Monday, December 21, 2009

Things I Wish I'd Learned In School

I was contemplating things today. I've been very busy lately, finishing up the semester, applying to a new school for next fall, and considering my job situation, and potential internships for next year. In the midst of all this, I started thinking about what most people would consider pretty basic life skills that I wish someone had sat me down and taught me once and for all when I was in my earlier years of schooling. I also started thinking about things that I know how to do, but that a lot of people I know who are my age don't. I've started to compile a list. So, without further ado...
Things I Wish I'd Learned In School

  • How To Properly Prepare A Resume
    This is something that I semi-learned in high school, and I have a workable resume that I still use leftover from that, but a resume to submit in a professional environment is a little different than one you mail off to colleges. I also have friends who didn't learn how to prepare one in high school, and have never had to submit a resume for the jobs they've done, so they simply don't have one. In my opinion, everyone should have some sort of acceptable resume by the time they leave high school. Even if you haven't had a lot of jobs, or even any job at all, you can still use it to present the activities you participate in, any community service you do, as well as any useful skills you have. You never know when you're going to find an opportunity that will ask you for it, so I think we should all learn to do it, and have an updated copy on hand
  • How To Write A Check, and Balance A Checkbook
    This skill is quickly becoming obsolete with the rise of online banking and bill pay. My own checkbook is collecting dust in the back of my closet somewhere, but the entire world hasn't gone electronic just yet, and many people my age (myself included) are unsure as to the proper way in which to fill out a check, or balance a checkbook. We may come to a time when this skill is completely obsolete, but right now, it isn't, so we should probably learn how to do it properly.
  • How To Prepare For A Job Interview
    My first job interview was an impromptu trip to the stock room of a small store when I was 17. I was utterly unprepared for any of the questions they asked me, and the kinds of answers they were looking for. However, as it was a minimum wage retail slave job, I managed to be offered said job anyway, despite my stammering and awkward pauses. My next job interview, for which I was properly dressed and armed with vague ideas for answers, wasn't until 2 years later, and I wondered if other people walk into their first job interview as unsure about what to expect as I was. This goes hand in hand with the resume preparation as well - high schools are constantly trying to help us get in to colleges, who are constantly trying to get us into the work force, but in many cases, we wind up unprepared for the work force in the end. Everyone should know how to dress for a job interview, what to bring with them, and what sorts of questions to expect.
  • How To Cook
    The running joke about college kids is that we survive on ramen noodles. Humorous though the stereotype may be, for many students it is not too far off the mark. Being fortunate enough to have home economics classes in my earlier school days (something for which I am thankful almost every day), I can cook. But it's far from uncommon for college kids to be rather abysmal in the kitchen. At the most basic, everyone should know how to make pasta and sauce, cook eggs, and whip up some vegetable soup. We covered all that in a semester of Home Ec, along with baking a sheet cake, making pancakes, and making pizza bagels. We also covered the benefits of doing so. The nutritional value of meals you prepare yourself are totally under your control, and odds are, better than the takeout you were thinking of getting, or the crap in the school cafeteria where there is no such thing as a serving size. Plus, it will wind up costing you less as well, and you get to keep the leftovers. It only makes sense to have an arsenal of recipes that you can whip out to cook dinner for yourself, or some friends.
  • How To Mend and Hem Clothing
    Another epidemic among college kids which I am pleased to have escaped. (Thank you, Home Ec!) However, it is not difficult to see that I am in the minority here. At my job, most of us wear the same pants, every shift, for days on end. Needless to say, these clothes take a beating. Seams rip, knees tear, hems come undone. Most of these are clothing dilemmas that can be solved by 10 or 15 minutes with a travel sewing kit, however, most of my coworkers had no idea how to mend their clothing. Sure, there's such a thing as a tailor, but between the fact that we're college kids and the fact that we need to wear these clothes every time we work, the time or money for such things may not be readily available. You never know when you're going to accidentally damage an important piece of clothing and need a speedy repair. Hand sewing at a level that will mend basic clothing damages at least temporarily is not a difficult skill to learn, and everybody should know how to fix a hem that has fallen out.
  • How To Do Your Taxes
    I've saved the best for last, haven't I? I will be the first to admit that my father does my taxes. I haven't the foggiest idea what "doing your taxes" even entails. I get the forms from work, I give them to my father, and I magically hear back from the government whether or not I owe them even more money. The entire process is alien to me. Even if you're going to hire someone else to do your taxes for you, you should at least have a basic idea of what they're doing. But really, why not learn to do it and save yourself the trouble of hiring someone else? I've not spoken to a single person my age who does their own taxes. Must we really be so reliant on other people to do this for us? I'm sure if we put our minds to it and had some instruction on what the heck we were supposed to be doing, we'd be able to manage it on our own.

Are some of the things on this list things you wish you'd learned in school? Are some of them things you're grateful to have learned in school? What other things would you add to a list of "Things You Wish You'd Learned In School"? Do you think that schools should implement more courses that focus on life skills?


Monday, November 2, 2009

Desire Trumps Fear

Last night, I booked two round-trip flights for myself: one to Orlando, and one to London. A year ago, this would have been pretty much beyond the realm of possibility. If I thought I grew and changed a lot in my first year of college, it's still very little when compared with the last year of my life. That's because in this part year, I have finally learned that there are so many things that are so much more important than being afraid.

I used to say and think that it was That man who changed me, but he didn't; at least, not in the way I thought he did. At the end of the day, I changed myself, because I'm the only one who can. What That Man did was make me want to make that change, and make me realize that I could if I wanted it bad enough. It was as if he laid the world out in front of me and all I had to do was work up the nerve to leave the nest and try to fly. He instilled in me a desire that was finally enough to beat back the fear.

Now I know what you're thinking when I talk about That Man and desire in the same sentence. And I won't lie, that was definitely part of it. I had never wanted to be with someone enough to manage to trump the fear of actually, well, being with them. But it goes so much deeper than that. Talking so frequently and for so long with someone who had seen the whole world reminded me of all the things I was missing by being too afraid to go out and see and do them. There is a huge world out there, and it's beautiful and terrifying, but the more I saw and heard about it, the more I wanted so badly to actually get out there and see it for myself. And as my desire to break out of my lonely little apartment grew stronger, my fear began to have less of a hold on me.

This isn't to say that I'm not afraid. As I held the confirmation papers for my flights in my hands, I could feel my heart race. This is some pretty unknown territory for me, and that's scary. But for the past year, I have been trying to dive into unknown territory, even if it's scary, because I want to. Though it's had its highs and lows, the past year has taught me that being scared of something doesn't mean not trying. I want to see places I've never seen, and do things I've never done. That desire that had been lying dormant for years, held down by fear and uncertainty, has finally started to thrive. I have finally found enough things that I want badly enough to break out of that cage. I have, at long last, discovered a desire in me that is able to take on fear, because I know that living out my dreams is more important than being afraid.

Have you ever wanted something so badly that it managed to cancel out a fear or insecurity you had about doing it?


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

If I Died Today

Picture 1

Because I'm a morbid person, I sometimes wonder what I'd be unhappy with if I were to die on any given day. What would I wish I had said to people? What would I wish people had said to me? Is there anything that would really, truly bother me that I hadn't said or done in my life?

A fresh round of these thoughts was brought on this morning when I woke up. I had a dream last night - it was completely strange and nonsensical, for the most part. In my dream, I was in a large hotel on a coast somewhere, and myself and three of my friends were being executed, by my immediate family no less. We were being beheaded out on the balcony. I was the last of the four to meet my death. As I was waiting for my turn to die, I was searching frantically for my cell phone. When I found it, I dialed the number of someone I care for very much. They answered, sounding as though I had woken them up. I apologized for waking them, and started to cry as I told them that I was never going to see them again, and desperately wanted them to know how much I loved them. That phone conversation was the one part of my dream that made sense, and I woke up promptly after it.

