Sensitivity: realization

I always had this issue in life where I would take things too personally. Little comments, remarks, small gestures, they would have such a huge subliminal impact on me to the point where it would bother me for ages. Sometimes I would act on it, albeit overreact and give people the rise they may or may not be wanting, or I would used to shelve it, and it become a massive mess when I would go volcanic. Instead of shelving any pain, I have been just trying to get it out of my system by exercising, and learning not to take things so personally. Rather than seeing anything as a personal attack on me as a person, I just try to understand where they are coming from, what their intentions are, and what I did to affect them to cause such behavior, or if their attitude was just normal to begin with, and I was misinterpreting their actions.

Half the time I get hurt or affected by the behavior of others, it is because something is stressing me out already, such as getting a job, family or friends-related issues, for example. I am already at a vulnerable state at that point, so little things would just get under my skin easily. I would always get so bothered to the point where I would not stop thinking about comments or remarks that irked me, and I would even lose sleep over how angry or annoyed I would get. It was not a pleasant habit, in the slightest. This kind of toxic, grudge-forming behavior is what caused a lot of problems for me in the past. I would burn so many bridges and be outcasted by so many people because I would get so easily hurt and would push other people away so quickly.

Unfortunately, that sensitivity had stages. The second paragraph described stage 1 of my toxically sensitive behavior. The second phase, it would get worse. I would not stop being affected by the fact that I pushed people away. That sort of guilt, it really does eat away at you. I would feel more remorse than you could imagine over hurting people like that, and it quickly turns to self-resentment. And I’m sure I’ve written enough about that to the point where it is guessable where self-resentment would eventually turn to. Like I said, sensitivity to that extreme, it is a vicious cycle that I have been trapped in for two occasions of my life already. At that point in time, I thought that I couldn’t really do anything about it, but that’s not the case. There is a way to break out of the cycle.

Distract yourself from these things by not thinking about them, but rather, focusing on things that you enjoy doing once you cannot do anything more in pursuit of your goals. Do not let the little things and thoughts bother you. Don’t read to deep into things, and try to excavate hidden meanings beyond what is actually there. Some might call it a naive way of living, but I call it building up a wall of indifference so that you have the space and time to grow thicker skin to these kinds of comments and remarks. I genuinely can’t stress enough how important it is to not take things to heart so often. When you do, it opens you up to that vulnerability, and if you are an overtly sensitive person to begin with, it will only end with you taking everything too personally and getting offended quite easily. Learning to relax, let go, and not get offended, that’s what it means to live a featherlight life.

 

Advertisements

Healing: dream

Being able to recover from something and move on, it’s a wonderful feeling. The healing process is a vital part in us maturing as human beings. A lot of it starts with forgetting about what it is that hurt us to begin with, specifically that pain. Yet, you still need to keep the lesson learned from whatever hurt you in mind. It could be that certain people are not good people, or be less naive, but whatever the lesson is, know what needs to be learned. Secondly, while keeping that newly learned moral in the back of your head, move on with your life. It might mean cutting off old parts of your life, but you need to do it, or else you could very easily revert to old, harmful habits that could cause you a lot of pain and possibly, cause you to revert to self-inflicting tendencies. That is the biggest emotional hurdle in the healing process is cutting off the past and forgetting about it.

The next part of the healing process is filling your life with new things to replace the old. They don’t have to be similar things. Preferably, they shouldn’t be similar things. Anything that reminds you of your past pain, that’s just asking to be triggered. Being able to do that, it also helps you forget the past a lot easier. You’re able to let go and not think about whatever horrible influences have hurt you. And while cutting off is the biggest challenge emotionally, this part is the most difficult part mentally is putting the past behind you. You are probably used to a certain routine, and you want to revert to it. You probably wouldn’t want to include new things into your life and you yearn for the past. Very few people are naturally good at adapting to and accepting change. And that’s to be expected. We can’t all just be okay to uprooting our daily routines. But being able to accept the change, even in small steps, it helps.

By allowing these new influences into your life, you can expel a lot of the negative emotions that have been burdening you earlier. You stop thinking about those dark thoughts, or about the causes of them. Instead, every day becomes a new opportunity for you to discovery something new about yourself or the world around you. You start to find yourself smiling a lot more, and while you know that this world is a little less wonderful than you remember it being, the parts that are genuinely wonderful that you discover makes that journey worthwhile. Being able to see the good in the world, it’s refreshing. Whether it’s new people, new hobbies, new places, you’ll surprise yourself with how much this world has to offer, despite whatever it was that hurt you in the first place. You stop thinking about the guilt, the pain, the trauma, and it helps you focus on future and what you can do as an individual to make the most of yours.

Being able to completely cast your past behind, it’s not easy. Those wounds from your trauma, they do become scars, but with time, you will forget what exactly gave you those scars exactly, but you will still vaguely remember how you got them, and what you can do to prevent yourself from falling into the same mistake again. The world will no longer feel like a cage or trap confining you, and it will open itself up to you. You are no longer being held down or back by those negative influences and burdens. Instead, you can focus on making the person you see in the mirror somebody you can love more and more. And once you reach that point of loving yourself, don’t stop there. Find new things about the world, and figure out what new things you love as well, and how you can work towards incorporating that newfound passion or interest into your life. With healing, you gain depth and character and that’s a life worth living in this featherlight world.

How it is: Chapter 12

Tarou and Misaki were walking around the Greenwich Village area after another day of shooting. It was finally spring break, and he was staying in Manhattan that week. “I might have taken some creeper pics of the whole shoot.” She admitted, shamelessly gesturing to her phone. Tarou had finally completed his photo shoot with Paulo, the Spanish male model he had to pose intimately with. Some of their poses included almost locking lips, holding each other in a tight embrace, gazing intensely into each others’ eyes. It was a sight to behold, and one that Misaki has stored permanently in her phone’s photo album. “I will cherish this forever.” She giggled. “You fucking perv. Delete those.” Tarou rolled his eyes, flustered. He managed to swallow and bury his attraction to Paulo during that shoot, but it did not change how the Japanese male had actually felt for the Spanish model. The entire time, he had to think of old people in revealing outfits to distract himself from interfering with the shoot, so to speak. “Not a chance in hell.” The wavy haired brunette cackled mischievously. “Well, since I can’t do anything about that, what are we even doing here?” Tarou sighed. “We’re here to celebrate your glorious photo shoot! I’m treating you to lunch!” She grinned victoriously. “Uh, well, if it’s free lunch, then I’ll take it.” Tarou laughed. “Great! Come with me! I’ll take you to this place with amazing cauliflower.” She squealed, grabbing him by the arm. “Okay, okay. And stop getting touchy like this with me. Your boyfriend will get jealous!” Tarou teased.

