Let’s aim for 1000% better

I got to the airport at 8:10. Two minutes after my mom’s plane was due to land. I fought the other cars at Terminal C, and managed to wrangle a spot close to the exit she was going to come out of. A few minutes passed. The driver in front of me got out of the front seat and ran over to the sidewalk. He picked up his friend’s bulky suitcase and tossed it in the trunk. The two men embraced at the rear of the car. They swung their arms around each other’s large, lean frames, clamped hands around torsos and shoulders, and hugged. Their faces, each dark on the chins with shadows, were so close you could swear they were rubbing cheeks as well. After a few seconds, it was like they realized their break in cultural norms, and each fell back. They awkwardly clapped each other’s shoulders. Exchanged a few words. Then got into the car and drove off.

I watched as the clock ticked another ten minutes away. A policeman in a bright yellow vest came up to my car and knocked on my window. “Miss, you’re going to need to move your car!”

I kept trying to call my mom’s phone. It was still off. Where could she be? Her plane must be delayed. After circling around a few more times, I decided to wait in a nearby fast food restaurant.

Being late is my mom. She is habitually late to everything: work, family gatherings, picking up my sister and I, calling me on the phone, etc. If there is something out there that is possible to be late for, you can be rest assured that my mom has been late to it. I spent much of my childhood waiting for my mom. I used to go to after-school care in elementary school. My friends and I played tag from three to five pm. The most prompt parents started arriving at five pm. Some came a quarter after. The latest ones rushed in with blushes on their faces and murmured to their kids as they tried to sneak out of the center. Like they didn’t want the attendants to realize how late they were. My lonely backpack used to be pushed and shoved by all the kids looking for their own. Until it was the last one left. My lonely pink bag in the middle of the tiled floor.

My mom walked in last. It was usually after six. Annoyed and always feeling forgotten about, I would scoop my bag up off the floor and walk towards her. All the toys were gone by six. The attendants were sweeping the gym ground. My mom looked radiant in her bright colored skirts and lace tops. She certainly knew how to make an entrance. She gave me the brightest greetings. “Steph, dear! How was your day?” I could never stay mad at her.

Back at the fast food restaurant, I opened up my book and started eating and reading. As the first bite of my food approached my mouth, my phone rang. “Steph! Mommy’s here. I finally landed.” I checked the time. It was ten o’clock.

I quickly packed up my things and rushed to the airport. There she was. Was that really my mom? She looked even more beautiful than when she left. And ten years younger. She got into the car and we started talking.

She told me about her whole trip. She got excited about everything. From the most insignificant street food to seeing my 95 year old grandpa, who may not last much longer. My chatterbox of a mom came back with full force. We switched topics.

“Steph, maybe I should have given you more instructions for taking care of the house. It was a lot to ask of you.”

“It’s okay, Mom. You’re back now and I’m glad I won’t have to do it alone.”

“Mommy’s sorry though. My weakness is that I’m not so good at planning. But you know, some of those things just couldn’t be planned for. A lot of problems that came up were due to weather. This winter has been one of the worst.”

“Yeah, definitely. It has been snowing practically every day.”

“Mom, did you know that I have a really bad weakness? I lash out at people when I’m upset?”

“Yes, of course. That is a very bad weakness. You know where that came from?”



“What do you mean?”

“I have that problem. When you were little, I used to get so upset. I was such an emotional person. Everything that made me mad would make me scream like crazy at you….and Nancy and Daddy. No one ever told me. I didn’t learn until just a few years ago. I never realized that it was a bad thing. You picked up some of my bad tendencies.

But you know what, Steph? That’s your problem now. If you decide to continue like that then you are the one hurting people around you.”

“Mom, I read a quote recently that said something about becoming better every day. If you just try to be 1% better than you were yesterday, then you will be 100% better in 100 days. And in one year you will be 365% better.”

“That is a wonderful goal. You can do it. We can do it. I need to get better too.”

We smiled at each other.


Rudyard Kipling’s “If”

I had an interesting conversation with someone the other day. This is how it went:

“So are you happy to be back in New York?”

“Yes! Very much so. I love New York and all the city-ness of it. Tall buildings, public transportation…”

“But when you first moved back to NJ, you said that you were glad to be away from New York. I remember you saying something about people getting lost there. Like, they end up staying there and not growing up or something to that effect. I thought it was very insightful.”

“Oh. I said that?”

He laughed- “Yes. Yes, you did.”

And I laughed. And we moved on to a different topic.

But, the thought of it kept creeping up in my mind. I actually remember saying that now. I had declared it to a whole group of people. That I was happy to be moving away from the big city, and that some people there never grew up. In the hustle and bustle of a big city, there is always something new to chase after. The twenty-something college grad starts by chasing their career. The office cube, the first big paycheck, the promotion. And parties. The miniskirts, bottles of Grey Goose, and God, the beautiful people.  Success beckons like a false lighthouse in the distance. If you’re not careful, you can spend years upon years swimming desperately towards a shiny light that will never quite be within your grasp.

When I moved back to the comparatively slower-paced neighborhoods of NJ, I changed courses. It was like I had switched from the 200 meter dash to the 800 meter run. As the weeks in NJ began, the change in pace was obvious. It was slower. You were allowed a breather. I liked this new race.

In the community I joined in NJ, it was not outward success that defined a person. It was how much you cared. How much you loved. How much time you put into cultivating relationships. Getting ahead in a career was not as much of a priority as having a healthy family was. And parties consisted of five women sharing stories on comfy couches with a bottle of red.

Yet, I have found that there are still downfalls in living in this community. Like when the easy life becomes so comfortable that it is crippling. Relationships can become stifling when there is no room to breathe. Putting too much effort into sharing stories can become tiring.

So I messaged the guy. I said, “Now I think people can get lost no matter where they are. It’s probably just human nature, right? Or a result of not really knowing, or being honest with oneself.”

The beat goes on. Whether you are here or there. Whatever you may want- Career, Parties, Relationships, Family, Love, Kinder Heart, Better Soul. Chase after it as you like. But each has its upsides and downsides. Everything in life is a give and take. What do you choose?

Another thing that I’ve learned is that taking a moment for yourself is perfectly okay. Stay in and read a book. What a beautiful moment. Life doesn’t get much better than that.

So I am back in New York City. Land of ever-increasing hopes and dreams. But I will stay in and read a book.

Wrote this post while listening to this.

And here is Rudyard Kipling’s poem. Isn’t it fantastic?

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Always believe you can change the world

How amazing is this letter from a mom to a daughter?

This is my favorite paragraph from it:

“Babyiest, see as many sunrises and sunsets as you can. Run across roads to smell fat roses. Always believe you can change the world – even if it’s only a tiny bit, because every tiny bit needed someone who changed it. Think of yourself as a silver rocket – use loud music as your fuel; books like maps and co-ordinates for how to get there. Host extravagantly, love constantly, dance in comfortable shoes, talk to Daddy and Nancy about me every day and never, ever start smoking. It’s like buying a fun baby dragon that will grow and eventually burn down your f***ing house.

And this one is a close runner up:

‘Nine times out of ten, you probably aren’t having a full-on nervous breakdown – you just need a cup of tea and a biscuit’

Just lovely quotes in every way.