I’m moving some things around to make this blog a little less cluttered. You’ll still have access to all the content, so please feel free to browse! But forgive the appearance, please :)
#PeoplesClimate organizers announce official headcount: 310,000, making it one of the biggest social demonstrations of the last decade
— Tim McDonnell (@timmcdonnell) September 21, 2014
I really don’t like crowds. So there are very few things that I will go to if I know that a huge crowd is expected.
The People’s Climate March is one of those things.
Being at the march, there was a lot of good energy all around. Everyone understood the problems we all face when it comes to climate change, but the “I am marching for” signs were different for each person. Reasons ranged from “I am marching for the future” to “I am marching for there is no Planet B,” and it was fantastic to see so many people motivated by different things coming together for a common cause.
My own humble sign stated very simply “I am marching for clean water” on one side, and “I am marching for good food” on the other. To me, that encompasses a good number of issues (though, admittedly, not all of the issues) having to do with environmentalism and climate change. Stop fracking when fresh water to drink and water crops with is a dwindling resource. Natural gas is not the way to go for our energy needs; only with renewable energy can we meet (and even exceed) our energy needs without messing up the climate.
And extreme climate change is affecting the size of the harvest of some of our favorite foods. Rather than forcing the growth of more food by deforestation, using pesticides, and creating GMOs, why not try and do something that will help the current crop thrive? Especially since the amount of whole food wasted each year is more than enough to solve the world hunger problem, there is no reason to use these intensive methods of growing food that ultimately wreak havoc on the environment.
Walking to the climate march, I thought I was going to be late. I left my apartment a little bit later than I intended, and the walk through the park took a little longer than I expected. But when I got there, Central Park West was still filled with people with colorful signs and clothing declaring their reasons for showing up for the march.
My boyfriend and I walked along the mass of people, and eventually found a spot to stand and wait. And wait. And wait. And wait… We waited for so long that we were starting to worry about what was happening. Why wasn’t the march, well, marching?
Eventually, someone told us that the front part of the march had already started, but there were so many people and it’s so crowded that it was quite slow-moving.
To me, that made the waiting completely worth it. Even though my legs are now exhausted and I’m still sweating from the humidity, the fact that so many people showed up that everything was backed up makes me glad.
Being part of one of the largest social movements of the last decade, though I didn’t do much more than march, I feel like I contributed something. I contributed my presence, I allowed myself to be counted among the 310,000 people who don’t want to see this planet ruined. Even though my contribution was small, it was there. And it mattered.
I don’t know if this march is enough to send a strong message to lawmakers to do something, but it is a start.
On Thursday, I took my lunch hour to go over to Roosevelt Island and take a few photos.
It was really refreshing to visit a part of the city that I’ve never been to before. Roosevelt Island itself is tiny; no point on the island is more than a mile away from the tram’s landing site. I was expecting to spend a little bit of time taking pictures and enjoying the beautiful weather on Thursday, and that’s exactly what I got. It’s been a while since I’ve been on a photowalk, and Roosevelt Island was the perfect way to get back into the habit.
I will never not be amazed by how different each part of the city is. I had to run a few errands in the Washington Square area on Thursday as well, and it was the first time I’d been to NYU since I left campus in August. Even though it’s only been about a month since the last time I was there, I realized how strikingly different it was from the parts of New York where I live and work.
Roosevelt Island was still different. There are residential buildings, ruins of the island’s past life as a cradle for hospitals and insane asylums, and some fantastic views of Manhattan.
In my short visit to the island, I was only able to explore parts of the southern part, from the tram’s landing point to Four Freedoms Park. It was a little strange to see my usual lunch spot along the East River from a different angle; I’m so used to being on the other side of the view. But the walk was refreshing; there was a fantastic breeze off the river that kept me cool, and the walkways were lined with trees and plenty of benches for sitting. The best part about it was that there wasn’t really a crowd at all.
And Four Freedoms Park holds a fantastic presidential memorial for Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Having seen many of the presidential memorials in Washington D.C., the FDR memorial is one of my favorites.
