i wish that i knew what i know now, when i was younger

Happy, happy, happy… happy… happy… oh, forget it.

By the time this post is added to the airwaves, I will officially be one year older.

Today is my birthday. Lucky me. <rolls eyes.>

That’s right. Pilot and I have our birthdays four days apart. (I would like to point out that he is one year older. Sorry, Pilot.) I’ve compiled a list of things I wish someone had told me when I was younger:

5. Question everything.  In school, I would greatly annoy my teachers by constantly asking questions. I wasn’t one of the kids asking “why” six or seven times in a row. They were legitimate questions due to my ever-growing curiosity.  Somewhere along junior high through mid-college I had stopped learning to ask questions. In my current job, asking questions is actually encouraged. Not always at the time I ask it, but the question is still appreciated. I had to slowly gain the confidence that it is all right to want to understand the bigger picture. How is one supposed to improve themselves and others around them, if they have no fucking idea what’s going on?

4. It’s ok to not know what you want. Talent and skill knows no age, race or gender.  So many youngsters and teens are bombarded with the question, “So what do you want to be when you grow up?”  Honestly. How many of you actually enjoyed this question?  I know I hated it.

I spent years trying to come up with some job title to impress and even went as far to convince myself that I wanted it.  But in reality? I felt completely clueless. I think it’s because I denied wanting to be a writer/artist.  I had grown up with the phrases, “those jobs don’t make any money,” “You’re wasting your time,” “Hope you enjoy being homeless,” etc.  Well guess what?  I’m on the wrong side of my 20’s, married, and I STILL rent an apartment, have a decent job, but don’t make any money due to our crapshoot of an economy, and I STILL ended up pursuing a job focused on writing and art.

Do you know how much angst, migraines and stress I could have avoided if someone had just said, “Cool, go for it. Do what you must to keep a roof over your head while you pursue that goal, but go for it!”?  If someone had just acknowledged that pursuing those goals was “OK” but that I just might have to do some other work while I go through this journey, I might have avoided years of denying my love of the written word being seen by the world. Perhaps I would even be published by now.

Did you know the book P.S. I Love You was written by a 19-year-old?

3. You don’t have to want the American Dream.  The typical American wants marriage, a house, a yard, 2.5 kids-

You’ve got to feel sorry for that poor kid who was sliced in half. I mean, really. That has to suck major ball sack.

Do you want to know what I consider success for myself by the time I’m 70?  Being published and continually successful, (duh), living in a non-traditional home-

You can imagine Pilot’s delight when he heard this statement from me. He then proceeded to show me “Residential Hangars” on the interwebs. Yes, my name is Katherine and I choose to live in a residential hangar someday.  Other pilots: jealous, much?

-and maybe kids.  That’s right, you heard me. MAYBE.

When I first met Pilot, I didn’t want any children. Don’t misunderstand me. I love kids. I’ve babysat more than my share, worked in summer camps, and have 13 nieces and nephews ranging from infancy to 16-years-old, whom I love dearly and would give my life for without hesitating. I think children are our most precious resource, because without well-educated and supported children, this country has no future.

I just didn’t want to have my own children. (My reasons are long and tedious, much longer than this post will allow. Those points will be for another day.)

I love that 99% of my graduating high school class is married and on their second or third child by now. They seem truly happy in their choices

However, if I look at my life as it is today:

I work a soul-killing job to support Pilot and myself until writing is full-time for me and Pilot earns a multi-year contract in teaching, had a thyroid cancer scare during Christmas, and Pilot’s large, baked-potato-sized tumor (which was right next his spine) removal surgery, and barely able to cover all of our bills. Tack on an America with foreclosures, bankruptcy and dealing with one of the worst economies the U.S. has seen in decades.

The idea of bringing a child into the hot mess of life while Pilot and I are just scrimping it together after all of this crap has only just settled would probably have pushed us both completely over the edge.

I thank God everyday for birth control.

