Peter Pan or Miley Cyrus ?

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short to long
The day I decided to cut my hair short was Friday the 13th. It was a full moon, the door to my subconscious was fully open, and somehow I knew that today would be the day. I made the appointment and took the bus to the salon, where an apprentice would be chopping off my locks. I described what I wanted : “edgy, but not too edgy” and watched the loose strands fall away. My hair no longer holds emotional significance for me–it’s a waste of time in physical form. When I left the salon, mes cheveux were short, straight, and ready to stun everyone that knew me when my yarn-like tangle hung down to my waist.

I decided to cover a shift at the coffee shop even though I was coming down with a cold, because it was better than having to go home and listen to Riot Fest, which was conveniently located at my intersection. I took to the haircut like a pampered dog takes to water–hesitantly, with no goal in mind but to let myself grow accustomed to it with time.

During my break, I spotted two acquaintances (who I had contacted minutes before) imbibing themselves in the bar across the street. Coincidence ?

I went over to say “hello” and saw that one of them had shaved his mountain-man beard that same day.¬†There was clearly something in the air inspiring people to change their outward appearance. I sensed a distance that could only be explained by my new, androgynous haircut, and welcomed the coldness for all it was worth. If anything will show you who your real friends are, it’s a new haircut.

As time went on, I debated between calling it the Miley Cyrus or the Peter Pan. Settling for the former helped me to joke about it. You know what they say about humor : there’s a grain of truth in every joke, and laughing is a release for discomfort. That’s why comedians love to make fun of themselves. It’s their way of making sure they say it before anyone else does.

Insecurity plagued me like a tapeworm, eating away at my self-confidence day by day. But I stuck with the cut, because every change in appearance leads to an inner adjustment. Haircuts bring out different sides of our personalities, and mine is only just beginning to surface. It’s been almost two months since I crossed the short-hair channel, and I must say that the grass really is greener on this side. Less time spent on styling means more time to daydream, create, and inspire. Oh, and productivity. There’s that, too.

If you are or have been contemplating making the cut, I have three words for you : Just do it.

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Natural Healing

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Nature is nurture. Neither of them beat each other in a test, because humans made that test up, and nature will always trump humans. When I was fortunate enough to have a forest in my backyard, I figured out the age-old secret : flora and fauna are the soul’s free green medicine.

We lived in a shabby two-story house in Dunlap, IL, and I remember thinking how big everything was. The carpet in my bedroom was Pepto-Bismol pink, and I loved it. My sister was in a photography class, and once she used me as a model for a photo shoot in the forest preserve. I jumped at the opportunity and begged her to do it again constantly. One day, I was left alone at home for what I was told would be 10 minutes. But when you’re a kid, 10 minutes seems like forever, and there are bigger worlds out there than the virtual one glaring at you from the TV screen.

So I opened the forbidden patio door and ran out in to the forest, taking in all the fresh smells and rolling in the brown leaves like a feral child released from captivity. Then I ran to my neighbor’s house, because I was locked out. Even though I got in trouble later, exercising my spirit was worth it to my pea-brained, selfish, spur-of-the-moment being. It wasn’t so much about getting to the trees as it was being able to take it all in and let it all out simultaneously.

To this day, I still see the forest before the trees. Hiking, canoeing, taking nature walks, and galavanting through sand and stone are the times when I feel most at home. Indoors, I am restless. Unless an outstanding book or movie catches my attention, I’d much rather be outside in the city listening to music, although the latter is unnecessary. Because who needs headphones when nature’s symphony is all around us ?

How to Learn a Language

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Three people walk in to a London pub. The first is a transgender man named Toro. He holds his head high and smiles at the bartender.

“A vodka tonic, please.”

The second is Lara, a 20-something bohemian woman with big dreams and small feet. She orders a local rosemary beer and sits down next to Toro, the bells on her worn-out boat shoes dangling like a dog collar.

To complete the ensemble, a hairy, plump man slides on to the barstool next to Lara, the buttons on his plaid shirt popping out precariously. The bartender smiles and says “Hey, Phil ! What’ll it be ? The usual ?”

“You got it, Dave,” says Phil.

“I’ll have those out for you in just a couple minutes,” says Dave. A hazy-eyed philosophy masters’ student, Dave generally has just enough money for rent and groceries, but not enough to get a haircut. Which explains his floppy cowlick and subtle charm.

Lara turns to Toro and makes an animated remark in Japanese. Phil pulls out a notebook and begins writing down everything he wants to say in return. You see, Phil’s mother is Japanese, so he can understand the conversation. He just can’t respond. It’s frustrating to have these thoughts bottled up in his brain, like artichoke hearts waiting to be properly pickled. After furiously jotting down two pages of words and expressions, Phil shakes out his achy, calloused hand.

Dave sets all the drinks in front of the trio with a flourish. “Vodka tonic, 312, and a Scotch on the rocks for my buddy.” He grins and puts their check in a shotglass. “Whenever you’re ready.”

Toro whips out a Japanese dictionary and gives it to Lara. “Can you take care of this ? I have to check the news, and I don’t get reception in here for some reason,” he mutters.

“Sure,” laughs Lara. “News junkie.”

Toro slips out the front door while Lara scoots closer to Phil and explains the different verb tenses, slang phrases, and character construction. No doubt about it–Japanese is a totally different beast from English.

“Who would’ve thought this guy would get so good at Japanese ? I remember a few months ago he was slurring his words in English.” Dave smirks, relishing Phil’s low point like a feasted fox.

