Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Blank Slate

So here I am.

I've stepped precariously from one storybook of life and into the pages of another; pages that are not yet filled in. All around me is blankness that I've somehow got to write, but I don't know where to even begin.

I am a completely blank slate. I have no job. I am unattached to any male person. I am not in school for any further education. I am nowhere. I have the entire world in front of me and I don't know which way to turn. So many paths seem to be entwined in brambles and thorny vines, as if to trip me up or block my way entirely. Is this what it's like on the other side of childhood? Constantly fighting your way to get anywhere?

But I haven't made it anywhere yet. I haven't been on this side of things long enough to have made it anywhere. Because where ought I try to make it into? I've got to decide this before I start off, haven't I? Otherwise I won't know whether to turn east or west or north north east or south west south.

Everything feels so rocky like when you're walking on a dock that sticks out over the water and the waves shove it to and fro in their giddy game of trying to make you lose your balance. But I can't lose my balance here because the things I do actually matter. If I make a mistake, it has more consequences than just retaking a test or apologizing.

Hundreds of people lose their jobs every day - so how is a recent college graduate supposed to find anything when talented professionals are out of work? Nowhere is hiring. What real skills do I have anyway? Would I be happy filing papers for a year or more or would I go out of my mind?

And what about dating when I don't even know any guys?

What about finding a place to live and having to pay rent for the first time ever?

What about deciding what kind of job I really want to have, or if I want to go back to school?

How do I figure these things out?

Who will I become?

Where do I go next?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Starting Out On A Journey

I am officially done with school.

Ever.

(Or maybe not ever, but for now.)

Last night was my last night as the Apple's roommate. In fact, it was my last night as part of TBA (what I nicknamed our apartment on my blog way back in the beginning of the year. I believe it stands for "The Best Apartment" - not very original, I know). But not even, because M.R. had already left.

Last night, the Apple and I talked a bit until we were nearly asleep (that didn't take very long, seeing as we were both exhausted from packing and transporting luggage). When I shut the lamp, I thought to myself, "These last few seconds before I fall asleep are my last few seconds as a member of this apartment. When I wake up in the morning, my time at Stern will really be over." While I was still the Apple's roommate, it was like school was still in session, even though there were no more classes. I was still a part of my Stern experience. Now I'm home for Shabbos and any return to the Stern premises will be as a graduate.

Truthfully, I do have one more night in my apartment at Stern. D2 and I are packing our stuff on motzei Shabbos and leaving Sunday morning. But it will be just us. We will be the last ones to say goodbye to The Apartment.

...And then we, and everyone else, will go on together to the next stage of our lives.

What's both nice and strange at the same time is that we're not saying goodbye to each other. We're going to be seeing each other next year. This is not like the end of the year in Israel when people go off to their respective colleges in various different states or countries or even continents. Those people you really need to say goodbye to. But not my friends now. We're still going to be together in some ways, but...differently. I don't know what it will be like but it doesn't feel lonely.

D2, Chana, SJ, M.R., and the Apple,

This year, there were struggles, triumphs, difficult moments, awesome moments...but you guys have been amazing apartment mates.

At the start of this year, I wrote a post on beginnings. Well, now we're all facing a new kind of beginning. It's the beginning of a path in a completely different walk of life. But I think we're not alone on that path. It's one we don't know well at all, yet we are not walking it in solitude, even as we are also all doing different things next year.

There's a song from the end of the movie Anastasia that I love. It's meant to be a love song really, but I think it can really apply to any sort of close relationship - especially a deep-rooted friendship that will help each of us face whatever journey we have up ahead.



As I step wistfully out of one stage and nervously, but not unhappily, into the next, I take with me everything my time at Stern College for Women has provided me with. In a way, I am the same person I always was, except I'm being that person in a different way. It's slightly confusing. But refreshing, in a way. It's exciting to feel like I can possibly do something important with my life outside of the comfortable school cocoon.

So thank you, Stern College.

This post feels somewhat awkward, but I guess some things are hard to say, let alone say with elegance.

This blog will no longer be the records of a girl in college. Now it will be something else. Perhaps it will be more important to me than ever to write about what happens to me. My life suddenly feels like it's one big surprise.

