A Dose of Reality

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It’s been a while since I last wrote, and I’m sorry about that. These past few months have been full of nothing but transitions that I’ve been trying to process. I went from graduating college to moving across the country to start an internship that would hopefully lead to a job offer (which it did) to now living in France to work as an English teaching assistant for a year. It has been a busy few months! Leading up to graduation, all I could feel was fear and sadness. My future was so uncertain and that terrified me. College had been the best four years of my life, and I wasn’t ready to leave the community that I’d built for myself. My friends who’d become my second family, my favorite local spots and the freedom to pursue my passions as my sole responsibility, it was a dream that I never wanted to wake up from. I had friends who had such optimistic outlooks for themselves expecting their lives to continue to be smooth sailing, and maybe for them it could be, but I knew I wouldn’t have that luxury.

Attending Boston University was my first big selfish decision, and during my time there I learned to live for myself and go after what I want without fear. A lesson I don’t regret learning, but I’ve noticed the change in me that has ensued and the struggle my parents endured to give me this luxury. This is how I knew my life after college would be completely different. My parents expected me to excel, to see all of their sacrifices and struggles paid back with my success. The only problem is, I have no idea what I’m doing or what I want. This is something that’s apparently fairly common for recent graduates and people in their 20s, but I feel selfish and disappointing for the delay.

I could’ve had my start; I received a job offer from my summer internship in San Francisco, but I turned it down. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great opportunity with a quickly growing company that offered mentorship and success. The only problem was, I wasn’t passionate about the work. So here comes my big question for life, is that what a job should be, something that’s interesting enough and offers security, but isn’t necessarily the most exciting part of your life? I’m torn, because I know my parents have always hated their jobs. They didn’t have the luxury of going after their dreams or even going to college. They became parents too young and immigrated to the U.S.A from a developing country without speaking English…Their dream was simply to provide food and a roof over our head so that my brother and I could work toward a better life than they had. So is this that ‘better life’? Being a well-educated woman working a job that will lead to a successful career, even if it’s not something I love? Post-graduation, I’m afraid to still explore what I would love to do, because every day I continue pursuing my potential passions is another day my parents have to struggle to give me flexibility.

Of course, my parents would say I’m an idiot, that this is what they worked for and they just want me to be happy. They’re pretty much the best parents in the world, but I feel even more selfish for taking advantage of their generosity. There’s a limit. I believe that after four years of my parents struggling to pay for my university tuition, I’ve reached my limit. I promised myself that taking the English Teaching Assistant job in France would be my last major selfish decision since it allows me to be mostly self-sufficient. But what’s next? I’ve given myself an extra year of excitement, spontaneity and new experiences, but I have no idea what to do after May. I want to get a Masters, I want to continue travelling, I want to continue being exposed to different types of people and having new and stimulating experiences. I want so many things, but accepting a stable job and settling down somewhere makes all of these things seem impossible. Before university, I never thought I would have the luxury of pursuing these desires at all. However, now that I’ve had a taste of it, the rush of exploring into unknown territory, not knowing what’s going to happen or what I will find, I’m not ready to stop. I’ve come to fear routine and stability, the two things that have controlled most of my life, the two things my parents strived for years to attain. For them, routine and stability was the goal. I want more.

So for now I’m drifting. Enjoying my time in France, meeting new people, trying new things and travelling to new and exciting places, everything I want to be doing at this moment in my life. I’ll probably take the exciting job in SF afterwards, or maybe I’ll be able to get my Masters here in France and move here permanently, I don’t know and that’s ok. The fact that my future remains unknown makes it thrilling and terrifying all at once though.

Not My Cup of Tea

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British people don’t joke when it comes to tea. Watching English movies as a kid, I knew that they liked tea, but I didn’t know how ingrained tea is in their culture until I studied abroad in London. I had an internship at a boutique PR agency where my colleagues drank 6-8 cups of tea a day. There was a whole etiquette that went with drinking tea. The most stressful part about my first day at my internship wasn’t keeping up with all of the training that I was receiving; it was learning how everyone interacted when it came to tea. My first day I quickly learned that it is good manners to ask the entire office if they would like a cup of tea when you feel the urge to make one for yourself. It was a small company, and the entire top floor was all women. The space was also completely open, there were no cubicles separating us. The office had three large tables, one for each different department and then a large desk for the founder of the company. Everything and everyone was out in the open and exposed. I worked in the Beauty department, which was comprised of two other interns and two full-time employees. Since there were only about 15 of us in total, it was expected that you extend the tea offer to the entire office, not just your own department.

