falsely justified bullying: realization

Something that I have come to realize about certain bullies are that they make the most ridiculous excuses to antagonize somebody else. I can immediately think of two instances of this, one in fifth grade, and one in senior year of college. In fifth grade, there was a boy, I’ll call him Phil to keep things discreet, who went out of his way to bully me. We were classmates and it just so happened that I was being annoyed a lot by somebody who I will call Mickey (not his real name, obviously). Mickey would like to touch other people, which I found gross, so I would often yell at him and call him out for it, telling him to stop, because it was unpleasant. However, our teacher felt like Mickey was being picked on a lot, because Mickey was socially awkward and nobody felt comfortable around him. Our teacher would tell everyone to look out for him, even though he was obviously harassing others and found enjoyment in doing so, because it was attention nonetheless for somebody was felt neglected. Phil took it upon himself to then bully me as well, claiming he was doing so to protect Mickey. He would call me ugly, a donkey, and other ridiculous insults every single day. I would not even open my mouth sometimes, and he’d still go out of his way to do this, just because I yelled at Mickey before, and I was repulsed by Mickey’s really inappropriate tendencies. Phil argued he was doing right, but he was no better than I was, nor did he even listen to that rationale.

I remember that just moments before I broke down crying, because I felt like I was being harassed to that degree, I called Phil out on his actions. But he then called me an ugly donkey, per usual, and then went on to say that I deserved the treatment I was receiving, and then went on to say a lot of things in Korean, to which my Korean classmates then laughed about; it was obvious that he was throwing insults at me, and again, he was being the very thing he was claiming to be preventing/defending against: a bully. Obviously, Phil had a lot of pent up aggression and anger that he was refusing to express. Instead of channeling that in a healthy manner, he took to bullying other people, i.e. me, and he obviously did not care about Mickey. He just wanted to vent, and used Mickey being isolated as an excuse to do so. It was highly ironic, because Phil was as much a bully as me to Mickey, or Mickey was to others. I don’t really know what happened to Phil after elementary school, because he transferred out of our district. All I remember was that he did get sent to the principle’s office, not for making me cry, but for enabling/empowering Mickey to touch other people and it just goes to show that again, he did not have Mickey’s best interests in mind. A true friend would not be bullying other people’s bullies and ignoring the main issues at hand, in this case, being that Mickey was physically harassing other people. They would help the victim out, and while standing up to an antagonist helps, there’s a proponent to reflecting on actions and trying to understand why somebody is getting bullied or bullying that needs to be done for everyone to actually grow as people. Phil could have just told me to stop yelling at Mickey. He did not have to go as far as bully me every day, calling me names and demeaning my physical appearance. He could have also told Mickey to stop touching other people too. But instead, he just manipulated the situation and used it so he could become a bully himself.

The other situation happened to my friend, who I will call Lily. While she was their vice president, she still got bullied in college by an Asian student group, or more accurately, by select members of said group. She had a conflict with a guy, who we will dub Harry, who was passive aggressively slinging insults at Lily. And when another member of that group, who I will call Clancy, hear, Clancy went as far as publicly screaming at Lily in front of other members of the student group. Clancy claimed that the reason why he was allowed to do this was because he was being a good friend to Harry, and that Harry was too nice to express his discomfort towards Lily. Obviously, this was a lie, since Harry was openly rude and showing animosity to Lily, and Clancy himself did not need to take Harry’s conflict into his own hands, nor did he need to even mention being a good friend, which obviously shows where his true motivations lied behind: himself. He wanted to feel good and he wanted to prove to everyone that he was a loyal friend. And he would go as far as to vilify Lily to make himself look like a hero. Clancy did not care that Harry and Lily were butting heads. He wanted to exert his dominance, as somebody with more seniority and higher presence than either of them. He was self-important, and quite frankly, an instigator. He wanted every conflict to center around him, so that he could “resolve” the issue, by isolating one person to generate more respect for him from the other people involved.

I won’t even bother getting into what Clancy did to me, because I am trying to be less self-important than he is, but I can say from that personal experience that people like him are not interested in hearing all sides of the story before making judgements or actions. When it comes to dealing with conflict, or antagonists, there is a fine line between actually resolving the issue or becoming a villain and escalating an already toxic situation. Both Phil and Clancy did that by essentially hijacking a conflict that they were not really involved in, just to get some sort of buzz out of antagonizing somebody. That to me is not being a good friend nor is it even being a good person. It is characteristic of somebody who has issues, either deeply ingrained in them, and likely from a source that does not even pertain to the current subject matter or conflict in question. In short, they have chips on their shoulders, and rather than dealing with their own problems, they choose to lash out on other people, and use whatever excuses, being conflicts between two people, that they can to justify their actions, to put themselves on a higher horse, and to feel empowered as a bully. To live a healthy life, it is more important to tackle your own inner demons and address them, and at the same time, do not get involved with conflicts unless they somehow affect you directly, otherwise, you’re just stepping into somebody else’s problems, and putting your own stake into a situation you did not need to. Being able to know who to talk to, and how to approach a situation, that is important to living a feather light life.

 

 

 

 

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learning where to draw the line: realization

Something I wonder is if somebody’s actions are genuinely as reprehensible as I feel they are. The context is that during my senior year in college, I was “friends” with a girl, who I willy just name Holly, to hide her real name. Holly and I were not terribly close, but she often hung out with my roommate at the time, and because of that, I would basically see her every day, and we would talk often; she was transferring into the same major as me, so I wanted to help prepare her and let her know what to expect. But I got the vibe that she was not even interested in hearing that. She just wanted to get into my roommate’s pants. And then, of course, the whole incident between me and my roommate happened. Surprisingly, Holly was one of the few people who actually tried to find me when I attempted to jump into the ocean. But she did not say a word when she did find me. She stared at me, with these eyes that I could not discern if they were filled with judgement or worry. Shortly after the incident, she went on to date my roommate.

This is where the situation got awkward for me. On one hand, I appreciate the fact that Holly cared enough about me to come find me, especially when she did not have to. However, knowing that she would date somebody, knowing that the person she had feelings for was capable of doing that to another human being, that to me screamed out very bad judgement of character. And on top of that, most of my subsequent encounters with Holly were simply just her giving me these long, silent looks when she would see me on campus. As if I did not deserve to be in school, but rather, shipped off to some institution. It was a lot of passive aggressive treatment. It went from her liking all of my posts on social media to her judging me. Clearly not understanding or willing to hear my side of the story in any of this, as she thought that I was this bad person, and that she was doing my ex-roommate a favor by dating them, as if doing so was part of their healing process. To me, it was obvious bullshit, for a lack of better words. She wanted to date my roommate from the get-go. I saw through it, and even when I was still friendly with my ex-roommate prior to the incident, I expressed support for their relationship. But that was before the incident, and before I realized what kind of heartless human being that I was living with.

