When I was in third grade, I wanted to go see Kung Fu Panda. All my friends were excited about it, but, when my mom broke the news to me that we couldn’t afford to go, I was heartbroken.
For weeks and months, I was upset about it. Until one day after school, when my mom made enough money, she showed up with the DVD and a stuffed panda bear in hand.
I’ve kept that panda bear ever since. Its name is Bob, and it’s a she. I don’t remember why I decided to give a girl panda one of the most boy names I knew at that time, but I do remember the countless questions I was asked, and the countless times I didn’t care to give an exact answer I didn’t even know myself.
What I did know was that I loved that panda. I brought it everywhere. I brought it to my dad’s home on the weekends, to the occasional family dinners, and to the sunset Malibu car rides.
It was around me when I was happy and when I was sad. I held onto it during the silent nights. I held onto it with the grip of my small, but tight hand while trying desperately not to feel alone with my family in the other room.
In a time of darkness, that stuffed animal was the last dwindling light source. It held every bit of my fighting innocence that diminished within me as I grew up, but, as I carried it with me through my life’s adventures, I carried bits of my childhood along with it.
When I moved in with my dad, I brought that stuffed animal with me.
When I went to Argentina for the first time, I brought that animal with me to the hotel, on the plane, and in my backpack on tourist trips.
Every trip I took to Mexico, I’d bring it with me.
When I went to boarding school for the first time, it stayed on my bed. When I went home for weekends, it came with me in my suitcase. When I went to OVS for the first time, it came with me.
After I got back surgery before sophomore year, with all of my emotions ridiculously heightened from the the extreme pain meds that put me under, I had a mental breakdown for hours because I thought I had left this panda at OVS. It didn’t stop until my uncle lifted up my blankets and handed it to me.
I was fifteen then.
Then the Thomas Fire came. In a panic, I only had thirty minutes to pack anything valuable to me. Without hesitation, I grabbed my panda and threw it into the bottom of my bag. The dorm parents told us we would only be gone for the night, but I couldn’t risk it. I cried when I thought I left it at school, I couldn’t imagine what would happen if it burned. I had to bring it with me.
It seems ridiculous how emotionally attached I am to an inanimate object now that I’ve grown up, but it’s still important to me. It stays on my bed and it no longer goes on trips with me; I no longer rely on it. I don’t hold it when I fall asleep. In fact, it sometimes slips onto the floor guiltily in the middle of the night. But, whenever I’m distraught or alone, I grab onto it and hold it as tight as I can.
It may still be a stuffed animal, but it’s so much more.
It’s the last thing I have from my mother. I no longer have photos in my possession or objects from her and, despite all the tragic, dark times, this bear represents one of the few good memories I have of her. It symbolizes the goodness in her which faded away over time, but is still kept as a stored memory I hold onto – literally.
It holds my innocence. My ruined, diminished childhood innocence still stays safe inside that stuffed animal I look at every time I make my bed and I still smile about it.
The panda symbolizes my childhood. Without it, the last remnants of it would vanish.
I can’t wait for this summer. You know, in the past, people have always told me that junior year is gonna be harder than all the other years. But I had no idea that they were actually right about that!
I’m mentally and now even physically so exhausted that I don’t want to do anything but sleep. But guess what! I can’t!
That’s why I can’t wait for summer. I can actually sleep then. I won’t have anything to do but read, ride horses, go for runs with my dog, probably study for the SAT, go to my summer journalism program, and travel. I’m so excited to travel!
In the US everything seems to be so far apart. If you go on a two hour train ride here, you get to another city in the state. But if I go on a two hour train ride from my hometown, I end up in another country. I can’t wait to go to Paris, to Amsterdam, Berlin, to Greece.
I also really can’t wait to ride my horse again. I am so glad that I get to ride at my school here, I am so thankful for that, but it’s so different from my barn at home. I can go there whenever I want, I can stay there as long as I want, go on trail rides through the fields and forests, and I can actually get lessons. So, obviously, I can’t wait.
Of course I’ll miss all my friends here, as always. I’ll miss the amazing weather in California, and the amazing avocados and oranges, that simply don’t taste the same in Germany. But I can’t even tell you just how excited I am for this summer!
Contrasting the small, quaint towns where I’ve grown up in California, New York City was a breath of fresh, exciting air with life awaiting at the end of every corner walked.
My first night in New York was magical. I arrived around 10 at night, and looking out the window I was in awe of all the city lights illuminated in the distance. I couldn’t see all of them yet, but I knew they’d be tall and magical.
The cab ride was no different. With the hood of the roof of the taxi cab rolled back, I felt small as I saw the bright city lights tower over me, skyscraper after skyscraper appeared for the whole hour of driving until we arrived at our Airbnb in Greenwich Village.
At 12:30 we finally headed outside for dinner, and every restaurant was open. At TWELVE THIRTY at night, every restaurant was open, while in Santa Barbara anywhere but a bar is usually closed by 10 pm at the latest. You’re lucky if anything is open in LA.
