Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Spare Cents

Standing tall and very still on a staircase platform underground, her sign read “SPARE CENTS. I AM NOT PERFECT.”

My hurried steps slowed down slightly as I took in her plea, written horizontally on a lined page of a spiral-bound notebook. Every day I pass countless people on the street, in the subway stations or on the subways themselves, singing their hearts out, playing an instrument, or just rattling their paper cup – all for some spare change. The less talented ones carry large wordy signs explaining their plights, much too long for rushing commuters to read through it all. Some have signs with only the words “PLEASE HELP” written on them. Usually in capital letters, their messages shout loudly at us, while the authors themselves sit or stand in silence. Still others forego the sign entirely and simply rely on their tattered clothing to speak for them. But this woman’s sign was different.

Like a subliminal message seeping into my brain, I couldn’t dismiss it like all the others. My conscience quickly caught the play on words. She wasn’t just asking me to spare some cents. She was asking me to spare some sense.

This woman could see right through me. I’ve grown numb to her sorry situation, and those of every homeless person in New York City. I have become senseless. I might as well be an inanimate object for all I’ve done to help them, which is nothing.

Most of the time, I keep my eyes averted. Looking them in the eye would acknowledge their existence. Constant reminders that life isn’t fair, their presence can sometimes exasperate me. I want to blame them for being there, when their only offense is having burst the egocentric bubble in which I live. “How could you let yourself get to this point?” I accuse them silently. And by doing this, I am able to turn my head and keep going, quickly sweeping that lingering guilt under my mental rug. But her defensiveness shocked me, and prevented me from executing my default response.

Clearly, her choice of words was no accident.

She chose not to speak in generalities. “NOBODY’S PERFECT” would have worked just fine. Instead, she made it personal, and in a trick gun maneuver, she took my pointed finger and turned it right back at me:

SPARE CENTS. I AM NOT PERFECT. (Don’t think this couldn’t happen to you. Just because you walk on by with your shiny black briefcase and your spit-polished shoes, and I’m standing here in my thread-bare cardigan and worn-out sneakers, doesn’t make you better than me. I’ve made some wrong choices, but you have, too. Bad things have happened to me, like they can happen to anyone. So don’t judge me just yet, because the only difference between you and me is that I’m here, and you’re there.)

Her original message was brief, but it was enough. With just six words, she slapped my face and turned it in the direction of my fears. I couldn’t even try to defend myself. I knew I deserved it.

The sharp sting of her words stayed with me as I continued to walk up the stairs and into the street, where I eventually encountered another homeless person. I read his sign (HELP. NEED MONEY FOR FOOD) as I walked by. “I want to believe you,” I said to myself.

A familiar voice echoed in my head. “It’s best if you don’t give them any money because most of them will just use it to buy more drugs and liquor. You won’t really be helping them.” My mother trained me from an early age not to trust these people.

“But how can you be sure?” I now asked my mother, and myself, in my head. “And isn’t it worth it, to spare some cents, just in case their story really is true?”

I think it is.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Father

I won’t deny that I used to be daddy’s little girl. I loved to play with him, accompany him on his errands, go with him to the ice cream store for a special treat. He usually gave me what I wanted, at least until I reached my teenage years. That’s when all of his Yes’s turned to No’s.

As the head of the family, my father’s word has always been final. He manages to silence a room with his resounding “No” which seems to echo off the walls. My father seldom raises his voice, so when he does, we listen.

It took me a long time to realize that my father is the more reasonable parent. Unlike my mother, he doesn’t let his emotions get in the way of his decisions. He’s willing to hear you out, but it takes a mighty solid argument to change his mind. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been able to accomplish this feat.

Disciplined, a man of routine, he wakes up every morning at 6:30am, showers, and is out the door by 8 ‘o’ clock on the dot. He eats his lunch at exactly noon, and his dinner must be on the table by 6pm every night, with the television set to the news channel.

He lives by these self-imposed rules that are set in stone, and this method works for him, but his rigidity inhibits him in other ways. For instance, he is allowed to take up to three weeks of vacation a year. For whatever reason, he has chosen his vacation time to be either the last three weeks of July, or the first three weeks of August, or some combination of the two. If some type of long-distance event were to come up during any other time of the year, you can be sure he will not be in attendance. Planning a long weekend is not a possibility. In fact, part of the reason I didn’t have a destination wedding was because I knew he wouldn’t come if it wasn’t during one of those three weeks in the summer, and we wanted to get married in the spring.

Despite his quirks, I can never complain about him not being a constant presence in my life. I cannot say that his patience is never-ending, but I can say he is the most responsible person I’ve ever met. I was never in need of anything. There was always food on the table, always a place to call home. He fulfilled his duty as a father, his label switching from playmate to provider as I got older. Even now, our relationship consists of greetings, questions asked and answered, and occasional disclosures about my daily life. Our silences are never uncomfortable. That’s just the way it is with us.

Ever since I moved out over a year ago, his role as provider doesn’t apply anymore. Our relationship is about to change yet again.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Flirting From the Inside

It’s a warm sunny afternoon in 1996. We are wasting time before heading home in our rolled-up Catholic school skirts. I am an awkward flagpole at 13, with my oversized glasses, braces, and messy black hair. My friend Erica is cute and petite, with her Jennifer Aniston haircut, dyed light brown, with dimples, and growing into her new body quite nicely.