Things took a turn for further awkward, because first off, I graduated. So I went about my post-student life as a working adult. I kept Holly on Instagram just because she was not terribly active on it anymore. But then in January of 2018, she started posting pictures. Of her in the hometown of my ex-roommate. I was obviously triggered and without a second thought, I un-followed her from social media. Now, it might all seem trivial now, and even as I am typing this, I am actually laughing because it sounds so silly. But in that moment, I felt that same anxiety, because I was being reminded of a person and a specific incident I was trying to forget about. And seeing her dating that person, it was very unsettling for me. All I could think was that Holly was a moron for rewarding somebody so undeserving of her company with her love, attention, and affection. It was not necessarily jealousy, but rather, frustration because my ex-roommate was milking being a victim of a situation that they had a huge part in escalating just to date her. And she was buying into that, and drinking the Kool-aide. But after the un-follow, I started to forget about them again, since I had no further contact.

That was until I visited my college town again to catch up with friends, and to my huge annoyance, Holly’s relationship was brought up, yet again. Like I really needed to hear about it. Full sarcasm intended there. They broke up. Which would be good for her, because the ex-roommate turned ex-partner for her was honestly a coward and a troublemaker anyways. However, it made my relationship with her awkward. I wonder if she did wrong in the first place by dating her, and if this was an action that even needed my forgiveness to rectify, or if I have a right, as somebody who was wrongfully attacked and misbranded by her ex, to not like her as a person, because she chose to date them after what transpired. It is one of those complicated situations, where I wonder if, since they are no longer dating, if I should continue to think of Holly as somebody who supports bullying and immature behavior, or just let bygones be bygones and not let the past affect the fact that she is somebody who cared enough about me to look for me when I was in a dark place, despite her body language telling me that her intentions were for my interest, but rather, to look good and impress somebody else. For now, I continue to keep my distance, not to run away, but rather, because Holly lives in a completely different time zone than I do, and she is just a character of a very twisted part of my past. Either way, the line I drew was to cut her off, which is what she did when she chose to date a bully. So I have to live with that choice for now, as that acceptance is a part of my feather light life.

 

 

 

 

 

progression vs regression: realization

The saying “old habits die hard” really hits home with me from time to time. I notice an unusual cycle with my life, in recent years, where I go into a state of isolation, driven by butting heads with somebody I thought was a friend. As a result of cutting ties with somebody like that, I wind up giving off airs of confidence to hide my loneliness and anxiety, as well as regret and guilt for destroying a friendship. And when that emotional baggage becomes too much to bear, I crash. Depression hits like a train, and I unravel. I keep thinking that I can overcome this cycle, but it seems like I get caught into it as quickly as I get out of it. And I wonder to myself, am I really overcoming these bad habits, or just taking a break from them? When did this start happening to me? And why does it happen to me? I have to dig deep, and really think back when this started.

Elementary school. First grade to be exact. I had a group of people who I thought were my friends. They definitely weren’t. They used and abused me. And I had separation anxiety when they finally abandoned me. I wanted to fill that void. And I filled it with anger and rage. A desire to ruin these antagonizers’ lives. That really hijacked a huge portion of my early childhood, even stemming into parts of middle school, where I was able to prove my worth, and expose their lack of it. Then I hit a slight slump, where my life plateaued because my desire to push myself was no longer there. I just wanted to excel to spite those people who hurt me. And in senior year of high school, I wound up feeling this emptiness and regret, for being so unprogressive with my accomplishments, first and foremost, not realizing that what drove a majority of my desire to succeed was revenge. And that resulted in me fighting with yet another friend, who I was close to. And it set off another bout of anxiety and depression. And from that, it stemmed into a desire to thrive again. I wanted to prove to that ex-friend I am better off without their attention or their time, when in reality, I was trying to cope with that loss.

In college, I thrived yet again. People knew who I was, because I was so determined to put myself out there, and establish a reputation for being this capable, reliable, and well-liked personality. And yet, another fight happened between me and somebody I thought was a close friend, during my junior year. It was stressful, and I guess in a turn of events, I was angry before I was hurt. My rage allowed me to accomplish more, including a business minor, Dean’s list, and getting on board for four different student organizations. But then, the loneliness kicked in again. That sadness of knowing that I cut ties with somebody who I really thought was my friend. And that led to the very indecent that actually spurred me to starting writing in a blog, something I feel a bit tired thinking about. But ultimately, the cycle I have noticed is that I get into a rut, get hurt, then angry, then vengeful, which drives my successful, but once I achieve what it was that I set out to prove, I plateau, and feel lost and confused. That confusion gives birth to yet another rut, and from there, I question if my entire life will be built upon disproving horrible people and working off my rage and frustration.

What I realize about this entire, horrible cycle that I have lived my near 24 years of life around is that there are a ton of awful people out there. And that is what this world is. A bunch of scumbags, but amongst there, genuine gems of human beings. People who do care, who will sacrifice, and go out of their way for those that they care about. And the people who manipulate, use, and hurt others. Something I still have yet to fully learn is how to ignore the latter in my quest to fill my life with the former. How to not let those fake, two-faced, abusive, or toxic personalties affect me to the degree that they do. How to achieve things not to escape from a problem or to spite somebody and prove that they were morons or idiots for doubting me. While yes, realization is one key step, the next important step is to practice what I preach. To sound out the baggage and to not allow it to define me anymore. While it is hard, it is necessary to make that progression and to burn the bridges that enable my regression. I will need to do that, to live my feather-light life.

 

 

 

 

 

Bad Together: Afterword

I started writing Bad Together almost an entire year ago (November 4th, 2017 to be exact) when I heard about a really bad breakup between two of my classmates in college. Between that as well as my own breakup, and a bad date that I had in October 2017, it just felt like a story that needed to be written. It did take a while for me to finish it, because I just felt like there was a bit of a disconnect for me after a while, because I refused to date and therefore, the feelings of rejection, frustration, and aggravation I used to fuel the story when initially writing this went away. Eventually, October crept up on me, and I just had to finish writing this (at that point, I was about 16 chapters into the 25 chapter story). The story itself took a while to write, actually a lot longer than the other stories I’ve written (I even wrote Regulus and finished writing that story before I finished this one), but I think it is one of my favorites just from some of the characters that were in it alone. We had some dynamic personalities, and I really enjoyed writing from certain perspectives because of that.

