July 30, 2013

Get Ready For College With Me: Working Part Time

Happy Tuesday everyone!

For this post, I had to make sure that I scheduled it for the right time... I usually write my posts throughout the week (especially the ones in this series because they're longer and more time-consuming) and then schedule them to come out Tuesday and Saturday mornings (more or less) so that it'll give some more structure to my schedule. I unfortunately clicked on the wrong day for the post on Extracurricular Activities and kind of had one of my mini 5-second flip-outs.

What?!?! No Tuesday post? Nooooo!
But, yeah...I double-checked to make sure that I am scheduling this post for Tuesday, because after describing that whole episode, it would've been so embarrassing if you were reading this on Wednesday.

Am I the only one who's OCD about this sort of thing? Let me know in the comments.

Well after that truly...interesting...intro, it's time to get down to the whole point of this post: Working! Today I'll be discussing a little bit about working part time while in school. Giving my thoughts and a bit of advice that'll help you land that first job and be on good terms with your manager. I hope this will be another post that you find constructive if you're a high school student; you can easily find the other posts from this series by clicking here, and if you have any questions, just feel free to leave a comment below or tweet me--I'll be sure to reply!

And with that...

I've been working the same part-time job for about two years now--I literally scheduled an interview the day I turned sixteen. I didn't really have a lot of work experience outside of volunteering and the occasional babysitting job, but it was fairly easy to land the position as a team member in a well-known fast food restaurant.
As far as interviews go, there are a lot of tips out there so I would be reiterating a couple of them, so here are two quick ones that I would stress: 1) Be genuine and don't get discouraged. Companies do interviews to see if you would fit and represent the brand well. So in the interview, bring your A-game and show that you really want to be a part of what they do. 2) Keep in mind what position you're being considered for. This might seem obvious, but it's easy to forget in the middle of an interview. For example, if you're applying for a customer service job, try to smile throughout the conversation--try to represent yourself as someone who would be understanding to complaints and foster the work environment. Or if you're applying to do research, show your scholarly side and mention any persistent habits when it comes to doing work.
Working while in school is stressful, especially if you are taking as many AP classes as I did. I didn't really experience much of a dip in grades when I started working, but the amount of time I had available to sleep and do my other activities became very limited. However, upon reaching good terms with my manager (it's really not that hard to do as long as you're not afraid to talk to them), I was able to get to the point where I could easily choose my hours.

Some people have to work through high school--have no choice on the matter. Personally, working wasn't mandatory for me because I didn't have much time to go out shopping or to dinner between all the things I did with my time. Also, my parents spoiled me and wouldn't let me pay for tae kwon do or violin lessons or gas. I did make enough to pay for gas and tae kwon do, but I didn't take on very many hours until this summer when I realized that I wanted to pay for my own books and have money to get away from the university's mediocre campus cuisine.
Quick Tip: The best time to apply for a summer job is about late March to early August. This is when positions are open before college students are back from school (and they are often better candidates than high schoolers for many positions).
This summer I've been working about 30 hours a week (which for me is a lot, okay?!) and the rewards are great. If working during the year is a stretch for you, I highly recommend finding a job during the summer, and here are some reasons why:

  1. It provides some structure to your schedule.
  2. Pocket money is never a bad thing, especially at this point in life.
  3. You will learn some lessons that you can't learn in a classroom, ones that will prepare you for the future.
  4. Having a job = some level of self-efficacy. 
Note: There is a lot more that I can say about what I've learned from having this job, but that is a post that will come in the future. 
Quick Tip: One of the best-paying jobs is working as a babysitter. When it comes to working as a student, minimum wage is probably the best basis to judge salaries off of, and babysitting can pay you more than twice the amount of minimum wage! Plus, babysitting is relatively low-stress. 
 When you have a job, here are some quick tips for getting on your manager's good side:

  1. Ask how his/her family is doing.
  2. Tell funny stories.
  3. Be honest. If you mess something up, tell him/her and apologize--then try to do better in the future.
  4. Ask questions for affirmation. For example, if you see that something needs to be cleaned, just ask if it's okay for you to step out and clean it really quickly. Or if you see that something is running low, ask how much of it you should make. You will be noticed for both your initiative and understanding of their authority.
  5. Also tell them what you do outside of work. Any particular hobbies. I've found that the managers I've had in the past are interested of what their workers do because usually they are different things, and there's always something to learn from another person.
Well, I hope this post was helpful, and I'm wrapping up this segment in the series Get Ready For College With Me. The next posts won't be as didactic anymore since I'll be describing the transitioning process a bit--however, this part of the series will definitely be shorter--I'm moving out in about two weeks!

Have a nice day!
-Riley XO

July 29, 2013

Laugh Every Day

Hello there! How are you today?

So we're on full swing with the series Get Ready For College With Me, and I don't know about you but I need a brain break from talking about all of this school business. So today I just wanted to post a couple quotes/pictures--hope they'll bring a smile to your lovely face.


