December 10, 2013

A Student's Prayer for Finals Week

Hello there, happy Tuesday! So around the time for midterms this semester, I posted A Student's Prayer from St. Thomas Aquinas. Today, I'm writing this prayer that this week will go well for all of us college students. Good luck on your tests, and merry Christmas!

Dear God,

Thank you for this semester. It has been a long one, at times challenging and draining, and at other times full of discovery and joy. We rejoice in the difficulties that you have presented us with, for they are contributing to our growth, mentally, emotionally, or physically. 

Thank you for the new relationships we have formed in these past months, for placing people in our lives to help us along the way. And thank you also for preserving the old, because those relationships are gold.

Please bless the rest of this semester. Help us to see through with our hard work. Give us motivation to study efficiently and constructively, and give us wisdom as we sit down to take tests and write papers. 

Please help us remember that our grades do not determine our worth as people, as important as they are, and help us maintain our joy in learning and energy for doing good will.


And remember:

Take care,
-Riley XO

December 8, 2013


Hello everyone. It has been such a busy time of year as for many university students it is finals week. I can't say that I'm in a spot worse than anyone else's, but my university practically disregards the meaning of dead week. Long story short, I had a unit exam in Gen Chem this last Friday. But on the plus side, I actually did have a productive dead week and am looking at a pretty easy finals week as far as finals week goes, so that's cool.

That being said, was anyone else blindsided by the holiday season?

I am from Colorado, so I'm used to seeing snow for a solid month before Thanksgiving. But here at school we've only had a sheet-thin snow one time last November. For a while, it really just felt like it was pretty much the same speal of college, just getting colder. Then suddenly, I went home for Thanksgiving. And then suddenly, there were two weeks left in the semester!

Anyway, although finals week is at the absolute forefront of my mind, the magic of Christmas is settling in too. The university I attend put a great deal of effort into making the campus look absolutely splendiforous. 

Who else out there is a sucker for pretty lights?
And it also snowed today (about 3-4 inches), which made the quick walk for a study break really special. Then, this evening for church, we read Bible verses and sang carols that corresponded to the stories. I'm at that point right now where I don't know if I should say "Good luck on finals" or "Merry Christmas," so for today I'll just have to wish you good luck on finals and a merry Christmas.

Take care,
-Riley XO

P.S. I am making some minor changes to Smiles throughout the rest of this year (so that studying for Calculus will not consume and destroy my life). If you have any feedback, please let me know by shooting me an email or leaving a comment. There will be a new section called "Dear Friend," which I am so excited for, and I'm also planning to update the "About" page (also, what do you guys think of the pictures I'm starting to incorporate?). I know a lot of bloggers say this when they start thinking about New Year's Resolutions, but I'm also going to try posting more too. I'm trying to get into vlogging for fun too, so I guess we'll see what I find time for. Thank you for reading as always--please follow and subscribe!--and I hope that you have a great rest of your day. 

P.P.S. For those of you who may have ever wondered, tree squirrels do not hibernate but ground squirrels do. I saw a squirrel wandering out in the snow today and could not decide if they hibernated a lot and just looked it up two seconds ago.

P.P.P.S. Look at this red squirrel, it's so adorable and fluffy!!

December 2, 2013

10 Tips For Studying For Finals

So finals are just around the corner... I had this rude awakening when I realized that it is almost time for Thanksgiving Break--and dead week is right after that!

With that said, it's time to buckle down and start studying hardcore for finals! Is it just me, or is it difficult to find the motivation to study around this time, especially with snow on the ground and the holiday season acting as a wonderful opportunity to make new memories? Well, here are my top ten tips for getting "in the zone" for studying so that you will do your ultimate best and ace those tests!

  1. Don't procrastinate! Yeah, you should've seen this one coming. Procrastinating has become such a big problem for me because it is so easy to get distracted. So, the best way to avoid procrastinating is by making schedules and by turning those electronic devices off. Then, it will be easy to focus on the task at hand and be more productive during your study time.
  2. Study in different places. Changing up the environment while you study helps keep things interesting. Sitting down in one place mulling over a textbook is something that no one wants to do. I like to do certain tasks in one part of the library, then go to the student center and study another subject, and then go back to a different section of the library. Walking around a little bit is also a nice brain break. 

  3. Speaking of breaks, take quick ones every now and then. Don't underestimate the power of your brain--as you probably already know, it's more powerful than computers. If you go for more than two hours studying hard, it'll overheat. To keep your brain from overheating, look up from your notes/readings/textbooks ever fifteen minutes, just up at the ceiling or a poster nearby, and then return to work. It allows your eyes to stay awake because staring at the same thing for an extended period of time can be hypnotic. Then, once every 60-90 minutes, do a quick 5-10-minute-long exercise. Like, 100 pushups or squats, or a Blogilates video would be fun. Avoid going on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Reddit on your breaks though, because you don't want a 10-minute break to turn into a 40-minute break!

  4. Study alone. You're taking the finals on your own, so you should study alone. Even if you think you work better while with other people, it is beneficial to be independent too so that you can focus on the topics you understand the least. While studying alone, make sure you prioritize by asking: "If I were the professor, what would I be testing my students on?" This encourages active reading and will help you retain the most important information.

  5. Study with friends. Sometimes, it's easy to get distracted when you're studying with friends, but if you have friends who are in the same class as you, it's a good idea to work together so that you can spin ideas off each other and quiz each other. Your friends could catch some ideas you may have missed while studying on your own, and when you teach someone else a topic it helps solidify your existing knowledge on the subject. Having a balance between studying independently and collaboratively will maximize the benefits that come with each of these methods.

  6. Multitask wisely. It is possible to be productive with other things while studying. Some people can read as they work out on an elliptical. I personally enjoy doing planks while hovering above a book. You could also accomplish a lot while the laundry is going. Listening to light music for some background noise is also helpful for keeping your brain active. But remember that there's a fine line between doing laundry vs. going on Facebook.

  7. A quick tip on music: It is best not to listen to music in English while you're working because sometimes the lyrics can interfere with your thoughts. Instrumental music is nice, and I personally enjoy listening to Latino or Korean music. 

  8. Find some form of stress relief. Yoga, meditation, exercise, writing, music (instrumental or vocal), or crafts are activities that make the day fun without taking up too much time (only an hour at max!). Remember to take care of yourself and balance the studying with something enjoyable.

  9. Make mental check-lists. Keep organized so that you'll have a plan of attack. I usually construct a schedule in my head while I'm walking to/from class and only deviate from it if something important comes up. 

  10. Stay positive! Remember why you're in school, and recognize that getting an education is a privilege that a lot of people don't have. Moving forward with a spirit of gratitude always helps brighten the mood. :)

Do you have any study tips you'd like to share? Let me know in the comments below! Good luck with all those tests!

Take care,
-Riley XO

November 28, 2013

A Prayer of Generosity

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have a lovely time with your friends and families. Today is a wonderful time to reflect on everything we have. 