For the main characters, I knew I wanted to have two. Jamie and Farina were directly inspired by the classmates I had in college, but with just slight alterations to their names and for Jamie’s case, a change in ethnic background as well, while for Farina, the girl she was inspired by was a model turned graphic designer, but beside the extremely slight name change and the career adjustment, she remained essentially the same as she is in real life. In Jamie’s case, he is confident and capable, full of charisma and able to accomplish a lot. Finding a vice for him was tricky, but I felt like a lot of people who exude confidence tend to have trust issues with people who they let really close to them; in short, they have a level of insecurity when it comes to making friends and having loyalties. For Farina, she was this wayward free spirit, who appears delicate and quiet, and unfortunately suffers from self-esteem issues that stems from her being a model. She felt like she was objectified and therefore, wanted to stray away from being just a model so that she can prove that there’s a person underneath. Farina being withdrawn was why I was aiming for this almost underdeveloped personality, just to denote that she is still incomplete as a person.

For the supporting characters, we had Andy, as well as Patricia and Olivia, who were Farina’s friends. Andy was more of a central character, which is why he had so much development. I wanted everyone to really understand that you can come from a tough background but still make it as a successful person. His brotherhood aspect with Jamie was there to really give Jamie somebody to rely on for emotional support. He was there for Jamie unconditionally, and it also shows how Jamie is somebody who goes out of his way to care for others, and how that charisma led to Andy’s unwavering loyalty to his boss turned friend. For Patricia and Olivia, honestly, I was not expecting them to play any real role in the story when I was writing it in the first place. However, they both grew in their roles because Farina needed a similar support from what Jamie had in Andy, and that’s where the need to develop their backgrounds and roles arose. It might be very apparent that even giving basic exposure on those two was an afterthought, just from the sole fact that what they wanted to do for a living or what they studied in school was only addressed in the very last chapter. However, they offer a great dynamic with each other and with Farina, with Patricia being the optimistic one and Olivia being the more stern. Both of them show different sides of what a loyal friend can be, but both of them show that they deeply care for Farina nonetheless.

Now my absolute favorite character to write was Jessica. She was an absolute train-wreck to the point where anything that she came across would immediately go wrong. What I loved about her was the fact that the moment she appeared in the story, she moved the plot along, for better or for worse, it did not matter. She was an extremely effective plot device and worked her magic in vilifying everyone in the eyes of one another, while almost always avoiding being called out for her scumbag tendencies until she eventually got arrested. Even then, Farina would never find out that Jessica was the root of her problems. That portion was not necessary to move the plot along, since all Jessica was there to do was plant the seeds of doubt, create a storm of trouble, then walk away. The idea of her meeting her end by arrest was not initially planned, but I had to find a way to effectively cut her out of the plot once she had progressed it enough, which is why she got sent to jail in the end. I also wanted to address what had actually happened to her too, since she was one of my favorite characters in the story and I wanted to make sure that her arc would be finished and given proper closure.

Overall, Bad Together was an intense story to write about, compared to stories like Damn Real or Sky Bird, where the plots were more lighthearted and fun. It did tackle similar coping themes to Road Movie, even including the need for therapy, but I wanted the relationship to progress differently than Dakota’s story wound up. It was a story that I had to write, since it tackles the themes of infidelity, distrust, anxiety, and poor coping, and I wanted to write it in honor of those two classmates, since there was a time that I cared for both of them, before we wound up growing apart with time and distance. The themes I listed are actual problems that we as human beings deal with. The theme of toxic relationships was extremely important to address as well. Often times, we try to vilify the other party in a toxic relationship, thinking that they are just abusive or crazy, and write it off as just that. But there are instances where both people in a toxic relationship are actually good people, but that they simply can just bring out the worst in each other. In that case, it was Jamie only caring about his own goals, and Farina not being confident enough to value or pursue her own being the two bad habits that spiraled out of control in their relationship. While this story did end with the toxic relationship no longer existing, there are definitely some instances where you can make them work, granted that will probably take relationship counseling or external, professional help. 

Bad Together: Chapter 25

“Hi, London, and you all ready to get down?!” The D.J. shouted into a microphone. “YEAH!” The crowd roared. They were in a large dark room with multicolored strobe lights, flashing sporadically. “Then let’s turn it up!” The large beats started pounding through the club, shaking the entire building. “Wow, it’s crazy to think that this place just opened and it’s already this packed.” Olivia and Patricia looked at each other. “Wow, it’s crazy to think that you two, of all people, would want to go to a club.” Farina laughed at her friends. “Well, it’s better to live once than never.” Patricia shrugged. “I guess years after we’re no longer irresponsible students.” Olivia smirked. It had been two whole years since the three had finished college, but all three of them were living together in the city, working in London, and still a major part of each other’s lives. “I mean, I wish we could all have it as easy as you do, Ms. Art Director.” They looked at Patricia, who was a director for a gallery in Peckham. “I mean, I’m proud of that, but what about both of you? Olivia, you’re also killing it!” Patricia laughed. “I mean, it sounds glamorous, the London Metropolitan Museum, but it’s not that special to be a curator.” She shrugged, “Oh shush, both of you. At least you’re both employed.” Farina laughed. “You’ll get something soon. You killed it as Ms. Honey and you’re still nowhere near peaking.” They both smiled at the Taiwanese girl, who had made headlines a few months back when her performance as Ms. Honey was impeccable and surprised everyone. “Asian Ms. Honey steals the show.” Olivia quoted the article on DailyNews proudly. “Oh shush. Can we talk about something else?” Farina almost begged, trying not to get flustered and embarrassed by the flattery. “We have a long line ahead of us. What else can we do other than shower you with praise?” Patricia giggled. “Plus, you’re already in contention for a much bigger role, potential Ms. Rachel Chu.” 

Granted, Farina’s mind was more preoccupied with callbacks than the arduous wait to the front. She was hoping to land a role in the broadway production of Crazy Rich Asians, since she was such a huge fan of both the book and the movie when it came out a while back. It would be a dream, but she knew to be more practical. Rather than waiting to be told yes or no, Farina was already thinking of what was the next production for her to apply for. “Welcome to Tox-sick!” The bouncer opened the doors as the three girls finally made their way in.There was something about this environment that just made her cringe. She really did not like the clubbing scene, but she thought it did not hurt to at least give it another go, since she was with friends who she loved dearly and felt comfortable being around. “Hey, let’s get shots! If we’re not drunk, we’re not doing this right!” Patricia suggested, dragging the girls over to the bar. “Hey there, can we get some drinks? We were hoping to get some good quality tequila shots.” She looked at the bartender, batting her eyelashes in hopes of getting some free alcohol. “Absolutely.” He grinned, pouring in the clear liquid for the three. Although slightly disappointed she could not get it for free, Patricia toasted with her friends as they clinked shot glasses. Farina had been drinking occasionally since then, but it was more along the lines of maybe one or two shots a month, if even that. “To friendship!” They all giggled, downing the tequila. When she first started having alcohol again, Farina’s body would actually reject it, and she would vomit almost immediately. However, since then, she has been re-accustomed to that burning sensation that would crawl down her throat and through her system. While she would never fully feel the same about drinking, at the least, she could still do it without going overboard.

