The Road to Remembering Passion

My passion for reading, that is.

Yes, yes. I am well aware how disappointing and dull this may seem. For decades though, books were my deviant pleasure, sexual gratification, and my best friend.

All throughout my life, books were my escapism and fantasy. It was a reality that was frequently better than my own, or comfort for making me remember I was not alone, or a beacon of insightfulness to my own life or stream of consciousness. I think kids from broken homes and bullied by their peers all develop their own vice for a sense of belonging, mine were books. I inhaled stories as if they were life, reading an entire in novel in one sitting. I just could never get enough.

I went through a long period of time where I did not get to be me… I did not have the time for it.

I graduated high school a year early. I did not go off to college, like most of the kids of my perpetually poor and under-educated kids from my high school. I had been working full-time since I was 15 and even though I graduated early, I was in the bottom percentile of my high school class. I also came from a poor, immigrant, single-parent family.

Not going to college to stay with my mum to help her was a sacrifice, but I also did not realize I would be sacrificing more than a minimum wage waitressing job when I did finally go to college a year later.

I do not think I have ever been so self-conscious or alienated as when I first started college. I sat in English 101 as a first semester Freshman and could not even figure out how to operate Microsoft Word 2009. I initially had to fight just to maintain the status quo, but even once I had already surpassed my peers in class then I had to fight to prove to myself that I was just as good and smart as my more privileged peers.

As a college student, I also was solely responsible for financially supporting myself. I worked full-time all throughout college, at times I even had a 2nd part-time job. Since I refused to be the average college student, I was also a decorated honor student, head of an international marketing organization that owned businesses abroad, and a well-known symposium presenter of original research I conducted.

In other words, I was that pompous college student.

However, I had to make a lot of sacrifices to maintain scholarships, pay to support myself, and be a high-achieving student. Sleep was obviously a sacrifice. I don’t think I slept more than three hours a night in my four years of undergrad and my frequent bouts of strep throat were seen as medical breaks from my job to contaminate my research lab with germs instead.

Some of the less obvious sacrifices were relationships and hobbies.  The few boys I tried dating as a uni student were wildly unhealthy for individual reasons, but they also frequently accused me of not being passionate. It would be a lie to say they were completely wrong. I had absolutely no sense of self throughout college. I didn’t have time to sleep, let alone actually be my own person.

I fought really hard to just stay in school and excel at it, but one person can only fight for so many causes. I guess myself just didn’t make the cut. While I am glad at where I am now in my life, I sometimes wonder if all the sacrifices for the last 4 – 5 years were really worth it.

Once I graduated and now am working a financially comfortable white-collar job, I really struggled with all the free time I had.

One of the first things I started doing was sleeping again [And it was amazing!], but I really struggled with what to do with the free-time. I felt guilty or disinterested in hobbies I once defined myself by before pre-college.

My first real frustration was I just couldn’t read anymore. Books had been such a big part of my life and it was a little bit of an identity crisis when reading did not seem to fit into my post-grad life initially.

I could still read the academic journals and research report with vague interest because that was something I did frequently during my college career as a researcher. However, it was not passion and not something I loved to do. I just merely could do it. That was college life, I didn’t want to do that anymore.

I tried picking up new novels and still have half-read books littered throughout my living room, as well as a monumental bookshelf as testimony to all the books I am struggling to fall in love with again.

All this changed about two weeks ago though. I had spent an hour going back and forth between the Game of Thrones series and Slaughterhouse-Five, frustrated at my disinterest in either. I grabbed McEwan’s Atonement on my way out the door in discontent as I was anticipating a long train ride.

I don’t think I have made a better life choice in a long time.

I am back to the old me again. I am having love affairs with characters, losing myself in someone else’s world, and feeling that nostalgic daze as life and illusion are ripped apart with the end of each novel.

I guess I just needed to regress to my roots to remember why I loved reading, I just had to start over again with all the books I fell in love with before I displaced myself for a period of time. East of Eden. Night. The Glass Castle. Sybil.

I am inhaling books again, old ones and periodically new ones now. I just can’t enough. I am starting to feel a little more like me again, bit by bit.

Defining Intelligence

“I don’t mean to sound pretentious, BUT…”

A phrase that began a very daunting night.

