Day Forty-Five (Nicholas Sparks)

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This picture I found is perfect, because I have only actually read/seen four of Nicholas Sparks stories. The Last Song, The Notebook, Nights in Rodanthe, and Safe Haven. Well, I’m halfway through Safe Haven right now. Maybe reading these books makes me a walking cliche. A single romantic girl reading sentimental garbage. But I can’t help it. I like these books. Even if they all kind of read the same after awhile.

I have yet to read The Notebook, but I have seen the movie. Oddly enough, I find the movie to be lackluster. Yes, the romance is epic. Yes, the leads have great chemistry. Yes, the ending is a tearjerker. But it all just seems so overdone and ridiculous. The characters are just pawns to move through the plot. I liked Nights in Rodanthe, but I read it way back in early High School. The character’s were both soft-spoken and nice. The guy was perfect. Plus, it’s not often you get a good romance starring an older couple. I absolutely love The Last Song. I couldn’t care less about the obligatory romance. The guy could be replaced with a piece of wood and I would be perfectly happy. But Ronnie? She’s a decent character. Her best friend and little brother? They’re not bad. But mostly I just really like her dad and the strained relationship they share. That’s what interests me. The “estranged father and daughter” relationship is the trope that got me hooked. The last part of the book/movie breaks my heart every time. When I first saw the movie, I didn’t even know it was Nicholas Sparks and was completely unprepared. I remember sobbing in the movie theater and I very rarely cry.

There is not much I can say for Safe Haven right now. The character’s are pretty boring, but the plot has me curious. I’ve heard that there are plot twists and I want to know when and where the tragedy strikes. One review said the book could be considered science fiction/fantasy and damn if that doesn’t have me confused and interested. Nicholas Spark novels get a bad reputation of being overly schmaltzy, vapid, and shallow. But I’d still recommend checking them out. Who knows? Maybe one will surprise you. Most of them are just “meh” to me, but The Last Song is one of my all-time favorite books. Reputations can be misleading. These books are actually pretty good and there’s a reason I keep reading them!

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Day Forty-Four (Exploration)

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When I first started College, I was not happy about having to start over. I kept rereading the last chapter, trying to find ways to return to the past. Which is, of course, impossible. Not that it stopped me from trying. While I did attempt to welcome my college life into the narrative, my heart was never truly in it. Every new step seemed to be a grand act of betrayal to the life I used to live. Nothing felt like home. It was all shiny and new and I hated all of it. It had no right to try and entice me. I already had a home, thank you very much.

But, after some time, I began to realize that returning to the past was not an actual option. The only way out of my depressive funk was to keep moving forward. I remember an old journal entry I wrote my freshman year where I confided that I longed to one day call my college town a “home”. I added that, to me, a home was a place where you love and you are loved. It is a place where every little corner tells a story. By the time I graduated, my college was absolutely a home. So is my hometown. I guess we gain multiple homes as we grow and change and develop.

So what does any of this have to do with exploration? This summer I applied for an internship/volunteering experience on a whim. The opportunity is an hour away from where I live. It’s a week-long camp. The camp itself is an hour and a half away. So, needless to say, the town where my internship resides is not a town I am very familiar with. In fact, I don’t think I’d ever visited the town until this summer. Today, after I was finished at my internship, I went to WaWa to pick up lunch. If you have not had WaWa you have not yet truly lived. Anyway, it felt nice to just be on my own exploring the town. I saw a pizza shop on the way there. I saw some kids hanging out on one of the street corners. On my way up, I saw plenty of cool shops. It occurred to me that if I weren’t so busy with retail work and the job hunt, I could take time to explore this town and, in time, turn it into a home. Befriend the people at my internship, go on adventures into town, and become a regular at the local food places. For a moment, I could see my life in this town. Or any new town, really. I may not have a lot of direction in life right now, but that is absolutely my dream. I’m ready to create a new home. I want it so badly. I need to start my own life somewhere new.

There’s something really fun about exploring new towns and creating memories. Something exciting and relaxing at the same time. I can’t wait until I can find a new town, away from everything I’ve been surrounded by for the past 22 years, to shape into my new home.

