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.

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How it is: Chapter 5

It was almost a nightmare, having to relive this moment on the other side, watching it happen again on national television. “Austin…. you are Warrior Chef! Congratulations! You won the title and the grand prize of $100,000!” Valerie’s heart sank. She was sitting alone, in her room, watching the finale of Warrior Chef. “Not winning the title, and knowing that you were so close, it hurts. I thought that I had it in the bag, but I guess not.” A slightly younger Valerie looked visibly upset as confetti rained down, and everyone in that season went up to congratulate her competitor, a tall young man named Austin. Looking back on her decisions, Valerie felt embarrassed. She knew that pastry was her strength, and in that finale, she wanted to showcase it by preparing four desserts instead of a progressive four course meal. In the first challenge, she won using a mix of sweet and savory, preparing a carrot macaron with goat cheese mousse and sorrel sorbet over dehydrated carrot and oat crumble. But then with her other three courses, she went full-on pastry, and the judges decided that because she refused to follow the challenge rules, she could not win the title. In short, she lost because of a technicality, not because she was actually a weaker cook. Regardless, Valerie felt regret and hindsight settling in.

A buzzing could be heard from her desk as the pastry chef picked up her phone and checked the notifications. “Hey, congratulations on making it to the final two! You did amazing! You were easily the best pastry cook in that competition.” Tarou had sent her a text. “You’re still my favorite pastry chef, even though I don’t like desserts that much.” Timmy messaged her as well. It felt nice to know that they still supported her, even though she lost. One part of her felt relieved, knowing that she can finally talk about this entire experience. But another part of her felt deflated that she lost the way she did. Had she prepared two savory courses and a dessert, she might have actually won. The judges outright said that in their deliberation, that if she decided to do a progressive menu, given the amount of technique and skill she had shown throughout the season and with the pastries she was presenting, she could have easily won the competition hands down. Before watching the finale, Valerie did not know why she lost the title. She did have a gut feeling it was because she chose to go with four desserts, but did not think that it would come back to cost her the title in the way that it did.

At work, Valerie was hoping that her emotions from losing would improve. She still remembered that working here with Namie, she focused on keeping her head down and completing the tasks at hand. It helped her calm down and move past the initial pain of losing. But being the executive pastry chef was just more stress on her. Firstly, it was a Friday, and dinner service was crazy. Secondly, every time she picked up a whisk or a piping bag, she just remembered her experiences in that finale. Preparing mousses, creams, baked components, frozen components, and seeing the judges say that preparing four desserts was her ultimate undoing. Those critiques, it hurt her pride. The last thing she wanted to do right now was prepare desserts, when they costed her the title and $100,000. And on top of that, she felt that losing affected her authority, where she felt like she lacked the confidence and validity to be leading her pastry cooks. Austin is opening his first restaurant with the money he won, while she was working for somebody else. Unfortunately, Valerie’s emotional strain towards making desserts only worsened as the service drew on. “Hey, Val! We just got a petit four sent back. Your macarons were filled with the wrong ganache!” Janice shouted. Oh crap. Her heart just sank. Once again, her desserts were inadequate. They failed her in the finale, and they were failing her here at work. Valerie could just feel her doubts getting louder and louder. And she found herself unable to sound them out. Trying to shake off the doubts, Valerie corrected her macarons and re-sent them out for the guests, much to Janice’s visible frustration.

“Well, that was a crap day.” Valerie sighed to herself as she began the walk back to campus. Normally, she would stick around after service and celebrate with Jacky, Megan, Mako, Joseph, and Janice, but today, she was exhausted and ashamed of her performance. That was nothing that she did that was worth celebrating. The worst thing about this was that she knew that she could do better too. She has had stronger services as an intern than she had today.And in Warrior Chef, she put up dishes that demonstrated her strengths in the savory kitchen. It was not that she was weak with savory, she just wanted to do the dishes that expressed her love and passion for food the best. Having to re-experience losing, it was not fun for her. And there were only a couple of people she felt comfortable talking about this to. “Hey, you made it this far. You have a lot to be proud of.” Austin, the cook who beat her in Warrior Chef, sent that message. Unlike Valerie, when Austin found out he had won, he enrolled in culinary school in the CIA using his winnings, and was already announcing the opening of his first restaurant, which was scheduled for the fall. Winning that title opened a world of possibilities and opportunities for him, just like how it did for Janice all those years ago. And for Valerie, she just felt that much more unaccomplished. Even though it had been an entire year since she competed, compared to Austin, what had she accomplished? Nothing.

