Tag Archives: college

It Takes a Village, Part 2

29 Jun

The past two weekends, two friends of mine have come back to New York City to visit. While my friend Ryan came down for his birthday, Daniel came back for this past weekend’s NYC Pride March. During the summer, my friends, like me, have gone on individual paths of self-actualization, working to improve their lives and try to make sense of what they want to do. With all of my friends on their own paths, it is rare that those paths intersect. But, when Ryan came back for the weekend, the tribe seemed to gather together as if nothing had happened at all.

Going at it alone is often a sign of strength. We don’t want people to know that we’re hurting, or that we missed our morning workout, or that we’re more insecure about ourselves that we put on. To get through our walls, our friends either have to hulk through them, or shimmy up the sides. Either ways, friends need a set of skills in order to relate to each other. We have to remember people’s favorite flavors of cake on their birthday, slow our pace if we walk too far ahead, and open up our couches to each other when they need a place to sleep. Sometimes, it may show a bigger sign of strength if we lean on our friends shoulders instead of putting all the pressure on our own two feet.

A Meeting of the Walls

Ironically, it takes a lot of strength to show others our weaknesses. I see strength in a lot of my friends. I see strength in my friends who are able to recover from unfairly losing their jobs, or able to confess that their relationships aren’t as perfect as an outsider might think. I see strength in the friend who can call me up any time of day to tell me that their insecurities are at an all-time high, and I see strength in the friends that put pride aside and ask me for help.

Speaking of pride, my other near and dear friend Daniel came in this weekend for the NYC Pride March. This was my first year attending the parade, as in past years the thought of attending caused me a bit of anxiety. Though I am a huge gay activist, and now work in-depth in the community, I have always felt a tenuous connection the gay community, a completely opposite feeling from my friend Dan, who has a tenuous connection to the heterosexual community. However, if the parade taught me anything this year, it’s something very similar to something I’ve already written today. The community is nothing but a collection of individuals, and the parade is the place to gather when the community chooses to deconstruct its own walls.

The gay community can be just as racist, transphobic, and ignorant as many other communities. We don’t talk about a lot of issues, we value whiteness, and we still fret over whether the “T” belongs at the end of the acronym “LGBT” (which is too short as it is). But at the parade, svelte twinks, bulging bears, and overly active clubbers come together to celebrate that which makes us the “other.”

So, did I finally feel a connection to the gay community on Sunday? Somewhere between the end of the parade and my return home, my friend Dan and I wandered through the winding streets of the West Village. Adding to its usual labyrinthine layout, police guards and yellow taped herded us around like cows, and getting out proved to be a time-consuming difficulty. The streets, like my feelings, can be very difficult to navigate. And yet, there is another common denominator between the two:  people. Everywhere I went on Sunday, I was always within about three centimeters of another sweaty, proud person. They may not be three centimeters away, and I may not be able to reach out and grab them, but I know I always have others in community with me. As much as I may go at it alone, my strength is buttressed not by confidence and attitude alone, but by the friends I have at my fingertips.

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Pressure Cooker

17 Jun

College students often feel driven by pressure. And I’m not talking about the “Will I smoke the marijuana?” type pressure. I’m talking about sweat-down-the-back, eyelids-falling-down, instant-rice-cooking-in-the-microwave pressure. So many sayings about pressure exist in college life. The pressure can be “on,” we can “feel” the pressure, and some of us feel like we’re constantly “under” it. It’s hard to believe that pressure has such an overwhelming effect on us, especially when it has no corporeal form. Therefore, in order to affect us, pressure has to manifest itself in concrete obstacles. These obstacles are imbued with frustration, deadlines, anxieties, and challenges.

There is no pressure in dating. The word “dating” seems stressful, sure, but that’s not because it is inherently so. It’s because we think about coming up with topics of conversation, sustaining witty repartee, and deflecting any moments of blasé into oblivion. But, this week, I was faced with a different kind of pressure from dating. Even though a blog is a very public thing, I consider it very private, and I don’t let everyone know about it. I know that I post updates on Facebook and Twitter, and that is super public, but at the same time, I don’t openly tell people about it all the time, especially people I want to potentially date. I don’t want people to think they’re just another notch in my twenty-date belt, and I also don’t want someone knowing all my inner thoughts and insecurities right away. Two of the most useful aims of the dating process are discovering someone’s inner thoughts, and breaking down the wall of confidence and secrecy people put up in the beginning. Reading someone’s blog is the instant-satisfaction, drive-thru version of waiting for a home cooked meal.

I had a date on Monday. We met outside a Barnes and Noble, and proceeded to get coffee upstairs and chat. He’s a great person. He’s hilarious, coolly laid-back enough, and understands things that are important to me. He knew about my blog. He had referenced it once in conversation. And, at the end of the date, he said, “I hope I get a good write up.” I even consider this entry a bit of a swan dive for the relationship (hopefully not the friendship,) but as my father described, so is the life of the writer. If I lie, and write down something that pleases everyone, then the writing loses its truth, and if the writing loses its truth, then I’m doing a disservice to myself and my writing. Out of nowhere, I felt this kind of pressure on me. Do I stay true to myself and my blog, or try to nurture this egg of a friendship along? I don’t want to say I didn’t choose the relationship, but I chose myself, and that’s saying a lot. In the past, I haven’t always been my number one priority.

We walked around downtown, all the way up to midtown. We had great conversation, but I could feel a feeling of disconnect coming from both sides. Maybe it’s because he felt pressured to perform well, so he could earn a good “review,” and maybe I felt pressured to show that I was in it for more than the story. Either way, the blog was haunting me with every step. My blog is all about writing and feeling true to myself, but with it weighing over my head, I felt like it was pressuring me to act differently. But, if I take what I just said into account, it couldn’t have been.  An internet blog is not manifest, it’s just ones and zeros. That’s how I knew I was cherry-picking chimeras out of the air. Any pressure I put, undue as it is, comes from me and me alone.

Keeping the Pressure Down is Every Housewife's Best Friend

I cooked a meal today for my family. It was elaborate, and having to make everything come together perfectly was like orchestrating a symphony. Every flavor had to add to the meal just right, and slight changes in the recipes, and injecting a bit of my own personality into the given recipes was a big part of the success. I never feel any pressure when I cook, because it relaxes me. I know that if I follow the guide, and give a little personal flare, I should have a beautiful finished product. Any mistakes, any deviations from the plan, should not be given more weight than they deserve. It’s called “trial-and-error.” The potatoes, sitting on the counter, the pork chops in the fridge, they don’t have any inherent stress. Any stress people have about cooking doesn’t come up from the proteins in the meat, but are cherry picked from the air, where they nest and take root in our brain. Maybe dating is like that. We all know the road map to dating, even if we sometimes feel like we’re cooking without a recipe, or feeling our way around a city without a map. But, injecting our personal flare into things can take a lot of edge off of things. I didn’t just try to mimic the recipe, and hope for the best, I changed it to suit my tastes, needs, and wants. Dating is one of the most impersonal things around, because we change ourselves so much in the process. With cooking, I learned that the pressure is off as long as you stay true to what you want, and guide the ingredients along the path to success. Now, just let it simmer, and enjoy.