Category Archives: Life

Big Choices: 12 Years Later

I was going deep into my old files on my computer. I found an essay I wrote my senior year of high school. I didn’t write a college essay. I didn’t apply to any schools that required one. People have accused me of doing this out of laziness, or being an underachiever, I think this essay sheds an light on something that took me a decade to rediscover.

I wrote this for my senior English class. It was the third “senior essay” I wrote. My teacher kept handing the previous essays back to me, telling me, “you wrote this because I told you to, not because you had something to say. Try again. Try something else.” It was a frustrating back and forth. I remember handing him this version and telling him, “I don’t care if you don’t like this one. This is it. I am not writing something else.”

I remember that incredibly frustrating experience so vividly. I remembered nothing about the essay itself. As I read the essay for the first time since I handed it in, I found myself sitting up straight, holding my breath, energized and paralyzed all at the same time.

I wanted to hug teenage me and I found myself shaking my head at adult me. How did I know this about myself at 17, and then forget it all, only to have to relearn it at 27 (and continue to relearn it as I approach 30)?!

Yeah, I eventually did move away from family. I miss the exact things I worried I would miss. Choices are still a major theme in my life. I “failed”. More than once. I fell flat on my face. I royally screwed up my plans. Yeah, I still make plans and lists.

I want to sit down and have a coffee with you and explain why this essay, this stupid teenagery essay, the essay I begrudgingly wrote, the essay I promptly forgot about, blew my adult mind. I suppose, if you know the dark and twisty and beautiful parts of my soul, if you know the story of my less than ideal choices (really just the one), my bumpy road to rediscovering myself, then maybe you know and we don’t need to have a coffee.

You see, I didn’t realize I had lost myself. Really. Until I started to find myself again, I didn’t realize I was wandering. But the thing is, I knew myself and I knew my biggest fears when I was just some “angsty naive teenager.” Somehow I lost sight of that. Reading this essay felt a lot like ripping all the bandages off a healing wound. Exposed. Vulnerable. Scary. But then you look at it. And you realize it healed.

So I am ripping off the bandages. Exposing myself. Admitting my fear. Showing you a decade-plus old school assignment that I didn’t want to complete and I didn’t bother to remember.

For what seems like all of my life, choices have been a major theme. My bat mitzvah speech was on choices; my final papers for my freshman and sophomore English classes as well as my junior history class were about choices. I would expect that someone as “well versed” in choices as myself would feel comfortable making them. But even as the Rabbi gave his sermon on Rosh Hashanah this year I found myself cringing merely at the word itself.

I am scared of making the “wrong” choice. I never have been good at making decisions. It’s not so much that I am indecisive, I just avoid big decisions. There is something in the finality of big decisions that seems to be more responsibility than I wish to take on. So making a choice when it comes to college is terrifying me. The idea that I will go through my next four years of school with one plan, and that it may in fact turn out to be different than where I want my life to go once I reach that point, is a scary thought. A situation such as that would leave me facing more choices, and as I previously stated, decisions are something I would rather avoid.

There are multiple factors that I would consider as constituting the “wrong” choice. I want to be a teacher, but I really like physiology. My mom is a teacher, I teach ballet to five-year-olds, I tutor second graders, and I help teach Sunday school. I am confidant in the fact that I would make a good teacher and that I would love doing it.  Nevertheless, I also am completely fascinated with the human body. It is one of the most amazing creations on this earth. I enjoy fixing injuries and absorbing all the information I can about the way that the body works.  But say I major in education and I wish I had gone the other route, or vice versa. Sure, I can change majors, go back to school, do whatever it takes, but I view that as a failure. I believe in making a decision and sticking with it.

