Tag Archives: Wandering

Kat’s Misadventures: Kitty Crisis

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I would like to start off this post with a little apology. I decided to take a week (I guess technically two weeks) off from blogging to adjust to life back at home. I thought I was going to be struggling to find a job, but I ended up finding one my first day back at home. So for the past few weeks, my life has consisted of cleaning through my stuff, working the closing shift at a restaurant/cafe, and playing video games. I also began a writing project, and I’m very proud of myself for powering through this first draft. I’m really enjoying myself.

Apologies aside, now I need to overcome my own laziness and make sure I blog at least once a week. Summer seems to kill my productivity for some reason. My next Japanese adventure is coming up soon, so I’ll be getting a ton of new material as I prepare for it. But before I get there, I wanted to write an anecdote related to how it feels to have finally graduated from undergrad.

I think the pinnacle of my “adulting career” was Thanksgiving break of my junior year. One of my professors had asked me to cat-sit for a few days while he and his wife visited children and grandchild. I thought to myself, “If I can babysit, I can cat-sit.” All I needed to do was feed the cat twice a day, let her outside to do her business, and collect the mail. My reward was a healthy stipend, full use of my professor’s beautiful kitchen, and a private place to stay and work on my homework over the break. For a college student not going home for Thanksgiving for the first time, it sounded like a great deal.

After a single night there, I had successfully kept the ancient tabby alive, cooked myself curry and rice, and watched an entire season of one of my Netflix shows. Yes, I thought. This is adult life at its finest. I’m sooo good at this. My years of babysitting experience had taught me a few important rules, the most important of which is this: Don’t watch Batman vs. Dracula by yourself. You will force yourself to believe that vampires are coming to get you.

However, despite my expertise, Fate wouldn’t allow me a few short days of peace.

I didn’t leave my comfortable guest room the afternoon of my second day of cat sitting. I began the strenuous task of mentally preparing to begin an essay about the role of bushido in samurai culture. I watched anime and occasionally thought about my essay. Around 7:00 PM, I decided I was rather hungry, so I climbed upstairs to feed the kitty as well as myself. That’s when I noticed that the door to the music room was open. Huh? I thought. Now that’s peculiar. So I went to close it, but that wasn’t the only door that was open.

The door leading to the garage was open as well. …and so was the garage.

Like any level-headed adult, I calmly proceeded to select a knife from the kitchen, grab the cat, and lock myself in the basement while sobbing like a baby. Oddly enough, I was more worried about a thief than a murderer at this point; I couldn’t afford to replace anything!! After calling every person I knew in my tiny college town, I finally sobbed my last will and testament to a friend over the phone. She convinced me to do a walk through in the house, purple knife in hand, and shut all of the doors that were open. (Why didn’t I do that in the first place?) However at this point, I noticed that several of the lights in the house were now on…and I didn’t remember turning them on…so I locked myself in the basement again and contemplated calling the police.

An hour passed. I still wasn’t dead. But I still hadn’t let the cat out for the evening. Finally, the ancient cat’s whining won me over, and I let her outside…

…for a few seconds before I started to freak out because you know as well as I know that that shadow I saw moving out of the corner of my eye was actually a serial killer rapist vampire human trafficker/catnapper. I grabbed that cat and ran to the basement yet again.

Finally, the youth director from a church I had visited a few times called me back and told me that he would send the ex-choir director of said church to come and check up on me. Fifteen minutes later, an elderly man hobbled up the front steps of the porch to see me, still sobbing but no longer holding my knife. He walked through the house, watched me let the cat outside to do her business, and gave me the pep-talk of the century. Now, I’m fairly certain that most of that pep-talk was sarcastically sympathetic.

I slept with my purple knife underneath my pillow that night and didn’t write a single word of my paper until two days before it was due.

