31 August, 2009

Breath of Fresh Air

The past few weeks have brought a lot of change to my life. It was as if I woke up one day and BAM! it hit me, I am not the same person I was five years ago, or even a year ago. Perhaps it is the change of seasons, or changing circumstances in my life, but I feel like an entirely new me. I think of the life I dreamed for myself when I was younger. I am not living that exact life now, but, whereas a few months ago that would have upset me, I now don't mind the change. You cannot compare the present to dreams of the past. It will never quite measure up. I am learning to take the present at face value and to build new dreams, new goals to work towards.

The weather is getting colder and everytime I walk outside, a cool breeze envelopes me and I breathe in fresh, crisp air. It's invigorating.

Thank you everyone for your advice and encouragement about the possibility of doing research in Turkey. You all brought up concerns and thoughts that I myself had, and its nice to feel that I have a small support group who cares enough to give advice. For now, I am going to go through the application steps and doing a little investigating into who I could work with over there, living conditions, etc. Of course, Paris and Madrid remain on the radar as well. I want to keep all doors open, and will make a decision a few months down the road when my choices are clearer.

I've been busy with work and school, but also with an exciting project of my own. A few months ago, a friend and I started a non-profit organization dedicated to helping victims of genocide in Africa. It has taken a while, but we are finally ready to go public. A website is almost up, and we are going to begin fundraising soon. Business cards are being printed, e-mail addresses set up and connections established. It's extremely time consuming but incredibly rewarding as well. I'll share more details once the website is finished.

Hard to believe that it is already the last day of August. It's scary but comforting at the same time to think how fast time flies. There are things I need more time for, but others that I cannot wait to happen, the faster the better.

September promises to be an exciting month. I've got trips (Montreal and Toronto) planned, papers due and birthdays to celebrate (mine included!).

Many decisions to make which means, more Sangria.


26 August, 2009

Maybe I Will Run Into Tarkan?

An amazing opportunity has come up for me to do research in Instanbul, Turkey in the next year.

Only two things stand in the way:

1) I am Armenian and am slightly wary of how my research topic will be welcomed in Turkey (human rights and displacement of refugees after genocide); and

2) A research proposal is due by November 1st. That gives me two months to basically put my thesis together. Gulp.

The second I can handle, I always work best under pressure. The first, I am genuinely concerned about. I don't have any hatred towards the Turkish people as most Armenians do. However, my research is extremely controversial and I do not want to end up like Hrant Dink (although I in no way equivalate my work to his genius, Turkish nationalism is an extremely powerful force and there has been a record of discrimination and violence towards those who do not adhere to it).

What to do? What to do?

24 August, 2009

They Don't Make Them Like This Anymore

Jean Paul Belmondo

Marlon Brando

Francois Truffaut

Alain Delon

George Best

Full Circle

As I make my way through the campus grounds to class, I walk the same path I did five years ago when I was an undergraduate freshman.

Then, I was naive, unsure. I walked with a campus map in hand, wearing sneakers, jeans and a sweatshirt, a backpack laden with books and my shoulders heavy with the uncertainty of who I was and what I wanted.

Today, I walk purposfully, with a quick stride, a woman of the world. My heels click on the sidewalk, my skirt bouncing back and forth with each step. I know who I am and what I want.

As I walk into class and sit down, I feel a rush of anticipation. Notebook out, pen in hand, I am engulfed with feelings of deja-vu. The surrounds are the same, yes. But I am changed. The past five years were filled with change and new adventures. I loved and I lost. Cried tears of joy and of sorrow. The girl who walked onto this very same campus five years ago never imagined she could be the woman who is sitting here now.

Five years ago, i put down the foundation to my future. Today, I begin stacking the bricks.

21 August, 2009

Oh Fudge.

Head, meet desk.

That's all.

19 August, 2009

Dear University of Illinois-Chicago,

Please re-think your employee exchange program with the zoo. I have been trying for three weeks now to register for classes and I would really like to speak with a knowledgeable, trained professional. So, while I am sure that the real director of graduate admissions is serving cotton candy to greedy little children at the public zoo, he would probably be better able to answer my questions than the parrot I spoke with earlier who managed only to repeat my own questions back to me.

But, no rush. Classes start Monday and it's only my future at stake here.


17 August, 2009

September 2010: Destination - Madrid

As usual, my plans for the next year have changed. Knowing me, they will change again within a few weeks or months. Having a spontaneous personality, mixed in with a travel obsession, doesn't exactly lend itself to concrete planning.

I had planned to move to Paris in a year. After some thought over the past few weeks and a pitcher of Sangria last night, I have "decided" to move to Madrid instead, at least for a few months. I'm not sure what I will do there, exactly. I may take graduate classes, as my university has a partnership with Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, I may teach English, or I may apply for a research grant.

Why Madrid instead of my life-long obsession Paris? There are many reasons. I WILL be moving to Paris, just not in September as planned. Maybe six months in Madrid, and, afterwards, Paris. For one thing, I have a hard time imagining life in Paris without Prince Charming (I really should stop calling him that....clearly, he wasn't). Yes, he will be there. Yes, we are friends. But it will not be the same. It's wimpy of me to abandon Paris (for now) simply because it is linked to heartache. I know that I will not be lonely, that there will be no shortage of charming men to entertain me. BUT, I want to feel welcome, to feel that I have a support group behind me. I made so many amazing friends in Madrid this summer and they have all been badgering me to move there (need I say I am easily convinced?).

