Thursday, August 19, 2010

CYLA Day 3

I really should have started a blog on day one, but what the heck, better late than never.

So here goes, I think this whole year of committment is going to be seriously life changing. I have been thoroughly impressed by the people within the community, and I cannot wait to meet the students we will be interacting with on a daily basis. But anyway, we'll reflect on the "awesome-ness" of the team some other time. What I really wanted to jot down is something that we did in an activity today. We did an activity called "Idealist Journey." They talk a lot about putting idealism to work, and applying the practicalities of optimism to real life. Basically, we're all tired of everyone talking about the issues, and feeling bad about other peoples' situations, and we just want to start doing. So they asked us a question today to have us reflect on it. They asked us why we were there, and why we serve. And of course, once I get a few minutes to myself, a sheet of lined paper, and pen, well I just start going. And then once it was sharing time a lot of people had emotional stories, and I got really emotional as well, but anyway...here is what I wrote:

Three years ago if you would've told me I was going to be working with kids and on the path to becoming a teacher by choice, I would've called you crazy. But three years ago I took a work study job at the request of my financial aid counselor and began tutoring kids in the Mar Vista area three times a week. At first it was awkward, I did not want to really get into it at all, and I tried nearly every excuse not to get close to the kids. But somehow those kids made me feel like I had no choice. They made me feel like I had purpose, that I was wanted there, and more importantly needed. It is always nice to feel needed. It was at this site that I knew I was definitely not made to be a corporate attorney, and that I was never meant to have a six figure salary. I was meant to be goofy, run around, play with crayons, and write on white or black boards. These kids showed me what I was meant to do with my life: I was meant to teach.

It was with this realization and this knowing that I finished my undergraduate college career at UCLA, and took a series of jobs tutoring, baby-sitting, and nanny-ing. Basically whatever I could do to gain more experience working with children of all ages. But it was one of my tutoring jobs in particular that really opened my eyes to the near failure if not complete failure of the public education system for my tutees. I was ordered to tutor them for no more and no less than thirty-four hours over three to four months maximum. Additionally I was only allowed to tutor them on the three California Standards that they did the most poorly in, not their homework or anything else. And to be honest, the money was pretty good, but definitely not at all worth it. Because not only was this whole system completely ineffective it was even taking away from things my tutees should have been doing such as homework or extra-curriculur activities. These children received my services because they were in the No Child Left Behind program, and yet they were being left behind AND costing the government tax payers millions! I quickly left that job and began looking for something that I could do to actually help children in LAUSD catch up, and to really be successful both in their school work and attitude.

The first time I visited the office for my first interview I knew that City Year would be the right choice for me. Gabby, one of our recruiters, was the first person to interview, but definitely not the first person to greet me. I was a little nervous and didn't know what to expect, but I was welcomed by so many smiling faces, people offering water or a chair, and just a genuinely comfortable and kind environment. I don't think I have ever seen a group of people more just genuinely kind than that City Year office. So it was after my first interview that I began to pray to please, please, please, let me be a part of this organization. About week after I was called for a second interview, and a month after that, I received a very energetic call from a Senior Corps Member congratulating me on my acceptance.

I serve because I wabt every child to know and feel that they are special. I serve because I know, from personal experience, that no matter what difficulty a child has at home, if someone at school makes them feel special it can become a safe haven. I serve because I want to be that safe haven for them. I want them to believe in their own potential, because I believe in their potential, so that they can exceed even the highest expectations that no one else ever though possible. I serve because I know that any and every child is capable of the greatest succes given the opportunity, support, and genuine belief that they can.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Dear Papa.

I'm sorry I don't take your calls anymore, and that I forget your birthday, and haven't seen you in months, maybe even a year now. Maybe I'm just busy, maybe I'm trying to make a life for myself, maybe I'm just not that great a daughter. Or maybe, it's just that I'm tired of you being a lousy father, and I don't want to have my heart broken anymore. Either way, I'm sorry.



I used to adore you, you were my hero, the greatest man I thought I'd ever know. I thought that the chemical imbalances in your brain were just parts of you, and that underneath the glazed over look you gave me when you were too medicated or too stoned to love me, you were an amazing man. A man who could do anything, be anything, and go anywhere, but simply chose to me a father to me.



I took your side in everything for the longest time. I nearly destroyed the relationship I had with my mother taking your side. I defended you and you actions whether they made sense to me or not. I maintained the perfect picture of you in my mind for nearly two decades, refusing to believe you were anything less than amazing. But as time goes on, more and more promises are broken, more and more things happened that made me question you, more and more things both material and not were taken from me and others I thought you loved, and more and more I began to question whether or not you were really capable of loving me.



