Category Archives: Uncategorized

When we all come back

As I sit here in the Sacramento airport, after crying into the phone for reasons that may have to do more with the aftermath of picnic day than the fact that I’m feeling nostalgic, have made me realize how special and truly crucial it is to have friends in your life. Transitioning from college to the real-world doesn’t have a play-by-play guide book. It doesn’t have a yahoo questions page, and it isn’t the same for every person; so in short it’s frustrating. It’s at time almost too much, and it’s lonely.
College is a phase of your life where you are guided from high school to adulthood through a smooth transition filled with friendships, beer, fun classes, and jobs that may just be time fillers. College gives you the resources for the future and it teaches you how to make friends, and also how to keep the good ones. College teaches you that mistakes and failing are necessary for growth and that there is a time limit to most things, though at times as humans we often ignore this factor. With graduation comes gifts and sweet blessings about your new life and about all the potential you have. You are merely a seed and the world is waiting to see what you become. But like any seed or living thing, we must go through the pain and uncomfortability of growth.

I read once that change is similar to a seed sprouting- you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders and at times not even you are sure what is happening. But without that weight and pain, we can’t grow or break through the phase we are currently in to become something partially or new altogether.
So even though referring to yourself as a seed is not the best metaphor, it makes more than enough sense. Being back to Davis and seeing all the familiar faces made me sad at first and jealous of the friends who are still here living through their undergrad. It is now that I see the small bubble we were all in together and that I see more clearly how now we are scattered, following our passions, and though we may feel lonely, we are all doing the same thing. Though some may have moved home with mom or dad, or paying way too much for rent, or living with crazy roommates, or staying up late wondering what the f they are going to do with their lives still, we are all just trying to break through that surface, to grow, and to become what college has prepared us to become. I am still sad and I do still carry this uncomfortable sense of nostalgia in my stomach, but I realized it isn’t the place that brought this, but the people I was there with. Davis will always be there. Schaal pool will be filled with swimmers, divers, and polo players. The DC will continue to serve grilled cheese and a burrito bar and Froggies hopefully will continue to be the “talk and sit” bar. But what does change, what continues to shift and change, is the people that inhabit this place.
I feel lucky to have made relationships with people where a year can pass and we are suddenly time warped back to sitting around a table discussing our plans for the future. I feel lucky that though we are all living in different cities following or trying to follow our dreams, feeling sometimes unbearably lonely in doing that, that a phone call away someone is feeling these same things. I think though no one really mentions that your 20s are some of the scariest years, that you won’t know what you are doing most of the time, and that no amount of post-it’s can help you map out what will come next, there is still a silent bubble we are all in together, spread out farther than the boarders or YOLO county. As I sit here typing this, I still don’t have a word to describe how I feel, perhaps the opposite of lonely? Maybe it’s that sadness that comes with remembering something great. Maybe it’s the fear that is always with me about what next year will look like. Maybe it’s the excitement of the unknown and the idea of learning more. Maybe it’s that small twinge of happiness of realizing that picnic day can be celebrated differently next year with friends. Maybe it’s the realization that we are all actually growing up. I can’t help but smile at this one.
Though it’s been less than a year, I continue to be inspired by the amazing things my fellow Aggies are doing. The world welcomed us with open arms and we are continuing to carve our own path into it. I read recently that redwood trees can grow up to 300 feet tall. Though this fact is astounding, this is not what intrigued me. Redwood tree roots are very shallow and extend over hundreds of feet and are intertwined with one another below the ground. These trees literally support each other and help each other stand tall. I like to imagine this same idea for my friends and myself, we are all growing at this time, trying to reach our own potential, but we are all doing it together, intertwining with one another. Seeing it this way it makes it almost impossible to stop. To stop staying connected. To stop staying in each other’s lives and fundamentally, to stop growing ourselves.

