The moon is pretty much a solitary practitioner. Oh, there are the occasional clouds that wander by, enshrouding her in mysterious aura, but for the most part, she drifts alone in the vastness of the sky, outshining her neighbors the stars. We know they are there, but we cannot see them for her brilliance. They only become visible at the time during which she sleeps.
The Kind Heart Will Triumph:
An Open Letter To A Young Girl I Know
It’s suckage when you believe that there is no one you can trust to truly have your back and never fuck with you. I think that’s what all of us want from our families, friends and lovers – the one person we can depend on not to INTENTIONALLY hurt us. I am emphasizing “intentionally” because sometimes, shit just happens. Perhaps the person does not have the necessary skills to put themselves in your place and feel what you feel. Perhaps it does not even occur to them to do so. Maybe they are not mature enough to have empathy and compassion, or maybe it was never taught to them. Maybe they are all tied up in the competition for status, for a position among the “cool” people. Maybe they are really desperate for it, they really, REALLY need it. Maybe it’s so important to their own feelings of self-worth, they cannot afford to worry about your feelings or anyone else’s. Maybe they are trying their best, but it’s YOU who isn’t being clear about what you want, what you will accept and what you will simply not tolerate insofar as their behavior toward you is concerned.
Or maybe – just maybe, they are incapable of empathy and compassion, regardless of their age or maturity level. Maybe some people really ARE just that shallow. Maybe some of them do not see anything beyond the clothes, the hair, the makeup, the number of friends they have, the things they own or the number of boys who are salivating after their insubstantial, plastic little selves. Maybe they are just mean girls; there are some kids who don’t want friends, they want worshippers. They don’t value love, they value notches on their belts (or worse, on their bedposts). They don’t hesitate to hurt someone if they stand to gain something from it – inflated sense of self-worth, status among peers, whatever else they might want in a moment of malice.
At your age, the power of that status-among-peers thing is not to be underestimated. It is so very craved, it turns even nice young people, people who were brought up to behave “better than that”, into glory junkies. It’s a rough time, the teen-into-mid-twenties years. Insecurity drives more friendships to ruin during this time than any other. It drives people to behave with unspeakable cruelty toward one another. It drives them to behave with unspeakable cruelty toward THEMSELVES. It drives kids to do things that are dangerous to their bodies as well as to their psyches, just so that others will stand in awe of them and think they are cool. It drives them to cut, to have sex before they are ready and it drives them to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol and do drugs. Worst of all, the craving for status among peers can drive kids to end up, at their own hands, dangling from the end of a rope or floating in a pool of their own blood.
I don’t know how any of us manage to escape the teen/young adult years with our lives. We’re all just so fucked up and so disoriented during this time, it’s a wonder we can see straight once it’s over. Certainly we all bear the scars when we emerge. We’ve learned some hard lessons about people. We’ve maybe learned to be a little more cautious about whose opinion we value, because placing a lot of stock in the wrong person’s esteem for you can turn you into someone you never had any intention of becoming, and it can make you feel like a worthless fool when they capriciously flat-leave your ass for some insignificant supposed infraction. Or maybe just because they ceased to think you were cool. They don’t really have to have a reason, do they? They just do what they want with your emotions.
We learn that what gives a person value is this and only this – your value is measured by how you behave toward others, particularly toward those who are less fortunate than you are.
Hopefully, what we learn from all this is how to measure a person’s value, how to measure your OWN. We learn that what gives a person value is this and only this – your value is measured by how you behave toward others, particularly toward those who are less fortunate than you are. I don’t mean that just materially. I mean it emotionally too. If someone is more unhappy than you are, then they are less fortunate. When you throw that person some pixie dust, it will make their day and they will always remember you for that. They will remember that you were kind to them when they needed it the most.
Those who matter, the people who you really want on your side through thick and thin, will measure your value by HOW YOU MADE THEM FEEL. Not by what lip gloss or shoes you wore. Not by your cool phone or your car or your status as an brainiac, athlete, whatever. They will measure you by how you behaved toward them.
