“What is this Feeling?” And Other Broadway Inspired Thoughts

I’m irate. So, I’m going to write. election-tweets

I am still in absolute shock.

This doesn’t feel real.

I cannot make sense of the results of this election. I’m feeling so many mixed-up, irrational things – all of which are all valid. I can’t find peace.

The morning after the election, everything felt surreal and quiet, but also so loud it was inescapable. I watched the sunrise after a night of barely any sleep, and I thought, “how can the sun even rise after all of this?” I felt hopeless.

I can recover from losing one night of sleep; the implications of November 8, 2016 are permanent.

I am devastated, and afraid. I’m afraid as a Jew, a woman, as someone who identifies with the LGBTQIA+ community. I’m sad. I’m just so sad.

Now, not even 48 hours after the election, I’m somewhere between wondering how we’re supposed to just go about our normal business, and thinking that we have to keep moving forward.  I’m somewhere between wanting to check-in with my friends and loved ones who are clearly hurting too, and being so exhausted by even just the premise of one more conversation about this damn election. For three days, I’ve been vacillating between all the feels, and sometimes experiencing them all at once – sadness, rage, and fear, panic, numbness, resentment, and disbelief. I’m trying to decide what our “new normal” will look like, and how it’s possible that this can all be okay. Everything feels unfulfilling, and subdued.

The way I see it, the whole election season can be likened to a story plot:

plot-diagram

  • Exposition and Inciting Incident – Primary Elections
  • Rising Action – Debate Season, and the Campaigns
  • Climax – Election Day
  • Falling Action – The Immediate Aftermath
  • Resolution – The Future (if we’re being hopeful)

 

Election seasons retell and predict the ongoing story of our country, and our democracy. We are forced, through this process, to remember what we’ve accomplished, set grandiose goals and plans, and yearn for possibility, and the triumphs ahead. Living through this experience unscathed is practically impossible. Living through this story unaffected is unforgivable.

I’m not even going to try to write a monumental, millennial values inspired post about white supremacy, the patriarchy, and our not-so-post-racial America because I cannot process any of this coherently enough, yet, to write anything ineligible.  All I want to say right now is, “No. Hell No.”

No – it’s not going to be okay. No – we can’t just preach about unity, and expect the country to come together. No – it’s doesn’t matter that he’s “just one man”. No –  as long as racism, homophobia, xenophobia, etc. are raging through our country’s veins it’s not going to be okay.

I don’t feel like listening to anyone’s remarks about giving him a chance, or how as a country we needed something radically different, and she wasn’t it. I don’t care about WHY it happened, whose votes we “missed”, and who we didn’t “predict” would vote (Ahem… white people everywhere). I don’t care if it seems like I’m being immature. I just need a way to process this; I need to figure out how we move forward, and what to do next.

So, instead, right now, I’m going to turn my energy to music, and the voices and stories that have already so beautifully and precisely articulated many of the feelings I’m experiencing – Broadway musicals.  I’m finding solace, validation, authenticity, and explanation in this music, and these plots. Both the lyrics and the musical composition intimately portray feelings such as excitement, disappointment, loss, dread, hope, and optimism. I’m searching for clarity in a space I have reliably found to be filled with love and truth. I need to warm my soul; I’ll use the energy and beauty of Broadway to illuminate a path forward.

Here’s my best attempting at processing, at mapping, my emotions throughout the trajectory of this election story in Broadway songs. [You can access the full playlist here]

Exposition and Inciting Incident:

  1. Politics and Poker – Fiorello – “Gentlemen, how about some names we can use?/ Some qualified Republican who’s willing to lose.”

Rising Action:

  1. The Election of 18000 – Hamilton – “Can we get back to politics?… / the country is facing a difficult choice”
  2. Popular – Wicked – “It’s not about aptitude/ It’s the way you’re viewed / So it’s very shrewd to be/ Very very popular/ Like me!”
  3. Anything You Can Do – Annie Get Your Gun – Anything you can do, I can do better!/ I can do anything better than you!
    [Frank:] No you can’t!
    [Annie:] Yes, I can!
    [Frank:] No, you can’t!
    [Annie:] Yes, I can!
    [Frank:] No, you can’t!
    [Annie:] Yes, I can, Yes, I can!”
  4. Cue: In The Heights and West Side Story
  5. Pick-A-Little, Talk-A-Little – “And the worst thing/ Of course, I shouldn’t tell you this but-“
  6. The Corrupt Bargain – Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson – “We need to find a scheme to keep the power in the hands of the chosen few.”
  7. Somebody’s Eyes – Footloose – “Somebody’s eyes are watching/ Somebody’s eyes will never close, never sleep/ Somebody’s after the secrets that you keep /Who’s got alibis/ From somebody’s eyes?”
  8. Take Me or Leave Me – RENT  – “So be wise/ Cause this girl satisfies/ You’ve got a prize, so don’t compromise/ You’re one lucky baby”

Climax (in this particular order):

  1. It’s Gonna be Good – Next to Normal – “It’s gonna be great! It’s gonna be great!/ It’s gonna be great. Fucking great.”
  2. Maps – Fun Home – “Maps show you what is simple and true”
  3. Totally Fucked -Spring Awakening – “Totally Fucked”
  4. Edges of the World – Fun Home – “It’s a lot. It’s a lot to keep under control…/ Dear Al, I’m scared/ I had a life I thought I understood.”
  5. Tomorrow – Annie – “When I’m stuck in the day that’s grey and lonely/ I just stick up my chin and grin and say oh…/ The sun’ll come out tomorrow!”

