Wednesday, September 8, 2010


In general, I have a difficult time letting go of nouns.  By nouns I mean people, places, and things.

I don't like to throw things away.  I've mentioned before that I will eat beyond fullness and comfort to avoid wasting food (I got this from my Dad, who has always volunteered to eat my table scraps; maybe that's why he wouldn't let me have a dog).  I'm even worse about non-perishable items.  I even hold on to ticket stubs; I swear I'll do something with them someday even though, really, they are just trash.

I grow attached to places, too.  I'm lucky that my parents never moved out of the house they lived in when I was born.  Ever since starting college, I move every year, but every single residence, I have a difficult time letting go.  I will linger even in the empty apartment, hold my breath, and try to capture it as I say goodbye.

Even if I haven't talked to someone in a long time, if I for some reason remember or see a picture of someone I was close friends with once upon a time, I become nostalgic and sad that we drifted apart.  I thank the 21st century for facebook, where I can watch past friends from afar and reminisce. 

Never before have I known someone who died.

My first and only real encounter with death was with pets. I was a very sad 8-year-old when The Cat with the Crooked Tail (as we call him now because my parents and brother never named the second-hand cat, and by the time I was old enough to find that strange, it was really beyond the point of return) disappeared one Fourth of July, because I was just getting old enough that the cat would want me to pet him instead of running away at the sight of me.  It was slightly more traumatic one year later when my mom informed me that my next cat, Rascal, was hit by a car the night before, and yes by the way that red smear on the corner is all that's left of him.  I bawled my eyes out over not getting to say goodbye.   And he was just a cat.

As I've gotten older, I've become more private about my emotions. Sure, up my BAC and I'll fall apart with the right cues, but for the most part, I will clam up and avoid talking about it.

This may have come from my early school days when my parents would warn me that I'd have "red face" if I cried in the morning, though I think their intention was to avoid a cranky fit over socks than it was a tactic to shut up my emotions.

Last night I realized it may just be an unconscious thing I picked up from my Mom. Anything serious, she discusses with absolute calm.  I'm great at this, too (for the most part, to a point, depending on my audience) -- I can be incredibly calm and matter-of-fact even when I am incredibly sad or angry.  But if I'm holding sadness in and someone happens to ask me what is wrong, I will get about two and a half words out before my voice cracks and I break down into tears.  Last night on the phone, my Mom was very even-toned when she told me that the doctors decided that my Grandpa wasn't going to pull through, and that she was very sorry to have to tell me that.  But when my voice cracked a little bit saying that I was sorry, too, she wavered, "I think I'm going to cry now so I'm going to hang up now."  I am definitely my mother's daughter.

I wonder sometimes if people think I am heartless, because I try to push things down and pretend like they don't bother me, until I am alone.  I'm hoping that my Mom's way of composing herself to deliver the bad news but retreating to go cry about it is clue enough to my family that I might be the same way, because I hardly said anything back to her besides "I'm sorry" and "I love you".  It all comes out when I'm alone, usually in the shower, or possible in the car, but frequently in bed at night, especially when my subconscious catches up with me in my dreams.

I spent several months fearing the sudden death of my Mom as her health declined.  Had I not looked up her disease and been told by Wikipedia that the average life expectancy for what she had was 2 years, I probably would have just reassured myself that she would be fine and avoided thinking about it.  That's what I did prior to coming home for Thanksgiving break to finding her requiring oxygen tubes.  I even held onto that self-assurance a little bit longer until she needed the oxygen all the time, could no longer climb the stairs to her bedroom, needed to take baths instead of showers, and eventually got placed second on an organ donor list (and not for those easy donations like partial livers -- she needed a pair of lungs and a new heart).  I don't think I ever expressed this sadness too much to my parents, because, frankly, what could they do?  And honestly, I saw nothing but strength about the whole situation from either of them, I'm sure they were having a much worse time with it than I was, and I wasn't naive enough to think they could reassure me: my Mom was dying. 

My boyfriend heard my worry and melancholy sneak in from time to time.  I had a few good cries in the shower from time to time and when I would drive to my apartment from their house after dinner, when my Mom couldn't eat hardly anything despite becoming dangerously thin, and very delicately hugging her goodbye with fear of breaking her.  Worse of all were my dreams.  I was haunted with thoughts that I would lose my Mom, that she wouldn't see me walk down the aisle some day or travel to Ireland like she promised, and she wasn't even healthy enough for me to really try to squeeze in lots of living with her. 

When my Mom got *the call* and went in to Stanford for the heart+lung transplant, she shooed me from coming to stay there with her in anticipation and support.  It was almost Valentine's Day and I had a flight to LA to catch to visit my boyfriend for the weekend, and she wouldn't have me canceling it just to sit worrying in a hospital, watching her unconscious and almost-died-looking body.  My close friend gave me the same advice: she had visited her Grandma in the hospital under similar circumstances, and is still haunted by how scary and dead she looked lying there, even though she recovered fine.  So I went to LA to see my boyfriend while my Mom got a new heart (and lungs) for Valentine's Day.

I visited her frequently in the ICU and in her temporary apartment near Stanford following her life-saving surgery.  The surgeons say that her lungs had maybe 3 months left in them when they took them out, and that her new lungs are like "baby's lungs" because they are in such wonderful, clean shape.  She has been recovering wonderfully, and I am afraid of jinxing the fact that more than 6 months later, she still has had no rejection episodes.  She told me just the other day that she is no longer on pain medication!  It feels like a gift from God (and I am not a religious person, though I did pray for her) and like I am selfish for ever complaining for things that are so insignificant in comparison. 

I feel incredibly blessed that she has made such an amazing recovery from where she was 1 year ago, and our whole family recognizes how fragile she still is as she continues to wear masks in public and keep a sterile home.  She is so careful, that she decided not to visit my Grandpa while he was in the hospital for a staph infection.  Yet she proceeded to reassure me that everything would be fine and there was no need to visit him in his delicate condition, urging me to cancel my flight reservation to attend his 90th birthday party at the end of August. 

So I canceled my flight and I mailed him a birthday card.  I browsed my calendar and wondered when in the Fall would be a good time to visit the North Bay.  I thought she was right, that he would recover fine in the hospital with the help of antibiotics and that I could visit him when he was ready for more visitors.  And at first he did.  He left the hospital for a nursing home for further care, as his very old body would take longer to recuperate.  Don't worry, I was told, he'll be fine.  Even as he was checked back into the hospital with a new infection and fever, I was reassured that he had seemed more himself, that he seemed fine.

But he wasn't fine.  As the phone call I mentioned earlier indicated, the new infections were more than he could handle.  When I asked for a time-line, I was told maybe a few hours or maybe a few days, though hopefully the former for his sake.  I had a very difficult night's sleep after the melancholy evening spent bumming over that bad news.  I was at lunch today when my Mom called me again to tell me he had passed.  I swallowed air.  What was I even supposed to say?  My Dad was with his siblings and my Grandma at the hospital, so I couldn't talk to him.  I felt tacky as I sent him a short text: "I'm sorry, Dad. I love you."  I teared up a bit at my desk when a song about death came up on my playlist.  But I made it to the handle of my car door in the deserted parking garage before I really cried.

It is very difficult for me to grasp the idea that I will never see him again.  That I will never get to say goodbye.  I regret so much not visiting him in the hospital, despite my Mom's urging not to, to show my support, to see him one more time in a *capture this moment* way, so he could see me one more time and know that I care.

It really makes me feel so insignificant and alone to think about these things.  About how temporary life is.  About how short my almost-23 years of life is compared to his 90. 

At work today, as I milled away the time until I could go home and hide, I glanced over the people there and thought about how they, older than I, probably have experienced death in their own families.  And life goes on.  Even though that person is gone, forever.  The universe doesn't skip a beat.

I feel a lot less silly for my keepsake-hoarding ways as I realize that memories are all we really leave behind. 

I remember my grandparents' big house in Santa Rosa, one I loved to explore as a child, with the eclectic furniture and decor, and the wall clock that sounded a different bird call for every hour of the day, and the refrigerator with the extra hatch in the door to store the milk and other frequent items without opening the big door.

Every time we would visit, my Grandpa would sit on a lawn chair in the open garage waiting for our car to pull into the driveway.

They had a perfectly pruned garden full of so many varieties of flowers, fountains, and a hammock, all because he loved to garden long into old age.

I remembered last night that I learned to ride a two-wheeled bike when visiting them at that house. 

They had an orange cat named Sedgewick; my Grandpa liked cats, too.  I remember the last time we visited them -- no longer at their big house, but at a smaller one in an elderly neighborhood they moved into a few years ago -- my Mom yelled at my Grandpa for making my Grandma live with his new cat, one which destroyed the furniture (I'm talking full-on holes in the side of couches, to the center) and left gashes in her arm...I'm very happy for my Mom that she got to see him a week ago to replace the last memory together.  They ate cake. 

I really hope my brother was with us that last visit to replace the visit before that, when he had a seizure on their couch, my Grandpa holding my brother's shoulders down, and the neighbors all thought the ambulance was there for him, not my brother.