I personally think that when you realize how blessed and gifted you are, you become inspired to share your blessings with all the people around you. So for this Thanksgiving, I wanted to share this short prayer of generosity from St. Ignatius Loyola:

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to look for rest, to labor and not to ask for reward, save that of knowing that I am doing your will.

Have a wonderful evening!
-Riley XO

November 25, 2013

The Examen

Good morning! This post is based on a chapter about the Jesuit Examen from the book A Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life by James Martin. It's a very thought-provoking book that I would encourage you to pick up sometime.

The Examen is a meditation that can be done by Christians and non-Christians alike, but please note that since I did this exercise based on my own perspective (which is a Christian one). However, if you want to try the Examen and are not actively "seeking God," the option is always available too.

With that said, here is a brief reflection on the Examen: talking a little bit about what it is, and how it was beneficial to me. I hope that it will encourage you to also try it for a while and that it will help you find a heightened capacity for gratitude, love, and growth. (What better time to start the process than during the hectic holiday season?) Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!
-Riley XO


Ever since about sophomore year of high school, time became an integral part of surviving the day. School, practice, and lessons begin and end at these specific times; I need to sleep for a certain amount of time; this specific time should be set aside in order to work on a project. Time is necessary for planning a schedule, and schedules are in turn necessary for fitting in everything that needs to be accomplished in the day or week. Juggling the many aspects of life is a struggle for many people, who despite having improved technology find it harder to balance work, play, family, and friends. I for one could not make it without a weekly planner--imagine how many more assets I would have to keep track of in the future when work, and a larger family or friend group are added to the list. When people get in a perpetual cycle of plan, execute, plan, repeat, there comes a problem because soon life loses its spontaneity and therefore vibrancy and wonder as well. How does one preserve the treasures found day to day when life soon becomes reduced to a list of tasks to check off? Well, although it is impossible for us to stop time, it is possible to remove ourselves from time, to stop the perpetual cycle, take a break, and reflect on the magic of daily life that cannot be reflected in a schedule. There are several ways to remove oneself from time, such as through meditation, journaling, or prayer. The Examen is a specific type of daily prayer that allows someone to intrinsically pause time, reflect, and improve his/her mind and spirit; it is therefore encouraged.

 "In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius includes a prayer designed to enable believers to find God in their lives" (87). In a life where events, jokes, food, and friends are so tangible, it is easy to lose sight of the supernatural, which, while present, is not always completely in the forefront. The Examen is a prayer or meditation for Christians to realize the presence of God, to help strengthen the definition of an abstract deity. It is done in five steps: gratitude, daily review, sorrow, forgiveness, and grace (97).

Taking these steps allows a person to realize that God is indeed with him/her every day. After I began doing the Examen, I began to take note of the little blessings that had been dismissed before: the warmth of the sun, smiling at other people and seeing them smile back, the little squirrels prancing around campus... Each of these, although a small gesture, creature, or something that is always there, is a creation of God. This reflection has deepened my sense of gratitude for what I have been blessed with. Not just the little things, but especially for friendships, new and old, for attending a wonderful university, for staying in touch with my family, for the opportunities to be involved, and for knowing that I have plenty of food to eat and the chance to exercise. Being aware of these blessings have instilled a sense of contentment with my situation here at Creighton University, which has helped me remove myself from my schedule. Now, while walking to class, I am more aware of what is going on around me instead of being focused on reaching my destination.

Reviewing my day is also extremely helpful because it leads me to realize that my life isn't about finishing these tasks and sitting through hours of meetings. It emphasizes the fact that life is a story. There are highs and lows that make each day unique, therefore significant. It has certainly been beneficial to renew the feelings that I experienced throughout the day and has also made me more aware of others' various perspectives. Experiences play a big part of shaping who we are, and we have the power to influence what is occurring around us, so being aware of what happens each day, along with how certain events precipitated and some of the repercussions that may have arisen as a result, is important to becoming an individual graced with self-awareness.

Sorrow and forgiveness are two elements of the Examen that were more challenging for me. I guess that I have been aware for a while that my primary character faults are impatience and pride or stubbornness. Being reminded of these have helped me develop humility and understanding for others. I realize that my frustration does not help difficult situations, and am not starting to develop more patience and a calmer attitude, channeling the intense nature that comes from within to do something that is productive and good. While recognizing my sins and being able to ask for forgiveness is constructive, it is also slightly frustrating because there is a desire to improve daily, and can at times be difficult to remember that change is a process, and bad habits cannot be eradicated immediately.

Asking for grace for the next day, on the other hand, is a calming experience because it reminds me to live in the present; it also really helped me learn to calm down and enjoy what God has given me now, turning away from any worries of the future. So although I plan and make to-do lists, which are goal and long-term oriented, I have started focusing on what I can currently do to study and prepare, as opposed to fretting over how much a future test will cost. The Examen is a beneficial prayer because it is a removal from the grueling schedule of daily life. It reestablishes what should be valued in life, and stirs an appreciation for creation, love, and morality. It is certainly a positive tool for spirituality and can be used to add flavor and enjoyment. It has helped me refocus my attention on God in the midst of a busy college life and is a commemoration of each day. Martin was right in saying that it is possible to "look back" to find God (98).

November 20, 2013

My Actual November (So Far)

Hey guys. So there is a certain flow to life, and sometimes the flow takes you to a different place than you'd probably expect. This November, I was planning to have more alone time writing a novel and making videos. However, life had its own ideas for me.

The major thing that happened was that I became the vice president of the residence hall council here. Since I'm responsible for keeping track of what happens in meetings and watching the budget, I now have to attend  three meetings a week and spend more time planning fun events for the hall. It is definitely a job that I enjoy, but it also makes it difficult to write a novel because the meetings essentially consumes the time that I had originally allotted for writing and making videos.

Two other changes occurred: 1) I joined a peer educators program that basically is about promoting healthy lifestyles on campus, and 2) my friend and I started a tae kwon do club for the campus. I'm really passionate about these new activities because they involve helping the people around me, and sharing the confidence, strength, and discipline that comes with martial arts.
I feel guilty for failing to write the novel and devote time to making videos because I was really looking forward to it, and I know that you guys were too. Monday was the last day for the leadership workshop that I was participating in, so hopefully I'll be able to use that time slot to film. I found some issues with editing with my first video, and I want to make the next video better, so it may take a while for me to complete it. But thank you so much to the people who have been hanging in there and supporting me through the process. I appreciate it bunches!

That being said, I am about to start a post that's all about getting ready for finals. This is going to be a hectic time of year, so I'm going to share my little survival tips for making it through, getting the best grade possible while staying sane and balanced. It will hopefully be up for this coming Tuesday!

So there is just a quick update for you guys on what's been going on in my life. How has your month been going so far? Let me know in the comments!

-Riley XO

November 5, 2013

Discipleship and Inner Turmoil

Hello there everyone!