But New York City is just filled with amazing life and even more amazing food. Every single restaurant I went to had artichokes, and I love artichokes. It’d be a miracle if I found them at a restaurant excluding Sea Fresh and Cheesecake Factory in California.
But that’s just one food item. We ate at a different restaurant every single night. From small vintage American diners playing 2000’s throwbacks to luxurious, high-end Italian restaurants or steakhouses, every place was delicious.
But one place that sticks out in my mind is BlackTap. The small, bar-seated burger place only fit thirteen people. The place had an hour long line, but when we refused to wait and came back a calmer day, we finally understood why the place was so popular. The food was phenomenal, but the true wow factor of the place was their milkshakes.
The milkshakes were insane. From cookies supreme to the birthday shake, these shakes towered over the cups they were put in with overdoses of sugar and sweetness. I had a cookies & cream shake which left me in a sugar coma for the rest of the day.
Though most of my memories of NYC occurred in a restaurant, there are so many more that they’d be difficult to count on my fingers and toes, but I’ll name a few.
The Saturday after we arrived, I eagerly ran over to Washington Square Park from the place I was staying to participate in a massive pillow fight on National Pillow Fight Day. Hundreds of people piled into the park with pillows in their hands and grins on their faces in a fight to the “death” in a friendly, but intense, pillow fight. It was one of the purest experiences I ever had the privilege to take part in. Feathers exploded into the air, laughter silenced the playful screams, and pillows were thrown.
I did many more things in New York City. I walked around the city so much that my feet had blisters that hurt to the point that I’m still limping now (it was worth it), I visited three universities and absolutely fell in love with NYU, and I explored every inch of Times Square. However, by far my favorite were the three broadway shows I went to.
First I went to the Book of Mormon. I wasn’t sure what to expect because I didn’t listen to the soundtrack prior to going, but the performance exceeded my expectations. First, it was the most hilarious show I had ever been to. It was completely satirical about the Mormon faith, but it was executed perfectly with amazing acting, and catchy songs that are still stuck in my head. However, the musical is highly offensive so I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone highly religious or offended easily by extreme stereotypes, but it’s definitely worth paying the money to go see.
The day after I went to go see Kinky Boots. The night before I had a midlife crisis because my NYU tour and Kinky Boots show were planned at the same time. I shouldn’t be melodramatic, but when my aunt told me that they’d just go see Kinky Boots without me, I almost died. I had been excited about that show for months, and I had been dying to go see it since Brendon Urie starred in it. Thankfully, we were able to exchange our tickets for the night performance and I was able to experience the magic of Kinky Boots. I had heard nothing but positive reviews, and when I went to the show I left happier than ever. It was original, unique, and just saying, those men walk better in six inch heels than I ever will.
Completely last minute, my Aunt and I headed into Times Square and snatched last minute seats to The Lion King. Somehow ending up in the seventh row of the center orchestra, I was ready for three hours to experience one of the most iconic shows on Broadway. I was shocked how much effort was put into the show. The costume design was crazy. I didn’t know where to look during the opening number when people dressed head to toe in animal costumes walked down the aisles singing the Circle of Life while walking onto the stage. Everything about all these shows was amazing.
I could go on about my trip in New York for hours, but this is just a glimpse of it, and I am dying to be back there soon.
As each day gets closer and closer to June 1, and the months pass, my heart yearns for summer to finally happen.
Today was the first sunny day in California for weeks, and as I lied by the pool with the sun beaming in the sky and minimal clouds in the distance, I imagined myself at the beach in front of my house, with my sunglasses on and the crashing waves against the sandy shores.
Now, as I accept the fact that I will keep having to imagine my summer days until they actually happen, I will live these daydreams through the stories I write and the dreams that come to me in my sleep.
I can’t write about every single thing I’m excited for about summer 2018, but here are a few:
The concerts. I’m always excited about concerts, but I feel like the shows I go to this year will be exceptionally memorable. I will see G-Eazy for a second time. The show will be in an outside amphitheater, and I will be at the barricade with the hundreds of people who showed up. The stars will be bright, but the streams of neon light beaming from the stage will be even brighter. Then there will be the Warped Tour dates. The days I wake up early and return home late, my body covered head to toe in sweat and dust, my voice will ache along with my legs. Yet as I fall asleep, replaying the memory of All Time Low singing on main stage with the sunset across the horizon peeking over the back of the stage, my mind will fill with memories and my heart full of happiness.
The beach. Considering I have family both in Santa Barbara and Laguna Beach, I don’t actually spend time on the beach nearly enough. However, this time I hope that changes. I can’t wait to walk down the steps from my house to the beach, lie down my beach blanket and read my favorite book in the sun all day every day. Maybe I’ll go into the water if the waves aren’t harsh, or maybe I’ll get an acai bowl. At the end of the day, I’d head back up to my house with sun kissed skin and beach blonde waves. I’ll wash the sea salt water off my sandy skin, and I’ll curl up under the covers with popcorn, a scary movie, and my dog beside the bed, and I’ll know in that moment that life couldn’t get any better than that.
