A few years ago, my ex asked me who I’m closest with: friends from home, friends from school, or friends from abroad.  I never answered him, but I’ve since thought of that question on occasion, and I have come to the conclusion that I’m not more or less close to each of the groups; the levels of friendship and connection are just so different.  These people are part of significant phases of my life, and perhaps each group knows me in a different way than the others.

My friends from home have known me since I was ten years old, and they have, no doubt, seen me grow the most.  These people have watched me change, and vice versa.  There’s something about growing up constantly surrounded by the same friends, seeing slow evolutions in each other, and sharing experiences that shape us both as individuals and as a system.  All of this transforming brought us to a level of friendship that can only be achieved with time.  And all of this time has brought us ups and downs that only continue to bring us closer.  They are my cornerstone, the building blocks of who I am, the very core of where my growth began, and one of the main ingredients to my happiness.  My friends from home are the ones I am glad to always have.  No matter how far down the road, I know I will have them to come home to.

It was hard to imagine who my college friends would be and what role they would play in my life until I found them.  Turns out, they’re some of the best friends to have around.  College friends get to know you in incredible ways–at house parties and bars, hungover in dorms, during all-nighters at the library, and every other second in between.  These are friends who live with you–sometimes literally–and get to see who you are while you’re in the process of finding yourself and potentially, who you’re going to be for the rest of your life.  They are there to watch you overcome the most difficult challenges you will ever face, and if you’re lucky, they’ll be right next to you every step of the way, making the same exact horrible decisions.  I have formed unbreakable bonds with my college friends, and with them I’ve learned how little time can affect friendship.  They are my support networks and secret-outlets, my squad, and the bottom line is that they get to know me better than most people ever do.

Sigh.  Sevilla friends.  These are people with whom I have created an entirely new bubble of friendship.  They are there, living in the stories that I will be telling for the rest of my life.  These friendships formed exceptionally fast, and I think that might be the reason for our extremely high comfort levels with each other.  Suddenly I found myself in a foreign country with just a suitcase and this group of people to hold on to.  And I did.  We all did.  Fortunately I don’t think we will ever let go.  What we’ve been through were some of the best moments of our lives, and that is not something to be taken lightly. We’ve seen the world, pushed through borders and boundaries, and fell in love with the same city together. Through all of this, and in less than half a year, what we did was more than travel. We left parts of ourselves with each other, in all corners of the world, and if that doesn’t bond you for life then I’m not sure what does.

Since this question was posed to me, I entered a new phase in my life which has brought yet another incredible group of people into my life: my Seoul friends. The last three years in South Korea have been life life life, and I couldn’t be more grateful for all my experiences here. I’ve grown part of different communities–teachers, foreigners, local yogis and runners–who have welcomed me and helped me to see the life I’ve built in this country. I hold close the group of friends I made within the first few days of arriving, and I think that through meeting them I became solid in who I already was. We all got to know each other exactly as we were and as we still are, and I have nothing but gratitude for the fact that we loved each other through flaws and mistakes.

Most recently I’ve been thinking about the running and yoga families I’ve come to know and love here in Seoul the last two years. When I first walked into Zen Yoga studio, and first went to an open run for Crewghost, I never thought it would become a completely engrained and habitual attendance. Now I go to my yoga studio 5-8 times and to a crew run at least once or twice, both per week. Spending as much time sharing a mutual passion with a group of people for hours at a time brings you together without even trying–certainly regardless of language. These two communities have brought me joy and support, and a family to back me in the goals that no one else can understand.

As I come to realize that I have just five short months left before a new adventure, I’ve been thinking a lot about who I’ve spent my years with. And as I get ready to leave this group of friends to visit the others, all I can feel is gratitude. To have so much love from around the world. To know that I can turn to so many to receive all kinds of needs. To understand that I can be a different version of myself and still be loved for it. To find that I am open and lucky enough to be able to connect with so many souls. And to recognize that with time, I am changing for the better. How do I know all this? Because each time I come back to all of the people I love, no matter how long it’s been or how far I’ve gone, I never doubt that the love and connection and friendship remain.