Meanwhile, Timmy was also in Manhattan: Alice forgot that she was going back home to Boston for the week, and the board for ACU agreed to cancel their upcoming event, so he was instead hanging out with Justin. The older male worked for a software company, Salesforce, and with special permission, Timmy was allowed to extern there for the week. He wanted to continue this habit of being productive with his time, and doing an externship with a software company would probably be for the best. Justin was in charge of managing different clouds, so he was showing Timmy how to create and organize the cloud storage units. Timmy spent his entire first semester unsure of what exactly he wanted to do for a major, but seeing this reminded him exactly of why he wanted to do computer engineering: being able to innovate, create, and facilitate were three things that greatly stood out to him. He liked being able to help others improve their own lives and experiences. Seeing how the technology at Salesforce did that for so many clients, it was an eye-opening experience for him. “So do you have any questions?” Justin looked at his friend turned extern. “Nope. Just keep going, man. I am loving this.” Timmy grinned goofily.

Valerie was spending her spring break staging at different restaurants throughout New York. She was currently at Scarpetta, a renowned Italian restaurant. At the restaurant, she insisted that she wanted experience outside of the pastry kitchen, so they put her in charge of seafood prep. “It’s just like a flick of the wrist, and then.” The oyster she was shucking popped open in a second. “There we go.” She sighed in relief to herself. “Nice job, newbie.” The sous-chef looked at her, impressed. “Hey, aren’t you the pastry chef over at Wish?” He looked at her, curiously. “Yeah, I am. But I’m also in college, and I’m on spring break, so I figured why not stage at other places, right?” She smiled. “Man, when I was in college, spring break, I was a wild child. I would go to Miami and get hammered.” He chuckled, walking away. “Keep it up, kiddo. You’re doing great!” Valerie was unsure of how to feel. On one hand, he sounded incredibly sarcastic. But on the other, she should just take it as a compliment and keep her head down. Whether or not the sous-chef liked her, that was not the problem at hand. The main issue was making sure that she shucked her 500 oysters perfectly, each time. “Alright, that’s 375 down, 125 more to go!”

“Wow, track was good to you!” A 9th grade Timmy looked in awe at Tarou. The slightly younger male had joined track with Timmy, quickly slimmed down, and grew an entire foot. It was almost like looking at a completely different person. “This… was not expected.” Tarou chuckled, looking at himself in the mirror. He only just noticed how much running had changed his physique. Before, he was overweight and short, but how he was lanky and tall. The two were walking back home from practice, when the taller male was approached by a middle aged woman. “Hi, I’m Vanessa, part of the modeling agency in Logan Photography. Have you ever considered modeling before?” She handed Tarou her business card, while Timmy stood there, dumbstruck. “Um, well, no? But this is… wow. Just wow.” He was stunned at the offer. “Just think about it and give me a call.” She smiled as she walked off. But the more he thought about it, the more he wanted to do it. Hopefully, he can be living proof that the story of the Ugly Duckling does happen. You might be an unattractive kid, but you can grow up to be somebody model-worthy. That was the message Tarou hoped to convey, later that night, when he called the agent. “Hi, you approached me earlier about being a model, and I just wanted to say that I am interested in being one part-time.”

It was back in winter break, right before second semester freshman year. Timmy was at home, pondering over the fact that Tarou had just been elected for so many positions, and how Valerie had been promoted to the executive pastry chef at Wish and was officially announced to be a competitor on Warrior Chef; it was around this time that Valerie’s season had started airing, and Timmy was just taken aback by just how incredible his friend was, just as a high schooler. Both Tarou and Valerie were doing such incredible things. But what was he doing? Compared to them, nothing. He would just sit around in bed, watching television all day. On top of that, he had just finally decided on his major of computer engineering. He felt so unaccomplished, almost undeserving of their friendship. “They have done so much with their time, and both of them are younger than me. I need to get my shit together.” It was at that moment that Timmy resolved to try his hardest and make a mark, just like how Tarou and Valerie have already done. “Next semester, let’s hit the ground running.” He promised himself. He had to try his best, just to show Valerie and Tarou how much they have inspired him.

“So you have had an entire summer to intern. Why didn’t you?” Valerie was sitting down with Janice, in the middle of an interview for the open pastry cook position. “I… was on a cooking competition.” She started, remembering how her finale went. “Oh, I’ve been there. And I’m assuming that you wanted to continue growing in this industry?” Janice smiled, noticing how Valerie was acting. “Yeah, I do.” “I like how brave you are, putting yourself out there. And I like the spirit you bring. Come into my kitchen tomorrow, and we’ll get you suited up and ready. Our executive pastry chef, Namie, she’ll look after you.” Janice reassured her. “Wow! So I get to work under THE Namie-Bethany Amai?!” Valerie gasped, starstruck. “Yup!” Janice smiled; Namie was also a winner of Warrior Chef, and Janice’s executive pastry chef at the time. “As for the whole experience of cooking in that competition, I know it might take the wind out of your sails. Trust me, even when Namie and I won our seasons, it was exhausting. That being said, we’re going to help whip all of that out of your system, okay?” “Deal!” Valerie grinned.

Valerie was already onto her next restaurant, Le Bernadin, by Eric Ripert. It was a 3-star Michelin establishment renowned for serving excellent seafood. She was able to stage at both the fish station as well as the vegetable station. However, she was not allowed to directly handle the seafood; only prep cooks who have been working there for at least 3 months can even begin to touch the first. So her main role was to grab equipment. Despite this, she paid a careful eye on everything, taking mental notes on how the kitchen operated, what the chefs were doing, and memorizing as many details as she possibly could. There was no way that she was going to let this sort of experience slide. It was a far from everyday opportunity that somebody can just step foot into one of the greatest restaurants in America and observe the going-ons of its kitchen. Even if she was not allowed to cook or actually prep anything, Valerie was fine with just watching in first-person. Seeing some of the cooks elegantly break apart an entire fish, or how effortlessly it took for them to saute a pan full of vegetables, or how much focus went into just making a sauce. That was mesmerizing and satisfying enough for her.

