New Year

2014: what can I say?

Quite a bit happened this year. I wrote a thesis (my topic: how do romantic comedies affect our expectations of real life romantic relationships?). I traveled to Navajo Nation. I drove a sports car for the first time. I graduated college. I met Jack Black, Alan Silvestri, Larry King, and William Shatner. I road tripped across the country. I moved to Boston. I made friends. I started a blog.

A fantastic year. And yet, today feels like such a strange note to end it on. What’s so special about today that it deserves to be the last day of such an important year of my life? Today I went to a movie and then out to eat with my family. It was wonderful and worth remembering, but was it the kind of finale that leaves you completely satisfied? I can’t really say yes.

But what would have been the perfect finale, really? It’s life. There are no perfectly clean cuts. No true endings or beginnings. One thing just sort of runs into the next. It’s like on your birthday, when people ask if you “feel” older. Of course you don’t; nothing changed today. Today’s just the day on the calendar that’s marked off for you. It’s great, and you’re going to celebrate it, but you’d be lying if you said you could pick it out from any other day of the year without knowing.

So I’m not going to get crazy with the memories and resolutions and finales of the new year. Just like every other day, I’m going to be grateful that I’m alive, and when I go to bed I’m going to pray that I get to wake up tomorrow. Because tomorrow will be just as special. In a way it’s a beginning, but in a way it’s not that at all.

If you’re into resolutions, go for it. I say a better way to celebrate the new year is by actually celebrating the year. Not just the day it starts. Celebrate the boring times and the difficult times and the times when you don’t even remember your resolution anymore. Celebrate all of the beginnings and endings that happen, because they’re all important. Celebrate the fact that you’re alive and it’s 2015, and hey, we lived longer than the Mayans thought. Celebrate what the new year is supposed to mean: celebration, fresh starts, rejuvenation. Hope.

Happy New Year.

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Winter’s Tale: Every Person Matters

Winter’s Tale was not the kind of movie I expected. I figured that this period piece would revolve around a couple whose love is so strong that the hopelessly ill woman somehow survives, and that would have been just dandy.

But this movie threw me for a loop. It was more than just fantasy, it was the kind of fantasy that gets really technical and explains to you exactly how it works. It’s this mix between magic and religion and fate and also a random touch of what I think is Native American lore. It gives us religion in a very literal sense, with Lucifer literally living underground in New York (because where else would Lucifer live?). And when the religious texts teach us that a guardian appears as a white horse, it literally appears as a white horse. This is a story about what happens when we die, with less mystery and more romance: when we’re done, we become stars. Or sometimes we don’t die, because we can’t. Each of us has a miracle to give, and we can’t die until we’ve given that miracle.

***SPOILERS AHEAD***

The main character, Peter, falls in love with Beverly, a 21-year-old who’s nearing the end of her battle with consumption. The two have a charming and quirky first encounter, and after that they are simply in the deepest of loves (which I’m not a huge fan of, but that’s an aside). Peter gives us the fabulously romantic line, “Is it possible to love someone so completely, they simply can’t die?” It’s a nice thought; if we care about someone enough, we can stop him or her from leaving us. But that’s not real life, and it’s not Peter’s life either.

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Peter has a miracle to give, but as Will Smith a.k.a. Lucifer tells the (in my opinion) horrendously miscast Russell Crowe, who plays the bad guy, that miracle is not saving Beverly. In fact, relative to the whole movie her part is sort of small.

After Beverly dies, Russell Crowe catches up with Peter and throws him off a bridge. Because Peter hasn’t given his miracle yet, he survives, but for no explicable reason he forgets his identity. He hangs out for 80 years or so, basically sitting around wondering who he is and not aging. Finally, in 2014, he meets a little girl named Abby who’s dying of cancer. Long story short, Peter realizes that this girl, Abby, is the one whom his miracle was meant for. He saves her, and then his best friend the white horse (aptly named “Horse”) comes to grab him and they fly off to become stars.

