8.02.2010

about 174 days a year, you tell me you couldn't give a sh*t less about what i think.

But I've known you for 22 years. I can see right through you. And I know that statement is a lie. I know that what I think really means everything to you.

What I can see is that something's got a hold of you. I don't know what it is, but it has been eating you away from the inside out for the latter half of my life. It's taking over your actions, your words, your emotions, your entire being. Whatever it is has been slowly tearing you away from me, to the point where you need to stop at the liquor store to find something to numb the pain before you can even set foot in the house after work. This thing has you thinking that it's not as worth being there for me as it is worth being there for the people in your office or for the benefit of a few lab results at the doctor's.

As a 12 year old, I spent almost a month being terrified to speak to you because I knew that whatever I said, the conversation would always end with you yelling at me for being a bad student. But we reconciled, and I thought maybe I had you back as long as I tried harder to be a better kid. As a 15 year old, I cried as you called my little brothers liars and told me I was just the same for defending them. But I told you how much it hurt to hear you say that about your own kids, and I thought maybe I had you back as long as I kept my mouth shut. As a 17 year old, I gave my boyfriend many embarrassed goodbyes and asked my mom what  kind of girl you thought I was after you would yell at us for being alone together in the living room at 9 PM. By then I had already learned that nothing I could do would bring you back; instead, I just think a little more before inviting people over anytime after 5 because I know at least a third of the bottle will already be gone by then, and I'd rather keep up the charade that we're all happy and full of rainbows than try to explain anything to any outside audiences. Today, at 22, I still don't bring guys home, my stomach still knots up and my face cringes at how you might react if I tell you I found a leak earlier in the bathroom sink, I still apologize multiple times or even cry myself to sleep if I think I've done something to make my parents' lives more inconvenient than they already are--whether it's forgetting to take pizza dough out of the fridge or not cleaning up well enough after my brother throws a party or not getting more financial aid for school. Today I find myself looking at my baby sister and hoping she doesn't have to feel this same way ten years from now, while hating myself a little because I can't be as strong a person for her to lean on right now as I wish I could be. Today I find myself looking at you and wanting you to tell me where I went wrong, what I could have done to fix it, how I can get you back.

Look, while it doesn't help that you still feel like you need to drown me and the rest of the world out with a bottle and a half of white wine every day, I know I can't pin all my broken pieces on that. I have some huge problems--problems that are exacerbated by but run a little deeper than helplessly watching alcoholism take over the life of the only man I could ever love this much. These are problems I have had for a very long time, and it wasn't easy for me to finally admit to someone that they were there. So yeah, even though you say you don't give a sh*t less about what I think, I get how this feels. We are constantly taught that we all make mistakes, we all have our own strengths and weaknesses. But really, nobody wants to voluntarily point out their weak spots. Nobody wants to readily admit that they can't do it all. It takes an unbelievable amount of strength, willpower, and self-confidence.

Only the strongest people can admit that sometimes, they need help too.

You once told me that you would do whatever you needed to do to make sure I was safe and happy. I know that deep down, this is still true. Whatever happens now, however many times you continue to tell me my feelings are not worth it, please don't ever forget that you have always been and always will be my Superman.

Please, Superman, this is when I need you to be the strongest man in the world. Maybe I'm being selfish, but I need you to ask for help.

I need you to save yourself, so that you can save me.

7.08.2010

eight thousand and thirty days' worth of blessed.


"My vision is going," I sigh into the phone. "And my hearing. And all my joints are starting to hurt. And I get tired more easily. And when Maria is the same age as I am right now, I will be 32 and maybe even hanging out with MY KIDS. And now mom is giving me dirty looks."

My father laughs at me on the other end of the line.

"That's because you don't even know the half of it. Wait another 30 years til you're 52 or 53 like us. Then come talk to me about it. Where you are right now is the best part of your life."

As of 9:35 this morning, I have been living on this earth for 22 years. Eight thousand and thirty days. I've blown out 253 candles and grown 67 inches. I've completed 16 years of school. I've come a long way from the 7 lb. 6 oz. 20-something inch pink bundle that I was 22 years ago.

Sometimes we all go through periods of time that just really....well, really suck. I won't get into details, but I would not be lying to you if I said that 48 hours ago, I was sitting on my kitchen floor, unable to stand up, completely broken, feeling unloved, wondering if I would be okay. I would not be lying if I told you I felt like my world was crashing down on me, like life had stabbed me in the back, like I was paralyzed and could not move at all. I would not be lying if I told you that 48 hours ago, the only thing I wanted was to fall asleep on July 7, 2010 and wake up in the nursery at Newton-Wellesley Hospital on July 8, 1988, back at the beginning, safe with the knowledge that I was like an infant version of George Bailey and the 22 years I thought I had been living this whole time were only my guardian angel's way of showing me what awful things could happen to me and my family if I didn't live my 22 years exactly the right way. But I think that's a story that only works in old Christmas movies.
What God gave me instead was this morning, July 8, 2010, the morning I woke up and realized that no matter what, I can and will be okay. The morning I woke up and realized that no matter what, I am loved. He gave me a day full of sunshine and laughter and hope for whatever lies ahead of me. He gave me families and friendships made out of the greatest people on this earth, hands down. He gave me the realization that the past 22 years have been the best years I could have asked for, and that I am truly lucky to have lived each and every single one of them.

