Are the Rules of Language Meant to Be Broken?

My friend told me recently that he had a discussion with his roommate and his roommate’s girlfriend about the different ways in which languages are learned. The roommate learned to speak Spanish at home, while his girlfriend learned to speak Spanish in school. The girlfriend apparently speaks the language more “correctly” and can thoroughly understand the grammar of the language, whereas the roommate has been able to communicate in the way that he learned at home without necessarily being able to describe those same grammar rules.
As someone who studies Italian, the question of the correct way to speak a language is an interesting one for me. It is an especially interesting topic for the Italian language because Italy only became a unified nation in 1861, and its many regions all speak different dialects. When Italian children go to school, they are taught how to speak the “proper” and “standard” Italian. It seems almost strange to tell people that their mother tongue is somehow incorrect when they are able to aptly communicate with people from their homes. Much of the development of the modern Italian language occurred over a time in which certain people, such as Francesco Petrarca, wanted a unified Italy. Dante, Petrarca, and Boccaccio are considered among the greatest Italian writers, even though they lived during a time in which there wasn’t even a nation called “Italy”. Eventually the standard for poetry was provided by Petrarca and prose by Boccaccio, but each wrote in their own dialects. Therefore, the development of modern Italian is highly influenced by their own Tuscan roots.
This brings me to my own personal story. My mother, an Italian-born woman, once spoke with a coworker in Italian because he had found out that my mother was Italian. He used the Italian that he had learned through his education while she used the language with which she was raised. The coworker commented that the language she spoke was not truly Italian.
So what does it mean to speak a language correctly? If I make grammar mistakes in my Italian courses, I’m marked down. The same is true with regard to English grammar in many other classes. Who gets to choose what the standard is for a language? What are the possible ramifications of saying that another person’s mother tongue isn’t “proper”? Does a type of class system form in which the wealthier and more educated can exert their influence and create standards by which they can distinguish themselves from the rest? As someone who loves majoring in a language, I am not suggesting that we should dismantle grammar rules. There is a sense of unity and community that comes from speaking a common language in the same way, which undoubtedly helped in providing a sense of solidarity among the different Italian peoples. What I am suggesting is that people should be conscious of the ways in which they address how other people choose to express themselves, especially in colloquial settings. The ways that we speak are formed by the people with whom we interact and where we develop those language skills, and so there will always be people who will be able to understand these “incorrect” or “improper” methods of communication as perfectly normal.
Pride is the enemy of learning a language. Students of languages, by virtue of not being native to the language, should work to speak the way most native people speak for practical reasons. However, it seems silly to assert that native speakers somehow don’t speak their own language properly, and even sillier when that opinion comes from someone who is a student of the language. Assuming that what one learns in a classroom is the only way that native speakers should communicate creates a narrow view of what it means speak a language. As in many other areas of education, students of languages should especially recognize that they are lifelong learners, being open to new and different ways by which people communicate.

Breathe

Take a deep breath—a real one: in through the nose; hold it for a few seconds; out through the mouth. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Felt good, didn’t it? When’s the last time you took a moment to do that—to breathe deliberately, with purpose—to really taste the air? I need to remind myself sometimes. A lot of times, honestly. With classes, and assignments, and music practices, and jobs, and food shopping, and eating, and laundry, and worrying about the future, and ignoring the future, and (occasionally) sleeping—I often forget who I am in between the rampant hustle and endless bustle. As my father would say, “People have forgotten how just to be.” Although lacking the clichéd “back in my day,” I used to dismiss his griping as the growing pains that accompanied his aging hippie sensibilities. Now that I myself am older, however, and “real life” is nipping at my résumé, I frequently find myself so diligently tending the garden that I often forget to stop and smell the proverbial roses.

This admittedly self-indulgent, New-Age-sounding introspection comes on the heels of a startling discovery I made yesterday, the Saturday before Thanksgiving. As I walked down the street, minding my own business, I was suddenly met with a horrifying sight. There, hanging lazily from a street lamp, was an enormous ornamental wreath decked with boughs of holly—fa-la-la-la-la, and so on and so forth. It sagged in the air like a giant, festive, evergreen doughnut, gaudy and out-of-place among the trees that had yet to give up the ghost and blow their coats. It filled me with dread.

I’d like to pause briefly for clarification: the holidays are a joyous time for many, including myself. They’re about good food, good family, and good times. I cherish the opportunity to visit home, to see old friends, and to save $2.60 on laundry.

