New York is a city of 8 million people, and Humans Of New York has done the incredible feat of reminding us that each of them has a name, a face, and a story. It’s changed how I think about the people I pass every day. And it’s also changed how I approach a social setting that did not exist even 2 or 3 years ago – the world of Uber.
So much has been said about the innovation of Uber, how it improves transportation by letting users customize their ride experiences and holding all drivers to a higher standard of quality. That’s absolutely true. But I’m also fascinated by the social dynamics of transportation apps. Ridesharing brings people, often from different ages, backgrounds, and beliefs, together for a short time and lets us engage with those we might otherwise pass on the street and never meet.
Anyone can become a driver, whether they’re the new graduate still looking for the right job, the service worker taking on a second job to support their family, or even people like this rabbi in my community, who signed up to drive for the experience of it all. You truly never know who you’ll encounter in an Uber. I would even venture to say that it makes some part of the American Dream more accessible to anyone, with the click of a button.
And then there are the completely randomized people you can match with on Uber Pool or Lyft Line, the carpool/shared-ride option. I’ve discussed digital marketing with the market researcher who included me in his survey on music streaming because I’m the “perfect millennial”; seen New York City anew through the eyes of British tourists; taken music recommendations from the art and culture aficionados on their way to the Metropolitan Opera; and more.
It would be a lie to say that living in a city of this size and magnitude isn’t overwhelming sometimes. How does anyone not get lonely in a crowd of 8 million people? I ask myself sometimes. As I look for meaningful relationships in this new place, and “go out to the places that I will be from”, it’s important to remember that there is human connection to be found everywhere.
Striking up a friendship with a driver is nothing new – remember Driving Miss Daisy (one of my favorite movies) and the entire taxi-driver-movie genre? – yet something about Uber/Lyft feels more personal. Is it because we consciously make that click to choose a driver, not unlike how Tinder and dating apps work?
Or maybe it’s because this is the perfect example of technology bringing strangers together. We hear too many stories about where this goes wrong, and the few drivers who make headlines for all the wrong reasons. Sure, I have to be careful as a young woman and safety is always at least in the back of my mind. But what about when we encounter those who make things right in the world?
A few weeks ago, my driver was a recent Dominican immigrant. He had just begun a sales job, and also started driving for Uber as a way to improve his English. I sent him off with words of encouragement, and, hopefully, the warm feeling of connection for both of us.
This week the roles reversed, as a driver picked me up from an interview. “So when you get the job, what will you be doing?”, he asked. When, not if. I explained the job with extra confidence because someone else’s faith made me believe in myself again. Whether you’ve known someone for five minutes or a lifetime, those interactions matter.
“We’re all just walking each other home.” Or, perhaps, sharing a ride and some human connection in this crazy world.
(I do not own this image)
Sometimes I wish humans had a screen like this. Because I have dyspraxia, and it’s time that people understood it.
There are varied degrees of it. My issues are spatial memory and coordination. Sometimes that’s left-right confusion, or processing/remembering directions, or taking longer to do household tasks. Sometimes it’s knowing how to do a task, then forgetting as soon as you’re supposed to actually do it.
In other words, it’s a few “loose screws” in my head. Or a bad telephone connection between the brain and the body. Or when your adolescent physically-awkward stage never really ends.
So, what exactly is it?
It’s most like a learning disability, but I feel its presence much more outside the classroom setting.
It’s not an “excuse” at all. It’s just a reason to work harder.
It’s being a “visual learner” with words, but struggling to memorize maps, and wondering what kind of learner you even are.
It’s a 50% chance of putting your shoes on the wrong feet, and probably an 80% chance that you’ll get it wrong.
It’s people assuming I’m drunk because I can’t keep my balance on a fast-moving train. That’s actually a common experience among us. (Read this post too. http://blog.scope.org.uk/2015/09/29/i-have-dyspraxia-but-rude-people-tell-me-im-drunk-endtheawkward/)
It’s knowing this (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZv62ShoStY) is your favorite dance because it gives specific directions.
It’s failing driver’s tests, even AFTER visualizing the entire exam and every curveball the road could possibly throw at me. (If you’re wondering, I did eventually pass.)
It’s hearing a million iterations of “Be more careful.” “Try harder.” “Be less clumsy.” “Pay attention.” “Just listen.” Believe me, if I’m given the responsibility of doing something, I AM listening to your instructions and focusing on it with 200% of my attention. I have no other choice.
It’s finding hardly any dyspraxic support pages online, and wondering if I’m just supposed to deal with it on my own.
Just suck it up. There are a lot more disabilities, hidden or visible, that are harder to live with. No. Do not allow negative self-talk. Even if your condition is invisible, your voice and your story are not.