After pulling the door instead of pushing it, Toro walks back inside briskly, and the two-way exchange becomes even more profound. He and Lara chat about the newly established pipelines and the protesters that are adamantly against their construction. Half-listening, Phil sips his scotch pensively, chiming in at all the right times with accented but correct Japanese. As long as he listens to the radio, his comprehension skills keep improving with each passing day.

Dave looks on from the corner of the bar, fiddling with the ancient record player perched on a wide shelf above the countertop. “Jeez,” he thinks to himself. “Maybe I should start learning a new language. It would definitely help me with school if I learned German.” Without any hesitation, he discreetly pours himself a shot of gin and takes it down in one gulp. The pine-iness prickles his throat, inspiring him to take a chance on his freshly budding intellect. After all, it’s only a short trip to the great Germanic forests of yore from where they are in London.

After his shift, Dave hangs up his apron and walks down the block to the nearest bookstore. He buys a used copy of German 101 with its audiobook accompaniment and saunters over to the nearest park to check out the material. Apparently, eavesdropping and a shot of gin are enough to motivate even the laziest pubman to expand his horizons.

The Cracks in the Earth

obsession
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Obsession is the non-comittal spine that takes steady, springing steps into the world of mystery. It plunges. It’s what makes people unexpectedly sign themselves up for a state of mind that erases all logic, harkening back to the dark ages. Cat, dog, sister, brother, lover, friend. The choices may vary, but the end result is the same : intense immersion of one’s inner world with that of another’s.¬†

On the edge of human consciousness, there lies a discursive utterance that illuminates the cracks in the Earth. It shines a light on the things we love, the things we hate, and all the mistakes that led us a step in the wrong direction, rupturing reality with our hard soles.

Walk across the street and find a woman hopelessly in love with her cat. When she concerns herself with it’s needs and wants, the flame of her desire burns brighter than ever. On the other side of the pond, a painter preoccupies himself with the exact shade of ashen blonde to stroke on the canvas portrait of his latest flame. She is distant and cold, he is sizzling like a steak on a stovetop. All truths will eventually reach their final destination.

Obsession is a motivator, an impetus for change. Nothing is as powerful as all-consuming contemplation. The crystallized notion of your beloved is as real as the fire in your bones. You would do anything–anything–to experience character and body, shape and structure. This is the time when exercise sounds reasonable, eating sounds absurd, and sleep is silly. Because what could be better than a fantastical world where the hunt and the chase are endlessly synonymous ?

Trust in Fangs

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tying knots in his head

it feels great to unwind at the end of the day

snail shell head band,

taking off the layers, frame by frame

and a tremor

of rivulets in a melting sweet cream cone

grey day in the middle world

there is no taste, just substance

sliding down shelves of skin like a blanched serpent

trust in fangs

to pierce and protect the daisy chasers

to sting and infect

the positively confident nods

creamy white, no respite

it knows your plight and

ravishes a bite,

just trust in fangs

Wall to Wall: National Geographic Goldmine

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My humble abode used to be plastered with images. Each section of the walls in my room was dedicated to a theme : pinups of women from fashion magazines, breathtaking landscapes, giant posters, inspirational quotes, and a shoe collage. As time went on, I cared less and less about clothes and materialistic items, so I tore down the fashion and shoe smorgasbord. The National Geographic photos stayed because they provided an escape for me when I stared at my walls (which I still tend to do), begging them to take me somewhere else.

“Not all those who wander are lost.”

Nowadays, my decorating scheme is minimalistic. I have a small, geometrically-shaped arrangement of volcanoes and constellations from National Geographic, a few postcards from my travels, a couple photos on my bookshelf, and the Desiderata quote next to a dry-erase calendar and a cork board.

Instead of visual chaos, it’s visual stimulation. Whoever walks in to my room should feel at ease when they look at the palm trees on my curtains and the coral reef fold-out above my bed. The last thing I want is for them to cower due to sensory overload.

My sanctuary is the ocean waves crashing over the Caribbean sand. I’ll be there someday soon…

Second Time Around: Harry Potter Fever

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Harry Potter (character)

Harry Potter (character) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The words “Harry Potter” inspire a morbid cliche in myriad people’s minds: a boy with an eggplant cape, ugly glasses, and a broom who is persecuted for being “different”. This series struck a chord with me long before Harry, Ron and Hermione ever became part of pop culture. Oddballs, eccentrics, and outsiders are among the most likely to identify with Harry’s harrowing tale. I was all three of those growing up.

I started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when I was 8 years old. I proceeded to read it 8 times and would fall asleep with the illustrated characters’ faces by my side. The fantasy world Rowling allowed me to escape in was my favorite because it was a progression from the one I was in. The human chess games, the boarding school setting, and the intricate plot line about “The Boy Who Lived” had me hooked from the start. Each time I reread the books, I notice a new theme, underlying motif, and latent character development. Reading these books is akin to taking loo powder and disappearing through a fireplace.

The rest of the series was far more intense than the opener. I read the 2nd book 5 times, the 3rd book 4 times, the 4th book 4 times, the 5th book 5 times, the 6th book 3 times, and the 7th book twice. I had a themed blanket and pillow, and I even waited at midnight one night to get the 5th book as soon as it came out.

For a children’s series that’s known outrageous success via movie sales, book sales, and other merchandise, Harry Potter has more substance to it than any other series I know, except perhaps the LOTR books. College courses like “Psychology of Harry Potter” and “Religious Symbols in Harry Potter” are cropping up all over the place, proving that children’s literature is more than just a rite of passage.

With an entire shelf devoted to Rowling, my Harry Potter Fever, though greatly diminished since my adolescent days, lives on.