“Watch,” she instructs, as she walks next to me on the sidewalk. She sways her budding hips with confidence, and stares at a thirty-something man who is about to walk by us in the other direction. She catches his eye, and then she smiles. It wasn’t just any smile. It was like she had a secret that she was sure he wanted to know. At first the guy looked uncomfortable, but to my surprise, he started smiling back. Then she giggled and looked away as he passed by us.

“Wow!” I said. “How’d you do that?”

“It’s easy!” she said. “You should try it sometime.”

There was no way I was going to embarrass myself by trying that stunt. I was pretty sure I’d get nothing but a weird look in return. But I was amazed at how simple she made it seem.

This was just one of many times she tried to teach me the art of flirting. She encouraged me to get close to a guy I liked and make conversation with him. Once I had him in my clutches, she told me to smile and laugh at his jokes, act impressed by whatever he had to say. I would read all the “10 Ways to Get His Attention!” articles in seventeen magazine (number 5: Wear dangly earrings!). But to this day, I don’t think I ever mastered it.

I never managed to catch a man’s eye from across the room and have him approach me because he just had to talk to me. I never felt the confidence that Erica already had at such a young age. However, almost every guy I ever dated, including my husband, was my friend first, and I managed to win him over with personality alone. Once I’m in my comfort zone, I can pull out my own bag of tricks (i.e. humor, intelligence), and they don’t include flipping my hair over my shoulder. That’s how introverts work: from the inside.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The "Ground Zero Mosque"

A seemingly endless procession of Muslim men and women are walking out of what will soon be the new mosque only a couple of blocks from Ground Zero. People holding signs have been standing outside the doors all week – supporters of the mosque, not protestors as I’d originally thought. One sign reads: America Supports All Faiths.

News reporters and their cameramen record the event. One of them is interviewing a Muslim woman who has just stepped out of the building. What’s going on? I’m not exactly sure. I’m just one of the many passersby who stopped to see what was going on as I was on my way to work this afternoon.

Police cars line the street. There is a tension in the air, like everyone is waiting for something to happen. Besides the occasional driver shouting obscenities at the crowd, though, everything seems to be under control for the moment.

Suddenly, I am transported back in time, feeling like I’m an onlooker in one of those black and white clips you might have seen in history class of when the first African-Americans are escorted out of school during the time of desegregation. We stand there. We watch. We wait.

After a few minutes I leave, not wanting to be late. However, I am left with that tense feeling, and I think about the mosque and all those people who just walked out of the building. How must they be feeling?

I can understand why people are against the mosque being built so close to where the World Trade Center buildings were. The events of 9/11 are still fresh in our minds, like a wound that reopens whenever one really thinks about it, especially for the families of the victims, and especially now that the anniversary is rolling around again. However, even these families are not all crying out in one united force in opposition to the mosque. Even they are divided on this subject.

Some people are outraged. Some people are scared. They believe terrorists will use this mosque as a type of headquarters to plan their next attack. But are we talking about terrorists, or are we talking about Muslims? We must remember that not every Muslim is a terrorist. Some Muslims really do just want to go to a mosque in order to practice their faith.

That being said, it must also be noted that Feisal Abdul Rauf could have decided to build a mosque anywhere in the city. So why, of all places, is he deciding to place it there? He had to have known that there would be controversy due to the location.

Despite the fact that this can be considered a very distasteful business move, we mustn’t forget that America was built on the premise of freedom. We may not always like what people say or do, but it’s still their right to do it. I don’t know why this specific location was chosen, but arguing about whether it’s right or wrong is a moot point. He bought the property fair and square, and he has the right to do what he wants with it. We don’t have to like it, but we’re going to have to accept it because that is what tolerance is all about.

The emotional reaction to the building of this mosque is exactly that: emotional. I’m not denying those emotions. People have expressed their views, both negative and positive, as is their right. However, in this touchy situation, we need to think with our heads instead of our hearts to realize that by opposing this mosque we may end up looking hypocritical, as well as inviting even more animosity from the Muslim community.

Drink Play F@#k: A short book review

I did a double take as I passed by this book at the bookstore. No, it wasn’t the immensely popular “Eat, Pray, Love”, but it sure looked a lot like it. If I hadn’t taken a closer look, it would’ve fooled me!

I immediately took a picture and sent it to my friend. I figured she wouldn’t be the only one to appreciate the irony, so I’ve decided to share it with you all as well.

I couldn’t help it. I bought the book “Drink Play F@#k” by Andrew Gottlieb. I had to know what this guy’s story was. Unfortunately, unlike “Eat Pray Love”, this tale is purely a fabrication. However, that doesn’t mean the book isn’t entertaining. Written by a comedian, it was overall an enjoyable read. Think ‘David Sedaris meets Elizabeth Gilbert’, and this book would be the end result.

The story begins with the protagonist’s wife divorcing him and promptly moving in with another man. Heartbroken, he sets off on a year long adventure where he decides to drink, play, and f@#k in Ireland, Las Vegas, and Thailand, respectively. Let’s just say he is trying to find himself as only a guy can.

