Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Just Roll With It

Sometimes you’ve just got to go with the flow.  Of course, every individual will always be cognizant of their immediate wants and needs, but in a healthy relationship, often it is worthwhile to sacrifice for the moment at hand.  Sometimes, a small decision, as trivial as going out or staying home for the evening, can go a long way towards the health of a relationship (friendly or serious alike).
This week I’m at the beach with six of my friends from high school.  We graduated little more than a week ago, and now the seven of us are living together on the beautiful island of Providenciales, Turks and Caicos.  Besides being thankful for the great fortune we’ve had to have parents willing to send their children away for a week on vacation, I’m even more thankful for the company I get to spend this week with.
Seven guys.  One week.  A healthy dose of beach, surf, cocktails, football, swimming, and sunburn.  We’ve only been here for 3 days but already we’ve made memories that I will cherish for a long time to come.  After four years, hundreds of classes, sports, parties, and late night movies, this week is the Pinnacle of our high school friendships.
So how do we approach such a week?  After this, we still have the rest of the summer, and after that breaks and vacations to reconvene with our friends.  Nevertheless, I find it imperative that we live this week to the fullest.  As overused and exaggerated as #yolo may be, I feel like this is one week when it truly does apply.
When I come home next week, I’ll have the rest of my life to go to sleep early.  I’ll have plenty of time to play XBOX, and peruse facebook.  But this week of living with six of my closest friends in the world is a unique opportunity.  So I’ll stay up late.  I’ll order Cracked Conch at the restaurant despite my stomach’s deepest fear for seafood.  I’ll even scramble eggs for breakfast and volunteer to do some dishes. 
In the end though, it doesn’t matter that we’re in Turks and Caicos.  It doesn’t matter what restaurant we eat at.  It doesn’t matter what bed we sleep in or who gets the first shower.  What matters is that we’re together, and that we enjoy each other’s company for better or for worse.
It’s one week of our lives.  One week of sacrifice for the people we’ve grown to appreciate so much.  Even if you’re exhausted, or hungry, or a cute girl asked you to meet up…there will always be time to sleep and eat and hang out with girls.  So for one week all I want is for everyone to roll with the punches, to do their part to make this week memorable for the whole group.  Of course it’s not easy, but if you care about your friends it’s well worth the sacrifice.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Shit Jake Max Says: Volume II

Another dose of Jake Maxisms, for your pleasure.

"Dude, I love putting wires and stuff together."

"Like if you swallowed a brick, you'd be a brick heavier."

"Let's just hot tub time machine all night long!"

"I gotta gel my hair, bro."

"I was fucking bumping and grinding on those hoes all night long."

"I just don't have enough nuggets for all these sauces."

"Phew. Rant over."

"I like people who like me."

"I mean, if I force her to eat, she will."

"Like fucking untying knots. I'm great at that shit."

"This is the perfect v-neck opportunity."

"The stone is human sexuality...duh."

"What does love even mean?"

"Oh sick, he does karate!"

"Dude, that's a sweet band name, 'Incognito'"

- "Dude I'm riding dirty!"
- "What does that mean?"
- "I don't know but I like it."

"Do you know how many studies have been done?"

"You should find all the glory holes in Maryland...and use them."

"Dude, Wayne brought a fuckin' snowball to one of our summer league games and just put it under his chair."

"This is new. Did Twitter get new?"

"Like no one is gonna look for your weird texts..."

"Actually, I might just go home and read my book."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

2011/2012: A Year in Review

             I hated the name at first. It sounded like everything I didn’t want the blog to be about: a cutesy play-on-words. But we were so eager to get it online that eventually I caved. Now, nine months later, I couldn’t dream of a better name.
 NBA, I apologize for borrowing your advertising slogan, but this year has been BIG for the blog. In fact, we went from not existing, all the way to existing—that’s quite a jump. So I thought it might be interesting to share some statistics from the 2011/2012 season.
Total Views: 24,548
Money Made on Ads: $14.89
Money Spent on Promotions: $20
Net Profit: - $5.11
Total Comments: 131
Post Breakdown:
1. High School Menes -991
2. That Time of Year – 676
3. Sophylis – 530
Views by Countries:
1. US – 23,810
2. Russia – 151
3. Israel – 97
Views by Operating Systems
1. Macintosh – 14,978 (61%)
2. Windows – 7,194 (29%)
3. iPhone – 1,221 (5%)

