This weekend I lost my wallet.

I’ve had tons of close calls, where I’ve thought I lost my wallet, only to have it turn up in my car, or at the bottom of my black hole of a purse, or at a friend’s house. One time, I awoke and realized that my wallet was missing, and in a frantic effort to retrieve it, called the movie theater that I had visited the night prior and crawled on my hands and knees through the sticky grossness that is a movie theater floor (for some reason, the theater didn’t turn the lights on inside of the theaters until night) until I found it (which I did).

On this particular Friday night (this past Friday night), I visited Saratoga with my friend Andrea, and we hit up some awesome sales at Gap (pimp hat for $10–like whoa), bought some books (The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, is awesome 45 pages in), and ate at Bailey’s Cafe. I split the bill with her, we squabbled over pennies, and called it a night. Halfway home, listening to Joe Purdy (which is featured in my Music page at the top of this blog–new addition, shameless plug…) I was struck with the thought to check my purse to make sure my wallet was there. Can you guess the ending of this story?

I retraced my steps and went back to the restaurant, turned tables upside down, and got a little heated with the Hostess (I don’t need your prayers for me and my lost wallet sweetheart, just write down my name and phone number and save your sugary condolences for someone else). I left in tears, facing an uncomfortable phone call with my parents and a long drive home (without a driver’s license, my health insurance card, or my AAA card–not recommended for the kids reading this at home).

It’s amazing the vulnerability one feels without a wallet–as stupid as it sounds. In a capitalist society, there’s not much one can do without money, especially in an emergency situation, and with my social security card and credit cards in there, there’s always the fear of fraud and identity theft. Worse case scenarios popped into my head (I am truly my mother’s daughter) and the stress that had arisen quickly cultivated into a full-blown panic attack. Looking back now, it all seems a bit ridiculous.

When I was in ninth grade, at the end of the school year I was preparing myself for my first Regent’s Exam, a standardized test in each high school subject that each student must pass in order to receive a high school diploma in New York State. Teachers and classmates had hyped it up to be the most important test of our lives, bar none. Thus, I woke up the day of my Earth Science Regents Exam quite nervous. Like all big test days, I woke up early, got a good breakfast in me, reviewed some key terms, and headed to school. I sat in the school’s gymnasium, at my designated desk, and began fidgeting nervously. The proctors began handing out the test, and the familiar feeling of panic swept over me, and for good reason: I had forgotten to bring a writing utensil to the test. No pen. No pencil. No makeshift lead-like apparatus. Nada. Of course, the well-prepared students surrounding me had brought enough pencils that could allow the entire Chinese military to write for a year–and a nice girl adjacent to me offered me a plethora of pens and pencils to choose from, and everything was of course fine. But it was not exactly how I had planned on tackling the first challenge high school had thrown at me.

It’s amazing how such little things can throw us so far off our game. Karma, Murphy’s Law, Hard Cheese (Google it up, my friend)…whatever explanation you have for bad shit happening, it does, in fact, happen all of the time. Lost wallets, car accidents, and larceny, are all of life’s mishaps that have unfortunately become rites of passages for all of us. And while Alanis Morrisette may have made a career with her take on the daily woes, the rest of us are left without the Grammy Awards and with the ruined day, as a result of the stress and panic that come with any minor tragedy.

Rolling with the punches, severe as they may be, is one of those virtues that sometimes seems impossible to attain. Any ‘ol shmuck can list of hundreds of reasons why today sucks, but I truly admire those who, when I ask how their day is, can tell me something good that has happened. But how frequently does that really happen? When is the last time you’ve asked someone how their day is, and have the person respond by rattling off the good things? The point is, bad things happen to good people. You offer to pay for the tip at dinner, and you accidentally leave your wallet behind. You let a pedestrian (perhaps dressed as a wizard for Harry Potter Day…ask Andrea) cross the street while driving, and you get rear-ended. It happens. And it still sucks. But life’s occurrences can be divided into two categories: those that are controllable, and those that aren’t. Bad weather, car accidents, lost paychecks, and stepping in dog crap on your way to work are all sucky, uncontrollable events, but our reactions to them are what we can control. Wasting time getting thoroughly frustrated over uncontrollable events is a truly heartbreaking loss, especially when you can be spending that time doing something you enjoy doing, or helping another human being. Just think about it.

Saturday morning, 7 a.m., a friendly man named Jim called my house. He found a wallet outside of the church he was running a defensive driving course in, on the same street I had parked my car on Friday night. He saw the name on the driver’s license said Molly Chester, and spent the better part of his Saturday morning calling every Chester in the phone book. The sixth Chester in the book was, in fact, me. By noon on Saturday, not only did I have my wallet back, but my high spirits were returned (with the help of the Spice Girls Greatest Hits album, of course), and my faith in the human race was renewed. My only regret, of course, is that my newfound outlook on life was given to me by four trips to Saratoga, three canceled credit cards, two angry parents, and a partridge in a pear tree. And an unnecessary-ruined Friday night.

I haven’t written in awhile. I could give you the rigamarole of excuses: finals and moving and Christmas shopping, oh my. But the truth is, I haven’t had anything to say. I begin to write, and then I realize that what I’m writing has absolutely no depth to it; it’s fake, it’s empty. Of course, it all looks good on paper (computer screen) but without conviction, it all amounts to nothing more than drawn-out metaphors (albeit, some of them clever) and rogue extractions from my daily grind. So, to remedy this “writer’s block” (or whatever), I may as well do what most other bloggers do: give you the daily recap, rounded off with some perspective. Maybe, somewhere along the lines, I’ll figure out why I’m here and what it is that I want to say, but can’t find the words to express.

