the new mr. darcy?

I have a shameful confession to make. After a good few months worth of disgusted tsk-ing, merciless taunting, and endless jokes about the Twilight series, I finally sat down and read the first book.

That's nothing to be ashamed of, as far as I'm concerned; I'm pretty much willing to give any book a fair go, first of all, and second of all, I did not ask for or in any other way try to get my hands on the book independently. It was a Christmas gift. Along with an Edward Cullen poster. Should it frighten me that the instant my relations see a picture of a glowering, darkly-beautiful, pale vampire boy they think, "Oh, Ali will love this!" and buy it for me, knowing (and not caring) that I have no idea who the hell he is? Or should it make me proud?

Anyway. So I had the poster, and the fresh, yet-to-be-cracked Twilight book. Out of sheer boredom and a little bit of curiosity, I figured I might as well have the reading experience to go along with my other Twilight merchandise. This was at 10:30 at night.

When I finally read the last page at approximately 2:58 AM, I plopped my aching head down on my pillow and soon came to three rather startling conclusions:
1)I see what all the fuss was about. I understand why so many teenage girls are all a-flutter over this story.
2)That book was extremely well-written...no, really.
2) I am in love with a fictional character...once again.

This is the part I'm a little bit ashamed of.

Hello Mr. Darcy syndrome, part II.



Here's where I will spend the next four, six, eight, or maybe even ten years of my life. Thanks to the kind admissions Gods that Be, I got into the University of Rochester. Immediately after finding out, I was stunned. I couldn't pinpoint my emotions; was I happy? Hell yes, ecstatic even! But it still hasn't really sunk in, this new fact of life. I'm extremely excited and relieved, of course, but strangely enough I feel like I still don't have the capacity to fully understand what this means for me. I'm having trouble realizing that I now have what I want.

Not that I would have it any other way; don't get the impression that I'm regretting my choice to bind myself to admission. I applied early decision because it's exactly what I want, and I knew it when I sealed the big white envelope; I still know it. Because although I certainly would've been happy at Colgate or Geneseo, U of R is my place.

So, I'm curious to see how long this will take my sloth-like brain to comprehend. Maybe it'll take a few days, a week, a month...or maybe I won't fully grasp this wonderful truth until I step onto that campus and experience that feeling of fitting perfectly into my little nerdy niche at the best medical, research, and liberal arts university ever.

Well, in my opinion, at least.


wilco. now.

This was the best live show so far of my life.
If you ever have the chance to see them live,
do your homework;
listen to the music (I'm pretty sure you'll like it).
Then, GO.
You will not regret it.


is this it

This evening, a huge question has been making itself at home in the forefront of my mind. Why do we all try as hard as we possibly can to lose ourselves?

Most of what this question has to do with involves the popular concept of "losing yourself" in something. We humans can perform this disappearing act using just about anything as a medium; drinking, doing drugs, playing or listening to music, eating, watching TV, playing a sport, dancing all by yourself. As you can see, some of these are much more positive (and much less stupid) outlets than the others. So how we manage to lose ourselves in things that have absolutely nothing to do with ourselves doesn't bug me; it's the fact that we want to. It's our main goal, and it appears repeatedly during day-to-day life. I just read an Avon advertisement for a perfume that invited me to "lose myself in an exotic scent". You hear people say things like, "I just want to forget about everything for a while." More importantly, you see people immerse themselves in these "losing" activities without even realizing it.

My personal way of losing myself (I don't like the whole losing thing, but I'm certainly not any less guilty of it) is running. In cross-country, or track, or on the side my road, or even just on one of those sweet Elliptical machines, I completely forget myself. My mind goes white. I think of absolutely nothing, and it's the most peaceful and happy part of my day. Granted, this isn't exactly destructive behavior, but bottom line, I'm still trying to get away from myself for a few hours, and I'm not sure why I want that so desperately.

So why do people want to lose themselves so badly? What makes us feel so overwhelmed with the mere fact of ourselves that we need to get away from it? As humans, just one species on this planet, with no concrete plans, no reliable maps, and a ton of problems that we bring upon ourselves, I'd say it's safe to bet that we are already pretty damn lost. There's really no need to try any harder to escape ourselves when we had no clue where we were in the first place, is there?

