Friday, August 21, 2009

Liv_'ing in the shadow

The birthday was successful in turning me 25.

I received many lovely facebook messages, a few emails, some text messages, and a handful of phone calls. In considering those who took the few minutes to give me a jingle, I realized (not for the first time) what an incredible network surrounds me.

We went to high school together, met his freshman year and my sophomore year after he almost killed himself by taking his parent's car for a late night joyride. We continued our friendship throughout college, and when he called me from South Africa, I agreed to meet him Costa Rica for the last leg of his world surfing tour (funded by his bro Adam Brody). When he picked me up at the airport, he had a stick for a cane and stitches in his foot after suffering a bad surfing accident that day. His twin brother, Matt is a mad scientist, completing his PhD in toxicology at Madison. Sean has created his own successful photography company and writes for several big surfing companies.

We met in South Korea while teaching for the Princeton Review. She had just completed her Masters at Columbia University. She wooed me with her endless supply of knowledge (particularly as it pertained to foreign affairs), and today she continues to impart both hard facts and practical wisdom upon me. Laine just returned from Tunisia where she studied French for the summer. She is now back in New York City where she is completing a PhD in International Relations at NYU. Her boyfriend Wissam has been working for the United Nations and is the executive director of the New York office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Rang me from her home state of Montana where she is taking a well-deserved summer hiatus from her double Masters degree program in Nutrition and Psychology. She is becoming a rapid expert in alternative medicine and writes for her own health blog. Marah and I met in 2002 while rowing for the University of Washington. Aside from her incredible cooking, flyfishing, snowshoeing, skiing, running, pole vaulting, and rowing skills, Marah is perhaps the kindest, most selfless human being I have ever known. She was (not surprisingly) voted by her teammates at UW as Most Inspirational. Her boyfriend Max is also a rower- a Canadian who has won several national championships, a world championship, and has been training with the Canadian Olympic Team.

We met in high school through my best friend Elyse. I was immediately attracted to her vivacity, her rapid tempo, and her quick wits. Getting to know her better, I realized the parallels between us. Her multi-national background and exposure to people and places continues to fuel her curiosity the way it does mine. She is impeccably bright. She speaks French, Spanish, Hebrew, Finnish, and English. She studied exercise biology at UC Davis, and is embarking upon a Masters in Public Health in the Netherlands this Sunday. She and her twin sister are applying to medical school. Milla is a salsa dancing queen. Whether we are philosophizing or playing piano duets, our combined energy is explosive.

Megan and I also met in college while rowing for UW. Though of an apparent opposite likeness, we lived together for three years before she relocated to Princeton to train with the national team. Yesterday she rang me from Poland where she is competing in the Rowing World Championships this week. Most recently, Megan won the Henley Royal Regatta in England, and then the World Cup in Lucerne, becoming the first United States female rower to ever medal, let alone win a sculling event at a world competition. Last year she placed 5th at the Olympic Games in Beijing, and in 2005 she won the U23 World Championship in the Women's 4+. She studied Latin and English at UW and is a blogger for Row Coach Media, a tutor for Princeton University, a baker, and full time athlete.

Elyse has evolved from best friend status to "sister" status. She and I became close in the eighth grade while watching Teletubbies after rowing practice. We did preposterous things together like camp out on the beach, and drag eachother up and down the sand on a blanket. When I proposed we dye her long blonde hair black, she conceded without hesitation. Some of my favorite memories together are of her driving her old skool pale yellow Mercedes around town. The bouncy seats and aeroplane propeller vents where only part of its charm. Elyse drove that car like a bat out of hell. The sound of her peeling out around corners, combined with the chug chug chug of the diesel engine, appropriately dubbed her Cruella before the Benz's dying days. In its final months she would crawl under the wagon and beat the undercarriage with a hammer in effort to coax it to start. She was a riot, and always handled these endeavors with such grace. Elyse has since settled down and become an organized and sensible young woman with a reliable vehicle. She currently works in the Research Department at Rady Children's Hospital, though will be relocating to Los Angles this month to begin her MPH program at UCLA. She is a fabulous cook and fabulous hostess. Vince, her boyfriend of five years, recently proposed marriage in Italy. They make a wonderful pair.

Hungarian born, mom immigrated to the US after completing her training in Chemical Engineering in Budapest. She was the only member of her family to leave the country. Mom completed her PhD in Gene Therapy where she was able to stimulate muscle cells to make insulin in type I diabetic mice. She is a pilates fanatic and in the kind of physical shape that makes any twentysomething envious. She is an avid hiker and outdoorswoman and most recently hiked the Inca Trail. She was also the regional ping pong champion of Hungary and possesses an incredible internal language translation system in her brains.

Born in Egypt and raised in England by Irish parents, Dad was also the only of his family to emigrate. With his PhD in immunology (ask him anything about the dogfish), Dad has written several books and published over 100 peer reviewed academic journals. He is a samurai in training and will be competing for his Iaido Black Belt in Japan on his 60th birthday this year. Dad has also been competing in the Monte Carlo Historic Rally for the past several years, and does not plan retire this hobby until he wins his class (which he certainly will). People like him are destined for success all around.

Joanna was my first friend when I moved from San Francisco to San Diego at age 5. She, also of a multi-cultural upbringing, enjoys dancing in Greece until twilight- some day she and I will return to Corfu together as professionals or as partygoers as I can enjoy her company in any capacity. After Jo graduated from UCSD, she began pharmacy school at UCSF- the number one program in the country. Though she is insanely modest (particularly given her level of intellect and beauty) she can be viciously and hilariously opinionated when in the right company (me). She is full of surprises.

1 comment:

Elyse said...

You certainly are surrounded by wonderful individuals - and you introduce them so nicely!

Love you!