Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Blacklight Ink and Vague Conversations

"You said you didn't want to hear it."
"What? When did I ever say that?"
"Last night!"

I still do not remember ever saying I do not want to hear what Melody was telling me. We both chalked it up to a garbled transmission courtesy of Skype and a horrible internet connection on my end. I hate this being the only way I can speak to my best friend. Especially if she is going to be left with the impression that I do not want to hear what she has to say. What is interesting about her slight accusation is there is the possibility I have, in fact, said the words "I do not want to hear it," but more than likely in passing or in joking. It is just the way people communicate--vague expressions and phrases that mean nothing to the person saying them, but could mean everything to the person hearing them.

While I try not to get caught in this kind of "conversation" (or "non-versation" as my favorite YouTube guy, Alex Day, calls them), I have learned to comprehend the person's intended message through their ramblings. I have a tendency to pick up on the small things people say quicker than others do.

I do not think this is a talent. I just think I listen too closely.

Conversations often are disconnected, lost and left unfinished because of the ways people have for escaping moments of vulnerability, to which deep conversations often lead. I forget sometimes that I have a best friend who does pay attention to the small things I say, which can lead to confusion when I have a tendency to leave a preposition or question hanging in the air, tauntingly over her. One would probably assume I have learned my lesson by now, but not even ten years can prepare me for curve-balls like, "You said you didn't want to hear it."

Melody and I talk about everything. She is the one person I know that will let me say everything until I get whatever burdens me out of my head. She understands that I need conversation. Real conversation. One of the topics we managed to cover the other night was the depressing state a couple of our friends have left us in as of late. It is as if they left their social skills at home and have spent too much time at college on themselves. They act selfishly and put us last. It is a sad place to be, but at least I have her with me.

One of the things that amuses me the most about our friends is the idea they have of the "college life" when they are far less experienced in most of those areas than even I am. I keep most adventures I go on to myself, because I am not the only one doing things, and I feel no need, unless there was a moving significance behind the time spent, to prove to others that I lead an exciting life. I do not like to brag and I try my best to stay humble, to a degree. It keeps me in my place and does not make me miss the moments when my friends truly need me or the moments I could be sharing with them. These days, it seems a couple of our friends are more concerned with how many pictures they can be tagged in on Facebook than how many moments actually become memories.

Last night was one of those nights just worth mentioning; the clichés were through the roof. It would have made for an interesting MTV movie, to say the least.

Around 2:00p.m. I was in the laundry room, studying the washer intently, hoping I did not dispense too much detergent into the machine, when I received a call from my friend, Crystal. She said she was getting a tattoo and she wanted me to be there. I assumed she meant a permanent tattoo. I am not sure how Crystal became acquainted with this guy, but he insisted in giving her a blacklight ink tattoo because he has a passion for tattoos and is fascinated with blacklight ink. She agreed and later explained the details of a blacklight ink tattoo to me.

I have gone with my father to quite a few tattoo parlors and considered a tattoo for myself, but I had never heard of a blacklight ink tattoo until she mentioned the one she wanted to get. "I don't really want to go alone to this guy's room, and I want a friend with me." It was all starting to become clear. I was unsure of what the procedure was for a tattoo that leaves a scar and only lasts for two years at the most. Quite honestly, it seemed like a waste of money, however, I was willing to go with her, because I did not want her to be alone either during a procedure that was going to take place within dorm walls.

The kid was dressed in a wife-beater and basketball shorts. His desktop computer was hooked to two large stereo-quality speakers and blasting any kind of rap one could imagine, from the over-played, chart-toppers, to the lesser known songs. "Do you like Daddy Yankee?" Crystal asked him.
"I'm not Puerto Rican! I'm Mexican!" and gestures to a Mexican flag draped over a corner of his desk. I giggled. I could not help it. It was a funny reaction to a seemingly innocent question.

Crystal's friend, James, had joined us. The asking price was 90-dollars, and James has handled business with the tattoo-artist-to-be in the past. James knew he could, as Crystal put it, "hustle him" for a lower price. And he was successful: Crystal only paid 20-dollars at the end of the night. The tattoos on both of James' wrists looked as though they would have only cost him about that much, even if it had been professional--they could have passed for a painful experience with Henna rather than permanent art. When James looked down at his wrists before we entered the hall, I suddenly cringed. Why was my friend willing to go through with this? Even if it is just blacklight ink, there are other more suitable places to get tattoos.

