Saturday, December 29, 2012

not-so-resolute resolutions.

Oh, the places you'll go...

The night I quit my sorority, I sat in Reveka's living room unsure of what to do next. I hadn't expected the identity crisis that came with leaving an organization that wasn't for me in the first place, but here I was--over a year into college and feeling more lost than when I first began. 

"You need a distraction," Reveka said, and brought up this new project she'd heard about from somebody else: The Day Zero Project encouraged people to make lists of 101 things they wanted to do in 1001 days. You had to write down specific things you wanted to do, and give yourself a deadline. 

I went home that night and started compiling a list. I stopped several times. The thing that scared me the most was knowing I wouldn't be able to accomplish everything. I just knew I wouldn't be able to, and not because I wouldn't try, but because I had this incredibly cliche fear of failure. I didn't want to make plans because I'd made so many of them before and they didn't work out.

But the website said to "welcome failure," so I figured I'd give it a shot. 

I made a list of 101 things I wanted to do by October 5, 2011. That day seemed so far away for a college sophomore sitting in her apartment engulfed in guilt for leaving her sisters and fear of not having a plan anymore. October 5, 2011 meant not being in college anymore and it meant even more uncertainty. Who knew, after all, what would happen in the next 2.75 years?

It's funny when I think back to making this list and all of the anxieties I had about it. It's even funnier to look ahead at June 2011 at my commencement speech where I encouraged thousands to embrace the unknown, the fear, the failures. In my list of 101 things, I never once considered listing "growing up"--but that's so vague, isn't it? 

According to my Word document, I stopped keeping track of the things on my list in June 2010, about a year and a half before my deadline. As I look at the list now, I see many more things I've accomplished, both inside and outside of my October 5, 2011 deadline. Maybe I've always kept this list in the back of my mind because there are quite a few things on here I've done that I never thought I would.

But there's so much more, of course, I still haven't done. Perhaps one day I will, but what revisiting this list has taught me is that it isn't too late to do all of the things you've wanted. Life is short, and we should be living every day as if there is the potential to achieve something new, something grand. Sure, I haven't found a way to pet a panda yet (grr, someday!), but I have learned to knit a hat. I won't ever stand in Times Square on New Year's Eve (what was I thinking?), but perhaps someday I will learn how to tie a bow tie and I do have plans to get a manicure after the holidays with Sarah.

At the risk of sounding self-indulgent (is that the right phrase?), I think I really get why I was so adamant in my commencement speech to emphasize that plans don't always work out. My life is proof of that--everything I thought I'd do at a certain time in a certain place turns out to have changed, and I really believe that who I am right now and where I am right now is where I'm supposed to be. At senior retreat in high school, Mrs. Sparks had said to me, "You are where you're supposed to be," and I never really got that until years later after constantly doubting my place, my identity, my purpose. 

Soon, it will have been four years since I first made that list of 101 things. It will also be two years since graduating from college, and one year since I've moved to New York. I may not have accomplished everything I thought I would, but it doesn't mean I should end my goals now. There's more to dream and more to do, so here we go...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

the way i see it: there's a blog for every emotion.

I think I'm destined to be the Taylor Swift of writing--as in: every emotion is out there on the table. Every heartbreak, every tear, every night full of laughs and fun... A writer sees life differently than most, I've come to find, and so perhaps I'm no different than Joan Didion or Nora Ephron--or at least my dream is to strive to be like them: to articulate it all while avoiding that "Dear Diary..." feeling.

One of the things Amy told us at the start of Personal Essay was that the mark of a good personal piece is to speak to a larger audience than just your own eyes and ears. Humans share experiences, though sometimes we think we're alone in our emotions, and if you have the ability to articulate the feeling an event provides, then do it because it will undoubtedly speak to someone else.

That's the thing about things like moving across the country or being hurt by someone you loved: you're not alone in feeling lost, alone, scared, angry, hurt. And I hope that by reading about someone else's experiences, it can help to ease whatever anxiety or pain is bottled up inside the soul.

There may never be answers for some of the things that happen in life, but it doesn't mean we need to write it off as unimportant. As a new year approaches, I think it's important to start looking back and moving forward rather than looking back and staying put as I've done so often this year. It will be 2013 soon, and I want to continue to experience new sights and new people. I want to continue dreaming. I hope to look deeper beyond news flashes and learn more about the world. I think I need to reflect on the last three years I allowed myself to be used and discarded, and maybe I'll never understand why it all happened this way, but perhaps I can regain my strength to love someday.

There's a passage from Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking that sums it up best, and what I hope explains why I write and why I write so candidly and unafraid:
"This is my attempt to make sense of the period that followed, weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I had ever had about death, about illness, about probability and luck, about good fortune and bad, about marriage and children and memory, about grief, about the ways in which people do and do not deal with the fact that life ends, about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself. I have been a writer my entire life. As a writer, even as a child, long before what I wrote began to be published, I developed a sense that meaning itself was resident in the rhythms of words and sentences and paragraphs, a technique for withholding whatever it was I thought or believed behind an increasingly impenetrable polish. The way I write is who I am, or have become, yet this is a case in which I wish I had instead of words and their rhythms a cutting room, equipped with an Avid, a digital editing system on which I could touch a key and collapse the sequence of time, show you simultaneously all the frames of memory that come to me now, let you pick the takes, the marginally different expressions, the variant readings of the same lines. This is a case in which I need more than words to find the meaning. This is a case in which I need whatever it is I think or believe to be penetrable, if only for myself."
Cheers to more words that mean more than empty promises.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

on being a straight ally.

My view while waiting to march with Mormons
Building Bridges at NYC Pride 2012.
A friend recently asked me where my interest in reporting on LGBT issues came from, and it made me pause. I'd been asked this before, in job interviews and on a personal level, and my answers have varied. But what I think I avoided was talking about the personal story behind my passion for what I believe is one of the most important civil rights issues of our time.

When I was 19, one of my best friends came out to me. It was a very personal moment, and one that I didn't know how to respond to. It was the first time someone so close had come out to me. It was a big moment for him and it was huge to be one of his first confidantes, and I saw the anguish in his face as he tried to find the words. Over the course of the next year, I watched his journey as he struggled to accept who he was in the context of his family and of society. In the years that followed the first year of hardships were more challenges, and my admiration and appreciation grew for him tenfold. 

And then the suicides began making national headlines, and the reality of the world we live in hit even harder. Seeing Prop 8 pass had been one thing, but suddenly it became terrifying: kids were ending their lives because of hatred that is truly and unfortunately the norm. It wasn't just policy in this country that was hurting a community; it was our culture. 

I began to read more and learn more, and as I did, there was a personal aspect to all this too: my best friend. A wonderful person who didn't deserve to be discriminated against for simply being who he is. And all of the kids ending their lives, all of the people unable to live safely and equally in a tolerant society…they were best friends of others too. 

It seems like an obvious and simple realization, but it's a powerful enough of one to make you really think about the inequality and injustice too many people face. When people asked me in college why I wanted to be a journalist, I always said it was because I wanted to give a voice to the voiceless. It's because I want to tell stories, and tell them well; to unveil truths and to encourage a conversation. 

