No. 52: Les Miserables

If there’s one thing you should know about me, you should know that my favorite musical of all time is Les Miserables. Why is that? Well, aside from being just absolutely phenomenal in the first place, it’s the musical that got me into musicals. And for that reason alone, it distinguishes itself from all of the other musicals in the canon for me and will always hold a special place in my heart.

You see, musical theatre has been my passion ever since I was first introduced to Les Mis. Musical theatre is what I go to when I need some emotional catharsis, or when I need a different viewpoint to consider. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve looked around my room at the various musical posters I have hanging on my walls in search of the perfect song to sing or listen to. It’s my thing.

I’ll never forget being introduced to Les Mis by my voice teacher when I was around nine years old. She had given me a song, “Castle on a Cloud”, to prepare for my next lesson the following week. I went home and listened to the demo CD she provided me, and I was hooked by the melody. Though the recording was simply her playing the piano, I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “I have never heard music like this before”. It had this distinguishing characteristic of being both haunting, yet comforting at the same time, as if it were a mystery waiting for me to discover it.

I rehearsed the song that whole week. At my next voice lesson, I remember how much I took on the character of Cosette. It’s so crazy how vividly I remember that moment, me going so far as to sitting on the floor pretending I was scrubbing it in my favorite brown babydoll top and long sleeve white shirt (hello, 2004). From there, I would ask my mom for extra computer time to listen to the album. I would watch the 10th Anniversary Concert on PBS whenever it was on. I was hooked.

Years went on, and my love for the musical has never diminished over the years. In sixth grade, when everyone was getting new bikes and purses for their birthdays, I was getting the Les Miserables Complete Symphonic Recording performed by the international cast. In high school, I would literally walk around with my copy of Hugo’s book in my tote bag, whip it out, and tell people it was my Bible (yeah, I was that kind of obsessed, wacky kid). I’ve transitioned from loving Cosette as a young girl, to wanting to be Eponine as a teenager/young adult, to now admiring Fantine more and more every day. Greta and I literally spent an entire car ride singing along to the cast recording with no reservations whatsoever a couple of weeks ago. I’m literally listening to it on my phone as I write this post. It never gets old and it never fails to be my friend.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve transitioned from solely loving the music to treasuring more so the story of redemption the musical tells. I love how much it teaches us about the power of forgiveness and of second chances. The musical does an exemplary job at conveying this story, but the book does more so with so much added nuance. It teaches us we are not perfect; we are human. As someone who was raised Catholic and is indeed spiritual, I deeply admire the way the novel tells this story by doing so within the context of those Christian tenets. It’s a beautifully crafted story, and I wish Victor Hugo was still alive today so I could go to him and tell him how much I love his metaphoric language, imagery, and plot.

Les Miserables will always be the musical and story I go to in my lowest of lows. It’s helped in more ways than one; as I’ve mentioned, it introduced me to the musical theatre canon, to my best friend, and to a faith in which I see profound beauty and grace, despite some of my personal reservations. It will always be with me, proving the unconditional loving relationship I have with it, and which is much needed and appreciated. I am so grateful to have been lucky enough to live in a time and place where I have Les Mis to look to for guidance and to cherish, and I know it will remain a significant component of my life forever.

No. 51: Snow Days

Last night, I got the alert we all pray and wish for: “due to the anticipated winter storm, all classes are canceled and offices are closed”.

Snow days are awesome. Do I really need to explain? I don’t think so, but I will anyway. First, I love waking up later than normal. I love not having to set my alarm. I love having plenty of time in the morning to drink my coffee and make breakfast. I love eating the signature grilled cheese and tomato soup. I love looking out the window and feeling like I’m in a snow globe.

Snow days just rock. I’m grateful I get to have snow days, and I’m very much grateful to all the people who make snow days possible. Your tireless work does not go unappreciated, and it truly means the world to all of us.

To snow days, and to all the people who make them possible, thank you for all the joy you bring.

No. 50: E-ZPass

I was given the task of driving into Philly tonight. It was a remarkable feat for me, as I’ve never done it before. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do, but neither the willpower nor the occasion seemed to arise until tonight.

While I’m grateful for finding the newfound courage to do it, I’m really grateful for how easy an E-ZPass makes the whole experience (hence the name, I guess). No having to scramble for money for the toll, no digging through for any coins. Just get in the clearly marked lane, wait your turn, and drive right along through.

