Apologies for the super long entry. I guess I had a lot to say...

Itís late, but Adam and I ate ourselves into a food coma earlier today and we fell asleep together on the sofa.

This turned out to be the best vegan Thanksgiving, so far. Weíve improved significantly in the vegan cooking department. Speaking of thanks, I the thing that stuck out to me most today was that I could have a vegan Thanksgiving. I didnít have to go to family gathering, where I had nothing to say to most of the other guests, and very little that I wanted to eat. Being a vegan/vegetarian couple almost gives us a free pass when it comes to such gatherings. We donít have to worry about feeling obligated to accept an unwanted invitation because we can always pull the dietary restriction card.

For Adam, it isnít a big deal. Heíll attend any gathering. For me, Iím glad that I can opt out of the holidays, and I often do, totally guilt free.

Iíve celebrated one or two Christmases since I became an adult. Growing up, my family scarcely celebrated Christmas, especially once my brother and I hit our teens. The holiday season never really went well for my family, but thatís another story.

Also, being raised by a Buddhist and Atheist meant that there was no spiritual significance to it. We had nothing to keep the secular celebration alive when we could never get it together properly and never got much enjoyment from it, anyway.

As far as past relationships that were significant enough to affect my holiday calendarÖ hmmm, well, I dated a Buddhist, married a Jew, made the horrible mistake of dating a Catholic, and now Iím back on Jews, but just the ones whoĎve converted to Buddhism, apparently.

Maybe that says something about me, I donít know. Maybe itís because Iím a spiritually oriented person, but objectively speaking, if I stack Christianity up against most other religions, it really does seem like the least likely scenario.

Sometimes Adam will tease me that I love the Jews, and sometimes Iíll tease him that he has an half-Asian, half-white girl fetish. When he teases me about the Jews, I usually tell him that itís more that I love not celebrating Christmas.

ItĎs true, about not wanting to celebrate Christmas (but thatĎs not the reason I supposedly love the Jews, but thatĎs another story, too). When I see how crazy people get around the holiday season, every year I feel a little more grateful that I can continue living my life like a normal person. Iím even more grateful that I donít feel bad about it. I know many people who would choose to opt out, but the guilt would eat them alive.

The other thing that made this vegan Thanksgiving possible is Adam. He is the reason Iíve been experimenting more with vegan cooking. Iíve learned to enjoy it and appreciate it, which is something I never expected. If I were dating a meat eater, Iíd probably be stuck going to some meat-centric family gathering. I would always be vegetarian, but thereíd definitely be more animal products in my diet. Even though I wouldnít have put in the effort to move towards veganism on my own, Iím glad to be going in that direction, for a variety of reasons.

Anyway, this morning, we went for a long walk in the park, and then came back to cook. It was a gorgeous, perfect, day.

Yesterday, I discovered that heíd never heard Aliceís Restaurant (I know), and he had no clue what it was (I know!!).

Then, he told me heíd never heard of Arlo Guthrie (I KNOW!!).

Thatís when I realized that thereís a big difference between Adam and I. His parents werenít hippies. His dad is a republican. Adam is actually really embarrassed by that fact, so you didnít hear it from me.

His dad and my dad were born only a year apart, but while his father embraced normalcy (and decency, and being a good provider, and achieving the American dream, and all that), mine embraced hippie culture.

My dad had hippie friends, he listened to hippie music, he watched hippie TV. If there was a documentary about the Ď60ís on TV, we watched it. My dad isnít an activist. As far as I can tell, he doesnít believe in anything. HeĎs just rebellious and anti-establishment by nature, but he has no idea why. He never identified himself as a hippie, either, but Iíve never known him to identify himself as anything, either.

When I was very young, he was once reminiscing about joining a protest and getting tear gassed. He was excited about it. He thought it was the coolest thing. I asked him what they were protesting, and he wasnít even sure. He speculated that it was anti-war. Being a little kid and not really understanding the complexities of life, I asked, ďBut, didnít you join the army? You werenĎt drafted, like other people. DoesnĎt that mean you were for the war?Ē It didnít make any sense to me why anyone would glad to be tear gassed over something they didnít know about or care about. It still doesnít, actually.

