Wednesday, August 31, 2011

of love and family.

On the flight from Sacramento to Long Beach, I sat next to a young mother--only two or three years older than me--who was headed back home to Newport Beach. In the seat next to her was her daughter, Gigi, who was no more than two years old. When I sat down, the mother and I chatted briefly about her job in Irvine and about my job in DC. Looking at her, you'd never guess she had a little girl. Her skin was evenly tanned and her long brown hair was bright with blonde highlights. She looked more ready for the beach than for the hospital where she worked. In small white shorts and a red, striped crop top, she was struggling to keep Gigi in her seat. But she was patient and kind and kept her cool when Gigi would scream. She was strict when she needed to be and did not hesitate to reprimand her daughter for bad public behavior. But Gigi still screamed despite her mother's best efforts. As I watched them on the hour-long flight, I kept asking myself (as I often do when I see misbehaving children), "What would I do if this were that mother?" And everything in my mind was what she was doing, but it wasn't always working. I could feel the frustration coming from her as she tried to read her iPad, only to be disrupted by Gigi every minute. But she was patient and did her best, and I respect her.

I don't think about the idea of having my own family often, if at all. I almost can't imagine that far into the future--hell, I don't even plan what I'm eating for the day until I happen across food that appeals to me in the moment. But this past weekend, being reunited with my (paternal) cousins, aunts and uncles to surprise my grandpa for his 90th birthday and to celebrate two of my cousins' pregnancies with a surprise double baby shower made me think a lot about family and how lucky I am to have this one.

Family (and friends) gather to celebrate Grandpa Lee. (Photo from Mel)

Baby shower brunch--silly picture! (Photo from Mel)

Girl cousin picture! (1995)
"Family" has always been a difficult concept for me to describe to people who ask me about mine. My cousins have always felt more like siblings to me when we spend time together and my grandparents were another set of hands that helped raise us all. I always looked forward to birthdays and holidays because it meant seeing everyone, which became more and more important as we got older and drifted apart geographically. Unfortunately, being the youngest of nine, I didn't grow up with them the way they got to experience growing up, which makes me sad because I don't have those same memories and photos they all do with each other. By the time I was in high school and old enough to wish I had them to talk to, they were all gone and off to college or living their adult lives. I was always the baby of the family. But I do remember the annual visits for a few years out to San Jose and sleeping on the trundle bed in Kimberly's room; the times spent marveling at Mel's super cool room with the decorations that now, looking back, seem soooo '90s (was it you who had the glow in the dark stars on the ceiling? Let's be honest, I totally mimicked your style.); the afternoons spent fighting with Chris over the remote at the grandparents' house because he wanted to watch science programs on PBS but Na and I wanted to watch Power Rangers. All nine of us spent good chunks of time in and out of my grandparents' house, and that house--which had been home to my grandparents and their children after a tumultuous immigration to America that had them living in cramped quarters downtown before finally owning their own home--was practically a second home for my cousins and me.

Na and me with Grandpa (I think 1992?)
When I look back on old family photos, whether they were before my time or included me in them, I start to think about what family would be like for me in the future. Would my potential offspring have the same sense of community I had while growing up? I truly believe the close family upbringing I had helped create the me that exists today. Would I be able to replicate that experience at all?

I'm excited to think about the additions to our family/FamiLee (lols) through marriages and children because the love that already exists is so overwhelming and how could you not want others to be a part of this? Sure, like any family, there are conflicts and disagreements, and I hear too often about so-and-so bickering with so-and-so, but in my opinion, none of that is relevant when it comes to the core of family love. The idea of having children will occasionally find me cringing, but I think I would want to have kids so that they could meet these wonderful individuals.

Grandparents--so elegant...

Grandpa at the house we all call home.
We put together a photo book for Grandpa that had photos from his and my grandma's early days in China to their family in Hong Kong to immigrating to America and adding all of us grandchildren to the mix. Looking at all of those photos makes me yearn for stories of the past. Even though Mom isn't their biological daughter, I'm fortunate that Grandma talked so much to her throughout the years about all of this so that she could pass down these stories to Na and me.

