Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I am NOT the Little Mermaid...I wouldn't trade my voice for anything

"I'm not afraid, I'm not afraid
To take a stand, to take a stand
Everybody, everybody
Come take my hand, come take my hand
We'll walk this world together through the storm
Whatever weather, cold or warm
Just lettin' you know that you're not alone."

Standing in a league of veterans I was a minority newbie at the Occupy Wall Street protest, last evening. I made sure I was one of the first into Zuccotti Park, after going through months of keeping myself removed, watching from afar. I sat restlessly on the end of my chair for most of the day at work, waiting for the second I could go down the elevator and walk over to the park. Up until yesterday, I sidelined myself.

Often times, during my sports career, I was told that by watching our teammates, and our leaders, that we can pick up a lot, that we can learn, and that we can become competitive when we, or our coach, chooses our time to make moves and have an important impact in the game. Like sports, this tactic seemed to work for me in regards to the current movement of the 99%. Hassled on numerous occasions for what people perceived as me being "apathetic" toward the cause, I remained calm and diligent about my research, my reading, and my questioning and concerns. I didn't want to march or protest until I knew exactly why I was marching or protesting. I wanted to be educated, and I wanted to feel prepared when I finally stood up for my beliefs and for the betterment of others.

Early on, the media was not down at Zuccotti. The camps seemed like they could soon die down. People on the outside of the movement weren't yet taking it seriously, making jokes on Twitter, Facebook, and in blogs. And then something happened. The movement got bigger...and bigger...and bigger. And then it started taking over not just parks and bridges, but cities, states, and countries all around the world. People from California started linking metaphorical arms with people in NYC. People in Italy marched in Rome, a bit more violently, but nonetheless--they marched. And then at once, the media began to obsess over the realities of the demands, the realities of the struggling class, the realities of police brutality on sites, and the reality of the movement. Suddenly--more people took notice, and more people understood--and more people cared.

Following the arrest on the Brooklyn Bridge, early on in the protest, I remained vigilantly on the outside of it all, still, convinced that there were details missing, that something was being displayed improperly, that the arrest of all the protesters somehow was blown out of proportion. But then I kept reading, kept learning, kept pushing forward on my own movement to educate myself. And I slowly began to understand the wants and the needs--the way the bail out truly worked out and how we were all sold out on the side. I began to understand that students were never going to see the end of loans, that our children would never have the money to afford an education--and that we may not have the money to raise them in a healthy home. I can barely feed myself nutritiously--and affordable, how could any of us begin to afford the life of another human being. We were being sold out on the cheating ways of those above us--we were being sold out by the 1 percent.

BUT again, even with more understanding, I remained on the sidelines. However, like a field hockey player, I'd turn to my teammates or co-workers and nudge to ask what could be done...what they felt would make the game more playable, how the players could truly shine. I was starting to care a bit more, but was still unsure I was ready to hit the park.

That is until Tuesday morning when I woke up and my Twitter feed had exploded with updates about a violent and illegal raid of the park at 1:15am. That is until I read that the entire encampment had nearly been destroyed, that people's tents were ripped to shreds, and that the community library had been tossed in the garbage. That is until I read that nearly 200 people had been arrested....That is until I read that there was a media blackout.

As a woman who studied to become a media elitist one day, a documentarian, a seeker of the truth, I was outraged by the fact that journalists were not permitted to cover the event on site, that press persons were not allowed to show the whole world what was happening in the late hours of the night when protesters were peacefully sleeping. I was outraged that people lost everything they owned--and that no news stations could show the terror. I was outraged that press persons including a camera person that I have worked with was arrested for doing what they are trained to do: give people the news. I was outraged that the voice of the people was taken away by people who had traded theirs for money and guns ( protect?). I was outraged that people's things were stolen--and destroyed--and that 2 am became a legalized hunting period for the occupier encampment-in military fashion-a fashion that had been practiced behind closed doors earlier the same day. I was outraged enough--that i became passionate--passionate for the movement, and passionate for my voice. Because no matter how hard anyone tries, you can not steal someone's voice--you cannot steal someone's First Amendment.

