[ordered chaos 9]

||Life After College:  Year 2 - Corporate Hell


(I am)
..22 years old  
..in New York
(Soundbite) || 08.04.03
(x)Prelude to Foundation
:: by Isaac Asimov
(x)Harry Potter: Order of the Phoenix
:: by J.K. Rowling
(x)Bird by Bird
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:: by Isaac Asimov
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:: by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
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(x)Small Wonder
:: by Barbara Kingsolver
(x)Man from Mundania
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(x)Second Foundation
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(x)Daughter of Fortune
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(x)Ender's Game
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(x)A Clockwork Orange
:: by Anthony Burgess
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(x)In Our Strange Gardens
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:: by Diana Wynne Jones
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:: by John Steinbeck
(x)Future Homemakers of America
:: by Laurie Graham
(x)Bel Canto
:: by Ann Patchett
(x)DragonLance Chronicles
:: by Margaret Weis
(x)Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
:: by Dai Sijie
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"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad enough to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved... The ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars."

    -Jack Kerouac

[Sunday, June 29, 2003]

The Sound of Silence.

I like the sound of sleep. My roommate's mother is visiting, and she's obviously suffering from some serious jet lag. I came home today to her sleeping on the couch. And the place was filled with the airy sort of silence that descends when the sandman has taken a visit. I can -hear- her sleeping from inside my room, the sound of breaths going in and out of the body. And the breaths have this deep fullness to them that is different from regular breathing. You can't hear it, but yet you can somehow sense it, the whoosh of air in and out of lungs set on auto-pilot. You can hear and -feel- how soundly the person is sleeping. It has a soothing quality about it. Lends the place a homey sort of air. Fills it with a comforting sort of quietness. It's been a long time since I've been around a sleeping person. When someone is sleeping, they somehow pervade the air with this soft quality, like a blanket has been laid over the entire room. It's not really silence, it's just a hush. A calm quiet hush. I like it.

posted by ink| 7:55 PM |
[Saturday, June 28, 2003]

Bars, barring thought.

The moment every girl has been waiting for happened last night. The cutest guy in the bar talked to me all night. And what could I do but sit there, dumbfounded with nothing to say besides the occasional giggle. Good grief girl, get a GRIP on yourself! My mom always said that I had a problem putting my best foot forward, but that if people hung around long enough, it would eventually reluctantly show itself. Thanks mom. There is nothing more frustrating than seeing opportunity sitting right in front of you, and you not being able to force your hand to go out there and grab it. What's the use of being a nice person if you can't seem to show anyone that? What's the point of having things to say if they won't come out when it counts? Likewise, what's the point of thinking you're smart if you can't prove that to the admissions officers? Oh this problem I have applies on -so- many levels. I came away with a couple of thoughts. 1) Bars are not the optimum place for meet people. Or perhaps that's just an convenient excuse for my lack of social suave. 2) If I don't do something about this problem soon, it will start to seriously impede my quality of life. 3) The NY dress code has relaxed. I got into the bar with flipflops on. 4) Girls with heels on are dangerous. My toe got stepped on and then proceeded to bleed all night. YUMMY.

posted by ink| 11:32 AM |
[Friday, June 27, 2003]

A bun in the oven.

As I was walking home today, I felt a bit of stirring in my brain. A few weeks ago, I had unearthed an idea. Frightened, I left it where it was as soon as I saw it, and it's been sitting in the back of my head since then. My brain treads gingerly around it, my stream of thoughts is careful to avoid it, as if afraid to disturb it and wake it up, as if afraid to touch it in case it disappears into thin air the way law school did. Law school disappeared into thin air conveniently after I'd paid the 100 bucks to take the LSAT's. So it sits on the back burner of my head, untouched besides the occasional careful poke to make sure that it's still there, that it's still real, that it's not just a figment of my imagination. It's baking like a bun in the oven. Incubating like an egg that has lost its mother hen. And I wait. I wait until its ready. Until I've become more accustomed to its presence inside my head. Until I am sure that it is real and not just another flight of fancy. Until I am steady enough to not burst into panicked flight at the very thought of it. I wait for it to mature and it waits for me to mature. It has a feeling of rightness about it though. A strange sense of belonging. But I leave it alone. I feel like it's a candle. If I think about it too much, it might blow out.

posted by ink| 3:25 PM |
[Wednesday, June 25, 2003]

Radiation and Drills.

I went to the dentist today. For the first time in two years. I sat in the waiting room and filled out the forms. I never understood why doctors need so much information about you. Why would marital status affect the health of your teeth? Or whether I have high blood pressure? Why do they need to know where I work and how long I've been working there? Why would my salary range matter? They know I have health insurance. Why do they want to know how long I've lived in New York for? Are they selling this information to market researchers? If government wanted to turn Big Brother, doctors and hospitals are the first places they would turn to. After all, no one thinks twice about giving their doctor information about their personal lives. They assume everything is confidential. I scanned the form I was filling out. Nope, no sign of a confidentiality agreement. "When's the last time you saw a dentist?" Two years ago. I chewed on the back of my pen and wrote "One Year". Underneath that was "How many times a day do you brush and floss?" I paused at that one as well. I always brush every morning without fail. But there've been times when I've passed out on the bed before I could make it to the bathroom to brush at night. As for floss? Never floss. Too time consuming, and I hate putting my fingers in my mouth. I wrote down "Brush twice a day. Floss once a week." Next question. "Do you like your smile?" Actually no. I've got really little teeth, and I hate how all my gums show. That's one thing me and my brother share. The exact same teeth. He refuses to smile in pictures for that very reason - the gums. I hesitated and checked "Yes." I decided that I wasn't about to be roped into whatever marketing gimmick they had planned if I admitted that I didnt' like my smile. Next question: "Have you ever considered Botox injections?" I left that one blank.

As I was led down the hall to the room, I could hear the whining of drills. I hate going to the dentist. Just the sound of the drool suctioner is enough to put the fear of God in me. I could feel my heart rate speed up and the adrenaline start pumping. My dentist ended up being from the same college as me. He talked the entire time about his college days while he cleaned my teeth and I drooled all over myself. I tried to position the drool sucker correctly with my tongue, but couldn't quite reach it. I could feel all my muscles tensing everytime he went near my mouth. If I was a horse, my eyes would've been rolling in fear.

I left with a clean bill. Two small cavities that could probably be reversed with some fluoride rinse he gave me. He told me I had an extremely healthy mouth. I refrained from thumbing my nose at him and taunting "And I haven't been to a dentist in TWO YEARS. Nya nya!"

posted by ink| 3:31 PM |
[Monday, June 23, 2003]

When the truth is so clear it hurts your eyes.