Seven years and counting

Holy wow. Since 2006, every July 10th I think about life a little harder and it comes a little more into perspective. It’s the day I lost a good friend and the day the world lost a great person.

As we, the Westwood High School class of 2010, become rising college seniors, I know that Kevin Frazza is always in the back of our minds. Through everything that’s happened in the last seven years, Kevin has been there. It’s just not easy to forget being 14 years old and finding out one summer morning that your friend was murdered by his own father.

From our first day as freshmen in high school, when we first found out what it was like to be a class without him, to our last day as seniors in high school, when it hurt too much to be a class without him, he was there. All the way to our first day as freshmen at our separate colleges, and through every hardship and good day in between, Kevin was there, with each of us. Often I think about Duke University’s class of 2014 and imagine how much spirit and life Kevin could have brought to it. It breaks my heart a little, so I try not to think so hard about the possibilities and how they were taken away from him too soon.

Typically, college juniors study abroad for some time, and a few of us did; we traveled the world and experienced new cultures–something that I have no doubt Kevin would have done. Before I left to go abroad, his mom dropped a card in my mailbox with a picture of Kevin to take on my travels. He’s been everywhere now, and I feel lucky to have been there with him, but one of the most remarkable stories I can tell is about something that happened this winter, right before I left for that trip.

Someone a grade below me, who went to my high school and knew Kevin, was studying abroad in Cameroon, Africa. After lunch one day, I came home and saw a Facebook post he wrote while in Africa.

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How mind-blowing is it that six years after that shirt was created and distributed to only a handful–certainly less than 100–people from Northern New Jersey, it was found at a small market on another continent at the other end of the world? If there was a better word than mind-blowing, it would be exactly that.

It’s the little, completely unexpected reminders like this one that I love so much about life…and death.

Death is defined by someone being gone, passed away, dead. But in reality, in life, as long as someone is remembered, he or she is never gone. That’s who Kevin Frazza is, not was. He is never gone, but always remembered. He has done so much in the world by only being in it for 13 years and he has done so much for the people he knew, like me. He changed lives. And I can guarantee that anyone who was affected by his passing will be thinking about him today, on the 7th anniversary of his murder.

And isn’t that what everyone wants in life? To leave something behind and be remembered? To change something, or someone? Well, it just so happens that Kevin did all of the above. Because for the rest of our lives, Kevin will remind us how lucky we are to be here. The best thing is that, even when he was still here, that’s what he did. He was THE happiest 13-year-old kid I knew. All he wanted to do was make people laugh and smile. That’s what he was best at. It breaks my heart that the thought of him makes me more sad than it does happy. But at the end of the day I never forget how blessed I am to have known him.

Kevin puts life in perspective for me. He reminds me that life is not always fair even to those who deserve it. Rest in peace, Kev. You are among the brightest stars in my sky, even when it’s cloudy.

A 201 toast to the one and only, Kevin Frazza.

Having enough

Tonight I will be going to New York City with an organization called the Midnight Run to deliver clothing and food to the homeless.  I participated in this Run last semester at Hofstra University and it was one of the most enlightening and humbling experiences I have ever had.

It’s not often that I get to have direct interaction with homeless people in the streets of New York City.  Sure, I see them all the time, but very rarely do I get the opportunity to approach them with clothing to give.

Throughout the semester we’ve been collecting clothing, food, and monetary donations from the Hofstra community to help our cause.  We received an overwhelming amount of donations and I am so much more excited to make this trip tonight because we have so much to offer.  Last night, we were sorting through bins and bins filled with hundreds of donated clothing items, accessories, shoes, toiletries, food, etc.  and I was surprised at the quality of some of the donated clothing.

