Friday, June 29, 2012

Wake up

I probably shouldn't be bearing my soul so much over this publicly shared, search engine-locatable blog.

But I guess I've arrived at the point of no return, where I no longer mind whether or not I come across as some pristine creature with no problems (how people often present themselves publically) or a real, living, breathing, well-adjusted and sometimes dysfunctional human being (how people really are, but are afraid to show publically). So here it goes...

It's taken two weeks for me to realize how very fragile a person I am. For so long I thought I could handle anything. The stress of a commute, nothing. The pressure of work, child's play. The limited free time, no skin off my back.

I was so wrong.

When I was in the office today, one of my coworkers brought a little girl to hang around and see all the goings on in Media Relations. She showed her the bowl of candy that my boss keeps in his office and walked her into the kitchen and the various offices of company heads and employees to introduce the little blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl to everyone. She probably got even more candy from individual offices.

It sounds stupid, but I couldn't help but envy her.

Despite the comfortable pattern I settle into once I'm at my internship, being a "working girl" for the past couple of weeks has taken a toll on me in so many ways.

The most significant way, though, is in the amount of time I've sacrificed that I used to devote to being a better, happier person.

I wake up at 6 am. I leave home at 7 am. I'm not off the freeways until 9 am. Sometimes I'm slightly late to work. I go home at 5 pm. On a good day I make it back at 6:45 pm. Sometimes I don't make it back until 7:15 pm. I would be lying if I said I wasn't going crazy in my car.

It's impossible for me to comprehend how so many people assume this position as a commuting employee indefinitely. Because I have eight weeks at this job, I'm still on a honeymoon period that has me excited to learn new things at work every day.

If I wasn't an intern, I don't know that I could handle the pressure.

My mom used to commute into work every day from Orange County to Los Angeles. She'd take the train or brave the traffic. She left home at 4 am.

In two weeks I've nearly cried more than once. I've become a nervous wreck driving into the office. As the clock strikes 9 while I'm still in the car, I get so anxious that I can feel my heart rising and falling, constricting my chest and making it hard to breathe. I drive in circles around the parking structure, feeling like I'm in a neverending maze that will have me plunging into the dark depths of my overworked thoughts.

Call me melodramatic, but there's something odd about waking up in the morning and feeling refreshed enough to hop out of bed, but debilitated enough by the waning desire for a lethargic drive to lie under the covers staring at the ceiling for a few extra minutes.

Watching the little girl walk through the office today and thinking about my mom, I couldn't help but consider how much closer in maturity I was to one of them and not the other. My mom may have complained a lot about her work. She may have had a difficult time commuting and taking care of a young daughter. She may have been more stressed than any other careerwoman I've ever met. But she had a better handle of things than I do - in that she never questioned it.

Sometimes when I wake up, I concoct stories in my head to excuse myself from work. During this school year, I once considered not going to my work study job because I could hear the wind whistling loudly against my window and I didn't feel like waking up and walking through it.

Now, though I've never honestly considered skipping work at my first real internship, I have woken up to little thoughts about the weather or my health or whatever else could get me off the hook. Anything that could give me a reasonable explanation for neglecting responsibility is always the first thought on my mind at 6 am.

On my drive sometimes, I consider what my options would be if I felt so ill that I couldn't continue on my commute. Would any family members or friends offer to pick me up if I ended up needing to get off the 10 and park in West Covina? Would a few hours' rest be all that I need to renew myself in preparation for returning to work?

And right now I'm so tired that I can't seem to consider anything but getting rid of this responsibility, this blog.

Priorities come in different shapes. All my life, it's come in the shape of a pacifier. I need to be placated by reality to allow myself to complete tasks. If there's not something to ease the burden, then I consider neglecting my responsibilities.

But in the past two weeks and the coming six, I will have no pacifier. Nothing will make this commute easier, or my hours of free time more plentiful. It's just up to me to man-up (adult-up?) and figure out what it means to be grown-up. I can't believe it's taken me so long.

My overactive imagination

Being creative has gotten me through a lot of tough and trying situations in life. When I have trouble finishing a task, my imagination makes me resourceful. When I'm bored, it makes me insightful. When I'm listening to someone speak, it makes me inquisitive.

When I have expectations and they aren't met, it makes me absolutely crazy.

I'm blessed with many lovely traits (clearly I'm not feeling very humble right now; it must be a productive of my lethargy). Chief among them is my mind. I may not be terrifically smart (there's that self-critical side kicking in) and spout off knowledge about world events or political news at a moment's notice. But I use my brain for something that is complex in itself.

I quite fancy myself an artist. And even though most of my work is through the written word, I consider everything I compose inherently creative because it comes organically from the internal monologues (and sometimes dialogues) going through my head.

As a kid I had a lot of weird traits that somehow, surprisingly enough, never turned me into a serial murderer or socially-awkward loner. You know those memories that we have that make sense in theory, but when we apply them to real life we can't imagine how we ever got through life acting so strangely?

I have a lot of those.

In my head I used to come up with chants and rituals. When I was bored, I'd recite things in my head to keep me preoccupied. I'd play games by myself, sometimes literally and sometimes just by making up stories in my head.

Making up stories in my head. It's the only skill that keeps me living. Without it I'd never have gone to college, I'd never have studied journalism, I'd never have started this blog. And what would my life be without this blog (and those other things)?

But creating narratives in your head doesn't always prove a good use of time. It can also be the food that keeps your paranoia alive.

I've learned this the hard way over the years.

By the time I was 11, I only had one parent. Anyone who's gone through this knows how it feels to lose something. And, unless circumstances were incredibly unfair, anyone who's gone through this knows how it feels to have one remaining factor to ease the pain of loss.

My innocence was lost. My dad remained.

And, somewhat unluckily, my imagination remained too.

Before my mom was gone, I rarely contemplated on death. I'd never had a close relative pass away, never even dealt with anyone in my immediate family entering the hospital. Why should I worry if I have no precedent for it?

Once you've lost a parent though, it can be almost emotionally imperative to latch onto the other parent. The comfort of a still-remaining loving adult figure is a comfort when you're faced head-on with the issue of mortality.

Not long after, though, many of us (I, specifically) start to notice changes in how we perceive daily life. Not only are we holding on even more tightly to the family we still have, but we're finding ourselves dwelling much too heavily on unlikelihood that we might lose what we now desperately want to keep around.

I haven't gone a single day of college without calling my dad. Some people think this is weird. In fat, I'm sure many people do. Who has the time or even the interest in talking with their parent every day?

If I must bring some perspective into the equation, consider how you would feel if you went a week without calling and then phoned up to find out you'd missed your final opportunity to talk with a parent.

It's morbid, I know. But it's how I think sometimes. Because once you've been faced with the death of a loved one, you can't help but think about the eventual demise of the rest. And of course the toll on yourself that the inevitable loss will hold.

Then you become your own worst enemy. By calling up relatives every day, you become dependent on that contact. In doing so, you get closer to them and your expectations for daily interaction can be crippling if they're not met.

I've been known to call my dad multiple times if he doesn't pick up. Today, when I was driving home from work, I called him as per our routine conversation as I exit work and head out on the unreliable southern California freeways. When his cell phone went straight to voicemail and he didn't pick up our house phone, I started freaking out. I turned off the music in the car and drove with eyes glazed over as my mind wandered.

I was ruminating on anything that could possibly go wrong. He could've been in a car crash. But wouldn't someone have used his phone to call my sister or me? Maybe he had a sudden health issue. But he could call from the doctor's if he needed to. Any theory could be presented and debunked, but the persistence of negativity is what really destroyed me.

The experience reminded me of the paralyzing fear I felt in the couple of years following my mom's stroke when I would eagerly await my dad's return home from work in the evenings and he would fail to notify me that he'd be arriving back 30 minutes late or so.

It makes me feel like a parent. My overactive mind cooks up every possible blunder in the book. It then magnifies them and removes all logic from the equation. Then it turns me into a psychological cripple.

