Jul 22, 2017

(RSS) Catcher in the Wry


Birthday bombardment

I’ve never really been a birthday person.

In the past, the event has been riddled with enough anxiety to make it generally unpleasant. Take singing “Happy Birthday,” for example. What is it if not an occasion to see what funny shade of purple your face will turn this year, or how closely you can examine your shoelaces?

The whole party aspect of it is weird, too. I’m at an odd junction in my life — do I go for the semiformal dinner? Or go to a bowling alley and get a novelty cake, only pretending I’m being ironic? Is it a faux pas to even celebrate at all, though? Is that assuming I’m still at the stage where birthdays mean something other than the continuing descent into the void? Or is it all uphill from here until I reached the hallowed two-one?

It’s mostly an attention issue for me. I don’t like to make people feel like they have to be especially nice to me. The sort of sickly niceness that comes about is, of course, appreciated — but there’s only so many times that I can hear “I hope today is as wonderful as you are” without going ballistic. This is a phrase that I, myself, employ when greeting every single one of my friends on their birthdays.

Then you hit the odd impasse: I was trying to tell my friends to not worry about it this year until one took offense and told me that, fine, she wouldn’t make me her ridiculously wonderful red velvet cake balls as she was planning to.

My instinct told me to start groveling on the floor and begging, making no attempt to hide my enthusiasm. But I’d already been so adamant. What now? Casually make a sly, “Well, I mean, it’s whatever you want, really…” thing, then nonchalantly turning away as if I didn’t really care, sneakily wiping the saliva off my chin?

I ended up somewhere in the middle, admitting it would be lovely but telling her not to worry about it. The entire time I was sending her “do it, do it” brain waves, in case she actually knows how to read minds.

Facebook adds another interesting dynamic. I can’t say I’ve ever written a “happy birthday” message on anyone’s wall, believing myself to be not shallow enough for this, opting instead to send a dispassionate text, or to pursue another 15 minutes of mindless scrolling.

I always try to convince myself it doesn’t mean that much to have a Facebook birthday message, but every year I am surprised at how warm my heart grows when I see notifications from all the well-wishers. Maybe it’s shallow and maybe it’s not, but looking at what people have sent me — no matter if they are my best friends or kids I knew years ago ­— makes me feel unbelievably fuzzy inside. Then it turns into the crazed stalking up and down my wall, reading and rereading and crazily giggling to myself.

In the end, birthdays are the only holidays that are exclusively personal. You have no choice: You are the center of attention whether you like it or not. Though that’s a hard pill to swallow, at least for me, there really is nothing as heartwarming as the people around you spending their time to pass on their love.

So, it’s my turn now. Thank you to everyone: old friends, best friends, acquaintances, family near and far. I am the luckiest girl ever for knowing all of you and for being able to spend another year with you. Your love is what makes birthdays bearable, no matter how embarrassing they may be.

