Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A collection of resolutions

Anthony Quintano / Flickr
Goodbye, This Year. Hello, New Year.

Unlike most people, I've never been one to make a New Year's Resolution. Partly out of laziness, but also because I've never understood why the dawn of a New Year was the prime time to make big changes.

My biggest life changes, from deciding where I wanted to go to college to becoming a full-fledged vegetarian, came about not because I'd been imbued with resolve by a holiday, but because I felt ready to make a choice and then pursued it.

However, this year I feel is a pretty big turning point. I've done a lot of guesswork in the past 365 days, gone through a lot of change and really had to figure out what it is I want out of life. What I choose now will determine what my life looks like down the road, and I want to do everything in my power to send myself down a smooth path.

So, without further ado, here is the collection of resolutions for my 2015:

1. Combat the sticks and stones.

When I reference this "smooth path," I make the mistake of assuming that any path of life can be without its rough patches. 2014 has been a year I'd characterize more by struggle than by growth, and I'd like to turn that around in 2015. Rather than trip over the sticks and stones that inevitably fall along my path, I'd like to learn to react and recover from them with ease.

Instead of being the person who wallows in her own misery, I'd like to be the one who laughs in the face of adversity. Those moments spent focused on self-pity are moments wasted. The moments spent fixing a bad situation lead to better and better experiences.

2. Think less about what other people think.

While the saying goes "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," that doesn't spell truth for everyone. I couldn't begin to count the number of times I've been told I need to develop a "thicker skin" in response to people's words. Even that comment has become an emotional pain in my side.

If I'm ever going to grow as a person, I need to learn to accept criticism, and to recognize the difference between that which is constructive and that which is insensitive. Once that distinction is made, there's no longer a need to hide from the criticism anymore. You take the constructive and let it strengthen you, and you brush off the insensitive. Simple.

3. Read one book a month.

The idea here is that I'd like to become more creative, more thoughtful and more receptive to new concepts. While I may equate that with reading one book a month, my slow reading pace may limit me, and I give myself leeway to miss my quota.

When reading a new book each month isn't an option, there are alternatives. I can start a new project - for instance, I've wanted to start illustrating for a long time - or I can learn about a new subject, which could be as simple as watching a documentary.

I'll endeavor to report back on my findings on my blog to keep track of my progress and hold myself accountable.

4. Continue writing every day.

While I've gone back and forth on whether or not I'd like to blog every day for another year, I do believe that writing each and every day is an activity I can maintain confidently. In addition to a short daily journal entry, I'd like to spend at least a few minutes each day writing something creative - whether that be a non-fiction personal essay, a fictional story or a poem.

This, in addition to learning something new each month by way of reading or watching or doing will hopefully make more well-rounded in the long term.

5. Go outside.

Being home in Southern California where the weather is constantly sunny and hot, my Elsa-like "cold never bothered me anyway" personality has turned me into quite the shut-in. But even if it's just for a short time, I'd like to promise myself to take a moment to walk and collect my thoughts and feelings every day.

Some people have very meaningful thoughts in the shower, but I think my mind achieves the greatest clarity on a good long walk. Or maybe a run, if the weather is fitting.

With these five resolutions, I'll be working toward vastly improving my way of life. In doing so, I expect not only to become a better writer, creator and learner, but a better person. And as a better person, I believe I could learn to become an even better friend, which is really the ultimate resolution.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The grand illusion

Has anyone ever told you that "[insert something here] will come true" or "You will [insert another thing here] if that's what you really want"?

In times of personal upheaval, I feel I hear these words of encouragement more than ever. Whether it's because I search for meaning and ask for the help of others, or they sense my pain on their own - the feedback usually sounds the same. But when I stop, look at myself and hear the words that are being spoken to me, I have trouble fully trusting.

As much as we, as humans, put our faith into what's beyond ourselves - the soul, supreme being(s), love - sometimes seeing really is believing. And when the universe inexplicably becomes indifferent to you one day, making sense of what you cannot see becomes so much harder.

Since I was a young kid, I was all about dreaming. When I wasn't caught lost in my own thoughts during class time, I was working toward my aspirations or writing in journals about them.

But dreams versus reality is a premise that is foreign to no one. We all partake in the wishful thinking that pushes us to great heights and sometimes even greater depths.

Then we have our friends who pick us up by saying "things will only get better" or "I believe in you."

Is this the grand illusion of life? That we are capable of whatever we set our minds to because that idea has been reinforced within us over and over and over again?

These days, I wish I had the answer. Yet the very root of the problem is that I have no answers - and neither does anyone else. However, living in perpetual fear of disappointment is not an option. And neither is gallivanting through each day without a worry or care.

Success is created by the mixture of trust in oneself and fear of one's failure. And without both, we would seldom accomplish anything.

So while the illusion of our inevitable success is just a fantasy, the little pushes we get from the people who care about us are not rendered any less valuable. We need them, just as we need ourselves to occasionally bring back the perspective.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Confidence and cameras

Before the age of 11, I had very little fear of the spotlight. I used to dance and sing in video recordings, show off my best model poses for the occasional disposable camera. I'd gaze directly into the lens as if it was a dear friend, possessing confidence, poise and mostly a lack of self-consciousness.

That changed quickly when I hit middle school - I grew my hair long and I bought my first digital camera. From then on I wanted to be behind the lens or away from it entirely. I had no interest in the spotlight, no interest in documenting myself. If anything, I wanted to sleep away the years and wake up in a different time and place.

One day, when I was around 13 years old or so, my sister and I went to a local drugstore. While the details of our visit are cloudy and under-formed, what I remember was the moment at checkout when the guy behind the counter asked me why I was hiding my face. Until that point in my life, I didn't realize that my long flowing black hair was unintentionally turning into a personal shield from the outside world.

In time I grew out of this. While I maintained my long hair, I no longer found myself hiding behind it so much. I still didn't go out of my way to be seen, but instead of actively avoiding it I took it in stride.

Which is why, as of last year, I started to attempt vlogging for the first time.

Vlogging, a word that is clear to some but unbeknownst to others, is a combination of two other words: video + blogging. The word "video" should be self-explanatory. And I assume "blogging" is also clear as you are currently reading a blog right now.

Putting myself in front of a camera and uploading what I made to YouTube involved a tremendous break from my comfort zone. I chose, in doing so, to revert back to my childhood innocence. Instead of being hyper-aware of my faults, I let them go. I tried to ignore my concerns over how people would perceive me physically and intellectually.

And in doing so, I felt better as a person.

It's funny to me how by placing myself in the position of being judged by others, I felt relinquished of the anxiety of their judgment.

Though my productivity has wavered since I made that first video, I fully intend to keep on going with vlogging and to get myself comfortable in front of a camera again. Because while I enjoy being behind the camera very much, in the game of life it's not always beneficial to hide.