There were brand new men’s dress shirts from Ralph Lauren, Banana Republic, Hugo Boss, and other brand-name retailers.  There was a woman’s gown and brand new semiformal dresses, fancy work tops, business suits, and new pairs of shoes.  Winter coats, beautiful leather jackets, North Face jackets, brand new Armani socks, and clothes from popular stores like H&M, Forever 21, and Ann Taylor Loft that were definitely purchased within the last few years.

All of these were being donated–implying that they are no longer wanted.  I know that may not be the case for every one of those items, but it seems to me that no one is conscious about money and quantity because we never feel like we have enough of anything.  Money, clothes, shoes, whatever it is.  Maybe some people don’t recognize how fortunate they are to be able to donate clothes that still have the price tags on them just because they don’t want them anymore.

I thought about the millions of purchases made just within the last week what with Thanksgiving sales, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday deals.  I can almost guarantee that next semester when the Midnight Run committee asks for donations, people will be donating unworn clothes that they purchased this weekend just because they were on sale.

All I wish is that more people open their eyes to bad habits we’ve developed in this consumer culture of ours.  We clearly don’t need to be purchasing so much STUFF because sometimes we end up donating them even before we use them.  Since I started making my own money and paying for expenses on my own, I’ve developed a greater understanding of the reasons its important to stay simple.

Make purchases that you need instead of purchases that you might want.  Treat yourselves to clothes once in a while but don’t get to caught up in it.  Who are you trying to impress anyway?

You have more than enough and more than you know.

Undress the Stress: Days 3-14

WELLLL I’m sure no one is surprised that I’ve bailed on this daily stress log that I promised to devote myself to, BUT this time I think my excuse is somewhat acceptable (but not for the entirety of the 11 days I missed).  Hurricane Sandy took away my power (literally) and I haven’t had a chance to blog at all.

I think I’m going to attempt writing a list right now of all the stresses I can remember from the last 11 days.  This alone will probably stress me out.

  • Study abroad deadlines.  Still waiting on paperwork and e-mails back from several people and I’m just growing impatient because I’ve been asking/calling/e-mailing/following up on this for WEEKS now.  It’s very inconvenient and stressful to meet deadlines when I’m not getting the information that I need.  Every time this comes up I just remind myself that there’s nothing I can do about it except continue to (or try to) be patient.
  • Relationship stress.  I guess I could potentially be over-analyzing, but I can’t help how I feel.  Long distance relationships are HARD and I’ve found that the further the distance, the harder it is, and all the more work is required.
  • 15-page midterm.  Because a hurricane just hit, I had no electricity or heat for five days, I have a life, five other classes, and not enough time to write this many pages about pop culture and Jean Baudrillard.
  • Hurricane Sandy.  Why does she think she can just barge into our lives, take our power away, flood our streets, knock our trees down and rain on our parade?  How rude.  Because of Sandy, I was stuck indoors for too many hours.  The majority of my town lost power for days (I think some areas still don’t have it restored), the temperature in my house was colder than it was outside, and a lot of my schoolwork couldn’t be done without Internet.  And to top that all off, my room at school had some water damage/leakage/flooding but thankfully a friend did what he could to reduce it.  It has been a highly unusual stressful week for me, but it was not as bad as it could have been.  My thoughts are with those who lost more than Internet access.
  • Despite all this Sandy devastation, I still celebrated Halloween (Chipotle’s $2 Boorrito Fundraiser anyone?), found that good people still exist, and got to spend quality time with family (in candlelight and surrounded by snacks that we felt obligated to eat…).


(That last picture was taken in front of a very generous person’s home.  A surge protector and a sign that read “Please charge your phones and computers here!”  Good people are out there.)

Lots of wonderful things happened in the last 11 days too!  More to come about that.  Lots of blogs to write!

Writing these stress blogs is such a great relief.  Instant recommendation for anyone who has any type of stress.  Which is everyone.