¡¡¡Impending Adventure!!!

Tomorrow around 10 PM, I’ll be flying out of JFK to London, then to Athens, and then to Thessaloniki. Then I’m going to live in a monastery on a mountain with around 30 nuns for a week. Then I’m going to Kastoria, another city in Greece, to explore. Then back to Thessaloniki for a night, then London for four days with a transfer in Munich. I’m looking forward to a lot of adventure packed into just 16 days! And instead of packing right now, which seemed to ease the butterflies in my stomach when I tried it for five minutes just now, I’m sitting on my bed writing this because I have a procrastination problem and I want to chronicle this trip from start to finish.

I’m going on what’s called the Mt. Menoikeion Summer Seminar, which is an eight-day seminar for undergraduate and graduate students sponsored by the Hellenic Studies Program. No one I’ve talked to about it has ever heard of it, and neither had I until I got an e-mail about it on the Mathey College listserv, but this will be its eleventh year! It all started out with a grad student from Greece who started an academic relationship with the nuns in the Hagios Ioannis Prodromos (St. John the Baptist) monastery (they call it a monastery still because it was historically one, I think). And Princeton students and professors, numbering 17 in total, have been going there to live in the monastery ever since. When my friends and family ask me what the class is for, I usually just say something like, “to hang out with nuns…and learn…about…Byzantine stuff…and eat Greek food.” I’m partly joking but I’m pretty sure that’s what we’re out there to do. People tend to be surprised when I tell them it’s just eight days, and it’s not for credit. “It’s just, like, for learning.” And I’m really excited about it. Last summer, I went to France for six weeks with a 17-student Anthropology class that I can’t even begin to describe here, but this is the first time I’ll be going on a trip that’s so loosely structured and not for an academic credit. There’s no one to pick me up from the airport, I booked my own hotel room for the first few days when we’re in Thessaloniki, and found my own flights (OK not really…my mom helped me because I had to book my flights around Dean’s Date and was stressed…thanks Mom! Not that she reads this!). I’ve never been to Greece before, and this will be my first time in a country where I don’t speak or read the language in three years. This is totally new. Ok that’s not that long, and I’ve been told that “everyone in Greece speaks English.” I’m just in the habit of psyching myself out.

 

I’ve traveled abroad many a time alone before, but there’s no getting rid of that full-chest, sour-stomach feeling of nervousness that hits me every time a day before I depart. Eating dinner outside tonight with my parents, I even started to feel a little homesick already. Don’t even get me started on waiting on the security line–I can’t remember if my mom stood there until I got through security last summer when I went to France, but I remember the first time I traveled alone–also to France, as it happens–after sophomore year of high school. My mom waited and we waved every time we came back into each other’s lines of sight as I snaked through the rope maze of a line. I totally teared up, and I remember getting through the x-rays into the terminal and thinking, “holy shit, this is it. I’m going.”

A lot of people complain about airports, and maybe I’ll be taking back what I’m about to say when I’m there tomorrow, but I love them. I’m lucky enough to have had experiences that make me think of Newark or JFK as places that symbolize either the anticipation of an adventure or the anticipation of coming home. The stuff that happens in between takes care of itself, but the getting there–that’s the most exciting part. Ok gonna go pack now because if not I feel like I will stress vomit. Which has never happened before, but I always feel like it will.

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The Tragedy About Tragedy

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Note: Again, I originally drafted this post a while ago and am only publishing it now after revisiting it several times, adding and subtracting content. The majority of this post was written on April 19, 2013. 

In my whole life, there’s only one day for which I can tell you exactly what I had for lunch. The memory recall is instant. September 11, 2001. Chicken patty sandwich. Lettuce, tomato, mustard, mayonnaise, swiss cheese, half sub roll. It was going to be delicious. It’s waiting for me on my plate as I carry it back through the warm, dusky dining hall to my assigned lunch table. I am eight. I am wearing a light blue uniform jumper. But before I can sit down to eat it, I’m called out by the lower school head from the microphone at the podium. It’s a girl in my grade’s ninth birthday. The plan is to wish her a happy birthday from that same podium at the end of lunch, like we do for everyone’s birthday.

Instead, Mrs. Sharma, a very nice Indian lady with a British accent, tells me that my mother is here to pick me up. I am annoyed, because I must abandon my lunch.

My mother tells me that we have to go home. I don’t see any other parents there, and I wonder why, but I’m not worried. Next I remember, I’m back home. My dad is there, too, and I only realize now how strange it was for him to be home at noon on a weekday.

I am in the TV room, standing. It is a long, rectangular box of a room, so that when you enter you look down the length of it to the TV, a heavy, black clunker by today’s standards, squatting in the middle of the back wall. On the TV, the Twin Towers are bleeding charcoal smoke from a hole a quarter of the way down one of them. The same smoke is chasing people down the street. Men in business suits are running. People are covered in yellow dust. I ask what is happening, but my parents don’t answer. It doesn’t even occur to me that my sister has just begun her first year of college in New York City two weeks before. I think they are trying to call her.

Nine years later, when I am a senior in high school, I take an English class called “Trauma.” We read Freud’s Beyond The Pleasure Principle and we watch Silver Lake Life, a documentary that forces us to watch a man die of HIV/AIDS. On the first day of class, in September, we revisit the topic of 9/11. We talk about the new memorial. Our teacher pulls up an image of a plush toy made to look like the Twin Towers on the projector. It is an art project. The stuffed, anthropomorphized towers are holding hands, and each of them has a plane sticking out of its “head.” One of them has its eyelids drooping and its tongue sticking out. The other is looking at the plane sticking out of its head, surprised.

