The Heart of the Matter

I have started to write two substantial blog entries and deleted them both. On purpose. Everything I try to write is coming out wrong today.

I spent a long time last night working on my manuscript – taking out entire lines of poetry, throwing entire poems into the trash. I have some more to add; things that were written after I compiled everything — but the truth is I’m not sure there’s a market for poetry anymore. I’m not sure that people want to learn or read or do poetry the way that they did before.

All the greats are gone – Vonnegut was the last of them, and the last to go. I’d like to picture him at a great table, somewhere with Hemingway, and Orwell, and Shakespeare, and Hunter S. Thomas, drinking mead and wine and doing shots of tequila, laughing at the nuances and language of today. Shakespeare, who penned so many of the words  we use today, created them just from their sounds — hearing people say things like, “LOL” and “GTG” – can you imagine? He’s probably thrilled he’s not here to see it – but laughing uncontrollably nonetheless. Waiting to see who will come up with the “next great idea.”

Many people describe my generation as the “Lost” generation, but the truth is that we should probably be called the “invented” generation. Children of baby-boomers who care about nothing more than money and cars – driving fast, dying young, devaluing the dollar, the law, and life itself.

A reality I live every day at the job I do is about the insane amount of young people who take their lives as a result of the constant tormenting they face every single day at school, on the computer, and at home from their parents. NJ Governor Chris Christie just signed a bill to enforce support groups for young people contemplating suicide, and all I can think about are the kids that were killed because they were hated. The kids that didn’t want to die – and the kids that kill themselves anyway.

I know that there’s so much to blame, but I think a lot of it has to do with the amount of generous stimuli surroudning us 24 hours/day and a lot of it has to do with the lack of imagination young people have today. There’s no need to want anything. Kids don’t need to play with refridgerator boxes anymore — there’s an app for that. Don’t have to build using wood blocks because they can build houses and roofs and community centers on the computer. They can create false realities and identities and actualize them using the computer.

And I can’t even think of characters to put into a damn novel.

I don’t know if I have it in me to write fiction. So much happens in the world surrounding us on a daily basis, and while I love to jump into a novel and escape from the world – I don’t know if I can create my own. I was always told to “write what I know” – but if I’m not sure if I even know anything…where does that leave me? A blank sheet of paper?



my current dilemma

About one month ago, I left facebook. I hit delete, and never looked back. I also hadn’t blogged in all of November or December, and didn’t think about how my lack of facebook-ery would cause my blog’s traffic to deplete to almost nothing. In fact, in the past four months, I have had less blog traffic than I had in one week in August. I blame Facebook.

The first two days after I deleted my account were brutal. Every morning, I’d get to work and open two tabs in explorer – gmail and Facebook. For days, my routine was disrupted as the withdrawal commenced. I’d open gmail, open a new tab, and I swear the keys started to type http://www.faceb– before I’d frantically hit the backspace button. I broke out in a cold sweat when my laptop signed me in and I had to re-delete my account. But I did it; which means I was really serious, right? I didn’t just delete facebook once, I did it twice! I was committed to living life away from the computer screen – from breaking the shackles of stalkery! Over time, it got a little bit easier. Yesterday, I even wrote a personal email to a friend because we’d mainly communicated via facebook messages previously. And it felt good.

Until I looked at my blog stats.

I have had 11 visitors in the past 48 hours, and assuming that 4 of those visitors were the same person (thanks, mom!) I’ve had a pathetic 7 visitors who still care to remember that I’m still here in the blogosphere.

So what do I do? Do I go back and SWEAR not to check, just to let my blog update my status? Do I link to Jonathan’s facebook so that people will still know I’m here? Or do I just keep trucking, and hope that people catch on to my words?

Will my blog be the catalyst that will make me crawl back with my tail between my legs? If I really want to write when I quit my job, I need traffic. So maybe I can buy my own domain, and start to make money from this little experiment. But it’s a double-edged sword! If I’m on facebook, I’ll spend more time stalking my ex-friend’s ex-boyfriend’s cousin’s favorite kind of potato chips than I will on my blog, right?

