Having a Stay-at-Home Wife is the Dream

When you’re a (temporary) stay-at-home wife, you get to do things like this: impromptu mid-afternoon photo shoot with the kids!

First off, a little disclaimer: no, this post is not about how I’m going to be a stay-at-home wife, though it has become a viable back-up plan. And no, I’m not implying that all men want a stay-at-home wife. But for certain couples in certain situations, I’m beginning to realize, it’s the dream.

Okay, with that out of the way, let me begin by saying how much of a shocker it is to me that I would ever associate being a stay-at-home anything with something positive. Sorry, all the stay-at-homes out there. It’s just that the way I grew up, and my former commitment issues, taught me that to be financially dependent on another person was the dumbest thing you could possibly do. And that your career mattered more than anything else. After all, anyone can get married and have kids, but can anyone become a lawyer? Make six figures? Actually, I never really cared about money back in my college days, as evidenced by my fairly useless double major in Romance Languages and International Studies. It was more important to me that my job mean everything to me. I wanted to change the world; I wanted a job that I would die for. I wanted everyone to look at me and respect me and think that I was changing the world. It was an incredibly young, naïve, and ultimately egotistical desire. What’s more, it came from a position of incredible privilege, where I didn’t have to worry about finances. Though I grew up poor, it had been a long time since I experienced that personally, and my mom shielded me from a lot of our financial struggles. I never appreciated how much money mattered and how much impact it had on a family’s wellbeing. All my life, I struggled to find emotional security in my relationships, without realizing that financial security was just as crucial.

Law school beat the naïveté out of me, brutally. It crushed my hopes and dreams and forced me to face the reality that the prestigious, high-power job I previously sought was merely a mirage. Even publication, which had been my dream since I was a kid, wasn’t the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow it once was. I realized that the books I was writing were good, good enough to be published, but probably weren’t going to make me a living, and would be forgotten in a year’s time. Was publication all that I wanted, or was it to publish a certain kind of book? I decided that publication for publication’s sake was stupid, and I would wait for the right book to come along, no matter how many years it took. Coming out of my second year of law school, I only knew a few things: 1) the cost of living in Norwalk is insane, and I refuse to live here on less than $200k family annual income 2) given that we are above $200k, in order for working to be worth the toll on my mental and physical health, I must make at least $60k and work no more than 40 hours a week. If you just threw up a little bit at my financial privilege, I reassure you that I 100% acknowledge how lucky I am, and that if we had less, I would have no problem moving out to Podunk, Iowa and becoming a sustainable farmer. If you just scoffed at my job requirements, I reassure you that I am well aware how few jobs like this exist in law, which brings me to my following conclusions.

My plan is to start my own solo practice out of law school. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t work, I will look into other fields perhaps. If all else fails, or if my health worsens, I have a fantastic back-up plan — stay-at-home wife! Unless you’ve had to take care of a house and family before, you probably don’t understand why this is such a great idea. Certainly, I had no idea what I was getting into when we got a house, a teenager, and a dog. Suddenly, it was like I had a million things to do all the time, and everyone always needed something from me. I sacrificed a lot of time at school to be there for my family, and somehow got the best grades thus far in law school fall semester, but I think it definitely came at the cost of my health. When we went on vacation a few weeks ago, it became clear how much work I was putting in at home every day. Our dog-sitter was over 6-7 hours a day taking care of the house and of Juno. Typically, I’d be running errands, driving Billy Bob around, and cooking dinner too, which adds up to a very full day. If you factor in things like being at home when the piano tuner comes, taking kids to the doctor and pets to the vet, and more, I start to wonder how any family gets by without a stay-at-home. I suppose you’d have to pay someone else to do all those things. Or, I guess, you just have to do all of it at night and on days off.