Falling Action:

  1. I Dreamed a Dream – Les Miserables – ” There was a time when love was blind/ And the world was a song/ And the song was exciting/ There was a time/Then it all went wrong”
  2. Memory – Cats – “Memory/All alone in the moonlight/ I can dream of the old days/ Life was beautiful then/ I remember the time/ I knew what happiness was/Let the memory live again”
  3. Without You – RENT – “The tears dry without you/ Life goes on but I’m gone”
  4. Quiet – Matilda – “And my heart is pounding/ And my eyes are burning/ And suddenly everything, everything is… Quiet/ Like silence, but not really silent.”
  5. All That’s Known – Spring Awakening – “Still, I know to trust my own true mind/ And to say ‘There’s a way through this'”

Resolution:

  1. No One is Alone – Into the Woods – “Hard to see the light now/ just don’t let it go/ things will come out right now/ we can make it so/ Someone is on your side/ No one is alone.”
  2. Solidarity – Billy Elliot  – “Solidarity forever/ All for one and one for all”
  3. I’m Here – The Color Purple – “I’m gonna take a breath/ Gonna hold my head up/ Gonna put my shoulders back/ And look you straight in the eye…And I’m thankful for every day that I’m given/ Both the easy and hard ones I’m livin'”
  4. Light – Next to Normal – “Day after day (day after day)/ We’ll find the will to find our way/ Knowing that the darkest skies will someday see the sun.”
  5. Climb Ev’ry Mountain – The Sound of Music – Climb every mountain/ Ford every stream/ Follow every rainbow/ Till you find your dream”

The list could go on and on, and I could select other lyrics that evoke similar or different emotions from these same songs. The fact is, I cannot silence my feelings, and I won’t apologize for being melodramatic or overreacting. This is serious, and I don’t know how else to grieve. Thankfully, there’s music.


Want to share your thoughts? In the comments feel free to contribute to this list! Which songs do you associate with the tumultuous journey we’re all on?

P.s. Also, don’t miss the The Crazy 2016 Campaign, in Song featured on The New Yorker Radio Hour 🙂

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Reflecting on What’s Unsettled, Uncomfortable, Unfocused, and Uncertain – Thoughts for the Jewish New Year

During the Jewish month of Elul, the month preceding the Jewish New Year, we’re asked to welcome introspection. We’re invited to identify what unfinished business, what distractions, are keeping us from living in the moment. This practice compels us to have conversations with our self, grappling with feelings which are unsettled, uncomfortable, unfocused, and uncertain. So, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reflecting!

This reflective practice, prepares us for teshuvah. The practice of teshuvah, literally translated to mean “return”, and conventionally translated as “repentance”, helps shape how we experience the challenging truths of ourselves and our lives. After Elul, after identifying our missteps, and realizing where there is room for improvement, the practice of teshuvah compels us to turn outward. We look toward our community, our friends, and our family for their forgiveness and insight about how they experience us. Only then can we come full circle, return to ourselves, and identify how to put our best selves forward in the next year. By doing teshuvah, we make a choice to focus on our flaws, and find the strength, direction, energy, and support from those who are most important to us so we can grow and improve – so we can reunite out body, mind, and soul.

Rabbi Alan Lew, in his book “This is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared”, reminds us that “everything we do is an expression of the entire truth of our lives.” He goes on to say that, “The present moment is the only place we experience ourselves as being alive, the only place we experience our lives at all”. In a very literal interpretation, I take this to mean that we must be present without any competing distractions to fully experience ourselves – our constantly, continuously becoming selves. Glennon Doyle Melton describes it this way; she says, “to be human is to be incomplete and constantly yearning for reunion.” I understand this concept to imply that we’re always yearning for reunification with ourselves, and that very often the representation of ourselves that we share with others is not our true, flawed, and imperfect selves.

