Random things

I haven’t been writing blog posts lately. I’ve been writing grad school application essays instead. Blog posts are much more fun to write, though, and I can’t wait to get back to them once this arduous application process has passed. That being said, there was one essay I really enjoyed writing—so much that it felt like a blog post. The prompt was to present a list of “25 random things” about myself. Here is what I submitted:

  1. Let’s get this out of the way: My last name rhymes with “gosh.”
  2. Now, for some basics: I have an older brother and two younger half-sisters. If the group of us were a hand, we’d be missing one finger and I’d be the thumb. The three of them are rock-climbers; I’m afraid of heights.
  3. I‘m also afraid of spiders and nearly any kind of flying insect.
  4. I’m definitely not afraid of flying, though.
  5. I enjoy a nice glass of wine, so much that I have actually worked on a vineyard. Some years ago, I began volunteering for the fall harvest at a small winery on the coast of California. I soon learned that black widow spiders love vineyards; unfiltered wine seems to be loaded with decomposed spider bits. For a while, I convinced myself that the harvests were a kind of “immersion therapy” for my arachnophobia. Then one year, the vineyard was infested with yellow jackets, in addition to the ever-present spiders. That was my last year of immersion therapy. (I still love their wines, though.)
  6. I love to entertain, whether it’s an impromptu afternoon on the back patio with a bottle of wine, or a meticulously planned dinner party with a carefully curated playlist.
  7. Sometimes, my entertaining involves elaborate craft projects. One of my better-known feats was a 15-foot coral reef, constructed from spray-foam insulation, silk floral parts, shells, and a lot of spray paint and texturing. It was a tablescape for an underwater-themed party.
  8. If I have a superpower, it is my ability to bring people together. I have introduced several people to their closest friends.
  9. Strangers fascinate me. I talk to them everywhere I go.
  10. The most memorable conversations I have had with strangers occurred when I volunteered as an English tutor for a family of Iraqi refugees. Through broken English, they shared stories of fleeing Mosul, living in refugee camps in Jordan, and leaving for the U.S. on 24 hours’ notice.
  11. I remember stories better than faces, but I’m trying to do better with faces. One trick that helps me is to associate people with animals who seem to have similar mannerisms. For instance, bashful people remind me of pelicans; muscular security guards remind me of komodo dragons.
  12. I’m allergic to cats.
  13. I started college on a clarinet performance scholarship, but I stopped playing at age 19. I’d been ill for months, often too sick to play. Sitting in a doctor’s office one day, I had the weirdly algebraic epiphany that I hated losing auditions far more than I loved winning them. And I didn’t love playing, not enough to offset the difference.
  14. I have always imagined writing a book someday, but until recently, I was not very disciplined about writing as a personal craft. Then I began to approach it like exercise—a healthy habit that yields the greatest benefit when done regularly. Now, I write in a journal every day, and I always begin by responding to the same three prompts.
  15. My friends often describe me as witty, but few of them share my fondness for a good pun.
  16. I love olives, but I can’t really eat them. I have a medical condition, similar to a severe food allergy, which can be triggered by some olives, but not all of them. It took years to figure that out.
  17. When I tell a story, I become really animated. I love to tell stories.
  18. My favorite novel is The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. I’ve read it at least half a dozen times, and I consider anyone else who’s read it to be a kindred spirit.
  19. In 2003, I sat across the aisle from Britney Spears on a commercial flight from L.A. to Phoenix. I was reading The Economist and there was a photo of her in one of the articles. I showed it to her, but she said she did not recognize the magazine. I still subscribe to The Economist, but I have not shared an aisle with Britney Spears since then.
  20. My first job was writing test-prep materials for the Academic Decathlon, a high school scholastic competition. I was hired at age 17 to write a sort of mini-textbook about the history of jazz. I worked for that company for several summers, ultimately transitioning into writing economics materials. I approached my assignments with a quirky style, writing things that I would now find wholly embarrassing. But I attracted a veritable fan club. I even received fan mail.
  21. My first taste of stardom, though, happened in junior high, when I was a spelling bee queen. I lived in a small town, where the local papers would run front-page stories about things like seventh-grade spelling bees. As an 11-year-old, I thought that meant I was a huge celebrity.
  22. Now, my spelling bee days have become a kind of curse. People still ask me how to spell words and there is a part of me that lives in fear that that one day, I’ll spell something incorrectly.
  23. I would never identify myself as an athlete, but I’m willing to suffer through exercise for the health benefits. I don’t have a strict regimen, but I stay active with a mix of running, yoga, kickboxing, and trying not to look ridiculous with free weights.
  24. I’ve run two marathons. In the second one, I developed a sharp foot pain after about eight miles. I’d been laid off from my job four days earlier, and I couldn’t stand the thought of also not finishing the race. I eventually crossed the finish line, in tears – not knowing that I had a stress fracture in my foot. I beat my previous time by two minutes, but I had to stop running for months afterward to allow my foot to heal. I wish this were a story about the power of mind over matter, but it’s mostly a testament to the foolishness of endurance sports.
  25. Last year, I began a secular meditation practice, in hopes of cultivating more mental resilience. I believed that I was already mentally resilient, but I was surprised to learn that it is much more difficult to sit still on a cushion for 30 minutes than it was to run for 3 hours with a broken foot. I had to work my way up from five-minute sessions, because I simply couldn’t last 30 minutes. Meditation, it turns out, is like any other healthy habit for me: I get the greatest benefit when I do it regularly.

4 thoughts on “Random things

  1. This could be a winning platform for a presidential run. I don’t know how anyone could receive this and not emphatically accept the person attached to it.

    Liked by 1 person

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