One Last Thing Before We Go

What the hell, guys? The 2015 school year is essentially over. I swear on all my final grades that we moved into our apartment like three and a half days ago. Maybe five. No more than seven. So why do people keep saying things like, “Goodbye” and “See ya next fall”???? It is rude.

I’d like to begin by saying that I blame this on Father Leahy. Allow me to explain. Students at Boston College all have two questions ever-present in our minds:

1.Why does time go by so quickly when we’re having fun but so slowly when there are un-fun things on the agenda?
2. a. Does Father Leahy even exist? and b. If so, what the frick does he do all day?

Here’s my theory: Father Leahy warps time. An answer to both of our questions and more. He simply perches himself in the Gasson bell tower and counts the smiles of students from above, moving the clock forward accordingly. More smiles, less time. This is all done with a sinister eye-smile (smeyele) and a blatant disregard for political correctness. “Who are all these WOmen with BACKpacks??” he often asks himself as he yells from high above at some freshman who is walking across his grass.

Think on that one for a lil bit. Keep reading when you’re ready.

Before I left for India, I wrote about “taking flight”- jumping into something I’d never done before. Shaking up my sense of self to see what sticks and what I should let go. It was worth it, but it was exhausting. Coming back to BC felt like coming home to all of my favorite things. Tailgates. Pulled pork and Bud light (Ok ya I hate Bud Light but I’m still allowed to get sentimental about it). Fall and afternoon coffee hangs. “FindMyFriends” and throwing parties and being just a little bit reckless because we’re all catching planes to different continents at the end of the year.

This semester has been about enjoying solid ground, not about taking flight. And it has been truly dope. It’s been about following the good vibes, about investing time and laughter in the things and people that make us better versions of ourselves.
Lesson 1: People that laugh at the same jokes and care about the same things eventually find each other. Life is kind of that simple.

And I’ve learned some things about myself along the way. For one thing, I’ve come to realize that I live about three floors above reality. 90% of the time I think this makes life more fun. Hilarious, even. But every once in a while, my expectations and the actual state of things crash into one another. Sometimes it’s just a fender-bender, other times there are casualties. Sometimes I give more of myself to people than they want or need. But given the choice, I’d rather be the one that cares more, that’s still laughing at a joke after the conversation moves on, that is half in love with as many things as possible.
Lesson 2: Don’t feel un-cool for being the only one laughing. Literally, but also metaphorically.

The Christmas season is one of those very deliberate time-markers that forces us to slow down and take stock of what’s happened in the past year. It’s time spent in celebration of all the life lived in the 365 days since the last Christmas Morning- the let-downs and goodbyes and the fuck-ups, the serendipity and hellos and the achievements.

So before I move out of good ‘ole South Street, I wanted to leave a little something for my people- the ones taking off on their own journeys and the ones sticking around campus. Full disclosure: I’m gonna give myself three strikes for getting too cheesy, and then I’m gonna say F it and keep going ’cause this shit is too important.

To the people I’d go to bat for:

Every so often, we stumble into moments and people and places that change our trajectories. Billy Joel sitting down at a piano. Our very first shots of Rubinoff (or our very first fifth shots of Rubinoff). A homily that changed the way you see the world and your place in it.

Signing the lease for our little apartment in 35 South Street was one of those moments. That place has given us nothing but good vibes. It’s like, reverse-haunted. Really really good people and good things came into our lives when we moved in. This could be because the Universe likes to give great things and then take them away like it’s April Fool’s Day or some shit. Or, it could be because you guys are fucking rays of sunshine and deserve a lifetime supply of good karma.

Should I be swearing less?

I feel like I should be swearing less.

I’m just gonna roll with it.

Someday far far away I’m gonna have a daughter. And when I tell her about these years at BC, I’m gonna tell her unselfconsciously, unapologetically, that The Friends were the love of my college years.

Last week, Father McGowan told a story about the one wedding he’ll never forget. Ironically, it was the only wedding that was cancelled before he presided over it. Weeks before, he got a call from the father of the bride telling him that the wedding had been called off. But the father asked him to come anyways. The reception was still on- they’d already ordered all of the food- and the father said they would need a helping hand. On what should have been the day of the wedding, the family rented five buses, sent them out to the local homeless shelters, and filled them with people. And for a day, the homeless of the city ate Filet Mignon.

How heartbreakingly beautiful- to turn such a broken, bitter thing like lost love into an opportunity of joy. Am I about to draw a comparison between our semester apart and a broken engagement? One hundred percent. Is that super dramatic? Maybe a little bit. But for one thing, I definitely haven’t hit my three-strike limit. And for another, I’m about to make a valid point. Having people around us that are so painful to walk away from is an incredible blessing in itself.

