“When we worked here together we fought, scratched, and clawed to make people’s lives a tiny bit better. That’s what public service is all about. Small incremental change every day.

Teddy Roosevelt once said ‘far and away the best prize that life has to offer is a chance to work hard at work worth doing.’ And I would add what makes work worth doing is getting to do it with people you love.” — Leslie Knope

 

Yesterday we said goodbye to the loveable crew from Pawnee, Indiana and I literally got more emotional than I thought I would. And so, in the spirit of farewell, I pulled together my favorite things, moments, and thoughts from Pawnee, Indiana (with some helpful suggestions from my friends on Twitter and Facebook).

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Dystopian Hardware in Montreal by imcallahan via Flickr and Creative Commons.

In the middle of last year a friend asked why we as a culture seem to be drawn to epic storytelling. These are stories where grand visions of what a world could be are garnished by the magical, the mystical, and the fantastical, spanning nations and many worlds. Stories where fights for truth and justice are disguised metaphors for what authors and readers see as missing from our current way of life. After months of letting the question circle around in my head I’d like to spend two posts presenting my answer largely based on musings from recent experiences and readings.

We’ll start with epic storytelling of the dystopian sort:

There was a moment in high school over a decade ago when I was tasked with reading post-apocalyptic books of all manner of styles. 1984, On the Beach, Fahrenheit 451 — each with their own set of rules and commentary on privacy, nuclear warfare, and censorship. I realized then that the dystopian fiction I am most attracted to are narratives with something to say beyond death, destruction, and warfare. I am also attracted to post-apocalyptic fiction that provides a commentary on choice. Stories that juxtapose our reality against a world we can barely recognize.

Two weeks ago I finished two books, The Bone Clocks and Station Eleven, that illustrate why some dystopian fiction enthralls me. They reveal how their ability to tell stories on a larger-than-life//larger-than-reality scale really hits home.

[Some over-arching plot spoilers below] Read the rest of this entry »

elephant“We are such stuff as dreams are made on…”
William Shakespeare
The Tempest

At the end of each year I get hit with a double dose of nostalgia and romanticism. I feel regret at the time I wasted from the year before but believe in the opportunity of the many days left ahead. So this year when I sent out my holiday/new year cards I asked my friends, co-workers, and loved ones for their dreams for the coming year.

But what are dreams? They are wishes and hopes. They are goals and tasks for a better life. For others it is a broadening of skills and minds.

Dreams are a search for something more, something different. They are an acknowledgement of change. Often though dreams cannot be bound by a single year, and need to be broken up into pieces.

Sometimes dreams are for others. They are a hope for strength, for well-being, and a wish for them to have peace of mind.

My dreams aren’t simple. In my first post of the year I laid out some resolutions: to become more focused, take control, and to define success for myself. My dreams are linked to these resolutions. I hope to control the uncontrollable while also letting fate take its course.

tardisIn clearer terms. I want to know I’ll always be happy. Satisfied. Able to withstand change, loss, and uncertainty. I want to be able to accept love or disaster when they arrive at my doorstep. I want to know how the story ends. I want to be brave. So really, I want a TARDIS of my very own.

Having said that there is one clear point I need to make. Read the rest of this entry »

At the start of 2014. I sought to be more productive, to experiment more, and resolved for a year of joy.

So how successful was I? It’s hard to say. In terms of productivity I’ve been living in a year of distraction. I took a trip to India in the summer which was followed by a few days with my sister in Portugal. I went to Cabo for a bachelorette and then to Monterey (CA) and Savannah (GA) for conferences. September brought with it my sister’s wedding which, after a year of planning, was filled with a relative amount of stress, laughter, and a new family member. I tried to write, but got hit with writer’s block for months, but at the same time made progress on some other long term projects I hope to share at a later time.

Nothing says Williamsburg more than #snotogo #wmhomecoming

A photo posted by Priya (@priyastoric) on

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I was young when I first fell in love. I was raised on tennis the way a lot of kids are raised on football and baseball. I was raised on Pete Sampras, Monica Seles, Patrick Rafter, and of course Steffi Graf.

But Love? That was how I felt about Andre Agassi. It wasn’t a romantic love, but a fan’s love. Whenever he would play I would sit on the edge of my seat knowing that he would pull it out of a fifth set. And when he said goodbye in 2006 I cried.