“It looks like it’ll be another packed Saturday.” Andy grinned at Jamie. Since opening Tox-sick, they had been a lot more successful than they had been with Raise. With more established connections in London, they were able to pull better resources for their club, from marketing to hiring to supplies. Jamie laughed at the name for the club. It was inspired by the toxic relationship he had with Farina, since that was what helped him launch an even better club than what his first could have ever hoped to be. On just the opening night alone, they were by far more packed than Raise ever was. They chose the name Tox-sick, beyond just the relationship, because he wanted to really make the club about indulging and drowning in whatever your vice was. It was a place with no judgement and full freedom. At least for the club-goer anyways. For him, he was just enjoying being a beneficiary from their experiences. While it did not make as much as investment banking did, he was no longer a slave to his work. He had set hours that were not as long, he had days off. “Wait?” Andy heard something through his earpiece from Georgio. “So this is awkward, but we totally overlooked this possibility.” Georgio started, recognizing Farina in the crowd. “Uh…” Andy started, unsure of how to tell Jamie. “I’m going to go check out how the club is looking. I’ll be right back.” Jamie started, much to Andy’s hesitation. He had no idea what to say or do in this situation. “Hey, isn’t that?” Jamie looked out from his office door, recognizing Farina almost immediately. “Yeah… that’s what Georgio just told me. I don’t think you should-” Andy started, but Jamie shook his head. “I know I sound crazy, but I’ll go and talk with her. I’ll keep it civil and quick, I promise.” Jamie looked at his friend. Andy was still concerned about what could happen, but knowing that Jamie needed this, and that it had been years, he just let his friend walk out into the crowd.

“Hey, isn’t that Jamie?” Patricia whispered to Farina, recognizing the Italian American walking towards them in the crowd. “Uh…” Olivia was not sure of what to do. On one hand, she could easily wallop that man for Farina, but on another hand, it had been years since his name had even come out of her mouth, so neither of them really knew what to do or how to react, or more importantly, how Farina would react. “Oh. It is.” The Taiwanese girl let the fact that he was walking over to her sink in. “Wait…. does he own this club too?” She started to piece together why he was here in the first place. “Uh… oh shit. We overlooked that.” Patricia pulled up the pertinent information from a quick Google search. “Well fuck.” Olivia growled, “It’s okay. If he does anything to me, I’ll let you know right away, okay?” Farina whispered to them before turning around to see Jamie. “Hi, Farina.” He started. “Hi. Jamie. Long time, no see.” She was not sure if she should be smiling, glaring, it was just a weird situation to be in, especially since she was the one who dumped him. “I just wanted to say you look good, and I hope you’re doing well.” He started. “Thanks. I’m glad to see that you opened a new club, and it’s a lot nicer than Raise. And yeah, I’m doing alright for myself.” She smiled. “Thanks. Well, I hope you and your friends enjoy your night out.” He grinned, nodding as he walked away. And he did not feel bad about walking away either. There simply was no need to say anything else to her. They are both good people, but they were not meant to be. They brought out the worst in each other, and it was further evidenced by how much has changed since they had officially called it quits. Simply put, they were bad together, but good apart.

Bad Together: Chapter 24

“How are you feeling?” It was the morning and Andy had just returned to the apartment from his shift. Jamie was sitting at the dinner table, staring blankly at a wall, scratching his arm anxiously. “I can’t help have urges to use still, right?” The younger male turned to his friend, eyes twitching. “It’ll get better, I promise. You have to keep fighting it. And by fighting it, just put other things in perspective to take your mind off of it.” Andy explained. It pained him to see Jamie like this, but Andy had to do what he could to make sure that the investment banker does not stray from the right path again. “It’s tough. Whenever something goes even slightly wrong at work, whenever somebody raises their voice, I just want to escape from it. All of those nagging sounds, I hate it, you know?” Jamie groaned, clutching his head. “But why? What’s wrong about people getting frustrated or angry? Why does that bother you? It’s normal for people to behave like that, especially in your line or work.” Andy reminded him, trying to rationalize these sudden changes in behavior. “I get it. I do.  just need to learn to accept it, and to confront it rather than run away.” Jamie sighed. It was hard. All he wanted to do was feel safe again. Sighing to himself, and squeezing his stress ball, he tried his best to calm down and quiet down all of those needs that were really just desires and wants. A small part of him wondered what was going on with Farina, but just thinking of that name, something in him snapped. He started to feel like he needed to push himself more. So that he could put it all behind him. So that he could forget about her, and how she made him feel. It was too soon to let her enter his thoughts again. He needed that space. Granted, that’s why he was starting to feel like resorting to use drugs. To escape from the fact that he missed Farina, but knew she was not what he needed in his life at the moment.

“I think the exercise is a great way for you to relieve your stress and to focus your energy elsewhere. And joining a support group for your urges, that will help you a lot.” A thin woman with glasses looked at Farina. The Taiwanese girl was in another session, discussing her thoughts and getting professional help and suggestion for her alcoholism. Exiting the building, she was in a slight hurry. She had to go to her next appointment, which was Alcoholics Anonymous. At first, it was extremely embarrassing to have to sign up for therapy and AA, but Patricia and Olivia helped her through it. They reminded her that this is how people get back on their feet. By admitting what their faults are and then taking the steps to fix them. Farina would not normally turn to these coping methods normally, but she was broken. She had no other options, and with that, her only choice was to go to these sessions to help sort out her mind. While the past year was a painfully difficult one for her, she knew that the road ahead would be spade loads more difficult, and that there was no point in getting hung up and wasting time pondering why the things that happened occurred in the way that they did. “Hi, my name is Farina, and I have been sober for seven months.” She proudly stated, sitting down in a circle with several other people. Seven months might not be a long time, but to her, it was just a starting point, and the number of months will continue to increase. She has been exercising regularly, and sending out more resumes and headshots, and going to more casting calls, in hopes of landing something. Rather than waiting anxiously, and for nothing to happen, Farina knew that she needed to start chasing her dreams so that they could actually happen. While she did not want to think too much about her past relationship with Jamie, she admitted that him doing that was a habit she needed to start employing in her own life, if she wanted to be as successful as he was, but for her own career.

