Let’s Learn How to Read Again: Advice from the Once-Tortured English Major.

If you were to gather every book I have ever owned, from ‘Good Night Moon’ to ‘Cloud Atlas’, one could erect a castle as tall as the Empire State Building and as wide as the State Capitol. However, if you remove all the books I have read from this Empire State Building of Literature, you wouldn’t be able to erect something the size of Barbie’s Dream House.

Dear Reader, I have forgotten how to read.

Fortunately, I am still quite literate. What has seemed to vex me for the subsequent four years is my inability to read leisurely. After several pages of our book, I find my attention waning. I can easily be drawn into a book from the mere four sentence plot on the back of a book jacket, but once crack it open, it’s as if the illusion shatters. They have tried and (seemingly) failed to hold me.

As any English Major can tell you, we are relentlessly barraged by required readings of the Brontes, Baldwin, and Dickens and I feel it’s extremely difficult to recover from that. Especially if the only copies they have in the bookstore are hardcovers or anthologies. Now, that isn’t to say that I hated these books. In fact, I hold them up as literary masterpieces, forever to stay in the Golden Bookshelf in my future library.

I suppose what has “cursed” me (a term I use lightly; to be cursed by a book is actually a blessing in disguise) is how I came across these books. For every book in between semesters and after I had graduated, I feel there is an upcoming deadline to finish them.

I’m on a clock.

While that is somewhat the case (of course I want to finish these books. I’d be wasting money otherwise), I feel this academically induced pressure has attached itself to my brain. I still highlight and write in the margins of every book as if I have to refer back to them for a final essay. It’s like a twitch that appears on picture day or a zit before a first date. Something beautiful is about to happen, but stress and overthinking creates an obstacle to challenge you. It won’t leave me alone.

For instance, there’s this amazing book called ‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara and it’s a literary behemoth, clocking in at upwards of 700+ pages. I wanted to devour this book. I wanted to lose myself and become enveloped in these words. But I’m so preoccupied with needing a highlighter, a pen, and to have to understand every last line as if I had a test to take. I put this enormous pressure merely because I feel obligated to.

The English Major has tainted my love of reading!

Now that I have my clickbait title built in I can go on to say that that’s not entirely true. It has enhanced my love of reading. It just takes more time to fully digest everything. Especially with works like Bronte, Baldwin, Dickens and Yanagihara, you don’t want to rush through them. You need to take your time (a man-made concept, but we’ll disregard that). I feel that’s what I need to get through my big, empty head; don’t time yourself, pace yourself.

Literature isn’t something to take lightly. Take it seriously. Fall with Alice and walk with Dorothy and at their pace. If you beat them to the end of the line, you might just spoil their own story.

Let’s Brace for Impact: Job Hunt 2016.

I talk about my employment status a lot.

I mention it in passing, I tweet about it, I joke about it, post about it on Facebook and Tumblr and Instagram and make signs that I hang outside my window that advertise it. I can’t stop. I’ve tried and it’s impossible. I’ve been trying since April of last year and have turned up little to no results. Was this due to my lack of trying? Was I doing something completely wrong the entire time? Am I not qualified enough? Am I not cut out for “the real world”? Do I not fit in?

One reason I keep talking about my unemployment status a lot because it’s something that is affecting me right now. It’s something so salient to my identity that I feel that if I stop talking about it, then I’ll never be noticed. If I stop talking about it, maybe the universe will recognize that as contentment and just let me wade down the river of a sedentary lifestyle, never to be heard of again. I like to remind myself that I’m “a part of the statistic,” as if attaching myself proves that I’m not alone in it. “8.5% of college graduates are unemployed,” cites Slate. I’ve also read somewhere that for 70% of recent college graduates it takes an average of 9-12 months to land their first job. Where did I read it? I’m not sure, but I read it and it’s reassuring. And while “small” it reassures me that we’re all in this together. All 8.5% of us, of whom I know maybe one or two people.

Sometimes I blame my choice in major: “English. pfft, what the hell was I drinking when I declared that?” Then I recall the incessant familial pressure to major in something with a more desirable paycheck, engineering was the hot major to declare five years ago because “there were jobs and I was good at math.” Now, I’m not doubting that there are jobs and that those in the field are good at math, I’m used the quotes to show what my family used as “legitimate reasons for me to major in something I had zero interest in.” So, I went with my gut and couldn’t be prouder of myself.