I've often been told the story of when my Grandpa had a stroke and tried to drive himself to the hospital to avoid the cost of an ambulance, and my Grandma (who could no longer drive) could not believe him.  I guess that's from where my Dad gets his frugality. 

When I was a kid, we would go up to their big house for my Grandpa's birthday every summer, and all the California-residing relatives would come and sometimes even the out-of-state relatives, too, and my Grandma would always order a big sheet cake, and instead of getting those number candles, she would stick in as many candles as my Grandpa was old and light them ALL and we'd have to sing really quickly before the first ones she lit completely melted into the frosting.  I was really, really sad his 90th birthday party was canceled.

The last time I visited them, when my Mom was telling her Father-in-Law off, I retreated to the guest room where my Grandma was sorting photographs into boxes.  She had one box per child, as they have 5, the youngest 30 years younger than the eldest.  I had so much fun going through them, snatching favorite pictures of my parents when they were young in the 70's, and laughing at pictures of my youngest aunt dressed up for prom in the 80's.

I'm sad that the only pictures I really have of him are the few blurry digital ones from their youngest daughter's wedding 5 years ago.  I managed to get one from the last time I visited, and even it could use more focus.  I will have to go picture-box diving when I visit my parents next to find some gleeful prints from my childhood.

My Grandpa lived such a long, long life, and I regret not hearing more stories about it, not making the opportunities to ask for stories once I was old enough to care.  I know they lived on a farm in Palo Alto so many years before Silicon Valley sprung up.  They lived through the Great Depression, World War II, and so many interesting decades of history since then.  I hope so dearly that my Dad gathered those stories over the years, and that my remaining grandmothers are still coherent enough to tell me theirs.

You will be missed, Grandpa Adkins. 
Rest in peace, and may angels lead you in to heaven.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Emerging Adulthood?

I happened across a link to this New York Times article, What Is It About 20-Somethings that really resonated with me, and it is so fitting with the theme of this blog that I had to discuss it here.

Twenty-somethings aren't growing up as fast as they used to.  When once 25-year-olds were done with school, with persistent jobs and homes, on the way to financial stability, married and with kids on the way, young adults today are frequently still switching jobs and residences, perhaps about to go back to school, or even moving back in with mom & dad.  Psychologists and sociologists are fighting to introduce a new life stage to accommodate this failure-to-launch period: emerging adulthood.

Similar to a century ago, economic and social changes caused the development of the "adolescent" age group, which at that point needed to be rallied into mainstream acceptance.  This meant a lot of changes to education and health care as well as legal restrictions around their needs and decision-making abilities that were unique to their stage in development.  We take it for granted now, but it really needed help to become established, and the same could be true for us.

Honestly, as I read this article, I am constantly nodding my head emphatically in agreement.  I see myself reflected in the psychological profile -- hey, I'm feeling in-between, that poetic "sense of possibilities", caught up in identity exploration -- as I feel overwhelming anxiety about not being so sure about the path I've chosen for myself, though feeling a strong desire to settle down, jealous of peers who know exactly what they want, what they're doing, and even are already more than halfway there.  I haven't lived in one place more than 1 year since moving away from my parents at age 17.  In college, I kept each of my jobs for two years and worked at my first Big Girl job for just less than one year.  I've just started another job in a different city than before (where I went to college, partially trying earnestly to hold onto those golden years when everything was fun, even if financially struggling and academically challenging, and the future seemed so bright and exciting) and already I have daily (Monday through Friday, anyway) panic attacks that this isn't what I want to do, this isn't where I saw myself when I was in college, and hey this isn't the city I probably want to settle down in.

Without the "emerging adult" label in mainstream production yet, there's unease with this seeming inability to grow up, and anxiety over the fact that the 20th century generations seemed to have no problem whatsoever.

Sure, I also have to force myself to step back and realize I am not the textbook case of this social epidemic.  I did not move home, I did get a job right out of college, I am starting to build up some solid savings (though that month of unpaid vacation really ate into it because I kept spending like I was when I had hefty paychecks e-deposited twice each month), I have a retirement account (though largely attributed to my accountant dad's forthrightness), I don't have any crippling debt (while I didn't sign my financial future away for loans to pay for school that other people use to buy houses, I do owe my dad his retirement money, and have already started to pay it back; before you say, "Psht, that's not real debt," I ask you if you'd really do that to your parents if they supported you far more than anyone else did, really sincerely care about your happiness, have to pay for ridiculous healthcare costs leading up to and following your mother's heart+lung transplant, and are still supporting your 30-something ["failed adulthood?"] brother who has no job, a useless degree, a recovering alcohol addiction, and some way to pay for life?), I grocery shop and cook real meals for myself and my live-in boyfriend...  But I know I won't be living in this apartment in 6 months, I know I won't be at this job for more than one year (or I will probably shoot myself out of boredom, else shoot my boyfriend for having his dream job and in many ways my dream job), and I feel so...lost.

I feel like I got off track.  Didn't life seem like this big, bright, conquerable thing when we were in college?  Like a giant juicy peach just waiting for you to take a selfish, greedy bite?  And now?  Like I studied the wrong thing, and graduated at the wrong time, and took the wrong job, and wow I shouldn't have adopted cats because you really should have your own house with a yard for that kind of thing. 

This scholarly support for the "it's just a stage and it's not just you" theory is incredibly relieving.  At the same time though, the counter-argument is that accommodating this prolonged maturation is a self-fulfilling prophecy, as well as "just another term for self-indulgence".  If that doesn't make you feel guilty, don't worry -- I'll feel guilty enough for the both of us.

It's especially difficult hearing stories of my parents and grandparents, who grew up so quickly in comparison.  While I insisted on paying my own bills in college, my parents bought my groceries, gas, insurance, rent, and anything school-related.  In contrast, I have so many times heard the story of my mom working three jobs in college just to make ends meet with no time to study for finals and barely enough money to eat.  My parents' early years as a married couple were in near poverty -- a can of beans for dinner and cinder block furniture, fitting everything they owned in a car without enough money for more gas.  My grandmother hitchhiked home through rural Illinois, diploma in hand, from her college graduation, while I sipped champagne and ate souffle in downtown LA with my parents toasting my achievements. 

At 22-going-on-23, aren't you a "woman" and no longer a "girl"?

I feel like I should be all grown up by now.  My parents just celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary (married at 21, my parents were the definition of average in 1970 according to this article) and were already in their 2nd house by the time I was born.  Yet being stable enough or able to afford a house exists in such an impossible future in my mind.

Yet how many people in college or just out of it insist on "some day" and "when I have lots of money" and that seemingly attainable future that is exactly what they want?  I say it, everyone I know says it, and 96% of those surveyed are "very sure that someday [they] will get to where [they] want to be in life."

Combine "more self-focused than at any other time of life, less certain about the future and yet also more optimistic, no matter what their economic background" with "dread, frustration, uncertainty, a sense of not quite understanding the rules of the game" and it's no wonder our generation is overcome with depression -- the "I have issues I need to resolve and I will mull over this until I figure out what the hell I'm going to do to fix it" natural selection kind of depression.

And they said adolescence would be the hardest time when you're in it.  Now I'm in the new-age adolescence.  You know, the one where mistakes really do have consequences in the Big Bad World.

They really need to hurry up and write a bunch of psychology books on the subject so I can know what to expect and how to get myself through it.  Like now.  I guess until then, one day at a time?

realize you're still becoming one.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Uncomfortable Silence

Since I moved into the boyfriend's apartment on the 8th floor, as well as starting my job on the 12th floor, I have come to realize how common it is for people to be uncomfortable with silence in elevators.

Typically, if I don't know the person in the elevator or other public space, I don't talk to them.  Exceptions are when we have a shared experience worth commenting on ("I guess it needed convincing" when the elevator door refuses to close without emphatic door-close-button presses), or some other relevant reason to engage an otherwise complete stranger ("your bag is open" or "you dropped your child's shoe").  Not so for many fellow elevator-riders.

Perhaps they think that chatting in the elevator will help them make friends with one of the hundreds they share the building with, but it's kind of sad and more uncomfortable when they grasp at flimsy straws to make conversation for the 20 seconds we spend together. The worst ones are when all they do is start listing things I am carrying.

The other day, I was taking up some groceries from the parking level, and though I shared a ride for only one level, the elevator moves at the speed of smell and the swimsuit-clad man I shared the car with managed to make me really uncomfortable with his awkwardness.  The conversation went something like this:
Man: "You got some Snapple there."
Me: "What? Um, yeah."
Man: "You're set to go!"
Me: "Huh?? Oh yeah I guess. I like Snapple."
Man: "Snapple is great."
*elevator doors open for the man to leave*
Man: "Take it easy."

This morning I was particularly reluctant to be awake and arriving at work, so I was especially weirded out by a stranger attempting to be friendly.  I think I invited conversation for mumbling, "Thank you" when the man gestured for me to get in the elevator first (what can I say: I always reward gentleman behavior).  I made lasagna for dinner last night and was bringing leftovers for lunch.  Finding nothing else to say and obviously obligated to speak, he commented on the, "delicious- and healthy-looking" food I was carrying in tupperware that was far too large for the meal it was containing.