2. Be confident in your own skin, whatever shade it may be. Being an adopted Korean with German parents attending schools where I was one of five TOTAL minority children in the entire school was bound to give a girl a complex. Add in prescription glasses needed at the tender age of five, during the ‘80’s (an era I like to describe as a Fashion Decade of Hell we did not experience, but humanity survived through), and I was a walking target, complete with bulls eye and zoom-goggles for my bullies.  (Yes, I was bullied a lot as a child, that’s a different issue for another day.)

With my time either being split between people trying to guess “what” I was-

The kicker with these interesting conversations, was after someone asking me if I was Chinese or Japanese, I would answer that I was born Korean. To which, I was promptly met with the answer “No, that’s not right. That doesn’t sound right. You must be [enter more commonly-known Asian ethnicity of your choosing here].”

-or asking if I was an exchange student-

Asking such question in loud, slow voices, I might add.  America, as much as I am proud to be part of this country, and proud that I am an American citizen, we have a seriously long way to go on how we treat Asians (or any other minority) in this country. It is assumed that if one is not Caucasian, this is equivalent to the automatic inability to speak English. In addition, there is the bonus concept that if one does not speak English, one is obviously deaf as well.

What’s that? Yes, please speak slower and louder. That will magically make someone understand the English language instantaneously in comparison to the pacing and volume of your sentence two seconds prior.

-I was also dressed in turtlenecks, plaid skirts and yarn tights with buckle shoes, with the addition of pigtails.

Side note to parents: Just because a look is “cute” to you does not give you permission to purposefully add fire to the flame of having your beloved child’s ass kicked.

It took me years to learn that I was never going to be 5’10”, blonde or blue eyed, (or at least without some considerable and pricy cosmetic surgery and hair dye), and to accept my body for as it was. A (barely) 5’5”, somewhat stocky stature with black hair that grows curlier by the year. (Yes, I am an Asian with black, curly hair. That photo you see of me in the corner? That’s after a lot of work with mousse, a hair dryer and flat iron.)

I’m much happier in my skin and learned to look at the more positive things about my outer-appearance than I was as a teen, desperately waiting for the second round of braces to be complete.

My husband, Pilot tells me I’m the best of both worlds. I’m his hot Asian wife, but I’m technically German because of my family, who surprises people and helps break down stereotypes with a goofy, but approachable, intellectual attitude.

I prefer the term German-By-Association-American.

1. The one you love may not love you. Poor Pilot, I put him through complete and total hell because I was actually in love with another man when we met. (NOTE: I was not in a relationship with someone else when I met Pilot. Pilot was and always would be, my first boyfriend.)

There was a boy I was in love with growing up. We were best friends from junior high through our first year of college together. Our families were close, and they even vacationed together. Now that I’m older, I wish someone would have stopped and shook me, saying, “If Randy* hasn’t recognized that you love him after [enter any number between 2-7 years of your choosing], he never will be.”

*Name has been changed for privacy

Our first year of college changed everything. He ended up leaving college and getting into the party scene. I channeled my heartbreak into not eating, not sleeping and studying like crazy. (Although I will admit, I earned a place on the Dean’s list my first quarter at college.

A feat never to be accomplished again throughout my college career. <sigh.>

No, I don’t think the heartbreak would have been any considerable amount lessened, but I would have gotten over him eventually, and perhaps opened my heart up sooner to Pilot. Pilot had been a great friend and practically a literal boy-next-door for me during this whole ordeal, being patient as our relationship grew closer over time.  (Pilot lived about five doors down from my dorm on the same floor, while my heart was torn out by my best friend in a dorm literally above me on the upper floor.

One of the things I will be sure to teach my children is: Do not to be afraid of love, but be prepared if they might not love them back. And to think about how they will handle this realization.

