Today is Mountain Day!

What is Mountain Day? It is one of the many traditions of Smith College. The president of the College declares a day off from school. The bells ring early in the morning, announcing the expectations that students take the day off to enjoy the beauty of a New England fall–the crisp blue sky, the sparkling colors. We are encouraged to go hike, picnic, wander in the mountains–anything but crack open a book or do any work. I don’t know that I took full advantage of Mountain Days when I was at Smith, and I wish I had.

Now the tradition has been extended, as Smith takes advantage of Social Networking and announces to all the alumnae that today is Mountain Day. Every Smith alumna I am in contact with on Facebook has had something to say, and each of us admit to wishing we could really take a Mountain Day. I think everybody deserves a Mountain Day once in a while, but sadly we lose that when faced with the reality of working in our country. To mix some metaphors; we get on the treadmill and feel like we cannot stop to get off and jump in the leaves instead.

I think that I am going to make it a goal in my life to have a mountain once a year. I know that isn’t always possible, but it is definitely worth trying. Anyone care to join me? If so, I’ll see you in the mountains.

What is Racism? I Simply Don’t Understand

 

August Wilson Side Door Mural On The Iroquois ...

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I was all excited to teach my theatre appreciation class. I had chosen a play for the class to read as an example of how a playwright will use his/her own experiences as well as historical and social contexts to write a play. I chose the Tony Award-nominated Joe Turner’s Come and Gone by August Wilson. I gave them some background on August Wilson, his inspirations for the play, and some historical facts about the time period. I thought that was all good.

We re reading it out loud, and we come to the n-word. I apologized in advance, acknowledging the word, but reminding them of the historical context. A black student (the class is only 6 people, two blacks, one Hispanic) stopped our reading and said, “I’m uncomfortable reading this. You could have chosen a different play knowing there were black students in the class.” (Note, the older black woman was not in class today). I was shocked. I apologized and stopped the reading, asking them to read it at home. I explained my reasons behind the choice, but it didn’t matter.

I didn’t say this to him, but I kept thinking, “You are objecting to a play by a prominent black playwright about the black experience because it contains the n-word?”

Am I supposed to pick plays only written by dead white men then? I can’t do that.

Was my choice a racist choice? I did choose the play with those students in mind, because I believe that its important to see that plays aren’t just written by white men. I always chose culturally diverse plays. Is that choice racist because I am choosing things outside my own culture? If that is true, then should I only choose plays written by white, Jewish women? It’s possible to do that, but my options become very limited.

Please help me understand.

Making a Living; Making a Life

I have been thinking a lot lately about the difference between making a living and making a life. I know that we all need money, to some degree. We all need to make a living; to put food on the table, to pay for some sort of shelter, to supply our basic needs.

But if making a living is just doing those things, then are we truly making a life?

I am in this strange limbo where my choices for making a living seem to be rather limited. There are a number of reasons behind this; the economy, location, and (most disturbingly) over-education. So, I have been working on ways to turn things I love the most in life into a way of supporting life.

I love words. I love creativity. I love collaboration. I love learning. I love organization. I love variety.

These are all things that make life worth living, but are they all things that can help make a living? That is where my struggle lies; how does one turn passion into money without it losing something in the translation?

How does one turn making a living into making a life?

I know that I will find a way. I also know that it will take time. I fear, however, that it takes more courage than I currently have. I am lost in limbo at the moment. Does anyone have the map that will guide me out?

Putting it All in Perspective

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A friend of mine just told me a couple of stories that have put a whole new spin on my thinking. One of her students just lost her mother to a skating accident. She lost a student to a boating accident a few years ago. My heart breaks for my friend, those children, and their families. At the same time, it makes me recognize that my current trials and tribulations can be overcome. I may not know where I am heading, or what is around the next bend in the road. I may not have a straight line to employment or any guarantees (especially in our economy) but I have never completely hit rock bottom, and I don’t plan too. My husband and daughter are healthy and thriving, even if not perfectly happy. I still have friends all across the world. I have my creativity,  my passion, my intelligence, and a whole lot of love. Put all these things together, and the journey is a great one.

Thank you, my dear friend, for sharing those stories.

Endings and Beginnings

How do you know when it is time for something to end? When is it time to give up and admit that you’ve fought a good fight, but it is time to move on?

