Miss Teen USA Makes a Positive Change

Miss Teen USA

The Miss Teen USA pageant will no longer include the swimsuit portion. Instead, the contestants will be judged in a brand-new athletic wear competition. Over the past few years, the well-known pageant has been evolving and the stereotypical contestant has begun to fade. Miss Missouri Erin O’Flaherty will compete as America’s first openly homosexual contestant this year. The first hearing impaired contestant, Miss Pennsylvania Elena LaQuatra, will also be competing this year.

In order to justify the swimsuit category in the past, pageant officials have said it was to show off the athletic side of the contestants. However, that portion of the competition, for many young viewers, has instead focused purely on physical appearance. Young girls and teens in today’s generation have a high expectation for what their bodies should look like and the competition only adds fuel to the fire. According to the National Eating Disorders website, half a million teens struggle with eating disorders or disordered eating.

So far, the response to the new change has been overwhelmingly positive. Katherine Haik, the reigning Miss Teen USA told USA News: “This new direction for Miss Teen USA is a great way to celebrate the active lives that so many young women lead and set a strong example for our peers.”

Miss Universe president Paula Shugart shared in a memo that this shift is meant to “celebrate women’s strength, confidence and beauty” in a more positive way. “This decision reflects an important cultural shift we’re all celebrating that empowers women who lead active, purposeful lives and encourage those in their communities to do the same,” she wrote. Our hope is that this decision will help all of Miss Teen USA’s fans recognize these young women for the strong, inspiring individuals they are.”

It’s possible that the pageant will see an influx of competitors as parents may now be more open to the idea of their daughters competing. The change is also a smart business move. Former Miss Virginia Nancy Redd said: “Teens are spending .1 percent of their life in a bathing suit and 50 percent in athleisure. The pageant is following the trend of who can sponsor them.”

It’s nice to see the competition changing to focus more on who the girl is rather than what her body looks like. It’s time that women embrace their physical abilities rather than physical appearance and it also sends a positive message to young teens.

The 2016 Miss Teen USA pageant will be held in Las Vegas on July 30.

July 2016 Music Festival Guide

July Music Festival Guide

It seems like summer of 2016 is already flying by! You might feel some serious FOMO if you missed some of June’s festivals like Bonnaroo, EDC Vegas, Firefly, or Electric Forest. Not to worry though because festival season is only getting started. Here are some music festivals that you shouldn’t miss out on! Here is your July 2016 music festival guide!

1) Lollapalooza: July 28-July 31

Located in Grant Park, Chicago, Lollapalooza is a favorite among many. This year is special too because it’s the festival’s 25th anniversary and is including a 4th day instead of its normal three days. It has an A-List set of headliners including Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, LCD Soundsystem, Lana Del Rey and more along with dozens of amazing artists and performers. This year is definitely going to be a hit so I recommend buying tickets ASAP. Oh, and be sure to get some Chicago deep dish pizza after the fest to carb up for dancing the next day!

2) Camp Bisco: July 14- July 16

For those who like to get really down and dirty, check out Camp Bisco. Though Camp Bisco has been around for awhile, it’s holding its second year in Scranton, Pennsylvania. It’s going to be wild. With a great mix of jam bands and electronic artists like Odesza, The Disco Biscuits, STS9, Zeds Dead, and Big Grizmatik (Big Gigantic +Griz+Gramatik) you’ll be dancing until dawn.

3) Wayhome: July 22-July 24

So maybe you missed Bonnaroo? No big deal! Just about 45 minutes north of Toronto, Ontario is the perfect three day camping festival with a killer lineup. Celebrating just its second year, Wayhome Music and Arts festival is hosting big names such as LCD Soundsystem, The Killers, Arcade Fire, Major Lazer, and M83. Also, be prepared for lots of poutine and maple syrup!

4) Bass Center: July 29-July 30

If you like Bassnectar then luckily he has his own festival. At the end of July, Bassnectar is hosting Bass Center, a two day fest in Denver, Colorado. This year, along with two sets from Bassnectar himself (surprise), is Flux Pavilion, Wu Tang Clan, Porter Robinson, and more!

5) Panorama: July 22-July 24

Supposedly the Coachella on the east coast, Panorama festival is hosting it’s first ever year. So far it’s looking amazing. On Randall’s Island, NYC, artists like Arcade Fire, Kendrick Lamar, Major Lazer, and LCD Soundsystem are taking the stage for the initiation of a hopefully great new festival. And in New York, we can expect some great after parties.

Lessons from Buddhist Poets Issa & Ryokan

When I went to college for the first time, I was completely overwhelmed. I felt like I was being forced to let go of my childhood. All the students seemed happy; they gathered in circles, instinctively picking out peers to befriend. As college went by, I found myself comparing memories. I compared my childhood with my young adulthood. I wondered why I had found so much love at home and so little at college. My memories became dangerous; they trapped me in anger and kept me attached to my ego. I became angry at myself for holding onto my childhood; why couldn’t I enjoy my “adulthood?” I was in danger of becoming bitter; I felt as though I was pitted against the world.

