Speaking our minds

A collection of short opinions written by the RubicOnline Staff… on anything
OPINIONATED VOICES. The RubicOnline Staff wrote flash opinion as part of an editing workshop taught by Production Manager Eliana Mann.
OPINIONATED VOICES. The RubicOnline Staff wrote flash opinion as part of an editing workshop taught by Production Manager Eliana Mann.
Kathryn Campbell
An open world, an open mind

Traveling is a passion of mine. I think it’s a trait passed down from my mother. When she was in her twenties, she had a thirst for traveling and seeing the world, but was broke. She saved up all her money to splurge on a trip abroad where she would steer clear of tourist traps and try to experience authentic local life. Now, I find myself doing the same.

“Travelling is the antidote to ignorance,” comedian Trevor Noah once said. I have had the privilege of traveling abroad to visit my homeland. I learned what life is like in the mountains and secluded countryside there. While considered a “third-world country,” I witnessed its beauty and history as I struggled yet tried to communicate with the people.

Videos circulate the internet about Americans who can’t name more than five countries or just lack common knowledge about the world and sometimes show characteristics of being American-centric. Though they are probably a few of the tens of people these creators use in their videos, they prove ignorance exists.

Everyone who has the chance and the resources should travel. It provides brand-new experiences that might not be available at home. A new outlook on your life, criticisms, praises, and insights are what you can gain from it. Now, with the internet, virtual traveling is possible. Questions about the other side of the globe can be answered in seconds. However, nothing beats seeing the world in person.

Interacting with strangers doesn’t have to be intimidating

There are over eight billion people in the world. People are everywhere, and everyone must meet people and come in contact with others throughout their lives. But talking to people can be nerve-wracking, scary and challenging when first meeting them. How does one even begin to talk to new people? How can approaching strangers ever become easier when stepping into new situations?

Although it may be uncomfortable at first, it will not continue to be that way if the interaction is controlled to flow in another direction. If one’s mindset when approaching new people is that the exchange will be awkward and uncomfortable, the conversation will likely flow in that direction. It’s better to go into a conversation with a good mindset that the interaction will be simple and comfortable.

One way to make a conversation with a new person flow more smoothly is to go into it without viewing the other person as a stranger. Instead, viewing the person as a potential friend will make the conversation more enjoyable and easy.

It’s OK to be nervous and awkward when meeting new people. In fact, sometimes it might even help to disclose that one is anxious to the other person. Understand that the fear of talking to new people is universal, and many experience it.

My advice is to just go for it when starting new conversations. Often, worrying too much about the outcome will only set one back. Once the conversation starts rolling, then one may find that the other person is no longer a stranger.

Redefining gift-giving? It’s about more than overconsumption.

Advertisements pull at the strings of Americans like puppeteers year round, but at no time is the manipulation of capitalism more potent than the holiday season. It rolls around every year: the Black Friday craze that ironically falls the day after a holiday supposedly focused on giving, the pressure to gift an item to loved ones that is worthy of praise, or even the workplace stigma around gifting bosses or colleagues frankly insignificant items to demonstrate respect or appreciation.

The hysteria of consumption between Thanksgiving and Christmas can be critiqued in a number of ways, but often the argument is focused on the wrong issue: the environmental and human rights repercussions of increased buying around the holidays. Undeniably, product waste, the environmental waste of increased product output, and the compliance of unethical production of items such as sweatshops or underpaid workers cannot be ignored. However, at the root of the issue exists something else: the concept that gift-giving truly demonstrates love or appreciation for someone—and more specifically the types of gifts that do so. Reimaging gift-giving as a concept would both make the process more meaningful and dramatically reduce the catastrophe of environmental and ethical dilemmas associated with it.

American capitalism morphed gift-giving into a concept void of its intended purpose. Gift-giving should demonstrate appreciation and love for the recipient. Far too often, a gift’s quality is defined by its cost rather than the thoughtfulness poured into the item. Think a $1600 iPhone made from tin mined by minors in Bolivia. Additionally, gifts are too often boxed into slim qualifications. It must be a physical item and it must be given at defined times like Christmas. Radical gift-giving would be categorized by broader parameters. A satisfactory gift is not an expected one or given out of obligation. Maybe it is inexpensive or given out of the blue.

