Next Stop: Graduate School

CheersBarA college friend recently shared a concept with me: Stop the World – I Want to Get Off. It’s actually the name of an old Broadway musical. But I think it’s a clever proclamation for my life lately.

It’s not that it’s bad. As a young woman about to embark on the adventure that is graduate school, I know I’m lucky.

Yet it’s hard to watch the small signposts pointing me forward when sometimes I just want to curl beneath my blankets and hide. It’s hard to watch my high school friend’s family Chinese restaurant – the one where I’ve shared jokes, gossip and Sesame Chicken for more than a decade – change ownership overnight.

One day my friend is behind the counter ready to take my order. The next a woman who barely speaks English is smiling at me entreatingly. And although the newspapers dotting the shelves are familiar, and the Crab Rangoon tastes nearly the same – there’s a distinct flavor of goat cheese that wasn’t there before – I feel a little more empty inside.

Change is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

I could go to the Windy City and encounter the break-neck pace of journalism studies at Northwestern’s Medill, or I could give one of the cradles of American history – Boston – a chance and try my hand at long-form writing. Would life in upstate New York be dull or peaceful? Where can you study creative nonfiction, magazine layout, website coding and press ethics all at once? Do I need to return to a large college town with southern charm to feel back at home? It’s a little overwhelming to have my inbox crammed with new educational suitors every few hours. I feel like I’ve got a lot of offers to go the prom but can’t decide who I want to date.

For many Millennials these days, graduate school is a way to advance their educations and marketability. It can also be a place to duck out from real-world responsibility. I have many friends who’ve never worked a day in their chosen careers – unless you count practicums.

But where else do you go but forward when the past life you once had has all but disappeared?

It’s sad to think about how many friends from middle and high school have vanished into the crush of life, never to be seen or heard from again. They move to new cities and forge new worlds for themselves. Some have the nerve to get in touch when they need something, of course. Others delete their Facebook accounts or drop you as a friend without so much as an argument to justify it. I guess they’re just cleaning house and deleting the people they don’t talk with as frequently anymore. I can’t say I feel that close to them either – unless we were in the same room or something. Then I’m certain feelings of connection and shared experience would come rushing back. If not, that’s what alcohol’s for, right?

Visiting friends around the country since college graduation has taught me one thing: the happiest ones were those whose school programs build for them a sense of community. It’ll probably be obliterated as soon as they earn their diplomas, but still, it offers someone to study with, have brunch with, and go out with on the weekends.

A sense of place and community seems fragmented in today’s world where people move on to the next best job opportunity swiftly, even if it sends them halfway around the world. One day you’ve got a buddy in the next cubicle to swap OMG emails with. The next your side of the office has been all but cleared out, leaving you amid dusty monitors, an assortment of pens that don’t write well, and the almost audible sound of “The Way We Were” playing softly in the background.

Sometimes, I want to return to the carefree days of summers spent in New York City where the concrete sucked up all the heat. I remember fun afternoons splashing around in a tiny pool with my cousin, snacking on hot dogs before driving upstate to see relatives.

It’s important to enjoy every moment. Every moment ends. The ridiculous time where the guy a few seats down from you at the concert was swaying wordlessly with his eyes closed, and you and your buddy cackled like hyenas? That’s a moment. Because one day she’ll be living 1,000 miles away from you. That imprint in time where you feasted on chocolates sitting on white mattresses in the bedding department of Macy’s catching up with former besties is a moment, too.

It’s comforting to be in a place where everybody knows your name sometimes.

Then and Now and Further On

1152.jpgAs a reporter, you can be asked to cover both the mundane and the truly magical. Often, you don’t get to choose what becomes news. Going with the flow becomes the norm.

So when an elected official in my town sent me an email requesting that I cover a “town-hall style” meeting about drug use at my former public high school, I was a little intrigued. Even when I was a student during the school’s earliest beginnings, it was nicknamed “Heroine High.”

It’s the type of place where some kids drive BMWs, sport iPhone 5′s as a token accessory, and jet off to St. Lucia for a relaxing spring break. Meanwhile, others proudly wear John Deere baseball caps, take vocational classes centered around agricultural practices, and grew up on sweet tea, dirt biking through the woods, and NASCAR. In short, my alma mater is a mixing ground for the Old South and New South. The one with all the transplants from Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, that is.

