Imagine

In the days after Cory Monteith died, I spent a lot of time on Twitter and Tumblr looking through Cory-inspired posts. I saw many a Glee quote, many a picture of him with angel wings photoshopped in, and many a prayer, but the one thing that made me stop was this:

Trayvon Martin is dead. George Zimmerman will live the rest of his life in protective custody to keep from being murdered. Cory Monteith overdosed at age 31. When will we step up, conquer our fears, overcome our demons, and live courageously, love lavishly and live self-sacrificially so that this pattern ends? I may be a dreamer, but I’m not the only f***ing one.”

-Brandt Russo

This thought got to me for a lot of reasons, but the Imagine quote was the biggest one. Something invisible hit me right in the gut when I read that last sentence.

Let me stop right here and say this: This is not a post about a hot-button news issue. This is not a post about death and loss and the tragic state of our world. This is a post about music.

Music is probably the only thing I have loved for my entire life, and The Beatles are an enormous part of that. I remember so clearly writing in my 3rd grade diary something to the effect of, “I’m home sick today and I have the stomach flu. But I just listened to Let It Be, and now I feel better.”

How powerful is that? Forty years after the Beatles stop making music, some random nine-year-old girl in Texas still uses their songs as a cure for physical pain. That nine-year-old is now twenty-two, and a few weeks ago at school after breaking up her third or fourth fight of the day, she sat herself down at a table and wrote slowly, deliberately.

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom
Let it be
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom
Let it be
Let it be
Let it be
Let it be
Let it be
There will be an answer
Let it be

And after reminding herself of those words she believed them, not only because of the message that they send but because of all of the feelings and memories that a song can carry.

We all have them. Maybe it’s a song that reminds you of a happy memory, or a certain period in your life, or a particular person. But how incredible is it that just hearing the opening moments to one of your special songs can invoke such instant and powerful emotion?

As a musician myself I know that playing is emotionally cathartic and mentally and creatively stimulating. As a listener I know that music has a perfect way of communicating universal experience in a way that all kinds of people can digest. As a dancer I know that music can help us to express emotions that we may not have even known we had. Music allows us to share our passions, our thoughts, our dreams. And it’s part of being human. Did you know that people were making music before they could talk?

Yesterday a friend and I walked through Central Park. I wanted to see the Imagine mosaic, a tribute to John Lennon that now exists in the place where he was shot.

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Of course when we arrived there were dozens of people milling around, taking in the mosaic and getting pictures of themselves sitting in the middle. But they were also doing something else that I didn’t expect. They were singing.

Now, I know that street performers are a dime a dozen in New York, and I’m not surprised that there was a guy with a guitar sitting on a bench next to the mosaic and playing Imagine. But what did surprise me was that he was encouraging people to sing along with him. And after he finished playing, this man told his listeners that it was a tradition for somebody to be at the memorial playing at all times.

Somehow, somewhere, someone organizes shifts for performers so that John Lennon’s memory will never exist in silence, and will always be surrounded by music. And more than 30 years after his death, more than enough artists are willing to do it.

Our country is going through a rough time right now, and arguably it always will be.

But on any given day at any given hour, you can go to Strawberry Fields to remember and pay tribute to a man who understood that music speaks louder, lasts longer, and hits harder than gunshots.

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“…and the world will live as one.”

Writer’s Block

You know what’s frustrating? Writer’s block. It’s such a weird concept. I have so many things to say, and yet I don’t know how to say them. It feels quite unfair. Do I really deserve not to get into grad school, even if I have all of the passion and smarts and whatever else they want, just because I couldn’t think of what to say on the one day when I really needed to know what to say?

Well, maybe that’s not the entire issue. Maybe the issue is that I waited this long to start. Okay, I’m starting to take some of the blame now. But that wasn’t my fault either, because I’ve been so busy. My job is really demanding and I work some pretty long hours. And don’t I deserve weekends to rejuvenate?

Yes. But if I really, truly wanted to do a great job on this paper, wouldn’t I have found a way to make it happen? I have that kind of faith in myself, the faith that I can pull through even when times are hard or deadlines are looming. That’s one thing I learned in college.

