Musical Monday – Part 2

Today’s Musical Monday goes to a song I always find myself going back to, regardless of how many years pass. This song happens to be Hoodie Weather by The Wonder Years.

I have a hard time giving a good explanation as to why this song always makes a comeback at least once a year in life. I think it comes down to some of the lyrics. For example, these are my favorite lines from the song:

Growing up means watching my heroes turn human in front of me
And the songs we wrote at eighteen seem shortsighted and naive
So when the weather breaks, I’ll pull my hoodie up over my face
I won’t run away, run away
As fucked as this place got, it made me me

For some reason that I cannot fully grasp, this chunk of lyrics always hits home. My interpretation of the song in general is people trying to escape where they came from or where they began, but they’re not able to make it so they end up right back where they started. I think this is actually one of my biggest fears. I don’t want to end up where I started; I don’t want to go back home. What I want is to find my own place, and I think my actions so far reflect that. I’ve gone to school and lived in different places, but I still haven’t found a place to call home. My family thinks I’ll end up back in southern New Jersey, and that scares me to think about. There’s not much there for me anymore besides my family and a handful of friends. Plus, there’s a part of me that doesn’t think I belong or fit in there.

I think I listen to this song as a reminder that I may just end up back at that place. It terrifies me that it might be true, but I am who I am because of where I grew up and the experiences I had. Yet, at the same time, there’s another thought that occurs. If I don’t go back, I won’t look at it as if I’m running away; I won’t be turning my back on it. That place is where I began, and it is a part of me as much as I don’t feel connected to it. I’ll learn from it and change. It’s about growing up and not being a child anymore. It’s about taking responsibility of your life regardless where you end up.

I haven’t kept track as to when this song appears in my life, but if I had to guess, it is probably when I either head back home or there is some significant change in my life. I remember last year I was playing Hoodie Weather around the time of my graduation because it was an ending to one chapter of my life and I was going on to internship. At the beginning of this school year I played it as well because I’ve been doing a lot of thinking as to where I’ll end up after finishing my internship. There are a lot of unknowns right now for me, but thankfully, I have time to think about it.

So maybe it’s like this…

This song always comes to me when I’m conflicted of where I’ll end up. I’m afraid of going back, but like the song says: It made me me. A few days of listening to this song and album and I feel like I can brave the storm if comes to going back to that place. I won’t run away. If I end up there, I end up there. It’s not the end of the world. And if I don’t end up there, I won’t just turn my back on it. Sometimes I just need this song as a reminder of that.


Musical Monday (Part 1!)

I’ve decided to do a little thing called Musical Monday, where I talk about an artist or song that has impacted my life in some shape or form. It might also become a day where I just rant about my favorite song of the week or something – who knows.

Today is September 18, which also happens to be Amber Liu’s birthday. (Happy Birthday to our favorite Llama!) Therefore, what better way to start off this whole Musical Monday thing than to talk about Amber!

So here is a little background to who Amber is. She was born in Los Angeles, but moved to South Korea to become a trainee under S.M. Entertainment. She debuted with f(x) – a K-pop group. She’s a rapper, vocalist, songwriter, and dancer. She’s also an actor; she was in the Korean drama called Entourage. She has even done some solo activities. I’m probably missing a lot, and I apologize if something important is missing.

Anyway… I think it has been about a year since a good friend of mine got me to listen to K-pop, and if I’m not mistaken, she did that by showing me Amber and Ailee performing Uptown Funk, which also included Amber’s Shake That Brass. Honestly, after listening and watching, it was probably downhill from there (or uphill, depending on how you look at it). I think she had wanted me to like Ailee, but I ended up relating to Amber a lot more.

One of the reasons I really like Amber is because when you look at other girl groups, she is not what you would expect to see. Basically, she breaks the stereotypes with the way she dresses and styles her hair. She always talks about finding out who you are and expressing and being yourself, and I think this is such an important message to hear in the world we live in today. Amber also has a YouTube show called Ranting Monkey, where she talks about serious topics like dealing with stress and self-expression as well as showing a little bit of her life as a K-pop artist. (Episode 13 and 14 are my favorites) She also has a YouTube channel called What The Pineapple that you should really go check out because it’s hilarious and she also posts covers of songs sometimes.

So now that I’ve basically promoted Amber’s YouTube channel, I’m going to talk a little more about how Amber actually impacted my life.

One of my favorite songs that Amber has done is Borders. Borders is completely in English, and it has a really great message. The first lyrics to the song are: “‘Cause mom said I’d be crossing borders. Never be afraid even when you’re cornered. Stand up straight, fight your way.” This song is basically the anthem to my life and whenever I play it for someone, I tell them exactly that. I found a connection with Amber because I’m not your typical girly girl. I have short hair; I’d much rather wear jeans, t-shirts, and baggy clothes; and my interests tend to be a lot different compared to those around me. Borders is one of those songs that I play when I’m having a rough time. It is a reminder to stay true to myself, which is something that I have always struggled with throughout my life. I have been judged for my looks, and I have had comments said in my direction about my gender and sexuality. I’ve tried forcing myself to dress and act differently, and it made me miserable to the point where I hated everything about myself.

