Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Illusion of Safety

I miss the ignorant bliss of my childhood.

I used to think my parents could save me from anything.  Nothing could hurt me as long as they were around.  A nightmare was forgotten by slipping under their bed covers.  The danger lurking in the alleyways of dark, secluded streets was chased away by clutching the hand that held you.

The other day I was walking down one of those streets alone when I realized that there is no such thing as real protection.  It doesn't matter who I'm with - my parents, my husband, my older brother - because life is unpredictable. Nothing can save you if it decides to suddenly throw you into a bad situation.

I think about walking down a similar street in the future, holding the hand of my own child.  They will put all their trust in me, as I did with my own parents.  And I wonder if I'll feel like a fraud, because they will honestly believe that they are safe with me, when all I can do is try my best to protect them.  And sometimes, in the worst of cases, your best is not enough.

Ultimately, the illusion of safety is more important for a child than harsh reality.  Some kids have lost the illusion too soon, and face harsh reality every day, but those are the unlucky ones.

As for us adults, we lost the illusion a long time ago.  Our eyes have been opened, the veil has been lifted.  We know what's out there now, so we compensate for our loss by purchasing alarm systems, taking self-defense classes, and being aware of our surroundings.  We can't think about it every moment of every day, or we'd go insane.  But on some nights, we get a reminder, and that's when we'll pick up the pace just to reach the "safety" of our home.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Back to the Basics

Day in and day out, we go to work, come home, eat, shower, sleep, and then repeat. The monotony of life is enough to drive anybody insane. We work so hard to have the things we want: to provide food, clothing, and shelter for ourselves and our families. But depending on the person, the sum of all these necessities varies greatly. What if you could give it all up? Would you? Could you?

When our necessities become more like commodities, we’re succumbing to our inner need to please ourselves and others. For example, we need a refrigerator; it’s a necessity in our homes. But it quickly becomes a commodity when we have to have the ice-maker, the stainless steel, and the temperature regulator for separate compartments on the inside. Do we really need that? No, but we like it, it’s convenient, it looks nice, and so we want it. And if we can afford it, why not?

But sometimes I dream of living a simpler life. Sure, I wouldn’t be able to afford really nice things, but I could work fewer hours at a regular Joe’s job, and really enjoy life, instead of feeling like I’m slaving it away.

I posted a blog about a year and a half ago (The Self-Indulgent Life) about a co-worker at Barnes and Noble who was in his mid to late thirties and had no plans to ever leave the job or aspired to anything greater. This was difficult for me to understand at the time because I was a college kid with many aspirations. I asked him why he wanted to do this, and he responded that he didn’t have to worry about work outside of work, and that it left him time to work on his poetry. I was confused back then, and at the time of that particular post, I still didn’t think it was a way of life I would enjoy, but now I’m starting to wonder if maybe he had the right idea all along.

I’m not sure what has changed in me, but now I wish to relax. And yet I can’t relax. I’m living the majority of my life only half-awake, with my energy level at just 50%. I can’t enjoy my time off because instead of going out and doing the things I love to do, I find myself home, a regular couch potato, just trying to recover from the stress of the week.

Maybe this is just a temporary quarter-life crisis I’m going through, but I think that I could live the simple life now- without the commodities. I want to go back to the basics and live the life of an eternal college student: working a job, not a career, pursuing a passion, living each day at a full energy level, and feeling excitement for whatever unknown adventures lie ahead.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

You Down With No PP?

Eleven years ago, I was sitting in the office of a Planned Parenthood, filling out the New Patient information form. 
No, I wasn’t pregnant.  I was there for 2 reasons: affordability and anonymity. 
            Unable to tell my mother that I’d already started having sex, I certainly couldn’t tell her that I wanted to make a gynecology appointment.  I just wanted to get everything checked out. You know, make sure it was all in working order.  I finally had a car, which allowed me to lie about my whereabouts much more easily, and this was the first spot on my list.
Before filling out the form, I scanned it for one specific question:  Can we contact you by phone or mail? I exhaled in relief as I checked the box that said “NO”.
Many girls have shared my experience.  I couldn’t tell my mom that I’d given it up a year ago at only 17.  There would be no heart-to-heart talk, no question and answer session.  Only accusing glares, punishment, and the threat of being thrown out if I got pregnant.
Being a freshman in college, I only had a part-time job, so I had no benefits, and not much money to pay for my regular doctor to see me.  Besides the anonymity factor, I had also heard that Planned Parenthood charged on a sliding scale, based on my income.  I don’t remember how much I ended up paying for my visit, but it wasn’t much. 
Since I had this experience, Planned Parenthood has always held a special place in my heart.  It was there for me when I needed it, at a time when I knew that I was all alone in taking responsibility for my own reproductive health.
Unfortunately, Planned Parenthood doesn’t evoke that same fuzzy feeling in others.  Instead, it’s seen as a place where the devil’s work is taking place.  They hear the name, and automatically think: abortion clinic.  In reality, abortion is only 3% of the services that Planned Parenthood provides. 
State legislators are trying to stop funding for Planned Parenthood, an act that will affect millions of women and families.  As of right now, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, and Wisconsin have already blocked funding, with more states on the way.
It’s very upsetting to me when people try to shut down something good, only because of one service that they disagree with.  They don’t consider anything else but their own beliefs of what’s right and what’s wrong. 
Four words people need to live by: To each his own.  People should follow the same advice I give my preschoolers when I’ve had enough of their tattle tailing: Don’t worry about what your friends are doing.  Just worry about yourself.  As long as you’re doing the right thing, (or in this case, what you believe is right), then that’s all that matters.