I suppose we shall see what happens come tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Discord In The End Note

Something's wrong
In this song
'Cause it's ending on a low.
But the score-sheet
With the beat
Points to high.
I was sure--
You concur?
That the last note should be A.
But they played--
I'm dismayed--
A low F.

For so long
Heard the dong--
Notes I swear I used to know.
But this feat--
Incomplete--
Makes me sigh.
So I err,
I aver.
Things have not gone the right way.
And this grade
Now waylaid
Makes me deaf.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Reflections Of An English Major

Some coast through college as though it is just a current tugging them along to graduation and then spitting them out into the "real world."

Others endure college because it is a practical guide for skills they can later use to make money, but they are not interested in wasting their time with studying anything impractical in that venue.

But there are also some who really use college as a time for personal growth. While this is not mutually exclusive from the first two categories, I do believe it deserves its own category anyway.

Someone who takes her English major seriously cannot possibly escape college without reaching a sort of self-knowledge she did not have before. Part of studying literature is studying yourself. A true English major gains an awareness of what she is doing. There is a certain kind of carefulness with which she learns to approach texts and, as an extension of that, the rest of the world.

Not all books are literature. The thing is, many people separate "popular fiction" with "high art literature." But literature is not synonymous with "high art." The way I like to understand it, though this is not my own idea, what makes something literature is its ability to be both good writing and exist on the same plane as its reader. There is not the book that is somehow on a pedestal higher than the reader, but rather the reader is able to take the book and see herself in its writing. That should not be confused with seeing herself in the characters. A real piece of literature is one that lasts through time and exists as its own entity, not dependent on a time period or a piece of background knowledge. You don't have to know anything about the author, about the time period, about the subject matter other than what is written in the book. It is writing that can speak to readers a hundred years ago, today, and a hundred years from now.

As my teacher put it: "It becomes literature the moment you enter the picture."

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a post about calling myself a writer. The crux of the post is that I find it somewhat absurd to go around calling myself a writer when I don't have any spectacular piece of writing to prove I deserve such an identity:

...by speaking the words I am a writer, I am effectively giving myself the title of, well, Writer, and I guess I just feel rather pretentious doing so. Because I'm not really a writer. I have nothing to show for being a writer. Its more like I fancy myself a writer.


But is the identity of "writer" really reserved for those who churn out bestsellers every year? Or is there some other way to be a writer? Is that kind of activity really writing?

I think that true writing requires a kind of consciousness of what you are doing, regardless of whether you get anything published or not. It's not like once you publish something, you are hereafter known as a writer. You can publish twenty books a year and not be truly writing. Or you can publish nothing but spend your energy really concentrating on what you are writing, how you write, and the fact that you are writing at all. Thinking about whether or not you are a true writer is indicative of a certain kind of attention that all true writers require.

After spending so much time and effort on doing this kind of work - four years of it, in fact - it's weird to feel like you are now walking away. Moving on. Enriched, perhaps, but somehow...leaving something behind. I don't even know what it is that I'm leaving behind, but it definitely feels like something.

It's weird to feel like I could have put so much more effort into my major, that I could have grown even more, that I could have achieved so much more. There's so much I was exposed to that I didn't properly soak in. And I know, you're not supposed to live in the past. You have to move forward. And I know you don't stop learning once you leave college.

But that doesn't mean it's hard to feel like I'm graduating a major that I did not take full advantage of.

The world may say that an English major is impractical. It may insist that English majors are wasting their time, ruining the economy, getting a BA in the Useless Members of Society club, and not gaining any real skills that matter outside of book clubs.

All that may be as true or not true as you decide.

But English majors also spend their time gaining an understanding of themselves and of other people. And the more they understand and work on themselves, the more they can understand and have an effect on the world.

I believe there's a R' Salanter quote about that. :)

That is the gift four years of studying literature and writing brings. So, no matter how useless my skills might be upon leaving college, I will never regret having been an English major. No other concentration could have given me a richer education.