Fun Facts
# of Posts: 28
Individual Post Views: 4455
Average Post Views: 159.1
Total Word Count: 12,360 or 42 pages, double-spaced

# of Posts: 23
Individual Post Views: 3161
Average Post Views: 137.4
Total Word Count: 10,823 or 32 pages, double-spaced

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Mother to Son

            I know that Student Parking Only is not a forum for parents or adults, but if you were to make a one-time exception and indulge a mother's prerogative to write a guest post, just this once, here is what I would say:
            As you know, maturity is not one of my strongest character traits. I truly believe it is overrated. However, there is a big difference between being in touch with your inner child and acting childish. The former opens you up to a world of wonder and exploration, the ability to experience joy and live in the moment, while the latter can make you act foolish, immature, or even mean.
            Jake, you fully embrace your inner child. You reference it often in your writing, but more importantly, you are not afraid to call upon it regularly to enhance every experience. Many people your age would be reluctant or embarrassed to encourage their friends to do the same. Yet you do so, boldly and unapologetically.  
            Your honesty, loyalty and genuine love and care for your friends and family are qualities I both admire and deeply respect. I hope you will continue to understand and appreciate the importance and impact that true and lasting relationships can have on your life.
            As you may recall from my many years as a middle school teacher, I felt compelled to leave my 8th graders with some parting words of advice as they moved on to high school. I called them my 10 Commandments and I shared them, in tablet form, on the last day of school, in a very serious and ceremonial fashion. So, as you embark on your own transition from high school to college, I'd like to share them with you as well.
            The first one I borrowed from God, but it's a good one:
1. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
2. Respect should be mutual and must be earned.
3. Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. (I borrowed this one from Michael Corleone)
4. Don't ever let anyone else define you.
5. Pay it forward: always be willing to give more than you receive.
6. Good manners reflect and refine your character.
7. Work hard and always try to make good choices.
8. Appreciate what you have and be generous to others who are less fortunate.
9. Take calculated risks.
10. Above all, be happy.
            Jake, it is a blessing, an honor and a privilege to be your mother. I love you and I wish you good fortune, good health and abundant happiness throughout your life!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Parting Thoughts

             My sister is a big proponent of what I would classify as the “live and learn” parenting doctrine. Tattered and bruised, her kids navigate the treacherous hardwood each day, slowly discovering what household items will and won’t hurt them. It’s difficult to not intervene sometimes, but after one outing with the scalding oven door, you can be sure they won’t make that mistake again.
 This kind of approach seems much akin to how I felt at Park. When I shadowed the sixth grade for the first time, students boasted about their school having no grades, no uniforms, no rules. Ludicrous, I thought. Where’s the structure? Progressive culture was entirely foreign to me. By the time I realized what had actually happened to me, it was junior year already. I thought I was taking advantage of the system, abusing the liberties given to me so graciously by the school. But I wasn’t. The system was working exactly how it had been intended to work.
Sure, I slacked off on homework at times, as did the majority of students. There were eventual ramifications, though. Soon, my hand would start to burn on the oven door. The punishment, however, didn’t come from the teachers; the punishment came naturally. It didn’t take the form of pain or embarrassment, but rather disappointment. Reading a bad report was like being informed that that last twelve weeks of my life were effectively wasted. There is no parallel for that feeling, no better motivator for those of us that take pride in our academic work. The principles of the school operate under the belief and expectation that no student wants to feel that kind of disappointment.
Howard talked to the incoming freshmen this year about our “invitational culture”. He warned them that what you get from Park is contingent upon what opportunities you take advantage of—what “invitations” you RVSP to. It’s not as simple as that. I would assert that the declined invitations can be just as much of a learning experience as the accepted ones. Granted, it’s not the brand of conventional learning that Howard was referring to, but it lends itself to an important kind of self-discovery. I wasn’t particularly active in clubs throughout high school. Instead, I preferred to spend my free time doing weird things with my friends, like decorating a bathroom. I wouldn’t have had the same opportunity to do that at another school, and those moments feel incredibly precious in my memory. They were times when the stress of school seemed to disappear altogether, times that provided me with the energy I needed to get through the day. I don’t know that there is a way to waste your time at Park. No matter what you decide to do with it, you’re constantly surrounded with so many great minds that, through a sort of intellectual osmosis, you will get smarter.
Our school is a special place, one that I took for granted for a long time. It’s not perfect—hardly anything is. But as I depart, I’d rather focus on the good things than the bad. I had a truly exceptional four years and I will always be grateful for what Park has done for me.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Eighteen Cool