And yet here I sit, two days before this application is due, not with a blank page in front of me but- even worse- with several pages of nonsense, my attempts at writing something compelling that have been deemed unworthy. I have a bunch of something, which might be even worse than none of anything, because it means that I tried and I couldn’t do it.

Isn’t it funny how much every tiny thing you do can cause you to reflect on your life? Here I am having a tough time writing my personal statements for grad school and because I’m thinking it out I’m seeing, in this one small moment, patterns of my entire personality: the self-criticism, the little bits of faith, even the constant over-thinking. These core parts of my life are apparent even in the microcosm of sitting at the computer and trying to write an essay.

I remember one college essay I wrote about analyzing dreams. I talked about how much I loved to find meaning in every tiny, random firing of neurons, and how this passion maps onto my everyday life. I imagine it something like X-Ray vision: for every event or person I see, I observe the outside but I’m also looking at the inside. I’m looking at why all of these things are the way they are and why they happen the way that they do. And I think it’s really fun to do this, which is a good thing because I doubt I could stop even if I wanted to.

And that’s why I like to write. I love to look at the little things and grow them into something big and important. I love to start my reader off on something seemingly trivial and then hit them at the end with the big realization. Because that’s one of the best parts of life, isn’t it? Allowing yourself to be moved by even the little things and to see the wonder in places where it’s invisible until you look hard enough. And once you do that, you can see the beauty in everything.

Even in a little bit of writer’s block.

The Five Best Holiday Chick Flicks

I love movies year round, but the winter holidays are when I do my greatest binges. I’ve been known to watch two or three movies a day during winter breaks at home, and it’s quite possibly my favorite time of year. So in honor of today being Thanksgiving and therefore the official start to the holiday season, here are my five favorite holiday chick flicks.

Note: These are in no particular order.

The Holiday

the holiday poster

Aptly titled, this movie takes place over the two weeks that include Christmas and New Years. I love a good ensemble movie (or TV show, for that matter), and The Holiday’s rockstar cast of Jude Law, Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, and Jack Black does not disappoint. Fun fact: Jack Black high fived me once. It was a great day. Anyway, points to this movie for not one but two adorable romance stories, which include cozy cottages, great music, and some Hollywood lore. Negative points for leaving us at the end not knowing whether either of these couples are actually going to make it.

A Lot Like Love

a lot like love posterAlthough this story spans over several years, I’m counting it as a holiday because of one very satisfying New Years scene. One of my all-time favorites, this movie is often forgotten when it comes to rom com classics, which to me is a huge shame. Ashton Kutcher might be one of my favorite male actors, and he is absolutely adorable in this movie. He does a fantastic job of portraying his character’s underlying vulnerability throughout all of his professional and romantic pursuits. I’m also a big fan of the “perfect for each other but didn’t know it” storyline, and the fact that generally when the two main characters are together, good things are happening. My only complaint: the ending is just a teeny bit lame. But I’ll take it.

When Harry Met Sally

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Another movie that spans over several years, but this one counts especially because the perfect ending takes place at New Years. One of my favorite movie quotes: “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” Thank you, Billy Crystal. And Meg Ryan is flawless as always. This is a classic story, and in my mind the first true rom com. We get a story of best friends, a story of New York, a story of lovers, and some concepts that are now engrained within the popular lexicon. The whole girls and guys can’t be friends idea? Yeah, that came from this.

Just Friends

just friends poster

Here we have a classic holidays movie, going pretty much from Christmas to New Years. This used to be one of my absolute favorites because I love Ryan Reynolds so much, but over the years some scenes have become a bit painful to watch (like when he gets hit in the mouth with the hockey puck. Not a fan.) However, I have a special place in my heart for stories about unrequited love and for stories about best friends ending up together, and this movie touches both of these soft spots. It’s also full of some funny and sweet moments, like when Chris and Jamie go through their old high school yearbooks. Just Friends is like a security blanket: it’s got some holes, but it keeps me warm and cozy.

