Snowflake Generation

Beautiful Snowflake

It’s 2:00 AM as I begin to write this and I’m sitting on my bed looking out over a darkened Hempstead wondering why the snowflake philosophy gets such a bad rap. What seemed a fresh, encouraging and generally positive outlook in my youth has somehow become the object of nothing but scorn by my slightly more grown and infinitely more cynical generation.

“You are not special,” memorably grumbles one Tyler Durden. “You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else.”

Okay. We’re generic and indistinguishable and all tied by our eventual collective and somber, tenebrous fates. Better? Has something somehow been achieved by embracing a thought process that labels yourself as tedious, redundant and expendable?

Even if the above turns out to be true (which as an advocate of human individuality and spirit, as naive and  romantic a notion as it may be, I whole-heartedly reject), what’s wrong with believing the alternative? What is so horrible and frustrating about someone believing that they are in fact unique and in possession of distinguishing qualities and capable of offering something that is different and individual to the rest of the world? Is this brand of optimism really a characteristic that requires extinguishing?

I’ve always found those ideologies that embrace the spark of originality and the inherent worth of each human being (there’s those Unitarian Universalist axioms kicking in) to be incredibly compelling, as there’s something intrinsically beautiful not only in the distinctiveness of every individual but also in the positive acknowledgement of these distinctions by others. That referring to anyone as a ‘snowflake’ has earned such a negative association is somewhat disheartening. And while I can understand in some degree how this attitude came about, the abuse of the colloquialism by those relentlessly and ineffectually attempting to showcase their status outside the material mainstream shouldn’t overshadow the phrase’s more praise-worthy connotations.

My name is Amy Butenhof and I would like to fearlessly and obnoxiously declare my standing as a special and unique snowflake and hope the more sardonic and pessimistic persons of the world won’t preclude you from doing the same.

This has been my 2 AM two cents, I hope you read this at a more reasonable hour than I’m writing it and good night. 🙂

College Admissions Revisited

I mentioned in an earlier post (Lackspiration) that I was considering transferring schools and struggling to write a quality college essay. I also promised to keep you in the loop regarding the outcome of my efforts, which I promptly forgot to do. So I thought I’d take this opportunity to fill you in on how things went down. I decided in the end to apply to Ithaca, for the beautiful surroundings and five-year Masters education program, University of New Hampshire for the low cost (as a New Hampshire resident) and, also, the five-year program, and American University just because I really like it a lot. To be honest I was pretty sure I’d get in, seeing as they’re all schools that accepted me the first go-round, and my suppositions were validated when I received all three letters of admission (in relatively close succession) a few weeks ago.

We’re now approaching the deposit deadline so I’m left with a rapidly-dwindling number of days to decide A, which school to choose and B, if I really want to transfer at all.

But all that’s really neither here nor there; the real reason I’m writing was to share with you the college essay I finally decided on! My list of drafts included an essay on a friend regarding rhetoric versus action, a piece on an old family acquaintance citing the importance of tolerance and understanding, a collection of musings regarding my search for self, and the stereotypical ‘Why I Hate College Essays’ essay (ironically originally met with much acclaim for breaking the college essay mould, only to quickly become an admissions trope), until I finally settled on: peanut butter and jelly.

That’s right, the essay I used to gain admission into Ithaca, UNH and American was a composition centered around my favorite lunchtime fare. So without further ado, here is the contents of my final submission. 🙂

My Life As a Sandwich

If I could could sum up my outlook on life in a simple, singular metaphor, I think I could present it most succinctly and accurately with the image of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I’ve always had what some might refer to as an ‘unhealthy addiction’ to peanut butter. Personally, I prefer the term ‘rapturous love’, but tomay-to tomaw-to, I suppose.

It started somewhere in that hazy time period that is my early childhood, when my mother started sending me to daycare with meticulously-packaged PB & J’s. Fastidious toddler that I was, it always had to be made the same way: smooth Skippy peanut butter, Smucker’s strawberry jelly, white bread, cut vertically down the middle. Deviations were unacceptable.

With time I grew a little more adventurous. What began as a freak and highly-traumatizing grocery store mix-up, during which my father purchased grape jelly in lieu of strawberry, turned into a happy accident when I realized, ohmygosh, grape jelly is superior to strawberry jelly in every conceivable way. It was an eye-opening experience leading to various other ground-breaking innovations, such as the existence of bread, not of the Wonder Bread variety, that tasted like something other than bleached cotton. Then of course was the monumental shift from Skippy peanut butter to Jif; I consider that a major transition point into adulthood.

Elementary-school me would be absolutely stupefied to see the sandwich connoisseur I have become, so worldly and knowledgeable in the ways of breads, nut butters and fillings, so bold and daring in my tastes. Why, just last week I made my lunch of cinnamon raisin bread, SunButter and sliced apple. Yesterday I feasted upon honey-swirled peanut butter and mango slices ‘twixt a multi-grain sandwich thin.

I swear there’s a point to this, that it’s not just the ramblings of a peanut butter-obsessed collegiate, and that point is this: With every year and every experience, I’ve come to understand and appreciate things I never even noticed as a child. What began as a white bread, Skippy and strawberry world has rapidly expanded into a universe of vibrance, of color and taste, of sights, sounds, people and cultures, all waiting to be discovered and explored. School-age me was perfectly content with old, unchanging patterns and defined routines. While I still hold the same love for the things I loved back then, I’ve become an adult far more open to change, adventure, and occasionally disappointment (like that almond-butter-guava sandwich from this weekend, that was a bad call).