“Inmate, you can wake up now.” A guard glared at a passed out Jessica, who was refusing to leave her bed. Nobody wanted to pay her bail. It had been at this point, over a year since she had been arrested for assaulting that cop, but she had no regrets. Nobody wanted to believe her testament when she said that he wanted to rape her. But she knew what she saw and he definitely was an abusive, woman-beating, sexist pig. That was why he restrained her after she came to that conclusion upon looking at him, and then acting upon it in self-defense. If she did not hit him, he obviously would have raped her. And he said at the case what she expected him to say. That she was being abrasive, rambunctious, that he was just doing his job in detaining her. Lies. He just wanted her in handcuffs. Because he was a kinky bastard. Just thinking about it made her fume. And that was why she refused to leave her bed. Why listen to these pigs who clearly just get off on dominating her. Forcing her to do whatever they want. Why? Because they have guns, tasers, and handcuffs? They had to put her in solitary because when she originally was assigned a cellmate, the poor girl only lasted a manner of seconds because Jessica thoroughly ruined her life. Shaved her head in her sleep using a rusty razor blade. And when the girl tried to defend herself, Jessica went ahead and slit the shaved girl’s wrists, almost puncturing her veins using the same rusted razor. While she was still in solitary and away from others, the guards found her insufferable. When they tried to slide in her meals, she would purposely yank the tray so that she would pull their finger muscles. Even in prison, nothing would stop Jessica from doing what she was best at. And that was ruining lives and making anyone within her immediate vicinity miserable. But to her, it was all a game. Making others suffer brought amusement to her otherwise dull and monotonous life.

It was already May of the following year, and Farina was at her graduation ceremony. She was excited, because she would be starting her career as an understudy for the role of Ms. Honey in  Matilda, where she was previously just the understudy’s intern. Olivia and Patricia smiled at her as she walked down the stage and received her diploma. Her parents clapped and roared in delight as she turned to face the cameras and smiled for a photo with her dean. Knowing that she was able to get this diploma, after everything that she went through, and not even being certain that she could graduate from college in general, it was a huge surprise, but a much appreciated one. She was finally able to put a close to her life as a student. She was finally a full-fledged adult. Elsewhere, Andy eagerly made his way back to the apartment. He had just gotten back from an interview to be a security manager at Jamie’s firm; the moment the opening was posted, Jamie referred Andy, since he knew that the taller male would be the most qualified by far. “I got the job.” Andy barged into the apartment, where Jamie was just snapping on the couch. “What? Congrats, man!” The two hugged it out, excited for his promotion, and amused that the two of them now lived and worked together. Time heals all wounds, as all three of them were able to overcome the pain and suffering that they went through and reach for higher once again. For Farina, she was able to dream for once in her life, and pursue her dreams. For Jamie and Andy, they re-learned the value of money as well as how to work for what they love and to genuinely appreciate the benefits of being their own bosses. They were all able to take the consequences for enabling their bad habits and all grow from them.

Bad Together: Chapter 23

It was late at night, and Jamie was just leaving his work. He had returned to the world of investment banking, this time as an associate for a bank just off of the London Wall. While he was not too thrilled to go back to the world of finance, he knew it was the fastest way for him to get back on track. Andy really helped him clean up his act by cutting off the drugs, and sending him off to an addictions therapist to sort out his urges. He had been going clean for eight weeks now, and his next goal was to get to twelve. It was initially tough, having to stop doing them, but he had to keep reminding himself why he could just get back on those highs. What he appreciated about working as an investment banker again was that he to spend so much time to do work that he was too tired to really do anything else. And with that , he did not even have an opportunity to go find a drug dealer and purchase anything. While he was making good money again, he was still living with Andy, who had to move in with him; the African American took a job in security in the mean time, and while he was doing that, Jamie agreed to house him so that he could continue sending money to his family back in New York. Andy being there meant that he did not even have the room to fall into bad habits again either. Andy was extremely supportive in his sobriety. It reassured Jamie to know that even though he hit rock bottom, he will always have a friend who can help him get back to where he was, if not to even higher heights. Walking down the steps in the Liverpool Street station, he continued to reflect on the past year and a half, but more specifically, the last two months.

“This is it. I guess we have to say goodbye to it after all.” Andy sighed as he closed the doors to the club. Raise was finally done. “What’s next for us? Do we go back to New York with our tails between our legs?” He sighed, looking at Jamie, who was at this point, only one week sober and still recovering from his intensive drug use. “No. We came here with a goal and a dream. It isn’t over yet.” He started, to the taller male’s surprise. This entire time, Jamie could barely even say a word. And now he’s actually speaking in coherent sentences. But Jamie was right. The reason why they both risked it all by moving to a different country was to start this nightclub and create a name and empire for themselves. They chose London specifically because it was a huge city, but not as congested as New York. That, and the conversion rate meant that Andy would be sending a lot more money over to Harlem. So it was a win-win and made economical sense for both of them. Even now, without jobs, making wages in pounds versus dollars, it would bring in the money faster for Andy’s family. “Well, what now, then? You’ve always been the ideas guy.” Andy sighed. “We’ll just have to do what we did in the first place to build Raise. Work, sell our souls for money and jobs, and we’ll just bring it back. Even bigger and better.” Jamie grinned. Even though the odds were against him, one positive that came from dating Farina was that Jamie’s confidence did grow. He knew that it was possible, because if they did it before, what was stopping them from being able to do it again? Money? He would need to work tirelessly, but he knew he could make a killing with investment banking. He easily drew in six figures a year as an i-banker, and he could do it again in a heartbeat, just like riding a bicycle. He was bringing strategies from Wall Street into London, and that alone could make a killing for him. 

After they put Raise to an official close, Jamie and Andy were able to sell the space for a good enough amount of money to afford their rent for a little longer. Finding a new job for both of them was not too difficult, surprisingly. Andy went from being a night club manager to a security supervisor for a nearby hotel. While it did not have the same salary, it still made enough to at least send over to his mother. For Jamie’s situation, it was a bit trickier of a sell to get back into a firm. Very few places were hiring. But he eventually got a call, and that was all he needed to sell himself. Within four weeks after closing Raise, he was employed and hitting the ground running. While he would easily work from 7 in the morning to 11 at night, he did not mind that; he was used to doing that his entire life. And more importantly, he was making a ton of money for himself. Getting people to buy shares and stocks, it was not too foreign for him. He just had to bring the Long Island swagger and charm, while combing it with the European, or more accurately, British sensibilities he had picked up while working in London. Knowing how to talk to Brits, and knowing what appealed to them, immeasurable weapons that he utilized in his day to day. Knowing how well he was doing at his work was all the validation Jamie needed. While he has intentions to re-open Raise again, he was enjoying the journey a lot more than he was expecting to. He almost did not want to stop, but he knew that Andy was the one who was suffering at his expense, and that was enough of a driving force to get them both back on their feet with Raise once more.

