You won't be able to appreciate it, but I got dressed today, combed hair tucked-in shirt and all. But before you dismiss this as a three-year-old's success at putting my pants on frontwards, fashioning an appropriate amount of cock-eyed ponytails, and matching my left foot to my left shoe, remember that I'm in college, where the code of dress is: optional. I was taught that a messy room is a messy mind, and if we extend the analogy to clothing, then these past few weeks I've been a bit in a rut.
Me: I got two more assignments today from the magazine. I'll be meeting with an author and writing book reviews on dressing for the office and one on "making partner" as a woman.
Dad: That's great El, good for you!
Me: Well.... I dunno. my roommates their studying to become nurses. Their taking on 12-hour shifts working in the ER and at clinics. They're saving lives, ya know? And I'm just sitting in my pjs writing book reviews no one will ever see or care about. I feel like...like...I wanna save the world.
In moments like this, the listener faces a forked road of honesty and flattery. My dad pulled out his ancient lawnmower and paved a new path- Herschel's wisom. It cut into my cognition, muting my misgivings. He took a breath.
Dad: They won't be saving the world every day. Most likely they will be stripping sheets and changing bedpans. You can't be a hero every day. Some days you write things that will change life as we know it, and other days, you write the book review.
This morning I was stretching after a run in the mirrored studio at the gym. Music was shouting choppily from someones Iphone on speaker, as sorority sisters were girding their kettle-balls, pumping rhythmically in tush defying lunges and squats. Sitting down for a break on their mats, they inspected themselves in the mirror. With spring break next week the women sat bemoaning the hours left they had to get in shape for beach ware. One snarled while pinching a generous roll on her midsection, the other prayed for just 2 more pounds to melt off. Locked in warrior pose, I felt shocked and frustrated at what I was hearing. Why were these women so intent on fitting a cookie cutter image (or bikini!), instead of looking in the mirror and seeing how gorgeous they are? I am all about being healthy, energized, and confident, but is losing those two pounds really going to achieve that?
I left the room dwelling on their words, deeply worried. Then, while organizing myself in the women's locker room, I heard the door swing open and an electronic Justin Bieber singing "Baby." I closed my eyes, thanking G-d for the opportunity.
"I overheard what you were saying out there, and I just wanted to let you know that you don't need to lose the 2 pounds. You look beautiful." I let the door swing on my way out, cutting out the sound of "Oh my God that was sooooooo sweet" gushes.
This month I've become a confidante, a place to vent fas people move through life's insecurities. I've been a listening wall as people complained about roommates. Were they justified in lashing out? They were justified. Right? I've been pond for people to skip rocks down as they opened up about body issues and depression. No topic off limits. Relationship Frustrations. Religious Queries. Dating Gay.
And I get it, I get it all. Even the stuff I don't get, I'm trying and empathize.
This month I'm facing failing grades, the difficulties of staying involved in the lives of my best friends when they live states and continents apart, and qualms with connecting to Tiffilah. And while my mom, has always insisted "I think you're cool," sometimes, not often but sometimes, I fail to see it.
But I think what's important to keep in mind in light of insecurities is that there is NO standard. You need to stand confident and not let two extra pounds reduce you. You need to be confident as you date online, stand up for your rights as roommate, talk openly about G-d.
Some days you'll face situations where you feel dehumanized and undetermined- you may even be changing bed pans-literally dealing with crap. But in that gloom, when insecurities get the best of you, remember a day will come when you'll save the world. And while you're waiting, go ahead and get dressed.
Strapping on my cape