It was at that point in my life that I decided I would never live alone. Ever. Now you’re probably thinking, “That’s a fun story, but what’s the point? How does this relate to graduating?” I’m getting there, dear reader. Hold your horses. A year and a half later, I’m still known as the girl that fabricated a ghost murderer thief. In fact, I see that ex-choir director at least once a year, and every time, he comes up, places a hand on my shoulder, and smiles at me and then he turns to the person I’m talking to and says something along the lines of, “Let me tell you what this girl did Thanksgiving weekend two years ago…”

But looking back, that year I had overcome a lot. I was working close to 20 or 30 hours a week to help pay off my own schooling. I had a ton of leadership positions in many of my groups on campus. I was taking some of my hardest classes ever (I’m looking at you Critical Theory and Advanced Comp!!!!), and I was surviving in them. On top of all that, I had managed to finish acting in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream…and if there are any theatre kids out there, you know that theatre consumes your life. I learned a couple of arias from Handel’s Messiah. I lived 14 hours away from my family.

I bet you that everyone in town talks about how incapable I am at cat-sitting (in fact, I was not invited back…probably for obvious reasons). But being an adult isn’t about having your life together or always knowing how to handle a situation. It isn’t about graduating or not graduating. It isn’t about having a family or staying single and traveling the world. Frankly, I still don’t know what it’s about. I’m technically an adult in the eyes of the law. I sob in my choir professor’s office because Benjamin Britten stresses me out. I consume my weight in cookie dough ice cream every week. I work hard from 8AM to 12:00AM so I can reward myself with two hours of video games, and six hours of sleep. I do just about anything for a free meal. Sometimes, I’m in a hurry, so I use my purse as a to-go container for sweet potato fries.

But I’m also a planner. I spend hours thinking of routes for travel and making packing lists. I run errands to the grocery store and bank. I cook dinner for my family or sometimes for my friends. I earn my own money. I take care of my cats. I go on adventures. I stay home and read.

But no matter what I do, I grow. I’m not the same frightened child watching Batman vs. Dracula and sobbing into a couch cushion. I’m not the same paranoid teen skulking through a professor’s house with a knife. I’m not even the same person I was yesterday, and yesterday, I wasn’t anything particularly grand. I was just a tired cashier-in-training who screwed up at least two orders.

Graduating doesn’t change what kind of person I am. It helps me grow little by little. I’m not where I want to be in life yet. Things like my “kitty crisis” (look at me name dropping the title) keep me grounded and remind me that I’ve come a long way, and I still have a long way to go.

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Regressing & Progressing

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Last week was a tough week for many reasons. Nothing exceptionally awful happened, but I could tell that I was losing my drive. My grades were a little lower. I interacted with fewer people. I stayed up later putting off work I didn’t want to do. I also skipped out on my weekly blog post and neglected my daily Bible reading. (I’m trying to do a “read the Bible in a year challenge.”) I spent the weekend telling myself, “You’ll get back on track. You can do it. Just push through it.”

But I didn’t push, and I’m glad I didn’t. I spent my weekend locked in my room watching some Law and Order SVU on Netflix and cleaning out my cluttered desk. I did some laundry and gave myself a facial. I ate a pint of cookie dough ice cream. I doodled. And you know what? By time I woke up on Monday, I felt a lot better about everything. I honestly can’t remember what it was that put me in that Mood. (I think everyone has experienced that  Mood at least once.)

For this week’s post, I decided to remind myself of the progress I’m making on the little things in life. I’m worn out from writing, so I decided to ease back into blogging with something simple.

Six Years Ago…

  • I had moved to Arkansas and started school at a high school I absolutely hated.
  • I auditioned for All-State for the first time and made the women’s chorus.
  • I quit piano and started taking voice lessons.
  • I never once went out with any of my friends.
  • I went on my first date ever.
  • I became an active member and then a moderator of a group of gaming/roleplaying/writing forums.
  • I went to Washington D.C. for the first time.