If you're interested, here's my first ever vlog (from 2013):

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Filler and fluff

In 2012, soon after I'd started writing The Songs of Spring, I decided I wanted to contribute to my then brand new blog on a daily basis. It was a scary idea, and it no doubt took its toll on the busiest of days. But looking back, I am proud of the hours spent committed to the art of writing. Even if this blog took me into the wee hours of the morning some days and often forced me to fight to stay awake while my eyes closed and my brain started to gently dream, it was still all worth it.

But back then (in 2012), there were aspects of my life that made it easier to write every day. I embarked on a study abroad trip to London for three months out of the year. In the other nine months, I was at university in the states and then an intern at a major TV studio.

My life felt a lot more interesting two years ago than it does right this very moment. In my eyes, at least.

Back then this meant if I needed to take a break to write about nothing for a night, I had the option. Because in 2012, even nothing was something.

Nowadays, things in life aren't so smooth and clear. A day in the life is hazier, and I sometimes don't want to share all my innermost thoughts, nor the detailed goings-on of my day to day existence.

Yet to be able to write in a blog on a daily basis, sometimes you have to be able to provide filler. Whether that be a sub-standard journal-type entry or, like I did many times - a photo compilation.

Just like in life, being a consistent writer is about powering through the good and the bad. Some moments will be high points, others lows. If you're going to improve in a craft, you have to take everything in stride. If you're going to live a happy life, you have to be at peace with both the great days and the less than exciting ones.

It's inevitable, as we live out our lives numbered by dates on a calendar, that some of those days will disappoint us. Some will simply not be worth sharing. But finding meaning in the mundane is part of being a writer and part of being a human being.

I've found in my life that the better I get at accepting moments of quiet desperation, the greater my ability to enjoy the good becomes. It's the dwelling on boredom that sparks the existentialist questions - and even though the mind wants those issues to be answered, the heart benefits more from moments of acceptance.

So I accept that this blog isn't my best. I may never even read it again. I may forget what it says by tomorrow afternoon. But just because it's simple doesn't mean it hasn't contributed to the ultimate goal - which in this case is writing a daily blog, but also being genuinely happy even in the most uninspired moments.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A mission to civilize The Newsroom's critics

I began watching Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom several months before the premiere of its second season.

Early on in its run, I watched a scene from the show that was said to take place within the journalism school that I was attending at the time. Watching the scene, but knowing I didn't have access to HBO, I tried to push it to the back of my mind. Someday I'd watch it, whenever that might be.

After a few months of deliberation, my excitement for the show inspired me to coax my father into starting a subscription with HBO. Since then, we've never looked back, and we have The Newsroom to thank.

Now, as the show steadily approaches its final episode, I can't help but profess many different feelings.

First and foremost, I'm sad that this show - which I consider one of the best on television - will be departing before its time was up. Unfortunately, due to critics' desire to upend any sociopolitical stance or measure of dignity the show had in the first place, it became incumbent upon Aaron Sorkin to bow out gracefully.

The negativity went so far as to push Sorkin to publicly apologize for the show's handling of recent newsworthy events, defending himself by saying he enjoys writing "romantically and idealistically".

What bothers me about the apology, and why I think it should never have been prompted in the first place, is that this show has - since its very first episode - done precisely what it set out to do. The cast of Newsnight 2.0, the show within a show of The Newsroom, embarked on "a mission to civilize" the news industry by bringing back honest and thorough reporting that features clear and concise storytelling with respectable and reliable sources.

The show did just that by tackling issues that have become increasingly relevant in the modern age of citizen journalism and social media domination of the industry. With the immense speed of news dissemination, meticulous research has taken a back seat to speedy reporting, which often leads to mistakes and misinformation.

Instead of applauding The Newsroom on using the entertaining television medium to bring this issue to light, responses claimed the show was too "preachy".

Which brings me to my next emotional response to the departure of The Newsroom: disappointment.

Looking back at the success of The West Wing, it astonishes me that The Newsroom's Atlantis Cable News team was not met with the same - if not more - respect than the Bartlet administration.

Both shows consisted of very righteous and indignant characters, yet what was perceived as strength in one caused the other to be looked down upon.

Without the press's sensitivity to this show's handling of recent newsworthy events, perhaps The Newsroom could've lived on for another several years. Its content certainly maintained a strong viewership even despite some unpleasant reviews, and even the network seemed enthusiastic about keeping it on the air.

Unfortunately, due to other commitments and likely due to the weekly battering of his very well-researched and well-written scripts, Aaron Sorkin decided to end the show by knocking out six amazing final episodes, constituting a third season of the show.

The most bittersweet part of all of this has been the fantastic final flourish of the third season of The Newsroom. Each episode has maintained the original premise of holding journalists to a higher standard, yet also continued the previous seasons' clever storytelling, biting and witty dialogue, and in-depth character development.

As the show winded down, the stakes have grown higher and higher and the show has lived up to - if not thoroughly exceeded - expectations. Having watched this show for the majority of its run at this point, I feel like I know its characters. They have become old friends to me. In just 24 episodes to date, I've begun to understand their quirks and anticipate their choices. I've come to love them and respect them and want the very best for them, and that's more than I can say of any other show that has existed for such a short time (save Pushing Daisies, perhaps, but that's another story entirely).

Yet even in the throes of this amazingly developed and beautifully impassioned show's final hours, critics have taken it upon themselves to tear it down once again for its method of handling a very relevant issue - sexual assault on college campuses.

Having believed personally that both sides of the situation were presented well - one firmly on the side of victims and the other on the side of "innocent until proven guilty" - I did not take issue with the episode. I cannot even fathom how it could've been handled in a more authentic way.

And as we exit what I consider to be one of the most powerful episodes of The Newsroom, I'm upset that the only aspect of the show getting coverage is this one small part of a much bigger and more complex episode.

What I saw come out of the penultimate episode of The Newsroom was not controversy, but a set of very poignant moments for almost every character on the show. By the end of the episode, I found myself impassioned as well as in tears, convinced that the emotional roller coaster I was on involved more than fictional friends.

Which leaves me at what I believe to be the takeaway of The Newsroom: pride.

This was a show that succeeded in doing exactly what it intended to do. It created a set of decent and relatable characters who were as smart and talented as they were virtuous, and equally as complicated.

The stories may have occasionally inspired heated debate, but if anything that is a testament to the show's quality. If it did not address real issues in clever and radical ways, then it wouldn't inspire any sort of dialogue. But The Newsroom did just that - it made its viewers think.

Moving on from the fictional world of ACN, I'm sorry to have to look back and see any amount of public sourness at what I think is one of the most groundbreaking and spectacular shows of the last ten years.

As a recent graduate of journalism school, I've found it very difficult to embrace the practices of many modern day news agencies. The Newsroom was one of the few shows that made me feel confident about my profession. It renewed my pride in journalism in a way that real life news programs rarely have.