And so this return, this reunification of body, mind, and soul, is incredibly difficult to achieve especially when I find myself battling so many unsettled, unfinished thoughts. The type of thoughts that creep up on me when I least expect it, and that push into my consciousness no matter what I do to avoid them. It’s much more comfortable to maintain some distance from myself. In fact, Rabbi Lew explains that, “we spend a great deal of time and energy… living at some distance from ourselves” typically because of fear of what we may learn, or perhaps because then the hard work of improvement and self-realization will be looming right in front of us – and that’s daunting. We maintain stories that are no longer relevant because we are terrified of acknowledging the truth of our lives – of our existence. Brene Brown also explains this idea in her work. She says, “There is a narrative that all of us hold on to that we have to retire at some point because it no longer serves our lives or our stories.” This choice, the challenge to either move forward and grow, or remain trapped in the fears and narratives that have limited us in the past, is the cornerstone of the Jewish High Holidays.

And so,  I’ve spent the month of Elul, a Jewish month of introspection considering, yet again, the importance of stories. I’ve asked myself “which stories are holding me back?”, “which stories, which truths, have impacted me in ways that, maybe, haven’t even fully revealed themselves yet?” I’ve considered, “what unfinished business is tearing [my] focus away from the present tense reality of our experience? From the present moment, the only place where we can really live our lives?” And, I’ve participated in Do You 10Q to help me discover more about myself, and make this gigantic task a bit more manageable.


Here are my answers to all 10 questions, in 3 sentences or less:

  1. Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you?

A year ago, I would have told you that I had to exclusively find and sustain strength inside myself, and be strong for my friends – even if it meant pretending (also see this).  Then, I experienced the incredible power of friendship when I was struggling and needed help. Now, I’d tell you I can’t be my best without the support my friends and family; they’re the ones who give me strength and energy – especially in the areas where I still have room to grow.

  1. Is there something that you wish you had done differently this past year?

I wish I didn’t think I needed to go through all of life’s challenges on my own. I wish I understood the power in admitting I needed help earlier. I wish I didn’t waste so much energy pretending things were fine, and instead I put energy into doing everything I could to find strength, safety, and calm.

  1. Think about a major milestone that happened with your family this past year. How has this affected you?

This year, I earned my Master’s degree in Urban Education Policy. My education, passion, and experiences prepared me to step into my role as a Research Coordinator at the Brazelton Touchpoints Center. I learned an incredible amount this year, and now I have a job that I absolutely love!

  1. Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?

One world: Orlando. Earlier this year I started writing about asexuality (among other things) on Ravishly. However, it wasn’t until Orlando that my identity within the queer community felt both salient and threatened; this event made me simultaneously want to be out, and reject any and all queer identities at the same time. [Side note: interestingly this year Yom Kippur coincides with National Coming Out Day!]

  1. Have you had any particularly spiritual experiences this past year?

Read here. And here. I’m constantly craving spaces where the energy is contagious, and where I can be so present, confident, and welcomed that everything else fades away – for me this is often Shabbat.

  1. Describe one thing you’d like to achieve by this time next year. Why is this important to you?

I want to be less fixated on food, and weight by this time next year. I realized this is really just a way to feign control when other things feel too hectic. It’s easy to let this line of thinking become an obsession, and get out of control.

  1. How would you like to improve yourself, your life, next year? Any advice you received that could help?

I want to work on being more emotionally intelligent, and giving more attention to how things make me feel. I’ve discovered that if I can identify how I’m feeling in a situation, and allow myself to authentically feel the entirety of my emotions in their context, right when they’re happening, I can be in charge of deciding how to react, and what steps I should take to alleviate the feeling or perpetuate it. My friends have reminded me that my feelings don’t have to feel out of control, and that other things will fall into place when I allow myself to feel whatever emotions are associated with anything I’m experiencing.

  1. Is there something (a person, a cause, an idea) that you want to investigate more fully next year?

Since I’m a huge research nerd, I want to learn more about research methods, and what approaches resonate with me so I can make an informed choice when I pursue a PhD in a few years. I also want to learn multilevel modeling and longitudinal analysis techniques!

  1. What is a fear that you have & how has it limited you? How do you plan on overcoming it this year?

I am inexplicably afraid of stopping because I’m afraid of what I’ll learn about myself, and I’m afraid that the flooding will be too intense. This “go, go, go”,  do all the things mentality has been both an adaptive coping strategy, and has stifled my personal growth. As overwhelming as it may seem, I’m working to create space to learn more about myself, and let myself know it’s okay to stop.

  1. When you get your answers to your 10Q questions next year, what do you hope will be different about you?

I hope I am able to be more honest with myself both about my strengths, and the areas where I can improve. I hope I’m still relentlessly passionate and aggressive in my pursuit of my goals, but that I’m able to supplement my professional life with a healthy balance of socializing and other activities that bring me joy.

Those are my answers! What are yours?


גמר חתימה טובה – May you be sealed (in the book of life) for good.

Confessions of a State School Ivy Leaguer (Part 2)

~ Written while sitting in the airport waiting for my plane to D.C. to attend and present my research at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting. ~


A few months ago I wrote Confessions of a State School Ivy Leaguer (Part 1). In hindsight, I was right on the money. But, instead of fighting it, I’ve decide to become an expert at “playing the game” (whatever that means). So, I’ve been name dropping and networking everywhere, because that’s what we do. Except now, saying, “I’m a graduate student at Brown University studying urban education policy” doesn’t feel like such an unconquerable tongue twister. Why? Because I realize it’s really not a big deal. Rather than being fixated on the prestige and all that I never thought I could own up to I’ve decide to focus on all I can gain from this program and how much my perspective has been challenged and changed.