These thoughts have crossed my mind more and more often lately, especially as the prospect of travel is looming in my life. I'm the kind of paranoid person who thinks that it's my plane that will be the one to fall out of the sky. If I wind up going to London, I was thinking of writing a letter including all the things I would want people to know if I never got a chance to tell them. I don't have any huge number of secrets, those of you who have read my blog for a while, or who know me know that I'm a fairly open person. But there are some secrets I have kept, at least from the people they involve, for one reason or another, and some that I wouldn't want to take to the grave with me.

The thing that struck me about this was the fact that I'd rather leave a letter behind than simply say these things to people before I left. Why not simply tell these people what I'm thinking and feeling now so that I don't have to worry about what would happen if it was too late? Why not tell my father about the time I stole his car, or that as it turns out, I have been drinking before my 21st birthday, and I can hold my liquor better than he thinks? Why not tell my mom that I want nothing more than to be her when I grow up, minus the three kids? Why not tell all my friends what I really think of them, good or bad? Why not tell That Man that I am hopelessly in love with him, and love him more intensely than I've ever loved another person?

By the time I reached the last question, I had already realized the answer. I am afraid. I am afraid of the consequences of sharing these secrets. I want my mom to know how much I admire her, but I fear what she'd think of me if she knew that despite all the schooling she and my father have put me through, I think I'd be perfectly happy as a housewife. I want my father to be able to laugh at the fact that I stole his car, or tell me something that would help my occasionally improper use of alcohol, but I fear losing his trust. I want That Man to know that he is loved, deeply and completely, for everything that he is, but I fear him walking away if I were so blunt. I want my friends to know that I love them, or that I hate them, or that I can't stand their boyfriend, or that I think they're making a huge mistake, or that I think they're wasting their lives, or that I think they are impossibly talented, or that they're doing something they shouldn't, or not doing something they should, but I fear how they would react to hearing such things.

It's easiest to say these things when we have nothing to lose.

*Photos were screencapped from the trailer for the new Post Secret book, 
Post Secret: Confessions on Life, Death, and God by Frank Warren.

Picture 3

If you died today, what would you wish you had said to other people? What would you wish other people had said to you? What would be the biggest regret you'd have over something you'd done? What about over something you hadn't done?


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lead Me Not Into Temptation

12 hours.

That Man was back in town for 12 hours. In between business trips, he spent less than 12 hours in his apartment.

You would think, then, that there was no way that we could possibly get ourselves into any trouble. That's where you would be wrong.

I had come back to New Jersey last night before her got back because, well, he was only going to be here for 12 hours. I wasn't going to see him anyway, and I had laundry to do. So I was watching the end of the Jets game when he texted me telling me he had gotten home safely. A conversation that started innocently enough, but over the next hour or so, it escalated as it always does, with photos flying back and forth. Finally, he asked me to come and see him, not realizing where I was.

In my typical fashion where he is involved, I did something incredibly stupid. I explained that I was in Jersey, but that I had the keys to the car in my hand and could be there in only 10 minutes longer than a cab from my Manhattan apartment would have taken. He immediately insisted he would never ask me to drive so late. I reminded him that I had offered. I scrambled around my house, putting on shoes and my coat, and taking my father's car keys.

That's right, boys and girls, I took my father's car at 2:30 in the morning, and drove it to Queens to see That Man.

The car was parked underneath my parent's bedroom window. I technically only have a provisional license which prohibits me from driving between the hours of 12:01am and 5:00am. I'd never driven to Queens. I'd never even driven in the city in my life. I'd also never driven across the George Washington Bridge. And yet, at 2:30 in the morning, I programmed the GPS system with shaking hands. I told That Man that I was sitting in the car, and asked him if he wanted me to come. He insisted that I be extremely careful, and that I go home again before my parents have a chance to realize I'm gone. I agreed from the stop sign at the bottom of my street.

The car was quiet as I contemplated the fact that I was driving to Queens at 2:30 in the morning in my father's car that he didn't know I had taken to see That Man before he left down again for the rest of the month. I drove in silence, shaking in the driver's seat, terrified to drive a single mile per hour over the speed limit. I flitted through streets, down highways, and over the two bridges that separated me from That Man. Raindrops fell on my windshield intermittently. After what felt like forever, I reached a section of Queens I recognized from my late night cab rides, and called That Man from the corner of his street. I parked under his building and fell into his arms the second I stepped out of the car.

We just held onto each other for a while before going inside. Upstairs, he held me in his arms until I managed to calm down. I buried my face in his chest, breathing him in. He ran his fingers through my hair. We laughed at the ridiculousness of what was happening. We mused over what would happen if I were to get caught. We smiled and kissed and our fingers entwined. We stayed holding each other again for a bit before falling into bed together. Every moment I spent with him was worth what I had done to get there. We lay in bed running our fingertips over each other's bodies. We talked about his future trips, and I sat with him while he folded his laundry and packed to leave in the morning. He walked me to the car, and we kissed goodbye.

I drove my car home, and replaced it in the driveway facing the opposite direction it had been in when I took it, praying that my father would be none the wiser as I replaced the mirror and seat position and put the Navigation CD away. I bolted up the driveway to the door only to hear my dogs start barking as I put my key in the lock. I ran to the kitchen and replaced my coat and scarf on the chair they'd been hanging on earlier that evening, and plugged my phone into its charger. I kicked off my shoes and ran into my father's office replacing his car keys on his desk before running back into the kitchen in an attempt to quiet the dogs. I heard footsteps overhead and freaked. I tried harder to quiet the dogs, and was standing in front of them when my father appeared around the corner coming into the kitchen. He asked if it was me that they had seen and started barking. I said yes. He asked what I was doing. I picked up my phone and its charger from the kitchen counter, unplugged it and gestured with it. He said okay. I ran upstairs to bed. After speaking with my mother this morning, they both believe I fell asleep on the couch and woke up around 5.

I sit now at my computer, tired, sore, and grinning because I haven't managed to shower yet and I still smell him on my skin.

Stupidest thing I've ever done? Absolutely.

Worth it? Without a doubt.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Get Me Outta Here!

Maybe it's because I've never really travelled much before. Maybe it's because the things binding me to New York City are beginning to dwindle very quickly. Maybe the rest of the world is too damn exciting and enticing. Maybe I'm restless. Maybe I'm just plain bored. But whatever the reason, I have been haunting the Study Abroad page of my college's website since the middle of July waiting anxiously for them to post the available programs for the short winter semester of 2010. (I'm still waiting, in fact. September, they told me. It's September now, guys!)

I've never left the country, except once on a cruise to Canada. I spent one day on Canadian soil. I've tried to go traveling through various academic programs in the past, to Europe, Australia, you name it, but for various reasons, it hasn't ever worked out. It's been ten years since I've even been on a plane. I've been itching to travel for quite a while now, but it's become a more pronounced desire in the past few months. Perhaps that was brought on by spending time with That Man I fell in love with, who has seen and done such a wide array of things I cannot help but be terribly jealous when he tells me stories. When I say he's been almost everywhere, it's not too gross of an exaggeration. He takes the most amazing photographs of everywhere he goes, and it just makes me want to get out there and see it all. It really rekindled my desire to get out there and see the world while I still can. Perhaps I've just been reading too much, and looking at too many photos in my textbooks. There is so much out there to be seen, beauty, both natural and manmade, art, food, culture, life, and I am sick of being stuck in this city.

For a very long time, I put off my travel plans. I was too attached to things here. When I went off to college, I was so attached to things and people here that I didn't even consider going to school anywhere else. When I got to college, I got a job, and I fell in love. And maybe my desperate need to get out of here is because so many of those things and people I'd grown so attached to are gone, and all I'm left with is memories of the way things were. The show that I'd been working at for nearly two years closed this past Sunday, which was rather devastating. That Man I fell in love with is going to be off again, moving away, working, and seeing the world without me. I have a new job, but it doesn't mean nearly as much to me. And that's not to insult the job or my coworkers, but without the strong attachment I had to my old job and the great bond with everyone that worked there, I'm more able to look at this new job as just a job, and allow myself to leave without missing it much. I have other people I care about, and who care about me, but I know they'll be here when I get back. The relationships I have with the people in my life right now are not as volatile and unpredictable as That Man. I can take a little time to myself without having to worry too much about what will happen. There is a lot less holding me down, and maybe because of that, it's harder and harder to fight my urge to just go. Get out. Be free. I want to fly.

