As is always the case this time of month, regardless of anything else that might be going on in my life, my animal brain has taken control, with its usual tinge of urgency and need. It’s nothing I haven’t written about repeatedly before – it seems that, if nothing else, my menstrual cycle provokes an incessant need to write.
So tonight I feel the hairs on the back of my neck rise in anticipation of a hungry mouth – of sharp teeth barely brushing against my nape. I want to growl, to hiss, to scream, to grunt: to feel my voicebox thrumming with pleasure and with anguish, in equal measure.
Instead, instead, I am turning in early tonight in anticipation of early morning yoga. I can only hope I will dream of running wild and naked under a cold, white moon, dry soft pine needles cushioning the soles of my feet. Because that is the current, pit-of-my-stomach yearning of this animal brain; of this unbridled, chaotic heart.
(Rambly, ranty, and reflective writing follows. You’ve been warned.)
As many have already heard, two-thirds of my immediate family flew in to the city to visit me two weekends ago, from Saturday to Wednesday.
I found out the exact dates the day my laptop was stolen, when I had to call home to try and find the Macbook’s hardware serial number. Weeks prior, my mom had talked extensively about her and my brother flying to the city to visit. Lots of talk; but when I called her on Monday, February 8th, my mother had yet to actually purchase plane tickets. She said she would that day, however, and so they were set to arrive on my new home’s turf, less than a week later.
Already, the mood of the visit was shadowed by both the laptop theft and the last-minute nature of my mother. I spent the rest of that week alternating between preparing for the family and trying to track down the Macbook; all while not-too-enthusiastically continuing my work shifts at the café, which is proving to be a continual reminder of my missing computer. I requested days off last-minute as well, but had to work over the weekend, for the first two days of the family visit.
And the entire time, at the forefront of my mind has been the potential that my mother would ask to see where I work. I didn’t know how I would deal with that, though I spent a ridiculous amount of brainpower trying to figure out that situation.
It would not matter in the end because by Tuesday night we were not on speaking terms. I am skipping over a couple days of pleasantries here, so it wasn’t all bad, but Tuesday was quite the showdown. To start off, I woke up in the morning to my mom very loudly arguing with the bank over the phone about some overdraft fees. Once that was finally sorted out, we headed out the door and got in my car to head to Stanford University. My mom and brother wanted to see the campus, and I obliged.
Three miles from the highway exit to Stanford, my front passenger tire blew out completely while I was in the second leftmost lane. After maneuvering to the right shoulder and calling AAA (I am so happy I renewed that membership), the next couple of hours were spent at the auto-repair shop to get my tires replaced – all four, in fact, at my mother’s request.
By this point, little comments from her were starting to raise familiar red flags. After she paid for the car’s repairs, she warned that I could never manage to save up money given these kinds of costs; I was spending money as quickly as I was earning it. I also found out that she had been researching real estate costs in the Bay area, apparently extensively, and concluded to me that I would never be able to buy a house working at my current minimum-wage job.
My automatic defenses for these non-conversations with her have always been the same: clam up, make noncommittal remarks, and do a lot of internal eye-rolling. But perhaps it was just the stress of everything else, of the car repairs or the constant worrying over whether or not she would ask to see the café, but I spontaneously took it a step further. As we stood on Stanford University’s campus, a couple blocks from where we parked by the Rodin Sculpture Garden, I listened to her try to goad me to apply to and attend medical school, I realized that I had no patience and no desire to deal with this. Halfway through her insisting that I would never be satisfied doing web design, that I needed a challenge and couldn’t get that from my current employment, I turned and walked away.
I walked back to the sculpture garden and sat down on a low table in front of Rodin’s Gates of Hell. I sat facing it and looked at the sculpture while turning over her words in my mind. When I walked away, it had been after I’d told my mom to back off and let me decide where my life would lead me, and she’d countered that I was just having fun and “playing around” now, without taking on the responsibilities of life. Her plea to me, to put it succinctly, was this: “Grow up.”
Except that I’m not really sure what that phrase means anymore, and our views on adulthood and maturity seem so drastically different. I am financially independent, pay all my taxes and bills on time, have settled into a new city where I’ve been able to find work to support myself, and am building up a savings account. I like to think of myself as fairly fiscally responsible. I now have two jobs, with other prospects also on the horizon, I’ve managed to stay active and eat fairly healthily, and I’ve still found time to pursue various hobbies. I don’t smoke, rarely drink alcohol, and don’t spend much money outside of my weekly $30 groceries.