            The Head of School cleared his throat and spoke into the mic.  “Jake Meyer Max,” he said in his cool, relaxed voice.  That was it—I was done.  I stood up, received my diploma, shook hands, and retired back to my seat where I could finally sit in peace.
            High school was certainly a wild ride.  Coming to Park in the ninth grade was by no means an easy transition.  I was a whiny little 5’2” Jewish kid who was convinced he was the smartest, coolest, freshman to ever walk the face of the earth.  This was not exactly the perfect recipe for popularity.  I had a few friends, but I struggled immensely to branch out and meet new people.
            For two years, I slacked off a little too much in my classes, I was a little too out of shape to be decent at sports, and I was a little too awkward to have many friends.  In the meantime, I saw a lot of movies on Saturday nights when the people who I wanted to be my friends were hanging out and partying.
            By the time junior year rolled around, I wasn’t in a great place.  I still lacked a core group of friends, not to mention the fact that I had never so much as touched a girl (not for lack of trying).  I didn’t understand what it meant to be cool in high school.  I didn’t get it.
            Finally, towards the end of junior year, things started to turn around for me.  I made some friends that I really liked, and finally started to become included in the outings and gatherings that before I never was.
            Senior year was by far my favorite year in school.  At this point there were many people who I could honestly say were my friends, and they were all people who I truly enjoyed spending my time with.  I tried to cherish every moment I had with my friends because I knew that all too soon it would be coming to an end.  This year, I’ve done all sorts of unforgettable things with my friends.  From Field of Screams, to Sweet Life, and Bengie’s Drive-In, we’ve made our fair share of memories.
            On the other hand, sometimes it’s the average days in a high schooler’s life that seem to be the most memorable.  Whether it was Sunday night Big Bang Theory with my girlfriend (somewhere along the line I figured out a thing or two about the opposite sex) or executive Student Parking Only meetings at Chipotle, I rarely passed up an opportunity to enjoy life as it passed me by.
            Now, as I sit at home as a high school graduate, I cannot help but reminisce.  Yesterday, life seemed so simple; school, sports, and most importantly, friends, were constants in my life.  In just one day, everything has changed.  People go away for the summer, while others work jobs at long hours.  Before we know it, many of my friends will be headed off to their respective schools.
            The future is so unpredictable.  People, who just a day ago I considered some of my closest friends, can slip away just like that.  It’s impossible to see it coming, but I dread it nonetheless.  It’s scary to think that someone you’ve spent countless hours with, doing things as trivial as sitting on a bench in the quarry eating gummy bears, or as deep as a life changing conversation by the pool, can just go away.
            I have had a range of friendships in high school.  Some as simple as basketball and Halo 3, some as complicated as love, reciprocated or not.  Regardless, they all hold a special place in my heart, and I hate to see them go.  So today, as I begin the rest of my life, I hope to hold on to those I call my friends, because whether they realize it or not, they really do matter to me.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