On my first day my boss, the head of the Beauty department, offered to make me a cup of tea, which I thought was so cool of her since she’s so much higher than me in rank. I quickly realized why English people love tea so much, it tastes so much better over there! I wanted to make a good impression on my first day so when I was craving my second cup of tea, I did what I had been observing everyone do the entire day, I extended the offer to the entire office. Normally I’d noticed roughly three people request a cup of tea when someone extended the offer since it was made roughly every half hour. However when I extended the offer, eight people took me up on it and requested a cup of tea. Eight. I was freaking out. I didn’t know how any of these people took their teas and honestly since I wasn’t an avid tea-drinker myself, I didn’t really know how to make an excellent cup of tea. Trust me, it’s an art for them. I went as low as taking out a piece of paper and pen to write down how each person takes her tea since I’d just met them all that day. My boss made it clear that she was the pickiest of them all. She said, “I want milk, but not too much, just a splash, because I hate it when it’s too milky.” I was terrified of failing.

Making tea is something simple enough that any competent person should be able to do. However, making tea at Starbucks where all I do is throw a teabag in a cup and add hot water is totally different from the way people make their tea in the UK. I tried the best that I could, but I’m pretty sure my boss hated the tea I made her on my first day, because I noticed that she barely touched it. However, when you get it just right, you earn yourself a lot of praise. I’m not joking when I say I watched all of my co-workers to pick up on their tea habits so I knew how often they drank tea, what they said when they were going to make themselves a cup of tea and how each person liked to take her tea. This whole tea culture was completely foreign to me. Although, I assimilated quickly, because the tea over there was delicious. It didn’t take long for me to get to their level of drinking at least six cups a day.

One day however, when I thought I’d already fully adapted to the tea culture, I was in the kitchen cleaning up the plates I’d used for lunch. I had an urge for a cup of tea. It seemed silly to go back to the office area and announce that I was about to make myself a cup of tea and ask if anyone wanted one, since I was already in the kitchen. I made myself the tea and walked back to my computer, which is literally right next to my supervisor’s computer. She immediately saw my cup of tea and scoffed, “I see you made yourself a cup of tea and didn’t offer to make me one. I ALWAYS offer!” I was speechless. She literally called me out in front of everyone for not offering to make her a cup of tea on this one occasion. My blood boiled. I couldn’t talk back to her, because she was my boss, but seriously? I know how diligent I’ve been with asking the entire office if they wanted a cup of tea, since it was such a foreign custom that I had to consciously make the effort to integrate well. This was the first time that I hadn’t offered everyone a cup of tea while I made myself one, because I was literally already in the kitchen when I got the craving. I didn’t think it would be such a big deal. I was wrong. I bit my tongue to avoid saying anything I’d regret, and simply apologized to her for not making her a cup of tea. What else was there to say?

I wasn’t the only person my boss called out for having bad “tea etiquette.” A few weeks later she yelled at another intern for the same thing, but the intern actually talked back and said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, I always offer to make you tea!” My supervisor got so angry that she started yelling at the intern and the CEO who sits roughly five feet away from us intervened and told my supervisor, “Enough is enough, back off with the whole tea thing.” My boss quickly shut up after that. Although, it still baffles me how she could get so angry over the rare occurrence of not being offered to a cup of tea. At the end of the day, she has two hands and two feet that work perfectly, and the kitchen is about ten feet away. Make your own damn tea!

