I Will Be Okay

What I like about the show Parenthood is that its shows overlapping perspectives of both parents and children. It acknowledges the struggles of all ages and as a twenty year old, it makes me think twice about looking from only my eyes.

I know I’m putting my parents in a difficult spot. They don’t get to brag about their daughter graduating early. They don’t get to boast about what graduate school I’ll be going to or what well-known program I will be studying for. They don’t get to proudly tell family and friends that I’ve got my life figured out, that I have a job and I’m moving out and that they don’t have to worry about me anymore.

If anything, I’ve added more worry in their life.

My mom comes home today and she grumbles about her job, how mentally exhausting it can be. She tells me she understands why I don’t want to work in corporate, but it’s a backhanded understanding. Her tone said it all: look, I’m doing it, and I’m doing it for you, so you could have everything.

Moments like these I wish I could record my mom’s words and play it back for her. I don’t want to be coming home miserable about my job. But if I point it out to her, she’d quickly backtrack.

I got my first job when I was sixteen. It wasn’t a “real” job. I started volunteering as a swimming instructor at the YMCA at the end of tenth grade. I always took it seriously, giving it my all. I worked with children ages two to twelve and the goal remained the same: to see them progress as well as have fun. I always wanted to conquer the fears of going underwater and the stress of not doing a stroke right. All the mental exertion put in was worth it to see their big grins when they overcame a challenge.

I’d volunteered at the pool for seven months when the YMCA offered me a job as a swim instructor. I was thrilled. My dad didn’t approve; he thought it would get to my head too easily. That with the illusion of a minimum-wage paying part-time job I would think I was invincible.

No and yes. It didn’t make me value school less – I already hated being a letter grade rather than a person. But it did make me feel like I had a purpose, that I could make a change, and the self-empowerment my first job gave me is the same reason I haven’t quite let go of the pool. It took me a long time to finally say “I quit” to my supervisor and friend, but this past weekend when they needed a substitute, I said yes. Because I believe in giving back to the place that gave me the confidence in myself that I lacked as a teenager.

It’s that confidence that drives me to pursue a job that I will be passionate about now. Yes, I want to be a writer, but I know very well that I need mental stimulation to be able to write. As much as it feels like a dream to sit back and write for days on end without having to think about working, I want to be a writer who is experience-influenced. Sure, I want to tap into all my reserves off imagination and write a fiction book that will allow readers to escape into a different world. But I also want to write realistic fiction novels that help readers feel less alone in hard circumstances. The last book that affected me like that was To All The Boys I Have Loved by Jenny Han. So beautifully written, Ms. Han encompasses the innocent voice of a wild-child. She captures simple details to craft a character’s typical life and turning the difficult situation the character is placed in connectable. I want to be that kind of writer.

My dad doesn’t think I can make it. When he says that, I’m not sure if he means it or if he’s letting his fear rule him. Either way, it’s really discouraging to have a parent say that to you. And to have another parent let the other one say it.

I get that my parents made sacrifices for me to have the best life possible and it feels like a slap in their face to take what they’ve done for me and risk it all. All I can do is work on proving them wrong.

But more importantly, I have to prove myself right. I call myself a writer and I talk about passion; I need to utilize these two aspects of my character. The progress may be slow for a while and I may have to deal with my parents’ scorn (that’s from the goodness of their heart: to push me to do better), but that’s why headphones exist. To block out the rest of the world and get what needs to be done accomplished.

My parents have this habit of saying, “You’ll come back to us saying ‘I should have listened you’.” When they say that, they make me feel like I’m going to regret the choices I have made. I won’t lie, I have made a couple of risqué choices in college that only brought me emotionally and mentally down, but I don’t regret any of them.   

I don’t believe in regret. Instantaneous regret is natural; consequences can never be predicted. But I don’t look back and see things as mistakes. Lessons, instead. Because it’s shaped who I am today. It’s given me stories to tell – some disastrous, some utterly embarrassing, some increasingly funny. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Sleeping with Sealie

When I was five, my family and I went to Florida. It wasn’t just my parents and I, we went with my cousins’ family too. We went to Disney World and Universal Studios and SeaWorld. It was my first “real” trip and I really enjoyed it.

My mom bought me a stuffed animal seal at SeaWorld. Back then, I was always keen on building my animal family collection. I slept with a lot of them of on my lower Queen sized bunk while others stayed on the top bunk. Even more animals remained packed away in boxes that my parents didn’t open after we moved from New York. There were thirty-two animals at one point on my bed and by the time I was twelve, my parents thought it was time for me to outgrow my love for my animals.

For two consecutive nights, they tried to wean me away. After tucking me in, they would take all my stuffed animals and put them on the top bunk with the animals that were too big to share my bed with. After they would leave, I would wait a couple of minutes before bringing down all my thirty-two “babies” down with me.