Why can people not stand even a moment's silence anymore?  I think the iPod might be to blame, as virtually everyone walks or bikes places with earbuds drowning out the dull silence of travel.  I, too, am guilty of music playing in my car 99% of the time.  But I can still appreciate silence.  For example, I like to mute the stereo during heavy rain so I can listen to it rapping on my car roof.  I also was always the rare case of a USC student biking to class or work and actually being aware of my surroundings. 

Why listen to pre-recorded music you've heard 1000 times when you can be amused by the colorful characters on the street?  Like a sorority girl failing to control her pink beach cruiser while she talks on the phone and crosses the street, and then crashes into an innocent pedestrian.  Or the nonsensical babble uttered by the regular hobos.  Or the cat-calls from the 12-year-old 5th graders at the hood's grade school.

The world is full of crazy people, which makes for great people watching, and you're going to miss it if you're always racing to fill your silence. 

shut up once in a while and be an observer.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Playing Grown Up, Take 2

Today I started my next big-girl job. 

Can I be a kid again?

I kind of feel like the kids in The Golden Compass with the gold dust being stolen from them their souls.  That's what happened in that book, right?  I read it when I was still innocent and couldn't comprehend my soul being slowly sucked out of me by The Man.

Okay, so my new job isn't that terrible from what I know so far.  Big change just always makes me nervous about making the right decisions with my life, balancing responsibility with happiness.

There is a lot of free food.  They even have real dairy creamer!  None of that dehydrated powdered creamer shit my old job had.  I got downgraded from sharing an office with an uptight Nazi-bitch to my own cubicle.  I also got a computer downgrade -- desktop tower with fatty monitor bigger than the one I have at home, to a Dell laptop.  I did go from Windows XP to Windows 7, however, which is important to a CS nerd like me.  The girls I've met so far are pretty friendly, though none of them are engineers.  Hopefully I'll have an opportunity to bond with them anyway.  This new place has lots of company-paid lunches (between one and three times a month), which should be a good way to befriend people.  I just hope it's a crowd I can make friends with -- mostly PHDs, mostly male, and mostly foreign.  Here's hoping!

I also had the overwhelming feeling that I am underqualified for this job, but I am trying to tell myself that I felt that way about my first big-girl job, too.  Hopefully once I have real programming tasks to work on, I'll pull through and gain some confidence.  I wanted to learn something new at this one anyway, right? 

Worse case, this is just my next job.  More experience.  More money in the bank. 

Fun tidbits of the day:
* my office is on the top floor of a tall building in the Howard Hughes Center across from the Promenade, which means lots of food choices for lunch and shopping after work
* Rubio's has Vanilla Coke!  That makes me miss Chano's and it's Cherry Coke.  Maybe after a night of drinking Downtown?
* I paid for parking with a check.  How can a strip mall parking garage not accept credit cards??
* I managed to drive to and from work at times when the 405 was NOT at a standstill!  Unfortunately, many drivers have PTS and see traffic ghosts and slow down despite all the ample freeway space. 
* I cannot wait until the leasing office gets its act together so I can have a gated parking spot, because I cannot take too many more experiences parallel parking in really tiny spots on a hill while cars honk furiously at me because they are angry to be living terrible lives in LA

Here's to tomorrow.  And the day after that. 

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Goodbye, Mountain View

Well, just about everything I own is packed up in this shoddy rental truck, and I get to watch it barreling down 360 miles of freeway with my boyfriend behind the wheel as I follow in my car filled up with the rest of everything I own. 

Goodbye, Mountain View. Try not to miss me too much.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

(LA) Summer Kickoff

While this weekend's festivities were scheduled around my boyfriend's friend visiting, I internally felt like it was a celebration of me officially moving down.

I spent two days furiously apartment hunting with the frustration of finding one all by myself but knowing it had to also be good enough for my boyfriend to move into, since he got a short-term lease anticipating my near-future move.  I can't even feel frustrated over that "wasted time" because my weekend was that good.  It started with an old computer science friend advising me that it will be better to just suck it up and squeeze into my boyfriend's studio with him for the remaining 4 months of his lease instead of paying far too much for a mediocre apartment.

A large part of my aversion to this outcome was that I would have to leave my cats with his mom, who lives in the middle of a mountainous forest, and I worry they will get lost and die, but my friend told me to stop being such a worried parent.  I also think perhaps that I was determined to be more in control of this move, not just moving away with my boyfriend.  Another part of it was probably feeling like this apartment is more his than mine, which for the last year at my Mountain View apartment made me feel less entitled to space and decisions (like "no shoes inside" and "we're keeping 3 mountain bikes in the living room" and "sorry there's only one towel rack in the bathroom" and "good luck fitting your food anywhere because we like to have large quantities of chilled beer"), but I've been here for 3 weeks and I feel comfortable enough.  Plus I think as the girl and with my culinary contributions that I will have some leverage.

So I decided to move in with my boyfriend!  How crazy is that??  I've started a list of what all I need to bring down instead of putting into storage, and in place of more apartment hunting, I spent Friday with my boyfriend's visiting friend -- got my iPhone 3G replaced for being defective, was treated to lunch, and watched Salt at The Grove -- and it was glorious.  I suppose I was kind of stressing out over the resignation letter I had drafted that day, but after I sent it later that afternoon, not even it could ruin the weekend.

The weekend was pretty ordinary, all thing considered.  We went out to a really trendy (but expensively delicious) Korean BBQ place in Culver City (where we technically live) for dinner and went barhopping in the area, topping off the night with pomegranate hookah.

Saturday I had the awesome idea to preface a night of drinking downtown with a BBQ:

Most of the guests were my boyfriend's friends (though I have come to know them pretty well, and one of them I knew before I even met my boyfriend), but when setting out the platter of pre-skewered vegetables, I remembered this was my future (even if only briefly) home, and I was a co-host of the summer BBQ shindig.

It was a casual gathering that ended with drinks by the pool, and utterly delicious.  I can't wait to do it again.

So here's to more awesome summer activities with my boyfriend (though the summer is already half over...why did it take so long to warm up?!), and then a cozy fall in this tiny studio, and then many more in the life that follows.

Welcome to LA.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Waiting for Life to Begin

So I'm moving back to Los Angeles. Like an adult, not with an expiration date. It's still sinking in.

I am both terribly off-put by the idea and incredibly excited.

On the one hand, LA is a dirty, crowded, expensive, depressing, soul-crushing city.
On the other, I started a life here in college and haven't felt much like I've been living my own life ever since I left; I have felt it put on hold, like I'm waiting for something.

I keep getting caught up in "this is just a transition" thoughts, which in some ways is true.  I keep thinking this is just a dress rehearsal, that life hasn't really begun, so keep on twiddling your thumbs waiting for the next round of musical chairs. 

We're always waiting for our lives to begin, figuring we'll be someone else some day. But all we have is now.

live your life now.

Friday, July 16, 2010


I just saw Inception.  It was pretty awesome. The fact that I say that when I spent the last hour of the movie squirming in bladder-ful pain means it was a great movie. Damn you, large Icee, and your 50-cent upgrade from regular size!

I've always been a dream person, though. I find dreams and the subconscious extremely fascinating, and am constantly inspired by my own.  I really should be better about writing them down when I wake up, because sometimes I remember having an epic dream the night before -- one that, upon waking, inspires me to write a book or game about it -- but lose the really special details of it by the time I sit down with time to write about it.

~ Spoilers (kind plot spoilers)! ~

I think Inception did a great job capturing the experience of the dreamer, while also making it an action movie. It was like Ocean's Eleven but for dreams/thoughts instead of Vegas/money.

In the movie, they called it "the kick" but I've always called it "falling awake". Everyone knows what I'm talking about, and I'm so happy they used that experience in the movie. Actually, I guess they twisted it to be more about actually falling and that waking you up. The phenomenon I am talking about is when you are asleep and feel like you are falling and wake up with a jolt in bed, obviously in no actual danger of falling.

I also thought they did a great job taking advantage of the fact that when you are asleep/dreaming, time moves slower in the dream than in real life. The first time I realized this was when I was about 5 years old and still sleeping in my parents' bed on occasion. My mom got up and said she'd wake me up when she was done with her shower, and I swore I was asleep for an hour. Inception uses this concept to build levels of induced dreaming such that at each level, more time passes in the dream than in the level above, making it possible to accomplish a whole lot in the space of a nap or single night of sleep. In effect, if the dream-inducing concept in the movie were possible, it would solve the problem of not having enough time in a day. Obviously it wouldn't provide more time to do physical things. What it would be useful for is to spend time in your mind thinking about problems or decisions, or if you architected it properly (the materials available in the dream), you could study!  That's the nerd in me speaking, because I wish I had enough time in my life to learn any number of new skills and languages.

Since the dreams can be shared, I imagine the social potential.  Second Life is a virtual world where people can meet up with their avatars to watch movies together, or meet with an online class or community.  In the movie, all the dream participants had to be in close proximity, so distant network dreaming wouldn't necessarily be possible (or would it?), but I can imagine a lot of fun being had with a group of friends sleeping for a few hours and (safely) traveling a foreign city or an amusement park together, or a couple getting together for a fancy date without even leaving home. Anyone see the movie Date Night? Imagine a married couple taking a 20 minute nape together and being able to go on a dream date in that time? The possibilities would be as limitless as the human mind.