I’m skipping over some parts, but the important thing is the narrator’s message at the end:

Why would so many things conspire to save one little girl’s life?
But what if it wasn’t just Abby? What if she is no more or less special than any of us? What if we are all unique, and the universe loves us all equally? So much so that it bends over backwards across the centuries for each and every one of us. And sometimes we are just lucky enough to see it.
No life is more important than another. And nothing has been without purpose. Nothing. What if we are all part of a great pattern that we may someday understand?

And at that, I loved this movie. Because the one value I believe in more strongly than anything else is that every single person matters. It sounds simple, but when you really think about it, it’s not.

Sometimes movies will show us that “everyone” matters by telling the beautiful story of people who fall in love or rise from nothing to greatness or in some other way deserve our care. I was expecting little Abby to grow up to be the mother of the president or something like that, and that’s why this guy literally could not die until he saved her. But I was wrong.

A person doesn’t need to be the mother of the president to matter. They might be a linguist or a house wife or a drug addict or a custodian or an athlete or a philosopher or a random little girl. It doesn’t matter. The stranger you bumped into on the subway or waved at while jogging or saw in a picture without recognizing? That person is exactly as important as you. Because we all matter. Every one of us. Whether you know somebody’s story or not, they are a human and they came into this world because, for some reason or other, they deserve to be here.

In a way it’s kind of liberating. This movie tells us that you don’t have to fall in love so completely that you believe you can save your lover from death. You don’t have to do something incredible. Because you are alive, you are a miracle. You can give miracles. And even if you don’t know your purpose, don’t sweat it too much because- even if it means knocking you off a bridge, causing amnesia, and keeping you from aging for 80 years- fate will get you to just where you need to be, no matter how many times it has to try.

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Do Movies Help?

Do movies help us?

I recently had to choose between working in the world of entertainment and in the world of education. In the end, it was a tough decision but I determined that, although movies were a dearly loved hobby, I was put on Earth to help people, and movies didn’t give me a way to do it.

To understand how difficult of a decision this was, you need to know how much I love movies. I’m the girl who controls the family Netflix Queue in order to maximize the number of DVDs watched in the two-week window every year when I come home. I’m the girl who always watches the feature length documentaries on the making of the film, who watches a movie and then watches it all over again with the director’s commentary and doesn’t get bored. Who cherishes IMDb and devours a film’s trivia, mistakes, and connections after every viewing experience. I’m the one who consults the American Film Institute’s Top 100 and 10 Top 10 lists and then makes up my own lists so that I can be as cinematically cultured as possible. And I’m the one who considers Sporcle an accurate test of the breadth of one’s movie knowledge.

So when I chose to leave my job in TV it sucked, but I knew it was the right choice because what I was doing in TV wasn’t helping people. Or so I thought.

What is helping people, really? Is there only one way? Working in the world of education is incredibly courageous and worthwhile, but educating somebody at school is not the only way to get through to them. Sometimes it’s not a way to get through to them at all. What about the guy who has no friends at school, who only feels understood when he gets to come home and watch his friends on the screen? Or the girl whose life sometimes overwhelms her so much that the only way she can deal with it all is through 90 minutes of escape? Or the kid who can’t express emotions, understand history, care about perseverance, whatever you want, until a movie shows them how.

What about me?

Few things excite me more than the possibility of finding the next movie that will honestly move me, of discovering a new world in which anything is possible. Some days what I need more than anything is familiarity, comfort, and control, like the feeling I get from watching a movie so many times that each viewing becomes a reunion with an old friend. And then there are the moments when what I truly need is hope, or love, or friendship, or magic, and my needs are simply greater than what real life has to offer. And these things don’t only happen to me.

Movies are nothing more than society’s most current way to do what humankind has been doing since the very beginning: telling stories. Stories teach us about morals and history and human experience and other places in this great big world that we might never get to see. They allow us to connect with others and to express ourselves. We can use stories to talk about little things, but we can also use them to talk about things that really, truly matter. And don’t tell me you didn’t get a better education about the Holocaust from seeing Schindler’s List than you did from reading about it in a textbook.

Movies are a symbol of human expression, human connection, and human coping with survival. They showcase our best and our worst. They can connect millions of people, and at the same time send a million different messages. And, I concede, for some people they don’t send much of a message at all. But to me they send a big one. For me they help me to see the joys and even cherish the tough parts of being human.