Also, I absolutely LOVE the Spanish way of life. The dancing, botellon, crazy nights out, the friendliness, openness of the people. Not to say that Paris does not have these things, it is simply a different atmosphere.

Last but not least, I'd like to improve my Spanish, to achieve a native level of fluency. I have spoken French my entire life and it is not a language that I will ever forget. My Spanish, on the other hand, could use some refreshment. In the long run, being fluent in French AND Spanish will make me more marketable and expand my job opportunities.

Honestly, though, I want to try something different. I want to do something unexpected, to immerse myself in a language and culture that I am not completely familiar with.

Paris is my serious relationship, "marriage-material". It will always be there, waiting for me to commit. Madrid will be my fling, that intense, mysterious stranger you meet on a night out who manages to sweep you off your feet, if only for a little while.

And, Madrid is only a few hours away from Paris. I think Paris and I can manage an "open-relationship" for a while...

(Parque del Retiro...reminiscent of Jardin de Luxembourg, non?)

13 August, 2009

Thank You, Just Because

When I was younger, I used to envy certain friends and the relationships they had with their parents. So and so's parents were less strict, funnier, etc etc. There was always something I felt my parents were lacking. Now that I am older, and wiser, I realise that I could not have asked for better parents. Sure, our relationship was rocky at times. Yes, they were occasionally too strict. But, their intentions were always the best and, had I been raised differently, I would not be the person I am today.

So, although they do not read this blog, I'm writing them a thank you...for everything.

My mom was born in Moscow, Russia and my dad in Gumri, Armenia. They both did their graduate studies in Riga, Latvia where they met, married and where, subsequently, my sister and I were born.

Before either of them were 26, they had steady jobs in highly coveted fields (engineering and biochemistry), two daughters and a vision for the future.

When I was four, my dad accepted a research position at the University of Montreal and left for Quebec, leaving my mother, myself and my newly-born sister behind in Riga for several months while he saved money, found an apartment and ensured that we would arrive to a stable home. He arrived with literally $5 in his pocket and, in the span of a few months, managed to save enough to bring us over and provide us with a roof over our heads and basic necessities. Any and all extra income went to pay for my private school education. I went to a dual Armenian-French school, where the languages of instruction were Armenian, French and English. My mom walked the five plus miles to the grocery store and back every week instead of taking the bus, saving that money in order to buy me new school uniforms.

When I was little, I didn't think much about the sacrifices my parents made for me. I had an incredible childhood filled with travel, family and friends. I never felt that we were poor, and although I craved toys and clothing like most kids, I was surrounded by families who were immigrants as well and, therefore, the contrast between myself and the "locals" was never pronounced.

Now that I am older, and at the age my mom was when she was already married and had children, I am better able to appreciate the enormity of everything they have done for me. I would not be the person I am today without them.

My love of travel, facility with languages and ambition are all a result of their guidance. My dad bought me my first Celine Dion CD in French, thereby sparking what I am sure will be a lifelong obsession with the french language and culture (and, of course, Celine Dion). Being enrolled in one of the best private schools in Canada afforded me the education I needed and a knowledge of languages used worldwide.

My parents encouraged me to fill my life with culture, with learning. As a result, I speak numerous languages, am an avid painter, travel extensively, play tennis and dabble in a thousand other things.

My mother has never been to Italy, or France--but because of her support and the way I was raised, I was able to go.

Were I to be put into a situation right now where I had a family of my own, I am not sure that I would be able to make the sacrifices my parents did. They are the most selfless, motivated, family-oriented, loving people I know.

12 August, 2009

You Know You Are A Corporate Slave When

a) you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at the firm

b) you come in earlier and stay later than your boss

c) you have margarita mix in the mini-fridge (and your sanity depends on it)

d) you shower at the firm

e) although you have never actually spent a night at the firm, you know where the sleeping bags are

Time for Act II

Thank you, Madeleine, for putting into words exactly what I needed to read...

"Time changes, people change, our sceneries change and so do our supporting actors, and acceptance is hard, but we have to accept it: there are things we can change ourselves, there are things we cannot move, no matter how hard or often we touch them...Yes, he could have done this. Yes, he could have been this person. But he didn't. He wasn't. Instead of thinking what it was (which no longer is) and what could be (which will not) let me remember what it is: someone and something that does not bring me happiness, the idea of this happiness together was based on wishing what he could be, now what he is"

11 August, 2009

Go Time

Yes, Anait, you can have whatever you want. ANYTHING you can imagine. You name it. It's yours. Done deal. Zip, zap. Bing, bong. Ka-pow.

Oh, but you have to go get it. K?

I'll help,

The Universe

That's it, no more whining. I am going to take all the advice and live in the present, go with the flow, carpe diem! Focus on the one thing I can control.....getting to Europe! After that, I'm hoping the Universe will be as helpful as promised.

04 August, 2009

Words to Live By

Destiny is not written, it is made.