The absolute greatest part of having one spouse stay at home is the time you create. The older I get, the more I realize that money adds nothing to your life, as long as you have enough to live comfortably. But time? Time is everything. When I’m at home taking care of chores and cooking dinner and keeping Juno well-exercised, the moment Dan walks in the front door, we get to relax. We get to spend our weekends hiking and taking road trips. I get the satisfaction that our wooden floors are always spotless, despite Juno’s best attempts at shedding — I am extremely OCD about floors. We take away the stress of paying someone else to do the work that I could do faster and better. Most importantly, I get the joy of being the one to train Juno and spending quality time with my sister that I would never have otherwise. I’m not saying that staying at home is necessarily better than working, which certainly has its advantages. But it is actually pretty damn awesome, and I get why people do it now. And if I were to stay at home, I wouldn’t feel like a failure or like any less of a feminist and equal partner.

Homesick

IMG_3392I really apologize for not blogging with more frequency, but it’s been hard to write to all of you. It’s been hard to write when all I want to say is how much everything sucks. The 1L summer job search sucks. Long-distance relationships suck. And after giving New Haven many chances, I can honestly say that it (mostly) sucks. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve gotten harassed on my walk to and from the law school. It doesn’t matter what I’m wearing; it doesn’t matter if it’s day or night. They generally start off by saying hello, and I always say hello back, because I don’t want to anger them. And there’s still a part of me that doesn’t want to be presumptuous. But then they want to know my name, and they’re walking towards me. So I smile and walk to my apartment building as fast as I can, breathing hard and wondering what will happen if I can’t find my keys in time. I’ve never experienced anything like this before. Back home in Ann Arbor, this only happened once in a blue moon, usually west of 4th Ave. Here, I’m walking through the busiest street in New Haven, and a middle-aged woman will yell at me, “Damn, nice legs.”

The street harassment is just one of many things that remind me daily that I’m not home. Other things are the sad absence of Korean food, Jimmy John’s, and Potbelly’s.

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Comfort food.

Despite my best efforts to avoid it, I’m homesick. It’s not an all-consuming heartache that I feel constantly. Contrary to what this post suggests, I don’t complain often about New Haven. I don’t reminisce often about Ann Arbor, either. Some days, I don’t even remember what home was like. Every once in a while, though, I just feel like something is missing. It feels like a part of me is missing. Since I left, I’ve realized that Ann Arbor is this magical place where every part of me is reflected in the environment around me. It’s beautiful and green, and there are people everywhere. In the summer, if you wander through the Diag, you’ll find people sunbathing, throwing frisbees, slacklining. In the winter, you’ll have the help of your whole neighborhood if you ever get your car stuck in snow. All year round, you’ll run into the harmonica-playing professor, the Violin Monster, the pink bra man.

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I took this photo while biking from my mom’s house to Barnes and Noble on the bridge overlooking Gallop Park.

Ann Arbor is an incredibly diverse place. It’s more of a mosaic than a melting pot, but I don’t mind that so much. When I feel like entertaining my baguette-and-salami Parisian ways, I head to Babo. (PSA: they also have the best grapes ever.) I always feel slightly guilty when I’m there, though, because it’s undeniable that Babo attracts a juice-cleansing, pretentious crowd. I like going straight from that to the Chinese grocery store I’ve frequented since I was three. The food is cheap, they carry everything from ear picks to vases, and everyone there is happy to experience a home away from home. In addition to Babo and the Chinese grocery store, there’s the Kroger in my hood, Sparrow Market down the street, Trader Joe’s for the lazy days, Whole Foods for the best coconut water, Lucky’s for Dreaming Cow yogurt (until they stopped stocking it…), Korean grocery store #1, Korean grocery store #2. And CVS! Some of the best times in my life were hiking to CVS at 9 pm for Funyuns and Gatorade.

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I promise, Mom, my groceries don’t usually look like this.

I guess what I really care about in life is people and food.

Summer Update

My summer got off to a great start when I saw a Triple Crown in person!

My summer got off to a great start when I saw a Triple Crown in person!

I can’t remember the last time I blogged, and that’s kind of embarrassing. I should have had lots of things to say these past few months. So much has happened life-wise. A lot of difficult things and a lot of happy things. I have changed. Reflecting upon my absence here, I’ve wondered if I’ve stopped thinking deeply. For so many years, I relied on this blog to help me think. Instead of posting here about some revelation I’d just experienced, I’d often start blog posts out of confusion and write my way to clarity. But I didn’t think that was it — over the past half year, I’ve done lots of thinking. Lots of growing up. So I wondered if I simply didn’t have anything to say anymore. As a writer, I was scared by that. What kind of writer are you if you don’t have anything more to say? It comforted me that, during this time, I was still writing. I worked on a new novel, wrote more poetry than I have in my entire life, drafted long and convoluted emails to my boyfriend.