I would say that’s a help.

How I Met Your Mother: The Little Things

Yesterday I had a conversation with a very dear but very misguided friend about How I Met Your Mother. It went something like this.

Me: *tells some story about two people who start randomly dating each other*
Friend: Wow. Maybe if it weren’t for this small detail about the guy, he and the girl wouldn’t be together at all.
Me: Cool, right? You really should watch How I Met Your Mother. That show is all about tiny things having huge outcomes.
Friend: No way. But if you love HIMYM so much why don’t you blog about it?

So here I am, blogging about it.

How I Met Your Mother (henceforth referred to as HIMYM) teaches us about love. It teaches us about friendship. It teaches us about fate. But I think my favorite lesson from this show is the one which my friend, although misguided, astutely alluded to. HIMYM teaches us that the little things matter.

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Honestly, how often in movies or TV shows do they actually pay attention to the little things in life? HIMYM gives us entire episodes about minuscule, seemingly unimportant happenings that, nevertheless, actually happen in real life, and therefore deserve some attention. Like loving a restaurant and then forgetting what it’s called or where you found it; like having video game tournaments or movie marathons with your best friends; like having a crappy boss or having to get rid of all the stuff you still have from old relationships.

But honoring the little things doesn’t just mean showing the common but unsung stuff that happens to everyone. Sometimes it means taking something little like a high-five and making it legendary. Or recognizing that previously random objects (red cowboy boots, blue french horn, yellow umbrella, ducky tie…) have the potential to really mean something. And sometimes it means taking little patterns of interaction between people and making sense out of them to use as rules for living life (hot-crazy scale, date-time continuum…). All of these incidental trinkets and moments become insanely meaningful for no other reason than because somebody decided that they were worth it.

HIMYM teaches us that life doesn’t have to be a TV show in order to be funny or important. It teaches us that TV should follow life, because life is important; whether it’s the little things or the big things, they all have equal weight in determining the shape that our lives take. HIMYM inspires us to be the kind of people to whom the little things matter, because life is more full that way. And it also teaches us that the little things sometimes aren’t so little at all.

“You see, the universe has a plan and that plan is always in motion. A butterfly flaps its wings, and it starts to rain. It’s a scary thought but it’s also kind of wonderful. All these little parts of the machine, constantly working, making sure that you end up exactly where you’re supposed to be, exactly when you’re supposed to be there. The right place at the right time.”

-Ted Mosby

Isn’t that an incredible thing? You don’t always have to be making big moves. You just have to be doing something. Something that makes your life fuller and better and more worth living. And by doing that something you’re making a difference to someone else somewhere else through something else. Or maybe you’re making a difference for yourself. In other words, that little thing that you did mattered. Whether it was walking your dog or practicing a new language or writing a blog, if you did something today, today you mattered. Today, the world changed because you were in it.

That’s what HIMYM teaches us, and I’ll take it.

Until next time.

The Best Romantic Comedies of All Time

It’s a contentious subject, and one on which we have to tread lightly. But as a self-appointed expert on romantic comedies (at least those of the last 10 or 20 years), I feel ready to take it on.

Rom coms are possibly some of the most polarizing movies out there. Some people- like me- LOVE them. And I mean love. As in, I would make a rom com about me and rom coms getting together and living happily ever after. Other people (unfortunately, many of whom are my friends) are not such fans. They say that this genre is predictable, boring, not action-y enough, whatever. You know what? I’m over it. More for me.

However, no matter how anti-rom-com-oriented your tastes are, there are some movies that you just have to see. If you’re that kind of person, this post is for you. And if you’re like me, this post is just another chance for you to remember how incredible your life is because these movies exist within it.

So here are the three best romantic comedies I’ve ever seen, in order from least to most favorite.

