June 30, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Deceived "Failure"

I'm a hypocrite to criticize this personality type, because like everyone, a part of me is a deceived failure, or rather a perceived failure, in some aspect of life.

One of my dearest friends, every memory I can remember of him revolves around one passion. Even when we were miles from anything that resembled his love for that once checkered ball, now Jubalani ball, I could still see him thinking about his next trick, his next free kick, his next goal.

One summer he tried out for a team in Europe, he got second place. Around the same time, his constant ankle injuries, plus that perceived failure somehow led him to give up his passion for another. He started playing rugby instead. I still ask myself why.

Watching the World Cup hurts me, probably nowhere near as much as it hurts him, because watching Torres, Villa, Ronaldo, all remind me of him and make me sad at the thought that he's not even trying to be like them anymore. I have no doubt that he could be successful continuing on the path that he has chosen, but I haven't lost faith in that being a part of his destiny. I guess I won't until he reaches 25 or 27 and really no longer has any hope of ever being professional.

I say I'm a hypocrite because I have a dream deferred too. As a child I always wanted to be on broadway. I used to sing every day, I used perform at school everyone month. Then high school arrived and my solos went down to probably about 4, an average of one a year. I refused to perform alone. I did duets instead and even though I've never stopped passively singing wherever I may be, I no longer perform on stage. I too am a perceived failure. I don't want to be a singer, I don't want to have acting as a career. I know who I want to be in life but a part of me just wishes I could pull an Usher and be on Broadway for a season, just one show. Nina in In the Heights or Elphaba in Wicked. I know, I aim high. I guess I never even contemplated Broadway because I didn't take dance lessons my whole life. I haven't taken a theatre class since middle school...I guess I say, my time has passed. But I know I'm in denial.

I know that I could significantly change my path tomorrow. I know that if I tried, I could be on a soap opera or on Glee or anything in between, but I've already fallen into that perceived trap, into the mindset of a deceived failure. Deceived because I lie to myself. I don't live the truth, I choose what to believe in and I believe that it is too late, I deceive myself to believe that I'm done. What I am now, is what I'll be in 50 years.

Embuste, as they would say here in PR.

I'm not done at all.

I've only just begun.

June 27, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Constant Pleaser

"I know that you like to 'complacer'....Well from the 2 hour lunch that we had, I could tell that you liked to please and accommodate to others needs". -My friend's dad

I really didn't think so, until this weekend.

Every summer I've left my house and sought for respite in the great 305. Every single year, I've stayed at my godmother's. I love her dearly but I've never ceased to criticize her for having an almost supernatural need to go the extra mile to show her family and friends how much she cares for them through her personalization of offerings. For instance, every year she bought me about 3 quarts of soymilk. Sometimes she'd buy the wrong one, other times, luck would strike and she'd buy me the unsweetened kind I preferred. Either way, I took what I got because as my parents always said, "You don't complain about a free horse. You take what you get". Towards the end, I had to slyly tell her that I no longer drank soymilk and so she started buying me almond milk and rice milk, even though I pretty much drink the easy, convenient skim milk now. I know this seems trivial, but it represents the big picture of my criticism. Although her intentions expose a degree of unrequited love, although her actions serve as a reminder of how much she cares for me and how much she wants to accommodate my needs, it leaves me in a slightly compromised situation when I don't have the heart to tell her that things had changed, or that I didn't quite like the brand of milk or type of milk she'd boughten me and then all of a sudden felt the need to force myself to drink it. In the larger scheme, this is a miniscule dilemma, but it sheds light on how our actions, the more "out of the way they are", can be in the most tangible sense, wasted, even when the intangible portrays a facet of another's care, compassion and ultimate concern for their loved one.

This weekend I had friends over at the hotel. I had met them where I had been volunteering for two weeks and I knew they came from humbler backgrounds than me, but I didn't quite realize how far apart our two realities would prove to be. One arrived with his whole family, a detail I didn't quite realize was awaiting me. The plan was to go to a trendy club nearby, but the person's mother had come with two other siblings and was obviously upset that she had driven an hour to get here and simply wait for her son since she could obviously, in no way, bring a 10 year old to a local bar. They had come prepared with their swimsuits, which I honestly didn't expect since it was 9 pm. I didn't have the heart to suggest that they stay in some random place while they waited for their last family member to get back from a night out. I immediately proposed that we all go to the pool.