Another factor would be the school itself. What if I hate the campus? The people? The distance, or lack of, from home? So I come home, go to PCC or Mt. Sac, and transfer to a school that is better suited for me. I would love so much the opportunity to get away from home, especially out of state, across the country even. Yet I am not applying to a single out of state school.  I am a family gal. The thought that I would not be able to attend High Holy Day services at my shul, or help the Sunday school students decorate the sukkah on Sukkot makes me homesick. My little cousin just started high school, and who knows what milestones in his life I would miss being away at school. My brother and dad’s birthdays, Thanksgiving with the entire family, and the countless “just because” dinners with the cousins, and New Years parties that wake the neighbors. I would not be me if it were not for occasions such as those. Yet still I am yearning to spread my wings. All these thoughts, contradictions, and dilemmas have played over and over in my head since about spring of junior year. I feel like I am on a seesaw, and depending which way it is tilted on November 30th will be what decides my future.

In the past when I have had to make choices such as which high school to attend, to quit drums or not, etc, I have always relied on lists that I have made. In eighth grade I made a list. I mapped out all four years of high school. This list included what classes I was going to take and what extra-curricular activities I was going to participate in as well as the grade I was going to get in each class. It also had listed which year I was going to accomplish what, such as: in my junior year I was going to receive my Gold Award, or by my senior year I would be playing in the pep-band. I even had a subsection of the list that included what colleges I was going to apply to. Needless to say, the path I chose for myself as a thirteen-year-old is far different than the choices I have made as a seventeen-year-old.

Similarly, the path I choose now will likely be different from the choices I make in my future. This does not make the decision any less daunting, but it does however, relieve some of the pressure that was building up as a result of it.  I have come to the realization that I have to take opportunities as they unfold.  If I had not done this in highschool, I would have never become a member of the Orchesis Dance Company. It was never a part of my plan to at any point quit band, or become more involved in dance in anyway. However, one night on a whim I went to the tryout meeting and began the process. The day the list went up and I saw my name on it, my first reactions was “okay, so I guess I am in Orchesis now, this is different.” Becoming part of the company drastically changed the course of high school for me. It changed my friends, my extra curricular activities, and my self image. All for the better. Planning my life in advance is ludicrous. Things change and people grow, and I have to make decisions one at a time, as they present themselves. Not try to figure it all out in one day, one essay, or one application.

When Sprinklers Make Me Rage

I stay calm when it is important. I am a good person to have around in a an emergency. But I loose my cool, I get irrationally upset, over things that don’t actually matter.

 

I don’t think of myself as a particularly eco-conscious person. I mean if it is convenient sure. I know better than to chuck my batteries in the trash, but I am not going to let it mellow…that leaves toilet bowl stains, weird smells, and it just isn’t my thing. I also like to take really long, scalding hot showers.

 

And yet despite my egregious abuse of water resources, I am thrown into an absurd rage, we are taking hitting my steering wheel, yelling at no one, kind of rage when I see sprinklers running in the afternoon on my way home from work.

 

These are the things I yell at the person who clearly cannot hear me:

Why are your sprinklers going in the heat of the day?!

What an inefficient use of water?! Don’t you know that you need to water before dawn or after dusk for maximum water retention?!

Hello! It is summertime! It is hot as balls out! The water probably isn’t even hitting the ground it is evaporating so quickly! This is really just an invitation for me to come run in the sprinklers!!

Dammit it’s just annoying!

 

Please stop watering the field in the heat of the day. I just can’t handle it anymore.

You’re Going to Miss Me When I Move to China

One summer, a sweet little camper found his way into my heart. He was one of the littlest campers. He didn’t talk much. He did like to flex his muscles (literally) quite regularly and smile that awkward 4 year old smile. Truthfully, if it weren’t for what he said to me on his second to last day at camp, I don’t know that I would remember him so well.

 

It went something like this:

Me: Good morning!

Camper: You’re going to miss me when I move to China.

Me: (confused pause)… yeah, bud, I guess I will…

Camper: Yup! (runs off to play)

 

On his last day of camp I mentioned the conversation to his dad. His dad replied, “Oh yeah, we are moving this weekend.”

 

That was the last I saw of the little camper, and you know what? He was right. I miss him.

 

This summer, a preschooler was here for the summer. Guess where he went back to? China, you guessed? Close, Singapore. But still, this little student made me think of my little camper.

 

Some of my camp friends and I will tell each other, “You’re going to miss me when I move to China.” It is a silly way of telling each other that we miss the other person.

