List: Reasons to welcome one last year at Wes

I’m almost dreading going back to college this summer, for the first time.

This post is to convince myself that it will indeed be a year well spent, and I might even have some fun thoughout.

  1. Fun science to learn
  2. New friends to make
  3. London-borne nonchalant attitude to flaunt (while probably freaking out every few weeks about life after graduation)
  4. Apples to pick at the orchard
  5. Parties to hold, hors d’oeuvres to concoct, themes to think up!
  6. Terp dancing
  7. Klezmer band
  8. WesWIS events to plan and attend
  9. Maybe develop a running habit?
  10. A car with which to zoom around the thus far judged as boring state of Connecticut
  11. Trivia nights to attend at Boca, and that new bar on Church to seek out
  12. Word game nights
  13. Slam poetry events filled with crazy inspiration
  14. Things I can’t yet predict!
Advertisements

List: My Happy Places

1. Collaging, One Direction in the airwaves, singing along.
2. With my family.
3. With Elior. Doing something extraordinary or mundane, we make it memorable.
4. Singing in the car while driving around somewhere beautiful, interesting, or deserted.
5. Feeling that elusive spark of chemistry when meeting a new friend.
6. The first few moments after awakening: feeling refreshed, energized, and genuinely thrilled to begin the day.
7. In the middle of a chill-inducingly incredible harmony.

The Media: How to Deal?

As with innumerable topics right now, I’m seriously confused about how to embrace the media.

It’s true that the media is a shapeless, massive conglomeration of sources, voices, biases, and subjects. So, I really shouldn’t generalize it. So, let me start small.

Here are some of the major media sources that affect me daily:

-Newspaper

-Televised news or programs

-Magazines

-Advertising

-Radio

-Social Media

This morning, I settled into a recent publication of The Intelligent Optimist. Thank goodness that I have access to these sources- without them, I’d shrivel into a little raisin of hopelessness! Anyway, about six articles in, I felt my body relax into the equivalent of a literary hug. These days, I feel like I’m constantly fighting external sources, like the media, that threaten my mental wellbeing. Anyone ever quit social media for some mental respite? What about install an ad blocker on your computer so you could avoid constantly advertisements? Fast-forwarding commercials on your TiVo, changing the radio station when the ads come on, tearing out two-sided advertisements in magazines before you venture to read it? (The last one may just be me.) It truly feels like I’m waging a war against these sneaky poisons. Once you’ve seen the documentaries that highlight the correlations between the power of airbrushed models and stick-thin adolescents or recognize that lawyer’s jingle twenty years after you heard the commercials, it’s hard (at least, for me) to cede control. Those years of work I’ve put in to protect myself are priceless.

By the way, want to reduce the ceaseless self-comparison that Facebook promotes but still enjoy the site? Try this demetricator!

Ok, so, where were we…

My aunt is a valiant proponent of prison reform and has thus endured oceans of mental turmoil over her years of progress. She can deeply appreciate books with content whose difficulty is just as rewarding in measure. Lately, all I’ve wanted to read are lighter, more neutral books about the genome or Dublin or Miss Brodie and her gang. Does this mean that it’s 1) not the right time in my life to attempt to conquer more stressful books, 2) I should just get a thicker skin and read them, or 3) possibly never read them if I maintain this level of stress throughout my life? There are some forms of art I hope to never fully “appreciate”, such as horror movies. I deem the value of those to be less than a highly regarded Toni Morrison novel (yes, I’m judging.) How strong is the “should” in terms of me reading those difficult books? Says whom?

How important is it that I expose myself, day after day, to the atrocities I hear on the news? I understand that it’s important to be aware of current events. However, it seems like, because they get so much of a reaction, media outlets doggedly communicate the grisliest news stories about killings, crimes, and negative anythings. Are there any news sources out there that are truly neutral and report for the sake of informing the world and not for personal gain?

My dad wisely exhorts me to read multiple, varied media outlets for my news. This also extends to reading magazines about life in the west, anarchy, Waldorf philosophy, and photography, among others, to gain a better view of what’s out there beyond my sphere.

How responsible am I to learn about what’s going on thousands of miles away from my little house, concerning people I’ll never meet? I know this sounds exceedingly close-minded and naive. However, stay with me: if those news stories act as punches being blown to my mental stability, day after day, what’s the proper course of action?

It’s amazing when one small story can bring a massive community together. Even better when it begets real change.

If my career has an activism aspect to it, is that enough? What’s enough?

 

List: Real fears for the future

Warning: This is not a happy post. These are concerns that deeply distress me, so don’t expect me to end this with a light little pun or anything. You can stop reading if you want right now.

  1. Climate change will spur a massive catastrophe with water wars, temperatures high enough to make fruit leather on your back porch occurring regularly, dieoff of untold numbers of organisms that wrecks our already precarious agricultural system and leads to widespread famine. Then you have violence, more wars, and tragedies I can’t yet imagine.
  2. My kids will grow up to be mindless drones of the internet who can’t achieve fulfillment by interacting with other life forms. They’re shackled by distraction, narcissism, and miss out in the joys of being a vulnerable human.
  3. I can’t be sure how I want to spend my life at twenty one, but I do have an idea about using my fascination with evolution and lab work to pursue applied climate change ecology: that is, studying how organisms are adapting to the effects of climate change, such as increased temperatures or decreased humidity, and use that information to help them and humans survive the impending era of unprecedented change. Now, that’s all good and happy for someone like me who believes in climate change (to me, it’s absolutely absurd that anyone would believe a business-minded politician for their science data over supereducated scientists). But there are those that deny it, and there are those that are not intaking these predictions deeply enough to take actions that would actually ameliorate our situation (an overwhelming number of us.) Because I support everything proactive, it is already taking a toll on me that our living situation on Earth is declining extremely rapidly yet it feels like so many people don’t realize/believe it, let alone do anything about it. So, I fear that I’ll harbor this anxiety, frustration, anger, and linked emotions for my whole life. I guess that’s what spurs activism, right?