They stayed until midnight. I was pretty much done after an hour and a half in the pool, but they definitely weren't, so I sat by the pool and waited as courteously as I could for them to feel content and finished. Speaking to them I realized how difficult their lives could be at times, and how rare the luxury that they were experiencing was for them. The mother said to me, "with my son's condition, it's hard for me to sleep at night. His blood sugar drops so quickly, so often, that he's almost died twice already. I really needed this break. I really needed this bit of heaven. Thank you".

It didn't matter how much my legs ached or how difficult it was to keep my eyelids from dropping to the ground, I didn't have the heart to cut their mini vacation short.

I'm glad I met everyone that I met where I volunteered. The majority, now I realize, lives in very modest houses in the interior of the island. Not everyone, as my ignorant brain thought the first month I was here, lives near the beach, not everyone here partakes in 'island fever' and is relaxed and happy with their jobs because "Who could be unhappy in paradise?" It's all a myth, it's all unreal.

Maybe I am a constant pleaser. The one who invites two and allows ten to at least come to eat lunch with us and no doubt covers the bill, because I can. But my friend's dad, the one who knows about a second of my personality was right. I'm embarrassed at times to say no, I'm embarrassed to show a glimmer of inhospitality because I don't want to be rude, or stand-offish. I want to be the good, well comported host, but it doesn't come without a price, especially if you try too hard. If you're like my aunt is sometimes, a victim of over-pleasing.

When you go out of your way, for example, to have your friend's parking ticket come out free of charge, and you almost insult the person for not even letting them pay the $10 parking ticket, you come off as disrespectful in my opinion. That extreme does exist, and in those moments, you can only hope that your intangible expression for care, does not come off as the expression of your tangible wealth, power or need to impress.

I have to remind myself:
"There's a fine line. Try your best not to cross it."

June 18, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Modern Day Nomad

Blame technology, blame globalization.

There's no way to physically escape your past anymore. You can't hop on a ship, travel across the Atlantic and start your life anew, now, no matter where you go, chances are you'll encounter someone who is in some way connected to your past. Whether they're your best friend's cousin or your boyfriend's third aunt, they will somehow be connected to you.

Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites shed light on how small our world really is. I've become completely dependent on facebook. I just finished an activity and I loved the kids so much that I was sad at the thought that I wouldn't be able to keep in touch with them because they're 7 or 8 and don't have fbook or email. Even those who have myspace or email crushed my spirits because I knew I wouldn't be able to stay in touch with them as well as I should.

We are better nomads, we are less nomadic nomads because even when we move, or participate in a program for a fleeting period, we are able to remain in that place, through, not only the memories, but also our communication with the participants months, even years after it has ended.

Maybe it's just me, but I'm thrilled to see how people have changed. To find posts on my home feed of friends from my past. Even if I haven't talked to them in forever, I have peace of mind, knowing that I could find them at any moment and talk to them. I like the idea of being connected even though it's taxing on the soul at times.

Everytime someone asks me where I'm from, I cringe. In Puerto Rico, they know I'm not local because I don't share their informality of spirit and Spanish accent. In the States, I don't fit in and the fact that I'm not American comes into view when I'm waiting for the "lift" or suddenly need to run to put something in the "boot of the car". Indeed, in subtle ways, it's beyond obvious that I'm not American.

The thing about being "international" is that you're more likely to speak more languages and therefore, according to some new studies, have various personalities (for every language you speak, you have another personality.) It's true too. I've noticed that I'm a lot more childish when I speak Spanish because I only ever spoke Spanish to my mom. I don't really know Spanish slang, so I speak relatively proper. I sound a lot younger when I speak it, because I don't know how to express myself given my age, I don't know how most people my age speak to each other. Yet, if I'm speaking in English, I'm able to articulate myself far more elegantly, fluidly and precisely. I am able to sound my age and older. I am myself no matter what language I am speaking, but I come off as being different depending on what I'm speaking in, because the way you articulate yourself changes the way you're viewed drastically.

Thus the modern day nomad also has slight multiple personalities.

Do as the locals do is that not the mantra? To some you appear fake when you do so, to others, you are culturally sensitive, flexible, easily adaptive. What's better though, being flexible or written on stone?

I choose the former. Your morals should be written on stone. Your values should be unwavering but your practices should be culturally sensitive. You ARE a Guest, you are in another's person's territory. Don't be ignorant and wear booty shorts in Saudi Arabia or go cow tipping in India just because you did it at home in Wisconsin. Not cool, not necessary, just ignorant.