Here's the nub and grit of all this. I think we should start trying to find ourselves in the things we normally do to lose ourselves. So, next time I go for a run, I'm going to resist that lovely temptation to sink into oblivion. I'm going to think about something, about why I acted the way I did on the way home from practice, or about why that test upset me so much. When you listen to your favorite band and start to drift, try it. Try to think about how you relate to that music, what it really means to you besides escape. Even if all that results is you learning why it lets you escape, that's more than enough.

Please don't get me wrong; I am well aware of the benefits of "forgetting the world" for awhile. It definitely can be healthy - in moderate doses. But it bothers me immensely to see some people, people who are exhausted, stressed, and worried, engaging in dangerous ways of losing themselves even further.

"If you realize what the real problem is - losing yourself - you realize that this itself is the ultimate trial."

Joseph Campbell


rudolph the red-nosed reindeer...and racism

I happened to put off doing my calculus homework long enough last night to catch most of the classic Christmastime TV movie: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. In my mind, I remembered the story to be somewhat sappy, insubstantial, but inexplicably happy (like any other classic holiday movie...really, if you think about it, they all share these lovely characteristics, which I think are supposed to inspire Christmas-like, warm emotions). But I was in for a huge surprise.

Right at the beginning of the movie, when baby buck Rudolph is still lying with his mother in their modest cave abode, his father freaks out about his nose. I mean, this newborn Rudolph has already said somewhere around five coherent words mere seconds after his birth, and all his dad can say is "That nose!!" It doesn't matter that Rudy is smart (a super baby-genius, you might even say, if you're in AP English); all that is important is the fact that he doesn't fit in physically. To make matters worse for poor Rudolph, Santa comes blustering in, blathering about how he could never hope to make the sleigh team with that nose.

I'll admit, at first I thought I had just watched one too many deep movies in AP with Mr. Crowe; I decided to keep watching the childish movie I knew Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer really was, beyond my crazy first assumptions...right?

Dead, dead wrong. Rudolph continued to be ostracized by his peers, his elders (including the Coach of the flying team, who provided the young reindeer with this helpful suggestion: "And we're not going to let Rudolph play in any reindeer games, right??"), even his own father. Santa told his father that "he should be ashamed" for creating such a misfit son. No consideration was given to the plain fact that Rudy was pretty much the best flier ever, or that he was really smart, or that the only thing that was supposedly "wrong" with him was his funky nose. To make the hidden meanings in this children's movie even more jaw-droppingly obvious, Rudolph's merits were only taken into consideration on that fateful foggy night; Santa and everyone else immediately accepted and liked him...as soon as he became valuable to them.

Then there's Hermey, the outcast of Santa's elves that doesn't want to settle for a dead-end job making toys like everyone else; his ambition is to be a dentist. Here, the Crabs-In-a-Bucket Syndrome is striking (in any small community of people, when one tries to "escape" or move on, the rest hold on for dear life and try their best to drag them back in). Hermey's boss chastises him for holding onto such fanciful dreams, claiming that all the other elves like their jobs, and he should too. It's obvious that Hermey is a radical of sorts, trying to escape the cloying conformity of the "bucket" to basically do whatever he wants instead.

I won't even go into the misunderstood Bumble (that huge yeti-thing) and the dreary Island of Misfit Toys.

There was such an undercurrent of racism, sexism, bigotry, and all the other senseless views along these lines in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer that it left me astounded that I hadn't noticed it until now. I have to think I'm not the only one who's interpreted the story like that, but adults never clue you in.

I guess it would be a bit tricky to explain to your preschooler why Rudolph isn't really going to go down in history after all.


shippin up to new york city

That time of year has come when the Oatka Running Club embarks on their annual journey to the depths of New York State. In other words, a bunch of runner kids pile into vans and go run around NYC for three days.