There's nothing wrong with the city. Really, there's not. It's convenient, and exciting, and fun. It's all me, I swear. But I feel trapped, and stifled. I feel like a robot, and I feel like I'm missing out on so much. Plus, after spending so much time wanting to stay put, I figure that now that I actually WANT to leave, I should hurry up and go before I change my mind. Losing my job and That Man at the same time has given me the desire and the motivation to get up and get out.

So I'm aiming to study abroad for a few weeks in the winter. As a sort of practice run, I suppose. As I've said, I haven't travelled much, so I figure my best bet is to go someplace not too far, for not too long, with a very organized program.

Do you travel a lot? Do you do it for work or for fun? Do you like to travel? Do you wish you travelled more, or less? In your opinion, what is the best way to travel? Where is your favorite place that you have gone? What made you decide to go there?


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Take The Chance


I know I've been missing in action for over a month now, and life has been a bit of a roller coaster in between, to be sure. But after all the highs and lows, I feel like I've finally found some middle ground and I have something to say.

Don't waste a minute of your time on this earth, never miss an opportunity, never let fear hold you back, and never rely on second chances. Our time is precious, we only get so much of it, and we can't waste any of it not pursuing the things we want in life.

My blog has been a bit of a record of my struggles with fear and anxiety, struggles that I've been grappling with since as long as I can remember. For years, my fears have held me back from going after the things I wanted. I would sit in fear, and not act, because the possibility of messing things up trumped the possibility of achieving happiness. 
This is no way to live your lives. I am still a good way away from conquering my anxiety for good, but I am certain I'm going in the right direction, and I'm here to say, if you're sitting on the sidelines, and you're scared, do it. Jump in. Shut your eyes, hold your breath, and dive into it because you'll regret it so much more if you don't even give it a try. Life isn't a spectator sport.

We all get chances that we don't take. And often, we'll look back and wonder if we did the right thing. We'll ponder our decisions, and question our reactions. And we're not always going to make the right decisions. But the worst decision you can ever make is no decision. Theodore Roosevelt once said "In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing." And it's absolutely the truth. This summer, I begged the universe for a second chance to do something I had missed out on because I had been too afraid, and had done nothing. The universe gave me that chance, and I took it, and maybe it wasn't the best decision I ever made, but it wasn't the worst, and I don't regret it for an instant. The experience was invaluable.

Life is about experience. We live, and we learn. Without the experiences that we have, we would be nothing. Our experiences and our decisions shape us, and if we draw away from these experiences out of fear, we don't grow and we don't change, and we don't learn. You will not always be happy. You will not always make the right choice. But life is too short to live with regrets, and trust me when I say you'll regret the things you didn't do a lot more than the things you did do.

So that's what I'm here to say today: take the chance, take the risk, make the jump, dive in, chase your dreams, and for God's sake, 
live your life to the fullest because it's the only one you're going to get. Live. Laugh. Love. With all your heart, embrace this world.



Saturday, June 20, 2009

Make Out Check Out

Or: Possibly The Most Dehumanizing Experience Of My Life

So in the midst of my attempted recovery from the mess that ended over a month ago, I have gone out with this new guy a few times. Kind of a "get back on the horse" kind of maneuver. Trying to replace what I lost, feel the feelings I used to feel. So I've been attempting normal dates. Drinks, a movie, you know. He's a nice guy. There's plenty of stuff about him that bugs me, but hey, why not give it a shot, right? I mean, he's always a gentleman, at least. He's walked me home every night we've spent time together. Okay, so maybe the making out in front of my doorman was less than gentlemanly. And I'm not a PDA kind of person, so that's really not my thing. And I guess that's part of the reason why I invited him up the last time I saw him. (I say last because, well, you don't get another chance after how things worked out.)

He had been drinking more than he usually did when we spent time together. This should have set off some sort of warning signal in my head, and encouraged me to send him home rather than invite him inside. But no, I decided inviting him in was a good idea. He didn't seem too intoxicated, and I wasn't worried. When we reached my apartment, he was immediately all over me. I wasn't really into it, but I went along with it for a while. After all, I was the one who invited him inside, and this is what happens when you invite a guy inside. I had thought this was what I had wanted, but I was pretty nonchalant about the whole thing. As things escalated, however, my mind wandered, and I felt tears welling up in my eyes. Memories of what I'd lost raced through my mind and I stared at the ceiling as hands groped their way around my body.

I felt like a rag doll in his arms. As he tangled his fingers in my hair and pulled my head where he wanted it to be, as he ran his hands over my body, as he placed my arms around his waist, it was like everything inside of me shut off. It was like there wasn't a person there anymore, there was just a body, and I wasn't in it. Everything that knew how to feel was gone. I felt empty.

Ironic, as it was the emptiness in the wake of my mess that I was trying to fight.

I don't know how people can have one night stands. I don't know how people can hook up with no emotional attachment. I don't know why I thought that replacing the physical aspect of the relationship that I lost would ever in a million years make up for everything else that was there. I got to a point where I literally could not take it anymore, pulled his hands off me, stood up, righted my disheveled clothing, and simply began to cry. I didn't know what else to do. The poor guy was justifiably confused, not knowing that he'd accompanied an emotional nutcase upstairs, and probably thinking he had a good chance of getting laid. After apologizing profusely many times, I sent him home.

I'm not sure what I hoped to accomplish by sharing this story. I feel like it should serve as some sort of warning, but I'm not sure what I'm trying to warn against. This guy is a good guy, all things considered, and the situation was entirely my fault. While things didn't turn out too poorly for me, they could have gone south in a hurry. The mistake was a stupid one that I shouldn't have to warn people against. What am I trying to say? Don't invite in a guy who has been drinking? Be careful or you'll get in over your head? Don't attempt more than you can handle? Don't push yourself to heal faster than you are capable of? Don't try to solve emotional problems and fill emotional voids with physical intimacy? Don't be me?

Maybe I'm just trying to say that you shouldn't jump off a cliff trying to feel the wind in your face, because you're going to hit bottom more often than you're going to fly.

Have you ever made a decision that seemed good at the time but wasn't? Have you ever made a bad choice fully knowing that it was a bad choice? Why did you do it? What were the consequences? Have you ever tried to solve a problem or make yourself feel better and had it backfire?


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Life Lessons

My father sent me this in an email this morning, and his timing couldn't have been better. Most of these things are things that we all already know, but sometimes you just need to hear them again anyway. I'm reposting it in case anyone else needs to hear them as much as I did.

Written By Regina Brett, 90 years old,
of The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio

"To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons
life taught me. It is the most-requested column I've ever

My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the
column once more:

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone...

4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.

8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first pay cheque.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.

16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.

19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion, today is special.

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will this matter?'

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.

35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

36. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood.

38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.

41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

42. The best is yet to come.

43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

44. Yield.

45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift."


Friday, May 29, 2009

Life Really IS A Roller Coaster

This past Monday, some friends and I went to Six Flags for a day of fun and escapism. We got up early, got on the bus, and got to Six Flags before the main part of the park was even open, and we lined up at the rope waiting for them to drop it. It was all really cool. Now, here's the thing about taking me to Six Flags...
I am TERRIFIED of roller coasters

Ever since I was little, I've been scared of roller coasters. When I was young, my dad took me on one (ironically, at the very same Six Flags we were at that day) and I was scared half to death, and have been on very few roller coasters since. I would only get on VERY small ones, and never anything that went upside down.

So, of course, my friends, being the awesome, encouraging, fun-loving people that they are...

...put me on Nitro.

Now, I had promised to try to get on some of the roller coasters, despite being scared. I promised I'd try something that didn't go upside down. I had even joked that after the emotional roller coasters I'd been dragging my sorry ass through lately, I should be able to handle a real one no problem - there was no way a literal roller coaster could be anywhere near as scary, as painful, or as seemingly never-ending as the emotional roller coasters I've been locked into for months now. One friend and I even made a pact - we were leaving our baggage at the top of the first roller coaster and not thinking about it for the rest of the trip.

