Friday, September 26, 2008

The Greatest Treasures

Pre-BA, there are exactly four people in this world who love me and I love completely and unconditionally: My Dad, my Mom, my sister and my brother. Now, there are five, but I'm not here to write about BA. This one's all about my family.

Unlike Paris Hilton, I wasn't born with a silver spoon. The complete opposite, in fact. My family had to deal with poverty and hardships in life. We struggled. I won't bore you with excruciating details, but suffice it to say that my present life is a far cry from what my life was when I was a kid. But what I lacked financially, my parents filled emotionally. I was one of the most-loved kids in this world. Believe it or not, I was actually a spoiled child. I didn't do domestic chores, I was sheltered from the harsh realities of life, and my parents rescued me whenever I 'effed' up.

Whenever I think of my Dad, I think of that time when I was a second-grader trying to cross an ankle-deep flooded street to get to my school. He decided that I was too precious to let a drop of water touch my feet, so he enveloped me in a poncho, put on his rain boots and carried me almost all the way to the school (it was walking distance). He had always treated me like an angel. If I asked him to take me to the airport or pick me up from school, trust me, he'd be there. Be it 5 in the morning or 12 midnight. And he's always on time. Sometimes even an hour or so earlier. There are a couple of times in college when I had to work on my thesis until wee hours of the morning and my Dad would be there waiting for me for hours until I'm done and ready to go home.

My Mom loves me with the same ardor. I've always thought of her as the one person who understands me better than anybody else in this world. I've got to admit, I'm a bit moody and hard to put up with when in a bad mood, but my Mom knows exactly what to do. She had always been a terrific Mom. She'd been with me through all my competitions, entrance exams and school applications. I'd tell her things I'd tell a bestfriend. I've cried on her shoulders or over the phone (now that we're miles apart) about boy troubles countless of times, we've watched all kinds of movies - from Braveheart to 9 1/2 weeks and Original Sin(",), and we've enjoyed countless shopping trips. She is a mother and a friend, rolled into one.

My sister, brother and I also have a bond that transcends that of blood or ordinary kinship. We take care of (although I probably did more, since I'm the oldest and I've taken my role as a big sister to heart) and supported each other, and were never jealous of each other's accomplishments. Like most siblings, we have our fair share of fights, but nothing was and never will be strong enough to break us.

I'm thankful for a lot of things in my life. But there's nothing I'm more thankful for, than my family and BA. To me, they are the greatest gifts anybody can ask for. They are... my greatest treasures.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Future Doesn't Shine as Brightly

When you have a significant other who passionately laments the deteriorating state of the economy and rants about the status of the government, you wouldn’t wanna nod in agreement (even though you badly wanted to) and add fuel to his fire. You’d end up creating a full-blown inferno. Instead, you try to act as a devil’s advocate (or angel of optimism?) and calm him down.

There are times however, when you feel an absolute need to vent.

So you do what I do.

Vent in a blog.

When I came to the United States to pursue graduate studies five years ago, I only had high hopes and unbridled optimism about my future. I love my country and was reluctant to leave it, but I had to pursue the path to a better life.... for myself, my current family and my future one. Coming to US feels like the answer to my dreams. It’s the land of opportunities. It’s where the so-called 'American dreams' come true. I was so sure a bright future lays ahead of me.

Fast forward to the present.

I got my graduate degree and landed a great job with a good pay. Now, I have a decent apartment, own a nice car, travel here and there, send money to my family, and shop anytime I want.

Lately though, watching the news about the collapsing economy and seeing people around me get laid off from their jobs, I can’t help but worry. I ask myself, how long will this last? Will I keep my job? Will I be able to lead the current lifestyle that I lead?

I’m usually optimistic about life (as I’ve always been blessed in many ways), but the things happening now are making me apprehensive.

How did US get into this sorry state of financial crisis?

I blame people with wealth and in power. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve come to love this country and consider it my home away from home. The love of my life is an American and our future kids will be one. And I do attribute in part, my better life to this country. But I fear that because of greediness of some people in power, misallocation of funds, misuse of resources, US is going down in depression.

And it’s extremely daunting.

Nowadays, I feel that my future doesn’t shine as brightly as it used to. I feel fear, not only for myself but for the kids that I would bring into this world. I feel fear to the point that I might reorganize my entire life and have kids a little later than I originally planned (or hoped). I’ve been though hardships in life before, and it’s definitely not something I would want my kids to go through.

