Monday, September 12, 2011

New Balance.

My grandfather was a Republican. A loud and proud Republican. Every time he saw a baby, he would shake its little fingers and tell it, "Say 'I'm a Republican!'" Because of this, he collected elephants. There are dozens of elephants of all shapes and sizes in his house.

Two years after we lost him, my mom persuaded me to take something from his home. My cousins had taken furniture, my aunt had too, but for so long, I just couldn't do it. It felt so real, so wrong to take something that was his. It meant he was really gone, but it was also about respect for his authority. He was so strong, our leader, always commanded respect. I knew immediately what I wanted - his desk. I wanted to finish my PhD on his desk. It was a way to show respect for how he inspired me and provided me with opportunities and encouragement, and it was a way to involve him in this process I know would make him so proud.

On top of the desk, there was a pair of book ends. They were elephants.

I almost didn't take them, he hated that I wasn't a Republican, but they were him - he loved elephants. For all my life, every time I saw an elephant, I thought of him. So I took them, and they sit on the bookcase in my bedroom.

In India, the elephant is sacred. Because of its shape and strength, the elephant symbolizes the stronghold, the foundation that everything is built on. Sometimes, they put elephants at the base of temples in India so that it looks like the elephants actually are supporting the structure, as if the elephant is strong enough to uphold the weight of a large stone temple.

That fits my grandfather too.

Another way they understand the elephant in India is the Ganesha - the figure of a human body with the head of an elephant. That symbol brings good things, it is called the Lord of Beginnings and Lord of Obstacles - because he removes all obstacles and imparts his wisdom.

All of these things, I could use a bit more of.

I've been out of whack for awhile now. The drama with the unhappy people got me down, the wedding planning drama, fear of failure, fear of starting my dissertation and failing.

A friend of mine very astutely told me once that I am a sponge, I soak up all the emotions that are near me. I think about that often because it is so very true, painfully so. But it's not just emotions that I soak up. I soak up whatever I'm swimming in at the moment, whatever is around me - emotions, yes, but also circumstances, geography, pressures, anything. Mostly negative because the positive can be so hard to hold onto.

I'm not sure sponge is right, but I am malleable. I'm flexible. I know someone who is always so sure of things, so certain that she's right that she is unwavering. Even in little things, which I find so amusing. I was thinking today of a conversation we had once when we were talking about an author, and I reminded her that we talked about her latest book. She definitely said, "No, we didn't. We didn't talk about it." It struck me as so odd, so funny really. I forget things all the time so when someone mentions a conversation I don't remember, I just laugh and assume it's my faulty memory. I'm flexible.

My opinions about things or habits can sometimes be flexible too. I just feel like I'm constantly trying to bend myself to suit someone else. Not because they're demanding it, but because I'm accommodating.

I need, rather, to be balanced. To be secure and strong. Not in the little things, which don't add up to much, but in my way of life. I need to remove obstacles in my path, yes, but I am my own obstacle. I get in my own way all of the time. I'm afraid of failing so I don't start. I feel everyone else's emotions so strongly that I lose hold of my own. I need to live a balanced life, and I need to be less indulgent. I'm in a moment of turmoil so I indulge myself, but I'm also being indulgent in my obsessions and by insisting on swimming in turmoil for as long as I can tread water. If I stop feeling everyone else, maybe I can be myself again.

I need an elephant.

So this is my public promise to you, my friends, and to you, kind strangers who happened upon me today, I will find a way to stand firm in the moment and live life as I see fit. I will find my balance. I will find my stronghold. Day by day, moment by moment. This is only one of many beginnings. Let's see if I can finally get it right.

Friday, August 26, 2011

I Married Adventure

We did it!!!

I've never posted a picture of myself on this blog before...but I just couldn't help myself. The wedding was a crazy blur, but at the end of it, I have the most amazing man as my partner and love for life. He's more than I ever hoped for or even thought existed. My cup truly overflows.

This weekend, we're going to Brussels because why not? Life together is always an adventure!

"At its heart, this is the story of two people who met by chance, fell in love and defied the odds to travel the world and follow their dreams."

Oh, and I just have to tell you, my favorite part of the day was going out to a bar downtown after the reception. There was a Prince cover band, and we got on stage and danced! And I sang with the band! Far from the microphone, but still, very fun. The party never stops!

I promise to write more soon. :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Internet Savvy

It's the end of the semester, which is good and bad. Good that I don't teach again until August. Bad that I have a mountain of papers to grade, and a million students emailing me. The internet has changed the teacher-student relationship forever.

