Turning 21: A Reflection

Always struggling with how to start these things, I suppose I’ll just start from where I left off. If you don’t remember, it the first weekend of Spring Break, the night before I left for California with my father. I was still experiencing a rare high of intense joy and astonishment that I was noticed by Natalie Maines which, in retrospect, probably isn’t that spectacular. But for those few moments I was filled with a glee that was numbing and foreign. Being noticed, man. It’s a beautiful thing.

(If you don’t care at all about my experiences watching tennis, skip about halfway down)

So off we went to Palm Springs, known to some of you cool kids for hosting Coachella, but is relevant to me for being the location of my favorite non-Grand Slam tennis tournament, Indian Wells. It would be my first time attending this tournament and provided a guaranteed opportunity for me to watch virtually every top tennis player in existence. But all that really mattered for me, the crazed borderline stalker that I am, was the chance to watch Maria Sharapova play in person, something I hadn’t done since 2010.

I plan on writing a more detailed post of the trip and providing a lot more pictures than will be posted here, so stay tuned, whoever’s interested in mediocre pictures of people you’ve probably never heard of!

Some might say that watching three scalding days of tennis all day and night and not doing much of anything else on a trip to California would be miserable, but those people are fools. It was seriously 3 of the best days I’ve had in a long time, a rare few days that I got to spend with my father whom I had only seen a handful of times since before leaving for Ghana. Being a smaller, more intimate tournament than the U.S. Open allowed me to be just feet away from people I had only been able to previously ogle from afar. Of course Maria Sharapova’s practices were held as far away from public access as possible (she is the Queen, after all), but I still managed to take plenty of creepy, zoomed-in pictures of her and other ladies practicing. Take, for example, Victoria Azarenka, a “lady” who had been the #1 player in the world for almost all of last year, before thankfully being dethroned by Serena Williams in February. This “woman” is an absolute disgrace to humanity for reasons I won’t get into here, but all you really need to know is that she cheats against teenagers, has convenient medical “ailments”, and is currently dating THIS GUY. No. Really. I’m not joking. See for yourself. DSCN2705

Anyway, the cretin unsurprisingly withdrew from the tournament and I was spared an opportunity of having to watch her play.

To get that rotten image out of your memory, here’s a picture of Maria I took practicing before her Round of 16 match.
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One day in particular had to be one of the greatest (and longest) tennis watching days I had ever experienced, featuring up and coming players choking away leads, top players flopping (I’m looking at you, Petra), and a probable once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to watch Maria Sharapova play just feet away from me. It all started earlier in the day session (early would turn into a relative word for that day) when some lady stood up and announced that she was selling a front-row Stadium 1 ticket for the night session. Knowing Maria was scheduled to play the first night match at 7:00PM, I basically begged my father to get that ticket for me, which he did. Just when I thought I was beginning to break from my past as a crazed, spoiled rotten douche, this happens. But at that moment I had no thoughts other than “HAHAHAHA MARIA HAHAH ❤ ❤ <3”. Yup. Definitely the sign of a healthy person. If you can’t tell, I was excited.DSCN2748

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As the day dragged on with one 2.5+ hour match after the other, I was beginning to have paranoid thoughts that her match would be moved to another court because it was getting so late. Finally, at around 10:00PM, she took to the court against Sara Errani, the girl she defeated to complete her Career Grand Slam at the French Open last year. Now, you don’t have to like vagina to recognize just how stunning this woman is. It’s completely different seeing her at times just 8 feet away. The intensity you see on TV is amplified at this proximity, and each calculated step she takes and each clenched fist and bitch-stare across the net was breathtaking. In essence, girl looked HAWT.  Oh. And she’s loud. Did you know that? I did. But holy God. It’s actually scary.

DSCN3023Anyway, I was settled in, excited to enjoy a fairly straightforward match against a woman who hadn’t given her much trouble in the past. WRONG. SO WRONG. It quickly turned into one of the most stressful experiences of my life when it became clear that things weren’t going to go as smoothly as I expected. Before I knew it, girl was just points away from losing the first set and I was quickly deteriorating into a state of mild psychosis. Really. It was bad. There were times during that 82 minute set (for non-tennis fans, sets generally don’t last longer than 45-50 minutes) when I was laughing maniacally at moments that were anything but comical, I sunk lower and lower into my seat (there was a lot of head shaking), and basically wondered why I ever thought it would have been a good idea to be this close during one of her matches. DSCN3033It’s like (kinda, sorta, not really) watching somebody you obsess care about suffer through a painful ordeal that you can’t do anything about, and all you want to do is escape and pretend that everything’s alright. You could feel the desperation emanating from this lady, and it was utterly exhausting. Somehow, after 2 hours, Maria pulled through that match just at the strike of midnight, ending things in a much less stressful manner.

So there I was, the moment I never dreamed would happen to me, the moment I would finally get Maria Sharapova’s autograph. By that time the stadium was virtually empty, and I managed to get a spot above the doors leading to the locker room without having to toss any child aside (I would have). I couldn’t believe how serendipitous it was that I was in possession of a U.S. Open 2006 hat, representing the year she won that tournament in a brilliant display at just 19. And wearing this perfect dress. As she approached, I had one of those cheesy/I didn’t believe actually happen moments when everything slowed down, sounds became muffled, and all that mattered was that one of my idols was just inches away from me and my waving hand. She was right beneath me, signing balls and hats directly next to me, and then….

And then the bitch was gone. Snubbed. Ignored completely. Absolute devastation. I’m pretty sure I had never felt more humiliated in my life, and that’s saying something. For the first time I think I understood what it felt like to be rejected, which says things about me that probably aren’t too pleasant. It was basically the first time I really put myself out there, made my feelings and intentions clear (can’t be more clear than shouting her name in crazed desperation while waving a hat in her face), and…just mortifying. We sat through Novak Djokovic’s match that didn’t finish until after 2:00AM, and by that time you could basically count how many people were left in the stands. I figured that he would surely sign an autograph for everyone left, and waited patiently as he signed something for everyone around me. And what do ya know? More rejection! Because the night just wasn’t jocular enough for me. So after a 15 hour day of watching tennis, we sulked back to the hotel empty-handed and cranky.

I should have known that my life wouldn’t take a break from being absolutely ridiculous. The next night, after a disappointing match between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal ended with Roger and his injured back promptly being shown the door, I settled in for my final match at Indian Wells that featured the Bryan Brothers, the greatest doubles team to ever play the game. I don’t care much for doubles, but they were entertaining, and I always have a soft-spot for veteran players who have earned respect. They won after saving a match point, and began the tradition of signing tennis balls and launching them into the stands for a few lucky fans to claw each other’s faces off over. One of the twins was facing our direction (we were sitting almost as high up as you can get), and something shocking happened. Astonishingly channeling my 7-10 year old self who had despised played baseball, I calmly stuck out my left hand, and before I knew it, I was looking down at an autographed tennis ball from these legendary men.

photoSo ridiculous. Apparently being 2 feet away from the player isn’t enough to get an autograph, but being dozens of feet away gets a ball launched right into my outstretched hand. I was stunned into a bewildered stupor; Me? I caught a ball? With one hand? I possess that kind of capability?! My father probably hadn’t felt that much pride in me since I had made the game-winning hit in a baseball game when I was approximately 9 years old.  Sorry, dad. But at least I make good decisions 95% of the time! It’s a trade-off. So, the trip ended on a lovely high-note (even higher after Maria won the tournament a few days later), and I look forward to (hopefully) returning next year.