A year ago, a slightly younger Valerie, then a senior in high school, walked nervously into the judge’s room, in Tokyo, where the finale was taking place. It felt surreal. Earlier that morning, her, Joey, and Austin were anxiously awaiting the final two challenges. After the first one, Valerie won an advantage of picking her sous-chefs for the final elimination challenge, and Joey was sent home for making a slightly weaker amuse bouche. Even though Valerie got first pick, selecting her close friends Claire and Coco, it was her decisions to stick with pastry that put her in a bad position. There was a part of her doubting that choice to do only dessert, but desserts were how she got on top of challenges, and it was going through the competition and hearing the praise of her pastries that made her realize that she wanted to one day open her own dessert bar.  So in spite of the doubts, she still pushed forward and put up three amazing desserts in just an hour. She was proud of what she was putting out: each dessert looked and tasted impeccable, and showed her true range as a pastry chef. But with each course she saw Austin preparing, there was just a tinge of doubt that she was making a mistake doing only desserts.

It was heartbreaking to hear the judges’ decision. “You did an amazing job. You have a lot to be proud of.” One of the judges in the finale reassured her. “Valerie, you did incredible.” Coco, a small brunette, and Claire, an athletic blonde, hugged her. They were her sous-chefs in that final challenge. “Thank you.” She hugged them back. Even then, she still felt horrible. If she did such a good job, why did she still lose? At that point, she had a gut feeling that her all-dessert menu cost her the challenge, but she did not hear what the judges said. She did not know why her desserts, which she prided herself on, could not trump the menu Austin put up. But then seeing the judges say on national television that regardless of how amazing her desserts were, she could not beat Austin without doing at least two savory courses, it was heartbreaking. She felt idiotic. She basically handed Austin the title by not following the rules of the challenge. She lost on a technicality, and not even one that was out of her own hands. It was her conscious decision to make four desserts. Why did she think it was okay to do that? The answer that Valerie found was not a pretty one. It was her pride. She wanted to stake her ego on that title, and she only has herself to blame for losing a season that she easily had the potential to dominate.

Finally back in her dorm room, Valerie curled up in a ball on her bed and let loose the tears. It was hard to keep them in at that point. She just wanted to get all of her emotions out of the way so that she could move forward with her life. She could not believe she did that. And she knew that everyone would think poorly of her choices too. She would get many people telling her that she was an idiot for trying to bend the rules, and that she was asking to lose that season. Just knowing that the very thing she is paid to do is what cost her the title, it was heartbreaking. It made her feel as if she was less qualified to fill Namie’s shoes as the executive pastry chef because she lost the way that she did. Namie was a Warrior Chef winner, and she was talented enough to move on and start her own business. But what about Valerie? She was stuck with Namie’s old job, and coming in second to yet another winner on the show. She honestly did not expect to take losing this badly. She never really saw herself as a sore loser, but knowing that she lost in a cooking competition when food was all she ever talked about, it was rough. A part of her own identity, she was beginning to question.

innocence

A little gir, resting underneath a sky littered with cherry blossoms. She had nearly no recollection of her life before sleeping here. There was only one memory: an elderly man, whispering to her. “I’m so sorry.” He apologies in a hushed, croaked tone. He cut her loose of his tight embrace, as she fell. Walking through the pink hills, the girl felt awestruck. The pristine trees, pure ivory park and light, heart-shaped flowers that fluttered through the wind, it was a sight to marvel at. The girl felt like these flowers, they resonated with her. Looking at them, she felt hope, joy, and for some reason, guilt. Seeing these flowers gently glide past her. She could sympathize with their descent from the heavens. But unlike these fallen petals, the girl knew she could continue moving. She felt almost ashamed, as if she was leaving these delicate flowers behind. Being able to move forward, it seemed like something she was not supposed to be doing. Like her, small and untainted in the beginning, before being released, displaced, dirties, and discarded. She knew, deep down, that her innocence was sullied on her way here. Despite not knowing why, she knew that her past was a fall, but her future was a rise.

