How to Survive College

For lack of a better opening, here’s a Twitter-sized anecdote.

Mom, to teenage brother: “You know, you should ask Hannah for ideas about college. She’s been doing it for awhile now.”

Me: sherlock success anderson emma makes things sherlock spoilers GIF

But I guess, after accidentally doing college in cuttime and surviving, I really do know something about how it works.

Let’s be honest. College is an amazing opportunity (thanks for the blessing, God) that’s also terrifying and awful and will probably suck the life out of you (thanks for the sanctification, God). We do it, because we know that higher education can actually benefit us later in life provided we do it right and survive to graduation. But how? How to survive college?

Glad you asked, because it just so happens I have a list. (Mycroft has a file.) To cut to the chase, this post is about basic hacks that will help you survive college. These are just things that I’ve found useful, and maybe they’ll work for you too. And the best part is, you can start using some of them right now.

Step 1: Begin before the semester.

After all, a villain must always be one step ahead.

  • Ask advice from other people who go to college- preferably, your college. Find out about the hardest courses and how to ace them, and look for little life hacks from other students. (Hint: You’re already doing that!)
  • Do everything ahead of time. Don’t procrastinate. Figure out what courses you’re taking, get them all set up, and fill out all the forms well before the semester starts. This leaves you extra time in case you miss something.
  • When you’re not in school, practice writing essays. If you’re still in high school or are taking a summer break, now is the ideal time to practice writing a generic five-paragraph essay. Find some prompts, set a timer for 40 minutes, and see what you can crank out.
  • Update: Learn to speed-read. I neglected to mention this before (facepalm) but if you do it right, speed-reading can help you study effectively by teaching you different types of reading. Try this article for starters.

Step 2: Go in with a plan.

 planning GIF

Don’t get beaten by a cat.

  • Read the syllabus. Just… read the syllabus.
  • Download everything: all assignment instructions, rubrics, source articles, and anything else you might find useful. It may seem ridiculous, but it’s so much easier than desperately hunting for that old article a day before your paper is due.
  • Organize your files using your computer’s file explorer, Google Drive, or Microsoft Office Suite. Downloading stuff is no good if you can’t find it later.
  • While you’re at it, organize your tasks by day. I use Google Calendar and Tasks, which lets me assign daily tasks to myself and check them off as I go. Other people use planner apps which basically do the same thing.
  • Keep track of your textbooks. When you’re buying and renting multiple books (see below) for a whole semester, it’s really easy to forget which ones belong to you and when to return the ones that don’t. Ergo, write it down.

Step 3: Get the right resources.

Image result for sonic screwdriver gif

I watched one episode, so I’m allowed to use this gif, right?

  • Rent your books instead of buying them. Chegg Study and Amazon.com are great resources for this.
  • If you can, earn credit in other ways. CLEP and DSST exams give you credit for subjects you already know, and ALEKS courses give you a fast-paced review until you’re getting good grades. P.S. ACE Credit can store your credit on a transcript until you’re ready to send it to a college.
  • There are also some great study sites. Free Clep Prep is technically for CLEP and DSST, but the site has all kinds of resources for pretty much every intro-level course and subject.
  • InstantCert is great test-prep, designed for CLEP exams.
  • Quizlet is also good. Personally I hate studying with flash cards, but if they help you, Quizlet is the way to go.

Step 4: Work.

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Don’t let your dreams be dreams.

  • College is basically a job, so treat it like one. Work hard and take it seriously.
  • Do your school from nine to five. School starts promptly at 9am and ends right before dinner (with good breaks in between), and then you can watch Netflix. This way, you probably won’t have to pull any all-nighters.
  • Get over yourself. The truth is college often makes you work hard at things you don’t even like- for example, recording videos of yourself talking. Just do it anyway. Chances are you’re a lot better at school than you think.
  • Sleep at night. I shouldn’t have to say this to you adults (and almost-adults), but put your phone away and go to sleep before 11pm.

Step 5: Make it fun.

Image result for gif sherlock just happy to be alive

Life can be fun.

  • Make yourself have fun. Let’s face it, college isn’t always fun, so you have to find little ways to enjoy it. It’s as simple as talking yourself into being excited or choosing essay topics that sound interesting and don’t stress you out.
  • Listen to music that makes you happy and helps you study. Try Spotify or Pandora, or just plain old YouTube if you can resist the cat videos. (I’ve heard video games soundtracks can help people focus on tasks.)
  • Reward yourself with snacks. After thirty solid minutes of writing that dull essay, give yourself a snack. A healthy snack. Maybe a little chocolate if it’s a really dull essay.
  • Find fun ways of studying. Do you like to sit and read outside? Can you make up a song to memorize the rulers of England? Do you learn better mind palace-style? Try it and see.