Food for Thought

It’s time. Officially.
I know I recently said the day after Halloween meant it was Christmas season. Which, in the commercial sense, it is. But now that we’re here… come on. Why the need to downplay Thanksgiving? Or, not necessarily Thanksgiving itself, but the inevitability of stuffing our faces with more food than is conceivable.
You see, I love food. I really, really do. Looking back on what I wrote a few weeks ago, I don’t know exactly how I was deluding myself. Sure, Christmas has food too, I guess, but what can compare to Thanksgiving?
These thoughts were brought up last night, when I was sitting around a fire with a gaggle of friends, absorbing the warmth and just talking about comfort in general. The subject meandered into Thanksgiving, and we started listing things we were looking forward to… stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, cherry pie, rhubarb pie…
At that point, I had to abruptly leave the room because my stomach was growling loudly enough to be embarrassing. But the thought hasn’t left me.
I don’t know if my relationship with food is entirely unique, but I think my food path has been a bit odd. I grew up with two very caring, loving parents who couldn’t care less about food. My dinners mostly were of the frozen- TV- dinner type, though with the occasional sit down meal of Ragu thrown in there if we were feeling fancy.
The food situation changed upon entering college, where I was mostly too lazy to eat anything except Easy Mac and whatever I could pilfer from the laundry room vending machines.
But then, at the end of last spring, something changed. Maybe it was just as a result of getting older, or absorbing some foodie- enthusiasm from my brother or boyfriend, but I started cooking with them, and with my friends. And loving it.
Late- night cans of soup turned into crockpot strew creations. Pop Tarts were traded for steak dinners. Time once spent doing productive things, such as reading and watching Netflix, now found me hunkering down in the kitchen, prowling around the spice cabinet.
After this initially spark, I then was lucky enough to spend the summer in Italy, doing almost nothing except eating, eating, eating, absorbing culture through food. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I actually learned anything food- wise there, but I certainly tried some bizarre things (egg and pear pizza?).
Coming back to the States, the inspiration kept flowing. We signed up for a cooking class, where I ate my first shrimp (ewww) and learned techniques that I’m sure will come in handy at some point. Plans have been made for dinner parties and the like throughout the year. And this year my group of friends from around the fire decided we are going to have a Thanksgiving dessert gathering in the upcoming weeks.
Which brings me back to the fire!
As much as I loved sitting there and sharing food memories with friends, that conversation, which spurred so many thoughts about how I eat way too much, really made me realize something.
It’s not the food alone that I love (though, I mean, who could argue with a homemade pasta sauce, or one of my brother’s famous cheesecakes?). It’s everything that goes along with it.
It’s the friends you make food with. It’s the smells in the kitchen that drag people down the stairs to see what you’re making. It’s the innovation that arises- both good ideas and the terrible ones. It’s the ability to show off your creations or tell stories about the disasters. It’s the culture you absorb through the food and are able to mix into your own. More than anything, it’s the memories of everyone eating together, and it’s the knowledge that you still have a lifetime to laugh over the dinner table.

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Oftentimes art is portrayed as an entity of itself, isolated from the reality of human life and society, an exploration and reflection of the intimate self. However, in Alison Klayman’s documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry , the bond between artist and society is vividly manifested. When asked how he thinks of himself as an artist, I was expecting a deep or humble statement of the simplicity of his art as would suit the common Chinese etiquette when faced with such an inquiry. To my surprise, Ai answered, “I am a chess player…I make a move when they do…Now I am waiting for my opponent to make the next move.” This statement changed my perspective of the film as a whole and became the underlying driving force of his art and actions throughout the movie. Ai’s work relies greatly on the reality of the present realities of the Chinese government; his inspiration and motivation stems directly from the political and social environment he lives in.

The film documents certain aspects of present Chinese society fairly successfully, as proven by the groans of longing emitted by the audience when images of street food came on screen. It lends the foreign viewer a taste of the modern Chinese social environment. However, the documentary fails to emphasize the fact that many of Ai Weiwei’s followers, and thus his influence, are outside of China, because his main way of publicizing himself and his ideas are through Twitter, which is banned in mainland China. Though his influence in China may be a bit exaggerated, the film is extremely successful in presenting the portrait of Ai Weiwei as a bold and outspoken critic of contemporary China. Having lived in China for half of my life, I have experienced personally the failings and corruption of the government, and the position and attitude that Ai establishes within the same environment I grew up in gives me not only great inspiration, but a new kind of optimism- not blind and disengaged hope, but acknowledgement of the reality of oppression and having the willpower and courage to make one’s voice heard despite of it. 5/5 Stars.

-Vanessa Cao

Things To Do

Whoever came up with the idea of the “Things to Do Before We Graduate” list needs to be given a hug.

Really, the idea is complete genius. I didn’t really ever look over the list until recently, but now I am totally sure.

My boyfriend is graduating this year, so he got his list a few months ago, crossed off a few things, then threw it in a corner where it remained unnoticed for a few weeks. One day, he pulled it back out and said something along the lines of, “Well, maybe it would be fun if I actually did all these.”

What I originally thought would be a day or two of walking dutifully around Grounds to complete a variety of banal activities has actually evolved into an epic quest against time, to complete everything before the inevitable happens.

