Letters to Me

letters1Many years ago, a 16-year-old girl sat down to write a letter. To me.

My senior year of high school, my favorite teacher encouraged his AP Lit students to write themselves a letter, and stick it with one of those fancy forever stamps; he promised to hold the letters in safekeeping until four and a half years later.

When I finally opened my letter (riddled with teenage sass, two spaces after periods, my characteristic double-period, and typos), I was overwhelmed with a maternal affection for my former self. Among other things, I talked about my accomplishments during my last year of high school, the boy I wasted a whole year pining over, and my hesitation about leaving California. Apparently, I wasn’t as stir crazy as I remember.

Underneath it all, there was a potent mix of excitement and fear. That year, I’d accidentally coined the term “exscared.” I’d lived it. Much of the letter was too embarrassing or personal to publish, but below, the bulk of its contents:

Dear Marian,

I’m scared to be writing this, to be forced to think about where I may be in 5 years. What happens if I don’t end up doing journalism? Or if I haven’t really been in love again (doubt that)? As you know, I’ve been on such a set road for so long; the thought that I might stray from that road is intimidating. I don’t really know why I’m even doing this assignment.. I guess I just know how much I love snail mail and the thought of being reminded sounds like something my 21-year-old self would smile at. [My teacher] really is incredible for having an assignment like this. It’s like that one country song, ‘Letter to Me,’ only reversed…?”

[a bunch of stuff about boys]

“So much for that brain barf.. that isn’t what my whole senior year was about. Just the mistakes. I really feel like I developed a lot as an individual. AP [English Language] showed me how to write and appreciate satire, how to hone and focus my writing for a specific audience. AP Lit taught me how to think. I loved the logs [extensive papers we wrote every couple of weeks] regardless of how much of a pain in the ass they were. But they offered me the opportunity to develop philosophies and to expand my interests and whatnot by reading a greater variety. Of course, I also learned that there are some things I still don’t like.. like, for some reason, I can’t seem to swallow anything existential. Did that change? [Nope.] Do you still keep up with Liz Gilbert? [Yup.] I’m obsessed of course.”

[more stuff about boys, including this golden, narcissistic nugget] “Can I really handle someone more intelligent than I am? That sounds hard.”

“Gosh how’s Boston, though. It must be… winter of my senior year? [Close enough.] So I’m 21…finally :)”

“Really though, I’m so ‘exscared’ about going to school. 3,000 miles sounds like so far away. And like I tried to tell [my friend], choosing between California and the east coast is like choosing between two different parts of me. The person sitting here with the laptop, fake nails, and hair in a bun, with an oversized button-down over leggings [Did I think that was chic?] is the east coast girl, sophisticated (kind of) and hopefully successful. But what about the Marian that wears her too-long hair in messy braids and walks around in cutoffs and no shoes. With the weather and attitude of the east coast, I feel like choosing Northeastern over Santa Barbara means leaving that love child hippie freak behind.. and I’m not so sure I want to do that. I mean, it’s that flower child freak inside me that wants to travel the world and eat everything in sight and hear and feel and experience different cultures. If that Marian is gone, I’m just an uninspired nomad traveling from third world country to third world country.

For now though, I’m still plain old me…”

[more stuff about different boys—fast forward one month. Pass graduation, 17th birthday, chopping off hair. Pass Go, collect $200.]

“I went to orientation this past week, which was an interesting experience. I don’t know how much I’ll like the people at NEU. I mean, I can pretty much tell I’ll like the classes and lifestyle and whatnot, but I always am iffy about the people [I am? I was?]. Maybe I just didn’t get the best crosscut of an example, but my orientation buddies were a little loud and unclassy and kind of standoffish (though I credit that to the fact that we’re all strangers). Anyway, for the purpose of finishing this letter, I’ll say peace. And also, how the heck did you fit everything in? I don’t know how to do everything I want to at NEU and still breathe!! And also, did you end up joining the Peace Corps [Lol.]? Consider it because I want to now and I probably will want to later too [Meh.].

Good luck at your new life (I can’t wait!)

Marian the younger”

I anticipated my letter’s arrival (I’d thought it was coming 4 years after graduation—when most would graduate college, but the winter makes more sense…More time to get situated, find a job, and come home for Christmas break). So I was naturally excited when it finally made its way through my chain of USPS forwarding requests to my most recent address. Reading my letter was insightful, embarrassing, and fantastical.