But the question remains—why the hurry? With Turkey Day still looming large on the horizon, people seem to be preemptively two steps ahead; they’re dusting off the stockings and fishing the plastic tree out of the garage before the apple pie has had a chance to cool. At what point did even our culture become too busy to take things a day at a time? Some people’s reflex would be to blame consumerism—an understandable reaction, given that I myself will be spending Black Friday huddled up in my house with visions of aggressive shoppers dancing in my head. But I think the issue lies deeper than that. The desire to fill our lives with busywork or store-bought tchotchkes stems from a certain fear—that is, a fear of quietness. If every waking instant is jam-packed with chasing deadlines, or toying with the latest inevitably-obsolete piece of iPlastic, then we never have to confront the looming silence that stalks our periphery. It awaits its chance to seep into our cracks, to force us to take a hard look at ourselves in the tinsel-trimmed mirror.

As a culture, we have to take a step back for sanity and for self. We can’t hope to navigate the wide world if we never first explore ourselves. This should not be taken as a condemnation of a life well-lived; every day should be cherished like it’s our last, and we should use our time to its fullest. But equally important are those moments in between the moments. Silence is a rapidly-waning commodity that’s worth its weight in gold. To be able to take a step back and reflect is a dwindling prospect that must be nurtured, not extinguished. Quiet should be welcomed for its solace, not feared for its emptiness.

I write this post somewhat ironically, knowing that it comes largely from a place of hypocrisy; I’m as bad as anyone at biting off more than I should ever even attempt to chew. And although I’m far from the misty-mountaintop guru that I aspire to be, here is a list of a few things, gleaned from minds wiser than my own, that might help people—myself included—keep life in perspective and pin down those fleeting moments of quiet that disappear as quickly as they appear:

A) Crying doesn’t un-spill the milk – Although a time-worn proverb, it remains apt. Worrying is a fruitless affair. It eats us from the inside, and leaves holes in our stomach to be filled with more worry. Time spent fretting over things out of our control should be used to reflect instead. Worrying produces unnecessary anxiety, which serves only to fuel the overburdened nature of our lives, and hinders us from appreciating the moments of downtime that we so need.

B) Never run for a bus; there will always be another – I stole this one from Mel Brooks. We do ourselves no favors when we manufacture tension in our own lives. Another way of putting it: a missed opportunity is not the end of the world. There will always be another bus around the corner, no matter how amazing the former was, double-decker and all. If we focus on those opportunities that slip away from us, we’re tempted to overcompensate, and thus run ourselves ragged. Instead, we must slow down and put things back into perspective.

C) Tranquility within consists in the good ordering of the mind – Taken from the meditations of Marcus Aurelius, he certainly hits the nail on the head. When we become preoccupied with the external, we forget to take care of the internal. Regardless of how many tasks we can juggle, until we reorder our minds we can never achieve tranquility. This can be done only by embracing simplicity and relishing stillness and quiet.

So the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by school, or holidays, or life in general—the next time you’re considering cramming and a means of coping—seek out the silence, instead; enjoy it like a deep breath of fresh air.

Real Life Stars Hollow

Over October break, the best weekend of my life occurred. On Friday, my mom thought I was being overdramatic, yet by Sunday, she conceded that it had been one of the best weekends of her life too.

Hundreds of fans. Three days. So much of the cast and crew. In the town that inspired it all.

Never will I ever be as happy as I was at the Gilmore Girls Fan Festival. (Unless you tell me I’ll be able to marry my very own Jess one day. Or Logan, if he’s vastly matured in the last 10 years.)

I met Lane, Gypsy, Andrew, Miss Patty, Jackson and April. I knitted while watching some of my favorite episodes while Valerie Campbell—costume supervisor, or ‘costume queen’ as I’ve dubbed her in my head— gave us all kinds of behind the scenes fun facts and commentary. I drank a “Rory.” I sang along as Hep Alien (minus Gil— we missed you!) led a round of ‘Where You Lead’ on the town hall steps. I had coffee at the real life LUKE’S and stayed at the real life Independence Inn (the Mayflower Grace, my new favorite inn).

Sorry, I’m getting carried away bragging.

Driving back to Vassar on Sunday afternoon gazing at the leaves (I LIVE for fall foliage), I had a thought. This weekend wasn’t just amazing because Gilmore Girls is amazing. What Gilmore Girls has inspired is amazing. I have never met so many kind, generous, open-hearted people in one place. Not perfect people, but ordinary people with extraordinarily good hearts. (I dare you to find a fandom better than ours.)

It’s going to sound cheesy, but I haven’t felt so consistently like myself as I did those three days in Washington Depot, Connecticut. This year is the first time I’ve felt closest to my best self in a while, and in an unexpected way, that weekend felt like a huge reaffirmation of who that best, unfiltered, genuine, (un)perfectly happy self is. I don’t care if it’s “cool” to be as obsessed with Gilmore Girls as I am. I care about that part of me, and I’m unapologetically proud of what I’m naturally drawn to and love.