Though some of the activities really are very simple, many are actually time- and energy-intensive, involving driving to some obscure part of town or setting aside entire days for an activity. This point may be obvious to many, but by going through and checking things off of the list, we are really getting to experience all Charlottesville — and the University — has to offer.

There are tons of things on the list that I would have never thought to do or had never heard of, but am suddenly dying to see people complete. I can thank the list for introducing me to Spudnuts and their exquisite blueberry doughnuts, which make my stomach growl just thinking about them. Perhaps in a few months I can blame the list for weight gain, as I have come to waddling back and forth to the store way too often.

Especially in the fall, though, the list has truly made us experience and appreciate the beauty of the area. Perhaps some of these things I would have done anyway, but maybe not. And so, again, I have the list to thank.

A few days ago, we drove Skyline Drive at the list’s behest. I probably had been there before, with my parents trying to see Virginia as I sat in the back, watching Shrek on the pop-down player. This time, though, it was a truly remarkable experience. The first vista made my boyfriend and I gasp with astonishment, but at each successive view, we just looked on in silence. It was really, truly gorgeous, all the patchwork trees wrinkled up endlessly in front of us. Now it seems like a no-brainer to drive it, but before, I couldn’t have said that.

We also spent a day at Monticello, a place, again, that I have visited, but only because I felt a dutiful obligation as a Virginia resident. This time, the weather was perfect, the leaves were all various shades of red, and it was a perfectly lovely day poking around good ol’ TJ’s house, admiring and wondering over his obvious genius. We had fun imagining Jefferson as a nerdy grandfather, inventing strategies based on the planet’s movements to beat his grandchildren in marbles, before calling for wine to be sent up on the fantastic dumbwaiter hidden in his fireplace.

The beauty of the list is only growing more and more apparent with each activity checked off. We are exploring the greater Charlottesville area, soaking in as much of the gorgeous fall as we can, and learning things about the school that we never knew. I can’t wait to keep helping him check more things off the list — next up, Open Observatory Night, on what I’m sure will be a fabulously crisp and clear fall night.

Too Early for Christmas Cheer?

There’s something about this time of year that makes me want to start belting out Christmas carols.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love putting up tacky blow- up ghosts and trying to figure out that never- ending spider web stuff as much as anyone. I can’t wait for candy corn and plastic vampire teeth to find themselves in discount bins in the front of stores. But there’s just something about the leaves falling to the ground that screams how near winter is.
I blame this on the commercial society. Halloween is celebrated by stores starting in August, and near the end of October, things immediately switch to Christmas. I can’t be expected to just ignore an upcoming holiday when there are so many things screaming out trying to get me to start celebrating! Poor Thanksgiving goes unnoticed continually… one can imagine some lonely box of stuffed turkeys or autumnal ceramics shoved in a corner, crying softly to themselves as they are forgotten for another year.
But Christmastime! It isn’t the holiday itself that holds me; it’s the time of year. It’s the inordinate excitement over an early snow of half an inch, leading people to stock up on canned soup and bottled water and talk about how “This one’s gonna be a doozy.” It’s the horrible sweaters with jingle bells hanging off. It’s the excuse to microwave my socks to make them extra toasty. It’s the best excuse for making (and eating) way too many cookies.
My over-excitement about the season has pushed me into trying to behave as if it’s already time for Christmas cheer. I find myself sweating bullets on the way to class because it is 70 degrees and I’m wearing the equivalent of a suit of armor. You know, in case it decides to blizzard in mid- October. I’m using the coming winter as an excuse to eat more, likening myself to a bear fattening itself up to sleep for months. Gotta be prepared, right?
It won’t be long now until I show up, huffing and puffing in a parka, pulling along a tree I cut down from the back yard because Christmas trees are never sold early enough for my liking.
So far, I’m attempting to stave off this mania by cramming my brain full of so many fall- related things that there isn’t room for anything else. I eat pumpkin pie at least once a week, generally with a side serving of cocoa or cider. It takes me hours to walk anywhere now, because I have to stop so many times along the way and take blurry close- up cell phone pictures of leaves. I spent one crazed weekend making apple pie after apple pie with fruit I picked at Carter’s Mountain. But one thing can’t be subdued: the carols.
I really, really can’t help this one. Again, it’s not even the holiday that the carols are associated with. It is just a simple fact that songs shouldn’t be so catchy and wonderfully snuggly- sounding if you’re only expected to sing them for one month of the year. So, really, my terrible howling of them is really just a form of social protest (aha, I have changed myself from “that” person to an activist!).
And though a few of my friends put up with me, smiling horribly through pained expressions as I attempt to lead everyone in another round of “When We Went a- Wassailing,” many don’t. These are the people that turn away and make faces that say, “I have no idea who she is,” to sympathetic passerby.
Honestly, though, I see nothing wrong with being a little enthusiastic sometimes. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make a pan of fudge and maybe download “Greatest Hits of the Holidays.” For some reason, the house is strangely empty this morning… no one is around to join in on “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” with me!