But I only brought down thirty-one and I forgot all about the last one for a week because my parents stopped putting my bed-residing stuffed animals away. I didn’t have a reason to look at my top bunk.

Every so often I liked to count the number of animals on my bed. It filled me with satisfaction to have so many. It was only after I counted and came one short did I panic. And when I stood on my tiptoes to look on my top bunk did I see my little stuffed animal seal sitting there with sad eyes waiting for me patiently.

Yes, one could say my love for my Sealie began with guilt, and I was overcompensating for it, but I also found her comforting because I found myself in a social corner in middle school. Misunderstandings between friends, jokes misconstrued, petty grudges held, I held Sealie closer at night because she made me feel less alone. I gave her a personality and life and I’d carry her in my knapsack to school almost every day.

This went on periodically into high school.

I only stopped sleeping with her my second semester in college and it wasn’t until this year that I placed her on my dresser amongst a decorative piece of a collection of animals. She was still my favorite, but my actions opposed my words.

But this spring break, she was the only stuffed animal I brought home and I have been cuddling her as I fall asleep in my childhood bed.

Sometimes it’s good to be a child again, to go back to those roots. Sometimes when the present becomes an overwhelming whirlwind affecting your identity, the only constant you have is your past. And when you turn to it, the more time you’ve had to grow, the more choices you have of who you used to be to shine through. I want to be the playful child I was while having my guarded high school character. I get to carry that with me always, like a mint in my purse that I can pick at first remembrance.

When my parents ask me about what career I am looking into, it gets overwhelming because I’m still figuring out what I will be doing this summer – when I’m not concocting ways to make the last two months of college memorable. The stress can make it hard to breathe sometimes. Times like that I’m glad that I haven’t completely outgrown nestling Sealie  to my chest.

She’s so small now. Back when I was shorter, she’d feel so large against my torso. Now I dwarf her, but I hold on tighter. To her and all that she represents.

Everyone should have a Sealie. I feel bad for those who don’t.

Defining Choices

PJS: Stone Cold

There are two kinds of people. The first kind are those who will speak out about having to unnecessarily pay for a 3D movie when the 3D effects were lame and the only reason that show version was chosen was because the timings of the movie weren’t paid close attention to. The other kind will be silent. They’ll have shrugged it off, talked rather about all that they liked instead, making the most out of a situation.

There are two kinds of people. The ones who’ll take the lead in planning a group trip while all the other friends who say they’re interested don’t make the effort. The friend who says she’ll keep in touch and means it while others throw the phrase, “We’ll catch up soon!”

There are two kinds of people. Those who lie and feel guilty and others who don’t feel any qualms at all.

I’ve lied before. White lies, superficial lies, secrets and twisted truths. But this semester I truly became a liar.

The truth always catches up.

I’m waiting for my latest lie to catch up with me. I was emailed about doing a Dear Freshman Me video and I jumped at the chance to give advice to take advantage of youth. But there was a misunderstanding. It was meant for students in the School of Communication and Information (SCI). This was the school I applied to get into last summer when I planned on being an ITI major. Though I talked about dropping it, I never did take it off as one of my majors until this past week when I realized it should align with my new graduation date (though I haven’t changed that yet – baby steps), so the SCI still sends out emails to me about events its throwing.

I should have taken a closer look at the email; I just assumed Rutgers was reaching out to me and because it was going to be a video it made sense that the SCI school was involved. But the first few questions my interviewer asked me happened to be about my major and what I liked about the school. Minutes already into the video, I knew better than to tell them that I wasn’t participating in the SCI’s offered majors. I played along. I lied.

I walked away feeling no qualms. There’s nothing I can do about them finding out and cutting me out of the video for not giving “real” advice. But the truth is, all that I said commending the professors was true – of the few classes I had.

But I know too well that when a lie is told, it’s looked at at face value and the truth in the lie is not trusted.

I started this semester lying for self-preservation. Only in retrospect do I know that it didn’t make a difference. What I was going to lose, I would have lost anyway.

My winter break was stressful. I did very poorly in my computer concepts class and I knew I had to retake the class to be able to take Programming II to take any other ITI class. The very thought filled me with dread and so I came up with various solutions to be able to stay in college another year to complete my four years and study something I liked. But with all my calculations, the only conceivable other major was English. And I knew my parents wouldn’t agree with that choice. My dad was already on my case for wanting to stay in college one more year to have fun.

Sidenote: yes, of course it was. I already know my life’s going to vastly change when I graduate: between menial jobs until I find a career, trying to write a book and moving back in with my parents, it’s going to be a solitary lifestyle.