Sure, there’s a huge push to take AP classes, become digitally savvy and get into the state’s leading public  universities. There’s also an award-winning soccer team, an amazing drama department that’s traveled to Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival to perform, and astounding murals swirling along the white walls.

But these are teenagers.

Naturally, there’s a clique for jocks, band kids, preppies and goths. Students huddle in their groups before the first morning bell sounds, and it’s unthinkable to wander far outside your bubble. Fitting in somewhere is crucial and so is experimentation. God forbid your friends and classmates think you’re not up to speed on the latest sexual practice, social media phenomenon, or way to smuggle alcohol into parties.

The funny thing about listening to this town hall meeting was that my perspective was radically different as a working young adult than it had been as a high school kid. At 16 or 17, I probably would have been nodding along fervently with the adults who said using any drug or drinking was akin to a moral failure and surprisingly - since we were in a public venue – a sin. Most people on the panel were religious and spoke about involving teens in church youth groups to keep them on the straight and narrow. To my ears, it all sounded a little extreme and ridiculous. I felt very caught between two worlds. On one side was the shiny-shoed police man with the crew cut and firm voice speaking fact, sense, reason. On the other lingered every whispered rumor in the hallways, every late night gathering with friends, every party I’d been to and every less-than-pristine choice I’d seen myself and others make.

It wasn’t so easy to be black-and-white now knowing life was filled with gray.

It’s not that I’m advocating for drug use. On the contrary, I’ve never smoked anything, including cigarettes. And, it’s likely that the moment I become a mother, I’ll be all about my child hanging out with the church-going, over-achievers from the involved, loving families. But, as I see it now, there’s something alluring about the entering your teenage and young adult years. There’s a feeling that with every passing birthday, new possibilities are opening up for you to experience, try on, and see if they fit. From driving to voting to drinking, growing up is a step-by-step process. Trying to stamp out every guy with shaggy hair and killer eyes who heads to the sports field after class with his buddies to smoke pot is about as likely as eliminating hazing at college frat houses.

Life’s going to happen to these kids, and they need to be prepared to deal with it. It’s absolutely ok to choose to say no to every single substance. For your health, it’s certainly preferable as every doctor will tell you. From afar, the flannel-wearing, indie-music listening, secret house-party attending kids seem pretty cutting edge. Some of them are fabulous people with blazing futures ahead. Others are masking up a lot of childhood pain, personal suffering or feelings of inadequacy.

But you won’t know until you get up close and find out.

Say the words

Friends 2008 1 bw

The first time I heard of Dr. Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages was in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. The dark ocean stretched toward a starry sky as I walked around the deck of a cruise ship with my Israeli dinner companion. Raised in the Middle East, his mother was American. He looked more like a center for a Midwestern college basketball team than anything else as he explained Chapman’s research to me.

He told me about five love languages which symbolize how people give and receive love in social relationships. Time, physical touch, gifts, acts of service and words of affirmation represent the primary tools we use to show one another we care.

When my friend cleared his throat and asked me which one I identified with most, I barely hesitated. “Quality time,” was my immediate reply.

But now I’m not so sure.

As an only child, capturing someone’s undivided attention is very appealing, no doubt. But after spending the last 15 months working at a place where I’m rarely verbally affirmed in any way, I’m starting to think I really need to hear “I appreciate you” a little more often.

Your primary love language is supposed to be the one it would hurt you the most to go the longest without. Knowing that solidifies for me that spending quality time with those I love is my highest priority. But when you feel like you’re giving so much and not receiving much back, life can seem a little less magical. I believe we should support our friends and neighbors in whichever way comes most naturally. Everyone needs a boost sometimes. You never know who just lost a loved one, who’s been diagnosed with a disorder, whose car wouldn’t start that morning or whose dear friend just betrayed them.

To that end, I stumbled across a website the other day, http://www.moreloveletters.com, that is striving to create a little more light and love in our world. It’s a worldwide initiative started by a 20-something woman when she was depressed and living alone in New York City. Strangers hand-write letters to someone in need – stories and addresses are posted on the site – which are delivered in ribbon-wrapped bundles to the unsuspecting recipient. In a world of 140 characters or less, constant pinging, and more virtual than face-to-face communication, a little cursive and a few sparkly stickers and neon markers couldn’t hurt.

Climbing the Corporate Ladder

I’ve completed the GRE. (Pause for wild cheers of jubilation). And while I’m very relieved it’s over and while I’ll eventually be leaving my first, full-time, “big-girl job” behind, I’m still at a bit of a loss.