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 16

It was Sunday morning, and Dakota was off, walking around Naperville, taking photos. When she was photographing, the brunette found herself getting immersed in that lens, focusing on angles and trying to take that perfect shot. Unfortunately, she found herself face to face with a building she was probably hoping to never see again: the apartment complex Phillip lived in. She almost dropped her camera in shock. Dakota did not expect to be this badly affected by the sight of it. The reasonable side of her wanted to knock on the door and say hello to Mr. Hopkins. But the emotional side, she wanted to run away. Dakota’s emotions sank in, and she took off in a hurry, panicked. She just could not be around anything that reminded her of him. She would just get angry at the world for taking him away from her.

Resting on a wooden bench in Columbia Estates Park, Dakota managed to finally catch her breath. She felt a mix of things. Scared from looking at the apartment, guilty for not saying hi to Mr. Hopkins, and disappointed in herself for not being as progressed in her coping as she would have liked to be. It was frustrating that she let her emotions win. Deciding that she was done photographing Naperville, she retired to her room in her parents’ house. As far along as she had come coping with Phillip’s death, she had not quite emotionally prepared herself to see his old house. “Welcome back, honey! Did you have fun?” Mrs. Logan durned to welcome her daughter. She was watching TV with Mr. Logan in their living room when their daughter came through the front door. “Yes, mom! I’m going back to my room to pack up my things.” She responded, climbing up the stairs.

“Dakota, are you sure you’re okay?” Mrs. Logan stepped into the brunette’s old room. “Huh, what do you mean?” “You might be able to fool your father, but I know when my daughter is uncomfortable. What happened when you were taking photos?” “I…. stumbled upon Mr. Hopkin’s apartment. It was just weird, seeing it, and I just felt really bad. A lot of memories of Phillip, and I thought I was finally getting over his death, but then I saw that.” She rambled. Her thoughts were all over the place at this point, but she was hoping that from what she was saying, her mother could empathize. “Honey, something I worry about with you is how sheltered you are. I read that children who never leave the state they were born or raised in, they have a higher tendency to feel trapped.” She explained.

“Your father and I, we each were raised somewhere else. He came from Detroit, and I was from Milwaukee. But you were always in Illinois. You never left. Maybe this is a sign that you should go and explore other cities and other states.” She suggested. “You need space from Chicago and Naperville, so take this as an opportunity.” “You’ll be fine if I might be an unemployed hobo in a different state?” The brunette frowned at the notion. “No, I’m sure you’ll get a job. Besides, look at me. I graduated Northwestern, was unemployed, and I still managed to raise a family and be happily married. Good things will come when you put yourself out there.” “That’s true. I’ll look into moving somewhere else. I thought about that to be honest,” She admitted, It was not the first time she thought about moving to somewhere else. Before, she thought small scale. She used to want a different apartment, or to switch her clientele at work. Something like this, she felt like she needed to change her lifestyle on a larger scale.

“Bye, honey!” Dakota’s parents waved off to the brunette as she stepped on board the train. “I’ll call you guys when I get back home! Love you guys!” She waved as the door closed. Within minutes of the brunette settling into her chair, the train took off. She was going back to the city. But she knew that it would not be much longer that she would be calling Chicago home. She did not know just quite where yet, but somewhere out there was a new place for her to call home. A new place for her to return to. Looking as the suburbs started to sink away into the horizon, she had a lot on her mind. Just knowing that both of her parents were okay with her leaving the nest, it felt like a huge relief. But to herself, she did not want to feel trapped or fail. She wanted to do something that would do right by her ideal life standards.

“Today was such a long day.” Dakota sighed as she fell onto her bed. She was finally back home. It felt strange, because just that morning, she was still in the comfort of her parents in Naperville, and now she was in the big city alone in her apartment. The contrast, going from having the freedom of a kid to the responsibilities of an adult in less than a day, it was a silencing thought. Going to bed, Dakota pondered with the idea of moving and quitting her job. As much as she wanted to do it, she needed more perspective. Drifting off to sleep, she continued to occupy her mind with this idea. To leave Illinois, the state she was born in raised in, when she had never even done that before for even traveling, it seemed a little terrifying. But her parents left their homes to grow up, so many it was time for her to do the same. She had never even left the state, even for a vacation. There was an entire world around her. Getting out of her comfort zone would be a challenge, but that’s what life is about. Being able to push yourself and do things that you may not think about doing before.