As exciting as the next few months of our lives will be, we’re all feeling a little heartbroken about leaving BC. Right now, it feels like we’ve got something so so good and we’re walking in the opposite direction. And I think we’re all worried that the good things won’t be the same when we get back, that we won’t be the same when we get back. Embrace that hurt, understand the blessing that it is, take the lemons life gives you and make Filet Mignon.
Lesson 3:  Life comes with a thousand matches. This semester, we lit quite a few of them. But why not burn as many as possible?

Good things are coming your way. Because you guys are truly good humans. But I have a feeling you’ll have at least one or two moments ahead where you’ll feel heavy with the weight of being anonymous in an unfamiliar place.

In those moments, which will probably catch you off guard while you’re walking down some cobblestone street that’s pretty as hell, know that you’re headed exactly where you’re supposed to be. I have such faith that despite the homesickness, you will still be filled with love- my love for you, the love of The Friends, the love of the people there whom I have never met but whose hearts you will surely touch. You’ll move forward with faith in your next step, faith in the surprises the Universe has in store. And when that fails, here’s one last thing:

The Best Advice I’ve Ever Received, For the Best People I’ve Ever Known:

  1. It is precisely when you are apart that defines exactly what you have.
  2. Fear is the greatest gravitational force in the Universe (love is up there, but it’s harder to pay attention to.) Be careful what you let into your heart. Meaning the fear, not the love.
  3. Then comes gratitude. If you doubt, you are being ungrateful (This sounds harsh, and makes me feel like a cranky Grandma waggling her finger at you. But it’s true. And I actually kind of like that image). The universe can take it all back as fast as it appeared.
  4. Be present, honest, grateful, open, silly, kind. This is what keeps the heart strings connected.
  5. Every decision must be made out of strength, not fear. Then and only then is there no regret.

Guys, I love you I love you I love you, so much that sometimes it actually hurts, and my heart is filled with joy when I think about the beauty you are going to experience in these next months.

We’re about to spend half a year quite literally a world apart, but know that at least half of me is still in our South Street apartment, getting wine drunk or Fireball drunk or punch drunk or love drunk, laughing endlessly over some stupid shit with the loves of my life.

Endless hugs and laughter and tears



Week 2: #NoFilter

Today we visited a farm owned by a couple who had grown up in India, moved to America to work in IT for 15 years, and returned to India to invest in natural farming. The wife greeted us with a warm smile and friendly conversation. The husband, on the other hand, immediately assumed the role of “bad cop”. He started off by asking us, “Why are you visiting my farm?” *Awkward silence* “What’s the knowledge you intend to take away when you leave?” I had no idea how to respond. But right off the bat, I understood that this guy intended on ruffling our feathers. And he did, but maybe not in the way he intended to. First, let me explain the distinction between inorganic, organic, and natural farming as it was explained to me today.

So you’ve got three chickens. One chicken, you put in a cage with a bunch of other chickens and feed him food with hormones and steroids that will make him so fat he can’t walk. That’s your inorganic chicken. Scaleable, profitable. Think Food, Inc. The next chicken, you put in a cage of his own. You feed him all natural ingredients, you keep him in an environment totally free of disease. More expensive, but health-conscious. That’s your organic chicken. The third chicken, you don’t put in a cage. It grows on its own, gets its own food, fights its own battles.You’ve got yourself a free, strong, and happy ass chicken. That chicken is the natural chicken. Where do you want your eggs to come from?

This family believes that natural farming is the way to go. They gave up the conveniences of Western life in the US to return to their roots, where they live off of the plants and food that they grow on their 9 acre farm, uncorrupted by pesticides and insecticides.

For a long time, the husband sat with us and explained (with quite a lot of zeal) how, to him, the concept of natural farming extends to all parts of life. He believes that there are inorganic, organic, and natural humans as well as chickens and plants. In the US, we don’t have the ecosystem to supply us with food for 12 months of the year, so we are cheated out of a natural life. We’re forced to rely on organic food, and other modern conveniences. But India has an environment that supplies its habitants year-round. As a consequence, they’re given the opportunity to lead a natural life if they chose to. To this end, he believes that Indian culture is more spiritually developed than Western culture because in the West, we had to spend more time fighting against nature to grow food to survive. Essentially, India’s ecosystem gave people the luxury to think introspectively. Sitting there, I saw validity in his perspective. There’s no question that the eggs from the natural chicken are more ideal than the inorganic and organic eggs. And you can’t argue with the fact that corn doesn’t grow under 100 inches of Boston snow. But I also felt incredibly defensive. Is life ever that black and white? Is there really only one correct way to live, as a “natural man”?

I’ve spent two weeks in India, and I’ve been asking questions the entire time. I’ve been exposed to a completely and utterly different way to live. But this was the first time that someone lined up their way of life against mine and said, “my way’s better”. It was frustrating, it was uncomfortable, but it made me think. 

One thing that the farmer said to us keeps coming back to me. He said that there’s nothing you can learn about the study of the universe that you can’t learn from studying a single atom. The macrocosm is the same as the microcosm. But often, we as humans look beyond ourselves for the answers. We travel, we read, we study, when all the answers are within ourselves.

