I don't often write about my past or my personal life. I like to write about my professional life, my thoughts on writing itself, and about programming but I rarely, if ever, touch on the personal side of my existence. In all honesty, I don't think I talk to much of anybody about these things.
This is a first for me so bear with me.
Since I was a kid, I dreamed of life mimicking movies, TV shows, books, and cartoons. I think that assumption applies to the majority of us. What we see is how we expect things to be.
For me, that meant that I looked forward to a life full of meaningful meetings, life-changing advice, strangers coming and going, friends rekindling old friendships, and having life-long relations with the people I grew up with.
But life doesn't happen that way. Life can be cruel, it can be harsh, and it can warp your perception of reality. It can also take away your dreams. One-time meetings with people end up leaving you wanting further encounters, friends disappear forever, and the only life-changing advice you can count on is your own.
Then there are the nightmares of your life. I won't talk about those. But they're there, they seem unfair, and don't fit with what you may read or be used to. You find no heroes to save you, no strangers to suddenly take interest, and being alone is no longer the desirable end result.
When I started middle school, I had freshly moved to the US and went from being the class-asshole into a silent observer. I went from being the kid that gets into all the trouble to being the kid that stayed quiet. Mainly because I could barely understand my classmates, and I could barely respond in turn.
This is where my story started. Observing people had become a hobby and taught me a great deal about those around me. And it's then that I started to appreciate the one-time moments. The moments when you realize that even though you were ridiculed by your classmates when you were younger, someone could love you, or have a crush on you.
I can still remember the note-passing in my history class and the giggling from a couple of my classmates as they asked me, "Which one of us do you like?"
"The taller one", my answer, prompted them to suddenly stand up in the middle of a lecture. I'm still relieved that the teacher never took the notes to read them.
As the years passed and I entered high school, I found myself perpetually stuck in new-found habits. Hormones, romanticism, and poetry drove me to develop crushes on distant classmates that never fit the "normal" type, but were rather unique. People you'd want to write about rather than spend the rest of your life with (not that I ever thought about that at that age). The want to meet and talk to my crushes eventually lead me into a maze of brief friendships, connecting the dots until I arrived at my goal.
To put this into perspective: I created my own romantic books. I created my own deeper meaning in life, and my own purpose every day. Think about the movies a la Blue Is The Warmest Color or American Beauty. I craved it and sought it, and structured my life around it.
Imagine seeing that one person at the lunch courtyard that catches your eye, seeing their quirks, their beautiful hair, and seeing what may be right below their skin, awaiting sudden discovery. And so you wake up in the morning, go to class, befriend your friends' friends, and then their friends' friends until you arrive at the point of saying, "Hi" to this stranger.
Unfortunately, all of it was just that, imagined. I once said:
"As long as I don't see you, or talk to you, you will remain perfect in my fantasy."
And actually, it's still probably on my facebook. I built up this ruckus about a stranger whom I did not know only to meet them and most likely be disappointed by what I found.
It didn't matter, my story was complete by then, my psychosis satisfied, and whoever they were was completely irrelevant.
However, I had to learn how to discover a more meaningful uniqueness, not just an illusory experience. That lead me down a different path where I snuck through people's backyards, got thrown out of my fling's house in the middle of the night, and even drove through an entire city trying to find someone I loved when they were in need of my help.
A little known fact is that when you get involved in these types of shenanigans, pretty much everyone gets hurt.
But that never stopped me from other similar adventures. Taking long hikes through dark woods at night with friends, cliff diving, even breaking into places (don't worry, never really "broke" anything). Hell, I did just about everything with my friends.
Much like I go on Starbucks runs every morning with my co-workers, I'd roam the school halls before the bell ring with a couple of friends and talk about life. They would always ask me what adventure I was embarking on. I can still see one of them shaking his head at my futile efforts.
"Are you ever going to give it up, Januska?" He'd say and he was right to be honest. I never got anywhere. Sure, I hooked up with and dated awesome people but I never got exactly what I wanted. I never got the Naoko of Norwegian Wood, the one captivating entity that turned my entire life around.
We formed a trio, or rather a quadrangle of friends that would hang out, and do things together. I thought I'd be friends with these guys forever, but life had other plans.
