Sunday, October 19, 2014

On High School, Kind Of (Or, Ten Years Later...)

Last night was my 10 year high school reunion.

I didn't go.

That I did not go was no statement on my part. In all honesty, 10 years just didn't feel like enough time or distance to make me want to pay to hang out with people I didn't know very well then and don't know very well now. Small talk makes me anxious, I had no revenge fantasy or need to prove how awesome I turned out to anybody, and I still see and/or keep in touch with a lot of the people I was close to in high school (for free). Most of them weren't going to be there anyway.

So yeah, I didn't go. I hope everyone who did had a great time. Maybe I'll catch you at the next one.

Thanks to the magic of Facebook, however, I did get to read a lot of people's thoughts about our 10 year reunion, about why they were or were not going, and what high school did (or, I guess, did not) mean to them. It got me thinking about my own experience, about who I was then and who I am now.

I had a pretty good time in high school. They weren't the best years of my life, but they certainly were not the worst. I met great people who became friends, both casual and close. I met awful people who I did not care to keep on knowing. I like to think they're doing better now, if I think of them at all.

None of this is terribly unique to the high school experience. It's life, you know?

My time in high school would've made for a boring after school special - I was pretty well-liked, neither traditionally popular nor unpopular, I don't think. I didn't get bullied or picked on, and if I was getting made fun of, it wasn't happening to my face. I was just there, being me, and spending my time with the people who were on board with that. Most of them did theatre with me.

As I've mentioned before, I was born and raised Catholic. I went to a Catholic high school, and I was pretty involved in religion at the time. I'm not anymore - on a human level, the politics and a lot of church doctrine did a fantastic job of alienating me, but on a personal and spiritual level, I don't connect with Catholicism. Letting go of that was hard - it was a big part of my life for a very long time - but I'm much more at peace now. To clarify, as I have before: I'm not saying what I believe is right or wrong, nor do I have any disrespect for religion or religious people, but I expect the same respect in return. And it should be on record that I was respected, in every possible way, by the Campus Ministry staff at my high school. I could not have asked for more inclusive, loving, and welcoming people to work with and learn from.

In addition to the friends I made, I think the best part of high school (for me) was probably my teachers. Across the board, with very few exceptions that aren't worth mentioning, I had fantastic teachers. They not only educated me, they supported me and encouraged me to think for myself. My English and History teachers, in particular, helped foster my interest in the world around me - in the stories of others and my own ability to create and record them. My director/acting teacher found things in me that I didn't even know existed - she changed my life. To be so seen by my teachers was the greatest gift. If I've given even a small part of that back to the students I've had, then I'm doing okay.

There were rough times full of challenging, painful stuff too. Those aren't the first things I think of, though, and I don't even feel like mentioning them right now, except to say that the people in my life stepped up so much to help me get through it all.

High school is...high school, you know? It's a structured place to be during one of the weirdest, messiest times of your life. It brings with it good stuff and bad stuff - hopefully the bad outweighs the good, but it doesn't always. Either way, it happens, and then you keep going. You take that momentum and you keep changing and growing.

I've been working on myself a lot recently, as several of my posts here can attest, and I've been thinking about high school me a lot. I think I can be kinder to her now than I was before, and I think I can appreciate more of what she had going for her. I was talking to a friend recently about how much we end up becoming the stories we tell ourselves. I wonder what this story will look like another 10 years down the line?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

On Pop Tarts (Or, I Assembled These and They Weren't Poison)

So, full disclosure: I love Pop Tarts.

Not all of them - the fruit ones never really did it for me. Did this preclude me from eating them? No. When you're bouncing from vending machine to vending machine, you're forced to accept very quickly that you'll have to settle for strawberry. Such is life.

But when I had a choice? Three words: Brown. Sugar. Cinnamon. S'mores were a fair back-up, but it was all about the BSC (nobody called them that)(that's what we called the Baby-Sitters Club)(parentheticals).

I didn't even toast them, you guys. Didn't need it. I'd just tear open that silver plastic and live the dream. Hot or cold, that brown sugary goo in the middle with its hint of cinammony goodness evoked a feeling of warmth. Maybe that's why it felt so appropriate to have them in autumn. Or winter. Or all the time.

Now, when I made the transition to a predominately vegan lifestyle, these rectangles of frosted glory quietly exited my life. Over four years later, I'd largely forgotten about them, until - without warning - they came up on an episode of my beloved JV Club podcast.

Would that I could describe the sense memory that came rushing back. The craving took hold, so hard that it made my blood hurt.

Could I have satisfied it the easy way and shelled out $3 for a box of my old guilty pleasure (it's possible I don't know what things actually cost)? Yes. But I chose a different path, my friends. Surely there was a way to craft a satisfying vegan substitute that would retain all the deliciousness while ditching the ingredients that I couldn't pronounce and thus could not really recognize as being food?

After much research and hours of baking and baseball (Go Giants!), I can now say, with confidence: yes. Yes, there is a way, and I have found it. Behold, my recipe for vegan brown sugar cinnamon "pop tarts" - just as good as, and dare I say better than, the real thing.

Friday, October 3, 2014

On the Run (Or, All of the Pasta...)

I've been running.

Literally. I run now. It's a key component of a couple items on my list - "Finish a race," and, "Finish a half-marathon." Wait, you don't know about The List? Don't worry, it's only one post back. Check it out. I'll wait.


Anyway, I know what you're thinking: running is a weird thing to be afraid of. It's not that simple. The thing is, I'm not a great runner. Never have been. I have just enough form to not hurt myself, but not quite enough to look functional. I was always the last one picked for relay teams in grade school. "We like you," the other kids assured me, "But you're slow." I almost - almost - would've preferred that they just not like me.

So the running got onto The List not so much because I was too afraid to try it, but because I had told myself I couldn't do it. Sometimes moving past your fears means reminding yourself that you are, in fact, capable - even if you'll never be anywhere near the best.

Which is all well and good, except that I do not like running. The joy that I find in cycling, that I've started to find in hiking and (indoor) rock climbing, isn't there. I get bored. Sometimes I get angry. Turns out, when I'm around other people, I get competitive. Kind of viciously. Only in my mind, of course, but I discovered during my first 10K that Mind Me can get mean. Please forgive me - it's the Call of the Wild, guys. We do what we must to survive.

I'm trying to learn to love it. Well, I say, "love"...I probably mean, "like." Well, I say, "like"...I probably mean, "mostly not hate." Because 13.1 is a lot of miles, and I've got a little over a month of training left.

Let's transition into the kitchen-y bit. A side effect of training for the race I've committed to running in the nearish future that it's way too late to back out of now what was I even thinking has been a change in metabolism. Or something. Look, I'm not a doctor, I just know that now I'm hungry basically all the time. Which is fine - I've hit a point where I'm more active now than I've been since I played sports. I'm trying to respond by staying nutritionally balanced and surrounding myself with a myriad of healthy but exciting snacks so that I don't end up hangry and confused and eating pizza all day, everyday for a week. Note: That actually kind of happened once, though, and you know what? The world didn't end. 

Sometimes, though, all your life force wants is something quick and cheap and filling. "Pasta," the wind whispers to you, "Make pasta."