We’re All A Little Bit Hipster

Hipsters, I’m on to you.

While it may be true that I don’t shop primarily in thrift stores or drink Pabst Blue Ribbon, I think I’ve finally uncovered some of the reasons why America is so fascinated with the sub-culture that is Hipster, and why so many young people strive to become a part of it.

In the past, readers of my blog have accused me of being too critical of hipsters in previous posts (here and here), but I promise this post isn’t meant to offend. Interestingly enough, several of my friends have labeled me as a little bit hipster, probably because of my appreciation for plaid, irony and the obscure. Of course, when you take a closer look at me, you’ll see that I’m clearly a product of the mainstream culture — someone who still blogs about Taylor Swift songs, watches more reality television than she should and pretends to be Audrey Hepburn from time to time.

I’d like to argue that we all have our pretentious moments. We want to be able to say, “I listened to that band before it was popular,” because in some way, that will prove to the world that we are free-thinkers and trend-setters. We want to deviate from the mainstream so that we can feel a little more innovative and maybe even sophisticatedTweet this!

The ironic popularization of the hipster sub-culture seems to be a natural transition from the mainstream’s growing acceptance of The Lovable Dork trope of the last decade. Many of us grew up in the 90s, when the ideal was to be popular and cookie-cutter pretty; blondes ranked especially high on the unwritten list of who to aspire to look like, and the boys whose names we doodled on our Lisa Frank notebooks were the ones who looked like they belonged in n*Sync.

But then the 2000s came around and we fell in love with The O.C.‘s Seth Cohen, the intelligent and sarcastic outcast who ultimately won the heart of the Prom Queen. Suddenly, the “nerds” that pop culture once portrayed as unattractive and undesirable became our celebrity crushes, and girls everywhere claimed to be looking for their own nerdy boyfriends (who were usually just good-looking guys in glasses).

Then, in 2009, (500) Days of Summer hit theaters, and suddenly Zooey Deschanel was the new It Girl. Far from the 90s blonde ideal mentioned earlier, Deschanel represented the quirkiness that many girls were able to relate to in some way, and her headbands and funky dresses became staples in boutiques everywhere. Other members of the entertainment world contributed to this trend as well, but the idea of the offbeat person with a unique spin to an outfit appeals to the “innovator” in all of us.

This, of course, brings us to Hipsterdom. Although I would not categorize Seth Cohen/Adam Brody or Zooey Deschanel as hipsters themselves, I believe that the trends they set have contributed greatly to the country’s fascination with hipsters and the desires of many young people to fit into that sub-culture. After all, don’t hipsters support the unknown and unappreciated, the “misfits” who don’t immediately fit into the mainstream?

I would not categorize myself as much of a hipster. But I would, in fact, be willing to bet that most of us have some of those “hipster” qualities within us — in other words, we’re all a little bit hipster. Having said that, try not to let this new label get to your head… even though you knew what a hipster was before everyone else did, this won’t have any effect in the real world. 🙂

Our Struggles With Either/Or

“Who says you have to be either smart or pretty, or into girly stuff or sports? Life shouldn’t be about the either/or. We’re capable of more than that, you know?” – Sarah Dessen, Along For The Ride

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In the middle of my 50 Book Challenge (which admittedly has not been as productive as I would like it to be), I found myself returning to a young adult novelist I used to love — Sarah Dessen. Although I wasn’t incredibly impressed with Lock and Key, the last book of hers that I had read, I decided it might be fun to breeze through one of her more recent novels, Along For The Ride, and thus far have been pleasantly surprised.

In this story, the stoic and studious Auden finds herself forming unlikely friendships with the girliest of girly-girls, as well as an intriguing but elusive insomniac bike rider. Just skimming the book summary, I immediately thought to myself, I’ve read this book. After all, because I read all of Sarah Dessen’s other books in middle school and early high school, I was confident that I’d nailed the formula — a quiet, introspective girl befriends a more outspoken slew of characters, and falls for a mysterious boy who seems to understand the world better than anyone else. Of course, Along For The Ride seems to feature all of this, but the book is more complex than that.

My first impression of Dessen’s recent work actually mirrors Auden’s early perceptions of the other girls at her workplace — I had judged the book by its cover. When Auden goes to work for her stepmother’s clothing shop that summer, she perceives her three female coworkers as obnoxious and vapid, only interested in material things. Little does she know that Maggie, one of the more bubbly characters, is not only a pro when it comes to finding the perfect pair of jeans, but she is also a genius in school (especially English), finances and bike-riding with the boys. Maggie claims that things aren’t always “either/or” and that it is completely possible to have traits that are seemingly contradictory.

Maggie’s quote (in bold above) reminds me a lot of the themes explored in John Green’s novel Paper Towns. I’ve blogged before about our tendency to transform the people we meet into one-dimensional versions of themselves — I even named my old blog after this concept! — but the idea of paper people never gets old for me. First impressions are important, but they don’t tell us the whole story. For example, in high school, each clique I associated with saw me as someone different than the last; I was the cheerleader, the writer, the yearbook editor, the nice girl, the mega nerd, and at one point, a possible candidate for Prom Queen (don’t ask me how… I had very nice friends). Several of these descriptions seemed to sort of conflict, and yet, here I was, a real person. So what if my life didn’t fit in a neat little box? Neither did anyone else’s.

We have to be willing to give our acquaintances and even our friends a deeper look; instead of pigeon-holing everyone into distinct categories, let’s remind ourselves that certain traits don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In other words, we don’t have to be “either/or” versions of ourselves. We can express ourselves and live up to our potential without identifying with a specific label, and we can accept others for who they are without relying on specific stereotypes.