List: Ways to emerge from a funk

  • Sing
    • Happens most often in the car, along with the radio or ipod
    • Harmonizing is a sure bet
    • Folk, singer/songwriter genres a lot, with evocative melodies constructed by groups like
      • Simon & Garfunkel
      • Van Morrison
      • Gavin DeGraw
      • CSNY
      • Ingrid Michaelson
      • etc.
  • Dance
  • Take a bath or shower
  • Talk to family member, close or distant (those can be really uplifting)
  • Listen to One Direction (can’t believe the depth of my love for them)
  • Become properly hydrated and take joy in that
  • Exercise in a fun way like biking, zumba, machines with good music on, swimming, a sports game like softball or soccer…
  • Get dressed up. Go somewhere, or not.
  • Collage whatever I’m feeling: Happiness, pain, wanderlust, awkwardness, nostalgia… anything.
  • Bake or cook something unusual in terms of ingredients, origin, taste, whatever.
  • Sip decaf coffee with treat levels of sugar and cream. Or tea.
  • KOMBUCHA. Yes, it’s not been proven to actually help your body all that much (except for possibly providing prebiotics), but I love it just the same. Just thinking about it makes me happy!
  • Do something for somebody else.
  • Listen to more One Direction.
  • Get sucked into funny youtube videos like this or this.
  • Send someone a letter or postcard or care package or something totally random.
  • Relive old memories with photo albums, pictures on the computer, images or videos on your Facebook page from 7 years ago, or by asking someone for their old photos!
  • Go online shopping but don’t buy anything. Just virtually amass/collect it like the materialistic beings we are.
  • Clean out an old bureau or storage area.
  • Give away old clothes and things you don’t use anymore. Consolidate and donate.

To be continued!

Strangers

With my parents fresh off the plane to Scotland for their well-deserved vacation, I woke up this morning feeling hungover from work. No, not the alcohol-related sort; the kind that results after a night of racing around a two-story restaurant for over six hours, doing a job meant for two highly motivated workers, my mental to-do list being rewritten every six minutes. I felt like a player in “Waiting for Godot” while waiting 30 minutes for my tips, exhausted to the point of delirious. Needless to say, my morning necessitated taking care of myself before embarking on my only day off in a span of ten consecutive eight-hour workdays. And, with my parents on the other side of the world, it also involved household chores and creating a plan to feed myself for a week. And knowing me, a simple trip to the grocery store would not suffice: to feel physically and mentally satisfied, I’d need to think up my week’s meals, their ingredients, and then turn the kitchen into a manufacturing tornado until I’d concocted my refrigerator beets, lentil salad, bulgur, hummus, and hard-boiled eggs by hand. So anyway,

Here I was, disheveled in body and mind on a Sunday morning.

However, what I want to arrive at is the underappreciated beauty in kindness by strangers.

As living in London for five months showed me, people who know nothing about you except what they assume from your looks hold unprecedented power in shocking you with the blunt force of their (amazing) character in tiny time spans. When I began bussing at the restaurant four years ago, I was bowled over by the generosity and kindness of the owners. On my first day of bussing for a mellow brunch shift, they embraced me and my first-day nerves, instructing me to pause polishing silverware and partake in a beautiful plate of eggs benedict on a copper table next to the window. Their warmth has only continued over the past four years, delivering me to a place of busser veteranship where the chefs respect me, the owners smile and ask how I’m doing, the patrons extend humbling appreciation for my efforts. The waitstaff recognizes my meticulous nature and rewards me with unbelievably loving coworkers who tell me stories of their lives, listen to my jokes, constantly thank me for being me. The tips are usually great, too. And of course there are points of frustration- there are at every job- but I’m thankful that they are relatively sparse. There’s no way I could work in a restaurant for the rest of my life, but as a summer job, I can’t imagine a better opportunity than the one I have.

The restaurant is a committed to farm-to-table establishment, supporting local agriculture while offering incredible organic, local, grass-fed, etc. food to its customers. So, today at the market, I encountered the family who grows the spirited onions, robust peppers, and altogether lovely veggies for the restaurant. After buying some celery and turnips, I mentioned how wonderfully their produce is received at the restaurant and the 20-year-old bilingual merchant perked up. Enthusiasm spilled out of her, along with wishes to return for a shirley temple at the bar and check out the restaurant’s picture of her family posing with their mountains of veggies at the market. As I thanked her for the groceries, she relayed the conversation’s main points to her mother in Spanish and rushed to present me with a free ear of corn.

Now, it’s not like 500 extra kernels of corn will sustain me for very long. However, this token of friendship blew me away. Don’t even get me started about comparing this to a friend request on Facebook. I don’t think I’m going to forget that ear of corn for a long time.

What’s more, this is what markets are all about: getting to know your community members and support one another both economically and socially. It’s something I haven’t been able to fully understand until now, when I am the one with choices to make about how to live my life in a way that optimally benefits myself and the communities near and far from me. Of course, you don’t have to buy everything from a market; some products are less expensive or more widely available at stores. However, maintaining a habit of buying local food and wares is dear to my heart and I can’t wait to nurture this habit throughout my life.