The “right” person won’t come along, folks

Yesterday I was talking to a good friend about my lack of potential for meeting potential romantic partners in this world. (Ha, see what I did there? I love writers’ puns…)

Anyway, before I began explaining my side of the story he informed me to never change who I am, in spite of who I think I should be to garner more attention.

While I agree wholeheartedly that I should not change myself for a man, I disagreed with him on his next point:  He said the “right man” will come along.

My friend meant well, he really did. He could have said, “You’ll never really find anyone to date.” He could have said, “You’re not dating now because ____ is wrong with you.” But I tell myself those things all the time. Why? Well, it may not sound logical to the rest of you, but I firmly believe, deep in the recesses and cavities and holes that life has punctured inside of me, that I do not deserve a boyfriend because of standards and expectations held of women in the United States.

Let me explain: I have noticed this prevailing desire in men to seek women with good hair and skin, who dress well but also suggest attraction (a.k.a. wear makeup and flattering clothing pertaining to whatever body type), who seem “normal” and who are intelligent but also kind, with an edge and a bubbliness and electricity that sometimes lends itself to fast talking and excitement. In the neighborhood I grew up, straight hair and lighter skin is seen as attractive, while the most socially desirable women walk around in tank tops and shorts regardless of their body type (curvy was the most common). The girls, I’ve noticed, talk quickly and have higher pitched voices, playfully giggle and sometimes sport tattoos and piercings. They have an accent I’ve only ever found in first or second-generation Southern California families that instantly makes them relatable, likeable, and friendly to other people, as if through their voices they are opening their hands to others as a white flag.

Beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, genders, ethnicities, religions, in every country of this diverse planet. Yet all my life I have been made to feel ugly because my skin is darker than others’. My unruly hair curls of its own accord and when I straighten it, it puffs out like I’ve been electrocuted. I have a double chin and a camel toe. I hate wearing shorts and instead wear dresses that make my stomach protrude and my thighs shake with every step. I don’t have any tattoos. I am insecure and shy at the worst times, spurned on by years of being discouraged from dating and made to feel uncomfortable by parents who always wanted to see their daughter focus instead on college. My voice is low and monotone, and the volume is sometimes so soft that people talk over me as though what I have to say doesn’t matter. I don’t have the accent most people have; instead, I’ve been told that when I talk, I sound so technical like a robot, or like a stereotypical brainiac who always has the answers, like Dorothy Ann from The Magic School Bus. And according to my research, I have never been asked out on a date except for one awkward time in high school, and even then the individual denies years later that he had ever asked me out to begin with, so for all I know it could have only been a dream. Even my prom was with someone whose family forced him into going with me–a pity date above all else.

So should I change who I am? Certainly not. I have friends who love me for a reason, and people I can rely on who are there for me because of who I am, not what I can give them. That counts for something in this world where not everyone is blessed with good people in their lives. But does this also mean that the “right person” has not come yet? I don’t know what is meant by the “right person.” There are people I’d never consider dating who treat others like crap, or who have deeply ingrained issues that would negatively affect the world. These certainly are not the “right people,” but then again they are not the right people for anybody at this point in their lives.

I am not going to lie: I am okay with being single because I have to be, because I have no other choice. I have tried dating websites and speed dating in public settings. I am a natural extrovert so I have no issues with meeting new people. I have joined a myriad of clubs where I am exposed to new people all the time–people I talk to. The fact that no one’s wanted to date me is insulting, and what’s more insulting is that when I do the asking, they were never interested in me to begin with. What other conclusions, then, can I logically draw? I am an ugly, undesirable, boring person, and no one yet has proved me wrong. And believe me, I want to be proven wrong. But I can only put so much energy, and I have to move on and focus on career goals, my family, writing, art, film, God, the other things in my life worth living for.

Of all the people I have ever crushed on, I think in their own ways they could have all been the “right people.” They tend to be intelligent, charismatic beings who treat others with respect and find common ground with me. They are also vastly different from one another. I cannot possibly fit the “right person” into a neat little box that checks off the “correct” qualities in a partner; that would never allow for that person to grow if they were always constricted to that criteria, nor would such a person ever exist because no one is perfect. Yes, there are people I would get along better with, become more attracted to, but this is also not a guarantee that I have met the “right person.”