I could still write, that I knew.

I’m still not sure what the reason was for my hiatus. I do know that, when it came time to renew my WordPress subscription, I only hesitated briefly before entering my credit card information. I want to keep this blog going. I want to share the experiences over the next few years with all of you. I want this to be an outlet for me when I need to tell the world how I feel. I want this to be a continual public journal of my thoughts.

With that said, I have lots to update you guys about. Although it was challenging, Dan and I made it through his graduation weekend and meeting his parents. Family is not something I do well, because I’m both hungry for the love I never got and scared to ask for it. I didn’t know if we would make it through that weekend, but something in me knew that I didn’t want to lose this. I didn’t want to lose my chance at love, at happiness. Dan and I have been together for five months now. We’re quickly approaching six months. I remember telling my mom that if I ever made it six months in a relationship, it would probably be for forever, because I couldn’t imagine myself lasting that long with someone. Though I said those words half-jokingly and out of pessimism, I feel like they could end up being true. This is the first relationship I’ve been in where I don’t wonder every other week if we should break up. This is the first relationship where I can face my fears without hurting my significant other or myself. Well, most of the time. Sorry Dan!

After an emotionally grueling few weeks, we were off to Asia. First stop was Shanghai. Then, we spent two weeks in Wuhan with my dad and siblings. From there, we flew to Chongqing to visit our good friend Weihao. Finally, we ended the trip in Taiwan. Sounds like a nice, relaxing time, right? Unfortunately for me, and by extension Dan, things are never easy with my family. Besides that, we had to go through a lot of firsts on this trip that were hard for both of us. He’d never even met my dad or siblings before. We’d never spent 24/7 with each other for seven weeks straight. I’d never been deathly ill in a foreign country. I’d never been deathly ill and had to rely on my boyfriend to take care of me.

It wasn't easy playing surrogate parents to my siblings. Figuring out Chinese taxis was one of the many tasks bestowed upon us.

It wasn’t easy playing surrogate parents to my siblings. Figuring out Chinese taxis was one of the many tasks bestowed upon us.

Many things could have gone wrong. Some things did go wrong. When I couldn’t sleep because my throat was hurting so badly I was in tears, we got in a heated argument at 5 in the morning. Ultimately, though, the trip didn’t end terribly. In fact, when I look back, all I see are the happy moments. The ways in which we grew closer. The comfort of knowing that this is the person you will fall asleep next to and wake up to for the next month. The gradual realization that, quite possibly, you will wake up to this person for decades to come.

Since getting back, it’s been both exciting and difficult adjusting back to real life. It felt really good to be back in the states. Being reunited with my kitty was the highlight of coming home. Unexpectedly, I realized how much I do love living here and how much I’ll miss Ann Arbor when I move to New Haven. I think I filled out a bajillion forms for Yale. I had three doctor’s appointments in the span of a week — I’m scurrying to get my vaccinations up-to-date so I can get my health clearance before class registration starts. Apparently, I do not have tuberculosis. This morning, I updated my resume and applied for a teaching fellowship at Yale.

This coming week, we’ll be getting ready for our road trip out west. I’m super excited to channel my inner cowgirl and ride some wild mustangs in Montana. After that, I’ll be moving out east and starting my adventure at law school. I’m planning a new blog series about life at Yale, so stay tuned!

À la prochaine,

R

P.S. I may have done something new with my hair. What do you think? (Don’t worry, the cat ears are removable.)

Rebecca with New Hair

A Declaration

Back then, at first snow, I'd rush outside with my film camera.

Back then, at first snow, I’d rush outside with my film camera.

It’s been a while since I felt like this. I don’t remember when the last time was — perhaps a year ago, two years ago? I know that I was good at feeling like this when I was younger. Before I broke hearts and had my heart broken. Before I cared more about my GPA than my Friday night plans. Before I started writing fiction for publication instead of for myself. Back then, I just didn’t give a damn. I lived on my whims, chasing every possibility that fluttered my way. My greatest fear was missing out on an aspect of the human experience.

