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Thursday, January 29, 2015

This I Believe Essay #4

Same approach, fourth week:

Please post your essay here before class on Tuesday. Also, don't forget to make some time to read the other essays posted. Leave a few comments. It is powerful to know that people are reading when we share our stories.

38 comments:

  1. In the dark, when you are strolling shoulder to shoulder with someone, your mind can do two things. It can either escape what is troubling you or it can force you to finally say the words that needed to come out.

    With the first, you walk with your brother from his college dorm to the dollar store off campus. What is bothering him is the same thing that has been bothering you. Instead of a chill evening of video gaming and drinking loose leaf tea, you two have been ranting and fretting. The room had warmed and then boiled (the heater was too high and you both are animated when talking) and your foreheads glistened when you decided to go outside. You make up and excuse to buy something but you both know that you just need out. You both pull back your damp-with-sweat hair with your matching hair bands and rush into the cold. You have been speaking without filters for the past hours, but now that you are in the glow of streetlamps, you can finally talk freely because your words are no longer burdening you. Your conversation is light and that is what makes it good. The stories he tells you are childish, and that makes them laughable. While you are walking with your brother, there doesn’t need to be any heavy or serious thoughts. You left those next to a pair of empty mugs in a building three streets away.

    With the second, you run without destination. Your best friend is with you, no behind, and he is concerned and wants to know why you are troubled. It is one of those things that is always on your mind, so you say you are okay. It’s a shame that you cannot pretend or act. You cannot lie to him because your face is transparent and that scares you and you are angry for showing fear and angry for having fear so you ran down the stairs and to the street and you hear his footsteps behind you. You can’t see the stars in Lexington so you look at the ground. The air is frigid and you like it because the room you ran from was boiling (the heater was too high and words you swallowed are trying to burn their way out). You slow down and he catches up to you. You can’t make eye contact with him and you lock your jaw shut. A gust of frigid air surprises you and you gasp. Your words and sentences have found their escape and they climb past your teeth and chapped lips. They sit on the sidewalk, looking at both of you. You finally look at your best friend when he adds his words and sentences to yours. It is strange how well they fit together, like someone wrote a story instead of the two of you just speaking. You sit in the cold and comfort each other. You say all that can be said. Time passes and it is now time to leave, but the pair of you cannot forget what you have discovered and shared. Those words are still on the ground; they have formed passages. You two pick up and hang onto what the other said.

    I believe in walks in the dark because by the time the walk has ended, the world is more illuminated.

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    1. The image of your words falling to and then sitting on the sidewalk and looking at you is really powerful--so well said.

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    2. Beautiful images. And a powerful story. Especially love the ending--so poignant.

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  2. This I Believe 2.3.15
    Teddy Salazar

    I believe in Mud. Because when it was cool outside and had just stopped raining, my sister and I would go outside together like sisters, and we'd jump on the cement and scrape our knees and chalk against our side walk and push our hands in the Mud and make castles and pies and would try and feed them to each other. And our hair would be in braids, because I actually had hair, and we would feel happy and that was it. And the only thing that ever made us feel sad was when we started digging too deep to find the rolly pollies, and we’d move the bricks around too much that sectioned off the garden and Deda would yell at us. And even then, we’d make up and get spoiled with specials and our family would love us unconditionally. Mud is the start of my life. These Mud moments are some of the first in my memories. There is a line (or a couple) in the bible referring to god creating us from clay. Genesis 2:7 states, “Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” And I do not believe in religion at all, but if I did this line would be mine.

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    1. I love how you weave an iconic Christian story in your own story, only to tell us that you don't believe in religion but do believe in mud. Masterful.

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  3. Here are some things I know to be true:

    1. I lent Jared my copy of The Little Prince along with The Elegance of the Hedgehog probably over a year ago. I told him, “these books are important to me.” He hasn’t finished either of them.
    2. My father cannot sit through a single song I put on without commenting on how what I have chosen cannot be considered music.
    3. When Amy Winehouse died people made Facebook statues about how she was “a stupid drug addict” even when they had never listened to her music. I take comfort in the descriptions of Amy where she is called “sweet, peculiar, and vulnerable,” and I wish that everyone thought of these words when thinking of Amy.
    4. I watched a movie recommended to me by my brother. When I called him to talk to him about it, I asked him what he thought the ending had meant. Based off of his answer, I can confidently say that he hadn’t actually understood the movie.
    5. Some days I find myself still grieving for Philip Seymour Hoffman.