With this type of scenario, I was expecting stories teeming with vulgar descriptions of one-night stands and ridiculous shows of masculinity, but I was pleasantly surprised. This Bob Sullivan character, as fictitious as he may be, is not such a bad guy after all. His story is amusing, and there are even a couple of lessons to be learned along the way. Anyone else care to give him a chance?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Case of the Endangered Angry White Man

Thousands of people have hailed Steve Slater as a hero. He’s the guy who did what so many of us wish we could do: curse out our customers, our bosses, basically anyone at work that treats us badly or disrespects us. When I first heard this story I admit that I felt a momentary surge of inspiration. He had me completely on his side until I saw his face as he walked out of jail.

“Wipe that smirk off your face!” I scolded him, as I watched him on television. After hearing how he had been treated by the passengers, how his mom was dying of cancer, how he was a recovering alcoholic, and how he momentarily lost his cool, as any one of us could, I expected to see some humility. Maybe even a smidgen of regret, but not this arrogant cockiness.

I suppose I imagined that, like any one of us, his euphoria would start to wear off as soon as he realized he was out of a job in these unfortunate economic times. Like any one of us, he might look back, analyze what he had done, and come to the conclusion that perhaps he did overreact, even if these passengers did deserve it. His own mother admits that he had a “small meltdown”. However, unlike any one of us, he now has a countrywide fan base that continues to grow. All this attention has clearly gone to his head.

However, the circumstances for his overnight fame were in his favor. I now pose this question to you: Would so many people be hailing this man and his impulsive actions if he were any race other than white? I highly doubt that thousands of people across America would be buying and wearing t-shirts that say “Free Pedro” or “Free Tyrone”. Not to mention the fact that we should all be praising Allah that this man was not an Arab, or else we would all be crying “Terrorist!”.

Most of us find this type of thinking difficult to admit as the truth. We all like to think of ourselves as perfect people who see each other as equals in every way, but unfortunately stereotypes do exist and we need to recognize them. If Steve were a black or Latino man, he probably would not be portrayed as a hero in all the newspapers. He might not be receiving as much publicity because “as we all know” minority men have a bad temper. Didn’t you know? That’s not news! But a white person losing his cool in such an extravagant way? That’s unheard of! Quick, make sure he makes the front page!

I can understand why he has quickly become the next American idol. He has appealed to the masses, the working class. Many of us know what it’s like to have to swallow your pride and smile in the face of a self-righteous customer in a country where the customer is always right. On August 10th, as America watched, read, or listened to the news, we all lived vicariously through his tirade. But let’s face it. If Steve were a woman, most of us would be blaming it on PMS.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dealing with the Homeless

I always feel uncomfortable whenever a homeless person approaches. My first inclination is to give them money, but it’s hard to do so when I don’t know if I will be feeding their vice or feeding their stomach. Some people give them food, and then they get mad because they want money. This upsets me because I feel like if they were really hungry and homeless, they would appreciate any food they could get. I always wanted to try giving food, but never had any on me when they approached. Until…

Incident #1: A few months ago, I saw a homeless man panhandling at the light rail station. I was coming back from my bridal shower at work, lugging tons of leftover food. I heard him say to someone “Do you have any money so I can eat tonight?” When he passed by me, I said “Excuse me, I have food. Do you want some?” He asked me what it was.

“Fish,” I told him. “Do you like fish? It’s pretty good.”

“Yes, that would be great.” He took the fish, which was wrapped in aluminum foil, and put it in his pocket. “Thank you so much. I’ll eat this tonight.” And he walked away.

That filled me with a sudden sense of peace, feeling happy that I had helped someone survive through one more day in this cruel world.

I always wonder what happened to people for them to end up homeless and on the street. Did they go bankrupt and lose everything? Are they drug addicts or alcoholics who refuse to get help? Horrible as it sounds, sometimes it’s hard to remember that they are still people with real lives and families…

Incident #2: My husband was driving us home one night after dinner. He was about to switch lanes near a traffic light, when we almost ran over a homeless woman who had been standing on one of the white lines separating the lanes, asking for money. We didn’t see her because she had been blocked from view by a truck. I gasped as we swerved around her. She yelled as we passed her, angry, but then I got angry too.
“What is she getting mad at us for? She shouldn’t even be standing there!”
My husband shrugged as we stopped at the light. I looked in the rearview mirror.
“Oh man, I think she’s coming. Why is she coming? If she says something, I’m gonna tell her she shouldn’t even be standing in the middle of the road like that if she doesn’t want to get run over.”
I was looking at my husband in anger and disbelief, when just then he looked out my window and said “Sorry!” I spun around to look, but the woman had already walked away.
“Why did you say sorry? It wasn’t our fault we didn’t see her. And she’s not even supposed to be there!”
My husband said “Oh, but that’s not right. Where else is she supposed to go?”
And then I felt pretty bad.

It’s interesting how one person can have so many different faces, some of them kind, and some of them quite ugly. Which face do YOU usually wear?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Facing Death

At what point in your life do you stop saving for your future and start saving for your funeral?

I recently went to a friend’s grandmother’s wake. Sitting next to my grieving friend, I looked around, trying to find something to comment on, for I never have any idea what to say to people in these situations. My eyes rested on the various flower arrangements that decorated the spaces next to the coffin.

