Plato believed that we lived in a world of
images, three-dimensional shadows of the true one. What we see with our eyes is nothing more than a cheap imitation of its true state.
example, the chair we see before our eyes is nothing more than a shabby image of the true chair that exists. We carry on everyday with
flawed perceptions of the true ideal form.
Life After College:
Year 3 - In Transit
[Sunday, February 29, 2004]
Being raised Catholic has its pros and cons. Whereas I firmly believed that I had the religion beaten out of me at a young age by the nuns, I also inherited a healthy dose of Catholic guilt. On Ash Wednesday, I fulfilled my religious duties and attended Mass at noon. I'm a CAGE Catholic, although really, I'm just an "A" Catholic since Ash Wednesday is the only Mass I attend consistently on a yearly basis. What is it about the ashes that appeal to me? I don't know. Maybe I enjoy the smaller scale of Ash Wednesday as opposed to the gigantic monster masses that make up Easter and Christmas. Maybe I like the significance of the ashes, marking you as one of God's own. Perhaps I find comfort that even as I am the sheep that strays from the flock, I have a mark on me - so that if I am found by others, they will return me to my appropriate owner.
There's something about church that makes me want to cry. Maybe it's the hope in everyone's eyes as they bow their heads and pray. Maybe it's the coming together of people despite class and race distinctions. The construction worker came in during lunch to receive his ashes alongside the doctors. Maybe it's the twinkle in the priest's eyes as he laid the ashes on my forehead. But all of it made me want to burst into tears and weep. Much in the same way watching the riders of Rohan charge the army of Mordor made me want to weep. Religion is the food that feeds the valiant battle of the soul against the dreariness of life. What is it about religion that makes you believe in it more as you're older?
Perhaps it's the naivete of youth - when you believe that you are in control of your own destiny and that things will happen as you want. The older you get, the more you realize that there are a thousand variables in your life that are beyond your control yet have the potential to impact you irreversibly. Is it this realization that brings us to God? To make us realize that perhaps we need a guiding hand? Perhaps it is the arrogance of youth that draws you away from God. We don't need God, we can take care of ourselves. Perhaps in all my 23-year old wisdom, I'm beginning to mature enough to admit what I've probably always known inside - that maybe I don't really know everything. Maybe I am scared and alone.
Standing in church that day, I had to perpetually fight back tears. I snuffled a bit and wiped my nose as if I had a cold. I held my eyes open and tried not to blink in an effort to dry my eyeballs out and thus the tears, and in my head, I was saying angrily to myself, "good God Nancy. Get a grip on yourself." I don't know why I had the sudden urge to cry. Maybe it's because of all the hope that was being offered. Maybe it's because the church is ultimately a symbol of the strength of the human spirit to endure anything. Maybe it's because I feel like I've had to be strong and alone for so long, that when the Church offers its shoulder in an hour of Mass, it really touches me on some level.
The sermon was about rending our hearts instead of rending our clothing. The priest talked about how so many things have rended our hearts this year - the scandal of the catholic church, the war going on in Iraq, and to myself, I thought of my own personal tragedies. And again, I could feel my heart ache heavily and the tears burn my eyes. What is it about church that makes every healed-over wound suddenly raw again, as if it had been inflicted yesterday instead of a year ago? The priest talked about how every rending of the heart hurts and leaves it bleeding, but every rending of the heart also opens it. So that we can feel.
Going to church makes me feel weak in the knees. Perhaps I've been more psychologically influenced by my childhood than I'd like to admit. But there's something about being in a church that makes me want to burst into tears and air all my grievances. There's something welcoming about its atmosphere, welcoming and forgiving, that makes me want to run to its bosom and wet it with my tears. There's an air of acceptance for you, as you are, with all your flaws. And perhaps that's what I've been looking for. A place to go to where my weight is okay, where my complexion doesn't need fixing, and where I can confess my sins without fear of retribution or rescindment of love. A place where I can go without being judged. Where I can feel solitude - the sweet absence of looks.
I prayed that day, while blinking back tears. I prayed for God to give me the patience to deal with my parents respectfully. But most of all, I prayed for strength. I prayed for God to give me the strength to forgive and forget, I prayed for God to give me the strength to make it through the half hour of Mass without falling apart. I prayed for Him to give me the strength to make it through the rest of this school year. I prayed for Him to give me the strength to overcome my biggest sin - gluttony, in all its forms. Food, fun, drink. Moderation is key.
I like the church now precisely for the reason why I used to hate it. I used to hate it because I didn't like who I became in the church. Small. Weak. A pawn. I like it now because I see it as a pressure valve. It's almost a relief to let the pain throb in your chest, to lose yourself over to the torrent of emotions instead of having to squash it and rationalize it with your intellect.
I looked up at the ceiling and saw the paintings of the saints in the clouds. The men and women who came before me. And I thought - if God could give me the strength to be half of one of those, then I'll consider myself a life worth living.
As the ashes marked my forehead on Wednesday, I made a mental note to not only give up chocolate for Lent, but also make a renewed promise to start attending church more regularly.
