1) Live off-campus while attending college/not borrow massive student loans
College is not cheap. I graduated from UCLA in 2013 and earned a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations. I can honestly say that it is the single most expensive piece of paper I own, and in order to afford said diploma, I did two things: lived off-campus and worked two jobs while attending school.
I’m currently reading Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project, where she shares a list of lessons she has learned with difficulty while growing up. It’s a tad bit silly, yet contains a lot of truths.
There are two sides of me: the free-spirit risk taker and the obsessive control freak.
On one hand, the first Adrielle has grown a reputation for pulling spontaneous mischiefs with whoever she’s with. From illegally hiking up to the Hollywood sign to spontaneously getting a tattoo after a Sunday brunch along the Venice Boardwalk, she is a person who craves adventure, who jumps before she thinks, determined to have those horses run through her veins, no matter how momentarily they may stay.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, the other Adrielle always wants to be in the know. She’s the one who hates surprises, the one who can’t stand being in the dark because she’s terrified of what might happen once she’s left face-to-face with uncertainty and the unknown. The one who rarely lives in the present because she’s too caught up either dwelling in the past or daydreaming about the future. The one who creates timelines and checklists on how she’s going to live her so-called “life.” The one who over-analyzes every single detail and overthinks herself to exhaustion in order to protect herself from a potential ambush.
You see, there are two Adrielles, the fearless girl who lives and the cautious one who exists. And truth is, neither of them has it all together.
When I was younger, I thought I’d have everything going for me by the time I was the age I am now. But the deal with life is, it’s unpredictable, always changing, filled with unexpected drops and loops. And within my brief 23 years of being in this beautiful world, I realized that most people live life within their comfort zone and hardly go near the edge. Why? Because it’s when we walk closer to the edge that life gets frighteningly chaotic and downright overwhelming. Nothing is more terrifying than knowing how quickly everything can fall to crap.
And it is at this stage, when life becomes an uncontrollable whirlwind, that I start retreating, where I sprint back to my unscathed shell instead of pushing through the discomfort and pain. It is at this level where I manage to convince myself to believe that staying within the lines of my comfort zone will somehow grant me contentment. That having a body that has never been chipped or a heart that has never been broken will earn me the most satisfaction by the time I’m six feet under, nailed shut inside that coffin. That not having a scarred soul will somehow catapult me on top of the leader board once my final breath escapes my lungs.
What I didn’t realize is that on a long enough timeline, the survival rate does drop to zero. What I didn’t realize is that none of us will make it out here alive, so I might as well make the most of it, whether I’m in gutter or on top of the world. What I didn’t realize is that those nights where I cried myself sleep, where I felt most vulnerable and raw because of the blows that life throws at me are reason enough for a celebration because I didn’t allow the fear of getting burned and hurt override the fear of living, the fear of loving.
What I didn’t realize is that every shed tear is another battle scar. That every letdown is an opportunity to turn over a new leaf. That every mistake is a lesson learned. That every hurdle I overcame will only give me additional strength for the next one.
From this day forward, I promise to start embracing the mess, to welcome the chaos. It’s time to free myself from the obsession of always wanting control, to let go, to let the ball cross over to the other side of the court. It’s time to ride the wave, to go with the flow, to let the chips fall where they may and live life the way it was meant to be: out loud.
Day #1, June 13, 2014
California – Utah – Idaho – Montana
The journey begins! All of our bags were packed, and we were ready to go. At exactly midnight, we were off to our first stop 400 miles away, Zion National Park, Utah! My mom and dad alternated driving for the next six hours, and as scheduled, we reached the Utah state line just as the sun was rising.
It’s been more than ten years since I’ve been to Utah, and the banded-iron formations were just as majestic as I remembered them to be. Everything was red, from the pavement to the mountains! Talk about being in real-life Carsland!
*Sidenote: During my senior year at UCLA, I took a Geology class where I learned how these red rocks (banded-iron formations) were formed. Basically, the BIFs are sedimentary rocks that resulted from the iron in the ocean reacting with the oxygen being produced by photosynthetic cyanobacteria. So just imagine, these mountains used to be water! The Earth was literally rusting billions and billions of years ago! Shoutout to Professor Schopf for being such an awesome teacher that I still recall his lessons a year and a half after graduating.
Zion National Park, UT
We didn’t intend to hike or backpack around the park, so our stay at Zion was brief. After fueling up on breakfast, off to Salt Lake City we go!
