“Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another.” ― Angela Duckworth
“Stress happens when something you care about is at stake. It’s not a sign to run away – it’s a sign to step forward.” ― Kelly McGonigal
“There’s nothing you can’t do if you get the habits right.” ― Charles Duhigg
A version of this blog post has long existed in the back of my mind.
It’s had multiple beginnings, different takeaways, but never a clear ending. The idea has never stopped morphing and evolving, growing alongside me. The thing is, I’ve never felt good enough to actually write this post. Instead, I’ve carried it with me across state lines, through deserts, over mountains, and occasionally to the beach, where I’ve protected it with a generous dose of high spf sunscreen.
Because how do I go about writing an expository essay (full of my trademark wit and signature charm) that adequately sums up one of the biggest lessons of my 20s? How can I succinctly summarize a journey that began 5 years ago — when I graduated college and started this blog — to who I am now and the person I hope to become? How do I write about a journey I’m still on?
Stories are powerful things, and the stories we believe about ourselves are perhaps the most important of all. So let’s start there, with a story. And let’s start NOW before I give up trying to figure out 3 years worth of WordPress updates I’ve missed…
“Wait?! You weren’t born in Mexico? But your Spanish sounds so Mexican. You have that rhythm, that accent, that I associate with Mexicans,” a Colombian friend recently told me.
“Will liked to live so that no one could find fault with him, and to do that he had to live as nearly like other people as possible.”
—John Steinbeck, East of Eden
Omnes vulnerant, ultima necat.
Every hour wounds. The last one kills. —Popular Latin inscription on sundials.
She woke up with a pounding headache, and slowly, the memories from her dreams the night before start trickling in.
A woman on her deathbed. Her eyes are bleak, and her skin clings to her bones. An eerie, gargle-like sound escapes her lips—the “death rattle,” they call it.
It was a beautiful day for swimming, so naturally, the pool was packed.
While I waited for a lane to open up, I decided to do my warm up in the open area of the pool, where all the swim classes take place. As I would learn soon enough, sometimes it’s better to wait on the sidelines…
You are graduating from college. That means that this is the first day of the last day of your life. No, that’s wrong. This is the last day of the first day of school. Nope, that’s worse. This is a day.
Since I recently wrote about my college apartment by the cemetery and my current “noisy neighbor” (who is still singing every night, by the way), I thought of an infamous college dorm I lived in my junior spring. Enjoy!
I arrived late at night. I pulled my luggage through the snow and ice, the cold air hurting my eyes. Spring break in New England—delightful.
I stood in front of the white, shabby two-story building that would be my home for the spring quarter. The dormitory resembled a two-star motel, the kind you might invest in bedsheets from a local Walmart before spending the night. As I stared in disapproval, I promised right at that moment, that if I ever became a rich alumna, I would donate a whole bunch of money to tear this building down, build a beautiful new dorm, and slap my name across the front.
“Memory and thoughts age, just as people do. But certain thoughts can never age, and certain memories can never fade.”
~Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of teaching vocational English to Iraqi refugees. The following is taken from a longer reflection paper I wrote about my experience. It’s been adapted for this post.
New England in the fall, and also the quintessential Instagram picture. I’m so proud.
“You can see how this book has reached a great boundary that was called 1900. Another hundred years were ground up and churned, and what had happened was all muddied by the way folks wanted it to be—more rich and meaningful the farther back it was.”
John Steinbeck, East of Eden
“The years go by, and I’ve told the story so many times that I’m not sure anymore whether I actually remember it or whether I just remember the words I tell it with… At this point, what difference does it make whether it was me or some other man that saw Moreira killed.”
Jorge Luis Borges, “The Night of the Gifts” (Trans. Andrew Hurley)
My senior year of college, I lived in an apartment next to an old cemetery.
The cemetery had headstones and crypts that dated back to the 18th century. Several of them belonged to the college’s first students. I always wondered whether they willingly chose to be buried there out of devotion to the college, or whether academic rigor got to them before they could graduate. I typically assumed the latter.
The cemetery was mostly green and wooded. Parts of it were steep, and it even had a ravine dividing it down the middle. With its tall trees and eery voices, the graveyard was hauntingly beautiful. During the fall and spring, I used to take a shortcut through the cemetery. I was drawn to the tranquility and quiet, and of course, the dining hall on the other side. I told myself it was a shortcut, but I still doubt if it actually was. I had to climb down a sharp incline then up another hill to get across, usually taking about as much effort as just walking around the cemetery. I never dared to take the path during winter, lest I came across winter gnomes, shout in surprise, then slip, break a leg, and freeze to death. Continue reading
Swimming is a confusing sport, because sometimes you do it for fun, and other times you do it to not die. And when I’m swimming, sometimes I’m not sure which one it is.
I stand on the edge of the pool and jump.
Nothing is more sad than the death of an illusion.
― Arthur Koestler
Mrs. Henderson was clearly losing the battle against her yard. Weeds had taken over most of it, and the overgrown grass hid a few newspapers scattered across the lawn.
Kate sighed as she picked up yet another newspaper on her driveway. She lazily threw it over the fence to join the others on Mrs. Henderson’s yard. To the dismay of both women, the Tribune never seemed to deliver the paper to the right house. Even after numerous complaints.
All Kate wanted to do was take off her heels and relax in front of the television with a glass of wine, which is exactly what she did. It had been a lousy Monday.