Author Archives: cyc82013

“If Not for RiteAid”

               “Let’s break up.”

               I didn’t look up from my textbook, but I assumed he was reading aloud from his novel again. “Sorry, don’t read out loud right now. I’m almost done with these notes.”

               “No,” he replied. I finally looked up from and saw him looking directly at me. “I want to break up with you.”

               That day, what he said really caught me off-guard, y’know? But I can’t really pinpoint whether it was the timing or the fact that he wanted to break up. Sometimes, when I look back, I think everything was going just fine. Sometimes, I think I saw it coming, that the end of our relationship was inevitable.

               David and I, we were both new to relationships. Didn’t really know what the hell we were doing, but we kept on going and pretending like we knew. There was nothing really between us, and when our friends pointed it out, we always said, “You just don’t understand.” In the end, it was us who never really saw past our own lies. In the end, we should have listened. Maybe we could have been good friends instead of how we are now, estranged.

               I’m starting from the end, but I should be telling you about the beginning, shouldn’t I? It was when I started my part-time job at RiteAid that I first noticed him, I think. I was a sophomore at the time, not really caring about my job since I just needed something to do in my spare time. I regretted it as soon as I started it. I worked in the dingy, smaller RiteAid a few streets down, where no one usually went. I swear, it’s the worse job in the world. I was forced to sit on a stool for hours, and I wasn’t even allowed to look at my phone. Stuff like that does a number on your back, and your mental health. There were barely any customers, so time crawled by. There would be a few regulars like Reggie who swears “the deals in this RiteAid are way better than the one down the block,” and the lady who always came in with sweats and bought a bag of cat food each week (my theory is that she either has a ton of cats or she eats it all herself). Otherwise, the job mainly consisted of me flipping through the store’s catalog, looking at the deals of the week.

               About a month into the job, when working there had hit the peak of dullness, I noticed him. He was maybe the only customer around my age. He would always come in, buying the weirdest combination of things. Once, he bought a container of bleach and duct tape. I was concerned for a couple days that he was covering up a murder (I never did remember to ask why he bought those). Another time, he bought tampons (“They were for a friend!” he cried every time I teased him about it). Soon enough I realized that my eyes would follow him throughout the store as he sped from aisle to aisle. He wasn’t my type—he had glasses, was a bit short and a bit skinny—but I was constantly amused by his perplexed expression when he examined the items in the store.

               I was surprised when my friend Eliza introduced me to him. David Lee. Freshman. International student from Taipei, Taiwan. I could tell he was an international student from his slight accent when he said “Thank you” after paying at the register, but I wouldn’t have guessed that he was a freshman. He had a strong jawline and a deep voice, and he didn’t give off that freshman-y vibe that most have, do you know what I mean? They were in the same dance club and I started seeing him outside of the store more and more frequently. It wasn’t until a week later that he realized that I was the person who always rang him up at RiteAid.

               Eliza and I shared a couple classes, so I would join her study group often. David seemed to be a recurring member, I noticed. Once, by chance, he and I ended up studying alone together late into the night. We didn’t speak to one another. But I think we had both recognized that we could share a comfortable silence with one another. Then Eliza started dating the other boy in the study group, so they hardly showed up anymore. So David and I just started studying together more and more, just the two of us. I guess that led to us getting meals together and talking a bit more. We started hanging out together more and more often. Eventually, it became routine.

               The story of how we got together was strange. Not strange. More like… uninteresting. It was not your typical romantic “I met him in my English class and we got paired up for a project and we just clicked” kind of story. Nothing like “we were in the same club and he surprised me with flowers one day and asked me out.” We declared ourselves as a couple because “study partners” wasn’t a good enough excuse since we weren’t in any of the same classes. People demand a reason for a girl and a boy to spend excessive amounts of time with one another. I don’t think we ever really thought about our genuine feelings about one another. It was sudden and spontaneous, it just happened over dinner one day at the usual Vietnamese restaurant down the street.

               “Don’t you think it’s annoying when people keep teasing us and saying that we’re dating?” I asked, stirring the noodles in my bowl of pho.

               “Sometimes I feel that way. But I’m not usually bothered by it.” He always spoke like that. Always had a touch of formality in his every day speech, the way he was taught back in Taiwan. “Why? Does it bother you?”

               “It’s so annoying! Why can’t a guy and a girl just hang out together? Why do they always have to be dating for that to be acceptable?