This year it'll be a lot different, which I'm pretty disappointed about, but I can't really complain; I have the chance to visit a beautiful city during a beautiful season with a bunch of my best friends. So, I'm choosing to try to see the good in this year being so different, and I hope I'll succeed.

I'm not sure if I could live in a city. While it's kind of nice to get lost in the whole anonymity of being one of a million in this little hub of activity, it's also kind of scary. You feel very much on your own, and I don't know if I like that. I'm not too good at being alone yet.

Some might argue that the same is true of living in the country, if you're talking about the true country; the my-nearest-neighbor-is-two-miles-thataway kind of country. It sounds paradoxical, but for me, being immersed in thousands of people who care nothing for you, know nothing about you, and frankly don't want to, the sense of isolation is much greater than simply really being by yourself.

I guess it's all about perception, and I guess I should start packing now.

Here's to a great weekend in NYC, spent alone, surrounded by tons of people; it'll be a good opportunity to have company and do a little introspective thinking.


yet another essay to be written

I'm in the process of writing my personal essay for my application to Colgate University, and right now the going is anything but easy.

The prompt has to do with the best piece of advice I've ever been given, and how I've employed said advice in my life. At first glance, this seemed exceedingly easy; deceivingly so, as I now realize. The short answer to this question is simple enough, and came to me as soon as I read the application. I knew I would write about what Coach says to his runners before every meet - "Take care of the little things ahead of time, and the big things will take care of themselves." But when I sat down and actually started to write, I found this statement to be a little closer to my heart than I expected. It's become something of a second nature to me, constantly at the forefront of my mind during everything from day-to-day life to important events. How do you write about something like that?

I tried to start with my interpretation of the advice, but that led to a cringe-worthy near-replica of a tenth-grade English class critical lens paper. I tried to begin with a dramatic story about an exam and a cross country race to detail an example of how I used the advice, but I imagined an admissions staff member staring at the somewhat cheesy anecdote wide-eyed in horror that this person bothered to apply to their university at all, and that idea was promptly discarded. So now I'm stuck.

Maybe what I'm afraid of is being completely honest in this essay. I'm a little wary of writing something for entry to a prestigious college that will basically impart to the reader that this advice facilitates and justifies my OCD to a most satisfying degree, or that I use it so often that I really can't think of a prime example of when I used it, or that it's easy to follow simply because, well, it's common sense.

I know this entry was a bit of a pointless rambler, and I'm sorry for making you all suffer through this for my personal cause of sparking my own thought process. But thank you for reading it anyhow, and please let me know if you have any ideas for me. The next one won't be like this. Promise.


Change We Can Believe In

What I am:
Breathing a huge sigh of relief. Excited that such an intelligent man is going to lead our nation. Truly hopeful for America's future for the first time in a long time. Thankful for voters' good decisions. Glad that a Democrat will be in office this time. Still hearing the poll results coming in, and still getting as excited every time Obama takes yet another state. Impatient for the next four years to begin. Committed to actually following politics this time around, because I actually care now. Able to let go of the terrifying prospect that Sarah Palin could be our President at some point during the next four to eight years.

So, so proud to be an Obama supporter.


one by one all day

Lately, I've been feeling like there is way too much on my plate. I'm sure you know the feeling; that hopeless, underwater daze of perpetual frustration, anxiety, and tension. If you don't, you must've never gone to high school. I'm not saying high school is the most difficult thing you'll ever encounter in your life, because it's not. What I am saying is that when the lesser issues encompassed in the experience that is high school are combined with all of the other things going on in life, everything becomes pretty overwhelming.

Just when I felt like I was going to break under the seemingly-endless amounts of pressures and anxieties that were being heaped on, I suddenly gave myself some slack. I'm not sure how. It certainly wasn't intended on my part to find that I really could live with that irritatingly bad AP Calculus grade, or that stupid, stupid mistake I made on the AP Bio quiz. I was fully intending to beat the proverbial horse to death. I was prepared to brood over my shortcomings for the weekend, going back to school on Monday with strengthened resolve and a massive headache, simply because that's what I do. So sue me.

