Monday, January 28, 2013

Whisking up memories

My brother texted me the other day to see if I would be interested in writing a story for his 6th grad class who is reading a book about collecting things. He said I could write about any kind of collection. I said, Challenge Accepted! And then I wrote this story:

Whisking up memories

Rhombi Diamond
was exhausted and famished when she ambled into Crazy Carmen’s Hawaiian Bake Shop behind her parents and her little brother, Hex. They’d just come from the most amazing beach she’d ever visited, with shimmering course black sand that blanketed the shore between the highway and a stretch of tide pools containing innumerable aquatic wonders: majestic sea turtles idling in tiny ponds of ocean water as they waited for the tide to whisk them back out to sea, brightly colored sea anemones with dozens of flowing arms swaying with the tide, skittish black crabs scuttling around the rocks to avoid the people and waves that chased after them and hundreds of tiny fish darting this way and that in the shallow pools. Rhombi and Hex spent hours crawling along the rocks watching and taking pictures of the amazing critters they saw in the tide pools.

About the time they felt like they’d seen all that there was to see in the tidal pools, their parents called them over for a snack of deliciously fresh pineapple, macadamia nuts and coconut water that they’d bought earlier that day from a farmers market. After they’d eaten, Rhombi’s father surprised her with snorkeling gear and Mrs. Diamond presented Hex with a brand new beach bucket and shovel. Hex immediately complained that he’d rather go snorkeling with Mr. Diamond and Rhombi, but he was only 6 and had just started swimming lessons that year, so when his mother explained that the water was much deeper than even the “deep end” of the pool near their house, he was happy enough to stay on the beach and build a sandcastle with Mrs. Diamond.

Meanwhile, Mr. Diamond gave Rhombi a quick lesson on how to use the snorkel to breath, telling her to just inhale and exhale through her mouth and not her nose while she swam; he also told her that there was coral under the water but that she was not to touch it or stand on it because the coral was alive and could be hurt if she put too much weight on it or broke pieces off. Then he tightened her diving mask so she wouldn’t get water into it and helped Rhombi carefully climb from the edge of the rocks that formed the tide pool into the deep, warm ocean water.

Rhombi had thought that nothing could be more amazing than the creature she’d seen in the tide pools earlier, but as soon as she put her face in the water, with her vision unobscured inside of her diving mask, she felt like she was suddenly in another world. Vibrant yellow coral that had been hidden by the foamy ocean waves now sprung into view jutting up from the ocean floor. Bright blue, yellow and orange striped fish swam all about her and meandered around the coral reef below. Swimming along the surface of the water, Rhombi felt like she was part of the ocean itself. Beautiful blue green waves rolled towards shore and gently tugged at her as she glided over them and with her face under water she could hear nothing but the solitary sound of her own breath being drawn in through her snorkel (which she thought, sounded almost like Darth Vader from Star Wars) and through her mask she could see nothing but the watery world all around her. It was like nothing but the ocean and its wondrous creatures existed.

She followed close by her father’s side as they explored the coral reef and she enjoyed the freedom of swimming along in the vast ocean, but when the waves began to pull harder and the tide started to roll in over the top of the tidal pools, Mr. Diamond told Rhombi it was time to head back to the beach.

As her father helped her out of the water, Rhombi begged to be allowed to take just a tiny bit of coral or a small hermit crab home with her to remember the trip, but her father explained that the hermit crabs and the coral would not survive long away from the ocean water adding: “besides if everyone took a hermit crab or some coral when they came to that beach there would be no critters in the tide pools and no coral reef left for anyone to enjoy”.
“Ok, I guess that makes sense.” Rhombi begrudgingly agreed.

It had been an exciting day, but when they pulled into the parking lot of Crazy Carmen’s around 2:00 PM, it had also been hours since their snack on the beach, so when they stepped inside, Rhombi’s eyes lit up almost as wide as the cookies she saw in the bakery display case. Mrs. Diamond told Rhombi and Hex that they could each pick out one dessert to have with their lunch. Hex wanted a Hershey’s candy bar, but Rhombi wanted to try something more unique since she’d never been to Hawaii before, so she picked out a “Hawaiian Oatmeal Macadamia nut cookie”.

