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The sheath that held her soul had assumed significance – that was all.

F. Scott Fitzgerald penned these words to describe the stealthy transition of Anthony Patch’s feelings for the beautiful Gloria in his book The Beautiful and Damned. I was flipping through the book–one of my favorites, as is anything by Fitzgerald–looking for some turn of phrase to use as a blog title. Fitzgerald stands as a testament to elegant turns of phrase and I knew I could rely on him for inspiration.

I have, however, taken the phrase out of context and impressed upon it my own understanding. When I titled this blog “Assuming Significance” I wanted it to mean something other than two people falling in love. No, my immediate attraction to the phrase is due more to my own projections onto it than anything else.

My generation seems to be suffering from something I’ve heard referred to as “Special Snowflake Syndrome.” So many of us have been told our whole lives that we have these gifts, that we are unique and special, and so many of us grow up believing that–or at least holding on to an inkling that we are in some way remarkable, if only the rest of the world could see it. Comforted by this thought, this shred of optimism we can cling to, we quite serenely relax into a world of social media and television, secure in our ability to do and excel at almost anything, if only we really wanted to. 

We all believe ourselves to be significant.

What I have struggled with is submitting to this placidity. Surely, we are all capable of significance. And surely, we are all made up of a unique set of thoughts, abilities, and experiences that make us different from all other people. But what good is that, any of it, if we do nothing with it? 

We are not all significant. We are all, however, potentially significant. There is a void in the world that exists, waiting for you to fill it if only you would. 

We are not born significant–but we can assume this significance.

To become significant, we must take steps toward making ourselves a resource to others whether in our communities or in the world at large. One cannot be significant standing alone, out of context. A person can only be significant in relation to other people. Significance is measured by our impact upon others.

Cooking a meal for myself is not significant. 

Cooking a meal and sharing it with friends, strangers, or given to someone else is significant.

This is a record of my attempt to reach out to others, to make a difference in anyone else’s lives. The reasoning may seem selfish, but to me it is a motivator–any gifts I may posses, any creativity I may have, any kind thoughts that run across my mind can’t do anyone any good if I’m sitting on the couch keeping it all to myself.

Significance is about more than being special snowflakes; it’s about embracing what makes you special and sharing it with the world to make it better and to be a part of something bigger than yourself. 

Here I go.

The sheath that…

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Train Music – (Just Like) Starting Over

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The B-side for this was Yoko's "Kiss Kiss Kiss"

I really enjoy taking the train to school every day. Not being a fan of driving, it provides a way to get to class that also serves as about twenty minutes of downtime each way between the rush to get ready and the chaos of class. It also gives me a chance to listen to enough music to set my mood the right way.

One of the things I found most interesting about going to undergrad for music was that I actually stopped listening to music on my own. I stopped searching out new artists, and if I did click on my iTunes, it was only because I needed the comforting sounds of my few favorites. The only way to get me to learn anything new, really, was to leave it in the CD player in my car–I never changed them, just listened on repeat until I got a wild notion or someone rode in my car often enough to get sick of it and tried to strangle me. As it is, I’m slowly getting into the habit again, now that it can be my hobby and not my task (obvious proof that music wasn’t meant to be my profession.)

I’m usually leaving the house by 8am, and I am not a morning person. I hate any TV and conversation while I’m getting ready; I’d much rather just go through my routine uninterrupted. As such, when I listen to music in the morning, it needs to be of a specific kind. Nothing heavy, nothing remixed, no rap, no yelling, and so on. I’m like a block of clay in the morning–I need the music to be warm and soft, persuading my sleepy brain into the pliability I need to get through the rest of the day.

These requirements are not so hard to meet, but as the creature of habit I am in the early hours, I tend to find a song or an album that fits the bill and listen to it repeatedly. That is pretty much what happened with this song.

The opening bells, the gentle first lines that roll right into an upbeat (but not too upbeat) verse? This song is perfect for getting going in the morning. It doesn’t hurt that the lyrics are maybe some of the most optimistic that John Lennon had ever written. “(Just Like) Starting Over” appears on Double Fantasy, which was released in 1980, just weeks before John’s murder.  He hadn’t released a single since his cover of “Stand by Me” in 1975, choosing instead to stay home and be a househusband and stay-at-home dad to his new baby boy (who also gets a song on the album, “Beautiful Boy.”)