I guess I’m looking at endings as negative things. But maybe endings are really positive, because they are what comes before new beginnings.

But if that is true, why do endings hurt so much?

Cultural Divide

Singing with the man.

A young American woman moves to Japan in the early days of her adulthood; a country whose ways and traditions are completely different from her own.

During the first few days there, she meets a man; a native of that world. They slowly break through the language barrier and, over weeks, become friends.

Except the woman, who is pretty naive when it comes to relationships, thinks she is falling in love.

All around them, couples are pairing off.  Many of his native friends connect with her gaijin (foreign) friends.  Fast forward a few years, and most of those couples are married.

But the two don’t get together. Something is preventing them. Is it her? Is it him?

They spend one night alone together in her apartment. They cuddle, and snuggle, and talk . . . but nothing more. During that night she begins to realize that he does have feelings for her, but he won’t let those feelings go anywhere because he believes the cultural differences are too big. He doesn’t think they can be overcome.

A year passes, and they continue to be close. When it is time for her to leave, he gives her a present (a stuffed animal that she will treasure always) and tells her the truth. His truth. He admits to caring about her, but that he couldn’t let go that she was gaijin. He couldn’t see past the cultural divide.

She returned a few months later. Same town, new job.  She was determined to let him go, and get control of her own feelings. She spent less time where he was, and concentrated on new friends.

She hooked up (briefly) with another gaijin, but she was not in love with him. When the Japanese man found out, he said “I knew it had to be a gaijin. If it was a Japanese, it would have been me.” Her heart shattered in a zillion pieces.

Flash forward to now, years later. The young woman, now married to a wonderful man (who happens to be Japanese/Korean American) finds herself again on soil that seems foreign to all she is used to. Except this time she is in her own country. She feels as different as she did when she was truly a gaijin.

In this state, she lies in bed and reflects on her first true experience with loving and being loved. She wonders, what if? What if she had tried to make him cross the divide? What if he had been willing to look past her American ways. In her heart she knows, it would never have worked. But is that because of the cultural divide or something else?

In a flash of clarity she recognizes the truth. Her truth. The thing that divided them, and to this day makes connecting with people a challenge for her, has nothing to do with culture. It has to do with herself.

Passing the Buck: Human Nature, Society’s Destroyer

 

Some Words to Live by - Street Sign, Capital H...

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Listening to NPR this morning, I had an epiphany. The world is completely screwed up because nobody wants to take responsibility for their own actions.

This started when I heard the story about BP putting the blame on its subcontractors (Transocean and Halliburton) for the oil spill. Come on, people! Yes, I’m sure both those companies hold some responsibility. I mean after all, they are all greedy corporations. But who holds ultimate responsibility when something goes wrong? Shouldn’t it be the supervising agent for not properly supervising? I mean, when an accident happens to a worker, that worker does share responsibility for that accident, but so do the people who didn’t set up proper safety precautions.

When something goes wrong, nobody wants to take the blame; but ultimately it will fall on the person or group with the fewest resources. In the BP case, money has the potential to win as it usually does. In other situations, the one who will get the blame will be the one who has the weakest support system

That’s a sad state of being.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do the same thing. I think it is human nature to want to push the blame for life’s challenges and failures on someone or something else. Even in religions, when something goes wrong it is often easy to say well that’s God’s will. If it is God’s will, then we are again passing the buck, not taking the blame. My own daughter, will blame inanimate objects for her own clumsiness or lack of attention. Again, not taking responsibility.

What if we all took responsibility for everything we do? What if we truly lived by the Golden Rule, and respected others as well as the earth? What would happen if a big company like BP would actually take full responsibility for the disaster it caused? I know that BP faces criminal action, law suits, and huge fines. But, if they don’t take responsibility, will they survive anyway? I’ll never buy gas there again. Of course, I’m a tiny molecule in the giant picture; but if they would just try to make amends and take responsibility it would be a whole different picture.

What it comes down to is this–each of us, as individuals needs to stop passing the buck and take responsibility for ourselves. Only by doing that, can we hope to truly change the world. Of course, all I can do, is try to live this concept myself, as well as instill it into my daughter.

I wish I had more to offer.

The So-Called “Real World”

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What is the “real world” of which people speak?

