Friday, May 30, 2008

"Time you enjoyed wasting was not wasted" - said by somebody

Everyone always says that cheesy line about making each day count. I'll admit, I have noticed that the days when I'm most inclined to feel down and depressed are the ones on which nothing happens. It isn't as though something occurrs to upset me, but rather, nothing occurrs to make me feel good about my day. I suppose you can say it's a rather blah sort of day.

The natural solution to this problem would be to make sure to do something productive on each day. Do a piece of homework. Read a book. Help somebody. Learn something. Accomplish something. I know I always feel so good at the end of the day if I wrote a paper or was able to cross something off my to-do list (er, I don't actually have a to-do list, it's just an expression but I'm sure you get my gist).

But I've also discovered that there are other forms of being productive. There's such a thing, in my opinion, as being productive to yourself. You may not have something physical at the end of the day to show for it, but if you do something that makes you a happier, more fulfilled person - that, too, is productive. I don't mean doing something super life-changing. I mean...going to the park with friends. Going to the park by yourself. Exploring. Writing. Thinking. Discovering. Figuring things out. These are all simple yet important ways to be productive, even though, at the end of the day, someone might ask you, "so...what did you do today?" and you might shrug and say, "oh, nothing really." But you did do something. You enjoyed yourself. You had fun. You had a great day. You were happy to be alive.

I think that as long as on each day you're happy to be alive, that's accomplishing something. On days when you feel like there's nothing going for you, that's when it's depressing. If you've done nothing but sit around indoors by yourself, wasting away, that's counterproductive. If you sit around indoors but you're with friends and you do something as seemingly unproductive as watch a movie together...that's actually quite productive. You're having bonding time with your friends. That's very important, too. And if you watch a movie on your own but it teaches you something valuable, or if you read a book and gain a greater understanding of the world, or of yourself, that's immensely valuable. Not everything has to be physical, or be for someone else, in order for it to be productive. You don't have to show something at the end of the day in order to have made that day count. If you were happy to be alive that day, it more than counted. If you learned anything, it was productive. If you felt like a good person, it was important. If you had fun, it was an experience.

I think life is an adventure. The more we see it for its littlest, most minute possibilities, the happier we'll be, even if we have nothing physical, like a piece of homework, to show for it - maybe especially if we have nothing to physically show.

Nighttime Blues

As a little kid, I never liked going to bed. My parents say that as baby I was nocturnal. I would cry all night until my dad took me out of my crib at three in the morning and we'd watch I Love Lucy. Then I'd be quiet.

When I got a little bit older, I was the typical little girl who wanted to stay up late with all the grown-ups. I used to get angry at being put to bed and would rebel by reading in my room with a flashlight or sitting up eavesdropping on the conversation downstairs (usually both).

In high school, I went through a weird phase where I liked going to bed, except I wouldn't go to sleep. I just needed that alone time when I knew no one would bother me. Then I would lay awake in my bed for hours thinking.

Israel was probably the only time in my entire life that I actually went to bed like a normal person. And that's only because I wanted to be the first one downstairs in the morning to get chocolate chip pancakes (yes, my school made us chocolate chip pancakes every other morning).

Now in college, I don't hide away in my room anymore at night because I have plenty of alone time hours during the day. I started to like being around my friends a lot more. I would get lonely at night and need to visit them or gchat with them - or both. Being in a dorm without roommates can be rather lonely. At home you've got your family all over the house. In school there's no one there unless you seek them out. I used to get afraid of missing out on something, no matter how unrealistic. Once everyone's asleep - what is there to miss out on??? Or if they're all studying - what? I want to go study with them? Of course not. So what is with my obsession about needing people around all the time when I'm usually not missing out on anything?

It's sort of the same as when I would want to be awake with the adults as a little kid. They weren't talking about anything I could understand, so why would I want to stay up with them just to be bored?

It must be that I just don't like going to sleep.

I remember one year when I was in sleepaway camp - I think I was around eleven or twelve years old - and we were having a conversation in the bunk about sleeping. My counselor said that sleep is 1/60 of death and I got so disturbed and creeped out by that idea that I refused to fall asleep that night. Of course, I did end up doing so eventually, but for about a week I was terrified of falling asleep.

