Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My Emotional Side

One day last week when I was bored, I decided to look up the characteristics of my zodiac sign, which is Scorpio. As I was surfing the Internet, I came upon the Web site, astrology-online.com. What I found on this site quickly piqued my interest and boggled my mind because I realized that I possess nearly all of the traditional Scorpio characteristics. Not only that, but most of the traits that define a Scorpio were related to emotions and perceptions: determined, passionate, obsessive, obstinate secretive and emotional. Let’s start with determined. I am an extremely determined individual, especially when it comes to my schoolwork and my future. I set goals for myself that I know will not be impossible to attain. I keep those goals clear in my mind and do everything I can to achieve them. If for some reason I cannot achieve a specific goal, I would not let this one setback throw me off track; I would remain determined. For example, last year I applied for a competitive, prestigious internship program through the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund. I really had my heart set on it, but I was not selected. However, I did not let this setback get the best of me. I remained determined and applied at numerous other news organizations. My steadfastness paid off because I was selected for another internship. Granted, it was not as prestigious as the Dow Jones program, but that didn’t matter anymore. After being selected for the other internship, I had two new goals: to be the best intern I could be and to learn as much as I could. I feel that I left that internship having achieved those goals. Why? Because I was determined.

The next word that describes a Scorpio is passionate. Although I might not be the most energetic or enthusiastic person all of the time, I would describe myself as passionate. For example, when I was in high school, I was on the tennis team. I started taking lessons when I was in eighth grade, and I fell in love with the game. I had such an intense desire for the sport that my dad, who was my usual tennis partner, had to drag me off the court, figuratively speaking of course. My passion for tennis is also evident because when I am playing the game, especially if it is with someone who I feel comfortable around, I become very animated. However, I knew how to manage this passion during tennis matches. I never yelled when I thought my opponent made the wrong call, had an outburst when I hit the ball out on a critical point or jumped for joy when I won a game or a set. Yet, like I said, when I am just practicing, I am very animated, and this animation paid off one day. A mother and her eight-year-old daughter came to the courts where I was practicing and started to casually hit the ball. Then, out of nowhere, the mother comes up to me and asks if I would like to give her daughter tennis lessons. I was surprised by this proposition and thought that she must have seen how much fun I was having and thought I could relay some of my passion for the sport to her daughter. I accepted the job and tried my best to accommodate the girl’s passion that I saw brewing inside her.

The next two characteristics, obsessive and obstinate, go hand-in-hand for me. First of all, I like things to be in order, both physically and in the abstract sense. For example, the things in my room need to be neat, organized and the way I arrange them. If someone comes into my room and moves a pillow out of place, I will feel the need to put it back where it belongs. However, I would not become angry or yell at this person, and I would also wait until he or she left to put the pillow back. I know this might sound like a trivial matter, but when the physical things around me are organized, I feel like my life is organized. Yet, I have run into problems when my stubbornness blends with my obsessive nature. For example, whenever I return to Rider and need to pack and unpack my things, my mom always wants to help me. However, I never let her help because I do things a certain way. She continually tries to help, and sadly to say there have been a few times when I yelled at her or grabbed something from her hand, saying, “I’ll do it. You don’t know where this goes.” As I was reading the article in our Mercury reader book, “Welcome to St. Paul’s,” especially the part where the daughter snaps at her mother for trying to unpack her clothes and show her where everything should go, I immediately thought of myself and my mom. I then realized that the mother in the story was trying to hold on to her daughter as long as possible; it was her way of coping with letting her child go. The daughter, on the other hand, yelled at her mother not only because she wanted to be independent but also because the time to part from her parents was coming closer. I then thought about my own situation and recognized that my mom and I were experiencing those same emotions. My mom felt the need to help and I became defensive because that was our way of dealing with the mutual feeling of not wanting to part from each other.