I like to think that I have no emotional issues following certain traumatic life experiences I've had, mostly because I've never felt that my personality changed during any of the sad transition time of my preteenhood. But when I really think about it, though nothing changed on the surface, a lot changed on the inside.

As my sensitivity and emotions developed, so did my creativity. While these traits seem like generally positive characteristics, in the wrong situation they can make for the worst life - one of fear.

Because I rejoice in my own imagination - that which gives me the ability to write or even sing, draw, paint, knit and sew to some extent - I can't quite complain over what I have. But what comes with the happiness of creativity are the demons of a too-introspective mind. I may not have wound up as a hermit in the mountains or a social pariah, but my fate isn't so great either.

There really is good and bad to everything.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Studio Tour in pictures

I've written quite a bit about my internship over the past week and a half. When you do something full-time and factor in four hours of travel time in addition to the eight hour work days, then you're bound to be inspired. And not always positively. What I don't think I've conveyed quite so well is what an amazing opportunity it is to be working on a studio lot, one that I visited a few years ago as a nerd and to audition for a Disney Channel show (you didn't know about my sordid past, did you? Now you do).

Today, I got to explore the CBS Studio Center Lot more than I've ever done before. I work here every day, but I'm never quite able to see all it has to offer. That changed this afternoon.

I work in the building on the left. Next door is CSI: NY. I had no idea until today, but I am certainly impressed.

This is the Broadcast Center where the news station is located. And where all the golf carts socialize.

My desk has a Beauty and the Beast mug. My work is overseen by a large photo of the cast of The Big Bang Theory.

This is our tour guide on New York Street. Sponsors buy out store fronts on the outdoor set.

All of our streets are named after famous shows or people. MTM Enterprises filmed most of their shows on the lot.

Apparently I ate lunch yesterday at the table on the porch of the According to Jim house.

A mini-Central Park that was used on Seinfeld. Trivia: there's also a mini-Central Park at Warner Bros. Studios, where they filmed Friends.

I don't watch CSI: NY, but I got to hang out on the set. Sorry for violating the sanctity of your office, Detective Mac Taylor.

This was taken somewhere in the CSI: NY stage. I was trying to be artsy even though I don't understand my subject.

All that's left of the lagoon where Gilligan's Island "took place."

I went to Pawnee. I was prohibited from taking photos. I'm sorry. But I hung out in Ron Swanson's office. I don't know if that means anything to anyone.
So no matter how much I complain about the drives or about how nothing is 100 percent perfect, I can't begin to express my excitement at getting to drive into work at a studio five days a week. Every day I'm working in an environment just inches away from hundreds of fascinating people. Sometimes those people are big names as well (i.e. I saw John Legend on the set of Duets today, just sayin').

This is the kind of experience I might pay money for. To tour a studio lot and get to sit in on a rehearsal for a TV show is something a lot of us only dream of. But instead I'm paid to go into CBS Studio Center every day. And I'm offered a tour at no cost. I'm even encouraged to take the opportunity.

I have no right to complain. Just look at these photos.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Girl in the plastic bubble

Usually I can count on being sick within a week of getting home. After three months in school where I live virtually alone (even though I share a bathroom with about 17 other people, yuck), coming home to live with my dad somehow makes me an incubator of illness.

It's one of the worst realities when you get back to your house, ready for comfort and relaxation, and then you get smacked in the face with a sinus condition or the flu or strep throat or rabbititis (that one was made up, but you should know what it is anyway).

This time around, I got sick before I got home. A few days with strep throat had me feeling like I'd died and been revived again only to live as a zombie with the Promethean horror of boarding an airplane. Mixed metaphors, but you catch my drift. Getting sick sucks. But it's fine once it's over.

Until you start working and you realize that your home isn't the worst incubator for disease. Your job is.

Everything is communal. We drink out of the same mugs (we wash them too, but the whole save the planet thing has me worried about germ-sharing), we use the same restrooms, we touch the same computer keys, we sometimes share food and obviously we handle many of the same objects. If one is sick, it's likely another may be sick. Maybe everyone will be sick in due time.

For the past couple of days, I've been glad to have rid myself of the strep throat that ruined my trip back to California and made the first few days of my vacation all but miserable.

Then I made a friend at work. She's a fellow intern and very kind and friendly, a helpful and accommodating companion during this, my first venture into the career world.

We've only spent a week together, though, and she's already sick.

And on top of the possibility of catching her germs, my dad has made my home a hazardous zone, since he has been feeling unreliably unwell, switching between strep-like symptoms and relative health.

Being in this situation - as in surrounded by so many sick people wherever I am - I've come to realize something about myself. I can be quite blind to other people's misfortunes.

In the first week of summer, all I could think of was that I deserved to be pitied and taken care of. A poor girl who can barely walk and has a sore throat that prevents her from eating her food comfortably. Everyone should be at my beck and call under these circumstances.

Then, a few weeks later, I'm interacting with two people - my new friend and my father - who are facing their own conditions of discomfort. But unlike the childish me who talks about staying home and vegetating, they go out to the doctor or to the drugstore to tend to their problems. They talk about avoiding spreading germs or working despite feeling ill.

Is it unfair to blame my upbringing?

I was raised as an only child to my mother, so in my youngest years the household revolved around me. I was my mom's baby and she treated me as such.

Someone needs to remind me that I'm not a baby anymore, though. Eventually we all have to grow up and figure out that not only do we have to take care of ourselves in sickness, but we also have to be responsible about what we do under varying degrees of health.

We're not all girls or boys in the plastic bubble like we might want to be. And occasionally that means having to interact closely with someone who is sick and not pretending like they will be the ruin of the world that revolves around me me me.

After those first few days of summer break when I could barely get up from bed without weeping and pitying myself, I lost sight of what it is to be human in some way. It may be part of our preordained personalities - as a selfish race of babies - to focus entirely on the self and abandon anything that threatens us.

But that's an animalistic instinct. The human instinct is to be conscientious and helpful to those around us, especially when they're in need of help. Especially when they're sick.

I tried to escape my inhibitions today, walking my friend to CVS so she could buy cold medicine. Not giving my dad a hard time about anything despite my fear that if we use the same silverware, I might end up being out of commission next week having caught what he has this week.

Yet I believe that cautiousness must end eventually.

This is that time. Even if it means risking my health for the sake of my humanity. Knowing my immune system, I'd probably catch it either way. Karma.

Antidote to ennui

There are things in life that aren't so great. Like driving home on the freeway and not making it back into your house until two hours later. Or like getting back and having to cook your own dinner and not being allotted any time to simply relax.

Look at me, I'm digressing and I haven't even begun.

These are the sacrifices we make to do the things we love. Or at least the things we tolerate. Or the things we're assigned to do and therefore can't get away from.

I can't categorize my internship quite yet. It's been a week and a day. I still enjoy going in to the office and finding out what responsibilities I have for the day. But what I despise and have trouble getting over is the annoyance of repetition.

Having to get in the car at exactly the right time each morning to arrive at work at exactly the right time and repeating the process again at night makes everything seem a lot less friendly. Even when you're working on the lot of a television studio where you are inevitably surrounded by a ton of talented and interesting people, the tedium of routine can be stifling.

But there's one thing that gets me through any job: the fact that I get to learn.

I was in middle school the first time I officially said I wanted to be a journalist. We were working on this visual crest project that was supposed to depict our futures by dividing a page into sections and then answering questions the teacher had written up with artistic depictions.

One of the questions was the not-so-unique "what do you want to be when you grow up?"

Earlier on in my life I'd have said veterinarian or popstar or actress or princess or whatever. But by 13 I had a real goal.

I want to be a journalist. I drew a picture of a newspaper. I might have written "New York Times" at the top or something similar. Next to it I drew an ink well and a fountain pen. This is my future. Writing out articles full-time with a fountain pen and leaky ink.

