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The Developing Situation

This week, a lot of things have come into focus. Some decisions have been made for me, and some things I’ve decided for myself.

A week ago, I was anxiously checking my email every 20 minutes waiting to hear back from Teach For America about a job that could keep me in LA.

This morning, I called NYU to schedule a meeting with a student in the Theater Education department to ask questions about their program when I fly back East this weekend.

Oh, did I not mention that I got into a graduate program at NYU? Because I did…Let me back up.

As I was obsessively checking my email last Wednesday, as I was still waiting to hear about this job the day AFTER TFA told me I would hear from them, and only 10 minutes after talking to my mother about how CRAZY I was going waiting to hear from TFA, I randomly and unexpectedly got an email from NYU.

“Congratulations! On behalf of the Admissions Committee, I am delighted to offer you a place in NYU Steinhardt’s Fall 2012 entering class”

I, of course, immediately called my mom back, laughing, to tell her I had gotten news but not the news I had been waiting to hear.

Two hours later, I got a call from Teach for America. They were very sorry. They think I had a lot to offer and believe in my talent, but they don’t have a place for those talents right now. It was the news I thought I had been dreading, but after having another plan, another option, an option that after a week of reflecting I realize now is probably the better choice for me, I was fine. I didn’t cry…or even feel like crying. It felt like the right call for everyone.

In that moment, I thanked the universe for letting TFA make me wait that extra day, for letting me get that NYU email first to save me from even one minute of freaking out, thinking I would have no option for next year. The universe is weird that way sometimes.

I also want to thank the universe for letting this be the week I finally started The Joy Equation. As I said last week, I have never been at this sort of crossroads before. While I am so happy to another option for next year (potentially two: still waiting to hear back from Emerson), I still need to make a difficult decision. Leaving my school next year, especially as every student I have taught at that school, is entering his or her senior year – I taught 9th, 10th, and now 11th grade – will be really emotionally difficult, and moving is always a logistical nightmare. On top of that, I have a life in LA.

I have amazing friends in LA. I have become accustomed to the weather and proximity to the beach in LA. Leaving all of that behind is not something I can do lightly. With all of these thoughts constantly swirling around in my head, giving myself this chance to journal every day and spend over an hour every week – as I did today – really reflecting on who I am, what I want, and how I think I can get there, has really been amazing and restoring, and I think will continue to be so over the next month as I grapple with these choices.

Later this week, I’m heading to the east coast for my grandma’s 75th birthday and to take a quick trip into New York to check out NYU’s campus. I’m hoping as I make this trip and continue reflecting, things will keep coming into focus!

The Star Tours Induced Claustrophobia Situation

Things have been…difficult lately to say the least. Work has been particularly draining this semester due to having more kids coupled with less help and a ridiculous schedule, and combining that with weird personal situations and general laziness has led me to quickly fall back into my “blog…what blog?” mentality, so imagine my excitement when one of my best friends, Josh, the king of all things Disneyland, invited me to get away this past Sunday to Disneyland with his two roommates and their girlfriends. It took me about 2.7 seconds to text back (in the middle of teaching, mind you) with a “YES” followed by a frightening number of exclamation points.

The day was going to be everything I needed – fun, relaxing, and line-free thanks to one of the girlfriend’s Disney disability pass which got us past almost every line in the park. (She assured me, when I mentioned feeling mildly awkward in a line with people in actual, you know, wheelchairs and such, that she needed a doctor’s note to get said pass and that she really did have a legit medial reason for needing it, and with that, I was satisfied.) We frolicked around both Disneyland and California Adventure, hitting up all my favorite rides – Space Mountain, Indiana Jones, Splash Mountain, California Screamin’, Toy Story – in minimal time.

It was, to use an overused word, epic. PLUS, I got treated to even more Disneyland trivia thanks to Josh and his years of reading every book about Disneyland, possibly ever. At the beginning of the day, we figured we should Fast Pass the new Star Tours ride, since the line was long, and we weren’t sure how much the pass would help. Thus, we spent all day getting more and more excited for our trip on the new Star Tours (now in 3D!), and finally, around 7, full of corn-dogs and fries (the only acceptable Disneyland dinner, obviously), we headed over to board.