Then I went through a weird phase where I would try to catch myself just before falling asleep. I always wondered what it felt like to fall asleep. You can't really remember doing it, you know? It sort of just happens without your knowledge.

But mostly, I have been, am, and probably always will be reluctant to go to sleep. There are people to talk to, there are things happening, there's the whole world still existing around you. There are books to be read, stories to write, people to gchat, thoughts to think, ponderings to ponder...who has time for sleeping? Who wants to shut all of that out by hours of unconsciousness? It's like giving up on the day.

Too bad we can't function without sleep because if we could - I don't think I ever would.

(Of course, if I never slept then I'd never dream and I'm probably the world's most vivid dreamer, so perhaps I would go to sleep. Sometimes.)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Raiders of the Plastic Spoons

It happened one late morning at the secret, hidden home of the Blogfather. The apartment was empty save for the Bloggers SJ, M.R., and myself, Erachet - or so we thought.

It was while we were getting ready to leave that we noticed it - The Bug. It was big and black with long, furry, wriggling legs. Even worse - it was in Elianna's room! The polite thing to do, of course, was to kill the intruder at once but no one wanted to go near it. Finally, I had to face the thing myself ("HAHA! YU R MY BUG NAW" [the PT]) . I tried to squish it with a cardboard box from the garbage but, alas, it did not want to be squished. Once I finally did manage to squish it ("the bug has been squishinated by the girl!" [sic]) and throw it out, it was only mostly dead which, of course, means still slightly alive. What if other dangerous and grosser than gross enemies came to its aid?

This called for drastic action by present members of the Blog Squad. Bad4Shidduchim had hinted to us that there was something special and important about taping plastic spoons to the table and flinging jelly at the clean white walls. I believe her instructions were such:

Use for 22 plastic spoons:

Needed: masking tape, a table, 22 plastic spoons, jelly, a nice white wall

1. Position table about 15 feet from nice white wall
2. Tape edge of handle of spoons to table, the bowl side over air
3. fill bowl of spoons with jelly
4. press gently down on edges of jelly-filled bowls of spoons in rapid succession
5. admire squishy sound and colorful sight

For best results, use many flavors jelly in a pattern. Keep spoons close together. With practice, you can aim them to create patterns of your own design.

Note: only for practice in facilities which you will be evacuating immediately.


Well, we were evacuating the apartment rather immediately, so we figured a shield of this kind against enemies of the Arthropoda phylum would be very useful. Luckily, we came prepared. We took out our handy plastic spoons and immediately began taping them to the kitchen table. Observe:

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Next, we got out the jelly:

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And then - up went the shield:

modern art!

And the Blog Squad saved the day once again! The home of the Blogfather is sufficiently protected against Arthropods.

Unless...Serach didn't wash the walls did she? Did she???

Uh oh.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The onset of summer

Change of season usually also brings about some sort of change in people. A person may feel determined in autumn to start the school year responsibly and organized. Winter may carry with it a peaceful air, where you can feel as free as the white snow that is both blank and rich, or you can cozy up inside with friends, hot chocolate, and a good movie. Spring gives the flavor of frivolity and exhilaration in the blooming world and all its adventures and possibilities.

Summer, on the other hand...summer for me is the starkest contrast of all - it brings about the biggest, most jolting change. Summer is when friends go home. Summer is when no one seems to be around. Summer is when you sometimes have to get a job doing something so completely and utterly mindless you can feel your wasted brain cells choking. Summer is a time for self-reflection, but you have so much time for it that you end up wallowing.

On the other hand, there are some people around - it's just harder to stay in touch and it takes more effort to get together. Summer is when you can catch up on your reading...catch up on your writing...learn how to get over hating ellipses...