The poignancy of this song perhaps lies in its bittersweet beauty. It is upbeat and hopeful, and remains so, even though it became the #1 single after his death. It’s a love letter to Yoko, an invitation to start their lives anew.

I could write a psychoanalysis on John Lennon, but I’ll spare you. I’ll just say that while John wrote prolifically about love, he tended toward the “world love”, the “brotherly love.” It wasn’t until later in his career that John wrote about romantic love without being tongue-in-cheek. Whatever your opinions on Yoko, it’s hard to hate a woman who inspires a song like this.

And it makes me want to dance on the train.

Sometimes I wish I were five…When Harry Met Sally edition

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I get canker sores like nobody’s business.  If I have a glass of orange juice, I will pay dearly for the next week  with a welt on the inside of my cheek, the back of my tongue, the underside of my lip.  Wherever it ends up, it is guaranteed to be a spot that will be hit by every single chew, every spoken word, every subtle expression.  It’s always there, always pulsing, never letting me forget that it’s lying in wait to take all the joy out of my next meal.

I have one now, and I’m a little bitter.

When I was little, however, my affliction was bloody noses.  Much like my canker sores, they would arrive at the most unwelcome of times, and far overstay their unenthusiastic welcome.  One in particular ruined a playdate with my then-very-good-friend, a fellow kindergartener named Casey.  We were at my house when the bloody nose struck, which was unusual because we didn’t often play at my place.  We had cats, and Casey was incredibly allergic to them.  Casey was allergic to cats, into playing tag, and together we would pick on our little brothers and wrestle in the grass.  Casey was also a boy.

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How adorable is this?

At the age of five, this didn’t matter at all.  The only difference between boys at girls at that point (at my school, we didn’t get into the boyfriend/girlfriend thing until around the fifth grade) was that girls occasionally had ponytails and the teachers yelled at us for hanging upside down on the monkey bars when we were wearing skirts.  For obvious reasons.

Casey and I were great friends.  We played blocks in school and roller skated together at various birthday parties.  I went to his house often, and he was the first person to try to explain the logic behind hunting to me (at five years old and animal OBSESSED, I was horrified).  We even talked on the phone, our little kindergarten selves, about what I’m sure were very important and intellectual matters.

Then the first grade happened.   Suddenly everyone was aware of the “girls rule, boys drool” (and vice versa) mentality.  It hit me like a brick–I hadn’t received the memo everyone else seemed to have read over summer break.  Precocious girls of six and seven were beginning to smuggle makeup into school, shoved inside their Trapper Keepers.  Wearing pink was considered “babyish”.  And Casey stopped returning my calls.

In high school I feel in love with When Harry Met Sally, the movie starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan as adorably neurotic almost-friends, almost-lovers who meet time and time again over the course of their lives.  And I learned the quote Collegiate-Aged Harry so eloquently says over greasy diner food to his new acquaintance: “Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.”

Now, as we all know (if you’ve seen the movie), Harry and Sally do in fact become friends.  And then the sex part gets in the way, and then they fall in love.  So I’m not entirely sure what the movie really does other than prove Harry’s initial thesis, but I’d like to pick the part in the middle and focus on that.  The friend part, I mean.  As little kids, we have no idea that there’s any difference between us.  Boys, girls, black, white, whatever.  Then, as we begin to learn about the world, we start looking at each other differently.  We notice blondes and brunettes, short and tall.  We notice that someone talks funny, or dresses strangely.  For a long time, we focus on those differences, and we may or may not be able to be friends because of them.  We lose that childhood innocence and we become wise to the ways of the world.

But I like to think that once we become “wise”, we become educated as well.  I like to think that we will be able to see those differences not as hindrances, but as points of interest.  That being different doesn’t mean being separate.

I may have gone a little off-topic there, but what I’m trying to say is that I’m glad that after the divisive days of grade school, I was able to have guy friends again. It’s nice that now I can hang out with guys with no pressure, with no one singing K-I-S-S-I-N-G in the background (of course now that I’m married, people do that a lot less anyway).  I’m glad to have guy friends that are just as close as girl friends, and I’m glad to be one of many proving Harry’s line of thinking to be incorrect.

But I do miss the innocence a little.