Friday, February 27, 2015

Two-Item Menu

Some firsts this week:
  • First time falling off my bike and injuring myself, first time wearing an Ace bandage (pun opportunity! see bottom of post if you don't get it), first time having to use bandages in college.
  • First time going to a musical performance (the Stanford Jazz Orchestra concert) and a theatrical performance (the Flying Treehouse show) this quarter, first time doing both in one week.

The second set of firsts is sadder than the first.


This month it is fair to say that I've worked reasonably hard. For a freshman, of course--none of my classes are that hard yet, but I did take three midterms in February along with a whole lot of extracurricular stuff. Also, because I am a freshman, I haven't developed the best strategies for work-life balance, so I get bored and lonely while doing work and then wander into the hall and end up talking to people for hours and finish up homework in the early hours or give up the weekend to assignments.

The point is that I'm working harder than I ever did in high school and my body is telling me, in more or less obnoxious ways, that I'm going about things wrong. Most notably, as I bike along Campus Drive and signal a left turn while going over a relatively minor break in the road, my mind blanks for a minute and suddenly "oh no, I appear to have lost control of my bike" "oh no, this is bad" "aha, that's the ground."

No serious injuries, just some scrapes and a sore wrist (most likely not sprained), but it is somewhat of an inconvenience because my left hand cannot grip very well so I'm not using my bike for the moment. I haven't injured myself this seriously before (which probably tells you something about how circumscribed my childhood was) and thus I am unsure of where the line is between proper caution and just being a wimp. I am not fond of feeling like a wimp, but I wonder if I am.

Anyway, I'm going to be fine. I always wear my helmet while biking, and it could have been worse.


But let me tell you about the performances I saw.

I go to school with some damn talented people, and I realized earlier this week that I have not been doing much to appreciate those talents. Also, I have not been to Cantor this quarter, and hadn't gone to any performances. Which is a crying shame, so I fixed the latter (will work on the former. Maybe not this weekend but soon).

The Jazz Orchestra concert on Wednesday was the first time I've been in Bing Concert Hall for a performance and oh my goodness what a beautiful venue. I had put on my (only) casual dress because I didn't want to be overdressed but thought jeans would be indecorous, and I wished that I had worn my (only) formal dress instead. A lot of people in the audience were dressed casually but it would have been good to dress to suit how special and wonderful the concert was.

I've never been a big fan of jazz, since in high school I played non-jazz instruments--flute for an unfortunate few months in freshman year, euphonium until the end--but now that I'm a trombone player I suppose I should get to know the full range of how the instrument can be used to sound amazing.

The guest soloist was bari sax player Aaron Lington, and they played a number of his original arrangements. The final number they played was "Sup," which I particularly enjoyed. I don't think the recordings from Wednesday's performance are up (or will be available for free anytime soon), so here is the song played by the FMCMEA Honor Jazz Band:

A good song with which to end. I grinned the whole walk home.


On Thursday, I saw the Flying Treehouse show. FTH is a group that works with second graders on creative writing, and then turns those stories into short plays/sketches. As one would expect, the results are really, really fun to watch. They reminded me of the stories and games that I made up with my friends--full of strange characters, lots of dragons, drama, a mix of quotidian and fantastical settings, casual violence, and intermingling of things that one would not think go together, such as crocodiles and roller coasters.

On the crocodile-and-roller-coaster sketch--that one was startlingly deep (as were some others). One line in particular that struck me was "I've been looking at life through a two-item menu!"

Because that's kind of how I operate, and I've been realizing gradually, recently, that the way I live life is probably somewhat boring. There was a picture on the Humans of New York site last Saturday of a professional-looking guy in a suit, giving the camera a rueful look, with the quote "I should have made more mistakes."

And I feel that. Not because I want to screw up my grades or start drinking (I have very strong reasons that will prevent me from ever using substances, so don't worry that I will succumb to vice) but because I've lived in a metaphorical box* for essentially my whole existence. My favorite teacher from middle school told me, and I quote, "You're very smart, but you always put yourself in a box. Try getting out of it and see what happens."

So in high school I joined clubs and branched out and found myself in leadership positions in a few organizations and started thinking of myself as ambitious and thought that that meant that I had emerged from my box. But the perimeter is ever-expanding, and becoming a full human being means more than just doing more work for the things you're already doing.

I'm not sure exactly where I'm going with this, but my point is that at some point between elementary school and now I developed tunnel vision and it has gotten particularly bad this quarter. Tunnel vision is not a strategy optimal for health or for happiness, and I'm going to try to expand my mind.

Have a good weekend.


* Also a closet: as it turns out, I am asexual. If you know me IRL sorry that I'm not telling you this in person, but I've come out to my hall already and it seems unlikely that it'll emerge in a normal conversation, and it's not something I particularly want to keep dodging around here. Also I just finished a spiel about taking more risks. As a final note, if you know me IRL and are in any way surprised by this revelation, you really need to reevaluate your observational skills.

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