That day I learn for the first time that people jumped out of windows to escape the burning buildings, and we watch videos of them falling through the air. Zoomed in and grainy, all you can see are black silhouettes swimming against bright, uninterrupted blue sky. It’s shocking for me and disturbing. I think about what it must have been like to make that decision–which way to die. It angers me that I never knew this. I felt like there must have been some sort of cover up.

But, in fact, many people at the time knew about this. I was just too young for them to want to tell me, and for me to want to find out.

To me it feels as if the trauma that tragedies like 9/11 and more recently, what seems to feel like the constant onslaught of mass killings, incurs on me–the depth to which I feel it–grows, deepens, and expands with each new incident. My emotional and intellectual response when I find out about these things intensifies with each tragedy.

In December, when the news broke about the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, I had just come home for winter break. I went upstairs to my bedroom and read tweets about the shooting as the details unfolded. Each new piece of information was worse than the next. I read that over 20 small children were shot and killed and that one girl, the only survivor in her classroom, had to pretend to be dead like her classmates. What could that have been like? I wondered, as I lay on top of my covers and cried.

Last week, I sat in my biology class while my professor spoke. A girl who always wears her hair in a high bun interrupted, “Oh my god.” Our professor thought she had offended her because we were talking about some somewhat controversial sex-related topic, but the girl went on to explain, “A bomb just went off at the Boston Marathon.”

I spent the rest of that class checking news outlets and live feeds for updates. One website I found had already created a .gif image of the first bomb detonating. One of the runners near the blast falls, quickly gets up, and keeps running in the opposite direction. I watched the bomb explode and the man fall for a few loops until I had to look away. I felt like I was seeing something I shouldn’t. Soon, photos appeared of pools of blood on the sidewalk and a man in a wheelchair with one of his legs gone. After class, I went to the student center, where CNN was playing on a big TV and people were watching but not saying anything. At a meeting around two hours after the explosions, I watched as two friends from the Boston area, usually vocal and rambunctious, sat silently next to each other in a corner of the room and paled as they scanned the news on their laptops.

For a few days after both Newtown and the Boston marathon, I had the same tearful reaction when I thought about the people who died, the people who were injured, the families who lost them or who were afraid they had, the unanticipated bills they must now face, the families of the bombers, what went wrong in the bombers’ lives that made them want to do this, the fresh fear instilled in all who read the news…all the components that, when put together, make up a tragedy.

And each time, I was a little surprised. I had never felt this much after high-profile tragedies like this before. Not after Virginia Tech, not after Aurora. Could it have been that the majority of the victims of Newtown were children? Was it that I had, through real-time updates, watched helplessly as the news poured in and as each “incident” unfolded into a “tragedy”?

I think it’s all of these things. But at the heart of it, I think it was that as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize how many parts of life traumatic events like these rob everyone affected of. Could I, eight years old and hungry without lunch, have imagined even a fraction of the terror felt by the people running for their lives? I couldn’t even think to imagine what it was like to be my sister, then 18, in her second week of college classes when a terrorist attack struck just a few miles away from her. Only with the passage of time was I able to realize the fear that she must have felt when she wasn’t able to call our parents, stranded on an island full of 8 million people just as scared as she was. In 2007, when the Virginia Tech “massacre,” as it is so gruesomely known, occurred, I was 14. Most of the victims were in their 20s and 30s. How could I empathize with what it was like to lose your chance at starting your adult life, when I was years from even thinking about starting mine?

Growing older inevitably means that you share more experiences with more people. At age 19, I had had twelve years’ worth of experiences that the children who died in the Newtown shooting wouldn’t have. I could think back on the parts of my life that I remember because they were typically “important”–that first kiss; that first day of high school; that college letter. Or the parts that are really just memories because they are scars–finding out that I’d never meet one of my grandfathers; enduring cruel, purposeful isolation in middle school; that tearful, embarrassing first breakup; coming home and not having my dog there for the first time ever. And of course the parts that I wish I could relive again and again–standing in the depths of a prehistoric cave, looking up at a 14,000 year-old painting three feet above me on the ceiling and watching it flicker to life in the light; playing mahjong with my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents as the smell of my grandmother’s cooking wafts through the cement-walled Beijing apartment that has since been demolished; lifting my sister’s veil at her wedding; leaning out of the sun roof of a Land Rover and watching the sun rise over the Serengeti plains.

I can’t help but think about the experiences I’ve been afforded simply because I’ve been there, and how tragedies like the ones I’ve mentioned rob its victims of the opportunity to have similarly unforgettable, lasting ones of their own.

It’s totally obvious when I say it like this, but I didn’t know what it was like to be any of the places I had yet to go, to feel any of the happiness or sadness that I had yet to feel, to know any of the people I had yet to meet, to read any of the books that had yet to be written, until I did. And because I know now what I didn’t know then, even if it’s just a mere 20 years’ worth, I realize how much was taken away from the kids in Newtown, the victims of 9/11, and every other mass tragedy. And it’s not just the victims–the number people affected by such traumas is innumerable.

Like most things I write, I can’t tell if other people feel this way, or if what I’ve just said is totally obvious to everyone else out there, or if it’s selfish for me to frame such immense topics, especially others’ deaths, with my own experiences. I’m not really sure how else to try to understand it, though.