Have a joyful, laughter-filled day!
-Riley XO

July 27, 2013

Get Ready For College With Me: Standardized Tests, College Apps, Oh My!

Hello there! So we are about halfway through the series Get Ready For College With Me, and I'm winding down on the part of the series that is mainly about giving advice to current high schoolers who intend to go to college. Today I'll be talking about standardized tests and college apps, and in the next post I'll be discussing the experience of working while being in school. I've already discussed AP classes and extracurricular activities (balancing your schedule and improving time management), so please feel free to check those out if you are looking to challenge yourself in a variety of different fields.

Part 1: The SAT and ACT

As far as standardized tests go, don't do what I did--which is the bare minimum. I took each test once and then took the SAT Subject Tests (Math II and Chemistry), and didn't really study for any of them. I'm very fortunate to be going to a fantastic university this fall, but I do regret that I didn't take these tests more seriously.

On the ACT I averaged a 32 because I scored poorly on one of the sections, and 2300 on the SAT (somewhere in the ballpark). For both tests, this translates into roughly the top 10 percent nationally.

When it comes to standardized testing, it is most helpful to take timed practice tests. Standardized tests examine your analytic skills, so there isn't really a set of facts or special equations you can memorize--both the ACT and SAT are correlated to IQ. Basically, you are tested not on what you know, but how well you problem solve. I think that the best thing that you can do in preparation is to practice, practice, practice. Each test has its own style, so becoming familiar with the styles would increase your score. The local library holds sessions for timed practice tests, and this was helpful for me in becoming aware of timing and style of the ACT.

The SAT is slightly different from the ACT because it doesn't have a science section, but it does have higher-level math questions than the ACT, and the sessions are much shorter than the ACT's (approximately 20 minutes each, whereas the ACT's sections average roughly 45 minutes).
Test Tip: In the SAT especially, vocab counts, so work to hone those skills and increase reading comprehension.
To prepare for the SAT, I found an SAT book at the library and skimmed through it the night before. While I do think that study guide books are helpful, it would have been more beneficial to start actually studying the book several weeks before the tests. When it comes to standardized tests, don't do what I did if getting into a top college is on your agenda--which is for the most part walking into them blindly. (Fail...lol.)
Test Tip: The primary test-taking strategy that I learned from the review book (I used Kaplan) is to use POE--process of elimination. I think it's fairly common knowledge to cross out answers that couldn't be right when it comes to multiple choice, but it's good to remind yourself that even if you don't know the right answer from direct recall, it is still possible to arrive at the correct choice. Keeping this in mind might help you stay calm when it comes to questions that are more challenging.
If you plan to apply to most any of the top universities in the US, you'll probably have to take the subject tests as well. Some universities have specific subject tests they want to see. Since I was considering Boston University's accelerated program for medicine at the time, I had to take Chemistry and Math II. Make sure you do your research to see what requirements your school of choice needs in your application, and then study hard to maximize your score. I think that AP Exams are probably more challenging than the Subject Tests, but the Subject Tests have their own style, so it would be ideal if you could take a practice test in your subjects a week before test day.
Quick Tip: It is also a good idea to take each test more than once if possible. Someone I know took the ACT about three or four times, and since universities generally super score (take the highest score from each section), he ended up averaging a 35 out of 36. So, if you did well in all of the sections and tanked one other section, just retake the test after practicing that trouble section a couple of times, and your overall score will increase.
I never took a test prep class because I (clearly) didn't take standardized tests as seriously as I should have, but I've heard mixed reviews from the people who did. One girl told me that she increased her ACT score from a 28 to a 32, while some others have reported that their scores actually decreased by a point or two.

You know yourself and your habits. So, if you're disciplined enough to put aside time to prepare for the test, I would advise against taking the class because by studying independently, you'll figure out what you need to work on the most, and can then focus on what you need. (For instance, if you excel in Science, then you could put more time into studying vocabulary to improve in the Reading section, whereas in a class you would have to follow the instructor's curriculum.)

The test prep class will only be helpful if you put energy into it. Classes are a lot more expensive than purchasing a study guide, so be conscious that the class is an investment on your or your parents' part if you decide to try one.

Part 2: College Apps

Welcome to (what I think is) the more exciting part of this post! It's somewhat difficult to write about standardized tests interestingly because it basically boils down to "get the highest score that you can." But college applications are more diverse because they involve more personalization.
Quick Tip: My AP Lang teacher advised us to start planning college apps about 75% of the way through junior year (which is about when I took the ACT). It is a good time to find teachers who know you well and could write a great letter of recommendation for you. And on that note, remember to write a thank you note for the people who write letters of rec--their time is also valuable.  
When it comes to colleges, I think that applying to seven would be a good number. Go through the applications carefully, so that when you're double-checking before sending it, there aren't a boatload of errors that you'll have to tweak. (If you're going to do it right, might as well make it on the first time!) The actual application should be fairly quick--most of the time is spent perfecting your personal essay.