    I remember the day he died. I sat in my bed and found myself confused over how fast my heart was beating, and how shallow my breath was becoming. I had not expected to react so strongly. My affection for Philip Seymour Hoffman overwhelmed me and surprised me because until his death I suppose I had not been aware of my affection in its entirety. My eyes filled with tears just as my roommate walked in. She asked what was wrong, and I told her that Philip Seymour Hoffman had died. All she said in reply was, “Huh. I wonder what The Hunger Games will do.” This made me feel very, very strange. Up until this point I had considered us incredibly close. We lived together. This person had quickly become one of my closest friends, and for the first time, I felt myself feel distant from her. Was that really going to be her only response to what I had just told her? Didn’t she see how upset I was? Why did I suddenly feel so alone in my grief?

    Maybe it was realizing that even though celebrity deaths are so public, no one will ever mourn in an identical way to someone else. Maybe it was that I just wanted to feel close to someone, anyone, even a celebrity who had passed away, and my roommate had unintentionally isolated me. When we feel close to a celebrity, and they die, we feel like we have been robbed of a friend. Knowing that other people aren’t as connected to certain public figures as you are is something that can be incredibly isolating.

    Desperate for some sort of connection, I reached out to my friend, Maura, whose tastes are very similar to my own. She told me that the news of PSH had made her weepy all day. Comforted by the fact that I had found someone who shared my sadness, I told her about the interaction with my roommate and how it made me feel surprisingly alone. I won’t ever forget what Maura said to me in response. She said, “People won’t always understand you, but you have to learn to love them anyway.”

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  4. Maura’s words are something I’ve carried with me for a long time. I think about Jared and my books that will probably go unfinished for a long time, and I feel remarkably okay about it. Jared was there when I wept fiercely at the end of The Tree of Life and that moment forged something exceptionally intimate between us. We do not have to share everything that is important to us as individuals to have a meaningful friendship. I think about Maura in a letter telling me she did not love a book I had recommended, and I know it doesn’t make us any less close. Our friendship formed over the shared love of a book. Our friendship will outlast any book we do not love as a pair. I think about how in every single art history class I’ve ever taken in college, not a single person has shared my love for Barnett Newman, and how I feel like I have to defend him when people start going on about how they do not understand his art. But that won’t make seeing Vir Heroicus Sublimis in person for the first time any less significant. I think about Philip Seymour Hoffman and how he was mourned globally, and how that’s something I am allowed to feel reassured by.

    I believe in being gentle. With myself, with my friends, with the deaths of those I did not know. I believe in love outlasting differences in taste as well as differences in mourning. I believe in human connection in all of its unique and fascinating forms.

    A small, important note: Rest easy, PSH.

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    1. It was his "Stations of the Cross" paintings that made me, unexpectedly, into a Barnett Newman fan while also making me realize that sometimes a response to Art is bigger than the work itself. http://mavcor.yale.edu/conversations/object-narratives/barnett-newman-stations-cross-lema-sabachtani

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    2. Wow--powerful powerful stories and words. Being gentle is hard...

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  5. I believe in nature.

    Not sounding cliche about this is going to be difficult, so I'll just give up right now. Being sensitive to, and intimate with nature's spirituality is one of the most healing experiences in the world. There is nothing else I have yet experienced that can put me at peace more than connecting as directly as possible with the natural world. Touching your bare feet to the ground and feeling the uncaring but pillowy caress of the wind - these are the vitals. This way of thinking however still seems to me like "what can nature do for me," as opposed to something more like "how can I be as one with these other beings," but I wonder if humans are able to avoid those types of prejudices to a certain degree. It seems we are born selfish at the core.

    At any rate, I'm very passionate about a spiritual oneness with the outside world, where things like hate and love don't explicitly exist in its beings (though some would argue against this). So far as we've been able to objectively understand, it just is, all together, and I think that's great. I wish I could truly be a part of it. I've always hoped that my soul could become parts of a tree or a bunch of dirt after my
    body dies. Or maybe a lizard. Thinking about it though, it's not as if things that seem unfair and violent to us don't appear in nature even without our influence. It's not as if it would be a heaven of sorts - animals and plants still kill and disadvantage each other, whether or not they house self-awareness.

    But I always end up thinking, "it's still probably better than what I'm experiencing now, somehow."

    Everytime I go outside and press my skin to the ground, I can't help but think I'd like to be in there too, holding in the earth from the outside.