Initially, when I began this post two months before its publication, I wanted to write it to parse out how I felt about ownership of tragedy. I couldn’t figure out why, when I felt so sad after the Boston bombings, I felt like I had no right to feel as affected as I did. I wasn’t from Boston. No one I knew got hurt or was even near the marathon. My friends’ families were OK. But I didn’t realize that these were not the connections I ought to be grasping for in order to explain the degree of my feelings in response to a shared trauma.

What connects us as humans are not the tangible, surface connections that you could trace with degrees of separation or a route on a map from your home to the site of the tragedy. Instead, it’s the inevitable reality that someone who has or could have shared something that you yourself know well–an experience, a feeling, a thought, a revelation, a mistake–can no longer look back on that “something,” whether it’s fondly or with a cringe of regret. And if that experience, feeling, though, revelation, or mistake was ahead of them, they’ll never have the chance to enjoy it, learn from it, grow from it. The tragedy I’m newly realizing about tragedies is that they rob us of people with whom to share the parts of life that make it such a gift. And it’s long been said that the best part about having something wonderful is sharing it with others.

Could’ve Would’ve Should’ve

Note: This post was drafted on March 20, 2013. An addendum was added and it was published on May 29, 2013.

Lately I’ve been having dreams where I mess up very mundane things. I get a 16/20 on one of my two-page writing assignments in one of my classes. I realize that I forgot to order the college-wide study break just as it’s scheduled to begin. I can’t articulate my order well or loudly enough at Late Meal and the guy behind the counter gets mad at me. And in my dreams I hang my head and feel dejected and guilty. I get frustrated with myself.

In my waking life, are things so different? I didn’t get a summer grant I applied for, and I didn’t get into the study abroad program I wanted. I’m convinced my mom likes my dog better than she likes me. I feel like I should have constructive, engaging summer plans, but I don’t. I’m very behind on one of my classes and I don’t even know if I want to keep taking it. I feel like I haven’t been open to meeting new people and haven’t been maintaining my friendships well. I’ve found myself apologizing often, so much so that “sorry” has become as common in my vernacular as “thank you” or “excuse me.” I’m fixated on how the right side of my face is at least a couple of millimeters lower than my left.

I could easily attribute this all to Vitamin-D deficiency, seasonal affective disorder, PMS, or any of the other likely culprits that might explain these admittedly self-loathing thoughts. But I can’t help but wonder, am I living my life right? Am I doing these four college years right?

Well, I have to ask myself, what do you mean by “right”?

Does “right” mean what makes you happy?

Does “right” mean what is going to lead to a successful career? Employment?

Does it mean what other people want to do?

Does it mean what other people want you to do?

I think the easy, utopian answer is “yes” to the first and “no” to the last three. It’s easy to say that what’s “right” is doing what makes you happy, ignoring everything else, and trusting that it’ll lead you to satisfaction. Easier said than done. As someone who doesn’t take a weekend trip without first making an itinerary, that sounds terrifying. This idea reminds me of how the residential college deans encouraged us as freshman to take courses in a variety of departments to explore our options. They also tell us to “Study what you love!” Again, easier said than done. If I take courses in all different departments, I might find out what I love studying, but depending on how long it takes me to discover it, how much time is even left for me to excel at it?

Freshman year, I took courses in all different departments. Excluding freshman seminars and writing sem, I took classes in the following departments: Architecture, Psych, Chinese, Mol Bio and Econ. Last summer, I took an Anthropology class, and this year I’ve taken classes in Engineering (Social Entrepreneurship), Chinese, Anthropology, Creative Writing, East Asian Studies, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, English, and Sociology. (Side note: please friend me/accept my friend request on ICE) And while I did gain some valuable insight on what I didn’t want to study, I feel like exploring for a quarter of my academic career has cut me off from the possibility of being better. For example, that year and a half I spent learning Chinese? What if I had spent it on perfecting my French? I should have applied for a Creative Writing class freshman year. I should have tried my hand at poetry this semester instead of fiction. I like my EEB class a lot right now. What if I like that better than Anthro? Do I like Anthro enough to major in it?

By now, you might be thinking the same thing as I am: Stop. You might be thinking that because, well, who wants to read other people’s desperate, reflective internal monologue? For me, though, I’m telling myself to stop because there’s nothing I can do about it. I could’ve/would’ve/should’ve done so may different things, but the only way I know that is because I’ve already gone through these past experiences and could only have gained the knowledge that I have now by doing so.

Addendum: I wrote the above post a while ago, apparently at 11:40 PM on March 20. I don’t really remember what prompted it, but I was on spring break and I was probably thinking about life and getting stressed out, I don’t know.

But since then, I’ve made summer plans that I’m really excited about. I think I ended my sophomore year well overall. I kept taking that class I was behind in and I did well in it. I realized that not getting into my study abroad program was a good thing, because I don’t want to go abroad during the school year. I made a conscious effort not to use apologetic language all the time. My parents still like my dog better than me and my face still looks crooked on iPhone selfie mode, but ya can’t win ’em all. My dreams haven’t been as stressful–although last night I did have one where I couldn’t figure out what kind of cigarette to buy to put in an e-cigarette. I don’t even think that’s how those things work. I also dreamt that I ran into one of my classmates from my English class this semester at the mall, where he was bleaching his hair for a theme night at TI. He told me that the reason I didn’t have fun when I went out (which isn’t necessarily always true) was because I didn’t open up to other people.

