Musical Temperance: Harbour Lights

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My original intention this week was to write about the difficulty of making friends in your 30s. I’ll save that topic for next time (because let’s face it, I’ll still be socially awkward in two weeks).

{Image Credit: }
{Image Credit: }

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for myself and my loved ones. Some of us have been flailing, some of us caretaking everyone around us, some of us desperately trying to keep it together, and all of us pushing through what seems like an impossible time. On more than one occasion I’ve been amazed by our resilience and capacity to not only endure, but bravely navigate through the dense fog in our lives.

I had a heavy conversation with one of my best friends yesterday about the strange direction our lives have taken in the past few years and our sincere appreciation for each other’s support. In high school she gave me equal doses of love and tough love whenever I thought my world was going to end (translation: getting dumped) and now we’ve had the beautiful and sad opportunity to sit with each other through identity altering grief.

Many of us mistakenly believe that growing up is solely measured by our ability (or inability) to be self-sufficient. We feel accomplished when we can set our bills to autopay without fear we’ll overdraw or when we can work through life’s curveballs on our own.

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I believe, however, adulthood is additionally marked by our ability and willingness to accept and offer support for ourselves and those around us. Most of us struggle with one or the other (or none if you are a well-adjusted human being, unlike myself). For me personally, I try to always be the first person to offer support to my friends and family and yet am often the last person to accept it. I am that stubborn, sweaty idiot attempting to carry 15 bags of groceries up the stairs because I swear I can do it all by myself, I don’t need help, even though you just offered and one of the bags has split open and spilled out boxes of Eggo waffles out in front of you, I don’t need help.

In order to offer and accept support, we first need confidence in the space we hold in our relationships. We cannot give without knowing what we have and likewise cannot ask for help without knowing what we need. There’s much more room here than we first assume and as we settle into ourselves, we may be surprised by the capacity of our emotional expanse and its ability to house our struggle, our desire to love and help, and even our loneliness.

This week my playlist is a bit conflicted, much like me. It’s true, I’m still struggling with the desire to “go it alone” and save everyone. However, in quiet moments like these, I realize how much I appreciate the connectedness between people deliberately sharing their spaces together. At first glance, my choice in songs this week may seem disjointed. The crunch of Brittany Howard’s guitar seems to stand out above the quiet four-part harmony from Mumford & Sons. When this playlist is listened to in its entirety, however, these messages begin to form a cohesive story. We all want to be recognized as our own fully formed narrative. Not only do we desire to see these beautiful connections in the world, but we want to be part of it.

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Kristel is a sometimes angsty writer from Hawaii who now lives in Los Angeles, CA. She claims she’s a Marketing Director at a web design agency, but she spends most of her day in front of the computer while wearing pajamas.

Musical Temperance is her small attempt at creating the perfect soundtrack to help her survive an extended quarter-life crisis. Additional musings and playlists can be found at kristelyoneda.com.

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Musical Temperance: Guiding Light

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Oh, Seattle. People who barely know you always lament about the rain and gloomy weather, but last week you showed me nothing but sunshine.

I’ve just returned from the Emerald City from hanging out with family, attending Gender Odyssey’s Professional Conference (by the way, CR’s Traci was insightfully badass during the discussion portions of the panels we attended), adventuring in familiar and unfamiliar pockets of the city, and being reminded of the importance of slowing down and taking a breath.  

You see, I’m an accidental workaholic. Although I am admittedly lazy by nature (translation: I will have food delivered from this restaurant across the street from my apartment because I don’t want to put on pants and go outside), I have a hard time being still. I barrel through the days with little awareness of how I survived my work week and with nothing substantial to show for my efforts. I sometimes go through the month without knowing the actual date.  

Many of us were taught the value of being busy growing up. We were meant to feel accomplished when we were exhausted at the end of the day, but no one specified how we were meant to spend our time, and now we are busy just for the sake of it. Even during my time in Seattle, I stacked up my schedule so I worked in four hour chunks during random times of each day. As usual, I was glued to my phone, reading and responding to emails, text messages, and checking social media anytime I heard that familiar notification chirp. I was so wrapped up in the functional tasks of my day, I almost couldn’t get myself to slow down long enough to enjoy it.