The more I hear, the more I want to hear, but that communication barrier between my grandparents and me exists all too prominently. It makes me wish I'd taken more care to practice my Cantonese so I could talk to my grandpa about his days serving the Nationalist army or I could ask my grandma about nursing school and about how she and my grandpa met during the war. I would ask my grandpa about how things were when they left China after the communists won and I'd want to know about the process and journey by sea to America, and what it was like from his eyes when they first stepped onto shore.

But all I have for now are photos and smatterings of stories passed down. There are so many more photos stored in multiple albums that we've been trying to scan for digital preservation. I love looking at these photos because they tell the story so well. It's probably why I was so obsessed with taking photos all throughout high school and college--because I've always had this secret fear that I'd forget it all and need the reminder. What would I tell my children when I couldn't remember a significant moment or two? But if they could see it...then it'd be like they were living it too.

Far left: Grandma, two friends from the boat, Grandpa and one of my uncles.
A short stop in Hawaii on the way to America (1964).

It's heartbreaking to think about the reality of mortality, and I don't want to even picture that inevitable day. I know I'm lucky to have those shared memories with my cousins of life at my grandparents' house though. It may not have been the most traditional upbringing, but it's all I know and I'm glad for it. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

thinking aloud.

I hate that some people are always trying to "find themselves." As Cortney pointed out during one of our long summer talks, "What are you looking for?? You're RIGHT. THERE."

I went through my Tumblr archives earlier because that's what I do when I'm in a funk: I look for inspiration from the familiar, because if there's anything I've learned from Cheever, it's that we hear the same lessons over and over, yet we are not always prepared to listen when we hear at first.

September 10, 2010: "I'm beginning to realize life is full of moving and searching- the idea of 'finding your place in this world' is so misleading because your place in the world is going to change, or move, or be split between several places." Based on my opening quote and this one from last year, I would say Cortney is the wisest person I know. It's true: nothing is permanent and we're always moving, changing, growing in ways we can't even fathom ourselves in the moment. It's beautiful and terrifying (mostly terrifying) and it should feel like you're floating out there in the universe on an asteroid alone. "What the hell am I doing?" you'll ask yourself, and you won't have an answer.

To sum up my feelings on "finding yourself," I can only turn to one of the most cliché phrases I know: "Life isn't about finding yourself, it's about creating yourself." It isn't about taking who we were in one place and transplanting it into our new environment. It isn't about holding onto those who made you who you were. You're in a new place, kid. Go make something of yourself.

Lately, I've found myself struggling with all of this. Here I am in an environment and place that is completely new to me. I go back and forth between wanting to be a hermit and wanting to be my old social self. But the anxieties I've grown to hide have manifested themselves in ways I sort of expected, and I think what I struggle with most right now is the attempt to purge myself of communications that can't be good for either party. I'm not growing in ways that will help others who are on that path toward creating themselves. I don't want to be the one to hold those people back, so maybe it's best to stop it right here.

This has gotten a bit emo, and I beg you to forgive me if you were expecting some deep philosophical insight into what it means to create yourself, but I've been exhausted lately and deeper in a funk. Maybe that impending thunderstorm will do me some good.

shaken and stirred.

I can't not blog about this earthquake.

USGS website screenshot taken after the quake.

As a native Californian, you can imagine that earthquakes are a normal occurrence in my life. I wouldn't say they happen every month, but when they do happen, it isn't surprising. My earliest memory of an earthquake was when I was three or four years old and the house started to shake in the middle of the night. I could hear the sliding doors of my parents' closets rattling, and I remember getting out of bed and running into the room. My mom was sitting up and assured me things would be okay. I don't remember how long it lasted, what the magnitude was, or if there were any aftershocks, but I went back to bed, and things were fine when I woke up. In schools, along with fire and lockdown drills, we had earthquake drills regularly and learned proper safety procedures of what to do and what not to do. It was just part of the routine to be prepared for natural disasters in California, from floods to wildfires.