Friends With Benefits (2011)

fwb.blog By now, viewers are tired of plain old romantic comedies. As a result the bar is being set higher and higher- and this film jumps clean over with its quirky, fresh realness. It stars the young, hot, and hilarious Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake, and also features some old favorites like Woody Harrelson of Cheers fame. The story blatantly makes fun of romantic comedies and Hollywood in general. It pits Los Angeles against New York, a rousing and passionate battle if there ever was one. It involves my personal favorite rom com trope, the best friends-turned-lovers storyline. But these things happen in ways that are not super predictable, and that actually have a lot of heart. And it’s legitimately funny. But most importantly, the message of this movie is that the person you’re with should be, more than anything else, your best friend.

Corny ending line: “Everything that happens in the day, all I can think to myself is I can’t wait to tell Jamie about this… I want my best friend back, because I’m in love with her.”

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

whms.blogThis is not WHMS’s first appearance on this blog, nor will this be its last. Come on- Billy Crystal. Meg Ryan. The ’80s. When Harry Met Sally got into some of the great differences between males and females, at a time when this stuff was not being talked about. The idea that men and women can’t be friends, the fake orgasm, all this stuff was groundbreaking. And not only that, but nobody can deny that this film is just incredibly funny. Take Billy Crystal’s improvised accents, or the random Pictionary game (“Baby fish mouth!”) It also has some pretty clever moments, like the four-way phone call, or the many parallels between Harry and Sally that they never notice.This movie is just about men and women and love. No crazy plot devices- in fact, the craziest thing is just how little actually happens. The only thing keeping these characters from each other is themselves. But when Harry does finally realize, oh my goodness is it incredible.

Corny ending line: “I came here tonight because 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.”

Pretty Woman (1990)

pw.blog“This is Hollywood. What’s your dream?” Pretty Woman, set in the City of Dreams, is about people living big and dreaming big and falling hard and opening up and being gorgeous the whole entire time. It’s directed by Gary Marshall (Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve, The Princess Diaries) and features one of the earliest acting debuts of the lovely and inspiring Julia Roberts, along with the extremely suave, attractive, and soft-hearted Richard Gere. Wow, do they make an attractive couple. This movie is by far the least realistic of the three, but what it lacks in realism, it makes up for in charm. Despite the fact that one main character is a lonely businessman and the other a sold out hooker, somehow we love them both. And they bring out the best in each other. There’s also a motif of fairytales and dreams, which is somewhere in between heartwarming and heart-wrenching, given the situation. But it makes it that much better when Edward overcomes his fear of heights to go right up to the top of Vivian’s “tower” and bring her down to be with him forever.

Corny ending line: “So what happens after he climbs up and rescues her?” “She rescues him right back.”

They may be unrealistic, but these films still have some pretty great life lessons to teach: be with your best friend. Don’t give up on others. See the best in everyone. And when you care about someone, give it your all. Maybe these movies aren’t exactly what life looks like, but they sure as heck give us something to reach for.

So there you have it. Go off into the world and spread the joy of these pieces of timeless cinematic magic. And tell ’em Leah sent you.

The Man or The Door: Musings on The Truman Show

The Truman Show (1998) is a movie about a guy whose entire life is broadcast as a television show.

thetrumanshow.christofIt’s crazy. The title character, Truman, (played by Jim Carrey, to nobody’s surprise since it’s the ’90s) is chosen for the concept before he’s even born. The producer, a slightly creepy and pretentious now-trillionaire named Christof, literally creates a complete, idyllic world called Seahaven- just for Truman. Every single person in the world is a paid actor. Every component is fabricated. Famously, Christof can even control the sun. It’s mind-boggling.

And people love it. As Christof points out later, the real-ness is what makes Truman so great to watch. People are tired of canned emotions botched by fake actors. So, ironically, to get their dose of reality they turn to an entirely fake world to examine the one real person in it.

Eventually, Truman realizes to some extent what’s going on and sets his mind on escaping, despite the fact that the people closest to him try to convince him otherwise, and despite his crippling, lifelong fear of the ocean. More important than relationships, more important than fear, is his desire to know the truth. In this situation we’re faced with one of life’s facts: curiosity is one of the most controlling feelings humans can possibly feel. Ever heard of Pandora’s box? When we have to know, we HAVE to know. And Truman has to know.