When you walk up the steps to the lawn, the lines of trees tunnel your eyes to a point, and in the gap in the center is a large statue of FDR’s head. Manhattan’s skyline is mostly obscured, except for the few buildings that poke through the gap. I can only imagine what it will look like to walk through the trees towards that statue when the leaves turn color and start to fall.
Given that the tram is only the cost of a subway ride, and I have a 30-day unlimited metrocard, then this will definitely not be the last time I explore the island. It’s easy to get to, and a relaxing escape from the bustle of Manhattan.
Here’s to exploring more parts of New York City.
When I’m at the optometrist’s office looking through the phoroptor, and I’m going through the series of lenses to get the best prescription for my eyes, I sometimes can’t tell the difference between ‘lens one’ and ‘lens two.’ “Which one is clearer?” the optometrist asks me. Both choices look pretty unfocused to me, but in different ways. One is quite a bit dimmer, the other blurrier around the edges.
But, the appointment must go on, so I have to choose lens one or lens two, and I end up choosing randomly.
By the end of the session, if I keep making random choices like this, I may end up with a prescription that’s worse than the old one. I would have to back up and say, “Wait, this isn’t right.”
Going through college has sometimes felt like a series of missteps, of incorrect choices made because I felt rushed or unsure. I started off as a freshman dead-set on International Relations. My aspiration in life was to travel and help people, though I wasn’t entirely sure how. But I loaded up on International Relations and Politics courses, and did well enough on the intro level—
To find out that it wasn’t for me.
I didn’t feel comfortable as a potential political leader when my own political identity was still in need of serious definition. I realized that my plan to “travel and do good” needed to have more depth of detail. On top of that, I missed having science and math classes. My test scores were high enough where I didn’t have to take another math or science course ever again, but I wanted to.
And I decided that my way to help people would be by studying Chemistry. Whatever new research I would be part of would push the frontier of human knowledge, would help people better understand what they need to do to live good lives.
So I entered the Chemistry/Biomolecular Engineering dual degree program. I still did well in most of my classes, though my lack of balance earned me a D in one, Physics for majors. On top of that, my financial aid was tenuous and I wasn’t sure if I would have enough money to pay for all five years necessary for the program. So I switched to a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chemistry.
At this point, I was a junior, and feeling extremely insecure about my academic life. Two major switches, an unimpressive (in my opinion) academic record, and this constant internal comparison I had going between myself and my classmates. I felt like I was left alone fumbling around in the dark of my failure while everyone else could walk around confidently in the light of their achievement.
In the times I was most stressed, there was always the nagging thought of “I wish I made better choices.” I wish I hadn’t wasted a year doing International Relations so that I didn’t start the Chemistry major late. I wish I had taken advantage of undergraduate research opportunities so that I don’t feel so underqualified now. I wish I had thought more seriously about the Environmental Science major. I wish, I wish, I wish I made better choices. If I had made better choices, then I would have felt much better about my post-graduation prospects, and I wouldn’t have been so stressed.
However, in all my years of going to the optometrist, no matter how many rushed, unsure decisions I’ve made when choosing between lens one and lens two, I always come out with a better glasses prescription than before.
Every choice I made has led me to something better. I may feel like my politics courses were all wasted credits, but now I can understand international environmental issues from a political and scientific perspective. I may have missed chances for undergraduate research, but that meant I had the flexibility in my schedule to study abroad. And even though I haven’t taken a course specifically on environmental issues, my personal side projects fulfill that need.
And that is how I get past my great internal block. When things like insecurity, worry about my future, and the general feeling of “There is so much still that I need to do” build up, I do my best to push through, one choice at a time. In the end, I know, somewhere in the back of my mind, that making a decision is better than letting everything come to a grinding halt.
After all, hindsight is always 20/20.
I like to start my days early. Whether by working out or by leisurely enjoying a breakfast feast I cook myself, the mornings are a very special time for me. And considering that Central Park is so close to my apartment now, morning walks through the park sound heavenly. In the mornings, I also tend to whatever plants we may have growing on our windowsills, fresh herbs or beautiful flowers that brighten up the room.