People always tell me that I am strange to be able to remember my dreams with such detail, but really it's only the ones that mean something to me at the time that I particularly hold onto, kind of like memories from before the age of 5 -- you only really hold onto the extra memorable ones. Well I have had a lot of dreams in my life that I wish so hard that I could go back to. The dream-inducing in this movie makes that possible: you architect a dream that, coupled with the time-lengthening property of dreams, enables you to live for many hours or longer -- even years -- in an alternate reality that you can create yourself, without losing hardly any time in the real world. In the movie, this is recognized as a drug, and I am glad it did not overlook that potential. What is truly amazing about it is your body does not age in the real world, only your mind. The downside? You lose your natural ability to dream on your own. That would be a travesty. As great as it would be to invent my own dream worlds to escape to, I would despair at losing the incredibly things my subconscious completely invents on its own, the ones that still surprise and inspire me.

take time to dream.

p.s. I went to Borders after the movie, and couldn't stop myself.  It's been a little over a year since my mom closed her bookstore, the one I grew up in (when I was ~4, I even picked out which bookshelf in the layout would be the children's section), and I realized how much I miss it. Borders was competition for my mom's tiny independent shop in downtown Willow Glen, but the selection is marvelous, and I had to stop myself from spending the entire afternoon browsing.  When I have a house some day, I will have so many bookshelves full of books because I seriously want every one (and have no time to read them)!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

This is why I never get a good night's sleep.

Dear dude who lives above the boyfriend,

Why must you leave your A/C on allllllll night?  I mean that's when it's nice outside and opening the windows cools things off without sapping the energy grid. Seriously, though, your A/C drips asynchronously on the boyfriend's A/C (which is a lot louder than it sounds), right next to the bed, and keeps me awake. Not appreciated. Also, you don't sound as awesome as you think you do on your bass --> turn your amp down. I like to sleep in and/or hear the TV. Where do you get off coming down here right after the boyfriend moved in to be all, "why do I hear thump thump thump at 3am?" when you stomp around like you're Roosevelt or something? We try to keep the volume down on the TV but you're not making it so easy.




Dear gardeners,

Why must you use machinery to cut greenery every weekday morning at like 8am? Are you completely opposed to anyone in the apartment complex sleeping in? Maybe you should sleep in longer before coming to work. That would make everyone happier and well rested!




Dear toddler that lives in the bedroom below my Mountain View apartment,

What's with the morning tantrums? I get it, you're angry about being so tiny and futile in the rebellion against your British mum and her insistence that you wear hellish clothing, but repeatedly slamming your closet door doesn't really solve anything, plus it wakes me up earlier than I want to be. Believe me, I've been there, but all tantrums do is frustrate the people around you and force them to plot your "accidental" death that much more earnestly.




Dear early-rising roommate,

I have the "Stuff White People Like" daily calendar so I know you like to wake up with the sun and seize the day and everything, but must you do it with such vigor? The kitchen cupboards with which my bedroom shares a wall will close just as well with a gentle closing motion as they do with an enthusiastic slam. Also, if you are going to spend half an hour before work making an extravagant breakfast, make me some, too, will you? I was totally awake anyway.




Dear everyone in my building,

Isn't slamming doors a little juvenile? I suppose I'm all for it if you're 16 years old and just said something really angsty and need to make a dramatic exit, but I find it hard to believe that this is the case for so many apartments so many times in the day. Perhaps I should slam my front door more often to demonstrate how violently it shakes the entire building. Not cool.




Dear Sara,

Why do you even bother living in apartments? All the people who live in apartment buildings are CRAZY! And loud. And rude. Work on making enough money to buy a freaking house already. It would do us both a favor.



Wednesday, July 14, 2010

So this is the real world?

I'm about 1/3 of the way through my 4-week "personal leave"/job hunt in LA. So far I've applied to plenty of jobs which I may or may not be qualified for, had 1 final-round interview (which I think went well, but it's hard to say, really), revamped my website when I ran out of jobs to apply to, and endlessly slipped into a state of despair as I questioned this life I'm living.

I really do enjoy programming, but I've come to realize how much really boring programming there is out there. I see openings for jobs I really want, but I'm not nearly qualified enough for them to be considered over hundreds of professionals who are far more experienced in those areas. I wonder if I just failed miserably at taking the right classes in college, or if I simply graduated at the wrong time.

Finding a great job is difficult!

Ideally I want to work on some kind of user interface, a website or tool or game that I might actually use or at least show off to my friends and family because I am proud of it. I want to work at a small company with that innovative and passionate start-up-y feel but without the fear of going belly-up. I want stability without that corporate bureaucracy.

Companies like that either aren't hiring, or are only hiring people who are already proven awesome at it (published game titles, online portfolios, 5+ years post-grad experience). Has it always been that way, or is that just a sign of the shitty economy? Is it always going to be that way, or do I just have to suffer through a few years/jobs I feel meh about until the economy improves and thus the need for developers in more interesting fields is great enough that they'd take someone like me, someone who knows some, has dabbled in such things either briefly in college or here and there as a hobby but reallllllllllly wants the opportunity to further develop professionally if only someone would give her the chance.

More and more I really want to be involved in video game (or at least the entertainment sector) development. I had a shot in college to switch from Computer Engineering & Computer Science to Computer Science Games, but decided not to because I wanted to leave my options open, to not be too specialized. While I like not being locked into a niche field, I am kicking myself for not at least making an effort in college to break into that industry that is so incredibly difficult to enter.

I guess I'm fearing a future of the daily grind, showing up to a job I don't particularly like because I'm not particularly enjoying what I'm doing or particularly proud of what I'm/we're producing, just to pay the bills.

I know what I want to do, I just wish I knew a more possible way to get Can't everyone else want something else so I'm the only one who wants to do that so they'll hire me?!

Dear Economy,

Please improve super duper fast so I can have a better perspective of my life and the future and whether or not to regret what I'm doing with it.




Well, I apparently kicked enough ass on Monday at my interview, because they emailed me an offer letter a little while ago. It's a little less money than I make now, but they have stock options and match contributions to an IRA account, and "more money" isn't really my biggest selling point at this time in my life. I have 1 week to decide.

I'm incredibly jazzed that I have a ticket to moving back down here, now. But I'm scared.

I'm scared of letting people down -- my old company/co-workers, my parents (who don't want me to move away from them again, and who partially think it's a bad career move), and myself if this doesn't turn out well.

I'm scared that this won't be the job I want it to be. But I have to realize that I am only 22 years old, and I will have many jobs in my life and may not find *the* job for a while. A job is what I do 8 hours a day 5 days a week, not everything I do or everything I am.

I'm scared because it means I'm moving again. I know, this is what I want -- the biggest reason for me taking this unpaid time off work to job hunt down here was because I want to move back down here! But I always get nervous about big change, and I know this about myself.

I can finally drink that bottle of champagne I bought months ago for celebrating a new job in LA.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Que Sara!

I spent a few days revamping my website so it didn't look quite so lame. Check it out!

If you click on that pen on the home page, you can go to the bulletin board and leave me a note!

The custom fonts are a bit unpredictable. They all show up on my and the boyfriend's computers, but don't on some others. Let me know which render and which done, and which browser (Firefox, Chrome, etc.) you are using along with the version number. 

I finally got the mechanism for the recipe page, but I still have to create the recipe files for it to parse. I'll take care of that starting probably Tuesday. I have an interview tomorrow afternoon and will probably want to play afterward.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

LA LA Living

So in an attempt to fix my life, I took 4 weeks off of work to go to LA to find a new job down here.

Last week felt like the final week of school before summer vacation. Work dragged on and on!  Not having enough work to do was part of the problem, but also because I could_not_wait to live with Kevin for a whole month.

My vacation started off pretty awesomely. The boyfriend came up with a friend, and we went to a 21st birthday party like we were still in college or something, and then went to the county fair for 4th of July festivities and fireworks.

Then I packed up all my worldly possessions and drove until I reached Culver City and found a parking spot.

I got a really nasty sore throat over the weekend so the first few days were pretty tame. I slept in pretty late, justified by the idea that sleep helps you get well faster. I even went grocery shopping at Trader Joe's and watched One Tree Hill on the soap network while making dinner for the boyfriend before he came home. I felt like a real housewife! Only content with that status. Maybe they all start out that way.

Then I got down to business and applied to hella jobs. I even passed the phone screen and have an interview on Monday! How awesome am I??

Overall, it's summer time and the living's easy.

It's definitely difficult to get down to business. I made a daily schedule for myself to keep me on track and productive, but so far I have not succeeded in meeting said schedule. But honestly, things keep getting in the way. Like being sick. And the first day I didn't have a desk yet to set up my computer, and the boyfriend's computer like committed suicide while I was doing the dishes. And the gym is closed for painting. And the boyfriend gave me a puzzle ring for our anniversary and I took it apart too quickly and I spent like 2 hours trying to put it back together but failed, and it's the one puzzle ring that doesn't have good instructions or a video of any kind, which makes me sad because I never got to wear it. 

