To Explore is to Experience

Every time I leave a place, old or new, the part of me that I leave behind gets bigger and bigger until I find myself scattered across the world, trying to get back until I’m satisfied with what I’ve seen. That’s the thing with vacations – they will forever be a moment that passes, a temporary hiccup in your life when a blank slate is placed in front of you and you’re free to paint whatever you want. When I was in Korea, that part of me stayed at our small Airbnb in Hongdae, ready to run downstairs to the 7eleven for a midnight snack and banana milk.

Los Angeles is not what you expect. Coming from the east coast where monotony is either the norm or an anomaly, the only thing I had to compare was what I had seen in movies, pictures, or just by word of mouth. Buildings are spaced further apart than what I was used to, and I found myself using public transportation for nearly any place I needed to go to. People stare and speak as you walk by without a second thought, and it’s almost as if tourists are so expected that it’s just become part of the norm. There were too many things that I needed to try that I felt I needed to be there at least a month before I could truly experience everything I needed to.

I never considered Los Angeles a place that I wanted to stay. The traffic is terrible, and I always seem to lose my sense of direction. The streets are dirty, and it just doesn’t feel like a place I could call home.

So what made this time around so different than the last?

The people – the ones I’d come across by chance and found myself trusting after only moments.

The experience – the nights I’d spent thinking that another day had gone by yet there was nothing for me to worry about.

The way that I felt like – for the first time – that I belonged here. It felt like I was breathing familiar air. I had just been placed into a space that welcomed me, and I was ready to take on whatever came first.

Third time’s the charm, they say, and that may be the case – because here’s that feeling again. The feeling that I’m just in a period of wandering, waiting until I can stay and never grow tired of the things I see outside my window.

I was told once that, while soulmates exist, so do soul cities. Your soul city is where your soulmate is, but the fact that a soulmate isn’t always a lover seems to pass people by. Your soulmates are the ones who you are meant to come across, those who enter your life and change it for the better. I came across more members of my soul group during this trip, and that made my time there so much more rewarding.

From this I learned to make friends wherever you go.

Those who are the most unassuming can be the people who add a little piece of ink to the tattoo underneath your memories, spaces in your being that are reserved for certain people that will never fade.

I was all too lucky to come across the people who I’d love to keep with me until I get where I’m supposed to – no matter where that may be. The soundtrack of my life journey picked up in tempo until the background noise became a symphony, and it was an orchestra they made up around me. The laughter and the stories were the only evidence I needed of their existence, and the pictures were simply surplus.

You never truly intend to make friends, but when you do, you find it difficult to imagine how you used to live prior to their arrival. Making friends, while it is something you’re supposed to have picked up in elementary school becomes increasingly difficult as you get older. After friends coming and going, the amount of trust you can hand out dwindles. Stumbling upon others who don’t make you sacrifice any of your pride for the sake of creating trust are the ones who should say – and they are the ones who will stay.

I left LA knowing I’d be back.

From the east coast to the west with love.

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Step 1: Honesty

Honesty is the best policy.

Or is it?

When I was in middle school, making friends depended on how I spoke and what I spoke about. I talked about things that I thought people liked, and I crumbled even if I didn’t think it was right. In other words, I had two personas – public and private. My public side was very into the current trends, things that the people around me liked. Public Me wanted to make friends everywhere even if that person’s ideas didn’t match my own. Public Me was loud – she wanted to be heard in anyway she could.

Private Me had all the thoughts, the ideas, and the potential but kept it stored away out of fear.

After my first friend purge, my first genuine best friend got me to stand up for myself – something I never actually considered doing. I was okay letting my friends walk all over me if it meant keeping them. Once I stood up for myself the first time, I couldn’t go back.

Why do we assume that people will only like one side of us?

Private Me was a different kind of loud – she was assertive, and she had all the thoughts that needed to be heard. But she saved those thoughts for the Internet or whatever other media outlet she could find. The private side of me stayed hidden within the confines of my computer screen. Then I suddenly had an epiphany –

How could I ever expect to make friends who I’d be willing to have for the rest of my life if I only ever show them one side? And what was the purpose of having both sides? Was I protecting myself? Who was I saving?

I wasn’t saving anyone. I was hurting myself. I kept these thoughts tucked away for the sake of having people around me.

