Sunday, December 6, 2009

Final Reflection

It's the end of the semester. It feels like we just arrived at AU a few weeks ago yet we're gonna be home by next week! =) I realised over the Thanksgiving Break that my friendships here have become really special to me. The first night away from college over the break, I really missed my loungemates (you know who you are) as well as everyone else on the floor. It's amazing how quickly we can bond with others and how the relationships have developed over time. We've all grown in character over this semester and even though we live in close proximity to one another, we're still all friends and I believe that it will remain like that.

I really want to mention the fact that it snowed yesterday!!! =) It was such an awesome day ... that couldn't have happened at a worse time! Haha! Studying never happened and instead I ended up playing in the snow, taking pictures, going to the National Mall and hanging out in our lounge making snowflakes out of paper. I have been in snow before but never while it was actually falling so when I woke up yesterday and saw it falling outside I jumped off my bed and immediately texted everyone. It's really funny how my closest friends here happen to be from warmer climates ... 2 from LA and one from El Paso. So we all enjoyed ourselves.

Identity has a lot to do with how you view yourself, which impacts how others view you. Sean's blog really captured some of the main qualities of our UC group and even though we aren't all very close, we appreciate one another and there's always someone nearby to help you out. This is our UC community and I'm very happy to be a part of it. Looking forward to next semester.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Reflection: A World of Opportunities

There was something nice about having a class where I had no fear of voicing my opinions. While we might not have always understood the purpose, the discussions we had were always interesting and stimulating, which has not been the case in most of my other classes. I'm going to miss having the opportunity to learn almost completely through discussion and experience.

If there's anything I learned from this class through our discussions and guest speakers, it's been a reinforcement of what I had already come to understand: Opportunities alight upon us, and while this may or may not be due to luck, it is our own decision whether or not to accept them.

I've noticed this so many times in my life. The best things that have happened to me are things that, well, just sort of happened. I started horseback riding at sixteen because I had said I was maybe possibly considering picking it up again, maybe, after stopping for seven years. So my family friend bought me a gift certificate to get going. And then after a year they gave me a job, and after another year I was leasing my own horse. I hadn't gone into horseback riding with those intentions, they just sort of came about. My love of the horses showed enough in the eyes of others that the head trainer came to me one day and said "You should train to be a Tack Girl." And I said, "Sure, why not?"

Same with acting. The director of my school plays heard a rumor that I was interested in acting, and told me to join his class. I was so scared, I'd never done anything like that before, but eventually I joined in. And soon I was assistant directing him in a number of shows, I was teaching kids at his camp how to act, I was directing my own scenes, and he was paying me for it!

Even more recently, my physics professor this semester noticed how much I enjoy the subject, and encouraged me to go for a double major in Film and Physics, mapping out my four years to convince me it could work.

I think that's the best advice. Let what you love show, and people will notice--and they'll help you get to where you want to be, even if you don't know what that is.

The Age of Explorations

Our discussion in class today summed up the entire year. Unanswerable questions, differing views, relative morality and uncertain futures characterized nearly all of our discussions in one way or another. As much as the meandering, circling, abstract discussions pained me at the time, I might actually miss them next semester. This class was unique in that it centered almost entirely on us students with our interests, ideas, and concerns for the future. It will be nice to look back next semester when I'm tearing my hair out in Physics and to realize that someday my dream job might just fall into my lap.

I can't decide if this course made me more cynical or more hopeful about the world we live it. It seems that for every action, good or bad, there is an alterior motive and that nothing can be taken at face value. However, the speakers who came in led us to believe that nothing that we are stressing about right now is going to be the end of the world in the long run. Even the books we read varied from depressing cynicism (Goffman's view on funerals) to displays of extreme personal character (Augustine, Heinlein, Sophocles). I suppose that for every tragedy and militaristic saga there also exists someone capable of noble action. I guess that is the point, to realize that few things are wholly good or wholly bad, but it is up to us to decipher the grains of each in the people and events of our lives.

I'll admit that it is tough for me to really reflect on the whole semester. The combination of my massive stress level and sleep deprivation with the mind-boggling amount of stuff that happened is probably the culprit for this impediment. However, I think that it will be interesting to see where this class progresses from here. In the UC sense, to see how we compare, but also in regard to the vast diversity of views held by our class, I think that it is unlikely that any two of us will end up in the same place three and a half years from now.

So with that nod to the past and a little look towards the future, I'll go ahead and end my last blog post with a little nostalgia for being able to publish my opinions to the world and be forced to due it regularly for fear of failing the class. For lack of any coherent words of my own, I would like to end with a quote that I think sums up the class quite nicely:

"Like the sign over the urinal says, 'You hold your future in your hand'"
~ Lew Welch

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Lonely Wanderer

The question was posed on what community any of us would like to join now or in the future. Seeing as my future is relatively uncertain, I cannot say with any knowledge what community I want to or would likely join. If I could have my way, I would likely join the foreign service. Ambassador Quainton only reinforced my deep craving to do this when he told his wild stories of traveling the world.

On the same note, I would love to become a member of the Peace Corps. Right now, this is about as easy as getting into Harvard Law, and if the economy and unemployment do not improve, it will not be any better by the time I graduate. However, with these two examples leading my list, it is safe to say that I wish to enter the international community. Having been raised by travel junkies, it has always been my wildest dream to travel the world. Ideally, I could do it all. I want to join the elite group of expatriated artists. I want sit and drink coffee and absynthe alongside modern Hemingways. I want to join the Peace Corps and to make a difference with people too poor to make the small changes that would improve their lives forever. I want to join the foreign service and to rub elbows with the world's elite, playing hardball with dictators.