So here, take this post. Here’s me opening up to you about things I was worried abut two months ago and will probably be worried about again. Maybe you will too. Then we’ll all remember that an experience only becomes a “regret” or a “mistake” if you don’t learn something valuable from it. (Or if you really fuck up and commit a felony or injure some one/yourself but let’s not go down that road. But actually maybe you’d even learn something way down that road.) I’d also rather over-experience than under-experience. Meaning, I’d rather get involved in a lot of things and taking the chance of not liking the things I’m involved in (shout out to the Sailing Team, removing me from your listserv was cold) than let the opportunity pass me by and be left wondering what it could’ve been like. You’re never not going to wonder what the negative film of your life could have been like, if you had made totally different choices. But think about how many more could’ve/would’ve/should’ve’s you’d have if you never made any new choices at all?

WE FUCKING SUCK SO FAR – DEAN’S DATE EDITION

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If you just opened this like I told you to, tie yourself down to whatever chair you’re sitting in, because this blog post is going to be a rough fucking ride.

For those of you that have your heads resting on your desks, which apparently is the majority of this school, we have been FUCKING UP in terms of writing our Dean’s Date papers and general studying activities with our academic careers. I’ve been reading tweets on tweets about people LITERALLY being so fucking LAZY and so fucking UNPRODUCTIVE. If you’re reading this right now and saying to yourself “But oh em gee Liz, I’ve been going to the library so much this week!”, then punch yourself in the face right now so that I don’t have to fucking find you on campus to do it myself.

I do not give a flying fuck, and your professors do not give a flying fuck, about how much you fucking go to the library. You had one and a half weeks to fuck around, and today is NOT, I fucking repeat NOT ONE OF THEM. These remaining days are about pulling your papers out of your ass, and that’s not fucking possible if you’re going to stand around and go to Starbucks and not write. Newsflash you stupid cocks: PAPERS DON’T WRITE THEMSELVES. Oh wait, DOUBLE FUCKING NEWSFLASH: WE’RE NOT GOING TO GET OUR PAPERS DONE IF WE FUCKING PROCRASTINATE, which by the way in case you’re an idiot and need it spelled out for you, WE FUCKING PROCRASTINATE A LOT SO FAR.

This also applies to you little shits that have talked openly about taking a nap in your bed WHILE YOUR PAPERS ARE UNWRITTEN. Are you people fucking retarded? That’s not a rhetorical question, I LITERALLY want you to email me back telling me if you’re mentally slow so I can make sure you don’t go back to your dorm. If someone openly said “Yeah I have an 8-10 page paper and a 12-15 page paper left to write but I’m just gonna watch the new Kristen Wiig SNL real quick”, would you let them? WOULD YOU? No you wouldn’t, so WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU LET YOURSELF DO THAT?? ON SUNDAY NIGHT?!! First of all, you SHOULDN’T be participating in leisure activities, I don’t give a FUCK if you slept for three hours last night, if you have a cold, or if you have your period. YOU DON’T STOP. YOU. DON’T. STOP. WRITING. And you ESPECIALLY do fucking NOT go on Facebook.

“But Liz!”, you say in a whiny little bitch voice to your computer screen as you read this blog post, “I’ve been single-spacing what I have so far and putting the author’s name and page number in my footnotes, doesn’t that count for something?” NO YOU STUPID FUCKING ASS HATS, IT FUCKING DOESN’T. DO YOU WANNA KNOW FUCKING WHY?!! IT DOESN’T COUNT BECAUSE YOU’VE BEEN FUCKING UP AT TIME MANAGEMENT TOO. I’ve not only gotten texts about people being fucking DUMB about their priorities (for example, being stupid shits and writing a blog post and saying stuff like “durr what’s my two papers waiting for me to write?” is not fucking funny), but I’ve gotten texts about people actually getting a full night’s sleep. A full. Night’s. Sleep. ARE YOU FUCKING STUPID?!! I don’t give a SHIT about your circadian rhythm, YOU WAKE UP GODDAMN EARLY AND DON’T SLEEP UNTIL LATE, HAVE YOU NEVER HAD A DEAN’S DATE? ARE YOU A FUCKING FRESHMAN? Or are you just so fucking dense about what it means to be a successful student that you think being a healthy normal member of the human race is going to get you anything better than a B+? Well it’s time someone told you, NO ONE FUCKING LIKES THAT, ESPECIALLY OUR FUCKING PROFESSORS. I will fucking cunt punt the next person I hear about doing something like that, and I don’t give a fuck if you SOR me, I WILL FUCKING ASSAULT YOU.

“Ohhh, I’m now crying because your blog post has made me oh so so sad”. Well good. If this blog post applies to you in any way, meaning if you are a little asswipe that is reading this instead of writing your paper or if you’re a weird shit that actually goes outside during the day, this following message is for you:

GO BACK TO WRITING YOUR PAPERS.

I’m not fucking kidding. Write them. Seriously, if you have done ANYTHING I’ve mentioned in this blog post and have some rare disease where you’re unable to NOT do these things, then you are HORRIBLE, I repeat, HORRIBLE PR FOR THIS UNIVERSITY. I would rather have 40 readers that are productive, efficient, and not fucking procrastinating than 80 that are fucking procrastinators. If you are one of the people that have told me “Oh nooo boo hoo I can’t write my paper because I’m not caffeinated”, then I pity you because I don’t know how you got this far in life, and with that in mind get some fucking coffee and stop being a goddamn cock block for your own success. Seriously. I swear to fucking God if I see anyone being a goddamn boner one hour before the Dean’s Date deadline, I will tell you to get your shit together even if you say you’re trying. I’m not even kidding. Try me.