“I want adventure in the great wide somewhere. I want it more than I can tell. And for once it might be grand to have someone understand…I want so much more than they’ve got planned”-Beauty and the Beast

Day Forty-Three (Dreams)

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When my life is busy, dreams are nothing but a footnote. Occasionally I have a really great dream, but I usually forget it by the time I get to school. Life is busy, hectic, chaotic, and exciting enough without having to focus too hard on what goes on in my head when I’m asleep. Life during the day has enough material to sort through.

When I was in 4th Grade, my school had a science  fair. My best friends at the time decided to just do a presentation on “Long-Term Memory”. I tried really hard to push for the analysis of dreams, but my friends thought the topic was boring. I finally got to write a short paper on Dreams (according to Freud) in college. But that short one-paged paper didn’t even scratch the surface of the topic. I have so many questions. My dreams have honestly been one of the greatest teacher’s of my life. It’s a fictionalized adventure personally tailored to your deepest emotions every night. How cool is that? It’s like a puzzle. What do the dreams mean? Why do certain people show up? What message is your subconscious trying to send? Do different people dream differently?

Personally, I refuse to believe that dreams are meaningless images that float through our brains at night. In fact, dreams are filled with hidden meanings. When I was in elementary school I had the constant “getting chased through a maze” dream and the common “everyone hates me” dreams. In Middle School I had loads of “getting lost” dreams. When I got my first crush, he became the star actor in many of my dreams. Before I returned to my summer camp in college I was bombarded with dreams of returning to the camp. I would be late to school in High School sometimes, not because I didn’t wake up in time, but because I spent too long lying in bed trying to analyze my dreams before I forgot them for good.

In addition to being a great insight into one’s deepest thoughts and feelings, dreams are just really cool adventure stories. In dreams you can become best friends with your favorite celebrity, return to your most treasured memories, and go on journeys with characters from the stories you love. The reason I talk about dreams right now, is because summers (and slow periods in my life) have always been a great time for unforgettable dreams. Since my life is so dull and predictable, my dreams have to make up for the boredom. The past two nights I have had great dreams. Two nights ago I visited with my old teacher (“Mr. Keating”) and we caught up briefly. It honestly was a relief to have this teacher I once admired so much support and validate the choices I have made. Last night I dreamed that I went on a vacation to San Fransisco with one of my best friends from college. It was the first time I ever traveled with a friend that far a distance. Even if it none of it was real.

Dreams amaze me. They’re concise and emotionally relevant stories that your mind stirs up for you every single night. Why do we take that for granted??? It’s so cool!!! When I struggle to listen to my heart, my dreams are there to tell me what’s what. Sometimes really bluntly forcing me to confront what my conscious brain really doesn’t want to deal with. I could go on and on forever about my love of dreams and how much I enjoy analyzing them. When my friends tell me their dreams it takes effort not to immediately start hardcore interpreting them. It’s just so interesting! Who knows what could happen?

Day Forty-Two (Infatuation)

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Over the course of my life, I have had too many crushes to count. It’s seriously really embarrassing how many guys I have liked over the course of my life. You would think, after liking so many guys, that I would either get tired of all the crushing or I would move up a level and start actually pursuing guys. Nope. My heart shows no signs of stopping. I guess I’m just going to have to keep muddling my way through my confusing tangled feelings until I finally get where I’m trying to go. It’s so hard for me not to just start fangirling over the latest crush right now. But I’m going to restrain myself. By this time next year, it will probably be a different person who I’m obsessing over anyway.

At the current moment, I have found that I have two different types of crushes. Well, I have about a bajillion-since every single person is a unique individual and my relationship with each person varies. Either way, the two types I have identified are the “Freight Train Crush” and the “Slowburn Crush”. Sometimes you can be friends with somebody for years without ever seeing them in a romantic light. Then one day, without warning, it’s like some feelings switch is turned on. Like your heart wasn’t paying attention and just got the memo that this person is perfect for you. Then comes the panicking, then the “WHAT IN TARNATION IS THIS”, and finally acceptance. But it’s a scarier road. More fulfilling in many ways. Because, under all the hormones, the feelings are still rooted in a deep friendship. And friendship is a beautiful thing.