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    1. I think of you as an urban person, Kristen. I would have never guessed that you have a special relationship with nature. Thank you for sharing a bit of it with us.

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  6. She walked, distracted by a bag of fresh donuts, into the side of a moving car. I was not there to catch her or comfort her when she careened off the chrome bumper onto the pavement. I did not ride in the ambulance with her or sit by her bed in the emergency room.

    She drove, white knuckled and nearly biting through her tongue, off the road. The seizure terrified her young girls. Afterwards, their words granted her disembodied access to her memory of the event. I did not ride in the ambulance with her or sit by her bed in the emergency room.

    She stumbled, blinded by compulsion to make all things succeed, through a marriage darker than most. I sat next to her in a wet bathing suit, inside a minivan, at the edge of a church parking lot, in a small town near the ocean. I thought about how little experience I had traveling with her to the emergency room.

    I stumbled through our conversation, disabled by her belief that my life is simpler. I drove her back to the house where she and I were staying, where her husband was too. We walked onto the deck as the children were eating hotdogs in a night dark enough to make burnt skin invisible.

    Many dark nights later, I have not called her when I wanted to (as often as I wanted to). I don’t know how to tell her that I would be happier sitting by her bed in an emergency room than eating ice cream in the sun. I need my sister to be whole again. I believe I will be whole then too.

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    1. Don't forget to share your reflection with Cassandre. Even if she cries on reading it.

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  7. Star wars, house, spy game, cops and robbers games that took me to a wondrous adolescent world of adventure. I was lucky enough to grow up in a small town where all my neighbors were comfortable enough with me running through there backyards because they happened to have the proper understory for hiding or the bigger tree to climb. I was lucky enough to grow up in an atmosphere that didn’t push any type of restrictions on me. One thing that there was never a restriction on was the act of imagination. From a young age my parents noticed that I was somewhat peculiar, I was happy with one toy, or happy with a simple blanket I was content to look off into space, happy enough to take my time with one toy, and then move on to drumming on a few pans for a while, they would throw some crayons down my way and I’d draw for a while. I guess it was the earliest manifestations of introvert tendencies or my quiet and introspective nature. I was excited with what I had not with what I didn’t; I could focus on one specific thing and find some sort of merit out of it.

    As I got older I quickly found myself leaving my childhood imagination behind, I started focusing on getting the proper grades, or focusing on the proper way to play an instrument. Obviously all of this is a massive part of growing up, but I think a lot of people have seen the sense of childhood wonderment behind. As I got older the sense of wonderment came from long walks in the snow, listening and experiencing new music. As a teenager I suppose my thirst for some sort of existential delving into myself manifested itself in party drugs and rebellious tendencies. Slowly I realized obviously this wasn’t the answer I started writing more, trying to play more music, even meditating. My sense of wonder came from doing more mature things for my self. I felt like it tapped into a similar feeling that at times seemed trapped in a time bottle. I don’t know when it will hit me or how, but it happens and I think keeping an open mind to the world around me has had a profound affect. I believe in moments that tap into a sense of wonder and adventure, these feelings are advantages to human spirit and I believe that we all need them.

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    1. I am thrilled to see anyone commit to the sense of wonder and wish that more people actively looked for it in their lives. The desire to quantify knowledge and understand all things has done a great disservice to our quest for wonder and often i worry if the very act of wonder will suffer the fate of the old wunderkammers.

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  8. Roughly one hundred miles from Oakley, Kansas, signs begin appearing by the side of the interstate advertising for the town’s pride and joy; the world’s largest prairie dog. I, never being one to turn down the world’s largest anything, immediately fell for it. The signs appear sparingly at first, then a little more often, then almost every five miles. Every one of them made my expectations grow just a little more, until I would no longer settle for anything less than a 30 foot tall, city destroying, fire breathing, Prairie Dog of Doom. And though they deflated a little bit at the less than impressive petting zoo, aside from the 5 legged cow, I still had hope for the world’s largest prairie dog. Imagine my disappointment when I came upon a 15 foot, cold, lifeless, paper mache statue of a prairie dog. I took my picture with it and we moved on down the road.

    Upon entering Yellowstone National Park, visitors are given a pamphlet of useful tips for safety in the park. Due to the abundance of wildlife living near campsites and hiking trails, campers are told to take such practical measures as make sure their food is packed safely and their fires are extinguished before sleeping. If, however, the message is not clear at that point, the back page of the pamphlet includes a graphic picture of a young, unsuspecting hiker being gored by a buffalo. It is hard to relax under the stars with the terrifying thought of a buffalo looking for a good goring nearby.

