Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I've Met Some Amazing Individuals in Spanish Class

I'm struggling. I'll say it, I'll admit it. I feel like I'm standing at a precipice with no option but to jump. 

That's the first thing I wrote down upon reflecting on my feelings at this very moment.  Those thoughts of struggling have played repeatedly in mind these past few days, weeks even. As a matter of fact, I can still hear the faint echoes of those very words. They're only drowned out by more of my own constant questioning. When I close my eyes I hold back tears. It seems all of my options lately, no matter how extreme or proactive I try to be, are rejected.  And I'm left wondering what the purpose of all this is. I don't know what I want, all I know is that I want to be happy. 

I allude of course to the struggle of finding a job nowadays. Now I never imagined or dreamed that I was ever going to put my degree in English to good use, but I just was not prepared for how discouraging life after undergrad would be. I know a lot of us are in the same boat and I just can't imagine what the purpose is for all of these challenges. Sure, blame the economy okay but I have to believe that there's a bigger picture here. Since graduating in December, I've yet to find a job and everyday is getting harder. I remind myself to be grateful for all things I do have, my health, a supportive family, my writing. 

And also I'm grateful for amazing friends. I met May in my freshman year at UIC in Spanish class. She was Filipina, and an English major. Already I was taken aback, impressed. I was an intended-nursing major then, not yet sure of who I was or what I wanted.  She was in her final semesters at UIC when we first met. I remember just every conversation being real, refreshing, no bullshit, here was an individual whose light shines through words and conversation.  It was after that first semester, after having met May, that I switched my major to English. Before coming to UIC I never realized a degree in English was even an option (not literally of course, I was more concerned with what my parents would think). 

And through the years we've still managed to stay in touch and she's still the wonderful individual I knew when I was 18. Only now her light shines brighter because she radiates happiness and love, she got married and might I mention is the mother to a beautiful baby boy, whose first name is James, middle name Austen. Amazing, I tell you. 

We've been emailing back and forth because I'm a mess and needed to reach out to someone who has been in my situation, who knows what this struggle is really like. To keep you up to date, I made the hasty decision of going back to school and renewing my CNA/PCT certification and do that work in the meantime, I've even been considering continuing on with an ADN. My initial thoughts on all of this have been somewhat muted and its times like these when I know I cannot rely on myself. After discussing this decision with my more than supportive parents, I thought I could really follow through. When I opened my email this morning, May had shared with me her input about my dilemma.

"If I were in your shoes though, young, beautiful, and single-- If it is in you to go back to school then do it because you enjoy it, not because you're struggling for a job. In the end the goal is not to have regrets. So if you feel that this will better your future then do it. Everyone's struggling in this economy so don't let that get you down. Things will improve. Happiness is key. No matter what you struggle with- job, money, school, etc- if at the end of the day you can breathe a sigh of relief and still smile, then I say you're on the right track! With anything you do just make sure it's worth it -- again FOR YOU! "

In two emails she'd managed to summate everything I already knew. Happiness is key, why is being happy always so difficult for me? Here is someone I don't see everyday, well we haven't seen each other in years, but she just got me. I don't believe in a lot of things, fate or destiny, no. I believe more than anything that seldom do we meet people in our lives that we make connections with, people who just see you for you.  But reaching out when you need them and having them reach back for you truly is a gift. I believe that May is one of these individuals and I am blessed to have her in my life. Thank you!

Happiness is key. 
Happiness is key.
Happiness is key. 

As far as this going back to school situation is concerned, I've decided to put off any more drastic decision making for tomorrow. The second opinion which is almost as important as mine belongs to my sister, Czarina. Last night on the phone when I mentioned all of this to her she said that although she was happy for me for making my own way, another way, she feared that maybe "my heart won't be full" if I followed through with this plan. And I also fear that she may be right. But that's another blog for another day. I'll figure out my mess later tonight when I see my sister, she freakishly somehow always knows what's best for me...or at least what's best for me AND in line with what I want.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Impassioned Eye

Sometimes, when my life isn't what I imagine it should be I forget how important it is to be happy. Sure, you'll argue with me and say being happy isn't enough but for me, it's all I really need. Losing sight of what makes us happy isn't the problem, actually allowing ourselves to be happy is. Repeatedly I remind myself to surround myself with individuals who inspire me. Unfortunately, not very many people I know do.  And I know that must sound harsh but I've maintained a fairly high threshold for creativity and individuality.  So when I come across someone or something that provokes a stirring deep within me I'm forever moved.  

If you asked me to tell you about my brother, I wouldn't know where to begin. He's a thinker, a wanderer, a man without an agenda. He's an artist, a photographer, someone who can make something out of nothing.  I'm constantly amazed at his way of life, or more so his own personal ethic for living. Basically he's taught me that everyday is another chance to start over, to start new. He's helped me to realize that my life isn't set to any one course or path.  Last week he booked a flight to NYC simply because he wanted to see the Francis Bacon exhibit at the Met. When he makes a decision there's no agonizing over plans or consequences, he just decides. As a matter of fact, if you ask me now to tell you about my brother, I'll tell you this, my brother is a doer.

I do see a lot of myself in him, qualities in our ways of living intersect. We're both creatively expressive with different mediums, we're both impulsive and go wherever the proverbial wind may blow us.  I actually see a lot of my grandpa in him, a simple man who knew the key to living well. For my brother, I believe living well revolves around the simple idea to just live. Through his paintings and pictures I feel that he captures moments in life that he knows will never come back again. And I feel that it's an admirable attempt that we all strive for because too soon now turns to then and we just want so badly to hold on. 