Greenlake

I half-expected Seattle to have the same motivational current as Los Angeles, with everyone rushing to their next destination. Its dreamy stride was unsettling at first. I remember walking through Green Lake and being surprised by its wide open space and how familiar it felt despite the fact that I had never been to that park before. The sidewalks weren’t overcrowded with joggers. In fact, I was able to walk as slowly as I wanted. I was able to feel the dirt crunching under my shoes and breathe as deep as my chest could hold (which I rarely do in LA, because you know, dirty LA air).

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I was completely present in that moment, aware of how the afternoon sun hit the back of my neck and how my arms cut through the air with surprising ease with each step. I didn’t feel claustrophobic, as I often do in LA. If I wanted to change the direction of my path, all I had to do was point my foot where I wanted to go. We are often so swept up in the routines of our daily lives that we forget we have the ability to change the momentum of our lives. When we slow down, either purposefully or because cell reception is spotty and makes you want to throw your phone into a lake (not that that happened to me, of course), we have an opportunity for us to assess where we are, but more importantly, to use our desire and agency to either stay on path or change course.

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I sat at the water’s edge in Green Lake with my feet dangling above the dirt and rocks. The view was beautiful, spacious, and I knew exactly how I got there.

So this week, as I try to jump back into the chaos known as Los Angeles, I invite you all to take a breath wherever and however you need it. I had this playlist on repeat while I was exploring Seattle. It’s meant to be heard in a wide open space, a place where sound is able to travel effortlessly through the air.

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Kristel is a sometimes angsty writer from Hawaii who now lives in Los Angeles, CA. She claims she’s a Marketing Director at a web design agency, but she spends most of her day in front of the computer while wearing pajamas.

Musical Temperance is her small attempt at creating the perfect soundtrack to help her survive an extended quarter-life crisis. Additional musings and playlists can be found at kristelyoneda.com.

Musical Temperance: Like a River Runs

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When I fall asleep I can see your face
What I lost in you I will not replace
And I could run away, I could let them down
And I know you’re gone but still I will remember your light

I will remember
And if you see me in the darkness
I hope you know I’m not alone
I carry you with every breath I take
 
I won’t let up, I won’t let up
Until the wind is gone

-Bleachers

Growing up, death was a rarely discussed topic in my family. I was five when both of my Grandpas passed away, a few months of each other, and the only lasting memories I have of that point in my life is the unfamiliar image of seeing my parents cry. Back then I was too young to understand death’s unparalleled force or the vast hole it leaves in each person’s life. For the longest time, I thought of it as some unknown entity scary enough to make adults cry like children.

Grandma Kaneshiro
Grandma Kaneshiro

In the last year, parts of my childhood have been falling away. I’ve said goodbye to both of my Grandmas (who were my only remaining grandparents), two of my best friends from high school each lost a parent, Tinkerbell and Kaile (family pets who represented two significant stages of growing up) passed away, and most recently I sold the Honda.

www.iammorley.com
http://www.iammorley.com

I know as an adult, death and loss will become more commonplace, but these are strange reminders of how removed I am from my youth. I sometimes don’t recognize myself when I look in the mirror. I feel like I’m changing without my own consent, as if parts of me are unintentionally disappearing as I unravel.

A few weeks ago, I heard the Bleachers’ Like a River Runs EP on Spotify. The last track was titled “Dreams Aren’t Random,” which turned out to be an interview with singer Jack Antonoff and his therapist about the inspiration behind the album. He explained that the title track “Like a River Runs” refers to a recurring dream about his sister, who passed away when he was 18. He recounted how they’re not doing anything specific in it, but there’s a vague feeling everything is okay. “There’s this period of time […] where it’s probably, in reality, only five seconds, but it feels like a thousand years. Right as I’m leaving the dream and right as I’m fully becoming conscious that I’m in reality and in that five seconds […], I’m in reality, but she’s not dead. And it’s the most powerful experience ever.”

