Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"oh we'll get there someday"

"You mean you're not going to follow her to the east coast for college?" the mother said pleadingly but with a twinkle in her eye.
"Oh, wouldn't that be fun!" I answered with a laugh. I've been giving heads-up in the past couple weeks to the families I work with that there is a possibility I won't be in town next school year. Just a possibility... I don't want to surprise them with the news later on if it's really going to happen. I've been surprised and flattered at the playful resistance and genuine disappointment that's come in response. In some ways, I know that there is someone else who could do perhaps a better job than I have with these high schoolers, and I have some people in mind to pass them on to.

But it's nice to know I will be missed if I'm gone. I will miss them too... no work I've ever done is as fun as tutoring these teenagers. And it's so much more than tutoring... it has to be, to establish that rapport and gain respect and mutual "like".

I love Monday nights when I arrive at B's lovely home on the hill... and she is ready with the latest funny anecdote about one of her friends, or a photo of a piece of clothing from the Olsen twins line, Elizabeth & James, which we both love. This is my second year with her... and at times I've even shared very tiny snippets of the latest travel/boy/fun stories in my life, which seventeen year old girls gobble up.

Tuesday afternoons with C... that girl is amusing. She was quiet at first...but her humor sneaks up on you with its spontaneous quirkiness. On our second session, she was telling me how her classmates, two darling hyper girls I worked with in tandem last summer, told her that the best way to bother me was to try to "scrunch" my hair when I wear it curly. I laughed, and immediately sent a joint text to those two girls thanking them for passing on that wisdom. I explained to C that yes, I don't like my hair scrunched, and most clients wouldn't get a chance to know that, but those girls and I spent a lot of hours just the three of us, sitting in couches going insane studying Algebra, so they got comfortable enough with me to touch my hair, which doesn't commonly happen with my clients. Little fourteen year old C didn't skip a beat and responded, "Oh, don't worry, we'll get there someday." We're not there yet, but we have discovered our mutual love for the smell of freshly lit matches, so I've given her a box of Swedish matches that light extra explosively. And since we meet at my house, I let her light some of my candles during our sessions.

And then I think, I'm gonna miss these girls if I go. But even if I don't, they will soon, so one of us has to do it first.

Monday, March 29, 2010

"sparkly and colorful, we are"

We sit in the car, southbound on the 405...

"Some people, some girls, are just colorless. I want to be around people who are colorful. You are colorful. You are vibrant. A colorful girl. That would make a good song."


We sit in a modern space, dramatically decorated red and black, with the tastiest Italian food before us.

"So won't you show me your writing? Can't I see your blog?"

"Hmmm." I look down, embarrassed, not sure how to evade this any longer, I must just say it. " Well, maybe, it's just that, I've kind of written about you on there. Like once or twice."

"Well, I can't wait to read it." He said with a gentle and amused smile.


We sit on a balcony with tea, overlooking the beach.

"Why is it that you want to figure people out so completely?"

"If I know and understand people, I can treat them better, they don't bother me since I get their motivations, and, well, I think I want to understand people well enough so that they can't hurt me..." I explain vaguely.

He frowned. "But people can still hurt you, even if you 'get' them."

"Yeah, but maybe they can hurt me less this way... " I trailed off. I had never really said that reason out loud. Not sure how I liked the sound of it.


We sit by the window, he with his spicy shrimp soup and me with my chicken pad thai.

"What kind of guy do you typically go for, then?"

"I like leaders... I like guys who are sure of themselves and are such that others are sure of them too. Kind and good with people. Driven. Fun. One of my best friends told me that I seem to only have ever dated guys who 'sparkle'. I like that." I smiled.

"Well... that sounds like me!" He winked. "But really, I have heard that said to me before... Sparkle. Am I a guy who sparkles?"

We both kind of laughed but it was an honest question. "You are!" I said.

"Okay then. Here we are. A sparkly guy and a colorful girl."


We just been standing, kissing goodbye, giving long hard hugs. I opened my car door and stepped in, he closed the door behind me. I pull my seat belt around as I reach for my ipod to set up a song for my road trip. I'd just barely picked it up and clicked once before there was a tap on my window. I reached for the door handle but he was already opening it.

"One more kiss." He leaned in and gave it. "Okay, be safe." Then shut the door again. I drove away, grinning. He stood there and waved until I was out of sight.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

"set your course by the stars"

On the 4th of July last year, I was more madly in love with my town than ever before.
On the 5th of July, I decided that I needed to attempt a new challenge, one that would likely take me away from this beloved town.

It was strange, realizing that as in love as I was with Santa Barbara, the fact that I still had nagging feelings of "what/where is next?" was a powerful turning point. The first half of last year confirmed my thirst for work that challenged me more, where I could apply the highest tests and purpose to my skills and intuition and passions. The first half of last year developed in me a more fervent thirst for new experiences and learning and relationships.

So I decided to apply to graduate school far far away, to the perfect one year masters degree program designed for the exact career I'd been wanting for years. And I decided that I would put all my effort into winning a top scholarship to get me there.

So for this scholarship, I dove deep into research. I emailed foreign admissions representatives, business contacts, local scholarship advisors... I conducted informational interviews.. I studied for and took the GRE... And I researched some more. Read a ton. Made hundreds of to-do lists.