Today, on the first Sunday of Lent, I overslept and missed 10 am Mass at my Ash Wednesday church so scrambled to make 11 am Mass at Cathedral of the Holy Cross, a few blocks away. As I approached, I noticed a crowd of people gathered in front of it. Was a wedding going on? Is this the crowd of people from the prior Mass who haven't cleared out yet? As I got closer, I noticed that some of them were carrying huge cardboard crosses. Ah, I thought. It must be some re-enactment of Christ dragging the cross up the hill for his crucifixion. As I drew even closer, I realized that I was completely and utterly off-the-mark. It was a demonstration. People had megaphones and were carrying posters with children's faces on them. There were URL's printed on the big cardboard crosses. And one man was reading off names of molested children as someone thumped a bass drum in solemnly after each name. Cathedral of the Holy Cross apparently is the church of the Cardinal Bernard Law who shuffled molesting priests from parish to parish. I walked around them, extremely conscious of the click-click of my shoes, and walked up the steps of the church feeling very exposed. Though I was aware of the scandal, it had always felt removed to me as I was in New York. Being in Boston put it front and center quite suddenly as I have to weave through the crowd just to get to the front door of the church. I sat in church today and thought about things. About how easily an institution can be marred by the actions of a few, how centuries of work can be so quickly undone. I looked at the altar boys and was startled to see girls among them as well. Of all colors and races. Is this still the Roman Catholic church I was raised in as a child? Since when did this openness start happening? Obviously, I haven't been to church very often. I listened to the sermon and watched the reverend as he walked out. He looked frail and awfully short. Couldn't be more than 5'4" or so. And suddenly, in that instant, all the illusions of my childhood were shattered. The priests were human, instead of big scary infallible men in black with booming voices. As I knelt and asked God to bless my family, I was no longer a terrified child looking up at a crucifix of enormous proportions that held a Jesus whose loincloth looked dangerously insecurely pinned. I was just an individual in this uncertain world, acknowledging a greater power's presence. And in that moment, I truly appreciated the Catholic Church. I like the fact that I can walk into any church in the world and automatically be a part of it because the hymns are the same everywhere. The prayers are the same everywhere. The ritual is the same. There is never a sense of foreignness when you're in a Catholic church, regardless of what country you're in. There's always a sense of homey familiarity. I know this. I know this prayer. I know this. I know this response. I know this song. I know these steps. Even though I had forgotten the Proclamation of Faith, it didn't matter, because all of it was familiar to me. This was something I knew. I know this.
When I returned after church, I ate baked ziti for lunch and worked on the crossword puzzle "Jesus and the Devil" from the church newsletter. I found it interesting that three of the words in the crossword were direct references to other cultures. "An Indian princess." Four letters. "This is what an Indian princess wears." Again - four letters (sari). "An Indian princess's au pair." Four letters. Even more interesting were the opinion pieces written by some of the local clergy about gay marriage. Of course, they're all against it, but some of the arguments they presented were surprisingly intellectually grounded with only a very minor sprinkling of Bible verses. Most interesting to me was a piece entitled "The African American perspective on Gay Marriage" in which an African American priest discussed the seeming parallels between the gay marriage movement and the civil rights movement and how they do and do not match up. They even had an article about the scientific and technological ways to screen and detect potential child molestors during admissions into the seminary. Perhaps I haven't been giving the Church enough credit. Discourse is going on, as are thoughts and discussion. The church I attended in New York had a Gay and Lesbian group, but this one doesn't. Obviously, the Church is in a state of flux. I've been giving the media too much credit, as I'd been reading only about how closed-mouthed the Church has been. Maybe, it's time for me to give the Catholic Church another chance.
Every year around Lent, I make a renewed attempt to become more religious. Every year, I make it to about 2 weeks of church before I slip. Hopefully it will take this year.
Posted by ink |
[Friday, February 27, 2004]
Sometimes George W. infuriates me.
The jury's out on my opinion as to whether being gay is "natural" or "unnatural". But the same argument can be made for children who are born with Down's Syndrome, mental retardation, or albinism. They're genetic variations on the majority norm. Homosexuality can be considered yet another allele of the sexuality gene, another manifestation of it, just as blonde, black, and brown are different manifestations of hair color. If individuals with more serious deviations from the accepted norm, such as Down's Syndrome and mental retardation retain the right to basic rights like marriage, why would it be denied to someone with a much more "normal" genetic deviation? That is, assuming a biological basis for homosexuality exists. Although I really can't see why anyone would ever choose to be of a minority that is generally shunned by family members, beaten up by bigots, and politically oppressed. And how does one define "normal" and "natural" anyways? Like all things in life, there are no absolutes, and I am sure that there are members of the gay community who perhaps chose to be gay, but I can't believe that the majority of the people would do such a thing. In fact, I'd argue that there are many more who are in the closet than anything else. Why would a choice be so hard unless it was something biological that you couldn't deny but really really want to? Whether being gay is unnatural or not would lie largely in the definition of "natural". If "natural" is "As God Intended It", then you have to include all the children born with congenital defects and genetic mutations into "unnatural" and bar them from the same things that you bar gays from. I do not know how "natural" is defined, and since I do not know God's intentions, nor do I pretend too know God's intentions, I will not judge on whether something is natural or not. But apparently, George W. thinks he knows God's definition.
God did say that sodomy was unnatural and a sin. But God also states that fornication is a sin. In that case, preventing gay couples from marrying becomes purely a prejudice issue as gay people are the minority. The majority of the U.S. population now participates in premarital sex and I don't see Bush pushing to have people tested for virginity before allowing them a marriage certificate. Like everything else in America, even law and morality has gone down the road of convenience. If you're going to ban gay marriage due to its un-naturalness or lack of sanctity in the eyes of God, then ban marriage for sinners who fornicate as well.
