Mutations (Reflections on Life)

What If There Is No Love Story?

Image Courtesy of Dreamstime.com

Image Courtesy of Dreamstime.com

“Be careful. Trust, but verify.”

Those were my mother’s words of advice when I asked her about dating and how to go about choosing a husband. (In the future. No one have a coronary.) We were sitting in the kitchen discussing Wendy Williams’ opinions on celebrity relationship gossip (and laughing about how she’s made a huge living doing it) when the conversation turned to more relatable relationships.

“That’s it?” I asked. I was somewhat disappointed. We didn’t really do this girl talk thing very often and I was excited to see where this road might lead. Neither one of us is particularly known for having a lack of strong opinions on an array of subjects, and I was expecting something more along the lines of her typical matter-of-fact mixture of brutal honesty, comedy, and wisdom.

“Yeah,” she said, continuing to face the counter, with her back turned away from me, slicing away at raw chicken cutlets.

I decided to fish some more.

“How did you and daddy start dating?” I asked.

My parents got divorced when I was about 7 or 8. So, I remember how it ended, but I was curious about how it had begun. I knew that my parents had met at work and had gotten married the year before I was born, but that was pretty much the extent of my knowledge. My mother basically repeated that refrain.

“Yeah, I know that,” I said. “But how did you start dating? Did he ask you out? Were you friends for a while? Did you talk at work?”

“I guess so. Honestly, I don’t really remember. That was more than 20 years ago at this point,” was all I got in return.

It was like rushing down to open your gifts on Christmas morning as a kid and unwrapping a handkerchief.

“You don’t remember how you began dating the man you married? The father of your only child?” I thought.

You might remember that I’ve told you about a fellow writer friend of mine whose blog I admire. Well, right now she’s in the middle of writing this amazing dating series in which she recounts many of her relationships and dating experiences and the lessons she’s learned from them along the way. (After you finish reading this, go check her series out. You won’t be sorry.) In these recollections, she describes everything from the first words the guy spoke to her to the melody her heart played when he walked away.

Granted, she is much younger than my mother and her encounters did not take place as long ago. My mom is also not a writer so she may not capture and catalog events and emotions in quite the same way that we do. Still, she was a woman with a catalog of her own and I was having a hard time believing that these were the extent of her memories and impressions of her early relationship with my father.

So I continued. “Well, what did you like about him? Did you think he was cute?”

“Yeah, I thought he was a pretty good-looking guy,” she offered, with the nonchalance of a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese added to a plate of fettuccine alfredo. “He had gone to school, was working, building a career, wasn’t running the streets, didn’t smoke or drink or anything like that.”

I remember when I used to try to get my mom’s permission to let me go somewhere or do something, particularly as a teenager. “Please?” I would beg. “I’m an excellent student. I do my chores, I don’t smoke, drink, or do drugs. I don’t have any children. I’m a good kid.”

She would give me a complex look mixed with amusement (at my sad attempt at negotiation) and indifference. “And?” she would say. “You want a reward for doing what you’re supposed to do? For not doing what you’re not supposed to do anyway?”

That is exactly the look I gave her as she listed her reasons for deciding to date my father. On the surface, it was a good list: education (check), job (check), no addictions (check), a lack of a criminal record (check), and kinda cute (maybe a check plus). I’m grateful that she managed to check those things off her list because I know that not everyone manages to do even that much. But I was concerned with more than just the surface.

Because I’m not entirely obtuse, it occurred to me that this might have been a sore subject for her. After all, how many people like talking about their former feelings for their ex-husband? But I didn’t get the feeling that she was holding back or being sensitive. As I thought back on her advice about how I should conduct my own search for a husband (“Be careful. Trust, but verify.”), I realized that that just might be her approach to relationships: practical. And in a world where so much of the information that we’re fed about relationships isn’t wise or practical, I think that practicality is absolutely necessary.

But I wanted to know if he had used a corny pick-up line. I wanted to know if she’d immediately liked his accent or was intrigued by his thoughts about Kant when he told her he’d studied philosophy. I wanted to know if he’d called when he said he would when she gave him her number or if she’d waited by the phone in anticipation (but knowing my mother,  it probably wasn’t the latter).  I wanted to know if she’d loved him. If she’d felt that he loved her.

