Sunday, July 17, 2011

California Dreamin'

It's been almost a year since I packed up my bags and drove my little red Suzuki Forenza (RIP) the long (but surprisingly not awful) drive from Kansas to California. My friend, Candice and I packed my car full of essentials and snacks and avoided a speeding ticket in Oklahoma, suffered through short downpours of rain in New Mexico, and drove exhausted and road weary around the mountains in Arizona.
Let me say one quick thing about Arizona: I do not like the state (don't be fooled by the photo). At the height of border security last summer, my equally tanned friend and myself joked that maybe we were too dark to drive through the state. Maybe I don't like it because it was the final destination after a long day of driving. Maybe because driving around mountains in the dark makes you start to hallucinate UFOs. Maybe because it's hot and desert-y and full of cacti. Or, maybe my experience with the state has not been the greatest because of things that have nothing to do with the actual state. Others have insisted it's a great state because their hot's not humid. 115 degrees is still FUCKING HOT!

The last leg of our trip led us to drive through two checkpoints along sand dunes and the sights of Mexico literally just over the horizon. When we finally pulled into San Diego, I felt excited, happy and surprisingly, at home. My furniture had yet to arrive (and wouldn't arrive for three more weeks!) so we camped out on the floor of my month-to-month rental and planned for some fun days before my friend had to fly back to Kansas.
We ventured to LA with free tickets to George Lopez in the hopes of seeing T.I. When we arrived, they announced T.I. would not be appearing so we decided to hop a double-decker bus and ride down Sunset Boulevard and through the Hollywood Hills to take in the sites like true tourists. We took our pictures next to the wax figure of Samuel L. Jackson and along the various sidewalk stars along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Later, we staked out the premiere of "Takers", saw T.I., Chris Brown, Hayden Christiansen and then Snoop Dogg walking on the sidewalk right past us. We don't play nonchalant aloofness. We like celebrities. We took pictures.
When my furniture finally arrived, God bless the movers who had to shove all of my stuff into my small apartment. It was the dead of summer, no air conditioning and they had two moves following mine and not once did the complain or act like they had somewhere better to be. One of the moving men even gave me the floor fan from his truck letting me know it would come in handy on those late summer days.
What was to follow was a cycle of fun, adventure, and at times literally just getting by on hope alone. San Diego offers so much to newcomers. Most San Diegans I've met aren't natives at all. They too had the ocean calling their name. The perfect weather. The laid-back attitudes. I have been able to watch sea lions up close and personal in La Jolla. Kayak in the ocean. Watched a whale leap out of the water, several times in fact. I have ziplined at the Safari Park and had chances to make it back to LA. I have walked around the Fashion District. Walked along the Santa Monica Pier and been mesmerized by the skaters of Venice Beach.

I have been able to experience the most perfect food of my life - the Surfin' California burrito from Lucha Libre and enjoyed the quest for the best chicken mole (which has not yet been found). To sum up a year, a dream, isn't really possible. To say there hasn't been difficulties would be a lie. But those days have quickly been replaced by waking up to sunshine and cool weather, ocean breezes and sand beneath my feet. To enjoy a freedom and independence and sheer "because I wanted to" attitude that can never be taken away from me.

It was about two years ago that I told my friend I wanted a change. I felt restless and unsatisfied. Maybe I'll always have a little bit of that feeling in me. But it was just a year ago, I changed that and moved my life two time zones away to set up a little place to call my own.
Was it the right time, the right choice, the right decision for my life? Those really aren't the kind of questions I tend to ask myself. I ask, will I regret not going? Will I wish I would have moved? I'm definitely a "so glad I did it" kind of gal and not a "really wish I would've" type of person. When seeking adventure, taking chances, the best question to ask is that's shouldn't really be a question at all is: Why NOT?

