Sunday, June 28, 2009

On Surprises

I have this incredible group of friends. There are five of us in the core group: Jules, Christina, Jen, Chele, and me. We sometimes refer to ourselves as "THOSE girls," which is a joke with a complicated backstory that I won't try to explain. But as "THOSE girls," we travel together (often to skating events, but not always), we celebrate birthdays, and we laugh...a lot.

The tradition of surprises began between Jules and Christina, before either of them knew Jen or Chele or me. I think my first surprise was in summer 2005. Jen, Christina, Jules, and I had planned to spend a weekend together in Michigan, where Jules lives, but at the last minute, Chele decided to join us. We surprised Jules with her in the middle of the Gap in Ann Arbor. And so annual birthday weekend began.

Surprising people is so addicting. Over the past few years, Jules and I have surprised Jen and Christina a few times in Toronto, and once, Jen and Christina surprised both of us while I was also living in Michigan. It had been a while since our last surprise, though, and I don't know why I didn't expect something when we weren't busily trying to make plans for a birthday weekend in June.

Jules and I have the same birthday, and since 2003, the first year that we knew each other, we've always managed to celebrate it together within two weeks of June 9. So this year, since she couldn't come for our actual birthday weekend, we settled on June 19-22. I requested time off of work, and since I also just moved into a new condo, I planned a casual wine & cheese party to housewarm the new place, have Jules meet some of my friends here, and celebrate our birthdays.

On that Friday, she was set to arrive at about 9. I was at a concert in Millenium Park with Jamie and Adam, but when it started to rain, we headed back to my place to hang out for a while. And when Jules was about an hour late, I texted her and told her that we were grabbing a bite to eat in the bar at the end of the street, and for her to call when she got here. So Adam, Jamie, and I grabbed some dinner, and we waited. And waited. Two hours late, and I still didn't suspect anything, although I was worried that she'd gotten in an accident or something, so I called to make sure she was okay. She said she was almost there, so we paid our bills and started walking back to my condo.

Jules was turning the corner right in front of the bar and I saw that she was heading for a parking space, so I ran after her car, just because I was excited to see her...not because I'd noticed that there were three other people in the car. And when I got to the car, I've been informed that the look on my face was "priceless." The girls spilled out of the car and into a group hug, and I've never felt quite as speechless as I did in that moment. After about 30 seconds, it started to sink in, and I sat down on the sidewalk and cried.

I've been going through a rough time in the past few months. My job situation isn't what it needs to be, and I've been frustrated and angry and hopeless, at times. I don't let it consume me, and there are just as many laughs as there are days of frustration, but in June, I was really starting to need a pick-me-up.

And of course, the girls came through. They'd planned for a month before they showed up, and I had never guessed they were up to anything. I don't think anything cheers me up like a good surprise, and no memories lasts longer than the ones I make with good friends.

THOSE girls on the Kinzie Street Bridge

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dreaming of Dancing

I dream a lot, and I think a lot about dreams—my dreams, other people's dreams, what a dream does to a person. Not the kinds of dreams that fill your head while you sleep, but the active sort of dreaming. When you want something so badly that the decisions you make in everyday life point you towards that dream—that's the sort of dream that fascinates me.

Of course, there are the silly dreams, too. I'm an only child, and I think that's made me exceptionally imaginative. I was a quiet kid, and I hated playing outside, so when I got tired of Barbies or playing against myself in Monopoly, I read. I read like crazy as a kid, and I read fast. And when I finished a book (usually about an hour after I began), I'd stretch out on my bed and stare up at the ceiling and put myself in the life of the main character. I could stay like that for an hour, just laying on my bed and dreaming about being in someone else's life.

Sometimes, I didn't even need a book. From the comfort of my own room, I could transform from an awkward, uncoordinated kid into an Olympic champion on floor exercise, or a world-class pairs skater, being tossed effortlessly into split triple twists by a strong (and attractive) partner. My most vivid daydreams were all about expression, movement, music—dance.

