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.