Tuesday, December 3, 2013

My therapist and me

Have you ever been to therapy? If not, you might not understand this. Not that your previous experience with something should decide whether or not to read about it, but I do think that some things are best experienced in reality rather than in text. Still - because of how I felt today, walking away from my first-ever therapist and thinking about the past few weeks of pouring my heart out - I wanted to write about it. Maybe you'll connect, maybe not.

A few months ago, I wrote a blog called "How I feel before letting it all out." This was a really important blog for me - and even though it was fairly cryptic and didn't say much - it involved one of the biggest changes in my life.

Up until now, I've always felt like a very strong person. I have been able to tackle all my problems by myself, nothing has kept me down. When I was 11, my mom had a stroke. I was able to withstand the unbearable pain. At 15, she passed away. I was heartbroken, but I got through it. I skidded past the horrible years of high school awkwardness, hours of spending too much time on homework, feelings of being an outcast in my little upper middle class suburban society.

Well all those trials of youth couldn't have prepared me for the intense identity crisis that would take place in the past couple of years. It had nothing to do with school, nothing to do with friends, nothing to do with family. Honestly, as trivial as it may seem, it had to do with boys. And it made me feel incredibly ridiculous that I was going around shouldering all the anguish of a troubled life prior, yet a little thing like a break-up could run me over the edge. I was getting anxiety attacks, I was feeling depressed and lonely, I was purposely alienating people I loved.

So I finally decided to seek help. And I had high hopes, I really believed it would change me. Which is why I wrote that blog in October.

And it did.

After two months of sessions, I think I finally know what it means to accept myself.

That isn't to say I have accepted myself. That's an on-going process, and one I'm sure I'll struggle with for the rest of my life. But for the first time, I see that I'm not a bad, stupid or ridiculous person. And that even though falling in love and being broken-hearted could make me feel like less of who I was, I had the power to bring myself out of that.

All of this thanks to once-a-week hour-long sessions that, in the grand scheme of things, might seem like a small blip on my timeline. Yet they were more significant than many other things in my life, even the relationships and break-ups that inspired them.

I don't know if most people have as wonderful an experience as I did with my first therapist. At first I was surprised to end up speaking with her - when I think of going in for psychological help I immediately picture a older man or woman in a white lab coat with a chaise lounge in a dimly lit room. That wasn't how my sessions were at all. My therapist was young, she wore really smart clothing and always looked really pretty too. The sessions themselves were engaging - face to face in upright chairs - requiring me to be present. Not that that's difficult for me anyway. Instead of being intimidated, I felt free to be open. The space in front of me was mine to inhabit and there was someone on the other end listening.

And I was thankful. Because the listener was someone with a calming presence, someone who in my moments of intense emotion could show me that she cared without making me feel like I was expressing too much.

Every Tuesday I'd go in with my list of grievances from the past week. I'd build them up, worry about them and then put them aside, knowing that there was a space to let them go where I could actually make sense of them rather than let them burrow into my heart. It felt good to let even the most detrimental of thoughts turn into something worthwhile and positive.

I would often find myself on the verge of venting to my friends and family, and then stop for a moment and say "this is something I'm going to bring up in therapy." It wasn't a defensive move, though, it was just my way of saying I shouldn't be worried about this. It can be worked out, and I know who can help me.

Moving forward I realize that while my therapist was the person I meant, that person who can help me will eventually have to be me. Even if I continue to go to therapy with another counselor, or talk to friends and family about my problems, it will always come down to how I deal with things.

But leaving behind this chapter in my path toward personal understanding wasn't made any easier knowing that I was being left to my own devices - even though I know I'm capable of handling them better than I ever have been before.

I walked away from that last session with my first-ever therapist feeling really happy that I'd had the luck to be given someone to talk to for a few months who could provide me with just the right perceptiveness, just the right tone and just the right perspective to make me feel safe and actually let the counseling take me somewhere good. And even though I cried to myself and wished that the person I'd spent months detailing my past to could be my best friend and confidante, it was a good kind of crying. Because unlike losing people in the past, this was leaving behind someone whose presence was nothing but good, but whose absence might even empower me to be stronger.

That isn't to say that I'm happy about not getting to meet with my therapist again. In my heart, I do wish that this could continue and I'd never have to stop, just so I could retain the feeling of comfort that I felt after leaving each appointment. And if permitted, I would certainly keep in contact however possible.

The reason, though, that I wrote at the beginning of this blog how this is a feeling some people just might not understand is that it's a really strangely bittersweet experience. I'm leaving behind someone who has made the most positive impact on my life as of late, and the emotions around that are two-fold. They're positive in that I'm glad that I can even say I've had a good experience, and they're negative in that I don't know that I'm fully ready to move on. Losing anyone is something I have and will continue to struggle with for the rest of my life.

So maybe you've felt how I feel, or maybe you haven't, but what anyone can understand is how wonderful it is to know that there's someone you can trust in the world - someone who respects you and listens to you and will give you their honest opinion in a way that never makes you feel trivialized or stupid.

That's what a therapist should be. That's what a friend should be too. And I feel like I had a friend in my therapist, even if it was only for a short time. So this is my thank you to her. Your presence in my life has been indispensable and I'm sad to have to do so now.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The worst word ever


Now there's an idea I don't like to think about very much. But there's something really poignant in seeing that word - or even thinking about it. It's so final. For some people the idea of the "after" is a refuge, but it's what I fear the most.

When you're someone who thinks a lot about the future, the inevitability of death often occurs to you. If you're like me, you shrug it off, reminding yourself that you have years and years until that's even a concern. But little things can remind you of your mortality. Like watching a movie or listening to a song or thinking about your own past, even.

I compounded all the possible paths to thinking about "the end" tonight. Starting with watching the movie Seeking A Friend for the End of the World, continuing by thinking of how my mom passed away at a relatively young age and finally listening to Amy Winehouse's cover of "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" For those who aren't acquainted with Amy Winehouse, she passed away in 2011 at 27 years of age.

These different paths of thought didn't have any interconnectedness, really, except for their relationship with the inevitable.

It's not that death is something that scares me outright. I'm sure there are some people who fear the potential of pain, or the sting of loss. But, as many more insightful thinkers have expressed in the past, when you are the one passing on, you are entering a state of peace. The pain doesn't last, there are no stings when you can't feel a thing.

But now and forever, what I fear the most is the constant looming feeling of incompleteness.

It's a principle that guides my life. I force myself to unhealthy levels of stress to finish work quickly. I call upon others to be thorough and responsive to my needs - even when I'd be better off not expecting anything from anyone. I always want to feel like I am (and I am surrounded by) a state of equilibrium.

Yet I recognize the fact that there will never be a moment in my life when I am fully happy with where I am, what I'm doing, who I'm with. It's part of human nature to always be striving for more. It's one of our best assets - that we dream of a better future. On the other hand, it's our greatest downfall, knowing that even our grandest achievements may never live up to expectations. We will keep trying to move forward, content to forget about the past no matter how successful we've been.

I worry tremendously that at the end of my days I will feel that what I've done isn't equal to what I want. There should be some balance, really. Maybe it's unrealistic, but I hope that at some moment in my lifetime I can look back and believe that where I've been is where I want to continue going - that the path I'm on is right and that the pleasure outranks the regret.

I wonder if as we grow older, we grow complacent about this whole concept. When we're young, we're raised to believe that the sky's the limit - we can achieve anything. So we expect to do something big. Once we're older, we must put our expectations in check more than ever. That, plus maturity, probably equals a bit more grounded perspective on what constitutes a meaningful life.

If that's not true, then the future looks bleak.

The most worrisome thing, when I consider all the thoughts that ran through my mind that brought me to this subject, is that we can't ask the people who've experienced death what their battle with the past was like leading up to it.

Since she passed away at 27, I can't imagine there was any sort of finality present in Amy Winehouse's life. It was a mistake, unintended and badly timed. How would she have felt looking back on her life, knowing that she would not live to see her 30s? With a blossoming music career, surely Amy Winehouse wasn't someone who achieved nothing. She'll long be remembered for her moody voice and eclectic music.

But if someone as successful as she could regret things, then where does that leave me? Or the rest of the planet's relative underachievers? Especially those among us who are unlucky enough to leave the Earth before they reach their "full potential."

The truth of this subject is that there isn't much of a silver lining to share. It's hard to feel positive about something that lurks around every corner and does nothing but bring sadness to our past, present and future mortal lives. All I know is that there has to be some conceivable expectation in life that, once met, will make death seem less frightening. Maybe it's having children, maybe it's becoming successful and wealthy, maybe it's owning 50 pairs of shoes. I don't know.

All I know is I haven't figured it out yet. And I hope I do. Because where I'm at is not good at the moment. Since I'm always looking toward the future to brighten up my present, more and more weight is being put on the future's future... which just means more and more pressure is being placed on me, even in terms of issues that I shouldn't be worrying about this month, this year or even this decade.

I don't think that considering this makes me a pessimist or a realist - just an ordinary thinking person. I imagine we all have fears about the future, and about the end as well. Unlike I've done before, pushing these thoughts into the deep recesses of my brain, I just decided to write them down. Freeing the thoughts is usually the most constructive option.

