Yesterday was one of my best friend's first date. First date, as in, her first time finding the right dress, doing her hair and getting her makeup done, walking out to where a guy who's really into her was leaning by his car, looking clean and crisp, holding flowers and organic chocolate in his hand.
I was promptly rushed back to our dorm, "Holy crap, I've been outed!" I screeched, grinning. I closed the door behind me, leaning against it until I heard them drive away.
I walked back to my room in our apartment-style dormitory. I wrung my hands, took a swig of water.
I would be lying if I ever claimed that I've never fancied the idea of relationships. But growing up, they never really seemed feasible to me; they were a fantasy I reserved for mere dreams. The very idea was something I felt I shouldn't even concern myself with, as after all, you don't need another person to make you happy, and after all, most relationships in high school never lasted, didn't they? College was the same, right?
I lied to myself, making excuses because it was me that never felt loveable, not just that no one ever really seemed to find themselves particularly interested in me. There must have been something wrong with me, I would think. It's my fault they don't like me -- I don't even, nor have I ever, looked like anyone I would date, if I were a boy, if I were brutally honest. And I was brutally honest with myself. Dreams are just dreams; they are for sleeping, imagining. Not living.
It was your basic recipe for longingness. I had "tendencies of a tristful depressiveness," I once wrote, "a longing of some deep understanding I felt was just around the corner, the crux of my inspiration. Like a wave that never gets to crash on the shore, suspended by some unseen hand."
Every moment before my head hit the pillow, I was struck with this ultra-awareness that I was not who people wanted me to be. That I was ever so singular, in every sense of the word. It was the years of being told, or indirectly told, that you're not worth it. That you're just there. Though, most days, it was hardly the human population the little voice in my head; no, the villain in my story was more often than not none other than myself.
I was so caught up in the idea of not being who I wanted to be in someone else's eyes and ignoring who I wanted to be in my eyes. Who I was. Who I could be, what I could do. What I like, where I want to go. What I believe in. What gives me hope, what makes me smile.
I truly believe that in order to truly love someone else, you need to first love and understand yourself. What makes you, you? Why do you feel a certain way at a certain time? It's been said before to me so many times, but it has only been in these last couple years at college that I have come to believe it. Your whole perspective on life changes when you recognize that you have the power to make choices in your life, you don't have to fit anyone's cookie-cutter mold.
I learned that I like cooking. I like interpreting art. I like kale chips. I don't like country music. I like having socio-economical conversations. I'm horrible at being on time. I like sushi. I like comic book characters. I like donuts. I have a bad habit of leaving dirty clothes in the bathroom. I like French ballads and German pop songs and Japanese rock songs and Italian opera. I like doing things for people. I like writing. I want to travel. I like shopping. I think "that's what she said" jokes are hilarious. I like dressing in black, gray, and white. I like anime. I think Michael Fassbender is hot. I enjoy running. I like Chanel. I like working hard. I like finding fun in the tiniest thing - once, my friends and I were walking by a flickering street lamp. "So sad," someone commented wistfully. I turned around and started dancing on the sidewalk, "It's like a strobe light!"
Four years ago, I would have simply sighed and lamented about how embarrassingly stupid I could be.
Confidence, my friend, changes everything. When you are certain who you are on the inside, what does it even matter what you look like on the outside? Who cares that you don't have killer abs (yet!) or a flat stomach or Michelle Obama's arms or still get the occasional zit on your nose? Is it worth feeling miserable every time you walk by someone that you don't fit their supposed standards? No. You're not on this planet for them.
You're on it for you. To experience and, well, live. If you want to be technical and a tad bit selfish about it.
Compassion and kindness and honesty and empathy and a love for God are traits and choices that you yourself make. That's what makes them so beautiful. They're the result of actions that set obligation and decision apart.
They're what make you, you.
And so, in order to love and understand another person, why they do what they do, and what makes them make the decisions they do, you must first understand and love the person you will spend the rest of your life with — you. Because, if you're not comfortable with yourself, you never will be with anyone else.