Somewhere between college and the real world, I lost that dream. I lost the drive and ambition to be a storyteller. I began adding to the noise, and not contributing to the conversation. The few moments where I had the opportunity to do what I studied in college to do in the real world were precious, but few, and I still pride myself on covering the Super Bowl parade (that became a story on the controversy behind whether or not the city should host a parade for returning Iraq war vets), the NYC Pride March (that was a story on a group of Mormons marching for the first time in support of equality), and Occupy Wall Street (that examined the one-year anniversary of the movement that seemed to have come from nowhere) on the ground, and not from my desk while on the phone. 

And when I looked back on those moments, and farther back to the reporting I did while interning in D.C., I realized that I can and still do have the chance to tell the stories that matter. I jumped back in with an incredible story of a 21-year-old activist's coming out and how it inspired him to do something crazy creative to raise money for an LGBT youth center and homeless shelter in NYC that suffered severe damage from Hurricane Sandy. 

In reporting and writing that story, I remembered why I wanted to be a journalist: because people have incredible stories, and with the right questions to capture the emotions of the moment, those stories can be inspiring, heartbreaking, captivating, and beautiful. When I think back to my best friend, who is now in a lovely and committed relationship, I realize that I learned to ask those "right" questions because of him and because of what he taught me in this journey he went through that he let me be a part of.

I truly believe the movement for LGBT rights and equality is one of the biggest fights of our time, and I believe in the stories to tell surrounding it. And maybe the words I write now won't be around 20 years from now, and these stories will fade the second they go up online. But what matters is that it's happening right now, and that there are lives being lived right now full of the struggles that come with discrimination from a society that still contains some who will choose to inflict pain rather than embrace love. 

Friday, December 14, 2012


From a vigil in Times Square (via Instagram)
I could recap the news for you, but the horror is well-known. I could list out statistics and rant and ask, "When is enough enough?" (Today may not have been the day to talk about gun control, as some have said. That's correct, because yesterday was when we should have had that conversation.) But I can't string any coherent thoughts together.

I can just say this: It is almost 2013. After today, I'll have sat in that newsroom for half a dozen mass shootings. I remember each day what happened--when I woke up, how I got the news, what I saw on our network and online, how long I was in the newsroom, how I got home... It never gets easier, you never really get numb from all this. Especially not today when you hear this one sentence, stated over and over: Of all of the victims, 20 dead were ages 5 through 10.

The night of the Aurora shooting, I was the last to leave the newsroom. It was just me, Keva, and Will, communicating via messenger in our different locations. When I did finally leave, it was late. I took a taxi home because I couldn't see myself making it on the subway, and--well, you know the story: I significantly freaked out the taxi driver by sobbing the entire drive home. He gave me a box of tissues. I went to my room and cried the rest of the night. (Granted, I was also going through my own unnecessary personal drama.)

Tonight, I saw the same thing happening, but am so grateful to have a nighttime editor in the same newsroom now, so I didn't have to endure it alone. And tonight, I was also so, so lucky to have someone bring me food and give me a hug and spend the night talking about everything.

And then there was a text from my mother. And IMs from friends. And reconciliation with another friend. And a message from the family of a person who kicked me out of his life. And tweets from people I've never met in person.

You forget sometimes to tell people you love them. It's easy to let people slip away. Sadly, it takes something unimaginable to become a reality before you remember.

Today, in one word, was horrifying. Perhaps, one day, we will not see this evil anymore.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

RIP Roy, the 'heart and soul' of SFES.

Last week, God called one of his angels home. From yesterday's Sacramento Bee:
Many days [Roy McKnight] arrived at school before 5 a.m. He unlocked the building, turned on the lights, cleared debris from around the school and "made sure everything was safe and ready for the children," said extension director Patti Sanchez. He cleaned bathrooms, emptied trash cans, plugged leaks, set up tables for bake sales and built decorations for holiday celebrations.

"He went about his work very quietly. He just got things done," said Ramirez.

As the sun came up and students began to arrive, McKnight stood outside and greeted each child by name before they scampered past Ramirez and into the building. He inquired about their families, zipped their jackets and told them to have a good day.

At lunch and recess, he supervised the playground, often joining in games of tag and tetherball. He was fun and mischievous in his role as hall monitor, but a stickler about rules against running in the hallways and talking too loudly.

More than once, he came home with bumps and bruises "from getting hit with a ball or running into a wall while he was playing with the kids," said Calagno.
Roy really did remember every students' names, and their parents too. My dad still has really good memories of conversations with him before and after school, and Roy always remembered the little details of what they would talk about.

Roy always encouraged me to get off the bench at recess and play sports I didn't really want to play, and when I started losing my hair and stopped talking to people, he made the crueler kids stop picking on me and let me spend recesses with my books again.

He helped me put up my posters when I decided to run for student council and, after I won, he helped me put more recycling bins on the playground and fix the broken stall doors in the girl's bathroom.

Rest in peace, Roy--truly the "heart and soul" of St. Francis Elementary.

Friday, November 30, 2012

on violence and our culture of victim blaming.

More of my own story in an earlier post this year.

A friend recently confessed to me about a moment when an instructor in college came onto her. While telling me this story, she followed it up quickly with, "I didn't tell anyone because I was so embarrassed." She was afraid people would think horrible things about her, and she felt like she brought it onto herself for being too nice or perhaps because she dressed the wrong way.

I immediately jumped up on my portable soapbox after she told me this. (Kidding--I don't carry one around with me, although sometimes I wish I did.) "You shouldn't feel embarrassed or scared!" I said, ranting about this culture of victim blaming we live in.

But over the next day, I thought more about this--how my friend, a very smart, very confident young woman, could think that this violation of her being was somehow her fault. For years, I've reported on sexual violence and abuse, and it always shocked me to hear men and women of all ages say they are at fault for another person's violent actions against them.I remember a moment while reporting this story for NPR when Jenny and I were outside a coffee shop around Georgetown talking with a group of college girls about sexual harassment. One of the girls, a first year, made the suggestion that a woman's choice of clothing might "bring on" harassment, and her friend, a third year, immediately jumped on that comment.

It was that conversation that made me really see how important it was for sexual violence to be discussed in public. It doesn't matter who you are--assault and abuse can still happen, and when it does, the fear can be paralyzing and you aren't sure what to do next.

Or maybe you do speak up, but society still is programmed to work against you. One victim of assault I spoke with about a year ago told me one of the first things that happened after she went to the police was an interrogation by a group of male officers about her attack. The one thing they did that they thought would make her feel better? They put a female officer in the room to hold her hand.

The issue hits close to home for many reasons: since coming forward and speaking myself about my own experience as a survivor, I've had friends and strangers come to me with their stories too. Online projects like Project Unbreakable have also given survivors a platform to speak in a society where their voices are often buried. Slowly, but surely, there must be a way to give power back to the broken and abused?

Perhaps this is why the recent details surrounding Rihanna and Chris Brown's rekindled relationship strikes so hard. Here was a very public relationship gone wrong before the cameras. People were shocked because now we were having to talk about violence and abuse. We couldn't avoid it.

Survivors felt empowered in 2009 after Rihanna's first interview after the high-profile assault, where she boldly admitted, "It was a wake-up call for me. Big time. I will say that to any young girl who is going through domestic violence: don't react off of love. F--- love. Come out of the situation and look at it in the third person and for what it really is... I even went back after he beat me, which was wrong."