It's just odd to think that the struggle in this environment is now over, yet I am not finished growing. I have a better understanding of what makes good writing, but can I do it? Can I take on the mantle of being my own teacher? Or will I slip into the routine of "real life" the way most people do and wake up thirty years from now wondering when I'll have time to start reading, thinking, and writing again the way I did back in my good ol' college days? How do I know I have the strength and determination to take control of my life instead of letting life's pressures and expectations take control of me?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Thoughts and Things I've Learned

More than any other schooling experience, my time at Stern has been a real journey. Through the teachers, the classes, and friends both in and out of school, I have been molded, and perhaps molded myself, into a richer, more mature, more self-assured person.

One of the first things I've had to learn was not to compare myself to anyone else. Someone else's success is not my failure. In fact, it has nothing at all to do with me, even if I did not "get" whatever the other person "got." Regardless of what any other person gets or how far any other person goes in any pursuit, I can only get as far and do as well as my efforts and talents allow.

The more you look at what other people are doing in comparison to what you are doing, the more negative feelings you will conjure up towards that other person. Trust me, it's not at all worth it. Feeling those things won't change anything. All it will do is make you frustrated and annoyed at both the other person and yourself. You'll resent the other person for doing well and you'll resent yourself for not performing to your potential and for feeling resentful towards your friend.

Yeah, it's frustrating not to get as good a grade as you want, especially if a friend does better than you in school. It's disappointing, and even somewhat depressing, to wish to get chosen for something and get passed over in favor of your friend. Such things bring competition into places where there should be none. But when such things happen, instead of looking at yourself and feeling resentful about all you're lacking, it's good to realize that you do have talents and that you have a lot more to go in order to reach your potential.

On that note, you always have the chance to grow more in your talents and stretch out your hand farther towards your potential. A grade is not a brand marking you forever as the limit of your abilities. There is always room and opportunity to strive for higher accomplishments. So you don't succeed today. That's okay. There's always tomorrow. Or next week. Or next year. Or even the next decade. Today might be someone else's moment, but one day it will be yours, too.

Something else I learned is to stand behind my own words. After all, if I don't stand by myself, who will? If I don't feel confident in what I'm saying, why should anyone take me seriously? Or believe in my ability to get anywhere or accomplish anything? If I write disclaimers before all my stories, it means I don't believe in my own writing! Am I going to be afraid of showing myself to the world forever? Or am I going to stand up and be confident that my opinions count, too, and that they're just as valid as anyone else's?

Sometimes people say things about you that aren't necessarily true or super accurate. Sometimes you even say things about yourself that aren't exactly accurate just to please or pacify someone else. But why should you? Why shouldn't you stand true to who you are?

I'm pretty intimidated about leaving the safety of school and stepping out into the "real" world. No matter what anyone says about the difference between the different stages of schooling (elementary, high school, college) or how on your own you are throughout school, there is always, always, always a difference between being in school and not being in school anymore. School is a place we all know by heart. We are all experts on The System. We can hold that system in our hands and mold it like clay to fit our needs. It's a system we've run around in, tripped over, and learned to balance just right. We know where all the lines are and just how far to push them. We know where we stand when we're in school - any school.

But I don't know the system outside of school. I don't know what is expected of me, where the lines are, or if I can even push them a centimeter. School is like a maze that we can feel our way through instinctively until, suddenly, it is not a maze any longer but a series of passages - some that are well known and some that are secret only to ourselves.

The outside world, to me, does not seem like a series of passages at all. From afar, it looks like a vast, seamless ocean of...a lot going on. There are new rules, new lines. It's a totally new game. I feel like I'm being pushed into the middle of a game of capture the flag and I haven't even been told who's on what team.

But the thing is, when you don't know the rules, if you know yourself then that's at least a start. If you don't know yourself or what you're getting into, that's tricky. Then you could be completely molded by whatever choices you make. Of course, you're always going to be somewhat colored by the environment you're in, but having a strong idea of who you are, what you like, what you believe in, what you approve of, what you wish to stay away from...that can help bring some direction, probably. At least - then you won't lose yourself in the vastness of possibilities that are out there. Or, it makes me feel better about it, anyway.

One last thing I'd like to write about here is facing the world with a positive attitude. I have so many friends who either always seem to be in a good mood or who don't let bad things bring them down. I admire them so much for this. Something I'm really working on is not letting things get to me, or get to me enough that it ruins my whole positive perspective on life. I really believe that if you face the world with a smile, the world will smile back. It's just something I have to learn how to do better.