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Good Habits

A few days ago a school counselor came into my fourth grade class that I am student teaching in and began the speech about saying no to drugs. She went on about how saying no is cooler than saying yes and that just because all your friends are doing it doesn’t mean you should. She even threw in the good old saying about if all your friends were jumping off a bridge would you do it? I laughed a little wanting to question back well how deep is the water and which of my friends are doing it. I even heard some of the kids mutter “well…” under their breath, already beginning to understand the plan we have laid out for them all. The point of this all is that they were all given out packets where they were asked to fill out information, information regarding short and long term goals. Realistically a long term goal for a fourth grader is something that they will do within the next hour, so as you could probably guess these goals were a little askew.

What stunned me out of all of this though wasn’t their short term goals of high school and college (such a commonality now these things are, as if they are engraved to write these), but instead their dream jobs, what they wanted to be when they were older. I got asked to spell a technologist, what a technologist is I am not sure, but you know what Sally, yes you can be it! I got asked to define what the job was that decorates cakes and cupcakes for a store (pastry chef I am guessing). I was left puzzled when a young boy asked me what the equivalent of a warrior on the Walking Dead would be in real life, but before an answer left my lips he yelled “SWAT team!” I think this is an accurate fiction to non fiction connection. I was even asked by a boy what he could do because he wanted to work with kids (well if you are 9 what is your actual definition of a kid), but at the same time he wanted to do something where he can see real life “guts and stuff.” I shuffled him towards the idea of being a pediatric surgeon, too many episodes of Grey’s Anatomy.

I walked around the room getting answers from future engineers, surgeons, physical trainers, and pastry chefs, but what I never found was any shred of doubt. These are kids, but at the same time they are humans, only been alive for 9-10 years, and in that time no one has told them no yet, no one has told them the reality, no one has taught them to hesitate. They didn’t want to be a veterinarian because they thought the income would be sufficient and that owning their own practice was a plus and in this economy people can still afford to pay for vet visits. Can you imagine a 9 year old spewing all of that bs out of their mouth? Well I for one cannot. They want to be things because they want to be things. Magic right?

Imagine waking up and deciding to do things because you wanted to, and stopping things because well you didn’t like doing it anymore. Welcome to the life of kids. I would like to say that I follow my heart in most aspects of my life, but after working with these kids, I am so very wrong. They don’t double guess, they don’t measure the impact of this event or this choice compared to the rest of their life, they simply do and if they mess up and realize it was a mistake, well then they just don’t do it again.

So many times I have looked toward choices and wondered will this help me in the future? Will this help me get to where I want to be? But what if for a few of these choices, we just did them, just because we wanted to. The passion these kids have for their dream jobs is not faulty, it is indeed pure. They want to help animals. They love food. They love playing video games. They like babysitting. I often laugh at the simplicity of their ideas and the things that come out of their mouth because they say what they feel when they feel it.

Just today students were preparing for a music recital for their parents and they were switching instruments with their peers (each student gets their mouth piece, remember coodies still exist) and one student refused to play. The teacher called on the student and asked her “Why aren’t you playing your instrument?” Her response “My mouthpiece smells like poop.” The instructor plucked the mouthpiece out of her hand and told her “It smells no different than mine.” Her response “It smells like poop to me.” She stood her ground, didn’t even hesitate in the face of a teacher. Bold I tell you. I had to turn around the avoid the students from seeing me bust out laughing, but also the complete shock on the music teacher’s face was something I keep replaying in my head. She was honest, and he had indeed asked her for the reason why she was not playing. It turns out the mouth piece smelled like the cleaning product he used, no different from the rest of the student’s mouth pieces, and for the rest of the recital she played with a pinched nose. It’s simple really, to say and do what you feel, but we often complicate it. I am lucky to learn everyday from 9 and 10 year olds, the few members of society who still feel the power they have and the limitless opportunities. Is it the same for all of us too? Do we truly have a limitless world? To be optimistic, yet realistic, I believe we do, but in the end I believe its us that gets in the way. The worrying, the future, the past, the what ifs. We were kids not too long ago, what’s stopping us from bringing back some of these good habits we have broken over time?

the girl and orphan on the train

Note to reader: Do not read two books about trains one after the other, confusion/character displacement will occur

I was recently introduced to the idea that time itself is always chasing us. Like the famous crocodile in Peter Pan, our lives are always echoing  the continuous tick and tock of what is to come and what has already happened. It was after reading these two novels that I found this idea once again relevant.