Well that hasn't panned out quite yet (I'm still in school though, who knows what fountain pen experiences might lie ahead in the coming years?), but that doesn't deter me from feeling the same enthusiasm that had me focusing intently on getting the font of the Times' header just right.

The image wasn't just synecdoche put to paper, though. It carried a message about my goals in life and how they've altered, changed, transformed into what they are today.

Because back several years ago, I didn't really know what I wanted. I had no clue what I'd grow up to be or what I'd find a passion for. Even now I guess I'm not wholly sure.

What I do know is that I always want to be experiencing new things. And with a fountain pen and an ink well I've found a way out of the repetition that I've come to despise.

All of us have a thematic goal in life. The go-to ones might be "helping people," or "making a difference." For me, the primary concern is finding happiness and feeling fulfilled every day. Since I have a short attention span and a constant desire for entertainment, I recognized a long time ago that I needed to find a way to appease all of these conditions.

Being a popstar or an actress might have fit the bill, but those jobs come with the added trouble of being absolutely impossible career paths. When I considered veterinary school or even becoming a pediatrician (I had that goal for about two months and then I realized I was just copying my best friend), clearly I'd been steered in the wrong direction. Even basic science doesn't hold my interest, so I couldn't possibly expect complex biology to do so for the rest of my life.

When I happened upon writing, it was my first time encountering something that I was not only good at, but that I was able to stand for long periods of time. Every writing experience is an adventure. It gives us a way of acquiring new ways to use language, new methods and reasons to express ourselves, new topics to uncover and explore. There are no limits to the possibilities and even just sitting down when I'm half asleep in the evening to write a blog can be a learning experience.

There aren't a ton of careers that allow the flexibility of variation. Jobs have time schedules and seasonal calendar cycles. The budgets are tallied on the same day of the same week of every month.  The long term projects look vaguely similar year after year.

Writing may always be the same. It may never fully change and adapt with the times. But it will also never be standard. It will never stop growing and shifting into something new.

And it's all in the writer his or herself. Just having the power to decide to learn and apply that knowledge is enough to make one rejoice on having found such a beautiful craft. But aside from that, it's a welcome distraction to moments of ennui in the face of repeated work.

Sometimes we have to be taught to appreciate that reprieve.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A worthy raison d'être

You have to feel bad for my dad. Without provocation and for no apparent reason, I forced him to listen to a long-winded rant about why animation is one of the most amazing mediums of art in the world. He took it like a man, but only because he's such a nice guy. Anyone else listening to me would've probably told me to shut up.

I get a bit too emphatic about things I love. One of those things is Disney Animation. And when ABC Family decided to put The Lion King on this evening, I felt all of my love for animated art boiling to the surface. I couldn't hold back the praise. It was like overly affectionate word vomit.

The opening sequence played as giraffes, elephants, zebras, etc. etc. roamed across the screen. The song in the background, as everyone knows was "The Circle of Life." And just in those few moments, the stars (and the pencils, paint brushes and whatever other artistic tools) aligned to create something powerful and provocative. Who knows how many hours were spent on just that opening sequence. But whatever quantity it was, it set the stage for something that is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful works of film, of art and of heart that has ever graced the screen (or this planet, if you're asking me).

When the words The Lion King flashed across the screen during a final drum beat in "The Circle of Life," my dad made the joke that the end of the film had come. He said something like, "Well that's it, movie's over," just to amuse himself.

He didn't know that for the next minute I'd talk his ear off about how much work could go into just that opening sequence. It was a scene worth as much praise as the film itself because even the smallest animation feats can be made breathtaking by hours of work.

But it wasn't my admiration for the artists behind these films that drove my tangent in its entirety. It was the fact that my admiration won't give me their talent.

I'm queen of the envy kingdom when it comes to artistic talent. For years I've tried my hand at a million different disciplines with the hope that I might eventually find my one true talent through the experimentation. I've tried drawing and painting, even using charcoal and pastels and whatever else. But for some reason, animation has never come to me naturally.

What I have found success in is what I'm doing right now. Writing.

But writing won't get me a job making The Lion King for the next generation. I'm stuck here watching the film on TV wishing I could get involved somehow and being aware that my only contribution would be a meaningless critique or blog (haha) about the thing.

I applied for an internship with Disney Animation this summer and the last. Obviously it's a very highly sought-after position and I never expected to be contacted back either time. And I was right, because I wasn't. But that doesn't lessen my hope that at some point in my life I might possess some skill that they find useful. I've even been known to say I'd be happy to work the phones at their offices. Though I'm not sure how honest to myself I'm being when I say things like that, the desperation I'm trying to convey is evident.

But recently I've realized that despite the lack of skill I have in the departments necessary for the work I would so love to do, I have a gift of my own. It is, as I've mentioned, writing.

I may not think of my gift as being worthy of the praise that the work over in Burbank (I drive past the studios every day and it pains me so) do on a daily basis, but in a way there is beauty to the intersection of these crafts.

Even though I sometimes feel jipped for not having the courage of skill to do what I consider my dream job, I have a dream goal of my own that is within reach. There are so many people who have incredible trouble finding their raison d'être in life. Many of them never do and end up doing what they don't love.

I've been blessed by two prime examples - one of the type that found what they wanted out of life and pursued it and the other who couldn't figure out how to apply her passions to her work - in my parents. My dad loved music and he became a piano teacher. My mom loved history, art and a ton of other things, but she became a financial analyst.

I don't want to be my mom. Though in so many ways I see her in myself, my goal since I turned 13 has always been to create a future I can be proud of. And even if that doesn't mean having what I consider a fantasy career, the least I can ask is that it contain something that is indicative of me.

And luckily, though I may never make the 21st century follow-up to The Lion King (disregarding The Lion King 1 1/2), perhaps one day I will get to write about it. Or have the chance to interview the creators. Or even become friendly with people who can bring me into the community of animation in a way I only dream of now.

I have a path to follow and I don't think it will lead it me wrong. It may not be perfect, but it's mine. It makes sense. And it makes me happy. Everyone should be so lucky to have those three assurances.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The reality of I'm not.

I have a confession to make. Actually, it's not much of a confession since I'm sure I've mentioned this less-than-gleaming aspect of my character on my blog before. Maybe it was just in passing and maybe you didn't take it too seriously, and thank goodness for that.

But now I'm ready to share my shame with the world.

Thanks to my friend Dana, I am now hooked on The Bachelorette. And before you sit there behind your computer screen and judge me with squinty eyes and a wagging finger, let me say something: Sometimes we all just need a break from reality.

For some of us this, ironically enough, manifests itself in a love for reality. Reality TV, that is.

If someone suggested this to me a few months ago and I would have vehemently protested. Why would anyone want to watch a show that purports to be giving a glimpse into real life when it's actually more staged than even a multi-camera sitcom? There's no excuse for the misconception that reality TV is in fact reality, I might have said.

But now I scoff at my previous perspective simply because it wasn't addressing the real issue here.

Before I started watching this show again (and I'll explain why I'm using the word "again" later on), I was happily detached from any sort of relationship with the program and the genre in general. A show about people finding "love" and looking for a "soulmate" certainly has no value or interest. Why take it seriously? Why even take it as a joke?

Well that's exactly it. It's a joke. And it should be taken as such.

When I was in elementary school, there was a big surge in reality television on basic network television. The Bachelor had its first season, as did The Apprentice and other wonderful television shows that I'm sure you all have heard of even if you'd rather not have.

Because my mom was the typical crappy entertainment junkie, I became aware of what these shows contained. The covert sexual implications, the uncomfortable close-ups on people crying, the underhanded alliance building and childish rivalries. When you're a kid, naturally you love all of these things because they're outrageous. If you can love the failed realism on The Disney Channel, you can obviously appreciate the similarly miserable attempts on ABC.

But as you grow, you begin to think yourself better than what you watched. Maturity becomes a reason for no longer watching Omarosa take on Donald Trump week by week.

