Saturday, May 28, 2016

Summer To-Do List || 10 Things

I started making a to-do list of things I need to get done this summer.  As I was rereading the list, I had to stop and make fun of myself for a minute.  I mean, come on!  Can I even adult?  But then I remembered: I'm a teacher.  Teaching is hard work.  Working full time is hard, but I think teaching takes the cake.  Thank goodness for summer break, or else I wouldn't be able to function as a human being.  So here are all the things I've neglected for the past 10 months that I need to catch up on now:

1.  Take items to donate.  

My trunk is full of clothes and other items that I've been meaning to donate since about... 6 months ago.  I'm sure they'll enjoy my scarves and coats now that it's 99 degrees out...

2.  Organize my laundry.  

There's a pile of clean clothes and a pile of dirty clothes.  Maybe they'll end up in my closet some day soon.

3.  Cook real food. And maybe lose a few pounds in the process.  

No more frozen dinners and canned soup for lunch.  I'm looking forward to fresh veggies!

4.  Shave my legs.  

Well, there's really no excuse for this one except that I hate to do it.

5.  Wash the dog, wash the dishes, wash the car, wash all the things!

6.  Read a book just for fun!  

I'm talking pure chick-lit, cheesy, lame, easy-to-read, romantic, fictional, fun, not-academic, not-intelligent, don't-require-brain-waves type of books.  If you have any recommendations, leave them in the comments!

7.  Go to the dentist.

And hope for the best.  It's been awhile...

8.  Go to the eye doctor.

And cry as the reality of my old age sets in when I receive a stronger prescription.  I know it's coming, I'm just not prepared for it.

9.  Organize my office, organize my bedroom, organize my bills, organize all the things!

10.  Watch a lot of Netflix. 

And don't feel guilty about it.  I worked hard and endured a lot of stress this past school year.  I deserve to binge-watch mindless TV online! (Or so I keep telling myself...)

What does your summer to-do list look like?

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Just Julie

The city flooded my senses with the promise of excitement.  Adventure is never out of reach in New York City.  Night was thick around us as we walked to the restaurant.  It was a Saturday evening, and downtown Manhattan was bursting with life.  The Empire State Building gleamed behind us, and every street was decked with its finest jewels... The lights in the city sparkle their brightest at night, as if trying to outshine the midday sun.

I walked happily, not bothered by the hustle and bustle of a big city.  Many noises and smells attacked my senses, but I happily took them in.  New York is a city of promise, a city where life seems to race by, and all you have to do is jump on for the ride.  I wanted to cherish my few short days there, and I was greatly looking forward to dinner with an old college friend, now a bona fide Manhattanite.

Dinner did not disappoint.  I was craving Brazilian food, so we found a restaurant with good reviews and walked in.  They didn't think they could seat us, since we didn't have a reservation, but I started talking to the hostess in Portuguese, and next thing I knew we were feasting on feijoada and picanha.  Many years had passed since I had seen my friend, and we had lots to catch up on.  The meal was delicious, and the conversation refreshing.

I looked at my friend, whose face and demeanor hadn't changed in the past 10 years.  Of course he had grown a little older, and living in Manhattan had no doubtedly had its effect on him.  Everyone changes a little in their lifetime.  But he had the same essence of my fast friend from days gone by.  I told him, "Man, you haven't changed a bit!" and I meant it as a compliment.  He smiled and laughed, and said, "Thank you!"

I asked him if he thought I changed.  He took a moment to think.  We hadn't seen each other in six years.  Since then I got married, moved three times, lived overseas, and learned another language.  In those few years I experienced heartbreak and true love, anxiety and peace, and many, many sunburns.  I lost my voice (literally), and found it, then lost it again.  I experienced deep deep hurt, and a little bit of happiness here and there.

When I asked him, "Do you think I've changed?" I expected him to say yes.  I expected him to notice the years of loneliness, as if they were etched into my face.  I thought he would sense crushing weight of feeling like an outsider, like I never fit in, that rested on my shoulders.  Maybe the condescending comments and pseudo-helpful advice given by well-meaning but disinterested "friends" had permanently altered my features, my personality.  In any case, he would surely notice the 15 pounds I had gained.

