Wednesday, January 18, 2017

the unresolved parisienne

There's so much to be said about this country, and this world right now... I fear words fall short. My hodge-podge of sentiments—anxiety, concern, exhilaration—is too intimidating to capture. Instagram feels more appropriate in its visual short form. As such, please excuse the self-declared banality of my reflection below. It errs on the personal side of Heather Havrilesky's words (via Ask Polly): "If you can’t own the life you have right now, ask yourself what needs to change to make you feel like more of a conquistador."
On November 17th, 2016, I landed in Paris. It was dark and chilly as I commuted from CDG to an Airbnb a mere three blocks from where I'd once lived. The route itself was jarring in its familiarity. I affectionately recognized the corner brasserie, and neo-bistro, and all the other shops and bars (save for a few that were obviously new). I WhatsApp-ed Lorelei, "I don't know how you do this regularly. I want to relive every moment of life here, on repeat times a million, plus more memories." And then, after settling into my Airbnb, I texted Ben, "the apartment has high ceilings and antique furniture and my host is an older impatient woman who offered me fruit upon arrival, so I basically feel like France welcomed me back with open arms." I wasn't kidding. It felt painfully good to be back, again.
The following morning, I woke up relatively early. I Facebooked Deanna to make plans: petit-déj at a café across from a metro stop on his line so she wouldn't get lost, we'd figure out the next steps from there, Rémi would meet up with us after class. Some context: my sister is (quite ironically!) dating a French guy she met over the summer in New York; she has visited him (and Paris) twice since.
We wandered through the Latin Quarter across the Seine and into the Marais, stopping into clothing stores we couldn't afford, a free exhibition at the Swedish Institute, and a worth-every-penny visit to the recently-renovated Musée Picaso. Then we lunched with Rémi at our beloved Nanashi before dragging him into Merci—at which he was the only consumer. They (being too cute) caught the bus home at Bastille while I returned to the 17th to freshen up. Later, I ventured outside the city to join Mia at a Salif Keita concert.
Those first 36 hours were too easy, too normal... it was hard to believe I'd ever voluntarily left! And then, before traveling to Amsterdam, I brunched with Lou at Rose Café. In her thoughtful way, she reminded me of my critiques: the cultural superiority, the unyielding otherness, the callous social capital bred from famous haute-couture fashion houses and the like. Paris, too, has an ego.
A week later, I saw Lou once more whilst staying in Melun with ma famille française. I also arranged plans with Melissa, and Rithy, and Julia, and my AUP professors on campus. We spoke about politics and ideals, life and love, ambition and responsibility. I was so perfectly inspired. I found myself overcome by immense gratitude as opposed to tragic-nostalgia. Every moment was to be savored, so I did exactly that. And I was actually ready to fly back to Los Angeles when the time came—even with its infuriating civic passivity, empty "nice days", select inhabitants trying so goddamn hard to be seen as cool, laid back, and creative in unacknowledged privilege. As my sister reminded me today (from Paris, I might add!): But don't you know that only fools are satisfied?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

winter in vermont

Years ago, my sister posted this Buzzfeed article to my Facebook wall. She read it out loud to my mom this past Christmas Eve; at which time I confirmed that their explanation of 28 may actually be true: Whew—28 is the best year of your twenties. Not because of the spectacular partying (see: 22) or because you’ll magically have everything figured out (see: never), but because 28 is the year when you’re finally able to accept that no one actually “feels” like a grown-up and it’s OK that you don’t either. This is also the year I've been able to appreciate the past decade of experiences (see: blog archives), and marvel at how each one will always be mine.
And let's not forget that time's not up yet! Yesterday, for instance, I went skiing for the first time ever. How can that be, you winter sports enthusiasts may ask? Well, my parents sought sun-and-sand vacations, and I don't find laborious hobby-prep all that appealing (—I have been snowboarding thrice). But, Deanna fell in love with skiing last winter and my aunt (who made the introductions) gifted her last-minute lift vouchers to a private mountain with a December 31st expiration date. Enter, a two-day sister-ski trip to Vermont...
Although we both signed up for lessons upon arriving, my day one was pitiful. I just wouldn't recommend learning to ski at 28 (versus, say, 8)—skis are awkward, slopes are steep, and adults are inherently too aware of risk. My saving grace was Nancy's patient humor and good balance (namaste). Dare I say day two was better though! Nancy coached me once more and I managed to link wedge turns, etc. and it was fun. My sister was so proud, ha. We're that much closer to fulfilling her ski-chalet-NYE dream.
Hopefully I can hit the slopes in 2017. For now, I'm grateful for our charming one-on-one time: in addition to skiing, we dined and heart-to-hearted at Cask & Kilnbnb-ed at Shearer Hill Farm, and road tripped with ESM sandwiches. Learning and cherishing, best.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

metamorphosis

"But that's just the thing," I told him, "you don't exist in a vacuum." And from the bottom of my heart I hope the sentiment resonated.
Whether from a spiritual or secular perspective, we're pretty much balls of energy colliding into each another the universe. You may have heard "people come into your life for a reason"? Well, I'd argue that that's too much a romantic notion. Perhaps we're simply fortunate to be able to connect at all; to grow within and by our relationships; to know that in the space between two human beings we can find support and understanding, hope and love. It's a powerful privilege and responsibility, which makes disregarding it so hurtful.
My roommate hosted a viewing party for 13th—a chillingly powerful documentary by Ava DuVernay—a few weeks ago. The premise was based at the cross-section of slavery, our criminal justice system, and the evolving yet all the while inaccurate and negative characterization of African Americans... mostly by white men in power, and then reiterated by everyone else. Much of the film is disturbing in its familiar truth; and it is so well done. I highly recommend you seek out 13th on Netflix if you haven't already.
As you may be able to infer, I was heartbroken by the presidential election results. Those hateful comments and ignorant policies had been embraced, or worse yet, overlooked; and so much of who I am and what I believe in felt under attack. How, after all this time and progress, did we still live in a world of bigotry, racism, sexism, and bullying? And yet we do. Inequality and resentment are rampant. I imagine it's awfully appealing to find comfort in prejudice. There's just something about having someone else, the Other to blame.
So, what now? Dave Chapelle encouraged us to give him a chance, John Oliver reminded us that accepting our democratic process should not equate to normalizing his behavior, but what I find to be the most encouraging advice is to counteract with more not less support for each another—listen; stay engaged; give more kindness, empathy, time/money to places like Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the International Women's Health Coalition; the NRDC; the International Refugee Assistance Project and IRC; the NAACP, Southern Poverty Law Center, and ACLUThe Trevor ProjectMALDEF and American Friends Service Committee; the Anti-Defamation LeagueFacing History and Ourselves. (More to add? Please comments below.)
It has been a lovely fall season (in New York especially—see above!), and Thanksgiving is coming up quickly, and I'm blogging from Europe where I'll soon be visiting my brother and reconnecting with friends. Let us please take stock of our blessings now and exercise our individual agency to promote good in this world through thought and spoken word and movement. It is as much our privilege as it is our responsibility. As far as I can tell, we need each other more than ever before.