Reflections Upon Being Suspended in Time

For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again. -F. Scott Fitzgerald 

My friend Melissa once told me that one’s first year out of college was a journey of self-discovery, while the second year ushered in a time of feeling more centered on a life path. In May I finished up that journey on the shores of a now distant continent, although we all know that journey is on-going for a lifetime. But my year in Ghana truly did show me the true depth of my character and the obstacles I could successfully overcome. They were invaluable lessons for my new, current life path of teaching.

If there was one life mantra I strived to keep my eyes focused on was living a life that I could be proud of. It’s hard when making decisions to make them so everyone is satisfied or you are near everyone you love. But I’m getting better every year at making life decisions I can be content with and live knowing that where I am presently is where I need to be. If I ever find that is no longer true then I’m the only one that can change it. Getting stuck is a real fear of mine. I get restless thinking about being in one place for too long, and when I moved to Miami in July my mind could not stop circling around the idea that this was it for awhile. But there’s a flipside I have encountered to ‘going nowhere.’ In one of my favorite Thought Catalogs of the year it reads:

It is so easy to think that “going nowhere” is a personal struggle that we must go alone, that everyone else around us is content to live mediocre lives while we are constantly yearning for something more, something just out of reach. But we are all oscillating between states of finding new things to be happy about in life and feeling utterly trapped by the monotony of the day-to-day. If the everyday becomes overwhelming (and it will at some point, it always will) there are a million things you can do to assuage it. But the first step is always taking action, is realizing that the things you think are ingrained in your life (your social circle, your job, your apartment, your hobbies, even your city) are as ready to be changed as you are willing to change them.

I have said the latter part of this message to more than one friend who has expressed deep dissatisfaction with their life. And I tell them that is easier said than done, that uprooting your life takes immense courage and blind hope that the thing you are looking for will manifest itself in the new life you create. As someone who has uprooted their life twice to places where I knew less than a handful of individuals and was far far away from those closest to me since graduation, I know it is anything but easy. And then the same feelings come again when you become ingrained in a system of living, doing the same things every day. And that’s what I had to overcome this year–that feeling that being in one place would result in this. I’ve had to exercise that willingness to change the things I felt were ingrained in my life. I had to identify the moments in which I wasn’t living a life that I was proud of and had to find the strength to change that, even when it meant making others unhappy. I told an old friend the other day that you get to a point where you can only do your best and be honest and hope that’s enough for those around you. And it usually is for the ones that truly know and love me. Putting down roots in Miami for two years doesn’t mean living a mediocre life, but a decision to oscillate towards new things within this world to be happy about in life. So ‘going nowhere’ has given me a chance to learn these lessons in full in 2012 and give me satisfaction in looking back with a content sigh at all the people, places, jobs, and ideologies that made 2012 a magical year, and knowing that a year of self-discovery had ushered in a life that I was proud to share with others. I’m becoming who I want to be in life, but only because I’ve been willing to not stay the same and embrace the best of things, not the worst.

And as 2012 comes to a close it seems fitting to be ushering in the new year not in a glamorous casino on the Mediterranean as I did last year, but covered in pure white snow in a town suspended in time, I am filled with nothing but edge of my seat excitement for the ride that is in store for 2013–seatbelt fastened but arms up high.

Once Upon a Time in a Treehouse

There’s nothing like being trapped in a mini blizzard to get your mind reflecting on all kinds of subject. One such subject that has been on my mind recently started when I moved to Miami. I have gotten used to the question of where I went to school, but I never realized that I was also used to the question of what house did I live in, until no one asked it any longer. Away from the world where people are familiar with our housing system the question doesn’t come across the minds of those who now wonder where I received my degree. So when I mention Currier House now, I have to explain how freshman year we all live in The Yard in the dorms. Then, we choose people to “block” with and get, in a way, sorted by the Harvard sorting hat into the House where we will live for the next three years. Freshman year I longed to be “quaded,” meaning living what I would describe as a bit and others miles and miles away from the main campus in the Radcliffe Quadrangle, better known simply as the Quad. So I was immensely excited and satisfied when on Housing Day my blockmates and I got the message that we would indeed be living in the Quad in Currier House. I think my blockmates at the time were a bit angry at me that I would ‘wish us into quad,’ but as time went on, we all came to love it in our own way. I had wanted it because I wanted the separation between school and home, adored the beautiful houses around the Quad, and thought the Quad had the better part of Mass Ave at its beck and call. And while Currier officially became my House after Housing Day, by the end of my four years at Harvard, the college was my house while Currier became my home.