Here are some realizations:

Brown students are no different. I used to think, “who are these people, and what am I doing here?” I still think that, but I now realize, at their core, people want to belong and feel purposeful. We crave connections with each other — to something larger than ourselves. We know this. Brown students are no different – they’re just people. We’ve ascribed value to their lives and accolades because of their university affiliation. But really, they’re just people. It only means something if we let it. I built Brown up to seem like something for which I was entirely unfit. I felt motivated to continue the facade and charade of “belonging”. Something changed when I stopped competing and convincing, and instead relentlessly chased after learning. And then, I truly thought “I could be happy here” – there were moments at least. Not all at once but slowly, I gained confidence and stamina.

Here’s why:

I stayed the course – and was rock star! The change happened once I realized I DO belong! As in, I’m smart enough, diligent enough, persistent enough, intellectual enough, eager enough. I am enough. But then, the real work began. Now that I know these things, rather than keeping up the show and attempting to convince others, I have to own it. I know I’m good, and that I do good work. My emotional investments in my work and myself are propelling me up the social and academic ladders. Now it’s personal. It’s beyond simply playing the game. This is my life. And in this life, I’m unapologetically pursuing my dreams of becoming a researcher. That means, I have to show up every day. I have to grasp, and sometimes flail at, every opportunity.

Speaking of opportunities…

I learned my faculty work for me. In the simplest sense, if there were no students attending Brown, the faculty wouldn’t have jobs. My tuition (and hefty endowments/donations – YAY Ivy League!) pays their salaries. So, in a way, I’m their boss, and they work for me. That means I’m entitled to ask them questions and expect them to answer me thoroughly. I’m going to capitalize on the important knowledge and experience they have, and be a captive audience member so that I can grow my own knowledge and skills. They owe me that much. And in return, in my next endeavor, (once someone gives me a job) it’ll reflect well (perhaps even superficially well) on the institution . I’ll (un)willingly perpetuate the cycle of misconception because I am amazing and unstoppable. It’s not because of this university, but in spite of it. That’s how the game it played.

And in playing the game, I discovered that…

If you look beyond the curtain, this university has a lot to offer. At Brown there are spaces where you can be inquisitive and wonder. You can cultivate and engage in great conversations. There are spaces to be fearless in your pursuits, but you have to seek them out. There are so many talks and resources available. But, if you’re going to be exceptional then you have to show up. You have to show up often. Contrary to public perception, going to Brown doesn’t mean that everything will be handed to you on a silver platter. In fact, most of the experience hasn’t be easy at all.  However, if you advocate for yourself, commit to your craft, and focus on your goals you can be impressively successful – and learn a lot too. Real talk – I am learning a lot! But, you also should know, there have been extensive, debilitating road blocks along the way.

Such as this:

Brown is a great place to be a feminist – unless you’re a Jewish and/or queer feminist. The activism on this campus is both a blessing and a curse. Each day I’m excited to see students donning shirts that read “CONSENT” or “This is what a Feminist looks like”. I see stickers hearkening women’s empowerment and I’m often impressed by the conversation and engagement around tough issues. However, behind the curtain there’s some really toxic advocacy too. There’s competition for the “best” activism and spaces that privilege voice over value. These types of actions (here and here for example) make it dangerous to be a Jewish and/or queer feminist or activist on this campus. [note: I am juxtaposing feminist and activist because of how closely related those identities are to me. Someone else may be an activist but share a different set of values related to equality.]

And, while we’re talking about feminism and conversations…

Code switching is real. Sometimes, I feel like there’s a performative element to being a Brown student. If you can set aside Brown’s history of slavery and oppression and instead frolic freely among the waves of liberalism you’ll see what I mean. There’s a lingo and a “type” at Brown. In fact, most students will tell you, as long as your opinions reside with the popular – read majority – stream of thought you’ll get along fine!  If you can talk the talk and look the part you’ll fit right in. But, it’s a hard place to have a loud, and opposing, opinion. And for most of us, the socially acceptable buzzwords like, “conceptualization”, “space”, “colonialism”, “patriarchy”, “subjectivity” (to name a few) aren’t part of our daily vernacular – see what I did there?  The elite speech patterns I’ve acquired  to get along at Brown makes me feel and seem pretentious to everyone else who is important in my life. I have to “turn off” my “Ivy League speech” when I’m in other contexts because I literally can’t stand to listen to myself or because I can perceive how annoying it is to other people. Performing Brown feels necessary to make it here. It also feels really fake, impersonal, and detached. Yet I’ve become so accustomed to this lifestyle and role that sometimes it takes hours for me to snap out of it. I find myself hopelessly stuck in cycles of blaming systematic, institutional oppression and whatnot.