“Those flower arrangements are beautiful,” I said. “Do you know who sent them all?”

“No, nobody sent them,” my friend sniffed, and shook her head slowly. “My grandmother preordered them.”

“She preordered them?” At first, I was dumbfounded, but then I remembered that she had died of cancer, so she must have known approximately how much longer she had to live.

“Yes,” my friend answered. “She ordered them when Richy was 3. She said she didn’t want anything cheap, so she ordered everything herself.”

Hmm. If Richy was 14 now, that was about 11 years ago, and I don’t think she was diagnosed with cancer that long ago. She must have been around 83 years old when she ordered the flowers. I didn’t even know you could do that. Would you pay for the flowers and then just leave the delivery date open?

I imagine that when you reach a certain age, you have to face your mortality right in the eye and just start making plans. Some people make these kinds of plans even earlier, because they have children and want to settle things before it’s too late or in case something ever happens to them. The plans I’m used to hearing about usually concern writing up a last will and testament, but I suppose that funeral arrangements are made as well, if the person has reached a certain age and is realistic about his or her life expectancy.

So when do you say “Okay, I’ve lived my life and I have everything I’ll ever need until I die, so I’m going to start saving for my funeral.” I don’t know if many people have the courage to do this. I think it takes some courage to entertain the notion that your days on this earth are almost up, and then to take it into your own hands to save for and plan your own funeral.

As for myself, I kind of like this idea of having it all paid for and prearranged – not so much because I’m interested in having it done “my way”, but because I do know one thing for sure: funerals can be expensive. I wouldn’t want my death to be a burden on my family. It’s smart, and economical.

It’s also tough. I don’t know if I could do it. However, if I do decide to do it, I wouldn’t begin anytime soon. I think it would be a bit morbid to start saving for that right now. Especially when there’s still so much I want to save for, like buying a house.

If I do this, I’m going to do it right. My plan will be to start when I turn 50 years old, when I’m still working. That gives me more than ten years to save up. A little at a time, of course. There’s no hurry!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Having To Prove Myself

My husband wants us to move to England. He has wanted this for a while, and it looks like it may become a reality. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, the small part of me that likes adventure and a change of scenery is embracing the opportunity. On the other hand, the larger part of me that fears whatever is new and unknown is running the other way, screaming.

If I were 21 again, fresh out of college, this decision would be much easier. I would travel to another country to live and work there, no problem! In fact, it’s something I regret not having done. However, at 28, I’ve invested time and hard work into my life and career. I don’t want to start at the bottom again.

Also, there is one other thing. Over the years, I have had to prove myself to people on three counts: because of my young age, because I am a minority, and because I am a woman. I’ve had to do this in everyday life, but mostly in the workplace. Moving to another country means that I would have to prove myself all over again not only on these three aspects of myself, but also as an American.

I don’t know what people in England think about Americans, whether they love us or hate us, but either way, the minute I open my mouth, people will see that I am American and judge me for it. They will see it all: my youth, my skin, my sex, and my birth country, all rolled into one neat little package, ready to be ripped to shreds.

Ok, maybe I’m overreacting a little. Perhaps I am making this into a bigger deal than it has to be. I’m putting too much pressure on myself. This is probably just that part of myself that is running scared and is putting all these crazy ideas into my head. But my nerves have to materialize in some shape or form, right?

What am I so scared of? I have faced many people who have passed judgment on me, and I have succeeded, regardless of what they thought of me. And who cares what they think anyway? I just need to stay focused, and face the challenges this move may bring my way one at a time.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Living Without Expectation

When I was in the fourth grade, my school would hold an assembly once a month. We would crowd into the gymnasium and listen as teachers called out their Student of the Month. One by one, these honored students would walk proudly down the aisle to accept their certificate.
This was a big deal for me. There I would sit, fidgeting anxiously in my seat as I awaited the verdict that would either make or break my spirits. Unfortunately, month after month would pass with nothing to show for my hard work. After every assembly, I would torture myself with questions: Was I not smart enough? I got good enough grades, didn’t I? What was I doing wrong?

During one such assembly, I happened to be sitting next to my friend, Jessica. As usual, I was ready to bounce off my chair from the excitement. “Oh! I hope I get it this time!” I said to her.

“Get what?” she said.

“Student of the Month! Duh!” I said.

“Oh, that,” she said gloomily.

“Well, don’t you want one too?” I asked her. Her grades were even better than mine, so I figured she would have been hoping for one as well.

“Yeah, I do,” she said. “But I don’t come here expecting anything. That way, if I do get the award, it feels like a nice surprise. And if I don’t get it, I don’t feel bad because I didn’t expect to get it anyway.”

“Hmm.” Somehow, this reasoning made sense to me.

I pondered this and decided she was right. Why risk being disappointed? From that moment on, I stopped expecting good things to happen to me. I got rid of my high hopes, and got rid of any expectations I might have. I would save myself the pain of losing, and I would never feel bad again about not getting something I wanted.
I have continued to apply this way of thinking, more or less, up until now, but I don’t know if it always works in my favor. Is living life without hope the way to go? Live in the present, be mindful of what is going on right now, and don’t worry about the future. These are things I’ve heard before.

