Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Life Lesson Learned

I now have a laptop. Incredible. After persevering the five years of college life, scowling at fellow classmates as they typed away at coffee shops, libraries or in class, utterly taking their little life-simplifying machines for granted. Not capable of understanding the perils of forming a schedule around sharing a desktop computer off-campus in Uptown with your sister. A computer whose printer had a mind and temper all its own. They'd never know how it felt to plan their bus trip according to that extra 15 minutes of snow trompage- destination: cross-campus computer lab. Printing your paper, speed-walking back, paper completed, shoved into a 5-yr-old army green, too-small backpack with haste (life lesson learned- read on...). Handing those papers in were always little moments of glory. Mission: Possible. I reveled in those moments of slapping it down on the table, often equipped with a man-made staple (dog-earing the page, then ripping three parallel tears and folding forward and backward to secure the pages together), knowing that it was the best paper I'd ever written, that the strife I'd endured was all worth it, and that they'd never guess I had written it at midnight the night before.

This fortitude versus the college laptop reminds me a bit of my rebellion against the graphing calculator in high school. It always seems to occur to me that people survived before without spending a buttload of cash on silly high-tech treats, why can't I also survive? As Sonja stated so eloquenty in similar words, it comes down to the perseverence and adaptability of the Halls. I think of Ty and that sleezy backpack he had for what, 8 years?-- his fantastic tool to lecture his sisters on the difference between wanting and needing something. Year in and year out as we stroked our new Jansports, Ty threw his bag up in outstretched arms, proclaiming that his worn bag still stood strong (eventually Mom threw this bag away- undoubtably a scarred moment in Ty's life).

I recall sitting at the kitchen table with Sonja, drawing feverishly on the blank sides of the homework assignments Dad would bring home. I had drawn a small figure in the middle of the page. Frustrated with the recent result of my mind's eye, I set it aside to take a new sheet. Big brother Tyty who sat next to me took it upon himself to teach me a life lesson: fill the page. Do not waste the empty space. He showed or drew (I can't quite recall which) me a picture of mountains extending from one side of the page to the other. I remember arguing my way of drawing for pride's sake, all the while wishing I would have thought of the 'fill-the-page' method for myself. I didn't know if I should follow his direction, raising my little white flag in resignation or continue to draw in a feeble attempt of unwarranted dignity. Being the stubborn little angel you all know and love, I clearly continued on with my way of drawing as I sat next to Ty and Sonja, but you better believe I was cognisant of filling the page from that day on.

Deciding between what we want and need is a vital life lesson. Some never grasp it, for they've never had to, while the others deal with the toss-up day in and day out. It has been proven that those taught to ackowledge the difference between necessity and desire are more likely to live a life of greater contentment. What do we actually need to survive? When is it appropriate to indulge? We are each responsible for our own scaling system. I thank Mother and Father for taking us to the sale racks, for asking us these questions, and for instilling the contentment and excitement for life itself in each of us.

Mom has asked ask me this very question many times as we shopped in Crossroads or Southdale Mall as I yearned for yet another article of clothing I lacked not; Ty to aggressively heave his backpack in my face in a valiant effort, forcing me to question this very notion; Dad, the quiet warrior, riding his bike to work through the sleet, wind and rain, briefcase slung on his shoulder, helmet intact- proving the 'survival of the fittest' includes both physical and mental strength; Mia to live and work in a home where life and work combine, her space a small room in the basement of the home of a rich NYC family- demonstrating with zest that with happiness is about mentality- and necessity is relative to optimism and self-knowledge; Sonja to move to a city knowing two people to start and to form a life of independence that tests the strength of her character with rainstorms and the never-ending hike up those hills, both real and metaphoric.

I could survive without that silly graphing calculator, this silly laptop. And though i never bought a TI-85, I now have this little gem on my lap, allowing me to partake in this fabulous exchange of words and thoughts, warming my lap as I sip on my 12 oz. skim latte with a half-shot of almond: a beverage I wanted and purchased, but do not need. ;)

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