The schools I applied to used the Common App, and since one of my schools asked for a resume of my high school activities, I simply uploaded a resume onto the "Additional Information" section that the Common App provides.
Quick Tip: The Additional Info section isn't mandatory. I participated in many activities during high school, so the resume helped organize it all and provided a nicer format than the Common App's "Activities" section did (also, I ran out of slots in that section). My Cornell friend used it to add AP scores that didn't fit in the spaces provided in the Common App, and people applying to art schools use it to upload portfolios. Some people use it to describe a unique situation that wasn't included in the personal essay, too. Don't just add something there if it was already covered in another part of the application, though. 
Make sure you plan out which schools you want to apply to, and have good reasons for applying there. I've heard that it's a good idea to visit many campuses in order to see what fits you the best, but to me, this is something that sounds more like a luxury to me. There isn't a lot of time for high schoolers to just up and leave to one place--let alone seven campuses--and plus it can get expensive!
Quick Tip: Having your reasons straight will help make the application process less draining because it'll be more purposeful. If that makes sense. 
Whenever I listened to admissions representatives talk, they always stressed the personal essay--the most customizable part of the application. There is a lot of leeway in the prompts you are given for this essay, but my best advice is to write about something that you think is interesting that no one else seems to care about--and make it interesting for them. What is your passion? What sets you apart? Why should people care?

I read an essay about shoes, and that student went to Wash U. She made it her own, and customized it to show how different shoes correlate to the different facets of her life. She then discussed how she wanted to find the right "fit" of shoes that she could wear anywhere, and even managed to squeeze in how she would find these "shoes" at this university. 
[To see this essay as well as some others, click here.]

So get creative, and make the personal essay your own. Express yourself, and share your passion.

Finally, don't neglect the supplements. If a school *recommends* an interview, assume that it's actually *required* because this is just another way for admissions to get to know you better and decide if you're a good fit for the campus.


And there you have it! My advice on college apps and a couple of test tips too. I hope you found them helpful. I'm starting to wrap up the section with all of the advice in this series, so if you have any questions, feel free to comment or email me at smilesnomatter@gmail.com. Otherwise, I'll be talking about working as a student on Tuesday!

If you're a high school junior/senior getting ready for this process, this one's for you:

It's a tedious process, but is well worth it in the end.

Take care,
-Riley XO

P.S. I started a Twitter account for this blog last week! If you want to stay updated on my future posts and see many retweets of inspirational quotes, feel free to follow me at @rileysmilesify. And it is yet another way for you guys to connect with me! Hope to see you again soon :)

July 22, 2013

Get Ready for College With Me: Extracurricular Activities

Welcome back to my blog! In the last post of this series Get Ready for College With Me, I talked a bit about taking AP classes, which you can find by clicking here. So today I want to discuss extracurricular activities and give general advice to high schoolers who are juggling several activities or want to be more involved.

Being involved in extracurricular activities is important for getting into college. But the beauty of it is that unlike taking challenging classes and doing well in those (there is a set number of classes offered after all), the choices that are available for these extracurriculars are unlimited.

The options vary because people vary--we have differing passions. So with that in mind, it's important to spend your time doing what you love.

Keeping in mind my advice from the post regarding AP classes and that you should definitely take as many as you can possibly handle, let's put a couple of things into perspective.

There are 24 hours in a day, and the average student requires 7-8 hours in order to function healthily. So if we factor in sleep, breakfast, and dinner, that leaves us with about 15 hours. School lasts for about 7 hours, and homework takes an average of 3. Which leaves us with roughly 5 hours to do whatever we want every day.

What do we do with these 5 hours?
Quick Tip: Count your hours! I often hear people saying that they didn't have enough time to do an important project--but how come these individuals are the only few out of the entire class who doesn't finish the project in the given time frame? Personal problems are sometimes the reason and are acceptable, but those are usually rare. Usually, the problem is that these people haven't put into perspective their time frames and haven't paced themselves properly. You could accomplish a ton in five hours, but it's also the length of two movies, so manage your time wisely.

Well, I made a resume of my high school activities for some college and scholarship applications, and here is a list of a few of the major things I included:
  • Community service (through church, hospital, and the library)
  • National Honor Society and Tri-M (which is the music honor society)
  • Part-time job at a fast food restaurant
  • Orchestra
  • Tae Kwon Do
  • Wrote a blog
My schedule changed constantly. If I happened to have a lot of homework a certain night, I would shave down the time I spent practicing the violin or sometimes had to skip Tae Kwon Do. Or when I started dating, I wrote less so that I could spend more time with him. On a couple of occasions, I had to drop everything in order to cover a shift at work. With orchestra there are chair challenges and concerts. With soccer there are games that may or may not be far away. So how can a teenager successfully handle this fluid, sporadic schedule?

My simple answer: Prioritization.

School always came first for me. If maintaining high grades is important to you, then you should naturally spend more time studying and thoroughly understanding the material. (And high grades are extremely important for anyone who wants to go to college--transcripts are usually the first or second things that college admissions look at--and will also help with landing scholarships.) My schedule every day was for the most part structured around how much homework I would have every night.