People who make me feel like I have to pretend I’m into something I’m not, or act apathetic about things I deeply care about, just aren’t my people. They never were (even if we used to be “friends”). It sounds simple, but acknowledging that belief system is no small thing.  Figuring out who you’re not is a huge part of clearing space for who you are. Once you’ve done that, you get to start making decisions that speak to your soul without letting anyone else’s opinions influence them.

People like Jennie Whitaker (who had the ingenious idea for the Gilmore Girls festival), and my new friend Amy (who I met in line to meet Keiko Agena, and then spent all of Saturday with) may seem rare, but they’re out there. Stars Hollow inhabitants (a.k.a. people who just make you feel good about yourself and at home with who you are) aren’t imaginary. You just have to truly protect, and embrace, and prioritize whatever makes you feel like your best, truest self. I’ve finally learned that that’s the only way to attract my people.

We don’t all have to like the same kinds of things to be friends—I promise I won’t disown you if you don’t like Gilmore Girls. But what if we only allowed people in our life who respect them? What if we created our own little mental “Star’s Hollow,” a small town full of only the people who make you feel like the best version of yourself. We can’t always be in our small town; sometimes we have to venture out to other places. Though we can’t always control what happens across state lines, we can choose to decide where we take up residence most of the time, and what kind of energy we want to live around.

One of my favorite inspirational quotes ever came from a film intensive I took at the Margie Haber Studio in Los Angeles: “People are like lighthouses. You attract what you’re sending out. When you open up your power, your lighthouse opens.” People who think your light is too bright don’t have to enter. Some people will find that light warm and welcoming, and walk right in.

I feel warm and welcomed the second I heard the opening chords of “Where You Lead.” I feel like my best self when I’m in a rehearsal room, or watching a favorite tv show with a friend, or curled up with a really great autobiography, or out an amazing new restaurant.  And I’m enjoying all of these things so much more now that I’ve cut out a lot of the things, and people, that don’t make me happy.

It’s hard to be so open about this publicly—but by the end of my sophomore year, I was more miserable than I’ve ever been, and incredibly lost. It was really hard for me to picture ever wanting or enjoying anything at Vassar ever again. Little did I know that there was so much left for me to do and become here. After a year away, now with such a different, renewed perspective, I just don’t have the energy to give power to the things that used to drive me insane. It’s so surprising and liberating how quickly and sharply the things that matter, and bring you joy, come into focus, once you let all the bullshit go. And you know what they say: what you focus on, grows.

So in a nutshell, what I’m saying is this:

You don’t have to get up at 3 a.m. to watch the Gilmore Girls revival with me.

But if you’re a resident of my personal Star’s Hollow, you’ll listen to me gush about it over coffee, or at least simply accept that this is one of the biggest events of my life so far.

Just like I’ll respect and love you for the things that excite you that way.

Never turn off your lighthouse, even if not as many people as you’d like are drifting in right this minute. And don’t try to change your light to attract more people.

The right people are making their way down the beach.

And once they get to the lighthouse, they’re probably going to set up camp for quite a while. Your people, your tribe, they’re in it for the long term.

(Who would ever want to leave Stars Hollow?)

Reading for Yourself

I was never much of an avid reader when I was young. Like most people, I didn’t like being assigned readings because that almost takes the fun out of fully exploring the realm of imagination that comes with reading. Don’t get me wrong, I could appreciate a good story, but I rarely read for my own entertainment. Most of the times that I tried to read a work of fiction, I would lose interest after only a short while. I thought that maybe I just didn’t like the act of reading all that much. More recently, I thought, “Maybe it’s not the reading that I don’t like.” After all, I’ve enjoyed articles on whatever my topic of interest was for that particular time. It would range from science to religion to cooking to languages. I realized that reading is neither something I love nor hate, but the topics are what kept me reading. I felt like what I was reading applied more directly to my life at the time than the works of fiction I had tried to read.
October break provided an opportunity for me to delve into some works that touched on topics that could be applied to my life, but that I had never truly explored. The first book that I read is called The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown. The book is structured with ten guideposts with tips and explanations for living a life that is genuine to who we are and not the ways in which the outside world tells us we should live. She explores why it is that people feel they have to constantly prove themselves rather than knowing that they themselves are truly enough. Brown admits that she is not saying that we should not work to improve ourselves, rather that we should always be comfortable with who we are. If on our own terms we want to work toward something more, that’s great, as long as we don’t feel that our worth is dependent on our “successes.” Many of us deal with fears of things like vulnerability, but Brown justifiably asserts that things like vulnerability are what make life most beautiful. It is when we are vulnerable that we show who we genuinely are, and that is enough.
The second book that I read over October break was Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn. This book was a good complement to the first book in that it supports the theme of people being fully present in life. Kabat-Zinn’s book is about mindfulness and meditation. He discusses the different approaches to meditation, how to include meditation in any schedule, some specific practices and what someone might gain from practicing mindfulness. There might be times in our lives, or even our entire lives, in which we are not truly present. We can get caught up in worrying about the past or the future that we forget that the only reality is what is in the present. I now occasionally, because of the advice given by Wherever You Go, There You Are, will say the mantra, “This is it” or “Are you awake?”. Being able to be fully present in the moment allows us to do exactly that: live fully in the moment. These types of mindfulness practices help with taking all of the emotions that come with being outside of being in the present moment (anxiety about the future, shame because of the past) and allow us to see them more clearly. We can then more easily choose to pursue these absolutely valid emotions or not, instead of having these emotions control our lives.
I’m really glad I decided to start reading about the things that genuinely interest me, because anything else wouldn’t be genuine to who I am. These books have helped me, and I expect will continue to help me, to develop my life right now in the way that I want to live: truly alive.