I’m not saying that you should eschew material things. If it makes you happy to wear cute clothes and have cool toys , then have at it. You know that I’ve never denied myself anything I really wanted. But you also know, if you’ve taken the trouble to observe, that I have a shitload of friends; people who come running to wish me a Happy Birthday, people who clamor to be the ones I come to see when I’m home on Long Island, people who sorrow with me, hold me up when I’m down, rejoice with me when I’m happy. I would one million times a million rather have them in my life than anything else. Yeah, I’d flush my smartphone for them. I would. And they know it. That’s why they’re my friends.
You will get past this time when transient, meaningless things seem to be defining you and your relationships. It will happen sooner than later, if you let it. It will, if you can muster the courage to start choosing friends from the people who maybe aren’t so “cool” by school standards but who are smart, funny, compassionate people. Kind people. People who have a heart, like you do. You will attract these people to yourself by your own behavior. If you aren’t ready to do this yet, it’s ok. It’s a lot to ask of a person in your position, and it takes practice.
Start small. I remember one time being in an amusement park with a little person, many years ago. We looked across the street and I observed that some little kid’s stuffed animal had fallen out of the stroller and was just lying there in the street. Well the little person I was with, she saw this and she rushed across the street, picked up the stuffed animal, and lovingly tucked it into the stroller to await the return of it’s young owner.
That single random act of kindness and compassion is what I remember most about who you REALLY are underneath all this horrible but apparently necessary teen angst you’ve got to go through. I have faith that sometime very soon, you will start to collect friends who will always love you, who will always have your back and never fuck with you. I have faith that your kind heart will rise up and beat back all this meaningless bullshit, and that you will grow into the kind of woman everyone wants for a friend – smart, funny, gracious toward others.
And with really cool toys, cause that’s just how we roll
My friends have entered into an unwitting conspiracy on my behalf – a conspiracy designed to help me see that this is not a time of bell, book and candle…
“Clock, keys and Light…. clock, keys and Light….”
These words represent ordinary objects routinely encountered in everyday life. But last night, as the ritual annual viewing of “Love Actually” provided a flickering yet sufficient glow for the addressing of Christmas cards, “clock, keys and light” morphed into something akin to one of those pesky “ear worm” songs (Like this one. You’re welcome). Virulently pestilent, “clock, keys and light” repeated itself over and over in my mind with a cadence similar to that of “bell, book and candle”, a phrase used long ago to describe a once-popular method for the excommunication of sinners from the Catholic Church. When used in an excommunication ritual, the “bell” represents a death knell for the sinner’s soul, the “book” is shut to represent cutting the sinner off from the teachings of the Church and the candle is extinguished, leaving the sinner in the darkness of damnation.
(“Bell, Book and Candle” is also the title of a film, a romantic comedy starring Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novack. I recommend it, if only for the delight of hearing the actors utter one of the great cat names of all time – “Pyewacket”. Go on and say it now. “Pyewacket. Pyewacket. PYEWACKET!” See how delightful that is?)
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You might say that I’ve suffered something of an excommunication recently. Early in September, the bell tolled for the death of my 19 year career at Too Big To Fail. After having handed in my badge, the door slammed behind me and I no longer had access; I was shut out of that institution forever. Darkness descended, sort of a radio silence. I no longer know anything about the day-to-day doings there, or of the people with whom I’d enjoyed daily contact for so very many years.
Whereas “bell, book and candle” are punishments, “clock, keys and light” are gifts. They came to me from some of the intended recipients of the cards I was addressing last night, which is what prompted the chanting inside my head. Oddly – or perhaps not – all three items arrived in the mail within the last month, and all three were sent to me by people I met online. One woman hails from Colorado, another from the Midwest and the third right here in Florida. Ironically, the Floridian is the only one of the three I haven’t actually met – this, despite the fact that until last year, we were at most 30 minutes apart by car.
“Spotty” is from Colorado. I met her on an internet forum in connection with our mutual love of all things Disney. We’ve attended a few meets together at Walt Disney World, most recently during the inaugural Princess Half Marathon, which she finished despite a very painful knee. Spotty is the one amongst these three online friends with whom I’ve spent the most face-time. The fact that a good chunk of this face-time occurred in a tequila bar should not, in any way, be construed as a commentary on the quality of our interactions. It was fabulously fun face-TIME and therefore, Spotty is naturally the giver of the clock. The clock arrived on November 12th. It’s a tiny, shiny, perfect little gifty-treat, a memento from some anniversary celebrated by Disneyland in California. The face of the clock bears a portrait of my favorite Disney character, Tinkerbell. I did not save the SMS text exchange that preceded its arrival in my mailbox, but I have a vague recollection that Spotty was performing a purge of possessions when she found the clock, and since I am known elsewhere on the internet as “Tink *~*~*”, it made her think of me. I was touched at her thoughtfulness in asking to send it to me.