Crystal had a piece of a poem she really loves carved into her back with the tool. Until she mentioned it was supposed to last for two years, I had not expected the guy to use a real needle. I half-expected some cheap form of Henna or those entertaining glow-in-the-dark temporary tattoos one purchases from a vending machine. And to add to even more humor (and possibly horror) while the speakers continued to blast explicit lyrics spat at a record speed, the large television in the corner of the room was on mute and the captions activated so whoever decided to watch the marathon of Cops currently airing, would not miss a thing. It was like a scene from a movie where the writers take every stereotype possible and throw it into one character.

After an hour of blood and scarring, the tattoo was complete. I decided then and there I would not get my tattoo done from him, and I would not get a tattoo that only lasted two years after going through all that pain for it. Definitely not worth it, but she is happy. I suppose that is all that matters.

I have more stories--stories I know I do not have enough energy to tell to everyone I know. But after one night doing virtually nothing, my aforementioned, unnamed friends will gab about the experience as if it was the most amazing time of their life. If I did tell my friends all the little adventures I have had this year, they would soon learn one trip to a bar does not make them party-animals. However, I know my stories are not what they want to hear. In fact, it is better to keep my adventures to myself and laugh about them when I am alone. I do not want them to feel inferior, nor do I want them to try and make me feel that way. It is easy to argue that true friends would not do that to one another, but I am trying to let them grow and be who they are now. They will figure out who they are; I know I still have growing to do. I told them I would stick by them and the great thing about it is, I only have to hear their more self-indulgent chatter the few times we come home on the same weekends. Any other time, they are far from me. Thank you, college.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Where The Stories Come Out

Taking a walk with a friend is the best way to hear the best stories. I lead a couple of my friends into a nearby park where we enjoyed the atmosphere and I snapped pictures. I love the candid moments: when a person forgets I have a camera in my hand and then just start talking to me while I leave my capture function on continuous. The minute they turn around and realize I never stopped taking pictures is one of the funniest moments. Wednesday, I spent time with my best friend Chelsea. Words cannot describe how happy I am to have met this girl my first year in college. She is funny and crazy and can keep up with me, and that usually takes a lot out of people.

I realized that while the high fashion photography seems glamorous and wonderful, I am more into natural photography. I suppose it is the journalist in me. I like to see life as it is and capture it at its best (and sometimes worst, but that is a different story). Life is beautiful without the extra help that couture offers art. I love natural light and candid shots, and just letting people be themselves while the camera just records.

I love when my model will ask me to see the pictures and they start flipping through my playback. They always seem happy to see themselves in the pictures--as if they did not see the beautiful things about themselves before I found them. I say it is all about finding the right angles. Which, to an extent, is true. However, it does not take much to find those wonderful features that make up the beautiful people in our world. While some people may not be considered a "classic beauty," they still have something about them that gravitates others to them--whether it is something in their eyes or something in their smile.

I fully believe the eyes and smile are windows into our souls. You can tell a lot about a person through how big they smile, how strong they laugh and how bright their eyes shine with every emotion. It does not take thick mascara, tons of foundation or even eyeliner to prove you are beautiful. It just takes a sincere heart. The best thing about Wednesday was when I got a message from my best childhood friend, Melody, telling me her grandmother died, Chelsea was there to witness an emotion she had yet to see in me: true sadness turned to crying. I knew Melody's Nana pretty well, and it pained me to know that my best friend had lost a relative who was incredibly close to her. I wish I could be there for the funeral and comfort her, but I will be there later and I am with her in spirit. I am happy because Melody realizes she has more love in her life than she could ever wish. And I am happy because Chelsea was there to help me through it and help me realize I have the same love in my life.