Retrospect

They say that as you age, time slips by: days become weeks, and months, and years. In the blink of an eye the leaves change, the snow melts, and the trees bud, relentless in their stride. To a child, each birthday is an eternity away, a distant milestone to be chased for cake; to an adult, birthdays hang like a millstone, a weight tainted by too many candles. Grown-ups move like molasses to the youthful view, stuck in a rut, miming their meager dreams. The future looms, while the present flashes ecstatic in the pan. The dripping sand seems ever out of hand, and shovels don’t come big enough to matter.

I still remember nap time. They’d turn out the lights, unroll the mats in lines. Then they’d read something soothing—or play Beethoven, the solemn strains soft enough to rest your head, a belly full of crackers and crust-free sandwiches. There were no cares beyond the crayon colors, or who was next to tend the plastic kitchen. We had our roles—firemen, princesses, astronauts, presidents; I used to be an architect. My towers triumphed the toddler skyline, balanced stacks of sanded maple, sticks and scraps to craft palatial playroom fixtures. I’d tear my buildings down, start from the ground up—rearrange the broken bits in strange new cityscapes or towns. My only limit was my mind, and I refused to let my boundaries be defined. But time kept moving. I ditched the stroller, the sippy cup; I grew up fast like they always do.

I still remember junior high. I tossed my hard hat, my steel-toed boots, and grabbed binoculars instead. I charted the scene, machete in hand, explorer extraordinaire. I cut my way through public jungles, dodging beasts from broken homes who bared their teeth for fear of caring. The halls were long, with lockers bolted row by row like undergrowth. The world was strange and unfamiliar, and there I wandered sans a proper map. I swam away from open ocean waters, dove within myself; I learned to hold my breath and look inside to find a source of strength. But time kept moving. Puberty reared its ugly head, and I discovered just how pain can lead to growth.

I still remember senior year. I stowed my sword and came across a pen. I took the hidden corked-up bottle, popped the precious cap and dipped my quill. I salved the scars with wrung-out words, hung to dry on lines behind my eyes. I let out a hacking cough and found my voice, and so began to sing: each line of prose a melody, and stanzas made of harmony. As I conducted and composed, I shed the stress of tests and cliques; I shunned the looming future, bent on peddling the great unknown. I sung until my hands were numb, and heard my tenor echo off the page. Each aria of blotted ink rang out, a brief refrain to stave off caps and gowns, long-winded speeches and circumstance without the pomp. But time kept moving. The future deigned to knock, and off I left to pay my many dues.

And so it starts again. We carry with us those that came before, adoring pieces of our checkered past. We root ourselves in what we know, so future woes won’t chill us to the bone. Despite the days that break and fall away—that pile up beneath our heavy boots—I’ll build, explore and sing here just the same; I’ll eagerly await that which is new. For though what’s yet to come may come in force, that which lies within will always help us stay the course.

Re-Runs

In preparation for “A Year In the Life,” I’ve been re-watching all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls in strict chronological order, from the pilot to the finale.

Well, I was.

Until the episode in Season 4 when Lorelei and Rory are so busy that they don’t end up talking for a whole episode and eventually break down crying about how overwhelmed they are. Too much.

And then I skipped episodes four through seven in Season 5 because I hated the choices that Rory was making in her love life. Too frustrating.