Being that we were pretty much the first people in the park, the line was extremely short and it took us probably ten minutes to get on the ride. During those ten minutes, I was utterly horrified at the idea that I would be actually getting on this roller coaster. When I sat down in the seat, I was about ready to cry, and when they fastened my little restraint, I was internally freaking out. Sitting in the station locked into this roller coaster is probably the closest I've come to having a full-fledged anxiety attack in the last six months.

Once the car started to move, it finally dawned on me. 
I was riding this roller coaster. I really was going to do it. At that point, there was nothing I could do, no matter how scared I was. I had given up my control, and I was in this for the long haul whether I wanted to be or not. As we started to climb the hill, my fear began to subside a bit... until I looked around. The closer we got to the top, the more nervous I became. The drop was imminent. There was nothing I could do. And maybe, deep down, that's why I was really so scared of roller coasters. I hate feeling out of control.

We reached the top of the hill, and the agonizing metal grinding noise of the car being tugged up the hill stopped. I looked down. We started to fall, and yes, I screamed. I clung to the safety restraints, and curled up into the fetal position as best I could. (My on-ride photo documented this for me quite nicely) And then it was over. We were soaring up the next hill. That was it. I uncurled myself a little. I sat back in my seat and opened my eyes. I unwrapped my white knuckled hands from the safety restraints. Finally, maybe halfway through the ride, I smiled, and threw my hands up in the air.
I was riding this roller coaster!!

My friends, who were seated on either side of me, cheered. Some little voice inside my head screamed "I'M FREE!". I got off the ride grinning, and proceeded to run over to the Batman coaster with my friends, and ride that too. That one even goes upside down. I went on the Dark Knight, which was a walk in the park compared to those, and then we ran back and I, yes, ME, the 
TERRIFIED OF ROLLER COASTERS GIRL, insisted that we go on Nitro again because the line was so short. This time, my on-ride photo was me grinning with my hands in the air.
I rode every open roller coaster in the park that day. Superman, Rolling Thunder (The one that had scared me as a child - I avenged my 7-year-old self!), The Great American Scream Machine (complete with SEVEN LOOPS!), even the brand-new Bizarro, and the incredibly intimidating El Toro, which were to become my two favorites. Sure, while waiting in line for some of them, I started getting scared again, (watching car after car go down the extremely steep first hill of El Toro is enough to make anyone nervous!) but it never stopped me from getting on. Kingda Ka was closed, so I didn't get to see just how far my newfound bravery would go, but I rode every other coaster.

But of course, I wouldn't be me if I didn't somehow wax philosophical about all this. At the beginning of the day (and in the days prior), I had joked about how no real roller coaster could be worse than my emotional ones. By the end of the day, I had realized that they're really one in the same. Life is full of emotional and psychological roller coasters that we all have to get on whether we like it or not, and the only way to handle them is the same way you'd handle a real one.

Sometimes you laugh, sometimes you cry. Sometimes you scream from excitement, sometimes you scream from sheer terror. Sometimes it looks like a great idea from the start, but somewhere in the middle you realize it was actually an awful idea. Sometimes it looks like an awful idea, and you know it, but you get on anyway hoping for a few thrills. Sometimes it looks like an awful idea, and you realize you couldn't have been more wrong, and it's great. Sometimes you can see where you're going, sometimes you're completely in the dark. Sometimes it feels like it's over too quickly, and sometimes it feels like it's never going to end. But one thing is certain - once you've made the decision to ride, you've given up control, and at that point sometimes, the only thing you can do is take a deep breath, let go of your safety bar, and throw your hands up in the air, fully knowing that you are going to fall, but knowing that no matter what, you will survive, and there's a pretty good chance you'll enjoy the ride.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Maybe We're Not Being Punished

Something we hear all the time is the age old question of "Why do bad things happen to good people?"

And it does. All the time. And it just never seems fair. Horrible things shouldn't happen to people who have done nothing to deserve it. And it makes you wonder, if there's someone up there looking out for us, who would let that happen. Not that whoever is up there is necessarily allowed to mess around in our lives, but still. I can't think about whoever is up there, if anyone at all. It plagues me.

I spent the day with some friends yesterday, and one of them has been going through a lot of shit recently, (and handling it like a saint, I can't even fathom coping the way she is, she's a real trooper) so she and I were discussing the stuff we've been going through lately that has been making life really difficult for us. Both of us have a lot on our plate with school, and jobs, and have recently had someone we love leave our lives, she's just been going through it ten times more intensely than I have. Like I said, can't even imagine. We kind of had a heart to heart on the bus last night, and she made an incredibly insightful comment.

"I don't think it's that we're being punished for anything, I mean, I don't know everything you've done in your life, but I can't imagine you've done anything that would ever make you deserve this, and I know I haven't, so I can't think it's that we're being punished. I think it's just that we needed this, because we needed to learn from it."

I was struck by this. We're all so concerned with "What have I done to deserve this?" that we forget about "What can I learn from this?" Maybe you didn't do anything at all. Maybe you didn't deserve it. But maybe you're supposed to learn from it, and if you don't, it's just a lot of pain, and a lot of waste.

Throughout all of this, I keep saying that I can't be mad, and I can't harbor any resentment, because I know that more than anything, I learned and grew so much because of everything that happened, and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything in the world. And maybe I didn't do anything to deserve the heartache I'm living with now, but maybe I needed the experience, and yea, the heartache, in order to grow.

No one wants to lose their job, or lose their parents, or watch their relationship fail, or become estranged from their family. And most of the time, the people whom these things happen to didn't deserve it. But if you don't take something away from the experience, it's as though you're suffering for nothing. I'm not saying that every single awful thing that happens to us has this great silver lining, because frankly, some things are just shitty no matter how you slice it. But as often as you can, learn something.

Don't ask "What did I do to deserve this?" Ask "What can I learn from this?" and then "Where do I go from here?"

Have you ever had something horrible happen to you that helped you grow? Did you ever feel like you didn't deserve something awful (or even something good) that happened to you? Did you learn something from the experience?


Monday, May 18, 2009

I Was The Girl In The Armani Ad

The habit I'm about to describe will be familiar to anyone here who is also from Manhattan, or probably any other city where train travel is the norm.

I take the subway up to school every morning. To perfect my commute and cut down my travel time to the absolute quickest it can possibly be, I do little things, like walking to a specific point on the subway platform so that I get in the car (and exit through the door) that will get me closet to the stairs I have to take when I get off the train. I have various ways of remembering exactly how far to go, and one of the things I sometimes use as a gauge is the advertisements that are on the walls. These change every so often, so I usually have another distinguishing feature, but I get used to the ads.

In the station that I typically take my first train from, there was an Armani ad that marked the spot where I would stand every morning.

Only the right half of the advertisement was hanging in my subway station. I would stand in front of this advertisement every morning, and I would stare at it in between intermittently leaning off the platform peering down the tunnel as if doing so would make my train arrive any faster. Every single day, I'd stare at the ad and I'd wish to be the girl in the Armani ad.

I guess everyone will see something different when they look at the ad. I look at it, and I see a beautiful and confident girl who has this guy completely enthralled. Something about their body language makes it look to me like she's drawing him in. Someone else could look at the same ad and read it differently, but when I looked at it every morning, that was what I saw. And that was what I wanted to be. I would gaze longingly at the ad every morning, wanting more than anything to put myself in her place. I wanted to be the girl in the Armani ad.

It wasn't until recently that I knew what it was like to be that close to someone, and to have someone holding you like that. It wasn't until even later that I knew what it was like to be close to someone, to be held like that, and to feel completely confident and beautiful while it was happening. I am often very insecure. It takes me a long time to get comfortable around people and get myself to a point where I can let them in. It's just something I find difficult. But the morning after I finally found myself in someone's arms feeling confident and beautiful, I smiled up at the sky, strode cooly out the door, and down to my subway stop. Maybe it was the way I stood up a little straighter. Maybe it was the way my hips swayed a little more. Maybe it was the way I noticed people looking at me. But when I stopped midway down the platform in front of the Armani ad, I looked at the girl, and I grinned.

For a day, 
I was the girl in the Armani ad.

