Umbrella-Less Rainy Days

Waiting for Rain pic“There’s someone out there for everyone!”

“It’ll happen when you least expect it.”

“Good things come to those who wait.”

Or, if you follow the How I Met Your Mother storyline, you may sympathize with Ted Mosby as I do, as he continually waits to meet his future spouse (it is hinted that she’ll be donning a yellow umbrella in future episodes), while his friends are already in committed relationships. How I love that show.

Going to a private university where the female to male ratio is about 3:1, AND having lived in an all-women’s dormitory for the past year, these are just some of the love life-related clichés I hear time and time again.

And then I usually encounter the girls who just can’t wait to get married and start families right after college. I smile and nod during these conversations, but I honestly can’t relate to this particular post-grad goal. Weren’t we all just scrambling to find prom dates a year ago?

While some of my female counterparts are already picking out wedding theme colors and bridesmaids’ dresses on Pinterest despite not yet receiving marriage proposals, I haven’t been able to picture myself getting married, moving into a house with a white picket fence, raising three kids, the whole nine yards. Not because I’m against it, I’m not, but for more complicated reasons…which is for another story.

I would venture to say that I am probably one of the few in my circle of friends and hallmates that is not currently in a relationship, “talking” (whatever that means), or otherwise involved. And when I’m asked about it, I usually receive one of the three exclamatory responses I already listed above.

Allow me to dispel each of the three clichés/myths:

“There’s someone out there for everyone!”

…or the whole “there’s-a-yellow-umbrella-for-everyone” theory. It’s nice to think about, but I’ve never really believed it. Not in a “Woe is me” kind of way, but let’s be honest…not everyone is meant to have a yellow umbrella. Two words: “nuns” and “monks.” I highly respect these groups of people, for committing their life to a calling they truly believe in enough to sacrifice what the rest of the world might deem a “happier” lifestyle. And there are plenty of other non-nuns or non-monks who have defied the concept of you-need-to-be-in-love-in-order-to-be-happy to embrace noble pursuits. Not everyone has to be in love with someone. Why not fall in love with charity? Or pursuing art and travel? Or becoming a better person? When I’m addressed about the topic of having children, I always joke that I hope that my vocation will be my baby, to love, care for, and dote upon. Except I don’t think I’m entirely joking…I really do hope that I fall into an incredible love affair with whatever my life calling is.

And on a perhaps less positive note, let’s face it – not everyone is meant to “have someone.” Just because Honey Boo-Boo Child’s mom has a boyfriend *shudder* doesn’t automatically mean everyone is entitled to one. No matter how unfair that seems; no matter how much I love being fooled by my favorite Disney movies for the duration of the film.

“It’ll happen when you least expect it.”

Fair enough, I can agree with this. But I’m pretty sure this rings true for any situation. Like pop quizzes. Or the cafeteria’s sudden shortage of gluten-free muffins (nope, not bitter about that at all). Or it (“it” being the sudden appearance of whom you think to be Ms. or Mr. Right) doesn’t have to happen at all, necessarily. Fate doesn’t have to hash out the same plot for everyone, right?

“Good things come to those who wait.”

Maybe if you’re waiting in line for fro-yo, but as far as I’m concerned, good things happen for those who get off their bums and go for it! Haha kidding, sort of.

I’ll admit to being slightly put off as the recipient to one of these responses. “Don’t worry about it; it’ll happen when it happens.” Well I wasn’t really worried, but thanks…

I don’t need a gent’s approval to feel okay about myself. Sure it would be nice, but at this point in my life, I’m working on gaining my own approval before seeking anyone else’s. And admittedly, it has been – and will continue to be – quite the journey.

Go on, hashtag me with #foreveralone. I’m not going to pretend that it doesn’t suck, because it sometimes does, if you want the truth. When flying solo, there’s less inclination for me to go to dances on campus (no matter how much I love getting down), and/or seeing the film adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ latest book. Actually that second one is true regardless of my stag status.

But on the plus side, I’ve been able to put a lot less time into picking out that day’s wardrobe or bothering as much as I used to with makeup, because the only one I care about impressing is myself.  And I’m not very high-maintenance when it comes to that sort of thing.

Oh, and I just remembered another bonus is that when I leave the country next spring, I won’t have to go through the whole painful “I-promise-you-I-will-not-be-swept-off-my-feet-by-a-charming-European-lad” talk with my significant other.

No, this wasn’t meant to come off as a feminist tirade. Nor is this the mantra of a superior, sassy independent chick. Just the musings of a college kid sitting with her laptop in the coffee shop, not looking out for a yellow umbrella outside the window, but not avoiding it either. Either way, I’ve always been fond of a stroll in the rain.

Open Doors on Ocean Shores

Open Doors on Ocean Shores pic

I like this photo. Not just because I took it and Instagram-ified it like a true hipster pro, but I like the way the pillars of the pier arch continuously one after the other like neverending doorways. Doorways which, from what I can see, lead the wanderer deeper and deeper into the ocean. Into the unknown; into the abyss.

