Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Breed of Hunger


I never quite know what to say when people ask what I've been up to lately. So in summation, I've been up to 50 hours a week of labor along with conducting a tireless search for paid writing [or flexibly creative] work during my downtime - all the while trying to maintain a social life! Or perhaps, trying to rebuild one after this dreadfully solemn and brusque winter.

Lady Gaga just became a fashion columnist at V Magazine, on top of her title as creative director at Polaroid on top of an already frenetic career as an international musical superstar. I think we are battling each other in how many job titles we can acquire and excel at. For so many years [although deep down I knew different] I fell for my mother's claims that I was lazy. For years after moving out, I'd convinced myself I was the complete opposite: driven, ambitious, hard-working. The truth is, I am neither. 

The simple truth is that I'm relentless.

I want what I want, and although I'm willing to make compromises on the way, I never veer completely off course. The greater goal is always in the forefront of my mind and I try to make choices everyday that bring me closer to it. There is a clock ticking away in my head, and unlike other women, it has nothing to do with babies and finding romantic love and everything to do with accomplishment. I want to make sure that if my 50 hour job suddenly ends, that I've made headway in my career and have something to fall back on. Because in the end, a sense of peace and security isn't just about money. I think true peace is the feeling that your soul is at rest - and I know that I won't feel that sense of calm until I achieve my wildest dreams.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spanish

I recently went over my beloved friend's sleek apartment [in a luxury building], and we sat and talked for hours as she made smoothies and fed me pasta. She's truly lovely, thin with dark waist-length waves, the type of woman that speaks in soft tones and kisses you hello and goodbye on both cheeks. Since English is her second language [she's from Colombia], we communicated entirely in Spanish - and I didn't break a sweat. I love speaking Spanish. It's almost a magical and poetic tongue. I love how metaphors and old sayings are just part of the language, words tangle themselves into sentences and sentences twist themselves into speech in a way that English - with its blunt straightforwardness - cannot replicate. I was surprised at how easily tons of foreign words flowed off my tongue, how my mouth moved in decidedly different ways in order to utter words I hadn't uttered in so long. Although I am fluent in Spanish, it isn't a language I often speak or practice since everyone I majorly interact with speaks English. So I was pleasantly surprised that after years of not speaking the language, I was speaking it fluidly with tons of words coming to mind that I didn't even know I knew. What's also interesting is that I've never taken a Spanish class or even read a book in Spanish, and yet I can read and write it rather well [growing up, it was a language I spoke but never practiced in this manner]. It made me think that perhaps I have a gift for picking up languages, and that perhaps mastering French won't be as daunting as I anticipated.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

If I was a Rich Girl


It's easy to say what you'd do with a few million dollars when you don't have it yet. Windfall, bonus, or inheritance; I'd always surmised that I'd treat the money rationally, and keep its usage in accord with my life mantra of "balance".

My plan would be this: I would make sure my needs [home, retirement, emergency fund, high quality food] and some wants [seasonal vacations, stylish threads, diamonds] were met, while simultaneously helping out my friends and family [primarily with basic needs ] and when all that was accomplished [there would be a cap] I would then work on giving the excess away to needy families and individuals. People who just need a little something to help them on their way. People down on their luck. People who need a little assistance picking up their bootstraps. People with innovative ideas. Hard workers. Honest people. People striving for better. People I wouldn't have to worry would do something stupid with the money, because I would hate to gift a lofty check and follow it up with a healthy tongue lashing. [But you know I would if I had to!]

A lot of rich people give their money away to charities, but I've always been a little wary of them. Not because I feel they aren't legit, but I can remember few, if any charities that helped me when I was coming up. Plus there are many many people that are simply too prideful to approach an organization for help. There are others who lack the resources to even locate such organizations. I would prefer to seek these people out personally - maybe creating my own organization so that all the funds go through the proper channels at least. I would love to provide people with the cash needed to complete college, or pay off their mortgage, or give them a working vehicle to get to and from work. A subway pass or a hot meal or a new suit. Whatever. Anything helps. Even straight cash bonuses [provided they accept the help of financial advisers] would be an option.

I think I would devote my life to something like that.