The majority of my close friends are transitioning into the first serious relationships. I couldn’t be happier for them and I am perfectly fine that we are not in the same phase of life at the moment. This does, however, lead to some awkward exchanges A.K.A. I am the designated third wheel.

I don’t mind being the 3rd wheel. Everyone must be the uneven numerator at some point, it should be handled with grace. These are all relatively new relationships so my friends are eagerly seeking validation for their latest romantic endeavor and my stamp of approval on the new love interest. This is the uncomfortable aspect.

My friends all have extremely unique romantic tastes, as I am sure I do as well. I can appreciate any person that treats my friends well and makes them feel loved, however that does not mean I necessarily like the person on an individual level. I don’t feel like it is my place to pass judgment and I would never want to risk a friendship, especially by saying something about someone that may not even have a permanent place in our lives, so I hate when girl-friends enthusiastically take me aside with the expectation that I exclaim praises of the latest guy.

My good friend and fellow scholar, Noel, is a particular example that fights for my approval on every feat.  Noel and I have very different tastes. I enjoy an adventurous spirit and Noel enjoys the academic brain.

Noel even calls her own type as “The Asshole”. She loves those arrogant and well-educated boys. Sure, I have the occasional boy belittling my home country, my semi-frequent English mispronunciations, and insecure challenges to my knowledge base when Noel decides we need to hang out as a group. It is a minor headache though and I do it because of the good friendship. I don’t have to sleep with them or invest individual time in them so more power to her.

Noel has now found her “first love” and I am happy for her. She has had a lot of boys treat her badly and I know it has taken her a lot of strength to finally be emotionally vulnerable to fall in love. However, she keeps dropping the new boy at my feet like a cat could with a dead carcass.

Noel had been fighting for just the three of us to hang out again for the longest time. I cordially invented means to escape the trio date, but I knew it was inevitable. I should have just gotten over with instead of dragging it out.

I just definitively dislike her boyfriend as a person.

He is pretentious, he is overly arrogant, he gains for from belittling others, and we do not value the same things. Him and I do both highly value intelligence, so we should get on better than we do. However, we have vastly different definitions of intelligence.

I personally believe there is a spectrum of intelligence and I think it is wrong to narrowly define intelligence as academic or “book smarts”. I also extremely value common sense. I do not care how educated or academic someone is, the person that lacks common sense will drive me insane. I love my friendship with Noel, but she is definitely highly academic and lacking common sense… As I find many of my academic friends are actually.

The boyfriend considers being well-read as intelligence. The majority of his conversations are scholarly sources and citations. Well versed and knowledgeable are definitely import in academic intelligence, but I feel like this is only the first step.

As he is quoting sources at me, I find myself waiting for him to continue on in the conversation. Only after he is done repeating his source verbatim, I realize he is waiting for me to rebuttal. Then Noel gets lost in her puppy dog love for him and her panties drop a little more with each peer-reviewed source he has read.

I have a hard time taking him seriously because he absolutely lacks critical thinking, which I believe is vital to academic intelligence. Memorization is a skill, I am sure the boyfriend excelled in uni and he was the highest achiever on exams. It is hard to form an opinion or engage in debate if someone has no original thought of their own.

I find myself frequently asking him what do you think of that? when he cites someone else’s research and he just stares back at me blankly. I am not sure if this is due to never digesting what he reads or if he believes only what other people believe verbatim.

I hope Noel is satisfied by the latest bar endeavor for a while. I really do not need to hear the boyfriend’s catchphrase involving “pretentious” and “but” to all the original research I did in undergrad. If I wanted to know exactly what someone else said, then I would read their work.

Treat Yo’ Self Friday

I am coming to terms with actually having financial stability. One wouldn’t guess it, but it is actually a process.

Since I started at this job, so strange to think I have been there nearly half a year, I have been clinging onto every paycheck like it is the last. Saving for a rainy day is always a good idea, but sometimes you have to live a little as well. I’ve been trying to figure out the balance of what should I save and what can be “fun” money, as well as trying to force my mum to take any spare dime I have [She doesn’t want my money, but I feel inevitably guilty that I already make more than she ever has].