A Taste of Wine- But Not For Me

This afternoon I had the exquisite experience of accompanying my parents and boyfriend to a wine tasting event in my area. When my mom suggested it to me, I surprised myself by not being overcome by any of my usual cynicism. Maybe it could be fun, I mused. Even though I am too young to drink anything, I could still hang out outside, catch up with the parents, meet some nice local residents and vendors… sounds great!
And, as always, comes the usual line in my columns: Oh, how very wrong I was.
The day was just cold enough to be uncomfortable. The clouds loomed and rain began to sprinkle down as we drove, and they all chortled to themselves, joking about how a little wine would keep them toasty. I just gritted my teeth and pretended to laugh along.
Immediately upon entering the fair, I was assaulted by the lady checking in. She clearly had already partaken in a few beverages herself, because she doubled over laughing at the sheer prospect of me just following my parents and boyfriend around. “You aren’t even gonna drink a little? Not a bit?” she giggled, making the cop behind her glare accusingly at me. She made a show of not letting me have a wristband and then sent me off, raising her glass at my tensed back.
Generally when I think of a wine tasting, I think of one or two tables with three or four kinds of wine on each. Unless I’m very much mistaken, this tasting was an exception. Nine wineries were represented, each showing around ten types of wine. My group eagerly dived in as I followed, feet dragging in the mud.
It came out within moments at the first booth that I was just there to hang out and eventually be the designated driver. Many bad jokes of all assembled ensued, to which my parents laughed louder and louder the further down the wine list they went.
They cheerfully meandered to the next booth, where we all sat through the same jokes again. I learned there to remove myself from under the tarp and stand in the rain, trying to look busy. What this resulted to was Googling hairstyles and hot drink recipes on my phone.
Each time I looked up, I saw my mom explaining my presence to the vineyard employees, who generally burst out laughing immediately. If not, they looked on me with a mix of distain and pity and soon turned away, shaking their heads as they reached to their glasses, no doubt thinking about how lucky they were. Other than those working the fair, it was remarkable how many highly intoxicated individuals showed up outside on such a rainy afternoon. One woman in particular caught my notice; she was easily the most interesting character in the whole event. Not only was she particularly inebriated, but she was also about 70.
As we followed the same path as her around the fair, we got to watch her scream at every wine merchant that “Grandma like to drink!” and “You can’t get nothin’ past Grandma while she still standin’!” Frankly, she put my crowd to shame. We watched in awe as she swilled whatever was put in front of her, only to slam her glass down, panting and shouting about how foul it was, only to ask for seconds. “Whatcha got that ain’t… [insert ancient Southern insults]?” she would demand. It was fine, entertaining even, to follow and watch her, until my dad decided, no doubt aided by the product he had sampled, that it was his job to harass this woman. They bantered back and forth for an embarrassingly long time, until it was so awkward that I begged him to move on.
Just when we thought we were free, my dad decided to try one last tasting on the way out. We entered a tent that only had one other taster present, thinking that at last we were in for a break. That is, until a question passed his lips: “Is this wine aged in American or foreign oak?”
This spent my boyfriend and parents into a tailspin, as they barely held on to their laughter long enough to sample the wines. They did quickly, in order, it seemed to me, that we could sooner get back into the car so that barrage of insults could begin to fly. And as I sat listening to them, I, for the first time that day, began to actually and for real laugh along.
With that, I decided that really, in the end, good stories make up for any amount of silly situations and people I could ever run into, even if it meant I had to stand in the chilling rain all day while watching my favorite people slowly becoming sillier and warmer, to get it.