I vaguely remember sitting on my bed and thinking about the most relevant details to include. I see that version of myself and cheer her on, knowing that there’s so much life to live in her coming years. Following my first read-through, I immediately drafted a response to my teacher and friend, thanking him for the exercise. I’m grateful that I took the assignment seriously.

I put a lot of forethought into writing my letter, and as a result, reading through it felt like talking to a shadow of myself, a shadow because there are still remnants of that 16-year-old in me; I’ve just built and continue to build myself up around her. But she was—is—the foundation. When I wrote my letter, I was stressed about leaving home, starting school, and somehow fitting everything I wanted to do in college into what turned out to be 4.5 years (and here I was worrying that 5 was too short).

I wish I could go back and explain that goals and wishes change. Peru turns into Paris, and Marie Claire turns into…not Marie Claire. One strength of being naive is that one is never lacking for dreams. Recently, as an adult for “realsies”—Is one ever an adult if they use such terms?—I lamented my lack of freedom. Tied to a job and a relationship (both of which I’m eternally grateful for), I will likely never again have the same freedom to travel, and start fresh. I envy my former self in more ways than one.

It isn’t entirely a positive experience, though, reading this letter. I want so badly to be able to  write my 16-year-old self a reply, to coach her through the next couple of years. I want to tell her to give up on boys for a little while, to break away from the “set path” and seek opportunities she’s passionate about, not just those which beef up her resume. I want to tell her to taste duck, to invest in bitcoin, to think twice about the whole Mormon thing.

I want to tell her to hug her uncle.

It is a maternal protection I feel towards this encapsulated version of myself. But I suppose retrospect is always 20/20. All that aside, the last several years have been incredible, and I’ve been blessed with every opportunity to pursue whatever dream I dreamt that week. I’ve learned much, mostly from trial and error. Especially error. And I’m better for it.

To my teacher/mentor/friend, I wrote:

“Thank you for this exercise, for this unique and insightful look into just how far I’ve come. On my desk at work, I keep a Post-It that says “be better than you were yesterday.” It’s encouraging to see in retrospect that I’ve lived that mantra every day for the past 4.5 years. Thank you for playing your role–bigger, I think, than you’ll ever realize–in shaping the 16-year-old then and the 21-year-old now. I will forever count you among my dearest mentors and friends.”

Though I can’t pass my garnered wisdom onto my former self, I’m grateful others coached her in my (her?) stead. Cheers to the child in each of us.

May the odds be ever in my favor

PS_0251W_EXHAUSTING_ADULTI’m not good at goodbyes. And by “not good,” I mean I tend to avoid them all together (One big exception would be crying in an alley with my little before I abandoned her to study abroad, but I digress…).

With a major chapter of my life coming to a close, I feel obligated to write all these goodbye tribute posts. Farewell to Kappa. Farewell to college. Farewell to Boston. Farewell to childhood. But it doesn’t feel like closure, somehow. It feels like… I’m not entirely sure. It feels like I still have a ways to go before the chapter really concludes.

I’m not sad, necessarily, because there’s still much to look forward to. I’m not excited, necessarily, because there’s still much to do (and few people to help me do it). In all honesty, I feel like I’m faking it, like one of these days someone is going to pull back the curtain and realize that I’m just pretending to be an adult. Surprise! I have no idea what I’m doing.

I made the mistake of counting, and this upcoming move will be my 12th since I graduated high school. That’s roughly three moves a year. I’ve learned to save my boxes, leave certain boxes unpacked, and minimize. I’m looking for stability, yet I have a temporary position that won’t really support me financially and a savings account that’s dwindling at best. I joked recently that I’m going to end up buying a house when I’m 26 just so I can point to one red front door in a sea of doors and say, That one. That’s mine.

In all honestly, I’m absolutely terrified. I feel ill-equipped to jump into a new industry, I (quite rightly) feel ill-prepared to support myself. I feel exhausted by my potential (that’s a good thing?) and by having to itemize my priorities when I have little to go off of—What’s more important? Being near AB? Making money and supporting myself? Doing what I want to do? What about when those things conflict?

What people don’t tell you is that once you graduate, it’s no longer six-month co-op commitments. Every decision factors in the five-year trajectory. Where do I want to live in five years? Will I be in a comfortable position to transfer by that time? When do I want to have a family? Why is none of this—job, relationship, career path—guaranteed?