Being an adult is difficult when it's summer and you don't have to get dressed and go to work and and there's a pool in the courtyard (not that I've used it yet) and there's lots of delicious food to cook and eat.

Tomorrow I'll get up earlier and get down to business faster.  Maybe.  If I get my coffee maker working.

Overall, though, I'm excited. Because I'm taking the first big step to making my life happier, like a real goddamn adult.

I'll keep you updated.


p.s. I made my puff pastry recipe for ICBC, but it failed miserably (read: the puff pastry refused to stay whole and leaked a flood of brie cheese everywhere, which burned in the pan. It was still tasty, but it wasn't beautiful or photogenic in any way. I'll try it again -- or a different recipe entirely -- and post a recipe + picture if that one turns out better.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Let Me Down

I live in a constant struggle between doing what will make me happy and doing what will let the fewest people down.

Today that conflict is swimming around in my head.

As mentioned before, I am at a crossroads.  After this holiday weekend, I am going back down to LA for a four-week unpaid vacation ("personal leave") in hopes of a more successful job hunt as a local.  This is the bit that will make me happy.

I feel the excitement of a schoolgirl during the last week of classes before summer break! I get to live with the boyfriend for a month, which I haven't gotten to do for a significant length of time since his winter break, and before that, last summer. Nevertheless, long distance has not degraded our relationship too much -- we see each other almost every weekend and talk every day; he is my best friend. I also get to visit several friends I left behind after graduating college. Beyond that, I have planned a daily schedule for while he is at work, to include three hours of job applications, a mid-day break for lunch, tanning, and exercise, and three hours of skill development (Actionscript/Flash, web technologies, and spiffing up my website -- I'll post a link when it's more something to be proud of). If I am awesome enough to overcome the 12% unemployment in LA, I will finish the four weeks with a new job to replace my current one, which I am not crazy about. 

Sounds like a good deal, right? So why do I feel uneasy about it?

When I first started casually searching for jobs a few months ago, I felt guilty about the prospect of abandoning my team before the customer demo.  Well today was our last team meeting before the demo, when we all get split up to do other things because our project is being shelved indefinitely (until Customers show interest and sign a contract to give us more funding) -- hence the perfect timing for my four-week leave, approved by the supervisor lining up my next project upon my return.

I'm not abandoning my team, so what's the problem?

Also for the last few months, I have been putting off submitting my paperwork to initiate the investigation for my security clearance required to really get involved in the projects at my company.  Well while discussing my next project with my supervisor, she asked if my investigation was started. Fearful for getting in trouble (in case I can't get a job in four weeks and find myself dejectedly returning in August), I finished updating my paperwork and turned it in. Today, I signed it and showed up for fingerprinting.

Now, the reason I was putting off submitting my paperwork is twofold.

(1) I feel an immense anxiousness over the idea of the government investigating my entire life (I'm sure they'll find and read this at some point), digging me out of my pseudo-anonymity in the world.  A polygraph? Not jazzed about that. Being required to ask the government's position before publishing anything or leaving the country? A security clearance sounds a lot like signing my life over like a goddamn soldier.

(2) The cost of one of these top secret security clearance investigations? I've heard it's something in the ballpark of 10-grand. Now, I'd imagine that if my company invested in such an expensive undertaking, they wouldn't be too happy about me jumping ship before returning anything on that investment.

I do not like to burn bridges.

I suppose resigning a mere few weeks after the initiation would probably save a lot more resources than if I were to do so several months in to the process, or shortly after my clearance goes through. But I can't imagine I'd leave a good impression by disappearing suddenly in the middle of a "personal leave" that started immediately after finally submitting my paperwork months after my security officer started hounding me about it.

Seriously? I am feeling guilty about trying to get out of something I never wanted in the first place?

As I said, today was the last team meeting. My team lead came to my office afterward to praise my hard work over these last 10 months. He said that I did an "exceptional job, especially for someone with your experience level" and that it "was a real pleasure having you on the team."

Well now who feels like a real asshole for secretly trying to get away?

I am trying to tell myself that the timing is right, if I really get to find what I am looking for in LA, that I worked really hard and left a good impression on my team, that I am not abandoning anyone, but I still can't shake the unease that I am burning bridges with the company.

But why should I give a damn? I don't want to work there in the future, do I? All I should care about are my team members who can act as references down the road. And leaving is a move in the direction of shaping my life to be the way I want it to be.

live your life the way that will make you the most happy, regardless of the heaviest conflicting expectations.

I'll let you know when I figure out an easy way to do that.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Imaginary Catastrophe

Frequently throughout the day, usually when doing something idle when I am given ample opportunity for thought -- in the shower, waiting at a stop light, while doing chores -- I find myself imagining hypothetical scenarios and/or conversations that could possible happen based on the outcome of one small thing. 

I've asked others before and know I am not alone in sitting at the front of a traffic light and imagining what would happen if I just accelerated into cross-traffic.  Or what would happen if I didn't react quickly enough when someone cuts me off.

I tell the boyfriend all the time that I'm pseudo-psychic, one manifestation being that I get feelings about other cars, like, "that guy is totally going to change lanes right into me any second now" with no obvious evidence, and so I am on my guard for it to happen and then it does and I react!  Whether that reaction involves scoping out my "outs" to other lanes/shoulder, or breaking hard enough quickly enough, all with a nice loud blare on my horn.

But that's the off case where these imaginings actually happen.  I also imagine how I'd react in a real car crash -- cover my face/head? Swerve the right way to avoid hitting more stuff/falling off a cliff? Sometimes I even grab my phone and sit on it so it can't go flying in a crash and I can call for help if I need to. Yeah, I'm a little paranoid, but at least I'm prepared.

Ever imagine what you'd do in a crazy emergency, like the building is suddenly engulfed in flames? Or war suddenly finds your peaceful city and you are caught in a bombing? More than once it's involved carrying a stranded child, or wondering if I could actually carry my significant other any great distance in an emergency with the help of adrenaline. I've even struggled with the fact that I have no idea what I'd do with my cats! In a crisis, cats do not sit and wait for help -- they freak the fuck out and get the fuck out of there, using your face as a launchpad if necessary.

Once a few years ago, the fire alarm in my apartment building went off while I was napping (possibly dreaming some kind of "escape from the bad guys!" scenario), and so the shock of the alarm mixed with partial dream-state meant I jumped out of bed, threw on clothes, gathered my necessities (purse with keys and phone and wallet, backpack with computer), and then snatched up my two kittens into their carriers prepared to shove them into the car and flee for safety. Man did I look like an idiot when I rushed out into the courtyard (my roommate was at class or work or something, or maybe she slept through the alarm in her own room) with backpack, purse, and two cat carriers in tow, and was not immediately met by other fleeing residents, nor facing a life-threatening inferno.  I stood there, trying to let my brain readjust from panic mode to "you're awake and life is not that exciting, dumbass" mode. The alarm was still blaring, and one guy came out into the courtyard, probably to see why the alarm was still on (college immunizes you to fire alarms after just so many nights of pranks in the freshman dorms), and I think I asked him what was going on. He shrugged and went back into his apartment. I face-palmed, let my cats back out, and regretted getting so worked up because I'd never get back to sleep.

Maybe I just have an overactive imagination. I did spend most of my childhood playing pretend all by myself.  Frequently toys were involved, but when it was nice enough to go outside, climbable trees would become fortresses, the shadowy deep end of the pool would become a mermaid cave, and ordinary objects would become extraordinary.

Or perhaps I just need more human interaction in my day.

Or perhaps I just worry far too much about things I really don't need to.

When I say "perhaps," I mean definitely. I know that ever since I moved here, away from college to my adult job, I am incredibly lonely and aching for more social interaction, and people tell me all the time that I worry far too much.

I think I just prefer to be prepared for the worst.  I mean, do you have a plan for the zombie apocalypse or otherwise end of the civilized world??

That goes for awkward situations, too.  I always practice potential conversations in my head.  Lots of people do that, right?  Like how to ask out that cute girl or cool guy, or a good come back. I just guess the probably don't continue these theorized conversations as far as I do.

I am a very non-confrontational person.  I avoid conflict.  I like to pacify arguments.  I really don't like to sweat the small stuff when it requires an awkward conversation with someone. But sometimes you need to deal with confrontation; sometimes you need to stand up for yourself.  So if you're like me, you imagine how the confrontation will go, and play out the conversation in your head -- what you'll say, what they'll say, your come back, etc., in such a way that you're bound to come out a winner and look good! That's reasonable, right?

Where it goes off in left field is that I always imagine the conversation going the worst possible way -- people get offended, or angry, or the truth they have to offer is terrible like they killed your pet or gave away your favorite bag or think you're ugly or don't actually love you -- and sometimes end up emotionally distraught over this conversation that never even happened!