There are significant moments in our lives that define us. Whenever I do something, whether it’s playing the guitar or even drinking a glass of water, I do so as someone who has lost their Grandmas. This feature, Antonoff also explains, is as permanently defining as something like ethnicity. “And in those split five seconds in my dream, I’m not that,” he adds. “So it’s like I’m literally a completely different person.” His therapist explains that in these dreams, he’s transporting himself back into this moment where she’s still alive and he’s traveling back to who he was before her death defined him. As a kid, I also moved through the world with a lightness in my step. My sadness was often situational and short lasting, like the single colored disappointment of being called inside for dinner while I was mid-bike ride in the neighborhood.

www.iammorley.com
http://www.iammorley.com

In the weeks after Grandma Kaneshiro passed away, I used to see her in my dreams. A few months ago, she started visiting me again. I remember one dream where I was running through a big field in order to meet someone nearby. There was an adjacent building where people began filing out and walking through the field to get back to their cars. They traveled in pairs and groups, swept up in their conversations as if everyone had just come out from seeing the same movie. I zig zagged through the crowd and spotted my Grandma ahead walking with another woman. She must have said something funny because my Grandma was mid-laugh by the time I reached her. In this moment, my Grandma was still alive. I was bouncing around, excited for my plans, and leapt forward to surprise her when she spotted me. The interaction was quick, as if we had plans later. She told me, “Hi, Kristel!” in that same way she always does and I responded with “Hi, Grandma! I’ll see you later!” as I ran through.

I know my grief has changed me and that the people who meet me now will never know the person I was before my Grandmas passed away. Recently, I had a conversation with my mom about the strangeness of our lives now. She told me, “It’s like life appears the same on the outside, but the base fell out.”

The question I find myself asking these days is one I have no answer for yet: how do we re-define ourselves when we’ve experienced loss?

www.iammorley.com
http://www.iammorley.com

Some think grieving is a process that has a distinct beginning and end, as if our lives are suddenly resumed when we decide it’s time to move on. The experience, however, adheres to no neat timeline. Nothing quite prepares you for it and no one can really tell you how to move through it, and yet it’s a universal experience.

The other day I showed a friend of mine a picture of Grandma Yoneda from the 1940s and she said I had her smile. I suddenly remembered how people used to tell me we looked alike when I was growing up. There’s an old picture of us on my fridge and I never realized until now how the curve of my chubby cheeked half-smile reflects hers. Now when I look in the mirror, I see her too. When my Grandmas make appearances in my dreams now, I try to hold onto that distinct feeling of being with them.

Grief is a cavernous and transformative process, but it also illuminates, in time, the unexpected ways we remain tethered to those we’ve loved and lost. Our dreamspace allows us to process the parts we have difficulty accessing in our waking lives. It opens us up to the possibility of being connected in places we can and cannot see, with the hope we’ll one day recognize these unique and beautifully permanent imprints within ourselves.

Grandma Yoneda
Grandma Yoneda

This week’s playlist is about our journeys and those we carry with us through our lives. Grandma Kaneshiro and Yoneda, please visit again soon.
spotify:user:compassionaterevolt:playlist:4JRsk3KUigqsfLBNXStJL1
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Kristel is a sometimes angsty writer from Hawaii who now lives in Los Angeles, CA. She claims she’s a Marketing Director at web design agency, but she spends most of her day in front of the computer while wearing pajamas.

Musical Temperance is her small attempt at creating the perfect soundtrack to help her survive an extended quarter-life crisis. Additional musings and playlists can be found at kristelyoneda.com.

Musical Temperance: Fast Car

BannerFast Car

I’ve been driving a black 1996 Honda Civic for the last 11 years. I’m obviously not bragging (because I don’t think anyone brags about owning a 19 year old Honda Civic), but it’s worth noting  that this car has traveled with me across the ocean and three states. Yes, my passenger side window stopped working at some point and the horn button on the steering wheel popped off from the wear and tear of heartbreak, love, and even grief, but it was my car.

