Friends or Acquaintances?

Earlier this morning over breakfast, my parents and I got into a discussion about what it means to have friends.  The conversation stemmed from an earlier question my niece asked: is man meant to have friends? After the conversation between my parents and myself, I thought about what the word friends mean and how people’s definitions and uses of it affects our society.

With Facebook a lot of us have friends.  Most of us have friends we either don’t talk to very often, or haven’t seen or spoken to in years. I am guilty of this, and I know other people are too. I personally have over 1,000 “friends” on Facebook, I talk to maybe, MAYBE, 200 of them on a semi-regular basis. Now, this isn’t a good thing or a bad thing. It does make me think about what someone means when they say they are friends with this person; are they acquaintances, close friends, work colleagues? No one uses these specific terms in casual conversation, especially in college, so I am still left this with hanging question of what does it mean to be friends with someone.

I see the merits in calling everyone a friend; it’s simpler and moves the conversation along. My mom made the point that in today’s era, the word “friends” has become an umbrella for every human interaction you have. I actively try to differentiate between acquaintances, someone I know through class and my close friends. It gets tiring and I can forget sometimes.

However, I had never thought about how much pressure this word puts on kids in younger grades. With my hope of becoming an elementary school teacher, thinking about the effect it has on a first grader when you say friend was astounding. What do they consider a friend? If their teacher makes it seem like such a big deal to their parents that a child doesn’t have friends, how does that child feel? In high school groups and cliques exist so people don’t feel lonely. It’s a little absurd when I think about it now, three years into college, but it’s very true. Think Mean Girls.

The college experience is one where you hang out with the people you see and have common interests in. For the longest time during my freshman year, I felt a huge amount of pressure to seek out friends and people to hang out with. I never really thought about the fact that they would come to me naturally once I got involved on campus. I know that now that I am starting my senior year in the fall. I can confidently call the people I live with, the people I sat next to in class everyday, and the people I work with on the various clubs and organizations on campus my friends. Everyone else I like to put them in another umbrella: acquaintances.

I still wonder how this can be explained to a first grader, but for now, I will be satisfied with my group of closer friends I have common interests with and a large amount of acquaintances or former classmates on Facebook.



Three Years Later

Now that my final year at Brandeis is looming in the near future, I would like to think I have matured and learned a thing or two about being a college student and life at Brandeis. There is this weird learning curve that happens at Brandeis.  You enter a school that is so passionate about social justice and a majority of the population is Jewish, even someone who comes from a Jewish Modern Orthodox background can find it slightly overwhelming at first.

Brandeis also tends to be cliquey.  It isn’t like high school cliques where there is clearly a group that is more popular or they think they are the only stars in the sky.  It’s subtler. The different members in the clubs spend a lot of time with each other and it is hard to enter those groups in the middle of your four years. That is one of the hardest things I experienced. If I didn’t get involved in a club my freshman year, I was stopped or it became harder to get involved my junior year.  This was almost impossible to wrap my head around.

I think I found ways to overcome these learning curves and learned something about Brandeis I probably wish I had known when it was my first year. Three years later, here are some things I have learned and wish 18 year-old me had already understood.

  • Try everything – I did the first step by signing up for a lot of clubs, but I didn’t follow through with most or all of them.
  • You can balance school and clubs – this is the reason I wasn’t as involved – I felt like I needed to focus on adapting to college courses – you can definitely do both, so don’t let this stop you from joining them and getting involved.
  • Don’t take life so seriously, it’s college: enjoy it – I took everything so seriously when I was a freshman. I wish I had been looser with how I lived life and taken more risks, both socially with meeting people and going to club meetings and academically. Getting a bad grade on one paper is not the end of everything.
  • Teachers are not scary monsters – professors in college want you to succeed. They want to help and are actually very nice and most or all of them have fascinating stories. Get to know them, go to office hours and don’t hesitate to email them with a question. There is no such thing as a stupid question.
  • If a relationship ends, the world is not also going to end – The fact that I got so torn up when a relationship ended seems silly now. I am just thankful I learned from the whole experience, but the months of sulking seem unnecessary.
  • Don’t do something you’ll regret – in college, especially freshman year, people make a lot of bad decisions. The key is to make sure you don’t make a decision you’ll regret but if you do it, don’t regret it. Chances are, if you tell yourself that you will regret something in the morning, then you will, which makes it totally not worth it.
  • Fraternity parties are not the only way to have fun – they are in fact very creepy, loud, and hot.  I wish I had made more of an effort to go to the casual hangouts my friends had in their rooms. Getting all dressed up to go out is fun, but frat basements are not worth pulling out your new mini skirt and tank top. Wait until you are old enough to go out to a bar or a club.
  • Apply to everything, and don’t get hurt by rejection – the only way to get involved is to actively try. Apply for the position you think you won’t get. Audition for the group you think might be a long shot. Applying for a position or auditioning for a group will always be worth your effort because they are learning experiences, each and every one of them. When you do get it, it feels wicked good.