Recently, I've found myself thinking a lot about what I want to do with my life. I realize that every choice is accompanied by a few years lag time before it actually takes place. Turnaround time. Whether that is studying up on course for a grad school exam, or doing intermediary low-paying jobs so you can switch fields. This makes me feel like I have to decide now - right now. I can feel the breath of the bulls breathing down my neck, threatening to trample me into mediocrity and inertia. I did some quick calculations. If I decide what I want to do right now, then at the minimum, it will take me two years to get started on that change. That would make me 24. To start my career all over again from the bottom, at 24. I'd like to be established on my lifepath at 28. I can't imagine doing all this all over again at 30. I don't want to be still wondering by that point.

"For everyone that makes it, thousands fall by the wayside."

W. hit the nail on the head. But what is "making it"? I think my definition of "making it" is changing. When I was growing up, success was defined by very concrete things. A 4.0 GPA. Entrance into a good college. Landing an internship. Everyone was full of ambition, the drive to attain success, and for a lot of us, success translated directly into concrete things even after we had left school - a good salary, a firm whose name people would recognize, the increase in purchasing power. But ask anyone in my peer group, and I'd say that the majority of them are dissatisfied. How can something that we've been raised to believe in and strive for, suddenly turn out to be so wrong?

I'm not so sure if I believe in success anymore. My life is rich according to the old standards of success. But that is an image, and nothing more. Underneath the veneer lies a rotting core. I feel like success now is defined more by the intangibles. The things you can't see. Who your friends are. Who loves you. How you've contributed to the world in other ways than financial ones. And by those standards, my life is very poor. What can I say that I've really contributed to the world so far? I can feel my priorities shifting as I get older. Does my job really matter all that much to me? Will it continue to matter so much to me? Is all this agonizing quite in vain since in about 10 years, I'm probably not going to give a shit about whether I like my job or not, as long as it pays me enough to put a roof over my head and clothe my kids? Is it even possible to like job for that long? Once you have a family, are you really going to love your job so much that you'd willingly stay late when you've got a 3 month old waiting for you at home? Do jobs inevitably deteriorate into a means to an end, regardless of how wonderful or lovely it is when you start? Is it worth all this mental wrestling if it will only be supplanted by other things like family as I get older? Is job satisfaction so high on my list of priorities only because right now, what else do I really have to care about, what else do I really have besides my job and my social life? Is it really smart to make life changing decisions based on the list of priorities I had at age 22? Shouldn't I be looking at the big picture?

Am I, despite all my supposedly open-minded world views, narrow minded and tunnel visioned when it comes to myself? Am I somehow missing the grand scheme of things and making a mountain out of a molehill? Will this end up being like the test I failed in tenth grade that I was convinced was the portent for the downslide of my life? Does this all really matter all that much? Or am I just fooling myself into thinking it doesn't? Have I merely become resigned and stopped struggling? Am I talking myself into settling for less? Or have I just become smarter as I've gotten older and seen what really matters in life? That to work to live is better than to live to work? Who wants their work to be their life anyways? Can I ever get through a week without asking stupid rhetorical questions that have no answers?

No. No, I can't.

posted by ink| 8:06 PM |
[Sunday, June 22, 2003]

Bloody Sunday.

Sundays always start out the same. Pretty good. Until this Sunday that is. I called BABAE J. to hash over the details of last night. Which didn't really take very long since there were no details really to hash out. It looked like it was going to be a short call, until she mentioned that her boyfriend is going to Costa Rica for two weeks in July. That was when my day started to take a nosedive.

I've been wanting to go to Costa Rica for years. I had originally planned to go with Lux, but she bailed out on me. This effectively torpedoed my plans. She'd also previously torpedoed my plans for a new apartment in New York and my plans to go to Australia too in a similar fashion. Do we see a pattern here? I was crushed, but I'd gotten used to it. None of my college friends are really the sort to go eco-touring. They're more the "sip martini's on a beach" sort. For some unknown reason though, hearing that someone else was going on -my- vacation made me burst into tears. I blew my nose noisily on the phone as BABAE J. was confusedly trying to comfort me. I was quite the emotional train wreck, for stupid stupid reasons. Who in the world cries over a vacation that someone ELSE is taking? What it boiled down to was (surprise!) my job. The perks I have are the following: frequent flier miles that I can't use to go to the places I want to, a salary that I can't spend on the things I want to spend them on, and five weeks of vacation which I can't use the way I'd like to. There are no redeeming qualities. I lead a joyless existence!! I decided that something had to happen. Either I had to find a tour group that I could join and go with, or I needed new friends. Friends that had similar travel interests as I did and who would be willing to actually go.

But the crux of the problem was deeper than that. Since when did I start attaching such importance to flaky things like vacations? I attribute it to "poor man's syndrome". When you're poor, you will fight for that one grain of rice. And when your spirit is starved, you end up acting like a crazy-woman when you see someone else getting your grain of rice. The most minor details end up taking on the importance of a million things.

I cried for other reasons too. I'd interviewed a few weeks ago with a firm that was in New York. My aim was to switch jobs and work somewhere where I wouldn't have to travel. I found out on Wednesday that I was runner-up to a girl who'd graduated from the same college as I did, with the same credentials as I did. If she turned down the offer, I would get the opportunity to take it. The irony of the whole situation was that she might turn down the offer because she had a competing offer.... from my firm. I wanted to laugh and cry. This is so sick. For her sake, I hope she turns down the offer from my firm. Perhaps I hoped a little too hard, because she did turn down my firm's offer and took the other one. Which effectively left me out in the cold. I suppose I can't complain too much. I'm getting paid well, I work at a reputable place, and I'm set-up nicely when I travel. I told myself this all week. But this morning, it all converged and added to the misery. I suffer from delayed reaction sometimes.

Delayed reaction and PMS. I'm sure the weird hormonal balance added to the mix as well. The day was topped off with Sex and the City. Miranda. I could totally see myself in her shoes. Picking a fight with the guy I love because I'm freaked out. Leaving the most awkward answer-machine messages. Finding out that he's moved on. WONDERFUL. After the show, I talked with my friend from LA about how Sex and the City is a pretty accurate reflection of the dating scene in New York. His response?

"Oh come on. You can't tell me that you can't find one normal guy in the entire city of millions of people. You just have to find out where they hang out."
"I bet they hang out at home playing video games all night."
"That's it. You have to start hanging around internet cafe's."
"GREAT! That's exactly what I want to do on a Saturday night! Play counterstrike!"
"Sometimes, you gotta sacrifice for the booty."
"Wonderful. Just wonderful."

The best part is, if I did meet someone wonderful... lucky for him, I come equipped with the great talent of being laconic around cute boys, and an even more recent development - a fabulous mood that the month of rain has put me in - the sort of mood that makes me want to complain ALL THE TIME. I'm hot stuff.

