Tuesday, August 24, 2010

PUBLISHED!!!!!!!!!

Check it out! I got published in the Wall Street Journal!!!

I'm now excusing myself to go to go jump around and scream into pillows (it's midnight...)

Monday, August 23, 2010

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!

I hail in the completion of one year in the Foggy City tomorrow, August 24th.

My love affair with San Francisco wasn’t always so profound. When I first moved to San Francisco, I was in deep lust with the city. I was overwhelmed by its beauty: gentle waves of the Edwardian windows along the building facades, sail boats freckling the bay on a sunny day, the cascades of fog pouring over the mountains and Golden Gate Bridge and the eclectic group of people that calls this city home. A few months in, when the honeymoon phase receded, I grappled to fill in the voids of “home” sustenance and wondered if perhaps my infatuation had only been a fleeting crush.

During this era of doubt, I contemplated retreating back to the East, my tail between my legs. Immersed in this era of worry, I spent a lot of time looking for escapes and frequented a Presbyterian church for Sunday morning service, looking for some divine intervention or answers. There was one specific week that had been especially arduous, and as I trudged up steep hills to the morning service, I felt convinced that it was time to load up a U-Haul and schlep my personal belongings back home, defeated.

A good church service always leaves me feeling refreshed. I feel as though I’m blindly dehydrated throughout the week, ignorant to extent of my own thirst until the reverberation of hymns and sermon lessons wash over me. In that specific arduous week, the New Testament verse selection for the sermon couldn’t have been germane:

Luke 13: 6-9

6Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any.

7So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?'

8" 'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. 9If it bears fruit next year, fine! If
not, then cut it down.' "

A long time ago, my Great Grandmother had told my mom that the true test of any new relationship was to endure four seasons. One year: a full cycle. And if the relationship surpasses the one-year marker, then it has truly demonstrated its worth. I had my doubts, but after that sermon, my haste to give up on the West Coast dissipated, and I reconciled to allot this city a full year to flourish. And, one year after moving in, San Francisco has born me fruit. San Francisco has become a part of me, and me a part of it.

There are days where I catch a glimpse of the bay from the towering hills of Pac Heights and the view still takes my breath away. I'm still overtly amused with the impromptu concerts, celebrations, festivals and parades doused about all regions of the city- some with no apparent reason or interlocking theme. I'm grateful for the vast spectrum of cultures, foods and activities readily available at my fingertips. Every day I can walk down the street and catch an array of languages spanning all corners of the globe. I even love San Francisco for the simplicity of days where I can just sit on the beach at Crissy Field and watch the glee of dogs splashing through the waves, wrestling new friends, chasing their tails or digging cavernous ditches.

While the love of my childhood hometown can never be replaced, this new love, for San Francisco is passionate, deep and powerful. It may have taken a few breakdowns, some disputes and overcoming some uncertainty, but this period of growth has only enriched my love for the City and confirmed my fidelity to residency within her limits.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ambivalence

Ambivalence: how fitting. After I finished my earlier blog post, I went back to the article to finish reading. A few more pages in, the article discussed an abundant sense of ambivalence among the “emerging adults”- how fitting. This “tween”-esque era of my life seems to carry the semblance of adulthood, yet the prevailing passions and desires of my adolescence. Feeling conflicted and ambivalent are commonplace among my everyday emotions.

I found this exceptionally interesting:

“According to Maslow, people can pursue more elevated goals only after their basic needs of food, shelter and sex have been met. What if the brain has its own hierarchy of needs? When people are forced to adopt adult responsibilities early, maybe they just do what they have to do, whether or not their brains are ready. Maybe it’s only now, when young people are allowed to forestall adult obligations without fear of public censure, that the rate of societal maturation can finally fall into better sync with the maturation of the brain.”

Ah, refreshing: a natural timeline. When I first started the article, I was infuriated by the condescending nature of the suggested pursuant age markers for getting married and having a family. I even questioned if I was being scolded for feeling resigned to wait until 30 to get married. It’s not that I’m against monogamy; I just don’t feel like there is any purpose in rushing. It makes sense that the progression through life is in sync with our cognitions- not society.

