frankly, but kindly

“There’s a special place in my heart for the ones who were with me at my lowest and still loved me when I wasn’t very loveable.”
Yasmin Mogahed

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Eighth entry, so it’s time for some eighth date dirt. My three worst qualities are, in no particular order: stubbornness, arrogance, and a tendency to abandon projects (good luck, blog). I chose those three because whenever I look at Aries’ personality summaries, I say, “All that good stuff is true, but dearie me, it seems like the writer mistakenly put some of those other signs’ bad qualities under my sign,” because I like being impulsive and confrontational (…which is probably the arrogance and the stubbornness speaking).

Still, I strive to be an awesome person in spite of my worst qualities. To do that, I try to uphold two predominating qualities: kindness to everyone, and absolute honesty.

The key word there is “try.” As a human person with flaws, I fail from time to time. I have a slow-acting temper, so while it takes a lot to set me off, when I am set off, I can be…unpicniclike for a while. That’s why I always keep those two qualities in mind–so that even when I fall short of upholding them, I’ll know when I’ve stepped over the line so I can learn from my mistakes.

Luckily, telling the truth can be pretty easy. For example:

“Did you break that lamp?”
“Yup.”

or

“Did you defraud the trust funds of 10,000,000 kittens?”
“Nope.”

But it becomes more difficult when the questions are:

“Why don’t you love what I love?”

or

“Is that my baby?”

or

“Is this your friend’s bloody My Little Pony chainsaw?”

I will now raise my hand and admit I’ve lied more than once in the last month. But it’s like soda in that when you partake of it after a long time without it, your tongue burns out of your mouth and Satan chases you around with his trident for a while, and when all the pain is over you think, “Maybe I won’t partake of that again.” Even though I still lie, I’ve found that trying to tell nothing but the truth does two things for me:

1) I think about what I’m saying more. I figure to give an honest opinion on something, I have to know what that opinion is first. I lied a lot about myself and what I loved and hated when I was younger because I didn’t understand much about myself yet, so I kind of had to fill in the blank spots sometimes. (“Do you like cauliflower?” “NO IT’S DISGUSTING NOW EXPLAIN TO ME WHAT CAULIFLOWER IS.”) So, if someone asks me what I think about the latest news story that everyone seems to know about and I don’t know a thing about it, I say, “No idea, what’s happening?” because if I say, “Oh, it’s awful,” and it turns out that I actually think it’s pretty cool that there’s a talking dog device in production, then I’m going to have to go through all kinds of mental gymnastics to get back to my actual opinion. (“I just meant…it’s awful in the sense that…I mean, like. That technology could be applied to much worthier causes, y’know? I don’t have a dog, I have a cat. If it was a talking cat device, I would have said, ‘Oh, dude, that’s awesome!’ right away.”) The less time I spend making up lies to cover the first lie, the more time I have to read articles about talking dogs.

2) Honesty made me more confident. Once, a girl made a look of disgust at my iPod and said to me, “This is what you like?” and nine-year-old me might have lied and said, “No, of course not. In fact, I hate it. Let’s smash their CDs with a hammer.” (Nine-year-old me might have, in fact, smashed her favorite Hanson CD with a painted brick she’d made in art class just to satisfy the scorn of her nine-year-old friend. She was not happy when her friend went home and she had no more CD, just a lot of dangerous, undersized mirrors.)  However, since I was twenty-six when the girl asked me this question, I said, “Yeah, it is,” and the girl looked deeply unhappy with my life choices and proceeded to educate me on “good music.” I shrugged and walked away from the conversation with the satisfaction that I’d stood by my music and didn’t have to resort to tearing hers down to better appreciate mine.

So! Honesty is awesome and admirable and all, but it becomes a challenging quality to uphold when you’re confronted with situations you reeeally don’t want to be in (“Why is there a head in the freezer?”) or people you reeeally don’t get along with. Even worse (worse than the head in the fridge, yes), you may be friends with someone who irritates you, or has things you envy, or lives a life you feel isn’t as challenging as your own. In cases when that friend has done something to hurt your pride, intentionally or not, it’s tempting to vent to someone else who isn’t involved to get your head together. But I think that’s a bad idea.