The moment she sank her teeth into the warm soft cookie she felt like she was back on the beach again. The taste of the sweet pineapple, creamy coconut and buttery macadamia nuts leapt from her mouth to her memory transporting her back in time a few hours to earlier when she’d enjoyed a snack with her family before snorkeling for the first time. Suddenly Rhombi had an idea, “Mom”, she asked, “can you see if you can get this cookie recipe, I want to make these when we get home, so I can remember how much fun I had today whenever I eat these cookies.”
“That’s a great idea Rhombi! After lunch, I’ll see if I can do to coax the secret ingredients out of somebody” Mrs. Diamond said with a wink.

After lunch while Rhombi, Hex and Mr. Diamond headed back to their rental car, Mrs. Diamond lingered at the bakery counter talking to Crazy Carmen herself. Five minutes later she returned to the car triumphantly waiving a small white index card. “Your secret recipe my dear” She chirped as she handed the card to a beaming Rhombi.

The day after her family returned home from vacation, Rhombi, Hex and their mother baked a batch of the Hawaiian Otameal Cookies from Crazy Carmen’s recipe, and they all agreed that they could almost taste the memories. Every vacation after that, Rhombi made it a point to find the cookie that tasted the most like the place she’d visited and get the recipe from the baker who’d made it. Then when she got home, she would paste the recipe in a scrap book along with a picture or two from the trip, so she could pull out her cookie cook book and be whisked back to the exciting places she’d been whenever she wanted.

The more amazing places she went, the more delicious recipes filled her book. She had chewy cinnaminy
Maple snicker doodle cookies that reminded her of a family trip to Vermont where they’d watch the leaves turn vibrant shades of orange and red one fall. There was a recipe in her book for gooey peanut-buttery Ohio buckeyes for when she wanted to reminisce about waterskiing with her cousins in a lake near Cleveland one summer. There was a page dedicated to the crumbly salty-sweet ‘Sandies” that brought back memories of the warm sandy beaches and endless pecan orchards she’d visited in South Carolina and dozens more delectable recipes from her other unforgettable vacations, but though her book expanded and grew through Rhombi’s life, no matter how many places she went and how many cookies she tasted, her absolute favorite always remained the recipe she’d pasted onto the first page of her cookie cook book under a picture of her family’s house: “Mom’s chocolate chip cookies”. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Trying to Nav. through singledom

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the different bonds people form as part of their life strategy. There are 3 basic approaches a person can take when it comes to incorporating other people into their lives. Approach 1:  remain uncommitted and “go it alone”, 2: find one person (or in some less common cases two, or three people etc), to form a partnership for life and  just take on the world as a dynamic duo (or trio or quartet etc) without ever having children.  3:  have kids and form a family unit. In the last few months (since I called off my engagement), my opinion about which of these strategies is best for me has varied widely on a day to day basis as I’ve tried to figure out the direction I would like to steer my life.

One of the main reasons I had wanted to get married several months ago, when I accepted the proposal of my then boyfriend, was because I wanted to have a child and I wanted said child to have as stable a life as possible, so being married to the father of that someday baby seemed the easiest thing to do. As a 29 year old woman who had a good job, but not one that I considered satisfying or meaningful, I’d felt I was in a position where I could either search for meaning through pursuing a career that would be fulfilling OR I could have a child.

 At the time my dream was to open a bakery/café of my own, where I would spend the day turning raw ingredients into delectable breads and cakes and sell the quirky, witty greeting cards I'd designed at the register … and maybe have a stand-up comedy night once a month. Other than an affinity for baking, I had no particular qualifications or plan to start my dream cafe. I worried that if I did open a café, my business might fail after a few years, or never get off the ground at all, and then I would have wasted the last of my reproductively viable years and have nothing but frustration and failure to show for it.

 On the other hand I had everything I would need to create a brand new human life and by all accounts of my family and  friends who had children, having a child is the ultimate source of meaning and fulfillment. Since I felt my age and financial resources prevented me from having both a meaningful/satisfying career AND a child I figured having a baby as soon as possible was the safer bet.