Adulthood Level 1: Achieved! 

Poring over these rhetorical questions, I noticed how often I turned the issue on myself: My lack of trying, Was I doing something wrong, Am I not qualified, and the list could go on. Immediately, I make myself think and feel and recognize that I am a problem. I don’t fit into the world I was born into. My shape doesn’t fit the box. I am letting the box define me. My unemployment is not due to my lack of trying or my ineptitude in the world or because I’m not qualified. I am adept, I am trying and I am qualified. It’s just really fucking hard out there. They tell you this (and by ‘they’ I mean society) over and over and over again; so much so that the message just becomes the white noise that lulls you to sleep at night. Their words become meaningless, much like the drool that pools in the fabric of your flannel pillow sheets.

Regardless of its loudness and repetitiveness, ‘they’ are 100% right: It. Is. Hard. And I have no solutions to give you because I have achieved no such luck and have learned nothing more than what others will tell you upon your foray into the working world. All I can say is: don’t let the bastards get you down. Something will come around in time, just be patient.

Yes…that is something ‘they’ say. The good thing about it?

It’s all true.

Let’s Ask: Would You Go Back?

Take a second and turn back the clock. Your first day of college. Your last day of high school. Your kindergarten graduation. Your last relationship. If you could, would you go back to those moments with the full consciousness you now possess and attempt to notice what you couldn’t before?  If you could go back, would you?

There are specific moments, like prom or a breakup or graduation, where I’d think about seeing it all from a different perspective. Would I have enjoyed prom more if I had danced on a different side of the room, would I have been happier hugging different people at graduation, would I have seen the warning signs before it all blew up in my face? But what I’ve come to realize in all of this retrospection is that things are never what they were. In the moment, you’re greedy and self-righteous. You don’t think because there simply isn’t any time. You dance where you danced because there was free space, you hugged the people you did because they’re the ones that mattered at the time, you said he was an ass because at the time you couldn’t fathom to see it from a different perspective. Only in time do we realize that things begin to change, because we are changing. We’re growing up. Congratulations, you’re an adult. I suppose it then becomes the question of, is it worth going back?

As of late, I get these flashbacks to the happy little moments. Sharing a joke with a friend in class, noticing the exact moment I felt love for this person, and the absolute joy of hearing my name as I accepted my diploma case (sorry to break it to you kids, when you graduate you just get the case and then wait four to six weeks for a diploma to come in the mail).

In a way, I would want to go back for those moments. The ones that made my heart flutter, my eyes water, and my hands twitch. Those are the ones worth it. If I could bottle those feelings up and save them for a bad day, life wouldn’t feel so bogged down. The other ones make me wonder why I would pose such a broad question. Who would want to subject themselves to a torturous moment? No one wants to see their heart break in front of them or see their friends drift off into nothingness. That’s just terrible. It may make for a great Oscar worthy scene in a movie, but there’s no space for such torment in the real world.

Everyday we should strive to be happier than we were the day before.

Let me ask you again, dear reader: Would you go back? Is it worth going back?

Let’s Rediscover: A Sense of Wonder and Novelty.

There are many things that frighten me: The California Drought, the impending series finale of Scandal, and how my nephew knows how my iPhone works before knowing the alphabet. It’s a small thing considering his generation was born into this world, already filled with advanced technology ready for the taking. But it still has me concerned.

When I look back on my childhood (which wasn’t that long ago), I remember being outside and going on adventures every Sunday to random area in Los Angeles; we’d explore the lavish houses of the rich and greedy, followed by the innards of Los Angeles, herself.  Then I fast forward to today and find myself on my computer most days, confined within the walls of my apartment.

A few months ago, in Seattle, my mom took a picture of the highway. We were surrounded by towering evergreens along this tiny two-way speedway and she decides to take a picture of the rolling fog. In her picture there was a bird. A bird! Her excitement was akin to a child who has never seen a bird before and when she showed me, my reaction treated the moment as such.