If I were to marry, I'd expect my husband to sign a pre-nuptial agreement stating that as long as we are married, what's mine is his and what's his is mine but in the instant that we are no longer together - he is to receive nothing [and even less than that if he cheats. Cold-blooded.]. I doubt I'd even have to go that route since I don't plan on divorce, but yeah - it's there in case the unexpected occurs.

If I were to have children no doubt their basic physical/material needs will be met, but I have serious reservations about openly spoiling my offspring. The last thing I want to do is raise some entitled diva and/or lazy prince who do nothing but rock designer threads and keep their hands out. My kids need to know that they are intelligent and capable and I feel that the knowledge that "everything's covered" will stunt that. I don't even want to imagine the party those gremlins will throw at the mention of an inheritance! I feel that even the most well-adjusted kid will sprout a big head from knowing there's a good chunk of change waiting for him that was never earned. With all that being said, I have no problem paying for college, a car, a down payment on a home, even a wedding, provided that I have the means, and that my child understands he will only be entitled to one of those four. So choose wisely kiddies. Do not get it twisted, I might love my kids, but mommy is not a bank, and as long as you are able and willing [or not] you will make your own moolah and learn responsibility. If I worked hard for my money, I should allow them the privilege of doing the same. It's just courtesy.

Gee, I'm so thoughtful.

That's what life is really about and where the joy in it lies anyway. Making your own and paving your own way. And if I plan it right, I can assure them that they'll be fine because after all "Mommy has been there done that... and survived."

I've been reading a lot of articles about the lifestyles, worries and attitudes of the rich. Unfortunately, a lot of our assumptions about the rich are actually true. Although there are exceptions to every rule it seems that most wealthy individuals are elitist, apathetic, insecure and isolated. Odds are, these people would possess the same qualities even if they were poor, but they probably wouldn't feel as justified in them. I use the term "poor" begrudgingly though. I've never thought of myself as poor. I've been broke sure, but the fact is, most of us aren't poor. If we consistently have our basic needs covered, we aren't poor. It's usually our wants in life that are missing and throw us for a loop as to what is considered rich. Unlike our handful of steady needs, the sky is the limit when it comes to desires, so for that reason, they are in dire need of being controlled.


One of the best articles I read regarding wealth and its effects was the "Secret Fears of the Super-Rich" article in The Atlantic, if mostly for the articulate and intelligent comments. The article discusses the worries of the rich: keeping up with the Joneses, raising stunted children, taking life for granted, not being able to complain or grieve because no one feels sympathy for them. Needless to say, I nor any of the commenters felt any more sympathy for them than before:

Although I don't begrudge the super-rich, I admit to not understanding the self actualization angst. For example, there are several ways to deal with the isolation they feel. One is to hide all the money and assets, buy a nice, reasonable house in a nice, reasonable suburb, find a nice, reasonable job (if they can), and live like everybody else. A key to true contentment is to admit that they don't want to do that; they are trying to find a resolution WITHOUT having to live like Joe Blow. This is what I would do in their shoes: Turn charitable giving into my own "Gilded Age" quote. I firmly disagree that the worst thing you can do is to give directly. That's crap. You just have to choose wisely to whom you give. Giving to a trust has its own benefits and uses, but what could take the place of knowing that you personally put Christmas presents under a tree for a kid who wasn't going to have any, otherwise? Or that you provided the wheels, modest though they may be, that allow an out of work parent to conduct a much more effective job search? If I were rich, I'd be doing things like that all the time, and knowing the pleasure that my actions brought others would never get old. - Euphamia

My own conclusion: College + "Good Job" = Paying for your own enslavement. Wow. #mindblown.

Money is lube for the ass raping that is life - Winston Chang

The confusion comes from thinking money can deliver things it was never meant to. - Paramendra

The rich are wrong to blame money for their poor choice in friends and inability to raise their children. - Dwiesin

And my favorite:
Barring those below the poverty level - everyone in America is rich... Once we cover our basic needs, the rest is vanity... Happiness comes from strong personal relationships and a sense of purpose in our occupation, that's it. If the rich can't find these things in their absurd levels of wealth, they can go fuck themselves, because it's much harder to find them in soul-crushing poverty. - Nick Olson

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tough Shit


I was bully when I was in elementary school. Although my parents and siblings described me as a kind and well-behaved child, I remember feeling indifferent towards school and harboring intense dislike toward most of my classmates.