I don’t know, guys. I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll ever apologize for reading a book or traveling to a place like South India to open my eyes and change my perspective. But I will say that the concept of looking for the answers within myself is something I’ve never considered before. And it’s something I’m willing to take a crack at.

First step: Honesty. I realized today that, both literally and figuratively, I’ve been filtering my time in India as if my life is a freaking instagram post. I’ve been turning up the saturation and the highlights, taking down the shadows and the contrast. Every few days, I’ve posted about a moment of insight, or some photos of the beautiful scenery, or a video of us laughing and singing with happy school children. 40% of my time here has been like this. Moments of awe, heartache, wonder. But if I’m being real (which I’m finally trying to be), for the rest of the time I’ve had a countdown in my head. How many hours until the day is over, until I can retreat back to the ashram? How many days until I have just one week left, how many days until I can fly home?

I’m the kind of person that gets my energy from the environment I’m in. I’m happiest when I surround myself with people, places, and things that nurture my growth. And here I am, on the other side of the world, surrounded by people and places and things that are entirely unfamiliar. I haven’t been myself. And more importantly, I haven’t been honest about it.

Grass Roots Change. That’s what the GROW internship is all about. I travelled half-way around the world to learn from a non-profit that takes local knowledge, understanding, and intuition and generates sustainable change. Now I intend to use what I’ve learned to generate some good ole grass roots change within myself. If I’m gonna let this experience really shake me, I’m gonna have to stop ignoring the earthquakes when they come. That means no more coming home from a seriously stressful day and shutting down by reading thirty pages of a book and going to bed. No more communicating on social media through exclamatory phrases and big cheesy smiles. My goal for the next ten days is to stop observing, stop summarizing, and start reacting.

Week #1: Expect Miracles

During one of my first conversations with Dr. Meera, I told her that I was keeping a note with me that had the Serenity Prayer written on it. I told her that a close friend gave me this note and told me, “If you ever feel unsafe, anywhere in the world, go to an AA meeting. You won’t be able to understand a word they’re saying, but you’ll know that they have your best interest in mind.” After confiding this in Dr. Meera, her eyes lit up. She began to tell me that she believes alcoholism is the single largest problem faced in India- the largest issue holding them back from becoming a developed nation.

Sophia, Cece and I have been giving presentations on dental hygiene, hand washing, and toilet use to groups of children. These kids are here with their families at the CORD building on clinic day to receive vaccinations, physical exams, and FLOSS!!

Sophia, Cece and I have been giving presentations on dental hygiene, hand washing, and toilet use to groups of children. These kids are here with their families at the CORD building on clinic day to receive vaccinations, physical exams, and FLOSS!!

The majority of women in the villages we work with have alcoholic husbands. Yea, you read that right. More than half. They struggle to feed themselves and their children because their husbands squander their daily earnings on drinks before they make it home. They’re often abused in every sense of the word. But despite this, they are some of the most resilient mothers, daughters, and sisters that I have ever met. Much of CORD’s programs focus on empowering these women. Each village has several groups of women called Mahila Mandals. These women have been trained by CORD in a trade so that they can bring in a supplementary income for their family.

The groups meet weekly to offer support and solidarity for one another, and to conduct micro-financing (one of the coolest things I’ve seen here). Each week, the women of the group put away a portion of their income, usually around 100 rupees, into a joint savings account. From that account, any member can request to withdraw a loan for a business endeavor or personal crisis with an interest rate of only 1%. Each member benefits from the loans because the money comes back with interest, and the women have access to the funding they need to get their own income up and running, whether it be running a food stall, making clothes, or weaving baskets. Most of these women are young mothers in scary situations, but each has a fiery spirit and warm heart. I don’t need to know their language to understand that.

India's 11th President passed away on the day we arrived in India. That morning, we saw fireworks from the Delhi Airport at 6:30 AM. The country declared two national holidays this past week in celebration of his life.

India’s 11th President passed away on the day we arrived in India. That morning, we saw fireworks from the Delhi Airport at 6:30 AM. The country declared two national holidays this past week in celebration of his life.

During our first village trip, when Dr. Meera was addressing a Mahila Mandal, she caught me off guard by asking me to talk about my experience with Alcoholics Anonymous, because of what I had shared earlier. I did my best to explain what I know about the program. I told the women that alcoholism is a disease that anyone can suffer from, whether they’re privileged or not. I told them that the first step to recovery is accepting that you have a problem that’s out of your control, and understanding that you must be held accountable for your actions. Dr. Meera translated what I said to them and added her personal spin (this is something she does with great tact and effectiveness when we address people in English). As the village trips continued day by day, Dr. Meera continued to ask me to share my knowledge of the program. To be honest, I felt totally over my head. But I began to understand the value in hearing someone from an exotic, wealthy place like America share a common experience.

