Author: Mario Kolev

The Death of Sleep Schedules, Along With All Other Normality

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As we progress through different stages of life, we realize that many things we considered as constants have changed dramatically or vanished altogether. That naïve sense of security we felt as we were running through playgrounds is no longer there and neither is the soothing embrace of our parents after we fell and scraped our knees. In middle school, we realized that others could be mean. In high school, we suddenly realized that we were growing up and responsibilities came flooding in. Some lost sleep because of their social life. Others were kept up by academic anxiety or thoughts of the future. No matter the reason, what we all felt was frantic; it was startling, but it was natural.

Adulthood doesn’t lightly knock on the door – it often busts it down. No wonder that so many dream of being “forever young.” Being able to legally purchase a drink or enter your favorite social venue are meager payoffs for intrusive thoughts of complete independence. Doesn’t it feel so freeing to be away from mom and dad? It does…until your bank account begins to hover right above the big zero or you’re in your bunked bed, miserable with a fever, longing for a few words of encouragement that will certainly not come from your absent roommate. Oh, to be a freshman again! To harbor thoughts of college adventures beyond the wildest high school dreams. As eager we are to get away from the shackles of normality, the unfortunate truth remains – we long for steadiness and support. It’s easier being a dependent, and it really begins to show once you pass the midway point of your undergraduate career.

Lately, I’ve been losing sleep. These issues have been in and out of my head for the longest time, but they become especially prominent when you’re on the brink of graduation. Being a first semester senior spells many things, of which most prominent is sleep deprivation. Whether you’re obsessing over an upcoming exam (or, in my wretched case, the LSAT) or are just unable to fall asleep before an ungodly hour, you’re likely a walking zombie and you will remain that way. What’s that you say? Going to bed at ten tonight because you have a test in the morning? Interesting theory, but wholly impractical. Insomnia is within the essence of college culture. The time you’ll be spending tossing and turning in a dark room to the rhythm of the neighbor’s iTunes playlist would be better spent in your neighbors room raging uncontrollably. Okay, okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little. You shouldn’t blow things off just because your environment doesn’t allow you to pursue them in the way you’d like. It would be to your benefit, however, to discard any notions of normality that happen to be lingering in your brain from your cozy “normal” life. Welcome to adulthood, a realm where a “sleep schedule” is virtually an undefined term, where a helping hand doesn’t come cheap, and where your previous reality might as well be a fairy tale.

A Changing Sports World: America and Soccer

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The life of an immigrant in America is anything but conventional. There are countless things one comes to learn about this nation by way of pure exposure to culture. Having come from Bulgaria, I predicted that the passions of Americans would differ drastically from those most prevalent in the rest of the world. America has always presented itself as being divergent, but also as being a leader. The proverbial “city on a hill” has always set a political and economic example that other, less powerful nations use as a benchmark to evaluate their progress. The question is, can we say as much about America from a cultural perspective?

To evaluate this question, we can look to sports. There is nothing more global than a common passion that almost serves as a universal language. Throughout the world, football, or soccer (admittedly an American fabrication) serves this type of purpose. The majority of the world’s nations cite football as the dominant sport within their culture and some even go as far as comparing it to religion. If you think this claim is an exaggeration, I urge you to visit a nation such as Brazil, where the kick of a ball precedes the first roll of the tongue. The sport is entirely engrained in the culture and a single match has the power to unify or divide an entire nation.

Can this phenomenon be achieved in the United States? Basketball, football, and baseball all serve as national sports, but there are few people who harbor an equal amount of passion for all three. Football season always brings about feverish fanaticism, but it doesn’t ever seem as if the entire nation is unified over a single event, barring the heavily advertised colossus that is the Superbowl. Different regions of the country seem to swarm around distinct sports, so sectionalism is unavoidable.