And yet, in popular culture today, Brown is still celebrated and rewarded. He has a loyal fanbase who have no shame in tweeting things like, "I'd let Chris Brown beat me up anytime ;) #womenbeater." Then there's the recent event of Brown deleting his Twitter account after an online fight with comedian Jenny Johnson, in which Brown tweeted, "Just ask Rihanna if she mad??????" what? A recent New York Magazine piece articulates the confusion well: "Most of us know it's never cool to blame the victim," Ann Friedman writes. "We know that Chris Brown is the real asshole here. But how do we support [Rihanna] when she just wants us to support him?" And that's the real question, right? How do we condemn this behavior without lashing out at the woman who has returned to her attacker?

Maybe we can remind Rihanna of what she said three years ago in that ABC interview:
"It's completely normal to go back. It's not right. I learned the hard way, but again, this is what I want people to know. When I realized that my selfish decision for love could result in some young girl getting killed, I could not be easy with that part. I couldn't be held responsible for going back."

Monday, November 26, 2012

a changing season.

Friendsgiving 2012.
Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday growing up. It was a time when dozens of us would gather at my grandparents' house, in matching outfits when we were kids, and watch movies and laugh and eat. There was something simple and fun about the evening, something that set it apart from the other times we would gather to watch movies and laugh and eat.

Things were already changing when I left for college, but I knew that turning point would never be the same. I've missed four years of holidays and birthdays and other family events--from sicknesses to celebrations. Leaping across the country after graduation was another major step away from everyone I knew and who knew me.

Thanksgiving last year in Albany was lovely; this year, I wanted it to be just as wonderful here in the city. It truly was beyond any expectations, and I forgot how wonderful it was to spend time with people you never thought you'd be looking in the eye on a Thursday night and thinking, "I love them."

For the past month or two, I'd been feeling like New York was another dead end, a place I wanted to run away to only to be chased and hurt within the walls of my own home. I'd already run from the west coast, run from every place that held too many memories that cluttered my mind, and I was looking to start over. When that was taken from me here, I thought there would be nothing that could help ease me away from the stinging pain of loving back into the joyful pain of living.

The city is changing in a slow yet subtle way and I, with it, can only imagine a future where everything that once burned is now bright.

Friday, November 9, 2012

New York City's Sunday punch.

I think New Yorkers are more expressive than a lot of people because they're constantly having to deal with and confront their, and others', emotions. New Yorkers are used to living, working, breathing in a city that throws you into crowds with zero hesitation, and they never get a moment of privacy while they're out and about living their lives. That argument on the train, that tear-soaked confession on the sidewalk, that really funny moment in the's all there, on display, and it's not just yours to enjoy; it belongs to the city.

I remember the first time I had a panic attack on the train. It was in the early days of moving to the city, and there was something overwhelming about the events in between work and my apartment, and I fought back tears so hard that I ended up blinding myself and having to let them loose anyways.

And nobody really noticed. One look around a subway car on any commute, and you'll see a thousand different emotions on the faces of the tired, the angry, the heartbroken, the joyful. It's not weird to sit on the subway and cry, and once in awhile, a kind stranger offers you a tissue or napkin to dry your face.

In California, people find sanctuary in their cars. You get inside and you turn up the music until whatever it is you're feeling subsides. People don't stand on sidewalks in California and cry like lost five-year-olds. I've stood on many sidewalks in New York and fallen apart. But so have a lot of people.

Earlier, after work, I got on the F to Brooklyn and immediately fell apart. Three seats down, there was another girl doing the exact same thing.

Living in New York has made me more emotional than I've ever been in my life. Through college, I was guarded (for many reasons), but there's something about this city that has forced me to open up. Perhaps it's the fact that the city literally fights its residents every day, with subway delays and other minor inconveniences that add up to a lot, until your soul splits open and your mind screams, "WAIT, but don't you know me??" Or maybe I've just changed so much from the person I was when I left California more than a year ago, and only now have I finally caught up to the pace of the world I live in. Or maybe it was the oddly-timed arrival of a shadowy figure who turned out to be nothing more than a metaphorical sledgehammer to my whole being (warning, friends: be careful who you trust to carry your deepest, darkest secrets) and left me with these thoughts to share, and nobody to share them with.

New York is supposed to exhaust you as much as it exhilarates you too. It's supposed to drain you and make you feel like you've given everything you have until you have no choice but to sit on a subway and cry. I think that's how you know you're doing it right: when the pangs of growing and changing, and the challenges associated with it, hit you over and over each day until you become numb, and then one day--somehow--you stand up a little bit taller and hit back.

I'll get there someday, I think.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

in solitude comes perspective.

Blackie surveys daylight from my room.
Being cooped up for days, alone with nobody to talk to but a fluffy and fickle cat as a monstrous storm wrecks your city, makes you think. It makes you crazy to stare out of two walls of windows as day turns to night, and in that insanity, it makes you breathe creativity. At least, that's how it feels as a writer. All of those emotions and thoughts and visions pour out of your head and hover above your living room as you struggle to write it all down before it disappears. I am filled with more words now than I was just three days ago.

I've always said that New York City is a place that makes me want to write. It's a place filled with stories on every block, and I always feel inspired by the sights and the sounds.

As full as this city is, it's also isolating. I sat through Hurricane Sandy alone.

Every time an accident happens or some story on the news of a fatality arises, I think about how small I feel. Every time I'm asked to fill out an emergency contact in this city, I hesitate. Would anyone notice in this city if I didn't show up? Work, yes, but that's because it's work and they have to see me every day.

I didn't go to college here, or anywhere on this coast. The family I do have on the East Coast is too far away and too out of reach. My first three months in New York were quiet. I was broke anyways, so I had nowhere to go.

The funny thing about that solitary time was the perspective I gained: I knew eventually I would have people in my life in this city who were friends with whom I would love, inspire, laugh, celebrate, cry...and I was right. It doesn't matter that I don't have a vast spiderweb of contacts like I did in college, and it doesn't matter that someone very important to me promised, "I wouldn't move to New York and then just abandon you" and then did; what matters is that we find our people sooner or later. We find the ones we can grow with, the ones we can learn from, the ones we can lean on. We understand why it's important not to settle.

And, just as important as those who are 30 blocks or 30 minutes away, are the ones who are thousands of miles away and checking in to make sure you're alive during a hurricane--from family to best friends to friends I haven't heard from in a year or even a decade. I am blessed to have all of these people in my life, and I recognize how lucky I am.

So that makes it okay that I picked up and left my home state on my own. It's okay that I still feel unfamiliar. And it's okay that I lost a very important person along the way. Because I think it's noteworthy that, in leaving and in losing, I've pushed myself to become more open, more honest, and more resilient to the pain of living.

Cheers to my friends riding out the storm up and down the coast! We're surviving.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

a New York story.

I sometimes feel like I'm "doing New York" wrong.

When I moved here in January, I gave myself three days to find a place to live. It took me five. I was on Craigslist non-stop for the week leading up to my move, and I visited places all up and down the city. In the end, I settled in Harlem, and I've enjoyed it. The commute from some of my favorite places can sometimes feel like forever, but it's never been impossible. The subways move beneath the city like an endless pulse, and it's nice to be able to indulge my introverted side and get away from the chaos of a crowd.