Phew. Wrote more than I planned to about this trip, so for those of you still with me, you will be rewarded with tales of a visit by my mother and sister, followed by some contemplations concerning my upcoming 21st birthday/my future in general.

My mother and sister arrived to partake in their Spring tradition of using visiting me as an excuse to enter into every store in Georgetown and renew their quest of viewing the ever elusive Cherry Blossom. In all seriousness, it was an enjoyable weekend, filled with a trip to the zoo (No otters. But beavers!!), the cherry blossom festival fireworks show, and occasional time to sit and enjoy some beautiful weather when my mother actually allowed us to take a break.photo photo photo

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At this point, I have a pretty good idea of what to expect from these two whenever they see me after being gone for a minimum 2 weeks at a time. The amount of fussing and confusing excitement (being in my presence shouldn’t be looked forward to that much) is always overwhelming, but, it’s just something I have to accept. And because things can never be completely normal when my family is involved, I had the foresight to mark down moments that were particularly outrageous. This should paint a pretty accurate picture of what my family interactions are like:

  • Upon greeting me at the hotel, my mother smacked my face repeatedly, saying “Matty!!! You look good!!!!!!!” Oh thank heavens. I was really becoming paranoid that my body had deteriorated in the 3 weeks since she last saw me.
    • Despite my apparent wonderful appearance, my mother still took the time to trace out how she would like to have my beard carved into (basically into the same shape as her boyfriend’s). Yup. She took her finger and drew an invisible beard on me. In the hotel lobby.
  • At one point in Georgetown, I was sitting outside while my mother and sister looked around a store I obviously would have no interest in. They eventually felt bad about me waiting and told the store employee about it. The employee apparently uttered something along the lines of, “Oh. You should have said something! I would have given him “Porsches and Ladies” to read!” Yeah. That’s definitely at the top of my reading list right now. Just beneath the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, actually.
  • WARNING: Graphic. “I must be really comfortable here because I’ve never been able to make a doody the first day of a trip”—anonymous
  • “I remember walking through this broken boulder”—my mother, regarding the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial
  • “I think I’m dying!”…pause…burp.—my sister
  • “Ya can’t be walking around DC at night. There’s homeless people!”—my mother
  • “Who’s coming with me for my colonoscopy?!”—my mother
  • “What’s a Macklemore?”—my mother
  • “I want some pasta” (my mother). “You’re having ravioli!” (my sister). “That’s not pasta to me!!” (my mother).
  • “What’s different about a sloth bear from a regular sloth?”—my mother
  •  “You have fleshy ankles”—shoe store employee to my sister
  • “I don’t know what’s happening”—waitress at dinner to us. Because we can’t just order a meal without chaos. Ever.

DSCN3140The morning they left was the day I registered for classes, an experience that was maybe more problematic than I anticipated. For basically my entire college career I had molded schedules in a way that would allow for the possibility of having an internship. I’ve had a lot of great experiences over the years, been able to spend time at places I never imagined I’d be, and my resume is basically bulging at the seams with entries that make me look more impressive than I’ll ever be. This culminated in me being offered an interview with the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs, basically the pinnacle of any DC International Affairs student’s dreams. Long story short, things didn’t go too well (my phone interview skills are unparalleled). I think if I’m being honest with myself, there’s a part of me that sabotaged that interview. Yeah, my lack of confidence or belief that I really deserved the opportunity probably played a role, but I think there’s a larger part of me that really just didn’t want the position anyway. Maybe I’m tired of putting myself through all this stress, of balancing a full class schedule with working 20 hours a week for no pay, doing things that aren’t all that interesting. Let alone finding any time to have some kind of life. So I was left in the aftermath of registration, a schedule that leaves Monday, Wednesday, and Friday virtually free, with the decision of leaving things as they are and trying to fill those days with more work, or of changing things around, maybe taking classes I’d be more interested in that would leave little room for more. I could feel this dread building that I was wasting my time, not taking advantage of college the way I should be. Maybe I can find something smaller to do, like return to the animal shelter I volunteered at freshman year. Or maybe work with DC Reads. So for now, I left things as they are, and even did something wild and added a 1-credit tennis class. Yeah, I’ll probably still apply for internships, but there won’t be this sense of urgency like there usually is. I want next year to be the year I really take steps towards bettering myself, physically and mentally, and damn it, I think I’ve earned a break. What I really wanted was for someone to tell me, to reassure me, that it was okay to take that break, that it wouldn’t be a big deal if I took one semester to just, I don’t know…live? But, it is what it is. We’ll see what happens, I suppose. Things have a way of always working out in the end, one way or another.

So. 21. It’s really hard for me to wrap my mind around turning that age tomorrow, and I’m not entirely sure why that’s the case. It’s an age that people generally look forward to more than most, the age when you really can do whatever you want, whenever you want, without fear of repercussion. No more fake IDs, or having your older siblings or whoever go out and get you all the alcohol you want. Obviously this hasn’t been much of a concern for me; I haven’t been counting down the days like some do for when they can do this. For whatever reason, as this day has come closer, there’s been this growing sense of discomfort, or nausea, or…something. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I can say with certitude that excitement is far from what I’m feeling.

I have some theories. As the years have gone by, especially the last few, there has been this growing belief, a belief that seems to be growing at an increasingly rapid pace, that I have wasted valuable years. With every fantastic, unbelievable memory I’ve made, with every place I’ve visited, and with every opportunity I’ve been given, I can’t shake this belief that I’ve focused zero time on the things that really matter, the things that are vital, essential. I’ve focused all of my energy on achieving superficial things, academic and professional success which, while important, isn’t most important. The problem is that I haven’t allowed myself to even think about anything else; I’ve convinced myself that this is what I need to do, what’s best for me, that I can think about these things later. You tell yourself something enough times and you do start to believe it; it becomes second-nature, something you just believe to be inherent to who you are, instead of being something you manufactured as a way to avoid what you’re afraid of. This has worked for me for many years (I made it into this God forsaken school, after all), but lately I’ve been noticing these cracks. I’m beginning to realize what I’ve been doing and why, and it all comes down to that one word I wrote about a little over a year ago: Insecurity. One little word that’s been responsible for all my avoidance, all my doubts. I know I’m eventually going to need to deal with and figure out why it is I lack so much confidence in myself as a person worth getting to know. I don’t know what I’m afraid of. So there it is. I’m turning one year older, but it’s just another year that has passed with little progress made where it counts.