“The Girl On the Train” left me at many times feeling hungover, not only due to the fast paced narrative, which I indeed appreciated and connected to the title, but also due to one of the narrator’s inseparable connection to the bottle. There was something quite compelling and easily relatable about a female drunk in love. No, I am not referencing the Queen B herself, but instead the idea of escaping emotional pain and yet at the same time trapping yourself in it. The relentless guessing games I was left to solve, the murders I was not sure were wine induced hallucinations or clear conscious revelations, and the female drama packed characters left my hands glued to the rhythmic turning of the pages. I was taken away instantly, or should I say swept away (get it, like on a train). Furthermore, I believe this book deep down allows all of us to relate to the lead female narrative, stuck for a time in the past she so desperately wishes to return to; however, like most good things in our life, we are only aware of their brilliance when they are gone. So fellow readers, hop aboard, and please, for the sake of your sanity and stomach, remain sober when reading.

“Orphan Train,” yet another novel with the famous locomotive in it’s title, was one that I thought from the beginning I could predict its ending. As an avid reader we often are familiar to the common themes and plot lines most authors present before us, allowing us to be brilliant, yet annoying TV watchers, especially when having to do with criminal law, the endings are oh so predictable. I was drawn first to this book because I was told by a friend that it was based on true events, something that sounded to me as coming straight out of American Horror Story. To my surprise, this book ended up reminding me of another novel I had recently read in which the current, much younger narrative, connects with someone from the past in order to realize something in their own lives, whether it be a personal calling, journey, or answers to life questions. To return back to “Orphan Train,” I left captured by the life long message we often hear that is is never too late. The trains may come and go, but ultimately there will be more, more chances, more passengers, and maybe even more time. In comparison with “The Girl on the Train,” this novel relates less to the midlife crisis and more to the callings of the heart we often suppress. It is a story I would give to an elderly lady sitting on a park bench or my mother to read in her book club, ironically I do believe she read it in her book club. Not to say “The Girl on The Train” is too raunchy or perverted, it is a book that is devoured, drank, and sucked dry, leaving only the pages and one’s interpretation left. It is a simple train ride to and from a location.

Will these books be added to my top 10, most likely not; however, I will not lie and say I forced myself to read these two novels. I stayed up past 2 am finishing both of them on separate occasions, so yes, they were quite enjoyable. So as Kline stated in her novel: “You got to learn to take what people are willing to give,” whether in terms of my reviews, or relating to life in general, it reminds us that we are only in control of our own time.

What I wish they told you in your 20s

I wish they told you that you are going to be clueless. That just because you have a degree and 200 units under your belt does not mean you will know what to do now, or in the near future. That you will be lost, completely and perfectly lost.

I wish they told you that the amount of friends you have would decrease after graduation. That the people you are used to seeing on a day-to-day basis will become merely status updates, Instagram photos, and phone calls. I wish they told you that one friend you studied with, that person you never texted but always ran into, and the roommate who lived 2 feet away and now lives 9 hours away will cause small holes in your life, some of which may take 6 months to fill. I wish they told you that out of 20 people you will find yourself only staying in contact with 3, at least then we could have been prepared.

I wish they told you about the so-called “post graduation depression.” I wish they told you that you would wake up in the morning and feel disoriented because you aren’t in your room with those pictures and quotes or facing that window with the broken blinds. I wish they told you that craving places and familiar situations could feel like missing a loved one. I wish they told you that graduation is not a step in unison, but a solo jump into the real world. I wish they told you that feeling this way won’t last, because there are many more solo jumps to come, but that you will be more prepared next time, that it will be a little easier.