And for those of you who are offended at this blog post, I would apologize but I really don’t give a fuck. Go fuck yourself.

-Liz

 

EDIT: In case you thought I was batshit/brilliant enough to come up with this myself:

http://deadspin.com/we-fucking-suck-so-far-a-sorority-girl-lashes-out-at-476159462

POEM about a stressful event that just occurred

I opened my book to an ant stuck on the page, half crushed, still alive, squirming

I gasped, panicked, I shut the book 

Once,

To put it out of its misery

Twice,

Because I didn’t the first time

And when it stopped moving I scraped it up with my fingernail, but it stuck there dangling when I tried to shake it off, whispering,

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry”

A Pretty Cool Day

Right now it’s 3:33 A.M. and I’m so tired that my eyes are closed as I type this, but I need to write about how I feel before the opportunity escapes me and I no longer feel it so vividly. And I feel full of life, baby!

Here’s a quick synopsis of my day: Wake up at 7:45 A.M. Briefly, I’m bewildered as to why my alarm is going off that early on a Sunday morning. Then I remember–Good Morning America. Yesterday afternoon, my friend Melissa and I were walking back onto campus from Nassau Street when a girl about our age stopped us. “Would you guys like to answer a couple questions?” She asked. Before we could respond in the negative, she added, “It’s for Good Morning America!” Without even hesitating, Melissa responded, “uh, YEAH!” while punching both hands in the air in surprise and excitement. I had my reservations, but quickly got over them–why not? They interviewed us one at a time (though personally I think we would’ve made a pretty good double act as well) and asked us about the now notorious open letter from Susan A. Patton ’77 urging Princeton women to be on the lookout for a husband. The questions I can remember (I was pretty nervous/sweaty) were: “Did you read the article?” “What did you think?” “How would you describe the dating scene at Princeton? Is it competitive?” “Would you want to get married now?” “Do you have your eye on anyone on campus?” We gave answers running the gamut from criticizing elitism to hollerin’ at Seth MacFarlane, but, I guess the producers of Good Morning didn’t think America was ready for this jelly. I genuinely thought the GMA feature would just be Melissa and my entire interviews…but, in reality, I was on-screen for about six seconds and Melissa’s interview was left, as her mom put it, on the cutting room floor.

I took care of some errands, one of which included the quest for a camcorder and tripod for today’s video shoot. Thanks to some kind people who were willing to go out of their way, I was successful! So at 4:30, I met with my friend Caroline to shoot a video for a new song off of her second folk music album. In came four other familiar faces with a banjo, an upright bass, and two knockout sets of vocal chords. About an hour an a half later, not even, we were done.

Fast forward to 1:30 A.M. I had been sitting in the same chair in front of a computer for the past six hours and had gotten up only twice. I hadn’t drunk water since 7 because I forgot. And I was, no joke, LOVING IT. There’s something cathartic and mesmerizing about film editing that I absolutely love. The steps are simple, but you’re still problem-solving and making creative choices with every cut you make, and you’re making something. It’s almost like cooking or baking, but instead of divvying your finished product up into servings that only a finite number of people can enjoy a finite number of times, there’s no limit to the number of people who can enjoy what you’ve made. I guess that’s what music is too. Wait–does that apply for every art form? HA! Anyways, until tonight, I hadn’t really experienced making a movie other than under somewhat stressful circumstances like group projects. I’ve had help making films I was really proud of, like the one I made of a conversation I had with a Maasai girl and the senior farewell video, but I had never really made something where I did all the filming and editing by myself and had five such talented subjects who knew how to work the camera.

Am I talking about my video as if it’s about to hit Sundance? I don’t know because I’m too tired to tell, but I don’t care. I don’t know if my video is objectively good and I don’t know what standard against which to measure it. That’s not what matters, though. I love this video and it’s because I saw what went into it–from the songwriting, to the logistics of the shoot, to the performance, to the editing, to the compressing of the file. I think, out of the six of us total, only Jake (banjo) knew Noah (bass) before everyone came together to perform a song that was new or recently learned by most of the group. Mark and I had never met before, but our shared enthusiasm about this project had us texting (it’s the digital age, give me a break) and collaborating on the video like old pals in no time. And look at how wonderfully it came together.

Too often I find myself wondering if what I do and what I put out there is “good.” Good for who, though? The professor who reads my paper? The people who look at my outfit? The followers who read my Tweets? I made the “Secrets” video because I wanted to film, because I wanted to support a friend, and because I believed in it. I certainly do hope it’s good in the sense that it portrays Caroline’s song well and her listeners enjoy it. But I already know it was “good” for me in a way that someone who loves baking or cooking might understand. You can give away all the cookies or pot pies or whatever you make and never taste a single one, because you followed the recipe, made it your own, worked hard, enjoyed it, and accomplished what you set out to. If people like them, all the better. If not, doesn’t matter. You know they’re good.

LINK to the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sXtaZ1aMY80

C’mon, people.