I attended pre-k, kindergarten and a little of first grade in a mostly white, slightly trashy town and although I never experienced outright racism, I was largely uncomfortable living there. There was this girl named Rochelle who came to my preschool a few days a week. We had our similarities, but were physically very different. She was well-dressed and pale-skinned with hair so blond it was practically white. She loved to laugh and seemed to have lots of friends. And so I hated her. Now you might say hate is too strong a word, but I really did hate her. One time I even caught myself devising a plan to hurt her, but gave up when I realized there was no getting away with it unscathed. [Sidenote: I was an odd kid. It took me months to get used to the afternoon naps in preschool - I didn't take any at home, and didn't realize that this was the norm for kids my age. So the aides would give me a book to read to distract me from overhearing their conversations, and I'd lie on my cot in the dark, scanning the pages and listening to their conversations anyway, waiting impatiently for the mandatory nap to be over.]

In kindergarten I had no friends. Even if I had any interest in making some, I couldn't since I was unnecessarily placed in ESL for most of every day. What reason would there be to put an English speaking [albeit shy] American through an "English as a Second Language" course? They did it to another Hispanic student as well. That, along with the fact that the teacher made me switch to my right hand when I started writing with my left made me really hate kindergarten. Now I know why I didn't like that town.

In first grade [at my first school], our teacher decided I needed a classmate to guide me and show me around because she probably noticed I wasn't assimilating well. I scoffed at their "assistance" because I knew how to make friends just fine - I just didn't want to. They left me alone the rest of the year. I was also embarrassed because although I knew other kids dressed funky, my mom would dress me in some extra funky stuff. No one but me seemed to notice or care though. Thank god it was the early 90s. In first grade [at my second school] there was this Puerto Rican girl named Stephanie, who was skinny like me. I disliked her for reasons I wasn't even aware of. One day, when I brought a handful of Barbies in for my friends to play with during recess, she chose the prettiest one and wouldn't let the doll out of her grip. That was it. I wanted to kill her. And I devised a plan for it too.

In second grade, there was this white girl named Ashley that I couldn't stand for no real reason other than she had, what I felt was an uncanny resemblance to a pig. I spread a rumor about her that she was a lesbian, and that I'd caught her kissing another girl behind the supply closet. I didn't even know what the word lesbian meant or where I'd heard it first, but I knew that it made people uncomfortable, and therefore it worked for me. When another girl had the nerve to confront me in Ashley's defense, I remember contemplating whether or not it would be worth it to slap her. Before I'd come to a fully-formed decision, my hand struck her so hard across the face that tears formed on impact. I don't think I ever even got in trouble for that incident.

Many people, even those who met me outside of school during my elementary years have later regaled me with tales of my super meanness toward them. I don't remember these instances of heartless behavior, but I listened as I was told about my methods of exclusion, demeaning name-calling and just plain calculated bitchiness that was extremely rare for a child of my tender age.

I went to school in the Dominican Republic for a brief period when I was 10, and had the tables quickly turn on me. The girls there attempted to bully me because I was "light-skinned" with hazel eyes, I was pretty, and best/worst of all; American. Their jealousy was palpable, and despite staying largely to myself [probably because I didn't feel anyone was good enough for my friendship] they made valiant efforts to intimidate me. I made one mention of it in passing to an administrator, and the girls never so much as looked in my general direction again. The same things they were jealous of gained me a bit of favoritism from the professors. I was quiet, well-behaved, and as a plus, I spoke fluent English - and in that country, that was surely special.

In fifth grade, I got into a tussle on the bus with an ugly Puerto Rican girl who had one of those ill, hack job names, as if it were two or three names put together to make one long ugly one. I was sitting alone and she asked me to move over. Noting that her request was without manners, I defiantly stood my ground and said "No." I can't remember whether she pushed me or just called me a name before walking off, but I was fuming. Before I knew it, I had marched over to her seat and gave her a powerful punch-shove combo. She got off at my bus stop and shoved me back. In the middle of our shoving war, I burst into tears and she decided to leave me alone. I walked to my Dad's house where my sister lived and cried to her that I had just gotten "beat up". I obviously didn't know what that meant.