I think this general rule of thumb works: if the urge to vent about a friend appears, I run through it in my head first. If it’s something I wouldn’t say to the person directly, I probably shouldn’t say it to anyone else. Instead, I sit down with that friend and try to tell them my side of things instead of someone who isn’t involved. If I have an argument with B and I tell my best friend C, C is obligated by the urges of friendship to side with me, even if I cut off B’s leg and B was simply demanding to have it back (nananananana, gotchyer leg). Most of the time, C will help me tear B apart and whatever original issue will get larger and fester. I’m not afraid of confrontation–I used to be, but I’m getting more and more comfortable with it the more I realize how necessary it is for smooth communication. Whether it’s a small problem (“My roommate leaves her towels on the bathroom floor and they smell like mold and she drinks all my beer and blames it on the canary”) or a big problem (“He didn’t tell me Leia’s my sister”), I try to explain my side to the person the way I’d like someone to explain it to me. It’s a mutual respect thing (or, in sciencey terms, not being a dickmonkey to people).

In college I decided to make it A Thing I Do to make sure that anything I say about people who aren’t present is no different from what I’d say to them directly. Recently, I’ve decided that’s too vague and I’ve made it more concrete: if I haven’t already discussed something with the friend in question, I won’t say it to anyone else. Basically, it’s the “if you can’t say something nice” rule. (I do, however, give myself the freedom to grimace if someone brings up someone distasteful like the cockroach from my first apartment who proved he could fly right in my face.) If I ever say something negative about someone I care about to someone else, it means there’s an issue there and it needs to be discussed with the actual person, not with anyone else. I don’t like keeping anything hidden from the people I care about. It’s so easy to take people apart when they’re not present, so I see things like Twitter and Tumblr as potentially dangerous to relationships because it removes the risk and responsibility from people. It’s easy to type, “WTF is wrong with him?” but it’s not helpful to fixing the problem. Whatever he did, odds are he’s not going to stop and be nice because someone was a dick about him on Twitter (he might, in which case he’s lovely and far more forgiving than I am).

Okay, so now that I’ve finished explaining what a virtuous and lovely human person I am, it’s time for me to go back to the less attractive things in my roster of attributes.

When it comes to people I don’t get along with, I usually put some distance between us and try to think about things from their perspective. I always know my side, and every person is the hero of his or her own story. If I only think about things from my side, then I’m always right, but that’s a dangerous way to live. If, when I’ve put myself in their position and I don’t believe we can see eye to eye someday, I keep that distance. Even though I believe that every person I’ve ever called a friend is a good person at heart, sometimes dynamics can turn toxic. People go into dark places due to stress or tragedy and they’ll lash out at the people around them. Sometimes, I’ve walked away from people who needed me because I was hurt and I let that be my priority. But I’ve also been in that spiral where stress and frustration made me lose all those lovely virtuous logical things I talked about up there and I became someone I would have left. After that dark period finished, I looked around at the people who stayed with me unswervingly even though I’d been an irritating gnat, and I realized what profound treasures friends are.

I think it’s also wise to leave the door open in case the people who left you ever want to come back.

Being the person who sticks it out with a friend through their struggles, you think, “But I love you, you annoying fucker, why would I leave?” or perhaps something slightly less profane. When you’re the one who’s been acting poorly, however, and you look up and see the people who stuck with you, it’s a very humbling feeling. Some of my friendships have been easygoing, because there wasn’t usually much drama on my end of things. Well. The expected run-of-the-mill drama of, “HE DOESN’T LOVE ME THIS IS UNJUST I STAB ALL THE THINGS WITH MY WRITING PEN OF JILTED PAIN,” but only a few instances of, “RAWR LIFE HAS BEEN SLIGHTLY UNFAIR TO ME I SLAP YOU WITH ANGRY WORDS FOR SOMETHING I WOULD NOT NORMALLY FIND BOTHERSOME.” Like I said, though, I have a slow-acting temper, so when it goes, it’s gone for a while. It’s like how your finger is usually all happy and finger-like until you slice it open with the keen edge of an errant paper blade and then every time you shower for a while after that you sink to the floor in indescribable agony.

The older I get, the more I learn. I’ve learned to go into any friendship understanding that we’re going to disagree. It may be on something small (“Snakes are gross.” “You’re gross.”) or something big (“Voldemort is back!” “No, he isn’t.”) but I’ve decided that it’s generally a good idea to be mentally prepared for an argument so I’m able to put myself in my friend’s shoes so I can understand my friend’s side of things instead of just jumping in and beating them with the golden mace of My Opinion. Also, I’ve decided to try and figure out where my friends normally stand on things, so I can tell the difference between a personality trait like arrogance or stubbornness aaand stress making my friend into a temporary doucheweasel. Sometimes people will say stupid things out of turn, and it’s a friend’s job to say, “You said a stupid thing.” …Your actual words may vary depending on your dynamic. (IE: “You have said a stupid thing.”)