Like all good things, the confidence faded. The situation that inspired it wound down. I returned to normal and arrived at the subway stop the following week to find that the ad had been covered over with a new ad for a movie coming out. It was too ironic to me that I should only get one day before life hit another one of its rough patches and we all stumbled and fell. One day of being the girl in the Armani ad. And then she and I were both gone.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Is Helping So Hard?

I'm sad that my latest blog inspiration had to be what it is. But I need to say this.

Is it really so hard for us to help people when they need it? I like to think that, despite my flaws, deep down, I'm a good person. We can't all help everyone all the time, but I can't get over the amount of people who ignore someone that obviously needs a simple favor.

I'm not talking about clothing and feeding every homeless person you find on the street, or adopting every child who is trapped in a foster home. I'm talking about simple, little things that every human being is capable of doing if they would just be willing to expend an ounce of energy to make someone else's life easier.

This was brought on by an experience that I had coming back to my apartment this morning. I was leaving the subway platform and a woman in front of me had presumably her daughter in a stroller, which she had turned backwards and was attempting to lug up the stairs by herself, and was CLEARLY struggling. She was tinier than me, and her daughter (who was ADORABLE) was not an itty bitty newborn. I was one of the last people on the platform, and I watched EVERY OTHER PERSON who had gotten off that train walk by this woman without even glancing in her direction, let alone offering her some help. I asked her if she needed a hand and helped her carry the stroller up the steps. It took me MAYBE ten seconds longer to get up the steps, and the woman was SO appreciative for the help. Could no one else have stopped to help? Not to be sexist, but would it really have killed one of the grown men who went up the stairs right before me to have stopped and helped this woman out?

I see this kind of thing happen all the time. People don't hold doors open for people anymore. They'll let an elevator door slam shut when someone is clearly asking them to hold it. Is that extra 5 seconds really going to matter that much in the long run? Believe me, I run on as tight of a schedule as everybody else, but I don't feel like that gives anyone a right to be rude. If you have to stand there an extra second so the person behind you can grab the door, do it. You would want someone to do the same for you. If there is someone on the bus or train who obviously needs the seat more than you do, get up. It frustrates me to no end when I see an elderly man, or a pregnant woman standing for a long subway ride over a college kid or a healthy adult who clearly does not need the rest as badly. If you see someone struggling to carry something, offer them a hand.

Random acts of kindness shouldn't be so random, and they shouldn't have to seem so few and far between.

Do you think common courtesy is falling by the wayside? Do you think people are generally rude, or generally well mannered? Do you think this is just because I live in Manhattan and we're all assholes here?


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Euphoria Is The Thirteenth Mile

Those of you who are familiar with me from any other blog/social networking site I participate on have probably already heard me use this line, so I apologize for the repetition, but I'm going to talk about it again.

My choir professor has the tendency to go off on exceedingly random tangents during our class. Bird, car accidents, concerts, literally, anything is fair game. Earlier this week, he went off on a tangent about running, and I kind of figured, okay, here he goes again, we'll get back to singing in 5 minutes.

This happened to be an unusually exceptional tangent though. I know I won't do it justice trying to repeat it here, but it was brilliant. He started off by telling us about how so many people had been coming to him lately, trying very hard to get ahead in their classes, or tackle their workload, or accomplish something important, but who were getting exceedingly frustrated, and starting to give up because they weren't achieving what they wanted to achieve. He then explained to us that when you run, after a certain distance, you eventually reach this state of euphoria and calm where you just feel weightless, like you're floating. This occurs at about the thirteenth mile. Most people, however, who are striving for that place and that feeling, stop at the ninth mile. He pointed out how the distance between the ninth mile and the thirteenth mile isn't all that large, and that you just have to keep pushing yourself, because you're closer than you think.

Euphoria is the thirteenth mile.

And I look back, and I think about all the times I thought I couldn't do something. I think about all the semesters at school when the assignments started to pile up over my head and I thought I'd never be able to make it out without failing everything. I think of the weeks at work when I first started and was scheduled for so many shifts that I thought there was no way I'd make it through without dying. I think of the literal times when I've been running or exercising, and feeling like there was no way I could possibly run another mile, or do another push up, or another sit up.

But I was always wrong. I always pulled through, and I always did it.

The moral of the story? I think we're all a lot stronger than we think we are, and sometimes, I think we're all a lot closer to that thirteenth mile than we think we are. And come on, after coming so far, do you really want to give up when you may be so close to getting what you're working for? Why chance it? Why not just keep pushing for that extra mile? If you push past mile nine, my professor said, mile ten starts to feel easier. You start to think, If I can do this, what can't I do? So I say, keep going.

Can you think of a time that you thought you couldn't do something? Did you stop trying or did you work harder? If you worked harder, did you eventually get what you were aiming for?


Monday, April 20, 2009

I Don't Mean To Judge...

It has been suggested that perhaps my irrational fear of being judged by everyone actually comes from the fact that I am a very judgmental person myself. It's not something that I do on purpose, but I can't help it.

Sometimes it's little things. Like, whenever I see a really pretty girl with a cigarette in her hand, I grow sad at watching her wasting her beauty on dirty teeth and fingers, and bad smelling hair. Or when I see a beautiful face covered in tattoos or piercing, I wonder why they would want to put holes in such a lovely face. Is it unfair of me to judge them as less attractive, or odd because when I look at them I see them ruining their beauty? From their point of view, maybe they're enhancing it.

I do the same thing in so many other scenarios. When I'm in the elevator at school, I play a game taught to me by another student at my school. When he got onto a crowded elevator, he would look around at the other people in the elevator, and try to guess what floor they were going to. You see, the floors in a specific building are divided by department - fourth floor is Music, fifth floor is Theatre and Film, sixth floor is Psychology, seventh floor is Anthropology... I don't remember all the others off the top of my head, ninth floor is Physics, tenth is Geography, and the fifteenth floor is Art. You get the point. The whole idea of the game is to look at someone, and try to guess their major. This seemed innocent enough, but when the other student first explained it, he said "When I see a group of girls getting into the elevator, I always know they're going to the sixth floor". I feel guilty for making such assumptions.

When I'm in the cafeteria, or at the grocery store, I always look at what other people are buying, and what they're eating. I wonder why the mother with the overweight child tagging along is buying so much junk food. I smile inwardly at the man in front of me in the checkout line places his vegetarian meat substitutes on the conveyor belt. I groan to myself as I watch the girl with the supermodel body carry a tray with two slices of pizza and a soda, secretly hating that she can eat it and not gain a pound.

I don't know these people, but I find myself assigning them personality traits for no apparent reason. Is it human nature, or am I just a terrible person?

I tell myself that when I hurry past the hooded male figure on my way home late at night that I would rush warily by them regardless of race, and that it's only fair that I should be cautious. I tell myself that I am justified in preferring to sit next to women on the bus, if I have a choice. But at the root of it all, I am woefully influenced by my groundless judgements.

Do you think you are a judgmental person? How do your judgements impact your day to day life? Do you think that they necessarily have a negative impact? Are some judgements natural?


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The More I Run, The Less It Hurts

I've started jogging lately. I don't go every day or anything, more like every other day, or every third day, but I do try. It's part of a new diet and exercise kick I've got going on right now. I don't know. But something I've noticed is that the more I run, the less sore I am afterwards, or when I wake up the next morning. The more I do it, the easier it becomes.

The more I run, the less it hurts.

As I was pondering this, I started to wish it applied to more aspects of life. Why doesn't running away from problems make them hurt less? Why doesn't running away from people make them have less power over you? In a most literal, physical sense, I can run to escape the pain, because eventually, I can outrun the pain. If I keep running, I get stronger. If I keep running, I grow. The more I run, the more pain I can take.

I drove down to my shore house a few days ago running away. I wanted to run away from my problems, from the people who were hurting me, from the difficulties I was facing. The further I ran, though, the more they loomed in my mind. The further I ran, the more the pain seeped into my joints and threatened to drag me down.

Maybe it's because running away from my problems is not the answer. Maybe it's my own way of realizing that I need to face my problems and responsibilities.