Yesterday, a 5.8 earthquake hit Mineral, Virginia and spread along the east coast. It was barely a tremor here in Bethesda and lasted no more than 30 seconds. I was at my desk when the building began to shake and thought nothing at first until everyone around me jumped out of their chairs and someone called out, "Is that an earthquake?" I sat up, put both hands firmly on my desk and said, "Yes, it is." It stopped almost as soon as it started, and when it stopped, I sat back and continued to type, but people around me had started to grab their things as if they were going to evacuate. As I watched the chaos around me, I realized just how rare earthquakes were over here.

Within minutes, news from all over the east coast came pouring onto the web. Breaking news interrupted daily programming and Twitter was flooded with terror. They evacuated government buildings, shut down the metro and airports, etc. I was both confused and amused. I understand the initial fear: "Is this a terrorist attack? Was that a bomb?" were thoughts that ran through peoples' heads, and I can't say I know what either of those things feel like, but to me, it felt like an earthquake. My first instinct was to get under my desk, until I saw everyone try to leave the building and had to explain why that was one of the worst things you could do during an earthquake.

The east coast is not prepared for earthquakes. Many of these buildings have stood here for decades, even a century or two. It's not like in San Francisco, where after 1909, all of the buildings in the state were required to meet certain guidelines and older buildings have since been reinforced for safety. My old elementary school, which was constructed in 1899, was recently forced to relocate because the building was found to not meet certain safety requirements. It would seem that the reason a few buildings suffered damage here would be because they don't meet earthquake safety standards either. I can see why no one would think of it though--there hasn't been an earthquake this big since the 1800s here.

A crowd gathers yesterday at Pearl Street and Foley
Square (New York) after office buildings and courthouses
were evacuated following the quake.
--Michael Bocchieri/Getty Images
As images surfaced online and on TV of terrified citizens standing in the streets, all I could think was, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING??" Because if they were scared of more earthquakes or rolling aftershocks, being outside between tall, unstable buildings is not a good idea. The materials used for buildings and monuments over here are not the sturdiest. If anything is going to come crashing down on your head, it's going to be an ornate stone decoration that's been chilling at the top of a building for centuries.

So, I guess I can see why they shut down the metros and sent everyone home (even though that caused more of a gridlock than anything)--because nobody here is prepared for earthquakes. I'm sure if even a 4.0 hit the east coast, buildings would be damaged, because structures are not reinforced. Monuments and buildings are still closed even today. While this is shocking, I'm not surprised. This earthquake was not "a disaster" (see Haiti, Japan, etc.) and those structural cracks could be prevented had people/buildings been prepared. Also, injuries occur when people run out of buildings en masse (just an fyi for all you folks tripping over each other). Hopefully this is a nice wake-up call to people that natural disasters can happen anywhere and safety precautions should not be taken lightly.

Monday, August 22, 2011

'ban rape, not books.'

Speak, a young adult novel from the point
of view of a high school girl who was raped
and silenced, was recently considered to
be banned in the Republic School District.
The board voted to keep the book, but
banned two others for various concerns.
Ask yourself this: what do you do to protect yourself from rape? Byron Hurt reflected on this question back in March in an article for The Root:
"The following day, I attended a workshop about preventing gender violence, facilitated by Katz. There, he posed a question to all of the men in the room: "Men, what things do you do to protect yourself from being raped or sexually assaulted?"
Not one man, including myself, could quickly answer the question. Finally, one man raised his hand and said, "Nothing." Then Katz asked the women, "What things do you do to protect yourself from being raped or sexually assaulted?" Nearly all of the women in the room raised their hand. One by one, each woman testified:
"I don’t make eye contact with men when I walk down the street," said one.
"I don’t put my drink down at parties," said another.
"I use the buddy system when I go to parties."
"I cross the street when I see a group of guys walking in my direction."
"I use my keys as a potential weapon."
The women went on for several minutes, until their side of the blackboard was completely filled with responses. The men’s side of the blackboard was blank. I was stunned. I had never heard a group of women say these things before. I thought about all of the women in my life--including my mother, sister and girlfriend--and realized that I had a lot to learn about gender."
There are a lot of statistics and numbers that can be thrown around from year to year, and I'm surprised if you're surprised to learn that rape is one of the most under-reported crimes. Allegations of sexual abuse or assault are often not taken seriously and it's a shame to acknowledge that we live in a rape culture--one that teaches us "don't get raped" instead of "don't rape;" a system that labels domestic violence as a preexisting condition; a society that victim-blames and questions the victim's behavior before punishing an attacker. Men and women of every age can be a victim and anyone can be an attacker. It doesn't matter if the victim knows the attacker or not and it doesn't matter if the victim takes one day, one month or one year to report it--there is no excuse for rape.