I guess the source of why I feel rushed to take the trip to South America or go back to school or take a big risk is due to the ingrained concept that you must do it now, or you’ll grow up and that’s it. Becoming an adult has seemingly become synonymous with the end of your life as you know it. I’m not wistfully hoping I could go back to living under my parent’s care, but I’m also not in a hurry to forgo the reckless rebellion and the unyielding desire for adventure that ripple through my core.

Parents constantly fret over the influence of media reducing the innocence and longevity of childhood, but when did college graduation become the immediate jump off for childhood? Isn’t there something poetic about preserving that feeling of hopes and dreams for as long as it lasts? It’s like that last summer when you finally look at the toys scattered around your room and you realize that the magic is gone. You pack them away in a box and close out that chapter of your life. At some point it will naturally happen: we will all be adults. But just as most parents won’t prematurely put Lego sets or Barbie dolls into storage, why do we want to scorn those who refuse to pack away their childhood dreams as soon as they step out into the real world?

I adore the suggestion of a “rumspringa” (a tribute to my Amish neighbors back home) for all American youth to have time specifically dedicated to the purpose of exploration. When else do we get to do it? If you didn’t join the work force right out of high school, you do right out of college. Unless you’re blessed to have a large trust fund, how do you go about financing a passionate internship? Travel? Volunteering? If you don’t find yourself marching among the ranks of the producing masses as soon as you’ve earned your degree, you’re allowing society to brand you with the scarlet “L”- for loser.

“The 20s are when most people accumulate almost all of their formal education; when most people meet their future spouses and the friends they will keep; when most people start on the careers that they will stay with for many years. This is when adventures, experiments, travels, relationships are embarked on with an abandon that probably will not happen again.”

With statements like that, how can we not feel the anxiety and pressure? Ah, to be 23… sometimes it’s more that AHH!!! I’M 23!!! In the next decade, I'm supposed to grow up, get married, get a career, start a family...and be sated. I don't want to mill around in limbo, but I'm not ready to make all those decisions. I want my rumspringa. I want to find out more about me. I want to take some risks. And one day, when I've put all those things behind me, then I can start to make more "adult" decisions. But until I've released at least some of the wind in my sails, I can't begin to feel complacent to stop dreaming.

You reap what you sew

My great aunt forwarded me this New York Times article about the prolonged adaptation to adulthood experience by the 20-somethings of today. Though I admittedly only made it through page 3 of 10 of the dissertation on the “failure to launch” syndrome of my 20-something cohorts, I was already reaching for my laptop to tap away at the keys.


Ironically (though perhaps spurred by the New York Times piece), today NPR featured a local father of grown children, now in his 50s, reflecting on the “failure” of his 20-something year old children to accept less-desirable jobs, settle down and grow up. But how did this “emerging adulthood” phenomenon take root? The failure of this crop of 20-somethings to be ready for harvesting wasn’t a mysterious growing season or a product of global warming; he accepted ownership for having planted the seeds: As a baseball coach for his son, he presented awards and trophies to each player, no matter how poor his performance or meager the effort. Everyone got an award. I remember the politics involved with high school sports (especially for soccer at my school). Players that didn’t have the same talent or skills still earned reasonable amount of playing time “to be fair”; what lesson does this teach kids? When you grow up consistently receiving the affirmation that yes, you are special. Yes, you deserve these things, you will believe it. And when it comes time to face the music, and maybe you aren’t good enough, the news is shocking and sends you reeling.


Of course we feel entitled. Everyone got an award at the end of the school year. Everyone made the team. Everyone received playing time. Everyone got student of the month. Any criticism by a figure outside of the nuclear family web was met with vehement denial and rejection: how dare you speak to my child that way? How dare you tell me my child isn’t the best? When someone told us no, we waved our arms, cried for help, and quickly the politics of the system swooped in to rescue and coddle us from the horrors of rejection.