“Sweetie, I’m back! And I dragged Tarou in with me!” Misaki called as the two entered the older model’s apartment in Brooklyn. “Hey, honey!” Justin walked over and planted a kiss on his girlfriend’s lips. “How was your day?” She smiled at him. “It was good. Timmy was a surprisingly good intern! He listened a lot and managed to start doing a lot of the basics! He’s a great student.” The programmer chuckled. It was an odd feeling for Tarou to hear it. There was this sort of uneasiness boiling inside of him. Anger or jealousy, perhaps? He thought to himself. The fact that Timmy could learn so much and listen so intensively to Justin, it made the Japanese boy feel obsolete. Timmy would hardly ever listen to him, but with Justin, he did everything he could to appease him. Shaking off these irrational thoughts and unwarranted animosity towards Justin, he sighed to himself. “But yeah, Tarou, tell him about your shoot! Or do you want me to show him pics myself?” Misaki giggled. “Shut up!” Tarou rolled his eyes. “Here, that’s when they kissed!” She squealed, showing Justin the pictures. “Wow, that’s…. interesting.” He was not quite sure how to react to these photos. He was learning a new side to his own girlfriend, specifically some of her interests. That much was certain.

Road Movie: Conclusion

Road Movie was my first story based almost entirely off of events that had nothing to do with my personal life. Fun fact, I have never even been to Chicago, nor have I ever been in a long-term relationship, experienced the loss of a significant other, or worked in a marketing firm. That being said, I had to do a ton of research on the Greater Chicago area, reference a lot of the emotions of feeling love and loss, and luckily, I have taken multiple marketing classes, worked as a marketing coordinator, and spoken to enough marketing executives to gain a vague idea of what it means to work in marketing, albeit for hospitality and engineering, not medicine. That being said, as challenging of a story it was to write, Road Movie was one of my favorites to do for that very same reason. Having to push myself beyond my own limitations and life experiences and pull from others, it was a real eye-opener. I greatly enjoyed the message of this story, which was to make life a constant pursuit of moving forward and finding happiness.

I literally conceptualized the story based on the Maaya Sakamoto song “Road Movie”, which spoke a lot about being lost, finding happiness, and remembering the love in your heart. From there, I had to think about different cities. I considered several, but ultimately wanted to do Chicago, mostly because I had never been to Chicago before, and it would be a much more interesting challenge to do something like that as opposed to a more familiar city. I originally wanted the story to be set in the 1980s, or just an earlier time when drive-in movies were more popular, since the title of the story was “Road Movie” and drive-in movie theaters fit that bill perfectly. But then I realized it would be too difficult writing both in a real life location and in a time period that I have never experienced, and cross-referencing Chicago locations in the 1980s would be difficult and hard to keep consistent in my story.

Hillary Jenkins is a fictional marketing company, and I decided to do a marketing company mostly because I was currently taking a marketing course, and I figured I could easily cross over what I was being taught in class with Dakota’s career, just because it would not be completely inaccurate.

Dakota Logan was originally going to be named Vivian Logan. I wanted her nickname to be Viv, so a pun on viva or vie, which means to live in Spanish or life in French. I ultimately changed her name to Dakota for one sole reason: her entire character, I took inspiration from Dakota Johnson. I had this idea for a timid, seemingly helpless, and easy-to-victimize female brunette character in mind, and Dakota Johnson tends to play those roles in her movies, so subconsciously, I kept typing Dakota instead of Vivian, and decided to just roll with it. The nickname Ducky, unfortunately, there really was not much meaning behind it. It became more of a cute nickname than anything with deep symbolic meaning. I made her from Naperville mostly because I have a friend from there, and it was the first suburb that came to mind: coincidentally, it was close to the Cascade Drive-In, so that worked out in a lot of ways for me. Dakota never leaving Illinois became a focal plot point when I was almost done writing the story, because I wanted to focus on that being the driving reason for her wanting to leave Chicago: I knew that no matter what, she was going to watch a movie in the drive-in, and then leave for somewhere new by the end of the story. I just needed to figure out what drove her to that conclusion.

Phillip Hopkins, I wanted him to be this sort of reliable, smart, do-it-all, very mature figure. Somebody who, when you pair anyone with him, would feel like they are being nurtured and watched over. That’s the main rationale behind making him want to be a pediatrician. I wanted to develop his character a lot because I knew once he gets killed off, there would be no other opportunities to really get to know him, since the remainder of the story, I wanted it to focus solely on Dakota’s moving forward. I wanted the reader to relate to Phillip’s growth, because I am almost positive that everyone can relate to doing silly things during puberty. Phillip becomes much more relatable during those chapters, and I wanted him to narrate them in a first person perspective, just for the reader to gain more closeness with him.

Out of Dakota’s coworkers, only Maria and Frida were based on people I knew in real life. They were both actually sales managers and directors at a one of my old workplaces, and I kept them pretty similar to their real life counterparts, not even changing their first names, personalities, or ethnic backgrounds. Maria was always this open-minded, hardworking, and kind person, somebody who I felt Dakota could come to trust and grow from. Frida was this ridiculous, over the top old lady who would indeed do crazy things despite her age: fun fact, the heart attack and drinking story was actually something she did do in real life. Overall, I felt like those two personalities would help bring more characterization to the workplace.

Virginia and Justin were completely fictional. I wanted Virginia to be this stone-cold Betty type of character, very cool and aloof to Frida’s antics. Making her come from Hawaii made sense in that she worked closely with the hospitality industry, and it helped give her character purpose when it came time for Dakota to talk about leaving Illinois. Justin, I just wanted somebody there for Frida’s crazy to be directed towards, so that was more of what his role was expanded into. A motif I subconsciously created was the idea of father-figures being more muted, something that is noticeable with both Justin and Mr. Hopkins.