And for obvious reasons, the end of Season 5 and the first ten or so episodes of Season 6 are too heartbreaking. As is the end of Season 6. (My true Stars Hollow locals will understand these references—for the rest of you, get a cup of coffee—or five—and get watching already!!) I’m doing well with Season 7 so far, but we’re about to get to the messy part, and I know I’ll be tempted to skip ahead once again.

The messy part.

I’ve been skipping the messy parts.

I’ve re-watched this series hundreds of times. My dad knows practically all of the plots, even though he’s yet to sit down and watch an episode in its entirety. I can slip in and out of Stars Hollow, easily, like it’s my own neighborhood.

But this round of reruns has just been inexplicably hard. I can’t just sit down and watch any old episode to destress while eating dinner. I can’t brush it off when I’m irritated about the way my favorite fictional characters lives are playing out. (Irritated, outraged, perturbed….I’m being completely serious—and kind of dramatic, but mostly just serious.) When Rory does something that I think is totally unlike her (Season 6 finale) or when a character gets far less than I think they deserve in their storyline (Lane), I am genuinely upset. Way more than usual. And so I choose not to deal with these weird feelings, and just skip ahead to the episodes without messy parts.

Why didn’t these messy parts bother me before? Why don’t Seasons 1-3 bother me at all? (To be fair, they really never did, except for that time Rory got into Harvard, Princeton and Yale. Because that happens.)

I can’t get through these particular messy parts, because I’m in the same stage of life that Rory was when they happened. The equivalent of Season 7 is happening for me right now (senior year), so I find myself reflecting on my 4th, 5th and 6th seasons (freshman—junior year) a lot more now. I didn’t steal a yacht or anything, and I definitely didn’t date my married ex-boyfriend (just to clarify, I don’t have one).  But I did spend some time away from Vassar during junior year (the whole year). I’ve also done some really out-of-character type things, and made some weird, unintentional mistakes.

Things got messy.

Some aspects of my life are still messy.

Why watch the messy parts of my favorite TV show when I can just wait and see what drama ensues in my own life from week to week? Sometimes I wish there was a “skip” button for those too.

Yet as tempting as that sounds, it would also be incredibly disorienting to skip entire phases of my life.  I can do that with Gilmore Girls, because I’ve already watched it a million times. I can’t quite do that with my own life, as I’d be skipping over scenes that haven’t even happened yet. A recap wouldn’t quite suffice.

So maybe I can’t skip over the messy parts—but I can choose not to go back and relive them. Maybe once you’ve made it through the gray area, there’s no need to back. Maybe I don’t have to watch the Gilmore Girls episodes that kill me.

There’s no way to erase the messy memories—they’ll always take up a little space in the back of your head—but there’s no law that says you have to make daily, weekly, monthly, or even yearly visits to them, unless you want to. (Does anyone really want to?) Easier said than done—but it is possible to let them go.

Why do we even feel the need to ruminate over the past at all? For the same reason that I thought I needed to re-watch all of Gilmore Girls before the new episodes come out: we buy into the belief that we have to revisit our past before moving forward.

There’s a difference between reliving and accepting. I don’t deny that I was a really awkward, incredibly shy, freshman in high school and college. I don’t deny that sophomore year was extremely difficult for a lot of personal reasons. I don’t deny that one of the things I love most about Vassar is that they let me take a much needed time away to learn the things I needed to learn, in the places I needed to learn them.

(To clarify, I didn’t take a year off from college (although I definitely considered it.) I spent a year away from Vassar taking classes at UCLA in the summer and London in the spring. So I essentially turned the fall into my summer.)

If I had a chance to rewrite the messy parts, I wouldn’t. They led me to some of the greatest parts of my life, and I truly wouldn’t want to walk down any other road but mine. But I also don’t feel like looking down that road every time I want to move forward. I accept them, I think about them every now and then, but there’s no need for forced reflection.

So maybe I’ll just stop trying to make this intense re-run marathon happen, and just revisit my favorite parts instead. There’s enough messiness in my real life to deal with, and accept, and move on from. No need to go back and relive fictional drama that makes me think about my own past plot lines.

My favorite TV show doesn’t need to stress me out this much.

And maybe my real life doesn’t have to either—at least not all the time.