Recently in North Hampton, Missouri, a lawsuit was filed against the Republic School District by the mother of a seventh-grade female special education student who was raped twice on school property. The first incident occurred during the 2008-09 school year. When school officials did not believe the girl after she reported it, she immediately withdrew her claims and was forced to write an apology letter to the boy who she accused. The girl was also expelled from the school. Officials failed to take note of the girl's file in which a psychological report stated "that [the girl] was conflict adverse, behaviorally passive and 'would forego her own needs and wishes to satisfy the request of others around so she can be accepted.'"

The girl was allowed back into school for the following year, where the same boy who had harassed and attacked her the year before raped her again. She did not report the rape in fear of being expelled a second time.

After an examination by the Child Advocacy Center, DNA evidence showed that she had, in fact, been raped. The boy was taken to Juvenile Court where he pleaded guilty. The current suit filed against the Republic School District and school officials was filed at the beginning of July, and the district's response came weeks later: "Plaintiff’s claims against the District are frivolous, and have no basis in fact or law. Therefore, the District Defendants are entitled to an award of their reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs."

The Springfield News-Leader also reports, "The girl failed and neglected to use reasonable means to protect her self, the response says. Any damages the girl may have sustained, 'were as a result of the negligence, carelessness, or conduct of third parties over whom the District Defendants had neither control nor the right to control,' according to the school district response."

Understandably and rightfully so, the community is outraged. "Both times they didn't believe her; that's the bottom line. If it can happen with her, it can happen with another child," said Casey Kaylor Crump, the creator of a Facebook event titled "A Protest Against Republic School's Handling of a Student's Rape."

"These educators have lost their privilege of teaching children in the community," Crump said.

Meanwhile, the Republic school board has banned two books, Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five and Sarah Ockler's Twenty Boy Summer, from library shelves. The board ironically voted to allow Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak to remain in schools.

An ad from Scotland that needs to be spread worldwide.

Every allegation of sexual harassment, assault, abuse and rape must be taken seriously. The more victims are scared into silence, the more endangered we all are. Rape happens. It can happen to anyone and it happens too often. The immediate assumption that every accusation is a false one is ignorant. To exist in a world where the abused are punished and made to feel ashamed of something they could not control is unacceptable. It's time we talk about this violence so that we no longer live in a rape culture.

Friday, August 19, 2011

oublions le passé.

A late exchange led to a simple and sad truth the other night: "Life seems to be about learning lessons a little too late to apply them."

I've been thinking about films and stories that shake a person into realizations and wondering why more of us don't immerse ourselves in things that will "wake us up." Perhaps because there is a danger in drowning and getting lost in those stories, but Cheever always made a point to tell us to stay grounded and not forget to go back into the cave with the knowledge we attained outside.

For the past few weeks, Midnight in Paris has been on my mind--not just because it's a delightful film, but it contains a delightful message that isn't thrown in your face. While some films beat their message into your brain (I'm looking at you, Legend of Bagger Vance), Woody Allen has done something genius by creating an absurd romp through place and time to make you nostalgic and desperate for the days of yore, only to slowly pull that sweet morsel away from your mouth at the last second before you overindulge.