While Andy was a security supervisor, his manager was ironically enough Georgio, who had left Raise to become the security manager for the luxury hotel they were now working at together in Mayfair. “It honestly feels weird managing you, mate, but I’m glad to be working with you again.” Georgio laughed, addressing the irony head on. “Yeah, but you had a lot of potential, more than being a bouncer, and that’s why I wrote your letter of rec. even though you left us.” Andy admitted. It was tough seeing Georgio leave them, but they were not making enough money to even guarantee hours or pay their team, so he had to employ the only option he had left, which was to find work elsewhere. “How’s the big man?” The security manager chuckled, sarcastically referring to Jamie by his stature. “He’s doing alright. He definitely feels bad about what happened with everyone.” Andy smirked. Jamie went out of his way to send everyone handwritten apology letters. But he did not do it with the intentions of asking people to come back to work at Raise for him again. He did it because he wanted everyone to know that he felt remorseful for his horrendous leadership and that he wishes everyone that they found better endeavors elsewhere, and are being treated better at their current places of employment and that they are pursuing whatever it is that they wanted to do. Only that he was able to be specific with each and every person. In Georgio’s case, Jamie even remembered when the manager wanted to open a deli with his mother where they could celebrate their Italian recipes and classics with everyone. Just reading the letter touched him, and he wrote a letter back to Jamie, entailing everything that he had been up to since leaving Raise. To Jamie’s pleasant surprise, Georgio’s letter was only one of several he received back; former D.J.s, waitresses, bouncers, bartenders, they all wrote to him. Almost every single past employee of Raise expressed missing the environment and wishing the best, while thanking him for his support and his kind words. It only reinforced, in Andy’s eyes, that Jamie had it in him to be a phenomenal leader one day.

Bad Together: Chapter 22

“Yeah, so that’s what happened to Jessica.” Olivia looked at Patricia and Farina, aghast. The three were enjoying a little afternoon gossip with their lunch in a cafe not too far from London Metropolitan College. “So she was arrested for assault.” Patricia explained. It had been nearly a year since Jessica went missing, and the three were finally learning what had happened to their former classmate. “Well, I’m almost back from suspension.” Farina sighed. She had been lucky enough to make up the credits during the second summer term, so she did not have to fall behind an entire year like she had originally thought. “I’m glad that you’re going to be graduating with us. It wouldn’t have been the same without you!” Patricia smiled at her friend. “Yeah, and I’m stoked that you even landed an internship to an understudy for Matilda! That’s impeccable. You’re smashing it, Farina.” Olivia beamed as well. “It definitely was not easy. But thank you both so much for helping me through it all.” Farina sighed in relief. “I mean, believe you me, we were really worried. Like horrified when we even saw you. I wanted to punch that Jamie in the face.” Olivia began, gritting her teeth. “But I knew punching him would make me no better than half of the scummy men on this earth who take a load off on a woman. Besides, making sure that you got better was a larger priority to us anyways.” “Yeah, we needed to make sure you weren’t feeling suicidal or anything.” Patricia added. “Us lasses, we got to stick together. It’s a cruel, tough world out there, but we’re mates who will have each other’s backs no matter what!” The Taiwanese girl smiled at that statement. If it was not for these two, she might not have gotten this far along with her life.

Just hours after Farina had run out of Raise and finished the first meal she had in months, she stumbled back towards her apartment; she had spent the last of her notes on hand for that meal, and she no idea where she put her pass, so she could not take the tube to conserve any energy. However, walking through Russell Square, she overlooked one key fact: Patricia lived right by there. And even less fortunate timing for Farina, who was trying to be discreet about her disheveled, anemic appearance, she happened to bump into Patricia, who was in the park, walking her dog, Pappi. It had been months since she spoke with Patricia or Olivia, in fear of the judgement that she would receive from either of them. “Farina?” She looked up, immediately recognizing her friend. “Where have you been?! It’s been ages and we were so worried!” She immediately dropped her dog’s leash and ran over to give her a proper hug. “We really missed you. And we were freaking out. But thank god you’re safe.” She started. “We seriously thought you were kidnapped or something. We had no idea what was going on. You weren’t answering texts or calls-” “Patty, I missed you guys too. I’m so sorry!” Farina started, trying her best not to cry in public and reveal to all of people within their immediate vicinity what a train-wreck she had become. “We’re just glad you’re safe. But you don’t look too good. You look…” Patricia eyed her friend’s features. While Farina was already thin to begin with, her entire body looked like a skeleton with a layer of flesh colored paint coating it. She looked half-dead. “Okay, you look horrendous. Absolutely dreadful. Here, you’re coming with me, and we’re going to have an actual talk inside. I can tell that you’ve had an ordeal, and I want to know exactly what happened and if everything is okay.” Patricia continued, taking no interruptions or interjections from Farina. “Luckily for you, Olivia is meeting up with me later tonight, so you’ll be able to fill us both in on what exactly happened.”

At first, Farina felt mortified having to tell two of her closest friends what had happened. The anorexia, this feeling of accomplishing nothing or not needing to be successful, an unhealthy reliance on a man’s ambitions. While visibly frustrated, Olivia and Patricia were more upset at the fact that they felt like they failed Farina as friends. “You could have told us, okay? We’re your friends. We’re not here to judge you. We’re here to help you when you’re down.” Olivia started, her fists still clenched. “Sorry if I look pissed. It’s not at you. I’m just about to go over to Raise and kick off at this twat.” She began. Having been abused by an ex, Olivia wanted to make absolutely sure that nobody ever has to go through a similar experience. She was upset with herself for allowing Farina to go through that; it was by far worse than what she had to deal with, because with her conflict, Olivia was able to end it on her terms and recognize that it was abuse. Farina was unable to. “But I won’t. Because he deserved whatever he gets from the world, and one of those things is most certainly not going to be your love.” “Honestly, I don’t think he’s a bad person.” Farina began, but both of her friends raised their eyebrows in disbelief. “I know you guys think otherwise, or see him as the root of all of the issues here, but I really do think he meant well. It was his communicating his affections, plus his immaturity. That being said, I agree. I don’t think I could ever end up dating him again.” “That, Farina, is all that matters to either of us. That you don’t give your love to somebody who deserves it.” They both nodded. “We’ll take your word that he’s a good lad, but we both also think it’s for the best that you don’t interact with him for a while, or even ever again.” “We all learn at different paces, but at least we’re all still able and willing to learn.” Patricia smiled in relief, just happy to know that her missing friend was safe after all.