I hope this discussion didn't ruin your evening. And I hope that reading the word "Death" placed so ominously at the top of this page didn't put you in as foul and overwrought a mood as it put me in.

Because death is sort of (and I'm saying this honestly) a beautiful thing. We have a mostly definite timeline as humans, and that's what keeps us moving forward. We look toward the future because foresight makes us better people. By definition, the future will never seem complete. It just takes some power to accept that.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Meeting me again

It's been a while, Mr. Bloggy McBloggerson.

And by that I mean it's been roughly a week. So it hasn't actually been that long. But seeing as the last several days of my life have been more for classwork than personal fulfillment, I figured it was time to do something for myself for a change. You're for me. Just for me.

I'm feeling pretty happy at this very moment. Which is really strange, actually. Today wasn't all that difficult in the grand scheme of things, but I wouldn't hasten to say it was stress-free either. There is so much work due in so little time, as many of my fellow students can empathize. It can feel like we're hamsters on wheels, running and running with no perceivable end to the madness. The classes, homework, projects, exams...they just keep going and going.

For this reason, I'm pretty darn confounded by my own positivity. I've been lounging most of the evening because I didn't have the enthusiasm to do anything worthwhile. But then I made a snap decision that kind of hurt my own feelings and perked me up at the same time. So things are looking up.

That being said, when I take a broader view I'm much much more afraid.

Yet I can't help but think that any time I devote to fear is a moment wasted. The next chapter in my life will come no matter what I do, and while I can affect change in it - worrying about something that is partially out of my hands will only drive me mad. Part of my future is what I choose to do, but the other part is what opportunities are open to me.

So maybe this positivity is a product of that final resolution that just because I'm not fully in control doesn't mean I need fret over the things I can't do anything about. It's like that prayer, which I will link to rather than stating to avoid overt cheesiness.

Or maybe it's that for the first time I actually feel sort of in control of my feelings. That's a bit of a strange explanation, but in a way it feels like up until now some impenetrable force has been lording over me. And now, for once, I'm pushing that force away.

I'm just a month away from returning home for winter break. I'm really close to graduating from college entirely. I'm so close to life. And I'm probably more insecure than ever before. But I also feel stronger. Because I don't think I've ever had to try as hard as I do now.

In high school I was so motivated. I was compelled to do my work and to do it well. I was hopeful to maintain good relationships with friends and family. I was eager to please.

I'm not that way anymore. Apathy has set in. Maybe it's senioritis, maybe it's just life. Whatever the case, when you're seeing the world with a nihilist's perspective, everything gets ten times harder. Even waking up in the morning can feel like being dragged out of bed by a figurative ball and chain. But making the choice to get up and do things - that's the proof that I'm still alive and I still have a purpose. Trying hard used to give me angst, but now it's an exercise in perseverance and strength.

So the fact that I'm happy is actually an enormously huge deal. Because I've had to work really hard to - even for a few minutes this evening - feel truly positive. Plenty of people are just slaves to their feelings and whims, and I've been one too, but that's changing slightly every day.

That's why I'm taking this as a good sign for the next few weeks, months and years. If I can be happy, even for just a moment, again. If I can stop letting the actions of others dictate how I am feeling. Well, maybe I'm on my way to actually being me again. I haven't been able to fully be me for a while, so I'm looking forward to meeting her again.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

To that someone

Let me start off by saying this is a pretty abstract piece. It's a bit sappy, but when I wrote it I realized how proud I was of it. I'm at a weird stage in my life where nothing seems certain. I don't know what I'll be doing a year from now, where I'll be, who I'll meet. This story, which should be taken as fictional prose despite its personal nature, is a manifestation of that feeling of uncertainty.

Hey you,

I've been feeling kind of down lately. And missing you, even though I don't know who you are just yet.

Sometimes, even when I'm not thinking all that much about the future, I feel a connection with you. Like, even though we're not with each other now, somehow we're still together. It's a comfort to me to feel your presence even when I don't know who you are.

Other times, like today, when I want to dream about you and what my life might bring, nothing shows up. And I feel like I'm lost, my mind running in circles, searching for you but always ending up back where I started; never actually returning to that feeling of knowing you, of being with you even when I can't.

Maybe this is all silly, overly sentimental romantic junk. I have so many feelings that I worry I'm just projecting what I want into reality.

But then I remember those feelings I've had. Of utter joy, knowing that you're somewhere in the world and so am I. That even though we're not together now, and we may not be together for a while, that eventually we will be. And that right now, in our own separate worlds, we're living simultaneously. Not in each other's lives necessarily, but moving in that direction.

I hope that you're really loving. And full of passion and understanding. I want to be those things for you too. I hope you're beautiful inside and out, and that looking into your eyes makes all my troubles melt away. I hope that when I'm scared, worried or angry, that being with you can cure even the darkest days.

I want all of these things. But first I have to find you.

And don't start to think that I'm not putting in any effort. I've been looking and hoping. I've been trying really hard to be logical and thorough. I've made some mistakes in the process, but that's okay, I think. Because the mistakes are what prove that you're still out there, not with me at this precise moment, but still in the world somewhere.

And that's some solace, because the mistakes can be incredibly disheartening.

I feel like I'm just starting to change my life. I'm in therapy now, for the first time ever. I'm taking yoga, too. These are two of the best decisions I've ever made in life. Instead of ignoring my feelings and pushing my problems away, I'm confronting them head on and looking for changes, physical and mental. I think you'd be proud of me if you could see.

So even though I worry that we're far away from each other - and even though sometimes I don't feel your presence no matter how hard I try - I do think that every little thing I do in my life is improving the now so that I can be good for you in the future.

I can only hope that in the same way, you're doing things that you hope will be good for me. And that when we meet each other, we'll be so ready that we'll never look back, never feel small or useless again, never worry about loneliness.

You're going to be the most amazing person in the world. I already love you, whoever you are. This passion swells in me and sometimes I don't know what to do with it. It just takes over my body and makes me want to cry my eyes out and grin at the same time. It makes me feel hysterical.

Well, whatever our circumstances are, wherever you are in the world and in your heart, I'm writing this now to let you know that you're not alone. And I don't feel so alone either. Somehow, I don't think that those moments of interconnectedness are only mine. I'm just waiting to see you finally. I'm so anxious. Get here quickly.

I'm waiting.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The 40 Days of Dating Experience

I stumbled upon it at the most opportune time possible. It was one of the first sessions of my interactive design class and we were looking at websites to determine what it was about their content that made them engaging, what we gravitated toward on a page and what kept us reading.

The page was The Great Discontent. The content that made it engaging was a picture of Timothy Goodman, who despite being depicted in a static photograph had a really visceral energy about him. The content I gravitated toward was a description of who this guy [Goodman] was. And what kept me reading were the words "40 Days of Dating."

It's not that I'm all for gossip and cheesy girly things. I don't necessarily see the word "date" and immediately find myself clicking through page after page. But when I took a quick look at the project Goodman (who is a designer living in New York) did with another designer, Jessica Walsh, I realized it was more than the typical romantic meet-cute or couple's blog. It was all about frankness and honesty, coming to terms with personal issues and trying to solve them.

And though I fancy myself a strong independent woman, I can't get away from the fact that I, along with most of the human race I presume, have problems - in relationships and in life - that I have to work through. And if "40 Days of Dating" could be one thing to get me through my period of grieving and self-loathing, then that was a step in the right direction.

So I set off reading. On my iPad at lunch, on my laptop before class, on my phone as I walked around campus. It was something to look forward to - something to make reading interesting again.

Because in the same way that my blog functions as a space for me to think and share thoughts, however rambly and emotional, the entries of the "40 Days of Dating" project were all about personal reflection and working out thoughts through text. And I found that fascinating and engaging. It was almost as cathartic as writing for myself.

As the story began, it was light and frothy. The anxiety about dating for 40 days was minimal, the excitement was apparent. But tension mounted quickly, just as it often does in relationships when you've gotten past the initial spark and just started to figure out what the troublesome quirks are in the significant other that you just can't quite come to terms with. Since our protagonists knew each other before the experiment started, it wasn't unexpected that these discoveries happened earlier rather than later. However the experiment went on, and through the dramatic turns for the best and the worst, I read with a heavy and hopeful heart.

I don't know what it was I wanted out of it, exactly. Did I want them to stay together so I would believe in the reality of true love? Did I want them to break up to prove that relationships are combustible for people other than me? I don't think it was either of these things, though arguments could be made for both.

What I think it was that made "40 Days" such an important read for me is that it involved a situation that I've been dealing with consistently the past few years. Essentially, I saw myself in what I read.

Once I got to a certain point in the project, I began to really identify with Jessica. She writes about being an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test (of which I am one too). She likes to avoid  confrontation despite that fact that she feels strongly (oh boy, do I know). She appreciates clarity and frankness (it's the best). She is also the type to hope for a life with someone she can count on (yup).

While these character traits are not too unusual in themselves, the INFJ personality type is alleged to be the most rare of all types (making up one percent of people). And as someone who has struggled with understanding and being understood by others, it came as no surprise to me that I could connect so well with this girl on a page whom I'd never met simply on the basis of us having the same result on the Myers-Briggs test.