Dr Meera's husband (Dr. Krishna) works at a medical lab and is able to test the blood samples taken at the CORD clinic free of charge (!!) on the same day (!!!!)

Dr Meera’s husband (Dr. Krishna) works at a medical lab and is able to test the blood samples taken at the CORD clinic free of charge (!!) on the same day (!!!!)

Yesterday was clinic day at the CORD building, which was so so so cool to experience. We got to observe Dr. Meera give vaccinations, measure blood pressure, and take blood samples from patients to test for HPV. These medical procedures are almost entirely subsidized by CORD (which is AMAZING. Amazing.) What’s more amazing is Dr. Meera’s husband (also a Doctor) works in a medical lab and does all the testing free of charge (!!!) on the same day (!!!!!!!). Crazy. Okay, where was I?

During one of the examinations, Dr. Meera began to question a man who had a known drinking problem about his alcohol intake. She did it like a total boss, no hesitation, in the middle of taking his blood pressure. It’s amazing to see the respect and love that the people of this community share for Dr. Meera- she has given them so much. He could hardly meet her eye when he answered her. In English, Dr. Meera said, “He says he only drinks two or three times a month. What do you have to say about that, Mary?” Oh. Shit.

With such little knowledge on alcohol abuse and recovery, I found myself being consulted about it in a medical setting, in a conversation between a doctor and patient. “Ummm. I think I’d tell him that the amount and frequency that he drinks is less important of a measurement. What matters more is how his drinking effects his personal success and his relationships with the people he loves.” Boom. When I started that sentence, I had no idea where my words were going. But something (dumb luck? Someone up there^^?) gave me an answer. An hour later, I found myself addressing a room full of villagers on the benefits and values of Alcoholics Anonymous. I was scared shitless, I really was. But that moment in Dr. Meera’s office had changed things. I realized that I was certainly not an authoritative voice on alcohol abuse or recovery, but I was a voice. I was speaking from my heart, and I had the right intentions. And I had an audience, so I might as well speak.

The Mehndi design of a sun on the palm is drawn to "awaken the inner light" in Vedic customs.  Traditionally done twice a year to promote mental health and heart health.

The Mehndi design of a sun on the palm is drawn to “awaken the inner light” in Vedic customs. Traditionally done twice a year to promote mental health and heart health.

Later that afternoon, Dr. Meera took us to an AA meeting in the Coimbatore. It was unbelievable. At the beginning of the meeting, we joined hands and spoke the words, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the strength to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference,”- the same words that were written on a note in my pocket. We heard men and women bear their souls. Through their battle and recovery with the disease, they shared the absolute highs and lows of the human experience. At the end, I told them about my Uncle’s advice, and how I felt an overwhelming amount of light in the room. There I was, halfway across the globe, feeling completely accepted and at home. One of the mottos said over and over again in AA is “Expect Miracles”. I think I’m starting to.

Taking Flight

If you ever feel like you don’t have your shit together, go brush your teeth. The world always seems infinitely more conquerable with minty fresh breath. Then, make a list.

Four months ago, I had the opportunity to take an internship in Southern India. In the beginning, I was excited and a little bit panicked (pretty consistent with my demeanor on any given day). But I certainly didn’t feel like I had my shit together. So I wrote a list: The Cliff-Jumping List.

Since writing that list, four months have gone by. I finished my sophomore year at Boston College. My best friend from home spent six weeks in London. Greece almost fell apart. Same-sex marriage became legal in the US. My brother graduated college, move to New York City, and started his first real job. The US Embassy in Cuba re-opened its doors.I went radio silent for two months (yea hi I guess I’ll mention that), during which time I joined a barbershop quartet and went on tour along the Mississippi River.

Just kidding, I was working at a mini golf course on Martha’s Vineyard.

Actually, believe what you will.

The point is, four months have passed and now I find myself on the edge of that cliff I made plans to jump off. In four days, I’ll be on a flight to Paris. Then another to Delhi. Then another to Coimbatore. I’m in blissful ignorance of how long this will take and how many coffees I will need to consume. I’m in a panicked ignorance about whether coffee will even be available. Will the monks we’re staying with be coffee drinkers? These are the questions that keep me up at night.

But how about your questions? The outpouring of support I’ve received from my friends and family has been both grounding and gratifying. I’ve told those friends and family members that I’m traveling to India for an internship with a grass-roots healthcare non-profit called CORD Siruvani. I’ll be working on sustainable projects related to hygiene, waste segregation, clinical care, and personal empowerment. But rarely do I get the chance to have a real conversation about why I’m doing what I’m doing. So, before taking flight, I thought I’d share a post about where I’m going, what I’m doing, and who’s coming with me.

“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again — to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.” – Pico Ayer

Why India?