My father is right. This is the best time of my life. I'm not old, just growing up. This is only the beginning. I have a long way left to go, I know that. But if the rest of my years could possibly go as well as the past 22 have, then I guess I will be the luckiest girl I know, because in the 22 years already under my belt I have been so blessed. Eight thousand and thirty days' worth of blessed.

That is the single best birthday present I could have ever asked for.


7.01.2010

the train is crowded for 9 pm on a tuesday.

I sit in my seat next to the left-side door, looking down most of the time, being careful not to make eye contact with anyone around me so as not to have an awkward moment. At each stop, the car fills up a little more: a man with rap music blaring from the earbuds stuffed in his ear at Stonybrook, a woman talking loudly on the phone in Cantonese at Jackson Square, a group of college girls from Northeastern at Ruggles. Each new person to walk on keeps to himself or to the group he came with. Nobody interacts with each other except for an occasional "excuse me."

Like it or not, we have been trained in this day and age to think that a friendly "Hello" is a thing of a Pleasantville past. We are told from a young age to mind our own business, to be wary of strangers, to keep a tight hold of our possessions, to not let our guard down and be 110% sure of our surroundings at all times in an effort to prevent an unwanted hand from invading our personal bubble and wreaking havoc. We are brought up to automatically assume that aside from most immediate family members, the only person you can really trust in the outside world is yourself. Who knows who might have ulterior motives? An act of kindness could be a theif's key to your wallet, or the hand that invites a sex offender's touch.

So I sit on the Orange Line, making my way to State Street on a late weekday evening, silently processing my own throughts, keeping my head down and my eyes away from anyone who might be looking for them.

My silence is shaken up when a group of three friends make their way onto the train at Mass. Ave. They are an eclectic mish-mash of a group: an older Hispanic man, a heavyset black woman with a cane, and a thirty-something blonde woman with a long denim skirt and a top I've seen and wanted so badly to buy while window shopping. They are carrying three garbage bags that seem to be full of clothes and a few smaller items. Without saying a word, the person originally sitting across from me gets up so the woman with the cane can have her seen. Denim Skirt Lady sits next to her, and the older man stays standing.

"You wouldn't happen to have a cigarette on you, would you?" Cane Lady asks Denim Skirt Lady after they settle into their seats.
"Of course!" Denim Skirt Lady says as she pulls a box of Marlborough Lights out of her bag. "Take whatever's left. I don't need 'em. Would you like one?" she asks Old Guy, who says he's all set.
"Quit 'em three years ago," he adds proudly.
"Oooh, good for you!" Denim Skirt Lady says, visibly impressed. "Wish I could put them down too!"
"Like everything else," adds Cane Lady, "usually you don't really know how bad they are for you until it's too late."
Denim Skirt Lady and Old Guy agree.

The group gets talking about their jobs, their history in this city, where they're headed and what they did all day. They joke around with each other like all good friends do, laughing and calling each other out on every slip-up one makes.

I hear snippets of what they say to each other. Old Guy sometimes has a solid amount of odd jobs, Denim Skirt Lady works for an agency that collaborates with the Boston Housing Authority. In the midst of the conversation, one thing becomes clear: Cane Lady doesn't have a permanent address. The clothes in the bag are hers to carry around everywhere as she bounces from room to room, place to place, shelter to shelter. Old Guy is there to lend a hand, to help carry her things and to make sure she's set up alright for at least a little while.

As the train pulls past Downtown Crossing and rumbles towards State Street, Cane Lady pulls a blank envelope out of her purse. Denim Skirt Lady hands her a pen and recites a telephone number.
"That's my work number. Just give me a call anytime before 5 and I should be there. It's extension 32, but you can also just give them my name and they'll redirect you to my phone," she says as Cane Lady quickly writes down all this information, then recites it back to verify.
"Got it," Cane Lady says. "I'll give you a call tomorrow. And--I'm sorry, I feel silly asking now--what is your name?"
Denim Skirt Lady smiles and holds out her hand. "I'm Janine. What's your name?"
"I'm Vanessa, and this is Tommy."
Janine shakes hands with Vanessa and Tommy as I leave the train and go back to walking with my head down, my eyes more focused on my destination than anything else.

But I can't help but pray that maybe Janine's friendly smile in a dark subway station paid off.
That maybe, because these three new friends were willing to let their guards down, Vanessa might finally find somewhere to call home.

I guess it's kind of amazing what a simple "Hello" can really do. Imagine what this world could be like if we were all a little more willing to share one with one another.

5.21.2010

every day i find another gray hair on my head.