A friend of mine joked yesterday about how next year he would move in early only so he could claim the second floor lounge for us – because he wanted our little group to stay the same. It warmed my heart because that’s all I wanted; I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I wouldn’t be there to see it.

Yes, primarily I didn’t want to grow up. I didn’t want to adult. So I told my parents I would buck up and get through ITI – but I built my schedule around the English major instead.

The guilt was horrible. I needed advice. I asked my friends. Most of them told me that I should pursue English because it made sense, all I ever do is write anyway. Others didn’t understand why I had to be lying. “Just tell your parents. How could they not understand?”

But I understood where my parents were coming from: they are afraid I won’t make it. And they simply don’t want to see their baby grow up to be destitute and dependent. Born a first generation Indian-American, the weight fell on my shoulders to make the most out of what my parents had given me. But the daughter of an accountant of double masters and an audiologist with a PhD, all I saw was that their degrees didn’t leave them passionate about what they did.

A friend said it best once when we were having dinner: some people work to live and others live to work. I chose the latter because I do better at things when I am passionate about it.

I still second guessed my choice many times. But every reasoning shouted that I would be miserable forcing myself through ITI. So I stuck to my English major and my plan of pursuing becoming a writer. But it meant avoiding conversations with my parents when they asked me about what classes I was taking, how I was doing in them. Eventually I adopted saying, “I don’t want to talk about school. It stresses me out.”

I should have known my mother would pick up on the truth after that. After all, she is my mother. And eventually she did ask point blank, “Did you drop your ITI classes?”

I could be honest when I said no to that. Because I hadn’t been taking ITI classes this semester. No, it was worse: I’d dropped the major.

All the hedging of the truth came out when my dad sensed I was lying too and demanded I send him my schedule for the semester. When I didn’t respond to the text, he got angry, so to appease to him I made up a schedule. I should have known that he’d be checking up on me more frequently then. But I assumed it meant that he’d text me in class and see if I’d respond. I was too careful for that.

Or so I thought. I skipped a class to hang out with a friend. She wanted to buy work clothes for her internship and I wanted to help her out. My father tracked me on my phone locator and cursed me out for not being where I was at the time.

There were so many mornings I would wake up because I’d feel an overwhelming tightening in my chest because of the fear I’d made the wrong choice and how I was a disappointment to my parents and I couldn’t even talk to them about it. Those early mornings I wasn’t be able to fall back asleep. I wasn’t happy those weeks even though I know I’d made the right decision to pursue writing.

But that day when my father caught me in a lie about my schedule, I didn’t feel anything. My friend worried about me, my lack of concern. But it was because in that moment I knew what was to come.

That night, the truth came out first to my mom about what I’d decided for my future. It was my choice to graduate early. After all, once I dropped my English major, I only needed one more class to take over summer to complete my English minor. I completed my Psychology major last summer and Creative Writing Certificate will be completed this semester. I was never a fan of school, of being stuck in a classroom being forced to listen and being tested. I’d also be saving my parents a lot of money by graduating a year early; it was fair to give up what I wanted – another year with my friends, another year of freedom and being a child and actually thinking about my future rather than being pushed into it – when I wasn’t doing what they wanted anyway.

It didn’t mean that when my father did find out about my decision he was grateful. In fact, he didn’t want to talk to me for a couple of weeks. But I understood why; I lied to him. It was different when I evaded the questions. When I chose to make up a schedule and feed it to him – that was cold-bloodedly premediated.

I didn’t feel the brunt of my father’s anger. It helped to be away at college, to have my own place so that both my father and I could think about my choice on our own terms and deal with it with significantly cooler heads when discussing it with each other later.

He’s come around now but it’s because I’m not lying anymore and I compromised.

I got off easy. But that’s not always the case.

A social group divided soon after this semester started because I didn’t like who I was becoming when hanging out with them, secrets spilled, as they do when a friend suddenly drops the status. And Robbie confronted me about having one of his shirts.

He’d been acting weird around me for a couple of days but I didn’t think much of it. We went through patches like this before. It was until he came into the lounge and sat across from me and asked me did I realize, my heart dropping, how one of my past actions was coming to bite me presently.

It was something that had started and mostly ended with an ex my sophomore year. To deal with the emotionally abusive relationship, I’d take his flannels to stick it to him. It was petty and it was childish, but it was the smallest way in which I could hurt him: I knew when I wore them, he would never admit to them because he wouldn’t want to cause a scene. It just so happened that that’s what I’d wanted to ask for help without asking for help to not care about him anymore.

When things got bad with Robbie later during that year, I retracted my attempted childish strike through an explanation. I never thought I would be in the same position again.

