Thursday, May 27, 2010

I Choose To Really Live



As a human being, I have an idea of how I want to be perceived and in what way I want to create this image of myself. However, if I am only working for momentary perception, the few compliments I receive will only take me as far as the air takes to travel from another's lips to my ears. I do not want to look in the mirror and see a young adult who reaches for the stars just to add another to her belt. I want more. I want the world to shake me, I am not quite as interested in if I leave a mark wherever I travel. That is the least of my worries. For I am not the first to set foot upon land, and will not be the last. I may not understand the origin of such things or why they are as trendy as they are at this moment, however I am devising a bucket list for myself. Unlike those who find their bucket lists twenty years later in the bottom of their hope chests, smudged and illegible, I plan on preserving mine. The items I have jotted on the list are as full of personality as my dreams, and, I feel, represent everything I want to accomplish and the excitement I have for the future. While I may not know when I will start or how I will begin, I want this to take me somewhere.

I have friends who have accomplished more than I in shorter amounts of time: they have seen the best architecture has to offer, met socially-declared brilliance, climbed greater mountains than I have even seen in photographs, and come away with little-to-nothing from such experiences. They have lost their spark--their fire--to keep moving and searching for daily inspiration. These friends have seen it all and have nothing to say. My bucket list contains all that I have ever spoken of achieving. As of this moment, there are roughly thirty places marked on my list I have always wanted to see. They range from within my own country to overseas. And underneath one list lies another full of things to collect along the way--memories. As stated in The Wonder Years, "Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose." My memory has done me well so far, and if I could ask for anything, it is to never lose touch with the side of my brain that stores such precious jewels so that I can remember more and remain always open to the processes of learning and loving.

Textbooks illustrate the bigger picture, but I am looking for the finite details--the moments in life quickly fading, the stone on walls chipping away, the wrinkles gathering on the brow of great men. And if one day I finally sit in my dream room full of postcards and pictures of the amazing people I have met and the places I have seen, I will not see the amount of time and money spent to get there, I will not see the accomplishments of my life, but I will remember the moments I was blown away, embraced and all the times I laughed and cried. The treasures I collect along the way will not be to remind me of how amazing I am for having seen it all, but to remind me of how quickly time moves and how precious life is. The truth is, one can live forever in constant motion and still never see it all. And, as the character Logan Huntzberger says in Gilmore Girls, "People can live a hundred years without really living for a minute." I choose to really live. I shall begin where I am until I can move forward with my official list.

A bucket list is more than just a list of things to do before one dies. It is a list of purpose.

-----

And to add a bit of humor to this post, I have posted the half of my list that talks about the places I want to visit on my other not-quite-as-awesome-blog. (Seriously, I could forget about that blog tomorrow and never look back.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Meaning of Loyalty



Evading a mother's instinct and overprotection, a friend and I painted our town red Monday--in broad daylight, nonetheless. And as protocol to such an event, I was also introduced to some interesting new faces. The day was filled with what I have grown to consider the norm: hanging out most of the day in a tattoo parlor, taking lots of pictures, exerting too much energy climbing hills and dancing on train tracks, drinking enough caffeine to keep me awake until the following morning, and beautiful interpretations of what makes for true friendship. It is the type of rock 'n' roll lifestyle one cannot create with the magic of Hollywood--not due to the venue, but the characters. It is filled with too much reality and enough laughter to keep me sane for the remaining week.

Inside every person's story, there, lying between the lines, hidden in all the subtext and facial expressions, is the triumphs and failures of the word "loyalty," and how it either lives inside the subject alongside a passion for others, or was casually tossed away with their humility long before I met them. Three years ago, the idea of loyalty began to filter in my mind as something consisting of a bitter taste and with no lexical definition suitable enough to apply to my own life. However, even I have to sit back at times and realize where I am wrong. (Not to say I can ever think of a time of which I was right.)