So as a final farewell to The Newsroom, its writers, its production staff, its cast and the rest of its crew - I'd really like to extend my ardent appreciation and an honest Thank You. Despite its ending, The Newsroom will live on to civilize and inspire through the people who watched and embraced its fearless appraisal of the very industry it aimed to expose. From now on, we are ACN.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Zoella and the argument for authenticity

In lieu of recent events, and as a writer who shares her thoughts and feelings on a blog, I've decided to come out in support of the underdog.

The cover of Girl Online. (via Goodreads)
Earlier this week, a YouTube beauty guru I have been watching for quite a while now became the subject of controversy when it came to light that the novel she was said to have written was not solely her work. The reports, which centered on Zoe Sugg (or Zoella) and her debut novel Girl Online, claimed that the book was ghostwritten - whether in its entirety or only partly so remains unclear. For details on the subject, I recommend reading the Guardian's post about Zoe's temporary departure from the Internet. It is thoroughly researched and comprehensive on the subject.

The long and short of it is that there is an apparent ghostwriter behind the novel who publications claim has written the entirety of the novel. Zoe is said to have had creative input, but otherwise the work was that of another author - Siobhan Curham. This news came soon after Girl Online received intensely positive reports following its record-breaking first week of sales.

Ordinarily I stay away from topics such as this because, well, they're dangerous. People have strong opinions about entertainment figures and about controversial topics like ghostwriting, which can lead to backlash. Yet I feel there is a side to the argument being publicly ignored.

Zoe is someone I admire quite a lot having been an avid viewer for more than a year now. And in being a part of her community, I have seen her fan base up close - on the Internet and in person at the VidCon YouTube conference.

It would be an oversight to say that the success of Zoe's book was not because of her name and reputation. Her fans are devoted and passionate - they frequently hang on her every word. I can attest to this, having personally purchased make-up and clothing items per her recommendation. As a beauty guru and vlogger, she carries strong influence over millions of followers. And her book attracted that same audience with unsurprisingly enormous enthusiasm.

But Zoe's success is not the reason I've decided to confront the situation.

As someone who considers herself an aspiring writer, I've always taken artistic authenticity very seriously. When I write something and place my name along with it, I do not take that attribution lightly. It is important to me that the things I write are first and foremost my work, and I pride myself in being able to claim my writing as my own.

While I may not be able to attract millions of people to read what I write, I get satisfaction in knowing that the small audience of individuals who take the time to read my blog are reading an authentic piece of myself.

For Zoe, it doesn't seem like this was a possibility with Girl Online. As many readers are probably already aware, a lot of books (primarily nonfiction, but also fiction) are ghostwritten, or at least partially ghostwritten. This is not unusual, especially when it comes to popular celebrities being granted authorship by major publishers.

Everyone who watches Zoe knows that she is a writer as well as a beauty vlogger. Her blog is a testament to this. However, when dealing with a professional publisher looking for the next big marketable thing, an authentic voice may not have been high on the agenda.

The way I see it, in this unfortunate set of circumstances, there's an unfair amount of blame being thrown at someone who was likely not responsible for what happened. Zoe has become the subject of scrutiny, and pushed into temporary hiding for a choice that may not have been hers in the first place.

If I see any fault in this situation, it's the prevalence of ghostwriting and of the money-over-authenticity game being played in the professional publishing world.

Ghostwriting in general is a tricky issue. It frequently involves what could be simply compared to hush-money, provided to an author in exchange for quite a bit of work and minimal recognition. As a writer, I recognize the value in a byline or an authorship. These aren't small tokens. They are valued and often worth much more than a quick pay-off.

The truth is, our society and its extreme focus on economics has made us into willing participants in an industry of lies. Rather than encouraging the potential writing talent of Zoe or giving recognition where it's deserved to any and all contributing writers, stunt-casting becomes the priority. As willing consumers, we avert our eyes to the obvious, therefore letting the system continue on a downward spiral.

As intelligent people and discerning readers, it's up to us to show those in power in publishing that this isn't what we want. A hard-bound book with a celebrity's face on it would mean so much more if the words held within it actually came directly from that celebrity's mind. Can anyone really argue with that?

And on the other side, unknown authors deserve to be discovered and read on the basis of their own talent.

My sincere hope is that one day I will live in a world where people are lauded for their talent over their ability to be recognized at a mall. This is a courtesy that all artists deserve, and one that is so simple to attain.

There is nothing wrong with fame, but what is wrong is trampling on the underdog instead of lifting that person up to shine to their full potential. I feel in this situation, neither the credited author nor the ghostwriting author were given the credit they deserved as creators. But with just a small adjustment in our expectations as readers and buyers, maybe we could affect change and encourage authenticity from the people who make the final decision over whose name goes on the book jacket.

Saturday, December 6, 2014


Some people just don't want to be found.

In the years since my mother passed away, I've become obsessed with learning about my roots. As a person whose family tree loses certainty around the early 1900s, it's been very hard to complete a thorough search. Though my curiosity returns frequently, it loses steam just as quickly as it gains traction. Because no matter my enthusiasm for the search, some parts of my family's past are so shrouded in mystery that it's practically impossible to unearth them.

The last time I saw or heard from my maternal grandfather was in 2008. It was at my mother's funeral. I remember him looking very small. The last picture of him in my memory is at the cemetery service. Standing on the green hillside, he seemed unstable, as if any moment he might collapse into the grass. Whether from grief or old age, he didn't possess a strong veneer of grace.

At the time I didn't think that would be the last I'd hear from him. But as the years passed, I came to realize that what was always a quiet and unassuming relationship would soon wither into nothing.

As with so many other acquaintances, my grandfather disappeared from my life. It happened in an instant, but it didn't hit me until much later.

Occasionally, I send out search signals in the hopes that I might find him again. But knowing his absence from my mother's life growing up, and seeing how little he cared to keep in touch with me after her passing, I feel all hope is lost.

The long lost relatives do not start and end with my maternal grandfather. One of the greatest mysteries of my life is that of my paternal grandfather's father. From what I've been told, he was a Polish immigrant and the black sheep of his family. The stories of his past stop there.

With genealogy research, I've concocted conspiracy theories but never found any solid answers.

And through these experiences, it's become quite clear to me how sometimes the people who go missing do so of their own volition.

These men I've spent my life wondering about and searching for disappeared not due to lack of adequate record-keeping. They chose not to be found and therefore became lost.

In the age of social media, I feel it has become easier than ever to not be forgotten. By tweeting and sharing and commenting and posting, I've put myself in a position of being seen. My existence is documented. Being found is now as simple as tagging your location on Twitter or including your phone number on your Facebook profile. Because of this ease, many of us make the conscious effort to ensure that we are found.

I'm thankful for the people I've lost who have let themselves be found. As we pass through our lives, most of our acquaintances will become lost at some point or another. Even our closest relatives may disappear with the passing of time.

While it may be hard to accept mystery, it is necessary sometimes to simply let go of the people who refuse to be discovered. Stop searching for them and instead place that energy into reuniting with those who are eager to be in your life, into the people who want to be found.