I finished my first real semester of college. It was nothing as I expected, yet everything that I expected. Ever think of the first day of a certain experience, of the fear, supposition, and naiveté, and think to where you are now, and wonder what the hell happened in-between? New York City was once a world of mystery, wonder, excitement; now it’s simply home. I feel comfortable there (I know it’s “home” when I can roll out of bed, put on some old sweatpants, and walk outside and not really care how my appearance lends itself to others), and I’m beginning to find my niche there: the exact amount of money required to buy a bagel and latté at my favorite corner store, the coffee shop with free WiFi for late night studying, the inside jokes about screwy subway routes and long lines at Starbucks via text message only my friends from NYC would understand. But being from farmtown (aka Broadalbin), I am starting to see just how discernible the dichotomy is between the two places I call “home” in my life. Frankly, the transition wasn’t as smoothly as I had hoped–it’s hard jumping back into friendships that haven’t been nurtured properly for three months, getting used to driving again ($3.25 a gallon? Bite me!), and adjusting to a completely new pace of living. I would consider myself fortunate, I suppose, to have these two homes, and I can always turn to the other as soon as one way of living begins to eat away at me.

Academically, I’m flailing a little. For anyone considering paying $40,000+ a year to go to school, I would advise being damn sure of what it is you want to study before enrolling. I am so happy that I went to a community college for two years to get all the B.S. out of the way before applying to NYU, but that doesn’t make it any easier when you have doubts about what you’re studying. On the other hand, I’ve never met anyone in my life who is positively sure that they love what they’re studying in school, so no plans to switch majors just yet (or ever). I know I love journalism…but I love animals too, and kids, and music by Keith Urban. And Italian cuisine. And sleeping. And bubble baths. So how do you distinguish between something you love and something you can spend your entire life doing? Is it even natural to want to do one thing for your entire life? These are the thoughts constantly running through my head, and I’m each day, I’m no closer, yet no farther, from determining the answer.

Part of the difficulty in the transition from NYC to the Bin (as Broadalbin has been affectionately baptized) had been maintaining my relationships with people. I’ll admit, I’ve never been great at returning phone calls, but I’ve found since coming home, it’s become more of a chore to keep up with some people over others. And the more people call, the less likely I am to return the call. Lately, I’m trying to “unplug” a little bit–get off MySpace, Facebook, AIM, cell phone, iPod…and just figure out who I am without defining myself through all these mediums. It hasn’t been easy, but most things tied to personal growth usually aren’t. More than anything, I’m beginning to question the integrity of friendships as a function of the amount of work put into them. I know relationships require a give and take, but at what point does the work you put into it defeat the entire purpose of a having a relationship? It becomes the proverbial elephant in the room–everything’s going South, but no one is willing to put in the verbal action necessary to fix anything. Story of my life.

Overall, I would say that I’m pretty confused right now. But that’s okay, sometimes I think it’s better to be confused than dead set on something, because then you often let important things slip through the cracks. Right now, I’m paying attention to everything in hopes that one day, for one second, something will point me in the direction I am supposed to be facing.

I am disappointed in the human race.

Okay, now with that pseudo disclaimer out of the way, I can dig into what is really on my mind.

One of my favorite children’s books is called “The Giving Tree,” by Shel Silverstein. In this book, there exists a young boy who enjoys the company of a tree. He swings on the tree, reads under the tree, enjoys the fruit bestowed by the tree, and relaxes under the tree. He grows up with this tree; it is his friend, and is always there for him no matter what happens in his life. Equally, the tree enjoys the boy’s company and finds solace in his bountiful youth. However, as we all know, things change, and eventually the boys grows into a man and gets married and has a family, at which point he no longer has any interest in the tree. He abandons it, and doesn’t return until many years later, when things are going very badly in his life and he needs help. The tree gives the boy his apples, his leaves, his branches, and, eventually, his trunk to help him through his various tribulations. Finally, the boy comes back one last time, at which point the tree says to him, “I have nothing left to give you.” Since the boy has alienated everyone and everything in his life, the boy replies that he only needs a place to sit, and rest, and wait to die. The tree happily offers his stump, for the boy to do just that.

Moral of the story? Well, there are a few. Rather than be explicit, as per usual I would like to switch gears and relay an experience I had today, involving my best friend Andrea.

I would like to think that we have a predetermined set of obstacles that we need to overcome in our lives, things that, before our reincarnation (if you don’t buy into this, just skip to the next ‘graph), we chose as the limits and impediments that would serve to add the “nuances” to our lives, for lack of a better term. I also believe that we are never given more than we can handle in this lifetime, even though it doesn’t always feel that way. That being said, if there is anyone who has challenged these theories to their brink, it would be Andrea. Without going into specifics, her faith and resilience has been tested every which way, yet she still comes out on top, every time. I have never met anyone who has been through more in their life, and I would actually question anyone who has, and still remains as positive and motivated. I know this is beginning to sound like I’m her maid-of-honor giving my toast at her wedding reception, but this is significant for the rest of the story, so grin and bear it.

Andrea is due to graduate with her bachelor’s degree in May, a year ahead of schedule. Logically, graduate school comes after undergraduate, but when you’ve been living life in the fast lane since you were 13, sometimes it’s good to just slow down and figure out which way is up before switching gears. Thus, she decided recently to join the Peace Corps, an organization that sends volunteers to various parts of the world to educate and give assistance to under-privileged people. It is a 27-month intense program, aimed at not only bettering the world through volunteering but also serving as a soul-searching experience for those who have become a little bit jaded by our American society (who hasn’t?).

So imagine my delight when my best friend, who has been to more funerals in her life than you can count on one hand, texts me this morning to inform me that she is applying for the Peace Corps! At this crucial point in her life, she needs a reason to believe in people. She needs a reason to believe that good things can happen, that miracles can happen. She just needs a reason to believe.

Okay, changing lanes again.