So yes, in short, I was young and stupid.

Although I have no desire to go back to young Rebecca, this feeling I used to have so frequently is something I’ve missed without knowing it. It’s the feeling I’d get every time I turned to the first page of a crisp new book. It’s the feeling I’d get every time I walked through security at the airport. It’s the feeling I’d get every time I woke up early and counted the dew drops on blades of grass, felt the frigid air piercing my skin. When it beckoned to me, I’d drop anything and follow it. I drove halfway to Mackinac Island once before Phineas convinced me to come back to Ann Arbor, where I had a midterm scheduled on Monday. I skipped my classes to go to Starbucks and write angry, angsty short stories about men who cheated on their wives. I made playlists filled with Leonard Cohen and Florence and the Machine, and listened to them on repeat.

How to describe it? It’s a thirst for life. Excitement for endless possibilities. Curiosity for the unknown. Naïveté of the innocent.

This feeling used to consume me, ridding my life of consistency, responsibility, accountability. It was a miracle I didn’t fail any of my courses, and I know that I was lucky. If you were my friend during this time, I sincerely apologize. I was a shitty friend, if you could even count on me to show up. To the men I hurt, je m’excuse. I used you to get the same high that life gave me. I loved you for loving me, for broadening my human experience, but you deserved to be loved for more than that.

Slowly, I relinquished the feeling. I stopped feeling as if, every day, there was something bigger out there calling my name. I didn’t feel the need to escape. I found comfort in doing exactly what was expected of me. I began to feel as though I’d experienced it all — short of marriage and motherhood, life had little else to offer me. You could say that I simply grew up, and that that’s okay. But you know what? That’s not okay with me. I’m 22 years old, and I’ve only experienced a fraction of the world. I’ve met so few people and seen so few sunrises. Everything is out there. Everything is possible. Everything awaits me.

This is a declaration. To never fail to be in awe of life. To know that, above all, what matters more than anything is to live. To taste every experience, to hoard them and devour them, to remember them. Children are so much better than we adults are at simply living, appreciating each moment for what it truly is. They see straight through the bullshit that society constructs — resumes, salaries, credentials. Though I’m going to keep showing up at work and tracking my budget, I don’t want these things to consume me. I don’t want law school to define me. I want to know that, at any moment, I could step away from my career, move to rural China, and be okay with that. I don’t want to become so attached to any city, job, or house that I couldn’t walk away. The only things I wish to hold tightly are the people, the memories, and the cat.

Yes, this cat.

Yes, this cat.

Do you think you’ve become jaded as you’ve grown older? What do you miss about your younger self?

À plus tard,

R

I’m Obsessed with My Apartment (and Candles)

Since I flew back to the states on Monday, I’ve been fighting jetlag to turn my apartment into somewhere I’m happy to live. As of today, now that my beautiful hardwood floors are finally clean, I think it’s time to call it a success! I even managed to do all the moving myself. The apartment was already furnished, so I didn’t have to do that much heavy lifting. I made a few mistakes (note to self: silk sheets are highly overrated), but I’m really satisfied with the result. There’s nothing too fancy — most of the decor came from my previous dorm room life. However, the place looks decidedly un-dorm-room-like. It’s all grown up, which means *gasp* maybe I am too.

In other news, I’m now obsessed with candles. I’ve been going through tealights like chainsmokers go through cigs. I’m afraid I’m gonna burn the place down one of these days…shh, don’t tell my landlord.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Without further ado, voici mon appartement!

That rug is so ridiculously plushy. And soft mm...

That rug is so ridiculously plushy. And soft mm…

Spare bed for friendly people.

Spare bed for friendly people.

I have a plant!

I have a living plant! (For now…)

Unhealthy obsession with candles.

Unhealthy obsession with candles.

Much better after replacing sheets.

Much better after replacing sheets.

Monet is my nightly inspiration.

Monet is my nightly inspiration.

So who’s coming over to visit?

À plus tard,

R

What I Learned in Germany

Dogs enjoying the German countryside.

Dogs enjoying the German countryside.