They're the ones who deserve to be seen anyway.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The floodgates are open

I think I must have been born to tell stories. That isn't to say I have some god-given talent for it, or that I can claim to be any sort of exceptional writer. But I still feel it must be true. Nothing in my life has ever felt so natural, or so necessary. When I feel something, anything, I find myself compelled to share it - and the only way I know how is through stories.

And that's been the root of my problem.

Storytellers are sharers by nature. We long for listeners, begging for the ears of our friends. We become overzealous and sometimes even obnoxious as we shower our neighbors in tales of our experiences.

The act of storytelling isn't in itself a bad thing. In fact, it's mostly good. I've always prided myself in being able to clearly explain myself through stories. It's the only way I've ever been able to write a successful term paper, or take part in an interesting conversation.

Where the problem begins is where storytelling turns into over-sharing, a personal affliction I have become deeply infected with.

You know over-sharers as the people in your life who can't help but vent and vent and vent. We who like to tell stories often unwittingly step over the boundary between being open and opening the floodgates. Once the floodgates are open, there's little we can do to close them back up again.

For some, there is the luxury of a gatekeeper who knows how and when to maintain those floodgates. In my life, I've had less than a handful of these people. To them, I am extremely grateful.

In those times when the gatekeeper is off duty, it becomes our - the floodgate storyteller's - responsibility to tame the wild waters of our stories.

To my mind, the best way to tackle this is to share stories on paper. To achieve a catharsis this way is to evenly distribute the water so that it doesn't flood, so much as let the land before us blossom and flourish.

As I write here again, several months since my last The Songs of Spring entry, I am making an attempt to gently open the gates and let my thoughts swim about - not as a flood for the willing listener, but as a stream to those who may be too sensitive to handle the flood.

In other words, I'm back to blogging. And it is my intention to keep the gates open for a steady stream of stories to flow through - for 365 days (give or take a few).

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

To My Poppy

What will you leave behind?

At only 21 years old, the impermanence of life doesn't often cross my mind. It takes a big moment, a life-changing one, to serve as a reminder that now does not mean the same thing as forever.

My grandfather passed away this weekend. With him living in Florida, I was far away from the situation. As a result, the reality of his declining health didn't quite hit me until I heard the news of his passing on Monday.

Now, thinking back on my Poppy, the only grandfather I've truly known due to the absence of my maternal grandfather for most of my life, I feel this great mixture of feelings. Sorrow for his loss, pride in his achievements, happiness at the beautiful life he led, plus something that is harder to put into words - the closest description being "cheated."

My grandfather lived a long and fruitful life. At 92, he saw the birth of six grandchildren and even two great-grandchildren (one of whom, my firecracker of a niece, was named after him). But in all the years I knew him, I still felt like there was so much more to know.

This morning I read a beautiful eulogy written by my dad for my Poppy's funeral. I offered to do what I could to enable its dissemination, copying it down into my computer so that it could be printed, saving it so that it would never become lost with the passing of time.

There are things about my Poppy that I know backwards and forwards. His sense of humor being the main one. His jokes became ingrained in my personal phrasebook. One of his oft-repeated quips, "my nose runs and my feet smell," has occurred to me multiple times in the past 24 hours.

But today, as I read through the eulogy and contemplated on the loss of such a compassionate, silly and wonderful man, what I kept thinking about was how much more I wish I'd known him.

There are so many questions that occur to you when it's too late to ask them. Questions about the past, about his past specifically. I wonder about his life, things that only he knew that he'll never be able to answer now that he's gone. I wish, at the very least, that I'd been able to tell him more how much I loved him. Living far away, it was hard not to feel detached from him for most of the year. But despite the distance, his impact was enormous. He's one of the few influential men in my life, and one of the main reasons that I believe (despite many experiences to the contrary) that there are good men in the world.

At this point, knowing that there's nothing more I can do but feel love for him and remember the beautiful things that my Poppy left for me, a broader question comes to me. What can I do to keep his memory alive? What can any of us do to keep our memory alive?

One day, we will all pass. Hopefully most of us in a peaceful state, unburdened by the knowledge that our loss will sadden those we love. But while we are all still here, we should charge ourselves with something more than just living.

We should do what we can to keep our memories alive. To share them with others and to let others share theirs with us. Never miss an opportunity to ask questions or give answers. Never hold back the stories that someone, somewhere would love to hear. Tell your loved ones exactly how you feel about them.

I don't plan to leave this world behind any time soon. But when I do, I hope someone will love me with enough of his or her heart to express feelings as affectionate as what my dad wrote for my Poppy.

All we really need in life is the love of others. More than fame, money, power, material goods. We thrive in life through the connections we make. My Poppy, even in the limited time I was able to spend with him, impacted me with his joy and his unflinching bravery. He lived a life that many can only dream to live - one of simple, unadulterated love. He loved his family, he loved his life. And for that, he was loved.

I can only hope that I will leave behind love as well.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

On VidCon: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

In 2011, I attended my first ever conference. A small YouTube fan/creator event held in the basement of a hotel in Century City - a little known gathering called VidCon. It was already a year old, and it was obvious that the event was already growing too big for its britches. Fans chased down creators like they were animal control pursuing rabid animals. I felt out of the loop because at the time I was only vaguely familiar with YouTube celebrity culture. But despite the craziness, there was still an aura of grassroots camaraderie, and that's what kept me coming back.

Now, in 2014, VidCon is more a convention than ever. With upwards of 17,000 attendees (a number I heard thrown around at VidCon and have seen in subsequent reports), what used to feel like a community event has ballooned into something much harder to define.

It seems that for those among us who have been at VidCon in one or more of the four years past, this fifth version of the Con we know and love has been a bit jarring, and I'd like to address that - along with a few ideas I have moving forward.

1. Keeping Fandom in Check

At my first VidCon, I'd only subscribed to a few channels. Since I knew so few creators at the event, I had an agenda: to meet whomever I could out of the six or so folks whom I watched regularly. In 2011, bumping into a popular YouTuber at VidCon was not unheard of. Nowadays, the same creator I met casually walking around the floor is showing up in Coca Cola commercials. YouTube stardom has grown farther than we could've imagined three or four years ago. That's thanks to us (the subscribers), but also a concern for us as we move forward.

The very essence of YouTube's greatness is as a community. Creators put up content that is engaging and personal, viewers absorb that content and connect with the creators - feeling like friends by proxy through this magical thing we call the Internet. But because the scale of YouTube has grown so exponentially, there's no feasible way to maintain the small, personal aspect of that community. Meet-ups are excellent for a quick fix, but only for those who are willing to go through the trials of standing in line for six hours. Most of us don't function well without access to the outside world for a quarter of the day, which causes a disconnect.