I didn’t react the way that I’ve seen and heard that most children react to the news of their parents getting divorced. I wasn’t devastated. I remember getting a speech about them splitting up but that I should be sure to note that that didn’t affect their love for me (like something straight out of a TV movie). I wasn’t really fazed at the time. “Okay, okay,” I remember thinking. “Can I go watch Arthur now?” As you can probably tell from this post, I didn’t have any grand images or visions about my parents’ great love for one another that was suddenly ending. My mom had always been my main caregiver, and well, parent, and my main concern was that I’d be staying with her. For some reason, I had been aware of what custody battles were from watching TV. As soon as I was assured that there wasn’t going to be one of those, I was good. Honestly.

And right now, today, in my early twenties, I’m still not devastated. I realize that, in many cases, divorce is necessary and it was necessary for my parents. Yet, right now, today, and sitting at that kitchen table in my early twenties, I wanted to know that I had been the product of love. Because I remember how it ended, and even how it was, but I don’t know how it began.

Maybe it was never butterflies and horse-and-carriage rides through Central Park. I’m not that naive. Maybe nothing is.

Or maybe it was just what she said it was. And nothing more. And maybe that was love. Maybe it wasn’t.

I think of all the children who are products of affairs, one-night stands, broken condoms, or rape, and I wonder if it really matters. I wonder if I’m asking for too much. I wonder how I’ll know what to ask for if I don’t know what it looks like.

What if there is no love story? What if just we, as the children of our parents, as mere vessels of existence, are the stories, and that’s it? What if it’s up to us to write whatever other stories we’d like to read, even if it’s just from our imaginations?

I guess all we can really do is to be careful. Trust, but verify.

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Mutations (Reflections on Life)

Lessons From My Younger Self: On Looking Back in Order To Move Forward

Photo Courtesy Of Wikimedia Commons

Photo Courtesy Of Wikimedia Commons

I recently found a box of my old notebooks, writing folders, and diaries. In it, I found entries and drafts of poems that I had written ranging from when I was as young as thirteen years old to when I was a sophomore in college. I’d come across scribbles of a first draft of a poem that I’d eventually ended up performing and marvel at how much the piece had ultimately changed. I’d shudder at the clever turn of a phrase or at the intensity of my own long-forgotten or purposefully tucked away emotion and think, “I wrote that? Wow.” or “Ughhhh, why in the world did I write that?” As I looked through them, I could feel the nostalgia running through my bloodstream. It wasn’t so much nostalgia for those times, as much as it was nostalgia for the girl I used to be: creative, innovative, bold.  I realized that I miss me.

Anyone who knows the current me may be a bit confused. Maybe they would still describe me as “creative, innovative, and bold.” But it’s not the same. I’m not who I used to be. For so many years, I’ve been on this path of “achievement”: school, school again, and soon my profession. And I’ve always been on this path, but it didn’t always take up as much of me. Or maybe it used to seem more compatible with my other interests.

I recently told a fellow writer friend of mine that I admired how open she was with the readers on her blog. I told her I was always wary of what and how much to share because of all the warnings I’ve heard about professionalism and how your social media presence can affect your career. But I never really thought about the impact that my career would have on my artistry, and in turn, my identity. I’ve written before about my difficulties balancing these different areas of my life, but this year I’ve resolved to actually do something about it.

Reading through my old diaries and notebooks also showed me change that I’m satisfied with. I saw the names of people who had taken up pages and pages in my diary, people to whom I haven’t spoken in years. Some of this distance happened by choice; some of it happened with time and circumstance. My mom has always told me that “people come into your life for a reason and for a season,” and I realized that she was right. Some people who used to be fixtures in my daily life were now names in an old record, and I was okay with that.

Not everything was different though. I saw names that I’d previously written about who are still fixtures in my life, some who had previously been more supporting characters and who over time had moved into more central roles. In a diary entry from when I was 15, I reflected on how much I loved The Diary of Anne Frank (which is still one of my all-time favorite books) and how much I could relate to many of Anne’s teenage sentiments. I quoted the following line from the book as a refrain that I had felt was applicable to my own life, “They keep telling me I should talk less, mind my own business, and be more modest, but I seem doomed to failure.”

“I thought that was just me,” I had written in response.

I laughed out loud as I read that line again recently.

“Some things never change,” I thought.

I also read an entry where I complained about me reaching out to people more than they reached out to me. To this day, I’m still trying to find the right balance between reaching and the respect and reciprocity that I expect and deserve.

