Laurel: Food For Thought: Getting Deep in those Philosophy requirements

I sat in the COM advising office, talking to my advisor about the various general requirements I had yet to complete. As he went through the last few that I needed to finish, it never dawned on me that one of those random courses would alter my perspective on life.

This isn’t one of those moments where my life was forever changed and a whole new world opened up. Rather, it was a moment that I had realized what I have been doing wrong since I started as a freshman here at Boston University.

Philosophy 110, Great Philosophers as it’s called on the registration form. I thought it would be easy—I was wrong. I thought it would have no benefit to me—I was wrong. I thought that it would be the least of my worries that semester and that I could fly by focusing more of my energy in my communication classes, where my passion really was—as the theme continues, I was wrong.

When someone asked me how my classes were I described myself as being captivated by philosophy. I never realized that argument was such an articulate and intricate part of philosophical framework. Top it off with most of the philosophers we studied being dead, it left us as a class full of students searching to make sense of the arguments, getting stuck in the loopholes, and trying to put ourselves in the shoes of Descartes to figure out what he really meant by, “I think, therefore I am.”

But, as I said. This isn’t going to be about me preaching how important it is to get to know your professors or the best classes are the ones you enjoy. You should know that, it’s all good advice, but what I’m here to tell you is the best classes, the absolute best lessons, are the ones that tell you everything you are doing is wrong.

Existentialism is the study of the meaning of life. What is the purpose of life? What happens after life? All questions that people yearn for the answer to. Albert Camus gave me no clarification on the deep, forever uncertain questions I have, but he gave me a slap of reality that we are asking the wrong questions. First things first, Camus says its essential to acknowledge your own death and until you do so, you will never fully start living.  Okay, so great, I’m telling you that we are all going to die, at some point, in some way, we will all die eventually. But, it gets better (slightly more depressing, but indeed better). It gets better in the sense that we are all going to die eventually and to top it off, life is meaningless. Now, before you freak out on me and tell me that there are plenty of things that give your life meaning, let me try to convince you that you too are wrong.

There is an absurdity that Camus found in life. The absurd is evoked when you recognize that eventually you are going to die, but yet you still fight for a meaning of life. In other words, you recognize the ultimate death we are all faced with but yet you continue to take life too seriously. There is a certain futileness and pointlessness to life since eventually we will have worked so hard for it all to be over. To Camus, and now to me, it is absurd, pointless, silly even for us all to be so caught up in the importance of our lives, so concerned to accomplish some greater meaning and worried about our relevance when we are gone, it is all nothing more than absurd.

I warned you…depressing I know. But now I’m going to cheer you back up. You may be asking yourself how then, do you live a life that is not absurd and that is not pointless? The answer is as simple as it seems, embrace the absurdity. To put it more clearly, recognize. Recognize that you are nothing more than a small speck in a huge world and that this world is just one planet in a solar system positioned in a galaxy of infinite worlds and possibilities and possibly infinite galaxies. In all the spans of history and all the life that has yet to come coupled with the vastness of the universe, our own personal lives are completely irrelevant. We are a speck of matter surrounded by infinitely more matter and infinitely more time. However, if we choose to acknowledge that, if we choose to recognize the silliness of taking our lives too seriously, we no longer live in the absurd.

To put it simply, I know my life will result in death, I am aware of it and I know that all this hard work and stress will amount to my death as well. But because I can recognize it, I am not living an absurd life. The problem with most people is that they take themselves and their lives too seriously. It’s unfortunate, really. Because when you begin to take it too seriously you lose the fun, the light heartedness and the ease that life is supposed to have.

I’m most certainly not saying “don’t work hard” or “forget it all, nothing matters,” but what I am say is: when your life feels like it’s too much stress, you’re too overwhelmed, and it doesn’t seem worth it, you have to remind yourself of the bigger picture, that none of this truly matters in the scheme of reality. What matters is that you enjoy it. Allow yourself to recognize the pointlessness and let that be a source of comfort when you take it all too seriously. It’s not the best solution, but I take it to heart to remind myself “Why the heck am I freaking out about this?” or “Why aren’t I just enjoying myself when that is the only thing I truly have control over?”