There comes a time, though, to realize when a childhood fascination has tiptoed into the realm of acceptability once again. This is true for animated film. It's true for toys. It's true for kid foods. And it's true for reality TV.

I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said that at this point in my life I'm more in tune with my inner child than I was when I was actually a child. On a daily basis, I get wrapped up in finding out what the newest Disney Animation feature film will be. I still tune into The Fairly Oddparents and Good Luck Charlie on Nickelodeon and Disney Channel respectively. My room is still home to stuffed animals and my house still has a host of board games including Wizard of Oz Monopoly. For lunch on any random summer afternoon, I might consider eating some Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

And though my maturity might rank me beyond reality TV - oh, the years of falling asleep to MSNBC - I still get really excited about tuning into The Bachelorette every Monday night.

Some people scoff. Some laugh and say, "I would be embarrassed about that" (you know who you are). Some tell me to stop talking to them (in jest, I hope).

But I now find myself incredibly pleased to meet someone who heartily accepts and goes along with my enthusiasm for a show like The Bachelorette. For a while I didn't understand the need to locate fellow reality television fans among my peers. Dana would talk about The Bachelor or The Bachelorette and say she wanted to blog about it for our campus publication. She'd invite me to see new episodes with her, or show me viral videos based on the current season. This was weird to me.

Then I started watching and the community aspect of reality TV finally made sense.

Watching them alone, it can be hard to achieve just the right effect. Instead of being the worldly wise viewer who is aware of the irony of watching a show just to laugh at it, seeing The Bachelorette without someone to comment on it with could turn me into the same zombie that has seen every episode of Say Yes to the Dress on TLC (I'm convinced this show is just some sort of advertising conspiracy that people like me have bought into. That being said, I want to buy my wedding dress at Kleinfeld). But I won't let reality TV do that to me.

Watching these shows is just the perfect exercise in tongue-in-cheek humor. We don't actually believe that these people are going to find the loves of their lives on TV. We don't think that you can see two people form a committed relationship in a game show-like atmosphere. We don't even know that the events we're watching aren't 100 percent staged.

It's why a show like Burning Love that is a full-on parody of The Bachelor can be such a pleasant mode of entertainment. Almost as good as the actual show, if not for its short length and occasionally disturbing tips into the realm of the off-beat, I've seen every episode in the web series.

For this reason, I feel I need no explanation for my love. Or for my desire to cultivate a community of fellow Bachelorette fans. Why should I defend what I know does not reflect badly on me?

The past few weeks have had me trying to convince at least two of my friends into watching The Bachelorette. The feat might be a lost cause, except for the fact that there is a legitimate argument in favor of watching this show. It's funny. Legitimately funny.

I just wish more people understood.

I think that's the true motto of anyone who watches these shows. The fact of the matter is we're being taunted for taunting what we know is ridiculous. And just to go along with the southern theme of this season (the Bachelorette is from North Carolina), everyone would be better off if y'all understood.

A Brave soul, a new experience

It's time to wind down. The weekend is here and despite the fact that I've woken up at 6 am every day for the past week, I will not even consider allowing myself to get less than eight hours of sleep tonight.

For a long time I thought a job (of sorts), a commute and the responsibility of timeliness were things I could handle. I am an organized, optimistic, driven person. If tasks are expected of me, I can complete them.

But in just the past week I've learned so much about my own work ethic. Though I have the ability and the conviction to be a successful employee, I am also one to long for time set aside for vegetating.

Tonight that came in the form of watching a movie called Brave. You may have heard of it, or at least its parent company. Brave is the newest film from Disney/Pixar. It's about a very self-motivated and hard-headed young Scottish princess who, when told she must accept the hand of a royal suitor, attempts to win her own hand and gets into trouble along the way.

Because I'm a connection maker and I enjoy finding personal meaning in every movie, television show, play, song or anything else that I partake in, I thought a bit about how Brave connects with my own story from the past week. I didn't have to rack my brain too hard to figure it out, either.

For the past five days I've gone into work. I've listened to instructions. I've complied with regulations. I've put myself out of my comfort zone for the sake of socialization and learning. All this is to be expected.

But why subscribe to expectations at all? Especially if they're just not you.

It's a bold comment that in theory makes sense. We should make our life decisions based on what suits us best, not what suits the many best. In the way of personal choices, the average human life seems to be dominated by some sort of monarchical structure. It's this hierarchy that decides what we do with ourselves.

If our parents say so... If our boss says so... If our professors say so... If our overly pushy friend says so.

Where do our choices come in?

In little ways, I've tried to test my own boundaries for the past week in my job. On the first day of work I barely touched the mouse on my in-office Mac. By the second day I was checking my email and setting up my work address. On the third day I was figuring out legitimate reasons to check out news outlets like The Hollywood Reporter or Entertainment Weekly. Day four meant time to start checking the freeway traffic online before leaving the office. Today I used Facebook, albeit only for a couple of minutes and mainly to look at the group that had been made up for summer interns by the studio, but feeling like a rebel magnified the act. So that's what it feels like to be a rule breaker.

According to all aspects of my internship, I'm at the beck and call of my supervisor and the associates in the department. I have little freedom of choice and the projects I'm assigned are picked for rather than chosen by me.

Situations like this prove that we don't always have control over how things might play out for us, sometimes we're just secondary to a supervisor. While that isn't necessarily a bad thing, it hinders our personal expression in exchange for the structure of having someone else in control.

Back to Brave, though. While I was watching the movie, I couldn't help but ruminate on my blog. This whole thing has become a sort of appendage, a little obnoxious reminder of consistency, but it's also an exercise in free will.

Because while I've contributed to various online publications with restrictions on story ideas, this blog is all about my ideas and mine alone, no censor. They can be large or small, clever or idiotic, it really doesn't matter. All that does is that I feel strongly about my decision to post at all.

Merida in Brave is all about carving out her own destiny. She sees that one of the greatest assets in life is self-discovery. Even if there is magic in life, it's our choices that help us to find what really matters. To create our own destiny.

In Merida's case, this means finding a way to get herself and her mother out of a bind. In my case, the goal isn't so pressing, but the idea is roughly the same.

I've been interning for a full work week and all I've been able to think about is the desire I have to bring something new to the table at my "job." Getting stuck in menial tasks reminds you that, like Merida, sometimes what is expected of you isn't necessarily what's best for you.

If you really want something you have to go for it.

I really want to actually use a camera on the job. I guess that means I might be bringing up the concept next week at work.

In the meantime, I'm fine just watching Disney films and trying to connect them to my own existential crises.

Everyone should be more like Merida. When the expectations of others are still considered, but personal conviction trumps all else, logic begins to settle in. "Our fate lives within us," says Merida at the closing of Brave. "You only have to be brave enough to see it."

Or ask for it.

Or even just dream about it.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I pledge allegiance

I remember the year the Angels won the World Series. Suddenly there was a county-wide outcry. The OC was finally the winningest county in Major League Baseball. We were represented by a team with a "Rally Monkey" and fans wielding "thundersticks" that made you go deaf within 15 minutes of entering the stadium. Pride was the order of the day. Everyone was ready to pledge allegiance to their team, caps over hearts and eyes blind to the rest of the world.

It's a standard procedure.

We, as Americans (and I guess in other parts of the world too, though I don't speak for them), love to pledge allegiance. Not just to our sports teams. And not just to our flags, either. But to everything. To our schools, to our companies, to our products, to our food. Everything we have we make a big deal out of, putting down the rest of society as if its inferior simply by being a competitor.

Somehow we've all become our own personal advertising machines. As naturally opinionated people, we come up with perspectives on everything that is anything. In the process, we become dogmatic and conceited about our critiques. Just ask me, I want to be a critic. There's no one more conceited about their opinion than a critic.

Still, despite my terrible need for proving the worthiness of my opinion, I have never quite understood allegiances. Mostly because they're so very arbitrary.