After a quick wait in line (yay, Fast Pass!) we loaded in at Gate B, right in the middle of the car, as Josh always asks to get the best seats on a ride, which I highly recommend; they usually only make you wait like 2 or 3 more minutes and it makes the rides MUCH better. Josh let out one final plea to not get the Pod-Racing version – as every ride on the new Star Tours is differnt and thus there are some much cooler rides possibilities than others – as the Disney employee checked our seat belts and told us to enjoy the ride, adding, as they always do on this ride which is based on things on your Star Tour going horribly wrong, “I’m sure nothing will go wrong!”

We then waited for about 3 minutes during which nothing happened. I don’t know how many of you have been on Star Tours, but basically, it is one of those rides where you sit in a box with 20 other people with a screen in front. As the box moves around, the screen makes you feel like you are soaring around space, enjoying a Star Wars themed adventure. Unfortuantely, after three minutes in said box with nothing happening, I started to get a bit antsy.

I’m not super claustrophobic unless I start feeling trapped and in that moment, I definitely started feeling trapped…and started feeling that corn dog. Finally, the ride began – a non pod-racing version, happily – and it was pretty sweet. I was totally getting into the ride as we soared over some crazy planet – clearly, I terribly have never seen Star Wars- when suddenly the ride stopped.

We all groaned as the lights came back on, and we sat uncomfortably for another 2 minutes before ride attendants came back in to apologize. At this point, I kind of wanted to just get off and forget the 3D magic, but they assured us that they would just start the ride over. And, I mean..”I’m sure nothing will go wrong!” Again.

Oh…how naive we were. The ride began again. Sort of. It began in that the little box with 20 people started moving, yet the screen, the thing that makes you feel like you are moving and having and adventure and such, never came on, so we remained 20 people being jostled around in a large box…for about 5 minutes. It was, quite frankly, the longest ride I have ever been on. I ended up in the fetal position in my seat, closing my eyes, hoping that it would help me feel like the screen was actually on.

Kids behind us were yelling about the malfunction, but apprently the only place Disneyland doesn’t have cameras is on this ride. I felt nauseous and trapped and really really just wanted to get off of this stupid ride. Josh was partiuclarly upset that we were missing the Yoda laden version of the ride, apparently a cool option. All I could think of was not throwing up. It you have never shaken in a box after eating a corn dog covered in a solid inch of fried corn-breading before, then you don;t know what true ride-induced nausea is. I. was. Dying. After about three minutes, we stopped, and I thought I was home free, until Josh assured me that no, this was just the lull before something else crazy happened.

Finally, the second the ride stopped, I literally ran off, as everyone else yelled to stay on the ride, hoping, obviously, that we could go on again. I was having none of it. A Disney employee asked, not knowing what had happened, if I needed medical assistance. I assured her I just needed to sit down as my friends followed me and explained about the problem. Another employee then came and told us that if we went back to our seats, they would be moving us to another gate to do the ride again.

I hesistated, but eventually clutched my stomach and walked back into the box of shaking neasuea. By this point, everyone on the ride had bonded through our two rides, and we all collectively clutched our seats as our third attempt started. And of course…we got pod racing. Josh cursed. I was simply happy to have gotten through the ride in one piece with my corn-dog intact.

So, not entirely the relaxing day I was hoping for, but I happily never vomited (small wins!) and the rest of the day was magical. We even ended our day on the train with a delightful conductor who pointed out a secret armadillo in the dinosaur land you ride through between Tomorrowland and the front gate. (What’s that? You didn’t know there was a secret dinosaur exhibit on the train ride? You’re welcome for that magical tid-bit.)

The next day, of course, I was snapped back into reality by rear ending someone, because life can’t all be like Disneyland…well, the non-nausea inducing part of Disneyland.

The Single Situation

Being single means getting to do whatever (pardon my language) the fuck I want to. All. The. Time. I can spend a full Sunday on the couch watching nothing but Dance Moms, Mrs. Doubtfire, and 500 Days of Summer. I can spend my Thursday nights marathoning The Wire and getting drinks on a whim with my TFA friends. I can go dancing with my college girls on Saturdays and get brunch every Sunday with everyone. I also live alone now (which is AWESOMELY AWESOME by the way. You should all try it sometime), which adds even more to this “All What Amanda Wants to do All of the Time” business. (It also means every show on my DVR is mine, which is epically fantastic. Also great? Ample fridge space!)