For the parents, we had Peter Logan, Marisa Ellis-Logan, Jessica Hopkins, and Matthew Hopkins. I knew that I wanted to expand upon the parents’ backstories in this one, similarly to how I did with Sky Bird, but in this case, not because of any internal conflict, but so that Mr. and Mrs. Logan can provide full understanding and insight to Dakota’s situation. I did not want them to completely mirror their daughter and Phillip’s lives, so I made them meet in completely different circumstances and focus on different career goals. Mrs. Hopkins was only ever formally introduced via dream sequence, so by no means is that what she really is like. The dream sequence version simply represented Dakota’s own fears of inadequacy and reluctance with continuing her relationship with Phillip. Originally, Mrs. Hopkins was killed off the same way as her son, but I changed it from a truck crashing into her car to just her crashing into the DuPage River and freezing to death, just because I did not want everyone who died to die via trucker. Mr. Hopkins, I regret not developing his character more, because it would have been great to see his reactions to the loss of his wife and the loss of his son, but for me, I always felt like father figures tend to hide their pain, so that was the sort of route I took with him.

Pamela, Dakota’s therapist, was loosely based on Pam Poovey from the show Archer. Mostly in appearances though. I wanted Pamela to be this insufferable personality that was aggravate Dakota to no end, just to show how frustrated she was at her then-current situation. She was originally going to make more appearances, but then I decided to push up the chapter when Dakota decides to quit work, and Pamela became obsolete to the plot at that point, so I wrote her out of the remainder of the story.

Lastly, there’s Monique. I wanted Monique to be a complete foil to Phillip’s personality. Rather than being incredibly career oriented and busy, Monique was more free-spirited, young, and unburdened by her past. She has a different outlook than Phillip entirely on her life, but she does have her doubts on whether or not the life she is living is the one she wants to have. I did at one point consider having her end up with Dakota, but ultimately decided against it because I felt like Dakota did not need to come out as bisexual for the story to really progress or end on a strong note: coming out and the ending message may potentially eclipse one another, so I stuck with the ending instead and was happy with that. As for Monique’s grandma, originally, all four of her grandparents were going to die in a plane accident, but again, too many deaths via motor vehicles, so I just wrote off a grandma in a corn fire instead. Overall, Monique’s character was a huge surprise to me. I did not write her in until much later in the writing process, and decided that her character was much needed if Dakota had to go through therapy and could not return to work first.

Overall, I am happy with the fact that Road Movie wound up being a story based off of experiences that were not my own. I do want to visit Chicago, now that I have done so much research on it. The idea of Road Movie was moving forward and remembering the happiness we gained from love, while not constantly dwelling on or missing the love itself. We can find new things to fill the void left behind from the old, new things that can maintain that happiness. I hope that the story was able to perfectly emulate that message

Road Movie: Chapter 23

“So the benefits of living in Los Angeles. Good food, good weather, a lot of pretty sights to photograph. Downsides, driving will be a bitch and everyone in the city thinks that they’re too good to hire a professional photographer.” Dakota listed. “New York, kind of out of the question. There’s no point in my parents buying a car, and honestly, it’s too grimy of a city. It would have been better if I was younger, but I’m not.” She looked at the prospects of living in Manhattan, but found herself disappointed. “And then we have San Francisco. Expensive real estate. Even worse than New York or LA. But then the lifestyle, it’s very European-influenced and laid back. It’s a definite change of pace from here.” She sighed. “And then we have Seattle. It’s beautiful, maybe too cold and rainy for my liking, but the lifestyle is very similar to San Francisco, and the real estate doesn’t suck, price-wise.” It was tough. Each city had pros and cons, and listing them off did not help make this decision any easier.

Looking at her calendar, Dakota sighed. She was almost done with her time at Hillary Jenkins. Tomorrow would be her last day. Time flew by, but she knew that she closed this door at the right time. Turning back to her computer, the brunette growled. It was hard for her to make her decision on which city she was going to move to. Each one had something to offer, and it made this choice difficult. In a lot of ways, she felt like she was trapping herself again. “No, you can’t think like that!” She growled. “Alright, let’s ignore these four cities, and just think about what you want to live in.” She reminded herself. “Okay, so I want the place to be clean. New York and Los Angeles, good bye.” She crossed the two off her list right away. “I want the place to be nice, the overall vibe to be relaxed.” She sat there, thinking harder. It was not a decision she could take lightly, but she needed to know what she wanted to the last detail before she relocated. “I think that this city would be perfect for me.” She finally decided, clicking on the apartment listings.

It was settled. Her lease on the new apartment started in a week. This would be her final week in Chicago. Looking around, she was very sad. The apartment she had shared with Phillip, she had finished packing away everything, including the bed. She was going to call the moving company sometime next week to help her re-settle in her new city. The only people who knew where she was going were her parents. The brunette decided to keep it a secret for the moment. She wanted to first settle in and really soak in the culture of the place she would be calling her new home. And then she could start advertising that she was living there, both professionally and on a personal basis. That seemed like a fair thing to do for herself.

Going to work, it felt bittersweet, as would most partings. This would be the second time she would be leaving the Hillary Jenkins family. The moment she stepped out of the elevator, Dakota was bombarded with confetti, streamers, and balloons. “SURPRISE!” Everyone shouted, although the brunette had a gut feeling that this was going to happen. “Act surprised, fool!” Frida screamed. “Ahhhh!” Dakota poorly feigned her enthusiasm while Virginia and Maria laughed. “We’re seriously going to miss you, though!” Everyone went in and gave her a hug. Even though she was leaving, Dakota knew that there would always be a place in this company for her. Frida even said it herself. But still, why was she crying? And why did this feel so final?

“We got you a goodbye present!” Maria grabbed a large book. It was filled with pictures of Dakota with all of her clients, the various projects she had a part of, and at the very end, a picture of the entire marketing team, with everyone writing something for the brunette. “We seriously are going to miss you!” Virginia hugged the brunette tightly, as if to never let her go. “The office is going to be a lot less funny without you, for sure.” Justin sighed. “Hey, what’s that supposed to mean, you motherfucker?!” Frida glared at her oldest sales executive. “Well, Dakota’s just clumsy in a very entertaining way.” He chuckled. “Remember when she gave you full-fat cream in your drink?” The male manager looked at Friday, who was not terribly entertained remembering that moment. “Okay, lactose farts aside, we need to take another photo.” Virginia grabbed out her polaroid camera. “Notice how we left the front page blank. That’s where this picture is going.” Maria pointed out in the picture book. “Aw, you guys!” Dakota was still very touched by the entire notion of her goodbye party. “Okay, on a count of three, say Frida!” Justin laughed. “Three, two, one, Frida!” “Shut the fuck up, bitches!” The camera went off. The shot included Dakota and Maria laughing, Virginia rolling her eyes at Frida’s remark, and Frida screaming at Justin. It was a perfect summarization of Dakota’s time in Hillary Jenkins.