When you graduate from high school, people say now it is time to move into the real world. But then you go to college, and that is definitely not real.

When you graduate college, people say “welcome to the real world.” But then, if you are like me, you search for the job, the life, the home, the career that makes you feel real. My search continues to this day, and I’ve been out of college for a long time.

Does the world become real when you get married? Or have children? Sometimes I feel that those facts are the most surreal of the real. For me, while family is comfort, it is also this bizarre commitment to be with people even when sometimes that may not feel right. Watching my daughter grow sometimes feels like watching a stranger infused with growing and learning magic. Some days seem real, but others seem like I’m walking in a story of somebody else’s making. This does not mean that I don’t love my family, I do, but if this defines reality than I don’t know what is real.

Is going to work part of the real world? There are days when it feels like all we do is eat, sleep, poop, and work. The work never ends. Even for someone like me, who often has multiple short-term projects going on, it sometimes feels like an endless cycle. Is this what reality is all about?

I don’t believe in the real world, anymore. I think it is a term created by people who want to define reality in one certain way. Just like those in our country who believe that we all have to live  speaking the same language, believing the same things, not deviating from the “norm.” I’ve never agreed with those people. I’ll never be normal. Actually, I think that here is no norm. There is no reality.

As of this moment, I am embracing my non-real world. I don’t quite know what that means, but I believe that I have to carve out a life for myself (and my family) that truly makes me happy. I cannot let “real world” things, like work, money, etc. suck all of the joy out of living. It is simply not worth it.

The Journey

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“The Journey is the reward” I’ve been thinking about that quote ever since I saw it engraved in an overpass in Wichita, KS the other day. I realize that, despite the fact that my life so far has been a wondrous journey, I have to train myself to live by this quote. For some reason, whether it has been taught to me or is ingrained in my personality, I seem to always pursue outside vindication. If I don’t get the award, the accolades, or the recognition than I view my life as a failure. But, if I can change my mindset to view the journey as the reward, then my life would be completely different and every day would be a joy. Even the simple days where nothing really happens can be part of the journey. My time here, on this bizarre adventure to Kansas will simply be part of my life’s journey; part of the untold but rewarding story that is me. Now, the question is how to really make myself focus on that? How do I let go of this need to be recognized and rewarded by external factors? How do I truly learn to embrace the journey?

Maybe I need to remind myself where this journey has taken me so far:

  • I learned my passion for words (reading, writing, and spoken) at an early age, and I still value them.
  • I learned my love for languages at an early age. Since then I have studied Japanese, French, Spanish, Hebrew, and a smattering of other languages. I can learn more, and that will be a reward.
  • I lived on my own in Japan for three years, and I thrived there.
  • I wanted to be a director, and I have been a director. So what if I’m not famous. I’ve been privileged to work on some wonderful productions (as well as some not so wonderful ones) with passionate, creative people . . . that is a reward.
  • I have always been empathetic and that has led me in so many directions as a mentor and a friend. While I may find it difficult to meet new people (I am secretly shy) my true friends are treasures that I value. They are the people who will stay with me for the rest of my life, even if time and distance separate us.
  • I have learned that I can do anything that I set my mind to. My journey has taken so many twists and turns, and I cannot see clearly where it is heading. But, with each challenge I’ve learned new skills, and embraced everything. I may not have loved every task assigned to me, but I do love learning new things, and not being limited to one label. My reward is flexibility, and that is something I will treasure always.
  • I’ve always wanted to write. I have now had a few articles published. I have also written several stories and poems that have yet to find a home. My proudest moment was completing my book for middle grade readers. It may never get published, but those I have shared it with love it. And, I am proud of myself for doing it. I believe the next part of my journey will include another venture into writing, even if I don’t know where it will take me. The words are the reward.
  • I found someone kind and caring, who loves me despite my insecurities and general craziness. Together we have created a wonderful little girl who has the potential to live an incredible journey herself. I hope that she learns to embrace the journey, but I know she won’t if I don’t truly embrace it.

When I look at my life this way, I see that I have lived an incredible one. There have been ups and downs. There has been good and bad. There have been times of boredom and times of excitement.  I’ve faced sadness and I’ve lived joy. My journey is not over –it has truly just begun. That IS my reward.