Next, since fitness is important to me, I usually locked in the 1.5 hours for Tae Kwon Do. Writing took slight priority over playing the violin, so if I was done with homework I would usually blog upon returning from Tae Kwon Do, practicing during breaks.

Likewise, my advice is to make a list of your activities and set them into levels. What are the things that you cannot live without doing? How much time do you spend on TV or surfing the web? What could you do instead?

Moving off of those thoughts, here are is some advice from my ever-so-eloquent Astronomy teacher: "Get good at something." In other words, don't just be a member that shows up to six different clubs and contributes the bare minimum just to impress college. Rather, invest your time into one or two clubs that actually interest you and use that interest to excel at it. Foster some passion. Run to be a president, VP, secretary, or treasurer of the club.

Do something that you love enough to put in a ton of energy. This is what defines you. If you're an athlete, compete on the varsity team, volunteer in a sports camp for kids during the summer, and support other teams in your school by attending fund raisers. If you're a bookworm, join the lit mag, yearbook, or newspaper staff. If you like experiments, join the Science Olympiad. If you like working with people, do some service, join FBLA, Speech and Debate, or Student Council. If you work, talk to your coworkers and/or customers--care more about them, relate to them. Or if you have an odd hobby and like making crafts, make them and sign up for shows, go to craft shows, maybe even start a business.

The possibilities are endless, and if you use those five hours to the fullest, then you really improve your level of happiness because you are literally living your passion.

So here's a question: What if you don't know what your passion is yet?

To be honest, I was one of those people during my freshman and sophomore years of high school. My best advice is to step out of your comfort zone and try new things. Two years ago, I would never have dreamed of doing tae kwon do, and look at me now--I'll be testing for my black belt in less than two weeks!

Good luck with the rest of high school, and have lots of fun with these years too!

Take care,
-Riley XO


The next post in this series will include my advice concerning college apps and standardized tests. It will be coming out this Saturday morning, so check it out when you have time! When the series is complete in a week or so, I'll go back to posting little snippets of inspiration--I already have many ideas in store for you guys. Please follow this blog by email, Bloglovin', or RSS so that you can be alerted when new content is posted. I'm also a part of several blogging communities, and the badges can be found on the About page. Thank you for reading, and have a wonderful day!

July 16, 2013

Get Ready For College With Me: AP Classes

Hi again! If you're new here, you probably didn't know that I have just graduated from high school and am transitioning toward college. Going to college signifies many new beginnings: I'm moving to a new state, meeting new people, and am about to experience new tastes, sounds, and feelings. It also marks the end of several things too. So I'm starting a little series here today where I just talk about what I am doing this summer to make the transition and share some tips I've learned with any high schoolers there who are thinking about college or are getting ready to apply.

I hope you find this useful, but just let me know in the comments what your opinion on these topics are, or what you'd like to see, and I'll be happy to reply or answer any questions!

So today I just wanted to share a boatload of thoughts regarding Advanced Placement scores--Advanced Placement classes in general.

There is a lot I can say about AP classes, so I'll try to make it direct and as quick as possible, but this post will be fairly text-heavy so get your reading glasses on!

Throughout my four years in high school, I took 10 AP classes--six of them during senior year. These classes were (in chronological order): European History, U.S. History, English Language and Composition, Biology, Calculus AB, Chemistry, English Literature and Composition, Psychology, U.S. Government and Politics, and Microeconomics.

Many people ask to differentiate between IB and AP classes. Both can give college credit, and both are definitely for students that want to be challenged and explore subject areas with more detail and rigor. Most people that I've talked to say that the main difference is that in IB classes, there are certain classes that all IB students must take in order to receive their IB Diploma, whereas AP students are able to pick and choose which classes they want to take. To be honest, there are pros and cons to picking which classes versus being required to take a core curriculum.

Allow me to explain: I went into high school as a writer--I couldn't envision myself doing anything else in my spare time. But, in taking upper level classes in other areas, I found that while I do have some modest strengths in writing, I excelled in the sciences--they just sort of "clicked" more.

From my perspective, during high school it is definitely a good idea to go for a well-rounded education and challenge yourself to excel in a variety of classes rather than focusing on one or two specific classes. My initial plan involved taking only AP English classes, and perhaps an AP History class. However, when I stepped up to doing more left-brain classes, I found myself becoming more and more intrigued by little particles that make up the world, neurotransmitters and how they affect behavior/personality--just science in general. And since AP classes are more detailed, they give you more insight to what's interesting to you. So as far as the amount of AP classes you should take goes, my advice is to take as many as you can (schedules and number of options do vary person to person), so you can explore your interests and discover new ones if the IB program is not offered in your high school. (And if AP/IB classes are not offered in your school, take the honors and try to find a way to take the AP Exams in the spring to try to get college credit.)
Quick Tip: If you're applying for colleges/universities such as Stanford, Washington University in St. Louis, or any of the Ivies, having a strong academic record is necessary, and obtaining one is easier if you take more AP/IB classes. (Even if you aren't, I can tell you from personal experience that having good grades in these classes will help you receive substantial merit-based scholarships.)

