The Beginning of Oldness

When I was a nineteen year-old sophomore in college, my roommates and I had a friend named Pete. Pete lived in our apartment complex and he'd stop by every so often to chat with us. (I think he had an alterior motive to woo my roommate Cassandra.) Pete was a tall guy, a communications major, and just a little nerdy. Like many other BYU boys, he had thinning hair so I assumed he must have been in his mid-twenties.

One evening Pete came over and we all hung out in the living room. The topic of age came up and someone asked Pete how old he was.

"I'm 22," Pete replied.

I was a little taken back. Twenty-two? He didn't look twenty-two! Pete was a lot more mature than other 22 year-olds I knew back then. And he had a lot less hair than most 22 year-olds I had come across.

"I thought you must have been 24 or something," I said. (Or maybe my roommate Jana said that. I don't remember anymore.)

"Twenty-four?!" Pete said, "Twenty-four is the beginning of oldness!"

We all laughed. Being twenty-four was indeed an old age considering my roommates and I were all nineteen. I couldn't even fathom what it was like to be twenty years old and thus no longer a "teen." In my mind, people who were twenty-four were finished with college and had real jobs. People who were twenty-four had bills to pay and responsibilities. People who were twenty-four had their lives figured out and they were just plain old.


Eleven days from now, on December 10th, I will turn twenty-four. According to the immortal words of Pete, I will be old.

Old like this woman.

***It's so funny to me that I used to think 24 was old. And I find it especially amusing that I assumed 24 year-olds had their lives all figured out. I'm sure when I'm 50 I'll still be confused at what I'm doing in life. Hahaha. Let's all laugh at our silly 19 year-old selves!

Saluting the President's Men

A few weekends ago I plopped down on my couch and watched the 1976 film "All the President's Men." Based on the book of the same title, the movie follows two Washington Post reporters who slowly unravel the Watergate scandal. Starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein respectively, the movie garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Film.

The plot of the movie reminded me of the TV show 24: political intrigue, mass cover-ups, secret informants, and a scandal that even reached the president himself. What's amazing to me is that this all really happened---it's not a story concocted by Hollywood writers, but actual historical events. And what's even more amazing is that the entire Watergate scandal would have remained a secret if it were not for a pair for tenacious reporters who refused to back down from their story.

In the past year I've become really interested by the role of the media in our society. On one hand I see the enormous good that comes from honest investigative reporting. The press informs the public of what's happening in the world; it sheds light on events that we, the people, have no access to. I especially laud the media for its continuiing coverage of Darfur and the atrocities that occur there.

But on the other hand, I see the growing sensationalism of the media. I know sensationalism has always been a problem in newspapers and magazines, but I think it's reaching new levels on television. I really don't understand why CNN and MSNBC describe Britney Spears' divorce as "BREAKING NEWS" or why Fox News was created specifically for a conservative base. Shouldn't news channels focus on...the news? And shouldn't news channels be created without an agenda? Some would argue that all news is biased in some way and I will agree to that. But at the same time, all media venues should at least try to be as non-biased as possible. Perhaps I am being idealistic, but then again idealism isn't a bad thing.

So, sure, there are a lot of downsides to any type of media. There are biases and hidden agendas and what-not. But there are also honest and worthy news sources that strive to inform their readership to the happenings of the world around them without a significant bias towards one side or the other. I'm just grateful that I live in a country where the freedom of the press exists and where it is celebrated. We can gripe and complain about the radical New York Times or the ultra-conservative Fox News Network, but at least we have news outlets to choose from. I mean, compared to China, we're doing really well.

Singin' the Blues

Justin is gone for two weeks of training and I've been awfully bored and glum lately. Despite having a long distance relationship, Justin and I see each other every weekend for three or four days and talk on the phone on the days we are apart. In describing my life, the oldies song comes to mind that goes: "Lonely...I'm so lonely..."

Haha. Well, life isn't that bad, but I've come to realize that I've neglected a lot of my friends since Justin and I started dating. It's not that I haven't wanted to spend time with them, it's just that my life has been so busy driving back and forth between DC and North Carolina. I know, I know: excuses, excuses. But I do feel really bad! I never wanted to be the kind of girl who ditches her friends once she's found a boy, but I've done this exact thing to a degree.

So what shall I do to regain the love of my DC-area friends?

1.) Kowtow before them and kiss their feet.
2.) Beg for forgiveness.
3.) Buy them chocolates.
4.) Buy them Orlando Bloom.

Ah, who knows. Maybe a phone call and a simple "I'm sorry" should do the trick...

Nightmare, be gone!

I had a scary dream last night.

In this dream, I was at a party in a large house. I left my purse in one of the bedrooms upstairs and then went on to play video games (???) and dance. But suddenly the electricity flickered and went out completely. I was kind of freaked out and decided to leave the party, but I had to get my purse first. I went upstairs using someone's flashlight, hurriedly grabbed my purse, and ran down the stairs. Unfortunately, a long green ghost had seen me and started to chase me. He stabbed me in the back with a huge knife that pirates use. (You know, the ones with a curved blade.)

It was a weird and scary dream, but I wouldn't call it a nightmare. No screaming, no jitters. I lied in bed after I woke up, thinking about the dream, and I realized that I have only had one nightmare in my entire life---a dream that I had back in elementary school. Since then though I haven't had any nightmares.