In middle school, I was pretty much left alone. I was quick to put anyone who stepped out of line in their place but was cheerful and fun with my handful of friends, otherwise preferring to stay to myself. In sixth grade, a friend and I took a heavyset black girl to the principal's office, reporting that she had been picking on us because we were skinny. It probably wasn't the root cause of her denigrating comments towards us, but nonetheless it embarrassed her so much she steered clear of us completely after that.

High School was a slew of little beefs that were easily squashed: in a fit of rage I threw an open container of milk at a heckler, I aided in the suspension of another kid who threw a cookie at me, and in my junior year I verbally wrestled down three girls who had some petty jealousy issue with me over some imagined boy shit. After one of the three had been abandoned by the other two the following year, she begged for my friendship again, to which I responded with the illest "Bitch, are you crazy?!" glare.

Soon after High School, I moved to New York City all by lonesome, where I found myself battling a whole slew of otherworldly demons. But although I was a small girl from a small town, I never felt intimidated by the big city or the people in it.

And why would I have been? As my track record has shown, I wasn't ever scared.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Forward

I haven't written in a while and I'm sure I've gone longer without writing before, but this time was different. Sometimes I won't write because I'm stressed or the only thing running through my mind is something I've written about at length before and I don't want to be redundant* or worse, negative. But I actually had a lot of good stuff happen recently, a lot of good things turned up, and my usually dormant anxiety was back in the limelight. I know I'm anxious because I haven't slept more than 5 hours a night for two weeks and I've been meticulously creating and reviewing my to-do lists. So I'm exhausted but I'm happy. And I'm excited. I'm assuming that this time I'm experiencing good anxiety.

My life is changing and I'm getting ever closer to my goals of traveling, and paying off debt and saving 10K by the time I'm 25 [which is obviously easier said than done, or else everyone could accomplish this]. At the beginning of this year I realized that I was going to be 23 in five months... and it was time to seriously grind if I wanted what I wanted by when I wanted it. I'm not getting any younger. Neither are you.

Until you fully realize that the only time you have is now - you will remain stagnant.

For the first time in my life I am living one of my deepest dreams and desires: stability. I'm in a great place right now but I vividly remember a time when I wasn't. And the only difference from then and now is my mental state/mood and my level of motivation. Once I realized that this was my life, and I needed to take responsibility for it - everything else followed.

Responsibility. What a huge word. So many letters. So many interpretations. Lately I've been thinking a lot about this word. I've been thinking about this word so much that I pursued a position, landed it and immediately drafted up a monthly budget for myself. I have a savings plan that I intend to follow through 2012. I wake up at 6am five mornings a week even though I'm a dazed and confused morning person, so that I can stretch and eat and think before my day begins. Why? Because I want things for my future - not just for right now. It's equally as important to plan for your future as it is to enjoy your present daily life [which is why I still allowed myself a decent sum of "fun" money].

[I've always been pretty responsible. Okay one time I came into a few thousand - and some would say I blew it, but I say it was okay because it wasn't like I was avoiding any substantial bills. I didn't have bills. I was like 16 and my brother was paying for my cellphone.]

It took me a year to change my life for the better.

Before that pivotal year I was merely taking long, drawn out strides towards my goals and who I wanted to be. In other words, crippled baby steps. My dreams seemed exorbitant to many... and at the time even to myself. I had a wild imagination and a beautiful spirit but no ambition. No courage. No determination. I was full of fantasized future visions and fear. My wheels of progress had been rusted by disappointment and feelings of self-pity and sadness. I was honestly looking for someone to save me.

When I turned 21, I realized that the person who was going to save me was me. I started to demand the respect I deserved, I began to take risks, I began to make choices that I felt reflected progress. I began to listen to my gut. And in hindsight some of the choices I made were mistakes in the making but I forgave myself for them because I know I made the best choice that I could at that time. I'm proud to say that I never once chose to bend my principles for an easy way out. I was lazy at times but I was never that lazy.

I was coasting for a while but luckily I'm way past all that and I'm right on time concerning my goals. I think I'm saying all this to say... you can do that too. It's never too late.


*So much for avoiding redundancy, I think what I discussed here is my most discussed topic on this blog. Let's just call it a self-improvement obsession.