Learning Italian Outside of the Classroom

As someone who’s always been interested in learning another language, I’m glad to finally have the opportunity to do so as a Biology and Italian Studies double major at Vassar. I grew up listening to relatives speaking Italian, and even spoke and understood a good amount for my age (so I’ve been told) because my immigrant grandparents watched my brother and I before we started preschool. Unfortunately, as a result of not hearing and using the language enough when I went to school, I wasn’t able to grow in my Italian. I still heard Italian at home every once in awhile, often in my mother’s Molfettese dialect, but it was never even close to a primary language in my house.
So my brother and I hoped to take Italian lessons as an extracurricular activity or in school, but the lessons never worked out and our schools never offered Italian. We hear all the time that the best way to learn a language is through immersion, but how is that possible for those of us who can’t study or travel abroad for long periods of time?
Well, I found a great resource in movies and music. I usually use Netflix, which tends to be a little limited, but there are some Italian movies that I would recommend. La Vita è Bella is a popular film about a Jewish-Italian waiter who tells his son that the circumstances of the concentration camp in which they are kept are all part of a game. The waiter, Guido Orefice, gives his son instructions to win the “game,” instructions which are meant to keep him alive. While I would recommend this film because of its quality, for the purposes of improving one’s Italian I would recommend a movie that is easier to watch again and again. For me, I like to watch Cinema Paradiso. Cinema Paradiso is a 1988 drama that follows the life of Salvatore Di Vita, a filmmaker, from his humble beginnings in Sicily. The film touches on family life, relationships and Di Vita’s inspiration which led to his future success. I would recommend choosing a movie that you are willing to watch time and time again, preferably with subtitles in the beginning, because it will allow you to begin recognizing new vocabulary, the uses of your known vocabulary, idiomatic expressions and the specific intonations of words and phrases.
You may be thinking, “What if I don’t have time to watch these movies consistently?” Well, I tend to make up the time by listening to music in the language I want to learn. A lot of the time that I’m doing homework, especially Italian homework, I listen to Italian music. There are a number of reasons to use music as an immersion tool, one being availability. There are hundreds and hundreds of songs available online. Whether you like modern, classical, romantic or any other genre of music, there are bound to be options for you. Songs by their nature repeat the same words, so listening to a song is like having a little drill session. Plus, lyrics can easily be found, especially if you’re using YouTube. After listening to a catchy song a few times, you’re already singing it to yourself, allowing for continual practice in pronunciation and increased vocabulary.
I have found that after using some of these immersion practices, I am less self-conscious about speaking the language I want to learn, and when I do speak, I do so with less mistakes. Even at this moment I’m in the Italian Department lounge with an Italian television series playing in the background. Even though I’m not paying attention to the plot, I’m putting myself in a situation in which my desired language can further become part of my subconscious. The Italian Department will be playing an episode of Romanzo Criminale each Wednesday at 6:00 if any of you are interested (shameless plug). That’s all for now!
A presto, i miei amici!

Service with a Smile

I’m convinced that the clock is out to get me.

Each second is excruciating, a test of sheer willpower. I swear I can hear the clock laughing at me. “Tick, tick, tick” it chuckles. I glower at it, unamused by what is surely a joke at my expense. The air feels thick with unused time, and the smell of industrial floor cleaner clings to each breath. I’ve taken to pinching the back of my hand so as not to drift off into the merciful arms of sleep. Streams of busy citizens flow past the window, each individual with more purpose on their face than I’ve been able to muster in some time. Their presence is disconcerting, but at the same time I’m reminded that there is a life outside these walls.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see through the window a familiar face round the corner into view—a friend! I beam and give an enthusiastic wave. The stranger returns a confused expression, offers a conciliatory nod and hurries on their way. The hallucinations are getting worse.

To pass the time, I invent new games. I play several riveting rounds of “Stare at the Wall.” I have yet to beat the wall. Its monochromatic vastness holds steady against my best efforts to topple it with my mind. Next, I play “Take a Drink of Water.” Admittedly, this game has become a guilty pleasure despite lacking any real substance. I play it often during my stay. Finally, I play “Counting.” My current record is nine hundred and thirty-seven, at which time I became distracted by a passing dog and lost my place. It was small, with long ears and a curled tail.

All at once, the monotonous whirr of the oversized printer’s oversized fan is split in half as if by a sudden bolt of lightning: the phone rings, its shrill tones echoing off the cement floors and whitewashed walls. I scramble—“Hello! Vassar College Service Desk. How may I…” Click. They’ve already hung up. I hang up too. “Tick, tick, tick.” I shoot another displeased look clock-ward. As I turn to continue my interrupted round of Stare at the Wall, the phone cries out again, its anguished wails a plea for sympathy. I answer.

“Hram- arm-ala helnnsa urrhumm,” says the person on the other end of the line.

“I’m sorry?” I reply. “You’re going to have to speak up. There’s something wrong with the connection.”

“Computer, my computer broken. Help? Computer dead. Need help to computer,” the caller clarifies.

“Right…” I say, hesitantly. “Can you be any more specific about the issue?”