And perhaps I’m being a little melodramatic. Okay, a lot melodramatic. I have a uniquely potent dose of the real world right now and it’s a lot to handle. I’m trying for grace, grace and gumption during this uniquely turbulent next couple of months. Compared to all this “real world” stuff, college sounds easy as pie. Maybe that’s why I’m not too keen on saying goodbye just yet…

Eeaazzyy Livin’

“Summertimeee and the livin’ is eeaazzyy..”

Oh what a fantastic summer this has been. In a recent conversation with my mother, I said that my life is defined by my summers. I always have fantastic vacations, learning opportunities and personal growth. Honestly, I think oftentimes, I learn more during my free, lazy summers than I ever could in a classroom. Summers are necessary for personal health and everyone should take 3 month breaks from the rest of your life. It gives you a mini sobatical to reevaluate who you are, where you are and where you’re going.

A brief summary of my past few summers…

2005: Hiked the Grand Canyon, learned field hockey, started high school

2006: Read a record number of books

2007: Spent the summer at Brown University, began to establish my opinions and political views, decided I wanted to be a writer

2008: Went to Cancun, bonded with family, saw baby turtles

2009: graduated high school, experimented with religions, learned love

And then there’s this glorious summer. I had even more time this year to play around and learn the ins and outs of myself. But regardless of the extra time, every moment was important and served me.

This wonderful summer, I finished my first year of college, I dragged myself around Europe and fell in love with Paris. I grew closer with my mother and father on two separate, but equally wonderful trips. This summer, I turned 18 and walked on 1600 degree hot coals. I realized that sometimes the heart doesn’t break because its stronger than I am. This wonderful summer, I embarked on a commited love affair with myself and learned the empowerment that can come from honoring that relationship. This summer, I literally tackled fears and weaknesses and taught my baby brother a little about what I call “crazy love.” I watched my writing get bashed on public blogs and had bylines butchered (which sucked). However, I also was reminded of just how powerful words are when mine, however brutal, made an international celebrity throw a hissy fit. This summer, I realized that I have a huge family and that “home” is a concept that I can carry with me, rather than a physical place. I wrote tons of letters and dared to wonder “what if…” This summer, I chopped some bangs and created a new, polished look for myself. I set my sights on law school and have renewed my commitment to myself.

Thank goodness for summers and for the lessons they teach us. And here’s to a wonderful sophomore year. Already, my schedule is filling up with Kappa recruitment, newspaper budget meetings (I’m inside editor!) and jobs in the Journalism lab. There are clubs and commitments and fun and festivities and I’m so thrilled to back in the mess. No one ever crooned that fall semester livin’ is “eeaazzyy,” but its sure to be a stress-and-fun filled 3 months. Can’t wait!

“It feels like home to meeeee…”

So there’s this boy… man? boy? I suppose he’s a 70-something manboy. Yup, that sounds pretty accurate.

I’ve briefly mentioned this old fart before. But his name is James Francis Bunker. And my relationship to him is that he’s my dad’s college roommate’s old boss. Sounds kinda like that Spaceballs scene doesn’t it…

Anyway, our mutual connection introduced us because Jim went to Northeastern and still plays an active role on campus. Turns out, he put in a good word for me.

And now? After a wonderful first lunch in February, we see each other whenever we happen to be within driving range of each other. And for the rest of the time, we email and talk and keep each other updated about the latest happenings in our lives (actually.. maybe it’s more about whats happening in MY life. Oops).

He’s a kook and takes every opportunity to make fun of me. But, at the same time, I’m not afraid to dish it back out. And in our teasing and mockery, we are able to communicate in our own language. To the outside world, we probably look like the silliest pair ever. But I don’t know… I just like this crazy old man. He’s lived quite a bit more than I have, but is happy to share his experiences and his wisdom and the best cafes in Paris.

This summer, I was SO blessed to meet his firecracker of a wife. Not only was she wise enough to con him into going to college when she was 14, but she’s put up with him ever since then. And knowing him, that deserves a ton of respect.

And through him (or those he knows), I’ve been able to meet some other people, too.

I called him this morning and suddenly came to the realization (albeit, belated) that this poor sucker is family. He, combined with the other Bostonians that I love, is the family that I’ve built for myself in my beloved city. No wonder it feels like home to me… I’ve got a crazy “uncle” and his wonderful wife, 80 sisters and countless treasured friends to keep me company.