Later, if I felt I had enough money and time, I could go to culinary school to learn how to use proper industrial baking equipment, apply for a loan and THEN have my bakery when I was in my 40s or 50s, in the mean time my life would feel like it had a purpose because I would be a devoted mother … so that was my plan. I was going to stop feeling dissatisfied with my own life by postponing the pursuit of my goals indefinitely and strive for a sense of fulfillment through the new life that I would create with my soon-to-be husband.

The plan didn't quite sit well with me though. It felt wrong to put that responsibility onto a life that I had forced into existence. It felt like too much to ask of someone to have to exist just so they could give meaning to my life. It was horribly selfish and I knew it.

 I couldn't think of any unselfish reasons to have kids though, and so many people have kids, so that seemed like it made it ok. If everyone else thought it was fine to decide to create a life, then it must be fine. Forget about overpopulation; our awesome purpose giving children could figure that out. Don’t worry about the potential suffering of the child; most people get by without any major catastrophes. So what if I couldn’t afford to stay at home and raise my kid and would have to pay the exorbitant cost for child-care so that some random stranger could spend more time raising my child and shaping them to be who they would grow to be? That’s just the way it works now and people turn out fine.

Despite the weak justifications and nagging worries and guilt in the back of my mind, I could still see reasons to have a child though. I wanted a child because children are cute and loving (and, as I’ve said, give meaning to your life). I wanted to live vicariously through my child and reminisce about school as he/she progressed through each grade. I wanted to teach and shape my child into an outstanding human being who would achieve the success with his/her life and career that I never did (because I’d decided to have a child instead?).  I wanted my niece to have a cousin to play with so they could be lifelong friends. There’re just all sorts of events and milestones to make you feel like a proud parent and having a child just opens up so many experiences to you that you cannot have without a child, so I wanted that.

 Also, I kind of expected my child to grow up to be a companion to me after his/her father died (because let’s face it, my former fiancé was 14 years older than me, didn’t eat particularly well and had made some questionable choices about drugs and his general health when he’d been younger, so I didn’t expect him to live nearly as long as I would). In short, I wanted a guarantee that I would  not end up old and alone.

I decided I wanted more than to not be alone though, so I broke off my engagement, thus (at the very least) tabling the possibility of having a child. Having children vs. not having children wasn’t the ultimate deciding factor in my calling off my engagement though. My decision ultimately stemmed from the fact that I wanted more from my life and more from my life partner than I would’ve had if I’d stayed with my ex-fiancé. I could have settled down with him and had a perfectly content life, but it would have been settling… down…

After I got through my weepy, self-doubting, self-pitying, “oh-god-what-if-I-just made-the-biggest-mistake of-my-life?” phase and transitioned in to acceptance of my singledom, I was overwhelmed with the possibilities for my future and I didn’t know exactly how I wanted to integrate other people into my new life. Having a child was certainly not a motivating factor for me at that point though. A child was not going to be my vehicle towards finding a purposeful existence. If I had a kid, it was going to be at some point after I felt satisfied that my life was meaningful and fulfilling already.

I wished I was the kind of person who could be content with savage independence. I wanted to be significant enough to myself to not need another. It would be so clean and liberating. There would be no frustrating and tedious arguments about mundane daily life, no one to scold me for drinking out of the milk carton or demand to know why I’d just left my socks in the middle of the living room floor. I wouldn’t have to settle for compromises; everything could be my own way.  How I spent my free time, how I spent my money, where I went on vacation, what I ate for dinner and when, would all be entirely up to me if I could just ditch that stupid nagging need for companionship. 