Veggie Tales

Until two weeks ago, I had been a vegetarian for about six years. Beyond that, I had never eaten seafood — not even before I became a vegetarian.

If you had asked me last year, I would have told you that I didn’t have any plans of quitting vegetarianism, thank you very much. I was quite content where I was, and nothing was going to change.

But as I got older it became more and more apparent to me that I couldn’t continue that lifestyle. Though I still stood by all my views, it grew increasingly limiting when I travelled, both locally and abroad. I was glad to be sticking to my convictions, but I always looked down at my plate in sadness when the only thing I could eat at a small town restaurant was their house salad, while those around me were wolfing down huge piles of ribs or sampling sashimi or any other number of things. About a month ago, I decided to stop being a vegetarian.

My first bite of meat hit me by surprise. No gagging, projectile vomiting or fainting. I didn’t hear cows crying in the background, and the sky didn’t fall in around me. In fact, it was completely unremarkable. It was a decent enough burger, I ate a bit and that was it. Six years officially down the drain.

I then set out to rediscover all the foods that, truthfully, I hadn’t missed. My second meat item was a hot dog — a regrettable decision.

Indeed, I learned that my childhood dislike of hot dogs still remained, though I could recognize the artistry involved in making one that actually looked like food rather than whatever I was given in the elementary school cafeteria.

As my carnivorous adventures continue, I can’t deny some things I’ve eaten have been good. I can now firmly state eating a hamburger is one of the most genuinely wholesome things you can do. It was something I had unfortunately forgotten — there’s just something about burgers and fries that brings to mind friends, and the national anthem, and campfires. I’ve also been enjoying sampling local restaurants’ renowned takes on meat, from fried chicken to barbecue.

I’ve even been trying meat I never had before: chorizo, for one. I took one bite and actually was upset it hadn’t been in my life until this point. Welcome, friend. I hope you are here to stay.
Some other foods, however, like the hot dog, are taking a bit longer to get used to.

My dislike of seafood is unfounded but nevertheless persistent. I don’t know why, but I just can’t do it. It freaks me out. Last week, at a cooking class I was taking, I did something I never thought I would do: I ate a shrimp.

I imagine this means little to you. Or, you think I’m melodramatic and perhaps a little crazy. But I don’t understand the appeal of shrimp — how could you ever look at a live shrimp and think it was appetizing? — and was quite determined never to let one past my lips. But that day I did.

It was awful. Really, really bad. I couldn’t do it. Up until that point, I was generally happy with the variety and tastiness of the meats I had been sampling, but that crustacean sealed the deal: I remain a non-seafood-y person.

All in all, I’m not quite sure how I feel about eating meat again. I can’t entirely say what I think about the whole experience. It was underwhelming, for one. Looking ahead to it, I had imagined it as something life changing, something I would remember forever, because being a vegetarian was so closely linked with my personality. Not so at all it turns out.

It is certainly nice to be able to know I’ll have food wherever I go now, something I could never be sure of before. And it bodes well for the future. After all, if I visit some exotic location sometime soon, I’ll have more to remember it by than just a garden salad.