It’s not the warm and fuzzy answer I was looking for when I pondered the meaning of life. But I appreciate the bluntness and I respect the reality of the theory. We have very little control over our existence, so take the little we have and enjoy it.

Laurel: What I Learned Traveling Alone During Study Abroad

This past summer I studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland. Of course, I made great friends and got to know the various people in my program, but I also wanted to take myself out of my comfort zone and do the things I wanted to do even if it meant I…dare I say it… did it alone. But, this isn’t going to be a ground-breaking post about the beautiful ways I found my “real” self and explored the depths of my personality while growing like a butterfly grows out of their cocoon. Instead, I’m going to tell you that it is and isn’t all it’s cracked up to be all the time.

 1) It is a learning and growing experience

When you venture out on your own, in a place you have never been or are unfamiliar with it can be intimidating, but you will learn a lot about the place, the people and yourself. As cliché as it sounds, the time to yourself to explore a new place will lead you to also explore yourself. This can be anything from building your confidence in asking people for help, getting comfortable with the ever-dreaded eating alone, and learning or expanding your limitations.

 2) It’s not always all it is cracked up to be

 You can go on the internet and read thousands of posts just like this one. The main difference will be every post glorifies traveling alone. In reality, things may go wrong, you may get lost, you might miss a train and you might come home wishing it went differently. That’s when the personal growth kicks in and you have to force yourself to look at the positives. That’s easier said than done, just like it is easier to travel with a buddy rather than alone because maybe that means you don’t get lost or you have someone else to blame when you do. Regardless it may not be sunshine and roses, but odds are there were moments of clear skies and at points you could smell the roses.

3) You may feel lonely and that’s okay

(If you are ever feeling too lonely while traveling solo, find an animal to feel instantly better)

Sometimes when we are surrounded by friends and company it becomes easy to forget how comfortable that makes us because it feels like second nature. So, when we venture without our comfort blanket of company, it can be jarring. It’s okay to walk around and feel lonely that you don’t have anyone to talk to. Similarly, it is okay to sit at a restaurant and feel a little blue that everyone around you is joking and laughing with friends. It is in that moment that we can appreciate the time we spend with friends and also push ourselves to be more open and outgoing.

4) You will do what you want on your own time and that is freeing

This is possibly the best part of traveling alone—you are on your own time. That means you can see what you want when you want and don’t have to compromise your plans to adjust to someone else’s. Go eat where you want, however much you want and be happy that you have the freedom to do so.

5) You will slow down

When you go alone and have the downtime of eating by yourself and walking without someone to talk to, you would be shocked at how much more you see. Whether that be observing the people, places or both, when you slow down, you will gain a whole new appreciation for the place you are in and that is what you will cherish most.

 6) It will be humbling

When you go through all of the ups and downs of traveling alone, it becomes a humbling experience. You gain more appreciation for your friends, you respect the place you are in, and greater appreciation for every other person you see traveling alone.

7) The biggest challenge will be finding a person to take that cute not candid but candid photo

Enough said. It’s always awkward to ask a stranger to take fake candid of you “exploring a castle” or “laughing with a latte.” Sometimes you get lucky and find the other solo traveler willing to take your picture if you take theirs, but there is no guarantee. So, if you want pics to prove it you have to suck it up and ask… especially if you’re like me and want to prove you found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

8) You are 1000x more likely to meet people and connect deeper

 When you travel alone and go to restaurants or cafes it makes you way more approachable to the locals than you would be with a group of people. This opens the door for you to connect with people and learn about them in a way you would never be able to before. The only caveat is you have to put yourself out there to get anything in return.

Traveling on your own can be the most challenging, yet personally rewarding experience you have. Do not be afraid to experience the highs and lows to learn about yourself, the city and those around you.

Laurel: Anything but Square: Union Square Donuts Review

Union Square Donuts are not anything like your local neighborhood donut shop; that is unless you can find a maple donut with actual bacon on top. Odds are, you won’t. Union Square, located in the Boston Public Market, Somerville, and Brookline, offers its customers a vast array of decadent flavors that will keep people begging for more. Anywhere from coconut to sugar raised to seasonal flavors such as orange cardamom and poppy seed—Union Square has it all!