In addition, as my roommate pointed out - pop stars (yes, that's Ms. Britney) can pop in to Las Vegas, get married, and divorced right away, but a couple of the same sex who are committed to each other for years cannot. To protect the sanctity of marriage, then perhaps we should also outlaw marriages in Las Vegas as well. Exactly how is marriage sanctity defined here? Please show some consistency, Mr. Bush.
Though I'm living with a lesbian, I can't say that my personal opinion on whether being gay is "right" or not has made any progress. I can't say that I've been enlightened, or become more liberal, or more accepting. What I can say is that I've learned. I had to go from 0 to 60 mph in less than 3 days when my roommate Spurm announced her homosexuality to me shortly after I moved in. I was a bit nervous initially as I hadn't even known of anyone who was lesbian before. But since then, I've realized that there really isn't all that much difference. Spurm worries about whether her girlfriend will dump her, just like any other girl. She likes jeans that give her "ghetto booty", just like every other girl. And she likes cheesy 80's movies (and is the proud owner of the Two Weeks Notice DVD, which I incidentally loved). She loves her family and hates it when she worries them, she adores her brother, and she asks me for advice on whether her outfit looks okay for going out. What I've learned is what most people learn when they take the opportunity to get to know someone who's different and new and foreign. That at the end of the day, people are people. With the same worries, desires, and loves, regardless of whether they're born with two heads, funny colored skin, or sexuality that perhaps deviates from the majority norm.
I used to hate it when people would point out problems but not specify what they would like to see happen. So here is what I would like to see. I would like Mr. Bush to stop labeling other countries "evil" unless he can first show that America has none of it within itself or its history. He seems to make decisions based on emotion and knee-jerk reactions (hello, let's amend the Constitution?!), using extreme words ("axis of evil!") the way you do when you're five and feel desperately that you have to prove your point. Please define "natural" and "sanctity of marriage" and then enforce it across the board. If you're going to take it away from gays, then also take it away from everyone else who violates the sanctity. Because right now, all I see is George W. taking away rights willy nilly, here and there, based on who he likes and who he doesn't.
If Bush is making laws, then he should abide by the rules of law. Draw up a contract Mr. Bush. Define your terms, sign at the bottom.
Posted by ink |
[Thursday, February 26, 2004]
Osprey Ariel 60 in eggplant.
After months and months of research, reading reviews on the web, and trolling the Thorntree boards, I finally did it. I bought a backpack. It sits in my room leaning against my bookshelf and smiles at me. And everytime I look over, I smile back at it. I've tried it on every single night since I've gotten it, and continuously packed and unpacked it, packed and unpacked it. I think I've gone quite mad. It's not as sexy as some of the other packs that were available, but I don't really care. I love it because it's mine. It feels wonderful on my back, like it's a part of my body, and it can handle 40 pound loads like it's nothing. It looks like a giant bug. The Bug Pack. Weighing in just under 4 pounds, this 57L capacity baby comes with Osprey's "taco" design to compress any load you could have in there and stabilize it. It's a simple no-frills sort of pack. Sturdy and practical. And it calls to me. I've become quite obsessed. It's bordering on idol worship. Right before Lent starts too. I love my pack so much it hurts. I come home excited to see it. I try it on and see how it looks in the mirror, and I try out all its features constantly. When I walk by it, I pat it on the head and assure it, "In good time Bug Pack. In good time." I don't have a real destination yet, but I'm working on it. I think I love the pack not necessarily for itself, but for what it represents. Freedom. For $180, I bought a physical representation of freedom. I spend all day thinking about all the places I want to go with it instead of thinking about histology slides and physiology.
I'm one step away from laying out an offering of fruit before it.
Posted by ink |
[Wednesday, February 25, 2004]
The Return of the King.
When I was a freshman in college, the fantasy books that buoyed me through middle school and high school suddenly made me want to cry all the time. Reading them made me depressed and physically pained me. I have that same sort of experience when I watch the Lord of the Rings at the movie theatres. I always come out feeling completely and utterly terrible. The movie itself is great (except for the fact that they left out ALL my favorite parts. Eowyn and Faramir's romance, Merry becoming a general of Minas Tirith, and the taking back of the Shire), but it leaves me feeling empty and yearning for something that is intangible.
Somehow, coming out of movies like LOTR makes me feel like my life is so meaningless and trivial. They're fighting for a greater cause. Their destiny calls to them. The only thing that calls me is my mother to tell me I'm getting too chubby. And despite the inherent nobility of being a medical doctor, the entire process somehow seems completely lacking in honor. You have to hack your GPA by majoring in a less-demanding major. God forbid you actually indulge your natural thirst for science and risk lowering your GPA. It's a numbers game and a systems game. The quiet student who sits in the back and notices everything and gets an A is not rewarded. Because by the time recommendation time comes around, it's the students who go out of their way to flatter the professor who win out. Get to know people on the admissions committee and you're golden. If your parent is a doctor, you're even more golden. Follow the steps: 1, 2, and 3, add shortcuts, grade inflation, and ass-kissing. cut a few corners and toss in a dash of volunteering. Please relate the most significant event in your life. Everyone writes about a volunteer community-service experience in which they suddenly had a revelation. Ask stock questions and you'll get stock answers. Why does no one ever ask "Please relate the most significant event in your life that is unrelated to medicine." If anything, that answer is more likely to be telling of someone's character than some contrived situation created to fit the question. That answer is more likely to hint at the type of doctor that this person will be, based on what they value and what they consider to be important and significant.