Timothy, a name that has other connotations for me that I need not bring up in detail, was an incredibly strong foil to Jessica's personality. A serial dater and a spontaneous, jazz- and basketball-loving individual, this guy wasn't unlike the people I often find myself dating. He seemed to have a mysterious side (though it was laid out very early on that his family life was unusual as he was raised without a father), but with all his youthful vigor, energy and life experience, there was something soulful and fascinating about him. He had a lot of things to say and he wasn't afraid to say them. And even though I wasn't actually dating this man, I felt like I was - through his storytelling and through Jessica's. And he made sense to me - as much as he could. Because I've dated a Tim before.

But as much as I felt like I knew Timothy from reading his entries on the "40 Days of Dating" page, he was more of an enigma than Jessie ever was (though she is the one who is called an enigma during the course of the experiment), because I simply couldn't understand his variety of feelings and his convictions despite lack of assurance.

At times, Timothy teetered between feeling absolutely gung-ho about the relationship to completely unenthusiastic. He would say he loved Jessica, but then follow-up by saying he didn't think they worked as a couple and that things felt awkward.

These were feelings I couldn't reconcile, and I realized in time that this is part of the root of my own problems in relationships - and the problems of many. Often times our beliefs that a relationship is steady come from a desire to make things work. We feel a deep longing to find a kindred spirit and we search for it in that special someone. But then, as we're looking for the same confidence in our spirit, some unsightly reality kicks us in the head and tells us "Oh, you wanted this to work out? Well, I have another plan." And we have no choice but to follow.

I like to think I'm immune to the power of my subconscious in this area. That if I love something, I could stick with it no matter the circumstances. I can weather the storm.

Well, maybe that's true and maybe it isn't. Like Jessica, I think of myself as the type of person who likes to keep relationships together. But I also think that's part of our personality type. We never want to hurt anyone, and in trying to keep everything copacetic, we don't see our own desires crumbling around us.

INFJs are supposed to be intuitive, but sometimes I feel like my intuition leads me down the wrong path because it doesn't often take my long-term needs into account. It's all about wants - wanting to make other people happy, wanting to be happy myself (at least in the short term), wanting to maintain and never lose what I have.

But that's impractical.

At the very end of "40 Days of Dating," I was actually stunned to read how Timothy and Jessica parted ways. I had known from early on that they wouldn't work out (I think it had been spoiled for me somewhere when I was reading through articles about the experiment), but seeing it play out was even more intense than I could have imagined.

Because it spawned out of seemingly nothing. A little built up tension here, a little misplaced comment there and suddenly it all blew up before our eyes.

That's true of most relationships, isn't it? The problems get pent up, and we sort of see them in our periphery. We try to address them, but we never fully get there. And if we never totally figure out how to work through our problems, then we let them consume us until one day BAM! (and not in the Emeril sense of the word).

Suddenly, there's a bunch of confetti falling through the air and all that's left are two deflated balloons where hearts once stood.

Obviously this isn't true of all relationships. As I have heard, there are some romances that stay kindled for years and years. But for all the great, steady couples there are, there are many more that break apart in what I assume is an eerily similar fashion.

It was this reminder that really struck me. When I've been broken up with - most notably several months ago - I've felt so alone. I've been so alone. Wallowing in my own grief, I didn't even know who to turn to. No friends want to hear you ramble on about your ex-boyfriend whom you love but who doesn't love you back. You can't keep troubling your family over these things.

For me, that's why "40 Days of Dating" exists. In the case of Tim and Jessie,  it was a way of working through their problems. But for me, it was the one working method to actually turn into the spectator instead of the participant. I could look at a relationship not unlike one I've had myself, see its faults, recognize why I needed out and embrace the feeling of being understood by someone who doesn't even know me.

Everyone may not have the same connection to this experiment that I did. Certainly, INFJs are not common, thus most people won't identify with Jessica. ENFJs (like Tim) are probably more common, but whether or not they'd be drawn to this kind of writing is beyond me since I don't know all that much about how they think.

Whatever the case, it is clear that "40 Days of Dating" has resonated with many people, not just me. And I'm glad for that. Because unlike many other things I read, these few entries on a webpage in a corner of the internet forced me to see that I'm not alone and that there's nothing wrong with me - something I need to remind myself of more often.

So I'm thankful that on that fateful day in my interactive design class, I happened to be brought to The Great Discontent. And I'm glad that after glancing at the page, I decided to find out more about what this whole shtick was about. And it's great to know that beyond the "40 Days of Dating" site, there will be an empire of storytelling - from a book to a movie and who knows what else. Because this is a story that deserves to be told. It's not one that will move any mountains, necessarily, but for those among us who are hopeless or helpless romantics, it will bring clarity to something we can't seem to wrap our heads around:

Love isn't by the books. A relationship that falls apart isn't the be all, end all. What we really need is to be with people who understand us - even if they are just words on a page. What speaks to us is what matters. I was lucky enough to have these 40 days pop out at me, screaming and begging to be seen. And I did. And I'm happier as a result.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

All the futures I could have

There have been a lot of things on my mind lately.

The thoughts are wide and varied. When I try to put them down on paper, it often comes out all jumbled because there really is too much to think of. I'm at such a weird place in my life. Everything is in flux. I'm not really in control of much. At least, I don't feel like I am.

What it all boils down to, though, is the future.

And that got me thinking about how many futures I could have had.

Two years ago and a few days back, I started dating for real. Had that relationship not been doomed, I could've seen myself with that person long term. Being in a relationship for two years would've had a tremendous effect on where I am now, physically and mentally.

Four years ago I was looking at colleges. I could have very well decided not to apply to the one I go to now. If I hadn't, I might've ended up in London. I might've gone to school near home. I might've been happier, sadder, lonelier, more hopeful, less enthusiastic, crazier. Who knows, really. But it probably would've been very different.

A year before that, my mom passed away. And while no one had any control over that inevitability, that is yet another thing I think about and wonder 'Well, what if she was still here?'

And that's not even to mention the myriad of other decisions I've made, experiences I've had, troubles I've faced and people I've lost. There have been many. One day can consist of no unexpected happenings...or a lot of them.

While I'm not ready yet to talk about what it is I'm working through at the moment, why I feel the need to "let it all out," as I mentioned in my previous blog, I do feel comfortable in sharing one thing:

I don't feel like I'm in control anymore.

When I arrived at university three years ago, I felt powerful. That's not a word I often use to describe myself - meek and awkward as I am. But with all the opportunities ahead, I felt I could choose to do anything I wanted with my life. Or at least, I could choose to pursue the major I'd already signed up for and then follow through with that career choice the rest of my life.

But in three years I've lost that power. Bit by bit. Experience by experience. The more I know, the more I lose control. And as my dad has told me, not being in control is one of the things that can take the biggest toll on a person. We need to have some volition, some command over our fate, or else we feel lost and meaningless.

When I sat down to write this blog, it was going to be about all the futures I could have had. It was going to discuss the people I've loved who've broken my heart. The things I've imagined for my future that I now know will not come true - some because I don't want them anymore, others because I'm unwanted.

Regardless of what could have been, there is always what could be.

So even though there are things I've lost, people I'll never see again, experiences that I imagined and then had to leave behind... Well, there are infinite things that I haven't even considered that will, in fact, make up the rest of my existence.

That's a mysterious and daunting prospect. And I think part of the reason that I'm so terrified right now is that I'm afraid of the future never living up to expectation.

But what if the expectation is just that the future be unique and unexpected? Then what is there to lose?

I could end up being a journalist like I'd always planned, and maybe I'd love it. Or I could pursue a degree in something else. I could become a famous writer, thinker, creator, director. I could find the love of my life. I could be a mom. Maybe I'll decide I just want to own a bunch of cats or hang out in Central Park like the pigeon lady in Home Alone 2.

Goodness, who knows?

I've been ruminating so hard on what I don't have anymore, what I wanted and what was snatched from my grasp. But time goes on, feelings change, needs change and opportunities arise.

And there are a lot of futures left that remain to be seen.

I just hope I pick the right one. Or I hope it picks me.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

How I feel before letting it all out

This is an important day.

I think it was meant to go this way. This day of stressful living started and ended much in the way most days do. But it made some weird moves in the middle, twisted and turned until my body was trapped in an eternal state of unraveling.

So I'm ready to start the next chapter. And tomorrow I'm going to try really hard to do that. I've been looking forward to it for a while now. Without the benefit of companionship that I've had the past two weekends, I'm looking toward days and days of responsibility and hard work. They will be full of tension and I know I'll reach my wit's end.

I've been nearly at the breaking point for a while. The straw broke the camel's back a while ago. I had to let go of stability and open myself up to possibility. But that's not really an option when I'm stuck and I'm waiting for tomorrow, waiting for the next step in a process that seems neverending. There's no end, no solution in sight, but I keep barreling toward it - whatever it is.