I suppose it's about a balance. But it's harder in the summer. There isn't constant action to distract you. You're alone a lot more often than you are during the school year. It's like a switch that was on all year has suddenly, unexpectedly been turned off. Your entire comfort zone melts away. The big bubble of fun that surrounds you all year pops. You're left with only a little bit and that has to last you all summer long! And that summer can be like an uncharted map - three whole months of nothingness. Anything could happen. Nothing could happen. There's no way of knowing. It's like Alice falling down the rabbit hole and having no idea when she'll land or where or what'll happen afterwards or how she'll get back.

I think summer is the most frightening season.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Speaking out

Sometimes I'm in the mood to write, but I can't figure out what it is I want to say. I know there is something pressing, something urgent, something I just must get out there, but when I try to formulate it into words, it just becomes a big mess. Maybe this is because there is more than one thing to write about. Perhaps it's because what I want to write about is too big to pick apart and convert into something coherent. Perhaps it's because I haven't the slightest idea what I want to write about...I simply want to write.

It's sort of like, you have things you think should be said, but you're not sure if you should say them. Or you want to talk, but you have nothing to say. You want to be heard, but you're not sure anyone is really listening.

It's difficult to organize thoughts. I know this is true because this blog post used to be a lot crazier than it is right now. I guess sometimes it's good to think things through before you post them, just like it's good to think before you speak. But how much thought? At a certain point, you're just thinking about speaking for so long that you never end up actually saying anything.

I know, I know, thinking is overrated. But not thinking is pretty thoughtless, you know?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Hmmmm

Being a good friend is tiring.

Take that as you will.

(This is especially true when packing is involved)

P.S. if you had 22 plastic spoons, what would you do with them? Does anyone want 22 plastic spoons?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

You've got a friend in me

It is amazing how powerful friendship is. I think we need it, we crave it, as intensely as we need and crave food and water. As the Torah says, "it is not good for Man to be alone." It is hard to always remember how much we mean to our friends, especially when we're wrapped up in our own lives or our own troubles and worries. But when we finally discover that it has been days without any real human interaction, the resulting emotions are awful. You can end up starving for friendship - and not the sort of camaraderie that exists in a group, but the attention of that one friend, or maybe two friends, who makes it clear to you that you, specifically you, are important and valued and enjoyable to be around. It's always, always, always so important to take the time out for a good friend, both for your friend's sake and for yours. And the silliest thing is for everyone to sit on their own wondering where all their friends have gone and not realizing that their friends are wondering the same exact thing.

There are certain times of the year where friendship is put to the test. Finals, the summer, times when people are super busy and very apart. Times when there is no structure in the day which guarantees your running into your friends and consequently spending time with them afterwards. These are times where it's sometimes difficult to take the initiative and reach out, because you're sitting alone feeling depressed and wondering why no one is reaching out to you.

But it's incredibly amazing how spending just one night hanging out with a good friend can change the view of the previous hours and change the way you wake up the next morning - suddenly ready to face the day. It's unbelievable how powerful being with just one friend is and how happy it can make you, almost like you're recharging your battery. You're rejuvenated suddenly, your hunger is gone, you're strong again and you can once more face the world with your head up, knowing you've got your friends by your side if you need them. I think we all need reminders like that every so often. It's so easy to forget and fall into despondency.

Anyway, I guess the point of this is, take time out in your day for your friends. Even though everyone is always so busy, it's so, so, so important to make sure you're there for your friends, too, and it'll make you feel just as happy. And thank you to everyone who has been such a good friend to me this year and any time before that and, I hope, will continue to be in the future. I really, really, really appreciate it.

Monday, May 19, 2008

What is a purpose?

Everyone in life has a purpose, right? But of course, we don't know our purpose, we just know we have one. So, logically, if you have talents, it probably means you're supposed to use them for whatever your purpose might be, right? I mean, what would be the point of having talents in the first place? If G-d gave me a talent for writing, I'm supposed to utilize that talent in a purposeful way, aren't I? But how do I know? How do I know I'm not wasting it? How do I know what I'm supposed to be spending my time doing? How can I sit at my computer writing little stories for fun when I should be focusing on writing stories with greater meaning? And can a person have more than one purpose? Does everyone have a distinct purpose just for them, or are most people meant to be part of a larger crowd? Is that satisfying? Does everything we do need to be done with a higher purpose in mind? Is there a place for frivolity in this world? And what if I think I'm supposed to be doing one thing, when really it's another? What then? What happens if you fail?