It also means I should have significantly less drama and angst in my life. When any of my friends or I am in a relationship, there are always so many questions – where is this relationship going? Why didn’t he call me today? Why did his voice sound so weird on the phone? Who is he texting all the time? Why is he hanging out alone with that girl he’s “only friends” with ALL THE TIME? Well, not all the time, but enough that is annoying and a thing and I’m going to ask questions about it, goddamnit! I mean…yeah, there are a lot of questions. And sometimes stress and angst, thus being single should be easy! Stress and question free! All Amanda All The Time!

But for some reason, for the last few months, it hasn’t been all easy. It has kind of sucked. And I know it’s sucky, not because being single is inherently sucky, but because I, on some level, am making it sucky for myself. It is sucky because I sulk about it to myself when I get asked these questions by my friends, when I see people holding hands or sitting on the same side of the booth at brunch (which, I mean, NO ONE SHOULD DO!! Just eat your eggs without getting handsy.

It is not that hard), when I see stupid RomCom commercials and hear single girls behind me in CVS bitch about how Valentine’s Day isn’t fun for anyone because its about corporate greed and making single people sad! (Oh, CVS girls, you are just sooo original.)

It’s sucky because I (horribly) have internalized that being single is somehow a reflection on my self worth, like it means that I am somehow less than a woman who is in a relationship and that no one wants me , not that I have yet to find anyone worthy of my awesomeness, which to be frank, is probably closer to the truth. (You are loving my humbleness right now….) I have grown up in a culture where, for girls, love is the goal, and since I have yet to attain it, I am somehow missing some big, important facet of my life and should be spending all my free time searching for it and sulking for not having it yet.

It is even more sucky because I regularly deny to myself that all of the proceeding facts are true. I tell myself that I have actually truly internalized all the feminist literature I’ve read (and fully believe) and am totally happy with my awesomely independent life-style, but honestly, I still feel kind of sucky. It’s a terrible vicious cycle. I make myself feel sucky for being single and then feel sucky for feeling that way instead of feeling sassy and awesome and on and on and on.

The Cruise Situation

For this winter break, my family decided that we should go on a family cruise! I love my family enough that the idea of spending a week essentially trapped on a boat with them sounded lovely, so it was on! We had a wonderul and wonderfully hilarious at times time on said boat trip, and I learned a number of lessons along the way that I thought I would pass onto you potential future cruisers:

1) The Buffet is the soul-sucking worst: Why ANYONE would elbow their way through a crowded room full of vaguely stale, luke-warm food only to spend twenty minutes frantically pushing through swarms of extended families calling out each other’s names only to find a table on the deck in 40 degree weather a 10 minute walk from the nearest water station when there are BEAUTIFUL dining rooms with real chairs and servers and equally “free” food (my dad liked to remind me that while I wasn’t paying a bill then, the food wasn’t actually free) is BEYOND me. What I’m saying is, avoid the Buffet.

2) People like terrible entertainment: My sister and I regularly (and by regularly, I mean once) got to bars early to get seats for the entertainment we were excited about – mainly a British cover band doing Beatles songs for an hour and The Second City touring group’s improv shows- but in order to keep those tables we had to sit through things like “Men versus Women Challenge!” which my sister adorably thought would be a “battle of wits” (to which I responded sadly, “WHY would that be it?”) and which was actually a contest to determine important questions like, which gender can fit more people on a single bed sheet or which sex can locate their shoes faster when they’ve been left in a giant pile on a bed sheet. (Props were clearly limited). What was sad was not that these games were offered, but HOW MANY PEOPLE SHOWED UP! SO. MANY. PEOPLE! Like standing room only. And they LOVED it. The cheering was deafening. And then they all left when actual good acts came on. It baffled me, but at least answered my question of who all these people are that are watching 2 and a Half Men. This also led my sister and I to decide to start a TED cruise, where in all entertainment is intellectually stimulating and awesome.

3) Harry Potter World is the best place on earth: This is how my mom actually convinced me to go on this trip. I had doubts, but the second I found out I could visit Hogwarts, I was in! My sister and I spent 8 hours in this magical wonderland, doing everything from drinking Butterbeer (see below: And yes, that would be a commemorative mug), to buying wands, to reading all of the ride warnings, which were written as proclamations from various departments in the Ministry of Magic. We again got on our pop cultural high horse when we decided that people should have to take a Harry Potter quiz to get in after I overheard some girl in Honeyduke’s saying she’d “only like seen one of these movies.” THEN WHY ARE YOU HERE TAKING UP PRECIOUS SPACE!?! *deep breath* Anyway, it was ridiculous and awesome. The line for the Hogwarts ride alone, which leads you through the castle and includes holograms of Dumbledore, Harry, Hermione, and Ron, would’ve made the whole trip worth it.