Maybe it was the stress of graduation, but my brand-new Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology leaves me more likely to believe that the real reason is because my genetic blueprint has me set to start showing this sign of growing up somewhere in my early twenties. I'll be 22 in a little over a month.

All week, Nicki and I have been texting non-stop. I was the first to get a "big girl job" offer for a teaching position; she was the first to actually start a "big girl job" as a long-term sub.

"i got drooled on so much today...but got tater tots. why is this job so 50/50"
"i feel like 50/50 is the theme of the real world"

"life at leitrims was just so much easier."

Meanwhile, Kim has started "big girl apartment"-hunting for her year in graduate school, looking to live in a place where the main decor on the living room walls is not a wrap-around of side panels from cases and 6-packs of beer, but maybe something a bit classier. Although she was living with us, Becca has been in a "big girl job" since February, where she will continue to be until she moves to New Mexico. And while she technically has yet to really say goodbye to her undergrad experience at Assumption, August will be here soon enough, at which point Maggie will have to be a "big girl volunteer" on her own in Houston.

We're not old by any stretch of the word. We're babies, just finally becoming real people with real purposes making real contributions to society. Little baby adults.

Adults. Grown ups. People who must now make the neccessary moves to be on their own.

This becomes clear to me sitting in Starbucks on a Thursday afternoon with Liz, who has also recently found herself with a Bachelor's degree from UMass to her name, a little unsure of what is supposed to happen next in this new chapter of our lives titled "Adulthood: The Early Years." Maybe she doesn't know where exactly she's supposed to go, but she tells me the one thing she does know for sure is that she is outgrowing the bedroom she still shares with her younger brother.

As we finish our iced teas and discussions of what post-college life holds for both of us, she leans in to ask me something in secret:

"The lady by the door, in the pink shirt, with the long black hair...is that or is that not my 7th grade Earth Science teacher?"
"Yeah...Yeah, that's definitely her. Wierd. How many years has it been since then? 6 at Latin, 4 in college...that's TEN YEARS. A full decade."

When we're back outside, she argues my calculation.

"7th grade was the 2000-2001 school year. We haven't quite hit 2010-2011  yet. It's really only been 9 years."

And with that, we continue on into adulthood and the real world, holding on tightly to that one-year difference as if it will let us stay in the blissful days of childhood just a little while longer.

5.15.2010

my last goodbye: the front gate.

Dear Front Gate,

Today I drove by you, pulled off of campus and took a left onto Salisbury St. for the last time of my Assumption College career--no longer a student, but a brand-new alumna.

Here's our story as I know it:

One rainy late August day in 2006, a gray minivan packed to capacity with the items necessary for spending a year in a 3-person freshman dorm room drove up Salisbury St. and was waved onto campus because sitting behind parents and between siblings was a quiet 18-year-old girl who needed to begin writing words on the blank pages of the next chapter of her life. A few months before, she had sent in a $500 acceptance deposit to Assumption College--her mother's alma mater, one of only two schools she applied to in her home state, a place she never really gave much thought to during the chaos of college application processes but simply kept on her list of potential options in case she decided at the last minute that a big university in the middle of Philadelphia might not fit her as well as she'd believed it did.

Before she knew it, bags and boxes were flying everywhere while parents and kids ran around frantically trying to figure out what could stay, what needed to go home, what was left behind and would have to be overnighted to a P.O. box in the middle of the campus center as soon as possible.

And as her parents left her standing alone in the doorway of her new "home," she cried and cried and cried because she was scared that this wasn't going to end well, completely convinced that this stupid place in the middle of Worcester could never feel like home to her.

The thing about books, however, is that they don't work unless somebody has decided to write the progression of the plot. Without the next page, they pause awkwardly until the author decides to continue the protagonist's journey. Keeping this in mind, she began writing. She wrote about how she didn't fit in, how she should have stopped second-guessing her choice and stuck with Temple University from the start, how she was starting to find people she could spend time with outside of her room, how she was okay with not going home until Columbus Day, how much fun she had with her roommates that weekend, how amazingly great all of her new friends were, how much she would miss this place all summer until she could pull back onto campus for Round 2 the next August.

For the next four years, she continued to write the pages of this chapter right up until the very last period of the very last sentence. When she was finally finished, she took a minute to look it over. What she saw were tears countered by twice as much laughter. Failures overshadowed by both bigger and smaller successes. The greatest memories she could have ever asked to make, all because she was surrounded by the greatest people she could have ever asked to drive up Salisbury St. and pull through the gate she had driven past so many times--the people who held her hand when she was unsure of  where she was going, who talked her down from figurative ledges when she was ready to just give up, who stuck around when she felt like the rest of the world was walking away, who convinced her that this was where she needed to be.

That's when she realized that she was only able to grow because those people, her family in her new home, helped her do it.