I have brought every family member who’s come to visit me to Union Square and every reaction is the same—they fall in love. My aunt even took a box home to the rest of her family so Union Square ended up in California!

My previous visits had been about the enjoyment of eating a donut, but this time I went to perform a formal taste test so you all can indulge with confidence!  I brought my friend along with me, a notorious picky eater, so if he was impressed, we can all rest easy. I was tempted to walk on the wild side and try the Boston Cream donut, but my childhood roots pulled me to the birthday cake, a classic cake donut with chocolate frosting and rainbow sprinkles. Justin, my trustworthy companion, opted for the classic sugar raised, a donut tossed in cinnamon sugar. We were both thoroughly impressed at the lightness of the donuts; they were not dense and did not leave you feeling stuffed with carbs. The chocolate was rich and flavorful and the cake donut had the classic texture and consistency. The sugar raised was light and fluffy with the perfect coating for flavor. Overall, we were very impressed and already planning our next trip.

Union Square prides itself on their unique in-house recipes using wholesome ingredients to make fresh donuts daily. Their care and attention to detail is evident in every bite! Go forth and explore the upscale world of gourmet donuts in your local New England.

**Aside from fancy flavors, Union Square offers vegan donuts to accommodate donut lovers of all dietary needs. **

Laurel: A Guide to Navigating the Historic, Ever Trendy, Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill is perhaps the most history entangled one-stop-shop Boston has to offer. With its prime location surrounded by the Boston Common, Massachusetts State House, and the Charles River Esplanade, there is no better place to spend your day.

One of Boston’s most historic neighborhoods, Beacon Hill houses about 10,000 of Boston’s finest among the luxurious, aesthetically pleasing, quaint brownstone setting. Filled with rich history and just steps away from the heart of the bustling downtown, Beacon Hill has become an oasis for the local, the tourist, and the resident.

You don’t need to study the history books to learn the context behind the cobblestone alleyways or who designed the English style brick buildings. Rather, take a stroll up and down the streets to read the history plaques for yourself. When you’re there, you may come across anything from Mount Vernon housing six of Boston’s most prominent citizens way back in 1795 to a few of the first free-standing mansions that housed some of the most famous revolutionaries throughout the century.

Tour the State House, walk the streets, or play in the park. Afterward, meander along Charles Street to fully experience the charm and delight for yourself.

First, take a stroll through the tiny yet charming Deluca’s Market. Go in the summer months to find cute flowers lining the sidewalk or pop in during the winter to browse the character-rich aisles.

Keep your head on a swivel as you continue walking through the blocks. On your way, you will find some of Boston’s best cuisine. Try The Paramount for the best comfort and breakfast food all day long. If you are looking for some pizza, try Figs or pop in three doors down to The Upper Crust. (Maybe you have a pizza showdown with all your COM friends!) If you are in need of a classy brunch stop or a romantic dinner, try Beacon Hill Bristo or wander into one of the endless amounts of Italian restaurants ranging from casual to gourmet.

Whatever you do, do not forget to stop by Tatte Bakery for the best vanilla latte, pastries and brunch to propel you into a life of bliss. The owner designs each Boston location down to the tile on the floor. When it comes to Tatte, the line is indicative of the quality—worth the wait.

When your tummy is full, Beacon Hill still entertains. Walk around and find alleyways such as Acorn Street for the perfect photo opt to capture your aesthetic. Explore the beauty and get lost in the cobblestone.

Don’t be afraid to stop into the shops. The boutiques carry anything from home decor to casual clothing, even pure cashmere! There will always be something for everyone. Find your dog a cute new leash or leave with a pair of skis from the local ski shop. Keep walking to find the classic J.P. Licks for some ice cream and cross on over to the esplanade or work your way back to the park. Either way, Beacon Hill is a great way to spend a day. Relax, walk around, read through the history and discover the best qualities (both touristy and not) that Beacon Hill has to offer.