Dear high school self . . .

sara logoLast weekend I did what my high school self would have thought impossible . . . I ran a 5K. To someone whose attention on the soccer field as a young girl was more focused on the puppies on the sidelines and whose nickname all throughout middle school was “Goalie” (because she once accidentally asked to be goalie in a kickball game), this is a big deal. I tried tennis, horseback riding, you name it, but nothing stuck. Every year in high school gym class they would do a physical fitness test, which was total bullshit, of a mile run and other things I’ve chosen to forget. This was stupid because the test meant nothing and we never improved upon skills or anything afterwards. My “mile run” was similar to Hannah running with her boyfriend on HBO’s “Girls” . . . kicking and screaming and stopping to rest and walk the whole way . . . so probably a “14 minutes at best” mile.running blog pic

It wasn’t until my twenties, living in L.A., that I began getting hooked on fitness, especially spinning and my classes at Pink Iron. It was group fitness that got me started running a little bit. Getting revved up for a 5K had a lot do with my determination to prove to myself that I’m finally getting past some lingering pain from an ankle injury last summer.

I more than impressed myself in my first 5K (I don’t count a color run I did two years ago because I barely ran and it’s not really a race; it’s more of a “how much color can you get on you in a 5K contest). It was for a cause (Evelyn’s BFF) that I believe in (unfortunately I’ve known more than one woman who has battled breast cancer, some lucky, others not so lucky), and it was with a group of girls from my gym, who I knew would be great people to try running with. I never thought I would get a time of 34:02; my goal was 45 minutes and I more than surpassed that. I posted my time on Facebook, not just for other people to see, but more for a reminder to myself that I can achieve things I had no idea were in me (I’m coming at you, Kili).

As of today my, Facebook status has garnered 45 likes from people I’ve known through all stage of life, which makes me think, they’re either as proud of me as my friends or family or are, like, “holy shit, can’t believe that girl who only cared about music in high school can do more than jump around at a rock show.” I really didn’t expect this support and also really didn’t seek it out, I don’t think, but it got me wondering: why DO we feel the need to share things like this? Whenever I share something on social media, I really only think that I’m reaching my close friends, but between Facebook and Twitter, I have many more followers than just “close friends.”

I can vaguely remember a time when Facebook was for college (clearly based on “The Social Network” it was for much more than just college); about a year after it went live, we would post what classes we were in and find other people in our classes to “study with” if we thought they were cute. There were no statuses and there weren’t even photos in the beginning. It’s obviously turned into so much more as social networking has grown. Popularity is now measured in the amount of likes you get on a photo on Instagram, a status on Facebook, or how many birthday wishes you get.

At this point, I have a serious love/hate relationship with it. When it’s good, it’s really good. The recent ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (yes, I did it)  has been incredible for those affected by the disease.  Also, a lot of gyms do “check in for charity” where if you check in on Facebook, money is donated to a good cause (this month at my gym our cause is animals, so obviously I’m checking in as often as I can remember to!). It can also be a huge time suck, looking at people’s wedding or baby photos (most of whom you haven’t actually spoken to in years), etc.

Whenever I disconnect to reconnect (usually due to being in areas of little to no cell phone service), I feel so much better about life. I’m not absorbing useless information and I often say I’ll just delete Facebook and Instagram when I’m back in service land. The second I’m back in society, I’m addicted again. There’s a give and take with staying connected to people for work or personal reasons, so I’ve learned it’s important to set boundaries. Only let myself indulge at certain hours, or a certain amount of times a day. It’s something I’m working on, but something that’s important to me – to stay present. That’s how you run a race anyway, isn’t it?

Once upon a time . . .

The RonettesDuring my post-college, single-in-the-city years, I almost never watched TV.  Time spent alone in my Upper West Side digs meant time spent reading or listening to music—rock, classical, disco, jazz, whatever the mood called for.  A solid state Fisher stereo was all I had room for and the sound was stupendous. Pump up the volume, Graham Parker or Donna Summer, and Saturday A.M. cleaning took on a whole new beat.  My solo weeknight TV viewing largely consisted of old movies or a PBS special.  Late-night Saturday TV with friends, or a boyfriend, was another thing altogether.

It was the boyfriend who would become my husband who would eventually hook me on two of his favorite sitcoms, “Cheers” and “Seinfeld. “  I dismissed them at first—like, please, don’t waste my time. These days, late at night in bed, you can hear me laughing out loud at some of the brilliant “Seinfeld” dialogue.  I’ve seen reruns of classic episodes more than once.

When the daughter came along, there was no escaping “Sesame Street.” And why would I want to?  Only a fool could resist the charms of Elmo. Don’t have to be a Springsteen fan to see Born to Add for the delightful parody it is, though the humor of “Miami Mice” might be lost on you if you never saw Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas in action. Educators may differ in their views re:  the nuances of teaching children the three R’s and where a ground-breaking show like “Sesame Street” figures into the picture, but there’s no arguing the brilliance of luring mom and dad into the clever riffs on pop culture.

In a wonderful interview with Krista Tippett, folklore/mythology scholar Maria Tatar reminds us that entertainment in days of old was of the sit-around-the-fire-and-tell-stories variety. There was interaction, and the nature of fairy tales, once they were collected and chronicled by the Brothers Grimm, began to change.  R-rated fairy tales originally narrated by and for adults softened to PG as they morphed into children’s stories. Morals crept in, and with them, the happy ending. The violence in fairy tales was surreal, burlesque, carnivalesque.

Times change, literary arts evolve, but the very undercurrent of fairy tales just won’t go away. From “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (which my daughter lured me into watching with her) to “True Blood” to “Grimm” and “Once Upon a Time” (which fascinates me for its interplay among fairy tale characters caught between worlds), content adapts itself to motif.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see Cinderella in Carrie Bradshaw. She even loses a shoe in one episode. And isn’t there a touch of the fairy godmother at play in handing a book contract, followed by a plum magazine job to the novice Hannah Horvath in “Girls”?  That her own self-absorption is her constant undoing can’t be helped; it’s part of the character, an anti-Cinderella who wants her dreams fulfilled but lacks the generosity of spirit inherent in a humble fairy-tale heroine.

The irony? We may think we’re watching TV to escape the real world, only to find ourselves pulled into a world more unsettling in the reality it portrays.  Yes, it’s stylized, fictionalized, often too formulaic.  But like the best of stories, a show like “Girls” gets us talking.  It’s the nature of how we live, sharing stories; it’s something children learn the minute we introduce them to bedtime books and they squeal: read it again .  .  .  and again  . .  .  and again. Or listening as carefully as they do, they stop us if we skip a line.

So when I’m propped in bed, watching “Once Upon a Time” on my iPad, the comfort of years and years of nighttime reading insinuates itself into the experience.  That I can watch episode after episode in one sitting only proves that technology strives to give us what storytellers have always known.

And when I read a comment from my dearest childhood friend in response to my daughter’s reflection on “Girls,” in an instant I’m transported to another once-upon-a-time, teendom, BFFs sitting together, any day of the week after school, tuning in to “American Bandstand.” It’s what girls did. It’s what we still do.  Even if we’re not in the same room looking at the same screen, we’re texting about it, posting on Facebook, generating conversation via blog posts.