All in all, watching LOTR and reading fantasy novels have tragically lost their charm. When I first realized this, I cried stormily and mourned the death of my lifelong companion. Now I am merely numb to it. Fantasy novels are lost to me largely because life itself has lots a lot of its charm for me. When I was younger, I'd inhale those books as if they were oxygen, because I thought that magic still existed in the world, that I could still make a difference when I grew up, that nobility was rewarded. I clung to the books because I believed. I was young. The more I see of the world, the more ugly I see and the more the imagined beauty disappears. Looking at our society, you can see that we only reward the most unscrupulous of individuals. Corporate CEO's didn't climb to the top of the corporate ladder by being honorable. They clawed and scratched and stepped on a few people to get there. Pharma's, who develop a cure for erectile dysfunction that affects 3% of the population as opposed to developing a cure for malaria which affects countries worldwide, are absolutely replete with money and dollars and fame. Where did the responsibility towards society go? When did it become a "me" world? A selfish world, where no one cares for anyone else but themselves and their own profit? It becomes a self-propagating cycle. Because you can't trust anyone else, you draw in on yourself and realize that if you don't take care of yourself, no one else will. Aragorn would not survive in this world. He would be stepped on in corporate America or relegated to being a door-to-door salesman. He would've been taken advantage of and used. People would betray him. How corrupt of a world we live in. It breaks my heart that we live in a world that would not hold one such as Aragorn without breaking him with its bitterness.
We live in a world without honor. A world in which no oath is ever kept, not even the sacred oath of marriage. In fact, a man or woman's word means almost nothing to them these days. It is so easily discarded when things go bad. So easily do half of America's marriages end in divorce. We are willing to throw away our honor for the sake of the one thing that America is known for - convenience. When keeping our oaths become inconvenient, we throw them away. After all, one of the most oft-used phrases these days is, "It is easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission." Aragorn lived in a time when dying without honor was one of the most shameful things. Shameful enough to keep generations of men imprisoned in a mountain, waiting for a chance to redeem their honor and rest in peace. Try finding honor in the average 20-some year old investment banker that you meet at a bar. You know who I'm talking about. The kind who buy you drinks and then hope to get into your pants. It makes me despair that our world is so far from that one. So far.
Before he rides on the gates of Mordor, Aragorn makes a speech.
"Stand your ground, sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers. I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day! An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down, but it is not this day!"
No. Not that day Aragorn, but this one. This is the time in which the Age of Men begins to crash down.
I have become disenchanted with this world.
Posted by ink |
[Tuesday, February 24, 2004]
I think I'm ready for a boyfriend.
Like the menstrual cycle, my romantic sense goes in cycles and phases. This statement passes through my mind about once every 4 months or so. Every other day, I'm too busy balancing a part-time job with full-time school, volunteering, and part-time research to even consider adding something as volatile as a boyfriend to the mix. But some nights, when I'm studying on my bed with the radio on, I start to think that it'd be nice to have someone.
So I have a second date on Saturday with Skeletor, who I found to be nice but not all that interesting on the first date. Much skinnier and bonier in person than he looks on his online profile. Thankfully, the throbbing vein in his head started to subside by the second cup of coffee I drank (which I ended up paying for myself). He's the unwitting benefactee of this phase I'm in. He happened to call in the midst of this mood I'm in tonight, so I agreed to a second date.
Posted by ink |
[Monday, February 23, 2004]
LISTEN BITCH! YOU CAN'T DO THAT!
I was verbally accosted by a black woman today. I had just gotten home from work and was taking out the trash. Trash day isn't until tomorrow, but there's a dumpster in the lot between my building and the building behind it. So I ran out to toss it away. As I heaved my trash bag into the dumpster, I suddenly see this wild woman running towards me at full speed, her handbag swinging. You'd think my natural survival instinct would've kicked in at that point and I would've either run away or walked towards her with my arms windmilling, but instead I stood there with an eyebrow raised as she raced towards me hollering.
"YOU CAN'T DUMP YOUR TRASH THERE!! THAT'S NOT FOR YOU! THAT'S FOR THE TENANTS OF THE OTHER BUILDING. I'M GONNA GET YOUR NAME AND NUMBER AND THEY'RE GONNA FINE YO' ASS FOR ILLEGAL DUMPING!"
"YOU HEAR ME?! I'm gonna call your landlord and tell him to get you your OWN dumpster! You can't do that!"
I reacted the same way I always do when confronted with difficult situations. I just stood there. My brother claims the most maddening thing about me is the condescension that comes out when I'm being yelled at. Like I'm in the right and everyone else is obviously wrong. My mother addresses it by telling me "Don't give me that attitude young lady!" I never knew what they were talking about. But when I opened my mouth to respond to her, I could feel my eyebrow raising in that slightly haughty way as I spoke very slowly. As if I was talking to an escapee of a lunatic asylum.
"Listen. It was an honest mistake. My roommate said I could throw my trash here."
"WELL YOU CAN'T!! YOUR ROOMMATE IS WRONG. YA HEAR?!"
"It was an honest mistake. I will take my trash out of the dumpster."