In short, I don’t know what the phrase “right person” really means. A better phrase to use would be, “The person who will be mutually attracted to you will come along.” It is a two-way street, after all, regardless of who is “right,” wrong, or ultimately left behind.

How Traveling to Peru Helped Me Not Give a ****

Peru December 2015 184I just flew back from a two-week tour of Peru. This was my fifteenth flight this year alone. Peru was also the eighth country and third continent I visited since January 2015.

How was my trip? In a nutshell, I’ve had everything happen to me.

I can say I’ve gone piranha fishing in the Amazon and nearly gotten my hands bitten off.

I’ve had monkeys crawling all over my body and clawing into my skin.

I was on a colliding train in the Sacred Valley and delayed for hours because they were trying to connect our train to another one. Like literally connect with old-fashioned rope.

I was on a plane ride from Cusco to Lima that was probably the scariest hour of my life and had everyone on the plane screaming in fear.

I lost my credit card and was stranded for hours at the airport because of it.

I got terrible food poisoning and dehydration because of it.

I was on a bus for 22 hours in which people were vomiting non-stop and I worried about falling off the side of the Andes.

On my last night there some drink idiot decided it would be fun to pee all over the beds in our room. While we were still in them.

Although this likely sounds like a list of rants (to all the haters out there, I’d bet you’d be complaining even more if all this stuff happened to you), I’ve done many fun things as well.

I visited ruins like Sacsaywaman and Huaca Pucllana that left me impressed at the intelligence of pre-Columbian civilisation, and ignited a new anger for what colonialism did.

I got to climb Machu Picchu on a sunny day, and imagined what life must have been like before the Inca were forced to leave this sacred city.

I spent three days in the Amazon Rainforest and lived beneath tarantulas that looked at me, bats that flew over my head at night, and macaws that tried eating my breakfast but at least cawed hi every morning.

I saw women dressing baby sheep and llamas in hats. This alone brought on many a fainting spell owing to cuteness.

I experienced the health care system in Peru and marvelled at how cheap it was for me to get good medicine, doctor visits, and vaccines without insurance. Granted it’s not the best health system but I like it better than my current health plan in Olympia.

Above all else, I experienced the kindness that other people had for one another as people tried to be as helpful as they could, and were genuinely interested in my life and what I had to say. I made awesome friends on the trip and talked to so many people.

Sometimes I wonder, with all the cool stuff I’ve done prior to these two weeks–and even during this trip–why my confidence levels are still low. Why do I care so damn much about what others think of me?

This trip, while it didn’t necessarily eradicate my low confidence levels, at least helped me evaluate them and gave me the courage to challenge them. I’d often have people ask me, “Are you really traveling alone? You must be very brave, I could never do that.” And although I didn’t always feel brave while flying, or while wondering when the operators would make the trains stop crashing into one another, or when catching piranhas and having them accidentally drop into our boat and trying to bite our feet, it did help me realize that I experienced those things anyway.

And I’ve survived.

What’s more, the clothes I wore for two weeks were anything but flattering. I was always in long sleeves and loose pants to avoid mosquito bites and help relieve some of the sweat of summer near the equator. My face burned a bright tomato red despite how much sunscreen I applied. My Spanish, although fluent, was imperfect and slow. My hair was always wild and sticking up everywhere. I never wore make-up except on the last two days of my trip. I knew I was un-sexy. But guess what? All of that cool and uncool stuff on that trip would’ve happened to me anyway, regardless of how I was dressed or what I looked like. I would’ve still had an adventure.

And overcoming these obstacles, with or without looking attractive, would’ve still allowed me to realize that I am capable of almost anything I set my mind to. I mean, if I can get lost in the rainforest with my tour group while avoiding stepping on a serpent or getting eaten by anacondas or bullet ants, then why the heck should I ever place doubt in my own abilities to do an amazing job in life? And why should I ever fear things like asking out cute guys or publishing a novel, when I can just go for it after all I’ve been through?

When walking through the underground catacombs at La Iglesia de San Francisco, seeing the astounding piles of bones that were the result of the devastation of the earthquake in the mid-1700s in Lima shocked me, but not because of the number. It was because each bone was indistinguishable from one another. It didn’t matter if these people each made mistakes or looked and felt pretty enough; those things never lasted. Life is just too short to be worried about petty things. Some day my bones will be decomposing as well, but will I have lived and loved enough and appreciated the person I was while alive?