I get paid every Friday so I have started doing “treat yo’ self Friday” as a way for me to get more comfortable with spending money on myself. I usually pack my own breakfast or lunch, so Treat Yo’ Self Fridays started out with me going out for one meal. I even progressed to occasionally buying myself a book or some household knick-knacks I have been meaning to get.

Today was the first full fledged Treat Yo’ Self Friday though. I went all out…

I have been going through books like water [Beer is actually probably more accurate], something I have not done since high school. So I got myself a few of the used books from the Amazon that I either lost during my latest move or have been meaning to read.

I also bought myself a laptop notebook I had been meaning to get for over a year. My laptop is still in great shape, but it is a bit of a monster and hard to transport with me around the city for work.

I also did some even fun clothes shopping. A lot of my work clothes have been looking tattered because the majority of my work clothes are from when I first started working white-collar as a junior in undergrad. So they are pretty holey and sweat-stained from the 6 miles I used to bike every day. I also got some work clothes I actually like, not whatever was the closest to fitting me on the second-hand store rack. I am feeling pretty good about myself, new clothes have effect on some people =]

I do not think I will ever be the type of person that can completely spend money without purpose or spend more than $50 on a blazer, but I will admit it is kind of nice being able to spoil myself a little!

Sacrifices & Gains: Making the Big Choices

Something I really appreciate about my boss is not only his extreme generosity, but also because he is straight forward. He does not beat around the bush and he does not try to play the usual employer games that only make workers feel minimalized. He also lets me know when we need to have “real talk” time so we don’t waste each other’s time with formalities or pretend to be just chatting.

My boss gives me far too much credit, he always states I am far smarter than my position and my hard work in squandered in my current position. He’s been talking to me about going back to school for a while now. We hung out this weekend and we had a “real talk” about it.

Ultimately my boss wants to leave to start his own company that is similar to this one. My boss is good friends with the partner, but even he admits some of the partner’s dealings are shady at best. My boss also has a different vision because he wants an attorney-based model where the company I currently work at is non-legal negotiator & attorney based. In all honesty, a lot of time and money is lost on the negotiators, but they get to have first dibs on clients until the clients are sued for their debts. An all attorney-model has a lot of potential for lower lawsuit rates and less disgruntled clients.

My boss also has a realistic plan and time frame for this new company, which surprised me. He has told me for a long time that no matter what happens, I will always have a place wherever he works. Just in this situation, I could be making more than twice the wage if I had a law degree. I could be making at least a quarter of a million dollars annually at his start-up company.

I can’t even fathom what it is like to have that kind of money. Especially for a kid that grew up below the poverty line, there is a lot I could do with that kind of money. Help out my family. Buy a home. Vacation. Money in the bank.

It’s just… I never wanted to be a lawyer.

I ended up in the legal field entirely as a fluke. I started out doing data entry for a law firm in college and eventually became a manager of the legal assistants. I hated the people I worked for so searched for any job out of desperation and my current job was desperately in need of someone with a legal background because they had someone walk out.

And now I am here.

I know none of us ever quite ended up where we want or thought we would be. I can promise you that basically no child fantasizes about being a business accounts manager for a national law firm.

Knowing When to Let It Go

I really only have myself to blame in this situation. I should’ve said no, I should’ve gone home, I should’ve done anything besides agree to meet up with CPA again.

I will also start off that CPA is not a bad guy. We just bring out the worst in each other, which is never a good sign. While I do care about CPA, I knew our relationship was getting unhealthy. We were basically oil and water that we were trying to force together to make it work, but we are too different.

However, when CPA wanted to meet up to discuss how things ended, I knew I couldn’t say no.

It started off casual… And awkward, of course. As always, CPA relaxed once he had a few drinks in him. However, the issue was once he got more drinks in him, he just gets mean. He thinks belitting me is a way to show he cares, even though it only feels like he is picking on me.

He saw some friends at the bar he knew so we chatted them for a bit. I was just grateful for the distraction from being his punching bag. He kept drinking though and he just got worst. His friends were also getting intoxicated and CPA viewed them as his drunken audience to put me up on a podium as the wicked witch.