Unfortunately I did not have time to film a YouTube video this weekend. My roommate used to travel to visit her boyfriend every weekend, but she just got a job and is now staying in the dorm a lot more, which makes it somewhat awkward to film because I feel guilty disturbing her. NaNoWriMo started five days ago, and I'm getting into the swing slowly but surely (so much writing, ahhh!).

There are also a couple of additional things going on in college that I added onto my palate this week, so I am in the process of adjusting, but I am determined to film a video for next week focusing on the first chapter of The Little Prince.

That being said, I recently wrote something for a Theology class that I wanted to share with you. This is an essay responding to the prompt: 
Based on Mark’s Gospel and EITHER Philippians OR 1 John, what does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? Please present and explain the connection(s) between Mark’s gospel and the ethical demands of Philippians OR 1 John. Include an assessment of the practical implications of discipleship for Jesus’ followers today, possibly including a reflection on the tension between Christian life and “modern life.”
It was a challenging write for me, but here are the insights that I had. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to type away at the space below!

Have a wonderful week, and I hope you find this to be valuable or at least interesting.
-Riley XO

Note: the excerpt from Rolheiser is taken from the third chapter his book The Holy Longing. It is a fascinating read if you ever have time to pick up a little something.
             Some people view the Bible as a manuscript for living. Although the Bible actually encompasses a variety of genres, it is undeniably a helpful tool for discovering God's plans for his disciples. The Gospel of Mark gives a narration of Jesus' life, but also highlights parables that exemplify the image of an upright disciple. First John then builds upon Jesus' commandments, providing further insight regarding the proper lifestyle for disciples, embellishing on the parables in a straightforward manner. An interesting implication arises, however, when both Mark and First John express that disciples will be persecuted by the world for following God. With further examination, turmoil ultimately coincides with discipleship in the modern context.
            In order to understand the meaning of discipleship, it is first necessary to understand the Kingdom of God, which is a common theme throughout the New Testament. From early on in his teachings, Jesus is already proclaiming that "The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (New American Bible, Mark 1:15). The concept of the Kingdom of God is developed throughout the New Testament, and essentially comes to define the community of Christians who follow Jesus' teachings and love one another, and the Kingdom of God is spread through Jesus' disciples, as explained by the Great Commission (NAB, Mark 16:15). Perhaps one of the most descriptive parables for discipleship in Mark comes from the Parable of the Sower, in which Jesus explicitly states that "those are they that were sown upon the good ground; such as hear the word, and accept it, and bear fruit, thirtyfold, and sixtyfold, and a hundredfold" (NAB, Mark 4:20).  The soil in this parable is most significant because it predetermines the seeds' success. According to Mark, therefore, disciples of Jesus are nourished with "good soil."
            What is an example of good soil, and what must a disciple do to ensure that s/he is in good soil? Jesus answered this question, saying, "Whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it" (NAB, Mark 10:15). Accepting a set of beliefs as a child would goes against instinct, especially after a human has developed rhetorical and logical skills with adulthood. To adults, children seem naive and too trusting. However, it is exactly this innocence and acceptance that Jesus values. Children tend to look for good in the world. Rather than looking down at others, they look up because they realize that they are not the strongest, the wealthiest, nor really even capable of surviving on their own. They  listen and learn quickly; their perspectives are malleable, constantly adjusting to new information. Good soil is having such openness of a child, and the plant begins to grow when the seed realizes that it is dependent on God.
            When the seed has taken root and has the nutrients to flourish, it then bears fruit. First John develops discipleship further by explaining what "bearing fruit" is, revealing that "everyone who acts in righteousness is begotten by [God]" (NAB, 1 John 2:29).  A person living righteously can be interpreted to be someone who abides by the Ten Commandments, someone who loves his/her neighbor as him/herself, or someone who follows Christ's example. The last of these would probably be the most suitable interpretation due to the latter part of the verse above. Doesn't it make sense that the disciple following Christ's example is, in a sense, "begotten by God"? Turning again to Mark, it is possible to understand what the correct image of living righteously should be. Jesus showed compassion to the persecuted, healed the sick, and loved the poor. He also taught the people around him to express agape (love) for one another, and empowered the Twelve Disciples to also heal and perform miracles. Therefore, in order for disciples to be considered as "begotten by God," they must also act with this selfless agape. The fruit that disciples bear is essentially the good that ripples out from sharing agape with the Christian and surrounding communities, which is analogous to spreading the Kingdom of God.
            So this rudimentary definition of a disciple of Jesus shaped by Mark and First John is simple, desirable, and straightforward. However, it is a matter of fact that disciples will be hated by the world (NAB, 1 John 3:15). It turns out that discipleship is not as wonderful as it seems, despite the Kingdom of God being the reward. What is it about following Christ's example, that persecution is the result?
            The obvious answer is that in modern life, Jesus' commandments do not coincide with what the world teaches. So naturally, modern disciples are distinctly separate from others. However, it is also important to clarify that persecution comes from the world, and not necessarily other humans. Because disciples are originally born of the flesh before they are "born again" in God, perhaps persecution does come from within the disciples themselves. In order to better conceptualize this abstract idea, Rolheiser establishes that balancing a strong sense of personal integrity, social justice, a peaceful heart, and community with others --all components of being "begotten by God"-- is challenging (Rolheiser 56).  Rolheiser demonstrates with four examples that imbalance is accompanied by personal distress and/or disapproval from both Christians and non-Christians. Disciples must wrestle with inner turmoil trying to attain balance to lead a godly life, a process that is emotionally taxing. And since the great, harmonious, perfect image of God is beyond human capacities, the process of inner turmoil is, in a sense, permanent.

            Being a disciple in the context of Mark and First John presented challenges especially in the early church since Christians were actually physically persecuted. However, such persecution in contemporary life has taken a different form as modern disciples are bombarded with a fast-paced lifestyle that heightens stress and often blurs lines between what is right and wrong. Conflict between disciples and the world, which is integrated both into society and the disciples themselves, makes it a challenge to follow Christ as a child would; however, true disciples of Jesus persevere in order to bear fruit and spread the Kingdom of God.

October 29, 2013

November Preview

Hi guys! Happy Tuesday! How are you?

I don't know if you've seen this post, but in it I gave you some ideas to do if you were ever bored. Well, I can't say that I've ever had a moment of boredom ever since I arrived to campus, but the speaker in the video I featured, Matt Cutts, talked about starting a 30 day challenge and it just really appealed to me.

As some of you may know, November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

I've had a long-term relationship with writing, but it's just always been my dream to write a novel--ever since I was in fourth grade. However, I stopped writing novels due to time limitations and so that I could devote more of my time to this blog.

But something in my heart just said, "This is the month." And I feel it in my soul (sounds kind of deep, but it's true!) to try living this 30 day challenge and to accomplish what I've wanted to do in such a long time. I do want to keep making content for you guys to enjoy, but at the same time, I'll be writing a lot on my laptop this November, and I just know that I'll get burned out if I write columns (the posts that you guys seem to enjoy a lot more) on top of it.

