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Introductory Nutrition

17 Jul

The one class I took this summer was Introduction to Nutrition. A standard requirement for every nursing school and most PA programs. The summer course was a condensed version. Instead of three months, it was over a course of five weeks. Note to self to never sign up for one of those condensed courses again.

I wasn’t sure what a Nutrition course would entail. Foods? Diets? Disorders? Why did every program require this class? THIS course was an overview of what can in and of itself be a degree program. We studied macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrate) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), the way the body processes and uses them, disorders that arise from them, the standard American diet (acronym SAD!), and food issues around the globe. We also had to track everything we ate through nutrition software and submit reports on our health and our diet.

From the first class, I was a little irked at my professor. I could tell 15 minutes in that she was a vegan and that she wanted us to be vegans and that every subject that we discussed would circle back to her main thesis: meat/dairy is BAD, EVIL, WRONG. I was angry that she seemed to be forcing an ideology on her students instead of teaching us the subject matter.

Maybe it was the condensed nature of the course, but I slowly began to drink the vegan kool-aid. Vegan diets lead to a reduction of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. I read a study that put vegan blood in a petri dish with aggressive cancer cells, and the blood KILLED the cancer cells. Blood from meat eaters (even healthy ones) only killed a tiny percentage of the cancer cells. The vegan blood killed almost all of them. Outside of the health aspects, I was affected by the environmental impact of meat production and the treatment of the animals in these facilities. I felt enormous guilt that I spend all day taking care of animals, then I spend money eating animals that were tortured their entire lives. I had also developed skin issues over the last year. A combination of acne and rosacea that only seemed to be getting worse. I saw two dermatologists who both told me the same thing. “This is caused by dairy, red meat, and alcohol.”

So I gave it a shot. I could do it. I could be vegan. But about a week in, I found myself leaving the grocery store with a bag full of hummus and veggies. Outside the store was a taco truck. I stopped and looked at the menu. Quesadillas, tacos, tortas, burritos. All full of meat and cheese. Not a vegan option in sight. About ten minutes passed as I stood there in my trance of cataloguing all the delicious things I was giving up. Cheeseburgers, wings, pizza, tuna melts, BBQ, hot dogs, chicken tacos, turkey sandwiches. grilled cheeses, brie on crackers. I felt so sad. Yeah, I was eating a lot healthier, but what’s the point of life if I can’t enjoy anything. As Dr. G told me, “We all dig our own graves.” Something is going to kill you one day, and it’s all about making choices with the risks we are willing to take.

I brooded on my diet for about a week. I tried to come to terms with what I believe, what is best for me. I came to the conclusion that I don’t believe that eating meat is morally wrong. But I do think the way we produce meat in this country is. A couple of years ago I vacationed on a cattle ranch in New Mexico , where I got to see cattle roaming free, living a happy life with plenty of fresh air, quality medical care and healthy, natural feed. They had a good life, and I felt no guilt about eating them. But unfortunately that’s not the life that the majority of livestock in this country lead. That being said, I couldn’t go vegan. I just don’t know how. There had to be some type of in-between.

So I created an allowance for myself. 5 instances of dairy/eggs per week. 3 instances of meat (including fish). Two weeks in, and I think it’s going well. I’m still eating a mostly vegan diet, but when I’m out with my friends, I can have a buffalo wing. Or I can have a small ice cream cone on a summer day. At least I know I’m reducing my intake and making sure it stays low. Since I decided to do this I’ve noticed that my skin has almost completely cleared up, I’ve stopped having stomach issues, I need less sleep at night, and I feel as though I’m forced to eat more fruits and veggies which is never a bad thing. Overall, I think it’s going swimmingly.

I’ve also noticed a lot of push back from the people around me. I’ve had some friends dramatically scold me for my new diet. They tell me that I’m not going to get enough protein (not a problem if you eat smart), or that I’m being annoying/crazy, or that it’s worthless, that my eating less meat isn’t going to make that big of a difference. I don’t understand why people get so defensive about MY eating choices. So I’ve decided to stop talking about it, to just do my own thing, eat my own way, and let that be. I earn my paycheck, as modest as it might be, and I choose to divert my money away from meat/dairy and toward more whole foods. That’s my choice. My small difference to make in the world.