Desire is the root of all suffering. If you don’t want anything, then you won’t suffer. This is basically what my friend was saying, just in simpler fourth grade terms, although her way of thinking was beyond her years, I must say.

I think that living with this belief can be good, but only up to an extent and not in all situations. Sometimes we do deserve the things that we want, like a promotion or to be in a committed relationship, and we should at least try to attain them because these things will make us happy or make us feel fulfilled. Or at least we think they will. We’re allowed to dream, aren’t we? We should be able to have goals, and try to reach them, or else what are we living for?

It’s hard not to desire anything. It’s part of our human nature. We can live without expectations, but will we be satisfied with what we end up with? If you are a true believer, then the answer is yes, because you never expected anything more. If you are caught in the middle, like I am, then the answer to this question becomes more difficult.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Unsafe in the City

I don’t feel safe here anymore. I definitely don’t feel safe working in New York City anymore. Before 9/11, we were living in a state of ignorant bliss. We were a privileged people, thinking that nothing could happen to us. We were citizens of the United States of America, and we couldn’t be touched. Now, we’ve become like the citizens of any other country who have been victims and witnesses of terrorist attacks.

I live with the fear that something terrible can happen at any moment: as I’m crossing the George Washington Bridge, on the bus in the Lincoln Tunnel, or riding on the subway. Now I will even feel it while walking in Times Square, even though I should have known all along that this largely trafficked area could be another potential target spot. And, although it’s definitely not as bad as before, I still get a little nervous whenever I hear a plane that seems to be passing a bit too low for my comfort. It will always be there now, this paranoia, and it’s sad because it was never there before.

Security is tighter now. I know that we are supposed to be grateful to the police officers that are doing their jobs in the city by randomly checking bags in transportation stations and terminals, and I am, but at the same time it makes me angry. It makes me angry because their presence somehow makes me feel like I’m guilty of something when I know I’ve done nothing wrong.

Every morning, I pass by them, praying that I don’t get picked to have my bag searched. I don’t have anything to hide, but knowing that they are watching me, deciding who their next victim is, makes me feel like I do. And sometimes, because I’m a preschool teacher working at a school that doesn’t provide me with many materials, I do have questionable items in my possession. For example, one morning in October, I was terrified that I would be stopped because I had to bring a knife and some sharp tools to work because we were going to carve a pumpkin that day. Also, every once in a while I carry small bags of flour in my backpack, for the kids to use at the sensory table. Imagine what a police officer would think upon seeing this, especially if I am of Colombian descent. Do you understand me now?

In many other cities, people are not experiencing this. I was talking to my friend, who lives in Pittsburgh, about this topic, and she says that there are no random bag checks, and overall, there is a general feeling of safety. Maybe I should move to one of these “safe” cities. Maybe I should move to Pittsburgh! Then I won’t have to worry so much about getting searched. Although, if Pennsylvania passes that Arizona immigration law, I may end up getting searched anyway. But don’t get me started on that!

Please don’t think I don’t appreciate the work that is being done to keep us safe here in the city. I do. I guess I’m just still trying to come to terms with the way we have to live now, as opposed to the somewhat carefree existence we used to enjoy nine years ago.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

To Muse or Be Amused?

Once upon a time, I used to have a life. I would read for hours, write whenever I felt inspired, and spend quality time with my loved ones. I was proud to say that my life did not revolve around television shows.

That was before DVR came along. Now, I can’t seem to get away from its seductive call: “Watch me. You know you want to. Come on…just one little show.” One little show turns into four little shows, and before you know it, two hours have gone by.

The possibilities are endless now. So I can’t make it home in time for LOST tonight? No problem, just DVR it. Oh no! Did I forget to DVR Grey’s Anatomy? No worries, I’ll just call my husband to set it up through his iPhone.

It’s gotten so ridiculous that even if I’m home in time to watch the show, I’ll start recording it, and then wait a half hour, just so I can skip the commercials.

I fear the loss of my creative soul. As I write this, I fight the urge to turn on the television. I know that they’re there, just waiting for me. It’s so easy to allow your mind to go blank for a while and let this device entertain you instead of worrying about how to entertain yourself, especially after a hard day’s work. It’s just so convenient!

Inevitably, what I do with my free time is up to me, of course. It’s all about choices, but unfortunately, it’s getting harder for me to choose my muse over picking up the remote control and being amused.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