I wish they told you that moving back home is not easy. I wish they disclosed that moving away from your small college town that has been your home for the past four years would end in tears and craving that one sandwich place by that one bike shop. I wish they told you of the pains of saying goodbye to the freedoms you had in college. That you will feel out of place even surrounded by family members who you lived with for 18 years. That you are no longer the same person you were in high school and that your house no longer feels like you fit there. I wish they told you to get to know your parents for a second time. To become best friends with them again because you will need them when that whole starving artist thing falls through.

I wish they told you that being in your 20s shouldn’t mean we know what we want to do with our lives. I wish they told you that it’s okay to not know how to make the perfect resume, how to make something other than Trader Joes frozen orange chicken, and that scooping ice cream to figure things out is okay. I wish they told you that they went through the same thing, that knowing what you don’t want is better sometimes than not knowing what you do want. I wish they told you that you aren’t in this by yourself, that you don’t have to grow up right now, and that they will still help you schedule your Doctor’s appointments.

I wish they told you that being in our 20s will be the most confusing time of our lives and at the same time, the years giving us the most clarity. I wish they told us that we should drop everything and travel, write, paint, teach, or do that one thing we have always wanted to do, but not just say it, mean it. Support it. Come with us. I wish they told us that careers and jobs and passions should all be the same thing and that what you love should not come second to a salary or social status. I wish they told us to make a plan B or C or even F, for when we find that living, as a traveling writer no longer holds the same place in our heart or bank account.

I wish they told us what they were doing in their 20s. I wish they told us how they felt graduating and realizing that though they were all in it together, they were also flying solo. I wish they told us that they were wrong when they said college was the best 4 years of their life, because it was in their 20s that they realized college was only a little piece of what was to come. That college showed them who they were, but that their 20s showed them what they were capable of.

I wish they told you that in your 20s you are young, hopeful, creative, and craving to touch and make a difference in something and that in this moment the world needs exactly that. I wish they told you that the best medicine won’t be staying out till 3am drinking anymore, but calling a friend or babysitting someone’s dog, this will save you a lot of money. I wish they told you that telling people you are thankful for them and that paying for some stranger’s coffee will make you happier than that grade you once got on that Chaucer paper or that guy randomly texting you.

I wish they told you that being in your 20s is nothing but open space, that nothing is permanent just yet, and that this is the time to fail and try and fail again. I wish they told you to just breath, to keep fighting, to stay hungry, and most importantly, to not lose sight of what we love doing. I wish they told us that we are too young to be completely serious, that quitting our first job isn’t the end of the world, and that we are far more than what few lines our resumes have summarized us to be. I wish they told us to read more, to take ceramic classes after we graduated, to look for best friends rather than a spouse, and that adopting a pet is not a natural step in growing up, but merely late nights sleeping in the laundry room with 8 week old Smokey. I wish they told us to stop worrying so much about what is to come, we are after all only in our twenties. I wish they told us all of this. Type it up in a nice letter and send it out with each diploma, but then again would we listen, for isn’t it in our 20s where we figure this all out.

creativity

“I believe this passionately: that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out of it.” 

I recently began the journey to become a teacher at SDSU and on my fourth day of class our Professor turns off the lights and shows us Ken Robinson’s TED talk about how schools are killing creativity. In a world focused on innovation, creation, and the “next big thing” it is at times concerning that schools place more value in math and literacy, subjects that should be equally as important as creativity. 

I recently finished reading Fareed Zakaria’s In Defense of a Liberal Education and was shocked by many of the facts and statistics I found. It is no surprise that the U.S. is the top nation in the world when it comes to innovation and creation; however it is interesting that this fact is dwindling in support when it comes to universities and schools. The new American Dream is to drop out of college, code in a basement, and maybe create a million dollar start up, or maybe work for a big company like Google or Apple. 

This sounds nice right? Drop out and make it big. I mean you have me convinced, but the question is, how are you going to beat out the best, the competition, the rest of the population who is trying to do the same thing? The answer is two words: get creative. 

As Robinson stated in his talk, creativity is our ability to create something new that has value, something original, something that is the opposite of ordinary. This doesn’t come from one sole thing. It cannot be mass produced, but more importantly no two creative thinkers are alike, meaning the way creative people see, hear, taste, think, and learn is diverse, dynamic, and distinct. 

