Monday, November 10, 2014

Danny Sucks at Dating - The One who Started It All

If you're looking for the story about the one who broke my heart and got away, that is not this story. I keep that one close to my heart. This story is about how I have no ability to understand or pick signs from the opposite sex, and even though this story takes place over nine years ago, nothing has changed. It's probably why this blog series exists. Also, I kind of lost the other posts in this series when I transitioned over to this new layout, but hopefully, I can still keep you entertained with my blunders.

When I was in high school, my parents didn't let me date, so naturally, I professed my feelings for every girl I had a crush on, even while knowing that I stood no chance with any of them. Super confident? Sure...Let's just say that my failure rate was a smooth 100%, except that one time when best friend decided to date the one girl who actually had feelings for me too. Classic. I probably should have quit right there and then. Signs from the universe, that sort of thing, but what can I say? I like to challenge myself/be stupid.

In any case, this meant that I had zero experience going into college, unless you count the endless hours I spent watching super realistic romantic comedies and Asian dramas. Clearly, I was ready. So, when a girl took interest in me (we'll call her Elle) and started hanging out with me, doing laundry and homework with me, and walking with me to class without me initiating a thing or saying a word, my natural response was, "Uh, hey guys, what's Elle's deal? Why does she keep following me around?" I mean, I don't like to brag about how well I read people, but let's just say that I'm a bit of an expert.

This lasted for several weeks (over a month) before I finally asked her, "Hey, uhm, do you want to go do something sometime? You know, other than study?" People, give me a break. I was a first-year college student. I could not have properly asked a girl out on a date if my life depended on it. I probably still can't now. We ended up dating for a shorter period of time than it took me to realize that Elle had feelings for me. But! To be fair, the latter period of time was quite protracted...mainly due to my own stupidity. I don't think it helped that I had no idea (probably still don't) how to date someone, which meant that I spent the majority of my time with her studying for history exams and doing calculus homework. I know, I'm such a romantic. It was definitely one of those storybook relationships.
(That face is the same one I had through all of this)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Present is Your Present

When I was in middle school, my brother nicknamed me "play it safe" and for good reason too. If you've known me and my brother for a while, you know that we're polar opposites. I was the kid that brought a jacket with me in case the weather changed, and I did it without my parents having to tell me do it. My mom actually still praises me for that. It's kind of embarrassing. In college, I made (and I still do with my grad school assignments) tables with all of my due dates for papers and exams. My brother was (and still is) the kid who wore a t-shirt everywhere, even if it were a snowy New York day. He'll also randomly shove himself and you into foreign situations without warning. When he left to go back to New York in the summers and winters, he would pack a couple of hours before his flight. As he's moving into his new apartment now, we'll figure out how to load our cars with items packed the day that we're moving them.

Here's what he's taught me so well these past few years, though: the present is your present. It is a gift, not something to be feared, and it is yours to do what you want with it. No matter how hard you try, you cannot calculate what will happen five years, five weeks, five days from now. Doing that will only stop you from living. Without my brother teaching me this, I would have continued to spend my time shying away from challenges and giving up opportunities to do great things and meet new people. It would have been entirely easy for me to stay stuck in the habit of seeing the ten thousand things that could possibly go wrong down the road, and I would have stayed stuck in my cocoon because of that.

For so long, I didn't understand what my brother was doing, but I get it now. He knew that one of the best-kept secrets to life was a simple word: yes. Both of us have definitely made a few mistakes while saying yes these past few years, but we've also made some pretty great memories doing it too. The positives definitely heavily outweigh the negatives. What's the point of having all these great destinations and interesting people around you if you're just going to pass them up every time you get the chance to escape your comfort zone? That comfort zone is nice, but at some point, it won't be able to sustain growth anymore. So, every time he asks me now, "One more spot before we turn in?" or "Road trip?" or "Hey, why don't you go talk to her?", I shrug my shoulders and just do it. And, if you know me now, you know that I always have three or four new stories ready every time I see you. This isn't to say that you won't be scared out of your mind while saying yes more, but just because something seems daunting or unfamiliar, it doesn't mean that it isn't worth it, so I'll see you all after I come back from New York, because, well, someone asked me to go, and I just shrugged my shoulders and said yes.
(Can you tell who's who?)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Choices