Like have you ever had a dream where your significant other cheated on you? Or your best friend tried to kill you? Or you got in a giant fight with your roommate? And then you wake up and the dream impacted you emotionally deep enough that you carry it around with you all day, and you feel distant/angry/hurt towards that person even though they didn't really do those things? It's like that, only instead of a dream, it was a fictional conversation in my head that I had complete control over.

I must be a masochist.

Really, I just want to be emotionally prepared for the worst, which is a great idea in theory, except very rarely do conversations and situations actually turn out as bad as I scripted, so I went through that emotional distress for nothing.

I will probably gray at 25 and die of a heart attack at 40. Why do I do these things to myself?

This habit also takes the useful form of weaving complex, detailed, and legitimate excuses. Because I absolutely hate to lie, and feel really uncomfortable doing so even to mostly-strangers, I feel the need to develop excuses based at least partially on reality, and this makes them very strong and believable.  In fact, I get so stressed out over having to lie, I rehearse the conversation in my head -- complete with responses to their potential questions -- so much and with so many, "well that's practically true" self-reassurances that I almost convince myself I'm not really lying, and try not to feel as guilty. Frequently, however, I don't even get asked or need to give my neatly ironed-out excuses (apparently fewer people actually give a shit that I am missing their party or calling in sick to work than my guilty conscience expects), and I end up disappointed that I never got to use them.  I feel like the understudy in a play who never got to perform.

practice and preparation (in moderation).

(Or you'll end up a crazy like me.)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Caffeine: Alternative Fuel?

When I first started my job, I struggled so hard with the whole routine of going to bed before 2am and getting up when other productive members of society get up and working for 8-9 hours confined to my desk in a windowless room with an officemate who would rather die than be my friend.  This meant that staying awake at my desk was a real challenge.

For as much as I love sleep, I rarely seem to get enough of it. 

When I was in college, coffee was my savior. I was constantly staying up all night to get my work done, rushing from class to work to class to work to group project meeting to fast-food-dinner to home for more homework and studying. I'd make up for it by sleeping all weekend instead of being involved in clubs or doing something meaningful with my time like all those crazy student government overachiever types. I wouldn't have survived if I didn't have easy access to caffeine.

Starbucks was brewed all over campus to grab between classes along with some unhealthy snack or a meager meal. I was never a fan of the taste of energy drinks, but that changed Junior year when I was introduced to Rockstar Juiced to power me through long nights. A team member during the summer I took CS402: Operating Systems (aka summer of all-nighters) introduced me to McDonald's iced coffee one teasingly sunny summer afternoon when we had to meet to make a single-threaded OS into a multi-threaded OS instead of going to the beach or something equally fun. Finally, the last two years of college, I became dependent on the free gourmet coffee machines at my part-time job, which were available to me 24/7. 

The result? I came to my first day of my big girl job expecting Flavia and ended up breaking my "don't waste food" rule by pouring out the complimentary crappy coffee my work establishment offers in the ill-equipped break room. Coffee in bulk? Understandable. Generic office-brand powered creamer?? Gag me! Seriously, though, they sell bulk packages of individual creamers for pretty cheap at Smart & Final. They didn't even have real sugar, just the artificial stuff that just doesn't taste right (at least if you're not addicted to Diet Coke, I suppose). How would I survive?? I acquired the boyfriend's crumby coffee maker so I could be one of those people who jump-starts their day with a good ol' cup o' joe!

At first, it was great. The smell of the Kona brewing made me feel like a responsible adult as I got ready for work, the sunrise pouring in my east-facing bedroom window. This was back before I gradually arrived at work 10-15 later and later over time (I now arrive 1.5 hours later than I did on my first day of work...but my officemate still comes in 1 hour after I do!), and when the days were short in fall/winter so the sun wasn't waking me (and my attention-seeking cat, Toby) up at 5am. I was also still putting some effort into semi-professional dress because my officemate dressed like an Express mannequin every day. At that point, I was determined to embrace working adult life and try my hardest to like the job that wasn't living up to my expectations, one which I now despise so much that I have run out of sick days. Basically, this was before I realized I am not really cut out for society's ideal of productive and successful working adult. But coffee made mornings that much more bearable.

So why did I stop drinking coffee in the morning?

First of all, I have trouble sleeping. As someone who cherishes sleep, this is a problem for me. I didn't think one cup of coffee in the morning would really affect my sleep, but I read somewhere that it is possible.  The boyfriend also got me on a tea drinking craze.  So the crusty coffee maker got put away in favor of counter space in the tiny kitchen shared by four, I bought a pack of tea bags for the loose-leaf boyfriend got me, and I became a "tea drinker".

I think I also made a bigger effort to go to bed earlier (before midnight), so at first I think I believed tea was a valid replacement and that I didn't need coffee. I was still exhausted from lack of sleep, but I blamed this on my two roommate's opposite schedules -- one would shower at 1am, and the other would be up making breakfast at 8am -- and because I am the lightest sleeper ever, every noise interrupts my rest.  Bedroom doors opening and closing, kitchen cupboards slamming, pots and silverware clanking -- it all added up to Sara not getting enough sleep.

I even tried napping when I got home from work, but that was a failure. First of all, my brain still thinks it is normal or at least preferable to stay up late and sleep in till lunch, so my peek energy time is late afternoon and early evening. Secondly, I live with three other people who all have far more motivation to be productive beyond quittin' time. This takes the form of various active sports or work outs, noisy cleaning and vacuuming, and kitchen-hoggingly-involved dinner preparations (to the effect of me giving up on cooking very much until I get my own place again, because it is so hard to predict their cook-offs and to schedule my meal preparation around theirs), and since I share my bedroom wall with the kitchen, sleep cannot be had at any time food might possibly be prepared.

To be honest, I think I gave up on sleep. My body even seems to be used to a meager 7 hours of sleep (to those of you who say 7 hours is perfectly normal, you are talking to someone who has a rule of 9-10 hours is enough sleep, despite frequently running on only a few hours during the week in college). On weekends, despite staying up until 3 or 4am with the boyfriend, I still naturally wake up at my weekday time (then force myself back to sleep until 1pm, but usually frequently waking because my body is confused at the spoiling).

In fact, my morning exhaustion can probably just be attributed to dislike for the purpose of getting out of bed: my job. There was a stretch when I'd wake up naturally earlier than my alarm (like, at the time I originally would arrive at work) but bury my head in pillows and force/pretend snooze until my alarm went off, when I really have to get up and go to work.

Even after giving up coffee -- and really, for weeks now, tea as well -- I have trouble sleeping. When do I sleep the best? When I deprive myself, stay up way too late, and go to bed really tired with not enough sleep time available, that's when. Not getting enough sleep, and thus really needing sleep, is the only way I've been able to reliably fall and stay asleep, so I don't think morning coffee is really the problem.

I came to this realization this morning when I caved and drank the crappy office coffee and it significantly improved my alertness. The cause? My iPhone decided yesterday to commit suicide rather than upgrade and iTunes was no help, thus keeping me up until past 3am last night resuscitating my lifeline. I love my phone, but more than that, it's my alarm clock.

While the office coffee sucked pretty hard core (drinking Kona has spoiled me, I still refuse to use powdered creamer, and Splenda really tastes disgusting), I've decided that giving the morning-coffee-drinker thing another try is a good next move.

Seriously, caffeine gives you super powers.  No wonder it's addictive! I drink it and immediately am brimming with energy and potential productivity. All those mundane tasks that I was too apathetic to bother with before are now puny and begging to be conquered.

drink coffee in the morning.

Also: invest in teeth-whitening gum.

Honestly, if coffee gives people this much energy and potential, why hasn't it been considered yet as an alternative fuel? Perhaps I should dedicate my life to making that happen so I can win a Nobel Prize and retire early. Who's the successful adult, then, bitches?!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Crazy Cat Lady Entertains Bored Children

Today I realized it is not so shameful to be a crazy cat lady anymore. At least it's not if you're awesome like I am. 

The last couple weeks, these cute little Asian kids who I assume live somewhere in my apartment complex have been hanging out near my apartment.  I can't decide if they just moved in and that's why they suddenly appeared, or if school recently let out for them and they have working parents and no nanny.  Really, they seriously just hang around outside by themselves all the time. 

I just thought about what I just said, and realized that really shouldn't matter.  When I grew up, I spent many summers home alone entertaining myself.  I befriended every neighbor!  If the boys ~my age who lived next-door couldn't come out and play, I'd ride my bike around the block, butting myself into my neighbors -- pleasantly gardening by themselves -- without a hint of shyness or shame. I really do wonder where that adventurousness went, actually; I guess I hit puberty and became aware of embarrassment.  And yet, today is is a suburban crime to let your kids wander unsupervised, because apparently it's unavoidable to raise them to be too stupid to avoid kidnap.

Anyway, one day I was home for lunch and heard a knock on my door.  I was expecting an important phone call for the dream job I ended up being turned down for, so I ignored it (a package, maybe?).  The knocking persisted.  I answered, and these two adorable but quiet Asian kids were there.  "I think he wants inside," they said, as the elderly Cisco crept in between my legs.  "Thank you..." *awkward silence* and I closed the door.