Maybe it's because I can't commit to running away from the person who is hurting me. Maybe it's because I run from him in short bursts, stopping to glance back over my shoulder, checking to see if he's following me, hoping against all hopes that he is, and breaking down on the concrete in front of me when I turn again and no one is there. Maybe it's because, by the time I've picked myself up and started running again, I'm right back where I began, and I'm running in circles.

So since metaphorical running has failed me, and literal moving on has failed me, I'll continue to pound my feet against the pavement in the park as often I can, to feel the only pain I know I can get rid of on my own.


Monday, April 6, 2009

The Good From The Bad; Or, Why I Try Not To Regret Anything

Before you do something, it's easy to say that you won't regret it. It's also impossible to promise that you won't.

I refer to my "situation" of the past few months on my blog with a good deal of vagueness. Part of the reason for that is because I can't even really figure it out myself, and part of it is because I really just don't want to throw it out there for the world to see. I'm not far enough out of the situation yet. But for anyone putting the pieces together at home, the basic gist of it is that there was a guy, and he hurt me bad and helped me grow.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while already know that I have suffered from anxiety and panic attacks for over 10 years. In the fall, I had one of the most severe anxiety attacks of my life. It was horrific, and lasted for hours. That was one of the biggest turning points I can pinpoint in my life. At that moment, I decided that I was going to get control of my anxiety instead of letting it control me. I went out and bought a self-help book, started doing yoga, and changed up my diet a bit to eliminate certain things that may make anxiety worse. I started drinking tea like it was going out of style. (And me drinking more tea than I did before was hard - I am a tea fanatic!). It was like that attack was me hitting bottom, and you have to hit bottom before you can stop falling, and pick yourself up.

I have had ridiculous success with handling my anxiety, and I am proud to say that, though I have not been free of anxiety altogether, I have not had another crippling attack since that night all those months ago. I've abolished my ridiculous 8-Hour-Rule, a tactic I've employed since age 12. The first day of school this semester was the first time since I was 9 years old that I did not spend an hour in bed convulsing before I could get myself up and out to school. Six months ago, this many months without a truly crippling panic attack would have seemed impossible. And I feel like I truly had to hit that point where I realized how many wonderful things I was missing out on by being so afraid before I could turn things around. With my successful control of my anxiety came many wonderful discoveries in my guy situation, many things I would never have been able to handle before.

But nothing lasts forever. I knew this of course, from the very beginning, but even though it's not like it came as any huge shock, that didn't make it any less sucky, or painful. When things started to take what I saw as a downhill turn, I started to become insecure about myself. It was because I wasn't pretty enough, I told myself. It was because I wasn't smart enough, or skinny enough. It's because I'm too young, or too inexperienced, the little voice in the back of my head told me. And my friends, of course, being the good friends that they are, threw this poor guy under the bus time and time again say that of COURSE it wasn't me, it was him. And each and every time, I defended him. Because I liked him. A lot. So instead of admitting that maybe it's not my fault, I wanted to better myself. So I started dieting, and exercising more, and taking better care of myself. But if I can keep up those good habits now and keep myself healthy, does it matter what sparked it in the first place? It's a good thing for me, plain and simple.

So I titled this entry "The Good From The Bad", but at the heart of it, was the bad ever even really bad? Okay, so I spent a good many nights hugging my pillow in tears, I spent some time being angry at myself, and bitter, and I spent some days focusing on things that maybe it would have been better to just let go, but can I honestly deny that I'm a much better person for it? J.R.R. Tolkien is one of my favorite authors, and I have a quote of his written on the little whiteboard on my refrigerator (for anyone who is unfamiliar with my refrigerator, it is the most positive, inspirational, awesome refrigerator you will ever see).
"You can only come to morning through the shadows." - J.R.R. Tolkien

Yes, I cried, I ached, I screamed into my pillow in frustration, but it helped me turn my life around. For better or for worse, the last year has made me really grab life by the horns, and take control. I have gotten my anxiety under control to an extent that I wouldn't have thought was possible six months ago. I've completely revamped my diet, and I've started exercising even more, and taking vitamins. I have overcome so many irrational fears that plagued me in the past, and I feel like a completely different person. I feel like if I could handle that situation, really, what CAN'T I handle? I'm braver, stronger, and sure, I've still got PLENTY of issues to work on, but who doesn't? I feel like at least I'm getting somewhere - it's a step in the right direction.

Have you ever been through something awful that really helped you grow? Have you ever experienced something painful that you later realized helped you to become a better person?


Saturday, April 4, 2009

"I'm Selling My Ferrari"

I'm selling my Ferrari.

It was a tough decision, but I have to do it. It's just not good for me anymore. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't like it. I love it, and I'm going to miss it like hell. But the joyriding is coming to an end. It was a rash, impulsive, and reckless decision that turned out to be too much fun to give up. Besides, it made me feel good. Scratch that. It made me feel amazing. I mean, come on. When you're driving something like that, it's impossible not to feel confident and sexy, right? Like, if you can get a car like that, you just feel better about yourself all the time. I learned that this feeling is fleeting but damn did it feel great for a while.

Walking away from it is going to be hard though. I loved that car - well, as much as I could anyway. It is just a car, after all. I knew it wasn't going to be around forever, so it's not like I let myself get unbearably attached to it, but I'll be honest, I was pretty darn attached. You invest that much time and energy into something, and it's hard not to. And I did invest time and energy into it - a LOT of time and energy. Because even when I wasn't driving it, I was thinking about it. You have to admit, it's pretty distracting. In the BEST way, but still, distracting.

The funny thing is, I almost got rid of this thing right off the bat. When I first got the Ferrari, it scared the crap out of me. Ironic, right, to have such a beautiful piece of machinery in front of you, and to be scared of it. I was scared of it though, I was scared of driving it - scared of TOUCHING it - because, let's face it, I'm new at this, and not a very good driver. What if I messed it up? What if it crashed? Because obviously, if someone's gonna fuck something like that up, it's going to be me. That's just the way my life tends to work out.

You don't start out with a Ferrari. It's just not a good idea. Because first off, there's really nowhere to go but down. When you start off with something that awesome, where the hell do you go from there? Exactly. You don't. So now I've gotta swallow my pride, take my ego down a few pegs, and settle for a nice little Honda, or a cute Toyota, and know that it's about as good as I can do. And trust me, when you're cruising around in a Ferrari feeling like the world is yours, getting behind the wheel of a Prius is somehow, not as gratifying. Second, totaling a Ferrari sucks a lot worse than totaling your dad's pick-up truck or your mom's station wagon. You didn't just destroy something that was gonna kick the bucket in the near future anyway - you wrecked something truly awesome. And finally, you don't know how to appreciate these things when you are starting out. Why waste it when you're not even going to appreciate it the way you should? You might as well scarf down a whole plate of gourmet food in one bite and chug your wine - it's the same thing.

But the fact that I'm selling it is important. I'm not just giving it away, or throwing it out, I'm getting something out of this transaction. The Ferrari, of course, remains in perfect condition. Even me, with my clumsy ways did not manage to total it. It's beautiful as ever. And doesn't that make it that much harder to part with? I'm the one that got totaled. I got totaled by sitting behind the wheel of that car in utter fear of messing it up. What kind of way is that to drive a car? It's toxic. So I have to admit that I can't handle the situation as it stands. But I won't walk away empty handed. I've gotten plenty of compensation for my troubles. I learned to drive, I got over my fears of actually taking it out of the driveway, and, at the end of the day, I had a Ferrari, even if only for a little while.

Yea, I'd like a Ferrari. Everybody wants a Ferrari, or something like it. But let's face it - we can't all have a Ferrari. Some of us have to settle for the Honda Accord, and the Toyota Prius. Some of us have to cruise around town in a ratty old pick up truck and a broken down station wagon. But you know, people love those cars just the same, and they manage to feel just as great driving them, even if the rest of us laugh or roll our eyes because to us they hardly look pretty, or useful, or worthwhile. But people love those cars anyway. And they can feel just as amazing when they drive them because they don't need that car to legitimate them - they can do that just fine on their own.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Reaching Out

So a friend of mine recently talked me into getting a Twitter. I'm not sure why, and I don't think I'll actually use it, because the idea of shrinking down anything of consequence that I ever have to say to 140 characters is rather daunting. But it started an interesting conversation that I have been pondering ever since.