    Prolonged exposure to the Montana sky can have interesting side effects to recent high school graduates. Like the strongest sedatives, it has the ability to melt the stress of looming college life, and leaves one with wide eyes and and a gaping jaw. When combined with the majestic vistas of northern Idaho and Washington State, the subject will experience undeniable feelings of wonder and amazement. Interestingly, there is no evidence suggesting any serious health risks.

    I believe in road trips and interstates heading west.

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    1. I drove out to Cheyenne with my sister this summer -- we passed by these same signs in our hurry to secure a meal and a motel room for the night. Although you were ultimately disappointed by this one, you may be interested to know that in his novel, American Gods, Neil Gaiman theorizes that roadside attractions are the most sacred places in America.

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    2. Oh man, you have at least a few soul mates in our class, Kevin. Kurt and I both love roadside attractions!

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  9. I believe taking a hiatus.
    At Transylvania it is easy for me to basically worship school. I become obsessed with how well I perform in school and how people view my success, and hopefully not lack thereof. This week I had my first round of tests, and one on the coming up Monday. I was ready to prove to myself that I could do better than people expected me to, because of my unfortunate ability to get only B’s regardless of the severity of the class. I was ready to prove myself wrong and work harder than I ever had before.
    Along with class, I pride myself in how well I keep my body to the socially acceptable standard of skinny. All my friends tell me, “you eat so healthy and always workout, no wonder you’re so skinny.” Because of these comments, it is funny how much my mind has been trained to keep up with the expectation people have put on me. Because people say something of me, I subconsciously must keep up that characteristic. What would happen if I started gaining weight? What would they say about me while I am not there? Will they be disappointed in me? Because of these questions, I was at my peak of eating healthy, working out and making sure I as a good student.
    Apparently my body was telling me something different.
    My body told me that it needed to rest. No more working out for hours each day to turn around study until I am delirious. My body was screaming, “Listen to me. I am being overworked and have something to say.” I was not listening to the small amount of dry coughs. I was not listening when I got my second headache of my life. I was not listening when I suddenly hot after having chills and shaking.
    I did start to listen when I realized my test grades were going to suffer just like my gym time was. Although it was the wrong motive for me to give into my body, at least I took the hiatus.

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  10. A husband, wife and two smiling children. To Americans this is the ideal family. It’s all apart of the dream, work hard, make money, get married and have kids. In reality though, this idealized model doesn't always work out. I believe in the unconventional family. I believe in two moms or two dads, I believe in adoption and friends who decide to have children together because I know it takes a certain type of person to raise a healthy child and it has nothing to do with the parent’s gender, sexuality or marriage status. There are children in this world that need homes, they are displaced and in some parts of the world, they are in poverty. There are people who are ready to adopt these children and give them a homes, but are not able to do so because of irrelevant social opinions. When I directed children’s theatre, I had amazing students, but there were a few that stood out and just seemed to get it. One of these young girls, I figured out later had two moms. This young girl is joyful, vibrant, out going and attentive. I just wanted to tell the world after I figured out she had two moms that the unconventional family model can be just as if not more effective than the conventional. I know plenty of people who's straight parents got married and brought children into this world only to abuse, neglect or fail them. I cannot wait until the day that parents are judged only on their character, only on their ability to bring out the best in their children and not by fitting some out dated ideal. That day will not only lead to raising children who are bright and capable, but will also mean less kids getting stuck in the system, less kids without homes.

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    1. I am so glad you wrote this, Martha. It sounds like a manifesto, one I would sign under.