Another theory, maybe connected to my first one, but pretty basic and unoriginal. Turning 21 means I’m just that much closer to being thrust into a world that I don’t feel like I’m prepared for. I feel trapped in a current that’s pushing me in this unknown direction, and I feel completely powerless against it. All the flailing, struggling and fighting won’t save me from the fact that, one year from now, I’ll be graduating college, and I’ll be expected to have everything that comes next figured out. All I want is for things to slow down, for things to be less urgent, but that’s not going to happen. I hate that everything’s supposed to be decided at this one age, at this one moment, and if you don’t, you’re often deemed to be this visionless, lost person. I think what I’m most afraid of is having to leave my remaining safety net, school. If there’s one thing I’m reminded of over and over again, it’s that the world has the capacity for so much ugliness; the evil, the hatred, the murder, the infidelity, the cruelty. There are so many things out there that make the world a place I often feel disappointed to have to be a part of.

But then…then you see this adorable puppy video on YouTube and you’re brought to instant tears, or see this baby who was born deaf hear his first sounds, or you see this person whose smile or glance alone can make you feel instantly energized. You hear your name being chanted by children when you arrive for “work,” you see the amount of joy just jumping on a trampoline can bring. You receive countless hugs in a given day just for being present, you see the relief and sense of accomplishment when 4+8 is finally figured out. You’re being begged to stay until bedtime to watch a movie, you’re fought over just for the opportunity to be picked up and held, or pushed on the swing. You hear the words, “Mattee, don’t go.” You feel this overpowering love being thrown at you, more than you’ve ever opened yourself up to, and find yourself deflecting some of that love back, even when you realize the pain that will likely come when you leave. In so many ways, Ghana has helped me understand the importance of love, the beauty that it holds. No matter how much I may miss Prince and the others, the most important thing is that for those 4 months, I allowed myself to feel, to connect, to love.

That’s really all that matters, isn’t it? At the end of your life, if you can say that you loved, that you really, completely, unabashedly gave yourself to another person, everything else is just extra, an accessory. The love I gave and received in Ghana I think has been the most important thing to happen to me in years; It has opened me up to new possibilities, it’s made me realize that I do want more than what I have right now. It’s these moments of clarity, these reminders that life is so much more than the ugliness you see on the news on a daily basis, that need to be clung to. It’s the smiles, the laughter, the hope, the awe and the wonder, the leap of faith taken when you board a plane and visit one more new country (Sri Lanka is just 40 days away now)…that’s what needs to be focused on. I hope more than anything else that I manage to channel the person I was in Ghana with these kids in Sri Lanka, but one of these days, I hope I can be that person all the time. Who knows, maybe this will be the year.

Maybe turning 21 won’t be so bad after all.

“This White Woman Touched My Balloon!”

Week 12’s academic experience was about as thrilling as previous weeks.  However, I did learn that “moustache” in Twi is “mfemfem.” How adorable is that?!  Other than that, the main development of the week was learning that I’ll be presenting a group oral report on Ghanaian media a week earlier than expected (November 7), meaning I’ll have 2 weeks free for traveling before my first final exam.  Good thing we’re about 12% prepared for that presentation. Eh. (But seriously, uh oh).

My day at Beacon House on Thursday began once again with helping Ben work through a Ghanaian short story, one that was about as ridiculous as the last one about a slow-moving bus driver. This week’s featured 6 Ghanaian ladies traveling to a school to help teachers “work harder.”  Women teachers were taught subjects that had generally been instructed by men, like Math, Science…basically anything that isn’t home/baby-related.  Everyone was just ecstatic that women were taught how to “work harder.” Lord. If this story sounds ridiculous, take a look at what next week has in store:

Before lunch, and because I can’t go a day without something comical happening, I had to deal with removing a wild animal from the classroom.  This ordeal lasted for about 30 minutes (23 minutes longer than it probably should have lasted). The damn creature decided to hide in the corner of the classroom where all the 50+ pound rice bags were.  With the help of this beautiful Swiss lady, I hoisted away about  33% 66% of the bags before zeroing in on the target: a small moderately-sized lizard.

Look at this bastard

After almost shitting my pants when seeing how outrageously long the tail was, and after we she stopped hyperventilating, we armed ourselves with brooms and created a pathway for the little dude to escape outside through. It really wasn’t that big of a deal.  I just can’t resist hyperbole always sometimes.  The experience is pretty comparable to this video. Skip to about 1:52, or watch the entire thing because they’re British which means they’re perfect.

I made it back from lunch just in time to watch the conclusion of the original 1966 Batman film starring Adam West.  I had never seen this movie before, but after seeing the concluding fight scene, I think I will need to watch it about 12 more times. I’m not really sure what the purpose of the cat was, but I’m really glad he/she was an integral part of the scene. Bon voyage, pussy!

After the movie finished, and because the day evidently wasn’t jocular enough, I had to help blow up more balloons for the kids. Look. It’s wonderful that the simplest things like balloon sword fights can bring so much entertainment, but after everybody’s balloon eventually met its demise and with all the tears and demands for roughly 126 more balloons that followed, I was just not interested anymore. I decided to sadistically snatch some balloons just because I found their reactions to the slightest inkling of balloon thievery hilarious.

I can’t even with this kid

Is the loss of a balloon for maybe 4 seconds really worth screaming and bursting into tears over? Geesh. Anyway, the real thing to take away from this experience is the following complaint from 4 year old Michael to one of the house mothers: “This white woman touched my balloon!”

My life. On the bright side, I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that day for perhaps the first time in a decade. It was fantastic.

My sandal met its probable permanent demise on the way back to campus that evening. I guess for a $0.25 repair, I shouldn’t be too saddened that it only survived 5 more days.  Rest well, buddy. Maybe we’ll resuscitate you back in New York.

I couldn’t go to work Friday morning because we all had to attend a “lecture” on slavery to “prepare” us for our trip to Cape Coast to visit centuries-old castles where the slave trade was conducted for hundreds of years.  Once the lecturer began by uttering, “The Jews were enslaved by Egypt! Have you heard about that?” I knew my time was about to be wasted. Things deteriorated fairly quickly, culminating in him advising us to not let ourselves be emotionally affected by our visit to the slave castles. He honestly couldn’t understand how people, even those with ancestral connections to the slave trade, could get to the point of tears when walking through the dungeons and seeing the conditions slaves were subjected to.  I could physically feel how offended the entire room was. Pocahontas understands.

Later that afternoon, after acquiring a new pair of sandals by the mall that I struggled immensely expertly bargained down to $12.50, I received a knock on my door. I don’t know what possessed me to open it, but I’m really glad I did because 2 friendly people had come to talk to me! They told me they were just visiting rooms checking up on people, which seemed harmless enough.  After more pleasantries were exchanged, the girl asked me if I knew Jesus Christ. Great. I know where this is going, I thought. “Oh, yeah. I’ve got him on speed dial” I replied in my head.  They didn’t seem too phased when I told them that I was Jewish, and that my Jesus knowledge wasn’t too extensive. “Savior, blah blah” is pretty much what I said when they asked me what I knew about him. After about 20 minutes and they had exhausted the usual nonsense about how nothing done or any accomplishment on Earth matters at all unless I accept Jesus as my Savior, they recommended that I read a book they saw on my roommate’s shelf entitled Hell Is Full of Good People. Yeah. I’ll add that to my damn reading list. They also told me that they’d return shortly with a Bible for me. STILL WAITING! Take it away, April.

