Are We Good People? | A Personal Essay

I think a lot about what makes a good person and the concept of goodness. Is goodness innate or is it something that we do or do we become good over time via actions and choices? Are we born good people or bad people? Or are we born neutral? And if so then it must be our actions that are good or bad or neither, and not us. Is goodness the same as kindness? Is goodness even something that, at the end of the day, we should be striving for? Aren’t good people more likely to be disappointed and taken advantage of?

Goodness is a nebulous concept, hard to quantify and infinitely variable. If you asked 100 people on the street how they define goodness, you would get 100 different answers. Goodness is kindness. Goodness is not kindness. Goodness is treating people well, goodness is trying not to hurt people. Goodness is putting the best version of yourself into the world, goodness is accepting people even at their worst versions of themselves.

Is goodness the same thing as kindness? Is it all about holding the door for people, making them soup when they’re sick, and giving second chances? Kindness and goodness both, ostensibly, put positivity into the world, and so they function similarly. But are they the same? Kindness is about treating people right, whereas goodness is about doing the right thing. Treating someone with kindness isn’t necessarily the right thing to do in every situation. Sometimes you need to be kind to yourself and not to someone else in order to do what’s in your best interests.

Does doing good things make you a good person? Or are they different? Maybe Good People don’t have to worry about trying to do good things. Maybe they don’t have to question every decision they make and ask themselves if that’s the right thing to do. If you choose to do good things does that make you a good person, or if you have to choose does it mean you’re not a good person?

If we’re born good or bad then it doesn’t matter what we do. But it so obviously does matter what we do. We hurt people or we don’t. We’re kind or we’re not. We make the world and our place in it better or we don’t. So we can’t be born good or bad. We must, then, be born neutral. And so it must be our actions that are good or bad, and doing good or not doing good must be what makes us good or bad.

Or neither.

This is how I see it. We’re all just people, neither innately good nor innately bad, trying to get by on a rock hurtling through space at 67,000 miles per hour. We do good things or we do bad things or we do things that are neither good nor bad. If we act with kindness, if we treat others well, then we’re good people. If we do good things, then we’re good people. And as for whether we should be good people? The world is unfeeling, and life is cruel, so every bit of good we do matters.


Challenges | Prep for 2015

One thing I wish I had done for 2014, which I will be doing for 2015, is get myself a couple of challenges.  These are different from goals or resolutions (which I don’t really make) because they have concrete steps built into them.  My challenge for 2013 was to graduate from college.

This doesn't have much to do with the post, but that's my planner for next year.

This doesn’t have much to do with the post, but that’s my planner for next year.


Decide on an area of your life where you want a challenge, first.  Do you want a fitness challenge?  A travel challenge?  A career change challenge?  Maybe you’re struggling to fit your hobbies in with your job and school and family.  A hobby challenge (maybe photo a day?) will help you keep them in your life.  Maybe you’ve moved to a new city and haven’t seen much of it yet.  With a little searching you can easily find a list of the best sites to see, and make that into a challenge, or maybe there’s already a challenge for your city!

For 2015, I will be participating in the Pop Sugar 2015 Reading Challenge.  (You can find the Pop Sugar post here, and I will be uploading a video about it too!)  This amounts to 50 books (or 52 depending on how you interpret the trilogy point) to read during 2015, but it’s more limited than that.  This challenge presents 50 specific types of books, including a graphic novel, a book by a female author, and a book more than 100 years old.  For a different reading challenge you could choose the Rory Gilmore reading list, but that is 335 books long so you may want to choose one season or an arbitrary number of books from Rory’s list.  If you’re not into being restricted in your reading, you could try a GoodReads 50 book challenge.  You can actually personalize that to any number of books that works for you, so if 50 seems too high or too low, you can change it up.  (This year I said 40, but I didn’t take it very seriously, and I didn’t reach it).

A fellow Creampuff on Tumblr, Juli, made this incredible 2015 TV & Movie Challenge, if that’s more your speed.  Much like the 2015 Reading Challenge above, this has different categories, and requirements for completion.  (Sidenote, don’t know what a creampuff is?  You need to watch Carmilla).