4) Large groups of people and children make me tense: My goal on this trip was mostly to avoid being around lots of people, which is difficult on a boat holding over 4,000 people. This led to a lot of me sitting on our balcony reading, which was beautiful and fine with me. My family also suffered from this anxiety, which also led to us getting some primo seats in Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian’s private island. I found some small note on the island map which noted an “adult” beach, which was THE BEST. Few people. No children. No noise. When we walked by where they actually wanted you to be sitting, the place with all the food, music, entertainment and people, my mom simply stated, “Why would ANYONE want to sit over here.” We’re clearly a fun bunch.

5) You meet cool people on cruises, despite previously stated annoyance with people: My family’s cruise friends included: a Ukrainian neuroscience researcher and her husband who sat with us doing the Second City Show. She was very interested in my teaching and hilariously and for no reason lied to her husband about my sister and my ages, which he seemed genuinely confused by; a Serbian lifeguard who lived on the private island (or had for three days at that point) and informed my sister and mom that the Norwegian staff often have parties with the staff on the Royal Caribbean island next to them; a South African woman who had lived in Israel and now lived in Chicago but hated it because of her kid’s school who was also very interested, but also confused by, Teach for America. She did, however, tell me I was changing the world and thus may have been my favorite.

6) Boat movement is weird, especially in windowless rooms: I have only been on one other cruise in my life, which was one around the British Isles. I remember it being very smooth, which now in retrospect makes a lot of sense as we were merely floating in the small stretch of water between English and Ireland. I now realize that most cruises involve more movement and thus more dizziness and nausea for me. Thankfully, my mom had Sea Bands, little wrist bands that look like eighties sweat bands that have little plastic balls that push on your pressure points and supposedly help with sea sickness. I still think they are more psychosomatic, but they helped. They also cut into my skin giving me weird scabs on my wrists. Not cute. In bathrooms, however, nothing helped. Feeling a toilet seat moving beneath you is just weird and upsetting.

7) Boat movement will continue long after you get off the boat: I also don’t remember this from my last cruise, but I definitely felt like I was moving, especially again in windowless rooms, for a full four days after the cruise. This makes walking around a mall not the funnest.

8 ) Towel animals are kick-ass and make any night better: See photo evidence below.

9) You can reach a point at which your body can consume no more food: It took a week, but it happened. I think it was this dessert that did it.

10) My family is the best: Being on a boat for a week could’ve made me slightly loopy – something about my liking to have control and being vaguely claustrophobic – but my family made this trip hilarious and fun and relaxing and awesome. They are simply the best.

11) (And I almost forgot!) Running on a treadmill on a boat is the ACTUAL soul-sucking worst – or at least tied with the buffet: It’s like running up and down a hundred little hills!

The Narcissistic Situation

(Note: I wrote this about a month ago but didn’t feel like actually posting it. Now, I feel like I just need to put this out there…see reasons below.)

I’m going to give a warning upfront: there is about to be a WHOLE lot of self-love up in this post, but right now, I kind of need to write this down. I need to send this message out into the universe as a way of making it actually sink into my own head, as I’ve spent some time in the past few months making decisions and putting myself into situations that did not always make me feel like an awesome person, and really, it was my fault and my decisions to be in those situations, but really, I want to say this now, for myself:

I’m pretty fucking awesome.

I regularly make people laugh out loud. I have interesting taste in television and books. I will listen to pretty much any music that anyone has ever liked, ever. I always compromise and try to make other people happy. I go out of my way to say nice things to people. I rarely get angry, and I think I take a lot of things in stride. I’m understanding. I work out regularly. I’m an amazing cook AND will offer to clean dishes. I’m a pretty excellent dancer, and I’m social at parties.

And if I’m being really honest with myself, I’m pretty good looking! I take care of myself. I spend an uncomfortable amount of money getting my hair cut, and I’m fairly stylish. I love my family and am (I’ve been told) an excellent friend. Other people’s parents love me, and I am excellent at giving running commentary to terrible television shows and movies. I work hard and have ambition.

I’m intelligent and can hold an interesting conversation. I will call you when something good happens to you and be the first one to suggest a celebration, and I will happily drink wine with you to cheer you up after a terrible day. I’m fairly clean, and I leave awesome messages on Facebook for people’s birthdays.