Friday, July 15, 2011

What it Takes to Climb a Mountain

Cowles Mountain - San Diego, CA
Elevation: 1,591 ft. above sea level

On May 11, 2011, I climbed my first mountain. To those native to San Diego or those just generally in good physical shape, climbing Cowles is no big deal. People do that hike weekly. Some probably walk it every other day. The trail is easy to follow with few steep hills and relatively flat terrain. When my friend, Deondre came to visit he decided that climbing a mountain would be a fun thing to do. Having wanted to conquer a mountain myself, I said, "Let's do it!"

It was a beautiful, cool evening and we began our hike up the mountain. There seemed to be two trails. One to a smaller peak and one to the top. Standing from the bottom looking up we both thought the same thing without saying it out loud: There is no way in hell we're hiking up there. Neither D nor myself are what I would call "in shape". I try to frequent the gym as much as possible, but trekking up a mountain is out of my comfort zone.

After walking over a mile, we reached the summit. Looking down from where we came, it seemed like we had hiked a long way. Looking to what lay before us though, we hadn't even made it to the path that would lead us to the top. I told D I would go for as long as he would. Part of me was hoping that he would say he wanted to go back so I wouldn't have to be the one who gave up and went home. But like a champ, he said, "Nope. We're going to make it to the top!"

And so we continued. People were passing us on both sides. We stopped to rest more than once. But then I saw a man carrying his baby in a pouch walking next to a KID who looked like walking back down that mountain was the easiest thing he'd ever done. So it turned out that my will to reach the top did not come from myself, not from Deondre or from the grace of God. It came from a child who I wanted to outdo. If that kindergarten tot could do it, I could too!
Halfway up the mountain, the sun began to set and we were able to witness some truly breathtaking sights. In that moment, I did send up a silent 'thank you' to God for the pure beauty of that sunset. When we finally reached the top, you would think we had climbed Kilimanjaro. That's how I felt. I was in awe of the city, how beautiful it looked, how on top of the world I felt. I could see the a panoramic view stretching out to more mountains on one side and the ocean on the other. I could have stood there forever.

It was setting out to do something, to really experience what it would feel like to climb a mountain and then doing it. It was the difference between going halfway and understanding that would never be enough and pressing on. And in a way only D can express, he summed it up best when he turned to me and said, "We climbed a motherfuckin' mountain, b!"

So, what does it take to climb a mountain? It's just like anything put one foot in front of the other and go. It's no Kilimanjaro, but as always, there will be other mountains to climb. Bigger things just over the horizon.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

And Then Comes 30...but Why Worry?

One evening after browsing through my latest issue of Glamour, I came across an article dedicated to the feelings of turning 30. Women are worried about wrinkles and child-bearing and meeting the right man. Women lament that they thought by the time they turned 30, they would already be married with one or two children. You know what I have to say to these women? PUH-LEASE. I was thinking about all that at sixteen - well, not the wrinkles part.

When I was 16, I thought by the time I was TWENTY-ONE, I would have a successful career, be married to a gorgeous man, maybe living in a fancy NYC apartment, baby optional. I even went on to confirm this plan as a Senior in high school. The night of our Senior Dinner, we were to step into a room setup with a video camera like some Real World confessional and say where we thought we'd be in 10 years. The only part that came true about my prediction is that I moved to New York. I did not, however, live in a fancy apartment. I lived in a studio way up on the "Upper East Side" that really a few more blocks and I'm in Harlem.

As my 21st birthday came and went in a drunken/throwing up/hungover blur, it became clear that my sweet little sixteen-year-old self was way off the mark. So, I woke up the next day not knowing where my phone was or how many shots I had consumed the previous night. But I wasn't worried about Mr. Right and I was for damn sure not worried about having children. And, I haven't worried about it since. A friend of mine who Botoxes advised me a few years ago that I should look into it for preventative purposes. I'm sure I have "crow's feet" and "smile lines", but uh, that's just my face. That's how I LOOK!

You know how I feel about turning 30? I feel excited! It might not have anything to do with the age either. I just feel like every birthday is a chance to do all those things you were supposed to do in the past year. For me, it's finish my book (a never-ending struggle). Travel to foreign places. Seek new adventures. You get to make birthday resolutions. I don't think about marriage or babies or even my career, really. It doesn't mean I'm not focused, it just means I have a bigger picture in mind.