Yet, another word to describe a Scorpio is secretive. I believe that I relate to this attribute the most because I am a very secretive individual. I tend to suppress a lot of my feelings: anxiety, anger, sadness, etc. I may look OK on the outside, but on the inside, I might be ready to explode. When I was reading about the characteristics of my zodiac sign, the following sentences captivated me. “Scorpios are the most intense, profound, powerful characters in the zodiac. Even when they appear self-controlled and calm there is a seething intensity of emotional energy under the placid exterior. They are like the volcano not far under the surface of a calm sea; it may burst into eruption at any moment.” There have been times when my suppressed emotions were too much for me to handle and I did erupt. For example, I am often very stressed during the school year, worrying about how I am going to accomplish everything that I need to do. I usually go home on the weekends, and by the time I get home, I have all of my anxiety and stress built up inside me. After suppressing such strong emotions for so many days, the slightest thing could push me over the edge. For example, this past weekend while I was trying to study, my dad would not stop rattling coins in his pocket, which sparked an outburst of anger on my part. I felt terrible afterward because my dad did not deserve to have his daughter yell at him for no reason. I would say that I definitely need to work on getting in touch with and expressing my feelings so I can minimize my eruptions. I also think that Ellen DeGeneres needs to work on sharing her feelings before she has an outburst. Last week on her show, she started to cry while she was discussing a personal situation. She explained that she had adopted a dog, Iggy, but could not keep it since it did not get along with her cats. So she gave it to her hairstylist, whose daughters wanted another pet. However, the animal shelter where Ellen got Iggy from took the dog back, saying that she violated her contract (If she could not take care of the dog for any reason, she had to give it back to the shelter). I believe that Ellen was suppressing feelings of guilt, but not about the dog or hurting her hairstylist’s family. In this clip, she breaks down right when she says, “I feel totally responsible for it.” Perhaps she did something else that she felt guilty about and this was just her way of releasing those emotions. According to Micahel Sky, author of The Power of EMotion: Using Your Emotional Energy to Transform Your Life, supressing our emotions causes serious damage to our bodies, minds and spirits. He calls it a "slow suicide of self-strangulation." I agree that supressing emotions for too long could lead to "suicide" because the longer you keep something inside, the longer it will have time to build up and trouble you. Sky notes the importance of sharing our emotions. He says, "We need our emotions. They provide us with the vital force to think creatively and act decisively. The more successfully that we suppress our emotions, the less successfully we will do anything else."

One last word that describes a Scorpio is emotional. Whenever I think of an emotional person, I think of a sensitive person. Therefore, I will use the terms synonymously. I would say that I am a sensitive individual. Although I tend to hide my emotions about personal issues, I cry very easily when I am exposed to outside stimuli, such as when I watch a sad movie or hear of an unfortunate situation. For example, when the priest in my church asked the parishioners to donate money to a family who was on the verge of losing their home, I felt the tears welling up in my eyes. I also become emotional when I see photos of disastrous events or images where the pain in someone’s face is captured. One photo that really touched my heart was one that I saw for the first time in my high school history class. It shows a disheveled middle-aged woman with her two children during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The solemn look on the woman’s face depicts her heartache and worry of how she will feed her children. Yet, another classical photo that awakens my emotions is the War’s End Kiss. In this image, an American soldier who has just returned home from World War II grabs a woman on the street in New York City and kisses her because he is so happy to be home. The photo evokes feelings of freedom, victory, patriotism and the idea that there is no place like home. Whenever I see this photo, I smile; no tears this time, unless of course they are tears of joy.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Measuring Success

In the Disney/Pixar film, Ratatouille, a rat named Remy overcomes the constraints that society and his family place on him and pursues his dream of becoming one of Paris’ greatest chefs. With the help of Linguini, a garbage boy who has the same dream, he learns how to be true to himself, and not only realizes his dream but also learns the truth about family and friendship.

The Utah Jazz player Derek Fisher walks away from his career of fame and fortune so he can focus on taking care of his 11-month-old daughter who has cancer in her left eye.

A young man who is bored with his life at Harvard University drops out and starts his own computer company known as Microsoft, which has become the billion dollar enterprise that links the Harvard drop out’s name, Bill Gates, with the epitome of wealth.

The city of New York has a significant decrease in crimes over a five-year period, creating a safer environment for its inhabitants.