The Running Situation

My senior year of high school, my dad ran a half marathon.

For a lot of people, this is a big deal, but in my family, I now see it as sort of a pivot point – the point at which my parents’ lives went in this new and totally interesting direction. At the time, of course, I did not give it proper credit. I was pretty wrapped up in that whole “I’m 18 and my life and where I’m choosing to go to college is pretty much the most important thing that has ever happened in the history of all mankind, forever” thing. I remember seeing him lying on the couch at home afterwards, wrapped in a blanket, because even though it was April, Ohio had decided it would be an awesome time for some snow.

I said congratulations (I think), but really, I should have celebrated more. Up until I was in high school, my dad had always been moderately overweight. Not horribly, like a Biggest Loser contestant, but I would never have called him skinny, and I didn’t give that a second thought. That was just how my dad was. Then, when I was in high school, my dad started losing a ton of weight. And he started running. It culminated in his running a half-marathon. Again, I gave this very little thought at the time.

A year later, I was in college at BU, and I got to watch my uncle as he passed by my dorm in mile 25 of the Boston Marathon. My uncle had never run a marathon, but a series or circumstances – him being the weatherman on ABC and having the chance to run for a charity close to his heart – allowed him to do it, and he did. He finished the Boston Marathon.

His running Boston and my Dad running his half then inspired my mom to start running. When I went home the next fall, she would be out doing intervals in our neighborhood. When she started, she couldn’t run a mile.

This year, she ran her third marathon.

Again, at the time, I did not give any of this much thought, except that when my mom came up to Boston my Junior year of college to run the Tufts 10K, I felt vaguely guilty and out of shape. A year later, after several visits home during which I would roll out of bed at 10, only to encounter my parents coming in from a ridiculously long run, I finally felt guilty and out-of-shape enough to try to start running myself. I went with the Couch to 5K program, and it went pretty well for about a month. I would go running along the Charles, congratulating myself on how fit and dedicated I looked. I got up to jogging for about 5 minutes. Then the knee pain hit. Debilitating knee pain that made me limp home in shame and made walking up and down stairs for the next week or so extremely difficult. Bye-bye running.

For the next few years, my parents continued to kick-ass at running. When they moved to Delaware, my mom got a job at a gym, which led to her becoming a personal trainer and starting a local running club. My mom began to inspire adults to run, giving them tips, helping them train, and giving them the inspiration to start.

She also started coaching Girls on the Run, a program to help girls in 3rd-5th grade build confidence through training for and running a 5K. My parents ran several half-marathons before they needed a new challenge and decided to take on a full marathon – the Marine Corps Marathon, which my dad used to help run (as in facilitate) during his years as a Marine.

At this milestone for my parents, my guilt kicked in again, and I thought I’d give this running thing another try. Maybe that knee thing was a fluke, and as I’d been using my knee as an excuse to not run anymore, I thought, why don’t I just do it again to see what happens. I got four weeks in for the 2nd time before the knee pain popped back up again. I gave up again, and frankly, I was sort of happy to have an excuse as to why I couldn’t do it to use every time people would say “So are you a runner like your parents?”

I used that excuse until this past Spring, I suddenly, and happily, became extremely close to Christina. Christina is a runner – a logs Daily Miles on facebook daily, has run 3-marathons runner, but she hasn’t always been. She only started three years ago when we started teaching. She ran the SRLA program at her school and ran her first LA marathon. She reminded me of my mom in that way.

Around this time, I also heard that Nicole was training for a half marathon, and I know that Nicole was not a runner before this.

Suddenly, I felt stupid and lazy with my excuse. My knee hurt. So what? My parents had several injuries that they had gotten over. So has ANYONE who has ever run, ever. My excuse felt flimsy, and I was suddenly tired of telling stories of my parents’ awesome running lives to my friends with awesome running lives, instead of having any of my own besides “Oh, I don’t run. You know…knee pain and all.”

So I started the Coach to 5K again, for a third time. I pretty much had the first 5 weeks memorized at this point. And at about a month and a half in, without fail, my knee pain came screaming back, but this time, I wasn’t secretly relieved. I was pissed off. I wanted to join this elusive running club of which I had never been able to gain entry. I wanted to punch this knee pain in the face. So I did.

