Sunday, April 26, 2015

don't you know you're valuable?

"I used to be self-conscious about how much space I was taking up."

When I heard Hye Yun Park say those words the other week at a film panel/discussion, I felt a sudden thwack in my heart. All my life, that's something I've written at the top of every metaphorical page of my life story: How much space are you taking up today? 

To me, it was a reminder to stay quiet, unnoticed--not because my parents or my family encouraged it, but because it was something I imposed on myself. I was insecure about my medical troubles and wanted to be invisible. I didn't think I was worth noticing, and that's something I carried with me all through high school and college despite the best efforts of those around me to try to encourage and lift me higher. There would be times I would feel confident that I was worth something; there were many other moments when the insecurities would take over and I'd end up locked in a room panicking about what I was doing.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

grow tall, sugarcane.

Dear Old Friends,

I feel like I'm constantly writing letters in my head to re-introduce myself to you all. You see, the person I was five, 10, 15 years ago is so different from who I am right now, and I have this need to let it be known because I think these changes are for the better. I've grown up. I'm still growing up.

I think there are a lot of things that can cause a person to change: fear, adversity, love, death. And simply living--that, too, is enough to transform a person. At least it should, right? There are times I'll say I wish I could have a do-over, and that I miss certain moments from the past and wish I could recreate them in the present. But what made those moments so gorgeous was the fact that they were fleeting. Moments like that can never really be infinite, can they? I wouldn't want them to be--how else would I have come to appreciate them for what they were?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

how does one not go insane in New York City?

Because my usual convenient subway line is down this weekend (of course, because why would the MTA even pretend like it's improving the system at this point?), I had to take the M11 bus back uptown today -- except that the driver blew past my stop (the second to the last one on his route) because he wanted to make it to the end of his route quickly. I called out to him to stop because I had pressed the "stop requested" button well in advance, and he argued that I didn't and yelled at me to sit down.

After writing a very angry email at MTA that I'm sure no one will read and even if they do, they won't care about it, I stomped the long way back home and back into my apartment to throw my sad, lukewarm groceries into the fridge, and then thought about how that wasn't even the most annoying part of my day. There are so many annoying things that can happen in one day in this city that make me want to scream into a pillow--although is that the most productive way to get past your anger?

I wish I had a more zen-like approach to daily irritants, but I inherited my father's short temper and quick outbursts of anger, so there's got to be another way. I've been here for over three years and I still don't have a surefire way to just "let it go." (I have, however, found superficial cures for being sad and being homesick.)

Any suggestions?

Friday, April 17, 2015

the way I see it: get your own coffee.

A few years ago during an internship, we were strongly encouraged to turn down requests we fetch coffee or run other errands for our managers. The reason, they said, was that we were there as interns to learn how to work in a national newsroom. Managers were encouraged to not use intern as errand-runners.

I can't speak for other interns, but I was never asked to do things like make or buy coffee. One of my managers said to me on the first day, "You're here to learn, so if there's down time, then don't be shy to ask us for something to do." The other manager said he remembered having to get coffee daily for the executives when he was an intern and he vowed not to do that to interns in the future if he was ever lucky enough to be in a position to have interns.

Once I went with another intern to help her get coffee for her department that did require her to do it as part of her internship, and it was time consuming (going to Starbucks at lunch hour in DC to pick up 15 coffee orders = at least 45 minutes) and took away time that could've been spent being useful in another work-related capacity. It was frustrating that that was what was expected of her. There were times they'd send her to get coffee during editorial meetings, and she would miss out on those meetings, which were important to production.

I've never been in favor of sending interns to get coffee, and an informal poll of a few colleagues and friends tells me that I'm not totally crazy for taking this stand. And I'm sure I'll ruffle the feathers of people who think that being sent on coffee runs is part of "paying your dues," but I don't think we should make people do the things we hated doing just because we were treated that way too. I reject the idea that "everyone's had to do it in their internship" is a valid reason to send an underpaid (or, in some cases, unpaid) student or new graduate for a Starbucks run. There are free coffee machines in the kitchen for a reason--quality, be damned. You can get your chai latte later yourself.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

on humility and apologies, part two.

"And if it means I don't get an apology for something I feel entitled to (let's be honest--are any of us really "entitled" to an apology from someone else? We might believe we deserve an apology, but an apology--at least a genuine one--is not ours to demand from someone else.), then that's OK."

When I wrote that in last week's blog post, I wasn't thinking about the apology I've long thought I "deserved." Maybe "deserved" isn't the right word for it; it's more like: the apology I want. There's a difference between the two.

You can want apologies from a lot of people for various things, ranging from the small indiscretions to the big mistakes. But you can't always get what you want, and at some point, I think we have to learn to be OK with that.

There's this Wreck This Journal page that asks you to tear the page out and lose it--toss it, let it blow away, give it away, whatever--and then walk away and accept the loss. Now imagine doing that with your anger: remove the anger from your heart, abandon it it, and accept that you might not get the apology you want.

Monday, April 6, 2015

on humility and apologies.

"Don't be sorry. Be here."
One of the most difficult words to say sometimes is "sorry." I don't think anyone actually enjoys apologizing. It means acknowledging you wronged someone. It's a blow to your pride. Sometimes we say sorry and don't really mean it; other times, we say it but follow it up with a cushion for our ego: "Sorry I spilled hot coffee all over your laptop, but..."

Recently, someone from my past sent me an email that was a straight apology for something that happened about two years ago. There was no ego in it, no hidden subtext. It was am "I'm sorry"--period--and it can't have been easy for her to send. Two years ago upon our falling out, there had been a lot of finger pointing and false apologies on both ends. But this email was different. There was something gracious about her words, something admirable about the way she took on the burden of responsibility on her own. Although I know both of us played equal roles in the end of our friendship then, her email, to me, meant there were more important things in the world than our bruised feelings from the past.

With no expectations, she humbled herself by reaching out. It made me think about the "prisons" we keep others in, whether we intend to or not, because we're angry or hurt. Sometimes, someone says something to you that really hurts you, and rather than try to fix the situation, you close up and turn down a different road. Perhaps a year ago if she sent me this email, I wouldn't have responded. Or I would have emailed back and reminded her how much she upset me.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

leftovers: March.

Yellow roses brighten any room!
Whoa! It's April already. This is surprising for two reasons: 1) It felt like March was lasting, quite frankly, forever; and 2) I started about a half dozen posts that I meant to finish in March, and can guess what happened (spoiler alert: nothing).

So here we are...April. Spring, perhaps? It's definitely warming up in New York and the on/off rain definitely indicates we're in that "April showers" phase. After three years of happy travels with my bubble umbrella (which I bought in California at the end of 2011 in between DC and New York), I had to ditch it in the trash at the 145th St. Nicholas subway station because it finally was too busted to be functional. It was oddly heartbreaking to watch the dome of the umbrella collapse, and it really served no purpose so of course the trash can was the proper place for it to go. I just wish I could've given it a more ceremonial farewell than chucking it into the same type of trash bin that I threw up in on my first visit to New York ever after a night of sushi and sake and no sleep.

Not only did I buy a new bubble umbrella (it's lighter and opens with the click of a button!), March was the month I turned another year older. Every year on my birthday, I get reflective about life. As I spent more time alone, I realized I needed to reprioritize. As the season changes, it feels like the right time to step back and sort things out.

And now before this turns into a whole other post (!), it's time to get to the point: photos from March that never made it to Facebook or Instagram or whatever social network I'm lurking on at the moment!