This free-write from my teen-something self reflects the self-assuredness (with a little creative bravado thrown in) that I was beginning to develop at that point (can you tell that the theme was writing?):

I speed past on a shiny soliloquy

Thoughts transporting me through my day so fast that all you see is punctuation

There are no periods in my world

Just commas, colons, semi-colons, exclamation points, and question marks

Syllables for speed bumps

I don’t see the signs–I make them

Then ignore them

What are traffic laws to a New Yorker?

I write the rage on the road you walk on

Radiant, radical run-ons with no end in sight

My poetic license can never be suspended

I have the write of way every day–every block’s mine

I blow my horn at inaudible decibel levels 

So you never hear me coming

But the impact’s always lethal

So don’t get hit

Cause I don’t yield to pedestrians

Wowww. Aren’t you glad I’m not a teen anymore? I am.

Much of that girl that still resonates with me. She has grown, matured, gained some finesse. This year is about figuring out how to make that girl and the young professional woman forming in my mirror compatible. As I continue to find my way through this maze called adulthood, I hope to find a way to merge the things I miss with the things I must do.

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Mutations (Reflections on Life)

So, a woman approaches the patient who shares a room with me, identifies herself as a volunteer who wants to identify issues she can help with. The patient then states her name and extends her hand to shake the woman’s.

The woman immediately looks panicked and retreats her hand. I shoot her the ultimate judgment stare and she re-extends her hand to shake the patient’s. “I’ll wash it afterwards,” I hear her mutter underneath her breath.

Really? I am so sick and tired of people not wanting to be tainted by the grime of whatever they claim to be interested in or committed to. I understand not wanting to be or get sick, but how in the world can you insult the very same people you claim to want to help? This is not Grey’s Anatomy. This is real life.

As a law student, I have to say that the same logic applies for wanting to work as a public interest lawyer: you can’t say you want to work with poor people, then dog their situations, intellect, neighborhoods, or anything. Or patronize them.

You want to defend someone from that hood you won’t dare walk into? Oh okay. You introduce yourself as a volunteer at a hospital and won’t shake a person’s hand. Great.

That kind of hypocrisy does not help people.

Rant From My Hospital Bed

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Mutations (Reflections on Life)

1L, 1W: Reflections on Completing My First Year of Law School

Law School Textbooks

Law School Textbooks (Photo credit: Jesse Michael Nix)

Being the pensive, sometimes overly-sensitive, semi-nerd, stereotypical artist-type that I am, at the end of my freshman year in college, I wrote a reflection on the lessons I’d learned that year. I intended to record my personal growth that year, and then they became amazing reminders of my overall personal growth so I continued all the way through graduation.They started out as Facebook notes, (remember those?) and then last year I decided to move the reflection to my blog. Given the whirlwind personal, academic, mental, and emotional year this transition from undergrad to law school has been, I could not let the tradition die. So, complete with quotes from cases that stood out to me (not in the correct citation format, of course, because I won’t be studying the Bluebook until much later this weekend to prepare for the Writing Competition), here are the lessons I’ve learned this year:

1. “Liberty must include the freedom not to conform.” Justice Brennan, Michael H. v. Gerald D. The most important lesson I learned this year was how to maintain myself in the midst of a lot of things that were “not me.” Like any other profession or activity, there is a legal “culture” that I was understandably oblivious to before I came to law school. There are traditions, expectations, priorities, rules, and values that I had to figure out a way (and am still figuring out a way) to make comport with my own.

I had to remember my voice, my perspective, and the importance of others like it, that don’t always get the chance to be heard. Those voices are the reason I came to law school. So, I had to figure out how to keep those voices in the midst of many other different voices. I had to combine my creative writing style with the required legal writing style. I had to keep my passion while displaying my pragmatism.

Even outside of the classroom, I had to figure out how to maintain a balance between doing the things that make me me and doing the things that I was required to get done. I decided that I want “attorney” to be what I do and not necessarily who I am, so I really had to ask myself what I was chasing and why I was chasing it. As much as I thought I had mastered the art of work/life balance–undergrad is work hard, play hard, right?–this year showed me otherwise. I had never had to do anything that required my attention, in some shape or form, seven days a week (especially first semester). It was physically and mentally exhausting at times, and I literally had to learn to remember myself. I had to eat when I was hungry, sleep when I was sleepy, and watch Scandal and Friends reruns when I was finished.