Step 6: Think twice before making a dumb decision.

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See, Cap said so. Better listen to Cap.

  • Keep at it. Everyone feels awful in the heat of the semester: some people are tempted to cheat, others just want to give up trying. Both of those are wrong. College really is a huge opportunity, regardless of how you feel now. Don’t waste it.
  • Talk about your problems. Ask your mom for advice when you’re stressed out, or have your friend group ask you every week how you are doing. It does wonders for accountability.
  • Don’t be stupid. Cheating is always a wrong decision, and it almost never improves your grades even if you’re not caught. (For example.) Remember, school is for learning, not proving what you already know.
  • Get the help you need. Try Chegg Study or check out the resources in your university’s library. Think about it: for 30 bucks, would you rather buy two crappy essays or actually learn how to put your thoughts on paper?

Step 7: Live a life outside of school.

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Sorry. This gif is too much to resist.

  • Start a project outside of school. Volunteer, learn to make bread, or get a part-time job. This gives you balance and lets you invest in something besides three months of papers.
  • Don’t let college kill you. Drink water so you don’t die. Find some kind of exercise that you like (or, at least, you don’t hate); if you live close enough to your campus, try walking to school instead of driving.
  • Talk to other humans. Don’t just be grumpy about how misrepresented the Puritans are; go rant to a friend about it. It helps you process and understand the facts better, and in the meantime you’ll actually be talking to people.
  • Give your brain a break. Try watching a movie on repeat (like, ahem, Doctor Strange) or re-read your old favorite book. Just find something to help your brain relax.
  • If you need to, quit during the summer. Most people take a summer break. College is brain work, and sometimes you just need to rest.

And here we are. This list is not a lifesaving device, but hopefully something on it will make your life at college a little bit better. At the very least, you should be able to survive.

Enjoy the rest of your summer. *evil cackling*

Are You a Legalist??

willywonkalegalistHave you ever met an anti-legalist? They’re like the legalistic sort of church folk, only they take things to the opposite extreme. The legalists like Christian movies? Great, let’s hate Christian movies! Legalists don’t read Twilight? Read all the vampire stories!

If you by some miracle haven’t encountered an anti-legalist, go read some random Christian blogs that rant about the dangers of purity rings, or find an online support group for kids whose parents didn’t let them watch PG-13 movies. That should give you the general idea.

So here’s my thesis: Legalism and anti-legalism are twin forms of idolatry. Why is that? Because both lifestyles are based on people’s opinions and our own desire to leave an impression, rather than on God’s will for us. And why is that? Well, that’s what the post is about.

We need to start by defining the terms. What are legalism and anti-legalism, and what’s wrong with each one?

The problem with legalism is that it is contrary to the Gospel. No one can (or should) question that. In essence, legalism takes good and beautiful choices, and uses them to become standards that all Christians should follow. It assumes that we and our perfect homeschool families and flawless courtships (complete with a first-kiss-wedding) can and must earn the approval of God. Anyone who doesn’t do worship services and potlucks exactly the way we do just isn’t as awesome as we are. Our way is the right way, and theirs is the wrong one. God forbid we should ever be associated with those people!

But guess what? Anti-legalism is also contrary to the Gospel. It operates under the premise that moral standards that are not specifically commanded in scripture are a threat to our freedom in Christ. It assumes that Josh Harris and God’s Not Dead 2 must be spurned and ridiculed; Harry Potter is the only way to prove that we are truly free in Christ. Anyone who even tolerates the idea that kids shouldn’t date until age 18 just isn’t as awesome as we are. We must fight legalism and the judgmental attitudes of others! Our way is the right way, and theirs is the wrong one. God forbid we should ever be associated with those people!

Do you see what’s so tragically laughable here? Legalism and anti-legalism are, at their root, exactly the same concept taken to two different extremes. In both cases, decisions are based less on what God is asking me to do, and more on how I see myself and how others will perceive me. It’s just like boys and girls throwing mud pies at each other on the playground because the opposite gender hypothetically has cooties- never mind the actual mud on your own clothes.