And in the end, he finds out. He triumphs his fear and sails out literally to the edge of his world, where he encounters a wall and finally speaks with Christof:

Truman: Who are you?
Christof: I am the Creator of a television show- that gives hope and joy and inspiration to millions.
Truman: Then who am I?
Christof: You’re the star.
Truman: Was nothing real?
Christof: You were real.

thetrumanshow.stairsChristof tries to convince Truman to stay in his world, even though he knows now that it’s fabricated. He tells Truman that this choice is safer, that it’s better for the viewers, that the real world is no place to be.

It’s a sweet deal, living life knowing that somebody else is there to handle it. Isn’t that what so many humans search for- knowing that there’s some higher power, that there really, truly is a reason for everything? Given the choice, who would choose a random, chaotic, lonely world in which the only person responsible for you is yourself? Truman hesitates; the viewer almost thinks that he’ll choose to stay after all, and that the movie is sending us a message about ignorant bliss under the all-powerful hand of “The Man.”

But then Truman opens the door. He leaves everything he knows and walks straight into the real world, because above all else- above comfort and ease and safety and familiarity- he believes in truth. Ironically, a man bred from an entirely fabricated place believes more than anything else in honesty. (Truman. Tru-man. True-man.) Living in a brand new, terrifying place where there’s nobody to take care of him feels better than living a lie.

So what can we take from this movie? Curiosity. Truth. The exhilarating choice between ease and challenge. The ability we have to overcome fear once we find something that’s worth overcoming fear for. The courage to stand up for what we believe, even when everybody around us says no. The idea that staying true to ourselves is far more important than living in the way that somebody else might tell us is best.

And maybe all of these little things, which are one part fear and one part triumph, make up something more thrilling, more frenzied, more rewarding, than Seahaven could ever be.

Life.

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PS: And then came The Truman Show’s sequel, Bruce Almighty, in which Truman now got to play God…

My Own Horcrux

***This post contains spoilers for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows!***


In a book full of plot twists and surprises, perhaps the most important realization of the last Harry Potter: Harry is a horcrux. When Voldemort tries to kill Harry as a baby, poor Tom ends up splitting his own soul by accident. That part of his soul enters Harry, who for so long has no idea that his scar means anything important.

As Harry gets older, he begins to have visions. He can read Voldemort’s mind, feel Voldemort’s feelings, see through Voldemort’s eyes. His wand and Voldemort’s have twin cores. And Harry can talk to snakes, a talent that Voldemort was known for. Harry and Voldemort clearly have some links that can not be explained by coincidence alone. Isn’t it interesting how two people with so many similarities chose such different paths in life?

All of these abilities and similarities haunt Harry throughout his years at Hogwarts. Most mildly, they’re upsetting. Most seriously, they lead to the death of the only father figure Harry has ever known. And in between we have the disturbing visions, horrendously difficult occlumency lessons with Snape, pressure from Hermione, and physical pain of the scar. All in all, having a part of Voldemort’s soul inside makes Harry’s life pretty difficult.

But without it, he wouldn’t be the Chosen One. Once Voldemort chooses Harry, Harry has both a burden and a gift. Possessing part of Voldemort’s soul clearly wears on Harry, but without these peculiar opportunities and abilities, Harry would not have the tools he needs to defeat the very person who gave him these capabilities in the first place. In short, the thing that makes Harry’s life so difficult is also what makes him special. Living with the soul of a villain makes him a hero.

That’s life. Often, our best qualities are tied to our worst; the thing that hurts us is also the thing that makes us strong. For me, it’s perfectionism. I want to do my best; I strive for excellence, and I care with my whole heart. That’s why I’m so hard on myself and why I’m such a stickler for rules. It can be exhausting. But despite the negatives, I wouldn’t give up the positives for anything.

I think that’s what Harry taught us. Everybody has the bad, but every piece of bad has some good. It’s up to us to decide which one we want to focus on. And as Albus Dumbledore says, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

Let’s all look inward and identify our own horcruxes. Let’s not let them stay hidden in the darkness where they can only grow to hurt us. Let’s be brave like Harry, and face our fears. Let’s be vulnerable enough to discover the worst parts of ourselves. And then let’s remember the boy who showed us how they can also be the best.