So, I’ll end this on a happy note (since I just remembered this is supposed to be a happy blog of happy things):

One of my best friends is a gem of a human person whose name begins with J. When we were first getting to know each other, she told me that she’s a Christian. I, on the other hand, am a devout theist (all this existence stuff was made somehow, and while I have many ideas and theories, that’s all the beliefs I have on the subject). After we spent more time together, we had a few calm conversations about religion that would make an after school special splutter with envy. The first one lasted a few hours wherein we both explained how we’d arrived at our respective stances on religion. At one point, while she was in the bathroom, I let everything we’d said so far soak in. I thought, I may have grown up with her chosen religion and decided it wasn’t right for me, but that doesn’t mean I want to show any disrespect to her religious beliefs. Because of those conversations, our difference in religion has always been a non-issue. She’s one of my dearest friends, and a large part of my trust in her comes from the trust she’s put in me. She’s much more wizened about how to be a loving person than I am, and I find myself looking to her as an example a lot of the time (HOT SERVING OF PRESSURE FOR YOU, LOVELYFACE FRIEND J). In a lot of ways, my friendship with her has made me understand how necessary it is to have mutual respect for everyone. And if they don’t respect you, back away. The energy spent hating someone or ripping someone apart or lying or feeling stubborn could be fueled toward eating popcorn and doing something kind for someone that is scientifically proven to raise your endorphin levels.

Above all, the thing I always want to keep in mind is that I’m still figuring who I am, and the person I want to be.

Also, all my music is awesome and I’ll kick the teddy bear of anyone who says otherwise.

wanderlust

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These are tiles on the exterior of a building in Tokyo somewhere between Shibuya and Roppongi. I was in Shibuya last year looking for somewhere to eat, saw nothing that would satisfy the very specific cravings my stomach was reporting to me (“Something with…not that. Something more–no, no, none of those things. You know, with…it’s a type of food. Why aren’t you getting this?”) and decided to walk to my favorite sandwich shop in Roppongi instead.

The walk probably would have taken about forty minutes, except that I’m a firm believer in meandering while walking through cities in one’s spare time. I like getting lost (during the sunlight time) and I find some of the best restaurants and Narnia portals that way.

I also remember that as the day I texted a friend urging her to move to Japan (as I do) since she visits the country on a semi-regular basis as it is and loves it dearly and I adore her and would enjoy her company with equal dearness. She wrote back something to the effect of, “It would be wonderful wouldn’t it? And I have given thought to it more than once. Every now and then I’ll dream of opening a business there. But I’m happy here, even though I think I would be happy there also.”

I remember smiling at my phone and letting the subject drop with something like, “That’s an excellent reason to stay,” because I knew she was happy. She has a magnificent job with people who value her and respect her and pay her well for her time. She works hard for them, and in return they treat her as she deserves to be treated.

She sent a smiley face back and a promise to talk again soon.

I’ve never felt tied down to places. My parents and I moved freely around Vermont when I was a kid, and then to New York and back to Vermont (where I then felt strangled and trapped and bawled obnoxiously far, far too often about the superiority of ~The City~) and then to New York again and Virginia and Arizona aaand Japan. There are only four places in the world I set foot on and thought, “This could be home.” They are, in order of first contact: New York, England, Ireland, and Japan. I’ve always had the understanding that I am a wanderlusting wanderlustface and will keep moving around merrily until I find that magical place that resonates deep within my soul of souls. I must have a place I belong, and I give more thought to this than to finding my soulmate (though I think that’s a real thing, too).

When I lived in New York, a large part of my love for the city had to do with my university and my friends being in it. Many of those friends lived in our university’s dormitory. Two floors up by elevator (fuck stairs) or three floors down (whee, stairs!), etc. I thought back to when we’d compare schedules to figure out when we finished classes so we could just take up a spot on the sofa or the floor or the bed and be alive with each other for hours.

When I left New York, I had plans of returning in short order with more money and more success. I’d buy a building and fill it with glitter and pillows and glittery pillows and live out the rest of my life writing plays and screenplays and books and whatnot. I didn’t expect to move to another country, and then I did. (We’re not doing the life story entry today, even though I seem to be heading in that direction very much without my approval.)