“Oh, how cute! It’s a bird. In the air. Flying. How original.” Suffice to say, I didn’t care that much. It was just a bird! Then I began to think: Where did the sense excitement go? When did we lead the mundane and leave the eccentric and wondrous? When did seeing an animal that can FLY become so boring? Can you fly? Didn’t think so. Between my recent apartment confinement and this quick dismissal of avian wonder, I realized that I needed to get out more. This wasn’t in realizing that I lacked a life, rather that I lacked that sense of wonder and novelty.

Life has been so consumed by social media, like Tumblr and Twitter and Facebook, that I fear all of my time is set aside for that consumption. I was and am blindly content with living that life. It’s warm, safe, and doesn’t give me splinters or hurt my ankles. But in being so enveloped in this kind of life, I feel like everything beyond me has become dull, out of reach, or boring.

I refuse to accept that.

Life is so much more than the four walls of our rooms and the screens of our computers. There’s a whole world out there that is so beautiful and vast. Here comes the call to action: I feel we should turn off the screens, silence our phones, and step outside.

Let’s hit the trails or dip our toes in the ocean, and realize that there is a whole world out there to be discovered. Step outside and realize that there are so many things that are just as novel and just as wonderful.

Let’s Decide: Leader or Follower.

For eighteen years, I was a follower.

I’m not sure if it was the way I looked, the way I acted, or the way I talked; as far back as I can remember, the people around me have made my decisions. Not in some executive assistant type of manner, rather in one of condescension, as if they know me better than me. I wasn’t awarded the stereotypical, coming-of-age story arc every “twenty-five year old actor playing a sixteen year old” character got. I was told what I should wear, what classes I should be taking, and even what girl to date.

Oh yes, I cannot give myself the much coveted title of “Gold Star Gay,” because I have dated women in the past (two of them, in fact). Even so, the latter of the two relationships almost ended in utter disaster, due to the fact that it was built upon the fact that my friends told me to date her. They wouldn’t shut up about it; day in and day out, they would say: “You two are always hanging out together and you’re both so cute. You’d make a cute couple. Go for it. Ask her out!” Lo and behold, young, impressionable Jason said “Okay!” and asked out his poor girl and wasted a few months of her life. Months where she could’ve dated someone that actively and independently thought about dating her and wasn’t egged on by his friends to date her.

Oh, and someone who wasn’t gay. Granted,  I didn’t really know at the time, so I think I should let that one go.

Even in the vein of my career (yes, I am going to touch on this top as frequently as possible until I am actually employed), family members and friends and ex-supervisors have told me what I should be doing with my life, just because I’m good at it. By such a logic, I should begin my career in the ever-affluent path of Netflix bingeing. Lord knows I’ve been doing a lot of that lately.

Here are several, aggregated commands I’ve received in the past months:

Relative: “You should teach English in another country! It has good pay and is what you should be doing.”

Immediate Family Member: “You were an RA, right? Here’s this student life coordinator position. You need your M.A. and ten years of experience, but it can’t hurt to apply!”

Ex-Supervisor: “You were a great RA. YOU SHOULD BE IN STUDENT AFFAIRS. IT WAS MEANT FOR YOU. GO TO GRAD SCHOOL AND JOIN STUDENT AFFAIRS. #RAFORLYFE #STUDENTAFFAIRS #jointhecult.”

It gets tiring every now and then, but you learn to put up with it and tune out the unsavory ones. Like most posts, there really isn’t an answer or reason for this being here. Mostly because I don’t know who I am.

I’m twenty-two for fucks sake. I shouldn’t know a lot of things. Above all else, I still have a lot more to discover before I ever have to ask myself that question. As for being a follower; well, I guess you can say that I’ve learned to take the lead.

Let’s Listen: Music & Lyrics.

It never ceases to amaze me how much wroth and meaning we can pull out of music. The depths it can take us, the scenery it can create, and the emotion it can provoke; it’s wondrous and frightening and insane. As a routine, to keep my sanity in check and my emotions in balance, I listen to music every night before I drift off into reverie. I lie there, headphones in, lights off and I stare at the ceiling. Not because I have glow in the dark stars plastered across it (although, I should), but because it’s the closest thing I have to a blank canvas.