“GPC” is a blogger who hails from the Midwest; you can find her at Shedding The Wolf. I originally met her online as “Sandpail Gail” on a forum dedicated to discussion about Sanibel and Captiva, the magical sub-tropical islands which lured me to relocate to Southwest Florida from Da Loverly Isle Of Long. It’s an unfortunate hallmark of the times in which we live; GPC has also been recently “excommunicated” from her career, so we can definitely relate to one another’s current respective plights. In the surprise package from GPC were two key blanks that can be cut to fit the lock of my choice. They are pretty much the same size as my current house keys. These gifts arrived on December 11th and like the clock, they also bear the visage of Tinkerbell.
Last but certainly not least is “Maidenshade”, my fellow Floridian and kindred spirit – so kindred, I’ve actually friended her on Facebook, which is something usually reserved for people I’ve met and spent time with. “Maidenshade” is the name of her business, where she hand-crafts beautiful lampshades and night lights. One day last summer, I was accosted in the aisle of a local home goods warehouse by a massive framed piece of art. It’s a bold and stunningly modern departure for the woman whose home is filled with ornately carved antiques. However, I was inexplicably drawn to it. I knew the moment I clapped eyes on it that the large expanse of bare, white wall over the garden tub in The Palace (my master bath) would henceforth be barren no more. I posted a photo of it to Facebook and now Jen has cleverly gone and made me a beautiful night light to match. I took delivery of it on December 14th and immediately installed it in The Palace, marveling at how impeccably made it is.
Why am I writing about these gifts? Well, it’s like this. I saved the return addresses on all three packages so that I could record them in my contacts list on my phone and send “thank you” notes in the form of Christmas cards. Last night, I assembled all the essential implements of Christmas carding and laid them out on the blue suede damnsofa – the requisite smelly candle (it’s called Yankee Candle “Sparkling Snow”), the seasonal entertainment (the aforementioned DVD of Love Actually – although, Christmas music can also be used), the cards with scenes like Santa posed inappropriately beneath a palm tree, the pens, stamps, return address labels, phone with the contacts list and a cup of Tazo decaf chai.
The first three cards I wrote were for the recipients listed on the return addresses I’d ripped from the packages containing the clock, the keys and the light. And as I was writing, the phrase began to sing in my head – “clock, keys, light…” – which eventually transformed itself into “Time! Answers! Illumination!”
My friends have entered into an unwitting conspiracy on my behalf – a conspiracy designed to help me see that this is not a time of bell, book and candle, not a time of death, imprisonment and darkness. It is, rather, a period in my life rich with gifts. Time, unfettered by work-a-day obligations, is a gift. Time permits me to explore, to discover answers that have lain locked behind obligation and practicality, to open the doors to my secret (so secret, it’s hidden even from me!) calling and illuminate what lies inside.
How did you all know just what I needed, and in just such a combination that would capture and keep my attention and fire my imagination? I think you are all remarkable, but I bet you didn’t – know, that is. There’s another explanation, however – episodic Memos From The Universe. That’s what this is. And I thank you all for answering whatever call from the Universe it was that you heard, which has led me to relax, if just a little, and believe, if only for a day, that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be at this time, doing pretty much what I’m supposed to be doing.
So, have I mentioned that I am going to a writers conference on Sanibel? Four days of immersion in readings, lectures and writing workshops await me. Gary and Tootie are going to let me stay with them so I don’t have to "commute" each morning. This means an extra hour of sleep, which is a precious commodity these days, so their hospitality is much appreciated.
Here are my favorite implements of writing – a marble-covered composition book and a handful of blue ink Bic Stic medium ball point pens in the original "crystal" casing. And they all still have their caps. And none of them are chewed.
Years ago, when I was a child first learning to write, these marble-covered composition books came only in black. I have filled a few of the black ones in my time! In more recent years, the marble-covered composition book has become available in a wide array of colors. I’m quite taken with the blue ones; you really can’t expect different from a person blogging from the comfort of her blue suede sofa.