My knowledge of his personal life was limited to broad strokes — he was married to Brooke Shields, then Steffi Graf. I knew he was Armenian-American. And I remember talking to my dad about how when Agassi was happy in his personal life his game seemed to suffer.

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(Nobody Knows)

It’s tough to keep a show going after ten years. Scripts start getting creative. Having a helicopter land on someone’s head becomes normal (Oh ER, when are you going to end up on Netflix?), and you lose sight of who the characters are amidst the drama.

I started watching Grey’s Anatomy in the middle of season 3 and vowed to stop watching last year when Sandra Oh’s Cristina Yang departed.

Best. Laid. Plans. When the show premiered again this fall I was back, ready to hear of the happenings at Grey-Sloane Memorial Hospital including, spoiler alert, the introduction of yet another sister for Mer.

But this is not a post about Grey’s Anatomy. This is a post about diversity and storytelling from Shonda Rhimes the creator/writer of Grey’s, Private Practice, Scandal, and the executive producer of the new How to Get Away with Murder. Two weeks ago she gave an interview for the Smithsonian Associates at the National Museum of Natural History, and I thought what she had to say about diversity and storytelling was worth repeating.
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It’s not a great feeling. A self-instituted pressure combined with a tingling in my fingers as they rest on a keyboard waiting for words to come. My head feels full, as if perched on a cliff expecting something to push it over the edge. And then there are all the ideas jumbling, tumbling, and pushing me around.

Writer’s block is a pain in my ass.

Moorish Castle in Sintra, Portugal

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A few weeks ago I attended a tweetup between the National Museum of American History and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Using the hashtag #docsocial twenty social media users gathered to look at the role of documents and primary sources in the telling of history.

The objects central to the program were handbags–purses belonging to two women held at Terezin, a camp located in Czechoslovakia that was used as a “model/propoganda” camp.

The first belonged to a seamstress, Camilla Gottlieb, and is part of an exhibition at the National Museum of American History called “Camilla’s Purse”. The documents and objects within tell the story of her life at Terezin and later in the United States. The second purse, at the Holocaust Museum, belonged to Helene Reik, who died in the camp–her purse survived because a cousin saved it. Within the handbag was the expected and unexpected: a manicure set, scraps of receipts, and photographs Helene had used as paper, filling every available white space with words.

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Optimism. Focus. Growth. Three ways to approach 2013. Three tools to infuse the way I tell stories, both beyond and of the past. Three ways to embrace the future.

New Year resolutions are tough. As goals for the next 2-300 or so days they are choices of self-determination. Dictates on change. Guidelines for choices you want to make in the year to come.

They are often lofty and almost always fall to the wayside before February.

Last year instead of resolving I sought to qualify. I chose three words that would be a touch point for how I manage inevitable change and tell my stories. Three ways to accept the unpredictable and embrace it.

In this I have been mostly successful. 2013 was a year of personal change which often pulled me away from writing. My focus was directed towards family matters and I made the conscious choice to look for personal growth offline (though it seems my use of Twitter is perhaps on an uptick).

In the last year I’ve written 13 posts here on …this is what comes next. A few were cross-posts from either Fangirl or the Indian American Story. Others included links to reflections on the PreservationNation blog.  Collectively these posts (which are listed below) mark my love with learning through place (this year I traveled to Boston and Paris) and finding ways to teach my new niece an appreciation for the past. Some of my favorites? This interview with a Kristina Downs on Native American Heroines (originally on Fangirl blog), my look at Cloud Atlas, and a two-part post on returning to historical places and the resonance they bring on PreservationNation.

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1785Does preserving old places–and the memories they represent–matter? Do the individual and collective memories embodied in old places help people have better lives?

Tom Mayes, a colleague of mine who is spending six months in Rome as a recipient of the 2013 Rome Prize, asks these questions in his latest post investigating “Why Old Places Matter.”

As I’ve read his series it has brought back my own thoughts on memory and memorializing–where stone structures on a battlefield or ever-living trees bear witness to the past. At this intersection of memory-place-monument these objects of remembrance serve as a physical manifestation and encapsulation of a collective connection to the past.

Old places provide a tangible reminder that something happened–that humans stood in this exact spot and did something. That we interacted, enacted change, or fought for a cause.

They are questions that I am also thinking about as I prepare for my last day at 1785 Massachusetts Avenue, the soon to be former headquarters of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
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