Move through life with intention

It is necessary to have intention when pursuing activities, academics, or just plain fun. As students mature and become more independent in many facets of their lives, finding purpose in daily life is paramount.

But what is “purpose?” It’s a loaded word, one that often describes a tool. Things have a purpose because of what they do for something else. In life, doing something with purpose involves a cognizant choice.

Feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, or lost is common for most adolescents in high school. Much of this stems from how time and energy is divided and spent. There is still a lot of structure in high schoolers’ lives, such as class schedules, sports, and jobs, but there is heightened autonomy within that structure– choosing how time is spent and what to pursue.

With increased control over one’s time, discovering the why of something is equally as crucial as discovering the thing itself. As students discern what is important to them, how they spend their time can– and should– match.

This becomes a complex concept to grasp socially, as adolescent brains are wired to conform to the pressure of peers and external influences. Although others can help determine what is important to an individual, choices about values should come from the individual themselves. Values should motivate uses of time and energy.

Look for ways to create meaning or connect activities to values. Ask, will this give me external or internal validation? Instead of pursuing things for college applications, to fit in with peers, or because of a possible award, ask why it is worth time and energy.

My experience feeling uncomfortable

Getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things before college is important and some people might discover that it can be fun. Some things that I did that I felt uncomfortable doing were getting a new job at a country club where I had to interact with many customers who were many years older than me and held me to a higher standard than my peers and joining a sports club where I didn’t know anybody. Both of these things I felt very uncomfortable at first and I went into them with little confidence. After spending time in both, I made friends on the sports team and realized that it worked out and I was excited to show up for practices; at my job, I learned a lot about interacting with people very different from myself gaining confidence talking to people who think they have authority over me because I’m younger and they’re paying me (but they don’t).

Something that is a necessary part of life is trying new things. Something even more important is trying new things in your teenage years. This might sound cliche at first, though when seeing the root cause of why this is important you might want to go out and try something new.

Jaqueline T. Hill, a lifestyle educator from LifeHack.com said, “One of the biggest benefits of trying new things is beating the power of fear over our lives and expanding our sense of accomplishment.” Trying new things can and will be uncomfortable. Usually doing that thing for a period of time will make you more comfortable in that environment, and sometimes it won’t. This is the number one reason why people don’t try new things, because they are scared to feel uncomfortable. Jaqueline also said that “new situations are never as bad as we think they are.”

Getting better at exploring new experiences doesn’t mean you feel less uncomfortable trying those new experiences. It means that you are more comfortable feeling uncomfortable. This is why trying new experiences early on in your life, especially during your teenage years, is crucial. If you are a teenager, the discomfiting truth is that you will most likely never be in a situation in life where you settle down and live a consistant for at least 1 to 2 more decades. Because of this, if you are uncomfortable in new environments in your college years and 20s, it will take a lot of getting used to the difference in the real world compared to the structured life someone might have lived prior to college.

Turning books into movies: does putting a face on a character restrain human imagination and creativity?

Movie narrows our creativity and imagination by literally providing us with a restrained form of visual.

Translating a movie from creative writing and descriptions and portraying them into vivid images on screens downplays the emotional complexity and tension behind the words. If it doesn’t live up to the reader’s imagination, the audience will only encourage complaints rather than develop their unique take on the text.

From body language to facial expressions to voice tonality, an actor’s performance adds additional layers of emotions and context to the existing plot in positive and negative ways. Despite the most perfect scenario of portraying movies directly from the book, transforming books into movies, it seems to draw the line between right and wrong interpretations of character development as well as plots for the readers. But in reality, the art of writing and storytelling comes from cherishing these diverse voices of interpretations.

