Saturday, September 17, 2011

let me down.

"Dreams never die, it's the people who give up on them."

A stranger said that to me once, and it's something I never forgot. I don't have a long story about wanting to be a journalist or a writer. Writing was always something I just did, but never considered myself any good at. I would watch the way that reporters on TV got right in the middle of action and knew what to ask, what to say. To me, that was journalism, and an introvert like me sure wasn't qualified to do it. It wasn't until LJ21 during the second year of college that I really began to understand what I could be as a journalist.

The New York Times recently published an article about what they're calling "generation limbo"--us post-grad twentysomethings who aren't entirely sure what the next stage in life is. The "postponed generation," as the article says. I see it, I do. There are a lot of wanderers out there. But I had a really long talk with Al earlier tonight and she kept reminding me that it didn't matter if I felt like shit, I was doing something amazing. And I don't know. I sometimes feel like I missed out on that "post-grad 'life is shit'" phase that everyone told me there would be. It's like I missed out on some important "coming of age" thing.

But then again...the other interns I've met have left me in awe. Their accomplishments and ambitions are all diverse and incredible. They're so motivated, and even though they don't know what they want for sure in life either, they're running into the future headfirst. "Hey NPR," I want to ask, "did you make a mistake by hiring me too? These guys are so legit."

Al is right--I need to get over the insecurities of not being good enough for anything, anyone, anywhere. I'm fucking here and I worked hard, I should feel good about this. I finished the first week of my dream internship, I'll be moving soon, I'm starting over. Ish. It hasn't been easy or very fun, and as wonderful as work has been this past week, there's a lot weighing on me too that I need to force myself to purge. So this is good--it's painful, but really, it's better.

Friday, September 9, 2011

growing up, post-9/11.

Wall of front pages detailing the attacks, as seen
at the Newseum's 9/11 exhibit.
I woke up on the morning of September 11, 2001 to a changed world. The attacks began before I woke up on the west coast, and I had to take the time difference into account as my mother turned on the TV and the New York sky was lit in flames. It was still dark in California and the sun was just rising. As I put on my uniform, no one in the house could turn off the television. We kept the radio on all the way to school and, as my mother drove, I remember looking outside the window of the backseat and seeing people silently in their cars looking concerned as they fumbled with their cell phones. I couldn't understand exactly what was happening, but I couldn't get the image out of my mind of that tall, glistening tower in flames.

At school, the older kids were talking and asking each other what happened. I was in the 7th grade, and us junior high students were considered "the adults" of the school. But the day went on as usual: recess, classes, lunch. We didn't turn on the TVs. We didn't pull up the news online. We didn't turn on the radios. I don't think the teachers or administrators knew what to say or do, and that was the common theme of the day, wasn't it? Nobody knew what to say or do.

That afternoon when we got home, the TV was on again and every channel was streaming the same images. News anchors spoke about when the first tower fell and speculated on when another building would fall. I watched 7 World Trade Center crumble live and there was only silence coming from the screen. And even then, we still didn't understand: why did this happen?

This was all before the "social media age," when Twitter and Facebook took over our lives. We turned to the newspapers and the reporters to tell us what was going on. A few months ago, I learned of Osama bin Laden's death through Twitter and Gchat hours before watching Obama's speech on TV. As I sat on the couch with Amanda, watching the president tell us that this man who had architected one of the greatest tragedies in recent American memory was dead, it felt like a weird closing of this circle that was my academic life. 9/11 affected every aspect of American life, and I can barely even remember a time before all that--before the TSA commanded the airports, before this unspoken fear of "the other" was re-instilled in everyday life. I remember going to the airport as a child and seeing my father off on business trips. Na and I would watch his plane take off from the window of the terminal. Nowadays, you can't get to the terminals without a boarding pass and an intrusive security screening process.

Remains of one of the broadcast towers that
stood atop one of the now-fallen buildings
(also at the Newseum's 9/11 exhibit).
With the 10th anniversary of the attacks just a couple of days away, news has been pouring out about this generation of students who don't remember a world before 9/11. Yesterday on NPR, Michel Martin spoke with a teacher and student from The Living Textbook Project about teaching the events of September 11th to this generation, and at Education Week, the writers have been reporting on this too. The problem, some have said, is that 9/11 is so complex, and something that is still trying to be understood and figured out today. I wonder if children in schools were taught about the Vietnam War as it occurred, but it was different then because children in the 60s didn't have the same tools children of the 21st century have at their disposal (internet, cable television, etc.).

When I think back to September 11, 2001, all I can remember is that feeling of watching the towers fall and the silence that seemed to fill every crevice of the country. I don't remember where I heard or read this, but the issue of the New York Times that came out that day was the least read in the newspaper's history. That gives me chills. The world stood still that day and watched America essentially crumble--at least that's what it felt like. The following years brought rise to moments in a blur: the start of war, the threat of terrorism entering our everyday lives...this is what growing up in the 2000s was like. What stories will I tell my potential offspring? Will it all be tinged with the effects of what happened on 9/11? The more I think about it, the more it feels relevant to every aspect of daily life, and then that leads me to wonder: how can classrooms not teach what happened and is still happening? Maybe we don't have definitive answers behind it all--behind the attacks, the terror and the aftermath--but we can start a dialogue about it so that maybe one day, we can collectively move forward.

Monday, September 5, 2011

a reminder.

The art on one of the benches at a Bethesda circulator stop.
I betrayed my best friend in the second grade, and sealed the secret with a simple agreement between my fellow traiter and me: we pinky swore to never tell anyone what happened. We kept that secret and never spoke of it again, though soon it became forgotten about anyways. But that simple act assured our promise, no matter how trivial it was. We saw it as if it were a matter of life or death. That's what promises mean when you're young. We took things so much more seriously back then.

I made a pinky promise via AIM with Andrea recently. It's one of those promises we know the both of us would never literally fulfill, but it's this assurance of accountability, and I do imagine we'll follow through in some way. I like to think I keep my promises, no matter how ridiculous or random they may seem.

I've made recent pinky promises too that fell apart for...well, you tell me. I had a dream last night in which we made more of those promises, but unlike the me that made those promises six months ago, the me in the dream knew they were false. Whenever I wake up from these dreams, I can't tell if they were nightmares or not. The adrenaline drives me to write, and the words tumble out as awkwardly as they form in my mind. But purging your heart is better than keeping quiet sometimes; there are only so many unanswered moments of vulnerability you can really take. And while it feels like a strong thwack of a hammer and another bit of you me is chiseled away, it's good for you me.

A few days ago, I came across an experience that reminded me why I emotionally over-invest in people: because I have this stupid obsession with the things that make us all unique and beautiful. That inspires me in a way I'd forgotten about, in a way to not be afraid of pursuing my own thoughts "as if they really, really matter," as Cortney wrote to me yesterday. And that's just it, isn't it? To find worth in our words and thoughts when our attempts to share hit walls. I can't make pinky promises the way I could when I was seven, but I can make real promises as a 22-year-old who is absolutely certain that she wants to live a unique and beautiful life, no matter who walks in and out. That is an honest promise, a genuine pursuit that I won't compromise in order to "fit in."