New Year’s Eve

new years eve poster

Thank goodness for Gary Marshall. New Year’s Eve, which follows Valentine’s Day, is a hardcore ensemble cast film that chronicles several small stories throughout the course of one day. It’s chock full of tons of stars, not the least of which is my Glee idol, Lea Michele. I’m a sucker for these kinds of stories, especially when they’re all woven together. I cry every time Hilary Swank watches the ball drop with her dad for the last time. And I particularly like Josh Duhamel’s mystery girl storyline. I love that this movie has so many Gary Marshall favorites, but it’s still fresh and new and it gives us hope for the new year.

So there it is, my by no means final list of my favorite holiday romantic comedies. Many more themed lists to come- and happy holidays!

Until next time!

What I’ve Learned From Winter

“IT’S SO COLD!”

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve screeched those words since coming to Boston, I’d probably have enough money to fly back to LA to see the sun again.

It seems like almost every day since I’ve arrived I’ve chatted with someone or another about how, yes, I grew up in Texas. Yes, I went to college in California. No, I’ve never done winter before. Yes, I’ve seen snow. No, I do not own a snow shovel. Why should I?

Sometimes it’s fun to be the oddball, the one who gets attention for being new and different. Obviously I knew what I was getting myself into when choosing to move to Boston, and I enjoy learning. I’ve had a number of conversations made hilarious to others by my lack of knowledge of winter weather, wear, and practices. But to me this whole thing is about a lot more than just a girl who’s never lived in the cold before.

Every time I step into the cold and wonder why people choose to live this way, I reconsider two thoughts:

  1. One of my strongest beliefs: we have control over our lives. We should never settle. We have the power to make decisions that make our lives better.
  2. An idea which can best be summed up by a quote from one of my childhood favorites, Sweet Home Alabama: “What is it with you southern girls anyway? Can’t make the right decision until you’ve tried all the wrong ones?”

Well, pretty much, yes.

That’s my blessing and my curse. I want life to be perfect. Good isn’t good enough. Los Angeles was great, but it had its flaws. Thus it was not good enough, hence the move to Boston, where the flaws are very real and very painful and very expensive (yes, I’m talking about the weather).

At times I feel like the enlightened person coming into a community that is stuck in its ways and never knew of anything else. I feel like I need to shout from the rooftops, “Attention Bostonians! Life doesn’t have to be like this! The sun doesn’t have to set at 4:00! You don’t have to worry about getting icicles on your eyelashes! There’s a magical place where none of these things happen, and life is better because of it.”

Of course I won’t, because that would be dramatic. But sometimes I want to. People look at me like I’m crazy with my lack of knowledge about winter, and I give them that crazy look right back because they actually chose to live here, knowing full well what it entailed. Sometimes I’m even angry at myself for making this choice.

But then I think about just how stuck I would feel if I had never left California. This weather may be miserable, but it’s making me stronger. Stronger in my endurance, stronger in my commitment to doing tough work despite the frigid conditions, and stronger in my sense of self, because every time I fret about the cold it reminds me how passionate and perseverant I am; every time I see this problem, I want to make a change.

The cold sucks. It does. But it reminds me every day of who I am, why I’m here, and how I want to make decisions about my life. I may not know much about all of this, but I know that these affirmations are enough to make it worth it.

Here’s to four more months of winter, marshmallow jackets, snow shovels, and everything else I have yet to learn.

Until next time.

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My first snow.

This is me.

Hi. This is me, Leah.

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Specifically, this is me, Leah, laughing. I’m looking at a friend off to the side, a friend who is making me laugh through some random conversation so that my smile will look genuine in this photograph. I think she did a good job.

Shortly after this photo was taken I watched this friend exchange a tearful goodbye with the photographer; they wouldn’t be seeing each other for a year because the photographer would soon leave for Korea. I drove my friend to the airport, and on the way we talked about Pretty Woman, homelessness in LA, and our plans for the summer.

I had just graduated college. I was scared and excited and highly grateful for the wonderful people in my life, grateful only in the way that you can feel when you realize that you are about to leave something behind, or that that something is about to leave you. You spend all of your time thinking about how wonderful that thing is and wondering how you’ll live without it.

