December 31, 2011

Two Thousand Eleven

After the disappointment that was 2010 I decided 2011 was going to be better. It so fucking was.

First, it was a year overwhelmingly full of love. I fell in love with San Diego all over again, discovered a love for running (which I'm working on rekindling as the year closes), and fell ridiculously crazy in love with a wonderful friend who I absolutely cannot wait to spend the next year with. I love my neighborhood, my brat of a cat, my apartment with the bars on the windows, and my new car. I loved seeing my friends move on in adulthood and succeed, paying off the debt I'd carried around since graduation (one of my favorite accomplishments), and seeing my sister get serious with someone who's great for her.

I started off the year by participating in a flash mob. I enjoyed it a ton, even though my roommate got really sick the days leading up to it and wasn't able to do it with me and now that flash mobs are so last year, I can at least say I participated in one. For silliness.

Easily my biggest accomplishment for 2011 was finishing 3 half marathons, 2 5Ks and a 4 mile race for a total of 49.3 racing miles and who knows how many training miles. I bought two new pairs of running shoes, several pairs of dry wicking socks, a running jacket, shorts and an iPod and send a few hundred dollars on entry fees and transportation. I have a small stack of bibs, 3 finisher medals (one of which glows in the dark!), a bunch of safety pins and more technical t-shirts than I know what to do with. It's a good feeling, and when I continue in 2012 I'm gonna try to beat that 2 hour mark.

Probably my second biggest accomplishment for 2011 was not moving. That's right, I had the same address for a full year, something which seriously doesn't happen very often for me. One of my goals for 2012 (a ridiculously easy goal, at that) is to make this address the one I live in the longest in San Diego. I have absolutely no intentions of moving, and unless my roommate decides to buy a place she doesn't either. North Park certainly feels a lot more like home now, and I've learned to appreciate what it offers.

I also was able to find a job in my area, one in which I'm using my degree (and, for the most part, need it) and making a higher rate than I ever have, which, now that there's a car payment, still seems like I'm just getting by. My commute is short, my hours are good, my coworkers are a lot of fun to be around and my boss can be pretty generous when he wants to be. It may not be my dream job, and one goal for 2012 will be to find my dream job, but it's good for right now, and it's helping me learn a lot that's going to help me in the future.

This year was not without it's down moments, however. In a coincidental yet poetic turn of events, the day before my birthday, which just so happened to be a day before the 1 year anniversary of my dad officially cutting me out of his life, I went to his house and gathered the last of my belongings there. It was civil and very quick and I'm glad to have gotten it over with, but it has made the last few months extra full of anger and resentment. Every time I see an older woman with red hair I feel incredible hatred towards these perfect strangers. It's becoming difficult to understand how such hatred can exist in the same place as such incredible love.

It was also not a good year for electronics. My camera battery is 99% dead, and the minute or so that it holds a charge really isn't long enough to take and download even one picture. Also unfortunately, I don't think they make those camera batteries anymore (at 4 years old it might as well be ancient) so it looks like I might have to buy a new one. Lucky for me, however, I have my own personal photographer (ok, he's not my own personal photographer) who is usually willing to take my pictures for me, so buying a camera isn't an immediate need. My computer also took a turn for the worse- a laptop without a working screen isn't good for much. The weird thing is after all the shit I put that machine through it still works perfectly and is way faster than the one I've been borrowing for the last few months, except for the screen. A new MacBook Pro is very, very high on my list of things to buy once I pay taxes. Finally, though this isn't really an electronic, my trusty Hyundai Accent died, forcing me to buy a new car.

Other events this year included two cousin's weddings, a trip to Disneyland, discovering goodies at my farmer's market, the rapture, the return of 90s TV shows, learning to drive stick shift, paragliding, getting my 6th piercing, not cutting my hair (it's super long!), a power outage, and getting more fish. It's been a very full year, and I'm proud to say I achieved the goals I set for myself at the beginning. I'm also happy to be looking forward to 2012, taking steps to accomplish my new goals, and sitting with my boyfriend and a bucket of popcorn as we watch people flip out over the Mayan calendar prediction.

December 29, 2011

Conservation Lows

More than a dozen dead elephants in one box.

