Trump’s New World Order

Hi little married munch,

I feel bad for my slow blog response. I can’t believe the last time you posted was August!!! I’m so sorry. I’m the one who has been holding it up. As I mentioned to you on the phone, I had first started a post about how I tried to be less judgmental during 2016. It was this whole nice post about personal growth and goals for 2017. But then Trump got inaugurated and I felt my whole world turn upside down. In a matter of a day, I suddenly left like I didn’t matter. My individual, personal goals didn’t matter. In one day, we were thrust into a new world order where all that mattered was fighting the government for those who have less, for those who will truly suffer under Trump’s leadership. My personal goals seemed frivolous when our country, and the world around it, was crumbling.

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The supervisor for the maternity ward shows me the birthing room, with two beds.

I have believed that America is the greatest country on earth. And I have believed that because we are formed of immigrants. When you get on the train in this country, you see people of all backgrounds, all skin colors, all walks of life, working to make their lives fruitful. America is great because we take the best from other countries and allow them to flourish.

When I come back to America from wherever I travel, I feel a deep, deep sense of relief to see all different hued people living together, working side by side. It’s not ideal, it’s not equal, but it is the best demonstration of diversity and inclusivity I have ever seen of any country.

When Trump threatens our diversity and our openness to others, the very thing that makes us great, when he tells Syrian children that they should throw away their hopes, when he tells countries that desperately need educated doctors that no, your people cannot be educated here, he is tearing the world down, one dream and one individual at a time.

The plan Trump is implementing for America not only takes away what makes us great, but it also effects the entire world. It effects people desperately seeking safety, those seeking higher education so that they can lift their own countries out of poverty, and those seeking new opportunities. Trump’s strategy puts a damper on our entire world.

Two days ago I visited Kolahun Hospital in the north of Liberia. According to the IMF, Liberia is the fourth poorest country in the world. It is obvious. In Kolahun Hospital, there is only one doctor. This hospital serves three districts in this extremely rural area. After the doctor, the next man in charge is a registered nurse. I spoke to him while we were there. He saw the first Ebola patient; he still remembers his name. He told me that he loves his country. He has seen it suffer and is determined to see it succeed. He said he wants to go to America to get his MD so he can come back and serve his people. Trump is crushing dreams like these. Dreams that only help the world become stronger.

And of course, there’s climate change. By ignoring climate change, Trump has sealed the world’s death letter.

Climate change is here. And it’s terrifying.

In Washington DC this winter, it flurried once. It’s been 70 and sunny day after day. When I wake up to find another spring-like day, a tingling sense of dread rises from the depths of my stomach. I am terrified of what climate change will bring us.

But as an educated white woman in Washington, DC, I don’t really need to worry about that much for myself. I, mostly likely, will be ok.

But here in Liberia, climate change has severe consequences.

The rain, they say here, is coming “so soon” this year, so soon. While I’ve been here, I’ve been through a few rain storms. When the rain comes, it thunders viciously down, pounding the tin roofs of the shack houses. High speed winds tear through them. While I was in the rural areas, there was an unexpected storm which was particularly bad. A few houses, an education director I spoke with told me, were ruined.

But more than the houses, it is the roads. Roads are the veins of a society, pumping the essentials for life into a nation. Food from farms to towns, trips to the hospital, visits to the bank, all this relies on roads. In rural Liberia, where most of the country lives, there are barely any roads. Those that do exist are unpaved, carved with pits and traversable only by Land Rovers or motorcycles. The people say the roads are “deplorable,” and it’s a perfect description.

Because of the lack of roads, it takes a person one hour to travel four miles by motorbike during the dry season.

But during the rainy season, the roads become mud trenches. They are nearly impassable. Trucks get swallowed in these mud pits. When this happens, the driver and all those on board shovel themselves out, leaving the road even more torn up for vehicles behind them.

We have been visiting hospitals and schools this week. As I mentioned before, Kolahun Hospital is one of the hospitals we visited. It serves three districts. It has one ambulance, an SUV with huge tires. When there is an emergency, that car travels down those mud trenches, spending hours to get to a destination maybe only 10 miles away. Even once the ambulance is close by, there may not be any roads to the exact location. What does this mean for hospitals? Patients unnecessarily die from causes that could have been cured.

The north of the country, where I am, used to be the bread basket of Liberia, but because of the road conditions, trucks can no longer transport food from the north to the south where the capital city is. Economic growth, which these people desperately need, has been stymied.

Visits to the banks, where teachers and health care workers pick their salaries up, take days, which means that teachers and health care workers leave their places of work to pick up their salaries, letting their students and patients suffer.

The rain, they say, is coming so soon. Too soon. Unusually soon.

I think of how climate change effects my life in DC. I will miss the snow.