Vanessa Carlton, in her song “Who’s to Say,” concludes that “sometimes family are the ones you choose.” Now, I’ve got one of the most incredible, dysfunctional-but-it-works-for-us families in the world. But it’s nice to know that I can build one for myself, too, compiled of people that I love and choose to love and who happen to love my city as much as I do. <3

Random Thought to Ponder: Brain Backlog

Sometimes, when it’s been a while since I last wrote, I get physically agitated. I’m anxious and cloudy and feeling like I’m dangling outside of the physical realm. I realize how, well, ridiculous that sounds, but it’s almost as though there’s so much that needs to come out. And all of this brain barf backlog is fighting to be the first at attention.

You know how with cans, the contents can’t come out because there’s a natural vacuum? And the only way for it to move is if the poor can gets another hole popped in it to break the vacuum? I’m the can… so much is trying to get out of my head and the only way for that to happen is with some fresh air.

And, yes, I realize that probably makes very little sense, but basically I’m saying that I realize I need to write about SOMETHING, but have no clue where to start. Maybe it’s more that I just need to talk to someone. I used to joke that the reason I loved to write was because it was like talking to a therapist. The shrink doesn’t even necessarily have to say anything, but just spilling our heart’s complexities is therapeutic.

So I’m spilling. And I should also preface by saying that this is by no means a professional post. There is no research involved (unless you count living as research) and there will likely be no conclusive thesis. But look at the title of this blog. Brain Barf. That’s what it’s called and that’s what I’m giving. And if you have a recommendation for a therapist in San Diego or Boston, feel free to pass their information along.

So, as is evidenced by the past um several posts, I have plenty of romantic issues in my life. And it’s frustrating. I am confident in my school, I am confident in my writing, I’m confident in myself too… 95% of the time. I’m even comfortable meeting guys (maybe too comfortable). But put me in any sort of relationship with them and I screw it up. Why am I so innately hardwired to want to have a successful relationship? Why do I measure so much of my self worth based on my relationship status?

I think what I find particularly challenging is that I’m not a bad catch (and I say that with all necessary modesty). I get good grades, I know what I want in life, I’m sarcastic and even occasionally funny. I have straight teeth and am skinny. I’m competitive and smart and know not to wear double denim. And I happen to get along great with the parents.

So is it me? I realize I have some major honesty issues (as in, I tend to dole out a lot) and I over-think and over-analyze every look and twitch and unanswered call. Yes, I’m not perfect. But let’s evaluate some other suspects, as well.

Is it the age? Is college to blame? The oversexed media culture that is turning Gen-HarryPotter into testosterone-crazed sexpots (or visa versa)? Is it what I spontaneously deem College Player Syndrome, where guys like to “play the field” up until about their junior years when they realize that maybe girls don’t still have cooties, but sleeping around DOES spread cooties/STDs?

Is it because I’m actually looking? Truth be told, some of the best guys in my life were able to access me because I payed them no real heed until I suddenly turned around and thought Hey look, this guy’s kinda… awesome.

Is it because I settle? Or because people settle for me (ouch)?

I was watching some (more) Ally McBeal today… as in 5 episodes. Bygones. But Ally was sitting with this one character and had this character do an exercise. She said to think of the perfect wedding. Think of the guy and the first dance and the ring and the cake and the gorgeous low back dress and the color lipstick and the perfume and… you get the point.

And then focus again on the groom, on that perfect morsel of a dream man. Imagine his every feature, his every charm, his every trait. His smells, his eyes, his jokes, his quirks, his hands, his hair, his job, his house, his parents, his dog,his friends, his ex-girlfriends, his conservative grandmother, his dirty clothes, his leaving the toilet seat up, his spraying the mirror with toothpaste, his lack of interest in having a family, his dancing with two left feet, his sand paper facial hair, his geronomo afternoon shits, his stealing the sports section, his using my towel, his 100 degree heat when he sleeps, his tendency to not look me in the eye, his arrogance… And imagine living with that every day for the rest of your life.

Somewhere along that list, I realized what Ally was trying to show, that even the man of my dreams isn’t what I want. If my imagination can’t even grant me that small happiness, how can a person?

Gosh, that sounds so depressing and downtrodden. Mostly because that’s kind of how I feel lately. But I’m tired of singing Goodnight, My Someone to some mythical person. Ever since the first grade and my first boyfriend, John Paul, my life has orbited around boys/guys/men. It’s been way too long; I’m tired of passively waiting. And I’m almost tired of actively pursuing…

I just wish someone were fighting to find me as hard as I am to finally, FINALLY find them. Hurry up, babe.