Emotional extremes make art. Look at the artists who have left the most lasting legacies. Picasso, Wilde, Woolf, Cobain, Monroe. What brings us to the emotional extremes that they all experienced? What parts of life catapult us into these altered states of mind that, when we’re lucky, drive us to creativity? Love? Drugs? Sleep deprivation? Heartbreak? Betrayal? Sure. But for me, sometimes all it takes to throw me into a fit of brewing, internal rage is the ridiculous behavior of the people around me.

As far back as I can remember, my parents always told me I need to have a “thicker skin” and a “bigger heart.” You know, not let little things get to me. Despite this elephantiasis of mind they tried to force upon me, though, sometimes I still find it difficult to just “shrug it off” when something or someone wrongs me. I tend to stew in it. Replay it in my head. Let it get under my skin. Not always. But on days like today, when I’m somewhat sleep-deprived, cold, and Vitamin-D deficient, I let it get to me. But today is special. Today, I’m going to take advantage of the unique vantage point this emotional extreme affords me. I’m going to take this anger towards others and instead of internalize it, I’m going to direct it back to its source in the form of some constructive, bitchy criticism. I’m going to call out the every day shit that people do that bother me. Today, I’m going to make art.

Today, I’m going to focus on some recent behavior I’ve observed that, on the spectrum of human behavior, leans to the more deviant end of the spectrum. I’ve heard that in therapy, they tell you to confront the sources of your anger by writing letters to them, even if the person will never read it. Well, random people on campus who I think could benefit from a change in behavior, these go out to you.

1) This one is for the girl who just walked into the otherwise quiet kitchen I was just studying in and started yelling. Girl, you are yelling. You may think you’re just talking at a normal volume to your friend in your COS class, y’know, having a chat about your coding assignment, but no. You’re yelling. You are indoors. Your friend is three feet away from you. There is no other noise to compete with. Why are you yelling? I understand that this is a kitchen and not a study space, so there’s no expectation for you not to talk, but you’re not talking. You’re yelling. You’re jarringly loud, even over the sound of myself chewing and over my music. You ever heard of an inside voice? Stop yelling and use it.

2) Number two is a quick comment card to the girl who put down three boxes of berries on the table on I was working on, opened one, and splashed me in the face with the residual water on it. Partially my fault, I’ll admit, for not clearing out fast enough when there was a study break coming in, but c’mon! What the hell, man? What am I, a ghost?

3) Here’s a general one for the peeps who use exclusively the word “interesting” to describe something in class discussion. Obviously you find it interesting if you’ve brought it up to talk about. Contrary to what you might expect, the word “interesting” adds nothing, well, interesting to what you’re saying. Throw some other adjectives in there! Why is it interesting? Why should we care? Make it worth our time to listen to you. You can’t just say something is “interesting” and leave it at that. Anyone could find anything “interesting.”

4) People who stop short in the dining hall and/or turn around abruptly while holding their full plate of food out in front of them: what in the world do you think you’re doing??? Are you some kind of anarchist trying to create mayhem? Your behavior is dangerous, and frankly, I’m shocked that I haven’t been a victim or witness of a collision in the servery as a result of your reckless behavior, given all the close calls I’ve had. Having to do a split step to dodge someone’s food-laden plate as they whip around, seemingly without a care in the world, has become commonplace in crowded serveries, and we just can’t continue to live like this. Would you drive a car like this, too? The dining hall is like a traffic circle at rush hour. You can’t just slam on the breaks or pull a U-turn just because you remembered that you wanted fries or a chicken breast.

5) Speaking of dining halls, there’s one more thing that really gets me sometimes. When you’re using tongs to get something like french fries, salad greens, or green beens–y’know, stuff that’s all a lot of pieces of the exact same thing–why the hell do you need to go back and forth with the damn tongs like ten times? I’ve witnessed people get a pile of french fries by using the tongs to pick out two fries at a time. Slowly, too. What is the freaking point, if your ultimate goal is a pile of fries that are exactly the same? Quit teasing me as I wait behind you every time you put the tongs down for another trip to the dish to get two more fries and just get it done with one fell swoop.

5a) Counterargument: Maybe they’re picking out the food so slowly because they can sense my annoyance. I’ve totally done that before when I can feel someone behind me getting impatient, just to be annoying. “I’ll show you!” Call me a hypocrite if you want, but this is my blog, and I do what I want.

6) Here’s a big one. Every Tuesday, as a member of the College Council Social Committee, I help set up and sometimes order the food for the college-wide study break. Every Tuesday, I bear witness to gluttony and greed in its purest form. Do you really need twelve pieces of sushi right now? Do you need all eight of those pieces of pizza? Will you starve if you aren’t the first one to grab a cookie? Every week, we have to literally guard the food until it’s 10 P.M. and time for the study break to start. You can see the blinders come on and everyone’s eyes are fixated are on whatever food is available for free that night. Many people are civil and are just trying to get a snack, which is the point of the study breaks but many others seem to just want whatever we’re offering, and a lot of it, just because it’s for free. Some kind of evolutionarily-favored survival instinct must switch on, because you would think some of these kids haven’t been fed for days, given the amount of food they take and the aggressiveness with which they take it. This is the kind of behavior that gets people trampled on Black Friday.