With the passing of my mother came the inevitable demise of a once whole family. While, behind my home's walls, sat a content family strong enough to withstand any attacks, it was the family separated by phone lines and emails that made moving on and moving forward a sin. Unable to connect the reasons for their jealousy and unjustifiable hatred, with my reasons to let go and just push it all away, it is still a separated family--divided by something much greater than miles and networking lines: we are divided by resentment and suspicion.

I am completely content living my life and simply walking away from confrontation. I know when to let go and when to fight. Three years ago, I would not have been as satisfied just leaving the line of battle. But when we sat in the hospital and my father had to tell my brother and I our mother was gone, I fell quiet and spent a lot of time in my own thoughts, though my brother was not quite as reserved in his reaction. The moment I prayed would not come, had, and it humbled me more than I realized it would. We all think we are safe from disaster until disaster strikes. Most begin blaming God or lashing out at others, but I found myself searching for a reason in it all. I found a few, though they are quite irrelevant to this story.

Through the fellowship of others and the human companionship that overwhelmed our family, we were happier and were ready to move forward with our lives. But despite the amount of hugs even distant family received, some were not as willing, and seemed to dwell in the moment, which lead to sparks of anger and rivalry. It was in those moments I realized words are merely just words, and carry with them no definition until physical representation follows. It was then I stopped using my words and simply said nothing--I believe my silence said more.

The English language is one of the most diverse and complex languages there are, and it is for this reason I find it fascinating to study. People say English classes are easy, but there is a difference between passing an English class and understanding the English language. I have the privilege of being born of this tongue, and as such, with the constant changing of colloquialisms and what is accepted in written language, analyzing text has become second nature. Consequently, through understanding the way people use language, I understand people even more. Quite possibly, this may be the reason I have given up fighting the neverending fights. I can find loopholes in arguments, but pointing them out would merely anger the opposition more, and I have no use for four-letter words and shouting. I have had my fill of them for a lifetime. And if any word of which could be construed as intelligible, even on the slightest measure, was uttered, the one used the most was "loyalty." Because I did not take sides or get upset when my father was ready to move on with my lovely now-stepmother, Shanna, I was, according to my mother's side, not being loyal to family. Then I began raising the question: what is loyalty?

In the past few years of headaches, I have been witness to most textbook fallacies, including, but not limited to: argument against the person, the straw man, missing the point, red herring, and appeal to pity--though I did hear the "woe is me" argument more often than the former four. It is no wonder I found myself underestimating such a loaded term, when the few times I had witnessed its reference were in arguments of desperation when attacking me was the only ammo this "family" had left to use. "What happened to family loyalty?!" they would shout. And I often wondered the same thing.

Monday, however, during my reunion with an old friend and the meeting of yet another new one, I was witnessing loyalty at its best. Two friends who had been there for each other in just a short amount of time, driven together by their own similar stories, and standing up for one another when it is most needed. The same friend and I have had an interesting ride as well in the past nine years. After being apart for a long time after one major fight, my mother's passing was reason enough for her to come to my side and help me through it. And, over the years, our reunion has made us stronger and even still we can talk about our past conflict in lightheartedness. It is because of these people I have changed my mind about loyalty; its true meaning. Because, with it, I can no longer call it an empty word. My friends and I are physical representations of the everyday survival of such a thing as loyalty. And for that, I am grateful.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

In Every Sense of the Word



Bohemian and abstract; the only two words I could find to describe Walter Kirn's depiction of his two days with Robert Downey Jr. "Bohemian" is not to mean Downey falls into the modern definition of the term as if to fit the Hollywood trend. He is there because it is where he fell into place in his time of healing. And the only reason he could be considered as such could be attributed to his abstract way of thought and how open he is; he allows his mind to follow the strangest, most amusing and most provocative of tangents. Downey recognizes the Human Condition, but what makes for his true restoration is that he recognizes the condition in himself and never ceases to find other ways to move forward and free himself. He understands we as humans are in constant need of correction, retuning and polishing. He is one of a kind because of his name, but represents every once-broken, barefoot, triumphant, hometown-patriot citizen with a plan for future success and happiness.