"Marble-covered composition book" is such an iconic phrase. In my mind, it’s right up there with "little red-haired girl" and "you bet your sweet bippy". Repeat these phrases to people of a certain era, and they know exactly what you’re talking about. Language can be a huge part of the shared cultural experience. That’s one of the things it has in common with music, the visual arts and food.
I’ve only just returned to my comfy little home after a long (10 days) stay in Orlando. It feels like a bit of a burden to be leaving again so soon but I am sure that once I get there, I will be happy that I signed up.
Back in 1986, I wore what a friend jokingly referred to as "the stick pants". In fact, we both wore them. It was one of the few things we had in common, that we could both wear the stick pants – size four on a 5’7" frame makes a girl look like a stick figure. I look at photos of me from that era and I want to rush right out and buy myself a cookie.
Had I received this Dove "fortune" – "Live like you are wearing your skinny jeans" – back in the 80s, I would have thought it meant that I should strut around feeling all confidently sexy and smug.
But I look at this today and I don’t think sexy ’80s, pointy-toed stilettos. I think, "Shit, I’m not going to be able to eat two bites in those jeans!" And I take them off and put on something else. Probably, it’s got an elastic waist. At my age, comfort is what counts!
I was browsing a shop on Sanibel Island called “Pandora’s Box” – you would LOVE this place – and upstairs, where they have all the greeting cards, I came across this one. And it instantly made me think of you because it was labeled “Kindred Spirits”. So I surreptitiously snapped a shot to show you, then promptly forgot all about it. I attribute this to my advanced age and the onset of CRS (Can’t Remember Shineola).
Someday, we’ll have a drink! And I think you should peddle your wares to Pandora’s Box because actually, the fabulous things you make would fit like a glove there.
* Drove 2 hours to Tampa. The scenery is nice, so this is not terrible, once in a while. All the way up, I kept noting to myself that this was the last time that I’d pass this way on my way to the office. There will be plenty of times that I will pass at least some of that way to get to Orlando, but I’ll never go to the office again.
* Surrendered laptop and 19-year career, the latter of which fit neatly into a 2 quart Ziploc bag. No, I don’t still look like that. You know when that picture was taken? Back in the early 90s, I went through chemo and my hair all fell out. I flat out refused to have my photo taken for a badge because I knew I would not always be bald. So after about a year and a half, that’s how far my hair had grown out, and I consented to having the badge photo taken. I’m guessing this was early 1995! * Went to lunch with friends at favorite local hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant
* Thought often of Lisa, whose memorial service was held today. Only I could not go, on account of having to surrender today.
* Left office and no sooner did I get on the highway then I noticed – too late – a bazillion Florida state troopers lying in wait. Speed trap!
* Cop let me off with a minuscule fine compared to what he could have – I suppose because I’ve never in my 50 year life EVER been pulled over for a moving violation before. That was really nice of him. I burst into tears when he told me and confessed that I’d been laid off today. He could not have been nicer. I think I actually said to him, “I mean, could this day get any fucking worse?”. Um, yeah… * Got home, raised garage door, was prepared to drive car in, noticed the snake was back. Yes, AGAIN – the BIG-ASS snake, not one of those little pencil snakes. This is what I get for going organic – frogs fling themselves at my lighted windows each night, anoles squeeze under the screen doors and poop all over the lanai, and snakes decide to like my house best. He wasn’t moving out of the way, either. What to do – run him down with the RAV? I did that last time. I don’t want any more bad Karma. Played with lowering and raising garage door, and he got scared and slithered off into the bushes. I bet he’ll be back.
* Got online and found that a beloved member of my cyber-parrish has died after 10+ years being acutely ill. Christi is finally free of all this earth put her through. But I can’t believe we will never pray and banter and commune together ever again. Well we will, just not here.
“Sometimes, there just aren’t enough rocks.”