The worst is they expect an immediate reply. Waiting 24 hours is neglect to them. Can you imagine that in the business world? When I was in college, we had email, but I can't remember ever emailing a professor. I must have, I'm sure I did, but it was such a rare occasion, I don't even remember. I called them, I made appointments to meet with them, I stopped by during office hours, but hounding them on the internet? Nope.

It's the most annoying thing ever, this internet. It means that people constantly have access to us, or assume they do. Sure, it's great to reach out and connect with someone instantaneously without having to shower or change out of my pj's, but it makes it impossible to duck and dodge. Sometimes, I just don't feel like talking on the phone, but if I don't answer when someone calls or texts, they assume I'm ignoring them. The same thing is true of student emails. They think they have access to me 24/7.

Now the bright side of teaching in the digital age is that it's suuuper easy to catch cheaters. Because cheaters are stupid, and they leave a digital footprint easy to track.

My favorite stories are the ones about students who tell sob stories of dead grandmothers, suicidal sisters or long mysterious hospital stays. I'm a sucker, I trust everyone, it's a blessing and a curse. I feel sad when a student tells me something tragic happened to them. I want to help. That's why I love teaching. But one thing I'm learning is, wait for it, not all these stories are true. Gasp!

I believe wholeheartedly that if you lie about a death in the family, karma is gonna get you like the bitch she is. One professor told me a student once lied about a dead grandma to get out of a midterm exam only to have the grandma actually croak when finals came around. The student confessed and cried and cried, worrying that her lie somehow killed her sweet Nana. And it probably did.

So I never ask to see death notices or funeral programs. Too sad and too personal, and if you lie about death, sooner or later, it's going to catch you.

A few months ago, a friend told me a story about a student who made up this elaborate lie that her sister was studying abroad in Paris but was so lonely, she tried to commit suicide. She had to rush to be by her sister's side. Sad story, and my friend almost believed it, but on a hunch, she turned to Facebook to investigate. Sure enough, the girl was dumb enough not to have any privacy settings turned on and had a long list of status updates about how cute French boys were and how much fun it was to shop on Champs-Élysées. Busted.

It's also super easy to catch kids plagiarizing. I read a paper that seems too good to be true, choose a sentence and type it into Google. Voila! So easy it's almost boring.

I caught a student who plagiarized on two papers (not one, but two!) and found she simply copied and pasted the entire papers from a website. Yet another way Google is making life easier. She tried to deny it when I showed her the papers and the print-out from the website. She told me that she thought that was the assignment. For a writing class. Instead of writing, I wanted them to copy someone else's writing and put their name on it. Hmm.

She cried and then threw her snotty Kleenex at me and stormed out of my office saying, "Now I have to transfer schools again!"

I saw her on campus the next semester, and she glared at me like I killed her grandmother. Though that was probably the lie that caused her to leave the last school. Will they ever learn? I doubt it, but I don't mind, the internet makes it fun to catch them.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Oh, The Places You Will Go

I think there's something about weddings that makes you reflect on your life, the choices you made and the people who influenced you along the way. Choosing bridesmaids and others to be involved in the wedding, for example, makes you remember all the times those people were there for you, how they supported you, and all that you've been through together.

I feel lucky to still be close with people I grew up with, and after decades of friendship, it's incredible to see how our lives have grown and changed. One of my best friends, a girl I've known since I was 10 years old, is pregnant with triplets right now. Whoa! Another girl I grew up with had her first baby a few months ago, another just had her second, and another spent the past two years living in London and traveling through Europe with her wonderful husband. These are girls that I used to play "Power Princess" with, roll houses with, and daydream about what our husband would be like, what our lives would be like as grown-ups.

I have friends who became doctors, lawyers, academics, and when you take a moment and look back at it all, it's amazing to see how it all came together, how we got here from there. Nothing is more humbling or awe-inspiring than to truly know someone and watch their evolution.

Of course, some friends I've lost touch with, but it's always fun to hear what happened to them. Facebook is great for that, right? I've re-connected with a few friends and now see pictures and updates about their children and careers. It's very cool.

Recently, I visited an old friend in LA and got to meet the love of his life, and I got it immediately - they fit together like they really were made for each other. He's in grad school now and wants to teach public speaking, he's teaching a group of high schoolers now in an after school program. Crazy that the guy who used to steal booster seats from fast food restaurants is now shaping the minds of America's youth! And another friend of ours from high school is on a show on the Disney Channel! The guy who used to tell the dirtiest jokes I've ever heard is on a show for kids!