Will there be a good journalism graduate school program out there that wants to accept me as a student? Will it be harder than I think to leave what’s become a comfortable position that’s actually given me a lot of purpose (although I do have to pay for my own gasoline, we run on the most bare-bones budget imaginable, and I use my own camera to take photos)?  


I’ve learned more from simply being a reporter for the last year and a half than I probably ever would have learned in a couple of semesters in the classroom. But I still long for an intellectual experience.  


I’ve been doing some research on millennials in the workplace, and authors of the articles I’ve read have a lot of our traits down. We don’t see why we can’t chat directly with the CEO if we have something relevant to say. We want technical training that’s going to serve us well for years to come, flexible schedules (if possible), and opportunities for advancement.  


I understand completely why employees have to prove themselves over and over and “move up the ladder” slowly. But honestly, I sometimes feel like I have more common sense and social graces than people thirty years older than me.  


For example, one thing that’s amused me to no end in the workplace is watching people email rather than chat face-to-face when the situation involves an uncomfortable topic. Email – even when your correspondent is right next to you – seems to give this magical element of power to the sender. Like they really think emailing you something is going to make you more inclined to follow-through with their orders. Are they afraid of the recipient disagreeing with their viewpoint or providing an alternative opinion? Is that why there’s a dearth of actual communication in cubicle land?  


Moreover,

ladder

ladder (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’d love to know more about all facets of the media business–from advertising to layout design. Yet at an entry-level job, it’s easy to get pigeon-holed into a silo of your responsibilities. I am a bit disappointed that I haven’t been provided with all the mentoring and “valuable connections” I was promised when I took this job in the first place. And I now know better than to ask for it–nobody is that concerned with me or what I bring to the company. Maybe that’s justifiable from a financial perspective, but when there’s only 20 people working in an office, it makes sense in my mind to get to know your employees. But I actually take an interest in others and consider myself a kind person. While those I write stories about constantly email me about what an excellent writing job I’ve done, I’ve never heard the smallest compliment from the company’s owner, whom I see almost daily. Maybe he’ll notice the copy’s not as great when I’m gone.  


On the other hand, I suppose I can’t be that upset or surprised about being lied to during my initial interview. What were they going to tell me? The truth? There’s been so much turnover that from the day I started a year ago, about half of the people I first met at my work no longer work there. But I stuck it out. And when listening to my editor give instructions to our college interns, I can honestly reflect on how far I’ve come. I know how to craft news briefs and sort through government records. I can hold my own with one of the most powerful millionaires in the country–and isn’t it cool that I can say I’ve met him? I can call, and call, and call one more time until I finally get that energy company to give me a statement. I can juggle–writing three to four stories at once about anything from customs of the Medieval period to space travel. I’ve learned to take a better photograph and to more effectively respond to criticism. I’ve learned more about the world and about people.  


I’m hoping school will provide more technical training and a greater focus on my love of all things social science-related. I know I’m ready and capable. I know I’ll be fine. I hope and pray some school accepts me even though I don’t know exactly what I want. I’m still young, after all. And there will be time before school starts again to polish up a few “life skills” and grapple with new responsibilities. Of course, I’ll live, and eventually, thrive.  


But every now and then, I miss those college parties when nothing seemed to matter, and everyone around you was grinning and felt invincible. Sometimes, when I scroll through Facebook photos, I think that maybe people’s young marriages are just a way of coping with The Real World with a partner perpetually plastered to their side to make the journey a bit less bumpy. I was barely done pulling my finally valid 21-year-old ID out of my pocket before my peers began walking down the aisle. But I’m not quite ready to part ways with Avicii, Lady Gaga and strobe lights yet. I still deeply enjoy getting to hang out with girlfriends and just relaxing and being carefree. And if that means I’m a little immature, well, it beats being old.  


Who knows? Maybe that initial English degree I earned will prove very useful one day. After I get married and have children and decide I can’t run around and keep humanity informed about the issues of the day anymore, perhaps I’ll be sitting contentedly in the classroom of a private school (since I have no masters degree in education), listening to kids read passages from “The Giver” and tell me what they think this crazy world is all about.

Carol of the Bells

Just a few poems based around the idea of creating your own art.

Opening Night

Black curtains on a barren stage
The world on one side awaits
While far beyond the thick fabric,
A story prepares to unfold.

Unreal, someone’s fantasy
A Christmas tree, bejeweled
Glowing, appears at last.