As tomorrow begins, I will see how another type of person lives. I've tried for a long time never to be this person. Change scares me, I'm afraid to embrace new experiences because it means putting away a part of my past. Or it feels that way, anyway. And giving away a part of myself to embrace a new person is daunting, but it's beautiful too.

There's tension in my back. I've attributed it to bad posture, to sitting inappropriately as I browse through the infinite web of information on the screen in front of me. But it's more than that. It's like the weight of the world. I am Atlas. I feel too aware of what's going on around me and it overwhelms me with thought. Sometimes sadness, too, but I try to push that feeling away.

This entry is one I'd like to treat as poetry. I know what I'm doing tomorrow. I know what I did today. You don't know, however, or it's likely you don't. And that's okay.

Because what is important to see is that it isn't the activity or the details that make the experience, that incite the change. We choose to be who we are each day, to alter our course or to remain in the place that we've been. What we do is not as important as the decision to do something.

I'm doing something.

I'm letting it all out. I hope I have more hopeful and positive things to say once I've gone through with it.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

List-less thoughts

This is an atypical blog. I don't have much time tonight before I should head off to ZZZ Territory/Slumberland/BeddyBye, so I figured I'd just share a few thoughts. In a list. Because I've been working with a lot of lists in my Interactive Storytelling class and because compartmentalizing helps sometimes.

1. I used to despise being thought of as fickle, but I do believe that I am someone who is always looking toward bigger and better things.

This isn't to say I'm always the "grass is greener" sort, but I do love thinking that I'm never stuck in one situation. That if I have hopes and dreams, I can achieve anything.

2. High expectations are my single worst vice.

I am a very intense person. I put a lot of thought into things. Rarely anything gets past me. Sometimes I have to pretend that I don't notice things even when I did. It's just the way I am, and if others find it strange...well, that's life.

3. There is a lot of beauty in the world, but most of us fail to pay attention to it.

Today I was struck by how wonderful it is to live indoors. To have a roof over my head, floor under my feet, a bed to sleep in. This is a luxury that I consider a necessity, and it's beautiful that I've been given a life with such ease and simple joy.

4. People are way too complicated for my liking.

When I think something is predictable, the human race proves me wrong. This is my eternal struggle.

5. I am very self-centered.

But aren't we all? And if we aren't, how honest are we being with ourselves?

6. Escapism is the worst, yet most effective form of catharsis.

When I've forgotten my woes, I feel the most freed from them. Even more than when I actively combat them. There's something to be said about the value of escape in the face of perpetually troubled thoughts...that is, it works.

7. Fun is fundamental.

It is hard for me to understand how people find joy in serious careers, or cerebral and unemotional subject matter. I am all about having fun and feeling enthusiasm for everything I do. I wonder if this is true for most people.

8. There's no reason to lie to someone's face.

If you aren't honest, you're likely to show your true self despite your kind façade. Why even try to pretend you're someone who you're not?

9. Time inspires very contradictory emotions.

It ticks away and stresses us out, but when we have some of it to spare, it has the most relaxing presence of anything in this world. Time is a frenemy to all.

10. Sometimes this all feels too weird to be true.

Who are you all, anyway? As my dad and I have discussed a couple of times recently, it is so strange to think that when you are in a public place, you are surrounded by people who are part of your story, but who have stories of their own. We're all separate, but intertwined.

That's it. I think I'm going to do more of these in the future. It's a bit weird, I guess, but it was the blog I needed right now.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Where am I?

It has been over a month since I last wrote in this blog, and that feels sort of inappropriate, seeing as how much has gone in just 30-sum days. What makes this period in my life not worth documenting, whereas in the past I've spent hours upon hours writing blogs about the most insignificant topics?

To catch you up, I'm back at college. It is my final quarter on campus and while I do try to remind myself that one day I will look back on these days fondly, it's been hard not to grow tired of university living.

My classes are going exceedingly well, perhaps for the first time in recorded history. While they may all advertise themselves as time-consuming, drop-it-if-you-can't-handle-it sort of courses, I have not yet been dissuaded.

What I have, however, been dissuaded from, is any attempts at civility with my neighbors. With my friends off campus in an apartment and myself still on campus in a dormitory, I'm surrounded by individuals whom I don't know, yet who know each other. It is lonely, despite being enveloped in perpetual sound.

This is a great metaphor for real life, I think. We often enter the outside world and are forced to abandon our bubbles of introspection. There are so many babbling beings walking the Earth, that even with our iPods in ear, our cell phones in hand and our eyes glued to whatever the closest digital screen may be, we're always surrounded by sound.

As someone who is often struck by the dystopic (god do I hate that word, but I'm using it anyway) nature of loud surroundings, I've had to confine myself lately to my room, blasting all sorts of white noises to keep from going insane. If the sound of someone crunching on a potato chip drives me mildly bonkers, then having someone sporadically cackle down the hallway has become my greatest foe.

Which means, at the moment, I'm balancing between good and bad - the sweetness of a few good hours of classtime studying subjects that don't make me want to rip my brains out, and the perversion of a crowded hallway, inundating my room with the raucous noise of disrespectful peers who never seem to do any work.

Goodness, I sound angry.

Well I guess I am.

Because with this being my last quarter as a true college student, I was hoping to finally have the experience I imagined when I was a high schooler. I dreamed of walking around a beautiful nature-filled campus, alone and in silence, peacefully taking in my surroundings and preparing myself to devote time and thought to work.

Instead I feel how I'm sure many do when they are freshmen, starting out in college: surrounded by people who don't seem to take anything seriously, and don't seem to value the tranquility that I covet.

Perhaps I am misjudging, however when it's 2 am on a weeknight and I hear someone blasting gangster rap, I can't help but feel compelled to believe the stereotype in my mind.

This was a disjointed post, probably because it's been so long since I've written on this poor neglected blog of mine. And whether or not anyone chooses to read my nonsensical thoughts, I'm glad I have this here, to rant and to rave, to lament and to enthuse.

So I'm going to try to use it again, less sparingly.

But for now: Bed... Unless my neighbors decide to run down the hallways screaming for the rest of the evening.

Friday, August 30, 2013

My future yellow umbrella

The yellow umbrella, a symbol of the promise of the future.
To understand the yellow umbrella reference, perhaps you should read a bit about it. However, I must warn there may be spoilers for non-How I Met Your Mother fans.

It was the beginning of the summer when I decided to start watching How I Met Your Mother. I'd never thought much of the show, never wanted to spend much time with it. After seeing an episode here or there, it seemed like yet another multi-camera sitcom with a built-in laugh track and little desirable comedy. I guess you could call my taste pretentious; I certainly wasn't willing to accept that a show in (what I assumed was) a traditional format could engage me much.

There have been many times in my life when I've misjudged, assumed and downright falsely postulated about things before actually giving them a chance to prove their worth. It's human nature to trust our initial impressions, to judge swiftly and move on.

But I think my rightfully-discovered passion for this show has come just at the right time, coinciding with some general life troubles.

I've been thinking lately about that quote from The Great Gatsby: "I hope she'll be a fool--that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool." How much simpler life would be if I could take it all in stride and see it through rose-colored glasses, with a lens of silliness to shroud my sensitivity.

Being an unlucky sort of person, I was both blessed and cursed with a hopeful yet future-fearing outlook, capable of feeling in equal parts excited and anxious about what lies ahead.

This has manifested itself lately in a few episodes of what I can only deem as minor depression. I'm constantly worrying that:

1. I'm not on the right path to happiness in my own life
2. I'm not going to figure out the correct path in time
3. I'm putting a burden on others because I'm in a sorry state

Nothing seems to reduce the constant fear that I'm doing everything wrong, save for distractions. One of those distractions that I've had since the beginning of the summer was How I Met Your Mother.

Contrary to my previous beliefs, this show has more depth than it does foolishness. With eight seasons under my belt in three months of watching, I feel confident in that assessment. I'm also confident in the few things I've walked away having learned from my time spent immersed in the story of Lily, Marshall, Robin, Barney and Ted...mainly Ted - the romantic lead and narrator behind the whole story of How I Met Your Mother.

I don't like to think that life is all about finding a mate. Surely there is more to the future than getting married and having children. I'd like to think that my existence has more significance than to simply perpetuate my species' existence.

However I have always believed that there is someone out there for me, somewhere. And though this potential "soulmate" has eluded me these 20 years, the blank space they leave in my life has never lost its potency.

My biggest worries lately have been about finding my way in life, and choosing a career path that suits my needs and grants me happiness. But that's only half of the journey.

Watching the eighth season of HIMYM today, I reminded myself of all the hopes I've had since I started dreaming of a lifetime of wedded bliss. Planning out a fake wedding to my favorite pop star at 10 years old was just the beginning, but that dream never really fades.

I lost my way a bit when I was uprooted a few months ago - I started to consider a different career path, had to think about dating again (and the Lord knows I hate dating, at least when it comes to the modern sense of the word) and most recently I've felt a strain in some of my relationships with others.

All of the uncertainty has been piling on me, and the pressure of it only gets stronger with time. I try to watch television or surf the internet, anything to take my mind off of troublesome mysteries. But then in a strange turn of events, my escape (in this case a TV show) brings me right back to where I started.