When I was introduced to Amber, there was a shift in my thinking. Suddenly, there was this person I could relate to. I felt a little more confident in my skin and expressing myself. The comments and looks I would get stopped hurting me as much as before. She became this beacon of hope like, “hey, I don’t have to dress or act a certain way to know I’m a girl.” And when I heard this song, it really resonated with me because I understood what she was talking about. For me, Borders is a song about hope. It is about staying strong and never giving up on yourself. So when I need a little more help fighting for myself, I turn on this song and belt out the lyrics until the negative thoughts in my head fade a little.

Another song that I want to point out is Beautiful. This song is in Korean, but the lyrics are heavy. “Those hurtful words deeply cut into my heart. It hurt but I bit my tongue and endured. I know I’m gonna heal and I’m always looking up. Even if it’s dark, I’m gonna find the light.” Honestly, just go read the English translation to the song because it is so good, and there’s a similar message to that of Borders. It shows how she struggled in accepting herself. It takes time to get to that point, which I’m sure many of us have experienced – myself included. Even when you get to a point where you like yourself, it’s still a constant battle with ups and downs. As the song ends with “I’m happy to be myself,” I remember to love myself – flaws and all – because no one is perfect.

So yes, Amber is a great role model even if she is almost two years younger than I am. It’s hard not to look up to her with the messages she gives to her fans. She opens herself up through her music by singing about her own experiences, and it gives hope to those who listen. Her other solo songs are also amazing and you should listen to them as well (like Need To Feel Needed which is also in English and it’s a really fun music video).

Basically, this Musical Monday is one big THANK YOU to Amber for being awesome and not being afraid to be who she is. I hope she had an awesome birthday, and I hope she can continue doing what she loves to do in the future!

(I also realize that this is probably one big mess of writing, but I like to write the way I talk and I ramble A LOT. So I want to apologize if this made absolutely no sense or something.)

Shadow of the Day

I wasn’t going to do this. I wasn’t going to talk about Chester’s suicide, but everywhere I look – every social media outlet – it’s there staring at me. Whether it’s a beautiful cover of one of Linkin Park’s songs (I’m looking at you Amber Liu and Gen Neo), a post or tweet about how Chester and Linkin Park touched their lives, or a tribute to him… it’s there. I’m probably going to say the exact same crap as everyone else, but the words have been brewing beneath my skin, waiting for me to write them down and get them out of my system.

So here it goes: I like to say that Linkin Park saved my life on many occasions.

In my opinion, I was not a cute kid. Being Italian, I had (still have but ya know) thick eyebrows and hairy arms. I remember being teased about it as early as the fourth grade, and the words still hurt to this day. High school wasn’t any easier for me. My priorities compared to those of my peers were vastly different. That separation left me feeling lost and confused. It was like there was a chasm between me and them. Friends I was close to suddenly felt superficial. The desperation I felt only grew through the years. College was marred with depression and trying to change myself. Sports – the only solace I had in this world – became a burden. I met people I could see my own struggles in and I hated it. The self-hatred grew and grew. No one loved me, no cared about me. I thought I was a failure and I was drowning.

In those darkest times, I was at my weakest. My own thoughts scared me. Would anyone even notice if I just disappeared? But Chester and Linkin Park were there. I found solace in their music. It was like they were speaking directly to the young girl/woman who hid the pain she felt every day, and they still do. Listening to their music was a reminder that it was okay to feel the way you do, and others felt exactly the same. It was the validation I craved for. The validation I wasn’t getting from those in my everyday life that I so desperately needed. On those dark days, songs like ‘Crawling,’ ‘Faint,’ and ‘Easier To Run’ (to name a few) were there to distract me from my self-deprecating thoughts that tore me down whenever they got the chance. So I cranked up the music, drowning out my thoughts for the words of another and waited for the pain to die down just a bit.

So, Thank You.

Thank you, Chester, for letting me know I wasn’t alone. Thank you for putting a voice and words to everything I was feeling. Thank you for giving me another outlet for the pain. Thank you for being there when I needed it most and had no one to turn to. Thank you for joining me in the darkness of my mind. Thank you for everything, and I hope you are at peace now. Rest easy and know you have touched thousands of lives. You will be missed.

Live in the Present

“I don’t have time.”

Time – there never seems to be enough of it. Our society seems to rush, rush, rush. We must get everything completed as quickly as possible, so we can fit more into our already busy schedules. Everything is so fast paced that worry seems to settle in if there’s even an inkling that time is passing us by.