Today was just as enjoyable. After walking around with Eric, we ended up in the same park as Wednesday. Same as always, we ended up talking about everything under the sun and even finding stupid ways to amuse ourselves. Recently, he started dating my good friend, Savannah, and I could not be more happy for the two of them. Finally, they both have someone substantial in their lives. I hope it works out for the best. In fact, when I am able to dig up information about a monastery I visited a few years ago, he said he was going to take Savannah and I there and I will finally get some pictures of a couple! Nothing is more beautiful than capturing a couple at their most candid and their closest moments. Lately his conversations have revolved around her, but not in an annoying way. He just spent a lot of time with her over our spring break, so he has a lot to talk about involving her. And I do not mind one bit. She is a friend I love dearly, so talk of her is just as if I were mentioning her.

It is fun taking pictures of Eric because he understands I am going to take random pictures sometimes and he actually enjoys looking at the pictures where I caught him off-guard or in the middle of a conversation. He is a guy, after all--he is more likely to laugh off the weird pictures than to say, "Ew, I look gross here!" He, too, looked through my playback and amused himself with the awkward positioning of his mouth and hair. (And I say "hair" because that boy cares more about his hair than Uncle Jesse from Full House.)

I am very pleased with all the shots I collected this week, and I enjoyed the wonderful weather and conversations.

But alongside all the wonderful thoughts, I do not want anyone to forget what I mentioned earlier about my best friend losing her Nana. I wish that each and every one of you would pray for her family's healing, and if you do not believe in such a thing as prayer at least keep her in your thoughts. They need all the support they can get. If I had lost my Nanna after her heart attack, I am not sure how strong I would have been. Melody is a rock, and it kills me that I am not with her to hold her, but she knows I love her and I hope she knows I will do more when I see her again.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

So, I Have An Idea...

I am known for procrastination. It is not something of which I am proud. I guess one could most accurately say I have a lot of good ideas, but it is hard for me to follow through on any of them. Either that, or I will get halfway through a project and lose steam. I hate to admit it; it is pathetic. This rule does not always apply, though, when personal growth and relationships are involved--thank God. I notice new things about myself and others everyday. While I have managed to work around my procrastination--mostly by choosing things that are not long-term goals or stagnant fields, like writing and photography--I am caught in a vicious cycle of simply trying to talk myself into doing something. I hate it. Just this morning, around 8, I managed to talk myself out of doing an assignment for a class. I want to change this. I have to change this. Next time I convince myself to sleep instead of work, my future could be at stake. (Which might be a bit of a dramatic assumption, but I am making a point.) I cannot threaten my dreams. While my future is still relatively undecided--and scarier than Mordor--the little plans I do have for myself mean too much to me to be tossed off because of one rough morning.

In fact, I already have a plan in mind. I vaguely made mention of it in my previous blog post. I want to start now. I am beginning something new. The idea of recording life as it is, for myself and others, is not something I should have to wait to do. Who knows how long it will be before I am capable of traveling to Ireland or some "newsworthy" place? I cannot waste my life waiting on such a moment. Instead, I need to make those moments happen. I need to start recording now--by pen and camera. Whatever I find intriguing deserves a moment in the spotlight. This does not mean I am going to be running around with a stenographer's pad and jot down every conversation that passes through my ears. It just means, when I am out doing things, I want to make the most of it, and I want to find something special in it and share the moment with everyone. Soon, the dream of going somewhere interesting--from the homeless on the streets to the castle-inhabiting of Ireland--will not feel like such a distant goal.

Photojournalism is something I crave. Not the news photography you see. In fact, I dabbled in that and discovered I really hate it. What I want to do is editorials--I find the story and I capture it with a purpose in mind. My purpose has been stated before: I want to be moved by what I see and I want what I see to move others. I want to make an impact with the gifts God has given me. I am far from the best in anything I do, and am not so prideful that I cannot admit this. But I want to use what talents I do possess to the best of my ability. I already have an idea for an actual story and am drawing out characters and plotting now. Can you imagine it? Me: a creative writer. I never would have thought I had enough patience before, but it has been two days now and I have yet to get bored. That is a good sign... It all starts now. If I am going to title my blog "Here's To Life" then I should not just let it be an ambiguous statement that my audience finds on their own--it needs to hold meaning. I am not sure how often I will come across something to record, but from now on, I am looking rather than waiting for it to jump out at me.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Why I Listen

