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change and yet not

I was talking with a friend recently regarding the concept of “do-overs,” you know, as in what if we had the potential to go back a few years or months or however-long to change parts of our lives. The possibility of re-living (not to be confused with reliving) certain parts of our individual lives due to a warp in the time-space continuum. You know.

Well, unless you’re very satisfied with your life, or have a very accepting attitude, or perhaps have that miraculous ability to forget about mistakes or regrets, you’d probably take me up on an offer for a do-over, right?

To go back to that time you had really great pie at this pie stand and regretted not buying one to bring home. Or that time you ate that peanut butter sandwich that had been sitting on your kitchen table for days only to come down with food poisoning the next day. Or those hours wasted on video games. Or when you couldn’t work up the guts to ask that guy out. Or when you did ask that guy and wished you hadn’t.

But what if I told you that your “do-over” had a stipulation? You could, at this very moment, choose the exact moment in time to rewind to and start your life again from there. However, you wouldn’t know that it was a “do-over” or have any details of your previous life. Nothing to base your “rewrite” on. Nothing to guide you. Sure you’d have moments of deja vu. Who doesn’t? But these could come at crucial moments like decisions about college or at mundane ones while you’re doing a load of laundry. You wouldn’t be able to bank on these moments of deja vu and honestly, you’d probably overlook most of them.

In the end, you’d have no idea if the path you were now following was the exact same path you had traveled upon previously. There are no indications.

But now, if you were aware that this life was a “do-over” life, I think you’d act differently. You would either be incredibly careful or incredibly careless. Would you strategize over every choice, taking so long to make the “right” decision that life would pass you by? That you’d fail to enjoy your second change? Or would you live life to its fullest, college be damned? Would you bank on the fact that there might be another “do-over” in your future?

I believe that many of us wish we could rewrite out own lives to better fit how we want our lives to end up. I do, at least. I wish that I could rewrite it to my satisfaction, smoothing out the rough edges, the not-so-happy moments. But even if I had the opportunity, I’m not sure what I’d do differently. Would I have chosen a different school, a different career? Or would I have done the exact same thing I’m doing right now?

Is this very moment a “do-over”? Are parallel universes just “do-overs” in another temporal and spacial dimension? Someone must know, right? Or not.


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Feel free not to read this UNLESS YOU are BEN FLAJNIK or watch The Bachelor!

First off: Poor Kacie B.  She’s so sweet and nice and so freaking in love with him. And she’d be the PERFECT settle-down wife…which is what you claim you’re looking for. 

Second: Sam was sweet and maybe she was a little too pushy but that poor girl had feelings for him.

Third: How dumb is he?! Courtney’s playing him like a fiddle…with one string. Seriously Ben needs to realize that she’s NEVER gonna give up her modeling to settle down with him in SONOMA. They don’t hire manipulative models in small towns like Sonoma! 

Ben, if you end up with Courtney, you’re an idiot and it will PROVE that you’re not looking to settle down…and that they should have chosen a better Bachelor (I’m still hoping Mickey will make a last minute appearance.) 

Also, Courtney’s a gigantic bitch. If you think that was just her TV persona–good luck with that. There’s no way the producers could have twisted what she said THAT much. She is mean-spirited and manipulative and is NOT friendly. You are looking at a lifetime of bitchiness and an early divorce, Ben. 

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Omg Monique Lhuillier. Can I have this dress?

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Just RSVP’d to a free screening of Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close only to realize that I won’t be able to go because I’ll be stuck bubbling in multiple choice responses on my final.

I’M SO SAD. Why!

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one day

One day I want to be classy. Old and classy.

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uncle john, part two

He was a quiet man and I was an even quieter child. Most of what he said to me had to be translated by my aunt, not because I didn’t understand English, but because I didn’t understand the subtle meaning and intention whenever his weathered hand engulfed my shoulder and comfortingly patted. Honestly, I think my aunt secretly wanted him to be the father figure that I was missing, but it doesn’t work when you’re a guarded child at the age of eight.

But it was always a treat to prolong our nighttime outings by going to his house, this wood cabin that looked as if it had been transplanted from Wisconsin to the suburbs of San Francisco. It was probably the first time I had seen a house this big but inside, Uncle John seemed to dwarf every corner of the house. He was a large ex-military man who, by the looks of it, had stopped hiring a cleaning lady a long time ago. We had to be extra careful where we stepped, as his house was filled with little knick-knacks sprinkled everywhere amongst boxes and boxes of dog food for Quincy.

