Monthly Archives: December 2011

2011 in the Rearview Mirror

The time has come. One week ago today, I completed my third and last final exam of my first semester as a 28-yr-old pre-med freshman. For a couple weeks, it felt like the end point might never come. As friends threw holiday parties that I couldn’t attend, and family got together for annual gatherings I couldn’t participate in, I kept my head in my books with flimsy blinders on and worked relentlessly towards the large margarita I promised myself when the hardest academic semester of my life would be complete. To say I worked hard in 2011 is an understatement. Walking out of that final exam was like walking out of an airplane into the warm breeze of an island vacation (minus the warm breeze, and the island). It was absolutely liberating, like the first swim of summer, like the first iced chai of the spring, like walking out of a final exam has always felt — only bigger and better. All that matters now is that I MADE IT.

Pedicab driving through the aftermath of last year's blizzard. Winter, 2011, Central Park, NYC.

Everyone reading this post made it through something this year, so give yourself a pat on the back. Let’s look back at what the heck happened in 2011, the year of no Travels for this Tavel…

For me, 2011 was a year of change — big change. I decided to completely change my career from that of a travel writer living in South America to the career I always secretly wished I had pursued, a Doctor of Physical Therapy. I took my first standardized test in 11 years. I re-taught myself math. I used a calculator for the first time in a decade, and then a million more times after that. I got into a post-bacc pre-med program. I bought textbooks, #2 pencils, and erasers. I enrolled in classes I never thought I’d have to take. I studied science for the first time in 13 years, at a level I was unprepared for, and spent hours in the lab with goggles, a lab coat, and gloves on, handling chemicals and performing titrations. Just before it all started, I squeezed in a family trip to Puerto Rico. I moved downtown. By a remarkable stroke of luck and/or serendipity, I met a literary agent who was interested in my story. I began writing a book. I traded the adventure of traveling for the adventure of attempting the hardest career track I can think of for myself. I worked my butt off, I spent more time in the library than I did during my entire undergraduate education combined, but I haven’t looked back.

Snowman on the Great Lawn. Central Park, NYC.

I lost a friend. I lost a dear uncle. I watched as a loved one fought the fight against aggressive cancer and the subsequent effects of chemo (she’s kicking butt, thank you very much!). I missed out on a lot of fun times with friends and family by choosing to study instead (including not one, but TWO trips to New Orleans! WAH). I watched four friends and my older sister get married in some of the most beautiful weddings I’ve ever seen. I watched friends become first-time mothers and first-time fathers. Sometimes I laughed so hard I cried. Sometimes, I just cried because things were hard. I spent hours working with paraplegics and brain trauma patients at my hospital volunteer job (how I wish I could say more about that). I learned more than I ever thought I could cram into a year. (This seems to be a trend lately.) In the end, 2011 was pretty life-changing. These changes will be carried into 2012, and beyond.

Sure, my big lofty goals have completely humbled me and knocked me onto my knees at times [see older posts], but that comes with the territory when you take on a challenge. I can definitely say that I’m going into 2012 with a little more swagger, and more certainty than ever in who I am, what I want, and what I am doing. So there goes 2011, in all its glory. And here comes 2012, chock-full of more challenges in the form of Bio II, Chem II, Physics I and II, and Anatomy & Physiology I and II. But with those challenges comes more opportunities for reward. And with each reward, another delicious margarita.

Onward and upward: riding towards Ruminhahui Peak in Cotopaxi Province, Ecuador.

It’s hard to believe how little I’ve traveled lately, but sometimes the adventure is about staying put, focusing on a goal, driving hard straight towards it, and peering out of the window once in a while to watch the beautiful scenery go by from the comfort of the driver’s seat. I’ll get out and walk around again some day soon, but this is a long drive. And in my experience, sometimes the longest drives take you to the most beautiful places. You just have to trust that where you’re going is worth it, and keep driving.