Interestingly, while I hadn’t had the work or life experience of some of my peers, throughout the year I felt like every experience I had ever had prepared me for law school. I might not have been a paralegal, but my creative writing helped me with my legal writing. The time I’d spent on stages singing and/or performing poems made oral arguments and getting called on at random a lot less stressful. Most importantly, the people I had behind me, the memories I had, and the tough lessons I’ve learned about myself and the world before I got to this point all gave me the confidence and the motivation that I needed to keep going. So, ironically, I found that by remembering myself I was able to push myself forward.

2. “The timorous may stay at home.” -Judge Cardozo, Murphy v. Steeplechase Amusement Co. aka “The Flopper” Case. In addition to remembering myself, it was also difficult to put myself out there to meet people and make new friends. I’m someone who has to warm up to people before I can really become friends with them. I’m also not someone who enjoys hanging out in large groups, which can make making new friends difficult. Still, I honestly think that staying true to who I am  helped me make the friends that I was meant to make, and I do think that I made quite a few good friends this year. Even better than that, I made friends with people I never really would’ve expected to make friends with before this year. My horizons were definitely broadened. I made friends with people I almost never agree with. I found that the people who share my values and interests weren’t always the people who I expected them to be. I found that the people who appreciated me and looked out for me weren’t always the people I expected them to be, and those revelations were some of the greatest moments I’ve had this year. I also really appreciate those people for respecting our differences and for embracing me for who I am.

3. “Conquest gives title which the Courts of the conqueror cannot deny, whatever the private and speculative opinions of individuals may be…” Justice Marshall, Johnson v. M’Intosh (FYI this quote/case made the cut because it’s the case that appalled me the most this year.) I take this quote, from possibly the most politically incorrect case I read all year to say: when you succeed, nothing else matters. More importantly, success is however you define it. I have learned this lesson before, and I learned it again this year. There is a lot of noise in the world. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to tune it all out and keep charging forward. No one and nothing can have power over you if you don’t allow it. I have always said that there is no such thing as competition because what God has for me is for me. Competition means you’re looking around when you should be looking forward (or depending on your beliefs, looking UP.) There is only hard work and the blessing of opportunity. Being secure in yourself and in that fact makes everything else irrelevant.

Last but not least, I learned important lessons about gratitude and appreciation this year. I don’t think I ever realized the importance of a support system as much as I do after this year. So, thank you to everyone who has had my back. This applies to old friends and new ones. From my old friends, I appreciate every text message, every phone call, every Skype session, every Facebook message, every hug, and every prayer. Thank you for letting me cry when I needed to cry and for listening to me complain.Thank you for reminding me of who I was when I needed it. Thank you for pushing me forward and always being available when I needed you. To my new friends: figuring out what a friend is and how to make one in law school has been interesting, so I truly appreciate you guys. Thank you for taking the time to get to know me and thank you for allowing me to get to know you. Thank for listening to me preach and for indulging me when I got on my soapbox. Thank you for helping me through the trenches. Congratulations to us.1 down, 2 to go!

I’m looking forward to the rest of the journey…

 

 

 

 

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Mutations (Reflections on Life)

Not All That: In Defense of Anti-Exceptionalism

good grades 2Someone once told me that I would have a much easier time in life if I simply accepted the fact that I’m exceptional. He wanted me to accept the fact that I am “more” (as in more intelligent, capable, talented), than some and possibly many, because he thought it would help me be less offended and morally outraged when others express or imply that they are “more,” not necessarily “more” than me, but “more” than anyone.

I hate most superlatives, labels (“Ivy League”), rankings (yes, U.S. News and World Report), prejudgments, and assumptions. All forms of classism and elitism usually annoy me. I’m a big believer in not judging a book by its cover and never assuming that you know what the book is about, even if you’ve read it. I’ve made it a point in life never to underestimate people because I hate being underestimated.

You never know what a person is capable of and you should never be surprised when they show you more than you expected. The man on the street and the businessman on Wall Street are all the same to me. If you gave them both a complex math problem, I wouldn’t be shocked if the man on the street finished first. And if he didn’t, if he had no idea how to approach the problem, I wouldn’t think that that made him any less intelligent than the person who did.

This particular person finds my “anti-exceptionalist” views amusing because for most of my life, I have usually been listed alongside some superlative and I now attend an “Ivy League” school that is ranked in U.S. News and World Report. However, it’s because of the weight that society (a society in which I’ll have to live and work) puts on labels like these, not the weight that I put on them, that I choose to be affiliated with them at all. If I didn’t, it wouldn’t make me any less of the person I am. Just because those labels might apply to me doesn’t mean I subscribe to them. Actually, I refuse to subscribe to them.