But, I surprised myself. Sometime in between running in full Amy Winehouse makeup during practice (believe me, the hair and eyeliner is not easily reversed) and driving over to Molly's for the last spaghetti dinner of the cross country season, I gave up on it. I flat out forgave myself my dumb mistakes. When I absentmindedly groped for that oh, no feeling that commonly resides in the pit of my stomach after such an episode, it simply wasn't there.

What's more, this trend continued. I really was and am pleased with my last-ever high school cross country race at sectionals. And on the long bus ride home, looking around at my very best friends and thinking about the race, I felt my other worries loosen their grip, even if only for a few minutes. It was the happiest I've felt in a very, very long time.

It didn't last, of course; life continues, new worries emerge, and there's always something to think over. Cross country, the best sport ever invented, is over, yes. A few other great things in my life are over, too; it's true. But there's a trip to New York City coming up fast, a chance to spend three days with some of the people I love most. There's a chance to spend more time on that frustrating Calc. Above all, there's the new knowledge that I really can get over that trivial little stuff I encounter in my academic life. That's pretty priceless.


must love dragons (an actual title)

When I should've been reading Catcher in the Rye this weekend, I was instead reading horribly exaggerated and cheesy romance novels. Four of them, to be exact. You may wonder why I would choose to gorge myself on bad writing and brain-cell-killing-plots, and actually, so am I. All it gave me was a headache and a reason to pout.

Not to sound cynical or anything, but whoever created romance novels, perfect man, scenic setting, and all, are full of crap. I always take the time to read the author's biography in the back for some reason, and inevitably I find out that they are "living happily in [insert obscure small town here] with their own prince charming" or some such cutesy thing. What fresh hell is that? How did they divine this fantastical, completely unrealistic idea of love and devotion from such a normal little life? That is really what I would pay money to know, because I can assure you that their husbands probably spend more time working in a dimly-lit cubicle then courting them with four dozen red roses a day, and I'm pretty sure none of their names are ridiculously manly-sounding, like Jed or Blaine or Sterling.

When you combine these ideals with fantasy, it gets even worse. Dragons can actually morph into your perfect soul mate, according to these books. So can vampires, who are in fact unbelievably sensitive about your abhorrence of blood, according to these books. And if a rugged, darkly-handsome man tries to kill you in an alley one night, he is probably some poor member of an ancient race of supernatural warriors with a tortured soul and a soft heart, again, according to these fine pieces of literature.

What I'm getting at here is that fantasy romance novels are pure drivel, and should probably be avoided at all costs. Save yourself from an aching head and unrealistic expectations about love. Just read Catcher in the Rye and call it a day.



I've just recently realized that I really, really like politics. It took me by surprise. Up until a few months ago, I was one of those people - the ones that are simultaneously annoyed at and bored with any mention of anything remotely political. Whenever anyone around me would try to interject a sneaky, politically-toned comment into everyday conversation, I would basically do the cover-your-ears-and-go-la-la-la-I-can't-hear-you thing.

Looking back, I guess my initial attitude towards politics was one of exasperation, and I don't think I'm alone in that. My limited understanding of it all gave me the impression that politics automatically equaled snide, trivial backstabbing, rifts between friends, and shouting. And then in came Patrick. Not that he immediately canceled my knee-jerk reaction to politics, unfortunately for him (he really likes talking about politics...sorry for all the eye rolls of the past), but he did eventually get me to absorb a little bit of what really went on in politics. The more I knew, the more I liked it, the more I wanted to talk to other people about it and see what they thought.

I hope it's obvious that I don't fancy myself completely knowledgeable in politics, because I'm definitely not. But, I do have more solidly-based opinions, and a shockingly strong interest in all things political. What most surprises me is how much I look forward to reading those crazy Time magazine articles, or how much time I find myself spending on watching the debates, or, most surprising of all, how much I actually do care about it all.