Anyway, I don't mean for this post to hit anyone over the head with lessons. These are merely things that I have found valuable, but of course each person is different and each will find different kinds of inspiration and different ways to bring meaning and purpose into their lives.

And no, that was not a disclaimer. :P

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Graduation

In a few minutes, SJ, the Apple, and I are going to be leaving for our graduation.

For the past few days, I've been thinking about what I would write on the day of graduation, and nothing too inspiring came to mind. I thought about writing a parody to the Les Miserables song, "One Day More" (as some of my friends and I used to do when there was one day left of something), but it seemed a bit silly. Then again, perhaps it's worth being silly about graduation?

Nah.

Then I thought about linking to some posts I wrote recently about growth and maturity. But that seemed overreaching, a bit. I don't want to write something too heavy or overly deep (or too cliche). I'm not valedictorian or anything. :P

So I figure I'll just write, simply, that today is graduation, and that after today I will be a ceremonial graduate of Yeshiva University - but not a real one quite yet because my finals don't start until Sunday (isn't that mean?).

Mazal tov, Class of 2009!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

What Comes Around

Today, in honor of Mother's Day, we went to visit my grandparents. A large part of visiting my grandparents usually includes listening to my grandfather tell stories from his past. Today we got on the subject of his meeting my grandmother.

"And then we went on our first date...to Radio City Music Hall. They only played cinema back then."

"Wait a minute," said my dad. "Radio City Music Hall? Wasn't our first date at Radio City Music Hall?"

"Yes," my mom nodded. "We went to a concert."

Both generations looked a bit taken aback at their having gone to the same place on their first dates. And my grandfather asked my grandmother out at a social event in the Upper West Side. My own parents met that way, as well.

That was cool thing #1.

Cool thing #2 was when my grandfather was talking about first coming to America from England. He was waiting on line to be officially accepted into the country and the person behind him asked if he had any family there. My grandfather said yes, on 181st street. That was where he was going.

Immediately I thought of going to hear Ezzie's speech about his Jewish Economics Survey (if you don't read Ezzie's blog, that's this survey, which you should take!) and getting out of the subway at the 181st street stop. That's Washington Heights. That's where I'm (hopefully) going to be living next year. And that's where my grandfather first started in this country.

It's just funny the way things change...and the way they stay exactly the same, too. Ma'aseh avot siman l'banim, huh? :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My Cover Letter And...Me?

As graduation slowly creeps up on my friends and me, we're all stressing about finding and applying to jobs. When applying, the thing all wiser people emphasize most is that you must have a good cover letter. The cover letter is what potential employers see first, so you have to make them want to consider your resume.

I have written many cover letters in my life, though I suppose not as many as some people, but it's not like I've never written any. Still - when I sat down to write one today, I suddenly felt like the entire thing was so...fake. Not that I was saying anything untrue about myself. It was more like I was taking out anything that makes me sound like a person and turning myself into an impersonal list of accomplishments, instead.

Professionalism suddenly seemed cold and unnatural. Why would someone want to work with a list of accomplishments and skills? What about the person behind the cover letter? Where does she come in? Do you only get to show yourself if you make it past the cover letter/resume stage and receive an interview?

I wondered about how people get chosen for interviews. Is it by being a cover letter as opposed to being a person writing a cover letter? Don't future employers see gazillions of cover letters and resumes? Do they all sound the same? How do you make yours stand out? Is it by doing something extremely unusual and putting that in your cover letter? Or are you allowed to actually use your creative writing skills to make your personality come across in the very first impression these people will receive of you? But then - that is too unprofessional, isn't it?

It sounds almost like all those in the professional world put on a mask of cold properness once they get to work. Is anyone really comfortable like that? Maybe that's why people also go to work in a suit instead of in comfortable clothing. The professional world, apparently, is an extraordinarily uncomfortable place.

And think about what you're doing. You, a person, are writing a letter to a potential employer, another person. Applying for a job should not be this cold, anonymous process where you are stripped of all humanity and become merely a resume. It is not an experience between a piece of paper and an office building. It is an experience between one person and another. There is a real person looking for a way to use her skills in a pleasant setting and make money while doing it, and there is another real person looking for someone to help out. So why does that turn into "To Whom It May Concern: I am an English Major who had these professional and school experiences and have therefore gained these specific skills. Thank you for your consideration." Blah blah blah, I sound just like the fifty billion other English majors who have similar experiences and the same set of skills. And who are also thankful for consideration. I mean, come on.

