And One Fine Morning—–

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I don’t know if there’s a God. Whether there’s some Almighty Creator looking down on me from the sky, judging me, deciding that if I do this one bad thing, I’m going to get punished for it…I don’t know about that. I do, however, firmly believe in Karma (or something like it, anyway). The difference for me is very important. God is a figure we’ve created to help us deal with our inward anxieties: forgiveness, morality, hurt and pain. It’s easier to believe that we aren’t responsible for the things we put out into the world. It seems to me, that to be an agent of God means that your actions are not your own. You move through the world doing things because it’s all part of some bigger plan. If you have a moral misstep, it’s God we have to own up to first, then ourselves, then the one who has been wronged. That order feels so wrong to me, but it’s simply what I’ve observed.

Karma works a little differently. Karma for me is like Newton’s third law of motion: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Life for me isn’t about pleasing a deity in the sky, nor is it about believing that everything happens for a reason. Life is about balance. My personal goal (and one that I think everyone should inherit) is to make up for all the bad things in the world by putting more good into it. Really, when it comes down to it, you have to remember that just as sure as there will be morning, there will also be night. Bad things are going to happen, you’re going to make mistakes, and not everything is going to go your way. But there will be good things too, and that has to come from you. You can approach a tough situation by dwelling on how bad it is, or you can fight it and do something positive in exchange. The human condition is so strange, because we are all capable of good and bad things, but it’s ultimately what thoughts we act on and what good or bad we put out into the world that makes a difference.

(I can see why God might feel necessary for some, and I don’t discredit anyone’s experience with spirituality, because that’s extremely personal. But I don’t think it works for me. I’ve often observed friends, family, and strangers, praying to God for strength to make it through hardship [e.g “God please give me the strength to carry on”], but when I’ve prayed this way, what I’ve ultimately found is that the strength I need is already inside me. God didn’t reach into my conscious mind, find that small courageous blerb I need, and push it to the forefront of my mind. No, I did that. I found it inside me because it is simply instinctual. Since the dawn of time, we understand that obstacles must be overcome in order to survive, in the same way we don’t decide to have sexual desires. We just get turned on and want to have sex because our animalistic instincts subconsciously remind us we need to procreate to bring new life into the world, and keep our species alive. It’s all survival of the fittest.)

Anyway, life has done me dirty for most of the year. I was broken up with at an impossibly strenuous time of year and forgot to take advantage of my final semester at school. I got hired at an internship which both took advantage of me and totally dismantled my drive for a career in entertainment. I was jobless for about four months and as a result, my empty bank account made it difficult for me to maintain and build on certain friendships. I struggled to apply for grad schools (again), collecting additional materials, overcoming self doubt, and digging deep to write several several several drafts of personal essays to prove I am a worthy student/human being. I also learned a week or so ago that my hero and favorite professor Kenneth Speirs, passed away from a heart attack.

My heart still hurts from the immediacy of his death, but I take comfort in remembering his life. He was a one of a kind man- someone who believed in the goodness of people and seemed to draw the best out of every student. He taught me many things but there are two moments with him that really stick out in my mind as extremely powerful and remarkable. I once caught him after class, excited to discuss “As I Lay Dying” with him. I remember telling him how much I hated the book while I was reading it, but taking a step back, it was the excitement I got from hating it so much that actually made me love it. His response was something vague, referential, and wise (as his language usually was). Something like “Ah, that’s so good. That’s great– and you should really experience that hatred. I’m glad you’re using your experience as a means to get you somewhere bigger. You know, I’m someone who actually doesn’t enjoy answers. I really like questions. I like the discomfort in searching for something. Searching doesn’t always have to make sense, you know? Sometimes you don’t even know what you’re looking for. And you don’t always have to be right, but pushing in certain places, and asking questions, and struggling is really where you learn the most from a novel…and life too I think.” An elaborated version of the expression “It’s about the journey, not the destination”. But I’ll always remember that and aspire to take comfort in the uncomfortable as Kenneth did. It’s so important, I think, to remember the value in making the most out of a bad situation. Balance, balance, balance. That’s what it’s all about.

The other moment that comes to mind, was in a friendly email, just to check in and say hi after graduation. Part of me will regret not responding to his last email. His parting advice to me was “Keep going; be more, much more, of who you are and always play your game with dogged stubbornness.  You know but don’t forget.” Looking back at his wisdom reminds me so much of the final words of “The Great Gatsby”, the first book our class read under his instruction.

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning——”

And one fine morning, we will pass as all things do… as Gatsby did. As Kenneth did. But what do we do before that happens? We stretch ourselves, we run faster, we push, we search, we love, we create, we keep going and become more, much more, of who we are. Why? So that when life, oh so fragile, finally cracks and crumbles in our full embrace, we leave something good in our wake.

Move, and take all your angels and demons with you. Every step forward is a lesson. Make the most of it, even when you trip.

Forget about God for a bit. Don’t be so dependent on him. Create your own good. Beat the bad by doing good. Learn to forgive yourself before you ask it of someone else. Find your own courage before you ask someone else to find it for you.

All that’s really left to say is that I hope I’m making him proud.

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Cheers, Beers, and Betweens

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In the above selfie, you’ll find a kid-adult hybrid drinking a beer for no reason other than to celebrate himself after taking a big step forward today. Today I had my first “real world” interview with a “real world” producer for a “real world” internship for a “real world” entertainment company. The better half of me is SO thrilled and SO excited to be making these big boy choices and doing my best to get myself into the the entertainment business, but the other half of me is still clinging to Berkeley and the days where I didn’t have to take myself so seriously.