NYU has always been my dream school. I remember the exact moment that I first learned of its existence. I was looking through one of those college catalogs, where hundreds of colleges are listed and ranked according to academics, culture, diversity, etc. I read the blurb about NYU (circa 2004) and was so impressed about everything. Despite it being ranked the #1 Dream College in America, it’s in the best city in the world (I’m slightly biased…), is hugely diverse, and is great academically. Problem? It’s extremely expensive and one of the most difficult schools to get accepted in to (it receives the most applications of any college in America). So, after high school, I attended a community college, figured out (kind of) what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, and decided (half joking) to apply to transfer to NYU after earning my associate’s degree. I had a bunch of logical schools that I knew I would probably get into, and I didn’t even really tell more than a handful of people that I was applying to NYU (I knew the look I would get…”you applied…where?”) but, secretly, I was on pins and needles waiting to see if I got accepted or not.

The week after I applied to NYU, someone very close to me (a member of my immediate family, let’s just put it that way), sat me down and told me, flat out, that I would not get accepted into NYU. I wasn’t smart enough, it’s too expensive, even if I do get in, I won’t be able to compete with everyone else, yada yada. It was heartbreaking, especially since, by nature, she was supposed to be my biggest supporter, my cheerleader, my backbone. Instead, she was stomping on my aspirations, effortlessly. It was so demoralizing. (Editor’s note: I am now enrolled at NYU, taking out college loans, and doing fine grade-wise. Now back to your regularly scheduled blog.)

Similarly, when Andrea told a few people that she wanted to enter the Peace Corps, she was presented with every reason not to do it: There are diseases out there! You’ll never be able to survive away from home for two years! You’ll hate it! And who’s going to take care of your cat while you’re gone?

Now, if she had said, “guys, I’m going out to the club to get wasted tonight!” I think the response would have been more receptive. Thus, I am disappointed in the human race.

Have we become so jaded, so bitter and cynical, about life, that we really question when someone wants to do something productive and beneficial with their lives? Why is that such a bad thing? Why do we assume the other person is looking for some sort of capital gain, or has some sort of selfish motives? More importantly, why do we hate seeing other people happy? Is it because we’re not happy, and it’s some sort of pathetic attempt at hiding our jealousy?

Yes, I’m sorry, but I laugh and shake my head when I hear of another young person my age, spending their weekends “getting wasted” and doing nothing beneficial for society. It is pathetic, and it is extremely sad. Don’t be the boy, be the tree. Get control of your life, figure out what you want to do. Make an impact. Learn about yourself. Learn to care about someone else. Learn to have compassion for strangers. Learn to love your life, and not just the way you feel when you’re hiding from it.

Start being human, even if that means being sad, lonely, depressed, scared, or, no I’m not afraid to say it, happy.

I am not so much the pebble dropping in the pond as I am the ripples that follow.” – Miles Levin

There are very few times where words on a page literally make me stop what I’m doing and pause. It’s as if there exists an icicle hanging from a lonely rooftop, and a drop of water travels from the apex of the roof down to the tip of the icicle, and right before it is about it is about to plummet to the ground below it freezes. When we read words on a page, or, perhaps less romantically, on a computer screen, there exists a fluid motion of consciousness, traveling deeper and deeper until we become lost in the trajectory. Miles’ blog is one that have read completely, soup to nuts, several times, and I would advise anyone who has the opportunity to block off 45 minutes of their day to do the same (reading one to two entries at a time is doing the blog injustice, you must read it in its entirety in one sitting – although you must sign up to read it).

Among the gems hidden in this magnum opus is the aforementioned quote, “I am not so much the pebble dropping as I am the ripples that follow.” In the context of the blog entry, the author was referring to the separation between the soul and the body. This discrepancy can never be as clear as when one is faced with some sort of illness. Having a healthy mind, coupled with a declining state of the body is awkward, and more significantly, horribly tragic. But there are other interpretations of this line.

I tend to take the same walking route to school every morning, which allows me to pick up my copy of The New York Times, my wheat bagel from Le Basket, and some fresh-squeezed orange juice from a street vendor named Alfonso. Standing at the intersection between Lafayette and East 3rd Street every day is a homeless man, which for clarity sake, I will refer to as Keith. Keith, a panhandler, bears no witty sign (i.e., “I breathe. That deserves a tip.”), no cute puppy dog acting as a lure to animal lovers fearing the poor pooch will go hungry unless you empty your pockets of loose change. More importantly, Keith further distinguishes himself from other homeless men by a few of this personality traits: he is polite, well-spoken, and seemingly intelligent.

On many an occasion, while waiting for the friendly “good time to cross” pedestrian signal to give me the go-ahead, I have struck up a conversation with Keith. Usually, seeing my Times tucked under my arm, Keith will make some droll or scintillating remark about a current event, from the Blackwater scandal to the C.I.A. using waterboarding as a form of interrogation, and (my personal favorite) anti-Hillary remarks, which are usually spot-on. Unlike most homeless men, whom when I pass usually make some sort of salacious remark, Keith asks me what I’m studying in school, or who my all-time favorite American president is. He always follows up with the good natured “Have a nice day, lady,” which under other circumstances might make my skin crawl, but from Keith it actually justifies the occasional smile.

A few humorous moments have emerged from my interactions with Keith. At my favorite “on-the-go” bagel stop, Le Basket, there is always a sale on the “Bagel of the Week,” in which one can purchase six bagels and get an additional six free. It looks like a great idea on paper, and I am always tempted to indulge, but I always talk myself out of it by recognizing that I could never burn through twelve bagels before they begin making my 15-foot shoe-box of a living situation smell like moldy yeast. However, on one particular day about a month ago, I had a pleasant encounter with Keith and decided to capitalize on the bagel liquidation by sharing with him. After making this decision, I stepped outside to ask Keith whether he liked cinnamon raisin bagels or whole grain.

“Bagels?” Keith asked. “Who eats that sh–? If you really want to make my day, buy me a gallon of orange juice, and not with that nasty pulp. Pulpless orange juice!”