In freshman year, I was definitely less knowledgeable, but I am thankful I was able to learn from these moments. Learning from them is the most valuable thing you can do. I think if I had known these things I wouldn’t have learned as much as I did.



Student Teaching

Part of the education program I am in involves student teaching. We spend the last semester of our senior year teaching five days a week in a elementary school classroom. I think I have looked forward to this moment since I walked into the Kindergarten class the first day I was observing first semester sophomore year. It’s not news to me that I love kids and I was going to be a teacher.

When I was home a few weeks ago, I found a white board with homework written on it and pretend quizzes with my American Girl doll’s names on them. I was playing school with inanimate objects, and failing them most of the time. It’s a good thing I am student teaching in a first grade class then.

That’s right. I will be assisting and eventually taking over a first grade class for one whole week. It’s like an internship, but with small children who look up to you and want to hear what you have to say. I know the first day will be exceptionally scary, but I am living with four fellow student teachers and while we joke that we will sip wine while writing lesson plans, make crafts all day and be going to bed at 10 PM and waking up at 6 AM, I think most of that will be true. Maybe 10 PM will be more like midnight, at least according to my friends student teaching now.

I have already decided that next year for Hanukkah and my birthday I am going to ask for classroom appropriate clothes and maybe a mug for coffee. Regardless of all these plans, I am just looking forward to finally doing what I have loved since I was eight. I am ready to check out of college and enter the real world with children, classrooms, whiteboards, colorful markers, and lots and lots of crafts.

Final Crunch Time

The way our school calendar works out we get back from break and the next week finals start. It’s stressful, chaotic and usually not a problem for me. This year, with two five-page papers due Monday and 10 photography prints due next Friday I’m feeling a little pressured. It doesn’t help that my time when I am usually most productive was spent sitting by the pool getting tan.

I will not be short on work that has to get done. I still have no clue what I am writing in both of those papers or which photos I am going to print. For what has been a moderately easy semester of work, everything seems to be piling up now. I know in these next two days I need to be exceptionally productive, but that is much easier said than done. As finals get closer, the appeal of sites like Buzzfeed and Facebook get much bigger. I planned to write two papers, at least in some solid form on the plane ride back to Boston, but once again, nothing got done. I stared at my course pack for sociology, opened my final paper topics sheet for my education class and narrowed it down to three possibilities, but then I turned on Facebook. Related: in-flight Wi-Fi is a major saboteur for getting work done.

I am usually the one who has everything figured out weeks in advance, or at least some idea of what I will write about. That did not happen to me this time and it’s a little frustrating.  I know I am going to have to work through some serious Jetlag from the time difference between Arizona and Boston but hopefully it works out in my favor. Hopefully, in those extra hours I’m awake I will write something for a paper. I know I am going to have to make myself keep those internet sites off, I might even resort to using SelfControl for the first time in a while. Finals make people do crazy things.

Time Flies

Brandeis released classes for the Fall 2014 semester. This will be my last semester before I begin Student Teaching and the first semester of my senior year. I have no clue where college went, but last I remember I was panicking over which classes I would be taking first semester my freshman year.

It blows my mind how fast it has gone. I realize how many classes I’ve taken and how many I wanted to but haven’t.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved my education and English classes but there are so many different options Brandeis offers that I haven’t taken yet and won’t have a chance to.  Overall though, not withstanding the lack of subject diversity, I feel pretty blessed. I’ve had a chance to take some really amazing classes, meet some great friends and have learned some really valuable lessons.