A gasp from the people who,
Moments before, mindlessly chattered
Complained of that tall man’s bald head
Positioned in front of them.

Then lights go down
And silence falls.

A little girl strains to see . . .
. . . the other girl curls her stocking-feet
Up under delicate dress folds, looks
Down at his polished face and moveable jaw.
Cradles him in her arms; he’s free from harm.

Until sword fights and late nights
And unknown enemies crouched
Under the stairs
Attack, forcing him to prove that he can
Again, and again, and again
Survive and transform yet endure.

Later they sail through cotton-candy clouds
Drink from peppermint rivers
And waltz in golden halls overlooking the sea
She and her Nutcracker Prince.

But the story’s just a story
Well-rehearsed, colorful, engaging

Yet nothing to satisfy the raging for a
Reality as pretty as the creation.

Figure Eights

Shimmering, she cuts across the ice
Entranced, dedicated to a fluid movement, a leap of faith,
That lands her solidly on a sharp blade.

Chin tucked in, just a flash of her
Metallic-painted eyes seen
Under the white-bright jewels fixed
Securely in the chocolate of her hair.

Open archways around the ancient temple
Show off a rising moon, framed by aspens.
The last ink blots of deep ruby, of gold,
Fade into constellations.

She hears the internal music
The insistent rhythm, the roaring crescendo
Molding her into a twirling goddess of evening.

Hand pressed against a pillar, he watches,
Barely daring to breathe
And when she rises, the formal disguise is
Lost when she catches and holds his azure gaze.

She plays and zigzags her feet
Over to where he waits, amazed.
Tips of her lips cracking into a small, soft grin
The moment he touches the silver fabric
At her hip, slowly, so slowly
Like she has the power to set the night ablaze.

20130924-193051.jpg

Digital Nightmare

script 000010011

script 000010011 (Photo credit: Lamerie)

I fully realize that we live in a modern, digital world. While there are times when I entertain daydreams about attending balls in Victorian England or reading poetry by a fireplace in a log cabin somewhere out in the American West Little-House-on-the-Prairie style, that was not the hand I was dealt.

I’m only in my early twenties, but I’m old enough to remember receiving hand-written letters at girl scout camp from my family, newspaper classified ads being the primary place to find job postings and small, family-owned bookstores standing out in a landscape not yet overrun by big box stores.

I miss those days.

In the film “Midnight in Paris,” Owen Wilson’s character engages in a conversation about the nature of nostalgia, of wanting to go back to what’s perceived as a “simpler time.” Yes, genuine time travel would be awesome, but in many ways, it’s not like life in 1997 was so drastically different than life is today.

Yes, the Internet and mobile phones are ubiquitous, but kids more often than not still learn from textbooks and hands-on science lab experiences. Nickelodeon soldiers on and still attempts to sell your doe-eyed darling glittery Barbie dolls. Politicians have moved off of the global catastrophe of Y2K and now fight about how to fix the devastating economic aftermath of 2008 and how to combat climate change—if they believe in it that is. Yes, drones are being used to virtually attack our enemies abroad, but communities are still hosting street parades to welcome back their military heroes.

Technology, on the other hand, has brought about some amazing advancements—like Skype for instance. How amazing is it to talk and see my good friend in Amsterdam at a moment’s notice? How extraordinary that I can find out everything I ever wanted to know about The War of the Roses on EncyclopediaBrittanica.com to supplement my understanding of “The White Queen?”

Still, I’m glad I went to middle school in the age of passing notes during locker breaks as opposed to sexting. If my 8th grade English teacher told me to read “Animal Farm” on my school-provided Kindle, I know I’d be upset. And it’s a shame that you now have to turn to HBO in order to watch a program that doesn’t allow mindless tweets from strangers to fill the bottom of the screen.

Yet stores still sell books, stationary, newspapers, magazines, and thank God, CDs. (Yes, I own an iPod and iPhone). And I’m glad they do because in my opinion, no experience with the digital screen can ever come close to the joy of smelling the remnants of sunscreen on a paperback book I once brought to the beach. Besides, I like the CDs cover art and the lyrics printed inside.

Children in public schools adeptly typing out their Algebra lessons online but not being able to read the eloquent swirls of cursive adorning a card from their grandmother is depressing. And signing a “virtual receipt” at Target seems a little ridiculous. I’m as big of a tree hugger as the next person, and I recycle all of my paper products. But I don’t enjoy the feeling of dried-out eyes at the end of a workday spent staring at my computer.