I stood up after awhile of sitting on the shopping center floor, engrossed in the divulging clarity of Downey's words and the illustrations provided by Kirn. While I would have loved for the shelf I had been leaning against to have fit the groove of my back perfectly, I did with it what I could. Eric and I had officially been in the 24-hour store for two hours. We made our stop there simply to escape the humidity of the night. We set out on our usual foot-burdened travels at around 10 only because it was late and we were wide awake. It was 2-in-the-morning by the time I picked up the story and finished it shortly after. By then, we were ready to leave the store and make our way back to campus. He and I had been everywhere and at this time of night, the streetlights were bright enough to leave an effervescent and glorious glow wherever we stopped and stared. Eric had never seen downtown before and I was willing to show it to him.

The clock was still ticking, encroaching upon 4:oo a.m. Kirn's story still rolling through my mind. Eric was sifting through his favorite Avenged Sevenfold songs on his iPod, imitating the sounds of the bass drum and guitar with his mouth. Regrettably, I admit, I was not giving him quite the attention he deserved. But something about Kirn's two days with Downey stuck with me the rest of the walk back to campus. As we pressed on, with the promise of our own showers and beds in the future, I began to realize why Downey's words and Kirn's beautiful interpretation were so familiar: I had been there before. By "there" I do not mean in the same streets as the refined actor, but, like Kirn, I had heard some of the most brutal of honesties fall from the lips of the most inspiring people of my time--people whose names may not grace billboards, but have made milestones in their own lives and given me something to chew on as they share a part of their lives with me.

I looked around me: up at the stars I knew were staring down at me though the streetlights made it difficult for a reciprocated gaze, down the sidewalk we were traveling, and to my right as if I were sitting and staring at a passing scene in the passenger seat of a car. This was quite possibly the last time I would be walking through this familiar town for a long time. Particularly at this hour of the morning. I remember a night like it, though it did not involve venturing far. I had left my English class and was walking with my professor, talking to him, thanking him profusely for his support while listening to him speak about his faith in me and his reasons for believing. His mind works in the same circles and patterns as Downey's, often leading into unexpected conclusions and sighs of irritable turmoil for the face of modern culture. He is a pensive man and letting his mind just wander is the best way to hear some of the more uncensored and unmitigated--in some sense of the word--truths about his life and his shame in finding where he was unfortunately right about the turn of things. "One day you'll be able to say you were right, too," he said with his patented smile. I laughed. I knew that if I let my cynical ways take the reigns it may happen sooner than any of us expect. When one is right about a series of unfortunate events, a cloud of shame often follows. These days those talks with him have all blended together into one long monologue of amusing and deeper thought. However, instead of mulling over all the words my professor said, I was more interested in what lead up to this resulting man with these conclusive thoughts--in other words, his story.

By the time campus was in plain sight, I was in a weird state of being. My body was capable of carrying on, though some of it may be due to the fact that I was in denial of how tired I really was in order to press forward, while my mind was ready to shut off. The streetlights that once casted a golden glow on the roads before us, no longer seemed so glorious, but were becoming vividly dull. I looked down at the wildflowers growing over the sidewalk. Only so many had bloomed, and the random purple buds amongst much greenery felt surreal--as if the purple was my eyes playing tricks on me at such a lethal hour. When I did see my dorm entrance in sight, I suddenly felt as though I could collapse. Eric and I parted and I watched the many palmetto bugs that overtake the city by night scatter as I intruded upon their gathering in order to get inside. I took the first cold shower I can remember and enjoyed every moment of it, breaking my usual routine of steaming hot water. It was refreshing, as if I were a child running through a sprinkler, though, I never did do such a thing in the nude. I cleaned the grime and heat of the night off of me that the humidity so scantily stuck to my shell, and crawled into bed just in time to see the clock strike 6:oo a.m. The night was over. Just as I am going to bed, many are waking and starting a new day. Kirn's words will forever remain with me to inspire me. I want to know what makes someone the person I see when I find them. I want to know who they were and who they are, provided they are willing. I can learn something from anyone if I just give them the chance to speak, to be open and [honest]--in every sense of the word.