friendship

Why the Internet Can Be Good (RE: Alex Rayfiel)

The other day as I was scrolling through Facebook, I saw a link a friend posted that caught my eye. It had a picture of a boy named Alex, who I’d gone to high school with, attached to an article whose title didn’t quite register until after I clicked it.

When the page loaded, my face went white. Alex was sick. Recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. His family had created a donation page in the hope of raising money for a radical new treatment in Israel. I read through the story his wife posted, aching for the two of them and their newly born daughter. It all sounded so completely unfair.

Now, I’d never known this guy. We’d gone to high school together for four years, and I’d seen him around from time to time, but never got to know him. In fact, I only met him once in a brief introduction from a mutual friend at our shared college. But as I read the story about the turn his life has suddenly taken, I realized I remembered him, and how, even in our lack of interaction, he’d left a mark on me.

High school is tough for everyone, often in different ways, and while I wouldn’t say I had a terrible experience, I also wouldn’t volunteer to do it all over again. I was a quiet, reserved student who stuck to what she knew and rarely felt comfortable in her own skin. That being said, Alex made me laugh.

He and his friends had participated in the talent show as the “Finger Flippers” which became legendary amongst our senior class. And during our senior luncheon, they created a video that discussed which of our classmates had celebrity lookalikes. I remember sitting at the back table, nervous as always, counting down the days until I graduated. I hadn’t been sat next to any of my friends, and I was internally apologizing to the people around me for not being more interesting. But then the lights went down and the video started, and I laughed through the whole thing. It was a genuine laugh, the kind that makes you feel lighter, and as I looked around the room at my classmates who felt the same, I felt included. Afterwards, when Alex and his friends mentioned they had plans to post the video to YouTube I took note, excited to have something positive to look back on in the future. I’d forgotten about the video over all these years, and only found it when I searched his name. When I watched it again however, it still gave me that good feeling.

So as I read through his story and then through some of the comments, I couldn’t help but feel drawn to donate, not only because it was the right thing to do, but because it felt like a way I could say thank you for giving me those moments of freedom all those years ago. And even more, allow me the opportunity to be a part of offering him the chance to experience a moment of freedom in the future. Be it through minor progress, or radical recovery.

This is the good part about the Internet. For amongst all the drama and fake personas, there also lie small bursts of goodness. There are chances to read stories of hope and resilience, chances to reconnect with old friends and family, and sometimes, chances to lend a hand to a near stranger. And so, Alex Rayfiel, while we may remain essentially strangers, I hope you know I’m praying for you, and that I’m grateful for what you gave me all those years ago, even if you had no idea. I wish you and your family all the best, and I hope the next time I find you in my Facebook feed, it will be to inform me that you’re on the road to recovery.

If you want to help Alex, you can find his donation page here.

31 Good Things That Happened in March

I have good news and good news. I have only good news!

As mentioned in this blog post, at the end of every month I’m going to highlight all the good things that happened, to give ourselves a break from the well known bad.

You can find last month’s here.

Happy March to you!

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1) Chrissy Teigen opened up about her postpartum Depression

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“I [just] didn’t think it could happen to me. I have a great life. I have all the help I could need: John, my mother (who lives with us), a nanny. But postpartum does not discriminate. I couldn’t control it.”

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2) International Women’s Day

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3) The cast of Hamilton donated their night’s salaries to an amazing women’s charity.

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4) This girl sent a crying classmate flowers

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5) This dog filled in as a zoo mommy

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6) This cat was overtaken by the piano

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7) Delish released a recipe for Pizza Grilled Cheese

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8) This little boy found out he was getting a new heart

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9) This runner made a great statement about body confidence. (via mileposts Instagram)

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“…Both of these race photos were taken on the same day at the same race. In one I looked happy and strong and in the other I was left questioning if there was a part of my body that didn’t have cellulite. This race at some points sucked for me – I got sick – threw up before crossing the finish line and had possibly my slowest 13.1 time ever – but post race the sucky feelings faded and I remember the day being fun – drinking wine with friends after, joking how wine cures all. If you had asked me after if I had a good time I would have said YES!! I still felt that way in the days following the race UNTIL I saw the photo on the left and then insecurity set in and I thought about how that day was not fun. But that’s silly, because it was fun…A race photo is ONE SINGLE moment in time and I let one of them steal joy from me. Most times we don’t look great while we run, but that’s not why we run anyways, we run to FEEL like I look in the photo on the right – HAPPY. Don’t let a photo steal joy – you are worth so much more than one split second – moment in time.”