And I wasn’t. I never took the shirt Robbie accused me of this year. It was left in my room on December 13th of last year when I’d excitedly given him his birthday gifts weeks before his birthday. One of them had been a new shirt and he’d changed into it leaving his old one in my room. I was going to return it to him the next day, but that night I realized I wasn’t over him as much as I’d liked to be. And at the party we were at, when he made a move on our friend and she rebuffed him and he sauntered off with some random girl, all my feelings came back to me.

It had been easy up until then to be friends with Robbie because when we went out, we’d all stick together. When he strayed from our typical group to make a move, I realized I’d never quite fallen out of love with him.

Bitterly, the shirt left over in my room stayed in my room.

When he brought it up months later, I knew what he was talking about. But attesting to it meant that I had to admit that my feelings for him were so strong that impulsively I would act out. That part of me I wanted to conceal; in a momentary act of self-preservation I stuck to my lie – to his face – repeatedly.

I came undone when he asked to come to my room to see for himself if I had anything of his.

I tried to explain myself but it was too late; he couldn’t see past the lie. He parted with, “I understand that you’re a stereotypical only child who’s gotten everything she’s ever wanted.”

Those words cut, it was like all the confidences we’d put into each other, the confidences I’d shared with him, all crumbled away to nothing because of a singular choice I made.

Robbie left my room announcing to, I can only assume, the people I used to hang out with, that I had it all along and thus was a liar. I sat there in my room staring at the clothes I’d dumped out on the ground to show him I had nothing else of his. And I felt nothing.

If I feel a twinge of sadness now it’s because we haven’t talked in four weeks and it proves that our friendship couldn’t have survived. So that promise he made on November 14th when I told him I didn’t want to lose him and he said I wouldn’t – that was a lie too. I always knew I was going to lose him. It was inevitable.

He would ask me for things and I wouldn’t be able to say no. And when I did, I would rack up with guilt for saying no. Meanwhile, he walked in and out of my life whenever he wanted. He had the control.

It was never an equal friendship.

So yeah, I took his shirt and I lied to his face about it. A shitty way to end a friendship, sure. But I think we were trying too hard to be friends and it wasn’t healthy. I didn’t do the right thing, I will attest to my childishly impulsive ways, but I also knew if I groveled for his forgiveness after what I did, maybe for a week or two we’d be avoidant, but then we’d fall back into our pattern. He’d ask me for something, I’d do it, he’d hurt me unintentionally, I’d react badly. It had to end.

So I let it end with me.

I still think about Robbie. But I don’t see him around as much even though we live in the same building; it’s as if we know where the other will be and we avoid those spots. By chance, if I briefly spot him, his face is of a stranger’s now.

I have groveled for Robbie’s forgiveness previously in the past year, but since then I’ve changed. I was always so scared of losing him that when it did happen, it wasn’t so bad. Because no one should have that kind of emotional affect or control over anyone else.

I have lied. I have felt guilty sometimes and others, not at all. I have attempted and failed at self-preservation, but I have carried myself through the explosion of the truth as nonchalantly as I could. Because in the end, what’s meant to be works out.

And in the end, there aren’t just two kinds of people. Those two sides I have to me are just a fraction of the couple hundred I have. It’s what it means to be human: we can all be reduced to a story to share, but we give value to some stories over others, to people over others. We can be biased and we can be wrong and we can change our minds.

As I get ready to graduate, I concentrate more on making stories rather than have them make me.

Spring Awakening

Today was a warm day. We’ve had warm days this winter season before, but this is the first week that it is going to be really warm. By the middle of the week it’s going to be at least 70 degrees! Born in August, I’m a total summer baby. I’m rarely ever too hot. When I am, and the windows are open or the AC is on, it only takes ten minutes before I want to shut them.

Because I love summer, I have many summer dresses. Most I still manage to pair off with heavy cardigans in the winter, but to wear them for their original style is exciting for me.

But every spring there is an awareness: an ending.

It’s a programmed calendar based on the school system. September is my new year rather than January and May marks the end. Warm weather is foreboding.

It stands out this year. We had one huge snowstorm coupled with a few scattered bitterly cold days, but now it all feels neatly brushed through the door as if the foyer was always immaculate. Every year has an end of some sort: the classes being taken won’t be taken again, your schedules won’t sync in the perfect synchronization as your friends, people will move out and move in. For me, the changes are going to be permanent. It’s too much to take in.

I’ve done most things that I wanted to do before I graduated: go to a football game, go to the Werblin pool, go to the Imaginate meeting. The only thing that’s left for me to do is have a picnic by Passion Puddle on Douglass Campus.