I paused and looked her in the eye to make sure she understood as I moved slowly towards the dumpster.
"No need to get all worked up about it. Okay?"
I retrieved my bag and backed away from her slowly. She watched me go, as if she thought I was going to turn around and come right back as soon as she left (which of course, I was). As I got further away, she yelled one last time, "NEVER DUMP HERE AGAIN."
Part of me wanted to dissolve into giggles, another part of me wanted to give her two thumbs up and say "Thanks for the advice Dumpster Police!", but instead I went around the corner and went into my house super fast so she wouldn't know which house I lived in. In case she had brothers that were in the gang and such.
Posted by ink |
[Thursday, February 12, 2004]
Doctor, Doctor. Can you see? What is going on with me?
So, after months of hemming and hawing, I finally took the plunge and made an appointment with the Gyn. One thing that bites about moving to a different city every year is having to find a new set of doctors each time. Just when you start getting used to one, you have to find a new one. Boston's Gyn looked alarming android-like. A bit like Pee Wee Herman, but not quite as creepy. Shiny forehead and all. He was foreign too by the sounds of it, as his English was a little off. "Your ovaries feel good." Hrm.
Men have no idea what a visit is like. You have to cheerily tell a complete stranger your problems and pretend like you're talking over tea when in reality, you're telling him things that you wouldn't even tell your mother. And you're speaking of your nether regions as if it was a machine that needed to be fixed. "Yes, things haven't quite been proper lately. It's been sputtering every now and then and isn't quite as regular as it normally is. Would you mind having a quick look-see just to make sure that everything's alright?" In many ways, your gynecologist knows more intimate details about you than even your closest friends. He clamped me open while he asked the nurse for a blue q-tip. "Pap smear, normal procedure." I nodded and looked at the ceiling and pretended like I had metal things stuck into me every day. "So, where are you from?" In my opinion, gynecologists, like dentists, should be barred from ever conversing with their patients during an examimation. There is nothing more awkward than having a conversation with a man while he's shining a lamp between your legs. Talking about the weather... How school is... There's no eye contact and that creeps me out. I feel like it's rude and I keep wanting to sit up a bit and talk towards my knees where he is but it seems somehow inappropriate. And the nurse always seems to take her time finding the blue q-tips.
I wonder if gynecologists suffer from deteriorating sex lives. After all, they say that once you make something your job, it stops being fun. I'm sure that the last thing they want to see when they get home is yet another vagina. And, how would you explain it to your daughter when she's in 2nd grade and she has to write a paper on "What My Daddy Does." Or, even worse, what does she say when she gets in one of those fights with her friends and her friend says "Well, MY DAD is president of a TOY COMPANY."
Posted by ink |
[Tuesday, February 10, 2004]
The wind is howling outside. I can hear it. I'm alone in a study room at school and I'm a little scared. The janitor is vacuuming the hall outside. It's the perfect setting for a horror flick. The janitor goes crazy and then brutally slaughters the girl studying late at school. Or, the vacuuming sound suddenly ceases. The girl notices and looks up, but shrugs and continues reading her textbook. A half hour later, she packs up her things to leave and stumbles across the janitor's mangled body. Someone is in the school with her...
I always run home when I stay late at school. Partly because it's cold and I try to minimize my exposure to the air, partly because it's a shoddy replacement but a replacement nonetheless for my lack of a workout schedule, but mostly because I feel like I have to make myself a difficult target for any homeless psychopaths hanging around at night. Would you rather attack a girl strolling down the street or a girl who comes tearing around the corner at full speed? Since I live across the street from a public hospital, there's always shady characters and I have to run through an empty parking lot with a dumpster to get to my house. The parking lot happens to have all the security vehicles parked in it, but wouldn't it be just my luck to get mugged late at night by a guy hiding behind a security vehicle. I think about buying mace, but it'd have to go on my keychain. And judging from the state of my bag (and of all women's bags), I can just picture it now.
"Oh look! You want to mug me. Hang on a second and let me get my Mace out... Hrm... I know it's in this bag somewhere... "
To add insult to injury, it is practically impossible to run with a bookbag on your back without looking like a complete idiot. Floppity floppity flop! The bookbag always bounces ridiculously from side to side as you try to run like a normal person. It only makes it worse when you try to do it with a laptop case clutched to your chest as well. You can't even use your arms for balance. You have no choice but to run with one arm cradling the laptop and the other swinging stiffly. And, I wear this crazy swinging pompom hat that my mother bought me. Not one, but two swinging pompoms, one above each ear. I loathe wearing it but feel forced to in order to keep the tips of my ears in one piece. It's just floppity floppity flop all over the place.
The cleaning lady is vacuuming around me. I've been here too late. I'm packing up and going home.
Ready. Set. Sprint.
I hate that feeling when you're standing at your front door, looking over your shoulder and fumbling for your keys.
Posted by ink |
[Sunday, February 08, 2004]
When love cripples.
