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Syria is in the midst of a civil war and the United States wants to intervene. The question I have to ask is why? According to a recent report by the United Nations more than 100,000 people have been killed thus far and another 2 million people have fled the country. Based on those facts alone any reasonable person would be unable to fathom why we would send our troops, most of whom are my peers, to bully Syria’s President into treating his people with the rights that they deserve. Essentially, we will occupy their country, kill their men and suffer our own fatalities all so they can stop inflicting violence on their own people? None of that makes sense. 

I’m confused and I blame that on my education. While many of us (me included) cannot remember what it was like to be in kindergarten what I do remember is being told to use my imagination, be creative and think outside the box. Fast forward many years and we’re told that writing assignments must follow the dreaded five paragraph rule, must contain three quotes from a print material and must be stapled in the top left corner. What happened to the creativity? None of that looks like thinking outside the box to me. Understandably formal public education must have benchmarks on which to judge students and must create a level playing field (hence the restrictions and rules). But I can’t help but wonder if there’s a better way. Rules and stuffy regulations suppress student’s creativity and desire to be in the classroom. If we were afforded the responsibility and autonomy to carry out tasks that were completed with equal parts of both a conventional approach and creative thinking I think the classroom would have been a much better (read: beneficial) place.

It seems, as of late, my Facebook and Twitter are nothing but wedding announcements, baby shower pictures and photo tours of nearly empty apartments sparsely decorated with Ikea’s finest. Don’t get me wrong, I too like to gloat about my latest accomplishment and achievements but are we all playing one big game of Keeping Up With The  Kardashians  Jones’? As most people know I am a Reality TV connoisseur and have discovered the gem that is Princesses: Long Island. For anyone unfamiliar with this program, it profiles a group of women in their late 20s/early 30s still living at home and looking to get married, start a business or find their own place to live…so basically where I hope not to be in 5 years. Not one episode goes by without tears and subsequent confessions of feeling inadequate generally brought on by another castmate’s engagement or a mother’s inquiry into a nonexistent love life. These tearful breakdowns used to elicit a good chuckle from me and thoughts that usually sound something like “what a loser. Who cares if your childhood bff is getting married?” until I wondered if we are all secretly throwing pity parties for ourselves every time someone posts their newest accomplishment for the world to see? Anyone will tell you no, but deep down we all feel a pang of defeat that we keep suppressed for fear of looking like a lunatic (although if that’s what it takes to become a Bravo star then sign me up for a few on-air meltdowns!). Whether or not we want to attain this same milestone as our friend at the exact same moment in our lives is moot. What matters here is that someone seems to be achieving something that you are not.
Let’s look, for example, at my friend Jackie who is 24, married one year and just closed on a new home with her new hubby. On one hand I’m thrilled that she is so happy and is well on her way to full fledged adulthood but on the other hand I’m sitting here wondering “what am I doing wrong that I’m not a homeowner and a married woman at 23?” and then on another hand (shoot…I don’t have three hands. Well, whatever) I don’t want to be tied down to a home and/or marriage right now so why the feelings of failure? Because we’re disproportionally inundated with these types of posts so naturally thoughts start to spiral out of control but rarely do we stop and think about the things we don’t see on social media that bring our seemingly perfect friends back to mortal status. When was the last time you saw someone bragging about overdrawing a checking account or being stood up on a date? Never, because no one wants to look like anything less than a perfect person living in a perfect world! If social media painted us a truly real picture of everyone’s lives I can’t help but think how differently we would all feel. No longer would we feel the pressure to hurry our lives along or live up to someone else’s expectations but rather we can feel truly happy for the people in our lives that are experiencing that is so great…for them.

It’s no surprise that graduates at all levels of education are having a difficult time finding suitable employment where they can truly use what we paid good money for. Yes, there are jobs to be had but who wants to take their costly diploma to a job where they can’t even make enough money to pay the minimum student loan payment? Certainly not myself or anyone I know. If you’re like me, you have parents willing to let you move back home until you manage to get a career off the ground or start another journey into higher education. However, not everyone is as fortunate as myself…or willing to live in their childhood bedroom again and those people (whether justified or not) are going to extreme lengths to live as a “mature, sophisticated adult”.  One such example is one of my best friends, Katie who just recently moved to Africa to volunteer for the Peace Corps for 27 months. As you all don’t know Katie, let me paint this picture before we go any further. Katie is born and raised in New Jersey with parents that work in NYC, was a member of my sorority and is an all around city girl. Because Katie was unable to find employment beyond a day care and bank (fine places to work but not with a comparative studies degree from an out of state school, no less) so she enlisted in the Peace Corps to teach gender studies to village children.  While the rest of us will continue to send out resumes and apply to various graduate schools, Katie will have to bleach her water before drinking, may or may not have electricity and will have to remember to take her daily malaria pills. Which is worse, being underemployed or living like a pilgrim? Apparently for Katie the former was a fate she was destined not to meet.
Before our dear friend departed to the straw huts and desert of Africa, a group of us spent the weekend in New York City shopping and treating Katie to one of her last typical outings for the next 2+ years. From the time Katie told me her plans via text message (how ironic) I constantly bombarded her with questions on how she would pack, live and most importantly stay safe so far from home. Most of her answers made me laugh, some -ok all- made me cringe and some were just so absurd I thought ‘this must be a joke’.  If the idea of a grand adventure sounds appealing, I suggest you read a few of my favorite questions and answers below. Of course, I’ll be emailing a copy of this letter to Katie as I don’t know her hut address and I want her to read this before Christmas.
Q: Katie, you said that 1 in 4 people will have electricity. What about plumbing? How will you use the bathroom?
A: Yep, a hole in the ground.
Q: I’ll email you so know what’s going on. When can you check your email?
A:  Depending on where I’m placed, the village will be anywhere between 2 and 6 hours away on overcrowded buses on dirt roads. If they have internet, I’ll check then.
Q: Do they pay you?
A: Yes, $14 a week. I can buy food with that but I might learn to garden. Maybe I’ll have a hot plate. Who knows!
Q: Be careful, aren’t there dangerous animals?
A: Not sure, but people say they keep monkeys as pets.