Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bloggers Can Be Friends Too

I have written a lot about my friends, how awesome they are, and how I don't know what I'd do without them. I've always believed that quality is much more important than quantity when it comes to friendship. There is no question in my mind that I would always choose a small group of close friends over a large group of people who I'm not as close with. My best friends are from across the country, and we met at different places and stages in our lives. Elementary school, middle school, high school, college, summer camp, summer program, internship. We have been roommates, suitemates, hallmates, and bunkmates. We have partied, laughed, cried, celebrated, consoled, traveled, danced, learned, and shopped together. I have countless wonderful memories with my friends, and I am so grateful to have them in my life.

Since I started blogging, tweeting, and networking across the Web 2.0 world, the concept of friendship has crossed my mind often. One common criticism of sites like Facebook and Myspace has been that they cause a disconnect between people, and prevent them from learning how to have real relationships with one another. This argument could definitely be made for teenagers, but as for us 20-somethings, I don't think it applies. Blogging has allowed me to connect to some wonderful people who I may never have met otherwise.

I don't consider myself "friends" with every person who reads my blog, but I love learning about people and finding out how much we have in common. I realize that forming an actual friendship takes more effort and requires one-on-one conversation, and I've been lucky enough to find that with a few special people. For example, without the digital world, I would never have known that a really awesome girl named Grace out in Colorado shares my love of reading, among other things, and we would have never started our online book club, Blogging Bookworms. And, I wouldn't have gotten to know cool people from across the country (Chicago, Nashville, California) and across the world (Canada, Indonesia).

So, take advantage of the great big digital world that you're lucky enough to be a part of. Make the extra effort to get to know some of your fellow bloggers. You never know, it just might blossom into a wonderful friendship!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Do, do, do ya have it, GUTS?!

Sorry, but I couldn't resist that 90's throwback. It worked out well because "guts" is another word for the topic of this post: Confidence. Some people have it, some people don't. Okay, that's not entirely accurate, as there are varying degrees, but it's one of those things that is most common in extremes. There are the people whose egos are so inflated that they would probably pop with just one prick of a pin. Then there are those who are the exact opposite, who just can't do anything right and never seem to live up to their own high standards and expectations.

Where does confidence come from? Who and what gives us more of it, and takes it away? There are many different answers to these questions. It's different for everyone, and for some people it just comes easier. But, what about those who have a harder time being their own cheerleader, who are always second guessing themselves? What if they want to be more confident, but just don't know how?

That last group is the one I relate to the most. I like myself, I do. I know I'm a talented writer, good friend, great listener, but confidence has never come easy to me. I like a compliment as much as anyone, but I help people, work hard, and give back because I want to, not for any sort of recognition, so I've never been one to toot my own horn, so to speak. I believe in myself and my abilities, though not as much as I should. But, the thing is, I'm not sure what I can do to change. I want to change because I think if I trusted myself more, and gave myself a little more credit, it would probably pay off.

I know there are a lot of other people who are worse off in the confidence department, and I feel for them. But, I wonder sometimes if the terrible economy wasn't the only reason it took me so long to get a job. Maybe I just totally sucked at selling myself. I'm so grateful to have a job now, and I think my confidence deficit has formed a dangerous combination with first job jitters and crappy economy-generated worry.

So, I want to hear from you. Do you consider yourself a confident person? What has contributed to your confidence? How do you keep believing in yourself? What do you suggest for those like me who are stuck in the middle?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Is Blood Really Thicker Than Water?

We are forever connected to our family through our blood, our shared history, our similar traits and features. If not for our parents, we wouldn't be here, if not for our grandparents, our parents would never have been born...the chain goes on and on. Some people have very close-knit families, and some do not. There are so many factors that affect our family relationships: age, distance, common interests, tradition, the precedent set by previous generations. Friends may come and go, relationships may change, but no matter what, our family will always be our family.

My family has always been very important to me. I'm fortunate enough to have close relationships with both of my parents, and though I never lived near my extended family, my grandparents and aunts and uncles did the best they could to make me feel loved. As the only girl on either side of the family, connecting with my five first cousins was often tough. That said, I am very grateful for my cousin Adam. As only children and rabbis kids, we have always had a lot in common and we remain close to this day.

As with all relationships, things change over time. We grow up and our lives take different paths, sometimes we become closer, sometimes farther apart. The family tree loses branches and grows new ones in different places, but the roots are still there.

So, why am I writing this post? Family relationships are complicated, and no two stories are completely alike. Recently, I have witnessed a dramatic change in the relationships between several members of my family. One has decided that he is going to do things for himself, regardless of how it affects others. This new philosophy has caused a rift between him and others, as he has become so consumed in it that he is no longer the same person he once was. He has always been a generous person, very giving, and so I commend his efforts to pay more attention to himself. However, he was also a funny, kind person who valued and cared about his family, and that part of him is gone.