And while the enforcing officers and city officials declared that it was for the safety of the journalists, I became even more outraged...and passionate toward this cause.

We send our journalists to wars--they ride in tanks--they take slaps and punches in the face--and they are held in foreign prisons and tortured--but suddenly we are worried about their well-being at a public park that is being raided at 2am?

I became so passionate that at 5:00pm, following a long day at the office, I made my way to Zuccotti Park, and I chanted with the protesters: "Let us in," and I listened to stories, and I thanked media people for putting their efforts in to be there--to show people what was happening. I watched as the medical team tried to restructure their center area--after losing all the cold medicine that they had been using to help those who had become sick. I observed as police officers stood illegally on walls that they told protesters, "No one could stand on due to safety issues." I spoke with people who had been there before and they asked questions and then made statements and then helped people understand the movement better. And I watched as this community developed much like our early settlers did--through strife and movement. Slowly--but surely. Apart--but together.

And I spoke up during stacks and told the park full of people, how they had inspired people each and every day, and how I was happy that they had inspired me--how change would come--how it was working. And then I looked around at the sea of veterans...and suddenly knew that veteran vs newbie didn't matter. We all were fighting for the same thing--our voices to be heard--the voices of the majority of the world to matter. The voice.

And I wouldn't trade my voice for anything.

Note: If you haven't joined the movement yet, I suggest asking as many questions as possible, researching, reading, finding out what you can be passionate about, finding out what matters to you and then throwing yourself in there.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end...

Standing on the sidelines of a field hockey match up between my summer field hockey coach's college team, and my high school team-mate's team, I watched and realized how bitter-sweet any end to this match would actually be. For one of my friends, the season would be over with a loss; but, in addition, for one of my friends, her career would be over with a loss. Neither one was ready to lose. The game took double over time to cater a winner...and that winner was the one who would be fortunate enough to have her team next year--to have her sport--My summer field hockey coach.

My friend, and my high school teammate, who played her heart out, along with the rest of her teammates, knew exactly what this loss meant: it meant the end to something that started as just a fun after-school activity, something that grew into the daily routine of life--something that became part of her...something that truly owned a huge chunk of her heart.

I watched as girls walked off the field, with pride in their hearts but tears in their eyes. I watched as parents hugged their girls who were baffled at how field hockey could be such a huge part of their life one moment--and gone in an instant the next. And I watched as hearts broke over something that had become closer to them than anything else over the last 10 years of their lives. And I was suddenly reminded of all those feelings--all over again.

And I was reminded, again today, when I read that the University of Maryland may be cutting their swimming teams after this season. After the field hockey team was eliminated at URI, my mother and I wrote a joint article for Inside Higher Ed. entitled: Foul Play which uncovered the emotion behind losing your sport-ending your sport-giving your life to sport.

As athletes, we spend our entire careers devoting time, energy, and body parts to a sport that welcomes us with open arms--to a life that promises us pay-off with the pay-in. We work hard so that we can attend Division 1 colleges--though no one tells us how difficult it will be once we get there. We give up going out on Friday nights for a curfew that is bestowed upon us so that we perform better the next morning. We form bonds with teammates and coaches. We lose ourselves and find ourselves. We discover our strengths--and our weaknesses. We learn what it means to lose--and what it means to win. We gain pride--and passion. And we fall in love--with sport. So when we lose that--it only makes sense that our hearts break--that the pieces are left on every field or in every pool or on every course that we ever played on, swam in, or ran on. That we feel like an out of tune piano--or an unsharpened knife in the drawer. When our team is taken away from us--or when our careers end due to it being time for it to end--it is unexplainable the emotions that go through us. There will always be some void...but we have to remember that there will always be the memories to fill that void:

As my mother wrote in that article: "To use words like death and grief--is not to exaggerate."