Thank you, E-ZPass, for making life much more convenient and easy.

No. 49: Grad School Friends

I spent this evening catching up with two friends from grad school, Megan and Julianna, over drinks at The Continental Midtown in Philly. It was much needed and relaxing, but most importantly, it reminded me of the amazing group of friends grad school gave me.

I wrote about my cohort on my previous blog, and it’s pretty much the post I wish I could have saved the most because each and every one of them is truly amazing with their passions and drive. I’m beyond grateful to have been granted the cohort I had. My time in grad school was made even better by all of them, in particular before class each night when we would all sit around the lobby of the URBN building venting about our stresses at work and in our daily lives over Chipotle burrito bowls and Starbucks coffee

Though it has only been two months since the three of us last saw each other, it felt both like a minute and a year. I sat there tonight thinking “where has the time gone?”. It was crazy to think we had graduated just a couple of months ago. It was even crazier to think that in five years, some of us may not even be in Philly. Some of us may not even be working in the arts, a topic one of my friends actually wrote about for her thesis.

Regardless, I’m grateful I got to experience grad school with the group I did, a truly inspiring group of individuals who are going to set the arts and culture world on fire in the near future.

No. 48: New Music

I spent my Sunday morning looking through my iTunes music library and adding new music to it. I listened to everything from Queen to Eminem to Prince to Mahler to the King’s Singers to Patti Smith to Ella Fitzgerald to Muse to Cobra Starship to High School Musical to Rodgers and Hammerstein and many, many more.

Okay, that was my version of bragging. I digress.

I am literally always in search of new music, and I’m pretty much open to anything, with the exception of most country music (I’ll listen to Rascal Flatts and a couple of others, but anything with a beer, dog, truck, and beach I’ll gladly pass). I love discovering a new piece of music and immersing myself in that album or songwriter’s collection.

And so, this post is really me asking all of my readers what their favorite music is. I’m in desperate need to update my music library and would be eternally grateful for your own suggestions. Leave a comment with a song or piece of music you’re really passionate about and I promise I’ll give it a try.

To end, I’m especially grateful for music. Music has been a part of my being for as long as I can remember, and I’m grateful we all have it. It’s one of the best gifts in life.

So I’ll leave you with a list of my top fifteen favorite songs/pieces of all time (because just one or two doesn’t do it justice):

  1. “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now”- Celine Dion
  2. “Hey Ya!”- OutKast
  3. “Faithfully”- Journey
  4. “Can’t Help Falling In Love”- A*Teens (don’t judge me- the Lilo & Stitch soundtrack is amazing)
  5. “If I Loved You”- Carousel
  6. “All Star”- Smash Mouth
  7. “Ave Maria”- Franz Schubert
  8. “Born This Way”- Lady Gaga
  9. “Adagio for Strings” Samuel Barber
  10. “Brothers in Arms”- Dire Straits
  11. “We Didn’t Start the Fire”- Billy Joel
  12. “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”- Meatloaf
  13. “Uninvited”- Alanis Morissette
  14. “Don’t Stop Me Now” Queen
  15. “Epilogue” Les Miserables
  16. “La Vie en Rose”- Louis Armstrong (fifteen, sixteen- it’s all the same, right?)
  17. EDIT: “Shake It”- Metro Station (how on earth did I forget this one?!?)
  18. EDIT: “Exogenesis” – Muse (and this one- obviously I was not fully awake when I wrote this)

No. 47: Taxes

My mom and I did our taxes today.

Let’s just say we were not happy.

Without getting too much into the weeds, both of our refunds were a stark decrease from last year. I had my hesitations about doing my taxes after reading articles from The Washington Post and The New York Times, both of which storied various accounts of Americans who saw similar decreases in their refunds this year. But I was not expecting what I got today. Not at all.

I know I should be grateful to be receiving a refund in the first place. And I am. But it still doesn’t mitigate the fury me, my mom, and I’m sure a countless number of Americans are feeling right now.

And so, what am I really, indeed grateful for right now? The fact that this is an opportunity to encourage others, especially people my age just getting started in their careers, to go out and vote. Don’t just sit around and think tax reform legislation won’t affect you. Vote.