“So let me get this straight. You’re from Naperville, you went to college in UChicago, and you’ve never worked outside of Chicago?” Frida frowned to a 23 year-old Dakota. “Yup. Same with my boyfriend.” “Enough about your boyfriend. We are talking about you, young lady.” She was frank in her intentions. Frida wanted to learn more about her new permanent hire. “Wait, are we grilling her? I want in.” Justin overheard the conversation, and swooped in, joining the two at their table in the break room. “Oh my god.” Dakota rolled her eyes. “So you never want to leave Chicago? You just plan to marry your boyfriend and stay in this bubble?” The old lady looked disappointed. “Well, yeah. There’s nothing wrong with that!” “Have you ever even left Illinois?” “Oh. Well, no, but…” Dakota trailed off. “Exactly, a bubble!” Frida frowned. “Dakota, one of my biggest regrets was not embracing my youth and adventuring out in the world. When I got married, I did not even have the luxury of doing that.” Justin chimed in. “Exactly! Girl, you need to live for once in your life! Do something risky!” Frida shouted, slamming her hands onto the table. This conversation fell upon deaf ears at first. But in light of recent events, Dakota started to think about what Frida and Justin told her.

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.

Road Movie: Chapter 8

“Hi, you must be Dakota. I’m Jessica. Phillip’s mother.” A woman with round, brown eyes and long dark hair smiled softly at her. “Huh?” The brunette looked around. The two of them were sitting in a cafe, overlooking the lake. “So, Dakota, I hear you were going out with my little Philly.” She rested her chin on her hands as she continued to look at the girl. Dakota shuddered, feeling her gaze. It was as if Mrs. Hopkins examining her every movement, judging her decisions, reactions, personality. As somebody who disliked being marginalized, Dakota felt incredibly uncomfortable and vulnerable. “Oh. Uh, yeah, I am. We’ve been dating for quite a while now.” She began. She felt strange about this entire situation. The last thing she remembered was that she was in a car with Phillip. So this had to be a dream, right? But the woman sitting across from her, she definitely resembled Phillip; Dakota had never seen what Phillip’s mother looked like, because Phillip refused to show any pictures to her. For Dakota, this was the first time interacting or meeting Mrs. Hopkins ever crossed her mind.

Dakota recalled what meeting Mr. Matthew Hopkins was like. Since Phillip had met Dakota and her parents at their house, they decided to have a huge family dinner with the five of them. Mr. Hopkins and Mr. Logan immediately got along with each other. Both of them were blue collar workers, the former working in a power plant as an engineer and the latter working as a plumber. Mr. Hopkins took a liking to Dakota, mostly because of how polite yet openminded Dakota was; she was able to talk to Mr. Hopkins about football and athletics, much to his delight. Since Phillip was so busy in academics, he never really did sports beyond the two year minimum, where he did football, but had no intentions of making a full career out of it. It was that dinner, during their senior year of high school, where Dakota and Phillip truly felt as if they could one day have a happy family like this of their very own.

It started to dawn on her that this entire interaction should not even be possible. “Wait, who are you?” The woman sitting in front of her could not actually be Phillip’s mom. “I am Jessica Hopkins. The mother of your girlfriend. I died when Phillip was in middle school.” She answered, not even breaking her stare. “Wait, there’s no way that this could be real. This has to be a dream.” Dakota got up in disbelief. Mrs. Hopkins was long since dead. She should not be alive, interacting with the brunette. Dakota had never even met Mrs. Hopkins. She was conflicted. Either this was a dream, and the women before her was Dakota’s image of Mrs. Hopkins, or the woman was pretending to be Mrs. Hopkins. It was overwhelming and difficult to keep track of. Trying to back away, Dakota felt her legs freeze in fear. What was going on? She was paralyzed, shaking helplessly. “A coward like you is unworthy of my son. You are not the kindhearted girl he deserves to be dating.” She spat, glaring at her. “I will be taking him back from you. Your time with him is over.” Dakota’s heart sank at that statement. It was too much to hear for her. She could not believe the words she was hearing.