I wasn't quite sure how to write about these things, and I'm not sure that this was the best I could have done. But, watching this change has been so difficult for me that I had to express it somehow. Unfortunately, I don't think there's anything I can do to make it better. Regardless, for me, blood is thicker than water. I love my family, and I always will. No matter how much life changes, no matter how much our paths diverge, no matter what conflicts may arise, they are my family, and that is a tie that can never be broken.

Friday, April 10, 2009

You Don't Always Have to Turn Your Frown Upside Down

You often hear well-meaning moms and preschool teachers trying to convince a crying toddler to "turn their frown upside down." There's also the argument that frowning requires more muscles than smiling, or that it will cause wrinkles to form deep in your skin and never, ever go away. But, I'm going to go against convention and say that you don't always have to turn your frown upside down.

Sometimes, it's okay to frown, it's okay to be sad. In fact, if you force yourself to be happy, you're just suppressing your true feelings, and they'll only come back bigger and stronger later on. It's okay to cry, even for guys. You're not showing a sign of weakness, you're showing a sign of strength. So, if something's got you down, go ahead and sit in a dark room by yourself and think about it for a little while, cry as much as you need to, it's okay. But then, keep going. Get back to your life and keep on living. Don't forget about the sad things, but don't let them take over the rest of your life. From the beautifully moving "End of October" by Pat McGee: You've got so many reasons to smile.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Are Faith and Religion Important to Gen Y?

Gen Y bloggers write on a wide variety of subjects, but one that I haven't really seen too much about is religion. I realize this is a touchy subject, and it can spark long, heated debates, but it's a topic that really interests me and means a lot to me personally. Many of us are recent college grads, still in school, back in school, or starting out in our first job. We are constantly on the go, so much to do, and not enough hours in the day. So, how do we make time for faith and religion in our lives? Is it still important to us, or is it something we've put on the back burner until we're a little older?

Here's my story:

I am, and always have been, very proud to be Jewish. My dad is a rabbi, so I pretty much grew up at the temple. Many of our congregants literally knew me since I was born. I loved the sense of community, and the welcome feeling I got whenever I went there. I had great friends at temple too. We had some pretty fun times together. I excelled at Hebrew, and later went on to tutor kids preparing for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah. At a pretty young age, I decided that I would not eat pork or shellfish, and that is something I plan to continue for the rest of my life. For seven years, I attended a Jewish overnight camp, and worked there for three more. Camp was where I really found my Jewish identity and truly connected to the prayers. I was involved in youth group, and traveled to Europe and Israel with my Jewish peers. Visiting places with so much Jewish history was incredibly moving. I can recite most of the prayer book (including English) by heart. I wear a ring with my Hebrew name.

Credit must be given to my parents. Despite the fact that I'm a rabbi's kid (and another rabbi's niece) Judaism was never forced on me. I went to temple because I wanted to. I made the decision to keep kosher. I decided to tutor Hebrew because I knew I could help. Throughout my life, I have made my own choices when it comes to faith and religion, and that is a large part of why I feel so positively about it. Instead of resenting the fact that I was often the most Jewish among my classmates or friends, I have always enjoyed teaching people about my holidays and traditions. From kindergarten through college, I have taught many a non-Jew to play dreidl and love latkes. I know that hatred often grows out of ignorance, so I take every opportunity to educate people.

A number of my friends had religion forced on them as kids and now have no interest in making it a part of their lives. Parents are supposed to pass the teachings of their faith onto their children, so their children can pass it on to their children, and so on. But, by not giving them any choice in how they learn and become involved in their faith, the result is children who are disenchanted and bitter. What many people don't realize is that there are many ways to live your faith. It's not just about going to temple or church, but about learning and teaching, tradition and culture, giving back to the community, exploring different communities, and so much more.

In writing this, I realized that this issue is so complex, and I haven't even scratched the surface. I guess what I'm trying to say is don't give up on your faith. Even if you have bad memories from when you were a kid, you're a grown up now, so take the opportunity for a fresh start. Give it another chance. If you think you don't have time for religion, you're wrong. You can make time. Remember that there is more to religion than the Bible. Culture, community, and traditions can be so meaningful. With everything that's going on in the world, we all need something to keep us grounded.

So, what do you think? Are faith and religion important to you? Are they important to Gen Y? (I welcome your comments, but please no negative or hateful words. They will be deleted)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Six Easy Ways to Show Your Friends Some Love

I don't know where I would be without my friends. As I've written before, I have friends from a variety of different stages and places in my life: camp, first hometown, second hometown, temple, summer programs, semester programs, etc. Some live farther away than others, some I've lost touch with and reconnected again, I talk to some more often than others, but all of them are very important to me.