To Have or Not To Have...Kids

Everyone says having children is worth it, but is it really? I have been struggling with this decision, and I have yet to come to a conclusion.
Since I was a little girl, I used to dream about having children: what they would look like, what I would name them, what their personalities would be (beautiful, Julie/Ricardo, and outgoing, in case you were wondering!). I continued having these dreams until about a year ago, when I moved out of my parent’s house and moved in with my newly acquired husband. It has nothing to do with how much I love my husband, but it has everything to do with how much I love my free time.
If we decide not to have children, my husband and I will have more time to spend together, just the two of us, which I love. We could travel alone to different places, and go out anytime we feel like it. Our free time could be spent however we choose; our only obligations would be to each other.
Also, we wouldn’t have to worry about the extra expense of a child. We could probably afford more of the things we want, without having to spend money on diapers, baby food, clothing, and toys. And we would definitely be able to save more money as well.
Another aspect to consider is that I’m a professional, not a stay-at-home wife. I work 8am to 4:30pm, five days a week, and my commute is long and arduous. I don’t know how all you working mothers do it, and I give you much respect, because I come home so tired I don’t even feel like walking the dog, much less have the energy to take care of a baby!
However, if I don’t have a child, I will never know what it is to be a mother. I will never know for sure how my kids would have turned out (although it goes without saying that they’d be the smartest little kids on the planet!). I will never experience the love between a mother and child, which is different from the love between a husband and wife.
This decision might be easier if I didn’t have to worry about having to balance work, family, and a household (because let’s face it, he helps out, but the unfortunate expectation is that I’m the one who should be doing most of the cooking, cleaning, and organizing. But this is a whole different blog topic altogether!)
You may wonder what my husband has to say about all this, and he is definitely pushing for the ‘No kids’ verdict. However, he has left the choice up to me. He would rather not, but if I want it badly enough, he would not be opposed. Mostly, he really doesn’t want one right now. There’s just so much we want to do first! And I’m only 27, so I suppose I have time on my side.

I’ve heard it said that if you keep waiting for the perfect time to have a child, you’ll never end up having one. I think that if you truly want a child, you would never let this happen. However, if you’re having doubts, like I am, then this popular saying can easily become a real possibility.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Young and the Stupid

There’s a reason why people say the phrase “Back when I was young and stupid” when referring to their teenage years and early twenties. It’s because we really were young and stupid. Back then, we thought we were the shit. While we were vaguely aware of danger, we were sure that nothing could ever happen to us. Our minds couldn’t process any consequences to our actions, or if they could, we didn’t take them very seriously. There is actual biological evidence to verify this fact: our brains continue to develop until we reach our mid-twenties, and that ‘logical reasoning’ part of our brain is the last to fully develop.

I’m sure we could all think of stupid things we did as adolescents that we would think twice about doing now. However small it may be.

For example, I was 21 when I started dating my now-husband, and I remember that dancing was the most important thing to me. It still is important to me, but it’s definitely not in my top 3 anymore. Meanwhile, my husband has never been a fan. Well, that didn’t stop me from dancing with other guys in front of him whenever I dragged him to a club. I figured, “Hey, if he doesn’t want to dance with me, then that’s his own fault, and if I love to dance, well then I’m gonna dance damn it!”

Now, while it is important to continue to enjoy activities we are passionate about, I definitely wouldn’t act in the same way now. If I’m at a club by myself, then I’ll still dance with other guys, but it’s only for the simple joy that dancing gives me. I’m not looking to impress anybody because I’m happy being with my husband. However, if I am at a club with my significant other, I wouldn’t do that because I’m there with him, not by myself, so I shouldn’t act like I am by myself. Do you follow?

I shudder to think how I could have done that to my husband years ago while we were dating, and wonder at how and why he didn’t break up with me right then and there.  I guess he was still young and stupid too.

A friend of mine recently broke up with a girl much younger than him, a girl who was just about to turn 21. Why? Because she was still growing up, while we have already reached a different stage in our lives. A life where going out and partying isn’t the most important thing anymore, but it’s about just enjoying life, and learning about its simpler pleasures. Like staying home watching a movie with your hubby while eating your favorite meal with a glass of wine.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My A.A.M. (Aromatic and Auditory Morning) Commute






Hit the floor.

Kicked out of bed.

Wake up!

Morning breath.

Fix that.


Step outside.

Fresh air.


Cigarette smoke!

Who the hell is smoking at 7am?


Up the stairs.



Into the lightrail.

Urine stench.

Never fails.

Gotta bear it.


Gotta get outta there.

Ooh…au bon pain…

Coffee beans and egg sandwiches.

Cram into the Path train.


Hold my breath.

Overly-applied perfume.

One spritz

Is enough please!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Thoroughly Thoughtless

A few years ago I remember I was on the bus going home from work, and a really loud obnoxious woman was sitting in front of me.  There always seems to be one in every crowd.  Especially at workshops, but that's another story.

This woman was talking loudly on the phone the entire time, calling every person she knew, and complaining to each of them about how SLOW the bus was, how LONG it was taking to get there (I believe she used the word "eons"), and how she was gonna have a HEART ATTACK if the bus driver drove any slower.

It was so aggravating to hear her complaining, especially when she complained about the bus driver because I knew he could hear her (who couldn't?).  What did she expect?  It was rush hour, it was raining, and there was a lot of traffic.

It's so amazing, I couldn't help but think, how a person could be so bored with life that they can't just look out the window and watch the world go by.  Any minute without the entertainment of a T.V. screen, a book, a cell phone, a PSP - to some people - is a minute wasted, or a minute spent completely bored.  How about using your extra time observing, analyzing, thinking, or wondering?  Musing or imagining?  Instead of having everything handed to us precooked or prethought up.  Thoroughly thoughtless - that's a good way to describe these people.

Welcome everyone, to the world of the Thoroughly Thoughtless!  Are you so lazy you can't think of anything yourself?  Do you have a nervous breakdown if your mind isn't occupied with garbage 24/7?  Do you get headaches whenever there's the slightest problem you can't handle?   Do you crave a distraction from the ugliness of reality?  Then you've come to the right place!