None of the attributes I possess and none of the things I have accomplished make me exceptional. They might make me the grateful recipient of an opportunity that hasn’t been afforded to some other people, but they do not make me different from, or more importantly, superior to those people. And the day I start to act or believe that they do is the day that I need to pack it all in and take the first thing smoking back to Brooklyn.

I’m not ashamed of what I’m doing or have done. I’m not saying that I’m not intelligent, or capable, or talented, but I am saying that that intelligence, or capability, or talent is not a rare breed of something that only I (or a select few) possess. I believe that all people are stars, but that many people haven’t been granted the opportunity to find their light. Some, unfortunately, never will be. I know that everything I’ve done has been because I stand on the shoulders of people who have made it possible.

I also know that I haven’t done anything magical. I’ve only done what I was supposed to do. I don’t deserve a cookie for that and I don’t think most people do either. I can acknowledge and even celebrate my achievements without comparing them to the achievements of others or without putting the achievements of others down.

If you’ve ever read this blog, you know that I’m in a period of transition. I finally bought a school sweatshirt a few weeks ago. The first time I wore it I found myself having a weird psychosocial/physical reaction (don’t ask me what that is, I just made it up) to the set of letters across my chest. I felt that it wasn’t me.

And it’s not the school, it’s what I sometimes worry that others may feel that it represents. It’s what I sometimes feel it may represent: status, privilege, entitlement, exceptionalism. They’re things that make other people proud but that repulse me. And it’s not that everyone (or even most people) have specifically put off that vibe, but it’s the belief and expectation of some that that’s what those letters mean.

I understand that most of the time when people claim exceptionalism it is a defense mechanism used to downplay the threat they feel from others who they fear might share and thus contradict their “exceptional-ness.” Although they may not see it that way, when politicians talk about “American exceptionalism” it is usually in the context of putting down the views, accomplishments, or nationalistic pride of some other nation. Yet greatness recognizes and appreciates greatness in others.

And today I had a moment. As much as I hate to acknowledge or admit when I’m upset–particularly to people outside of a very core group of friends of mine–I understand the value of sometimes letting myself feel whatever it is I’m feeling.

The moment reminded me that I don’t ever want to drink the Kool-Aid. I don’t ever want to think of myself as better than another person for any reason whatsoever. I don’t ever want to devalue or underestimate another person’s worth because I know what that feels like and that’s not what I’m about.

I want to be able to grow and progress mentally, socially, professionally, and emotionally without growing full of myself in the process, and I pray for the continued strength and guidance to do so.

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Mutations (Reflections on Life)
English: Looking northeast across Boerum Place...

Looking northeast across Boerum Place and Schermerhorne Street at MTA New York City Transit Authority HQ on a cloudy afternoon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3: 36.

In days it would be 29 short of a year.

24 degrees short of a circle.

But this was time. Not the soft, grainy, contemplative kind of time that meanders through an overturned hourglass or even that stiff New York time that’s stingy with its minutes and snaps at you like a rude customer. It was more like that crowded Saturday salon time that acts like the wait is just the price you have to pay to be beautiful. 3:36 was my Access-a-Ride pick-up time.

Access-a-Ride is a little blue and white van operated by a branch of New York City Transit Authority that transports the elderly and disabled to appointments around the city for the same price that it would cost a regular patron of public transportation to hop the bus or subway. Customers call in to schedule a ride to their appointments and destinations. In the process, we answer a survey of questions: pick-up address, destination address, appointment or pick-up time, cross streets, traveling with a companion, traveling with equipment, phone number, alternate phone number, etc.

I had never been to this location before, so I made sure to tell the operator that the entrance was on a different street. Too bad those instructions didn’t make much of a difference when I realized I had been dropped off at the wrong spot.

“3:36 p.m. is your return time,” the operator had said. “Please be outside at your scheduled pick-up time and allow the driver 30 minutes for delay.”

Although I will admit that it has improved a great deal since I started riding it as a preteen about 11 years ago, Access-a-Ride has never been known for its reliability. After being chronically late to many appointments due to late pick ups and trips across the city to drop off other passengers who sometimes lived in the opposite direction, I learned to tell them that I had to be at my destination at least a half an hour before I actually needed to be there. Some summers that meant I got to my jobs or internships extra early, but at least I wasn’t extra late.

