A few random thoughts for the month of May

Published 3:42 pm Friday, May 26, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

I took an evening walk recently, and thought to myself, “this is really nice weather for March.”

About half a second later, my sense of time caught up with me and I remembered that it’s actually May already. To me, it feels like the year has flown by so fast! I’ll blink and tomorrow will be Christmas. (Hopefully not! I’m not ready to start shopping for presents yet.)

Because my perception of time seems to be jumping around from month to month, I figured maybe my column today could also jump around from topic to topic. Here are a few things that are on my mind this month:

I wrote a few weeks ago about researchers’ attempts to explore the impact of social media on teenagers (and adults as well). It’s only in the last 10 years or so that the technology has exploded to where many people spend a large chunk of their free time browsing their favorite social media websites. So it’s difficult to see the long-term impacts yet, but there is mounting data that social media can have a detrimental effect on our mental health sometimes.

This week, NPR had another good article on social media. This time it was focused on ways to help you stop scrolling through your feed all the time. Though the advice is by young people and aimed at teens and parents, it’s good to consider for anyone who might be having trouble putting their smartphones and tablets away.

Firstly, let teens know that the social media sites they’re excited about joining aren’t always fun, and can sometimes exacerbate and amplify negative feelings. That might make them rethink spending so much time on those apps and websites.

Secondly, take stock of your daily screentime. Many phones have digital trackers you can check, and people are often surprised by their results. Once you realize you might be spending too much time on social media, you can try using apps that add limits or make you take breaks.

Thirdly, change the default settings of your apps so they aren’t constantly sending you notifications or auto-playing videos as you scroll past.

Lastly, of course, invest more time in hobbies and fun activities away from your phone. Lots of people turn to social media to chase away boredom, but you don’t have to. Pick up a paperback book. Doodle on the margins of your papers. Dust off a musical instrument you used to play.

Speaking of hobbies… as a language nerd, I really like learning new words. Thankfully, the Merriam-Webster website always has a treasure trove of fun, obscure, and sometimes downright unpronounceable words! Recently, they shared Volume Three of “The Great Big List of Beautiful and Useless Words.”

The list comes with definitions and “degree of usefulness” designations, ranging anywhere from “there has to be someone out there writing a mob movie script, right?” (for desticate, which means “to cry like a rat”) to “by the time you explain its meaning, the tone of the conversation will have shifted from mirth to seriousness” (for jocoserious, which means “mingling mirth and seriousness”).

A few of my other favorite words on this list include quasquicentennial (“a 125th anniversary”); ugsome (“frightful, loathsome”); impedimenta (“things that impede or hinder progress or movement”); abactor (“one who steals cattle”); mussitate (“to speak through the teeth”); and vulpinate (“to play the fox; to deceive with crafty wiles or deceits”).

Lots of good words to figure out how to spell and say, right? I don’t think I have a reason to call someone an “abactor” in real life, but maybe I can write a story one day that’ll need it! You never know…

And speaking of not knowing things, none of us know what the future holds. May is that time of year when students get the honor of donning their graduation caps and gowns. Those graduating seniors in particular may be thinking a lot about their futures right now.

I still remember how I felt after my high school and college graduations (15 and 11 years ago, respectively). I was really excited after getting my high school diploma because I was set to head off to college located a few hours away. For me, it was the beginning of a new adventure and a chance to broaden my experiences.

Of course, by the time my college graduation rolled around, I was mostly ready to come back home. It was a different feeling receiving the college diploma because my plans afterwards weren’t set in stone yet. The future was just a big blank slate with the word “unknown” emblazoned across it.

I’m happy with how things turned out, but it still felt like a rough ride at first as I shifted from the world of education to the full-time workforce.

Though I’m not full of wisdom like those who have more years of life experience under their belts, I think I can offer up a little bit of advice for people about to head into their own post-graduation worlds.

Firstly, take advantage of any opportunities you may be given. A small part-time job might give you important experience for something completely different later in your future. Meeting people at different events may build a connection that pushes you in a successful direction later on down the road.

Secondly, don’t feel locked into one career path. It’s difficult to decide what you want to spend your whole life doing at age 18 or even age 22. So, even if it might feel impossible at first, feel free to switch courses or switch careers if you want. It’s never too late.

Lastly – and this one connects with the previous bit of advice – pursue the things that make you happy. Otherwise, what’s the point?

So congratulations to all our local graduates who already have or are about to walk across the stage, grab their diplomas, and turn their tassels! One chapter of life has reached its conclusion while the next one is just beginning.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.