I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

-Edward Everett Hale

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The Summer of Chrissy

9 Jul

I’m free! I can’t believe that a year ago I was scrambling around the city trying to register for classes and balance my school and work schedules. A week ago, I finished my summer session class, and with that final grade posted, I can now start my applications for nursing school. AH! While I loved loved loved my classes, (if I had my undergrad to do over again, I’d major in Chemistry) there were a lot of sacrifices involved. I worked part-time, did a ton of pet sitting, and most of my free time was spent studying as much as possible. I spent many weekends at home memorizing polyatomic ions or the different digestive enzymes.

But that’s over. The grades I worked so hard for are in the books, and I have nothing more I can do until school starts up again in September. I’m back to working full-time at the vet clinic, but I feel like I’ve been let out of a cage. I can read books! I can write blog posts! I want to dance in Lincoln Square! Play softball in Central Park! Drink beers with friends on a rooftop bar till 4am! This is going to be the greatest summer. Every day that I have free, I want to spend wisely, explore my city, meet new people. I feel silly that I always had three days off a week before I went to school, and I never really used them.

But there’s no time to dwell in the past. I’ve got so many things to do. My to-do list is looking a lot more interesting these days.

A Quick Hello

27 Oct

 

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I’ve been a wee bit busy.

Just to get this out of the way, I’m not quitting this blog. I have no intentions, nor have I had any intentions to quit, but life has been WHIRLWIND as of late, and I find myself at night collapsing into a blob of exhaustion, all the events of the day and the endless to-do lists swirling in my head, and one of my last thoughts as I disappear into dreamless sleep is, “Oh dear, my poor neglected blog.”

But things are great! Things are spectacular! Things are vastly different than my life has been previously. A mere shadow of what it once was, and I can’t remember a time when I was happier. So many things have happened that I wanted to write about. I got a black eye while swimming laps this summer! There’s a new vet at work, and he’s made it his mission to get me fired (not working out well for him)! School is so much fun! I’ve become a cat sitting machine and have doubled my income while cutting my hours at the office! Holy Hell, I turned 30.

And there’s more. Much more. I have plenty of ideas for posts, and they will be coming. I bought myself an adorable planner, and I’ve kicked up my organizational game. So all I need is a couple of days to organize my thoughts and hopefully starting churning out some new posts. I think a reason I’ve neglected writing here is because now that I’m shifting away from being a vet tech, I’m not sure where I want to take this blog. To be honest, it’s never had a solid theme as much as it has had a smattering of different posts over the years. Perhaps it will continue the same. I’ve shied away from writing about my life and what I’m doing, because it feels narcissistic and revealing. But those are the posts I enjoy writing, and I’m hoping to share more of them in the future.

Good things are coming, I promise.

Moving Day

26 Jul

The last month and a half has been a whirlwind. I’ve been doing everything I can to just catch my breath and stay afloat. But now that things are calming down, and I’m feeling settled, something has felt missing. And, it was only a couple of days ago that I thought about my poor, neglected blog. So excuse me while I stretch my typing fingers out and try and remember how to do this again.

 

To make a long story short, perhaps to be discussed in another post, I thought I was moving to Vermont for a while, then I decided to stay. It made me happy and sad, and it’s complicated. But through it all, I kept in contact with my landlord to make sure it was okay that I stayed through the summer (my lease was up in June) and when I decided to stay, that I could resign a 12-month lease. Through it all, I was told this was fine.

Fast forward to Memorial Day weekend, when I get a text from my landlord that says that they are actually going to give the apartment to a family member, so my roommates and I need to be out by the end of June. I was essentially being evicted. I was covering for co-workers for the following 13 days straight, no days off, and I had also just received a jury duty summons in the mail.

Of course I’ve been through tougher things, but it felt like nothing was going right. How was I going to find a new place in time, in my price range, not to far out from the city, not in a horrible neighborhood? That night I drank Tequila and cried on the phone to my mom. Finding a new place and moving in the space of a couple of weeks felt impossible.