On Unity

            One principle that Park strives to promote in its community is individuality.  Students, as well as teachers, are encouraged to follow their own path through education.  For this reason we are heavily involved in choosing our own schedules, and largely responsible for all decisions made that involve us personally.  I am extremely grateful for the opportunities that I’ve been given in this regard, and I think that Park has helped me develop both my personality and work ethic.
            While I love being able to choose the English elective that best suits me, and the extracurricular activities that pique my interest, there are some downsides to this individualist culture.  This comes out most obviously socially.  I was fortunate enough to have a diverse group of friends throughout high school.  Between my classes and athletics, I had a sizeable pool of people whose company I enjoyed.  But these groups to which I belonged could be very exclusive.  My friends from math class were never seen at parties, and my friends from the basketball team couldn’t be found at poker night.
            The argument can certainly be made that highschoolers are inherently exclusive, and to some degree this is most definitely true.  However, I don’t think Park is doing much to combat this exclusivity.  Moreover, I think the Park culture actually fuels this phenomenon.  At Park, students are not encouraged to branch out; rather, they are encouraged to follow their passions.  Diversity is certainly preached, with many forums to discuss race, gender, and sexuality, but often those conversations themselves are populated by another exclusive group.  There is an apparent lack of unity amongst our students.
            As I wrote about earlier this year in the Postscript, there is an obvious divide amongst the Athletic and Art Departments.  For the most part, athletes don’t go to Goldsoundz and musicians don’t go to basketball games.  Exacerbating this divide, sometimes Goldsoundz and Friday night basketball games are scheduled simultaneously.
            In the end, I guess the point I’m trying to make is that I’d like to see some kind of change in the culture at Park.  Kids will be kids—it’s not easy to interfere with the social tendencies of high school students.  Maybe the athletes will never go to Goldsoundz (even if there isn’t a basketball game happening at the same time).  Perhaps, the Friday Night Game crowd will always maintain it’s exclusive aura, no matter how many announcements and facebook events are made.  I can’t guarantee that any efforts to promote unity in the Park community will be successful, but it certainly cannot hurt to try.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The White Pickup Gang

            For the past two summers I have had the pleasure of working at a snowball stand.  I get paid minimum wage (plus tips) to read, listen to music, eat free snowballs, and occasionally serve a few customers.  Over this time, I have truly come to appreciate the subtleties of the famous Baltimore dessert.
            For a long time I was a casual snowball fan.  I stuck to my usual skylite, occasionally branching out to strawberry, watermelon, or—perhaps my favorite—cola flavored.  I never even considered trying egg custard or marshmallow on my snowball.
            But, as an official snowball stand employee, it was recommended that I try all of the flavors.  I needed to be educated enough to make decent recommendations to customers.  So I spent my first few weeks on the job eating a lot of snowballs…after all, who can argue with free snowballs?  Raspberry, peach, and even cotton candy were surprisingly delicious.  Blood orange, peppermint, and fireball were not so much.  I even tried chocolate—something I swore I’d never do—and threw some marshmallow on top for good measure.  Surprise, surprise, they weren’t kidding when they said I’d been missing out for years.  Soon I came up with my own specialties: root beer float was my new favorite, consisting of root beer flavor with crème poured on top.
            Working at a snowball stand does come with a little bit of excitement.  The people you meet are always interesting.  From flustered babysitters dealing with one too many kids, to local construction workers, you meet all sorts of people.  My personal favorites are some of my most loyal customers.  A man and a woman, probably in their mid-forties, they always pull up in this old white pick-up truck.  The first time it was just the two of them.  The guy had a lot of difficulty ordering their snowballs, fumbling over his thoughts, and asking way too many questions for an order that is as simple as size and flavor.  My first thought was that he must be drunk, but it was a recurring theme, and always in the middle of the day.
            They came back at least a few times a week, but each time they brought one more person in their truck.  First just the two of them, then one of their friends, then another, until one day they showed up with a whopping party of seven in the rusted old pickup.  Finally I got the guy’s order down; he liked a jumbo grape with marshmallow in the middle and on top, sometimes with a dash of lemon to complement the flavor.  I was really starting to like the group when one day I finished with their orders, the truck pulled away, and I looked in my tip jar.  I could’ve sworn there were a couple more dollars in there before, but I didn’t think twice about it.
            Then, a couple days later the white truck rolled back up to the stand.  The lady hopped out, but this time she wasn’t wearing her usual smile.  She approached and began to explain how sorry she was.  At first I didn’t understand, but then she pulled out my three dollars that her husband had stolen from the jar.  She apologized profusely and I thanked her for returning my tips, promising that I wasn’t angry.  After that I didn’t see the white truck for a while.  But a few weeks later my friends from the pickup finally returned, and I couldn’t help but smile.  They’re welcome at my snowball stand any day… but from now on I’ll be keeping a closer eye on my tips.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Pursuit