               “Would you like to?”

               “Would I like to what?”

               “Would you like to be my girlfriend?”

               “What?”

               “If it bothers you so much,” he answered with composure, “we can just be boyfriend and girlfriend. And then everyone will leave us alone.”

               “And you’re okay with that? With me?” I didn’t know he felt that way. I mean, I was kind of hoping but I was also kind of afraid to find out. I was definitely interested in him at the time but I didn’t think that it was a feeling that was reciprocated. “Are you sure?”

               “Yeah.” Maybe he wasn’t so composed after all. I noticed his ears were turning red and he stopped making eye contact with me. In that moment, I thought he looked really cute.

               “Fine,” I stuttered. “Let’s do it.”

               We didn’t talk for the remainder of our meal, but we held hands on our way back to campus.

               The beginning of our romantic relationship was unorthodox, but I was used to unusual moments with David. If anything, it made things memorable. I remember one day, when we started hanging out together more often, we were walking together—I forget where—and he suddenly turned to me and said, “Fuck you.”

               “Huh?”

               “That’s how you say it, right?” His eyes were absolutely gleaming, like a puppy’s.

               “Yes,” I laughed. That’s how you say it. He was like a child, testing out the new swear words he’d learned. It was the first time I have heard the words “fuck you” without any malicious undertones; it was so strange, hearing it spoken with such pure intentions. Looking back on it, that may have been the moment I first fell for him. The first glance through the unusual lens through which he viewed my too-typical world. I think it was that, his strange actions but genuine purpose that attracted me. It was so different, so refreshing from my cynical cycle of thought. I wanted to learn more, explore more of the world with him and his naïve perspective.

               He really made me reflect on what I thought was commonplace, and I thought that was the most incredible thing. I mean, not every day do you meet someone who makes you feel like you’re living in a whole new country without ever getting on a plane. There was a similar moment around Thanksgiving; it was about a week before break and right around when we started dating. I knew he wouldn’t be flying home for the long weekend and I was having a small get-together in my apartment, I figured he might be lonely.

               “What are your plans for Thanksgiving? Want to come over for dinner?”

               “Thanksgiving dinner? With a whole turkey? Will you have stuffing? And glazed ham?”

               “What?” I didn’t expect such an enthusiastic response. “Uh, a whole turkey might be tough to get, but my suitemates and I might pick up a rotisserie chicken from Pathmark or something. I guess stuffing doesn’t sound too hard to make.”

               “Really? Yes! Please!” Every word was punctuated with excitement, and I gave him a weird face until I realized: “Oh, you’ve never had a Thanksgiving dinner, have you?”

               “Never,” he said, breathless with excitement. “It sounds amazing.”

               It was exciting like that at the start. But as time passed, his lens became clouded for me. I lost the ability to see through them. I realized that nothing we did together was very exciting. We went to museums, we went to conservatories—we didn’t have intellectual discussions about them or anything, we just went and “ooh”-ed and “ahh”-ed. We always did things that required our attention—we never really did anything alone. We were always at movies, restaurants, stores—we never really just sat down and got to know each other closely. But I never addressed that problem, and neither did he. Even after our relationship lost its initial shine and was stripped down to what it truly was—a boy and a girl with nothing in common, spending meaningless, absurd amounts of time together—we kept ignoring it.

               In all honesty, I’m surprised it lasted as long as it did. We didn’t share any similar interests, even. He read a lot and really liked poetry and realistic fiction novels and listening to Bastille. I was always on the internet and messing around on social media sites and freaking out over Korean pop groups. When David and I talked about things, it seemed so meaningless. We talked just for the sake of talking.

               “The weather’s really nice today. I wish I didn’t have class.”

               “My teacher was a jerk today. I hate him.”

               “How was your day today? You saw Eliza? That’s nice. How is she?”

               It was even worse during winter break. He went home to Taiwan and I was home. We talked over Skype, but about more meaningless stuff. A long-distance relationship that lacked any longing. If anything, I was relieved to have time to be completely alone for the first time in a while. But I just thought, “This is natural. This is normal.” I feel so dumb now. I couldn’t even see how sick I was of the relationship.

               Everything turned into a monotonous mush. But it’s weird, because we still spent so much time together. Now that it’s over, I just don’t get it. Why? Maybe we only stayed together because we needed the company. Because it was easier reaching out to one rather than racking your brains over which friend to take, and how many.

               One is simple. One is easy.

               Well, it’s over now. Easy as that. I find myself looking back on it so often, though. I think I only noticed him because I was bored. Have you ever experienced that? Falling in love for a moment, because you’re experiencing such a lackluster life that your mind unconsciously finds something to obsess over? And of course, nothing promises more thrill than a first romance. It felt so liberating, to feel my heart race for the first time in months. To think about something other than work, to have someone special on my mind.

Something new occupies your mind when you fall in love. I’m sure you’ve noticed. You begin checking your reflection more often. You begin planning your outfit for the next day while you prepare for bed. Instead of focusing on class, you’re doodling in the margins of your notebook. You can’t sit still. Your mind is concentrated on this fascinating new person in your life.

You can’t fight it. It just happens. And it is merciless.

When you’re bored, admiration is all the more likely. Some cruel replica of infatuation strikes quickly—and if you’re bored enough, to the point of hopelessness, you mindlessly begin following that feeling. And I’m guilty of that. I can see why.

All of my friends were finding their own boyfriends. Eliza, Christina, Connie—it seemed like everyone had someone. And there was me, stuck in my little crappy RiteAid job. But here comes a boy around my age—intriguing, naïve, charming. Of course I would fall hard.

And David? Well, it turns out David was going through a rough time, too. So bored out of his mind that all he did was visit the library like twenty times a day and eat away his boredom with fattening snacks from the convenience store. Plus, there were few international students that spoke his language. I was one of the only people who could converse with him in his native speech, and that was comforting to him.

I think it’s true to say that, if not for RiteAid, we would have never gotten together. If not for my shitty, boring job. If not for the ridiculous amounts of junk food that David bought week after week. I would have never noticed him “like that.” We would have never ended up in that relationship that was so mind-numbingly boring that David had to end it after four months. I wonder how things could have been different. The conversation in the Vietnamese restaurant would have never happened. Maybe we would have just remained platonic friends in the same study group.

In the end, it just turned out to be a boring love story. 

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Boredom is Ambitious

Boredom: Humanity’s Greatest Invention

               It is clear where boredom sprouts from. Lack of stimulation—long lines, monotony, the absence of challenge, bad movies by bad comedians (I will never let that go, Ricky Gervais), among others. Yet seldom do we consider that boredom may be the greatest thing that a human can have. It may seem like a curse that we defined the concept of boredom in the 19th century, but there is a positive outcome that we overlook. Oftentimes boredom leads us to try new things until we find something that holds our interest enough that it allows us to overcome that boredom. Boredom actually drives people to find their passion, which then allows for ambition. Boredom is, in fact, marked by a lack of ambition. (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00223989909599743) The scholarly article that describes its findings on boredom proneness describes a person who is prone to boredom as lacking ambition, and rightfully so. The researchers understand that people who pursue things that are meaningful to them and have an ultimate goal regarding that meaningful thing are less likely to be bored, because they are focused on their improvement and advancement toward their goal. There is no time for them to be bored since they are constantly looking to advance. The thrill gained from advancement is the key element that allows for advancement in society. Innovations arise, achievements are made—but more importantly, boredom is conquered.

However, boredom guides us toward more than just discovering a single goal in life. It spurs us to seek new things—new knowledge, new wisdom, new friends, new hobbies. By spurring our drive to explore the unknown, we are kicked off the couch and pushed toward action. Before we may flee from boredom, we are required to embrace the new. If we never attempt to explore new concepts, it is unlikely that we can ever find our ambitions in the first place.

We must explore the new. If one decides to remain close-minded to new interests, what remains after you achieve your one interest? Perhaps you will be content with remaining at the top. Perhaps you will be content with having no one else to compete with, to continue growing when you are already the greatest and the most prominent of them all. But even Michael Jordan wasn’t content with being one of the best. He shocked everyone when he first retired from basketball—and right after, he began playing baseball. He kept an open mind to his interests and didn’t restrict himself to an inactive life after retirement. Alternatively, what if you never found an ambition in the first place because you were never willing to explore the possibilities around you? Instead, you grew content with the monotony of an average life and an average existence. Your existence becomes centered on something else—money, fame, comfort; boredom becomes a typical emotion and something to cope with in everyday life, rather than to overcome. This is why we must try new things, so that we may find something new to get caught up with and a new obsession. There is a short comic (http://thisisnthappiness.com/post/66623861491/you-only-live-eleven-times) that describes how, by pursuing our multiple interests, our life can be made up of multiple different lives. We do not need to become content with one lifestyle that becomes monotonous with time. We should not limit ourselves to a single thing in life, but strive to experience as much as we possibly can by pursuing our multiple interests as seriously as we can.

Although the comic shows that these multiple lifetimes involve learning something new, this is not necessarily true. A lifetime can be spend being dedicated to something—dedication is a form of ambition, as well. Sometimes it is forgotten that ambition does not necessarily entail the desire to be the best. Sometimes it is having a focus for which we want to pour in our hard work. Namely, love. Dedicate several years to loving someone deeply, dedicate several years to getting to know someone as much as possible. Love is yet another escape from boredom. Each love provides an opportunity to experience the world through another lens; to love only one person may reduce this experience to only one other experience. The thrill in love in tied with having new experiences—yet, any experience is a new one when experienced with someone you love. Even old experiences are new, because you can view them in a new perspective. Perhaps this is why people consider having one love all your life to be boring, because it lessens the number of new perspectives that you can experience. Yet, if we consider that everyone has eleven lifetimes in one life, you can even experience twenty-two lifetimes with only a single partner for life.

So what significance does this have? Is the best possible life led by an ambitious person in love? This thought causes certain questions to arise. Ambition aside, how much do you have to have achieved before you become bored? How in love do you have to be before it gets boring? The struggle for the top and the experience of deep love are typically experienced by people in their late twenties. These are people who are not yet worried about raising a family, but are invested in their work and are involved in relationships with the intention of finding a life-long partner. It is when a person’s ambition is at its peak because less has been achieved by this person in comparison to older individuals. It is when a person is still in the process of getting to truly know his or her partner. It is interesting to consider that this is why older people are so fond of youth, that it is because it is generally this stage in life during which the least amount of boredom is experienced.

Boredom in Love

If love is a form of ambition, infatuation counts as a method used to attempt to overcome boredom. When we are bored, we are more prone to becoming infatuated with a person. This infatuation takes up the space in our minds, overwriting the boredom. In Mulan, the soldiers think about love and marriage to overcome the boredom of travelling to their destination. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HiqmZLOaD8o) It serves to pass the time, these trivial yet consuming thoughts. Though it is not quite as strong of a feeling, this video shows that infatuation serves as a desire and creates a goal that vanquishes boredom. They experience a light-hearted feeling and the thoughts are quite frivolous.

I can relate to these soldiers, as I had a moment of infatuation in my workplace in October. I had just started working in the school’s cafeteria for several weeks, and work was boring. I wiped tables, and it was insufferably cruel. Walking around in circles cleaning tables that had already been cleaned—yet, clean I must since the managers were mostly watching and there was nothing else to do but be perfectionist in terms of cleanliness.

               In the midst of my boredom, I found myself infatuated with a co-worker of mine. It served as a wonderful distraction from the boredom of my work; time that was originally spent zoning out was then spent wondering what to talk about with him, picking apart every little thing he said, and trying not to trip or look foolish when I walked past. In hindsight, it was clearly a very foolish infatuation. However, it was very effective for me in overcoming the boredom that I was experiencing at work. As soon as the infatuation wore off, the boredom returned as quickly as it had left.

Adolescent Ambition

Adolescents attempt ambition in their desire to overcome boredom. They are trapped between the child’s mindset of finding everything interesting and the adult mind that has determined how to handle boredom in life. Boredom is relatively new to them, so they feel it even more acutely. Adolescents are prone to infatuation and many attempt to participate in extracurricular activities apart from their education in order to satisfy their varied interests. For some activities, this ambition is limited—an athletic career that lasts only for the four years of high school, or acting as the student council president, or dating a high-school sweetheart. These goals in high school do not always carry on into their older age, because they only exist as limited opportunities in their current environment.

College students likely say that high school was less interesting because there is a wider range of potential experiences to try in college. There are more people to meet, and an ultimate goal to achieve. Rather than aiming to study solely for good grades, college students begin studying in preparation for their future career. Their classes pose more interest to them because they are related to their major that they chose for themselves. High school students have little control over their boredom, and fall into acceptance that it is part of life. High school is the time of dreams—it is four years that shapes students into either dreamers or conformists. By the fourth year, students are divided into two groups: those who decide to pursue their desires or and those who never even began to try.

Part-time Job

It didn’t matter that her classmates and friends thought that her job was boring. Didn’t matter that there was no one her age to talk to, or that all she did was sort books for sixteen hours a week. It was her first paid job ever, and she was determined to be the best, quickest book sorter in that the Monroe Public Library had ever had in its 64-year history. No, the best in all of the East Coast. She would aim higher, but she liked to stay grounded to reality.

               She sorted the books so quickly that the covers of children’s books were mere flashes of color before her, recipe books looked like a 30-mph moving buffet line, and science textbooks were a rapid succession of images of frog-tree-skeleton-frog-fern-parrot-microscope.

               She ran down the aisles of bookshelves with her full book cart, moving at maximum speed. Often nearly toppling over or ramming into a customer. A manager would walk by and she would slow her pace to half-speed, but quickly resume running once she was out of sight. She would be the best! The sleepy little library and with its dim lighting was no longer the boring world that it was in her childhood—now, it was a racetrack, and her competition was one-third of the country’s population.

Climb as High as You Can Dream

http://files.sharenator.com/ambition_motivational_posters_useless_as_if_a_fat_1_The_Top_5_Things_Everyone_Loves-s750x600-41535-580.jpg

Do not fall into that trap. Do not listen to what others tell you. Focus on your extracurricular activities. Focus on what you love. Pursue your ambitions while you are young, elsewise you eventually find yourself in a desk job stapling papers. Do extraordinary things, be extraordinary—take that boredom and destroy it with your own two hands. Do not live alongside it whilst you pretend to enjoy your mundane life.

Be inspired by the clichéd motivational posters, and cast aside the cynicism that surrounds ambition in today’s society. People value safety and comfort over failure and determination in this age of the internet—they are satisfied with a boring life. But you—you are different.

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Sunset at Montmajour

Sunset at Montmajour

Many consider art, particularly fine art, to be boring. However, I found that even fine art has a newfound charm once I began to learn a bit of art history and understand the painter behind the painting. It is tolerable and vastly interesting once you examine art deliberately, artist by artist, and getting to know the painters as people versus mere machines to crank out artwork. Consider this piece, “Sunset at Montmajour,” the newly discovered piece by Vincent van Gogh. The average person may only see trees and a partly cloudy sky on what appears to be a pleasant day with a view that is pleasing to the eyes. But to only see that is dull and it is unappreciative of the piece.

To approach understanding of this piece, you must first consider Vincent van Gogh. He was known for being incredibly emotional to the point of near madness, unhappy, yet committed to expressing beauty with his artwork and thus creating happiness for his audiences.

With that information, this painting unmistakably reflects van Gogh’s personality. The many brushstrokes of the shrubbery portrayed in the piece reflect his emotional side; passionate brushstrokes create an image that, though rough and unrefined, is free and lively. The sunrise shows positivity and hope. You must consider that, despite the unhappiness that this man suffered, these paintings reveal a glimpse into the unique, undying hope he has for the world. Knowing that, each piece leaves me with a bittersweet feeling.

Few people now can properly consider the beauty of nature, much less view it with such a vivacious perspective. It is a true pleasure to have the opportunity to view the world through this man’s eyes. Fine art—no, art in general allows this unparalleled experience: to be able to witness the world through another’s eyes. New doors open, from which both happiness and darkness spill out. Entire worlds sprout from the world you have known all your life. The first painting is an introductory handshake shared with a new acquaintance. When you continue to view other pieces of artwork by an artist, you learn more about this person as a human being. With your own eyes, you can see their emotional high points and their low points; and whether it is the subject matter, brush strokes, or color, new details of this person are revealed with each painting. You discover their passion for seas and sailboats, the painstakingly detailed strokes for each individual hair they have painted for the portrait of their loved one, their fascination with how the sunset turns skin pink and purple and yellow and gives it an otherworldly, dream-like image.

Some artists capture the hearts of their viewers with that first introduction. For me, I came to appreciate van Gogh only after I learned more about the man behind the pieces. Otherwise, he comes off as overrated or uninteresting. Why should this man be so highly regarded, a crazy man who cut off his own earlobe? His more famous paintings, characterized by their use of blue and yellow could never capture my affection for his art. But a piece like this which speaks so deeply of who van Gogh actually was—this is a piece that transcends that boredom and allows me to reconsider the his artwork and the artist who I had previously overlooked and undervalued.

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by | November 11, 2013 · 11:03 am