Now, to be clear: calling your relationship “courting” instead of “dating” does not make you a legalist, and reading a book by Suzanne Collins does not make you an anti-legalist. The problem is not the action itself, but the motivation behind the action. Both forms of legalism happen when we take the focus off of God and put ourselves and our works in the spotlight. The mindset in both cases is one of “people need to see what I’m doing for God, not what God is doing in me.” Legalism and anti-legalism are both idolatry because the ultimate standard is how I appear to others.

I have to look perfect at church. 

I dare not look too perfect at church. 

I have to save my children from a life of sin.

I have to save my parents from a life of judging lest they be judged. 

People, it’s time to wake up! We simply have to stop putting that pressure on ourselves. God didn’t assign us the responsibility of being perfect; who are we to assign it to ourselves? If gaining the approval of man through my own behavior is my motivation, then there’s no room for God. And a life without God is the most dangerous life I can live.

So what’s the point? Well, here’s a quote. I don’t care if you like Doctor Strange or not (based on what I’ve seen, you probably don’t), but the Ancient One aptly summed up the truth everyone is missing:

It’s not about you.

God is the center. People are not God, and we never will be. It’s not our job to live perfect lives in front of others, nor to prove to others that we have the truth about living perfect lives. If that was really the case, we of all people should be most pitied. It would mean that Jesus’ death doesn’t really matter after all, and God has forsaken us. It would mean that it’s up to humanity to save itself. That sounds blasphemous, yet it’s exactly what we proclaim when we live to create an impression on others. And we can do that just as easily when we’re reading Harry Potter as when we’re listening exclusively to Christian music.

Sure, it’s okay to hate Christian movies, just as it’s okay to skip the Divergent trilogy. But what’s your reason for disliking either? So often, we make decisions based on how we appear to others. If I refuse to spend money at Starbucks, will people think I’m legalistic? If I wear this, will people think I’m making myself cheap? Sure, we should have a care about how we treat others, but here’s the thing: people are always going to judge us. Remember the farmer, his son, and their donkey. If we build our lives based on other people’s perceptions, we will end up dissatisfied and depressed. It’s impossible to create the perfect impression forever, and God didn’t make us to live like that anyway.

The thing we need to change is our motivation. We should really be making our decisions based on what God asks us to do. That’s the life He created us to live. Where does God want me to spend my hard-earned money? Does my clothing reflect the honor that God has given me as His son or daughter? And yes, people will still judge us or think ill of us, and sometimes that will hurt, but it doesn’t matter as much when we know we’re doing what God would have us do. It’s truly amazing how the earth grows strangely dim in the light of God’s glory and grace.

It’s all about God, anyway. What right have we to add to His commandments?

27 Things I Accidentally Did This School Term

(desperately searches for a gif that suits the insanity of this semester) (oh there’s one) (it’s Sherlock even better)

Miracles do happen. I’m alive, people!

Granted, I am 1000% ready for the summer. I’ve got a bunch of fun plans for the next few (i.e. million) blog posts. In the meantime, though, I’m just trying to recover from the last two months of my life. You would not believe the insanity if I tried to describe them. However, insanity is sometimes better communicated in a list format, which is why I’m going to tell you about it in a list of 27 things I randomly did this semester without ever planning to do them.

So in case you ever wanted to know, here’s why I disappeared over the last two months. Not a thinking post, just a rant to say hello and hopefully make someone laugh. I did some good things as well as some not-so-wise things. Learn from my mistakes and copy the things I did right, and hopefully you will survive your junior year as well. (Maybe.)

In the past half-semester of school, I:

  1. Signed up for five courses in eight weeks.

  2. Subsequently learned that you’re only supposed to take two or three courses in eight weeks.

  3. Tested the “you need at least eight hours of sleep in order to function normally” hypothesis. It is in fact true.

  4. Learned how to bluff my way through a paper.

  5. Wrote a total of 28 essays (some shorter, some longer, there is no in between).

  6. Got really, really good at finding scholarly sources for papers.

  7. Mastered the skill of citing those sources in multiple formats in my sleep.

  8. Tweeted a lot about #college and #studentlife. (Still did not learn how to use Facebook.)

  9. Concluded that I go to college with a bunch of Andersons.

  10. Speaking of Anderson,  finally sat down and watched Sherlock. 

  11. Became a full-fledged & slightly insane Sherlockian (see also: gif).

  12. Also watched Doctor Strange way more often than I should have.

  13. Perplexedly tried to figure out why most people I talked to hate Doctor Strange.

  14. Basically watched any movie that has Benedict Cumberbatch as a sarcastic jerk.

  15. Wrote parodies for Doctor Strange and Rogue One.

  16. Perfected an impression of Mads Mikkelsen for aforementioned parodies.

  17. Discovered just how hard it is for American me to learn a Danish accent.

  18. Did not do any decent filming- we must hold out until the summer. Sigh…

  19. Re-wired yet another old draft of a novel.

  20. Turned that novel into a fantasy thriller turned romance novel turned Greek tragedy turned… well, I don’t really know what it is yet, but it’s cool.

