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.