Lastly, I can’t wait for the freedom. I can’t wait to not have to follow a strict schedule from school, or have my adventures be limited to a mountain in the middle of Ojai. I’ll be free to wake up however early or however late I want. I can watch the sunrise from my balcony, and the sunset from a hammock. I can go take the trolley down to Banzai Bowls and get my favorite acai bowl. I can go to Disneyland or go to the gym. I can take trains up to LA to visit my friends, or travel to different beaches to watch the fireworks on the Fourth of July. The possibilities are overwhelmingly endless.
June is a long time away. I should be focusing on APs and English essays, but summer please come sooner. I’m waiting for you.
Imagine if you could do anything you wanna do, be anyone you wanna be, go anywhere you wanna go.
Where would you go? What would you do?
You always hear parents saying to their children,”you can do anything you want, you just have to believe in it.” My parents never told me that. I’m glad they didn’t. I wouldn’t have wanted them to lie to me.
I can’t do anything I want to, that’s simply not plausible. I’m not brave enough to become an astronaut, that’s for sure. I don’t have the time and endurance to practice enough to become a Grand Prix Dressage rider. I definitely don’t have the voice to become a singer, and I’ll never fit the standards to become a model.
But if I could, if I had all these possibilities, what would I do?
I would do everything I know I can’t do. I’d hike up Mount Everest, because why not? I’d ski the Olympic Super-G, race to the podium just for the heck of it. I’d start a band and travel around the world to perform our music to millions of obsessive fans. I’d create the most beautiful paintings of life and beauty and ugly love, so stunning that they’d immediately be displayed in the Louvre. Honestly, I’d probably successfully bake a cake for once, because I don’t see that happening any time soon with my striking lack of talent.
There are so many things in this world, big and small, that I would love to do or achieve or become in my life, and I know most of those things will never possibly happen. Though I’d obviously love to become a world famous artist, that’s not what I need. Of course we need equal rights for everyone, the same opportunities. But it is good that not all of us have the same talents, the same passions, sometimes it is good that we can’t be anything we want. After all, that makes up our individuality.
Home is a loose word, I often find my mind and, in turn, my spirit in other places. Sitting wrapped in a blanket I’ll physically be here or there but, in truth, I’ll be far, far away. Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “At a certain season of our life we are accustomed to consider every spot as the possible site of a house.” House or home or somewhere in between? A trivial question when one is hunting for a place to rest one’s mind.
My tangible home will always be with my family in our small “faerie home,” surrounded by an unruly garden that seems to compete with the urbanity of the asphalt road and the ever shrinking street light (or perhaps I’m the one growing). Home with its boarding of white and blue, with a hand built white picket fence; home with a stylized and cohesive found object collection inside and hand painted walls of a whimsical forest land further from reality than the closest galaxy. Tangible home will be with my dad’s music blasting well above the sound threshold of his earbuds, shuffling in the Paint-Shack. Tangible home will be with my mom, picking up conversations we never started mid-way through a sentence. A home fit for part of my heart and part of my body.
But my true home, home for my mind, my spirit, the rest of my heart and body, that’s much harder to pin down. I’ve lived too many lives, I’ve walked the halls of Hogwarts and thieved the streets of Ketterdam. I have run through the Overlook Hotel and traveled the world in the Leviathan. I am inclined to call all these places my home despite the threat of horror and danger and pulse-stopping fear. But then again, I am just as inclined to call a solitary cottage at the edge of humanity surrounded by piles and piles of mugs and books my home.
When I was much younger I believed home would be among the pyramids and mummies of Egypt, studying a culture older than I could comprehend, dinosaur hunting while bouncing from continent to continent in search of the next great dinosaur find. Now I find myself lost, filled with wanderlust. Do I return to Ketterdam, Hogwarts, Brakebills? Do I follow the dust and jewels and bones of ancient history? Do I find my library tower with an endless supply of tea, coffee, pastry, and more books than I know what to do with? Do I find my corner of a city and people watch for the rest of my time?
Maybe, what I’m getting at is I won’t find one home, there is no way to make that which is plural singular. I’ll always be hunting for the next city to make my heart beat faster and my lungs dance, the next country, the next world, the next universe. My home will be that glimpse of color disappearing around the corner, just slow enough for me to go skidding into the alley and see it go around the next corner. My home will be a sturdy pair of boots, one hell of a scarf, and a bag with an undetectable extension charm. My home will be that trip around the world finding the best food there is and then traveling to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Home will be that rare dinosaur in the middle of nowhere. Home will be Nefertiti’s tomb. Home will be finding that portal to Fillory, Hogwarts Ketterdam, Le Cirque des Rêves. Home will be the pens and paints I bring with me; home will be the countless notebooks of dreams, adventures, and future worlds.
Home will be the next great adventure. The never ending circular promise: the next place will be the place, the next place will be home. Part of me will always belong to the first home though, my little blue and white cottage in the forest of pavement and cars, but the rest of me? The rest of me is restless. Home will always be one step ahead of me, patiently waiting for me to catch up, always waiting for me to leave a little more of myself on the path.