Sunday, January 25, 2009


When everything becomes more stressful, when everyone becomes busier, when the work piles up higher than the library’s coffered ceilings, everything becomes funnier. Suddenly breaking a pencil causes uproar of laughter and hilarity completely ensues on the dropping of a calculator. Layered extra large thermal shirts paired with knee socks and scrunchies are once again fashionable. And after all this tedious preparation, crammed memorization of useless information instantaneously forgotten, what do we do? We eat lunch. We treat ourselves as if we have undergone the worst possible treatment, generously removing time from our outrageously busy lives to enjoy ourselves, for once. Why do we only take special time to enjoy ourselves at the end of something, why don’t we just appreciate life as it goes and celebrate along the way?

As a person who plays Scrabble and visits museums for fun, I find it only appropriate to write about my appreciation for the library. Because nothing else happened this week…

(Notice Mz. Hillary's approval of Aretha's stunning ensemble)

President Obama! It’s amazing to hear, amazing to say, amazing to read. The inauguration was incredible. The massive amount of people gathered to see Barack Hussein take his oath was astounding. I watched incredulously—so excited but unsure if this was actually happening. After years of waiting for 1.20.09, it was finally here, and this was truly happening!

Watching racial barriers crumble before our eyes I sat with my fellow senior classmates and watched the twinkle in Yo Yo Ma’s eyes, the sparkle in Joe Biden’s smile, the overall pride of the Obama family. Democratic or Republican, Barack or Hillary, Religious or non-believer, gay or straight, rich or poor, righty or lefty—it didn’t matter, change occurred directly before us, proving that change IS possible and everything WILL get better.

It wasn’t Obama’s first speech as president which brought tears to my eyes (although some may think this, as I left the inauguration assembly with smeary eyeliner patches around my eyes) but Aretha’s glorious singing. (I’ve seen her in concert—she’s not much better.) True, she was off key, and true, the hat made for excellent jokes for the rest of the week. But the power of her presence; the images of millions of people standing behind her, supporting Obama; the looks in people’s eyes, the smiles, the tears slowly dripping; the billions of flashes occurring every second to record this pivotal moment as best as possible, made me realize what a huge event this truly was. Our lives stopped for an hour to watch Obama take his oath (yes, I’m referring to the first time), we sat there; eyes open wide, ready for the revolution to ensue. And it did. It is. It will.

But this is far from the end. Obama has a way to go before midterms and finals, and he has yet to earn even his first quarter grades. So we must encourage him—celebrate him as we do for ourselves after studying so tediously at the end of each semester. Everyday, we must remember what’s important, why we love our country, and how we want to change it. Send him letters, birthday cards, homemade cookies; remind him that we’re here. Let him know what we want. Tell him we love him. Repeat our necessity for change and improvement again and again and again.

After recently enjoying dinner with Bill Ayers (yes, I am officially on the bad list after sharing guacamole with him), I realized our need to speak up. Voting is not enough. Caring is not enough. Doing is not enough. Just as we invade the library in the last week of each semester we must invade the White House with the same passion, enthusiasm, and maybe even humor, that pervades our studies in the last few days leading up to the big exam. Because we would all hate to see this lovely Chicagoan leave office with anything less than a 4.0 GPA…

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Zzzzz, Bark?

At the top of every suitcase, every sleeping bag, every pillow, I know there’s someone on whom I can rely. Someone who has moved houses with me, traveled across the world, gone to explore big cities and make new friends when I though I was alone. Someone who always listens to all I have to say, without ever interrupting, a smile permanently glued to his face; someone who reads whatever I want to read together, without protest; and someone I know is always exactly where I want, when I want, and how I want this someone to be.

I realize this next revelation may make me seem like a bit of a fool, but this someone, who holds a place so deep in my heart, is Woof. (Yes, that’s right, my dirty, tattered, partially stuffed animal.) However, it’s not the frayed threads, the discolored ribbon collar, or the stretched out ears that make Woof my special little friend. Woof has been with my through thick and thin, soaked up my tears when I’ve stomped angrily off into my room; traveled everywhere I have, never leaving me completely on my own; never making me feel lonely.

I am questioned frequently, “You’re 18… and you still sleep with that? Seriously?” When I was younger, I used to feel insecure about needing this security; I hid Woof under my pillow, not removing him until we were surrounded by total darkness and I needn’t worry about anyone seeing him. I was afraid of looking like a baby, not sufficiently proving myself to be the coolest thirteen year old ever with neon blue braces and a Limited Too wardrobe. Yeah, right.