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  11. This I believe...sleep is a currency
    How do I even begin to explain the importance of sleep as a commodity? But you may say, “Cali, sleep is not a commodity. Sleep is not a material that actually can be bought, sold, or traded; therefore sleep cannot be more than an action, a verb!”
    Firstly, that is true in the terms of the academic definition of what sleep is. Sleep is essentially an altered state of sensory human activity. But the fascinating thing about sleep is that no matter how much we study it, to this day can still not grasp the subtleties of sleep; for example, why it is that we dream? Other than our ability to track where in the sleep cycle dreaming happens, it remains an enigma. It is always an exciting or frightening thing to end up dreaming but it is never certain what it is that we will dream of, or what it means, or more importantly, if we can dream at all when we lie down to sleep.
    But what does this have to do with the value in a good night’s sleep? Let us start by clarifying; sleep is like a world famous work of art so culturally significant that the only home it can possibly maintain is in a museum. The word I believe I am looking for is “priceless”. Sleep is more precious than gold; it is literally invaluable.
    But just to be difficult, consider that sleep, if we substitute it in for one of these famous works of art, say the Mona Lisa for instance, in theory, there is a price you could put on it. This is why museums have insurance policies, actually. No matter how important a piece is, it is still an asset that can either be protected and maintained or be sold, for example to make up for debts.
    The way I see it, my sleep is no different from a priceless piece of art. This is not intended to be a casual admission of my own inflated self-importance. I think anyone and everyone’s sleep is this valuable.
    But I did not always feel this way about sleep. Maybe as far back as fifteen years ago and as recent as nine months ago, my mindset was quite the contrary. I would stay up until ungodly hours, spending my time on the most unworthy of activities. Way back I can remember I would waste entire nights on playing video game The Sims, other nights it was literally just watching the oddest television, like the original Japanese Iron Chef or the infomercials that ran on the major networks late at night into the wee hours of the morning. I would quite frequently pull all-nighters, getting barely a wink of sleep, just because I did not want to miss a moment of the interesting underbelly of life.
    However, much to my dismay, in the late hours of the day I would find myself fading. Most embarrassingly so, and more than I would like to admit, one or two times I literally fell asleep in my dinner at the dinner table. Lord knows what my parents must have thought of me as a child. If I were them I would have certainly muttered under my breath more than a few times.

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    1. Continue...

      Yet lo and behold I kept doing as I always did, barely sleeping, staying up late just to learn more about the world. Things did not really change as I got older, the night owl behavior simply converted itself into late night homework binges and hangouts with friends. But strangely enough it was not until I began rooming with my best friend and dating a particularly regimented young man that I even questioned this pattern I had been living in. The two of them introduced me to one of the most shocking revelations I have had yet in my college experience: life without sleep actually kind of sucks.
      Think about every time you didn’t sleep. There were aches, chills and heat flashes, moments of hunger, hallucinations if you were lucky. How is it worth it to be loopy for the entire following day or further damage your memory and cognition skills when it was just as easy to stop and get in the few hours of sleep in that you needed in the first place?
      Do not get me wrong, just because it is terrible does not mean it doesn’t still happens everywhere, particularly in colleges across the nation. I would say one of the worst offenders is right here in a liberal arts university; sleep is almost not a luxury to be had here. Our school is, much to my chagrin, quite demanding. If you do the math there are absolutely not enough hours in the day, after you add in the sleep factor, to finish all that you have on your plate.
      So what does that makes us? Doomed to forever live like zombies, stumbling through the halls of our dorms, barely finishing assignments, surviving on three hours of sleep and an exponential amount of coffee to match?
      Well surprise, M. Night Shyamalan twist ending, if we actually get sleep, our quality of work and life increases as well.
      This is where I derive a second and more important thesis: sleep is a not to be wasted; it is not worth the consequences of lack of sleep. But if there is something worth spending our sleep on, like on writing a huge essay that determines our final grade, on one last night with a friend before they move away for good, or just having a few hours with someone special, it is actually worth being a little miserable for a while.
      Think of every time you did not get sleep but felt good about it. Is in not usually when something good happened? If you think about it, sleep is like a gift of money to those activities or people you spend it on. If you spend it all in one place, then you have none left. If you never spend it, you will probably be happy but live a very dull life. Sleep, and you could argue love as well, is something that is literally spent like cash. You spend it only people and things that matter and they spend it on you. WE each have our little bank of sleep to spend as we wish.
      So what I can figure about this whole mess it one big thing. I am no accounting major but I know a thing or two about money and money is something you should not just throw around or away, neither is sleep. If you are a smart girl or boy, take this note from an insomniac. Sleep is precious for your sanity, your health, and your happiness. If you choose wisely where you spend it, you will never regret the movements you spend awake.

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    2. You are persuasive, Cali. But it's so hard not to feel that to sleep is to waste precious time....