Let’s all face our horcruxes. But instead of seeing the darkness, let’s choose the light.

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21 Jump Street: The Deepest Action Movie You’ll Ever See

When I was a junior in high school I wrote a paper on Frankenstein. I don’t remember much about the book, but I do remember that Frankenstein’s monster, above all else, was lonely. In fact, he spends a large portion of the story just wandering around by himself. And in my paper I remember writing that Frankenstein’s monster exhibited one of the strongest and most basic human desires: to feel connected to others. People will go to unbelievable lengths to feel included, because it’s something we so deeply need.

Think about it. You’re a caveperson and you don’t particularly care about your fellow cavepeople. You’re fine chilling by yourself. You’re probably happier, honestly. No yearning for a cavepartner, no pings of longing for cavekids, no low self esteem in caveschool when you get left out. Except then you never get with anybody and you never have babies and your genes die out. Your lonely, awkward, attention-hungry counterparts do eventually find someone after trying long enough and they get to have kids. Their social neediness gets passed on, and that’s the extremely simplified reason for why we all care about belonging so incredibly much.

What do Frankenstein and Cavepeople have to do with 21 Jump Street? Well, this movie is more than an action movie. It’s more than a high school clique movie. It gives us more than fascinating commentaries on racism, attitudes toward minorities, and high school today. This is a story that proves that, as humans, all we really, truly want is to belong.

In the beginning we learn about the backstories of our two leading men. I enjoyed watching their budding friendship and their introduction to the policing world, but the first time I really leaned in was when I saw that look of completely genuine fear on Jonah Hill’s face as he prayed to Korean Jesus about returning to high school. This guy has been out of school for 7 years, but when he finds out he’s going back, he will do anything to feel protected, including praying to a God that he doesn’t even know. He’s desperate. Why? Because in high school he didn’t fit in, and that hurt him so deeply that he still feels it today.

Then we get to school where suddenly we have a case of switched identities, confusion about what’s “cool,” and decimation of typical high school stereotypes. Love it. But to me the most gripping part is the relationship between Jenko and Schmidt. These guys were best friends, and now they’re torn apart. Power dynamics are switched, they stop trusting each other, they stop working together, and because of that they screw up and get fired.

But even after they get fired and there should be some montage about them missing each other, Jenko and Schmidt still don’t separate. They’re furious at each other, but instead of anything remotely hateful, Jenko says, “I would’ve taken a bullet for you.” In the face of loss and hurt and loneliness, he only confirms just how much he cares about his best friend. Think about it: in real life, is leaving somebody behind ever as simple as it is in the movies? Of course not. We care about each other. More than anything else, we want to belong. We want someone else to tell us that we’re worth it. That we matter.

And when our life is a movie, they do. And in this particular movie, they also arrest the bad guy. They’ve gone through all these car chases, shot a ton of people, they have a guy on the ground and they’re arresting him. And what does Jenko choose to say to his partner? “You’re so cool.” For him this isn’t about catching the perp or getting his job back. It’s about his best friend. And his best friend answers, “I know I didn’t say you were, but you’re smart. You’re a smart guy, and you’re thoughtful, and you’re sincere, and…and you’re sweet and you’re loyal. And I f***ing cherish you.”

At this high-adrenline, incredibly exciting moment, the one thing our main characters want to do is express to each other how much this relationship means to them. They understand what a lot of people don’t, which is that more than doing a good job or being right or pretty much anything else, the best feeling we can have is that we care about someone else and they care about us right back.

So thank you, 21 Jump Street, for giving some genuine heart to what could have been just another lame comedy about a hot guy and a dorky guy and the jokes they make together. You took those two people and made them truly need each other, and in doing so transformed this movie into something real and important and surprisingly human.

And for that I f***ing cherish you.

Edited 12/21/14 following corrections from the extremely intelligent Luis Seija. 

On Hope

In light of recent events in Ferguson, New York City, Phoenix, and elsewhere, the nonprofit I work at organized a discussion for us yesterday morning. We were asked to answer some tough questions: How did we feel about the recent events? Sad, angry, confused, hopeful? Do people have control over their own destiny? And my personal favorite… is social justice achievable?