But Woof, mi amigo, I apologize for those days now. As I grew more confident in myself, becoming my own person and acknowledging the unimportance of other people’s remarks, I realized that Woof was a part of me, absorbing my memories, dreams, and feelings, as I tucked the plushy cloth body under my chin before going to sleep each night. On flights to Milan, sick days from school, camping trips in the backwoods, I know Woof will always be there for consolation.

I no longer feel ashamed to remove Woof from a suitcase and cuddle up with him before bed. I openly embrace him on plane flights, even if I have the middle seat, refusing to cover him with a scratchy American Airlines blanket. I may receive a perplexed stare, a quizzical remark, only acknowledged by my pride: Yes, Woof is mine and no one else’s; don’t you wish you had such a wonderful, trustworthy, adorable friend?

So every night as I go off to bed, I await my dear Woof in his usual spot-- sitting on top of my velour blanket, because I know he will always be there. He won’t disapprove when I stay up an hour later than planned to journal, flip through Vogue, or watch the night’s previously recorded episode of the Rachel Maddow Show. (Woof appreciates a good political pundit more than your average blankey.) And best of all, his miniature distended paws make it infinitely easier to reach the snooze button every morning.

Woof celebrates in Roma:

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Sing Out, Louise!

And there goes another voice recital. Months upon months of preparation; hours of singing Italian arias in the shower, hoping no one is listening nearby; endless nail biting out from pre-performance nerves until a manicure is finally necessary to repair your seriously mangled nails. And in a flash all that work disappears. You hit the note or went flat. You came in at the right entrance or forgot to enter until your accompanist played the same chord six times in a row. You counted a whole note as seventeen beats. It happens. It drives me crazy.

So why do it all? I’m constantly asked this—why work so hard, stress so much, complain all the time, for something that appears totally agonizing, excruciatingly unbearable, worse than getting bit by a jellyfish? Because I love it.

It seems simple and rather hard to explain, but I do it out of a true self-satisfaction. As I relax back into my seat after finishing my program, a sense of pride overwhelms me, and I literally feel a weight lifted off my shoulders. I know that most people could not stand in front of their friends, teachers, the mayor, etc. and sing. Sing anything; three classical pieces in three different languages is no easy feat. I know that my work pays off, no matter how many times my voice cracks, I skip a verse, or I sound utterly miserable, I always leave the stage with a smile on my face, ready to go up there and do it again.

A voice recital is like a good massage. After years of performing, I can hide my nerves well. I’ve been told that I don’t look nervous. That is a blatant lie. In the hours prior to each recital I think of ways to get out of it—“accidentally” falling down the stairs, “unintentionally” cutting my finger while slicing a potato, “fainting”… But I never do. While I’m singing I focus on nothing more than the music- the words, the melody, the rhythm- I cannot feel my fingers or my toes; I’m barely aware of my surroundings except for the blank spot on the wall to which my eyes are glues. (Bad choice, always make eye contact or else you look like a singing fool. I am a singing fool.) But after the singing, no matter how horrendous it sounds or how much I butchered a Mozart masterpiece, all the feeling returns to my body and I truly feel the heavy burden taken off of my body and replaced by a sense of pride and accomplishment. The thumbs-up from the audience help too.

Every recital I tell myself that it will be the last one. This is it. I’m never putting myself through this torture again. And yet, I continue to learn my songs and perform them with (somewhat) confidence. I have been fighting with myself to resist the urge to challenge myself yet again, to let myself off the hook, and not do the spring recital. But how could I not? I feel I owe it to myself to perform in my last honors recital, to push myself one more time, see how much I’ve grown over the years. And if I get nothing else from this last challenge, I always look super cool with German lyrics written in Sharpie across the back of my hand in the days leading up to each recital.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Another Shopping Trip?

I hate to lose control. I can’t stand not being able to make my own decisions, think for myself, control my own life. And so at these times when I feel like I’m losing control, there are two things I find myself doing: cooking and cleaning. (I’m quite the feminist, aren’t I?) It may not make much sense, my enjoyment for domestic chores over other seemingly relaxing activities like taking a bath or watching TV, but my type A-ness forces me to be productive. And yes, I enjoy my productivity. There’s something about making a change, creating something better, which feels better than sipping a warm cup of cocoa out of a shiny I ♥ NY mug.

Earlier this week, I found myself unsure. I found myself unable to control my life, and therefore, my incessant need for power led me to tidy up the pink paradise I call my bedroom. I stacked old voice lesson tapes neatly into shoe boxes, matched orphaned socks with their pairs, emptied my clothes drawers and swiped them clean with purple Windex spritzes. Eventually, I made my way over to the closets. And as much as I dreaded organizing the tangled mess into which most of my shirts had evolved, I could not wait to discover the hidden joys mangled within heaps of middle school Abercrombie tops and ancient Gap floral button up blouses. And I’ll admit it: I was more excited to conquer that closet than I was for anything else all week.