I told my high school best friend the news today. She did not expect it. But she tried to be enthusiastically encouraging by telling me that I had a year to figure out my life while people would have to do that a lot more after graduating. More importantly, the wisdom she imparted on me with is that if I spent my present time thinking about how all of this was going to end, I would never enjoy the present.

As it would happen, I slipped into my past instead.

I wish I had a photographic memory. One of my greatest fears is forgetting. By that I don’t mean the big obvious things, but the smallest details – the smell of the shirt, the flip of a wrist when making pancakes, an accent, a conversation that invoked a lot of emotion and the course it took. But our minds can only capture so much. It’s why I got into journaling so much – for preservation. But I could never do my day justice – and it certainly cut into my time of attempting to be creative.

It’s why it’s still a challenge now: here I sit trying to be blog-appropriate while maintaining my personal journal for my emotional catharsis – to be able to have sufficient time to push myself to be creative means I need isolation from stimulation forcing my imagination to kick in. It’s the only reason that graduating early makes sense: I’m not dragging my feet through classes that only cut into my writing time.

The memory of today has been written down, but it’s not why it snuck up on me. It’s just a day that stands out because it was one of the defining moments in my friendship with Robbie.

Robbie and I didn’t have it easy a lot. It was typically because we were emotionally alike. We reacted sensitively to each other and we were selfish with each other. He knew he could ask me for anything and I would do it for him. And I – I fought for our friendship because I did value him, but I never quite let go of him and me being more.

It was only recently that I realized how unfair we’d been to each other with our unsaid expectations. Now, whether or not he believes me, I do miss him.

The memory of today  begins on March 7, 2015 at 2am when Robbie came back with a couple of his friends completely drunk. I was leaving my room to go brush my teeth when I saw a friend deposit Robbie on our floor before he went to his own floor. Robbie wobbled drastically using the walls for support as he made his way to his room. I followed with trepidation; the prior two weeks had been rough for us. We knew exactly how to hurt each other.

He didn’t like being lied to, I didn’t like being used. It’s almost amazing how long we made it considering neither of us could stop our bad habits.

I told his neighbor and our friend to go check on him while I hovered by the door. She went inside and came back out to tell me that Robbie would be okay, he just needed to go to bed. But then he threw up on himself. And despite my fear of how angry he got with me when he was drunk, I couldn’t go to bed without helping him.

Trash can and a roll of paper towels to clean himself up, a water bottle to hydrate himself, I sat next to him on the ground. He gargled words to me; the only ones I was able to catch were of him telling me to take a video of him. With a skeptical attitude, I did as he told me. He wanted a reminder of how bad he got so he wouldn’t go this far again he told me.

I got him to the bathroom and another friend helped me keep watch. Had it not been for the extra muscle, I wouldn’t have been able to get Robbie to bed. He endured much more than me, narrowly missing Robbie’s fist when he was trying to haul him to bed.

Robbie didn’t believe any of this the next morning. When he woke up, I was in the lounge down the hall. I was the first person he asked about what happened to him. When I recapped the part of the night I saw him, he told me I shouldn’t have helped him, that he could have taken care of himself.

He sauntered off to find the rest of his buddies from the night before leaving me reeling with anger.

It was bad enough that it had been two weeks ago that I’d drunkenly picked up a sweater from his room wanting to wear something of his only to find out it was his friend’s. When he demanded an explanation, the awkward explanation had spilled out of how I liked him more than I should. As if that weren’t enough to cause a rift between us, we shared two classes that forced us to interact – mostly him telling me to take notes for him. I didn’t appreciate the extra work, but I did it because – how could I not? The next weekend had been our friend’s 21st birthday party where Robbie left his coat behind and called me. I’d been happy to oblige because it meant that he’d let go of my stupid choice of taking “his” sweater. But when I got back to the dorm I realized that he could have called anyone else – everyone else was still at the party – and I wanted him to admit that he called me because he knew I would answer my phone guaranteed. My expectations, his expectations – if only we could have left them behind.

And so March 7 at 11am when Robbie was so condescending of my help, I told myself I was done helping him, done dealing with him. I sent him the video of the night before he’d made me take and I captioned it, “Don’t worry, I won’t help next time.”

And then I left the building. I was keen on spending as much time as I could outside of the building to avoid him because I needed my space. He Facebook messaged me an apology and then texted me. But I didn’t reply. I knew we were unhealthy.

But that night I was in the lounge with a couple of friends. I was reading with my headphones in when Robbie came in to tell his grand story of what happened to him the night before. I kept my eyes on my book, but if anyone noticed, my pages weren’t flipping forward. My typically loud music was muted with the buds still in my ears. I listened to Robbie tell how he think he was drugged at a gay frat where his friend was having her birthday party. He told it with so much gusto – it was something I always envied about him. I could never tell a story. Write it, perhaps, but even then there was so much revision that needed to be done to perfect it. And there he was, telling it extempo. The same way he lived his life.