I think of how it effects people in these villages. They can’t even consider climate change or the environment. This entire region has no electricity. None. Not even the cities. If you are lucky enough, you have a generator or a solar panel, which you use at night. This region has no running water. You pump your water from the village pump. There are 250 to one hand pump. If you are lucky, there are 150 to one hand pump. People here are focused on finding food for the day, on surviving. They don’t have time to think of climate change, and the fact that America is poisoning the earth. All they know is that the rain is coming too soon, and what it means for them is hardship. More months of hardship.

It pains me to think that we, the West, are poisoning the planet, and others, these faceless others in places far away, are the ones that will suffer.

Trump has turned our worlds upside down, but more than us, he is hurting those at the bottom of society most. Those who are fortunate, like us, need to help those who are less fortunate. How can we sit around in our privilege while others, because of some random accident of birth, suffer.

Feeling the feels

Just the other day we were talking about happiness and finding happiness within oneself. Being tuned into one’s mood and emotions is a complicated task. As humans we are unique in our ability to not only feel emotions but to also have some control over the way we express those emotions. But even when one tries to mask how one truly feels in donning a ‘poker face’, there are times when the feeling overtakes any efforts of constraint.

I often find myself struggling with my emotions, clumsily shifting from extreme numbness to overwhemling emotion. I can’t say why really, and sometimes I surprise myself in my reactions to certain things. (Max is amazingly patient — I’m truly lucky for that!) Yet at the same time, I can’t say that my emotions themselves span the enitre spectrum; I can only recall a few times in my entire life when I’ve been genuinely angry, and in the past five years at least I can’t say that I’ve been jealous or bitter. It’s mostly feelings of hopes and fears, sympathy and irritation, sadness, worry, amusement, and, on the occasion, senenity. I’m really trying to work on being zen, but really, when I sit down to enjoy the moment and someone lights a cigarette next to me and the smoke is blowing in my face, it’s hard to relax and I fight feelings of annoyance. Yes, I can get up and move, but that doesn’t prohibit someone else in the next spot from doing the same thing or something else that stresses me out. Basically people bother me and I recognize that and I’m trying to work through it until I can move to a remote location where only people I permit can be present, mwahaha.

Now as I am writing this, I am saddened, but I can scarcely explain why. I feel the fleetingness of time, I am nostalgic, and I am overhwelmed about the stuggles the earth and people face. At times when I watch all the tired faces stream past me in the metro, their pains feel like a constant weight that tugs at me. Even when I burrow myself into my book or phone I am constantly aware of the struggles that surround me. I find myself distracted and falling into loops of pity and shame relating to so many things — excess and lack, ignorance and condesendance, extremes of all kinds that don’t allow for compromise and middleground.

Yet at the same time as I am often overwhelmed with saddness, I also find that there are moments, regularly, when I am walking around and I am recognize that I am truly happy. It can sneak up as a surprise or it can be an dull buzz hanging around for a period of time. I think about how grateful I am for the experiences and people that I’ve been fortunate enough to have in my life.

I don’t know if living abroad has made me hyper-aware of my surroundings or if this was something that I always tapped into as an insecure person growing up. Sometimes I am too overloaded by all the things that are going on around me and I have to tune it all out. I do think that living in Russia has made this easier and more acceptable because people don’t really interact with strangers, so you can ignore people and it’s not seen as rude or antisocial. In fact I think that when I do communicate with strangers here there is an initial surprised reaction of ‘what do you want from me’ until it is clear there is a good reason for engaging. I haven’t decided how exactly I feel about devoting attention to strangers. I think it depends on my mood and frame of mind. When you’re travelling and you have a lot free time, it can be funny and interesting to converse with people, or perhaps if there is a situation that is worthy of discussion. But the mundane small talk that is so typical in the US? I guess it lifts some people up, fueling them with energy while to others it is draining and pointless.

I think that lately I’ve been even especially emotional and nostalgic since I’m about to embark on a serious change in my life. Listening to a postcast or reading a passage in a book can bring me to tears, or upon seeing an old couple with linked arms can touch me. I am excited in both the positive-anticipation way as well as the untamed-nervous way because there are still so many questions to be answered by time. I know that everything will continue to work out, or that it will get worked out, but still, the fact that it’s so ‘real’ in that it is official and binding makes it seem like a huge deal. I don’t want marriage to be the defining moment of my life, but just one of many meaningful steps along the way. I certainly don’t see marriage as an accomplishment or a rite of passage, but more as a fact and a celebration.

I understand that happiness and sadness, truly, are states of mind, but that they have such a deep bodily impact. I am glad that I can feel things so wholly even though it often makes for extremely uncomfortable moments both physically and socially. I cherish that in a way because even though sometimes I can sink down way low, I’d rather feel that and have a slight grasp on how people who really suffer feel constantly, than to live on a steady plane numb to the highs and lows. I do think that I am, to some extent, both manic and bipolar, but I think that anyone who is real with themselves and listens closely to their inner emotional dialogue can recognize moments of inbalance. But once again, we are complicated animals with such diverse ranges of experiences, and the added dimension of relationships is simply abstruse. I think that these tendencies don’t always need to be ‘fixed’ or addressed if the individual can cope with it on their own. (Yet I think that sometimes chemical intervention is very effective and necessary — it’s for the individial to decide with their trusted medical advisors.)