The interview went splendidly enough. I answered every question the way I wanted to, answered them truthfully, thoroughly, and articulately, but the interviewer seemed pretty discouraged after discovering that I didn’t really have any experience in the industry (in my defense, the job was advertised as a “great opportunity for an entry-level position”, how much experience could they expect?). Thus, I walked away with mixed feelings. I felt both confident that I had done my best, and discouraged that maybe my best wasn’t enough.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently- what do you do when your best isn’t enough? How do you keep giving your best to situations that don’t want your best? The answer is a forked road. You can either:
a) Chose to keep applying yourself the way that you have been, confident that you are doing the right thing but everyone else is the problem. The right person hasn’t come along who can see what you have to offer in the right ways.

or b) Chose to make your best better. To improve yourself and the way you tackle certain situations. Everything might have been done right, but surely things could have been done differently as well. Those differences aren’t necessarily wrong- but there is always a different approach to any situation, and what might work for you might not work the same for someone else. Part of being successful is taking the right chances at the right moments. Being the best you can be in a certain moment depends largely upon what is best for another person- be it employer or boyfriend.

I’m somewhere in the middle of those two paths right now. In my experience both roads hold truth and I have found success by traveling down both of them. But where I am now asks me to kind of stand and watch and listen right now. I’m not sure exactly what I’m doing or how to best go about these interviews or my ex moving on and dating someone new because I feel so between everything. Between happy and sad, self-fulfilled and emptied out, excited and scared, enthusiastic and exhausted, patient but eager. There’s so much going on and all I can really say about that is that I’m taking it all one step at a time.

One of the most important things I’ve learned from my ex is to listen to where life takes me and trust that it is right where I need to be. This is hard for me. My insecurities, self doubt, and over-thinking always get in the way of life’s truths. I have spent so much of the past couple years working on trusting myself and feeling confident in who I am, the things I feel, and the choices I make, but I think my confidence has grown too inward. It’s great that I believe in myself now, but I need to start trusting in bigger and better things. I need to trust that God has a plan and that if I walk through life with faith and conviction in the goodness of the world around me, I will always find myself making progress. Life is too short to feel like we’re going backwards or staying stationary.

So, cheers to taking steps forward. Right now I’m not even sure it matters where I’m walking- as long as I keep trusting that where I walk I will end up in a better place than I was a step before. And if I trip or make any missteps along the way, I have all the love and support in the world to help me get up and back on the right track.

Holi cow!

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For how many days I’ve spent in grey spaces and dark places the last couple weeks, yesterday’s colorful Holi celebration was a very graciously received gift. I had never been to a Holi festival before, so this first-time experience was something I couldn’t have even prepared for. I knew it would be fun and colorful, but the extremities of those two characteristics stretched farther than I could’ve dreamt.  

I walked onto the designated painting grounds empty handed. I didn’t have time or money to purchase any color powder, but fortunately my friends were willing to share with me. I walked through the developing crowd, my white shirt and jean shorts thirsty for color, and before I knew it I was being splashed with water, and hosed with color from all directions. Smiling strangers greeted me with a splash of yellow to my face, or a dash of purple to ruffle into my hair. With joyful music painting an aural canvas over the crowd, my friends and I danced for hours amongst ourselves and with our overjoyed neighbors. 

The beautiful thing about Holi was the bliss uniformly felt amongst everyone in the crowd. Sure, someone must have been disappointed with a mouthful of dye or a dusty eyeball, but the energy was unmistakable. We danced and we sang and we laughed and colored…and for what? Because it’s spring! Because life is good, and beautiful, and now,and always. It was divine in a way, sharing joy with people I loved, and people I didn’t know at all but still seemed to love anyway because they were sharing their joy with me. It was harmonious and unforgettable and I loved every minute of my experience.

I want to find this joy in everything. I want to look for it in places that are hard to find. It’s something I need to train myself to see, because it’s there in every person, place, or event I will experience in my life. There is something good to be seen anywhere I go. That joy that I felt and held witness to yesterday– it didn’t go away. The color may have washed from my skin, but it’s left a stain on my heart. 

Exploring

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I had never seen a salamander before and I certainly didn’t expect to see one today, but we found them. Dozens of them swimming down a little stream in the hills that surround my little suburbia. Some of them mating, some of them embracing stillness on little algae covered stones, some ran straight for shelter when we loomed over them in deep curiosity.

Just when I thought there wasn’t anything new to be gained from my hometown, my sister and I discovered this new way of enjoying the backyard of the city. It was beautiful and refreshing. We walked many trails and climbed many rocks and we had no idea where we were going but it was just what I needed: an exploration. A guarantee that wondering in unknown spaces yields opportunities to grow with loved ones and to see the world around me in new ways.

Today was a reminder that it’s okay to not know everything. I didn’t need to know what lay waiting at the end of a given path, the important thing is that I chose one and I explored it, and I was grateful for the walk. I should regard my future the same way. Fear is a tyrant that has starved me my whole life. I’ve been so afraid of following the “wrong” path, or doing one thing and finding I don’t enjoy it later. Being a privileged middle-class white kid, I’ve always had many paths available to me. I should be grateful for this and I should pick one (not recklessly), and pursue what calls me. Maybe it’s been that simple all along. Picking one path does not restrict me from taking others. One door closes and another one opens. Windows of opportunity will always be open for me, it would be a shame not to see what exists within the frame of each one.