“Dakota? Dakota!” Phillip shouted. The brunette groggily opened her eyes. “10 minutes left!” He smiled at her. “Oh really?” She smiled at him. “Yup.” She started to recall her dream and felt worried. “Phillip, what was your mom’s name again?” “Jessica. Jessica Hopkins. Why are you asking?” He raised an eyebrow in curiosity. “I had a dream. I met your mom in it. She was beautiful. She had your eyes.” She began. “Oh, wow. That’s what a lot of people said to me.” He froze hesitantly. “Where did you see her? Wait, did you snoop through those old pictures?!” There was definitely a sound of panic in his voice. “No, I swear! I said it was a dream! I met her in a cafe by the lake. It was beautiful. But I got freaked out. I wasn’t sure if it was actually her, or if I was being trolled, since she was supposed to be dead. And she did not take well to how I reacted.” She admitted, trying to make sense of what just happened while also attempting to calm down the wound up Phillip. “What did she do?” It seemed to be working. “She said that I was not worthy of being your girlfriend.” Dakota sighed nervously. “Not worthy of being my girlfriend? Well, everything up until that sounded like my mother, but I’m not sure about that last bit you just said about being unworthy.” He chuckled.

“My mom wouldn’t have made a comment like that to my girlfriend, and I know for a fact she would have loved you. You’re a really caring, selfless, and kind person, Ducky. And if she saw how much you meant to me, she would not even care if you were a Satanist or serial killer. She would accept you for who you are.” He grinned reassuringly. “Thanks, Philly cheesesteak. But I have another question.” The brunette looked at him, half nervously. She was not sure what sort or response to anticipate. “What’s up?” “Why did you not want to show me pictures of your mom, or even really mention so much as her name or what she was like to me?” “Dakota, my mom represented my past. Being with you, it represented my present and my future. Hearing you say it now, yeah, you definitely deserve to know about my mother, but I was so caught up in growing up with you that I guess I forgot.” He admitted sheepishly. It was embarrassing to realize that he never really considered Dakota’s feelings or thoughts in the manner, even after all of those years.

“Okay, so I’m going to get off here.” Phillip signaled his right turn light. He needed to get off the  highway so that he could turn into the theatre. “Wait, Phillip! Look out!” Dakota screamed. A blinding white light flooded the car and the blaring sound of a truck’s horn filled the highway. Everything went silent. There was a flashing red, and then a blackness. “Phillip?” Dakota weakly groaned. She could not really move her head; the car chair had come unhinged and toppled over her. The car had flipped upside down from the collision. The brunette’s body suddenly seized up. She could feel herself gaining that same freezing sensation she had earlier in her dream. Her heart felt like it was going to stop beating. A dizziness took over, and her eyes slowly closed, as a blackness clouded her vision. A sound siren could be heard from a distance as people were gathered around the turned over car, nervously watching.

Being the right kind of competitive: dream 39

When I lived with my old roommate, they treated me like I was a stigma because I was competitive. It was as if being competitive as not okay. I think that to some degree, competitiveness does bring out the worst in us. But it also helps us push past our own boundaries and potentials and do things we otherwise would not. That is why I think there is a such thing as a right kind of competitive: being competitive with yourself. Trying to outdo yourself and be a better version of you, it is a lot healthier than trying to outdo and outperform the person next to you. The former helps build confidence while the latter screams of insecurity and nervousness.

When I was a part of the cultural club, I just felt like we needed to be the best. I have no idea why, but I had this urge to outperform other clubs and let them know that we are the best of the best. That sort of mentality did allow for me to go above and beyond: I singlehandedly catered multiple events, with attendances ranging from 50-200 people. However, it also caused a lot of people to be afraid of me. So many underclassmen were terrified of me because I came off as this intense, unapproachable, and ferocious individual. I myself could feel this sort of vindication towards people who were in other clubs; I felt personally attacked, as if they chose other similar clubs over mine because they wanted to spite me. A prime example is when another almost identical culture club (representing the same country as my own) was created. It was like a slap in the face to me. But I later realized, after quitting my own club, that those people must have felt dis-included and wanted a place to call home. At the least, they found that home for themselves, and I have learned to just be happy for them.