I shall practice what I preach. I told a friend today that loss happens to make space for new stuff to move in. Lost my job, lost my manager and mentor and friend Lisa, lost my perfect driving record, lost Christi… that’s an awful lot to lose. Whatever it is that’s coming, it must be huge
One of the great things about going home to New York, to The Loverly Isle of Long for Christmas is that I get to see the “back home” tribes and hang with them just like old times. This year is special – I’ll be home in plenty of time to make a Winter Solstice celebration with my friends. The Winter Solstice aka Yule is typically observed on December 21st, the shortest day/longest dark of the year. Solstice is all about the rebirth of the sun; in terms of the Wheel, we are at the lowest point of the year, but you know what that means – the only way left to go is up The purpose of the feast is to celebrate the beginning of the end of the dormancy period of the year, and prepare for a fresh start. The clean slate of a new year stretches into the future before us, upon which we get to write… ANYTHING WE WANT! How cool is that?
And so, we’ll go to the woods to gather greenery. Back at home, we’ll prepare the meal, deck the halls and set the table. We’ll light the candles and we’ll write on those clean slates, earnest notes filled with our desires, our requests of the Universe. And then we shall set them aflame and watch as the fire transforms them into sparks of prayer, rising through the crisp air into the night sky to become one with the stars, to be heard and fulfilled.
And then, we shall feast.
I did a little googling this weekend, to find appropriate foods upon which we should be feasting on the Solstice. Feasting and celebrating is something people can look forward to as the earth turns ever colder and darker leading up to Solstice. Anticipation of the celebration, of being able to put the darkest days behind us helps to counteract the depressive psychological effects of winter. When it’s so dark like this, we have too much melatonin, which causes malaise. That might be appropriate for bears, who are supposed to sleep away the winter, but most adult humans are expected to be productive. We need to find ways to assist ourselves in pushing past the darkness.
Anything that puts us in the presence of negative ions will lift our mood and make us feel energized. Isn’t that odd, that “negative” produces positive in us? In nature, places that tend to be negatively ionized are mountains, streams, forests and beaches. This may be why people flock to these types of places for relaxation and rejuvenation. There are other negatively-charged things we can use to help erase stress and seasonal fatigue. A wood fire, bees wax, green plants – all of these things can help to make us “of good cheer”. I guess we now know why we burn candles, deck the halls and have a Yule log. These things make us feel better and help us to to feel celebratory, to have hope that winter WILL end and that the life-bringing warmth of spring WILL return to us. The ancients may not have known about a substance called melatonin, but they knew that the air was filled with a magical, uplifting energy after a lightening storm, and that communing with nature by the side of a waterfall brings comfort and peace.
So you can see where I’m going with this. I now wanted to know – what foods carry a negative charge and make us feel good? Survey says – those foods that are alkaline help deposit negative ions into our bodies and are good mood enhancers. Most fruits and vegetables are alkaline, and they assist in combating the acidification of the blood. The more negative ions our blood carries, the better our metabolic, autonomic and immune systems function, and our skin and tissues are more elastic.
Googling once again, I discovered lists of alkaline vegetables, and most of them seemed to mention root vegetables like carrots, garlic, turnips and onions (we already knew about the root veggie-Yule connection). Other interesting things at the top of a few of the lists I found were broccoli, artichokes and leeks.
When I read about the leeks, I remembered a book I’d read called French Women Don’t Get Fat and how leek soup – with or without root vegetables and beans – is a staple food of the French woman’s diet. There’s even a recipe in the book, which uses lentils as the beans and can optionally be turned a little “creamy” by melting together a pat of butter and some flour and throwing that in at the last moment. They sometimes throw in some sort of browned French sausage that’s described in the book as a high-end hot dog. Ewww! I think we’ll be forgiven if we alter the ethnicity a bit and use Italian sweet sausage instead
All the while I’ve been writing this post, my thoughts have been drawn repeatedly back to the prospect of the blank slate. I have that feeling that I used to get (and sometimes still get) when I was a young girl, filling marble-covered composition books with poems, stories and the minutiae of my existence. When one book is all done, you get to start a new one, and THAT, my friends, is a magical and sacred moment. You walk it reverently to the desk and turn back the cover… it’s blank! The pages are pure, empty yet ripe with the promise of endless possibility. What events, what aspirations, what desires and dreams will manifest upon these pages?
At last, I’ve finally had some time to continue examining the data collected during this merely quasi-scientific study of What I’m Good At, aka “Manifesting – The Musical!”. I’ll bet the handful of you who have been reading here probably forgot about this, it’s been so long. Well – on with the show!