So here is my solution to our situation! I hope you all enjoy!

I can't say I'll make the best videos ever (watching myself in a video for the first time...cringing...), but I hope you guys will like the ones I plan to make on The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery! (This slight change of pace might be good for us too.)

I hope you have a wonderful week, a safe, candy-filled Halloween, and I look forward to seeing you next week!

Take care, everybody!
-Riley XO

October 15, 2013

Defy Labels

Happy Tuesday! How are you? I'm actually doing very well--I managed to finish midterms successfully and am currently having a wonderful time with my friends and family over fall break! 

Naturally, since I'm on break I am thinking about class. (Facepalm.) I actually have made a reference to the Word the Line the Way by David Dark in a previous post, but we have discussed in English class of how words can really limit people. 

But you know what guys? It is up to us to defy those labels, to go beyond what the world thinks we are, and to leave a lasting, positive change on the earth. 

How will you defy labels today? Let me know in the comments below!

Take care,
-Riley XO

October 10, 2013

Are You A Fish?

From Albert Einstein himself:

Image found on Facebook.

With the quotation above in mind, I'd like you to ask yourself three questions today:

  • What are your strengths? 
  • What are your limitations?
  • Are they really limitations?

Take care,
-Riley XO

October 8, 2013

The Versatile Blogger Award!

Hello there everybody! I hope you're having a wonderful week. I am glad that some of you contacted me saying that you found St. Thomas Aquinas's "A Student's Prayer" helpful and inspiring, especially during a hectic time in the semester. Today, I am so excited to tell you that Alexandra L from Tiger Lilly nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award.

Thanks, Alexandra!
I am a fan of Alexandra's blog and she is another teenager who writes inspirational posts, so if you would like to hear from someone with a similar mission but has a different perspective, please stop by there sometime and you might enjoy it as well.

I would also like to take some time today to thank you guys for reading my blog--this wouldn't be here running if it weren't for your readership and wonderful comments! I started Smiles No Matter because I wanted to start blogging for others, and try to bring happiness to others in a small but significant way. I feel blessed when I read your feedback and am always trying to improve the site. If there is anything specific you would like to see here that might help you or another person in any way, please do not hesitate to contact me at or by leaving a comment! Thank you for your support, and I feel so privileged to be able to continue writing for you guys.  

These blog awards are fun because it's just one way for me to give you an insight as to who I am. Here are seven facts about myself:
  1. I stink at coming up with "fun facts" about myself. In college when there are smaller groups, for some reason when we go around in a circle introducing ourselves we are supposed to include our major, origin, grade, and "fun fact." But when it comes to my turn, I can never think of a fact that's as cool as "I have titanium knees" or even "I've fallen down two flights of stairs." There are a lot of facts about me, but I can't think of any "fun" ones. So I guess in a way, this nomination is a brainstorm of sorts for me to find some facts that I can use for these introductions.
  2. Some people at my school cannot figure out if I'm Hawaiian or not. There are a lot of Asians in Hawaii, and since I'm Asian, people tend to guess that I am Hawaiian (there is a significant percentage of Hawaiians on my campus). However, I spend a lot of time with a group of Hawaiians, and I enunciate my letters fairly articulately, so even the Hawaiians can't distinguish between me (a Coloradan) and one of their own.
  3. I do not have a best friend. Rather, I have four ladies in my life that I love with all my heart. We've been best friends since middle school and are keeping the relationship strong through college--probably through life, too. Whenever I thank God for what I'm grateful for, they are always at the top of my list. 
  4. Lindsey Stirling is my hero. I mean, nobody can top this:

  5. I am a pseudo-journaler (and I also enjoy coining my own words). I used to write in a prayer journal every day in middle school, but it wasn't until the beginning of this year that I found a really good system that helps keep my life organized and also gives me some time to reflect every day. My cousin purchased a stylish little planner from Barnes & Noble for my Christmas present, and I decided for my New Year's Resolution that I would use it, especially since before this year I was somewhat disorganized and didn't have a solid system for keeping track of dates or what I did throughout the week. Since I would forget what I did during the week, I began to think that I had a boring life. Now that I bullet-point my activities or special moments of the day in this weekly calendar, however, I have time to reflect every night on what I am grateful for. The planner also helps me keep track of dates and activities for the future, so it is my life. It's not actual journaling, per se, but it is pretty similar. Hence, pseudo-journaling.
  6. For any of you familiar with the Enneagram, I am a 3.
  7. I actually don't think that a lot of things are funny. When I laugh, it's mostly because I'm happy that someone else is having a good time. But my type of humor calls for either very dry, sarcastic wit or ridiculously cheesy puns.
Do you guys think those facts are worthy of being used in a "fun fact" introduction? Let me know in the comments!

Here are my nominees:
Hyperbole and a Half
Sweetly Unspoken - I just wanted to give Enoma some special recognition because her comments within Smiles No Matter have been absolutely wonderful, and I have also read some good content on her blog.

To accept the award, all you have to do is follow these rules:
  1. Display the Versatile Blogger Award on your page.
  2. Tag the blogger who nominated you.
  3. Nominate deserving bloggers.
  4. Let your nominees know you've nominated them.
  5. Post 7 interesting things about yourself.
The three blogs above are great, so you should check them out if you ever have time!

And that's all for today, everybody!

I'll be posting another tidbit for inspiration on Thursday at 6:00 am Pacific Daylight time, so please subscribe by email, Pinterest, or Bloglovin' so that you won't miss any updates. Another way to connect with me is through Twitter.

Thank you so much for reading, and have a great day!

Take care,
-Riley XO

October 3, 2013

A Student's Prayer

Hello there, good morning! Today I have my calculus midterm and I am pretty nervous but I have spent a lot of time studying and have prepared as best as I can. With the hectic schedule I had this past week, it became more important than ever to just slow down and pray. I know that a lot of the people who read my blog are students, so here is a little meditation for you guys, just to relax, refresh, and be ready for all the tests, papers, and quizzes that are coming up.

Creator of all things, true source of light and wisdom, origin of all being, graciously let a ray of your light penetrate the darkness of my understanding. 

Take from me the double darkness in which I have been born, an obscurity of sin and ignorance. Give me a keen understanding, a retentive memory, and the ability to grasp things correctly and fundamentally. 

Grant me the talent of being exact in my explanations and the ability to express myself with thoroughness and charm. 

 Point out the beginning, direct the progress, and help in the completion. 

 I ask this through Christ our Lord. 