I am so grateful for 2011 and all that came with it. Thank you for joining me for the journey. Cheers to 2012, a year of working hard towards the sweet satisfaction of accomplishing what we have all set out to do. Feel free to share whatever that may be for you!

Reflection of Friends. Quito, Ecuador.

Since it is the year of the Summer Olympics (OMG, I CANNOT WAIT!! So many tall men in spandex! YIPPY!), here’s a video to keep you all motivated for whatever you’re trying to accomplish. And yes, everything relates to rowing:

Oh, and one more thing: HAPPY FREAKIN’ NEW YEAR!!!! Love, TwT.

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Filed under Life Stuff, School, Uncategorized

Two Brides, One Dress: The Story About Something Blue

As my sister researched for her upcoming wedding, a New York Magazine article written by Ariel Levy (April, 2007) caught her attention. The article was about the author’s struggle to find her place in her own wedding which, because she was marrying a woman, seemed to come with a lot of questions (both from herself and from her friends and family) — most of which she could not answer. One of the biggest unknowns of all had to do with the one item that, for many, almost defines you on your wedding day: the dress. But in the case of two brides, what’s a gal to do?

My sister connected to the author’s confusion because she too had fallen completely in love with a woman. Months later, she was engaged and wearing a stunning diamond ring just like any other bride-to-be. A few more months later, so was her future wife. Hey, two diamond rings are better than one!

Now what?

As the wedding planning commenced, the happy couple began to get a little flustered, finding themselves stuck somewhere between the traditional wedding hullabaloo and themselves. Yet, there was never any question: they would both be wearing dresses (people seem to assume that in a gay wedding between two women, one is going to wear the suit… why is that?). But then there was the question as to whether or not one, or both of them, would wear the expected white wedding gown…

My sister (“S”) never wanted a white dress. She never fantasized about getting married. But the second she found “C” (her future bride), everything changed.

Did C want to wear the white dress? In how many weddings is the white wedding gown up for grabs? Then there was the question of whether or not they deliberately did not want to have a white dress involved. The nice thing about a wedding, which people often forget, is that it is your day (plural – there are TWO people involved, remember?!). I find the bride-centric, wedding-obsessed world so bizarre. Who says everything has to be the same as it is in every other wedding? Sometimes it baffles me how similar weddings tend to be, and how bride-obsessed. A gay wedding almost gives more allowance to stray from expectations; it allows more opportunity to make a wedding one’s own ideal party. But then there is the dilemma of two brides wanting it to be like other weddings just to show that it is equal in magnitude — that it’s a real wedding like anyone else’s, only their own version of one. And so the quest for the perfect dress (two of them) began.

White Dress. Photo by Kelly Prizel.

After trying on many dresses that were either too casual or just not “her,” the author (Ariel) found herself standing in the lobby of the Manhattan Carolina Herrera store, in her very own beat up running sneakers, eyeing dresses she never thought she’d want.

One stood out.

It wasn’t long before she was purchasing the dress that made her feel everything a bride is supposed to feel. She was in love. Amidst the racks of wedding gowns, a light blue dress caught her eye. The dress was a gown, but it was neither too fancy nor too understated. Large dark brown, hand-painted flowers crept up the side of the skirt, and thin black straps clung to her shoulders. As she stood staring at herself in the mirror, she knew her search was over. Two searches, in fact. But in this case, she decided to keep the details (echem, the price tag) to herself.

At the time (2007), a gay wedding was, as the author explained, “not a real wedding” — at least not according to the state of New York. But she and her partner were celebrating the same things: love, commitment, family. They were just celebrating in a slightly different way.

For the author, planning the “wedding” (which Ariel awkwardly and self-consciously referred to as her “party about love”), became an uncoordinated dance with tradition. There she was, throwing this huge party and looking for that special once-in-a-lifetime dress, realizing that she didn’t have to follow all the “rules.” In fact, they could do whatever they wanted! All brides can, but there is something about wanting to be in the “club” — the married, white dress. wedding club — that gave it legitimacy. Admitting this desire to feel her wedding was as legitimate as anyone else’s, and needing to prove that, can go against one’s best intentions to deny this need but, alas, it may be the truth.