My friends and I send postcards to each other when we go on vacations, and occasionally, write letters — yes, actual, 1960s style pen pal letters — to each other when we have the time. I love seeing their handwriting in my mailbox; it always brings a smile to my face.

And working for a group of community newspapers, you can bet that I support the work of journalists and authors with my hard-earned paycheck. Pay walls for news content online will be the real wave of the future, because it simply isn’t fair for you to read my work for nothing. You wouldn’t ask that I allow you to fix my television or cook my meal without being compensated, would you?

Perhaps we can all be a little more conscious about slowing down our lifestyles occasionally and reacquainting ourselves with the wonders of White Out as opposed to always relying on the backspace key. There’s nothing like a newspaper spread all over the coffee table on the weekend, nothing like the excitement of waiting at midnight with hundreds of other people at the local bookstore for the release of the next Harry Potter book.

When we lose the brick-and-mortar, the real, the tangible, we lose the visceral. We lose a little bit of our community, a little bit of ourselves. If you agree, send a letter to your best friend this week, support your local bookstore, or go see an artist live and in color as opposed to watching them on YouTube.

Technology is a beautiful gift, but we shouldn’t let it take away the connection that makes us human.

Feels like I already lost you

Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait, 1940. See discussi...

Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait, 1940. See discussion of her works below. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When people are concerned about having to do something they haven’t done for a while, oftentimes friends and family members boost their morale by saying, “It’s just like riding a bike! It’ll all come back to you.”

The idea here being, of course, that no matter how long it’s been since you hopped on your bike to peddle down to the community pool, bike riding is so ingrained in your psyche, you’ll never forget how to do it.

Now, I’ve never been a stellar bike rider to begin with. I actually avoid it because I find it too hard to peddle uphill and too complicated to brake at a red light, jump off the seat, hold the bike awkwardly between my knees, and jump on again when the light sparkles emerald once more.

In any event, I’m a bigger believe in the “use it or lose it” syndrome.

I’ve been listening to “Eat, Pray, Love” on the way to work each day, and Gilbert’s love affair with the Italian language is making me long for Spanish class. After taking four semesters of Spanish in high school and two in college, I can barely get past “Hola, como estas?” these days. Sad but true.

I did want to continue with Espanol while in college; there was just one tiny roadblock. All the classes on the registrar’s website past the intermediate level included hundreds of pages of history and fiction reading, lengthy papers and a lot of analyzing Don Quixote. Since I was already majoring in English, I just couldn’t justify spending that many hours with my Spanish-English dictionary trying to make sense of idiomatic expressions or what was going on in Frida Kahlo’s mind. All I really wanted to do was speak the language, after all.

So I tell myself that one day, when I’m fully “grown up,” I’ll go to language immersion classes. The kind where you split up into pairs and create skits and repeat after the crazy lady penetrating your brain via headset. The kind you find a neon flyer advertisement for at the grocery store, the kind that can only be accessed by a downward sloping stairway under a big awning on a city street.

I imagine I’ll go to such a class after I’ve married well and sent my kids off on the great yellow cheese wagon known as the school bus. I mean, I can’t freelance all day, every day, right? And how much time does house cleaning, cooking dinner and doing the laundry really take? Ah, who am I kidding! I’ll have a maid! And a cook! Or better yet, my husband will cook. Some men do that, don’t they?

Maybe I’ll just cross that bridge when I come to it. But the bottom line is I’m annoyed I lost my Spanish skills. Not to mention my piano, golf, tennis, math and literary analysis skills in no time flat. This might be a slight exaggeration, but I feel like all my newfound journalism knowledge is pushing out the other things I’ve mastered, which now grow dusty and are rusting over in a small brain cavity somewhere behind my left ear.

And I doubt taking the GRE will be “just like riding a bike.” I doubt it’ll be as intuitive as taking the SAT was while I was physically still in high school. Maybe that’s because there wasn’t  much that was actually intuitive about the SAT, even with the humongous study guide and weekend prep class. But I went to an elite liberal arts institution and earned a high GPA, so I’ll be fine, right? Right?

Don’t all jump in at once with your gushing praise for my brilliant mind and competent algebra skills!

Crickets . . . perfect.

Guess it’s time to bite the bullet and start studying this weekend.