This year wasn't a particularly good one for a lot of people, mostly due to the world economy, but it was a particularly bad one for endangered animals. In addition to smuggling, a man releasing his private zoo before offing himself and the essential acceptance of global climate change as legitimate fact, poaching was steeply on the rise in 2011. More than 400 rhinos were poached this year (compared to less than 15 just 4 years ago) and thousands of elephants were killed for their tusks. Millions of dollars worth of illegal ivory was confiscated and showed that poachers are getting smart in the ways they kill elephants and transport ivory to Asia.

Which really pisses me off. As awful as rhino poaching is and as useless as it is (really, Asia? Powdered rhino horn is going to cure your cancer?) at least they believe it has medicinal properties so valuable that they'll pay it's weight in gold for even a few ounces. Elephant tusks, on the other hand, are used purely for decoration. Ivory is carved into shapes (sometimes, for irony, in elephant shapes), used to adorn silverware and handles and added around the house to show off wealth. How fucking vain. Oh, and sometimes elephant feet are also chopped off to be used as a side table to display more wealthy shit. Even ivory. Cause, you know, that's high fashion. And totally worth causing an entire species to decline and untold amounts of pain and suffering.

Again, I'm left to wonder what will happen when these animals do disappear from the planet because, let's be real, it's only a matter of time for most of them. There's only one species of rhino that is doing alright and that's only because of extreme protection, and even they had record deaths this year, and the rest are on the fast track to extinction. I'm still not sure what people will do when there's no more supply of rhino horn... will the existing horns skyrocket in price? Will Asian medicines be altered to include parts from other animals? Will the other animals used in Asian medicine be poached even more (bye bye tigers)? Will people realize they were silly to think that rhino horn or tiger penis had any benefits whatsoever and shrug that they're gone now? Will ivory become even more prized and will people begin hurting each other for a piece?

And what about the rest of us? I'm always one to revel in "I told you so," but (to quote my favorite movie butler/caretaker), "on that day... even I won't want to."

December 21, 2011

Goodbye, Accent

My first car.

Much like when I was 15 and thought my cat would be with me forever, I really didn't think the day would come when I would say goodbye to my car, that I'd be 35 and still driving the car I got when I was 16. That car and I have been through quite a bit in the nearly 10 years I had it: my first job, a tire blowout, moving to San Diego, a near death experience with a dead battery, half a dozen trips to San Francisco, a weekend drive to Humboldt, 15 months of a 90 minute daily commute to Africa and countless (OK, 11) addresses.

My Hyundai Accent was $10,000 new in 2002 and I unwrapped it on the lot. It had .2 miles on the odometer and over the next nine and a half years I put 141,000 more on it. My intention was to run it into the ground and only upgrade when I had no choice. Fortunately, that happened at a time when I was in a position to upgrade. I was able to make the decision to buy a new car rather than be forced to pay for the necessary repairs and go days or even weeks without my car. It's a huge relief to know I won't have to worry about problems or repairs for a good long while, but handing over the keys was a little heartbreaking.

Although, the whole car selling experience fascinated me. For the last month I was under the impression that selling a car was a much bigger deal than selling any other used item, but it really wasn't (for the most part, the same went for buying a car). I posted my car on Craigslist at 6:30pm and it was gone within 3 hours. My phone was ringing off the hook and the first guy to look at it wanted it. My car was barely even working and people were calling and emailing offering cash without even seeing it, which makes me wonder if I priced it a little low (honestly I didn't... the car needs work). I made the buyer sign a form I created myself stating the car was sold "as is" and without a smog check (required by law, but obviously I would have been unable to fulfill that requirement) and signed my title away.

I'm going to miss that car. For what it was, it required very little maintenance and effort on my part, got great gas mileage and despite the noises and quirks I knew it'd get me where I needed to. It was time to say goodbye though, and I hope it'll have a few more years once it gets a new transmission.

Bye, Accent. You were a great first car.

December 19, 2011

Living Alone

Making it.

Exactly one year ago today I started this blog post after reading a hard-hitting New York Times article about the trials and challenges of being young and living in New York City and trying hard to make it. (The only reason I didn't publish was because I didn't save the link to the article and then couldn't find it again.) The point was supposed to be college graduates will do what it takes to live in the city because doing what they're passionate about matters to them, which is not something our parents and grandparents did. I expected to read stories of aspiring actors and artists working multiple serving jobs, taking any role or gig just because it would get their names out there and that's where you start. What I read was entirely different.