This Year…

  • I’m pushing through my last semester at a college I love (in Arkansas); if everything works out, I’ll graduate with highest honors.
  • This semester alone, I’m singing solos at 3 separate concerts. I’ll also be performing Brahms’s Requiem with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and several other college choirs this weekend.
  • In addition to voice lessons, I’ve started playing my flute again and continue to be an active member in theatre.
  • I may not socialize a lot, but I’m a leader in several different student organizations including my sorority, the English honor society (Sigma Tau Delta), and the student ambassadors.
  • I’ve decided that I’m content being single; and I’m going to wait on the dating until I’m comfortable with myself.
  • The forums I used to moderate revived with many of the old members. Reuniting with internet friends was a huge plus to my year.
  • This past school year I’ve traveled to Japan, Chicago, Houston, and Dallas. I’ll be returning to Washington D.C. this April to present my research paper “I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me: A New Historicist Approach to 1925” at the Alpha Chi National Convention.

When I look at where I’ve been, it’s easier to see how far I’ve come. What about you guys? Do you ever feel as though you’re going nowhere fast?

Meet the Wanderer: Chapter 2

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Discovering Yourself as a Writer

If you missed my first chapter in this series, feel free to check it out HERE. My goal in introducing these chapters is to give my readers a better idea of who I am behind the wall of text. I could be a robot pounding out posts, but I’m actually just an overly caffeinated young adult with too much to say and not enough time to say it.

This month’s topic?

HAPPINESS: What is your own secret for happiness? If you had to sum up your ideas, what one word would you use to describe how to be truly happy.

Believe it or not, I struggle a lot with “being happy.” In the real world, I feel as if I spend my life pretending to be a-okay. I smile because I’ve heard that smiling makes it easier to feel actual happiness. I laugh because I’m nervous or uncomfortable. I joke. I giggle. I act. But none of it feels real at the end of the day. In fact, it’s tiring. Being “happy” all the time drained me, so I gave up and embraced my other feelings.

To be happy, you actually don’t have to be happy all the time. Crazy, right? Once I realized this, I felt a lot better about myself. Having a bad day? Rant about it. Cry about it. Get it out of your system. Suddenly it’s gone. Worried about something? Worry about it. Finish worrying. Move on. Perhaps it isn’t that simple for everyone, but I realized that once I stopped trying to ignore the rest of my feelings, I felt a lot better about myself. My friends and family finally got to see the real me.

But that doesn’t mean one should embrace these feelings all the time. In Japan, I got lost a lot. Sometimes I got lost alone. Sometimes I got lost with a group. Usually, when I got lost with a group, at least one person got REALLY upset. One time, my friend and I spent an hour looking for a cat cafe in Akita City. (We wanted to spend our afternoon petting cats and eating silly little desserts.) My friend got incredibly upset, especially after we had to ask for help. We found the cafe about 45 minutes after it had closed. She apologized over and over and over, but honestly, it was fine. I could get frustrated, but how did getting lost actually hurt us?

As I see it, we saw a lot of the city. We found the cafe so we could go to it next time. We spent the afternoon with each other. Maybe we wasted a little bit of money traveling into the city, but is it really worth spending my afternoon angry over a couple of dollars or yen?

I’ve found myself asking “Is it worth it?” a lot recently. Surprisingly, that mindset has helped me keep my emotions in check, especially during particularly stressful semesters. Since my prompter seems to like one word summaries, I’ll leave my readers with this:

Think. If you’re miserable or frustrated or confused or just struggling to be happy, think things through. You don’t have to do it alone. You could perhaps think out loud with a friend, but don’t dwell on it. I promise you’ll be a lot happier.

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I Keep My Confidence in a Tiny, Tattered Box

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I never realized how self-destructive I am. It’s never intentional, but I have an excuse for absolutely every compliment someone throws my way. I’m that girl who answers a professor’s question with a half-raised hand and tiny voice even though I know my answer’s right. I’m that girl that says, “I’m so dumb” every time I make even a little mistake, laughing the statement off as if it’s a fact everyone should know by now. They’re little things, but they’ve taken a toll on me. I didn’t realize how much of a problem these mildly destructive statements were until last week when I was asking for interview advice from my adviser. Her number one tip for me specifically?