Anyway, for now I’ll keep feeling all the feels over here. Love you!

xxx

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Our Whiney Generation

To my sister, the women’s study major:

Dear Becky,

A few months ago, Nik and I went to a feminist socialist talk at a café con bookstore. It’s one of these cozy places with comfy chairs and organic coffee and baristas wearing t-shirts. I forgot to look at the map as we drove so we were at least 15 minutes late. When we arrived, the room was overflowing with people. We posted ourselves at the door and peeked in: millennials of all stripes with a sprinkling of aging hippies filled the room, pouring into the aisles and lining the wall. The speaker was a short woman around 55 with curly red hair covered by a beanie. She wore snow boots and had a confident, wide stance with her feet slightly turned out. As she spoke, she waved her arms and moved her body, as if had too much passion to gesticulate with her hands. She spoke with an unpremeditated freeness that is so rare in this political city. It was captivating, and in a way, reminded me of how mom speaks: from the heart, with such a dynamism and energy that it takes the movement of her whole body to make a point. It was touching to see someone express themselves so genuinely in such an uncalculated way. Looking around the room, I wasn’t the only one shocked by how uncontrolled she was. Everyone was mesmerized, which is unique to see these days, when people always seem to crawl into the safety of their phones. “I want to be like her,” I thought. “I want to speak vibrantly and be unafraid to stand out.” But I don’t even think she was unafraid to be different. She was simply confidant and passionate about what she said.

Which was socialist feminism. The only real type of feminism, she said.

After she spoke, there was a discussion, which turned to how to have a socialist feminist revolution. To have a socialist feminist revolution, the working class and middle class need to unite and rise together against corporations. It takes collaboration and dialogue to work together for one cause.

Not everyone liked this idea of working together. A girl in the front row raised her hand. “I don’t have time for non-feminists. I’m sick of them. I’m at the end of my rope. This guy next to me, for example,” she pointed at one of the few guys in the room, “had asked me if anyone was sitting in this seat before he sat down. I told him ‘not that I know.’ But what I should have said is, ‘why don’t you ask one of the 10 girls that are sitting on the floor. Why don’t you offer them a seat.’ I’m sick of this rudeness. I can’t deal with it anymore.” She burst into tears.

Nik and I had paid strict attention to the discussion as it was going along, but at this, we both turned to each other and I couldn’t help lifting my eyebrows up in terror. Let me reiterate: this girl was in the front row. She called out a young man sitting next to her, one of only a few men. He had come, it seemed, to learn, to join the conversation, to hear from knowledgeable people. She burst into tears because he had politely asked if anyone was sitting in the chair, and because none of the 10 girls sitting on the floor had taken it. The young man looked slightly confused.

The conversation continued in agreement until it reached a blonde girl in her early 20s in the corner. “All we have is our words,” she said. “If people want to join the conversation, they need to use the right words. They should be mature enough to respect the conversation and shouldn’t join if they don’t.”

Other people in the room looked at each other and nodded in agreement. One black girl chimed in, “Yes! I just don’t have time to teach everyone. I don’t have enough energy to do it. If you don’t know the right words, I will not talk to you.”

Finally, the speaker jumped in. “What I hear is troubling. You shouldn’t see conversing with someone as teaching them. Treat every conversation like a two way street, you can learn from them, and they can learn from you. When we share perspectives, everyone can learn. Everyone has something to offer. You should be excited to converse with someone about a topic like feminism. These people are just learning, how can you expect them to know the right words? How do you get anyone to join a cause if you frighten them away?

“You millennials,” she continued, “have never seen a real revolution.”

“Not true!” Said the black girl. “Black lives Matters is from our generation!”

“No.” The speaker shot her down. “Black Lives Matters is a fringe awakening in comparison to the civil rights movement that swept the nation in the 60s, when people from all walks of life united for one cause. You have never seen struggle or severe discrimination. You have never seen a revolution where backgrounds don’t matter, vocabulary doesn’t matter, what matters is that you are there, you care, and you are ready to stand up for your rights and those of your fellow citizens.”

Becky, I agree with her. I am so tired of people completely invalidating others because they don’t know the right words, or are ignorant of the cause. Our generation frustrates me often. We’ve grown up with such ease and luxury that all we do is complain and whine and find reasons to judge. We have never seen struggle. We have never fought tooth and nail for something. We just sit in our armchairs in comfy coffee shops and wail at those that don’t share our beliefs.