My parents are continually a problem in my life. They came here as immigrants and worked hard. They were educated immigrants, so they didn't slave away in restaurants and such, but they experienced white-collar racism. They gave up a lot so that I could have the opportunites that they always wanted. They worked over time and cashed out their vacation days for years so that I could go to an Ivy League school and have the chance to live better. But at some point, it all fell apart. I think it began to fall apart in college when I would come home with clothes I'd bought with the new Ivy League friends they wanted me to have. My mom didn't understand why I was purchasing clothes when I should be saving up money the way she did when she was in college. She had to work hard to get to where she is. It fell apart even more when I landed my consulting job in New York. At 22, I was making more than my mother did at 51 as a nurse. They began to criticize the way I was spending. Why did I live in Manhattan when I could live at home and save on rent. Why did I buy clothes at Ann Taylor for work when I could buy them at Syms. I was simultaneously hurt and baffled all at once. I had thought they were going to be proud of me. This is, after all, what they sacrificed for. So that I could have the opportunities they didn't have, so that I could lead the life they couldn't. So I wouldn't have to live the way they did when they first got here at 22 year olds. What I couldn't understand most of all was why their opinion of me changed and they suddenly thought I was irresponsible with money. I didn't carry any credit card debt, nor had I ever, I pay twice the monthly amount due on my student loans, and I managed to put more than 10% of my salary into savings.
Now that I'm a student again, our relationship has simultaneously improved and degraded. We get along better now in person. I think largely because on some level, my parents like to feel needed, and they fear all the time that I don't appreciate the sacrifice they made for me. Everytime I spend on something, they fear that I'm taking it all for granted. But don't they see that I'm reminded everyday of what they've done for me? Not only through the daily phone calls when they actually tell me, but also through the graduate students I meet. The ones who are from Asia, who struggle through classes with the language barrier. I look at those people everyday and think about my parents and how they were foreign graduate students not so long ago. I talk to them in Chinese and think about my dad's stories of how lonely and isolated he felt when he first arrived. I ask them if they need any help figuring out their insurance and such, or finding housing.
Our relationship has improved because I feel less foreign to them now. Especially now that I'm no longer making a salary, I'm living a hard life - the way they did, and they've suddenly become more generous. My mother bought me a beautiful winter coat. My dad gruffly sends me a check once in a while. Everytime I talk about my part-time job, I can almost feel the glow of pride in my parents through the phone. I don't mention that I'm the only student in my program who has to work while she's in school. I don't mention that I was strongly advised against getting a job due to the high level of competitiveness in the program. I don't understand why they couldn't reconcile having a daughter who is successful and financially liquid at a young age, the very thing they worked for me to have, but they can with having a daughter who's hard-up the way they were.
My parents are two of the strongest people I know. I don't know how they made it the way they did, landing in the U.S. for graduate school with only 20 dollars in their pocket. I don't know how they bore the brunt of racism and the cries of "The Chinese are taking our jobs!" I don't know how they could've felt seeing their children with English rolling more glibly off their tongue than Chinese. It takes strength and determination to get where my parents are now. They have two kids in top universities. Both of us grew up tall and healthy. But neither of us call home very often.
This perhaps, is the greatest tragedy of my family. This gap between the kids and the parents that both of us want to bridge but neither can. My parents grew up in a culture of self-improvement. You always strove to make yourself better. And in that vein, my parents always strive to make me better. When they call, they ask how I'm doing, and then ask me if I've gone to the gym, because I could really lose a few pounds. They ask whether I'm saving money, because you know - I have awful spending habits. I always end up fighting with them about it. I cry and tell them that I grew up never feeling like I was good enough, not just for them, but for anybody. Because when you feel like you're not even good enough for parents who love you, how can you possibly be good enough for people who aren't family but claim to love you. Just as I was baffled by their resentment of my material goods last year, they're baffled by my outpouring of emotions. "Of course we love you," is their surprised answer. "We paid for your education! That wasn't easy you know." Then it devolves into a conversation I'm familiar with. How they love me so much that it hurts them to not see me at my best, because they know I'm capable of so much more. When I ask them why they can't love me just as I am, I don't think I'm that shabby as-is, they tell me I'm becoming American. And that's the American way, that I didn't get to the heights that I did with them accepting me as I was. I got there because they pushed and they believed I could be better. How can you fault your parents for believing in you?
Every conversation becomes a fight these days. Every conversation leaves me a mess in Boston and unable to focus on studying, and it leaves my parents angry and confused as to why their daughter won't allow them to love her in the only way they know how. I don't pick up the phone anymore if they call during exams. I know what it will turn into. But everytime my phone rings and I see the caller ID, I'm overwashed with guilt as I silence the ring. I tried to discuss it with my mother today. She put the phone down and walked away. She wouldn't even hear it. I knew she was hurt. After all she's done, her own daughter won't even have the good grace to listen to what she has to say to help. I burst into tears. I ranted and railed at her, even as I felt sick inside at my own behavior. My parents didn't raise me to be like this. The phone was silent at the other end and I could hear the TV in the background. I wasn't even sure if she was there or if she'd left again. I hung up. I tried to pull myself together but I couldn't. My parents are too important to me for a fight with them to not profoundly affect me. I love them too much to not be upset when they're upset. I left my dad a long voicemail today explaining why I made a decision to not take their phone calls anymore during exams. I explained how much it hurts me each time we talk, and I explained how even despite their best intentions, they weren't helping me and how badly I needed to do well in these classes. He called me back but I didn't pick up. It's now 2 pm and I've been awake since 8 am. I haven't gotten a whit of studying done.
Posted by ink |
[Saturday, February 07, 2004]
The Price of a Good Heart.