I grew up as a kind-of enthusiastic Yankees fan. I took on the title because my dad had grown up in New York and therefore become an avid fan of the team as a child. But I was from Orange County. The only time I'd been in New York was to see the Statue of Liberty or the various times I went to New Jersey to visit family and my dad and I would say "We're going to New York" to our friends instead of mentioning the Garden State.

Maybe geography doesn't seem an entirely arbitrary reason for becoming a fan of something, but fandom by association (in my case through my father's geographical history) doesn't make much sense. And if you think about it, your region is an association.

For years I've protested against patriotism and overt pride at being an American. Living in the United States can be one of the most excruciating experiences when it becomes a source of unwarranted pride and foreigner-bashing.

As annoying and petty as people can be about their teams, they're a million times worse about their geographic affiliation itself. In my own town there is a level of superiority lorded over neighboring cities. The state of California may not fancy itself so much better than the other states in the union, but the union as a whole doesn't hesitate to proclaim its greatness against other countries.

Pride isn't the problem, in my opinion. Like in Pride & Prejudice, we might ask whether pride is a fault or a virtue. But in the words of Mr. Darcy, "That I couldn't say."

The real issue is pride where pride isn't due. Or pride where pride is due, but where it is due just by fate rather than success or superiority.

I've been working at CBS for almost a week now. I like my internship. It's fun and unique every single day. In such a short amount of time, I've already found myself placed into various interesting situations that I could never have imagined I'd be able to take part in as a first time in-person intern.

But one thing that I knew I wouldn't understand or appreciate going into this internship was the allegiance to a network.
I go to a famous university in the Midwest. Within the school there is pride in our mascot, pride in our colors, pride in our name, pride in our traditions. But I am not a prideful person. Sure, I have a jacket that has the name of the school printed on the front, but I don't also wear caps and sweats and shirts with the insignia all over the place. I don't paint my face different colors for football games or anything like that. The commitment doesn't make sense to me.

I could have very well gone to some other school and wanted to represent them. Just because I love the place that I study doesn't mean I want to constantly show off my pride to everyone I encounter. (That being said, I did once see a man at Disneyland wearing a sweatshirt from my school and I screamed at him happily without thinking.)

The same goes for my network. Sometimes my lack of excessive enthusiasm makes me feel like a bad person. While everyone else goes on about how they prefer CBS shows to the shows on other channels, I cower in the corner with my published blogs on The Office, Glee and Downton Abbey. I shy away when they talk about the shows they see because they're the spawn of CBS sister networks and I'm still hanging out on NBC, FOX and PBS. It's not that I dislike the network I work for, but just because I enjoy them doesn't mean I feel an undying devotion to them and a subsequent hatred for their competitors.

It's just something I've never quite understood.

There was one time when I was around 12 or so that I got really into baseball. The Yankees were in the Playoffs and I was really excited about the games. I stood in my room watching one of the most important games of the season. My dad was not home, so it wasn't just an act to impress him (if you were wondering). I started cheering, making up actual routines on the spot and chanting for the team like my enthusiasm had some value in promoting their success.

Looking back, it's a funny picture. And looking forward, the whole concept of allegiances is a pretty comical one.

Loving something shouldn't mean needing to have a special day just for wearing Angels merchandise like my elementary school had back in 2002 when the team won the World Series. It shouldn't mean having to tell others your affiliation is superior to theirs.

Being passionate does not go hand-in-hand with one-upsmanship. And even though I may feel an affinity for certain things in my life, I realize that even I have fallen victim to this trap. But no more. I'd rather pledge allegiance to no flag than fly mine so high that it gets in the way of others'.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Three, it's the magic number

First impressions can be entirely off. Second impressions are often just as bad. Third impressions, though? Let's think about this for a second.

My dad has always said that you need to listen to a song three times before you can tell if it's good or not. Of course, what he fails to mention is that there are songs that only require one listen to comprehend and appreciate. And alternatively, there are incredibly complex songs that you could listen to 100 times without fully understanding or liking. If you go by the three times rule, the most complex and fascinating songs may never see the light of day.

That's why, on this third day of internship work, I've started to think about my honest perceptions of the things that surround me at my job.

When I left my room in the morning, for the first time I felt confident about my drive. The three times rule is a sister clause of the "third time's the charm" phrase, which accurately portrays my perception of the commute from Orange County into the San Fernando Valley. I drove through regular streets with ease, onto freeways that I'd never ventured on before and into unfamiliar territory on this, the third day of my drive. I parked in a compact space in the employee parking structure and felt like I'd finally arrived.

Everything made sense because it was my third time. I think. Is that too presumptive?

Maybe so, and here's why:

I've had some trouble getting acquainted with the people that work in the media relations and photo departments at CBS. They're all kind and friendly people, but it can be difficult to settle into an already established groove in an office setting like this.

On the first day of interning, I was introduced to at least 20 people. Of them, I remembered about five names. I walked away from handshakes chanting the names in my head and creating various mnemonic devices, but nothing stuck.

The next day was when I finally remembered the name of the girl who I was actually becoming friends with. We met at our internship orientation and got to talking, latched onto one another and luckily worked in the same building. On the first day we ate lunch together, but I still had no idea what to call her. Luckily, three days later, the rule applies and everything is clear to me now (everything as in her name and clear as in memorized).

So three days are good for names. We can assume that the three times rule applies to basic concepts like that.

What the three times rule does not apply to is getting to know actual people.

The first day in the office, I had a bad feeling about several people working with me. We didn't seem to be able to communicate well, they didn't seem tolerant of my fresh eyes and lacking knowledge of their department, sometimes they looked like they want to poke my eyes out when I came to their door and asked if they need anything.

But sometimes the artifice of disdain turns into one of pleasantness. People in certain situations act differently from themselves in alternate situations.

By the third day, I've felt myself feeling more relaxed around the younger employees, protected by some of the other employees - including one who called me "little one" and another who likes to give me chocolate and cookies (I did not know that working in an office meant snacking constantly).

The opposite is true too.

One employee (as you might have noticed, I'm not sharing names. Vagueness keeps me out of trouble!) went from greeting me kindly and praising me one day to making me into her personal slave the next. I know there's a stereotype about interns having to do grunt work most of the time, but I didn't realize how true that could be.

Unlike their names, people themselves are unpredictable. You can't know whether someone you thought seemed nice the first day will continue to possess those characteristics you immaturely labeled them with upon shaking their hand. You also can't know if someone's coldness indicates their general demeanor or the fact that in the moment you first interacted with them they were busy or overwhelmed.

The thing about entering a new work environment is its all about adapting your perception to the situation. What you think of someone right off the bat could definitely be a reflection on their character. But it could also be hugely misrepresenting them.

At this point - with less than a week having passed - I'm still trying to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

The only thing that doesn't deserve a second consideration is my drive. That's the one concept I've conquered, complexities and all. Yet even though three times may be the charm for a song or for the road, it doesn't apply to everything.

Maybe instead of a three times rule there should be a multiples of three times rule. Guess I'll have to check in again on Monday. But for now, goodnight. Sleep tight. Don't make any broad generalizations until you know all the facts and don't let the bed bugs bite either.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Quickly and efficiently

My greatest asset is also my fiercest adversary. I am impatient.

For some, impatience means getting frustrated easily. I guess that's true of me too. But that's not the problem I'm talking about here. The fact that I'm impatient is first and foremost a good thing. It makes me ultra-vigilant about getting work done quickly and efficiently. I'm able to complete a task that takes most people a couple of hours in less than 30 minutes. And all because I can't stand to work on a single task for much longer than that. Maybe that's why I type over 100 words per minute and stop reading books that take me more than a minute per page to read (I hate this about myself).

But the absolute worst thing about being impatient and getting work done quickly - besides the fact that it means everyone within earshot of your cubicle or laptop or library computer station mentions how you type so fast - is that it gives people expectations. Just because you get work done quickly does not mean you will be done with work. In fact, it ensures the exact opposite.

