Monday, August 27, 2007

"I'm sensitive"

While drifting in and out of sleep during an afternoon nap the other day, Iggy the iPod shuffled to the song "I'm Sensitive," which is a favorite Jewel tune I hadn't heard in a years.

I can identify with many stanzas of the song, especially the chorus - "Please be careful with me, I'm sensitive and I would like to stay that way." But this time, one stanza in particular jumped out at me:
"I was thinking that it might do some good if we robbed all the cynics and took all their food. That way what they believe will have taken place, and we can give it to people who have some faith."
The words just kept running through my mind today, and I found it amazing how two simple sentences can apply to everything from White House scandals to jaded hearts to poverty to global warming.

Words are such wonderful, brilliant things when used to make thought provoking art.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

What is rich enough?

I was catching up on my magazine reading tonight while enjoying the $3.50 Guiness special at my local pub - which has basically become an extension of my apartment. The magazine of choice, out of my many subscriptions, was the June/July issue of Foreign Policy. It's a magazine of essays about current events by journalists, scholars, and public officials.

The article that caught my eye was "21 Solutions to Save the World," which gave brief theories about how to address the world's top 21 problems. Among those theories was one titled "An Embarrassment of Riches," by Howard Gardner, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Gardner's theory offered a way to correct the imbalance of riches among classes of people, which has grown to absurd extremes in recent years.

While I didn't completely agree with Gardner's formula of how to go about correcting the imbalance of riches, I couldn't help but think about how incredibly astute the title of his theory was - "An Embarrassment of Riches."

It got me thinking about my own struggles through the years to make ends meet while going to school and waiting tables full-time. I had written about this subject almost a year ago on my former MySpace blog:
"I can tell you what it's like . . . "
September 15, 2006

" . . . My last day of work at the Peninsula Daily News was Wednesday. I hustled, slept very little and had basically no life to call my own for the past year.

Part of the craziness was welcomed. It was a nice diversion from my own reality of being very lonely and depressed in a place where I thought it would never stop raining. Sadness can swallow a person alive if they let it.

I think the transition from college to career is difficult for almost everyone. The changes in your life happen so rapidly, and before you know it you're waking up in the morning asking yourself, "Is this really my life now?" There's no semester breaks, summer vacations or a final destination.

I didn't miss the semester breaks or summer vacations so much. Mine were always filled with work, which usually consisted of waiting tables in high-end restaurants and serving people who were living off trust funds and completely detached from reality. Their babies were treated as fashion accessories, who turned into black American Express cardholders by age 13.

I remember over one Christmas vacation I was working a busy brunch shift at Fred's, a restaurant on the top floor of Barney's New York that charged $25 for a hamburger. We were two waiters down, and I was covering a full section that consisted of about 12 tables with 36 demanding customers.

I approached a family of three - a mother whose face was paralyzed from botox injections, a father who I'd served a few days earlier when he treated his mistress to lunch, and their 19-year-old daughter. The father had just made a lame joke that their daughter was well on her way to earning a major in shopping after her first semester of college.

I didn't laugh. I didn't have the energy to pretend I cared. It was the holidays, I missed my family and my feet were aching.

The father looked up at me and said, "Didn't you get it? She's majoring in shopping." He then took a moment to laugh again at his joke.

I cracked a smile so I could get on with taking their order. At that point, his wife grabbed my hand and said, "It's okay honey. It's a joke for educated people."

I wanted to scream at her, "Look bitch. I'm an honors student at Hunter College a few blocks north of here. I don't have time to take your demeaning remarks today as I'm swamped in serving the heartless and wretched just so I can buy my textbooks next semester. So maybe you should tell your daughter to apply herself now, or she might end up like you with a face full of cow poison and a husband who doesn't recognize the woman he married."

Instead, I snapped my hand away and asked they wanted to eat. I couldn't afford to open my mouth and be fired. ..."

In remembering this story, it brought to mind recent discussions I've had with my father about the importance of financial security and making a living wage - or the discussions with peers about how insane it is that the federal government defines an independent as someone 25 years or older if single (forcing a great majority of young adults, like myself, to go into extreme debt to pay for college.)

So, my question to all of you is, "Where is the line drawn between being rich enough, and embarrassingly rich?"

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


In the month absence from my Nook, I've been thinking about baggage. I guess living out of boxes scattered around a 325 square-foot apartment will do that to a person.

And all I can think is that this is my good baggage.

In an attempt to start anew on this next chapter of my life, I got rid of every possession reminding me of certain places and people I am better without (even if my heart refuses to feel it.)

I am left with:
  • several boxes of books
  • one large box of CDs (which would be double if not for Iggy the iPod)
  • six garbage bags of clothes
  • one suitcase of shoes
  • a few stuffed animals
  • one lovely real animal named Izzy B
  • my violin and some art
  • a plastic tote with all my newspaper and magazine bylines
  • a set of sheets and an air mattress (but I just got my new bed, YEAH)
  • several blankets that were gifted to me
  • one very old television and a set of rabbit ears
  • two boxes of dishes and cookware
  • a traveling case filled with files
  • one small box of photos, playbills, and old letters
  • and of course my laptop and cell phone
While a lot of these things are necessities or good sentiments, I have to wonder at what point does good baggage become dead weight? Despite my best efforts to start fresh, I still feel like I'm carrying around a lot of stuff I threw away or sold.

I've realized there are just unpleasant experiences and people who come into our lives that we'll never forget, even if they only end up being a small footnote at the end of one of many chapters. No matter how many dumpsters we fill, or yard sales we have, the memories will never be fully forged from our brain.

I guess that's a good thing. Otherwise we'd end up living our whole lives feeling like something was missing because we wouldn't know the difference between happiness and sadness.

Granted, it's scary as hell to recognize and deal with the bad baggage we carry with us, but I think it's an important thing to do. Sure, we'll never get rid of it. But facing it will give us courage to move forward, hopefully with a clear head, so we can make yesterday's heartbreaks the happy endings of tomorrow.