Perhaps I'm doing something wrong by not living in Brooklyn or in the bowels of the Lower East Side. Perhaps the dream is to live in a shitty studio apartment with five of your closest friends and drink every night until the realities of the real world press in. I don't think that's ever truly the case for anyone though, as much as we can all talk and joke about it. In the end, I believe that I can find passion and chase dreams in this city while still having a room to call my own and enough food to get me through the day.
"Was anyone ever so young? I am here to tell you that someone was. All I could do during those three days was talk long-distance to the boy I already knew I would never marry in the spring. I would stay in New York, I told him, just six months, and I could see the Brooklyn Bridge from my window. As it turned out the bridge was the Triborough, and I stayed eight years.

In retrospect it seems to me that those days before I knew the names of all the bridges were happier than the ones that came later, but perhaps you will see that as we go along. Part of what I want to tell you is what it is like to be young in New York, how six months can become eight years with the deceptive ease of a film dissolve, for that is how those years appear to me now, in a long sequence of sentimental dissolves and old-fashioned trick shots--the Seagram Building fountains dissolve into snowflakes, I enter a revolving door at twenty and come out a good deal older, and on a different street." 
-"Goodbye To All That" - Joan Didion (1967)
A traveling cellist at the Lincoln Center stop.
Growing up, New York City was always just one cloud filled with the dreams of a million. Now, I know the differences between the boroughs, and I can tell you how often the R train doesn't come. There's something so true about the way familiarity can strip the excitement out of a city. You learn what bridge is what and you learn what subway trains are the worst for late-night commutes. You pick up on the shortcuts. You let your optimism be clouded by jaded natives.

In some ways, I spent the first few months here feeling jaded that this wasn't the city I thought it would be. And yet, I'm falling in love with it now in a way I think Didion learned to love it too before she couldn't bear to exist in the throng of people on Madison Ave. "You see I was in a curious position in New York: it never occurred to me that I was living a real life there," Didion adds in "Goodbye To All That." I get that. I can see it in my future: I don't know if I can ever really call myself a New Yorker. I'll always be a Californian at heart.

But for now, in the present moment, it isn't that I have no interest in finding the narrative I feel I "should" be experiencing. Somebody once said to me that New York was the "city of singleness," and why would anyone ever want to settle down here? But that's silly. That's absolutely silly.

I don't feel this urge to paint myself into a portrait on the canvas where others who cling to their masks so strongly have embedded themselves. I am, for once, living without worrying about living.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

(late) fill-in-the-blank friday: lasts.

  1. The last thing I ate was a free bagel, which was not very good, but it was free and it was 6 a.m.
  2. The last time I went to the beach was over a year ago ... I don't think I've been to a beach since I moved east.
  3. My last vacation was about a month ago when I flew home for a few days to celebrate a bunch of birthdays and Father's Day with my family.
  4. The last place I drove was somewhere in Sacramento, when I was still living there.
  5. The last song I listened to was "Ticket to Ride" by the Beatles.
  6. The last thing I watched on TV was The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell (ha, how fitting for this theme), because it was the last show I worked on last night before leaving work. I did watch an episode of How I Met Your Mother last night off Michael's laptop, but that doesn't really count since it wasn't on a television haha...
  7. The last time I said "I love you" was yesterday.
(via lauren @ the little things we do)

Friday, October 5, 2012

subway sights.

I watched two small girls make conversation on the subway this morning. It was effortless, natural.

"Here, let's be friends," one said to the other.

"Let's have play dates," the other responded.

They were both four, according to their fathers, who sat looking shy and timid next to their talkative daughters.

The first little girl who initiated conversation had long red hair that was tied back into a simple ponytail. She had on a yellow blouse and navy blue skirt. "This is my school uniform," she told her new friend.

The other girl was smaller and had curly brown hair and dark skin. She wore a rainbow tank top and jeans, and she was attached to her young father sitting next to her, constantly holding his hand and poking him in the face.

After a couple of stops of the girls laughing and playing 'patty cake,' the fathers started talking to one another too about school and where uptown they lived and how lovely it was to raise children in the city.

The young dad and his curly-haired girl got off the subway at 96th, and the other girl watched her go sadly. A few stops later, another little girl and her mother got on the train, and the girls started talking again, while the mother made hesitant small talk with the father.

When do we start to put our guards up? At what age do we hesitate to talk to a stranger unless the circumstances call for it? When will the world become scary for those two four year old girls?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

but maybe i shouldn't want someone like you.

This is practically a no-brainer, but it's been on my mind lately: I see it on Tumblr at lot, or even Facebook and Twitter and Youtube. There's this tendency, this need to paint Adele's anthem of heartbreak "Someone Like You" as that song that will be the soundtrack for your pain and recovery. Don't get me wrong--it's a beautiful song. Adele sings it beautifully. The music video is beautiful. But I've really grown to resent it over time.

"Never mind, I'll find someone like you"? But why would I want someone like you? ("You" being the guy who pretty callously placed my heart on IKEA floating shelf and then took an ax to the whole damn wall.)

I mean, think about it. This seemingly-perfect guy who made the world feel whole and warm broke Adele's heart, and went off and settled down with some other girl so quickly after telling Adele he didn't want to settle down. Then he went and did it anyways, and it had nothing to do with not wanting to settle down; he just didn't want to settle down with Adele. "I can imagine being about 40 and looking for him again, only to turn up and find that he's settled with a beautiful wife and beautiful kids and he's completely happy," she revealed about the inspiration behind the song, "and I'm still on my own."

That blows.

Have you ever felt like "that person" was embarrassed of you? As if they didn't want you around and didn't want to introduce you to his/her friends or coworkers or family? As if "that person" has this overwhelming need to remove you from his/her life? I bet Adele never got introduced anywhere. I bet Adele would be used and tossed aside. I bet Adele wouldn't have gotten left alone at a Brooklyn subway stop at 3 a.m.

Okay, I'm projecting. I've been deep into the world of Mindy Kaling and Joni Mitchell this week, and it's causing me to dig deep into these personal issues of heartbreak and healing (or, semi-healing). Basically, watch out when you love someone because it'll probably lead you to a pretty dark hole that you--and all the stuff you carry with you as a reminder of that "summer haze" (photos and letters and trinkets and more)--will fall into someday. And if/when you crawl your way out of that whole, don't try to find someone like that person who led you there in the first place.

(Disclaimer: I still love Adele, I promise.)

Friday, September 21, 2012

fill-in-the-blank friday: autumn is coming.

1. Something I am very proud of is  figuring out how to navigate the New York subway system in less than a year of living here. I thought it would be impossible when I first moved here .

2. My favorite thing about myself is  my ability to get things done (for the most part) .

3. My favorite color for fall is  red, but I'm generally a fan of red year-round .

4. Something I've been learning lately is  how easy it is to settle, and how rewarding it ends up being to not .

5. A book I am reading now/have read recently is  The Table Comes First by Adam Gopnik .

6. My favorite Pandora Station is  She & Him. It's been doing me some good lately .

7. This weekend I will  waffle, because that's what weekends are for .

Thursday, September 13, 2012

eighteen years later, VAWA still matters.

Eighteen years ago today, President Bill Clinton signed the Violence Against Women Act into law. VAWA, drafted by then-Senator Joe Biden, received broad bipartisan support and cleared both the House and Senate by clear majorities (though Republicans have tried to cut the Act's funding since 1995). Politics aside, I think it's important we take a look at what VAWA has accomplished, and understand the importance and need for a continuing discussion about violence and abuse in our society.