And so I embarked on my journey, trying on shirt after shirt, watching as each one barely covered my belly button, I remembered a story behind each top. I made flawlessly folded piles of shirts on my floor—shirts that had been to my first school dance, shirts bought out of pity from my parents when something didn’t go my way, shirts I bought with hard earned babysitting money because I knew my parents would never purchase a top for me that said “If you can’t be nice, look nice” or “Look at me!” (I cannot believe I actually wore these things at some point…)

As my rainbow of shirts (okay, yes, they are, and have always been, in color coordinated order) thinned out on the top rack of my closet and the sea of piles thickened greatly on my floor, I began to wonder, would my life be completely different had I not purchased all these clothes? If I had worried more about other aspects of my life as much as what I wore, would my life today be entirely unlike the one I have today? It sounds like a sappy poster hanging in a classroom, yet I truly wonder if my obsession with clothing had not been so intense, how would I be different?

I try not to judge people on what they wear. I am not friends with someone based on whether or not their jeans cost over two hundred dollars or if their tops are layered in the right way and purchased from the right brand. None of that matters to me. So why do I put so much emphasis on myself and what I wear? My guilt built up as I watched Juicy Couture, Lacoste, and countless other labels create a sea of insignificance on my grey carpet—all the time and money and thought spent could have been put to much better use.

Ultimately, the piles became two full trash bags, which I took to two local resale shops. I imagine the girls who will purchase my clothes; will they buy them for how they look or just for the label sewn inside? The woman at the consignment store says to my mother and me as we set down the bag, “You have a beautiful daughter, never disown her.” Although the idea seemed ridiculous yet not too distant, I’m pretty sure the woman never really looked up at me. I felt good knowing I had done something to help other people, and knew that the beauty she was talking about was not my appearance but my attitude.

As I relax in my immaculately organized room, with just a few coffee table books scattered out of place by my bed (Frida Kahlo, Man Ray, and Sex and the City: Kiss and Tell never fail as late night reading) I can finally enjoy the place in which I spend the most time. I can blame myself for being type-A all I want, but I know that without my fastidious, maybe even demanding, qualities, I would not be myself. I would not make cauliflower puree at 11:30 at night because I wanted to relieve stress, nor would excessively clean out my room to make myself feel better. And without all this, what else would I do?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Bring it, 2009!

Well, it’s 2009. The year that’s been printed in shiny white silkscreen on my royal blue sweatshirt for what seems like a decade has finally arrived. Graduation. Freedom. Independence. I honestly can’t believe it. I feel like last week I was a freshman, sharing a locker in the corners of the school, breaking the dress code because I thought it would make me cooler, and selectively choosing a lunch table, because where you sit makes all the difference. In such a short time so much has changed but yet it all still feels the same.

We still listen to the Spice Girls, watch Arthur, eat instant noodle soup, forget to make our beds, wear blue eyeshadow on weekends just-for-the-hell-of-it, add too much sugar to our coffee, read magazines when we should be annotating American classics, sneak into movies, start AIM chats to discuss absolutely nothing, Google just about everyone we know… The list goes on and on—but while we continue to do the same things, I know we have all grown up a little, made mistakes and learned a little bit.

I resolve to make this year the best ever. Which all started on NYE, despite 2:00 in the morning Spanish soap opera reenactments, an eclectic dress up party, loud renditions of Auld Lang Syne, and too much snacking? While some people may just see ‘09 as a continuation of going back to boring number crunching jobs or another year of taking standardized tests and studying for pointless exams, I know it is the beginning of the rest of my life. I know that in just a few months, my life will never be the same. I will not see my friends from kindergarten every single day; I will not reminisce with my friends’ parents about the good ole’ carpool days; I will not know where everything/who everyone is.

And as for the first half of the year: This is it. This is our last chance to do everything we’ve wanted to for the last 18 years. So let’s do it. Enjoy our last year together, because pretty soon, it’s all different.

And so I resolve to change a few things as I start of this year. Because if ’09 is going to top the other years, it has to be done right:

1. I will be nice to everyone. Everyone. No matter how much I think I don’t like the person.
2. I will stop biting my nails. I have been saying this forever. It will happen.
3. I will think less about myself and more about others. In a benevolent way, of course.
4. I will write more. About anything. Because I like it.
5. I will talk less, listen more.
6. I will continue to eat Tradition soup, watch PBS Kids, and listen to 90’s music, because without all that, what else is there?

And lastly,

7. I resolve to become a better person, whatever that entails. To feel good about myself and make good choices. Be more confident and never give up.

So get ready, because the next 525,600 minutes are going to be the best ever!