The only way I can describe this is through a song and a saying. Harvard is the house that built me, while Currier is where my heart is. So if the college was a large part of who I am today, Currier was the mother that made sure I was warm, was fed, and was loved, during those changes. Currier was home to some of the greatest personalities I ever met on campus in years above me and below me, whether it was the eclectic combination of the G Force boys the year above us or the knocks on our door for 3am beer pong from the Junior Boys (one year our juniors). Currier gave me lavish House Masters Open House, the greatest house tutors and resident dean, and a dining hall fit to do hours of work. It also gave me my love-hate relationship with the side dining room and the Poker Room, both places that I did hours and hours of studying, writing papers, and my dreaded lock-in of February 2011 in order to finish my thesis. And even through Stockholm Syndrome from study rooms and that crazy room invader our sophomore year, there was still the birth of so many traditions from Passover Seder to the Gossip Girl Club that any even slightly unpleasant memory seems obliterated by all the amazing memories contained within that single entry door. Currier was my adult tree house and these are only some of the ways I can even begin to one who has not lived it, to explain why it will always be home.

And here’s a taste of nostalgia in picture:

Only Currier is bold enough to run half-naked through the Yard on Housing Day
Only Currier is bold enough to run half-naked through the Yard on Housing Day
Currier welcomed our tradition of epic themed parties. Here you can see our High School Stereotypes party
Currier welcomed our tradition of epic themed parties. Here you can see our High School Stereotypes party

 

 

 

The Quad had ample space for an Easter Egg Hunt
The Quad had ample space for an Easter Egg Hunt
Currier welcomed two years of my need to have lots of food served at my birthday.
Currier welcomed two years of my need to have lots of food served at my birthday.
And forged new friendships
And forged new friendships
Who else could rock out on a boat three years in a row for formal?
Who else could rock out on a boat three years in a row for formal?
And bring the party back home every Currioke
And bring the party back home every Currioke
Only this we-still-don't-know-why-it's-there centerpiece to the dining hall could provide a fake jungle during Passover to hide the afikoman
Only this we-still-don’t-know-why-it’s-there centerpiece to the dining hall could provide a fake jungle during Passover to hide the afikoman
As the only house named after a woman, Currier maintains unique strength from the other houses
As the only house named after a woman, Currier maintains unique strength from the other houses
And although we will always miss THE tree, this lovely small courtyard always provided beautiful photos
And although we will always miss THE tree, this lovely small courtyard always provided beautiful photos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Tis the Season

Christmas snow can never disappear completely. It sometimes goes away for almost a year at a time and takes the form of spring and summer rain.  But you can bet your boots that when a good, jolly December wind kisses it, it will turn into Christmas snow all over again.  — Santa Claus in Frosty the Snowman

Although the temperature went from the 80s to the 20s for me upon landing in Indiana from Florida, there is something magical about coming home to a White Christmas. In the countryside especially, the snow is bright and fluffy, covering the earth as far as the eye can see. Even when it starts to melt and leaves mud patches, the patterns they leave are artworks, and leave promises for future snowfalls to fill in their jagged gaps.

It’s hard to believe that it’s already Christmas Eve, and in a little over a week we will be ushering in a new year. There’s so much reflecting that I would like to do of my life from starting teaching in June to now, but for now I’ll enjoy the warmth produced by Christmas lights, the myriad of holiday shows on TV, and delicious Christmas cooking as I nurse a pesky cold.