Carolina Herrera dress. Photo by Kelly Prizel.

As my sister found herself in the same position, searching the racks of Soho designer shops for the dress that fit her best — both physically and personality-wise — she began to get frustrated. All the excitement and anticipation of the wedding and finding a dress began to weigh on her. As she and her fiance shopped simultaneously for the right dress (two of them), they found dresses that suited one and not the other. Then there was the issue of whether the dresses should match — one couldn’t be flashier than the other, one couldn’t be bigger, more understated, or less beautiful than the other. Finding one dress can be challenging enough; how were they going to find two?!

It wasn’t long before my sister also found herself in the Carolina Herrera shop, wearing sneakers, trying on gowns that — to her surprise — were the most beautiful dresses she had ever wanted. Yet she couldn’t seem to forget the blue dress from the New York Magazine article. The more dresses she tried on, the more she pouted, wishing she could find her own light blue dress. For her, that dress was it. When you know, you know, right?

C, being an awesome and sneakily romantic fiance, took note. After finding her own perfect white wedding gown at Kleinfeld’s, it was time for my sister to find hers. C got on her laptop and did some research. Sure enough, she found Ariel Levy’s contact information, and did what every awesome future spouse should do for his/her future wife: she sent Ariel an email.

Ariel responded. Within weeks, C surprised my sister with the news: that the dress was still available, hanging like a beautiful, glamorous ghost in the author’s closet, and Ariel wanted to share it with another gay bride. My sister, ecstatic (and possibly more in love with C than ever), hopped on the plane from San Francisco (where they live) to New York and headed eagerly to Ariel’s apartment.

The dress. Photo by Kelly Prizel.

There it was — the dress. After chatting and laughing with Ariel and her wife in their living room, it was time for the moment of truth. S left the room. During her conversation with Ariel, she realized they were a similar size and shape, and they got along wonderfully. But would the dress be the perfect dress for two brides? The anticipation had mounted, but when S slipped it on and walked out to show her future bride how she looked, she couldn’t contain her smile. It fit. This was it. Another bride’s search was over.

How the Jewish, half-Argentinean, New York venture capitalist found her born-in-Korea, raised in South Dakota and Iowa, entrepreneur dream girl is one of the mysteries of the universe, but at least one more question has been answered: they do. One month before their “party about love,” the state of New York legalized gay marriage. Their party about love was now going to be a wedding — a real, actual wedding just like it was supposed to be, just like everyone understood it to be, only with an extra dress.

Sure, you can call it a gay wedding if you want. Who cares? To us, it was a wedding… an amazing, beautiful, (legal), HAPPY celebration of two people who have fallen totally in love, and both happen to wear dresses. It was hosted by our parents at our house in upstate New York, and one of the attention-grabbing uninvited guests happened to be Hurricane Irene. Despite the threat of the wedding being cancelled due to violent weather, over 75% of the guests showed up in our backyard, wearing dresses and rubber boots despite road closings, crazy rain, and unpredictable circumstances. All were ready to celebrate the happiest couple most of us had ever seen. And celebrate we did! Despite all the details that may have made it unlike your standard, traditional “ideal” wedding (ie: the power going out while my parents hosted over 17 stranded travelers in candlelight, the band having to leave early, and a whole lot of mud), it was absolutely PERFECT. And I don’t use the word perfect often.

When it comes to finding “the one” (your wedding dress, of course), does it really matter what color it is, where you found it, or who designed it? No. All that matters is that when you try it on (after trying on more dresses than you ever wanted to), you know it is the one for you. Because sometimes, one dress just fits. And sometimes, two do.

All photography in this post is the beautiful work of photographer, Kelly Prizel.


Filed under Love, weddings