“So yeah, fall term is starting soon and you were able to put that whole semester behind you, right?” Olivia smiled at Farina as they paid their check at the cafe. “I think so. Is it wrong for me to think I should go to therapy for this, though?” Farina looked at the two. “Honestly, Farina, it takes a really strong person to admit that they are hurting the way you are, and to seek help. I think you should do it.” Patricia nodded encouragingly. “I’m 100% for it as well. If you need the help and you need that push to move forward, this is it.” Olivia agreed. “Like we said, Farina, we are both here for you, and we both want you to just put this whole ordeal behind you. You’ve taken quite a few steps to get your life back on track, and therapy might just be the last thing you need to do so really get there.” Farina sighed in relief, happy to know that her friends were not judging her for feeling this way. It took a while for her to realize that she was emotionally ill from the experience, even now, and that she needed somebody who could really dive into her thoughts and sort them back out for her. Even her parents, whom she told about the entire experience, they supported her through it in their own way, by promising to finance her summer term remedial credits, as well as offering to pay for a therapist as well, since they were both working too far from London to do anything in the long term, besides giving her the occasional visit, hug, and reassurance that she is nothing like the Farina in high school. At least the current Farina has aspirations, determination, and a goal to become a famous actress. That was essentially what her mother told her the last time they spoke a few days back. While she was still a long shot from where she wanted to be, at least she knew where she wanted to be period; it was an improvement from the Farina she was ashamed of being as a teenager.

Bad Together: Chapter 21

“This is enough! I am not going to keep moving out all of our shit on my own!” Andy stormed into Jamie’s office for the last time ever. The two looked up at him, dazed. “You both cannot keep throwing your lives away. Here you are, just wasting away everything you’ve worked so hard for! This is ridiculous! You both need to get up and move on. This, right here, this is not healthy!” He gestured to the two, who were still laying on the sofa, hidden behind a coffee table layered with empty alcohol bottles and used drugs. “Jamie, you were the same guy who rescued me from the streets. You helped me get my act together so that I could pay for college and get my mom out of the gentleman’s club! I tried to rob you, but you instead helped me get back on my feet and gave me the money to support my family! You did that for me!” Despite his pleas, Andy could tell that his words were not making their way into Jamie’s head. He still wore this blank stare, as if Andy was some magical creature or an alien who just stumbled upon him. Nothing about this situation was pleasant, but it did not matter to Andy. He had to say everything that was on his mind, with any hope that it would connect with either of them and make them realize that things needed to change. That would be the only way for these bad habits to die out and to give either of them the leases on life that they deserve for being the good people that they actually are, rather than the bad people they are trying to avoid admitting to being. Luckily, Andy’s words did reach somebody. Just not his intended target in Jamie. However, it was all that needed to be done to help remedy the damage that the past few months have had on all of them.

Hearing what Andy said made Farina stir. She couldn’t believe that Andy had to struggle that much to get to where he was now. Attempting robbery, just out of loyalty to his mom. And all the while his own mother becoming a stripper just to put him through college. Meanwhile, she was busy slouching around, taking that opportunity for granted. She didn’t have to worry about money. But he did. Just trying to imagine degrading herself like that just to help her children have brighter futures. Was it any different than throwing away her future as an actress to be somebody’s trophy wife? Because that was what it was starting to feel like. Was she really going to just find companionship for the sake of convenience? The more she thought about it, the less she was happy with her current choices. Looking at the empty alcohol bottles, she wanted to reach for any of them to take a deep gulp, just to drown away her frustrations. But she refrained from doing so. It would solve nothing. She knew that she was not happy with herself. But running away from it was not the right response. She had to do something to effect a positive change. The only way that she could be happy with herself was to make right of the wrongs. She should not give up on school, nor should she give up on Broadway. Just because she was not seeing the results from either did not mean that this was a waste of time. They are achievable dreams, it was just a manner of putting in the work, time, and commitment. Commitment. Just hearing that word, is was something she was not used to hearing. Even with her relationship to Jamie, she felt like it was something that would not last the tests of time. Nothing has changed from the first time they dated. He still objectified her, only this time, she let him and enjoyed it. But she was more than a pretty face or a body to hug. That was the entire reason why she wanted to be an actress in the first place. It was to inspire others to be more than what they appear to be and to create endless possibilities. And this next decision was a possibility she needed to realize.

“I can’t even recognize you anymore. You’re not that same guy. You’ve changed for the worse. You used to be so frugal and so meticulous with every cent you made, but instead, you’re a shell of a man now!” He shouted, frustrated that Jamie was still not reacting to what he was saying. “Jamie…” Farina croaked weakly. The now-former club owner turned to look at his girlfriend. “I’m calling it quits with you. I don’t think this is working out for either of us.” Getting up, Farina walked up, mustering what little energy she still had left in her starved body. It was not easy for her to walk away from him, but he was a husk of a man and he needed help. As did she. They both needed this break. It was healthy, it was normal, and without it, they would have continued down this spiral of enabling each other and encouraging the drugs, alcohol, and anorexia. Stopping at a McDonalds, Farina sighed to herself. She needed to eat. Buying a burger, she bit into it. That first bite, it felt odd. She had not needed to chew with a long, long time. Adjusting her jaw to the foreign substance, she slowly began to swallow the burger meat. A gag reflex almost kicked in, but she stopped herself and forced herself to finish her bite. Tears began to well in her eyes, but it did not matter. She was going to finish that burger and start eating regularly again. She was fortunate enough to even still be alive, and she would not take this for granted like she did so many other things before. Finishing her burger, and fighting back the tears of both pain and relief, she smiled to herself. It was only step one in what would be a marathon back to a normal life, but at least she was on the right track and moving in the correct direction this time. She has to believe in herself.