Don’t self-deprecate.

After 21 years of shoving my confidence into a tiny, tattered box to hide it from the world, I’m supposed to be proud of my positive traits? My interview with my dream job is a week from today. I have less than 7 days to completely change my attitude. Talk about a daunting task…

I spent today beating myself up about the quality of my blog, my schoolwork, and my personal writing. I don’t put enough thought or time into any of it. I never feel as if I have enough thought or time. I was struggling to figure out what to write for my Tuesday blog post when I had a (brilliant) thought. Why not practice positivity? So this week, my blog might not be the high quality stories I want to tell. But I am going to address a problem that has kept me wandering for ages. My goal is to post something positive about myself every day leading up to my interview to get my head in the zone. If I don’t post everyday, then that’s fine. I’m absolutely human. I won’t beat myself up. But if I don’t get into the swing of things now, I may have too much baggage to deal with later.

So here it goes…

I am a hard-worker. I work my butt off almost every day of the week. I am a student ambassador, section leader in my church choir, Supplemental Instruction Leader, and social committee chair for my sorority. I’m an active member of Alpha Chi and Sigma Tau Delta. I act in plays because it’s fun even if it sometimes takes up 18 hours or more of my week. I’ve had only one B in my entire college career. I turn my schoolwork in on time. I plan huge sorority events. I plan Taco Bell escapades. I volunteer my weekends to tour prospective students.  Last semester, I worked three jobs, had 8:00 AM classes every morning, and was never late to anything. I am a very hard-worker.

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11 Ways To Defenestrate the Down-in-the-Dumps

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NOTE: I’ve never used the word defenestrate in a sentence before. Please correct me if I’m wrong. I just want to be creative!!!!

Writing is fascinating. I know it isn’t alive, but at the same time I’m breathing life into it. Writing speaks, and its voice is always unique to the writer. One of my professors says breathing life into your characters and your world is the closest someone can get to playing the role of a deity, and he’s right. When I have the strength to move mountains so do my characters. Unfortunately, when I suffer, so do they. I unintentionally destroy everything I’ve worked to build.

Why write about this now? It seems pretty random as I’m sitting in the middle of Japan on the journey of my life. But every once in a while (usually once a semester) I notice that my writing “darkens,” especially for long periods of time when my mood sours (usually as I start to think about my future and what I’m doing with my life). Recently, I noticed my dark writing, but this time in my daily journal, not just my novel writing. I was writing a tragedy (and a sappy, angsty, young adult tragedy at that) without meaning to. And I know that tragic heroes learn their lessons much too late.

Why am I sad? I don’t know. Someone said maybe culture shock is kicking in, or maybe I’m homesick. But I think these sorts of feelings are just natural for me. That doesn’t mean I have to like them.

I read a post on WordPress the other day about 100 things you can do if you’re feeling sad. I remember thinking to myself, “Huh…I should save this. It might come in handy.” Unfortunately, I didn’t think to save it. Now, I certainly don’t have the time to think of 100 things, but here are 11 things I usually do to perk up. (I’m probably going to be doing a few of these later.)

1.) Go on a mini-trip. Anywhere. Go to the super market, the convenience store, the theatre, the mall, the bar, the park. You don’t have to spend money. Just get out. Go alone and think. Go with a friend and forget what you were worried about. It doesn’t matter.

2.) Enjoy an ice cream. Okay…I’m a stress eater, but so far, ice cream seems to be the best cure. I highly recommend Blue Bell’s “I Heart Chocolate.” (Chocolate ice cream with a chocolate frosting ribbon, fudge, brownies, and chocolate hearts filled with chocolate.)

3.) Watch your favorite episode of your favorite TV show. (Mine’s the musical episode of Psych. Unfortunately, Netflix doesn’t exist in Japan yet so….)

4.) Watch a favorite movie in a different language. The dub might just make you laugh. (I’m going to watch Meet the Robinsons in Japanese sometime soon. But I’ve heard that The Incredibles in Spanish is great.)