Lamenting aside, the reality is, the name does mean a lot to other people! And, that matters. You know, if we’re playing the game.

Writing about Writing

Writing about writing involves thinking about writing, or even better, thinking about thinking about writing! (Yay! Meta-level thinking!) If I stay here too long it can feel really out of control really fast. But, in short bursts the feelings of ambiguity and possibility are bearable to entertain.

Anyway, I haven’t posted recently because I’ve been over on ravishly.com living the dream as a contributing writer! Here’s my contributor page: YAY!!!! Similarly, I’ve been over on themighty.com (here) writing about chronic pain.

Writing has been the most amazing outlet for me! It’s helped me find space, give voice to my words, and speak my truth – that’s super powerful. When I’ve felt most “stuck”, both with things I’m dealing with and how to write about them, I’ve read the piece aloud and recorded myself with the inflection, tone, and emotion I heard in my head, and would have used in a conversation with a good friend. After listening to the recording and following along with my words I was able to overcome the “stuckness” and finish the piece. Writing is a welcomed, reliable, trustworthy companion these days. When I’m writing I notice nothing else. I retreat to a state of flow. I feel at peace. Maybe even happy? It’s allowed me to think fully in a way I have truly missed.

I didn’t even recognize this feeling – this change – until I stopped and acknowledge how refreshing and unfamiliar it feels to think coherently again! My friends said, “I feel like you’re back”. I nodded confidently. Slowly but surely, I’m finding parts of myself that disappeared months ago.

My words are stamping the world with imprints that are illustrative of the messiness of life. Through my work, I’m declaring “dealt with” (mostly) the things I’ve kept to myself or ignored for WAY too long. It’s liberating! The experience of spewing my thoughts, taking a break, and revisiting and reorganizing what I’m trying to say has helped me feel calmer, express myself, and gain a sense of connection I didn’t realize I’d find with myself and people across the world – literally.

I wrote this a few weeks ago and it still resonates with me: The last six months of my life have been the most challenging I’ve experienced in a while. I graduated and left a school where I was thriving. I spent nearly every day for four years feeling on top of the world. It was amazing. I felt unstoppable. I left for a glamorous name and what I expected would be the next best step for my personal and professional development. After months of struggling silently I found respite and strength in writing. Rather than just reading (daily) the articles on sites that share my values and teach me so much, I jumped into my own uncharted space and started to connect with myself and others. It’s been hugely influential to my personal growth and exploration. Earlier I wrote, “from fury comes insight.” That’s how I feel when I tame the chaos I’m experiencing by writing. This feminist writing space has shown me that people “get” that not every day can be a good day and I can tell others understand that academia can be a difficult and special space to reside especially in the face of other challenges and experiences.

The type of connection, belonging, validation, and excitement I’ve felt from my friends online is inexplicable. This journey has introduced me to some incredible, down-to-earth, empathetic people who are practically the hidden treasures of internet (they’re also just people but I’m glorifying them here because they’ve made a difference to me. Internet fame is real!).

When I’m writing, I can be myself and share my thoughts. It actually feels really vulnerable, exposed, and terrifying! Sometimes I get “stage-fright” and want to swallow my words back up or not claim them as my own. In those moments, I take the the Shonda Rhimes “yes” approach – even though it scares me. I have to own this!

Recently, I shared that I traded social media connections for authentic, personal connections. In this context, I valued in person conversations, and quality over quantity. I still value quality relationships but my parameters have expanded. Connecting with people online showed me that these connections can also be authentic, valuable, personal connections. I’ve found more people who “get it” and been more open about my experiences than I ever anticipated. I’m loving cultivating meaningful relationships as a I grow as a writer, academic, and activist.

I have discovered the world of shared experiences and stories. I feel closer and more whole than I expected or thought was possible. There’s a world out there where people absolutely get it and care. I realized that even though I feel lonely,  I am not alone. That was necessary.


 

If you’re experiencing writer’s block (or loneliness), keep writing! As much as you can, keep exploring, connecting, wondering, asking, and thinking! It’s an adventure, and in the end, it could turn out to be like nothing you ever anticipated – it might even be better!

 

 

15 Good Things From 2015

Everyone’s positive energy building up to the New Year is absolutely contagious. I want to join!