Whenever someone passes away, other people always comment on how that person must have fulfilled his or her purpose. So wouldn't that deter people from wanting to fulfill their own purpose in life? I've always wondered about that. Why would I want to fulfill my purpose if that is the reason for my being on this earth? Why wouldn't I want to push it off as far as possible? Unless that isn't the only point of life. Is there really such a thing as one purpose or are there many reasons for us being here? Is fulfilling your purpose part of tikun olam?

Are there any answers to these questions or are they all just things to wonder about?

The dangers of being an English major

1. You use words from Canterbury Tales in boggle and think they're real
2. You spell things the British way and think it's normal
2.5 American spellings sometimes look weird to you...like they're missing something - a 'u' perhaps.
3. Your writing teacher tells you that you tend to sound..."rather Victorian" in your stories
4. You like sounding "rather Victorian" and writing in a more modern fashion bores you
5. It makes you cringe to read all that modern stuff that hits you over the head with all its brilliant symbolism
6. It makes you cringe to read stories that try to sound like Jane Austen but just can't pull it off. At all.
7. You get irrepressible urges to correct everyone's grammar and you can't stop yourself, even though you know it's annoying
8. There are so many classics still calling out to be read, you just don't have time to focus on the stuff everyone else is reading
9. You have no answer when people ask the famous "what are you going to do with that?" question
10. For some odd, unexplainable reason, everyone seems to be asking you to write papers when you just can't anymore

Saturday, May 17, 2008

How do you see the world?

Does it sometimes feel like you exist in a different world than everyone else? That you have these ideas about things that seem wrong or completely out of the blue? And people say to you, "What? where did you ever hear that?" or "How could you not know this?" or "Um, no, it's actually like such."

Where do we get wrong ideas from - especially ones that weren't specifically taught to us, but that we thought came from our own perceptions of life? Do they come from being too sheltered? From being unobservant? From reading the wrong books? From having a bad sense of perception?

Can a perspective be wrong?

And is it wrong to feel stupid for not knowing things that everyone else seems to think are obvious? Is this a flaw? Is it a fluke or is it your fault that you just never came across whatever thing it is that everyone else seems to know but you don't?

Is the world a little bit different for everyone?

Friday, May 16, 2008

How not to write an English paper

Everyone is always wondering, "how do I become a better writer?" "How can I write better English papers?"

This post is not going to tell you about any of that.

It will, however, instruct you in the "don'ts" of English paper writing.

1. Don't ignore your paper. If it tries to get your attention, give it all you've got! If it doesn't, you show it who's boss!

2. Don't sit at the computer screen and stare until you're too mesmerized to think of anything but shiny computer screens.

3. Don't do work for other classes that aren't due before your paper.

4. Don't watch movies.

5. Don't read books that don't pertain to your paper, even if they're really fun. Even if they're The Phantom Tollbooth (no, reading the scenes in Dictionopolis does not count as helping you with your paper, even if they are all about words).

6. Don't talk to people on gchat.

7. Don't read emails.

8. Don't hang out in the caf.

9. Don't make top ten lists.

10. Don't write in your blog.




One day, I'll learn to practice what I preach.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Forbear! Which here means, don't continue reading this post if you are looking for something cheerfully remniscent of a novel by the PT

Today we had our last Gothic Novel class! This makes me very sad. I really learned a lot in that class and, oddly, I've become less afraid of certain things. I think the more you understand something, the less scary it becomes. So a book which may have seemed terrifying to me under normal circumstances became a lot less scary when I understood all the Gothic elements it was using. The class also forced me to face certain things like Dracula and Wieland and Turn of the Screw which I never would have readily faced on my own. I'm glad I did.

As I was walking back from class, I randomly started to compare Voldemort and Dracula in my head. They really are quite similar.