Too Many Apples, Too Few Ideas

On one of those nearly- fall days that are so beautiful that you have to resist the temptation to break into jolly show tunes, my family drove up and took my boyfriend and I to Carter Mountain to get those beginning- of- the- season fruits.
Though this journey is a Charlottesville tradition, I had only been once before, and was dying to go back. The cool air on your face, the slightly vinegar-y smell of those fallen apples, the ability to see for miles in every direction… not a time or place to be missed.
The last time that I went was near the end of apple picking season, and fruit was scarce. I still managed to partially fill a bag, but it was after many hours of work and sending people (who were probably too large to be doing this sort of thing) to the tops of trees to gather the lonely remainders.
So, this year, as we drove up that dusty, windy path to the Apple Barn, I warned everyone that it was possible that we wouldn’t find enough apples to sate us.
Good grief, but I was wrong.
The smell of apples hit us in the face the moment we stepped out of the car. We gathered our bags and meandered down a generally deserted row, but not more than three minutes had passed until we were so thickly surrounded by apples that I felt like we were under siege.
Apples hung at eye level, drooped to the ground, and crowded high branches like they were climbing over each other to touch the sun. It was like being in a buffet: we stuffed our bags until we realized that we could be choosy. We then started a “Find the Biggest Apple” contest, until we had so many that I couldn’t easily carry my spoils.
Feeling triumphant, we returned home that night, swooning at our accomplishment and happily munching down the sweet fruit. I felt rich with the amount we had. We were going to be so healthy, we said. And so full! We could eat for weeks on this!
The next night was particularly insomniatic, but when I woke up at four a.m., instead of bemoaning my fate, I sprung up, elated. I could start cooking some apples now!
I fancied myself a regular housewife, imagined presenting a beautifully fluted pie to my roommates when they came back from school.
Actually, what my roommates probably noticed was the clattering and banging in the kitchen before the sun was up.
As always, these ideas never work out exactly as planned. Peeling and cutting and coring and chopping apples took up easily an hour, by which time I was unable to keep the stupid goofy smile on my face. I put some in the Crock Pot to make applesauce, then turned to the greatly reduced pile. Time for pie.
I opened the fridge to retrieve crusts, only to realize that not only did I only have one crust and limited ingredients, but the grocery wouldn’t open for another two or three hours.
No matter, I convinced myself. Open faced pie! That’s a thing, right?
Sadly, he pie came out of the oven blackened on top, everything boiled down and burnt because of its lack of protective covering. I tried to cut it up and it just all ran together, making a mushy mess of cinnamon juice and burnt apples. To hide my shame I had to eat most of it right there.
When the six hours were up for the applesauce, I re-kindled my excitement. The applesauce had been filling the house with such good smells all day. My fantasies started back up again: sitting around with my friends, laughing merrily in tacky sweaters as we scarfed down loads of sweet homemade applesauce…
I opened the lid, expecting the pot to be filled… and it wasn’t. Not even close. The ten apples that I put in it had reduced to less than two servings. It tasted and smelled amazing, but I had to quickly package it away, in order to save it to show people before I ate all of that, too.
After that, I called it quits on the apples. As a rule, I lose hope too easily, especially when food is on the line. The problem now is, I still have two bags of apples in my room, and no idea what to do with them. Also, my friends are talking about all of us going to Carter Mountain sometime soon… they hear the apples are great this year.

A Football Fantasy

Growing up, I considered myself a regular tomboy. Looking back, I suppose this was mostly attributable to the one miserable afternoon I spent watching NASCAR with my dad and the plethora of worn jerseys passed down from my cousin.

With this warped self-image came a lot of false confidence in areas that I cannot claim to have any real knowledge. My afternoon of NASCAR-watching made me feel like an expert on the sport, though in reality all I know is that they drive in circles. Or are they ovals?

I thought of myself as a fishing master, though I could never get over my squeamishness enough to bait the hook. After a few times of crying about hurting worms and fish alike, I gave up on the activity entirely.

But there was one athletic endeavor that, until recently, I felt I actually had some claim to: football.

It was a tradition for my father to drag my brother and me, wailing and protesting, into the living room to sit in dejected lumps as he shouted at the television. This was repeated throughout my childhood until Stockholm syndrome kicked in and I willingly planted myself on the couch each Sunday. It wasn’t long until I was shouting along with my father, getting riled up about plays I didn’t understand and bemoaning indistinguishable calls.