We’ve all grown up with the door imagery when questioning our circumstances in life. “When one door closes, another opens.” “Every wall is a door.” “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”

What they don’t tell you is that while in the endless search for the unlocked doors, you keep walking down the hallway – which is how I see these pier pillars; a long corridor. Likewise, we continue to walk on through life, not waiting or wasting time trying to pick locks on doors that simply won’t budge. In short – life keeps moving, regardless of what we do.

Underneath the pier, my aquatic hallway is continuous, taking me so deep into its waters that I am submerged into places or circumstances that I never knew existed.

On my last day of spring break some weeks ago, I decided to go for a stroll along the beach during what was probably the week’s worst weather.

But my reasons for my spontaneous sunless stroll went beyond the need to get out of the house that cold Easter day.

A year ago on that same day, I had walked on the same beach during a happier time. I wanted to go again, perhaps to feel some nostalgia. Maybe I just needed the confirmation that the air I breathed a year ago is the same that I breathed a year later. It’s amazing how much can change in year – and all I wanted was some constancy in at least one area of my life.

As I treaded with my boots across the compacted sand, I noticed that the one embankment at the end of what once led to a nice sitting spot to where the ocean waters came in was gone now. Instead, there was no sitting spot; everything was flat, and a few duck families dwelling in the reeds had taken over. To make matters brighter, I had to step over a few duck carcasses during my walk.

(Now try to stay with me, it’s about to get a little obscure…) But I realized something. That dead duck I stepped over? That was me, from the past. And by that I mean that my old life, old problems, and the old me from a year ago were dead. My naiveté, my perhaps too-hopeful approach to whatever came my way, everything.

You know that Katy Perry song “Wide Awake”? Probably one of my favorite pop jams. The real kicker is in the line “I wish I knew then/what I know now.”

That’s how I felt when I saw those dead duckies. I wish I had been less of a people-pleaser back then, a doormat (might as well have painted “WELCOME” on my forehead), and had been more of a more vocal risk-taker. I wish I had given myself credit for what I did do, rather than penalize myself for my shortcomings. I wish I had had the audacity to call some people out instead of taking the same old “Not my problem” rhetoric. It’s like I had come up with a really good comeback for those who challenged me, but only thought of after the fact. No – like the old embankment, or like Natalie Portman in “Black Swan,” that girl was gone.

I’ve learned to question everything, fight for what’s mine, and never back down.

Now that that lovely dead duck metaphor is finished…

Constancy is such a rare treasure. And there is a reason why it is so rare; not everything – especially the people we used to be – is meant to be constant. Are we not supposed to keep treading through the pier’s corridor into the unknown? The frightening, beautiful, unpredictable, chaotic unknown? Though my embankment disappeared, the tides still come and go. The food I eat for breakfast may be predictable, but as for all the other areas of my life — I choose to slip off my shoes, and step boldly through the sand into the waters.

My Name is _______, and I’m a Workaholic

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When I’m not in class, I’m doing classwork. When I’m not working on the usual load of assignments, I’m working out. When I’m not hitting the weight room, I’m working at my on-campus job. When I’m not there, I’m out doing the weekly volunteer work, as per my college’s grad requirements. When I’m not tutoring the two elementary-aged students I’ve been assigned to, I’m involved in a series of paperwork, appointments, meetings, and correspondence with various professors. And when I’m not doing that, I’m scribbling down in my agenda for the next week’s set of tasks. Maybe you’re seeing a trend?

I’ve always been older than my age, if that makes any sense. Not out of pride, just personality. Having grown up in an environment in which I was expected to perform well, I’ve learned to grow up fast in terms of getting what needed to get done done. I suppose you might say that I’m living in a 19-year-old body ruled by a 30-something workaholic in a business suit.

I work hard to play hard. However, whenever that playtime does come around, it’s mostly spent mapping out my next move. It’s like taking your presentation charts with you on your Bora-Bora vacation.

The truth is too, I love the feeling of accomplishing something. But it’s also my therapy, throwing myself into my work is. When I’ve been provoked, hurt, or disappointed, my workaholism is kick started into overdrive. I hate crying in response to negative situations. That’s not to say that I don’t, but if I do, it will be in brief and in private, because inside I know it accomplishes nothing. Without going into too much personal detail, let’s just say that for at least the past six consecutive semesters, I’ve nailed my personal best grade point averages in my academic career. Intelligence? Hmm. Or just a result of my go-to response to particularly trying times?

On Sunday night, I was going through my Facebook feed as usual, scrolling through the slew of friends’ photos of frat parties, football games and other fun-looking events. All smiles, not a trace of regret. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. In my therapeutic “workaholism,” I haven’t paused long enough to determine whether or not I too am happy where I’m at.