I finally went to see a sports doctor who diagnosed my injury in 2.5 seconds and gave me a way to fix it. Two weeks later, I was easing back into running, pain free. Four weeks later, I ran for 20 minutes without stopping – the longest I have ever run in my life. And I couldn’t wait to call my mom and tell her.

This week, on the eve of attempting to run for 25 minutes, I signed up for a 5k and had my mom make me a training plan to work up to running a half-marathon in the Spring. Christina has been cheering me on all week. When I get back, I’ll probably ask Nicole to show me some running trails by our apartment. I finally feel part of the club.

I didn’t write a post this week about what I’m thankful for because it felt like it would be cliche and sound like everyone else’s. I’m of course thankful for my friends and family, but today, I am specifically thankful for having such inspiring, motivating, helpful and encouraging friends and family.

If my dad, my uncle, my mom, Christina, and Nicole hadn’t put on shoes, walked outside and started to run, despite the fact that they had never done it before, despite the fact that it was hard, I never would have done it…three times. I would have given up and been fine with that, but seeing them do it and keep doing it, I realized I wasn’t fine with giving up. I wanted the joy, the frustration, the pain, and the triumph of running too. So, thanks you guys! I wouldn’t be doing this without you.

The Life Situation

So here I am. Still alive after all these months. Who would’ve thought? I certainly wouldn’t have thought that I would be sitting here in November, single, living in my own apartment, questioning my next step, having accomplished none of the goals I set out for myself in my last post what seems like a life-time ago but well on my way to accomplishing new goals and being totally fine with all of that.

While my life on paper looks pretty much like it did before, there are some minor changes. Still Teaching For America, though as an official alumnus now and not as an active Corps Member, and I did move up a grade with my kiddos. Plus, I joined the TFA staff bandwagon, working at their Summer Institute this past summer, which was both the most ridiculously tiring and stressful and most ridiculously fun job I’ve ever had.

Still living in LA, but I made the move from my super trendy, Grove-adjacent neighborhood, to a less trendy, more quiet, much much much closer to work neighborhood within walking distance of Nicole and Drea. Also, I’m living alone for the first time, which was mildly terrifying at first (like double-checking the locks every night before I went to sleep and then getting up again after 10 minutes of being almost asleep to check them again terrifying), but now that I can come home, sit in silence while watching a DVR full of shows that only I have taped, I’m starting to enjoy it. Plus, I get to feel all adult and accomplished when I do crazy things like unclog my shower drain after being annoyed with the standing water for a month. (That’s an adult thing right?)

And there was that whole, I was in a long-term relationship and now am not thing…which I’m fine with. I’ve had a crazy single summer and have been spending more time brunching, dancing, and just generally hanging out with my amazing friends and some new amazing friends, all of whom say I’m way more fun than I was last year, so I’m going to call it a win. Also, I may be contemplating joining a synagogue just to meet new cute Jewish boys, which I think God would be totally fine with…so maybe I’m not totally fine with being single, but I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts.

The other big change is that I’m thinking I may be done with teaching after this year. While I certainly don’t hate it, I’m starting to feel the “wow, I’m actually completely burned out” feeling, which may have something to do with that ridiculously tiring summer job and the fact that I”m teaching a new grade/subject for the third year in a row, and have thus never been able to reuse any of the work I’ve done for the past two years, and yeah….

I’m feeling a little done, which means I need to now have that whole WHAT THE HECK AM I GOING TO DO NOW conversation in my mind for the next 8 months, which in turn means a lot of grad school applications, TFA staff applications, and web searches for jobs in theater education to see what comes up. So you’re welcome for the slew of angsty, where-do-I-want-my-life-to-go posts that will be coming your way in the next few months.

The Problem with Blogging

I’ve always been a pretty self-reflective, always dreaming up extremely vivid images of what kind of life I want to lead and what kind of person I want to be. I think blogging has factored into this a lot in the past few years. Blogs constantly expose you to a multitude of life choices, crazy adventures, and differing attitudes. In a weird way, it was reading blogs – mom blogs and blogs of people working for themselves, in particular – that made me realize I didn’t want to work in entertainment, because I wanted a more “regular” life, and that influence hasn’t gone away yet. Being constantly exposed to other people’s lives in this way allows me to see how other people are living on a weekly basis and see if they are living the kind of life I want for myself.