Oh well. I ended up buying him the orange juice regardless. I had always believed beggars couldn’t be choosers (literally, in this case), but I guess I was wrong. So it goes.

I don’t think Keith ever forgot about that incident though. A few days later, caught in a horrible rainstorm, and without so much as a garbage bag to keep a half semester’s worth of notes dry, I passed Keith walking home and the strangest thing happened. Abandoning his earnings for the day, Keith ran over to me with an umbrella and insisted that he walk me home (several blocks away). I was caught off guard; it was more than just a polite gesture. It showed that he remembered me, that he wasn’t above a simply act of kindness.

Yes, Keith is homeless (I have no idea as to how that came to be), a quality that may force some to see the world in a bleak and defeating manner. But I can assure you that Keith is in fact happier than many middle class people that I run in circles with, simply because he does not see his limitations as defining.

We all have limitations, and we would all love to believe that our lives are worse off than the vast majority of everyone else. That is human nature. But what we don’t realize is that there is always someone out there who has greater obstacles and harsher limitations. Everything is relative to how we see it. We are all constantly battling to fight those waves that keep crashing against us. Sometimes we are simply treading the water, and sometimes we get sucked under, but we do eventually claw our way to the top again, and in these moments (albeit brief and difficult to realize at times), all is right with the world.

I very much believe that it is possible for a homeless man to be as satisfied and content with the world as I am, a middle class girl with a (hopefully) bright future. Perspective is everything. It is our catalyst, and it is our threshold.

It is not naturally to be at all satisfied with our current state in life. We always want more, [think we] need more, fantasize about more. It is a true gift to find that balance between striving for better and finding happiness with the “right now.” Perhaps such a balance doesn’t exist, although I’d like to think it does. It is something that I struggle with everyday, but when I find people like Keith and Miles in the world, I realize that, sometimes, quality of life shouldn’t be a function of the Who’s and the What’s and the Where’s. Maybe it’s all in our heads, after all.

So tomorrow, I will try something new. Rather than think of myself as a part of a interdependent system of other people (classmates, family, friends, etc.) and places, I’m just going to understand what it means to be one person in a world full of beauty. Tomorrow, I will be the ripples.

In our minds, there once existed The Perfect Day.

There easily could be more than one Perfect Day for each of us. Theoretically, with every meaningful relationship we have there exists The Perfect Day. Typically, The Perfect Day has left such an imprint that, at any given moment, we can reach back into our catalog of memories and grab it; and suddenly, it’s real again. We remember the way the leaves crunched beneath our feet as we walked, or the smell of the Jack Frost candle as we sat on the floor of our kitchen. Many are unable to make the distinction between milestone days and perfect days, although for some, no distinction may be necessary. Perhaps one’s wedding day, or the day one’s firstborn child came into this world, was The Perfect Day. Having not experienced any of these things, I cannot judge those who feel this way. But personally, I know that none of the major milestones or accomplishments of my life thus far, such as graduating from high school, scoring 25 points in a basketball game, or attending my first school dance, constitute The Perfect Day for me.

Rather, our Perfect Days are so incredibly simple. Most of The Perfect Days in my top ten include car rides, amazing novels, thunderstorms, and sweatpants. Most of them include people I love, a handful of them don’t. None of them are particularly glamorous or glorious; none of them include expensive dinners, walks through Central Park, or bungee jumping in the rainforests of Brazil.

Now, looking back, there are thousands of reasons why we can no longer enjoy The Perfect Day. We are too old now, too jaded, too seasoned by the harsh reality of life. Perhaps those who were a part of The Perfect Day have passed away, or perhaps another incident, on a Later Day, ingrained itself in our memories, forever damaging what once was, and what could potentially be, another Perfect Day. But before I go any farther, let me tell you what my Perfect Day was.

For you out-of-towners, there is a city about 30 miles east of my hometown called Saratoga Springs. It is arguably my favorite place in the world, yet I have always said that I would never like to live there, as I would like for it to remain my “getaway” destination (as opposed to being the “everyday,” where it would surely lose its luster). The drive to Saratoga is beautiful; in late summer, Route 29 is lined with colorful trees. Precisely, the half-hour trip to ‘toga (as we affectionately call it) is the one time I do not mind being behind a slow driver, as I allow myself time to unwind, listen to music, and enjoy the gorgeous landscape surrounding me.

The city itself is the quintessential destination. Clean, cultured, and comfortable, Saratoga embodies all that I desire in looking for a way to spend my Sunday afternoon. And so it went, on one late August evening, my three best friends and I decided to take the trip and enjoy a Sex & the City-esque night on the town. Dressed to the nines and feeling exhilarated, us four 19-year-olds spent an atypical Friday night in the city. First was dinner, then a few hours spent at the local bookstore, followed by a quick stop to Starbucks and Coldstone Creamery. The night was topped off by my vocally-gifted best friend, who treated the three of us and the rest of Saratoga to a midnight performance of one of her favorite songs in the courtyard of the city hall. Her beautiful voice easily filled the night sky, and as the rest of us sat on the concrete floor, we were completely satisfied with the night, completely satisfied with our lives, and completely satisfied with the world. The only thing missing from that night is a photograph, as I left my camera at home.

There are times, especially now, as I sit in my dorm room, stressed about midterms and money and my relationships with other people, when I wish that I could return to that moment, but realize that I will never be able to. There was a certain magic to that night, one that cannot be replicated. We are too different now; life has taken us down a road that does not lead to nights like that anymore. But at that moment, I did not realize that I was experiencing The Perfect Day, and perhaps, that’s what made it perfect. I can’t help but wonder, as I sit in my sweatpants eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, surrounded by French dictionaries and urban studies textbooks, whether this may one day become a Perfect Day. I suppose we are always dwelling on how much better the past was than the present, or the future, that we forget that the present is really all that matters, in the grand scheme of things.