So I'm sorry I got so tired of everything, and couldn't deal with everything that came with loving you so intensely. I'm sorry I'm not as strong as you thought I was. I'm sorry that I can't pretend and turn a blind eye to everything anymore. I'm sorry that the older I got, the hazier the memories of your good days got, and the clearer the reality of who you are became.



I'm sure that you are still a good man. And that you mean to be a good father, and you try in your way to be as such. But until you realize that being a good father means supporting your children and being there for them, and not the other way around, I cannot bring myself to be around you. I am deeply sorry it has come to this, believe me, but I think it has definitely been a long time coming. I hope that you find happiness through whatever means you need to. And I hope that I may be a part of that happiness, but if not, please know that I have never and will never stop loving you. You are my father. I simply cannot allow you to be a part of my life until you earn a right too.



I love you Papa. Good luck with everything. Have a great life.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Thanks.

It’s important to be grateful.

I’ve never had much of anything in my life, but what I have never lacked was friends. I began my life with fourteen people in a tiny three bedroom one bathroom home. Surrounded by my family, I learned that I needed to be with people, that being alone was probably the scariest thing in the world, and that being amongst people that love you can provide one of the best feelings in the world.

That being said, for some reason when so much shit hit the fan, so to speak, over and over again it was always my friends that were there for me, that kept me going. When I was a child and my family fell apart, my friends were my escape from a home full of emptiness. In high school it was my friends who got me through fights with parents, feeling lost, college applications, and countless other bullshit that comes with being young. And in college my friends, beyond a shadow of a doubt, became my family.

I don’t think I have really deserved any of it. Probably because of the countless mistakes I have made along the way. For a long time my friends were what kept me alive. They were the only reason I still existed at all. And for a long time while I had grown and had tried my very best to be a good friend and return the favor, it was always as if I was lacking. And to be completely honest, as cheesy at it comes across, I didn’t care about myself enough to care about other people. It caused me to be incredibly self-destructive, so much so that I don’t think I even ever realized the extent of it. While I knew that I had friends that I loved so very much, and who I knew cared about me, I didn’t believe it. I didn’t think myself worthy of any of it. So at the very least I tried to entertain everyone. I tried to be the ridiculous clown that everyone wanted to be around to have a good time. And at the end of the day, what I wanted more than anything else was to crawl into bed, hide underneath my sheets, and never wake up.

I was drowning in what I had always wrote as “this incessant sorrow.” It was eating me alive. And that’s why I left. Because I knew if I stayed I wasn’t going to make it out.

It was one of the smartest decisions I have every made. While I wanted nothing more than to run away, I realized that what I really needed to do was handle things that should’ve been handled years ago. I needed to make amends with my mother, be able to have a conversation with her without a bottle of wine first. I needed to get to know my nephews who I had always brushed off because “I just don’t get kids, kids are weird.” I needed to be with my sister, who had needed help for so long, and who I ignored because I thought I was so much more important. I needed to stop being a child and running away from my family, and I needed to grow the hell up and start owning up to everything I had done, was doing, and hoped to do.

And I think I did. I know that I’m not completely better, and I know coming back is going to have to take some getting used to again. But I think I’m ready. I think I can live simply and not give into the glitz and glamour of the city of angels again.

However I don’t think I would’ve ever been able to make it through this process on my own. And for that I am so grateful to have the most wonderful man I have ever known in my life. I was so blessed to have the most random beginning to the best relationship anyone could ever ask for. I know that he has been a huge part of saving my life, and I love him for it. amongst so many other reasons.

But most of all, I need to thank my friends. Those who have let me pass out at their places time and time again. Those who laugh at my jokes, or probably just at me for being ridiculous. Those who held my hair back when I was puking my face off. Those who compliment my outfits or my hair and brighten my day. Those who listen to my rants and complaints and constant profane language (which I’m working on by the way). Those who have listened to me cry. Those who have hugged me. Those who have never judged me no matter what mistakes I have made. Those who have given me advice, even though I might not have listened to it. Those who drank with me, gotten me booze, danced with me, stumbled with me, eaten with me, etc. Those who have put up with me, period. Those who have respected me, and loved me no matter what. Those who have always supported me whether or not they agreed with me.