-St. Thomas Aquinas, "A Student's Prayer"

Take care,
-Riley XO

October 1, 2013

Finding the Good In Every Day

Hello there! How has your week been? Personally, my week had its ups and downs, but that's how life goes, isn't it?
On the rocky days, it's easy to let it get you down, but if you look out for the good, it gets brighter. I went to an Enneigram workshop last week, and the presenter brought up this concept that organized a common saying in a really swell way:
  1. There are things you can't control.
  2. There are things you can influence.
  3. There are things you can control.
She then flipped to the next slide.
  1. You cannot control others.
  2. You can influence situations.
  3. The only thing you can really control is yourself.
(On a side-note, if you don't know your Enneigram, there will be more to come in the future...)

Just think about it for a bit. 

What will you make out of your situation and life today?

Take care,
-Riley XO

This post was fairly brief because there are some big midterms looming ahead of me that I really need to focus on. There is a lot of studying to be done! I'll be doing something slightly different this week since I know many of you guys who read this blog are also students whose work loads are also picking up. I'll be making short posts like this one, but twice a week instead of once a week for the next two or three weeks. Please subscribe for that little bit of stress relief during an intense period of time this semester! And good luck with school, work, and everything you set out to accomplish!

Smile on.

September 24, 2013

Making New Friends (For Introverts!)

Hello everybody, I hope you're having a wonderful week as always. I have a super long post in store for you today, so I'm just gonna cut to the chase right away. There is a lot to say on this matter, but I'm writing this with the purpose of providing a starting place for making new friends. This post includes two main parts: The first will hopefully get you to think about how you interact with others and provide some inspiration; the second will have my best tips for breaking out of some of those shells that you may have. And without further ado, let's get started!

A little bit about myself: I don't know if you can tell from this blog or not, but I am actually a pretty introverted person. I mean, I don't get butterflies in my stomach when I think of social interaction, but I do find myself getting overwhelmed fairly quickly while in a group of more than six people. That being said, God did create us to be in the world to interact and enjoy each others' talents, expressions, and company. I think of intoversion and extroversion on a spectrum. I'd say that I'm in the middle, though closer to the introverted side of the scale since I recharge by spending time alone reading or writing. But being with people stirs up a different kind of energy, which is also good in its own way.

Anyhow, there are a lot of times when I feel my shyness getting the better of me, and this post is for anyone who finds his/herself freezing up in certain social situations, or having a hard time making friends. It's okay to be on the quiet or shy side, but it's no good if it gets in the way of you pushing your limit and being surrounded by people who may come to be some of your best friends!

In order to illustrate my point, here is a video by Matthew Hussey that I think you'll find to be interesting:

What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

For me, there are components that I would agree with and ones that I would disagree with.

I would agree that the biggest obstacle that is in your life is usually yourself. Your own perceptions of yourself can really limit your capabilities. For lack of better words, I'll reference David Dark's The Sacredness of Questioning Everything:
The question I'd like to bring to language, my own and everyone else's, is the question of reductionism. Reductionism reigns when the words we use to give account of people and events serve only to reduce, degrade, and devalue human beings... This is a perversity we employ--perhaps it employs us--when we reduce a person to a "just" ("So-and-so is just a...") or a "nothing but" ("You're nothing but a..."), as if we've gotten to the bottom of all they are and will ever be (page 121).
Let's try combine the thoughts expressed by Hussey and Dark to conclude that we should avoid labeling ourselves and other people in order to make new friends, to learn and discover from others. In my experience, the people who really have trouble making friends are labelers--they either put labels on themselves or the people around them.

I personally am more guilty of the former. Have you ever been in a quiet mood? Where there's nothing wrong, but you just didn't feel like talking and wanted to spend time by yourself and think? I get in those moods frequently I recharge by relaxing by myself with a cup of tea or writing, not by meeting and greeting. Yet, when I attributed my quietness to shyness, I stopped making the effort to reach out to others. Because, well, that's just what shy people avoid doing.

I think it's also fair to say that we're all guilty of doing the latter--putting a label on someone else before having met them--one time or another. "Oh, that person seems really stuck-up." Or "It seems like s/he likes sitting alone, so I'll just leave him/her be."

Can you see how these presumptions limit not only ourselves, but the other person too?

Now, I wouldn't go so far as to say that we should shed all labels, though. Adjectives, actions, and experiences make us who we are, and being aware of these help us grow.

Say you're a shy person. Do you want to keep being shy, or do you want to change that? Or say that you're angry person. Do you like being angry all the time, or do you want to change that?  Say you made a mistake in your life. Do you want to be burdened by that forever, or do you want to move on?

What I'm trying to say is: Let words describe you, not define you.

There are also "positive" or "goal" labels. What does a goal label look like? Well, I would like to be labeled as caring, compassionate, empathetic, hardworking, friendly, approachable. Aren't these characteristics that we want to hear when someone is describing us?

Anyway, I wanted to focus on introverts today, so I'll get back to that now. The whole point of the speal above is that you really need to want to get rid of that shyness before you can put yourself out there.

So think about all the things you can gain in life--love, peace, shelter, brotherhood--by challenging yourself to reach out. Then ask yourself if it really is worth being quiet.

With the reflection component of this post over, here are seven tips for getting started with becoming a more outgoing and friendly version of yourself! I hope you find these helpful--if you have any of your own ideas or some feedback, please let me know in the comments!

#1: Force it.
I used to be really shy, guys--practically afraid of talking to anyone I didn't know. If this gives you a proper illustration, I carried a book around with me every day during middle school so that I would have it as an excuse to avoid talking to people during snack break. So when I arrived in college 5 years later, meeting people initially still felt like ripping fingernails out. However, I just had to buckle myself down and approach others, throwing out a name and a smile. It feels really unnatural at first, but if you practice it every day, it starts becoming habit. Don't overcomplicate it. Swallow the anxiety that's churning in your stomach, step out, and ask someone, "Hey, how's your day?" Whether you're in an elevator, sitting in a cafe, or happen to see a person you barely recognize, that's all you really need to get a conversation going.

#2: Join a group activity.
It is so much easier to form connections with people when you already have something in common. So, instead of working out by yourself at home, go running on the track at the gym. Or if you enjoy reading like I do, you could join a book club. It would also be fun to try something new. My experiment was joining tae kwon do, and some of my most influential relationships formed during high school were from the people I met there. (I met my mentor and first boyfriend through the tae kwon do school.)

#3: Invite someone over.
It doesn't even really have to be anything formal like dinner, either. You could just invite someone over to watch some reruns of a TV show you and that other person enjoy. Making that one step usually causes the other person (or group of people) to recognize you more easily and thus forms a stronger connection.

#4: Put some time into your appearance.
I feel somewhat shallow when phrasing it like this, but it actually does pay off to look good. Let's face it: when you look good, you feel good--it's just natural instinct! That being said, there are many ways to improve your appearance. Working out, eating healthy, treating yourself at the mall by buying a new outfit, applying some makeup--all of these are ways to help you look your best and then gain confidence in yourself.

