Thursday, November 26, 2009

Monet to buy Degas to make the Van Gogh...

An older relative recently asked me, “What do you do for fun? Are you on a sports team? In the band?” And while I scanned through my mind, envisioning the rainbow of iCal tasks and events I accomplish everyday, I could not come up with a solid answer. I could talk about how I write for some blogs (let’s ignore the fact November was a homework-heavy month and I kind of took a writing vacation…) or how I go running to clear my mind or how I arrange my schedule to allow adequate time to visit museums and galleries or how I never let my camera out of my hand. I could have mentioned the fact that I love reading a great novel or revealed that I enjoy creating new pasta recipes and I adore blasting music for spontaneous dance parties in my room. However, in trying to make my interests sound appealing, I felt like most of my pursuits were rather trivial.

“I like community service…” I offered. Which is true, I spend six hours a week teaching kids to read, write, and speak English but I guess that’s not quite the same as training for the varsity volleyball team. He looked in satisfied. “And I sing in chorus.” There. I’m part of a group. Ha. See, I do have fun!

“Do you want to be a singer?” No. I sit there and hope that no one really hears me, actually…

“Well, actually, I just have a wide variety of interests, so I don’t really concentrate on one I guess. I want to be a writer…” I’m not going to lie, I felt pretty insecure.

Why can’t I have fun? Since when does an eighteen year old in New York City not know how to have fun?

I continued pondering the question as I made my way to The Met the next week. The thing about The Met is that it’s just too big, too grand and overwhelming to see all at once. Even if you walk through all the galleries, there’s no possible way you can internalize everything you’ve seen. So I choose a period to focus on each visit. Sometimes I want to go back to see my old friend Botticelli and escape into his mythical world, other times I want to visit my ladies Frida and Georgia and maybe even Vincent or Pablo, just enjoy the moderns, and other days I find myself moved by Manet or Daumier or Redon or Watteau or anyone else who picked up a paintbrush or some charcoal or a camera and decided to capture the very essence of his or her existence.

A great work of art remains unmatched, unchallenged, unafraid to exist and persistent in its own reality. You can walk between Dali and Miro and question your morality, your desires, your future or you can just admire the colors. You can walk past a Monet and think that a poster with his floral pattern would perfectly match the décor in your powder room or you can really look at it. You can look at it and see the signature in the corner, you can know that Claude’s hand once signed this very canvas, you can consider everything that ran through his head as he created this scene, you can imagine the thousands of people who have seen this painting, the thousands of feet who have stood in your exact same spot and the thousands of eyes which have glanced at the paint and thought something about their lives.

I’m not a great artist. I grew up with a crayon in one hand and a paintbrush in the other, but I’ve never completed a Met-worthy masterpiece. However, I find that the solace I discover in these creations, in artworks at the Art Institute in Chicago or the Guggenheim in Venice or the Reina Sofia in Madrid or even a tiny gallery in SoHo, somehow makes me a better person. Art makes me think of the greater world around me, an individual’s ability to create and impact the world. You look at the brush strokes, these thin lines in the paint, and know what one person accomplished this, someone had this idea and shared it with the world. Art inspires me. It makes me want to do good things, to see the world and learn languages and teach others what I know and create my own masterpieces, whatever they may be.

And while I know a great majority of people who would not classify visiting a museum as “fun,” I find that that’s where I’m happiest. That’s where I find inspiration and ideas to enhance other aspects of my life, bringing fun and joy to whatever I do, whether it be jogging through Central Park to and from Museum Mile, going out with friends, or just singing a little more loudly in my choir rehearsals.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

How do You Measure a Year?

Time is a very weird thing. It’s this odd little ticking that we can never stop, that we can never control, that never disappears yet we never fully gain a sense of it.

I cannot believe that it is November 4th yet again. It makes absolutely no sense to me. It seems illogical that 365 days have passed since we elected our newest president, since I was sitting in my living room, toasting with my friends and holding hands and sniffling and Barack Obama was officially as the first African American president of the United States of America, land of the free.

And now, 525,600+ minutes later I wonder what has happened in all that time.