5.) Listen to your favorite music. (Josh Groban or Rend Collective usually helps. I’m listening to Rend Collective right now actually.)

6.) Go sit somewhere public and people watch. You can go with a friend. Share a smoothie (or an ice cream) and make up stories about the people you see. Turn said stories into a soap opera.

7.) Dress up or wear a favorite outfit. For some people, dressing up is uncomfortable, but when I know I look good, I feel good. Sometimes even wearing a bright color of lipstick brightens my mood.

8.) Do something childish. I’m a kid at heart, but I get too caught up in “adult-ing” sometimes, and it stresses me out. I’d much rather act like a kid than resort to drinking or smoking. So watch a favorite cartoon (like Sailor Moon), read a picture book, play a game with friends (like Human Knot or Sardines). Make fools of each other. Laugh.

9.) Surprise someone with a meal. Sometimes you have to do something for others to get that uplifting you need. Buy a meal for a stranger. Bake cookies for your friend. Make your kids Jello. Who can be sad when you’re watching people eat Jello?

10.) Vent all your frustration with video games. Maybe this isn’t for everyone, but I love video games. Sometimes it helps to go completely berserk in Skyrim and Assassin’s Creed. Other times, it’s better to keep it old school with Mario Kart or Smash Bros.

11.) Take a hot shower, make yourself a warm cup of tea, curl up in your comfiest PJs, cuddle your unicorn pillow pet (cats work too), pick any book you have, and read it until you fall asleep. Wake up the next day knowing that yesterday is over. Today is a new day, and it doesn’t have to tank.

BONUS: Make a list of 10 things you can do to not feel sad anymore. I think I might have just saved my little imaginary realm from any further destruction.

Things Are Seldom What They Seem

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San Francisco at night.

I never thought I would have to perform the Macarena in Japan.

I wrote this statement in my journal almost a month ago, and the weirdest part about it is actually the latter half. Japan. I’m in Japan. (Forget the Macarena. It’s the only dance I’m capable of performing period. But I have been known to attempt the Cha-Cha Slide from time to time.) I can say it over and over again, but I can’t make it sound any less surreal. I started this blog to discuss my endless wandering and the countless times I’ve lost my way, but the dreadful irony of my first story is that I didn’t get lost on my way to Japan. Funny, right? I go on the longest journey of my life and don’t lose my way once.

I have been lost in the Dallas airport before. Ever since a dreadful experience on my way to Washington D.C. my junior year of high school, I have avoided that airport like the plague. (I think I’ve avoided Dallas in general. Even driving I can’t seem to get through it without the heavens opening up and unleashing a torrent of watery wrath upon my ancient Camry.) But now, I’ve realized that flying is a lot more enjoyable with huge layovers in-between flights. I had a particularly long layover in San Francisco which would give me time to eat (and study for my Japanese placement exam) and mentally prepare for my transition into a new culture.

I remember arriving at SFO half-dead, having traveled for four hours on a red-eye flight from Dallas, but of course, it was still a decent hour on the West Coast. Luckily, a janitor pointed me towards the international terminal before I strayed too far from the right path. (If her directions hadn’t been as specific as they were, I would be telling a different story now.) After arriving at the second security checkpoint of my trip, I removed my laptop and bag of toiletries from my carry-on, slipped off my shoes and coat, threw my phone, watch, and ring into a plastic bin, and followed the herd of people around me towards the front of the line.

Suddenly, the metal detector a few feet in front of me wailed. One of the men working security snatched a cell-phone from an older Japanese man’s hand as he removed the offending object from his pocket.

“See this? You take this OUT of your pocket.” He held it up for the herd of international travelers to see as we neared the front of the line. “The line will move a little faster if you take them OUT of your pocket! Hurry it up!”

“You, put your shoes back on!” another employee yelled. It took me a moment to realize she was talking to me.

