The Plant

There is a plant in my apartment, which I have had for years. I can not remember when I got it, but it has followed me from place to place, apartment to apartment. It lives in a tiny plastic brown pot, which sits within another slightly larger porcelain white planter, making it look like it has more space than it does.

Every day I look at this plant with both admiration and guilt – proud of how it has survived over the years in less than ideal conditions, yet embarrassed with my lazy refusal to recognize that it has outgrown its current home.  “It’s still green” I tell myself, to ease the guilt. “I water it when I remember, and it sits near the window so it gets light”. But when I look closer I have to admit I’m bluffing, because I can see the weakening of the stalk, the slight withering and curling of the ends of the leaves where they are slowly turning brown. It’s roots are struggling and have grown far too large for the tiny space I have confined it to for years.

I have had this plant for long enough to know that it’s not doing as well as I’d like to believe. This plant is not healthy. It needs sunlight, needs to be outside. Yes, it is time for a transfer somewhere new, because living things need room to grow.

Thoughts on Schoolwork, Advocacy and the Strain on Students

Life is full of responsibilities, choices, and priorities. It will always be a balancing act. The older I get, the more I realize the importance of being able to prioritize the areas that require focus, recognizing that there is a time and a place for each, and being able to forgive myself for not being able to “do it all” at once. We have to choose where to put our focus and then own that choice, even when it means that other areas might suffer.

A side project or passion, and the time we dedicate to it, is a choice.  It can be a hard choice to make when faced with obligations like a job that pays the bills, or taking care of family.  But when it comes to educational obligations, we must remember that college or university is also a choice. Can we really attend university – knowing that it comes with very specific expectations of what it takes in order to succeed – and then complain that the other things we are passionate about should justify not being able to complete those tasks?  A degree is not something we pay for and are entitled to receive. We all enroll in higher education knowing that to be successful, to get a degree and graduate, takes a certain level of competence. Missing classes, not studying, and not completing assignments because we are focusing on other passions is a decision that we are entitled to make – but not one that a school is required to accommodate.

Yes, school is a time to pursue meaningful learning both in and out of the classroom. However, it is also the biggest lesson one gets in time management, and learning how to prioritize. So you’re feeling stressed?  Welcome to the real world, kid.

The Taste of Nostalgia

A piece I wrote after a trip to Maastricht, March 25th, 2010

i have a hard time leaving any place where i’ve spent enough time to form habits, make memories, meet friends or develop a routine. driving away from maastricht on our way to the airport, i was filled with a horrible feeling of loss, of leaving a place and lifestyle that i was beginning to really enjoy. the worst part of this feeling is that it stems from the knowledge that no matter when you go back to that place, even if its for the same reason, even if its with the same people… the circumstances will have changed, people will have changed, and the entire experience and feeling can never be relived. there are upsides to this of course, but it never fails to break my heart. time and moments and places and people, all make me extremely sentimental and leaving them behind makes me instantly nostalgic. the idea that we can never get a moment back, have the same experience again, just makes so glaringly obvious how short life is and how present we should be for every moment before it is taken away and we’re left with nothing but memories.

when i returned to my apartment in new york, completely drained after 16 hours of travel, i felt this strange sensation of separation between my state of mind and physical being. here i was, in my room in my apartment in new york, and everything was in the same state as before. just how i left it. yet my mind was not. i felt changed, i felt different, and returning to a place that held other feelings and memories and worries, things i had left behind for the past three weeks, was confusing and frustrating.

i love new york, but at that moment i felt nothing.

i missed the small town of Vrijthof, the cobbled streets made for pedestrians and bikes, walking to work in the morning, stopping by the patisserie for a croissant and sandwiches for lunch and walking on the bridge across the river and seeing the scenic city of Maastricht in 360 degree view. I missed the cappuccinos from the shop on the other side of the river and the winding walk past the too new shops and sterile condominiums to the large convention center MECC and walking through the back entrance over the slippery tiled floors to the soft carpeted hall where every booth was vacuuming, dusting and preparing for the day. I missed seeing the familiar faces in the design section and the friends we made behind the sushi bar, the simple excitement of designs in the cappuccino foam, visiting other booths, marveling at the works of art and inviting friends for a drink at mojito’clock. I missed the end of the day and the walk home, dinner with clients and friends and drinks at take5, the exciting and the unexpected, the freedom and the complete and utter sense of being exactly where i wanted to be.

a few days back in the city and those feelings begin to shift and change, and i can feel my mind returning to my body and to the city and to life and plans and possibilities here… and despite everything, the past begins to slip away, only to return in the tune of a song, the taste of a drink, when least expected.

On Perfection

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What is ‘perfect’? When talking about a person, what does that mean? When talking about an object, or a situation, it usually means having no flaws. But is this what it means for people? Because if so, then ‘perfect’ must be incredibly boring, and I can’t imagine anything less perfect than that.

Flaws are what make people interesting, what give people character, and distinguish us from others. What makes one person perfect for another is not the absence of flaws, but flaws that someone can relate to, can overlook, can find endearing. What defines perfect for one person cannot define it for another. I don’t want to be with someone that doesn’t have flaws, because I certainly have many. Some I’d like to work on, others I think I can live with. I am not seeking to eliminate flaws, to chisel away at myself or others so that I am left with something I don’t recognize anymore, but to find someone who appreciates me as I am, who I appreciate as they are, despite all these things… and maybe sometimes, because of them.

The Lives We Lead

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“Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you’ve never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground.” 

– Judith Thurman

A whiff of perfume, a song through my headphones, the sight of a tree standing brilliantly against a clear blue sky – makes me reminisce about places I’ve never been but that I am sure I know very well.  Sometimes I am transported to a a tiny street where I can find a dusty cafe playing jazz music and serving red wine, other times it’s a glamorous world of cool marble foyers and high ceilings and open windows looking out across an ocean. Sometimes it’s rolling hills and olive trees and the smell of burning grass and running and climbing and tumbling… sometimes it’s a room with a fire and creaky wood floors and the smell of hot cider and the feel of wool blankets and snow outside for miles and miles. Sometimes I long for the scenario so badly it aches, like its something I once had that has since been ripped away from me in some tragic turn of events.

A large majority of my life has been based around these fantasies of what I imagine that life is like, or could be like, in different places, countries, houses, jobs, different scenarios, with different people – influenced by stories read when I was 11, thick books of stock photos of exotic places and houses I would pour over when I was 14, or songs I listened to at 17.

But which scenario do I pursue? Is it possible to have and experience them all? Each of these lives are possible if fully pursued, but how do you pursue a desire that literally changes with the wind, with the sight or smell of something new?

* * *

“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.”

– Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
* * * 

And yet during all this, I am living another life, the one that is my “reality”, the one I’ve created that includes little pieces of all these dreams and childhood picture books and stories and songs. Life is a little bit of all these fantasies, but at the same time it is never fully any one, individually. Is it possible for anyone to be completely satisfied and fully involved in the life currently being lived without ever dreaming or fantasizing of another?

There have certainly been many moments of sublime contentment, weeks while traveling, days exploring a new place, moments while surrounded by good friends or people I love, where I have thought YES, this is exactly where I want to be, exactly the life I want to be living right at this moment. But for the most part, we move forward, striving towards something we dream of, that may or may not be.

Then again, our physical reality is viewed through the individual lens of our mental reality… So as on that waterslide in Ohio, am I not exactly the person that I feel that I am, living that life I imagine, even just for those few moments?

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