89 people were polled, 37% by email and 63% on a private internet forum. A combined total of 25 people responded. 56% of the email population responded, as opposed to 44% of the forum population. The forum is female only; hence there are no male responses by the forum polling method. 38% of the females polled via email responded, as compared to 20% via forum.
Figure 1: Population Polled, by Polling Method and Gender
Whereas email responses were made between me and the respondent, people from the private forum posted their responses in full view of the other members of the tribe. This may account for the higher response rate amongst the email population; it may have felt “safer” to opine only to me than it would have to opine in the presence of a wider audience.
Figure 2: Population Responded, by Polling Method and Gender
Approximately 87% of those polled were female; 13% were male. Despite the disproportion between males and females polled, it should be noted that fully half of the males polled responded, as opposed to only 24% of the females. Two of the male respondents are Siblings, two are Friends From High School, one is a Tech Geek and one is a Sanibel Fan. The distribution may suggest that I tend to engage in high-quality interactions or friendships with males who are similar to the ones with whom I was raised in in my birth tribe.
Normalization of Responses
Responses were made in free-form prose which had to be broken down and normalized across respondents in order to take measurements. Often, it was not enough to identify keywords as presented in the prose, because the same word used in different phrases by different respondents could translate into different concepts. Each respondent’s contribution was examined and broken down into the separate concepts that were being expressed. There were 124 concepts identified, which were then mapped to 55 keywords.
A few examples of this challenging task include:
The phrases “straight talk”, “telling it like it is”, “no bullshit” and similar phrases were all distilled down to single keyword, “Forthright”, because they clearly all described the same concept
The phrase “cutting through the bullshit and whittling down the issue to its essential core” became two keywords – “Analytical” and “Insightful”. Although this phrase shares the word “bullshit” with “no bullshit” in the previous example, it clearly implies something besides “forthright”. There are two concepts expressed in the phrase. One is “cutting and whittling” and the other is “essential core”. The former implies the tearing away of layers while the latter implies that there was some foreknowledge that the removal of these layers would yield something, even though that “something” might not be defined until the “cutting and whittling” had been completed.
Words and phrases like “entertaining”, “making an event special”, “making people feel cared-for”, “a good friend”, “you listen and make me laugh”, “good at bar crawling” were initially lumped under the single, somewhat whimsical keyphrase called “pixie dust”. However, there came the realization that again, separate concepts were being expressed, and the distinction was important. Therefore, this category was separated into “Fun” (“bar crawling”, “make me laugh”, “entertaining”) and “Nurturing” (“special”, “cared-for”, “good friend”, “you listen”).
Despite roughly 30 years of near-radio silence between us, a single participant ended up contributing a detailed and frighteningly accurate response that yielded 18 separate keywords. In fact, this individual is responsible for contributing, either directly or via normalization, 9 of the Top 10 most common keywords in the survey. This means half of his keyword responses are represented in 90% of the Top 10. And he had the nerve to accuse *me* of possessing “a highly effective vocabulary”. Pot, kettle, black!
Top 10 Keywords
As a result of normalization, 126 instances of 55 keywords emerged. Many of these 55 keywords repeated only once or twice. To focus the analysis, the Top 10 most frequently occurring keywords were identified (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Top 10 Most Frequently Occurring Keywords
The number of occurrences of the Top 10 keywords represents about half the total occurrences of all keywords that resulted from normalizing the survey responses.
Figure 4: Top 10 Keywords, Percentage of Total Occurrences
Occurrences of the Top 10 Keywords were most often found in the responses of the Sistas and the Friends Back Home.
Figure 5: Distribution of Occurrences of Top 10 Keywords Among The Tribes
It may be surprising that a tribe with whom interaction takes place almost exclusively online should be so well represented in the Top 10 Keywords. However, it should be noted that the Sistas tribe is primarily focused on the discussion and resolution of life problems and issues. Discussion topics are often deeply personal, which produces interactions that are generally more intense than those taking place in other tribes. The nature of the interactions in the Sistas tribe may account for the high volume of occurrences of Top 10 Keywords that the Sistas tribe produced.
Those of you who aren’t asleep by now Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….. will be happy to know that there is only one more part to this series. Next time, in Part 3, we will take a look at what everyone said I should be when I grow up. Ciao for now!