Finding the beauty in life is the greatest understatement I can think of, but I also cannot think of anything with more truth to it. As I walked outside today, on the first cold day of autumn, the wind hit my face and I rocked back on my heels. The feeling was unpleasant, but for some reason, I felt strangely content with it. I walked to Starbucks, picked up my Pumpkin Spice latté, and spent the afternoon at a independent movie theater, watching a great film by myself. And while most freak out at any prolonged time alone (especially in public! Yikes!), I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was refreshing, and on the walk home, a noticed a slight bounce to my step that had been eluding me for the past few days.

It wasn’t quite perfect, but it was damn good. And sometimes, in the face of reality, we have to settle for good.

I’ve always been a math and science person. If it weren’t for blood, I would have become a doctor – curing diseases, saving lives, and performing miracles. Okay, maybe not. But I would have liked to have pursued a career in the medical field, or perhaps in the field of astronomy. Growing up, I always had a fascination with numbers. I loved counting stars or making unique number combinations with the food on my dinner plate. Sometimes, on long car rides, to pass the time I would try to count to 1,000 and see how far I could get before I fell asleep, lost count, or drifted to another area of thought.

I’ve always been a pretty decent math student – I received a pretty good grade on my Advanced Placement Calculus exam and SAT test. And I think, honestly, I could have really enjoyed studying math or science in college.

So why, you may ask, did I give it all up? Why did I go the other way, and study journalism? Don’t get me wrong – journalism is my dream career; I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else but travel and write about the beautiful people, places, and things I find myself surrounded by. But my life may have taken a different course if it weren’t for one fateful, but inevitable, day in ninth grade.

I had a kooky, slightly senile math teacher named Mrs. Eipp. People who had Mrs. Eipp for math know that she was an extremely lovable, passionate woman who made learning fun and unpredictable, in a good way. Everyone has a Mrs. Eipp story. Mine involves a time when I missed a few days of school due to illness. During my absence, I had missed a major test in the pre-calculus class Mrs. Eipp was teaching. I precisely remember that the test was on circle proofs, which involved providing “statements” and “reasons” for a particular claim, such as that certain angles of the circle equaled each other, etc. Because of the logistics of our school schedules, we arranged for me to make up the test during one of my study halls, during which she had another class she was teaching. I arrived on time, and she gave me my test and told me I could just work quietly in the back of the room, and when I was finished, to drop it off at her desk and return to my regularly scheduled study hall. Working on the test, I quickly got stuck on the first problem. I couldn’t remember what theorem I needed to use, and I was getting frustrated. Lo and behold, in true Mrs. Eipp nature, I realized that she was actually teaching the class I was sitting in on the same exact material I was being tested on. In fact, upon further inspection, I saw that she was doing the the same exact question on the chalk board as I was doing on my test. Feeling guilty, I ushered her over and reminded her that my test was on the same material.

“Should I go out to the hallway?” I asked.

“No, just close your ears,” Mrs. Eipp replied. Fair enough. I got a perfect score on that test. Pure coincidence.

Anyway, I digress. As much as I love Mrs. Eipp and her quirky teaching methods, she is partly to blame for my declining passion for math. It was during her class one day that I learned of the concept of Infinity.

“Infinity,” Mrs. Eipp explained, “means that numbers go on forever. There is no ‘highest’ number, because any number that you can think of always has a number above it.”

My hopes were crushed. There was no end to numbers? I felt, at that moment, like a hamster running in his wheel: no matter how fast I ran, or how high I counted, there was absolutely no displacement. It was a sort of useless knowledge, like having the ability to wiggle your ears or knowing every word to the song “Macarena,” by Los del Rio. The search for knowledge may seem entirely fruitful for some, but it is the destination to which we arrive with this knowledge that is truly important. If the knowledge we seek has no purpose, or no prospect of improving our lives, than it is either cluttering our minds or doing just the opposite of advancement – declining our sense of purpose, our sense of truth-seeking.

Some people may be intrigued by the thought of Infinity. And to some degree, I am too. I would like to think that the Cosmos extend for Infinity, and that knowledge has no definite limits. But what if nothing had a limit? What if there were no such things as weeks, or months, or years. Could you imagine if you couldn’t look forward to the end of a long day, because the day never ended? What if there were no limits to space, and you could fit endless amounts of junk in your room, car (granted, some people already test this one *cough Andrea *cough)? Would you ever need to clean, or organize? Would you read a book that had no end? Would you watch a TV show that you knew would have no series finale? Would you be reading this blog if it went on forever?

Of course, this leads to a greater question. What if we never died from natural causes? It has been long speculated that there are some species of turtles that could, theoretically, live forever if not for certain trauma (i.e., getting hit by a car). How would we live differently if we knew that there was a possibility that we lived forever? Now, some may say this is a silly question. This isn’t possible, so why play the “What If” game? And there’s no such thing as physical “forever-ness” (yes, I just made that word up). But this is all part of a larger concept, the importance of endings. Endings give us closure, finality, and in some cases, a peace of mind.

I wonder how much of our lives are determined by endings. I find it ironic, or at least paradoxical, just how importance we draw from endings. An amazing movie can quickly drop status if it has a poor ending, and if the last bite of an otherwise-delicious dessert leaves a bad taste in your mouth, you will likely never eat it again. Maybe it is because the ending is the freshest thing in our minds, or because we have no reassurance of another moment following the ending that will serve the purpose of “saving” our poor impression of something. Whatever it is, endings are like a double-sided sword: we couldn’t live without them, yet they are often painful reminders of what will never be.

A few years ago, I was watching Dr. Phil with my mom and an interesting episode was on. During his discussion with a guest, Dr. Phil said that to really figure out where we are right now, we need to figure out the steps we took to get here. In other words, he said, we need to define the three most life-changing moments that have occurred to each of us and try to understand the effect those moments had on us.