“No,” they offer, bluntly, all hints of disconnection evaporated.

“I see,” I return. “Would you be able to bring the computer to the desk, so that we might better diagnose the prob-” Click. Another hang-up. I sigh and start a round of Take a Drink. “Tick, tick, tick.”

Just then, a customer sidles in. Never one to dismiss a distraction, I rush to greet them, my “How may I help you?” lanyard jangling loosely around my neck. She doesn’t look happy; they never look happy. “Good morning, ma’am! What can we do for you today?” I’m met with a stare sharper than the sound of breaking glass.

“It won’t turn on,” she hisses, and slaps down onto the table with too much force a computer no less than a decade old.

“Oh,” I reply weakly. “Well, you see, after a certain number of years, most computers…” This time her glare feels like getting cracked in the ribs with a cricket bat. The air leaves my lungs involuntarily.

“What? You can’t fix it? I thought you tech people fix things.” A bead of sweat trickles down the back of my neck, and I glance at my colleague, who is pointedly ignoring the situation.

I smile. It’s the kind of smile only berated people know how to smile. It’s a smile that says “it’s my job to help you,” a smile somewhere between obstinacy and resignation. It’s a service smile. She makes a noise somewhere between an indignant gurgle and a scathing guffaw, and, grabbing her relic of a machine, leaves without another word. Crisis averted.

My relentlessly ticking adversary reminds me of its presence. “Tick, tick, tick.” As I glance up to scowl, I notice the time: half past closing. The pit of my stomach bottoms out and I have to steady myself on a table so as not to fall over. I gather my meager belongings and am out the door in a minute flat. It’s been over seven hours since I’ve last tasted the sweet air of the outside. I will relish my freedom; tomorrow brings with it a similar sentence.

Gilmore Girls and Life

A largely anticipated event will be occurring later this year (in 77 days, 19 minutes and 20…19…18 seconds as I write this), something I’ve personally been waiting for since I finished the show. I’ve planned my Thanksgiving weekend around this occasion. I’m not going shopping on Black Friday this year (the first time I’ve skipped the holiday in years) because of this momentous occasion. Instead of bundling up and braving the crowds of New York City, I’ll be on my couch at 3:01 a.m. with coffee and pie (and maybe some takeout just because?), wrapped up in a blanket, bawling the second that my favorite credits of all time start rolling on my computer screen.

Do I even need to say it?

It’s like saying, “The Scottish Play” or “He Who Shall Not be Named.” Gilmore Girls has just become that sacred.

I and so many millennials have developed such a deep and personal connection with this show that we didn’t even get to watch on air. (I discovered Gilmore Girls in 7th grade and was on Season 3 when the series finale was announced. I immediately jumped ahead to Season 7 to watch the finale. That was the first time I ever sobbed—I’m not exaggerating here—sobbed over a series finale.)

I could talk about everything I’ve missed about Stars Hollow, and everything that I NEED to see resolved plot-wise, and how I feel about all these spoilers (Unnecessary—we’ve waited ten years; we can wait another few months, guys) forever.

But this revival is about more than everyone’s favorite TV show coming back.

I seriously feel like we’re all going home to Stars Hollow with the cast. I’ve missed Friday night dinner, I’ve missed walking by Ms. Patti’s dance studio, I’ve missed movie marathons and I can’t WAIT to see the Dragonfly again (How did they ever think they could do a revival without Sookie St. James?!).

But then I have to step back and remind myself that we’re not picking up where we left off in Luke’s at five-something-a.m. (I won’t spoil it for those of you who haven’t finished the series yet—but seriously, what are you waiting for?)

10 whole years have passed. Amy Sherman Palladino allowed time to pass. And I love that.

She really let reality seep in, so naturally a lot has changed for these characters and actors. Edward Herrmann’s death, the most tragic event that the show must confront in this revival, has turned into the jumping off point for the new episodes. Because the characters have to face it. The actors had to face it. We, as fans, faced it. Reality is unquestionably affecting this revival. It’s no easy task. And yet, almost the entire original cast of this beloved show is coming back to fill in the blanks, face reality and celebrate the world of Gilmore Girls.

I think it’s less about closure and more about continuing. There’s something so final and dreary about a series finale. That little fictional universe you’ve come to love is gone. You’re left with some cliffhangers and some neatly woven endings. Maybe you wonder what happens next, or maybe you just despair over the fact that these characters’ lives are over. (Or maybe no one is as emotional about TV as I am.)

You might be thinking, “The same thing will happen after the revival. We’ll be left with another finale of sorts. Then what?”

I don’t know.

Something.

But what, I don’t know.