Different interpretations can lead to different imaginations. The director board of movies is only a small group of interpreters who decide how the words that fill the book pages are portrayed and carried out. The director has the power to carry out a certain moral by highlighting specific motifs and integrating creative elements such as symbolism. While it’s entertaining to examine the transformations of books into movies while witnessing the integration of modern technological developments and bringing multimedia aspects to the text, readers should validate and aim to preserve their own ideas while watching movies.

Each charater portrayal is a reflection of the reader’s mindset coming into the book and there is no one truth. Defining the “truth” is a fallacy that limits imagination and restricts interpretations.

The next time you see a new film that comes from fiction, define the text for yourself before taking interpretations by the media. Be bold to imagine the charater acts and their looks, celebrating plots as well as the diverse interpretations.

The problem with aesthetics

“What’s your aesthetic?” Ever since 2020, this phrase has been inescapable on social media. During the pandemic, aesthetics surged online, trending globally, with tags such as cottagecore or Y2K fashion reaching millions of views. But where did this term originate from?

Something aesthetic is something concerned with beauty; ergo, appearance. By definition, there is nothing wrong with appreciating aesthetic value. After all, that’s a significant part of why humans fixate on and admire art. But with the recent traction aesthetics have gained on social media, it’s necessary to evaluate how taking over closets can lead to taking over lifestyles – and why that’s dangerous.

At heart, aesthetics are nothing if not unattainable. They encourage viewers to conform, unwittingly compromising their self-identity. Focus shifts to imitation rather than inspiration. Because an aesthetic, by nature, focuses on outward appearance and nothing deeper, they dilute individualism.

Additionally, aesthetics push consumerism. Maintaining one is expensive: you keep buying products to fit into the mold. Aesthetics have coincided with the rise of fast fashion brands such as Shein and Temu – both known for their staggeringly low prices, abuse of workers and lack of regard for any form of sustainability – which buyers are willing to turn a blind eye to in order to maintain appearance.

Aesthetics are, more than anything else, replaceable. They can be discarded easily. And therein lies their harm. In terms of both individuality and sustainability, aesthetics are meant to be tried on and thrown away. But this shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, that’s all aesthetics really are: surface level.

Create tomorrow’s changemakers beyond the books

I am passionate about people having the skills they need to go out into the world. It is important to educate students not only on the quadratic formulas and dates in history but also on traits and skills that will allow them to achieve their goals after high school.

SPA’s motto is “shaping the hearts and minds of people that will someday change the world,” and they do. Kids are educated on the various academic perspectives of life and are led in career paths and college lives afterward that can change the world we live in. To allow students to thrive, SPA should teach more real-world skills. Morals should be reinforced not only in the lower school but also in the high school, making sure that students become caring and empathetic adults. Digital literacy should be taught for more than a unit in middle school, and practical information should be woven into curriculums: stock markets, political literacy, and the job market. Jobs can be viewed through internships, stocks can be read about online, and politics constantly flow through news feeds, but all of those take the extra step.

These skills will one day become very real to the adolescents in this building, and to allow students to thrive, it is important not to shy away from real and challenging subjects. Take the step for yourself because it will not be tested like the periodic table, rather you will be the only one to notice the benefits of life skills.

Treat yourself this December

The holiday season is a great time for self-improvement. There are lots of donation and volunteer opportunities available all over like Cards for Isolated Seniors, No Sew Tie Fleece Blankets, and Sponsoring Holiday wishlists. These donation and volunteer opportunities do things such as provide blankets for twin cities community members in need, give families and children the opportunity to receive gifts this holiday season, and give cards to senior citizens who could use some cheer.

Another idea would be to purchase presents for friends and family from BIPOC, and sustainably-owned businesses like Black Garnet Books which is a bookstore in St. Paul that houses books by BIPOC authors. An opportunity to clear up space in a room or wardrobe would be to donate things that don’t bring joy anymore and help them find a second home with someone who can love them in a way they weren’t before. Giving to others not only supports the community but also benefits health. According to the Cleveland Clinic, giving lowers blood pressure and protects the heart.