In all honesty, I was both fascinated by and afraid of Quincy. I had shy eyes and an even shyer smile, but Quincy didn’t judge. To be honest, I don’t think he knew so I was doubly grateful as I often entertained thoughts that he was big enough either to bite my arm off (I was an anxious child) or to give me the unconditional love that I craved as a child. If he wagged his tail enough when I was petting him, did that mean that I was validated as a human being? That everything was going to be alright? I don’t remember what my prophesized outcome was but my prophesizer was a beautiful golden retriever who would lay in front of the large TV in the living room listening to infomercials, unaware that I was reading more into his actions than the situation warranted.

When Uncle John passed away, I was in middle school, old enough to understand the implications but deemed young enough to escape the funeral procession. My aunt didn’t let me see him in his last few weeks (“the hospital is no place for children”) but she told me when he passed away. I remember saying “Oh” in response because what kind of comfort can a young child offer an adult? I had no words for the situation and fewer for her, so I asked her about Quincy. He was to be put down if none of Uncle John’s relatives wanted to take him and I remember thinking that I didn’t know that Uncle John had relatives. I asked my aunt why she couldn’t take him, thinking in my childish heart that everything would be alright if she and my cousin retained a living memento of Uncle John. She told me that it just wasn’t possible and as silly as this sounds now, I think I blamed her a little for his death. I cried then, out of an understanding of the finality of his death or out of social propriety, I still don’t know.

She still mentions him to me every once in awhile, and I think it’s easier to do so because I wasn’t as attached as my cousin was or as unaware as my younger sister, whose flippant “Oh, he took us to see movies” response hurts her sometimes. But it’s still hard for me to share aloud my feelings about Uncle John with her, mainly because of my limited Chinese vocabulary, but also because I feel guilty for having such few memories of him.

Occasionally she asks me to pay my respects to a small memorial altar to him but I mainly fake it. Three bows and a few rhetorical “How are you’s” and I’m let off the hook. It sounds rude of me, but I made peace with his death a long time ago in a true passive’s way: by crying and coming to terms by myself late one night. I don’t know that my aunt would be able to reconcile her idea of paying respects with mine of making peace, but I think Uncle John would have been okay with my method. He would have understood my gesture and known that I loved him, even if I couldn’t say it.

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I went with Karrie to Bricks and Scones to study but I started writing instead. The first thing I wrote on my page was “God, I haven’t written in so long,” so forgive my incomprehensible and convoluted sentences.

When I was young (and this is oft misused as I still retain most of my infantile tendencies), there was an old family friend of my extended family who used to spend much of his own time and money (“Don’t worry, he has a lot.”) to shape my childhood memories. My aunt told me to call him Uncle John and I did, even though he looked to an eight-year-old me to be a white-bearded, ex-military bear of a man, and a name like Santa John would be have been more befitting. He took us, and by us, I mean my oldest cousin and my ragtag crybaby of a sister and me, to movies, to his house, to Sizzler’s.

I remember each of those very distinctly, mainly because outings with him (I found out later, much later, that he was my cousin’s godfather) tended to follow a pattern of scheduled indecisiveness. My cousin, six years older than I, more worldly, coddled, and armed with a forcefully charming personality that she still wields today, tended to make most of the decisions. She chose our movies and I don’t think I remember ever wanting to watch George of the Jungle, but I appreciated her rare cravings for animated movies. My aunt, who often took my sister and I under her wings and babied us in my mother’s absence, would always ask me what I wanted to watch but I soon learned to repeat “I don’t knows” as if they were Hail Mary’s, in vain hope that that would save me from taking responsibility for my choice.

After a while, my cousin soon learned impatience with my eight-year-old self’s answers. To this day, she and my aunt still push me to make decisions (“What do you want to eat?), but I feel as if avoidance is so ingrained in me that it would take a miracle or at least self-assurance to suppress my need to take into account everyone else’s opinions. (What an annoying shortcoming!) At the time, I was unsure of the world—of where the limits of my relationship with Uncle John, her godfather, was, and of the contradictory things I was learning during these outings.

You see, my aunt was a big proponent of choice—growing up as an immigrant from China, she felt that “kids these days” should assimilate well into American culture by learning to be strong and independent—which naturally made our outings very uncomfortable for me. From childhood, my mother had molded me into a firm believer of the “don’t make waves” philosophy, a result of growing up with lessons from a humble woman who needed more help than she ever asked for. I considered the capacity to make choices to be overrated. It wasn’t that I never knew what I wanted–sometimes  I just didn’t care enough to risk an opinion–but it was more that I operated on a different belief system. I held a secret, unspoken faith that everything would work out and that others would just…know, when it came to my choices. (It seemed to make sense to me.) It was this blind trust, combined with an almost pathological fear of speaking up and making decisions that was often present in my interactions with Uncle John.

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