You're not fake if you change based on where you are, if you come off differently whilst speaking a different language, you're simply being respectful, tolerant and understandable. You are uniting rather than defining differences. You are being what a modern day nomad is, a global citizen.

A Day in the Life of a Consecutive Breakfast Eater

There's a German proverb that translated says, "Tomorrow, tomorrow, just not today, is what all lazy people say".

There's this syndrome, it's not new, but I'm going to take the liberty of coining its name and it's that of the "Consecutive Breakfast Eater". The individual who struggles each day and resigns himself to waiting until the next day during breakfast to restart, to fix what s/he is discontent with in their life. The reason they consecutively eat breakfast is because they never quite make it to the morning snack, they never quite reach the next level in their journey for change. Somehow they stall, or turn back, out of fear, or out of a subconscious yearning to remain precisely where they are.

The Consecutive Breakfast Eater doesn't have to be a lazy, unambitious individual--it is simply someone who is torn between what their body needs and what their mind wants. I sustain the conviction that our own discontentment is nothing more than an unbalanced interpretation of our true desires. Our true desires are masked by our longing to fit in, to fulfill that which we're prescribed to by society.

Just yesterday I spoke to the guest relations manager of a company. She was a psychology professor for over 20 years and was an extremely good conversationalist. She told me about the many different businessmen she had met, she focused on unfaithful husbands and gay men in particular.

She said that the man in the closet was little better than the unfaithful husband. They were both in denial or in a state of fear, torn between what they want and what society views more favorably. Not many are really against a couple getting divorced...not today anyways, it's just too common now, and although there are still some fundamentalists who view homosexuality negatively, there is a shifting acceptance of the gender.

Still, it's hard, it's hard to admit you're gay when you've been married for the past 15 years with two kids and a beautiful wife, it's hard to tell your wife of 25 years that you met another one of the same age as your lucky anniversary moment. Still, by remaining in the dark and not being true to your longings, you not only deceive yourself but you hurt and deceive the ones you love most, more than if you'd just be honest. They say ignorance is bliss, but in this case, truth is best.

There are studies that indicate that if a person is attracted to another, the other feels that attraction. The difference is that the physical attraction won't necessarily match the emotional. That's why you can meet a hot bloke or girl and be completely swept off your feet until you realize the man's a senseless jerk or the girl is just a tad bit less insightful than you hoped.

The point is, if you try to deceive others with a fake love or a fake attraction, they will know. Wives, subconsciously always know when their husbands are cheating. I'm not married, I don't know first hand, but from what I've been told, things DO change, the attraction fades, the attachment is no longer the same.

And so these men, the unfaithful husband, the undisclosed homosexual, they are a type of consecutive breakfast eater. The kind who remains in a state of denial, in that mindset that, "Tomorrow, I'll tell the truth, tomorrow I'll reveal my real self" and tomorrow comes, and it's not much different from yesterday or the next day after.

Some do make it to the morning snack, some even make it to lunch, sometimes even dinner, but many remain, stagnant where they are.

Be a consecutive breakfast eater, maybe three days in a row, but please, oh please, no matter what it is that keeps you in that same, constant stage in your personal struggle, somehow make it to lunch.

June 13, 2010

A Day in the Life of an Acute Hypochondriac

Since the 5th grade I've been a pretty good, on and off hypochondriac. The thing about knowledge is that if you don't learn how to view that knowledge correctly, it negatively takes over you. Whatever you know, you must control how you know and what you do with it.

I know I'm not articulating myself very well but the thing about anything really is, what you do about it. Most of the time I'm a hypochondriac not because I know all the symptoms of a condition so I immediately think that I have that condition but because I know the symptoms but don't know the subtleties which indicate that I am in fact healthy. It's knowing the big picture without the microscopic details that skews you, in this case, the wrong way.

The problem with being a hypochondriac is that you want to avoid getting sick and worry about getting sick, and yet that worry is precisely what will make you sick. The mind is so powerful, that by thinking negatively, you attract negativity.

My hypochondriac self is revived everytime I hear about people around me dying or getting sick. The guilt makes me sick to my stomach. Makes me wonder why them and not me? Makes me assume that I am just like them, I just don't know it.

You hear of so many people, even healthy, young athletes who are fine one day, and the next day die of a tumour in their head or a heart attack. Life is fragile, very fragile but I have learned that by fearing the worst and attempting to ward off sickness one just perpetuate their own condition the wrong direction.