A Ring in the Spring

English: Leopold Adler - Romanian wedding couple

English: Leopold Adler – Romanian wedding couple (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

It wasn’t until senior year in college that I had any idea what a “ring in the spring” even meant. The expression first came into my consciousness while working on a seminar paper that involved interviewing alumna who graduated from my college in the 1970s. The way they tell the story, catching sight of a diamond while studying with friends under the oak trees was a perfectly normal occurrence during their academic days.

 

I was amazed by how many of them wound up marrying guys they met at school or a few years later at alumni mixers. They made it sound so easy. “Oh, well, you know, he just brought me a soda at the first keg party of the year, and I thought that was so considerate.” Or, “We sat across the aisle from each other during Humanities and couldn’t stop watching each other.”

 

For my friends, finding a spark of mutual interest and later someone willing to commit enough to agree to be seen together in crowded places that didn’t involve flip flops sticking to beer-soaked frat floors was something to celebrate with champagne.

 

My own memories of fun-filled evenings spent dancing around with my best friends or indulging in late night heart-to-hearts with them when some guy crushed, as far as we could tell at the moment, the very fiber of our beings, flooded back to me recently when I read Susan Patton’s letter to the editor of The Daily Princetonian.

 

Her words, now infamous, were picked up by numerous mainstream media outlets, and she was–from what I could tell from my online research–mostly ridiculed and mocked by many women. They said her advice to college girls to find a husband while they were surrounded by many single, smart, promising young men was ridiculous. They said college was for receiving an education, not getting your MRS. degree. They said her thoughts had no place in the twenty-first century where the secretary of state and, for that matter, the president of Princeton, could just as easily be posts held by women as by men.

 

There was so much anger in these replies, and I’m still not completely sure why. Did these writers who took to The Huffington Post believe Patton was taking five giant steps backward for feminism? Did they think that couples never met at college? That marriage meant the end of all women’s careers? That no woman in her right mind dreamed of marrying her intellectual equal? That wanting to have children was a slap in the face to Gloria Steinem?

 

Most likely not. But I think there’s still a lot of backlash against women who say they desire the type of lifestyle women experienced for centuries: that of mother and wife. There also seems to be a growing skepticism about the idea of “work-life balance,” such that women who say they want to be mothers might as well be throwing their diplomas in the trash because they’ll never reach the pinnacle of their careers.

 

I think that’s pretty judgmental and not entirely true. I absolutely believe a woman can both work and raise her children successfully. But I think she needs a great partner whom she really clicks with in order to not feel utterly burnt out at the end of each business day. Not to discount single mothers who do an amazing job raising their kids alone! But if you’re going to be married and you want or need to work, wouldn’t you prefer to be committed to someone who supports you in your journey to excel at both tasks?

 

While I’m the last person to say that all women need to stay home with their kids, doing so or wanting to do so should not be seen as a crime against women. Those who make the choice to stay home permanently deserve just as much respect and help in raising the next generation as working moms.

 

I’m more of the opinion that women react very strongly to others who’ll say things they don’t want to admit about themselves. Certainly that doesn’t apply to everyone, but what Patton wrote was, logistically at least, accurate in my opinion. Where else will we be around so many young, available, smart, creative, equals of the opposite sex than at college? Well, there’s always grad school, but I digress.

 

In any event, I see my college-educated friends who don’t want to drive more than a half hour on the highway unless their boyfriends come along for the ride. I see the ones getting married at 22 and 23 and 24. I’ve seen the ones who forsake their friends for the chance to shine, however briefly, as the center of some man’s universe. The ones who’d give up not only their families, but their country, language and culture in pursuit of love because hey, you’re only young once, right?

 

I don’t blame any of them, and I try to make an active effort to support them in their journeys. I know I don’t always succeed, sometimes because I think they can do better and sometimes because I wish I was doing as well as they were.

 

I think Patton meant that today’s women are strong and capable and ready to charge ahead toward careers of their choosing. Yet I think she was suggesting there will be other things that become significant in the life of a woman beside work that we should all give the occasional thought to while we’re young in case we choose to shoot for those goals.

 

I think she was trying to whisper a quiet warning in the ears of those who seek the long walk down the aisle in the Cinderella gown.”Don’t wait too long…don’t pretend it doesn’t matter if you really want it.” Human relationships do matter, and forming healthy families certainly matters. It might as well be discussed in college–seemingly everything else is. And let’s not kid ourselves by saying the class of 2013 will fly in the face of convention by choosing to wed their cubicles.