Another reason why it's good to go for AP/IB is that you'll be with a different group of students. I'm not saying that the kids in AP/IB classes are smarter than kids in other classes. However, these kids are challenging themselves more in the classroom, so there is certainly a different dynamic. And, you know, when you're around people who are inspired and hardworking, it's hard to not be inspired and hardworking. Utilize peer pressure in a good way.

As somebody who took a full load of AP classes the last year of high school, I can say that the load is manageable. The idea of having "half an hour of homework a night for each AP class you take" wasn't true for me--the maximum number of hours I ever had in one night was five, and that was only when I procrastinated 1-2 weeks' full of work to the last minute (I'm looking at you, APUSH). Even senior year, I was able to do homework, practice tae kwon do (2 hrs/night), loaf around on the Internet (1-3 hrs/night) and practice my violin (30 min/night) every evening. Taking the full load not only got me out of many core credits for college, but also taught me discipline and time management that will help me this coming fall. So if you're in a sport or unlike me have a significant social life, the homework is still doable as long as you pace yourself and are efficient about working. (But remember: a manageable load does not equal a negligible one.)
Quick Tip: Make a schedule for yourself. Write down what time you usually get home, and add time slots for extracurricular activities (remember to take driving time into account). Then, fill the gaps in with time to do homework (I would set aside certain time frames for specific projects as well). Also plan out the amount of sleep you need. When you have a schedule in written form, it's a lot easier to follow and stay on pace. This planning exercise helps especially if you aren't as disciplined when it comes to time management. It definitely helped me a lot throughout the week.
Ultimately, it boils down to doing your best. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Some people are able to juggle being president of three clubs, taking four AP classes (acing them, of course), and being captain of the soccer team. That is beyond my capability, but I found extracurricular activities that I loved, and I invested my time and heart into those. Put in a lot of effort and soul into all you do throughout high school, and I assure you that you will reap the benefits.

And here's a quick word on AP Exams: Aim for the 5s. Start preparing for them 1-2 months in advance. A 4 or 5 is needed to give you college credit (a 3 on rare occasions), so don't just aim to pass. Aim to get the highest score so that you can so that you won't have to retake the class in college and can then explore the possibilities of double majoring and graduating early--getting more out of the ridiculously expensive college tuition. (This advice is for the exam, though. When it comes to the class, work hard because you want to learn more--don't just work for the test. Having this slightly different perspective when it comes to studying for class versus studying for the test will make the year more bearable and less stressful; hopefully you'll be able to enjoy it more.)

So there are my thoughts on AP classes. I hope you found this post helpful or motivational. If you didn't...I don't know what to tell you.

For anyone who's taken them or anyone who wants to take AP classes, please share your thoughts, experiences, and questions in the comments!

Take care,
-Riley XO

Get Ready For College With Me: Intro

Happy Tuesday! Thank you for stopping by today.

To start off the morning (or brighten evening, depending on your location), here is a nice quotation by Thomas S. Monson that inspires me to focus on the important things in life:

You know, this is the perspective I'm trying to have--especially this summer. I mentioned this in the last post, but I'm going to be starting a series that's all about transitioning. Transitioning from high school to college. Basically, I'll be giving some advice to high schoolers and be kind of journaling my thoughts of starting this new chapter on this blog. Tonight, I'll be writing about my thoughts on AP classes, so please stop by again tomorrow to see it. Later on in the series, I'll also talk a little bit about applying to college, preparing for dorm life, and all that I'm doing this summer to make this adjustment a smoother process.
If you have any questions or have any suggestions for a post in this series, please feel free to comment or send me an email at smilesnomatter@gmail.com.
See you again soon!
-Riley XO

July 12, 2013

Establishing Who Is Right

TGIF! How are you today? Hope everything is going well. Today is going to be a short post because I'm finishing up another project in preparation for my black belt test--but I have started working on a post for Tuesday. I'll be starting a series that will give you a little more insight to my life as I write about the transition from high school to university. I also have some tips for any current high schoolers who plan to go to college, just from teen to teen. So if you have any questions, just send me an email or comment in this post and I'll try to answer them.

I'll be part of a service community in college, and they shared this video. It really spoke to me, and I hope it'll speak to you too.

Being surrounded by people despite differences and learning to be part of a community no matter who is in it...it's just so powerful.

What are your thoughts on this video? Please feel free to comment!

Have a lovely day!
-Riley XO

July 9, 2013

Liebster Award!!!

Well, this is an interesting turn of events. I was nominated for the Liebster Award by Leyla Wright, a young lady who shares her inspiring thoughts on a wonderful blog, which you can find by clicking here.

Thank you so much, Leyla!