Don’t worry, guys. I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth after graduation. I just spent the past two weeks in Germany with Hans. I’ve never been one for travel blogging, with the exception of the Asia series, so I won’t tell you how to spend your next vacation. Instead, I’ll tell you what I learned about myself during my repose, most of which has little to do with Germany. For a little bit of context, this trip came at a precarious point in life, in many different respects. We left the day after my graduation and it felt bittersweet, like running away from a former lover with a new one. Oh college, how I would miss those four years of time during which I learned how to learn, how to love, how to fail. How I would miss the joy and forgiveness that accompany the privilege of experiencing adult freedoms without adult responsibilities. I took mementos of my former lover into my new world — during bouts of nostalgia, I sought solace in Gabriel García Márquez’s lyrical Spanish in Love in the Time of Cholera.

Ready for my flight!

(Somewhat) ready for my flight.

For the most part, while I was in Germany, I was happy to be disconnected from my life in Ann Arbor. Besides the occasional nightmare about failing a class and the job situation, I successfully avoided thinking about the past and the future. All that, I thought, could wait for my return. Surprisingly, though, I must have tackled many of the question marks looming over my head without recognizing it. Because now, as I sit at my laptop less than 24 hours after setting foot on American soil, the answers are sitting patiently at my fingertips.

This morning, the first thing I felt was the urge to write. Once I opened up a blank page in front of me, I knew, the rest would come. So without further ado, new revelations in the life of Rebecca Cao, courtesy of Germany:

  1. Even the most experienced travelers can experience culture shock. At this point, I thought I’d seen it all — neither China’s squatting toilets nor Paris’ homeless families appalled me. Yet being immersed in a foreign culture, one that I knew little about prior, was overwhelming.
  2. I still don’t like traveling. I don’t mean that I don’t like to travel to other countries; I mean that I don’t like to do the typical tourist hit-and-run. This is why I enjoyed my time at Hans’ parents’ village home more than our brief voyages to Budapest and Munich.
  3. America is, undeniably, one of the best places to live. I never really understood why people from all over the world come to the US. I thought that China was more fun, Taiwan had better food, Spain had more history, France was more beautiful. Now, I finally understand that America is comfortable in a way that nowhere else matches.
  4. I didn’t make a mistake in signing my lease. After apartment-hunting for one grueling month, I ended up taking a place rather hastily. As I worried about making rent and being flat broke, I wondered if this was a mistake. This morning, as I contemplated the prospect of staying home at my mom’s place all day, I realized I couldn’t live here another year.
  5. I’m going to work hard, play hard. Now that I’m on a budget, I didn’t know if I could keep up luxuries such as driving, horseback riding, and my unpaid job. I now know that I want to keep those things, for my own happiness, and I’m going to take on as many additional jobs as necessary to do that.
  6. I’m going to keep editing and writing. I’ve been less than productive on the novel end, partially because I’ve been waiting on my agent’s feedback. When I go to China in a week, I’m going to get back to editing, even if I haven’t heard from her by then. After I’m finished editing, I’m going to start a new novel.
  7. My happiness is my own responsibility. This is something I’ve known for a while, but I’ve been reminded of it these past few weeks. Sometimes, you have to take care of yourself, because no one else can.
  8. You will always hurt people and you can never be completely fair. Sometimes, the least and the most you can do is to be honest.
  9. I’m still dependent on my parents, and that’s okay. I’ve been putting pressure on myself to be financially independent of my parents and to live as though the savings in my account are all I have to fall back on. But the truth is that I am lucky to have supportive parents and it’s okay to lean on them a little if I need it.
  10. I want to attend NYU law. So it’s a bit early for that, and I’m still applying to a handful of schools in the fall. But I’m increasingly convinced that it’s the right place for me, and that international law is what I want to do.

What are some post-grad lessons you learned? What do you miss about college?

Salut,

R

Remembering Happiness

I'm such a redneck.

The Pennsylvanian outback. I’m such a redneck.

