All posts by pithyfish

61. Packing

United Airlines has given me a cheeky little challenge: fit all of the contents of your first year abroad into one checked bag equal to or less than 60 pounds.

I have decided to take the bastards up on their unreasonable challenge with my own bit of insolence. I’ll be damned if they charge me another $200 overage fee.

I am packing all of my belongings in a single duffle bag (a massive one with wheels and secret compartments) that is ¼ the size of the suitcase I brought to Korea. Also, a standard carry on, a backpack, and one medium-sized box of stuff to ship home that is big enough to hold four bulky sweaters and my knitting bag.

That may sound like a lot, but trust me it’s not. Go ahead and try to fit all your belongings into the same containers.

So, I’m selling and giving away a lot of stuff. My favorite pair of big tall suede boots that have seen me through two winters faithfully, the one pair of shoes I managed to buy in Korea that actually fit but still didn’t fit that well, the first sweater I knitted myself, the assortment of cheap bags I’ve mindlessly collected, and countless other articles of clothing and jewelry that just didn’t make the cut. Everything must pass the “Will I need this back home?” test.

I’ve enjoyed the purging. Obviously, since I’ve started packing a month and a half early, I’m excited about rolling pants and sweaters into little tubes and seeing how many I can cram into a duffle. Oh, and going home. Definitely excited about going home.

I’ve had a few homecomings before this. I’ve moved a lot. I’ve dismantled and purged and started over a handful of times. I’ve left behind favorite lamps, coveted jars of exotic spices, disloyal boyfriends, a few different egos and self identities, the best sectional couch I’ve ever owned.

But I’ve never had a homecoming after a year abroad. My instinct is to just throw everything away and start from scratch. It’s easier that way. But I’ve also been on the backlash of that a few times. Oh, those leggings you had in your drawer for three years and didn’t have a use for until now that you’ve found this dress that they would look perfect with? Yeah, well they’re gone. And I mean, whatever. They’re just leggings. But this line of thinking can get you into trouble with bigger things if you aren’t careful. Before you know it it’s like, ‘Oh, sense of creativity and childish wonderment! Did you really need that?’

When I was first in Korea I bought these two plain t-shirts in the ajumma section of E-mart. They were super cheap and made me laugh at a time when I wasn’t do much else but crying. They both have cats on them. One says “Lovely cat friends,” on it, but the “s” in “friends” is sorta blocked out because there’s a breast pocket sewn haphazardly over it. The second says “I have a great pressure of work today,” and has a cat peaking up out of the breast pocket, looking very calm and un-pressured. The shirts were a great comic relief for my impression of Korea so far. They’ve been in the “definitely do not leave behind” pile for a few weeks now, but tonight as I was packing I needed just a few more inches to be able to fit in the souvenirs and the shirts came out of the bag and saw their way to the corner of the room with the other rejects. Am I really going to walk around in California with these ridiculous t-shirts? Sure, they are cute and silly but do I need them? Will other people get the joke?

But then my mom’s voice came into my head, because whenever I am trying to reason with myself I use the voice my mom used to use with me when I was a kid. The voice said, “Now Jenny, do you really want to get rid of these shirts? If you keep getting rid of stuff, you’ll have nothing to remember Korea by and you know how you tend to forget things so easily.” Oh man. I had a point.

So I rolled them back up and stuffed them in the carry on. Because when you’re packing up your life, you should hold on to the things you love.

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56. small evolutions

i’ve read in newspapers that children who grow up in confrontational or abusive households develop a keen sense of bad energy. they can walk into a room and instantly detect any lingering bad energy. they can sense who is fighting with you, even if nobody is talking. their brains develop in this way from a young age. kids like this can develop these hyper-sensitive energy detectors before they even reach puberty.

sad circumstances aside, that’s an amazing thing. it’s amazing that such an advancement can develop so quickly in a human being, that people can adapt so easily.

of course, change is easy when you’re young. or at least that’s what we’re told, and after years of hearing it, the idea becomes reinforced.