I want to believe he didn’t plan it. That when I had enough and left the lounge to take a shower, he happened to also choose to take a shower. The second floor of Demarest has co-ed bathrooms making it possible for us to shower at the same time in stalls next to each other.

I didn’t know it at the time. I was softly whimpering in the shower when I heard the stall door next to me open and the shower nozzle turn on with a squeak of the handle. I didn’t think much of it, I was just aware I needed to swallow back my sobs. But then he said my name and that changed everything.
“Yeah?” I said quietly.

“I’m so sorry..” Robbie reiterated the whole story about the night before, adding that he never meant to hurt me and that when he blacks out like the he had, he turns mean because he is angry about other things. He never meant to take it out on me.

I listened. He asked me if I forgave him. I said okay. He asked me again. I said yeah.

And then we were silent. I finished my shower first, but I chose to reach out to him so knew I was really okay by asking him if he wanted me to wake him the next morning for his class. The perpetual morning person, I’d been his alarm clock since first semester. He said sure.

Apology made and accepted, offer of civility made and accepted, I went to sleep that night thinking we’d make it, we’d be okay.

Present day, it’s been three weeks since we have spoken to each other. This time it was my fault. But it’s also why this day last year stands out: we’ve had our skirmishes – and we’ve gotten over them.

Because I couldn’t stay angry at him. And if it was my fault, I would grovel. Because the thought of losing him was too much. But this time, the last straw I pulled, I don’t feel guilty about it. Because I realized we were trapped in a cycle. Because I realized he’d never been mine to lose.

It takes sixty-six consecutive days for a habit to form. Robbie and I are almost halfway there for the silence between us to become permanent. It’s too late to ask him to believe me, but I do miss him. But I’ve accepted that he was never meant to stay.

Days like this I almost miss the cold. It’s more fitting.

Half the Story

It was my dad’s suggestion to keep a blog that’s made me even more intent on writing for one. Because it meant that my father had let go of his anger of me lying to him about being an ITI major when I was an English major. Of course, I’m not an English major anymore; instead I’m saving my parents several grands and because of that they can’t complain about my choice to pursue what I want.

I know they’re scared I won’t be able to find financial security and independence. It scares me too. I want to have my own place and luxury. It adds pressure on choosing to be a writer.

But I also know this is the right choice for me. So it is important for me to get my writing out there. Except while this blog is still under construction, no one is to know about it. Well, my parents do. I had to tell them I’m trying.

I let my mother read the entries I have so far so she got an idea of what the goal of the blog was. Still quite unknown to me, I suppose I  am focusing on mini personal essays that really showcase my writing style and my voice rather than content. Of course I won’t know for sure what people get out of the blog until I spread the word of its existence.

I wonder then what impact this entry would have.

But that is why I like my blog: I am not writing for an audience. Out there online, people can choose to read it for what it is – or not. I’m just sharing stories.

My mom warned me about using names. I had real first names up until my mom voiced her fears of their rights. At first I tried to fight back – where were my journalistic integrity rights? I was not preaching slander of any sort; I am simply telling stories from my perspective. This means that my stories are mine. Told from my friend’s perspective, it could come off as entirely different.

That’s really the beauty of it.

It is what makes me excited about collaborating with who would have been my future roommate had I stayed in Demarest next year. My residence hall has a special policy that allows for co-ed living and in a spur of the moment decision in the face of the friend I had talked to about living together for months choosing to live with someone else, RTD and I agreed to live together. He and I bonded quickly with our love for writing and over a prospective idea of sharing a story written from two perspectives. A friend I never expected to gain, I almost fear the loss when I tell him that I am graduating this year changing all the plans we joked about.

This “fear” feels fake though because I cannot write his name; the information I withhold turns this into a fiction that can be applicable to anyone. But I finally understand how people can be accused of lying because they’ve kept a secret.

And yet – I have to respect people’s privacy. And for my account to be respected, I have to respect their account. After all, it’s all our parts together that complete the whole story.

All anyone will ever be reading is half the story and it’s okay because it leaves room for imagination to fill in the blanks of  why and what they were thinking.

The Value of a Lounge

My second semester in college, I would study in the lounge in the basement with my friends. Sometimes the trek felt too long, and we would do work in the first floor lounge instead, all the way down the high side of the first floor. Unlike the basement, it was always physically isolated. But the main lounge was socially isolated: there were enough different tables for people to sit apart and study alone together.