Perhaps a few days later, I came home from work and they were both sitting at the bottom of the stairs that lead to my front door, petting Toby.  I smiled at them and said, "his name is Toby." "You have two cats?" the older girl asked.  I paused, not wanting to admit that I actually have 3 at the moment (because while two is normal, three is borderline crazy), and said yes.

A note on my quantity of cats, before you go, "Whoa there, you have 3 freaking cats?? No wonder you have a blog, you must have no freaking friends!" Sophomore year of college, I had a roommate who turned out to be batshit insane (never get roommates from "I need a place to live" ads, folks, they are bad news bears). Anyway, our apartment complex allowed pet cats, and this girl one day suggested that we get a cat.  I grew up with pet cats, which I adored, and in a sense became a "cat person", even though I really wanted a doggie but my dad hates dogs because his pet dog bit him or something when he was a kid, so my 10-year-old heart was broken when my daddy told me I couldn't have the lovable cocker-spaniel-beagle mutt I fell in love with at the Humane Society and had already named Spunky. Anyway, I naturally agreed that we should get a pet cat. The first indication that she was batshit insane and I should have realized it was a bad idea to get a cat with her was when she said that I would have to feed it and clean up after it and her parents couldn't know because they were overbearing Indians who didn't know their daughter had a boyfriend let alone spent most nights with him (boy do I have good crazy roommate stories to share at some point) and wouldn't approve of a cat, especially because her mom had a cocker spaniel that owed their house.

At the shelter with my super-cat-person boyfriend at the time, the attendants tried to pawn off entire litters of cats on me.  I went to school in a rather stabby neighborhood, so this was a pretty low-income shelter that frequently took in abundant urban strays.  I felt extremely guilty, but knew I wanted a kitten with a reasonably clean slate.  As much as I wanted to get a female cat this time around (my parents always got boy cats), I found myself choosing between two tabby kittens that were very playful.  A random black kitten that obviously did not belong with the 8 tabbies with which it shared its cage suddenly leaped and clung to the cage bars.  He had a personality! When he started playing with and grooming one of the two tabbies I had already been considering, I asked my boyfriend if it was a bad idea to get two cats.  He said that his parents had two cats at home, and it helped them be less lonely when no one was home because they'd always have a playmate.  So I decided to get two kittens.

Now, I love my cats.  They have great personalities and my college neighbors have always adored them (especially because my cats tended to assume that any open door or window [awesome story for another time] equaled and extension of their home territory).  They are very affectionate -- though my current boyfriend insists that female cats are so much more affectionate, because his late kitty was quite the lap cat -- and assumed the role of TV substitute for my roommate (not the batshit insane girl above) and myself the two weeks before our satellite was functional (I promise to post pictures of the castle we made for them out of boxes one drunken/bored night; a full "this is why my cats are awesome" post is on my list), that's how entertaining they can be to play with.  The problem I did not consider when I made the decision to adopt them when I was 19 and in a shithole college apartment was that not every apartment allows pets, and if so, it's guaranteed more expensive.  This didn't matter too much to me until now when I'm wishing I can quit my job and couch surf until I find a new one in LA.  No, for the next 15 years of my life, I have to consider a living arrangement suitable for my energetic feline companions.  Kind of like children that never grow up.  But I love them anyway!

"Wait," you say, "I thought you said you had three cats?"

After graduating college last year, I made sure I got an apartment that allowed cats.  My parents jumped on this opportunity to tell me to take Cisco off their hands.  When I had left for college, I left my cat, Cisco, behind.  In those four years, he more or less became my mom's cat.  From her influence, he started acting more his age, and in my absence, became a grouch. But my mom had a lung disease + infection that was killing her and couldn't breathe his never-ending supply of shed any longer.  So I begrudgingly took Cisco off her hands, knowing he would reject moving to a tiny apartment after living in a big house and yard for 12 years, and that the addition of Cisco would put me at three cats and thus pretty much a crazy cat lady.

While that was a lengthy tangent, it was necessary back story, if only to save my dignity.  Now, back to the adorable Asian neighbor kids.

A week or two ago when I was home sick, I took out the trash and they were petting Cisco at the bottom of the stairs.  I could see they would be regulars, so I told them his name was Cisco.  "Oh."  Clearly they were still shy.  Maybe their mommy told them strangers would kidnap them if they were chatty.  So I went back inside.

The other day, I came home and they were again playing with Cisco on the stairs.  As I approached, the younger boy exclaimed, "Cisco!" quite adorably and pointed.  I was amused, and encouraged that they were speaking.  I asked them, "what's up?" and the girl said, "He's been outside for about 5 hours." I was starting to like the little boy better, but I know she wasn't trying to be rude.  I laughed and asked if he was okay, and she said, "No." I was like, "what?" and she said, "I think he wants food." Cisco led me up the stairs and I said, "Okay well I'll go feed him now. Thanks for taking care of him for me!"

I told the boyfriend about the latest development with the adorable Asian kids, and he said I should have kidnapped them.  You see, that's why children can't befriend their neighbors!  Actually, I blame that website that lets you see where all the pedophiles live nearby.

Earlier this week I noticed them with a random white lady, who had been walking her dog and was letting them pet said pup.  Another day I saw them in the grass, presumably looking for bugs to collect and keep as pets (okay, I totally collected rollie pollies and caterpillars and fireflies and snails when I was a kid and kept them in jars or measuring cups or toy saucepans sealed in plastic bags, until I learned living things need air or they die), and it became clear to me these kids are just bored.  Clearly their parents don't subscribe to cable and haven't yet caved and bought them a Wii.

Today when I came home from work, they were playing with a little Latina girl who was apparently also bored but had a beach ball to play with and thus was their instant friend for providing entertainment.  This girl approached and cut me off on the walkway around the grass, and asked, "Can Toby come out and play?"  I was tickled.  This was a blast from my childhood when I'd ask Lisa next-door if the boys could come out and play (and they really delivered the entertainment -- chalk, Legos, MicroMachines, and bikes).  I laughed and said, "Sure, if he wants to go outside, he can come out."  The younger boy followed me to the stairs and, fearful he'd follow me inside if I let him, I turned to him and said I'd let Toby outside, why doesn't he wait right there.  As I went upstairs, he called to the girls, "You guys! Toby's coming out!" I couldn't hold in the laughter and chased Toby down and shoved him outside, intent to please these adorable children.

Of course, they squealed with excitement and minutes later, my roommate let a frantic Toby back inside.

The moral of the story is: if you want to be a crazy cat lady, you can still make friends, as long as you don't mind that they are small children and that they use you for your cats' entertainment value.

get a pet to help you make friends.

Then at least you'll have a pet that you can force to be your friend if no one else will be.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Garbage: Now Guilt-Free!

I've always felt guilty about throwing things away.

When I was growing up, my dad was very frugal.  My mom says they used to live like they were in poverty (cinder block furniture, for one, and those cinder blocks still clutter up their backyard because my dad always finds a reason to suggest them as a solution for something), and truthfully my dad does a good job as a do-it-yourself-er -- as long as he can avoid throwing it away.  

For example (and if you've known me very long, you've already heard this little anecdote), on one occasion in high school, I was about to throw away some bagels (it may have been bread?) that were growing mold.  I made the mistake of announcing my logical actions, because my dad snatched the bag out of my hands before I reached the garbage and said that he'd eat the non-moldy bits.  Ever since, my mom always quietly instructs me to take rotten food straight to the street can and bury it, and to make sure my father doesn't see! 

Of course, sometimes things aren't even safe on the street.  Halfway through high school, I complained to my mom of a sore back.  She wondered how old my mattress was, and if I was due for a new one.  Turns out, I had been sleeping on the same mattress my brother had before his double bed, and before that, my dad grew up sleeping on it (and possible some of his 4? younger siblings).  My mom put it out as a "large item" for the garbage men to take away.  When my dad heard the garbage truck loudly beeping and shuffling and for some reason repeatedly backing up outside, he rushed out to drag the retired mattress back to the side of the house.  My mom?  Oh so livid.

I'm sure there are a few dozen more ridiculous stories somewhere in the back of my childhood memories, but the point is that while I grew up resenting his hoarding ways, I picked up his anything-but-wasteful ways.

This will probably make me a good mother some day, if not merely economical, because if I get full before my plate is empty, I will force myself to eat beyond comfort just to avoid wasting any, and I will keep things that are broken by rationalizing that I will fix it...some day!...and it will be so useful I would be glad I didn't get rid of it, even though I usually get rid of it years later when it is obsolete and much higher quality stuff is available for far less than it would cost to fix the old broken thing.

I probably have 3 broken point-and-shoot digital cameras lying around, positive that I will sit myself down and open them up and repair the lens mechanism that jammed when I drunkenly dropped it on the ground New Year's Eve, or fish out the one sand granule keeping the lens from completely extending or retracting, or unsticking the shutter button that now will only take a picture when you first turn the camera on.  Forget the fact that I have a much newer replacement point-and-shoot, and a DSLR that takes much better pictures than any of the others ever could. 

Seriously, why do I still keep this crap around?!

I have discovered, however, two sure-fire ways to get rid of stuff I don't want anymore, guilt-free! 