It's hard to tell whether that's a good or a bad thing yet.

I made a mistake in thinking when I started watching How I Met Your Mother that it would be a retreat from the doldrums of daily life. In actuality, that's quite a bit of what the show is. There are antics galore and lightness of course, but HIMYM is all about the build-up to that climactic moment of clarity and happiness. This isn't just the story of Ted Mosby's life. This is "How he met his kids' mother." And throughout much of the show's timeline, his character mopes around complaining about not finding his life partner, not making it in the architecture world, not fulfilling his dreams.

That's where we're all at, isn't it? At least, many of us. We're living in an incomplete moment, feeling uneasy with the current circumstances, judging the future on a set of data that is incomplete.

This is the problem with my perception of things at present.

I'm so concerned with the future, with how things are meant to be, that I'm no longer considering that where I am now is not the be-all, end-all.

The only reason I really have "life troubles," as I see it, is that I'm too short-sighted to realize that the issues I'm facing now are only temporary, and that as time progresses, so will I. Eventually, this part of the story will be the extended cut of my own "How I Met Your Father" or "How I Got My Job" or "How I Made a Life For Myself" story.

Who's to say that these troubles aren't exactly what I need to get me where I need to be?

Above all, How I Met Your Mother is about retaining hopefulness despite the mundane and uninspired daily existence that makes the present seem to drag on and the future so unreachable. All the mistakes, all the terrible and disheartening experiences - well they are necessary, because they bring us to where we need to be.

Even though I'm currently in a false state of on-and-off sadness - one that is, in my opinion, not grounded in any sort of logical thought - it's only because I'm in the in-between stage and I don't know that everything's going to work out just yet.

But if I really look inside myself, I can see that mine and Ted Mosby's stories aren't that dissimilar. That nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach suggests there's a dream out there waiting to be achieved, and if I just stop being impatient and keep trying my best, eventually it will work out.

Life may not be simple. It may not just fall into my lap and it may never make sense why I had to go through this period of uncertainty and fear just to arrive at contentment. But it makes some sense to me now that if I just weather the storm, I'm going to come out with a yellow umbrella.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Wordless encounter

I've been in the car for many extended periods lately and because of this I've had a lot of time to think about life whilst my hands rest on the steering wheel. The other day I had an idea for a short story. It's slightly derivative, I am aware, and I don't plan on necessarily doing anything with it. But I decided I wanted to share it somewhere.

She saw him at a glance. He drove past her in his flashy, overly blue and noticeably economy-sized car and in that instant she knew there was something. It wasn't something they shared necessarily, but something it was.

You know how in that moment of first noticing a something or a someone you find intriguing? How you almost feel as though you've come to know it inside and out? They say not to judge a book by its cover, but it's impossible not to do just that. You look, you perceive, you assume. We all know what happens when you assume.

Well she assumed. As he drove past her, the car in front of her screeched to a stop. Her senses were lagging, she was consumed in her own foggy daydreams. He had disappeared, though, so what was left of the daydream was slowly dissolving.

But as she began to speed up, there he was again. With a tinted back window, a few cars ahead, moving at a steady pace. He still had no idea. His lane began to slow; he merged in front of her. Her mind raced.

Unsure of how to act, but convinced something needed to be done lest she reluctantly admit defeat, she decided to work with the tools at her fingertips.

Turn on the brights. That's sure to get his attention. She flicked them on and they blinded her for an instant. She tried again, but no reaction other than her own wincing at the sight of the reflected headlights on his practically highlighter blue back bumper. Why isn't he realizing what's going on?

She resigned herself for a moment. This is ridiculous.

She merged out of the lane, now on his right, moving at a slightly faster speed. Then with an effort towards nonchalance, she glanced over past his empty passenger seat, to the driver whom she had set her literal and figurative sights on.

He wasn't oblivious.

He looked back at her, boldly but kindly. He smiled, but only for a moment. After all, the eyes can only flick away from the road for so long before they must return to the task at hand.

She kept at his pace, tried not to seem deliberate. She ignored the obvious question in her head: How do I keep myself from looking deliberate when I'm deliberately moving a steel vehicle down a freeway?

As she spent time conversing with herself in her mind, he managed to move his car behind hers. He flicked his own bright headlights on and off and when she didn't notice, honked his horn.

Startled, she broke, expecting that there was something dangerous to evade. Rather than prevent an accident as was her intention, she managed to cause one of her own.

The girl and the boy in their respective cars stopped traffic. Everyone looked around with bewildered eyes, unsure of what to do as most looky-loos are. It was just a rear-ending, no cause for alarm.

As they pulled over, however, the rubberneckers glued their eyes to the sight, not for the damage or to see the arrival of tow trucks and police cars. Rather to watch the girl and the boy as they stood still, exposed to the elements, at the side of the freeway, staring at each other, not saying a word.

The End

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Negative Capability

"I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason." - John Keats in a letter to George and Tom Keats, December 1817

It's been such a long time since I've written a blog and there are a few reasons for that:

1. I haven't felt too compelled to share anything about my life lately.
2. I've been pretty pressed for time with a full-time internship this summer.
3. Sometimes private things are best left private.

Well, more the first two than the last. I'm a firm believer in sharing one's story with the world. You never know who will find it intriguing, valuable or significant. One man's throw-away diary entry may be another man's raison d'être.

But anyway, I currently write for a living, so it seemed excessive to be keeping up with a blog as well. Yet tonight I felt a really strange compulsion to write. It was the kind of knot in my stomach that I used to get when I would nearly forget to write blogs during my year-long adventure in personal essay composition. The kind that could only be rid of if I vented on something, no matter how trivial.

Recently I've been having a crisis of the heart. Not in regards to romantic relationships, I should clarify. I'm well over that burdensome anxiety.

Rather, I'm growing a bit impatient with my chosen life goals. And honestly, I've been looking for a way out.

By "a way out," I mean a way to change my future. For me, this search is very much unmarked territory.

I decided when I was 13 what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Since then, I've pursued it. I've felt fairly strongly about it. I've been proud of my ambition, and of how I've stuck to one path for so much of my life.

Recent events have proven to me, though, that my plans have been based on false realities and high expectations. Working life always seemed glamorous to me, maybe because it's been years since I've heard of the trials and tribulations of 9 to 5 jobs. My dad loves his work, my mom hated hers. But since my mom passed away, I haven't heard complaints about the workplace, so I seemed to have convinced myself that those complaints don't exist.

No job is perfect. But for a long time I believed that my plans for the rest of my life were just that. The thought of a career came secondary to the expectations of an existence by my own design. But the way the world works, our designs are not as fundamental as the designs of those around us. We fit within a mold that isn't necessarily ours to define.

This isn't just about finding a job and carving out a future that includes a paycheck and a medical insurance plan.

This is way more than that.

I've been thinking about what it means to make myself into something beyond the mold. And not in that hipster-y, "going against the grain just for the sake of uniqueness" sort of way. I really, truly need something more than the world generally offers.

Writing is part of that. The one thing I was right about when I was 13 was that writing is my calling. I may have been great at math in first grade, pretty dang good at science in fourth, but when I was old enough to really know who I was, it was clear that there was something else I wanted to do with my life.

My crisis of the heart occurred when I discovered that perhaps the structure of traditional writing careers isn't what I need. There are expectations I have: for life and for career, that are beyond press releases, superhero movies or novels about vampires.

I don't know that I can fully define how my life is going to play out in the next few months, years or decades. I used to think I could. As unpredictable as the future truly is, I always thought I had a definite road to travel on. Now I'm starting to see all these different routes. They have twists and turns, but they seem a lot more interesting than the original map I had laid out.

The other day I felt so anxious that I started panicking about the past, present and future. My world started to collapse in on me as I remembered what it was like to have faith in my goals. But I had to come to terms with the truth: that I now reside in a new mindset of complete uncertainty.

This is normal for people leaving college, I tell myself. And that's okay. We are young when we start our higher education. It is through experience and missteps that we discover what it is we truly need.

Well I've made a lot of the latter and I'm looking to have a lot more of the former.

I stopped writing this blog because I decided to focus on a career that I'm not sure is mine anymore. But right now, even though this isn't a career, this writing space is the more me than anything else. That's a start, I guess, to figuring out what I don't fully understand.

Moving forward with uncertainty, I am trusting my instincts. With outstretched arms I venture forward, pen in hand as my only safeguard, reaching for something in the blackness that is the mystery of what's to come.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Truths sometimes universally acknowledged

I am an aesthete. I am someone who loves art, film, television and music simply for their own sake.

Over the past few days, while I was powering through the terrible Political Science readings I've been assigned the past couple of weeks, I managed to finish every last page. But not without having a moment of disbelief when one author tried to explain why Hamlet is better understood on a political rather than an aesthetic level. It was an interesting argument, yet my firm response was No, just no. Let's enjoy Hamlet for how it affects our emotions, how it makes us feel, what we ascertain as the inherent meaning of the story. Not because it relates to the story of King James I.

So why did this occur to me today, when I've set down the Poli Sci and picked up a couple of movies to watch purely for entertainment purposes? Well, because the films confirmed what I will fight forever to prove: That art's true value is in how it treats us to truths that we sometimes forget.