“We’ll miss you, Dakota!” Maria and Virginia cried. The three were at dinner together with Monique, It was their last girls night out as a quarter together. “You better message us every day. We’ll let you know if Justin does something stupid, which is like always.” Maria reassured the brunette. “I’ll send you daily Friday quotes. I know you’ll love those.” Virginia chuckled. “I’ll just keep sharing photos with you in the DropBox.” Monique smiled. These three helped the brunette immensely with getting through her depression. It was because of them that she could now go into the next chapter of her life, unafraid of what’s to come.

Going home for what felt like the last time, Dakota could feel herself fighting back the tears. She felt too sentimental for her own good. “No, no. Sentimentalism is just unearned happiness.” She recited from an episode of some show she watched on Bravo the other day. It was a very true statement, however. This was not the last time she was going to see these people. She knew that, deep down. Besides, Maria was going to hire her for the wedding, and everyone would definitely be there for that. Smiling to herself, Dakota put the scrapbook in the last open box, before taping it shut. It would be a good first thing to see when she unpacks in her new apartment across the country. Stacking the box on top of several others, she looked around. She gave the moving company her keys already, so they know what to do with her stuff. For the next week, she was planning to sleep in her old room at Naperville, since Phillip’s funeral was coming up soon as well. And then after his funeral, she would be off to the next chapter of her life. It still felt surreal that she was doing this. Some people might call her crazy for throwing away her career. But to Dakota, it was more crazy to stay in a job or environment that made her unhappy. Happiness should come before anything else, in her ideal world.

Road Movie: Chapter 21

“What’s so important?” Dakota walked outside of her apartment building. Her parents had visited her apartment and insisted that she come outside. “I know you might be hesitant, but we wanted to get you this so that when you leave the city, you’ll be ready for whatever is ahead of you.” Mrs. Logan smiled as she led her daughter outside. It was a brand new car. “Oh my god!” Dakota gasped. She started to feel a little uneasy about the idea of driving it, but her parents insisted that she get in and drive with them in it. “Uh, okay.” She was hesitant, but knew it was time to face this fear. Stepping into the driver’s seat, she buckled in, and turned on the engine. It was a while since she actually drove, but it was like riding a bicycle to speak. “Alright, where are we going?” She turned around to her mom who was sitting in the back of the car. “Ooh, let’s drive along the Lake!” She suggested excitedly. “Alright, a trip along the Lake it is!”

Driving with her parents in the car, Dakota started to feel a lot more calm. Yeah, motor accidents have happened to both Phillip and his mother, and it does suck, but it happens. That sounded insensitive, but it was the blunt truth. There was no point in being fearful of the car accidents. She just had to be careful. Knowing that her parents and her own life were being placed in her hands, she had to prioritize her parents’ lives first, obviously, and she was making sure to drive knowing that. She made sure to watch traffic on all intersections and lanes like a hawk, making sure that nobody was trying to merge onto her lane or cut her off, causing a potential accident. She had that much control over her life, anyways.

Dropping off her parents at her apartment garage, she gave them a large hug. “Thank you guys for this. I really needed to get over everything.” She grinned graciously. “No problem, honey. We just wanted to help you overcome some of those fears. Besides, you’ll need a car where you’re going.” Mrs. Logan smiled. “Thanks, mom. Thanks, dad.” She could not stop smiling. She was genuinely touched that her parents would go out of their way to buy her a brand new car, and then on top of that, help her confront her fears of driving. Coping with the trauma, it’s a step by step process. Some steps will take longer, but a step like this, it takes just one good experience and a strong reminder of who is in control and what they are in control of.

“Also, another thing, Mr. Hopkins finally got back to us about a date for Phillip’s funeral. Do you think you’re ready for this?” Mrs. Logan looked at her daughter, gravely concerned. “It’s something that I know I need to do if I can ever cope with the loss and move on.” She assured her mother. “The reason why it’s been a while was that he was going to therapy. Suicide prevention. It’s understandable, given what he had been through.” Mr. Logan sighed. Losing your wife is tough, but then your only child, it massively reduces ones will to live. “But he’s better now. We make sure to visit often and I know he wants to set up a fund in Phillip’s honor.” They smiled at her. “That’s incredible to hear. I’m glad he’s doing a lot better now.” Dakota nodded in relief.

Later that day, Dakota’s phone started ringing. It was none other than Mr. Hopkins. “Hi, Mr. Hopkins, how are you?” The brunette answered nervously. She was still a bit afraid to see him after the incident. She still felt some survivors guilt for not being the one who drove that night. But she knew it was unhealthy and wrong to dwell on those hypotheticals. The what-if’s needed to be shafted. “I just wanted to know how you were doing. I think out of everyone, the two of us were definitely the most affected by Phillip’s passing.” “I’m still trying to get over it. It’s tough for both of us, absolutely. But I know that Phillip would have wanted us to be happy with our lives. Even if he was not a part of them, he wanted that for us.” Dakota rationalized. “He was so fortunate to have a girlfriend like you. You kept him grounded and focused. For that, I’ll always be grateful. You’ll always be like a daughter to me, Dakota.” Mr. Logan admitted. “Thank you, Mr. Logan. That means a lot to me, coming from you!”

“Monique, what was the meaning of this?!” Dakota was with Monique, Virginia, and Maria, getting dinner together. It was the first tine they had a girl’s night out since Phillip’s death, and Monique’s first time overall. The brunette was referring to the email she got last night. “I never entered the Capture My Chicago Photo Contest! And you’re the only one who had access to my photos!” The two had shared a mutual dropbox for their photography. “I wanted to boost your confidence, and I took your best shots and entered them. And you won!” Monique snickered mischievously. “I mean, I’m honored that I won, but why did you do that behind my back?” The brunette frowned. “Because if I tried to get you to enter, you’d probably be too modest or nervous about your photography. Plus, since I entered you behind your back, you didn’t know, and if you lost, you’d never have to know!” Monique laughed. “The rejection email, you’d probably think it was spam or something.”