The success of all of those things would make my picture prettier, but as it is right now life is unfolding the way it should. Hectic at some points, leisurely floating along at others. I make decisions in the moment and appreciate each experience for what it is. One thing I can celebrate about turning 30 is all the things I learned in my 20s - a bitch of a decade it's been, but a FABULOUS one as well.

It's great to have a plan. It's fantastic to envision how you want your life to turn out, but I tend to mark down my accomplishments and look forward to things yet to be achieved instead of moping about all the things I haven't done. I like to think about how much better things get with every passing year and how lucky I am to wake up most mornings perfectly HAPPY. Make the lists. Create goals. But, for God's sake, don't forget how to LIVE.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

(Google) Plus One

I was late to the game on joining the now defunct MySpace. I never wanted to be part of The Social Network a.k.a. Facebook. I was just on there to play Scramble. And Twitter was just an added silliness that I thought I could use to pass the time. Now, here I am right on the verge of the newest social networking - Google+.

By on the verge, I mean I have no idea what the hell I am doing. Working backwards, I find that Twitter has been the most beneficial to me, Facebook lets me peek in on my family and friends' daily dramas and excitements and MySpace (R.I.P.) led me to great music, profile songs and smiley faces so people knew exactly what mood I was in.

As a newbie, I felt that all of this "connecting" with people was unnecessary and just another phase of networking and technology that would pass by not blow up to a monumental size and continue its King Kong-like growth. So instead of fighting it, I decided to swim with the stream for once, instead of against it. By doing so, I have been able to be led into a fascinating world with new people, new businesses, fellow writers and of course, my friends and family who also update their statuses religiously so that I can know what they're doing during the day.

So I say to all of you who may be hesitant, give it a whirl, and see if you like it. You may think it to be a complete waste of time and go back to your tv reruns and discussions with no one. But, then again you might find it captivating, intriguing and if nothing else, fun to be able to network and connect with people you may never have had a chance to meet otherwise.

Cheers to the social networkers out there! Friend me, follow me and plus one me into your virtual worlds.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

What I Want to Be When I Grow Up...

The Day I Gave Up My Journal

When I was in the fifth grade, a good family friend gave me my first journal. None of my entries started off with 'Dear Diary' but many of my entries began the same way. There were days I wondered if I was going to win the spelling bee. If the boy I liked would send me a valentine. Why my best friend was mad at me again. The journal was meant to serve as an outlet for any emotions I might be feeling following my parents divorce. I feel that our family friend saved me a lot of money in therapy by giving me such an outlet.

Looking back I see that over the years not much changed in what I wrote down. I rarely wrote when I had a good day. I always wrote when I was sad or mad or confused. Although the names and situations changed, the common theme throughout my journaling days was - "Will I find someone who loves me?" and "What am I going to do with my life?"

Then something happened.

I started throwing away my journals. Many people told me I should save them. Why? To learn from the lessons that I failed to learn the first time around? Some of the entries while entertaining were not worth keeping around to have someone read when I'm gone. They were more embarrassing than it is riveting.

So one by one, I began tearing out the pages and throwing them away, laughing as I did. Reading the words I had written about things that really didn't matter. Writing about things like they were the ONLY things that mattered. In 2010, I noticed my entries finally began to really change. Instead of the angsty, unfulfilled entries of the past, I started making lists of goals. I wrote down inspiring lyrics and quotes. I started stories. I ended ones too. And then one day, I realized I hadn't posted an entry for about three weeks.

Instead I had started keeping a dream journal to record my dreams. I started writing for Examiner as a fashion and relationships writer. I began to build upon what I loved doing. I continued to work on freelance projects and found that I didn't want to use what I love to write about how SORRY I feel for myself - talk about a waste of time.

And yet, it wasn't.

Writing in those journals let me see what I was feeling without realizing it at the time. It allowed me to get my feelings out so that I could move on instead of holding them inside. It showed me a way to positively and productively focus my writing. And it confirmed that although that chapter of my writing life has ended, the story has just begun.