In my teens, I hated it. I hated the assumption that disabled people had no lives and nowhere to be and should just be grateful to have some form of transportation. Even more than having to wait outside for it–did I mention outside?– I came to hate not ever being able to be spontaneous. I hated having to schedule my life around possible pick up times.

Doctors’ appointments don’t always end at 12:54. Sometimes there would be an impromptu event after school that I wished I could stick around for. I didn’t always know how long I was going to want to stay at someone’s house when I visited them, but if I was taking Access-a-Ride I had to come up with some sort of estimate. Most of the time I ended up being there either way past the time I wanted to leave or long before I wanted to do so, when I found myself having fun.

I went to high school in the City and I was often left standing outside waiting for my ride long after my scheduled pick up time and after friends and teachers alike had bid me farewell for the evening.

They would always give me a look mixed with guilt and pity before they left. “We hope it comes soon,” they would say.

“Thanks. Me too.”

I hated the sinking feeling that there was nothing I could do but wait.

On this last trip, I was being a law student. I had a job interview. During the interview, I was asked why I was interested in prisoner’s rights. I know I said some variation of it, but I wanted to say this: “Because I want to root for the underdog. I want to help those that society often throws scraps and bones or neglects. I know what it is to feel trapped in one aspect of your identity battling society’s limited expectations of you, to have to prove that you are worthy of human decency and respect and that your life is just as valuable as anyone else’s is.”

“3:36?” the security guard asked after I had finished with my interview and had been waiting in the lobby of the building for my ride because I had at least 15 minutes until my actual pick-up time. “So precise.”

And they were serious about their pick up times. It was printed on the pink carbon copy receipt I had from my drop off trip in military time, 15:36.

“Please be outside at your scheduled pick up time and allow the driver 30 minutes for delay.” Did I mention they want you to be outside? The elderly and disabled. Rain or shine. Sick or fine. January or July. And this was January.

There was heavy construction going on outside on the street of the building where I had had my interview.There were orange cones everywhere and men in hard hats and trucks and loud drilling sounds, as I prepared to step outside to meet my ride.

“Don’t go out there,” the security guard had said. “I’ll look out for you.”

“No, but they’ll leave you if you’re not outside,” I explained.

Did I mention that?

“Please be outside at your scheduled pick up time and allow your driver 30 minutes for delay.” Translation: Don’t mess around and come outside at 3:37. If we don’t see you, we’re gone, but be prepared to wait 30 minutes before you complain if you don’t see us.

I listened to the security guard and avoided the chaos of the construction site. I sat down on a bench next to the door and looked out for my ride, getting up every two minutes to check. The guard did too, periodically going to check the street corners.

In an effort to avoid the confusion that resulted since I had been dropped off at the wrong location, even though “the trip slip” (as they call it) had listed the right one, I called about 15 minutes after my supposed pick up time to clarify.

“Are you the 3:36 no-show?” the operator asked, with an unsurprising air of snark.

“What do you mean no-show?” I asked. “I’ve been sitting right here at the door since before my pick up time, for about a half hour.”

“Your driver left you,” she informed me with no change in inflection.

“What do you mean he left?” I asked. “When was he here?” “I’ve been here watching and had other people watching too. I didn’t see anything come and I didn’t get a phone call saying that they couldn’t find me.”

“They have your number, but they’re not required to use it,” in her not-my-problem voice.

“Then what’s the point of having it then?”

“You just said on a recorded line that you yourself were not outside.That you had people looking out.”

“I had people looking out because they didn’t want me outside in the middle of a construction scene on crutches.”

“I’m disabled, you know?” “You do know that this a service for the elderly and disabled?!” I wanted to yell at her, but I didn’t.

“You weren’t outside.”

I called back a few minutes later to attempt to work out a way to get back home. Stranded in Manhattan and dealing with the nonchalant attitudes of the operators, I was not in a happy mood. My tone wasn’t chipper enough for the operator, and she refused to help me unless I changed it.

But I didn’t know how to sound happier. I didn’t know how to calmly explain to her how tired I was of having things like this happen in 11 years of using the service, how I hated being treated like my life didn’t matter, how pretty much everything I did in life was an effort to prove how valuable my life actually is and why I shouldn’t be cast aside and underestimated.