The problem with this, and with me, really, is that I have terrible “grass is greener” syndrome. Even as I’ve been happy with my life, I’m always seeing the awesome, cool, interesting, and exotic things OTHER people are doing. I see people eating at amazing restaurants, going on hot air balloon rides, creating a ball-pit in their living room, traveling the world, staring their own businesses, decorating adorable apartments, getting married, going to grad school…I see all these things, and I think, THOSE are the types of things I want – the interesting lives with the new, small adventures, with the adorable outfits and the Etsy adorned apartment and the fun, entrepreneurial new job….

Lately, I’ve come to realize, however, that what we see on blogs is SUCH a small slice of people’s lives, and not just any slice, the slice people *choose* to share with the world. We sometimes see the struggles, but always protected and monitored, always as a small chunk of the image. We don’t see the daily grind, the annoying traffic, the family frustrations, the utter heartbreaks, and the boring days. The more bloggers I’ve met in real the life, the more evident this has become to me. As much as we know and share with each other, we don’t know that much *just* from reading blogs. People are doing these fun, cool, adventurous things, but they are also living real life. Just like I am.

With this realization, it has been my mission to think about how my life could (or would) be perceived (if I actually blogged about it on a regular basis, that is), and what people may see in me, when you take away all that daily grind crap.

My blog would show that I love my job, stress and crazy kids and all. It would show that I have a great adorable teacher boyfriend who loves me. It would show that I do go on some crazy adventures, like hitting up Disneyland with these lovely folks and having a heart attack on Space Mountain, like going with my best friend to see Maroon 5 at the Greek theater, and like going with my hilarious co-workers to Drag Bingo in West Hollywood. It would show that I do have some cute Etsy jewelry. I do go to fun restaurants that have been featured on “The Best Thing I ever Ate,” and even though it isn’t super decorated, I do have a pretty sweet apartment.

Someone reading would look at my life and not see the disorganized room, the hour of me in sitting (and screaming) in traffic, the pain of getting up at 5AM, and the lack of decoration in my apartment, but they would see someone who has a pretty good life. And it is definitely the life I want.

Rash Decisions and Life Plans

Looking back on some of the major turning points of my life, I realize most of them have come out of rash decisions. Momentary whims that turned into life paths and completely new directions.

Rash decision one: Give up theater, after a life time of dance classes, voice lessons, summer theater camps, and a performing arts high school, after a terrible college program audition (complete with crying phone meltdown to my mother) and a comment from my high school drama/playwriting teacher that my play read more like a sitcom. Instead of pursuing an BFA in Musical Theater (which I could not have done solely due to lack of necessary talent…) or even a BA in Theater Studies, I decided to major in Television and Film with the new dream of writing for Television. It was quasi based on my lifetime love of television, but looking back, it was also quasi reactionary. Even so, that decision shaped the next four years of my life.

Rash decision number two: Apply to be a counselor at a Jewish summer camp. A completely random decision a the time, having never attended camp myself. It came up after a third or forth viewing of the MTV Documentary “Fat Camp” with my friend Nick my second semester of college, during which I talked about how I almost went to sleep away Jew camp as a kid, but chickened out at the last minute.

I thought about how I had nothing to do that summer and about how much fun I’d had the summer before working at a Performing Arts Day camp, and how I’d always secretly wished I had just sucked it up and GONE to camp that summer, so I, of course, randomly started researching and applying to Jewish summer camps in the Midwest. I heard back from several, got hired at one, and proceeded to have the best two summers of my life 20 minutes outside of Cleveland, Ohio, which in turn led to both my amazing Australian adventure with my two camp BFF’s and my third rash decision.

Rash decision number three: Apply to Teach for America. After my second semester junior year experience of interning and hating life in LA, I felt lost. My rash decision to major in TV was looking like an epic failure after discovering I didn’t, in fact, enjoy working in television, and I had no idea what to do with my life. The only vague thought I had was to maybe apply to Emerson to study Theater Education and circle back to my original love of theater and my new found (Thanks to Camp!) love of working with kids.

I doubted I would get in, however, with my limited camp experience teaching drama one summer and my one vaguely related to education class, the Politics of Education. Then I saw one of those pesky recruitment signs touting the (horrifying) statistics about low-income schools, which reminded me of all the things I learned were broken in the education system in my one education class. I went to an info meeting, told my mom I was thinking about applying, and filled out the application in a day, figuring I would let fate decide, since I didn’t really have faith in my decision making skills at the time. Then a funny thing happened. Fate decided I should be a teacher.