  21. Invented an eccentric INTP who may will probably turn out to be an antagonist.

  22. Also invented his twin ESFJ sister who is the sweetest little cinnamon roll that ever managed a kingdom.

  23. Let my characters start another war. They’re really good at that.

  24. Published two whole blog posts (although I admit one of those was written beforehand).

  25. Promised myself I would take off the summer and resisted any and all attempts by my college to get me to come back.

  26. Made a resolution to take violin lessons.

  27. Ranted about all of it on my blog.

So that was the last few months of school for me. Needless to say, I’m just glad the semester is over, and I plan to have a lot of fun during the next one.

Happy summer, kids.

Doctor Strange || Coat and Cloak:

Doctor Strange; or, Why I Won’t Recommend My New Favorite Movie

#Doctor #Strange #Fan #Art. (Doctor Strange Movie Poster) By: Marvel. ÅWESOMENESS!!!™ ÅÅÅ+: Long story short, I saw Doctor Strange in theaters twice and am now slightly obsessed.

What else to say? This film is by far the most skillful rehash of the Marvel storyline, with a solid story and some more thoughtful themes than we’ve seen previously. It has beautiful cinematography and CGI, masterful storytelling, and an epic soundtrack by Michael Giacchino. Oh, and it’s now one of the five movies that have ever made me cry. I loved almost everything about it.

And yet I won’t recommend it? No, sir- that is, not to just anyone. And therein lies a tale.

Anywho, I’ve been wondering how to format this post, and at last I decided that it will be what I call a “rant,” in which I simultaneously review a movie and rave about all the little details I like, all the while striving to avoid spoilers- but beware of the comments section, because I can make no promises there!

Like all good reviews, rants begin with an attempt at a plot summary, in case you, like me, have never read any comic books or don’t know anything about this new addition to the Marvel canon.

Stephen Strange, a genius with a photographic memory, is the finest neurosurgeon around, and he knows it. All of which makes it humiliating when a nasty accident destroys the nerves in the arrogant physician’s hands and threatens his career. After blowing his fortune on world-famous doctors who try and fail to help him, Strange uses the last of his money to fly to Kathmandu in the hopes that the stories of miraculous healing at Kamar Taj might somehow come true for him.

There Strange meets the Ancient One and her wizarding folk, who are not what everyone claimed they were- but not as they seem, either. It’s the beginning of Strange’s journey into a whole new world of infinite dimensions. And of course, learning of an infinite dimension, as the Ancient One says, means learning of infinite dangers.

So… the pros.

chiwetel ejioforLet’s start with the obvious- can we just appreciate the characters? There’s Strange,
arrogant and brilliant like Tony Stark, but more likeable and dorky. Then there’s the Ancient One, an awesome fighter and slightly sassy take on the mentor archetype. Baron Mordo, a mentor/sidekick of sorts, is Inspector Javert- end of story. Kaecilius, the main baddie, is powerful enough to challenge the heroes, and his skewed worldview almost makes enough sense to defeat Strange’s will to fight. And then there’s Christine Palmer, the love interest and possibly the only normal person in the whole film. I call her Molly Hooper. 

None of the characters is a true hero- not at the beginning, at least- but are what we call “grey characters,” with their own sometimes-questionable goals. Like Strange, each has a unique perspective on the world, and we follow each arc to a logical end (for the first movie in a trilogy, of course).

And oh yes, they all bring their own humor on the adventure. If there’s one thing Marvel can do right, it’s humor.

As for the story itself… I know a lot of bloggers have talked about this already, but Doctor Strange doesn’t shy away from questions about the nature of the universe. (One reviewer calls it “the most religious superhero movie ever.“) Are we matter and nothing more? Is there really no ghost in the machine? Strange thinks so- until the Ancient One literally knocks his ghost (called his astral form) out of him and through a series of colorful spiritual worlds. Strange, like us, is forced to face the very real spiritual realm and find his place in a world that’s bigger than himself.

My favorite scene of the film takes place in a hospital room, where Christine stitches up Strange after an encounter with Kaecilius. One of the minions attacks- in his astral form- and Strange has to fight the guy off. Lights flash and equipment rattles as the two ghostlike figures whirl through the air. Maybe it’s just a cool little addition to an action movie, but it’s more likely supposed to be an allegorical look at the spiritual war in our own world.