But to my mind, there is a solution: "Let it go." To take a now trite phrase from a beloved Disney animated film, it's time we all put things in perspective. The viewers without the patience for hours of queuing don't have to lament over the lost opportunity of meeting the more popular YouTubers, because that's not what VidCon is about anyway. More than a fan convention, this is a community event. A chance to meet creators (new, old, famous, not famous), to discover things about the craft of video production and to interact with like-minded individuals. If we find ourselves alienated by the fandoms, we needn't come face-to-face with them. VidCon is now a dichotomy - split between people who care about brushing elbows with stars and people who could care less about stardom - and we can choose which side we'd rather be on, and choose to be content with our decision.

2. Size Matters

My first VidCon had around 2,500 attendees. Compared to this year, that number is absolutely tiny. At the time it still felt huge, and even in retrospect it's an impressive number. However, it makes 17,000 seem absolutely unfathomable. That is, until you're standing outside a convention center waiting to enter a building, standing in a line of thousands of other people just as frustrated as you. Then the number feels all too real.

VidCon has grown every year and will, no doubt, continue to grow. What I hope will be addressed after this year is something that was discussed in hushed tones all around the event this year: the lack of enough options for attendees. With only two or three big panels or Q&As happening at a given time during the conference, attendees found themselves crammed into too-small rooms with too-many people (or, even worse, being shut out). This, in addition to incredibly long meet-up lines, led to a lot of disappointment for people who'd paid a great deal of money to be at this event. Rooms filled to capacity, sometimes with people who didn't even care to be in a particular panel, but who were squatting in a given room so that they could capture a good seat for the next panel on the docket. The system was unfair and unbalanced, forcing people to decide between going to all the events they'd like to or choosing to forego some in lieu of others.

If VidCon is to continue to grow in size, there will have to be more opportunities for engagement to sustain that growth. Without enough space to go around, the event seems overcrowded and stifling. And while every Con aspires to be something akin to Comic-Con in terms of buzz and popularity, is there anyone who actually enjoys the idea of being trapped in rooms with too many people, or weaving through crowds of unmoving human bodies just to get on an escalator? I think not.

3. Re-Introduce Community Building

One of my favorite panels at VidCon this year was about communities on YouTube. Some of the top creators on the platform talked about the groups of people who watch their videos, how they've channeled their influence into something they perceive as being greater than themselves.

In the first few years of VidCon, that's what the convention was all about: creators and fans convening, and essentially blurring the divide between fan and idol.

While it may be impossible at this point to integrate more famed YouTubers into the broader community, attendees of events like VidCon should make a conscious effort to step outside their roles as fans and into the space in between creator and audience. Community is the bringing together of perceived leaders and followers, into a safe space where they feel connected and engaged. Hierarchies don't need to exist in a community. YouTube has always been best when the hierarchies are removed in exchange for friendship.

I've made some of my closest friends at VidCon, and I truly believe that this is one of the most perfect places to meet like-minded people with whom community is a given. So why not pursue that? Is it more important to spend one minute talking to a "famous" YouTuber you may never see again? Or form a relationship with someone who could become your best friend for a lifetime?

4. The Golden Rule

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

This year, I stayed away from any and all drama that took place at VidCon, but being privy to the goings-on around the conference via social media, I was astonished at the catty and insensitive choices being made by people I wanted to respect.

As I see it, the YouTube community is made up of primarily awesome people. We are society's nerds and outcasts, the weirdos who don't necessarily fit into the mainstream, so we band together to find kinship with the likeminded. So, by this definition, shouldn't we unsubscribe ourselves to the petty expectations of an inherently selfish society?

Creators tweeted about being stalked to their hotel rooms, attendees were pushed out of signing lines by other attendees, security officers were being treated rudely every time they denied anyone anything.

If we all just had an ounce more respect for each other, then we wouldn't do anything to our fellow man that we wouldn't want done to us. Sure, there will always be the lowest common denominator of people who will make dumb choices like these, but as smart people (and you have to at least be somewhat technologically savvy to get involved in the YouTube community) we have an obligation to be more than that.

VidCon is first and foremost an event for the people. YouTube creators, unlike the special guests of most other conferences in the world, are not celebrities first. They are ordinary people first. And as subscribers (and people), we owe it to ourselves to respect not only them, but us. We are more than just fans, we are part of something huge. We are the backbone of a community that is growing and becoming more and more powerful as the years go on and our numbers grow.

VidCon has begun to draw big names and big sponsorships because of our enthusiasm. With the right frame of mind, we could all channel that strength into something good.

For nerdfighters, a more recognizable message might be that our responsibility at VidCon is to "decrease world suck." We represent something bigger than an individual conference/convention/what have you. We are a community. And we owe it to the greater community to represent YouTube fans in the proper light: as a respectful, kind, thoughtful and engaged group of cooperative individuals.

For me, that is what VidCon is. And at future VidCons, I hope that message becomes more evident.

For those who are interested, my YouTube channel - which I haven't updated in quite a while, but have plans to continue creating for - is thesongsofspring. Thank you for reading.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Looking on

Wanted: Someone to kick my butt every time I make a promise that I don't follow through on.

In February, I made a promise that I would keep up my blog, The Songs of Spring, by writing at least weekly entries. And if I missed a week here or there, I'd make up for it the following week.

Well, my last entry was at the end of March, and it seems that since then I haven't been very productive in keeping up this space. I have excuses, but it would be silly to bore you with them, so I won't. In this case, an apology is a waste of time. What isn't a waste of time is picking up where I left off, which is just writing when I need to - when it makes sense. So, right now. At this very moment.

The last couple of days have been very difficult, and they've made me think a lot about what is important in life.

Everyone who is alive has loved. If you're lucky, love is something you're born into. If you're not, it's something you must struggle to find in the most trying of situations.

I was lucky to be one of the former.

Even in the most difficult times in my life, I've known that love was somewhere to be found. And it made the tough things just a little bit more manageable.

But love also has its own troubles - as often as stories will tell us that those we love live on in our hearts even when they aren't of this Earth anymore, no one will tell you that life after loss is easy. The love that we feel for one another makes letting go that much more difficult.

I don't have to let go of anything right now, and when that occurs to me, I'm incredibly thankful. It's a comfort to know that at this very moment there is stability, that what (or rather whom) I know and love will continue to live, breathe and feel.

One day, though, and who knows how many days from now that one day will be, you and I and everyone we know will have to face the same thing: that emptiness of letting go of something beloved.

It will start with a shudder, and a feeling of confusion. Then it will transition into emptiness, of deprivation and even deeper confusion. A complete envelopment in the tragedy of the world. Why do we live to be tortured like this? But in time, those questions give way to new ones - What's next? What's past? How can I reconcile the two and make something impossible and painful into something beautiful? If we're wise, we find the answer. And we move on.

I guess what I'm trying to do right now is find the answer to that final question before I go through all the prior traumas. It is my goal to come out the other side of life's troubles as a stronger person.

I can't make sense of where I am in life right now, but I want to. I've been busy, been shying away from breaching this huge subject. It frightened me. My writing has suffered, my clarity of mind has dwindled.