I wish we had more people like this woman around to jolt us back to reality and help us be vibrant, shake off society, reach across the aisle, and listen to those who come from different schools of thoughts.

Let’s see what 2016 has in store.

I have similar feelings about gifts.

I think we’ve talked about it before, but for posterity, I’ll lay it out here. If this makes me an ungrateful asshole, I’m okay with that. I just don’t get the whole material gift thing (unless we’re talking about food!).

In my relationship with Max we haven’t really followed the traditional route in going through the motions of giving gifts at the standard appropriated times. Thinking about it now, we haven’t exchanged birthday presents for the past few years, Christmas/New Year’s presents, presents for Valentine’s Day or the Russian (somewhat) equivalents “Defender’s Day” and “Women’s Day.” In 2015 I didn’t get any gifts at all except some chocolates from a student, and I’m okay with that.

It’s not that I don’t like and appreciate gifts. And it’s not that I don’t like giving gifts. But to me there is nothing worse than a useless and unwanted gift. I think there are things that you can always give, no matter who or what, if you really really feel like it’s important to give a gift (chocolate, olive oil, in-season flowers, fresh fruit, tea/coffee/cocoa, socks… mostly food 😉 ) BUT what I think is more meaningful is when you see something that reminds you of another person, and you know that they will find it purposeful. For some people it could be a tchotchke – there do exist (gasp) people who actually like knick-knacks, but I think it takes knowing a person and really thinking about what they would like, not what you want (or just buying whatever you can for under $10!). 

I will always remember the gifts that were surprises and that were really thoughtful over the ones that were just routine and mundane (perhaps someone did give effort and time in choosing the gift regardless and I acknowledge that). I will remember the random tokens of love and appreciation from my loved ones, and cherish them.  

And, conversely, I will always remember the gifts that broke me somewhere inside because of their pointlessness and plain outright wastefulness. In moments like those all I can think of are a) people who don’t receive gifts because they live in poverty and here I am receiving a piece of junk that makes me angry, which makes me more upset b) landfills c) clutter in my surroundings d) the money that I could have actually used that was spent to buy some crap e) the resources that went into making the piece of shit in the first place and on and on, feeling equally terrible about myself for having high standards and for getting worked up about a gift that someone gave with much different intentions.

And in giving gifts I have great anxiety as you do, unless I have been intending to do something/give something to someone for a while and a holiday makes it more legitimate.

Maybe in a way our blog is like the modern extension of what Gma Lenore was working on: our family history, our views and perceptions laid out and trying to make sense of it all.

One more thing in response to your post: change is inevitable. You just gotta embrace it and keep on growing along with the world. We can reminisce about times past, but we can’t let ourselves miss the current moment and dream about the future.
Sorry for the delay in writing!!! Motivation these winter days is a struggle.

Changes Are A’Comin

Hi Munch,

Well, the holidays are here! We’ve had gift baskets arrive in our office each week; at least three holiday parties with more on the way; Christmas trees crowd the sidewalks in Eastern Market.

And with the holidays comes the new year: new beginnings and new adventures.

As the end of this year has foretold, I think 2016 will bring lots of changes. I don’t want to jinx anything or get my expectations too high, but just realistically I think this year will be different for all of us. For the past three years, I’ve been so used to every year repeating itself with slightly different variations. Here in DC we’ve established routines and patterns that have become annual. I know what to expect with each coming season. Summer means volleyball, barbeques, tennis and picnics. Fall means apple picking, hiking, and Danielle’s birthday. Winter means board games and dinner parties. Spring means festivals and cherry blossoms. For the past three years, while small changes are made each year, the larger theme has stayed the same.

This year, I know it won’t be the same. Matthew is moving to the West Coast, you are splitting time between St. Petersburg and Belarus and have a whole new career. Evan will probably leave for NYC in the next few months. Marina has a boyfriend, my friend John has left DC and is traveling the country in a van. Sam has gotten into grad school and Simone and Alison will hear back soon.

It’s terrifying, but at the same time, a relief. Now that I have these routines in DC, I know that it is time to move on, to experience something new. I hope I don’t get ahead of myself as I often do, but I’m excited for the uncertainty that lies ahead. I am scared to make big changes by myself, without a partner or a known path. I hope I have someone to make these changes with, but if not, I’m glad that my friends are making changes because it will encourage me to as well, even if I have to do it on my own. This year, I hope I can be bolder, and focused, and follow through with my ambitions.

Quick note on your last post: I agree. It’s all about balance. We need to treat our bodies well because they are the vessels that carry us through life. But we can’t confuse that with torturing our bodies for society. It’s hard to know sometimes whether I’m doing something for society or for myself. I try to think deeply about what I do to my body and what I gain from it. It’s hard to honor it, but I hope that I do more often than not.

PS. I can’t wait till you read Grandma Lenore’s book. I really do think it’s amazing.