As I press onwards in life, I want to continue to be as open and accepting, to ‘broaden my horizons’, ‘push my comfortable limits’, and any other cliché you can think of that describes a desire to explore and challenge both an ever-changing world and an ever-changing self. I love my PB & J, but a world of raspberry tahini, cashew pear, walnut fig, and innumerable other opportunities awaits, and I can’t wait to continue taste-testing all this life has to offer.

Lost to Time

Wanderlust

Taipingshan, Taiwan

Tucked away in the county of Yilan, one of the northernmost points of the Island of Taiwan, exists a national forest (one of three major national forests within the territory) called Taipingshan. The forest is thick with cypresses, hemlocks, and maples with leaves that turn vibrant purple in summer.

I personally happen to be a big fan of forests, being a big fan of trees. I’m actually a huge advocate for greenery in general. But what’s most striking about Taipingshan isn’t the foliage it boasts, nor the alpine lakes, hidden waterfalls or hot springs. What’s most captivating and singular about the area is the abandoned railroad tracks, half-reclaimed by nature and time so that they seem to straddle the realm of human engineering and natural beauty.

The haunted quality of these tracks is striking, and one can clearly imagine strolling along this man-made route through a sea of ancient groves and woodland, the vegetation which survived the arrival of man’s mechanical revolution and continued on to watch it pass into obscurity. Cliché as it is, these lost tracks of Taipingshan are a compelling reminder of the strength and enduring qualities of the outside world, as well as the fragility of humanity and the fleeting nature of our influence and our constructs.

Philosophical Ponderings on the Profession of Pedagogy

The professor of my American Short Story class is an aging woman. She has sharp, angular features, cropped frost-white hair, and a theatrical flair that betrays some sort of background in drama. She likes to dissect odd, haunting stories, from the perplexingly condensed ‘Cheers’ (authored by Jayne Anne Philips) to classics such as Poe’s ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ and Faulkner’s ‘A Rose for Emily’. These stories are discussed from every angle; we study the background of the author, the impact of the physical setting and time period, examining each theme and speculating upon every possible specimen of symbolism.

His ideas are actually pretty irrelevant here, but I’m hoping name-dropping Jean Jacques Rousseau and On Education will make me look more intelligent. Is it working?

I like this class a lot. If maybe the conversation isn’t always thrilling and the conclusions a little far-fetched, at best it has introduced me to a wide range of short stories, authors and methods of story-telling. It’s a treasure trove of inspiration.

Anyways, today my professor was attempting to prompt some questions from the class and said something that struck me; “The goal of a teacher,” she told us, “is to render oneself useless.”

It’s not exactly a new concept, but as an individual having just determined to enter the field of teaching the idea seemed to have renewed resonance.  It’s a fascinating notion, that education is really the only profession that’s ultimate goal is to make itself obsolete.

I don’t think it will ever reach this goal. In fact, I quite fervently hope there never comes a day that the world decides further education is without value. But this doesn’t change the fact that the aim of every teacher (or, I suppose, what should be the aim of every teacher) is to transfer the sum of their knowledge to a pupil so completely that, by the end of the period of erudition, this student will be entirely capable of filling their position, perhaps even grow beyond and eclipse it.

And the concept of an educational eclipse is important; a teacher isn’t just responsible for transferring information, their task is also to encourage the student to take that knowledge and use it as a springboard to achieve greater things. In many ways this means a good teacher must be selfless. They can’t be afraid of their disciples surpassing them; in fact, it should be the greatest honor of a teacher to see a student take what has been learned and use their education to overshadow its source.

So here has been another insight into the machinations of the mind of Amy Butenhof. I literally devoted hours of my day inexplicably intrigued and caught up in the concept that the ideal teacher A, looks to obtain no glory and B, aspires to be absolutely useless.

Pretty cool stuff, bro.

And if you managed to sit through all that pretentious musing and monologuing, I’m rewarding you now with  this picture of a pig. You’re welcome. 🙂

baby-cute-kawaii-pig-piggy-Favim.com-360586

Oink oink!

Productive Procrastination

Yooooo! So it’s been a while (something I feel like I say A LOT). And of course I should be doing important things like 9-page final papers, floundering group projects and copious amounts of required reading, so it’s only natural I’d instead be found tending the blog I have so unceremoniously left to languish.

A few updates, if anyone’s keeping tabs; I HAVE AN INTERNSHIP FOR THE SUMMER!!! Woop woop!! Meet one of Franklin Park Zoo’s new educational interns. 🙂 I will be spending my summer in Boston frolicking in the sunlight with various cuddly animals and the equally adorable youngins that flock to observe them. I’m pretty stoked about this development. 🙂

Yeah, that’s right, guess who’s gonna be cuddling with this guy? I mean, no, probably not me. Probably not anyone. I don’t think that’s allowed.

I’m also in the midst of a transfer crisis in which I must, by the end of this week, decide if I want to leave my entire life and circle of friends behind at Hofstra University and journey to lands I know not of in the perilous country of Durham, New Hampshire to study English education at UNH. Journeys to the perilous countries of Ithaca, New York and American University of Washington DC are also possibilities, but financial constraints seem to have more or less put the kabosh on those avenues of education.

And so here’s a cute fluffy little poem I scribbled down in my American Short Story class a few weeks back:

Day Dreaming

There are dreams that I shelter on clouds in my head,

born from sheer grains of hope stuck like pieces of sand

and they tumble and grow like the deep ocean pearl

in a mental wash-cycle that ends with a strand

of fragile slip-sprites with their gossamer wings

and spontaneous thoughts displace common-day things

and with child-like abandon we grasp for to snatch

but their slipp’ry smoke bodies aren’t easy to catch,

so they cartwheel away lost in white sun-spot gleam.

Such insubstantial things,

yet it’s still nice to dream.