If you’d prefer a fitness related challenge, you could try Couch to 5k.  Or doing a certain number of 30 Day Shred cycles.  If you’re into swimming set a concrete time goal and write out the steps.


Writing an entire novel is a great challenge, if it’s something you’re into.  Nanowrimo and the Office of Letters and Light could get you started.  Rachel Hawkins (author of one of my favorite series) and Victoria Schwab (author of the incredible Near Witch) have a system involving stickers and a calendar which you could adopt.


I recently adopted Rosianna Halse Rojas’ 100 Jobs Challenge from 2012 but have since given up because I got a job (actually, since I wrote the draft of this post, I got two!  more info to come).  I’ll probably pick that back up when my seasonal job ends, though.  If you’re in need of a career change, or just a career in general, this would be a great one.  For a career change, though, I’d recommend getting some clear steps in mind before you attack applications.  For more about career searching, keep your eyes open for Job Interview Week next month.  January is all about that Job Search for many of us.


I’d recommend picking a couple of challenges to keep yourself motivated.  I’ll probably pick a fitness challenge as well, but I haven’t decided what yet.  If you want something more long term, create a 25 By 25 style list of goals.  I recently-ish revised mine to reflect my current priorities.

Maybe I just prefer challenges to resolutions because I’m competitive.  I am both a Leo and a younger sister, after all.


Planners | Prep For 2015

Let’s talk about planners. I am the ultimate planner nerd. I’ve had planners since I was like 10, although I’ve only consistently used them in college and since. Bring me your planner questions!


First, let’s decide what kind of planner works for you. Do you want a ring bound? A wire bound? A regular bound? I’ve used all of the above. Generally my favorite is the ring bound, because you can always add pages, but for 2015 I’m using a bound planner from Target. (In fact, it’s this one). Do you need to have your notes in the same place as your planner? Then a ring bound might be for you. I usually ended up carrying a separate notebook anyway, so I didn’t use the notes section of my ring bound planner as much as I theoretically should have.

2015 Planner

Get at me 2015!

Next we need to decide is what size planner you’ll need. I’ve used tiny planners, but I don’t like the lack of space. I’ve used big A5 planners, but they’re hard to carry around everywhere. Usually I default to something about the size of a personal Filofax – 3.7×6.7 inches. For a ring bound planner, keep in mind that your actual binder will be larger, which is part of what makes them even bulkier. If you always carry an enormous purse, I suppose it won’t make much difference, but I also like to be able to grab a small one and just go do my errands. Maybe stop by the bookstore or the library. So I like medium sized planners. If you’re responsible for multiple people, especially kids, you might want a larger planner than I do.


Once you’ve decided what size planner you need, and what kind you want, the fun part happens. You get to shop for a planner. I used three different planners in 2014, and none of them were quite perfect. I like to shop online a bit for planners before I go and actually buy one in a store. Target has a great selection, both from the Sugar Paper LA line and from their regular line. (I honestly debated whether I should spend the $8 on my new planner for a really long time, but I love it so much I decided it was worthwhile). Barnes & Noble also has a good selection, as does Staples. If you’re in the Filofax game, you should look around online first because buying from their website is very expensive.

I recently came across the Passion Planner. If I didn’t already have my 2015 planner, I might have bought the Passion Planner. It was created by a young woman who felt lost for years, and then created the planner to work herself out of that lost feeling. I think it looks gorgeous, and fascinating, and incredibly useful. You can even try it out for free!


If you’re like me, though, you’re too nervous to buy a planner without reading a bunch of blog posts about different types and different specific planners. One of the best planner blogs is Plannerisms. For Filofax planners specifically, there’s Philofaxy. If you like the look of a Filofax, but also think it looks a little boring, check out Gala Darling’s guide to Filofaxes. Trust me, Gala never does anything boring.