Then there is the “Freight Train Crush”. These are extremely rare. It’s when you first meet someone and immediately your feelings wake up like “WHO IS THIS PERSON? WHERE HAVE THEY BEEN ALL MY LIFE? I LOVE THEM”. Even though you just met them two seconds ago, your feelings have already been decided and you’re going on this rollercoaster whether you like it or not. Good luck to ya. These types of crushes are fun experiences and they usually serve as lessons. They’re a rollercoaster of emotions and there’s no way to get off. You’ve just got to ride out the feelings and hope you land on the other side in one piece.

Of course, infatuation comes in many shapes and sizes. It works best when you don’t know all that you wish you knew about the person. The mystery keeps the “romance” alive. It’s part of the reason it’s so easy to love fictional characters. We don’t see all of their day-to-day flaws and quirks. We only see them as an idea, a plot point, or a storm of tropes. We don’t interact with them every single day and we don’t see the boring sides. It’s easy to like someone when they are far away like that.

But infatuation is not the same thing as love. Not by a long shot. Love is deeper, love is more authentic, and love is true. Love is caring about someone even when it’s not convenient or easy. Love is wanting to spend as much time as possible with someone. Love is wanting your life to be shared with another person. Not the fairytale. But a real-life person. Love is trust, care, respect, and friendship. Love is selfless. No matter what type of infatuation it is, infatuation can never be completely real. It is pinning your hopes and dreams on a fairytale. I have never been in love. But I get the feeling that it will be a hell of a lot better than this. I’ve just got to keep waiting, hoping, and trying. Maybe stop hiding from people I like or getting my hopes up too early? Maybe try to mix a little reality in with the fantasy? Maybe just let things happen as they will? I don’t have the answers. But I like to believe that one day it will all become clear…

Day Forty-One (Anastasia)

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So I finally got around to listening to the Anastasia soundtrack and I have temporarily forgotten about “The Great Comet of 1812”. Anastasia was my childhood, man. It gets some privileges. It kills me that I’ll never be able to see this musical on Broadway, but maybe someday some local theater will perform it. I can only hope. There isn’t much about the Broadway version that I find superior to the movie, though. I love Gleb, but then again I would love Ramin Karimloo if he were reading the yellow pages. The fact that he’s playing a cross between Javert and The Phantom is….goddamn. I want to know more. The additional songs are great, but none of them are at the same level as the film songs. They’re nice additions, but nothing too special. Also the actor and actress who play Dimitri and Anastasia are perfect. Different than the film counterparts, but still great.

No, I’d rather talk about the film. I usually describe the film as “a cross between a Disney classic and a romantic comedy….that’s not actually Disney”. Dimitri is my favorite Disney prince that’s not actually Disney. Anastasia is kickass. Vlad is great. Rasputin and Bartok are a fun duo. It’s unfortunate that the musical cuts their part out. The story is action-packed, the characters are fun and decently complex, and the animation is great. There are a lot of feelings and the beats all hit just right. Is it historically accurate? Not really. But, once you get past that, it’s a good film on it’s own. I would highly recommend it. I really need to rewatch it. I’m a huge Disney fan and I would gladly count this up there with the best of the Disney Princess films.

Day Forty (Karaoke)

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Whenever my parents leave me alone in the house, my first thought is always “TIME FOR MY CONCERT TO BEGIN”. Even as a 22 year old, that is still my immediate thought. I can sing as much as I want until they come back. Not just sing. Belt. Scream. Choreograph a dance. To whatever weird song catches my fancy. Tonight I sang a bunch of showtunes and dealt with some old unresolved feelings from my Freshman Year of college. It was a nice night of thinking, emoting, and belting out songs. I am a mezzo soprano, not that it matters. A night of singing is never a wasted night in my book.

Aside from auditions and in-class shows (I had a great High School class where we would perform a student-run show for the semester. They were dumb children’s shows, but it was still a great experience), I have never had a solo in public. I never got a singing role in any major shows and I quit chorus after 8th Grade. I was never the star of the chorus, anyway. Perhaps you can also count the few times I helped lead services in elementary school or my Bat Mitzvah in 7th Grade, but that wasn’t really a performance. I was more focused on making sure I knew all the prayers than on how I sounded.