I take my time going to work, likely taking the bus because I get to see New York City out the window. Maybe it takes a little longer than it would if I took the subway, but the subway platform is hot and packed and I sometimes have to wait for three or four trains to pass by before one that’s not absolutely stuffed with people arrives and I can safely board. With the bus, it’s not that bad, and I can see more of the city that way.
At work, I opt for decaf coffee; it still has just the little bit of caffeine that I need to get through the day, but it’s not the strongest cup there. At lunch, I microwave some delicious leftovers from dinner the night before, and eat it slowly at my desk, or outside if it’s a warm enough day.
I chat with a few people during my break, listening to their stories about their days. I tell them about something new I tried with my friends (a new restaurant, a new show, a new workout class, a new park that I visited, etc.) or whatever else fits into the flow of conversation.
In the evenings, if I didn’t work out already that day, I’ll take the subway down to do yoga or take a class (Karate, anyone?). Or, if I’m scheduled to volunteer somewhere, I’ll go and do that right after work.
When I come back, I shower and heat up the meal I made on Sunday. My boyfriend and I have dinner and talk about our days, about current events, about the next tree care workshop we’re attending, about a news story we heard during the day and what it means for the course of current events, about anything we want to. I text my friends periodically throughout the day, getting updates on their lives and planning our next get-together.
Then, I sit at my desk or in the living room and write. Afterwards, after I’m done getting ready for bed, I’ll lie down and read until I fall asleep. (Or do other activities.)
Writing out what a typical day would look like if I made the five changes that I want to make in my life makes it seem much easier to make those changes than it actually will be. It’s hard to get into a routine of things, and it takes a while to get ready. Lately, I’ve been feeling a little too stretched taut, spread thin, over all the new aspects of life that I’ve been experiencing. The transition from dorm life to apartment living was exhausting, and I’m just now feeling well-rested enough to be myself again.
Now, I think I’m ready to make some changes.
Since no one really knows what my current “day-in-the-life” is like for me, and wouldn’t be able to pick out the five things that I want to change, here they are:
- I want to wake up a little earlier so that I can take a walk in the morning in addition to making a delicious breakfast feast for myself. It’s a nice way to start the day.
- I want to always be trying something new with people, whether that’s trying a new class or seeing a new movie or cooking a new recipe. During the semester, this was a little easier because everyone knew everyone else’s schedule, and we were all in a central place. Now, we’re all scattered throughout the city, and it’s a bit harder to meet up regularly.
- I want to get in the habit of planning and cooking my lunch and dinner in advance to save time. Sundays might end up being my food prep days so that I can plan out what the rest of the week will look like (and taste like). This way, I can eat a wider variety of food; lately, I’ve been eating a lot of rice as a base for something steamed or fried on top. I need a bit more variety.
- I want to grow a small windowsill garden in my apartment. Simple things that don’t take up a lot of space, like various herbs and spinach and maybe some flowers.
- I need to work out more consistently. I’m very sad to say that I haven’t worked out consistently since the beginning of August. And even though moving into a new apartment and getting hundreds of pounds of Ikea boxes up two flights of stairs is definitely a workout, I’m not doing those things every day.
I’ve been sitting on this list for a while now. This transition period into being not-a-student-in-school has put me in a bit of a reminiscent mood. I went through some old photos from high school, read some old journal entries, and just doused myself in not-nostalgia. I’m not pining after some ethereal past era, but neither do I look back on it with disgust. The past just is.
But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some things that I wish hadn’t changed that much.
- I used to listen to a lot more music than I do currently. I used to actively search for new artists, to look at the entire discography of popular artists, I used to make playlists and CDs (yes, CDs) of my favorite songs, and used to try and tell a story with those songs (that mostly revolved around crushes and unrequited affection). I used to just lie around listening to music and imagine stories and scenes with the songs as the background. Now, the only time I listen to music is when it’s playing in the background while I’m working.
- I used to read a lot of fan fiction. My favorite genres were fluff, apocalyptic AUs, and angst. So much angst. I focused primarily on Harry Potter fan fiction. I used to have pages and pages of bookmarks of my favorites. I used to venture into writing my own, but I’ve lost the drafts and I never posted them anywhere.