Lost At Sea…but Not Really

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To say that my mother is overprotective is an understatement. My mother had nightmares my freshman year at BU from watching too many cop shows, which convinced her that me living in a city would result in my horrible death. I understand where she’s coming from, I’m her baby girl and her rock. But, even now that I’m 21 I feel like she treats me like a 12-year-old. However, I’ve come to accept that this is going to always be an issue for my parents and me. At this point in my life, with everything I’ve achieved and with the fact that I’m an adult, I would like to be treated like one. My parents simply say that’s it’s part of their job description to worry about me, no matter my age. My father even said once, “Ariana, it doesn’t matter if you’re 50. I’m always going to worry about you so get used to it.” It’s touching, but also kind-of overbearing at times.

I say all of this as an introduction to what happened the last time my mother and I went to Ecuador together. On this trip I was 19 years old. My hometown is a small city on the coast of Ecuador called Esmeraldas. Most of my family lives there. Since it’s a beach city, when we go to visit our family, most of our trip is spent at the beach.

One day my younger cousins wanted to rent one of the kayaks that they saw and go kayaking with me. We all asked our parents for permission and then my 15-year-old cousin, my 13-year-old cousin and I got ourselves a kayak to split for an hour. We kayaked out to sea in the flat water. There were no waves and I didn’t feel a pull from the tide at any point. The three of us pushed ourselves out as far as we dared to go, and then took a quick rest to enjoy the view before we kayaked back. You know, it’s like I have a sixth instinct when it comes to my mother. I felt like something was coming and sure enough, when I turned my head around, I saw a fishing boat coming out toward us.

I couldn’t see anyone on the fishing boat yet, because it was too far away, but I immediately knew that it was meant for us and that my mother was on it, pissed. It eventually got to us, but before it even arrived, I could already hear the profanity that my mother was screaming at me from a distance. I was in for it. The local fishermen on the boat quickly helped us off the kayak as if our lives were in immediate danger, and then brought the kayak on the boat. The shouting in my face began. It was so bad that the fisherman felt the need to intervene and tell my mom that she didn’t need to use so many curse words when speaking to me. They clearly didn’t know what my mom looked like when she was angry. She’s an unstoppable force. I just stood there and quietly took it trying not to laugh, because honestly the whole situation seemed ridiculous to me. We hadn’t even gone out very far and yet my mother felt the need to hail a fisherman boat like it was a taxicab and force them to come and get us.

My mother then went from conveying anger to fear. Sobbing she said, “I just pictured you drowning or getting eaten by sharks.” It was hard to yell back or try to justify my actions when my mom was clearly just scared shitless. So I just shut up and hugged her while she let it all out. I assured her that no shark was going to eat me. The captain of the fisherman boat originally said to my mom and I that my cousins and I were at a safe distance away from shore. Although after one look from my mother, he quickly changed his statement by saying that we were in a very dangerous situation and could’ve easily been killed. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one my mom can intimidate, but I love her anyway. She just suffers from caring too much and how can I possibly complain about that?

Breaking News

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The way my family in Ecuador live life is completely different from the way I live my life here. I’ve been blessed with opportunities and possibilities that most of my cousins will unfortunately most likely never have. Going to Ecuador every two years to visit my family has always been a surreal experience for me. It’s like a different world. When I was younger, I used to wish that I lived in Ecuador rather than the United States. I would have been closer to my family, spoken Spanish perfectly, and at the time I thought that I’d be happier. Life in Ecuador just seemed simpler. My family didn’t have the majority of the luxuries that I grew up with thinking were necessities, so for entertainment my family just talked to each other. Although, my most recent trip to Ecuador showed me that they don’t always talk about everything.

I was 19 years old the last time I had the opportunity to go to Ecuador with my mother. For the first time, I saw a glimpse beyond all of Ecuador’s natural beauty and the idea of my family being completely open with one another. Every family has its secrets, including mine. I guess I just didn’t expect the amount of secrets that I discovered on this trip. One lighthearted story of this reality check happened with my Uncle Oswaldo, my mother’s brother. Him and I have always been close in the sense that he has always really respected me for caring about my education and going to college. It was a big deal for my family in Ecuador; I’m going to be the first woman in three generations to graduate from college.