No. 46: Students

Today at work, I had the great privilege of sitting in on our students’ fellowship presentations. The event was great in the first place because of the free lunch (which I was NOT passing up by any means), but it was really special because of the experiences I was granted access to today that I have never experienced before.

I’ve never been abroad, but I felt like I traveled to at least five different countries today. I got to see pictures from trips to England, Germany, Spain, and Sweden. I heard stories about Salvador Dali, an Ecuadorian artist, the King Arthur legend, and the intersection of art/design and environmental sustainability.

I got to see students live their dreams as they worked with highly skilled professionals in their respective fields. I saw firsthand one student’s board game and another’s beautiful pair of slip-on shoes. I saw a student live their dream of working in New York City. I saw the start of what I am sure will be some remarkable careers in the next few years.

Plainly put, I saw a bunch of young women absolutely thriving, all thanks to the generosity of our amazing donors, the support of our amazing career center staff, the guidance of our faculty, and the motivation behind their aspirations. Today made me really proud to work where I do, and it made me believe in the power in an all-girls education.

I’m grateful that my workplace has some amazingly talented and driven students. I’m grateful to be given the opportunity to serve them, and to help them in some way achieve those dreams. Thank you to all of the students who presented today for inspiring me and for making me even more proud to work where I do.

No. 45: Love

Today is Valentine’s Day, a day many anxiously await for, for either good or bad reasons. I’ll honestly say that this isn’t particularly my favorite day of the year. I’m glad for everyone that has a significant other and is in a happy, healthy relationship, but it does get to me.

I know I’m not alone in that experience/feeling. So, for anyone else that might be struggling right along with me, I feel you and I’ve got your back. Don’t ever let it get to you and make you feel unworthy. I learned that the hard way. And rest assured, if you’re reading this blog, you’re a pretty special person in the first place (totally kidding there- but you’re still pretty awesome).

This probably isn’t my most well-crafted post thus far. It honestly took me awhile to figure out what to say. But nevertheless, I’m glad we have a day to celebrate love, in whatever form it comes to us. I’m grateful for all the love I’ve been given from friends, family, and even strangers I’ve never met. There are many times this world seems like a scary place, but love from anyone always makes it a better one to live. I once heard in a movie “love is the closest thing we have to magic”, and though it doesn’t necessarily feel like it all the time, I still believe in that sentiment.

No. 44: Galentine’s Day

If you haven’t seen an episode of Parks and Rec, then I am sorry, but go watch it and come back to read this post to really understand what “Galentine’s Day” is.

I love, absolutely love, the idea of Galentine’s Day. So often, Valentine’s Day can leave so many feeling dejected and hopeless, but with a day like Galentine’s Day, it gives us all a chance to realize what the word “love” really means. Love is not just romantic love. Of course that’s nice and it’s something most of us want out of life. I know that well. But love from family and friends is just as, if not even more, important. I think it’s something I’ve been taking for granted a little bit, and that so desperately needs some changing.

I love Galentine’s Day and recognizing all of the amazing women who are part of my life. And if you yourself are a woman and are reading this blog, trust me in knowing how grateful I am for you. And if you’re a man and reading this blog, I’m very much grateful for you as well.

I swear one day I will host a Galentine’s Day celebration of my own. I even have a Pinterest board for it, so I mean, come on. It’s gonna happen. Waffles and all. But for now, to all my Galentines out there: thank you for your love and patience. You gals are nothing short of absolutely awesome, and I’m beyond thankful you’re a part of my life. I love you all.

No. 43: Salads

I had salad for dinner tonight. If you didn’t already know, I love salads. Namely, I love ordering salads from Saladworks and Pat’s. I could literally order the Turkey Club or Grilled Chicken salad from either place, eat it every night, and it would never get old.

My ideal salad consists of the following: romaine lettuce, a whole lot of tomatoes (my favorite vegetable/fruit or whatever it is), carrots, cucumbers, a little bit of cheese, and a little bit of either turkey or chicken with ranch dressing.

Is it the healthiest? No. I could definitely do without the dressing and the meat. But it’s definitely a lot better than what I could be eating. Salads make me feel both mentally and physically better after eating them, and it’s definitely reassuring for me when I realize how many nutrients I’m putting into my body.

Is there really anything more satisfying than a really big bowl of salad? I think not. And for that, I’m most definitely grateful.