i wasn’t exactly abused as a kid. childhood was crazy, yeah, but not too far off from what i imagine most people experience in their lives. i feel like i grew up with a pretty keen awareness of the energies around me, but i didn’t really understand what it was i was picking up on. i could walk into a room or be hanging out with a friend when there was an energy shift and i would instantly feel the desire to just shut down and be on guard. i thought this was shyness. but no, this was my super human awesome power sending feelers out into the world.

and it’s not a bad sixth sense to have. it’s kept me relatively safe from trouble. even as an out-of-place kid in school, i never encountered too much drama and i didn’t get into physical fights. creepy strangers usually didn’t approach me.

but i come from a long line of sensitive folk. most of the people in my family are a little shy, a little awkward, a little lonely.

somehow, i got really lucky and had a lot of opportunities to see myself as i am, outside of my own head, and each of these experiences were really inspiring and invigorating because we’re never as bad as we think we are deep in our heads. i’ve gotten down with the whole self love thing, and this has served me pretty well. i’ve also met a lot of admirable introverts, who have managed to make the most of their internal lives and have developed an aura of good energy that quietly attracts a small following of loyal friends. i tried my best to watch and repeat this ability. i learned i didn’t have to be loud and overtly entrepreneurial to get friends. my relatives had been right all along. i could just be myself.

this was probably the biggest evolution of my early adulthood. or at least, so far.

of course, different voices had their influence along the way. i adapted to my environments. i tried on a lot of different clothes. from surviving high school to opening up in college to starting all over out in the world. if i met myself as i was at 15, i wouldn’t be able to relate to myself because i wasn’t really myself at all when i was 15. but that’s who i was, at that point in my life. there was no 24-year-old future self to compare myself to.

i’m still making it up as i go along, and it’s strange to look back at the habits and ideologies and super human awesome powers that i’ve developed and used and then grown away from. it’s weird to look back at little evolutions and see them as just step stools. it’s weird to see how far i’ve come.

and by far i don’t entirely mean forward or upward linear movement, but just distance. there have been progressions just as much as there have been regressions. some things have recycled.

but the other day it really hit me when i realized all of the things i’ve learned now, all of the things i’ve come to believe in, the things that get me out of bed in the morning and let me sleep at night (or not), the thoughts i am writing right now, will likely be completely gone and/or completely transformed in five and ten and twenty and thirty years. it’s weird to even think of the future, let alone imagine a whole different person with an entirely different world view.

my best friend recently pointed out that humans could not have possibly evolved from the same monkeys that exist today, because in order for a species to evolve it’s old model has to die out, since it is replaced with the newer model.

so this explains why all the phases of my life feel so oddly disconnected. after each phase there has been a small evolution that has brought on a small death, and replaced it with the next model. it’s weird to think i’m just a working prototype.

kinda takes the pressure off though, eh?

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42. Crying

When I was little, my mom cried a lot. I would find her in the basement behind the water heater and the flower press, crying. It was terrifying to see her crying, but there was an intimacy in sitting with her as she did. Those were emotional days. There was a lot going on. My mom was pregnant, working full time, and taking care of my brother and I. There was a lot of family drama, too.

Anyways, when I was a teenager I was introduced to the idea that crying was a form of manipulation. Crying is what women did when they wanted to evade responsibility for something they had done. Crying was weakness, it was fear. These messages came from all over. Some of them were direct, as in actual words coming out of actual mouths of actual, albeit confused, people. They came from all walks of life. Some of them were power hungry, others were limp and defeated, but then again both were just different sides to the same coin.

Sometimes negative messages about crying came indirectly. The crying woman at the bank was crazy. People avoided her. People cried alone. In movies, it was a very pretty thing, this crying. But in reality, crying made you ugly. Your makeup ran. You retched if it was bad enough. So when the lump rose in your throat and your eyes began to water, people were always responding anxiously. “Don’t cry,” they were always saying. “Don’t cry.”

Well, screw it.

It’s my life, and I’ll cry if I want to.

I’m a born crier and so are you.

You were born crying, that is how you took your first breath. Your cry sent the power of life into your lungs. That should be the message we learn about crying- it comes to us in birth and throughout our whole lives it is a method of re-birth. Breathe, let go, cry your heart out.