PPS. Was this post too short? I want to say more, but that is all I think I want to say on this subject right now. Maybe if you write your next post soon, I can write more on different topics.

PPS. Well, one thing I do want to talk about is presents. I hate presents. I hate the anxiety of spending money, of the fear that the person won’t like it, of the fear that I won’t like the ones I receive. Of wasting money that no one has. But Matthew gave us all gifts last night and it did give me some warm fuzzies. I felt appreciated and cared about. I hate how I liked it. Bottom line is it made me think, maybe I should give gifts. (But then I go to buy them and the fear sets in that the person won’t like it and I remember why I hate them.)

XOXO. Love you.

Contemplations on mortal existence

As a femaIe person, body image has been something that I’ve always been so aware of – at points to a destructive degree. Men and women alike are privy to such an absurd inundation of gender norms and standards of one’s appearance from the time we are born until we are about 60 years old —- when society stops giving any kind of shit what one looks like, man or woman. (and soon forgets about the individual’s existence what-so-ever). Many of these messages on what kind of body we are supposed to have are on a subconscious or even subliminal level, so deeply ingrained into language and behaviour that they even may go under the radar of highly sensitive feminists. But the majority of the manifestations of appearance norms are so blatant and obvious yet they are rarely even questioned and are simply accepted as the status quo. I must say, though, that since the time that we were teenagers (ohhhhhhh wow, I’m feeling old), I feel as though the discussion around body image has shifted and open dialogue has become much more visible, creating room for more body types to be seen and accepted. But perhaps this is just a refocusing of my own comprehension of the world rather than a change at-large. All I can say is that in many ways I’m glad I’m no longer 16.

Now, as a 27 year old, I feel like I have a moral conundrum about my body. On the one hand, I believe in accepting all body types and allowing myself to age in whatever way ageing manifests itself. But on the other hand, I feel that it is important for me to maintain my health – and body – or at least attempt to do so. To me this doesn’t mean aspiring to the societal standards of beauty, but feeling good and strong in my body and taking care of my body in a thoughtful way are somewhat priorities for me, even if I’m not always good to my body. (I should probably exercise more, get more sleep, drink less, stop smoking weed…. but then again I should probably move out of the city, and to create the ideal-ideal life would just mean that my life is curated and that’s not really living.) At the same time, I feel hypocritical about attaching so much value to my physical person. I feel like it’s so important for girls to see their worth in other things than their bodies, and so it makes me conflicted and angry even that I spend so much time and invest so much money into doing things (exercising, exfoliating, moisturizing, all kinds of procedures…) that reinforce this idea that our bodies are our worth.

I know, I know, we still live in a reality where our bodies are by extension ourselves, and taking care of our bodies means that we have a better chance at living long lives with less risk of sickness and other incidents that may kill us or prevent us from living out our lives to our greatest potential. And so this is why I am torn between the corporeal realities and pressures we face and the philosophical and figurative world of letting go and using energy to focus on other things.

I do contemplate the consequences of a world where we are immortal or where we are detached from our physical selves (like the movie Surrogates). I think that fear of death can motivate people and that knowing that there is finality has great significance in people’s decisions. And I think that the plot-line of every individual’s life is special in it’s own unique way. If we all existed forever, we would eventually know and experience everything possible and things would get boring.

Whatever. I guess what’s really important is some kind of balance. Sometimes it’s good to pamper yourself. Sometimes you have to push yourself to do things you don’t enjoy because it will pay off in the long run. Sometimes you eat an entire container of ice cream, and that’s okay too.

But you know what’s good? Doctors. Everyone should go get tested for HIV and screened for cancer regularly. Because what’s worst of all is leaving the world before you’re ready to go, when your body revolts against you and you give up on fighting for your life and succumb to what’s easy – just letting go.

Mope Mope Mope

Man, Becky.

I have so many thoughts re-reading your post. But first, let me mope a bit to you. I think it’ll be cathartic. I’m sorry if this blog just turns into a Clarissa-mope-fest. I’ve been feeling quite sad for the past few weeks about where I stand in comparison to my peers. I know I keep reiterating this, but it makes me so sad that I haven’t found my partner yet while so many of my friends have (and Jason completely ignores me now). I feel like we are getting older and I want to have a family one day and I want to be with someone and time is running out. I’m so glad I’ve had these two years to explore friendships and DC, but I’m getting to the point where I miss having a boyfriend. I want that security, connection, and to be able to build a life with someone. I’m happy for my friends who have it, but it makes me feel a little lonelier.

Similarly, I’m feeling a little behind on the career front. Clare is going to nursing school, Gina is going to law school, Laryssa just graduated from grad school. I haven’t even applied to grad programs, more less know what I would go for. Also, I’ve had so many job interviews, Becky, and so few offers. It’s exhausting and bruising to my ego to get rejected so many times. I have gotten a good number of interviews. But why once they talk to me do they not think I can do the job?