When looking at the remains of ancient Peruvian civilisations at the National Museum of Archaeology, I realized the stories inherent in the struggles that the journey of life brings us. It made me realize how tough ancient Peruvians had to be, in order to endure their survival in spite of the onslaught of colonialism, and in order to preserve their native Quechua. I doubt it mattered how much make-up they had on or if they wore designer labels (although after this trip I’d be proud to wear the label “100% baby alpaca” cause that stuff is HELLA SOFT).

After a while, I found myself not carrying about what other people thought about my hair, clothes, or accent. I just went on an amazing trip and have awesome photos to prove it. I am fully adequate in my abilities as a human being; my job is not to be sexy for your viewing pleasure, I’m capable of way better than that.

To everyone who thinks it doesn’t matter what others care about you, you are mostly right–but still, don’t be a dick about it, because you shouldn’t pee on other people’s beds and then make public, inappropriate jokes about their virginity. Or take away their credit cards. Don’t forget to be kind in your quest to be your best self.

Why Everyone Should Watch Stand-Up Comedy at Least Once

So tonight, I watched Aamer Rahman do a stand-up show at Evergreen State College. It was part of the Day of Absence and Day of Presence event that was occurring this week, which addresses race-related issues by raising the question: What would happen if we had a day in which no students of color were present? The event helps people to realize that we need each other in this wide and vast world; diversity is a very good thing indeed. Day of Absence had many students of color go to an off-campus site to engage in a retreat that addressed diversity and race issues, while the rest of the student body stayed on campus to attend talks and seminars related to race issues. Today, Day of Presence further acknowledged the importance of diversity by having both white students and students of color come together on campus. The day culminated in a stand-up comedy act given by Australian comedian Aamer Rahman, who was absolutely superb and did a fantastic job of addressing racial and ethnic issues in a raw, honest way that made me nod in agreement more than a few times.

Part of what made it worthwhile to attend a stand-up comedy act like Aamer Rahman is because of the issues that are addressed in humorous ways. I often have found that stand-up comedians–really, really good ones, at least–find ways to address real-life, political, socioeconomic, racial, national, and all-around difficult issues to talk about. They acknowledge a lot of the hard stuff that is going on in the world, and rather than turn a blind eye to it, many of them spin it off in ways that can really make individuals think about these issues, and sometimes how ridiculous they are while simultaneously serious. I call it being seriously funny.

Yet this isn’t my main reason as to why I think people should watch stand-up comedy at least once in their lives. No, my reason goes much, much deeper than that, and yet it is also the most simple reason of all.

Basically, there is a lot of @#$% that goes on in the real world, and life sucks sometimes.

I know that this is the least funny statement I could make, because it is dangerously real. However, think about it: I will have to deal with taxes, injustice, unfairness, jobs that might make me want to vomit, family members that might incite the same reaction, responsibilities, the list goes on and on and on. If I stopped to think about the many itsy bitsy, teensy weensy things that make my life hard, unsatisfying, or sad, I would become a very depressed person, indeed. Granted, my problems are not as bad when compared to other people who are dealing with genocide, sex trafficking, war, kidnappings, and so many other awful, unthinkable things that I cannot even begin to imagine. And yet, I find people who are in privileged situations, who have enough money for food and drink, who have family, who have loving significant others, who have well-paying jobs–I find such people who are still unhappy with their lives. It is absolutely crazy for me to think that people who have so much could be so miserable. It also makes sense that to pick out the little things that go wrong in life will, in time, accumulate themselves into a dark, depressing, gigantic snowball. I cannot make sweeping judgments about every individual, but I do know for a fact that there are people out there who do that kind of stuff, often without meaning to.

I myself have a lot of negative stuff going on in my life, but rather than mention all of it right now, I would like to focus on something else that was going on tonight: seeing Aamer Rahman at Evergreen State College. I found him to be so incredibly funny that he made me cry from laughing. Three times. And my face froze in a smile the entire hour he was on stage. That has not happened to me in quite a long time, and I shook my head and smiled later when I realized that I was going through so much stress in my life that it has really been a while since I have had a good, long laugh. That good cry was a long time coming, and I am glad it did come.