There were many things in this life that she still didn't understand: why saying goodbye could not be easier, why her words always found a way to bypass the awkward filter when they left her mouth, why no language really has enough words to fully express every emotion she had felt that week, why she deserved to have the opportunity to spend these past four years surrounded by so many amazing people.  But as much as she wished she would be pulling onto campus, driving by the front gate and flashing her student ID again the next August, she understood that Assumption had already done all it could do for her by giving her the love of a family in the shelter of a home she could not have survived without.

As she drove by you today for the last time, she picked up her pen and began writing the next chapter.

For all you have meant to me, for all you have given me, and for all you will continue to mean to me, thank you.

Love,
Jennifer Ann Gallant, Biology; cum laude

4.26.2010

these are the things i will miss the most.

A month ago, you wouldn't have caught me dead at a bar on a Tuesday night unless it was a friend or roommate's birthday. But nowadays, my attitude is shifting. It's not apathy or losing sight of responsibility. Instead, I'm finally figuring out that I have a pretty good handle on this whole school thing. Five years from now, I'm most likely not going to remember how arthropods begin their molting process or how many million years ago the first "fishapod" walked the earth. I'll probably forget the list of exactly which third world countries sided with the US and which sided with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. With less than 25 days left, maybe the most important thing is not staying in and striving for a solid 8 hours of sleep. Maybe the most important thing is savoring the moments destined to transform into beautiful memories that actually will still hold meaning five, ten, or fifty years from now. Moments that make me want to press the pause button and suspend time for just long enough to commit the entire scene to memory.

 
Moments like roommate dance parties.
BoDo's runs.
Ten cent taco night.
Free Fallin' sing-a-longs.
Overhead crowd surfers at a packed concert.
Charades in a Line.
Midnight Italian ricotta cookies.
Midnight Italian ricotta pancakes.
Adorable lost kittens.
Lady Gaga lyric screaming.
A cappella Mac photo booth sessions.
Sals 317 roommate weekend pictures.
Staying at a bar all Tuesday night until it closes at 2 AM, then simply moving the party across the street for chili cheese nachos outside 7-11.


These are the moments I want to hold onto forever, the moments I want to catch in a jar as they float like lightning bugs through my line of vision. I want to pack them safely away and take them with me to every new destination I arrive at after I leave this one.


(big thanks to maggie g. for the pictures :] )

4.09.2010

i can fold a paper crane with my eyes closed.

It's a trick I learned while sitting on the floor of a Brighton funeral home on a cold, snowy mid-April day during my junior year of high school. I don't remember the name of the girl who taught me. I don't remember her face or if she even went to school with me. Five years later, the only thing I can really remember is the sharp contrast of her calm instructions against the heart-wrenching sounds of another girl sobbing in a back room.

"Now unfold that piece and pull it up... then pull these two to puff out the body. That's all."

The room was full of kids looking down, quietly folding. I tossed my crane into the large pile that had begun to form in the middle of the room. One more out of ten thousand folded tributes to a life ended too soon.


In any jumbled, messy story of growing up, there are events that stand alone and apart from the chaos as significant milestones. Often times, these moments are not recognized as being so important and life-changing until long after they've passed. They become life's greatest lessons--and while they may be too far over our heads the first time around, they burrow themselves in our hearts and minds and wait until they are called upon later in life at a time when we can better understand what it is we're being taught.


I met my friend Stephanie for the first time when I joined the girls' swim team as a sophomore in high school. She was a small freshman with a voice almost as high as a three-year-old who just inhaled a balloon full of helium, a tiny-framed ball of energy, a fast swimmer and an even faster talker. Beyond that, she was competitive as all hell. We were never really super close, but for the time I knew her, I came to consider her a pretty good friend. We would go over Chinese homework together on the bus to practice, talk about manga we were reading, and hang out after school before ASIA meetings. Every so often, I got a peek at the pieces of Steph that didn't quite match up with the bubbly manga-reading person I saw in school every day. She was searching for happiness that she seemed to never really find. Her blog entries seemed to be written by an entirely different person than the one I saw in school, a girl too angry at the world around her to be bothered about helping little animals or giving candy to her friends.

"No one would miss me," she once told me. "Nobody would cry or anything. I doubt anyone would even know the difference."
"Not true," I answered, unsure of what else to say. "I would cry."
"That sounds like a huge load of bullshit."

On April 9, 2005, a sunny springtime Saturday, she walked out of a Chinatown restaurant and into the middle of a busy intersection on Washington St.

"She came out of nowhere," they all said.
"There's no way he could have seen her in time to stop the car."

Maybe the worst part about it, for me, was that she was right. I didn't cry when I heard the news the next day. I didn't cry when I got to school that Monday and saw everyone else crying. I didn't cry when I walked past the locker covered in notes and flowers, and I didn't cry when I sat down in Greek Tradition a few desks in front of an empty chair with a teddy bear and bouquet in the place of a student. I didn't cry when I dressed in black and hopped on a bus to Chestnut Hill, didn't cry when my 2-mile walk from the bus stop to the funeral home was interupted by a bearded 20-something-year-old anarchist trying to sell me on the evils of government, didn't cry when I saw her because whoever that poor dead girl was in the casket didn't look anything like anyone I knew. I didn't even cry when my guidance counselor hugged me and said "It's okay to cry." The only thing I could do was sit silently on the floor with a bunch of other kids and fold birds out of scraps of paper. I didn't know what else to do, because it didn't seem real.