This small epiphany has probably been fueled by the hugeness that is this election of 2008. There's really no way to go about your daily business without hearing something - anything - about it. Hopefully, it helps spark the same interest in younger people in this country that formerly resided within the select few. It'd be awfully nice if the otherwise-screwed (think about our economy, our environment, our foreign relations...and the predicted paths of space debris) Generation X and younger started to collectively care about what goes on.


it's hard to leave all these moments behind

I am not used to being on my own. As awful as it sounds, it's the truth - for right now, at least. I'm lucky (or cursed, depending on how you look at it) enough to have a load of crutches in my life. My family, my closest friends, and someone who has been extremely close to me for about three years now. I lean on them shamelessly. When I have a crap day, I call them and whine. I cry on their shoulders. I blow up at them because I'm stressed. I look to them for encouragement. And, they are never absent. Even if I've been on my own two feet for a while, when the going gets tough, I hobble rather quickly back to my crutches.
Since you're reading this, you know me, and I'm pretty sure you know that recently one of my constant crutches has bitten the dust. It's broken. I guess you could say I'm okay with keeping that splintered one around, in a case maybe, so I'm not tempted to try to repair it too well. So it's great to still have it nearby, and maybe in the future I'll be able to delicately lean on it again, but it's not quite the same. I have been almost exclusively leaning on that crutch for the past few years, and I always had the greatest of faith that it would and could hold me up. But things change, and now I find myself staggering on my feet a little bit. I'm weaker now without my crutch. There are times when I regain my balance and take a few tottering steps, but there are also the days when I fall flat on my face because I realize it's gone for good. Those are the tough days.
One benefit to losing this primary crutch, if there indeed are any at all, is that my other crutches have proven to be just as sturdy - if not more. They refuse to let me fall, and they were all right there to support me when the other one busted. For that, I love them eternally and am indebted to them.
It's not such a bad thing to have crutches at all, come to think of it. I guess I'm just worried that I depend on them a bit too much, especially as of late. Soon, it'll be high time for me to stop letting them bear my weight. I know they will still be there just in case of a slight relapse, but I don't want to burden them any more.
I'd like to be independent again. I'd like to feel secure, even without that crutch that I let define who I was. I'd like to be somewhat happy on my own.


loch raven

So, here's something new - my first non-college essay blog! Granted, I should really be getting started on the million and one notebook responses I have to do for AP English...but such is life.

First off, I want to put out a little disclaimer. There's nothing on this blog that will be philosophically groundbreaking, or extremely personal, or brilliantly innovative. Most likely, it'll be a big, disorganized mess of random thoughts and speculations. In other words, it'll reflect my life lately.

Now that you have that little tidbit safely stashed away, here we go.

This might sound pretty "hippie-dippy", as our dear AP Bio teacher so shudderingly calls anything slightly deep, but I've always felt like autumn is my spring. It's my time for rebirth, rejuvenation, and general reassessment of my life. I'd imagine this is how some people feel during springtime, the ideal period for new beginnings, when everything is green and fresh and about to bloom and all that good symbolic stuff. But that particular season doesn't really do anything for me. It's autumn that makes me take a big step back and take a good, hard look at my life and what's going on around me. It's autumn that makes me fall (...no pun intended) even more in love with nature and running and everything good in my life. It's autumn that allows me to finally work up the courage and confidence to do whatever it is I need to. And, especially as of late, that "it" is namely starting over. The stark physical beauty of autumn especially reinforces my thoughts on this issue, which has slowly budged its unwelcome way into my life. When I feel that harsh first bite of an almost-frost force fresh air into my lungs, or when I see the leaves not fading quietly into death but instead blooming into vibrant color as their season comes to a close, I start to think that fall itself was always intended to be more of a promising beginning than a bitter ending.

It's almost time for my personal autumn to start. And, for the first time in quite a few years, I think I'm ready.


see below

Here's another. Again, I remind you that these will not be printed and spirited away into big white envelopes to my top-choice schools. These are just to get the writing ball rolling.

