Though I have no recollection of the following incident having transpired on several occasions, photographs in my baby book confirm that, in fact, the description I am about to share is factually accurate.
As a child, I would often find myself sitting on top of my family’s microscopically-sized Queens, New York refrigerator. My father– for his own sheer amusement, or perhaps to avoid his diaper-changing duties– would place me on top of his favorite technological invention of the 20th Century. Then he would proceed to engage in his usual hyper-intellectual activities, such as reading The New York Times or perusing his 1000+ page biography on some obscure American president, all the while consuming a favorite beverage in the Fredrick-Blumenthal household: coffee.
Inevitably my mother would return home from a strenuous day at the lab/in the grocery store/on the Starbucks line and have a mild panic attack when she witnessed her one and only daughter on top of the refrigerator– particularly because said daughter would be given little parental guidance from her father, engaged in otherwise literary activities.
Words, er, loudly articulated expressions would be exchanged. And then my father, true to his Mr. Clown sense of humor, would lift me off the refrigerator, exclaiming, “Behold! The Yaffa Plane!” His point, if one can surmise one from his failures of supervision, was that I was capable of defying gravity, reaching impossible heights, indulging my inner metaphorical mountain climber.
Through the years, both my parents encouraged me to continue to fly, and often without the requisite parachute or experienced co-pilot beside me. Placing me in new and creative summer “camps”– ranging in content from African dance to digital photography to rocketry and science– they challenged me to challenge myself.
And though I kvetched about constantly having to reorient myself to new people, obscure places, and unorthodox surroundings, I realized the other day just how much I have internalized the message 6 month old Yaffa could not fully comprehend on top of the family fridge.
In a meeting with my favorite Wellesley professor, who is both outside my two majors and not from New York, Jewish, or in love with coffee, I found myself admitting to him just how much I craved England. Having just begun my London School of Economics MSc in development journalism application, I had Old Blighty on the brain.
Said professor, Professor M, could not help but comment, “My dear, you have this wonderful restlessness in you; it’s the mark of a good journalist. You are ready and willing to enter a globalized world, and to cite one of your favorite musicals, defy gravity.”
I paused, uncertain of whether it was the appropriate time to share my baby story, and instead opted for, “Well, I can’t imagine that trying to defy any other cosmic force would be both as rewarding and as disappointing as gravity is.” And as a senior growing accustomed to the sound of rejection– hence the sudden transition to graduate school applications– I know quite well about the positive and negative consequences of new experiences.
At this point, however, it’s impossible to imagine the costs outweighing the benefits. After all, I’ve been challenging Sir Isaac Newton since I was in diapers.