It would be a selfish lifestyle in certain ways, I felt - making so many decisions without considering anyone else, but in other ways it was also a very courteous way to live; without burdening anyone else with the need to console me, care for me or compromise and yield to my wishes. I would indirectly be doing a favor to others. I wasn’t ever thinking that I would want to suddenly abandon my parents and the rest of my family or cast off all of my friends or anything like that, but if I could be fully self-sufficient, it seemed that it would actually improve my relationship with others in my life. Without having to consult a significant other’s schedule or finances, I would be uninhibited and able to spend time with the people in my life more freely. It would be great… if I could manage to convince myself that I didn’t need to be in a romantic relationship with anyone.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the freedom of going it alone, could ever be enough for me to settle the nagging of loneliness and vulnerability inside me. Maybe someday I’ll be confident and strong enough to ignore my longing for a companion, but at the moment, I can’t help but worry about being alone and long to feel like the person I love will always be there for me when I need them. If I didn’t have a partner in life to rely on, hiccups in life could turn into major catastrophes. There would be no one to help me get by if I suddenly lost my job or was injured to the point where I couldn’t work for a significant amount of time. No one would be there to hold me and console me at night if a tragedy befell someone I loved and I wouldn't have the joy or comfort of feeling unconditionally loved and unconditionally loving someone else.

 I happen to like helping others and enjoy surprising someone I care about with a gift or card and I love sharing secrets and inside jokes with people who are particularly close. I enjoy cooking and sharing meals with someone each night, spooning at bed time and trusting someone enough to have sexy and/or intimate time with them. – those shared experiences make me feel significant… and in spite of my dream to be fully independent, I quite like to matter to other people because other people matter to me.

I recently enjoyed an amazing week in Hawaii with a friend, his wife, father and sister in law and part of what made it such a great week (aside from the fact that we were in tropical paradise) was that I felt like I got to be an honorary member of a really happy cohesive family. Each person contributed to the “family” in various ways, volunteering to cook, or clean or just adding an interesting element to conversation, but no one was a burden on anyone else. Everyone took care of his or her self as an individual, but offered to strengthen the “family” unit by contributing to the group. My friend and his wife don’t have kids and they may never have kids, but he told me they were just happy to “share their life experiences with each other”. They have each other’s backs when needed and lend help to one another on a daily basis, but they still manage to each be very independent people, traveling on their own at time and pursuing their own projects and goals and coming together with family and friends occasionally to form a happy little unit to share a vacation or visit with.

 I was struck by the balance they’d achieved in their relationship – they have the security and joy of each other’s love, they have strong bonds with their existing families and friends without needing to have kids and they both function as individuals. To me, they seem to have the perfect union. I hope someday I can achieve a similar situation as my friend’s for myself, but unfortunately cultivating that kind of a relationship is not as simple as deciding that is how I want to live my life, so for now I’ll just have to try to embrace my independence, enjoy the pursuit of the perfect partner, and check to see if any of my roommates want to spoon with me when I’m feeling lonely.  

Monday, January 14, 2013

going bananas in Hilo

I’ve been fighting off a cold since I left for vacation five days ago and had been up past midnight playing a board game last night with Michael, his father, Ivy and Judy, thus I was still pretty tired when I woke up this morning around 7:30AM, but I’d been sleeping on the futon in the living room of Michael and Ivy’s vacation rental, so when the sound of Michael making tea in the kitchen roused me, I knew there wasn’t much chance I was going to be able to get back to sleep. Remembering that I had a delicious “apple banana” to slice into my breakfast cereal, was sufficiently exciting to put a little spring in my step though. It’s weird, I was never really a fan of bananas for the vast majority of my life, but in the last few months, I have been growing to appreciate them to an almost obsessive degree… I still don’t like the fruit by itself so much (although these apple bananas that they have in Hawaii are definitely delectable enough to stand alone!), but I love bananas IN everything now: cereal, cupcakes, cottage cheese, bread and as I discovered at lunch today- ice cream. It’s like the perfect balance of sweetness with just a pop of tartness, so it harmonizes perfectly with any sort of slightly bland food and make it sing!

About the time everyone was finishing breakfast and I was helping myself to a third cup of tea, the power to the rental house went out, and since basically everything in the house is dependent on power: stove, tv, phone – even water (since there is an electric pump required to bring water into the house), when the power went out, so did we.