I am tempted to make the claim, in fact, that I currently feel more productive, healthier, and more social than I ever was in college.
But, of course, this is not what my mother sees. She sees her daughter graduating from a prestigious college, only to end up as a “waitress” working minimum wage. The fact that I refuse to consider graduate school at this point in my life is a constant source of annoyance and aggravation for her. In previous efforts to goad me, she has even remarked that I will likely be the person with the lowest educational degree in our family.
Perhaps you can understand how this kind of commentary wears on a person after awhile. Combine that with comments about how her best friend – the one going through chemotherapy – keeps saying how she very much hopes I’ll go into medicine, specifically homeopathic medicine for cancer patients, or how college has made me unambitious and lowered my self-esteem (which is hilariously ironic and completely false. I hated high school and was a social outcast. Oh, and I have never, in my entire life, ever even once expressed a desire to go into medicine), or how I’m wasting my youth with all this indecisiveness…
What it all comes down to, is that I can clearly see the path she had envisioned for me post-graduation, because I see many of my peers going straight down similar paths. Whether in grad school pursuing Masters and Ph.Ds or working in high-profile companies like Google, Microsoft, and Goldman Sachs, many of my fellow postgrads are rising fast towards personal goals and expectations. And I am rather happy for them, because they surely deserve that success. And there are also those of my peers with more obscure pursuits, teaching English abroad, working with Teach for America or Peace corps, traveling abroad, or even, like me, working in food service.
As for myself? I can’t say for sure what is going on here. It’s true that I was much more aggressive in high school in applying for programs, scholarships, and, ultimately, colleges. Yet the last, most recent, thing I applied to was my post-grad internship with the Studio Art Department in the spring of 2008, and that felt like more or less a shoo-in. There are certainly programs I still want to get into; Anderson Ranch ranks high among those. Describing such a desire to my mother once, however, I could physically feel the waves of disapproval and dissatisfaction rolling off her voice over the phone.
My personal feeling has always been that if I am to attend graduate school, I better have a really good idea of what I’m there to study, and I better love the subject.
But at this point? With my interests ranging from fine art to graphic design to web development to entomology, and a fairly equal possibility that I would enjoy pursuing any one of those at the graduate level, I’m at a loss as to where to even start. And amongst all this clamoring about higher education, I have to wonder why there is so much urgency and necessity around getting another degree.
I feel I am at an impasse with my mother now, more so than I have ever been. The courses of our lives have never run in similar vein, and my deviance from her known, tried and true course, is creating more of a ruckus than I can stand. How can I make someone whose life was plotted and planned with complete intention understand that it’s actually okay for me to not know where my future lies? That it is perhaps in that uncertainty – walking that line between the stress of the unknown and the excitement of the unknown – that I may in fact better discover my strengths and weaknesses, better define my goals and ambitions, and better live my life?
Am I wrong? Am I completely fucking up my life? I suppose the consequence of choosing a life of uncertainty is the acknowledgement that I could be doing it all wrong. To my mother, I have by all appearances lost my drive to achieve, instead letting the tides of circumstance and least resistance carry me along. But, the way I look at it, it was my decision to drive across the country to move to a completely different city, without any preparation to have a job waiting for me at my destination. It was risky, potentially dangerous, and very circumstantial. I relied heavily on my partners in crime, the grace of the friends who put us up along the way, and the kindness of strangers when we needed help.
So even if the decisions I’ve made these last 9 months have not helped set me on a career path or helped me get into grad school, I find it hardly fair, and even offensive, to have those experiences disregarded as “wasting my youth.”
But that is because I can’t fathom that setting the groundwork for education and career to be the only thing worth spending my youth on.
I should be asleep right now, but since I downed three shots of espresso over the course of my evening shift tonight and then went to spend time with the visiting family afterwards, I can’t shut my brain off and am here, writing, instead. Oh, morning café shift, how bleak you look right now.
I am still very much hurting over the theft of my laptop this past Monday, and part of my lousy mood all week has been feeling that loss during the day (especially considering that I lost it while at work), and then repeating the scenario in my head at night, unable to sleep for all the alternate paths that day could have taken. If only I had… I should never have… I could have…
All of it hurts. The fact that I had gotten so accustomed to the familiarity and friendliness of my workplace as to have let my guard down. The fact that this was something I had so wanted, that I had hinted I wanted to my mother, that she then gifted to me for the holidays: this big, expensive laptop. The self-battering of my own negligence, carelessness, and blatant disregard for city culture. The fact that it’s my first significant theft to impact me so strongly on an emotional level.