As my all-time favorite film, Sabrina (the Julia Ormond, Harrison Ford and Greg Kinnear version), there is a moment where Sabrina is talking with her mentor. Her mentor, Irene advises thoughtfully:

Irene:  Is it this David you mentioned casually 30, 40 times when you first came over? He sounds perhaps very much like an illusion.

Sabrina:  He keeps me company.

Irene:  You think so? Illusions are dangerous people. They have no flaws. I came here from Provence. Alone, uneducated. For eight months… No, more than that, a year… I sat in a café, drank coffee, and wrote nonsense in a journal. And then somehow, it was not nonsense. I went for long walks, and I met myself in Paris. You seem… Embarrassed by loneliness. By being alone. It’s only a place to start.

Randy was such an illusion. Never losing my belief in true love, it gave me a wiser approach to falling in love. This experience allowed me to be realistic and not indulge an overinflated crush, but open myself to a real love and a real relationship with Pilot. Recognizing his endless list of good points, some of his flaws, and accept him exactly as he is, eyes wide open, no aftermath surprises. I am actually grateful for that heartbreak. I was young, naïve and in a one-sided relationship that clouded my judgment for several years.  Looking back, I recognize now, Randy and I would never have been a good fit. Although I believe that opposites do attract and can have successful, healthy relationships, I much prefer being with Pilot who I have endless things in common with, along with each of us being stronger in the areas the other is weaker in. We build each other up together, instead of one of us building up the other all the time.

But all in all, I think the biggest thing for me to recognize is that without these experiences, they would not have shaped me into who I am today.  A confident, honest, and moral person who happens to have a touch of a ridiculous and dry wit humor that would make any civilized patron shoot pop out their nose.  So maybe having all of those things happen when they did, learning those lessons in the amount of time they took and experiencing them with the people I did was just as important as the lesson themselves.  What do you think?

What are some of life’s lessons that you wish you had known at a younger age? Do you think it would have made a difference?

Daily Writing Challenge

Day 17: Your character has fallen in love. With who? Is it serious? Are they in a relationship with this person? How did they meet? Write a scene of your character either contemplating this significant other or directly interacting with them.

Hmm… These DWC’s are beginning to sound similar to each other.

After hanging up the phone, Josh checked his hair in the reflection of his monitor.  Crap.  His hair always seemed to be sticking up in the back, a cowlick that he was born, and cursed with.  His mom had always called it his rooster tail.

“Oh sweetheart, don’t worry about it,” she’d say with a wave of her hand.  “Besides, it makes you look taller!”

Seated at his gray desk, in his gray cubicle, in the gray room, (or the Pit, as he liked to call it), the Information Technology wing was pretty bland with ten cubicles grouped together in the center of it with harsh fluorescent lighting.  The blisteringly dull and blue-toned light fixtures always seemed to flicker at just the right frequency to give someone slightly more than a headache, but not seizure-inducing.  Mostly the people that worked on the team spent their days playing various types of MMORPG’s, blogged about how uneventful their lives had turned out hoping somewhere amongst the world wide web that someone was listening, while answering the most basic, inane questions for the bigwigs over the phone.  What amazing use of his master’s degrees in computer science and robotics from Yale had made.

But now he had a chance to break his routine; and not only that, but go upstairs and talk to Sydney.  He smoothed his hair out the best he could and stood up, only to spill coffee on to his shirt.  He held his shirt out and looked at it, shaking his head and sighed.  He attempted to clean the large brown spot that was starting to grow by swiping some of his neighbor’s clear soda onto it, but realized it was losing battle and gave up.

Being thirty-three and still single, he had tried dating other women, but it was hopeless.  Sure, they were all nice girls: friendly, polite, and into computers and understanding the connection people had with each other through technology like he did; but, they just weren’t Sydney.  He couldn’t get her out of his head.  As her computer seemed to shut down on a regular basis, he would fix it and she would take him out to coffee afterward as a thank you.  At least he got to chat with her once in awhile.  The always had a good working relationship, but he had wanted it to be more.  Over the last couple years, he’d grown fond of her and was heartsick.  Most of his dates ended up him sitting across the table from a perfectly good, and sometimes willing, woman, and all he could do was think about how different she was from Sydney.  He thought back to the first time they met.