I don’t want to rush. I don’t want to worry.

I want to live.

I want to live my life day to day and moment to moment. I want to enjoy my life – live in the present. I want to explore the hidden trails, and find comfort in the bustle of crowds. I want to watch the clouds drifting above while soft music plays from my phone. I want to learn new things, and push my boundaries.

“You can’t afford to waste time on this.”

There’s so much this world has to offer, but if we race from place to place, we’ll miss the beauty of it all.

You’ll miss the four leaf clover by your feet. You won’t appreciate the dandelion growing in the cracks of the sidewalk, thriving despite its difficult environment. You won’t find comfort in the smell of petrichor – instead, seeing rain as nothing but a nuisance. The acts of kindness between strangers will go unnoticed. A kind smile left to fade.

“There’s so much to do.”

There is so much to see, hear and do. There are so many opportunities to live and love, but it is difficult to do when there is never enough time. Yet, we do meaningless things in our day to day lives. Why not take the time needed to be present for once? Take in the world in a new light. Make time to enjoy life instead of worrying there aren’t enough minutes in the day.

Take control.

Notice the little things placed in your path. Take inspiration from them and learn. Sometimes the lesson offered is clear as day, but others require some thought. Don’t let time slip through your fingers. Take a step back and just be.

Keep Looking Forward

When I go out for a run, I always plug in my earbuds and crank up the music. I try to focus on the beats and ignore the burning of my lungs and legs. I do my best to keep my eyes ahead of me in an attempt to keep a decent posture while running, but more than not I end up staring down at the ground so I don’t trip over my own feet. It’s easy to say my runs are a struggle and usually my thoughts are filled with complaining about how hard it is to get back into exercise after taking such a long break from it.

As you can see, I don’t usually do much thinking that really yields anything of importance, but last week was a little different.

I pushed myself a little further than usual one day, doing more than I probably should have since it was a particularly hot and humid day. Bent over at the waist with hands on my knees, my lungs ached and my body was screaming at me for doing something stupid that left it feeling like jello. (It’s not stupid because exercise is good, but my body does not appreciate) While catching my breath, I could feel the sun’s heat on the back of my neck, so I lifted my gaze to the sky, allowing myself to be temporarily blinded until my eyes could adjust.

Maybe it was my exhausted mind, but the light filtering through the green leaves seemed extra beautiful in that moment. Somehow, the sight made me think about my life, and I thought, I need to look up to the sky more often. It didn’t stop there. I thought of my running, and realized I look down at my feet too often in life. I need to look away from the ground and focus on the sky as well as my dreams and hopes of the future. Sure, the earth below my feet is where I’m most comfortable, but I rarely stray from what makes me feel safe. The sky, though, in my eyes held the promise of freedom.

So, yeah, while taking my cool down walk, I had my head leaned back to observe what I have ignored at times. It was silly because walking like that I must have tripped over my feet or stepped in a pothole in the street at least 5 times in that short walk, but when trying to chase your dreams you’re likely to stumble a few times. It made sense to me, but then I looked back down and my eyes fell upon a four leaf clover just waiting for me to take it.

Looking up, you’ll trip and maybe fall, but looking down, you’ll miss the beauty of opportunities.

There’s a simple solution to this, in my opinion.

Just keep looking forward. Not up, not down. Just… forward. Looking ahead of you, you will see the sky and the path your feet are taking you. You’ll still be planted in the present and enjoying the life you lead now, but you’ll still be aware of what’s ahead and the opportunities your life might give you to chase your dreams. And that’s how I plan to live my life from now on, and I guess I should offer nature a small thank you for opening my eyes to something so simple.

The Cybernetic Tea Shop – a review (of sorts)

So here’s some information about The Cybernetic Tea Shop that you need to know. It’s a rather short book (only 65 pages) written by Meredith Katz.

But! Here’s the best part. It has an asexual character, which was the whole reason why I read this book in the first place. And, might I add, this wonderful story did not disappoint me. I think I ended up giving it a 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads because I was just so happy with it.

I don’t want to go into too much detail just in case someone sees this and wants to go read it for themselves, but I’ll just chat about bits that don’t reveal a lot.

Like I said before, the main character (who is female) is canonically asexual. As a biromantic asexual, who rarely finds any characters to relate to, this was fantastic. It has elements of science fiction with artificial intelligence and robots. There’s also a slight F/F relationship within its pages.

I really enjoyed these characters. I was able to connect with Clara, and like I said, that rarely happens. Moving from place to place, losing contact slowly with friends (even your closest friends), never having roots in one place, constantly feeling this itch to move… it hit close to home for me. I don’t think I could ever express how wonderful it feels to have this connection to a character.

I wish the book was longer so I could read more about Clara. I miss her already. Hopefully, I will find more books like this one that I can feel so close to.

Until next time!