Why is it, in this day and age, that we seem to have this fixation with putting ourselves out there on the internet. Through blogs, twitter, facebook statuses, myspace, etc. so many of us just throw ourselves out there for the world to see. I mean, the entire idea of Twitter is to let people know what you're up to. It made me wonder why we have become so obsessed with letting people know what we're up to, and how we're feeling, and why we care.

I think it's because we all want to feel like someone is listening, or like we are a part of something. We want to feel like we are noticed, and we want to believe that we matter to someone. Maybe blogging, or facebooking, or twittering is our newest way of reaching out. Maybe it's just our way of saying "Please, someone listen to me."

We all have a lot to say. Even if you don't think that you have a lot to say, somewhere inside, you do. And you can't say it all out loud, and you can't say it all to people you know. They'll judge you, they'll look at you differently, they'll offer you advice that you don't want to hear. This isn't always true, but it's the way that we all perceive things sometimes. So instead of saying it to the people around us, we throw it off into the vastness of the internet, hoping that eventually, it will ricochet off someone else who will understand and we won't feel so alone. Maybe it's just a longing for connection, and for understanding. Maybe we want to find someone with the same problems we have, because we no longer know how to fix them. Or maybe we just want someone to share in our happiness without making them feel bad. Maybe we just all want a little attention.

I know I personally have a hard time keeping my emotions to myself. I tend to wear my heart out on my sleeve, which gets me into trouble a lot. A lot of times, I blog about things just because when someone agrees, or offers advice, or comfort, I don't feel like I'm the only one who feels this way. And logically, I know I can't be, but that doesn't make it any less meaningful when someone can step in and put an arm around your shoulder, whether literally or metaphorically, and say "I know how you feel. It will be okay."

So, if you're here, you have a blog. What else? Do you use Twitter, or Facebook? Do you make honest updates about what you're doing, or do you use it strictly to keep in touch? Do you think you use it to reach out to others?


Bottoms Up!

I spent Saturday night in a bar.

I don't drink. I don't like the taste of most of the alcoholic beverages I have ever tried. I'm too much of a wuss to actually get drunk because I'm afraid of what might happen.

But nevertheless, I went to a bar. I went to a bar, because that's what people do when they have a bad week. They go to a bar, and they drink until it doesn't matter anymore. Or they go to a bar, and they loiter around until they find someone who makes them feel a little less empty inside, at least for the night.

I went to a bar because somehow, I got it into my head that doing so would make me feel better about the fact that I'm losing the person I am trying hardest to hold on to. Like somehow, if I could get someone to buy me a drink, it wouldn't matter that the happiness I had for a few beautiful months is fading into nothingness. As if there was some comfort at the bottom of that beer bottle that was going to plug this hole. It didn't help.

Have you ever gone to a bar to cheer yourself up after a rough week, or a bad day? Did it work? What do you do to try and get out of a bad mood?


Saturday, March 14, 2009

My Femininity Is On My Head

I am not a very girly kind of girl. I wear makeup and jewelry if I remember, or if I have time. My wardrobe has more blue and green than it does pink. I enjoy looking pretty, but I favor looking comfortable, and mature.

All my girliness comes in the form of my long hair. I've been considering even just cutting bangs for a while, but I can't bring myself to chop off any of my hair. I get the ends trimmed every few months, but that's about it. But there's a reason behind it...

My hair is what makes me feel girly, and sexy. I love tossing it, styling it, braiding it, curling it, brushing it out of my face, tucking it behind my ear, or throwing it over my shoulder. I generally hate when people touch it, but I love when a guy I like runs his fingers through it. Long story short, it makes me feel beautiful.

This wasn't always the case.

When I was younger, I was going through a lot of bullshit and something I decided to do was chop my hair really short. A lot of you have probably heard me talk about this before, because I realize now what an effect it had on my personality and my self-image, but few of you have ever seen it.

At about age 13, if I had to guess

It was an interesting decision. I can't bring myself to regret the decision, because it forced me to find my personality. But I also wonder if I would be a more secure person if I didn't spent those years of my life being ridiculed because of my hair. For years, I was mistaken for a little boy, and teased relentlessly because of it. I tried to compensate with makeup and jewelry, and took those two concepts to extremes. Children are cruel, and I was unhappy a lot of the time, and when I made a new start in high school, the very first thing I did was start to grow out my hair.

Last November, up in Massachusetts

My hair isn't what makes me a girl, I know that. It isn't the only thing that makes me beautiful. In fact, I had more boyfriends with short hair than I have with long hair. But it's something that makes me feel pretty, and confident. When I'm feeling sassy and spunky, I'll give my head a shake to throw my hair out of my face and show you that I'm feeling that way.

Do you have one specific feature that makes you feel girly or manly? What is it? Why does it make you feel that way? Is it something obvious, or something more subtle? Would you ever change it? Do you feel like you would lose something important if you did?


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Because I Want To Believe; Or, Why I Am Sometimes Jealous Of People With Faith

Any seriously religious subscribers I have are all going to dive for the "unsubscribe" button after reading this post.

A bit of backstory before I truly begin:

I was raised Catholic. I attended church, and catechism classes every week for pretty much as long as I can remember, up until I was confirmed at age 14. For a time, I assumed everyone else in the world was also Catholic. Then I went to school, and met one of my earliest best friends who was Jewish. We shared our religious traditions with each other (well, as much as you can at age 7, anyway) and I first started to question my belief. I remember going home one day and asking someone, probably my mother, "But if Jewish people believe this, and Catholic people believe this, who is right?" It was a few more years before it dawned on me that not only was everyone else in the world not necessarily Catholic, the concept of religion extended far beyond the ideas of being Christian or Jewish. I was about 10 years old when I first started reading about other religions, and realizing that I no longer believed in my own.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way...

What is religion anyway? It's not the easiest thing to define. What makes a religion a religion? A professor of mine, in teaching my Puerto Rican History class, recently said something during a lecture that struck me. We were discussing a variety of religions, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, etc. He said that religions that do not have a god are not religions. I very much disagree with his claim. While a god or gods may be a central part of many religious traditions, I do not believe they are a make-or-break factor. I think that religion and philosophy are very closely related, and that many belief systems - Taoism, for example, comes to mind - can be considered both, not just one or the other.

So back to the original question, the definition of religion. My first instinct when writing this entry was to run over to Merriam Webster's site and see what they had to say. Unfortunately, their definition suffers very much from the common problem of defining a word with itself. I turned instead to good old for a definition I prefer:
"Religion - a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs."

Okay, so now you have some idea of the concept I'm thinking of when I think "religion". I'm thinking large scale - Eastern religion, Western religion, monotheistic, polytheistic, all that good stuff.

I have been interested in religions pretty much since I realized I didn't believe in mine anymore. I don't know exactly what it was that finally disintegrated my faith, and belief in god. Maybe it was when I found out the truth behind the Bible, and who had written it, and when, and who had revised and edited it over the years. Maybe it was when I found out that people had been waiting for 2000 years for the supposed return of some messiah, and he still wasn't here yet. Maybe it was when every single time I'd pray and talk up to the sky, there was never any answer to be had. All I know is, I got to a point when it dawned on me that, in my eyes, my religion was nothing more than a nifty bedtime story someone made up thousands of years ago to make sense of something that they didn't understand, and to comfort them in times of hardship. When I was about 10, and started reading about other religions, I began to find all sorts of religions, beliefs, and traditions that interested me. From the time I was 10 until the time I was about 15 or 16 I'd guess, I had "converted" probably about a dozen times. I was constantly looking for something, and in every new religion I'd read about, I'd think that I'd found it. From Paganism, to Buddhism, to Wicca, to Judaism, to Hinduism, to Taoism, even back to Catholicism from time to time. I'd think that I'd found some mighty answer. But I never did. I learned many things. I incorporated many new philosophies into my lifestyle. But I could never find any faith.