And the sad thing is, the majority of people (at least here in the U.S) are citizens of the Thoroughly Thoughtless world.  I'm not saying we should be zombies and wander around doing nothing all day, but doing that once in a while, when you have the chance, wouldn't hurt.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pre-Wedding Reflections

So the day is quickly approaching: my wedding day is just three days away. Forecast: 70 degrees and sunny. That should be nice.

Anyway, I’m thinking about the way we will be introduced at the reception: Mr. and Mrs. Rogger Tovar.

Wait a second. What happened to my name? Where did it go?

As I dwell on this, I get the feeling that I’m slowly being swallowed up by him. Okay, maybe not by him, but by his name. From that day forward I will be a Tovar. I will no longer bear my last name, and this is my own decision. My fiance wants me to keep my last name, but I’m actually tired of it. I want something new. But as the day looms closer, the thought of it makes me a bit nervous. Or maybe it’s just the normal jitters one feels before this big day. Either way, it’s starting to feel like I will suddenly cease to exist as soon as I get married.

I’m sure this isn’t true at all, but the idea is just lingering around somewhere in my mind. Will I become someone new? What will this brand-new Tovar act like? Will her personality flaws melt away as soon as the ring is placed on her finger? What will she look like? Will her skin complexion suddenly darken overnight?

Maybe I should take this new name and start off with a clean slate. Kind of like New Year’s Eve, but for the soul. I haven’t made resolutions in years, but I figure why not start right now, with this life-changing event.

I’ll make some resolutions for this new me, Mrs. Tovar. The main one being that I will promise to try and not lose my temper. I believe that I can do this because I have to practice it everyday at work. Which is probably why by the time I get home, I am at my wit’s end. Regardless, this is no excuse, and I will attempt to channel the Zen-like abilities that I use to work with my students into my personal life as well.

The next resolution will be to do one household chore once a day, no matter how small. I’m super exhausted when I get home, but that’s no excuse for being a slob.

And finally, my last resolution will be to tell my fiancĂ© that I love him more often, because ever since we moved in together, I haven’t said it as much as I used to. I want him to know that I still appreciate him, even after all these years.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Elevator Revelation

So there's a guy in front of me in the elevator, and he keeps pressing the "Door Close" button but people keep running into the elevator just as the doors are closing.  They stick a hand in right at the last second: a purse, a leg, anything just to catch what feels like the last functioning elevator on Earth.  It happened about four times and you could see the impatience growing in this guy as he continues to press the "Door Close" button after each interruption.  I kept watching him, feeling a bit disgusted at his human nature, but then I stopped and remembered that I've done the same thing and felt just as annoyed as he must be feeling, especially when I've been in a rush.  It brought me back to Psych 101 all over again: the traits you most dislike in other people are the same traits you dislike the most in yourself. 
This is so true.
I wish I had more patience with people.  I have lots of patience for children, and for a select few others, but that's about it.  Back in that elevator moment, I thought to myself that maybe I should try to be more patient because that really wasn't a good look for that guy.  It didn't make him seem very nice, although he may actually have been a saint of a man and was just having a bad day.  I supposed that I could try to be more patient, but let's face it: I can't always be in a good mood, and little things might piss me off occasionally, as hard as I may try not to let it bother me.  And if I'm PMS'ing, then it's really over. I honestly can't help that!
I guess my point is, the next time you dislike or judge someone, think about why you are doing so.  You might just learn a little about yourself in the process.  Even if you don't end up doing anything about it.

Monday, March 1, 2010

After We Die

I hope that when I pass from this life that I will be able to know all I ever wanted to know and I'll finally learn the truth about everything I ever wondered about.  I hope it will all be revealed to me in one luminous moment and if I discover anything unpleasant, I wouldn't get mad about it because I'd understand why things happened the way they did.  With death I hope comes understanding and finally, peace. 
I don't believe in heaven or God.  I'm not even sure I believe in what I'm hoping for right now.  I think I just want it to be this way.  But believing in this gives me some sort of relief, and isn't that the whole reason people believe in this stuff anyway? 
I believe in reincarnation, but I hope that before I begin another life, all the answers will be revealed to me from the previous one.  Or else it'll feel like I just spent a very long time reading a great book but never got to read the ending where it's all supposed to come together in a glorious finale.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Self-Indulgent Life

"The desire not to be anything is the desire not to be." -Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