But what I’ve come to believe about My Soulmate Living Place is that, like a soulmate, it’s worth looking for, but life can be thoroughly enjoyed and loved every day even without it. There are blissful moments ready to be had all the time. After I finished talking to my friend, I put my phone away and looked around at Tokyo. The license plates on cars that looked nothing like the ones I saw as a child and believed were the only kind of license plates in the world, the people who caught my eye and smiled back, the random appearances of walls with glitter molding and multicolored tiles, and tiny cozy restaurants and cafes tucked away where only the regulars and their guests and meanderers would think to look.

I wondered, “Where do I belong? Do I get to choose that, or does the place–like the wand–choose you?”

dancing streamers

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At some concerts in Japan, these magical (disclaimer: not actually magic) streamers will shoot from streamer cannons over the heads of the audience. Typically the streamers have some kind of design to distinguish them along with the name of the band and the title of the tour. In some concert DVDs, you can see a wave of heads vanish from the audience as fans dive to collect as many as they can. For fans on the ground level, this is awesome times. For the people in the stands out of reach of the cannons, it is jealousy times.

Recently (as in, in the last six months) I decided to decorate my bunk bed with all the streamers I’ve collected from concerts since I moved to Japan in 2010.

I have a few, and they always make me happy to look at, since every streamer has incredible memories attached to it.

constellation

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I’m writing a book. I’m actually juggling several, because I’ve learned enough about myself over the years to know that my attention span will only function properly when I’m throwing multiple and also figurative knives at it.

Today, as I was researching something tech-y for the purposes of world building, I came across the source that inspired my idea to begin with and, fondly, I reread it again. At the bottom where all the comments gather to graze, I saw one that said, “This is already a movie,” along with a title and year.

I went to the movie’s Wiki page and then watched the trailer on YouTube, and I felt a brick of disappointment smash first through my head, then my heart, and found a miserable little home for itself in the pit of my stomach. Sure enough, that exciting premise for my book, which I’d gotten from reading someone else’s “what if this happened?” had already been shaped into a fictional reality.

Immediately, the Fight or Flight part of my brain went, “Screw this book, let’s go dodge a different knife.”

But it didn’t take. I thought of the hours I’d poured into Photoshopping maps and flags and character relationship diagrams, and writing backstories and small scenes to build depth into each character, and I decided, “TODAY WE FIGHT.”

Because we’ve repeatedly seen “boy meets girl, girl hates boy, pair fall in love” and “oppressed people fight against oppressors” and “uncorrupt people becoming corrupt” and “the chosen one must slay a thing to save stuff” and so on and so on and so on forever until the end of our desire to tell stories (NEvar).

What’s fun about a remake is when you can do something truly imaginative with it. Romeo and Juliet’s been told to death and back to life and then to zombification, but people fall in love anew with it all the time, whether it’s Romeo and Juliet in Verona or Romeo and Juliet in New York during the late 50’s/early 60’s. The idea has become a vehicle.

I think those have become my favorite stories to read and watch and hear – the familiar, beloved premises that’ve been unmade and refashioned into a mold. Even though the shape of the story came from another source, what you add into it is yours. Boy meets girl is as old a premise as they get, but there are innumerable ways to go at it.

The photo above was taken from inside Casa Batlló‎, the house in Barcelona that Antoni Gaudí designed. He created art based on the most fundamental of foundations: nature. Nature touched every facet of his work, from the flora stalk towers of the Sagrada Familia to the warped oceanic glass in Casa Batlló‎. Looking through the photos I took of his buildings, I thought of the influences that led him to create such unique and marvelous work.

Then I decided: “So, the idea has been done. And before I finish this book, it may even be done again. Twice. But Romeo and Juliet wasn’t new when Shakespeare wrote it, either. An idea is the first star you use to make your story into a constellation. As long as that constellation takes on its own shape in the sky, it won’t matter that the stars already existed.”

fairy lights

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Last year, I visited Spain for the first time and I spent my trip sleeping in a bed festooned with twinkling fairy lights.

B&Bs, man. ♡

I decided against staying in a hotel mainly because 1) money! and 2) I remember staying at a few B&Bs when I was younger and I knew some of the Benefits to them. For example! B&Bs can be owned by locals of the place you’re visiting, so they know insider things. Every morning while I had breakfast with my excellent host, I’d outline my plan for the day and he’d either give some thumbs up or a suggestion of something I might like more.