Photo Source

I do a lot of listening. It is a proven fact that most people like to talk. I could take the route of cynicism and say it is because they are self-centered. And while I do agree with this statement, I think I am going to veer away from the predictable negativity and look at this simple fact from a different perspective: my own. When I am given my chance to speak, it is freeing and relieving. It is my only real form of catharsis. Some people have found more active--often destructive--ways to relieve stress, however, I am not one of these people. So, I find someone who "has the time" to devote their attention to my sudden need for human contact and I speak. I try to be brief (often with fail), but I just release any feelings holding me down. I do not like to burden the people in my life and because I am a happy person, I try not to overbear anyone with this need. Like I said, I do like to speak, but I am first, and foremost, a listener. And the ability to converse with others is not just good for a few rants and complaints. Talking is a major way to build a relationship with someone. At least, all the "quacks" say so, and while I would, typically, try to steer clear of anything Dr. Phil or Dr. Drew promoted, I believe them to be right.

Last week, I was able to get my first interview with the faculty advisor for a club on campus. It was for my first story as a freelance reporter for my school's student paper. I was nervous until I walked into his office. We smiled and joked and he gave me a good bit of information to use. The whole conversation made me realize why I fell in love with journalism. I had forgotten one of the biggest reasons that journalism really felt like the place that I belonged: interviews--people's stories. In the short amount of time I have worked on school papers, the interviews have always been the biggest excitement for me. I am able to meet new, interesting people and hear their stories and feel their passion in the topics I am covering. It has always been an amazing rush for me. I had been doing so much listening in the past for friends and family, it had never occurred to me, until I started writing for a paper, how it had become a finely-tuned skill that I could use in more aspects in my life than just being a supportive shoulder for a friend. I still do a lot of listening, on the record and off the record, because no matter if I am being made to cover a story, or I am just getting to know someone, listening is what I do. And to be honest, people are more uncensored than they often realize when the other person is quiet and gives the speaker the chance to let their mind wander.

I am not entirely sure if I will always write for a newspaper--online or a physical publication--but my dream is to one day go somewhere amazing, meet some amazing people and record my experiences and the stories and lives I meet along the way. I will feel even more fulfilled if I can do all of that and photograph what I see. There are jobs for such a thing. I want to be moved by what I see and hear, and I want to move others through my recordings. I want to do so much. I just hope my short life will allow for such a dream to eventually come true.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My New Best Friend

Recently, I bought a new diary. The last diary I had was filled with thoughts and feelings I would like to forget. I have entered a new phase in my life--a new level of maturity. I can better understand and accept the ability people have to get their feet occasionally caught in their mouth (or other orifices). I am capable of separating compassion and admiration from lust--a trait many of my younger friends (and some of the same age as I) have yet to accomplish. My heart beats differently, I breathe easier. My nerves may still leave me on the edge of my seat, but they no longer leave me feeling foolish. I react more appropriately and think more inwardly than I speak my mind. But to successfully live this way and continue to grow, I needed a new place to start recording my thoughts--all of them. I find myself surrounded by people who say they will listen, but do not always give me the attention I try to devote to their tales. And often the people who do sit and listen to my thoughts, do not yet understand the same things I have come to learn. It is a frustrating situation, an entrapping situation. I did, recently, have one person who not only allowed me to get everything off of my chest, but understood what I was saying. For that, I am forever grateful. But chances and people like that are a rare commodity, and it is a sad truth I have come to know in the past few years. It is why I turn to my diary. At least, there, I can say everything, even the things I would much rather keep to myself. A diary is the one place I can be completely honest and never feel judged.

Of course, it is a sad day when I can no longer rely on human contact the same way I once did. When my trust is placed solely on an inanimate object and not on a person, then I know I have fallen. I am not a pessimistic person, in fact, I prefer human contact, however, reality has taught me I cannot always get what I want. I suppose I can always sigh a nice breath of relief in knowing, with my diary, I never have to censor myself, I never have to hide anything, and I never have to worry about opposition--which may not seem like the best idea, but when one is constantly opposed outside, it is nice to come inside from the cold and feel that someone (or something) agrees with me. But no worries, I refuse to hide away from the world by means of this diary. I love life and those living it with me too much to just throw it all away for some bound pieces of paper. Besides, how ever could I trade life for imagination when the things I write about in my diary are of the people that make life worth living?

It is a new beginning and a new phase in my life.