I won't spoil the film for those who haven't seen it (and you really should see it), but the story's hero, Gil (Owen Wilson), stumbles upon another decade in Parisian history when the clock strikes midnight and is tossed into the world of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Picasso. But in the morning, he's back to the present and his less-than-pleasant fiancée (Rachel McAdams) and her snooty parents and pretentious friends. Every night, he returns to his 1920s romp and flirts with the beautiful and enigmatic Adriana (Marion Cotillard) and every night he drinks in the freedom; every morning, he yearns for the night. Then he discovers, Adriana yearns for the past as well--except her past is even farther in history for Gil. That's when he realizes that his past, the one he yearns for, is Adriana's present. "Maybe the present is a little unsatisfying is a little unsatisfying," he says to her.

This is the heart of the film, the message Allen is trying to convey. He doesn't need to explain the fantastical time travel and, by the end of the film, that's far from your mind. The realist who is bothered by the lack of explanation has clearly missed the point, and so I'm hoping you can wrap your mind around this realistic point: live in the present moment.

It's another thing Cheever used to always say, and I can point to all the times it was scrawled in large letters in bright ink on the top of my notes for the day. It's so much easier to be nostalgic for the past and think of it as a "better" or "simpler" time, or perhaps a more "interesting" one. We can ignore all of the problems associated with those past decades and focus on the things that interest us precisely because we don't actually live in those times. I'm sure a hundred years from now after we've colonized Venus, citizens will look back to 2011 and say, "I wish we could live in those days!"

Marion Cotillard and Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris.
I think what Gil says is true: we are constantly dissatisfied with our present because it is human nature to be. We're always looking backwards or forward, never appreciating what we have right here, right now because we seem to have a hard time just being happy. And what is "happiness" anyways? We want to believe the grass really is better on the other side of the fence, so we're always searching. I think sometimes we take our own torment too seriously--is life really that harsh?

The general answer, in my opinion, is, "No," but we're so concerned with the idea of "happiness" these days. In last month's issue of The Atlantic, Lori Gottlieb examined this conundrum too in her article "How to Land Your Kid in Therapy": "Nowadays, it’s not enough to be happy—if you can be even happier. The American Dream and the pursuit of happiness have morphed from a quest for general contentment to the idea that you must be happy at all times and in every way."

Which ties into another Midnight in Paris lesson, despite it having been said by one of the most annoying characters of the film: "Nostalgia is denial--denial of the painful present. The name for this denial is golden age thinking--the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one ones living in. It's a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present."

Now to just remember these lessons during the next existential crisis...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

the art of losing.

There are things I love and have taken for granted, yet these are the things that I find (especially now) to be what keep me motivated and strong:
  • Letters in the form of emails--the kind that share truth, wisdom, stories, honesty and advice.
  • Short, medium and long Skype/Facetime/phone calls, because there's something pure and wonderful about face-to-face or voice-to-ear communication. It lets someone know you care.
  • The question, "How are you doing?" and the time to truly care about the other person's response.
  • Text messages from friends on important days, wishing luck and giving encouragement and support.

Relocation brings about an interesting revelation as we discover that the people we make a point to keep in touch with through the above means are the ones who we keep in our lives as we move through each new chapter. At least, I've found this to be true. From high school through college and now out in the "real world," I've found myself working hard to sustain the friendships I've made. Unfortunately, we can't all stay in touch, and I've also found myself losing people who were once important to me. I hate to think that I prioritize my friendships, butI think that we all do that. It's impossible to be close to every single person who's touched our life in some way.

Four years ago, I started to lose touch with someone whom I spoke with almost every single day. Now, we don't talk at all. I haven't spoken to her in about two years. Even now, I'm slowly drifting apart from people I've been close with for the past one to six years. I recognize this, and I'm trying to find a way to deal with it. Because nobody likes drifting apart, but it happens. Some will say this is just how things go, but I want to fight for the friendships who've brought me this far. At least I want to try. It has to be a two-way street, though, and honestly? It's gotten more and more exhausting to tug at the arms of those who aren't meeting you halfway. I think I'm ready to pull over and turn off the engine.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

notes from a monument.

"Is it weird that this is so new?"