This has become a problem for me more than once. At every job or internship I have had, I've found myself getting an assignment and finishing it about twice as fast as a normal human would. Then, instead of getting to reap the rewards of being so efficient by taking a few minutes off, I'm handed a new project that will take even longer than the first was supposed to.

But I can't help myself.

The feeling of getting work done is like a drug. Actually, no, bad analogy. Because, unlike a drug, I don't actually want more of the feeling. I'd rather have the feeling of not needing to get any work done than experience tacking on assignment after assignment.

Unfortunately, that's not how the world works.

At my internship today, I had one project that took up the entire morning and early afternoon. Sifting through wardrobe from a photoshoot for the new CBS drama Elementary, I managed to - for once - take my time at a task and do it jut as efficiently without losing my mind.

But as soon as I was done, I was given a menial task that despite being mindless (and thus pleasant for the archival assistant in me who enjoys going through stacks of papers) and lengthy, took me only about 20 minutes to finish up. The person who had given me the assignment had allotted as much time as I needed. "You can take the rest of the week if you need to," she said.

When I was done with the work, my supervisor walked into the room and the person who had given me the assignment went on for a few minutes about how fast a worker I was. To which he replied sarcastically, "She never sleeps. After this she goes to an evening job. Then she finishes up with a midnight shift."

I laughed, but in my heart I felt kind of disappointed in myself for warranting this kind of comment. Not because it was insulting, but because it described something about me that I've never been quite proud of.

I may be diligent and hardworking, but it's really all a symptom of intense laziness. Even the activities I enjoy the most become chores after a long time. I can't sit still for longer than a couple of hours, which means the work I do is contingent on whether I can finish it before I go insane.

I wonder if many other people have this problem.

It's odd to think that your greatest virtue - in my case the adherence to accuracy (not taking into account this blog, which I am not spell or grammar checking anymore due to time constraints) - can also be connected to the thing you most hate about yourself - a love for idleness that warrants impatience.

For me, at least, this is an issue constantly worth tackling. I search for situations that make me feel less antsy. I read a book on a park bench instead of in my room (where I have internet access). I finish projects quickly, but then give myself a break before turning them in so that I don't overwork myself.

Maybe I'm not doing this the right way, though. Because instead of actually addressing the problem, I'm just cheating it by altering the situation rather than the issue itself.

Sadly, I think I've already fallen into the "wow, that girl works fast" hole at my internship. And it's only day two.

I guess we'll see how the rest of the summer works out, but using my devotion to this blog as a prime example, I have a feeling this is a worthless cause. I'm much too involved with simple projects that I can crank out quickly and efficiently. Quickly and efficiently. That's my problem.

Yo ho, yo ho! An intern's life for me

Impressed they knew to equip me with a Disney-themed pencil mug.
It's 10 o'clock on a school night. No, 10 o'clock on a worknight.

I'm in bed and my eyelids are droopy. I'm not that tired, but the feeling of fulfilling my couch potato role now that I've returned from my first day of interning makes me want to go to sleep more than I've ever wanted to do anything in my life.

But because I'm a lunatic, I feel this unconquerable commitment to writing this blog. Who cares who reads it? Or how many people read it? Or what value it has in the world? The only thing it means to me now is an honor I'm making to myself. For some reason I can't stop writing because it just feels wrong. More than 150 days of this has made The Songs of Spring absolutely a part of me.

So I'm staying up late just for you, my dear blog. But because I also came home 30 minutes late because I stopped by the grocery store to pick up a birthday cake for my dad; and because I watched The Bachelorette instead of blogging for the past hour and a half; and because I'm a lazy person, I'm just going to walk you through my day.

To be honest, there's not much to tell. But it was still pretty awesome.

6 AM - Alarm goes off. Start crying to myself about the amount of sleep I've gotten (somewhere around six hours). Wake up anyway. Spend a few minutes on the internet via my phone. Bad choices.

7 AM - Start freaking out because I'm not ready to leave despite promising myself I'd be out of the house by this time.

7:15 AM - Leave the house and drive to the freeway. Get stopped by at least three or four traffic lights along the way. Freak out some more.

7:45 AM - Get stuck in traffic. Start calling up my dad frantically so he can update me by staring at SigAlert until 8 AM.

8:40 AM - Speed like a madman through the last leg of my journey and still only get to the parking structure at...

8:50 AM - The floor that I was told to park on in the structure is closed. I see another intern and ask where he parked. Sixth floor. Thank God.

9:05 AM - Arrive late to orientation. Everyone is already seated, but I don't feel so bad about my tardiness. Damned traffic.

10:30-ish AM - Hello all you other interns. I'm going to remember all of your names. Nevermind, one second has passed and I no longer remember any of your names. I'll just call you all by the spirit animal you listed during the "get to know you" part of our orientation. Funny, since half of you chose "dog." Hello dogs.

11:00-ish AM - It's kind of weird that this orientation conference room has two TVs. It's like they're offering us the choice of whether to learn about sexual harassment in the workplace or watch Drew Carey host The Price is Right.

12:15 PM - Forgot to write down my license plate number. While everyone else gets ID badges, I'm running to my car on the sixth floor of the parking structure and sweating in the California sun. Oh yes.

12:45 PM - Finally arrive at my actual place of internship. The photo department at CBS.

12:55 PM - Hello all you photo department employees. I'm going to remember all of your names. Now I'll use mnemonic devices so I don't make the same mistake I did at orientation. Nevermind, one second has passed and your names have all been permanently wiped from my memory.

1:30 PM - Sit down to watch some pilots from the upcoming season at CBS. This is the life. I think in the past I've actually said that I want a job where I can watch TV all day. Have I finally found it?

2 PM - Realize that I haven't eaten since the very stinky poppy seed and onion bagel I had at orientation. Stomach grumbles. Eat lunch with fellow intern from a different department. Talk about boys. Beginning of a wonderful friendship.

2:30 PM - Sit down to watch more pilots.

3 PM - Get disturbed by the voice that has been programmed into my Mac to say "It's three o'clock." I can read the time, I don't need Stephen Hawking telling me what my clock says.

3:30 PM - Watch more pilots.

4 PM - Talk to my supervisor about what my duties are around the office. Watching TV? No? Dangit. But, actually, my responsibilities do sound pretty cool. But I will tell you about them in a different entry on a day that I don't just...

4:30 PM - Watch more pilots.

5 PM - Go into supervisor's office. Have him tell me my job is done for the day. My regular hours will be nine to five.

5:15 PM - Practically drown myself in my own tears because it takes so long to drive out of the parking structure.

5:25 PM - Get on the freeway again...

5:26 PM - Freeway turns into a parking lot.

6 PM - Freeway's still a parking lot.

6:45 PM - Maybe if I go 85 mph for the rest of my journey, I can make up for lost time.

7 PM - Could be home. Instead I'm at Vons getting a cake for my papa.

7:30 PM - Get home. Shower. Prepare to watch The Bachelorette (curse you, Dana! I used to have taste.)

8:30 PM - Time my dad's arrival home with the exact moment I light the candles on his birthday cake.

Which reminds me, everyone should read my blog from yesterday because it's so much more important to me than this one. It's for my daddy.

Happy birthday, Daddy!

It all started with an alarm. And it ended with chocolate cake. Which I'm going to have a bite of now.

Goodnight, see you tomorrow. But really. Nothing can stop my blogging.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

To the father of a girl and so much more

Today's entry might be my last daily post for a while. I've been going strong for 150 days (151 when I hit "Publish" on this one), but as I start interning a long commute away from home, it's likely I won't have as much free time as I do during the school year and the first few weeks of this summer. Perhaps I should have devoted all my thoughts and efforts to this blog rather than my future career and the quality of my resume.

But alas, life is a balancing act.

Still, with the 7 am wake up and the potential of not getting home until 12 or 13 hours later, I'm going to try the best I can to keep writing. If not every day, then any day I am not stuck in two hours of LA traffic. Because over the past few days I've realized how much this blog matters to me.