As odd as it was, Dakota was grateful for what Monique did. She helped her do something she never thought was possible, and because of it, Dakota was able to get her name out there as a photographer. “Honestly, your pictures are really good. You’ve learned quickly, and I think you should consider making this your career when you move.” Monique encouraged. “Hold on, I want to see these photos.” Maria frowned, grabbing Dakota’s phone. “Where’s this DropBox?” “Here, here.” Monique gestured, taking the phone and logging into the site. She tapped on the image file to bring it up for Virginia and Maria. “Wow! These are really nice! Can you take my wedding photos?” Maria smiled. “I mean, if I’m still in Chicago, sure!” “Oh, no, Maria will probably make you come back just to take them.” Virginia laughed. “Hey… that’s true, actually. I’ll cover your expenses and everything, since my parents have to pay for the wedding.” Maria smiled. “Thanks!” Dakota grinned. It was reassuring to know that people enjoyed her photography as much as she enjoying doing it. Lining up the angle, waiting for the lighting to be perfect, and capturing that moment at just the right time, it was a thrilling sensation for her. She enjoyed being able to land on that perfect picture.

Road Movie: Chapter 20

“So I’m still debating on which city to move to, out of those four, but I’m definitely leaving at the end of the month,.” The brunette was with Monique again, walking around the Loop. “I’m going to miss you.” The dark haired girl sighed. “Come to think of it, what made you choose Chicago?” “It was just such a cool city for me. I’m originally from Iowa, and there’s not much to do there other than walk through corn fields. So coming to a big city like this, it felt like such a great opportunity. Plus, I get to photograph things that aren’t on a farm for once!” She laughed. “Wow, such a spontaneous move though.” Dakota sighed. “Yeah. I do miss my parents a lot, but I know if I have time to be homesick, then I have time to be exploring and enjoying my life.” Monique grinned. “I’m glad you’re getting more out of your time there than I am.” The brunette smiled. “Well, to each there own!” Monique reasoned.

Walking towards the Lake, Dakota thought about her conversation with Monique. To each their own. She sighed to herself. The very place the brunette felt trapped by, her friend loved and thrived in. It was interesting to think about how differently they viewed Chicago. Dakota felt that Illinois as a whole was holding her back. But Monique saw this as a place for her to thrive and grow. Even though there was a small age gap between the two, Monique seemed to be so much more complacent with her situation. She seemed to be a lot less panicked by the idea of being around this city. Granted, Monique did not have a dead boyfriend that reminded her of this place, but she still had her own grievances in the form of having parents so far away, working every day on a corn farm. It was also just funny to think about how a girl from the suburbs and a girl from the cornfields could become good friends over photography and through living in this city.

“Say, Monique. Do you know the main reason why I want to leave Chicago?” The two were sitting on a bench, watching the waves sway along the shore. “Actually, I don’t.” “So for a long time, I dated a boy named Phillip. He and I got together in 11th grade, but we knew each other since the 7th grade.” Dakota began. “Why haven’t I met him? Did you guys break up or something?” Monique looked at her curiously. “No. He… died in a car crash.” “Oh no…” Concern consumed the graduate student’s face. “It happened back in December. I… am still grieving, and trying to slowly get over it. But this city, we grew up in Illinois and in Chicago together. So almost everything here, it reminds me of him.” She sighed to herself. “It makes sense why you need to get away now. You need space to sort out your feelings.” Monique chimed in. “I’m not saying that the exact same thing happened to me, but I lost loved ones to an accident before too.” “Oh no! What happened?”

It was back when Monique was applying for colleges in high school. She had received a phone call from her parents that her grandmother, the last of her grandparents and the only one Monique had ever met, died in a fire. Nobody knew what caused it, but there were assumptions that with the droughts that were happening in Iowa at that time, the dried crops caught fire, and that wound up consuming her grandma’s entire house. Ever since, Monique knew that she did not want to work on a farm. The idea of being killed by the very things you work for, it was an unsettling feeling for her. Attending her grandmother’s funeral was tough for her, but it made her realize how badly she wanted to leave Iowa and go into a large city. So she chose an easy major to get into colleges for, being Psychology, and then decided to pursue photography on the side, until she had enough of an idea of what sort of photographer she wanted to be.

“I think the biggest thing I’m learning now is how strong we both had to be to get over their deaths. It would be easy to just throw up your arms, give up, and quit, but doing that is not what living life is about. We want to follow our dreams. I know that I want to be a photographer, but what kind, not sure. For you, Dakota, what is it that you want to do?” She looked at the older female. “I know I want to do something expressive. Right now, yes, I’m leaning towards photography. That might change down the line. All I know is that at this very moment, photography relaxes me and makes me happy. So that’s why I continue doing it.” She started to realize something else. No matter how inept she was at something, so long as she had passion for her, she could learn to be good at it. Just stumbling upon this realization made feel like she was less trapped than she felt.

We all can grow and mature. It does not matter how old we are, we can continue to learn new things and gain new insights. Perspectives continue to grow when we interact with others, and gain their opinions and ideas as well. The idea of talking to others, and growing through their experiences, it suddenly dawned on Dakota, that’s one large way for her to overcome her grief. And she knew that by going into a new city, there would be plenty of opportunity to grow. An entire metropolis of people she was waiting to meet and know. To hear about their stories. Maybe that’s another thing to appealed to her about marketing. Hearing their insight, and being able to give her own. The idea of sharing perspectives, memories, thoughts, that was something that spoke true to her.