Now I can head to bed so I can wake up at 4:30 AM for my flight and continue my miserable existence. Yessssssss!!!!!

posted by ink| 10:29 PM |
[Saturday, June 21, 2003]


I had a dream I was going to jail. I had done something, and my NC roommate Sugar and I were going to jail. My mom and my brother were driving me to this big gloomy castle at the end of peninsula by the water. My mom asked me what I had done, and I remember trying to think of something that wasn't a big deal to make it sound like I was just getting wrist-slapped. I told her it was for indecent exposure (good God).


I'm inside a round tower room with walls of grey stone and Sugar is there. There's a plump stern-looking matron standing there, and she's telling us that we can only bring one bookbag into the jail with us. We're trying to decide what we want to bring. When faced with the decision to narrow down all my possessions to just one bookbag-full, I had to decide what I really loved and what I didn't. Two books, photos of my family, and my minidisc player. Books weren't allowed. And I could only bring 2 photos. I started flipping through the photos and realized that I did not have one picture of my family in them. I grew frantic, there were a few where they were indistinguishable fuzzy blobs, but no real pictures. As I burst into tears, a second thin stern-looking woman came in to take Sugar and I to our new "cells". My things were still spread out all over the floor, so I collected them into my bookbag. When I looked up, the thin woman had gone. She hadn't bothered to wait for me to get my things together. That's jail for you.


I'm standing in a big hall-area. It's dark and gloomy and shadows collect in the corners. There are a variety of other people milling around, mostly teenagers and a few my age. They're walking single file to and fro and some of them are sitting along the steps. I look for the thin-lady to see if I can catch up with her. I ask a languid-looking girl if she's seen the thin-lady. She points a finger. I catch myself and realize that these people are in jail, they could be lying to me for kicks. I look around and realize that this is the sort of place that my imagination could do horrors with. Dark castle. Malfunctioning children. I had this sense of not really belonging here.


I've lost my bookbag. I put it down to go look at something, and I can't seem to find where I put it. Everytime I see a grey blob, I run towards it, thinking it's mine. It's a bag full of all the things I love most in life, the bag that contains all the things I'll need to keep me sane, and I've lost it. Finally, someone says that so-and-so picked one up. I run towards this guy's stand (he's an inmate that sells knickknacks at a little stand he set up) and ask him about it. "It's a grey EMS bookbag with a reflective strip running down the center of it." He pauses. He looks like a gang member. "Please. I really need that bag." He reaches down under the counter and pulls up my bookbag. Then he says "It's here. But your mini-audio is missing." I know what he means by that. I thank him, and take it. I see the thin-lady coming out of a doorway and I run towards her with my bookbag.

I woke up hungover and in tears. And I had the strong need to call my mom and tell her to please send family pictures. I thought, when it comes down to it, what really -are- the most important things in life. I didn't think to bring my Peter Kaiser pumps or my most expensive top with me to jail. I couldn't bring my Manhattan apartment or my corporate rental car. What I wanted was physical representations of the intangible - love. Something that had been given to me freely. Without any strings. No hazing beforehand to "earn" it, and no sucking up. I needed these physical representations to remind me in times of despair that I am not alone. After all, in times of despair, your mind isn't quite right, and it's so easy to twist things, to feel abandoned. And there's a certain solidness about objects that is comforting. I used to roll my eyes and sigh at physical manifestations of love. Some things, I won't ever be huge on - such as PDA's. Please, no need to subject the world to an entire emotional show. I am an independent woman. I do not have any of the traditional female weaknesses. But I do. I think this is something that career women struggle with a lot. The need to be independent and not viewed as vulnerable, thus denying part of what makes us women. I'm realizing that for all my eye-rolling at how cheesy and emotional my mom was for sending me cards or framed pictures, perhaps I do need them more than I'd like to admit. "Mom. I don't need another picture of you and dad. I know what you guys look like." That's the no-nonsense career woman speaking. The frantic girl running around jail looking for my bookbag full of love is probably a little closer to the real me. I've been starting to realize in the past few months that hey.... I'm a girl. I'm not a boy. I've started to let go of a lot of the things I used to cling so tenaciously to. It's okay if a guy helps me with my groceries. It's okay to accept help. It's okay to not always be so fiercely independent. Allowing people to love me and help me doesn't mean that I'm -not- independent. My mom and dad know I can do things on my own. They just want to do things for me. Because they love me. Is that really so bad?

The human being was not meant to be a solitary creature. I wonder why it is that our society seems to find such value in the maverick. The lone ranger. The independent emotionless rebel.

posted by ink| 1:13 PM |
[Wednesday, June 18, 2003]


Sometimes, I don't understand how my ex can still do it. Break my heart that is. I called him today to get a phone number of a mutual friend of ours. We haven't talked in ages. I had good reason to never speak to him again and he knew it. He was sleeping when I called at 1:30 pm. I should've known. As he answered groggily, I was propelled back to my 18 year old self who used to wait until mid-afternoon to call my long-distance boyfriend only to get half a conversation as he was, as always, still sleeping. Some things don't change. He was still, as always, sleeping when I called. I asked him how he was. Got the phone number. Thanked him. Apologized for waking him up. And told him I'd see him around. There was a pause. Then he said, "Is that all you called for?" I had to swallow hard and firm up my steely resolve. "Well, yeah." I said. "Oh."

And in that 2 seconds between his "Oh" and my "Well, I have to go now" my heart broke all over again. In those dangerous two seconds, I vacillated at the speed of light between my-anger-and-his-well-deserved-shunning-from-my-life and the-mad-desire-to-relent-and-be-nice. But, I knew the consequences of the latter. And I didn't want to re-enter that cycle again. But at the same time, the 2-second-long silent sound of disappointment almost was an equal opponent to the years of tears and grief I'd experienced as his girlfriend. And I hated myself for being soft. For even -thinking- of being nice to him. How was I really any better than those weak-willed women who stay in bad situations?

We hung up. I could tell he was disappointed and a little mad. My resolve held. But as soon as the phone went dead, my resolve went to jello again. I find myself wondering if I was too cold to him. Was I mean? Is he upset? Did I hurt him? And somewhere, a little voice in the back of my head whispers, did he ever think these things when you were dating him? Whether he was hurting you? Whether he was being mean? Whether you were upset? Don't go there.

I'm so fucking frustrated. WHY are we still like this. WHY can't we be normal. IT'S BEEN FOUR YEARS.

It's such an unhealthy relationship. Even now.

What is it about the first boyfriend that continues to plague women? Why is it that all his transgressions seem somehow forgivable when you know they wouldn't be if any other man had committed them? Why is it that he retains that spot in your heart and you know that he doesn't deserve it? Why do women continue to stupidly hand out our love like its pennies to the most undeserving of all while we withhold it from those who -are- deserving? What kind of evolutionary strategy is -this-?