Rather than being competitive on behalf of anything or anyone else, be competitive on your behalf. No, an organization or club that you are in is not an extension of you. I made that mistake before, and regret how many bridges I have burned every day because of it. I mean you as an individual. How can you make yourself better? What is your ideal vision of yourself? How do you want to be the best you that you can be? These are the sorts of questions I ask myself every day. But things to also avoid are: what are your flaws? What do you not like about yourself? When you start to think negatively and focus on what you lack, it will cause you to loathe yourself. By thinking more along the lines of what you aspire to achieve, therefore, positively focusing on the possibilities, life works out a lot better for you.

Being competitive with yourself is a means of improving yourself that I think works well. Trying to figure out what you want to become, and how to become that person overall, it is a journey with a lot of potentially slippery slopes. So long as you focus on the goal, and think about nothing else, such as emotions or doubts, you will find yourself achieving that goal in due time. And once you achieve that goal, don’t stop there. Set another one. And keep doing that so that you can continuously improve yourself as a person and human being. By accomplishing that much, you will find yourself becoming a person you will always be prod of at any given time. If we can all improve ourselves in such a way, then we can continue pushing this world forward, closer to the one in my feather-light dreams.

 

Magic: dream 22

If you expected this post to be about a world of magical unicorns and Harry Potter-related topics, then go away. This is more of a post dedicated to the MysterySkulls’ song, Magic. It’s this upbeat, jazzy, almost Michael Jackson-esque song about falling in love and never giving up. Which, now that I am describing it, sounds really creepy. Like watches-you-when-you-use-the-bathroom creepy. Whoops, I just ruined one of my favorite songs. It’s not the first time this has happened. My friend ruined Love Myself by Hailee Steinfeld by redubbing it “Rub Myself” and making it about masturbation. Yeah, I’m going to stop talking about ruining good music now. That will be done in the rest of this entire post. I am about to tell a story that gave one of my favorite songs a very awkward connotation.

So going back to the song Magic. It was my summer 2016 jam. Well, that and Love Myself. Both of the songs just give me fond memories of when I was an intern in Washington D.C., and how much I was looking forward to my final year in college. And both also remind me of a very… interesting incident that happened to me during that summer. So going back even before summer 2016, my friend, who we shall call Rose, and I, we had this thing called the “Monthly Bitch-Out” where we would go to some restaurant, far, far away from our campus, get buzzed, and rant about whatever shit we were bothered by, no-consequences. It was great, because I had a lot of shit I was subjected to as a secretary to a dysfunctional culture club at the time. But one of those things Rose mentioned was her friend, who we shall call Alex for the sake of gender neutrality. Rose complained a lot about how Alex was single and available, but me being the poor drunk I was, just told her that this was our time to talk about ourselves and that Alex can fuck off. I was too tipsy to realize Rose might have been trying to set us up by gauging my interest. Whoops. And then flash forward a couple months, back to summer 2016, and guess who I accidentally sent a friend request to on FaceBook? I did not mean to send it, nor did I realize who I sent it to at first. Until I scrolled through Alex’s photos and saw photos with Rose, and then realized who this person was. So I quickly un-sent the request, only to receive one from Alex. And I felt like I needed to accept it, because I already un-sent mine. Fuck me.

So that long-ass story basically set me up with this awkward expectation that I would meet Alex, and that we could possibly start dating? Yeah, I know. This was a low-point for me. Going back to my whole obsession with being in control and anticipating any situation, I started to fantasize. A lot. THIS IS EMBARRASSING TO WRITE ABOUT…. Okay, powering through the blood flushing to my face right now. I thought about how I could be this power couple with Alex, because we were both really well-accomplish and established people within our college. Alex was a biology and business double major with a minor in dentistry; they were a pre-dental and pre-law student and in multiple organizations, including the business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi. I am an accounting and Food and Beverage double concentrate with a minor in business, and I was a president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer in four different clubs at that time. I thought it was cute that in the long run, I could give people cavities with my desserts, and then Alex could fix up their teeth. So naturally, me, not having had romantic feelings for anything since the 9th grade, started to really think about being in a relationship with Alex. It got bad.