It was the second day in a row of beautiful blue skies and bright warm sunshine in Hilo (every other day since I’ve been here it has rained for the majority of the day and night), so we took advantage of the weather and hit up a few of the local beaches. The first spot had a small black sand beach dotted with jagged rocks and the ocean was packed practically elbow to elbow with surfers and boogie boarders bravely (if not recklessly) riding beautiful curling waves of crystal blue and aquamarine into the rocky black shore of the beach. There was also a small hot spring, about the size of a back yard pool a couple dozen yards from the surf. About ten kids and one woman who looked to be about 20 were splashing around in the pool. Michael and his father decided to join them and have a soak, but Ivy, Judy and I wishing to avoid being bombarded by the gallivanting, splashing children abstained. It only took about two minutes for the kids to drive Michael and his father back out of the pool.

After that, we headed off to a larger volcanic spring pool that was just a bit down the road. It was a much bigger pool (probably about the same length and width as an Olympic swimming pool, but much shallower). The water wasn’t nearly as warm as the first pool we’d gone to that day, but it was the perfect temperature to swim around (without overheating or getting too cold). As soon as I ducked my head under the clear salty water, all of the lethargy and malaise I’d been feeling that morning evaporated and I was instantly rejuvenated.

This was the second time I went to this particular pool since I arrived in Hilo. The first time I’d splashed around and done a few laps with Michael I had felt clumsy and stiff as I swam, but today, my muscles felt loose and (aided by the buoyancy instilling salt water) I easily glided across the pool with the rhythm and precision I’d had when I’d been on swim team in high school and college. I’d forgotten how fun it was to weightlessly dart along the surface of the water, catching glimpses of bright yellow and black and white striped fish swimming around the lava rocks below me. I swam about a half a mile or so doing various strokes (back stroke, breast stroke and free style) before I decided to find out what everyone else was doing.

Michael and I found a floating seed of some sort that was about the size of a golf ball and we got Ivy and Judy, who had decided not to join us in the pool, to throw it out into the water so that Michael and I could race to it and see who could grab it first. I thoroughly enjoyed trouncing Michael at that game (both physically and competitively). I beat him to the grab 7 out of 7 times and probably narrowly avoided giving him a nose bleed for the second time since I’ve known him, but hey, if someone grabs your toes, their face be damned, you’ve got to do what it takes to get your foot back right?

After some coaxing and after seeing how much fun Michael and I were having, Ivy and Judy decided to get their swim suits and join us in the pool, bringing Michael and Ivy’s snorkeling mask with them. While Michael and his father showed the girls how to use a snorkel, I took some time to do some underwater exploring of my own, pulling myself along the rocks under water as far as I could without coming up for air. It’s so beautiful and peaceful to be under water in general, with the net of light woven by the waves dancing across the bottom of a pool and beams of sunlight cast like shimmering javelins into the water, but having the added bonus of tropical fish and beautiful volcanic rocks to swim among elevated the experience to: truly awe inspiring. As I held in my breath and silently shimmied between the surface of the water and the rocky bottom of the pool, it was like the most beautiful and complete solicitude I’d ever experienced: total silence, not another person in my line of vision and my body surrounded by water that was exactly the perfect temperature. It was heavenly.

As the tide of the ocean began to rise and the heated water from the pool became diluted with the cooler ocean water, I decided to maintain my body heat by laying out and sunning myself on a rock while I watched the waves crash and roll to shore spilling into the pool. Much to my chagrin though, in a quest to develop an enviable tan to show off to my coworkers when I got back to the office on Wednesday, I’d flagrantly disregarded the power of the sun and had NOT put on sunscreen that morning. It occurred to me as I lay stretched across the surface of the warm rock that I might regret that move later, but I told myself a little sun burn was a small price to pay to make my ghostly white skin enviably tan. However as we journeyed further down the coast of Hilo, I could feel the heat radiating from my sunburned skin, so I decided I’d better cut my losses and applied a protective coat of sunscreen.