Fast forward to now. I’m sitting in my adorable apartment, in a cute house with a rose garden out front. I’m in a vibrant neighborhood that makes me grin ear to ear when I get off the train and walk home. My new roommates are friendly and keep the apartment clean and homey. All in all, I’m in a much better place. My old apartment (albeit my enormous) was always dirty due to my negligent roommates, my neighborhood was a Chinatown without a quality grocery store or bar around, my landlords were rude and inept at fixing things in the apartment. But I was settled. It was where I had lived for years, and I was happy enough. Not really happy, but happy enough.

But I didn’t know how wonderful things COULD be, and even though things felt overwhelming and frustrating during the weeks of apartment hunting nonstop, all the annoyance and pain brought me to a much better place. It made me think about other times that has happened in my life. When I got my reception job at the Veterinary office five years ago, I lamented to my then-boyfriend that it was a dead-end job, unworthy of my ambitions. But I didn’t realize it would lead me to a career I have loved and to another one I’m truly excited about. Almost two years ago, I sat at a bar with a friend of mine, crying about a recent break-up, certain I’d never meet anyone ever again, and I’d never find happiness. The bartender that was working that night became a friend of mine and over time has become something even more than that. And he’s the one that, with genuine excitement, helped me pack up my old apartment and move into my beautiful new one, keeping me calm through the process and sharing beers with me afterwards.

It’s hard to remember it in the moment, but sometimes the frustrating or difficult parts of life are making room or preparing us for something better. Maybe I’m lucky or blessed, and I try to keep in mind that in a lot of ways, I am. But I also think things do happen for a reason, and to quote one of my favorite poems “The Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann, “…whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should be.” I don’t subscribe to any religion, but I do have faith in the fact that good things can happen, good things are on the horizon, and in the end, it’s all just trivial nonsense. I look back at the stress and tears over having to move in a short amount of time, and it feels like nothing in the greater scheme of my life or even my year or even this summer. Some way somehow, it is all going to be a-ok.

 

New Beginnings

21 May

I’ve been weighing in my head for months how to write this post, and I think there’s no better way to write it than to just dive in.

I’m leaving veterinary medicine.

It weighs on me, because I have accumulated a number of vet tech readers, and I know a lot of the traffic I get to the site is about my experiences as a technician. And while I’m not quitting completely anytime soon, I’m going to begin transitioning out of it.

Why?

It’s difficult for me how to explain how I’ve arrived at this fork in the road, because many things that happened in the last 6-7 months that led me to this decision. If you’ll humor me, a list:

  1. PENN FOSTER ABANDONED ME- I’ve talked in the past about the benefits of the program, and I’ve since considered deleting that post. But after years of doing practicums and acing all the tests, I came to the final practicum which required me to do film x-rays. Most clinics are digital, so it took months for me to find a place. When I did, the program waterlogged me for months and didn’t approve my location until the clinic had transitioned to digital. The head veterinarian at my clinic, Dr. S, even called the deans of the vet tech program to try and fix the situation. “We have an intelligent, talented technician here,” I heard him say on the phone. “And we are going to lose her to another industry, and I don’t want that.” Penn Foster continued to not follow through on their promises to rectify this situation. So here I sit after years of work, unable to take my licensing exam and without the vet tech degree I worked so hard for. Dr. S’s compliments rang in my ears as I decided it wasn’t worth it to me to fight Penn Foster, that maybe the industry should lose me.
  2. I DATED A MIRROR IMAGE OF MYSELF- Last fall I was dating someone who had a penchant for moping. He wasn’t where he wanted to be in his life, which I understand. But I found a deep well of frustration at him for not doing something about it, about not chasing down avenues that would move him forward. I would nag him and found myself losing respect for him. But at some point, I saw my own hypocrisy. I am not where I want to be in my life, and I have a lot of things lacking. I tend to mope and whine about it. I don’t know how many times I’ve added to my to-do lists “Figure Life Out” half-joking, half-serious. So I took my own nagging to heart. I broke up with him and decided I had to set myself on a new path.
  3. I WEARIED OF MY NEW YORK LIFE- Around this time, newly single, I found myself sliding into old patterns. Online dating, staying out late drinking with friends, complaining about how poor I am. Like waking from a dream I realized these weren’t things I wanted to do. These things were not making me happy anymore, and it was time to tackle the biggest item on my to-do list. I decided I had no time and no interest in dating. I stopped spending time with friends whose lives revolved around bar tabs and nursing hangovers. I took three days off of work and camped out in my apartment and hashed out what I REALLY, TRULY, DEEPLY wanted to make happen in my life. What my experiences and what my talents can lend themselves to.  I researched careers. I talked to a variety of people. I looked into schooling length and costs. I spent countless weekends alone at my apartment with delivered Thai food sorting through all my data.
  4. I STARTED DIPPING MY TOES IN THE WATER OF SOMETHING NEW- And I realized that this wasn’t suffice; it was better to dive in. I’ve made a commitment to pursuing something different and yet somewhat similar. It’s terrifying. It’s uncertain. But I feel more alive and more excited about the years to come than I have in so long.