Here’s my list of 15 good things from 2015:

*not in chronological order or order of importance*

  1. I was awarded a Chapter Distinguished Service Key (DSK) in Alpha Phi Omega (APO): Upon receiving this fraternity honor I wrote “I feel like this statDSCN4702us should go something like “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” or “nobody said it was easy…” but actually, in all seriousness, it was truly an honor to be awarded a Chapter DSK today. I am so thankful for the wonderful experiences I’ve had as an active Brother and I cannot wait to continue to serve with APO as alumni!” Just a few weeks later I was offered a position on Region 1 Staff! This fraternity has given me more than I could ever ask for. APO continually shows me the the meaning of brotherhood in ways I can’t explain. I made some of the best friends and learned some of the most important lessons and skills of my life.
  2. I went on Birthright and spent my 23rd birthday in Israel!
  3. I finished my honors thesis: but really 53 pages later! This seemed like an impossible task made manageable only by consuming inappropriate amounts of coffee and working ALL THE TIME. I still don’t know how I did it all. Before this project, conducting my own research seemed like a task that was beyond the scope of what I expected I could accomplish as an undergraduate; my advisors’ commitment to me and my project convinced me otherwise and showed me that I can accomplish more than I expect. Having an advisor who saw enough value in my ideas and capabilities to believe in my project was imperative to the success of this work and was necessary for me to grow both academically and personally. My confidence and pride was ignited because she didn’t tell me no. Rather, she pushed me each day to excel. This project not only taught me the research process but was instrumental in creating a foundation for both my future professional and academic interests. Now, I want to be a researcher! Of course, none of this would have been possible or as fun without my amazing HDFS honors cohort. We were a great bunch and I loved every minute of our learning and lamenting together.11149684_10204024050981885_3863601930795783864_o
  4. I became a runner: I used to have a witty excuse as to why I hated running. I’d say, “it’s physics. It’s just logic. If you start where you end then you’ve displaced nothing. So, why would I run if displacement says at the end I’ll have accomplished nothing?” I clearly didn’t really understand running or physics then. I still don’t understand physics. Now, whether I’m running to escape or running to gear up to something, running is important for me. It gives me time to think. It gives me order, control, discipline, expectations, freedom, and strength. Some days, the best we can do is put one front in front of the other and face the day. That’s what running has taught me. There are no unconquerable obstacles, just different paces with which we overcome them. On June 4th I posted this photo [yes on Facebook] and pulled the caption from the first time I publicly shared this picture during my senior year of high school public speaking class last lecture. I wrote, “In the face of a challenge, face it. You never know what you can do until you try”.Then there were sentiments of continuing to persevere until you 11351330_10204410118993344_5105233088170803531_nreach your goals and never stopping until you achieve what you want. Apparently my 18 year old self was more attuned to grasping at opportunity than I realized and, I may never learn to stop!

    What’s even more important (and timely/relevant) about this picture is this: it’s the first time I ran and triumphed over RSD (circa 2007).  And now, I consistently surprise myself by running farther, faster, and longer than I have in my entire life. Not pain free but, still confident and owning it! In 2015, I tracked 426 miles and ran a 10K (6.2 miles) in 1:04:47.