Up until graduation, the discussion is what do you want to be? As soon as you cross that stage and accept your diploma, suddenly the conversation turns to Get real. Get a job. Grow up. Accept realty. Graduation speeches should actually be a debriefing of the dissolution of the fa├žade of childhood dreams, when they pull the curtain revealing the truth behind the Wizard.


Last night, I cracked open a bottle of wine with some visiting house guest. We had all the formalities of being adults: calling it a night at a reasonable hour to be rested for work the following day and mechanically swirling and sipping our Zinfandel in perfect wine tasting form. But after reminiscing about some favorite childhood memories, the conversation transitioned into the preferred mantra of 20-somethings: I hate my job.


Christina, the oldest of the group at 29, rolled her eyes and sighed. Those of us in the room under 25 still were diligently releasing steam of youthful hopes, evaporating into expanding dream clouds that Christina struck through with a bolt of reality: “I guess that’s what makes being early twenties so unique- you guys still think you have time to dream. By the time you reach my age, you give up on what you always wanted to be, and come to terms with what you actually are.”


Is that really it? Is that the final line? Accepting that no, you really can’t do anything you put your mind to? Is life truly a revolution of “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables? Will I look back in 20 years and laugh at the silly dreams I once held of how my life would be?

“Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung
No wine untasted
But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
And they turn your dream to shame....

But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather
I had a dream my life would be
So much different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dream
"

Monday, August 16, 2010

Porch Steps at Dusk

Foreign words tangle between laced fingers beneath a blanket of fog

Decibels shouted don't surmount to the range to exclaim this ecstasy

Streams of dew trace the outline of a porcelain grin trickling into a puddle of bliss, cradled in the foothills of the mountains

A weekend getaway melts away the purpose of liberation and gives way to fulfilled wishes
for plurality

Boughs no longer bear the scorn of winter,
now flourishing under daytime stars and
swaying to unending, repeating harmonies

The only waste is the misery of
farewell as oceans recede from view


The Good, the Bad & the Ugly.

Tonight I took one of the many online "career assessment" quizzes to test if perhaps I've been overlooking some fascinating career, ignorantly passing it by in job listings. Nope. Aside from the role as a teacher, pretty much all of the career choices are ones I've applied to or already considered. The good out of this is that I have been looking in the right places and I know myself well. The bad news is that none of these jobs have full-time opportunities for 1-year entry levels postings. And the ugly: the paychecks.
Go ahead career. Make my day.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Putty of Youth Keeps Long at 23

My last night home I suffered from a severe case of insomnia, relishing my final moments with my family and the only night I got to sleep in my childhood bedroom. I pulled an old photo album from high school, looking at the smiling faces from school dances, grinning at the evidence failed cosmetology experiments I'd subjected myself to and the evolution of who I am today. Next to the photo albums was a short row of books collecting dust- books I'd been passed throughout the years but never took the time to crack open. It was nearly two in the morning, and I had a full morning preceding my flight back to San Francisco; a late start or grogginess was hardly how I planned to maximize my last day. Longing to be lulled to sleep by the delicate sedative of savory, lighthearted literature, I grasped Eat Pray Love and snuggled beneath my sheets, snapped on my reading lamp and cuddled between Tigger and some of my other plush childhood cronies.

A few pages in, I was astonished that no one had ever recommended I read this book with fervor. How did this book, which I had dismissed as another trite Nicholas Sparks easy, beach read, evade me? Where and how did I contrive this idea? Gilbert's memoir is so akin to all the free-spirited plots flapping about in my head right now, it is uncanny.
"It wasn't so much that I wanted to thoroughly explore the countries themselves; this has been done. It was more that I wanted to thoroughly explore one aspect of myself set against the backdrop of each country."
- Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
{{That. Is. Just. It.}}

As a writer, I'm always trying to find the exact movement of words to perfect the swing of a phrase, but this quote absolutely embodies exactly why I want to go on my South America backpacking trip: South America was just the stage for my monologue. There is a magnetism I feel pulling me to the continent for inexplicable reasons that I can try to rationalize with my fluency in Spanish, but when it comes down to it: I just want to go. The location, to be honest, is seemingly irrelevant to the reason.