7) Joyce Carol Oates tweeted it best at 7:56 P.M. on February 3, 2013: “Do people with massive back packs really not know that they are crushing us?” Seriously! Do people whose backpacks, so full that they add another two square feet to a person’s girth, truly not realize how much space their appendages take up? Even just thinking about it, I’m shaking my head, furrowing my brow, and turning up my palm in incredulity. The other day, I said “excuse me” to a boy whose gargantuan backpack blocked the only path I could have taken out of the crowded Murray-Dodge basement, and he shuffled forward about four inches. You serious? So I said screw it and aggressively shouldered the protuberance out of my way. And I didn’t even get a cookie.

After writing all of this, I think I see why therapists have their patients write letters to the people who make them angry. I’m definitely feeling less angry than I was when I began this post, but there’s no guarantee that my misanthropic grievances won’t return in full force the next time someone doesn’t, say, move out of the way fast enough at the milk and sugar station at Witherspoon’s.

People are weird. It’s what makes being a human so much fun. Weird in the most surprising, wonderful, and inspiring ways sometimes, and other times in the most repellant, sick, and disgusting ways. Even other times, we’re just weird in the needling, irritating ways I’ve lamented above. But we can’t have the delightful-weird without the evil-weird or the annoying-weird. Even the evil-weird and the annoying-weird make us feel, think, and produce. It’s the price we have to pay to not be bored out of our minds during our time in existence. And what’s worse than being bored?

What It Sounds Like When Boys Play Video Games Part II

This time, I’m at my sister, Jessie’s, apartment watching Jordan, my 31 year-old brother-in-law, play Call Of Duty Black Ops. The place and people are different, but I have remained annoying.

Me: Aren’t you just going in circles?

Jordan: How the fuck did he kill me? It’s a load of horse shit…Define circles. Am I treading the same ground over and over?

Me: Yeah. Are you?

Jordan: Simply, yes. Killing the same people over and over again? Yes.

****

Me: What’s the point?

Jordan: To win.

Jessie: You have to occupy the flag for the longest amount of time. And there’re three flags.

Me: Oh. Are you playing on a team?

Jordan: Yeah. I get put on a team with others. 

Me: How come you don’t talk to them?

Jordan: My headset doesn’t work, and also I don’t speak their language.

Jessie: They’re also five years old sometimes. When Jordan doesn’t turn the speakers off for them you can hear them chatting–

Jordan: You can also hear their like babies crying in the background.

****

Jordan: What are you listening to? It’s like Coldplay gone shittier.

Me [listening to Myth by Beach House on a Songza playlist]: It’s called Dream Pop.

Jordan: Mando-pop?

Me: What?

Jordan: Mando-pop? Canto-pop?

*silence*

****

Me: Olympia (their cat) pooped.

Jordan: Can you taste it?

Jordan: That was a crap shot.

****

Jordan, weakly: Time to get paid, boy.

****

[gunshots]

Jordan: Shotcha in your penis!

While It’s Still Relevant

Before days pass and this chapter in my life (and subsequent fodder for my future memoir)  elapses, I thought I should write about it. The “chapter” I’m referring to, of course, is bicker.

First let me say that you might not believe me when you read what I’m about to say. Don’t worry, I wouldn’t believe me either. After all, I didn’t get into the club I bickered, which immediately puts me in a biased position, but hear me out.

In terms of Princeton vernacular, I was “hosed,” a term that has always made me cringe, even when it wasn’t applicable to describe me. I think there’s something about the mental image it immediately conjures up for me. Somehow, hearing the word “hosed” puts a picture in my head of a line of youthful, mesomorphic Princeton men in the 1920s standing in a line in the snow in white tee shirts and long johns on the back lawn of one of the clubs, shivering nearly out of their pale goosebumped skin.

Then, in my head, I zoom in on one of their faces–I can’t see the details, really, but his eyes are squinted shut as he awaits his decision of whether or not he’s gotten in and it’s so cold out that you can see the breath leave his mouth. Sadly for this faceless imaginary man, a warmly-dressed member of the club approaches with a garden hose and, well, hoses him down with water. His head jerks back from the shock of the cold. He sputters and his nose begins to run. His expression changes from one of tentative hope to disappointment, and, disheartened, his chin falls to his chest.

Now before you start getting carried away thinking, “Shit, is that how it used to happen?” Or, “Is she trying to tell us that she is the soaked man in the long johns?” Let me stop you there and say 1) I have no idea, but probably/hopefully not and 2) No, not exactly.

There are a few differences between me and the man from my imagination. The first is that the man didn’t have a dream the night before decisions came out that he didn’t get in, and didn’t feel surprisingly accepting of that outcome the day after. You probably don’t know this, but I keep a dream journal and record every dream I can remember or have time for it. This one, unfortunately, didn’t make it into my archive because I could only remember a glimpse of it, but I know that it happened. Sometimes our subconscious self knows us better than our conscious self does. So, on Friday, I was optimistic of course, but not as confident as some of my peers who had already gone out and bought new underwear to wear for pickups when, according to tradition, apparently, new members strip down to their underthings.

The second is that I was given my “bad news” in the gentlest and most thoughtful of ways, nowhere near what my cruel imagination put poor, poor long john man through. Just as I was about to text a dear friend in the club that I was a bit concerned that I hadn’t heard yet, she texted me asking if I was awake. Obviously, this was not a positive sign. If I had gotten in, she would have just told me. So, lying in my bed in the afterglow of a terrible episode of Law & Order: SVU with my headphones on, I pressed play on Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own,” set my phone down on my stomach, and waited for her follow-up. “Unfortunately I don’t have good news. I’m so so so so sorry :(” her text began, as the drums crescendoed into Robyn’s bridge, and I’m not sure exactly how I reacted after reading that, but my feeling was more neutral than what I imagine that those of many others who found themselves in my position were last night.