I've found a research lab to work in! A professor finally found it within himself to offer me a position as his free labor in exchange for training. This means that I can graduate in August and leave Boston! This also means I suddenly have the entire next year free while I apply to med schools. The world is my oyster! I can do anything I want, barring leave the country. I -do- have to be around for secondaries and med school interviews. I don't think this professor has any idea the huge favor he just granted me. He gave me a year of my life.
In my search for something to do for the next year, I toyed with everything from bartending in San Francisco to moving back to New York to applying for another one-year Master's in Public Health. All of my options had one thing in common though - travel. I am determined to travel summer '05. So I logged onto idealist.org to check out their volunteer listings overseas as well as crossculturalsolutions and Students Partnership Worldwide. I figured if I was going to be overseas anyways, I might as well contribute. That was when it hit me. You can't volunteer unless you're rich or have rich parents. Each program has a program fee of at least 3000 USD with most averaging around 5000 USD (sometimes not even including air fare), plus an additional application fee of 300 USD. Whereas I understand the need for non-profits to remain "non-profit" as opposed to "in the red", these sorts of fees are deterring for the normal average person such as myself. And I can't see my parents possibly coughing up that much for me to volunteer in rural China teaching peasant children. I can hear my dad's retort now, "Why don't I just pay off 5000 dollars of your student loan debt?" Ever practical, my mother would ask me "Is this 5000 possibly going towards better school supplies for the children or better medical care?" Most probably not. It just covers the program fee, housing, and the occasional phone call. Although that baffles me a bit. After all, it can't -possibly- all be going to housing. I'd be living in a shack with some family in a village. Things are dirt cheap in third world countries. Although I suppose China can't be considered third world anymore. I chose China not because of specific interest, but largely because I thought it would be easier for my parents to swallow than Zimbabwe.
I didn't expect to be able to volunteer for free. But I also didn't expect the program fee to be more than my plane flight, which I will have trouble saving up for as it is. Sad as it is, I think I may be too financially strapped to volunteer, although really - time is the one thing I now have an excess of. If I can save enough for a plane flight, it looks like I won't be able to afford spending my free time living with a family in Hebei and teaching primary school farmchildren. All I can spend my free time doing is wandering the streets of Beijing as a tourist. Does anyone see something wrong with this? Since when did volunteering and wanting to do good in the world become the exclusive province of the rich and elite?
What I need is to find another professor who maybe already has an existing project in a foreign country, who will allow me to pay my own way and tag-along and perform odds and ends sort of jobs for them. Load/unload the truck, help setup camp, take blood pressures, and observe while he/she examines people.
Posted by ink |
[Wednesday, February 04, 2004]
I love that movie. I love John Cusack. What is it about high school love that makes you so manic and so crazy? Back when I was at camp, I had this one-week crush on this boy. I wrote in my journal everyday about him. "I think he looked at me today." "He walked by me at lunch today." At 14, I exhibited the behavior of a 42 year old stalker with OCD. Lux saved everything that she and her first boyfriend had shared, including empy bottles of bottled water. She had the equivalent of a box of trash under her bed that she absolutely treasured. What is it about being young that makes love so sweet? Every moment so magical?
There was a boy in high school who used to sit in front of me in Sex Ed. John Katsikis. Sex Ed was the only class we shared since I was in all honors classes and he wasn't. He was a basketball player and Greek. Neither of us were rock stars of any sort in high school despite his athleticism and despite my obviously stunning intellect and misunderstood fashion sense. The class would sit in half-embarassed silence and titter as the gym teacher (who also taught Sex Ed) showed us how to put a condom onto a banana. We were sophomores. He'd make paper stars and turn around and put them on my desk. He never did ask me out, although I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised. He was a jock and I was mousy. He wasn't popular enough to date the popular girls, but he was popular enough for me to be surprised at being the object of his origami skills. Besides, I'm not sure I would've given him any other answer besides a terrified and half-indignant no. But he was tall and so awkwardly cute and he made me paper stars. I used to store them in my backpack. Every single one. Why do boys stop being so sweet when they get older?
Two years later when I graduated, I cleaned out my backpack and found flattened paper stars. I paused and hesitated before my hand flickered and tossed them away. I left my high school behind and never looked back. I don't really ever think of any of my classmates anymore, nor do I particularly care to. But once in a while, I still think of John Katsikis and wonder what ever happened to him. I wish I'd saved a few stars.
Posted by ink |
[Tuesday, February 03, 2004]
Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent. - Victor Hugo
There are times when pangs of my past come rushing back. Sometimes it's bad memories. The way Jack Johnson will inspire memories of early Monday morning cab rides on the way to La Guardia airport, the bleak landscape made even more gray by the pre-dawn twilight as it slides by before my eyes, my forehead pressed against the cold glass of the window. Sometimes its not anything as tangible as a memory with a scene and a taste attached to it, but more of a feel. While sitting in a cubicle today at the library, studying for tomorrow's lecture on Histology, I remembered what it was like to have music in my life. And I don't mean the rock and roll sort, or the top 40 sort, or any sort that goes into your headphones. I listened to an old classical mix I had made and remembered what it was like to have music in my life seriously. What it felt like to play in All-State orchestra with a hundred other talented kids. What it felt like to have seating auditions for school. How we had 8-hour long rehearsals punctuated by nothing but the rap of the conductor's baton on the metal stand. How my fingers would be battered and bruised at the end of a particularly grueling practice session. I had it all when I was younger - an expensive violin, an expensive teacher, a foldable metal stand (with its accompanying canvas carrier), and a special little luggage tag for my violin case that had the treble clef on it and my name and address. As if anyone in these days of EBay would really return a violin if it was ever stolen or found.