Two years ago, for the first and only time ever, I performed at karaoke. It was on a cruise with my parents to Bermuda and I figured that if I was going to do this, I might as well do this now in the middle of the ocean with a bunch of middle aged adults I would never see again. I chose the song “Because of You” by Kelly Clarkson, which I quickly learned was a little too high for my range. I usually do well with her songs, so I thought I’d give it a shot. At least I could hit the notes. Better than nothing. At the time I was embarrassed and terrified, but the crowd was really supportive. I think they saw how nervous I was and was just impressed at my bravery for going up there at all. The activities director on the ship, who was really attractive, remembered my dad and I for the rest of cruise after that night. So that was a bonus. Lesson of the story: Be vulnerable. Do it for the story and do it for the cute boys.

I would definitely want to do karaoke again if given the chance. It is completely terrifying in every way possible. You have to put yourself out there and take a risk. There’s a good chance you’ll come off looking like a total idiot, especially if you let your nerves get the best of you. But it’s karaoke. A lot of people will bomb way worse than you before the night is through. If not, you might just pull off a badass performance and impress a bunch of strangers (and possibly friends) for the night. Do it for the story. Do it for the cute boys (or girls). It adds some excitement to the night and afterwards it’s cool to be able to say that you did it. Sometimes life needs a little bit of a fun risk.

Day Thirty-Nine (Dead Poet’s Society)

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I first saw this movie in 2009, 8 years ago. I remember watching it in my 8th Grade English class and my teacher saying that it was one of her favorite movies. I remember having to get a parental consent slip signed which spoiled a major plot point of the movie. I remember really liking parts of the movie, but thinking that most of it was fairly slow and boring. Eight years later and this is one of my all-time favorite movies. Whenever I feel lost or discouraged, I put this movie in. There are very few movies that have landed on my “comfort security blanket movie” list. Dead Poet’s Society is one of them.

The story of Dead Poet’s Society is not an overly complicated one. An independent out-of-the-box english teacher joins the staff of a strict and bureaucratic all-boys school. He throws away the stuffy old textbook and teaches the boys to write their own stories. He teaches them to follow their own path, read between the lines, and to love the arts. To seize the day and live life to the fullest. To read poetry not only from the mind, but from the heart. Some of the students take these lessons and create a secret club where they recite poetry for fun. They also start living bravely, openly, honestly, and emotionally. They start becoming active players in their lives, live their lives in the moment, and follow their dreams. I won’t spoil the rest.

I love this story because I am a gigantic book dork. I’m also really humanistic and all about living an emotional and authentic life. This movie inspires me. But there is one other, much more personal, reason that I love this film. In 7th Grade, the year before I saw this movie, I basically lived it. I have always been the shy kid. Scared to be noticed, scared to make a stir, and scared to share my opinion. Not a large amount of self-confidence. It’s not hard to see how I would relate to Todd Anderson. In 7th Grade, I had a teacher who I like to call “Mr. Keating meets Willy Wonka”. My school wasn’t as uptight as the one in this film and it was a co-ed public school. But we had a certain amount of rules. This teacher bent the rules. Yes, we had to read a lot of the same books that most of our grade read. Yes, we had many assignments and projects. Yes, we had boring vocabulary and grammar lessons. But we also had to read double the amount of books that most classes had to read. A lot of them were…controversial to say the least (I learned about prostitution, rape, and self-harm that year…among other things). Many we got to pick ourselves. Our assignments included creating a class-run E-Zine, writing two detailed personal essays, creating a children’s book, comparing literature to art and music, being in a band, running a tea party, and performing an interpretative dance. We also did some creative writing and analytical papers/journals. When I look back at this class I wonder how the hell I kept up with the sheer amount of difficult assignments we were expected to do.

On top of this all was “Mr. Keating” himself. He was a larger-than-life character. Always going on weird tangents, prone to random goofy outbursts, and completely nonsensical half the time. The other half of the time he was walking around with a twinkle in his eye that could give Dumbledore a run for his money, giving out sage life advice, or having calm rational discussions on your work. It was quite like Willy Wonka or The 4th Doctor, where there was a balance between the madness and the wisdom. You never knew which you would get at any time. My personal relationship with him was very reminiscent of the relationship between Mr. Keating and Todd in the film. I tried to hide and that only seemed to put me more in the spotlight. I eventually improved marginally, but it wasn’t a 180 degree character arc. These things take time. When I want to describe my experience in that class to anyone, I just point to the “YAWP” scene from the film. That sums up that entire class in a nutshell.