I sit here, guilt-stricken, wondering if I should call back and ask him how he's been doing. But I won't. Because I know I'm a spineless ninny with no shred of self-respect, but he doesn't have to know it.

posted by ink| 10:49 PM |
[Tuesday, June 17, 2003]


Watch me.

posted by ink| 8:22 PM |

So. I was stood up on Sunday.

What do you say when a guy stands you up for a 1 pm date? When he doesn't even call to apologize but instead IM's you 8 hours later saying "I'm really really sorry." The standard response to "I'm sorry" is usually "It's okay". But really, it's not okay. I was torn. What else can he do but apologize? Part of me feels bad for giving him a hard time, but another part of me thinks - come on, you couldn't even take 5 minutes of your time to call me and tell me you wouldn't be able to make it? What does it say if he's already treating me like crap and we haven't even had a first date yet?

Besides, the excuse was that he got tanked last night with his buddies and overslept. "I got shit-faced wit ma boyz last night" is not a valid excuse, regardless of how sorry you are. Perhaps I'll agree to meet up with him again, but as suggested by Nya, -I- won't show up this time. I'll tell him I overdosed on Ben and Jerry's the night before. "I just... couldn't reach the phone... sorry buddy..."

Luckily, I wasn't at a restaurant. I would've been -furious- if that was the case. He was supposed to pick me up, so I was sitting at home emailing. Waited 45 minutes, and then went out rollerblading in the park with a friend.

I started tallying him up inside my head. Okay. No college degree. No job. No desire to find a job. Great. At this rate, I should've stuck with the CVS stockboy. He was at least employed.

Sometimes I wonder if I have a sign around my neck that says "Please. If you are a jackass of any sort, ask me out."


Woopdeedoo's suggestion? Send a poop.

posted by ink| 6:58 PM |
[Sunday, June 15, 2003]

A Letter To My Father

Dear Dad.

When I was little, you were the world to me. Literally. I couldn't imagine anyone who was bigger than you, taller than you, stronger than you. You could do anything and everything. The true-to-life God in a child's world of Catholic school, nuns, and a forbidding God. When Chernobyl happened, it did more than nuke the small town in Russia, it also nuked your career as a nuclear engineer and marked the beginning of a difficult period in my life. You carried me around to 9 different schools prior to fourth grade and watched me struggle through being the "new girl" over and over again, handicapped by my small size, younger age, and not-yet-trendy Brit accent. I withdrew from a madcap child who ran naked giggling through the living room to a more quiet one who buried herself in books - her escape from the strange unpredictable reality around her. And you watched. You watched and in your awkwardly lovely dad way tried to make it better by sitting with me every night before I slept and lecturing me on how to be a good person. Your intent was two-pronged. To instill in me the values of being generous, patient, and warm-spirited. And also, by showing me what constituted being a good person, you hoped that I would see that these kids at school were -not- good people. But I was too young to make that connection and just felt more alienated by the nightly lectures. Instead of working hard on keeping my spirit up and fulfilling those ideals of being a good person, I worked hard on losing my Brit accent. And after crying after the first day of school at new school #1, I vowed I would never cry again.

A few years later, when your marriage to mom was going through a difficult period, you were driving me to the library. I was at school #8 by that point. Between the hostility of kids at school, mom's inattention to me because my brother was constantly sick, and the daily arguments between you two, I went to the library an awful lot. You pulled over to the side of the road suddenly. I looked over and you sat there silently, with tears coming from your eyes. I couldn't understand it. All the circuits in my ten-year-old brain put it together and arrived at the answer, "Dad is crying." But that couldn't be. You were superman. Supermen don't cry. I deducted and re-deducted and came back to the same answer. And you continued to sit there in silence, a picture of impossibility to my eyes. Like a cow inside the car. There were tears on the face that I knew to be stern, unyielding, and strong. And then I started to cry. I didn't know why you were crying or why I was crying. But I cried, because you were the rock in my life, and if you had cracked, then the world must truly be ending.

As a teenager, I was particularly difficult. But I was difficult in ways that no parental-guidance book could ever help you with. Yes, I saw those sitting on your nightstand. I couldn't read the words on the Chinese cover, but flipping through the illustrations inside were enough to let me know what was going on. Instead of rebelling outwardly and getting involved in alcohol, drugs, tattoos, and piercing, I was the model student. I never went out to parties, never talked on the phone, and never talked about friends. This was because I had no friends. A fact that I was simultaneously proud of (because no one at school was -interesting- enough to perk my interest and warrant my friendship) and simultaneously ashamed of. You never brought it up. But you made it clear that you knew by coming into my room at night when I was studying and lecturing me about the value of friendship and all its pitfalls. You never set a curfew for me in the hopes that I would take advantage of this seeming oversight. I never did. Instead, I spent hours locked inside my room, burying myself in pages and pages of journal writing that consisted of nothing but questions. Why is life like this? Why am I here? Why do I exist? What is the purpose of my existence? What do I contribute to the world? Would anyone notice if I suddenly disappeared? Why did this or that happen to me yesterday at school? And the answer that laid inside my head but unwritten in my journal was that I just wasn't good enough. It remained unwritten because I had this fear of facing it. I felt like if I wrote it down in black ink on the white paper of my journal, it would become undeniable irrevocable fact. And I wasn't sure if I could stand to have the truth slap me in the face like that, even though I was sure of its veracity inside my head.

Everything that occurred throughout the day became another bastion for this truth I believed in. It doesn't really make sense to me now that I think about it. I look back on my high school pictures and realize that I was pretty. I think about some of the positions I held and some of the awards I won and realize that I was accomplished. But to my teenage mind, I didn't make it to concertmaster in orchestra because I sucked. Boys didn't pay attention to me because I wasn't pretty enough. I didn't get top grades on that exam because I'm not smart enough. But somewhere underneath it, I was a strange paradox. I was proud of myself. I didn't think I was ugly. I just felt like the alien. I wasn't pretty enough or smart enough or interesting enough for the world's standards but I was quite satisfactory for my own. I was always surprised when someone showed interest in me. To some degree, I still carry this mentality, as sometimes I am still surprised that people show interest in me. When you saw that I was crushed over not making concertmaster, you would push me to practice more, so I could make it next time. You believed in me. But I pushed it away. I railed at you instead, yelling about how being in the first violin section alone was an honor, and how I didn't buy into all the politics that was part of orchestra seating, and why couldn't you just love me just the way I was. When I sat in the backyard with you watching you garden on the day of Prom, you casually asked why I wasn't going. I shrugged. No one asked me, I replied. Well, why didn't you ask someone? You said. There's no one I'd want to ask, was my response. That was partial truth. There really was no one I found particularly interesting. But beneath that was also the certainty that even if I -was- to ask someone, even someone I didn't find interesting, they were sure to say no. Because why would they go with me when they had a class-full of pretty girls to choose from? I never told you that. But I'm sure you guessed. Because that afternoon, you talked to me about flowers. About how some flowers are harder to take care of than others. About how flowers grow and bloom. About our rose garden and how much work it takes to cultivate each rose so it will climb our fences. About how a rose, despite all its beauty and its popularity, is easily ruined by a strong wind. And you said to me that though you admire the rose's beauty, you truly admire the weed - the dandelion that grows inside the cracks of our driveway. Because it can grow and thrive in the most daunting of conditions. That -that- is what's truly worthy of admiration, wildness and strength. And that you'd be much prouder if I grew up to be a dandelion. You meant to teach me about the inherent cheapness of outward beauty. But I took that to mean that you didn't think I'd grow up to be a rose. And that day, I went to the driveway and vehemently uprooted every dandelion growing there.