It had been a frosty January morning and Sydney arrived at the Pit in a calm, but frantic manner.  The contrast between her very professional and pulled together outfit with the darting of her eyes back and forth, sweeping across the room looking for someone to help her was amusing.  And cute.  She had worn a sleek red pencil skirt and a black knitted turtleneck that hugged her curves in all the right places.  Her shoes had one of those toothpick-like heels to them.  Stilettos?  Is that what they were called?  Josh was never really into fashion.  The last time he’d been “shopping” was his birthday when his mom and sister had given him a bunch of shirts and some pants.  He was thankful they’d provided a belt because stuff usually fit pretty loosely.  At least it was comfortable.

He recalled her striking long black hair that grazed her shoulder blades.  In the times he’d seen her walking through the lobby and into the elevator, she’d usually kept it sleek and tied back into a tight ponytail.  But that day, she had it flowing loosely around her face; he’d thought about how much it had softened her and he wanted to reach out his fingers and feel what it would feel like between his fingers.  She was so quintessentially female, soft and curvy, and lovely against the harsh lines of the boxy, gray cubicle-land he worked in.  Thinking about her hair tangled in his fingers, made him think other ways he’d like his body to be tangled with hers.  This caused him to become hard, and was grateful she wanted to sit down an explain her problem (in some great detail he might add), which gave him time to focus on work and calm the rush of heat that had spread to his body so he could actually stand up to go to her office later.

Raising his arm to signal her, she had peered across the room, her eyes settling on his gaze.  Noticing her deep blue eyes, he thought he had caught a hidden twinkle he couldn’t really describe, and thinking about that little glimmer of trouble had left him mesmerized, and admittedly turned on, thinking about what it would be like to gaze into them in a dimly lit room… Say his bedroom… for the rest of that fateful day.  Taking a deep breath and straightening her shoulders, she walked straight towards him and he’d managed to take a glance at her long, sinuous steps that caused her hips to sway ever so slightly, a look of relief washing over her face.  She explained how she was new to the company and had just been issued a new laptop that wasn’t turning on.

Normally, he’d ask her the same series of questions, “Is your computer on?” or “Is it plugged in?” and so on.  But after a few minutes, he realized she was really sharp and not one of those flighty bigwigs that normally ran the company.  Following her to her incredibly huge office (almost the size of the Pit, and all for one person!) he sat at her desk, fixing her computer the first of what was to be many, many times in the future.  He knew she cursed the damned thing, but he was entirely, internally, grateful.  Sydney invited him out for coffee to thank him for his help, the first in a long line of coffee breaks they would share.  Apparently his help saved her from almost losing a major account on a marketing campaign she was leading.  At the time, he had been thrilled she asked him out.  It wasn’t until halfway through their conversation he heard about a new guy she had met named Michael.  They weren’t serious yet at that point, but he could tell her focus was definitely not on himself.

Josh remembered meeting Michael a week later at the company holiday party.  The corners of his mouth turned down slightly at the memory.  Michael Ross was tall with brown hair, but Michael had those weird, cheesy blonde streaks in it and he had that sleekness to him.  Michael was one of those guys that made life look easy, like each person naturally walked out of bed looking like a model everyday, worked an overly-well paying job and went home with women like Sydney as if it was the natural order of things.

One of his suits probably cost more than Josh’s car.

He pushed the up button on the wall and waited for the elevator.  He felt a slight tug on his heart at being able to spend a few minutes with Sydney, but it was soon overshadowed by longing and loneliness as he stepped into the cold, gray elevator.  He was lovesick over a woman who didn’t love him, but had ruined him for other women as well.

The gorgeous ones always seemed to be taken.

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