So next time I break my promise, someone, I beseech you, kick me to get involved with this blog again. This is one of the only ways I've been able to find clarity in my life, in myself and in my future. And right now, that's what I need.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Black and white memories

The lights were bright. They blinded me, but not enough to erase the knowledge that I was standing in front of a crowd of people, performing a tap routine I barely knew. Under the harsh lighting, I stood surrounded by several other girls. We all dressed in matching androgynous outfits. White shirts, ties, suspenders, black pants and tap shoes with our hair pulled back into pony tails. I'd stolen the two former items from my father and, as a result, I looked like a pre-teen boy just entering puberty.

I don't often enjoy remembering this event. Perhaps it was exhilarating at the time, but as an unlikely dancer and a feminine dresser, it's a blunder of my youth that I prefer not to recollect.

Today, out of the blue, my best friend (and fellow tapper) texted me about the tap dancing debacle. "Hey! Remember when I bribed you with pbj sandwiches to do that tap performance with me in high school? :)" It's a thought that rarely occurs to me on its own, but with a little push - all the memories burst through my mind like they occurred last week.

Occasionally I feel like I'm in my own self-inflicted version of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. What I choose to commit to memory is entirely unpredictable and gets slowly more corrupted as the years go on. Not because I've gone through any targeted memory erasure procedure, that stuff is solely for the movies and even if I could get lobotomized, I don't think I would go for it.

Like everyone, I have selective memory.

Many of my experiences in life are clouded by perspective. I can't seem to get away from my emotional experiences. They take over the past and therefore inhabit the present, coloring each and every memory with an association. Happiness, sadness, loneliness, pride, embarrassment.

I try to let go of the more negative emotions - pushing those thoughts to the back of my mind and never willingly bringing them back to the front. Instead, all the happiest memories stick in my thoughts, and sometimes that makes the sad things even sadder.

When I've quarreled with a friend, a loved one or even a complete stranger, it's not the actual spark of unhappiness that keeps me dwelling. It's the loss of life's homeostasis. If anything, I'm one to forget the petty issues. After a while of being angry, I forget why I was angry and I go back to feeling the way I always do.

My problem is that my selective memory has the ability to make me sad, but often because it remembers so much of the good and then associates those things with the bad.

I lost my mom when I was a teen and I still haven't fully accepted that fact. Letting go of someone so important is like having someone scrape out a part of your heart with a scalpel and never being able to salvage it again. You don't feel whole anymore.

But the loneliness wouldn't be there if there hadn't been so much positive. My mom played games with me, made dinner for me, comforted me. She loved me. I push the negative memories away and latch onto the positive ones, but that makes the loss even worse.

All relationships are two-fold, though. Of course, I'll never see my relationship with my mom in a bad light - even though there were moments I could've done without. But in the case of non-familial relationships, sometimes it feels like targeted memory erasure is a worthy path.

Instead of erasing all the negative thoughts, as we do naturally (thus creating a resulting longing effect), would it instead be helpful to push away the positives?

Have you ever had a best friend who wronged you terribly? Or maybe someone whom you just grew apart from?

Years down the road you become nostalgic and start wondering what that person is up to. You add them as a friend on Facebook, maybe you even try to rekindle the friendship by meeting up again. But there's nothing there, and inside your heart you knew there wouldn't be.

That friend left for a reason. They exited your life story because they weren't meant to be there. One of my favorite quotes comes from the author John Steinbeck in correspondence with his son on the subject of love: "Nothing good gets away."

Though the good memories may have you hopeful for a repetition of the past, that doesn't mean repetition is possible. People change and grow and become totally unique - you could know someone for years and after a brief separation find out their character is completely different.

It's also quite likely that you've changed and that might make the experiences you had in the past completely inimitable.

Of course this isn't universally true, and it isn't to say that we should let go of everything that isn't immediately surrounding us. In this technological age, that's virtually impossible; we're bound to become increasingly nostalgic, keeping up to date with the goings-on of people we haven't seen even for a decade's time.

What's important, though, is not to let those memories - good or bad - dictate how we feel now. The longer we live in the past, the less time we have in the present and future.

The reason I forgot about the tap dancing incident was because it was an awkward memory that brought up uncomfortable feelings for me. Looking back, I am embarrassed by how I looked that day, unconfident in my dancing. I lost my enthusiasm for performing for a variety of reasons, part of which I attribute to tap dancing in public and feeling worse for it. The memory of spending time with my best friend practicing the routine, however, was good. It was only the emotional association that soured it.

Looking back, I realize that all experiences have dual sides. When I perceive my past as being full of mindless bliss, I'm fooling myself. No experience is completely free of turmoil. But just the same, when I remember only the bad of a situation - I'm missing out on the happy moments during that time.

Knowing that I must ground my happiness in awareness of reality is part of moving forward and no longer thinking about the past in such black and white terms. In the same way, this knowledge makes it possible to ground sadness in reality and move past that as well. Romanticizing in either direction isn't healthy.

Black and white is what keeps us chained to what doesn't matter anymore. But by bringing some color into the picture, perhaps that unintentional target memory erasure won't be so necessary anymore. It is possible to understand the depths of our experiences, but only by looking at them with a discerning eye.

We all have eyes, we just have to learn to use them properly.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A new adventure begins...

I used to write a blog entry every single day. To some this might be old news. A lot of people I know watched me compose daily essays for The Songs of Spring and perhaps got so used to it that it lost its luster of ingenuity.

For me, it feels like 2012 to early 2013, the years that I spent blogging every day of my life, were just a dream. A figment of my imagination, perhaps. I was such a different person in those days. Not only because I was younger and my life was quite different, but because I was committed to the daily task of practicing my art. I felt really confident in writing. Even composing these sentences now is scaring me - I don't necessarily feel I have the same skill that I did a year and a half ago.

Today, it occurred to me that it's been a month since I last wrote on this blog. Breaking out of the daily habit has made me a slightly lazier writer. After thinking and working hard every single day for a year, I felt I deserved a break. But that break turned into commitment-phobia. I stopped wanting to write because I was worried I'd get back into those old habits. Who wants to beat a dead horse? This blog, after over 365 entries, felt like a dead horse.

But lately I've had some lovely people remind me why it was I started blogging in the first place:

It made me feel good.

That's why we do anything, isn't it? To create happiness in our lives. Indirectly, sometimes. Other times we take on new experiences just because they bring us joy.

Unfortunately, I would say that blogging daily was, on most days, not a happy experience. It was a stress-inducing commitment that put me under undue mental duress. I didn't want to feel compelled to be thoughtful every evening, but I was forced to. Sometimes I got in a post at the very last minute of the day. Other times I'd post it in the wee hours of the morning and still consider it the previous day's entry. It wasn't so much about getting something out of The Songs of Spring, it was about finishing a goal.

I was lucky in that I did learn something from it - I learned how to share my feelings and let go of the inhibitions that I'd had previously. I learned how to write well and not lose my enthusiasm for constructing worthy narratives. Though I was creating essays each day, writing a truly great entry never became any less exciting. So it made me indirectly happy.

Now what is this all leading up to, you might ask.