One morning I told him I wanted to try some paella and told him the name of a place I’d found online. He nixed the idea immediately – “Tourist trap. It used to be great, but it was in a bunch of tourist books and after that, the food and management changed. They use cheaper ingredients now and the food isn’t as good, but they have the reputation, so they don’t have to try as hard as they used to.” He sat back and thought for a minute, then gave me the names of a few restaurants I hadn’t seen in any of my online searches.

While he tried to think of more, his girlfriend walked into the room with a pot of jam that she put down on the wide, round breakfast table and made a short tsk. “She doesn’t want places in the city,” she said. “She wants a place on the beach, to see the ocean while she eats. Right?”

I imagined that scene and nodded enthusiastically. “That sounds really nice.”

She smiled, satisfied, and poked my host’s arm playfully. “See?”

They were a really, really sweet couple, and they had invaluable information about Barcelona and the surrounding area. My host was actually originally from France, but he’d lived in Spain for a number of years, and his girlfriend was born and raised in Barcelona. One night, since I was visiting during the tourist off-season and I was the only one in the B&B for a few days, they invited me to their community center one night for dancing.

The B&B in question was Chéz Papa, and I highly recommend it to anyone traveling to Barcelona. I imagine during peak season, it’s full of fascinating travelers to talk to, and it has such a cozy, home-y atmosphere that just embraces you the moment you walk through the door after a long day exploring Barcelona. And the rooms are gorgeous.

TWINKLING FAIRY LIGHTS!

But yes, I really, really loved my time in Barcelona, and a large part of it was owed to that B&B experience. ♡

And now it’s bedtime, so! Good night, citizens of life!

singing

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I live in Japan, and one of my favorite past times in this marvelous country is the practice of karaoke.

Sometimes I go with friends, and other times I go on my own purely because I have a substantial fondness for making musical sounds. Today, I had a large gap of free time between the Saturday morning lesson I teach and my late afternoon meeting with a friend I hadn’t seen in quite some time, so I took the opportunity to do a few things I haven’t made time for recently: reading and karaoke.

I did the reading at a Starbucks (accompanied by an amiably orange Mango Passion Frappuccino), and the karaoke at a place down the street that contains a lot of fond memories (that time we got the room with the huge window, the time I did that contest, the time we had my birthday there and my excellent friend got me sparkly glitter that I still refuse to use because if I use it it’ll be LESS FULL).

In the lobby of the karaoke building, I asked the staff guy for a room for an hour. He asked if I’d like a studio room, to which I shrugged and said, “Sure,” but in Japanese.

The studio room, it turns out, looks like that photo above. Generally, rooms are like this:

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But this one was special. The staff guy gave me professional headphones to plug in, and when I sang into the mic, I heard not only the music, but my own voice in a way I’d never heard it before.

I’ll admit while I was belting out number after number, I felt the tug of my long-forgotten dream of becoming a singer. It’s still not impossible, I thought, and I like the idea of keeping it an open dream, so to speak.

Until then, I’m absolutely going to make some regular returns to that studio room.

Possibly with an amiable Mango Passion Frappuccino. ♡

Good night, citizens of life!

adventure

I’ve had it in mind for a few days to Imagestart a blog–

Oh, huh. That’s what happens when you upload a photo and type simultaneously in WordPress. Gotcha.

Anyway! I’ve always liked the idea of a daily journal, or a daily anything for that matter. Photo-a-day, bottlecap-a-day, etc. Then I thought of a blog where I’d post something happy-making every day. I’m going to try to stick to photos as a theme, with or without a caption to accompany it. Odds are I’ll get long-winded some days (when I’m procrastinating on the other writing thing I do) and no-words-at-all-y on other days (when I’m focusing on the career-making thing).

Today, for the magical first post! I start with a photo I took at an airport in Seoul last year!

Up to this point in my life, I’d say I’m at my happiest when I’m traveling. Even if the trip is to a place I’ve been before, the act of traveling always carries with it this rush of exhilaration (I never remember where the ‘h’ goes in there). I’m not the most ardent fan of flying (death tube flame-y spiraling…oh, happy blog, right …ahem), but airports always have this sense of adventure.

Maybe it’s my upcoming trip next month that had me settle on an airport for my first image on this blog, but I thought it fit.

Good night, everyone! Memorably pleasant dreams to you all. ♡