We knew we were getting close to our next stop for the day, a beach which our tourist guidebook described as a “complete tanning” beach, when we were passed by an extremely tan dreadlocked man zooming along on a motor cycle wearing nothing but a tattered loin cloth which flapped so violently in the wind, it seemed certain that he would be a nude motorcyclist within a few miles. I am not sure if we saw that motorcyclist at the beach or not when we arrived though since we didn’t linger long there and unclothed, extremely tan, dreadlocked men seemed to be the catch of the day at that gorgeous beach- which was covered with a multitude of less gorgeous naked bodies.

It was only a few miles down the road that we stopped at our last tourist destination for the day, Kalapana lava flow, an area of several square miles that, 30 years earlier, had been completely covered by a 60 ft deep lava flow, leaving an expanse of solid black lava rock dotted here and there with ferns and young coconut trees that’d been able to root in the crevices of the volcanic rock. It was impressive to stand on the hardened lava and realize that three decades earlier if you’d have been in that spot you’d have been floating several stories above the pacific ocean off the coast of the town of Kalapana. It’s amazing how quickly a volcano can completely change a place- turning ocean into land, sandy beaches into jagged cliffs or towns into rock. Walking on the hot black surface of the lava and pondering the magnitude of the geological events that had occurred helped us all work up a pretty good appetite, so we made like a fissure and split, heading off to Pahua to grab some grub.

As I inspected my lobster red face in the mirror of the bathroom at a Thai restaurant where we were having supper, I suddenly remembered all of the consequences of over exposure to the sun (melanoma, moles, freckles, extreme pain) which greatly outweigh the benefit of sporting an awesome tan for a few weeks, but it was too late to go back and make wiser sunscreen choices at that point, so I suppose I’ll just have to hope that my better judgment gets back from vacation by the time I do. Despite the burn though, this was one of the best days I’ve had in a really long time. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

HI flying

As I was boarding my flight to Hawaii to this morning, a disheveled older man with a scraggly beard who was standing a few people ahead of me in the queue to get on the plane, began rifling through a trash can that was sitting right next to the line of people getting on the plane. He plunged shoulder deep into the trash emerging seconds later with a triumphant look on his face and a discarded coffee cup. He swigged back whatever liquid remained before tossing the cup back into the trash from whence it had come.

I watched the scene unfold with only one (obvious) thought echoing through my mind:  please don’t let this man be seated next to me on the plane! I changed the phrase to myself like a mantra, as if I could somehow ward him off and change reality if in fact the man was holding a ticket for seat 30B (the seat next to mine). Please don’t let him be sitting next to me. Please don’t let him be sitting next to me. I silently pleaded as I hand my ticket to the flight attendant at the gate and made my way down the ramp to the plane.

The closer I got to my seat, 30A, the smaller the buffer of people there was between myself and the crazy dirty coffee man, until, around row 25, I was directly behind him. I held my breath, partially in anticipation and partly because the man smelled exactly like what you would think a man who drinks back washed coffee out of a trash can would smell like. My internal chanting became more desperate and specific: God, please don’t let this man be in seat 30B! Please, oh please, don’t let me spend the next 7 hours of my life elbow to elbow with a man who has such little regard for social conformity that he shamelessly  - proudly even – fishes through trash cans and guzzles the dregs of other peoples discarded coffee in front of an audience of dozens of people who will soon be sharing a plane with him.

I continued to follow behind the man, passing row 26, row 27, 28, 29 and then to my great relief, he walked passed row thirty. Continuing deeper into the bowels of the plane where he would be someone else’s problem. I jubilantly crammed by carry-on bag into the overhead big above my seat and shoved my laptop case under the seat in front of mine.

There was only one seat between my window seat and the aisle of the plane, and for a long while, that seat remained empty. I began to visualize myself luxuriously sprawled across the seats in the lap of luxury on my flight to tropical island vacation, but fate did not deal me that particular hand. As it happened, shortly before they closed the doors from the plane, a tall, attractive young man wearing Stanford University volleyball team sweats eased himself into the seat next to me.