Another way to treat yourself this winter is to let go of any past sources of tension or stress, whether it’s forgiving yourself or someone else, letting go of a relationship, or choosing to let go of an embarrassing moment. By the end of 2023 and 4 months into the school year, you have an idea of what works and doesn’t. So saying goodbye to routines, things, people, or tensions that aren’t serving you anymore is a great idea this December.

As 2023 is approaching its close, take some time to give yourself the best gift possible: a refined conscious for 2024.

Do yourself a favor, and drink lime LaCroix

Lime LaCroix is the best drink. Not only does it taste like heaven in a can, but it is also the healthiest drink on the shelf. It is gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, and even calorie-free. It is an excellent alternative to most beverages at your local gas station, often packed with unheard-of and unpronounceable ingredients. Lime-infused sparkling water adds a bubbly touch to your otherwise dull glass.

Not only is the taste of lime LaCroix unlike any other, but the drink is aesthetically pleasing, with its various shades of green and blue adding a little zing to its consumer’s life. Studies show that the signature colors of each flavor catch consumers’ attention, making them more inclined to purchase the drink. An operations manager in Chicago reported buying 60 cans of LaCroix for his office of 25 people each week.

The perfectly sized beverage is suitable for the water bottle pocket in a backpack, the drink holder in a car, an office desk, and, of course, a hand. Cracking open a 12 oz chilled can on a hot summer day or a room temperature can during a frigid Minnesota winter morning is the perfect pick-me-up.

The importance of sleep

Every student has been there before. It’s late, the windows are pitch dark, and siblings and parents are sound asleep, yet there is an empty document, a blank worksheet, an unread book waiting to be finished. Knowing that the next day of school is just around the corner, students fight their drooping eyelids and push on, fueled by anxiety. They push to stay awake hours after a healthy bedtime, determined to finish their unfinished assignments. But what if it was better to place the papers aside, let your eyelids fall, and sleep?

At first, the thought is frightening, especially with the academically competitive atmosphere SPA creates. To wake up and realize that you are behind all your friends and classmates is terrifying. However, the hours of sleep you just gained were far more critical than some schoolwork. Going to school tired and grumpy is paving the way for an unproductive, unhappy day. Once students go home, lessons won’t stick, and you just want to rest. They create a vicious cycle, staying up late to compensate for the day’s lack of energy and focus. Thus, they become more and more tired, anxious, and burnt out.

Setting a healthy bedtime and sticking to it no matter what can prevent this cycle from happening. Going to school energized ensures that work can be done quickly and that students can remain productive for longer, thus enabling them to sleep earlier. Plus, teachers at SPA are lenient and care for students more than is perceived. They have no issues giving extensions. Taking a little extra time on weekends is all needed to catch up. It’s better to push some things back and stay caught up on current lessons than to obsess over previous missing assignments and continuously behind your classmates.

So, students should push their troubles away, go to bed, and have sweet dreams.

The dangers of pop psychology

Pop psychology can become dangerous when only general terms are understood and used. Many people tend to use pop psychology to over-generalize their own or someone else’s mental health situation. Many of these alleged Pop psychology websites relay misleading or false information through bias and unchecked articles which leads to even less accuracy in understanding mental health and psychology in general.

Having a misunderstanding of mental health and what is considered “normal” skews reader’s understanding of their own mental health, leading to further confusion. This feeling of disorientation isn’t helpful for people who are concerned for their own mental health or of their loved ones. It puts a road block between finding a solution for their situation. Having access to more scientific or fact checked information rather than confusing readers would allow people to choose a proper next step.

Websites that include Pop psychology reporting should be required to be more straightforward with their sources and the qualifications of the authors themselves. Websites that include pop psychology news and features like Science News are a better alternative because they commit to posting accurate information, cite their sources, and have a mission to “provide independent, unbiased coverage of science and give people the tools to evaluate the news and the world around them.”