Memory is fragile, as anyone who’s experienced Alzheimer’s will tell you. But memory is also enduring. When you’re dying, life might not flash before your eyes, but you could end up recalling every goddamn ingredient in your grandmother’s secret chicken pot pie recipe. Memory is powerful. A simple taste, smell, sound can take you back to bliss or to tragedy. A long time ago, my friend claimed that there were two kinds of people in the world: those who remembered good things and those who remembered bad things. He said that he was a “positive memory” person. In his earliest memory, he was only a year old. His parents were pushing him through the law quad here at Michigan, and he remembered the sunshine against his face. The only other person I know who recalls such an early memory is a friend who was electrocuted into a coma.

I’ve had a strange relationship to memory, as do many others who’ve suffered. It’s easy to look back and think that life was always terrible. It’s easy to blame the adults in my life for wreaking havoc on my childhood. It’s easy to point the fingers at all the religious fanatics who took so much time I’ll never get back. But the truth is that this isn’t the whole picture. In the midst of it all, I had moments of happiness. Not the happiness I experienced the Sunday of my first Welcome Week, as I threw my hands in the air and sang, “The club can’t even handle me right now!” But a happiness that is whole, nurturing, lasting.

Although my father only lived in Allentown, Pennsylvania for a year, I will never forget the time I spent there. When I’m scared and I’m searching for a feeling of home, Allentown is what I’m homesick for. I miss walking out the backyard and trekking through acres of cornfields. I miss playing basketball with my dad in the driveway. I miss running outside at dusk, catching fireflies in my palms. I miss mountains that you can hike and rocky cliffs that you can look down, reminded of how small and human you are. I miss riding into the sunset and having your adrenaline spike when your guide’s mare catches the scent of a bear and nearly falls into a gorge. Then there was the drive-through movie theater where I watched Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man and Lilo & Stitch and ate Milk Duds while my baby brother slept in the trunk of our SUV. If one day I have to settle down and commit to the American suburbia lifestyle, I think I’d be okay with somewhere like Allentown.

The only other place I get homesick for is China. For Lijiang, the ancient city you can only enter by foot. For Guiling, one of the most breathtaking places in the world. For Wuhan, the city in the heart of the country that my dad has called home for a decade. For supermarkets that have multiple floors and moving ramps you can take your cart down. For department stores that are stories high and contain fashion that horrifies me. For breakfast food courts that sell noodles, dumplings, wontons, pork buns, you name it. Where you can eat for less than one US dollar, which is the daily allowance for an average Chinese. For KFCs that sell egg tarts and soy milk and porridge. For the squash court, the only in the city, that my dad’s best friend built and to which we have lifetime passes. For Huangshi, my father’s hometown, where my grandparents were born.

Guilin China

I think I look like a Communist in this photo. And, of course, the tour guide flag is in the background.

Of course, I must not forget Taiwan. My cousin Jacky’s flat in Kaohsiung that is both expensive and modest at the same time. Hualien, my mother’s birthplace, that is full of mountains and water. Where the same vendor has been selling shaved ice with sweet peanuts since my mom was a little girl. The hotel surrounded in fog, near the highest point of altitude on the entire island. Our room was two stories high and its decor was more Italian Renaissance than traditional Taiwanese. The most famous street in the country, packed with tourists, noodle shops, smoothie vendors, and one notorious sex store. The winding mountain roads that my former-taxi-driver uncles navigate like Nascar racers. The Greek palace that I hesitate to call a hotel, where we played poker and drank Smirnoff into the wee hours of the night. All the restaurants we visited, where every morsel of taro would end up on my plate, as my relatives knew it was my favorite.

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Me, mom, aunt, cousin Jacky. Love how the Asianness increases from left to right.

Excited Rebecca

Excited about trinkets.

Greek Palace

Lounging in our Greek palace, nbd.

Greek Baths

Care to join our bath?

Taiwan_2009_5

We biked many kilometers this day. And we look like thugs.

Highest Altitude Taiwan

3150 meters high, baby! Brr cold.

Itchy Rebecca

Miserable me. Had to stop every minute to apply anti-itch cream. I counted 50+ mosquito bites by the end.

Here’s to happy memories! What are some of your happiest memories?