Think Progress noted today just a few of the victories achieved through VAWA:
  • Victims can call for help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline was established as part of VAWA. It currently serves over 22,000 victims a month and has taken a total of 3 million calls.
  • Law enforcement officers are trained to help victims. 500,000 law enforcement officials, judges, and prosecutors a year are trained with VAWA funding to help domestic abuse victims.
  • Partner violence and homicides fell. From the year before VAWA’s passage until 2008, the number of women being killed by partners dropped 43 percent, and partner violence against women fell 53 percent.
  • Stalking became illegal. Before VAWA, stalking was not a federal crime. The law established stalking as a felony offense.
  • Rape is rape, no exceptions. Since the passage of VAWA, each state in the United States has updated its laws so that rape by a partner is treated equally to rape by a stranger.
There is currently a fight on the Hill over the bill because Democrats have added language to expand VAWA to protect Native Americans, LGBT victims, and undocumented immigrants. There's also the matter of many conservatives who find the bill "redundant." But, as I argued back in May, "VAWA's sole purpose is not to criminalize violence against women."
The Violence Against Women Act was first passed in 1994 and provided taxpayer money for protection of domestic abuse victims and other programs and services to support victims, including community violence prevention programs, funding for victim assistance services such as rape crisis centers and hotlines, and legal aid for survivors of violence. The Act also allocates money to investigate and prosecute violent crimes against women. 
The bill has largely been seen as a bipartisan issue, and was reauthorized by Congress in 2000 and again in 2005, but has been a point of contention in the House this year when the Senate's version expanded those protections to same-sex couples, illegal immigrants, and those living on Native American tribal lands.
There is story after story that can be found online of survivors who've benefited from the resources created because of VAWA, and I urge you seek those stories out to understand more of why VAWA matters. (For those unfamiliar with Project Unbreakable, I cannot recommend it enough.) And, even though it's been 18 years, VAWA will still continue to matter because there are still victims of violence out there who are silenced every day.

I've talked with many people about issues related to abuse, sexual assault, and rape over the last few years. These are things that nobody ever likes talking about, but I think it's important that we see and hear the stories in the mainstream media so we can end the culture of violence that still exists today.

Every story I heard, every person who opened up to me about their pain--it's been more than a journey through their stories; it became an understanding and acceptance of my own. It became an understanding and acceptance that this violence exists, it's real, and it needs to be talked about. It became an understanding that just because this happens to you doesn't make you a victim forever; it can be something that empowers you to become a survivor. Violence at the hand of somebody who is supposed to care about you is something that happens to you, but it doesn't need to be something that defines you.

It doesn't define me.

We can walk through our lives with masks on and pretend like the pain we endured is as invisible as some make it out to be, or we can stand up and affirm to the world that we are stronger than our attackers made us out to be. We are braver than our attackers thought we could be. We are worth more than our attackers told us we would ever be.

Violence against men and women still exists, and too often the attackers go free even after the crime has been reported. The statistics are out there, and the survivors are out there, and unfortunately the perpetrators of these crimes are also still out there. We need more education and we need more compassion if this cycle of abuse is to end someday.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

an open letter to Terminal B.

It wasn't my fault.

I know it's uncommon to believe young adults these days, but believe me--TSA was to blame.

Like any frequent traveler, I packed lightly and compactly. I didn't have any giant bottles of liquids in my luggage, and I made sure to keep those prohibited items at home. I took my shoes of, and my jacket, and emptied my pockets. I removed my laptop easily from my backpack and prepared to see my items through the x-ray: one backpack, one laptop in a tray, another tray for my shoes and seater, and my carry-on suitcase.

"It's okay, I'll get it," a short, plump TSA agent with glasses and curly hair assured me. I insisted I wait (a TSA agent at Dulles yelled at me once for trying to go through the medal detector without watching my items enter the machine), but she sternly instructed me to go through the detector. I complied, then everything went wrong.

I walked through the detector effortlessly, then waited on the other side as items went through the machine. Finally, my backpack emerged, then my laptop, then my shoes…but no suitcase. I looked up and saw the young TSA agent at the computer signal to another agent, and they stopped the belt. I looked around the machine and didn't see my suitcase. It was stuck inside the x-ray machine.

A few agents circled the machine and tried to dislodge it with a stick. People around me started getting irate.

"Someone," the young agent said, glaring at me, "put their suitcase in wrong."

I bit my tongue to keep from correcting her from her improper use of the plural pronoun, and said loudly for other passengers to hear, "I'm sorry, an agent told me to go and she said she would put my luggage through!"

Apologies don't matter when it's 5:45 a.m. and people are mad. I'd never wanted to disappear more, and the yellow sweater I was wearing wasn't helping. The woman who's stuff was behind mine was insisting the agents let her items go through another line. She had done nothing wrong, she kept saying, and had a flight to catch at 6:30--the same flight as mine.

By 6:05, my suitcase was still stuck, and they finally let the lady go to a different line.

"I'm sorry, ma'am," I pleaded. "They said they'd put my suitcase--"

"Yeah, yeah," she snapped and shoved past me to go back to retrieve her things on the belt.

I glared at the agents as they continued to poke for my suitcase with a stick. Were these machines not equipped to handle this? Was there no escape hatch?

Finally, a minute later, the conveyor belt began to move again and my luggage emerged. The same agent who had promised to see my suitcase through grabbed it and brought it back to the front of the machine to send it through again. I closed my eyes and prayed it wouldn't get stuck a second time.

It didn't. And it was fine. And I grabbed it and fled the security line before the angry lady who was behind me could catch up to me.

I got to the gate right before they were about to announce passengers on the overhead who were missing. As I stood on the connecting walkway to enter the plane, I heard an exasperated sigh behind me. I slowly turned around. It was the angry lady.
I scurried down the cabin and hoped she wasn't sitting near me. She wasn't, but I could imagine the angry lady complaining to passengers around her about me, and knew she'd be telling the story to her family and friends for days to come. In my rush, I sat in the wrong seat, broke a nail, and nearly decapitated an old man with my suitcase as I struggled to lift it into the overhead bin.

PS- You all heard me apologize profusely, right? :(
PPS- Angry lady, you made your flight. Stop hating me, please.
PPPS- TSA, I hate you.

Monday, August 27, 2012

our heroes and their leaps.

"The important achievement of Apollo was demonstrating that humanity is not forever chained to this planet and our visions go rather further than that and our opportunities are unlimited." -Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong, the famed astronaut and first man on the moon, died on Saturday at the age of 82. We all know the stories and images and that famous quote--"This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."--and those who were alive for that incredible moment have stories to tell. Where were you when they landed on the moon? Oh, what I wouldn't give to have a personal story from that.

Armstrong's death brings the end of an era to America's front pages. As BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski pointed this out on Twitter on Saturday after news of Armstrong's death broke: "The youngest of the 8 remaining people who have walked on the Moon is 78, and America isn't making anymore of them."

Who are our heroes these days? What moments will we look back on and remember how we felt--that moment when we felt so American, so alive in this supposed Land of the Free? If someone were to ask me to fill in the rest of the question "Where were you when...," my answers would all be something along the lines of tragedy or heartbreak: Where were you when the Columbine shooting happened? Where were you when the Twin Towers fell? 