It’s endlessly debating whether to check the box on job applications. Yes, that box where you disclose a disability, or not. If I don’t need accommodations at work, do they have to know about it? Or should they be forewarned that any occasional disorganization or forgetfulness does NOT mean I’m sloppy?
It’s realizing that “unskilled” manual labor might not be possible for some of us.
It’s finding creative ways to compensate for any limitations. For me it’s repeating directions in my head several times to remember them. It’s looking for jobs only in cities where I can rely on public transportation and won’t have to drive. It’s finding ways for technology to fill in the gaps – using my GPS for walking directions, taking screenshots of vital information to remember, and I could go on and on.
It’s being successful because said compensation strategies are working, and immediately wondering if this really is all in my head. Maybe I am just lazy and stupid.
It’s a lonely journey sometimes, but there is always humor to be found along the way.
Well, we’ve reached the dog days of summer, and with that comes memories of summers past. This is a different kind of summer, as I’m somewhere between college and the elusive “real world”. Still, as I try to become a “real person”, whatever that is, I have to give thanks to the life lessons that summer camp taught me.
Patience and resilience. I remember the whirlwind of the first few days there – learning all the names, finding my way around, figuring out who my friends were. Now, as someone who’s finished college, study-abroad, internships, and whatever comes next, I understand that past every overwhelming first day lies a great experience.
Empathy. At different times, I have been the homesick bunk member, and the one who befriended that person. These encounters that seemed so small at the time actually taught me that kindness and understanding are the root of every meaningful friendship.
The joy of writing. When most people had to be reminded to write letters every few days, I probably spent the most time on mine, carefully crafting them with so many details. That’s probably how I came to understand that writing is my greatest way of processing life.
Adventure, and the fact that separation from your parents is a normal, healthy, and NECESSARY stage of development. No one pushed me to go – I decided when I was ready, and went that summer. Now I better understand how temporarily leaving the nest helped me come home a more confident and empowered kid, ready for each new stage of life, and I hope it reaffirmed to my parents as well that they were raising a resilient human being with a thirst for adventure.
Spontaneity. Thank you, counselors, for the surprise pontoon rides and ice cream sundae-making parties, among many things, that showed us that the best adventures are often the unexpected ones.
Stepping outside your comfort zone. At camp, I was an awkward kid who chose the Drama elective just for the fun of it, and – surprise! – gained some confidence from making a fool of myself in public with silly stories and tongue-twisters like “Red leather, yellow leather.” I learned not to take life too seriously.
And then there were the camp songs and Jewish folk songs that will probably never leave me, and how much this has shaped my Judaism today is a topic for a whole other post. But for now, this is what I carry with me. Thank you again, OSRUI.
So it’s been a week since graduation, and as the fresh excitement wears off, I’m starting to reflect on lessons these four years have taught me. If you’re reading this, I want to share them with you.
First of all, try everything. A wise friend once pointed out how alike the words “university” and “universe” are – because college opens up a whole new universe of possibilities. I’m glad I found a home in the clubs that I thought I would. (Thank you to Hillel at Brandeis, The Hoot, and STAND.) But I’m also forever grateful that I took the chance to sing a cappella, perform in 24 Hour Musical, and participate in all the quirky Brandeis traditions. So do it all. The world is your oyster and campus is your home.
Accept that friendships might change as circumstances change. You may discover that some relationships, whether in high school or on your freshman floor, came from living in close proximity.
If you’re still in school, go to office hours, not only to get questions answered, but to get to know your professors as people. Also, use all the campus resources, because they are here for YOU. I’ll tell you this because there’s NO shame in it: I wish I’d found my Brandeis therapist even earlier.
It’s perfectly fine to drop a class if you need to. This happens much more often than you think.
Learn from someone who’s let too many deadlines slip by – DON’T PROCRASTINATE. Do start your job/internship/scholarship/etc search early to stay ahead of all the due dates.
It’s okay to be an introvert in college. It’s okay to stay home when you need to recharge, or to take yourself out for solo adventures, something I absolutely recommend doing. Realizing this was probably my biggest moment of self-discovery.
Platonic relationships are important – speaking as someone who has as many guy friends as girlfriends.
On that note, it’s great to have many types of friends. The ones who will tell you honestly how you look, and the ones who always know what to say to make you feel good. The kind ones, and the ones you can be snarky with.
There is a difference between having real feelings for someone, and enjoying the attention they give you. When you’re single and caught up in the moment, you might not see the difference.
With that said, always listen to your intuition if you just know something’s not right.
Do venture outside your comfort zone, but don’t act like someone you are not. Anyone who doesn’t appreciate what makes you unique is not worth your time. I have to remind myself this through the highs and lows of job searching.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Don’t look at other people (especially on social media) and feel inadequate because that seem so much more secure and accomplished than you. We all have insecurities, deep down somewhere.