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  12. I believe in customer service. When you work in the customer service industry, as I do, it is expected for you to be friendly, and accomodating. “The customer is always right”... but wait, at Johnny Carinos, they are not customers. They are considered our guests. We are supposed to make them feel welcoming. Let them stay at the table as long as they need to. Sometimes they ask for ridiculous things, or complain about even more ridiculous things. “There is a penne noodle in my angel hair. I knew the dish tasted weird. May I have a new meal?” Is one of the most ridiculous things that I have heard a guest say. One time, a younger guest came in, and tried to order a Bud Light, and when I asked for his ID, the person with him started yelling at me, because he was Amish, so he didn’t have an ID, but I was just doing my job (he ended up drinking unsweet tea).
    Sometimes in the customer service industry, the guests are horrid people, and they complain about every little things, and don’t do anything nice. But then sometimes, you get guests with cute children, and the children give you hugs as the leave, because they really, really wanted to color with my purple pen, instead of the blue, red, yellow or green crayons, and I let them. Sometimes the guests spend their time talking to me, and getting to know me. They hear I go the Transylvania, and we spend 20 minutes talking about which professors are still there, and which are not, because they guest also went there, five, ten, or even twenty years ago.
    Sometimes the guests are frustrating, but other times they make your shift completely better. Some servers will look at a table, and see children, or people of different demographics that tend not to tip as well, and they try to pass the table. Sometimes they just see one person at the table, and decide it isn’t worth their time, because the check will be so low they won’t make any money. I work for the money, but I work in a restaurant because I enjoy people. I believe in giving the best customer service I can, because by the end of their shift, at least I will know that I didn’t do anything wrong. If the bad table frazzle you, the wonderful tables might not happen. Good customer service is what I was hired to do, and what the guests expect, so I believe that regardless of the guess attitude towards me, that is what they should receive.

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    1. I wish more customer service professionals seemed to share your attitude. This makes me want to visit your Johnny Carinos while you are working (do you work at the Hamburg one)?

      I also love that I learned how pretending to be Amish might earn an adult beverage for a youngster (though I realize this guest of yours may not have been pretending at all).

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    2. You are such a good worker, Rachael!

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  13. I do not believe in ghosts.

    And yet, when my new friend Caroline printed out a Ouija board from internet and brought it with her to our group study session, I found myself scanning the periphery of the darkened basement room, searching each corner for something as yet unexplained. I was doing my best to appear nonchalant, making my way through a late night snack from my vantage by the door, but I jumped with everyone else when the thermostat kicked into high gear and sent a stream of warm air into the room where a group of young women, on a whim, had decided to conduct a séance. I caught myself thinking, “Well, at least it’ll be easier to catch a cold spot now...”

    I do not believe in ghosts.

    It was maybe not surprising that the suggestion had come from Carol – a girl, younger than the rest of us, with enormous eyes and a reputation for being more than a little gullible. I think I broke her heart when I implied that the animals in her favorite YouTube videos were probably dubbed into saying the short phrases that would regularly send her into a riot of laughter. Listening to her recount after lunch the events of the night before, I was stunned into a bemused silence – I had left to do homework across campus before things had really gotten underway. Anyway, it seems all you need to communicate with the Other Side is a laser jet printer, four lumpy beanbags, and the sooty remnants of a pink Shabbos candle.

    I do not believe in ghosts.

    There was a time when I thought my house was haunted – that a ghostly electrician was rewiring the hall lights each time I went upstairs to bed, reversing the on/off mechanism in the switch of the first floor landing. In the end, it turned out that as an 8 year old I still hadn’t quite grasped the concept of object permanence or found the other light switch that operated the fixtures from the opposite end of the hall. When, a few years later, my older sister started taping X-Files reruns onto blank VHSs, I’d sit with her while she meticulously clipped out each commercial break – identifying strongly with resident skeptic, Agent Scully. Years later, I picked the series back up on Netflix, still feeling that her gradual conversion to the magical thinking of her partner was a bit of a let down despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

    I do not believe in ghosts.

    And yet, when Carol bounces in her seat and tells us about L. Alice and Betty and the widower she affectionately calls “Gordy,” I think of the poster on the wall in a tiny basement office piled high with file folders and say, to no one in particular, “I want to believe.”

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    1. I love the structure and flow of your story. Love them.

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  14. The smell wraps around me.

    I remember going into the small shop behind the neighborhood hair salon. The shop, like the salon, was a one-person affair. A pile of dusty shoes sat on a counter beneath a sign announcing the requisite time to collect finished orders or “Your shoes become the property of the business.” A small man sat behind a shiny black tool that Google cannot locate in English or in Bulgarian. The man said little. He traded me a blue ticket for a broken shoe. I inhaled the smell of leather, glue, and the scent of old shoes gasping for new life. Even in 1970s Bulgaria, shoe repair shops were relics.