That last one is a lie. Though the first two examples have been in my dreams since I have been literate, the final one has never interested me in the power sense. However to join the foreign service is still an opportunity I could never pass up.

This blog was rambling and back-stepping for a reason. It represents the life I have idealized: trying everything and backing off when you do not like it, but following the threads that you do. In essence, this is the community that I want to join, the backpack-laden twenty-somethings searching for truth abroad. But I'm sure my mind will wander even from this.

Question 13: Lights, Camera, Action

If I could join any community, it would be the acting community. It's always been a really lame dream of mine to be a film actress.

I love art in all its forms, from music, to drawing, writing, and acting. And I've always loved trying to understand people. Acting sort of encompasses this freedom of expression, with understanding the human mind and interactions. The minute details that can make or break a performance I think are so interesting. There's something so raw in pulling feelings straight out of your gut and putting them out for all to see.

I was a teaching assistant for an acting camp over the summer, and I never felt so in my element, helping people to act, critiquing, and pushing them to go a step further. There was one monologue where I remember this girl was supposed to be speaking to a guy in a coma. Her first line was "John?" and we had her completely leave the room before she started and then walk in. When she said her first line, everyone in the room felt it like a stab in the heart. It's the little things like that that make me want to act.

I have no problem with being on camera, for the most part. If you give me a script or a line, I can do it for you. The issue is that I can't ever watch myself. I HATE the sound of my voice, I think it's so obnoxious. And I can't bear to watch all the mistakes I've made and the idiot I'm being. But I have no problem with the process.

But to be a part of the acting community would be amazing. Even though they're all whiny drama queens. I just think the profession is so intense and interesting. It's not even as exciting as they make it seem in those "making of" videos. It's actually incredibly boring and repetitive. But I still want to be a part of that process, because it seems like a real challenge.

I'm majoring in film right now with the intention of directing, which is probably as close as I'll ever get to acting. I'm probably a better actress in my head than in real life anyway.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I'm Thankful For...

Yay for Turkey Day!!!

This Thanksgiving was much needed. We all needed a little break before finals week (yikes!) Every other year for as long as I can remember, my family met in Seaside, FL and we would spend our Thanksgiving together. This was always my dad's side of the family, the side that I bond with most. We stopped this tradition, however, when a few of my grandparents became ill and were unable to do a lot of traveling.
These grandparents have since passed away, and this year was the first year we decided to meet again in Florida. Seaside is a fun place, but as you get older you realize that nothing has changed every time you return. It was time for a change. This year also marks a big occasion for the Shmerlings. One of my cousins, Mollie Shmerling (funny right?), is engaged! She is the first of all the cousins, so we are all pretty excited. I met the fiancé for the first time and he's awesome. My uncle, being amazing and generous, had our family stay at the Ritz Carlton, an experience very different from others I have had at other hotels.
Goffman circulated through my head throughout my stay. The Ritz is the epitome of every term in Goffman's vocabulary. There were "performances" going on everywhere you looked and I am pretty sure everyone put up a "front" while staying there. Let's just say I felt a bit out of place. I felt myself having to assimilate into this new crowd of people. I couldn't just walk around barefoot in my pajamas like at normal hotels. No, I had to dress up just to walk to the pool. There wasn't just normal water jugs spread out around the hotel, there were "infusions". Water infused with various fruits. Every person who worked there kept offering to help me or to get me something. Sometimes I just wanted to tell them I could do it myself. After a while, I let it just slide and relaxed a bit. It was weird for me to have people doing so much for me, when most of it I could just do myself. When we left today, they wished us a safe trip and said "Until next time". This made me laugh because for most of their guests, they will be back the next time they travel to Miami. For me, this experience would most likely be a once in a life time experience.
The stay itself was incredibly fun, especially seeing my family. My cousins are all getting so grown up and it is scary to think that one of my cousins is almost 30! He's already balding! Shmerling football on the beach left me incredibly sore, and on top of that, my sister pushed me to go running with her every morning. I can barely move today. I can't wait to get through these next few weeks and be home in December!

Reflection: It's following me...

So over Thanksgiving break my family and I went into the city to visit friends who were visiting from Texas. They have a daughter the same age as me, Claire, so obviously our families had a lot of college talk between us.

Apparently where Claire goes to school, there are very few people from Texas, and when other students hear that that's where she's from, there's usually a big reaction. And her father went into a description about how "high identity" states like Texas and New York tend to get bigger reaction than other states. I nearly cried.

But I have to admit he had a point. States with a lot of stereotypes or are very known for certain people/mannerisms (aka "high identity") usually get a bigger reaction from people. I can remember from the first few weeks being here at school, I met a girl from Alaska. She smiled when she told me and said "I love to see people's reactions." She was pale, blonde haired, blue eyed, and looked nothing like the Inuit Eskimo image I had in my head of Alaskans. Minus Sarah Palin. But it took me by surprise because we were all the way in DC, where people in this part of the country think of igloos and dogseld races when they think of Alaska.

These "high identity" states also bring in the idea of "othering" that has been talked about in class. When people think of states such as Texas, California, Alaska, Hawaii, these states are very clearly not like your own, and therefore we're more excited to find out from people what their lives are like there. We assume they must be very different from ours, even when it might not be any more different than someone from Nebraska.