I wonder what makes people have nightmares. I know Justin has them all the time and my friend Cassandra had them from time to time when I was her roommate. What causes our brains to produce nightmares? Is it a dark memory from our past? Or just a random hormonal cause? In either case, I'm glad that I don't have nightmares frequently. I get squeamish watching scary movies and I can't imagine hosting my very own scary movie in my head. At night. In the dark. Yech!

Feeling Lucky

There are two kinds of readers in the world: the reader who likes to feel and the reader who likes to think. I'm part of the former category: I really like to feel. In fact, I love to feel. Ever since I was a little girl I have often been swept up in various emotion, from getting so mad at my brother that I sat on him (he stole my Velveteen Rabbit book) to feeling so happy that I could weep from the joy. Yep, I'm an emotional girl.

And so, I'm naturally drawn to emotionally-powerful books. None of the sappy stuff, mind you. No Nicholas Sparks or Jack Weyland for me! I love books that make me sad like The Age of Innocence and books that make me mad. And of course, I love books that make me happy, like The Princess Bride.

Emotional resonance is not reserved to works of fiction. Both Nickel and Dimed as well as A Problem from Hell (a Pulitzer-prize winning book on genocide) made me angry and sad by the selfishness and hatred in the world. Last night I read another such book. It didn't anger me as much as it saddened me. It made me realize how ugly the world can be, but it also revealed to me the strength and resilience of the human spirit.

Lucky is a memoir by Alice Sebold who was raped during her freshman year at Syracuse University. She was assaulted and raped at a park near campus. It was a random act of violence. She was nineteen years old. After the rape, Sebold went directly to the police who informed her that another girl was raped and murdered in the same park a few months before. They said she was lucky.

The memoir begins with Sebold's rape and chronicles her recovery---both physical and mental. She details the reaction of her family and how they struggle to find healing too. And it follows Sebold when her rapist is caught, tried, and imprisoned for eight years.

I enjoyed reading this book on many levels. As I mentioned before, Lucky is extremely powerful emotionally and especially to female readers. (Which probably comprises most of Sebold's readership.) Most women don't know what it's like to have been raped, but they do know what it's like to feel vulnerable. I know I always feel a twinge of nervousness when I walk to my car in a parking garage after dark. And it is this vulnerability that really pulled me into Lucky.

I also enjoyed Lucky because Sebold is a very honest writer. Her style is detailed but not flowery, realistic not stark, heartfelt not sentimental. I love how she followed one of the most fundamental rules of writing: show, don't tell. I think this was most apparent when she talked about her family. Instead of telling readers that her mother was an alcoholic and that her father escaped the alcoholism through his research as a professor, Sebold showed us. I formed a complete characterization of Sebold's family through the stories she relates.

Sebold will remain one of my favorite writers. Her novel The Lovely Bones is a fine work of literature, too. But would I recommend Lucky to anybody? Well, it's a memoir that isn't for the faint of heart. It focuses on rape, which is a topic that most people feel uncomfortable with. The first chapter of the book, which recounts in detail Sebold's assault and rape, is probably the most bone-jarring piece of literature that I have ever read. Yet I think it's important that we read books that tackle difficult issues because they challenge us and they teach us greater empathy. I have never been raped and I hope with all hopes that I'll never have to experience such an act of violence. But the sad truth of our world is that there are many women who, like Sebold, are survivors of rape. If reading this memoir helps me to empathize more with these women, then it was more than worth it.

Election 2006!

Today is election day! And I am very excited because this is my first time voting. Yes America, I will be participating in our democratic processes today!

I'm really interested to find out what exactly happens in the voting booth. I have this silly childhood notion in my mind that the booth consists of a complicated system of levers, pulleys, and flashing blue buttons. With such a notion in my head, I know I will be sorely disappointed to see what actually resides behind the curtain.

Anyway, the elections have provided hours of entertainment for Justin and me in the past few weeks. It seems like every minute CNN or MSNBC puts out a new poll that shows the Democrats or Republicans leading. You can't escape the elections! They're splashed across our newspapers and broadcasted on our television sets. You can't watch a TV show these days without coming across a campaign ad.

The Senate campaign ads in Maryland have been run-of-the-mill. Commercials from Ben Cardin's camp (D) portray Michael Steele (R) as Bush's lapdog. And ads from Steele's camp depict Cardin as a Democrat dummy. Eh. I've seen the same mud-slinging before.

If only I lived in Virginia! Ah, Virginia. The Senate race there between incumbent George Allen (R) and challenger Jim Webb (D) is as exciting---and controversial---as a Tarantino movie. On one side is Senator Allen, a Southern drawlin' country boy who wears cowboy boots on the campaign trail. A few months ago Allen was touted as a potential presidential candidate for 2008. But this was all before he called a Webb campaigner of Indian descent a "macaca." And before a couple of his old football buddies recalled the Senator throwing around the n-word back in college.

The Virginian Senator who once enjoyed a healthy margin over his opponent now is battling to cross the finish line. Polls show the two in a dead heat. Elections at its finest! I wish I could vote in Virginia just to participate. I feel like my vote would be worth more. I also really like Jim Webb---he doesn't have a lot of political experience, but he has a lot of military know-how. I think Washington needs more people like Webb, people who haven't been calloused and weakened by our political machine.

Oh well. Maryland is a good state, too.