If there was a championship for holding grudges, my dad would be a shoo-in for first place and my sister would be a prominent contender for honorable mentions. Me? I’d be fifty feet from the podium with nobody but a disillusioned coach to half-heartedly console my loser’s tears. It’s a verified fact that I can’t manifest, hold, or in many cases remember grudges to save my life. If there’s bad blood, I have a persistently nagging compulsion to dilute it. That’s why the following blog entry is an ode to a friendship past, a concept I never fully appreciated until I lost my good friend Felicia.
If she’d been keen on entering beauty pageants, Felicia would have made a pit stop at Miss Africa en route to the universal title, no contest. A Portuguese-South African bon vivant that not only turned heads and captivated attention with her winning smile but with her radiating charm besides, Felicia’s was the kind of character you couldn’t help but admire. Incredibly inventive and avant-garde in her architectural pursuits, Felicia’s sheer excitement for innovation and creativity always imbued infectious energy in her peers. Maternal, comforting, hilariously goofy, endearingly frightening via her penchant for brightening the macabre (“You’re so funny I just want to cut you up, put you in a jar, and carry you around with me!”), and delightfully mischievous, Felicia was the gnocchi-gourmandizing self-proclaimed Charlotte to our Sex and the City quad. And when I was privileged enough to serendipitously be her roommate my sophomore year of college, I whole-heartedly looked up to her for the optimism and joviality she sowed into every adventure we embarked on.
She was a breath of fresh air in an academic world dictated by stress-inducing GPAs and successive all-nighters. A gem so hard to come by in life that I feel I must take this opportunity to apologize for the fact that my aversion to drama kept me from fighting for our friendship when I realized too late that it was already slipping by.
While enrolled in the Savannah College of Art & Design, I had a tendency to allow my crusade against depression to overshadow the utter joie de vivre that existed all around me. And because my melancholia stemmed from a very negative, and fortunately terminated relationship, it seemed apt to my naïve mind that the solution to my sorrow lay in potential boyfriends who could hopefully allay the setbacks of my past. While this theory proved true farther down the road when I stopped immersing myself in “the hunt,” my sophomore preoccupation with courtship distracted me from the relationships that should have taken precedence: my friendships with people like Felicia, who absolutely did not deserve to be dragged to college parties so that I could inattentively flirt the night away.
The lessons I’ve learned from innumerable misadventures in life, love, and camaraderie have taught me that we as a species need to spend more time cherishing what we have, and not regretting the absence of what we want. It’s the same for every facet of life: from dismissing the incredible value of our wholly unique and life-sustaining bodies because they don’t look the way we think they should, to forgetting to appreciate the possessions we already have in light of those beyond our reach, to pulling vacuous stunts like the one I did and neglecting the people willing and eager to be close to you because you want the type of attention a bygone companion withheld.
I don’t say or express it nearly enough but I am so thankful for all the friends I’ve accrued throughout life, be they from my past or my present, 3000 miles away or a couple blocks down the street. Each of them has been so integral in the production of my current identity and will continue to be major influences on my life whether I’m fortunate enough to see them in the years to come or not. And because she was such a wonderfully inspiring and entertaining part of my college life, the same holds true for Felicia. Even if our falling out portends permanence, I’ll always look back fondly on the bizarre “Rubball” games we made up, the costumes we giddily assembled and photographed, the hirsute havoc we wreaked at Urban Outfitters, the wall art we spent hours fabricating, the pirates we rallied, the pranks we planned, the revelatory conversations we shared, and the endless laughs we emitted. Moreover, I’ll always remember and wholly appreciate the joy that a friendship so significant can instill in a life lucky enough to behold it.
I’m not good with ages, including my own. Hence, whenever bouncers or waitstaff unexpectedly bypass the usual ID-check and ask, “How old are you?” the first thing that comes to mind is, Uh… am I even twenty-one yet…? Fortunately, this number amnesia doesn’t extend to important dates, allowing me to be certain without a shred of doubt that today is my mom’s birthday.