We left at around 7:30 Saturday morning for Cape Coast, about 3.5 hours outside of Accra.  We visited Kakum National Park which featured a canopy-walk of 7 bridges, 100-150 (or more. Or less. Not sure) feet above the ground.  This experience was slightly more terrifying than I had expected; the guide told us not to worry if the wood creaked under our feet. I worried. By Bridge 3 my legs were less jelly-like and I was able to enjoy and appreciate the views and moment more.

Just a tad terrifying

The main highlight and real focus of the trip was the visit to Elima and/or Cape Coast Castle. I and a few other people elected to visit just Cape Coast Castle, the youngest of the Ghanaian slave trade castles, constructed in the mid-17thcentury. A reflection session was held after dinner to discuss the trip, and people were able to so eloquently and articulately vocalize their thoughts and feelings, in ways I have never been able to do. 36 hours later I’m still trying to work through exactly how I feel/felt about walking through one of history’s grossest blemishes.  The smells, seeing first-hand the rooms where hundreds of Africans were kept in the dark with no sanitation, hearing the stories of physical abuse and rape…it’s just incomprehensible. The juxtaposition of the beauty of the Castle’s exterior/its location and the understanding of what slaves experienced as they were led through the “Door of No Return” was particularly jarring.

Slaves were led through the Door of No Return, the last door they’d walk through in Africa.

The last view of home the slaves would have.

The beautiful, shiny exterior of Cape Coast Castle.

I don’t know. I went to the Castle having no idea how I would react, or how I would feel. Some experiences take time for its significance to become apparent.  I might not have any direct connection to African slavery, but on a human level, this is an aspect of history that is universally important.  It needs to be understood what drove humanity to conduct these atrocities to help acknowledge or recognize what’s being done today that, while not at the scale of the slave trade, is comparable to the exploitative, power relationships that still exist throughout the world. Oppression didn’t start and end with the Atlantic Slave Trade. My family by virtue of being European Jews suffered through the Holocaust. Minority groups find themselves struggling daily in a society where difference is often equated with inferiority.

I maintain the belief that people aren’t all good or all bad, that seeing and recognizing our own flaws will allow for the acceptance of others.  But acceptance of others can’t come without first accepting and loving yourself. I’ve realized that part of why I have trouble relating to others is because of my unwillingness to let people really know me.  For whatever reason, (fear, I suppose), I came to the conclusion that aspects of my life needed to remain hidden in order to maintain any of the few relationships I have with other people.  While there’s been some progress this past year with self-acceptance, I’m still hindered by lingering distrust and poor self-esteem.  I’ve come across people whom I would love to be open with, but still find myself fearful of them not liking what they see. Them seeing nothing at all has been my preferred solution for so long and breaking from that mindset is something I’ve only recently begun attempting.

If anything, my trip to Cape Coast Castle has helped me recognize the progress humanity has made but also the reality that much more still needs to be done.  It’s helped me recognize this progress in myself and the issues I still grapple with.  It’s helped me appreciate the flawed-nature of humanity, and our privilege that allows us to choose whether or not to overcome these flaws.  Mankind’s unique ability to choose has been humanity’s most detrimental trait. It’s up to current and future generations to make this ability positive, powerful and valuable.

Alright, hope I didn’t lose all of you towards the end there.  To lighten things up, enjoy this scene from last week’s Parks and Recreation. The fact that I cried while laughing during this is a good indication of where my maturity level is:

To my New York/Washington, D.C. family and friends, stay safe and make good decisions!

Adventure and Slippery Slopes

In this week’s edition of “Classroom Nonsense…With A Smidgen of Embarrassment,” after starting my Monday morning strong by spraying my armpits with bugspray, my Politics of International Economic Relations professor (“Ghanaians have nothing to be proud of!”) decided that out of the class of 200 he would call on me specifically to answer a question.  “Is there a Robert in the class?” he asks while looking directly at me.  After I stare in bewilderment for a couple seconds he asks me what my name is before giving an answer to “What is Intellectual Property?” Luckily this exchange went monumentally better than the first time he asked me a question.  A couple of days later during the “discussion” class for Colonial Rule and African Response, the Teaching Assistant (“What is history?”) asked an equally provocative question: “What is a compass?” Luckily this question was posited about 10 minutes into discussion so I knew I could safely spend the rest of class doodling. I paid attention enough to hear bits and pieces of the discussion; one kid insisted that the Fountain of Youth was a significant reason for exploration, and another girl was outrageously concerned with where the doctors who were brought along during European exploration were kept as the interior of Africa was navigated. The answer? On the damn boat. Good Lord.  On Tuesday I had my first exam since arriving here.  Since it was a Twi test, and since my knowledge of the language so far is infantile, I wrote fun sentences like “I know papaya!” (instead of I eat papaya) and “I have a lot of hats!” (instead of I have a lot of money).  Whatever. At least the professor will be entertained. Hopefully.

On Saturday I traveled with 3 friends for the day to Shai Hills, a wildlife/resource reserve about an hour (hypothetically) outside of Accra.  I don’t think I would trade the over 3 hours/3 tro-tros it took to get there for anything.  Tro-Tro #2 featured a very passionate man selling highly questionable ointments and weight-loss capsules to the van of 28 Ghanaians. I’m only guessing it’s weight-loss related because he made numerous hand gestures that suggested he was talking about reducing stomach girth.

Sitting in the back row at least spared us direct contact with the crazed salesman (front row, white shirt)

The whole time he was looking directly at me which was just a tad uncomfortable. This nonstop selling/sermon went on for at least 50 minutes, and I’m a bit concerned over the amount of people who actually gave him their money.

About 40 minutes into Tro-Tro ride #3 the engine started smoking so we had to pull over pretty much in the middle of nowhere.  The driver told us we were only about a mile away from Shai Hills, so we decided to just walk the rest of the way even though we all agreed that the driver probably had no clue how to estimate distance.

After walking for 25 minutes a car pulled over in front of us and asked us if we wanted

Seemed like a great idea at the time…

a ride.  Because the car seemed to be nice enough (there were leather seats!) and it was a youngish couple offering us the ride (women=safety, right?), we decided it was safe to hitchhike with these wonderful people.  Turns out we underestimated the tro-tro driver’s knowledge because 3 minutes later we finally arrived!

Our guide first brought us to the Ostrich enclosure, where 4 ostriches just run around and do other massive bird activities. Seriously? What do ostriches do all day? We walked a short distance to visit

Look closely at the Ostrich’s butt and tell me you don’t see a Pomeranian coming out of it. Who do I talk to about this?!

a baboon family and to feed them bananas! As we approached I was thinking about the hazard level we were stepping into since there wasn’t anything separating us from them (and baboons are freakin’ terrifying). One baboon leaped from a rooftop onto a tree directly above me, and at that moment, I thought my end had come. As the baboon was soaring through the air seemingly towards my head, I experienced flashes of Steve Irwin and that poor lady who Oprah interviewed whose face was ripped off by a chimpanzee. Dramatic? Yes. Always yes. In the end all was well and having a baboon snatch a banana from my hand was awesome.