College applications was a period of time when I cried regularly every night. I was terrified that I wouldn't get into an Ivy League school. I was convinced that if I didn't, I wouldn't be able to face the disappointment in your eyes. The silence that you and mom would sit in when you attended those dinner parties and the other parents would casually mention, "Yes, my son at Princeton recently..." or "My daughter is loving Harvard right now." You encouraged me to apply to all the top schools because you were proud of me. You thought I was smart. But I refused to. I only applied to one Ivy League school, the one I thought I had a good chance of getting into. We fought a lot. I invoked the term "independence" often. I didn't understand why you were treating me like I was a child and couldn't make my own decisions. I didn't understand that you were only trying to tell me my worth. I never listened to you when you told me I was smart and beautiful. I didn't listen to you when you'd lay all my accomplishments on the table in an effort to pound it through my brain that I was outstanding. You were my dad. Dads are obligated to think their kids are perfect. Especially their daughters. I applied to a second-tier Ivy for two reasons, one public reason, and the other a secret one that I kept inside my head. The public reason was to back my words up and "assert my independence to make my own decisions". The private reason was because I didn't want my father's daughter to be a Harvard reject.

When I went to college, the car was packed to the brim with all my silly things, every last cherished object that I had deemed absolutely necessary. You unquestioningly unpacked every last important possession into my tiny room without a complaint about all the flights of stairs and looked around. It wasn't impressive. There was no cherrywood shelves like the ones you'd built me back home. And no huge desk for me to write at. But you didn't say anything as this represented freedom in my eyes. You helped me get the egg crate mattress pad onto the bed and pull my rose-printed bed sheets over it. Yes, the bed sheets that have a huge black ink-stain in the middle of it that I insisted stubbornly on loving. You kept asking me whether I had everything I needed. Whether you could help me get my books on my shelf, my clothes into my drawer. Was I hungry? No, I wasn't hungry, and I didn't see the point of you and mom sitting around watching me unpack. I was impatient to start off my new life, unfettered by constraints. So you two left. I saw you guys off, waved gaily from the parking lot as you drove away with mom bawling her eyes out in the passenger seat. As I re-entered my new dorm room full of boxes, I could see with absolute clarity what you were doing. In my imagination, you were crossing the bridge on the way home. Mom was still bawling, talking about what I was like as a baby, and you were listening and not listening. You were driving with your eyes fixed on the road with silent tears just like that day when I was 10. And at that point, I sat on my ink-stained sheets and cried my eyes out, surrounded by boxes full of things I supposedly loved. I had never felt so alone in my entire life.

Now, I'm 22, and our relationship hasn't really changed all that much. You still try to lend me a helping hand, and I still push it away, yelling at you about my independence, wailing about why you insist on treating me like a child. No, I do not need a detailed email on how to rent a U-Haul truck. I know that step 1 is: Dial 1-800-go-uhaul. I'm still impatient with our weekly calls when you try to guide me because you're anxious that I will go the wrong way. I yell. You yell. I yell louder. We hang up on each other. But I still call every Sunday, because I know it means the world to you and mom that I call, especially now that Brother is in college. I still call, because I know that if I don't call by 5 pm, mom will call me, desperate and worried that something terrible has happened to me. You will tell me about how it's not good for women to be this independent and opinionated. And I will be offended. But I will know that it's because you want to make sure that your daughter will find someone who will take care of her, and that your daughter will allow this person to take care of her. Mom will try to get me to buy membership to the MOMA so that I can attend their Wednesday night soirees and meet a high-class man. You will secretly whisper to me your reservations about rich boys and their work ethic. I joke with you that my love for you is directly proportional to how loudly I yell at you. You laugh. But on some level, this is true. I only become so upset with you because I care, sometimes overly much, about what you think of me.

I told you on the phone today that I know I'm difficult to love. That I tense up and make faces when mom tries to hug me. That I cause you endless amounts of grief. That our Sunday phone calls are sure to deteriorate into a shouting match. You tell me that that's not true. But I don't listen. I plow on into an analogy of how I know my brother is much more quiescent. He's much more reasonable. He doesn't argue with you and mom as much and his ideas of his life path match up with your idea of success. He's just... easier to love. I have no endearing qualities. I'm like the cactus in the Arizona desert we saw in the Grand Canyon. I've got prickers. Come too close and I'll poke you. I'm difficult to love, I keep saying. I know this. And I want to thank you for loving me as much as you do despite that. I'm finally finished. And you repeat again when you've been saying in-between all my pontificating and that I haven't been hearing.

"I don't agree", you say, "You are not difficult to love. You're stubborn, like me. I like people who are more like me in personality - you are not a cactus, you are a rose with thorns, you are beautiful and strong." Oh jeez Dad, I say. I try to be gracious. Thanks Dad. But then I follow that up with, "I have to do my laundry or I'll have no underwear. I'll call you next week." You lecture me on planning my laundry cycle better. I impatiently say "I know I know" and hang up quickly. I do have laundry to do but that wasn't why I hung up quickly. I hung up quickly because I had the sudden urge to cry. And I cried for a long time. Because at that moment, I have never loved you so much. And because finally, I believe that you love me just as much.

posted by ink| 12:34 PM |
[Wednesday, June 11, 2003]

Career Limiting Moves.

Mental note to self:
Please try to refrain from snort-laughing at meetings when the following occurs:
1) Recognition. "I'd like to recognize so and so for their contribution to..." It happens at every meeting. The call for recognition that is. "Would anyone like to state any recognitions?" It's such an obvious kiss-butt tactic, that I always have to stifle a giggle when people start clamoring to recognize others.
2) They keep bringing up what sounds like "Joe Doodie." "Yes, Joe Doodie said that he would take ownership of that action item." "I believe that Joe Doodie would be a better resource to answer your question." "Why don't you take that offline with Joe Doodie." I have no idea who this guy is, or what his real name could possible be (maybe Joe Duty?), but the fact that I always want to start cracking up when I hear this poor guy's name just goes to show exactly how mature I am.

posted by ink| 7:59 PM |
[Sunday, June 08, 2003]

Quarter Life Crisis: In Full Effect.