So I’ve started taking the necessary steps toward becoming a Physician Assistant. All the whys and wherefores are better left for posts to come. And like any transition in life, although I’m poised to do something great in the years to come, my heart stirs with a subtle melancholy at what I know I’ll leave behind.

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This is a one-month old rescue kitten found under a porch in Queens. After I gave it a deworming solution, put some ointment in its tiny infected eyes, it nuzzled its whiskers against my cheek in a kitten kiss.

OF COURSE I’M GOING TO MISS THAT.

The four years I’ve had as a veterinary technician have been so meaningful to me and led me to understand that I’m way better at science than I had ever realized. That I have a passion for medicine. That I have to be in a field where I alleviate suffering and improve quality of life. I have to be challenged and excited. I’ve loved being a veterinary technician, but I always felt it was a stepping stone to something else, and I’m ready for that next step.

Like I said before, I’m still a full-time technician for the next couple of months, and my “family” at the clinic are being nothing but supportive, offering to work around a school schedule and allow me to stay on part-time. So this isn’t the end yet. And I’ll be writing about each step of my PA journey. But for now, that’s all I wanted to get off my chest. On to the next thing.

Hi, is (Voter Name) there?

22 Mar

I’m not going to get political other than to say that I support Bernie Sanders. (And yet push come to shove, I’d vote for almost anyone over Donald Trump. I’d vote for Elmo over Donald Trump.) That being said, I signed up for the Bernie Sanders campaign months ago and have received between 3-6 emails a day about strategy, about his beliefs, and of course asking for money. “C’mon, Christine!” These emails seem to say to me. “Isn’t $3 worth it to show the billionaire class that they can’t control our government!” It totally is. But I don’t contribute, and I use the excuse that I’m saving up to go back to school, and it’s going to be expensive. And I’m stressed about the tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt I’m about to take on. Bernie would understand! This approaching storm cloud of debt didn’t stop me from spending $15 on a carrot, cucumber, and Pimms cocktail this weekend, and I understand the hypocrisy there. But it was delicious, and it made me feel healthy and buzzed at the same time, so that’s that.

But I do believe in the Bern, and I’d love to see him elected, so I decided to give my time instead of my precious dollars. I signed up for a Phonebanking “Party.” Last night, as I headed to the stranger’s apartment in Long Island City, I felt waves of anxiety. I hate the phone. I hate talking to strangers. I hate when strangers call me asking for things. I don’t want to annoy people while they are trying to eat dinner. I told myself a million times, on the train, on the walk, that I should turn around and go home, but I felt committed.

It was a small group. The host and one of her friends were middle aged tech-hippies who have been phone banking for weeks. A young guy named Lee who looked like he had just come from a mock UN trial, clear braces on his teeth and everything. A millennial girl like me, same MacBook Air and everything. Later, an odd guy showed up who had a Bernie puppet. Instead of making calls, he practiced the arm movements of Bernie and asked for feedback. Brie and crackers, Modelo beer, and some wine. Temporary tattoos of Bernie dressed like Robin Hood. Everybody settled around their laptops with their phones.

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Bernie Sanders puppet. 