And then we have that fantastic mingling of theme and plot that writers always love. At the end of the film, as Dormammu and his Dark Dimension threaten to consume the entire world, Strange makes a bold choice to keep the earth safe. I won’t go into spoilers, but Strange’s plan for counterattack is simultaneously a clever plot twist and a picture of sacrificing everything for a cause that’s bigger than oneself. Besides, it’s a vivid illustration of the gospel in that Strange gives up what matters most to him and faces pain and death in an effort to save the world from the darkness. For me personally, this film gave the opportunity to look at the greatest story ever told from a new angle I’d never seen before.

Did I mention that we have a new Marvel villain?

Besides all this, it’s worth mentioning that the directors take a few shots at some false worldviews. Kaecilius and his little friends, devout followers of something like Buddhism with Gnostic tendencies, spend the film striving for eternal life and enlightenment as part of the One. And- this shouldn’t be a spoiler– it’s this desire that ultimately leads to their defeat. The film also tackles morality: the line between good and evil isn’t the Jedi-like dualism of films like Star Wars, but rather a distinction between right and wrong based on common sense and the ultimate purpose. Magic spells have consequences. Mordo may be an inflexible bringer of justice, but he’s right when he says the bill always comes due.

So why not watch it?

The simple fact is that this movie has the same potential pitfalls as a Harry Potter- if HP had been made by a Christian director of horror films- which is to say, it’s really hard to tell where the line is between Christian and anti-Christian elements. We have on one hand Christian undertones and obvious biblical parallels, and on the other, dark rituals and other confusing territory.

Another gif in case you wanted severe nausea.

Kamar Taj is a mystical school of sorcery, and it wears that badge more prominently than Hogwarts would ever dream of doing. Strange studies occult books like “The Key of Solomon”  and uses a relic called the Eye of Agamotto to manipulate time. Characters meditate and chant, and Kaecilius uses dark spells to open a portal to the Dark Dimension (a Satanic realm) in a Catholic church. I could go on, but you get the idea: Doctor Strange could easily lead a naive person, especially a Christian one, into some dark territory. (Watch this vodcast for more discussion on the occult elements.)

So… who should watch Doctor Strange?

Here’s the way I look at it- if you’re pretty good at discerning truth from lies in twisty stories like Harry Potter or Batman Begins, go right ahead and enjoy what may be the finest Marvel movie ever made. Invite a friend and chat about it- two minds are better than one when it comes to philosophy. But if that isn’t you, better opt for the second best Marvel film, Captain America (being sure to skip that terrible ending, of course).

[GIF] DOCTOR STRANGE (2016) ~ Benedict Cumberbatch. Trailer 2.

Because capes.

Did you go see Doctor Strange? If so, what’d you think? If not, do you think you’ll give it a try?

Video Week: Strange Soundtracks and Matt Chandler

Hello, friends.

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You really thought I was dead this time, didn’t you?

As previously promised, I’m starting to share more videos and such on the blog. I’m starting a new blog category: Video Week, in which I will share one post every month that has- guess what– videos.  Get it? Got it? Good. I can’t promise to stick to a single theme/set of themes every month, but this week I’m sharing videos about soundtracks, abortion, and the election.

(P.S. Funny how I can just say “the election” and everyone knows what I mean.)

The Hands Dealt

So… no, I’ve not actually seen Doctor Strange yet, and I’m still wondering whether I want to spend money on it- and if so, how much. (In case you’re a Christian who’s wondering the same thing, this might help you out.) However, not having watched a movie doesn’t stop me from listening to the soundtrack, and while I didn’t love the electric guitars in this one, it had its piano moments. Meet one of my new favorite scores: “The Hands Dealt.”

Matt Chandler on Abortion

And now, the video that may start fires. I’m going to share it anyhow. (cue evil laughing) If you’re game, watch as Matt Chandler, pastor of the Village Church, explains a few of the main reasons why I believe pro-life is the only scientific and ethical position to take.

I’ve Never Been More Scared

Finally, a little humor to cheer us all up. Yes, this video is a few weeks old… but it’s arguably more applicable now than it was before the election. No matter if you live in America or Britain or Cuba or somewhere else, this has been a crazy year of “post-truth,” and Blimey Cow is a helpful dose of reality in the epidemic of insanity.

And that’s all for today, folks. I’ll be back later this week with a few surprises. Happy Monday!