Was someone hiding this book from me? (Ahem, Mom?!) But, relax, Mom: although I'm inspired by her full year journey of introspective self discovery, I'm not buying any plane tickets or requesting a leave of absence just yet. Actually, quite the contrary: I'm pleased to realize that she had a full decade on me, had made some life mistakes and still found the way to make this trip happen. It doesn't have to happen right now. It gave me some reassurance that if I do settle for now, the window of opportunity to do this isn't absolute.

The impatience of willing all my dreams into immediate fruition I blame on two factors:

1. I am 23
&
2.
I am 23

1. I am 23: My whole entire life has been subject to rapid technology changes, upgrades and the Internet. I've always needed something yesterday. Learning that life doesn't move at the speed of light (and that real time has additional set backs and road blocks) was not the transfer of information I had reckoned as my college graduation date encroached. I had predicted having to tune up my skills to perform at warp speed. Waiting wasn't what I had planned or been accustomed to.

2. I am 23: I am young and ambitious: a deadly combination. My haste isn't representative of a complete disconnect from reality, I just really believe in myself. I, historically, have gone after and achieved everything I've wanted because I've been dedicated, passionate and worked my tail off. I still am under the impression, despite some recent set backs, that this career thing is still putty that I can mold and sculpt, that my diligence and persistence will yield something.

But, thankfully, Gilbert has allotted me the piece of mind that I still have time. Even though my worst fear is regret, I do have some time before I have to start looking back forlorn for not capitalizing on the opportunity of youth.

I am {only} 23.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A bad day at the beach beats a good day in the office


A whole week at the beach with my family was an indulgence I’d been without for four years. Each summer, conflicts with summer jobs, camps or another commitment prohibited me from joining my family at the shore for our traditional Stone Harbor, NJ vacation.

Growing up, we’d pack the car the night before and set alarms for the break of down to beat traffic and maximize our week rental. After fighting a few miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic, we’d finally emerge onto the delta and roll down the windows to allow the fragrant eruption of salty sea air to permeate the car.

Stone Harbor is small, family beach town in Southern New Jersey about and hour an a half from Philadelphia. Rows of Cape Cod style homes flank the quiet streets where pedestrians maintain the right of way and bikers account for half the road traffic. The three-block downtown strip on 96th street consists of some boutique clothing shops, a movie theatre, an arcade and the Fudge Kitchen, one of my favorite haunts as a little girl.

On our final day, we stopped down town to pick up some salt water taffy, fudge and other mementos before hitting the road. It had been a couple years since I’d even been down there, so I quickly walked down to the corner where my favorite trinket shop, Neptune’s Gift Shop, had been. I was disenchanted to find that the shop had been replaced with an art gallery. As I trudged back to meet my family at the Fudge Kitchen, I couldn’t help but think of the Bob Dylan song, “Times they are a Changing”. Each year, I had spent most of my time and savings on anklets, mood rings or wish bracelets, and seeing the shop gone reaffirmed that even my most sacred childhood memories weren’t safe from change.







It’s always with heavy hearts that we pile the boogie boards onto the roof of the car, scrape the last bit of sand from our feet and wave goodbye to our summer getaway. After 7 months away from my family, seeing the water tower and the coast line disappear as we pulled away was even more difficult. It marked the end of the vacation and the end of my week with them. Separating your life between two coasts is no easy endeavor. Every misty goodbye at the airport tugs at my heartstrings- no matter how adoring I am of my new home in San Francisco.

But wiping away a few stranded streams of tears from my cheeks as I checked in at the airline kiosk, I was contended to know that one piece of the vacation, one of my favorite pieces, wasn’t left behind on the East Coast, but in fact calls California home as well.