#5: Remember to have some down time.
Putting yourself out there takes a lot of energy and while fun can be pretty draining. I spend my down time in my room, writing, reading daily devotions, and prayer-journaling. Sometimes I do stretches or sit-ups too, and face massages are always a nice treat. Another option would be writing an email to a distant friend, which not only gives you an opportunity to reconnect with someone but reflect on all the things you've been doing. Take some time to recharge by yourself so that you'll be up at your 100% when it comes to meeting new people.

#6: Be informed, and be aware.
Keep up with the news, read blogs (and follow this one!), and listen to NPR every now and then. Also be conscious of the movements happening around you, and pay attention to the conversations you're in. The more you know, the more you'll have to say.

#7: Don't get discouraged.
Let's face it, not everyone is gonna like you. It sounds a little cliche, but haters are gonna hate. Also, you may at first feel like the effort is not worth it if you don't instantly feel a connection with another person that you tried approaching. This shouldn't get you down, though, because once you start meeting more and more people, you'll find the right niche that fits you perfectly, where friends will love you unconditionally. It is a trying process, but just keep up at it and you'll be forming connections and networking in no time!

For some reason, silver linings popped into my mind at this point. So here is one from
So there you have it guys! A nice, long post about making friends if you're an introvert. I hope you found this inspirational and got you fired up and ready to start meeting new people. One last bonus tip: It's only awkward if you make it awkward (you'll know what I'm talking about if you run into one of these situations...and that wasn't meant to sound dirty!).

Thank you for visiting, and please feel free to leave a comment or email me at! I write a post every Tuesday, so also remember to subscribe to my blog through Bloglovin' or follow me on Twitter so that you'll never miss an update. There are also options to follow Smiles No Matter on the right sidebar (email, RSS, and Google Friend Connect), so just choose what is most convenient for you. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I love blogging!

Take care,
-Riley XO

P.S. I saw the most adorable pug puppy on campus yesterday. She was absolutely adorable and was only two months old--I spent about five minutes petting and talking to her. So here's a quick picture to share some puppy adorableness with you!

Awwwwwww <3
Now whenever you have a bad day, just think about this warm, cuddly puppy. Smile on.

September 17, 2013

5 Hair Care Tips

Hello there everybody! How was your last week? I am still adjusting to college life and have been in the process of getting plugged into everything that's been going on around campus. I've been having a great time though, and even though there's so much happening here I'm so happy that I'm finding time to keep this blog up. I wish I could post twice a week like I was able to during the summer, but Tuesdays will just have to continue being our special day. Thank you for visiting time to time because I really enjoy your readership!

College life. Word.

This Tuesday is all about hair. I actually meant to write this many weeks ago, but let's just say that life happened. Last summer, I developed a random obsession for hair because I decided that I wanted to grow it out and then donate it to Locks of Love. My mom made me cut my hair pretty much all the time and now that I'm a college student, I thought it'd be fun to let it be long for once in my life. This being said, it became important for me to take better care of my hair to prevent split ends so that it could be healthy and grow to its full length.

(On a side note, I would not consider myself to be a master of beauty, but I've found that when I focus more time on my appearance my confidence increases. I also find myself being more alert during the day. So that is why I'm sharing a little bit of this today.)

Wow, I just noticed how pale my face looks in this
Anyway, I've found that college keeps me so busy running everywhere to get things done that it's been harder to set a lot of time aside for beauty. But it doesn't mean you shouldn't ever feel pampered! This post is especially for fellow college students who want to look and feel their best and spend little time doing so. Without further ado, here are my top five hair care tips for busy college students!

Tip #1: Don't wash it a lot.
Okay, this initially sounds kind of gross, but in all actuality, we wash our hair way too much. It is important to remember that hair is at its best when it's in its natural state. Secondly, when we wash our hair, it actually strips the hair of good nutrients too. If hair is washed too frequently, your body naturally compensates by producing more oil (which is no good because we want poofy, soft hair). The best thing to do is to only rinse your hair if you shower every day until it starts getting oily--then shampoo only when it starts collecting oil. You'll see soon enough that your hair will be less oily for longer amounts of time, and when it's in its natural state, it will grow stronger and longer.

Tip #2: Use a wide-toothed comb.
When I get out of the shower, I always want to brush my hair right away because tangles drive me insane. Hair brushes aren't very gentle, though, so I use a wide-toothed comb which still does the job. I've actually noticed that my hair falls out less because of this. So, hey, that's cool right?

Tip #3: Condition!
I'm currently using Herbal Essences shampoo and conditioner, and I condition every time I wash my hair. However, I also recommend purchasing a leave-in conditioner. I use Pantene, and it's designed for overnight care, but it's helpful because whenever my hair is looking dry or a little frizzy, I just apply a little squirt of it, and--voila!--instant results. A lot of people recommend deep conditioning treatments, but for me I don't have enough time to leave product or DIYs in my hair for half an hour because I like being out and about. But if you ever have some spare time during a long weekend or something, I recommend using honey, olive oil, and/or egg for a nice DIY hair treatment.
Tip #4: Trim it every two months.
So the photo of me up above was posted to Twitter because I was so proud of myself for trimming my own hair for the first time. Trimming your hair gets rid of split ends, which in turn prevents hair breakage. I decided to trim my own hair because it seems like salons always take off a little too much. Since I'm growing my hair out, I only take a quarter of an inch off each time I cut it just to get rid of the split ends. Also, it's better to have one length (no layers) for donating hair, so trimming on my own is very doable for me.

Tip #5: Avoid contact with heat.
This is a no-brainer, but unfortunately we've reached the extent of my hair care ideas that I have found the most helpful. I almost never use hair dryers or straighteners, which helps my hair stay healthy and happy.

And that's about it for today! I hope you found these hair care tips useful, and if you'd like to see some more quick beauty tips for college life, please let me know in the comments (or feel free to share your own ideas in the comments, too!).

Have a great week and take some time out to pamper yourself!

Take care,
-Riley XO

September 11, 2013

Commemorating Hope

Hello there. I can only imagine how many people in the blogsphere are talking about this day, but I have some words that I'd like to share with you, so thank you for visiting and taking the time to read this. 

As some of you may know, I visited New York City last June. The city left me wide-eyed and amazed. Broadway shows, the dazzling lights of Times Square, outstanding pizza, Chinatown, the Empire State Building... Each of these parts of New York, so beautiful and fantastic in its own way.

The most memorable part of my trip, however, was visiting the 9/11 Memorial. The memorial itself is an impressive sight, a work of art, giving tribute to families, friends, and strangers. However, it's the stories that made the experience so impactful.
While being there, I heard several stories that just tear at my heartstrings. If you ever meet somebody who was in the city at the time, ask them to share their story, or take some time to think about these stories, to remember the grief that Americans everywhere experienced--then you'll know what I'm feeling right now.

Even as they stood in the ashes, they didn't give up. Instead, they did the exact opposite, comforting each other, networking, struggling to stand when there was so much weighing down. When so much was lost, people took what they still had and shared it with each other: hope.