The rules that come with this award are:
  1. Answer 11 questions asked by your nominator, and tell your readers 11 facts about yourself.
  2. Choose 3-5 other bloggers with less than 200 subscribers to pass the award onto.
  3. Make 11 questions for them to answer, and then go on their blogs and tell them about your nomination.
11 facts about myself that you may or may not have known (I'll try to go quick because this post is turning out to be more lengthy than I'd expected):
  1. My favorite Disney movie is Tangled.
  2. One of my favorite songs is Back and Forth by Lanae' Hale.
  3. I have a retainer.
  4. I am your stereotypical Asian child. I study a ton, play the violin, and am pretty quiet/thoughtful. I also watch anime and listen to K-pop.
  5. I've been playing the violin for roughly 8 years now--8 years!! It's so hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that it's been this long.
  6. While we're on violins, my violin's name is Shamrock.
  7. I have enjoyed writing as a hobby since about fourth grade, when my best friend and I wrote stories about these cats on wide-ruled sheets of notebook paper.
  8. My favorite food adobo, which is a Filipino dish with pork/chicken, egg, and fuzzy melon, prepared with soy sauce, garlic, and vinegar.
  9. I graduated 5th rank from high school.
  10. I came up with the pen name Riley because I thought that saying it out loud gives you the tendency to smile when pronouncing the "ey" sound, and it's a gender-neutral name.
  11. My closest friends and I nick-named ourselves after the Mystery Inc. characters from Scooby Doo. We were going to be the Furious Five from Kung Fu Panda, but no one wanted to be Monkey, haha. (I'm Daphne.)
Here are Leyla's questions:

1. What is your favourite childhood memory?
This is an interesting one because I don't really think about my childhood very much. It's kind of weird to say, isn't it? When I look back, I actually just see trends, like a set of days playing with my best friend that are just melded together. I did have a great childhood overall. But my favorite one would have to be when I was eating dinner at my best friend's house, and her yellow lab (about a year old at the time) sat outside at the patio table as if he were an actual person, front paws at the arm rests, and hind legs crossed. This is my favorite memory because although it's not so epic, it inspired a lot of laughter. I also love dogs. So much.

2. What song sums up your mood right now?
It is in Korean (yay K-pop), and the English translation is a little vague. The tone matches my mood because although upbeat, there is also a slight bit of melancholy as well--just a little bit that is sort of a badge of the lessons I've learned.

3. Who is your celebrity crush?
Logan Lerman for sure. I love the characters he's performed as, and that lopsided grin of his is awkward and friendly at the same time.

4. Summer or Winter?
Although I love Christmas, I'd have to say that summertime is better for me. When the trees and flowers are blooming and bright, and the sky is clear, my mood follows that. I also prefer using natural light in my room, so summer gives that another plus.

5. Where would you dream holiday be?
It's not really about where I go as much as it is who I'm with. I would love to take a cruise to Alaska with my friends, family, and other half--just be surrounded by the ones I care most about, you know? It definitely is a dream, though. My family is scattered everywhere, so it would be very difficult to arrange a time convenient for each person, and my grandparents wouldn't be able to fly all the way to Alaska. Plus, I haven't found my other half yet. But a girl can dream, right?

Image from National Geographic.

6. If you could be any celebrity for the day, who would you pick?
Benedict Cumberbatch, so I could be Sherlock Holmes. **Nerd Alert**

7. What is your favourite inspirational quote?
Thank you, Leyla, for giving me an opportunity to squeeze a quote in here. I've heard many variations of this quotation, but whenever I think about it, I sing it to Julianne Hough's Hallelujah Song.
Life is more than just how many breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away.

8. If you could change something about yourself, what would you change?
I definitely pray for more patience. I'm not saying that I have an extremely short temper, or even that it's my worst attribute. I would like to change this, however, because there are a couple of situations that I know I would've handled better if only I'd had some more patience.

9. What is your favourite colour?

10. What is your biggest fear?
Watching someone die a violent death and being helpless to stop it.  

11. What made you want to start blogging?
I actually started blogging in the seventh grade. At the time, I just wanted to practice writing and liked how easy it was to navigate through posts. My first blog was definitely an experiment--I barely knew much anything about blogs before I began--so it was more like an online journal, just channeling thoughts and figuring out some HTML with widgets/templates. In my second blog, I wrote some more commentaries, but also enjoyed doing creative writing prompts, where I would find a photograph and then compose a scene that matched it. But Smiles No Matter has a clearer purpose because so much happened last semester. The personal trials I encountered made me realize that I want to blog for you guys, the people who read. After having such a whirlwind experience, I did find reasons to smile, and I hope this blog shares a bit of that with you :)

I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you all for reading my blog, whether you've been here from Day 1 or if this is the first time you've stopped in. I appreciate your support and hope that Smiles No Matter is giving as much to you as your comments and readership bring to me.

Time to nominate others for this award! *Drumroll, please*

Cercalicious, at cercalicious.wordpress.com
Keys2Change, at keys2change.wordpress.com
Younjoo, at pinkstoryofme.blogspot.com
Scooby, at http://myawkwardlifeandnonsense.blogspot.com/
and Callum, at unhelpfulteen.blogspot.co.uk

I nominated fellow teenage bloggers who share some valuable thoughts and have provided good LOLs when I've needed them. Please feel free to check them out sometime.