The night is over, but the memory of the amazing time I had still lingers. I found that after the show, people smiled more. They laughed and joked more frequently with one another, and even the Q&A with the comedian was such a funny affair that people would make themselves and each other laugh just by asking a question. It felt really, really good to laugh, and although we were discussing serious issues of race, we were doing so in a way that acknowledged the social justice work there was still left to do, but also in a way that saw a side of humor to it as well.

I do not want to forget this night quite so easily. i want to hold on to it as long as I can, and especially to the memory of laughing so hard. A lot of negative stuff may be going on in my life, but a night like this made me realize that it was not all bad. For two golden hours, I was happy. For two hours, I was laughing so hard that I felt my stress melt off and slide out of my eyes and down my face. For those two glorious hours, the negativity and struggle of living in this world was background noise; I just lived in the moment and enjoyed it to the fullest.

Everyone should see a good stand-up comedian if it means that they could find a golden spot in the midst of a sea of darkness and despair. Even if one’s life is not darkness and despair, it is still a good thing to hold on to a happy memory when the going will get tough later on. It may be a small, two-hour speck of light, but I want to fix my eyes on it for as long as it burns brightly–and realize that more of those specks will come in their own time.

A Nice Thing a Day Keeps the Meanies Away (I hope)

I know I haven’t posted anything in over a month, but so much has happened during the month of September and I simply felt overwhelmed, when I considered precisely how much there was to write. In the end, I had to acknowledge that not everything that can be done, can be done. If you know what I mean. 

Anyway, lately I have been reading a lot of literature regarding how to be happy in life. I am currently reading Gretchen Rubin’s book, “The Happiness Project,” which chronicles the author’s own quest to be the happiest person she can be, and the secret to attaining that happiness. While I find much of the book to make sense for me, I realize that each person’s “happiness project” differs; we are all different people, therefore different things would work for each of us.

As for me, I heard from many places that giving to others brings a great source of happiness. I had decided to buy a journal from the Huntington Library’s gift shop, entitled, “One Good Deed a Day.” This journal lists one good deed per day that a person can do throughout the course of a typical year. There are 365 entries, and each entry has a few small lines in which to write my 1-2 sentence reflection on the good deed. 

Today’s good deed: Smile at a stranger. Sounds simple enough, right? But it turns out that living in L.A. has, in a way, turned me into a frowning, what’s-your-problem type of person when it came to dealing with people I didn’t know. I am sure not everyone in Los Angeles is this way, but the city in general is just a “tad” aloof. 

Nevertheless, keeping this quest in mind I pulled into the gas station to fill up my tank. “Ok, lots of strangers here!” I noticed…until I also noticed most of them were men in orange vests who looked like they were doing construction nearby. And they were looking at me in kind of a hungry way. “Uhhhh…maybe I shouldn’t begin that quest just yet,” I decided. 

I then decided that I would smile at the cashier–that is, until he kept asking me to repeat, over and over again, exactly what station I was at, and how much. At that point I had no idea whether I could trust he would charge my credit card to the right station, or if a random stranger would run away with $30 worth of gasoline. I definitely did not feel like smiling then.

It took me an hour later but finally at a doctor’s appointment I managed to smile at the receptionist when I first came into the office. I was actually quite surprised by how much of an effort I placed in getting myself to smile at her. I suppose I am not used to smiling to strangers. She, in turn, smiled back at me, which reassured me that I must’ve done a good thing. 

After that, it wasn’t difficult to smile at other strangers. I smiled at store cashiers, mall food court workers, a random person in the car next to me–the list goes on. The point is, once I got past that initial smile, other smiles just kept coming of their own accord. I found that it was a lot easier to keep performing this “quest” because the general response I got to it was a positive one. 

Maybe it doesn’t seem easy for people to realize how difficult it can be to smile at a random stranger. Try it yourself one day, and decide whether you find it easy or difficult to flash your teeth and say “hello” to someone you’ve never met. 

A Price Tag on Happiness

Ever heard of eCommerce? I just came back from an informational meeting on an eCommerce opportunity. An old friend from USC invited me to come with him, thinking that it would be a good opportunity for me to earn a little extra income on top of my current part-time teaching job, working for kids with Autism. I didn’t really have anything to lose by attending, so I went.