Maman, as she’s affectionately known, is immensely important to me because (as apparent to anyone who’s ever mistaken our voices on the landline phone of our past) she makes up an invaluable portion of both mine and my sister’s identities. And considering all the incredible elements that comprise the Renaissance dynamo that is my mother, my sister and I should feel very lucky to share in that genetic pool. My mom has an imagination that packs a wallop. Her sense of wonder is tangible in the way she approaches every facet of life. Her unyielding desire to learn from each of the experiences she encounters is inspiring. And demonstrating the very essence of the adjective “motherly,” my mom has the unfailing ability to comfort even the most overwrought hysterics.
Furthermore, my mom is a woman from whom natural talent radiates like the awed circles that form around her whenever she takes the dance floor. Among the many skills she demonstrates an aptitude for, she’s the most fastidious and loudest cheerleader in all of North America; an incredible artist and writer whose oeuvre spans the creative gamut from joyously whimsical to powerfully evocative; an aficionado on all things kooky-fresh, such as The B-52’s, Shonen Knife, and Plastique Bertrand; a learned and opinionated voice vying for social, cultural, and political equality; the contender you absolutely want on your team for trivia night; and an altruistic giver through and through.
When I was a child, one of the greatest gifts my mom gave me–despite the hordes of Barbie dolls I pleaded for and miraculously received–was her time. When I came of kindergarten age, my mom decided to take up the helm as a homeschool teacher for a year that may well have been the most formative period of my lifelong personality. Thanks to my mom’s patient and steadfast teachings, I developed a deep adoration for vocabulary, a genuine affinity for reading, and a penchant for writing that catapulted me beyond the school’s benchmark. I can’t begin to thank my mom enough for the educational time she dedicated to her children, and I feel certain that without the lessons she’s continued to impart to this day, I would not have ended up as academically driven as I am. Quite frankly, I attribute my brains to my mom and thank her every day for placing so much emphasis on their fortification.
While incredibly important to my character, this inherited love for learning barely begins to skim the surface of all the things my mom’s doted on her daughters from day one. As children, my sister and I grew up in a home replete with fantastical paintings adorning the walls and floorboards: a cheerful, multicolored snake spiraling on the living room floor, an alebrije-esque lizard spanning the length of the kitchen, a winking fish suspended above the stove inquiring, “Hey good lookin’ whatchya got cookin’?,” and our little bunk bed fortress decorated with Shoobie the flying pup, our beaming faces, and an array of designs and calligraphy unique to my mom’s playful aesthetic.
For birthdays, she gave us not only presents but whole window murals commemorating the occasion and themed homemade cakes that somehow defied gravity with their twisting Seussical stairways. From the time I was nine-years-old my mom devoted hours upon hours to reading us Harry Potter aloud, complete with individual character dramatizations and the correct pronunciation of “Hermione” years before the films enlightened my peers. Her all-encompassing love for animals turned my sister into an atheistic St. Francis incarnate, preaching to kittens and puppies The Word According to a Six-Year-Old. When relationships went south or the transition into college proved dispiriting, my mom gave me ways to combat sorrow and the means to harness positivity in the face of life’s many obstacles. And her multilingualism and sense of adventure resulted in my love for language, graphic design, and cultural history and mythology.
For physical sustenance, my mom gave us the many delectable gifts of moussaka, chipotle chicken, banana bread, and the phenomenal macaroni and cheese recipe she inherited from her father. For mental fodder, she gave us a love for games, even if it occasionally resulted in my sister overturning a card table in a bout of loser’s rage. For 85mph exhilaration, she passed down her love of roller coasters and repeatedly travelled with us across the country to seek new thrills–although the spinning tea cup gene clearly skipped me. And as a strong female figure who embraces her identity and doesn’t shy away from displaying that fabulous demeanor to the world, my mom gave her daughters the ability to be ourselves regardless of any judgment that may come our way.
To top all of that off, my mom has taught me how I want to approach motherhood one day. Thanks to Maman’s example, I want to inspire uninhibited imagination, I want to answer every question with honesty and imbue a love for learning, I want to be a comfort whenever my children are in need. And beyond that, I’m very eager to behold the whoops of excitement my future children emit when I tell them we’re going to their grandma Lulu’s house, a place of wonder, creativity, and warm, unwavering love.