To this day, I still have not met Alex in real life. Not that I am complaining. If I had met Alex when I was still obsessing over that possibility of us dating, I probably would have lost it. Right now, as I am, I don’t really care as much about being in a relationship. Those sorts of feelings, they should not have been repressed, but rather, not had to begin with. I had not met Alex, so why was I so set on being in a relationship? I know I’m desirable to some extent, so I should not settle on a complete stranger, but rather, I will find my significant other, by being at the right place at the right time. Hasn’t happened yet, nor will I wait on that happening. I’d rather just live my life first. While the song Magic makes me incredibly happy, it still reminds me of that awkward moment when I basically was like a high school fangirl who couldn’t control her hormones over a complete stranger who I have not even met. It makes me smile…and laugh at myself. I still can’t believe after all these years, the possibility of dating somebody could have gotten me this riled up. It just goes to show that I am a human being, and that I have emotions and urges. Yuck. I don’t know if there is any real lesson here, or if any of this has to do with my ideal world. I guess in an ideal world, we can know what to expect out of our lives romantically? That way I would not have set myself up with the expectation that I was going to get into a relationship with basically a complete stranger. There we go. Let’s leave this post at that!

Perspective: realization 19

Tell me, do the colors brighten your world like they brighten up mine?

These were the lyrics for Painted Heart by Trass. They’re a music company that produces a lot of songs for online RPG-type games, in case you were wondering. This song just reminds me of how the world can be as beautiful a place as it can be hideous. It all depends on our outlook. I spoke about optimism in a previous post, and how it is important to view the world with a cup-half-full sort of mentality. When you see everything with a happy outlook, life does become more enjoyable. You start to see more of what the world has to offer, as opposed to just all of the flaws or obstacles standing in your way. Perspective is such a unique topic, because it is so subjective and personal.

The idea of the world being painted by different colors, these shades representing different emotions, experiences, and outlooks, it’s a really vivid one for me. Let’s imagine you are a young woman on her way back home. You get lost. A man offers to help guide you. Depending on your outlook, you might start seeing that as one of two ways: he’s a nice man, or he’s a shady man. If we add in that you got lost in a dark alleyway at night, you live in the ghetto, and you might be inebriated, then you will most likely begin thinking he must be shady. If I were to say that you get lost in a meadow in the middle of the day, and the man is charming, kind, and was raised by local farmers, then you’ll probably think his intentions are probably more sincere. I painted two different pictures, using the same base story, but with different adjectives to guide your mind and create your perspective.

This idea can be applied to any situation in real life as well. It all depends on how much you are willing to trust others. Perspective really does come with a combination of knowledge, experienece, and how we were raised. It very much is a nurture-based instinct in that we first see things based on our prior memories. I still remember one of my friends. For the sake of anonymity, I will name her Ellen. Ellen has what we millenials refer to as resting bitch face. Because she had that her entire life, she was made fun of and bullied a lot for it. It caused her to have trust issues, especially with other girls, because she feels like they are gossiping about her behind her back. In that sense, this trauma narrowed Ellen’s perspective, because her being bullied has affected how she acts and trusts girls. It’s not poor Ellen’s fault either. She has a right to be wary, because of the rude remarks made about her face. This example just shows how our perspective is dictated by how we were brought up and raised.

Ellen and I are similar in that we both have narrowed pespectives as a result of being bullied. Trust became a difficult thing to do have because we were afraid of becoming vulnerable around somebody who could potentially exploit us. I know we are both trying to undo that sort of trauma, but it takes time. To live a life with a broader perspective means that we can be happier and truly learn to appreciate the company around us. But narrow perspectives come with being competitive, neurotic, pefectionists, or untrusting, all qualities that would describe myself and Ellen. To be able to have a broader perspective would be great. I really want to live in a life where I can see the world in all of it’s beautiful colors, and for it to just warm my heart with experiences and memories yet to be had. Where I can love everything about this world. To have a perspective like that, I truly can become feather-light.