Hope is one of the most powerful things in this world, and I could even argue that at times it is stronger than love. Hope is what causes people kneeling at the bottom of a dark pit of despair to just look up and see the light that is there, far but attainable.

The Survivor Tree
Today, I challenge you to listen to stories, to share hope, and inspire love and gratitude in the people around you. Start by telling your friends and family how much they mean to you, and let it blossom from there.

Keep hope sacred.

Open up your heart, and let it take over you.

And have a blessed day,
-Riley XO

September 10, 2013

Surviving the First Weeks of College

Hello everyone! It's been quite a while since I've been able to sit down and write a nice long post, but I have finished most of my other work beforehand so that I could finally take some time out and update you about what I've been up to lately, which is something that is only fair since you guys showed so much support during the series Get Ready For College With Me.

Just thought this was a cool pic from
A former Astronomy teacher said that there's not really that big of a difference between classes in high school and classes in college. I actually agree with him on this one. University professors aren't more brilliant or enlightening by any drastic measure. Each one has their own style, and some styles are better than others, just like high school teachers. With that said, my classes aren't too bad this semester; my most challenging class would have to be Calc II just because the pace is pretty intense (I do think it's worth it, though!).

Even though the classes themselves aren't that different, it doesn't mean that a lot of other things have changed.

The biggest adjustment I had to make was moving from a quiet home in the suburbs to a dorm that's right by a street in the city. Living here, there isn't much of an option to be antisocial and stay cooped up at home playing video games. There're usually people getting food together, wanting to do homework, wanting to go to other places on campus--most of the first friends I made are the ones that live with me because I see them every day. I also find myself going out now that the excuse of having a long drive has been eliminated--our campus is a relatively small one, so everything is within walking distance and I've had so much fun going to sports games, attending Christian events, visiting friends, and hitting the gym.

However, living in the dorms also has its cons because I found myself downscaling starting from all the space I could ever want within my parents' house to this:

Plus a wardrobe for my clothes.
So although there's an entire campus at my fingertips and my roommate is extremely considerate and sweet, my actual personal space is basically limited to my bed and desk. For me it's definitely a fair trade so far, though.

I've also found my personality changing due to the new environment. It is so much easier to make friends in college because you move from a place where everyone knew each other to a place where no one knows each other yet, so in general people are extremely open to one another. I have met more people than I could count within these first few weeks, and it's been an absolute blessing. I've also prayed to find some good friends and I'm starting to find those, too. 

My biggest advice to anyone who's struggling to make friends freshman year is to throw self-consciousness out the window and start saying "hi" to people. I actually went door to door through my entire hall introducing myself when I ran for a position in the inter-residence hall government. Although I didn't win, a majority of the people in my hall--from all five floors--recognize my name and face. At first, starting conversations takes some effort and courage, but eventually it becomes natural and people will start approaching you in return. (I'm planning to write a post about this sometime in the upcoming weeks, so please subscribe to see tips for making new friends even as an introvert!)

The second major change that I've experienced is that there are significant breaks in between classes. This presents opportunities to socialize, do work, take naps, and in my case blog. I am still deciding what clubs I can join and hopefully find a chance to start doing research with faculty, so I haven't made a handy dandy daily schedule yet, but hopefully that will come soon. Freshmen find themselves with a lot of spare time, but once they start getting involved on campus life picks up quickly. It's a process, but it's starting to happen for me, so I'm very excited about this year. Plus, being involved is another easy way to make friends on campus that have similar interests to you.

As far as the rest of my college experience up to this date goes...

I'm a part of a service community, and this semester I will be working with refugees, helping them learn English and possibly setting up new apartments for families to move into. I am so excited to be a part of this! My dorm also has a community time every Sunday evening, and last time we broke up into small groups and shared our stories. I basically shared the story that you guys know, and included all the inspirations for this blog. It helped me form connections with other people because each of their stories are also so unique and empowering to hear.

I've also enjoyed emailing and writing letters to my friends every week and reading about their new adventures. The people in my life are such a blessing, and right now I'm just so happy that I chose to come to this particular university. I hope that your experiences also feel full and special, too. I would love to hear about your lives, so please feel free to comment or send me an email at!

That's all I have to tell you guys in this post. Thank you for visiting today and I hope you have a fantastic week!
-Riley XO

September 3, 2013

Never Give Up

Perseverance is a quality that I hold dear to my heart. It has inspired me to get my black belt, go to All State with my violin, and arrive at college. The school year has just started for many of us, so today I wanted to share some inspiration to pursue your passion and follow the path that has been laid down before you.

From Tumblr
The people who've been following my blog for a while have probably already gathered some of the beliefs that I hold dear to my heart, but I'll quickly summarize/reiterate them right now. Class, race, nationality, and gender contribute to who we are, but our sense of self should be based primarily upon our strengths and weaknesses. I do consider people to be on a horizontal plane, in the sense that every one of us has pros and cons. With that said, each person on this Earth has their own unique story, something to share and leave behind.

Passion and perseverance--these two words are powerful on their own, but they are intertwined in order to function properly.

Just think to yourself: Why do I get up every day? Did you answer yourself with a certain relationship, activity, or event? This is your passion. Now ask: Why must I pursue this relationship or do well in this activity? The reasons you come up with are what will inspire you to persevere. Nothing can deter you, because your passions are so much greater than any obstacle.

Of course, finding the answers to these two simple questions is easier said than done. Maybe your passion is finding what your passion in life is supposed to be (this is one of mine right now!). But I suppose that it's mostly about taking a deep breath and knowing that at the end of the day, you will accomplish what you were meant to, even if you're not sure what that is yet.

I don't know guys, I do a lot of self-reflection, so that's what's given me a strong sense of who I am. I encourage you to meditate a little bit, to stop, take a deep breath, and think about passion and perseverance for yourself. Hopefully it'll feel like a breath of fresh air before you start the rest of your life!

Take care,
-Riley XO

Please leave a comment and subscribe if you liked this post! I love hearing your feedback and would like to know what drives you. I've been recovering from a cold and life here is a lot busier here than it was back in Colorado, so my last few posts have been short, but I am hoping to write a nice, long Diary entry fairly soon, just so you guys can have another peek into my life. College has been going well, but there are those bumps and lessons that I would love you to share with you! In the next few weeks, I would also like to share some hair care tips (college version!) and some advice for making new friends from the perspective of an introvert. As always, thank you for reading, and have a wonderful day!

August 27, 2013

5 Things You Don't Have To Worry About

Hello everybody, how was your Monday? Sadly, today's post will have to be short. I'm in the middle of campaigning to be the senator of the inter-residence hall student government here in university and also have a long essay to write for my theology class. I didn't think that I would be this busy already! 

Anyhow, I challenge you to look up 5 quick verses. If you don't have a Bible on hand, Bible Gateway is a fantastic resource.