I’m voting against FBO (Facebook official), because Facebook and I have officially ended things, and I’m determined not to go back! Help my blog get traffic before I get desperate!


No sooner did I commit to the pen than it dissapointed me. I have just spent the better part of an hour talking to support people from, the domain host I used (and paid for) for over two years to breathe life into my old blog, (don’t even try to click on it; it will break your heart just as much as it broke mine.)

It’s all gone. Everything is gone. Remember the old adage that our parents, sorority and fraternity advisors, and employers spew at us? Once it’s on the internet, it’s there to stay? Well, the entire contents of my blog have been wiped from the interface. They are absolutely and completely gone – lost in cyberspace, never to return.

I know I sound dramatic, but I had some really good stuff on that blog. Stuff that I’d really like to read to give myself perspective about my “being a slave to the pen” mindset that I’m trying really hard to give in to. Stuff that may make me want to write. But there’s no going back.

The frummie in me wants to say “Gam Zu Letova” – it’s all for the best – maybe there’s something on that blog SO embarassing I would be humiliated if people had access to it once more – maybe something that would make me sad. I know both are true. My blog annotated the ups and downs of my life, living situation, and relationships. I wrote an entire entry in yinglish (Yiddish-English) just to prove that I could. I published laundry lists, grocery lists, and bucket lists on it. I loved that blog because it helped me commit to write again. It helped me grow personally, professionally, and emotionally. I got fired from google because of it (who knew that just writing “google” ruined my chances of hosting ads!?) But what I had was beautiful. It was a short-lived love affair between me and the computer, and it’s gone without a trace.

CALLING ALL COMPUTER GEEKS! There has to be some way to recover my work, right? If not, calling all writers — any advice?

Scratching Ink-Notes

Something happened on Friday. Something that jolted me out of a type of slumber I’ve been zombie-ing in, something that made me want to reach for a pen and to just purge my thoughts from my mind.

Something happened.

I started stringing words together in my head again — I started plucking them out of the depths of my mind — words about words, and about dictionaries and thesauruses and words that made me giggle just because of the way that they sound.

The truth is, I’m going to be leaving my job soon — at the end of February, to either take a break from work to focus on class (if I get into UPenn) or to get ready to go to Israel. And I think I’m going to try to substitute teach for those few months in-between, but I think that more than that, I’m taking off to write. I’m going to write like I used to – force myself to do exercises and just make the words flow.

I just read The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain, and while I’m a little bit uncomfortable when authors write autobiographical works about people who cannot speak for themselves, McLain’s novel was well-researched and beautifully written, and it made me want to write. And any book that makes me want to write is worth reading over and over again.

Writing, for me, used to be a kind of addiction. I used to carry a notebook and pen everywhere and even if I never wrote in it, I always felt better knowing it was there if I needed it. Because lines of prose and poetry are fleeting — they soar into my brain one second and if I don’t jot them down (like I didn’t on Friday), they disappear and only reappear later, and only sometimes. Existing apart from writing is painful, and I’m not sure if I like what it makes me.

So I pulled out my manuscript. I needed to remember the poetry and I still can’t believe that it’s mine. Reading one poem took me back to the firehouse where I read it to an entire room of people and only saw Jonathan. Took me back to laughing and choking on crackers in my favorite teacher’s classroom as he tore apart my work.

It’s so interesting to read about who I used to be. The me that’s still inside, somewhere; the poems about my best friend as our frienship fell apart; the love I had with Jonathan. I thought it was so desperate. I thought I needed him so badly. Now – the type of love we share is so much more…real. It’s more mature and developed and old and comfortable. And so much more desperate. Like if he wasn’t anymore I would cease to exist. There is no me without him anymore and just the thought of that makes my stomach flip upside down and turn in circles in a delirious delicious flood of emotion. I never knew that kind of desperation could be good. I thought that it would mean I was weak. Unsubstantial. But since Jonathan is the one that makes me real, it only makes sense.