These past few weeks it’s been hard to feel motivated. I haven’t even been applying to that many jobs. I haven’t been spending time thinking about my future, or working on my present. Instead of taking drugs to numb my fear of challenging myself and becoming the person I want to be, I just hang out with friends and do activities. Whenever I’m feeling like I’m not good enough, instead of working on myself, I’ll organize something. I’ll hang out with Evan for hours, or do something with Danielle. This weekend was literally nonstop fun and activities. I got off the plane from Dallas, went to Danielle’s for a party, went to a bar with Evan and his house, slept over at their house, woke up and hung out with his house, played ultimate frisbee in the park with friends, ran home to make my costume, went to one Halloween party, then another, slept over at their house again, played tennis with Evan, hung out with him and Danielle and Michael…I have so much fun and I love my friends. But sometimes I think I love them too much. I don’t focus on myself and my future. I push away my problems and overdose on stimulation to forget about myself.

I have so many journal entries from throughout my life that are fluttering around. Since I was 10 or something, this is what I would do: find a relatively blank notebook and write a journal entry on a random page. I’d use that journal for a few months, and then get bored and find another relatively blank journal and start writing on a random page. Then, if convenient, I’d journal on my computer. Then, I’d pick up a random journal again. I have so many of these partially filled journals scattered around. And so many entries on the different computers I’ve had throughout my life. I really want to go back to my high school computer and read my entries then. I want to do something with all these entries. Compile them in a book called “Love Notes,” to see how our expectations in life wax and wane and transform as we grow and experience new things. Not use all of the entries, but just the salient bits. What do you think?

 

Anyway, I agree about your comments about horoscopes. I think the only thing we can do is go through life honestly and with an open mind. I recently am in love with that Maya Angelou quote, “when someone shows you who you are the first time, believe them.”

I had an interview today, and last night, my friend Nik showed me this website called “Crystal.” You can look anyone up (as long as they’re on Linkedin) and learn about what they are like and how to treat them during interviews or sales pitches. We looked the women up that I had my interview with, and the site said, “this person doesn’t like sarcastic jokes,” “likes data driven responses,” and a host of other rather serious attributes. I went into the interview so nervous that they would be cold, suspicious, and unfriendly — but they were so down to earth, and even cracked sarcastic jokes! Sometimes, I think I need to focus more on just doing what we believe is the right thing, rather than searching endlessly for the “why is that person that way,” and just accepting them however they are and do what is right for me.

Anyway, I love you, and I can’t wait to hear about you.

 

Happy almost birthday!

 

xoxoxox

…or we can move to Sweden

Rence!

Ohhh horoscopes. Yes, I have skeptically ‘read into’ them for fun from time to time, trying to find justification for the things that I have done or to try to understand why things happen when and how they happen. But really, anyone who is looking for an answer in them can find it. The mystic sense is fun, but it’s all just hoping and wishing that things are what you think they are. It’s like when something is unclear and there is the potential of a number of consequences – a person goes missing, lab tests come back with some questionable results… – and we convince ourselves of an outcome, for better or for worse. But of course all we can do is wait to see what the real story is, and if our gut was right, we may read into it to try to find justification.  

I remember growing up sitting and waiting by the window in the black armchair with the flowers for mom to come home. She was inevitably late, but not just slightly, especially in my kid’s “a minute seems like eternity” understanding of time. As the time ticked by, I became more and more wracked with fear that something terrible had happened (“Maybe this time she won’t come back! Maybe there was a car accident. Maybe she’s left us…. maybe…”) and simultaneously feeling guilty and sad about all the bad thoughts I had had or all the mean things I had said or done or that I hadn’t told her I loved her enough. And when finally I could bear it no longer (after thinking I couldn’t take it anymore at least three times, but calming myself down just to go through the cycle of building the dread again and again) that maroon taurus lurched into the driveway, and I was overcome with anger. Anger for feeling so worried about nothing, anger for her being late, anger for her lack of understanding that I was there, sitting and getting worked up, because she had said she’d be home by 4 and now it was 5 pm with no real reason or apology.

In situations of fear and dearth of answers, I’ve convinced myself of many many things (mostly medical ailments, we’re dealing with a paranoid hypochondriac here). When we don’t have any information that is fact to cling onto to help us orient ourselves, we turn to signs or other methods to help us sort out situations. I think that horoscopes are like God and people use them to cope with reality and the challenges or unclear moments that they are experiencing, or to use as an outlet to explain why things are so great (“I’m doing so well, thank you god/my horoscope showed a burst of energy and productivity in the middle of the month, that’s why I’m getting so much accomplished”). But as cool as shamans are, let’s be honest: people get better medical attention with lab tests, x-rays, and actual medicine.

I can say for certain that I prefer clear evidence, not vague predictions. But it’s true that sometimes it is fun to let your mind wander into the land of ‘what if’ and allow your imagination to get carried away…. whether it be to a morbid and awful place or a magical one and even to fantasy.