Our memories are sometimes dangerous, but they also have the potential of being extremely liberating. If we learn to see the world in all its complexity, we can look at our memories with detachment and honesty. The ancient Buddhist poets Issa and Ryokan both experienced the sadness and isolation we sometimes feel in college. Yet, instead of becoming bitter and self-pitying, they learned from their pain. Both men learned how to “become children” again; they learned how to live in the present. Childhood is not something that is lost suddenly; it fades away, and at moments, it shines through. Issa and Ryokan taught me this. I have learned how to cultivate the freedom and appreciation children feel for every moment and keep this vivacity alive throughout college and on into adulthood. It is only pain that threatens to destroy the passion we all have for life. Here are the important lessons I have learned from them to help put college into perspective. 

Reach for Happiness

Lessons Learned from Buddhist Poets Issa & Ryokan

Issa has profound insight into the nature of the world. He believes we “walk on the roof of hell/gazing at flowers.” Most humans only “gaze” and hope for happiness, instead of reaching for it. We look backwards and forwards in time, waiting for the next “flower,” instead of appreciating the moment, whether the moment is painful or pleasurable. We look forward to college weekends, instead of enjoying the day in front of us. It is often difficult to see that time is not linear; we are not trapped on Earth, waiting to reach something greater. We are simply living every day as it comes, attempting to be present in every moment. It is natural that some of these moments will be painful and some will be joyous. Though college can be extremely stressful, that does not mean we should avoid these painful moments.

Remain in the Present Moment

Lessons Learned from Buddhist Poets Issa & Ryokan

Issa uses his memories as fuel to help him understand how to live a meaningful life. Even in a poem Issa wrote about his deceased daughter, there is a simplicity and a sense of peace. Issa recalls the “scarlet flowers/she liked to pick.” He gives no reflection; he simply remembers his daughter and her love of flowers. He seems to learn from the simplicity of his daughter; it is important to love the flowers and to be happy in the moment. Issa reflects on the past, but he does not get stuck in it. Issa seems to understand that being “here” is all you can be. The snow will fall and life will always continue. If you are a part of this world, you have a duty to be fully “here;” if you are not, you are missing out on life.

Learn From Children

Lessons Learned from Buddhist Poets Issa & Ryokan

In their self-healing, both Issa and Ryokan come back to images of children and the relationship between parent and child. This sacred relationship captures the complex nature of the world. The past is always disappearing, making room for the present. Yet, remnants of the past always remain. In modern society, we often see a clear separation between “child” and “adult”. We assume that, as we enter college, we abandon the immature child inside of us and become mature adults. However, as we age and move away from home, we are continuously tempted by the world; college tempts us to see ourselves as independent and egocentric.

Like flowers, children bloom. The world is always unfolding and bringing new things in and out of being. Ryokan refers to the “three thousand worlds,” or the multiplicity of the world we so often see as singular and linear. There is no objective world; we all have our own lives, and our lives are intertwined with the lives of everything around us. Ryokan appears to understand that there is no “winning” or “losing;” life does not pit the ego against the rest of the world. Likewise, we are not competing with our fellow students; it is not us versus them.

Ryokan knows that “if we gain something, it was there from the beginning” and that if we “lose anything, it is hidden nearby.” This mantra applies to perfectly to college life. If we experience joy, we must appreciate this joy, yet we must be careful not grow attached to it. We must love the feelings and experiences of the current moment just as children do. When we lose something, we must accept this and not curse the world for taking something away from us. Time is not linear; things that are lost will eventually be found. Perhaps we will recover what is lost in a different form, just as Ryokan did. As Ryokan aged, he seemed to grow closer to his youth. He spent his time with children, laughing and thinking about how time passes and how people change. We are all capable of recovering the innocence of our childhood and the joy we had as children.

Live Passionately

Lessons Learned from Buddhist Poets Issa & Ryokan

Both Issa and Ryokan warn us that we must not let our memories consume us. We must not live in the past or in the future; there is only the present moment. As we go through college, we cannot look back; we can reflect on our past, but we must always remain present. In our moments of sadness, we must follow Issa and Ryokan’s lead: we must use our pain to create something beautiful. These poets found a way to honor the beauty of the world and accept the pain. Issa believed that “this world is like a rope, flailed with strands of joy and anger, pain and pleasure. All that meets will part.” Many call Issa a cynic, but truly, he is a realist; the world is filled with unbelievable happiness and unbearable pain. Sadness is an essential part of life; it reminds us that we must cherish every moment. We must live by Issa’s example and use our “cynicism” to make our lives honest and beautiful. We must also follow Ryokan’s lessons and learn to love every moment for what it is. Childhood is not something that must be forgotten as you grow up. Childhood may fade away, but, at moments, it shines through us all. We must cultivate the freedom we enjoyed as children and the passion children have for every moment of life.