The air conditioner stopped working about two weeks ago and I would often arrive at my destination drenched in my own sweat. I had already invested a big chunk of money to do other repairs, so I knew it was probably time to let it go. At first, this was a very exciting prospect. I imagined myself zipping around in a car with working AC and spent the better part of last week daydreaming about driving up the coast while listening to the perfect mix, and cutting the wind with my hand out the window.

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I ended up purchasing a car last Saturday and spent the last 45 minutes this morning cleaning out the Honda. There is now a cardboard box of my belongings stuffed into a corner of my living room, my memories stacked in a lopsided pile. Faded  receipts were mixed together with old love letters and an excessive amount of Chipotle napkins for someone who rarely eats there,  my glove compartment was stuffed with my adventures. Without the context of being in my car, these items look like trash to most people. Only my partner would recognize the tiny bumblebee pin from the first time we went to Comic Con, only my family would recognize the drawing my youngest sister mailed to me when we were penpals, and only my friends would recognize the bright orange dinosaur I mounted to my dashboard with velcro. In the end I tried my best to strip away the parts of myself long forgotten in my car, but I just couldn’t remove where the paint had chipped away on us both.

P1000918While sitting in the plastic wrapped waiting room at CarMax to sell the Honda this afternoon, it occurred to me how strange it was that my memories could be assigned a monetary amount. I asked the worker if he wanted to see my repair records, but he waved his hand at me to specify that was unnecessary. “The appraisers don’t need that stuff for older vehicles.” Although he was polite, he seemed generally unphased by all of this. Thinking it would impress me, he said that CarMax buys up to 200 cars a day and that mine would be auctioned off.

I was a little irritated he found it unnecessary to know my car’s complete history in order to assign its worth. I wanted to tell him about the Hawaii Firefighter sticker on my back window meant to honor my family of firefighters. I wanted to tell him about the countless Sunday mornings back in Hawaii where I’d drive my partner to work and then go to my grandma’s house for breakfast to watch Bonanza with her.  Instead, we waited together in silence as I sipped tap water from a styrofoam cup.

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So, how do we assign value to our memories? According to CarMax, mine were worth $300. While signing over the title, another worker asked if my car had a name so we could send it off. I shrugged, “No. Car?”  She asked why it didn’t have a name and I lied and told her I didn’t know.

I know I’m weird about names, but they can be powerful identifiers. They give context, depth, and  history to seemingly ordinary objects. The truth is that I figured the less meaning I assigned, the easier it would be to let it go at some point. I learned unexpectedly in the CarMax waiting room that I was wrong, as I sat there sniffling to myself I would never see my Car again (note: I think people assumed my Car had been repossessed based on the pitiful faces I was making, and also, I’m an ugly crier).

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This week’s playlist runs 29 minutes, which is approximately the length of my roundabout drive to CarMax. It’s normally a 15 minute drive, but that day we traveled together much like we did in my 20s. I coasted through the Burbank neighborhoods with one hand on the wheel, taking side streets and drawing imaginary square outlines of the city with no desire to rush.

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Kristel is a sometimes angsty writer from Hawaii who now lives in Los Angeles, CA. She claims she’s a Marketing Director at web design agency, but she spends most of her day in front of the computer while wearing pajamas.

Musical Temperance is her small attempt at creating the perfect soundtrack to help her survive an extended quarter-life crisis. Additional musings and playlists can be found at kristelyoneda.com.

Musical Temperance: So This is the New Year

SPOTIFY PLAYLIST: MT1: So This is the New Year 

BannerAround now is when I remember I made New Year’s resolutions back in December of the previous year.

This realization always happens at the most inopportune time, like while I was at the grocery store the other day taking a mental inventory of my freezer and debating how many containers of Haagen-Dazs I could comfortably fit in there (the answer: five, but only if I take out my bottle of vodka). As I was reaching for a chilly pint of caloric sin, I remembered I vowed to eat less junk food in 2015.

Before I knew it, my other forgotten resolutions began spilling out of my head and into my shopping cart: eat healthier, complete my novel, become financially responsible, buy a new car, apply to grad school, pint sized reminders of my failure piling up in front of me.