A true friendship is one where both people care enough about each other to put in the effort, and it withstands the tests of time and distance. I try my best to show my friends how much they mean to me whenever I can. Small things like sending cards for birthdays and holidays can make a big difference. I just started subscribing to Glamour Magazine, and there was a great article in the April issue called, "Six Little Ways to Be a Better Friend." (You can read the full article on MSN.) Here is a list of the six things and my thoughts on them:

1) Put her on your to-do list
According to the article, friends are often one of the first things we neglect when life gets busy. I definitely agree. Over the past year of craziness in my life, I definitely haven't made enough time for my friends. But, remember: in this age of technology, a quick text message or e-mail to check in is a great solution until you can find the time to call or meet up. Also, try actually putting your friend's name on your to-do list. It's so crazy, it just might work!

2) Be there in bad times, too
This one really speaks to me. "When her life sucks, you may not know what to say, but you don't need all the right words. Just show up." As someone who has gone through some pretty sucky stuff recently, I can't tell you how important this is. There is a common misconception that when something's wrong you always have to say something about it, but the truth is that not saying anything might be even better. Go out to dinner, watch a funny movie, shop, talk about gossip...just be there. You don't have to say anything, just be there to support your friend, and if she wants to talk about whatever's going on, she will. But, a couple words of advice: when someone's going through a tough time, don't say you'll there for them if you won't follow through. And, just because they don't ask for help or support, doesn't mean they don't need it, in fact, in probably means they need it even more.

3) Don't over-advise
Be careful when sharing your opinion on something. There are times when friends just want you to listen, so don't be too quick to give your advice. If they ask you straight out what you think, then give your honest opinion, but keep their feelings in mind.

4) Accept her weaknesses
We're not perfect, and neither are our friends. Recognize that certain people are better at certain things, and deal with them accordingly. It's okay to have certain friends who you don't share everything with, especially if they're not so good with serious situations. Look for their strengths and the things you have in common that made you friends in the first place instead of dwelling on the negative.

5) Be cash-conscious
The economy sucks, and it's important to realize that some of your friends may be more greatly affected than you are. So, keep that in mind when you make plans. Maybe try having a girls night in instead of a girls night out, or go out earlier so you can take advantage of drink deals. When you're giving gifts, try and find something useful and relevant, but don't focus too much on the price tag.

6) Look out for her--even when she's not looking
Sites like Facebook and MySpace make this one particularly relevant today. One of the examples they give in the article is "tag only flattering pictures of her." Most of us probably don't think twice when we post our weekend pics, but maybe we should. Something may look funny to us, but if we were the one in the picture, would we want it posted for the world to see? And, stand up for your friends. If you hear something bashing them, don't just stand by and say nothing. Wouldn't you want them to do the same for you?

"The best kind of friend is the kind you can sit on the porch and swing with, never say a word, and walk away feeling like it was the best conversation you've ever had."

Friendships are relationships. They grow and change with time. If you stop putting in the effort, chances are your friend will too. It's so important to appreciate your friends. Blog about them, give them a Twitter shout out, send them a goofy e-card to make them smile. Thank them for being there for you, and tell them how important they are to you. If not now, when? You never know what tomorrow will bring. Just remember that the little things go a long way.

Friday, April 3, 2009

From Swirling Thoughts to Blogging Words

This is my third attempt at writing a post today. I really wanted to write, but my exhausted brain has too much swirling around in it to come up with anything insightful. I always try and make sure that my blog isn't too diary-like, because I don't think this is really the place for it. But, after some encouragement from my blogging buddy, Grace, I'm going to attempt to put the swirling thoughts into words.

If you've been reading, you know that I'm moving to Brooklyn. Sunday is the day when the boyfriend and I will move the rest of our stuff into our apartment and officially begin living together. I've mostly been focusing on how excited I am to finally live with him, and I'm definitely still feeling that way, but there are some other emotions that I've been feeling that have kind of gotten lost in the shuffle.

I'm sad. As crazy as things have been at home, and as much as there have been times when I've wanted nothing more than to have my own life, I've gotten used to spending lots of time with my parents. I'm one of those lucky people who is very close with both of my parents. I have very different relationships with each of them, and certain things I always do with one or the other, and I'm really going to miss seeing them all the time. Fortunately, I won't be too far away.

I'm also happy to be moving somewhere that is actually close to some of my friends. The past year or so of living at home has been pretty lonely, since my best friend is at grad school in Binghamton, and I don't really have anyone else. Living near NYC means actually getting to see friends, and finally having a post-college social life.

Mostly, these days, the overwhelming emotion has been stress. Moving is a lot of work, especially when the place you're moving to isn't exactly next door. Granted, it's only about an hour from either of our houses, but working full-time means dedicating weekends to the moving process (as a result, I have almost forgotten what a relaxing/fun weekend is like). Then there's the endless task of buying things. No matter how much stuff you think you have from college or previous dwellings, you're still going to spend a lot of money. I wish they had a frequent shopper card at Target, because I have been there more times than I can count in the past month.