 

I may even be guilty of having said it once or twice to non-camp people when really what I should have said was, “I am going to miss you when you leave.” I then find myself having to explain my absurd declaration.

 

I don’t generally rock at expressing my emotions, especially those vulnerable and tender ones, like goodbyes, because sometimes goodbyes are difficult. Usually goodbyes are difficult. I think they are especially challenging when they are the kind of goodbyes we say at the end of summer camp, or really any short lived but deeply loved relationship. It is hard to say, “this was brief, but you ended up meaning so much to me, we might never see each other again, we might even forget about each other, but right now, in this moment, I don’t have to words to tell you how important you are, and I wish I could pause time for just a little bit, I am not sure I am ready to say good-bye.”

 

So instead I might say, “You’re going to miss me when I move to China.”

 

No words for that good bye, just a long hug at the end of summer
No words for this good-bye, just a long hug at the end of summer

 

The 10 Essentials of Life

A few weekends ago, my longest standing, non-relative, friend (seriously we met when we could hardly hold up our heads) came for a visit. This was a big deal because she NEVER gets time off work. I told her I would never even consider moving back to California until she came for a visit. Guess what, she and her boyfriend were here for almost 5 days! And you know what we did? We went camping.

IMG_5192
Setting out on an adventure!

 I might not strike you as the camping kind of gal, but I absolutely love, love, love camping. Mom, Dad, Brother and I did some camping back when we all could fit in a 4 man tent. That is where Brother told me about the Bogeyman, he said the shadows I saw on the tent were the Bogeyman’s hands coming to get me. It turned out to be a tree, but that particular camping trip was one of the scariest of my life. We visited the Redwoods and a few different beaches, occasionally I camped in our back yard. I did more beach camping and Joshua Tree with Scouts. I even camped in England (well sort of, it is hard to call an international scout jamboree camping, it was amazing, but that many people in a field with showers and a pub, it was hardly roughing it). I hadn’t gone camping here yet, you know, floods and winter slowed me down a bit, so when she said they wanted to camp I was thrilled.

 

We decided to drive up into the Arapahoe National Forest and find a spot to call home for the weekend. It was amazing, incredible, rejuvenating, exhausting, phenomenally dirty and everything I didn’t know I needed.

 

It was pretty stinking beautious...
It was a pretty stinking beautious spot we found to just relax.

We talked about EVERYTHING, we always do. I almost feel bad for the boyfriend, but hey he knew what he was getting into. We talked about, religion, politics, family, friends, music, cosmetics, careers, dreams, fears, memories, my blog. I asked her what she wanted me to write about. She said: The 10 Essentials of Life

 

Before we were down the mountain a few days later this was almost totally written in my head.

 

I first learned about the 10 essentials through Scouts. We are a scouting family Mom, Dad, Brother, and Me. I remember my first pocket knife that I got to take with me on hikes, it was a pink swiss army knife, my whole troop got them, I think we were six. I still have it. My friend comes from this kind of family too (scouting/ ten essentials type), but in case you don’t, and incase you ever want to go out into nature at least minimally prepared this is what I am talking about (although please don’t use me as your only source of information):

 

Scouting 10 Essentials

  1. a pocket-knife or multitool
  2. first aid kit
  3. extra clothing
  4. rain gear
  5. flashlight
  6. trail food
  7. water
  8. matches and/or fire starter
  9. sun protection
  10. map & compass

 

This is what REI lists as “Updated 10 Essentials”, just for additional reference

  1. Navigation (map & compass)
  2. Sun protection
  3. Insulation
  4. Illumination
  5. First-aid
  6. Fire
  7. Repair Kit & tools
  8. Nutrition
  9. Hydration
  10. Emergency Shelter

 

 

So, since life is a journey (hence the name of the blog), I had better pack my ten essentials, but what are they? Are they things? I know I have gone on and on about my love for my stand mixer. But that would be heavy and hardly essential. Sure my passport, drivers license, and favorite stuffed animal are things I don’t want to go without, but essential…not in the macro sense, not at all. So, what are the 10 essentials of life, according to me? Well, I am glad you asked. In no set order, other than how they came to me..