I picked Washington State since those are my people. I read through the pre-written script a hundred times, terrified of turning my caller setting to ready and initiating the first call. “If I get one person yelling at me, I’m going home.” I told myself. I guess I’m still traumatized from my Upper East Side receptionist days. But I took a deep breath and did what everyone else was doing and felt the sway of mob mentality. I hung up on the first few people I called, because I didn’t realize that I wouldn’t hear the telephone ring. It was just a beep, and then I was supposed to start talking. Oh shit, I’m doing exactly what I feared. I’m annoying people.

But it wasn’t so bad once I got going. Most of the people I called were wrong numbers or they hung up on me right away. I always wondered what that must feel like. It’s relief. As long as I wasn’t being berated I was happy. The script in front of me was ridiculous. A big lead up about Sanders and why he’s great and how I’m voting for him. And then finally the question, “Are you planning on caucusing for him on March 26?” I couldn’t do it. To me that felt like the most annoying part of these automated calls. Instead I just said, “My name is Chrissy, and I’m calling on behalf of Senator Bernie Sanders. Do you have a minute to talk?”

Totally off script, no question like that exists in the script. I was just supposed to launch into my speech. Lee looked over his laptop at me, mouth agape. I’m a rebel, Lee; I refuse to annoy people. I get it though, the reason we aren’t supposed to ask that question is because people say, “No, I don’t have time to talk.” But that’s their prerogative in my opinion. Overall I got a lot of kind responses (I knew Washingtonians would be polite) saying they were busy, but “Go Bernie!” I reminded people of the caucus date and directed them to Bernie’s website for more info. I didn’t see how much good I could possibly be doing. Until I got a hold of Karyn.

The website told me she was 26 and in a suburb outside of Seattle. She did have a minute to talk!

“Can Bernie count on your support on March 26?” I asked.
“You know, I love Bernie, but I’m really on the fence, and I wonder if Hillary is a better option.”

I saw on the script what I was supposed to say. “I understand! Check out Bernie’s website.” But the script is bullshit, and I was talking to a human being, a fellow countrywoman who was on the fence about an important political decision. We spent about 10 minutes talking. She told me about her concerns about Sanders campaigns, some that I’ve thought a lot about too. Doesn’t Hillary have better foreign policy experience? Doesn’t she have a better chance of beating Trump than a self-described Socialist does? I told her how her concerns were valid, and why I came down on the side of Sanders in regards to these issues. I don’t know if I persuaded her, but I gave her somethings to think about. Lee was glaring at me. I had gone SO off-script. I color outside the lines, Lee. Deal with it.

“I’ll definitely do some more research, I guess,” Karyn told me. “I really appreciate you calling. I think what you’re doing is good.” I DIDN’T EXPECT THAT.
“Thanks for agreeing to talk to me, and seriously, check out his website, there is a lot of good information there, and you can volunteer like this in your area if you are interested?”

I can’t believe that I might have persuaded someone. It made the whole anxiety-filled two hours feel worth it. I hung up smiling. And after a couple more calls, I packed it in.

Will I do it again? Maybe. Not against it. Was it worth it? Maybe. If I got out a couple of extra votes. Will I approach campaign callers differently in the future? Absolutely. I had forgotten that on the other end is just another person who believes in something and wants to share it. It really is just a quick conversation. A yes or no. Is it easier to just donate the $3 Bernie keeps asking for? FOR SURE.

The Greatest Drinking Scam

15 Mar

Sometime last Spring, I decided I wanted to drink much, much less than I have through my teens and twenties. It was a culmination of things. As I get older the hangovers are getting crippling, I hated how it affected my kickboxing, I realized how much money I was dropping at bars, etc.

This had rather bad timing with the arrival of my best friend Zach in New York City. Friends since the first week of freshman year, we once got so drunk together that we took turns vomiting in the same toilet. Talk about bonding. He’s a bartender by trade and decided to move to New York after going through a rough breakup. He arrived wanting to hit the town hard. A precarious situation for me, trying to stay away from the sauce. How could I say no? Two of his cousins who I’m also close with (Brian and Jeff) live here as well, and they love to order and take shots. The worst! Even when I was going out a lot, I hated taking shots. It felt like the express train to illness and hangover. But weekend after weekend, we all go out, and they insist on shots. I protest and say no, but eventually give in.

