Exploring new cities like religions

Posted by adrionna on May 21, 2014 in Random Ramble

How visiting new cities is like exploring different religions:

1. You have to be okay with leaving what you know, at least temporarily. If you’re looking for new cities to move to, it’s valuable to ask why your current city isn’t meeting your wants/needs and what else you’re looking for. If you’re not cool with the religion you were born into (or that you weren’t born into one at all), you need to start with why.

2. It’s helpful to have a general sense of what you desire in a city, but the beauty of just jumping into a new place is how you surprise yourself by falling in love with things, people, and ideas that you had not considered valuable before. You end up loving things you never knew you needed.

3. You’ll imagine yourself as part of the new city, just like you might try to envision yourself as a member of this new belief system. Whether you’ll move to the new city depends on how well your beliefs and values jive with it.

4. You’ll realize what keeps you in your home city goes deeper than what attracts you — are you okay with leaving anything that might be tying you back? Leaving a tradition that you experienced with your family?

5. You’ll probably compare the new city to your current home countless times, as evidenced by “I wish Chicago had ___ or offered ____.” (My blanks would be filled in by the words “random pianos on Michigan Avenue” and “a free shuttle up and down the main street” respectively). You’ll also realize that your city offers things that this new city might not have.

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Keeping Desire Alive in a Long-term Relationship

Posted by adrionna on May 19, 2014 in Long Distance, Love, Wisdom and Life

I am enrolled in a course this spring entitled “The Nature and Culture of Love.” This class explores how “love” has changed through human experience. The feelings have stayed the same–why it hurts, why it takes so long to get over somebody–but the circumstances (modernity, sexual freedom, and analysis paralysis of potential partners) have altered our overall perception and experience of love. My favorite book that has spoken to these topics is Eva Illouz’s Why Love Hurts. It is fascinating.

One of the most interesting and helpful things I’ve learned from this class is the idea of Desire and why desire is such a necessary ingredient for a relationship to stay alive. If you have time, I seriously recommend watching Esther Perel’s “The secret to desire in a long term relationship.” In it, you will find explanations to why people cheat and what needs to be in a relationship for the spark to stay.

My true take-away (since I’m writing this after watching it a good three weeks ago) is that the relationship must be one with two independent players. There is, of course, an element of interdependence, but to keep desire alive, each individual must have access to that which makes him or her happy in and of itself. In order for this to truly happen, I must allow my partner to have the time and space to pursue his interests. It is when I see my guy in his own element–presenting at a conference or speaking to others about ideas he is passionate about–I feel attracted to him because I am able to step back and appreciate him in the way that others are perceiving him at that moment. If another woman is in the room, he immediately becomes more attractive because now there is an element of competition–even though I’ve taken him for granted hundreds of times, if there is the slightest threat of his being taken away, I become possessive. It is this want that is eros, or desire.

My “favorite” way, or the way that seems guaranteed to build desire, is to create some kind of distance between the lover and the beloved. In this space, desire grows as the chasm between the lovers grow. This is why becoming long-distance can be both healthy and detrimental for a couple; if long-distance for a “doable” amount of time (which will be different for everyone), couples will become more infatuated with one another, but if long-distance for too long, you aren’t able to see each other in your elements, and desire dies (sad face).

If it feels as is desire has packed its bags and left the relationship, there is always a way to get it back. It requires a stepping-back, but not necessary a separation. It calls for a deliberate attention to the relationship and reintegration into it–and one of the ways to do that is through the individual. Let me do my thing, I’ll let you do your thing, we’ll admire each other and then do each other ;).
Some tips for creating desire within a long-term relationship:

– Find ways to get intimate in places and spaces that don’t exactly allow such excitement. It’s the stuff teenage romance is made of.

– If you and your partner would be into this sort of thing, go to a bar separately and flirt with others, eventually finding each other. Act as if you’re meeting for the first time. If possible, try not to use inside jokes; make new ones.

– Sometimes a date night isn’t enough, especially if it’s the same ol’ dinner and a movie idea. Do something that neither of you have done before: paint-balling, running a 5K together. Find a new experience and relish the thought of being nervous and outside your comfort zone, but having your comfort holding your hand the whole time.

– Decide to pack up for the weekend and head somewhere new and foreign (even if it’s just 3 hours outside of town).

– Find new recipes, dress up the dinner table and be your best self as you have fun cooking together. If it’s a disaster, ordering in is even more fun in the candle-light.

– Babysitting little ones in the family or friends circles. Stay with me here: when you see your partner interacting with kiddos and you can’t exactly jump his bones in front of them, it certainly increases the desire. Obviously if you’re a parent, this will change.

Do you have any other ideas?

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Because I kept my eyes open

Posted by adrionna on Feb 4, 2013 in Teaching

Today I began my experience as an “official observer” of classes within an elementary school on Chicago’s near-north side. It’s a very diverse school where, sadly, 40% of the population is homeless, or in temporary housing. I briefly (30 min) sat-in on a class last week, where I was able to get a feel for the lay-out of the school and the dynamic of having kids coming from so many different backgrounds.

My assignment today was to watch/interact with the first graders. There are about 25 students in the classroom and each love -and need- attention. This is difficult with one teacher in the room, so the school is excited that my class is working with theirs. This school stresses building relationships with students so that the students are held accountable in more than just a student-teacher relationship, but rather an apprentice-mentor, or co-partnership. I’ve been given two charges, K and D. The administrator who assigned me to them described the students as those “who have needs, but who shouldn’t be having those needs.” After interacting with the students for the first time today, I understand why. They are smart, they are creative, they are funny, they are kind. But they need to know they’re doing something worthwhile, and its through these personal relationships we build with them that they put school on a higher pedestal than anything else. It’s school that will help them escape poverty. It’s education that will open their minds to the world.