I would say nothing, but that's a lie.

Because this is a special blog entry.

It didn't have a meaning initially. I definitely came in thinking I just wanted to write something, anything. It didn't matter what that something was. But after sitting here and tapping out a few paragraphs, I've made a decision.

I'm returning to The Songs of Spring. Not in the same way I did in January of 2012, but in a new way. Instead of writing far too much content, or providing it so sporadically that it loses its way, I'm going to be a regular contributor to my own blog.

From now on, there will be at least weekly entries in The Songs of Spring. And if I forget, then there will be at least two entries the following week. And so on and so forth. From February 27, 2014 to February 27, 2015, I will write at least 52 blogs.

This space exists and it deserves to be used. And once I've gotten back into the groove, perhaps there will be things to say again, and I will feel comfortable at the helm of this ship of words once more.

I hope you'll come along for the ride.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The princess with the long hair

Walking to work this morning I was overcome with the realization of how long my hair has gotten.

When people comment on it, I like to tell them that I haven't cut my hair since 2011. I don't know why this has become a matter of pride for me. It's like I'm basking in the split ends, taking all too much pleasure in the long tresses that, when I'm sitting down, nearly brush against my bottom. People say things like, "Isn't that a lot of trouble to deal with?" The long hair that takes hours to dry certainly does seem a burden.

Yet I still grow it out.

So this morning, as I pondered the hair which has certainly grown far too long, I began posing questions in my head. Does my long hair say anything about me? Does it have any significance in my life? What does it say about the years since 2011? Does it say anything at all?

Then, quite serendipitously, a song went on amidst the shuffle of my iPod.

The lyrics were these:

I've got my mother's love,
I shouldn't ask for more.
I've got so many things
I should be thankful for.
Yes, I have everything
Except, I guess, a door.
Perhaps it's better that I stay in,
But tell me when will my life begin?

I'll save you the time it takes to Google a song lyric by telling you that these words come from the first reprise of "When Will My Life Begin?" in Tangled. The song, which did not appear in the final film, is one of my favorites from the soundtrack for its simultaneous hopefulness and melancholia.

Tangled is an interesting movie in that it follows a new formula for a Disney female protagonist whose primary aim does not involve finding Prince Charming. However, it still fits perfectly into the Disney Princess film canon.

The song itself relates to Rapunzel's (the princess with the long hair) internal conflict over whether she should go out and experience the life outside her tower that she's always wanted, or content herself to stay inside and remain safe from harm (an idea perpetuated by Mother Gothel, the villainous matron who kidnapped and raised Rapunzel).

Well I may not be a princess, nor do I have magical glowing hair with healing powers (as Rapunzel
does in the movie). And I'm most certainly not a captive in a tower in the middle of the woods.

But the lyrics to the song have their own resonance for me.

When you break down the lyrics, the story they tell is very simple. When you have a good thing going, why would you give it up on a dream that you aren't even sure is worth dreaming about? But with that in mind, how can you go on living a half-life when you can see great things on the hazy horizon?

In my case, I've got my father's love, a home in Southern California, a million great experiences in my back pocket and tons to come, I'm sure.

Yes, I have everything. Or so it would appear on paper.

Except, I guess, a door to the kind of future that I want.

And while a future not far off from my present life would be fine and dandy - it wouldn't necessarily be fulfilling. My life is excellent, but I know that there's more to it.

Settling has never been part of my nature. When I applied to universities, I put my name into the running at over 15 schools. I wanted to have the best future - one even better than anything I could dream. And I made it happen.

It wasn't fear that got me there, but perseverance and a lot of painful hours focusing on the task at hand.

What it really took was courage.

I even considered hanging back at home and going to school just 30 minutes' drive from where I grew up. I almost wanted that, thinking that the comfort of my family would make even the most unsatisfying decisions worth trying out. But in the end, I'm glad I didn't.

There's beauty in liberation. Making a choice to force your dreams into reality is so scary. Sometimes you will fail, other times you will succeed just by the skin of your teeth. But if you have a dream, whatever it is, you need to go for it.

2011, the year I stopped cutting my hair, was an important time in my life because it was the beginning of a lot of new things. It was the year that I had my first relationship, the year that I started planning my study abroad time in London, the year that I was finally getting into the groove of college and actually realizing what it was I wanted to do with my life.

Now, in 2014, I've not quite arrived at the end point of the journey that began in 2011. Nothing is satisfied. My hair keeps growing, and so do the possibilities for what the future might hold. But I'm afraid to cut it because it's still a vestige of who I used to be. Like Rapunzel, my hair seems to hold some kind of mythical importance to me. I keep it around because I've had it for so long, and I'm afraid what cutting it might mean.

But there will come a day when, like Rapunzel, I too will cut that hair (or have it cut off by the figurative Flynn Rider). And that will be an even bigger turning point. Because it will signify that I'm finally contented with where I'm at. That's what I'm most looking forward to.

I may not be able to just hop outside a tower and be living my dream that easily, but that doesn't mean that Rapunzel and I are not one in the same.

My dreams are forthcoming, and because I know that I'm ready to embrace them, I believe they will come true. Just like in most every Disney movie. Dreams do come true. As long as I keep my head up, my heart ready and my hair growing, I can do anything.

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Thursday in the life: Take 2

A long long time ago I wrote a blog entitled "A Thursday in the Life." I only composed it because I had no idea what to write that day. At the time I was a month into my 365 day blogging commitment, and I had grown so used to the daily ramblings that I felt compelled to stay true to it even when I felt uninspired.

Well, today I have a different tale to tell. I am inspired, indeed, but I have no commitment. However, I feel compelled just the same to share something within this space. So here it goes. A Thursday in the Life Take 2.

6:00 AM - Alarm goes off for the first time. I know the routine. I've set it to warn myself that in 30 minutes I will have to ascend into wakefulness. But for the next half an hour I can lie in bed and drift off into semi-coherent drowsiness.

6:30 AM - The dreaded alarm goes off its second time. My preferred schedule would have me up at 7:15 at the earliest, but I consent to waking up earlier knowing that the time I have to relax in the morning before heading off to work the day away is absolutely indispensable.

7:05 AM - It hits me, after being up for 30 minutes, that I am actually going to have to get out of my pajamas.

7:35 AM - I'm still in my pajamas, and I wearily leave behind my burrito blanket on the couch, knowing I have no choice but to find an outfit for the day.

7:45 AM - Call dad before I leave for work. One of the few nice parts of my day.

7:55 AM - Exiting the door to my apartment, I notice that - yet again - I haven't worn the appropriate number of layers. It may look like Southern California outside, but this is Northern California. You can count on seeing your breath in the cold morning air.

8:07 AM - Wasn't my train supposed to have arrived by now? I think to myself. Yes, but the Caltrain system seems to have no respect for punctuality or technological innovation, so I'm sat waiting for an extra 2 to 7 minutes.