So – honesty first.

Friends second.

It’s easy to talk to people, but what are you supposed to talk about? Do I talk about something I think you’ll like or do I talk about what’s on my mind? To whom do I cater this conversation to? And that’s where my lesson had finally been realized.

I needed to close the gap between Private and Public Me. As time went on, I made the decision to combine the two. The public persona brought the private to light, and the private kept the public from only focusing on what other people liked. There was definitely a result.

People started to tell me I was “real.” What does that mean? I’m being honest, how is that real? Is there such a shortage of honesty in the world that it has become an anomaly? Friends, friends, friends – they all said the same things, and I just let myself continue to be honest.

Honesty, however, does not always guarantee a common thought. I stayed honest, but when my words contradict your own thoughts, I became something else. I was no longer “real,” I was judgmental – I was insensitive, I was inconsiderate. All these things made me think I needed to change again.

But did I really? It wasn’t that I changed over time, but my thoughts no longer consistently aligned with the people around me. Suddenly I became the bad guy. I was no longer “real,” and there became a floating assumption that I’m hiding a part of myself from the world.

Trust me – I’m not.

If I’m hiding anything, it’s something I, myself, have not even discovered. There are no surplus thoughts underneath this image I’ve created for myself. I worked hard to make sure my visage matched my thoughts.

Believe it or not – I’m honest from day one. Until I find a legitimate reason to lie to you, I will not because there would be no purpose. I would be lying for the sake of lying.

Step 2:  Friends, but Step 3:  Consistency.

There’s a reason for this long explanation into why I act the way I do, and here it is.

If honesty comes first, what reason do I have to lie to get people to like me? And hand-in-hand with that, why should I have to fight when someone says otherwise?

Truthfully, there is no reason. If you’re my friend, you’re my friend. I learned just yesterday that the ones who cherish their friends are the ones who stick to their convictions. Childish rumors and hasty actions will not change that. Anyone who has anything to say about the way I act can only know that speaking badly of me will only make the reaction to seeing the truth that much more satisfying for me. Say what you want – you’re still speaking of me.

In this day and age, young adults have all become truth-seekers. In the presence of malice, they pursue the side that makes the most sense, and the side that doesn’t is the one spattered with red in the end.

True or false:  the truth finds you.

False.

You need to find the truth on your own.

“I Am No Stranger to Strangers.”

(Old image featured – 2015)

I am no stranger to strangers.

Every time something shifts in my life, I momentarily forget past occurrences and only look forward. My memory gets foggy, and the concept that “this seems familiar” disappears for half a second.

Thinking back, this is not the first time I’ve heard these words, sunk into these feelings, or received these blows. However, I do know one thing for sure – I’ve finally learned to handle it the way I should.

When it comes to red flags, it may or may not be obvious. For some people I meet, I get this anxious feeling. This particular knot that says,

Be friendly, but do not trust.

And when I feel this, I am sure to be on my guard. Do not get too close, do not reveal too much, and do not let them in.

The second kind of red flag comes in stages. There is a series of yellow flags before the red, and only when the red appears is it too late. When I was younger, I disregarded yellow flags for the sake of giving the benefit of the doubt – something I realized I am more than notorious for giving blindly.

I can recall a memory from when I was 14.

I was visiting a church with a friend who I now call stranger. I sat, feeling out of place when a girl walks in. She walked with confidence, and she had a presence that I admired. She was much older, much more mature than us.

I don’t like her. She’s full of herself. The underside of her hair is blue, and it’s tacky. No one likes her.

As my friend said this, I took her words and applied it over the girl’s image. Yet even as I did, the other young girls my age flocked her and showered her with compliments. In the midst of her mini gathering of fans, she turned to me.

Oh, you’re new! What’s your name? Are you coming here regularly now? I haven’t been here in a while, so I’m sorry if I didn’t recognize you.

I wanted to think she had on a facade for the sake of making a good first impression, but to this day, I really don’t think she was. We talked about her hair, and later she introduced me to her friend with whom I kept in contact with for some time.

From that small experience, I should have known better that your friends’ impressions of people become your own impressions. But what if that wasn’t a real friend? Would that make their impressions invalid?

I am no stranger to strangers.

Once at 10, once at 14, and again once more at 22.