"You don't get it. I don't have a choice." I've heard those words quite often in my life. I used to say them myself. Destiny, fate, kismet, whatever you call it yourself, I used to believe that there were so many things that couldn't be helped. Maybe it was because my parents constantly told younger me, "There are some things that you just have to do, whether or not you want to." And so I believed them for a long time. I finally understand now they weren't talking about following any sort of set trajectory and being unhappy or happy because of it. They meant that I was going to be confronted by a lot of difficult decisions, and in those moments, I will have to choose between what is right and what is easy, even if what's right is the exact opposite of what I want to do (sometimes the third option is to charge with reckless abandon, and I like choosing that one).

When I went back to Terra Nova this year, someone said to me, "And the prodigal son returns! Just like you were meant to," as if I were destined to be there. If I were a year younger, I would have believed him. I would have conceded that there were some things that couldn't be changed, and that destiny had engraved an unalterable path in front of me, but I'm a year older, a year wiser, and a year slightly more frayed at the edges. Life showed me that the "prodigal son" always has a choice. The best laid plans of mice and men are just that: plans. You ultimately get to choose everything. If you don't want to live in isolation, you choose who you let into your life. If you decide on the exact opposite, you choose to keep your defenses and walls up. You choose who breaks your heart, who fills it, who keeps your secrets, who isn't worth your time, and who you shower with your love and affection. Your life is a progression of choices, some far more difficult than others, but you're never powerless. You are not a product of circumstance.

My little sister says to me all the time (yesterday included), "You can't make me choose. You know I'm not good at that." But I will. I will keep making her choose, because she's strong, and I want her to show that strength. I want her to forget the word "can't" and all of its derivatives. I want her to go after what she wants without being impeded by fear or hesitation. Because, even if she or you make a poor choice, if you've made a lot of good ones in your life and you chose to let love in, there will always be people waiting to support you, bolster you, and help you.


Monday, September 29, 2014

An Origin Story (of sorts)

If you ever want to accomplish any of your goals and be the person you expect of yourself, you have to know yourself and own it. That best version of yourself has to want to make things happen, has to believe wholeheartedly that the desire to practice and improve will eventually make those things happen. You are not born with talent that will manifest itself. You are born with an ability to put any talent you have to work.

I've made a lot of mistakes in my life, most of them hilarious decisions made in haste, but I hadn't regretted a single one until last year, when the walls I built up over time collapsed one after another. It wasn't moving out in haste, taking random, spontaneous road trips, or spurning sleep for nights out, even as I slept-walked through entire days. It wasn't even putting my trust in people (sometimes through second and third chances) who eventually came back to hurt me. I will always be an optimistic and positive person who is inclined to trust others. It was giving up chunks of myself over and over again, fooling myself into believing that I could so easily cast aside important aspects of my identity, whether it be for others or because of setbacks in my life. I regret hurting people along the way. I regret the days of poor work ethic. I really regret the time I lost with my family and forgetting the people who carried me this far. Making amends has not been easy, but I never pass up opportunities to grow, learn, and bond with family (all brothers, sisters, cousins, and best friends included).

If you know me, then you know that I have never won a single award in my life for being the best at anything. I don't hold any MVP trophies or 1st place medals for academics or athletics. I grew up with asthma and a mediocre brain. I wasn't valedictorian, salutatorian, or prom king. I had consolation prizes and poor test scores to my name. My family doesn't come from anything that could be considered "money", and we certainly aren't famous or popular folk. The only thing I was sure to do was strive to outwork my peers. I never quite outperformed any of them, but that fact didn't deter me from trying. So, when I gave up my running shoes (twice, once for a significant other, the other time because I lost the fire), the summer job I love, and the classroom last year, I became the antithesis of the person I worked so diligently to become. I lost that best version of me.

The universe, however, had other plans for me. It showered me with love and affection, with a brother and best friends who wouldn't leave my side, with a sister I didn't know that I always wanted, but now love dearly, and with a rekindled fire in my heart for all of the things I used to love and now do once more. This is going to be a good year.