At the moment, I have a bit of a dilemma. There seem to be a few baby insects in my room, and I'm not quite sure where they've come from. And when I say that I mean that there is currently an army-sized horde of mysterious bugs swarming over my carpet and I think they may have been placed in my room as punishment from some very cruel god.
I don't know what to do with them, exactly. Obviously, they can't stay in my bedroom, running rampant on their spindly little legs and - claws?! Those are definitely pincers. Now I'm convinced. I'm being punished. Of all the baby animals to show up unannounced in my bedroom in all their infantile glory, why ones with pincers?
After careful analysis (from a safe distance), it turns out they're preying mantis babies. At least the identification crisis is over...now, what to do with them? I can't kill them or exterminate them in any other way. That's simply out of the question. I don't kill things. It's just not an option.

There appear to be more of them. A courageous few are steadily scaling my amplifier cords. The rest are exploring the vast tundra of white carpet, and they're moving right along. This is a dire situation. If they spread out, I might not find them all, and that could be very, very bad. I like bugs, and I like preying mantises especially, but not as roommates.
Upon consulting the shelf that I fill with things I find outside (affectionately referred to in my house as "Ali's dead shelf"), including enough feathers to replicate Icarus' project if I was so inclined, woodchuck jawbones with teeth painstakingly glued into place, and a multitude of rocks, I finally discover the culprit source: a tiny oval-shaped pod that I thought looked "interesting" (the kiss of death when concerning anything unidentifiable) when I found it a few weeks ago. It's writhing complacently in its designated spot on my shelf as tiny, perfect preying mantis babies emerge from it and begin their pilgrimage across my room.
After several hours spent in close proximity to my bug house, the preying mantises, and a piece of paper (if you ever need to pick up extremely small bugs, or just insects in general, invest in one), I'm pretty sure I've rounded them all up. I've done my duty as an animal lover; they've all been delivered safely to the holly bush in the front yard.

Wait, there's another...and another. My guests are still showing up in various corners and crevices of the room, and I have a feeling that the next few days will be plagued with baby insects in need of rescue. I guess that's what you get for having a dead shelf.

brave new blog

I cringe to use my first post in the way I am about to, because I'm afraid it will look like a convenience blog. In using it right away for displaying my college essays to the general uninterested public, I am not only giving it an air of blatant non-creativity, I am also unabashedly copy-catting my best friend Molly. What can I say? It's a grand idea on Molly's part, it's a good way to critique your own writing, and I really need to get rolling on the college essays. So, I will charm you with my innate sense of creativity and artistic vision later. For now, this is more for myself than anything. Don't feel obliged to read (but if you do, please tell me what you think).

I am no longer afraid of graveyards. Those hold-your-breath-'til-you're-past days are long gone. Now I'm just petrified of driving in them.
When I was a tender eleven years old, my neighbor's grandfather, a jovial man who religiously drinks chili powder in his tea and is a dead ringer for Santa Claus, decided it was time we learned how to drive. Into the family van we piled, excited to an unhealthy degree about this forbidden taste of teenage-hood.
This was no joy ride, however. Papa put us through the paces with grave intensity and detailed instruction. The poor minivan bucked and screeched its way through the alarmingly narrow cemetery path as we received strict direction and commentary, the most memorable of which echoes in the dark recesses of my brain to this day. This particular reproof came from an extremely serious Papa after, having slightly cut a turn, I intruded a few inches into the space of a resident of the graveyard.
"See now, if that had been a mother with a baby carriage right there-" he paused to gesture grimly at the newly-formed rut- "know what would've happened?"
He smugly paused here again, his wide-eyed stare boring into my very soul. Hesitantly, I shook my head.
"Mashed POTATOES!" he yelled, adding a well-timed hand clap.
With this poignant exclamation, he settled back into the passenger seat calmly and, waiting patiently until I had detached myself from the ceiling of the van, motioned for me to continue driving.
A multitude of alarmed shouts and dramatic warnings later, we returned safely home, sufficiently traumatized and exceedingly proud of ourselves for getting a jump start on honing our driving expertise. Years later, I discovered that the very same cemetery where I'd been initiated into the the world of driving was rumored to be haunted. But for me, the thing that sends a shiver down my spine when I drive (carefully) past that graveyard today has nothing to do with ghosts. It has to do with the remembrance of two innocent words uttered on a pretty autumn day: mashed potatoes.