Monday, July 18, 2011


The quintessential nerd that I am, I haven’t been able to stop my desire to learn this summer (despite my best efforts to forget Calculus J). I’ve been indulging my habit by reading some books about influential people. Upon my educational escapades, I’ve come to appreciate the actions of two extremely famous people in American History, an unlikely duo working toward the empowerment of oppressed African-Americans: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. I’ve come to learn about each one’s philosophies, background histories, and experiences. Although in some ways these men were like fire and ice, one trait they shared was their courage, their resolve to go against the grain and make a difference in the lives of others. As a novice to this whole “changing the world” business, I had believed this courage can only come to seasoned, well-known advocates for change. I very well could have stayed in my bubble of anti-bravery were it not for the efforts of my Gutsy Guru, who taught me that the courage to present one’s own ideas may bring enlightenment to all those around him/her.


You can do this, I thought to myself. Don’t psyche yourself out, you know what’s behind that door. Just face it and take care of it. YOU CAN DO THIS!

As I approached my bedroom door from the hallway, fiddling with my Malcolm X sunglasses, I tried to give myself this battle-worthy pep-talk to confront what I already knew was inside. I opened the door slowly, and saw….

STUFF. Stuff and stuff and more stuff, strewn on my bed, my desk, my floor, my walls! I had to recoil at the sight of the colossal mess in my bedroom. It looks like my closet threw up everything inside it! I thought. Rolling up my sleeves and sticking my sunglasses in my hair, I said to myself, “It’s gotta be conquered at some point, might as well take it down today!”

While putting clothes back into my ostensibly nauseous closet, I heard my cell-phone ringing. Of course, it took me a little while to excavate my phone from the layers of junk under which it was hidden, but luckily I answered it right before it went to voicemail. “Hello?” I answered.

“Hi, there!” an upbeat voice responded. “How are you, Abi?”

My Gutsy Guru! I thought. It’s been ages since I’ve heard this voice! “Hey, GG, I’m doing great! How about you?”

GG responded, “I’m pretty good, thanks! I called you because I was hoping you could give me some tips on a presentation I have to prepare for one of my classes.”

As long as you don’t mind that I’m battling the Closet Creature from Beyond, I’ll be happy to help, I thought. “I would love to help! I’m going to put you on speaker while I clean up around my room, okay?”

“Sounds good!” my GG said. With that, my GG began to give me the background info on this presentation. It was supposed to highlight a few inspiring people in history. When I had heard my GG’s suggestions of these figures, I was a bit surprised. Wow, these definitely are not the most popular or predictable figures to highlight. My surprise must have translated through the phone, because after finishing a thought, my GG said, “I know my plans are unconventional, but that is the effect I am looking for. I really want to get my classmates to open up to different ideas. I feel like a totally new viewpoint will make a bigger impact on how they see things versus the same old thing they see all the time.”

I replied, “I understand what you are trying to do. But aren’t you afraid of how they will respond? How their opinion of you may change, or how they may regard your examples?”

My GG confidently said, “Abi, I want my presentation to make an impact. If shaking up their world allows me to plant a seed and help change their lives, then I want nothing more than to scare them into a new perspective!” My GG and I couldn’t help but start laughing after that exclamation.

“Well, then,” I said, “I’m not sure if I can add anything to your plans, GG, but I’ll give my opinion for what it’s worth.” I gave my GG a couple of tips (which my GG really did not need because the plan was so great), and we hung up soon after.

The grammatical tips I gave my GG are totally insignificant compared to the gift my GG gave to me. During our short conversation, my GG had shown me the true nature of courage. My GG set aside what was accepted for what my GG believed was right, and was willing to sacrifice his/her standing in others’ opinions to expose his/her peers to new perspectives. This courage emboldened me to face the challenges both in my closet and in my life, and as a result, neither is too tough to handle any longer J

Lesson Learned: Bravery and Bravado are more different than three letters would lead someone to believe. Putting on a show of courage to make oneself seem more powerful or successful than someone else actually indicates how cowardly someone is to show his/her true colors. Sincere courage comes from one’s resolve to fight for one’s beliefs, especially in the face of opposition. By accepting the personal consequences of an action that will improve the lives of others, one demonstrates an essential trait that all courageous people, from the momentous match of Malcolm and Martin to my GG, value deeply.