2012-12-23 19.04.45 2012-12-23 14.11.14 2012-12-23 14.06.11 2012-12-23 14.00.29 2012-12-22 09.20.15 2012-12-21 11.06.552012-12-24 16.50.472012-12-24 16.50.422012-12-24 16.57.392012-12-24 16.59.452012-12-24 16.55.51

A and D are the New B and S (Or Saying Goodbye to Gossip Girl)

I know everyone says that the show has gone downhill, but there is something about Gossip Girl that keeps me coming back for more each Monday at 9pm. As Thought Catalog puts it, maybe I have become too invested in the characters to let them go. I have to see it all the way through. I’ve been on this journey for five years now. Gossip Girl ushered me into college (the first episode was September 2007) and is saying goodbye to me just as I am hitting that mid-20s range. It’s perfect timing. And as GG says ‘xoxo’ one last time and all my favorite UES’ers (and Brooklyn visitors) take their final tailored suits and headbands bow, one of my closest friends in this world Aley will usher in her mid-20s as well. She asked me if it was the best or the worst birthday present ever, and I told her it was a true honor and very fitting to usher in a new time in her life working in Cameroon just as a steady part of our college years comes to a close. I mean, we even had a Gossip Girl Club.

One of my favorite parts of the show is the relationship between Blair and Serena, or B and S as they refer to themselves as, and how even through the craziest things that happen in the show, they too keep coming back for more. And although Aley and I have a much more stable relationship (No boyfriend stealing for us!), I’d like to think that A and D are the new B and S of life, as I couldn’t be prouder of her finding her niche in the “untraditional” paths post-graduation and having a friend I can always count on. And someone who believes in different life currencies and adventures we don’t quite know where they’ll land u. I even think B and S would be envious of our friendship journey.

xoxo Gossip Girl

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roommate lovegg1barcelonagg3
gg4courtyard graduation

“When one person is missing, the whole world seems empty”

“My sister will die over and over again for the rest of my life. Grief is forever. It doesn’t go away; it becomes a part of you, step for step, breath for breath. I will never stop grieving Bailey because I will never stop loving her. That’s just how it is. Grief and love are conjoined, you don’t get one without the other. All I can do is love her, and love the world, emulate her by living with daring and spirit and joy.”
― Jandy Nelson, The Sky Is Everywhere

As a teacher, yesterday’s tragedy in Newton, Connecticut felt like it hit close to home. I am protective of my children, often telling them that I feel like their ‘school mom,’ who has to make sure that they are doing their work in all their classes and making sure they are emotionally and mentally doing fine. I cannot imagine someone walking into my school and taking the lives of my children, but that nightmare can become a reality, and it has been fixated in my mind ever since. In the town of Newton there are parents who never thought their morning hug would be the last one. Parents do not send their children off to school with a thought that their child might not make it back home to them. And there are children who are too young to fully process the horrors they witnessed or the sheer madness and mayhem that sometimes touches our lives in ways that make us think sanity may never resume. Yet my words can only act as nets to try and comment on the grief and sorrow gathering in clouds above Newton, but they could never fully capture all the pain because I was not there and these are just words. But even though I am not a resident of Newton, I think we all share in some way or another in the story, connected as we all are to the larger picture. And we will all grieve in our own personal ways over it, as I hope for just a few moments we can step outside the political agendas that will be pushed and discussed (as we should always discuss ways in which to make our country better and safer) and let ourselves, in the words of Toni Morrison, feel what we feel, even if it’s not happiness.

Waiting for the Harvest

“But the wisdom from above leads us to be pure, gentle, sensible, friendly, kind, helpful, genuine, and sincere. When peacemakers plant seeds of peace, they will harvest justice.”

– James 3:17-18

I started my day with that beautiful message from the Book of James, sent via text to me by my close friend Aley to encourage me in this hard week. Throughout the day I kept glancing back at the quote to remind me that some of the work that needs to be done most in life, some of the things that need to be said or changed, will have those who don’t want it done, won’t want to hear it said, and will refuse to see things change. My mom always told me that the devil tries to find ways to get to you when you are doing good work. It becomes harder in these moments to find the silver linings, especially when breakthroughs are pushed aside in your thought and it seems more like every silver lining has a cloud. But I keep going back to James’ inspired words. I have to trust that there is a promise, a harvest in store, for those who follow the path they set out on in life. If my vision of what I want for my students to achieve tries to blurred by those who would prevent me from being all the things that wisdom beyond my own calls me to be, then I will have to work even harder to block out the noise. Engagement and anger will not alleviate the situations, only the continued sowing of seeds of peace. I always told my students in Ghana that real peace means finding it within yourself first and letting it flow out, so that no matter what others try to stir up in your life, you have a fount to go back to—the kind that waters a harvest.