Last night, MG and I went to a small concert with some friends. Oddly, and for the first time in years, I saw the Asshole Ex-Boyfriend. I caught him out of the corner of my eye a couple times, but he ducked and dodged, and then I got a good enough look to tell that yes, it was him. He looked awful. Shorter and fatter than I remember, with a frumpy girl with cheap highlights. The worst, though, was that he looked so dull and ordinary. I guess we're all ordinary, but seeing him was just so jarring - this was the guy that I loved so much I let him treat me like shit for years? Really? It's like learning that monster you were afraid of for so many years was just a shadow in your closet.

I don't know what his life is like, I imagine he still talks about leaving a job he'll never have the guts to leave or starting a business he'll never start or moving to a town he'll never move to. Maybe he's happy, I hope he is, and in fact, I'm sure he is, but it's so incredible to see how people's lives turned out just the way they wanted that it is sad if anyone's life isn't what they want it to be. I hope he's happy and changed. And I'm happy I don't have a clue.

After the show, we went up to talk to a friend who got heckled by the musician because he knows her. We teased her because he kept telling her she wasn't singing or smiling enough. She's one of those people that always knew what they wanted, what they were good at, and made the life she imagined. Really cool girl.

And I also saw a friend from high school. Probably the nicest person I've ever met. I haven't seen him in close to fifteen years, but as soon as we saw each other, we remembered that old friendship and the fun times we had immediately. He lives in LA now and was at the show because he's the promotions director for the record label. In high school, I remembered we both loved The Counting Crows. It seemed like almost every week, he'd come to school wearing a shirt from one of their concerts. So inspiring to see someone who always wanted to work in music made that dream come true.

I think everyone in my life, past and present, is inspiring. There are people and stories we remember as morality tales, reminding us to always buckle our seatbelt so we don't have a bad car crash like that one friend, to work hard and try hard unlike our friend who dropped out of college and works at the mall, to love with all our heart and cherish our partner because we know that couple in the bad marriage or the guy who got left at the altar.

I always focus on the good things, there is so much good, and there certainly are a lot of people in my life who've overcome so much, who accomplished what they set out to do, who are living their dreams - there are those who teach us how not to live and those who inspire us to live more like them. I hope I am a part of the latter because I truly am blessed and surrounded by many who are. God bless good friends! Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, and the other gold!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Looking for a Little Guidance

I am a lover - not a fighter...which is to say, I really suck at fighting. I would rather resolve a conflict in a peaceful conversation than have a heated raging fight that ends up in more unresolved issues.
In the past few months, my fiance and I have learned that there are a couple people in his life who aren't thrilled that we're together. Everyone loves me, but these three...and yet why does it feel like everyone hates me???

Their reasons are ridiculous. Mostly, they're bummed they don't see their good pal as much as they used to, but instead of understanding it's because he's entered a new phase in his life, they direct all their angst at me. I've taken him away from them. I've changed him. Blah blah. One piece of "evidence" that I'm a horrible person is that instead of going on vacation with a group of his friends, we attended the wedding of one of my friends. The horror!

It's caused a lot of stress and heartache for us in the past few months, which are supposed to be part of one of the happiest times in our lives. It sucks. We've gone around in circles about it, but both have finally succumbed to the fact that there is nothing we can do. My heart really hurts for him because he's been in so much turmoil over this. It hurts him that his friends are not supportive, but it hurts him more to realize that he has to lose them.

Believe me, I'm shortening a very long, drawn-out ordeal, but it is one of the more difficult times in my life. Everyone likes me! Everyone always likes me! No, you don't understand, I'm serious! My mom said that's what's really gotten under my skin, and she's probably right.

At the crux of the problem are two mean girls. The third is the husband of one of them. And no, the other girl is not single with a crush on my man - in fact, she's married to his brother. Ohhh now it gets complicated!

My fiance has had issues with her in the past, and he doesn't really like her...not that anyone knows that because their family is one of those that never talks about their issues. Sigh. It's a freaking mess.

He's been incredibly supportive of me throughout, which I couldn't be more thankful of, and we've both come to terms with the fact that this is just the situation we're in. There have been conversations, but none that went well or changed things. The brother is trying to stay out of it, which is good, but I also don't feel comfortable around him because I assume he must agree with his wife at least a little. What am I getting myself into!

It all goes back to a lifelong problem of mine. I can't get over it when people dislike me. It hurts so much and for always. I am just not able to say, "If you don't like me, it's your loss." Of course it's their loss. Of course I've done everything I could do. Of course everyone else in his life is thrilled that he's marrying me. So why do I let these three stress me out so much? Why can't I just breathe and move on? Why can't I stop thinking about it? Any advice or insight would be super. :)

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