Saturday, August 20, 2016

Looking Up to My Little Sister

I get in debates much more often than I should. Any normal person would know when to shut their mouth, or realize when an issue isn't as important as they're making it out to be. Any normal person would set their opinions aside in order to keep things happy and agreeable. But not me. Like my mother, I feel the need to get the absolute last word in. I cannot stand people dismissing my opinions. I have developed l'esprit de l'escalier into an art form. And my twin is the same way. That's why we're debate partners. We both get that trait from our mom, and that makes debating or arguing with her absolutely impossible.

But unlike my mom, I am the least confrontational person I know. I can debate the facts of the matter with absolute confidence, but when the issues are personal, and about other people, I always try and keep the peace.

And yet, while my mom did not manage to share that trait with me and my brother, she gave it in spades to my little sister, Savanna. And it is the most incredible thing in the world to watch. To see her stand up for herself with unrestrained fury and confidence against the junior high brats that bring her down is stunning. It is like watching a tiny version of my mother, and they are absolutely horrifying when working together. Savanna is one of the most genuine people I know, and it is heartwarming how mature she is even when she's three years younger than me. She is so much better about that than I was when I was her age, and she's growing up to be an incredible young woman.

So yesterday when I saw her come home from school in tears, I was devastated. Petty people craving drama to make their boring lives more interesting had been talking about Savanna behind her back when she had been nothing but nice to them. The little girls had finally gotten to her, and even though I knew Savanna was not going to let them win, it hurt to see her confidence broken for even a second. She was curled up in a little ball on the couch. She now only shrugged softly, and I realized that she must have gotten more of her crying out when mom picked her up from school. She had put on a brave face for her two older brothers, and I was even more sad for and proud of her at that moment. No one hurts my sister's feelings and gets away with it. And that isn't me being a protective older brother; that's her not tolerating disrespect. She fights her own battles and she fights them well.

Her confidence and genuine behavior are both something I have always admired, but she's also inspired me to be better myself. Throughout junior high and into my freshman year, I was one of the petty people my sister is constantly at odds with. I used to gossip, and I used to constantly be in drama, and wouldn't mind my own business.

But after experiencing first hand the harms that can come from that, I had to sit back and examine myself. And that self-awareness was what made me realize how pathetic and pointless my actions were. This all sounds pretty juvenile, but that self-awareness really opened my eyes in other areas. It made me realize that I never wanted to be a source of negativity, and the way to do that was to get rid of the negative habits that made bring about more negativity.

It is my strong belief that both positivity and negativity diffuse. Negativity inside will spread outward, but so will positivity. Self-awareness and self reflection helped me understand how negative I was and how I had to remove that in order to have a better life. Since then, I've worked hard to cultivate a positive idea of myself, as well a positive view of everyone else. Negative people that contribute to a cycle like the one that made my sister cry are probably dealing with the same lack of contentment and poor self esteem that I had when I was in their position, and so I try to empathize with and be patient with them on their journey toward becoming a better person.

Seeing that Savanna never had to deal with those same problems that I did makes me so proud of her, but also guilty for everything I had done at that time. I'm not perfect. There are times even now that I will still fail miserably and get involved in the childish habits I've worked so hard to avoid, but I know that I'll always have my little sister to look up to. Now I've just got to teach her how to debate...

Monday, August 8, 2016

Learner Profile Reflection

For me, the traits at the top of my IB Learner Profile weren't very surprising. I've always considered myself to be a Thinker, a trait which was common amongst my fellow diploma candidates. But with that, I've also considered myself to be an Inquirer, and acknowledging these two traits only puts a name to something I've known for a long time.

Being a Thinker isn't uncommon, but it can make things a little difficult. Not all of my friends are Thinkers, so that limits the scope of conversations I can have with them. There's nothing wrong with them for that, but I do love being able to speak to fellow Thinkers about the big issues keeping me up at night. I love having another like-minded individual to bounce my ideas off of, and I've been blessed to have my twin brother to help me through that. We're on the same wavelength. He and I can shoot ideas back and forth, and I can always get a new perspective from him or get help developing my own thoughts. And one of the main reasons I'm excited for the IB program is the fact that I'll be able to have a diversity of opinions to face. Being able to disagree respectfully is one thing that I've been meaning to work on, and I believe IB will make me even better at that.

But aside from being a Thinker, being an Inquirer is an aspect that's just as important to me. I've always enjoyed questioning things to understand my beliefs. I've learned to love those questions that haunt you as soon as you find yourself alone; the kind of questions that can send you into a little existential crisis. To me, those are so important because they make us more fully engage in the world around us. Whether the questions are philosophical or moral or theological, by grappling with them we come to a better understanding of ourselves. As a young person, I had those questions but only recently felt like I could talk openly about them and in turn learned to love them.

And strangely, that inquisitive nature shapes me down to even my taste in movies. David Lynch's 2001 film Mulholland Drive is my all-time favorite film, and one of the reasons I love it so much is its ambiguity. It's a puzzle, but not the kind you can ever really solve. The movie forces you into that kind of uncomfortable uncertainty and calls you to take joy in that. By never really being able to solve the movie, it exists to be discussed to no end, to further that inquiry for the sake of inquiry rather than as a means to an end. Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey is similarly open ended, and these frustrating movies hold a special place in my heart.

Finally, I'm supposed to address what it means to say that I know something. To tell you the truth, right now I really don't have a clue what that means. I felt pretty comfortable with saying that I know things, but after this course I'm not very certain anymore. In class we talked about how truth is a pretty weird concept, especially when it comes to language. That makes me really uncomfortable, because language is the form by which we receive almost all of the things we hold to be true, but also the way by which we claim to know things. To lose the sense of truth in that mean of communication gives way to doubting the truth of what has been told to us. It's a little unsettling to think about, but it's not enough to lead me to any feelings of nihilism or doubt in the beliefs I already have. I'm sure I'll learn more about what it means to know something as the course continues, but right now it's all a bit uncertain.