1. Positive Attitude

I am a firm believer that a positive attitude will get you farther in life than most anything. This isn’t always an easy thing to have, but with practice it gets easier. Life throws some epic curve balls once in a while, a positive attitude makes that pitch easier to handle. It is a choice, as are most things. We don’t always get to choose what happens, but we do get to choose our attitude.

2. Passion

Some people are blessed with one great passion from the very beginning. Others take years to find their passion. I feel lucky to have so many passions. It doesn’t matter what you are passionate about, it matters that you seek out your passion and pursue it. Passions enrich our lives and give us purpose.

 3. Gratitude

It seems to me that gratitude might be one of the biggies here on this list (I think I am going to have to try and stop myself from saying that about each one). It goes hand in hand with a positive attitude.  Having gratitude makes us happier people and it makes those around us happier as well.

 4. Community

We weren’t meant to be solitary creatures. We need community. Often we need multiple communities. Family, friends, co-workers, religious, cultural, shared interest communities, it matters more that we find our people and build those relationships than who exactly makes up our community. Remember how life throws those curve balls? Well let me tell you, community matters. Not just to help you when you stumble, the real joy of community is when you are able to celebrate together. Life is a journey that is meant to be shared.

5. Sense of Humor

Because if you can’t laugh…well, what is the point? It doesn’t have to be the same, perhaps you like dry humor, slapstick, raunchy, witty. Who cares?! Just find laughter in life, try to make others smile, and strive to see the humor in everyday.

 6. Perseverance

Life is an adventure and a challenge everyday. An obstacle, a fear, a “no”, those things shouldn’t stop you from, well anything. Imagine all the things you wouldn’t be able to do now had you not persevered. Walking, that was difficult to learn. Maybe you know another language or you have a highly specialized skill. It took me three hours to change my own oil the first time (it was so much easier once I realized I had to remove the skid plate), but I persevered and I am still silly proud of myself for being able to do that. Just keep at it, you never know what you will discover along the way.

 7. Dreams & Goals

Without these, why get out of bed in the morning?! I used to hate in school when we would have to do goal worksheets. Not only did I think I didn’t know what my goals were, they seemed generic, bland, and contrived. When I did know what they were I was self conscious about sharing them. They were after all my dreams and my goals, no one else’s. Things have changed, ask me and I will gladly tell you all about my dreams and goals. They might be small; today I wanted to sweep the floor and wash my car (Brother and his family are coming to visit and I know he is a little particular about clean cars, it is supposed to rain tomorrow and we are going camping when he gets here, but hey its the gesture). Or they might be outrageous dreams. Did you know I would like to be dictator of the world? Dreams and goals give us a purpose and a direction. It is about picking a destination, or at least a highway, dreams and goals get the journey moving out of the garage.

 8. Something to Believe In

I think it is important to have something to believe in. For me that something is religion, for other people maybe not. Maybe it is numbers, or science, or other people, or something I haven’t thought of. But I would argue that having something on the macro level to believe in makes us look beyond the micro and beyond ourselves. Too much time spent on the self doesn’t make this world a better place. And why be a part of it then? Believe in something greater than yourself.

 9. Compassion

I don’t love everyone, I don’t even like some people, but that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t be treated with compassion. We are in this together whether we want to be or not, so we might as well treat each other in a way that enriches our lives rather than takes away from it. Don’t get me wrong, there are toxic people who don’t deserve to be in our lives, and it is important to set boundaries, I just think we should strive to do it not with a hardened heart, but perhaps with compassion for ourselves too. The more compassionate we are to others, the happier we find ourselves. And I am pretty sure that happiness is contagious.

 10. Integrity

Being honest and moral are essential to being a person of good character. Again, thinking about the bigger picture, the macro level, this is important. How do we interact with those around us and how to we make the world better? Being someone with integrity.

We don’t get to pack very much in our ten essentials, I had so much more I wanted to add, but this is where I stop. What would you add if there was room for more? Would you leave anything off the list?