Sometimes you have three midterms coming up and three assignments due and a rising tide of school-related anxiety, and then your mom will text you and ask if you want to take the bus home for the weekend to surprise your sister for her birthday. Oh, and go see The Book of Mormon on stage.
Or, I guess more universally speaking, sometimes life hands you a lot and you’re forced to weigh your priorities. It is often
difficult impossible to definitively say what the right call is. That all depends on perspective, on who you are, on who you want to be. Would it be totally irresponsible to go gallivanting off to Boston, shirking my academic responsibilities, or would it be completely cold-hearted of me to choose a weekend of solitude and studying (and, let’s be serious, Netflix) over doing something awesome for my big sister?
Overthinking it, but hey, that’s what we do here. This little, inconsequential conundrum of privilege felt huge, because it had picked at exactly the conflict of identity and direction that we here at NoPlaRadio have been struggling with lately. Who do we want to be – carefree and spontaneous or ambitious and striving?
As that girl in that commercial about the taco shells asks, porque no los dos, right? But it’s hard to find the time. It always feels like I need to pick a lane.
In the end, with some prodding from Sam, I decided to go. It was Sam who reminded me that these midterms won’t matter years down the line, that we were trying to choose happy, to be spontaneous and adventurous and live our best lives, that I’d absolutely regret not going. That I could find the time to study and still go, I just had to buckle down.
She’s pretty good to have around.
So that Wednesday night I bought a ticket to ride for the next day at 11:50 PM. I went to bed early and woke up at 5 to blearily get cracking on those assignments. Compromise isn’t always comfortable, I told myself, first as I fought to ignore my alarm and then again as I poured myself a cup of coffee
with shaking hands, but making a dent in the work would help me make the most of the next couple of days.
Kelly Travel Tip: I am a huge proponent of the overnight bus. Greyhound sucks, we all know this, but if you’re going to have to take the Greyhound, why not (sort of) sleep through it? And you’re not wasting any of your precious time. I had all of Thursday in Montreal to go to class and study, and then I had all of Friday in Boston to be with my family. None of this wasting a whole day in traffic nonsense. Admittedly, it’s not the best night of sleep you’ll ever have, but at least no one on the bus is going to try to talk to you (!!).
My mom picked me up in Boston at 8 AM and I was able to surprise my sister before she even left for work. I jumped out, she screamed. It was totally typical, and I wouldn’t trade that moment for all of the potential A’s in the world.
When my sister went to work my mom and I went shopping. We’re talking Barnes & Noble, Sephora, Trader Joe’s – all of my happy places that either don’t exist in Canada or are waaaay pricier there. If you need a push to visit home, consider that your parents might be so happy to see you (for the first few hours, at least) that they buy you more things than they ever bought you in an entire year back when you lived at home.
Maybe after living through 26 birthdays, you get over the cake. Or maybe it was the influence of being born in the fall. Whatever the case, my sister wanted apple pie for her dinner, and my mom complied in a big way. This tart was freaking awesome. I hadn’t had good, homemade baking in months – this nearly killed me.
The next day we took the T into the city for a matinee showing of The Book of Mormon at Emerson College’s gorgeous theater, the Cutler Majestic. I was wary – I’m not a huge musicals person (I know, I know), and I also wasn’t sure how much I was going to love a musical that is all about making fun of a religion? I ended up being thoroughly entertained (a new experience for me when it comes to the theater) (I know, I know). The play is thoroughly problematic on many counts, yes, but the humor was smart and sharp and, surprisingly, never felt mean-spirited. Interestingly/amusingly, the actual Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints had taken out pages and pages of ads in the playbill, proclaiming that “The Book is Always Better.” See? They’re in on the joke! Yeah?
So, did any of you watch Arthur as a kid? That cartoon about the anthropomorphic aardvark? There was an episode once with a baking competition, and Arthur wants to make chocolate cake. His dad tries to convince him to make a souffle or marzipan or some other gourmet confection, but Arthur asserts himself. He doesn’t need to make anything that fancy – he wants to make a really, really good, homey chocolate cake. The day of the competition rolls around and he’s practiced and perfected his recipe but when he pulls his perfect chocolate cake out of the oven it is flat. He has failed. He goes to school with his empty hands shoved in his pockets, forlorn. That is, until his dad rushes into school, panting, interrupting the contest, proclaiming that Arthur simply had used baking soda instead of powder (or is it powder instead of soda? see, it’s an understandable mistake for Arthur to have made), and that instead of a chocolate cake, he had made perfect brownies.
It’s a wonderful episode about sticking up for your vision and the merit of keeping things simple and trying and failing and making something from your mistakes, and I haven’t watched it recently like a weirdo or anything… (I swear!) That summary is literally from memory. That’s the impression this episode had on me. And the episode was special for another reason – Ming Tsai, a chef with many all-star restaurants and a PBS cooking show, had a guest spot. He was the judge of the contest.
We went to his Wellesley restaurant, Blue Ginger, the next night and Mr. Tsai made an appearance. I just about fell out of my chair when I heard his voice – that voice that I had heard all those years ago commending Arthur on his very, very good brownies. I had a curry pasta dish with coconut shrimp and loads of veggies and pepper, and for dessert those delicious looking adorable little doughnuts with a marshmallow whip and cappuccino ice cream. Doughnuts and marshmallows and ice cream and coffee in one dessert??? It was dope.
Sunday night I returned to Montreal, dragging my feet to face the music. Two days later it began. Exam after exam after exam after assignment… you all know the drill.
Two of the exams went well, one was pretty meh. And everything is going to be okay.