There is no age limit for lessons to be learned. Fate will make you experience the same situations over and over again – same circumstances, different people – same feeling, different words said – until you finally learn which way is the right way.

So what have I learned?

Those who have high standards for whom they trust but who are not trustworthy are not to be regarded, and their impressions of me will not change my impression of myself.

Memories, once invalid, lose all sentimental value. When you originate the initial problem to its start date, all fond and happy moments lose meaning. Now, they are merely occurrences experienced with a stranger. Do not give them weight.

The friend who is meant to stay in your life will never leave. True friends have a purpose in your life, and regardless of the amount of time spent, there is more to be done. They are the non-romantic soulmates who will keep aiding along your spiritual growth. You may not always agree with each other, but you always find your way back. Being annoyed with each other is a natural thing, but if you let that annoyance tear you two apart, then it’s time to say goodbye.

I will not try to save a sinking ship that keeps sabotaging itself whether its intentional or not. The life savers on that ship have been thrown to me, but I will not bend. A sabotaged ship can save no one.

There is a reason why I say I trust my friends blindly.

Do what you want, I am not your keeper.

Make your mistakes because it is your life to live.

I will turn a blind eye to the malice others see because I befriend your character – your being – not your actions.

I trust you with my eyes shut because the moment a line is crossed, I can open my eyes, see you for the person I let you be, and turn away. That blind trust is gone, and you are a stranger once more.

There is no magical place where all lost friendships go. They dissipate into thin air, and life goes on. I let it go, and I won’t hold on.

It isn’t worth saving.

Temporary friends add filter to your vision that you must remove once they depart.

The genuine friends are the ones who keep your sight clear.

Friends Today, Gone Tomorrow

There’s a certain stigma that changes as time goes on regarding who you’re friends with.

The friends you make in college are your friends for life.

Upon hearing something like this, you find your freshman year niche. This is your “posse.” This is the group of friends who you talk to everyday. If you meet up with one, eventually you’re all meeting up. No one is out of the loop: you go to parties together, the gossip you hear is the gossip they hear, and this is where you belong.

The friends you make in your freshman year are not the friends you’ll have in senior year.

Suddenly, things have changed. A year has gone by, and you’ve spoken to one maybe last week, the other you haven’t seen since last year, and the other happily has a boyfriend, one that you only know of through the transparency of social media. Next thing you know, your parents are asking:

“How is he doing? Have his grades gotten better?”

And honestly, the only thing you can think to say instead of lying might sound something like this:

“I wouldn’t know.”

It’s difficult to say, but the pieces of advice we hear about the friends we make is probably why Millennials are so terrified of losing their friends. They are told that now is the time when you make your life-long friends, but when those supposed life-long connections start to weather down until you can’t even remember the last time you have spoken to someone in person, that’s when the fear sets in.

Maybe it’s wrong to say things like that – things that put a time and a place to a time-subjective part of a life. I made new friends this past weekend. I made new friends last year. It really is inevitable to feel afraid to lose someone.

I learned this the hard way, but friends will and should always be at the top of your priority. I distinctly remember being told by a (now) stranger:

“I should be at the top of your priorities.

First is your parents,

Then me,

Then your friends.”

And for a moment, I thought about it. I took the next hour of silence without a reply to let his sentiment sink in because deep down, whether I verbally admitted it or not… That could not be any more untrue.

For starters, family always comes first, but family is on a completely different priority list. That list shouldn’t even include your lovers, your friends, or any other obligation. Family is family. Granted, a good portion of the world has completely forgotten the rest of the statement “Blood is thicker than water,” but still.

Most importantly, let me be clear about this.

Romance is subjective.

Romance fades.

Romantic feelings subside until you’re left being strangers once more. There are two paths for relationships:  either you get married or you break up, and that is a cold bitter truth, but it is – in fact – the truth.

But friendship is not static. I could go an entire year without talking to my best friend from tenth grade, but when I call upon her with tears because of whatever problem I have, she is there to listen, and it’s almost as if that time apart didn’t even exist.

I can make mistakes, and she’ll still be there. If I make a mistake with a lover, he could be gone tomorrow. This all brings me back to what I meant to say:

The fear of losing a friend is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean that the loss itself is inevitable.

Have faith in the real ties that bind.

Tell your friends I said hello.

 

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