What a life

The 4 of us and our guide hopped onto the back of a pickup truck (solidifying this day as the most adventurous ever) to drive to Sayu Bat Cave.   Throughout the ride I couldn’t stop thinking about last summer in Botswana, that my life basically consisted of riding around in a safari car for hours a day in an environment just like Shai Hills. It’s like I was transported back 15 months and I was on one of Legodimo’s Biodiversity Drives; I half-expected to see hordes of impala rushing across the road and an elephant family that we would have to escape from.  While none of that happened, for those 15 minutes I was filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude and appreciation, perhaps more than I’ve felt before, for those 30 days I spent in the “wild.”

These feelings of nostalgia were replaced with revulsion when we first entered the bat cave. Their feces? Not too olfactory-pleasing. This unpleasantness was quickly erased once we saw/heard literally thousands of bats in the cave.

Our next and final stop was Mogo Rock, a place girls were kept for 6 months as part of their rite of passage into womanhood.  After climbing up the rock (which at one point required hoisting ourselves up with rope), and absorbing the beautiful views of the reserve, we agreed that being forced to spend half a year up there didn’t sound too bad.

Always a sucker for a beautiful view

Riding in the back of the pickup truck to the reserve’s entrance was a perfect way to conclude a fantastic day trip.

To make this week even better, I was lucky enough to spend another 25+ hours at the orphanage.  I mentioned last week that I was going to work on Beacon House’s blog, and hopefully the posts I wrote will be finished editing soon.  It isn’t anything too substantial, but hopefully substantial enough to make the supervisors stop asking me to do something that leaves some grand, monumental impact on everybody’s lives there. Again, I just wanna play and help in the classroom.

On Tuesday night, I was asked to lead a prayer. You can imagine how I reacted to that (If you guessed uncomfortable giggling and declarations of embarrassment, then good job!).  Before this happened the kids were read Bible passages about the importance of being honest, so all I could think about at that moment was how disappointed Jesus must be in me.  But telling these people that I’m Jewish after all this time just doesn’t seem like something that needs to happen. Instead I’ll let them think of me as a really bad Christian.  Definitely the safer choice.

On Thursday, I went through the normal morning routine of playing with the preschool-aged kids and babies and helping in the classroom until lunch. I ventured off during naptime to a restaurant called Luscious Temptations (!!!) to indulge in some Western, Oboruni food. In other words, it was the most expensive meal I’ve had since

Food rewards are the best kind of reward

coming here. I spent a hefty $12.00 on pizza and passion fruit iced tea, but damn it, I think I’ve earned this “luxurious” meal.  I devote so much of my time to these kids, and yeah, I really love it, but sometimes, those kids can be a pain in the ass difficult. As Donna from Parks and Recreation would say, Treat Yo Self!

I had 30 minutes to kill in the office before naptime was over so I decided to read…until an unnaturally large cockroach crawled next to me across my bag.  I’m not about to stay in the room with that monster with me!

That night right before it was time to watch a movie, the power went out (again). So much chaos ensued, and I couldn’t resist taking a picture of it:

Oh gross, his tears are all over my shirt

Not everybody was miserable, at least:

Guess this is what kids do these days when the power goes out

Friday’s highlights include me trying to help collapse a baby stroller (does it look like I would know how to do something like that?), reading The Gingerbread Man to the kids, and splurging some more on Chinese Food.  My plan is to just starve myself all week so I can afford these 2 days of extravagance.

We Love Our Matth..er..Class!

(WARNING! SEVERE MELODRAMA FOLLOWS)

I’ve already spent over 70 hours at Beacon House, and it’s been beyond amazing, but I think I need to start worrying about how close I’m getting with some of the kids. I’m finding myself falling into similar patterns that forced me to leave the day camp I spent 10 summers at. I mentioned vaguely a few weeks ago why I left, but I guess I can elaborate more now.

You spend so much time with these kids, and they’re genuinely happy, even ecstatic to see you. (Seriously. So many hugs).  They say the cutest things like  “I want you to come every day.” They start depending on you to help them with whatever they’re learning, and you feel wanted, needed, appreciated.  I’m not really used to feeling these things, and just like I did 5 years ago, I’m getting emotionally attached to a few of them.  I know that this is happening, but I don’t know how to detach myself.

I don’t know why I’m so good at forming relationships with people 10 and under but am completely clueless at forming relationships with people my age.  Maybe it’s because they don’t expect much out of me, and for whatever reason I don’t feel intimidated like I normally am when talking to people.  Maybe it’s because I have some yearning to go back and redo parts my childhood. I see how wild, free, excitable these kids are and I don’t remember ever being like that.  I’m connecting with these kids for the same reasons I did at camp—because they represent aspects of myself that I wish I possessed. I wasn’t able to form many friendships growing up, and I think that jaded me, affected the way I interact with people today. My confidence is…negligible, and I just don’t put in much effort with people because I expect them to automatically not be interested. I’m still always surprised when people seemingly want to talk to me or be around me.  Case in point: My uncle just asked me via Skype if I’m practicing “safe friend.”

So here are these wildly enthusiastic kids who run over and hug me every morning I arrive and again every night I leave, desperately fighting for my (MY!) attention and I just…turn to mush. These feelings of acceptance are so rare for me that I just latch onto them whenever/wherever they come about. I know I’m just making it harder on myself for when I leave. I like to think that three months from now they won’t see me as just another person who has come and gone in their lives, but that is the most likely scenario.  Maybe they’ll miss me for a little while, but they will definitely get over it. And then it’ll be me, five years later, missing yet another kid.

Yikes. Maybe working with kids is just something I should avoid.

If you managed to make it through the messy ending to this post, you’re rewarded with the wisdom of Amy Poehler. I’ll post two videos from her web series “Smart Girls” here, but I seriously recommend watching them all when you get the chance. Thanks for reading!

Alright, one more!

Some Tidbits and Musings…and Turning 20.

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve checked in.  There are a few reasons for this, but about 85% of those reasons have to do with me really not doing anything or having anything to report, since, as we all know, my college life is bursting with endless activity and excitement. But finally, within the past week, I actually have some things to discuss! Try to tone down the excitement.

The other 15% of reason why I haven’t updated is because I received a visit from these two lovely ladies, also known as my mother and sister, this past weekend:

Yes. We're paddle-boating

So much slobber. So much joy.

Besides the normal amount of bickering and drama, it was a really great weekend, coming at a really great time just before things with school start to become extra cray. Activities included: 21 Jump Street (So stupid. So funny. So beautiful.), bulldog stalking and subsequent coddling, paddle-boating (or mostly floating, in our case) in the TIdal Basin, mixed with a lot of lounging. My favorite.

The major development that has come within the past week is that I was accepted to the University of Ghana! I’m someone who is always looking a few months or even years ahead, so not knowing where I would be 4 months from now was honestly starting to cause a lot of stress.  Part of me knew that I didn’t have too much to worry about, since I don’t think Ghana is too many people’s top pick for study abroad, but worrying over nothing is something I’m exceptional at.  So now I have to decide whether or not I want to live with a Ghanaian family or live on campus in a dorm, which definitely won’t be an easy decision.  Other than that, I’m not going to worry about this too much until the semester ends. Way too much else to deal with in the next few weeks!