And finally, many paragraphs later, we reach the conflict that the title implied. For those of you who are wondering why I chose such a title, I promise, I'm getting there. In my religion class, entitled "Religious Ideas In Modern Literature", we are reading a novel called 
Barabbas, by Par Lagerkvist, and as those of you who know your Bible may have guessed, it's about the man who was freed instead of Jesus at the time of the crucifixion. There's no real historical basis for the character, but I found the book to be incredibly moving, and perhaps it is because I could relate so much to Barabbas' character. There is a scene in which Barabbas, who has become a slave in the Roman empire, is brought before a governor with a fellow slave because they have both carved the name "Christos Iesus" on the back of their slave disks, the pendants they wear with the stamp of the state showing that they belong to the state. The governor asks the other slave about the inscription, and he says it is there because he is not a slave to the state, but rather that he belongs to his god. The governor then turns to Barabbas, and asks him if he believes in this same god. Barabbas is silent, and finally replies by saying "I have no god." The governor is confused, and asks why he wears the disk with the name carved in it. Barabbas replies "Because I want to believe."

"Because I want to believe."

I don't consider myself part of any religion right now. This doesn't mean I'm an amoral heathen who is bereft of ethics. It doesn't mean I have no soul, as my mother once told me in the midst of a heated argument on the subject. It doesn't mean that I have no purpose in life, or any lack of motivation to do what is right. I wish sometimes that I could find the comfort of believing in something. I wish I had faith in some higher power, because I see it bring such comfort to so many people. I want to have that security blanket of truly believing that there's some god up there who will make it all turn out right in the end, or some universal energy that will put things in balance. I do everything that I can do to make myself a better person, but at the end of the day, the only thing I can believe in, and the only thing I can truly have faith in is myself, and the power that lies within me. And sometimes, I'm jealous of people who can believe in something more.

Are you a religious person? Do you have faith? Do you believe in god? What god? Why do you believe in whatever god you believe in? If you don't believe in god, why not? Do you wish you did?


Monday, March 2, 2009

Inexperienced; Or, Why I Want To See It All

I will be the first to admit that my life experience is not at all what it should be. Idealistic as it may be, I want to experience everything in life. I want to go out and see the world, and everything in it. I don't really know why; I can't explain it. I just want to see and do everything, big and small. I want to go climb mountains, and swim in all the oceans, and walk through a tropical rainforest. I want to stand at the Athenian acropolis and look up at the Parthenon. I want to touch a real Egyptian pyramid. I want to visit the Louvre, and walk through Venice, and ski in the Alps. I want to walk on the Great Wall. I want to see wildlife in Madagascar, and drive through the Australian outback, and see the sights in New Zealand. I want to see the cities, and the museums, and the monuments, and the artwork. I want to experienced nature in its most free and beautiful state. I want to meet the people, and eat the food, and hear the music, and feel the rhythm and motion of someplace new.

I want to see all the beauty the world has to offer, and I want to do the things I've always been too scared to.

It has dawned on me recently exactly how little I have experienced in life. I've really travelled, seen, and done very little. I have left the country once, and it was on a cruise to Canada. My passport, which was obtained specifically for that trip, sits otherwise untouched. I look around at people I know and realize that I have not seen or done half of the things many of them have. And it's not as much a jealousy I feel when I realize this as it is simply disappointment at my own inexperience. In a world where there is so much to see and to know and to do, I sit here on my couch wondering what it would be like just to even see the Pacific Ocean for myself. And I guess when I say I want to see the world, it brings to mind thoughts of grand trips and big goals, but the things I want to experience in life range from the grand to the seemingly insignificant. I have never bungee jumped, or gone scuba diving, or hiked to the top of a mountain, or seen a volcano, but I'd like to. I have never watched a meteor shower, or been in a helicopter, or watched an eclipse, or caught a fish, but I'd like to. I'd like to go on a really, really big roller coaster, and scream my head off the whole way down. I'd like to build a sandcastle on a beach in the Caribbean. I want to play poker in Vegas. I want to try absinthe. I don't want to look back and my life and feel like I wasted it by not trying as many things as I got the opportunity to try.

It kills me that I spend my days in a classroom, looking at photographs of works of art, and ancient buildings, and mountains, and cities that are all out there for me to see for real. I remember last spring, as I studied for my Archaeology final, I joked about how frustrating it was to be sitting there staring at a photo of the Parthenon in an art history textbook when a friend of mine was visiting it, and actually seeing it.

And maybe what I'm looking for is a little perspective. Maybe I feel like if I could see and do all these things I would be able to look at my life and myself differently and be a better person for it. Maybe I feel like I could finally understand how small I really am and how nothing I worry about actually matters in the grand scheme of things.

I wonder if we all get to a point that we realize that sitting on our couch watching it on TV, or in a classroom looking at a book, or on our computers reading about it isn't enough. I know that the whole world isn't beautiful. For every beautiful place in our world, there is someplace else that is tragic. But it's all there. What good is the whole world if you never get to see it?


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Wrapping My Head Around It

I am writing this entry as a result of something that actually happened over a month ago that still bothers me incredibly. I'm not sure what getting it out here will help, but I have to say it somewhere.

In mid-December, the older brother of a friend of mine, a guy I had gone to high school with, and who had really been a friend of mine himself, was found dead in his apartment. I never heard if they ever did figure out exactly what happened. It was thought that he may have walked in on a burglar.

I cannot wrap my head around death. I received word of what had happened from a mutual friend, and at first I thought it was some sort of sick joke, or horrid mistake. I was at work, and I simply sat down in shock. I couldn't cry. I couldn't do anything but stare. I didn't know what to think, because it was so hard for me to get myself to comprehend that he was gone. I think the fact that I cannot wrap my head around the idea of someone dying may help to explain the next thing I am about to say.

I am the girl who never cries at funerals. I wouldn't say I've been to a lot of funerals. I've been to a handful. Three of my grandparents have already passed away, and I attended two of their funerals. There are other older relatives, and elderly family friends whose funerals I have attended. I have gone to funerals for people I loved, and people I barely knew, but I've never cried. Never in my life have I had need to attend a funeral for someone my own age. When I attended his funeral, I wept profusely. It's not that we were very close. It had been a good while since we had last spoken. But I just couldn't believe that I was never going to see him again. It wasn't fair. It wasn't right.

When I arrived at the church, the first person I saw was my friend, his younger sister. I was speechless. She hugged me, and I hugged her back, and we both simply cried. There weren't words for it. I sat in the church pew with my mother, and one of my best friends. Around me were many people I didn't know, and some that I did. There were a handful of other kids we had gone to school with. A couple of teachers. The principal. And I cried. I couldn't stand looking at the coffin, and eventually I couldn't see it through the tears. When they rolled it back out at the end of the service, I could not stop the tears. On the way out, there were boards with hundreds of photos of him, and I still couldn't come to terms with the fact that I was never going to see him again.

So for a moment, I just want to talk about him.

I still remember the first time I ever met John, because he made such an impression on me. I thought he was completely nuts. It wasn't until later that I met his younger sister, and we became friends. As you know, I went to private high school. When I first applied, I spent a day with one of the students, attending classes, and getting a tour of the campus.

It was around lunchtime, and John was outside with a group of friends, and a tennis ball. He was a rather intimidating guy at first sight - very tall, with broad shoulders, and long hair. He looked like he belonged more to the football team than to an orchestra. (He was a skilled musician). I was with the girl I was shadowing, and a friend of hers. He came up to the three of us with the tennis ball in his hand, and asked us to help him settle something. He held out the tennis ball, and asked what color it was. The first girl said green. The second said yellow. Being contrary, as always, I said greenish-yellow. He laughed, and threw the ball at the ground saying that no one could agree what color it was. We all scattered as the ball bounced.

Throughout high school, we would see each other occasionally. I remember playing volleyball with him a few times. I hit him in the face with the ball once, and he chased me, picked me up, and held me upside down. After that, we got into the silly habit of poking each other in the forehead instead of saying hello. It was a running joke that he could hold me at arms' length with one finger simply by poking me in the forehead, so soon it became a contest: who could poke the other person first.

I can't remember who had won the last time I saw him.