When my mother and I go to Ecuador we bring a suitcase solely dedicated to presents. We have a very large family who we haven’t seen in years, which equates to an insane amount of gifts. So when my aunts and cousins were trying on all of the cute clothes we’d brought them, I heard my aunt (Oswaldo’s wife) say that she couldn’t fit into the clothes due to the baby. I immediately turned my head and asked her if she was pregnant, because I love babies and that’s exciting news! She had a hesitant pause before she reluctantly confirmed that she was in fact pregnant. I should’ve known then that something was weird.

The next day, my mother, my Uncle Oswaldo, and I went to the bank. My mother went to go speak to an employee and while my uncle and I waited for her, I remembered the news about him expecting a third child. I excitedly congratulated him, wanting to hear the details about the gender and what names he was considering. He looked at me like I had three heads. Apparently, no one had told him the news yet. He immediately said, “What are you talking about? I’m definitely not having a third baby! Your aunt and I aren’t ready for another child yet! No, no and no!” All I could think was, “f***…”

When my mother came back, my uncle went to go talk to an employee about his own bank account. I pulled my mother aside and explained to her the situation. I definitely knew he was going to have a third baby because the baby momma had confirmed it herself. I’d already let it slip so I was afraid that if I didn’t break it to my uncle now, then when he eventually did find out he would remember this moment and realize that I knew the whole time and didn’t say anything! My mom is pretty much a get to the point type of person so she said she would just tell him herself.

Once we walk out of the bank, my mom just nonchalantly puts an arm around her brother and said, “Congratulations on your third baby Oswaldo! Your wife told us the exciting news yesterday!” He almost died from shock. My mom had to repeat it a couple of times before it really sank in for him. Needless to say, he was livid and rightly so. I’m pretty sure he was one of the last people in the family to find out! He mumbled a lot about how he needed to go home and talk to his wife.. I’m sure the talk wasn’t pleasant. My mother, my uncle and I laugh about this moment now, and I have a beautiful baby cousin that’s been added to the family, but my aunt definitely gave me a lot of dirty looks for the remainder of my trip. I hope she learned a good lesson though, any life-changing news that affects her and my uncle…he should probably be the first to know.

Word Vomit

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I’ll admit I have a tendency to say things without thinking, but doesn’t everyone? Personally, I’ve found that that the only time I give serious thought in how I want to express myself is when I’m in a debate with someone and not angry yet. Otherwise, words normally just spew out, and I simply hope that they make sense.

My first week of class during my spring semester of sophomore year, I expressed myself terribly to my new professor. It was my introduction course to public relations; the course that made me realize I wanted to pursue PR as a career. The professor started off the first few lectures by asking the class of around 150 students what we thought PR was.

I like sitting in the first few rows in class. It helps me stay engaged, I can hear the professor better, and I gain more confidence to speak because I can’t see everyone behind me. By the fourth lecture when my professor asked us what we thought PR was, I thought to myself, “I’m smart; I have thoughts! I can contribute to this conversation!” in order to mentally prepare myself to speak in front of 150 peers. After my little mental pep talk, I was ready, and I raised my hand. The professor picked me, and I knew what interesting point I wanted to make about the PR industry. I wanted to point out how now word-of-mouth is viral. People don’t trust companies when they say they’re the best. People trust people. This is why people write recommendations for everything now, and that’s what drives people’s decisions.

I guess subconsciously I had been really bothered by a bad joke that the professor kept making each lecture. He would joke about how he was “the best looking professor” at our college constantly. The first time he said it, it was funny. The fifth time he said it I found it annoying. I have no idea why I said what I said, because it wasn’t even on my mind when I was planning my comment.

When he picked me, I gave a brief explanation about how this word-of-mouth process has become viral and than I said, “For example, I’m more likely to believe that you’re an attractive professor if I saw it on RateMyProfessor.com and you had a red chili pepper featured, than if you keep telling me yourself that you’re attractive.” Word vomit. I couldn’t believe I was saying this as I said it. I didn’t even know where it came from! I was mortified for the both of us.

The professor was taken aback, but handled the comment with grace. First, he complimented me on making a good observation on how the industry is changing, and then he said something that rightfully guilt-tripped me for saying that comment. He said, “As for the whole good-looking teacher thing, I joke about that because it’s actually my biggest insecurity.”