I thought I’d go off on a slight tangent to offer some praise for my father, known to my friends simply as….Irwin.  Thanks to his awesome job at the Weinstein Company, he I have benefited immensely from his various contacts with sponsors over the years.  I really should have a ton of friends. I might be at the point of being open to being used for free tickets from Irwin. Here’s a sample of a conversation I had with my friend about a week ago, just casually at Starbucks:

Hayley: “The Bruins are playing the Caps in next week in the playoffs. I need to go!     Matthew: “Hmm…Irwin’s good at getting free tickets to stuff. Maybe he can help!”       Hayley:    “STOP. Don’t even tease me with that.”                                                          Matthew: “Whoops, already texted him. He said he’ll work on it.”

So about 5 days later and after extreme anxiety over the tickets being delivered on time, we got to watch the game last night in a luxury suite, equipped with lots of free  food and booze, as I soon found out. It was a really amazing/ridiculous experience, filled with the occasional hockey fight (Lucic is so beautiful and psychotic) and luckily a Bruins victory. I really didn’t want to deal with the wrath of a scorned, mildly intoxicated Bruins fan afterwords. Back to the booze, I opened the refrigerator to get a Coke, sat back down, and quickly realized that I snagged a Budweiser. Whoopsies. I decided to just down that, and then tried a Heineken to compare. The verdict? They both just really suck. But hey, at least I got to do something mildly wild and drink free beer with some fancy people!  THANKS IRWIN!

Back to business. This is my final post as a teenager.  I wish I had a full day to just sit down and reflect on these past 7 years, and maybe I’ll still do that when I’m back home and have time to.  There have been so many embarrassing/sad moments (starting with my unfortunately themed Bar Mitzvah…Hippomattamus…ending with falling into a river and down a tree within a 24 hour span in Africa), there have been many friendships formed and sadly a few that have faded. I’ve been fortunate enough to see so much of the world, to really understand that there is so much beauty in every country. I can’t look back without thinking about some of the regrets I have, mostly when it comes to the people I’ve come across that I let slip away, the few people I didn’t put enough effort into being in their lives.  Maybe I’ll start to take some real risks, not just safety risks with countries I visit, or academic risks when I chose to come to DC.  I need to take some risks in my personal life, to be proactive and not just hope that someone I may want to be friends with comes to me first.  Maybe I’ll decide to not settle on being a B-, that I deserve more.  Maybe I’ll decide to spend less time focusing on where I’ll be a few months from now, or less time thinking about what I wish I had done differently, and just focus on today, on right now. I can accept the past as unchangeable and focus on daily goals and dreams that will make the future something I don’t have to worry about as much.

But seriously. 20. Woah.

P.S. I forgot to mention that I saw Titanic in theaters last week. Even though I saw it so many times at home, seeing it where it was meant to be seen was just…wow. So many tears. My love for Kate Winslet has grown to probably unhealthy levels.

For all of you with upcoming birthdays, here you go! Thanks for reading.


 

Ann Coulter…and Other Drivel

Well, it’s been a while. I knew it would be harder to update this after I started my internship with USAID, but I’m really gonna try for a once a week thing.

So, this evening, I was blessed with the opportunity and honor to witness a debate at my school between the always classy Ann Coulter and  that other guy I’m not nearly as interested in Lawrence O’Donnell. Now, last year I saw Ann Coulter speak to a room full of mostly Republicans, so I knew that today she wouldn’t be facing as many supporters. Needless to say, she spoke a lot of nonsense (which is what I was hoping for), and a lot of booing was involved. This is what my face looked like for a large portion of her time talking:

I attempted to take down as many quotes as possible throughout the debate on my phone, and thought I’d share a few of the highlights of the night:

  • The Moderator immediately brought up Rush Limbaugh’s comments about the Georgetown law student being a “prostitute” and a “slut” for her contraception beliefs.  A Republican spectator cheered at those words, and most of the audience booed him. This was literally within 5 seconds of starting.
  • On whether insurance should cover contraception, Ann uttered: “insurance is supposed to be for unexpected disaster.” Um…so what about check-ups, lady? Are people not supposed to check to see if they have cancer until they’re half-dead? Yikes.
  • Ann says that Occupy Wall Street participants are “pro-Mao.” I laughed out loud at that one!
  • Here comes my favorite part of the night. The Moderator asked for comments on the voting and drinking age. According to Ann, people should not be allowed to vote until we are able to pay for our own health insurance or until we are 26. And women shouldn’t be allowed to vote AT ALL!! Women are why the Republicans lost all the elections (supposedly). She said, “If the rest of my gender didn’t vote I wouldn’t miss it at all.” Then came my favorite moment. The audience booed her after her voting comments, and the Moderator asked her to respond to it. “Why, because people who shouldn’t have the vote are booing me?” Good lord, woman. You are just insane if you think you can get away with saying that at The George Washington University.

So yeah. I didn’t really pay attention to that other guy in the debate. Whatever. Bitches be crazy.

Now, onto a completely unrelated topic. As I mentioned in my last post, I am in the process of applying to study abroad programs in Ghana and Uganda. Shockingly, my parents, especially my mother, are not pleased with this. They are convinced that I will be taken hostage by some crazy pirate and killed. Ummm…so why did you let me go to Africa like 8 months ago?! Is Botswana and South Africa way safer than Ghana and Uganda? (Well…Uganda is probably not the safest place for me. Since there’s this whole “Kill the Gays” law they’re trying to pass. Wowzers.)

Anyway, after I told my mother that I’m not afraid of being killed while in Africa, that I don’t believe that will happen, she said to me, “That’s because you don’t value your life.” I haven’t been able to get those words out of my head. I was/am so completely offended, shocked and just hurt by those words. Is that really what she thinks of me? More unsettling has been the more recent thought, What if she’s right? Is she right?? Do I really not value my existence?

That can’t be true. Otherwise, why would I bother going to class, caring about my grades, going to my internship, looking both ways before I cross the street? There is so much that I look forward to, like getting an actual job, traveling the world, owning a bulldog maybe even falling in love.  I’m always thinking ahead, and I really don’t think that’s what people who don’t value their life spend time doing.

Now, do I have this insane fear of death just from traveling to another country that might not offer all the safety and wonderful shiz that America has? No. I don’t. I am not going to avoid traveling and working somewhere just because I’m white, American, and gay. I am not going to generalize about populations and cultures. There are good people and bad people anywhere in the world, in any society and community. There is no such thing as a “bad country” and a “good country.”  There are psychos in every country. Might I have to be a little more cautious in Africa? Perhaps.

When it comes down to it, I’m a really big believer in the world not being black and white. I don’t hate a lot of things, but generalizations are definitely on that list. Like people who hate all Republicans or all Democrats. Or people who think Israel is evil or Palestine is evil. The way I see it, there’s pretty crappy people on both sides. But also some pretty great people.

Things I do fear? Climbing, and subsequently, falling. I am not the most coordinated individual (evidenced by my trip into the river and fall down a tree in the span of 24 hours in Africa). This is why I avoid climbing any kind of mountain. There’s a lot of anxiety, a lot of thinking that at any moment I’m just gonna slip and barrel down this rock formation of death. How I managed to survive all the climbing in Africa amazes me. Wearing my hiking boots probably helped (unlike in Peru when I decided that sneakers would be great hiking footwear. Down the mountain I went!!)