         Just a brief disclaimer. I obviously know very little about happiness at this point in my life. But I wanted to give it a try. Apologies, in advance, for the cockiness. 

         Part one. There exist two kinds of people on this planet: those who think in terms of the present, and those who think in terms of the future. You need to be neither of those people. There are inherent flaws with both of those mentalities. Those who concern themselves with only the present are often associated with words like spontaneous and reckless. Humans have evolved into a hyper-intelligent species because of our ability to plan and solve problems; don’t suppress brain function out of principle. On the other end of the spectrum, individuals who are dominated by dreams for the future are often emotionally disabled and prone to stress.  
         Generally speaking, try not to stubbornly associate yourself with any sort of exclusive mantra that confines you to a single kind of lifestyle. I went through a brief period of my life when I openly classified myself as a rationalist. I would treat decisions with a cold and critical sternness, weighing the pros and cons extensively, and making success an utmost priority. In practice, however, I was just kind of annoying and difficult to deal with. I became bored with dwelling on each and every choice.
In reality, people are complex and dynamic, constantly evolving, and labels only act to inhibit change.  If there is ever a point in your life when you can describe yourself in one word, then you need to start over.
            Part two. Happiness is perhaps the most subjective concept that humans struggle with. Happiness in rural China is not the same as happiness in the suburbs of Baltimore. Resist the urge to compare. You and your neighbor are not the same person, and you and your neighbor do not have the same perspective on what happy means. My proof for this is in the following clichéd ultimatum: would you rather be rich doing something you hate, or be broke doing something you love? People tend to swing both ways on this question; some believe money will grant them happiness, and others do not. I could easily argue that wealth has the potential to invoke some flavor of happiness in humans—not everyone, for sure, but a hefty portion. And conversely, for many people, money isn’t necessary in the equation. You must discover what makes you happy, and then pursue that, whatever it may be.
            Part three. Excitement is an emotion that we have full control over. In other words, it can be fabricated at will. I drive to school on Wednesdays, pumping my fist to electronic dance music, because I know that the cafeteria is serving French Fries. If you allow yourself to get excited about things most would consider “insignificant”, then you are allowing yourself to subsequently achieve happiness from those things. I was once told that in times when I am struggling to muster the energy I need to persist, I should look to the future to an event when I know I will be happy, and utilize that projected energy. It’s one part mental trick and one part logical concept. Throughout elementary school, my parents forced me to play baseball in a rec. league. I dreaded every single Saturday morning of springtime in those years. What got me through it? My parents would promise to buy me a new Transformers action figure after every game. After a while, I started liking Saturday morning. I knew that once I got through the bad, the good was right on the other side.
            Part four: Human relationships can be some of the most generous sources of happiness as long as you have the right ones. I know that some of my friends might not be great people, but I’m not going to pretend to have some sort of moral obligation to not associate with those people. The truth is, I have fun with them, and that’s what matters more than anything else to me, because I’ve made fun a priority for my own personal happiness. If, instead, being ethical was one of my priorities for happiness, I would have friends in accordance with that principle. I suppose what I’m getting at is to, at a minimum, have a decent explanation for your relationships. If I ask you, “Why are you friends with that person?” and your answer is, “I don’t know,” then get rid of that friend.
            Part five. Nostalgia is the manifestation of old remnants of happiness. When you get nostalgic, your brain is simply reminding you that you were happy back then. My policy is to live with the intent of creating memories. I never want there to be a month of my life that I have forgotten because nothing exciting happened. Try new things, take new risks, whatever is necessary to make sure that by the end you’ll have a story to tell.