I stare at the same spot in the ceiling, only visible through my depleting vision (I would have taken my glasses off already) and the street lamps casting what little orange light they can through the slits of my blinds, and I paint a picture of my life that is tune to the song.

One moment, it’s like ballet, precise and gentle. A memory of me people watching at the mall; the chaos of people, the cacophony of children screaming, and the mundanity of such a trivial chore go quiet and all I focus on is me and how I implant stories and lives to these temporary people walking by. People I’ll never see again. People I’ll never bother to wish “Happy Birthday” or want to grab coffee with. Then the song changes and the canvas is blank once more.

The rhythm is upbeat, but the lyrics hold something deeper. A daydream of me and him finally meeting at the airport. A heavy heart, a piercing look, a hopeful smile. Beyond the canvas, I can feel my left arm tingling, I’m about to cry. Tonight, I don’t want to cry so I hit skip before I could give it the chance to bring up any unwanted tears.

The bass bangs my eardrums and I’m almost instantly on my feet and still in my underwear. Blinded by the lack of corrective lenses and shrouded by the dark of night, I start dancing in the small area around my bed. My phone that is in my hand is no longer a phone, but my guitar pick. I rock along as hard as I can and without care because no one can see me. The canvas takes a break because for once, I feel like I’m living in the moment. What matters is me, the music, and my killer guitar solo.

Music can do so much and yet we so often mindlessly bob to the rhythm in the driver’s seat without giving any regard to the lyrics themselves; the messages embedded so deep within the music sheets are almost always looked over. Let’s stop that.

Homework assignment: Look up the lyrics to the last five songs you listened to and see if they resonate with you. I have a feeling they do.

With music, what draws you in is the melody, but what should keep you there are the lyrics.

Let’s Rant: Whose Last Name is It Anyways?

One day, I want to get married. This much is true.

Being twenty-two, I am of course pondering this as a legitimate possibility. Having a husband to hold with whom I can begin a family; what twenty-two year old isn’t thinking of that (hint: most twenty-two year olds aren’t thinking about that, so let’s call me a special case and move on)? It hasn’t been until recently that I have seriously delved into the thought of marriage. Up until a few months ago, I hadn’t even received equitable rights if I were to marry someone. Now that I have the option and the freedom to do so, I have one serious question to ask: Whose last name do we take?

It’s a silly thing to wonder, isn’t it? For most people, it’s simple: take the last name of your husband. Done deal, sign the license and get to your honeymoon. But when both of you are the same sex, what then? Do you hyphenate? Do you switch? Who gets the honor of being before the hyphen? Does it all matter? The idea of marriage has only recently become progressive that the inner workings are still a bit traditional. My thought process began there and proceeded to creep its way through the crevices of my brain and plant itself deep within the hippocampus, too stubborn to move and too strong the leave me alone. The idea that the woman has to take the last name of the man is about as regressive as it is archaic. Even now as a society, we are barely grasping the idea that we can do what we want. If Zoe Saldana’s husband can take her last name, why can’t we do the same? Why not pull inspiration from the ‘They’re Just Like Us” spread of your favorite gossip magazine and make an attempt at being different? Why not disregard tradition?

There are so many things society is willing to abide to for the sake of tradition. That being said, what constitutes a tradition and are those bylaws allowed to be broken? Just because your mother and father did it one way, are you supposed to be attached to the idea that you should follow suit? I feel like traditions should be seen as suggestions as opposed to strict rules. This newly imbued malleability allows a person to pick and choose what they feel is relatable to them. If you don’t want to jump the broom, don’t do it. If you want to have sponsors at your wedding, have sponsors. Don’t be confined to such limitations and obligations set within one word.

Where was I again? Oh yeah, whose last name would I take?

Seriously, whose do I take?

Fuck it. I’m hyphenating…

Let’s Avert Our Gaze: Attractive People.

Aren’t people just so damn attractive?

Let’s just, for the sake of this post, leave our knowledge and notions of the male gaze at the door and ride along the stream of consciousness. Buckle in, we wouldn’t want anyone to fall overboard.

I’m about to get extremely candid with you, dear reader, so be warned. If you are a family member who doesn’t mind or has a strong stomach, keep reading. If not, then, well, it won’t be so bad. I’ll try to keep it PG-13…R, at the highest.