And it makes me want to write again.

What I Dislike About Septa

Wow – I can’t only pick one thing.

Anyway, as the work day is beginning to come to a close, and I’m dreading my train ride home, I thought I’d write about one of Phialdelphia’s worst attributes – public transportation. I’ve taken public transportation everywhere: New York, Boston, DC, Paris, Israel, and Philadelphia. Everywhere else, there’s still madness, but there seems to be some sort of method to this madness.

In Philadelphia, this method simply does not exist. I take the Cynwyd train, all the way to the last stop. Most trains are nice, sleek, new (the newest ones even come with TVs and digital panes!) and you’d expect them to move on schedule and at a normal speed if they weren’t Septa (everyone who lives in Philadelphia, cue head-nod). My train, which carries solely commuters, consists of one car, and not the new cars, either. The old ones, which have disgusting puke-yellow and marroon seats with the stuffing coming out of them. Even though it usually runs on time and has the best conductors in the universe (example: this morning, the man behind me forgot his monthly pass, and the conductor just told him to show it tomorrow!), I still dislike septa. But the reason I hate riding the train has nothing to do with Septa itself.

The train is really impersonal. I mean, think about it – I ride the same train, every day, twice a day, with the same people who shuffle on and off to get to work and back again. And no one ever says hi. We all sit by ourselves, trying to do everything and anything to avoid sharing seats with one another, and even when you do have to experience the dreaded seat-share, no one says a word.

This is why public transportation was, is, and always will be a miserable experience for everyone involved, and why people will perpetually prefer driving in cars over saving the environment. I would, if parking wasn’t so dang expensive in the city! I have spent approximately 200 hours with the same people, every day for the past 7 months no the train, meaning I’ve known them for about 200 days, and they still don’t even know my name. I don’t even know theirs! I’m almost ashamed to admit that I don’t even know the conductors’ names, and I make a point to say “hi,” “bye,” and “thank you” to them every day!

I’m not trying to be cynical, I’m just trying to understand the natural human reaction to new relationships. Maybe we view other people as predators? Potential job searchers? Potential seat stealers? Maybe, if I fall asleep on the train I’ll wake-up and one of the upper-middle class people sitting next to me will be eating the sandwich I painstakingly prepared for lunch?

I don’t think that’s it at all. I think people think that perception is reality. Which it is, most of the time, but people are so afraid to come off as overeager, desperate, or creepy that they choose to not exercise basic human kindnesses such as asking a seat mate how they are, or how their day was. People don’t want to look like they don’t have any friends. So instead, we all look like cold, unemotional blobs who are worn out from the life-sucking habit of commuting.

Look, I’m not suggesting that we go all Brady Bunch and lead sing alongs in the aisles, but a game of family feud would be nice and would make the time go much faster! (Kidding). Seriously though, I’m not suggesting that we should all have one another over for dinner, help the unemployed find employment, and bare our soles in our 27 minute train rides.

But the next time I notice someone has a new hair-do’, someone missed a week from work, or looks like they’re spending the day doing fun tourist activities, maybe I’ll say something: compliment their new style, ask if they were on vacation, or are feeling better, or make suggestions about fun things to do in the city.

It’s the human thing to do!

Gotta go, or I’ll miss my train!

The End of E-Mail

The other day I was bored at work and I came across this cartoon from a random website, and since I just got two of my friends’ wedding invitations in the mail, I definitely appreciate the humor. Having been invited to weddings both via web and via snail mail, I am definitely a traditionalist, and prefer receiving snail mail over e-mail tenfold.