Where do I fit into my cover letter?

Monday, May 4, 2009

My Own Way

Tonight there was a pre-graduation ceremony at Stern which recognized certain individuals for their achievement and character. One of those people was a teacher who I am taking now for the fourth semester. In fact, I have taken every single one of the classes she teaches at Stern.

What I loved about the way she spoke was how natural it was. She was truly speaking from the heart. I was grinning the entire time she spoke and really felt proud to be her student. I was truly, truly happy for her and could not have felt more strongly that she is one of the best teachers in the school. Nothing was clearer when she spoke than that she genuinely deserves her awards.

Afterward, another professor who won an award spoke. This was a professor who actually teaches Speech, yet his own speech was not at all as striking as the first teacher's. He read off a paper and there wasn't very much meaning behind his words. It was almost like he considered such a thing to be routine. I didn't detect real feeling, or even any real thoughts. Anything he said that could have been meaningful came across as flat.

That was one thing I noticed. There is such a thing as being too prepared. This might sound cliche, or cheesy, and I've been told this more than once before, but seeing it in action made me realize how true it is: what comes from the heart, goes to the heart. You can write a speech and memorize it and know it perfectly, and there might even be some really important things in there, but if you don't really feel what you're saying - forget about smiling, forget about posture, forget about projecting or any other tips people give you about speaking - if you don't feel it, no one else will, either. The speech won't seem real. It'll just seem over-rehearsed, or like you don't care. And if you do put all your emotion behind what you're saying - if it really comes from within you - all the other stuff will come naturally. You'll speak up. You'll stand straight. You'll smile. You'll look the audience in the eye because you'll really want to be saying what you're saying. And you'll want them to know it.

The other thing I noticed was that when the second professor was speaking, he spoke about his subject. Speech. Drama. He spoke about his subject and then he applied it to life. God created the world with speech. Through speech, we can grow.

As he was speaking, I thought about how he sees the world through the lens of his subject. Meanwhile, my literature and philosophy teacher sees the world through the lens of her subject. She has been helping me with my thesis, been guiding my mind all year through complex philosophical ideas, and has helped shape the way I see writing and some of the way I approach life. But that doesn't mean her way is the only way. In fact, I don't always agree with her way of seeing things.

But when people are so invested in one idea, that seems to be the only idea they see as truly valid. Oh sure, they'll tell you other people have other ideas that work for them, but they don't really believe those ideas are as good, do they? Otherwise, why would they be so invested in a different idea?

So I thought about the point of being exposed to all these kinds of people. Why be pushed around in various directions? When taking this teacher, I'm told to see the world one way. When taking another, I have to adjust to see the world a different way. And for a third teacher, I have to reorient my ideas yet again. So which way is correct? What am I supposed to be learning? What have I gotten out of my time in college?

And I realized that what I got is the opportunity to do my own thinking. I don't think you realize you're doing your own thinking until after you've thought a lot. Suddenly, you find yourself rejecting certain ideas, latching onto others, and tweaking others to construct your own way of seeing the world.

Just because someone is older than you and knows more than you doesn't mean that person is wiser, or that that person has the only correct way of doing things. There are different kinds of wisdom, too. There is an intellectual sort of wisdom, where you can take ideas and understand their complexities. Teachers who really make you think can have that. But there's also another kind of wisdom. There's the wisdom of knowing yourself, knowing what works for you, knowing yourself in relation to others, knowing others in general, and having a feel for the world around you.

I think being open minded to ideas is a kind of wisdom. It's recognizing the worth in certain ideas, yet not getting pigeonholed into thinking only one way of life really works best.

Yet, even so, you can still have a favorite way of approaching things. And perhaps that's what these teachers have. Maybe it's not that they see their way as best, but just as the way they prefer best. So perhaps I've been wrong all along about that.

As might be apparent, graduating from college does not mean my education is finished. We've always got to be learning and growing or we would all stagnate as productive human beings. I mean that in the sense of both being productive in the world and also being productive for ourselves. We have to be interested in our own self-improvement and self-growth. If not, why be a part of the world?