  5. I was published on The Mighty! You can read my piece: The One Statement I Want to Hear From Loved Ones About My Invisible Illness here. [Side note: I have a forthcoming  piece on Ravishly – I’m really excited!]
  6. I started this blog! When I started this project I said, “I’m starting this project to make space to wonder…I’m also using this blog to find a space to reflect. That’s a word that wasn’t in my vocabulary a year ago but, many great mentors and conversations later, I’m craving that necessary “me space”. However, not even my best mentors or friends would willingly sign on to interact with my every thought, question, challenge, insight, funny link, or freak out moment. So instead, there’s blogging. ” I’ve grown to love exploring and thinking on things. Sharing my work has been exhilarating and making connections through my writing [and my online community] has shown me that even when I’m feeling lonely there’s someone out there who “gets it”. My list of “things to write about” is growing longer and longer each day. These days, you won’t find me without a notebook in hand in case something sparks an idea. It’s been a risk, it’s still a risk but, I’m really loving this project.
  7. I learned about the importance of relationships and gained some amazing friendships: And of course the only appropriate comment here would be from Grey’s, “We’re friends, real friends. And that means, no matter how long it takes, when you finally decide to look back, I’ll still be here.” – Grey’s Anatomy
  8. I practiced saying what I need, asking for help, and being a better communicator: I started with being okay with things not being “okay” or “fine”. I found an outlet through writing and some great, trustworthy friends to express myself more honestly without worrying about being a burden or being a toxic friend.
  9. I graduated from UConn!  It’s true, some of the best learning happens outside the classroom. At UConn I was challenged, pushed, mentored and questioned both inside and outside of class. Rather than feeling inadequate or frustrated I was inspired and thankful for all that I learned and all the ways I grew. At UConn, I truly thrived! I felt supported and confident. I did it all and then some and, I had an amazing network of friends, mentors, advisors, and professors encouraging me along the way. This quote rings true for me and is so applicable right now, “I’ve learned that home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling.”― Cecelia Ahern.  I miss UConn *literally* every day and I am SO proud to be a  Husky!
  10. Logically what comes next, I started at Brown University in the Urba10360465_10204185744024110_6042675827618780031_nn Education Policy Program: While this hasn’t been the BEST thing in 2015, one thing is certain, (in a paradoxical way) I know that if I never came here and if I stayed at UConn I wouldn’t ever know that I truly didn’t like it. I mean, beyond speculation. Also, and I guess obviously, the things I don’t like aren’t the things I was most nervous about so I suppose there’s value in that too. Regardless, I’ve had some amazing opportunities here to continue to grow as a researcher and an academic (whatever that means). I also learned the value of networking and connections beyond the colloquial saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. I’m working hard and making it work day by day.
  11. I fell in love with stories and great conversations: I traded social media connections for authentic, personal connections and I couldn’t be happier with that choice. I’ve been listening a lot and also searching for those stimulating conversations that ignite wonder and create more opportunities to learn. The kind that leave you thinking and questioning long after the formal discourse has ended. I craved thinking critically and conscientiously. I’ve learned that when you’re open to allowing a conversation to change your perspective and you’re a partner in creating the space for meaningful, intentional interactions you’re facilitating change. Hence, this year, I adopted the use of the phrase “thought partner” in every, even sort of, appropriate context.
  12. MUSIC: Just music. But really, from country concerts and Broadway musicals, to the sounds and spirits of Kabbalat Shabbat I was reminded of and gained a new appreciation for the ways in which music connects us and fills a room (or a person) with such unique energy. Music fills the quiet space that so often feel lonely. A quote from one of my favorite movies August Rush seems appropriate here, “You know what music is? God’s little reminder that there’s something else besides us in this universe, a harmonic connection between all living beings, every where, even the stars.” SO TRUE! And of course, Taylor Swift gave me more reasons to love her. Including most recently, topping DoSomething.org’s Celebs Gone Good list for the fourth year. Gotta love her!
  13. I traveled! In 2015 (and the last days of 2014) I went to the APO National Convention in Chicago, Israel with UConn Hillel, New Orleans with Honors Across State Borders, NYC, the first ever ParentCampUSA at the U.S. Dept. of Education in D.C., and more!
  14. I recognized and reclaimed my body: It’s easy to learn to ignore  your body when you’re living with chronic pain. Too much attention to your pain can be detrimental because then you can get stuck focusing solely on your pain. We’re taught (in the chronic pain world) to find ANY strategy to ignore the pain and distract ourselves. In 2015 I reclaimed my body and grew stronger! I’m more physically fit than I’ve been before. I pursued strength for me – starting with an earnest desire to be able to run a mile. Rather than my pain owning me, I owned my pain and I was in charge of my body.
  15. I accomplished everything I wanted!  2015 was the year of doing too much and not knowing how (or when) to stop. With coffee as my lifeline and internal motivation I didn’t even know I possessed (once described as a glowing purple ball inside my body that was constantly radiating energy, and another time described as “robotic” – as I operate with the same amount of energy an11008595_10204092958784537_8915779519335960414_nd efficiency at all times) I did some amazing things! And, perhaps more importantly, I learned that I am more than the list of accomplishments that fill up my resume or the things I do each day to feel productive or worthy. With the encouragement of some amazing mentors and lots of hours spent thinking (reflecting), I found myself when I intentionally took the time to critically consider my experiences.  I started attributing credit to myself for my accomplishments rather than luck. Told myself “I earned this. I did this. I am good enough” and slowly I started to believe it. Judith Bulter wrote, “life histories are histories of becoming” and that notion has been a driving force compelling me to consider what I’ve experienced and why it’s been influential in my life rather than just considering how it’s going to propel me on toward the next “best” thing. I am done quantifying my success by how others view my accomplishments. This year rather than reaching the top step and turning around to find 15 more steps to climb I’m standing proud on the top, looking down with satisfaction, attributing value to what I’ve accomplished, and just letting it all soak in.

Happy New Year!

Absolutely Necessary

I love great conversations! The best are the ones that keep you thinking, and questioning, and somehow are relevant and applicable in other conversations days later. I really love those mogood-communicationments where you have to stop and think, “Is the whole world having the same conversation as me?” or “did they know I was just talking about this with someone else earlier?” Suddenly, what seemed like a “one-off” discussion becomes so much more than that. And, with each new perspective, each additional layer, you gain insights and ideas that inevitably shape who you are! It makes you think! I mean really think!

Anyway, a couple weeks ago, I linked to “Jew-ography” and I’m still thinking a lot about the important lessons I learned from my time exploring the Jewish community in Cape Town. My experience in Cape Town was iterative of and has been reiterated since then as, during every major transition in my life, I slowly established my Jewish communities and networks. In Cape Town, I was literally moved to tears by the comfort I found once I overcame my apprehensions and attended Shabbat services. It’s crazy how you can be so far away from home and still find spaces that are so familiar and so welcoming. Lately, I’ve been having a lot of conversations about religion. It’s been exhilarating to grapple with my own experiences and learn about others’ connections (or not) to religion and spirituality. This has been especially impactful in the wake of so much tragedy around the world.