Grass-roots change is something I’m passionate about. I believe that sustainable change can only come from community-based efforts, from people that have the passion, intellect, and cultural understanding that comes with living in the region they’re trying to help. This is what CORD does best. The rural region where CORD Siruvani is centered lacks many of our most basic conveniences. More than 60% of the population of the Siruvani population lives below the poverty line. There is little access to affordable education, adequate healthcare, and sanitation systems. While CORD Siruvani continues to fight the social injustices suffered by this community, I’ll be left reconciling these injustices with the privilege I experience in my own life. Rather than shutting myself off from these injustices, I intend to open myself up to them- to let them break my heart and change my perspective. I intend to ask the hard questions, and to commit myself to searching for the answers.

Meet the Interns

IMG_1063Cece // GROW Coordinator Rising Junior at Boston College, Studying Sociology with an International Studies Minor

What have you been up to this summer? I’ve been home in Washington, working on the college pilot program curriculum for a non-profit called One Days Wage. I’ve also been babysitting, teaching Sunday school, and watching an unhealthy amount of Netflix. Oh and planning logistics for GROW!

Ideal Celebrity Date: Helicopter ride to Paris and picnic underneath the stars with Chris Evans

Weirdest thing in your suitcase: 2 rolls of toilet paper and like 20 cliff bars

Goal for the internship: Experience the beauty of India and be an available resource for CORD as they transition into their new home

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 4.50.04 PMSophia Rising Junior at Boston College, Studying Biology with a Medical Humanities Minor

What have you been up to this summer? Shadowing internship at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital for Ob/Gyn and helping out at my home church.

Favorite On-Screen Couple: Jim and Pam from The Office. I also really like Bob and Linda Belcher.

Most interesting thing in your suitcase: Haven’t packed yet LOL I’ve been putting it off

Mary Rising Junior at Boston 11659218_10204654097896394_3527360544797820727_nCollege, Studying Biology with an International Studies Minor

What have you been up to this summer? I spent my second summer working at Island Cove Adventures on Martha’s Vineyard, scooping ice cream, handing out mini golf putters, and teaching kiddos how to climb our rock wall. I also spent my third summer working at the state-wide student council camp (MASC), which I’m way too obsessed with to describe in one sentence.

Favorite On-Screen Couple: Ditto to Sophia, Jim and Pam 5ever.

Most interesting thing in your suitcase: When I left the island, my Uncle Ray gave me a note with the serenity prayer written on it. “God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, strength to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” I’ll be keeping that in my back pocket for sure.

Goal for the Internship: If its feasible, I wanna do a photo story project in the village similar to Humans of New York. Brandon, the photographer behind HONY, does an amazing job of capturing people’s essence and struggle without exploiting them or misrepresenting them.

Hello, Brooklyn

I have made it out of the black hole that is Finals Week. For the past week, I’ve been cramming my brain with facts like Joey Chestnut stuffs his face in a hot dog eating contest. I’ve already forgotten half of my exam material, so the point of the whole exercise is beyond me. This is the plight of the college student. But, I digress!!! Because now I’m in Brooklyn, baby. 

It’s about a four hour drive from Massachusetts to NYC, so we woke up at a really gross hour to hit the road. I personally contributed to the grossness, because I had to do that thing where you rapidly pack in a state of half-sleep and your room briefly turns into tornado valley. (1. I am a morning person 2. Coffee should ALWAYS come first). I spent most of the drive reading The Future For Curious People while my mom drove, like a champ. 

We met up with my brother for lunch in the Bronx at Tino’s Deli on Arthur Ave. I got the Cuban. It was unreal. I only managed to finish half, mostly out of respect. Tino’s Cuban- 1, Mary- 0. My brother is graduating from Fordham University this weekend, which is weird because it feels like yesterday that I was following him around at his Accepted Students Day, introducing myself as his twin. I honestly don’t know where he found the patients. 

After lunch, we drove to Brooklyn and checked into our hotel. Look how cool it is!!  Do hipsters give out awards? No? Not even ironically? If they did, the Wythe Hotel (I am sending out a beam of trust that none of you have stalking tendencies**) would kill. My mom definitely didn’t know what she was signing herself up for, but she scored major cool points. I can actually picture the people of Brooklyn cringing as I type “major cool points”. I suspect this hotel has a hipster sensor for lame dad phrases, and I am setting off all the alarms. Anyways, I love the restored factory look, and the view of Manhattan from our room is amazeballs *lame dad phrase*. 

I spent the afternoon exploring Williamsburg.  The whole neighborhood smelled like wet paint, as if it’s constantly under artistic construction. I walked by a lot of guys like this, painting huge advertisement murals and filming the whole process. 

 My first stop was a huge vintage clothing store called Beacon’s Closet. The quality and variety of the content reminded me of my favorite thrift shop in Cambridge, Oona’s, except this place was at least five times the size. The prices were super affordable and it was full of treasures. 