This is the part where you might not believe me. I shed tears twice last night. But it wasn’t because I felt the pain of rejection. It wasn’t because I felt that vacuum-y feeling that disappointment sometimes creates in your chest. You know, the one that suddenly makes you feel as if gravity is freakishly strong between your stomach and your esophagus, and as if someone had just dropped a lead ball into the pit of your stomach? It wasn’t that. I teared up because one of my friends got out of bed at 2:30 in the morning to walk through the snow to my dorm to see me, because of the terribly kind things my friends said to me, and because they understood me well enough to be, for lack of a better term, there for me, and not to feel sorry for me.

I know that my friend who had sort of guided me through the bicker process and called me later that night (you might have actually been able to call it “early that morning” by that point) didn’t believe me that I was okay, but it doesn’t matter. To be honest, I wasn’t feeling gracious. I was frustrated when he told me I should still come out for tap nights and feel welcome to come to meals. “I’ll go where I want!” my bitter internal monologue protested. I felt my confidence drop when he reassured me how many people liked me in the club, and how I was a cool person. “I know!” my petulant self thought. It wasn’t mature or gracious for me to feel this way, I know, because his heart was 110% in the right place and he meant what he said. To be honest, I’m a little embarrassed that I even felt that way, but my initial neutrality had begun to morph into anger.

In my mind, “upset” and “angry,” are two very different feelings. “Upset” implies an internalization of sadness. It means something inside of you has been shaken out of its rightful place. “Angry” often finds itself being felt at the same time as “upset,” but it’s different. “Angry” is an external feeling; it is displeasure projected outward. And, to be perfectly honest with you, I was angry that other people beat me and that I lost.

I’m glad that I did it, though. I wouldn’t have it any other way and I don’t regret anything. Everything is a learning opportunity, and I feel that now that I’ve gone through and out of the system, I can look at it from a more informed position than the one I was in before I went through the process. If I hadn’t done it, I would never know what would have happened and I wouldn’t have had anything to learn from. In this case along with many other situations, it’s the not knowing that’s the most torturous, not the knowing.

But that’s enough about me. Let’s talk big picture.

(EDIT: Added this paragraph on 2/10 3:00 PM) Before my friend unintentionally projected what he thought I should be feeling onto me, I was a little let down that I didn’t get what I wanted, but I was okay with it. But my reaction to not getting in changed completely after talking to him because of the language he used. Saying things like, “I don’t know what your plans are for the weekend, but last year I went home,” seemed to place the club above me, as if it should wield power over what I decide to do. Again, I know he was trying to be compassionate and it’s possible that the anger I felt was already inside me–tinder waiting to be lit by a conversation like this. Regardless, this conversation is a perfect example of the common misconceptions on this campus that unnecessarily twist and poison our perceptions of ourselves.

Joining an eating club is sort of like using the word “hose.” We do it because “everyone else” does, and they have for over a hundred years. And don’t even get me started on the phrase “everyone else.” There’s no such thing. I remember when I’d complain that “everyone else” was doing one thing or another in middle school, my mom always asked me to clarify exactly who constituted “everyone else.” Usually, I didn’t even need to use both hands to count. Granted, at Princeton the majority of students are in eating clubs. But that doesn’t mean that you’re wrong if you don’t join one.

Where I think a lot of people stumble amidst the eating club frenzy is thinking that getting into their club of choice means reaching the pinnacle of their social career, or that acceptance into a club somehow cements or elevates their station in life. Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “What? Of course not.” If so, you rule. But I’d argue that there’s a good number of people out there who, consciously or subconsciously, believed this to some extent, because some pockets in our community encourage these beliefs, both overtly and covertly.

Bicker is not a measure of one’s self-worth. It sounds paradoxical and even unappreciative of me to say, but when people told me how I’m still such a cool person or really awesome after I didn’t get in, it almost made it sound like because I didn’t get into an eating club, I was expected to be doubting this about myself. I know they don’t mean that at all. Here I am sounding like an jerk who doesn’t appreciate her friends’ kind words and again, and I can’t stress enough how much I value other people caring about me. I was so moved I cried, let’s not forget!

One’s eating club is important to a lot of people, and a lot of people love it. To undermine the importance of a tight, caring community–and really anything that anyone cares deeply about–would be wrong, and if you think that’s what I’m trying to accomplish here, you’ve got it all wrong. I’m not saying you shouldn’t care about your eating club, because you should do whatever the heck you want. I just want to do my part of clearing up a little corner of this apparently common misunderstanding that your eating club–or, come to think of it, any manufactured social organization, or lack thereof–is a reflection of your character. If anything, you are reflection of it. You are its representative. Moreover, you are you, and only you can decide what that means.

Reasons Why I Haven’t Been Blogging

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Been flying over earth, which looks cool

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Been dealing with a terrible driver (DO NOT USE MCCURLEY’S IF ON GRAND CAYMAN)

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Been consoling my friends after their bodies got cut in half

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Been looking at this

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Been hanging out with this dog

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Been drinking beer with my fly friend

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Been eating marinated conch salad

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Been hangin’ on the beach

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Been eating nachos with rosé

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Been meeting at Friendly’s?

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Been jammin’ some Hobbit

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Been hangin’ out with another (three-legged) dog