Two-part entry!

Part First
Bad news but a fun weekend anyway

Bad news first:
I didn’t get the Mellon. Needless to say, that was very, very disappointing. It’s both reassuring and frustrating to know I came so close to full tuition and fees paid and a $17K stipend, but oh well. I’m not really losing anything, since I never had it in the first place, and it’s good to know I made it so far on an application I filled out with no expectations. Come to think of it, I really should have put some more time into completing my application, but I never expected to even be a contender! There’s a lesson for next time.

I am disappointed, I definitely am, but I’m not distraught. Minutes after I learned I’m not an awardee, I also found out some sad news about a friend of my parents’, which reminded me of how incredibly lucky I am–how incredibly lucky we all are–to have health and happiness and life, and nothing but good things to look forward to. So I’m not dwelling on it. Instead, my prayers go out to my parents’ friend, and everyone else who is in her or her family’s situation. May we all remember to live every moment of our lives, to whatever extent we can, in the consciousness that each moment is a gift, a single instant granted to us once and never to be regained. Our existence is precious and precarious.

Good news:
I did have a fun weekend. Friday night Erik had to work late, so I impulsively gathered up my purse and a jacket and caught the New Voices concert at First Congregational Church, conveniently priced at $10 for students, and conveniently located less than ten minutes’ walk from my apartment. I got to see (and get a hug from) Michael, our piano teacher, whom I’ve been missing, and it was a really nice concert. I think I’m definitely losing my interest in large orchestras in favor of smaller chamber ensembles, and the more intimate performance settings are just so much more enjoyable. A lot of people left after the first piece, Iannis Xenakis’s Medea Senecae, which was the most “modern”–meaning the music was eerie and the percussion very very loud (William Winant is the most enthusiastic percussionist!), and the singers hit rocks together with seemingly random rhythm. Yes. New music. It’s an acquired taste, but one I have indeed acquired, thanks mostly to Erik. Unfortunately for the people who left after this first piece, each subsequent piece became prettier and less jarring, so they really should have stayed, or at least come back for the second half. The last piece, by UC Davis-based composer Pablo Ortiz, was my favorite because it showed off Chanticleer the best. It was a wonderful floaty-sleepy-dreamy setting of two poems in Spanish (and their English translations), and it reminded me of the interludes between dreams in Waking Life. I called Erik during intermission to let him know where I was, and he got into Berkeley during the second half and managed to make it in to hear the last piece. While looking for me, he found Michael, so they got a chance to talk, too. Then Erik and I went to dinner at Tuk Tuk.

Next day I found out about the Mellon, then went to get a haircut and go shopping with Margaret. We both wanted to drastically change our hair by cutting it really short, so we went together for moral support. I got my short cut, but Margaret’s stylist, Misty, talked her out of making such a big change (Margaret’s hair was longer than mine), and now she’s glad she did. After our haircuts, we stopped at A.G. Ferrari so I could get a hot tomato, mozzarella and basil panini. They were having a wine tasting, so we also wound up having some prosecco, pecorino cheese and Easter-egg-shaped truffles. Mm. I can’t wait until I have some extra time and money to make truffles again. We walked, I ate my sandwich, and we got some cool stuff and met a sweet eight-year-old black mutt named Baloo at a yard sale benefiting the Milo Foundation. Then we went to Jeremy’s, where I ended up getting a dress. Ow, I just bit the inside of my mouth while eating peach yogurt with chocolate chips in it. Anyway, the dress wasn’t in my plans, but turned out to be a good purchase because I wore it to Tuyen’s birthday party that night.

When I got back from shopping, Erik made me dinner and Jennifer came over with surprise baklava from La Med. Bad kids that we are, we talked Jennifer into coming with us to the party, so she ran home and changed while we picked up Margaret. It was a fun party. We danced and had fresh churros. They were frying them up outside on the sidewalk. Hard to say no to hot fried dough with cinnamon and sugar. This was the first time I’d been in a party-type dancing environment since I started taking dance, so I was curious how my new training would change things. I didn’t drink anything, and I don’t think I needed it to make me drop my inhibitions–I don’t think I had any. Dance class has definitely made me more confident about dancing in public. Also interestingly, I think the dancing was better than a massage in terms of relaxing my body. I am so so relaxed, even now. I don’t really know how that worked.

I took pictures, so see my haircut, my dress, and some gorgeous girls (and lovely Erik) dancing here. Or check out all my photos here.