As the video ended and our class sat in silence, I understood the importance of the video not only as a creative thinker myself, but for our class as a whole. We go to school to learn, to find our passion, to fall in love with something- whether it is calculus, the human body, Chaucer, or a grapes ability to turn into wine- we choose to follow a path. 

Fareed Zakarai interviewed a group of people in Generation Y asking them what it is they want to do when they get older. Hoping to find inspirational answers: A painter? A dancer? A social worker? A firefighter? Our generation’s answer: I want to make money. I was sickened by this response when I read it; however we have been trained to believe money will lead to happiness. Success will lead to happiness. Hard work will lead to happiness. But we are wrong. 

What both Robinson, Zakaria, and my Professor are trying to tell us, is that we are what we believe. If we believe our ability to paint is not seen as a worth profession in our society, then we won’t believe in our talents. If we see wealthy people on reality tv shows and think our only way to be extremely happy is to live like them, then we will in turn believe money can buy happiness. It is our job to change this, this insane idea that happiness is something that can be bought, that creativity is something that should be harnessed a specific way, and that one degree is worth more than another. 

All humans are born creative and happy,and I hope as a I continue this program my fellow classmates and I can learn how to value, respect, and validate what children bring to the table. More people are earning degrees now than ever before, making what was once a unique degree now part of academic inflation. My advice? So stay creative, think outside the box, ask questions, and follow that calling inside because innovation does not come from conformity and the next big thing cannot be found in the answer key of a textbook.  We are always learning (even after we graduate from college) and it’s only when we decide to stop that we grow away from it all. 

no comfort zones

Be uncomfortable. It’s the one piece of advice I wish I had been given as a freshman, and it’s the greatest lesson I am taking away from college. I’m talking about the feeling you get when you start to doubt your decisions, the times when you feel so unsure you almost back out, and that feeling in your stomach when you wish you were home sitting on your coach rather than where you are right now. That’s the good stuff. That’s the stuff I hate and love at the same time. It’s what makes me understand how a fish out of water feels, how everyone at one time feels, and magically enough, how growing feels. 

 I have learned that the best things in life come after feeling extremely uncomfortable and out of place- doing something without all your friends, swimming in the ocean alone, getting lost in a foreign city, switching your major, trying something new for the first time. our lives really do begin at the end of these comfort zones- those moments when comfort is broken and we are left vulnerable, standing there only able to rely on ourselves and the little we actually know. It’s at these times when we are able to see things for how they are rather than what we thought they were- the seaweed we thought was a shark, the new hobby we realized we love, the fact that we actually hate running, the class we took without any friends turns out to be the best class we have ever taken, the decision to walk away from something we have done our whole life- these are all uncomfortable, yet they are all things that make us realize that comfort is a limiting perspective.

After recently coming home from Paris, I realized I have never felt more uncomfortable in my life, and I have been through many uncomfortable situations. Besides the fact that my cousin and I got lost for an hour at 2am the first night, being surrounded by people who are speaking a foreign language, none of which I could understand, is both amazing and extremely isolating at the same time. So many people say that traveling is one of the most educating and humbling experiences, that after coming home you will have bags full of dirty laundry and insights, but after coming home with my bags full of dirty laundry, I was left feeling that my knowledge about the world was sub-par.

That’s the humbling part of traveling, it shows you how little you know about the world. 22 with a college degree in my hands and I felt as if I was learning how to ride a bike for the first time. But why do so many people do it? Why do people love going new places and seeing and experiencing new things? The answer I believe is a secret. It’s a secret we all find for ourselves as we step outside of our comfort zone. It’s small things we find out about ourselves, our limits, our capabilities, and our knowledge. It’s experiences that change what we see and how we see it. The best way I can describe it is that life as we know it begins with blurry vision. If you are born with blurry vision you are unaware that anything is wrong, you believe the world is truly as you see it, and you do not know what it is like to see the world clearly.