The optimist in me still hopes though. Hope that this crisis won’t last long and US will get back on its feet soon. Hope that even though we’re at it right now, I’ll keep my job, BA will keep his, and we'll save enough money for our life ahead. Hope that our would-be-kids will have a bright and recession-free future in this country.

One can only hope. Here's hoping that... this, too, shall pass.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Of Dreams and Fairy Tales

I’ve always been a dreamer. As a kid, I had visions of what my life would be in the future, which school I would get into, how my dream house would look like, which places I would explore, etc. I had no doubt in my mind that all my dreams would come true. All I needed was determination and hard work.

Career wise, they came true. I studied my butt off when I was young, and as a result, got into the only college university I wanted to get into, was offered a teaching position after college graduation, got into a US graduate school and had a job waiting for me two months before I got my degree.

My love life though, was an entirely different story.

Even though I was raised in an environment where ‘you-don’t-need- a-prince-to-rescue-you-since-you-can-rescue-yourself’ philosophy was constantly instilled in my mind, the dreamer in me dreamed of living a fairy tale life. I dreamed that I would meet my Prince Charming at a certain age, be each other’s first and only love, get married and live happily ever after. I wasn’t prepared however, to the fact that dealing with love life and dealing with career are two different stories. Hard work and determination’s got nothing to do with love.

I reached my planned age without falling in love. It was a couple of years later that I did. And I was happy. I thought, this was it, the realization of my fairy tale. To my naive heart, he was almost perfect… Tom Cruise look-alike, lawyer-to-be, sweet (or at least, sweet talker), and seemingly in love with me.

Until his one unforgivable mistake.

I was crushed. Coupled with the pain of betrayal, I mourned what I realized was the death of my fairy tale story… I would never be married to my first love. This was definitely not how I pictured the ending to be.

But Survivor Me moved on and Dreamer Me re-wrote my fairy tale. Guided by the cliché, ‘you have to kiss several frogs before you meet your prince,’ I met, dated and kissed a number of frogs in my journey to meet my prince. And boy, what a journey! Wrapped up in my fairy tale and armed with a slightly jaded heart, I found it hard to fall for anybody less than perfect, or who showed the slightest indication to cause me pain. I dumped guys for silly reasons, or for fear of getting hurt. There was that cute guy who’s personality is as dry as dust. Or that rich guy with a convertible car and a jacuzzi at his big house but has curly hair. Or that guy who drives a Lexus SUV and completely insane about me but can’t have kids. And then, there was the guy who I liked tremendously but broke up with before the relationship had the chance to grow - for fear of becoming a rebound girl! With each dating mishap, I plummeted deeper and deeper into the abyss that was my lovelife. In the midst of it though, love found its way into my jaded heart, and I fell for a great yet completely wrong-for-me guy. He’s got an amazing personality but our world’s too different that we’re forced to let the relationship go.

That’s when reality struck me in the head.

There’s no such thing as a fairy tale.

Then, a couple of years later, I met BA. I won’t say he’s perfect, but he’s perfect for me and I love him for everything he is. He’s gorgeous, smart, adorable, genuinely sweet, and completely in love with me. We fit each other like two peas in a pod. I don’t believe in fairy tales anymore but if I still do, he'd certainly be the prince.

On my birthday, he gave me a card that mirrored exactly how I felt for him, "Because of you, the world’s brand new. Because of you, I am too."

As we seriously plan the next chapter of our lives, the dreamer in me can’t help but think… maybe, just maybe, fairy tales do exist.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll have a storybook ending, afterall.

Without Him

BA and I had an argument the other night. It wasn't a big fight, but being the drama queen and the long-term relationship neophyte that I am, I thought that was the end of us. I spent an hour bawling my eyes out, imagining my life without him. It's depressing. I finally admitted what independent Me had been denying for a while... I need him and I don't wanna live my life without him. Life just won't be the same. I'd be miserable. I'd miss too many things.

I'd miss how he'd hold my hand and kiss it. I'd miss his intoxicating smell, his beautiful smile and those deep-set eyes. I'd miss his every day phone calls and 'I love you's'. I'd miss his comforting hugs and passionate kisses. I'd miss running my fingers through his hair. I'd miss being spoiled and being pampered. I'd miss his silliness and sense of humor. I'd miss his passionate laments about US economy and his rants about the government.