Of course, there are questions on the other end of the spectrum to be asked...Where were you when Barack Obama was elected president?, and of course that was a historic moment. Where were you when the Mars Curiosity rover landed? That was momentous as well. But to idolize a politician and call him or her a national hero in these polarized days filled with mudslinging feels strange. And Curiosity cannot be a national hero; it is the geniuses of NASA who deserve that title, but how many of us know their names?

I keep thinking about who I'll tell future generations about. What moments will stand out?

The answer, I've discovered, fall in two categories: journalists and writers I admire, and ordinary people who don't make the headlines. In many ways, perhaps there's something poetic and lovely about that: the heroes in my lifetime, the ones who jump to mind immediately when the word "hero" is said, are the people who are personally in my life.

But, then again...I'm only 23. I've got a lot of living ahead (I hope). Here's to hoping we can unite again as a country and turn our eyes toward a moment that will life on in our memories forever.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

the importance of independent college journalism.

The student editorial staff of the University of Georgia's campus newspaper, The Red & Black, resigned Wednesday evening in protest of the board of director's decision to name a non-student employee as the paper's editorial director. Ed Morales, who was formerly the paper's editorial adviser, was granted complete editorial control of The Red & Black, a move that led students to walk out and tell their story elsewhere.

As a former editor of a campus newspaper, this news hit home: for two-and-a-half wonderful years, I had the privilege and the honor to be a part of the New University during my time at UC Irvine. I began as a Layout intern, transitioned into a staff member and writer, and served as the paper's Managing Editor for a year and a half. The experience and the skills I gained at the New U, along with my involvement in UCI's alternative media publications, ranged from editorial to management, and I was fortunate to have the guidance and support of amazing mentors and veteran journalists.

The biggest challenge was the struggle to define ourselves to some in the community who did not understand the leadership and the history of the New U. We were a campus paper that, yes, was once funded and fueled by the power of the university and of the student government, but had since broken off. The New U remains today, as it has for decades, an independent and entirely student-run publication.

There were many stories in my time at the New U that led to controversy. There were stories that upset the administration and stories that upset various groups of students on campus. While managing the paper, I cannot think of a week that went by quietly. Our primary goal was never to incite unnecessary anger, but we did work to shed light on various aspects of campus life that needed attention: from safety violations to shutdowns of protests to shitty service at the campus Starbucks.

I can safely and confidently say that there was never a moment in which I or any of my fellow editors were told by anyone in the university that we could not publish a story. The university respected our independence (our funding came entirely from advertisements), whether they approved of what we were doing or not--and, yes, there were times when they did not approve.

Independent college journalism is vital to any campus community. To hear that a campus newspaper was taken over is a shame and, in my opinion, a violation of an important freedom. A student paper should be run by students. A newspaper for students that is controlled by non-students is not a campus newspaper anymore; it is a propaganda tool, a newsletter to promote an agenda while at the same time silencing the stories that are deemed unfavorable.

Monday, August 13, 2012

the way i see it: life is too short, pt. 2.

"You better learn how to find the joy in this journey because the journey is all that matters. This life is like a vapor." -Pastor Carl

Life is too short to not tell the people you love that you love them. Life is too short to let small irritations and unfortunate misunderstandings end friendships and relationships. Life is too short to not support your family, your friends, your coworkers, your "people."

Never walk away from people temporarily just in case it ends up being permanent.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

what do you say to taking chances?

There's an episode in season two of Gilmore Girls where Rory skips school and jumps on a bus from Hartford to New York City. She goes to see Jess and her return bus ends up leaving the city late and she misses her mother's graduation ceremony. "Note to self: impulsive definitely doesn't work for me," Rory says after crying at her mother about how horrible she is when she finally does get home.

Every time I'm presented with a "this way or that way" choice, I have a tendency to overthink the outcome rather than trust my gut instinct. Perhaps it's because I'm a pushover that I'll go out with people when I really don't feel up to it, or perhaps I'm just nervous to disappoint others. Sometimes I'll feel compelled to do something or go somewhere, but then hold back for various reasons (from "But I don't know anyone and it would be weird" to "What if I have a terrible time?")

After waffling and wallowing over a recent moment like this, Elyse said to me, "Well, you know what you want to do."

When you extend that metaphor wider, it just makes sense that overthinking ruins so much of our potential. Elyse is right: I do know what I want, and yet the stars don't always line up to work in my favor. In that case, flexibility is just as important as being impulsive.

And because life is so damn unpredictable, the most important thing we can do is be honest, be sincere. If we are confident in who we are, then there is little possibility that the risks we take can destroy us. If we are confident in who we are, then we can take chances and not be afraid to learn from our mistakes.

It's almost too simple of a realization, right? Stop thinking and, with all of the sincerity you have inside of you, 

Friday, July 27, 2012

fill-in-the-blank friday: who, what, where.

  1. I am made up of more words than I've ever actually written.
  2. I have always been afraid of spiders. Always. I don't care what size they are.
  3. I hope to be someone people can count on.
  4. I can change ukulele strings, but not guitar strings. I don't know why this is.
  5. I dream of living near the SF bay and writing. Someone pay me to do that, please?
  6. The way to my heart is thoughtful, meaningful conversation and silly little laughs.
  7. I am passionate about helping people. I believe that, more than so many other things, is what will help build a society that can persist through tragedy.
(via Lauren @ the little things we do.)

Friday, July 20, 2012

simple kindness.

Somewhere between 96th and 103rd, I burst into uncontrollable tears in the backseat of a taxi. The driver actually pulled over to hand me a tissue and ask if I was okay. All I managed to get out between sobs and hyperventilating was that I lost my best friend.

"As in died?" the taxi driver asked patiently.

I shook my head and realized how idiotic it sounded. Of all the horrible things in the news--of today--and this is what I was shedding my tears over? How could I explain to this taxi driver who could barely understand me and probably thought I was absolutely nuts that I was upset because someone I loved no longer seemed to care about me? How could I sum up, in two sentences or in five words, what it was I felt? It felt so superficial, so trivial, so...juvenile.

He handed me the box of tissues from his front seat and I sunk into my seat as he pulled away from the curb to continue toward my destination. I was realizing how ridiculous my outburst was, but at least it was better than crying on the subway.

We got to my corner, and I paid. Before I got out of the taxi, I handed the box of tissues back through the window in the plastic divider.

"Take it," the driver said. He smiled, nodded, said "good night," and drove off.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

the way i see it: life is too short.

Update, Friday 07/20: Will update blog with thoughts on Aurora, CO massacre later.

"The art of losing isn't hard to master."

In losing something, there is the likelihood we will forget we lost it in a month or two. In losing someone, we never really forget.

Death is tricky because we don't like thinking about it. It's such an inevitable and natural part of living--if you're alive, you'll someday be dead--but it feels unnatural to think about it, to talk about it. Dying is something that happens in movies and in novels. Dying happens to other people...not to us, not to people we know and love.

I remember the first funeral I went to. It was for my great aunt, and I was just a child. I couldn't fully comprehend it. Sure, I'd been aware of death when Grandpa Chak died, but I hadn't gone to the funeral. I didn't see the coffin or the gravesite. It wasn't really real. He was there one day, then he wasn't. With my great aunt, I hadn't known her too well, so even the part of my life of knowing she'd been "there" wasn't real.