My new seat partner immediately offered to switch and let me have the aisle seat if I preferred. “No thanks. I don’t like the aisle, I take it you prefer the window seat as well?”
“Yeah, it’s easier to sleep when you can lean against it. I thought I’d booked the window. Oh well” He replied
“yeah. I like that too.” I said dismissively.
Even though he’d been looking out for his own interests, I started to feel bad about not offering to switch seats with him when he chivalrously got up a minute later to help a hapless old lady with her bag. She had been trying to get help from the flight attendants in finding a space for her rolling carry-on bag, but after several minutes the flight attendants more or less gave up and told her she would have to pay to check it. Upon hearing this, the guy got up and sprung to action, saying “ I think I see a way to make this work.”

He began re arranging bags in the overhead compartments, transferring them from one compartment to the other and fitting them perfectly into place (as if he were masterfully playing a real life game of Tetris). What made the feat all the more impressive was the way he would grab a piece of luggage from one compartment, then look instantly at the appropriate person and ask “is this your bag – can I move it?” each time having correctly identified the bags owner, he would receive polite consent. When he had finished moving the bags that had already been in the overhead bins, he reached over and took the old woman’s bag easing it into the perfectly sized space he’d created in one of the bins. The woman gratefully offered to buy my seatmate a drink when we arrived in Maui. He just flashed a winning smile at her, as he shrugged, saying “it was no big problem”.

After he was done heroically aiding the elderly lady, he slid into the seat next to me and eased himself into conversation with me as nimbly as he’d eased the bags into place. After discussing the vacations we were each embarking on, he told me about how he had worked for a while as PE teacher in Hawaii, then switched his career up, becoming an investment banker in New York, but found that to be ultimately un-fulfilling so was back in school again getting a masters in creative writing with the hopes of becoming a writing teacher after completing his degree and publishing a book.

I was even happier at that point to be sitting next to that kind, interesting young man than I would have been if I had had the whole row to myself. I seem to keep running into people lately living lives that embody different aspects of things that I want to do. I tried to glean as much information about writing and the possible benefit in obtaining a masters in creative writing as I could from my new acquaintance. The main thing I got out of our conversation was that it is impossible to be a writing teacher without publishing a book, and it is greatly helpful to publish a book if you take a lot of “writing workshop” classes and gain connections with fellow students and professors in a writing class. I however, feel that when it comes time for me to think about final edits and publishing, I can probably find a less formal group to “workshop” my writing. Still, it was good to get his perspective.

I did however lose some respect and admiration for the kid when, about half an hour before we landed, he turned to me and said, “hey check out this little Haiku I really like.” And then showed me a little book he had of Haikus and pointed to one about wearing sandals in the summer and spring or something. There is something about guys being into poetry that I just don’t approve of. I always feel suspicious that they are just pretending to like poetry to seem more appealing to women, but then if they actually are into poetry, I feel like they are less masculine than most men. I know it’s judgmental of me, but it’s just an immediate reaction that I can’t quiet in myself.  Since this particular guy had already mentioned he was an aspiring writer and had already proven his chivalry, when we parted ways, I was left with an overall positive impression of him.

As I sat in the airport after my encounter with this stranger, I began to reflect on the chance meetings I’ve had lately. I am not a fatalist, but Career-wise, the “things happen for a reason” person would probably tell me that, the world is cheering me on and encouraging me in the direction I’m moving. Running into Anosh on New Years, who works in marketing, and this guy on the airplane, who works in writing, has given me insight into two aspects that I would like to weave into a career. Plus my company’s encouragement of me in taking over the Shamrock Facebook page is another good sign. I am not sure if writing for advertisements is ultimately where I will end up, but at least it’s a good direction to point myself while I continue to search for what’s write and build up an appealing skill set to put on my resume.

On the other hand a “things happen for a reason person” might tell me that the seemingly ceaseless challenges I’ve been facing due to cohabitation lately and think that the world was telling me that I need to just live by myself. (First having to find an immediate living situation for myself, then finding a permanent one, then having to find tenants for Tony’s and my home when he decided to move out and now having to find more roommates for my new home since two out of three of my current roommates have decided to take up residence elsewhere… it’s exhausting).

My career and living situation are both challenging aspects of my life that require more thought and attention than I’d like right now, but I am still confident that I will end up in the right place on both fronts… and hopefully I’ll meet more attractive intelligent young men to offer me more guidance along the way too.