When these truths are spoken aloud to us, they make us feel whole. Like we're being personally reached out to as we proclaim: Yeah, Definitely, Uh-huh, Me too!

Today I watched Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. Though for years I put off seeing these films, I had a sudden desire to screen them. In doing so, I felt as if thoughts that had been meandering through my brain were being somehow removed from my soul and placed onto my screen. Here, I will share a few of those thoughts with you.

You may find them insightful in your own personal ways. These are mine.

"I believe if there's any kind of God it wouldn't be in any of us, not you or me but just this little space in between." - Celine (Before Sunrise)

Before I began questioning religion, I had a few long conversations with my father about why he didn't believe in God. He told me about what he perceived as a deity. It wasn't a Christian Lord or a Jewish G-d. It was the love between people. That's exactly how he expressed it to me. The feeling of compassion and love that exists between humans.

At the time that didn't quite resonate, but over the years I've understood more and more what it is that my dad was saying. If there is a God anywhere in this universe, it would have to undoubtedly exist in all that is good. A God would help us toward goodness, and the truest and most honest is goodness is that which we share between our neighbors, friends and family. I don't know what I believe in, and I feel as though my dad's perception of religion has become perhaps even more jaded than mine, but I do know that if there is a God, it would make sense that said deity exists among us in the love we share with others.

"You know what the worst thing about somebody breaking up with you? It's when you remember how little you thought about the people you broke up with and you realize that is how little they're thinking of you. You know, you'd like to think you're both in all this pain, but they're just like, 'Hey, I'm glad you're gone.'" - Jesse (Before Sunrise)

This is something that has been on my mind quite a bit lately. How is it that once rejected, it is so easy to be forgotten, even when you feel that you were in love with someone?

After having my heart torn out a few months ago, I recently decided to step away from romance for a while. It wasn't so much by choice as by trial and error (I made a few mistakes along the way). By trying to pick up the pieces of a broken heart, I felt even worse. But the root of the problem was that I felt this nagging need to move on and forget the past to, in effect, mirror how he had done those things.

But looking elsewhere doesn't replace the fact that when you are broken up with you are the victim. You are the one who is no longer loved. It comes down to dealing with that fact and becoming happy with yourself, alone or otherwise. I don't need another boy to replace a previous boy, I just need me.

"People have these romantic projections they put on everything. That's not based on any kind of reality." - Jesse (Before Sunrise)

Picking up from the same issue, I feel that part of the reason I let myself fall so victim to the sting of rejection is that in the period following a break-up, I tend to be incredibly nonsensical in my understanding of the ruined relationship. I don't see the faults, I don't think of the ex-boyfriend in a bad light. I just wallow and consider all the lost opportunities.

In a way, the troubled experience becomes a romantic situation in itself. It's like I'm Juliet in Romeo & Juliet, and the destruction of a potential love story becomes a fantastical story of a lost soulmate. Oh, the possibilities. Oh, what could have been. When really, the best way to look at life is, Oh, what's next?

"Memories are wonderful things, if you don't have to deal with the past." - Celine (Before Sunset)

How wonderful would it be to remember people or events without being weighed down by the troubles associated with those things? I feel as though I can only come to a solid explanation of this through an anecdote.

I have so much trouble watching home movies. It's not because they're poorly edited or they're of sad or depressing things. It's because seeing my mom on the other side of them, beautiful and joyous and alive, is like being punched in the stomach. It's a reminder that even though the memories that are depicted in the home movies are wonderful and sweet and fun and reminiscent, they are also burdened by the fact that they deal in the past. They are not the present. They remind us of what was and is no longer. So even though I'm a nostalgic sort of person, I'm also hesitant to dig into my past because the hardest thing is thinking in terms of what you've lost. And that's what the past is. What's gone.

"When you talked earlier about after a few years how a couple would begin to hate each other by anticipating their reactions or getting tired of their mannerisms--I think it would be the opposite for me. I think I can really fall in love when I know everything about someone. The way he's going to part his hair, which shirt he's going to wear that day, knowing the exact story he'd tell in a given situation. I'm sure that's when I'll know I'm really in love." - Celine (Before Sunrise)

To end on a slightly lighter note, I truly value this quote from Before Sunrise, which serves as a testament to one of the many merits of love that I have and will always believe in.

There's this, in my opinion, mistaken belief that all love and passion grows stale. That eventually you grow tired of the one you're with and start searching for greener pastures. The grass is always greener on the other side, and all that.

But I have this feeling that when I truly find love - a fine, stout, healthy love (as Jane Austen described it in Pride & Prejudice) - it will be the little things that make the feeling last. After being with someone for a long time, getting to know them and to appreciate them equally for their wonderful qualities and for their faults, I will have truly found love. And if it is a reciprocated feeling, then that will be true love.

I hate to keep going back to Sonnet 116, but as Shakespeare said - "Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, But bears it out even to the edge of doom."

So, we come full circle to Shakespeare once again. Not to return to the understanding of Hamlet based on historical/political events, but an interpretation of art based on what is internal and personal.

For movies that are almost entirely consumed by dialogue, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset have some of the most profound and unpretentious moments I've ever seen in any work of art. They were films that made me think, but not because they were trying so hard to do so, but because they depicted a gritty reality of love, loss and loneliness. And that's what art is supposed to do, I think. It doesn't have to make you aware of its presence in a historical context, though if it does that's fine. Its actual purpose, however, is to draw you in and to make you feel.

As an aesthete, I feel a lot. If you take away my art, you take away my ability to let those feelings free. Instead, come with me and enjoy the luxuries of universal truths that will make you feel for yourself.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Your baby I'll be

They say that time heals all wounds. That in a matter of days, weeks or months, the trials of the past will wither away until they no longer taunt us, no longer make us reminisce sadly. Instead, we can focus on the good, the positive going forward and the happy memories.

It's been five years since my mother passed away and for the most part, time has healed my wound.

I still think about her every day. In so many ways, she still affects my decisions. Where others might say "What would Jesus do?" I ask myself what my mom would do, or what she'd want me to do. It doesn't always steer me away from making idiotic choices, but it certainly makes me consider how I act with a wisdom that I, unfortunately, will never be able to access again now that she's gone.

Still, I think there's something about being my mother's daughter that is intricately woven into the fabric of my being. If you were to take it out, then I'd cease to be me. Because in our short-lived time together (which will soon be vastly less than the full number of years I'll live on past her existence), she gave me so many standards to live by, so much knowledge of the world, so many things to go on and cherish, to pass on to others.

Last Mother's Day (in 2012), I wrote a list of all the things I learned from my mother. From treasuring the little things in life to living for the present, she gave me certain standards to live by so that I would grow up to become a well-adjusted teenager and (now) an adult.

To think that she never really got to see me live my full teenaged years, to watch me go to college or see me turn 20, is a crazy thought. Yet, throughout the entire experience of my life, I felt she's been there. A spirit, hovering over me, looking out for my every step and occasionally letting me mess up so I can learn a lesson or two.

But even though she's still in my heart every day of my life, the loss of someone so important is impossible to completely relieve yourself of. And this is where the "time heals all wounds" quote falters.

A few years ago, I was visiting my grandparents in Florida when they found a bunch of old video tapes that my dad had sent over with images of me as a toddler running around like a crazy person. We proceeded to watch the family movies and reminisce about good times.

Then we came upon a clip of my infancy. My mom didn't show up on camera, yet we could hear her voice speaking from behind it. And I started to sob. This was a few years after her passing, when the sting was no longer as fresh. However, in that instant, it all came back to me.

Because the feeling of losing someone is two-fold, really. And this is why it's impossible to completely heal the wound of loss.

The first thing that you lose is, of course, the person herself. You no longer have the opportunity to see that person, to interact with them, to have them love you back the way you love them. Figuratively, yes. But not in reality. There's no way to call up the deceased and create new experiences with them.

Losing those aspects is terrible, haunting, even destructive at times. But eventually we all grow. We find other people to distract us, to spend our time with, to speak our minds with, to exchange affectionate words with. It doesn't quite fill the void, but it softens the blow.

The second part, however, is what continues to bother me to this day. The fact is, I will never get to have a future with my mother. And worse than the loss of what's past (what was and now isn't), is what could have been.

Sometimes I picture her visiting me at college or coming to my graduation. I imagine her meeting my boyfriends or giving me advice on subjects we never got to talk about because by the time I lost her I was still very young and immature. I imagine getting to repair the damage I inflicted on our relationship, taking back those years when I neglected her and didn't treat her the way a daughter ought to treat a mother.

But the thing that doesn't heal is that nagging feeling that those dreams, those ideals, cannot and will not come true.

It kills me. And it's a wound that I haven't yet found a fix for.

On a day like today, I try my best to focus on the good times. To remember all that my mom gave to me. To forgive myself for my mistakes and to enjoy the fact that I got to know her as well as I did in as little time as I had to do so. By the time I was 11, I knew most of her back story. I'd talked to her about a lot of pressing subjects. I understood her morals, her hopes, her aspirations, her dreams for herself and for me. And that well of information has never run dry, never felt deplete. I am always remembering the wisdom she gave me at such a young age.