And that’s where I am now. One year into my two-year commitment to TFA, which is when everyone in TFA starts asking “What are you going to do next Spring when you finish?” They, of course, are asking so they can steer you into staying in education, thus fulfilling step two of their two-part plan to close the education gap. And for the first time in a while, I’m not feeling like making a rash decision that will throw me in a completely different direction.

Maybe it’s just because my life is going pretty well right now that I don’t feel like changing it and, eventually one small blip will send me looking at law school applications, but for now, for the first time ever, I’ve drafted out a plan for the next five years of my life, based on where I am now right now. It’s weird to write out where I want to be five years into the future, because for the last five years, my plans have been changing and evolving on a regular basis.

There has never been a constant, because I have always felt unsure, like I wasn’t good enough to act or I wasn’t cut-throat enough for Hollywood. It’s kind of scary to feel stable and to plan, because I have a history of planning and then pursuing those plans only to chuck them out the window and do something totally different. I even wrote my college admissions essay about how I did this, and after that, I changed my mind again!

But maybe those rash decisions were all just leading me here, to the place I was supposed to end up. I just had to make those giant, seemingly random leaps because I wasn’t going to get to this place fast enough unless I made mistakes, took on random jobs and left a few things up to fate.

Maybe planning just feels scary, because, as I’ve seen, life doesn’t go according to plan, and I’m just afraid to fail. In the past, as my plans have changed or been only a few months ahead of me, I’ve never technically failed. I’ve gotten everything I’ve really tried to do. I don’t know how I would handle it if I made this plan, went for it with all I had, and then didn’t succeed.

Then again, life is scary and unpredictable, as I’ve seen, and I might fail, but I think I need to focus on the fact that right now, in this moment, I’m so incredibly grateful that I made those decisions, and that life, unpredictably, brought me here to this place where I can make plans for my future, because when I think of what my life would have been had I not made those random, rash decisions, I wouldn’t have all the life experience that is now factoring into my plans. I guess I just have to trust that even if life doesn’t go according to the plan, it can still lead you to a good place.

Home is where…I live right now?

I’ve never really known where home was. We moved so much when I was growing up, I never had a home base or a home town. The sports teams I follow are from PIttsburgh. My best friends from my childhood are from Alabama. My high school diploma is from Ohio, and I spent the last four years living in Boston.

When I say I’m “going home” for the week, what I really mean is “I’m going to where my parents live.” Right now, that is Delaware. I lived here for a couple months after graduating last year, but I don’t have any friends here. I have no old hang-outs to visit, and I basically hang out with my parents and work-out at the JCC when I come here. It’s not home, except for the idea that home is where my parents live.

When I told people I was coming to Delaware this week, I said I was going home for the week, but being here and in Pittsburgh at a family reunion for the weekend, I realized, I’m not at home. I love my parents more than anything, and emotionally, yes, whenever I am in their house, I will feel some sense of home, but I had a surprising realization last night.

When I fly back to LA on Wednesday, I’ll be going home. I’ll be going to the place I feel like I truly belong at this point in my life. I’ll be going to the little home I’ve created with my best friends in our apartment. I’ll be going to the place where I can grab dinner and a movie with my sister at a moments notice. I’ll be going to the place I can drive around without thinking. I’ll be going to the place I feel comfortable and happy and settled. I’ll be going to the place I can’t imagine moving from any time soon, which is exactly the opposite of how I thought I would ever feel about Los Angeles.

The first time I lived there, I thought it was pretentious and loud and too spread out and too sunny. (Odd, I know.) Now, I’ve embraced and conquered (at times) the traffic. I’ve made amazing friends who always keep me busy when I want to be. I’ve found a job I’m (almost) really good at and that I feel fulfilled in. I’ve learned to love the constant sunny and 70 degree weather. I’ve found an apartment that feels cozy and comfortable and (almost) decorated, and I’ve found (for now) a guy who indulges me in seeing Toy Story 3, takes me to Dodgers games, enjoys hanging out and doing nothing but watching movies and eating pizza, and who doesn’t make me feel nervous or self-conscious or crazy about anything I do, say, or feel.

I’ve had a great weekend with my family, revisiting my favorite childhood theme park, Kennywood, hanging out at a waterpark with my cousins, and dancing to a super local Pittsburgh band at a hotel bar with all my aunts and uncles, but I am really excited to go home.