If you're feeling any sort of anxiety, I hope this helps comfort you, and even if you're not, I encourage you to find these verses and bookmark them because nobody knows what could happen in the future. 

Found from Facebook. I follow way too many Christian pages, hehe.
These verses really spoke to me especially in my given context, having just moved out of home. Did one of them stand out to you? Let me know in the comments!

Take care,
-Riley XO

August 23, 2013

Let Your Smile Change The World

Good morning! Yesterday morning I was feeling kind of down and homesick but was reminded of the power of a smile. So I'm challenging you to just smile today and bring some happiness to yourself and to others in the easiest way possible. Hope this little quote gives you some inspiration:

Found on Facebook
Have a wonderful weekend!

Take care,
-Riley XO

August 20, 2013

5 Ingredients of Inner Beauty

Happy Tuesday! I stayed up the other night with some of my friends to watch the meteor shower last week. Did any of you make wishes on some "shooting stars"? Let me know in the comments!

I've been thinking about inner beauty quite a lot ever since I read Bailey's comment in a previous post. The manner in which she phrased it was so encouraging and it got me all excited about writing this post, but then I had to stop myself. Because, well, what in the world is inner beauty? It seems like beauty (inner or outer) is something that we can recognize but cannot ever fully define properly.

I believe that inner beauty is essentially the health of your soul. And like physical health, there are many variables which affect the health of your spirit. Having a positive attitude despite adversity is a discipline. Putting others before yourself takes exercise. And training yourself to be confident (note: confidence and arrogance are different) is a draining process because you need to find what you are confident about. Then there are all of the factors that you are putting inside yourself, your diet. How do the books you read or the movies you watch impact your perspective on life? Do your friends and family give you unconditional love and support? Do you go to church?

There are so many components to inner beauty, and they are intertwined and complex--you don't even have total control over some of them!--so for today I decided to talk about a couple that really stand out to me. Many of the other "ingredients" will probably surface later on in future posts, so five of them is sufficient for now. This post will be guided by two quote-pictures (does anyone have a better name for these?) that I found on Facebook a while ago and have been saving for a while.

So with all of that said, let's get started!

#1: Love
There are many types of love. Someone could probably start a whole new blog discussing even just a couple forms of love. (I mean, I suppose there are already thousands of blogs out there about romantic love, so I wasn't even exaggerating on that statement.) I'm going to try to keep it as brief as I can on this point since there are four other ingredients to discuss, but the most beautiful people I know have a lot of love in their hearts. Love for what they do, love for the people around them, love for themselves, love for God. Mother Teresa's famous quotation is "Do small things with great love." And guys, when you have love in your heart, everything in this world become so much more powerful, so much more meaningful.

Genuine, raw love is the greatest blessing that mankind has. It seems rare because it is so easy to complicate. What inspired me to start fostering love in my heart is Mother Teresa's quotation above. To do this, I started developing genuine interest for other people. When I meet someone new, one of the first questions I ask is: "What is your passion?" And swiftly following up: "Why do you do it?"

Developing love also involves tearing down walls and misconceptions. Before, it was difficult for me to feel attached to other people because I'd been betrayed by those who I'd cared about. Walls were naturally built, as a way to protect the heart. And the tragedy is that although these walls screen out pain, they also screen out love. Each person may have their own reason to have built a defense mechanism, but don't let the pain caused by a few lead you to neglect the thousands of people whom you have the opportunity to help during your lifetime. And if you are dealing with pain or when you deal with pain in the future, it is crucial to remember that it is ultimately your own choice to let it crush you or fight it--ultimately becoming a more mature, able person in the end. 
"The heart is a muscle. When it is broken, it grows back stronger." (Unknown) 

Society also plays a role in our struggle to love. Society teaches the concept of a social ladder: one that successful people are to climb. There is this hierarchy, where those on top generally look down on those at the bottom. Talented people are applauded, while those with modest or "average" abilities receive no recognition. But instead of considering those around you in a vertical manner, it is better instead to think of all people--big or small, black or white, religious or not, male or female, rich or poor--on a horizontal spectrum. While it may be natural to compare this trait with that one,  it is very easy to start "stacking" traits up. So upon meeting another person, it has helped me a lot to recognize the fact that s/he has his/her own story, strengths, weaknesses, and tribulations. Each person does--even you. And I am trying think more to myself, "What can I do to make their day better?" and "What can I learn from their story?"

This sort of mindset is one to take on for a loving spirit.

#2: Honesty
To me, it seems that usually people preach about being honest when it comes to matters dealing with "white lies." Lying vs. telling the truth is definitely a topic of deep philosophical meaning, so that will have to be reserved for a future post.

Anyway, today for this ingredient, I wanted to focus it more on the terms of self-reflection. Some unhappy people I know are dishonest with themselves on opposite extremes. Do you know anybody who tends to put him or herself down? It's an unrealistic way to look at oneself detrimentally because each person has both positive and negative qualities. Confidence is an important feature of inner beauty, so it is important to recognize your good traits, the ones that make you unique and fun to be around. Maybe you're a good listener, or are always there to lend a hand, or have a nice smile.

There is a fine line between confidence, or arrogance, though. So while being aware of the positive qualities is essential, it is also crucial to maintain a sense of humility--arrogance is a negative trait.

#3: Truth
Here is a value that is distinct from honesty. Honesty is mostly about being frank with yourself and others--asking questions like "Did I mess up?" "What did I do well today?" and "What can I do better tomorrow?"

Truth is slightly different because it's less reflective and more active. Truth is something we seek. It's obtainable by filling up your mind, by drinking in knowledge and wisdom. Read books, question others' opinions, learn from what others have learned. Find truth.

#4: Respect
Does it seem to anyone like our generation is losing respect as a whole? We don't seem to respect our parents in the same way they respected theirs; gossip destroys friendships; a sense of unsettling pessimism seems to drive the conscience of many. Drug abuse is a form of disrespect to our own bodies, and it's becoming a major problem.

Respect yourself, respect others, and respect the environment.

Treat others as you would have them treat you. So give them the benefit of the doubt, share with them, help them if they seem to be going through a rough time--even if you don't think they deserve it--because who knows? Maybe you'll be the person in need of some care and respect in the future.

#5: God
Having a relationship with God is the most important ingredient of inner beauty because it ultimately embodies all of the other ingredients. Praying to him gives you a sense of peace because you know he'll take care of your problems. He has set a pure example for loving those around us and instills a spirit of sincere compassion. Find him, and you will find truth, unconditional love, self-sacrifice, and a fulfilling lifestyle.
And there are five ingredients of inner beauty. I hope you have a wonderful week and I will blog again soon!
I moved here to college safely, and I just wanted to thank all of my friends and family of supporting me through this process, especially my parents. I am also so happy that you also had a chance to read a little bit about my experiences through the series Get Ready For College With Me. Please subscribe and leave many comments--I love hearing from you guys and am willing to discuss just about anything!
Take care,
-Riley XO
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