Then of course, I remember that as much as I did learn about her, there are infinitesimal amounts of information that I didn't get to find out. And those lost conversations, trapped in the netherworld of space and time, are what gnaw at my soul.

That being said, today is not a day for personal wallowing. It is a celebration. And though I've been feeling lonely in my losses, I am glad. I am glad that I had my mother. I am glad that she taught me well. I am glad that she gave me opportunities. I am glad that she was mine.

Because one thing that will never change, will never go away, is that we belong to each other in life and in death.

When I was young my mom used to read me the story I'll Love You Forever, I'll Like You For Always. It's a heart-wrenching book, the kind you don't really consider the significance of until you're much older. But today I remembered it and I am appreciative of the message it unconsciously translated to me at a young age.

I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living your baby I'll be.

Thank you, Mommy. Happy Mother's Day.

Friday, April 19, 2013

My heart's far, far away

I'm sitting here in the Midwest thinking how terribly ridiculous my choices were three years ago. Why did I decide that being away from home was a good idea, that moving away to somewhere cold, devoid of family and (at the time) friends would be good for me?

Lately, I've realized how tragedy can draw you closer to people. In the event that you feel nothing has gone or will ever go right, having someone beside you to hug you until you can barely breathe provides some sort of solace. Unless there aren't people. In which case, it can make you curl up into the fetal position, looking only inwardly and beating yourself up in the process, feeling increasingly lonely by the second.

Well place me in category two for the moment because I feel not only a sense of sadness at not being in California at the moment, but of guilt as well.

I wanted nothing more than to go elsewhere in 2010. I only applied to three schools instate. The others were all on the East Coast or in the Midwest, a few in England. I was sick and tired of California, but barely considered the issue of separation anxiety.

Now I'm here.

And to get to the point of this tirade of bleakness, my cat is near passing away.

I haven't been sad about losing a pet since my first dog died almost a decade ago. I still remember taking her to the vet to put her down. The memory haunts me, but the camaraderie within my family during that time also encourages me. It marked a special time in my life, when I felt like I was happily surrounded by those who loved me. That even though I'd lost an incredibly special presence in my life, I had others nearby to make up for it. The sun shone again without much effort.

Since then, two of my cats have passed away and two remain. The two that left this mortal coil did so while I was away - either on vacation or at school. And while I felt sadness having seen the loss of  another life I'd known since as soon as my memory served, I was never intimately connected to those cats. They were friendly faces, but I didn't associate them with too many of my fondest memories. So I wasn't broken hearted.

Mozart is causing a different sort of reaction.

He's the only cat I have conversations with. He greets me when I come home - annoyingly so - meowing loudly and in that certain tone of his that says "Notice me" or "Please give me your undivided attention." But also, underlying all the context clues of his noises, was the feeling I always felt expressed - "I love you."

It's weird to think that you have a caring enough bond with an animal that you can feel love towards them, or that they could feel that way for you. Maybe I've gone soft since becoming a vegetarian, or maybe my dietary choices are symptomatic of a sensitivity to the emotions of my pets. Whichever way it goes, I know that in my life Mozart has been more than a cat. He's been a companion.

We used to play games. If he was lying on the floor of the living room, I'd walk in a circle around him until he'd fall over and knead his paws at me, purring and meowing until I leaned down to pet him. Sometimes he'd walk in between my legs and I'd trap him by keeping them close together. He'd struggle free then beg for attention again. There was no tiring him.

There were times in my youth when I was sad and in response he would come to me and nudge me, sit down next to me and purr. He would help me get over my pain in subtle ways. It always seemed to me that he had an intuition that, however apparently ridiculous to those who believe cats aren't sentient, within him made perfect sense.

He had a loving bond with his brother cat, and he eventually forged a bond with one of my other cats - after several years of animosity - thus proving that he has the heart of gold that a lot of people attribute to dogs. Well, dogs may be "man's best friend," but Moe is everybody's best friend.

Now, in case my father is reading this - or anyone who has any intimate relationship with my favorite of all the pets I've ever owned - I will stop before I dig too deep into the emotional well that only accounts for more tears and sorrow.

He is still alive. He is still loved. He is still loving. And for that I rejoice.

My only sadness is that in these, his prescribed final hours, I will not be home to give him the attention I haven't been able to lately. I will not be able to kiss him on the head, scratch him under his chin or tell him I love him. Maybe it wouldn't have made a big difference in the long run, but I still believe that I should be there, at home, helping him along. Helping my whole family along.

It's times like these when you realize what's most important in your life. Not getting away and living in an unusual place for four years, but being surrounded by people who make you feel that even in the darkest days, there is a light.

I hope that when I come home I will feel the love of my family even if the lovely presence and the wall-pervading voice of Mozart is gone. After all, I can't call him gone yet, and I will not fully accept it until I must.

But let this be a reminder to myself of what is important in life - not just in dramatic moments like this, but always.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Finding me

You'd think after weeks away from this blog that I'd have something profound or fascinating to say. While I've done quite a bit of soul-searching lately, and had a lot of conversations with people I love who have helped me sort various things out..there's really not much to report.

At the moment I'm back in my room at university. It's messy here. I haven't fully unpacked my suitcase and all my throw pillows are in disarray on my bed. My Wall-E plush is covered by a blue blanket. When I took off my boots yesterday, I threw them into the corner and never put them away. I feel a little sorry for how my living space is in shambles.

But on the other hand, my life has been pretty stable. At least as of fairly recently.

I'm not going to claim it's all been sunshine and daisies. In fact, when I write blogs I tend to focus primarily on the sad or depressing occurrences of day to day life because writing or sharing turmoil is a good way of gaining catharsis (at least for me).

So I won't pretend it's all been great. My journey back to campus, in fact, was pretty rough. After being home for two weeks, I'd fallen into a routine. Evenings hanging out with my dad, days spent with my grandma, several trips to Disneyland, quite a few afternoons spent helping my sister and brother-in-law keep track of their rambunctious toddler (my niece) in the wake of the birth of our newest addition (my nephew) and countless hours spent simply relaxing and enjoying my own company.

It's something I've forgotten to do lately - just look to myself and realize that I'm the best friend I'll ever have. I don't often pick fights with myself, I'm usually up for whatever I want to do and, when I need to, I can pretty successfully knock sense into myself. Solitude can sometimes be the best medicine.

Whereas at college, being alone in my room often makes me sad, being at home I feel empowered by it. My room in California is a place of comfort and refuge; it's fun to let loose there and not worry about the world. When I was little being alone for long periods of time worried me - sometimes I thought if I was by myself long enough that the world outside would cease to exist. But these days, there are so many reminders of the outside world and often too few moments to focus on oneself.

So spring break was a time for me to stop blogging - to really stop doing much of anything. On the other hand, it was also one of the most valuable experiences of my young life and the first time in years that I've looked around and said that things are absolutely as they should be.

As I left it all behind - departing from Easter dinner and saying goodbye to my sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew - I started crying. That somehow the short return home I'd been waiting anxiously for was over and soon I would be returning to school (a place where I'd been wrought with loneliness for the past couple of months) terrified me. Even the plane ride was awful - I got a migraine on the drive to the airport and was battered by flight attendants and other passengers every time an inch of my body leaned over into the aisle.

But then I got back to the Midwest. And my friends greeted me. And we had dinner. And I re-entered my (then) pristine room. And it was cold and comforting. And the sun shone each morning. And we played video games and we danced and we laughed just like we had before. And I felt the way I'm supposed to feel at college for the first time in quite a while. So in a way I returned to a past version of myself, but I consider it a completely new chapter of what has been a long life despite only living 20 years.

I've established a few goals for this new chapter. From buying a new guitar which I plan to devote time to learning and relaxing with (when I'm in California) to setting aside a couple of minutes each night to write in a private journal rather than a public blog space, I'm looking to branch out in ways that may take me out of external dramas and into internal peace.

There's so much trauma that can be provoked by other people. I feel as though much of the material of this blog has been in analyzing others and their effects on me, but as someone who admits to a degree of stubbornness, I forgot what a powerful presence I can have on myself when I stop worrying about what others are up to.

Right now I'm in a class where I'll be looking into the effects of society on political studies and resulting policies. I'm also going to be starting a class where I have to be creative and invent a world through which to tell a story (in other words, a screenwriting class). I'll be living in the minds of other people in that way, but in other ways I need to return back to being the person I was years and years ago - whose purpose was primarily focused on self-discovery and personal fulfillment.

The other stuff will come later, I think. The happy relationships, the long-sustained friendships, the valued acquaintances, the interpretations of society and world events. But first and foremost, I have to figure out me.

Without me, nothing else makes sense. And at the moment I'm well on my way to finding me again.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The rebirth of Stella

I am just about a week away from going home and considering what kind of craziness has transpired in my life for the past month, I'm glad to be heading back to the California sun.

I don't know that I've ever felt any less appreciative of Chicago at any point in my life. I've only visited the city once this winter and it was for an internship interview that went nowhere. The rest of my time was mainly spent in classes or waking up early to go to work and it's been simply exhausting. And cold.