Then began the writing. Oh, the writing. It was painful. Every sentence of my personal statement and proposal statement was crafted in agony. How could I cram everything I knew and had read about my field into a couple sentence summary? How could I answer all required eighteen-plus questions about who I am, my study/work/life experiences, and where I want to go in one single spaced page? I was on the emotional edge for weeks figuring it out. I had a dozen such statements found online that had won this scholarship that were tattered and highlighted from my intense study of them in order to create something as good or better. I knew the competition was out there, fierce and accomplished and driven, and several times I was close to giving up... when I couldn't figure out the precise angle of my necessary research aim for my proposal, when I didn't think my letter of affiliation would come from the foreign university, when I assessed that my college grades were crap and uncompetitive... But briefly, just a couple times, I thought: I could win this. I have amazing experiences, travel/work/life, behind me. Maybe my writing will draw them in. The letter of affiliation has come! My references are stellar. I think I'm what they're looking for. I hope.

I've never been on such a rollercoaster of belief in myself as I was during August and September. Then I just had to wait.

On January 29 I was told I was a finalist. I was in the top 15 or 20 for ten awards. Just reading the first line of the email I had tears and shaking hands and a pounding chest. That was affirmation enough. I am so honored. And I'm the better for having applied... the process was transformational. So then I've waited some more.

Sometime in the next two weeks I will hear the final answer. It will come by snail mail. The letter, no matter what it says, will change my life. And I'm prepared. I've opened envelopes before that held answers that changed my life, answers that I hadn't expected or hoped for. And it has all worked out okay. I know for certain that it will all be okay this time too. No... not okay... fantastic. Scholarship or not.

You'll hear from me in the next two weeks... shortly after I find myself alone on a beach, opened envelope and unfolded letter in hand.

“When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure,
full of knowledge.”

-Constantine Peter Cavafy

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"explore. dream. discover."

The last time I'd checked, it was March 11.

Then I was on a hotel rooftop skybar in San Diego, looking out over the city lights, sipping the best champagne I've ever had.

Later I was lying on a black sand beach in La Jolla as we laughed at the unexpected nudists strolling by while we drank Coronas and ate girl scout cookies. Thin Mints and Do-si-dos.

Then I was on a boat in Newport Beach Harbor at sunset, motoring our way to a fancy seafood restaurant.

Some time later I woke up in a big soft hotel bed and had breakfast- cranberry bagels, bananas, juice, and chamomile tea, on a balcony overlooking the ocean in my own little Santa Barbara.

The next day kickball started and I had my fingers crossed for a good team, that my foreign friends would do well, that I would make a good catch and have great kicks and that we'd make a bunch of fun friends. It all happened, even better than I imagined.

Then this one day we all wore green and I drank cider and had veggie pizza with some of my best friends and we traipsed about town, and the night ended as I sat under the stars with someone who hadn't let go of my hand since he'd met up with us and there were whispers in my ear of how beautiful and classy I looked and how funny I am...

A day or two later we said goodbye after a beachside wine tasting and spell in the hot tub. I drove away. And then

I woke up in Pacific Grove. With my mom, sister, aunts, Grandma... and other women who have watched me grow up. We hug repeatedly and we save each other spots at lunch. I greeted the day with a run; following the wooden boardwalk through the white sand dunes and between the cypress trees, and down to the fine soft sand on the beach, scrambling over rocks and jumping over rivulets, the beat of the turquoise ocean loud through my ipod earphones, and it was so amazing and I was so happy to just BE that I had to run with both arms open wide. Laughing.

I just looked at the calendar and it's March 24. How did that happen?

Sometime in the dark dark night as I journeyed the 101 north I was on the phone to my sister, I sat in my little car cocoon and she on a log near a bonfire on the beach that awaited me. I wondered to her, "Is this my real life? Doesn't it sound outrageous? Or is it a dream, like my friend Nick says..."

It is my real life, for now. It's okay for life to be this crazy, this fun, this dreamlike. It's not without it's tears and insomnia and stress and awful pollen allergies.
But mostly everything altogether is adventurous and lovely and I am not taking one second for granted.

Friday, March 5, 2010

"first i must say that i miss your company..."

When I write emails to my mom, she responds in a timely manner, and always responds. She addresses each thing I say, and her tone is engaging and, where it applies, encouraging. I am such a verbal person, both written and spoken, and that she responds to me this way is something I so appreciate.

I was trying to assess why there was something familiar in the way he's been emailing me... I like writing back and forth with people, especially when they are far away. But why did the emails feel so... I don't know... reassuring?

Then it hit me. He writes and responds to me like almost no one else does besides my mom. Not in a weird way...of course... but when I bring a topic up, he continues it with more thoughts. If I answer his question, like what's Newport Beach really like, he thanks me for telling him. If I attach a recent photo of myself doing something fun (following him doing it first), he comments on how pretty I look. And then the time I wrote more than I intended, and tried to disclaim by ending the email with "wow didn't mean to write so much!" he responded by starting "thanks for your long email" and his email was equally as long.

Ummmm... I don't know what to do with this. Verbal affirmation, in person and on paper (well, on internet). I've craved it in a relationship and now it's here... but I don't even consider myself in a relationship. Not really. Confusing? Yep. A problem? Nope.

Whatever happens, it is good to know what it feels like to spend time with someone for whom verbal affirmation comes naturally. It feels reassuring. It feels safe. And it feels good.