“You’d think that because I have such a good career and that I look put together, I had life figured out. But nobody can ever figure out life. As soon as we think we do, it changes. It continues to grow and develop with humanity.” Dakota stated aloud to Monique. The two were walking back to their apartments after a day of photographing the entire city. “It’s a very true statement too.” Monique chimed in. “It’s not like an attack on your prior accomplishments, or anything like that, but we can all continue to learn and grow so long as we keep an open mind and not feel like we are being challenged or offended.” The brunette smiled. While she is still planning to commit to moving, she knows that somewhere in the future, returning to this city would not be as painful as she feared it to be. “Even if I’m leaving now, expect me to visit. Maybe not in a year, but I’ll be back.” She promised her friend.

blood stained road

She was wandering this strange world for such a long time. It felt like years since she had seen a familiar face. She still remembered her friends, two young men, and how the three of them would be able to sit together and laugh at the simple things in life. What happened to those times? Succumbing to her doubts, she fell to her knees, clutching her head tightly with both hands. She could not understand why things had to happen the way they did. The three of them were promised a chance to explore the world. However, the situation soured quickly. Only one of them could leave their town. A small, rural village, in the middle of the mountains. None of them had ever seen the outside world before. They did not know life beyond those mountains. And when offered that opportunity, their friendship fell apart. Her friends, they argued and fought, screaming over each other why they were most deserving of this chance. The girl, she was willing to step down and let one of them travel. She was happy, living a simple life, and was okay with staying there with one of her two friends. But that was not good enough for either of the young men. Their tactics quickly shifted from arguing and debating to much more extreme measures. The consequences were dire. She still remembers that day. When she arrived at their usual spot. A small clearing on the cliffs, overlooking the rest of the village. The normally lush flower garden was stained red. One of her friends weakly crawled over to her, the stake pressed through his chest dragged through the dirt, and he grabbed her ankle pleadingly. He quickly succumbed to his wounds, coughing up blood, unable to utter his final words. Gasping, she quickly looked around the field, screaming her other friend’s name. Walking closer to the edge of the cliff, she was horrified. Her other friend, body mangled beyond recognition, was left hanging off the edge. Shuddering to herself, trying to cast off that horrendous memory, the girl frowned. She did not want to be the wanderer. But she wanted to honor their memories and dreams of escaping the village. For her, living out her friends’ wishes was enough for her to continue living on. She did not want to remain in the village, and be constantly reminded of their demises. She wanted to live a life, free of her trauma. Free of her pain.

 

Road Movie: Chapter 10

The morning after coming back from the hospital was not much better. Instead of going to work, by company policy, Dakota was required to go to therapy. It was standard policy by Hillary Jenkins for employees to see a therapist if there was a recent death of a loved one; most employees would not mind because they would still be paid and the therapy sessions would be covered during this time period, but it was a very rare occurrence nonetheless. Regardless of the policy, the brunette wished that she was going to work instead. Having to go to therapy just reminded her that Phillip was dead, while going to work, she would at least be able to distract herself with consulting with clients as opposed to sitting in a room and wasting time talking about feelings. It just felt so unproductive and exhausting.

Dakota wound up at the Center For Personal Development, a very tall white sky riser that jutted out of a red brick structure. It had an intriguing and polarizing exterior, but the appearance of the building did not matter to Dakota. She was distracted by the mix of emotions at that point. Distraught, angry, sad, lonely, frustrated. It was overwhelming. But first and foremost, she just did not understand why it had to be Phillip. Somebody so kind and selfless. Someone who tried his best to help others. Her emotional rock, the person who was there for her since high school. Since they took Bio AP and studied for the SATs together. Why did somebody like that have to die? There are so many other people in this world, several who are much more deserving of death for their horrendous actions, still alive out there, and he was taken away instead. Life was not fair, and it was a tough lesson that she learned.

“Hi, my name is Pamela. How are you doing today?” A cheerful and stout woman with large cheeks and blonde hair tied in a tight bun greeted Dakota. The two were in a well lit room with vividly colored furniture. The two were seated in large, cushioned chairs. “I’m tired.” Dakota yawned. “Are you really? How much sleep did you get last night?” She questioned her. “Not enough.” The brunette frowned. For some reason, she felt exhausted. It was not that she was trying to give Pam any sort of attitude, it was more along the lines of her just wanting to sleep more. There was something about being awake and conscious in this reality that she did not want to do. She would rather be anywhere but here right now. “I see. Well, you are clearly tired, so how about you go back home for the day, and I can see you another time in the week? I want to make sure that you’re well-rested for these sessions. Before you come back, how about you reflect a bit about how you feel? That will help us get to the bottom of this.”

Unfortunately, Dakota could not return back to work until her therapist deemed her fit. And Pamela insisted that they had at least three more sessions within the week before any results could be finalized. Great. Three more days where she cannot attend to her clients. Dakota was frustrated. She wanted to move on with her life, but instead, she has to go to therapy and be treated like she has problems. But does she really? She was in the wrong place in the wrong time, victimized by an accident that was beyond her control. Why was she being forced to suffer the consequences? She lost her boyfriend, and if that was not enough, she had to sit in a room with a complete stranger and feel like some sort of psychopath. It was very uncomfortable, feeling so cornered and trapped.

Everything that was going on, it just made Dakota frustrated and angry. Phillip was dead. And she was being forced to suffer the consequences. She did not know who to blame, why it had to be him, and was annoyed that she was not getting answers to these sorts of questions. How was a 25 year-old supposed to know how to cope with the death of her significant other? Was that not too much to ask of her? She felt confused, dizzy, fatigued, yet, she wanted to work. Work and put all of this behind her. But deep down inside, she knew that trying to use work as a distraction was not going to help her move forward. She would only be running away from her problems. She needed to come face to face with these feelings. But, out of the plethora of questions she was dealt with, the first one she needed to ask herself is where to start?

Storming out of the Center For Personal Development, the brunette started to walk back to her apartment. Despite the cold and the fact it was a 35 minute trip, she wanted to go back home by foot. Taking the L would be too quick, and riding in a car, too soon to be doing that again. She needed to walk off her feelings. It might be difficult talking about them to a complete stranger like Pamela, but she needed to confront these feelings properly. Leaving them untouched or unattended to, that’s what was exhausting. It was taxing on her, having all of these thoughts and emotions bottled up. Dakota did not want an emotional breakdown, so she was going to try her best to slowly sort out how she felt, little by little, rather than all at once.

Why was she so exhausted? She knew that her current life sucked. She had to do something to change that. And so, she started making a list. Of everything in her life she was unhappy with. The obvious ones included “dead boyfriend” and “having nobody to blame for this.” Apparently, the truck driver did get arrested for the incident, and rightfully so. But the brunette knew that deep down, it was not his intention to kill Phillip. It was accidental. She had to start by letting go of her frustration towards blaming somebody. There was only so much she could control or change. She could not, even though she really wanted to, bring Phillip back from the dead. She could not have gone back in time and prevented the accident.