    I was skeptical when someone told me about the cobbler on Short Street in Lexington. “He is Old World,” I was assured, as if our shared origins would connect us. “He charges $1 per winter boot.” I did not know people repair shoes in this country.

    It took me 4 years to make it to Tony’s shop. The smell that enveloped me at the door convinced me that Tony’s shoe business had survived the New World unscathed. It was the same hard-on-the-nose smell that holds powerful memories. Though he stood, Tony seemed just as small as the cobbler near my home. Unlike his colleague who fixed my first high heels, Tony was chatty. He told me he came from Turkey, that now his family is in Greece. He told me about his daughter—an only child and an astro-physicist who works for the government. I told him, “I come from Bulgaria.” I did not tell him that Turkey is Bulgaria’s oldest enemy. I told him that I, too, was an only child, that my parents divorced before I turned 3. He told me he likes Bulgarian yogurt.

    I believe in the smell of a cobbler’s trade: pungent with memories.

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    1. There is also a shoe repair shop in Frankfort's historic downtown. I went there with my sister a few winters ago -- the owner chuckled when Lila asked him to resole her favorite pair of thrifted men's dress shoes.

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  15. Because she won the Aussie Open this last weekend I can reveal my idol’s identity, Serena Williams.

    I believe in change. Someone expressing interest in my art is one of the most flattering things to hear. Earlier in the year a couple fellow classmates mentioned to me that they really enjoyed this painting which I was, and currently am, working on and said they would buy if I ever wanted to sell it. This was a fairly new experience, when I got the message I froze and my mind was racing. “Should I sell it? Do I not? I’m in the middle of a project and would have to start over. What if they don’t want to buy it when it’s done?” I asked my professor what to do and he said, “Tell them you can revisit their offer once you’ve finished and proceed like they hadn’t said a thing because you don't want to be influenced by what you think your buyer would like.” We came up with the solution to make a print of it, this freed my mind.

    My professor was right, and I knew it too but how could I proceed without subconsciously thinking about selling it. After making a print and sealing the deal I was being timid and not doing much with the piece, which goes against what I believe. First semester, during a critique, we were asked what our painting meant to us. I noted that it was not so much what I painted but how I painted; in situations of discomfort or awkwardness I try to do the most drastic thing because anything from there on out wouldn’t be near as bad. For example, “If you can do the most crazy extravagant dance move (relative to the groover) at a party/wedding/dance then what dance move can’t you do?” Having strayed from that motto, I revisited it and now the painting looks much different and I love how it is turning out.

    Had I not changed the space from white to black, I’d still be wondering what the painting could have become. Had I not moved my extremities in every direction possible, I’d still be wondering how good of a dancer I could become. Had I not run nearly naked on busy roads and singing out loud, I’d still be wondering how comfortable I really am with myself. Had I not moved into five different houses while staying in the same school district each time, I’d still be wondering what my next room would look like. Change is everywhere and if we embrace it then we can stop thinking of what could have been and start thinking about what is going to be next.

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  16. The prompt was, “Childhood.” There are so many versions of childhood. To say I believe in them all would be a lie. Some historians argue that childhood is a rather recent invention when compared to the whole scope of things. Not even four hundred years ago girls would be married at thirteen and not long before that many cultures didn’t even consider infants “children” as we do today. They were seen as miniature adults and were treated as such. This does not mean they weren’t loved. They were what was going to pass on the family genes and names after all. But when we zoom to modern day we expect childhood to be, well, what we expect. A time of innocence and days of play. Time to learn right from wrong from adults in order to help shape us into the individuals that we are today.

    I was sitting at the table, standing on a chair to get a better vantage point. Christopher age Seven, was hurriedly building a blue lego jet fighter that had functioning wheels on them! I first laid out all my pieces. Then I quickly separated them out by shape, size and color. (I was very meticulous for being only seven.) My father would often walk by and check my progress letting a grunt of approval every so often, and my mother would say “Look at just how well you’re doing.” I hardly heard either them.

    Now, at this time I shared a room with my oldest brother Nicholas. He was more-or-less on the far end of the autism spectrum. He would always dance about, and shake, and droll. His favorite word to say was Diggy (It was actually one of the few words he could say,) and so that earned him several nicknames including; Diggy, Digsters, Dig, etc. He was the type of kid who would love watching TV with the family but only if he could sit where you were. He did this of course by standing on the couch and trying squeeze in between you and the couch and before long you were on the floor. This is a kid who did dance and shake so much we called it “The Diggy Dance.” And finally this is a kid that would eat anything, and I mean it.