I didn’t know how to calmly tell her how offensive it was to be told how to feel, especially when I knew in all likelihood that I was being lied to and that the driver had probably never shown up or hadn’t shown up at the right location. I didn’t know how to calmly tell her that people like her and situations like this were why I had been trying for years to squeeze in time during summer vacations and breaks from school to get my New York driver’s license and a car with hand controls. I didn’t know how to calmly tell her that standing on a soapbox all the time is exhausting, that I shouldn’t have to and didn’t want to constantly have to fight people, that I just wanted to be a 22-year-old young woman and at that moment she wasn’t helping me accomplish that.

I didn’t know how to calmly tell her that after everything that I’ve done to be independent and treated with respect and human decency, I felt like she was setting me back years when she was supposed to be helping me. I didn’t know how to calmly tell her that I wasn’t stupid and that I didn’t appreciate being condescended towards like a destitute child who should just be grateful for a broken, used toy. I didn’t know how to calmly tell her how ridiculous I thought it was to be required to give them– not one–but two phone numbers by which to reach me, only to be told that they were not required to use them. I didn’t know how to calmly express my deep-seated disappointment and frustration that my hometown doesn’t have a completely handicap accessible subway system that would allow me to travel freely and independently with dignity.

The truth is that the great city that never sleeps has actually been sleeping on so many people for so long, and sometimes I get tired of hoping that it will wake up. Please sign and share this petition to improve the Access-A-Ride service in New York City for the elderly and disabled in NYC.

Access-A-Ride? More Like Access Denied: Travel and Frustration for the Differently Abled in NYC

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Mutations (Reflections on Life)

Countdown: My Love/Hate Relationship with New Year’s and Change

English: New Year's Resolutions postcard

English: New Year’s Resolutions postcard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The other day a friend of mine asked me if I had a resolution for 2013. “Not really,” I said with less enthusiasm than I guess he thought the question usually solicited.

He laughed at what he usually describes as my unrestrained inner-G. “You’re not into this whole New Year’s thing, huh?” he asked.

I realized that that’s not exactly true, so I decided to qualify my answer. “My resolution is what it always is,” I said. “To continue to strive and grow.”

It’s true that I’ve never really been very big on New Year’s resolutions.  I’m not really sure why, but I think it has something to do with what I feel is the almost compulsory need for change that I feel arises in most people, especially around this time of year. I mean, I have goals for days, and weeks, and months, and years. I like to think that I’m who Wale had in mind when he wrote “Ambitious Girl.” But I’m also somewhat of a stubborn girl too, and I like to set my personal goals on my own watch, not the calendar’s.

Here’s my other issue: I feel pretty ambivalent about some years, and I don’t mind entering a new one, but I’m not really sure that I want to see this year go! 2012 has been a great year for me. I graduated from college, started law school, freelanced, did some fundraising, made some major life decisions, etc. I’m really grateful for and proud of everything that this year has been.

Then I remind myself that I felt the same way about 2008, the year that I graduated from high school and did Brave New Voices. I wasn’t sure that any year could top that year, and I was sad to see it go. I know that technically I’m supposed to be grateful for the blessings of the past year and declare that 2013 is going to be even greater (and I am and I will), but part of me feels like, “I’m good right about now. Can we just stay here for a while longer?”

The funny thing about me is that I have this dual sense of restlessness and never-ending nostalgia. On the one hand, I’m always looking for change, for the next challenge, and on the other hand, I always feel like “aww man, I miss the old days.”

Ask anyone. During the last days of my senior year in college, everyone was tearing up and reminiscing at every turn. I was ready to go. I knew that I would miss people and that things would never be the same, but I was anxious for the next frontier. Six months later, I have the worst case of nostalgia you can imagine. I love the challenges of the new frontier, but I miss the heck out of the old one.

I’m always moving forward, but always looking back at the same time… I like to think that it’s because, for the most part, I really like my past. I love to grow, but I also like where I’ve been at each point in my life (even when I didn’t), and I want to take those pieces of my life with me, wherever I go.

I never know what to think about my somewhat contradictory (but I guess normal?) responses to change. Maybe the fact that I’m always willing to move but never quite able to move full speed ahead means that I recognize my roots for what they are: something to constantly sprout upward from and something to cherish at the same time.

So, like everyone else, I guess I have no choice but to bid a fond, yet bittersweet farewell to 2012 and wait to see what 2013 has in store…

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