This week's major source of stress has been the packing of clothes, accessories, and toiletries. I won't lie, I love clothes (and shoes), and I have a lot of them. Figuring out what to bring, and what will fit, is driving me nuts. Although, again, I'm not moving that far away, I don't know when the next time will be that a car transports things to my apartment, so I keep worrying that I'm going to forget something. I probably have about five different lists going, and I lie in bed at night thinking about them. Are you feeling the brain swirling yet?

As with any new beginning or major life change, I am obviously filled with mixed emotions. Fellow blogger, littlelolita, commented on one of my posts commending me for being such a strong person. I was very grateful to receive such a compliment, but as this post shows, I am not always so strong, and that's perfectly okay. All too often, people apologize (on their blogs or in person) when they feel like they haven't lived up to people's expectations or appeared too vulnerable. Remember that we all make mistakes, freak out, get emotional, overreact, misinterpret, and choose the wrong path...and that's what makes us human.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Do Success and Happiness Go Hand In Hand?

Success and happiness are two concepts that are very hard to define. They are totally subjective, and can mean very different things to different people. As a starting point, here are some dictionary definitions (courtesy of

success: (n.)

  1. The achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted: attributed their success in business to hard work.
  2. a) The gaining of fame or prosperity: an artist spoiled by success. b) The extent of such gain.
happiness (n.)
  1. The quality or state of being happy.
  2. Good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy.
Okay, thanks dictionary, but now I want to know what these things mean to real people. Among others, the question that's been on my mind is the title of this post: Do success and happiness go hand in hand?

A simple example for myself: this blog. I consider this blog a success. I am achieving the goals I set for myself when I started writing here. Just yesterday, my counter reached 1000 views, and my posts have been recognized by some awesome fellow bloggers in the form of contest wins and guest posts. The other day, after reading my post about "The Quiet Girl in the Corner," one of my co-workers told me that my writing really makes people think. That's one of the greatest compliments she could have given me because that's exactly why I write. When someone comments on one of my posts and tells me how much they enjoyed reading it, that they've had a similar experience, or that they'd never considered some of the points I brought up and my post really touched them, I am happy. In this case, success leads to happiness for me.

There a lot of times when succeeding at something makes me happy, but that doesn't mean that I need to be successful in order to be happy. The people in my life make me happy, picturing the beach brings happy, peaceful thoughts to my head, and I am happy and proud of the person I have become. Sometimes, other people's success leads to my happiness, like a victory for one of my sports teams or hearing good news about a friend or family member. I have also experienced plenty of unhappy things that had nothing to do with my success or lack there of, and I know that there are many people who appear successful to the outside world, but are actually unhappy.

So, how do you define success and happiness? Do they go hand in hand? How can people be successful and unhappy, or unsuccessful and happy for that matter? Are we, as a society, too consumed with success? I'd love to hear your opinions.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Being Grown Up Isn't Half As Fun As Growing Up

Props to the Ataris for this insightful song lyric, which is definitely spot on. I'll take it a little further and say that I think growing up is overrated, and I have a lot of questions about the concept. Do we ever really completely grow up? If so, how do we know when it happens? Is there a set age or a stage in life where we become a grownup and there's no turning back? Is it within our power to refuse to grow up?

I am 23 years old. I've graduated from college, and I have a full-time job. I get a paycheck, and my own health benefits. I'm about to move in with my boyfriend of almost 4 years. I join the hoards of commuters each day as I make my way to and from work. A frat party no longer has any appeal for me. So, am I grown up or am I still growing up? I choose the latter. I'm only 23, this is only my first job, I'm just starting out on my own, and I still have a lot to learn and experience.

I don't think we have to grow up completely if we don't want to, and it might be better for us to keep our inner child alive. I just listed a number of reasons why I could be considered a grown up, but there are plenty more that prove the contrary. I'm not ashamed to say that I still sleep with stuffed animals. Sometimes when I need to de-stress, I color. I'm very easily amused and I love toys (my desk currently holds a swirly M&M dispenser, a mini blow-up Bozo punching bag, and a Minnie Mouse whose skirt spins and lights up). I still depend on my mom and dad for support (of many kinds), I love when they take care of me when I'm sick, and find fulfillment in making them proud. I like to be goofy and use my imagination. Playing on playgrounds still makes me smile.

So grown up or not grown up, that is the question. And for me, the answer is neither. I think the best thing to do is find a balance. Be a grown up when and where you need to be, but let yourself have fun, let loose, and release your inner child. Growing up is an ongoing process of learning and experiencing new things. It can be challenging, but it can also be a lot of fun.