Late in January, on the eve of the biggest snow storm of the winter, we went out to Brooklyn to celebrate Zach’s 30th birthday. I sipped on my beers and was enjoying a happy buzz. As I made my way back to the table from the bathroom, I spot Brian at the bar. I sidle up next to him, weighing whether I want another beer or not. I can see the bartender with three shot-sized glasses.

“No, Brian, no. I can’t do shots. I can’t.”
“Don’t worry about it. I got Zach whiskey, and I got us shot glasses of water.

It takes my mind a moment to wrap my head around this level of genius. While I’m catching up, Brian tells the bartender to add limes to the side of the glasses, for added panache.

“Why has no one thought of this before?!?!” He exclaims before we head back to the table. I’m known for my ick face when taking a shot. So I pulled out my best acting chops after throwing back the cool, refreshing water. I contorted my face and yelled “Poison!” Zach laughed and pointed at me, as he likes to do. Happy birthday, buddy.

We left the bar well after midnight, the blizzard starting its rage. We trudged through the empty streets, facing an onslaught of flurries. Despite the water scheme, I felt nicely buzzed, and we all laughed as we shoved handfuls of snow in each other’s faces. A pretty epic snow fight ensued. Finally in the train station, dripping from the snow melting on our coats, we all embrace in a group hug.

Genius. Genius! Water masquerading as tequila. But of course, as any true crime aficionado knows, criminals love to brag about their victories, and I got this text message when I was in Savannah.

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Brian gave us away and bragged to Zach about the ploy! Alas, the Great Water Con of 2016 will have to be retired. But for one night, as are most ideas during a night out drinking, it was the best idea ever.

The Christmas Eve Tahini Sauce Incident

7 Jan

This wasn’t the first Christmas that I’ve spent away from family. One year I was snowed in by a freak blizzard in Seattle and couldn’t get a flight home till late Christmas day. And I spent my first Christmas on the East Coast with my then-boyfriend’s family in Maryland. This was my first year since that Maryland Christmas that I didn’t travel to Reno to see my parents or to Philadelphia to see my family there. I thought I might spend the holiday with a boyfriend, but I had decided to end things the week before.

I had to work late on Christmas Eve, but I found a Lutheran church that had a late candlelight service at 10pm. It’s one of my favorite traditions, so I thought I’d put on my brand new Stitch Fix dress and treat myself.

After work, I had some time to kill before the service, so I went to the only open bookstore I could find and bought myself a new book and a nice new shoulder bag to carry it in. I walked the 30 blocks from Union Square to where the church was located. New York City has been so warm this winter; I used the walk to enjoy the weather and clear my mind.

I made it up to the Hell’s Kitchen area where the church was and thought, “What a nice evening I’m having!” Then, I decided to treat myself further. To a falafel sandwich.

I walked into a small store that had a wide range of specialty falafels. It was full of Israeli people, and I stuck out. Everyone was being exceptionally kind to me, as it was Christmas Eve, and I was clearly alone. I ordered my sandwich, and an older man wearing a yarmulke smiled at me and promised, “This will be the best falafel you ever have!”

The giant sandwich barely fit in my hands as I carried it to the other side of the store where a variety of sauces were. I picked up the tahini sauce to put it on my sandwich, but nothing came out. I gave it one quick shake, and the lid of the bottle came off and the entire bottle of Tahini sauce drenched my sandwich, my hands, my jacket, my brand new dress, my boots. I stand there frozen, holding the empty bottle and watching the sauce drip from my sandwich to the floor. I lift my gaze to look around the tiny shop, unsure what to do.

I was alone on Christmas Eve. No family. No boyfriend. My brand new dress was ruined. I was hungry. My sandwich was ruined. I had told myself all day that I was okay with it all, but I wasn’t, and it took that tahini sauce to make me feel it. But I held it together. I wanted to cry, but I swallowed it down. Until all the patrons of the little falafel shop swarmed me.