So no. I do value my life. I think I just need to explain to my mother that I’m studying international development, that going to these “dangerous” places  is what I want to be doing, and probably will be doing for years to come.   But the fact that I’m spending so much time thinking about it makes me wonder if I don’t fully believe it.

Maybe I don’t value my life enough. Maybe I spend too much time caring about what part of the world I’ll be visiting next, or what future job I’m going to have, or when whatever assignment is due, and don’t spend enough time caring about my life today. I think about my personal life today and…Lord. There really isn’t one. I make no effort to forge relationships with people, even in those rare times when I come across amazing people whom I would love to be close with. When it comes down to it, I just don’t know how to start friendships. Not sure what that’s symptomatic of, but it’s probably not anything pleasant. There’s one person I would to just text go up to and say “Hey! Let’s get coffee sometime when we’re both not too busy!” But, I just can’t. I know I’m going to look back and regret not having those 10 seconds of bravery. I have a list of excuses that include “Well, I’m going to be in Africa in the Fall so what’s the point of starting a friendship now?” Or “Well, he’s got like 9,000 friends in his life already who also think he’s great, so why would he even want another one?” I think I just don’t want to admit out loud that the real reason I don’t try is because I don’t think I have much to offer.

Do I value my life? Yes. My future life. That (hopeful) time when I won’t be in the way of myself. My present life is what I need to start caring about more.

Well, if you made it through this “drivel,” your reward is this beautiful clip of Alicia Keys singing “Prelude To A Kiss” in Africa. Acapella is my favorite.

The Defining Word

You know those times when you eat a slice of pizza and quickly realize that it’s the greatest thing you’ve ever tasted, that no other sane action exists besides consuming 17 more slices? Well, that’s what happened on my last post. Amy Poehler/Leslie Knope is probably the most delicious slice of pizza I’ve ever come across. So I just had to have more. And apparently I felt the need to regurgitate her back onto all of you. Sorry!!

If that disgusting analogy didn’t scare you off, then be prepared for something even more ridiculous. I’m about to quote freakin’ Naomi Campbell to introduce this post about something I’m sure everyone struggles with: Getting out of your own way.

“Anger is a manifestation of a deeper issue…and that, for me, is based on insecurity, self-esteem and loneliness”–Campbell

I’ve come to the realization that one word, insecurity, is the defining issue that I face on a daily basis.  It is what prevents me from doing everything I want to and being who I want to be.

Most people, when first meeting me, probably come to the conclusion that I’m the least intimidating person in existence. I laugh a lot, I’m extremely self-deprecating, sarcastic, and generally not offensive in any way. I make a conscious effort to not bother anybody or piss anyone off. In fact, I really don’t speak much at all.  I’m so concerned about how people view me that I don’t really let anyone know me at all.  I’m the awkward, puppy-loving, non-confrontational spoiled kid with wild hair who has everything he wants, right?

That’s how I present myself to the world, so why should I expect to be treated any differently? Why should I act surprised when I become the butt of many of my friend’s jokes, or complain when a random homeless person accosts me for money or puts my earphones in his mouth (true story)? I guess vulnerability just oozes from my pores.

I don’t try to change things. I maintain the status quo, fearing that doing anything differently would eliminate any appeal that I have to my few friends. If I don’t express my love for fat, wrinkly puppies, my love for Celine Dion and Maria Sharapova, or constantly make fun of myself, what is left to like about me?

I’d say this picture about sums me up.  My love for my dog is at an extremely inappropriate high level, and my love for dogs is in no way an exaggeration. But is it normal for me to love dogs and animals more than most people?

Look at that ridiculous smile! I’m constantly amazed at how unbelievably crazed ecstatic I appear in most of my pictures. I look at myself and can’t believe I’m capable of conveying so much joy. I blame my freakishly large cheeks. The bastards!

This is the face that I show the world. It’s as if my body is unconsciously making me appear as exuberant as possible. Maybe it’s because for those few seconds that the picture is being taken, smiling is the accepted, expected behavior.

I can make a list of all the things that insecurity renders me or keeps me from being/doing. High up on that list would be forming relationships. I didn’t even have actual friends until my junior year of high school, friends I saw outside of the classroom.  I put zero effort into it, claiming to be 100% devoted to academics as my major excuse. I told myself that I didn’t need anybody. I even felt good knowing that instead of wasting my weekends going out and being social, I was getting assignments done days, even weeks early. It virtually took me being dragged out of my house one night in 11th grade that brought me some of the beautiful friends I have now.

Things didn’t change much in college. Once again, I didn’t put any effort into forming friendships, this time literally being dragged out one night to celebrate a birthday. And that was only because I had the luck of leaving my room to do laundry at the time that everybody was out in the hallway getting ready to go. In that moment I thought, “Well, if I’m ever going to have friends, this is my one opportunity.” The point is, the friends I have today came without any actual effort on my part.

When those rare moments come when I come across somebody who I actually want to know or be friends with, insecurity prevents that. So I settle for “liking” the occasional Facebook status, letting fear get in the way of doing what I want to do.

Insecurity is what keeps me silent in class. It’s what keeps me from vocalizing any opinion. It’s what leaves me with zero confidence. It’s what makes most of my closest relationships end up being with TV characters. And my dog.  It’s what kept me from telling my friends and family that I’m gay (Still haven’t told most of my family. Only told my dad because he asked. On the phone.). It’s what makes me never expect anything good to happen to me, and to question the good when it sometimes comes my way. Getting into the college that I go to, being selected for my dream internship with USAID, getting a 3.94 GPA last semester. My initial excitement is soon replaced with thoughts like, “What were they thinking? Why would they accept me? It’s definitely because they didn’t have to meet me in person first.”

“I’m only great on paper.” That’s probably what I think the most and that’s what I tell people. My resume, that first impression of me might be amazing, but when you look behind the words and the transcripts, you realize there isn’t much to be impressed with.

Like Campbell (probably the first and last time I’m going to start a sentence with those words), I am angry. I’m angry that I can’t be content with who I am. I’m angry that I don’t try to be close with people I should be close with. I’m angry that life is passing me by as I sit in my single room (roommates? Yeah right.), wishing to be with other people, but unable, unwilling to do it. I’m angry that I know what I want but lack the courage to try.

I know I need to figure out where this insecurity came from, when it started, why it started. You can’t come to a solution without knowing the cause(s). You can’t determine the cause without putting in some effort.

Hopefully some day soon I’ll get on that.

Top Of the World

I feel the need to explain the meaning behind the name of my blog, since I’m sure that the two of you who will ever read this are extremely interested.

If you couldn’t tell from my first two posts, I’m just a burst of sunshine. Seriously, after this post, I’m actually going to put in some effort to not come off as the most depressing person alive. But just bear with me one last time (Disclaimer: This probably won’t be the last time I’m depressing).

Most of you who know me are aware of my love for the Dixie Chicks. I guess I’m a fan of extremely talented, kinda bitchy, powerful ladies with beautiful voices and harmonies. Sorry. Is it strange for a 19 year old male from Long Island to be obsessed with an all-girl country band? Perhaps. But if my alternative is Waka Flocka Flame and Katy Perry, I’m not gonna feel bad about it. I should just move to a different state.