The article opened up with an inside look into some kid living in the center of the city, in a tiny apartment, trying to make it, and was quoted talking about sacrifices he makes in order to live where he does (unsafe neighborhood, run down building, no space to turn around). The kicker? His mom pays his rent.

What. The. Fuck. I'm making it on my own as a college graduate in a shitty economy and my mommy isn't paying my rent. I'm working because I have no choice but to live on my own (when I started this post a year ago I had written "I'm working in a crap job because I have no choice"), but I wouldn't want it any other way anyway. My job choice is important to me, like this kid, and I've left jobs before because I was unhappy, but I have yet to let someone pay for my rent or bills because I just didn't like my job or it wasn't what I went to college for. Clearly: I spent over a year of my college educated life driving a broken van part time for just above minimum wage because it was paying the bills at the time. But you know what? My princess cat wouldn't do so well homeless.

The rest of the people they interviewed were at least paying their rents, but 2 of them had professional jobs and just chose to spend their entire paychecks living in a 8X5 room in a posh neighborhood. That's not "oh it's sooo hard to make it in this economy!" That's making a choice and living with the consequences. Hey, I'd have tons of credit card debt too if I ate at restaurants and went to clubs every night, but I don't. I make choices, and I live with the consequences. Not going out means I don't get into debt. Seems worth it to me.

I'm also reminded that the time is just around the corner for those wonderful Christmas letters we get from people we apparently don't speak with anymore because they think we care about the very mundane aspects of their lives. A couple of years ago (or was it last year? I'm getting old...) one relative sent out her family letter and ended it saying how, like everyone, they're getting by and waiting for the economy to turn around, because life got so much harder with the increased taxes on the wealthy and now they have to pick and choose which charities they donate to.

Such crap.

December 18, 2011

Religious Questioning

First thing that came to mind when I did a Google image search...

Not long ago I had a random question about God being omnicient: if God is all knowing and knows what a person will do, what a person will be like and what will happen to a person before that person is even conceived, if God creates a person knowing full well that this person will be bad and will not repent or change his ways at any point during the person's life, why wold God make such a person?

As a Catholic I was raised to believe that all people have free will, and that's why bad things happen to good people, but that even the worst sinners can repent at any time, call Jesus into their hearts, and be saved and welcomed into Heaven with open arms as long as the repentance was genuine- even if it's on a death bed and likely fueled by fear of Hell (which, to hear many Catholics and Christians tell it, is a perfectly acceptable reason to believe in God). So Hitler, who lived with such hatred for a very large number of people, could have called out to God, sorry for the way he lived his life and sorry for the atrocities he caused, and God would have happily called his soul to heaven (I'm going to leave out the fact that most sects of Christians, including Catholics, are supposed to believe all other faiths are damned to Hell, so in that sense Heaven would actually be the perfect place for Hitler).

But there's a huge problem with that logic, if God knows what's going to happen to every person then He should know whether or not a horrible person would eventually repent, and if He knows if a person wouldn't repent why should that person be created in the first place?

Additionally, and this is my mere human logic, why not just not make a bad person, repentance or not? What if Hitler had a moment of clarity before his death and repented to God for his actions? What if Hitler is in Heaven? Leads me to believe, if repentance and turning to God at the last moment no matter what the sins is so important, that God is pretty selfish. Seems pretty human.

I've also been going through some Jehovah's Witness literature (not because I sought it out, because it's been sitting on my boyfriend's table after they talked to him, and he asked so many questions they ended up leaving). The material is supposed to explain why you should want to be a Witness, why it's best to devote your life to God/Jehovah, and what it is the Witnesses actually believe. Sex before marriage is a big no-no (it will undoubtedly lead to disease and an empty, vapid life), everyone should definitely get married, and all married couples should have daily prayer time. The booklet I read had a true life account from someone who grew up in a bad neighborhood (in an impoverished country), got caught up in gambling (he was "passionate about horses") and led a life filled with alcohol, women and bad decisions. He turned to Jehovah's Witnesses and is now married with a daughter. Ta dah! What a great life. Except in the story he says he doesn't hide anything from his daughter and tells her about his past in order to show her what a life outside the Jehovah's can be like. I'm not a parent, but I'm not so sure that's a great idea- all those "I used to be on drugs and was in jail but then I got clean and now my life is fantastic" presentations throughout school only shed light on the possibility that you can do whatever the fuck you want until you decide to adult-up and then everything will be ok.