With this semester coming to a close, my calendar is finally getting a little less hectic and the end is in sight. On the 28th I will be finished with the majority of my finals and can enjoy the summer, after I attempt to conquer the general curriculum MTEL and math, again. I have my schedule lined up for next semester all ready, I have my placement for Student Teaching, and am excited for my new adventures I will have.

I worry slightly I might be overextending myself for next semester. I applied to join another committee, will be on board for Liquid Latex and a campus collaborator for Her Campus. One of the graduating education seniors said to me a few weeks ago that the way to stay present on campus while you are student teaching is to get more involved. I guess that makes sense, and maybe it’s a bit crazy on my part, but I know I can handle it. Besides, I kind of want to leave college with a bang.

Closure or Obsession?

Sometimes I think about what caused my various relationships to spiral down. This past summer I started writing letters when I needed to work through issues with one of those fateful relationships. Now keep in mind, I’m using the term relationship for friends and my old significant others.

Now, months later that relationship has gone into the toilet, sending us into a very awkward living situation and I still think about why. I keep on imagining a more confident and self-assured me sending letters to those various people asking that question: what happened and when?

I don’t think this is unrealistic. In fact, every girl needs closure. I just don’t know how normal it is to still be thinking this almost two years later in some cases. I keep thinking about what these letters would look like. I quickly figured that out: very awkward.

For the sake of humor and my own sanity so they stop running through my already preoccupied mind, I’m going to write short versions, names not included for my own sense of security, pride and your inability to find them on the web.

To the boy from freshman year:

I honestly wish you had been clearer with me about what went wrong.  Yes, months later you sort of told me, but you never clearly did. I still want to know what I did wrong that sent you running so early on. There are things I wish I had done differently, or known going into our relationship but I didn’t. I was young and so were you.  Why didn’t you stick it out and see where it went? What was the real reason?

To the boy from freshman year II:

I think your excuse for ending it was in short, lame. I also think there was a whole other situation going on that you didn’t want to tell me or wanted to hide from me. Fine, but don’t give me some ridiculous excuse like we are too different. Clearly we weren’t if we worked for the month and half.

To the so-called friend:

You have to be the most confusing and hardest person to work out. I thought we had figured out all of our issues and could finally start to rework the great friendship we had going. Clearly, you have some issues with me that you don’t want to tell me, because now, we never talk, you get angry at me for absolutely no reason and I have a slow burning hatred for you inside of me. I am restraining all of these emotions until you are out of my life but I honestly want to know what I did that sent you on a totally different path than we started on.

I don’t know if these are weird obsessions or realistic questions, but at least now they will stop taking up valuable headspace and maybe let me focus on the work I need to get done for my classes. I’m hoping these letters are never seen, and if they are, maybe I’ll get a good reaction, but best case, they don’t and if they do they ignore them.

The Most Amazing and Out-of Body Experience Ever

After a long sleepless weekend and ten hours on my feet, I can finally say I was in Liquid Latex. The week of stressing led up to what was an unbelievable experience and an amazing result. On the day of the show, something inside me clicked and I didn’t let anything stress me out.

In the weeks leading up to the show, I was sure that I was going to be having a mental breakdown in the corner, cry, refuse to go up on stage, my list went on and on.  I will be the first person to say that I am thrilled this did not happen once. As the day progressed, I got more and more excited and every time someone came over to check on me, I was fine.

By the end of the day, the only thing that bothered me was my legs and back. Looking back on Tuesday, now that I am finally rested, nourished and still unbelievably proud of myself, I could not have envisioned it going any better. I had an amazing time and am beyond excited for next year’s show. I already have a friend who wants to choreograph and we are brainstorming ideas. I know once I see the pictures and get the video, I won’t stop looking at them!

I have to say, the five and half minutes on stage felt like one. Even so, it was an unforgettable experience. Looking back, I can’t believe I did it. Since then, it has done wonders for my confidence.  I feel better about myself and hold my head slightly higher when I walk around campus. I feel awesome. From the moment everyone in the room started getting painted to the moment when we were watching the crowds of students fill up the ballroom, I can remember every moment of it. People who have done it in the past have said it’s a bonding experience. That statement is 100% true.

It has been a whirlwind adventure these past few months and now that it’s over, I’m sad but it’s time to move back into real life.  It’s time to buckle down with school, work on the other projects I have going on, generate some new writing content, and start thinking about my finals and homework for my classes.