Getting to my point seeing as how I've yet again digressed from what I wanted to share with you, my brother's eye for capturing moments and memories is truly a gift. I couldn't fake a well composed picture, trust me, I've tried.  In an interview with Charlie Rose, famed photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson said that (and I paraphrase because I just watched it and found myself overwhelmed with inspiration) "the subject takes you." And here we are, waiting for that perfect moment when we should just allow it to happen and take us. In any case, I believe that my brother has a likeness for this outlook in taking a photo. Yesterday, the Modern Wing at the Art Institute was unveiled and world renowned architect, Renzo Piano was at the ceremony. 

This of course meant nothing to me, I had no idea who he was or even that a whole new wing was being added. (I learn a lot about art from my brother and in turn I teach him my favorite things about literature, it's a wonderful balance.) Anyhow, after the ceremony as the crowd rushed into the new wing, my brother stayed back and to his amazement captured this.
Renzo Piano walked right past him. And that's great and all, I'm happy for him but aside from that I love this picture. When I look at it, I see an honest moment in a man's life, and he's not proud or boastful, instead he's contemplative and reserved. Then again, that's just my observation from his expression. I just love this picture. 

Another picture that I love is one that my brother took back in August. It was actually featured in the Chicago Reader this past fall and well, speaks for itself.
You can see more of his pictures here.  Also, I'm planning on visiting the Art Institute sometime this week to see the new wing, my brother highly recommends it. I was looking forward to going by myself because there are things I love to do alone, but would definitely love company if anyone wants to join. It's free admission until the 22nd I believe and I'm always in the mood to be inspired.

"Maps are for people who want to know where they're going."
-Robert Andre Gregorio

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Is Age Really Just a Number?

So I don't know if my mind is playing tricks on me or maybe it's just an issue of vanity, but lately I've been very aware of my age. I'm not crazy, I think 23 is still fairly young but my teenage and even college years are certainly behind me. More and more I'm finding that I'm no longer carded at the bar or out at dinner, c'mon 23! Times like these frustrate me and questions of whether or not I look old pop into my paranoid head. When my sister graduated from U of I in May of 2007, she announced her engagement to Mike at her graduation lunch. At my own graduation lunch this past weekend I clinked my water glass with a knife and asked for everyone's attention. As a joke I announced that I too was engaged, my family laughed and cheered, but then my uncle honestly asked me if I was getting married any time soon. And its times like those that I need to reiterate to myself that I'm 23 years old...and am young and should enjoy my life the way I wish, which right now is yes, unattached. Anyhow, for the most part people think I'm older than I look, which let me tell you is not at all flattering from my standpoint.

The most shocking experience happened today when a man in my building entered the elevator with his son who was furiously pressing buttons. I'd met him a couple times before either in the lobby or the elevator and all of our neighborly interactions were nothing short of cordial. I smiled at him and his son and he apologized and I insisted he not worry about it even though I was running a little late to work. A few moments later he turned to me and asked if I had any children. He must have thought I was crazy because I'm not sure what kind of look I gave him, but it took me a moment to process what he had just asked me. After re-asking him what he had asked me, he said, "Yes, do you have any children of your own?" I smiled politely, personally confused...but answered that no, I didn't have any. Enter awkward silence. So I'd imagine that most people would leave it at that but this man was something special. He then proceeded to ask, "Do you want kids?" By now I was thankful that we'd reached the lobby since I wasn't sure how to answer his question with his 4 year old son in front of us. Was I supposed to honestly answer him and tell him that no, I wasn't planning on having kids at least not in the near future?

I opted for just telling him that I was far too young to even consider children at my age, when I told him I was 23 he looked a little embarrassed and reassured me that he was old enough to be my father and apologized for all the questions and then felt the need to explain himself. Apparently he felt awkward because he was 36 (I don't know what kind of math he was doing in his head for him to think he was old enough to be my father), a single dad looking to start dating again. And apparently I looked like the woman he wanted to ask out. I told him that I was flattered (not really but it was the nice thing to say), but not looking to date at the moment so that he didn't feel like he was a creeper for politely hitting on me. Oh, just when you don't think it could get any worse this conversation was one that disproved that theory. Let's hope not to run into each other on the elevator anymore. I'm almost motivated to start taking the stairs.

Friday, May 8, 2009

I Like...

When I was watching the movie Amélie, not only did I love the quirkiness of the main character, but I also really enjoyed the way the other characters were introduced throughout the film. When a new character is introduced, the narrator lists random facts about what each character likes, facts that only someone intimately close to the character would know, or maybe even facts that no one else does.

That got me thinking about my list of likes, the things or moments that I like that probably no one else would ever guess about me. I watched the movie almost a month ago and since then have been compiling a list, this is what I have so far, I hope to keep this list and see it grow.

My List of Likes
  • I like hard gummy bears that require a bit of chewing. Haribo gummy bears are my favorite, sometimes I'll throw the bag in the freezer for little less than 10 minutes.
  • I like to open my eyes for just a moment when I'm kissing someone I deeply care about, just to see the way they kiss me, the look on their face, to see if maybe just maybe, they feel the exact same way.
  • I like to end every yoga practice with an inversion, that extra rush of blood to the head before savasana is exhilarating.
  • I like to sleep in lingerie on a random night even if I'm by myself. I believe it's important to feel sexy even without a man.
  • I like the sound a rubber band makes when you loop it once, then twice around a small but hard piece of paper, ie ticket stub.
  • I like the way lightning flashes erratically into a darkened room, exposing quick yet uncertain moments of clarity.
  • I like the slow, fatal burn of a cigarette.
  • I like eating a bowl of blackberries with a glass of Riesling after dinner.