These things just shed more doubt and uncertainty on the whole religious idea. I know it's the whole point of faith, but having blind faith without real or solid answers is a little difficult. Even when I was a kid I asked "why?" and "because I said so" never cut it. Why would I be different now?

December 7, 2011

A Cynic Falls In Love

This one has a pretty big say in my romantic life.

I feel like I've reached the age where I've seen enough real life relationships succeed and fail to know what makes one work. A few years ago, during one of the times I was contemplating ending things with The Ex, someone told me that if we did break up it would be a successful relationship, that just because the relationship ends doesn't mean it's a failure. A failure, similarly, doesn't just mean the couple split; it could mean they've stopped being in a relationship but haven't split up because they don't have the guts.

Most of the last four months I've been head over heels crazy for one of my closest friends, and although I'd missed being in love and wanted to be with someone I could feel strongly for, the speed and intensity with which it all happened is very unlike me. I'm a cynic. I don't believe in love at first sight, soul mates or destiny. And yet there hasn't been a day since August that I haven't felt powerful. I have that I'm-in-love feeling every single day. No one's made me feel this way about myself before. It's pretty incredible. One of the biggest differences between this relationship and every other person I've been involved with (or know) is that we want the same things. Or values line up, which means there's no automatic end to the relationship. It's not like he's allergic to cats. Or wants kids. Or likes pulp. We have the chance to give it a shot and not assume we have an expiration date or that there would be some huge hurdle to work around. That makes me really relaxed and unconcerned about where it's going or what it means or what we're doing. The big stuff isn't a problem and it makes the little stuff seem... little.

There are things you can't force or fake in a relationship: a genuine interest in what the other person does, a genuine desire to be near him, attraction (and chemistry), a genuine desire to facilitate his life and an appreciation for him as a person. And then there are things you can force, or at least remind yourself to do every now and then: take on an extra chore, let him pick how you spend your Sunday together, use your manners and let the little things go. I'm a volatile person sometimes. I pick fights, I'll argue any point just because I can and I'm proud. I learned a long time ago that I need to put most of that on the back burner if I want to have a meaningful relationship. But it really helps when you genuinely want to make someone as happy as he makes you. And that my cat is just as smitten as I am.

December 5, 2011

Zoom Zoom

So I bought a car.


This was not something I was expecting to do for a while, and not something I was prepared for, but I'm pretty excited about and happy with what I got. It's a Mazda 2, something that's only been around in the states for about a year, the manual sport model (which sounds fancy, but it's the base model because that's what I can afford), and I'm still figuring out how to drive it. My friend helped me get it home the first night and gave me a much, much needed refresher course on how to drive stick (I stalled a good half dozen times before having a successful start) and I've been trying to get the hang of it ever since.

I broke it in this weekend with a trip to Las Vegas. (Hey, I spend ~$15 thousand on a new car I'm not going to spend another $200 on a plane ticket, OK?) There are some questions I have about driving stick, and about driving this particular car, but I think I'll get there quickly.

I'm pretty proud that I was able to do this, and do it 100% on my own. I got a loan from my credit union (which was a BITCH because of my employment status- never doing 1099 again), had a decent down payment saved up, great credit and did all my research in about 2 weeks. On the one hand, it really sucked that as soon as I'm in a position to buy things I want and save up some money my car breaks and I have to get myself into a load of debt, but I'm fortunate that I don't also still have my credit card debt, bad credit, or less than what my current work situation is. It's nice knowing I can do this.

Saying goodbye to my Hyundai Accent isn't going to be easy. I might have given that car a lot of shit in the past but for 140+ thousand miles in 9 years and very little maintenance requirements, even after what would be considered an accident, is pretty great. I did love my little car, but there was no way I was going to rebuilt the transmission. I'm sad it didn't make it to 10 years though, and I'll miss that car. But it's going to be very great to not have to worry about car repairs or whether or not my car will make it on a trip for a good long time.

So if you're looking for a fixer-upper car I've got an automatic 2002 Hyundai Accent that needs a new transmission, battery, tires, brakes and shocks with your name on it.