This year I chose a bound, pretty, Sugar Paper LA planner from Target because I kept coming back to it. I’ll probably bring a small notebook with me everywhere so I can make notes and have an overall to do list from which I choose that day’s tasks. I know I’ll need that notebook because I’ve tried all different kinds of planners before, and I know myself. Try different kinds of planners, you’ll learn something even if you hate that particular planner.

For more about prepping for 2015, watch this space.

Revised (again) 25 By 25

Don’t worry, I’ve only added my twenty-fifth goal, finally.  I’ve had only 24 for a month and change, and I finally figured out my twenty-fifth a few days ago.  And then I achieved it.  (I’m making a video about this soon, so keep an eye on my channel).

25 By 25

  1. Move into my own apartment not with an immediate family member.  (Roommates are cool).
  2. Get a tattoo.
  3. Run a 5k.
  4. Attend a group meditation.
  5. Visit 2 new US cities.
  6. Visit Europe.
  7. Finish writing a novel.
  8. Buy a subscription to Evernote Prime.
  9. Buy a subscription to Spotify Premium.  (Student is just $5/month!) (There’s a sale now for $0.99 for three months but it’s only available until December 31!)
  10. Adopt an animal.
  11. Attend a Phi Sigma Pi conference.
  12. Try out a notebook planner.  (March 2013, I don’t like it).
  13. Complete my master’s degree.  (Enrolled at SEMO for Secondary Education).
  14. Visit Canada
  15. Buy stock.
  16. Learn basic French.
  17. Build my own website.  (Not just a mockup).
  18. Learn basic Spanish.
  19. Get a driver’s license.  (June 2013!)
  20. Give thank you cards to all my professors at AU in my final semester. (December 2013!)
  21. Start sharing short stories on my blog. (November 2014)
  22. Share poetry on my youtube channel. (November 2014)
  23. Purchase a DSLR camera. (November 2014)
  24. Instead of birthday gifts, ask for donations to charity.
  25. Have a job I’m proud to display on LinkedIn. (December 2014)

To be clear about that last goal, everyone’s pride is different.  Mine is definitely one of my biggest weaknesses, and I see why it’s considered a cardinal sin when I think of how proud I can be.  So getting a job that I’m proud of enough to put it on my LinkedIn page and display it to the world, not just mentioned in text messages where I’m always qualifying why I have it, is a really nice feeling.

It seems like the last couple of months I’ve been achieving goal after goal, and taking steps toward other goals, like making a plan for moving out, or creating a savings goal spreadsheet, or deciding on what my first tattoo will be when I finally find an artist I’m comfortable with putting needles and ink to my body.  Have you been meeting your goals?  Tell me all about your goals in the comments!  Let’s chat.

Last Revision | Original 25 By 25 List


Slightly off-topic from my usual topics, but I recently made a video about being an adult and what it means, and I want to share.  I think I’m doing adulthood fairly well for my circumstances.  I have a job (and potentially more than one).  I have grad school.  I’m about to finish a beautiful internship at the Missouri History Museum.  I live with my family, and it’s a very long drive to the nearest city, so I feel very disconnected from everything, but I’m beginning to get a better grip on life again.  I’m beginning to feel like a real adult, and I like it.

What makes you feel like an adult?  Let’s chat about it in the comments!

Satiated Saturday: Vegetarian Thanksgiving Roundup

This is my second thanksgiving as a vegetarian, but the first where I will actually be at a thanksgiving dinner.  I usually prefer to spend my thanksgiving at a museum and thinking critically about American history, and in fact history as a whole.  But, in order to participate in thanksgiving with my family  I need to have some vegetarian options for myself.  Because I don’t have as many of these in my own arsenal, I’ve rounded up a bunch of resources for you me and you guys.

Satiated Saturday

The Veggie Table | A vegetarian blog with its own roundup of recipes, but all of these are original and created by the author Laura K. Lawless.

Veg Kitchen | Another roundup from a vegan blog, and I think most of these are original recipes too.  All vegan things are safe for vegetarians, but remember that not all vegetarian things are safe for vegans, so if you have vegan friends over for thanksgiving, remember that they might need separate things as well.