- I used to follow drum corps competitions really closely. My favorite DCI corps is Phantom Regiment (still is; they have the best stories for their shows, in my opinion), and my favorite indoor/winter guard is the South Shore Drill Team because their tricks and techniques are incredible.
- I used to sing. To myself, mostly. But I also took voice lessons for a few months when I got it in my head in the eighth grade that I wanted to audition for American Idol. (Yes, that was a thing that I wanted.) Now, I don’t sing that much.
- I used to write poetry all the time. Every day, several times a day. I used to not care about the quality, and I used to write purely for myself. Now, I’m going through a poetry drought, and I’m trying to force myself to write more poetry more often than I have lately.
- I used to draw all the time, and some pretty fantastical things. An overstuffed armchair on the shore of some glass lake with a brilliant, multicolored sunset, under the branches of a huge tree, big enough for a house. Elves collecting water at the banks of a large river. Dragons. Female warriors with a number of different weapons. I don’t draw as often as I used to, though I do find it very calming.
- I used to go for drives. Never with my parents’ car, but with my friends. We’d hang out in parks and parking lots with the windows open, taking silly selfies before they were selfies. It doesn’t make any sense for me to own a car, mostly because I can’t justify the environmental impact of the vehicle, and because I live in New York City, but I do sometimes miss open roads.
- I used to go to the library a lot. I used to have a library card with the Waukegan Public Library, but when my fines became so great that my parents might as well have bought all the books I borrowed, they stopped taking me, and started just buying me books instead. In high school, I started going to the public library just a few streets away from my high school. The habit stopped when, as a junior, I went to the upperclassmen campus that was farther away. I used to work in NYU’s main library, but then stopped when I took the maximum number of credits students are allowed to take in one semester. Then I started going to the library just for a place to study. Now, there’s a New York Public Library branch that’s close to my apartment, and I’ll hopefully rekindle the habit.
- I used to play video games a lot. Mostly things like Animal Crossing and Phoenix Wright, with occasional forays into StarCraft and Final Fantasy. I don’t play games as often as I used to, simply because I didn’t have the time during the school year. Hopefully, I’ll be able to find some time to relax now that I’ve graduated, and I can actually play some Animal Crossing and unwind. Or something.
- I used to practice karate. I took classes through the park district in my hometown, and I took belt tests and participated in tournaments and everything. I even qualified for a national competition, though I couldn’t go because it was in Texas and I couldn’t afford it. I hope that I can return to it, now that I have more time to do things other than study and work.
This evening, I’ll be moving into my first New York City apartment. With the help of my wonderful friends, by the time bedtime rolls around tonight, I will be sleeping in my first non-dorm residence since I left home for college four years ago.
Today, I also received the on boarding paperwork for my first full-time job, and will be completing that during the next few days before my official first day in about a week and a half.
This summer has really been one of the best summers of my life so far. The stress of transition at the beginning (and end) of the summer is easily outweighed by how much I experienced, both the positive and the negative. I went through an intense job search, which ended with my getting a position that I really want and am really excited to start. I learned new things about housing in New York City, about job recruiters and temp work, and about myself. I wrote more these past few months than ever before, completed a Blog Every Day challenge, and spent time with friends, both old and new.
That being said, even though this has been an amazing summer, I’m ready to start this new chapter of my life. I’ve graduated from college, my parents received my diploma in the mail, and my living space for the next year, at least, is secured. I’m ready to move on, and move into a new space.
I’m generally a pretty patient person, but the anticipation is killing me.
August, 1997 — 5 years old, Kindergarten
I have vague memories of being shepherded around in lines and following the teacher’s orders because that’s what my parents told me to do. “Be good, okay, Arol?”
August, 1998 — 6 years old, 1st grade
My memory of the first day is the same as for Kindergarten, only there was a new teacher and a new set of classmates.
August, 1999 — 7 years old, 2nd grade
This was the year I started being singled out for gifted programs. In particular, ones for Art and Math.
August, 2000 — 8 years old, 3rd grade
My family moved house, and I changed districts. Making friends was still easy at this point.
August, 2001 — 9 years old, 4th grade
My separation into gifted programs was becoming more definite. Memorizing facts was still easy at this point.