“Ugh, boyfriends can be the worst.” A 19 year-old Dakota cried as two girls, a red head named Bridgette and a blonde named Veronica comforted her. The three were pledge sisters for Alpha Omicron Pi, and while the pledge process was already tough, it was taking a strain on Dakota’s relationship. She had just gotten into her second fight ever with Phillip. “Don’t worry, Dakota. He’ll come around. Just explain to him your perspective, and then give him some space and time to process it.” Veronica offered a solution. “Yeah, you’ll be okay. You’re tough enough to get this far in the pledging process, and you’re tough enough to get through a fight in your relationship.” Bridgette reassured. Dakota greatly appreciated having these two young women in her life; Veronica was wise beyond her years and knew how to approach things rationally, while Bridgette was secretly a seasoned 45 year-old mother trapped in a 19 year-old’s body. Pledging would be a lot worse if she did not have to go through it with these two. Thinking back on that memory, Dakota frowned. She missed having friends.

Road Movie: Chapter 9

“Where am I?” Dakota tried to open her eyes in the brightly lit room, which proved to be a challenge. Blinking and wiping away the tears that formed, she finally saw the outline of someone wearing what appeared to be a surgical mask. After adjusting her sight to the fluorescent shine in her face, Dakota realized that she was in a hospital, specifically in a hospital bed. “You’re in Northwestern Memorial Hospital.” The brunette was puzzled by the response. She was in the hospital? And the one she had recently helped? “What happened?” Her voice croaked weakly, much to her own shock. All she could remember was driving with Phillip to the movies. “You were in a car accident.” The figure standing above her stated. “Accident? Is Phillip okay?” She looked over at him, beginning to panic. The man went silent. His silence just made it clear that Phillip was far from fine.

Dakota heard the full details of what just happened when she got discharged from the hospital. Waiting in the lobby, she came across a distraught Mr. Hopkins who was accompanied by her parents. “Dakota.” Her father paused, looking at her. There was a look of complete hopelessness in his eyes as tears streamed down his gaunt expression. Mr. Hopkins stood next to them, looking equally despaired. Until now, the brunette was just hoping that the worst that happened was Phillip lost a limb but would survive. Even a terminal illness, she would be okay with. “I’m so sorry.” Her mother sobbed, pulling her into a tight hug. “You guys did not deserve this. You guys should have had a long, happy future together, not what had happened.” “Mom?” She was still unsure of how to react. Denial was at play here. She refused to believe he was dead, even after seeing how their parents were.

According to her dad, the couple were in an accident. A truck hit their car, turning too quickly and not realizing that there was somebody next to them. Their vehicle flipped over, and landed on its right side. Phillip was crushed upon impact as the car rolled back to being upside down. Dakota passed out from lack of air, but at that point, Phillip was already dead. The ambulance found both of them, and excavated the two from the car. They found a pulse on Dakota, and put her in the bed first. She was in a coma for the entire month. There were two cars to carry each body, so they sent her off to the nearest hospital, Adventist GlenOaks Hospital. Eventually, after treating the minor injuries on Dakota’s body, she was transferred to Northwestern Memorial, where she remained past Christmas, New Years, and eventually, woke up in late January. In that time, Dakota’s parents contacted her workplace, explaining what had happened.

Phillip, the EMTs and paramedics tried to save him, but his neck was already snapped. They were able to save Dakota with minor injuries, but Phillip, between being on the side impacted by the truck and snapping his neck as the car tumbled, he was beyond saving. The body remained in one piece, but by the time they had wheeled his body to Adventist, he had been dead for almost two hours. There was nothing the doctors were able to do either. A broken neck meant that he was gone for good. When Mr. Hopkins heard the news, it destroyed him. First his wife, then his son. And both of them to motor accidents? It would have been hilarious, if it was not the people in his life. People who he loved the most. What did he do to deserve having everything he worked so hard for taken away from him?

Mr. and Mrs. Logan had to comfort Mr. Hopkins through the entire ordeal. Upon being told that their daughter survived, but Phillip died, they drove over to his apartment almost immediately; they knew he would be taking the news the worst. And they were fortunate to arrive when they did; Mr. Hopkins was about to go for a drive; he intended to drive into the DuPage River and drown in his car, but Dakota’s parents did not know that at the time. After a long talk and assuring him that he will always be family to them, Mr. Hopkins was able to calm down. It was painful to live in this reality, but if he were to die now, what would happen? The entire Logan household would be gone. Especially now that he was the only one in his family left, he had to live. Live for Jessica and Phillip. They would not want him to suffer. They would want him to be happy. Even though happiness seemed far away, he needed to start looking for it. He needed to find a new purpose for his life.

Phillip’s body was being stored in a Cryonics Institute in Chicago for the time being. Mr. Hopkins was deciding whether or not if they wanted to bury the body in a casket or cremate the remains and bury the urn. Like with choosing to stay alive, this was not an easy decision. Mr. Hopkins decided that he needed to wait for Dakota to awaken from her coma before he decided; she has as much say in this situation as he did. Thinking about the funeral was still too much for him. How many fathers have had to plan their own son’s funerals? It was uncomfortable to think about, but it needed to be done, out of respect to Phillip’s memory. Sighing to himself, Mr. Hopkins walked out of his apartment, holding a lighter in one hand, and a box of cigarettes in another. Normally, he did not smoke, but in this case, he needed the comfort of that warmth spreading in his lungs to calm himself down.

Dakota did not know what to feel. It had not fully sunken in that Phillip was gone. She could not believe it. Not until she saw him for herself. There was a small part of her, clinging onto the hope that this was a bad dream, that seeing her parents mourn was a figment of her imagination. She convinced herself that he was still alive. Even when she told Mr. Hopkins to bury the body as is, she still denied Phillip’s death. But that night, going home to her apartment, it started to settle in. The space was empty and dark. Everything was exactly like they left it before they went to the movies. That first night alone, it was hard. She was used to sleeping, knowing that Phillip was a hug away if she needed it. But instead, it was just her in an empty bed. She tried to comfort herself, but it was hard. He was not there. She could not trick herself into thinking he was away on a trip of something. She knew the truth. It crept up on her. Unable to fight the urge the cry, Dakota gave in and found herself sobbing into a pillow.