Like the Boston Herald wrote the next day, "at 16, death is supposed to be an abstraction."

I didn't cry until I was sitting in the passenger seat of my mother's car a month later on the way home from the wake of my Chinese teacher, the fifth and final death that my high school's community had suffered in that year. I guess that was the moment that my 16-year-old self began to realize that death is not an abstraction, it's a reality. It's a very, very real part of life.

Today is April 9, 2010. It has been five years to the day since Stephanie passed away. Today, I am twenty one years old, thirty seven days away from my college graduation ceremony. Over the past five years, I've been to many more wakes, funerals, and memorials. The pages of my Kare Kano manga books are yellowing and gathering dust in a box somewhere in the attic. It's been so long since I've swum competively that I doubt I'd be able to finish a 50 free anywhere close to my best time. My last Chinese homework assignment was passed in four years ago. This past summer, Carmen DiNunzio began serving a 6-year sentence in federal prison after pleading guilty to charges of extortion, bribery, and illegal gambling; no charges were ever filed against him after a 16-year-old high school student was hit and killed by his SUV. Ten thousand paper cranes are flying in peace parks all around the world in memory of a girl whose hands were not there to fold any of them.

There's not a lot I remember from my junior year of high school. It's one of those awkward teenage years I try not to think about too much. But five years later, I do still find myself subconsciously folding scraps of paper into cranes of different sizes, colors, textures and patterns. Every time I finish one, I'm forced for just a split second to remember the day I learned how to make an origami crane, to see how much has changed since then, to reflect on another lesson that I'm finally really beginning to grasp: that a life is a book with a beginning and an end.

Just because the pages stop doesn't mean the protagonist must cease to exist. She can continue on beyond the binding, living happily ever after in the epilogues created for her by the people lucky enough to have had the chance to read her novel.

"She was there with us, and everyone knew it. Snow was falling in the middle of April. I mean, even in Massachusetts, how often does that actually happen?"
in memory of stephanie lam
2/6/1989-4/9/2005
安息

4.01.2010

the best ricotta cookie recipe you will ever try. ever.

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 tub Smart Balance butter spread
2 eggs
1 lb ricotta cheese you need to get rid of ASAP
1 3/4 cups white sugar
approx 1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 container Activia vanilla yogurt
4 c flour
chocolate jimmies
some alcoholic beverages


Preheat oven to 350. Take a sip of beverage.

Beat eggs and butter using a large serving spoon and a small teaspoon. Add ricotta and white sugar. After realizing you do not have all 2 cups of white sugar needed, throw brown sugar into mix until you think you've made up for the missing 1/4 cup. Take another sip and repeatedly ignore your roommate's suggestion to scrape the pink sugar off a package of Peeps.

With your drink in hand, do a Google search for effective baking powder substitutes. Assume one container of Activia = 1/2 cup of yogurt. Add yogurt & baking soda; eyeball salt.

Slowly add in about 3 2/3 cups of flour. Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup onto the table, the floor, the open container of ricotta, etc. Throw in vanilla and do a quick taste test to make sure everything checks out.

Drop dough by rounded spoonfuls, about the size of a tennis ball, onto a lightly greased baking sheet. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour by the fistful until it has at least somewhat of a shape-able consistency. Drop as much dough as possible onto the burners of the stovetop. Laugh so hard that you become genuinely concerned about the possibility of peeing in the kitchen trash can.

Bake cookies for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Continue to work on your drink and watch in awe as the giant globs of dough flatten out to resemble small cakes. If you choose not to ignore the lightbulb that is about to go off in your head, continue to the next paragraph.

Heat a small skillet on high; spray with cooking spray. Take the cookie dough and spoon it onto the skillet in the shape of a pancake. Flip as needed. If you flip the cookie pancake too early, simply pile all the dough back together in an attempt to repair it. Add chocolate jimmies to batter if desired.

Forget about tomorrow's BIO320 exam. Forget about student teaching observations. Forget about work, forget about internships, forget about the real world. Eat. Drink. Laugh. Repeat.

Makes about 24 large cookies and 4 pancakes.

3.28.2010

objective: to figure out my new objective.

In the fog of waitlists, rejections, massively large traffic tickets, incomplete applications and 4% downsizing that has dominated the last few weeks of my life, the one shining beacon of hope that has kept me sane is a home-turned-college administrative building on Old English Road that backs up to the edge of campus: the Student Development & Counseling Center, a.k.a. The AC Center for Seniors Who Can't Write a Resume Good and Want to Learn How to Do Other Stuff Good Too.