When a celebrity or public figure passes, we mourn too. And isn't the same, is it? I was trying to understand the other week why Nora Ephron's death struck me so hard, and it manifested itself in this blog post. But then death came closer in six degrees of separation, and now it is all I think about because I know--I know--it will come soon to more people I love.

Too soon, too soon. God, life is short, isn't it? And it makes you think of all of the things you should have said, of all of the people you shouldn't have pushed away. It makes you recall the times you said you'd like to talk, but never followed through because you didn't fight for it, you didn't try hard enough. "That person will be there tomorrow." Until they're not.

It makes you think of all of the lost friendships and the stubborn rejections of faith and friendships because you were too proud, too hurt to admit you needed someone. It makes me think of all of that and more.

And it makes me think, especially now, about this: there are people you will fight with and people you will push away. There are some you'll get angry with and some you'll hold at arm's length. Be careful when you do, because in a second, in an instance, you could lose them. 

Joan Didion got it right: "Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends."

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

a year ago.

On the subway home today, a man approached me and said, "Excuse me, do you mind if I ask you something?" I was prepared to ignore him. I had my headphones in, and I was too used to creepers who seemed fixated on my ethnicity.

"Sure," I said, took my earbuds out, and made a mental note to get off at the next stop and wait for another train to come.

"Do you remember where you were a year ago?"

I nodded.

"It's different from where you are now, right?" he asked.

Again, I nodded.

"Are you in a better place right now?"

This time, I paused. This time, one year ago...where was I?
Fireworks along the waterfront in Portland (July 4, 2011).
On the night of July 3, 2011, I was stuffed in the backseat of a Toyota Corolla between the border of California and Oregon. After a half-awake stop in Ashland to watch the second stage of the Tour de France begin at a local pub, I was back in that backseat and heading over Grant's Pass. It was pitch black, and the kind couple at the base of the mountain who gave us coffee and snacks begged us to turn around. We went forward anyways, and I willed myself to sleep by telling myself I didn't want to be awake if we did crash and die.

I fell asleep and woke up more times than I can accurately remember, and when we finally reached Eugene at 4 a.m., all I could think about was how badly I didn't want to be in that car anymore. Twelve hours later, we'd be in Portland pouring forties into soda cups, and the morning after that, I'd be receiving my first post-graduate internship offer--one that would send me across the country to Maryland.

Multiple forks at the corner of Pioneer Square in Portland.
One year ago, I put my life in the hands of my best friend as he powered through a barely lit mountain road, and I closed my eyes and settled comfortably into a familiar car--a car that held laughs and tears and conversations beneath sheets of pouring rain. The first week of July, one year ago, was when my life changed.

So where was I now? In a city that still felt foreign in so many ways, in a city where I still felt like a drifter between communities and people. I've been told I'm considered successful--but Lord, it sure doesn't feel that way. If success means struggling to hold onto your voice, dying for one moment of simple pleasure, losing someone you held so dear... How do you measure success when you're surrounded daily by the promise of what you can become? I've grown up in the last year, I think, but there's still something missing that begs introspection. 

I answered the man on the subway with an honesty that surprised me. "I hope so," I said. "I think so."

As the train came to a stop, the man stood up and said, "Life is always getting better. Remember that. You have a purpose: to live. So live."

When the subway doors closed, I looked around to see if anyone else caught that. The other passengers had their earphones in, were deep in conversations with one another, or immersed in their iPads and Blackberries. I unplugged my own earphones and sat back, and when I reached my stop, I'd like to think I exited with purpose.

Friday, June 29, 2012

a letter to Nora.

Dear Nora,

My autographed You've Got Mail poster from the raffle
at Housing Works' "We've Got Mail" event in February.
It's taken me more hours than I'd like to pay proper tribute to you after your passing, but here is my attempt now: a letter to heaven, and I hope it finds you well. You may wonder why write this to a woman I never knew, but as Chris Matthews put it the other night: "Because this is about us."

Your writing was more than words on a page, on a screen. You were a storyteller in every sense of the word: it's because of you that I know that complicated matters of the heart can indeed be put into words, and that none of us are ever alone in loving, losing, or learning to begin again.

I was only a child the first time I saw one of your films. I have loved them ever since. There was something different about the heroine of your stories--the way she laughed, the way she spoke (so eloquent, so real), the way she rolled her eyes and brushed the hair from her face. I so wanted to be Kathleen Kelly (part of me still does today) because even though she lost at some things, she won too, and isn't that the message we all need? You can fall and you can fail--in fact, you will fall and fail a lot--in love, in work, in friendships, in life...but pick yourself up. See, I've had falling outs with friends, and I've made mistakes for 23 years, and I fell for the wrong person once who's since broken my heart every day for two years now...but it'll all pass. I believe it.

Yes, let yourself grieve, and feel every emotion of the pain of what you had and what could have been, but you'll be okay. And, please, don't be afraid to start over.

The themes of your films strike a timeless chord, and even though future generations will never know that familiar dial-up sound, there's still something about the characters and their journey that captivates hearts and souls. "I always recognized in those stories pieces of people I knew and conversations I had had," Linda Holmes wrote on NPR after learning of your passing. "They were like choral compositions where everything else is just pretty sounds, but you can pick out the alto line because you sang it in choir fifteen years ago. You could never reproduce the entire thing without amplification and help, but that one part makes sense."

Sleepless in Seattle taught me something about loneliness as much as When Harry Met Sally taught me about growth. The way I write, the way I speak, the way I think has been subtly influenced by your writing, and you share the credit (and, let's be honest, the blame)--along with Didion and Plath--for the messy and emotional basket case I can be, and the messy and emotional words that have led to these blogs.

From your films to your essays, and your forays into topics of friendships, romance, feminism, aging, and more, the pages of the book you created truly never tired. Charles McGrath's obit in the Times for you ended with a bit of your writing that brought forth the simplicity of why people--why I--adored you:
Ms. Ephron’s collection “I Remember Nothing” concludes with two lists, one of things she says she won’t miss and one of things she will. Among the “won’t miss” items are dry skin, Clarence Thomas, the sound of the vacuum cleaner, and panels on “Women in Film.”   
The other list, of the things she will miss, begins with “my kids” and “Nick” and ends this way: 
“Taking a bath
Coming over the bridge to Manhattan
You saw New York differently than so many, I'm sure of it. You saw life so differently too--not that you lived it differently, but that you knew how to express it differently, and more authentically than most. was nice to have met you.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

the way i see it: 'you deserve better.'

I received an email from a good friend earlier today with a very sweet response to a bit of my ranting, with three words I think we're all familiar with: "You deserve better."

I think we've all said that to someone at some point, or heard it from someone ourselves. You deserve better, and you and you and you--so, in theory, we all deserve better. And yet, we all don't think so either. We're always selling ourselves short, letting others walk all over us in hopes that we can be the bigger person. But sometimes, people just treat others like crap. We all do it, whether it's intentional or not.

Perhaps we should all be striving for the patience and kindness we hope for others to bestow on us so it doesn't matter when we're placed on back burners or ignored, and it doesn't matter when someone makes a promise and forgets. If you put enough good out there in the world, some of it is bound to come back to you someday, right? At least we should all try to live a life that encourages compassion.