It's too long a list if I go on. Suffice it to say, I'd miss him and our love.

I got a phone call right after I got out of the shower the next morning. Apparently, he felt the same.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I *Heart* Ohio

Minus the short eight months that I lived in Pennsylvania, I've been living in Ohio for almost five years now (3 years in Toledo and 2 in Cleveland). And through these years, I have grown very fond of, if not love, living here. This is the place where I have turned into a mature, independent woman, learned the joys of love and the pains of heartbreaks, sweat my way through graduate school, learned to adapt to an entirely different culture and found the love of my life. And this is the place where I'd probably buy my house and raise my future kids. Cleveland (and it's suburbs), where I currently reside, is a city that's neither too crowded nor too rural, and boasts of both trendy shopping malls and awesome hiking trails.

Here's Ohio at its finest...

Kalahari Water Park, Sandusky. This is a great water park! I took my Mom here when she came to visit and she loved it!

Rocky River Reservation. I love hiking, and this is one place close to Cleveland that makes you feel closer to Mother Earth.

Put-in-bay. I've been to this island 3 times in 3 years. It's famous for its bars, but more than that, you can go kayaking, jet skiing, biking or just touring the island in a savy golf cart.

Hocking Hills - my personal favorite. This is where I celebrated my birthday last June and had a blast! I've never seen such beautiful hiking trails. To me, this is the best place to retreat at when you need peace and quiet or when you just wanna commune with Mother Nature.

another shot of Hocking Hills

Cleveland Botanical Garden. Beautiful landscape in the heart of the city.

Crocker Park, Westlake. BA and I's favorite shopping mall. It's trendy and sophisticated, but more than that, it's beautiful at Christmas time with all it's lights and decorations!

Cleveland Air Show, Burkefront Airport. A $20 show that's worth every penny. It only happens once a year so grab the opportunity.

The Art of Giving Compliments

I love being a woman. And like majority of women, I take care of and take pride in my appearance, and enjoy getting compliments for it. There are times however, when a compliment’s delivered in a lewd and creepy way, that it loses its sweet intent.

Allow me to explain.

There was a guy in my apartment complex who tells me I’m beautiful. The first time he said it, I was kinda flattered. The second time, I still was. But the third and fourth time, I started to get annoyed. Especially when he started coming out of his apartment whenever he sees me come home from work! Eventually it freaked me out completely, I looked at him point blank and asked sarcastically, ‘Is that the only sentence you know?’

A year ago, when I started a job in PA, I became friends with a married co-worker. He was the shy and quite type, so I thought he was completely harmless (apparently, I still have a lot to learn!). Since I was new in town and didn’t know a lot of people, I let him lend me a helping hand. In the midst of it however, he started coming on to me. He told me I’m pretty, and in the beginning, I just brushed it off as a pleasant observation. He told me I have beautiful eyes and I still tried to think it was no big deal. But when he (a married man!) told me he liked me while trying to grab my hand… that’s when I drew the line! I got mad and scathingly said, ‘I tried to be your friend. But as my friend, you don’t get to tell me I’m pretty or I have beautiful eyes, you don’t get to tell me you like me, and don’t ever, ever try to touch me again!’

There’s nothing more irritating though, than being hollered at or getting catcalls from construction workers or passersby in the street. Even though these guys shout what were supposedly compliments, to my indignant ear, they sound more like unpleasantries. Call me prude, but being hollered at triggers my feministic tendencies and makes me feel like a piece of commodity with the sole purpose of entertaining men. I usually turn deaf ears but there are times when I had to brace myself as I was so close to shouting, ‘eff you!’ as a response.

To me, sincere, flattering compliments are those delivered in a classy way without any ulterior motives. I was in an elevator on my way to my hotel room after a conference in Virginia, when a cute, early 30s guy got on the next floor. At the corner of my eye, I saw him surreptitiously glance at my direction a few times. He got out of the elevator ahead of me, but before he did, he gave me one last look and casually said, ‘You are so pretty.”. As simple as that! No motive, just stating a casual observation! But enough said. My day was made.

But there are no compliments I love more than the ones I get from BA. Who cares what other people think? In the end, it’s only the people you love and YOU (what you think about yourself) that matters.