The guys who were working there took my ruined sandwich and started making me a new one. The old man who had promised me a magical falafel experience asked me if I was okay. A couple with a baby stroller started handing me a bunch of baby wipes to clean myself. All these strangers huddled around me and tried to make sure I was okay. And that’s what made me cry. Embarrassing tears falling out on their own. I had tried so hard to make the best of things, and it was as if the universe had replied, “Nope. Not today.”

I cleaned myself up as best I could and figured I couldn’t go to a new church covered in Tahini sauce stains. So I gathered my things and rushed out the door as someone yelled behind me, “Miss, you forgot your sandwich!” I couldn’t face them. I was humiliated by my tears and by my inadvertent clumsiness.

I’ve recounted this story a dozen times to my friends and family, often to a reaction of laughing and joking. Christmas didn’t turn out so bad as I spent it with friends. I look back on that night in that falafel shop as an important reminder. Those strangers didn’t have to rally around me like they did. They didn’t have to worry about me and try to make it right. I was embarrassed, but I wish I had the courage to stay and to say thank you. New York can seem like a cold and distant place, and the world at large as hateful things happening all the time.

But there are two ways of looking at my Christmas Eve falafel incident. One: the universe is cruel and unforgiving. Or two: there is an inherent goodness in people, and even though I started the evening feeling alone, I wasn’t. It just took a bottle of tahini sauce to see that even strangers can be there.

I don’t even remember exactly where the shop was, and I have no way of tracking down those strangers, but I am so grateful that they were there that night and that they were kind to me. As I rode the subway home and thought about all that had happened, it was the first time in the whole day that I honestly felt like I was okay and that things would be fine.

Thank you strangers. Thank you so much for that.

3 Lessons I’ve Learned in 2015

26 Dec

2015 New Year celebration

I’ve always been a huge fan of New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve figured that the key to good resolutions is in the specifics. You can’t say “Be healthier.” It needs to be something trackable like “Eat a salad once a week” or “Work out twice a week.” I’m not one to lecture on these things, though, since I only went one-for-five on my resolutions this year. But I made significant progress toward the other four, so that’s a start!

I read somewhere on the inter webs this week an article a girl had written about her lessons learned over the year. I can’t for the life of me find it, but the idea of it stuck with me. It’s not enough to set goals moving forward, we also have to look back and choose what lessons we take with us.

I’m surprised at how hard I had to stew in my thoughts to figure out what are the things I’ve learned this year. Of course, there were a million mini-revelations like finding the right shade of lipstick for my pale skin tone and just how much money I save by packing lunch (so much money!). But I turned to my diary to recap the year and see if there were any grander life lessons to be gleaned.

LESSON #1: TRUST THAT GUT FEELING

In the relationships of my past, I spent a lot of time trying to make things work, hoping things fell into place. I’d make excuses about timing and how things can develop. But as I get older, I realize that voice inside of me that quietly whispers, “This ain’t going to work” shouldn’t be ignored. I’ve always been open to giving someone a chance, but at some point, you know. You know in your heart of hearts that this person isn’t YOUR person. This was the year I decided I was done with settling for anything less than amazing. It saved me time and heartbreak and saved the lovely people I dated time and heartbreak to accept that moving forward wasn’t going to work. It wasn’t a set of deal-breakers or standards that I set. It was trusting my heart when it told me to move on.

LESSON #2: A NIGHT IN IS A VALID AND ACCEPTABLE OPTION

I love going out with my friends. I love trying new things and meeting new people. But for a long time I measured my life by how amazing my nights out were. And if I found myself home without plans on a Friday or Saturday night, I almost felt like I was in a panic. What did that say about my life? I’m in my twenties, shouldn’t I be out on the town having adventures? Is my life as exciting as those I see on Instagram?

When I was a senior in high school, I had an odd falling out with my best friend at the time. We stopped talking, and I was ostracized from my social circle. I spent months with nothing to do on my weekends. So I started going to music shops and book shops alone and buying NME magazine, the New Yorker, Harper’s. I’d spend my evenings listening to Brit Pop, the Velvet Underground, David Bowie. I’d read my dorky literary magazines and write for hours in my diary and other notebooks. I eventually made new friends who have remained some of my closest friends to this day. The point is, I used the time alone on my own to grow, to give time to things that I loved and was interested in. I brooded on existential questions about what I wanted out of life and I made collages of cool bands from the magazines I read.