I have had the great fortune of knowing some of the most amazing people on this planet, and I really mean that. I’m so sorry I wasn’t better. But I can promise I’ll get there. You have set a great example for me that I fully intend on following.

Thank you so incredibly much. Because if it weren’t for you all, I would have been gone a long time ago. You have changed my life. You give me hope for the world. You have opened my mind and my heart in ways I never imagined. You have taken this small town girl, and helped shape her into a woman of the world. So, thank you. Thank you very, very much.

LOVE.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A nice start.

She reverted back to that fated day when she was a child and she had thought she had reached the end. The apparatus that assisted her in floating had failed and she had begun to sink to the bottom of the pool; which for her might as well have been the bottom of the ocean. She fought and fought. She kicked, she flailed her arms, she reached as far as she could to try to get above the water. Until the water had begun to fill her tiny little lungs and she no longer had the strength to fight. She kicked her last kick and then began to sink. On that fated day, it was her grandmother who saved her. Getting her out of the water in the knick of time, bringing her to safety on the deck, and confidently performing CPR to get the water out of her lungs. All she could remember was coughing hard and loud and finally opening her eyes to see her family above her. Their joy at her survival was quickly replaced with her mother's trademark scolding. And in an instant, what she thought was an inevitable death had returned to complete normalcy.

But this time, drowning was different. It wasn't physical. No one could see her flailing around, kicking, reaching, gasping for air. No one could hear her. No one could feel it, but her. It was within. Her life had somehow become an incessant cause of unfathomable sorrow. She didn't know what she wanted to be, what she wanted for herself, much less what she wanted for others, she didn't even know what to do in any situation. She was completely and seemingly irrevocably, lost. She tried everything she could to think of to save herself from drowning in it all. And then, like a beacon of light a voice had said to her, "You should leave. You need to let go. You need to help yourself before you help others." And with that it seemed so clear. What she had needed all along, was exactly what she had feared the most: leaving everything and everyone she had come to know and love. She decided to leave despite the fear and doubt.

And so, just as she had done with everything else in her life, she mentally and emotionally prepared herself for leaving. Almost beginning to shut herself down. Much like how her tiny body had begun to shut down the first time she nearly drowned so long ago. She was prepared to kick her last kick, close her eyes, gasp her last breath, and go.

But for some ridiculously strange reason, God somehow deemed her worthy of the best man she had ever known. Just when she thought that the next step she needed to take was to be prepared to be unhappy for the rest of her life, everything changed. She fell in love with a man, and for some explanation she would probably never understand, he loved her back. And for the very first time in as long as she could remember, she woke up happy. She was finally able to believe what people meant when they said everyday was a gift. Because while friends and family had been more than she could ever ask for in terms of love and support, respect and kindness, it was different. She was no longer lost as long as she was loved by him. She was given a purpose, a reason for living. She was in love.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

It's good.

And just when she thought it wasn't possible, that she would be doomed do a life of incessant sorrow he saved her. There he had been hiding in plain sight, the both of them never believing it was at all possible. That the saying was in fact true: Once in a while, right in the middle of an ordinary life, Love gives us a fairytale.

For the longest time, she could not remember what it meant to be happy. Nor could she associate any sort of happiness with any kind of sobriety. And then it was different. Because finally it was uncomplicated and clear. Finally someone had loved her as much as she loved him. It was so simple, and right, and good. And so she wanted to believe that it was all just too good to be true. That soon some kind of ball would drop and he would find out everything horrible about her and leave her for good. But it never did. Thus she was left to wonder what the hell she could've done to have such a wonderful, perfect man love her.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It's Mine.

Here’s a new concept for today’s blog: fuck vague-ness and anonymity. Here’s to complete and total honesty, to facing oneself head on no matter how hard it might be. Here’s to admitting to oneself and the entire world everything that is wrong, and horrible, and sad, and troublesome. And here’s to letting all of that go to find out what exactly will make life glorious, or as close as any of us can get to it.

Pretty much what I’ve gotten from a lifetime of T.V. and movies is that, people are wretched things. I don’t know if people are inherently evil or if there’s something along the way that turns us into selfish creatures. Either way, we are all very selfish beings, no matter what. I get that people can surprise you. That there are people who are ridiculously generous, and who give, give, give and ask nothing in return. I’ve known people who just love, and give, and are amazing. But the fact that they come so far and few between is what makes them amazing, hence leaving the bulk of humanity as I said prior: selfish beings.