My sophomore year, I had to adjust to the way my room was set. Because both of my roommate wanted our beds close to the window, we compromised on bunking the beds together. Because she took the top bunk, she had an easy access to her desk. I liked having my bed on the bottom but I had to sacrifice sitting at my desk to do work because it was locked off by the refrigerator and microwave combo set. And not being able to sit on my bed to do work like I did my freshman year because the top bunk cut off lighting on the bottom one at night certainly caused an emotional tizzy. It was only a matter of hours I adjusted to it: two doors down the hall was the lounge.

It was a beautiful lounge. The furniture was old, but I didn’t see it. It was the open closet overflowing with books and an added bookshelf with more books that allowed for the room to have a calming aura. The chalkboard read Welcome to Demarest and through the windows, the courtyard could be seen. There were two large trees with bike racks on either side of the benches on the front walkaway of Demarest. If the image was folded in half, it would not be symmetrical, but in every shade of hour, the view was homey.

I would know. I spent most of my time in the lounge when I wasn’t in class or sleeping or the rare occurrence of hanging out with friends in their rooms. I was teased about being the lounge troll and my smile would be brittle in response. I was asked concernedly if I was having issues with my roommate, but that was far from the case. Sitting in the lounge was like being on a subway track. I could be there for hours on my own but people would pop in and out.

My constant presence in the dorm was definitely noticed. Eventually people got that the lounge could be simultaneously be both a social arena and a study area. Quickly populated, the hub was a constant source of entertainment and it reeled me into being an outgoing person and making friends without the effort.

I wouldn’t have met A had it not been for the lounge. The room was across from his room and when he’d see me inside, he’d stop by to talk occasionally. The more we spent time just the two of us, the better I thought I knew him.

It wasn’t only him. I met some great people through hanging out in the middle of the floor. But I was too impressionable. In high school I’d been a loner who hadn’t been in social environments. Finding myself a part of a group of friends, I found myself adopting lifestyles that I look back on now and wish I’d known when to take a step back instead of my immersing myself further.

I did get hurt. A was a frequent visitor to the lounge in the first couple of weeks of the school year and I presumed our budding friendship could lead to more. But the night of September 19th, I realized his intentions weren’t quite so pure. Since the lounge was where we first really met, I boycotted it for a few days. Three to be exact. But the walls of my room felt like they were going to swallow me and I had to get out.

I know I could have left the building. Gone to the bookstore or the library or anywhere else in the building to do work. But my friends still continued to hang out in the social hub. When times were tough, we shared laughs in that room more than anywhere else. All because it felt open. We knew at any moment anyone could walk in and join in. But there were a certain some of us who were considered the loungelings because of the time we spent in the lounge.

One of my favorite memories came from one of the saddest moments in my life. I was sitting in the lounge tearing up because Robbie and I couldn’t be friends. I was trying hard not to cry and Maurz, who sat across from me, silently got up, left and came back with a box of tissues that she placed in front of me. She sat back down and told me to cry, to let it all out, that it was okay. She didn’t expect me to talk, she continued on to tell me how I’m beautiful even when I cry – quoting one of my favorite lines from All of Me by John Legend – and how when she cries, she sobs, all of her crumpling forward. Maurz told me how she and her roommate at TCNJ would sometimes have days where they would be holding a banana and bawl sometimes. She acted it out to get a laugh out of me and shakily I smiled back at her.

There was a time when my friends and I got stuck inside the lounge. May 1st. Back then the it had a lock.  That day when someone was leaving the room, the door closed on its own and the lock got jammed. Stuck for two and a half hours, we were a bunch that got along well. We played word games; we imagined our escape. One boy had a pocket knife that he was ready to use to cut the screen out of the window of, but the other chose to use it to try to open the door. Maurz and I got too restless to do work and sat back in sheer amusement reveling in the circumstances we found ourselves in. It was my turn when playing 2 truths and 1 lie when maintenance finally opened the door. Part relieved, part disappointed, despite the door opening, none of us left the lounge. Now that we had the option to leave, we could relax and get back to doing work. We earned our title for not leaving the lounge.

It’s bonding moments like those that solidified the value of being in the lounge for me. We were never forced to have honest conversations with each other. We just got comfortable because of time and space. Since then, like most relationships, we’ve grown apart. But it doesn’t change any of the time we spent together in the lounge; we had it real then.

Life got busy for the others. Maybe I am stuck, maybe I’m too nostalgic, but the lounge has been a constant in my life for the last two years. Sometimes I have to force myself to not be in the building because of the attempted intervention on my behalf to get out more. But now with two months until graduation, knowing I won’t have time in this place for a long time, I want to absorb the atmosphere as much as I can. Because whenever I do come back, I know it won’t be the same.

Just last semester there would be a lot of people attempting to do work in the lounge while others were hanging out. Now, it’s just me. I’m the one who remains when everyone leaves. I’m the one who has given this lounge a value and I choose to uphold it while I can.