Until recent times, “soccer” had been relegated to a lowly place on the ranking of sports in America. It was simply seen as a way in which kindergarteners, pre-schoolers, and elementary school students could get their exercise without any serious commitment. Starting in middle school, soccer was abandoned and most likely replaced by sports more in tune with American culture. The passion behind soccer has always seemed rather foreign to the American people. This is one of the first things I noticed when I initially set foot on an American playground as a ten-year-old immigrant. As late as the early 2000s, the majority of participants in soccer programs across the United States were likely to be of foreign descent. This begs the question, how has such a global phenomenon had such difficulty penetrating American culture? The question will likely remain unanswered.

An encouraging move was eventually made in 2007, when a footballing icon in the form of David Beckham made his move from Spanish giants Real Madrid to the Los Angeles Galaxy. America was buzzing. Youngsters were starstruck and, for the first time, felt passion for the beautiful game. Training facilities were expanded, the media increasingly began to integrate soccer into mainstream culture, and the nation’s attention turned to something it had been missing for years. There are bright times ahead for soccer in America and we can only hope its progress remains unimpeded.

 

Lionel Messi: Living Legend

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Who is Lionel Messi? Not anyone too impressive; he’s only an Argentine footballing prodigy that had multiple world-class clubs at his feet at the tender age of 11, shortly after a daunting diagnosis of growth hormone deficiency. The diminutive twinkle-toed forward caught the eyes of the world while playing in the Argentine youth divisions with famed Newell’s Old Boys. Sporting a significantly smaller stature than other boys his age, Messi startled with his close control and commanding balance, weaving through defenders and excelling when odds seemed to be stacked against him.

Seemingly destined for fame, it was only a matter of time before the big boys came knocking. Lionel couldn’t escape the attentions of talent scouts in his time in Argentine football. On a day that shaped his destiny, a representative of Catalan giants FC Barcelona expressed his desire to bring Messi to Spain in order to continue his development and eventually transform him into a first-team competitor. In a strange turn of events, many clubs were turned off by the enormity of Messi’s medical expenses, which all went toward the consistent treatment of his growth hormone condition. Barcelona’s board of executives likely looks to the sky and gratefully embraces the clairvoyant whose astonishing foresight prompted the signing of a legend, despite a hefty cost. The world wasn’t quite prepared to witness Messi’s astronomical rise and still stands in awe as the Argentina captain commandingly embodies the essence of Barcelona football club and the beautiful game upon every single match day.

Despite the generous sprinkling of talent throughout the world of football, Messi’s shadow is seemingly all encompassing. Witnessing the brilliance of the little genius on a football field is virtually equivalent to being in the presence of Da Vinci as his hand calculatedly traces the outline of Mona Lisa’s infamous visage. The ball is magnetized by his feet, which scuttle around defenders, often leaving them dumbfounded. Concrete examples of Messi’s magic are innumerable. Consider his performances in La Liga – the goal against Getafe a few seasons back, when he picked up the ball right by the midfield line to go on a mazy streak past all opposing defenders and finish in an effort that immediately drew comparisons to Diego Maradona. How about his Champions League career and his single-handed dismantling of Arsenal?

In an era of footballers such as Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo, Xavi Hernandez, and Andres Iniesta, Messi’s mercurial talent has indubitably distinguished him as a legend. His imprint in football culture renders him immortal in my own head, as well as in the hearts of fans all across the world.

Know The Right People

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“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” It’s not exactly music to the ears, especially if you’ve spent a significant part of your college years within the confines of the library, working toward what you thought would be best for your future. Professional aspirations have been the driving force behind your perseverance and you certainly hope that the rewards will match your effort. In reality, your efforts may not be enough.

The economic forecast isn’t exactly promising. It seems as if these sorts of discouraging facts are being thrown out at will across all news networks. The state of the economy is a subject that occupies the front pages of newspapers all-too-often. Our familiarity with how difficult it can be to find a full-time job, even after graduating from a top university brings about anxiety and even sets off a panic among aspiring young professionals who had been hoping that their vision could be realized. What went wrong with the American dream? Is it still possible?