I loved those nights, and I’ve brought them back. I treasure my nights in reading, writing, cooking, studying. I learned to stop caring about whether my life is as glamorous as it could be.

LESSON #3: INVEST IN SMALL KINDNESS

Here’s a key to instant happiness: do something nice for someone else. It doesn’t have to be big. I got paper valentines for my girlfriends in February. I bought my friend who was having anxiety issues a small book about breathing and introductory meditation. I tried to smile and be as nice as possible to cashiers and waiters. No matter what. Even on my worst days when I curse the city, the subway, the weather, the smells, the everything. In fact, those are the days when I needed it the most. By smiling and making a genuine effort to be kind, I found that the kindness was mirrored right back to me. It didn’t take much to make my forced smile become a natural one. If I made a stranger’s day better, so be it. If I reminded friends and family that I love them and appreciate them, that’s great! Being kind to people is never a bad idea.

 

Sylvia Plath and Aziz Ansari

19 Dec
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From the amazing zenpencils.tumblr.com

I have been watching Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix show “Master of None.” I’m a huge fan of his comedy, and the show doesn’t disappoint. He’s one of those comedians that manages to be hilarious while remaining smart and thought-provoking. He’s unafraid to mix silly humor with humor that requires a modicum of intelligence. In the season finale (won’t give anything away), his father quotes Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar.” Aziz’s character goes to a bookstore and reads a section of the book while thinking about his life.

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

I love Sylvia Plath. And I love “The Bell Jar.” In college, I was obsessed with the book like so many millions of women of the age when life is a giant abyss before you with too many questions and too much uncertainty. I only learned years later that it was a cliche to be a young woman who loves Sylvia Plath. So even though I had read the book a half-dozen times, nodding along to every poetic sentence that seemed to dig into my heart, I stopped talking about it. I didn’t want to be that girl. The one that wears black and thinks big, dramatic thoughts about life and feminism. The Sylvia Plath fan who had likewise gone through sad times in life and felt inspired by the poets ability to channel it into beautiful words, poems, stories.

But I am that girl. The book remains one of my favorite because of passages that speak so directly to what it feels like to live in this day and age. I think the above quote is so apt for so many young people’s lives. It wasn’t long ago when people chose their profession usually by what their family did, what business their parents pushed them into. You worked where you apprenticed. You did what the community needed. Now we live in a global community with new levels of equality never seen before, especially for women. And these choices can be overwhelming. I know in the last couple of years I’ve considered veterinary school, law school, med school, speech/language pathology, writing, editing, web design. We are told to not settle, to find our true passion.

I don’t think that means certainty, though, and this is what Plath is speaking to. I envy my friends who decided what they wanted to be at 8-years-old and are now doing it. For the majority of us, though, I don’t think that’s the case. I think we, like Sylvia Plath, see hundreds of possibilities before us and are taught to wait for which one magically sings to us. But in this waiting, we let opportunity slip by. This quote got me thinking about choosing a fig, about just grabbing one. I’d argue with Plath that choosing a fig doesn’t mean that there are no other chances to choose another. After all, she did become a famous poet. But she also became a wife and mother. She took her own life at a shockingly young age, but if she hadn’t, there are plenty of figs that could have been before her. That’s the key to reading Plath. It’s the key to reading a lot of sad, dramatic writing. You can’t read it from within the Bell Jar, from her lens of negativity. You have to read it critically from the outside. Sure, swim around in her beautiful language, but also remember that she was wrong about some things. Reading her writing never depressed me, it always helped me to see anxiety-filled situations from a different lens and to feel less alone in those insecurities.

If you haven’t watched “Master of None,” you should do so as soon as possible. If for no other reason than to support a comedian who believes in quoting a poet on a television show. And you really must read “The Bell Jar.” Maybe even balance the two! Feel the melancholy of Plath and let Ansari cheer you up.