To cry is to surrender. It is the most humbling thing you can do. It is not shameful. We all have weakness. Our strength comes in acknowledging this weakness, in allowing it to exist, and in letting it leave us. When it leaves us, when we cry, strength comes. This is why sometimes, if the cry is good enough, you feel good after you cry. It is catharsis. You have surrendered, recognized the child that still lives in you, forfeited your petty claims to power, knelt down to the earth, and howled. In doing so, you hand over the burdens that don’t belong to you, which are weighing you down. You admit you can’t carry them, and they leave you. Sometimes you pick them back up again and then later, you cry more. People go their whole lives picking up their burdens and laying them down. Sometimes they pick up different ones and sometimes they pick up the same ones, but they keep on going in the same pattern. Picking them up, laying them down. Whether you want to continue picking up your burden is up to you. But everyone, at some point, must stop for a rest and put it down. Everyone cries.

It’s not shameful to cry. It takes immense courage. The whole world is built on the illusion of strength, but strength needs weakness, and vice versa, to be sustainable. Everything needs renewal. Everyone has burdens. When you lay them down, you can smile more brightly and see more clearly.

Manipulation comes in all forms and yes, sometimes people use artificial tears in this way. But whatever. Leave them to their own woes. They are miserable because they are powerless, they have surrendered their power but to someone else. Crying for manipulation puts your power in someone else’s hands. If that someone else responds to your tears, you get what you want. But if they don’t respond, then you don’t get what you want. And in the meantime, people are hardened to tears because they have been misused.

Follow your own emotions. If someone has fooled you with tears, then so what. That is on them, not you. It is not shameful for a person to respond to something so instinctual and human as crying. Be proud that you feel your heart, that you are a fool. There are enough clichés in the world to teach you about the wisdom of the fool.

But keep in mind that it is not your duty to comfort someone who is crying. They are putting down their burdens. They are releasing. Leave them be. You do not need to come up and take their burden, you do not need to help them. They are helping themselves simply by crying. They are brave. Don’t pity them or patronize them to get them to stop crying. Don’t fear crying. If their tears move you, then you can cry with them. But don’t give them sympathy and don’t manipulate them to get them to stop crying.

Crying is movement. Go with it. Go it alone. This doesn’t mean you can’t cry with company, but when you cry be alone. In a room full of people, be alone. Turn inward and let what is going to happen happen to you. Whatever leaves you is not yours. Let it go. Whatever stays put is maybe not ready yet. Keep waiting. It will leave when it’s ready.

28. four-day weekends

recently we had a four-day weekend. it was better than a two-day weekend, but that was about it because four-day weekends are a fraud.

yes, i said it.

and i’m only using one piece of evidence to back that up:

four-day weekends go by too fast.

you start off all excited. maybe you make some plans, or whatever. but in the end, the days just slip on by and then it’s sunday night and then it’s monday morning and it’s all gone just like any other weekend.

my point is that every weekend should be a four-day weekend. or maybe that there should not be weekends at all (gasp!) but only greatness all the time (gasp! gasp!)!

what are we doing with this 5-day work-week crap? how is anyone supposed to get anything done if they are working a job 5 days a week? how are we supposed to write stories, novels, or pulitzer prize winning blog posts (does such a thing even exist yet?) if we’re wasting all our time at a job? how are we supposed to make our dreams come true, admire the clouds, doodle, eat more ice cream, take more naps, learn things, drink 8 glasses of water a day, or design out the details of our dream houses in our heads if we have to go to work?

in closing, i think we should all quit our jobs. so what about unemployment. i’m a firm believer that a good job is one that is not a job at all, but something you would probably be doing anyways regardless of whether you were getting paid or not.

so i’m becoming a professional spaghetti eater. and i’ll freelance my clothes-changing skills when the going gets tough.

but seriously, this is my dream and nobody’s gonna bully me into thinking it isn’t possible: i want to stop working. i want to reach the day where i never work ever, ever again. i will just do awesome cool creative meaningful things that are interesting and rad. so rad, in fact, that i won’t have to plan my life in anticipation of any four-day weekend b.s. instead, i’ll just be amazing everyday.

raise your plate of sunday bacon if you’re with me!