 Next, we walked to the area where the Brooklyn Flea happens on the weekends. I spent a while in a used book store called Book Thug Nation and came away with a copy of Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. We also stumbled upon the Brooklyn Art Library, which is home to the Sketchbook Project. It felt a little like I was snooping in someone’s diary each time I opened a new sketchbook. You could still feel the person between the pages. 

 Then came more food. We got dinner at Cafe de las Esquinas, a diner from the 50’s turned into a classic Mexican food joint. We split the enchiladas verdes and flautas de pollo. No pictures exist. We were too hungry. But it was MUY BIEN. The music, the service, and the artwork were also really great. All around good vibes.

Then I had the best ice cream I’ve ever had in my whole damn life. And if you know me at all, you know that’s saying something. “Ice” and “cream” were probably my first words (and with some luck, they’ll be my last). So please know that I do not take ice cream lightly. “Where can I get this life-defining ice cream,” you ask. Oddfellows Ice Cream, Co. I got a scoop of oatmeal cookie and a scoop of coffee crunch. Guys, drop everything. Buy a plane ticket, get on a train. You need this ice cream. 

There’s still a million things I wanna get to while I’m in the city. Here, have some lists:


  • The High Line 
  • Left Bank Books – specializes in First Editions
  • South Street Seaport
  • The MET


  • Dim sum in Brooklyn- I’ve heard the East Harbor Seafood Palace is the best
  • Baked– my friend J recommends the Sweet and Salty Cake

Books (My current summer to-read list, at the request of J)

Suggestions for food, museums, shows, or books? Comment away!

Calling Bullshit on the Hook-Up Culture

Today, I woke up and realized I’m halfway through college. Which is weird, because I swear to God I still remember what I had for breakfast on my first day of 6th grade. I remember setting my alarm for 5:45 AM so I had a solid 90 minutes to straighten my hair. I remember sitting on the big rock at the end of my driveway, eating chocolate chip Eggo waffles, waiting for the bus to pick me up. That was like two days ago, right?

Apparently not, because today was my last day of classes as a sophomore. This means I’ll be graduating in exactly the same length of time that I’ve spent here. Which is horrifying. Because graduation is a fancy word for “welcome to the deep end we’re out of floaties but here have ALL THIS DEBT.” Okay, I’m getting side-tracked. You’re here because you thought this was about “hook-up culture”, whatever that means. ALRIGHT alright alright.

I went into sophomore year thinking it would be one big free pass. It’s the last year where you can get a bad grade and brush it off with, “I’ll make up for it later.” The last year for summer internships that aren’t supposed to result in a job offer at the end of the summer. At BC, it’s the last year before friends start moving off campus or going abroad. The year where roughly 70% of the class lives in one building that is essentially designed for reckless activity. It’s the Golden Age of our college experience. All these factors make sophomore year the prime-time for casual hook-ups. Enter: The “hook-up culture” in all its ambiguous glory.

I don’t have a problem with the prevalence of hook-ups, I have a problem with the way we talk about them. I’m tired of hearing that universities are “plagued” by a culture that accepts and encourages casual sexual encounters. Our professors lecture on it. Journalists write about it. Our RA’s and upperclassmen friends warn us about it. And I’m calling bullshit. Here’s why:

1. The name gives it power. I heard about the hook-up culture at Boston College before I even stepped foot on the beer-soaked carpets of a Mod. Remember when your mom used to ask you, “if so-and-so jumped off a bridge, would you follow them?” Don’t test this with college freshmen, because I promise they will jump.

I remember sitting in the hall of my freshman dorm, two hours after my parents left, getting advice about what student life was like at BC. The “hook-up culture” was a term thrown around with many other campus buzzwords, like “the BC look-away” and “the BC Bubble”. The advice was given with good intention, but all I heard was, “people hook-up, people ignore their acquaintances, and people get sucked into their campus lives and lose perspective on the outside world. These buzzwords created a precedence for the behavior they identified, suggested that the behavior was an expectation, defined it as normative.

2. The name creates a stigmaCondemning college students for “participating in the hook-up culture” is like being pissed that we figured out how to act on our hormones and our free will at the same time. There’s nothing immoral or unhealthy about a casual hook-up. But that’s not to say that hook-ups are always healthy. They should involve consent, trust, safety, and respect. You shouldn’t have to be drunk to make the decision. It shouldn’t be a power trip. And you shouldn’t have ulterior motives. When you create a stigma against all hook-ups, you lose the opportunity to spread awareness of the distinction between what’s acceptable and what’s unacceptable.

3. The name acts as a scapegoat. If dating was the norm and hook-ups were rare, I for one would be just as confused about the whole damn thing. Life would be just as complicated, messy, and exhausting. But instead of recognizing this, we tend to blame the heartache on what we’ve been told is just part of our culture. There’s a phenomena that happens in the post-hook-up period when things don’t go the way you want them to. Maybe the guy isn’t giving you enough space, maybe he’s being too distant. Either way, it stops being about this one guy and starts being about every guy ever. The dialogue turns into “I hate that guys act like this.” He becomes a collective, and you become just another victim of the hook-up culture. Plot twist: That guy you hooked up with last night isn’t a bad person because he didn’t text you on Sunday morning. And he’s not weird or clingy if he does reach out.