Ciao,

R

The Writer and the Cowgirl

So it’s the last stretch of NaNoWriMo, with exactly a week left in November! I’m on track with 87,843 words currently, as I’m planning to write around 2000 each remaining day. Today, I almost flipped out when I realized I might have to completely rewrite the second half of my book. In case you don’t remember, my current novel is split into two parts: the first follows the protagonist at 18 years and the second takes place 10 years later. As an infamous “pantser” i.e. someone who does minimal planning before writing, I got myself into a potentially huge hole when I realized that I had gotten some legal processes wrong. I can’t go into too much more detail without giving away spoilers, but basically the trial was taking place in the wrong state. Kind of a problem, wouldn’t you say?! Thankfully, I found a legal loophole that allows the trial to be in the “wrong” state and voilà huge roadblock avoided. For those of you that write realistic fiction, have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? For those of you that read realistic fiction, does it bother you when you know certain events aren’t probable?

As for me, I try to conform to reality as much as possible because the point of my story is that it could happen to any of us. It definitely bothers me when things don’t make sense. Last week, my friends and I went to watch Captain Phillips (highly recommended!) and we couldn’t figure out for the life of us why there wasn’t one gun on the entire ship. Obviously, this is a bad example because the film is based on a true story, but we still wished that they had explained this conundrum.

You guys might remember as well that my agent voiced concerns about the marketability of the novel because of the younger/older voice issue. I finally heard back from her after she’d read the first few chapters of the second part and she loved them. That’s both good and bad news. Good because it’s always nice to hear that she likes my writing and bad because she likes the second part better than the first. Does that mean I should hack up the first part and intersperse it throughout the second as flashbacks? I have no idea at this point and I’m just going to finish up the second part before thinking about it. I’m still partial to my original idea of keeping it in two separate parts, but I’m open to other suggestions.

Well, I’ve talked too much about writing now. Life in general, let’s see…yesterday I went out to Red Hawk with my friends and we ran into my date from last week whom I’d “dumped” over the weekend. A very potentially awkward situation was avoided by the discreet staff who snuck us into the restaurant without being seen. I proceeded to finish maybe 1/5 of my mojito — I think I’m making progress on my alcohol tolerance! Besides that, I’m loving the snow and winter weather. I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving break, but not the three papers and honors thesis stuff I have to finish. Yesterday, I wrote six pages of my autobiography in French. I think the hardest part was figuring out how to say “first grade”, “seventh grade”, and “cross-country running”. I ended up with “en cours préparatoire”, “la classe de cinquième”, and “le cross”. Fabrice, help!

And finally…what you’ve all been waiting for, my transformation from writer to cowgirl. Don’t ask me how it happened and I feel very strange looking at these photos. You can see for yourself. It suffices to say that I was the only Asian cowgirl in the entire show and probably in the history of America.

Okay, okay, you can stop laughing now.

As you can see, I’m much more comfortable in my English gear.

I ended up with two third place ribbons!

À la prochaine,

R

Snow

Winter 2010. I need to use my film camera again.

I really don’t know what I want to say tonight, but I’m sitting here with a lot of feelings, so I thought I’d just write. I hope you guys aren’t feeling neglected — I swear, in the past few days, followers have been dropping like flies! Dearest readers, what is it that I did?! I sincerely apologize. Maybe you are all sick of hearing about my novel and NaNoWriMo. So I’m going to talk about something else today. I must warn you that I’m exhausted at the moment, and this will probably come out as word vomit.

Tonight I want to talk about snow. Despite growing up in Ann Arbor and seeing snow for the better part of every year, the first snowfall never fails to get me. Snow is like the lover I’ve had since I was born, but I never fail to be surprised and ecstatic when he comes to visit. There’s something about a beautiful layer of white on pavement and grass and tree branches that is magical. It makes me feel like everything is possible, like one day blood will no longer be shed and people of all kinds, shapes, and sizes will sit around a fireplace and hold hands and sing Kumbaya.

I’ve been reading too much post-Surrealist Latin American angst. Jorge Luis Borges, the famed Argentinian writer of poetry and prose, has this exquisite short story called “La muerte y la brújula”, “Death and the Compass”. Using the triangular structure of detective, sidekick, and antagonist, he crafts a crime story in which the detective’s complete faith in his reason leads him to his death. In the end, before he dies at the hands of the antagonist, the detective asks him to kill him differently next time and the murderer agrees. The story is Borges’ critique of the Age of Reason and he does it ironically through logical and rational — almost geometrical — steps.