August, 2002 — 10 years old, 5th grade
Half of my days are spent outside of the regular classroom, and I started feeling the disconnect.
August, 2003 — 11 years old, 6th grade
There was this concoction of excitement and nervousness when I got off the bus. Excitement because I was finally like my older siblings, carried around a big trapper binder with notebooks for every subject and brand new supplies. Nervous, because it was the first time I had to travel between classrooms without the aid of a teacher. I was comforted by the fact that one of my older brothers would be in one of my classrooms, though during a different period in the day. I looked for his name on the projects on display.
August, 2004 — 12 years old, 7th grade
The first year I was really in a school without any of my siblings in the same building. I still had all their same teachers.
August, 2005 — 13 years old, 8th grade
There was this anticipation of something being different about this year.
August, 2006 — 14 years old, 9th grade
I wasn’t late to any of my classes, so that was an accomplishment. Though everything was still intimidating because I didn’t know anyone in any of my classes. When one of my best friends transferred into my lunch, the days became instantly more bearable.
August, 2007 — 15 years old, 10th grade
This year, there was a slight drag in my feet as I got ready to go to school in the morning.
August, 2008 — 16 years old, 11th grade
I woke up at 6:00 to get ready and catch the bus to get to school by 7:15. This is the first year that I truly diverged from having my siblings’ former teachers.
August, 2009 — 17 years old, 12th grade
My mother dropped by the gas station every morning to pick up a coffee and a donut. I began writing in empty notebooks in the hour or so I had before classes started.
August, 2010 — 18 years old, First year of college
I had only two classes, if I recall correctly. I made it to both of them on time. At the end of the day, I didn’t do any of my homework.
August, 2011 — 19 years old, Second year of college
The few nights before the first day, my friends and I slept through Hurricane Irene and watched the various television shows I had binged on over the summer. After classes, we had a floor meeting, and got to meet the characters on the floor.
August, 2012 — 20 years old, Third year of college
If I remember my schedule correctly, I had two classes back to back in the same room, Computer Science, and then Web Design. I became a regular at a particular food cart on that day.
August, 2013 — 21 years old, Fourth year of college
I rented a locker at the library, determined to be one of those students that hung around and studied at all hours of their free time. I got my money’s worth of use out of it, but I didn’t study nearly as much as I should have. I needed coffee on the first day; I couldn’t sleep the night before and so walked the Brooklyn Bridge in the middle of the night.
August, 2014 — 22 years old, First day of my first full-time job
This day hasn’t happened yet, and I have no idea what to expect. In some ways, I will be in my comfort zone; I will be working at a university’s press, and therefore in somewhat familiar territory.
But I have no idea what my days will look like. I’ve been in school for so long that I’m just now getting used to the idea that I won’t be in class come late August. It’s been a while since my daytime hours have been blocked in such a way, from 9:00 to 5:00. It’s been a while since they’ve been blocked that way without the time before and after being taken up by extracurricular activities and homework.
I vaguely know that I will be more or less moved into my first New York apartment (no more dorm life). I’ll take the subway (and hopefully have my first unlimited metro card by then). I’ll wake up early to cook an elaborate breakfast (and take a picture of it, as has been my tradition for the past few years). I will return in the evening and cook dinner (or maybe reward myself on a good first day and get some takeaway). And then I’ll have hours of free time before bed, where I’ll wake up and do something similar the next day.
But these days, though there will be a certain rhythm and routine to them, will never be boring. I’m determined to that they will never be boring.
My goal: make every day a new first.
This post was inspired by this week’s Weekly Writing Challenge: Memoir Madness.
Today is July 31st, 2014, and I have (technically) completed a blog every day challenge.
(I technically didn’t post on the 19th, but I stayed up until the early hours of the 20th to post a quick blurb about staying up late, and then posted again on the 20th. In my defense, it was still the 19th on the West Coast when I posted, so really…)
Another month of my life has passed, one filled with new experiences, some repeats of old ones, and in just a few more weeks, I’ll be looking to start another new chapter of my life. I’ll finally be leaving university housing, starting up a new, full-time job, and I’ll be 22 and no longer a student in a classroom, but released to the wider world.