These moments carry other characteristics. For me, I usually think of these moments as “before and after” moments, i.e. things that, after occurring, make you change your definition of time. Suddenly, in your mind, you begin referring to things as “before” or “after” this event happened. Obviously, this list can and probably will change with time. Personally, I definitely know that two of my top three life-changing moments have changed since watching that episode, in 2003.

The common denominator, however, between then and now is September 11, 2001.

A great (or not-so great) conversation starter is “Where were you on September 11 when you heard about the twin towers?” For me, memories from that day are like old wallpaper – you can scrape, chip away, or paint over it as many times as you would like, but somehow, the remnants are still there. It was only my second day of high school; I was in ninth grade. In my math class, I heard murmuring from some of my classmates that something had happened, but at the school I attended, fist fights and drug busts were a dime a dozen, so I ignored it. Finally, around 11 a.m., when lunch rolled around, my high school principal came to the center of the cafeteria and announced that the twin towers had been hit, adding that there was a possibility that there were terrorists involved. I remember feeling confused, but most of all, I remember the girl next to me express glee over the fact that her athletic practice was being canceled, due to the attacks.

Up until that point in my life, the word “terrorism” held no meaning to me. I was too young to remember the Oklahoma bombings, and news outside of the United States was of no interest to me. Therefore, I did not understand what my principal meant by “terrorism,” although I was too embarrassed to admit that at the time.

When I got home, that’s when the impact of the situation hit me full force. Hours and hours of videotape, interviews, back stories, hit me like a sledgehammer. Media were projecting the death toll to be in the tens of thousands. I remember crying on my dad’s shoulder when he returned home from work and asking him Why. Why people carried so much hate in their hearts; Why people couldn’t be more understanding of each other. That night, for the first time in my entire life, I knelt beside my bed and prayed. It was the only thing I thought I could do to help.

It’s now six years later and I now find myself asking, what changes have we made, both individually and collectively as a nation, since that fateful day?

Yesterday, on the anniversary of 9/11, I walked with a group of students to Ground Zero. I had previously visited the site only once since 2001, and during that visit, the observation deck was not open and my family and I were only allowed glimpses through the peepholes of barbed wire. Needless to say, this trek was a bit more emotional.

The walk began at the Washington Square Arch in the park. I was surprised how many students showed up. Flowers were handed out so we could pay our respects to the fallen heroes of 9/11. The walk was organized by the various worship leaders of NYU, including Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Catholic leaders. It was very moving, to say the least.

As we walked in the drizzling rain, we all shared stories about where we were on 9/11, if we lost loved ones, and the impact it had on our lives. I struck up a conversation with a young woman, to remain nameless, who lost her brother in the attacks. He was in the first tower to be hit and was running down the stairs before the tower collapsed on him. The woman seemed okay to be talking about it, but I was absolutely bawling from her recount of that day. Not only does she have no remains of his body, but she did not find out that he had died until almost two weeks after the attacks. I cannot imagine.

Our first stop was at the First Precinct police station, which is about 5 miles from ground zero. These police officers were among the first to hit the scene, and they suffered a lot of casualties that day. One of the women, a police officer, stepped outside and recounted September 11, 2001, as she remembered it. There was no organization, she said, as every group of rescue workers was concerned about getting their people out. She said not a day goes by where she does not think about her co-workers, those who made the ultimate sacrifice that day.

Finally, after about an hour of walking in the wet, chilly weather, we arrived at Ground Zero. Construction was going on, so we couldn’t go directly to the site, but just seeing the gaping hole in the skyline was enough of a realize the extremity and finality of the attacks. It just does not look right – tens of hundreds of other building surrounding the busy Wall Street/Financial District. And there is about 1,000 square feet of emptiness.

The most emotional moment of the night, by far, occurred when we walked to the memorial that had been created. Located about 50 feet from the base of where the towers once stood, a gorgeous mural portrayed the burning towers, surrounded by firefighters and police officers rushing to the scene. At the base of the mural sits a separate – but equally poignant – memorial: one created by the loved ones of those who died. Photographs, letters, candles, and flowers by the hundreds lay near the towers. As a moment of silence was shared, I was overwhelmed with emotion and burst into tears. I looked around, and noticed that those who were not crying were a minority; grown men, children, professors were all crying. As we each laid our flowers at the site, I think we all realized, for the first time for a few of us, just how many lives were impacted by September 11, 2001.

I think when something of that magnitude happens, an ironic effect happens. We look at the death toll as just that, a number, and feel sad for the wrong reasons. That day, 2,975 people lost their lives. But that also means that 2,975 families lost a huge piece of their lives, as well. Each person that died might have had a mom, a dad, a wife/husband, two children, three best friends, one grandparent, two aunts and uncles, and 50 co-workers.

When one person dies, we hear the personal stories. She had a mom named Kimberly and a dad named Jack. She had a twin sister, and a husband Roy. Together, they had three little girls, the oldest only 12-years-old. When she died tragically, their lives were destroyed.

When nearly 3,000 people die, it loses that personal aspect. And it becomes a number. But looking at that memorial site, I realized for the first time that those people who died were not just victims of a horrible, senseless act, they were family members and friends too. And those loved ones are the victims, as well.

September 11, 2001 was the first time in my entire life where I truly looked outside of myself and began understand the concept of others. I realized that life is bigger than me; my purpose extends farther than what I can accomplish in school, or in work. And thus, September 11 became a defining moment in my life. And I think, most likely, it always will be.

Disclaimers:

1. This entry will fall into the “rant” category. No worldly news, inspirational advice, etc. Just me being pissed off.

2. People who are easily offended should not read this. No, seriously. Don’t read it.

3. I realize that this blog is essentially me jumping on the bandwagon. In my defense, I hated the VMA’s years before anyone else did.

Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…let’s begin. This will not be in chronological order. Numero uno: Kid Rock vs. Tommy Lee. Watching the whole fiasco unfold, I felt like I was watching some horrible episode of Real World: Trailer Park, complete with bad tooth hygiene and awful pimp outfits to boot. I don’t even know if Pamela Anderson was in attendance; I doubt it, I think the owner’s manual for her boobs suggests staying 50 feet away from pyrotechnics and sub-woofers. I mean, seriously, why were these schmucks even invited? Granted, the VMA’s aren’t exactly the creme de la creme of award shows, but I would think even MTV would have the sense not to invite two people who, respectively, have albums titled “Live Trucker” and “Red, White, and Crue.” No thanks.

Deux: For a channel whose acronym stands for “Music Television,” MTV certainly has failed to live up to its name. With shows like Newport Harbor, Pimp My Ride, Wild ‘N Out, and, my personal favorite, The Hills (Lauren Conrad has replaced Elizabeth Cady Stanton in my book as being the most inspiring, intelligent, notable woman in the history of our country), there really isn’t a lot of music going on, unless you count the successful rap career of Wild ‘N Out‘s Nick Cannon. Gigolo!

Now, onto my point. The nominees in these categories are just pathetic. Now, I’m not going to go off on a tangent about how awful contemporary music is today…you know what, fuck that. I am. Did you know that the #1 single in the country, according to Billboard (which compiles its list based on radio play and single sales) is a song called “Crank That” by Soulja Boy? Now, it’s been awhile since I’ve acquainted myself with a little Soulja Boy feel-good (truth be told, I’ve never heard of him. Homey don’t play that.), so I will refresh all of our memories. I present to you, the inspirational lyrics to the song “Crank That” (astraweb actually calls it “Crank Dat,” but who’s counting?):

Soulja Boy off in this hoe
Watch me crank it
Watch me roll
Watch me crank dat Soulja Boy
Then super man dat hoe

Soulja Boy off in this hoe
Watch me lean and watch me rock
Super man dat hoe
Then watch me crank dat robocop
Super fresh, now watch me jock
jocking on them haterz mayn
When I do dat Soulja Boy
I lean to the left and crank dat thang
(now yuuuah)
I’m jocking on yo bitch ass
and if we get the fightin
Then I’m cocking on your bitch ass
you catch me at yo local party
yes I crank it everyday
haterz get mad cuz
“I Got Me Some Bathin Ape”
(Molly commentary: what the hell does that last line even mean?)

Wow. My new favorite song. Remind me after this to add “Crank That/Dat” to my MySpace page. And I’m gonna get me some ringtones too.

So where was I? Oh yeah, the VMA’s. A few of the nominees for “Monster Single of the Year” were Lil Mama, Lip Gloss; Mims, This Is Why I’m Hot; T-Pain ft. Yung Joc, Buy You a Drank (Shawty Snappin) and Avril Lavigne, Girlfriend. What about The Decemberists? Bob Dylan? John Legend? John Mayer? Okay okay, I know you are thinking. MTV “appeals” to a certain demographic, ones that don’t listen to more “aged,” *cough better music. It just really makes me sad. I mean, our parents listened to The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra…timeless music. Is T-Pain timeless? Will our kids hear Buy You a Drank (Shawty Snappin) years from now and recognize it? Do we want them to recognize it? Worse yet…with the current digression in pop music, what garbage will our kids listen to?

Tre, (this is a bilingual blog entry), the performances were just horrible, teetering on absolutely abhorrent (and this is excluding the Britney train wreck, which will be discussed later). This touches on the aforementioned lack of musical talent that is out there, but I would rather listen to a string quartet, or a chicken get strangled to death for that matter, then see Big Things Poppin or a terrible pseudo-Michael Jackson moonwalk by Chris Brown. And I never thought the day would come, but even Alicia Keys seemed a little too MTVed to me. I miss the days of grand piano, gospel choir and rich vocals. Ass shaking and lame keyboard playing did little to remedy the situation. Oh, and Nelly Furtado? What happened to the Fly Like a Bird days? When you were a real person, and brunette, and wore clothes. For me, Promiscuous was like Jewel’s Intuition from 2003: awesome singer-songwriter turns TRL pop nightmare. It was like as bad as the day I found out Santa Claus wasn’t real. Jewel doing choreography to a techno dance beat? I shudder.

Vier (German for four), last but not least…what everyone’s been talking about. It’s all over YouTube, it’s on the front page of the New York Post. You all know what I’m talking about…Dr. Dre making a reappearance to the VMA stage.

No but seriously. Brit Brit, let’s talk. I have your Greatest Hits CD in my car (it was a guilty pleasure reward for myself after enduring a painful doctors appointment, leave me alone). I have a poster of you in my room (in my closet, with a pair of Nike Shox covering your face). I even attended one of your concerts in the sixth grade (Corene, back me up on this). Now, we all make poor choices in our lives. Some of us have bad dating histories, some of us have unplanned childbirths, some of us have tattoos in tribal language which, when deciphered, translate to gibberish. Some of us even use restrooms in gas stations and forget that we’re not wearing shoes. It’s okay. We’re all friends here. But Sunday night…that…that was just a disaster. I mean, Bush’s presidency has had less hitches than that train wreck of a performance. The lip syncing, the pole dancing, the outfit, the “hair…”

Let me say, for the record. That I have no sympathy. I don’t feel bad for Britney, this was completely her doing. (Warning: impending rant) Now, I happen to loooove Christina Aguilera. I always have, and I’ve always thought that she had so much more talent, poise, and star-quality than Britney, even before K-Fed/bald head/rehab Britney. Now, why is it that Christina has 5 Grammys, two albums of great songs that she wrote, a successful marriage (so far), and an overall drama-free life? Because she doesn’t act like a fucking irresponsible idiot, that’s why. I hate that I’m actually speculating on celebrity gossip, but this has gone too far. It’s not the media’s fault that Britney is as messed up as she is; she paved her own road. A series of horrible choices landed her in this predicament, and I have no sympathy for her. Not even a smidgen. And last night’s performance is proof that she is so far removed from the reality of life. Britney: there are people in this world with real problems. There are issues that are actually concerning to some of us. So grow up, get some self-esteem (and a better weave), and stop making excuses for your problems. Fix it.