At this point I was done. I remembered exactly why I broke things off and why I had no interest in talking to him again. I was trying not to be rude to his friends, but I got onto my phone to get a taxi through Uber. I guess a friend made a comment to CPA about this and that was moment that broke the dam wide open.

CPA snapped, like I had never quite seen him.

He slammed my phone down on the bar and began screaming in my face. Name calling, slut shaming, and all.

Now I am normally fairly calm, no matter what CPA does. While arguments are inevitable, I do not believe that yelling or personal attacks should ever be a part of any dispute. We are adults and mature, supposedly. However, I was fed up with him and I had the type of work week where I came home every day crying because of stress. So I was at my limit as well.

I screamed back. I utilized profanity. I insulted. I threw my drink at him and walked out without even saying good bye to a soul.

I waited until I was wandering alone on the street full of merry strangers to cry. CPA came out, begging to walk me home. I was done though. I didn’t even want the cab, I just wanted to get home. I refused to let CPA anywhere near me. When I began walking away, he tried pushing me back against the bar window. While we had fought before, we had never gotten physical.

I began screaming and threatening to call the cops if he ever dared touch me like that again. He tried shushing me as people began to turn their heads towards the scene. I pushed him off and walked off. I did not want to wait around for things to get worse.

Whenever I mention this to anyone that has interacted with CPA, they are always surprised. CPA comes off as a genuinely nice guy. The shy, slightly social awkward, skinny, nerdy kid that is a hopeless romantic couldn’t possibly be capable of such things. As great as he is though, he has a nasty temper to rival it. I think people are slightly surprised because people tend to coin me as the “tough scraper” so I am usually at automatic fault in most people’s eye.

I know I am not so great at this whole “relationship” thing. I also know I should’ve just let it be with CPA. It’s disappointing because I never wanted to hate him. We definitely had our differences, but he had definitely treated me the best up until this point. Now he’s just another tainted memory.

Drunk-Me Does Not Appreciate Name Calling

Since I am German, it should be no surprise that this Sunday was a prideful victory. I arrived to the pub two hours early in my Reus jersey to scout out a prime table for the World Cup viewing. My boss, who has a lot of money riding on the game that I also stood to gain from [He knows nothing about FIFA, just likes gambling so I picked out his knock out bracket], and two of my friends joined me.

When Gotze finally got the first goal in double overtime, unadulterated joy overtook three of us… The fourth was an Argentinian fan. Many shots were had, high fives exchanged, terrible dancing occurred, screams utter, and tears shed.

The other German fan of our group [Not my boss, that would’ve been more of an awkward turtle] even tried to kiss me. I just chuckled and pushed him away before he could plant a smooch, which made the table erupt in laughter. I could tell my friend was slightly embarrassed, but we all brushed it off because we were all intoxicated by this point in the game.

Beer only naturally turns into hard liquor and shots can be had for any occasion. Goals blocked, a good play, a solid attempt, opposing yellow cards. We even started taking shots every time Schweinsteiger was injured because we were convinceded shots were somehow sending him good vibes, which should give an estimation of our non-sober state.

We continued to smoke and the guys were going to go outside to have a cigarette. Since the pub was packed at this point, I knew I should stay with the table so it was not overtaken by another party. However, the friend that attempted to sneak a peck decided to drunkenly vocalize I should stay with the table and embellished it.

Watch the table, you bitch.

I know he was joking, he even sounded awkward and hesitant when he said “bitch”. However, I do not even recall thinking about happened next. It was almost like a primal instinct when my fist collided with his jaw. I was mortified when I saw blood trickle from his lip. I did not even think of raising my hand to him, I guess the drunken stupor and anger was a natural combination for getting physical with a male twice your weight and a foot taller than myself.

I also doubt I would’ve had such a reaction is 1. I was sober 2. He used any other adjective other than “bitch”.

I can take a joke. I also will also admit I horse around with my friends and I believe if you can “dish it” then you have to be able to take it as well. People can joke about my looks, intelligence, stoicism, etc. Perhaps it is my “crazy inner feminist”, but I do not tolerate being marginalized for being a woman. Especially since “bitch” is rarely ever used except in a derogative connotation.  

This is also the closest I have ever come to getting kicked out of a bar. Two waitresses were doing rounds together when they saw me clock him. He defused the situation, stating everything was fine so I was allowed to stay.