But I did. Somehow I found the courage to leave behind a life that was so happy that it felt too easy, to travel away from beaches and palm trees and best friends and into sunrises and uniforms and challenges. Big challenges.

The big facts: I live in Boston. I work in a middle school. This is my first “real” winter, and as I sit at my desk with my lights threatening to go out, looking out the window and watching the snow fall, I wonder whether I’m ready. I love movies, television, music, crafts, and people. Specifically helping them.

The little ones: I hate pants. I love my stuffed Panda. I’m possibly the pickiest eater and least talented chef I know. I consider myself an amateur photographer. I’m a huge USC fan but I know almost nothing about football. I’m really good at Catchphrase.

Is that all you need to know? I’m not sure. Anybody who has applied to college knows how hard it can be to write about oneself. It’s strange: we are with ourselves 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and yet most of us are incredibly unaware. We can’t figure out how we feel, we can’t come up with “fun facts;” in fact the amount of time we spend trying to understand ourselves is astounding.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes somebody else can describe you better than you describe yourself? What an interesting phenomenon. I guess that’s the world’s trick on us, a little reminder that we can’t be experts on anything and that we always need the support and perspective of others.

So this is the beginning. This is me giving a glimpse at who I am, while knowing that it’s impossible to fully convey. But for you, dear reader, I’ll try.

Until next time.

PS: Photo credit goes to my lovely and talented friend Bijou Nguyen.

Leah and the Avengers: An Unlikely Love Story

If you know me, you know that I love movies. You also probably know that I’m obsessed with romantic comedies. I love art and symbolism and meaning and adventure, but I’ll take a happy love story over all that almost any day. I could talk about the reason for all of this, but the point right now is that there is one notable exception to my infatuation with rom coms. And that’s superheroes.

I discovered the Avengers in the spring of 2012. My physical therapist happened to be a huge fan, and he was the one who explained to me the way that Marvel was doing something completely groundbreaking by creating an entire Marvel universe. He told me that the plans had been in the works for several years (as they are with all movies, of course) and that each Avenger was to have his own film before they all teamed up into one gigantic epic.

So I did my homework. I caught up on the stories of Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, and Thor. And I loved them.

Fast forward two years and I was working for an online web series for nerds. I knew nothing about nerd culture except for Avengers, so you could say I was a bit clingy. I wrote at least half a dozen blogs about these guys. (If you want to read my blogs about the Avengers, see links at the bottom.) Anyway, since this is now my personal blog, I figured I’d start it off with a few tokens from my past blogging days. So in honor of the ungodly amount of hours I spent thinking and writing about the Avengers movies this summer, here are a few of my favorite visuals that came out of it.

The great Tony Stark.                                                                                                avengers iron man

Phil Coulson, the martyr and biggest fan of the Avengers.avengers coulson

Thor, arguably the only one who actually learns something.power of thor

So there you have it, the story of Leah and the Avengers. You could say it’s one for the ages. But you would be wrong, because this is just the tip of the iceberg. More on that later.

Until next time!

PS: My past Avengers blogs…

Hello, world.

Greetings, my two promised readers (and whoever else stumbles across this). Welcome to my first personal blog. I’m a little weary about this; it seems to me that starting a blog essentially means saying that my life is interesting enough that a whole bunch of other people should want to know what happens in it. I’m not sure whether I agree with that statement, but I do know that I love to write, and if anybody else enjoys reading then that’s great.

I’m not exactly sure what this blog is going to look like. My passion, writing-wise, is analyzing things- books, movies, small life moments- and relating them to other things, so maybe I’ll do some of that. I’ll probably also do some movie fan-girling. I might post my music, or some of the pictures that I create as movie tributes. Yes, I do that for fun. Or maybe I’ll just write about the funny things my students do, because they do a lot of funny things.

I’ve been told that I’m a strong advice-giver, so maybe I can do some of that too. Like a modern Dear Abby. That would be the dream.

I’ll leave it at this for now, and I’ll begin posting some real content soon. Suggestions are welcomed, of course.

Until next time!