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
Nelson Mandela

From caring comes courage.
Lao Tzu

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Being a vegetarian, I have become pretty familiar with my fruits and veggies, and two fruits that have enriched not only my diet but also my perspective on life are the banana and the kumquat. The super sweet banana has a beautiful yellow and utterly bruise-free peel when it is ready to be eaten. However, a browned peel will reveal the mushy, bruised flesh of the fruit for all to see. Now, the kumquat is unlike the banana in several ways; not only does it have a significantly cooler name, but it is also eaten with its rind. The first taste is surprising because its sweet rind doesn’t hint at the unexpectedly sour flesh of the fruit beneath it. Aside from making me sound like a fruit expert, my knowledge about these two fruits has made me realize that for most of my life I have been a banana, showing the world my feelings and sharing with it my burdens and worries. However, after spending some time with my Put-Together Pal, I realized that portraying the kumquat’s sweet cover even when one is dealing with misfortune within demonstrates a composure which the whole produce aisle seeks to emulate J.


Summer, summer, summertime! Will Smith’s famous song and countless others had been streaming through my head since my amazing summer had begun. I was spending every day with friends and family, sleeping in, and enjoying myself. On this particular day, a group of friends and I were on the drive home from a great day together.

Rocking my opaque white sunglasses in the backseat, I surveyed the beaming faces of my friends around me. We had been blasting the radio, eating, and laughing our heads off the entire trip. This is what it’s all for, I thought. The hours of studying, the chores, the responsibilities…..all of that makes these moments that much sweeter.

There was no way we were going to stop smiling. All of us were so happy to be done with school and to be spending time with one another. All of us had grins plastered on our faces, but no one’s was bigger than that of my Put-Together Pal. My PTP was smiling enough for our entire car! The jokes, silly faces, and crazy laughter that came from my PTP were enough to keep the entire car cracking up for the whole trip home.

While we were catching our breath after laughing at a joke, one of my friends said, “Okay, everyone say some of the most memorable times from school!”

We all reminisced about some of the craziest teachers, most fun assemblies, and best days we had had while in school. Wow, I guess we have actually had some amazing times together, I thought as we turned to my PTP to hear another memorable event. At first, my PTP couldn’t come up with an event that one of us had not already mentioned, but after a while, my PTP found a memory.

“Well, it’s not really a positive memory, but it has been with me all year long, so I guess it counts. You guys may not have known that I have a health problem I have been contending with for a while, and it’s been pretty rough to deal with this year,” my PTP said, smile fading. “It has definitely been a challenge for me, and if it worsens I hope I can deal with it in my future.”

The atmosphere in our car had changed after we heard this memory. The gummy worms weren’t being inhaled at lightning-fast speed, the music that had been blasting from the stereo was reduced to a dull roar, and all of us were a bit quieter. Despite the aura shift, my PTP aimed a small grin at all of us in the car. “Come on, guys, it’s okay! Here, let’s change the subject.”

My PTP then started talking about funny stories with friends and family members, and within the minute had us all laughing once again. Our car ride home continued to be the crazy party it had started out to be. And yet, while my PTP was amusing all of us, I couldn’t help but think, Wow, this is the kid that is contending with a serious issue? This happy goofball? I was so amazed to see the composure my PTP had in the face of misfortune.

That willingness to portray a positive face to the world even if that positivity may not be what is behind the scenes demonstrated a true strength and selflessness to me. When the rest of the car had begun to feel unhappy for our friend’s misfortune, my PTP immediately sought to bring us the joy we had felt before. My PTP tried to match the bright summer sun with his/her own shining light, and in doing so, had allowed our light to shine through as well.

Lesson Learned: Composure is a wonderful dish that we all need to eat. Mix grace, strength, and selflessness, bake for a couple of years, and sprinkle a great sense of humor on the top before serving to the world J. Of course, sharing one’s issues with friends and family is necessary, especially when the issues are serious. But when someone has the composure to deal with these issues without casting the burdens of worry or discomfort upon others, s/he is accessing an inner strength that will improve his/her life and the lives of others. Harness your inner kumquat, and find the strength to put the sweetest face to the world, even in the sourest of times. J

The beauty of the soul shines out when a man bears with composure one heavy mischance after another, not because he does not feel them, but because he is a man of high and heroic temper” Aristotle