Dave posed this question as we walked along the "Garden of Remembrance" in Seattle. The memorial wall was divided by wars and engraved with names of local fallen soldiers. We stopped at the newest addition to the wall: Iraq-Afghanistan. When you run your fingers against the names on this section, you can't help but note how clean it looks. To the right, the names of the Vietnam War have dulled from decades of harsh Seattle weather. What was once "present" has been replaced by a new and unfortunate battle.

History is constantly being added to. This is not a novel concept, but it seems to be groundbreaking when you're standing somewhere that holds a story, when you walk somewhere where millions have before. We are adding to the history of places and things, and that just feels...big. It's crazy to think about. It isn't just our own story we are affecting as we live; it is the world's.

Daunting. Scary. Weird. Everywhere we walk, others have walked it before and others will continue to walk it long after we pass through. Everywhere we sit, eat, talk, breathe... "Sometimes I wonder if all we do is just live lives people have already lived," Cortney wrote to me earlier today. I wonder that too.

Being in DC and surrounded by history every corner I turn is a strange and unfamiliar experience. Irvine was a city with a buried and convoluted history. In Irvine, I could stand in the spot where Chancellor Aldrich led UCI's first protest, but it seems to be a moment in history very few care to care about. Here, you can stand in the spot where Martin Luther King shared his dream, and here, you can circle the shelves of Thomas Jefferson's library collection. It's different. It's still the past, it's still history, but it feels...different.  This isn't to say that Irvine's history is unimportant. We all value different things, and I think what I'm learning is to value the beauty that comes with the privilege to exist in a world with such a rich background--a background none of us can ever truly know everything about. It's like with people: we should take the time to appreciate the small details of a person's life as well as the major things that make them who they are.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

cross-country relocation, part two.

I'm blogging to you, live, from my room!

Step four: Find a place to live.
Clearly, you know I have a place to live because I'm in it right now. I found a place through the NIH listserv, which turns out is a very resourceful tool. At the moment I'm living with medical and science folk, but they will soon be leaving to return to school in the fall. Their replacements are TBA to me, but I believe they are all in a medical-related field - after all, my house is right across the street from the Suburban Hospital. Convenient in case another car hits me, and the way these Maryland drivers drive, I wouldn't be surprised...

Step five: Discover that Californians aren't the worst drivers in the country.
Say what you want about southern California traffic, nothing is as bad as rush hour in the DMV (District-Maryland-Virgina) area during rush hour. Especially when the sporadic thunderstorms begin and rain is dumped on unsuspecting commuters. You'd think that with 55mph speed limits on the freeways (yep, 55), people would be more conscientious. Definitely not true. Oh, and Maryland drivers seem to think that the suicide and turn lanes are regular lanes. Or maybe that's how they actually work here?

Step six: Be charmed by bricks.
Almost all of the buildings in Bethesda are made of bricks. The sidewalks are too. It feels so old and historic. Downtown Bethesda is amazing and I'm already captivated by the area, much in the same way I was instantly charmed by Portland. There are pubs and restaurants (so many!) and thrift stores everywhere. Though there is only one Starbucks (at least, that I saw), there are other coffee locales that I hope are lovely enough to frequent. A free circulator bus drives around downtown every 10 minutes and the metro station is located right in the heart of the area. A Trader Joe's recently opened up downtown too--yay! (Tomorrow will be my day of exploring, now that I'm unpacked...)

Step seven: Be a DC tourist.
"I can be ridiculous because I don't go to school here," Katie once said to Cortney, Al and me as we waffled around Sac State, embarrassing Cortney as she headed to a meeting. The same philosophy holds true for me currently. I'm technically working in Maryland, so I might as well be a typical tourist in DC while my parents are visiting. There are literally millions of things to do in DC all the time, and most of it is free. Everything is historic and everything is grand and awe-inspiring. I have a list of things I want to go back and see on my own time, and I already feel like I need more time! The great thing about the metro system (despite its many flaws) is that it takes you everywhere in the area you'd want to go. The public transportation system in the east coast is brilliant and definitely wins over the west coast on this one.