 

Your briefcase will not share a joke with you at the end of the day, and your laptop doesn’t care when you don’t feel well.

 

There’s no shame in wanting to be married, and there’s no shame in never marrying at all. There is, however, in my opinion, a basic, human desire to find a worthwhile mate. Maybe even, as Charlotte York says in Sex and the City, to “mate for life.”

 

I think most people want to find someone who loves and understands them. And I don’t think that you should pass up that opportunity even if it happens to come your way in college. You might be a little young, and you’ll definitely still be trying to find yourself. But I for one don’t want to find myself lonely and bitter and taking cheap shots at young brides ten years from now. And all because I didn’t feel comfortable enough to admit I wanted to find a good husband just as much as I want to reach a fulfilling writing career and nurture strong relationships with my closest friends.

 

I’d be lying if I said anything else.

 

Dear Friend,

Counseling

Counseling (Photo credit: Alan Cleaver)

 

I’m not sure when it happened, but lately, a lot of the people I communicate with treat me like I’m their personal therapist. The only catch is I’m not making the big bucks, sitting on a plush couch, drinking mocha lattes, and scribbling notes into a yellow legal pad about how often they speak in the past versus the present tense.

 

Sometimes, after I’ve languished on my bed for a while and tried to offer up both sympathy and useful advice, just as I’m about to open my mouth to say something about my life, they’re ready to hang up!

 

And I’m not only talking about a select few. It’s becoming more-than-most of my twenty-something buddies.

 

I spend a good three to five hours on any given weekend fielding phone calls from friends looking for love in all the wrong (and right) places, the ones who know they really should fill out those grad school applications, the ones wondering if their careers are taking them in a viable direction and those who still can’t stand their parents.

 

I’m starting to think that when all your friends are in the same capsizing boat as you are—as in they’re the same age and also trying to find themselves and meet the minimum payments on their credit card– no one can fling the orange life vest out far enough to save you. They’re too wrapped up in all the same problems you have, so they don’t see them with the insight it takes to get beyond issues.

 

Now, while I’m flattered to be considered level-headed, diplomatic, empathetic, and a good advice-giver, HELLO! I need to talk about ME sometimes too.

 

So, for all of you out there who feel like you need someone to pour out your soul to, for all of you who feel exhausted, not to mention resentful, of always being considered the strong, stable type who absorbs others’ problems like a good sponge, I hear you. And I empathize.

 

The sad part is that when I turn to the thirty, forty- and fifty-something women in my life who have been-there-done-that and could offer up solid words along the lines of, “You¹re kind, you¹re beautiful, and you’re talented, so take a deep breath! Everything is going to work out!” they often come up a little, well, short.

 

They listen better than their younger counterparts, but I’m amazed at how encouraging they’re not. It takes a lot for me to be emotionally vulnerable, and I don’t enjoy doing it unless I feel safe and comfortable. So when I say applying to J school freaks me out because I feel like the odds aren’t in my favor or that I don’t want to attend a wedding alone when my high school BFFs will be there coupled off, that’s your cue to say something reassuring.

 

(In case you were raised by wolves and don’t know this).

 

Yet, when I confess, these women I’ve known and respected for years set their lips into a pursed-grimace thing and smile at me through these oh-you-poor-dear eyes.

 

Then they say things like, “Graduate school is a tough market. There’s stiff competition. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Or “Get used to feeling alone. Friends in relationships will leave you in a New York minute. They don’t want to hear about your yoga class! They want to chat about china patterns and how to hang curtains.”

 

Maybe that’s been their experience, and if it is, I’m sorry about it. I wish things had gone better for them. But why rain on my parade before it really even starts? Why drain my hope?

 

So here’s my advice to those of you, who like me, are feeling a little down now that the mega-blowout, glitter-ridden, Mojito-drinking birthday parties are no longer the norm and parties of one are no longer the exception.

 

Believe in yourself. Don’t depend on everyone else to do it for you. They’ll disappoint you eventually, guaranteed. It’s not that other people don’t care, but they’re human and living their own lives, which always takes precedent. One thing’s certain though: they’ll never know how you feel unless you tell them.

 

And here’s what you might want to mention to them (regarding themselves) and to yourself (regarding yourself): You are attractive, smart, capable, kind, fun to be around, and going places.

 

Everyone has inherent worth just because they are. Are what? Are in existence. Each unique individual on this planet is worthy because we are all another way universe is becoming conscious of itself.