Days after the presidential election we learned that Prop 8 passed in California. Weeks later I attended a Prop 8 protest in a plaza in Chicago. Weeks after that I went shopping on Black Friday on the Magnificent Mile while news reports continued warning us about the doomed economy. I soon became old enough to stay out past legal curfew, buy cigarettes and porn and lottery tickets. New Years hit and I was left celebrating the last year of the decade with the same group who helped me welcome in 1999. Snow covered the ground and I quit kickboxing to become an avid Scrabble player. Snow melted and I still stayed inside, preferring to be the host than leave the coziness of my home. I travelled to Peru and decided I could actually influence the world. I decided I’d mêlée with the Ivy League in New York. I cut down a tree. I graduated High School and worked twelve hours a day for twelve weeks. I walked a marathon and a half. I got in trouble for writing too much. I went to the zoo. I packed up half my wardrobe and flew to the greatest island in the world to further my education. I unsuccessfully stalked Padma down 5th Avenue. I survived my first round of midterms.

And now what? How has my chain of insignificant events helped the world in any way? In the last year, how much has Barack’s message of change, and hope, and si se puede, affected our daily lives? How much time does it take to improve the world and why aren’t we all taking greater steps towards achieving this?

In complete repetition of last year, it was with great sadness I learned that Maine’s voters decided to ban same sex marriage, exactly like the injustice in California a mere 365 days ago. In the time of Obama have we not learned anything about fairness? About equality and optimism and faith? Can we not learn to merely trust and accept each other for our differences recognize each other’s true potentials as human beings?

Time is truly an odd concept. It keeps going, whether we like it or not. And bad things will keep happening as the clock ticks away, each second marking another moment in time we can never retrieve. And while I can recognize many drastic and positive changes in my life since this time last year, acknowledging the fact that not much has been altered, for myself or my community, upsets me. It makes me want to do more. To be more vocal, to express my opinions more openly and have more influence. I’m inspired to take more action, to put my full capacity into everything I do, make it the best I can make it, and perhaps make an impression on the world in the next 525,600 minutes.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Boo Yorkers!

I’ve always loved Halloween: the weeks in October dedicated to picking out the perfect costume(s), the pumpkin-flavored goodies constantly surrounding me, the excuse to eat candy throughout November (after it’s been organized in order of deliciousness, of course—Reese’s at the top, Starbursts at the bottom).

While I haven’t been trick-or-treating in years it seems as if the joy of Halloween never left me. During my high school years, I always arrived at school fully costumed (Elphaba, Carrie Bradshaw, Ballerina, Alex/Jennifer Beals from Flashdance…) and managed to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve in a fully festive manner.

This year, however, brought new challenges and excitement to the 31st of October. Unsure of the typical college protocol, I began talking with my friends mid-September about costume ideas. As the week of Halloween approached we still had yet to put together a solid plan. Hence, we found ourselves in Times Square the night before the big holiday, desperately searching for some variety of clothing to call a costume.

As we pushed through the crowds of tourists and fought to cross streets without traffic, my friends kept grumbling in frustration, “This is ridiculous! We live here! Why can’t people just move at a regular pace?” We proceeded to the center of the square and had a foreign tourist snap a picture of us with the glimmering city in the background. Snickering, we trotted down Broadway, laughing at the clueless visitors to our city, trying our best to remain oblivious to the greatness that was the center of “our” city.

We stopping in a souvenir shop, desperately hoping that between all the blatant tackiness we could find costume-worthy materials. And suddenly, between all the tawdrily decorated mugs and obnoxious postcards, green foam Statue of Liberty hats caught our New Yorker eyes.

“Guys, how ridiculous would it be if we wore these?” Nods. Many nods. We explained that we were from “uptown” and “just being silly” as we bought I ♥ NY shirts to complement the crowns.

On the last night of October, three girls sat on my floor decorating premium New York tourist apparel with gobs of glitter glue and even more enthusiasm. We paraded across campus, down into the subway, and back out into midtown (where we were swarmed with cameras trying to capture our ridiculousness—superb celebrity moment) wearing an eclectic conglomeration of everything we were and everything we said we were not.

Feeling ridiculous was not even an option—everywhere we walked we were surrounded by Lady GaGas, vampires, bunnies, and even a seven-foot-tall baby.

And now, while I vow never to wear the shirt again (it makes an excellent chair cover) and keep the foam crown looped around my bookshelf as nothing more than a memory, I realize the extent to which I love Halloween. It has nothing to do with the candy and parties (well, maybe) but so much to do with just being able to laugh at yourself, giving us a break from the seriousness that is reality and just allowing us to be spontaneous and impractical, non-judgmental and free. And while I cannot advocate a human ostrich riding the cross-town bus on a daily basis, the one night a year we get to step outside of ourselves and just enjoy being whomever we want to be should never be taken for granted!