As R' Yisroel Salanter says, in order for the world to change, you have to first change yourself. If you work on yourself, if you try to become a better person, then your relation to the world will change, too.

If you're not invested in your own self, then in what can you invest? Truly invest, I mean. It's you, not anyone else, who is going to ultimately make you a better person. And it's you who is going to most impact your own world. Everyone else provides guides, hindrances, support, waylays. Some give you great gifts. Some hurt you terribly. But each experience is for you to take from it what you will and use what you take productively towards your personal growth.

I believe that once you start growing and shaping yourself into who you really wish to be, only then can you truly stand up straight and face the world. And when I'm ready to face the world, I don't want to seem over-rehearsed. I want to do it with my whole heart.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Misadventures Of A Rainy Friday

There are some days when the rain is so fierce that it is not rain at all, but rather like the all the lakes and rivers of the world are falling from the sky right on top of you. This past Friday was such a day.

SJ, D2, and I set off on our trek from Stern to Penn Station in a gray world with a damp breeze. On occasion, a few droplets of water would sprinkle onto our faces, but as we walked, these droplets became more like fully-grown drops and their descents occurred more frequently than "on occasion." By the time we were halfway there, the sky had begun to dump its entire watery contents onto New York City.

For those unfamiliar with summers in New York, they go something like this: Nice Day. Hot day. Humid day. Very humid day. Very, very humid day. So-humid-it's-like-walking-through-sticky-swaths-of-hot-cotton-candy day. Stormy day filled with drenching, torrential rains, blinding flashes of lightening, and thunder so deafening it sounds like the sky's going to crash to earth any minute. The next day is a beautiful one, and the cycle begins again.

Although we have yet to reach summer, the rain which drowned our feet that day might as well have been an early summer visitor. SJ and I each had umbrellas, but the wind had decided to whip mine backwards into a position that was utterly useless. My hair, my shirt, my skirt, and my feet became completely drenched. I only hoped the contents of the suitcase I was dragging were still dry.

By the time we three got to Penn Station, our clothes were sticking to us in that uncomfortable way that wet clothes do and our hair hung limp and bedraggled. I could feel water squishing around in my shoes.

In such circumstances, a person may tend to feel bogged down by her wetness. I certainly felt that way. We had only four minutes until our train and we still had to buy tickets, but for some reason I could only shuffle my feet slowly around the train station. Everything around me, in fact, was operating on a slower, wetter system.

There were long lines by each ticket machine, but somehow both SJ and I managed to get a turn. I got tickets for D2 and myself, but SJ's machine was broken. We had no time for her to try on my machine, however, so we ran to our platform with one minute to go, stumbled clumsily (and wetly) down the stairs, and threw ourselves onto the first car of the train just before the doors closed behind us.

The train was a Double Decker, and for a moment we stood there in wet confusion, wondering where the seats were.

"Shall we go up or down?" I finally managed through chattering teeth. The others must have been too wet or bewildered or both, for they each mumbled something that didn't sound very much like a suggestion.

"Up, then," I decided for them and we all traipsed up the steps, shivering in our sopping clothes. Unluckily, there was nowhere for us to sit, so we had to stand until we reached Jamaica. That was where we had to switch.

I called my dad at that point to ask if he was also on the train. Then we could get a ride home from the train station. He wasn't, but he said he was on another train that was also switching at Jamaica, so we decided to meet up.

At Jamaica, we met my father and made the switch easily. Our next train had seats for us, but not together, so D2 went to sit in one area while SJ sat in another. "We're getting off at ---" I told them just in case we got separated, for it was a different stop than the one we were originally going to on our first train. Then I stood for a bit near D2 because I felt too wet to sit, but SJ finally convinced me to sit with her. I suppose that was when things went a bit awry.

Looking back on it, I don't think D2 noticed that I was no longer standing near her. When the train pulled into our stop, SJ and I got off the train, along with my father. As I got off, I looked around for D2 but couldn't find her anywhere.

"Is someone supposed to get off the train with you?" asked a man from my community. I nodded.

"What's her name?"

"D2," I said.