But he replied, "You're, very very Julie!"  His smile and laughter were genuine, as if he was surprised by my question but happy I asked.

"What does that even mean?" I said.  "You really don't think I've changed?"

"No," he said. "You're just... you're just Julie!"

I smiled and giggled a little.  Because I knew he was right.  I was "just Julie."  I couldn't be anything else other than "just Julie."  I felt a happy tinge in my heart, and a tiny weight was lifted.  Here was someone who knew the real me.  Someone who I essentially "grew up" next to - a friend who understood me: that I'm blunt, that I like to talk a lot, that I can get very passionate and animated when I'm excited, that I'm adventurous and like trying new things, that I'm sensitive and compassionate even if I don't always show it, that I'm moved to tears by beautiful music, that I often look serious and have a "mean" face, but in reality I'm generally easy going and friendly.  These things are not lost by the years and the struggles.  These things, for better or for worse, are who I am.  No matter how many people tell me I need to change to fit in, no matter how many people are intimidated by me or offended by me, this is who I am and always will be.

My friend didn't know what an effect his comment had on me.  He didn't know that I had been struggling against the current, not wanting to change my course, but feeling so much pressure to conform.  All he knew was that I was his friend and that I had not changed.  After a delicious meal and way too much dessert, we walked back to my hotel and sat in the lobby and chatted for a little while longer.  Soon it was time to part, and I hugged him goodbye.  It had been a refreshing evening spent with a friend who I could be completely myself with.  I didn't want him to leave and my life to go back to reality.  I didn't want to leave New York, a city where anything is possible, to return to my small town, where anything "different" is "weird."

I wondered if a weekend in New York would sustain me long enough to finish the school year strong.  I wondered if I could go back home and survive for just a little while longer... yet here I am, two weeks later, still longing to be back in New York.  Maybe it is the bright lights of the city that never sleeps that keeps pulling my mind away from this small town.  Maybe it is the memory of the never-ending delicious food, the sights, the smells, yes, even the crowds of people and traffic, that stir my heart to long for the city.  Or maybe I want to return to a place where I could be just Julie.

I'm experimenting with different types of posts these days.  I'm trying to be more introspective and concentrate more on my writing.  Please feel free to leave feedback.  Do you like these types of posts or prefer a different kind?  As always, thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Big Fish, Little Pond || Little Fish, Big Pond

I recently spent five days in New York City.  And during those five days I had a few deep thoughts.  I would call them "epiphanies" but I don’t think they were very mind blowing - nothing about the meaning of life or our existence on this plant.  Just random thoughts that sometimes turned deep.  Such as - why do I get so upset and offended when people tell me I’m “young” or blame things on my age? (“You shouldn’t be tired, you’re young!”)  What it all really comes down to is a desire to be respected and valued. But that’s another topic for another day...

Another thought I’ve had ever since the trip to NYC was the idea of “Big fish, little pond,” or vice-versa.  I had hoped that the trip would serve as a reminder to my students that they are currently big fish in a little pond.  They’re at the "best" school, they’re the smartest in the area, their parents are wealthy, etc… but only in a small-town standard.  To the rest of the country - the world, even - they’re just average.  I hoped this trip would open their eyes and let them see how the rest of the world lives.

Many people love being big fish in little ponds.  But not me.  I thought I would, but now that I am, I don’t like it.  A fish can only grow as big as the pond it’s in.  A goldfish in a bowl will remain small.  If you put a goldfish in a bathtub, it will grow bigger.  Put it in a pool, it will grow bigger… it will keep growing bigger relative to the size of the pond it’s put in.  

I think being a big fish in a little pond would get boring.  There will come a point when you will get tired of swimming in circles, seeing the same three other fish all day, every day.  I want to be in a pond where there are infinite possibilities to grow.  To learn.  To get better.  To meet new people, have new experiences. 

That's why I loved New York. There is so much inspiration in that city. So much to see, smell, experience. So much life to live!

What about you? Would you rather be a big fish in a little pond, or a little fish in a big pond?