For the past month or so, I have been in almost constant contact with David K. at the SDCC, trying to form a plan to up my chances of getting into a graduate program off the waitlist and changing my resume to fit a job application instead of a school application. It didn't hit me that my post-graduation plan has actually changed, however, until I opened a short email last week:

Jenn: Are you considering applying to Siemens/Bayer? If so, you need to change your objective line. Other than that, looks great.-DK

Up until March 10, my objective had been Admission to a Direct-Entry Master's program for Nursing. Plain and simple, clear-cut and straightforward. I hadn't put much thought into it because, well, what else is there to say when you're building a resume catered to an admissions board for a direct-entry master's program for nursing? That was my step one; there could be no other objective for me until I was ready to move to step two aprroximately 24-36 months later. But in my current situation, I could very well still be waiting for step one, or I could already be on step three or four. For all I know, I could still be staring blankly at a building directory trying to figure out where the %$&! the damn stairway is.

Sometimes, things don't fall into place quite the way we want them to. We can make millions of plans for every hypothetical situation we might find ourselves in, but let's be honest--does the universe ever run smoothly when we need it to the most?

So I'm picking myself up and brushing off the dirt, making my way up to the SDCC, placing my resume in envelopes marked Siemens/Bayer, and re-examining what exactly my objective might be.

My objective is to find somewhere to be at least for next year, but not to spend the rest of my life in a research lab. My objective is to find a way to prove that you don't need a white coat to think like a scientist.

Someone once told me that most of the world's worst problems could easily be solved over a cup of tea. Idealistic? Maybe. But all anyone really wants is for someone to listen. Young or old, rich or poor, each of us has a story to tell--the only problem is that not everyone has a voice to tell it with. Unfortunately, the people in this world who are dealt a bad hand are usually the ones whose voices have been muffled, literally or figuratively.

My objective is to hear what they are trying to say. To become a better listener than talker, but to be a voice for the voiceless.

I want to design experiments that are run in real life, not in a laboratory. I want to observe people, watch what they do, listen to what they say. I want to ask questions of them, of myself, of society as a whole and I want to analyze every piece of every answer. I want to make educated guesses and apply these guesses to actual situations--then I want to see where things can be improved for a better experimental outcome. At the end of it all, I want to draw solid & sound conclusions that I can share with everyone around me in the hopes that maybe we're making even a tiny percent of a fraction of a positive difference for at least one person.

Nobody's true objectives can ever be shrunk down to adequately fit one or two lines on a resume. These goals we all have are far bigger and more involved than an 8.5x11" piece of paper. All we can put in that space is how we might want to use certain tools to reach what it is we're really aiming for.

On paper, my new objective is simple:
To secure a position within the field of science or human services utilizing a Bachelor's Degree in Biology in an effort to build a long-term career in health sciences.

In reality, though, that's only scratching the surface. It's only my step one.

3.01.2010

i'm just waiting for the sun.

Have you seen him around?

The last time I saw him was on the water-logged softball field across from my apartment a week ago. I had tossed my brown Northface to the side and stood in the comfort of his rays for ten precious minutes before leaving to spend my afternoon in the back corner of a grocery store tucked away in the back corner of a small town next door to the back corner of Connecticut.

"Sun, I love you," I told him. "I lovelovelovelove you. You make me so happy. Thank you for being in my life. You are the only Valentine I'll ever need."

That's right. The sun is my perfect Valentine. He knows exactly how to put a smile on my face when I'm having a bad day. He can light up a room just by looking through the window to say hello. He's always ready with a hug and he never makes me cry. Whenever he says goodbye for the night, I know he'll come back soon. While he could never surprise me with chocolate or flowers, he brings out the best in me even when all I can see is the worst. What more could you ask for in a Valentine?

Did I ever mention I have a Valentine's Day curse?

It's true. Ending a relationship on February 15th probably can't be a sign of good things to come. Ever since then, not only have I been Valentine-less, but any hope my love life holds for the following ten months of the year is KO'ed--usually in an unnecessarily violent manner, always sometime in the month of February.

I probably should have thought about that before I shared my feelings with the sun. I think I scared him off. I probably came on too strong, too fast.

Either way, after I had gotten in my car and left, he quietly packed up his things and left town. No phone call, no note, no indication of when he might come back. The only thing he left behind was a tangled, windy mess of rain, snow, and gray melancholy that's managed to leave my emotions and spirit as empty, colorless, and transparent as my far-too-pale winter skin.

I think I've seen him a few times since then, but it never lasts. I'll see his face peek out from behind a cloud for a minute or two, and I'll get excited and hope that maybe he's coming back to stay. It's always short-lived, though, and I'm reminded that my awkward clumsiness in relationships is alive and well. I speak when I should stay quiet. I'm quiet when I should say what I'm thinking. Sometimes I miss cues, other times I jump too far ahead of myself. Without fail, I end up tripping and falling flat on my face.

I guess I can add the sun to my running list of February Fails. He gets the 5th spot on the big 4 year list, but skillfully managed to snag the 2nd for this year alone.