Yes, of course it’s possible, but it’s a little different. There is no pure “David vs. Goliath” story to be found within the real American dream. There are those who achieve considerable success, having started from scratch, but they do so with the help of luck and considerable help at crucial stages of their upward rise. For example, immigrants often come to the United States with scarce monetary resources and minimal connections. They spend a few years assimilating into the culture and acquainting themselves with people who eventually assist them in reaching their goals. Though you may hear people say “I did it all by myself,” it’s likely a bit of an exaggeration.

One of the most important skills to have in your arsenal is sociability. Approach people openly, showcase your worth through acts of generosity, and gain respect by being upstanding. Good people will notice your effort and reciprocate with similar actions. As long as you learn how to make positive impressions on people, you will have the advantage of others’ help whenever you are in dire need. People are generally empathetic toward those who show themselves to be worthy of admiration and respect.

This advice should not be interpreted as an encouragement of brown nosing. You should never be artificial in your interactions with people solely with the goal of gaining some sort of advantage. Do not let ulterior motives drive your social life. Being genuine always brings about the right result, in that you surround yourself with similarly good people. It is these types of individuals that can eventually make a big difference in your life. They can help you escape your struggles if they feel like you would be there to assist them in a similar situation. The value of making the right friends and acquaintances can never be underestimated. In the process of establishing such connections, you are literally choosing who you will be surrounded with for years to come. Make sure to not make these types of decisions lightly.

Raise The Bar

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The beginning of the new school year should come with an entirely revamped set of expectations. No, I’m not talking about mundane academic topics or crushing parental pressure. I’m referring to the standards you (should) set for yourself with each passing year. Did you happen to get a little out of shape this past exam period? This tends to happen, to some degree, to everyone when their diet is reduced to copious amounts of coffee, overpriced scones, and the vending machine’s baffling selection of candy bars. Feeling completely sapped of energy after your daily exertions in the classroom or “don’t have time” for the gym? When stress enters the equation, all else is left behind. The positives become easy to overlook and dwelling on failure is intuitive. Don’t fall into the trap! Recognize the signs and click into a healthy routine that will do wonders for your confidence.

From a male perspective, particularly in college, being in good physical shape becomes really important. Why, you ask? Didn’t we leave the superficiality safely stowed away in a high school locker? The answer is – sort of.  We certainly left behind the immature wisecracks based on people’s appearance, but I don’t believe we have completely left behind the judgment. You’ve heard the saying – “First impressions are hard to erase.” Appearance is an inevitable part of every first impression. You may be an extraordinarily accomplished person, but give off an antipathetic vibe. Paying due attention to your looks has benefits that go beyond the superficial. The science behind the claim is common knowledge. Exercising on a regular basis not only optimizes physical attractiveness but also literally “clears your mind.” Increased blood flow throughout the body livens you up and clears up any signs of the foggy malaise that usually has you stapled to the couch.

More often than not, getting into a regular exercise routine has nothing to do with capability. Even the busiest individual has thirty minutes to an hour of free time to devote to miscellaneous activities each and every day. The biggest issue for most is motivation. Admittedly, the thought of adding another “duty” to your schedule is taxing. This is precisely the negative mindset you must try to avoid. Working out shouldn’t be thought of as a difficult and annoying responsibility. If you’re a beginner, hitting the gym will seem challenging initially. Escaping your lazy streak will seem like a nightmare. You sit there and think about it – the muscle soreness, breathlessness, and intimidating sight of those who got the memo a little ahead of time. This is one of the only times I will advise you to stop thinking. Contemplating these sorts of things only delays progress. Dive right in and get a taste of what regular exercise is actually like. Your program will become more and more structured as your enthusiasm increases.

The college environment encourages self-improvement. We are told that these are the years in which we are “shaped.” Take this both figuratively and literally. With intellectual growth must come social awareness and that requires greater effort. When you’re satisfied with one aspect of your being, begin molding the next. Always strive to be well rounded and you will gain respect.