It took graduating high school, going to college, getting a job, dealing with difficult people, going on long summer jogs, finding a great group of friends, and the internet of all things, for me to realize that.
Yesterday was Valentine's Day. In 2014, I sent myself a card, telling myself how much I always thought about myself, how great I was. In 2015, I took myself to dinner with The Great Gatsby.
This year, I went on a blind date with a book that turned out to be amazing, went to dinner with my prayer group, baked a red velvet cake, and stayed up till ungodly hours watching The Emperor's New Groove and munching on microwave popcorn with (s)quadmates.
I don't really need anything else, to be honest. I mean, the whole 'anything else' bit wouldn't be that bad, but the concept is not longer something the six year-old me always dreamed of. I don't need a relationship just for the sake of not being alone.
Because... I'm really not that alone. Waking up and realizing that there are people around you that truly care about you is something unlike any other. Passion can sprout from so many other places besides romance.
After all, "Adventure is out there!" And I'm going to enjoy every moment of it.
“I have been feeling very clearheaded lately and what I want to write about today is the sea. It contains so many colors. Silver at dawn, green at noon, dark blue in the evening. Sometimes it looks almost red. Or it will turn the color of old coins. Right now the shadows of clouds are dragging across it, and patches of sunlight are touching down everywhere. White strings of gulls drag over it like beads.
It was hard to get through this book. Not because it dealt with complex ideas about the universe or the evil that was the Nazi party, but because it was crafted so beautifully, so wondrously, that it struck me deeply, as though between its pages, everything in the world was suddenly so clear. It was like listening to a concerto or an opera; trembling vibretos at one point, unfurling coda the next.
I had been looking for a good read recently, since in between breaks at work I hardly find much amusement drowsily browsing through my Facebook feed. I had brought my Kindle on a couple of occasions, and though I appreciate it for its slender form and smooth backing, nothing will ever really replace the feel of a thick, chunky book with its crisp pages and distinct, but not unwelcome scent.
All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, was the winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. As of last December, it has spent 82 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list for hardcover fiction. It was the runner-up for the 2015 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Fiction and won the 2015 Ohioana Library Association Book Award for Fiction.
“You know the greatest lesson of history? It’s that history is whatever the victors say it is. That’s the lesson. Whoever wins, that’s who decides the history. We act in our own self-interest. Of course we do. Name me a person or a nation who does not. The trick is figuring out where your interests are.” -Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See
The juxtaposition between creative innocence and aggressive, animalistic war was truly something to be reckoned with. I can hardly remember how many times I had to put the book down, stare up at the ceiling, and sigh at the truth a sentence might portray. It broke my heart, pieced it back together, and sent it soaring to the sun.
Marie-Laure is a blind 16 year-old living in Saint-Marlo, France, with her eccentric great Uncle, Etienne. Werner is a radio operator for the Nazis, trying to survive an American bombing on the seaside city of the same name. Doerr weaves their stories beautifully, shifting back and forth from boy to girl, from their childhood, to the end of their stories, and everything in between.
“So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?”
Read this book if you like science. Read this book if you like history. Read this book if you like philosophy. Read this book if you're a romantic at heart. Read this book if you want to live in a world written as art, with all the copious amounts of emotional expression.
You will, undoubtedly, fall in love with the characters as I did. You will feel as they felt. You will understand the various perspectives in war, you will see how one little recorded voice, in the end, will mean everything.
You will see all the light we cannot see.
If I ever had to suggest one book, this would be it. Of the innocence broken in wartime, of logic and science and curiosity in the face of unfathomable evil and bloodlust and pure human brutality.
It is children grown in the midst of adults' mistakes and decisions, and what becomes of them thereafter. It does not seek to naturalize WW2, but strives to take a unique view on the effects of it.
And believe me when I say that reading this book will radically change your perspective of the world and its various inhabitants.