There are some people who are not motivated to do anything with themselves or with their lives.  Perhaps I'm a typical Type A personality, but for me there needs to be some point to my existence, some reason for my being here.  Maybe there really is no point to our existence, but I don't feel satisfied unless I feel that I've made some kind of difference.  And maybe that's the problem with me.
There are people out there who live only for themselves and are happy with that.  I sometimes wish I could be that way because it seems like a more relaxed, self-indulgent way of living, but I don't know if I would be happy living like that.
When I was 19 and worked at Barnes and Noble,  I came across an individual who had worked there for years and planned on staying there until he retired.  He was single, between 35 and 40 years old, and was a lead bookseller, but did not aspire to ever reach a management position.  I was young and perhaps not as tactful as I should have been when I asked him "So, is this all you want to do? Isn't there anything else you want to do in life?"  Luckily he didn't take offense, but he answered that the job suited his lifestyle.  He worked enough to get by, got out at a decent hour and was able to focus on writing his poetry.
Back then I couldn't understand it.  Here I was in college, trying to make something of myself, and here was this middle-aged man, content with not making anything of himself at all.   But then, who am I to judge this person's choice of lifestyle?  Maybe this is all he wanted out of life.  He enjoys writing poetry, and I can relate because I enjoy writing too. 
I find myself wishing sometimes that I could just have a job instead of a career so that I could do more of the things I like to do.  But I remember that I wasn't happy at Barnes and Noble.  Nor was I happy at the daycare I worked at for two months a couple years ago when I was strapped for cash. So I know I wouldn't be happy with "just a job".
I often wish that I didn't have to work at all, and could devote my time to catching up on my reading and writing.  If my financial circumstances allow that to happen one day, I'd love to try it.  I'd also love to see how long I'd last without getting restless! 
I wish I could live a self-indulgent life, but apparently it isn't for me.  For everyone out there who is able to do so, more power to you.
Just curious what other people think of the Ayn Rand quote...

Friday, February 26, 2010

That Very First Day

It was a cool October morning, and I donned a formal black sweater jacket I had purchased specifically for this occasion. Standing at the bus stop with a handful of other people, suitcases in hand and also dressed in business attire, I waited. I had taken the bus from my home in New Jersey into the city countless times before, except never this early or with these types of passengers. I arrived at New York Port Authority forty-five minutes later. My heels clicked importantly on the floor as I headed towards the escalator, where I walked single file down the left-hand side with the rest of the commuters who were in a rush.
I wasn’t really in a hurry, but I did want to get to work early on my first day. At 22 years of age, I was working my way through graduate school, and heading to my first real 9 to 5 job. Gone were my days as a minimum waged bookseller. I had been hired as a child development specialist at a hospital, a job that sounded way more professional than I felt. Apparently, I was qualified for the position, but I couldn’t have felt more nervous or unprepared.
When I reached the bottom of the escalator, I saw a swarm of people all headed in the same direction, down to the subway. I suddenly felt like I had become a part of something much bigger. I had joined the ranks of people who got up early, went to work, got home, ate, and went to sleep. I was proud to be a part of the club, but I also felt a slight disappointment that I couldn’t quite figure out. I chose to ignore it.
One subway transfer and five long city blocks later, I arrived at the hospital. Incidentally, this was the same hospital my mother had taken me to for most of my childhood years. I had seen the renovations made on the hospital during the summer, when I had my series of interviews, but I still couldn’t quite get used to the new look. I felt like I had stepped back into my past, but someone had tampered with the memory. I saw familiar things and unfamiliar things simultaneously, and it was only adding an unwelcome touch of the surreal to my already hectic morning.
I entered the elevator, where I was squeezed in among strangers as the elevator was filled to capacity. Slowly, we traveled floor by floor until I reached my destination, the fourth floor: Pediatrics. I got off the elevator and headed to the double doors that were to the left, as I had been instructed to do, which is where I reached my first obstacle. I reached out and pulled the handle to open one of the doors. Nothing. I tried the other one, but it didn’t budge. I pulled and pulled to no avail. Would no one help me? Apparently not. People walked past me and paid me no mind. I walked over to the registration desk, where a man was sitting at a computer. I explained my situation, stressing the fact that I was “new”, as it was my only defense. With a confused look on his face, he got up, walked over to the double doors and pushed them open. I thanked him sheepishly and quickly went inside, hoping nobody had witnessed my stupidity.
I entered a long hallway of windowless doors, all of them closed. Now all I had to do was find the doctor whom I’d never met before, but who was supposed to be my supervisor. Checking my notepad for the correct room number, I walked slowly towards room A124. I hesitated before knocking. There’s something about a closed, windowless door that is so uninviting.
I took a deep breath and knocked quietly, but nobody answered. I knocked louder, but after a quick look around, it was obvious that not one person had arrived to work on this floor. I checked my watch. It was 8:57am. With nowhere to sit, I stood in front of the door, trying not to look or feel foolish. Surely someone would appear in three minutes.
Fifteen minutes later, I was still standing there when someone finally appeared. Fortunately this kind woman allowed me into her office until my supervisor arrived. But by then, I just wanted the day to be over.
I don’t remember anything more about that first day at work, but I do remember not feeling the same exhilaration going home that evening as I had felt getting in to work that morning. All it took was one week for the novelty of the experience to wear off completely, because I began to realize that I was no longer free to do as I liked, but tied down by the monotonous schedule of whatever job I chose. Was this all I had to look forward to, for the rest of my life?
Although we all had our vacation days, and were entitled to use them, it still felt as if taking a vacation was no longer my right, but a privilege that had to be scheduled months in advance in order to decrease any competition for specific dates. Being a rigid person by nature, and wanting to overcome this personal flaw, I felt as if any spontaneity I had hoped to achieve in my adult life was dead.
That was five years ago, and I’ve since moved on through different positions, searching for the best fit for me. I can’t say that I’ve found it yet, and I don’t know if I ever will. But I know that as long as I am physically able, unless I win the lottery or something crazy like that, I will continue to search for the job that doesn’t feel like it’s changing me into someone I’m not, or holding me back from being who I am and becoming who I know I can be.