He poked his head back in the train and called out, "D2!"

But no one answered and the doors were closing.

As the train pulled away, SJ and I both took out our phones to call her. And we both noticed we had text messages from her asking if we were going to the stop our initial train, before we met up with my father, was going to. We looked at each other.

"Oh no," we said.

"What happened to D2?" asked my father. "Was she sleeping?"

I shrugged. "What's the next stop?" I asked. "Because that's where she's going."

SJ called D2, who told her what the next stop was. Then, still wet (though it was no longer raining), we trudged to my father's car and drove off to pick up D2.

Ten minutes later, D2 was found and in the car with us.

"When we get home, we should all have hot chocolate," I said.

"Ooh, yes!" exclaimed D2.

When I was taking a writing class at Stern, my stories frequently ended in everyone going home to have hot chocolate. SJ called these "hot chocolate endings." I figured we all deserved our own hot chocolate ending.

As soon as we got home, SJ, D2, and I ran up to my room to change our clothes. SJ, already wearing a light blue shirt that was mostly dry, borrowed a pastel pink skirt from me. Looking in the mirror, she exclaimed, "I look like ice cream!"

D2, meanwhile, had discovered that an air mattress was piled on top of my bed so that the whole thing looked like the set of The Princess and the Pea. She climbed on top and curled up. SJ and I, thinking this was a fun activity, climbed up with her. But after a little while, I remembered about the hot chocolate.

"Oh yeah, let's go have hot chocolate!" said D2, when I reminded her.

We all slid off the piled mattresses and bounded down the stairs.

"Do we have any hot chocolate?" I asked Mavis, who, like most teenage boys, was lurking around in the kitchen. We usually did have hot chocolate, but I wasn't sure if we had gotten any since Pesach.

"I don't think so," said Mavis. "But you can always use Ovaltine!"

So we tried the Ovaltine. The issue with that was we couldn't use the instant hot water on our sink. We had to actually heat up milk.

"Maybe we shouldn't," I said, glancing around the kitchen that had various Shabbos cooking activities going on in it.

"Aw, why not?" asked D2. I hesitated.

"We can just warm it up in the microwave," suggested SJ.

"Okay," I said. "But...in what?"

"Mugs?"

"Can you microwave mugs?"

"Sure! We do it all the time in my house."

"Um...okay..."

So I got down three mugs.

"Wait, girls, why don't you try these?" suggested my father, taking down some Styrofoam cups. I felt more comfortable using those and took them readily. SJ and D2 each poured themselves a cup of milk and put the cups in the microwave.

I waited for them to be finished but D2 kept putting hers back in.

Finally, it was my turn. I decided that instead of putting it in and out a million times, I'd just put my cup in for a full four minutes.

I suppose no one really paid much attention to what I was doing, because no one stopped me. SJ and D2 were busy with their cups of hot chocolate. I waited around for my cup of milk to finish microwaving.

As I waited, I did other things. I went upstairs to get something. I talked to SJ and D2. Mavis and I spent some quality time bothering each other. And then I decided to check out how my cup of milk was doing.

The first thing I saw when I looked over at the microwave was a steamy door and lots of white behind it.

You know that feeling where you suddenly feel the blood rushing around in your head? Shabbos was in less than an hour and I thought for a moment that I had broken the microwave.

After my feet unstuck from the floor, I shakily pressed the "stop" button and pulled open the door. A large circle of white liquid lapped up against an empty Styrofoam cup in greeting.

When I panic, I am generally overcome with a slow-moving, intense calm. I suddenly know exactly what to do, and what I knew most of all in that situation was that there was no reason my mother had to come into the kitchen until the milk was all cleaned up.

I became almost devilish about it.

"Should I take a picture?" I asked SJ.

"Yes!" she grinned. "It's like illustrated milk!"

I giggled and ran to get my camera.

Before long, I had both taken a picture of the milky masterpiece and had cleaned it all up. It was quite easy to clean, too.

"Here, let's try again," said D2, grabbing hold of the Styrofoam cup.

I looked at her incredulously, nearly started laughing again, and shook my head.

"I think I've had enough experimenting with milk for now," I said.

So I did not get my hot chocolate ending.

But I did get some illustrated milk. Oh, and a great story.