Throughout this month, I’ve written in a notebook as well, a personal notebook of stream-of-consciousness and drafts of fiction and poetry. My current notebook I started in mid-July, and I’ve filled 99 pages of it.
Lately, I’ve been trying to slow down when I write, take the time to make the letters neat and even, and in the process slow myself down as well, really savor the time that I’m writing. Because I know that although I will soon be working a job that I can leave in the office (and no longer be in a situation where I will constantly have to bring work home and take up my free time, like a student), I still may not have the time to write. Not at the hours that I’ve enjoyed so far this summer.
I love blogging. I love interacting with people through this site, and writing new posts that may make someone think about something new. But I love, I think even more, the feeling of seeing the words my hands have created, of holding in my hands the notebooks that I’ve filled. I love getting the ache in my hand, getting the ink splotches on my fingers, feeling the way the pages wrinkle after filling them with pen marks.
On the side of my page, I have my archive list of all the past year and a half I’ve had this blog. To me, that’s the equivalent of having in a row all of the notebooks I’ve filled in the past four, almost five, years of keeping a notebook. Though the archive on the side of this page shows that I have written so much through this blog, I can’t touch it. I can’t run my fingers over it. I can’t hear the flip of the pages or hold the months in my hand. Keeping notebooks and filling them with my writing, I can.
And that, I think, is what makes the difference.
I’m not sure where this blog will go after this Blog Every Day challenge. But I do know that I’ll keep writing.
The general public just may not see that I am all the time.
This post was inspired by today’s Daily Prompt: Handmade Tales.
I can imagine, though, that July 30th will be a scorcher in the US. My day may start off with an early-morning run, before the heat really sets in. I’ll eat slowly throughout the day, eating some fruit in the morning, snacking on apple wedges and peanut butter throughout the late morning, and some sort of sandwich for lunch. After lunch, I’ll sip some sweet tea and water as I read and write, leisurely lounging outside in the sun, moving to the shade when it gets too hot. For dinner, I’ll cook something fresh, enough for two or three or however many I may encounter that evening. And I’ll spend the rest of the day in the company of my friends.
It’s unseasonably cool outside, with a slight breeze that takes the edge off the heat from the sun. I unfortunately didn’t go out for a run this morning, though I will probably take the time later this evening when I’m finished with some work I have to do. And, if I’m being honest. I haven’t eaten much today. I have some apples and oranges stocked in my room, but my breakfast consisted of a Starbucks drink and a chocolate croissant.
The rest of my day is pretty much planned out. I’m viewing an apartment this afternoon, working some more in the evening, and won’t get the chance to write at my leisure until late in the night when my responsibilities for the day are taken care of.
I don’t have a kitchen; I’m currently living in a freshman dorm without access to one. And all my friends are pretty busy this evening, though we do have plans to go out to celebratory drinks this weekend.
I had no idea what day 211 of 2014 would be like. And my day 21-self was right to not predict too much about this day.
I don’t want to have too set of a target to try and hit. I have a vague idea of where I want to be and what I want to be doing. But I’ve found in the past that whenever I try to have definite and solid plans for anything, things end up slipping a little and changing. I would rather be open to that change rather than try to stick to a particular path. Who knows where going off the map will take me?
Did I hit the vague idea of where I wanted to be? If I’m honest, I don’t entirely remember where my day 21-self wanted to be.
But I do know that I’m in a good place. There have been so many unexpected surprises between the definite milestones that I knew would happen. On day 40, I got an internship that taught me so much within that one semester about being a professional and working in a non-profit. On days 76-78, I volunteered at the Weeksville Heritage Center, and learned more about maintaining outdoor spaces. On day 100, I gave a (very short) speech for the first time in years. On various days throughout, I’ve gone out and explored New York City with my secondhand camera, and began my journey to fully realize my potential as a mobile phone photographer.
Maybe not every day of the 190 days since January 21st have been perfect. But every day brought something new that inspired me to keep going, and all of that has brought me here.
And that’s all I need, really.
This post was in response to today’s Daily Prompt: 190 Days Later.