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    1. Back to Lego building, I was almost finished after six hours of tedious what-felt-like slave labor. I snapped the finally wheel into place and all that was left was the cool flame decals that came with it. After attaching the flames I rolled it around on the table making “Shhheeewsshh” sounds. I wanted the whole world to see my completed project. I went into my room and set it on the highest shelf with the aid of a chair. All my other great lego accomplishments were up there; my tank and battleship. By now the sun had laid down and it was time I did the same.

      When I woke in the middle of the night I saw a horror scene. While my lego plane’s wheels functioned perfectly the wings did not work so well. My brother, whom I shared a room with, had started doing The Diggy Dance causing the shelves to shake and the plane to roll off the edge. I felt a rage well upside of me which was quickly subdued by my inability to stay up late and quickly crashed back out. When I came to in the morning I quickly checked the crash site. It was bad. The “Check Engine” light was running and the plane was in ruin.

      My mother offered to help refix it because it took so long to rebuild yesterday. However, upon assessing the wreckage we noticed a few pieces were missing and refused to turn up. That is when we turned to my brother, The Digster, whom was standing there. Smiling. And that’s when I knew he had ate parts of my lego plane. I think my innocence left me after that incident.

      Now that time has passed as well as my brother I find myself recalling stories like these. Stories that seem goofy on the outside, but what he was really doing was shaping my brother, Matthew, and I to be better. Sure the lego plane was destroyed, but I couldn’t be mad at him. He had no idea what he was doing. He taught me patience, love, and respect, all while never saying an intelligible word. I’ve seen grown ups talk more and accomplish less with their own children. My childhood wouldn’t be the same without Nicholas guiding me and teaching me right from wrong like any older brother ought to do.

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    2. Thanks for sharing this story, Christopher. The same insight that helps you find the meaning in the stories of your life seems, also, to turn your stories into richly entertaining narratives. This is long. Still I am left wishing there were more.

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  17. I believe it was roughly spring break of last year that I decided to fire up the dust-ridden eMachine in the living room. Although the world has changed the past two years, that corner of the house was left in a stasis. 'Basics of Final Draft Screenwriting, 41 Moo-Duk Kwan Techniques, The Adkins Diet: 325 Great Recipes for a Fit Lifestyle' and more adorned the adjacent book shelf. Although my old man had his computer and word files password protected, it never failed that the magic word would either be 'trialcommissioner' or 'nepoopen' (aka Open Open). The monitor let out a faint hum as the blue screen enveloped the dark room.
    Stumped where to start, I decided to look in the Firefox search history first. I do not know why I looked there or what I was expecting but it was a fairly normal history. Mostly news reports time stamped until November 4th, 2012. I know that if I unknowingly had a heart attack and be rushed to the hospital a week later, you bet that I would want all of my internet history deleted ( and no, not porn. It would mostly be for the YouTube artifacts of cats meowing Christmas songs, A middle aged Canadian vegan seductively sauntering in his dim basement singing about Veganism, and any other source of "personal" humor.)
    After that sigh of relief, I went over to the word documents. Within the folder was a sea of kilobytes. Tales of the hell of small town life, a 110 page young manuscript where 'Devin' was a character and unfinished exercise regimes were scattered about on the screen. What struck me most was that there was a essentially a mini autobiography time stamped written in early 2012 in there. For reference, my old man went away in 2013. Long before any sign of illness, my father wrote and acknowledged that he was entering his twilight years pre-maturely. The file, finished and neat, was locked away and password protected. Who was supposed to be the audience of this piece? There was a paragraph about how my sister has her life set and a sentence hoping that I will not grow up to wear a Monocle.
    By then, I had to shut off the computer. What I thought would bring answers only became a source for more questions and confusion. Like an archeology site, one can see the bones yet still have no context on what the original humans were doing. Although these bones are in the forms of bytes and jpegs, I still cannot find the context which is why I believe in digital artifacts.

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    1. I was moved when you read this in class, and again in this rereading. Devin, I'm thankful to have known you and to have only been the subject of your particular brand of digital archaeology a handful of times.

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    2. Thank you for sharing this story with us, Devin. Like Hanna--and like many others, I suspect--I feel lucky to have met you.

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