I woke up this morning to a minor crisis. A phone call from my dad. It started off okay. I told him about the testing patterns I'd seen and asked if he had any techniques to help me out. He didn't. But what he did have was an awful lot of suggestions and hints that I'd heard about 200 times before already. "You know, you should really be going to grad school soon." And "Are you applying this year? If you apply for next fall, it'll be your third year out of college. It's about time." And "You know, if you coast along the highway for too long without taking any exits, you'll just find yourself at a dead end." Your usual stuff about how I need to figure out what I'm doing. I told him I was only 22. His response? "I'm only telling you because I care."

The result of all this is stress. I knew my dad was wrong. I do have time. But I still felt upset and turmoiled. I had meant to study hard core for the LSAT's today, but now all I can think of is whether I should even bother taking it if I'm not sure that it's right for me. Am I wasting my time? Should I be exploring other options? Somehow, I don't think this was the effect my dad was trying to achieve. I tried calling BABAE J. She's my standby for quarter-life crises because her parents are just like mine. She's in the same situation as me. And she has the same overwhelming sense of responsibility. She didn't pick up. Neither did Alice and Scott - the two med residents I know who are just as miserable in their jobs (if not more) than I am. I even called my 19 year old brother hoping for wisdom.

And what I wanted to ask them was, "Do you feel like you've made the right choices in your life?" What I was looking for was a little guidance. Guidance that my dad obviously wasn't giving me. He follows the formula to success that we've all been taught. Go to grad school. This whole "finding yourself" thing is beyond him. But in this day and age, how many people really find themselves? It seems like being unhappy and vaguely dissatisfied with your job is part of the territory when you become an adult. I'm not sure I know any adults who are truly genuinely happy. And the ones I know are the ones who took risks like becoming a painter, or an artist, or a fashion designer. Not exactly role models I can take, not because they're not worthy, but because I don't have those sorts of creative ambitions. I'm not sure what my ambition is.

I think the difference between people who find themselves and people who don't, is knowledge. Knowledge of what you want. And that almost makes it a moot point. People who find themselves can't really help those who are having trouble, because the source of the trouble is not knowing what you want. And most of those adults who "make it" have known since childhood or just somehow known inside their heads that they wanted to be artists. For them, it's like having another appendage. It's just always been there.

If I knew what I ultimately wanted to do in life, I'm sure all this would be easier as well. But the indecision is what cripples me. The fear of choosing blindly. I don't like doing anything blindly. But as I wait for my vision to suddenly come upon me so I can say EUREKA! THAT's IT!, I fret as the clock ticks. And ticks. And ticks. And I start to wonder if the eureka will happen to me. What makes me think that I'm so special that I should receive this epiphany when thousands of other adults never have? What makes me think that I can reach this sort of epiphany without any work? That it will land on my lap just like that? Because. I know that if I was to try out everything that I thought maybe I might want to do and dedicated a year to each (because let's face it, you can't really tell if you're going to like something or not unless you've given it a good year), I'd be old and grey before I was finished. And then I'd have to take another year figuring out which one I liked best.

I don't know what to do with my life. And the worst part is, I don't know how to even start figuring it out. I don't know who to turn to as a resource. I don't know where to go to for information. I don't even know if this information exists out there since I have a feeling it might be different for every individual. I'm at a loss. And I can't concentrate on studying when somewhere in the back of my head, I'm wondering if it's pointless. I don't know what to do.

All I really want out of life, is to be happy. Why does this seem like such a difficult thing to achieve?

posted by ink| 5:14 PM |

The switch is ON.

That's what BABAE J. calls it. The "available" switch. We went out to 17 Home tonight for a friend's bday party. And ran into a bunch of beautiful boys. A bunch of professional lacrosse players. And one of them had the most divine head of curls. He held my hand, joked around, and was your classic flirt. Talked about his childhood in San Diego and his surfer days. But I had to go. And when he turned away from the girls he was talking to to pull me over and ask me why I was leaving, I thought "Wow. He's slick." In the cab, BABAE J. and I talked about it. He didn't ask for my number. But that's because guys like that don't ask for girls' numbers. They're the kind of guys who you take home. Not the kind you date.

He was easily the best looking guy in there. I knew it. BABAE J. knew it. He definitely knew it. And all the girls in the room knew it. I could tell by the way my female friends suddenly flocked to me after Curls and I started talking. They were suddenly all hanging in the vicinity, waiting for the buy-in, the introduction. And I gave it to them. The introductions. And he still pulled away when he saw I was leaving. Damn. What I -should- have done was say, "Why don't you give me a call sometime?" when he was asking me not to leave. But I'm not that bold. And, boys with that kind of air about them don't call women. They just bed them. Women have a sixth sense about these things. And even if he did call, what would I say? "Yeah... I'm in North Carolina..."

Nonetheless, BABAE J. and I rated the night an 8. Pretty good after a winter-full of 5's. Since when did we start rating our nights based on the quality of male attention we got? It must've been my lucky bikini bottom.

posted by ink| 2:11 AM |
[Saturday, June 07, 2003]

Suspect Motives.

This morning, I woke up, took a shower, and made my long long list of to-do's. And realized that if I don't get started on them ASAP, I wasn't going to get through them. One of the major things on my list was studying for my LSAT's. I started getting dressed. As always, step 1 of stepping out of the shower is opening the underwear drawer. It opened up easily with a whish. Strange. Then I realized why. It was empty. I didn't have the time to do my laundry. And girls can't go commando. Chafing. This is what happens when you're out of town for 3 weeks straight. You lose track of your laundry status back home. I briefly pondered going to Victoria's Secret and just buying panties. But the thought of wearing jeans without underwear, for the sake of going out to buy underwear, made me pause. Sweatpants? There's something dirty about walking around in loose pants without underwear in New York City. All that air movement... and it's not clean air either.

Then my eyes fell on my bikini bottom. It was my last and only option. I had to take it. So I pulled them on and headed off to go study. There's something ultimately weird about walking around New York City in your bikini bottom on your way to the Used Book Cafe when it's completely cloudy outside.