What was my solution to alleviate the guilt? Help those who suffer certain chronic conditions like diabetes or those who are fighting off cancer. I figure if I help those in need, I can attempt to compensate, to merit my healthy being.

Each day I wake up and thank God for blessing me with health, support and vitality. I try to help those who cannot completely say the same, so that my condition is not in vain.

When I tell people that I volunteer at a camp for diabetic children and at a children's cancer ward, they immediately congratulate me for being so "caring" and "altruistic". I'm not, I just feel that guilty and responsible for helping those in need.

May 15, 2010

A Day in the Life at a 5 star Hotel

Hello Everyone.

I've decided to chronicle part of my 2010 Summer. "A day in the Life of..." is meant to represent the different lifestyles one person can lead--how their surroundings drastically change their extrinsic qualities. The point is not to be vain, to boast or to purely entertain. It's meant to show how contradictory life's conditions can be and more importantly how significant expectation is in determining the quality of one's experience. Moral of the story will no doubt be, expect less, you'll enjoy life more.

Day 1 The Puerto Rican Hotel Luxury

5 star luxury, and yet I'm at home. I leave my house and I see the same staff every day but different guests. Everyone knows me, calls me by name, hands me my bill like they do for all the other guests, but it's not the same. The guests notice too. Today an American tourist says to me, "Wow, you know the bartender. You must be extremely friendly to already hold lengthy conversations with her". I had to be truthful, I'm really not THAT friendly. I replied, "That, or I might just live here, so with time the friendship came along." I admitted that I was the GM's daughter.

The GM of a 5 star resort lives somewhat of an ideal life, or maybe it's just the life I grew up with, which makes me think so. He/she earns a good amount but reaps the benefits of millionaires since he has a whole hotel staff at his service: the concierge to make his reservations in the city's trendiest restaurants, the bell boy to get his car out of the parking for him, the club lounge for breakfast, the bar man for his nightly alcohol fix and all what? Yeah, free of charge.

Don't forget the room service, housekeeping, the spa....

Oh the spa...You know the smartest people are those who know best how to morally exploit their and their friends's resources. Case in point, my best friends in Bangkok. We were superficial, stereotypical middle class tweens. Two in particular lived 2 blocks away and would call me at 10, 11 am "Do you feel like spa-ing today?" "Sure" "Cool, we'll be there in 10". They never failed to arrive on time. It was a weekly affair. We had a Saturday schedule of going to the same malls, the same stores, the same restaurant and after, to the same hotel spa every single weekend.

Point is, this hotel life, is not the real life, at least not what life should be like. Staying here, I expect more. I expect to be pampered, I expect for my sheets and towels to be changed every day. I expect room service to bring a new plate of fresh fruit every afternoon and to get my decaf black ice coffee the minute I hit the pool.. but how can that be healthy for the soul?

At Uni, I change my sheets once every week or once every two weeks. I change my towel every week and go out and pay for my coffee and have to drive myself around everywhere. No one's going to go fetch me my Commander, in fact at Uni, I have to walk 20 minutes to borrow a car. I don't expect any of the above at Uni and I'm fine with the fact that I need to be independent and do things by myself and I am grateful that I don't have a car or all those other luxuries because most people don't. You got to experience reality too. Yes, perhaps the hotel life is my reality, but it's a reality that just leads to disappointment, especially when you move.

In PR, the hotel doesn't have a bakery like it did in Bangkok, it doesn't have as many employees or as good of food. So every day when they bring US imported, no doubt genetically modified fruit and don't bring any fresh bread from the bakery I sit in a bit of nostalgic resentment because this place isn't as good as the last. It's not my dad's fault either, they don't have the resources here to achieve the other hotel's standard, and yet it's the same brand, the same hotel, and similar management.

The thing about expectation is that you really should have little to none. You can appear to have it, so that the people around you feel more accountable perhaps and won't want to let you down although they should personally have enough ambition and goals for themselves that that wouldn't be an issue, but in truth you should aim for expecting little to nothing, because then you can't get disappointed.

Do I think it's possible, to expect nothing? No. But it's worth a try, because if I didn't expect to live a 5 star life here, then I wouldn't be disappointed when my experience isn't "up to standard".

It's like what many of my peers commented on in college, "Every time I hear that chorus, 'Tonight's gonna be a good night....' It ends up being shit".

Congratulations, that's the reason why.

Expect less, you'll be happier in the end.