Tourism Revelations

How long does it take things to lose their wonder? How many times do you have to see something amazing or witness something so grand before it becomes just another part of life or a seemingly lackluster experience?

Coming from a smallish town (although, technically it’s considered a city) in western NY, I’ve often thought about this in terms of Niagara Falls. Don’t get me wrong, Niagara Falls in and of itself is amazing even though, fun fact, it is not technically on any of the ‘World Wonder’ lists. I mean, 4 million cubic feet on average go over the Falls every minute so it’s a huge source of power and (minor detail) a huge source of revenue from tourists.

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Throwback to 2002 – 7th grade class field trip to Canada (I am bottom right)

I mean, it’s crazy to me that people come from all over the world every single day to see the Falls. For me Niagara Falls is just one of those things everyone went to on school field trips, visited with their parents, or even went camping near.

For millions of other people, they view it as a once in a lifetime experience. They take pictures in front of the Falls, buy tons of souvenirs, take a ride on the Maid of the Mist, take a stroll through the Cave of the Winds, and then maybe go gamble the rest of their money at the Seneca Niagara Casino. And that’s just on the American side!

In my opinion, the view and tourism on the Canadian side is even better. They have a much more panoramic view of the Falls, Clifton Hill is packed with restaurants, shops, and other attractions that are all within walking distance. Plus, at night they shine huge beams of colored light on the Falls, so they look extra awesome.

Tom at Niagara Falls - August 2011

Tom at Niagara Falls – August 2011

I took Tom to see Niagara Falls two summers ago, and it was just so weird to me that this was a new thing for him. Everyone should experience the Falls at least once in their lives.

And I’ve seen all of them at least 20 times. I’ve only been to the Canadian side about 5 times because of the increasing restrictions on crossing the border, so there might be a bit more novelty for me there. Either way, sometimes it seems like it’s “just” Niagara Falls.

Jones Beach - July 2013

Jones Beach – July 2013

So it’s not wonder that when Tom and a couple of our friends went to a beach here in Long Island that they felt this same exact insipid feeling. It’s not that they were bored out of their mind or weren’t enjoying themselves, it had simply lost its novelty for them because they had been there before multiple times.

And then there was me, awed at the sunset, the sand, and the fact that I was so close to the Atlantic Ocean! I mean, right? It’s the ocean!

I’m also realizing that I’ve gotten this way towards certain things in New York City. I live there, so some of the touristy things just are not on my radar as exciting things to do anymore. I guess it’s a different story when you’re with friends because to me it’s more about the experience and enjoying time with friends; being someplace cool is just a bonus.

Times Square - May 2011

Times Square – May 2011

Tom and I were walking through Times Square the other day to get to the subway and it was obvious just how non-touristy we were. Some examples:

Tourists constantly have their heads cocked and locked to the sky, looking at the tall buildings. We had a destination, so we were constantly looking for quicker ways to get through the crowds.

Tourists are always slowing down or stopping right in the middle of the sidewalk to look at a store, take pictures, or look at a map. Us? We can’t stop, won’t stop. We got stuff to do.

Tourists are also the ones that never cross the street until the white hand gives them the A-OK. Call us daredevils, but we know whether we have enough time before that taxi will hit us.

FAO Schwarz - January 2012

FAO Schwarz – January 2012

I dislike the huge crowds of the super touristy attractions, but I have to remember that for many this may be their first and only chance to experience the chaotic brightness of New York City or the jaw-dropping amazement of Niagara Falls. And I can respect that.

But please please please don’t just come to a sudden halt on the sidewalk or not look where you’re going. Because that just lacks common sense. And you will get run over. Either by a car or by me. Take your pick.

Above all, though, it makes me thankful that I’ve had the privilege to experience these places that so many never have the means to partake in. So here’s to traveling the world and  being a future tourist in other peoples’ every day surroundings.