And here are 11 questions for these great individuals!
  1. What is a topic that you can talk about for hours?
  2. What is your favorite movie?
  3. If you could go anywhere in the world and with anyone, where would you go and with whom?
  4. Why do you blog?
  5. If you only had five sentences left to say before losing the ability to speak, what would you say?
  6. Who is your favorite character in fiction?
  7. What is a song you could listen to on replay for hours?
  8. Describe yourself in 3 words!
  9. There is a snow day and school was cancelled--what do you do?
  10. What is your favorite book, and why?
  11. What is your favorite quotation?
So, yeah. There's the Liebster Blog Award for you all! I hope you all enjoyed this post and that it helped you get to know me a little better. Thank you yet again, and I hope to see you around sometime soon!

Take care,
-Riley XO

Love you all ^_^

July 7, 2013

How To Love Yourself

Hello, hope you are having a marvelous Sunday! This post consists of a couple things I found online for when you're just feeling down--little reminders that you should trust and love yourself.
Without any ado, here are some ways you can learn to love yourself, brought to you by Tumblr:
The "mirror work" one amuses me because it's hard for me to imagine myself looking at a mirror and talking to myself one-on-one, but whatever works for you right?

...Moving on...

I've been thinking a little bit about the concept of "self" lately, and it seems like Jenna Marbles's video came out at just the right time:

Watching this was inspiring and encouraging for me, and part of it is from her honest and frank tone. (On a side note, I'm Riley, and I'm addicted to Jenna's videos.)

I do agree that people find out a lot about themselves while they're going through difficult times. When things are great, it's easy to be happy and go with the flow. But while fighting "the current," your attitude and reactions give a powerful message of who you are.

Hope this little mash-up of the outline and video worked out well and got you thinking a bit about yourself. What makes you tick?

I'm also wondering: How do you get through the rough times? How much do you think you have grown because of those trials? Please share in the comments!

-Riley XO

July 6, 2013

"I Still Love You, But You're Not Worth The Pain."

I found the following quotation from Ritu Ghatourey: "Moving on isn't about not loving them anymore and forgetting them. It's about having the strength to say 'I still love you, but you're not worth the pain.'"

While I was playing the second movement of the Carmen Fantasy, I thought about Jay. [Which is 0:00-2:20ish in the following video.]

I actually have trouble playing this part of the piece because it is in a minor key but my instinct is to play in in a major key. (I suppose that's why I end up thinking about him.)

I discussed a little bit about my motives to talk to Jay in this post, but finally on Monday, I had the courage to reach out to him. I saw him, tried to be friendly, and later texted him, asking if it were possible to talk sometime. Initially, he was willing, but when I revealed that I would like to try to rebuild our friendship, he began slamming walls against me. There are some striking parts of our conversation that leave me...confused.

Me: "Ok, here's what I've wanted to say: I'd like to try rebuilding our friendship and I don't think that the bad things from the relationship are worth hating each other for forever because I was the first relationship and we were still learning."

Jay: "...You deserve better than me. I am not worth being friends with... I'm a hateful, cynical person. I treated you like shit toward the end. I'm sorry; you deserved better. I read your story and was blown away by how well written it was. You're going to go places. I'm all for ending on a positive note, but you deserve far better than anything I'm capable of."

Me: "...I think that people are put into our hearts for a reason, and I believe that in your heart you are better than you have been behaving--that's why I liked you. I had faith in that part. To be honest though it's a very fragile belief, has been for a while...I don't think friendships/relationships are supposed to be about "deserving" each other, but learning from each other, and I am sincerely concerned about your well-being. I told you I forgave you, and I still do... I thought you were better and all of those actions were a method of coping."
Despite my words, however, he still declined.

Even now, I have trouble making sense of many things concerning our relationship.

Is it normal for someone to look back at his/her first relationship and feel...trifled?

Last night, I felt lost, like I had failed somehow. That somehow, if I had tried harder I would've been able to reestablish the connection with him or that somehow things would've all worked out, and we would've been able to show others that finding goodness even in a broken friendship is possible. Maybe, if I'd done better, he would've found the awesomeness that is inside of him, and that as a result he would never have made such self-depreciating comments.

But today I finally realize that those conflicts that Jay has are ones that he must deal with himself. He is the one who must live with himself for the rest of his life, after all. I truly do want to help him, but the best way I can help him right now is by leaving. (Is there even another option?)

It is so hard walking away.

I hope that things will start to look up for him, sooner than later. In the meantime, all I can do is pray. I might not be able to soothe his anger or give him a better perspective in life, but God can.

Thank you to those that have been with me through this, and I would also appreciate having your prayers for Jay and me as well, if it's not too much to ask.

I hope that you take away something from this story; it certainly has given me a lot to think about.

-Riley XO

Thank you for reading this post, and please join me on the magical journey of life by subscribing by email or Bloglovin'. I am still at such an early stage of life, so there will definitely be better things to report in the Diary label of this blog in the future, but otherwise I post many things that are inspiring, fun, or quirky and would very much like to share and connect with you the lessons I am learning in this adventure of a lifetime.

