Friday, September 11, 2009

Make The Most Of It

by David Jenkins

Sometimes life puts you somewhere you never thought you would be. Sometimes you look back and think, "How did I get all the way over here?" Life has its twists and turns, no doubt, and even a boring guy like me has had his fair share. I'm guessing that it's probably safe to assume that maybe you've had yours. My parents split up when I was young, which was probably unexpected, but being three years old I don't remember much.

The Atlanta Falcons lost in Superbowl 33 to the Denver Broncos, which is something I definitely didn't expect (I lost fifteen bucks on that game). And, for the past four and half months, I've been living in New York City on the top floor of a six-story building in downtown Manhattan next to a tattoo parlor, which I guess on my list of places I thought I would be in life is somewhere near the bottom.

Not that I don't like New York. In fact, I love it. It's just not somewhere that as I looked ahead in life that I was planning to be. And depending how you look at, or rather depending on how I look at it, that can be a good thing or a bad thing.

Throughout my small journey, I've found that simply trying to eliminate all the twists and turns in life is not the key to peace and satisfaction, because life by it's own nature is a windy road. Somehow or other it seems that the joy of life can be found along those twist and turns, and for me, I've found it through the people I've met along the way.

My road starts back in Whittier, California, which is the home city of our former president Richard Nixon. In fact, my high school prom was at the Richard Nixon Library, where his childhood house is still available for tours. Whittier is right on the border line of L.A and Orange County, so technically speaking, I lived in the unincorporated district of L.A. county, which I always translated as "nowhere land."

While growing up, my sister and I lived with our mom who ran a public day-care center from her home, so I was always around other kids and people. I'm not really sure what it would have been like growing up with a dad in the house, but my sister and I got along well enough and our mom loved us enough that I was happy with just the three of us.

I even remember crying once at the thought that my mom would remarry and disturb our little world that I had gotten used to. All the while, the 15-20 other kids in the house definitely gave a bit of life to the whole scene. We lived right next door to the elementary school and only a few blocks from the junior high school, which I walked to and from each day with my best friend Chris Taylor as we carried our tenor saxophones that we borrowed from the school's music department.

Chris's mom actually used to drop him off everyday next door at our neighbor's house, who also ran an at-home day care center, but as we started to become good friends, we convinced his mom to start dropping him off at my house.

Chris and I would have breakfast together, watch an episode of Mighty Max, and then head out the door. Throughout elementary school, we went through phases of pogs (remember pogs?), marbles, Marvel comic cards, Magic the Gathering, and eventually degraded ourselves down to Garbage Pail Kids. Chris didn't get so in to marbles, but everything else we did together.

In junior high, as I mentioned, we both played the tenor sax, which means that every day during fourth period we got to sit next to each other and envy the alto sax players who always got the better parts and and burst up laughing as we compared the trombone player behind us to the sound of Chewy from Start Wars. It wasn't the nicest thing to do, but it was an honest observation of what she sounded like. (If you're reading this Denise, I'm sorry if we ever made you feel bad).

High school came up quickly around the corner for both of us, and as most of us have probably experienced, we don't always keep the same friends throughout our school years. Somehow or other, we had different schedules and started to move on with our own lives. We kept in touch, but not so often, and as far as I know, Chris is still living in Southern California working at a home loan office and making plans for his future dream to host his own late night T.V. show. He would be the perfect guy for the job.

As for me, I've somehow or other found myself clear across the country right in the heart of the big city. I make weekly trips down to Chinatown to buy groceries, stand in line every day to use the bathroom while my other roommates brush their teeth, and utilize the moments I have in between to connect in a personal way with the people around me who make my life meaningful.

If the truth be told, pogs were never really that fun to play with, Magic cards were always too complicated for me, and Garbage Pail Kids weren't really that funny (O.K., maybe some of them were). What made everything worth doing, and still makes it worth remembering, is the fact that it was something I got to do with another person.

My friendship with Chris, as well as many others, have helped me discover that the real reason why something in life becomes meaningful, is because there's someone there to share it with, either big or small. I've never been able to tell myself a good joke, surprise birthday gifts to myself are never the same, and playing a game of solo freeze tag gets boring really fast. Life just isn't the same by yourself. We really need each other to experience it, or at least I do.

The activities themselves can in a way be seen as a medium through which I've gotten to know and spend time with others, and that's where the real meaning, sustenance, and stability of my life can be found. When I look at it through that lens, all the twists and turns of my life just become details to decorate and frame the real painting which is the relationships with all the people I've met along the way.

So I do my best to make the most of it. In a city of over 8 million people where I'm constantly bumping in to, stepping over, and stacking myself on top of everybody else, the more friends the better. Or, at least, the closer I can come to the friends I already have, the better I can ride smoothly throughout each day, and try to live a more meaningful life.

David Jenkins (Doyal Gauranga Dasa) is a monk and vegetarian/vegan chef who runs weekly cooking seminars and meditation classes at Columbia University and New York University

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