Step eight: Observe the locals.
Hipsters everywhere.

This is an incredibly lackluster blog entry, but I'm exhausted and it's past midnight. Check for photos on Flickr! I'm off to bed to prepare for tomorrow's (rainy) exploration...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

cross-country relocation, part one.

I'm used to moving, but I've never done anything like this. Three thousand miles is a really long way from home. When I left Sacramento the first time, my last weeks were spent with Cortney, Alex and Katie and doing ridiculous things like camping in the Copelands' backyard. The night before moving out of the dorms, Andrea and I stayed up all night and went to Starbucks at 5 a.m. because of their 24-hour schedule for finals week. Before leaving CV, I had weird encounters with...people. The last night I had the Oxford place, after bottles of wine and campus wandering, a handful of soon-to-be Humanities grads came over and downed more wine by the bottles in my furniture-less living room, followed by more drinks at the pub and more drinks elsewhere after that. My last night in Irvine was a near all-night dance through the Orange County I had learned to love.

But that seems simple compared to the present. What's the best way to start an east coast adventure?

Step one: Say goodbye in style and with love.
Before leaving Rancho, I did the typical outings with my sister soulmates and danced in the dark with bubbles and smiles. You might think I sound crazy, but if you could've only been there...The thing I've learned about moving is to have fun with it. No need for depressing goodbyes. I know that I'll keep in touch with Cortney, Rachel and Alex. It's been eight years so far--how could I not? Follow all this with a morning coffee surprise from Daniel (because what's more surprising than hot coffee!) and a final night with Cortney, and there's all the confidence that I need to fly...

Step two: See the rest of the west.

The west coast, that is. I've been as far south as San Diego and as far north as Portland. There are only three states on this coast and I'd be damned if I missed out on Washington.

Seattle is beautiful, for those who've never been. Downtown Seattle is less shiny than downtown Portland, but it's still got that Bay Area feel. The blocks are filled with coffee shops and rug stores (so random), and the tourist areas don't feel too congested. The Seattle lightrail system is convenient and clean, and the stations remind me of BART. The weather isn't too sporadic, nor does it feel boring and dry. It's breezy, but not cold; warm, but not suffocating. Other major highlight: the central library. Holy. Shit. Ten floors of reflective beauty and books. Plus, art! Music! Maps! I could spend hours there.

The other great thing about Seattle is having the right people to send you off. Ingredients: 1 best friend; 2 amazing cousins; 4 family friends. Stir gently with food (plus a light dose of alcohol) and scenery, and bake at 350 for a couple of days. It's weird to go from seeing someone regularly to being separated by hundreds of miles. But as Dave pointed out Saturday night: even 1200 miles from Orange County, we still lol about the same stupid shit. Of course, I wouldn't trade that for anything. Also, "Hobbits never drink alone." If you're not TFC to be reading this right now, I hope you know I still love you even if you've decided you'd rather be bros with my mom. She's cooler than me anyways.

Seeing Mel and Matt was a lot of fun too. Ever since Kim's wedding last summer, I've missed spending time with all of my cousins. The older we get, the more we appreciate these ties. I love that we don't have to talk all of the time to still have fun together, and still be close to. The more I think about it, the more excited I get for August's reunion. Eight cousins is a lot to have, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Dinner with the Wongs was nice as well. It's good to see the people you practically grew up with in their own environment.

Step three: Fall asleep, wake up on the east coast!
There is nothing worse than a five-hour direct flight and being awake to suffer through the crying children and stuffy businessmen.

Upon arriving in DC, all I could think was, "This airport is really shiny." It's a fucking huge airport, for starters. Second, it's deceivingly chilly for the summer. The second I stepped outside, it felt line Sacramento. But then it started pouring, and it stopped feeling like Sacramento.

The strangest thing so far has been adjusting to the three-hour time difference. All of the usual suspects I text/call/IM on a normal basis feel so far away...

Bonus step: Have an amazing mother.
I can't help you with this one. I just hope you're lucky too.

Coming up next in part two: What the future is like.