Well, it depends what you mean by “social justice.” It depends how you define “achievable.” To me, social justice looks like a world in which opportunities are legitimately equal for everyone, a world in which every person is treated like they matter. It means that if two people are in love and they want to get married, they can. It means that if a person does not pose any threat to a cop, that person will not be killed. It means that if somebody suffers from mental illness, he or she will not be shamed but instead will receive the proper help.

Can I realistically envision a world in which all of these problems are solved? At the moment, I don’t know. But the question doesn’t ask whether it will happen quickly. It doesn’t ask whether it will happen easily. It asks whether or not it can happen. And until I find a good reason for why it can’t, I’m going to believe that it can. Why? Because the definitions are not what’s important. What’s important to me is that I want to be the kind of person who says yes. I have to be the kind of person who believes that anything is possible. Those are the only people who ever make real changes, and who don’t give up hope.

it is not your job to finish

With regard to the cause of the murder of Michael Brown and the other related cases, I do not know whether these people were killed because the police were racist. I don’t know whether it might be overt racism or covert racism. Maybe the issue is the media, or maybe it’s police brutality; I know that I (white, female, clearly a college student at the time) have been verbally abused by the police. Maybe it’s all of the above.

But I want to end on a note of hope. All of the protests currently happening involve people who feel outraged that a white cop would kill a black person for without a legitimate reason. I may not have been around 60 or 70 years ago, but I’m guessing that back then such an incident would not have made headlines. Our country is young; less than 200 years ago black people were slaves. When my parents were young, the only jobs they saw black people in were house cleaning and driving. Today we are absolutely a far cry from equality, but in 2008 and again in 2012 America elected a black person to be our president, and now American citizens refuse to sit idly by while a white cop does not get indicted for killing a black person. That’s progress.

“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.”

-Nelson Mandela

Let’s get there.

PS: While in some places racism is still overt, it is very often nowadays covert, or subconscious. Want to learn more? At this website you can take a survey that will give you information on whether you possess any covertly racist tendencies.

Letter To A Student

Dear Student,

Thank you.

Thank you for coming to school every single day. You make it no secret that you hate it, and yet you show up anyway. You find ways to entertain yourself and to have fun, even if it’s at my expense. That’s actually a great skill to have. You may not see it now, but your ability to find even a small way to make yourself happy despite being stuck in an adverse situation is going to get you through a lot of tough times, and it probably already has.

Thank you for being honest and brave. I may not like to hear it, but you always tell me what you think, and you’re most certainly not quiet about it.

Thank you for your great ideas. I know that the thought of somebody being satisfied with your academic contributions is foreign to you, and maybe that’s why you checked out of school before you and I met, but when you do choose to share I’m always impressed. I wish you would do it more.

Thank you for making me laugh. For creating yourself a bed out of chairs so that you can lounge during class. For every day coming up with a new and creative reason for why you need to go home, this very minute. Thank you for doing these things because they give me pause and make me laugh, even if they frustrate me too.

But most of all, thank you for challenging me. I was trained for a job wouldn’t be easy, I was warned that I would cry, but I never could have been prepared for you. Honestly, I’m not going to pretend I know what to do to make you like school or do your work. But thank you for pushing me to question myself, to think outside the box, to ask others for help. I needed all of those things. They make me a better person. YOU make me a better person.

My wish for you is that one day you will see your perseverance, honesty, bravery, intelligence, creativity, and every other beautiful but hidden quality that you possess in the light of day. My wish for you is that you will someday decide that you no longer need to hide these things, that you will allow yourself to be vulnerable and to trust someone else and to show them who you truly are so that you can be appreciated.

This transformation will take time. In fact, I may not ever see it happen. But the incredible thing about life is that I get to come back and continue to try every single day. I get to be just one blip in your journey, and I won’t shoulder all of the responsibility for your success myself. I get to imagine the huge web of people who care about you and who will each contribute something toward your future. But in the end none of us are going to cause you to change. That’s on you.

But you know what? You don’t have to believe me, but I know that you’re going to do it.

So thank you.