Needless to say, the guest speaker was a very motivational and inspiring man who worked for the business selling products, and managed to make quite a bit of money off it because of the amount of time he put into it. Basically, the more time one puts into the company, the more money he/she makes. It’s very similar to selling Mary Kay or Avon products, from what I’ve found.

I don’t really know exactly how important money was to that man, but the way he talked about it, you’d think that money was all there is in life. Without it, you wouldn’t get your dream car; you couldn’t buy a house; you’d never get to go on vacation; you can’t really get access to nice things like iPads or state-of-the-art telephones. I quite agreed with him when it came to this; it really does take a bit of money to buy a house in Malibu, or to drive a Lamborghini. Perhaps what I didn’t like, though, was how he equated this to happiness. But maybe this is after all the American Dream. 

If I had all the money I could spend in the world, in a heartbeat I would fly to the south of France, buy a house there, live there until my visa expired, and then travel the rest of the world and spend time getting to know the sights and foods. Ideally I couldn’t really do this forever, but the point is to think of what I would do if I had all the money in the world. I would live quite adventurously, thinking about it.

But is this what is truly important to me in life? Hearing the speaker talk about what we would do with all the money in the world, really made me think about how much money matters to me and my happiness. 

I once was able to travel to several countries in Europe in two weeks, living in hostels and buying the cheapest food I could find. It was not the least expensive venture I’ve had, but I managed to enjoy myself the best I could and I learned quite a lot about a beautiful area of the world. Remembering my trip, however, I also recalled how utterly miserable I felt during the final week of my stay. You’re probably wondering: I was spending a week in Italy, going to wine tastings in Tuscany and visiting the Vatican in Rome, and yet I was unhappy???

Money can certainly get me to foreign countries and help me experience what each has to offer, but it cannot buy me my family, and it most certainly could NOT buy me my boyfriend who I missed terribly as I walked the streets of Verona, completely alone underneath a bright moon and jealously eyeing the couples walking hand-in-hand. I actually felt happier once I returned to my studies in Scotland, because at least I got to be with someone who mattered so much to me, instead of traversing for two weeks completely on my own.

I would disagree with the business speaker on this statement, at least: I do not want a shiny new car. I do not imagine myself in a large house. And I certainly do NOT wish to retire before the age of 40. I would be quite content driving my old car, living in a small apartment, and working until I’m in my late 80s, if it meant that I could have my love by my side and a good relationship with my family and friends.

Trust me; the latter are so much harder to maintain, but in the end they are worth much, much more than any amount of money could buy. 

Going to the Gym

Today I am not going to write too much, because it is a little late and I need to get up early for the gym tomorrow.

Speaking of the gym, today I feel as though I’ve worked out a lot more than I usually do. I did my normal 30 minutes of cardio on the treadmill, and then resistance training on those large machines built on pulley systems. I realized that today, my energy levels were a little higher than usual, so I really went all out on the machines. I did more reps than usual, went on more machines, raised the weights a little bit to give me more of a challenge. 

And then suddenly, when I got to the thigh/gluts machine, I just stopped and told myself, “I think I want to go home now.”

Why this happened at this particular time, I do not know, but I did realize that no matter how many weights I lifted tonight, no matter how many laps I ran on the treadmill, and regardless of how heavy the weights were: I was not going to be losing a lot of weight quite so soon.

Now don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe in the power of exercise and dieting to reach one’s weight loss goals. But I suppose I just haven’t seen as many results as I would like to see, and in fact I think I’ve been getting a little heavier. It’s starting to show around my face and waist, and although my boyfriend tells me that he loves me regardless of these changes in physicality, I still look back on my skinnier days with longing.

Having a slow metabolism will definitely not keep me from going to the gym. These days I feel like I have more energy than usual, I feel healthier, and I feel more positive with myself only because I know I have the will power to keep going and I praise myself for having worked so hard, to have the discipline to go to the gym on tired days. I’m hoping that this discipline will soon extend into other areas of my life, including how often I write. 

Anyway, tomorrow morning I have Zumba class, so I need to get some sleep if I have any hopes of making it on time. Those classes always make me smile, because the instructor is so goofy and knows how to turn a slow Sunday morning into a fun one.