I've decided that tests like the LSAT's are less about intelligence and more about pure stamina. Can you keep your focus for 2.5 hours straight? I know I have a hard time with it. I get to about part 3, and I lose steam. I start to get careless and sloppy because I'm tired and frankly don't care anymore. I've already noted habitual testing patterns and strengths/weaknesses. The hardest part isn't that the material is necessarily difficult, it's that they barely give you enough time. You can't really think about your answer for too long or go back and double check it. It's like flying by the seat of your pants and fervently hoping that your intelligence, first instincts, and intuition will not lead you wrong. And when you're someone like me, who has the need to analyze and re-analyze before choosing an answer, it keeps you teetering on the edge of panic for 2.5 hours. Going through the LSAT's is like running with the bulls in Spain.

Sometimes I question whether my motives are correct for wanting to take the LSAT's. After all, I'm not even sure if I want to go to law school. My reasoning right now is, why wait? It's not like I'm going to get any smarter. If anything, I'm likely to get dumber. If I do well, then maybe I'll think about applying. I'm all about maximizing my options. GRE's last year, LSAT's this year. My motives for law school choice are also suspect. If I decide to go, I'd like to go to a "laid back" law school, if such a thing exists. The last thing I want is an experience akin to my undergraduate one. I swear that took years off my life. I think I'd be satisfied with a top 25 law school that was laid back. In a nutshell, I want to be as lazy as possible while looking smart. According to my roommate, she only knows of two such schools. And they happen to be not only be in the top 25, but also in the top 10. Dammit!!!!!

I feel slightly odd about horse-whipping myself to do well on the LSAT's, not for the sake of quality education, but so that I can kick back. I bet my father would be proud.

posted by ink| 5:21 PM |
[Friday, June 06, 2003]


Funny how everything always converges at one point. You go through life kinda drifting down the stream, slightly disgruntled, but what the hey. Then all of a sudden, everything starts happening so fast that you can barely whip your head around quickly enough to watch it. Even worse, all the good things in the world start coming at you all at once, and there's no way you can have them all due to time constraints. Dammit! I need my good stuff in a slow IV drip!

posted by ink| 11:24 PM |
[Thursday, June 05, 2003]

For Your Protection.

These days, a girl never knows. When bringing a guy home, what do you do? This is the question hotly debated by Pooh and I. She's a little sad about moving across the country from me, despite the fact that she's got sure booty waiting for her over there. As members of the newly-burgeoning 20-some female crowd, the operating procedures have obviously got to change since the college days, where the threat of gossip alone was enough to stave off the hormone drive. Now that we're Grown Ups Living In Large Metropolitan Areas, we can basically let ourselves go wild and hide in the anonymity of the crowds. So the question of the day is: should you buy condoms?

Knee-jerk reaction is "No way. The guy should bring them." Who keeps a pack of condoms in their bedside table? What does that say about you as a girl? "That you're a woman who's responsible?" That was Lux. Good point. But still, psychological blocks have been set up against that. "Good girls" don't keep condoms in their bedside cabinet. That implies that you have casual sex. But, at the same time, in the off chance that you went temporarily insane with one too many drinks and were to bring a guy home with you, what would you do if neither of you had condoms? Anticlimactic dissatisfaction? Or do you just take your risks? Neither option sounds particularly fun. And if you follow the "The guy should bring them" idea, would you really be that happy if he did have condoms on him? Or would you be offended as a girl? I mean, good grief, he came out on a date with you -expecting- to get laid. Or should you merely feel relieved that he brought some?

Logic dictates that since, as a woman, you're the one most at risk for being in hot water if you get pregnant, you should take your fate into your own hands and purchase the damn condoms yourself and merely avoid eye contact with the cashier at the drugstore. "Paper bag please?" Why take a chance that your hormones could overtake your brain and make you do something stupid? In that case, what kind do you buy? Sex ed class taught us to buy the sort with spermicide. But has anyone ever -been- to the condom aisle in the drugstore? First of all, you're usually embarassed to be seen there browsing. The last thing you want to do is linger.

Pooh and I were aghast. It's a pretty dazzling array of options for something that merely covers the penis and prevents sperm from getting to you. We decided that perhaps the purchase was best left for another day. When the drugstore was less crowded. I'm determined to see her off with a box in her suitcase though when she leaves next week. When buying a pack for general use, "just in case", you run the risk of never using it. Then you end up with an expired box of unopened condoms in your drawer. And how embarassing is -that-? You also run the risk of having the wrong size. Do they sell condoms in variety packs? And if they do, how do you avoid offending the guy when you pull out a size "small" for him?

posted by ink| 7:47 PM |
[Tuesday, June 03, 2003]

Show your love with a plate of fresh-baked cookies. Warm delicious cookies that will bring a smile to every face. -Duncan Hines

How about a plate of salmonella cookies for my team?

I had dinner with my project "mentor" today. Every analyst is assigned a mentor to help "welcome them into the fold." First of all, my mentor was drop dead gorgeous. She had long long eyelashes, perfect legs, and that perfectly manicured yet fresh and peppy look (Rah rah team!). I looked down and suddenly wished I hadn't gotten up late and thrown my clothes on. The sheer number of completely perfect people in management positions makes me seriously question the ethics of promotion at my firm.

"So, how do you like it here so far?"
"Well... It's hard to say since I've only been here for a month. But..."

What followed was a string of tactfully phrased complaints.
"I would really like to have a flexible work schedule especially since I've been working 5 day travel weeks for a year now."
"I really feel like this firm has strait-jacketed me into -not- advancing my career as I have no network in New York among the people who will be deciding my promotions precisely because I travel so much that I don't meet people from the New York community."
"No, I cannot say that there are any managers within Financial Services who can go to bat for me. I've been staffed on projects outside of my workgroup for the past year."
"It's hard to say whether I feel challenged by my role. I can't say it's conceptually challenging, but the learning curve is challenging. Does that count?"

I felt like a freshman again in college. I was the analyst, and she was the "well-meaning upperclassman". Back when I was an upperclassman mentor for incoming freshman, I could look at them and pick out who was going to make it at this school and who wasn't. I wondered whether it showed on my face that I was beaten-down miserable, completely resentful, burned out, and had no intention of staying. I wondered whether she looked at me and thought "Yeah. This girl isn't going to cut it at this company." Instead, she brushed away her perfectly trimmed bangs with her beautifully manicured hand and was so perfectly nice that it almost gave me a cavity. And I felt bad. About myself and my rotten attitude. I was nothing but the classic sulky sullen freshman. If you were going to categorize us until high school crowds, she would've been one of the peppy happy cheerleaders and I would've been part of the bitter, sarcastic, resentful pot-smoking crowd. It's almost bizarre to think of it in those terms, because everyone who works at this company is a type A personality. To think, that I'm the "bitter disillusioned underachiever" among type A's, whereas I'd be the "peppy sort" among normal people.