Looking to free up some closet or counter space so you can buy that new Kitchenaide blender or Oreck upright?  Just cart your old Target-brand and DustBuster out to the dumpster!  The secret is not putting it in the dumpster, just next to it!  This works best if you live in a low-income neighborhood, as this assures you a higher volume of dumpster-divers.

This also works for recyclables.  If you had a cheap landlord like I did in college, recycling pick-up was not included.  You could save it up and seek out a recycling bin somewhere, but why not just bag it and set it next to the dumpster with your unwanted crooked TV stand?  Your local homeless man will thank you for saving him the trouble of climbing in and sorting it from the refuse himself.

You're not only being a greener citizen, but a humanitarian as well!  Pat yourself on the back.  Go ahead, I'll wait.


Okay fine, so you can get rid of that junk that you kept around because Good Will won't take it, but what about food you don't want?

I'm not advocating pawning off rotten goods on others just because my daddy taught me it was okay to eat mold (it's not, and that's gross).  I'm talking about food you bought at Ralph's because it looked tasty when you foolishly went grocery shopping on an empty stomach, or because it marketed itself as healthy so well and you want to start eating better but man wholesome food tastes like garbage!

So the food is still good, and your friends don't want it, but you have too much garbage guilt to throw it away, and while one girl's trash is another's (dear blogger: why is that not a word! why you gotta bring out that red squiggly??) treasure, even the best food put near the garbage screams "poisoned" (or peed in).  So what do you do??

You bring it to your place of employment and slyly put it in the break room while no one is looking.  In no time at all, scavengers for free food will snatch it up and, even if they take one bite and toss the rest, the guilt is off of your shoulders! 

Don't believe me?  I have anecdotal proof!

I recently bought some of those really soft cookies from Safeway, which are always the same really soft butter cookies with different colored/flavored frosting and sprinkles based on the closest holiday.  Apparently the closest holiday was Key Lime Day because these were far too key limey for me!  I ate one (I hated it after the first bite, but couldn't waste the rest of the cookie! so I suffered through it), and left the rest in the plastic box on top of my computer tower.  I stared at it guiltily for a few days, wondering what to do with it.  If I offered it to my roommates, they'd wonder what's wrong with them.  If I managed to get them each to try one [bite and throw the rest away], I'd still have some left over!  Then I remembered once someone left a giant bag of oranges from their tree in the break room at my work in pure, "I need to get rid of this goddamn fruit!" way -- because I tried one and it was gross (again, I finished it, but grudgingly) -- and the bag was gone, at least by the end of the week!  And so I brought the cookies in that Friday and snuck them into the break room when no one was in there, "casually" glancing in every time I walked by to see if they had been eaten yet.  They were gone by lunchtime.

And that, my friends, is how you get rid of your unwanted things, guilt-free!  It's a real secret to being a responsible adult.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

When I Grow Up

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I used to want to be an archaeologist. And a novelist. And a teacher. And an artist. And a doctor. And an astronaut. And a lot of things.

Where did my inspirations for grown-up jobs come from? Archaeologist definitely came from watching The Mummy. Artist probably came from art class being the most awesome class in school. Astronaut may or may not have been partially inspired by the Christmas gift my engineer uncle gave me one year: Astronaut Barbie. When did I decide I wanted to be a computer scientist?  It definitely didn't come from Computer Science Barbie!

I guess I decided on Computer Scientist when I changed my major the end of freshman year.

I applied to college wanting to be some kind of engineer, because I love technology and solving problems and creating things, but where the major was available, I opted for astronautical engineering -- because that was the closest thing I could get to being an astronaut. Of course, that was one year before I actually started college, before my ex-boyfriend had laughed at me and told me to find another dream because I'd never be an astronaut, so when I got to college I changed my major to Biomedical Engineering, because it was kind of like being a doctor. But after my BME 101 course, which involved memorizing things about the heart because the instructor had some kind of ultrasound patent, and then after taking CS 101, I realized that I'd much rather learn a skill that I could master than memorize a lot of facts that are constantly changing (because I'm lazy and memorizing is boring).

So now I am a computer scientist, and I still have no idea what I want to do with my life.

I enjoy designing solutions to problems and algorithms to implement the solutions, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of finally seeing it all pull together and function -- even if it's as simple as seeing "Hello World" print out on the console. Solving puzzles has always been a hobby of mine. I just don't know what kind of puzzles I want to solve for the rest of my life. Maybe I do still want to be a teacher. Maybe I want to make robots. Maybe I want to make video games. I am interested in too many things!

This is especially difficult when deciding, "what next?"

Right now I am developing and testing software that is not particularly interesting to me. This is a combination of the technology being too dry for me (signal processing does not really excite me) and I'd much rather make something I can appreciate and/or know someone will use. Part of the problem is probably that I don't know who uses what we make, or where, or how often, or why. I don't really like working for a government contractor for this reason: obscured secrecy. That's no fun.

I recently got turned down for a job I really wanted. It was located in a place I really wanted to live, but even if I got placed at a different office location, the company culture was one of innovation. I want to collaborate with other smart people to make innovative and useful applications and products, and this company seemed to give its employees a lot of freedom to do that without too much hierarchical decisions or red tape. In essence, I want to work at a *chill* place. That's what I wanted in college, when I was working late into the night to get my project functional and daydreaming about what my future held.

In a sense, I wanted to be in college forever. The atmosphere of a group of people, eager to learn how to do something, gathering to work together to complete their next big project showcasing what new awesome thing they can do or create. The ulterior motives in college are to succeed, to make yours the best, maybe even go above and beyond to get that extra recognition. The working world is so much more corrupt -- get it done just enough to make the customer happy enough to pay you for it. I am so un-enthralled by my job that I went from initially eager to improve design to now just getting my assignments done, get through the day so I can get paid and go home. And sure, there are plenty of people in college just concerned with getting through it, but you have to think that if the course or project is rigorous enough, anyone participating really wants to.

That's why one option on my menu of "what's next" is to go back to school.

I love learning new things. If I could magically afford rent and food and fun while going to college forever (+ maybe a fun part-time job), I would. I'd just collect majors. I'd be the ultimate Renaissance Woman.

In the real non-Sara's-imagination world, though, how do you decide it's time to go back to school? How do you decide if you can afford it? How do you decide if it's a major you could really use? I was so ready to stop breaking my hump on school projects and work for a few years, and now I'm whimpering and ready to crawl back into the academic womb. I guess you can say I did do some self-discovery in this last year. Or you can say I got a job that really isn't right for me (according to studies, though, it's because I didn't do an internship in college so I had no idea what the right *fit* would be!).

[I'm going to seem to change subjects, but I swear it will circle back soon, promise!] I have also more or less decided that I want to move back to the city I built a life in for four years in college. I definitely consider myself lucky to have gotten a post-graduation job at all, but was very sad to move away at the end of my last summer of freedom.

I get really attached to things. People and places mostly, but things, too (I can never justify throwing away things that are broken if they were once so useful and heavily used -- I'll write a post on it later) -- so really, nouns. I guess you can't really get attached to verbs or adjectives, unless they are paired up with nouns in some way. !OFF-TOPIC! I got really attached in four years, and many friends and even boyfriend are still there, so I've been resisting any possibility of getting attached here -- especially since more or less deciding to move back.

Yay, I decided on something, go me! So what's the problem?

Look at me, all responsible adult, with a job that pays enough for me to afford rent and food and various things like a cell phone and car insurance and even enough leftover to save up a little cushion for that inevitable period of time in my future when I will be unemployed (you can't expect a girl to graduate in a super recession without such fears!). I can't exactly walk away from that, can I?? I mean, if I had some super awesome opportunity like my dream job (already failed that one) or medical school (already decided that's way too hard for me), sure, jump ship from the job you hate in the place you don't want to be and move where you do want to be for your super awesome new opportunity! But no such luck. Right now I'm staring at quitting my job and moving back to where I went to college with enough money to stay afloat for maybe 6 months (assuming high rents living all by myself; I would last longer if I lived with the boyfriend) and no guarantees that I could get a new job with which to support myself. Am I crazy?!?

What if I justified quitting my job and moving back to go back to school so it's not like I'm just a failure at being a self-sufficient adult in the big bad world? Oh, I have to know what and where I want to study first? Crap. I hate decisions!

I've considered waiting until I've accumlated over 1 year of professional experience being a real world software engineer at my current job before just quitting my job and moving in with the boyfriend to bum with him until I find something better close to him. This would put me in the sad position of leeching off of him, but at least I wouldn't go broke and be homeless after 6 months. However, I would be risking giving up my omg-so-lucky-you-have-a-big-girl-job status that makes my parents proud, the pay check, the security, and not having a current job as leverage for getting a new one.

I'd be pretty dumb to do that, wouldn't I?

I've been wrestling with myself ever since I got turned down from that dream job, and I feel like I am just too young to trap myself in a job I don't like in a place I don't want to be (or rather, one that isn't where I very much do want to be)!

Isn't life supposed to be easier after you graduate from college and get a job?

I've made it to adulthood but haven't quite finished growing up yet.  So what do I want to be when I get there?

already know what you want to be when you grow up.

When I grow up, I want to be happy.