Feeling himself coming back from his high, Jamie saw a furious Andy, sitting in a chair across from him. Farina was nowhere to be seen. “What happened?” He grunted, still trying to process what events just transpired in his office. “Farina left you.” Andy started as Jamie broke down in tears. “Why? What did I do wrong? I thought I treated her better this time.” He started. His club goes bankrupt and the girl who he thought loved him unconditionally leaves him. “Of course. She was a gold-digger after all, wasn’t she?” He growled angrily. “Okay, first off, no. She left because she knew that the two of you were not good for each other. Secondly, I took away all of your drugs. I flushed your stash down a toilet. And I know you can’t buy anymore anyways. You have no money.” Andy shook his head. “You need to get your shit together, Jamie.” “My girl, my club, my drugs, I have nothing.” He was still crying, this time feeling like a big time failure. “I hit rock bottom, Andy!” “You know what? I hit rock bottom too. And that was me trying to rob another man. But you want to know what that man told me? He said that I have a chance to make a good difference in this world.” Andy shot back. “Jamie, you have a chance to make a good difference too. You can change and be the person you want to.” The former bodyguard reminded him of the very words that the banker once told him. The same words that made him follow the Italian American all the way to the UK to open a night club in London. “We made it big in the UK and you made it big in Wall Street. It was all you. I know you have what it takes to make it there again. And I’ll try my best to help you, wherever I can.” He reassured his friend. “Thanks, man.” Jamie sighed. Horrible only began to describe how he felt. Degenerate. Moron. Waste of space. The list could go on, but it would only put him back in the dark place he just recently stepped out of, and he did not want to find himself there again so soon. Andy gave him a way out, and he was going to take it and run with it.

Bad Together: Chapter 20

“This is bad.” Patricia and Olivia sighed as they walked out of their British Classics lecture. Farina’s name was taken off the roster. That either meant that she dropped the class, which at this point in the semester, would be taken with a demerit, or she might have been suspended from school. Their friend has been nowhere to be seen for so long now that neither girl knew where she was or what she had been up to. “You know what, it’s tough enough having to worry about our own lives, let alone somebody else’s.” Patricia sighed. “You’re right.” Olivia shook her head, disappointed that one of her best friends would just throw everything away over what? A bad breakup? “Come to think of it, Jessica hasn’t come to class either.” Patricia said that name with immense disdain. Jessica was trouble, but it was still concerning that both her and Farina suddenly became so absent in their lives. But junior year was coming to a quick end at this rate, so both girls just had no time to address it. “Survival of the fittest, right?” Olivia looked at Patricia. “Yeah. Only the toughest can make it.” She sighed. It was just a shame that Farina was letting herself down, but only the individual can control their own lives. And unfortunately for Farina, she did indeed receive an email, detailing her academic probation for failing to attend any of her courses during this semester. However, she was offered a chance to be readmitted to the school, but she would need to make up those credits by taking remedial classes. It was followed with a warning for suspension should she not complete the credits before the next term in the fall. But unlike Patricia and Olivia, Farina did not feel like she necessarily let herself down or was a failure for being put into this position. Well, not for long, anyways. It felt like an opportunity to come.

Looking through what she had to do to remove her probation, Farina felt a bit defeated. She would have to take classes at London Metropolitan University to make up those failed credits. But why was she even in school at this point? It was wasting her parents’ hard earned money. And when the concept of money came into mind, she just remembered what Jamie told her. She did not need to do anything other than be his perfect girl. To never have to do another paper, or sit through another insufferable lecture, or feel like she is being judged while sitting in this goldfish bowl for others to observe her from, it was exhilarating and felt liberating. She could cut all of those toxic people out of her life. Suddenly, that feeling of being a failure melted away. It was replaced with excitement. The prospect of a completely different life, being Jamie’s favorite woman, it would be a nice change of pace from what she was experiencing currently. Being a stay at home mom, having children, not having to work an actual job and knowing that financial stress and pressure was somebody else’s responsibility, it would be great. And she would not have to worry about starvation anyways. She has not even eaten in weeks. And she feels fantastic still. Food was only needed for people who worked hard anyways. And hard workers are loser to her. They are people who are less fortunate and have to move mountains to get to where she was lucky enough to already be. Granted, Jamie is self-made and while he did work hard, he achieved more than the rest, and that was why he was not a loser like the rest of the deadbeats working to provide for themselves. That was at least the rationale she chose to employ while convincing herself to discard her dreams of becoming an actress. Those dreams would not have come true anyways. She had no aspiration to realize them.

“Xiaofei, you need to work towards a goal. What do you want to be when you grow up?” Referring to her daughter by her Chinese name, Farina’s mother looked at her, deeply worried. A sixteen year old Farina rolled her eyes and crossed her arms, not wanting to talk about this again. Careers. Aspirations. Whatever. She was dating the hottest guy in their high school. He could provide for her anyways. Why did it matter? “Joseph wants to be a doctor, so he”- “Joseph is not you. Good for him for knowing what he wants, but there is no guarantee that he would want you after he gets what he wants and becomes a doctor. At that point, what would you bring to the table?” Her mom sighed, shaking her head. Her daughter did not understand the concept of providing for herself. Granted, it was not her place to say otherwise; Farina’s father provided for the entire family, and she did not even need to go to college. But times were different back then. Expectations have been raised in the workforce, and are still rising. Everyone has a college degree. Everyone has an MBA, doctorate, or a graduate school diploma. That was the minimum. That was the baseline. But in her mind, Xiaofei was convinced that Joseph was all she needed. She had decent grades, but nothing special. No extracurricular activities. No sports. Yes, Xiaofei was a child model, but that was years ago. It hardly counted for anything now. It was trivia. A fun fact. It was not even an accomplishment. For Farina, she just wanted to have a family. And Joseph promised her that much. So who was she to potentially shy away from all that she really wanted just to appease her parents? She did not need a college diploma or a job or any ambition. Joseph could be all of that for her. And all she had to do was bear him children and make him happy. Frustrated and fed up with trying to make her daughter do otherwise, her mother got up and left. Xiaofei just had to learn this lesson on her own. Tough love was the only option.

The summer had already started at this point, and Raise was officially closed for good. It could not even make it in time for their peak season. Farina decided ultimately to not enroll in remedial classes and received her notice for academic suspension. She would need to take these credits again during the actual school year at a different college and apply to transfer back to Central Saint Martins. But that did not matter to her. She was happy with Jamie. Andy, already packing away everything in the club and stripping everything down, let loose a resigned sigh as he had to dismantle his dream. He could not believe that it was all over. But he knew that this was just not meant to be. Raise was not where he was going to spend the rest of his life working anyways. There will be more opportunities to come. However, Jamie and Farina both needed to be reminded of that same lesson with each other. He shook his head, knowing that this is something they would need to learn on their own. There was no talking sense to either of them. All he could do at this point is figure out what’s next for him. With no money to sent to his family, things would get bad back in Harlem. He did not want his mother going back to dancing or even having to work to put food on the table. She had already demeaned herself enough just to get him through college. She never once allowed him to dirty his hands for her. But before he could leave this place completely with a clean conscience, he had to at the least push Jamie into the right mindset. While he could not force those two away from their bad habits, he could at least try his best to make them aware that they were not helping each other grow, but rather causing each other to regress and repeat past mistakes again and attempting to rationalize it by saying that it was in the name of love. It was no excuse for doing the things that they did. And they both needed to realize that.