Anyway, “Top of the World” is a cover from their 2002 fantastic album Home. Seriously. Buy this album. Every single song on it is wonderful. Take a listen:

For those of you who are interested in hearing it performed by the woman who first wrote/recorded the song, here’s Patty Griffin. Equally amazing.

Lyrics:

I wished I was smarter
Wished I was stronger
I wished I loved Jesus
The way the my wife does      (not my favorite two lines of the song)

I wished it’d been easier
Instead of any longer
I wished I could’ve stood
Where you would’ve been proud
That won’t happen now
That won’t happen now

There’s a whole lot of singing
That’s never gonna be heard
Disappearing every day
Without so much as a word
Somehow

I think I broke the wings
Off that little songbird
And she’s never gonna fly
To the top of the world Now
To the top of the world

I don’t have to answer
Any of these questions
Don’t have no god to
Teach me no lessons

I come home in the evening
Sit in my chair
One night they called me for supper
But I never got up
I stayed right there
In my chair

There’s a whole lot of singing
That’s never gonna be heard
Disappearing every day
Without so much as a word
Somehow

I think I broke the wings
Off a little songbird
And she’s never gonna fly
To the top of the world
Now
To the top of the world

I wished I’d had known you
Wished I had shown you
All of the things I
Was on the side
But I’d pretend to be sleeping
When you’d come in in the morning
To whisper goodbye
Go work in the rain
I don’t know why
Don’t know why

Cause everyone’s singing
We just wanna be heard
Disappearing every day
Without so much as a word
Somehow?

Gonna grab a hold
Of that little songbird
And take her for a ride
To the top of the world
Right now
To the top of the world

So I took a writing class a year ago on “Gender and Country Music,” which, looking back, was probably not the greatest decision. Needless to say, not a lot of other people in that class loved the Dixie Chicks. Some hated them (feel free to google the Dixie Chicks and George W. Bush and you’ll see why, for those who don’t know). I also hated having to analyze to death dozens of songs for how they “performed” gender, and honestly, I don’t really care. If you do, then…yikes. The one great part of that class was that I got to write papers about the Dixie Chicks and some of their songs, since if I had to analyze any song, I’d rather it be theirs. Seriously.

I wrote an entire paper on this one song, since it had to be about one that I personally related to.  I just re-read that paper, and….wowzers.  It is so horrifically miserable. I wrote an entire paragraph about how I usually don’t love a song (or movie, TV show) unless it makes me cry, whether from sadness/recognition (in this case) or from joy. The rest of the paper isn’t any more pleasant, since it involved me analyzing basically every line and verse and applying it back to how bad of a person I am.

I love this song because it tells a story that I can relate to more than any other. We all have regrets, we all fear that one day when we’re older we’ll look back on our lives and wish that we could have done things differently. Even worse is the fear that when we have our own families, we’ll imbed our past regrets and self-pity on our children, “breaking their wings,” keeping them from flying “to the top of the world.”

I believe that this song is meant for younger people, to make them weary in their youth of what missed opportunities can bring. So get up from your chairs, eat with your families, say goodbye in the morning, show the people you love who you are in the inside (my favorite message in the song).

Obviously this is all easier said than done. I’m still struggling with this every day. There are a few people out there who I really care about, who I wish I knew and was closer with, but can’t bring myself to let them know. Fear’s a pretty nasty son of a bitch.

For those of you who have actually made it to the end of this post….CONGRATULATIONS! As a reward, here’s a video that I watched on YouTube 27 times after finding the performances I uploaded here. Since everybody knows that the Dixie Chicks are a perfect segue to Beyonce.

Seriously, I am so amazed by her thighs and her ability to launch them off the ground and land so effortlessly while wearing heels. She is perfection. This is also the coolest performance ever. And also seems the most expensive.

So that’s all for now! Enjoy the Super Bowl, or for those of you like me who just don’t care (except to watch Madonna’s performance), enjoy the PUPPY BOWL!! So damn excited.

The White Rabbit

We all know the story: Alice sees a white rabbit, follows him down the rabbit hole, and finds herself in Wonderland.  Crazy stuff.

My life is about as uneventful and unexciting as it gets, which I guess is largely completely my fault. I spend nine months of the year following a pretty pathetic schedule of going to class, going to my internship, going to the library/starbucks to do homework, squeeze some time in for food, and go back to my room where I pathetically watch TV on Hulu until I fall asleep to repeat that process the next day. Saddest of all, I look forward to the weekends the most because I have even more time to do homework. Social life? Screw that! Skool fo lyfe!

Clearly, my shit is a mess.

On the bright side, at least I’m aware of how embarrassing I am. Unfortunately, habits are pretty tough to break.  I know my love for traveling, for being in other places and experiencing different ways of life is a consequence of this. I don’t want my life to be a constant loop of Grande Caramel Apple Spice and history textbooks.  So I decide that one day, I’m going to have a job where I can spend weeks at a time in different places (USAID, I’m comin’ for you!). I spend summers giving myself a taste of what that could be like, sending myself to Peru and Africa and wherever else, just to resuscitate my flat-lining life.

Anyway, back to the white rabbit.  There have been so many times that I’ve wished to be somewhere else, somewhere…different from where I am now. Basically, somewhere unknown. I don’t really feel like I belong anywhere right now. I’m at school, thinking about the next time I go back home, I get back home and pretty soon start thinking about the next time I’m leaving.  Clearly, something isn’t right here.

Given my desire to discover my own white rabbit to follow, my favorite TV show, Lost, provided some way to vicariously do that.  I can’t say how many times I’ve wished I could be on that island, slate wiped clean, the past no longer significant. Maybe I could do without all the deaths and smoke monsters. And crazy evil people. Here’s a clip of one of my favorite scenes of the show, a conversation between John Locke and Jack Shephard:

In case you didn’t feel like watching, Jack is struggling with coming to terms with something he feels to be an impossibility, his own white rabbit he refuses to accept. Locke wants Jack to believe in the possibility that things happen for a reason, that what he believes to be a hallucination may actually be real.  Faith is something that both characters struggle with throughout the series, something I struggle with today. I’m constantly questioning myself, questioning my past and my future, never really allowing myself to just stop and believe that things will work out the way they’re supposed to.  The present isn’t really a place I like to spend too much time thinking about.

In this clip, rabbit holes are discussed in a slightly extremely more depressing way.  In this scene from the amazing movie, Rabbit Hole, Nicole Kidman’s character is contemplating parallel universes, other realities where versions of herself are happier.

First off, how beautiful is Nicole Kidman?? Seriously. Love that woman. This is one of my favorite scenes from any movie, which probably says something about how depressing I am. But honestly, who doesn’t think about, or wish for, something better? To be better, happier, to be eating pancakes or at the water park instead of wallowing in pain.  It’s nice to think that somewhere out there, a version of ourself is living the kind of life we wish we had now.

One day, I will find that damn white rabbit. And follow the bastard.

So this post became a lot longer than I anticipated. I’m also concerned that I didn’t make any sense at all, but since I spent over an hour on this, I’m just gonna let it be and hope that when I re-read this, I’m not completely embarrassed.