When I lost field hockey at a sophomore in college, I compared it to losing a friend--to losing a relative--to losing someone that I loved. It still feels that way. But like losing friends--and losing family members and losing people we love...we learn to find ways to look back on these things--these events in our lives, these huge parts of our lives and smile at what we were lucky enough to have. And suddenly the void of that person or thing is filled with smiles of memories...moments in our lives that we know we can't ever return to, but that we were fortunate enough to have.

Disclaimer: In regards to the cuts at UMD--I do not support UMD's decision and intend to write a letter to the university. I understand that universities are undergoing hard times right now--just as are all businesses, but cutting academics and sports are entirely too heartbreaking for students and athletes that we tell to dream big their whole lives.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

In plane flights, in paychecks, in good times, in do you measure a year?

Five hundred twenty-five thousand

Six hundred minutes…

How do you measure, measure a year?

In plane flights, in paychecks, in good times

In cappuccino?

In choices, in smiles, in laughter, in love…

Five hundred twenty-five thousand

Six hundred minutes

Five hundred twenty five thousand

Journeys to have…

It's hard to say how quickly a year goes by. 12 months. 52 weeks. 365 days. Fast. Slow. On repeat.

365 days to make an impact. 365 days to experience change. 365 days to make a difference. 365 days to live from one memorable moment to the next. I often find that I can't measure my moments by my years in my age, because I find the truest and most wonderful moments to be those I don't expect, and don't plan. I find the spectacle of life in being most truly beautiful in the spontaneity of living it without knowing--without seeing what's next--without having an eight ball to say it will all be okay.

I may appear differently to people, always planning, always scheming my future, but it is in the decisions I make on whim that have made most of my life it's own spectacle. It has been in the decisions that I have made to take chances and risks that have made me incredibly grateful for the years behind me, and the years that I can see ahead.

It has been 12 months/52 weeks/365 days since I packed my bags, boarded a plane, woke up in a different time zone, and stumbled across cobblestone with a backdrop of the Tuscan landscape. It has been one year since I moved to Italy...since I took a leap, made a jump, and landed on my own two feet with no regrets.

It has been a year of meeting people, a year of leaving negativity behind, a year of saying goodbye, a year of fresh starts, humble endings, and letting go; it has been a year of traveling, a year of exploring far off destinations, a year of believing in myself and every choice; it has been a year of beginnings, a year of risk taking, a year of fine-tuning; it has been a year of pushing others, a year of reaching out; a year of living. it has been a year of forging ahead, a year of discovering what I truly want--a year of finding who I truly am.

It has been a year of seeing that even if our initial plans don't follow through, there's always something else standing by, ready to take us in it's arms, accept us, and warm us back up to our positive glow.

On November 5, 2010, I believed that on November 5, 2011 I would still be standing on the cobblestone, sipping on cappuccino, and living with a beautiful Italian man in a castle (okay maybe a bit of an exaggeration)...but I did believe I would still be in Italy making a life of my own there. But I was wrong. I am not in Italy...I am not in Europe. I am back in New York City, where I first moved to on a whim, nearly two years ago. I have been home for three times as long as I spent in Italy. For those of you that don't want to do the math--that means I have been home for 9 months. And what I have found is that while Italy made me happy, New York has made me feel home. I should have known this in the arguments over the greatest city in the world, while I lived in Rome. I should have known this after I heard Alicia Keys second version of Empire State of Mind--and cried. I should have known this from the start. But it is in the decisions we make--and the experiences that we have--that we can have those moments of clarity--those moments of beauty when our minds and our hearts meet in the middle and finally match--and those moments of certainty of what we want and where we want to be.

I know what I want--and where I want to be. I know who I am--and what I want to do. Most of all I know that this last year isn't the last good year...No. It's just the start.

But this year I am not going to measure...I am just going to live (of course--one cappuccino at a time).