Job Opportunities: What Exactly is Below the Bible Belt?

As a female and as someone from a low socio-economic status, I always felt my like my life had two paths: Career or Family.

I am not saying I could not be both, but it is extremely hard for someone like me to fulfill the roles in a way that I want. I invested so much money, sweat, and tears into my education and the career I am in now. If I invest anymore into either, I know I would be more professionally driven. This means I couldn’t be the wife and mother I would want to be. Hell, I barely have the energy to make myself more than a grilled cheese for dinner most days after work.

There is nothing wrong with choosing one or the other, different things are right for different people. I think I am beginning to see I will live a more professionally-driven lifestyle. I do not want to be defined by my job, but I want to love my job. I definitely am not in love with my current job, but I love my environment [Co-workers, strictly speaking] and I am really progressing at this company, especially for how young I am.

I have let myself get a bit comfortable since I finished undergrad, taking a break to relish in my accomplishments, but finally making a concrete decision to fight through the professional ranks has made me begin examining next steps in my life. I honestly do not really know what I want to do when I grow up, but I doubt I will figure it out without moving forward.

This morning as I was sardined in a rush hour subway car, I got an unusual text from an uncle. I really do not talk to any family other than my mum, so communication with family is just strange in itself. He is a successful local artist and an art professor, a college he used to work at was looking to hire someone with my qualifications. I was always more creative and the position was more within my major, plus college would be less cut-throat than working at a law firm.

He peaked my interest. However, the job would require me to move to Tennessee.

I am not against re-locating, the idea of moving have to Europe has become more appealing as time goes by. It is just a big change and an unexpected opportunity. Not to mention, Tennessee is just so different than Chicago.

I did accept an initial interview, but I am not sure how I would feel about moving to Tennessee specifically. At times, I feel like Chicagoland acts way too “red” for my comfort level, I can’t imagine a state below the infamous Bible Belt. I know Tennessee is not Alabama or Texas. Tennessee even has a few cities I would really like to visit, Nashville and Memphis. The city this college is located in is supposed to be a liberal, creative hub so theoretically I would be bufuland.

I know I am probably worrying more than I should about a job and life choice that has not even been offered to me, but I want to be comfortable making a decision in case I have to at one point.

Reasons Why I Love My Mum #23: Always There When I Am Alone

My mum and I are extremely close now, despite a more tumultuous relationship when I was younger, and some would argue a borderline unhealthy relationship. How many people will be there unconditionally for a single mother who has scorned men and a single female that is too stuck in her ways to have a romantic relationship?

However, I am extremely grateful my mum was there for me last night. I realized after work when I went to search for my subway card that I did not have my house keys. I recently had a battle with my landlord [More on that later] so I was hesitant of contacting him to admit my stupidity. I then remembered that CPA had a spare set of my keys. We had not really talked since things ended, but I needed to get into my apartment and I do not like ex-flings having potential access to place any time they desire.

He agreed to meet up with if I came out to the suburbs to get the keys, I agreed. He just left out a fine detail that I only found out after my train was departing for the ‘burbs,  he would be golfing for the next four hours so I would have to wait around for him.

I am absolutely not a suburb girl, but there is one Irish pub with good food and cheap beer and abundant outlets for me to charge my dying phone [Do not ask how one remembers a phone charger and forgets their keys]. So I settled myself at the bar, but it is a bit of a hole in the wall and has no televisions. The bartender was particularly untalkative that evening so I did the only thing I could think to do to pass the time.

I called my mum.

We had about a two and a half hour conversation. It was honestly one of the best talks I have had with my mum in a while.

I do talk to my mum pretty regularly, but usually shorter conversations and there is nearly always some sort of distraction. When I do physically hang out with my mum, which is infrequent, we are comfortable with silence and focus on projects that need to get done. This was the first in-depth conversation my mum and I have had in a while. We talked about the spectrum, I even found out some new things about the family [Also another story for a different day].

What really meant the most to me though was my mum took the time to talk to me for nearly three hours. She received a random call after a long day of work from her kid that was drinking at a bar and she dropped everything just so I was not alone.

I love my mum.