There should have been some incident sooner on in my life that would have made me realize I wasn’t really the expert that I thought I was. An ideal way to experience this revelation would have included a beneficent angel kindly informing me that I was making myself look like a fool with my ignorance of the sport.

Alas, no such angel came to visit, and I was left to confront my foolishness face-to-face this year, when my current friend group initiated me into a new aspect of the sport. You see, everyone around me is interested in an online battle that seems to override all other aspects of life. They call it “Fantasy Football.”

Until now, Fantasy Football was something that I had heard of in passing, but never really understood. It was an urban legend, something highly suspect in authenticity, like the Easter Bunny or making it to class at 9 a.m. on Fridays.

When I heard that “everyone was doing it,” I blithely assumed it was something that would be a side note, a brief hobby that wouldn’t really impact day-to-day functioning. I was so wrong.

The days leading up to crafting each person’s team was a time wrought with tension, incessant googling of statistics and non-stop blathering about numbers. The draft itself was a terrifying thing with a parade of yelling, pouting and celebratory dancing.

Now, observing these friends while they watch football games shows me how little I truly understand the sport. They approach games with more planning than the mission to Mars. Laptops open to a bazillion different webpages, streaming statistics and play-by-play accounts; televisions switch constantly between channels to keep tabs on players’ performances; online calculators are launched to calculate and re-calculate scores of their teams and their opponents. Just like the sport itself, these Fantasy competitions are completely out of my league.

Though I tried to follow along for the first couple days of Fantasy activity, before long, my ignorance became glaringly apparent. My boyfriend took pity on me and tried to explain, but what started as a simple explanation soon spiraled into the territory of the unknowable, leaving me disoriented. My blank looks told him all that he needed to know, so he pityingly patted me on the head and deemed me a lost cause.

In the end I have to accept it: I am not a football buff. I will never completely figure out this game or its Fantasy counterpart. In this way at least, I can conform to one U.Va. norm: that of a girl in pearls in the stands on Saturday afternoons, a role I truly enjoy — and also the closest I will ever come to fitting in, where football is concerned.

Series of Fortunate Events

It’s unfortunately easy to lose faith in humanity.

Everything’s going alright for a while until, suddenly, one event begins a downward spiral that usually ends with me hating everyone and everything. That was the situation in which I found myself last week.

After a series of generally negative events near my house, I had lost hope in where I was living, in my neighbors and in any belief that this year could get better.

I imagined a year wrought with turmoil and depression, never to emerge from this initial low
point. It was a slippery slope, and I was at the bottom of it, reveling in self-pity.

I headed out into town after one particularly bad night, expecting to encounter more difficulties and naysayers. I imagined that everyone I passed was out to get me, but I was barely two minutes away from my house when the universe began to reorient itself.

After grumbling about my inability to find a free parking spot — this, pathetically, was the last straw — I admitted defeat and went to a parking garage, only to be handed a free parking pass by a kind woman who had an extra. She then went on to compliment my car and wish me a good day.

With this little sliver of sunlight having entered my world, I continued on, feeling a bit better. I began to consider the possibility that it was not the whole world out to get me — perhaps just everyone in my neighborhood.

I went to City Hall next, where I was helped by the sweetest woman who was terribly patient with my easily confused self.

I then went back to my house, feeling generally better about the rest of the world.

Unfortunately, my familiar grumpiness toward my street returned as soon as I got back. I sat on the porch a bit, contemplating the unprompted niceness of the women I had encountered that day and wondering why it didn’t seem to transfer back to this area.

Not a moment later, a man walked by, saw me sitting there, waved at me and wished me a good day. After this, a girl in the house next to me looked out her window as she was hanging up some lights, waved and gave me a sweet smile.

Each of these was a little gesture — a simple, quick act of kindness. Each was something I would have easily overlooked, had I not momentarily lost my faith in people. But it should be noticed every time it happens.

None of those people had to be kind to me, but they all were. They didn’t do it for positive feedback or to be recognized. They did it simply to spread a little more happiness into the world.

And that, more than anything, restored my faith in humanity.

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