Making Math Fun: Experience MoMath

DSCN1173Pythagoras, polygons, and fractals – oh my! By the title, I’m sure most are rolling their eyes, and maybe even feeling anxious at the thought of math.

There is such an unnecessary fear about math felt by many. Children and teens in school dealing with fractions and algebra, reading to simply lay down their pencils because, I mean come on, “Where am I ever going to use this in my daily life?” Adults with bad memories of their own school experience with math, although that might be due to the fact that teachers used to be able to hit them with rulers.DSCN1132

For us residents of New York City, we don’t have to look farther than the National Museum of Mathematics (MoMath). Located on 26th Street, MoMath is “North America’s only museum dedicated solely to math.” The museum, which opened back in December, only has 2 floors with maybe 20-30 stations (exhibits) so it is not so overwhelming, but it also covers an exponential number of bases (kind of a math joke…exponents…bases…ha?).

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Although my trip to MoMath was a requirement for an assignment for my summer class, it has been on my list of places to go here in the city. Go ahead, call me a nerd. I am a proud math nerd. I am a mathematician, and you can be too! Sounds like an advertisement, huh?

As you can see from the photos, there were many age groups represented here – children and adults come to find out just how fun and useful mathematics is. And it’s fantastic! If you don’t believe me by now, check out the MoMath website to get a sense of what all is there, hours, and prices. Do it. I dare you.

Halfway There

So I have not written a post in a couple of weeks. I have a good reason, I promise. Just hear me out!

I started graduate school this past January at Teachers College, Columbia University. And just an hour ago I finished my last final for the semester. I survived a semester of graduate school in New York City!

Up until about 2 weeks ago, I had planned on getting my degree next May. However, 2 weeks ago, I realized something. I am only 1 credit shy of being halfway done with my Masters requirements. What the what?! After crunching and re-crunching the numbers, reading and rereading the requirements, I spoke with my advisor just to make sure I was not overlooking something. Sure enough he confirmed that this is more than doable.

I kid you not, the clouds opened, the angels sang, and God said, “Holliday, you shall finish in December.” So that’s what I plan to do.

How awesome will it be to save a whole semester worth of housing and credits and the God-forsaken ‘College fee’ that is mandatory but no one knows what it is used for. Oh, maybe to supply us with those goofy ‘Student Senate’ plastic Ray-Ban wannabes. And our 20 “free” printed pages per week.

Anyways, so saving money will be fantastic. Except then reality hit:

“I will be done in December. That means I have to be an adult that much sooner. I will need somewhere to live. I will need a job to support myself. Not to mention, student loans will kick in that much sooner. Gah, what did I get myself into?!”

But, in all honesty, I am excited to see what will happen. I am over the moon that I get to start my “real-world” life sooner. I have been exploring careers outside of the typical ‘math teacher’ realm; coming to TC has really opened my eyes to the possibilities outside of the classroom.

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I am not completely abandoning the idea of becoming a classroom teacher (especially because I totally want that shirt!), but it is exciting what new and improving technology is creating in terms of jobs and experiences.

So the point of this post was:

1.  To apologize for not posting in awhile. I’ve been a good girl, telling myself that instead of writing a blog post I should be studying and doing homework.

2.  To let out some built-up fear and excitement for the future.

3.  To share this journey and hopefully help others who may be going through or will go through similar situations and may have similar decisions to make.

So what are your thoughts? Any ideas about what future endeavors a Masters in Mathematics Education could possibly explore? What do you hope to do by the end of this year?

Yes, Virginia (and everyone else), I live in New York City

So for those of you who did not know, I have been living in the City That Never Sleeps.

Yes, Virginia, I have been living in New York City for two and a half months now…and I forgot how many people I didn’t tell. I guess maybe they thought I was just working as a substitute teacher and glamorous Walmart supervisor for these last few months. Others, well, either don’t care to know my whereabouts or thought I fell off the face of the earth?