Besides learning how to complete tax forms and fill out checks, one of the saddest, inevitable aspects of aging is the gradual diminution of daydreaming. That isn’t to say that there aren’t adults out there who still pass the hours with their head in the clouds, seemingly idling away while their imaginations rev with steam power, but I beg to proffer a generalization when I say that most adults in our Capitalist system don’t have the time or mental energy to dream like they used to.
This unfortunate phenomenon occurred to me last night after seeing Pacific Rim in IMAX 3-D at Universal’s neon-lit CityWalk. Despite the obvious holes that even Guillermo Del Toro admits to, this film was an increasingly rare personal experience in which I was actually able to relax and enjoy a summer blockbuster and all the giant, sword-wielding robots it had to offer. But while beating back motion sickness for the thrill of prismatic kaiju-jaeger carnage, the thought occurred to me that if I were a twelve-year-old kid watching this movie, my mind would be racing to fabricate a myriad of subplots and potential characters, and as soon as the movie ended I would hurry home to manifest my alternate narratives via writing, illustration, or a long bout of daydreaming. As it was, the movie ended and I hustled home to collapse exhaustedly into bed.
It’s a real shame that daydreaming seems to be a pastime literally and ideologically reserved for children. Even for those adults fortunate enough to still possess the active reveries of juvenescence, our culture seems to perpetuate a social stigma about daydreaming after a certain age. The phrase, “get your head out of the clouds,” comes to mind when pondering the fact that idle behavior in adults is generally chastised by the United States’ emphasis on productivity. Since youth, aging in America runs parallel to an exponential loss of time: our homework starts to amass in middle school to ensure that we’ll be ready for high school; or social lives have to be marginalized in order to complete all the high school work that prepares us for college; college buries us so deep in post-college preparation that sleep becomes an irregular recreation; the five unpaid internships a city like Los Angeles demands from us and the secondary jobs we fill just to make rent consume every waking hour of the day in preparation for a career; and unless we’re lucky enough to secure a relaxing schedule and ample time off, our careers become synonymous with “life.” Of course it all peters out eventually, and one can only hope that the reinstated free time of retirement might kindle some sense of contemplative woolgathering… as long as the exhaustion of the years prior doesn’t preoccupy the mind.
I think hispanic countries got it right when they established midday siestas as a cultural repose. Providing people with an opportunity to regain their energy and cerebrate at their leisure is a genius social strategy that not only aids in employee stamina but also in creative output. Daydreaming, while criticized as mere inattentiveness, self-absorption, and absentmindedness, is a progenitor of art and innovation. Back when I had the time and the energy to simply explore the contents of my imagination for as long as I saw fit, my artistic output was tenfold its current yield. Today, if I’m lucky enough to have a writing implement and jot down a creative thought when it galavants my way, I have to seek time to flesh it out, and by then I might already be preoccupied with the next fleeting fancy.
But I shouldn’t be so quick to bellyache about the future to come, for having attended art school, I’m geared up for a career in creative ideation. Despite these occupational prospects, the expectations of most middle and lower class vocations that I grew up amongst are worrisome on the creativity front. Unless you have a job at Pixar or in an advertising agency, work schedules are not conducive to imaginative thought. And even with a creative occupation, daydreaming just isn’t the same when you work to produce creative ideas versus spontaneously slipping into hours of free associative contemplation.
I suppose if there’s any consolation to be garnered from this predicament, it’s that even though the American system demands that we work hard to afford the necessities of life and work even harder to live leisurely, creativity continues to flourish. Eccentric couture designs continue to catwalk their way into fashion shows, anonymous muralists continue to adorn city streets with whimsical illustrations, teachers continue to create innovative curriculum to engage their students, architects and urban planners continue to brainstorm new strategies for cost effective living, and artists like those assigned to Pacific Rim continue to dream up bigger, more fantastical monsters. With creativity manifesting all around us every day, it’s clear that innovation is not solely the product of excessive daydreaming, and with the help of these imaginative adults, creativity will continue to augment social progress. Yet despite this propitious silver lining, I can’t help but wonder what this country would be like if everyone still had the time to dream with the same fervor that propels a child to build castles in the sky.