This is what a teacher hopes for, anyway. This is what I hope for.

I ride public transportation often, but I rode it more often today. I people watch sometimes, but I really saw people today. I had my eyes open all day long. In essence, I was seeing these people as the first graders all grown up. Here’s what I saw.

After I left the school, around 10:30am, I saw two women on the corner, smoking cigarettes, telling each other they don’t really care what others think about them. One smiled back at me when I looked over. That was nice, but I want more for J than that. She wants attention and thinks that being silly and acting out will get her that. She’ll get attention from me for really trying to spell words during the break-out session tomorrow morning. But what if it’s not enough?

On the train, I saw someone who looked like he wasn’t really going anywhere. With a big brown paper bag in the seat next to him, he just looked happy to be somewhere warm. I was so happy that all those kids today were able to be somewhere warm, with breakfast, lunch, and dinner to look forward to. I’m proud that we, as a society, have created a place for our most vulnerable to be shielded from the harshest elements so that they can learn and better themselves.. that they’ll better the world through their efforts. I think JA will appreciate that when he’s older; he read like a champ today, and I am so looking forward to the next time he reads me a story. He was so proud of himself, reminding me an hour later “I’m a good reader.” But what if it’s not enough?

During one of my walks, I heard a dad yelling. Loud. He was holding the hand of his little boy, while his brother was walking behind them, holding the hand of their mother. There was such a lack of peace: there were tears, loud cries, and just.. unrest. I couldn’t believe that adults would act so irresponsibly around such young children.. around Kindergardeners. Around kids that would be in the first grade next year. This is where these kids are coming from. They don’t need to know about Rosa Parks as much as they need warmth, kindness, and a sense of love and security. Someone in their lives constantly showing support and encouragement. Good teachers are ready to give this to so many kids that pass through their classrooms, but what if it isn’t enough?

At this point, you can imagine I’m getting a little disheartened. It’s late, I’m getting a little tired, and I’m seeing a world working against all of the kids I tried to reach earlier in the day. This is when a young man sits down in front of me on the train and just starts talking to the family around me. No prior meeting, just a young black man eager to start a conversation with a white woman with her two young girls. What? After living through the stark privileged/underprivileged dichotomy of the day, I was surprised. Suspicious.

Turns out that just asking “Are yall on your way home?” can incite an amazing conversation with an incredibly nice woman that gives the eavesdroppers (like me) inspiration to keep going. The young man is a math major, hoping to do something really great with it. Story goes that he had a great teacher who made math really exciting. Because of those teachers, he is all about math and science and excited about what he can do in the world with that knowledge. He doesn’t think he’ll go to grad school; but he hasn’t even considered it, really. He just has his eyes set on a degree so he can make something of himself.

I’m nearing my stop and interrupt them. I tell the young man hurriedly that I started observing at an elementary school today. I told him I hoped the kids turn out like him.

He looked a little shocked, but I know it made him feel good. I hope it did, anyway.

Because he gave me an incredibly valuable gift. It’s one full of inspiration, motivation, and encouragement. Everything that I need to give those kids tomorrow. And the next day. And the next.

Because, just like the young man who had his eyes open and started a conversation with a random stranger at the end of the day, I never know who I’m reaching.


Because I love to laugh at stuff like this.

Posted by adrionna on Nov 15, 2012 in Just for Giggles


Stress and Memory

Posted by adrionna on Nov 14, 2012 in Information Station

Finals week has begun! I’m studying for my Biology of Emotion class now, so it’s great that I find it absolutely fascinating. There are so many concepts we learn about (fear, love, personality) that are very applicable to daily life. The professor makes difficult ideas accessible and her extra effort motivates me to try and really learn — and remember — what she thinks is most important for us to know. Despite my fascination with the subject, the fact that the exam is tomorrow stresses me out a little. I will need to remember a lot of information. What does that mean about how I will perform on the exam? Doesn’t this situation directly connect to what I learned about stress and memory in class? One of the points on the study guide asks “Know in detail how stress affects memory, aiding it on some occasions and disrupting it in others?” To help put this stuff in my long-term memory, I need to rehearse it. What better way to talk about it than on a prettynerd blog? Seems like a match made in heaven.

Here’s the deal: stress can either help me remember my biology of emotion information, or it can absolutely sabotage my exam.

Timing is everything:

  • I have a better chance of recalling information if I stressed earlier in the week.
  • If I just started stressing out now, the night before the test (“late and chronic stress”), the stress will inhibit memory.

Amount of stress:

  • Mild, acute stress enhances memory. [Fun fact: Yerkes-Dodson Law states that moderate arousal will aid memory in accomplishing difficult tasks (like taking an exam or parallel parking). For simple tasks (like picking up an apple from the ground or ducking from a projectile coming towards you), increased arousal helps memory.]
  • Severe, chronic stress disrupts memory. It disrupts explicit memory (your conscious, intentional recollection of previous experiences and information) and long-term potentiation (the process of strengthening neurons, and thus connections). It literally degenerates your dendrites (“dendritic atrophy”), which help connect your neural synapses to each other. Furthermore, chronic or high stress can be toxic to neurons located in your hippocampus (which is responsible for learning in memory) so then you have a smaller hippocampus. This loss of neurons results in poor memory. Not a pretty picture of chronic stress, I’d say.

So there you have it, folks: stress early and not too much; moderate arousal is a-okay for difficult tasks. Increased arousal is better for simpler tasks, but chronic stress starts deteriorating your brain and limits what you’ll be able to learn in the future (because of a smaller hippocampus).
Thanks for helping me study!


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