SPA should use an open campus schedule during finals week

Recently, SPA changed how finals work. Unlike previous years, students are now required to stay on campus during finals week. This is called a “closed campus.” In the past, SPA has utilized an “open campus” where students were able to come and go as they pleased.

As finals approaches, many students and teachers have expressed their frustration at this change. During finals week, when 15% of a semester grade is on the line, students need to study. Forcing students to stay on campus will make studying more difficult, as study spaces will be taken up and friends will be distractions.

Students deserve to have the choice of how to manage themselves during this important week. Some students may study better at home and some may study better on campus, but having the entire student body on campus will be a recipe for disaster as space, peace, and quiet will all be extremely limited.

Additionally, an open campus affords students one of the most important advantages they can have during such a stressful and important week— sleep. An open campus schedule allows students to sleep in and get some extra sleep when they deem it necessary. Though SPA often preaches the message that sleep is important during this time, a closed campus makes sleeping much more difficult, especially when students feel compelled to stay up late studying.

According to most faculty, this change came about due to complaints from parents. For younger students, understandably, an open campus might make transportation more difficult. Plus, these students may have less self-discipline and could benefit from a more structured finals schedule.

However, this experience is not true for everybody, nor is this opinion widely shared among students themselves. Considering the closed campus doesn’t have any structured study halls, the schedule will not offer significant benefits for students who already struggle with studying successfully and will only harm the students who know they would benefit from studying at home or sleeping in.

A closed campus eliminates the ability for students to make their own productive choices, which is an important skill in school and life. Most educational institutions beyond high school use an open campus and it is important for students to learn how to manage themselves. An open campus allows for more productive studying and is a better reflection of what may be to come for students after high school.

Why going to concerts is important to me

I am passionate about going to concerts for the bands and artists I love. Going to a concert you get to feel the energy and atmosphere of the music firsthand along with other people who love the music just as much as you do. Going to concerts is essential for getting to know the bands/artists you love. I have been to four concerts this year, and they have all been great. I got to see Death Grips twice, one of my favorite bands of the last year, 100 gecs, Hi-C, and the Postal Service. At all of these concerts, I had a great time and forgot about everything I was worried about and was completely present in the moment engulfed in the energy of the music. At concerts, I feel as if I am part of something when we are all jumping around, and shoving each other, appreciating the music that is being played and being part of a collective fanbase. Concerts can be so different as well and have so much variety between them. Depending on the band/artist and the fanbase, crowds at concerts can be worlds apart in how they act compared to other fanbases, which is really exciting and interesting to me. At concerts, I lose myself in the music and have some of the most fun I have had in my entire life.

Student-athletes shouldn’t fight mental battles alone

Student-athletes are like superheroes. They balance all of their passions simultaneously and somehow find success in doing so. However, oftentimes, there are hidden competitors they face, beyond the opposing team on the court or field. It might be depression, anxiety, or burnout. It might just be plain old self-doubt. According to the NCAA Student-Athlete Well-Being Study, 22% of male athletes and 38% of female athletes felt mentally exhausted in the fall of 2021. The mental health crisis is clearly alive and well.

Mental health issues run rampant among student-athletes, and yet they are swept under the rug and over-stigmatized in a way that only causes more harm. Athletes are supposed to be tough and relentless, so mental illnesses couldn’t possibly overcome them, right? This is simply not true, and it’s time to change the narrative.

Start by humanizing. Student-athletes are like superheroes, but that doesn’t mean they are. Student-athletes are human beings facing real, painful struggles that are amplified even further by the pressures of teachers, coaches, teammates and parents. Then, provide resources these athletes can easily access. Mental experts such as psychologists or counselors should be available to all sports teams, and taking mental health days off from practices or games should be normalized.

It’s crucial for student-athletes to be taken out of the spotlight sometimes. The points they score or games they win do not tell the whole story. There is often a mental battle going on behind the scenes, and it can be really difficult to win that battle. We can make it easier, though, by implementing the necessary support systems. After all, athletes are usually nothing much on their own. It takes an entire team to triumph.

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