An Eulogy to the Only Place I Ever Felt at Home

I never thought I would graduate a year early. I tried to weasel my way out of it, tried to find another major just to stick around longer. But I was too content with my life shifting between working and writing and hanging out with friends. I didn’t want to make time for school. The hardest part about accepting this new reality was really letting go of the only place I called home for the last three years.

I was laughed at, scorned even when I called Demarest Hall home. Last year a floormate spit fire at me telling me that the people we shared the building with were not family. But home isn’t just about having a family present.

Home is where you feel comfortable to be yourself.

I grew up in Edison, only twenty minutes away from Rutgers, yet an entirely different lifestyle. Predominantly Asian, the high school I went to was competitive and dreams that weren’t practical were frowned upon. Closed off, I spent most of my time behind my journal.

Resurfacing in college was like a blossom budding in early spring. People genuinely wanted to get to know me past the basic inquires of what my major was going to be. In a dorm that celebrated the arts and promoted discussions on modes of perception, for the first time in my life, I wasn’t just a number. My SAT score wasn’t relevant. My grade on the last Calculus exam didn’t matter. My class ranking was unnecessary to be known. Instead, I could be shy and loud and studious and curious and friendly and distant all wrapped into one.

I didn’t know what was in store for me when I first arrived. I’d seen Demarest on a Rutgers visit with my childhood best friend, GP, who had to pay the fees for the year. 125 College Ave. When I located it, I’d jumped up at how quaint it was. Mid-August, the grass was green, the black benches shiny, the building looked like a giant farmhouse from the outside. It never crossed my mind that I would end up living there for my whole college life.

August 30, 2013, I remember hauling my dorm things with my parents and GP from the parking garage to Demarest. I got my key from my RA. “You’re roommate is already here,” Faith told me.

My roommate and I had made contact that summer through emails to learn about each other. I wasn’t too worried about sharing my room with her. Or at least, as I walked through what felt like a narrow main doorway because of the luggage I was hauling, I felt like that because I had my family with me.

Room 123 with its pasty green tiles, the room was very small. With both of our families inside trying to help us set up, it was very cramped. I was lucky; GM decided to loft her bed and I got to keep my bed closer to the bottom so I could just collapse on my bed after and between classes.

When I look back at my freshman year, my room was skin and bones compared to my current junior and final year. Over the years, I accumulated more dresses and I brought back more mementos from my parents’ house to the room that I would spend so much more of my life in. Back then, I’d also still been plenty shy. I kept my door open, but I very rarely left 123. It took me until my sophomore year, after having chosen to live at Demarest again, when I felt acclimated to the building enough that I felt comfortable going around to welcome the new people to the building.

Truth be told, I believe people make places. When I was younger, my parents and I would take long roadtrips down the East Coast. I said I liked traveling, but it was the journey that I enjoyed more of: the packing of bags, the waking up at 4am to get to said destination by nightfall, the time with my parents. Demarest gave me an emotional journey that I never expected.

Not all of it was good. My first kiss happened with a boy who didn’t stop when I told him to. Drinking was the typical weekend activity. I didn’t always know who I could talk to and there were people who wanted to believe what they wanted to believe. Sometimes my emotions would get the best of me and I would have anxiety attacks. Those I confided in would ask me, “Why don’t you leave Demarest?”

The truth was simple: because the building was a world outside of mine. There are nightly sections that has people come together in the lounge downstairs to discuss various topics ranging from, but far from limited to, the Trolley Problem and a showing of the Imitation Game. The drag shows are always a delight to see all kinds of people flaunt their confidence. Coffeehouses that displayed talents and jokes are always entertaining to watch. Past tense – I didn’t take part in enough of the activities the building had to offer. And now it’s too late.

There was never a specific moment that made me fall in love with Demarest. It was always what it symbolized. My first home away from my parents. My freshman year I’d go home to teach swimming at the Y and every weekend I would think about how I did miss my parents. But it never took away the desire to go back. The car rides back to the dorm, even when I had nothing planned to do, it was being on my own that filled me with excitement.

Three years later, nothing’s changed – except for the fact that having decided only about a week ago that I’m graduating early.

And I realize that I just found a way to say a whole bunch of words to describe a place without really saying what this place means to me.

It was my constant in college. The place that housed me for all of my college life that I gave the sentimental value of home because it’s where I had to hold my own and learn the price of independence.

The one room that I will miss the most is the second floor lounge. In the middle of the dorm floor and with a closet turned into a library and a chalkboard, it was the perfect combination of social hub and study room. When I look back, had I not spent so much time “living” in the second floor lounge, I would have never been pulled into circumstances that would end up changing me.