I drove home in a panic, taking frantic chomps of my Haagen-Dazs coffee ice cream without even using a spoon, overwhelmed by the New Year’s resolutions I had forgotten and subsequently broken (including one I always make to eat better). Are all of my resolutions equally important? No, not particularly. But in these moments, I find myself asking the same question over and over again: when will I start feeling like an adult?

I thought I was having some kind of arrested development, but my therapist affectionately called my restless panic a “quarter-life crisis.” The term, originally coined by Abby Wilner, was used to describe her post-college anxiety after she moved back home and had no idea what do with her life. Like Wilner, I strutted around my college campus like a pseudo-adult, high on the possibility that I would change the world, certain that my future would be printed on the back of my diploma like a treasure map. Nobody told us we needed to reshape our childhood dreams into practical goals (or maybe they did and we just weren’t listening). Many of us felt ill-prepared for adulthood, as if thrown out of a plane with a knapsack instead of a parachute.

Growing up, I dreamt of becoming a famous violin player and novelist. I’m not sure why I thought those two careers were related, but I remember the blurry vision I had of my taller self, playing beautifully enough to bring people to tears and reading excerpts from my novel in packed bookstores. At 31, I can assure you that I am neither of those things. In fact, by this age I was confident I’d be successful, married, possibly famous, and writing bestselling novels in a home office with a large picture window. Many of my closest friends are now parents or have professions that make me feel woefully unaccomplished. I sometimes feel like I’m playing catch up with them, hoping there will be some definitive moment where I feel like I’ve successfully transitioned into adulthood too.

I am beginning to think the first step into adulthood is less apparent than we imagined growing up. Am I a grown up when I pay for my bills instead of purchasing a new pair of shoes? Am I considered an adult when I live in a house instead of an apartment? Am I a grown up when I stop eating pop tarts for breakfast? Perhaps only I am able to decide.

We have the power to assign meaning to the personal milestones in our lives. These badges of honor should be not be defined by the arbitrary expectations set by society, but rather by the ever changing personal goals we create for ourselves. We may not fulfill every resolution we make this year and that’s okay. We’re meant to be in this chaotic limbo between adolescence and adulthood. We’re meant to flounder in our new freedom and responsibilities because without this struggle, there would be no growth.

I haven’t become a famous violin player or novelist yet (although, I’m still holding out for the latter), but it doesn’t mean I’ve stopped thinking about who I want to be. Even if we don’t end up becoming the adults we originally envisioned ourselves as, our fantasies dare us to dream bigger than the realities we know. These experiences are what steer us toward who we are, filling in the essential markers in our journey, and further guiding us on the road ahead.

Instead of lamenting over what we’ve left unfinished, let’s take a moment to appreciate what we’ve accomplished so far. Let’s celebrate our steps and missteps. As far as I’m concerned, this marks the beginning of 2015. Our slate isn’t clean, but we don’t need it to be.

{Image Credit: http://bit.ly/1FzwXo0}
{Image Credit: http://bit.ly/1FzwXo0}

So let’s continue to be dreamers and resolution makers. Let’s be idealists and also remember we have the capacity to make great strides in our lives. As Gloria Steinem once wrote, “Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”

SPOTIFY PLAYLIST: MT1: So This is the New Year 

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Kristel is a sometimes angsty writer from Hawaii who now lives in Los Angeles, CA. She claims she’s a Marketing Director at web design agency, but she spends most of her day in front of the computer while wearing pajamas.

Musical Temperance is her small attempt at creating the perfect soundtrack to help her survive an extended quarter-life crisis. Additional musings and playlists can be found at kristelyoneda.com.

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There are photographs in this post that were borrowed lovingly from the internet and do not belong to us. All are linked and credited to the best of our abilities in hopes of attracting more traffic to the photographers and websites who have blessed us with this imagery. The inclusion of a photograph here should not be interpreted as an assertion of the subject’s or artist’s identity or beliefs. If there is a photo included here that belongs to you and you want it removed, please email compassionaterevolt@gmail.com and it will be removed promptly, no questions asked.