8:15 AM - How is every seat on this train taken? Should I ask that guy with his backpack on the aisle seat to stop being a cotton-headed ninnymuggins?

8:30 AM - I'm late to work yet again. How about I walk at twice the pace to get to the office more quickly? Only if I want to sprain my calf muscles. Okay, nevermind, late it is.

8:55 AM - Hot chocolate break.

8:58 AM - Burnt my tongue. Ice water break.

9:00 AM - Tongue feels better. Hot chocolate break again.

9:30 AM - I'm a fact-checking intern so I should be on the phone right now. But I can do some internet research before I make the call, right?

11:00 AM - Still avoiding the phone.

12:00 PM - Makes first phone call after doing hours of internet research. Success.

12:30 PM - Wow, those phone calls were easy peasy. Everyone is so nice. I shouldn't fear the phone so much.

12:31 PM - Talks to an angry source who wants nothing to do with me and is pissed off no matter how I phrase questions.

12:32 PM - I'm so done with making phone calls. Email it is.

12:33 PM - Why does no one have an email address with their contact info? Is this 1998?

1:00 PM - Lunch time. Trader Joe's microwaveable meal. It does not get better than this.

1:30 PM - Maybe I can have another hot chocolate break before I go back to my desk?

2:00 PM - Reluctantly pick up the phone again, but then I make a call and am met with kindness. Faith in humanity: restored.

4:00 PM - Time has flown and I finally look at the clock only to realize I have just an hour left of work for the day.

5:00 PM - Goodbye, office! Must catch the next Caltrain at 5:16. Surely, it will be late...

5:15 PM - Approaches Caltrain station: Train leaves before 5:16. FML.

5:24 PM - Train is supposed to be approaching...

5:24:30 PM - Train is 3 minutes late.

5:27 PM - Train is 4 minutes late.

5:28 PM - Train is 7 minutes late.

5:28:30 PM - Train arrives. IDK, don't ask.

5:59 PM - Arrive home, look at clock, decide I have hours before I need to think about reality. Watch YouTube videos.

7:00 PM - I haven't had dinner and I'm still watching YouTube videos. I might find this embarrassing, but YouTube videos are one of the most underrated and valuable forms of entertainment that I believe exist today. They are incredibly creative, often very intelligent and thought-provoking, and always good for an end-of-day-wind-down.

7:30 PM - Resorts to making macaroni and cheese for dinner because I am an adult.

8:00 PM - Falls asleep on couch watching this week's episode of American Horror Story: Coven.

9:00 PM - Wakes up and feels the incredible urge to write a blog even though nothing interesting happens on a typical day of my life right now.

9:30 PM - Can I go to bed yet? No, you're writing a blog.

9:55 PM - Gives Dad a call to say goodnight. Another nice part of the day.

10:00 PM - Goodnight, Moon. See you again, tomorrow. Same time, same place.

So that's it. Unsurprisingly, work life is even less exhilarating than college life (the subject of the last Thursday in the Life blog). Still, it's nice to think that in a few months or years, I can look back on this and remember what it was like to live a day in my life in the beginning of 2014. It may not be the most exciting read, the most exciting day-to-day experience, but it's part of who I am.

We are the sum of our experiences, right? And if this little blip in my timeline is going to take me onto something way greater - and let's face it, there's definitely room for improvement - well then, why shouldn't I document it?

Goodnight, Moon. Goodnight, people. Goodnight until tomorrow.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The update you may or may not be waiting for

Hello people. Hello whoever you are, out there, sitting at your computer, on your phone or on your tablet, staring at this text and letting me enter your life if only for a few minutes.

Before you get started reading this, can I just say thank you? Just for taking any time, even if it just means clicking the link and then clicking away. Thank you. If, on the other hand, you've read a great many of these blogs and taken even more than a minute of time to let them into your mind - I'm forever indebted. I love reading other people's thoughts and that anyone has any interest in mine brings me more joy than you could possibly know.

So anyway, I haven't been updating this writing space. And there's an explanation for that. One that you may or may not have been wondering about.

2013 is now over and I guess I feel safe saying that it was one of the most trying years of my life. A lot of my steps toward the pursuit of a lifetime of happiness have been upended, and though there are many valuable philosophical principles you can learn from having a rough time in your life, that doesn't make the trouble of getting through that time any easier.

I'm sure 20 and 21 are common years for identity crises, but as someone who never had any questions as to what her life was all about, it came on a bit suddenly.

Now I'm sitting here, in an apartment in the South Bay near San Francisco and I just keep thinking Well, this wasn't part of the plan, was it? What is this, then?

But that's life, isn't it? It's all about taking the steps to get somewhere, and along the way discovering new things. I'm discovering a brand new place to live, I'm meeting new people, I'm feeling really scared...about 99.9 percent of the time.

Which leads me to think that even though the space between the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2014 was the hardest I've had to deal with, it's also been the most formative. Feeling scared is better than feeling complacent. So many times in the past I dreamed of the next step and felt contented to know that it was there, but that until it arrived I could live in this in-between time without any firm expectations for the present.

Now it's all about what the next step is. And for once that next step is not part of the conveyor belt, it's not steady and planned out. And that's the scariest thing I can imagine, personally. I feel like I'm walking into a dark room, arms outstretched. Any minute I could bump into a wall, or trip over something hard and land flat on my face.

I think the uncertainty is why I've been afraid to write much lately. I don't feel the stability I once did - and that makes it more difficult to reflect.

I've also started to realize that I barely know myself. And that sometimes even when you think you have a firm grasp of who you are or what you want, you can be incredibly mistaken. Completely off the correct path to understanding. Maybe even on the wrong planet.

I wouldn't say I'm on Neptune or anything, but I've definitely had to reassess what it is I want, need and expect from day-to-day life.

Which brings us back to the "what's the next step?" question that haunts my dreams.

The answer is: I don't know. And it's a common one amongst people my age. For a long time we might've believed that a job or a grad school or a spouse (or whatever) would be there waiting for us when we graduated. The next step would be drawn out for us. For some, maybe it is. For others, it's completely up in the air.

I'm one of the latter. And it's partially by choice.

The update I've been meaning to give is one that I haven't been able to quite figure out yet. Because I don't even know what it is I'm doing, or what I'm thinking, or where I'm going.

And what is the point of writing a personal blog if all you have to say about the life is a long "uhh" accompanied by a shrug?

But what comforts me and inspires me to write this regardless of where I'm at is the realization that people are out there feeling the same things I am. And that the update that I haven't been able to give until now is one that can resonate with other people.

Even people who think they have it all together - my past self included - may not have much of anything figured out. And I like to think that's why we're allowed to make mistakes right now, because even if we feel we have these almighty clairvoyant powers, in an instant we might discover that they're absolutely and undeniably incorrect.

Well I was incorrect for a long time, and this brief span of difficult trail is going to, hopefully, get me back on the right track.

So that's the update you may or may not have been waiting for. If you have been waiting, then I thank you. If you haven't, then thank you anyway. Thank you for caring.