I took dance lessons when I was very young, and then I quit dance for a few years to take gymnastics classes. After three years of trying (and failing) to master a back walkover, I left gymnastics and returned to dance. For six years, until I finished high school, I took classes in ballet, tap, and jazz. I was in the highest class at my studio, and I was decent. I was actually pretty good in tap, but I never had the flexibility or spring in my jumps to stand out in ballet and jazz. I was also constantly intimidated by the other girls in my classes. I may have referred to them as the "spandex queens," and my best performances were usually left at home while practicing, when I didn't have to worry about what the other girls thought of me.

It's summer now, which means that my favourite competitive reality show is back on. Yes, I'm a So You Think You Can Dance junkie. This season hasn't blown me away yet, save for a few performances, but it still has the same effect on me. When I watch the cast of talented dancers try different styles and work with some of the most well-known choreographers in the business, I can only think of how much I wish I could do that. I wish I had more rhythm, was less awkward, could leap higher and stretch further. Most of all, I wish I could afford to take some classes somewhere. If I ever get a real job, that's going to be on my priority list. Until then, let me just tell you that I can dance a mean tango in my head. You'll have to trust me on that.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Blogging, Moving, and Birthdays, oh my!

Well, I clearly didn't take to blogging as well as I did the first time. I started my first blog in 2002, and even though I didn't think anyone was reading, I wrote almost every day. Many of the friends that I made from my first blogging endeavour are still friends today. Maybe I've associated pressure with blogging now, or maybe I'm just more forgetful. I'm 25, after all. I'm getting old.

Yes, yesterday was the inevitable day when I became a quarter-century old. It was less painful than I thought it would be, but it was strange that for the first time I can remember, I was actually facing my birthday with a bit of dread. Life on my 25th birthday is not how I expected it would be ten years ago, even five or six years ago, so during the past few days, I've been wondering if I'm okay with that or not.

The verdict? I'm fine with it. The first two decades of my life were very goal-driven, and I ended them with a broken heart and a crushed spirit. My twenties, thus far, have been much more difficult than my early years, yet more fulfilling. Sure, I sometimes skip meals because I'm broke and I have accrued debt up to my eyeballs pursuing two dreams that will probably never make me rich, but I'm happy. I have wonderful friends and dreams to chase and sometimes, I even feel like my family is supportive of my choices. And I don't have regrets. I'm very anti-regret.

Yesterday, I was surrounded with wonderful new friends that I have during the last year. Lauren, Adam, Jamie, Marynia, Nikki, and Allison all came out to help me ring in my second quarter-century. We had cupcakes at Molly's, one of my favourite places in the city for dessert, and then went to Guthrie's, a delightful neighbourhood bar in Wrigleyville (but not douchey, like the bars closer to the stadium) that has a huge cabinet full of board games. BOARD GAMES! Do you know how much I love board games? Lauren (now called Lo) introduced us to Speed Scrabble, then at my request we played Apples to Apples, and closed the evening with Trivial Pursuit, also at my request. I get a little vicious with Trivial Pursuit. And I advise staying far away from the entertainment category when the game is from approximately 1985.

I promise not to turn this blog into a "this is what happens on every day of my boring life," but I wanted to write about my birthday because I really think there might be something wrong with my memory. I can remember seating arrangements from my fourth grade class, but I can't remember the names of professors I had two years ago, or what I did two weekends ago, or that I have this job for my mom that I'm supposed to be doing this month in my spare time.

Speaking of my spare time, I'm always setting up house in a new place. My mom has been wanting to buy a condo in the city for a long time, I needed a place to rent, it's a "buyer's market," and she found a great deal on a place we both loved, so she went for it. And now I'm renting it. I'm in the West Loop now, but still completely walkable to work and school on nice days, which is awesome, because I really didn't want to have to start paying for train passes regularly. Anyway, the process has been ongoing, but I have most things in place to finish organizing my things, so I've set a goal of next weekend for a finish date. I work better with deadlines.

Maybe I should start setting blogging deadlines for myself. At any rate, I have a few post topics brewing, so I hope to reappear soon. If you didn't give up on me, thanks.