Why College Students Need Yoga

Why College Students Need Yoga

Why do college students need yoga? When anyone thinks of yoga, they immediately picture people doing headstands and breathing. Some people might think what really can you learn from it? Since I was eight years old, my mother had brought me to her yoga sessions and I have been hooked since then. Yoga is not only about learning to control your breathing or becoming more flexible (although those two things will improve), it can improve balance, decrease stress and reduce risks of heart disease. Here are the reasons college students need yoga.

Yoga Reduces Stress

Why College Students Need Yoga

One of the big reasons I think college students should do yoga is the stress management. Students are constantly stressed from all the homework, the student loan debts, to being overworked at jobs. Yoga provides an outlet to dealing with that stress instead of turning to vices like smoking or drinking. It lets your body and mind relax, clear your head and help you find solutions to problems.

Student Performance

Why College Students Need Yoga

There have been several studies showing that yoga can allow people to become a better student by enhancing focus and concentration skills. It is a way to improve self-awareness and breathing control. Just like how yoga can help you handle stress, it can help how the overall performance as a student.

Improve Your Attitude

Why College Students Need Yoga

One thing that I never fully believed when I was younger was how yoga can change your overall attitude and personality. In its own way, yoga can change the way your brain thinks. Not only can it reduce anxiety but change how the brain responds to emotions like fear and depression. Letting yoga change your attitude can change how your mindset on how you see everything else.

Yoga can be useful for all the reasons  above but one of the biggest reasons I do yoga is purely the feeling of happiness I get after a session. So if you’re struggling with concentration, depression, anxiety, poor grades, etc. during college, give yoga a try. Whether you’re taking yoga through a class at the gym or at home on a laptop, let yoga change you physically and emotionally. What do you have to lose?

How to Spend Your Summer Before Freshmen Year

How to Spend Your Summer Before Freshmen Year

Congratulations, you did it! You roughed it through four possibly awkward, possibly tiresome, and hopefully meaningful years of high school. By this time you’ve already made your decision on where you’ll be heading in the fall and whether it be near or far, you’re probably feeling something between the lines of panic and complete excitement. However, despite the possible restlessness of wanting to (or perhaps not wanting to) start freshmen year of college as soon as possible, it’s important not to wish this actually very important summer away. Here’s why:

As a soon to be college senior, I’m constantly thinking back to points in my college career and wondering how I could have done things differently. Although I don’t regret too much, I do wish that I hadn’t spent the summer before freshmen year of college wasting away and waiting for the day that I could finally move into my new dormitory. And yes, normally summers are for resting, and considering you’ve just spent the last few weeks (still are spending) preparing for finals, finishing up senior projects, stressing about prom, and anticipating graduation, you’re probably exhausted. So by all means, take a rest, but also take into consideration that this summer is the best time to discover some great things about yourself before the impending stress that college and preparing for the real world take over. With this being said, use this intermediate time between graduating high school and starting college to solidify yourself before starting the next chapter in your life.

One of my biggest suggestions is to try new things. If you’ve wanted to learn an instrument, do it now. If you have an interest in photography? Start taking pictures! Like writing? Try out all of the genres! Finding something that motivates you separate from school, work, and your social life is one of the best things you can do for yourself, regardless of what it is or how good you are at it. By enjoying something and watching yourself improve at it, It allows you to achieve a stronger sense of self-efficacy. The reason why the summer before college is a crucial time for finding or strengthening this interest is because colleges offer a haven for interests. Whether it be classes, clubs, or lectures, you’re bound to meet people who share your interests as well as having a space to take this hobby to the next level with a multitude of resources and support. So use these months to enjoy your skills or find new things you love doing because it will pay off.

Another important thing to do before starting school is spending as much friends and family time as possible. No matter how annoying your family is, you’re going to miss them more than anything in the world once college starts, especially if you’re going far away from home. And you’re obviously going to miss your friends. When you’re away at college, no matter how great of a friend you are, keeping in touch is difficult. With school stressors and trying to make new friends, it’s easy to lose touch. This summer make sure to collect as many great memories as possible. Hang out with your dorky parents, make time for your grandparents, travel with friends, and most importantly, take millions of photos! You’ll thank yourself come autumn.

Last but not least, use this summer as a time for self-reflection. The past four years of high school shaped you as a person. Consider all of your accomplishments as well as your downfalls and piece together how they sculpted the person that you are today. Learn to appreciate everything that you learned in high school, and not just the lessons that you were taught in the classroom, because they’re going to truly help you adapt in college. The way you interacted with others, how you learned to deal with stress, and anything else that challenged you made you, well, you. And soon you’re going to deal with so many other things that will inevitably shape you even more. Use this summer as a moment to take a breather and recognize yourself before things start moving too quickly again.

So kick back, try new things, make time for friends and family, and recognize yourself because this summer might be one of the last summers before taking on a lot of responsibility. Most importantly, enjoy it and never wish for time to pass faster!