Buzzfeed actually has a handful of vegetarian/vegan thanksgiving recipe roundups, so here we go.  Pure Links | Brussels Sprouts For Thanksgiving | 29 Side Dishes | 37 Delicious Vegetarian Recipes For Thanksgiving | 22 Delicious Meatless Mains | 41 Delicious Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes

Chef In You | A vegetarian thanksgiving roundup from 2009.  There is everything from soup to risotto on this list, so it’s sure to have something for you.

The Pioneer Woman Stuffing | Substitute veggie broth for chicken broth in this recipe and you can make your own stuffing from scratch.

Satiated Saturday | Shameless self-promotion: you should check out my Satiated Saturday category on my blog

Vegetarian Gravy | This is my vegetarian gravy recipe, and I love it.  I’ll be making it for my family to share the joy that is delicious meatless gravy.

Easy Italian Bread | My Italian bread recipe adapted from Bakers Banter would be delicious on the side of your tofurkey.

Roasted Almonds | Roasted almonds would make a great side, especially if you’re the only vegetarian and you have a hard time getting family to let you in the kitchen on Thanksgiving.  They’re easy and fast.

Remember: if you check the ingredient list you can find lots of vegetarian stuffing mix, and mashed potatoes are always vegetarian.  If you’re like my family you could make an antepasto tray/spread and not let anyone else eat it.  (We haven’t actually made an antepasto in years because our thanksgivings are weird, but they were my favorite as a kid).  Try this tutorial from Martha Stewart, and this one from Giada de Laurentiis.

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers!

How Easy Is It To Get Ordained?

As of next week (November 19) I will have been ordained through American Marriage Ministries for two years.  Weird, huh?  I’m one of the least religious people I know, and yet technically I’m an ordained minister.  Why?  I was curious.  At the time, I was in an ehtnography class, so I spent a lot of time talking about, and thinking about, the ways different cultures recognize milestones and ceremonies.  One of those was marriages.


Being a non-religious person, I’ve always wondered how non-religious people handled weddings, funerals, and the like, because all of those I’ve ever been to have had a distinctly religious bent.  Whether that’s a 3-hour wedding mass when a friend’s aunt got married, or the touching but very religious funeral service for my grandfather, all of these ceremonies, in my experience, have been tinged with religion.  Then, I read about getting ordained online, almost instantly.  It really is almost instant.

I became an ordained marriage minister through them!


I logged onto the American Marriage Ministries website, filled out a few forms, and was confirmed as a member of their ranks.  There are plenty of licensing “ministries” out there, including Universal Life Church, another biggie.  Personally, I love that it is so easy for someone who matters to the couple getting married to officiate their wedding.  I love that there are options for the non-religious other than the relatively impersonal city hall/justice of the peace route.  While that totally works for some people, it’s always good to have options.  So far, I haven’t performed any marriages, and I don’t know if I ever actually will.  I got ordained mostly out of curiosity.  But I definitely would if someone asked me to.


The thing about being non-religious in America is that in almost everything it makes no real difference (except that people are going to assume you’re religious, especially in this area) but when it comes to celebrating milestones and having ceremonies, your options become instantly limited.  But I honestly think that the ease of online ordination for officiating weddings is indicative of a shift in our cultural opinions about these ceremonies.  It’s a shift to accepting that there are many different ways to celebrate a milestone – be it a wedding, or a funeral, or a sweet 16.  American culture, as a rule, tends to sit back on Christian traditions, which can be a problem for the many Americans who aren’t Christian.  Be they Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Atheist, or simply non-religious with no opinion one way or another about the existence of a deity, there are millions of people who don’t want to have the traditional church wedding.  Instead, with this kind of easy ordination, they could have a friend or family member, a person who has been important to both parties, officiate and make their wedding day truly special.  I’m all for it (obviously) because I’m all for anything that expands people’s freedoms and possibilities, even in a small way.