 

And we deserve to be treated accordingly.

 

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting some hard battle,” Plato once said.

 

Even if they seem privileged and blessed to your eyes, it doesn’t mean that your friends don’t face challenging struggles. You may not know the whole story—you might want to listen. To know all is to forgive all.

 

Plus, your kind words could be the catalyst to get them believing in themselves, so they in turn can take actions to benefit others. If you can’t handle lower-level insecurities, how are you going to deal with facing a life-threatening illness, divorce, or financial problem?

 

In short, why aren’t we giving each other more hope?

 

No, it’s not always easy to listen and be present, but if you don’t do it, you can be damn sure you won’t be invited to the blow-out, glitter-ridden, Mojito-drinking parties future friend parties. Why not? Because you will not have earned a place at the table.

 

Our relationships could be a lot more fulfilling if we all tried to remember to treat other people like what they have to say is significant and valid. And if you can possibly spare them, words of encouragement are welcome.

 

Splattering the Canvas

Pallet, Brushes and Paint

Pallet, Brushes and Paint (Photo credit: KellBailey)

Journalism provides a way to tell others’ stories and link people to their communities. It’s a good feeling to know that I’m helping raise awareness about a cause or that my words will live online even after I’m gone. Sometimes, when I write a piece that features just one person, I imagine that he or she will save the hard copy and show it to his or her children and grandchildren years from now.

Nevertheless, the creative part of me loves having a blog to write more freely. Sometimes I just get the urge to scribble down a poem that pops into my head. Although I find it hard to begin and even harder to follow through with, I’d really like to complete one novella at some point in the near future.

There’s something about the arts–whether its writing, painting, movies, singing or theatre–that cuts through to the heart of a matter. Translating the arts into an analytical perspective doesn’t work nearly as well as just trying to intuitively grasp them.

Although writing so many literary essays where you pick apart a work until you’re pretty sure you’re making it up as you go can make anyone feel like a crackpot psychologist. I guess I do miss that linear and literal writing as much as its creative counterpart.

So, in a tip of the hat to the literary community–the literati as I like to call them–I’m including two poems I wrote a few months ago into this post.

*** A Capitol July ***

A city in ruins
Stone wall rubble crumples into
Dust beneath the only feet
Left to walk down the abandoned
Streets, which once were paved
And shone like gold.

A sparrow arcs gracefully through
The sky beside a destroyed
Silver tower, looping off
Toward treetops on the horizon.

Far below, weather-beaten sneakers
Continue forward, ears waiting

For any sign of life.

A billboard ahead shows a young woman
With a too-bright, artificial smile
Fingers wrapped around a toothpaste tube.

Weeds push up through cracks in
Cement, a wooden swing creaks
In the breeze of a forlorn playpark and
The heat haze settles on vacant, overgrown
Lots on the outskirts of what was once an
Empire.

Jungle-bright vines and wilting
Yellow flowers surrender to the
Dying sun and rising crescent
Moon. Night fall looms, and at last,
Beyond battered baker’s windows and the
Barber shop’s spinning chairs appears
The fence, straight ahead.

She finds the footholds in the
Tangled links, climbing higher,
Hoists over it onto the soft dirt
Path that winds into forest, natural noise, and
The last patch of daylight.

***Being and Becoming ***

Fifteen billion years ago

The universe exploded

A firework of color and sound

Raced itself to the edge of perception

For its pleasure of just because

We cannot be certain.

Like a toddler with sea legs

It reached and stretched

And grew–who knew–

Who could guess to what proportions?

The Earth became a speck

Of blue and green

Gliding through blackness in

Deep space, in no-thing-ness

Where all things are.

Like an elegant ice skater who

Twirls and cuts the ice with

Metal’s blade but cannot see

Her audience until the song’s

Last note fades

When dreamer and

Imagining know each other

For the first time.

House lights go up and

Absence with Presence collides.

And you and me and all we see

Are here, are now

Our consciousness

Shared, multiplied, yet divided

By random strains

That plague our days

Of traffic and technology

Of what to eat and who to be,

Of gas prices and global war,

Thought-rich but in essence poor.

We try and fail and try again

To make it to that future

Moment where bliss

hides.

While folded laundry waits on steps

To be returned to closets

We jet off in steel rockets

Toward those other things

Between the no-things

Hoping to find buried treasure

In a wooden chest

On a red planet

Before the contractions start

And we are birthed again.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 45 other followers