Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Maybe all this year-end top-ten stuff is getting to me.

Two nights ago I decided I’d make a list of things that helped shape me into who I am. (Then, browsing the internet this morning, I found this link. Hmm.) Here I present to you, more-or-less-chronologically, my list of game-changers. Blame them or sing their praises as you will:

New York, New York: Born in Queens; lived on Manhattan’s 16th Street ’til the age of two before moving a block uptown; recent gleeful transplant to Brooklyn. My roommate A—’s mother once asked me, “Do you think growing up in New York spoiled you for living anywhere else?” My response, “Um, yeah.” I do like to travel, and consciously chose a college outside what I like to call my small town (and damn, I’m provincial), but now I’m back for good.

The Green and Gold School for Young Ladies: Seriously, you try going to an all-girls’ school (or any one school) for thirteen years and see if it doesn’t make you turn out weird. Also, try being virtually the only person who doesn’t live in a one-square-mile radius of the school you attend. I blame many things, including my preoccupation with walking vast distances (the first time I walked home, several miles, was in fourth grade), on this one.

Mrs H.: Recognized, and encouraged, my sense of humor when I was only seven. She would go around the classroom once a week for surprise “desk checks” and if your desk was neat, she’d give you a sticker to put on it. Being the competitive, completist, shiny-appreciative soul that I am, I really wanted to get a sticker every damn time. I had a stuffed dog toy I would sometimes bring to school. One day I got back from gym class or something and—surprise!—desk check. No sticker for me: my desk was filled with shredded newspaper. Mrs. H. informed me the dog had done it. Yup.

The Strand: You think if I hadn’t lived a ten-minute walk from the world’s greatest bookstore, I would’ve grown up to be nearly so obsessed with books? You think if I hadn’t stocked up on 97-cent advance reader’s copies since my childhood, I would have developed an interest in books from the pre-publication side? Maybe, but I’m a little skeptical. Also noteworthy as the first place I had a real job. I’m pretty sure I was driven a bit (more) crazy by the summer basement heat, to say nothing of the middle-school antics of some people…

Music: In his Republic, Plato argues that poets pose a danger to a well-ordered society. I think in some ways he’s right, if I conflate music and poetry here, as I think the Greeks would—listening to music has a huge effect on my mood. Hearing a sad song or one that I associate with a bad time in my life can make me really unhappy (all that hard rock in eighth grade took a toll). Listening to something upbeat can have me grinning for no reason at all as I walk down the street (“The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side,” anyone?). Also, I’d like to have a moment of silence here…

as I blame music (and the manufacturers of the walkman, discman, and ipod) for my deafness. Whaaaat? I can’t hear you!

Anterior Cruciate Ligaments: Had I not torn (both!) my ACLs (exactly a year apart! in semi-final field hockey games! which we were winning until I was cruelly felled!) my life would have been different. Goes without saying that I would probably be in better shape (though I’ll say it anyway). And I probably never would have gotten involved with theater. I only really took it up because I couldn’t play sports (or, like, walk without crutches) with a knee brace on. And I probably only got to operate the light board because it was a stationary job. Countless light operations, light designs, stage managements, technical directions, assistant directions, and directions later, I would argue that these injuries were pretty formative. And I’ve got such a nice pair of symmetrical scars.

The Lady I’ll Call Mrs. Myth: Told me I could not be the president of the club she advised (and whose presidents she unilaterally appointed) because, as she put it, “Some people are leaders, and some people aren’t, and you’re not a leader.” I am unsure whether I have become more of a leader since then, but this has been a fairly constant refrain in my ears.

Science Center: Seriously, my college’s Science Center Commons has to have been the place I spent the most formative (and possibly most, period) hours of my college career. (Some might call this a remarkable feat since I took exactly one science class. They did have a lot of psychology, math, theater, classics, and English classes there, though!) We’d veg out there for hours, do homework, declare our majors, study in our pajamas (sorry, N—, know you hate that), watch people through the giant birdproof windows, wave at them like the Manatees of Social Retardation that my friend thought up once, burst into song… I made friends sitting in the lounge (one of whom introduced herself by revealing she’d been following our marathon afternoon-long conversation). I made enemies, maybe (like the time I accidentally kicked someone in the neck who tickled my feet). I slept in the comfortable chairs and woke up to find two terrifying demonic friendly faces shoving a smoothie straw to my lips. After I graduated, friends in the class years below me would wander through expecting to see me. Once one of them came up behind a blonde girl and tried to surprise me, but it was a stranger. Oh, Science Center, how I miss thee.

Modernism: Arguably my favorite class material and my least favorite class experience in college. I felt a bit like Gregor Samsa whenever I stepped foot in my professor’s house for seminar—large, ungainly, disoriented: a monstrous vermin. Time seemed to expand and contract and twist in curiously Modern ways; I could put down my drink on a tabletop and never be sure if it would reappear. People would whisper and it was always about me. It’s hard to look at the world the same way once you get to a point where you write your Honors Exam essays about memory, heroes, and romance and come out of the test worried that you wrote the same essay three times.

I was considering writing about the Play-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named and how it wreaked trauma on my psyche (or about the middle school classmate who asked me in all sincerity, "Do you ever brush your hair?") but instead, I’d like to go out on a more optimistic note, and list…

Friends: Cheesy but true. All of you (and I know you’re all reading this ’cause you’re my friends. right? right.) have transformed my life in one way or another, whether you accompanied me to Strand to get your Gossip Girl fix, formed a posse to support me after I was called a Not Leader, hung out with me ’til 6 AM, offered your condolences about Modernism, or did so much more that there’s no point going on because I'll never approach a complete list. Thank you.


  1. i formed you

    with a soldering gun

  2. just reemembered something!

    do you remember that time for dance club tech when you were in 11th grade and i was in 8th and we carried these extremely long poles (heavy & metal!!) down the stairs from the 6th floor

    and they were the wrong poles?!

  3. Heavy metal poles! I do indeed.

  4. Ugh. Modernism. And to think I've managed to land myself a repeat performance, at least from one quarter. Mrs. H sounds *amazing*... Mrs. Myth sounds like she could have used my fist in her face. But since I <3 the person you are, I suppose I'm grateful for all the above, painful, awkward, triumphant, or otherwise.


    bear beer switch within the first fore

  6. Umberto Eco reads Dan Brown novels—unbelievable! I think we like lists just because we are completist. Are we completist because we don't want to die? Maybe, but I doubt it. (Well, I'm not completist anyway; I had the WORST desk in elementary school.)

    New Facebook group: N.N. poses a world class danger to a well-ordered society.