It started out as just a place to throw ideas into real, tangible text. I could have started writing in a journal regularly. I could have sent emails to friends to vent about life. But I decided that I wanted to share my thoughts in a public forum, a place where I felt the comfort of my own solitude - where writing an entry didn't involve active consideration of who might be reading it - but I could also force myself into being eloquent so that it might be interesting if anyone did choose to read.

My turn out has been amazing. Several thousand views and 150 blog entries later, I feel so wonderful about where this has gone. The experience of writing daily has brought my mind and my heart closer together, allowing me to access parts of my own thoughts that I had never realized existed. It's through this exploration of thought that I've come to find answers (and discover more, even harder, questions) about life, love, sadness, pleasure and a myriad of other interrelated topics.

But today isn't all about me. It isn't all about The Songs of Spring.

It's really about my dad.

Because as much time as I've spent wallowing in my own self-pity and valuing my own ego in this space, I've also tried as best I can to make this blog the perfect resting ground for some of my innermost thoughts about my family. Of that family, my dad most certainly holds a place at the top.

He may be silly and slightly short (sorry, but you know it's true), but he provides all the stalwart strength in my life. On a day like today (Father's Day), I can't help but think - even in my decreasingly spiritual mind - how blessed I am to have been given such an amazing parent, confidante and best friend.

My dad is not someone who I just share some of my greatest life experiences with, he's someone I want to share all of my life with. When I go through tough times and happy times or, to quote Charles Dickens, the best of times and the worst of times, he is always there to shelter me through the storm and walk in the sun with me.

Most people aren't worthy of more than a few posts on anyone's blog. They leave little to be explored or discovered in their personality, in their value. But my dad is a diamond in the rough.

Through every entry, through every moment of my life actually, he has a bearing on my choices. If he's not actively involved in my life events, then he's the person I turn to so I can share the news.

Every day of my college experience, I haven't started or ended my waking hours without calling him up. If it was only to say "good morning" or "goodnight," even those sparse words were a reminder that I always had him there when I needed him. Even if he was a couple thousand miles away.

Today, I was in a mood. For the first time on a trip to Disneyland, I could barely speak because I felt so inexplicably sad. In my heart I knew what was wrong, but I couldn't get myself to explain. I asked to go home early because I felt terrible at being unable to conquer and control my emotions.

My dad stuck with me through it all, never giving me a hard time. When we got home and talked about returning to the resort when I felt better, he was ready to depart at a moment's notice.

When we did get back, I talked with him about what had ruined my happy mood earlier. I told him I didn't feel like I could share it with anyone, even him.

But a moment later, I realized that if I there was anyone I could share anything with, it's my dad.

As soon as I told him my story, explaining to him why I was embarrassed about it and felt I couldn't share it with anyone, he met me with pure honesty and love. "It wasn't a great choice, but it wasn't a bad one either," he told me about what I had done. We talked for a while about the value of choices, of catharses, of doing what's best for you even if you feel that it could have both positive and negative consequences.

And then he said, "If you want sometime, I could share stories of mine that are similar to yours." I asked him for more information and he, in this very rare occasion, spilled a bit of his heart out to me.

My dad has the makings for great stories - for great blog posts - because he's not just a static character on my personal journey. He's an involved player, and his input matters. He guides me through life like no friend, no mentor, no religious figure could ever emulate. And sometimes I like to think the guidance goes both ways.

When I moved in with him permanently in sixth grade after living the first 11 years of my life with my single mother and visiting him on weekends as well as before and after school, my dad showed me that there are stories to be told with our words. He was a writer himself and together we sat down and talked about fiction and nonfiction. We read books and watched movies, we saw plays and listened to musicals. We wrote a TV show script together.

Every moment along my path to self-discovery, to this blog, has been guided by my father. By other people too, but first and foremost by him.

So in these final moments of ensured time and ability to complete my goal of an entry a day, I have to thank my dad. Not just because it's Father's Day and not just because he's the one man who will ever make me feel like I cannot and will not do any wrong, but because he's the reason for everything. He's the reason I exist. Not just the reason I'm alive from birth, but the reason I continue living and learning and discovering me.

Happy Father's Day to every dad who makes their child feel like they are capable of conquering the world. But mostly to my dad, because he's done that and so much more.

On love, in sadness

Perhaps better than writing a blog that is just for daily essays would be writing a blog about life lessons learned from film.

So much of my life is clarified, enlightened and made more beautiful by seeing the experiences I've had in reality reflected back at me in movies. Even experiences I haven't had are made real for me through art. I feel so lucky to have the ability to lose myself in cinema in such a way that I find real, life-changing meaning in the stories I see on screen.

Like today when I sat down for dinner with my dad to watch Kramer vs. Kramer. We don't always sit down and watch movies over meals, but tonight when I flipped through channels and saw this movie (that I had seen clips of but never actually watched) appearing on Turner Classic Movies (TCM), I thought, Why not? At least for the next 30 minutes or so while I finish off my meal.

What was just a source of fleeting entertainment turned into a reason for questioning my feelings about love, marriage, divorce, childhood and filial relationships. It shook my feelings of stability, and reminded me that what I've always considered the natural state of things might not be the belief system set in stone that I once thought it was.

I was raised by two different parents at two different times. Like in Kramer vs. Kramer, I came from a doting, but sometimes a little too screwy for his own good, father. I also came from a mother who needed to figure herself out emotionally before she was ready to be in a happy relationship. Though my situation differed by the fact that both of my parents were absolutely wonderful to me (with occasional frustrations), I could sense hints of myself in Billy Kramer's childhood as he watched his estranged parents' marriage fall apart and his own living situation alter and change until he could barely cope with sadness, confusion and anger.

Many kids don't even consider the idea of divorce because they don't see it in their daily lives. If it isn't there it obviously doesn't have to be dealt with, so they don't. I, on the other hand, dealt with it from practically day one. In my early infancy, my parents split up permanently (it was only a separation, not a divorce, but it could have been either and the situation would have been the same). I was left to live with my single mother in a single bedroom condominium for the first 11 years of my life.

One day, I was in the car with my dad and I started crying. "I want you and my mom to live together," I told him through my tears. This was the one time I ever breached the subject. I can't remember what he said in response, but I guess in time I just figured out that the idea of having my parents together again was a pipe dream. Not even worth thinking about. And all before I had reached puberty.

It's hard being the child of parents who aren't together. You get mixed up in their problems, become privy to mature ideas that you shouldn't be dealing with until beyond teenagehood. At the same time you're believing that babies are automatically produced when people get married and they come out your mommy's bellybutton, you're also being confronted with the notion that perhaps marriage does not entail stability in a relationship.

Does anything entail stability, actually?

Watching my parents, it would be easy to believe that there was never actually love there. In the time I knew them together, they were strictly platonic, barely even friends. They talked, sure. They were good at putting up the façade of companionship "for the kid." But the idea of that relationship having been born of a romantic entanglement seemed far from reality.

It always made me question what marriage really is. I never had a model of it to watch as I grew up. And like with the question of the fate of family in the event of divorce, the question of what marriage actually means has always been in flux for me.

Watching Kramer vs. Kramer did nothing but make me more cynical.

Ask my friend Dana and she will tell you that I sometimes talk about marriage as if its an inevitability. Eventually I'll find someone and things will just click. Everything will fall into place and I will live happily ever after with that one person.

We have had more than one conversation about the fact that this inevitability doesn't exist. It may be likely we'll fall into the marriage conveyor belt at some point, but that in no way guarantees success. In fact, it more than likely guarantees heartbreak than happiness.

In Kramer vs. Kramer, the character of Margaret Phelps is a close friend to both parents Ted and Joanna Kramer. In conversation with Ted, she talks about her ex-husband and how she can't see herself remarrying because she feels inexorably attached to the man who she had said the words "'til death do us part" about and with whom she had her two children.