Certainly I should be. I’m resting comfortably on my grades, grades that I earned so that I don’t have to be a wreck during finals week. My future roommates and I are getting one of the first picks for fall housing. I’m feeling a bit hopeful about some jobs I applied for for next year. I’m departing for Thailand in less than three months. I’m taking classes that I actually like next semester. And a year from now, I’ll be studying abroad at one of the most prestigious universities in the world. All the above are things I’ve worked tirelessly for. But all these things are in the future. When you ask me if I’m happy in the present – in the now – it’s a trick question.

Even at the beginning of the year as I was coming in from work, one of my hallmates said to me, “Whenever I see you, you’re either doing homework or you’re at work.” It was said in a friendly, teasing manner, but it made my heart drop because I knew – no, I know – it’s true. I honestly don’t remember the last time I had “the best night ever.” I used to know, though.

It’s a vicious cycle, wanting to be a “normal” (whatever that means) college kid, but being too preoccupied watching my back and protecting my reputation from being marred by failure. Maybe it sounds dumb or pretentious to you, but I can tell you that it sucks, it really does. And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, more power to you.

I want to go back to those weird nights out with my friends, when we had something of a devil-may-care attitude towards it all. The college acceptances and rejections, the curfew, the unrequited feelings, the everything. I want to do something stupid (fun-stupid) or out of the ordinary, as stupid as that sounds, because my fond memories will last longer and mean more to me than a check mark next to a finished task.

I usually like to end these things with a positive spin, though I am not – nor will I ever pretend to be – a Pollyanna. I guess my point is – don’t be like me. Don’t believe the once-I-get-this-all-done-then-I-can-relax-and-be-happy philosophy. In the words of Admiral Ackbar, “It’s a trap!” Get out of it while you can. As for me – well, school’s done in two and a half weeks. Then I can relax. Maybe.

Honesty…the Best Policy?

Honesty the Best Policy II pic

I take pride in being honest and straightforward, which I try to be most of the time. I’ll be blunt, only if you’re deserving of my brutal honesty.

But I think honesty as “the best policy” has been taken too literally these days. Girl decides to dump her boyfriend on the account that he’s too boring and makes no attempt to soften the blow when she informs him of such. YouTube users posting scathing comments about an amateur musician’s weight. Telling someone that they’re too stupid to pass a class.

And then there’s the classic “Does this dress make me look fat?” scenario. You don’t have to tell the dress-donner that she looks like Mila Kunis in it, but certainly don’t respond with “Like a whale.” Expect some missing teeth with that second response.

Some folks are purely hot-or-cold when it comes to the issue of honesty. For them, it’s an any-honesty-is-good-and-all-lies-are-evil philosophy. I’m pretty sure the Jews who were saved by the people who hid them in their homes during the Holocaust would beg to differ.

If I was really honest about how I felt about you, would you still say all honesty is good if I had a poor impression of you? And would you consider my lie “evil” if it was to protect you, or to keep your surprise party from being spoiled? No? That’s what I thought.

In my high school Spanish class some years back, I remember sitting at my desk tending to my own matters, until my seat partner randomly asked me, “Do you like me?”

I could see that he was trying to prove a point to one of his friends, that he was a likeable person.

“Like, just in general?” I asked.

If had answered truthfully, it would have gone something like this:

“Well…based on your lack of motivation in this class and heavy reliance on my classwork for “help,” and the pompous air you’re giving off by assuming that I’ll answer ‘yes’ to satisfy your ego…not really.”

But mama raised me well.

“Sure, I suppose,” was all I said, which seemed to be a sufficient enough answer for him.

I don’t want my words to be the reason for someone’s bad day, week, or outlook on life. Although I don’t think some lowly freshman girl’s opinion of his character would have caused him to lose sleep.

Chances are, I’ll tell someone it was a pleasure to meet them, even if the experience was more torturous than walking on broken glass. When you’re driving me home and asking me if I mind the two-hour long Mumford and Sons playlist, I’ll probably say no and smile politely while listening to “Babel” for the umpteenth time. And it’s likely that I’ll say that your homemade vegan pizza recipe from Pinterest was so thoughtful, while chewing between bites of the cardboard. Because a) if I really don’t enjoy someone’s company, I won’t make an effort to prolong that relationship, b) if you’re being nice enough to drive me anywhere, I have no place to moan about your choice of songs, and c) I really would think your vegan disaster dish was thoughtful, so who am I to complain about a gift (especially if it’s food!)? But at least I’m purely honest about my intentions in all of this, and where my heart lies (no pun intended).

“I just don’t think we have much in common to date anymore.” “Keep up the good musicianship!” “If channel all your focus and energy into this, you might pass the class.” “Perhaps try this dress instead; it might flatter you better.” There are so many ways to go about the honesty dilemma. But honestly, I’m too hungry and tired right now to continue on about them.