The good thing, though, is that the sun never leaves for good. He'll come back to me soon. He just needed some space, that's all. Can't say I blame him.

In the meantime, I really, really miss those hugs.


2.24.2010

i should listen to myself more often.

Congratulations. You did it. You are now one-quarter of the way through the second semester of your senior year in college.

Take a minute to let that statement sink in. Four years ago, did you ever think this day would come? Now that it's finally here, how do you feel? Are you upset, or are you relieved? Are you excited, or are you nervous? Are you counting down the hours and minutes between now and the moment you'll walk across the stage? Or are you in denial, hoping that one of these mornings you'll wake up back in the warm days of August and September, when the end was only just beginning?

This isn't a dream. This is the real thing. Every second turns into another minute, every minute turns into another hour, every hour turns into another day closer to May 15, 2010. It's coming, whether we want it to or not. Are you ready?

Of course you're ready. We're all ready. We wouldn't have made it this far if we weren't. All those hours spent in class, every exam and every paper, all that time spent in office hours or at club meetings or at practices, even those weekend nights full of less-than-great decisions, all of it was meant to prepare us for this.

We're approaching an emormous crossroads. There are an infinite number of paths lying before us. We can choose to follow any one of them, each one with its own infinite number of forks and branches ahead.

Which one will you choose?

You have the education. You have the training and the experience. You have the tools you need to arrive safely at your destination, wherever that may be. No doubt there will be some bumps in the road, some minor and some huge, and you'll certainly have to take a few detours along the way. Those unexpected turns, however, are the intricate and exceptional details that complete a life story.

So listen to yourself, follow your heart, trust your instincts, and pick the path you feel drawn to, knowing that you have what it takes to make it past whatever obstacles lie ahead. Don't doubt your abilities; if you made it this far alive and intact, you can certainly keep going. Nothing is ever set in stone. You have the rest of your life ahead of you--there's plenty of time in there to experience the unknown, make mistakes, learn from them, and change directions.

In the end, wherever you end up is exactly where you're supposed to be.




Best of luck on whichever path you choose :)
-Jenn G.



2.11.2010

"we're running out of opportunities to do this,"

she says from her place on the wood-and-fabric two-seater. "Seriously though, how cool would it be if we could get together and do this again next year? Here's the thing, though--we can't EVER do this again after THIS year. We won't be together anymore."

It's snowing. The college closed at 3 PM. The four of us are all wearing our oversized Living the Hound Life t-shirts over black spandex leggings. One is drinking Wachusett Blueberry, one is drinking Bud Light, one is drinking white wine and one is drinking Smirnoff in some kind of fruit juice. The only thing missing is the fifth roommate; the overachieving real-life example of what all of humanity should be like, who graduated early so she could volunteer at an orphanage in Peru. Show-off.

We have ten weekends left, including this one. Only ten weekends left before the real world swallows us up. Ten weekends left to be completely immature and completely grown up at the same time.

And so here we are on a Wednesday afternoon, watching a combination of TLC and trashy MTV shows in our beautiful matching outfits, anxiously awaiting the 4 pm cocktail hour we have planned--featuring prosciutto quiche and the aformentioned classy beverages of choice.

We're a unique group of girls, to say the least, and we've come a long way since we showed up here one summer day in late August 2006.

We still have a long way to go.

And we still have ten weekends left to build up our bank account of college memories.

But the time when Wednesday afternoon snowstorm cocktail hours will no longer be relevant to our lives is fast approaching.



So when Nicki comes out of her room at 3:57 PM when I'm taking a break from a history paper and asks me why there isn't a Wachusett Blueberry in my hand in preparation for the cocktail hour, instead of calling upon my better judgement and using the unexpected time off to do work, I quickly oblige.


Turns out, I was calling upon my better judgement. If every Wednesday afternoon between now and May could have a cocktail hour built somewhere into it, this semester would be perfect.


2.07.2010

writing, singing, a driver's license, and baking.

Those are the four tools God gave me to diffuse my emotions.

The writing is a tough one because there aren't enough hours in the day; this blog spends more time gathering dust in a remote corner of cyberspace than it does being used for its original purpose. I won't sing by myself if I think someone is watching, and a cappella rehearsals only happen twice a week. As for driving, gas is expensive, and there are only so many times I can drive up and down Routes 1, 9, 109 and 95 before they get so repetitive that they stress me out.


When God caught wind of these problems more than two years ago, back when I was still thinking He didn't really give a crap about what went on down here, He took one look at the awkward, quiet, brown-haired mess of life in the glasses and said to himself,

"This kid is in big trouble."

So He stopped by the HR office one day and began sifting through files and folders, looking for a job application submitted by Jennifer A. Gallant who prefers to be called Jenn, and when He finally found it, He wrote a note at the top:

"INDICATED FRONT END--BAKERY POSSIBLE?"

And while it wasn't nearly the same as baking homemade cookies or mixing buttercream frosting from scratch, it worked.