That being said, we live in the information age, and e-mail is much faster, more convenient, and often, more reliable than snail mail. For example – my old landlord recently sent me the full amount of my roommate’s and my security deposit, which I was to split with my roommate. I wrote her a check and put it in the mail with a little love note last week, and she still hasn’t received it. If we both belonged to the same bank, we would have been able to do an online transfer, which would have been instant. I mean, she wouldn’t have gotten my love-note (or that feeling of anticipation that you get when you know something is coming for you in the mail), but she would have had her money. (If it doesn’t arrive in the mail today – we’re meeting up to do a face-to-face exchange.) I think that this e-mail vs. snail-mail issue is a much larger one than paper vs. computer and I think that it’s one that is going to relentlessly haunt my generation and the ones that will follow.

Recent polls have shown that e-mail is no longer the prefferred way of conversation for young people. You guessed it, text messaging comes first, followed by…(I would have thought e-mail) facebook messages, then email, and then finally a phone call. Naturally, my first thought was – really? What is wrong with our generation!? You can’t even attach anything to a facebook message…but then I thought about it. Facebook is actually much more personal than e-mail (you see the person’s face right next to their name in their message), and e-mail is much more closely associated to something you’d send to a professor, your boss, or your parents (especially if it’s one of those cute-but-disturbing chain emails that tell you if you don’t forward it to 25 people there will be a fiery hole where your home once was). And – people in the information age are busy! There’s always something to google, stumble, tumble, or blog – so it’s totally natural that if I want to talk to my best friend who I haven’t seen in months, I should send her a text asking her when she’s free to talk on the phone, right?

No – not right at all. The fact that it is the accepted practice to text-before-call is crazy! It’s even crazier that my mom text me telling me to call, and is still surprised when I pick up the phone and dial right away — what did she expect? And, what would be the worst thing that could happen if my mom called me instead of texted me? I would miss the call? I would pick up? I would call her back?

Like I said, this is part of a much larger problem with my generation that has to do with several things, but mostly, has to do with ego. Meaning instant gratification. Meaning – you can google anything. The web has become the world’s biggest library, reference center, database, and research tool. Don’t know how to make chimichangas? Google it. Want to know what your best friend is up to? Ask her on Facebook chat. Don’t know who the actor is on that show that reminds you of Friends and Seinfeld? Google it– just like that, and I bet you that Neil Patrick Harris/How I Met Your Mother will be one of the options. Missed last night’s newest episode? Hulu it. Everything is on the web, and everything is available with exactly a 0.01 wait time. This makes my generation great at research (now that Wikipedia provides their references) but terrible at just about everything else, including phone calls, meetings, job interviews, writing cover letters, and relationships.

Being connected all the time is not as fun and dandy as you’d think; as the above cartoon shows, junk mail, now comes in the form of spam and sure, whenever I go shopping at one of my favorite stores and they ask me to sign up to receive coupons, it sounds great – until I actually get 47 e-mails/day from said store and all of them read ONE DAY SALE! TODAY ONLY!

And once I went wireless and got a blackberry, I began to suffer from what is called Blackberry Blindness, meaning: I’d read an email/text message with the intention of answering it later on when I could devote my full attention to whomever sent it, only to forget about it and for it to get lost in one hundred other emails from people trying to acquire free items on freecycle or the new neighbor who’s asking for fun things to do in town. Because we all have this concept that everything is available on the web faster than you can finish typing it (does anyone else think it’s creepy that google can now basically read your mind by completing your search algorithm based on most-popular searches?) we are starting to treat our relationships the same way; if someone doesn’t answer a text right away, or puts a punctuation mark in the wrong spot, maybe they are mad at you, and now that Blackberries have that dandy feature that tells you when the recipient of your message has read it, people feel neglected over the unanswered, read messages they’ve sent.

It used to be that people who lived farther than one house from one another used these things called telephones that were connected to these boxes that were connected to these wires that were connected to the house and other wires and they would have to pick them up and dial a number (from memory or from an actual phone book) and if their friend wasn’t available…they would have to leave a message, because these phones had no screens and couldn’t tell their owner that they had 7 missed calls. And…for people who lived really far away from each other, they had to send a letter, which had a wait time of at least 2 days (or more depending on how far away it was travelling) and then the person had to read it, answer it (which took time) and mailed a response (again, a wait time of 2+ days) meaning sometimes friends would go at least 4 days without hearing from each other.