Poetry: “Shades of You”

For some reason, I was writing last night and the phrase “shades of you” came to mind. I liked it, so I ran with it. Twice.

Shades of You (v.1)

Shades of you,

Lackluster faux-mances without the inside jokes and comfortable silences.

Poor perfects don’t stand a chance against your unkempt mess of a personality.

The way you try to use your psych talk to analyze me.

You kept quiet but I had to brain barf all over Tyler’s shoes.

Sorry.

I can hide 3,000 miles away,

But my 2am insomnia misses you.

Me too.

Shades of You (v.2)

You loved me,

Once.

I caught on a little late.

I told you you were smarter than I.

As usual, time wasn’t on my side.

Impromptu drivebys turned to awkward mornings.

Life’s not a romantic comedy…

No climactic music and kissing scenes.

Oops.

I used to think that putting “us” off,

Meant that I was in control.

I’m such a control freak.

Now,

I’m trying for “hopeful” romantic,

Even if it’s a challenge

(It is).

He’s great, you know.

He gives me a headache.

And his hair…

And he kisses my head like I know you would.

If you would.

But…

(Gosh, I hate that word)

But shades of you,

Will never shine quite as bright.

For what it’s worth,

I still love you.

I Love You, Boston

Minimal posts lately… I’m on vacation!

I wiggled my way into my dad’s east coast trip. We spent a day in San Francisco then jet off to Connecticut to pick my baby brother up from school.

Thennnnnn we drove up to beautiful Boston, to kill some time and see some WONDERFUL people. And I’ve fallen in love all over again. This place is such an integral part of me; I don’t even see the gum splattered cement. I don’t smell the subway perfume. I don’t mind to hustling commuters or the bikers who don’t stop. How could I focus on that half-empty stuff when I’m too busy jumping into (multiple) public fountains, catching up with the best girlfriends I’ve ever had, and walking the streets that saw me transition from small-minded freshman Californian to comfort-oriented, Bostonian journalist. I love this place.

Thought to Ponder: College

I just returned from a night out with 3 incredible women watching Avenue Q. Muppet sex, masturbation, porn, racism, homosexuality… all crammed into a neat and tidy little musical!

It kinda of got me thinking a little deeper about school, though. Odd, I know. But there’s a particular song in the second act about wishing to be able to go back to college. It seems like a lot of “grown ups” think that way and, while it used to frustrate  me because I didn’t understand looking backwards, it also make me realize just how freaking awesome it is.

I love my home town… beach, sunshine (sometimes), salt air, In n Out and Mexican food. But being home for the summer is kind of empty compared to being at school and in Boston.

At home, I don’t have a room to myself. I don’t even have a suitcase to live out of and I share a bathroom with two boys who feel entitled to treat me like crap because I’m obligated to love them. I have chores and am often stripped of much of my independence… I don’t think my parents do that intentionally, but it kinda happens when I’m a child rather than a tenant.

At home, when I want to hang out with a friend, I face complications. First off, they have to actually be 1) in town, 2) not working or in their summer classes, 3) have money to burn and 4) be willing to pick me up since I seldom can use one of my parents’ cars. The chance of any one of those occurring (let alone all four) is quite a rarity.

At school, I have at least half a room all to myself. I have my bedding, my wardrobe, my pictures on the wall. I share a bathroom, yes, but with girls. Girls who I can live with because we’re careful not to tread on each others’ toes. I have chores, but they involve cleaning up my own crap, not everyone else’.

In Boston, my friends all live within walking distance. I don’t have to burden them with picking me up or (God forbid) hanging out at my house. I can see them at all hours of the day in a variety of venues. And it’s wonderful.

At school, everything that matters to me is in a four square block section of Back Bay. Overpriced produce at Wally’s, the booths in Curry student center with the electrical plugs so I can write, the food in the basement of Curry, the bookstore, friends’ apartments and dorms, rich friends’ stocked refrigerators, Starbucks green-tea-lemonade-sweeteneds, my secret corner of the stacks, AfterHours’ weird poetry slams, Huntington News headquarters, Stetson cookies… everything I could possibly need is right there.

College really is the best years of our lives (at least so far). Luckily, Northeastern’s 5-year program grants us the opportunity to dip our toes into the “real world” (via Co-op), while also postponing the days when we are void of meal plans and parental bailouts. That extra year gives us 12 more months of searching for our “purpose” and helps to ensure that we end up somewhere closer to Avenue E or F than all the way down at Q.