Speaking of getting carried away, I think that taking time away from the grind is crucial. It’s so amazing that you had the summer off — and in fact one of the reasons why I loved teaching was exactly for that. We are conditioned from our early childhood to have the summer to recuperate, to let our minds expand in different ways that sitting in the classroom, to get out into the elements and to pump our bodies with the nutrients that summer brings forth. Even though the days are longer, after work it’s hard to be motivated to make use of the nice weather, especially if you’re cooped up in the city and it’s swelteringly hot. Being in the Catskills during the summer is simply divine: even if it’s pouring outside, it’s still refreshing and making it outside nonetheless is a given. And now that there’s wifi…… wow, anything is possible!

Basically the moral of any story is that office life sucks. Even with my wonderful colleagues, I can barely survive working in an office. What’s great about working from wherever is that you can control your own schedule. If you have a call at 3pm, you can work your day around then, and take advantage of the sunshine while it’s there, or take care of that house task that has been demanding attention, and bake as cake simultaneously!

On your point to people bragging about how much time they spend at work, all I can say is disgusting. How some people spend time baffles me – office jobs, pointless work, and doing things they aren’t passionate about. Yes, I have an office job (per se, I can work remotely if I need to), but I feel like my work actually makes a difference in people’s lives and I enjoy my work! That’s really important to me. I mean, we spend the majority of our conscious lives working, so if one doesn’t actually find meaning and pleasure in one’s work, what’s even the point of living?

Sweden just shortened the work day to 6 hours. Studies show that long work days cramp productivity, and that if people have more time for their out-of-work lives, they are more efficient when they are at work. I think this is a great idea. (Yet another way Sweden wins, you may be interested to know that there buying sex is illegal, but selling is not, which doesn’t criminalize the workers, but the clients — usually it’s the other way around — and this has 1) almost entirely eliminated the demand for sex services for fear of prosecution and 2) shifted the national understanding of sex work in general.)

What I can say about my ‘career’ (if that’s what you call it) now is that I’m doing what I enjoy, I am learning a lot, and I’m communicating with people who can teach me things and with whom I can collaborate. I’ve also been practicing saying ‘no’ :). I just wish I could incorporate a bit more nature into my life on a daily basis… and not just the flowers sitting on my table or the small parks that I walk through. I wish the boundary between inside and outside were blurred, and that moving between these spaces were so simple and organic that it required no added time – like in the Catskills where the doors are more placeholders than having significant meaning (except, of course, keeping bears out!).

Keep your head up and persevere! And take care of your health!!!!
I know it’s stressful to find the balance of self-advocation and proving yourself and just doing what YOU want, but I think that as you make your space for yourself in the world, you need to do a bit of all three to get anywhere. If you just go down one path, you probably won’t get too far.

Oh Work.

Hi Poops,

My horoscope today read something like, “the career transition you are experiencing might be exciting, but it’ll eventually turn out like every other job with all the normal annoyances of office life, so don’t rush into anything.” I love reading my horoscope to see it if matches up with anything in my real life. Well, this time it does.

I’m flying back from Boston right now. I just left a third-round interview where the president of the company roasted me on math brainteasers. I got 0 out of 4 correct. These interviews make me dread having to go back to work where I will inevitably be hostage to deadlines and schedules and petty office politics, superiors’ erupting egos and grey walls. I’ll be anxious about my work, constantly trying to please others and continually needing to promote my work and myself, lest I get laid off again.

Although I hope I eventually get a job and know I need one to survive in this society and to make a large-scale impact in the world, I can’t help but feel deeply, deeply grateful for having had this summer off. For the first time in years, I felt what it was like to see the sun on a regular basis, decide what my day was going to look like, and explore my own interests. Finally, I felt like I had control over my future and began to think about career possibilities beyond my day-to-day tasks. I had time to dream beyond tomorrow.

I spent time at Elka and worked on the open porch. Surrounded by nature with family and friends close by, I forgot that there was a rat-race world out there where people spend their lives in front of computers inside at desks. Did you know, people literally brag about who spends more time at the office, who sees their families less, and who devotes more of their lives to work? Vered would try to do this with me, and it drove me insane. Most people aren’t curing AIDS. They’re shackling themselves to their desks for things that are, in the grand scheme, relatively petty. Maybe they’re slaving away for big clients who create little good I the world. Or maybe they’re working long hours for inefficient non-profits with poor management. Whatever it is, I don’t believe people are as productive when they focus at these tasks for hours on end. Insanely long workdays also make me think that their work style, or their organization, is inefficient. I know, especially after having had this summer of freedom, that I don’t want my life to be spent in a cubicle following someone else’s demands. To be in nature and surrounded by family and friends, is how, I think, humans are supposed to live.