25. sauce

i’ve had a lot of pasta sauces in my day.

as an avid cook, i’ve also cooked quite a few from scratch.

in my college days i worked at a foods co-op, which gave me a lot of access to fresh, quality ingredients with which to craft the finest bolognese or carbanara.

all of these experiences and others that have not been mentioned make me the sauce connoisseur.

and do you know which pasta sauce i still crave the most?

prego.

this is not an advertisement. though, it probably should be.

i get that prego is store bought, processed, super-cheap, and loaded with sugars that make it’s claims about hearth health completely bogus.

it still tastes the best.

because taste isn’t about pomp. it’s about nostalgia, and i have many a good memory of pasta nights as a kid.

pasta nights were tranquil nights, because nobody complained over a heaping bowl of pasta. through most of my childhood i piled butter and fake parmesan on top of my spaghetti. i was afraid of sauce. but once i was forced to jump into that tangy, rich wonderful sauce that never forgot to add a bit of sweetness at the end, i knew i would forever be a prego addict.

years later, when i was newly graduated from college, i was pretty much starving in a little studio apartment. there was a grocery outlet next door, which was the regrettable source of most of my diet. but the place had one thing in its favor: they carried prego. and after a rough day of reporting the news as a total rookie who had no idea what she was doing, there was nothing better than coming home and cooking up the most nostalgic bowl of cheap and easy pasta. at that time, i couldn’t even afford the parmesan. but i didn’t care. i was happy with the prego.

now that i’m living abroad, i find that prego is readily available at most grocery stores and this is a huge relief. even though i don’t advocate coming to a foreign country just to eat the same foods you ate back home, there are times when you are living abroad (much different than visiting abroad) when you just want to curl up in a little ball and look at something familiar. even better if it can be ingested.

of course, i still enjoy making a wonderful tomato sauce from scratch because really, the enjoyment of a homemade sauce is more in the process than anything. put on some good italian tunes, pour a glass of wine, and let it simmer all day.

but for the fast times in life, there’s no shame in prego.

18. kids (a pithy dissent)

kids are overrated. they should definitely not rule the world.

it happens early on, this misunderstanding about kids. you see them and you say “wow they are just like little people, that is so cute.” yeah, yeah, it’s cute. but you failed to highlight the truth behind your own truth- they are just like little people: some of them are awesome, and some of them are not.

people assume that just because a kid is small and hasn’t been around very long that he/she is innocent and untouched by society. fallacy flag. wavin’ it alllll around.

exhibit a) have you ever sworn in front of a kid? i bet that kid went off and said that swear word to his/her mama, didn’t he/she? “just like a parrot,” everyone laughs. kids are incredibly absorbent sponges. they are totally and completely affected by society. they fold to the cool kid’s every whim and fancy. they are so impressionable. if you make them watch countless hours of jersey shore, they will ask you for a bouffant. haven’t you seen the show “toddlers in tiaras?”

kids are a big old mess.

not that they shouldn’t be. i mean, they’re kids. they’ve got a free pass and they should use it because, well, a free pass is a terrible thing to waste.

but furthermore, kids aren’t fair. they are self serving. if you don’t follow the rules exactly and it takes away from their own pot of gold in some way, they will not waste a second doubting whether or not they should tell you about it. they only point out errors in rule following if it benefits their competitors and their competitors only fold under the pressure and give up the point because they are afraid of being disgraced.

i mean, there’s nothing wrong with selfishness. it is the stem of love, afterall. but if it remains a stem and never grows into a flower, you have an ego-maniac. this is what would happen if we stayed kids forever and never grew.

kids hit each other a lot. they don’t understand the consequences of their own force. they go around squashing butterflies and squeezing puppies too tight because they don’t understand. so i can’t imagine that kids sitting in the oval office would resist the temptation to blow things up at the touch of a few buttons.

don’t get me wrong- it’s fine that kids are selfish and violent and can’t think for themselves. everyone takes time to grow into themselves. but there’s no need to lump all children into the same category simply because of a nostalgia for our own childhood, which is over. which, as we may recall, was full of flaws and growing pains and horrific humiliations. remember: you couldn’t wait to grow up!

the point is that we should stop pestering children about how cute they are and live in the present with gratitude.

Continue reading 18. kids (a pithy dissent)