Monday, January 31, 2011

No Regrets? The Story of Lilly

Mike was my good friend and Michelle (Mike's sister) was good friends with Lilly, so it was inevitable that our paths would cross. Although I can't remember the exact time we first met each other, I just remember us being very young, like maybe 10 or so. We were both the quiet type, but somehow we became close friends and hung out pretty often on the weekends. Eventually, she became the kind of childhood friend that you'd sit on the sofa with for hours, not really doing anything other than watching cartoons, eating those strawberry wrapped candies, and unconsciously enjoying the innocence of youth. I was put in the friend-zone quite early, but honestly I didn't mind (and only realized it later). The emotional connection that we shared was something different than anything I had ever experienced before.

Fast forward a few years to a rainy day in February when she called me to tell me that she was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. I had no idea what CF was, but she told me all about it and all I could remember was zoning out after I heard the words "possibly fatal". Her voice was so relaxed about it, no tears, no anxiety, no anything. Part of me thought that she had no idea what was going on or that she couldn't understand the gravity of the situation. I attempted to comfort her, but she insisted that we didn't focus on that when we spent time together. Months passed and she underwent various treatments. The thought of being there for her and supporting her made me feel like I had a purpose. My purpose in life was to help her get over her disease.

In my junior year I started to skip classes to go to her school and see her. I would bring her boba from Tapioca Express and pretended to be her older brother. I would be lying if I said I didn't grow to love her. As she got worse, my trips were no longer to Tapioca Express, they were to the hospital. All of her other "friends" and our mutual friends mysteriously disappeared. I guess teens would rather think about homecoming dances as opposed to death and I can't really blame them. They weren't as invested as I was, she gave me purpose and it was too late for me because I had already fallen for her. One day I caught myself thinking, "Maybe if she gets over this we can go to college together. Then, maybe we can even get married and have a real life together." Lilly, simply put, held everything for me at the time. Pinned on her was my future, my desires, and my first sense of deep love for someone else.

On Monday, September 15th at 5:50 AM (my birthday), Lilly passed away. The whole day I sat quietly in all of my classes realizing that she was the only person I had ever truly loved (as much as a naive 17 year old can love something anyways). Sure, I had a "crush" on my friend Tam before, but this? This was love. Yet it was the one thing I had never told her. I proudly tell people that "I have no regrets" about the things in my life, but deep down I know that if I could change this one thing, I would. I try not to blame myself for not saying those words that every movie tells me a young girl would have wanted to hear, because at 17, love is such unknown idea. But I knew that I did. I should have said it. I knew it back then as much as I know it now: I loved her with all my heart.

I am 24 now and consider myself pretty well established. I have done all of the things that I promised to her when she was on her death bed. It's strange to think about her sometimes, because in my mind she is still just a girl. When I look back and see her picture in my mind, she isn't even a woman yet, so I find it hard for me to envision loving her as such a physical thing, but I suppose it is our memories together that I will always keep. I'll always treasure the time we spent together. Rest in peace Lilly, I love you.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I put my money where my mouth is

In general, people seem to talk about doing things and never really do them. Some of the more common ones that I hear often: "I'm thinking about going to Vegas." "Mardi Gras in New Orleans is one of those things I have to do once before I die." "I'm gonna quit and find a new job." "I'll eventually go to grad school."

I try to think about what causes people to make these kinds of statements when they know that they'll never follow through. This phenomenon isn't new either, people have been doing it for ages. That's where all these cliches come from: "Actions speak louder than words." "Talk the talk and walk the walk." "Put your money where your mouth is."

I assume that most of the time people blurt out these empty sentences to fit in to the current conversation. On a deeper level though, I think it has to do with people being afraid of failure. They can't take the leap, (go on that trip or quit that job, etc.) because they are afraid of what might actually happen.

All people are afraid of the uncertain to some extent. No one likes to run into situations with no idea what to expect. The reason I push myself to make my "crazy" decisions is because my desire and passion outweigh my fear.

Recently, I was stuck in a vicious loop. I was stuck at a job that I didn't like and had no time to find a new one. I had already applied and got denied for a company voluntary layoff, twice. Although they never gave me the reason, I presume it was because I was too cheap, too young, too skilled, or my group was doing too well. I waited and waited, worked and worked, paralyzed by my fear of failure. "The job market is terrible right now." "This economy sucks!" "I should get something lined up first." In the summer of 2010, I hired a headhunter from some agency to find jobs for me. All he found were contract positions (temp jobs with full-time contracts in the horizon). That would be a major step down given my current position, but I nearly took them. I wanted a change that badly.

A stint of mandatory overtime was really the beginning of the end. For the better part of three months, I was absolutely miserable at my job. I told myself it was over (after I got paid for a fat winter vacation). I made a new years resolution to find a new job. It is now only a few weeks into 2011 and I now have a few companies to choose from, all of which would bring me in as a full time employee. The job market wasn't as bad as I thought. The economy is recovering too. And who needs another job lined up if you know how to save and invest properly?

Needless to say, I'm extremely happy with my decision. I'm glad I didn't let my fear of failure keep me stuck in that loop any longer and I'm really happy that I took the leap. It was very scary though. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't afraid for my career and finances. I went from getting steady paychecks to making zero dollars, I quite literally put my money where my mouth was.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Doing things for a reason, not a season

Each year I make resolutions. A lot of people roll their eyes at the thought of New Years Resolutions or Lent or Valentines Day or even Birthdays.

Admittedly, I am one of those people. I often spout phrases such as, "Why haven't you been doing that all along?" "How come you place so much importance on arbitrary dates?"

Why is it then, that I make New Years Resolutions with the masses? Well, I'm not so hipster that I can't like the idea behind it. I think that the process of "bettering yourself" is a great thing. Any reason to better yourself is a good reason. If people need an excuse or want to wait for a random date to start changing, that's fine by me. As long as it's leading to good results, who cares how it happens?

For me, it's almost a matter of laziness. It's much easier to tell someone that my sudden change in behavior is due to "Lent" or a "Resolution" then have to explain my "spontaneous decision to improve myself".

This process of "improving yourself" takes a lot of time, it's not instant. Sometimes it takes so long that we forget how or why we started in the first place. Character change is a glacial movement... but it has to start somewhere. Any day is a good day to improve yourself, why not New Years?