The goodbye feels less permanent this time. We know it’s coming. We know we’re lucky to have this glimpse into our favorite mother-daughter duo’s lives again, and for that we’re grateful. It’s a slice of life.

In the end, isn’t that really all we can expect from anyone, from anything in our lives?

If we’re lucky, there will be a few people who we meet along the way that never ever leave our side. Everyone deserves that kind of unconditional, long lasting love and support, whether it be from a partner, parent or friend. But the rest of the people we meet will not and cannot stay forever. We move around the world, we get busy, we grow together and apart and back together again. It’s bittersweet, but it’s just the way the world flows. Just like the Gilmore Girls, our favorite people don’t just disappear when we’re not with them. They’re just on another road, living their lives, creating memories to tell us about when we find our way back to them. (Where we lead, they will follow, and vice versa.)

I have a feeling we wouldn’t be nearly as obsessed with the Gilmore Girls, and feel such nostalgia for them and their world, had they not gone away. The show would be in it’s 17th season. We wouldn’t be bored, but the excitement certainly would have faded.

We’re excited for this revival because we can’t wait to check in and see how the town has been. We’re excited because we’ve missed it so much. And that’s the thing—you have to go away and live your life fully to really miss something or someone. I think that’s a really important concept to keep in mind during this stage of my life: missing people, and why that can be a good thing.

I was away from Vassar my entire junior year, and I still miss my life in California, and my life in London, and my life at home in New York City all the time. But being back here, I’ve realized that I missed Vassar too, in ways that I didn’t even realize. Missing places can make us excited about them again. We get to fall for them again. Not everything will be where you left it, because time passes, and you change, and the people you haven’t seen in a while change; even the place itself might change. I won’t say “that’s okay,” because it’s a weird thing to deal with, and it isn’t always “okay.” I know that firsthand. Seasons will end. Your time in certain places will end. Friendships may end. But you’ll continue. And you’ll rediscover. And sometimes things you thought were gone will come back to you.

I’d like to think that there’s always a possibility for a revival, if we truly seek it.

The great things, that feel like home, that speak to our souls,
I believe those things will come back to us,
Like no time has passed at all,
(even though it has)
And then they’ll leave again,
And we’ll continue with the seasons,
Knowing that somewhere, in some way, they are too.

That’s what I’ll be grateful for a day after Thanksgiving this year. In a season where so much is changing, and there’s so much talk of finality, I’m going to sit on my couch with pie and coffee at 3:01 a.m., catch up with my favorite girls and think about the revivals I might produce someday.

If You’re a College Senior Freaking Out About Your Future, Watch This Movie

nobdy

From Mr. Nobody (2009)

There’s a science fiction movie called Mr. Nobody, and it’s one of my favorites. Essentially, it’s about the butterfly effect: the idea that every small decision that you make ultimately has the power to change the course of your remaining life. The movie is about a boy who is faced with an impossible choice—when his parents separate, will he stay with his mother or his father?—and the consequences of either decision. This influences where he lives, who he falls in love with, how happy he is, and ultimately, whether he lives or dies. It’s really a pretty fantastic movie, albeit confusing as hell. I highly recommend it—especially to anyone who wants to feel both scared and relieved about the future.

As a graduating senior, it often feels like every decision I make from here on out really does fundamentally shift the entirety of my future. Maybe it won’t be life or death, but still. Where to go to graduate school? Which loans to I take out to pay for it? Where should I live? Who should I live with? Who will my new friends be? How will I keep in contact with my current friends? Will I be happy? Stressed? Broke? Regretful? What the hell is happening and how did I become an adult so quickly? In case you haven’t noticed, I am a professional at overthinking things and it should really be the first thing on the top of my resume.

Having an endless amount of options and knowing that you could literally do anything can be exhilarating and exciting, but also terrifying. Technically my path is pretty straightforward because I will still be in school, but it’s a whole different kind of school than anything I have experienced before. These feelings are so much different than the ones that I had when graduating high school. Back then, even though I didn’t know what my major would be or what my roommate would be like, everything felt so much more structured and certain, almost like an extension of high school but in a brand new place with brand new people. Going to college was the expectation. Now it feels like a whole different ball game.

“We cannot go back. That’s why it’s hard to choose. You have to make the right choice. As long as you don’t choose, everything remains possible.” Mr. Nobody is about how choices, both big and small ones, and whether or not we end up choosing the life that is right for us. We can imagine and plan for our lives all we want, but the fact of the matter is that things almost never work out exactly the way that we hoped, or the way that we thought that they were supposed to, but that doesn’t mean that it is wrong. “Each of these lives is the right one. Every path is the right path. Everything could have been anything else and it would have just as much meaning.” (Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself).