I once received this little nugget of advice: Life is 80 percent blase and it’s what you do with that other 20 percent that really matters. I remember the moment I heard this; I was 21 and in college, finally an adult and I stood on the brink of life-changing opportunities. I decided right then to make the most of my 20 percent.
Since then, I always optimize my frugality to enjoy experiences over acquisitions–traveling the world and becoming a bit of a wanderlust. Not stepping, but leaping outside of my comfort zone to kick fear in the face.
Almost all of that 20 percent stems from my own doing–I make that 20 percent happen. But every once in a while, life hands me a gift I do not work to receive. Below is one of those experiences–my date with a man overseas.
Working on my laptop one evening, I heard Skype ringing and noticed Jesse, a marine serving overseas, on the other end. My heart danced and I felt this wave of nerves rush over my body. My face contained no make-up and my mousy hair desperately needed brushing, but rather than fuss about my appearance and lose the call, I answered it.
“Jesse.” I smiled as I ran my hands down my hair, attempting to comb it with my fingers.
“Hi,” he said. “I was near a computer so I just crossed my fingers and took a chance that you’d be online and accept my call.”
“Why wouldn’t I accept your call?”
“I’m sure you’re sooooo busy with all the dates you go on.”
I chuckled. “Nope, there’s never been a time in my life where I’ve been too busy with dates…I’m still single.” I cocked my head to the right in slight coyness. “Hey, I have an idea. Jesse, would you like to go on a date with me?”
“You know I would. I wish I could be there and take you out.”
“You can. Let’s go on a date right now.”
“Do you have any food around you?” I asked.
I could see Jesse turn his head to his left and speak to someone. He stood up and then returned to the computer with a candy bar. “I got this.” He held it up to the camera.
“Okay. I’ll go get something.” I stood up and shuffled my way into the kitchen, grabbing a package of cookies from the freezer, where I keep sugary snacks hidden. The problem was I hide them there so I just say they are hidden as a way to convince myself not to eat them. (This concept is a work in progress.)
I returned to my laptop and popped open the bag (okay, let’s be honest, the bag was already open) and pulled out a cookie. “Open the wrapper of the candy bar and we’ll share dessert together.”
Jesse smiled and followed my instructions.
“Hold on. I’ll improve the ambiance.” I reached over to my coffee table and lit a candle, moving it front of the computer and also stuck my iPod in a docket and pressed play, letting a little soft R&B coo in the background. “There, all set for our date.”
“I think I’m going to get teased about this,” said Jesse, referencing the fact that other soldiers were not far away.
“I’m sorry. Do you not want to do this?”
“No, I do. It’ll be worth the rough housing I get tonight.”
Jesse and I ate on our desserts and I tried to pretend this two-dimensional date magically transformed into a 3-D one. We chatted on daily musings and Jesse did not offer much in terms of his work. I didn’t know if that was because he couldn’t or didn’t want to talk about it. Both reasons I understood.
The conversation came to a natural pause. Jesse then filled the silence. “This isn’t the same is it?”
“No, it’s not.” I paused for a minute. “You sound disappointed. I’m sorry for such a cheesy concept. I’ve never planned a virtual date before, especially at the last second like this.”
“I am disappointed, but only because I wish I could share dessert with you in person. Eating a candy bar with gross dudes around me isn’t the same.”
“Eating frozen cookies in my alma mater sweats isn’t too sexy either, but you know what?”
“This is actually the best date I’ve had in a while.”
Jesse smiled and shot back, “This is the only date I’ve had in a while.”
“I love evenings of surprises…good surprises I mean. I’ve had a lot of bad surprises lately.”
Jesse frowned. “Sorry to hear that. I hate to be a buzz kill, but I have to go. Thank you for the dessert.”
“You’re a cheap date.” I shrugged.
“Take care.” Jesse winked. “Good-bye Jen.”
I heard the sound of the call ending and my heart dropped a little. I really missed Jesse and wondered what he faced every day, praying he was not in any harm. I blew out the candle and shut my laptop, just listening to the quiet sounds of the music humming and feeling grateful for moments of sheer, unexpected happiness.
Many parts of my personality I don’t understand. I heard a stand-up comedian tonight refer to the Myers Briggs Personality Test and every time I take that test, I fall squarely in the introvert category–no surprise. In any personality test, I generally score in the 98th percentile for introverts–I always thought the other 2% must be the +/- 2% standard deviation rate. It’s the only logical explanation.
Despite my love of alone time, I still don’t understand why I am the way I am–a total engima.
My taste in music
Every word you can think of to describe “quiet” has at one point or another been used to described me. Shy, introverted, “needs to come out of her shell,” stoic, unapproachable. I’m more of an observer than a free flowing talker, or a talker of any kind.
I love old-school hard-core gangster rap. I don’t get it and I don’t know where it started. When I was a child, I asked my mother if I could go see Snoop Dogg. She thought I was referring to the neighbor’s pet.
What I am
An introvert who loves rap, especially rap with incoherent lyrics.
My love of fitness
I love to run. I run marathons all over the world and am always scouting for my next fitness adventure, from Ironmans to short triathlons to marathons in the Antarctic–the crazier the better. Put me on a mountain and tell me to find my way home–that’s my dream vacation.
My favorite thing to eat is dessert. I’ve never tried Kombucha and I think tofu tastes like a sponge. At least I think it does; I’ve never actually ate a sponge. I don’t know what a gluten-free vegan is either–despite spending an inordinate amount of time in Southern California where these types reign the streets.
What I am
A runner who eats cookies while doing crunches–they balance each other out.
My desire for motherhood
As a standard rite of passage in this life, most women feel the need to have and raise a child. I am one of them.
The thing I dislike most in life and am most scared of–more than the typical public speaking and death–is teenagers. I walk on the other side of the street to avoid them. I go to movies late at night on a school night in hopes they don’t populate the movie theaters.
What I am
A wannabe mother who wishes to be put in a coma when my child turns 13 and then removed on the child’s 18th birthday.
And hence, this explains part of the reason I need a therapist. Actually, I don’t need one. I already see one.
I slid the key into my home and flipped on the light. I listened to my steps echo on the hardwood floors as I passed the hallway and into the bare living room, noticing the dust collecting on the ceiling too high for me to reach and the broken blinds swaying against the window. Rounding a corner, I peered into the kitchen to discover a spider crawling out of the sink causing me to scream. I sunk down to the floor, as the place was still furniture less, and hung my head low overwhelmed with home projects.
I now owned two properties in two states—things I purchased from hard work and frugality. Yet in this adult moment, all I wanted was my dad. He knew how to fix stuff and would whip out a make-believe Band aid to make it all better.
He taught me the value of hard work
As a child, my dad used to greet me on summer Saturday mornings in a sing-song voice, jumping onto my bed and proclaiming, “Guess what we get to do today? You get to help me spread bark,” which moved into autumn’s “You get to help me pick up leaves” and winter’s “You get to learn how to shovel snow.” His attitude was very pro-manual labor—not something I wanted in my 12-year-old world.
He taught me resourcefulness
As a teenager, my science teacher was a former corporate litigator who woke up one day with an epiphany: Leave his high-paying job and become a freshman science teacher. This should give you an indication of the type of teacher he was, and I struggled to understand the concepts he taught us. My dad, trying to help me with my homework, took apart his waterbed (which should also be an indication of how long ago this was) and used the various parts of the bed as visual aids to describe the term “fulcrum” until I understood it.
He taught me to try new things
In my 20s, my father went through a “ninja” phase. Half of his face would appear in a doorway and he’d say in a hushed tone, “You can’t see me. I’m a ninja.” “Really dad?” I asked. “Then why am I looking right at you?” He’d then disappear because, you know, that’s what ninjas do—or so I was told by my father, aka the ninja. Normal families would wonder if their dad’s gone mental. But I didn’t live in a normal family. In my family, we’d shrug our shoulders and go on with our day.
He taught me to use my imagination
Now in my 30s, I often visit my parents out of state and take early morning flights back home. At 5 a.m., my father is an abnormally chipper person. He sings and makes up haikus as he drives me to the airport; I should feel impressed at his literary skills and the fact he even knows what is a haiku in the first place, but nothing impresses me at that hour of the morning. I did not inherit my father’s “morning person” personality.
It’s funny the things you remember, and the things I remember are pretty funny. I have my dad to thank for that. Someday I will lose my father and I used to think that was the worst thing that could happen. But over the years I realized, no, that’s not the worst thing. The worst thing was to never have been his daughter at all.
Thank you dad for always fixing things.
I wrote you a haiku:
My dad is crazy
I inherited his height
Hair? Not so lucky.
It’s probably best not to close on a poorly written haiku, but I’m going to anyway.
Happy Father’s Day!
Above the garbage cans! Let’s compost our $10.99 juice.
Nothing spells “Yum-O” like vegan written on a can of soda.
I spent the day visiting Encinitas, a small town north of San Diego. Walking down Highway 101, I cannot count the number of men sporting dreadlocks and the amount of yoga studios populating the side streets. As a Northwesterner at heart, I appreciate those who live the fanatical, healthy lifestyle—but I can only get behind so much of it. For example, this describes the Encinitas Whole Foods—a grocery store for health nuts with deep pockets:
1. I wanted a Diet Coke. Desperately. The heat + humidity sucked my energy level and I needed a quick pick me up. However, Diet Coke ceased to exist, but I found Stevia-containing generic-brand “Cola” stocked on the shelves. Gluten-free, preservative free, sugar free, coloring free and taste free!
2. “Kombucha on Tap”. Yes, you read that right. On Tap. Plus, the employee fancied herself a kombucha connoisseur so I could ask questions about flavors and kombucha pairings. My question?…. Why?
3. Chocolate bars lined the walls and immediately enticed me. That is, until I read what type of chocolate: Paleo chocolate, Alternative chocolate (Which is? Alternative to taste?), Ginseng chocolate and many more.
4. The cost of juice. One normal-sized bottle of juice cost between $9.99-10.99. One bottle.
5. One of those expensive juice bottles contained chia seeds, like actual seeds. It looked a bit like liquefied bird seed, but someone turned off the blender too soon and the seeds floated around in orange-colored juice.
6. My friend purchased Yerba Mate, which I mistakenly pronounced “Mate” like, G’day Mate. FYI: It’s mah-té.
Gimme a Diet Coke!
These roommates found $40,000 inside of couch seat cushion and returned the money. That’s very impressive and honorable. The luckiest you’d get with my couch is some pieces of Lucky Charms cereal and maybe a nickle or two.
I admire those who show honesty in their dealing. That amount of money would solve a lot of my problems. Would you do the same?
I very much dislike fire. A lot. I always kept a safe distance from fireworks and never even liked to hold sparklers. I lit a match once in my life during sixth grade camp because my grade depended on it. I don’t even own any candles and use the safety of a Febreze bottle to make my home smell good. Candlelit tables at restaurants are supposed to create an ambiance of romance. Instead, I blow out the candles and refuse to let the waiter re-light them. (Granted, I don’t have that much experience at these types of romantic restaurants. Full disclosure: this happened once.)
When I was a child, my nightly prayer consisted of “Please don’t let our house burn down or my family get shot or mugged.” Every. Single. Night.
In short, I really hate fire. But now, I hate fire even more.
I watched the images of homes burning to the ground in San Diego, multi-million dollar homes. Although all homes are invaluable, the hard work people put into their lives to purchase such luxury is just devastating to watch it all go up in flames, literally. People will say, “Oh, it’s just stuff.” But the truth is, your home is your sanctuary—usually the most expensive piece of your life. It’s full of memories and irreplaceable treasures. Photographs, jewelry passed down from generations, kids’ artwork from school, yearbooks…homes aren’t only full of couches, chairs and televisions sets easily reinstated with one trip to Ikea.
Yes, we do have our memories, but your memory also at some point disappears. I’m not looking forward to that time in my life. (Although I do have some memories I wish I could remove from my brain right now.)
Tears came to my eyes seeing these homes and the blackened aftermath. I pray for them and know they will rebuild.
To make this post a little more uplifting, there is one positive part of fire.
I ate really bad fish and chips, enjoyed the touristy changing of the guard, and stayed in a hotel room so small I can stretch out both arms and touch both sides of the walls. I couldn’t even open my door all the way because it hit the bed. Good news: I couldn’t fall out of bed; I’d just roll over to the other wall. I also didn’t have the ability to walk around the room, which was great because I can’t walk anyway from my marathon injures.
Apart from my own kitchen, I don’t think I’ve eaten food as terrible as what I ate in London. Good thing London has good musicians and good literature to offer the world.
I attended the Book of Mormon musical at London’s West End. Now THAT part of the city offers the best people watching–if you’re into very good-looking men and women with very bad teeth.
I did something kind of crazy and hopped across the pond to do a marathon in Ireland with some airline points. That’s two marathons in less than a week. You think I’d be smart enough not to do that, yet here we are.
It did not go well. It was actually my worst race ever. I got my worst time and then hyperventilated at the finish, collapsed and passed out. I was rushed into the medical tent via wheelchair and had blood work and all kinds of tests done. They almost had to contact my family in the US.
Then as I was walking back to my hotel I started to pass out again. I was holding onto a lamp post to keep me up when I watched a girl walk into the street in front of oncoming traffic and try to commit suicide–right in front of me!
I dubbed this race “Murphy’s Law Marathon.” Here’s why:
At mile 13 I stepped on and killed a gecko. So not only do I feel sick, I feel guilty, too.
I ran out of nutrition because I didn’t expect to be in the race so long.
I lost my lucky sunglasses in the medical tent, which is just as well because apparently they aren’t so lucky anymore.
There was a 100% chance of 40mph winds, which meant there was a 100% chance I’d be miserable. I was.
I saw a girl try to kill herself, which is kind of ironic because that’s what I was telling myself all during the race: I just want to die. Then I watched someone try to do die and I realized, no, I really don’t want to die. I won’t say that again.
I blacked out. That’s never happened.
I finished. That was the good part.