The author signing I went to yesterday featured an author whose book I read for that class. I haven’t reread the book since, but I remember it being good. The entire book signing and talk, a part of my brain kept thinking about that class. Thinking how full circle it all was. I haven’t thought about that class in ages. Where is “Mr. Keating” now? Where am I in comparison to where I was then?

Either way, I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone who loves writing, poetry, or reading. I would also recommend it for teachers. And anyone who still misses Robin Williams. Which should be everyone. Scratch that. Everyone needs to see this movie. You honestly won’t regret it. Maybe it’ll change your life, too.

Day Thirty-Seven/Thirty-Eight (Family)

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I’ve gone this long without talking about my family. But I should probably get around to that, since a lot of who I am is due to my family. At an author signing today (I seem to be going to those a lot lately), the author talked about his family. His books are autobiographies and based on his life. He has a strained relationship with both his siblings and parents. But, when talking about them, one thing was crystal clear. He loves his family. For all their faults, all their mistakes, and all their flaws. He still loves them. I believe most of his family has passed on and with their loss he has gained a clarity to his feelings towards them. Our families are vital to who we are and they are the people who shape us. For better or for worse, our families are a part of us.

I guess I should start with my parents. My mom is tough. She’s practical, logical, and a teacher through and through. She’s strict and often very authoritarian. She’s very much a mama bear who would do anything to protect her cubs and make sure they are well taken care of. I often go to her for practical advice, because she always somehow has the answer to whatever question I’m about to ask. Emotional stuff? Not so much. But when it comes to figuring out the next steps I need to take in a problem, she knows. It’s scary impressive. My dad is the complete opposite. He’s hard-working, sensitive, caring, and a total pushover. He grew up in a difficult situation and worked hard to become the successful man that he is today. He cries at the national anthem, sad movies, and every single goodbye. He’s traditional and a “family man”. Even if he can be a little judgmental and uncompromising. A little old-fashioned. But I love my parents so much and I am so thankful that this was the deck of cards I was handed at birth.

I also have a second pair of parents. My siblings. An older sister and an older brother. My older sister is the oldest and we often joke that she’s the “little mommy”. She’s a bit of a judgmental gossip, but she’ll always be there for people when they need her. She’s sweet, kind, giving, and way too much of a pushover. My brother is the “comedian” of the family. At least other people think he’s funny. He’s charismatic, curious, goofy, and smart. He’s a nerd like me. A little cynical and cutting. Sometimes borderline mean. I love both my siblings very much, too. I don’t know what I’d do without them.

I often complain about my family. I often talk about them in general. I know I annoy them a lot too. But, at the end of the day, I love them. I’ve spent more time with them than anyone else I have ever met in my life. They are the only people who have never left. Not ever. My story would not be what it is without them and I am so incredibly grateful for them.

“Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind”-Lilo and Stitch

Day Thirty-Six (Job Interviews)

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I’ve heard the horror stories. I’ve heard tell of how terrifying, overwhelming, anxiety inducing, and terrible job interviews are. To be honest, I’ve never really had a real one. I guess I’ve lucked out. My first job was offered to me by a family friend. My second job I got because my sister used to work there and still knew people. My internship at the nursing home and my filing job came from a family member. My internship at a camp, my job at the frozen yogurt store, and my job at the movie theater were all already decided before I even walked in for the interview. In all of these cases, the interview was just a formality. I already had these positions in the bag. I did go on one accidental interview for a job I didn’t want but we’ll just chalk that one up as a fluke.

Today I had my first real interview and it was almost worse than a show audition in some ways. At a musical audition, you get to prepare beforehand. It’s actually kind of fun and you get to meet lots of people at the audition. No, you might not get in. But at least the audition process makes for an enjoyable night. Interviews are not fun at all. There’s no showing off your talents or performing and doing what you love. No, it’s just sitting and trying to make yourself seem impressive. While your interviewer takes notes and judges your every movement like you’re some specimen in the zoo. The questions are all just traps and formalities and you have to know how to navigate them. Body language, facial expressions, and word choice are crucial. How well you can bullshit and how well you can read a situation determines if you get the job. It’s all hogwash.