But those letters probably had a lot more substance than “hey.” “whatsup?” “what r u up 2?” “nothing lol u?” “me 2 haha bored.”

Sound familiar?

And when people needed to get jobs, they needed to buy a newspaper, read the classifieds, hand-write or type (on a type-writer) a cover letter and resume that they then needed to personally hand to whomever was looking for an employee. Meaning, take a train, bus, car, or horse and buggy down to their hopeful place of employment, walk in, and actually look the person that was going to maybe hire them in the eye as they handed them their resume/cover letter. Since I’ve never had to do this myself, I don’t know – but I would imagine that it’s much easier to disregard a potential employee when you’ve never seen his/her face because he/she has been reduced to a PDF on a computer screen…

When Jonathan and I met, he didn’t have text messaging, and believe it or not, we’ve also dated at (several periods) where he didn’t have a phone either, because his was broken, and his mom’s landline (where he was living at the time) was broken as well.  This meant that we would sometimes have to show up unannounced at each other’s place of residence, send letters to each other (yes, we’ve actually done that), and just spend a few days where talking to one another was impossible!

Jonathan, to the chagrin of many of his friends, still doesn’t text much, although he will cave in and send one or two in dire situations (which usually means he’ll hand me the phone, tell me what he wants to say, and I’ll send the text for him), and our relationship has always been better off for it. My mom says that she knew we were in a budding relationship when (I was only 16) I would stay up late talking on the phone. Fast forward to my college years: we would still stay up late talking on the phone while my roommates and friends would be texted at 2 or 3 AM by the guys they were “hanging out” with with a…you guessed it…”whatsup?”

None of this is meant to imply that it’s impossible to have a productive, personal, meaningful conversation via text message, e-mail, facebook chat, or any other newfangled technological tool that’s out there on the interweb, but I am trying to say that it’s much easier and much more rewarding to communicate via phone and in person. Last week, I got a phone call (no text-message first) from one of my oldest and best friends. We talked for about 7 minutes, and most of it was small talk, similar to what we would have texted to one another. But, as soon as we hung up, I turned to Jonathan and said, “I am so glad she called me,” something that I am sure I would not have said if I had just received a text asking me what was new.

I know that I may be driving my non Jewish readers crazy (I can’t believe how many people have been visiting this blog per day!) by my Jewish tie-in with many of my posts, but this one would be such a shame to waste. As many of you know, Shabbos is a day of total rest, where no work is allowed (the definition of work is a much longer story – if you’re interested, I’ll do another post on it); work includes anything that has to do with electricity and technology, meaning: you are not allowed to turn lights/electronic devices on/off, talk on the phone, or use a computer. That means, for 25 hours per week, people who are shomer shabbos disconnect from the world that exists outside of what is walking distance (friends’ homes, shul, maybe the park) in order to better connect to the spiritual aspects of the physical world. There is no better way to build real, meaningful relationships than to spend a meal with friends when there are no cell phones on the table, no one is leaving to take an important phone call, the TV isn’t blaring in the background, and “the game” doesn’t take priority. It’s so much easier to notice the immense beauty of the world around us when the weight of your phone isn’t holding you down. It’s a beautiful break from the world, but a beautiful vacation in the world as well, prioritizing relationships with the people you love over your relationship with the TV or computer, helping you build the ultimate relationship with the Being that created the world you can finally see with both eyes.

So when you start to feel like you’re never going to be able to reign in all 457 unread emails in your inbox, remember that you are allowed to walk away. That calling means more than texting, and face-to-face relationships are the most valuable of all (as long as your phone is off the table).

Sometimes, you just need to Disconnect to Connect.