I know there are careers out that allow more flexibility, where I can see the sunlight, take responsibility of projects, and have my voice heard. But I also know I most likely have to do this bottom-eating work before I get there, pleasing others and seeing their ideas to fruition. I hope I can eventually get enough experience where I can then see my ideas to fruition and have control over my life.

I hope I can get there. I know it’ll be hard work.

As I figure out my next steps, I am trying to keep this big picture in mind so I don’t get too anxious about where I go next or what I do. I know that our careers are full of lots of steps. With each one we have to learn, grow, and take the most out of it that we can. Hopefully, if I can learn and reflect with each step, I can end up somewhere I want to be and as the person I want to be. I am trying to stay focused, open-minded, and clear-headed, but I know I will misstep at times. I hope that despite these inevitable missteps I can eventually get to where I want to be, alongside the people I love.

(Also I’m having so much trouble getting over Jason. Idk what to do. I think I’ll be single forever.)

I love you.

Poop.

Food (what about it?)

Hi Pony Sparkle…

I want to tell you about this delicious pizza I made. I’ve been into making pizza lately – at first I was intimidated about making my own dough, but once I tried and learned that it’s not so hard after all, now I’m hooked. I just experimented with the crust; like mom, I substituted some of the white flour for whole wheat flour. But I also added some corn flour! It actually turned out fine – a little lighter and fluffier than my last dough, and so delicious! One great thing about making your own dough is that one batch makes enough dough for about three pizzas. Depending on the size, you can have pizza all week long… or tuck it away in the freezer for a rainy day. I did both – two pizzas for this week and a third stocked up.

I was inspired a bit by this pizza and a few other recipes that highlight the marriage of zucchini and corn. My pizza was a feta cheese base topped with corn and artichoke hearts that were marinated with olive oil, lime juice, balsamic vinegar and dijon mustard, tossed briefly with strips of zucchini, and then topped with parmesan.

Max calls me a “good fairy” after I make really delicious things. I like being a fairy, waving my imaginary wand and creating miracles. That’s what it feels like sometimes when I am swept up in experimenting, a wave here and a stir there, and voila! Being a fairy reminds me of a few different things, things mostly connected with Elka – fairy houses and Sleeping Beauty. Remember we used to pretend to be the fairies with Emi? The red, blue, and green ones, like we used to be Louie, Huey and Dewey from Duck Tales. What magical adventures. Now my enterprises have taken on totally new forms – mostly in traveling or culinary endeavors as I push myself to try new things and add sustenance to my box of experience. My imagination still isn’t held back from creating fantasy worlds and living outside the parameters of my physical existence.

A bite of an exotic pizza while retracing the routes of all the ingredients from their places of origin to far away St Petersburg both warms and hurts my soul synchronously. In my fantasy world the doors open for the creation of equally interesting meals, but on a much more sustainable scale – a connection between my kitchen, my hands, and the land around me. How spoiled are we that we can run out across the street and simultaneously purchase 500 grams of limes from Australia and 150 grams of feta from Greece and one kilogram of tomatoes from Italy. It’s not that these things can’t be produced locally (okay – limes without greenhouses, no) but more so that the globalization of our food industry has determined these routes. The supermarket provides us with the “choices” – Limes from Florida or Australia? – both thousands of kilometers away.

I’m pretty consumed with thinking about food – about its preparation and its production. I dream of a time when I can put food on my table that I produced myself, or at least know from where it came – other from what the sticker tells me. I know that means that I’ll have to give up some foods that I cherish, or at least cut back on many things that I enjoy regularly, but at the same time, there are so many new doors that open! So much new territory to explore, and many adventure to be had. But in a way, I think this type of living brings us down to the Earth, connecting us both physically and figuratively to our roots. What is cultural identity without food? And food today is out of context and misunderstood. Weekly dinner can range from Asian to Italian to Georgian, especially in places like America, where it’s all a “salad bowl” (or melting pot – as evidenced be such creations as “Asian fusion”). It’snot always a bad thing, but I think that it should be handled in a different way. Is the sushi that people pop thoughtlessly into their mouths true to its Japanese roots? No, as Japanese visitors have witnessed. And it’s not necessarily wrong – adaptation and evolution are natural and it’s the way the world works – but I do think that it is in many ways culturally insensitive to transform something that’s not yours and pretend that it’s authentic.

But eating the ‘wrong’ food for your genetic makeup can be detrimental: you yourself mentioned the high rate of diabetes in Senegal due to overeating of rice, and that’s just one example. And I don’t even want to get into food production and crops in certain places (ahem, California) and how food trends ravish the land.

Anyway, considering that we spend so much time of our lives eating and that it has such a significant impact on our bodies (which house us), I think that I’d prefer to be thoughtful about what I’m eating and what the implications, both to me physically, and to the world at-large, may be.

So, in short: Bon appetit!

-Beckala