Most of all, be patient with yourself. Set goals and expectations, but don’t let them stress you out. Expect that things may not happen on our time, but they happen when they are meant to. Sure, I thought a lot more of my life would be in order by now, but what good does it do to think that? (This article sums up that feeling better than I ever could.)
You don’t have all the answers yet, and that is okay. I don’t even know all the things that I don’t know yet. But you will learn and grow a little more every day, and that’s how we will become the people we’re supposed to be.
To my classmates, congratulations again, and to the rest of you, keep enjoying college and life!
For anything I said in times of stress, sleep deprivation, or when I was otherwise not myself
For any attention-seeking, especially on social media
For any laziness and procrastination
For any time I missed the chance to do an act of kindness, to help a person or cause
For any inability to see an issue from someone else’s perspective
For ever thinking my way was the only way
For any time my raging emotions overpowered my desire for kindness and harmony
For any fights
For any jokes I made in poor taste
For any time I failed to consider my privileges in life, or the struggles of others
For complaining about mundane problems and forgetting how lucky I am just to be healthy and thriving and blessed with the best opportunities
I hope you, God and fellow humans, can forgive me.
Because I have missed the mark.
That phrase, to me, is the definition of Yom Kippur atonement.
Most of us don’t set out to do evil.
Instead, we aim our arrows towards one target and we miss.
That’s why there are 10 commandments reminding us not to do the Very Bad Things, and 613 more telling us what ordinary things we should do or avoid. Because life is complicated, and we are held back by the limitations of our perfectly imperfect human minds, and everyone makes mistakes.
Yom Kippur is about picking up all the fallen arrows from the ground and starting fresh.
As the season changes, so do we try to change and improve ourselves.
May you all be written into the Book of Life.
“Prayer cannot bring water to parched fields, or mend a broken bridge, or rebuild a ruined city; but prayer can water an arid soul, mend a broken heart and rebuild a weakened will.”
For some reason, this quote from the Reform prayer book has stuck with me. It keeps coming back into my thoughts. And when your wandering mind keeps circling back to an idea, that idea matters.
I pray every night, sometimes silently and sometimes out loud, in that safe space of solitude just before falling asleep. It’s a very different feeling than praying amongst a community – I can’t say if it’s easier or harder to concentrate, but for me it feels more intensive.
Sometimes it’s a powerful experience. I’m pouring out my soul, asking for whatever I want to happen. Sometimes it’s something as simple as wishing to have a good, productive day, free from anxiety and self-doubt.
Then sometimes it feels like I’m just talking into thin air. Talking to nothing, letting out words that no one will ever hear. The cynic in me, like the wicked child at the Passover seder, just asks “Why? Why bother?”
Maybe it’s because of the disheartening news of all that’s going on in the world lately. Too much evil, too much suffering and fear, too much destruction. Ferguson. Hamas. ISIS. If simply praying for peace was enough to stop or prevent suffering, then none of this would have ever happened. (I’m not about to come up with some divine explanation why very bad things happen, because honestly that makes me uncomfortable and it’s a topic for another post.)
So which is it? What can praying actually do? Can it accomplish anything?
Maybe that question is the wrong way to approach it. I believe prayer is a mode of introspection, and it is in those moments of uninterrupted introspection that we lay out a spiritual road map and decide what we want our lives to be. It is then that we begin to build a self.
Maybe it’s the act done with intention that matters more than the outcome.
Maybe it’s the process of watering an arid soul, mending a broken heart, and rebuilding a weakened will that allows us to learn, grow, and reach out to improve the world around us.
Prayer alone isn’t enough. But it’s a good place to start.
First of all, you can do it.
The school let you in for a reason. Now make us proud and bring them to their knees.
Campus will become your home.
Soon enough you’ll have your favorite professor, your favorite dining hall employee who knows your name, and more.
Bond with your floor-mates. Your freshman floor will be a great first group of friends, a nice support system.
You will meet friends in unexpected times and places.
So go to all the mixers and join the clubs where you’ll find like-minded people.
And pay attention to those people who smile when you pass them on the quad.
Anyone you meet is a potential friend.
If you don’t feel like calling home, call anyway.
It will make Mom and Dad very happy.
They’ll always find something to worry about. All because they love you.
Realize that all their advice will make sense one day. Soon.
Keep track of your requirements and try to fulfill them early.
But also take those life-changing classes you never thought you’d take.
Realize you are not an adult yet.
And you don’t have to be.
College is just the next stage.
And when you go home, you’ll see us all again and feel like nothing ever changed.
Be strong if anything doesn’t go as planned.
And know that you can learn something from every experience.
Every class, every conversation, every experience.
And keep moving forward.