When I first meet an attractive person, I can never make contact. I haven’t fully deciphered the reasons why, but here are three that I have come up with so far:

  1. Their beauty is actually a special ocular repellant made especially for my eyes.
  2. Little me in the southern region is calling my eyes lower, because he wants to look too.
  3. I am simply not worthy of their presence.

This always happens and it’s what I’m patenting my “Radar of Sexiness.” In the event that I go blind upon encountering someone, please make sure they marry me because he needs to pay for taking my sight. I first realized the actions of this radar when I went to Trader Joes with a friend of mine. We were about to check out when I caught eyes with this extremely attractive man working the cash register next to ours.

He was tall, pretty athletic looking, and had hot pink hair.

Okay, that last part probably had some deeper meaning attached to it. Maybe he was involved with Susan G. Komen or was really into switching up his looks. Both of these unsubstantiated truths are ones that I can get on board with, so I am sticking to them. Regardless, my eyes darted straight to the contents of the cart and I immediately pulled my friend in and said, “Holy shit…I can’t. I just can’t.” With no further context clues beyond those words, she understood me perfectly.

However, with my luck what happened next seemed almost too appropriate. He came over and asked if he wanted us to move to his line, which was now open (a fact I didn’t bother to realize because he was too good looking for my own good and I just can’t look in his general direction). My friend, after a five second pause, told him we were good and we went on to pay and leave.

All that being said, I feel like I should’ve just bitten the bullet and gone to that line. Said “Hey. When are you off? Want to grab a drink? Want to go to the restroom and not rest?” Then again, those are only phrases I would write out and never say out loud to someone. I mean, what good would that have been if I actually said it? If those words were uttered, they’d be to the card scanner as I entered in my PIN number. I feel like that’d be very awkward considering I’d rather have sex with the pink-haired adonis and not some machine that gets swiped every five minutes.

Am I alone in this? Does anyone else avert their gazes at the inconceivable beauty of random strangers? Or am I doomed to this radar-related curse?

Better yet, I should just learn how to properly talk and flirt with a man. I think that’d be best. Until then, you can guarantee that if you spot me looking at the ground, someone very attractive is near.

Let’s Count: The Days When No One Else Mattered.

Day 1: You were annoying and creepy. My mother advised me against talking to strangers and that night I had wondered if I was right to defy such a directive.

Day 3: Rebellion reaps rewards. The texts good night and good morning had begun and there wasn’t a part of me that wanted them to stop.

Day 6: I fear that something new and scary may be happening. I’m unaware of where it’ll take me but for once in my life: I don’t give a fuck.

Day 7: One week later and I still don’t believe it. The conversations, the jokes, the flirting. Is this what ‘dating’ is supposed to feel like?

Day 7.5: Does it count as dating if the distance between the two is roughly 2,500 miles? Society says no, but I couldn’t care less.

Day 10: The texts become less frequent and I fear the repercussions of such a short-lived “romance.” I feel the quotes are necessary because even I am unsure of its validity at this point.

Day 15: I’m in over my head. This was stupid. I should stop texting. I should stop checking my phone. Why did I just check my phone? Stop it, Jason, put your phone in a drawer.

Day 15.2: Phone has been put in a different drawer, in a different room, on a different level of the house. The psychosis continues.

Day 17: Move on. This was never, ever meant to work out.

Day 20: Admit feelings in a long, essay length text. Hit send. Regret immediately follows.

Day 21: I never thought I’d get to the point where you were the only one I saw, the only one I thought I would care for, the only one that mattered. I can’t stop smiling, nor do I ever want to stop.

Day 50: I hate you.

Day 80: A month of abstinence. I feel good; Clean…free.

Day 80.5: Why you chose today to text me, I’ll never know…but I can feel myself falling back in. Hands reach out to help me but I refuse. I blindly and gladly accept this fate and am awash in my decision.

Day 95: I’m drowning.

Day 110: I reach the surface for air and breathe in nothingness. It’s lonely in the middle of the ocean; it’s even worse when you can see your ship sailing away without you.