1. They are both somewhat dead but undead and require the destruction of certain items in order to be defeated
2. They both have a psychic link to one of their victims
3. They each are the direct cause of a scar on a victim's forehead, and that scar symbolizes the victim's connection with impurity/evil
4. RED EYES. That's a big one. They're both described as having "gleaming red eyes," a feature their victims take instant notice of
5. Voldemort needs Harry's blood to be revived. Dracula also needs blood to be revived.
6. There is a huge buildup to the final confrontation with each, and then each becomes much too easy to defeat

Anyway, I'm sure there are more similarities, but that's all I can think of for right now.

I suppose this post was not as dismal as I made it out to seem from the title. At least, not until now. But here is where it gets really awful. I'm serious. Don't say I didn't warn you. In fact, you know what, I don't trust you not to read ahead at all. I know you will, so I'm going to write it out in code and then bury it away so only the extraordinarily brave and extremely lucky shall be able to find it.

HAHA MADE YOU LOOK! Nuthing lik a gud jok in invizabil inc! :D

There.

I hope you're satisfied now.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Reading Week

There is a certain bliss that comes along with reading week, especially for those of us with very few finals (or for those of us who don't know how to study at any time other than the night before). A whole seven days with absolutely nothing to do except ignore your schoolwork and have fun. Heavenly!

Some of my favorite school days have been passed during reading week - going to the park, playing games, idling around eating ice cream and savoring our freedom down to the very last second. Reading week is probably the best invention there is. Every adventure is saved for reading week. Serene moments with friends are strongest during reading week. Reading week exudes nothing but fun, pleasure, and peace.

But now, reading week is nearly over. Now is crunch time, when we must finally write our papers and study for our exams. The fun is finished.

Or is it?

I wish everyone good luck on their finals (and papers) and, more importantly, I hope we all find the time to squeeze in some more blissful moments of fun.

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Friday, May 9, 2008

Where do friends go once they're married?

Unlike probably a lot of people who read this blog, I don't have that many friends who are engaged, although the number is slowly rising. This past Sunday, I attended my first ever wedding of a really close friend. Our relationship was such that while we didn't necessarily interact every single day, I always knew that she was available if I needed it, and I hope she felt the same way about me. Hers was always the house I went to on Shabbat afternoon if I could drag myself outside. When my parents went away in the summers, her house was the one I always relocated to. The concept of that not being the case any longer was one I didn't comprehend until the very end of the wedding.

It's a strange mix of feelings - being overjoyed for a friend and yet depressed at your own loss. I didn't understand how to handle the situation. Could I just call her up like usual? How long did I have to wait until she had time for friends again? And I felt so incredibly guilty for not feeling as happy as I should due to all my own anxieties.

Then, last night, she called me and I had the weirdest epiphany. It felt so out of context, because she was married and yet her name came up on my phone like it always did and she was exactly the same person as before. I was completely overcome with this realization that things haven't changed as drastically as I had assumed. Perhaps it's only because this was my first experience with this stuff, but I was always under the assumption that people disappeared when they got married - that they got swallowed up by married life and entered into a world which was closed off to the rest of us until we, too, joined their ranks as married people.

Of course, things will be different, but not necessarily as different as I imagined. Married people are still there, they're just...married. And now that I understand that, I can allow myself to feel properly happy for my friend, which is what I should have been feeling all along. because she and her chatan are amazing people and make an awesome pair.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Everywhere and Nowhere

Is it possible for a person to be both everywhere and nowhere at the same time? In a conversation where hashkafa came up, I found it very difficult to say where I stood on anything. I was raised in a Modern Orthodox home, but I understand a lot of more right-wing ideas. I am not Yeshivish, but at the same time, I'm more right-wing than I used to be. So where am I? Of course, it's impossible to put anyone into a box, but even on certain issues which require an opinion, I find it hard to give one.

What do I think about a co-ed environment? Well, I don't know. I understand that it's hard for a co-ed relationship to stay platonic and I totally understand why people would say they don't believe in co-ed, but I also understand the viewpoint that it's somewhat unnatural for guys and girls not to interact at all outside of the dating world. I mean, even blogging is co-ed and I'm alright with that, so does that mean I'm alright with co-ed?