Have you ever seen Dreamcatcher? We were kind of like that. We depended on each other, sought each other out, shared stories with each other. Hell, they were the first people I called up to talk about how I lost my virginity. And they were the first to cringe and make fun of me (but that's another story). And each one of us had our own "special" power. Whether it was penetrating social skills, kindness, peacefulness, or complete apathy, we all complemented each other somehow.
Things don't always work out the way you imagine them to work out though. Before you know it, you're dating a friend's crush, then their crush, or you say something wrong and through a series of unfortunate events, you end up alienating people one by one, thinking that they'd end up popping back into your life to say, "Hi." and telling you how friendships are more important than whatever else they have going on.
Instead, you're just the man-turned-to-cockroach that they're happy to see off.
Just like love and friendships were the center of my life, so was the advice others had given me and especially, the advice I had given to others. In fact, in my storybooks and movies, and Anime that scratched beyond the simple corporate toy-selling formula, advice was just about the only thing in life that would not take a turn toward the negative.
Love would disappear but leave a mark, an "advice", a lesson. Friends would come and go, or stay, but each one would leave a mark as well. Which leads me to the end of my schooling years.
I constantly dealt with a Good Will Hunting complex. I had the "talent" to solve math problems quickly and accurately, I had the passion to excel at every subject yet I nearly failed every one of them in my senior year. It was that year, in fact, that I learned a great deal about the differences between people and learned to take some of my most important advice.
Let me tell you a story about my tutoring students. I tutored a good number of people over the years. Some paid, some free, some in exchange for favors, whatever those were. Tutoring was a strange situation because I'd help those in my own class, not someone younger or in a less advanced course. These were my classmates, all the way through college.
My students would continuously remark about how I wasted my life away. I focused too much on spending time doing "stupid" things and they marveled at how casually I threw away negative results on my tests.
"This is your life," they'd argue and they were wrong. I'd always say that learning was my main objective at school, not getting good grades. But they could never separate the two.
"How will you get a good internship then?" One asked, I shook my head, shrugged and got a damn good job a few months later.
My advice then had been to learn from life rather than try to conquer one of its most meaningless obstacles. Failure was a lesson but success wasn't an "A" on a test.
My complex outgrew me quickly as I left school, no longer taking advantage of my "gifts" by filling out empty scantron boxes, but living life in a way that I found more fulfilling.
At about the same time, I received some advice that was jarring to me but made me realize how much more my own thinking mattered. It was about my dating life at a time when, before class, I was seen making out with several different girls within a span of several weeks. I had become a "whore" a few minutes after I had stopped being an endless prude.
My classmate asked me why waste time with people that I did not plan on marrying. Her ultimate goal was to find a life-partner at the tender age of 16 (or 17 or however old she was). She was a long-term subscriber, I was of the sampling variety.
Again, I was met with "wasting my life" on futile efforts that I found rather enriching.
My joy for new things, sampling people, and living in a way that resembled some strange indie movie ended up being the thing that lead me back to write about it today. And I'm happy to have made those decisions.
Somehow I dealt with the love problems, and I still think back to all the beautiful people I've met, and all of the beautiful moments I've had. All those Kodak moments that stick still rattle in my head somewhere. It's amazing really. The images of those people and who they were to me back then will be immortalized in my poetry and in my writing.
And somehow I dealt with friends finding other interests or losing common ground with people. I somehow dealt with some people dying, others (apparently) disappearing off the face of the planet forever, and even my own disillusionment with others.
I continued my pattern of behavior for years to come. Meeting new people that fit my interests: a daughter of a hooker, a completely new set of friends that disappeared overnight, some people poor, others sheltered, and some people rich. I even remember meeting some guy named "Moe" who played guitar like a god but for the life of me I can't remember his last name.
But the thing is, I changed eventually. My story life spiraled downward until I hit rock bottom whereupon I broke the rocky layer and buried myself deeper and deeper until I, like I said, I changed and things changed. My friends changed, my love interest changed, and my mind found some peace.
I steadily climbed, letting go of the people of the past, the feelings and behaviors of the past until I found myself here, where I'm at right now.
Is it a good place? Definitely. I live in a home full of love. I go on adventures in other countries, I try new things all the time. And my dreams extend beyond beautiful five minute conversations.
Is it the same? No, but then again, I wouldn't expect it to be.