If you want to get involved, check out this website:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Stream of Consciousness: Day 8 (Silent Night)

I just walked my dog, but the minute I stepped outside, everything felt suddenly surreal.  It’s , but the sky is lavender purple, the color it gets right before it snows, but…there’s no snow in the forecast.  It’s foggy out, and the air is cool, moist, still smelling of freshly fallen rain.  The birds are chirping away like it’s 6 in the morning. 
I walk down the street and back again.  Nobody is out, no cars on the road.  Where is everyone? 
The only sounds I hear are my own footsteps, my dog’s paws tentatively tapping on the pavement, and his tags jingling on his collar.  And the birds.  What are they doing up so late? Are they as confused as I am by the strangeness of this night?
I get back to the front of my house and find the culprit: one loudly chirping bird sitting high on a wire, stirring up all the other birds in the neighborhood.  What could he be saying?  I climb the front stairs, and my dog and I stop.  It seems we are both wondering about that bird.  Finally, it gives one last chirp and flies away.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Stream of Consciousness: Day 7 (The Coffee Shop)

Almost every morning I get to Port Authority and choose from one of two spots that sell little cups of cereal.  Generally, I avoid the coffee shop on the first floor because it can get really loud in there, and I’m not talking about the music.  If you go in one morning before , I warn you: there is a group of coworkers/regular customers that meet there and take over the whole place.  Every time one of them walks in, there are loud greetings to be had.  It’s not a big place, and there aren’t many tables, so this group takes up a lot of space.  This “Cheers”-like atmosphere can get kind of annoying, especially because the minute you walk in there you start feeling like an outsider real quick.
Today I went in because they didn’t have any Frosted Flakes at the other place, and to my surprise, the main guy (there’s always a main guy) said “Good morning” to me with a nod of his head and a big smile.  I said “Good morning” back, with a small smile, and went over to the counter to get my cereal, a bit disconcerted.  As I paid, the main guy said loudly to me “Frosted Flakes, huh?”
“Yeah,” I replied sheepishly, turning back around.
“That cereal’s sweet!” he said.
I turned my head a little towards him. “Yeah, I need a little something in the morning.”
I walked over to get my milk, and then sat down at one of the few empty tables.
“Wow, Frosted Flakes! I haven’t had that in a long time! That must be delicious!”
“Yeah, it is,” I said. 
“Like, the milk gets really sweet, right?” He was trying very hard, and I didn’t understand why. The other men at his table were looking at me now, watching me eat my cereal.  I just wanted to eat my breakfast in peace. I’m not used to this kind of attention!
Finally, the guy stopped and went back to his own conversation. 
I wasn’t trying to be rude. I was just sleepy, and hungry!  Besides, this is New York City.  Friendliness doesn’t exactly run rampant.  He must not be originally from here…
Anyhow, I must admit that it felt sort of nice to be acknowledged as one of the “regulars” in the place.  Maybe now it won’t feel so weird to walk in there and sit down.  But at what expense?  Will I ever get to eat my Frosted Flakes in peace again?
I have been accepted into his secret club.  Now I just don’t know if I want the membership. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Stream of Consciousness: Day 6 (The Wish)

Last year, a 10 year old boy who lived in my building was talking to his friend as I was getting home from work.  I wasn’t paying attention to their conversation, but as the lobby door closed behind me, I heard:
 “Well, not like it will happen, but I wished for world peace.” 
I haven’t been able to get this phrase out of my mind since.  It’s sad that this boy already knows that his world will never be at peace.  That at such a young age, he already knows that there’s no way we can all “just get along”.  And yet, it’s beautiful because it’s so innocent.  I don’t know if it was a birthday wish, a wish upon a star, or a wish on a wishbone, but he used one of his precious wishes to ask for it.  Deep down, it’s something he hopes is still possible. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Stream of Consciousness: Day 5 (UNO)

I love getting the Wild card in an UNO game, and I love what it represents: a complete change, only for my benefit.  They’re the best! There should be UNO cards that I can use in real life. 
If I decide to make a major change in my life, I’ll throw down a Wild card, and no one can do a thing about it.  If I feel like I need a do-over, I’ll just pull out a Reverse card, and no one will notice how I messed up the first time.  And if I don’t feel like doing something at the moment, all I have to do is put down a Skip card and get back to it later.