So there you have it. The VMA’s have really gone down the toilet since Chris Rock last hosted them. They were the shit back then. MTV has done their best by shoving Justin Timberlake, pyrotechnics, ass shaking, and songs with lyrical contents utterly devoid of meaning in our faces in hopes of turning up the shock value. But like many of Sarah Silverman’s jokes last night, the whole thing just fell flat.

Since the last time I’ve spoken with you all, I have moved to the Big Apple and have joined the ranks of millions who consider getting flashed by pervs at night and having unidentified liquid (I hope it’s AC fluid!) drip onto your head while walking down the sidewalk the everyday norm. We never leave our house without antibacterial hand sanitizer, or pepper spray for that matter, but unfavorable traffic signals and overzealous cab drivers do little to deter us from reaching our destination, chasing the next dream, taking names, and kicking ass.

Two weeks into this experience, I’ve made a few classic rookie mistakes as far as surviving in the city that never sleeps. First of all, no matter how fast you walk, how quickly you transfer subway lines, or how often you steal a taxi from someone, there is never enough time in the day to accomplish all of the things we need to accomplish. It seems New Yorkers are always in a rush; trying to cross the street before the traffic light changes, getting that breakfast sandwich “to go” so we can eat while we dash to our morning meeting, jumping the turnstile so we can catch the subway train that we hear rumbling beneath our feet. But, amidst the rush, do we ever actually save time? In other words, what are we really gaining when we catch the 7:26 a.m. train instead of the 7:31 a.m. train?

Getting caught up in the hustle and bustle, are we forgetting what it’s like to appreciate a beautiful Christmas window display, or admire the New York skyline in the black of the night?

So enough of these rhetorical questions. All I know is that I’m sick of feeling lazy because I would rather walk at a leisurely pace, or like I’m an underachiever because I schedule my day so that I have ample time to commute from A to B. Sure, maybe some people and some things get left out that way, but what good does any sort of communication mean when it’s short lived, rushed, and shallow? Okay, I’m seriously done with the rhetorical questions.

I walked down Bleecker Street with one of my NYU friends today and we discussed all that’s wrong with New Yorkers today (okay, not all that’s wrong with us, we only had a few hours). Both out-of-towners, me with my upstate background and her from San Fran, California, we both still have that excitement for the city. Call me naive, ridiculous, or silly, but I still apologize when I bump into someone accidentally while walking down the street and say “bless you” when someone sneezes on the subway. Nine times out of ten, I get weird looks from the other person, as to say, “this is New York City, sweetheart, none of us have time to apologize or have manners or even acknowledge that other people exist.” And I usually just smile, as to reply, “yes, I know, you are rude and would rather see how your investments performed today on Wall Street than to indulge in an interesting conversation with someone.”

Oh, how I pity these people.

I have already promised myself that if I ever get to the point where I am giving people The Hand (you all know The Hand, it’s the same Hand you give the people in the food court at the mall who are trying to shove samples of lo mien down your throat) for offering me something on the street, or where I am silently swearing at elderly people for walking too slow on the street, etc., that I will move. When I get to the point where I am finding the Christmas displays on store windows too bright, when I think tourists taking pictures are ridiculous, I will move. When I begin believing that running in Central Park is too cliche, or that the cultural melting pot is just not worth the chaos, I will move. Part of finding the beauty in life is appreciating these little quirks.

Speaking of which, I’m beginning to look at this whole New York City thing as a microcosm for life (isn’t everything a microcosm for life?). Is there a point where we all just get so tired of everything that we begin losing sight of the beauty that exists all around us? Newborns and infant children can find miracles in gravity, magic in the shapes clouds make. Yet a city where millions of culturally different people co-exist, a place where the world’s longest street (Broadway) contains more spirit and charm (if not, economy) than some countries, is seen as overrated by many. Crowded. Dirty. Expensive. While these descriptions may be accurate, when did we start becoming rationalizers instead of feelers?

New York City is about the atmosphere. It’s about the fact that you can take your book and blanket, sit on a park bench and “people watch” for hours and never get bored. It’s that you are apart of a community that is so culturally rich and defined, yet undefined. It’s that you can be an individual and part of an unbelievable system at the same time. Yes, it’s true that our demons follow us to the next checkpoint. But being in New York brings something out of you; something that demands passion, intensity, and raw drive. You find out who you really are, and for some of us, that is a scary thing. But if you jump right in, head first with a running start, you have a shot at really finding out what you are capable of.

 

New york city, you’re so pretty
All your faces, going places
And I believe if you fall in love
I believe if you fall in love
You should jump right in

Always going, faster modem
Cell phone fables, candle-lit tables
I believe if you fall in love
Yes, I believe if you fall in love
You should jump right in

I wrote our initials in the sidewalk cement
Tattooed your name across my arm for all to see
I wanna sing about it, sing about it, sing about it
I’ve got your back from now on baby, you can count on me
Only one life, kisses all night

Kids round fountains, concrete mountains
And I believe if you fall in love
I believe if you fall in love
You should jump right in

-“New York City,” written/performed by Mason Jennings

Is a chair still a chair if no one is sitting in it?

Is a man honest if he lies to protect one he loves?
Is a woman a mother if her child is a stillborn?
Is a person a good friend if he exhibits jealousy?
Is a country honorable if it is responsible for killing innocent people?

Can a homosexual be a Christian?
Can a person who supports the war be a Democrat?
Can a hunter be an animal lover?
Can a robber be generous?

Is a chair still a chair if no one is sitting in it?

Why does everything have to be black or white? I wish more people were open-minded. Have compassion for those who are different, and realize that first impressions are not always what they seem. Don’t be a referee, be a human being.

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