I always tell people my dream career is pediatric NP by day, baker extraordinaire by night/weekends/holidays. I love to find recipes, try them out, modify them here and there until I come up with something uniquely mine that looks almost as sweet as it tastes. For me, baking is a de-stressor that can rival even the strongest alcoholic drink. It gives me the chance to silently reflect without having to be still, to actively create something delicious while sorting out this tangled ridiculous mess called LIFE. The way the elements of a recipe come together and fall perfectly into place parallels the way I think through and pick apart whatever problems I have while waiting for an oven to pre-heat or for dough to rise. It calms and quiets me so I can clearly hear God's voice during times when I need Him to talk to me the most. I think maybe that's what he had in mind for me when He gave me baking.



While I was cluelessly dancing around the apartment last night, He knew the Black Eyed Peas were lying to me every single time they said it was gonna be a good night.


So it came as no surprise that while I was driving down 290 W to 395 S this morning, my spirit crushed and my eyes tired and bloodshot, He was already in Webster waiting for me, this time in the form of a baking rack full of uniced 7-inch rounds and stripcakes.

"Thought you might want to talk," He said.

I stood there for a minute and looked Him over a few times while N'Sync serenaded the customers and associates from overhead.

I was angry. I was upset. I was angry because I was upset, so I took a chocolate cake off the rack and placed it on the cake stand, then slammed a spatula-full of white frosting onto it.


"I don't want to talk to You yet because I don't even know where to start," I said as I spun the cake on the stand. "So if You don't mind, I'd like to keep my unpleasant feelings between myself and this cake for the moment while I figure some stuff out. Sound good to You?"


As the cake became fully engulfed in frosting, I replayed everything in my head--every word, every expression, every action. I ran a comb along the side as I silently screamed obscenities. With each rosette, I wondered where I went wrong, and with each sprinkle, I wondered what I had missed. I began singing along to the music above me while I focused on the cake in front of me, piping all of my sadness into its borders. I drowned out everything but the cake, the music, and my fired-up thoughts. The irony was that the customers and my co-workers thought I was in a chipper mood as I sang along with John Mayer and Celine Dion and Rod Stewart.


What was really happening was that I was caught in my own world of sugary bitterness, in denial that I would at some point have to stop berating myself and start accepting that what happened happened.


Eventually God grew impatient with me and began calling me back, interrupting the music and obnoxiously yelling "BAKERY, TAKE A PHONE CALL ON LINE ONE PLEASE. BAKERY, LINE ONE."
"Nice try," I said sarcastically as I finished topping my rosettes with lemon drops while someone else picked up the phone.
"ATTENTION PLEASE SHAW'S CUSTOMERS AND ASSOCIATES, IF THERE IS A CATHERINE SMITH IN THE STORE, PLEASE COME TO THE FRONT OF AISLE 5, YOUR DAUGHTER IS WAITING FOR YOU."
"PRODUCE CALL ONE-TWELVE FOR CUSTOMER ASSISTANCE PLEASE. PRODUCE, ONE ONE TWO FOR CUSTOMER ASSISTANCE."
"CARLOS TO RECIEVING FOR A DELIVERY, CARLOS TO RECIEVING."
"BECKY, CALL ON LINE TWO."
"ROB TO THE FRONT END PLEASE. ROB, FRONT END."


Annoying. Immature. COMPLETELY unnecessary.


"Fine." I was gritting my teeth, seething on the inside but still humming to the music on the outside. "Here is my question: WHY?!" I asked as I grabbed another cake off the rack.

"Because everything happens for a reason," He answered.




Could there be a more cliche answer? Probably not, but He was right. He always is.




For four hours and eight trays of cakes, we picked it apart. I asked Him questions, He gave me answers. I cried on His shoulder, He consoled me. I told Him everything really, really sucks sometimes and He said not everything, but definitely some things, and the suckiest things are usually the ones with the best lesson attached.


What was my lesson here? There wasn't just one. I learned that it's okay to open up and let someone else see what's really inside me, hidden below the awkward quietness and the glasses. I learned not to settle for something that isn't what I deserve, that there's a lot better out there if I keep my eyes open. I learned that people are actually not going to dislike me for wanting to be friendly (wierd?) and I learned that God shows up everywhere, not just in a baking rack, but also in the actions of the people I'm close to, the people I see every day. I also learned, again, that everything happens for a reason.



I'm still working on figuring out exactly what the reasoning was behind this, but I know it's there.



As I started piping the border onto my last lemon stripcake, I took a deep breath.

"So, what do I do now?" I asked Him.

"Simple. You keep doing everything you've been doing," He replied. "I wouldn't put you through something if I thought you couldn't deal with it; you should know that by now. Have faith that it will all come together when it's supposed to, the way it's supposed to."



With that, I covered the rack and wheeled it into the cooler.

"Just remember this above everything else," He said before I closed the door. "There was always a friend there. That didn't change. That will never change."




I suppose I will be baking quite a few cookies this week.