Life is nothing more than the pair of glasses you choose to see the world through. As autonomous human beings, with hormones and free will to boot, we get to choose our end-game over and over and over again. Personally, my end-game falls somewhere between finding the love of my life and finding a grilled cheese sandwich at any given moment. Each of us has our own spectrum, and no one else has any control over it. Realizing that you want more from Mr. Saturday Night is scary. But this fear isn’t a consequence of being a victim of hook-up culture. It’s a consequence of being vulnerable, of recognizing that you don’t have a say in how this guy feels about you. The next time you encounter a Mr. Saturday Night who is conveniently distant for six of the seven days of the week, try not to blame it on him or the hook-up culture. Realize that maybe you just aren’t his grilled cheese sandwich, which means he’s definitely not yours. C’est la vie.

Statistics will tell us that our generation is less likely to date, and more likely to hook up. We’re also more likely to marry later, live in cities with people our age, and use technology in a way that keeps us hyper-connected with each other. And did I mention female liberation? College wasn’t an option for my grandmothers, two of the strongest and smartest women I’ve known. My mother got married at 22, and planned the wedding during her first year in law school. I’ll probably (definitely) get married and have children later in life than the past two generations of women in my family did, and there is as much value in this as there was in their life choices. I consider myself blessed for the opportunity to be my own first priority at this time in my life.

I recently read an article that blamed Facebook’s “like” button for society’s trend of being consumerist and apathetic, of “liking instead of loving”. Can we all just take a moment and collectively shake our heads? I reject the notion that I don’t know how to love because of a button on my computer. I reject the idea that I don’t know how to commit to a guy because steady relationships aren’t the statistical norm in my environment. And I refuse to accept that we as college students are simply victims in a hook-up culture.

The One About a Stranger on a Train

In my mind, senior citizens are excluded from all social rules prohibiting contact with strangers. I’ll give an example. If Charlie Sheen stopped me on the street, I’d assume the first five words out of his mouth would be some combination of “drugs”, “hello” and “magic carpet ride”. In this scenario, Charlie Sheen represents *all adult strangers*. However, if Martin Sheen stopped me on the street, I would correctly assume that I had stumbled upon a former President who simply needed to be shepherded to the nearest antique sale. The thing about elderly people is that they are usually well-intentioned. And in the off-chance that they’re not, I can for sure outrun them. This was the stream of thought running through my mind when I met Eleanor.

Eleanor was already gabbing away as she hobbled onto the T. I assumed that she was with a friend (as one tends to assume upon encountering someone who is engaged in conversation). She seemed a little too old to be traveling alone. I put my nose back in my book, and Eleanor kept gabbing. After a couple moments, I realized no one was answering her. So I looked up and realized that this woman was talking to me. This was the first thing that struck me about Eleanor. She had broken the golden rule of public transportation etiquette: “thou shalt not be that guy who tries to talk to people he doesn’t know”.

The second thing I noticed was the huge crate Eleanor was guarding, which contained a very loud, unhappy cat. The third thing, which in Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetmost situations would have been the first, was Eleanor’s outfit: cat-eye sunglasses, red lipstick, a full-length fur coat, and diamond earrings. The sketch I attempted does not do her justice. Her personality filled the train. It was bursting at the seams. Everyone else saw this as their cue to become deeply submerged in their novels and iPhones. I took one look at her and decided to dive right in.

Eleanor was not interested in small talk. On our ride to the end of the C line, I received a punctuated history of her life to-date, all in relation to her past cats. Eleanor also had an amazing amount of random knowledge, which she attributed to the use of “her goddamn brain” because “Google is for squares.” Within a few minutes, I learned more than I’ll ever need to know about cat psychology, and that parrots usually live over 90 years. Eleanor also assured me that this information can be found *in books* and that “the inter-web” will eat my soul if I’m not careful. I smiled and nodded, thinking to myself, “this is exactly what Martin Sheen would say.”

For my part, I shared some pretty personal stories about my childhood pets. I think part of Eleanor’s focus on pets came from the fact that her cat, Arthur, was on his way back from a check-up. Eleanor was my favorite kind of listener. She absorbed my words, unpacked them, and returned them to me, re-packaged with her own (heavily biased) perspective.

While we were talking, we had gotten off the T and were walking down Comm Ave. When I stopped at the BC bus stop and Eleanor followed suit, I started to wonder where exactly she planned to take this conversation. When she followed me onto the bus back to BC, I really started to worry. Like, Did I just adopt Eleanor? Can I take her to my 4:30 class? She’ll totally hate my business professor. And what about Arthur?? He’s already in a bad mood, and I am not equipped with a litter box. And in the back of my mind, I’ll admit I was thinking that this woman was kinda crazy. I was already thinking about how I could frame this story to my friends, assuming Eleanor didn’t plan on moving in to my dorm room.