But to travel, ah, now that is adding in contacts or glasses, that is helping to sharpen your vision, to make you see things more clearly. Life as you know it is altered. The way you see things is changed forever. Yes, this may sound dramatic and as if you have heard or read this about traveling a thousand times, which you indeed probably have. But the part that pulls us back in, like a fish caught on a line, is these secrets. These small pieces we pick up along the way like souvenirs, these are the things that makes us look in the mirror and notice something different about ourselves- an extra freckle, head held higher, a little madness in our eyes- these are what we come back for again and again.

But here is the biggest secret of them all, the part that no one told me, that part I am glad to have figured out: nothing in life worth having can come within your comfort zone. Nothing. Nothing great comes from being comfortable or with a mind full of 100% certainty. Great people do things before they are ready, and similarly, great things happen when we aren’t ready. If everyone was ready for great things to happen, they wouldn’t be considered great, they wouldn’t be referred to as magic, and we would walk away unaltered, comfortable, without any extra change in our pockets. 

So go somewhere, get lost for an hour or two. GO alone, go with a friend, go with a stranger. But go, because these secrets we bring back, these small truths we learn about the world, are as individual and unique as our own fingerprints. We can’t figure them out for each other, that would be nice though wouldn’t it? No, we must find them out for ourselves, and once we do, life as we knew it, life as we saw it, life as we loved it, is forever changed.

Tower 42 (short story)

I came home with dinosaurs in my pants. Well not dinosaurs really, but small pieces of them, worn down by waves and water. Sand always finds a way of getting into your pants. No matter how you sit or stand, you end up going home with a small pile in your pocket or underwear, an uncomfortable reminder of the previous events.

I liked his beard and the beer he gave me, he liked my perfume. He wore plaid and cut off denim, the kind of shirt you want to hug for comfort. He was here for a week, me, a lifetime. When the group moved, we followed, trying to avoid the magnetic pull of our hands to touch. I pulled away.

We ended up on the beach. We were in San Diego so it was inevitable. We listened to the sound of waves and kept watch over our friends becoming better acquainted on the lifeguard stand.

“Do you want to sit down?” he said starring ahead.

I ran sand between my fingers, feeling it stick in the crevices and palms of my hands, coating my skin.

“Does she do this often?” he asked.

“Do what?”

“You know, this.”

“You mean kiss people? I’m not sure.”

But I was sure. This was the fifth guy she had taken to that stand in the past two weeks. Tower 42.

Here I was again, chatting with the friend. Conversation was always the same- words like napkins on your lap and stories like introductions, polite and empty.

“Young love.” I laughed looking at my friend’s legs knit around a man’s waist.

“It’s a choice you know, to love someone”

“I don’t think of it that way.”

“Everyday we wake up. Everyday we choose.”

We sat there starring ahead, our minds replaying a scenario we wanted to happen, both silent to that pull. Like the waves our chances came and went, so we talked.

Religion. Relationships. Sex and the absence of it. Running. Swimming. Pizza toppings.

“I was saving for a ring.”

“For who?”

“We were coming up on two years. I was ready. We talked about it a lot.”

“What changed?”

“Nothing. She was never ready, never really wanted it. She just forgot to tell me.”

“She’s stupid.” I whispered before saying “I have never been in love.”

“That’s your choice.”

They were empty phrases really, backed by the fear that comes with new people, new connections, and new feelings. I felt it in his eyes. They were the color of Earth.

I felt the stories he told me, ones of dreams he let slip away like sand. Little pieces left to remind him of their deference.

I saw his hesitation.

“I think you should start dating again.”

“You do?”

“I do.”

I looked in him as I said this. I could hear it.

I do. I do. I do.

I was choosing like he said, but it had happened before it had been conscious. It had happened without me knowing and that is what he didn’t understand. To recognize love, that is a choice. To love and be loved, that was involuntary as a breath.

“Take me.”

“Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Okay.”

It was one arch of a wave and it was one retreat. The water is dragged away from the shore, reaching higher and farther, trying to hold on for a moment longer. It is inevitable though. It is an ebb and flow, and it is continuous. I watched as the waves left their shadow behind.