Sure, part of me scoffs: all for what? A hunk of replaceable and exorbitantly expensive metal? The fact that I even have a backup laptop, my old college Dell, is suddenly a blessing. A part of me relives the scenario purely to be able to imagine punching in the faces of the two kids who lifted the computer. It is unfortunate that it’s when I am tired and ready for bed that the defenses strip away enough to get to a point of pure emotional vengeance, and it’s enough to kick up my adrenaline and make it that much harder to fall asleep.
It doesn’t help that I’ve continued to get mildly intrusive and disturbing phone calls from someone in response to the craigslist ad I placed, asking about my missing laptop.
In the midst of everything, I am debating whether to get a new laptop, which seems more and more necessary given the kind of work I am doing, and if so, whether to replace the Macbook Pro or shoot for a more ergonomical and economically-feasible PC. Most PCs with similar specs to my Macbook are equally powerful at a third of the cost. I recognize that if I bought a Macbook, a large part of the money is going to the brand name tax and the aluminum unibody.
Yet, as so many Macbook owners can attest to, having used one now makes it extremely hard to go back to PCs. I can rationalize wanting to replace what I’ve lost in an attempt to keep my new status quo. And Macbooks are so different from PCs, whereas I’d have no issue switching between, say, a Dell and a Lenovo. This is purely on the body design, because, as a third option, I could also buy a cheaper PC and install Snow Leopard or Ubuntu to run on it instead.
So many thoughts running through my head. And there are a bunch of Valentine’s Day sales on electronics over the weekend, which makes it tempting to just bite the bullet and purchase a $500-600 laptop now. (Though why electronics should go on sale for Valentine’s Day mystifies me; are iPads the new rose bouquet and chocolate package?)
I doubt I will, though. I’m not a very impulsive shopper, even in thrift stores. I hate accumulating more physical “stuff.” And yet, I still want another Macbook Pro. Ugh, I reek of consumerism.
The other topic that I’ve been considering seriously is developing a more regular climbing and workout regimen. At the moment I have been trying to make it to the climbing gym once a week, and I’d like to also attend their weekly yoga classes as well, though so far the 7:30am class time remains a daunting goal. And this entire concept of a regular exercise schedule is so foreign to me. For a while, in my teens, I shunned the idea of exercise for the sake of physical fitness, believing that physical fitness should be maintained through actual labor that also accomplishes something else. I so disdained the idea of pure, abstract exercise, with its tinge of privilege and class.
Yes, I had rather quite a few high headed beliefs as a teenager. And I’d like to think I’m not so self-righteously perched on that marble pedestal anymore. However, a direct consequence of this belief has been that I’ve never prioritized exercise mentally, nor have I formed habits for keeping to an exercise schedule.
Surely it cannot be that difficult. And since my climbing gym in fact is a full workout gym as well, I have very little excuse to not get in better shape and increase my flexibility. On a bright note, despite not having climbed for the past couple of months, after just a few trips to the gym I’m already getting on 5.10b routes, which I never attempted while at school. And I get a better endorphin high and have more fun climbing than I ever will running or working the ellipticals.
And, yes, for anyone who’s already thought this, a large part of my increased level of interest and awareness of my physical fitness is, indeed, to be able to handle more as a rope bottom. What can I say? We all have our vices, alas.
(Oh, let me amend that. At the last Exiles munch, I arm-wrestled with three of the attendees, and lost to two of them. There’s plenty of motivation right there!)
Since I’m posting this in every other social network, I may as well do so here as well.
This afternoon, a little before 2pm at Wicked Grounds in the SoMa, my laptop was stolen. I’ve pretty much gone through all the stages of loss and grief over it, but I’m still going to make sure I’ve tried every avenue of recovery before I give up completely.
So to anyone in the area, the laptop is a 15 inch Macbook Pro with some grey streaks from wear and use on the cover, and a visible and easily-identifiable dent in the left-hand corner by the hinge, as well as scratches and scuff marks along the right edge of the hinge, where it was dropped. The laptop was taken without the power cord, so it’s got perhaps 2 hours of remaining battery life.
I’m about to take a little stroll through 7th and Market Street, which I hear is an active marketplace for stolen goods and drug dealing. Exciting. Wish me luck!