Day ‘Who Gives a Fuck?’: It’s Christmas, I shouldn’t even think about you. I shouldn’t be wondering what your family wrapped for you under the tree, or if your dog is taking sips of eggnog, or how I should be running to your door with a mistletoe in hand. I shouldn’t be thinking that…I shouldn’t be thinking.

The Day A New Years Kiss Should Happen: It never happens.

Day 1v.2: Hello again.

Day 14v.2: Happy Valentine’s Day.

Day 20v.2: A pointless pep talk that leads up to a large, three-worded bomb is the last thing I expected today. But I love it.

Day 25v.2: You called me tonight and I wish I had never hung up. I wished it lasted hours longer. I wished we would fall asleep on the line and act like there isn’t some rift separating us. You said you called because “[you] thought it’d make me happy.” You were right. I was. I am. Very happy.

Day 30v.2: I can feel myself becoming that much closer to saying something so big and life changing that I can’t even begin to fathom the “right” way to start.

Day 45v.2: College is over. RIP Undergrad.

Day 50v.2: I don’t think I’ve cried so hard, yelled so loud, or hurt so deeply. It amazes me how one person can lift you up so high and let you fall so easily and with so much grace. Sadly, I was finally able to say the words I had longed to profess. If only it were under better circumstances.

A New Day: Today, I vow that I will not let something encompass me so deeply. I won’t let someone cloud my judgement. I won’t let someone control me. Yet as I type this, I feel that today is also the day that I vow to break that vow, because I seldom keep the promises I make to myself. In the moment nothing is constant, nothing is set. You were the person with whom I thought I had IT. The person who wouldn’t fail or falter or fuck me over. The use of past tense has never been more appropriate. I want to say that I, in no way, regret anything. This was the best experience, the worst experience, the most fulfilling experience I could have ever hoped to have. But, I felt the need to write this because I can’t even begin to move on without acknowledging where I’ve been. I want to be able to close this chapter of my life and start on a new one. A chapter where you don’t matter as much to me as you once did. I sat here and counted the days where you made an impact on me and those days were plentiful, but they are not inclusive. There will come a day where no one else will matter and I have come to admit that you won’t be the last man standing; I will.

Let’s Endure: A Kid in an Adult World. 

“I’m twenty-two years old, I look like I’m sixteen, and I am not an adult…”

Sometimes I feel like the numbers that make up my age are in reverse and am therefore not what my license says I am. Well, that metaphor used to work when I was twenty-one, but since I’m twenty-two, it doesn’t really hold the same weight. At this age, I am genuinely curious if the stigma of age, both in the present and in the future, will finally stop being a nuisance on my being. What’s sad is that I lack the ability to straddle both sides of this ageist gap; I have always looked much younger than I actually am. Yes, I know that it will pay off in the long run and that in the future it will work out in my benefit, but right now I’m getting tired of getting the side-eye from a bartender who thinks that what I just gave him was the world’s best fake ID. In a sense, it is the world’s best fake because it’s real. I feel that it’s because of this curse of perpetual youth that I get treated as a child. My worth feels dependent on my looks than it does on my experience, knowledge, or wisdom.

While I acknowledge that my parents will see this, that does not mean I will relent in the following section. I get treated differently when I’m at home. How I talk, what I do, with whom I speak is scrutinized and belittled because I have returned to a space where I have not grown. Where I have grown lies beyond the confines of my hometown and the new “grown-up” me can no longer strive at the homestead. I get that “home is where the heart is,” but who is to decide what my home is other than me? Home should be a state of being and not a state of physical presence. Who I’m comfortable with, how I act, and where I feel right should be home. While my home does have these qualities, it just feels stuck in this bubble where time stops and I’m still eighteen. You can see the pattern here, I’m always getting younger and not getting older.

However, that’s not to say that once I finally grow up or once I finally look my age (which I have estimated to be when I’m forty-two) that the bubble will pop. As far as I’m concerned, the bubble is impenetrable and whatever attempts to kill it only makes it stronger. There is no escape. I will forever feel like a child in an adult world, forever running towards the goal of adulthood with no chance of getting any closer. That being said, I still won’t let up. I still won’t let that stop me. I have a voice and I have a lot to say and I’m going to keep saying it:

“I am twenty-two years old, I look like I’m sixteen, and I’m an adult!”