My first interview was bad on all accounts. But it’s no surprise. I wasn’t eager about the job to begin with. My first mistake was assuming that the interview would take place in the office closest to my home. Evidently, it was the other office that had contacted me. But I had no way of knowing that. I arrived ten minutes late to the interview after speeding through highway driving to get to the correct office. I was applying to be a Registered Behavioral Technician where I can work one-on-one with children with behavioral and educational issues. I walked into a room of frazzled workers and screaming children. Did I mention I’m not a huge fan of kids on a good day? One of the questions during the interview was whether or not could handle kids screaming, throwing tantrums, and getting violent. My response was a hesitant yes and the interviewer called me out on my pause. Then again, I guess having no poker face isn’t a bad thing. At least I’m honest.

I know I am going to have to go through this process many more times before I can finally get a job. It’s not like having a BA in Psychology is the best for jobs. Every interesting job in the field requires a masters degree. Did I mention I don’t like kids? This is going to be a rough year of job hunting and today was only the start. Hey, it makes for a good story. “My first real job interview I ended up in the wrong building”. I can only hope that, like auditions, job interviews only get easier with time and as you pick up on the little tricks and rules. We all gotta go through it at some point. It’s all just part of the process.

Day Thirty-Five (Growing Apart)

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In my life, I have had many friends. People whom I’ve picked up along he way as I jumped from group to group. Place to place. Fellow outcasts and weirdos, eventually forming into a large ragtag bunch of goofballs that I am honored to call my friends. I don’t let people in easily. So when I do, I’ll do absolutely anything to not let them go. For better or for worse.

Seeing old friends is always an emotional experience. It’s bittersweet. Bitter because…well, life has moved on. Your lives have adjusted to the other person’s absence and neither person is the same as they used to be. There’s no getting back the easy connection that was once there. “You can never return home” and all that. If it’s awkward, that’s just sad because what was once a beautiful friendship has grown stale and faded. If it’s natural and fun, it’s sad because you’re no longer on the same path.

But at the same time, there is a sweetness to it. Catching up, knowing you all still feel a fondness towards one another, and spending time with the people who once (and most likely still do) matter to you is a wonderful thing. It’s nice and it’s a sign of deep friendship. For a short time it’s a reminder to happier and simpler times. And perhaps hope for the future.

But, most of all, seeing old friends is a catalyst for personal reflection. It’s impossible to see old friends and not realize how much your life (and theirs) has changed. How much your perspectives and beliefs have changed. How much you have changed. I always feel a little touched (and a little guilty) when old friends remember details about me. The details fade easily and quickly for me. After a couple of years, all I can remember was whether I genuinely liked a person or not. The rest is a blur. It’s a reminder that, once upon a time, we were friends. Once upon a time, they did know me. And now they feel like strangers. Now, worst of all, you feel like a stranger.

Growing apart is natural. It’s a fact of life. Sometimes it happens and it sucks. Time changes things. Distance changes things. It gets harder the older you get. Sometimes it’s just not meant to last. And that’s okay! Doesn’t mean it wasn’t a true honest friendship or that it wasn’t important. Oftentimes we’re led to believe that any kind of relationship ending is a tragic event caused by animosity or negligence. But sometimes it’s just…the way life is.

Today I met up with two close friends from high school. Two friends I cared a lot about at the time and I still care a lot about today. I put every effort into not letting them go. Loyalty runs deep. But things have felt “off” for awhile now. Everyone has changed so much and it feels like we’re hanging onto versions of ourselves that no longer exist. I enjoyed seeing my friends, but I couldn’t help but feel like they were strangers. With myself being the most unrecognizable among us. It all feels like a lifetime ago. Like it happened to somebody else.

This is not goodbye. Like the summer camp, I got an extended life here. Some time to see my friends off and spend a little more time with them. To know that they’re doing well and on their way to better things. I love my friends. But sometimes the healthiest thing to do is to let them go.

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened”-Dr. Seuss