There will be people who you choose to invest in who will never take you seriously, never see you as an equal. They will forget the things you say, they will ignore you and choose others they may not really care about because you may demand too much: you may demand respect, and we don't like to be told we haven't been respecting others. They will mistreat you, and you will have a choice to stand up for yourself or not. Most often, we choose to sit back because we want to believe that that person we love cannot be that cruel. At least that's what I want to believe. I want to believe people are inherently good, and if that makes me naive, then so be it--I'm a fool.

The world itself is filled with so many things that make me lose faith in the decency of others. I spend my entire day watching the news and there's a lot of shit out there that is enough to incite utter chaos and despair in my brain on the subway ride home. So I don't like to feel like the people I come in direct contact with from day to day are indecent or disrespectful as well. I don't want to be someone who isn't a decent friend or a decent human being either.

I suppose this is just a very verbose answer to the question, "Why do you let yourself be treated like crap?" And the short answer could well be, "I'm not good enough for him/her/them/etc." Really, my answer is that, deep down, I'm sickeningly optimistic.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Wall of front pages from the Newseum's "Covering Katrina" exhibit.
About three weeks ago, Advance Publications announced it would end daily publication of The Times-Picayune, New Orleans' last remaining daily newspaper. The 175-year-old newspaper will be moving to a three-day publication schedule, with an increased emphasis on online news. The decision makes New Orleans the largest city in the U.S. without a daily publication. The Times-Picayune also announced 200 layoffs last week--half of its staff--including veteran journalists and long-time employees of the newspaper. I think This photo via Twitter from Ann Maloney, the paper's arts and entertainment editor, says it all.

(The title of this blog post comes from an old copy editor's code for "end of story." Many staff members announced their layoffs on Facebook this way.)

This news absolutely broke my heart. The Times-Picayune was a great daily newspaper, and it's a shame that Advance Publications chose to go in this direction--especially given that a third of New Orleans' residents, according to NPR, don't have internet access. After reading 1 Dead in Attic, I felt as if The Times-Picayune was more than just a newspaper in a place I'd never been. It was a pivotal part of American history, and one that I watched in real-time through my television back in 2005 and experienced on a whole different level last year at the Newseum.

After I saw the "Covering Katrina" exhibit at the Newseum the first time, I felt unsettled, sick. The second time I went back to the Newseum to see it, I was still upset, but inspired by the strength of the journalists who sought the truth and told the stories buried underneath the water and amongst the rubble.

The Times-Picayune was essential to documenting Hurricane Katrina. "They just wanted a newspaper," the exhibit quoted an editor as saying. And damn, did they report. They stayed the storm, stuck through the horrors--through ruined digital equipment, no electricity, and more, as they biked where they could and did their best to report while also helping those in pain.

The one thing that struck me the most about Chris Rose's writing in 1 Dead in Attic was the resilience of the people of New Orleans. What happened in 2005 was devastating, and the period of abandonment they endured was even worse. To read about the refrigerator museum and the shock over the looting made me think about what my life would be like if my community was turned upside down. The culture, the people, the city...there's something about the spirit of New Orleans that is unique, and to know that The Times-Picayune will no longer be a part of its daily story is a tragedy.

Artifacts from the newsroom during the hurricane, including handwritten
notes by reporters and the white board used to keep track of events.
(Photos from "Covering Katrina" by yours truly.)

Friday, June 15, 2012

can we talk?

Sure we can talk, but can we really communicate? I know, I know--the perpetual millennial problem: "Too many forms of communication! Ah!"

Above: Portlandia shows us how obsessed we are with our stupid smartphones.

But even with all the texting and IMing and emails and tweets, it's possible to feel so far away from someone. There's someone I thought/think I was/am close to, but only when I really think about it do I realize that friendship--one I viewed as so important, someone I call my best friend--is probably in my head. In the year we spent apart, we rarely spoke, and almost never on the phone. Cursory texts and lolsy messages via social networking were the norm. Meanwhile, life was happening and the sharing felt like it had slowed. His belief was that even if we didn't talk, we would still be friends because he believes that friendships will come full circle. Though now that we are back in the same city, and I see the care and consideration he takes to keep up with friends he is now separated from--the texts, birthday presents across the country, etc.--I have to wonder if perhaps I really do exist, temporarily, to fill a void. Perhaps it is possible to measure friendship, and mine doesn't quite hold up.

How many times can one ask to talk before it becomes redundant? How many times can we turn to the friend we feel we're losing or the person toying with our emotions or the family member we know is going through life changes, and beg for a conversation? I'm not sure.

But I'm stubborn. I don't like giving up on people. So then when someone says there were times they thought I wouldn't be around, I have to wonder if I should've listened to my gut instincts and walked away instead of allowed myself to unconsciously be used.

I know I've been on the other end of this all too. I can be terrible at quick responses and thoughtful communication when I'm wrapped up in work or some dumb personal torment. (Note to self: get over yourself. Seriously.)

I suppose this reflection serves to remind myself to not be afraid to invest in people, despite the experience of investing in someone and having them resent you. But like Katie once wrote to me: "The heart is a resilient thing, and I've found that even when I make mistakes or drag things out, I will eventually get over it, though it may take a ton of patience and time. I'm sure your heart is just as resilient! Reminds me of a salamander's tail, haha."

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

blue nights.

"'You have your wonderful memories,' people said later, as if memories were solace. Memories are not. Memories are by definition of times past, things gone. Memories are the Westlake uniforms in the closet, the faded and cracked photographs, the invitations to the weddings of the people who are no longer married, the mass cards from the funerals of the people whose faces you no longer remember. Memories are what you no longer want to remember.”

I just finished reading Joan Didion's Blue Nights, her "follow up" (if you will) to The Year of Magical Thinking. Friends and readers, you'll remember the first time I read The Year of Magical Thinking: it was the summer of 2010 and I was tiptoeing around the pieces of a broken heart. I felt silly for feeling "better" after reading the book because its subject is so painful. The loss of a husband and daughter almost back-to-back is nothing compared to a heartache; it's a different sort of heartache, really.

When Mengfei lent me The Year of Magical Thinking, she prefaced it with, "This helped me get over the death of my guinea pig." I laughed, but after reading it, I got it. Any loss--no matter how big or small--is still life-changing to various degrees. We lose a pet, and our lives are quieter. We lose a person, and our lives feel smaller. We feel smaller.

“Memory fades, memory adjusts, memory conforms to what we think we remember.”

It has been one year since I graduated college and parted ways from some of the most important people in my life. It's been five months since I moved to New York, away from the semblance of stability and community in DC. It feels like a slow growth, but a growth nonetheless, and I'm thankful for the place I'm at now, though there's an absence of "something more."

I hate to be morbid, but as I was reading Blue Nights, the same thought ran continuously through my head: this reads like Didion's farewell to the world. Didion's work has always contained an anxious feeling that death is soon to come, but there was something about Blue Nights that felt so finished, so final. And, in connecting the dots, I have to wonder if this heartbreak has finally come to an end--the heartbreak of living, of loving, of losing.

We can choose unhappiness every step of the way of our lives. We can choose to let the big or the little things break us. In the face of adversity and pain, we can choose to give in. Or, as Didion shows us, we can learn to live, and I do believe that every day is a struggle to learn to live.

But I also believe that nothing is never too impossible to learn to live through. Nothing is too much to ever stop us from truly living. You can go through your whole life putting off the inevitable to avoid pain and loss. Or you can choose to embrace it. I choose to embrace it.