Do I watch TV? I don't know. I hardly ever do but that's more because I'm just uninterested/think TV is a huge waste of time. Do I think there is something religiously wrong about watching TV? I...don't know? I don't think so, but would I care if I grew to believe there was? Maybe not? Maybe?

Do I believe in the Shidduch system? No? Yes? Somewhat? Somewhat not?

I can provide valid reasoning for all sides of these and other issues and because of that, it's hard for me to choose one of these sides. I can find myself agreeing with everyone! Sure, there are certain issues I am passionately opinionated about (like shomer negiah, for example), but a lot of them...I'm still struggling to form my opinion. But how can I ever know which is the right way to go? So many of my beliefs are not real beliefs but are more influences based on who I'm around. I know I've been feeling a subtle shift to the right once I started Stern, especially once I became very close with girls who are more right-wing than I am (I think?). The problem is, I don't know where I am anymore. I'm everywhere, I'm nowhere, I'm floating around in some other plane of existence where I'm somehow outside of everyone else and looking in and observing and agreeing with more than one way of life and not finding anywhere where I belong.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Perfection

In a discussion about controlling emotions, the topic of gedolim came up. The issue was precisely, I felt that it was unnatural to be so in control of your emotions that you could turn them on and off as necessary. Isn't the natural reaction of raw emotion the truest one's emotions could ever be? The more you control them, the more affected they are, right? But then it was explained to me - no. If you truly understand the emotion, you'll be able to assume it without it being affected at all but rather having it be that emotion in its truest form, as if you naturally experienced it. But still, intellectually knowing that a certain emotion is supposed to be felt at a certain time and then putting yourself in the mindset to have that emotion, even if you understand it - isn't that still false? Because that emotion is not your natural instinct! Except I know that you can make the argument, "but if you are on such a level that you truly understand your emotions, it will be natural instinct." I recognize this argument, but I am having trouble internalizing it. Something about it still feels unnatural.

Then someone commented that there are gedolim who have practiced in this manner with their emotions. So I responded, "But just because a gadol can do it doesn't mean I can." This comment was met with, "Don't put gedolim on such a pedestal that you feel you can never reach their level. Who says you can't?"

And then it struck me. It struck me so forcefully that I actually blurted it out: "But what if I don't want to?"

What? Not want to be on the level of the gedolim? Not want to go beyond that level - not want to strive for perfection? I was asked, why would I not want to be the most perfect that I could be?

I thought about it and realized something odd. I enjoy being imperfect. I like my imperfections. They're what make me human. They're what give me the ability to form opinions and learn and grow and be faced with difficult choices and...and even be wrong. Can you imagine - I like being wrong? Not all the time, of course, but it's part of learning. I love learning. I love growing and maturing and recognizing new things about myself and the world every single day. I love the surprises that an imperfect existence brings. And the closer one gets to perfection, the less room there is for growth - isn't there?

But then I thought of something else. What if the real reason I like being imperfect is because I don't know anything different? What if my imperfections are the very things which are keeping me from striving for perfection? What if I'm simply comfortable with being imperfect and am therefore not particularly enticed by a world of utter perfection? Obviously, human beings can never achieve complete perfection, but even the level of gedolim is not something particularly appealing to me. I like that there are gedolim, of course, but I would never strive to be at their level.

This comes from the same reasoning behind why, as a little kid, I used to not want Mashiach to come. Oh, sure, part of me did, but most of me was happy with my life and didn't want to change it. Is all this just anxiety about change, even change for the better? Is it a self-destructive attitude? And how much should gedolim be revered, anyhow? Obviously they are gedolim for a reason, and even though there are others who can reach that potential, not everyone can. If everyone could be a leader, we'd have a community of all leaders and no followers. Wouldn't that just be anarchy?

I apologize if this post was a bit confusing. My thoughts can get that way sometimes.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

New Blogger Wows Critics

By Elianna (except for this part):

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