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May 12, 2006

Get a Life—May 12, 2006

This week’s column offers absolutely no practical advice. Because last week, instead of exploring the blossoming wilds of Chicago, I took advantage of a few cancelled classes and a little extra money in my bank account and went to Paris (!!!). Crazy? Yes. I still can’t quite believe I went. There was no rationale compelling me to miss a whole week of the quarter, no logical reason for me to plunge myself into the threat of monetary and scholarly debt. In fact, there was only one force strong enough to draw me to Paris, and it is the strongest magnet I have yet to encounter: my friend, Rose Linke.

You don’t know her, but, trust me, you wish you did. Rose is one of the few diamonds to come out of the rough of my ill-fated freshman year at USC (along with an exposure to Ovid, Virgil, and Italo Calvino; an abandonment of my business major; and—of course—a great tan). Rose is a love spreader, a heart warmer, a happiness maker. Rose leaves notes inside her favorite novels in bookstores and checks the next time she’s in to see if they’re gone. Rose made Halloween Valentines that said things like “you spook me the most.” Rose has thrown Saved by the Bell and Seven Wonders of the World theme parties. Rose believes in talking to strangers, in expressing enthusiasm, in laughing at herself, and in telling people how much they mean to her. Rose carves out her own happiness.

Her attitude is infectious. It is impossible for me to be grumpy or sour around Rose. She makes me want to extract every bit of joy found in a day. She makes me want to grab life, squeeze it until the last drop of goodness comes out, then lick the pulp off my hands and bask in the sun. That’s Rose. That’s the effect of Rose. And although I will provide no concrete suggestions for “getting a life” this week, I think we can all learn something from Rose about how to approach life. There is fun, and joy, and happiness, and enjoyment, to be found every day if we let ourselves see it. I know I sound like Danny at the end of Full House, when he offers the moral of the episode and the cheesy music starts to play. But it really is true.

At USC, inspired by a daily calendar of Rose’s called “Five Things to Be Happy About,” I started writing down five things every day that made me happy or that I was looking forward to the next day. Even in my bleakest days, when I was scraping the edges of my mind to do it, I could still come up with five. Things ranging from the miniscule (eating vanilla frozen yogurt with granola and chocolate chips) to the humongous (getting into the University of Chicago) to the life-changing (visiting the U of C and actually liking it). Rose was on the list most days.

In yet another list (I’m a bit of a list person) of the pros and cons of transferring to U of C, Rose was a lonely figure on the losing side. And although I am so much happier here, with my daily lists much easier to write, I miss Rose like crazy. When she wrote me a Facebook message a few weeks ago, and I looked through her pictures, I wanted to be in Paris with her more than anything. And as friendship is my religion, I asked myself: “What would Rose do?” Rose would buy the ticket, hop on the plane, and play with me wherever in the world I was. So I did the same.

And did we ever play. We strolled through all of Paris, had picnics in beautiful parks, ate pastry and gelato, watched street performers, played M.A.S.H. and 20 Questions, ate crepes on the Seine, imitated the poses of statues, took pictures of ourselves on the Metro, drank wine, and frolicked in the streets.

Sitting at a cafe one day, drinking café crèmes from petite teal mugs that said “Cappuccino” on them, Rose and I played a game where each person writes down on a piece of paper a “because” statement. We folded the papers in half and handed them to the other person, who wrote a “why” statement on the outside.

“Why do we sing in the shower?” she read, then opened the paper up. “Because jelly beans don’t grow on trees.”

Sometimes they make very little sense.

“Why do we wake up each morning?” I read my own words, then on the inside hers: “Because this—right here, right now—is what it’s all about.”

And, sometimes, they make a lot.