What do all of these anecdotes have in common? They are all success stories. It is impossible to define success in only one way because it comes in many different forms. When most people think of success, they will most likely think of fame and fortune. Many might even point to Gates as the quintessential example of success. However, being successful is so much more than wealth and recognition. It’s the individual (or rat) working hard to overcome obstacles and realize a dream; it’s the individual who puts his career on hold to care for his child; it's the city that creates a safer environment for its people; and it’s the person who takes a chance and starts his own billion-dollar business. But success does not have to be as extreme as these cases. For example, cheering up a friend, providing company to the elderly in a nursing home, or just knowing that you you gave a specific task your all are also examples of success. Another example of success is someone who prepares for a job interview by researching the company and dressing the part, and then walks into that interview with confidence, making eye contact, maintaining good posture, selling him/herself, and leaving with a sense of accomplishment. As Chris Mauer, the sales coordinator for American Express, said: “Develop, apply, employ — develop yourself, apply yourself and get employed.” And when individuals do become employed, whether it’s at their dream job or not, it’s important to not stop building on their computer and communication skills, their leadership ability, and their knowledge of the company and industry. Improvements like these in one’s professional life are also a form of success. Another type of success that goes hand-in-hand with improving one’s personal and professional lives is accepting criticism with an open mind. When people listen to what others say and use criticism to better themselves, new opportunities will arise.

Yet, another form of success is realizing that no one can do anything alone. When individuals solicit the help of others, anything is possible. For example, when someone asks for help on a company project that he or she does not fully understand or when someone asks for an informational interview with a company employee in order to network, the road to success will be so much easier. Just look at Remy. He knew he couldn't achieve his dream by himself, so he teamed up with Linguini and acquired the life he knew he was meant to have.

Different companies and industries also have their own meanings of success. Retail stores measure success in terms of revenue earned, athletes in terms of games won, politicians in terms of votes obtained and teachers in terms of students inspired. However, according to Dr. Thomas Simonet, a Journalism professor here at Rider who was a newspaper reporter prior to his teaching career, the field of journalism is unique because individuals do not need to succeed at a high level in order to be successful. For journalists, just knowing that the information provided to the public is accurate means that they have achieved success. This information also doesn’t have to reach 30 million people in order to be considered successful. Simonet noted that even local papers that have a much smaller audience can be successful because they are still providing an indispensable service to the public. He also pointed out that a story does not need to be scandalous in order to be successful. “If you do small things well, you’re providing a service,” he said. “You don’t always have to be covering something controversial or sensational.”

Journalists also feel like they have succeeded when their stories are published. It is very satisfying when reporters see their bylines in the newspaper, according to Simonet. He said it is a powerful feeling when a journalist sees someone reading his or her paper or just sees it in someone’s hand walking down the street. These are moments that journalists savor.

However, newspapers are also a business, and just like any other business, the desire for money often blurs the true meaning of a company’s success. Simonet said that newspapers quickly lose sight of their definition of success because raising profits becomes the primary goal for many of them. According to him, money makes it difficult to be a journalist. But money also makes any occupation difficult since it redefines how an individual or a company measures success.

It is important for individuals to remain true to their own definitions of success. In a speech at the University of Missouri-Columbia, Gerald Boyd, managing editor of The New York Times, outlined three keys to success in journalism, one of them being staying true to yourself. The other two ways to achieve success are having a passion for what you do and maintaining balance in your life. All three of these sources of success can be applied to any occupation. First of all, if you are not happy with your current job, listen to your heart and take a chance at something new like Bill Gates did. You never know what success you could find elsewhere. Second, if you do not have a passion for what you do, you will most likely dislike your job and feel like you are unsuccessful. Lastly, if you focus too much your job, other aspects of your life will suffer. Boyd put it best when he said, “You must find things outside your job to make you whole.”

All of Boyd’s points are important. However, the last two are the most significant. Without happiness and people to share it with, life is meaningless. I remember interviewing a retiring teacher for a feature story assignment during my summer internship, and this is an interview I will never forget. The teacher, Ms. Brozik, was so energetic and had so much passion not only for her job but also for her life that I left the school only hoping that I could be as happy as she was. So I guess that in a way, her success was contagious. However, it is now up to me to strive to achieve the same happiness and success that she did. I also find it ironic that the people who are extremely wealthy are often the ones who are the loneliest and the unhappiest. This phenomenon affirms my beliefs that money does not always equal success and happiness — which is something that so many people believe — and that there are numerous ways to measure success.