When I was growing up, at every bar/bat mitzvah (including mine) there was this song that the choir sang and the lyric in the chorus was “you shall be a blessing”. By this logic, I guess, rather than being blessed you, individually, are the blessing to others (and presumably vice versa). So then, especially when I begin consider all the “adversity” I’ve experienced and also what I know of the experiences of my friends (and generally in the world) and then how I make sense of that ends up making no sense at all (*sigh*). I believe adversity makes us more resilient. Even in the face of adversity we have the opportunity to acquire resilience and find the good, the blessing, in each moment – each interaction.

Lest I digress further, for me, I do a lot of “Jewish things” “just because we always have”. I’m into tradition. I appreciate practices that are a daily reminder of my religion but specifically as it relates to my need for community and connection. It’s the only thing I know (My mom is a Jewish educator (as in runs her own religious school) and my parents met as Jewish youth group advisors). So for example, keeping kosher is super important to me because in the midst of chaos and the hecticness of every day this practice makes me stop each time I eat and reminds me of something that is so fundamentally important to my identity. So the “why” or lack of doesn’t irk me (although I do know why I just don’t think about it every time) because my intentionality is one of community and maintaining a connection to my religion and to other Jewish people. When I was growing up, my mom used to play me this song (I intentionally searched for the silliest recording I could find). That resembled the “connection” piece for me. And so far, it’s been hugely influential and necessary and real for me. For example (as I mentioned), in Cape Town and then again this year, it’s been the Jewish community that has been the consistent, redeeming, allows me to breathe deeply, and smile authentically even if everything else that day sucked, special thing in my life [side note: I realize I’ve written this exact sentence before but, it applies here too].

One essential aspect my experience of Judaism is the music and the associated energy/spirit- in Hebrew we call this Ruach. I’m sharing this (and the above examples) because it reminds me about (and represents) the energy and interconnectedness that what I feel when I pray and when I find that connection – but not always because sometimes it feels like I’m just going through the motions as they’ve been scripted and reiterated so many times before.  Which is why I go each week to services – I fear missing it!

This week, this Shabbat, I definitely didn’t miss it! I was overwhelmingly reminded how absolutely necessary my Jewish community is. The colorful, diverse, emotional, bright, warm, accepting community felt just right. Our voices collectively filled the room with praises and each of us was connected in song and in spirit.

Have you ever stopped to take notice of your body and noticed that you’re smiling so much and in that moment there’s practically nothing that could happen that could make your smile waiver? It’s more than just being content. It’s a sense of belonging. It’s something beyond choosing to be happy. It’s the understanding, the realization, that you’re exactly where you need to be. It’s being so present you don’t even have to remind and refocus your energies to be “in the moment”. I knew I didn’t want to be anywhere else. Even if I have to continually relearn this lesson, I know definitively no matter where I am in the world, no matter how hard I try to “do life” (which apparently doesn’t initially include Judaism) ultimately this one thing, this connection and energy , is a necessity, that simply (or not so simply) reinvigorates me each week and I cannot be without.

The Intersection of Logic and Ridiculousness

Recently, I had the most amazing conversation with a friend. Imagine this conversation as if it were a route on a map. It started out at the corner of vulnerability and suspense. Then, it rounded the corner into an open lot of questioning and wonder. It meandered to a land of thinking deeply and differently. The conversation took a perplexing turn toward striving to understand contrasting and complex perspectives. Hours later, we contently (and brake screechingly) arrived at the intersection of logic and ridiculousness. One the lyrics in the song Maps – Fun Home says, “maps show you what is simple and true” (Click here for another great Broadway song about maps: A Map of New York – If/Then). However, in this conversation nothing seemed simple and true. The adventure we jumped into did not have definitive boundaries or expected outcomes. Even so, despite the many twists and turns, I didn’t feel lost! That’s how I know it was a conversation worth having!

I was (and still am) swimming in my thoughts. But, the accompanying feeling of drowning or going off course wasn’t overwhelming; it was exhilarating! I was thinking so quickly my whole body was engaged. I was craving that!  It was like a switch turned my mind on and things lit up! My brain was entertained and invested in this discourse for hours contemplating the multiple pathways I might contend with as I navigated through this thoughtful, meaningful exchange. For those hours, I recognized myself. I felt comfortable and confident. It was as if life was breathed back into me. il_570xn-704413268_4vxg

I have to believe that’s what it means to be truly connected to someone else (speaking of connections… click here to read about “Jew-ography”!). The whole world could be moving on but you’re right there committed to that moment, that interaction, because this is so real and so personal. It’s that synchrony, that energy, that is so influential! I was reminded of what it feels like to be me. I miss that. I miss the space to think so intentionally and to be truly connected. I loved listening, struggling with, and accepting each perspective simply for how it moved and shaped the discussion. This was an inexplicably redeeming,  special, allows me to breathe deeply and smile authentically (even if everything else that day sucked) opportunity. I’m so appreciative!