He didnít give me a straight answer. He never does. It doesnít even matter to me whether he was for or against the war. It's more that I'd wanted him to have a passionate belief about something other than drinking and getting high. A passionate belief might be an indication that there is some tiny nugget of humanity buried deep down inside of him.

Anyway, like a big portion of my generation, I grew up idealizing the Ď60ís. I think this why the style enjoyed a resurgence in the mid-90ís. Thatís when us Gen-Xers started establishing our own identity, and what was the first thing we did? We attempted to mimic the thing that our parents had been telling us was so great when they were young.

Because of that, the protests of today often choke me up, and not in a depressing/sad way. Iím witnessing something that I never thought I would ever witness; people organizing and cooperating for change. I grew up believing that organized protests were powerful and magical. It makes me feel hopeful.

I find it ironic that even after all the idealization of the Ď60ís, people are saying the exact same things about the younger generation that was said back then. I guess thatís the order of things.

I guess the order of things also dictates that people will speak up when they get frustrated enough.

For most of my life Iíd believed that people my age and younger were too apathetic to do anything. Now theyíre doing something. Yes, itís messy, painful, irritating and difficult, but thatís what has to happen for there to be a change.

I see my friends getting upset when they see police brutality and excessive force videos on the internet, but that stuff chokes me up even more. Because we have these tools, this stuff happens out in the open now. Itís documented for all to see. The stuff that goes on unknown and unrecorded scares me a thousand times more than what happens in front of everyone. The more documentation, the more accountability.

Maybe it is just a passing fad. I hope it isnít. We need another social push like we had back in the Ď60ís.

I havenít been following the protests very closely, but when it comes to the student loan problem, I do have a perspective on it, which may not be obvious to the older folks.

So, back when I started university, about 18 years ago, Iíd grown up hearing that a degree was crucial. It was no longer like the good old days when someone could survive with a high school diploma.

Tuition had gone up a lot, and it was continuing to rise exponentially. Despite tuition hikes, universities still struggled financially (and are struggling even more today). To try to make up the money, they lowered their standards to let in more students (more students, more tuition). These students wanted to go because theyĎd been told that without a college education, they would be destined for destitution.

Enter the predatory lender. When I college age, I could barely go anywhere without running into someone who wanted to loan me money. They were armed with all sorts of statistics claiming a huge return on the initial investment of a student loan (college grads average X amount of dollars per year in salary, etc). Even though this isnít about credit cards, credit card reps often swarmed the student unions, too.

Itís not that people viewed it as free money. All of my friends worked. I worked, had academic scholarships, had government grants (with minority status), and I took my general credits at a cheap university. I still needed loans. I later transferred to a larger university to work on my majors. I was careful as hell with my loans because I was an extra cautious person.

Most eighteen year olds did not grow up like me. Generally speaking, they are not extra cautious, and are far too naÔve to question the word of a loan officer.

Meanwhile, remember that thing about universities lowering their standards? That means, every year, kids are paying more money for a worse education. There are college kids in Adamís classes that can barely complete a full sentence and many of them are seniors. A teacher canít fail most of the class, so academic standards needed to be lowered.

Iím not saying that these people are stupid. They were sold a dream. They were sold a dream during a time in their lives when itís really easy to buy dreams. Who among us hasnít bought a dream that later turned out to be a raw deal? No matter how savvy we are, weíve all done it.

After talking to Adam at great length about his students, Iíve realized that there are many people who just donít belong in a university setting. The university brings them in because it wants their money. The banks pay for it because they want their money. The kids go because believe they are playing the game according to the rules, and they are, but no one told them that itís a game in which theyíre set up to lose.

In the end, theyíre no more prepared for a career than they would have been without the wasted four years and huge debt. In a competitive job market, it really isnít just about that piece of paper, anymore, not when everyone else has one. Itís become meaningless, and employers have realized that.

I managed to make a stable life for myself partly because I was an extra cautious person, partly due to determination, but also because I was lucky. I donít know how or when luck has helped me along in my life, but I do believe it has. I know that when most people achieve things, they usually claim that it was totally self-perpetuated (and every bad thing that happens is the result of bad luck). I donít believe that, though. Luck is an important part of achievement.

I just realized that itís after 3AM. Yikes. I better get to bed.

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Friday, Nov. 25, 2011 at 3:12 AM