I loved my violin like no other. I knew it intimately, I knew its soft spots, how to play it so it would glow softly, how to pull the harshest most strident sounds out of it, how to make the strings ring. That was my proudest achievement as a beginner violinist. Hearing the ring. My teacher used to lecture me about it, "You can hear if you're playing the right notes, if you're in tune. The violin will speak to you and tell you, it will ring when you're right." Try as I may, I could never hear it, even though I was apparently playing the right notes since my teacher would nod. But then one day, it came to me. I could hear it ringing slightly in the air beside my ear, feel the strings vibrate a certain warm way beneath my fingers and I knew - that was it. I knew the language of my violin. And I knew that every violin spoke differently. The ring would be in a different place and sound different on someone else's violin. I swore that I could recognize my instrument blind just by smelling it, by placing it under my chin and feeling it against my neck, by running my fingers along the fingerboard and touching the strings. I knew all its little scars and innuendos, which notes it didn't like that I had to pull out of it with force, and which notes it would lovingly wrap itself around. I loved my violin. And most of all, I loved being part of the orchestra. It was like being part of a gigantic beast that could roar terrifyingly but could be meek as a mouse, simpering, enveloping you gently. It always started out raucous and monstrously terrible but always, there was the potential of the chaos coming together quite suddenly into an ordered structured symphony. For even when the symphony had its wild moments, we played the wild moments as a structured unit. Each bow going up and down strongly in the same direction - ordered chaos during the Ride of the Valkyries.
Being part of an orchestra was being part of the ultimate team. People in business could never truly understand this when I explained it to them, so I stopped using it as an example, but to this day, I sincerely believe that an orchestra is the perfect example. In an orchestra, you never have to worry about whether someone's slacking off or not. Everyone does their part. Everyone takes pride in their instrument and their music, and everyone contributes, each voice chiming in at the correct part, the basses laying down the beat and once in a while booming in with a deep solo that sends shivers down your back, the cellos providing the suave baritone of romance and strength, the violas playing the alto harmonies softly sweetly and sadly, and the violins - strident at times and mellow at others. In an orchestra, it all magically comes together with just a little bit of practice, and that was always the wonder of the moment - When you're playing your part as designated and you suddenly can see how your part fits into the fabric of it, weaving in and out as the melody is picked up by one and then another and then handed off. There really are no solos, despite tradition stating first violins as melody players. The melody alone would be useless. It's the other instruments that add the magic.
Perhaps the magic of the orchestra is just the fact that it all comes together so beautifully in a way that humans never can. Perhaps the enchantment of the orchestra is the fact that something so beautiful can be created by a group of instruments that are all so different. Perhaps the wonder of the orchestra is that it's a set of disparate individuals brought together by music, and through their instruments, harmony is created, and through this weaving and dipping harmony, a human soul opens up and can be transformed, because across all borders and cultures, music has an ancient and special place in civilization. Music is the language of the soul. It has no words but communicates nonetheless. And in this day and age of wars waged for the sake of imaginary weapons of mass destruction and people taking over other's land in the name of some God saying that it's theirs, we've forgotten the language of how to speak to one another as human beings. Perhaps people go to the symphony not through any pretension of culture or because it's classy, but simply out of some unexplainable wistfulness for our past. Perhaps something stronger than science still pulls at us, speaks to us from the roots of mankind and we respond to it. Music knows no color or language barriers or time. It exists with the primitive beats of the earth and the whistling of the songbirds. It is simply alive. When lost in the music of the moment, we speak the language of the ancients however temporarily, and though we may no longer understand it as we've lost the capability to long ago, perhaps we go to orchestra concerts anyways because it comforts us on some level that maybe one day, mankind will wipe itself off the earth in a nuclear war set off mistakenly due to equipment malfunction, and God can start over.
We will return to our primitive values, to simpler ways, to kinder ways.
Posted by ink |
[Sunday, February 01, 2004]
Relieve the Itch.
I have hives. Bad. It's everywhere, these nasty little bubbles of skin popping up white against the red background of irritation. I don't know what it was that I ate but I'm slowly going insane. I used up an entire tube of Cortisone on just the lower half of my body and it's still spreading. I put myself in all-cotton to minimize the chances of further reaction but it's really no help. I've been making intermittent dashes around the apartment every three seconds or so because the sheer movement of my clothes against my skin feels good. It's on my buttcheeks. I'm slowly going insane. I took 2 Benadryl, but the third pill broke inside its own packaging so I threw it away. I'm seriously considering fishing it out of the trash and eating it. I'm this close to ripping my skin off with my own teeth. At least I'm warm for the first time. Instead of cursing the draft coming through my window, it actually feels good for once. My face is flushed and my ears are warm. I can feel it. My entire body is heating up. I almost want to take my clothes off and sleep naked. Usually sleeping naked is a pseudo-sensual experience, but nothing makes you feel more unsexy than being Rashy Naked Girl.
big change, the choices we make
in life, gut instincts, on-the-whim
hairpin turns, the search for truth, the desire to be happy, the journey to finding out what
makes us happy.
being young and clueless, hoping
that we're not blindly leading ourselves to our own demise with every
tentative step we take, the pitfalls of dating, the trials
and travails of being a young woman in the post-feminist era.