So when Eleanor picked up Arthur and started to get off the bus, I surprised myself by following her. This, I guess, is when I became the creepy one. Maybe I was just curious, maybe I missed my mom yesterday and was searching out a grandmotherly presence. I’m not really sure how to explain myself, other than by saying that Eleanor seemed like a half-finished story. After we stepped off the bus, I offered to carry Arthur. Arthur’s crate weighed like a gazillion pounds, and I immediately realized I should’ve offered earlier. I helped Eleanor up the steps and into her apartment, and then released Arthur from his imprisonment in the cat crate.

I’m not sure what I was expecting Eleanor’s apartment to look like, but I probably should have predicted that there would be more cats. Eleanor had like seven cats running around, all named after famous American playwrights- Arthur Miller and I had already been introduced. Eleanor also had stacks and stacks of books. She asked if she could fix me a drink before I left (such a classic Martin Sheen gesture, am I right?), and I obliged. I picked one of the books up, dusted it off, and sat down at Eleanor’s kitchen table. Eleanor sat down next to me and handed me a cup of milk. Not coffee, or tea, or I don’t know, brandy? Milk. Like you’d give a stray cat. Have you ever had the feeling that you’re in the middle of a story that you’ve heard before? Not quite deja vu, but something like it. I looked down at the glass of milk in front of me. I was starting to get that feeling.

Deadpan, Eleanor says, “Alright, whose the guy?” I probably just blushed and stammered out a couple of unintelligible syllables. She gave me a look worth a thousand words, “Don’t tell me there’s no guy. I usually get it right on my first guess. Are you pregnant?” I just sat there and gaped at her. “Darling, this may come as a surprise, but you’re not the first to wander into my kitchen. I tend to attract strays.” I looked around at Arthur Miller curled up on the love seat, Lorraine Hansberry at the window sill, Langston Hughes stretched out under a sunbeam. And then I looked back down at the glass of milk in front of me. That feeling of walking into the middle of a story was beginning to make sense.

Eleanor continued, “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, its to pay attention to the signs. You, my dear, are in my kitchen for a reason.” I’d like to make note at this time: The fact that I’m typing this means that I made it out of Eleanor’s apartment alive. She is not, in fact, a serial killer. I’d also like to remind you all that my logic about old people is foolproof. Even if Eleanor did intend to feed me to her cats, I stand by the fact that I could outrun her. Moving on.

The good thing (or the bad thing) about a blog is that my character flaws don’t need to be spelled out. As a consequence of honesty, I’ve been laying them out for you without intending to. If you’ve been reading, you’re probably already getting a feel for them. Soon, you’ll start wincing when I shy away from a situation out of embarrassment or politeness. You’ll roll your eyes when I profess a new personal philosophy and then fail to follow my words with actions. We’ll be kissing the honeymoon phase goodbye.

Maybe Eleanor was just a crazy old lady. Maybe she was practicing Irish gypsy witchcraft (I SO should not be joking about this). Maybe she just had a strong intuition. In any case, if you’ve been paying attention, you can probably guess what she thought I needed to hear. Eleanor and I talked for a really long time. I skipped that 4:30 business class, sat at her kitchen table, and shared my life with her. I shared the kind of things you can only share with a strange old woman who has too many cats and looks like the grandmother you never got to grow up with.

When I got up to leave, Eleanor said she had one more thing to tell me. She said, “Usually, people come to me with problems that need fixing. But your problem, my dear, is that you’re not making enough problems for yourself. Life is one big mess just waiting to be made. Be a little reckless.” I stood there, wondering how this woman could be so dysfunctional and sound so much like a Hallmark card at the same time. She got up, shuffled over to one of her bookshelves, and handed me a book. “I want you to have this,” she said, and marked a page.

I walked down Eleanor’s front steps and looked at the book she had given me. “A Room with a View” by E.M. Forster. I had been half expecting a field guide about parrots, or a book about the inner psyche of a house cat. I opened it up to the page Eleanor had marked. A passage was highlighted:

At the piano, she struck no more right notes than was suitable for one of her age and situation. Nor was she the passionate young lady, who performs so tragically on a summer’s evening with the window open. And she was tragical only in the sense that she was great, for she loved to play on the side of Victory. Victory of what and over what– that is more than the words of daily life can tell us. But that some sonatas of Beethoven are written tragic no one can gainsay; yet they can triumph or despair as the player decides, and Lucy had decided that they should triumph.

“If Miss Honeychurch ever takes to live as she plays, it will be very exciting both for us and for her.” 

At the bottom of the page, Eleanor had written a note: Darling, learn to live like you play, and the rest will come easily. Love, Eleanor