The idea of that scares me so much. To feel attached to someone, not just by way of your emotions but because it is natural to need their acceptance is terrifying. Unlike the relationships we have with family that are christened in blood and forced into our lives even if we protest, a romantic relationship has no stability. It has no push to survive. If it wants to die, it dies.

But that doesn't mean you don't get stuck trying to make it work.

Wanting it to work for yourself. Wanting it to work so you don't put your child through what Billy Kramer had to go through. There are infinitely many reasons, but nothing can repair something destined for doom.

I was watching the film and when Margaret spoke to Ted about contacting her ex-husband to try and patch things up, to possibly "get together" again, I felt an incredible level of anger. Sitting next to my dad (with our dinners more than an hour finished), I started blabbering my thoughts a mile a minute. "I never want to date again. I don't want any romantic relationships. I don't want to get married. I want to be single forever."

Right now I still kind of feel that way.

As wonderful as a boyfriend, a fiancé, a husband sounds, the fear of ruining my life, of ruining a potential child's life, of ruining a significant other's life because of a mistaken decision is something that attacks any sense you have that marriage is a natural life occurrence.

The feelings that were inspired in me made me hate Kramer vs. Kramer. But not because it was a bad movie. And not because it represented these emotions in any unrealistic or over-the-top manner. But because it all made sense. Because the film was telling me very straightforwardly that any naive beliefs I had about the beauty of a marriage certificate and what might come along with it are an illusion. The illusion may hold true for some, but they are the exception, not the rule.

I loved this movie more than I've loved any movie for a very long time. Unlike so many films that drag me out of reality and give me a world to inhabit that is free from the dreary and full of lightheartedness, this one was about taking me out of my feelings of hope and reminding me to bring it back down to Earth once in a while.

It's not necessary a pleasant theme. It may not make me feel warm and fuzzy. It did have me on the edge of tears for a couple of hours. But it's a reminder worth having for those of us who've spent so much of our lives up in the clouds like I have (by choice and with a keen eye, mind you).

Many of us fear confronting ourselves with the hard facts of life. It scares us, the idea that maybe things won't go according to plan. Or even if things do, plans change just as people do. And the fact that people change will inevitably change your plans. That's also scary.

Sometimes, though, confronting ourselves with those facts is the best feeling of all. It may inspire us to be cynical and question our fantastical beliefs of future happiness, but the feeling of knowing - of having insights that could help us to get through the future - is actually better.

I really think that.

(Side note: I stole the title from a Jason Mraz song. Kudos if you figured that one out.)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Repetitive nights

Not at night, but this is my dad getting on It's A Small World.
The best memories are the ones you want to live over and over again. That doesn't mean they have to be grand and complex, or adventurous and fascinating. They can be the most mundane and un-marvelous experiences of your life. But they survive in your mind by the simple fact that they meant something to you. They gave you a feeling you never wanted to forget.

A lot of my experiences with my dad fit this description to a tee. When I think about what my life will be like in the future - hopefully living comfortably in a city with good friends and perhaps a significant other (at this rate, who knows?) - it makes me really excited for every opportunity that awaits me. But it also makes me sad that I can't just have what I have now forever and eternity.

Let me paint you a picture of a sort of unusual evening with my father...but also a not so atypical event of the sort (because it has happened at least four or five times in the last few months).

I hear the front door creak open and slam shut. I'm on my computer in my room (what else is new?) and my dad has just come home from work. It's time to be a good daughter and let him rest.

Or not.

It's early enough that I can ask the always present question. "Can we go to Disneyland?" Most kids ask for rides to the mall or to their friends' houses. My ideas are much bigger.

He shushes me for a second so he can tend to our cats who are crying for their supper. I hesitate to ask again and retreat to my room, but then he shows up shortly thereafter to say we can go for a few hours.

I don't understand why he so willingly accepts my whims for trips to the Happiest Place on Earth. Sometimes, with him, it doesn't seem all that happy. I think the spectacle and the crowds aren't his thing. But hanging out with me is his thing, maybe? I guess that's enough.

His car is filled with CDs. We pop in a Beach Boys compilation and wag our heads back and forth to the tunes. We get to the park and walk a route most travel by tram to finally arrive at the turnstiles.

When we're in the park, we wander around. There's nothing to do but go on rides and eat popcorn and churros and (shudder) turkey legs (shudder again, I would never eat those). But we don't snack and we don't ride much. We just walk.

And we walk.

And we walk some more.

Around the park we go until one of us asks about dinner.

It's one of two choices, but always at California Adventure. The bread bowls or the tofu kebabs (oh, the ease of picking out food for two vegetarians). We choose kebabs.

Sitting down to eat, the music over the speakers is big band, jazz and swing. My dad points out a song and references its title. We talk about how the song might have been in a Woody Allen movie. We talk about Woody Allen movies. I ask him to list every Woody Allen movie so I can count off which ones I've seen. That takes us through the rest of dinner.

We wander around some more. It starts to get dark and maybe we go on a ride. We listen to the music in other parts of the park. More big band, jazz and swing. He comments on how he loves the music they play at the Disney parks. So maybe it isn't just that he loves hanging out with me?

Somehow, after several hours have passed, we've only gone on three or four rides. In the process of walking around the parks, we've taken in our surroundings like people might in a real park - the kind with swing sets, grassy fields and picnic tables -  but there's something just extra beautiful about being at Disneyland.

When we're heading home, we walk through Downtown Disney. I take in all the lights of the stores and feel comforted by these stores, these paths that I recognize. It's the kind of route I could travel blindfolded. We make our way to the parking structure, get into the car and turn on music from the '40s. This is evening music. The soft swell of the trembling piano keys and the warm croon of a standards singer complements the night.

On our way home, we don't talk a ton. We just listen to the music and take in the calmness of our evening.

Then it's home and back to the real world.

But in that space of those repetitive nights of routine and tradition...I find so much joy that I rarely find elsewhere. Just the pleasure of being in my dad's company, maybe talking and being nerds together, maybe just listening to music and sitting in silence. Regardless of what we do, it's the unchangeable condition that warrants happiness.

Tonight, at the end of the drive home, I just started smiling. My mouth widened into a grin and I couldn't wipe it off. It was stuck there - an almost maniacal level of pleasure gleaming across my face. But I didn't care. I was content.

I've lived these nights over and over. I love the repetition. I love that beautiful feeling of the dusk at Disneyland, turning into blackness as the lights around the park turn on and we walk around almost aimlessly. I love the drive home when I'm allowed to just ruminate on how lovely life can be.

There aren't enough moments in life that you can tolerate happening with any sort of regularity. We get tired of routines. We get sick of sameness.

I will never want to rid of the repetitiveness. Of the evenings spent in the recesses of the Disney parks, walking and walking and walking. When I'm 30 and thinking about my life ten years before (like I do now as I reflect on childhood, which I clearly do more often than is good for my own health), these are the moments that will mean something. They're simple. And they happen all too frequently. But they're perfect.

If I have anything to say about it, the repetitive nights are here to stay.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Disneyland in pictures

I went to Disneyland today with my friend Diana. We stayed late. I'm too tired to write.

I knew this would happen. So in lieu of extensive text, I took some pictures. Here they are, just for you:

My beautiful friend Diana on the escalator from the Mickey & Friends Parking Structure.

Mickey will scratch your back if you scratch his.

A little Merida. And Brave hasn't even been released yet.

Our favorite hipster guys walking through New Orleans Square.

A bubble-loving boy hangs out with a bubble-loving Tomorrowland employee.

If you look carefully, you'll see Frontierland.

Mr. Toad looks innocent..but he's going to hell.

Monstro peeks around the corner of the Storybook Cruise.

The Indian on Main Street, U.S.A. has a history shrouded in tobacco smoke.

I play creeper while a father and son watch the fireworks together.
 It's been a wonderful day at Disneyland. As if you couldn't see.