This is why people, including me, should really thoroughly think before we speak. I decided to go to his office hours and personally apologize and luckily he was actually a really cool guy! Sometimes the things I say make me want to smack myself in the head, but I also hear other people speak and take comfort in the fact that I’m not alone in saying stupid things sometimes. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it makes me feel better.

The Non-Magic School Bus

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Riding the bus to school traumatized me. I somehow managed to humiliate myself so badly twice in one semester my sophomore year that I simply refused to ride the bus afterwards and opted to walk home.

I always hated my backpack. It covered half of my body, looked ugly and in my opinion is going to be the cause of future back problems with the 50 lbs. worth of books that I had to take home every night. And it gave me a humiliating experience to boot. I was wearing a cute denim skirt and a short-sleeved button down shirt, because once I got over my emo phase, I felt the need to dress like a young professional. My English teacher complimented me more on my fashion choices than anyone my age ever did. I also opted to be the only person in my entire high school who insisted on wearing high heels to school every single day. I’m short; it’s an insecurity of mine, so high heels were the solution to my problem. People thought it was weird. Last year, my best friend forced me to go out on a double date with her boyfriend and one of his friends. This friend lived in my neighborhood in elementary school; we were playmates, but he didn’t remember any of that. When he saw me, the first thing he said was, “Oh you’re the girl who always used to wear high heels to school!”

Anyway, with my cute little outfit I walked from the back of the bus to the front to exit and I could hear chuckles following me. I got off the bus, and as I started walking towards my house, I readjusted my backpack. It turns out my skirt got pulled up by my backpack strap so everyone on the bus just got themselves a free show. That’s when I started walking home from school.

A couple of months later, it’s pouring rain. I was wearing a dress again, as I often do, and I wasn’t in the proper attire to handle the storm so I decided to take the bus home. I was young and stupid so I made my two best friends walk with me to the bus and prep me for getting on. I hadn’t seen anyone since I let them see a lot of me. I know, I was/am dramatic. I’m finally ready to board the bus and as I took the first step, I tripped and fell and landed in a puddle. This is my life. My friends died from laughter…as did the rest of the bus, again. I was mortified, again. I refused to take the bus after that fall. I literally just walked (more like ran) away and made my older brother pick me up. High school was a rough time in my life that I normally just like to block from my memory.

Slumming it at the Spa

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I have no idea why my mother listens to me. I mean she is my bestie, but when it comes to make it or break it decisions, I’d trust her judgment over mine any day. She apparently feels the opposite.

When I was roughly 12-years-old, my mom won a raffle to get two free facials at a spa. It was really exciting for us, because neither one of us had ever been to a spa in our lives. The idea of being pampered and primped to perfection sounded heavenly.

We arrived at the spa ready for our to have green goo rubbed on our faces. The woman at the front desk directed us to the changing rooms, handed us 2 towels and then told us to come out once we were ready. My mom and I were completely alone in the changing room, but we were confused. My mom thought that we were meant to completely undress and wrap the towels around our bodies. I didn’t understand why we would need to take off all of our clothes and only wear a towel if we were just getting a facial. I suggested that the towel was supposed to be wrapped around our heads to get our hair out of the way. We argued about what we were supposed to do with the towels for like five minutes. Then, we waited roughly 10 minutes to see if anyone else would come in so that we could copy whatever they were going to do with the towel. No one came in.

Logically, my theory made more sense. I mean why would we have to get naked for a facial? My mom finally conceded and went along with my idea. We wrapped the towels around our heads and walked back out to the reception area with confidence. I was wrong.

As I see other people waiting for their appointments, the expressions on their faces was enough for me to know that we did not do this right. The reception lady walked over to us and whispered, “The towel is actually meant to go around your body. Also, you don’t need to come back to the waiting room area, the women who will be doing your facials will come and get you from the changing room. Needless to say, we were both mortified.

My mom was livid. Angry at me for being wrong and angry at herself for listening to an annoying know-it-all 12-year-old. Once we corrected our use of the towels, we both got our facials, which ended up leaving me with dry, red skin because I have extremely sensitive skin that apparently just wasn’t ready to be preened. It was still a fun experience and I got to learn “the protocol” for when one is at a spa.