July 4, 2013

Submerged in Happiness Day 3: Fruits of the Spirit

Hello everybody! Thank you for joining me on this fun little mini-series. I'm going through some personal things right now, so this post will be short and sweet :)

The fruits of the Spirit are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
When things are rough, just keep these fruits in mind. Even if they're not easy to come by, they're the healthiest things you can put into your system and share with others.
I'll talk more about this sooner or later, but in the meantime take care and I hope you can live your life to the fullest and give more than you take.
-Riley XO

July 3, 2013

Submerged in Happiness Day Two: Music

Music. What kind of music do you listen to? Why do you love it? Well, there are many reasons, but here is a nerdy science video explaining a little bit about the neurology that's going on while we listen to music from AsapSCIENCE:

With technology, music is becoming even more prevalent than it has ever been--pretty much an established fact. I was thinking about this a little last night, and I am wondering how certain types of music can affect people's psyche.

If we are submerged in music that is dark, does it affect our personalities, and how?

In other words, is there a difference between people who listen to this type of music:

And this type of music?

(Sorry to shock you with the contrast, haha.)

I personally listen to the former type (plus some Christian rock and a little bit of Alternative), so the latter kind of freaks me out a bit, but I do know several people who constantly have it playing through their earbuds.

These friends are certainly still wonderful people, who are talented, and show kindness to others (which at the end of the day is a good chunk of what's important, right?), but I have noticed a different dynamic between us personality-wise.

Here's a question that I want to pose today: Does type of music affect our personalities, or is it our personalities that affect the kind of music we listen to?

Should we take caution in what we're putting into our minds music-wise, especially now that we can have it playing constantly through our computers, phones, and iPods?


K-LOVE, a radio station I listen to in the car, poses a 30-Day Challenge in which they encourage others to listen only to Christian music for a month, and see how their lives transform. People have given testimonials where they explain how their perspectives on life and relationships are changed due to the uplifting music that this genre provides.

Anyway, I just wanted to encourage a little bit of discussion today as a part of our mini-series called Submerged in Happiness.

What type of music do you listen to, and how does it affect you?

Please comment and subscribe!
-Riley XO

July 2, 2013

Submerged in Happiness Day One: 5 People

Good morning (or night, wherever you may be)! I follow a page called Quote of the Day on Facebook. They provide some witty lines and amusing quips that are easy to remember, and recently they started adding an artistic element to their quotations. I found this one striking:

With it being the last summer of high school and upon turning eighteen a couple weeks ago, I've been spending some precious time with the people who have meant the most to me. So the first thing I thought of when I saw this quotation was my group of best friends that I've been with since grade school. (There are five of us.)

The other night, we put on makeup and prom dresses, snapped way too many pictures, and then slipped into some summer dresses to go to a splendid fondue restaurant. These four girls are such a blessing--I cannot express fully enough how much I love them.

What makes our friendship so strong is that we are accepting. We ultimately love unconditionally despite flaws, distance, or fights. Basically, as a group, we make great memories, support one another, and laugh without end.

I don't believe that we can really choose who we spend the most time with because God has a plan which includes who we end up seeing day in and day out. However, I do agree that the traits of the people who are closest to your heart will influence your actions.

I remember that one of my very dear friends was a pessimist, but the more and more time I spent talking with him, my own heart began to grow darker, more egocentric. During that period, I didn't realize this, but while I was with my other friends I began to notice that this was happening.

So, guys, learn that others' beliefs start to become your own, especially if those people are closest to you.

I thought of two quotations that, when put together with the quote of the day above, form a powerful, powerful message--so powerful that I've written "powerful" four times already!

Firstly, here are the lyrics of a little sing-along piece I learned as Little Riley:
Oh be careful little eyes what you see, oh be careful little eyes what you see. For the Father up above is looking down in love so be careful little eyes what you see.
(It also repeats with "little ears what you hear" and "little lips what you say.")
And secondly, Gandhi's famous words are:
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”  
It is so important to be wary of what is going into your mind and shaping your beliefs, because that is what becomes a quintessential part of you.

I think that what's most important is submerging yourself with positivity in order to unlock the full potential inside. Love the people who say "It is possible," ones who walk around with a smile, ones who support and see the value inside of you. As you are submerged with people like this, you'll also start to behave prosocially, which is synonymous with leading a fulfilling, happy life.

I'll be hosting a mini-series on this blog this week consisting of three posts that address what sort of things you can submerge yourself in with the goal of smiling no matter.

For Day One today, just take some time to think about who your closest friends are, why you love them, and what you do for each other. Think about your family--all that your parents have taught you, all the camaraderie you share with any siblings or cousins. And finally, take a brief moment to talk to them. Thank them for everything they've been through with you; they have played a vital role in shaping you to be the person you are now, after all.

I'm going to challenge myself and you to thank five people (in addition to family) for shaping the beliefs engrained within my heart and pushing me along the path to where I am today.

Take care!
-Riley XO
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