The cold has been biting. I must have lost a layer of blubber on my skin or something because walking around unbundled-up is no longer as tolerable an activity as it once was for me in below-freezing temperatures. I used to take on the chill with a pair of tights as the only barrier from frostbite, but now I put on two coats, a scarf and a hat, preparing for Snowpocalypse 2013.

On top of everything, today was just a bundle of wackiness.

After handling the rains and cold temperatures pretty well, I was on my walk home from my final class of the day when I decided to take an idiotic turn on a longer path back to the dorm. Thinking I could shave off some time by taking a less effective shortcut, I ended up trudging through mud and sliding on ice, finally culminating in a giant puddle surrounded by icy shrubbery.

I had two choices: 1. Turn back and take the longer route around the very shortcut I was using; or 2. Continue on the shortcut and hope I don't submerge myself (and my boots) in a watery sinkhole death.

Well, needless to say, I am a lazy loser, which meant I chose option two without a second thought.

My boots and my person were safe, let's be frank. So my fears were not met.

However, I had no fear for my iPhone and that was what, in fact, became submerged in the watery depths of the giant muddy puddle.

Stella (that's the name of my phone) fell face-first into the puddle and for a moment the world stood still as I screamed into the puddle to my dad (who was on the other line of the phone at the time) "HOLD ON, I JUST DROPPED MY PHONE IN WATER. OH GOD."

Stella's face was fine, but somehow her audio functions had been messed up and for the next hour I freaked out and tried to factor in when and how I could find the time to get a replacement iPhone.

Then she dried up, and all was well. And the winter's torture of destroying my Stella's speaker function was over.

Well, where did that leave me?

After quite a few weeks of feeling entirely at the mercy of Murphy's Law, it actually felt indescribably amazing to have my phone resurrect itself from a puddle grave. I doomed my poor companion to a life of limited senses and yet she returned completely ready to be used in just a matter of an hour.

And I guess I'd like to think of this as a metaphor for my life right now. I've been feeling pressured and stressed and panicked because there has been so much to do, so little to look forward to and so long to wait for anything worth experiencing. I've been pitying myself and little did I know that the dissatisfaction was just leading me down a road of continued difficulties.

Essentially, the way I see it at least, I managed to bring about my own sadness because I kept letting stupid things like drowning my phone completely alter my mood.

Because otherwise today was pretty stellar. I have a lead on a few internships for the summer. I am well on my way to returning home for spring break. I've done the great majority of my work for the end of the quarter. If anyone has any right to be lamenting at the world, it's people in underprivileged countries or with terminal diseases.

The level of my life dissatisfaction should not warrant complaining. Or self-pitying.

Especially when a fix is as simple as a $100 replacement phone or an hour of patience.

So I'm suggesting that everyone who reads this just takes a second to look around them, calculate what in fact they're pissed or sad about, and then measure that against the grand scheme of things. We really have no right to be complaining over stupid junk that happens in our lives when in the long run we are lucky people - I'm not speaking for everyone of course, but certainly for myself.

In a week I'll be home with people who love me. I'll be free of the trials of this quarter. I'll have quite a bit to look forward to. And there will be sun.

The sun being both a literal object and a metaphor. Because I've been contending with winter for far too long and I'm ready to embrace sunnier weather and a sunnier disposition.

Thank you, Stella, for coming back to life and teaching me how to smile again.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

When it alteration finds

"Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
   If this be error and upon me proved,
   I never writ, nor no man ever loved."
- Sonnet 116, William Shakespeare

So tell me William S., what is love that ends?

I love this poem - and I have for many years. Since I wrote a paper on it in my senior year English Literature class and recited it in front of my class. And since I later found out that one of my best friends here at college had done the same thing at her high school. This poem links me to my peers, but it also links me to my heart. It is an ever-fixed mark.

In that English Literature class, I was the go-to kid for interpretations of Shakespeare. While we were reading Hamlet, I had a side-by-side translation, but I rarely if ever looked at the American English understanding of the text. I could read through that entire play without questioning the dialogue for a moment. I think it came about as a result of many many viewings of Pride & Prejudice. I've become so use to the eccentricities and twisted linguistic styles of British English speaking styles past that Shakespeare stopped confusing me. Plus, I love trying to understand metaphor. I love constructing metaphor myself. It's too much fun to let go of that interpretive spirit that I would never read a direct literal translation.

So when I read this poem, I took it incredibly seriously. Especially after spending so many hours with it writing a paper deconstructing its text. Line by line, I took it apart. "True minds" meaning those who have similar hearts and temperaments. "Love is not love which alters when it alterations finds" meaning that if you purport to love someone then it is not something that can change on a whim. "O no! it is an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken," meaning that love lasts forever and isn't enticed away by the lure of another person or what that person might offer.

Shakespeare writes in such pretty verse and he says such beautiful things.

But is he right? That I can't be so sure of.

How much love these days "alters when it alteration finds" and "bends with the remover to remove"? How many divorces take place? How many annulments? How many people say "I love you" to a boyfriend or girlfriend and then a moment later tell them that they can't say those things any longer?

I can't imagine a time when these things weren't true. Even in the days before divorce, when marriage was expected to last a lifetime and spouses were essentially stuck together regardless of how they felt, how could the word "love" be tossed around with such definitives?

That sounds incredibly cynical of me. But I think it's because I know that I have the capacity to love "to the edge of doom." This is not because I've loved for any infinite amount of time in my life, but because in my heart I know that I can love that way. And that if I say that I love that way, it means that I do.

I am careful with my words. I try not to make rash decisions when I choose to date. If I have, it becomes exceedingly obvious because I turn stand-offish in the matter of a few moments. I may perpetuate things if they're comfortable, but I will not throw myself into romance wholeheartedly unless I know that it is exactly that - wholehearted.

It is dangerous being in "like." Saying the word "love" is a completely different ball game.

When you fall in "like," you put your heart on the line. You ask someone whether or not they accept you as a potential companion, even for the short term. And that is an overwhelming and nerve-wracking thing. It is hard enough admitting you have a crush on someone, but proclaiming that you would spend a great deal of time getting to know them (as indicated by the word "like") is a commitment.

When you fall in "love," it is not just an elevation of "like." It is not just how you feel when you've surpassed those feelings of interest and entered some nebulous unexplained realm of wordlessness. It means strength of belief - of commitment despite anxiety, fear or difficulty. It's not just commitment to get to know someone, it's commitment to get to know them and care for them under harsh circumstances. It means putting in effort even when it's difficult because that person means enough to try despite hardship.

That's what I mean when I use the word "love."

Whether or not Shakespeare meant the same thing remains to be seen, but I feel that he may have. And I feel that society's notion of love these days is a completely different concept.

I remember being in middle school and seeing the abbreviation "ily" (short for "I love you") on my "friend's" MySpace comment sections. What the heck does "ily" mean?, I thought to myself. Even now, the phrasing confounds me. These were 13 year olds throwing around words that for centuries have indicated something powerful and unbreakable. But now they use it to refer to a short-term commitment to a boy or girl whom they will inevitably pass over for the next eligible pre-teen whom they find semi-interesting.

Well I thought that sort of immaturity ended in middle school, but as I've grown up I've seen nothing but sameness. In high school I didn't date, and thank goodness because things were just as silly then. Bring on college and I expected to be surrounded by literate nerds with minds and hearts. Well, I guess I wasn't totally off. We do have quite a few bookish dorks here.

Maybe there aren't any more "ily"s being thrown around willy nilly, but when I consider how often I hear the word "love" and how little it means to the world now, I lament as I look back at Shakespeare and consider how beautifully and eloquently he addressed the stalwart nature of the four-letter word.

It's probably immature of me in this day and age to still think that "love alters not with his brief hours and weeks," especially considering that so many of my relationships have ended in just a matter of weeks.

But try to convince a girl who has lived so much of her life drowning in Disney films and Victorian literature, and you're bound to encounter some stubbornness. The incongruities are visible to me, but I refuse to accept them.

At the moment, I'm not open to the word "love" because I know how much it can hurt when it's found to be false. As strongly as I feel about the fact that it does exist, how to decipher its authenticity is lost on me and I fear being fooled. So I'm resisting it.

But don't think for a minute that I'm not looking, and I'm not dreaming and I'm not hoping. I will never stop being the wistful girl that I've always been - the one who thinks that Mr. Darcy is not so much a fantasy, but a reality hidden somewhere in this terrifying and often disappointing universe.

I don't think everyone is looking for love. In fact, at the moment I don't think most people are looking for anything even closely resembling "love" by the true meaning of the word, which is this: "a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person." Keyword: profound. "Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds" because it is more than just a word we use to mean we care about something deeply. It is profound, meaning it has an inconceivably enormous impact - one we can't merely escape, avoid or ignore. It just sits there, profound and awe-inspiring. It stupefies us, it confounds us, it empowers us.

If we all wanted love for what it really means then we would use the word with a lot more haste. And until it becomes less a part of our everyday vocabulary and more a part of our special set of words put aside for important occasions, it will continue to lose the meaning it once harbored. From that I will learn, but never stop feeling sorrow.