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.