Forgive me if I ramble on tangents. Anyway, I was admittedly a very selfish child, you can ask any of my family members. I didn’t like to share anything, and would rather play in a corner alone than share my favorite toy. I told on people a lot, and cried when I didn’t get what I wanted. I was a complete and total bitch of a child. If I saw myself as a child now, it would take an incredible amount of self-restraint not to bitch slap myself. Anyway, somewhere down the line, I started living my life for other people. But not in the healthy, self-less way. I wanted other people to respect me, look up to me, be proud of me, praise me, and mostly just like me. I was surrounded by a family of nay-sayers who loved to gossip about me, talk down to me, and do everything they could to make themselves feel superior. I think it was because they thought they had to, to make me a stronger person. I think it was because they had no idea that they were doing it, and furthermore that they had no idea what it would do to a child, and that raising a child this way was incredibly detrimental.

Enough with the sob story, my family was/is fucked up. (Who’s isn’t in their own way?) The end.

So I moved away. I moved as far away as my mother, finances, and college acceptances allowed. And I earned my right by going to a top 25 university in our great nation to say whatever the hell I wanted to say to my so-called “elders” whether or not they think so. And the more I stayed away, the more I got so damn tired of living my life for other people. It probably all goes back to the whole selfish child thing, but I don’t really care.

I’m not getting a degree because it’s what my parents have always wanted for me. I can’t do that to myself anymore. I’m not going to be the one with fifty extra curricular activities, a stupid high gpa, and the LSAT score everyone prays for. I’m not going to pick some arbitrary career because people are counting on me to be the smart, successful one. I honestly don’t care about any of it, graduating, the degree, the walking on the stage, the pats on the back from my family. Fuck success, fuck praise, fuck false pride.

Okay well, maybe not fuck success, but let it be for me, because I wanted it. Because I busted my ass for no other reason than I wanted to, I felt like it at the time, and it made me happy.

I’m leaving my favorite city incredibly soon. I’m moving even farther away and taking a much needed break from literally everything I know. I want to know what it’s like to wake up in the morning and not feel like complete shit. I want to make a decision for myself, for my own well being and no one else‘s. And if it means not getting my degree when literally everyone was expecting me to, if it means moving to the opposite coast somewhat prematurely, if it means leaving the city I love so much, and the friends I love more than anything, so be it.

I know it’s going to suck for a little bit. I know I’m going to be sad and miss everyone. And I know it’s going to be a lot harder than I would like to admit, but I’m doing it anyway.

Because for once, while I used to say, “This is my toy, don’t touch it” This is my life, and no one else is going to play with it ever again.

Farewell. (Or as a good friend of mine said, “See you later.”)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Circles.

It was that point in the evening where the clouds began to cover the city. Staring at what stars you had to struggle to see, it starts to become easier to notice that something else was going on in the sky. The clouds begin their graceful dance to come together and envelop the city. As if they wanted to rock everyone to sleep in their embrace; to shield everyone from the fears of the night. And there she stood. Tonight wearing her silver sexy-yet-functional heels, her favorite and most versatile little black dress, the floating diamond necklace from her mother, and her hair perfectly straightened hanging just past her shoulder blades. She turned when she heard someone coming, and immediately put out her Marlboro light. It was Stephen.

“How many times to I have to tell you to quit that shit?” He was leaning in the doorway to the terrace with one hand in his pocket and the other holding his jacket at his side. “Damn he looks good tonight.” She thought quietly to herself. He wore his Gucci black pinstripe suit that night, with a sky blue dress shirt rather than the typical white, and the matching pinstripe tie he got for Christmas years ago. “Well you know the more you tell me not to, the more I’m gonna want to do something.” She said playfully as she put her pack of cigarettes back into her purse. “What the hell are you doing here so early anyway?” she asked. “Maybe I just thought I’d keep you company. Want a drink?” he then asked her. She turned back around to face out again and responded with a quick, “No.” And then he asked, “So what do you want to do?” “I just want to stand here for a while, if that’s okay.” “Yeah, okay.” So he stood by her leaning on the balcony as well. Without saying a word, with the both of them knowing that just being with each other was enough.

It had been years since they had seen each other. She left to travel the world and find her purpose, only to settle in New York City a year later. He stayed and did everything he set out to do: law school, the six figure salary to start, everything. But before that, they were in love. At one point they were even thinking about getting married. But as so-called cynics say, you can’t live off of love. So she left. And now here they were, standing side by side waiting for their best friends’ rehearsal dinner to start.

It’s quite strange seeing where life takes you, and even stranger how many times, it merely leads you back to where you started.