Yet another employee took my laptop and toiletries from my hand and threw them back into my bag (completely disregarding everything I knew about airport procedure) before motioning for me to shuffle through the scanner. After the scanner’s silence deemed me non-hostile, I asked another employee if I could continue, and he responded with a grunt. I took my bags and did everything in my power not to run towards my gate.

The international terminal unfolded in front of me, a hodgepodge of people, exotic smells, and intercoms yelling at me in every language known to man. I found my gate with several hours to spare and settled down with my almost mediocre “Greek” pasta and “iced mocha” from the one open restaurant I discovered in the heart of the international terminal at 11 PM. Fellow passengers arrived one after the other, some excited others war-torn just like me.

I watched as the pilots and stewardesses arrived in small groups one after the other. Each person turned to face the awaiting passengers and bowed low. A string of Japanese sounded over the intercom and instantly, passengers began lining up. I listened to the instructions as a tiny woman repeated them.

Hi-kou-ki, I sounded out in my head. Yes. This is a plane. At least I know that. My two years of Japanese suddenly seemed incredibly inadequate when thrown into a real life situation.

Then much to my relief, the same woman repeated the instructions in English. On the plane, I could listen to anything in English (including an instructional video on how to navigate my way through customs upon arrive in Tokyo). The smiling stewardesses willing directed me towards the bathroom in English after my sleep-deprived tongue struggled to remember the Japanese word for “where.” After arriving in Tokyo Haneda airport, signs in both English and Japanese led my way through customs at 4 AM. I stumbled through a conversation in Japanese with the man issuing me my residence card as I tried to explain that I wasn’t seeking a part time job, and he listened to every clumsy word. I even chatted with one of the guards in customs as I waited for other employees to check my friend’s medicine. More English signs led me to the domestic terminal towards re-checking my bags, riding a bus to the other side of the airport, and through a security checkpoint for a third time this trip.

I also had the opportunity to chat with a fellow American exchange student who was heading to a different school. She spoke of the wonders of Japan and of what Nagoya night life had to offer. We exchanged names and majors, but after our few hours of camaraderie ended upon the arrival of the plane for Akita, she left my friend and I with a few foreboding words.

“Japanese people are polite, but they aren’t necessarily friendly.”

Suddenly, I couldn’t help but wonder what the smiling stewardesses on my flights thought about my incredibly inadequate Japanese, what the occupants of Akita thought of the small group of foreigners congregating around Akita’s pine-tree mascot in the lobby of the airport looking lost and confused, what my roommate thought of my asking about how to put my bed together. I thought about how much I stood out with my awkward lanky height and red hair and theatrically colorful cat-eye glasses. I felt my stomach knot with the uncertainty of the new culture before me, knowing full well that my book smarts could not compare to a real life experience.

But then my roommate and my suitemate brought by a group of four or five girls to my room and asked to chat with me on my second night at AIU. They inquired about Texas and America and jet-lag. We spoke of the usefulness (or lack thereof) of tumbleweeds, of the general cuteness porcupines and hedgehogs, of Miyazaki movies, of Kitty-chan (Hello Kitty), of the difference between thick and thin, and of our hopes and dreams. I helped them prepare for their English placement test, and they corrected my kanji for my Japanese placement test. We danced the Macarena and Cupid Shuffle at the AIU welcome dinner. My suitemate offered me her beloved Doraemon manga to practice my Japanese. I offered her my audio book of The Importance of Being Earnest. And they ooed and awed as I taught them quotes from The Princess Bride. We spoke to each other in broken English and broken Japanese, but we understood enough to share a laugh or two.

Most recently, a girl in Gospel Choir (yes Gospel Choir) with me asked if I could assist her with English homework, and I gladly obliged. After we finished our interview, she scurried off and retrieved a package of cookies which she gave to me to thank me for my ten minutes of help. Her voice trembling, she smiled a bit after I agreed to take a picture with her so she could show her mother.

“My English is not good, so I do not have many international friends,” she told me. “But I would like to be your friend.”

If I could have broken off a chunk of my heart and given it to her, I would have. How could I ever say no?