How To Start Over When You’re Halfway Through

Next Monday, I will begin the spring semester of my sophomore year of college, but it feels like just yesterday I was packing my bags and getting ready for the beginning of summer classes. A lot has changed in the six or seven months since then, both personally and professionally, and while some aspects have been enjoyable and fulfilling, I’ve definitely had my share of crappy-life-lesson/”character-building” moments throughout these past two semesters as well. After experiencing the best freshman year I could have ever hoped for (minus, of course, constantly getting sick), I found sophomore year to be a bit of a letdown.

However, looking past all the obstacles, I realized that my year isn’t over. I can change its course if I want to — and I will — toward something much brighter. I don’t have to look at the aforementioned highs and lows and then call the entire year a failure; instead, I can work on making this spring even sunnier than the last.

So for those of you in a bit of a rut this year, looking to reinvent yourselves or improve your circumstances, here are just a few quick goals you may want to work toward in the coming months:

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♥ Do what you want to do; forget who’s watching you.
When we worry so much about what others think of our actions, we let their values dictate our own. Instead of constantly tiptoeing around others’ feelings, let’s remember to decide for ourselves what is best for us and how we should lead our lives.

Figure out your priorities.
You can only wind yourself so tightly with commitments before you begin to unravel. I’m not saying to quit the things you love or need, but learn how to manage it all so that you can still get full nights of sleep and not feel like you’re sacrificing something better.

Spend more time outside.
I don’t care how brightly decorated or well-lit your dorm is — it is no match for a cloudless, sunny day. Change your scenery by abandoning your room and heading outside into the fresh air. Do your homework by the pond, catch up on your reading on the benches near your building or take a long stroll with a friend during the limited down-time you both have.

Don’t neglect your health.
Eat the brain foods that will keep you going and throw out the junk food that makes you crash. Hit the gym for an hour or search for workout videos on YouTube. Don’t treat your health as a last priority; you have one body, and the better you treat it, the better it will treat you.

Avoid dramatic situations.
Easier said than done, of course, but try your best to stay away from those toxic relationships and untrustworthy “confidantes” who are mostly looking out for themselves. When you feel yourself being sucked into such situations, remind yourself that you have no time for those things, and steer clear. Had I followed my own advice in the past two semesters, I would have been much more productive.

Remember that nothing good happens after midnight.
Yes, it is extremely hypocritical of me to say that at this hour, but it’s something I plan to work on! What I mean by that phrase is that it’s important to get your beauty rest, especially during the week (because, let’s face it, we’re usually out till much later on the weekends – and rightfully so). Besides, nothing good can come of that late-night text or Facebook IM. Shut off your phone and computer and get some rest — trust me, it’s better for you.

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What are you looking to change in the upcoming semester?

The Final Step of Coexistence

It all started with my newfound love for How I Met Your Mother.

I know, I know — a little late to be jumping on the wagon after five years and six seasons of plot development — but after a whole semester of friends issuing and accepting “challenges” (a la Barney Stinson), I knew I had to give it a go. And while I still have a lot of catching up to do, I have found that this show not only makes me laugh, but it makes me think.

One episode in particular really hit home for me. It was all about the Platinum Rule — that is, “Never, ever, ever, ever love thy neighbor,” or in other words, don’t get involved with someone who lives/works in close proximity to you. After explaining this, Barney then illustrates the eight steps of the Platinum Rule, all of which depict failed relationship attempts in a humorous light. At the end of the episode, Ted (the main character) concludes that there should be a ninth step to Barney’s Platinum Rule: coexistence.

When I saw this episode, I decided that coexistence should play a bigger role at the end of all relationships, romantic or otherwise. Although we may go through some of the other steps (the tipping point, confrontation, falling out, etc.), we ought to eventually let go of all that anger and resentment at some point down the line. We don’t need to rekindle anything, but we should come to terms with whatever has happened and try to let go of as much negative energy as we can.

Let’s face it – we will, at some point, have to work alongside someone who has wronged or hurt us in the past, and we will have two major options:

1) Let that anger boil up until we’re ready to explode.

2) Accept that occasionally we’ll have to spend a little time with this person, and try to let it go.

I know it can be hard. I’ve been struggling with this concept myself for the last few months, but I’ve realized that when you aren’t spending all your time hating someone for what they did to you, you are a lot better off. You accomplish more, you’re happier, and others are more drawn to you than they would be if you spent the entire time scowling.

This doesn’t mean that you should completely disregard what others have done to hurt you in the past, but it does mean that you should live your life without letting the mere presence of those people control your happiness. Maybe that’s what a new year is about – learning to accept the past as the past, and coexist with our demons when necessary.

The End in the Beginning

After six weeks of nonstop note-taking, studying, and socializing in those last spare moments, summer semester is finally over… and as much as I love my life at school, I know that this break (possibly more than all others) was completely necessary. In some ways, the semester has been one of the hardest to get through, but as the week comes to a close, so too does the beginning of a whole new chapter. My first semester of sophomore year has just ended, and yet it opens me — all of us! — up to a brand new start.

The point is, even when it feels like things aren’t going right, we usually still have something to gain. From every failure, mistake, and disappointment, we learn something we never really knew about ourselves. We grow. We change. As long as we’re willing to look past the things we can’t control, then we will be able to face any darkness and let in the light. The idea may sound completely abstract and cliche, but every ending leads to a new beginning, and every new beginning offers a chance for us to achieve something that we we were unable to achieve before.

So try and look back on everything without so much as a sense of regret, but rather a sense of purpose. Learn whatever you can from the time that has passed. Use that knowledge to gain a better idea of who you are as a person and what you want out of life. Take the time to realize that there is a new opportunity out there waiting for you, and get ready to show the world that you are a force to be reckoned with.