Category Archives: New Beginnings

Tripping on a baby shoe.

Whenever I enter my childhood bedroom, I half expect to see myself sitting at my desk pouring over that night’s homework assignment. But instead I encounter an empty desk, a rickety old lamp, and a bed made of mismatched sheets. Then there are the shoes– the seemingly endless number of pairs that litter every part of my pink-carpeted floor– and which I inevitably trip on when I scour my room looking for a younger version of myself.

However, two nights ago when I arrived home to ring in the Jewish New Year, I tripped on an unusual shoe– my first baby shoe circa 1990. An off-white sneaker with streaks of red and yellow along the sides, it strongly resembled a bowling shoe. The kind that is only acceptable when you are rolling a ball down a glow in the dark lane. The kind a mother without a care in the world re: baby fashion would adorn her daughter’s foot with.

Now normally the shoes I trip on are only 5 or 6 years old, the pairs I wore in high school and in the early years of college. My baby shoes, or in this case single shoe, are not strewn about the room. Consequently, when I discovered it, I paused and wondered if it was even mine. How did it get here? Where did it come from? Why was it here? And most importantly, what did it want?

As my paranoia began to sank in, my mother called to me and asked if I had happened about a little childhood nugget. Indeed I had. And it reminded me of a quote I had put on my hoop during Wellesley’s annual hoop rolling contest: “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” (T.S. Eliot) I thought about substituting in coffee spoons for shoes.

Would 23 years of footwear capture my core? Would it reflect my transformation from platform-wearing aspiring Spice Girl to crime-fighting faux-heel wearing paralegal? Would it capture my obsession with all things Steve Madden and display my maturity and subsequent attachment to all things Cole Haan? Would it demonstrate my unconditional love for anything black and everything flat?

I suspected all of the above to be answered in the affirmative, and as I dipped my requisite apple in honey I began to ponder the ultimate New Year question– how would my new shoe purchases reflect my ever evolving personality in the year to come?

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Only one problem.

On my 18th birthday my friend Annette gave me a key chain. It read, “Every end is also a new beginning.” The implication was obvious; we were graduating high school and embarking on the next phrase of our lives, college for me and matrimony for her. And rather than bemoan the ending of an era, she was encouraging me to celebrate the excitement that accompanies the future.

Only one problem. The scariest word in the English language is future. For a girl like me, unsure of her geographic, professional, or romantic potential, there is nothing worse than someone informing you that the world you have come to call your own is about to draw to its inevitable end. And in its wake lies the future.

Today, as I closed the first chapter of my post-collegiate life, I again experienced the same sensation as my now former coworkers informed me that “exciting things lay ahead,” that I “would succeed in whatever I pursued,” and that they were genuinely “interested to see where the future takes” me.  Because the truth is, while they were celebrating in the possibilities of the days ahead my knees were shaking and my breath was short.

For a meticulous planner with borderline OCD, an unchartered territory– in this case, my future– is perhaps the most insurmountable obstacle. One that no amount of Dido, Lily Allen, or Nelly Furtado can assist in surmounting. But as one attorney reminded me, I never say no a challenge. I am the metaphorical mountain climber, who will see the insurmountable and mount it.

And this time around I’ll have a year of real life experience under my belt. I’ll go forward knowing that money sadly does not grow on trees, but certainly does seem to blossom in the pockets of landlords; that in a New York work day at least two coffee breaks– one in the morning, and one post lunch– are necessary to thrive and produce substantive material; and that asking for help in a moment of disarray is not actually a sign of weakness but one of strength.

I’ll approach Monday morning with an understanding of professional bureaucracy; with the expectation that there will be forms, and plenty of them, for me to complete before collecting my first pay check. I will welcome the struggle that accompanies figuring out how to set up my voicemail; how to attach a signature to my email; and how to scan a document into the multi-buttoned scanner/printer/faxer/time machine.

And I will do so with the recognition that all beginnings are difficult; that change is uncomfortable; and perhaps if I am particularly in touch with my feelings, that while today marks an end Monday marks a beginning that I have the ability to shape into the oh so dreaded, but perhaps maybe a little welcome future.

Living life like a character in a 1970s musical.

Sometimes I feel like Morales in “A Chorus Line.” I search right down to the bottom of my soul, and I feel nothing, absolutely nothing. I am neither inspired by events of the past, nor excited to tackle the complexities of the future. I am what my professor refers to as “melancholy.”

While said professor also encourages me to consume vast amounts of caffeine, arguing that the rapid fire of neurotransmitters will enliven me, he neglects to investigate beyond the basic biological level the reason for my ennui. In Starbucks today, I ran into this professor, who noticing that my melancholic mood had not dissipated over the spring semester, questioned me about the future.

PROFESSOR: No plans after graduation, I take it?

ME: Actually, no. I do have plans. In New York. And they involve the Upper East Side, Jewish attorneys, and the 9 to 5 soundtrack.

PROFESSOR: So then your face is just a sign of too little coffee–

ME: Um, that, or for the second time in my life, New York no longer excites me. And the place that does is thousands of miles and dollars out of reach.

His response– “You’ll get there. You’re Yaffa.”

After this brief encounter, I attended a book signing for Ahmed Kathrada‘s recently released memoir: No Bread for Mandela, a memoir about an Indian-South African who spent twenty-six in prison beside Mandela. His crime, like that of Mandela, was in believing in a democratic society in which race was not the basis of social or political promotion.

And after spending a lifetime on Robben Island, he was finally granted freedom and the opportunity to serve in the first democratic South African parliament. A soft-spoken man with an unassuming demeanor, he reminded me of that place thousands of miles and dollars away– that place I believe I should be when I graduate, but due to an allegiance to practicality, that place I am far from living in: South Africa.

Though it is difficult to explain my intangible connection to this country in words, I am repeatedly inspired by the South Africans I have met. In Oxford, I had the opportunity to learn under Albie Sachs, a judge on the first democratic South African Constitutional Court. His understanding of the law and the politics involved in adjudicating justice made me want to take my LSATs right then and there.

And today, listening to Kathrada recount his tale of unlawful imprisonment and will to survive, I was reminded of just how much I desire to be in South Africa, a country unlike any other I have studied or researched. Yes, it has obvious issues to contend with– namely, my thesis topic: an AIDS epidemic. But it also is a country that has exhibited more tenacity than most.

As Kathrada argued this afternoon, if someone had told him South Africa would achieve democracy thirty years ago, he would have asked that person “what plant he was smoking.” But then the drug-induced belief became a reality.

And I not so secretly want to be where mushroom-inspired dreams become achievable life goals. Despite my mother’s reminder that I know few people in South Africa, I am firmly committed to new beginnings. In the words of the Black Eyed Peas, I “Just Can’t Get Enough” of them.

My color is coffee.

2010– flight cancellations excluded– has been an all around romping good time. I planed an Oxford Ball, explored ten new countries, completed my first thesis chapter, and added a little color to my New York inspired wardrobe.

In 2011,  I subsequently resolve to:

1. Diversify my coffee interests– try new flavors, and perhaps even new roasts.

2. Venture into unchartered territories, literally and metaphorically. After all, I am the metaphorical mountain climber.

3. Allot one hour a week to listen to This American Life (instead of allowing my podcasts to collect dust in my iTunes vault).

4. Learn how to cook anything but baked goods. Bring on the artichokes and asparagus, baby!

5. Master the art of walking in heels. I might have to employ some inspiration.