Our itinerary required us to be at West Yellowstone (Montana) by the end of the day, so Salt Lake City was another quick pit stop. We visited the State Capitol, EnergySolutions Arena (where the Utah Jazz play!), and the Union Pacific Railroad Station.
Idaho? No, Udaho! (sorry, can’t help it)
More driving ensued (by me this time). The further north we went, the colder it got! Eventually, we reached Montana just before the sun went down.
We stayed the night at a cozy 2-bedroom cabin in the middle of the woods. Nature surrounded us, making it a perfect setting to restore our batteries after a long adventure-filled day.
This is my reality. I’m the happiest I’ve been in years, and it didn’t come easy. I worked my ass off to be in this position… to experience this high. Through immense struggle, I won my price. Yet sometimes, I can’t help but believe that the universe is spoiling me.
Emotionally, I’m stable. Merely a few short months after a devastating break-up from my boyfriend of almost 3 years, I feel at ease. Resistance has dissipated, and acceptance has entered my heart. No longer do I spend days and nights agonizing how to make a relationship work when it has clearly ran its course. In the end, I finally stopped swimming against the current, and that has given me peace.
Financially, I’m solid. I’m living on my own, buying my own groceries, paying my own bills, and not a single cent in credit card debt. Although my job can be demanding, I enjoy it. My coworkers are pretty awesome, too.
Socially, I’m surrounded by the best and most supportive group of friends. In regards to my family, my relationship with my parents and sibling are healthy. I’m surrounded by people who love me regardless of the reckless shenanigans I occasionally get myself into. There is not one person in my life who I don’t want in it.
Health-wise, mentally and physically, my self-esteem is solid. I have no major body-image issues. I’m not suffering from eating disorders, like bulimia and anorexia, or anything else a lot of girls my age experience. My wrists are devoid of self-inflicted injuries. Of course, I would have my moments of insecurities every once in a while, but for the most part, I love what I see in the mirror.
Almost [granted, I am not exempted from petty dilemmas] everything is going smoothly. I busted my ass to sow the seeds, and now I’m reaping all the benefits. Sometimes, my heart would swell with so much joy, and I would get this overwhelming urge to just scream at the top of my lungs, “I AM SO HAPPY IT’S RIDICULOUS! I’M SO PROUD OF MYSELF! YAY ME!” That may have come across as slightly obnoxious with the CAPS Lock, but it’s true. I can honestly say that never in my life did I think that this level of happiness actually existed. There are days where I wish I can bottle up my happiness just so I can share it with everyone.
Of course, everyone around me is telling me how happy they are for me. One even mentioned the change in my “aura”, to which my brain’s automatic sarcasm-laden response was, “Was I really that cynical and jaded before ?” Here I go again with my tangents that always deviate away from my actual point. And that point being: if everyone is happy for me, then why do I occasionally feel sudden surges of guilt every time I reach a certain level of happiness?
It’s as if I feel the need to shut up about my accomplishments and excitement because not everyone is presented with the same opportunities as I am. Call me crazy, but I believe in luck. Not everyone can do what I’m doing. Not everyone is/will be presented with the resources that has/will come my way. Yes, we can’t disregard hard work in the picture, but there is such a thing as being at the right place at the right time during the right circumstances. The path that have led me up to this point has been a series of having one door constantly being opened to me after another. Not everyone is as fortunate as I am, and I feel like broadcasting my happiness to the world is just adding insult to injury. As if I’m dangling a carrot in the faces of those who aren’t as lucky as me and that I’m teasing them with something that they may or may not ever be able to obtain.
Personally, I can’t pinpoint where this feeling is coming from. I seem to be hosting this internal dialogue with myself, to which Confident Adrielle is trying to convince Cynical Adrielle that she does in fact deserve every bit of happiness and needs to stop apologizing for it. I don’t understand why I feel the need to apologize or feel guilty about being happy — which I know is completely ludicrous, because everyone deserves happiness! The thing is, I don’t want to be this person. I don’t want to perpetually water down my happiness simply to accommodate to those who can’t find their own way to be happy. I want to be proud of the successes I’ve achieved.
And this has nothing to do with abandoning humility either. It’s really not. Because you know what? Anyone who is happy needs a good pat in the back or at least an epic high-five. Because really, they did something. They got off their ass and did the work. They didn’t waste another day having their butts fused to the couch. They rode hard, and now they’re earning the downhill. They made shit happen. Achieving what they deserve should be nothing but a cause of celebration.