On nights like these, I get the feeling that we’ve all got it wrong. What are we doing with ourselves, living these structured lives motivated by money, status, and entertainment? I think the Surrealists were on to something when they said that this was not life. In our modern world, life is lived on the edges of society, in the shadows, in the slums. When I was young, I lived a fuller life. I had emotions that I’ve long lost. I used to have this particular sensation — I can even remember where I was when I had it — and I would wonder why such a strong feeling had no name in the English vocabulary. I should have written it down, because now I’ve forgotten it. I used to have these out-of-body experiences where I could distinguish between my mind and my body. And then I’d look around me, at the people and materials, and I’d laugh at the absurdity of it all. What would happen if I marched naked down a street in broad daylight? It was only my body they saw — my soul was invisible to them.

Life is pointless if you think about it. The more progress you think you make, you’re only taking steps towards your death. So what can you do? Don’t fight it, celebrate it. In the wise words of Albert Camus, you must imagine yourself happy. Take delight in the struggle.

Tonight, I announce to the world: I am struggling. Shit is hitting my fan from every direction and I can only laugh at it. That is all. Goodnight and good luck.

Hasta pronto amigos,

R

I Can’t Afford to Have Senioritis

Rebecca Pumpkin Picking

What a beautiful time to have senioritis. If only.

Remember back in high school when people would talk about senioritis when they were still juniors? That was me. Right now, as I’m in class learning about the outbreak of World War I (so fascinating and tragic), I just heard a girl (presumably a senior) say that she had a bad case of senioritis. Realizing I hadn’t thought about senioritis since I was 16, I wondered why that was. Well, when I was a senior in high school, I had the comfort of knowing that a spot in the University of Michigan Class of 2014 awaited me. Now, only a heavy uncertainty awaits. That’s a nice way of putting it. The other way to put it is this: I’m freaking the fuck out. I don’t have a job and five-figure salary lined up after graduation. I won’t find out until the spring whether or not I’ve been accepted into the Fulbright or Princeton in Asia programs. I’m writing my third novel with no guarantee that it will ever get published.

Although it sometimes feels like I’m working for nothing, pouring my efforts down the drain, of course it’s not true. With every reading I finish, every homework assignment I complete, every exam I take, I am closer and closer to my college diploma. I used to think that a college diploma was matter-of-fact as a high school diploma but I know now that a college degree is no small deal. Growing up in Ann Arbor, a sheltered town, I took it for granted that everyone would go to college. The truth was that in 2010, my senior year, only 68.1% of students were admitted to college. Of those people who went on to attend college, many would not graduate. Of those that did graduate, few would do it in the traditional four years. The road to college graduation is different for everyone — some have children, some take time off for mental health issues, some have to work to finance their studies. The fact that I’m one and a half semesters away for graduation is not something I take for granted.

As a LSA student, I am well aware that my job market is smaller and more competitive than, say, the computer science market. A few weeks ago, I got excited about the Fall Career Expo and even ordered a special U of M name tag. I never even went to pick it up, but I did show up at the Michigan Union in business casual. After flipping through the descriptions of companies (marketing, insurance, oil companies…and Little Caesars), I gave up and left. They should have renamed the damn thing Ross Business School Career Expo. At this point, until I get into law school, my options are to apply for scholarships. Thank god for programs like the Fulbright and Princeton in Asia.

Speaking of those scholarships, I am happy to announce I’ve submitted both. Both application processes were quite a fiasco. For the Fulbright, I had to teach myself Arabic and pass a placement exam. For Princeton, I had to write four essays, shoot a video, and take four passport photos. But now all my materials are out in the cyber world and the US Postal Service. I know I might not get either scholarship, but I’m hoping that as long as I put a penny in the piggy bank every day, I’ll end up okay.

Anyway, here’s something for your viewing pleasure: bloopers from my awe-inspiring Princeton in Asia video that will guarantee me the scholarship. Not. In retrospect, maybe I should’ve sent in this one.

[youtube http://youtu.be/2gDpY18pIx8]

Ciao,

R