Yeah. I'm resentful. And I recognize that if I don't have an attitude adjustment soon, I really -am- going to not-make-it here. The sad thing is, I think it's a slippery slope I'm on. It's hard to pull yourself out of the bog of righteous resentment when everyday, there's something new to fuel the fire, yet another event in New York that I'm missing, yet another friendship fading away.

posted by ink| 8:57 PM |
[Sunday, June 01, 2003]

12 mile hikes. Wonderful views. Permanent dust stains on everything.

Arizona was wonderful. I used to think I could never feel at home anywhere except the East Coast, but there's something about Arizona that calls to me the way California and LA couldn't.

When I was younger, I spent most of my childhood living in a land of make-believe. Solitary is the natural state of children who are different from the others. In my case, it was a combination of being younger, much smaller, and getting better grades than my peers. I retreated to a land dominated by fantasy novels - the 8 year old's drug of choice. A dependable and easily accessible escape from reality. Where good always won over evil, and the protagonist was always the peasant's daughter, not the noblemen and women. When faced with a situation where it's one against the masses, the individual has a choice to make. A very clear cut choice with only two options. Either you believe your peers' mentality and think you suck (probably accounting for a good amount of teenage depression and suicide) or you completely reject public opinion and entertain fantasies of your own (Columbine tragedy). I dabbled in the latter. In fact, I firmly believed that I was not truly human and instead belonged in the faerie world. I was a changeling, and -that- was the real reason why I was different. Because I was actually better than everyone else. I didn't suck. They sucked. I was magical. I made myself special because no one else seemed to notice I was even alive.

I believed in faeries for an awful lot longer than the average child did. I spent the first 16 years of my life lost in a solitary reverie inside my own mind. Magic lurked around every corner, and at any moment now, I would be rescued. Forests and mountains called to me very clearly for that reason. I played for hours in the woods behind our house, despite the fact that my mother had specifically forbidden me to go there. I felt a special affinity for the trees and especially with creeks. I had a remarkable ability to ignore the empty beer cans and trash clustered around. Every brush with nature was a potential homecoming and an escape from this dreary world called life. Only in the last few years did this belief start to fade. In fact, it started to fade during my freshman year of college. College was a whole new world. A fresh canvas. And suddenly, I came to the realization that people liked me. Even now, there are times when people seem to -want- to speak to me, and I'm surprised, caught off-guard, and bluster around thinking of something to say in return. After all, expectations set by years of being not-included are hard to get rid of in a jiffy. It's like a 16-year-long habit that's hard to break. Two thirds of my life was spent living inside my head and inside of books, not having to really worry about anyone else but myself. I floated through it oblivious to everything but my own thoughts. And people say that quitting smoking is hard. Try ceasing to be self-absorbed.

In a way, it's been both a blessing and a curse. I recognize that it's probably healthier to have social interactions, but it simultaneously comes with so many downfalls that at times, I wonder whether it's really worth it. As a child, I learned to disregard public opinion and society's remarks. That was easy because I wasn't really a part of normal society. What they said or thought didn't really have any bearing on me as I operated in my own separate world ruled by its own laws. Now that I've become part of "normal" society and am hopefully a fully functioning member of it, things like public opinion do directly affect me, in the way of promotions and performance reviews and friends. Having friends is like leaning on a stick. Once you learn to lean on a stick, when someone pulls it out from under you, you fall over. For someone who's had to stand alone for most of her life, having a stick seems like a welcome relief but also is a peril as it exposes weaknesses and increases the chances of falling on your ass that much more. Public opinion at work is where the major effects are. And as someone who's only recently learned to navigate the treacherous waters of a world that includes more than just yourself, it's irritating, frustrating, and seemingly uselessly important. There are times when I seriously consider going back to my fringe world and heading into the realm of academia where you can be a certified nut and still be respected.

Hiking the Grand Canyon this week put me close to nature again for the first time since I left high school. As I looked at the canyon walls and the natural amphitheatres, something tugged inside of my mind. Something familiar and comforting. But try as I may, I couldn't get a grasp on it. It hovered right outside the edges of my thought. That was when I realized that the magic was gone. Whereas I would usually indulge myself in an orgy of fantasizing about cave gnomes or canyon elves peering out from their hiding spaces to look at me, what I saw now was merely the beauty of the canyon. It held nothing more under the surface besides a sense of awe that these rocks and these walls have seen a millenia of things go by, generations of people, and experienced an unimaginable amount of events. Had I become just like everyone else? Is this a sure sign of growing up? The more I thought about it, the more I pinpointed the slow fading of magic to college. At first I thought that perhaps it was the urban setting of school. It's hard to think of faeries when you're stumbling over homeless men on your way to class, dodging cars, and wondering if you're going to get mugged on your way home from the library. But upon further thought, I realized that the belief in faeries probably faded because I no longer needed to believe in them. I didn't have a need to belong in their world anymore when I suddenly belonged in mine. It made me a little sad.

I thought about it as I stared out the car window and my brother complained about me ignoring him while he was talking. I thought about how nice this past week was, to just spend it with aching muscles and sweat. My brother and I hiked a good 6-12 miles each day. You'd be surprised how unperturbed you get about eating trail mix with the same hands that just scrambled on rocks and scrabbled in dust. When it gets to hour 10 of hiking, you really care about nothing besides getting water and salt into your body while taking yet another digital picture of every view around the corner that somehow impossibly seems to be better than the previous one. I walked away from this entire week with a terribly sexy backpack tan, about 200 digital images, and a feeling of somehow being very far from the girl I was when I left high school.

A few things haven't changed though. A childhood spent in solitude may be viewed as a tragedy by some, in hindsight, I'm not sure it was quite the tragedy that it seemed to be. I had a lot of color in my life. I was a secret princess, a faerie child, or an undiscovered X-Men. I'd spend afternoons climbing trees and reading books instead of fretting over the intricacies of high school gossip. I didn't worry about boys or prom dates, because the non-existence of such possibilities negates the possibility of failure. If anything, I treasure alone-ness even more now than I did before when I had it in abundance. I always felt like I related to the Unabomber for that reason. When every news show was commenting on his hermitage in the mountains, I understood why he would shy away from everyone. I could understand the comfort and yearning to just be alone, the peace of nature, the relief of not being judged all the time. As Milan Kundera defined it: Solitude - the sweet absence of looks. I miss it sometimes. And yet I know I can never quite go back. There are times though, when I wonder whether I was stronger back then than I am now. Dependencies always worry me. Because dependencies that are human are never dependable, due to the natural fickle qualities of human nature and society.

Regardless, although I can no longer answer the call of magic in the forests, the peace and sense of comfort I feel in mountains and rivers and trees is something that's never changed and something that I plan to go back for regularly. Like a pilgrimage for my soul. Perhaps the magic of the Great Outdoors hasn't really gone away. Maybe its nature has just changed to fill my changing needs.

posted by ink| 9:57 PM |

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