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10) A pregnant woman gave this man a “Decent Dude” trophy for being the first man–throughout two pregnancies–to offer her his seat on the subway.

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11) Beauty and the Beast was released in theaters!

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12) Internet personality Jerome Jarre started a petition online to get help to Somalia…

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13)…and it worked!

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14) And with the help of people around the world, Somalia is receiving the help it needs!

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15) These boys tried to fool their teacher

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16) These police officers helped a woman get out of her driveway

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17) This service dog did his job

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18) This woman stopped to help

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19) This boy melted hearts with his cheesy prom-posal

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20) And this guy pulled off an adorable Up-themed prom-posal

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21) This mom knew just what to say to her daughter

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22) This IHOP waiter took the time to hand feed one of his customers

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(image via Keshia Dotson Facebook)

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23) This chicken was reunited with its favorite human

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24) National Puppy Day

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25) An 8 year old girl realized she could do whatever she wants

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26) This little girl got a doll worthy of a superhero

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27) This little guy got to hug his hero

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28) Lego & Nasa announced they will team up to release a collection to celebrate the women of Nasa

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29) This mermaid spent her night babysitting…another mermaid

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30) This flower company gave out 10,000 flowers for International Day of Happiness

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31) This little girl made a new friend out of a broken water heater.

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Wanna know the best part? There is SO much I didn’t include.

I can’t wait to see what April brings!

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Stop Trying to Be Relatable

Have you ever been hanging out with a group of people you only kind of know and so you’re trying your best to come off as someone completely normal and confident and witty and friendly and successful in a completely casual way, then suddenly they start talking about something you know absolutely nothing about?

You listen, trying desperately to find a story or factoid in your brain that would be an appropriate contribution, but nothing comes. So you just sit, smiling and nodding, wishing you’d done more with your life so you could be a well-rounded, knowledge-in-all-things type of person.

As they continue—for much longer than they should on any topic, really, but especially on this particular one which you still know nothing about, making you regret every life choice that didn’t provide you with the most basic of knowledge on it—you briefly consider making something up. Something basic. Something untraceably false that will connect you to these people. But then you worry that your nerves will inadvertently add hyperbole to your statement, making it obvious that it is a lie, completely shooting a hole in your credibility as a conversationalist and overall human being. So ultimately you decide to stay quiet, and though it provokes a few wary glances, you accept them, for it has become clear that you simply cannot relate.

In the world of social media, “relatability” has become a key element in our admiration of others. We love the celebrities that share pictures of themselves sans makeup and in sweatpants, admittedly lazing it up on a Saturday afternoon. We love moms that post horror stories about their children and young adults posting picture after picture of their failed attempts at homemade meals. They post these moments and we repost them, delighted at their humanness, and caption them with things like, “this is totally me.”

When we find these shared peculiarities, especially with those we look up to in the media, we are given a sense of kinship and belonging. Suddenly the things about us we thought were weird are the very qualities that connect us to someone we admire. And as we see those personalities being praised and adored for their candor and uniqueness, we start to believe that we too have that same chance. So we share. We share and we share and we share. We tag and we hashtag. Hoping to be liked. But at what point in this process do we stop striving for honesty and start searching for relatability? When do our interests and our words start shifting away from what we believe and towards what we think others will enjoy?

This is where it seems that being “relatable” becomes less of a happy coincidence and more of a believed standard for acceptance.

But isn’t it the raw honesty of a confession that makes a connection that much more surprising and meaningful? Isn’t it the shock value that makes it fun?

Why pretend that you like decorative DIY pots when you’d rather put flowers in old Arrowhead water bottles?

Why pretend that you know anything about classic movies when you’d rather discuss the newest episode of The Bachelorette?

Why pretend you’re completely put together when you’re perfectly okay with being a hot mess (or vice versa!)?

Why pretend you like organic vegetables when you legitimately CANNOT taste the difference and you’d rather save $40 and buy the non-organic ones?

No matter who you are or what your weird looks like, the world would be lucky to get acquainted. And chances are, the moment you introduce yourself you’d find someone out there saying, “OH MY GOSH ME TOO!”

So stop trying to be relatable, be you and it will come naturally.

Youth