[links broken, but I’ve re-uploaded photos of my dress and haircut, below]



Part Second
A thought

One weekend I was in my apartment with Erik and I just started feeling unaccountably sad. This happens to me at least every several days, so I started thinking about where it comes from. What is this “being sad for no reason”? I had this thought of a deep, innate human sadness, unexplainable, but as ingrained and ancient as humanity itself. I imagined early man sitting in his cave, in Africa or Mesopotamia or wherever, feeling this sadness in one of those brief moments between hunting and sleeping and reproducing; I thought of some vaguely Columbian European explorer, sailing to unknown lands on a wooden ship, sitting on the deck and looking over the ocean and feeling this sadness; I thought of myself, here in my happy twenty-first-century life, wondering what reason I have for being sad. So I asked Erik if he thought that this kind of random sadness might just be part of being human. He didn’t. So much for that.

Today, though, it happened again. Maybe because I was listening to a sad song (Loreena McKennitt’s “Full Circle”), maybe because I was reading the New York Times Magazine, on General Roméo Dallaire, and its Lives column, maybe just because Erik isn’t here and it’s Sunday evening and I’ve been sitting in front of my computer too long, the sadness crept up on me again and I found myself steeped in that familiar melancholy. This time, though, instead of imagining all these generations of human beings just being sad, I imagined them being sad and wondering vaguely “Is this all?” And now I wonder if that’s maybe the reason for this sadness. Here I am having everything I could want, pretty much, and yet there are these times when I wonder if this is all there is. And I wonder if that is a societal thing, whether the way human society has always been structured has led us now to a place where we have it all and yet something is missing.

In the beginning, of course, survival was everything. The goal was food and shelter and could successfully reproduce. Much later, survival was still the goal, but on a less basic level. On a good day, farmed food and manmade shelter were givens, and reproduction was easy with those in hand. But one would want to hoard a little extra food, build a little stronger shelter, for those lean times when there wasn’t enough and competition would be the end for the weak. These days, in middle-class America at least, baseline survival is assured, barring disease or accidents, and what everyone wants instead is still to get ahead, get ahead, get ahead. This abstract concept of “success”-whatever we say about wanting to be happy or help other people, I still think we’re going after this “success” everyone talks about. Financial stability, ideally financial independence, some kind of recognition, a comfortable home life, spare time and money to pursue hobbies and interests. Those are good goals, but what bothers me is I think the money part comes first. It has to; without money you can’t do any of the other things you might want to. So we chase the money, wasting the bulk of our lives in unfulfilling tasks. I’ve always had a problem with this, but I’ve never been able to think of a better solution. I think I’m a communist at heart, but I’m also accustomed to luxuries and wouldn’t want to give them up. I sometimes say I think we should all be rich communists; everyone should have a nice life. Who wants to live with the bare minimum? Even people who’ve struggled to survive their whole lives are hoping to eventually get to the American Dream; it’s not Mao-era Chinese village life they’re wishing for. But, of course, communism doesn’t work. Someone always wants more than his neighbor. Some other doesn’t want to do his share. What can you do? It’s human nature.

Because I was wondering whether it’s the society that we live in that makes me sad, I tried to imagine what would be the antithesis. Not communism, but what if we structured our lives around the pursuit of love, passion and happiness instead of money and success? All-around fulfillment as the big goal, not money first so we can look for fulfillment second. I think it’s a really crazy, revolutionary idea. Imagine if all your life you and everyone else in the world worked to make the world as loving and nurturing a place as possible, if social mores were based upon this goal of finding fulfillment and helping others find that. I’m having trouble coming up with concrete examples because I don’t even know how it would work. All I can think is that society would be so different. People would be looked down upon for putting material success first, and praised for following a humanitarian path. This sounds so trite, but I can’t think how else to explain it. But our values would be different. Everyone’s values would be different. And that would change everything.

I still haven’t come up with an explanation for my sadness, and now I’ve become sidetracked by thoughts and memories of watching other people go through deep personal angst and self-doubt over parental or societal expectations, and that was so not what I started writing about. Argh! That’s the problem with everything in this world–everything comes back to the self, and our own little selfish thoughts and problems and needs. ;b

Well, if I ever start a commune to manifest my own particular vision of an ideal world, anyone care to join me? ;b You’ll have to work hard, compromise, and not be boring or self-centered. So far I think that’s all I ask. ;b

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at]