comparison to the 2008 one has a meaning for us. Many issues that directly concern young people are up in the air: public education and college affordability, teen pregnancy and the right to have (or not have) an abortion and the economy and the possibility of finding a job after college. Of course these aren’t the only topics that are of concern to, or are extremely important to, teenagers.

I think it’s a great thing that my peers and I are getting involved with current events and are genuinely concerned with the direction that our country is going in, whether one thinks it is for the better or for the worse. By the time the 2016 election rolls around the majority of current high school students will have the ability to vote and hopefully will exercise this right. By then, we will have an even better understanding of even more issues such as foreign and domestic policy and healthcare.

The unfortunate outcome of all of this is that once we formulate opinions we post them on the Internet for everyone to see or we get into heated arguments with our friends. People become really nasty toward each other and have issues respecting each other’s opinions.

This is far from the point of politics in our country. Everyone is allowed to have their own, unique thoughts. Not only do we begin to make “enemies,” because “this person is a Republican and I am a strong Democrat!” but we become so stressed out about the whole affair. When I encounter such behavior it makes me wonder if we should be yearning for those early years when “politics” was just an 8 letter word that meant “grown-ups only”? Is ignorance bliss?

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Ariana Sadoughi writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.

Tooting your horn

by Ariana Sadoughi. 0 Comments

One could say that as people get older they mature and they learn valuable social skills. While this is true for most people, there are always exceptions in one way or another. Perhaps one of the most irritable and unattractive habits that a person could have is constantly talking about and glorifying their accomplishments. Lately, I have felt like the act of humility, in the sense of not going on and on about one’s achievements, is one that I think that people have been struggling with lately.

Being a particularly humble person myself, I feel very uncomfortable when I’m asked to talk about my achievements. I’m always afraid that people will think that I’m bragging so I tend to stay away from such topics.

Most of the people that I am close with are humble like I am in the sense that they don’t “toot their horn” on a regular basis. Just the other day, a few friends and I were talking about applications for school organizations and how uncomfortable it is to answer the questions where you are asked to “explain why you are so great”!

My parents have always made a point to me that you should never be too humble either. Striking a fine balance is very important.

I’d like to make it clear that I definitely believe that it is okay to share with your friends if you did something exceptional, and you should indulge others as long as you don’t let the conversation go on for too long. One should be proud of their accomplishments and it is important to always keep your successes in mind as motivation to continue to put in effort in any area of work. If one is sharing their achievements with others, I would never condone playing things down in order to avoid hurting other’s feelings.

Keeping this in mind, conversation takes a turn to a more pretentious, arrogant mood when one is not able to stop talking about his or her accomplishments. I always enjoy hearing about the great things that my friends have done because I feel genuinely happy for them and I am proud of what they have done. However, when somebody might not know how or when to stop the conversation, others will become annoyed and tend to like the ostentatious person a bit less.

Anyone that goes to school or goes to work on a daily basis knows a few people that seem to fit the bill of “my favorite topic is myself,” and they must deal with them as a part of their daily routine.

We all have our own moments where we tend to go on a little more than necessary, and as I have written in the past, I believe that social networking has a huge influence on our actions and maybe even our personalities. The bragging on Facebook and Twitter seems to be increasing, which is even easier to do so on the Internet because you can go on for as long as you want, without even needing an audience. Unless someone is called out on their behavior, this can go on for a long time. As unfortunate as it is, what you put on the Internet really can make leave impression on somebody, positive or negative.

Who knows who will hear or even read what you have written about yourself? Everybody appreciates somebody with a humble personality who knows where the line between pretentious and proud lies. Even in a world where standing out almost seems to be a must, we always need to remember to be modest in order to keep our egos in check.

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Ariana Sadoughi writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.