I was actually accepted into Teachers College, Columbia University back in August last year, but coming in the fall was too soon to get everything prepared to leave home. That’s a whole other complicated story (AKA: my life), so maybe one day you’ll hear about it. I’ve always been told that my life would make a good book; I think I should get better at blogging first, then I’ll consider it.

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I applied for two schools: University at Buffalo and Teachers College. I had already been admitted into UB’s Math Education graduate program, and was planning on starting in the fall, so I had a fallback plan if TC didn’t accept me. I honestly didn’t think I had a chance of getting into TC; I mean, come on, it’s affiliated with Columbia! I’m just this small-town (though, technically, Batavia is a city) girl, I never received huge awards from school (high school or college), my grades were good but they could definitely find better people to take my place. It was quite a stressful summer waiting to hear from TC.

And then, on an August evening, I got an email from TC, directing me to the ‘decision’ page of my application. This was it; I mentally prepared myself to read, “We are sorry to inform you…” or something along those lines. So when I read, “We are happy to inform you…” I just about wet my pants. I think I screamed.

As excited as I was, the idea of moving in only a month was terrifying. Like I said, it wasn’t going to be as easy as students who move away to college freshman year and whose parents can take care of all the messy details: house, transportation, the actual moving process, etc. So I knew that if I accepted admittance into TC, I would be deferring to the spring semester to allow me more time to prepare myself mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially.

I only told a select few because I didn’t want to announce it publicly over Facebook that I was leaving town to go to NYC. There are multiple reasons, but one of the bigger ones was due to self-doubt and pride.

Okay, sure, I got accepted into this crazy awesome graduate school, but…What if I can’t hack it in the city? What if I come back after a semester because I hate it there? What if I fail: classes, living far from home, life in general?

And when I did tell people, I would make it seem like I was prepared to fail. Just in case I didn’t like it or ended up not doing well, I would be willing to come home without making a huge scene, reapplying to Walmart (that would make 5 stints there), and assume my old life back home.

If I hate it, no big deal, I’ll just come home.

It was definitely a defense mechanism, but, looking back, it was only defense from myself. Everyone I told was nothing but excited and supportive; we were all people living in a small city in western New York, so just thinking and talking about going to and living in a huge city like NY was thrilling. Absolutely everyone was pumped for me. Everyone but myself. Okay, it’s not that I wasn’t excited. The problem was that I was so excited I was afraid I would overlook the possibilities of failure and end up getting clotheslined by life.

Why do we do this to ourselves? If any of my friends came and told me they got accepted into a prestigious college and/or were moving somewhere, I would be ecstatic for them! A couple of my friends have done this actually (not for school but for jobs) and I couldn’t be happier. And I’m so glad they told me so that I can be excited for them and support them! But when it came to myself, I was so bent out of shape about the negative possibilities, doubting my ability to do well in school or survive a new city, that I wasn’t willing to share it with anyone but those I was closest to.

So to those of you whom I didn’t tell, I really apologize. I was afraid that if I told everyone and made this huge hype, it would blow up in my face and I would end up falling flat on my tush. Then I wouldn’t just be letting myself down, but I would feel as though I failed all the people I told, all the people that believed in me. I felt as though my failure would extinguish any fire in the hearts of those coming from a small city and wanting to explore living in a bigger city. If I couldn’t do it, I know it would discourage me, but would that also discourage others?

I’m glad to say that I love it here. These past two+ months have been exciting, challenging, eye-opening, and amazing. I’ve been wanting to write about my experiences here, but there was still such an uneasiness with letting people know and actually knowing myself whether I liked it here enough to stay. I plan on being here for the next year, and after that, who knows? Maybe I’ll love it enough to find a job here for a few years before I settle down and start a family; I don’t really want my future kids growing up in such a huge, overwhelming city. Or maybe I’ll find a job in another great city. Maybe a different country. Who knows? I do know, now that the cat is out of the bag, that I’m excited to write about anything that may come up.